Welcome to issue 4.17 of the Rocket Report! After the successful completion of the Inspiration4 mission last weekend, we can now look forward to some significant launches in the coming days. First up is NASA’s Landsat 9 mission on an Atlas V rocket. And in a little less than two weeks, Russia is sending a film crew on a Soyuz vehicle to shoot a film in space.
As always we welcome readers’ contributions, and if you don’t want to miss any issue, please sign up using the field below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the website). Each report includes information on small, medium and heavy missiles as well as a brief preview of the next three launches on the calendar.
Astra licenses Firefly rocket engines. Astra, the small launch company that recently went public, has signed an approximately $ 30 million contract for the rights to in-house manufacture of Firefly Aerospace’s Reaver rocket engines. The Verge reports. Under the agreement, signed earlier this year, Firefly will ship up to 50 of its Reaver rocket engines to Astra’s rocket factory in Alameda, California, where a development engine for about half a million dollars was shipped in late spring.
From five to two engines … Astra engineers disassembled the engine for a detailed inspection, said a person familiar with the terms who, like others involved in the transaction, did not disclose any information on the files due to a strict nondisclosure agreement. Merging the Firefly engines with Astra’s own rocket technology would help Astra achieve its publicly stated goal of “500 kg to 500 km”. The company’s current rocket – simply called the Rocket – has yet to reach orbit after three attempts. This rocket uses five Astra Dolphin engines and is designed to lift up to 150 kg into low earth orbit. A new version with two Firefly Reaver engines could lift 500 kg. (submitted by Rendgrish, EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)
Bank of America tears up Virgin Galactic. Bank of America analysts, who cover Virgin Galactic’s publicly traded shares, are upset that the company did not announce that a SpaceShipTwo suborbital flight starring founder Richard Branson flew out of assigned airspace on July 11. Parabolic arc reports. This deviation led to an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the grounding of the company’s only operational spaceplane.
Bad strategy in aviation … “In our view, it is unacceptable to have an event during a flight that is considered a mishap under FAA regulations and then claim that the mission was a complete success,” analyst Ronald Epstein wrote in a note to investors. “The old adage that asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission is generally a bad strategy in aviation.” The Virgin Group and Branson sold $ 800 million worth of shares in seven weeks as shareholders were in doubt about the incident and subsequent actions. The news was first revealed through an article in The New Yorker published on September 1 (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Rocket Lab launches mission for Astroscale. Rocket Lab announced On Tuesday, it signed a special launch contract with Astroscale to launch the Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) satellite on an electron rocket. The mission is scheduled to start in 2023.
Grab space junk … Once deployed by Electrons Kick Stage, the ADRAS-J satellite is designed to meet a piece of orbital debris, a long-abandoned upper stage missile body. ADRAS-J aims to demonstrate proximity operations and obtain images of the missile body to provide observation data to better understand the debris environment. A planned second phase of the mission is to demonstrate a deorbitation of the rubble. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Indian startup company to gain access to government facilities. The Indian startup Agnikul Cosmos signed an agreement with the Indian Ministry of Space on Friday for access to ISRO facilities and expertise for the development of its two-stage small satellite launcher Agnibaan. The company’s two-stage Agnibaan rocket is designed to launch payloads weighing up to 100 kg into a 700 km orbit. Parabolic arc reports.
Technical know-how too … The agreement will allow “multiple tests and access facilities to be carried out at various ISRO centers to test and qualify their one-piece 3D printed semi-cryo-engine and other systems,” said ISRO. It will also enable Agnikul to use ISRO’s technical expertise to test and qualify its launch vehicle systems and subsystems. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
The start date for Starliner remains undetermined. Almost six weeks have passed since Boeing announced it would unstack its Starliner spacecraft from an Atlas V missile and bring the vehicle back to its factory for “deeper” troubleshooting of problematic valves. On Tuesday, NASA’s head of manned spaceflight, Kathy Lueders, said teams of engineers and technicians from Boeing and NASA are continuing to investigate the sticky valve issue, Ars reports. “I think the team is making great strides in further troubleshooting.” , she said.
