Welcome to issue 1.07 of the Rocket Report! There’s a lot of news from the small booster side of things this week, as well as some interesting comments from the NASA administrator about the future of the Space Launch System rocket.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, subscribe using the box below. 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.
Relativity Space looks at military contracts. Relativity, which plans to 3D print both its rocket engines and the boosters themselves, hopes to win both commercial and military contracts. The company’s CEO, Tim Ellis, said: Space news, the Pentagon prefers agile suppliers who can manufacture products quickly. He said: “They need the ability to quickly reconstruct constellations. This is super important based on conversations we hear at the government level.”
A macro micro … Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket delivers a slightly greater payload than many of the micro-missiles under development for small satellites, with a capacity of 1,250 kg in low Earth orbit, and Ellis believes this capability will be attractive are for the military. We’ll be impressed if Relativity hits the target launch date of late 2020 for the Terran 1 booster. (submitted by Ken de Bin)
Chinese start-up company tests rocket engine engine. One Space, which aims to develop low-cost rockets, has successfully tested the first-stage rocket motor of its M-series rockets. According to Space Tech Asia, the success of this test means One Space is on track for the first test launch of OS-M1, the first of its M-series launch vehicles, scheduled for late 2018.
Chinese new space … This first M-series rocket will be 19 meters long and will be powered by a four-stage solid rocket. It will also be able to carry a maximum payload of 205 kg to low Earth orbit. One Space is notable for a number of reasons. First, it is one of the major new space companies in China looking to operate outside the established state-backed industry. And two, most other attempts to develop small satellite launch vehicles have not used solid fuel rockets, so this seems like a somewhat new approach to this market. We are curious about the results of the test flight.
Japanese missile fails for the second time. Speaking of test flights, Interstellar Technologies Inc. attempted to launch its Momo-2 rocket on Saturday, June 30, but the rocket burst into flames seconds after takeoff from Hokkaido. This launch attempt of the 1-ton rocket followed the failure of the Momo-1 rocket last July. Private company founder Takafumi Horie called the second failure “unprecedented,” the… Japanese times reported.
It’s a cliche … but space is difficult. Horie is a colorful character in Japan, so it’ll be interesting to see where Japan’s most talked-about privately owned rocket company goes from here. Despite Horie’s comment, rocket failures aren’t unprecedented, and as hard as it is to get the engineering right, it can be even harder to get a company through multiple failures. (Ask Elon Musk about 2007 and 2008). (submitted by tpc3)
Virgin Orbit gets launch license for first flight. Virgin Orbit has received a license from the Federal Aviation Administration for the first launch of its LauncherOne vehicle, and the flight could take place later this summer. As for the payload, it will be a “mass simulator with CubeSat” according to the launch license, with few other details.
The second on the market … The test flight is based on a successful test flight in captivity, which, according to the company, should happen within the next few days. With these planned tests, Virgin Orbit continues to make progress towards becoming the second small satellite launch company to reach the market of the new generation (after Rocket Lab). A VP of the company’s special projects, Will Pomerantz, says Virgin has emphasized that the time between the first and second flights of its rocket should be limited so that the company can be only months away from commercial service. (submitted by Ken de Bin)
Generation Orbit starts hypersonic testbed. Aviation Week reports that Generation Orbit Launch Services has completed the first hot-fire test of a full prototype of its GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight test booster. The company is developing the air launch system for the US Air Force Research Laboratory to serve as an affordable and flexible hypersonic testbed. The 5,000-pound thrust motor performed as expected during the test.
What the Air Force Wants … The single-stage liquid rocket, launched from a Gulfstream III carrier aircraft, is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions at Mach 5-8 for basic research, technology development and risk reduction. A first flight is planned for the end of 2019.
China is developing a “smart” missile. State news services report that China is developing a missile that can identify mechanical failures during a launch and plot a new flight path as a result of whatever problems arise. A team from the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has started work on the “smart” missile, which in cases where there is a non-structural or non-explosive failure, the booster will have the ability to sense, assess, plan and make flight corrections yourself.
