Here is a sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport (find previous roundups here). Today’s Part 1 Roundup focused on SpaceX. Part 2 here reports on other companies and organizations.
** Rocket Lab Electron second stage fails in launch attempt; First stage recovered from sea. Two BlackSky earth observation satellites were lost. The first stage made a soft landing upon the ocean and it was retrieved: Rocket Lab Progresses Flight Review, Recovers First Stage Following Successful Ocean Splashdown | Rocket Lab
On May 15, 2021, Rocket Lab experienced an anomaly almost three minutes into the company’s 20th Electron launch. Following a successful lift-off from Launch Complex 1, Electron proceeded through a nominal first stage engine burn, stage separation, and stage 2 ignition. Shortly after the second stage ignition the engine shut down, resulting in the loss of the mission.
Rocket Lab continued to receive good telemetry from Electron following the safe engine shutdown on stage two, providing engineers with comprehensive data to review as part of a robust review into the anomaly. The extensive data is being methodically scoured to enable the review team to accurately pinpoint the issue and implement corrective actions for future missions. Rocket Lab is leading the flight review with the support of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); a structure that ensures Rocket Lab maintains a high degree of control over its return-to-flight schedule.
Preliminary data reviews suggest an engine computer detected an issue shortly after stage 2 engine ignition, causing the computer to command a safe shutdown as it is designed to do. The behavior had not been observed previously during Rocket Lab’s extensive ground testing operations, which include multiple engine hot fires and full mission duration stage tests prior to flight. The vehicle remained within the pre-determined safety corridor during the flight. The full review is expected to be complete in the coming weeks and Rocket Lab anticipates a swift return to flight.
“We deeply regret the loss of BlackSky’s payload and we are committed to returning to flight safely and reliably for our customers,” said Rocket Lab founder and chief executive, Peter Beck. “We are methodically working through the review process to address the issue. After 17 successful missions and more than 100 satellites deployed to orbit prior to this mission, and with multiple launch vehicles currently in production, we are confident in a swift and reliable return to flight with minimal impact on our launch manifest this year.”
Flight data shows Electron’s first stage performed nominally during the mission and did not contribute to the flight issue. The first stage safely completed a successful splashdown under parachute as planned and Rocket Lab’s recovery team retrieved the stage from the ocean for transport back to Rocket Lab’s production complex as part of the company’s reusability test program. The new heat shield debuted in this flight protected the stage from the intense heat and forces experienced while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and the program took yet another major advancement towards reusability of the rocket. The engines remain in good condition and Rocket Lab intends to put them through hot fire testing for analysis. Selected components from the recovered stage are also suitable for reflight on future missions. Rocket Lab’s program to make Electron a reusable launch vehicle is advancing quickly and the company intends to conduct its third recovery mission later this year.
- Rocket Lab suffers failure on Electron’s 20th mission – NASASpaceFlight.com
- BlackSky satellites lost due to anomaly during Rocket Lab launch – Geekwire.com
- Rocket Lab Electron booster launch fails to reach orbit, 2 satellites lost | Space.com
- Rocket Lab says engine issue caused Electron failure – SpaceNews
Here is a pre-launch release from Rocket Lab with more details about the first stage recovery plan: Rocket Lab to Recover Electron Booster on Next Mission | Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab, the leading launch and space systems company, today announced that on its next mission the company will attempt to bring a rocket back from space, slowing the Electron launch vehicle down from speeds of >Mach 8 as it re-enter’s Earth’s atmosphere before splashing the rocket down in the ocean. The complex mission is the next major step toward making Electron the first orbital-class reusable small launch vehicle, enabling rapid-turnaround launches for small satellites.
Scheduled for launch in May 2021 from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, the ‘Running Out of Toes’, mission will be Rocket Lab’s 20th Electron launch overall and the second of three planned ocean splashdown recovery missions. The mission will see Electron deploy two Earth-observation satellites for BlackSky’s global monitoring constellation. While Electron’s second stage delivers the satellites to orbit, Electron’s first stage will undertake a series of complex maneuvers designed to enable the stage to survive the extreme heat and forces of atmospheric re-entry on the way back to Earth.
As the rocket reaches speeds of around eight times the speed of sound on its descent, the air around Electron heats up to 2,400 °C generating an extremely hot plasma that creates a red-orange glow around the re-entering stage. Because Electron will enter the atmosphere engines first, the nine 3D printed Rutherford engines on the first stage will bear the brunt of this extreme heating. To withstand the immense temperatures, this Electron features an evolved heat shield designed to protect the engines and direct the force of the plasma away from the rocket. After entering the atmosphere, Electron will deploy a drogue parachute to help begin the process of slowing the rocket down and stabilizing its descent. Once Electron is at subsonic speeds, a circular parachute is deployed to help further slow the rocket in preparation for a gentle ocean splashdown. A Rocket Lab vessel will then rendezvous with the stage in the splashdown zone, approximately 650 km from Launch Complex 1, and retrieve it for transport back to Rocket Lab’s Production Complex for inspection.
