ISPCS Morning Session: Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX

ispcs_logoThe International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) got started formally this morning in Las Cruces, NM, with its first four speakers. The conference runs through Thursday evening.

Although I couldn’t be there, several people are Tweeting the event live. Below is a compilation of Tweets from Jeff Fust and others on the talk by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell on Wednesday morning.

I will try to keep up with the conference from Mojave and provide summaries of speakers as I can.
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Grasshopper Takes Highest Flight To Date

Video Caption: On Monday, October 7th, Grasshopper completed its highest leap to date, rising to 744m altitude. The view above is taken from a single camera hexacopter, getting closer to the stage than in any previous flight.

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry, SpaceX rockets are being designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. The Grasshopper VTVL vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.

Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage tank, Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminum landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

Video: Watch SpaceX’s Grasshopper Fly Laterally

Video Caption: On August 13th, the Falcon 9 test rig (code name Grasshopper) completed a divert test, flying to a 250m altitude with a 100m lateral maneuver before returning to the center of the pad. The test demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights.

Grasshopper is taller than a ten story building, which makes the control problem particularly challenging. Diverts like this are an important part of the trajectory in order to land the rocket precisely back at the launch site after reentering from space at hypersonic velocity.

Watch SpaceX’s Grasshopper Fly to 325 Meters

Video Caption: On June 14, SpaceX’s Grasshopper flew 325 m (1066 feet)–higher than Manhattan’s Chrysler Building–before smoothly landing back on the pad. For the first time in this test, Grasshopper made use of its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish a precision landing. Most rockets are equipped with sensors to determine position, but these sensors are generally not accurate enough to accomplish the type of precision landing necessary with Grasshopper.

Previous Grasshopper tests relied on the other rocket sensors but for this test, an additional, higher accuracy sensor was in the control loop. In other words, SpaceX was directly controlling the vehicle based on new sensor readings, adding a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance between Grasshopper and the ground, enabling a more precise landing.

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry, SpaceX rockets are being designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. The Grasshopper VTVL vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.

Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage tank, Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminum landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

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SpaceX to Test Grasshopper at Spaceport America

Grasshopper on the pad in Texas. (Credit: SpaceX)
Grasshopper on the pad in Texas. (Credit: SpaceX)

Santa Fe, N.M. (NMSA PR) – Governor Susana Martinez today announced that Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, has signed a three-year agreement to lease land and facilities at Spaceport America to conduct the next phase of flight testing for its reusable rocket program. The company will be a new tenant at Spaceport America, the state-owned commercial launch site located in southern New Mexico.

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Video of SpaceX’s Grasshopper Reaching 250 Meters

Video Caption: SpaceX’s Grasshopper flies 820 feet, more than tripling its March 7th leap.

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up in the atmosphere during reentry, SpaceX’s rockets are being designed to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing.

SpaceX’s Grasshopper Reaches 80 Meters in Flight

McGregor, Texas (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX’s Grasshopper doubled its highest leap to date to rise 24 stories or 80.1 meters (262.8 feet) today, hovering for approximately 34 seconds and landing safely using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control.

Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate precision thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad.  At touchdown, the thrust to weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9.  Today’s test was completed at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

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A Look Back at Suborbital Space in 2012

IMG_3012
Excerpted from the FAA report, “Commercial Space Transportation: 2012 Year in Review”.

FAA Suborbital Flight Summary

On October 6, at New Mexico’s Spaceport America, Armadillo Aerospace’s STIG-B suborbital reusable vehicle (SRV) made the only FAA-licensed suborbital launch of 2012. However, six other suborbital vehicles flew under experimental permits or Class 3 waivers.

The STIG-B flight was the first FAA-licensed launch from Spaceport America. The launch experienced an in-flight abort. It did not reach its planned altitude, but the vehicle was successfully recovered intact and later used to conduct launch tests in November and December. Armadillo successfully launched its STIG-A vehicle under a Class 3 Waiver in January, but the vehicle was lost during recovery.

