back to article European Space Agency launches planet-hunting Cheops while Rocket Lab starts on a third launchpad

While the travails of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner may have captured space fans' attention, there was plenty of other fun and games happening in the world of rockets as 2019 came to a close. Cheops, Cheops and away! ESA's exoplanet mission, Cheops (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite), finally left Arianespace's Kourou spaceport …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "using green hydrogen peroxide oxidiser and kerosene"

    Um, since when has kerosene became green ? Okay, it's probably just the way the sentence was written, but "using kerosene and [a] green hydrogen peroxide oxidiser" would probably have been a better choice.

    In other news, I note that, for the first time in Internet history, we're actually going to have to pay attention to what a Troll says. That's a first !

    1. Def Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "using green hydrogen peroxide oxidiser and kerosene"

      I read it as hydrogen peroxide oxidiser that is green. Hopefully by adding food colouring instead of some artificial shit that's bad for the environment or something.

      1. Kibble 2

        Re: "using green hydrogen peroxide oxidiser and kerosene"

        Peroxide is never green: it tends to bleach anything it touches at the strength used in rockets. Not to mention how it quickly it'll break down tissue even in OTC concentrations.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: "using green hydrogen peroxide oxidiser and kerosene"

          HTP (high test peroxide) and kerosene is green compared to the other long-life liquid rocket fuel of nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as favoured by, for example, the Indians who basically use a reliable modified ICBM to launch stuff.

          Yes, liquid oxygen (LOX) is nicer as a oxidiser, but you can't really use it (or other cryogenic fuels) in the UK very well as you only have a short window to fuel the rocket and launch, so you need fairly dependable weather. ALL such oxidisers are bad in large amounts, but nothing compared to some stuff that was contemplated in the distant past (just google for chlorine triflouride if you feel brave).

          1. southen bastard

            Re: "using green hydrogen peroxide oxidiser and kerosene"

            this sounds like interesting stuff, now where did i put that Quatx lathe?

            1. John Sager

              Re: "using green hydrogen peroxide oxidiser and kerosene"

              Search for 'Ignition!' on the web. That's an amusing & informative run-down of rocket fuels both useful and downright lunatic.

          2. Brangdon Bronze badge

            Re: LOX and launch windows

            I thought LOX only affected the launch window if it is sub-cooled. If it is only cooled to its boiling point, when it gets warmer it just boils off, and the loss can be replenished just by topping up with more LOX. If it is cooled below that point, when it warms it merely expands a bit and so it can't be topped off.

            Sub-cooled LOX is used by SpaceX because it is denser and so gets a bit more performance out of the rocket. Most other launch providers don't bother.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: "using green hydrogen peroxide oxidiser and kerosene"

      "since when has kerosene became green?"

      Look at it the other way; how terrifyingly horrible are most rocket propellants, if peroxide and kerosene are the 'green' option?

      (And the answer to my rhetorical question is very. Very, very horrible.)

  2. Yes Me Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    RAP (Recycling Acronyms Policy)

    ESA's exoplanet mission, Cheops (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite)

    I'm glad to see that ESA believes in recycling: CHEOPS : really using a satellite.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    McNimby

    What a great reaction to chances of Scotland being put on the space map.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: McNimby

      Maybe the testing should be done at Spaceport Scotland :-)

    2. John Sager

      Re: McNimby

      I assume Spadeadam is no longer recoverable as a test site. Rolls-Royce used it to test Blue Streak/Steel engines in the 50s & 60s.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: McNimby

        It's not quite in Scotland, which kinda the point of the story.

        1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: McNimby

          Why does it have to be in Scotland?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: McNimby

            From the article...

            "Edinburgh-based small sat launch outfit Skyrora"

            ..and fitting into the narrative of two locations in Scotland being proposed as spaceports, ie Sutherland and possibly Prestwick, and the possibility of Scotland breaking away from the Union.

  4. Len

    Why build a launch site in Scotland?

    There are properly deserted bits of Atlantic coast in Ireland, Spain and Portugal that could be useful for a launch site. Why not focus on places with fewer NIMBYs (and no McNIMBYs)?

    1. Brangdon Bronze badge

      Re: Why build a launch site in Scotland?

      Sounds like they don't have a problem with the launch site. The objection is to the test stand.

  5. Bitsminer

    Troll

    I remember KSAT putting in the satellite dishes and me helping them out with the geosat link, way back in the day, for a company later acquired by Digital Globe. Their staff were at Troll, which is about 3000 km from anywhere and anyone. About as remote as you can be on this planet.

    We were warm and comfy in the US chatting on the satphone for hours a day at istr $5/minute, troubleshooting the data compressor.