See also these pre-launch reports:
- “Running Out Of Toes” Mission Press Kit – Rocket Lab (pdf)
- Rocket Lab to recover Electron booster from ocean after Saturday launch | Space.com
- Spaceflight Inc. Readies the Next of Four Dedicated Electron Launches for BlackSky – Spaceflight
- Rocket Lab May launch booster recovery, aiming for SpaceX reusability – CNBC
A pre-launch interview with Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck: The First Private Space Mission to Venus | The Space Show – Motherboard
Rocket Lab, the private space company best known for launching small payloads into orbit, is poised to become the first private company to ever explore another planet. Founder Peter Beck shares his plans to put a probe into the atmosphere of the hottest planet in the solar system.
** May.18: ULA Atlas V rocket launches Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) reconnaissance satellite for the US Air Force. The initial launch attempt was scrubbed on Monday due to a problem with a valve in the propellant loading system. This is the first launch this year of an Atlas rocket and the second ULA launch overall for 2021 following the Delta IV Heavy launch mentioned below.
- Atlas V SBIRS GEO Flight 5 United Launch Alliance (ULA) Rocket Launch – ULA
- ULA to loft Space Force missile tracking satellite in first Atlas V launch of 2021 – NASASpaceFlight.com
On July 20th, #NewShepard will fly its first astronaut crew to space. We are offering one seat on this first flight to the winning bidder of our online auction. Starting today, anyone can place an opening bid by going to BlueOrigin.com. The winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space. This seat will change how you see the world. #GradatimFerociter
A video released on May 6th:
#NewShepard has flown 15 successful consecutive missions to space and back above the Kármán Line through a meticulous and incremental flight program to test its multiple redundant safety systems. Now, it’s time for astronauts to climb onboard.
- Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to begin selling tickets for New Shepard – CNBC
- Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin promise details coming next week for how to buy first seat on spaceflight – GeekWire
** Apr.12: Blue Origin successfully flew New Shepard in rehearsal of first flight with people on board.
Blue Origin successfully completed its 15th consecutive mission to space and back today and conducted a series of simulations to rehearse astronaut movements and operations for future flights with customers on board. This mission marked a verification step prior to flying astronauts.
For the first time, Blue Origin personnel standing in as astronauts entered the capsule prior to launch. These astronauts conducted a series of tests from within the capsule, including a comms check with the Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM), procedures for entering and exiting the capsule, and pre-launch preparations within the capsule. Following the crew capsule landing, the astronauts rehearsed post-flight procedures, hatch opening, and exiting the capsule.
Also onboard today was Mannequin Skywalker and more than 25,000 postcards from Club for the Future, the nonprofit founded by Blue Origin.
- Blue Origin Conducts Astronaut Rehearsal for Future Customer Flights – Blue Origin
- Blue Origin ready for 15th New Shepard flight, critical test before carrying humans – NASASpaceFlight.com
More videos from Blue:
Meet CrewMember 7
CrewMember 7 is a unique role at Blue Origin. There are two assigned to each astronaut flight for New Shepard—one is embedded with the astronauts to help them ingress and egress the capsule while the other serves as Capsule Communications (CAPCOM) during the flight. Learn more about their unique and important role in astronaut training and flight operations at Blue Origin.
Safety, Blue Origin’s Top Mission
Blue Origin has been flight testing the New Shepard rocket and its redundant safety systems since 2012. The program has completed 15 consecutive successful missions, including three successful tests of the crew escape system, showing it can activate safely in any phase of flight.
Blue Origin’s Launch Site One
Take a tour of Launch Site One, nestled in the Guadalupe Mountains in West Texas, where astronauts will fly to space and back onboard New Shepard.
An experience unlike any other
** Other Blue Origin items:
- A new book, Amazon Unbound, reveals Jeff Bezos’ envy of SpaceX | Ars Technica –
“Partly because of this slow development pace, Blue Origin has in some ways become even less competitive with SpaceX since Bezos’ meetings in fall 2016. At the time, both companies, led by billionaires, seemed on the cusp of a great space race. But whereas SpaceX has launched 100 rockets to orbit since then, more than 1,500 of its own satellites, and several crews of NASA astronauts, Blue Origin has only flown New Shepard about a dozen times, without any people on board. (A first crewed flight is likely to finally occur in July.)And what about those government contracts? Blue Origin has been largely shut out. When it came to the latest round of national security launch contracts, United Launch Alliance and SpaceX won the business, with Blue left on the sidelines. And last month, a Blue Origin-led bid to land humans on the Moon for NASA lost out to SpaceX for a high-profile and lucrative contract.”
