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Thread: Small Rocket Launches

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    Small Rocket Launches

    For a number of years we have been told that small rockets to launch small pay loads of up to 500 kg were just round the corner. But they have been empty promises.

    This year things are actually hotting up, and there have been actual experimental launches of some of these rockets. Next year should see at least one of the launch companies actually put a commercial satellite into orbit (See thread Number of Launches in 2017 post #48, #75, #76 and #79)

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2017...pace-heats-up/

    When most people think of a rocket launch, they think big. The Space Shuttle, Falcon 9, and Atlas V all stand well over 50 meters tall, and any of those would tower above the Statue of Liberty. They were made to lift heavy things, weighing anywhere from 10 tons to considerably larger, into orbit around Earth. But in recent years there has been a lot of noise in the small rocket industry, promising cheap, expendable boosters capable of carrying a few hundred kilograms into space.

    As always in the aerospace industry, some of these efforts were overhyped or had wildly optimistic timelines. For example, the industry suffered a notable failure late last year when Firefly Space Systems declared bankruptcy. However, a number of other companies have made tangible progress this year, making it clear that this generation of small satellite launch vehicles is closing in on its first commercial flights.

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    A view from Japan on the development of small rocket launches.

    https://asia.nikkei.com/print/article/283625

    In the growing business of private space, small, relatively cheap rockets are a particular area of interest. Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies has jumped in and is trying to close the gap with its U.S. competitors.

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    My understanding is that small rockets present some advantages. However, $/kg is higher so small satellite owners seek to piggyback on bigger rockets.

    Cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    My understanding is that small rockets present some advantages. However, $/kg is higher so small satellite owners seek to piggyback on bigger rockets.

    Cheers
    True if they are willing to wait and do not need a specific orbit .

    Right now the big rocket is the only option

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    Last edited by selvaarchi; 2017-Aug-05 at 07:45 PM.
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    3D metal printing may allow some small launchers to be printed
    https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/08/w ... -cost.html
    https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/07/3 ... eaper.html

    You need to fold things up well for small launchers (or any LV)

    This program allows even complex shapes to be telescoped open:
    https://www.spacedaily.com/reports/M...twist_999.html

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    Canon Electronics is also jumping into the band wagon.

    https://asia.nikkei.com/print/article/284258

    Canon Electronics is leading a venture that will work on developing a rocket specifically to carry small satellites into space.

    Canon is joining IHI Aerospace, construction company Shimizu and the government-backed Development Bank of Japan in the venture.

    The new company will be founded on Wednesday with capital of 200 million yen ($1.8 million). Canon Electronics will take a 70% stake. The three other parties will have stakes of 10%.

    The business is not expected to get underway until at least the end of fiscal 2017. When it does begin operating, it will try to meet some of the surging demand to carry small satellites into space with a small, low-cost rocket.

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    Rocket Lab's 1st launch failure was not because the rocket malfunction but due to a error in the ground equipment.

    http://spacenews.com/telemetry-glitc...eaching-orbit/

    Rocket Lab blamed the failure of its first Electron rocket to reach orbit on a telemetry glitch in ground equipment that can be easily corrected, keeping the company on track to begin commercial launches by the end of this year.

    In a statement released late Aug. 6, the U.S.-New Zealand company said its Electron rocket was flying as planned on its May 25 inaugural launch when a dropout of telemetry from the vehicle required range safety officials to terminate the flight four minutes after liftoff, at an altitude of 224 kilometers.

    The company said that a third-party contractor supporting the launch misconfigured ground equipment that translated radio signals from the rocket into data used by range safety officials. That caused “extensive corruption of received position data,” resulting in the data loss that led safety officials to trigger the rocket’s flight termination system.

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    As the promise of small rockets becoming operational in the next year, India's PSLV will provide a major competitor for customers.

    http://spacenews.com/options-grow-fo...opportunities/

    As the number of small satellites seeking launch continues to grow, new opportunities are emerging fly those satellites as secondary payloads on other launches as well as tools to identify those opportunities.

    The latest entrant in the field is Precious Payload, a company that seeks to provide a global reservation service for smallsat secondary payloads analogous to booking airline tickets or hotel rooms.

    Andrey Maksimov, the company’s founder, said in an Aug. 6 interview that he decided to pursue the venture after talking with people developing smallsats who found it difficult and expensive to find accommodations for their spacecraft. “When I started to engage with different companies, I easily recognized that the bottleneck, the biggest problem for them, is actually to find a space launch,” he said.

