Welcome to version 5.02 of Rocket Reports! As a caveat, I’d like to note that it is now more than just theoretical that SpaceX’s Starship and NASA’s Space Launch System rockets could make their orbital launch attempts during the same month, August 2022. While I wouldn’t say it’s likely, both rockets currently have hypothetical launch targets within three weeks of each other next month.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to leave 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 about the small, medium and heavy-lift rockets, as well as a quick look at the next three launches on the calendar.
A Minotaur rocket explodes after launch, The Minotaur II+ rocket exploded 11 seconds after launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Wednesday night, NouzHawk reports. (According to an eyewitness source, the impact of the rocket with the ground caused a spectacular fireball). Vandenberg officials said early Thursday that there were no casualties in the explosion and that debris was in the vicinity of the launch pad. Vandenberg officials said an inquiry review board had been set up to investigate the cause of the blast.
ICBM was carrying development payload … Before the accident, the solid-fueled Minotaur II rocket had successfully launched eight of the eight times since the year 2000. The rocket is based on the first and second stages of a decommissioned Minuteman missile. The test was conducted for the Mark 21A Reentry Vehicle Program, or Mk 21A, aboard the Minotaur booster. It is part of the Air Force’s effort to develop a next-generation ballistic missile program.
Rocket Lab tries to raise the cadence, Rocket Lab has launched an average of one Electron every two months since 2019, which has fallen short of the company’s goals. But now the US-based company that launches primarily from New Zealand is trying to make a move. Rocket Lab announced Tuesday it plans to conduct two dedicated space missions for the US National Reconnaissance Office later this month.
three in a month? … NROL-162 (“Vis One Looks Ahead”) will launch from Pad A of Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 before July 12, with NROL-199 (“Antipodian Adventure”) scheduled to launch from Pad B before July . 22. If they go as scheduled, it’s possible that Electron could launch three times in a single month, given the company’s recent success with the capstone mission. This small satellite was launched towards the Moon on 28 June.
Virgin Galactic to buy two new motherships, On Wednesday, Virgin Galactic announced an agreement with Boeing-owned Aurora Flight Sciences to design and build two next-generation motherships, ARS reports. A mothership lifts the Virgin Galactic spaceship to an altitude of about 15 km before release, after which the spaceship fires its rocket engine and flies above 90 km.
frequent fliers … Virgin Galactic said it expects to take delivery of the first of two new motherships in 2025. The company currently has a single carrier aircraft, the VMS Eve, which made its first flight in 2008. Virgin hasn’t said how long the vehicle has been around. Neither will how much refurbishment the mission will be able to fly, nor will it need to be refurbished as it begins to fly more frequently. The acquisition is part of the company’s efforts to fly far higher than it currently is. (Submitted by Ken the Bin)