Welcome to Edition 5.04 of the 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. Also, there will be no newsletter next week as I’ll be taking some vacation time with the family. But after that I’ll be back in the saddle for the remainder of the summer and fall, which promises to be full of big-ticket 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 to launch 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 beginning as early as 2024. In what appears to be a nice coup, Isar was selected by French space agency CNES for the opportunity to launch at the Diamond launch complex near the equator. Isar is also developing a spaceport in Andøya, Norway, for its Spectrum small launch vehicle.
Competing with other small launchers … “With adding Kourou, we will further extend our global network of critical infrastructure and gain even more flexibility for our customers,” said Josef Fleischmann, chief operating officer and co-founder of Isar Aerospace. “Creating more launch and deployment capabilities is an essential block to take on the global market for satellite launches.” Isar will be competing with companies like Relativity Space, ABL Space Systems, and Firefly for commercial payloads in the 1-ton class. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Firefly works toward second Alpha launch. Firefly Aerospace is preparing for the second launch of its Alpha rocket in late August or early September, Space News reports. “Our target is in the next 45 to 60 days of being able to launch,” Peter Schumacher, interim chief executive of Firefly, told the publication. “It’s really pending, at this point, range availability.” The rocket itself is ready for flight, he said, other than performing a wet dress rehearsal and a static fire test, which he said would be done within two weeks of launch.
Modeling a rocket’s debris … The company is waiting on a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, which in turn depends 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 its flight termination system. Debris from the rocket, made primarily of carbon composite materials, fell outside of the range, including in nearby communities, although no damage was reported. (submitted by EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)
Electron launch postponed due to payload issue. Rocket Lab’s next mission for the National Reconnaissance Office—the second of two back-to-back launches for the US spy satellite agency—has been postponed to complete a software update on the classified payload, Spaceflight Now reports. Named NROL-199, the mission was scheduled to launch Friday from Rocket Lab’s spaceport in New Zealand and would have meant that the company launched two Electrons in a nine-day period.
Where will NRO go? … Previously, 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 target orbital altitude and inclination have not been released. (submitted by Ken the Bin)