Rocket Report: SpaceX vacuum wand cleaning contracts, Astra back on track

Zoom / Astra’s LV0009 takes off from Kodiak Island, Alaska, on March 15.

Welcome to Rocket Report 4.36! While I was on vacation last week for spring break, there’s plenty of news to catch up this week, including positive steps forward for some small launch companies in the US and SpaceX hitting another milestone with its Falcon 9 rocket.

As usual we Readers’ offers are welcomeAnd if you don’t want to miss any 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 missiles as well as a quick look at the next three launches in the calendar.

Astra successfully returned to flight. Astra launched its Rocket 3.3 vehicle on March 15th and placed several payloads into low Earth orbit. SpaceNews reports. The Rocket 3.3, classified by Astra LV0009, took off from the Pacific Spaceport complex on Kodiak Island and delivered payloads to Spaceflight Inc. to a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 525 km. This success came after a failed launch of the Rocket 3.3 on February 10. This failure was caused by a fault in the wiring system in the payload flowchart.

Back to the right track … just before launch, Astra announced That the flight was part of a multi-mission deal with Spaceflight Inc. The terms of the “multiple launch” contract were not disclosed. Astra, a publicly traded company, saw its shares rise 20 percent in the week following the successful launch, suggesting that the company may have finally resolved the issues with its Rocket 3.3 Booster. More success, of course, will generate more confidence in the Astra, but this was a good start. (Provided by Ken Ben and Elpitia)

Firefly gets a space port, new funding. Firefly Aerospace will make its second attempt to reach orbit with its Alpha rocket in May, having won government approval to resume launches, CNBC Reports. Tom Markusik, CEO of Firefly, said the company “worked systematically and collaboratively with the government” to complete the divestment and add “security protocols.” With those moves complete, Markusic said the company now has “full access to our return and launch facilities” from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

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pump money …the government halted Firefly’s launches in Vandenberg in late 2021, saying that Ukrainian software entrepreneur Max Polyakov’s venture should sell its 50 percent stake in Firefly. The dispossession came late last month, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Separately, Firefly also closed a $75 million fundraising round led by AE Industrial Partners, which Markusic said means the company’s broader growth plan is “fully funded.” This is good news for Firefly as it seeks to fly Alpha regularly and to develop the Blue Moon lander. (Provided by EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)

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Ursa Major begins to deliver the engines. Startup Ursa Major announced Wednesday that it has completed the rehabilitation of its Hadley rocket engine for use as both a space launch vehicle and a hypersonic launch system. The Colorado-based company said it has already begun delivering ready-to-fly Hadley engines to two customers, Phantom Space and Stratolaunch, and plans to produce a total of 30 engines this year. Since Hadley is intended to serve many users, the motor has had a significantly longer test time, around 40,000 seconds so far, Ars . reports.

Strive to control costs …the Hadley engine is relatively small compared to rocket engines, with a thrust of about 5,000 pounds. At this level of performance, Hadley is comparable to Rutherford’s engine at Rocket Lab, nine of which power the first stage of the Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. Ursa Major is a new aerospace startup that focuses on developing just rocket engines rather than the entire rocket. It has endeavored to keep engine costs low by using mass market 3D printers and by maintaining a relatively low headcount. The total number of employees of Ursa Major only recently exceeded 200. To date, the company has raised about $ 140 million.

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Blue Origin is set for the upcoming New Shepard launch. The first Blue Origin launch of 2021 will begin on March 29th. Although the company originally said that actor Pete Davidson would be a guest on this trip, it later said he was “no longer able” to join the mission. Blue Origin chose Gary Lay to fly in his place. Lay may not be as famous as Davidson, but he definitely deserves more. An employee of Blue Origin, he was a New Shepard system engineer and is highly regarded in the industry. It’s great to see him get a chance to fly.

Another passenger deserves it too …also on this sub-orbital flight will be Marty Allen, husband and wife duo Sharon and Mark Hagel, Jim Kitchen, and George Neild (who is also a very well-deserved traveler for his work in commercial space at the FAA). This mission is New Shepard’s fourth human flight and 20th all-around flight in the program’s history. Liftoff is currently targeting 8:30 a.m. local time (13:30 UTC) from its first launch site in West Texas. (Provided by Ken Ben)

RFA says no engine concerns because of Ukraine. Augsburg Rocket Factory (RFA) announced Earlier this month, after a public competition, it named the stage-combustion engine for the RFA One launch vehicle “Helix.” Nine of the engines, which have a thrust of 22,500 pounds and are fueled with kerosene and liquid oxygen, will power the rocket’s first stage. RFA says it’s nearing completion of its first helix in flight configuration and is preparing for long-term hot-fire tests. The source of this engine was one of the company’s concerns, as some reports indicated that it was purchased from a company in Ukraine.

Will the war affect the company’s plans? …the short answer is no, according to Jonas Kellner, head of communications at Radio Free Asia. Longer version: “RFA made a one-time purchase of a used Yuzmash turbocharged pump and imported it to Germany with all necessary import licenses. The reason for this is to quickly get into testing with this equipment and obtain valuable data for its own development of the turbine pump and the remaining components – which are highly dependent on Large on them in an engine with phased combustion.The Helix for this flight configuration is 100 percent designed and built by RFA, and all of its components are 100 percent IP from RFA.Yuzmash is not a supplier of RFA.Accordingly, RFA is completely independent of Yuzmash and is not You feel any direct impact of the Ukraine war.”

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India completes test of small booster missile. India’s space agency, ISRO, has completed testing of the new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) based solid-fuel booster stage, Indian Express Reports. This ends the ground test program for all three stages of the launch vehicle. The new launch vehicle is now ready for its first test flight, which is scheduled for May this year. Typically, ISRO announces the launch of the launch vehicle after two successful development flights.

Smaller missile, lower price … Originally slated to launch in 2020, work on the new car has been delayed in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new missile is designed to be smaller, cheaper and quickly assembled for on-demand commercial launch. The SSLV is likely to cost about $4-6 million per launch compared to $16-$25 million for the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which is India’s backbone. An SSLV can be assembled by a team of six in seven days – compared to a team of 600 that takes two months to assemble a PSLV. The launch vehicle will carry smaller payloads of about 500 kg compared to the 1,750 kg carried by the PSLV. (Provided by Ken Ben)

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