SpaceX Success: What it All Means….

Falcon 1’s first stage falls away during Sunday’s launch. Credit: SpaceX.

SpaceX ‘Falcon 1’ Marks New Era For Space Industry

Information Week

“A privately developed liquid fuel rocket has entered Earth orbit, becoming the first such rocket to do so and heralding the dawn of the private sector space industry.”

SpaceX success is huge milestone
Huntsville Times

Homer Hickam and Tim Pickens weight in….


Millionaut Simonyi to Return to ISS for a Sequel

30 September 2008

Space Adventures, the only company that provides human space missions to the world marketplace, announced today that Charles Simonyi, Ph.D., intends to train with the Soyuz TMA-14 crew in preparation for a spring mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Space Adventures became world renowned in 2001 with the launch of client Dennis Tito, the world’s first privately funded spaceflight participant. Since then, the company has launched four other individuals to space, including Dr. Simonyi, who completed his first space mission in the spring of 2007.


Richardson Promotes New Mexico Spaceport Tax

Governor lends voice to Spaceport support
Alamogordo Daily News

“Visiting Alamogordo, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson spoke with community members at the Alamo Senior Center Monday in support of Spaceport America. He encouraged Otero County residents to vote in favor of the 1/8 of 1 percent spaceport gross receipts tax on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“‘This is one of the most significant economic development projects ever in New Mexico,’ Richardson said. ‘And 25 percent of the money raised (by the GRT) goes to schools and kids….

‘It is one more step in securing hundreds and hundreds of jobs,” he said. “It will create jobs, and it will put us on the map. By voting yes we are saying yes to higher paying jobs.'”

Move Over New Mexico; Scotland to Become Base for Virgin Galactic Flights

Virgin Galactic CEO Will Whitehorn tells The Daily Record that his company will begin flying suborbital tourism flights from one of three locations in Scotland beginning in 2013.

“Scotland will definitely be our main base in the UK for space tourism flights and we would be aiming to take off from there within about five years,” he told the newspaper. “There are three great locations within Scotland, with the best being Lossiemouth. Failing that, Kinloss and Machrihanish in the Mull of Kintyre would also be suitable for this kind of flight.”


SpaceDev Continues Work on Orbital Spaceplane

New Scientist has a look at SpaceDev’s Dream Chaser project, a lifting body space plane based on NASA’s abandoned HL-20 project that the company hopes to launch into orbit using an Atlas V rocket. Only part of the story is online; to read it all, a subscription is required.

Or you can check the SpaceDev website, which has this description of the project:

“SpaceDev is currently working in conjunction with NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) office to develop and configure the system for ISS servicing. In parallel, SpaceDev has signed a memorandum of understanding with United Launch Alliance (ULA) and is evaluating man-rating the Atlas 5 launch vehicle and configuring it for use with Dream ChaserTM to provide a launch configuration based on the exceptional heritage of the Atlas family of launch vehicles.”

The Sun Rises at the Martian North Pole


This sequence of nine images taken by the Surface Stereo Imager on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander shows the sun rising on the morning of the lander’s 101st Martian day after landing.

The images were taken on Sept. 5, 2008. The local solar times at the landing site for the nine images were between 1:23 a.m. and 1:41 a.m.

The landing site is on far-northern Mars, and the mission started in late northern spring. For nearly the entire first 90 Martian days of the mission, the sun never set below the horizon. As the amount of sunshine each day declined steadily after that, so has the amount of electricity available for the solar-powered spacecraft.

ESA’s Jules Verne ATV Re-enters Over the Pacific

29 September 2008
Taken at approximately 15:36 CEST (13:36 UT) from the DC-8 aircraft.


Europe’s first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Jules Verne successfully completed its six-month ISS logistics mission today with its controlled destructive re-entry over a completely uninhabited area of the South Pacific.


