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Rocket Report: SpaceX goes vertical, smallsat launch dates slip, Ars Technica

Rocket Report: SpaceX goes vertical, smallsat launch dates slip, Ars Technica


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Wait, China wants to launch how many rockets this year?



A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
******************** (Welcome to Edition 2.) of the Rocket Report! We’re back after a lengthy holiday break, refueled and ready for a new year. 2026 promises to be a huge year in the launch industry, with the potential for several dedicated smallsat rockets taking flight for the first time, as well as the likelihood of large tallies in China, the United States, and Europe. We’ll try to be your guide to all the action.
As always, we

welcome reader submissions, and if 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-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.


************************************** Virgin plans orbital launch in early (********************************. After falling short of plans to begin launches in (******************************************************************, Virgin Orbit now expects to perform its first orbital launch attempt in early 2020, SpaceNews reports. The company said it plans to perform a taxi test of “Cosmic Girl,” its modified Boeing aircraft, with a LauncherOne vehicle attached . That will be followed by a captive-carry flight in which the rocket will remain attached to the plane throughout the flight.Firefly now targeting April for Alpha debut

. Speaking of other smallsat launchers, Firefly Aerospace has pushed the planned debut launch of its Alpha rocket to April, reports. Developing the two-stage rocket’s avionics system “gave us fits,” Firefly CEO Tom Markusic said. That’s because the company was originally hoping to make Alpha’s flight-termination system fully autonomous, he explained.    



The easiest way to keep up with Eric Berger’s space reporting is to sign up for his newsletter, we’ll collect his stories in your inbox.                       1990 Russia’s Rokot vehicle has made its final launch. The Russian booster capable of lifting nearly 2 tons to low Earth orbit debuted in 2020 and has had a reasonable record of success, with out of 34 successful launches. But its cost — reportedly more than $ million per mission — appears to have priced the vehicle out of the current launch market.****************************************** (An even) ****************************************************************************************** for the year … The final launch occurred on the day after Christmas, when the Rokot vehicle sent three Gonets-M communications satellites into orbit. The launch was Russia’s th and final orbital mission of 2021, a number that includes three Soyuz launches performed by Arianespace from the Center Spatial Guyanais in French Guiana, ( reports) . (submitted by Ken the Bin)

SpaceX becomes the world’s largest satellite operator.With its third launch of
Starlink Internet satellites on Monday, SpaceX became the company with the most satellites in orbit. And with perhaps more Starlink launches planned for this year, SpaceX is only getting started,Ars reports.********************************* (A new line of work) … Building and managing a fleet of satellites — let alone getting them to communicate with each other and ground-based terminals — is a huge and wholly different task than launching rockets into space. This is a new business for SpaceX and the company first one with business-general public customers. It’s a grand experiment. But with three launches under its belt and the world’s most reusable rocket, SpaceX seem to have a head start on its competitors.China, United States to compete for launch supremacy. For the second year in a row, China dominated the global rankings in terms of orbital launches. The Communist country finished (with) orbital launch attempts and 32 successes. Russia ranked second, with attempts and successes, followed by the United States with (out of) successful launches. The coming year should see this global competition tighten,Ars reports.********************************* (Here comes Starlink) … China has declared its intention to launch or more orbital missions in 248910, and private companies operating in the country could add to that total. But the United States should also see a surge of growth. After SpaceX launched (rockets in) **************************************************************, the company is expected to take a significant step forward with a mix of commercial satellites, NASA payloads, and its own Starlink Internet satellites. If all goes well, SpaceX could launch its Falcon 9 rocket 30 or more times this year. United Launch Alliance should be more active, too.

************************** (China Long March 5 successfully returns to flight.) ******************************* (On December) ****************************************************************************************, (**************************************************************, China’s most powerful rocket, the Long March 5, made a successful return to flight by launching an eight-ton satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. The rocket, with a lift capacity similar to the Delta IV Heavy, returned to service after a failure during its second mission in (**************************************************************, ************************************** SpaceNews reports. A big step for China’s exploration plans… The successful launch means China can 1) proceed to test a related launcher that’s needed to construct its planned space station and 2) attempt to launch its first independent interplanetary mission to Mars this summer. The Chang’e-5 lunar-sample return mission is expected to follow in late 248910 on a Long March 5. All these missions are predicated on the big booster getting back on track. (submitted by Ken the Bin) Boeing packs SLS core stage for green run test. On Wednesday, Boeing moved the completed core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket from the Michoud Assembly Facility onto the space agency’s Pegasus Barge. When weather conditions are favorable, the barge will carry the – meter rocket from the rocket factory near New Orleans to the Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi, Ars reports. Hoping for no hurricanes… Once in the Magnolia State, the rocket will undergo a series of tests and checks to ensure the integrity of the core stage before an all-up firing of its main engines for about eight minutes. Depending on weather and how well the vehicle performs, Boeing’s John Shannon said this “green run” test could be completed by July or August. More likely, however: engineers will have to tackle issues that crop up, and the testing regime will not be finished before October. Following the tests at Stennis, barring major issues, the core stage will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center on the Florida coast. A launch in 2022 remains possible, although NASA has yet to set a new date.****************************** SpaceX plans mobile launch gantry (********************************. In anticipation of winning a national security launch competition for missions from toA Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.**************************************, SpaceX is finalizing plans to build the new moveable tower at pad A. Company officialstold Spaceflight Nowthat its function will be similar to mobile gantries in use at other launch pads, such as service towers used by United Launch Alliance at the company Delta 4 launch pads at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.********************************* (Standing up vertical integration capability) … SpaceX currently installs satellites onto Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets horizontally inside hangars near the company launch pads. But some of the US government most sensitive and expensive intelligence-gathering satellites are designed to be mounted on their launch vehicles vertically. SpaceX officials said the vertical integration capability is required for participants in the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. (submitted by Ken the Bin) SLS contractor convicted of buying bad parts. Seongchan “Steven” Yun, who worked for CBOL Corporation, was found guilty after he reportedly purchased Chinese parts for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and tried to cover it up. Yun was responsible for a contract that would provide stainless steel tubing to carry rocket fuel in ground-support equipment at Kennedy Space Center, (MSN reports.********************************** (Up to) **************************************************************************************************** (years) … The contract specifically required the steel be provided by the United States. Instead, Yun procured the materials from China and tried to cover up the foreign exchange. Investigators found Yun instead had parts shipped to KSC and then created false certifications asserting the steel tubing conformed to all of NASA’s requirements. He will be sentenced to up to 13 years in federal prison in March. (submitted by danneely)Next three launches Jan. : Long March 2D | Jilin 1, ÑuSat 7 & ÑuSat 8 | Taiyuan, China | 03: (UTC) ******************************) Jan. () ********************************: Ariane V | KONNECT and GSAT – satellites | Kourou, French Guiana | (********************************************************************************************: 05 UTC

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