- Fast-growing rocket maker Blue Origin on hunt for machinists, technicians for Kent HQ – Puget Sound Business Journal
** May.6: China launched a Long March-2C with four satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center located in the Sichuan Province in southwest China. The payload included three Yaogan-30 satellites, which will become members of a constellation used for “electromagnetic environmental detection and related technological tests”. The constellation is generally believed a Chinese military program. The fourth spacecraft was the Tianqi 12 commercial data relay smallsat built by the Chinese company Guodian Gaoke.
- China launches new remote-sensing satellites – Chinadaily.com.cn
- China launches four satellites on Long March 2C rocket – Spaceflight Now
** Apr.30: China launched the Yaogan-34 remote sensing satellite on a Long March-4C rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. Note that, as usual with this rocket, it sheds insulation tiles as it lifts off: China successfully launches Yaogan-34 remote sensing satellite – Xinhua
** Apr.29: Arianespace Vega rocket sends Pléiades Neo-3 and five secondary payloads into orbit. Despite its name, the Neo-3 is the first satellite in orbit for the Airbus Pléiades earth observation constellation of four satellites, each with 30 cm resolution. The secondaries “included an observation microsatellite for the Norwegian space agency, Norsat-3, and four cubesats, for the operators Eutelsat, NanoAvionics/Aurora Insight and Spire”. The solid-fueled rocket lifted off from the ESA spaceport in French Guiana on its 18th mission.
- 18th Vega mission marks Arianespace’s second successful launch in 72 hours – Arianespace
- Vega’s first launch this year – ESA
- Vega Flight VV18 – Arianespace
- Vega return to flight creates competition for 30-centimeter satellite imagery – SpaceNews
** Apr.28: A Chinese Long March 5B heavy lift rocket put the first module of the Tianhe space station into orbit. The module is 16.6 meters long and has a max diameter of 4.2 meters. Including fuel, the Tianhe module weighs about 22.5 metric tons. This launch initiates a significant acceleration in the activity of China’s human spaceflight program. About 10 missions through 2022 will complete the station construction. These missions include additional modules as well as cargo and crews. When finished, the station will be comparable in size and design to the Soviet/Russian MIR station.
- China launches Tianhe module, start of ambitious two-year station construction effort – NASASpaceFlight.com
- China launches Tianhe space station core module into orbit – SpaceNews
- China’s Space Station: Assembly Plans Detailed – Leonard David
- Huge rocket looks set for uncontrolled reentry following Chinese space station launch – SpaceNews
- Q&A: Getting to know China’s space station – Xinhua
** Apr.27: ULA Delta IV Heavy launches spysat from Vandenberg. The NROL-82 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) successfully flew from the California spaceport early Tuesday morning. The payload is speculated to be an optical imaging satellite of the KH-11/Crystal line.
- United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches NROL-82 Mission to Support National Security
- Spy satellite successfully launched from California military base – Spaceflight Now
- ULA Delta IV Heavy launches NROL-82 national security mission – NASASpaceFlight.com
- Delta 4 Heavy sends spy satellite to orbit in ULA’s first launch of 2021 – SpaceNews
** Apr.27: Chinese Long March 6 launches nine satellites: The commercial satellites were from different companies and included missions involving remote sensing, radar imaging, technology testing such as orbital debris removal and near earth asteroid detection.
- China launches nine commercial satellites – Xinhua
- China launches space mining test spacecraft on commercial rideshare mission – SpaceNews
** Apr.26: Arianespace Soyuz launches 36 OneWeb satellites. These bring the total number of OneWeb satellites launched so far to 182. The company says it needs to reach a fleet size of 648 to achieve operational global service. The system aims to provide backbone connections to local IP providers rather than connect o individual users as with SpaceX’s Starlink system.
- Flight ST31: Arianespace successfully deploys OneWeb constellation satellites – Arianespace
- OneWeb Confirms Successful Launch #6 As It Moves Closer to ‘Five to 50’ Ambition | OneWeb
- OneWeb adds 36 satellites to broadband constellation as deployment accelerates – SpaceNews
- OneWeb adds 36 more satellites to internet network – Spaceflight Now
** Firefly Alpha rocket vertical on Vandenberg launch pad. First launch expected within a few months.
— Firefly Aerospace (@Firefly_Space) May 11, 2021
May.4: Firefly gains new investment: Space startup Firefly raises $75 million, studies public listing | Reuters.
Firefly Aerospace said on Tuesday it has raised $75 million in private capital, the first of two injections totaling up to $400 million that Chief Executive Tom Markusic anticipates will give his space startup a multibillion-dollar value by year-end.
Reuters reported last week that Firefly was close to announcing a capital infusion to fund development of its ambitious spacecraft portfolio, anchored by two carbon-composite rockets.
** Apr.17: Soyuz capsule lands in Kazakhstan with three ISS Expedition 64 crew members. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov returned to Earth after completing their six month stay on the International Space Station.