Shuttle Mission Delayed as Hubble Malfunctions

29 September 2008

WASHINGTON — NASA will host a media teleconference at 6 p.m. EDT today to discuss a significant Hubble Space Telescope anomaly that occurred this weekend affecting the storage and transmittal of science data to Earth. Fixing the problem will delay next month’s space shuttle Atlantis’ Hubble servicing mission.

The malfunctioning system is Hubble’s Control Unit/Science Data Formatter – Side A. Shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, the telescope’s spacecraft computer issued commands to safe the payload computer and science instruments when errors were detected within the Science Data Formatter. An attempt to reset the formatter and obtain a dump of the payload computer’s memory was unsuccessful.


Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow….

Snow is the surprising forecast for Mars
Los Angeles Times

“The latest forecast on Mars calls for morning fog and swift-moving clouds — along with light snow.

Snowman courtesy of

“The surprising weather report was part of the latest scientific findings from NASA’s Phoenix lander, which has been taking measurements at the Martian north pole since May 25.

“At a press briefing Monday at NASA headquarters in Washington and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, scientists said the discovery of snow on Mars was made by an instrument that shined a laser into clouds about two miles above the ground, revealing the presence of ice crystals.”

NASA Mars Lander Sees Falling Snow, Soil Data Suggest Liquid Past
29 September 2008

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has detected snow falling from Martian clouds. Spacecraft soil experiments also have provided evidence of past interaction between minerals and liquid water, processes that occur on Earth.



Congratulations are due to Elon Musk and his team at SpaceX. On Sunday, they successfully launched the Falcon 1 rocket from the Marshall Islands. The rocket took off at 16:16 PDT; the second stage reached an orbital velocity of 52,00 meters per second at 8 minutes and 21 seconds after launch.

The rocket carried a “payload mass simulator of approximately 165 kg (364 lbs), designed and built by SpaceX specifically for this mission. Consisting of a hexagonal aluminum alloy chamber 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall, the payload attaches to the standard Falcon 1 payload mounting structure. It does not separate, but remains attached to the second stage as it orbits the Earth,” according to SpaceX.

SpaceX Could Launch Falcon 1 Today

Elon Musk posted the following update on his blog:

Falcon 1 is currently cleared for liftoff sometime between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. (California time) tomorrow, Sunday September 28th. Of course, if we see anything that requires investigation, the launch will be postponed, but we’ll let you know as soon as we know. As with prior flights, you can access the webcast from the SpaceX site:

Elon Musk: The Falcon and Dreams of Mars

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA at 50: Privatizing Space
Washington Post

The results of a webchat Q&A with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who discusses the progress of his Falcon rockets and his dreams for Mars.

Aiming for Stars, Entrepreneurs May Also Fill Gaps
Washington Post

As NASA turns 50 this week, the space agency faces increasing competition from entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Richard Branson who are pushing for space tourism in low Earth orbit and trips to the moon and Mars.

China Completes Shenzhou 7 Mission; Taikonaut Conducts First Spacewalk

The Shenzhou 7 spacecraft touched down in Northern China on Sunday afternoon, successfully returning taikonauts Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming, and Jing Haipeng to Earth after a 68-hour flight that thrilled the Chinese nation.

The flight’s main highlight was a 20-minute spacewalk in which Zhai climbed outside of the spaceship clutching a Chinese flag. The nation’s first spacewalk was broadcast live throughout China.

This was the third successful manned flight of the Shenzhou, which is similar to the Russian Soyuz transport. China plans to eventually construct a space station in Earth orbit.

WhiteKnightTwo Flights Set to Begin Later This Year

Rob Coppinger reports that the first test flight of Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier ship may be slipped until closer to the end of the year.

“There have been various taxi trials outside the hangar already, but undertaken at night. The first flight trials will take place when we are ready and will definitely be this year and possibly within the next few weeks,” Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn told Coppinger.

Meanwhile, Bill Deaver has taken a spin into space aboard SpaceShipTwo – a good eighteen before any paying passengers will. Sort of.