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SLS core stage arrives at KSC but faces “challenging” schedule

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WASHINGTON — The final major element of the first Space Launch System rocket arrived at the Kennedy Space Center, but NASA’s acting administrator says it will be “challenging” to launch the rocket before the end of this year.

The barge Pegasus arrived at KSC April 27 with the core stage of the SLS on board. Pegasus transported the core stage from the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where it had been since early 2020 for the Green Run test campaign that culminated in a full-duration static-fire test March 18.

NASA will transport the core stage to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where workers will attach to it its two five-segment solid rocket boosters, upper stage and Orion spacecraft. It will then be rolled out to Launch Complex 39B for final tests and, ultimately, the Artemis 1 launch.

“With the delivery of the SLS core stage for Artemis 1, we have all the parts of the rocket at Kennedy for the first Artemis mission,” John Honeycutt, SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

That launch is notionally scheduled for late this year, although NASA has not provided an updated launch date for the uncrewed test flight. The NASA statement about the arrival of the core stage at KSC did not mention its launch date.

NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk, speaking at an April 27 Space Transportation Association webinar, said the plan is still to launch Artemis 1 before the end of the year. “We’re still trying our best to get that launch off by the end of this calendar year,” he said. “That will be challenging given some of the delays that we had.”

Those delays, he said, include the technical challenges suffered by the core stage during the Green Run tests, as well as those caused by weather and the pandemic. Jurczyk said later that those issues consumed nearly all of the margin in the schedule for a launch this year.

“The schedule for Artemis 1 will be really challenging,” he said. “If things go really, really well on integration of SLS and integrating Orion on the mobile launch platform and rolling out, we have a chance to launch by the end of the calendar year.”

“But this is first-time flow on a vehicle at KSC,” he added, meaning that this is the first time they have gone through the steps of assembling the vehicle components and going through prelaunch processing. “We’ll undoubtedly encounter some challenges, so we don’t have a lot of schedule reserve against launching by the end of the calendar year.”

“If we can hit those major milestones and make progress, we’ve got a shot,” he said. “If we start missing those milestones, then may have to think about whether we can make it this year or not.”

Bill Nelson, the Biden administration’s nominee to be NASA administrator, hinted at his confirmation hearing April 21 that the launch might slip to next year. “The first of the Artemis mission launches within the next year,” he stated in the written version of his opening statement, a time frame that would extend into early 2022.

“At the end of the year, perhaps early next year, you’re going to see the largest rocket ever — most powerful — launched,” he said of SLS during the hearing. “It will be the workhorse on the program of going back to the moon and then on to Mars.”

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Source: https://spacenews.com/sls-core-stage-arrives-at-ksc-but-faces-challenging-schedule/

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Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne is returning to space in June

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Orbital launch company Virgin Orbit has scheduled its next mission to space.

Virgin Orbit will be returning its LauncherOne rocket to orbit in June to deliver payloads for the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program, SatRevolution, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The manifest includes three CubeSat satellites as part of the DoD’s Rapid Agile Launch Initiative; a CubeSat satellite called BRIK II, Norway’s first military satellite to go to space; and two optical imaging satellites from SatRevolution for Earth observation. DoD awarded the launch to Virgin Orbit’s defense-focused subsidiary VOX Space last April.

LauncherOne will take its payload to a target orbit of around 310 miles above Earth.

This will be the LauncherOne’s first take-off since a demonstration mission in January, during which the LauncherOne carried satellites to low Earth orbit on behalf of NASA. That most recent demonstration was the first time Virgin Orbit proved that its unique hybrid aircraft/orbital rocket system actually works. The first try, which took place in May of last year, ended after the rocket initiated an automatic safety shutdown after detaching from the Boeing 747 that takes it to launch altitude.

The mission will be conducted from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on a yet-to-be-announced date in June. The rocket will be shipped out to the Mojave site “in the coming days” for prelaunch operations, the company said. Virgin Orbit will offer a public livestream of the mission on its website.

Virgin Orbit is part of a small cohort of private orbital launch companies that have actually sent payloads to space. As opposed to providers like SpaceX, which uses massive rockets similar to legacy designs from agencies like NASA, LauncherOne is essentially a 747 that’s been retrofitted with a rocket. Besides being smaller and able to take off from traditional airplane runways, the 747 saves on costs by being completely reusable.

