Monthly Archive for September, 2011

100 Year Starship Conference: Day 1

Today, we are pleased to welcome a new correspondent to Parabolic Arc: my good friend and ISU classmate Eric Dahlstrom. Eric is President of International Space Consultants, a firm that offers a variety of services to space companies. He has also served as chairman of ISU’s Space Physical Sciences Department and curriculum director at the Singularity University. Eric is in Orlando this weekend at DARPA’s 100 Year Starship Conference, a gathering of experts looking at how to launch humanity to the stars. Eric will be filing reports throughout the weekend.


100 Year Starship Conference
First Day Notes

Dave Neyland, DARPA

  • talked about long range visions – daVinci inspiring human flight attempts, Jules Verne inspiring space travel with his 1865 story about a voyage to the Moon.
  • Why DoD interest? Pointed out some space exploration technologies of interest to the military (food, energy, biotech, etc.) and cases where the military has made use of space technologies.

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Mass Layoffs at Bigelow Blamed on Commercial Crew Delay


Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls

Space News reports on a mass layoff at Bigelow Aerospace yesterday:

Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing inflatable space habitats for commercial use, laid off some 40 of its 90 employees Sept. 29, a company official confirmed.

Bigelow Aerospace employees told Space News that the company laid off nearly all of its machinists and that most of the workers retained are associated with the Boeing CCDev effort. Bigelow’s partnership with Boeing on the CST-100 predates Boeing’s 2010 CCDev award.

“We had hoped that by 2014 or 2015 that America would again be able to fly its own astronauts. Unfortunately, the prospect of domestic crew transportation of any kind is apparently going to occur years after the first BA 330 could be ready,” Gold wrote. “For both business and technical reasons, we cannot deploy a BA 330 without a means of transporting crew to and from our station, and the adjustment to our employment levels was necessary to reflect this reality.”

NASA Conducts J-2X Engine Test Firing


NASA PR — NASA conducted a 40-second test of the J-2X rocket engine Sept. 28, the most recent in a series of tests of the next-generation engine selected as part of the Space Launch System architecture that will once again carry humans into deep space. It was a test at the 99 percent power level to gain a better understanding of start and shutdown systems as well as modifications that had been made from previous test firing results.

The test at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi came just two weeks after the agency announced plans for the new SLS to be powered by core-stage RS-25 D/E and upper-stage J-2X engines. The liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen J-2X is being developed for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

Musk Discusses SpaceX, Mars Settlement and More


SpaceX CEO Elon Musk addressed the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. yesterday. The rocket company founder laid out his vision for humans becoming a multi-planet species, discussed SpaceX’s present and future plans, and took questions about the international launch market, global change and the collapse of the solar energy company Solyndra.

My notes are below. You can also watch videos of his address here.

Reusable Falcon 9 rocket

  • Fully reusable, rapid turnaround rocket
  • Falcon 9 costs: $50 million for rocket, about $200,000 in fuel
  • Could reduce costs by 100 fold through reuse
  • There would be additional costs of preparing stages for relaunch, etc.
  • Process works on paper and in simulations – now need to make it work in practice
  • Animation is mostly accurate – was completed before the analysis was done, also protecting proprietary information
  • Effort does not take away from COTS and CCDev work

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Space Coast Clean Energy Jobs Accelerator Will Help Expand Central Florida’s Clean Energy Hub


Space Florida PR — Four Brevard County-based economic development organizations – Space Florida, the Space Coast Energy Consortium, Brevard Workforce and the Technological Research and Development Association (TRDA) – have been awarded a total of $2.2 million in Federal grants to further develop a clean energy hub in Central Florida. Programs and services enabled by the grants will provide employment opportunities in this rapidly growing high-tech sector.

The Space Coast Clean Energy Jobs Accelerator was one of 20 projects nationwide that will share a total of $37 million in federal funding. According to the EDA, “winning projects demonstrated the existence of high-growth industry clusters that support a wide range of economic and workforce development activities.”

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VLS-1 Launch Complex Readied at Alcantara


IAE PR – System Platform Release VLS-1 (SISPLAT) is nearing completion at the Alcantara Launch Center (CLA). The panels are already physically installed, the installed lighting, cameras installed Closed Circuit TV system, air conditioning and pressurization installed, Detection and Alarm Fire Fighting in the final stage, a protection system against lightning strikes in the final stage. According to the schedule of the Consortium JARAGUÁ / LAVITTA, will start next October to start tweaking and testing the installation of the automation system.

These activities will take place until late December or early January 2012. Concluded this phase is planned to integrate the mock-up (MIR), to receive the final piece in the months of March and April. This integration is only possible in March because it is the same mock-up that is in separation tests.

Successful Test Firing Conducted on Taurus II’s AJ-26 Engine


SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced today that along with NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, the team conducted a successful ground test firing of an AJ26-62 flight engine that will power Orbital’s Taurus® II medium-class space launch vehicle. The test was conducted at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

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China Launches First Space Station


China successfully launched its first space station laboratory, Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace-1), at 9:16 p.m. local time on Thursday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The Long March-2FT1 rocket lit up the night sky as Premier Wen Jiabao watched from the spaceport. President Hu Jintao and other high officials viewed the liftoff from the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center.

Officials said the launch went well, with Tiangong-1 entering low Earth orbit and unfolded its solar panels. The space module is roughly half the size of the Soviet Salyut space stations orbited during the 1970’s.

Tiangong-1 will circle the Earth for about a month before the arrival of the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. The two vehicle will test the docking system in preparation for human missions by Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10.

Video: SpaceX’s Reusable Launch System


An animation of a launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon showing powered vertical return of both stages and the Dragon. Credit: SpaceX

During an appearance at the National Press Club today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that reusing the Falcon 9 rocket could lead to a 100-fold decrease in launch costs.  The Falcon 9 costs $50 million to build, but the fuel is only $200,000 per flight. So, the more times SpaceX reuses the same rocket, the lower the per flight cost becomes.

SpaceX is working on a prototype for reusable stages, which it wants to test at its facility in McGregor, Texas. The development is expected to take 3 years.

Green Energy Taking Root on Florida Space Coast


In addition to rebuilding Florida’s aerospace industry, state officials are also bringing clean energy technology companies to the Space Coast. The Sunshine State’s abundance of strong winds and…well, sunshine make it an excellent location for clean energy.

In recent weeks, Space Florida has:

  • led a new investment round in Cella Energy Limited, an UK hydrogen fuel company that is setting up shop in the state-built Space Life Sciences Lab at the Kennedy Space Center;
  • received a federal grant to build up the clean energy industry.

In addition, a private company in Palm Bay, Advanced Magnet Lab, has received federal funds to develop the next generation wind turbine.

Details follow after the break.

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