Welcome to Edition 3.03 of the Rocket Report! Depending on your local time zone, this weekend can look busy in the launch world, with Electron and Falcon 9 launches potentially happening within five hours of each other.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss any issue, please register using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-compatible versions of the site). Each report includes information on small, medium and heavy rockets, as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.
Brazilian launch site open to commercial customers† The first launch of sounding rockets took place from the Alcântara Launch Center in 1990, but now the facility, which is mainly used for military purposes, is being opened to commercial providers from other countries, Airway reports. The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) announced the public call for activities at the space center earlier this month.
Launch with speed … It’s not clear who will use the facility, but Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted that “Brazil has just joined the select group of countries hosting private launches, such as that of SpaceX.” That seems a bit exaggerated, but the site does have some advantages. At just 2 degrees south latitude, it is the world’s closest launch site to the equator. (submitted by UMineiro)
High winds delay electron launch† The “Don’t Stop Me Now” mission was in fact stopped by strong wind at the company’s launch site in New Zealand early Thursday morning (US time). With continued unfavorable winds in the forecast for the next day, the company is now targeting 4:43 UTC on June 13 for its next attempt. There are still a few days left in the launch window.
A crazy little thing called love … The mission’s name is in recognition of former Rocket Lab board member and Queen fan Scott Smith, who passed away in February 2020. The mission will deploy small satellites from NASA, the NRO and the University of New South Wales. (submitted by JohnCarter17)
Virgin Orbit Pushes Forward With UK Launch Plans† Virgin Orbit and the UK government continue efforts to begin flights of the company’s air launch system from a UK airport in early 2022, despite challenges on both sides of the Atlantic, SpaceNews reports. Virgin, which has yet to prove the viability of its booster, wants to fly its 747 from a spaceport in Cornwall to support its LauncherOne rocket.
Government approval still needed … “We’re confident we can reach that end goal of that launch by the end of ’21 or early ’22,” said Miles Carden, spaceport director for the Cornwall Council, who has helped fund infrastructure improvements to the airport. in partnership with Virgin Orbit and the UK Space Agency. The British government has yet to approve the horizontal launch system. (submitted by JohnCarter17, platykurtic and Ken the Bin)
Planet VP praises Falcon 9 rideshare† The American small satellite company plans to add six additional SkySats to its constellation on a pair of Falcon 9 launches in the coming weeks. The Planet satellites will ride on top of existing Starlink payloads, said Planet Vice President Mike Safyan. An agreement was signed just six months ago. SpaceX will remove two of its 60 Starlink satellites to accommodate the extra payload.
A bargain … “This is the result of drastically reducing the cost of access to launch by SpaceX,” Safyan told Ars. “It’s significant. They lowered the price so much we couldn’t believe what we were looking at.” The Falcon 9 launch will require the SkySats to use their onboard propulsion system to move the satellites from their drop-off point to their final orbit of 450 km. In this case, Safyan said, the trade is well worth it.
Chinese companies investigate methane engines† The next generation of US launch vehicles, including SpaceX’s Starship, Blue Origin’s New Glenn and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rockets, are all based on methane-LOX engines. SpaceNews reports that Chinese companies are now also using this fuel.
Methane here, there, everywhere … Landspace and iSpace report progress with methane rocket engines, as Galactic Energy moves closer to launching its Ceres-1 launch vehicle. Deep Blue Aerospace has secured early funding to develop a series of liquid launch vehicles. The companies are mainly looking at methalox for smaller missiles than the US launch providers. (submitted by Ken the Bin, platykurtic and JohnCarter17)
Mars 2020 launch takes three days† A launch vehicle that handles “hiccups” has delayed the launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission next month by three days.
NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk revealed the delay in a presentation at a joint meeting of the National Academies’ Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and Space Studies Board on June 9, SpaceNews reports.
a tap pain … Tory Bruno, president and chief executive of the ULA, said on Twitter that a problem with a crane used as part of launcher processing caused the delay, an issue that has since been fixed. The delay delayed Mars 2020’s launch to July 20, with a two-hour window at 9:15 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida. (submitted by whitenknave, Ken the Bin and JohnCarter17)
James Webb launch postponed again† On Wednesday, NASA’s chief of science programs said the James Webb Space Telescope will not meet its current schedule for a March 2021 launch, Ars reports. “Absolutely, we won’t launch in March,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the space science agency. “That’s not in it now. It’s not because they did anything wrong. It’s nobody’s fault or mismanagement.”
Attend La fusée … He said the telescope had him nearly on schedule before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the agency and that the virus had resulted in additional lost work time. The telescope will lift off aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Space Agency’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It could be one of that rocket’s last missions before Arianespace transitions to the Ariane 6 booster.
Musk to SpaceX: spaceship is now our priority† Following the successful launch of the Crew Dragon mission for NASA on May 30, SpaceX founder Elon Musk wrote an email to his employees outlining his priorities, CNBC reports. “Please consider SpaceX’s top priority (aside from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship,” he wrote.
Gone to Texas … Musk said employees should do whatever it takes to accelerate Starship’s development, up to and including moving to its South Texas launch site near Boca Chica Beach. To that end, the company recently canceled its lease with the Port of Los Angeles. SpaceX has been developing the rocket factory in Texas for some time now, and this only confirms the idea that the company’s path to Mars begins in Texas. (submitted by JohnCarter17 and Ken the Bin)
Vulcan on track for Moon launch in 2021† United Launch Alliance says its Vulcan rocket is advancing toward its first launch in early 2021, NASASpaceflight.com reports. While an exact launch target is not yet known, the mission will use a newly built Launch Umbilical Tower and share Atlas V’s Vertical Integration Facility and SLC-41 launch pad in Florida.
Staying ahead of the pandemic …The booster flight hardware for Vulcan’s maiden flight is nearly ready, said Tory Bruno, CEO and president of ULA, noting that ULA is “missing no milestones” as Vulcan heads toward its first launch. For its first mission, Vulcan will launch Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander to the moon, which in turn is part of NASA’s CLPS program to send payloads to the lunar surface. (submitted by Ken the Bin and platykurtic)
Battle over Air Force contracts continues† The Department of the Air Force plans to announce the two winners of the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 launch services soon, reports SpaceNews. Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, Northrop Grumman and SpaceX are competing for two contracts to fly approximately 34 missions from 2022 to 2027.
The pen is mightier than the turbo pump … Since the opening of the competition, Blue Origin has pressured the Air Force to select three winners instead of two. However, in a display of political strength, a group of 28 lawmakers from Colorado, Alabama and other states where United Launch Alliance has manufacturing and launch operations sent a letter to the Air Force on May 29 asking them not to yield to pressure to yield. add a third provider in phase 2. (submitted by JohnCarter17, Ken the Bin and platykurtic)
Kerbal Space Program 2 postponed to fall 2021† Everything is moving to the right in the launch business, it seems, and that includes video games. Private Division, the creators of the new sequel Kerbal Space Program 2have announced that the KSP the follow-up launch has been delayed to fall 2021, Space.com reports. The game allows players to design, build and often destroy their creations.
What are we going to blow up now? … “As you all know, we have worked hard to create the best and most authentic KSP follow-up possible. This is an ambitious goal. We’re making a big, expansive game packed with new features, but it’s taking longer than we anticipated,” Private Division wrote in a statement on Twitter. Shame, man. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Next three launches
June 13th: Electron | “Don’t Stop Me Now” | Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand | 04:43 UTC
June 13th: Falcon 9 | Starlink-8 mission | Cape Canaveral, Florida | 09:21 GMT
June 17: Long March 2D | Gaofen 9-03 | Jiuquan, China.| 07:18 UTC