Welcome to Edition 5.01 of the Rocket Report! The Rocket Report turns 5 years old today, which means we have now published about 200 editions. I’ve probably written 400,000 words—more than one word for every kilometer to the Moon. That seems like a lot in hindsight, but I also feel like I’m just getting started. Thanks to everyone who has read along, and shared the newsletter with your friends and co-workers.
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 small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets, as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.
Rocket Lab launches first deep-space mission. The company’s small Electron vehicle launched the 25 kg CAPSTONE mission on Tuesday, and the rocket placed the spacecraft into a good orbit, Chief Executive Peter Beck said. Since then, Rocket Lab’s “Photon” spacecraft bus has been performing additional burns to raise CAPSTONE’s orbit. In a few days, after raising CAPSTONE’s orbit to 60,000 km, the Photon stage will make a final burn and boost CAPSTONE into deep space.
A new trajectory, a new orbit … As Ars reports, this is a small but innovative mission that was developed by a private company, Advanced Space, and has been partially paid for by NASA. The mission’s primary aim is to demonstrate a new system of autonomous navigation around and near the Moon, but it will also pioneer a new trajectory, which takes more time but uses less fuel, to reach the Moon. This “ballistic lunar transfer” allowed CAPSTONE to be launched on the small Electron booster. Finally, CAPSTONE will fly in a special orbit, called a near-rectilinear halo orbit, around the Moon. This will help to demonstrate the orbit NASA plans to use for its Lunar Gateway. (submitted by Ken the Bin and EllPeaTea)
Virgin Orbit launch delayed. Final preparations for the company’s second launch of 2022 were put on hold shortly before the takeoff of the rocket-carrying Cosmic Girl aircraft on Wednesday night from Mojave Air & Space Port in California. “We are standing down from today’s launch attempt,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Our systems are in great health, but our propellant temperature was slightly out-of-bounds, and out of extreme caution, we are scrubbed for the day.”
Straight up, now tell me … Virgin Orbit said it would work to re-attempt the launch in the “coming days.” The “Straight Up” mission, named for the hit song by Paula Abdul, is an important one for the company because its LauncherOne rocket is intended to deliver seven experimental payloads for Space Systems Command as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program. A component of the Space Force, Space Systems Command is responsible for rapidly developing, acquiring, equipping, fielding, and sustaining lethal and resilient space capabilities.
Space Ryde opens up about its balloon-launch plans. The Canadian company recently had a media event at its Toronto-based headquarters, CTV News reports. The company plans to use a balloon as its first stage to loft a small rocket to an altitude above much of the Earth’s atmosphere, about 30 km, before releasing a rocket capable of launching cubesats into orbit. The company plans to launch its first satellite next year and accelerate its cadence afterward. “In the next few years, we are looking at weekly launches, but ultimately daily,” said Safari Haghighat, who co-founded the company with her husband, Sohrab Haghighat.
Some red flags … First of all, let me say that I truly hope the company succeeds with this inventive approach. However, there are some red flags here. Both the CTV article and one by the CBC say the company aims to launch a mission for $250,000 per payload. Such a price, per launch, does not seem achievable. Moreover, any time a startup company talks breezily about weekly launches, let alone daily launches, that strikes me as a sign of someone who either doesn’t know what they’re up against or someone simply content to blow smoke. But perhaps a balloon rocket company needs a little hot air to fly? (submitted by Joey and Dale Constable)