/ A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
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Welcome to Edition 1.25 of the Rocket Report! There is some really interesting news from Russia this week, with a potential revival of the Sea Launch platform, concerns about sloppy work at Russian aerospace companies, and Kazakhstan opting for a Falcon 9 launch.
As always, we , and if you don‘t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.
Stratolaunch test fires PGA engine pre-burner. For the first time, on November 2, the company fired the pre-burner for its PGA engine at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, . The pre-burner serves as the smaller of two combustion chambers in a staged combustion engine. “This is the first step in proving the performance and highly efficient design of the PGA engine,” Jeff Thornburg, vice president of propulsion at Stratolaunch, said.
Still targeting a 2022 flight … Earlier this year the company disclosed its plans for the engine, which uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel and has a thrust of 200,000 lbf, to power a family of air-launched rockets. An initial “Medium Launch Vehicle” will be able to place 3,400 kilograms into low Earth orbit, with a first launch projected for 2022. (submitted by BH and Unrulycow)
DARPA moves ahead with responsive launch competition. DARPA has identified eight sites in the United States that it plans to use for a commercial launch competition, a selection that addresses one of the major concerns of potential competitors, . The competition requires companies to perform two launches from two separate sites weeks apart, with the specific launch site and payload for each launch provided on short notice.
Choices from Alaska to Florida … The launch sites include the usual suspects, as well as relatively novel locations such as the Naval Outlying Field on San Nicolas Island, off the California coast. DARPA also announced on November 6 that 18 teams had passed the first step in the competition, a pre-qualification phase. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
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A proposed Azores spaceport appears to be popular. A spaceport concept in the southernmost-island in the Azores, Santa Maria, received 14 formal proposals from international space consortiums, the Portuguese news site . Contracts for development of the site may be let in 2019, with the first launch tentatively scheduled for 2021.
A diversity of interest … Among those reportedly interested are industry heavyweights such as ArianeGroup and Roscosmos, as well as some emerging US commercial space companies like Sierra Nevada Corporation and Virgin Orbit. The Portuguese government had only expected four respondents. (submitted by Nuno Pereira)
Russian company S7 Space interested in a reusable rocket. S7 Space plans to modernize the Sea Launch floating launch complex for launches of a reusable rocket from it, Company CEO Sergei Sopov . Developed 20 years ago, the equipment on the command vessel and the launching platform has become obsolete, the chief executive said.
Must be reusable … S7 Space is considering several ways of recovering the first stage of its future reusable rocket after launch. “On the list of likely options we have a hypersonic parachute capable of withstanding reentry heat, or special wings. We will make up our mind during the design phase as a result of more accurate calculations and research,” he said. A private company has no chance of surviving in the market without a reusable rocket, Sopov told the Russian news agency. (submitted by Unrulycow)
Air Force tests a Minuteman III missile. The weapon, with a mock warhead, blasted out of its underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 11:01pm Tuesday. For the test, the military sought to track the mock re-entry vehicle as it traveled to a predetermined target site. “Though the reentry vehicle reached its intended target, the test and analysis data is not releasable to the public,” Joe Thomas, a spokesman for Louisiana-based Global Strike Command, .
No further details … The military would provide no further details of the test. The Air Force conducts about four Minuteman III missile tests annually from Vandenberg to gather information about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability. The last test, on July 31, ended prematurely with Vandenberg personnel sending a self-destruct command due to some unspecific anomaly spotted during the flight.
ConsenSys acquires Planetary Resources. A blockchain company called ConsenSys, Inc. the pioneering space company Planetary Resources. Supposedly there is some kind of plan to put blockchain technology in space, but we don‘t really understand it.
