Rocket Report: Virgin Galactic delayed again, June targeted for next SLS test

Enlarge / Tory Bruno shared an image of a brightly painted Vulcan rocket first stage tank this week on Twitter.

Tony Bruno

Welcome to the 4.42 issue of Rocket Report! I’m sorry to say that there will be no Rocket Report next week as I will be traveling to Washington, DC for the Ars Frontiers conference on Thursday. I’ll be speaking with former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver on commercial spaceflight and with an esteemed panel on the space debris problem.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss any issues, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small, medium and heavy payload rockets, as well as a quick look at the next three launches on the schedule.

Rocket Lab grabs a booster from the sky. For the first time on Monday night, Rocket Lab attempted to catch the falling first stage of its Electron booster with a helicopter. And briefly, he was successful with this mid-air recovery, Ars reports. As the rocket descended under its main parachute at about 10 meters per second, a floating parachute followed with a 50-meter line. A Sikorsky S-92 helicopter tracked this descending rocket and also had a 50 meter line with a hook on the end.

Sounds like an easy fix … “It’s something like Ghostbusters in a way,” Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, said in a call with reporters Monday night. “You want those two streams to intersect. Those two lines intersect and slide toward each other, and then there’s a grab and catch.” That’s exactly what happened on Monday before the helicopter pilots felt the induced load on the vehicle was off the charts. in the simulations. So they scrapped the rocket, where it was recovered at sea. Beck said, with real data in hand, solving this problem for the next Electron recovery attempt should be “trivial.” (Submitted by platykurtic, Ken the Bin and EllPeaTea)

Angara 1.2 takes off successfully. Last Friday, Russia’s Angara 1.2 rocket launched a payload for the Russian Aerospace Forces on its operational flight. Previously, the Angara rocket performed a suborbital test flight to verify that all systems were working, as well as three test flights of the A5 variant to demonstrate its ability to launch payloads into geostationary orbit, NASASpaceflight.com reports. The mission was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

small and large versions … While the Angara 1.2 can only launch 3,800kg into low Earth orbit, the most capable version, the Angara A5, has flown the majority of Angara missions to date. Angara A5 uses four strap-on URM-1s, a larger second stage, and can choose to use a third stage depending on mission requirements. This is the first of three planned Angara launches in 2022, with one more launch planned for Roscosmos, the Russian state space agency, and a commercial flight for South Korea. (hosted by EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)

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Virgin Galactic delays start of commercial service. In its first-quarter 2022 financial results released Thursday, Virgin Galactic said it now plans to resume flights of its VSS Unit spacecraft in the fourth quarter of 2022 and start commercial service during the first quarter of 2023. Previously, the company had planned to start commercial flights before the end of this year. “With the backdrop of escalating supply chain and labor restrictions, our teams are managing most of these issues to minimize the impact on schedules,” Vigin Galatic CEO Michael Colglazier said.

It is not a question of demand. … Virgin Galactic had a net loss of $93 million for the first quarter of this year, but said demand for its services was strong and that it had “cash equivalents, restricted cash and marketable securities of $1.22 thousand million” available. Virgin Galactic’s issue is not demand, the issue is whether it can meet that demand with a vehicle that to date has had a very low flight rate compared to company projections. Now it will be at least another year before we begin to get an answer to that question.

Canadian spaceport names launch tenant. A spaceport under development in Nova Scotia, Canada, this week named the first launch company to use the facility. Quebec-based Reaction Dynamics plans to launch its small hybrid fuel rocket starting in 2024, reports the Toronto Star. “Canada’s first launch will include a Canadian launch site, a Canadian launch vehicle, Reaction Dynamics, and satellites.” Canadians,” said spaceport developer Stephen Matier of Maritime Launch Services.

There are some caveats … I should probably point out that the Nova Scotia spaceport hasn’t been built yet, and there is some local opposition to the project. Also, this is my first time hearing about Reaction Dynamics. And without any disrespect intended, company founder Bachar Elzein appears to have started the company after working as a research assistant at Polytechnique Montréal. And according to his LinkedIn page, the company’s “propulsion test lead” appears to have worked as a ski instructor for two years before joining the company. So 2024? Maybe not. (submitted by JoeySIV-B)

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