Welcome to the 5.04 release of Rocket Report! Be sure and read until the end, as most of the news this week is about heavy-lift missiles, or at least proposed heavy-lift missiles. Also, there will be no newsletter next week as I will be taking a vacation with my family. But after that, I’ll be back in the saddle for the rest of the summer and fall, which promise to be full of big rocket launches.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on light, medium and heavy-lift missiles, as well as a summary of the next three launches on the calendar.
Isar Aerospace to launch from French Guiana. The German startup announced on Thursday that it will conduct commercial and institutional launches from a European spaceport in French Guiana starting in 2024. The French space agency CNES has chosen Isar to be able to launch at the Diamant launch complex near the equator. Isar is also building a spaceport in Andøya, Norway for its small Spectrum launcher.
Competition with other small launchers … “By adding Kourou, we will further expand our global critical infrastructure network and provide even more flexibility for our customers,” said Josef Fleischmann, COO and co-founder of Isar Aerospace. “Creating additional launch and deployment capabilities is an important building block to enter the global satellite launch market.” Isar will compete with the likes of Relativity Space, ABL Space Systems and Firefly for commercial payloads in the one-tonne class. (contributed by Ken Bean)
Firefly is working on a second Alpha launch. Firefly Aerospace is gearing up for a second launch of its Alpha rocket in late August or early September, according to Space News. “Our goal is to launch within the next 45 to 60 days,” Peter Schumacher, acting chief executive of Firefly, told the publication. “Range availability is really expected at this point.” The missile itself is ready to fly, he said, with the exception of a dress rehearsal and static fire tests, which he said will take place within two weeks of launch.
Rocket debris modeling … The company is awaiting a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, which in turn is contingent on approval of a new rocket debris model. The revised debris model came about after the first Alpha missile exploded in flight when the test site activated the abort system. Rocket debris, made mostly of carbon composite materials, fell out of range, including into nearby communities, although there were no reports of damage. (presented by EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)
Electron launch delayed due to payload issues. The National Reconnaissance Office’s next Rocket Lab mission — the second of two consecutive launches for the US spy satellite agency — has been delayed to complete a classified payload software update, Spaceflight Now reports. The mission, dubbed NROL-199, was scheduled to launch Friday from Rocket Lab in New Zealand, meaning the company launched two electrons in nine days.
Where will the NRO go? … Previously, Rocket Lab launched the NROL-162 mission on July 13th. As soon as the software updates are implemented, NRO and Rocket Lab will announce a new launch date for NROL-199. The payload is classified like most NRO satellites. They will operate in low Earth orbit, but the target altitude and orbital inclination have not been disclosed. (contributed by Ken Bean)
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