Small launch vehicles
While some see a surge of launch vehicle development efforts as a sign of an “overheated” market, others see those efforts as a sign of shifting demand.
A Maine startup made its first, albeit small, step towards space Jan. 31 with the successful launch of a rocket testing the engine technology it plans to use on future small launch vehicles.
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket reached orbit on its second flight Jan. 17, demonstrating the performance of the air-launch system.
Virgin Orbit has rescheduled its second orbital launch attempt for Jan. 10 as another small launch vehicle company, Rocket Lab, announces plans for its first launch of 2021.
A NASA small launch vehicle competition attracted bids from 10 companies, but half of them were effectively disqualified because of deficiencies or other problems.
Small launch vehicle developer Astra Space fell just short of reaching orbit on its second launch attempt Dec. 15, but the company is “beyond ecstatic” with the performance of the rocket.
Rocket Lab successfully launched the first satellite for a Japanese radar imaging startup, concluding a roller-coaster year for the small launch vehicle company.
Launch integration company TriSept has purchased a launch from Relativity Space that it plans to use for a smallsat rideshare mission as soon as 2022.
Two European companies have raised a combined $115 million to continue work on small launch vehicles scheduled to make their first flights in 2022.
Virgin Orbit is preparing to perform a second flight of its LauncherOne small launch vehicle in the second half of December, carrying a set of NASA-sponsored cubesats.