Rocket Report: Spaceship Stacked; Georgia closes the door on Spaceport Camden

On Wednesday, SpaceX fully stacked the Starship's Super Heavy booster and upper stage for the megarocket's next test flight from South Texas.
Enlarge / On Wednesday, SpaceX fully stacked the Starship’s Super Heavy booster and upper stage for the megarocket’s next test flight from South Texas.

Welcome to edition 6.44 of the Rocket Report! Kathy Lueders, general manager of SpaceX’s Starbase launch facility, says the company expects to receive an FAA launch license for the next Starship test flight shortly after Memorial Day. It appears this rocket could fly in late May or early June, about two and a half months after the previous Starship test flight. This is an improvement over the previous seven-month and four-month intervals between Starship flights.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, you can subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-compatible versions of the site). Each report contains information on small, medium and heavy rockets, as well as a brief preview of the next three launches on the calendar.

Blue Origin launch this weekend on tap. Blue Origin plans to launch its first human spaceflight mission in nearly two years on Sunday. This flight will launch six passengers on a flight to suborbital space more than 60 miles above West Texas. Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, has not flown people to space since a New Shepard rocket failed during an unmanned research flight in September 2022. The company successfully launched New Shepard on another unmanned suborbital mission in December.

Historic flight … This will be the 25th flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and the seventh human spaceflight mission on New Shepard. Before Blue Origin’s 2022 rocket failure, the company averaged a flight frequency of about one launch every two months. The number of flights has decreased since then. Sunday’s flight is significant not only because it marks the resumption of Blue Origin’s suborbital human spaceflight launches, but also because its six-person crew includes an aviation pioneer. Ed Dwight, 90, almost became the first black astronaut in 1963. A retired Air Force captain, Dwight flew military fighter jets and graduated as a test pilot, following a familiar career path like many of the early astronauts. He was on a shortlist of astronaut candidates that the Air Force provided to NASA, but the space agency did not include him. Dwight becomes the oldest person to ever fly in space.

Spaceport Camden officially no longer exists. With the stroke of a pen, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill dissolving the Camden County Spaceport Authority, Action News Jax reported. This news follows a March 2022 referendum in which more than 70 percent of voters rejected a plan to purchase land for the spaceport on the Georgia coastline between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida. County officials were still trying to move forward with the spaceport initiative after the failed referendum, but Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled in February that the county must adhere to voters’ wishes.

$12 million for what?…The government of Camden County, with a population of about 55,000 people, spent $12 million over the course of a decade on the Spaceport Camden concept. The Spaceport Authority’s goal was to attract small launch companies to the region, but no major launches have ever taken place from Camden County. State Rep. Steven Sainz, who sponsored the bill to abolish the Spaceport Authority, said in a statement that the legislation “reflects community choice and opens a path for future collaboration on economic initiatives that better meet local needs.” (submitted by zapman987)

The easiest way to keep up with Eric Berger’s space reporting is to sign up for his newsletter. We collect his stories in your inbox.

Polaris Spaceplanes is moving on to bigger things. German startup Polaris Spaceplanes says it is moving forward with building its MIRA II and MIRA III spaceplane prototypes after MIRA, a small-scale test vehicle, was damaged earlier this year, European Spaceflight reports. The MIRA demonstration vehicle made an emergency landing during a test flight in February. The incident occurred during takeoff at an airport in Germany before the vehicle could ignite its linear spacecraft engine in flight. The remote-controlled MIRA prototype was approximately 4.25 meters long. Polaris announced on April 30 that MIRA will not be repaired and will instead continue building a few larger vehicles.

Almost 16 months without a launch … The MIRA II and MIRA III vehicles will be 16 feet long and will be powered by Polaris’ AS-1 aircraft engines, along with jet engines to power the craft before and after in-flight tests with the rocket engine. Aerospike engines are rocket engines designed to operate efficiently at all altitudes. The MIRA test vehicles are the precursors to AURORA, a multi-role spaceplane and hypersonic transporter that can deliver up to 1,000 kilograms of payload to low Earth orbit, according to Polaris. (submitted by Jay500001 and Tfargo04)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *