The Electron launch vehicle is ready to soar.
Enlarge / The Electron launch vehicle is ready to soar.

Welcome to Edition 2.25 of the Rocket Report! Please note that there will be no report next week due to extreme laziness on the part of the author taking a week off from his day job to work on a book project. Thank you for your patience, and we’ll be back in mid-December.

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.

Rocket Lab to test reuse on 10th mission. The New Zealand company’s 10th flight of its Electron Rocket, delightfully named Running Out Of Fingers, will test some reuse technology for future recovery of the booster. The mission due to launch on December 6 will use an upgraded first stage, NASASpaceFlight.com reports.

Running out of rockets … The upgraded first stage includes a Reaction Control System, which will be used to orientate Electron rockets for recovery as well as guidance and navigation hardware such as a new S-band telemetry system and onboard flight computer. The company also said it has installed a new radar for tracking the rocket as part of its recovery. Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck says the company needs to start recovering Electrons to keep up with customer demand. (submitted by Platykurtic)

Scottish spaceport likely to be delayed. Plans to build the UK’s first vertical-launching spaceport in the Highlands have been delayed so that changes can be made to its design. The Highlands and Islands Enterprise has confirmed that an application for planning permission will not be lodged later this month, as was previously intended, the Press and Journal reports.

Future home of Orbex? … Instead, the development agency now expects to submit its proposals for the £17.3million ($23 million) plan in Sutherland to Highland Council “early in the new year.” The delays are due to the need for “design changes” which apparently include the “visual impact of the launch site.” Construction was supposed to begin in 2020 on the site from which Orbex plans to launch its small-satellite rocket.

Should Vostochny be named after Putin? Yes, a Russian anti-corruption activist says. Alexei Navalny, recently turned his attention toward the country’s space program. In an entertaining 13-minute video not unlike those produced by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO, Navalny tackles corruption surrounding the construction of the Vostochny Spaceport in far-eastern Russia, as well as the apparently lavish lifestyle of Roscosmos leader Dmitry Rogozin.

A failed project? … Rogozin has previously suggested naming the Vostochny spaceport after Putin. Navalny said this would be a great idea. “It’s a failed construction project whose construction took several years longer than promised,” Navalny says. “Its price has doubled in the process. Billions were stolen during construction. Of course it deserves to be named Vladimir Putin.”

SpaceX launches 19th space station mission. The Falcon 9 rocket launched on Thursday from Florida, delivering its Dragon spacecraft into orbit. The first stage then made a safe landing on a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The company’s webcast ended without any coverage of the second stage’s six-hour coast to demonstrate a capability for an unnamed customer.

One active rocket … This was the 10th Falcon 9 launch of 2019. Overall the rocket has now launched 76 times, Ars reports. Sometime in 2020, among rockets in active service, the Falcon 9 will almost certainly become the US booster with the most launch experience, surpassing the Atlas V. That rocket has launched 80 times, with one more mission scheduled for later this month—which is discussed in the next news item.

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Boeing test flight slips a couple of days. NASA said this week that Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, now is targeted for 6:59am EST Thursday, December 19. This represents a two-day delay.

Merry Christmas, y’all! … The space agency added that it, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance agreed to target the new date to allow ULA sufficient time to resolve an issue with the rocket’s purge air supply. The delay means that the Starliner team and flight controllers will now be working over the Christmas holiday during the approximately week-long mission. In addition to being hard, space rarely cares about the calendar. (submitted by Ken the Bin)

The Ariane fleet of rockets reaches big milestone. Last week, an Ariane 5 rocket launched from Europe’s primary spaceport in French Guiana. Normally, such launches garner little attention outside of aerospace circles because they’re typically successful and take place in a remote location—in the jungles of South America. (The photos were spectacular).

Four decades and counting … However, the launch of a pair of communications satellites to geostationary transfer orbit is notable because it marked the 250th time a member of the Ariane fleet of rockets—there have been five versions, Ariane 1 through 5. Moreover, on December 24, the Ariane family of rockets will celebrate its 40th anniversary. With the Ariane 6 booster coming as soon as 2020, the Ariane name should fly for some time yet.