Enlarge /. Northrop Grumman conducted a validation test on its GEM 63XL rocket motor at its Promontory, Utah facility on January 21.
Welcome to issue 3.31 of the missile report! Most of the news this week has been about bigger rockets, with one particularly interesting part regarding NASA's Falcon Heavy rocket and Europa Clipper that is worth a look. It's also exciting to see NASA and Boeing move forward the start date for Starliner's second test flight.
As always, we look forward to readers' contributions. If you don't want to miss out on an issue, please subscribe to it using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the website). Each report includes information on small, medium and heavy-duty missiles, as well as a brief overview of the next three launches on the calendar.
Firefly is trying to raise additional funds. Firefly Aerospace announced this week that it would raise $ 350 million to increase production and work on a new, larger vehicle, SpaceNews reports. During a webinar on Tuesday about investing in the space industry, Tom Markusic, CEO of Firefly, said the funding would support long-term growth as the Alpha rocket goes into service while the company develops a mid-size launcher called Beta.
Betting on growth … "Over the next five years," he said, "we want to take Firefly from a $ 1 billion company if we fly Alpha and the SUV to be on the order of in about five years." his." a $ 10 billion company. "The SUV Markusic was referring to is an upper tier, known as a space utility vehicle, that can serve as a space tug. The Alpha rocket is set to debut in a few weeks, and Beta could debut as early as 2024," said Markusic. (Submitted by BH and Ken the Bin)
Virgin Orbit signs commercial launch contract. Virgin Orbit announced Monday that Dutch space company Innovative Solutions in Space has selected the first successful flight of its LauncherOne rocket for the launch of the Royal Netherlands Air Force's first satellite, a 6U CubeSat called BRIK-. II.
A lift … BRIK-II is currently scheduled to launch in 2021 and will fly as a lift on an upcoming LauncherOne mission. Virgin Orbit is working through its subsidiary VOX Space to add payloads from the US Department of Defense's space testing program to this mission. The mission will fly out of the Mojave Air & Space Port in California. (submitted by NotYourUsername, platykurtic and Ken the Bin)
The start date of the Starliner is shifted to the left. NASA announced this week that it and Boeing are now planning to launch Starliner's second attempted flight as part of the agency's commercial crew program on Thursday, March 25 at the earliest. This is four days earlier than the date announced by NASA and this is due to the changed availability of an Atlas V rocket.
Next rocket … Also this week the United Launch Alliance announced that it has delayed the start of the STP-3 mission for the US Space Force "so that the customer can assess the readiness for launch of the STP Satellite-6 spacecraft". This mission was supposed to start before Starliner, but because of its delay, ULA can now focus on Boeing's test flight. (submitted by Ken the Bin and platykurtic)
Crew named after the fully private orbital crew launched for the first time. The crew of the first fully private space mission will include the second oldest person to go into space, the second Israeli to enter space, the 11th Canadian to go into space and the first former NASA astronaut to return to the International Space Station. CollectSpace reports. Axiom Space from Houston is organizing the mission.
Launch within a year … A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to launch: Larry Connor, an American real estate and technology entrepreneur; Eytan Stibbe, businessman and former Israeli fighter pilot; Mark Pathy, a Canadian investor and philanthropist; and Michael Lopez-Alegria, a retired NASA astronaut. This Ax-1 mission could start as early as January 2022. (Submitted by Ken the Bin and Tfarog04)
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Japan is moving into the next phase of the H3 missile test. The country's next-gen launcher's core phase, H3, will be transported to its launch site at Tanegashima Space Center for a series of tests beginning in February. A wet dress rehearsal is slated for March when the launcher is loaded with cryogenic propellant to simulate pre-launch work, SpaceNews reports.
No launch date yet … These are hopeful signs of the rocket's launch in 2020, but which had to overcome issues with the new LE-9 main engine. However, a start date for the goal has not yet been selected (or at least published). According to JAXA, the launch date for the first H3 rocket will be "determined in accordance with the development status of the on-board satellite and related organizations". (submitted by Ken the Bin and platykurtic)
Falcon 9 launches record number of satellites. On Sunday, SpaceX launched its first special ridesharing mission called Transporter-1 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. With this launch of a total of 143 satellites, SpaceX surpassed the previous record holder for most satellites launched in a single mission set by the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in 2017, reports Ars.