The crew departed the station in their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft at 9:34 p.m. EDT Friday and landed safely under parachutes at 12:55 a.m. (10:55 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Saturday southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. It was the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov.
Rubins will return to her home in Houston, and Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will return to their homes and training base in Star City, Russia.
- NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, Crewmates Return Safely to Earth | NASA
- Soyuz MS-17 safely returns three Station crewmembers to Kazakhstan – NASASpaceFlight.com
- Expedition 64 Trio Back On Earth After 185-Day Mission – Space Station/NASA
** Apr.9: Soyuz takes crew to ISS in brief 3 hour transit: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov launched to the station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, April 9th. The very precise timing of the liftoff and alignment of the flight trajectory with the station’s orbit allowed them to rendezvous and dock to the station in little more than 3 hours.
- Station Crew Blasts Off on Short Ride to Station – Space Station/NASA
- NASA astronaut, two cosmonauts set for launch to space station – Spaceflight Now
** Apr.9: Chinese Long March 4B launches third Shiyan-6 experimental technology satellites into orbit.
- China launches experimental satellite on a Long March 4B – NASASpaceFlight.com
- China launches new satellite for space environment survey – Xinhua
** Apr.12: Northrop Grumman servicing vehicle docks to Intelsat communications satellite in GEO . The MEV-2 (Mission Extension Vehicle 2) becomes the second of NG’s MEV vehicles to mate to a Intelsat bird to provide station keeping services when the satellite’w fuel is depleted. Northrop Grumman and Intelsat Make History with Docking of Second Mission Extension Vehicle to Extend Life of Satellite | Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, have successfully completed the docking of the Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV-2) to the Intelsat 10-02 (IS-10-02) commercial communications satellite to deliver life-extension services. The docking was completed at 1:34 p.m. EST.
Northrop Grumman is the only provider of flight-proven life extension services for satellites, and this is the second time the company has docked two commercial spacecraft in orbit. The company’s MEV-1 made history when it successfully docked to the Intelsat 901 (IS-901) satellite in February 2020. Unlike MEV-1, which docked above the GEO orbit before moving IS-901 back into service, MEV-2 docked with IS-10-02 directly in its operational GEO orbital location.
“Today’s successful docking of our second Mission Extension Vehicle further demonstrates the reliability, safety and utility of in-space logistics,” said Tom Wilson, vice president, strategic space systems, Northrop Grumman and president, SpaceLogistics LLC. “The success of this mission paves the way for our second generation of servicing satellites and robotics, offering flexibility and resiliency for both commercial and government satellite operators, which can enable entirely new classes of missions.”
An image of Intelsat 10-02 taken by MEV-2’s
infrared wide field of view camera at 15m away.
According to Intelsat:
MEV-2 will provide five years of service to IS-10-02 before undocking and moving on to provide services for a new mission. IS-10-02 delivers broadband and media distribution services to Intelsat customers across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America; it is a key satellite in the Intelsat-Telenor Satellite 1˚ West video neighborhood, which distributes more than 900 channels to some 18 million TV households across Europe. Telenor Satellite own about half of IS-10-02’s Ku band payload, which it markets as THOR 10-02 and contributed to today’s successful mission.
The Mission Extension Vehicle is the first in Northrop Grumman’s lineup of satellite servicing vehicles, but following last year’s robotic servicing mission award from DARPA, the company is working with the agency on a mission that will feature the first-ever commercial robotic servicing spacecraft. This mission will expand the market for satellite servicing of both commercial and government client satellites with advanced robotics using the company’s Mission Robotics Vehicle (MRV) to conduct in-orbit repair, augmentation, assembly, detailed inspection and relocation of client satellites through robotics.
To further complement its on-orbit servicing portfolio, Northrop Grumman is leveraging model based systems engineering to develop its Mission Extension Pods (MEPs) which will also provide critical life extension services to aging satellites. The MRV will be used to install these pods on existing in-orbit commercial and government client satellites to extend their mission lives. The company is targeting 2024 for launch of both the MRV and the initial MEPs.
- Northrop Grumman MEV-2 spacecraft services Intelsat 10-02 – CNBC
- Northrop Grumman and Intelsat Make History with Docking of Second Mission Extension Vehicle to Extend Life of Satellite | Intelsat
Northrop’s MEV dockings highlight arrival of reusable in-space transport systems. The era of reusability in space has begun | Ars Technica
It’s a win for Northrop Grumman as well. The company made history a year ago when its first mission-extension vehicle docked with another Intelsat satellite, moved it from a graveyard orbit, powered it on, and placed it back into active service. No two commercial spacecraft had ever docked in orbit before. The difference Monday is that the servicing vehicle docked with an active satellite in a busier orbit. Both of the mission-extension vehicles will detach from their Intelsat targets in 2025 and move on to other satellites and have a functional lifetime until 2035.
