Rocket Update: SpaceX Assists Competitor; Endeavour Takes an Upright Position

The Rocket Report has highlighted the current dominance of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in US launch operations. With competition from Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket halted due to its retirement last year, Falcon 9 is currently the only US launch vehicle offering crew or cargo service to the International Space Station (ISS). This leaves SpaceX as the sole provider until United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V begins launching astronauts on Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule to the ISS.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic carried out its first suborbital mission of 2024 on January 26, marking the first time it has flown four customers along with its two pilots. The company has announced plans to wind down flights of its current spaceplane, VSS Unity, to focus on the development of its next-generation Delta class of suborbital vehicles.

In other news, Iran successfully launched a trio of small satellites into low-Earth orbit on January 28, marking the first successful flight of its Simorgh rocket after a series of past failures. The launch followed the successful deployment of a small remote-sensing payload into orbit by the Iranian military’s newest rocket, the Qaem 100, just eight days earlier.

Meanwhile, Rocket Lab kicked off its 2024 launch year with a recovery Electron mission from New Zealand on January 31. The launch released four Space Situational Awareness (SSA) satellites into orbit for Spire Global and NorthStar Earth & Space. Rocket Lab has announced more missions for 2024 than any previous year.

Spain’s PLD Space has won a significant loan from the Spanish government to develop its small launch vehicle, the Miura 5, with plans for its debut launch in late 2025 or early 2026. Lastly, Japanese company Space One has set a launch date for its Kairos rocket, aiming to become the first Japanese private company to launch a rocket into orbit. The first Kairos launch is slated for March 9.

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