How popular is it … SpaceX didn't reveal many details about the popularity of its ridesharing program or the number of payloads booked on future launches. However, several customers said they were surprised at the cost and speed of the service SpaceX offers. The company plans to launch some of these ridesharing opportunities each year on the Falcon 9 rocket.
NASA is requesting information on the commercial launch of Clipper. NASA has published a tender for a commercial launcher to send its Clipper spacecraft to Jupiter's moon Europa. "The launcher must deliver a Europa Clipper spaceship weighing at least 6,065 kg with the trajectory characteristics Mars-Earth-Gravity Assist," the request said. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is the only commercial rocket to support this trajectory. If the Delta IV Heavy Booster were used, it would have to perform a Venus flyby, which requires additional thermal protection for the clipper.
So why not just award the contract to SpaceX? … For years, Congress ordered the launch of Clipper with the Space Launch System. However, recent wind tunnel tests revealed that the torsional vibration that the SLS boosters would induce is very high and would require a significant overhaul of the spacecraft. Congress therefore agreed to allow the mission to move to a private rocket. However, since some Congressmen aren't SpaceX's biggest fans, they wanted NASA to open up competition to missiles that aren't yet flying, including the Vulcan and New Glenn. In response to a question on Twitter, United Launch Alliance's Tory Bruno declined to say whether a base model Vulcan could complete the trajectory NASA wanted. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Trump leaves Biden with a missile dilemma. It's been only two years since then – Vice President Mike Pence had this hard love for SLS engineers at NASA: "If American industry can provide critical commercial services without government development, we'll buy them. And if commercial missiles are the only way. " getting American astronauts to the moon in the next five years will be commercial rockets. "
Well, maybe not … Today, the former Vice President's ambitious goal of 2024 to land on the moon is out of reach. Pence has resigned. And of course, the SLS missile didn't launch in 2020. Now it is almost certain that it won't start before 2022. What happens now? This Ars article looks at what could come for NASA and the SLS rocket it is building to send people back to the moon.
SpaceX scrubs the Starship's attempt at launch on Thursday. SpaceX had been preparing to launch its SN9 prototype Thursday, but shortly before 11 a.m. local time, the "Temporary Flight Restrictions" for the start of the Starship of the day were lifted. Before the peeling, engineers and technicians had prepared the vehicle for start. Local residents were also evacuated.
Elon not happy … The launch appears to have been delayed as the FAA has not given final approval for the 10km launch attempt. SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted about the FAA, saying, "Their rules are for a handful of consumable launches per year from some government facilities. Under these rules, humanity will never get to Mars." Temporary flight restrictions also apply on Fridays. This is the earliest possible time the vehicle can fly. The weather should be more favorable for SN9 on Friday.
Space Force Ends Dealings with Northrop, Blue Origin. In late 2020, the US Space Force officially ended its launch technology partnerships with Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, which it signed in October 2018, SpaceNews reports. These were six-year public-private partnerships where both the government and contractors agreed to invest in the missile development and infrastructure needed to compete under the National Security Space Launch program.
Not much? … The contracts with Northrop and Blue Origin were terminated as none were selected for the program. From October 2018 to December 2020, Blue Origin received $ 255.5 million. The original six-year contract was worth $ 500 million. Northrop Grumman received $ 531.7 million over the same period, nearly two-thirds of the LSA's total of $ 792 million. In return for the investment, the Space Force will receive limited rights to data and hardware that the companies developed under the agreements.
Northrop is running a rocket motor validation test. On January 21, Northrop Grumman announced that it was conducting a basic validation test on an extended length 63 inch diameter graphite-epoxy motor in Promontory, Utah. This variant of the company's GEM 63 strap-on amplifier was developed in collaboration with the United Launch Alliance to provide the Vulcan Centaur rocket with additional lift options.
Ready for a rocket … The GEM 63XL engine fired for approximately 90 seconds, generating nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to validate the engine concept's performance. The test fire also checked the internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle of the engine in a hot conditioned environment. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
The next three starts
31 January: Falcon 9 | Starlink-18 | Kennedy Space Center, Fla. | 12:00 UTC
February 15th: Soyuz | Progress 77P | Baikonur Cosmodrome | 04:45 UTC
20. February: Antares | Northrop Grumman-15 ISS Supply Mission | Wallops Island, Virginia | 17:36 UTC