A ‘Chin Up!’ Week in Space

13th Jan 2023
A ‘Chin Up!’ Week in Space

It’s not been a ‘mission complete’ kind of week in the space industry. Let’s take a look at what’s gone awry since Sunday.

‘Start Me Up’ stops

The heart breaker for the UK space industry this week has got to be the 9th Janaury loss of LauncherOne in the North Atlantic after a successful launch by Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl.

The Start Me Up mission had been labeled as the point of departure for the British launch industry. Some details aside, such as whether the launch was ‘British’ enough, while also complaining about the UK government’s perceived sloth in granting licences, the Spaceport Cornwall is now in the history books for being the oldest spaceport in the UK, and has proven that it can hold up the British end when it comes hosting horizontal launch companies. It will be interesting to see if Spaceport Cornwall will see a visit from the Lockheed L-1011 and Pegasus rockets of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS), the latest incarnation of horizontal launch innovator Orbital Sciences Corp, which proved horizontal orbital launch in 1990.

The latest news from Virgin Orbit failure is that the second stage failed to complete its burn. The investigation is not complete, but the high profile of the failure means that the incident incident is unlikely to be shrugged off.

Live stream needs help

On a related issue, the live stream run by Virgin Orbit had few admirers. This is more likely to be shrugged off by Virgin Orbit. However, Spaceport Cornwall takes outreach seriously, as CEO Melissa Thorpe points out to OT. There is no news yet about whether the spaceport will work on its own media efforts.

In the meantime, we’ll play Emotional Rescue, and wait for announcements about the next Virgin Orbit flight from Cornwall.

ABL Space Systems fails to proceed

On 10th January, ABL Space Systems launched its RS1 rocket from the U.S. state of Alaska. The rocket failed to proceed after all nine engines suddenly stopped. The rocket impacted the launch pad, and damaged buildings in the area. Noone was killed in the crash.

ABL Space Systems plans to launch from Spaceport SaxaVord in future.

Lunar Flashlight propulsion issues

We know that ‘space is hard’. It’s not only New Space. On 12th January, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that the Lunar Flashlight spacecraft on its way to the Moon, was having problems with the propulsion system. It seems that the fuel lines might have gunk in them. Because of the obstruction, the propulsion system is not performing as well as expected. The problem was noticed shortly after launch last year.

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