Falcon 9 Launch Succeeds, Reused First Stage Lands on Ship

Reused Falcon 9 first stage after landing on drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched the SES10 communications satellite on Thursday evening, with its reused first stage performing as expected and landing on an off-shore drone ship.

In a brief statement during the live webcast, SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk called the flight a historic day for the company and the space industry. It had taken 15 years to get to this moment, he said.

In a video prior to launch, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company spent about four months refurbishing and testing the first stage booster after it landed on the drone ship after launching a Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station last April. That flight marked the first time a first stage had landed on the drone ship.

Shotwell said the company’s eventual goal is to land the first stage, refuel the booster, and then launch it again the same day. She did not give a time table for when such a flight would be possible.

Musk has said that such a rapid turnaround is crucial to making first-stage reuse truly economical and significantly bringing down the cost of launches.

SpaceX does not recover the second stage of the Falcon 9 booster. So any same-day re-flight would include the installation of a new second stage as well as the payload.

There were reports that SpaceX would attempt to recover the payload shroud used for Thursday’s launch for later reuse. There is no word yet on whether that effort was successful.

Falcon 9 Launch Set for This Evening

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16 at 2 a.m. EDT. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX is set to launch its Falcon 9 booster with the SES-10 communications satellite tonight at 6:27 pm EDT (3:27 pm PDT, 10:27pm UTC). It will be the first attempt to launch a used first stage booster.  SpaceX will stream the launch at www.spacex.com.

ExoTerra to Become First Privately Owned Space Company to Fly to an Asteroid

Solar electric propulsion system. (Credit: ExoTerra Resources)

LITTLETON, Colo., March 27, 2017 (Exoterra PR) — NASA has awarded ExoTerra Corporation a $2.5M contract to demonstrate a novel solar electric propulsion system for CubeSats that will enable the shoebox-sized spacecraft to triple their available power and produce over 2.5 km/s of propulsion.

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Blue Origin’s New Shepard Wins Prestigious Collier Trophy

BE-3 restarted at 3,635 feet above ground level and ramped fast for a successful landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

WASHINGTON, DC (NAA PR) — The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced last evening at their Spring Awards Dinner that the Blue Origin New Shepard has been named as the recipient of the 2016 Robert J. Collier Trophy “… for successfully demonstrating rocket booster reusability with the New Shepard human spaceflight vehicle through five successful test flights of a single booster and engine, all of which performed powered vertical landings on Earth.”

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Trump Wants Cuts in Current NASA, NOAA Budgets

This image shows the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera and telescope, and the Earth – one million miles away. (Credits: NASA/NOAA)

The budgets of NASA and NOAA would see cuts for the FY 2017 fiscal year as part of $18 billion in reductions proposed by the Trump Administration.

NASA would see a reduction of $50 million in its science budget. The cuts would be
“distributed….across the science program, including cuts to unused reserves and missions that are cancelled in the 2018 Budget. It is possible missions would be delayed and/or grants reduced,” according to a budget document sent to Congress.

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Sneak Peek at New Shepard Crew Capsule

New Shepard capsule interior (Credit: Blue Origin)

Our New Shepard flight test program is focused on demonstrating the performance and robustness of the system. In parallel, we’ve been designing the capsule interior with an eye toward precision engineering, safety, and comfort. Here’s a sneak peek.

New Shepard crew capsule (Credit: Blue Origin)
New Shepard crew capsule (Credit: Blue Origin)
New Shepard (Credit: Blue Origin)

If you happen to be attending the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs April 3-6, come see this for yourself. The high-fidelity capsule mockup will be on display alongside the New Shepard reusable booster that flew to space and returned five times.

Jeff Bezos

NASA as a Prop & Governance by Photo Op

Ivanka Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

On Tuesday, first daughter Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos paid a visit to that shrine to American flight, the National Air & Space Museum, to urge girls to pursue careers in STEM.

The White House was probably hoping the event would distract attention away from the funding cuts that Ivanka’s father, Donald, has proposed in federal science and education funding. And, perhaps it did for some who are uniformed about the budget.

For others, the sight of Ivanka introducing a screening of Hidden Figures, a film about African American women who helped launch the first Americans into space, as her father is trying to zero out NASA’s education office was a bit too much to take.

In her introduction to the film, Ivanka Trump said that her father’s administration “has expanded NASA’s space exploration mission” though did not, unsurprisingly, mention that he actually proposed decreasing NASA funding and eliminating the education office.

