Author Topic: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : Wallops LC-2 : NET 1 May 2023  (Read 5003 times)

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https://twitter.com/thesheetztweetz/status/1595426341746364416

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NASA awards the remaining pair of TROPICS launches to Rocket Lab $RKLB:

The four cuebsats are expected to launch on two Electron rockets no earlier than May 1:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-awards-launch-services-task-order-for-tropics-cubesats-mission/

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Nov 23, 2022
RELEASE 22-123

NASA Awards Launch Services Task Order for TROPICS CubeSats Mission

NASA has selected Rocket Lab USA Inc. of Long Beach, California, to provide the launch service for the agency’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission, as part of the agency's Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract.

Rocket Lab is one of 13 companies NASA selected for VADR contracts in 2022. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, manages the VADR contracts. As part of VADR, the fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts have a five-year ordering period with a maximum total value of $300 million across all contracts.

The TROPICS mission consists of four CubeSats intended for two low-Earth orbital planes and is part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program. Rocket Lab will launch the TROPICS satellites into their operational orbits during a 60-day period (first insertion to final insertion). These two dedicated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensed launches, each on an Electron Rocket are targeted to launch no earlier than May 1, 2023, enabling NASA to provide observations during the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1.

The TROPICS constellation targets the formation and evolution of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes and will provide rapidly updating observations of storm intensity, as well as the horizontal and vertical structures of temperature and humidity within the storms and in their surrounding environment. These data will help scientists better understand the processes that effect these high-impact storms, ultimately leading to improved modeling and prediction.

Building on NASA's previous procurement efforts to foster development of new launch vehicles for NASA payloads, VADR provides FAA-licensed commercial launch services for payloads that can tolerate higher risk. By using a lower level of mission assurance, and commercial best practices for launching rockets, these highly flexible contracts help broaden access to space through lower launch costs.

For more information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

-end-

Joshua Finch / Kiana Raines
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1100
[email protected] / [email protected] 

Patti Bielling
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
321-501-7575
[email protected]

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2022
Editor: Gerelle Dodson
« Last Edit: 11/23/2022 05:43 pm by zubenelgenubi »

Offline Conexion Espacial

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #1 on: 11/23/2022 02:00 pm »
It will most likely be launched from Wallops, right?
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Offline imprezive

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #2 on: 11/23/2022 02:04 pm »
It will most likely be launched from Wallops, right?

Doubtful. They go to 30 deg inclination which I don’t think wallops can support.

Offline trimeta

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #3 on: 11/23/2022 02:34 pm »
It will most likely be launched from Wallops, right?

Doubtful. They go to 30 deg inclination which I don’t think wallops can support.
Wallops and Mahia are at basically the same latitude, except one is north of the equator while the other is south.

That said, the geography may make doglegs harder at Wallops. On their website, Rocket Lab specifically says that Mahia can support launches to 30 degrees, while it says nothing about the inclinations supported by Wallops.

Offline edzieba

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #4 on: 11/23/2022 03:12 pm »
It will most likely be launched from Wallops, right?

Doubtful. They go to 30 deg inclination which I don’t think wallops can support.
Wallops and Mahia are at basically the same latitude, except one is north of the equator while the other is south.

That said, the geography may make doglegs harder at Wallops. On their website, Rocket Lab specifically says that Mahia can support launches to 30 degrees, while it says nothing about the inclinations supported by Wallops.
The Payload User's Guide lists Wallops as supporting inclinations between 38° and 60°. It also lists Mahia's inclination range as 39° to 120°, so from either site 30° would be incorporating a plane change, not just a dogleg.

Offline trimeta

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #5 on: 11/23/2022 03:17 pm »
The Payload User's Guide lists Wallops as supporting inclinations between 38° and 60°. It also lists Mahia's inclination range as 39° to 120°, so from either site 30° would be incorporating a plane change, not just a dogleg.
Doesn't a dogleg always imply a change in orbital inclination?

