Welcome to Edition 5.12 of the Rocket Report! As a bit of late breaking news, Firefly attempted to make its second orbital launch attempt with the Alpha rocket early Friday, at 3 am EST (07:00 UTC) from California. However in the final moments before liftoff the vehicle went into “auto abort” after engine ignition. Firefly is reviewing data from the scrub to determine its next attempt.
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.
Virgin Orbit faces “difficult” licensing in Britain . The next launch of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, which fires its engines after being dropped from a carrier aircraft, is due to occur no earlier than October 29 from Spaceport Cornwall in southwestern England. A report in Cornwall Live says that the launch window that opens at the end of October is viable for several weeks and that the company still aims to launch during the fourth quarter of this year. During a Cornwall Council meeting earlier this month, Louis Gardner, cabinet member for the economy, provided details about licensing issues that are still being worked through.
Quite the tricky one … “The difficulty with this now is the number of agencies involved in the licensing,” Gardner said. “You have got the UK Space Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority, and other players that are all having a part in that. What the team have been doing is fighting through what is going to be different between that first launch and the huge safety basket that is 1,250 feet from the aircraft, wherever it is, that goes as it moves down the runway, to subsequent launches and how best to prepare for that. It is the licensing that has been quite tricky on this one.” (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Astra will no longer launch TROPICS satellites . The most recent—and, as it turns out, final—launch attempt by Astra’s Rocket 3.3 vehicle ended with an upper-stage failure that led to the loss of two small TROPICS satellites for NASA in June. Astra had been contracted to launch the four remaining TROPICS satellites before the failure of Rocket 3.3 and the company’s subsequent pivot to a larger booster, Rocket 4.0. Now, that will not happen, Astra said Thursday .
NASA satellites to be named later … “Astra and NASA have agreed to modify the terms of our existing launch services agreement for NASA's TROPICS mission to allow for the future launch of comparable scientific payloads on version 4.0 of Astra's rocket. We are delighted to maintain our strong partnership and to have NASA as a launch customer on the next version of Astra's rocket.” It’s unclear what commercial rocket NASA will now use to get its TROPICS cubesats into orbit. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
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