Kaboom! ABL Space Destroys Second Stage in Test at Mojave

ABL Space Systems lost a second stage during a test in Mojave on Jan. 19, 2022. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — A loud boom echoed across California’s Mojave Desert on Wednesday afternoon. I would normally pay little attention to it given how common such occurrences are in Mojave. But, this one was different: instead of nearly daily boom-boom of jet fighters from nearby Edwards Air Force Base going supersonic, this one was a single large BOOM!

And oh, there was a giant cloud of black smoke rising from the rocket test area at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Someone’s engine test had clearly gone awry.

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Final RS-68A Engine for Delta IV Heavy Completes Hot-fire Acceptance Test

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-68A rocket engine successfully completed its final acceptance test April 12, 2021, on the B-1 test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The RS-68A powers the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket to send critical spacecraft into orbit. (Credit: NASA Stennis)

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Today (April 12), the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled rocket engine built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-68A, completed its final hot-fire acceptance test for use on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle on the B-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

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Test Pilot School Graduates First Space Test Fundamentals Class

By 1st Lt. Christine Saunders
U.S. Air Force Test Center Public Affairs

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School graduated the first-ever Space Test Fundamentals class April 6, 2021, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Fifteen enlisted, officer, civilian Airmen and Guardians represent the first class dedicated to testing within the newly contested domain of Space.

Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, the U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, was on-hand to give the graduation address.

“You were handpicked from a pool of over 160 applicants, not only to attend this inaugural Space Test course, but also to help us build this course and define its future as the initial Space Test cadre,” said Raymond. “You were the “Beta testers” of the course itself, simultaneously studying hard and developing the future of our space test education and training program.”

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Earth Observant Inc. Successfully Tests Next-generation Propulsion Technology to Support Future Very Low Earth Orbit Missions

Earth Observant completed tests of a pioneering Hall-effect thruster at the US Air Force Research Lab’s vacuum chamber facility at Edwards Air Force Base over a period of two weeks. The HET-X Thruster uses traditional EP fuel sources and a new, undisclosed propellant solution that is low-cost, non-toxic, and widely available.

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 18, 2021 (Earth Observant PR) — Earth Observant Inc. (EOI) successfully completed a series of tests on its internally developed Hall-effect thruster that introduces new propellant types while maintaining thruster efficiency and minimizing erosion. This technology supports EOI’s core mission of operating a Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) constellation of Earth Imaging satellites to deliver ultra-high resolution image data.

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NASA Takes Delivery of GE Jet Engine for X-59 Supersonic Demonstrator

The F414-GE-100 engine, which will power NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane (QueSST) in flight, is unboxed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The engine, one of two delivered by GE, is approximately 13 feet long, and will power X-59 on missions to gather information about how the public perceives the sounds of quieter supersonic flight. (Credits: NASA / Ken Ulbrich)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Mark the big one-of-a-kind engine, designed and built just for NASA, as delivered.

Nearly 13 feet long, three feet in diameter, and packing 22,000 pounds of afterburner enhanced jet propulsion, the F414-GE-100 engine is now at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in California.

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Stargazer Flight Raises Questions

Stargazer aircraft carrying Pegasus XL rocket with CYGNSS satellite. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Whenever I’m over at the Mojave Air and Space Port, I’ve always felt a little sad when I catch a glimpse of Northrop Grumman’s Stargazer aircraft.

The last Lockheed L-1011 Tristar still flying today, the modified passenger aircraft’s main task is to air launch satellites aboard the Pegasus XL rocket carried under its fuselage. Since the rocket isn’t much in demand, the gap between launches can last for years.

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ABL Space Systems Begins RS1 Stage Testing, Reaches $90 Million in Funding

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Aug. 3, 2020 (ABL Space Systems PR) — ABL Space Systems has begun stage testing of the RS1 small satellite launch vehicle, and has been awarded two US DoD contracts and secured a large round of funding with a combined value of over $90 million. ABL’s awards and funding are key to the rapid development of the RS1 launch vehicle and GS0 deployable launch system, with a demonstration launch slated for Q1 of 2021.

ABL’s DoD contracts, awarded by the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX, with participation from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, total $44.5 million over three years. Additionally, ABL has secured $49 million of financing led by Ethan Batraski at Venrock with participation from New Science Ventures, Lynett Capital, and Lockheed Martin Ventures. The recent round closed on March 31st, and fully funds ABL through a three launch demonstration campaign in 2021.

