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Rocket Report: Norway’s nuclear rocket concerns; Ariane 6 delayed again

Artist's view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters on the ELA-4 launch pad together with its mobile gantry. We'll have to wait awhile longer to see flight hardware.
Enlarge / Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters on the ELA-4 launch pad together with its mobile gantry. We’ll have to wait awhile longer to see flight hardware.

ESA-D. Ducros

Welcome to Edition 5.15 of the Rocket Report! We’re back with the usual rocket news about launch delays and companies fundraising on the way to orbit. Speaking of raises, is it really possible that Vector Launch is raised from the dead? Read on to find out.

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 launch may slip into 2023. Relativity Space recently completed first-stage hot-fire testing of the Terran 1 rocket, and engineers and technicians are now attaching the second stage to the rocket. In a few weeks, the completed vehicle will roll back out to Launch Complex-16 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida for a static fire test and, assuming that goes well, a launch attempt, Ars reports. “We are confident in our tech readiness to launch this year, and we’re still marching toward that,” Tim Ellis, co-founder and chief executive of Relativity Space, said in an interview with Ars.

There’s always a but … Ellis continued, “But there are a few external factors as we’re getting close to the end of the year that could impact the timeline for us. It’s not a guarantee, but it could.” Those external factors include other spaceport users in Florida, including uncertainty around the mid-November launch of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and blackout periods as part of the military’s Holiday Airspace Release Plan. This effectively precludes launches around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day due to the high volume of airline flights.

Tracking the Canadian rocket race. Much, and more, has been written in this newsletter about commercial launch development in the United States, China, Europe, and India. But what about Canada? It turns out there are at least five Canada-based companies working to develop a native commercial launch capability. These companies are summarized in a new article in SpaceQ, which is (unfortunately) behind a paywall. Most of the companies are working toward the goal of launching from Spaceport Nova Scotia, which remains under development.

Big ideas, small payloads … The five companies are based in Calgary (AVRO Aerospace), Toronto (C6 Launch Systems, Nordspace, and SpaceRyde), and Montreal (Reaction Dynamics). All are planning some variation on a small-satellite launch vehicle, with some ideas more radical than others—SpaceRyde’s balloon-based launch concept, for example. I’m not well enough informed to comment on the viability of any of these companies, but small launch is a difficult business. However, if the Canadian Space Agency were to start offering and awarding contracts, that would help us discern who is legitimate, and who is not.

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

Orbex raises $45.8 million in new funding. Scotland-based Orbex announced earlier this month that it raised 40.4 million pounds ($45.8 million) in a Series C round led by the Scottish National Investment Bank, a new investor in the company, Space News reports. Orbex is developing Prime, a small launch vehicle designed to place up to 180 kilograms into low-Earth orbit. The vehicle, built by the company at a factory in Forres, Scotland, will launch initially from Space Hub Sutherland, a new launch site under development in Northern Scotland.

Prime time in 2023? … Orbex previously raised $24 million in December 2020 and $39 million in July 2018. The company also won 7.45 million euros from the European Space Agency in March 2021 as part of the agency’s Boost! program to support new launch vehicle development. The company says it is targeting the first launch of its Prime rocket next year and working toward its “long-term goal of establishing a reliable, economically successful and environmentally sustainable European space launch business.” (submitted by Ken the Bin and EllPeaTea)

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