Welcome to issue 1.45 of the Rocket Report! This week, half of our stories cover the world's biggest rockets, from Blue Origin engine tests at the Marshall Space Flight Center to NASA's efforts to accelerate the development of the Space Launch System.
As always, we welcome your readings If you do not want to miss a problem, subscribe to the box below (the form will not appear in AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report contains information on small, medium and heavy rockets, as well as a glimpse of the next three launches of the calendar.
Stratolaunch flies for the first time . The largest aircraft in the world, called Roc, rose for the first time on Saturday, April 13th. The flight took 150 minutes. During this time, the aircraft reached a maximum of 15,000 feet and a top speed of 189 miles per hour, reports the Parabolic Arc. The aircraft, built by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and built by Burt Rutans Scaled Composites, will launch satellites with boosters carried on the wing between the two fuselage bodies.
Will it ever launch a rocket? … After the successful first test flight this is the dominating question. Following Allen's death last year, Stratolaunch ended plans to internally develop its own rockets. It is difficult to see how such a large aircraft could make a commercially available Pegasus or other rocket competitive in the current market, which will soon flood with small launch providers. We will be interested in what plans the company might have. (submitted by Ken the Bin and Unrulycow)
Skyroot for launch in 2021 . Skyroot Aerospace, based in Hyderabad, India, announces that it is developing a small-propulsion, small-scale launcher that will launch its first flight in 2021, the Economic Times reports. The Vikram 1 booster with "very reliable solids propulsion" will, according to the company, have the ability to lift up to 280 kg on LEO.
Rockets named after Founding Father … "We" This is one of the rare companies that build expertise in solid and cryogenic propulsion, "said Skyroot's CEO of the release. A solid drive is the cheapest option for small launch vehicles, and the cryogenic drive is complex but offers the best efficiency and is highly scalable to larger vehicles. "The company's missile line, starting with the Vikram 1, is named after Vikram Sarabhai, the This is a solid vote for a name, but we'll have to wait and see how solid Skyroot's business model is.
PLD Space Conducts Reuse Test . A Spanish startup that wants to reuse its small launch vehicle, Miura 5, made its first drop test on April 11. During the test, a Chinook CH-47 helicopter lifted the 15th Meter long demonstration stage at a height of 5 km, then it fell off the Spanish coast in the Atlantic Ocean. During the descent, electronic systems inside the demonstrator controlled a carefully planned release of three parachutes to slow it down until it spurted at a speed of about 10 meters per second, the European Space Agency said.
Two years after launch … PLD Space hopes to introduce the launch of the Miura 5 to 2021 with a capacity of 300 kg to a low Earth orbit. The company hopes to slow down the rocket with a combination of engines and parachutes. We're interested in learning more about how the company wants to mitigate any saltwater damage, but it's great to see another approach to small-scale deployment. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Could the AR1 be a Delta 2-like rocket? Although United Launch Alliance has selected the BE-4 rocket engine for its Vulcan rocket, Aerojet Rocketdyne said it will not give up its AR1 engine. Aerojet said it will complete the development of the engine and seek partners for a new mid-range carrier vehicle that could use the engine, according to SpaceNews.
Good luck with that … "An AR1 booster with an RL10 upper stage is a very nice rocket," said Jim Maser, senior vice president of the company's space division, the publication. "I think it could fill the gap created by the resignation of Delta 2." Aerojet does not want to develop the rocket, but she would look for a partner, said Maser. The problem is that the Delta-2 rocket was not a commercial success. And it's hard to imagine that even a drastic reduction in cost could make such a rocket (which would certainly not be available before the early 2020s) competitive with a Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 amplifier. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
A new place to buy Proton missiles . International Launch Services, the commercial sales division of Russian proton rocket manufacturer Khrunichev, is now part of Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Roscosmos that sells the launch of Soyuz rockets, SpaceNews reports. After the proton booster had been launched on average almost ten times a year over the past decade, the proton booster only started twice in 2018.
Lowering Costs … ILS President Kirk Pysher said ILS 'collaboration with Glavkosmos, Chrunichev and Chhrunichev's subcontractors resulted in cost savings through quality improvement initiatives with significantly lower production and startup costs ", which are reflected in lower proton prices. We're not sure if customers are most worried about Proton's pricing or (likely) reliability issues in recent product launches. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
NASA awarded the Falcon 9 rocket a dart mission . NASA said it has ordered SpaceX to launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test in June 2021 on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Rockets aside, this is a cool mission that could one day save the planet). According to SpaceNews, the total cost of NASA's mission, including launch and associated services, is $ 69 million.
