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Chinese rocket companies are preparing for hop tests

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HELSINKI — A number of Chinese rocket firms are preparing to carry out first hop tests in a bid to develop reusable launch vehicles.

Beijing Deep Blue Aerospace Technology Co., Ltd., carried out a 10-second static fire test of the 7.3-meter-high “Nebula-M” technology verification test vehicle, the company announced July 13.

Deep Blue Aerospace plans to follow up with a variable thrust test before attempting vertical takeoff, vertical landing tests with the Nebula-M. No timeline for the attempts was provided.

The Nebula-M uses a Leiting-5 (Thunder 5) kerosene-liquid oxygen, electric-pump-fed engine and will attempt meter- and 100-meter-level hops. The tests can be considered analogous to SpaceX’s Grasshopper experimental flights as a step towards reusable rockets.

The hop tests will pave the way for an orbital launch of the reusable Nebula-1 launch vehicle. The 2.25-meter-diameter Nebula-1 is to be capable of lifting 500 kilograms to 500 km Sun-synchronous orbit. A larger 3.35-meter-diameter Nebula-2 launcher capable of sending 4,500 kilograms to low Earth orbit is also in development. 

Hot fire tests of the iSpace JD-1 engine in May 2020.
Hot fire tests of the iSpace JD-1 engine in May 2020. Credit: iSpace

The test is one of a number of efforts by Chinese companies to develop reusable, cost-reducing liquid launch vehicles. Alongside Deep Blue Aerospace, iSpace is working towards hop tests using a test stage for the reusable Hyperbola-2 methane-liquid oxygen launch vehicle. In April the firm conducted lengthy variable thrust hot fire tests of its Jiaodian-1 engine.

Landspace, which made its first and so far only launch attempt with the Zhuque-1 solid rocket in 2018, is expected to conduct the first launch of its Zhuque-2 methalox rocket this year. Founder Zhang Changwu said in April that the firm would choose an opportunity to launch within the next six months. 

Zhuque-2 will initially be expendable, but Landspace is looking to upgrade the engines to make the launcher VTVL-capable and reusable.

These endeavors are illustrative of the level of ambition within China’s commercial space sector, while their success or failure will be indicative of progress and capabilities so far made. The developments are also a reaction to changes in the launch sector initiated in the United States, namely the emergence of private launch companies and shift to reusability.

Crowded commercial field

Four Chinese rocket companies have attempted orbital launches following a Chinese government decision to open up the space sector to private capital in 2014. Two of the companies—iSpace and Galactic Energy—successfully inserted payloads into orbit. 

So far however all attempts have used simpler and expendable solid rockets, with liquid rockets posing more complex challenges. The upcoming tests by Deep Blue Aerospace will however not be the first hop tests by a Chinese company. In August 2019 Linkspace performed a successful 300-meter-altitude VTVL test. The firm soon after signed a deal with Jiuzhou Yunjian for engines for an orbital launcher, but has since been silent, except for a recruitment notice posted in March.

Galactic Energy is also developing a reusable launcher. The kerolox Pallas-1 is slated for a test launch in late 2022. The Beijing-based firm is expected first to follow up a successful first launch  with more commercial missions of the Ceres-1 solid rocket.

A number of China’s commercial launch companies have attracted huge funding rounds, despite a large number of actors competing for a share of an uncertain commercial market. 

More than ten firms—Landspace, OneSpace, iSpace, Linkspace, Galactic Energy, Deep Blue Aerospace, Space Pioneer, Space Transportation, Aerospace Propulsion, Seres Space Exploration Technology, Oriental Space, Spacetrek and Rocket Pi—have plans to develop launch vehicles.

Liftoff of Galactic Energy’s first Ceres-1 rocket from Jiuquan on Nov. 7, 2020. Credit: OurSpace

China Rocket and Expace, spinoffs from huge state-owned space contractors, have additionally launched solid rockets. Both are also planning to develop reusable liquid launchers. CAS Space, an offshoot from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has also entered the sector.