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    Rocket Lab's 2nd test flight next month will actually carry some commercial payloads.

    https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/26/1...ire-satellites

    Aerospace startup Rocket Lab is gearing up for the second flight ever of the company’s experimental rocket, the Electron, which is slated to take off again sometime in October. This time, when the vehicle flies, it will have satellites on board.

    Both Planet and Spire — two companies that operate small satellites in orbit — will have payloads on the Electron’s second test flight, dubbed “Still Testing.” The rocket will carry two of Planet’s Dove satellites, designed to image Earth, as well as two of Spire’s Lemur-2 satellites that track weather and ship traffic.

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    Virgin Orbit just won a US defense contract to launch a small satellite from a plane.

    http://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-wi...unch-contract/

    The award was the result of months of talks between the company and the Defense Department. “We spent the better part of six months or so in discussions,” he said in a phone interview, finding common ground with DIUx, whose mission is to accelerate development of commercial capabilities with defense applications. “DIUx has the mission to be agile and really drive forward, so we were able to really approach things quickly and efficiently.”

    The Defense Department’s interest in LauncherOne, an air launch system for small satellites, is rooted in a growing desire for resiliency in for satellite systems, Hart believes. “With this emphasis on resiliency in space systems, and small satellites in particular, resilient launch with a platform like ours can play a very important role,” he said.

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    The flood of American Companies trying to enter the small rocket business just got tougher. China and India also aim to be big players. here is what India is proposing to do,

    https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/...w/61746668.cms

    In a development that will revolutionalise the satellite launch system in the country, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is developing a small launch vehicle that can be assembled in just three days as compared to 30-40 days for a normal-sized PSLV and can be built at a cost which will be just one-tenth the original manufacturing cost of a PSLV. The manufacturing cost of a launch vehicle is generally in the range of Rs 150 crore to Rs 500 crore across the world.

    Dr K Sivan, director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC),on the sidelines of an international seminar on 'Indian Space Programme' told TOI, "Isro is busy developing a small launch vehicle which is likely to be ready for launch probably by 2018-end or early-2019. The cost of this vehicle will get drastically reduced by one-tenth of the manufacturing cost of a normal PSLV. However, this rocket will have the total payload capacity of 500 to 700 kg and can launch satellites only up to the polar sun-synchronous orbit or near-earth orbit (500-700 km in altitude)."

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    Rocket Lab's launch, could happen as early as this Saturday, New Zealand time (Friday US time).

    https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/01/1...-this-weekend/

    The second test flight of Rocket Lab’s privately-developed Electron satellite booster could take off from New Zealand as soon as Friday night, U.S. time, after technical problems and high winds kept the rocket grounded during a series of launch attempts in December.

    The U.S.-New Zealand company hoped to launch its second Electron rocket during a 10-day window in December, but officials decided to push back the mission to January after scrubbing several launch attempts.

    Rocket Lab has a new pre-approved nine-day launch window coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration, the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing its operations, and New Zealand airspace authorities.

    The first launch opportunity will come Friday night, U.S. time, during a four-hour launch window opening at 8:30 p.m. EST (0130 GMT; 2:30 p.m. New Zealand time Saturday). The Electron rocket will lift off from Rocket Lab’s private launch site on Mahia Peninsula, which extends from the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

    The launch will be webcast live online, according to Rocket Lab.

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    One of China's answer to the demands for small rocket launches is the Long March 11. It will be see action this Friday by putting 9 small satellites into orbit. One of the satellites is from Canada.

    http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/or...llites-friday/

    China is preparing to perform its fourth launch of this year, with the flight scheduled for Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. The mission will see a Long March 11 booster sending nine satellites into space.

    The rocket is set to take to the skies from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China’s Gansu province. The exact time of the launch has yet to be announced.

    Friday’s mission is slated to orbit a variety of small satellites designed for Earth observation, communications and technology demonstration purposes. However, although the mission includes one payload for a foreign country, China revealed very little information about the flight and pre-launch preparations.

    Beijing has not disclosed any information about the flight timeline either. It is only known that all passengers of the Long March 11 booster will be inserted into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Rocket Lab's launch, could happen as early as this Saturday, New Zealand time (Friday US time).

    https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/01/1...-this-weekend/
    I wonder how this would have compared with Falcon 1, had SpaceX kept developing it. The final Falcon 1E envisioned at the time was to have 430 kg to SSO where Electron has 150 kg to SSO. Falcon 1E was to cost $11 million back then, while Electron is $4.9 million.

    So that's 25,348 theoretical $/kg SSO for Falcon 1E and 32,667 for Electron. So with inflation, it would be about the same.

    That was before reusability was introduced to Falcons. So the launch cost may look quite different for a theoretical 2018 "Falcon 1R".
    Last edited by Nicolas; 2018-Jan-17 at 02:02 PM.

