Author Topic: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?  (Read 4742 times)

Offline ringsider

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Starting a new thread.

I heard a fairly solid rumor that Lockheed Martin is considering launching Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle from northern Scotland in the UK.

I was sceptical because I just don't see how Scotland is a better site than what they have in New Zealand and USA but there is some evidence that they are looking at it.

Lockheed Martin won a small study of the area last year from the UK authorities (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-space-agency-invests-in-major-rd-projects) and are already a "strategic" investor in Rocket Lab.

The UK recently announced a funding program for small satellite launchers that is nominally fixed at 10 million but is actually unlimited - it can be increased to much larger amounts "in special cases".

So... if true, why is this a good idea? Maybe they see themselves winning a chunk of public cash that would allow them to acquire Rocket Lab outright as well gaining a European launch range? VCs are in it for the financial return and want to sell eventually, but Lockheed Martin is a spaceflight company and a good natural fit as an acquirer.

Apart from that you have to wonder why that makes sense.
« Last Edit: 02/22/2017 07:55 AM by ringsider »

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #1 on: 02/22/2017 09:31 AM »
Yes, I would have thought Rocket Lab launching from Poker Flats in Alaska would have made more sense.
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Online russianhalo117

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #2 on: 02/22/2017 03:16 PM »
Starting a new thread.

I heard a fairly solid rumor that Lockheed Martin is considering launching Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle from northern Scotland in the UK.

I was sceptical because I just don't see how Scotland is a better site than what they have in New Zealand and USA but there is some evidence that they are looking at it.

Lockheed Martin won a small study of the area last year from the UK authorities (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-space-agency-invests-in-major-rd-projects) and are already a "strategic" investor in Rocket Lab.

The UK recently announced a funding program for small satellite launchers that is nominally fixed at 10 million but is actually unlimited - it can be increased to much larger amounts "in special cases".

So... if true, why is this a good idea? Maybe they see themselves winning a chunk of public cash that would allow them to acquire Rocket Lab outright as well gaining a European launch range? VCs are in it for the financial return and want to sell eventually, but Lockheed Martin is a spaceflight company and a good natural fit as an acquirer.

Apart from that you have to wonder why that makes sense.

not launching retrograde polar orbits like what is considered currently from New Zealand

Offline wardy89

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #3 on: 02/22/2017 04:07 PM »
If something like this was to come to fruition i assume it has potential to be useful to European small sat manufactures as they wouldn't have to ship sats a far if the price is right of course.

The other factor is what orbits are realisticly achievable from Northern Scotland?

Online CameronD

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #4 on: 02/23/2017 05:17 AM »
The other factor is what orbits are realisticly achievable from Northern Scotland?

In summer ..or winter?!?  :o

New Zealand might get cold, but it doesn't get THAT cold!!  ;D
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Online Lars-J

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #5 on: 02/23/2017 06:25 AM »
If something like this was to come to fruition i assume it has potential to be useful to European small sat manufactures as they wouldn't have to ship sats a far if the price is right of course.

The other factor is what orbits are realisticly achievable from Northern Scotland?

Polar and retrograde orbits. Launching east would be problematic, but it depends where the first stage would fall, and what the Scandinavian countries would think of the overflight.

Offline Welsh Dragon

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #6 on: 02/23/2017 07:59 AM »
If something like this was to come to fruition i assume it has potential to be useful to European small sat manufactures as they wouldn't have to ship sats a far if the price is right of course.

The other factor is what orbits are realisticly achievable from Northern Scotland?

Polar and retrograde orbits. Launching east would be problematic, but it depends where the first stage would fall, and what the Scandinavian countries would think of the overflight.
Sun-sync type orbits might be problematic with the Faroe Islands in the way? Depends on exact launch site, and I'm sure a bit of trajectory shaping could solve probably solve that.

Offline Stevenzop

I have always wondered if a highly inclined trajectory heading east from Orkney or the north east mainland might work.  The north sea is pretty big, but I'm not sure what the rules on overflight actually are.  How big does the ocean need to be? I'm guessing the 2nd stage should be orbital before it passes over a population?