Northrop sold the first two mission-extension missions to a commercial customer, Intelsat. However, the company expects that much of its future business may come from governments seeking to protect and extend the life of their most valuable assets in space.
NG has a long term game plan for reusable in-space systems:
In 2024, Northrop plans to launch a “Mission Robotic Vehicle” that can provide basic inspection and repair services and deploy mission extension pods to satellites. After this, the company plans to develop refueling capabilities and debris removal from the vicinity of high-value satellites. Finally, in the 2030s, the company intends to begin in-orbit assembly and manufacturing capabilities.
Over the last decade, SpaceX has radically changed the paradigm of launch from that of expendable rockets to a future in which at least the first stages of such boosters are reused. This is lowering the cost of launch and allowing companies to put more and more satellites into various orbits around Earth. As this environment becomes more cluttered, the responsible thing is to more actively refuel, recycle, and dispose of satellites. Northrop Grumman has made meaningful progress toward such a future of satellite servicing. As a result, reusability is now moving into space.
- Billionaire-owned Sierra Nevada Corp. creating new space company to bet on a low-Earth orbit economy – CNBC
- Sierra Nevada Corporation to spin off space division – SpaceNews
FAA grants license for Dream Chaser landings at Cape Kennedy’s Shuttle runway. When cargo missions to the ISS begin in 2022, the Dream Chasers will be able to land directly at KSC just as the Space Shuttles did for many years.
- SNC’s Dream Chaser® Spaceplane Cleared for Florida Runway Landing – Sierra Nevada
- Dream Chaser space plane preps for ISS supply missions – MyNews13.com
- Dream Chaser spaceplane approved to land at KSC – Florida Today
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader, has entered into a Use Agreement for Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility (LLF) to land the Dream Chaser spaceplane in support of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract. Dream Chaser, America’s Spaceplane, will service the International Space Station (ISS) under the CRS-2 contract in 2022.
“This is a monumental step for both Dream Chaser and the future of space travel,” said SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen. “To have a commercial vehicle return from the International Space Station to a runway landing for the first time since NASA’s space shuttle program ended a decade ago will be a historic achievement.”
The Use Agreement makes SNC the first commercial user of Space Florida’s FAA Re-entry Site Operator License and provides the runway and support facilities needed during testing and landing. It also takes SNC one step further in applying for its own FAA re-entry license, something needed ahead of the first Dream Chaser mission next year.
If everything goes as planned, October 1st´2021 #MIURA1 propulsive stage goes vertical in Teruel for Qualification. First to arrieve and to be vertical will be MIURA1 Engineering functional stage and after it our SN1,the first fully integrated launch vehicle to fly by @PLD_Space https://t.co/opZsbhldx0 pic.twitter.com/SyPPjXONIL
— Raúl Torres🇪🇸 (@RaulTorresPLD) April 21, 2021
— PLD Space (@PLD_Space) April 21, 2021
** Virgin Galactic delays SpaceShipTwo flight to deal with problems with the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. The company had already suffered a delay in flying the SS2 VSS Unity due to an issue with electromagnetic interference (EMI) affecting the operation of a new flight control computer. Now the unspecified problem with the WhiteKnightTwo vehicle, VMS Eve, must be dealt with before Unity can return to space. Aircraft issue could delay resumption of SpaceShipTwo test flights – SpaceNews
While Unity may be ready for flight, the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft that carries the plane aloft, called VMS Eve, may not. Moses said that after three flights of the plane from Spaceport America in the last two weeks, post-flight inspections revealed “a potential wear-and-tear issue as requiring further evaluation and analysis.”
Moses, in response to later questions from analysts, did not disclose the specific component of the aircraft that was at the heart of the issue, but described it as a “family of items that relate to fatigue and long-term stress” of the airplane. It was not an issue with the number of flights of VMS Eve, which first flew in 2008 and has made fewer than 300 flights since.
Engineers are currently examining the plane to determine if additional maintenance is needed now to correct that problem, with an update expected next week. Virgin Galactic had planned to perform work on the plane this fall during a downtime that would also include work on VSS Unity, but Moses said engineers are now looking at whether some of that work needs to be moved up.
Other Virgin Galactic reports:
The new book, Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut [Amazon commission link] gives the inside story of the SpaceShipTwo program, which is reaching 17 years in age:
- Will Virgin Galactic ever be successful? A new book provides insights | Ars Technica
- Review: Test Gods – The Space Review – About a new book on history of VG.
** Virgin Orbit announces third LauncherOne mission set for June. Introducing Our Next Mission: Tubular Bells, Part One | Virgin Orbit
We’re proud to have retired our “Launch Demo” program and the corresponding mission names, and are delighted to share with you some details about our upcoming mission, which we have named “Tubular Bells, Part One.”
