Rocket Report: SpaceX launches Korea to Moon, Georgia’s disputed spaceport

Enlarge / An Atlas V rocket launches a Space Infrared System satellite Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base.

Trevor Mahlman

Welcome to Rocket Report 5.05! Don’t look now, but we could be less than four weeks away from launching NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. I’ve covered this booster for a dozen years and I’m so ready for this ultimately occur. I have a lot of coverage planned in the weeks to come.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please sign up using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP versions of the site). Each report will contain information on small, medium and heavy rockets as well as a quick overview of the next three launches on the schedule.

Georgia spaceport sues to force land sale. Camden County’s first citizens voted overwhelmingly against a proposed spaceport in southeast Georgia. Then the 4,000-acre owner wanted by spaceport developers said he would end a deal to sell the land to backers of the Spaceport Camden project. Even so, the Camden County commissioners refuse to give up on the dream of building a spaceport that local residents don’t want and the landowner doesn’t want to sell for. So they sued the landowner, Union Carbide Corporation, in court, News4Jax reports.

Ignore voters … Last month, in a statement, Union Carbide said: “As a result (of the election), there is no longer an option agreement between the county and UCC, and UCC does not intend to transfer ownership to the County pursuant to the previous option agreement.” In filing the lawsuit, Steve Howard, the county government administrator for Camden, wrote: “Union Carbide most certainly has a contract with Camden. The county has indicated that it is ready, willing and able to close. We expect Union Carbide to honor its contract. Commitments.” At some point, you have to wonder why the local authorities are so determined to build this spaceport. (Submitted by zapman987 and Ken the Bin)

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The debut of the solid rocket is a success. Chinese launch service provider CAS Space successfully placed six small satellites into orbit early Wednesday with the first launch of the Lijian-1 solid-state rocket, Space News reports. Lijian-1 is now China’s largest operational solid launch vehicle, and CAS Space is also developing larger rockets. The 30-meter-tall Lijian-1 rocket can carry 1,500 kilograms of payload into a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit.

Derivative designs … CAS Space is a quasi-commercial spin-off of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Parent company CAS develops a range of spacecraft, including Beidou satellites, and has already launched sounding rockets. Although Wednesday’s orbital launch marks a big step forward, solid rockets appear to be just the start of CAS Space’s ambitions. The company is also working on reusable liquid engines with the aim of developing recoverable launchers. A new website unveiled by the company recently showed renders of launch vehicles similar to the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and New Shepard launchers. (submitted by EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)

US companies complete palooza launch on August 4. Thursday was a busy day for US launch vendors. Beginning at 05:00 UTC, Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle launched mission NROL-199 into low Earth orbit for the US National Reconnaissance Office. Then, at 10:29 UTC on Thursday, United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket sent a Space Based Infrared System satellite into orbit for the US Space Force. Finally, at 13:37 UTC, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launched the NS-22 suborbital space tourism mission.

Next, SpaceX … On Thursday evening, attention turned to SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket, which was to launch the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter spacecraft to the Moon. The rocket launched at 23:09 UTC from Cape Canaveral, Florida and was successful. I can’t remember a time when four different American rockets were launched on the same calendar day, but it probably won’t be the last time, given all the development of new American boosters big and small. We are truly entering an era of launch abundance. (submitted by EllPeaTea and Ken the Bin)

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