Map attached just so happens to show the distance from an uninhabited island...  :)

Offline ringsider

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #8 on: 02/23/2017 01:28 PM »
I have always wondered if a highly inclined trajectory heading east from Orkney or the north east mainland might work.  The north sea is pretty big, but I'm not sure what the rules on overflight actually are.  How big does the ocean need to be? I'm guessing the 2nd stage should be orbital before it passes over a population?

Map attached just so happens to show the distance from an uninhabited island...  :)
Interesting but I think the oil rigs might be an issue there.

Offline Welsh Dragon

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #9 on: 02/23/2017 01:49 PM »
I have always wondered if a highly inclined trajectory heading east from Orkney or the north east mainland might work.  The north sea is pretty big, but I'm not sure what the rules on overflight actually are.  How big does the ocean need to be? I'm guessing the 2nd stage should be orbital before it passes over a population?

Map attached just so happens to show the distance from an uninhabited island...  :)
Interesting but I think the oil rigs might be an issue there.
Yeah, that trajectory pretty much traces out some of the highest concentrations of oil and gas rigs, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/549618/UKCS_Offshore_Infrastructure.pdf (And that's just the UK ones, not the Norwegian ones etc). Good news is that the polar/sun sync trajectories look clear.

Offline douglas100

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #10 on: 02/23/2017 02:15 PM »
Yes, agree that easterly trajectories are a non starter for the reasons you give, but polar/sun synchronous should be OK. A launch site on the north coast, a bit east of Thurso would avoid Orkney. Dunreay was talked about as a possibility, some years ago.

As far as climate is concerned, wind would be more of a problem than temperature. (I live in a city which has the same latitude as Moscow and it's unusual for snow to lie on the ground here for any more than a few days at a time in winter.) We're talking about a coastal site which is warmed by the Gulf Stream. I don't think temperature is a show stopper.

Horizon http://www.horizonsas.com/faq/ are talking about launching their Black Arrow 2 from the north of Scotland. We'll see if that pans out. But I don't see any advantage whatsoever for Rocket Lab or LM to set up here (regrettably.)
Douglas Clark

Offline smfarmer11

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #11 on: 02/23/2017 04:37 PM »
The advantage would be the public money from the government, they could probably also net some from the ESA to for setting up in the UK.

Offline Davidthefat

How do we know that it's not the SPARK (Super Strypi) rocket? Sandia is operated by Lockheed Martin, but that's a totally different division than the UK branch. But why specifically did RL's Electron come to mind? Or are there other sources?

Might also be a stretch, but repurposing the Trident 2 missiles, which is already in service in the UK, or a legacy missile like the Polaris for suborbital or orbital flights might be a possibility.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #13 on: 02/23/2017 07:14 PM »
How do we know that it's not the SPARK (Super Strypi) rocket? Sandia is operated by Lockheed Martin, but that's a totally different division than the UK branch. But why specifically did RL's Electron come to mind? Or are there other sources?

Might also be a stretch, but repurposing the Trident 2 missiles, which is already in service in the UK, or a legacy missile like the Polaris for suborbital or orbital flights might be a possibility.
I don't know that but the information was very specific about Electron.

I think Super Strypi is basically dead though (?)

Offline Davidthefat


I think Super Strypi is basically dead though (?)

According to this post: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=27685.msg1623874#msg1623874

It's still alive. Certainly will stay alive if more money is injected into it (like the UK contract)
« Last Edit: 02/23/2017 09:47 PM by Davidthefat »

Offline Zingpc

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #15 on: 06/12/2017 08:10 PM »
Perhaps Beck has started a revolution in rocketry now that his electric prop pumps have been demonstrated to work. All that junk that they have to put on the engines is replaced with two shiny electric motors. And the usual five percent of propellent required to drive the turbopumps is replaced with batteries that save weight. It will be interesting to see how these scale from the tiny Rutherford engines.

Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #16 on: 06/12/2017 09:20 PM »
If something like this was to come to fruition i assume it has potential to be useful to European small sat manufactures as they wouldn't have to ship sats a far if the price is right of course.

Such as SSTL. The UK's forthcoming spaceflight bill might also offer regulatory advantages to launching from the UK. Along with logistical and regulatory benefits, there could also be bureaucratic advantages to launching the satellite from the country of origin (customs, export of technology etc).

