More private rocket companies launched for 2022 | Florida News
By RICHARD TRIBOU, Orlando Sentinel
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – While SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance have sent rockets at an accelerated rate over the past few years, the Space Coast is poised to get a lot busier with more commercial rocket companies ready to go. join the launch party.
The first half of 2022 is expected to see two companies launch for the first time from Cape Canaveral from two older launch complexes, as massive new rockets await new engines in hopes of taking off before the end of the year. .
For one company, Relativity Space based in Long Beach, Calif., Its first scheduled launch from Space Launch Complex 16, will be its very first lift-off. Its rockets are made using 3D printing technology and are expected to take as little as 30 days to create, from nose cone to engine. Its first rocket is called Terran 1 while a much larger reusable version is in the works called Terran R.
While its first launch will be a test mission to ensure the spacecraft can go into orbit, Relativity has lined up eight customers, including the US Department of Defense and NASA, which awarded the company 3 million dollars. dollars as part of its Venture Class Launch Services demonstration. 2 contract.
“NASA’s efforts to expand launch options are vital for future growth in access to space,” said Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder of the company. “We appreciate NASA’s selection of our 3D printing approach for our launcher, Terran 1.”
All of Relativity’s initial launches will come from SLC-16, which has not had a launch since 1988 but was used for the Titan and Pershing missiles as well as for testing of the Apollo and Gemini programs. As work continues on that initial rocket in California, construction of SLC-16 is also getting closer, company officials said.
“The Relativity team has been busy keeping on track for the launch in 2022,” said Joy Mosdell, head of Relativity’s launch operations program, who said so far in 2021, the company has Completed the installation of propulsion farms for liquefied natural gas and oxygen and built the launcher integration hangar, among other landmarks, while licensing continues with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Astra is not new to takeoffs
However, it could be beaten in the fist by another commercial rocket company Astra, which recently secured the launch rights to Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 46 through the efforts of Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency. .
Astra, based in Alameda, Calif., Has already reached orbit on a rocket that took off from Alaska, and will now launch in January to fulfill the same demonstration contract for NASA that Relativity has underway. The Astra “Rocket 3” is small compared to others on the market, measuring just 38 feet tall and with a payload capacity of 331 pounds.
By comparison, Relativity’s Terran 1 will be 80 feet tall with a payload capacity of over 2,750 pounds. Astra’s business plan is to offer customers a much lower cost to reach orbit. To that end, it has lined up several clients, including three other launches for NASA to orbit small satellites to track hurricanes, although the company has not yet specified from which spaceport these missions will be launched.
The two new small and medium-sized rocket companies will join a wide range of planned launches from both SpaceX and ULA from existing launch pads at Canaveral, while SpaceX will also continue its missions from the Kennedy Space Center.
In 2021, SpaceX recorded a record 16 launches of its Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40, as well as another record 12 at KSC, and it plans to maintain that pace in 2022. ULA has performed three launches in 2021 from Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 with four at Canaveral in the first half of 2022.
These will continue to be on Atlas rockets, but ULA is waiting to move forward with its new Vulcan Centaur rocket. Progress on Vulcan, however, means waiting for another company looking to leave a big footprint on the space coast – Blue Origin.
Blue Origin’s massive New Glenn rocket and ULA’s Vulcan will use BE-4 engines made by Blue Origin, but there have been some delays.
“We have made critical progress this year on the BE-4 engines,” the company wrote in an emailed statement. “The program continues to move forward with the qualification of the engines starting at the end of the year.”
This qualifying race, however, means the ULA, which was due to have the engines in hand this month, likely won’t have them until April.
“We are disappointed that we will not receive Vulcan flight engines from Blue Origin by the end of the year, but they will arrive early next year,” the company said in a statement. “The certification program is progressing very well and the production engines are being built. We look forward to the first launch of Vulcan in 2022.
Vulcan will be the next generation of ULA, which still flies Atlas and Delta IV rockets. It will be 202 feet tall with a fairing nearly 18 feet in diameter that can carry nearly 58,000 pounds in low earth orbit.
For New Glenn, which is also targeting liftoff in 2022, the company has completed work on Space Launch Complex-36, so it’s now waiting for the completed 313-foot-tall rocket with its payload capacity of 50,000 pounds. Qualifications for the fairing of the rocket, the industry’s largest with a diameter of 23 feet, are underway as the company continues to manufacture flight hardware while further testing rocket components at its plant in Merritt Island and onsite at Cape Canaveral.
“All of these milestones help us achieve our launch goal in partnership with our business customers. We’ll fly when we’re ready and head to launch as soon as possible, ”the company said.
However, Blue Origin and ULA both agreed to engine modifications, which prompted initial plans to put both rockets into service in early 2022, now likely at the end of the year.
“Various factors caused the delay, including the impacts of COVID, supply chain issues, development testing and a few key production processes that have proven to be more difficult to arrive at the final flight designs and processes,” according to the company press release.
Delays aside, 2022 could see five companies with regular launches from Cape Canaveral and many more from Kennedy.
Space Force Brigadier General Stephen Purdy, commander of the Space Launch Delta 45, formerly known as the 45th Space Wing when in the Air Force, and director of the Eastern Range, said the increased operations required a change in mindset.
“This year, a big part of the goal has been to change the thinking and nature of the base – to use launch requests and approvals as indicators of demand for the unique and specialized services that Space Launch Delta 45 provides. to its partners, ”Purdy said. “The Eastern Range has received 225 launch requests from Cape Town in the last 365 days. We have prepared to launch 172 times and have started the countdown for 41 of them, with 36 successful launches.
These 36 takeoffs could increase dramatically in 2022, and eventually rocket launches could take place daily or beyond.
“As we welcome more commercial vendors to the Cape Canaveral Space Station, we are ready to support the increased launch cadence, providing each mission with access to personalized range services, towards the ultimate goal of multiple launches. per day, ”Purdy said.
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