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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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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Work Set to Begin on UK’s First Vertical Launch Spaceport in Shetland

A rocket launches from Lamba Ness peninsula in Unst. (Credit: Shetland Flyer Aerial Media)

GRANTOWN ON SPREY, Scotland (SaxaVord UK Spaceport PR) — Construction of the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport is scheduled to begin in late March after it received planning approval from its local authority, Shetland Islands Council.  

The approval provides Scottish Ministers with a 28-day window to review the application by SaxaVord UK Spaceport. Should Scottish Ministers choose not to call the application in for review, or call it in and agree that the project should proceed, construction of the £43m [USD $57.3 million] spaceport can begin.  

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Firefly Aerospace Owner Max Polyakov Sells Stake to Tom Markusic

Max Polyakov

Firefly Aerospace majority stakeholder Max Polyakov announced he was selling his shares to company co-founder and CEO Tom Markusic in a bitter message on his Facebook page.

I am giving up for 1 usd consideration all my 58% stake in Firefly to my co-founder and partner Tom. Dear CFIUS, Air Force and 23 agencies of USA who betrayed me and judge me in all your actions for past 15 months . I hope now you are happy . History will judge all of you guys. Max love Ukraine and yes I have Ukrainian passport and I am Founder of Firefly !!! Bye my “bird” and at the end of the days I proud what I done for my Land soul and heritage !!!

CFIUS is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Late last year, the committee required that Polyakov, who is Ukrainian, sell his stake in the company. Bloomberg reported:

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Skyrora Signs Decade-long, Multi-launch Deal with Shetland Spaceport

Skyrora XL lifts off the launch pad. (Credit: Skyrora)

EDINBURGH, 12th October 2021 (Skyrora PR) — British rocket company Skyrora has agreed a multi-launch deal with the SaxaVord spaceport on Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands, as it moves closer to launching its XL rocket in 2022. This is the first agreement Skyrora has made with a Scottish Spaceport. If successful, this could be the first rocket to go to space from the UK. The multi-launch agreement with SaxaVord will run for the next decade, giving Skyrora the ability to build towards their target of 16 launches a year by 2030. 

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ESA’s Boost! Fosters New Launch and In-orbit Services

ESA aims to boost commercial initiatives that offer space transportation services to space, in space, and returning from space. (Credit: ESA – Flavie Mauvais)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Companies with small satellites are set to benefit from a new end-to-end space transportation service offering additional in-orbit flexibility proposed by D-Orbit and supported through ESA’s Boost! programme.

This commercial service proposal is the first within ESA’s Boost! programme to enable in-orbit transportation services.

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D-Orbit Signs Contract with ESA Under the Boost! Commercial Space Transportation Services

The UK branch of the orbital transportation company will focus on logistics coordination and process standardisation between different European spaceports and launcher providers

CORNWALL, UK, July 20th, 2021 (D-Orbit PR) — The UK branch of D-Orbit, a leader in the orbital transportation industry, has announced the signing of a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Boost! Project with ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme.

The Responsive Microlauncher Service, which provides end-to-end delivery of payloads in orbit, is designed to utilise the upcoming small launchers that are due to be launching regularly from UK starting from 2022. The contract will focus on logistics coordination and process standardisation between different European spaceports and launcher providers.

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ESA Provides €10.45 Million to Support Orbex & Skyrora Launch Vehicle Development

Skyrora XL lifts off the launch pad. (Credit: Skyrora)

PARIS (ESA PR) — As part of its Boost! programme, ESA has signed two new contracts which support UK-based Orbex and Skyrora in their separate proposals for new commercial launch services for small satellites. These services are set to start in the UK from 2022.

ESA has awarded €7.45 million [£6.42 million/$8.11 million] of co-funding to Orbex and its partners, and €3 million [£2.59 million/$3.55 million] to Skyrora.

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2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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Skyrora Reveals New UK-built Vehicle in Live Test

Engine test (Credit: Skyrora)

EDINBURGH, Scotland (Skyrora PR) — On 23rd December 2020 the Skyrora test and flight operations team performed one of their most important test campaigns to date, a full upper stage static fire test, at their engine development complex in Fife, Scotland. This historic event represents yet another significant milestone in the Edinburgh-based rocket manufacturer’s development plan. In fact, it is a crucial milestone for the entire UK space industry.

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Skyrora Conducts Vacuum Chamber Engine Tests to Replicate Space-like Conditions

Booster (Credit: Skyrora)

Scotland-based company successfully conducts a series of 100 static engine firing tests including a vacuum chamber engine test

EDINBURGH (Skyrora PR)  – UK rocket company, Skyrora, has conducted a series of static test fires of its 3rd stage LEO engine, including a vacuum chamber test, designed to replicate space-like conditions to further advance its launch ambitions.

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Skyrora Launches Skylark Micro Booster

Skyrora conducted the launch on Sunday from Langanes Peninsula in Iceland.

Skyrora described Skylark Micro as a two-stage, four-meter tall suborbital rocket. The UK-based company is developing a family of suborbital and orbital boosters.

Skyrora described the purpose of the Skylark Micro launch in an update on the company’s website.

Following the July test for trajectory and hardware on the Skylark Nano, the Icelandic launch of the Skylark Micro will test onboard avionics and communications as well as practice marine recovery operations. Skyrora’s de-risking programme is based on testing its systems with smaller and more cost-effective vehicles before they are used in their larger Skylark L and Skyrora XL rockets. Their low Earth orbital rocket, the Skyrora XL, is scheduled to launch in 2023.

Volodymyr Levykin, chief executive officer from Skyrora said: “Skyrora’s de-risking programme is essential for scaling, learning and education before we launch our two commercial vehicles, Skylark L and Skyrora XL. The entire team is working at a pace and has made great efforts to get another launch underway. I’d also like to express my thanks and gratitude towards Iceland’s government, which has been tremendously supportive with the preparations for this upcoming launch.”  

Skyrora Opens Rocket Engine Test Complex

Engine test complex (Credit: Skyrora)

EDINBURGH, Scotland (Skyrora PR) — Skyrora has established an engine test complex in Scotland, where it already has successfully tested its 3.5kN engine and three-tonne engine for its sub-orbital and orbital rockets. Skyrora expects the newly established Engine Test Complex to help the company create over 170 new jobs in the area by 2030. 

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Skyrora Completes UK’s First Complete Ground Rocket Test in 50 Years

Slylark-L hot fire (Credit: Skyrora)

EDINBURGH, Scotland, 20 May 2020 (Skyrora PR) – The UK’s Space race heats up as Skyrora effectively made the UK ready for launching rockets into space after a team successfully built a mobile launch complex and completed a full static fire test with the Skylark L rocket on it – in only five days.

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Skyrora Tested Innovative Environmentally Friendly Fuel Ecosene

EDINBURGH (Skyrora PR) — Skyrora has tested an innovative high-grade fuel made from waste plastics designed to minimize the environmental impact of rocket launches.

The fuel called “Ecosene” provides a greener alternative to kerosene. Ecosene produces up to 45% less greenhouse emissions than normal kerosene.

The fuel goes through a two step process which transforms the previously landfill waste in to useable fuel to help place earth observation satellites in to orbit to monitor the United Nations sustainability development goals.