Offline ringsider

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #17 on: 07/09/2017 03:44 PM »
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/scotland/highlands-give-scotland-a-boost-into-the-space-race-0knxnrrm9

Highlands give Scotland a boost into the space race

Lockheed Martin consortium backs a site in Sutherland as Britain’s first base for launching rockets into orbit

A remote peninsula on Scotland’s north coast could be the launchpad for Britain’s space ambitions after plans emerged for a rocket base in Sutherland.

A consortium that includes Lockheed Martin, the US aerospace firm, believes that the A’Mhoine peninsula, between Dounreay and Cape Wrath, is the best location in Britain for a facility from which satellites can be cata- pulted into orbit on the back of 20m rockets.

A detailed proposal has been submitted to the UK Space Agency (UKSA), which has met the Highland council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The HIE raised the idea of the rocket base last year.

The UKSA is understood to support the A’Mhoine proposal and believes that satellite technology can boost the economy amid a thirst for improved communication that can only be provided from space. The space agency boldly aims to capture 10% of the global space market, which is expected to be worth 400bn by 2030.

The Scottish facility — which would be the first to launch a rocket into orbit from the UK — could be operational by 2020 and generate more than 1bn over a decade.

Paul Davey, of the Lockheed Martin UK space programme, said: “We have submitted a proposal for grant funding into the UKSA satellite launch programme, the outcome of which will be known this summer. This follows more than two years of dialogue with the relevant Scottish agencies.”

The Space Industry Bill, recently introduced into the House of Lords, will be debated this week. It aims to license space activities and offer grants totalling 10m for consortia that want to launch satellites — or even manned space flights — from British soil.

While several sites are under consideration as space tourism hubs, including Prestwick in Ayrshire and Virgin Galactic’s Machrihanish in Argyll, launching satellites on behalf of the military, government and private industry offers the quickest, cheapest way to kick-start the country’s space ambitions.

The UKSA confirmed that the government “is not selecting a single national spaceport”.

“Our aim is to grow new markets in the UK for small satellite launch and sub- orbital flight, that might support multiple service providers or spaceports.”

The plan is reminiscent of the 1957 film Rockets Galore, in which a British military commander is tasked with investigating a launch base on a Scottish island.

Sources claim the A’Mhoine base would have a “modest” impact on the environment and pose no threat to public safety as spacecraft would be launched vertically over the Pentland Firth.

Up to eight rocket launches could be made a year, with each capable of carrying a 150kg payload*. This could include many as 12 small cube satellites that could be dropped into a 575-mile orbit above Earth.

It is envisaged that as the number of satellites grows, they can be linked to form powerful data-gathering “constellations” to aid scientific research and boost telecommunications.

The proposal is, however, likely to meet opposition, especially as an access road would have to be built across iconic wild land.

Helen McDade, head of policy at John Muir Trust, the conservation charity, pointed out that land around the proposed facility was designated as a national scenic area and noted for rare species such as greenshank and eagles.

HIE said the rocket proposal would involve “widespread public consultation” and be scrutinised.

The Scottish government said: “Scotland has a proud history in the design and building of satellites and we will consider all opportunities to expand this further.”
--

* Which rocket would this be if not Electron? Athena I / II has a bigger payload.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2017 07:08 AM by ringsider »

Offline Welsh Dragon

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #18 on: 07/09/2017 04:26 PM »
(...) is the best location in Britain for a facility from which satellites can be cata-pulted into orbit on the back of 20m rockets.
Not sure about the aerodynamics of that....

Offline douglas100

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #19 on: 07/09/2017 04:37 PM »
If something like this was to come to fruition i assume it has potential to be useful to European small sat manufactures as they wouldn't have to ship sats a far if the price is right of course.

Such as SSTL. The UK's forthcoming spaceflight bill might also offer regulatory advantages to launching from the UK. Along with logistical and regulatory benefits, there could also be bureaucratic advantages to launching the satellite from the country of origin (customs, export of technology etc).