- The U.S. Department of Defense, which is launching three CubeSat sets aspart of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI)Initiative. This launch, also known as STP-VP27A, was awarded to VirginOrbit subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), anorganization working to accelerate the adoption of commercial technologyinto the U.S. military to strengthen national security.
- The Royal Netherlands Air Force, which is launching the Netherlands’ firstmilitary satellite, a CubeSat called BRIK II, built and integrated by InnovativeSolutions in Space, with contributions from the University of Oslo, the DelftUniversity of Technology, and Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre.
- SatRevolution, which is launching the first two optical satellites, STORK-4and STORK-5 (A.K.A. MARTA), of the company’s 14-satellite STORKconstellation.
Virgin Orbit won a six satellite launch contract: Virgin Orbit to Launch Hyperspectral Constellation for QinetiQ, HyperSat | Virgin Orbit. The company was
selected by defense and security company QinetiQ and geospatial analytics company HyperSat to launch a series of six hyperspectral satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
The team selected Virgin Orbit as the launch provider in part because of the unparalleled agility, mobility, and responsiveness afforded by air-launch, which allows for shorter call-up times and more flexible scheduling for customers, as well as direct injection into precise target orbits. In addition to the value for commercial customers, this capability enables a major strategic advantage to government customers seeking to maintain unencumbered overhead intelligence.
The first launch no earlier than 2023
They have released an edited version of the webcast of their first successful launch:
In January 2021, the Virgin Orbit team made history with the first successful air launch of a liquid-fueled, orbital class rocket. As LauncherOne streaked through the atmosphere that day, Virgin Orbit teammates on the ground — those not in our Mission Control Center — had all eyes and ears tuned into an internal livestream hosted by their fellow colleagues. You can check out that livestream here, edited for length, to relive our most significant milestone to date! We’ll have more news to share soon about our next mission with LauncherOne. Join us as we continue our journey to provide frequent, reliable flights to space for satellite makers and operators around the world.
May.12: Another contract for Virgin Orbit: Virgin Orbit to Launch Quantum Encryption Satellites for Arqit | Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, today announced it has been selected by UK-based Arqit Limited, a leader in quantum encryption technology, to conduct two launches to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) beginning in 2023.
Arqit has pioneered a unique quantum encryption technology, QuantumCloud™, which makes the communications links of any networked device secure against current and future forms of hacking — even an attack from a quantum computer. Currently, Arqit’s system delivers an unlimited number of encryption keys using terrestrial communications systems, but by incorporating satellites, Arqit can further enhance the system.
Arqit’s satellites will use a new quantum protocol that will create a backbone of secure keys within the data centers of Arqit’s customers all over the world, and a quantum safe boundary protecting those data centers.
Virgin Orbit will provide launch services for the two satellites via its LauncherOne system. The companies are discussing a further set of launches after the initial program, as Arqit seeks to address its growing market of government customers. This could potentially include future launches from Spaceport Cornwall out of Newquay, UK, where Virgin Orbit will commence operations beginning in 2022, providing the UK with its first in-country launch capability.
Check out the
The Lurio Report
for news and analysis of key developments in NewSpace
The latest issue:
Starships and Luna, Commercial LEO, Sen. Nelson
Vol. 16, No. 3, April 3, 2021
Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism
** Advanced Rockets Corporation aims for low cost access to space with a combined cycle propulsion system, a hybrid approach in which the engine is air-breathing during flight within the atmosphere and then switches to onboard oxygen once outside the atmosphere. Rocket based combined-cycle rockets have been a long sought goal. Reaction Engines, for example, has been developing the Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) for decades. The SABRE would power vehicles to space and enable hypersonic transports for point-to-point travel on earth.
ARC claims their LEAPS combined cycle design will power their DELV vehicle to space:
Our rocket based combined cycle propulsion system has a unique approach that allows us to use the same systems during air-breathing and rocket mode. This allows seamless and simple transitions between each operational mode and massively reduces dead weight. Our engines will be operational from Mach 0 – 10 with an estimated ISP of 1800 (Most traditional rocket systems operate around 300).
** Boeing’s Starliner set to launch uncrewed demo mission to the ISS on July 30th. Boeing and NASA Update Launch Target for Next Starliner Test Flight – Boeing
Boeing and NASA are targeting 2:53 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, July 30, for the launch of Starliner’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2, or OFT-2, mission to the International Space Station pending range approval. The updated launch target is supported by the space station visiting vehicle schedule and availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Boeing will continue preparing the Crew Flight Test vehicle for flight until launch activities involving the OFT-2 vehicle, such as loading cargo and fueling the spacecraft, are scheduled to begin. Boeing recently completed end-to-end testing of Starliner’s flight software by flying a five-day simulated OFT-2 mission with operations teams and the highest-fidelity hardware. Boeing will continue supporting NASA’s post-test reviews and has submitted all OFT-2 verification and validation paperwork. All actions recommended by the Boeing/NASA Joint Independent Review Team as a result of Starliner’s first test flight are complete and pending closure.
