ROCKET REPORT: Spacecraft Clock; Virgin Galactic is at a crossroads

Zoom in / The payload pad for the first test flight of Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket has been positioned around a small constellation of satellites that will carry it into orbit.

Welcome to Rocket Report version 6.48! After the exciting test flight of SpaceX’s Starship ended last week, teams in Texas are wasting no time preparing for the next launch. Ground crews are replacing the entire heat shield on the next spacecraft to overcome deficiencies identified in last week’s flight. SpaceX has a lot to accomplish with Starship in the next few months if NASA is to send astronauts to the moon by the end of 2026.

As always, we are Reader submissions are welcomeIf you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small, medium and heavy missiles as well as a quick look at the next three launches on the calendar.

Virgin Galactic won’t be flying again anytime soon. After an impressive but brief flurry of spaceflight activity — seven human spaceflights in one year, even into suborbital space, which is unprecedented for a private company — Virgin Galactic will now be grounded again for at least two years, Ars reports. That’s because Colglazier and Virgin Galactic are betting everything on developing a future “Delta class” of spaceships modeled after… VSS module, Which made its final trip into suborbital space on Saturday. Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson, now finds itself at a crossroads as it seeks profitability, which… VSS unit And he had no hope of helping to achieve this despite two decades of development and billions of dollars spent.

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Uncertain future … Now, Virgin Galactic’s already weak revenue numbers will drop to near zero as the company spends more capital to bring two Delta-class spaceships online. The goal is to start flying them in 2026. These vehicles are designed to be more easily reusable and carry six passengers instead of four. This timeline seems very ambitious given that at this point the company is only developing tooling for the vehicles and will not start manufacturing key parts until later this year. Virgin Galactic is betting on Delta-class ships, as its stock price has fallen sharply over the past two years. In fact, Virgin Galactic announced a Reverse stock split This week in an attempt to maintain its listing on the New York Stock Exchange. (Submitted by Ken Penn)

Deconstructing North Korea’s progress on missiles. Late last month, North Korea indicated that it had achieved — or, more accurately, was still trying to achieve — a major leap in missile technology. The isolated totalitarian state’s official news agency said it tested a new type of satellite launcher on May 27, powered by petroleum fuel and cryogenic liquid oxygen fuel. This is a radical change in North Korea’s missile program, and it has surprised astute outside observers. Previous North Korean missiles have used hyperpropellants, typically hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, or solid fuel, which is also suitable for military ballistic missiles. Kerosene and liquid oxygen, on the other hand, are not good propellants for rockets, but they are fine for a pure space launcher.

Who helps?…The launch failed on May 27 shortly after liftoff, while the unnamed rocket was still in the first stage of flight over the Yellow Sea. But there is concrete and circumstantial evidence that Russia played a role in the launch. Details remain murky, but North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a Russian spaceport last September and met with Russian Vladimir Putin, who suggested that Russian help for North Korea’s satellite launch program was on the summit’s agenda. South Korean defense officials said Russian experts visited North Korea in the run-up to the missile launch on May 27. If Russia exports a kerosene-fueled rocket motor, or perhaps an entire booster, to North Korea, it would not be the first time Russia has shipped launch technology to the Korean Peninsula. Russia supplied South Korea’s nascent space launch program with three fully equipped rocket boosters for test flights in 2009, 2010 and 2023 before South Korea developed a completely indigenous rocket of its own.

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ABL signs agreement with new launch client. ABL Space Systems, which is still trying to send its light launcher into orbit, has a new customer. Scout Space announced this week that it has signed a launch agreement with ABL to launch a small spacecraft called “Owlet-01” on the third flight of ABL’s RS1 rocket. Space news reports. Scout Space, which describes itself as focused on space security and comprehensive space domain awareness, develops optical sensors to monitor the space environment. Owlet-01 will use a telescope designed to detect other objects in space, a capability highly sought by the US military.

Still waiting for flight 2 …The launch agreement between ABL and Space Scout is conditional on the outcome of the second flight of the RS1 rocket, for which ABL has been preparing for the past few months. ABL has not provided any public updates on the status of the RS1’s second test flight since announcing in March that pre-flight preparations were underway at Kodiak Island, Alaska. The first RS1 rocket landed on a launch pad in Alaska just seconds after liftoff in January 2023. The RS1 is capable of transporting a payload of more than 1.3 metric tons to low Earth orbit. (Submitted by Ken Penn)

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