Virgin Orbit was spun out of Virgin Galactic in 2017, with the latter focusing exclusively on commercial human spaceflight services. In homage to its beginnings as a humble record company, the mission has been christened “Tubular Bells, Part One,” so named after the first track on the first album ever released by Virgin Records.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/05/06/virgin-orbits-launcherone-is-returning-to-space-in-june/

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Isar Aerospace wins three-way DLR microlauncher competition

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VALLETTA, Malta — German launch startup Isar Aerospace beat out Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse Technologies to win a DLR endorsement that clears the way for it to secure 11 million euros from the European Space Agency’s Boost! program. 

DLR, Germany’s space agency, announced its microlauncher competition May 15, 2020 as a multi-round funding drive aimed at promoting the development of domestic smallsat launchers. The competition is funded by the German government and managed through the ESA Boost! program, which aims to foster commercial launch capabilities in Europe.

Isar Aerospace, Rocket Factory Augsburg, and HyImpulse, the three launch startups that qualified for the competition, received 500,000 euros in ESA Boost! funding in November. Those initial awards funded specific development goals in preparation for the competition’s two main rounds, each worth 11 million euros in ESA funding.

The first round is now all but decided following DLR’s April 30 announcement that it has chosen Isar Aerospace to receive a DLR letter of support required to submit a formal service proposal to ESA. The agency will review Isar’s proposal and enter into negotiations with the company before signing a launch contract and awarding the 11 million euros in development funding. As the sole submission for the award, this process is largely a formality.

Isar has raised more than $90 million in private funding since 2019, including a $75 million Series B round led by European venture capital fund Lakestar. 

In a statement, Isar Aerospace CEO Daniel Metzler called the announcement a significant milestone for launch services in Europe.

“We are particularly pleased about the paradigm shift this implies: For the first time, a government contract has been awarded to a purely privately financed space launch startup in Europe. The government is no longer funding technological development but is becoming an anchor customer.”

In return for the 11 million euros in funding, Isar Aerospace will be required to launch two 150-kilogram payloads of the German government’s choosing over two flights.

The institutional payloads will be carried to orbit aboard Isar Aerospace Spectrum rockets, a two-stage rocket designed to deliver up to 700 kilograms of payload to sun-synchronous orbit. 

The maiden flight of the Spectrum rocket is currently slated for mid 2022. However, Isar Aerospace spokeswoman Anna-Lena Lämmle told SpaceNews that the launch date would be dependent on whether the launch pad being built by Andøya Space in Norway would be fully operational in time.

There could be more than one winner

While Isar Aerospace prevailed over Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse Technologies to win DLR’s endorsement for the first 11 million euros, all three companies remain in the running for an additional 11 million euros that will be awarded under Boost! next year.

“In the current round of the microlauncher competition, Isar Aerospace Technologies has come out on top, but HyImpulse Technologies and Rocket Factory Augsburg have also made significant progress,” said Walther Pelzer, the head of DLR. “In this close race, both companies and their promising concepts have another chance to receive funding of 11 million euros in April 2022.”

DLR has not spelled out the criteria for the 2022 award, at least not publicly, but the date roughly coincides with when all three companies currently expect to fly their competing rockets for the first time. In November, when ESA divided 1.5 million euros between the three, at least two of the companies (Isar and RAF) were still shooting for late 2021 maiden launches. 

The DLR microlauncher is funded through 25 million euros Germany pledged to ESA’s Boost! program at the Space19+ ministerial council meeting in Seville in November 2019. In addition to German launch startups, the program has assisted in fostering launch startups in the United Kingdom. Through funding pledged to Boost! by the U.K. government at Space19+, Orbital Launch Express (Orbex) and Skyrora were awarded a combined €10.45 million.

In response to the news that Isar Aerospace had won DLR’s endorsement, Rocket Factory Augsburg spokesman Ibrahim Ata told SpaceNews that the competition was more about prestige and would not have made a material impact on operations.

“It would have been great to win this from a prestige point of view but in terms of operations, it’s not much,” said Ata. “We congratulate the winner and we will enter the next round of the competition. Until then we will continue to extend our technological lead.”