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    A commercial small rocket from a Chinese company, plans to launch in June this year.

    https://gbtimes.com/chinese-commerci...launch-in-june

    One of China's emerging commercial launch vehicle companies has its sights on June for the first launch of its new rocket series, which could mark a huge step towards the goal of providing a range of low-cost launch services.

    OneSpace has said it expects to launch its first OS-X1 rocket, designed for suborbital flights to provide high-altitude research and test services, in June following successful tests of its solid-propellant engine last month.

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    Newsweek give its reason why Rocket Lab become the first ever private company to successfully send satellites into orbit. That reasoning I can agree with

    http://www.newsweek.com/space-startu...-launch-786397

    Compared to rocket launches from other private companies, Rocket Lab lifted off without using government infrastructure and without the assistance of government agencies.

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    Scott Manley has a nice Youtube video on Rocket Lab and their technology

    Yesterday Rocket Labs successfully launched their Electron rocket into orbit carrying test satellites. The Electron is small cheap rocket which uses a 3D Printed engine, Electrically driven pumps and composite fuel tanks. All features which are new to orbital launch vehicles.
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    After Rocket Lab's success, The Space Review has come out with an article covering this segment of the space business.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3415/1

    At a panel discussion earlier this month during the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington—the only space session in a meeting dominated by other modes of transportation—Carlos Niederstrasser of Orbital ATK provided an update on his tracking of the number of small launch vehicles. It was a project that he and colleague Warren Frick started a few years ago to present at the annual Conference on Small Satellites at Utah State University. Given the high level of interest in that survey, they have continued to update it.

    To be considered, vehicles have to be under active development in the last few years or be operational, and be capable of placing no more than 1,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The vehicles also have to be available to commercial customers or the US government, ruling out some launch vehicles/missiles in places like Iran and North Korea.

    By those metrics, Niederstrasser said five small launch vehicles are operational today: Orbital ATK’s own Pegasus and Minotaur I rockets, and three Chinese vehicles: Kaitouzhe-2, Kuaizhou-1A, and Long March 11. However, by his count, there are 35 small launch vehicles in active development worldwide, a number that has soared since starting the list a few years ago. “There was a period of time last year where I was finding a new vehicle almost every week,” he said.

    Of those 35, just over half, or 18, are US vehicles. Most of the rest come from three other countries: six from China, four from the UK, and three from Spain. Niederstrasser said he keeps a “watch list” of an additional 30 vehicles about which there’s not enough information publicly available to determine yet if they are real projects.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    I wonder how this would have compared with Falcon 1, had SpaceX kept developing it. The final Falcon 1E envisioned at the time was to have 430 kg to SSO where Electron has 150 kg to SSO. Falcon 1E was to cost $11 million back then, while Electron is $4.9 million.

    So that's 25,348 theoretical $/kg SSO for Falcon 1E and 32,667 for Electron. So with inflation, it would be about the same.

    That was before reusability was introduced to Falcons. So the launch cost may look quite different for a theoretical 2018 "Falcon 1R".
    According to Forbes China's cost for launching on its small rockets is about US$5000/kg

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphje.../#9ddcc3f6ccc8

    Now China might be able to do satellite launches for less than foreign competitors, says Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank in the United States. China has said it could launch for as little as $5000 per kilogram, a fraction of that charged by Boeing and Lockheed Martin to the US government. "India seems to be the main competitor to China in terms of the commercial satellite launch," Sun says.

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    We must be careful because an "any LEO" price can be a lot lower than SSO orbit prices depending on where you're launching from. But still even for non-SSO orbits 5000/kg would be significantly lower than any other number I've seen.

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    Space Lab's 1st successful launch also tested a new technology to place satellites in a circular orbit.

    http://spacenews.com/rocket-lab-laun...ew-kick-stage/

    The successful launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket Jan. 20 also tested a kick stage designed to circularize the orbits of its satellite payloads.

    The company said Jan. 23 that the Electron carried a kick stage for the two Lemur-2 cubesats it launched for Spire. The kick stage separated from the Electron’s upper stage and, after a 40-minute coast phase, fired an engine called Curie to circularize its orbits before releasing the cubesats.

    The Electron’s upper stage placed the kick stage, as well as a Dove cubesat from Planet, into orbits of approximately 300 by 500 kilometers. Data from the U.S. Strategic Command’s Space Track website shows that three of the objects, not identified but believed to be the two Lemur-2 cubesats and the kick stage, are in orbits with perigees of 490 to 500 kilometers and apogees of 530 to 535 kilometers, far more circular than the other objects tracked from the launch.

