Rocket Report: Billionaire backs Scottish spaceport, Relativity bags a bundle

Images of Electron rocket.
Enlarge / Rocket Lab’s Catch of the Day recovery vessel nears the Electron rocket’s first stage.

Welcome to Edition 3.24 of the Rocket Report! It’s December, and we could see a number of big smallsat launches this month, including from Virgin Orbit and Astra. But in the immediate future, our eyes are on South Texas, where a Starship prototype is due to make a high leap early next week.

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.

Aevum unveils its Ravn X launch system. Until now, Aevum has largely operated in the background. But now, it’s ready to show off some hardware, and it’s starting with the “Ravn X” launch system’s first stage, Ars reports. This autonomous aircraft and launch vehicle measures 24 meters long and has a wingspan of 18 meters. It has a gross takeoff mass of 25,000kg—massive for an uncrewed aerial vehicle. It will drop a rocket capable of carrying 100kg to Sun-synchronous orbit.

Seeking to make satellite delivery a commodity … The company is targeting next year for its first launch. Even as it has finalized the Ravn X first stage, Aevum has been developing a rocket with two liquid-fueled engines for its main stage, each with 5,000 pounds of thrust, and a single upper-stage engine. These engines have been hot-fire tested beyond their full duration burns and have gone through qualification and acceptance testing, the company said. Aevum claims it has secured launch contracts worth more than $1 billion over the next decade, including the Air Force’s ASLON-45 mission.

Virgin Orbit sets date for second launch attempt. On Monday, Virgin Orbit announced it would try a second orbital flight of its LauncherOne rocket on Saturday, December 19. The four-hour window will open at 10am PT (18:00 UTC). During the company’s first demo flight last May, the rocket was successfully dropped from its carrier aircraft, and its engine ignited for a few seconds before running out of LOX due to a blocked line.

This time, there will be a customer … That mission carried no payloads, but this one will. Through its Venture Class Launch Services program, NASA is providing nine CubeSat missions comprising 10 total spacecraft to fly on the Launch Demo 2 mission. The company said it still has to conduct a wet dress rehearsal before embarking upon its launch attempt. Good luck! (submitted by Ken the Bin)

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.

Relativity Space adds $500 million to funding coffers. The launch company that aims to 3D-print nearly the entirety of its rockets announced it had closed the large series D

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NCAA without major college football? Knight Commission backs change


USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll.


An influential leadership group has proposed sweeping changes to the Division I model that would distinguish the Football Bowl Subdivision from the NCAA, transforming the highest level of competition in the sport into a separate entity responsible for its own governance and revenue distribution.

The suggestions offered by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which is composed of current and former leaders in education and athletics, include the formation of the National College Football Association, a new governing body outside of the NCAA umbrella.

“Our commission recognizes that far-reaching governance reform will not take place overnight,” said commission co-chair Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education. “At the same time, it believes that discussion on a new governance structure for Division I can, should and must begin immediately.”

Under the proposal, the NCFA would govern the current Football Bowl Subdivision and be funded by College Football Playoff revenue, which amounted to a combined $549 million to FBS conferences and schools in 2018-19, according to NCAA documents reviewed by USA TODAY Sports.

The NCFA would conduct all FBS operations and the national championship while managing issues related to eligibility, rule changes and enforcement, regulatory functions, athlete safety, and revenue disbursement.

In the Knight Commission proposal, members of the NCFA would remain members of the NCAA in all other sports. The NCAA would continue to operate the Football Championship Subdivision, which generates far less revenue than FBS competition, and the men’s basketball tournament would remain under the current structure.

If put into action, the commission’s suggestions would make the college football model “more complete and unified to shape the future of the sport,” said co-chair Carol Cartwright, and would “more effectively serve the vast majority of NCAA athletes.”

The split into the NCFA would also create a “reset opportunity,” Cartwright said, for schools to decide whether to transition football programs into the new governing body or remain part of the NCAA. 

“It provides a reset to say, it may not be in the best interest of our values and our goals here to have everything follow our football affiliation,” said Knight Commission CEO Amy Perko.

According to a survey conducted by the Knight Commission, roughly a quarter of Division I presidents, athletics directors and conference commissioners were happy with the current FBS revenue-distribution model, and the only subset of surveyed respondents with a positive view of the model came from the Power Five conferences. 

Roughly a third of respondents said all Division I schools share common values in terms of defining what athletics means to their institution. Nearly 75% said they would like to see some form of Division I reform of governance.

“There was no clear solution identified by an overwhelming majority, but the overwhelming majority did say we need big solutions, and there

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Berea school board backs effort to fix Ohio’s education funding formula

BEREA, Ohio — The Berea Board of Education at its Nov. 16 meeting passed a resolution endorsing the Fair School Funding Plan and urging state lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at fixing Ohio’s unconstitutional funding formula for education.

District Treasurer/CFO Jill Rowe presented the district’s five-year financial forecast to the board and indicated lawmakers are attempting to get the new funding law passed by Dec. 15.

“It’s very exciting news,” Rowe said. “In our current funding model, we’re compared (financially) to state averages and other school districts. This new model funds us locally and keeps the money here for our kids.”

The district currently receives $6,020 in state funding per student. If a child living in Berea, Brook Park, or Middleburg Heights attends a non-public school, however, Rowe said the per-student allocation is taken directly from the district’s bank account and given to the private/charter/community school.

The new state funding formula would base allocations not on state averages, but on local district demographics. It also would provide a separate funding mechanism for non-public schools.

Rowe said the Berea City Schools currently receives $7.4 million in state education funding. Under the proposed new formula, the district would receive $12.7 million. The state has indicated it will take six years to fully implement, Rowe emphasized.