Initiatives such as the national satellite internet project could provide launch contract opportunities for commercial outfits.

Firms have been supported through a national strategy of civil-military fusion. This includes facilitating the transfer of restricted technologies to approved firms in order to promote innovation in dual-use technologies. 

The State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) has also issued guidance on the development of launch vehicles and small satellites as part of an apparent effort to create a clear regulatory framework for commercial space activities.

The country’s main space contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), is also exploring reusability. The new Long March 8, derived from the expendable Long March 7 and older Long March 3B technologies, had a first flight in December and is expected to be developed into a VTVL launcher. First stage VTVL hop tests are expected this year. Grid fin and other tests have also been carried out with older Long March 2C rockets, and variants of the Long March 6 are expected to be reusable.

In the longer term China has stated that it is targeting smart, recoverable and reusable launch vehicles by around 2035. Design concepts for China’s future super heavy-lift launcher, the Long March 9, appear to be shifting from the established Long March-style with side boosters to a single core version with clustered engines more amenable to first stage reusability, according to a presentation from a senior Chinese rocket designer.


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Source: https://spacenews.com/chinese-rocket-companies-are-preparing-for-hop-tests/

Aerospace

Rocket Lab returns to service with “flawless” launch for U.S. military

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Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifts off at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT; 6 p.m. local time) Thursday from Zealand. Credit: Rocket Lab

Resuming launches after a mission failure two months ago, Rocket Lab successfully placed a small U.S. military research and development satellite into orbit Thursday following a fiery liftoff from New Zealand on a flight that was originally supposed to launch from the company’s new pad in Virginia.

The 59-foot-tall (18-meter) Electron rocket ignited its nine kerosene-fueled Rutherford engines and climbed away from Launch Complex 1 on the North Island of New Zealand at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) Thursday.

Liftoff from Rocket Lab’s privately-owned launch base on Mahia Peninsula occurred at 6 p.m. local time, just after sunset.

Heading east from Mahia, the rocket’s first stage burned its nine engines for about two-and-a-half minutes, followed by a six-minute firing of the second stage engine to reach a preliminary parking orbit.

A kick stage deployed from the the Electron rocket’s second stage to begin a coast across the Pacific Ocean, Central America, and the Caribbean Sea before igniting its Curie engine reach a circular orbit about 372 miles (600 kilometers) above Earth at an inclination of 37 degrees to the equator.

Rocket Lab, a California-based company founded in New Zealand, confirmed a good deployment of the U.S. military’s small experimental Monolith spacecraft about 52 minutes after liftoff.

“Payload deployed, flawless launch and mission by the team!” tweeted Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO.

The mission was the 21st flight of a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle since 2017, and the eighth to carry a payload for a U.S. military or intelligence agency customer.

It was also the first Rocket Lab mission since May 15, when an Electron rocket failed before reaching orbit with two commercial BlackSky Earth-imaging satellites.

Rocket Lab’s internal investigation, with oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration, concluded the failure was caused by a problem with the igniter system on the Electron launcher’s second stage engine.

“This induced a corruption of signals within the engine computer that caused the Rutherford engine’s thrust vector control (TVC) to deviate outside nominal parameters and resulted in the engine computer commanding zero pump speed, shutting down the engine,” Rocket Lab said in a statement earlier this month.

Live video from beamed down from the rocket May 15 showed the second stage’s kerosene-fueled Rutherford engine igniting and immediately begin to tumble about three minutes into the flight. The engine shut down prematurely after firing for a few seconds, well short of a planned six-minute burn.

The rocket and its two BlackSky payloads fell into the Pacific Ocean downrange from the launch site in New Zealand.

Rocket Lab said the igniter problem “resulted from a previously undetectable failure mode within the ignition system that occurs under a unique set of environmental pressures and conditions.”