    They did get to play a little hockey, courtesy of the sticks and jerseys we packed for them. Road hockey, as there was no ice, (and no roads!)

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    30 sec tests (at most) once a day at most?

    This would not seem too onerous

    But obviously not.

    I quite like Skyrora

    It does seem the McNIMBY's are out in force for this.

    1. IvyKing
      Megaphone

      Re: 30 sec tests (at most) once a day at most?

      Having grown up 10 to 15 miles from Rocketdynes Santa Susanna test site, the noise from the rockets is very noticeable, but not objectionable. I was more aware of the things in the house rattling as opposed the very low pitches rumble without much energy in the voice frequency range. I've also gone to high school that was under the flight path of F4 Phantoms, which had a lot of energy in the voice frequency range.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    120 launches a year and it takes 2 weeks to recycle the pad?

    It should be obvious that if RL want to get anywhere near to that they are going to need 5 pads on site of speed up their pad processing by quite a lot.

    Still let see how it runs

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: 120 launches a year and it takes 2 weeks to recycle the pad?

      1: They can't build that many at once.

      2: Mahia Peninsula isn't very large and the bit where the launchpad is, is even smaller

      https://www.google.com/maps/place/Morere+Hot+Springs/@-39.2613086,177.8657306,393m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xc38635e7512b3977!8m2!3d-38.9865779!4d177.7910302

      Then zoom out.

      Waveout to the whaanau at Nuhaka, who should be getting a ringside view of the launches.

      I wonder how many post-launch soaks are had at Morere hot springs? Nice to see it's open again.

    2. 01508

      Re: 120 launches a year and it takes 2 weeks to recycle the pad?

      They now have 10 trouble free revenue generating launches behind them and they are ramping up, The recent run rate has been one per month and it should be noted that each mission delivers multiple satellites to different orbits. They are now at 47 satellites all in their correct orbits with no mishaps like Boeing. They also ran a successful test on the last launch to prepare for 1st stage recovery which will improve the run-rate as first stage fabrication is rate limiting right now. 50 launches per year is certainly feasible in the near future which average out at 250 satellites per year If the UK wants to get into the launch business they should visit NZ to see how it is done, it is easy to snipe from the sidelines when you can't even launch one satellite into orbit.

  8. Benson's Cycle

    What is it with councils?

    Is it just my imagination or has the standard of local government got even lower?

    And is this particular one going to search out and close any petrol stations in its area? Because I believe they store rather a lotof liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons on site.

    In our part of the world we've had incomers from cities opposing:

    A chicken plant that the locals wanted to provide much needed unskilled jobs.

    Free public wi-fi to help regenerate a decayed town centre

    5G because, woo.

    Then there were the ones who moved into a house next to a pig farm and tried to get the pig farm shut down.

    They also wanted to have a joinery closed because it was "heavy industry". (They lost that one and it is now a major housebuilding supplier but you would hardly know it was there.)

    Councils seem very willing to listen to small noisy minorities so long as they are suitably middle class (and usually seem to have a lot of time to spare since they sold their house in London, bought a few BfLs and moved to the country.)

    1. Smooth Newt
      Meh

      Re: What is it with councils?

      Councils seem very willing to listen to small noisy minorities so long as they are suitably middle class (and usually seem to have a lot of time to spare since they sold their house in London, bought a few BfLs and moved to the country.)

      The article* quoted a local official saying that 300 to 400 people had turned up at a public meeting, and virtually all objected. It also said there were nearly 170 written objections submitted.

      Considering how apathetic people usually are, getting that number of people to a public meeting, presumably on a cold and dark winter night, would show huge strength of feeling in the local community.

      *https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/news/edinburgh-news/rocket-engines-wont-tested-east-17450244

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: What is it with councils?

        More likely one or two people who really know how to manipulate social media.

  9. Citizen99

    Test firing of the Black Knight rocket by Saunders-Roe didn't seem to do the Isle of Wight any harm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Some would say landing a Black Knight on the Isle of Wight would improve it.

  10. 01508

    They now have 10 trouble free revenue generating launches behind them and they are ramping up, The recent run rate has been one per month and it should be noted that each mission delivers multiple satellites to different orbits. They are now at 47 satellites all in their correct orbits with no mishaps like Boeing. They also ran a successful test on the last launch to prepare for 1st stage recovery which will improve the run-rate as first stage fabrication is rate limiting right now. 50 launches per year is certainly feasible in the near future which average out at 250 satellites per year If the UK wants to get into the launch business they should visit NZ to see how it is done, it is easy to snipe from the sidelines when you can't even launch one satellite into orbit.

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