Good morning. Are y’all recovered from last week’s deluge of space news? Buckle up for what this week has in store.
♻️ Rocket Lab’s reusability
🛰️ ViaSat has a problem…again
🗓️ The week ahead
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Rocket Lab’s Electron Booster is Going Reusable
Image: Rocket Lab
For Rocket Lab ($RKLB), the well-worn proverb is proving true: Everything old is new again.
The startup is planning to launch its Electron rocket with only reused engines on a future mission TBD, the company’s CEO Peter Beck said Thursday on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Beck announced the first stage full reusability goal just one day after the startup successfully launched Electron with one previously-flown engine onboard. The achievement places Rocket Lab alongside SpaceX and the shuttle as the only orbital rocket engines to achieve reuse.
Electron workhorse: Rocket Lab’s Electron micro-lift rocket has been the second most prolific commercial launch vehicle over the last couple of years, behind SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
The company is on track to hit 15 flights this year.
Electron is capable of ferrying 300 kg to LEO.
The average price tag is ~$7.5M per launch.
Despite the high launch cadence, Rocket Lab’s launch services remain unprofitable, driving heavy financial losses.
The company believes the move to reused Electron engine flights will reduce expenses as engines can make up more than half the booster cost. However, it’s unclear how much they could save, since engine recovery and refurb costs can also add up.
Rocket Lab recovers its Electron booster by making a parachute-softened landing in the ocean, followed by an immediate boat recovery to protect the engines from saltwater erosion.
Although performed at a very different scale, as an example, SpaceX spends ~$2M to recover its Falcon 9 boosters on a pad at sea and ~$1M to refurbish the vehicle.
Neutron reusability: Rocket Lab is designing its next-gen medium-lift Neutron with a fully reusable booster rocket. With a targeted 13,000 kg to LEO capacity and $50M launch price tag, Rocket Lab expects to achieve 50% margins on Neutron, as reported by CNBC.
The margin boost gained from reusability has propelled an industry-wide shift. Nearly all launch companies are now attempting to incorporate reuse in their next-gen vehicle designs.
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Viasat’s I6 F2 Satellite Malfunctions
A Viasat ($VSAT) communications satellite has malfunctioned, the company announced Thursday, marking the second such failure within the span of a month.
This time, the issue is with a new member of the Inmarsat fleet, which Viasat acquired in May. The I6 F2 satellite launched in February as a backup, providing spare L-band and Ka-band capacity “consistent with deploying and operating a resilient, redundant network," CEO Mark Dankberg said in a statement. The Airbus-made satellite suffered a power failure while on its way to its planned orbit and never began service.
The company emphasized that the power issue won’t interfere with existing services or impact its revenue prospects for the year. Still, it’s looking unlikely that it’ll be able to salvage the satellite.
Flashback: In mid-July, Viasat announced that the $750M ViaSat-3 Americas satellite had failed to deploy a reflector—a malfunction that would keep it from performing to its full capacity. The company’s shares dropped >28% in one day, the largest single-day loss in the company’s history, and its price has not yet recovered.
Viasat is still investigating the issue with the satellite, but the forecast isn’t looking good.
Market check: Viasat revealed news of the I6 F2 malfunction on Thursday. Since then, $VSAT is down ~6%.
Join Our Next Webinar!
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How Italy markets itself to space companies
The challenges of marketing a country
In Other News
A Costco in Japan has reportedly started selling Starlink hardware in stores.
NASA came to an agreement with Russia to fly another US astronaut on a Soyuz launch.
India’s lunar rover has taken temperature readings of the Moon’s surface.
SpaceX completed a full duration Starship Booster 9 static fire.
ULA rolled out its Atlas V rocket ahead of an NRO launch this week
New Mexico’s Spaceport America added $138M to the state’s economy last year.
Crew-7’s Dragon capsule docked with the ISS.
Japan scrubbed the launch of its Slim lunar lander due to high winds.
The Week Ahead
All times in Eastern.
Monday, Aug. 28: The UN will host a five-day working group on reducing space threats.
Tuesday, Aug. 29: At 8:34am, ULA plans to launch an NRO mission aboard its Atlas V rocket. At 12pm, the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee will kick off two days of meetings.
Wednesday, Aug. 30: At 4:08am, China is slated to launch its Long March 2D rocket with an undisclosed payload. At 5pm, NASA will host a conference to discuss the return of Bennu asteroid samples.
Thursday, Aug. 31: At 10am, SpaceX is slated to launch Tranche 0 Transport and Tracking layer birds out of Vandenberg for the SDA. At 7:45pm, SpaceX plans to launch a batch of Starlink birds out of Cape Canaveral.
Friday, Sept. 1: At 9:05am, Crew-6 will undock from the ISS and begin its journey home.
Saturday, Sept. 2: At 2:20am, India is scheduled to launch its Aditya-L1 aboard its PSLV rocket. No earlier than 9:38 am, Crew-6 will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.
Sunday, Sept. 3: At 9pm, SpaceX plans to launch a batch of Starlinks out of Kennedy Space Center.
The View from Space
The bejeweled galaxy ESO 300-16, as captured by Hubble, can still make the whole place shimmer.