Slipping to early 2022 … Boeing and NASA will reach a decision point in the “next few weeks” when they decide whether to remove the valves from the service module for further investigation. If so, Boeing would likely prefer a service module earmarked for a future crewed flight and use it for the Orbital Flight Test-2 unmanned mission. A new date for this OFT-2 mission has yet to be set, and Lueders indicated that one cannot be set anytime soon. She suggested that the mission is likely to be postponed to 2022. “In my opinion, it is more likely that it will be next year, but we are still working on that schedule,” she said.
Falcon 9 launches Turkish satellite. Türksat will launch its first domestically built communications satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9, the Turkish government has announced. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said it has placed an order with SpaceX to launch Türksat 6A, which is slated for the first quarter of 2023. The ministry did not disclose the terms of the contract. SpaceNews reports.
SpaceX offered the best deal … In a government statement, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, Adil Karaismailoğlu, said the government had considered “many carrier companies” before choosing SpaceX, “the best technical, administrative and financial solution offers”. Türksat 6A will be the country’s first domestically built communications satellite, from the TÜBİTAK Space Technologies Research Institute. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
SpaceX sees high demand for free flyer missions. Four amateur astronauts returned from a three-day private space flight this weekend, full of enthusiasm for the experience. “The best ride of my life,” said Sian Proctor shortly after stepping out of the Crew Dragon capsule. Future customers for such a free-flying orbital experience, however, did not wait for the first reviews to show their interest in space travel. Even before the Crew Dragon space probe crashed on Saturday night, the Inspiration4 mission had already ignited an interesting firestorm, reports Ars.
It’s good that the rocket is reusable … “The number of people contacting us through our sales and marketing portals has actually increased significantly,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s senior director of Human Spaceflight Programs, during a call to reporters after the space tourism mission landed . “There’s a lot of interest now.”
FAA publishes first report on Boca Chica launch site. The Federal Aviation Administration released a draft environmental review of SpaceX’s plans for orbital launches from South Texas on Friday, opening a 30-day public comment period. The long-awaited procedural step is the first of several regulatory hurdles SpaceX must overcome before final approval is obtained for the launch of its Super Heavy Booster and Starship Upper School from a location near Boca Chica, Texas, reports Ars.
Final decision comes later … Such a launch will likely take months, but it now appears that the South Texas federal authorities will ultimately give the go-ahead for orbital launches. That seemed anything but certain for today. The document, officially known as the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment, assesses the potential environmental impact of SpaceX’s Starship program, including launch and reentry. It is also reviewing the debris recovery, integration tower and other launch-related structures, as well as local road closures between Brownsville and Boca Chica Beach.
China will announce tough plans next week. China’s institutional rocket developer, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, will officially present designs for two heavy-lift rockets at this year’s Airshow China in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. The event runs from September 28th to October 3rd, the Global Times reports.
New names, new plans … Officials have already discussed plans for the Long March 5-DY and Long March 9 vehicles, but are likely to formalize names and details for these vehicles, which will support space exploration missions as well as human moon landings in about a decade or so. The first stage reuse is expected to be part of the plans announced next week. (submitted by IA)
Astranis takes off on Falcon Heavy. Astranis announced Thursday that its first commercial communications satellite will now launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on a direct injection mission for the spring of 2022. Switching from a Falcon 9 rocket allows the spacecraft to use its orbital slot within. to achieve days of introduction, said the company.
No months of orbit elevation required … “The launch of Falcon Heavy will get us into orbit months faster and allow us to serve customers in Alaska much sooner,” said John Gedmark, Astranis CEO. “This is a huge win for our Alaska customers.” Astranis previously launched a demonstration CubeSat on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
The next three starts
September 27th: Atlas V | Landsat 9 | Vandenberg Space Force Base, California | 18:11 UTC
Oct. 1: Epsilon | Fast innovative payload demonstration satellite 2 | Uchinoura Space Center, Japan | 00:48
Oct 5: Soyuz | MS-19 crew launch | Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan | 08:55 UTC
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