Welcome to edition 3.14 of the Rocket Report! So basically it’s Pi week for us. You may also realize that we didn’t release a Rocket Report last week – this is because the threat of Hurricane Laura provided the author with an unexpected but important distraction. But now we’re back with a bigger edition than ever.
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.
Rocket Lab successfully returns to flight† For the first time since a failure two months ago, Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched Capella Space’s first commercial radar satellite satellite into orbit on Sunday after taking off from New Zealand, Spaceflight Now reports. Rocket Lab says it has monthly launches scheduled for the rest of 2020, including the company’s first flight from a new pad on Wallops Island, Virginia.
Building a better connector … Investigators found the cause of the failure on July 4 in a single faulty electrical connector on the second stage, which came loose during flight and led to a premature engine shutdown. Rocket Lab said it has implemented improved testing to better screen for bad connectors, and the success of Electron’s return to flight appears to have supported that idea. (submitted by Ken the Bin and JohnCarter17)
After 14 months, Vega also returns to the flight† On September 2 at 10:51 PM local time in Kourou, French Guiana, Europe’s light lift Vega launch vehicle performed its 15th successful mission, returning to flight. The ride-share mission put 53 satellites into orbit for 21 customers, Arianespace said.
Back to the point … The return to flight after a rocket failure in July 2019 was originally planned for March, before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the European spaceport. After the spaceport reopened in June, adverse winds prevented a launch attempt until later in the summer. With this mission accomplished, Arianespace hopes to market the Vega as an affordable shared vehicle for institutional and commercial customers. (submitted by platykuritc and Ken the Bin)
PLD Space tests its rocket engine† Spanish launch startup PLD Space has completed critical testing of the company’s Teprel-B rocket engine, SpaceNews reports. The engine is expected to power the single-stage suborbital Miura 1 launch vehicle. The Miura 1 is designed to launch 100 kg of payload to an altitude of 150 km, using a whopping three minutes of microgravity.
One step closer to the bike’s qualification … PLD Space said it had successfully completed a series of thrust vector control tests on the kerosene-powered Teprel-B rocket engine. The completion of the Teprel-B thrust vector control test follows a successful March “burst test” of the Miura 1 composite sheathed pressure vessel, which is used to pressurize the rocket’s propulsion stage in flight. (submitted by JohnCarter17, platykurtic and Ken the Bin)
Rocket Lab gets FAA launch license for Wallops† Rocket Lab said this week it has received major clearance from the US Federal Aviation Administration for the Virginia spaceport. Its “Launch Operator License” for the LC-2 pad on Wallops allows the company to perform multiple launches from the site without having to ask the agency for a mission-specific license for each individual flight, TechCrunch reports.
Starting later this year? … Rocket Lab held its official opening ceremony for the Virginia-based LC-2 late last year, but COVID-19 and the related disruptions have likely delayed planned debut activity at the site. The company has yet to determine a launch date for the first mission from the second general launch pad. (submitted by danneely and Ken the Bin)
Scottish launch site takes new step† Following approval from the Highland Council schedule, with a maximum of 12 launches allowed per year, a proposed vertical launch spaceport in the north of Scotland takes the next regulatory step. Highlands and Islands Enterprise said it has sought permission from the Scottish Land Court to build and operate the facility.
Crofting means small-scale farming … The consent of the Scottish Land Court is required as the project would be developed on farmland, currently classified as community grazing land. Any crofter with livestock on the communal pasture would be asked to move their animals for periods around the launch days. Construction is scheduled to start next year, with a view to an initial launch possibly before the end of 2022. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
SpaceX launches its 100th rocket† Weather conditions were poor during the afternoon of Sunday, August 30 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. But they cleared out just long enough for SpaceX to launch the SAOCOM-1B mission. This was a historic mission for two reasons, Ars reports, as SpaceX launched a rocket for the 100th time and flew a rare polar corridor mission from Florida for the Argentine space agency.
Three different missiles … The mission count includes five Falcon 1 launches, three Falcon Heavy missions, and 92 Falcon 9 launches. Sunday’s mission also marked the first time in 50 years that a Florida rocket — which is optimized for launches at the equator — has launched into polar orbit. It was made possible by a modernized flight termination system that protected the Florida coast. On Thursday, the company flew its 101st mission.
Sea Launch spaceport needs $470 million to recover† The floating spaceport, currently located at a shipyard near Vladivostok, Russia, requires an investment of about $470 million to prepare it for new launches. This estimate came from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, TASS news agency reported.
Laying fallow for five years … The last launch from the platform at sea took place in May 2015. “It is a unique structure that is unparalleled in the world,” said Borisov. “Some have plans to build something similar. It would be very stupid of us if we decided not to restore the Sea Launch and not to use its services. Technically this is all possible.” We will believe this when funding is allocated and repairs begin. (submitted by JohnCarter17 and Ken the Bin)