Enlarge /. Northrop Grumman successfully launched its Minotaur IV rocket on Wednesday morning.
Welcome to Issue 3.08 of the Missile Report! We are now approaching the middle of the 2020 Mars launch window and it looks like the United Arab Emirates, China and the United States will start all missions to the Red Planet in the last 10 days of the month. Exciting times ahead!
As always, we look forward to readers' contributions. If you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear in AMP-enabled versions of the website). Each report contains information on small, medium and heavy duty rockets and a brief overview of the next three launches on the calendar.
The Chinese launch of Kuaizhou-11 fails. The launch of a new Chinese commercial solid rocket, the Kuaizhou-11, ended last Friday with a failure that resulted in the loss of two satellites, according to SpaceNews. Short reports from Chinese media say that the specific cause of the failure is "further analyzed and investigated".
China's third launch mistake in 2020 … The Kuaizhou-11 is a larger version of the Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket powered by Expace, a commercial spin-off from China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., a state-owned rocket manufacturer. The rocket has a diameter of 2.2 meters and a mass when lifting 78 tons. It is able to put 1,000 kilograms on a 700 km long sun-synchronous orbit. (submitted by Ken the Bin, JohnCarter17 and platykurtic)
Small launch contracts have been redirected to small business loans. The $ 116 million that the U.S. Department of Defense has provided for small launch contracts under the Defense Production Act has been redirected to other priorities, according to SpaceNews. The Pentagon had approved the financing of the small launch contracts, but decided at the last minute to turn the money into small business loan programs, which were seen as a more pressing priority. These orders are unlikely to be awarded soon, U.S. Air Force chief procurement officer Will Roper said.
DoD says about the funds: You can't aevum … About a month ago, the military announced that it plans to place orders with six small vendors who are financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic. On July 1, DoD withdrew the contracts that would have been awarded to Aevum, Astra, X-Bow, Rocket Lab, Space Vector and VOX Space to launch two ridesharing services over the next 24 months. Awarding the starting orders now requires additional funds from Congress. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
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Next limit for small missiles: space? In one feature, Ars examines the potential of small satellites (and the new low-cost rockets to launch them) to transform planetary research. Instead of spending a decade or more planning and developing a mission before spending hundreds of millions (or billions!) Of dollars, we may be able to fly a mission for a few tens of millions of dollars within a few years.
The moon, Mars, and beyond … In recent years, a new generation of companies has developed new rockets for small satellites that cost about $ 10 million to launch. Rocket Lab has already announced a lunar program for its small electron rocket. "I think this is a huge, disruptive program for the scientific community," said the head of Rocket Lab. And Virgin Orbit has teamed up with a group of Polish universities to launch up to three missions to Mars with its LauncherOne vehicle.
Minotaur IV missile launches NGO mission. A Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV solid fuel rocket launched the NROL-129 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on July 15, reports SpaceNews. The classified NROL-129 mission carried four remote sensing payloads.
Using old missiles sensibly … This was the first flight of the Minotaur IV from the regional Mid-Atlantic spaceport in NASA's Wallops Island Facility. It was the NGO's first launch with a Minotaur IV, a four-stage vehicle made with three government-supplied solid rocket engines from decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBMs. (submitted by JohnCarter17 and Ken the Bin)
Korean satellite launch postponed. The scheduled launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday by a South Korean military communications satellite has been delayed to resolve a problem in the carrier's second phase and, if necessary, replace the hardware, reports Spaceflight Now.
Be extra paranoid … This is the second SpaceX mission that has been postponed indefinitely in the past few days as the company tries to shorten lead times for reused rockets and quickly produce new upper stages to provide a quick launch plan for the coming days to keep weeks. "We are particularly paranoid," tweeted Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX. "Maximizing the likelihood of a successful launch is paramount." The launch is now scheduled for July 19 (submitted by JohnCarter17).
Space to debut Sherpa-FX on the Falcon 9 mission. The Seattle-based carpool management company announced this week that it will fly its next-generation orbital transfer vehicle, Sherpa-FX, on a dedicated carpool mission with SpaceX. This mission is scheduled to start on a Falcon 9 in December 2020 at the earliest. This is another step towards large rockets that offer customizable satellite transmission.
Last Mile Delivery … "Space transportation is essential to meet our customers' specific needs and to put their spaceship in orbit exactly when and where they want," said Grant Bonin, senior vice president for business development at Spaceflight Inc. "If you imagine a typical ride as a seat on a train going to a popular destination, we can offer a more comprehensive door-to-door transportation service with our next-generation Sherpa program." (Submitted by Ken the Bin)
Hope the weather will delay the launch of the Mars probe. After two earlier weather delays, a Mars orbiter funded by the United Arab Emirates will be launched between July 20 and 22, the Khaleej Times reports. The new start time will be announced depending on the weather.
