Rocket report: analyst rings Virgin Galactic, Atranis switches to Falcon Heavy

Enlarge / The Inspiration4 mission, inside a Crew Dragon, splashes into the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday. Interest in these tourist missions is skyrocketing.

Welcome to edition 4.17 of the Rocket Report! After the successful conclusion of the Inspiration4 mission last weekend, we can now look forward to some big launches in the days to come. The first is NASA’s Landsat 9 mission on an Atlas V rocket. And in just under two weeks, Russia is launching a film crew on a Soyuz vehicle to make a movie in space.

As always, we welcome reader contributions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please register using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP versions of the site). Each report will include information on small, medium and large power rockets as well as a quick overview of the next three launches on the schedule.

Astra licenses Firefly rocket engines. Astra, the small launch company that recently went public, signed a roughly $ 30 million deal for in-house manufacturing rights for Firefly Aerospace’s Reaver rocket engines, The Verge reports. As part of the deal, which was reached earlier this year, Firefly will send up to 50 of its Reaver rocket engines to Astra’s rocket factory in Alameda, Calif., Where a development engine has already shipped in late spring for around half a million dollars.

From five engines to two … Astra engineers took the engine apart for a detailed inspection, said a person familiar with the terms, who, like others involved in the deal, declined to speak officially due to a no-deal deal. strict disclosure. Merging Firefly’s engines with Astra’s own rocket technology would help Astra achieve its publicly stated goal of “500 kg to 500 km”. The company’s current rocket, simply called Rocket, has yet to reach orbit after three attempts. This rocket uses five of Astra’s Delphin engines and is designed to lift up to 150 kg in low earth orbit. A new version using two Firefly Reaver engines could lift 500 kg. (submitted by Rendgrish, EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)

Bank of America tears up Virgin Galactic. Bank of America analysts who cover the publicly traded shares of Virgin Galactic are upset that the company did not disclose that a SpaceShipTwo suborbital flight carrying founder Richard Branson flew outside its assigned airspace on July 11, Parabolic Arc reports. This discrepancy resulted in an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the grounding of the company’s only operational spaceplane.

A bad strategy in aviation … “In our opinion, it is unacceptable to have an event during a flight which according to FAA regulations is considered an incident and then claim that the mission was a complete success,” the analyst wrote. Ronald Epstein in a note to investors. “The old adage, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, is generally a bad strategy in aviation.” The Virgin Group and Branson sold $ 800 million of combined shares in a seven-week period in which shareholders were in the dark about the incident and subsequent actions. The news was only revealed by a New Yorker article published on September 1. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

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Rocket Lab launches mission for Astroscale. Rocket Lab announced on Tuesday that it had signed a dedicated launch contract with Astroscale to launch the Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) satellite on an Electron rocket. The launch of the mission is scheduled for 2023.

Seize space waste … Once deployed by Electron’s Kick Stage, the ADRAS-J satellite is designed to encounter a piece of orbital debris, a long-abandoned upper-stage rocket body. ADRAS-J aims to demonstrate proximity operations and obtain images of the rocket body, providing observational data to better understand the debris environment. A second planned phase of the mission aims to demonstrate a debris desorbit. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

An Indian launch company to access government facilities. Indian startup Agnikul Cosmos on Friday signed an agreement with the Indian Ministry of Space for access to ISRO’s facilities and expertise for the development of its two-stage small satellite Agnibaan launcher. The company’s two-stage Agnibaan rocket is designed to launch payloads weighing up to 100 kg into an orbit of 700 km, Parabolic Arc reports.

Technical expertise too … The agreement will allow “to undertake multiple tests and access facilities in various ISRO centers to test and qualify their 3D printed monoblock semi-cryo motor and other systems,” ISRO said. . This will also allow Agnikul to leverage ISRO’s technical expertise to test and qualify its space launch systems and subsystems. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

Starliner launch date remains undetermined. Almost six weeks have passed since Boeing announced it would unstack its Starliner spacecraft from an Atlas V rocket and return the vehicle to its factory for “more in-depth” troubleshooting of the problematic valves. On Tuesday, NASA manned flight operations chief Kathy Lueders said teams of engineers and technicians from Boeing and NASA were continuing to assess the sticky valve problem, Ars reports. “I think the team is making great strides in troubleshooting,” she said.

