Rocket Report: SLS workforce cuts. The new Glenn will be available in early fall

The main flight hardware stage for Europe's new rocket, the Ariane 6, was transferred to the launch pad for the first time this week.  Launch is possible this summer.
zoom in / The main flight hardware stage for Europe’s new rocket, the Ariane 6, was transferred to the launch pad for the first time this week. Launch is possible this summer.

ESA-M. Pédoussaut

Welcome to version 6.41 of Rocket Report! As I finish this version, I’m listening to the news conference after the flight readiness review for the Boeing crew’s flight test. Everything seems to be on track for a launch on May 6th at 10:34 PM ET. Seeing this important milestone for Boeing and the human spaceflight program in the United States is very close.

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

Shetland spacecraft progressing towards launch. According to the BBC, the SaxaVord spaceport in Scotland is on track to launch Britain’s first vertical rocket into orbit. The Civil Aviation Authority has granted Spaceport Scotland a flight permit, allowing the company to control the sea and airspace during the launch. Previously, the site received a spaceport permit in December 2023. Ambitiously, the facility aims to launch up to 30 missiles per year.

From Germany to Scotland with love “This is a critical component in our preparations for launch,” said SaxaVord Spaceport CEO Frank Strong. As Western Europe’s only fully licensed vertical launch airport, we are now preparing to make more space history with the launch of orbital launch operations, which are well underway. The Augsburg rocket factory, based in Germany, could launch its first orbital mission from Shetland later this year (posted by Ken the Bin).

Rocket Lab is launching the 5th Electron this year. Rocket Lab launched a small South Korean spacecraft and a NASA solar sail experiment on Tuesday in the company’s fifth flight of the year, according to Space News. NEONSAT-1, the mission’s main payload, is an imaging satellite with a mass of about 100 kg. The spacecraft is part of a constellation of 11 spacecraft called the New Space Earth Observation Satellite Constellation for National Security, and 10 more will be launched by South Korea’s optical rocket in 2026 and 2027.

You better get busy … It was the first Electron launch in more than a month, following a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office on March 21 from the Laboratory’s Launch Complex 2 in Virginia. Company executives said on a call in February that the company plans 22 Electron launches for the year, two of which will be the suborbital version of HASTE. If Rocket Lab can pull it off, that would be an impressive total. (Posted by Jay500001)

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PLD Space has raised 120 million euros. The Spanish launch startup revealed this week that it has raised €120m to date, funding the launch of its Miura 5-orbit rocket by the end of 2025. Last October, the company’s smaller, suborbital Miura 1 rocket made what the company described as A “successful” test flight reaching an altitude of 46 km. As my rule of thumb, a launch company needs to have at least $100 million in funding to have a fighting chance of reaching orbit.

Construction of new buildings … Miura 5 vehicle is intended to have a capacity of up to 250 kg in low earth orbit. The new funding will mainly be used to develop PLD Space’s infrastructure and increase the size of its facilities from 169,000 to 834,000 square meters. The company also plans to begin construction on a Miura 5 launch site in Coureaux, French Guiana, later this year. (Posted by Ken the Bin and EllPeaTea)

SpaceX landed the 300th Falcon booster. With the launch of a Starlink mission on Tuesday evening followed by the return of the Falcon 9 first stage, SpaceX recorded its 300th successful booster landing. Over the lifetime of the Falcon fleet, SpaceX has already landed about 85 percent of the Falcon rockets it has launched, according to Ars. These days, more than 90 percent of all its missions are carried out on previously flown boosters. So, rocket recycling is quite a thing.

Save a lot of metal … Landing 300 rockets means SpaceX has retained 2700 Merlin rocket engines. In round numbers, the dry mass of the first stage of the Falcon 9 is about 50 metric tons, so the landing of all these rockets prevented 15,000 metric tons of metal and other materials from spilling into the oceans. To put this number into perspective, only a handful of rockets have ever succeeded Launched More than 300 times, and all of them are Russian.

China launched an astronaut mission. A Long March 2F rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on Thursday, carrying the Shenzhou 18 spacecraft and its three-person crew into orbit, according to Shenzhou 18 is commanded by Ye Guangfu, 43, who was part of the Shenzhou 13 mission three years ago. Fighter pilots Li Kong, 34, and Li Guangsu, 36, both new to the spacecraft, make up the rest of the crew.

Change in control … these three people will spend about six months in space. Their spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Tiangong Space Station 6.5 hours after launch. Tang Hongbo, Tang Shenjie and Jiang Xinlin, who make up the crew of Shenzhou 17, the three are welcomed at the orbital outpost. The last three will soon complete their six months in orbit. (Posted by Ken the Bin and EllPeaTea)

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