A software problem? … It’s not clear what’s completely new here. Some rockets, such as the Falcon 9 booster, already have software to explain the failure of an engine en route to orbit. So maybe this is just a better system of flight computers or software upgrades. In any case, we hope that “smart” in this case does not mean that missiles join the Internet of Things. (submitted by tpc3)
SpaceX flies its last Block 4 version of the Falcon 9. On Friday, June 29, SpaceX launched a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, its 15th resupply mission. (If you missed them, the pre-dawn photos were great). The company had flown the Falcon 9 rocket just two months earlier and said this would be the last time it flew a Block 4 variant of the booster. All future missions will be on the Block 5 version, optimized for reusability.
Now comes the hard part …The big question now is how fast SpaceX starts flying the Block 5 boosters and how often does it fly with them. We’ll probably get answers to this question by the end of this year, as the company has a dozen more missions planned for 2018. We expect several re-flights by then.
India considers manned space flight program. This week, ISRO tested the crew escape system for the crew pod in an emergency path abort situation. The test was part of relatively quiet work on a capsule that would be launched atop the GSLV Mk III rocket and put a crew of two into orbit, NASASpaceFlight.com reports.
Not yet authorized … India has not yet expressed support for a large-scale manned space flight program, which would cost several billion dollars and take up to ten years. Such success, however, would give India access to an exclusive club that includes Russia, the United States and rival China as its only members. It is not certain when a decision can be made. (submitted by Ken de Bin)
“Space Force” Talk Unites Europe Behind Missile Plans. In an interview with Ars, the head of the Paris-based Ariane Group, Alain Charmeau, said President Trump’s desire for “dominance” in space has united Europe behind his rocket program. “The position of the US helps Europe to strengthen its position,” said Charmeau.
European independence … Later, Charmeau noted that the leaders of both Germany and France have expressed their full support for the Ariane Group’s plan to complete the development of the Ariane 6 rocket, as well as the Vega C booster for medium payloads. Europe is investing in both rockets and satellite systems such as Galileo and Copernicus to remain independent from the United States in space.
NASA administrator thinks about what to do with the SLS rocket. During a Q&A with Politico, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine was asked how the space agency views commercial launch vehicles. His response: “As we move forward, we may have to rethink… at what point are we going to capitalize on those commercial opportunities to the extent that they reduce costs, give us more capabilities, and what do we do with SLS? .. We’re not there yet, but there’s definitely a horizon here. Is it 10 years? I don’t know what the answer is, but what I don’t think we can do is give up our government capacity, our national capacity, if we have no alternative.”
Speaking of timelines …NASA also doesn’t really have the “national capability” of the heavy-lift-class SLS rocket. We’ve heard rumors of a pushback to 2021 for the first launch date, in which case Blue Origin’s New Glenn has a fighting chance to fly first, as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket has already done.
Blue Origin aims for moon landing in 2023. Blue Origin’s director of business development, AC Charania, said at a conference that the company’s Blue Moon program “is our first step toward developing a moon landing capability for the country, for other international customers, to deploy multi-metric tons on the to land on the moon. surface.” The company did not say what role its large orbital rocket in development, New Glenn, would play in a mission to the moon.
Not just any beer anymore … Charania said the company put forward its Blue Moon architecture after the government expressed its interest in sending a series of robotic, then human, landers to the moon within the next decade. “I think we are very excited to implement this long-term commercial solution with the NASA partnership now,” he said.
Next three launches
6th of July: Long March 2C | PRSS-1 & PakTes-1A satellites | Jiuquan, China | 03:50 UTC
July 9: Soyuz 2.1A | MS-09 resupply mission progress | Baikonur, Kazakhstan | 21:51 UTC
July 20: Falcon 9 | Iridium NEXT satellites | Vandenberg AFB, California | 12:12 UTC