Rocket Report: Indian Commercial Rocket Has Launch Date; Branson faces trial

Enlarge / Gilmour Space released this still image of a qualification test of its Sirius rocket engine.

Gilmour space

Welcome to Rocket Report 5.17! The big question this week is the health of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket after overcoming Hurricane Nicole. Following a preliminary analysis, the space agency claims to have survived the storm in good condition. However, further analysis will be required.

As always, we Reader Submissions Welcome, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please sign up using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP versions of the site). Each report will contain information on small, medium and heavy rockets as well as a quick overview of the next three launches on the schedule.

Virgin Galactic delays VSS To imagine test. Space tourism company Virgin Galactic released its third-quarter financial results last Thursday after US markets closed. As one would imagine from a spaceflight company that hasn’t flown since June 2021, the finances are pretty dire. The company reported revenue of less than $1 million against losses of more than $146 million. After a long period of downtime, Virgin Galactic officials said the company is close to completing “modifications” to its VMS. Standby carrier aircraft and VSS Unity spatialship. The company expects to perform a glide of Unitywho is released from Standby at altitude, early 2023.

Not enough engineers …Perhaps the most significant news was CEO Mike Colglazier’s revelation that Virgin has suspended development and testing of VSS To imagine, its next spacecraft, which is intended to be able to fly monthly in space. The spacecraft was intended to provide liquidity to Virgin while the company developed its next generation of “Delta” spacecraft. But now, ARS reportsVirgin “revalues” To imaginethe schedule. “I can say that we will not be in 2023 for commercial flights with To imagine“, said Colglazier. Asked why the delay, Colglazier explained that the company has a limited group of experienced engineers who are familiar with Virgin’s early design work on VSS. Unityy.

Skyroot ready for Vikram-S test flight. The India-based private spaceflight company has a license to launch a suborbital test flight between November 12 and 16 from Sriharikota, Indian financial site reports. The mission was named ‘Prarambh’, meaning ‘beginning’, to commemorate the start of private sector launches in India. Pawan Kumar Chandana, CEO and co-founder of the startup, will serve as mission director.

Tribute to the country’s space pioneers … Vikram-S is the first in the Vikram series, followed by Vikram I/II/III in the years to come. Skyroot’s launch vehicles are named “Vikram” in honor of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of India’s space program. The Vikram-S will help test and validate 80% of the technologies in the Vikram series of orbital-class space launch vehicles, the company said.

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More New Shepard flights in 2022. At an Air Traffic Control Association event this week, Blue Origin’s Audrey Powers was asked about the investigation into a failed launch during the uncrewed New Shepard-23 mission in September. Almost two months have passed since that accident, during which the booster was destroyed but the spacecraft made a safe landing on Earth, without any updates from Blue Origin.

I won’t speak soonAccording to Chris Davenport from the Washington Post, “Audrey Powers said that Blue Origin expects to complete its technical review in December of the failure of its New Shepard rocket. They do not expect to fly again until 23. She added that the company would publicly discuss its findings after completing the FAA’s return to the flight process.”

Rocket Lab sets launch target in Virginia. The company said this week its first Electron mission from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia has a launch window that opens Dec. 7. The mission, titled “Virginia is for Launch Lovers,” will deploy satellites for leading radio-frequency geospatial analysis provider HawkEye 360.

Troubleshoot their FTS issues … Notably, Rocket Lab said the launch window was set following NASA’s “recent progress” in certifying its Autonomous Flight Termination Unit software, which is required to enable Electron launches from Virginia. Certification of Electron’s Flight Termination System has been a huge hassle for Rocket Lab, but hopefully now the finish line is in sight. Launching from Virginia would cap off what has been a great year for Rocket Lab in terms of pacing and mission success. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

Branson faces Virgin Galactic lawsuit. A US judge said on Monday that British billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson had to face shareholder allegations that he hid problems in Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft program and sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of shares to inflated prices, Reuters reports. Other parts of the class action lawsuit against the Virgin Galactic founder have been dismissed.

Purifying the air up there … However, U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross in Brooklyn said shareholders could try to prove that Virgin and Branson defrauded them by overpaying for the space tourism company’s stock, which now trades at over 90% below their February 2021 peak. Branson must also defend his statement that his own June 2021 flight on VSS Unitywhere it hovered 80.47 km above the Earth, had been “faultless”, although Unity had departed from its assigned airspace.

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