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Rocket Report: BE-4 Engine Breathes Fire; Delta IV Heavy puts on a show

Enlarge / A Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office blasted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on September 24.

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Welcome to the 5.12 issue of Rocket Report! As breaking news, Firefly attempted to make its second orbital launch attempt with the Alpha rocket early Friday at 3 am EST (07:00 UTC) from California. However, in the final moments before takeoff, the vehicle went into “automatic abort” after starting the engine. Firefly is reviewing the bush data to determine its next attempt.

As always, we Welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss out on any issues, sign up using the box below (the form won’t appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small, medium and heavy payload rockets, as well as a quick look at the next three launches on the schedule.

Virgin Orbit faces ‘difficult’ licenses in Britain. The next launch of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, which fires its engines after being launched from a transport plane, will take place no earlier than October 29 from Spaceport Cornwall in south-west England. A report on Cornwall Live says that the launch window that opens at the end of October is viable for several weeks and that the company still aims to launch during the fourth quarter of this year. During a Cornwall Council meeting earlier this month, Louis Gardner, a member of the Chancellor’s Office, provided details of the licensing issues that are still being ironed out.

Quite complicated … “The difficulty with this now is the number of agencies involved in licensing,” Gardner said. “You have the UK Space Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority and other players involved in that. What the team has been doing is fighting for what is going to be different between that first launch and the huge safety basket. . i.e. 1250 feet from the aircraft, wherever it is, what is it going as it goes down the runway, to subsequent launches and what is the best way to prepare for that. It’s the licensing that’s been quite tricky in this case.” (submitted by Ken the Paperman)

Astra will no longer launch TROPICS satellites. The most recent and final launch attempt of Astra’s Rocket 3.3 vehicle ended with an upper stage failure that led to the loss of two small TROPICS satellites to NASA in June. Astra had been contracted to launch the remaining four TROPICS satellites prior to the failure of Rocket 3.3 and the company’s subsequent pivot to a larger booster, Rocket 4.0. Now that’s not gonna happen astra said Thursday.

NASA satellites will be named later … “Astra and NASA have agreed to modify the terms of our existing launch services agreement for NASA’s TROPICS mission to allow future launches of comparable science payloads on Astra’s version 4.0 rocket. We are pleased to continue our strong partnership and having NASA as a launch customer on the next version of the Astra rocket.” It is unclear which commercial rocket NASA will now use to launch its TROPICS cubesats into orbit. (hosted by Ken the Trash Can)

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