The company said engineers found no evidence of the problem during pre-flight testing, which included more than 400 seconds of burn time for the same engine. But Rocket Lab said it was able to replicate the issue after the flight, and teams “implemented redundancies in the ignition system to prevent any future reoccurrence, including modifications to the igniter’s design and manufacture.”

The May 15 mission was the third time an Electron rocket failed to reach orbit on 20 attempts since 2017.

Engineers traced the cause of an Electron second stage failure in July 2020 to a faulty electrical connector, which detached in flight and led to an early engine shutdown, dooming seven small commercial satellites.

Rocket Lab said it implemented improved testing to better screen for bad connectors, and the company successfully launched its next Electron mission less than two months later.

Rocket Lab racked up six straight successful Electron missions before the launch failure May 15. The company’s first orbital launch attempt in 2017 failed to reach orbit due to a ground system failure that caused safety teams to send a flight termination command to the rocket.

The small launch company says it is ready to resume a busy flight cadence through the rest of the year. Rocket Lab is close to beginning launches from two new pads — one in Virginia and another adjacent to its existing launch complex in New Zealand — to accommodate a more rapid flight rate.

Thursday’s mission, designated STP-27RM, was originally supposed to launch from Rocket Lab’s new pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. But delays in NASA’s certification of the Electron rocket’s new autonomous flight safety system have kept Rocket Lab from beginning service from the Virginia launch base.

In June, officials at Wallops said they hope to complete certification of the new autonomous flight safety system by the end of the year, enabling the first Rocket Lab launch from U.S. soil. With the launch of the military’s Monolith mission moved from Virginia to New Zealand, Rocket Lab’s first flight from Launch Complex 2 at Wallops will likely launch NASA’s CAPSTONE CubeSat payload to the moon.

The CAPSTONE mission is scheduled for launch late this year, according to NASA and Rocket Lab.

The Space Test Program, which helps manage development of the military’s experimental satellites, procured the launch of the Monolith satellite with the Rocket Systems Launch Program, part of the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.

Other partners on the mission include the Defense Innovation Unit and the Rapid Agile Launch Initiative, a program that books rides to orbit for small military satellites on emerging commercial small satellite launchers.

The Monolith satellite, built by the non-profit Space Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University, will demonstrate the use of a deployable sensor that is relatively large in mass compared to the mass of the spacecraft itself, according to the Space and Missile Systems Center.

The deployment of the sensor will change the satellite’s dynamic properties, testing the spacecraft’s ability to maintain stable attitude control, military officials said.

When the military announced the Monolith mission in 2019, officials said the satellite’s sensor package is aimed at space weather monitoring.

Data from the Monolith mission will help engineers design future small satellites to host deployable sensors, such as weather monitoring instruments. The Space Force said that will help reduce the cost, complexity, and development timelines of future missions.

“The satellite will also provide a platform to test future space protection capabilities,” the Space Force said.

Rocket Lab did not attempt to recover the Electron rocket’s first stage booster on Thursday’s mission. The company has retrieved two Electron boosters from the Pacific Ocean as engineers move toward reusing the rocket’s first stage, an innovation Rocket Lab says will allow for a faster launch rate and lower costs.

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket is sized to deliver small satellites to orbit, providing a dedicated ride for spacecraft that would otherwise have to fly as a lower-priority payload on a larger launch vehicle.

The Electron rocket can deliver a payload of up to 440 pounds (200 kilograms) to a 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) sun-synchronous orbit, about 1% of the lift capability of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher. Rocket Lab sells dedicated Electron missions for as little as $7 million.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/29/rocket-lab-returns-to-service-with-flawless-launch-for-u-s-military/

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Keysight Technologies Holds Aerospace Defense Symposium in India August 25-26, 2021

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Keysight Technologies enables customers to learn about the latest electronic test at the Aerospace Defense Symposium 2021 India.  Keysight experts will present vital information relating to the next generation of aerospace defense technology, in addition to demonstrations of the company’s solutions for this dynamic industry, which include next-generation spectrum analyzers, signal sources, vector network analyzers, ultra high bandwidth oscilloscopes, among others.