The third time is the charm? … A Japanese H-2A rocket was originally scheduled to launch on July 15th. The "persistence of thunderstorms, cumulative clouds and unstable weather conditions in the coming days on the island of Tanegashima" has now delayed the start twice. The missile and spaceship are said to be in good condition. (submitted by JohnCarter17)
Arianespace will phase out Ariane 5 in 2022. Program delays have forced EUMETSAT to reserve a pair of Ariane 6 rockets for two European weather satellites that were originally supposed to launch on Ariane 5 rockets, reports SpaceNews. Only one of three planned satellites, MTG-I1, will be completed before Arianespace completely switches to Ariane 6 rockets.
Two more years of Ariane 5 … MTG-I1, an imaging satellite, will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket in 2022. Ariane 5 will be available last year, said Paul Counet, Strategy Director at EUMETSAT. The sounding satellite MTG-S1, for which EUMETSAT had a fixed launch contract for Ariane 5, is now to launch on an Ariane 6 in 2023 and another bird launch in 2025. (Submitted by JohnCarter17)
Missile for the next crew mission arrives in Florida. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which will launch NASA's SpaceX Crew 1 mission for the agency's commercial crew program, has arrived in Florida, the space agency said. This mission will bring NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and JAXA astronauts Soichi Noguchi to the International Space Station for a full-time mission.
Flight in a few months … A launch date will be set after the completion of the SpaceX mission to demonstrate the crew, which is expected to return to Earth in early August. This indicates that the flight will not take place earlier than the end of September. The missile is now being processed at the company's facility at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station before launch. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
No big rockets in 2020, but seven are coming. 2020 should be the year of the big rocket. At any given time, up to four large, powerful boosters should fly this year. Unfortunately, we now know with certainty that none of them will make it this year, because Arianespace's Ariane 6, NASA's Space Launch System, New Glenn from Blue Origin and Vulcan Centaur from the United Launch Alliance will slip at least until 2021.
Seven Deadly Predictions … However, all of these missiles and three more – Japan's H3, Northrop Grumman's Omega Booster, and SpaceX's Super Heavy First Stage – will arrive sometime in the next few years. In a new article, Ars makes wild guesses as to when each of these seven new missiles could finally make its debut. Spoiler alert: We believe that H3 will likely be the first and New Glenn the last.
The static SLS fire test can take place in October. NASA and Boeing are well on their way to conducting a major static fire test of the core phase of the space launch system in October. This is an important milestone before the first launch in late 2021, reports SpaceNews. Crews working to test the SLS core tier at the Stennis Space Center have so far encountered "no problems" in a series of tests known collectively as the Green Run, said Boeing vice president and program manager for John Shannon the rocket.
Up to test number four … Three out of eight Green Run tests have been completed. This includes applying forces to the core level to simulate the starting conditions, turning on the stage's avionics, and testing the systems that would shutdown the stage if a problem occurs during testing. Shannon said work on the fourth test is underway: reviewing the components of the missile's main propulsion system. If the test fire took place in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic in October, it would be a positive step forward for the program. (submitted by Ken the Bin and JohnCarter17)
ESA confirms Ariane 6's delay until late 2021. Of the four major rockets that debuted this year, Ariane 6 was the last to announce a delay. "Although we know that the maiden flight will not take place before the second semester of 2021, we are currently unable to quantify the delay precisely and cannot give an exact start date," said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transport.
The pandemic played a major role … SpaceNews reports that pandemic delays in Ariane 6 launch pad design, solid rocket booster testing, and productivity losses at Ariane 6 industrial sites had impacted the missile's original schedule. Neuenschwander also said that cryogenic weapon problems on the launch pad at Ariane 6 in Kourou, French Guiana, had contributed to the delay. (submitted by Ken the Bin and JohnCarter17)
The SLS missile replaces Saturn V on Alabama tags. Alabama has traded the fame of an earlier lunar missile for the promise of a new launcher on the latest version of its space exploration license plate, Collect Space reports. The redesigned "Alabama Space Tag" replaces the display of the historic Saturn V booster with the new rocket Space Launch System from NASA. The new record is the first time in 15 years that the Saturn V no longer appears on an Alabama record.
The funds will go to a good cause … The Alabama Treasury began launching the new Space Day in May. Like the "Save the Saturn V" plate that it replaced, the sale of one of the three remaining rockets from the Apollo era benefits the state. The net proceeds will be distributed to the US Space and Rocket Center Foundation and used for the Davidson Saturn V Center in Huntsville, where the Saturn V is located. At least it's a good thing. (submitted by JohnCarter17)
The next three starts
July 19: Hawk 9 | Anasis-2 | Cape Canaveral, Fla. | 21:00 UTC
July 19: H-2A | Emirates Mars Mission "Hope" | Tanegashima, Japan | TBD
July 23: Long March 5th | Tianwen-1 Mars Mission | Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, China | TBD