First crew mission may have to wait till February 2022. Lack of docking ports causing the delays: It now seems likely that Starliner will not launch crew until early 2022 | Ars Technica
The primary issue is the availability of space station docking ports fitted with an “international docking adapter,” which are used by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Cargo Dragon 2, and Starliner vehicles. There are presently two such ports on the station, and for NASA, the priority for access to these ports are crew rotations followed by supply missions. So the question becomes when the Starliner test flight can find an open slot on station.
The Crew-2 mission, carrying four astronauts on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicle, is expected to launch on April 22 and remain attached to one of these ports for about six months. Then, on June 3, a SpaceX cargo supply mission (CRS-22) is due to launch and occupy the other port.
Thus, there will be no docking ports available this summer until about July 20, the approximate date when the CRS-22 Dragon will depart the station and return to Earth. This departure will open an approximately one-month window during which Starliner could make its test flight. Therefore, although NASA and Boeing have not yet made a target date public, we can expect this flight to take place no earlier than late July or early August.
** More launch industry links:
- Commercial launch:
- Aevum’s autonomous aircraft will deliver cargo and launch rockets – SpaceNews – “… Ravn X unmanned aircraft will be used to both deliver cargo and launch rockets, pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. The Alabama-based company on May 4 received a patent for an ‘adaptive autonomous aircraft system with modular payload systems,’ a technology that would allow Ravn X to be converted from a space launcher to a cargo delivery aircraft and vice versa.”
- Isar Aerospace:
- Isar Aerospace wins three-way DLR microlauncher competition – SpaceNews
- Isar Aerospace Signs Launch Deal with Airbus Defence and Space – Via Satellite
- Isar Aerospace signs up for Andoya launch pad in Norway – SpaceWatch.Global
- German startup Isar Aerospace signs first launch contract – SpaceNews
- Spectrum rocket
- Phantom Space:
- Ursa Major Technologies:
- Stratolaunch flies world’s largest airplane on 2nd test flight | Space.com
- Stratolaunch aircraft returns to the skies after two-year hiatus – SpaceNews
- See latest images @Stratolaunch on Twitter of Talon-A hypersonic vehicle in construction.
- Commercial crew:
- NASA, Boeing Update Launch Target for Next Starliner Flight Test – Commercial Crew Program/NASA –
“NASA and Boeing are targeting 2:53 pm EDT Friday, July 30, for the launch of the company’s Starliner uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station.“
- Next Starliner test flights slips to late summer – SpaceNews
- It now seems likely that Starliner will not launch crew until early 2022 | Ars Technica
- NASA, Boeing Update Launch Target for Next Starliner Flight Test – Commercial Crew Program/NASA –
- Commercial human spaceflight:
- For human spaceflight, better late than never – The Space Review
- Space Tourism Hitting Its Stride – SpacePolicyOnline.com
- Russian actress, Japanese entrepreneur cleared for space station visits – Spaceflight Now
- NASA says demand for private ISS missions exceeds flight opportunities – SpaceNews
- Space Café WebTalk with Laura Seward Forczyk Recap: Civilian space flight is coming (for real this time) – SpaceWatch.Global
- Axiom Space
- Space Adventures’ Client, Yusaku Maezawa, Plans for Mission to the International Space Station – Space Adventures –
“Space Adventures, Inc., the world’s leading space experiences company, announced that Yusaku Maezawa has begun preparations for a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by successfully passing the required medical examinations. He and his production assistant, Yozo Hirano, are planning to launch on the Russian Soyuz MS-20 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 8, 2021.“
- Space Adventures’ Client, Yusaku Maezawa, Plans for Mission to the International Space Station – Space Adventures –
- First companies to launch non-governmental launches from the Alcântara spaceport announced — Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) – “three American companies, Hyperion, Orion AST and Virgin Orbit, and a Canadian company, C6 Launch, are under” contract currently to use the Alcântara spaceport.
- China’s state rocket company unveils rendering of a Starship look-alike | Ars Technica
- GT exclusive: China’s first integrated base supporting rocket building, sea launch to be ‘operational in May’ – Global Times
- Reusable plane project aims for low orbit – Chinadaily.com.cn
- Space Station:
- New ESA contracts to advance Prometheus and Phoebus projects – ESA
- Prometheus is an ultra-low cost reusable rocket engine demonstrator fuelled by liquid methane.
