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Rocket Report: Starship is on the clock; Virgin Galactic at a crossroads

The payload fairing for the first test flight of Europe's Ariane 6 rocket has been positioned around the small batch of satellites that will ride it into orbit.

Enlarge / The payload fairing for the first test flight of Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket has been positioned around the small batch of satellites that will ride it into orbit. (credit: ESA/M. Pédoussaut)

Welcome to Edition 6.48 of the Rocket Report! Fresh off last week’s dramatic test flight of SpaceX’s Starship, teams in Texas are wasting no time gearing up for the next launch. Ground crews are replacing the entire heat shield on the next Starship spacecraft to overcome deficiencies identified on last week’s flight. SpaceX has a whole lot to accomplish with Starship in the next several months if NASA is going to land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2026.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Virgin Galactic won’t be flying again any time soon. After an impressive but brief flurry of spaceflight activity—seven human spaceflights in a year, even to suborbital space, is unprecedented for a private company—Virgin Galactic will now be grounded again for at least two years, Ars reports. That’s because Colglazier and Virgin Galactic are betting it all on the development of a future “Delta class” of spaceships modeled on VSS Unity, which made its last flight to suborbital space Saturday. Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson, now finds itself at a crossroads as it chases profitability, which VSS Unity had no hope of helping it achieve despite two decades of development and billions of dollars spent.

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