LR Space Bite – December 13, 2016

Rocket Lab recently conducted a full stage hot-fire test of their Rutherford engine, nine of which will help power the Electron off the pad. Credit: Rocket Lab

Pegasus is grounded. Temporarily.

Due to an unforeseen problem, Orbital ATK’s Pegasus didn’t take flight on December 12, 2016. Though the weather played “hide-and-seek” with a clear launch path, it wasn’t the villain.

Listening to the comms net between air and ground personnel, the call of a ‘RED’ status was called out – the hydraulic system responsible for the drop mechanism had failed. Multiple recycles of the breaker didn’t help, and Orbital ATK ended up calling an overall ‘abort’ after a second attempt to launch.

Pegasus is now scheduled to launch “no earlier than” December 14, 2016, in a 1-hour launch window opening at 8:20am EST.

Money problems at SpaceX?

According to an article at The Motley Fool, SpaceX is no longer profitable and is not cashflow positive.

Considering their fleet has been grounded since the explosion — I mean, fast fire — of the Falcon 9 with the AMOS-6 sitting atop, and not set to take flight any earlier than mid-January 2017, prospects do not look good for a rapid turn-around of fortune for the NewSpace company.

Of course, that’s not to imply that SpaceX is “circling the drain” by any means; however, it does highlight how sensitive the company may be to mishap.

Reliability matters.

Electric rocket engines roar to life.

Rocket Lab achieved another milestone with the flight qualification and acceptance of their Electron vehicle’s first stage. And they made a video about it.

What is so special about Rocket Lab? For starters, their engines are electrically powered. The turbopumps of the company’s Rutherford engines are powered by electric motors, rather than by siphoning off a bit of propellant and igniting it in a pre-burner to generate the needed power to spin-up the turbopumps.

This means that ALL of the propellant is used for thrust. But is it better? Rocket Lab seems to think so.

We’ll know more after the company has had a chance to launch a few payloads.

More delays for Commercial Crew.

In a blog post released December 12, 2016, NASA presents the projected dates for both Commercial Crew providers — Boeing and SpaceX — to begin carrying crew to orbit, and eventually to the International Space Station.

It’s not stellar news.

Boeing is slated to conduct its first uncrewed flight in June 2018, with their crewed flight coming two months later in August.

SpaceX, though, looks to November 2017 for its uncrewed demonstration flight, and astronauts won’t reach orbit on the Crew Dragon six months later, in May 2018.

Delay after delay seems to beset the Commercial Crew program in general, and to SpaceX in particular. In fact, one customer chose to select an alternate launch provider for their satellite due to repeated slips from SpaceX.

Good thing the Russians have a solid launch system.


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