When:             August 25th – 26th 2021

Where:            Virtual: https://connectlp.keysight.com/Aerospace-Defense-Symposium-India-2021

Keysight will present on a wide variety of topics relevant to the aerospace and defence industry as follows:

Day 1:             August 25, 2021 | 10:00 a.m. IST – 1:00 p.m. IST

Topics include:

  • Understanding technological advances in ultra-wideband mmwave signal generation and analysis for radar and satellite
  • Millimeter-wave frequency bands provide wide available bandwidths that enable high-throughput data, range resolution, accuracy and low latency. Keysight will discuss how technological advances help facilitate rapid measurements with ultra-wideband mmwave signal generation and analysis for radar and satellite applications.
  • Deep dive into Multichannel radio frequency/radar analysis with time domain instrumentation
    • With the advancement in time domain instrumentation, traditional radio frequency (RF) measurements no longer “separate” from the digital design engineer. Time domain instrumentation like next generation multi-channel oscilloscopes can help with RF analysis. Keysight will showcase how multichannel RF/radar analysis can be executed with time domain instrumentation tools.
  • Modulation distortion, noise power ratio (NPR), phase noise measurements with next generation network analysis
    • Modern network analysis tools help speed state of the art measurements including NPR, modulation distortion, and phase noise measurements. Keysight will discuss how the company’s network analyzers will help customers achieve desired measurements.
  • Seamless test methodologies for modern deceptive jamming designs
    • Digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) takes RF signals, digitizes them, and then creates new RF energy based on the pulse received. With a fast turnaround time, it can be used to create multiple false targets. Keysight will explore DRFM and its advantages during this session.

Day 2: August 26, 2021 | 10:00 a.m. IST – 1:00 p.m. IST

  • Demystifying complex test scenarios for aerospace defense applications with Keysight’s PathWave Test Automation software
    • Keysight’s PathWave Test Automation software enables customer to save time with connected test workflows. In this session, Keysight experts will present how to address complex test scenarios in aerospace defense applications.
  • Compact mmWave receiver design for military satellite communication with Keysight’s PathWave Advanced Design System (ADS) software
    • First time right system design ensures that a customer’s system has a competitive advantage. Keysight will discuss how PathWave ADS helps seamlessly design mmWave receivers for military satellite communication.
  • Quantum and optical communication in aerospace defense | challenges and solutions
    • As the end of Moore’s law draws near, quantum technology provides the means to achieve breakthroughs in computing. The unique properties of superposition and entanglement enable previously unimagined performance in quantum applications such as computing, communications and sensing. Keysight experts will discuss how quantum technology and optical communication go hand in hand.
  • Sneak-peek into 5G technology advancements in Aerospace Defense & Military
    • The expansion of 5G design for military and tactical applications has created specific requirements for successful implementation. Whether it is radar or satellite, 5G will play a vital role moving forward. Keysight will deliver a sneak peek into how 5G technological advancements will be leveraged in aerospace, defense and the military.

For more information, visit www.keysight.com 

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Source: https://www.eletimes.com/keysight-technologies-holds-aerospace-defense-symposium-in-india-august-25-26-2021

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Live coverage: Rocket Lab set for return-to-flight launch Thursday

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand carrying the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Monolith microsatellite. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

Rocket Lab’s live video webcast begins approximately 20 minutes prior to launch, and will be available on this page.

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Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/29/rocket-lab-stp-27rm-mission-status-center/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Rocket Lab set for return-to-flight launch Thursday

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand carrying the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Monolith microsatellite. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

Rocket Lab’s live video webcast begins approximately 20 minutes prior to launch, and will be available on this page.

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Click here to access.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/29/rocket-lab-stp-27rm-mission-status-center/

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