May 26, 2024

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Rocket Report: Delta IV's grand finale; Angara flies in with another dummy payload

Rocket Report: Delta IV's grand finale;  Angara flies in with another dummy payload
Zoom in / An Angara A5 rocket was launched this week from Vostochny for the first time.


Welcome to Rocket Report version 6.39! The big news this week came from United Launch Alliance, the latest mission of the Delta IV Heavy rocket. Both Stephen and I had thoughts about this launch, which are bittersweet, and we've expressed them in the stories linked below. It's been just under 20 years since this big rocket made its debut, and it's interesting to think how much the launch industry has changed since then.

As always, we are Reader submissions are welcomeIf you don't want to miss 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 on small, medium and heavy missiles as well as a quick look at the next three launches on the calendar.

Rocket Lab to reuse flying tank. Wednesday Rocket Lab said It brings the previously launched Electron rocket first stage tank back to the production line for the first time in preparation for the stage relaunch. The company described this as an “important” achievement as part of its quest to make the Electron the world’s first small reusable rocket. This stage was successfully launched and recovered as part of the “Four of a Kind” mission earlier this year on January 31.

Duplicate the path for reuse …The stage will now undergo final preparation and stringent qualification for reuse. “Our main priority in pushing this phase back into the standard production flow for the first time is ensuring that our systems and qualification processes are suitable for large-scale pre-acceptance of atmospheric boosters,” said Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab. “If it passes this stage successfully and is accepted for flight, we will consider opportunities to fly it again in the new year.” (Submitted by Ken Penn)

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Virgin Orbit IP for sale on LinkedIn. In this week's article On social networking site LinkedIn, former Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said the Virgin Orbit IP library had become available for licensing. “The flight-proven LauncherOne IP can accelerate launch schedules and ultra-rapid system development by years, delivering significant cost savings,” Hart wrote. “Innovative designs can also provide component/subsystem providers with immediate product line expansion.”

Yours at a low and low price …The IP library includes all sorts of goodies, including an FAA-certified flight termination system, Newton 3 and Newton 4 engines, avionics, airframes, and more. The price for access to all intellectual property rights is $3 million for a non-exclusive license, Hart said. I have no idea if this is a good price or not.

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Virgin Galactic challenges Boeing. Virgin Galactic has filed a countersuit against Boeing over a project to develop a new mother plane, arguing in part that Boeing has performed poorly. Space news reports. The lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, comes two weeks after Boeing filed suit against Virgin Galactic, alleging that Virgin refused to pay more than $25 million in invoices related to the project and misappropriated trade secrets.

Citing Boeing's own record …The dispute revolves around a project announced in 2022 to develop a new aircraft to replace Virgin's current VMS Eve As an air launch platform. In its lawsuit, Virgin alleges that Boeing performed “shoddy and incomplete” work in the initial stages of the project. “Boeing’s failures in connection with its agreement with Virgin Galactic are consistent with Boeing’s record of poor quality control and mismanagement,” the complaint states. (Submitted by EllPeaTea)

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The Navy awards the contract to Ursa Major. The rocket propulsion startup said Monday it has signed a contract with the U.S. Navy to develop and test solid-propellant rocket motors in an effort to develop the next generation of solid rocket motors for the Navy's Standard Missile Program. Reuters reports. The agreement is part of a series of model engine contracts awarded by the US Navy as it seeks to expand the industrial base for their manufacture.

Expanding the supplier base in the United States The deal comes as the Navy sees a rise in demand for missiles due to the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Yemen and the war in Ukraine. “Our new approach to solid rocket motor manufacturing allows Ursa Major to rapidly develop high-performance engines at scale, increasing scale and cost effectiveness to meet this critical national need,” said Joe Lorente, founder of Ursa Major. (Submitted by Ken Penn)