Space Putin Digest vol 3

Sup. Little late (been working on some space stuff myself!), but man there has been a LOT going on the past few weeks in commercial space

(1) RocketLab return to flight

Whenever a rocket company has a failed launch, their following launch is called their “return to flight” launch. Typically these launches have much more operational overhead, partially because the company doesn’t want their launch to fail again, and partially because the regulators also get much more involved in comparison to a typical flight.

The original failure was on July 4th, when about six minutes into the flight, the rocket experienced an anomaly that turned out to be caused by a faulty electrical connector, and the vehicle and onboard payloads were lost.

The last time we had a mid-flight vehicle failure by a commercial space provider was SpaceX in Jun 2015.

At the time it took SpaceX about 6 months to get back to flight, when they launched again in 2015 (and landed on a launch pad for the first time!!). This was thought of as an absolute world record in terms of time from failure to return to launch.

Which is why it is particularly remarkable that RocketLab was able to identify their electrical connector issue, fix it, and have a nominal return to flight on Aug 30th, less than 2 months from their original launch failure. This is great news for RocketLab’s ability to quickly solve issues and shows that launch failure --> return to flight just keeps getting shorter and shorter :)

(2) SpaceX almost launches 2 rockets in 1 day

Crazily enough, on the same day that RocketLab had their return to flight, SpaceX was planning on doing 2 rocket launches in a single day, which would have been a historic moment. This happened once during the Apollo program, where we sent up a manned crew and a satellite on the same day from Cape Canaveral (for the life of me I cannot remember/Google around to find when it happened), but other than that, I don’t believe humanity has ever tried to fly two rockets on the same day from the same launch complex. Just shows you that rocket launches are happening more and more :) Can’t wait until we see multiple rocket launches in single day all the time.

Unfortunately the first planned launch got pushed to later in the week due to weather, so we didn’t end up getting two in a day, but it was damn close!

(3) We’re finally done paying the Russians

Since the Space Shuttle program shut down, the US has been paying Russia $86m per seat for rides to the ISS. Effectively, IMO, a complete waste of money over the past decade, and now that same budget gets spent on American launchers that seem to be pushing the envelope on rocket launch architecture rather than Putin’s pockets since Roscosmos hasn’t exactly been innovating on the Soyuz lately.

(4) Starship hops again!

Elon is definitely pushing hard on the Startship team, I believe they have 4 different ones in various stages of productions right now and they just had a second Starship accomplish a 150m hop. They are also pushing for licenses for higher tests in Russia/Florida