Rocket Report: Astra To Launch From Florida, NASA Solves SLS Issue


Enlarge / SpaceX launched NASA’s IXPE mission on a Falcon 9 first stage that had previously flown four times.

Welcome to edition 4.26 of the Rocket Report! Don’t look now, but we’re less than two weeks away from the momentous launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope is fully powered and has just been moved to the facility where it will be stacked on top of the Ariane 5 rocket. Anyone else nervous?

As always, we welcome to readers’ contributions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please register using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP versions of the site). Each report will include information on small, medium and large power rockets as well as a quick overview of the next three launches on the schedule.

France to accelerate plans for reusable rockets. On Monday, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced a plan for Europe to compete more effectively with SpaceX by developing a reusable rocket on a faster schedule. “For the first time, Europe (…) will have access to a reusable launcher,” said Le Maire. “In other words, we will have our SpaceX, we will have our Falcon 9. We will make up for a bad strategic choice made 10 years ago.”

Go faster … The new plan calls for the large France-based rocket company ArianeGroup to develop a new small-scale rocket called Maïa by 2026. That’s four years ahead of a schedule previously set by the European Space Agency for the development of a much larger reusable rocket. Maïa will have a lifting capacity of up to 1 metric ton in low earth orbit and will be powered by a reusable Prometheus rocket motor. As Ars explains, the politics of this are complicated.

Astra’s next launch will be in Florida. The small launch company, which has previously flown its small rocket from Alaska and entered orbit earlier this year for the first time, announced Monday that its next launch will be from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Base. Astra plans to launch a small satellite for NASA with its Rocket 3 vehicle no earlier than January 2022.

Faster approvals … Astra and Space Launch Delta 45, part of the United States Space Force, shortened the multi-year approval timeframe to several months for the launch site. “The out-of-Cape launch allows us to serve customers with medium-tilt delivery needs, thereby expanding our market,” said Martin Attiq, Commercial Director of Astra. “This is a further step in our global spaceport strategy and positions us to serve the vast low Earth orbit market.” (submitted by Ken the Bin)

Ursa Major raises $ 85 million. The Colorado-based liquid engine maker for small space launchers and hypersonic vehicles said on Tuesday it has closed a $ 85 million Series C fundraiser. The company said the new funding will help ramp up production to meet to current demand and start the development of its new generation engines, SpaceNews Reports.

Next stop, orbit? … Ursa Major’s engines have not yet been put into orbit. The company said it has back orders for more than 50 engines and has received several research and development contracts from commercial and US government customers through 2022. Its customers include Stratolaunch, Phantom Space, Generation Orbit, US Air Force and Defense Manufacturing Institutes. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

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Chinese company reaches orbit for the second time. Rocket company Galactic Energy launched its second Ceres-1 rocket on Monday, becoming the first private Chinese company to reach orbit twice, SpaceNews Reports. The four-stage Ceres-1 solid rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, successfully placing five satellites in a sun-synchronous orbit of approximately 500 km.

Orbit is twice as pleasant … The launch follows the company’s first launch in November 2020, which made Galactic Energy the second private Chinese rocket company to reach orbit, following iSpace’s success in July 2019. Since then, iSpace failed with his two subsequent orbits. launch attempts, both of which took place this year. Galactic now plans five launches in 2022 with the Ceres vehicle, which can lift 300 kg in sun-synchronous orbit, the company says.

Rocket Lab launches sixth mission of 2021. The company completed its “A Data with Destiny” mission on Thursday, with the Electron rocket delivering the two BlackSky Gen-2 terrestrial imaging satellites to a 430 km circular orbit. This brings the total number of satellites deployed by Rocket Lab to 109, the company said. This was the final launch of Rocket Lab for 2021, which included six flights and five successful missions.

BlackSky an important customer … This flight was part of a multiple launch agreement with Spaceflight to deploy numerous BlackSky satellites to Electron. Rocket Lab has now deployed seven satellites to low Earth orbit for BlackSky on missions starting in 2019. Next year could be a big year for Rocket Lab as it attempts the first in-flight recovery of the first stage of an orbital rocket. . (submitted by Ken the Bin)

Orbex to build launch pad for rocket testing. The UK based launch company announced Thursday that it has started construction on its first state-of-the-art “launch pad”, which it claims is the first orbital space launch pad to be built in the UK in more than a half -century. The platform, known as Orbex LP1, will be built by Motive Offshore Group at a test site near Kinloss, near Orbex’s headquarters in Forres, Scotland. It should be fully operational early next year.

Launch site still to be built … “The ability for our engineers to test Prime on its own launch pad is a major step forward on the launch roadmap,” Chris Larmour said in the company announcement. This platform, however, will not actually be used for orbital launches. On the contrary, Orbex said, it will help “speed up” plans to launch the Prime rocket from its “home” spaceport in Sutherland, northern Scotland. Orbex has said it plans to first launch Prime later in 2022, but like all inaugural launch dates, you have to be skeptical enough.

Coastal Maine city delays spaceport decision. The town of Jonesport on Wednesday voted a six-month moratorium on a proposal to develop an aerospace facility sought by bluShift Aerospace. Local fishermen mainly oppose the project, Central Maine Times Record reports, due to fears that it would interfere with fishing schedules and that gear could be damaged and become entangled with parachutes falling alongside rockets.

Shift to a lower gear … Sascha Deri, CEO of bluShift, said he fully supports the moratorium and the creation of local rules to regulate aerospace. “This gives ample time to work together to find a way around fishing and other industries that take advantage of the ocean’s resources,” he said. The proposed launch site location is on an island, although the Mission Control facility is closer to town. The cost of the project would be in the order of $ 1 million. (submitted by Kered557)


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