Spaceport Report: SpaceX Fuels Starship, Oman to Build Launch Center, Australia Facility Eyes First Orbital Launch, Canadian Govt to Support Launches

Down at Starbase in Texas, SpaceX completed a “flight-like wet dress rehearsal” by filling Starship and its Super Heavy Booster with propellants for the first time.

“Starship completed its first full flight-like wet dress rehearsal at Starbase today. This was the first time an integrated Ship and Booster were fully loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant,” the company tweeted. “Today’s test will help verify a full launch countdown sequence, as well as the performance of Starship and the orbital pad for flight-like operations.”

CEO Elon Musk has estimated that the first launch could be conducted in late February or March. Starship will land in the ocean off the coast of Hawaii after completing a partial orbit of the Earth.

Oman’s spaceport will be located in the port city of Duqm. (Credit: Google Maps)

Move Over Djibouti, Here Comes Spaceport Oman

Oman has announced plans to build a spaceport to accommodate flights by commercial and education suborbital and orbital launches in the port town of Duqm. The Etlaq Space Launch Complex will be built by the National Aerospace Services Company. Officials said the spaceport will take three years to complete, but could see its first launch in early 2024.

Spaceports will be built in the Obock Region in northern Djibouti (bottom left) and the port city of Duqm in Oman (upper right). (Credit: Google Maps)

The announcement comes after Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group (HKATG) and a Shanghai-based Touchroad International Holdings Group announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Djibouti government to build a $1 billion spaceport in that African nation. Djibouti and Oman are located not far from each other in the Middle East region.

The Djiboutian Spaceport, which would be built in the Obock Region of Djibouti, would have seven launch pads and three rocket engine test facilities. Construction is set to begin in March after the signing of a formal agreement. The spaceport is expected to take five years to complete.

Aerial view of Arnhem Space Center (Credit: Equatorial Launch Australia)

Equatorial Launch Australia Eyes First Orbital Launch

Equatorial Launch Australia is eyeing the first orbital launch from the Arnhem Space Centre that it runs in the Northern Territory before the end of the year. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports that exactly who would conduct the launch is still uncertain.

ELA has revealed its ambitious hope to launch another rocket from the site in the second half of 2023, “dependent on the launch vehicle customer and the application permit process”.

Executive chairman Michael Jones said the company was “in discussions with many parties from around the world” to try to secure the spaceport’s next launch.

“At this stage an orbital launch in the second half of 2023 is still our goal,” he said in a statement.

NASA launched three suborbital sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments from Arnhem last year.

Electron rocket on the launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Meanwhile in Old Virginny…

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Virginia is preparing for the first launch of a Rocket Lab Electron booster on Tuesday. The window for the launch three signal collection satellites for HawkEye 360 runs from 6-8 pm EST (23:00-01:00 UTC). The company will webcast the launch on YouTube.

MARS is run by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, a state agency commonly known as Virginia Space. The spaceport is part of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island.

Northrop Grumman launches Antares and Minotaur orbital rockets from Wallops. NASA also conducts suborbital sounding rocket flights from the facility.

Canada to Support Commercial Launches

The Canadian government announced its intention to support commercial space launch activities on Friday. The measures announced include:

  • Supporting safe, secure and environmentally sustainable launches for the next three years on a case-by-case basis under existing legislation and regulations.
  • Transport Canada will work in close collaboration with other federal departments and agencies to develop robust regulatory requirements, safety standards and licensing conditions.
  • The Minister of Transport will establish an interdepartmental review process to leverage expertise from other departments and agencies to ensure that any launch is considered and approved in a manner consistent with applicable laws, treaties and Canada’s national interest.

“Commercial space launches are a natural evolution of space applications and exploration, and Canada is poised to bring its long history and world-leading reputation to this quickly growing field. Developing a commercial space launch regime for Canada will help make our space sector more competitive and will allow Canadian industry a greater market share of the global space economy,” said Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra.

Spaceflight Inc., Maritime Launch Services Deal

Spaceflight Inc. has signed an agreement with Maritime Launch Services to launch up to five of its Sherpa Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTVs) beginning in 2025. The launches aboard Cyclone-4M rockets will take place from Spaceport Nova Scotia in Canada. Sherpa OTVs can accommodate CubeSats, small satellites and large-factor customer vehicles.

Cyclone-4M rockets are built in Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia last February. It’s unclear if Ukraine will be able to export rockets to Canada to meet the 2025 goal.