So what‘s the relevance to launch? … You may have noticed that there are a lot of rocket companies out there with hugely ambitious plans to change space. Certainly, returns to investors are closer in the launch business than they are in asteroid mining. But the failure of Planetary Resources should nonetheless serve as a cautionary tale. (submitted by Alex Altair)
Kazakhstan chooses SpaceX over a Russian rocket for a launch. When Kazakhstan wanted to get a small scientific satellite named KazSaySat and a technology satellite called KazistiSat into space, the country didn‘t select a Russian rocket. the US-based launch company SpaceX to reach orbit.
Decision made on price … “The reason for using a Falcon 9 for this launch is that it will be less expensive,” the press secretary of the Ministry of Defense and Aerospace Industry, Aset Nurkenov, said. The satellites will fly on SpaceX‘s SSO-A rideshare mission scheduled for November. The disclosure is notable as Russia‘s main spaceport is the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
SpaceX rehearses helicopter-assisted landings. In the unlikely event of an astronaut medical emergency, SpaceX has outfitted its recovery ship, GO Searcher, with a medical treatment facility and a helipad in the center of the vessel. Recently helicopter landing and patient loading rehearsals on the ship, practicing how the helicopter will pick up astronauts and fly them to a nearby hospital.
More typically … In a normal scenario, Crew Dragon will splash down off of Florida’s eastern coast. GO Searcher is equipped with a crane to lift the capsule out of the water and onto the main deck of the ship. NASA and SpaceX doctors will work together to evaluate the crew onboard the vessel. From there, GO Searcher will head for Cape Canaveral, Florida, where SpaceX teams will take the astronauts to a nearby airport for transport back to Houston. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Rogozin unhappy with “trashy” aerospace facilities. The Kommersant newspaper of a directive that Rogozin has issued to the leaders of companies and facilities that serve Roscosmos. The purpose of the letter, the newspaper reports, is to help the companies root out “poor manufacturing culture and negligent attitudes of staff toward their work.”
Shabbily maintained work spaces … “The grounds have not been cleaned up for years—in many places there is construction trash and roads are torn up,” his letter states, according to a . “Employees at such companies have become accustomed to such conditions as normal, and this creates a habit of poor manufacturing culture and a sloppy attitude toward work.” The letter follows high-profile problems with the last two crewed missions launched by Roscosmos, MS-10 and MS-11.
Northrop eyes synergy between Omega and SLS. After Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems received $792 million in federal funding from the Air Force to continue development of their Omega launcher family, work will soon begin in earnest at Kennedy Space Center in terms of needed infrastructure, stacking, and launch hardware builds and needs, .
Sharing supplies … By producing solid-rocket booster segments for the Space Launch System rocket, and for the Omega rocket, Northrop says both launchers will save money. “We see Omega and SLS as highly synergistic, and I think NASA is beginning to see that as well,” said Mike Laidley, vice president of Space Launch Program for Northrop. “They’re beginning to see the benefits of Omega coming along in parallel with SLS and the money that can be saved on SLS.” It should be noted that we have yet to see any tangible evidence of cost savings for the SLS program. (submitted by BH and Ken the Bin)
SpaceX intends to modify a Falcon 9 upper stage for BFR tests. By as early as June of next year, SpaceX will attempt an orbital flight of a reusable version of a Falcon 9 upper stage to test technologies for the company’s next-generation launch vehicle. the proposal, which Elon Musk discussed on Twitter.
Some questions remain … The second stage will not land propulsively. “I think we have a handle on propulsive landings,” Musk later said, re-confirming that the company is building a “BFR dev ship” intended to test landings at the company’s South Texas spaceport. It is not clear whether this will be a one-off test or become an operational stage to delivering payloads on the Falcon 9 rocket. (submitted by Unrulycow)
Next three launches
Nov. 11: Electron | It‘s Business Time | Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand | 03:00 UTC
Nov. 14: GSLV Mk III | GSAT-29 | Sriharikota, Republic of India | 11:38 UTC
Nov. 15: Antares 230 | S.S. John Young Cygnus | Wallops Island, Virginia | 09:49 UTC