ABL Space Systems initial launch fails

ABL Space Systems initial launch fails.

Jan. 10 saw the second loss of a commercial small launch vehicle in a 24-hour period when the RS1 rocket from ABL Space Systems’ initial launch failed to reach orbit. ABL Space Systems’ initial launch fails.

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At 6:27 p.m. Eastern, the corporation declared it will attempt to launch RS1 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island. Instead of streaming the event online, the corporation used social media to provide updates.

More than 20 minutes after the scheduled liftoff, the corporation declared that the launch had failed. The corporation said, “After liftoff, RS1 suffered an anomaly and shut down prematurely.”

In collaboration with PSCA and the FAA, the team is going through our anomaly response protocols. In later revisions, the manufacturer claimed that the first stage’s nine engines all shut down at once after liftoff, causing the rocket to crash to the launch pad and detonate.

The business stated, “This is not the result we were hoping for today, but one that we planned for.”

ABL has been working on a tiny launch vehicle called RS1 that could carry up to 1,350 kg into low Earth orbit. The two-stage spacecraft uses liquid oxygen and kerosene as propellants and has nine E2 engines in the first stage and one vacuum-optimized E2 engine in the upper stage.

 The RS1 carried two smallsats for OmniTeq on its first launch. The mission’s objectives included showcasing the Equalizer deployer from OmniTeq and testing the VariSat high-frequency radio payload.

After multiple scrubbed launch attempts in November and December, the failure finally occurred. Due to a valve failure in the pressurization system of the rocket’s lower stage fuel tank, the business aborted its maiden launch attempt on November 14 a half-hour before liftoff.

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When trying to ignite the first stage, a second attempt on November 17 made it to T-1.8 seconds before halting due to low pressure in half its gas generators. The organization came to the conclusion that the liquid oxygen in the car had not been adequately maintained.

Nov. 21 saw a third try, but it was called off at T-1.75 seconds due to low pressure in the system used to start the engine using TEA-TEB. As the pressure was slightly below the cutoff for stopping the launch, the corporation admitted that “this one was close” in a subsequent summary published on its website.

“RS1 would have taken off that day if we had been only 0.3% less cautious.”

Dec. 8 at T-6 minutes, ABL aborted a fourth attempt due to what the corporation later referred to as “unexpected electrical interference” with the rocket’s avionics. According to the corporation, the interference was only noticeable when the vehicle was carrying propellant.

Several hundre million dollars have been raise by ABL from venture capital companies, with Lockhe Martin serving as both a strategic investor and a significant client.

Lockheed chose the RS1 to carry out its “U.K. Pathfinder” launch from the SaxaVord Spaceport in the Shetland Islands later in 2023 after agreeing to a contract in April 2021 for as many as 58 RS1 launches until the end of the decade.

Nearly precisely 24 hours had passed since the LauncherOne rocket operated by Virgin Orbit had an incident during its “Start Me Up” mission from Spaceport Cornwall in England.

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The second stage was firing when the issue occurred, but the manufacturer hasn’t released any further information on the incident. After four straight successes, LauncherOne’s sixth mission ended in failure.

Additionally, it marks the fourth failed launch in less than a month. On Dec. 20, a Vega C rocket malfunctioned on its second flight.

Since a briefing the day following the mishap, neither Arianespace nor the European Space Agency has released any updates on their joint investigation into that incident.

The Chinese commercial launch company Landspace’s Zhuque-2 rocket had a problem on its initial launch on December 14. In an effort to become the first launch vehicle to use methane as fuel and reach orbit, Zhuque-2 was launch.

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