Nearly one year after changing the fuel used on its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, a Virgin Galactic executive said April 30 the company was open to switching back depending on its performance.
Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard suborbital rocket for the first time April 29 on a mission that took the vehicle to the edge of space, but failed to recover a part of the vehicle afterwards.
Facing congressional pressure to begin work on an American replacement for the Russian-built main rocket engine used today to launch most U.S. national security payloads, the U.S. Air Force quietly unveiled the initial steps in a procurement strategy that has been complicated by a key industry player’s own plans.
Satellite fleet operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia on April 28 said it had entered into contracts valued at $650 million with satellite builder Lockheed Martin Space Systems and launch provider Arianespace for the construction of two satellites and the launch of one of them in 2018.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on April 27 successfully placed a telecommunications satellite jointly owned by Turkmenistan and Monaco into geostationary transfer orbit.
Rep. Mac Thornberry recommended that the Air Force spend $185 million next year on activities leading to an American-made replacement for the RD-180, the main engine on United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas 5 rocket.
A suspected problem on an unidentified Boeing-built satellite caused Boeing to postpone the scheduled April 30 launch of Mexico’s large Centenario mobile-communications satellite until the company is sure that Centenario does not have the same issue.
Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket on April 26 successfully placed two telecommunications satellites – one military, one commercial – into geostationary transfer orbit, the Arianespace launch consortium said.
By the time Boeing and Lockheed Martin tapped Tory Bruno to take over United Launch Alliance last July, the handwriting was on the wall: ULA was going to need a new rocket if it hoped to remain in business for the long haul.
The Arianespace launch consortium has canceled today’s planned launch of a heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket due to an unexplained issue on the rocket that appears to be unrelated to the previous issue that scrubbed the planned April 15 launch.
Separate investigations into two high-profile commercial launch accidents six months ago are entering their final phases and will be completed in the next few months or, in some cases, weeks.
Both United Launch Alliance and rival SpaceX expect the U.S. Air Force to factor the $1 billion in annual overhead payments that ULA receives from the service into upcoming competitions to launch national security satellites, but how that will be done remains unclear.