Offline edzieba

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #6 on: 11/23/2022 03:24 pm »
The Payload User's Guide lists Wallops as supporting inclinations between 38° and 60°. It also lists Mahia's inclination range as 39° to 120°, so from either site 30° would be incorporating a plane change, not just a dogleg.
Doesn't a dogleg always imply a change in orbital inclination?
No. For example, the southern polar launch corridor from KSC & CCAFS is not an unachievable inclination without the dogleg, the dogleg is to physically relocate the stage drop sites away from populated areas.

Offline niwax

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #7 on: 11/23/2022 03:32 pm »
Mahia and Wallops are both >1000km due north/south from 30°. That is way beyond dogleg territory, even if the were to launch straight north and do a 90° turn that would be around orbital insertion.
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Offline trimeta

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #8 on: 11/23/2022 03:33 pm »
The Payload User's Guide lists Wallops as supporting inclinations between 38° and 60°. It also lists Mahia's inclination range as 39° to 120°, so from either site 30° would be incorporating a plane change, not just a dogleg.
Doesn't a dogleg always imply a change in orbital inclination?
No. For example, the southern polar launch corridor from KSC & CCAFS is not an unachievable inclination without the dogleg, the dogleg is to physically relocate the stage drop sites away from populated areas.
It's unachievable without overflying populated areas. The initial launch inclination, without the dogleg, would lead to a different orbital inclination, and the dogleg changes the target orbital inclination.

Basically, I don't see a meaningful difference between "it changes the inclination because going directly without a dogleg would have involved overflying populated areas" and "it changes the inclination because going directly without a dogleg was physically impossible due to latitude." Both change the plane.

Edit: It occurred to me after thinking for a while that there is one potential difference: how long between launch and performing the trajectory-correction maneuver. If you're just trying to dodge populated areas, you can change as soon as you're past them, but if you're trying to hit a lower inclination than your launch latitude, you need to wait at least until you're under the appropriate latitude, if not until you hit the equator (I don't understand orbital mechanics enough to know whether making the change at the equator is extra efficient). The longer you wait to make the change, the faster you're going and the harder it is to change direction, so I could see "hitting extra-low inclinations" costing more than simple population avoidance maneuvers in general.
« Last Edit: 11/23/2022 04:17 pm by trimeta »

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #9 on: 11/23/2022 03:50 pm »
Choice of Electron is no surprise as it was cheapest and most reliable option to deliver these cubesats into orbit on time. LauncherOne was another option but lot more expensive.

In regards to discussion about reaching target orbits from Mahia or Wallops, Electron is way oversize for this mission which means there is lot of extra performance to play with. Curie kick stage can have extra fuel it needed to provide plane change.

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #10 on: 11/23/2022 03:57 pm »
We usually get the contract value in these press releases, but this time we only get the total value of all of the launch contracts under the VADR program. Astra won this contract (for the six cubesats) at $7.95M. Rocket Lab obviously won't launch two Electrons for that price. NASA will pay more for less (albeit with a much higher reliability launch provider) because of Astra's failure to deliver, but how much more? This could be a $15M contract or a $30M contract depending on how much it's marked up over base Electron pricing for NASA requirements. If they got too greedy they could lose out to Virgin Orbit, but they probably wouldn't do it for less than $30M.

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #11 on: 11/23/2022 04:11 pm »
We usually get the contract value in these press releases, but this time we only get the total value of all of the launch contracts under the VADR program. Astra won this contract (for the six cubesats) at $7.95M. Rocket Lab obviously won't launch two Electrons for that price. NASA will pay more for less (albeit with a much higher reliability launch provider) because of Astra's failure to deliver, but how much more? This could be a $15M contract or a $30M contract depending on how much it's marked up over base Electron pricing for NASA requirements. If they got too greedy they could lose out to Virgin Orbit, but they probably wouldn't do it for less than $30M.
Honestly, I wouldn't expect that much of a markup. The only factors which make this launch atypical are the need for a plane change and the relative urgency (NASA wants these satellites up and running in time for the 2023 hurricane season). The payload is so light that I don't think any custom design work is needed to give Electron the power to perform the plane change (just some additional trajectory calculations), and with Rocket Lab often saying "we could launch more often, we just don't have the customers," I would imagine it's not that hard for them to squeeze in a couple more. Although I suppose to that last point, just because it's easy for Rocket Lab doesn't mean they can't charge a hefty markup anyway...

