In this week’s edition, Terran Orbital completed a contract for Lockheed Martin, UK government says it didn’t delay Virgin Orbit‘s launch, Rocket Lab sets a new date for its first launch from U.S. soil, and the clock continues to tick on Astra Space‘s delisting notice.
SpaceX’s 61 successful launches last year tied a 42-year old record set by the Soviet Union in 1980 and propelled the United States to a world-leading 87 launch attempts. The company accounted for 32.6 percent of 186 launches worldwide.
After months of buildup about the first orbital launch of satellites from UK soil, the first launch ever from Western Europe, the beginning of a new era in British spaceflight, Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 dropped the LauncherOne rocket over the Atlantic Ocean off the southern coast of Ireland. The booster’s Newton 3 first stage engine ignited and shut down, the second stage separated and its Newton 4 engine ignited. All appeared to be nominal.
U.S. companies led the world last year with 87 orbital launch attempts on the strength of SpaceX’s record-tying 61 launches. There were 84 successes, two failures and one partial failure in a year that saw more than 2,100 satellites launched.
Virgin Orbit’s (NAS: VORB) much hyped “Start Me Up” launch from the United Kingdom failed on Monday, sending nine satellites plunging to their doom and the company’s stock price sinking to its lowest point ever. The failure raised more questions about the financial viability of Richard Branson’s cash-strapped company.
While the first week of 2023 saw only one launch worldwide, things will get a lot busier in week 2. Virgin Orbit is set to conduct its first launch from the UK, ABL Space hopes to launch its first rocket ever, and SpaceX and China have three launches apiece on their manifests.
NASA will received a sample from one asteroid and launch a mission to another, ESA will send a probe to study Jupiter and its icy moons, and multiple space telescopes are on launch manifests this year.
SpaceX’s massive Starship/Super Heavy launcher leads a list of more than two dozen new launch vehicles that could have their maiden flights this year. The manifest included new launchers from established players Arianespace and United Launch Alliance as well as scrappy startups across the globe. Payload capacities to low Earth orbit range from 100 metric tons down to 65 kg.
The privatization of human spaceflight is set to accelerate this year with an increase in the number of commercial launches to the International Space Station (ISS) and the long-delayed start of suborbital space tourism flights by Virgin Galactic. Professional astronauts will continue to rotate to and from ISS and China’s Tiangong space station.
Happy New Year to all and welcome to the first S-SPACi of 2023.
SpaceX started off the year with a boom on Tuesday with the launch of its Transporter-6 rideshare mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The Falcon 9 first stage booster touched down on land instead of an off-shore drone ship, sending a sonic boom echoing across the Sunshine State.
Russia’s conducted 22 launches without any failures in 2022. Although that is a respectable number, it left a nation that once led the world in orbital flights a distant third behind the United States (87) and China (64) in a record year with 186 launches.
Four launches have been scheduled this week that would bring orbital attempts to a record 186 if all of the missions are conducted as planned. The last minute flurry comes as SpaceX seeks to exceed 60 launches, and Arianespace deals with the fallout from the failure of a Vega-C rocket last week.
British spaceports face competition from bases in Europe’s frozen north
While much attention has been focused on Virgin Orbit’s plan to launch from Spaceport Cornwall in England and the creation of launch facilities in Scotland, the development of new orbital spaceports in Scandinavia has largely flown under the radar. But, now one of those Nordic bases is ready for its closeup.