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)

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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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