Rocket and Spacecraft Updates: LockMart, SpaceX, JAXA, ESA and NASA

Taylor Dinerman examines the current state of the reusable launch vehicle industry over at The Space Review. He is particularly intrigued by a test of a sub-scale space plane that Lockheed Martin conducted in New Mexico last December.

Rob Coppinger of Flight Global takes a look at the success of SpaceX, the El Segundo, Calif. rocket company that has secured a NASA launch services contract that could be worth up to $1 billion without ever having launched anything into orbit. The contract involves the company’s Falcon 1 vehicle, which has failed in its only two launch attempts, and the larger Falcon 9, which has yet to fly.

Coppinger also examines new rocket and spacecraft concepts under consideration by Japan and Europe on his Hyperbola blog. JAXA is considering a VTOL concept that looks a lot like the vehicle that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is working on. Meanwhile, ESA and Russia are jointly examining various designs for a crew transport.

A major initiative has been launched to improve quality control for the Proton launcher, which has suffered two failures in eight months, Coppinger reports. Russia’s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and its partner, International Launch Services, will be working closely with subcontractors to prevent future problems.

In American space news, the Rocketsandsuch blog has a new post claiming that costs on NASA’s Orion program have risen again by about $3 billion.