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AFRL, Masten & NASA Collaborate on Successful Testing of Methane Engine

The Masten 25k lbf thrust Broadsword rocket engine. (Credit: Masten Space Systems/Matthew Kuhns)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and Masten Space Systems Inc. successfully tested a liquid methane rocket engine, the first of its kind tested at AFRL.

AFRL and Masten signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement in December 2018. The agreement enabled Masten to test the Broadsword 25K engine at AFRL’s rocket testing facility at Edwards Air Force Base in Test Area 1-125 and complete NASA’s Tipping Point contract requirement of a ten second hot fire test.

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Blue Moon Program Fact Sheet

Blue Moon crewed landing vehicle. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin released a fact sheet about its programs when it opened its new Huntsville manufacturing facility on Monday. Below is an excerpt on the company’s advanced development programs and Blue Moon lunar lander.

BLUE ORIGIN FACT SHEET

Advanced Development Programs

Blue Origin is developing advanced technologies to enable space exploration and development, including a NASA Tipping Point contract to mature cryogenic liquid propulsion for integrated large-scale lunar lander applications and several years of progress on the Blue Moon Lunar Lander and its BE-7 lunar landing engine.

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Blue Origin Fact Sheet on New Glenn, Engine Development

New Glenn is a reusable, vertical-landing booster with 3.85 million pounds of thrust, (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin released a fact sheet about its programs when it opened its new Huntsville manufacturing facility on Monday. Below is an excerpt on the company’s New Glenn rocket and its BE-3, BE-4 and BE-7 engine development program.

BLUE ORIGIN FACT SHEET

New Glenn

Named after John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, New Glenn is a single configuration, heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle capable of carrying people and payloads routinely to low Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, cislunar and beyond. Its first stage is fully reusable and built for 25 missions initially.

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AFRL, Blue Origin Partner on Test Site for BE-7 Lunar Lander Engine Development

The Altitude facility at Edwards Air Force Base, California, does tactical scale research on next generation rocket motor and engine components, propellant formulations, and subsystems; and high vacuum research on satellite components, subsystems, and systems. Research testing includes solid rocket motor testing at simulated altitudes up to 120,000 feet. The complex has been used for space simulation to validate thrust vector control systems, baseline a standard for solid rocket motor propellants, research extendible nozzle cones, and systems, and research space qualified ignition systems. (Credit: Blue Origin)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory and Blue Origin are developing a new test facility for the Blue Origin BE-7 lunar lander engine at the AFRL rocket lab here.

Capital improvements, funded by Blue Origin, will allow BE-7 testing in a simulated space-like environment. Planned work includes adding liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) propellant capabilities, along with other facility upgrades.

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Next Cygnus Spacecraft Named After First African American Astronaut

Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Northrop Grumman PR) — Northrop Grumman will launch the NG-13 mission on February 9, 2020. The company’s Antares rocket will launch the Cygnus spacecraft from Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia with the 5-minute launch window opening at 5:39 p.m. ET.

Northrop Grumman is proud to name the NG-13 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight. Major Lawrence was selected in honor of his prominent place in history as the first African-American astronaut.

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AFRL, ABL Space Systems Collaborate on Next-Gen Rapid Launch Systems

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory and ABL Space Systems are collaborating to develop and test rocket propulsion elements for use in launch vehicles thanks to a 3-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) both organizations have agreed to.

The CRADA, which was finalized July 10, 2019, focuses on research and development collaboration efforts that will transform the standard methods for rocket testing and launch operations and mature the technology base for more dynamic, robust and rapid launch operations.

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Michael Collins Honored with 2019 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy

Michael Collins

WASHINGTON,DC (NAA PR) – The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is pleased to announce that Major General Michael Collins has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for … “his lifelong dedication to aerospace and public service in the highest order, both as a pioneering astronaut and inspired director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.”

Established by NAA in 1948 to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the trophy is awarded annually to a living American for “…significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.” One of the most important, historic, and visible aerospace awards in the world, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy reflects a timeline of the most innovative inventors, explorers, industrialists, and public servants in aeronautics and astronautics.

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Virgin Galactic Pilots Join 80.46-Kilometer (50-Mile) Club

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow, who were awarded civilian astronaut wings last week, are among 18 pilots who have flown suborbital flights.

The two pilots flew SpaceShipTwo Unity to an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.72 km) on Dec. 13, 2018. That accomplishment qualified them for civilian astronaut wings using an American definition that places the boundary of space at 50 miles (80.46 km).

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