I think I’m too quick to shrug off the “domestic launch capability on demand” aspect of Virgin Orbit. That’s a big selling point for countries with no up-and-running spaceport, and even more so for countries with geography that isn’t conducive to the existence of one at all.
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That’s some serious speed.
I still think that as a launch services company, it’s a bad idea to put yourself in a situation where you’re beholden to someone else’s business for your core engines. But the confirmation of moving to a single-core, reusable first stage, along with a doubling of Beta’s previous payload is at least the best case scenario here.
I’ve been genuinely excited to see what Firefly can do in the launch market. And I still am excited to see Alpha, but for Beta, this is a major violation of the rocket equivalent of Alan Kay’s theorem: people who are really serious about launch services should make their own engines.
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I’m not completely sure what to make of this new set of filings yet. The optimistic end of the spectrum is SpaceX preparing for massive growth in Starlink services over the next decade.
The RFP was released back in August, and as we heard then, the program contains up to 20 missions that will be competed as they are ready. The selected launch providers are a nice mix of those who are flying today, those who are coming up on their first flight, and those who are still early on in their work.
This will be a great pathfinder flight profile for vehicles with sufficient margin to make use of it effectively.
The industry’s first commercial satellite servicing mission has launched, with much less fanfare than I would have liked to see.
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Their first flight is now slated for February 2021, and will feature a 3-meter hammerhead fairing, which can be seen on their site.
Sounds like the team didn’t predict such a long eclipse before launch. I wonder how much that’s tied to the fact that Juno is in a 53-day orbit rather than the intended 14-day orbit, due to the propulsion failure earlier in the mission.
Nice flying by the Juno team.