Slippage at the start of 2022 … Boeing and NASA will reach a decision point in the “next few weeks,” she said, when they decide whether to remove the service module valves for further study. If so, Boeing will likely pull forward a service module intended for future crewed flight and use it for the Orbital Flight Test-2 unmanned mission. A new date for this OFT-2 mission has not yet been set, and Lueders said one could not be set anytime soon. She suggested the mission would probably run until 2022. “My hunch is that it would probably be more likely next year, but we’re still working on that timeline,” she said.

Falcon 9 to launch Turkish satellite. Türksat will launch its first nationally built communications satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9, the Turkish government has announced. The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure said it awarded SpaceX a contract for the launch of Türksat 6A, scheduled for the first quarter of 2023. The ministry did not disclose the terms of the contract, reports SpaceNews.

SpaceX came up with the best deal … In a government statement, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu said the government had considered “many launch companies” before selecting SpaceX, “which offers the best solution in terms of both technical, administrative and financial aspects “. Türksat 6A will be the country’s first communications satellite built in the country by the TÜBİTAK Space Technology Research Institute. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

SpaceX sees strong demand for free flight missions. Four amateur astronauts returned from a three-day private space flight this weekend brimming with excitement for the experience. “Best ride of my life,” said Sian Proctor shortly after stepping out of the Crew Dragon capsule. Future customers for such an orbital free-flight experience, however, did not wait for the first notices to express their interest in going into space. Even before the Crew Dragon spacecraft hit Saturday night, the Inspiration4 mission had already sparked a storm of interest, Ars reports.

It’s a good thing the rocket is reusable … “The number of people contacting us through our sales and marketing portals has actually increased dramatically,” said Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight programs for SpaceX, in a call with reporters after the event. landing of the space tourism mission. “There is tons of interest flowing now.”

FAA publishes first report on Boca Chica launch site. The Federal Aviation Administration released a draft environmental review of SpaceX’s plans for orbital launches from South Texas on Friday, kicking off a 30-day public comment period. The long-awaited procedural step is the first of several regulatory hurdles SpaceX must overcome before obtaining final clearance to launch its Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage from a site near Boca Chica, Texas, Ars reports.

Final decision to come later … Such a launch is likely to be months away, but now it looks like federal authorities will finally give South Texas the green light for orbital launches. It seemed far from certain until today. The document, officially called a Programmatic Environmental Assessment Project, assesses the potential environmental impacts of SpaceX’s Starship program, including launch and re-entry. It also examines debris salvage, the integration tower and other construction related to the launch, as well as local road closures between Brownsville and Boca Chica Beach.

China to unveil heavy lift plans next week. Chinese institutional rocket developer, China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, will officially unveil designs for two heavy rockets at this year’s Chinese airshow in southern China’s Guangdong province. The event runs from September 28 to October 3, reports the Global Times.

New names, new plans … Officials have already discussed plans for the Long March 5-DY and Long March 9 vehicles but will likely formalize the names and specifics of these vehicles, which will support deep space exploration missions as well as human lunar landings in about a decade. . The reuse of the first stage should be part of the plans announced next week. (submitted by AI)

Astranis launches on Falcon Heavy. Astranis announced Thursday that its first commercial communications satellite will now be launched as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket during a direct injection mission scheduled for spring 2022. The passage of a Falcon 9 rocket will allow for the spacecraft to arrive at its orbital location within launch days, the company said.

No need for months of orbit elevation … “The launch of Falcon Heavy will allow us to be in orbit months faster, allowing us to serve our customers in Alaska much sooner,” said John Gedmark, CEO of Atranis. “This is a huge victory for our customers in Alaska.” Astranis previously launched a demonstration CubeSat on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

The next three launches

September 27: Atlas V | Landsat 9 | Vandenberg Space Force Base, California | 18:11 UTC

October 1st: Epsilon | Fast and Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite 2 | Uchinoura Space Center, Japan | 00:48

October 5: Soyuz | MS-19 crew launch | Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan | 08:55 UTC

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