Rogozin Sticks a Knife into Northrop Grumman’s Antares Rocket

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket liftoff from pad 0A at 12:40 p.m. EST from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on Feb. 19, 2022. The Cygnus spacecraft, carrying 8,300 pounds of science investigations and cargo, is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Monday, Feb. 21. (Credits: NASA Wallops/Allison Stancil)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said Russia will no longer sell rocket engines to U.S. companies, dealing a potentially fatal blow to Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket. The decision was made in retaliation for U.S. sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week.

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OneWeb Suspends Satellite Launches From Baikonur

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Friday launch of 36 OneWeb broadband satellites aboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome is officially canceled as the London-based company refused demands from the Russian government amid growing international tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur,” the company said in a one-sentence statement.

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Russia Holds OneWeb Satellites Hostage; No Launch Unless Company & British Government Meet Demands

Vladimir Putin receives a briefing from Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Office of the Russian President)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In what is likely the first hostage drama involving communication satellites, the head of the Russian space program has demanded that the British government divest its shares in OneWeb and that the broadband satellite operator not provide services to foreign militaries in order to launch a new batch of spacecraft. The move comes amid growing tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed on the country by western nations.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that unless these demands are met, Russia will refuse to launch 36 OneWeb satellites that sit atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket currently on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch is scheduled for Saturday morning Moscow time.

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Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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GAO: Blue Origin BE-4 Engine Technical Issues Threaten ULA’s Vulcan Booster Schedule

BE-4 engine firing (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Technical issues related to related to “the igniter and booster capabilities” with Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine could delay the maiden flight of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) new Vulcan Centaur booster scheduled for late this year, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Out of Control Chinese Rocket Threatens to Scatter Debris Over Populated Area

Long March 5B launches the Tianhe space station core module on April 29, 2021. (Credit: CASC)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Until the advent of the reusable Falcon 9, most first stages of rockets fell into the ocean, on the lightly populated steppes of Kazakhstan (Russian launches from Baikonur), or crashed beside and even into rural villages, throwing up huge clouds of toxic propellants in the process (Chinese launches).

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Fun with Figures: The Rise and Fall of the Commercial Proton Booster

Proton on launch pad (Credit: ILS)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russia recently marked the 25th anniversary of the entry of the Proton rocket into the international commercial marketplace. On April 8, 1996, a Proton-K booster with a DM3 upper stage launched the Astra 1F geosynchronous communications satellite built by U.S.-based Hughes for Luxembourg’s SES from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches NROL-82 Mission to Support National Security

A ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-82 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off from Space Launch Complex-6 at 1:47 p.m. PDT on April 26, 2021. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., April 26, 2021 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle carrying the NROL-82 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on April 26 at 1:47 p.m. PDT. To date ULA has launched 143 times with 100 percent mission success.

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Delta IV Heavy, Chinese Space Station Launches on Tap for This Week

A Delta IV Heavy launches the NROL-44 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

The month of April is concluding with a string of launches from Russia, the United States, China and South America. Things kicked off on Friday with SpaceX’s launch of Crew-2 to the International Space Station (ISS). On Sunday, a Russian Soyuz rocket launched 36 OneWeb satellite broadband spacecraft from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.

One of the final United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rockets is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Monday afternoon. That flight will be followed by the fifth launch of China’s Long March 6 booster. Launches by Europe’s Vega and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are scheduled over the next two days.

China will close out the month on Thursday by launching Tianhe-1 core module for that nation’s first permanent space station aboard a Long March 5B booster.

The full schedule for the week is below.

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Final RS-68A Engine for Delta IV Heavy Completes Hot-fire Acceptance Test

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-68A rocket engine successfully completed its final acceptance test April 12, 2021, on the B-1 test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The RS-68A powers the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket to send critical spacecraft into orbit. (Credit: NASA Stennis)

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Today (April 12), the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled rocket engine built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-68A, completed its final hot-fire acceptance test for use on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle on the B-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

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ULA Successfully Launches NROL-44 Mission to Support National Security

A Delta IV Heavy launches the NROL-44 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla., (Dec. 11, 2020) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on Dec. 10 at 8:09 p.m. EST. To date ULA has launched 142 times with 100 percent mission success.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Sticks a Fork in NASA’s 2024 Moon Landing Plan

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It looks as if the Trump Administration’s goal of landing astronauts on the moon in 2024 is expiring at about the same time as the administration itself. The fatal blow is being struck by Congress, not the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released a fiscal year 2021 funding bill that includes $1 billion for NASA to Human Landing System (HLS) that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program. The amount is far short of the $3.2 billion that NASA has said is needed for HLS to keep the 2024 landing on schedule.

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Antares Scrub Makes It Three in a Row

Antares on the launch pad. (Credit: NASA webcast)

Ground sensors leave rockets stuck on Earth

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A Northrop Grumman rocket carrying supplies for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) failed to get off the launch pad in Virginia on Thursday evening, marking the third scrubbed American launch in less than 24 hours.

A computer called an automatic halt to the launch of the Antares booster at 2 minutes 40 seconds before the planned liftoff at 9:43 p.m. EDT. The rocket is carrying a Cygnus resupply ship with cargo bound for ISS.

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Sensors Result in Delta IV Heavy, Falcon 9 Launch Scrubs

Launches of Delta IV Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets from Florida’s Space Coast were aborted with only seconds to go before liftoff less than 10 hours apart.

The countdown of an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy was stopped 7 seconds before a planned 11:54 p.m. launch on Wednesday after a sensor detected an unidentified fault. Crews safed the vehicle on its launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The massive rocket is carrying the NROL-44 spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. ULA has not set a new launch date.

It was the sixth scrub or launch delay for the ULA booster since Aug. 27. Five of the delays occurred due to technical problems, the other resulted from weather.

Less than 10 hours later, an “out of family” ground sensor aborted the countdown of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center only 18 seconds before a planned 9:17 a.m. EDT liftoff.

The booster is carrying 60 spacecraft for the company’s Starlink satellite broadband constellation. SpaceX has not announced a new launch date for the flight.