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Rocket report: SpaceX will build huge launch tower, Branson sells Virgin stock



Saw the new Shepard crew cabin landing in West Texas.
enlarge / Saw the new Shepard crew cabin landing in West Texas.

Blue origin

Welcome to version 3.41 of the Rocket Report! As always, there is a lot of news in the launch world, and this week we have a few stories about heavy lifting vehicles. Perhaps most interesting is that SpaceX has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin construction of a large tower for its interplanetary spacecraft launch system.

As always, we welcome readers to submit articles, if you don’t want to miss any questions, please use the box below to subscribe (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled sites). Each report will include information about medium, small and heavy rockets, as well as a quick outlook for the next three launches on the calendar.

The last step before Blue Origin completes the crew mission. On Wednesday morning, Blue Origin conducted a new Shepard-15 mission in West Texas, conducted a suborbital flight, and tested its vehicle for passengers. Even before the launch, two people climbed into the vehicle to test the entry procedure, but they exited before the launch. The mission was another success, and both the booster and the space capsule made a feather landing.

Human time …It is widely expected that the company’s next flight will carry at least two (if not more) passengers. The autonomous New Shepard capsule can accommodate 6 people. When asked about this possibility, a spokesperson for the company told Ars: “There are no specific details to share today, but please stay tuned. When we are ready, we will fly.” For us, it sounds. It looks like “yes”. In addition, Ariane Cornell, the company’s astronaut sales director, seemed to let the cat go before correcting the cat on Wednesday’s webcast. Then, on Wednesday night, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos posted a rocket photo on Instagram with two words on it, saying: “It’s time.”

Rocket Lab will restore the booster in the next flight. In May of this year, the company will launch its 20th electronic mission to deploy two earth observation satellites for BlackSky. (The name of the mission is “Run on Toes”.) After launch, the first stage of electrons will attempt to perform a controlled reentry through the earth’s atmosphere. After conducting the first experiment in November last year, the Rocket Lab will try to fish the first stage out of the Pacific Ocean for the second time to evaluate its performance in the process of atmospheric reentry.

Seek to verify reentrant data The company said: “The’Exhausted Toes’ mission aims to verify the discovery of the first recovery mission and to test the updated system including new advanced heat shields.” In the end, Rocket Lab plans to use a helicopter to “catch” the first. Stage, making it fall into the sea. Such an attempt may be carried out later in 2021, depending on how further testing is carried out. (Submitted by Bin Bin)

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Richard Branson sells Virgin Galactic stock. The founder of Virgin Galactic helped the company go public in 2019 and sold more than $150 million worth of shares in the company in the past three days. According to CNBC, Branson and four entities under his control, including Virgin Group, sold 5,584,000 shares of Virgin Galactic between April 12 and 14. Virgin Group is still the largest shareholder of Virgin Galactic Group, owning 24% of the shares.

Support other businesses …” Virgin intends to use the net proceeds from this sale to support its global leisure, vacation and travel businesses, which will continue to be affected unprecedentedly by COVID-19, in addition to supporting the development and growth of new businesses. And existing businesses .” Virgin Group said. One month after Virgin Galactic chairman Chamath Palihapitiya sold his remaining personal shares, Branson was sold.

Isar Aerospace will launch from Norway. According to reports, Isar Aerospace has reached an agreement to lease a launch pad on Andoia Island for a period of 20 years. The German-based rocket company is developing a small satellite launch vehicle that can launch about 1 metric ton into low earth orbit. Isar plans to launch the Spectrum rocket for the first time in 2022. The Norwegian site is located at 69 degrees north latitude, which is very suitable for polar and sun-synchronized launches.

Exclusive lease … “It is very important for us to have a launch pad on the European continent closer to our production base,” Isar CEO Daniel Metzler told the publication. “Exclusivity provides us and our customers with maximum flexibility and planning security to launch satellites into earth orbit at any time. It allows us to provide long-term turnkey launch solutions from Europe.” Now, they just need it. Complete the rocket. (Submitted by Polykin and SH)

Phantom Space raises $5 million. Phantom Space announced on Wednesday that it has raised $5 million in seed funding to further develop its first Daytona rockets. The company was founded by Jim Cantrell and will start a new round of US$35 million in financing later this month, followed by a US$100 million in financing next year. Cantrell is the co-founder of Vector Launch, which declared bankruptcy in 2019.

Build Model-T Cantrell told Bloomberg: “We want to be the Henry Ford of the rocket business and do what he did in the automotive business.” He said that the company has been licensed by the U.S. Air Force to operate in Vandenberg, California. The Air Force base leases a launch site and is still working to obtain launch rights from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Considering the fate of Vector, we are skeptical of Phantom Space. But some financial proponents seem to think it has something suitable. (Submitted by Earth2mars)

The launch of Starliner may be delayed by a few months. Despite the lack of official updates, according to Ars reports, Boeing and NASA now seem likely to set the target for the next test flight of the Starliner spacecraft in late July or early August. This is mainly due to traffic conditions on the International Space Station, rather than Starliner’s own readiness. Two sources from NASA said that the aircraft was “close” to readiness, and only a few small tests were conducted to prove that the spacecraft could still fly. Therefore, Starliner is expected to be ready before early summer to fly with Atlas V rockets.

