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.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has announced it will open a new facility which will serve as its Corporate Headquarters, provide incremental production capacity, and bring Mission Control Center capabilities to Long Beach, California.
WASHINGTON Mark Warner/Tim Kaine PR) – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $96,425 in federal funding from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to support the loading and unloading of barges and research vessels at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Wallops Island. The grant was awarded through the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway grant program.
“We are glad to see these federal dollars go towards helping equip MARS with the resources it needs to continue to carry out important operations and research,” said the Senators.“We have no doubt that with this funding, this facility will continue to help boost our nation’s competitiveness in aeronautics.”
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — On Saturday, seven small research satellites, or CubeSats, developed by students from eight universities across the nation were launched on Saturday on a Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Virginia.
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket blasted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Saturday with a Cygnus spacecraft that will deliver 8,200 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Cygnus separated from the second stage as planned after what appeared to be a nominal flight. This is Northrop Grumman’s 12th contracted cargo resupply mission to ISS under NASA contract.
The space agency will provide live coverage on Monday of the resupply ship’s capture and berthing with the station on NASA Television and its website.
2:45 a.m. – Coverage of Cygnus capture with the space station’s robotic arm
Expedition 61 NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will grapple the spacecraft using the station’s robotic arm. She will be backed up by NASA astronaut Christina Koch. After Cygnus capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.
The Cygnus spacecraft, dubbed the SS Alan Bean, is named after the late Apollo and Skylab astronaut who died on May 26, 2018, at the age of 86. This Cygnus will launch 50 years to the month after Bean, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon flew to the Moon on NASA’s Apollo 12 mission, during which Bean became the fourth human to walk on the lunar surface. Bean was the lunar module pilot aboard Intrepid with mission commander Conrad when they landed on Moon at the Ocean of Storms on Nov. 19, 1969.
You can more about the research the Cygnus is carrying here.
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Supplies and scientific experiments ride to the International Space Station on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft (NG-12) scheduled for launch on Nov. 2. The investigations making the trip range from research into human control of robotics in space to reprocessing fibers for 3D printing. Cygnus lifts off on the Antares rocket from pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island in Virginia.
Resupply missions from U.S. companies ensure NASA’s capability to deliver critical science research to the space station and significantly increase its ability to conduct new investigations in the only laboratory in space. This is the first mission under Northrop’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract with NASA.
Editor’s note: This advisory was updated on Oct. 29 to update the time of NASA TV’s coverage of the Cygnus capture on Nov. 4.
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA commercial cargo provider Northrop Grumman is scheduled to launch its next resupply mission to the International Space Station at 9:59 a.m. EDT Saturday, Nov. 2. NASA’s prelaunch coverage will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning Friday, Nov. 1.
Made in Space announced on Monday that it will send a system to the International Space Station (ISS) next month that will recycle plastic waste.
The Braskem Recycler will produce plastic feed stock that will be used in Made in Space’s additive manufacturing facility (AMF) aboard ISS, the company said.
“The Recycler will complete the plastic sustainability lifecycle on-orbit by providing astronauts the ability to convert plastic packaging and trash as well as objects previously fabricated by the 3D printer into feedstock to be reused by the printer,” the company said on its website. “It will facilitate the reusability of materials to solve new problems as they arise whether on the International Space Station or in future manned space exploration missions.”
The Braskem Recycle is scheduled for launch aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship on Nov. 2. The NG-12 mission will fly on an Antares booster from Wallops Island, Va.
Made in Space developed the recycler through a partnership with Braskem, a Brazil-based company that is America’s largest thermoplastic resin producer.
Braskem’s Green Plastic, a bio-based resin made from sugar cane, has been used in Made in Space’s 3D printer aboard the station for the printing of tools and spare parts.
The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.
China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab’s eighth mission will lift-off in August from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying a total of four satellites aboard an Electron launch vehicle.
The mission is manifested with satellites destined to begin a new constellation for UNSEENLABS, as well as more rideshare payloads for Spaceflight, consisting of a spacecraft for BlackSky and the United States Air Force Space Command.
The first launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, Aug. 16 at 12:57 UTC (8:57 EDT). The launch window is open until Aug. 30.
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (Virginia Space PR) ) —Governor Ralph Northam today celebrated the opening of the Commonwealth’s newest facility to prepare rockets and payloads for launch at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Payload Processing Facility (MARS PPF), which held a ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication with Governor Northam this morning, represents a major expansion in capabilities for the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the region.