Astra Space Makes It to Orbit

Rocket 3 lifts off from Kodiak Island. (Credit: Astra Space webcast)

The fourth time was a charm for Astra Space.

The company succeeded in reaching Earth orbit for the first time with its Rocket 3 booster on Friday evening. The small-satellite booster put a mass simulator into orbit after liftoff from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.

The demonstration launch was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center as part of the Space Test Program’s Rapid Agile Launch Initiative (RALI). The initiative aims to demonstrate commercially available solutions for placing U.S. Space Force payloads into orbit on a flexible schedule.

The two-stage Rocket 3 is 11.6 meters (38 ft) tall with the capability of placing 25-150 kg (55-331 lb) into a 500 km (310 mile) sunsynchronous orbit.

Rocket 3 had failed in three previous attempts from the Alaskan spaceport. The first failed shortly after liftoff, the second reached space but lacked sufficient velocity to enter orbit, and the third took off sideways after one of its first stage engines failed a second after liftoff. The booster continued to fly but was destroyed by the range safety officer after it flew outside of its assigned airspace.

Virgin Orbit to Launch Again by End of Year

LauncherOne (Credit: Mojave)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Coming off flawless back-to-back launches, the Virgin Orbit team has settled into a steady flight preparation rhythm with LauncherOne. [Earlier today], the fully assembled rocket that will carry our next customers’ satellites to space has left our rocket factory in Long Beach and headed up to the bare concrete pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port that serves as all the spaceport we need. Already, the rocket has been mated to the customized 747 that serves as our flying launch pad, mobile mission control, and fully re-usable first stage all at once.

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SMC Partnering with Astra for Upcoming USSF Launch

Rocket 3.1 after liftoff from Kodiak Island in Alaska. (Credit: Astra)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USSF PR) — The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center will partner with Astra, a wholly-owned U.S. company based in Alameda, California, to perform a demonstration launch for the Department of Defense from the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska later this month.  

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Virgin Orbit Updates Schedule for Next Week’s Launch

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The Virgin Orbit team is excited to share an update on timing for our upcoming mission, Tubular Bells: Part One!  

When

With wet dress rehearsal successfully completed, our team is proceeding through the final routine items on our pre-flight checklist. We’re coordinating with our stakeholders to identify the final preferred targets for launch, with an eye on June 30th or the early days of July.

We will only proceed with the mission if all conditions for launch are nominal. If for some reason the launch is delayed, we have backup windows extending through July.

Where

Our carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl will take off from Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, and will travel approximately 1 hour out to sea before releasing the rocket just off the Pacific coast.

Mission Manifest

A total of 7 satellites will fly on LauncherOne for Tubular Bells: Part One. The full list of customers onboard this mission includes:

  • The U.S. Department of Defense, which is launching three CubeSat sets as part of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative. This launch, also known as STP-27VPA, was awarded to Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an organization working to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology into the U.S. military to strengthen national security.  
  • The Royal Netherlands Air Force, which is launching the Netherlands’ first military satellite, a CubeSat called BRIK II, built and integrated by Innovative Solutions in Space.
  • SatRevolution, which is launching the first two optical satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5 (A.K.A. MARTA), of the company’s 14-satellite STORK constellation.

How to Watch

For live updates as the flight progresses, please tune into our public livestream, which will be available on our YouTube. Alternatively, you can follow along with our live-tweets on Twitter (@VirginOrbit).

United States Space Force Partnering with VOX Space for First DoD Launch

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USSF PR) The United States Space Force, Space and Missile Systems Center has partnered with VOX Space, a US-incorporated, wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, to launch multiple Department of Defense satellites on a commercial rideshare mission from the Mojave Air and Space Port, California. The launch is currently scheduled for June 2021.

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Virgin Orbit to Launch Again in June

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Orbit is planning its third launch of small satellites for sometime in June. The Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 will take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California and drop the LauncherOne booster over the Pacific Ocean.

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Three USAF Experimental Satellites Launched Aboard Electron Rocket

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The U.S. Air Force and its mission partners has successfully launched three Department of Defense research and development satellites on Huntington Beach-based Rocket Lab USA’s Electron rocket from Mahia, New Zealand at 11:00 p.m. PST, May 4, 2019 and  6:00 p.m. NZST May 5, 2019.

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Rocket Lab to Launch 3 More Defense Satellites Later This Month

Ellectron launches NASA’s Venture Class CubeSats. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., April 3, 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) — U.S. small satellite launch company Rocket Lab announced today that it will launch three experimental research and development (R&D) satellites for the U.S. Air Force in April. The mission will lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying three R&D spacecraft to Low Earth Orbit aboard an Electron launch vehicle. The launch will be Rocket Lab’s second orbital mission of 2019, and fifth orbital mission overall.
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