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A rocket operated by a California-based startup failed near the coast of Alaska Tuesday, marking another mishap for… Companies that hope to provide their services to launch dozens of small satellites into orbit.
Privately owned ABL Space Systems attempted an RS1 rocket launch at 1:27 p.m. local time (5:27 p.m. ET) in Alaska. But the company confirmed shortly afterward that there had been an “anomaly,” a space-related term for a problem or error, and that the rocket “shut down prematurely.”
“This is not the outcome we were hoping for today, but it is the outcome we have prepared for. We will be back with additional information as it becomes available.” the company said in a tweet. “Thank you everyone for the support.”
The mission was to carry two small satellites into orbit around OmniTeq, which recently separated from its space division. The company signed on an agreement to launch ABL for the first time in 2021 when it was still operating under the name L2 Aerospace.
Tuesday’s attempt to launch ABL was the second failure in two days for a burgeoning new industry: ABL is one among a long list of companies seeking the same market – offering relatively cheap and easy access to launch services to operators. Small satellites, which in years past had to wait for more space to open up on board larger missiles.
On Monday, Virgin Orbit, a direct competitor to ABL that is attempting to launch its first mission from the UK, acknowledged that its air-launched rocket Failed to reach orbit.
The core of the business model backed by companies like ABL and Virgin Orbit is to offer frequent flights into space and make the operation more responsive to the needs of small satellite companies, including those that primarily build huge constellations of satellites in Low Earth orbit For a variety of purposes, such as providing satellite internet or monitoring Earth’s climate and resources.
These include small spacecraft Smallsatswhich is about as big as a family-sized kitchen refrigerator, and is called a popular subset of SmallSats CubeSats, which are miniature standard satellites that can be smaller than a shoebox.
Startups make rockets much smaller than the Falcon 9 rocket that powers SpaceX, for example. But so far, the new class of smaller missiles has not proven as reliable as their larger counterparts. Almost every startup in the industry has experienced at least one launch failure.
In a crowded field, ABL was hoping to join a short list of US-based projects that had achieved at least one successful mission. The first, in 2018, was Rocket Lab, which to date has more than two dozen successful launches and three failures. startups Astra And firefly It has also delivered satellites into orbit – and so has suffered setbacks.
These companies may soon be joined by another startup, Relativity, which is currently preparing its first rocket at a launch site in Florida.
While all of these rockets destined to launch small satellites are taking off, they are facing competition from larger rockets that are starting to provide certain services to the same market. SpaceX, for example, started SmallSat”Share the tripIn 2019 with its huge Falcon 9 rocket, the company has so far launched six missions dedicated to small satellites for various clients.
Monday’s failed ABL launch comes after the first few attempts to launch the RS1 rocket to Earth failed in December. The company worked through several technical issues, including a faulty sensor and pressure issues, to get the RS1 ready for Tuesday’s flight attempt.
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