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China launches secretive suborbital vehicle for reusable space transportation system

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HELSINKI — China conducted a clandestine first test flight of a reusable suborbital vehicle Friday as a part of development of a reusable space transportation system.

The vehicle launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center Friday and later landed at an airport just over 800 kilometers away at Alxa League in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) announced.

No images nor footage nor further information, such as altitude, flight duration or propulsion systems, were provided. The CASC release stated however that the vehicle uses integrated aviation and space technologies and indicates a vertical takeoff and horizontal landing (VTHL) profile.

The test follows a September 2020 test flight of a “reusable experimental spacecraft”. The spacecraft orbited for days, releasing a small transmitting payload and later deorbited and landed horizontally. The spacecraft is widely believed to be a reusable spaceplane concept, though no images have emerged.

Giant space and defense contractor CASC also developed that vehicle and stated that the new vehicle tested Friday can be used as a first stage of a reusable space transportation system. The implication is that the two vehicles will be combined for a fully reusable space transportation system.

The developments have not come out of the blue. China stated in 2017 that it aimed to test a reusable spaceplane in 2020. The United States Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane is currently carrying out its sixth mission in orbit. Last year Boeing exited the Experimental Spaceplane (XSP) program, also known as the XS-1 program, another VTHL concept. 

The new test also follows days after a flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo flew passengers to the edge of space for the first time. 

A spaceplane project was included in a 2017 CASC ‘space transportation roadmap’. The plans also included fully reusable launch vehicles and, around 2045, a nuclear-powered shuttle.

Chen Hongbo, from CASC’s China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), told Science and Technology Daily (Chinese) in 2017 that the reusable spacecraft would be capable of carrying both crew and payloads. Chen stated that some vehicles would have the characteristics of both aircraft and spacecraft. CALT was noted as the developer of Friday’s suborbital reusable demonstration vehicle.

Chen stated the aim was full reusability, moving beyond partial reusability of Falcon 9-like launchers. The spaceplane, the development and testing of which is to be completed by 2030, should be capable of being reused more than 20 times.

It will be oriented to orbital altitudes of between 300 to 500 kilometers, meet criteria of being “fast, reliable, and economical,” and meet the needs of military and civilian payloads, and be applicable for space tourism.

The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), another giant state-owned enterprise, is working on its own spaceplane, named Tengyun. Demonstration and verification of the reusable two-stage-to-orbit Tengyun spacecraft is to be completed by 2025. Tengyun will be a horizontal takeoff, horizontal landing (HTHL) system.

Chinese commercial companies and CASC are also developing reusable rockets. A number of private companies are planning “hop” tests in the coming months.


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Source: https://spacenews.com/china-launches-secretive-suborbital-vehicle-for-reusable-space-transportation-system/

Aerospace

Accion Systems raises $42 million in Series C to accelerate development of 4th-gen propulsion system

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Space propulsion developer Accion Systems has closed its most significant funding round yet. The company raised $42 million in a Series C led by Tracker Capital, bringing its valuation to $83.5 million.

Along with the investment, Tracker Capital also acquired a majority stake in the company. This latest injection of capital will facilitate the development and manufacturing of the company’s fourth generation propulsion system, dubbed the tiled ionic liquid electrospray (TILE) system.

The TILE system uses electrical energy to push charge particles (ions) out its back to generate propulsion. While ion engines have been around for decades, Accion uses a liquid propellant, an ionic liquid salt, instead of gas. The liquid is inert and non-pressurized, meaning there’s no risk of explosion. It also results in a product that doesn’t need bulky components like ionization chambers, and an overall smaller and lighter weight system relative to the spacecraft – key considerations in space, where every gram of payload has a high price tag.

“It lets us build really, really small systems,” Accion co-founder Natalya Bailey explained to TechCrunch. “Instead of trying to take an existing ion engine the size of a Prius and shrink it down, we can start with very small systems because of this propellant.” And she does mean small – each thruster tile is about the size of a postage stamp.

The TILE system is also scalable and modular, meaning it could feasibly be used on anything from cubesats to propelling an interplanetary spacecraft, Accion CEO Peter Kant added in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “It’s one of the few occasions where the total addressable market and the actual addressable market that we can serve are pretty closely aligned and almost overlap,” he said.

