Engine Failures Doomed ABL, Virgin Orbit Launches

RS1 rocket in flight before all nine first stage engines failed. (Credit: ABL Space Systems)

A couple of updates on the launch failures this week.

ABL Space reports that all nine E2 engines on the RS1 rocket’s first stage failed simultaneously shortly after liftoff from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska on Tuesday. The rocket fell back on its launch pad and exploded, resulting in significant damage but no injuries, the company said.

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ABL’s RS1 Rocket Fails on Maiden Flight

RS1 booster on the launch pad. (Credit: ABL Space Systems)

ABL Space’s RS1 rocket failed shortly after liftoff from its launch pad at the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA) on Tuesday, the company said.

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Space SPAC Index: Falcon 9 Launches 47 Payloads for SPAC Companies on Rideshare Mission

Falcon 9 Transporter-6 launch on Jan. 3, 2023. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

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.

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UK Civil Aviation Authority Claps Back at Virgin Orbit

LauncherOne in a stormy Mojave before being transported to Spaceport Cornwall in England. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

The UK Civil Aviation Authority responded to claims that it is responsible for holding up Virgin Orbit’s launch from Spaceport Cornwall. Tim Johnson, Director for Space Regulation, said in a statement:

“The UK space regulation process is not a barrier to a UK space launch. Virgin Orbit has said in its statement this morning that there are some technical issues that will need to be resolved before launch. These in no way relate to the timing of when a licence will be issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.

“Effective licensing forms an integral part of UK space activity. Spaceport Cornwall’s licence already permits Virgin Orbit to undertake its testing programme prior to launch. Our dedicated team has been working closely with all partners to assess applications and issue the remaining licences within the timelines we set at the outset.

“We continue to work with Virgin Orbit, and other stakeholders, to play our part in delivering a safe UK launch.”

Virgin Orbit Launch Delayed Until After Christmas

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

The first orbital launch from the United Kingdom will have to wait a little longer. In yet another delay, Virgin Orbit (NAS: VORB) will not be able to conduct a launch from Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom on Dec. 14 as the company previously announced. The launch will be delayed until at least late December after Christmas, or possibly next year.

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Virgin Orbit Earns AS9100 Certification, Building on Its Perfect Satellite Launch Record

Successful audit confirms Virgin Orbit meets stringent requirements for leading worldwide aerospace quality management standard

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The Performance Review Institute (PRI) Registrar recently certified Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) as having met stringent international standards. This achievement promotes Virgin Orbit’s ongoing commitment to satisfying stakeholders, and the Company’s dedication to continual improvement of its quality management system.

The globally recognized AS9100 standard builds upon the ISO 9000 family of quality management systems, incorporating critical requirements established by the aerospace industry. These combined factors collectively satisfy U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) quality requirements.

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Virgin Orbit Reports Second Quarter Results

  • Completed fourth consecutive successful launch in 18 months on July 1, 2022; delivered satellites for the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP)
  • Signed binding launch contract with iQPS for launch of synthetic aperture radar satellites
  • Announced NRO, U.S. Space Force, UK MoD, and commercial payloads for Cornwall, UK launch
  • Established new Brazilian subsidiary and received launch operator’s license
  • Continued international momentum with signed study for South Korean spaceport

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR)–Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) (“Virgin Orbit” or the “Company”), the responsive space flight and services company, today announced its financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2022.

Virgin Orbit’s Chief Executive Officer, Dan Hart, commented, “We had another strong quarter of execution, culminating in our latest launch on July 1st. Our ‘Straight Up’ mission, which was our fourth successful launch in 18 months, delivered seven satellites for the DoD. We continue to see strong efficiency gains as we scale production and increase launch rate.”

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J-Space Partners with Virgin Orbit to Bring Sovereign Air-launch Capability to South Korea

Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 takes off from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

J-Space has contracted Virgin Orbit to develop a South Korean launch site plan, paving the path for expanded space markets and new investor opportunities in South Korea and the surrounding region.

LONG BEACH, Calif. and SEOUL, South Korea, August 09, 2022 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB), a leading launch provider, announced today that it has signed an agreement with South Korean investment group J-Space. The agreement will allow the companies to assess candidate spaceport launch sites in South Korea, with the goal of providing satellite launch services from there using Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne System. The cooperative effort is designed to act as a catalyst to the burgeoning Korean small satellite and space solutions market, stimulate local economic growth, and provide the South Korean government with a flexible and responsive launch capability in support of a wide range of mission applications.

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Launchapalooza: 26 New Boosters Debuting Worldwide

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.

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SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Satellite Built by Open Cosmos and RHEA Group to Fly on LauncherOne as Part of First UK Mission

Global navigation pathfinder mission, built in the UK, has been added to the flight manifest from Spaceport Cornwall later this year

LONG BEACH, Calif. & FARNBOROUGH, England (Virgin Orbit PR) — In what will be a mission of firsts, Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB), a leading launch provider, announced today that it has been selected to launch RHEA Group’s first satellite into space. The international engineering and solutions firm is working with Open Cosmos to design, build and operate its mission. Open Cosmos and RHEA have selected Virgin Orbit from its UK business to carry the satellite, DOVER Pathfinder (DOVER), to Low Earth Orbit aboard its historic flight from Spaceport Cornwall later this year. The mission will mark the first time in history that a satellite launch has been conducted from British soil, helping fulfill the goals of the UK government to enable full end-to-end space capability.

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Air Force Research Laboratory Recurve Satellite Launched on Virgin Orbit Mission

Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate’s spacecraft Recurve was launched into low Earth orbit July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port, Rutan Field, Mojave, California, on a Virgin Orbit U.S. Space Force Space Test Program mission. (Credit: U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory)

by Jeanne Dailey
Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) — The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate spaceflight experiment Recurve was launched July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port on the Virgin Orbit space system in California. The launch supported the U.S. Space Force’s STP-S28A mission and carried six additional payloads for the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP).

Recurve is the latest in several low-cost CubeSats designed, built and operated entirely in house at the Space Vehicles Directorate located on Kirtland AFB.

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Virgin Orbit Mission Success Brings UK Launch Another Step Closer

The “Straight Up” mission carried seven satellites to Low Earth Orbit. (Credit: Virgin Orbit/David Massena)

LONDON (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit’s next satellite launch will take place from the UK, following the success of the “Straight Up” mission, which lifted off from Mojave in California earlier today (2 July 2022).

Science Minister George Freeman and the UK Space Agency welcomed the news that Virgin Orbit has successfully completed its fourth mission from California, and its first night launch.

With this mission complete, Virgin Orbit is on track for launch from Spaceport Cornwall later this year. The UK Space Agency and Cornwall Council are supporting the launch, with Spaceport Cornwall set to create 150 jobs in the local area.

Science Minister George Freeman said:

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