Rocket Factory Augsburg is designing its RFA One rocket to carry 1,300 kilograms to a 300-kilometer polar orbit. Over the last two months, RFA has secured three launch contracts from other parts of its parent company OHB SE and completed an initial ignition test of the rocket engine that will power the RFA One. In February, RFA announced that it was embarking on a 25-million-euro financing round with the aim of setting up serial production of its 3 million euros per launch rocket. 

HyImpulse Technologies, meanwhile, is developing its three-stage SL1 rocket, which is designed to carry payloads of up to 500 kilograms to low Earth orbit. HyImpulse, a spinoff of DLR, announced in March that it entered a strategic partnership with rideshare specialist Exolaunch [PDF] for end-to-end launch services. 

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Source: https://spacenews.com/isar-aerospace-beat-out-competitors-to-win-dlr-microlauncher-competition/

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TT Electronics’ UK facility achieves AS9100D certification

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TT Electronics, a global provider of engineered electronics for performance critical applications, has announced that its Eastleigh UK facility has achieved AS9100D certification for the manufacture of systems for the aerospace industry.

This certification marks TT’s ongoing commitment to provide innovative, safety-critical solutions to the global aerospace supply chain.

AS9100, standardised by the globally recognised International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG), is considered the highest international standard for quality assurance across the aviation, space, and defence industries, and has been widely adopted to promote quality, safety, and continuous product and process improvement.

Upgrading the Eastleigh facility to meet AS9100D, the most current version of the standard, was the result of a lengthy audit process in which TT demonstrated a high level of excellence in all areas of the company’s quality management system. The Eastleigh location is the 12th TT location worldwide to meet the rigorous requirements of AS9100 certification, strengthening the company’s position as a leading aerospace manufacturing partner – dedicated to providing custom technology solutions.

“This certification is an important step in our aerospace growth strategy. Our facility in Eastleigh, which is also SC21 accredited, specialises in the design and manufacture of aircraft interior solutions for commercial aircraft,” said TT Electronics EVP, Charlie Peppiatt. “TT has supported technology innovations in this sector for decades, including lightweight, space-saving, and power-efficient cabin signage and mood lighting. While we have always been focused on providing our customers with quality products and services, achieving the AS9100D certification is a well-earned achievement that confirms our steadfast emphasis on quality management.”

TT’s Eastleigh plant has manufactured HMI products for the aircraft interiors market for over 30 years and holds SC21 accreditation, a designation that recognises its commitment to increase the performance of suppliers and ultimately their supply chains within the UK aerospace, security, space, and defence industries.

The company’s control panel and signage solutions are onboard many major airlines globally, including business and first class cabins.

www.ttelectronics.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/tt-electronics-uk-facility-achieves-as9100d-certification/

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ADDEV Materials acquires industry textiles specialist TPI

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ADDEV Materials has acquired TPI, expanding its offer in aeronautics.

By acquiring TPI, ADDEV Materials completes its chemical products offering with high- performance textiles for technical cleaning in the aerospace and defence markets.

“The acquisition of TPI is a continuation of ADDEV Materials’ strategic plan for growth in the aeronautics, defence, and space markets. TPI’s know-how and expertise complement and reinforce our position as an international player specializing in customized chemical products specifically adapted to the requirements of these markets”, commented Julien Duvanel, CEO aerospace & defence.

For 40 years, the French manufacturer TPI (Textile Pour l’Industrie), based in Saint-Nom-la- Bretèche (78), has specialised in the aeronautics and defence markets, gaining expertise in the manufacture of a purified cotton textile for cleaning of technical parts.

Due to its composition and design, this fabric, manufactured in France, doesn’t contaminate or pill, and therefore has the advantage of not leaving any residue or fibres during cleaning and wiping operations on high-tech parts. TPI also has experience in trading chemical products, allowing it to offer a wide array of products and services as well as responsiveness to its major clients.

“I am delighted that the future of TPI is now joined with that of ADDEV Materials, which will ensure the sustainability and growth of our activities”, said Jean Marc Vincent, president of TPI.

www.addevmaterials.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/addev-materials-acquires-industry-textiles-specialist-tpi/

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