This Week in Spaceflight: Test Flight of 3D-Printed Rocket, OneWeb Finishes Satellite Swarm, and More
The Indian Space Research Organization is preparing to launch 36 internet satellites for OneWeb, as the British company seeks to complete its first constellation and enable global-wide service. It’s one of several important launches planned for the coming week.
OneWeb won’t be the only company launching internet satellites to orbit this week, with SpaceX also planning to add to its satellite fleet. Over in Russia, a classified payload appears set to go, in what is another busy week in spaceflight. As always, the dates and times listed are subject to change.
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For multi-continental Rocket Lab, the beat goes on
Rocket Lab’s attempt at multi-continental launches within the same month is set to conclude later this week. The first of these two launches happened on Thursday, March 16, when the Long Beach company sent its Electron to space from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
So how do we launch a rocket to space, bring it back to Earth under a parachute, splash it down in the ocean, and then pick it up with a boat to return it to our rocket factory? Pretty much like this.
Our next marine recovery mission launches March 22nd, weather dependent 🌧️🌬️☀️ pic.twitter.com/VA5XFHGxTS
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) March 19, 2023
The second mission, named “The Beat Goes On,” is scheduled for Wednesday with the launch window opening at 4:45 a.m. ET. An Electron will once again be recruited for the job, its task is to deliver two Earth-imaging satellites for BlackSky. The rocket will attempt to blast off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand.
A third launch attempt for Relativity Space’s 3D-printed rocket
Three is—hopefully—the number. After failed attempts to launch on March 6 and March 11, Relativity Space is ready for a third crack at it. The California-based company is targeting Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. ET for the launch of Terran 1 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida. As before, the company will work within a three-hour launch window.
If successful, the mission, named “Good Luck, Have Fun,” would establish three (there’s that number again) important milestones. It would mark the first time that a private company successfully launched a new rocket to orbit during its first flight, it would be the first methane-powered rocket to successfully reach Earth orbit, and it would be the first rocket built primarily from 3D components (again, three) to reach space. “Nighttime skies mean very cool methane rocket engine plumes,” the company tweeted on March 17.
The final launch to complete OneWeb’s internet satellite constellation
OneWeb has been steadily building its internet satellite constellation since 2020, with 579 units currently operating in low Earth orbit. It’s been a bumpy ride, but the British company is on the verge of completing its satellite swarm. The Indian Space Research Organization has been tasked with the job, and it will attempt to deliver 36 satellites with its GLSV Mk III rocket on Saturday, March 25 at 11:30 p.m. ET. The launch will take place from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
Related article: OneWeb Has Given Up on Trying to Get Its Hijacked Satellites Back From Russia
The obligatory SpaceX Starlink launch
NextSpaceflight says SpaceX is planning to launch another batch of Starlink satellites on Friday at 11:33 a.m. ET. The Falcon 9 will fly out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. If successful, it’ll be SpaceX’s 20th mission of the year, setting the company on pace for roughly 90 space missions in 2023.
Another classified Russian launch
On Thursday, a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket, packed with a classified payload, will attempt to launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast, according to Russian Space Web. Next Spaceflight suspects the payload of being an EMKA reconnaissance satellite, but that’s speculation at this point.
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