The Trump-DeVos event drew some sharp criticism from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said in a statement:

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA’s education programs. This takes chutzpah to a new level. If this administration was genuinely interested in promoting STEM programs, it would walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The next generation of astronauts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians need support, not budget cuts eliminating the very programs being promoted.”

There was also no mention of the 13.5 percent in cuts Trump has proposed to the Education Department, which include the reduction or elimination of grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.

Science and education are integral to our future as a nation. Trump can’t make America great by slashing his way to prosperity. A great and prosperous nation need to invest heavily in these areas if it wants to remain so.

Governing by photo op eventually catches up to you. Especially when you’re projecting images at odds with reality.

NASA Precise Landing Technologies Tested on Masten Rocket

Video Caption: NASA is flight testing next-generation lander navigation technology through the CoOperative Blending of Autonomous Landing Technologies (COBALT) project. The technology provides a spacecraft with knowledge during entry, descent and landing that enables it to precisely navigate and softly land close to surface locations that have been previously too risky to target with current capabilities. The technologies will enable future exploration destinations on Mars, the moon, Europa, and other planets and moons.

The two primary navigation components within COBALT include the Langley Research Center’s Navigation Doppler Lidar, which provides ultra-precise velocity and line-of-sight range measurements, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Lander Vision System, which provides navigation estimates relative to an existing surface map. The integrated system is being flight tested onboard a Masten Space Systems suborbital rocket vehicle called Xodiac. The COBALT project is led by the Johnson Space Center, with funding provided through the Game Changing Development, Flight Opportunities program, and Advanced Exploration Systems programs.

COBALT free flight tests, or untethered, on the rocket coming soon.

A New Market Emerges

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA recently marked a decade since it began a new era in commercial spaceflight development for low-Earth orbit transportation. The space agency inked agreements in 2006 to develop rockets and spacecraft capable of carrying cargo such as experiments and supplies to and from the International Space Station.

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Orbital ATK Donates SRBs for Space Shuttle Endeavour Exhibit

Endeavour and the shuttle carrier aircraft over Houston (Credit: NASA)

DULLES, Virg., 28 March 2017  (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, and NASA have donated a set of flight-worthy solid rocket boosters from the Space Shuttle Program to the California Science Center to display with a full-up exhibit of the Endeavour orbiter and external tank.

“We take great pride in our 30-plus years of participation in the Space Shuttle Program,” said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division. “We’re pleased and honored that we can contribute hardware to this amazing exhibit at the California Science Center.”

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Camden Welcomes Vector Space Systems to County

WOODBINE, Ga., March 28, 2017 (Spaceport Camden PR) — The Camden County Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Steve Howard welcomed Vector to the future site of Spaceport Camden to conduct an initial set of ground operations on its full-scale Mechanical Engineering Unit (MEU) of the Vector-R rocket and the associated Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL). The visit was an opportunity to showcase the Vector-R launch system and concept of operations (CONOPS) to key members of the spaceport community, stimulate discussions regarding future launch operations and familiarize Vector personnel with Spaceport Camden.

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Trump Memorandum on Office of American Innovation

Credit: Matt Wade

Presidential Memorandum on The White House Office of American Innovation

SUBJECT:   The White House Office of American Innovation

America has long led the world in innovation and technological advancement.  American ingenuity has launched industries, created jobs, and improved quality of life at home and abroad.  To ensure that America remains the global innovation leader, I hereby direct the Senior Advisor to the President to head an office in the White House dedicated to American innovation.  This office will bring together the best ideas from Government, the private sector, and other thought leaders to ensure that America is ready to solve today’s most intractable problems, and is positioned to meet tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.  The office will focus on implementing policies and scaling proven private-sector models to spur job creation and innovation.

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Trump Sets Up Innovation Office Headed by….Wait for It….

Jared Kushner (Credit: Lori Berkowitz)

The Washington Post reports President Donald Trump has set up a new office at the White House focused on innovation, and you’ll never believe who he selected to run it.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements….

In a White House riven at times by disorder and competing factions, the innovation office represents an expansion of Kushner’s already far-reaching influence. The 36-year-old former real estate and media executive will continue to wear many hats, driving foreign and domestic policy as well as decisions on presidential personnel. He also is a shadow diplomat, serving as Trump’s lead adviser on relations with China, Mexico, Canada and the Middle East….

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