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      A bitter pill: Amazon calls on rival SpaceX to launch Internet satellites

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 1 December - 22:59

    A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a reused booster stage and payload fairing  is seen rolling out to its launch pad in Florida before a mission last month.

    Enlarge / A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a reused booster stage and payload fairing is seen rolling out to its launch pad in Florida before a mission last month. (credit: SpaceX )

    Amazon announced Friday that it has purchased three Falcon 9 rocket launches from SpaceX beginning in mid-2025 to help deploy the retail giant's network of Kuiper Internet satellites.

    In a statement, Amazon said the SpaceX launches will provide "additional capacity" to "supplement existing launch contracts to support Project Kuiper’s satellite deployment schedule." SpaceX has its own broadband satellite fleet, with more than 5,100 Starlink spacecraft currently in orbit, making it a competitor with Amazon.

    Last year, Amazon bought up most of the Western world's excess launch capacity from everyone but SpaceX, securing 68 rocket flights from United Launch Alliance, Arianespace, and Blue Origin to deploy thousands of satellites for the Kuiper broadband network. Amazon previously contracted with ULA for nine Atlas V launches to support the initial series of Kuiper launches, the first of which lifted off in October with Amazon's first two Kuiper prototype satellites. More Atlas Vs will start launching operational Kuiper satellites next year.

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      Rocket Report: A mysterious explosion in China; Firefly tests new engine

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 1 December - 12:00

    Imagery from Europe's Sentinel-2 satellite shows the aftermath of an explosion on a test stand at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China.

    Enlarge / Imagery from Europe's Sentinel-2 satellite shows the aftermath of an explosion on a test stand at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China. (credit: Sentinel Hub EO Browser/CC BY 4.0 )

    Welcome to Edition 6.21 of the Rocket Report!

    Someone is always watching, and it's more difficult than ever to hide bad news. This is one of my mantras as a reporter who will always come down on the side of transparency. We've seen space companies and government agencies in the United States try to downplay setbacks, which, let's face it, are inevitable in the space business. In China, it looks like a recent test-firing of a rocket motor didn't go well. Unsurprisingly, Chinese officials haven't said a thing.

    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.

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      Seven-minute hotfire test moves Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket closer to flight

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 28 November - 12:38

    Exhaust plumes from the Ariane 6 rocket's main engine rise above the launch pad in French Guiana.

    Enlarge / Exhaust plumes from the Ariane 6 rocket's main engine rise above the launch pad in French Guiana. (credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/P. Piron )

    The European Space Agency (ESA) declared success after an Ariane 6 rocket fired its core stage engine in French Guiana for seven minutes on Thursday, clearing one of a handful of remaining hurdles before the new launcher can lift off on its first test flight.

    The Ariane 6's inaugural launch, now scheduled for next year, has been delayed repeatedly since ESA approved the new rocket for development in 2014. The test-firing of the Ariane 6 main engine on a launch pad at the Guiana Space Center in South America last week was the most significant test not yet accomplished on the rocket's preflight checklist.

    The test lasted 426 seconds—a little more than seven minutes—while a full-size test model of the Ariane 6 rocket remained on its launch pad. In order for the rocket to actually take off, it would need to light its four strap-on solid-fueled boosters. That was not part of the plan for Thursday's test.

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      FAA says SpaceX has more to do before Starship can fly again

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 8 September - 19:40

    A discolored plume of exhaust was visible beneath the Super Heavy booster's Raptor engines on the Starship rocket's April 20 test flight, a likely indication of a propellant leak or fire in the engine compartment.

    Enlarge / A discolored plume of exhaust was visible beneath the Super Heavy booster's Raptor engines on the Starship rocket's April 20 test flight, a likely indication of a propellant leak or fire in the engine compartment. (credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images )

    The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it has closed an investigation into the problems SpaceX encountered on its first full-scale Starship test launch in April, but federal regulators won't yet give a green light for the next Starship flight.

    "The closure of the mishap investigation does not signal an immediate resumption of Starship launches at Boca Chica," the FAA said in a statement, referring to the location of SpaceX's Starship launch facility at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas.

    The nearly 400-foot-tall Starship rocket, the largest ever built, is standing on its launch pad in Texas for the upcoming test flight, which could happen before the end of this month, pending FAA approval.

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      Rocket Report: Japan launches Moon mission; Ariane 6 fires up in Kourou

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 8 September - 11:00 · 1 minute

    A Japanese H-IIA rocket lifts off from the Tanegashima Space Center with an X-ray astronomy satellite and a robotic Moon lander.

    Enlarge / A Japanese H-IIA rocket lifts off from the Tanegashima Space Center with an X-ray astronomy satellite and a robotic Moon lander. (credit: Photo by STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images )

    Welcome to Edition 6.10 of the Rocket Report! A Japanese spacecraft has joined the international flock of missions traveling to the Moon this year, but you'll need to practice patience on this one. It will take about four months for Japan's small lander to get into lunar orbit, then more weeks to align with the mission's target landing site. We're crossing our fingers this lander will see the same success as India's Chandrayaan 3 mission.

