Main Engine Cut Off

Thanks to August Patrons

Very special thanks to the 306 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off on Patreon for the month of August. MECO is entirely listener- and reader-supported, and it’s your support keeps this blog and podcast going, growing, and improving, and most importantly, it keeps it independent.

And a huge thanks to the 40 executive producers of Main Engine Cut Off: Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Jamison, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Rui, Julian, Lars, Tommy, Adam, Sam, and six anonymous executive producers.

If you’re getting some value out of what I do here and want to help support Main Engine Cut Off, head over to Patreon and join the crew of supporters and producers!

There are other ways to help support, too: head over to the shop and buy yourself a shirt or a pair of Rocket Socks, tell a friend, or post a link to something I’m writing or talking about on Twitter or in your favorite subreddit. Spreading the word is an immense help to an independent creator like myself.

T+131: Andrew Rush, CEO of Made in Space

Andrew Rush, CEO of Made in Space, joins me to talk about their big new NASA contract for Archinaut One and the history, present, and future of in-space manufacturing.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 40 executive producers—Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Jamison, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut, Frank, Rui, Julian, Lars, Tommy, Adam, Sam, and six anonymous—and 265 other supporters.

Astrobotic to Fly on First Vulcan Flight

Astrobotic, the world leader in commercial delivery to the Moon, was selected by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver up to 14 NASA payloads to the Moon on its Peregrine lunar lander in 2021. With this $79.5 million CLPS award, Astrobotic has now signed 16 customers for lunar delivery on its first mission.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander will launch on a Vulcan Centaur rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch of this mission will serve as the first of two certification flights required for ULA’s U.S. Air Force certification process.

I could pretty much copy and paste my thoughts from last week about Dream Chaser flying on Vulcan: not surprising news since we had expected Atlas V, and I wonder what will happen if Vulcan doesn’t get to be a part of the next round of Air Force contracts.

I also wonder what ULA would do if Astrobotic’s flight is delayed. At that point, schedule would be more critical for ULA than making good on what I presume is a free flight, so I’d guess they’d fly empty or throw Tory Bruno’s car on top.

It is notable that now all seven flights for Vulcan are shifted over from all-but-previously-announced agreements to fly on Atlas V—not exactly the sales record that makes me believe in Vulcan’s ability to be a commercial success. Ariane 6 is in a similar spot.

Orbital Services Program-4 RFP Released

OSP-4 is a follow-on to the OSP-3 contract that is set to expire in November. OSP-4 will allow for the rapid acquisition of launch services to meet mission requirements enabling launch within 12-24 months from task order award on a competitive basis. It is designed to accommodate payloads greater than 400 lbs. The Air Force projects to procure about 20 missions over the nine year period.

This is a big deal for the Air Force, with a lot of missions up for grabs for launch vehicles that can send 180 kilograms or more to orbit. It’s not the huge payloads like NSSL flies, but 20 missions for the most vibrant sector of the launch market is just as interesting to me.

Dream Chaser to Fly on Vulcan

Not surprising news, as until now we had expected Atlas V, but still notable.

It’s better news for ULA than it is for Sierra Nevada, but it’s not quite the type of commercial contract that we’d need to see for Vulcan to be a standalone success.

I’m still slightly weary that Vulcan will only exist if ULA wins part of the Air Force’s National Security Space Launch contracts. I expect the winners to be SpaceX and ULA, but at this point the program is so far down the political rabbit hole, that I really have no clue what will happen.

T+130: SmallSat Launch Roundup

SmallSat was last week which meant a flurry of announcements. This year was launch heavy, so I break down some announcements from SpaceX, Arianespace, and Rocket Lab.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 40 executive producers—Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Jamison, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut, Frank, Rui, Julian, Lars, Tommy, Adam, Sam, and six anonymous—and 259 other supporters.

SpaceX, Arianespace Smallsat Rideshare Flights

A pair of interesting smallsat rideshare announcements this morning: Arianespace announced their first (of many?) direct-to-GEO flight opportunities, and SpaceX began advertising—with pricing—the first 3 annual flights to a 600 kilometer sun-synchronous orbit.

The Arianespace flight is interesting because the small geostationary satellite trend is ramping up, but there haven’t been many flights booked just yet. Seems like Arianespace is betting on a few of those being ready to fly by 2022, and that sounds reasonable to me.

On the SpaceX side, the pricing is fantastic, and the no-delays-plus-rebooking policy is, too:

Dedicated rideshare missions will not be delayed by co-passenger readiness. Passengers who run into delays that prevent them from launching can apply 100% of monies paid towards the cost of rebooking on a subsequent mission. Depending on timing of change rebooking fees may apply.

There’s a lot of talk about how Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, and the like must be bummed to see these types of announcements—big launchers coming into the smallsat territory—but I don’t think that’s true. Dedicated launch will remain uniquely useful, regardless of satellite size.

Spaceflight, on the other hand, might feel differently. After watching SpaceX handle all of the payloads for STP-2 by themselves, they had to start getting nervous.

But on the other hand, after how much of an ordeal SSO-A was earlier this year, I’m not sure Spaceflight is really looking to fly more missions like that in the future, anyway.

Thanks to July Patrons

Very special thanks to the 292 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off on Patreon for the month of July. MECO is entirely listener- and reader-supported, and it’s your support keeps this blog and podcast going, growing, and improving, and most importantly, it keeps it independent.

And a huge thanks to the 40 executive producers of Main Engine Cut Off: Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Jamison, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Rui, Julian, Lars, Tommy, Adam, Sam, and six anonymous executive producers.

If you’re getting some value out of what I do here and want to help support Main Engine Cut Off, head over to Patreon and join the crew of supporters and producers!

There are other ways to help support, too: head over to the shop and buy yourself a shirt or a pair of Rocket Socks, tell a friend, or post a link to something I’m writing or talking about on Twitter or in your favorite subreddit. Spreading the word is an immense help to an independent creator like myself.