Rocket Report: SpaceX Reaches ‘Ridiculous’ Cadence;  ABL declares RS1 failure

Rocket Report: SpaceX Reaches ‘Ridiculous’ Cadence; ABL declares RS1 failure

Rocket Report: SpaceX Reaches ‘Ridiculous’ Cadence;  ABL declares RS1 failure

A Falcon 9 rocket will launch Wednesday morning and carry a GPS III satellite into orbit.
Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket will launch Wednesday morning and carry a GPS III satellite into orbit.

Trevor Mahlman

Welcome to Rocket Report 5.24! I have a blurb about it below, but for me, the news of the week is that in just five days, SpaceX not only launched a Falcon Heavy rocket, but also two other Falcon 9 missions on different coasts. The operational challenges involved are immense and I think are underestimated outside of the people directly involved in this type of work.

As always, we welcome contributions from readers, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form won’t appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report includes information on small, medium, and heavy rockets, as well as a brief preview of the next three launches on the calendar.

ABL updates on RS1 failure. On Wednesday, ABL Space Systems provided an update on the failure of its RS1 launcher on January 10th. Long story short, the vehicle’s first stage suffered a “complete loss of power” after 10.87 seconds of flight, resulting in a simultaneous shutdown of all nine of the vehicle’s main engines. The rocket hit the ground about 20 meters from the launch pad. “Approximately 95 percent of the vehicle’s total propellant mass was still on board, causing an energetic explosion and an overpressure wave that caused damage to nearby equipment and facilities,” the company said.

A fire aboard the rocket … The company has initiated an anomaly investigation. “There is some visual evidence of fire or smoke near the vehicle QD and engine compartment after liftoff,” ABL wrote. “Just before the power outage, a handful of sensors started failing one after the other. This evidence suggests that unwanted fire spread to our avionics system and caused a system-wide outage.” The second RS1 rocket is fully assembled and ready for phase testing, but the results of the anomaly investigation are needed to provide a timeline for this launch to set. Kudos to ABL for a transparent and detailed update. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

European multi-use missile CEO criticizes re-use. In an interview with a French TV channel, the managing director of Maia Space described the challenges of reusing small rockets. Yohann Leroy explained that while the company expected a two-thirds drop in performance when the launcher was recovered, the model would not reduce the cost of the launcher by a similar amount, reports European Spaceflight. “Paradoxically, implementing reuse on a small launch vehicle tends to increase the cost per kilogram launched,” Leroy said.

Zut alors! … The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which manufactures the Ariane missile fleet. Leroy made his comments as Maia Space opens up to third-party investors. The company now has about 30 employees and is trying to develop a small reusable rocket before moving on to larger reusable launchers. Leroy might be right about the economics of repurposing small startups, but I’m not sure this is the best pitch — essentially, “Our business is totally unsustainable!” — you could make to potential investors. (submitted by EllPeaTea)

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Stratolaunch completes second captive carry flight. This week, Stratolaunch announced that its Roc supersize aircraft completed a second test flight on a Talon-A test vehicle. During the six-hour flight, the aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 22,500 feet, and the team collected information on aerodynamic loads ahead of the Talon-A reusable hypersonic vehicle’s drop point.

Big plane, small vehicle … This was a test version of the small shuttle-like vehicle. A review of the flight data will determine next steps on the test schedule. Stratolaunch said it is making further progress toward a separation test and its first hypersonic flight from Talon-A 1 within the first half of 2023. That will be something to see. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

Chinese companies build African spaceport. Groups based in Hong Kong and Shanghai have reached a memorandum of understanding with the Djibouti government to build a $1 billion commercial spaceport in the Horn of Africa, Parabolic Arc reports. The Djiboutian spaceport, to be built in the northern Obock region near the entrance to the Red Sea, would be the first orbital spaceport in Africa. It is believed to cover an area of ​​10 square kilometers.

Not without geopolitical implications … According to the report, construction of the spaceport should begin after the parties signed a formal agreement in March. The project is expected to last five years. This is a development worth following as it is easy to understand the interest of Chinese companies in starting from a latitude about 10 degrees north of the equator. But China’s competitors also have interests in Djibouti. The US Navy operates nearby Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent US military base in Africa. France also has a large military base in the country.

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