Welcome to Rocket Report 3.26! Although we are nearing the end of 2020, the news from the launch world is not slowing down. We’ll try to keep up with that, even as the holidays approach. To that end, we’ll publish one final newsletter next week, but it will be out two days in advance.
As usual we are Readers’ offers are welcomeAnd if you don’t want to miss out on any issues, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-supported versions of the site). Each report will include information on small, medium, and heavy rockets as well as a sneak peek at the next three launches on the calendar.
Astra is almost in orbit. Bad weather prevented attempts to launch Astra on Friday and over the weekend, but by Tuesday, upper-level winds had diminished over the spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska, Ars Reports. Thus, despite the bulletproof sky, a Rocket 3.2 rocket ignited its five main engines and began its launch. I followed the planned flight path almost dead. After two minutes of the flight, the main engines stopped, and the second stage broke off. Its engine is also lit. Then this upper stage burned all of its propellant and simulated deploying a payload in space.
Unfortunately, the 3.2 rocket did not reach orbit … the company didn’t correct the kerosene mixture to an oxidizing agent – which is difficult to test on the ground – and ended up with an excess of liquid oxygen. Had the upper stage burned the kerosene for a few more seconds, the upper stage would have reached orbit. As was the case, the booster peaked at a height of 390 km above the ground. This trip marks a huge success for Astra, which will now likely find it easier to attract launch and capital contracts. The company’s next launch, the Rocket 3.3, will likely be in a few months.
The Virgin Galactic space plane fails to ignite the engine. On Saturday, nearly two years after its last powered flight, Virgin Galactic attempted to send its elegant SpaceShipTwo on its third sub-orbital flight over 80 km. However, shortly after the spacecraft was launched from its carrier aircraft, called White Knight Two, the ignition sequence to illuminate the space plane’s engine was not completed. Ars Reports.
Bring it home safely … as a result, the missile engine failed to fire, and the two pilots on board safely returned the vehicle to a New Mexico runway instead of flying over the atmosphere. The flight came nearly two years after the airline’s first successful suborbital flight in December 2018 and 22 months since its second suborbital flight in February 2019. Before the flight attempt on Saturday, Virgin Galactic closed at $ 32.04 per share. By Thursday morning, the share price had dropped to just over $ 25 a share. (Submitted by Platecortec)
NASA awards the second round of small launch contracts. As part of the Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 program – which delivers small satellites including CubeSats, microsats, or nanosatellites to space –NASA has awarded prizes For three companies. These contracts are intended to support small launch companies and provide NASA with low-cost access to space for small payloads.
Obtain a seal of approval … Fixed-price award winners are Astra Space ($ 3.9 million), Relativity Space ($ 3.0 million), and Firefly ($ 9.8 million). While funds awarded from these awards are always welcome, such contracts also act as a “seal of approval” by NASA, and may help launch companies find additional commercial clients. (Presented by Platecortic and Ken Penn)
The European Space Agency supports the Space Rider. The European Space Agency has completed a $ 200 million contract with Thales Alenia Space Italy and Aveo to deliver the Space Rider – Europe’s first automated orbital space plane – in time for a mid-to-late 2023 launch aboard a consumable rocket, SpaceNews reports.
New plane, new missile … Thales will build the Space Rider’s reusable re-entry unit, and Avio will provide a consumable service unit and drive system. The planned 2023 spaceplane launch, aboard the next-generation Vega C missile, is not covered under the December 9 contract. The spaceplane will spend nearly two months in orbit before abandoning its service module and returning to Earth’s atmosphere, returning to the landing zone under Parafoil. (Submitted by Platecortec)
Europe is considering a launcher to breathe air. A lot of news came out from Europe this week, but this part is among the most interesting. The The European Space Agency said It is studying the use of a synergistic air breathing missile engine, or SABER, developed by Reaction Engines. The space agency said this engine could be used to power a spacecraft launched horizontally using a single or two-stage concept into orbit.
Opportunities and challenges … SABER, which is potentially completely re-used, is designed to reach hypersonic velocity through Earth’s atmosphere before switching to missile mode ascent into orbit. “The results of this study highlight the technical and economic challenges of a reusable launch vehicle based on current SABER technology. It covered the space and ground segment up to the first flight,” said Jamila Al Mansoori, Director of Space Transportation in Beyond Low Earth Orbit at the European Space Agency. This study could be an introduction to ESA funding for technology development. (Submitted by markmuetz)
Virgin Orbit postpones its launch due to the pandemic. The California launch company was working on the second flight of its LauncherOne missile this weekend, but said it could no longer support that date due to COVID-19. In a threadVirgin Orbit said the “high” levels of domestic issues prompted the company to create a new batch of precautionary quarantines.
