Rocket Report: Space Force to pick three; Pythom strikes back

Falcon 9 launches 54 
Starlink satellites from SLC-40 in Florida on Saturday.
Enlarge / Falcon 9 launches 54
Starlink satellites from SLC-40 in Florida on Saturday.


Welcome to Edition 6.03 of the Rocket Report! Today marks the 54th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. For decades this has meant a time to reflect on the glories of the past. But finally, with the Artemis Program, we can also look forward with hope about what is coming. That is something I am thankful for.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if 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-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Rocket Lab recovers another booster. The launch company’s Electron rocket boosted seven satellites for NASA, Space Flight Laboratory, and Spire Global on Tuesday. This was Rocket Lab’s 39th launch overall, and after the primary mission Electron’s first stage completed a successful ocean splashdown. Rocket Lab’s recovery team rendezvoused with the stage on the water, successfully bringing it onto a vessel using a specially designed capture cradle, the company said.

Soon to go for forty … The stage was then moved to Rocket Lab’s production complex in New Zealand for analysis to inform future recovery missions and, eventually, re-flight of an Electron. “With this mission we’ve made big strides toward reusability with Electron and we are now closer than ever to relaunching a booster for the first time,” said Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck. The company is working toward its 40th launch before the end of July, with a tentative date of July 28. (submitted by Ken the Bin and EllPeaTea)

Japanese rocket engine explodes in test. An engine being developed for use in the Epsilon S small rocket exploded last Friday at a testing facility in Akita Prefecture, the Japan Times reports. The incident occurred about one minute after the ground test for the second-stage engine began. The engine suddenly spat flames and exploded with a roar, spewing a massive plume of white smoke into the air that turned black as the inferno continued.

A RUD with a thud … JAXA is developing the Epsilon S as the successor to the current solid-fueled Epsilon series to enhance the country’s competitiveness in the growing satellite launch market. Obviously, this is a setback. Moreover, it comes a few months after a second-stage engine issue with the country’s new H3 rocket forced it to self-destruct. So, not a great moment for second-stage engines in Japan. (submitted by BilTheGalacticHero and tsunam)

The easiest way to keep up with Eric Berger’s space reporting is to sign up for his newsletter, we’ll collect his stories in your inbox.

Europe’s boost program having an impact. In order to help stimulate commercial space in Europe, the European Space Agency launched the Boost! program in 2019 to provide relatively small grants to companies in the area of launch, in-space services, and other disciplines. A few years on, the European Spaceflight newsletter assessed the impact that Boost! has had on the industry. The short answer is: It’s been a pretty positive one. “I initially chastised ESA for not doing enough, for not being more daring in providing larger tranches of funding to the companies,” the author of the newsletter, Andrew Parsonson, states.

But opinions can change … The newsletter continues: “In November 2022, ESA revealed that for every euro invested by the agency as part of the Boost! program, the recipient companies managed to attract five euros from private actors. That would mean that the €39.79 million in co-funding awarded by ESA attracted €198.95 million in private investment in the European space industry. That’s a pretty incredible statistic. And that success ensured that at the 2022 ministerial meeting more funding was allocated for the program and more member states signed on to benefit from it.”

Canadian space agency interested in suborbital launches. The Canadian Space Agency is considering using suborbital flights for Canadian scientists and biomedical inventors, spaceQ reports. The agency recently released an announcement of opportunity for flights on providers such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. Each flight would include roughly four minutes of microgravity, or 12 times the 20 seconds of availability per cycle on a typical parabolic flight.

Fulfilling a mandate … “One of our mandates is to try to provide access to space to Canada,” the space agency’s Mathieu Caron, director of astronauts, life sciences, and space medicine, told the publication. Acknowledging that the suborbital flights would be “a new direction,” he said the announcement of opportunity would help determine if proceeding in that direction would effectively meet the mandate. This would certainly be a nice boost for the suborbital space tourism industry if it comes to pass. (submitted by Joey-SIVB)