Cost-effective Access to Space … The price is significantly lower than previous NASA contracts for Falcon 9 launches, which are much closer to $ 100 million. "This award underscores NASA's confidence in Falcon 9's ability to conduct critical science missions while providing the industry's best starting value," said Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX. The announcement was made a week after SpaceX had abandoned the protest against a previous launch of NASA to United Launch Alliance.
NASA and Blue Origin agree engine test agreement . As part of a new NASA agreement to launch a trade agreement for space, Blue Origin will upgrade and modernize test stand 4670 at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to support testing of the BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines , "This test stand once helped with NASA's first lunar launches, eventually leading to the creation of a whole new economic sector: commercial space," said NASA's NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.
Implications of the upper school? … Blue Origin will pay for the investments incurred in preparing the test stand and for the direct costs incurred by NASA in using the stand by Blue Origin. This is part of a fascinating, ongoing political struggle in Alabama for the hearts and minds of its politicians. Boeing will win this fight for the time being, but this is a long-term game by Blue Origin. Note that NASA is also considering the BE-3U to propel a revised Upper Stage exploration.
Falcon Heavy makes second flight . It's a big rocket, OK? Before the missile lifted off Falcon Heavy, she stood on a launch pad in Florida and grabbed the energy equivalent of a tactical nuclear weapon. Then, at launch, all the energy from 27 engines flowed out in a meticulously controlled blast to send a 6-ton satellite into geostationary orbit. This startup photo was a revelation.
Much Work ahead … SpaceX has rebuilt the two side cores and will now begin the renewal for another launch of Falcon Heavy (a US Air Force ride-in mission). already in June. The company also caught the center core of a drone ship, which overturned on the high seas. Finally, SpaceX has taken the two payload fairing halves out of the sea and intends to reuse them later this year (for the first time) on a Starlink launch. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Congressional sparring continues to contract with the Air Force . With the Air Force likely to submit a petition to apply for national security treaties from 2022 to 2026, a bipartisan group of 28 members urged Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson not to amend the draft treaty. Lawmakers support the United Launch Alliance, which appears to have benefited from the air force's eligibility criteria, reports The Hill.
Start of the trial … In their letter, legislators called on Wilson to do everything in their power to keep the acquisition on schedule. "The Air Force also prefers to open the contest this month and some bidders, especially Blue Origin, have called for a delay, saying that the opening of the process anticipates prejudice against the competition, which will not receive development funding until the end of 2018 Even if the Air Force launches the tendering process, the legislator will have ample opportunity to take this into account in the budgetary process of the financial year 2020.
The European Space Agency supports the production of Ariane 6 Les Echos reports that the European Space Agency Council has passed a resolution supporting Arianespace's decision to launch production of the Ariane 6. In addition, ESA has committed to providing a customer for the first flight of an Ariane 64 to find a larger variant of the rocket that over four fixed rockets.
Institutional Support Wanted … Honestly, our French is not the best and we do not understand all the intricacies of the ESA Arianespace relationship. In general, however, there are efforts to assure the builders of the Ariane 6 rocket and the smaller Vega C rocket that there will be enough institutional launches to provide both vehicles with economic support. However, it is also the job of the industry to win commercial start-up contracts in a highly competitive market.
Boeing plans to deliver the SLS core phase by the end of 2019 . With a renewed focus by the Trump administration on the completion of the large space launch system missile for a 2020 flight, NASA and prime contractor Boeing have reworked the final assembly schedule for the first SLS core stage to meet the planned completion deadline to submit by the end of 2019 NASASpaceFlight.com reports.
Skipping the Green Run Test Probably … We hear that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will be notified of this plan at the end of this week to accelerate development. It is recommended that the " Green Run "test to skip the entire core phase in the Stennis Space Center of Mississippi. There are risks both to the policy (of Mississippi's delegation) and to the technical problems due to the problems that may be revealed in such an all-up test. However, if NASA has a chance to launch the SLS missile in 2020, it will have to make difficult decisions and trade risk.
Moon plans to rely on a rocket mix . In an interview with Ars, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency expects the Space Launch System rocket, as well as commercial missiles such as the Falcon Heavy, to launch a lunar landing until 2024. That's because he needs both skills and political skills support behind them.
Bringing all together … Bridenstine: "I would say technologically it's realistic, it's not easy, there's a lot of schedule risk, programmatic risk, and technical risk So it's not easy, but it does I think the bigger risk that needs to retire sooner is the political risk, how do we get the money, and we need to make sure we get as much as possible – impartial, apolitical decisions and processes into the matrix. "
Next three starts
20. April : Long March 3B | Beidou-3 | Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China | 14:30 UTC
April 26 : Falcon 9 | Dragon CRS-17 ISS Supply Mission | Cape Canaveral, Fla. | 09:55 UTC
May 13 : Soyuz 2.1b | Glonass-M | Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia | TBD