The newest generation of the TILE system is the same size as its predecessors, but Accion is increasing the number of emitters on a given chip – emitters being the technology that actually shoots out the ions, generating the momentum – by almost tenfold. “We get more ions per area and that gives us a whole lot more thrust with the same amount of space,” Kant said.

Accion is looking to ship the first fourth-gen thruster systems in the middle to late summer of 2022.

The TILE system was developed by Accion co-founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tech generated a ton of interest from big aerospace companies, but they decided to found Accion in 2014 rather than sell. The company manufactures and assembles its product at its facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The TILE system was onboard commercial spacecraft, one with Astra Digital and one with NanoAvionics, that went up on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch at the end of June. Accion started by focusing on serving smaller spacecraft first, like cubesats, but Bailey said that was just the beginning.

“We’re going after that segment initially, and then intending to reinvest our learnings in building larger and larger systems that eventually can do big geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions and so on. The systems that went up on the most recent launcher [is] probably good for a satellite up to about 50 kilograms [. . .] For us, it’s on the smaller end of where we intend to go.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/21/accion-systems-raises-42-million-in-series-c-to-accelerate-development-of-4th-gen-propulsion-system/

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Aerospace

Accion Systems raises $42 million in Series C to accelerate development of 4th-gen propulsion system

Published

on

Space propulsion developer Accion Systems has closed its most significant funding round yet. The company raised $42 million in a Series C led by Tracker Capital, bringing its valuation to $83.5 million.

Along with the investment, Tracker Capital also acquired a majority stake in the company. This latest injection of capital will facilitate the development and manufacturing of the company’s fourth generation propulsion system, dubbed the tiled ionic liquid electrospray (TILE) system.

The TILE system uses electrical energy to push charge particles (ions) out its back to generate propulsion. While ion engines have been around for decades, Accion uses a liquid propellant, an ionic liquid salt, instead of gas. The liquid is inert and non-pressurized, meaning there’s no risk of explosion. It also results in a product that doesn’t need bulky components like ionization chambers, and an overall smaller and lighter weight system relative to the spacecraft – key considerations in space, where every gram of payload has a high price tag.

“It lets us build really, really small systems,” Accion co-founder Natalya Bailey explained to TechCrunch. “Instead of trying to take an existing ion engine the size of a Prius and shrink it down, we can start with very small systems because of this propellant.” And she does mean small – each thruster tile is about the size of a postage stamp.

The TILE system is also scalable and modular, meaning it could feasibly be used on anything from cubesats to propelling an interplanetary spacecraft, Accion CEO Peter Kant added in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “It’s one of the few occasions where the total addressable market and the actual addressable market that we can serve are pretty closely aligned and almost overlap,” he said.

The newest generation of the TILE system is the same size as its predecessors, but Accion is increasing the number of emitters on a given chip – emitters being the technology that actually shoots out the ions, generating the momentum – by almost tenfold. “We get more ions per area and that gives us a whole lot more thrust with the same amount of space,” Kant said.

Accion is looking to ship the first fourth-gen thruster systems in the middle to late summer of 2022.

The TILE system was developed by Accion co-founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tech generated a ton of interest from big aerospace companies, but they decided to found Accion in 2014 rather than sell. The company manufactures and assembles its product at its facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The TILE system was onboard commercial spacecraft, one with Astra Digital and one with NanoAvionics, that went up on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch at the end of June. Accion started by focusing on serving smaller spacecraft first, like cubesats, but Bailey said that was just the beginning.

“We’re going after that segment initially, and then intending to reinvest our learnings in building larger and larger systems that eventually can do big geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions and so on. The systems that went up on the most recent launcher [is] probably good for a satellite up to about 50 kilograms [. . .] For us, it’s on the smaller end of where we intend to go.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/21/accion-systems-raises-42-million-in-series-c-to-accelerate-development-of-4th-gen-propulsion-system/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Russia set to launch new space station science module

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Nauka science module for the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

NASA TV

Roscosmos webcast

NASA TV’s live coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and is in English. Roscosmos’s live video stream begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and is in Russian.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/21/proton-nauka-launch-mission-status-center/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Russia set to launch new space station science module

Published

on

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Nauka science module for the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

NASA TV

Roscosmos webcast

NASA TV’s live coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and is in English. Roscosmos’s live video stream begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and is in Russian.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/21/proton-nauka-launch-mission-status-center/

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