SpaceX PR – Hawthorne, CA – Today the U.S. Air Force issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NRO and NASA that serves as a joint agreement on the process they will use to allow new companies to compete to provide launch services. The MOU will be followed by detailed guidance for prospective new entrants.
“SpaceX welcomes the opportunity to compete for Air Force launches. We are reviewing the MOU, and we expect to have a far better sense of our task after the detailed requirements are released in the coming weeks,” said Adam Harris, SpaceX Vice President of Government Affairs.
The U.S. Air Force is the largest launch customer in the world, but is currently served by a monopoly provider whose prices have consistently risen. Equitable criteria for new entrants, coupled with meaningful opportunities for competition, would save the American taxpayer billions.
“Fair and open competition for commercial launch providers is an essential element of protecting taxpayer dollars,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO. “Our American-made Falcon vehicles can deliver assured, responsive access to space that will meet warfighter needs while reducing costs for our military customers.”
A recording of Elon Musk’s talk at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday.
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.
Entrepreneur Elon Musk talks about SpaceX, reusable propulsion technologies, and his plans for making humanity a multi-planet species.
It sound like somebody in Avatar, doesn’t it? Or the code name of the evil plot hatched by the most nefarious James Bond villain yet?
No, it’s just the project name for SpaceX’s effort to launch commercial crews to the International Space Station. DragonRider was one of the nuggets that Abhishek Tripathi revealed during a talk at the SETI Institute in Mountain View on Wednesday night. The SpaceX engineer gave an overview of his company’s work and some insights on what it is like to work there.
This is a public lecture and will be suitable for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Title: “SpaceX and the Dragon Spacecraft”
Speaker: Abhishek Tripathi (Space Exploration Technologies – SpaceX)
When: Wednesday, 7:00pm, September 21, 2011
Where: SETI Institute Headquarters, Ground Floor, 189 Bernardo Ave., Mountain View
Abstract: With the retirement of the Space Shuttle this past summer the United States entered a new era, one in which U.S. astronauts will be flying only aboard the Russian Soyuz vehicle in order to access Low Earth Orbit and the International Space Station. California headquartered Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has developed and twice launched a brand new launch vehicle (Falcon9), as well as launched and recovered a space capsule designed for humans (Dragon). SpaceX will soon begin delivering cargo, and ultimately plans on launching crew, to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. And all that is just the beginning of what SpaceX has in mind to revolutionize human access into space.
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Corp. acknowledged that its Falcon 9 rocket experienced an engine anomaly during its December launch of the company’s reusable Dragon space capsule.
“I’d call it an oxidizer-rich shutdown,” former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox, SpaceX’s vice president of astronaut safety and mission assurance, told Space News in a Sept. 9 interview. “So because of that, when you get that mixture change happening, the temperatures can go up higher than you want inside the gas generator.”
Bowersox added that “those temperatures could have damaged the turbines in the turbopump.” That presents an obstacle for SpaceX, which eventually intends to reuse the nine Merlin engines that power the Falcon 9.
It does not, however, present an obstacle for cargo delivery missions to the international space station, SpaceX said.
An oxygen-rich shutdown is “not a catastrophic event for the Merlin engine,” Bowersox said. “We’ve been through this on the test stand and we know what it looks like for our engines, so we know that this was not a risk to the mission.”
Read the full story.
“We have our main launch facility, which is Cape Canaveral in Florida. Then we are in the process of developing our second launch facility, which is Vandenberg in California. And we do intend to develop a third launch facility. Texas is one of the possible states. But we’re also looking at a number of other locations: Puerto Rico, potentially another location in Florida, potentially Hawaii. And there are a few other locations that could work. So we’re trying to make the right decision for the long term.
“The third launch site would open early, in perhaps three or four years. So we want to make sure we make the right decision. But we do think we need three launch sites in order to handle all of the launch demand that we have been able to get. …
“It would be a purely commercial launch site, whereas Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg are actually Air Force bases — in the case of Cape Canaveral, it’s sort of a joint NASA-Air Force activity. So it makes sense to have NASA and Defense Department launches occur from Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg, but then probably shift most of our commercial launches to a purely commercial launch site that’s really aimed at being the best customer for a commercial launch provider. Just as there are Air Force bases and commercial airports … there’s some logic to separation.”
Read the full interview.
Some cool images courtesy of SpaceX. Above, technicians prepare the Dragon spacecraft for thermal vacuum chamber testing in a SpaceX clean room shown above in Hawthorne (Los Angeles) California. The open bays will hold the parachutes. NASA has given SpaceX a launch date of Nov 30, 2011 for Falcon 9 Flight 3, which will send a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.