Even closer than that to the proposed launch site is cubesat manufacturer Clyde Space https://www.clyde.space/about-us in Glasgow.
Douglas Clark

Offline Star One

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #20 on: 07/09/2017 05:39 PM »
How would Electron's launch capability vary from those launched from New Zealand, would it have better performance to certain classes of orbit?

Online Lars-J

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #21 on: 07/10/2017 07:00 PM »
How would Electron's launch capability vary from those launched from New Zealand, would it have better performance to certain classes of orbit?

A very *slight* performance boost to polar/SSO orbits. (Launch sites closer to the poles give slightly better performance when launching to polar orbits, just like near-equator sites get a boost when launching to eastern orbits)

But it seems like a poor investment unless RL really starts launching so many rockets that they need a 2nd launch site.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2017 07:01 PM by Lars-J »

Offline Star One

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #22 on: 07/10/2017 07:25 PM »
How would Electron's launch capability vary from those launched from New Zealand, would it have better performance to certain classes of orbit?

A very *slight* performance boost to polar/SSO orbits. (Launch sites closer to the poles give slightly better performance when launching to polar orbits, just like near-equator sites get a boost when launching to eastern orbits)

But it seems like a poor investment unless RL really starts launching so many rockets that they need a 2nd launch site.

That sounds a strange economic move to be even talking about this if it's not able to support two launch sites.

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #23 on: 07/10/2017 07:41 PM »
Keep in mind weather. That might limit launch availability.

Offline TrevorMonty

Alot of satellites maybe coming out of UK and europe. Makes it cheaper for customer to be present at launch compared to NZ or US.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2017 07:58 PM by TrevorMonty »

Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #25 on: 07/10/2017 11:22 PM »
RL's NZ site looks to be pretty minimal. A similar site in Scotland might not cost much, especially with UKSA grants.

The weather isn't that bad in Northern Scotland (as already mentioned, thanks to the Gulf Stream), and they're only planning 8 launches a year, so as long as they're flexible and plan to launch to weather forecasts then the weather shouldn't be a significant issue for that level of cadence.

As the UK already has a significant small-sat industry, I could certainly see regulatory and bureaucratic benefits to launching those from the UK.

The biggest benefit though, is probably political. UK government is prioritising the space industry with their new space bill, a big part of which is regulating space flight from the UK, with the expectation of the first spaceport operating by 2020. Most analysts say that isn't realistic, but if a serious player, like Lockheed Martin comes up with a realistic proposal, then the government is likely to free up funds to help with that (tens of millions rather than hundreds).

Without getting too political, the new UK government is pretty weak (numbers-wise), it will have to focus on non-controversial policies during it's term, of which I think this would be included in (cross-party support for it), as long as it doesn't cost much.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2017 11:31 PM by Dao Angkan »

Offline TrevorMonty

To justify development and permanent support staff I'd thought higher flight of 12-20 would be needed.
« Last Edit: 07/13/2017 12:34 AM by TrevorMonty »

Offline ringsider

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #27 on: 07/12/2017 04:11 PM »
Keep in mind weather. That might limit launch availability.

Looks like the weather is not terrible:-

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/regional-climates/ns

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #28 on: 07/12/2017 09:40 PM »
Keep in mind weather. That might limit launch availability.

Looks like the weather is not terrible:-

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/regional-climates/ns
New Zealand weather.

E.g. reason to have another pad elsewhere.

Online CameronD

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #29 on: 07/13/2017 12:01 AM »
New Zealand weather.

E.g. reason to have another pad elsewhere.

'Nuthin wrong with New Zealand weather. If you don't like it, come back in 10 minutes..  ;D

(That's one of the advantages of launching from any small island in the middle of a large ocean nowhere near the Trades. The weather doesn't stay the same for very long)
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: Lockheed Martin considering launching Electron from UK?
« Reply #30 on: 07/13/2017 07:37 PM »
Big cash boost for UK satellite sector

Quote
Dr Graham Turnock, the UK Space Agency's CEO, hopes the NSTF will see much more work retained on home soil. "It's soup to nuts, isn't it? You should be able to set up and run a space business in the UK and be able to go from conception to launch. And if we can offer that, it's going to make the UK a tremendously attractive place to do space."

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