Welcome to Edition 4.27 of the Rocket Report! And after two weeks away, the Rocket Report is back. I’d like to say I’m tanned, rested, and ready, but hey, one out of three isn’t bad. Anyway, there’s a ton of news to report after the holiday hiatus, so let’s jump right into it.
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.
Ukrainian investor asked to divest from Firefly. The US government has requested that Max Polyakov, a wealthy Ukrainian tech entrepreneur, sell his stake in the rocket company Firefly Aerospace Inc., Bloomberg reports. The military cited national security concerns in making the request. Polyakov backed Firefly with $200 million in 2017 after it declared bankruptcy and is credited with turning the company around. Polyakov had already stepped back from Firefly’s board of directors a year ago.
Alpha on hold … Government and aerospace industry officials, however, have continued to express objections to Polyakov’s control of the company amid fears that valuable technology could make its way to Ukraine, Russia, or other nations trying to develop rocket programs. Polyakov has agreed to sell his 50 percent ownership stake in the company for the sake of Firefly. In the meantime, it appears that work toward the second launch of the company’s Alpha rocket at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California has been put on hold. (Submitted by Ken the Bin)
Design flaw cited in Korean rocket failure. The failed October debut of South Korea’s first domestically built rocket, the KSLV-2, is being blamed on improperly anchored helium tanks inside the three-stage rocket’s upper stage, SpaceNews reports. The kerosene and liquid oxygen-fueled rocket released its dummy payload into an unsustainable orbit when its upper-stage engine shut down 46 seconds early. A failure investigation led by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute found that improperly designed structures allowed helium tanks inside the upper stage to come loose during flight, resulting in a leak that deprived the rocket’s engine of liquid oxygen.
Fortifying the anchors … The helium tanks with the faulty anchors were inside the upper stage’s oxidizer tank, which was filled with liquid oxygen needed for the rocket’s ignition. As the helium tanks came loose, they disrupted pipelines within the oxidizer tank and led the liquid oxygen to leak, resulting in early termination of the ignition. The issue will be corrected by fortifying the helium tank anchors in the KSLV-2. A second test flight of the KSLV rocket should come later this year. (Submitted by Ken the Bin)
FAA approves Georgia spaceport. The long-running saga over whether proponents of a spaceport in coastal Georgia could move ahead appeared to reach a conclusion in December when the Federal Aviation Administration issued Spaceport Camden a site operator’s license on December 20. But then the project hit another snag over a land dispute.
Will it come to a vote? The Current reports that Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett issued a temporary restraining order preventing Camden County from closing on the purchase of the 4,000-acre Union Carbide tract where the county intends to build a spaceport. Opponents requested the restraining order on behalf of themselves and about 4,000 other county voters who signed a petition seeking a referendum on the purchase of the property. (Submitted by Ken the Bin)