Rocket Report: SpaceX focused on Starship re-entry; Firefly may be up for sale

in great shape , The Falcon 9 rocket will launch the NROL-146 mission from California this week.

SpaceX

Welcome to version 6.45 of the Rocket Report! The most interesting news in this week’s launch, for me, is that Firefly is potentially up for sale. This puts Firefly and United Launch Alliance, two of the handful of US companies with operational rockets, actively on offer. I’ll be interested to see what the valuation of each will be if the sale happens.

As always, we Readers’ submissions are welcomeAnd 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 about small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets, as well as a quick look at the next three launches on the calendar.

Firefly may be available for saleInvestors in Firefly Aerospace are considering a sale that could value the privately owned rocket and moon lander maker at about $1.5 billion. Bloomberg reportRocket Company’s main owner, AE Industrial Partners, is working with an advisor on “strategic alternatives” for Firefly. Neither AE nor Firefly commented to Bloomberg about a potential sale. AE invested $75 million in Texas-based Firefly as part of a Series B financing round in 2022. The firm made another investment in its Series C round in November 2023.

Launch and lander … Now more than a decade old and with a history of financial struggles, Firefly has emerged as one of the clear winners in the small launch race in the United States. The company’s Alpha rocket has launched four times since its failed debut in September 2021, and in the coming weeks it is scheduled to fly a Venture-class Launch Services 2 mission for NASA. Firefly also aims to launch its Blue Ghost spacecraft to the moon later this year and is working on an orbital transfer vehicle.

Blue Origin makes successful return to flightWith retired Air Force captain and test pilot Ed Dwight on board, Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft returned to flight Sunday morning. An African American, Dwight was one of 26 pilots the Air Force recommended to NASA for the third class of astronauts in 1963, but the agency did not select him. It took 20 years for America’s first black astronaut, Guion Bluford, to fly to space in 1983. At age 90, Dwight finally etched his name in the record books Sunday, becoming the oldest person to reach space. “I thought I didn’t need this in my life,” Dwight said after Sunday’s fight. “But I lied!”

down a slope … It was the seventh time Blue Origin, the space company owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, sent people into sub-orbital space, and the 25th flight overall of the company’s fleet of New Shepard rockets. It was the first time Blue Origin had launched people in nearly two years, resuming sub-orbital service after a rocket failure on an unmanned research flight in September 2022. In December, Blue Origin launched another unmanned sub-orbital research mission to set the stage for resuming manned missions on Sunday. There was a problem with the flight, as only two of the capsule’s three parachutes deployed. It is unclear how long it will take to solve this problem.

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RFA tested the first stage of its rocketGerman launch startup Rocket Factory Augsburg announced Sunday that it has begun the hot-fire campaign for the first stage of its RFA One rocket. “We hot-fired a total of four Helix engines, igniting them one by one at four-second intervals,” The company said on social media site X. “All engines fired simultaneously for 8 seconds and the total hot-fire duration was 20 seconds. The test went smoothly during start-up, steady-state and shutdown.” This launch is a big step for the company.

The test flight is scheduled for this year, but … The test took place at Saxward Spaceport in the United Kingdom. The RFA One vehicle is powered by nine Helix engines and will have a payload capacity of 1.6 metric tons to low Earth orbit. The company is targeting a first launch later this year, but I doubt it. For comparison, SpaceX began testing the first stage of its Falcon 9 in 2008, with a full-duration test firing of all nine engines in November of that year. But the rocket didn’t make its first flight until June 2010.

China expanding commercial space portChina is planning new phases of expansion of its new commercial space port to support an expected increase in launches and commercial space activity. Space News ReportConstruction of the second of two launch pads at the Hainan Commercial Launch Site could be completed by the end of May. The first, which was completed in December and is dedicated to the Long March 8 rocket, could host its first launch before the end of June.

meeting a major need … This appears to be just the beginning, however, as the spaceport could have a total of 10 pads that would service both liquid and solid rockets. The reason for this dramatic expansion appears to be to increase access to space and allow China to achieve the launch rates needed to build two low-Earth orbit megaconstellations, each carrying more than 10,000 satellites. It is also another sign of China’s commitment to establishing a thriving commercial space sector. (Submitted by Ken The Bin)

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