Welcome to Edition 5.21 of the Rocket Report. This the final edition of the Rocket Report for 2022. I will be taking about 10 days off for the holiday season this year, so the next newsletter will not be published until January 5. The good news? Ars and I have big things planned for coverage of space in 2023, so stay tuned for announcements about that. In the meantime, I hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday season!
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.
Almost time to get charged up for Electron. After more than two years of delays, NASA and Rocket Lab are finally ready to conduct the first Electron launch from Wallops Island in Virginia on Friday, Space News reports. The latest delays were caused by a poor weather forecast for Thursday, and then a need to close out final documentation. The launch is now targeted for no earlier than Sunday, December 18. The mission will place into orbit three satellites for HawkEye 360, which operates a constellation of spacecraft that perform radio-frequency surveillance.
What does the F in FTS stand for, anyway? … The main delay was caused by a new autonomous flight termination system required for Electron launches from Wallops. David Pierce, director of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, said the final safety certification of what’s called the NASA Autonomous Flight Termination Unit was originally scheduled in time to support a mid-2020 first launch from Launch Complex-2. But during final checks of the software, engineers discovered numerous errors in the code. Eventually, Rocket Lab wants to launch the Neutron rocket from Virginia. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Who is ready for Blue Origin Space Rangers? Variety reports that a production company co-founded by Michael Strahan, who flew to space on New Shepard in December 2021, is working with Blue Origin to develop an animated space adventure series for kids. It will be called “Blue Origin Space Rangers.” Stop laughing. I’m being serious over here.
Coming soon to Amazon Prime? … The show will include appearances of an animated Jeff Bezos as well as Strahan, a former NFL star. That might make it worth tuning in to, at least once. According to the producers, the show will “create multiple touchpoints for kids and families to explore, learn and deliver a one-of-a-kind space experience.” I’ll try to be positive and say it’s great to try to get kids interested in STEM. But I certainly hope this is not a distraction to all of the other work on Blue Origin’s plate.
After another delay, ABL slips to January. At the beginning of this month, ABL Space Systems provided a clear and detailed update on its multiple attempts to launch the RS1 rocket from Kodiak, Alaska. (This kind of transparency is much appreciated.) Then, on December 8, the company tried again, only to observe “unexpected electrical interference in our avionics system” shortly before the launch attempt.
Time needed for fixes … “The issue has only presented during live propellant ops, not dry vehicle testing or in the lab. This indicates a thermoelectrical or thermomechanical root cause,” the company stated on Twitter. “The team is implementing fixes and working towards a launch attempt during our next launch window opening on January 9.” Best of luck to ABL as it continues to press toward the debut of RS1.