Last year was a busy one for suborbital flights as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted a combined four flights of their crewed suborbital vehicles. Despite hopes to the contrary, neither company flew paying tourists on their spaceships.
There were also 26 sounding rocket launches that carried scientific experiments and technology payloads above the atmosphere. The year saw:
Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies conduct a successful launch of its Momo commercial sounding rocket;
Texas-based Exos Aerospace continue to struggle with its reusable SARGE booster; and,
the first suborbital launch ever achieved by college students.
KIRUNA, Sweden (ESA PR) — Later this month a Texus rocket will launch from Esrange, Sweden, that will travel about 260 km upwards and fall back to Earth offering researchers six minutes of zero gravity. Their experiment? Burning metal powder to understand a new type of fire.
WASHINGTON (DLR PR) — A new test stand for the next generation of sounding rockets, microlaunchers and reusable launchers will be constructed at the Swedish Esrange Space Center.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop this test stand at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) on 22 October 2019.
Further topics of the cooperation will be the exchange of expertise and intensified collaboration in the field of engine and launcher stage testing. Among other things, the collaboration will increase the availability of engine test stands and thus make these available to more space companies.
“In SSC, we have found the right partner for the joint planning and implementation of a test stand for hybrid and liquid-fuel engines at Esrange Space Center (ESC),” says Stefan Schlechtriem, Director of the DLR Institute of Space Propulsion. “DLR Lampoldshausen is contributing its unique expertise as a European testing and development location for all liquid chemical space engines to the development of the next generation of engines,” emphasises Schlechtriem, adding: “This collaboration will enable us to bring together the expertise of our institutions.”
With the intensified cooperation between SSC and DLR, the two partners will provide the infrastructure in Europe for the entire range of engine tests, including tests at an early stage of development, thus increasing the portfolio of testing opportunities in Europe.
“There has been a shortage of suitable test sites for early stage and short preparatory tests for the next generation of sounding rockets, microlaunchers and reusable rockets. By combining our testing capabilities with DLR, we can provide Europe with more testing capacity, thus strengthening the development of European space programmes,” says Stefan Gardefjord, President and CEO of SSC.
KIRUNA, Sweden, 12 August 2019 (ESA PR) — As the second ExoMars mission, comprising a rover and surface science platform, progresses towards launch next year, teams continue to troubleshoot the parachute design following an unsuccessful high-altitude drop test last week.
Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.
The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)
The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.
There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)
KIRUNA, Sweden (ESA PR) — The largest parachute ever to fly on a Mars mission has been deployed in the first of a series of tests to prepare for the upcoming ExoMars mission that will deliver a rover and a surface science platform to the Red Planet.
The spacecraft that will carry them is due for launch in July 2020, with arrival at Mars in March 2021. The rover will be the first of its kind to drill below the surface and determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the destructive radiation that impinges the surface today.
SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.
The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.
Although orbital launch vehicles get all the glory (and infamy when they fail), 2016 was also a busy year for the far less glamorous suborbital launch sector. There were 19 suborbital launches at various sites around the world, and two more sounding rocket launches of note where the payload didn’t go above 100 km. (more…)
SOLNA, Sweden (Swedish Space Corporation PR) — On Monday, 17 October, the results of a Swedish Governmental Offices analysis regarding development of the potential capacity at Esrange towards launching of small satellites was briefed to the Space Minister of Sweden.
Mr Jan Nygren, who is responsible for the analysis, recommended the Government to further work on realization of the opportunities. He commented the report by saying that Esrange current capability provide good basic prerequisites that could be further developed in a cost effective way to establish a facility for launching small satellites.
Mr Jan Nygren is a former Minister of Coordination and secretary of state within the Swedish Government and former Vice President of SAAB AB. The coming weekend, Mr Nygren and the Space Minister of Sweden Helen-Hellmark Knutsson will participate at Executive Roundtable held in Kiruna within the celebration of the Esrange 50 year anniversary.
– At SSC we are happy that the Swedish government are working on the opportunities for Esrange and that the results so far seem to be positive, says Stefan Gustafsson, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Sustainable Business.
Spaceport Sweden and Virgin Galactic officials will provide an update on their efforts at creating a spaceport in Kiruna, Sweden on April 1. Below is the official announcement.
SWEDISH SPACE CORPORATION PRESS RELEASE
Many steps towards personal suborbital spaceflight from Kiruna have been taken. To be precise 26 work packages, regarding everything from accommodation to space operations and astronautsâ€™ timetables, have successfully been accomplished during the last 14 months. The Spaceport Sweden team will present the conclusions of the work packages so far and also the way forward.
Virgin Galactic has also been intensely involved in the above mentioned work packages, and has simultaneously focused on several other current topics. Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic will be providing latest information on the recently unveiled designs of the prototype commercial space ship and carrier aircraft which are now close to completion at Scaled Composites in Mojave California. He will also be sharing the vision for Virgin Galactic including the likely diversification of the business into the areas of space science and payload deployment as well as continuing work towards flights from Spaceport Sweden.