Crew launched in 2022 …After repeating this test flight, officially called “Orbital Flight Test 2,” NASA and Boeing will conduct detailed data analysis. A source said, optimistically, this process will take about six months. This will allow the crew to test flight into January 2022. A source familiar with the flight schedule of the space station hinted that the best chance for Starliner to conduct a crew test flight may be in February 2022.

SpaceX will raise more funds in the first quarter of 2021. According to Reuters, SpaceX has raised approximately $1.16 billion in equity financing in recent months. The disclosure was made in the revised document. In February of this year, SpaceX initially stated that it had raised about $850 million, so the new filing document updated the previous total. Prior to this, the private aerospace company conducted its largest single round of financing to date in August, raising a total of US$1.9 billion.

Capital-intensive projects …When SpaceX is developing Starship at the same time and building and launching hundreds of Starlink satellites every month, it is not surprising that it spent huge sums of money. Hope that one day, it can make more money through space-based Internet revenue and further dominate the global launch market. Investors seem to think this will happen because of the continuous increase in funds.

NASA prepares to deliver the core stage of SLS. The Green Run team in the core phase of the space launch system reviewed extensive data and completed inspections, showing that the core phase and engine of the rocket were in good condition after a comprehensive heat test on March 18th. Engineers and technicians have also completed the refurbishment work, NASA said on the vehicle after testing.

Go to Florida …Refurbishment activities include drying the RS-25 engine and performing anticipated repairs to the engine and thermal protection system at the core stage. The rocket is now ready to be transported by barge from the test rig in Mississippi to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is expected to ship later this month. (Submitted by Bin Bin)

Astrobotic selects Falcon Heavy for lunar mission. Astrobotic has signed a contract with SpaceX to launch a Griffin Lunar Lander equipped with NASA’s rover on a Falcon heavy aircraft in 2023. The mission will provide Volatiles survey polar exploration rover or VIPER spacecraft to the south pole of the moon. In the second half of 2023. “Space News” reported that last year Astrobotic won the NASA competition through the “Commercial Lunar Payload Service” program to transport VIPER on its “Griffin” lunar lander.

Another SpaceX mission to the moon …”The moon landing is not just about building a spacecraft, but also a complete mission solution. Astrobotic’s Griffin Mission 1 director Daniel Gillies said: “SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is accomplished by providing a proven delivery vehicle. Our Griffin Mission 1 solution takes us to lunar orbit. (Submitted by Rendgrish, DanNeely and Ken the Bin)

The FAA approves a large spacecraft launch tower. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a document published on its website that it has determined that SpaceX’s plan to build a large launch tower for its interplanetary spacecraft launch system is not harmful to the aviation industry. The document shows that SpaceX intends to build a 479-foot-tall launch tower at its Boca Chica launch site in southern Texas.

Considerable structure …The document states: “SpaceX proposes to build a 469′ high launch tower with a 10′ lightning rod to lift its new rocket and booster to the launch pad and capture the overweight booster when launching back. Use The truss of the steel structure is constructed to allow the robotic arm to lift the vehicle.” This is quite large. NASA’s “Space Launch System” rocket mobile launcher is 380 feet above the ground. (Submitted by Bin Bin)

RS-68A completes final acceptance test. Aerojet Rocketdyne said that this week the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled rocket engine RS-68A completed the final heat acceptance test on the B-1 test stand of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. This huge engine has 700,000 pounds of thrust at sea level and powers the Delta IV heavy rocket of the United Launch Alliance.

Well documented …The test is over, because before the vehicle was decommissioned, only four Delta IV Heavy launches were left, and the more cost-effective Vulcan launcher was switched. One of these four tasks will take place on April 26. “The throttleable RS-68A engine has been the core of the Delta IV Heavy rocket for more than 15 years,” said Aerojet CEO and President Eileen Drake. “We are proud of the 65 engines that have flown so far and their impeccable performance records.” (Submitted by Bin Bin)

NASA certified SLS launch control system. Earlier this month, Shawn Quinn, the engineering director of the Kennedy Space Center, signed the computer software and hardware that will control the SLS rocket core stage, Orion spacecraft, and second stage launch. NASA said the system is an electronic hub, and information travels to and from these vehicles, ground systems, and operators in the shooting room in these hubs.

Ready to go …The software can process up to 575,000 changes per second during loading and startup. The spacecraft’s command and control system consists of custom software and off-the-shelf products, and was specifically developed to manage the processing and launch operations of Artemis missions. NASA has not yet set a launch date for the first SLS mission, Artemis I, but its goal appears to be the first quarter of 2022. (Submitted by Bin Bin)

The next three launches

April 22: Falcon 9 | Second-hand booster mission for Unit 2 | Florida Kennedy Space Center | 10:11 UTC

April 25: League 2.1b | OneWeb 6 | Russia Vostokini World Arena | To be determined

April 26: Delta IV Heavy Load | NROL-82 | Vandenberg Air Force Base, California | To be determined




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