“Most districts are going to be winners in the long run,” she said, provided the legislation passes in the current lame-duck session. “This is more equitable to the districts.”

“If this gets passed, we can be cautiously optimistic that future (state) budgets will benefit the district,” added board member Jeffrey Duke.

During her presentation, Rowe also indicated the district will begin deficit spending in 2022.

“We need to be concerned about watching our yearly expenses,” she said, noting discussions will begin between herself, Superintendent Tracy Wheeler, and Assistant Superintendent Michael Draves about “what we need to do when talking about future money for the district.”

Rowe did stress, however, the district continues to maintain a required cash balance equal to one month of operations, which is $7.5 million. The district is not projected to fall below that amount until 2024.

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running backs lead week 12’s best performers


USA TODAY Sports’ Mackenzie Salmon spoke with Paul Myerberg about the 2020 college football bowl season.


This week’s top performances feature multiple career-best games, including a running back going for more than 300 yards and wideouts racking up 200 yards apiece.

Indiana players shined in what was a losing effort and three defensive players across college football gave quarterbacks fits in some ball-hawking outings. Still, three signal callers didn’t do too bad after they threw for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns to make an appearance on this week’s list.

Ranking the top 10 performances from Week 12:

1. Jaret Patterson, Buffalo, RB: In the 42-17 win over Bowling Green, Patterson racked up 301 yards on the ground and found the end zone four times. He carried the ball 31 times in the career performance.

2. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati, QB: Known a dual-threat quarterback, the junior used both his abilities as the Bearcats stayed unbeaten in a come-from-behind win at Central Florida. Ridder threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns and added 57 yards and two scores on the ground in the 36-33 victory.

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) dives over the top for a touchdown during the second half against Central Florida at the Bounce House in Orlando. (Photo: Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports)

3. Michael Penix Jr., Indiana, QB: Penix spear-headed what was almost an upset win over the Buckeyes with his 491 passing yards and five touchdowns. Still, it wasn’t enough in a close one.

HIGHS AND LOWS: College football winners and losers from Week 12

BUCKEYES HOLD ON: No. 3 Ohio State gets tested by No. 10 Indiana

LIONS LISTLESS: Penn State flops against Iowa to fall to 0-5 for first time

4. Brady McBride, Texas State, QB: After several tough losses, Texas State pulled off an upset of Arkansas State for its second win of the season thanks to its sophomore quarterback. McBride threw for 443 yards and five touchdown passes and led the game-winning drive in the final minute.

5. D’Jordan Strong, Coastal Carolina, DB: It was a nightmarish day for Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas. He threw three interceptions against Coastal Carolina and Strong snagged two of them — one of which was return for a touchdown. He also tacked on two tackles in the 34-23 win.

6. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh, QB: It was a big day for the Panthers signal caller as he riddled the Virginia Tech secondary in a 47-14 victory. Pickett finished 35-for-52 for 404 yards and two touchdowns. He added a score on the ground as Pitt improved to 5-4.

7. Jamar Johnson, Indiana, DB: Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields didn’t throw a single interception in his first three games of the season before his game against Indiana on Saturday — where he threw three. Fields grew to be very familiar with Johnson, who sacked him once and picked him off twice. The Sarasota, Florida, native also had four tackle’s in the losing effort.

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It’s important for Boston College’s defensive backs that they look good

As simple as it seems for a defensive back to keep his eyes trained on the receiver he’s guarding, it’s easy for the eyes to wander.

“You do not want to be a violator,” said Eagles strong safety Jahmin Muse. “You do not want to come in Sunday to be known as an eye violator. It’s not a good look.”

But it happens.

“It’s definitely happened to me,” Muse said.

To improve a pass defense that gave up the most yards in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season, the Eagles had to start with discipline. Last year, opponents threw for 3,711 yards against the Eagles. This season, BC is giving up just 234.2 yards per game.

“Eye discipline is one of the most important things in defensive football,” coach Jeff Hafley said in the run-up to Saturday night’s game at Virginia Tech. “Sometimes guys see too much, and they don’t see anything. If you really focus in and you see what you’re supposed to see, you wind up seeing so much more. A lot of guys say, ‘See a little, see a lot. See a lot, see little.’ And that’s so true.”

Many times, defensive backs pay the price for peeking at the quarterback.

“That’s usually when you get beat,” Hafley said. “And it’s hard. You have to be really disciplined with your eyes. And we constantly preach about it.”

The Eagles worked around injuries in the secondary. Safety Deon Jones was expected to return after missing last week’s game against Pitt with an elbow injury.

Muse said the group is more tightly knit than a year ago.

“The leadership has been completely different,” Muse said. “All the guys are taking accountability. A lot of guys are just open, not afraid to make mistakes. So that’s one big change from last year. A lot of guys aren’t tense and nervous. Guys are just playing football now.”

Working the clock

Building some sort of game-day routine hasn’t come easy for the Eagles. They’ve played five games at five different start times.

The 8 p.m. kickoff at Lane Stadium was the latest so far for the Eagles. Hafley said he’s still trying to get into a regular pattern before games.

“I think I’m getting better at it,” he said. “I try and loosen up with the same guy and throw the ball around a bit with the same guy. I know what time I talk to the refs before the game now.

“It’s still weird for me, not coaching a position in pregame. I usually have a ball in my hand to keep myself busy, and I’ll throw the ball to the DBs and wideouts. I’m getting a hang of it, but we haven’t had a game at the same time yet. I probably still have to get better at it, I’m working on it.”

The trip to Blacksburg was the Eagles’ second road trip of the season. They were able to test the ACC protocols and get a feel for

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