Welcome to issue 4.23 of the Rocket Report! After a week-long hiatus, this report returns with an abundance of news. There’s plenty to talk about, from exciting news in the New Mexico desert to busy times for the Space Coast in Florida while SpaceX is busy with manned missions.
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.
SpinLaunch completes its first test flight. The California-based startup uses kinetic energy to launch payloads, and its test projectile hit “tens of thousands” of feet on initial launch. CNBC reports. The company’s method uses a vacuum-sealed centrifuge to spin the missile to a speed several times the speed of sound before it is launched. “It’s a radically different way of accelerating projectiles and launching vehicles with a ground-based system at hypersonic speed,” said SpinLaunch CEO Jonathan Yaney.
Spin and win … The company completed its first major test of a 1/3 scale version of its accelerator at Spaceport America in New Mexico on October 22nd. Even so, this version of the accelerator is 50 meters high. With this approach, SpinLaunch aims to build smaller rockets that require less fuel to reach orbit. His first orbital vehicle is expected to put about 200 kg into low earth orbit. SpinLaunch has raised $ 110 million to date from investors including Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Airbus Ventures, and others. (Submitted by Wickwick, Tfargo04, Biokleen, Rendgrish, JohnCarter17, and Ken the Bin.)
Amazon launches first Kuiper satellites on ABL. The company plans to launch its first prototype broadband satellite in the fourth quarter of 2022 using ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket, Ars reports. Amazon’s prototype satellites will operate at an altitude of 590 km. Such a launch date would come nearly four years after SpaceX’s first prototype Starlink satellites were launched.
Impressed with ABL … The expected launch of prototype satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022 doesn’t change this schedule for production satellites, which may not launch for a year or more after the trials. While Amazon doesn’t have rockets of its own like SpaceX, Amazon said it was “impressed with ABL’s unique capabilities” and expected “a long-term relationship” with its newly announced launch partner. Some Project Kuiper satellites will also be launched on the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket.
Virgin Orbit plans third mission for 2021. the Starting company said Preparations for the third LauncherOne mission this calendar year are in full swing. This “Above the Clouds” mission will transport experimental satellites for the US Department of Defense as well as two nanosatellites for the Polish company SatRevolution. The airborne missile will originate from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
Doubling in 2022 … LauncherOne debuted in May 2020 with a failure shortly after the engine fired. However, in January the rocket completed its first successful orbital flight and followed in June with a second mission. Completing three successful flights in a year is a good start and speaks well for the company’s logistics and operations planning. Virgin Orbit is hoping to double its launch frequency in 2022 and, given the progress shown this year, it seems possible. (Submitted by Ken the Bin and EllPeaTea.)
Virgin Orbit agrees to launch from Japan. And it’s good that LauncherOne is getting an operational cadence because the company has big plans for it. Earlier this month Virgin Orbit announced an agreement with ANA Holdings to procure 20 flights of the missile from Japan’s Oita Prefecture. ANA owns Japan’s largest airline.
More like LauncherTwenty, Amirit? … Under the terms of the agreement, ANA and several of its partners will fund the manufacture of a new set of mobile ground support equipment that will be used to prepare Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system for flight from an existing runway. The hope is to make Oita a LauncherOne-enabled spaceport by the end of 2022, pending regulatory approvals in the US and Japan. (Submitted by Ken the Bin.)
Chinese company buys reusable motors. Rocket Pi from China has signed a contract with Jiuzhou Yunjian to supply engines for the Darwin-1 reusable launcher. SpaceNews reports. Jiuzhou Yunjian manufactures liquid fuel engines (especially methane / liquid oxygen engines). The deal applies to both high school and high school. A single Lingyun-70 will propel the first stage of the Darwin-1 launcher, 2.25 meters in diameter, with a Lingyun-10 engine on the second stage.
One of many candidates … Rocket Pi exited stealth mode in March and presented plans to develop Darwin-1 and a larger medium-stroke launcher. The Darwin 1 rocket is expected to take off in the first quarter of 2023 at the earliest. Rocket Pi is just one of several Chinese private launch companies developing reusable launch vehicles. (Submitted by Ken the Bin.)
Honda develops a prototype rocket engine. Japanese officials at Honda Motor Company have released more details on their plans to potentially expand into the rocket launch business, Ars reports, and they have completed several test firings on a prototype engine. Honda’s basic plan is to develop a small satellite launcher with a capacity of up to one ton in low-earth orbit. The goal of this initiative is not to become the next SpaceX, but rather to give Honda engineers the freedom to innovate.
The decision to go or no-go is pending … A few years ago, during internal company discussions about future business opportunities, a cohort of young Honda engineers expressed their interest in rockets. And so the company has been dedicating part of its research and development resources to the development of a rocket engine since the end of 2019. Honda plans to support internal development work until around 2025 or 2026. After that, a decision is made whether to proceed with a launch deal and full development of the missile.
Epsilon 5 rocket raises nine satellites. The Japanese space agency’s Epsilon-5 rocket opened on Tuesday, Reports from the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation. The launch of the rocket was delayed by four minutes from the original schedule to avoid the Crew Dragon spacecraft returning from the International Space Station with astronauts.
Lower cost, but not exactly cheap … Five Epsilon rockets have been successfully launched by JAXA since 2013, who developed the Epsilon series with the aim of putting small satellites into orbit at low cost. The solid rocket costs less than $ 40 million and can put up to 1.5 tons in low earth orbit. (Submitted by Ken the Bin and Tsunam.)
Decision about the Georgia spaceport postponed again. A federal agency has again postponed a final decision approving the construction of a commercial missile launcher on the Georgia coast. the Associated Press reports. Instead of publishing a decision in early November, the Federal Aviation Administration now plans to do so by December 15th. A statement from the Agency cites a delay caused by “ongoing consultation efforts”. The final decision was originally expected for the end of July, but has now been postponed at least three times.
Rejection from park supporters … Camden County is in the southeast corner of Georgia. It aims to build the country’s 13th licensed commercial spaceport and has spent nearly 10 years and $ 10 million pursuing that goal. In June, the FAA published an environmental impact study that concluded that building the spaceport was their “preferred alternative”. That pulled the National Park Service and its parent agency, the US Department of the Interior, back. (Submitted by Ken the Bin.)
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