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America’s Rocket Renaissance

rutan_talkBy Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.

My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly?

A lot, it turns out.

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Awesome Video: SpaceX’s Grasshopper Flies to 40 Meters

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SPACEX PR) — SpaceX’s Grasshopper took a 12-story leap towards full and rapid rocket reusability in a test flight conducted December 17, 2012 at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

Grasshopper, SpaceX’s vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL), rose 131 feet (40 meters), hovered and landed safely on the pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. The total test duration was 29 seconds.

Grasshopper stands 10 stories tall and consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

The 12-story flight marks a significant increase over the height and length of hover of Grasshopper’s previous test flights, which took place earlier this fall. In September, Grasshopper flew to 1.8 meters (6 feet), and in November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet/2 stories) including a brief hover.

Testing of Grasshopper will continue with successively more sophisticated flights expected over the next several months.

Video: Is SpaceX’s New Engine and Spacecraft Designed for Mars?

In this interview with the Royal Aeronautical Society, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is asked about a rumored new project called the Raptor MCT (4:28):

MUSK: “Now and again, I just throw something out just for fun. I can confirm that the name of the engine is Raptor. I’d like to announce maybe some details about the engine next year. But, perhaps what’s even more interesting is the spaceship that that’s attached to it.”

Q: “Does the M in MCT stand for anything to do with Mars or Martian?

MUSK: (Laughs) “I have to leave a little. You show a little leg but not all of it.”

Editor’s Note: Musk said during a separate talk that Raptor is a methane engine.

A few other comments of note:

Grasshopper

We hope to demonstration high altitude supersonic liftoff and return — have stage take off, go supersonic and land with propulsion at landing site

Grasshopper is a test bed for recovering Falcon 9 stages for reuse

It consists of a Falcon 9 first stage and a Merlin I-D engine

Stratolaunch

“That’s definitely not one of our main initiatives. And think there’s likely to be some changes in that program.”

Can’t comment on changes

SpaceX’s role is to supply a downsized version of the Falcon 9 rocket that would be air launched from the company’s carrier aircraft

Falcon Heavy

We hope to fly a demonstration flight by the end of 2013

Planetary Resources

“Our rockets are standing by.”

Believes there is potentially a market for mining asteroids as a refueling station. Not sure about the market for mining platinum and other resources.

Planetary Resources is the start up looking at mining asteroids founded by Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis

Skylon

Doesn’t know project very well. His calculation show that single-stage-to-orbit does not make sense, but he could be wrong.

Skylon is the Reaction Engines’ SSTO

Human Mission to Mars

10 or 15 year time frame

A Closer Look at SpaceX’s Grasshopper

Grasshopper on the pad in Texas. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX PR — On November 1, 2012, SpaceX’s Grasshopper — a 10-story vertical takeoff and landing (VTVL) vehicle — lifted nearly two stories in an 8-second duration test hop. The rocket rose 17.7 feet (5.4 meters), hovered, and touched back down safely on the pad at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

The Grasshopper program is a critical step toward achieving SpaceX’s goal of developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets. With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are testing the technology that would allow a launched rocket to land intact, rather than burning up upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.

The Grasshopper program is a critical step toward achieving SpaceX’s goal of developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets. With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are testing the technology that would allow a launched rocket to land intact, rather than burning up upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.

Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure. For a sense of its scale, note the blue pick-up truck to the left of Grasshopper in the photo above.

SpaceX Granted Experimental Permit for Grasshopper Flights


SpaceX has been granted an experimental permit for its Grasshopper test vehicle, which is designed to test reusable technologies for the Falcon 9 rocket.

Under the permit, SpaceX authorized to conduct:

(1) An unlimited number of flights of the Grasshopper Reusable Launch Vehicle within the operating area identified by permit order A; and

(2) Pre-flight and post-flight ground operations at McGregor Test Site associated with flight of the Grasshopper Reusable Launch Vehicle.