Welcome to issue 5.04 of Rocket Report! Be sure and read to the end, as most of the news this week concerns heavy-lift rockets, or at least proposed heavy lift rockets. There will also be no newsletter next week as I am going on holiday with my family. But after that, I’ll be back in the saddle for the rest of the summer and fall, which promises 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 small, medium and heavy lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.
Isar Aerospace is launched from French Guiana. The Germany-based launch startup announced Thursday that it will conduct commercial and institutional launches from the European Spaceport in French Guiana starting in 2024. In what appears to be a nice coup, Isar was selected by the French space agency CNES for the opportunity to launch at the Diamant launch complex near the equator. Isar is also developing a spaceport on Andøya, Norway, for its small Spectrum launch vehicle.
Competes with other small launch vehicles … “By adding Kourou, we will further expand our global network of critical infrastructure and gain even more flexibility for our customers,” said Josef Fleischmann, CEO and co-founder of Isar Aerospace. “Creating more launch and deployment capabilities is a key block to taking on the global satellite launch market.” Isar will compete with companies such as Relativity Space, ABL Space Systems and Firefly for commercial payloads in the 1-tonne class. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Firefly is working towards a second Alpha launch. Firefly Aerospace is preparing the second launch of its Alpha rocket in late August or early September, Space News reports. “Our goal is in the next 45 to 60 days to be able to launch,” Firefly interim CEO Peter Schumacher told the publication. “It’s really pending, at this point, availability.” The rocket itself is ready for flight, he said, apart from performing a wet dress rehearsal and a static fire test, which he said would be carried out within two weeks of launch.
Modeling debris from a rocket … The company is awaiting a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, which in turn is dependent on approval of a new debris model for the rocket. The revised debris model came after the first Alpha rocket exploded in flight when the range activated the flight termination system. Debris from the rocket, made mostly of carbon composite materials, fell beyond its range, including in nearby communities, although no damage was reported. (submitted by EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)
Electron launch postponed due to payload problem. Rocket Lab’s next mission for the National Reconnaissance Office — the second of two back-to-back launches for the U.S. spy satellite agency — has been delayed to complete a software update on the classified payload, Spaceflight Now reports. Called NROL-199, the mission was scheduled to launch Friday from Rocket Lab’s spaceport in New Zealand and would have meant the company launched two electrons in a nine-day period.
Where does NRO want to go? … Earlier, Rocket Lab launched the NROL-162 mission on July 13. As soon as the software updates are implemented, NRO and Rocket Lab will provide a new launch date for NROL-199. The payloads are classified, as with most NRO satellites. They will operate in low earth orbit, but the altitude and inclination of the target orbit have not been released. (submitted by Ken the Bin)