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posted by martyb on Wednesday May 10 2017, @01:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the we've-come-a-long-ways dept.

Is there room for launch companies smaller than the United Launch Alliance and SpaceX?

Vector Space Systems successfully launched a full-scale model of its Vector-R rocket on Wednesday in Mojave, California. The test flight, which remained under 50,000 feet for regulatory purposes, allows the company to remain on track to begin providing launch services for small satellites in 2018, said Jim Cantrell, the company's chief executive and cofounder.

The Arizona-based rocket company is one of a handful of competitors racing to the launch pad to provide lower-cost access to space for small satellites. These satellites are generally under 500kg in mass and often much smaller (the industry trend is toward smaller, lighter, more capable satellites). The Vector-R rocket will eventually be capable of launching a payload of up to 45kg to an orbit of 800km above the Earth. Other companies trying to reach this market include US-based Virgin Orbit and New Zealand-based Rocket Lab. Neither company has begun commercial launches.

[...] The market seems ready for micro-launchers. For now, smaller payloads must typically "share" rides to space on larger rockets, and they cannot count on a launch date. Instead of being treated as excess cargo, Vector intends to offer these small satellites the capability to launch within three months of demand. Vector will launch these small payloads into any desired orbit from Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska or Cape Canaveral in Florida. Launch costs will range from $2 million to $3 million.

Also at NASASpaceFlight.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Launch of Rocket Lab's Second "Electron" Rocket Due Dec. 7-8 1 comment

Rocket Lab to launch second orbital-class rocket as soon as next week

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket is designed to carry small satellites to orbit, targeting a market niche microsatellite owners say is currently under-served by larger, more expensive boosters. Using nine first stage engines and a single upper stage powerplant, the rocket can deliver up to 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of payload to at 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) sun-synchronous polar orbit.

The upcoming launch will be the second by an Electron rocket. The Electron's inaugural test flight May 25 reached space after a successful first stage burn and second stage ignition, but a data reception error with ground tracking equipment prompted an early termination of the mission for safety reasons.

[...] Backed by U.S. and New Zealand venture capital funds, and investment from the New Zealand government and U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, Rocket Lab says it will sell future Electron rocket missions for $4.9 million per flight. The Electron is sized to provide a dedicated ride for small satellites that today must ride piggyback on bigger launchers.

Rocket Lab.

According to SpaceFlightNow's Launch Schedule: "Launch window: 0130-0530 GMT on 8th (8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EST on 7th/8th)

Previously: Rocket Lab Unveils "Electric" Rocket Engine
Moon Express and Rocket Lab Team Up for 2017 Lunar Mission
New Companies Begin to Target the Micro-Satellite Market
"Planet" Purchases 3 Launches from "Rocket Lab"
Rocket Lab Makes Suborbital Launch From New Zealand

Related: Vector Space Completes First Test Flight, Hoping to Expand the Small Satellite Launch Market
Vector Space Systems Partners With Virginia Space for Launches


Original Submission

Vector Space Systems Partners With Virginia Space for Launches 8 comments

Vector, Virginia Space announce upcoming orbital launches from Wallops

This past week, it was announced that nanosatellite launch service provider Vector had inked a deal with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (more commonly known as Virginia Space) to conduct three commercial flights out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) over the course of the next two years with possibly five additional launches in the offing.

The agreement was announced by Virginia State Governor Terry McAuliffe with an "engineering unit" of the company's Vector-R launch vehicle being transported from the company's headquarters located in Tucson, Arizona, to MARS. Along for the journey was a Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) – used to erect the rocket into the vertical position.

Vector will also conduct a series of ground and simulated propellant loading operations with the engineering unit and TEL.

Vector is hoping to launch satellites at a cost of $2-3 million per launch using the Vector-R rocket.

MARS is a pretty bad name for a spaceport in Virginia.

Wallops Flight Facility.


Original Submission

Rocket Lab Makes Suborbital Launch From New Zealand 12 comments

"Made it to space. Team delighted. More to follow!" the U.S. company, founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, tweeted at 4:29 p.m. New Zealand time Thursday. It is the first test of the company's Electron Rocket from New Zealand, a country of just 4.7 million people deep in the South Pacific.

Rocket Lab aims to build a New Zealand base from which to launch small satellites into low orbit. The country is considered a prime location because rockets originating deep in the Southern Hemisphere can reach a wide range of Earth orbits.

[...] With a height of 17 meters and a diameter of 1.2 meters, and 3D-printed engines, the Electron Rocket is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 225 kilograms, according to Rocket Lab, whose investors include Lockheed Martin Corp.

Bloomberg

Related stories:
Vector Space Completes First Test Flight, Hoping to Expand the Small Satellite Launch Market
"Planet" Purchases 3 Launches from "Rocket Lab"
New Companies Begin to Target the Micro-Satellite Market
Moon Express and Rocket Lab Team Up for 2017 Lunar Mission
Rocket Lab Unveils "Electric" Rocket Engine


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10 2017, @02:59PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10 2017, @02:59PM (#507568)

    Great, one more useful term which gets poisoned with company name results in searches.

  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday May 10 2017, @03:47PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 10 2017, @03:47PM (#507587)

    Thats a nice price. I suspect the amateur radio satellite naming scheme is going to need a lot more than two digits going forward.

    Imagine in the old days of AO-13 or listening to RS-10 on your HF receiver (I did the latter in the 80s), yah know, like that Bill Gates guy said 640K should be enough for anybody, here I am listening to telemetry morse code from RS-10 and two digits of satellite name should be enough for anybody.

    And EO-88 was launched like last year. The budget is dropping to like DXpedition levels (or DXpeditions are rising to satellite levels LOL)

    It blows my mind that I'm still listening to UO-11 once in awhile, 30 years later. Its only barely working partially, but working at all is kinda impressive. Back when the digitalker was working that was interesting.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by fishybell on Wednesday May 10 2017, @04:35PM (3 children)

    by fishybell (3156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 10 2017, @04:35PM (#507622)

    For 20 odd years a local rocket club [uroc.org] launches hundreds of rockets in a day. Some are very large [uroc.org].

    The rockets Vector Space is launching look like a slightly bigger version: bolts hanging out, flashy paint job, excessive rivets, tie down straps purchased from a hardware store, etc.

    Doing a quick google search, it turns out some amateur rockets have even gone to space [wordpress.com].

    I certainly hope this team isn't just amateur++, but actually follows the strict quality control practices necessary for not just one or two successful launches, but repeatably successful launches.

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday May 10 2017, @08:02PM (2 children)

      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday May 10 2017, @08:02PM (#507712)

      At 2-3 Millions a launch, you can't miss too many times before you find yourself without customers.
      Insurance companies don't like to pay out. Customers don't want to need a spare satellite in exchange for the convenience of not sharing a launch.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:15PM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:15PM (#507753) Journal

        Compare $2-3 million per launch to $60-90 million for SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:40PM

          by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:40PM (#507765)

          The secondary payloads on the Falcons/Ariane don't pay nearly that much. The guys with the two 5t GTO sats pay most of the cost.
          Surely, they do cost more than the 2-3M these guys ask, but the total cost (replacement, insurance, delays, loss of opportunity) has to include the risk. Ariane success doesn't make news, SpaceX success is becoming routine: you pay for reliable service.

          Hence my agreement with the prior post stating
          > actually follows the strict quality control practices necessary for not just one or two successful launches, but repeatably successful launches.
          Because if they don't, their only other option is hoping for their competitors to also fail, and then nobody wins.

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