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.)
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Nov. 8, to discuss select science investigations and technology demonstrations launching on the next Northrop Grumman commercial resupply flight to the International Space Station. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on NASA’s website.
Tara Ruttley, associate chief scientist for Microgravity Research in NASA’s Office of Chief Scientist, and Liz Warren, associate program scientist for the station’s National Lab, will provide an overview of the research and technology aboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft.
Also participating in Thursday’s briefing are:
Laurence Harris is a professor at York University in Toronto and principle investigator for research to develop, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency, a mathematical model for how an astronaut’s perception of motion, body position and distance to objects changes in space.
Marco Baptista with the Michael J. Fox Foundation in New York is the principle investigator for a National Lab investigation to evaluate growth of protein crystals implicated in Parkinson’s disease. Crystals grown in space are larger, enabling more detailed analysis to help define the protein’s exact shape and morphology and help scientists better understand the disease’s pathology.
Negar Rajabiat Cemscia, LLC, is principle investigator for National Lab research to test a novel approach of using particles of calcium-silicate to synthesize membranes as thin as a human hair. These particles can separate carbon dioxide molecules from air or other gases, technology that could aid in removing carbon dioxide from waste gases to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Tamara Koch, David Merges and Dominik Spahr, principle and co-principle investigators at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, will discuss a National Lab investigation focused on astrophysics research to examine the formation of chondrules, some of the oldest material in the solar system.
To participate in the teleconference, media must contact Joshua Finch at 202-358-1100 or email@example.com by 10 a.m. Nov. 8 for dial-in information.
Northrop Grumman is targeting Thursday, Nov. 15, for its 10th contracted mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. The Cygnus spacecraft will launch on an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A at Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, carrying scientific research, crew supplies, and hardware to the orbiting laboratory to support the station’s Expedition 57 and 58 crews.
For launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:
RICHMOND, Va. (Virginia Governor’s Office PR)—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that Rocket Lab, a California-based company, has chosen Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport as the location for Launch Complex-2 (LC-2), Rocket Lab’s first launch facility located in the United States.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — 10 July 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has today confirmed plans to expand its launch capability by developing a US launch site, with four US space ports shortlisted to launch the Electron rocket.
Final selection is underway with Cape Canaveral, Wallops Flight Facility, Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base. A decision on the confirmed site, to be named Launch Complex 2, is expected to be made in August 2018.
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…)
There are a dozen orbital launches planned around the world through the end of June.
China will lead off on Sunday as it launches its Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite from Xichang. A lunar lander and rover targeted for the far side of the moon is scheduled for launch at the end of the year.
Orbital ATK will follow with the launch of a Cygnus resupply ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday from Wallops Island. On Tuesday, SpaceX is scheduled to launch 5 Iridium Next satellites and a pair of scientific spacecraft for NASA.
Other notable missions scheduled through June include a Soyuz crew mission and a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight. Rocket Lab is probably going to launch the first commercial flight of its Electron booster from New Zealand. However, the company has not published a launch window for the flight.
The current global schedule is below. Be sure to check Space Flight Now’s launch schedule for updates.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (May 16, 2018) – The 9th Commercial Resupply Services (awarded by NASA) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by Orbital ATK is targeted for launch no earlier than 5:04 a.m. EDT on May 20th. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsule will host multiple payloads sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory (managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space). These payloads represent a diverse combination of science (life and materials sciences, chemistry evaluations), technology, small satellites, and the replenishment of hardware facilities to support future research. Additionally, multiple investigations will launch to station focused on inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — The launch of a Black Brant IX sounding rocket carrying the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment or ASPIRE was successfully conducted at 12:19 p.m. EDT, March 31, 2018, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The next ASPIRE test at Wallops is currently scheduled for later this summer.
ASPIRE is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, with support from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program is based at Wallops. Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations through the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington manages the sounding rocket program for the agency.
The world’s launch providers have been extremely busy in the first quarter of 2018, with 31 orbital launches thus far. This is more than one third of the 90 launches conducted last year.
China leads the pack with 10 successful launches. The United States is close behind with a total of nine launches with one failure. The tenth American launch is scheduled for Monday afternoon from Florida.
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.
The launch of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket on Saturday morning will be the first of four launches planned over the next five days.
The Antares will launch a Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station. It is the second flight of the re-engineered Antares booster, which includes two Russian-made RD-181 engines in its first stage. Launch time is set for 7:37 a.m. EST (1237 GMT) from Wallops Island in Virginia. NASA TV will provide launch coverage.
ULA’s Delta II booster will launch NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) weather satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The launch window extends from 1:47:03 to 1:48:05 a.m. PST (4:47:03-4:48:05 a.m. EST or 0947:03-0948:05 GMT). NASA TV will provide launch coverage. It will be the penultimate flight of the venerable Delta II rocket.
SpaceX is scheduled to launch the mysterious Zuma payload on Wednesday, Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. government, there are no other details about the spacecraft. The launch window extends from 8:00 to 10 p.m. EST (0100-0300 GMT on Nov. 16). It’s not clear whether SpaceX will webcast the flight.
China will launch the Fengyun 3D weather satellite into polar orbit aboard a Long March 4C booster from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday, Nov. 15. The launch window is not known.
RICHMOND, Va. (Terry McAuliffe PR) – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Vector, a nanosatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, has entered into an agreement with Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space) to conduct three commercial orbital missions out of Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in the next 24 months with an option for five additional launches.
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…)