New space rocket models are expected to launch in 2024
Several new European and American rockets will launch next year, as the aerospace industry lacks launch vehicles due to the increased number of satellites.
The Ariane 6 rocket at the European Spaceport launch site in Kourou, Guiana, France, June 22. Photo: AFP
The Ariane 6 rocket was developed by ArianeGroup, a company based in France, for the European Space Agency (ESA). This rocket model is expected to make its first journey from June 15 to July 31, 2024 after 4 years of delay due to Covid-19 and other difficulties. The project was launched in 2014 as Europe's response to the strong development of Falcon 9, a rocket model produced by the American company SpaceX. Based on the Ariane 5, the Ariane 6 will be half as cheap as its predecessor thanks to new production methods.
Currently, Ariane 6 has plans for 28 launches. This rocket has two versions, the more powerful version is capable of carrying 11.5 tons of cargo into geostationary orbit and 21.6 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit. Once Ariane 6 goes into operation, the challenge for ArianeGroup will be to increase production. "Going from producing two missiles to nine missiles per year is a major industrial challenge," said CEO Martin Sion.
Banned from flying since December 2022 after the failure of the first commercial flight, the Vega C rocket produced by the Italian space company Avio is expected to launch again in the fourth quarter of next year. The incident was caused by a broken rocket engine nozzle, forcing experts to redesign it. The Vega C rocket is about 35 m high with a takeoff mass of 210 tons.
The lack of small rockets forced ESA to rely on America's SpaceX to launch several scientific satellites and European GPS satellites. If launched successfully, Vega C will help overcome this problem.
United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin of the US, develops the Vulcan Centaur rocket to replace the old launch vehicles Atlas V and Delta IV. After completing the first flights, ULA will begin recovering and reusing the first stage of the rocket. Reuse and other improvements make Vulcan Centaur much more affordable than its predecessors, according to Tory Bruno, CEO of ULA.
Vulcan Centaur can carry 27.2 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit, equivalent to a Falcon 9 rocket. The first launch of Vulcan Centaur is expected to take place in early January 2024. In this mission, a private lunar lander could become the first American craft to land on the Moon since the Apollo program ended. In the second mission, the rocket will take the new Dream Chaser spacecraft of the American company Sierra Space into space in the second quarter of 2024. This mini shuttle will be responsible for resupplying the International Space Station ( ISS).
SpaceX will continue testing the giant Starship launch system in 2024. The first two flights after the rocket system was fully assembled ended with an explosion. SpaceX said that explosions in the early stages of rocket development are well received and help make design choices faster. During the second flight in November 2023, the two stages of the rocket successfully separated before exploding and did not cause major damage to the launch pad.
The Starship launch system exploded during its second test flight in November 2023. Video: WSJ
Starship is the largest and most powerful launch vehicle ever built with a height of approximately 121 m. NASA is closely monitoring Starship's development. The agency has signed a contract to use a version of Starship as a lunar lander for Artemis missions.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk predicts Starship can launch again in a few weeks. However, the next launch will not take place until the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approves it.
Blue Origin, the company of US-based billionaire Jeff Bezos, has taken tourists to the edge of space on short flights using the New Shepard suborbital rocket. But the company is also developing a larger rocket, the New Glenn, 98 meters tall with the ability to carry 45 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit. This number is more than double the Falcon 9 rocket, but still smaller than SpaceX's Falcon Heavy with a carrying capacity of 63.8 tons.
"We plan to launch in 2024," a Blue Origin spokesman said of New Glenn. One of the rocket's first flights will help NASA's EscaPADE spacecraft perform a mission to study the Martian magnetosphere. New Glenn is also part of the lunar landing system that NASA ordered for the Artemis 5 mission.
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