Welcome to Edition 4. 02 of this Rocket Report! This week there is news about the space race involving two rocket billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, and more news about Branson’s other space business. Thanks for reading and contributing.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you do not wish to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the shape will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the website ). Each report will include advice on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets in addition to a quick look ahead at the next three starts on the calendar.
Bezos going to space, but will Branson conquer him? Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stated on Monday he’d fly the first human spaceflight of the company’s New Shepard spacecraft. This mission will launch from Blue Origin’s spaceport in West Texas on July 20, which is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969. With this timeline, Bezos appeared almost certain to get to orbit ahead of his suborbital space-tourism rival Sir Richard Branson, whose flight was scheduled for later this summer.
The plot thickens! … However, according to a report by Doug Messier on his Parabolic Arc website,”Virgin Galactic is working on a plan to send Branson on a suborbital flight aboard the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the July 4 holiday weekend.” This would beat Bezos by a few weeks. Afterwards, given a opportunity to do so, Virgin Galactic failed to refute this particular report of an accelerated timeline for Sir Richard. The report stated only that the company was still analyzing its next possible launch date. A Thursday email from Virgin Galactic to the company’s clients was also fairly ambiguous. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Northrop receives contract to maintain Minuteman III missile. The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was in service for five years, and it’ll remain so for a substantial time. Northrop Grumman said Thursday it was awarded a $287 million base contract by the US Air Force to provide engineering services to assist in sustaining the Minuteman III missile system.
Part of the nuclear triad… The firm explained this Propulsion Subsystem Support Contract 2.0, given last month, includes a contract ceiling of $2.3 billion over 18.5 decades. Originally fabricated in 1970, the three-stage solid-fuel Minuteman III rocket has undergone multiple refurbishments to make sure its viability. The Minuteman III is effective at delivering thermonuclear weapons at distances of greater than 13,000 km) The Air Force occasionally examine fires these rockets out of Vandenberg Air Force Base, without warheads attached.
The easiest way to maintain Eric Berger’s distance reporting would be to sign up for his newsletter, we’ll collect his stories in your inbox.
Virgin Orbit targets late June for following launch. The organization said it’s shipped its LauncherOne rocket into Mojave Air and Space Port, where the rocket is now comfortably mated to Cosmic Girl’s left wing. Although tests are ongoing, Virgin Orbit said it is targeting the previous week of June for its launch. This represents a relatively speedy turnaround in LauncherOne’s first successful flight in January.
For people to find this time… On this flight, the air-launched rocket will want to deliver a total of seven spacecraft into orbit from the Department of Defense Space Test Program, SatRevolution, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. During the January mission, the company had a password-protected webcast, yet this time around, it intends to place its initial public”official mission livestream” on YouTube. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Astra to obtain Apollo Fusion. California-based rocket firm Astra will acquire Apollo Fusion, a firm developing electric propulsion systems for spacecraft, as part of its attempt to create vertically integrated space systems.
Astra is buying Apollo Fusion for $30 million in stock and $20 million in cash in a deal announced Monday, SpaceNews reports. The deal contains an additional $95 million in earn-out incentives.
Have to start with propulsion … Chris Kemp, chief executive of Astra, told the publication that Apollo Fusion’s thrusters fill a technology gap for all those future satellites. “What this is about is adding a really core piece of technology to Astra’s platform,” he said. “It’ll unlock a whole new set of customer opportunities for us. The next puzzle piece is the vertically integrated spacecraft. So, as we started to look at that, what are the core technologies that drive that?” He explained. The engine seems to have been the clear answer. (submitted by EllPeaTea and Ken that the Bin)
Legal arguments begin more than Scottish spaceport. A Danish couple has continued to press a legal case against a local authorities in northern Scotland, the Highland Council, in regards to a planned spaceport. Billionaires Anders and Anne Holch Povlsen have asked a senior judge to overturn planning permission for a distance port in the Highlands, that the BBC reports. They own land near the proposed Space Hub Sutherland and have concerns regarding its impact on safe areas.
Not in my backyard… Public agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise has proposed building the facility for launching small satellites on the Moine Peninsula, an area of peatland and crofts on the Highlands’ north coast. The Highland Council approved the plans in June. However, lawyers for the Povlsens argued that documents showed the Highland Council did not appear to have properly considered the impact that people visiting the site could have on the local environment. The legal hearing is ongoing. (submitted by SPHK_Tech)
Is the world ready for Dongfang Space? A reporter on the Chinese space industry, Andrew Jones, shared news this week on Twitter about yet another Chinese launch startup. Dongfang Space, he said, has raised $62 million in funding for both expendable and reusable launchers.
Someone downloaded Kerbal Space you guys … Ambitiously, Jones says, the company’s medium-term plan is for commercial crew flights and planetary exploration. I have no idea whether this company will succeed, and I’m only sharing this news item because the company’s rocket rendering is probably the worst one I’ve ever seen. You should definitely check it out for this reason and this reason alone.
Relativity reveals plan to build a mini-Starship. Relativity Space announced Tuesday that it has raised an additional $650 million in private capital, and the new funding will accelerate development of the “Terran-R” launch vehicle. This large orbital rocket will be about as tall as SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and the entire vehicle will be reusable–the first and second stages, as well as the payload fairing, Ars reports.
Nice, shiny vehicle you have there … Powered by seven main engines, the Terran R vehicle will initially launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Relativity has set a goal to launch in 2024, and company CEO Tim Ellis said the company has signed a binding contract for multiple launches with an”anchor customer” he declined to name. Relativity has not publicly released a cost for a launch. In renderings, the automobile looks like a bigger version of SpaceX’s Starship.
China nears launching of Shenzhou-12 crew launch. China rolled out a Long March 2F rocket Wednesday in preparation to send the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and three astronauts to an orbiting space station module, SpaceNews reports. This will be the country’s first crewed mission in over 4.5 years and only the seventh overall. The assignment is expected to last about three months.
Date maybe not openly revealed… Authorities have yet to reveal the planned launch date or the identity of the main and backup crews to the mission. Shenzhou-12 was expected to start around June 10 Beijing period, but a week-long delay to the initiation of the Tianzhou-2 cargo assignment likely pushed back the date by a similar amount of time. (submitted by Ken that the Bin)
Amidst COVID, India still attempts 2021 Gaganyaan launching . The coronavirus has put India via a brutal season. As a result of widespread lockdowns, the country’s space agency, ISRO, has had to postpone a lot of launches. But Times of India reports the nation still hopes to get an uncrewed Gaganyaan mission off the floor in December.
When businesses return? … The test flight, a precursor to some crewed flight in 2023, will launch on a human-rated Geosynchronous Sate