There are not enough people … “Consequently, the number of employees we feel we need to proceed with caution and safety in pre-launch operations has decreased. Our priority now is to ensure the well-being of our team, and support the few who have had a positive result,” the company tweeted. Virgin Orbit will now assess the impacts on its launch schedule. Pandemic sucks, and we wish Virgin Orbit good luck with LauncherOne in 2021. (Submitted by Ken the Bin)
The second Angara A5 missile launched. The Angara A5 missile was launched on Monday from the Russian port of Plesetsk, and appears to have made a successful test flight. Reports of the Russian Space Network. Six years have passed since Russia first launched this car, and this much-delayed mission may indicate that Angara is finally preparing for commercial service.
Will it be a commercial success? … At the moment, the booster is expensive to fly, but Russian officials say that when they build more of it, the medium-lift missile can be launched for less than $ 60 million. Ultimately, Russia plans an Angara missile to replace the Proton booster, but the country has released few details about the contracts for the Angara launch. It faces stiff international competition from the Falcon 9 and other missiles. (Submitted by Ken Bin)
The United States sets a record for licensed commercial launches. US Department of Transportation He said this week It has supported a record 35 commercial launches so far in 2020. The previous record of 33 commercial launches was set in 2018. The Federal Aviation Administration says it may license up to 50 launches in the next year.
Seven different locations … these commercial space launches cover a variety of missions, including the first authorized manned mission from the Federal Aviation Administration to the International Space Station, cargo-only resupply of the International Space Station, special satellites, and testing of space capsules and missile systems. The launches took place from seven domestic and foreign sites: Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia and New Zealand. (Submitted by Ken Bin)
European Space Agency to modernize the French Guiana space port. At this week’s European Space Agency board meeting, Members agreed To a new decade that would lead to the maintenance and modernization of the European spaceport in French Guiana. The launch range provides services for Ariane 5, Vega and Soyuz missiles, and is being updated for upcoming Ariane 6 and Vega C missiles (Here are some new photos From the Ariane launch pad 6).
Go green in the forest … according to the European Space Agency and the French Space Agency, CNES, these launch range updates will “improve the availability and cost-efficiency of facilities, and address end-of-life repairs for certain systems such as water and air conditioning underground as well as the road network”. Notably, the spaceport will also seek to extract 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
Falcon 9 scores a record of commercial reuse. On Sunday, a Falcon 9 rocket launched the Sirius XM-7 satellite into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The upper stage of the missile deployed the SXM-7 satellite in a geostationary transfer orbit 31 minutes after takeoff. The first stage of the missile successfully landed on an unmanned ship in the Atlantic Ocean, SpaceNews reports.
Feeling comfortable with reuse … it is noteworthy that the first stage of Falcon 9 was making its seventh flight – it previously launched a test flight of the Commercial Test Crew 1, the Radarsat Constellation Mission, and four groups of Starlink satellites. This is a remarkably well-used booster for a commercial mission, and indicates a wider acceptance of “proven” missiles by SpaceX customers.
ArianeGroup wins protester reuse contract. This week, the European Space Agency awarded the France-based launch company a € 33 million development contract for the Themis demonstration in its reusable rocket stage. Powered by the Prometheus engine, the technology is expected to serve as the basis for a low-cost, reusable rocket similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
but there is a problem … according to ArianeGroup New release, This demonstrator will showcase Europe’s “reusable” capacity by 2022. This will put ESA member states in a position to push ahead with a reusable launcher “around 2030”. This will come a full 15 years after SpaceX lands the first Falcon 9 rocket, and it appears to be behind the curve to us. (Submitted by rodik)
NASA says New Glen is eligible to compete for the launch contracts. NASA agency He said launch services program Developed Blue Origin’s colossal New Glen rocket in its range of eligible enhancements to compete for launch contracts. These contracts support the agency’s programs in science, human exploration, and technology, as well as NOAA and other federal agencies.
A new update on New Glen, please? … this is the beautiful plum of Blue Origin, which has been seeking more government contracts to support projects. However, nothing has been said in the newsletters of both NASA and Blue Origin about the topic as it is when New Glenn may be ready to launch for the first time. The company has been silent on the topic for a while, but many of us are eager to see how the development effort is progressing. (Provided by EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)
Delta IV Heavy is back on track. After months of delay, the United Launch Alliance’s largest rocket descended from the platform and delivered the NROL-44 safely into space for the National Reconnaissance Office. The December 10 mission was followed by a series of scrubs due to ground service equipment issues at the company’s Florida launch pad.
Long time on the pillow Preparations for this launch began more than a year ago. SpaceNews reports. Delta 4 Heavy was introduced to the platform in November 2019. The NROL-44 payload was delivered in July. The Delta 4 Heavy is set to be retired after the launch of four more NRO missions over the next few years. Two will be from Cape Canaveral and the other two will be from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (Submitted by Ken Bin)
The next three launches
December 18: Soyuz | The OneWeb-4 Mission | Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia | 12:26 UTC
December 18: Falcon 9 | NROL-108 | Cape Canaveral, Florida | 14:00 UTC
December 20: Long March 8 | The classified mission called XJY 7 | Wenchang, China | 04:00 UTC