Welcome to Edition 5.27 of the Rocket Report! The big news this week is that Relativity Space got its launch license for a debut flight from Cape Canaveral in Florida. In less than two weeks, I’m excited to see how far this methalox rocket makes it on its first foray off the planet.
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.
Terran 1 gets a launch date. On Wednesday Relativity Space announced that it had secured a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration for the debut launch of its Terran 1 rocket. The mission, called GLHF (good luck, have fun), will take flight from Launch Complex 16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch window opens at 1 pm ET (18:00 UTC) on March 8. Because this is a test flight, the mission will not include a customer payload. It will be streamed live.
Print your way to space … Interestingly, Relativity Space has decided to forego a first-stage hot-fire test of the rocket on the launch pad. The FAA license included a provision for such a test. However, company officials said they have lowered the risks during launch through other hot-firings of the launch system. Further tests of the rocket may cause wear and tear, the company said, and that had to be balanced against any need to collect more data. This is a big mission, as the Terran 1 has a chance to be the first methane-fueled rocket to reach orbit and consists of about 85 percent additively manufactured parts. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
New Mexico continues investing in Spaceport America. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority currently operates from a Las Cruces-based office building about an hour’s drive away from Spaceport America, the home of Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space tourism business. Now, the publicly funded spaceport authority wants to be closer to the action and plans to construct a 30,000-square-foot facility on site, Parabolic Arc reports. The Spaceport Technology and Reception Center’s mission “will be to become the welcoming face to staff, visitors, and prospective customers visiting or working at Spaceport America,” according to a request for proposals.
It’s a been a long road … In December 2005, New Mexico agreed to spend up to $200 million to construct a custom-built spaceport where Richard Branson’s space company would be the anchor tenant. After the spaceport’s construction, the authority continues to cost the state millions of dollars annually because it is not generating enough revenue to cover its budget. This is largely because Virgin Galactic has yet to fly a single paying customer into space. This may finally change later this year if Virgin Galactic begins commercial service with its VSS Unity vehicle. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
SpaceX may see a significant increase in 2023 revenue. Payload’s Mo Islam has released his projection for SpaceX’s revenue in 2023 and predicts the company will draw in $11.5 billion this year. If true, this would represent a substantial leap from his predicted revenue for 2022 of $4.6 billion. It is important to state upfront, of course, that the privately held company’s revenues are not something that is publicly available. So these are educated guesses. All the same, this would be a sizable leap in revenue.
Is SpaceX now a satellite company first? … As part of these projections, Islam expects 87 orbital launches in 2023 for SpaceX, with a sizable jump in revenue from commercial Falcon 9 and government Falcon Heavy missions. Revenue from Starlink is also expected to grow substantially, from $1.9 billion last year to $5.4 billion in 2023. In other words, based on revenue, SpaceX is now more a satellite company than a launch company. “Ultimately, we recognize predicting SpaceX’s revenue is extremely challenging, given the multitude of variables we’ve laid out here,” Islam concludes. “In fact, we know that even some investors in SpaceX don’t have accurate data around historical financials or projections.” It would also be fascinating to know SpaceX’s expenses. (submitted by brianrhurley)
Soyuz rescue mission ready for launch. The main Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, is set to conduct an uncrewed flight of a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of a plan to replace the stricken Soyuz MS-22 vehicle, NASASpaceflight.com reports. The MS-23 mission will launch atop a Soyuz-2.1a rocket from Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan no earlier than February 24, at 00:24 UTC.
Bringing some spare cargo … The primary aim of the Soyuz MS-23 mission is to replace the existing Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, which sprang a coolant leak in its thermal management system while docked to the Russian segment of the International Space Station in December. Since Soyuz MS-23 will fly without crew on board, much like a Progress mission, the spacecraft will conduct its mission autonomously until it docks with the ISS. Roscosmos will use the opportunity to deliver 429 kg of equipment and supplies to the station’s crew.