SpaceX Receives FAA Re-entry License for First Dragon Flight

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit


Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation was created in 1984, it has issued licenses for more than 200 launches.

Today the FAA has made SpaceX the first-ever commercial company to receive a license to re-enter a spacecraft from orbit.


Ukraine Ships First Stage of OSC’s Taurus II to Virginia

The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II vehicle is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)

Ukraine has shipped the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II rocket to the United States. has reported.”The assembly of the basic part of the first stage of the booster was completed at the Makarov Yuzhny Machine Building Plant in October. The cargo left the port of Oktiabrsk in Mykolaiv region for the Wallops Flight Facility,” the Yuzhnoye State Design Office said in a statement.


Orbital Dedicates Taurus Mission Ops Center as Bolden Fights for More COTS Funding


Orbital Sciences Corporation announced that it held a formal dedication ceremony earlier today to mark the completion of a new facility that will serve as the Mission Operations Center (MOC) for the company’s cargo logistics missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA that begin in 2011. The ribbon-cutting event was attended by NASA’s Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and several other senior representatives of the space agency.


OSC: Cygnus Will Fly to ISS in 2012 if Congress Supports Additional Funds

Spaceflight Now reports that the schedule has slipped for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s test flights of the Taurus II rocket and the Cygnus freighter designed to resupply the International Space Station. The current schedule is:

  • Taurus II without Cygnus — July to September 2011
  • Taurus II with Cygnus — Two or three months later
  • Taurus II with Cygnus to ISS: Early 2012

OSC had been originally aiming to launch the first Taurus II in March 2011. However, that schedule had slipped several months already.


Aerojet Tests AJ26 Engine for OSC’s Taurus II Rocket

Aerojet's AJ26 engine successfully tested for Taurus II space launch vehicle. (PRNewsFoto/Aerojet)


Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced that its AJ26 engine was hot-fire tested today at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. In support of the Taurus® II launch vehicle program, Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital), Aerojet and NASA conducted this first of three hot-fire engine tests to be performed throughout the next several weeks.


Gap Seen in NASA Commercial Crew Funding

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

SpaceFlightNow reports that there could be a funding gap upcoming in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDEV) programs:

Some companies could see a gap in funding between the first and second rounds of NASA’s procurement to help develop commercial crew transportation services for low Earth orbit, according to the agency’s top exploration official.


SpaceX Delays First Dragon Flight to Late October

Aviation Week reports:

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has requested Oct. 23 on the 45th Space Wing’s calendar for launch of its second Falcon 9 rocket, which will aim to place a Dragon cargo capsule into orbit.

The flight is the first of up to three launches planned under SpaceX’s $278-million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract with NASA, which is intended to help pay for the rocket and capsule’s design, development and flight testing.

SpaceX had been hoping to launch the rocket in September but extra preparation time was required.

Confident SpaceX Lobbies to Condense COTS Demonstration Flights to ISS

Illustration of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft arriving at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

SpaceX Seeks To Drop a Dragon Flight from COTS Plan
Space News

Buoyed by the successful debut of its Falcon 9 rocket June 4, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Corp. is hoping to persuade NASA to waive one of three planned test flights designed to prove its reusable Dragon capsule can ferry cargo to the international space station.


And Now for a Word About That OTHER COTS Rocket…

Artist's conception of Obital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II rocket set for launch at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia.

WALLOPS: Huge rocket to make its way on Delmarva highways this week

People traveling on Delmarva’s highways Wednesday night and Thursday morning may encounter an unusual sight that is evidence of the area’s growing space investment.

A 95-foot-long tractor-trailer specially constructed by an Ohio company will be transporting a full-size mockup of the first stage of Orbital Sciences’ Taurus II rocket roughly 150 miles across portions of three states — from the Wilmington, Del., port to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island.


Aerojet Completes Engine Test Firings for OSC’s Taurus II Rocket


Aerojet, a GenCorp company, and Orbital Sciences Corporation, along with Aerojet’s Russian partner, SNTK, announced today that a series of NK-33 rocket engine tests conducted in Samara, Russia were successfully completed in support of the development of Orbital’s Taurus® II space launch vehicle.

The purpose of the extended-time testing of the NK-33 engine, on which the AJ26 first-stage engine for the Taurus II rocket is based, was to demonstrate a ‘hot-fire’ duration equal to two times a normal Taurus II acceptance testing and launch profile duty cycle. Over the last two weeks, three tests were conducted by SNTK with a cumulative duration of more than 600 seconds. These tests verified the significant technical margins on engine performance and durability required by Orbital’s Taurus II development program.


Falcon 9 Hardware Arrives at the Cape for Launch

Photo caption: Flight hardware for the inaugural launch of Falcon 9 rocket undergoing final integration in the hangar at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida. Components include: Dragon spacecraft qualification unit (left), second stage with Merlin Vacuum engine (center), first stage with nine Merlin 1C engines (right). (Credit: SpaceX)


Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announces that all flight hardware for the debut launch of the Falcon 9 vehicle has arrived at the SpaceX launch site, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Final delivery included the Falcon 9 second stage, which recently completed testing at SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX has now initiated full vehicle integration of the 47 meter (154 feet) tall, 3.6 meter (12 feet) diameter rocket, which will include a Dragon spacecraft qualification unit.


Report: Obama Wants to Spend Billions on Commercial Human Spaceflight

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit
Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

Space News is reporting that the Obama Administration wants to fund a multi-billion dollar effort to help develop commercial human transportation to orbit:

NASA will not be getting the $1 billion budget boost civil space advocates had hoped to see when President Barack Obama sends his 2011 spending proposal to Congress Feb. 1, requiring the U.S. space agency to make even tougher than expected choices about the future of its manned space program, according to sources with close ties to the administration. These sources declined to reveal the fate of NASA’s planned Ares 1 crew launch vehicle, which many observers see as a likely cancellation target, but they did say the budget proposal would fund a multibillion-dollar effort to foster development of commercial systems for ferrying astronauts to the international space station.