Rocket report: Virgin Galactic pulls out, SpaceX faces environmental lawsuit


Enlarge / Blue Origin’s New Shepard launches its second manned space flight on Wednesday.

Welcome to the 4.20 edition of the Rocket Report! If this is bulletin edition 4.20, you know we’re going to bring in some extra smoke. So let’s go.

As always, we welcome to readers’ 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.

Virgin Galactic significantly delays its next mission. The space tourism company announced Thursday afternoon that he will delay a human flight planned for the Italian Air Force, Unity 23, and start a “planned improvement program” for his VMS Day before carrier aircraft and VSS Unity spatialship. In fact, that means the vehicles will be taken out of service for the next eight months for repairs and upgrades. As one of the reasons for this decision, the company cited a recent test that “reported a possible reduction in strength margins of certain materials used to modify specific joints, requiring further physical inspection.”

Commercial flights are far away … “Our decisions are driven by detailed and in-depth analysis, and we fly on the basis of the most accurate and comprehensive data available,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of the company. “Virgin Galactic vehicles are designed with significant safety margins, providing layers of protection that far exceed the loads experienced and expected on our flights. This delays the Unity 23 mission until next summer and pushes the start of commercial operations to at least the fourth quarter of 2022. Needless to say, this is not a positive step for a company that one day aspires to fly weekly (if not daily) in space. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

Blue Origin completes its second human flight. Although the launch was delayed by nearly an hour due to unspecified issues, Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft successfully took off from West Texas on Wednesday morning and landed safely 10 minutes 18 seconds later. The capsule peaked at an altitude of 107 km, reports Ars. This was Blue Origin’s second manned space flight, and it drew attention because the crew understood Star Trek actor William Shatner as a guest of Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.

An inspired James T. Kirk … “It’s unlike anything I have ever felt before,” said Shatner on landing. “Everyone in the world has to do it.” Blue Origin will now target an additional crew flight in 2021, with six as yet unknown passengers, which is expected to take place in December. The rate of human suborbital missions is expected to reach six to 12 passenger flights in 2022. The main obstacle to increasing the rate is believed to be the refurbishment of the heat shield – customer demand is plentiful, even at low prices. of $ 1 million and more for a seat on the first missions.

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Astra explains failure, sets next launch date. The California-based small rocket company is still striving to reach orbit and has set a target date of October 27 for its next launch attempt. The rocket, simply named “LV0007”, will carry a test payload of a few tens of kilograms for the US Space Force. This will be the company’s fourth attempt to reach orbit – and it comes as other small launch competitors are either successfully orbiting their rockets or are set to make their first attempts soon, Ars reports.

The fourth time is the charm … This week, Astra chief engineer Benjamin Lyon provided more information on the company’s latest attempt to launch at the end of August. “The problem we encountered was something we had never seen before,” Lyon wrote. “Before takeoff, the first stage propellant delivery system supplies the rocket with fuel and oxidizer. We designed the system to quickly disconnect and seal when the rocket takes off. , the propellants escaped from the system, mixed, and became trapped in an enclosed space under the interface between the rocket and the launcher. As a result, one engine shut down and the rocket drifted sideways before s ‘raise. (submitted by ivekadi)

Chinese rocket tests grid fins. China’s Long March 2D rocket successfully sent China’s H-alpha Solar Explorer and 10 other satellites into orbit on Thursday. The new rocket configuration allowed it to deploy more than 10 satellites for the first time while the first stage also included grid fins to constrain the expected drop zone from the downstream stage, SpaceNews Reports.

Expected to greatly exceed launch target … This was the country’s 37th orbital mission in 2021. Earlier this year, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation aimed to launch more than 40 times in 2021, with commercial launch providers adding to the total . With yet another launch of the crew of the Shenzhou-13 at the Chinese space station on Friday, that goal looks prominent for the year. (submitted by Ken the Bin and EllPeaTea)

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