Offline ZachS09

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #12 on: 11/23/2022 04:23 pm »
Choice of Electron is no surprise as it was cheapest and most reliable option to deliver these cubesats into orbit on time. LauncherOne was another option but lot more expensive.

In regards to discussion about reaching target orbits from Mahia or Wallops, Electron is way oversize for this mission which means there is lot of extra performance to play with. Curie kick stage can have extra fuel it needed to provide plane change.

I knew Rocket Lab was most likely to launch the TROPICS cubesats. What was that one member thinking when he believed Starship could launch the remaining four on its test flight?
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Offline edzieba

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #13 on: 11/23/2022 05:25 pm »
Choice of Electron is no surprise as it was cheapest and most reliable option to deliver these cubesats into orbit on time. LauncherOne was another option but lot more expensive.

In regards to discussion about reaching target orbits from Mahia or Wallops, Electron is way oversize for this mission which means there is lot of extra performance to play with. Curie kick stage can have extra fuel it needed to provide plane change.

I knew Rocket Lab was most likely to launch the TROPICS cubesats. What was that one member thinking when he believed Starship could launch the remaining four on its test flight?
Because in addition to Astra, Rocketlab, and Virgin Orbit, SpaceX also bid for the original TROPICS launch with Starship.

Offline Skyrocket

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #14 on: 11/23/2022 05:27 pm »
What was that one member thinking when he believed Starship could launch the remaining four on its test flight?

That was what SpaceX had offered in the original bid to launch TROPICS, which was then won by Astra.

I do not know if SpaceX had repeated it for the re-bid of the launch contract.

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #15 on: 11/23/2022 05:29 pm »
I suspect, the 30° inclination makes it difficult to find co-passengers for these launches. So they are dedicated launches?

Offline Conexion Espacial

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Re: Electron : NASA TROPICS cubesats : NET 1 May 2023
« Reply #16 on: 11/23/2022 05:33 pm »
I publish information in Spanish about space and rockets.
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Offline TrevorMonty

Launch’s from Wallops, Virginia
https://twitter.com/rocketlab/status/1595485294026887169
Going be launch facility of choice for Government missions unless the orbit requires Mahia. Lot cheaper to have mission personnel present at payload integration.

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The Payload User's Guide lists Wallops as supporting inclinations between 38° and 60°. It also lists Mahia's inclination range as 39° to 120°, so from either site 30° would be incorporating a plane change, not just a dogleg.
Doesn't a dogleg always imply a change in orbital inclination?
No. For example, the southern polar launch corridor from KSC & CCAFS is not an unachievable inclination without the dogleg, the dogleg is to physically relocate the stage drop sites away from populated areas.

Is it fair to guess that the vehicle will fly a mostly vertical ascent slowly drifting southeast and then, once at an altitude outside the atmosphere but still going nowhere close to orbital speed, perform a sub-orbital inclination change? That's not like a dog-leg in the atmosphere right after lift-off, but it isn't like an orbital inclination change either....
« Last Edit: 11/24/2022 01:19 am by sdsds »
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Offline edkyle99

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"Launch Complex 2" seems to be just a Rocket Lab in-house identifier.  MARS has "Launch Pad 0A" (Antares) and "Launch Pad 0B" (Minotaur) and on its web site identifies the new Electron pad as "Launch Pad 0C". 
https://www.vaspace.org/our-facilities

Wallops Flight Facility already has/had a "Launch Area 1" and a "Launch Area 2" which were used for sounding rockets.  "Launch Area 3" handled Scout back in the day.   And so on.

 - Ed Kyle 
« Last Edit: 11/23/2022 08:30 pm by edkyle99 »

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