    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.

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    India launches its first solar research satellite . Less than two weeks after landing its first mission on the Moon, India launched a solar observatory on September 2 toward an orbit nearly a million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth around the L1 Lagrange point. This mission, named Aditya-L1, lifted off on India's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and entered orbit around the Earth, where the spacecraft is expected to perform five maneuvers to escape Earth's gravity and head to its distant observation post.

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      Chris Kemp unplugged—Astra’s CEO dishes on the space company’s struggles

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 21 August, 2023 - 21:31

    Chris Kemp, founder and CEO of Astra.

    Enlarge / Chris Kemp, founder and CEO of Astra. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images )

    Chris Kemp is a fighter. That's the price of admission if you want to compete in the brutal small launch industry. He is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Astra, founded in 2016 with a goal of essentially commoditizing small satellite launch services, or at least getting a lot closer to that than anyone else.

    But there are a lot pressure points for Astra in 2023. The company abandoned its first orbital rocket design, called Rocket 3, last year after a string of failures. With higher interest rates, raising money in 2023 isn't as easy as it was a few years ago. And calling Astra's competition stiff is definitely an understatement.

    Kemp argues that Astra finds itself in a different position than, say, Virgin Orbit, a small satellite launch company that went bankrupt earlier this year. Astra has diversified, and can lean on a separate source of revenue in a promising business building electric thrusters for small satellites. This business, which Astra calls spacecraft engines, was made possible by the acquisition of a company called Apollo Fusion in 2021.

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      Let the review begin—SpaceX takes another step toward launching Starship again

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 15 August, 2023 - 23:12

    SpaceX's Starship rocket lost control a few minutes after launch from South Texas on April 20.

    Enlarge / SpaceX's Starship rocket lost control a few minutes after launch from South Texas on April 20. (credit: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images )

    The Federal Aviation Administration is now reviewing a mishap investigation report submitted by SpaceX regarding the company's April test flight of its giant Starship rocket, a spokesperson for the regulatory agency said Tuesday.

    The milestone is noteworthy because it signals SpaceX has completed its investigation into the Starship test launch on April 20 , which ended about four minutes after liftoff following engine failures and other problems during ascent. Now comes the FAA's review of SpaceX's investigation, fulfilling the agency's role as the regulator charged with ensuring public safety during commercial launch operations.

    "When a final mishap report is approved, it will identify the corrective actions SpaceX must make," an FAA spokesperson told Ars. "Separately, SpaceX must modify its license to incorporate those actions before receiving authorization to launch again.

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      Amazon’s first Internet satellites will launch on Atlas V rocket—not Vulcan

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 7 August, 2023 - 15:59

    United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket, seen here in its "501" configuration without any solid rocket boosters.

    Enlarge / United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket, seen here in its "501" configuration without any solid rocket boosters. (credit: United Launch Alliance)

    Amazon has confirmed it now plans to launch the first two test satellites for the company's Kuiper broadband network on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as soon as next month, shifting the payloads off of the inaugural flight of ULA's new Vulcan rocket.

    The shift has been rumored for several weeks after ULA delayed the first flight of its Vulcan rocket from the summer until the fourth quarter of the year. The delay will allow time for ULA to beef up the structure of the Vulcan upper stage's liquid hydrogen tank , which sprung a leak that resulted in a destructive fireball on a test stand in March.

    The first Vulcan rocket was slated to launch the first two prototype satellites for Amazon's Kuiper constellation, a network of more than 3,200 broadband satellites that the retail and tech giant plans to deploy over the next few years. The Kuiper network is similar to SpaceX's Starlink "mega-constellation," which already has more than 4,000 satellites in orbit.

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      Chinese company wins race for first methane-fueled rocket to orbit

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 12 July, 2023 - 21:17

    A Zhuque-2 rocket developed by the Chinese company LandSpace lifts off from its launch pad late Tuesday (US time).

    Enlarge / A Zhuque-2 rocket developed by the Chinese company LandSpace lifts off from its launch pad late Tuesday (US time). (credit: LandSpace )

    A commercial Chinese firm named LandSpace launched its Zhuque-2 rocket late Tuesday and made history as the first company to send a methane-fueled launcher into orbit, beating a bevy of US vehicles to the milestone.

    LandSpace launched the Zhuque-2 rocket at 9 pm ET Tuesday (01:00 UTC Wednesday) from the Jiuquan spaceport, a military-run facility in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China. The company called the launch a success in a press release, and publicly available US military tracking data confirmed the rocket reached an orbit at an average altitude of about 280 miles (450 kilometers).

    “The flight mission was completed according to the procedure, and the launch mission was a complete success,” LandSpace said. “The (Zhuque-2) rocket is the world's first liquid oxygen methane rocket that successfully entered orbit, and it is also the first launch vehicle in domestic civil and commercial aerospace to successfully enter orbit based on a self-developed liquid engine.”

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