    Rocket Lab, which had not previously disclosed the development of the kick stage, said it pursued the system to provide its customers more flexibility in the orbits it could achieve with its vehicle and how it could deploy those satellites.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    A commercial small rocket from a Chinese company, plans to launch in June this year.

    https://gbtimes.com/chinese-commerci...launch-in-june
    More details of the rocket.

    http://www.china.org.cn/china/2018-0...t_50331178.htm



    The 8-meter-long mini rocket, with a 6-meter solid propellant rocket engine which can generate a thrust of 35 tonnes, is less than half the size of the recently launched Long March 11 which was developed by China's state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. It can carry a 100 kg satellite and send it to an altitude of 800 km. Testing of the engine was completed at the end of 2017.

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    Linkspace developing small rockets has taken the first test to make it reusable. see video

    https://gbtimes.com/chinese-space-co...h-landing-test

    Chinese private space company Linkspace has taken a step in its development of a reusable orbital rocket with a successful vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) test.

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    Japan in a few minutes will try and launch a sounding rocket that has been modified to orbital launch rocket. Link to life launch in the article.

    http://spaceflight101.com/ss-520-5-launch-preview/

    Just over a year after crashing into the Pacific Ocean on its first test flight, Japan’s SS-520 sounding-rocket-turned-orbital-launch-vehicle stands ready for another try to become the world’s smallest orbital launch vehicle, just powerful enough to lift a three-Kilogram CubeSat.

    The SS-520-5 mission carries a re-flight of the rocket’s original payload and is targeting liftoff from the Uchinoura Space Center during a ten-minute launch window opening at 5:03 UTC on Saturday.

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    Being looking for the cost of Japan's small rocket. At last there is one article that gives us some idea.

    500 million yen ($4.5 million). to develop and launch the rocket. At least we know it is less than $4.5 million.That is less then $1.5 million per kilogram.

    http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201802040016.html

    The rocket was based on ones that have been utilized for atmospheric observations and other purposes. JAXA used off-the-shelf parts for the electronic circuits and other components to demonstrate low-cost technologies for launching an ultra-small satellite.

    The development and the launch of the SS-520 No. 5 cost about 500 million yen ($4.5 million).

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    A typical sounding rocket -I've no idea how it compares to this one- costs about 1 million to launch. 4kg is its orbital the payload limit, it appears this rocket is aiming for minimum absolute launch cost rather than price per kg.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    A typical sounding rocket -I've no idea how it compares to this one- costs about 1 million to launch. 4kg is its orbital the payload limit, it appears this rocket is aiming for minimum absolute launch cost rather than price per kg.
    This is the 1st sounding rocket I have read of that can put a satellite into orbit.

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    Yes, that's the point of this vehicle. It's a small orbital craft thanks to putting an orbital third stage on a sounding rocket. But you were looking for a launch cost of the thing, so lacking concrete numbers the best starting point would be comparing to the launch cost of a typical sounding rocket.
    Last edited by Nicolas; 2018-Feb-05 at 09:20 AM.

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    Another American company has an agreement to reserve five orbital launches between 2019 and 2023 on their Vector-R launch vehicle.

    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-rele...300598391.html

    Vector, a nanosatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware and Open Cosmos, a space mission provider, today announced an agreement to reserve five orbital launches between 2019 and 2023 on the Vector-R launch vehicle. The announcement comes in advance of Vector's first orbital launch in July.

    "This agreement with Open Cosmos continues our ongoing efforts to partner with a broad network of customers, and signals the start of a new frontier for Vector as we prepare for our first orbital mission this summer," said Jim Cantrell, CEO and co-founder of Vector. "Open Cosmos' mission to provide simple and affordable access to space is one that very closely aligns with Vector's, and we look forward to having them along our journey as we continue breaking down the barriers to access space faced by many."

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    Yet another American company working on a small rocket.

    http://abc7news.com/technology/sky7-...ameda/3097474/

    They're being "awfully" quiet about it -- quieter than we are, anyway.

    People around the Alameda Naval Air Station told us it was the sound of SKY7 overhead that made them look around and notice a strange sight.

    "I heard helicopters, and when I look behind me, I see a giant truck with a huge missile on it," said Faction Brewing employee Madeleine Tonzi.

    The truck had just left the runway at the Naval Air Station, and was heading toward a building the Navy once used to test jet engines. We caught up with it and learned it belongs to a startup that doesn't have a name yet -- in fact, an employee cheerfully answered the phone by saying, "Stealth space!" when we called.

    A member of the team who spoke to us outside the former Navy building told us the startup is an aerospace research and development firm that employs about a hundred people in Alameda. Other than that, the company's not ready to say much more.

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