- Phoebus is a highly-optimised upper stage
- New PHOEBUS contract paves the way for development of future lightweight composite rocket stages – ArianeGroup
- FLPP [Future Launchers Preparatory Programme] preparing for Europe’s next-generation launcher
- Germany’s launch startups race to grow their launch manifests – SpaceNews
- New ESA contracts to advance Prometheus and Phoebus projects – ESA
- Amur rocket with reusable first stage:
- Russia’s preparations for Luna-25 mission launch proceeding on schedule — Roscosmos chief – TASS
- Russia hands over last RD-180 rocket engines to US under existing deal – TASS
- Russian tech firm experimentally confirms future Oryol spacecraft’s engine characteristics – TASS
- International Launch Services and Russian Partners Express Ongoing Commitment to Space Activities, Commemorate Historic First Commercial Satellite Launch on Russian Launch Vehicle – ILS
- Space tugs/Servicing spacecraft:
- Voyager Subsidiary, Altius Space Machines, Inc. Celebrates Successful Launch of 100th DogTag Aboard OneWeb’s Satellites – Voyager
- Transport technologies:
- 3D Printed RL10C-X Engine Demonstrates Full Mission Capability During Altitude Hot Fire Test Series | Aerojet Rocketdyne
- Dawn Aerospace’s Smallsat Green Propellant Thruster Proves Itself On-Orbit With D-Orbit’s ION Space Tug – SatNews
- America Can Beat China in Space with Safe Nuclear Propulsion – Defense One
- General Atomics Awarded DARPA Contract to Design Nuclear Thermal Propulsion System for DRACO Mission | General Atomics
- US military picks 3 companies to test nuclear propulsion in cislunar space | Space.com
- General Atomics wins DARPA contract to develop nuclear reactor to power missions to the moon – SpaceNews
- 8 Reusable Rocket Companies for Cheaper Space Travel – Nanalyze
- Exotic tech:
- May 2021 Edition of the ISEC Newsletter – Int. Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC)
- New Warp Drive Research Dashes Faster-Than-Light Travel Dreams—but Reveals Stranger Possibilities – SingularityHub.com
- Near Term Pulsed Fusion Propulsion | NextBigFuture.com
- Experimental Results for Laser Pushed Propulsion | NextBigFuture.com
- Limitless Space Institute: “Midterm public briefing of basic/applied research projects funded by LSI in support of developing advanced power and propulsion concepts to enable the ability to GO INCREDIBLY FAST...”
- Large throwaways:
- Ariane 5:
- Ariane 6:
** The Space Show – Friday, Apr.30.2021 – Greg Meholic of The Aerospace Corporation talked “about fusion, nuclear propulsion, Dr. Woodward and the Mach Effect, EMdrive and other forms of advanced propulsion“.
** Space Elevators Ready for Development — International Space Elevator Consortium – 10 videos from the International Space Elevator Consortium make the case that development of a space elevator from earth to GEO should now begin since “tether material has been shown to be strong enough and long enough” and should be ready by the time a space elector is ready to be built.
March 9th, 2021 represents a turning point in space elevator development. That day a series of ten video presentations demonstrated that the engineering development of the space elevator is ready to begin. This breakout event resulted from the coming together of several forces and the building of a tremendous body of knowledge sufficient to make the case that a space elevator not only can be built, but must be built. There is currently a large global momentum for humanity’s movement off planet and the space elevator provides the infrastructure for that movement. The videos were part of Blue Marble Week, an event run by the Space division of Foundation for the Future and co-sponsored by ISEC. In addition, the term Modern Day Space Elevator – 2021 represents movement into Engineering Development as the tether material has been shown to be strong enough and long enough and should be ready “in time for Space Elevator Development.” The four major thrusts for the present Modern Day Space Elevator focuses on the following statements:
Space Elevators are ready to enter Engineering Development
Space Elevators are the Green Road to Space
Space Elevators can join advanced rockets inside a Dual Space Access Architecture Strategy
Space Elevator’s major strength as a permanent transportation infrastructure is movement of massive cargo to GEO and beyond enabling new enterprises along the way.
Here are three of the 10 videos:
**** 1. Permanent Space Access Infrastructure
Dr. Peter Swan explains how space elevators are taking their first big step NOW. They are revolutionary in that they will enable a massive movement of cargo off-planet. This discussion compares many visions of how this can be done.
**** 6. Graphene Progress and It’s Promising Future for Space Elevators
Adrian Nixon and Rob Whieldon explain the state of the art in the development of the new 2D materials, specifically graphene. The current estimate is that graphene will be “long enough” and “strong enough” for space elevator requirements.
**** 10: Panel Discussion: Engineering the Future
Kevin Barry, William Briton, Michael Fitzgerald and Dennis Wright discuss the current arena of engineering testing and reached towards future successful operations. Several discussions differentiated economics and business, education and work force, and near term vs. long term visions and plans.
** Breakthrough Discuss 2021 – Breakthrough Initiatives – “The Alpha Centauri System: A Beckoning Neighbor”
Proceed back to Space transport roundup – Part 1: SpaceX – May.18.2021
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