Launch vehicles

Blog about launch vehicles: rockets or aircraft

Super Heavy Booster 7 blasting off with Starship 24 atop (Image courtesy SpaceX)

SpaceX conducted the flight test of its prototype Super Heavy rocket and Starship, launched from Boca Chica, Texas. This is the first test that saw the whole system of Elon Musk’s company which should revolutionize space travel with an unprecedented transport capacity and being totally reusable. In this case, however, these are prototypes with the Super Heavy identified as Booster 7 and Starship identified as Starship 24 or Ship24 or simply S24 which don’t have the safety requirements needed to conduct controlled landings. The test ended after almost 4 minutes with the explosion of both vehicles.

The Orion spacecraft blasting off atop the SLS to start the Artemis I mission (Photo NASA/Joel Kowsky)

A little while ago, NASA’s Orion spacecraft separated from the last stage, called the ICPS (Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage), of the Space Launch System (SLS), which blasted off almost two hours earlier from the Kennedy Space Center. The Orion entered the trajectory that will take it into the Moon’s orbit to carry out its mission which will last about 25 days. This is the first launch for the SLS and for the Orion in its full configuration. The ICPS also has the secondary mission of putting some CubeSat-class nanosatellites into orbit.

The Vega-C rocket blasting off for its maiden mission (Image courtesy ESA)

A little while ago, the new European Vega-C rocket, the evolution of the Vega rocket that was in service for almost exactly 10 years, blasted off from the European launch base in French Guayana. After about 85 minutes, various satellites started being put into orbit including LARES-2 for the Italian Space Agency and some nanosatellites.

The main payload for the first flight of the Vega-C carrier rocket, referred to as VV21, is the LARES-2 (Laser Relativity Satellite 2) satellite of ASI (Italian Space Agency). It’s an improved successor to the LARES satellite launched on February 13, 2012, during the original Vega rocket’s qualification flight. The aim remains to test some aspects of the theory of relativity.

The secondary payload consists of CubeSat-class nanosatellites, which are now very common and consequently normal cargoes for a launch vehicle like Vega-C. These are the Italian AstroBio CubeSat and Greencube, the Slovenian Trisat-R, and the French MTCube-2 and Celesta.

The Electron rocket starts "There And Back Again" mission (Image courtesy Rocket Lab)

A few hours ago, Rocket Lab’s first attempt to use a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter to catch the first stage of its Electron rocket while it was returning to the ground during a mission called “There And Back Again” was successful. The goal is a controlled transport of the first stage to the ground in order to reuse it. After catching it, the pilot found that the load had different characteristics from those experienced during the tests and let go of the first stage, which splashed down and was recovered by Rocket Lab’s ship.

The New Shepard rocket blasting off in its NS-18 flight (Image courtesy Blue Origin)

Yesterday, Blue Origin conducted the second crewed flight of its New Shepard rocket, which included actor William Shatner, famous especially for playing James Kirk in the “Star Trek” saga. The rocket blasted off from the company’s spaceport in Van Horn, Texas, and after about 3 minutes the spacecraft named “RSS First Step” separated from the rocket and reached an altitude of about 107 kilometers, more than the 100 kilometers of the Kármán Line that officially marks the boundary with space. Both the single-stage rocket and the spacecraft are reusable, so both landed at the end of the flight.