Tag: human spaceflight

How Will Musk Sell His Mars Plans?

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Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Later today, Elon Musk will stand on a stage at the International Astronautic Congress in Mexico and reveal his plans for sending humans to Mars and making humanity a multi-planet species.

His talk will be webcast on Tuesday, Sept. 27 beginning at 2:30 pm EDT. To access the webcast, please click here or connect on one of these websites: IAF website, IAC 2016 website and AEM website. Musk will hold a press conference afterward; it’s not known whether it will be webcast.

The description of the talk on the conference website gives us a hint about what lies ahead.

SpaceX Founder, CEO, and Lead Designer Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for sustaining humans on the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

There are three questions that loom on the eve of the speech: What exactly is he going to propose? Who will pay for it? And how will he convince people it’s worth doing? A bit of parsing of the above description gives us some clues.
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Roundup of SpaceX Accident and Commercial Crew News

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Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

SpaceX Falcon 9 Failures

SpaceX suffered two failures of its Falcon 9 booster within 14 months. Both failures apparently occurred in the second stage of the rocket.

SpaceX has had problems with helium since at least 2014 when two flights were scrubbed due to leaks. In the 2015 accident, a helium bottle broke free inside the liquid oxygen tank leading to over pressurization. SpaceX has preliminarily identified a large breach in the second stage cryogenic helium system as the cause of the failure earlier this month.

Below are some key stories about the accidents and the investigations into them.

SpaceXplosion Update: Preliminary Review Suggests “Large Breach in Cryogenic Helium System” — Sept. 23, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/23/spacexplosion-update-preliminary-review-suggests-large-breach-cryogenic-helium-system/

SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus — Sept. 12, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/19/video-analysis-spacex-falcon-9-firexplanomaly/

A Video Analysis of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly — Sept. 19, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/19/video-analysis-spacex-falcon-9-firexplanomaly/

Video of SpaceX Falcon 9 Explosion — Sept. 1, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/01/video-spacex-falcon-9-explosion/

Falcon 9 Pad Failure Throws SpaceX Schedule into Doubt — Sept. 1, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/01/falcon-9-pad-failure-throws-spacex-schedule-doubt/

NASA Still Hasn’t Released Report on SpaceX’s Last Accident — Sept 16, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/16/nasa-hasnt-released-report-spacexs-accident/

NASA Investigation into SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Explosion Questions Single Strut Theory — June 28, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/06/28/nasa-investigation-spacexs-falcon-explosion-questions-single-strut-theory/

Musk: Failed Strut Suspected in Falcon 9 Failure — July 20, 2015
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/07/20/musk-failed-strut-suspected-falcon-9-failure/

SpaceX Postpones AsiaSat6 Launch — Aug. 26, 2014
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/08/26/spacex-postpones-asiasat6-launch/

SpaceX Scrubs Falcon 9 Launch — April 14, 2014
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/04/14/spacex-scrubs-falcon-9-launch/

Commercial Crew Updates

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

On the same day as the Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded on the launch pad, the NASA Inspector General released a report that concluded that neither SpaceX nor Boeing were likely to fly crews to the International Space Station on a commercial basis until the end of 2018.

It’s unclear whether the Falcon 9 failure will further delay SpaceX’s Crew Dragon program. One issue is that SpaceX wants to use super cold densified fuels in the rocket that must be loaded close to the launch time to keep them from warming. That would require putting the crews on board before fuel loading, something that has never been done before.

NASA was not that comfortable with densified fuels or loading the crew first before the failure earlier this month. It remains to be seen whether the space agency will ever allow it now.

Below are three stories looking at SpaceX’s commercial crew challenges.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Challenges: Welds, Cracks & Water Seepage — Sept. 4, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/04/spacex-crew-dragon-challenges-welds-cracks-water-seepage/

SpaceX Commercial Crew Milestone Status — Sept. 3, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/03/spacex-commercial-crew-milestone-status/

NASA OIG Report: Further Delays in Commercial Crew, More Payments to Russians — Sept. 1, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/01/nasa-oig-report-delays-commercial-crews-payments-russians/

I Will Launch America: Mike Ravenscroft

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Mike Ravenscroft (Credit: NASA)

Mike Ravenscroft (Credit: NASA)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Every astronaut who flies into space should go with the confidence that every detail of their spacecraft, rocket and mission has been thought-through and evaluated carefully, engineer Michael Ravenscroft said. That’s one of the reasons that the Commercial Crew Program engineer takes so little for granted as the program steers itself and partners toward a new dawn of human spaceflight from American soil.

“It’s one of those things you always think about – you don’t want to put anybody at unnecessary risk,” Ravenscroft said.

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Next ISS Crew Launch Postponed

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Expedition 49-50 crew members (from left) Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.

Expedition 49-50 crew members (from left) Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos decided to postpone the planned September 23, 2016 launch of the manned spacecraft Soyuz MS-02 for technical reasons after tests at the Baikonur Space Center.

The launch date of the spacecraft will be announced later.

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Elon Musk Ponders Renaming Mars Colonial Transporter as Crew Dragon Slips

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Elon Musk has began to tease a talk he is set to give on Sept. 27 in which he is to reveal his plans for sending people to Mars. Musk will deliver his talk, titled “Making Humans a Multi-planetary Species,” during the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. According to the program

Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

Continue reading ‘Elon Musk Ponders Renaming Mars Colonial Transporter as Crew Dragon Slips’

China Launches Tiangong-2 Space Station

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china_flagThe Chinese successfully launched the Tiangong-2 space station into orbit from aboard a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

A two-man crew is scheduled to launch to the station in October aboard the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft. The crew will carry out a 30-day mission aboard the space station before returning to Earth.

Tiangong-2 is a precursor to a multi-module station that China will be assembling later this decade. Officials had previously said they would begin launching the new facility around 2018. However, media reports today say the first launch could occur next year.

 

Aerojet Rocketdyne Tests Orion Jettison Motor

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aeorjet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), successfully tested its third development jettison motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft at its facility in Rancho Cordova, California. Orion is being built to take humans farther into space than ever before, and the jettison motor is a critical element for ensuring astronaut safety. Leaders from NASA and Lockheed Martin, the agency’s prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft, visited Aerojet Rocketdyne to witness this key test.

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SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Out of the blue and into the black
They give you this, but you pay for that
And once you’re gone, you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue and into the black.

My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)
Neil Young

In his book, “Mastery,” George Leonard provides a fascinating explanation of how people master new skills.

The mastery curve (Credit: George Leonard)

The mastery curve (Credit: George Leonard)

“There’s really no way around it. Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases than that which preceded it,” Leonard writes. “The curve above is not necessarily idealized. In the actual learning experience, progress is less regular; the upward spurts vary; the plateaus have their own dips and rises along the way. But the general progression is almost always the same.”

Continue reading ‘SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus’

New SpaceShipTwo Completes Captive Carry Flight

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The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Today marks an exciting milestone in our shared quest to open space to change the world for good. For the first time, a spaceship built by our manufacturing arm, The Spaceship Company, and operated by us at Virgin Galactic has taken to the skies.

Continue reading ‘New SpaceShipTwo Completes Captive Carry Flight’

Orion Crew Module Reaches Milestone in Processing for First Test SLS Flight

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The Orion crew module for Exploration Mission 1 was transferred into the clean room inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in late July to begin installation of the spacecraft's critical systems, including propellant lines. (Credit: NASA)

The Orion crew module for Exploration Mission 1 was transferred into the clean room inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in late July to begin installation of the spacecraft’s critical systems, including propellant lines. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Assembly of the Orion crew module for the first uncrewed flight test atop NASA’s Space Launch System reached a significant milestone this month in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of Orion, and its subcontractor engineers, technicians and X-ray specialists completed the first propellant system tube welds on the exterior of the Orion pressure vessel.

Continue reading ‘Orion Crew Module Reaches Milestone in Processing for First Test SLS Flight’

NASA OIG: Orion Facing Technical, Schedule & Funding Challenges

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Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the Orion pressure vessel for a series of tests inside the proof pressure cell in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the Orion pressure vessel for a series of tests inside the proof pressure cell in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

NASA’s Management of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program

NASA Office of Inspector General
Office of Audits
Report No. IG-16-029
September 6, 2016
[Full Report]

What We Found

The Orion Program has met several key development milestones on the path to its first crewed mission, including a successful test flight in December 2014. However, much work remains, including evaluating options related to the delayed delivery of the European Service Module; continuing mitigation of seven critical risks while operating with a less-than-optimal budget profile for a developmental project; addressing a potential shortfall of $382 million in reserves managed by its prime contractor; and successfully launching and recovering EM-1 after its uncrewed test flight scheduled for September 2018. At the same time, Program officials are working toward an optimistic internal launch date of August 2021 for EM-2 – 20 months earlier than the Agency’s external commitment date of April 2023. While we understand the desire to meet a more aggressive schedule, this approach has led the Program to defer addressing some technical tasks to later in the development cycle, which in turn could negatively affect cost, schedule, and safety.

Continue reading ‘NASA OIG: Orion Facing Technical, Schedule & Funding Challenges’

NASA Suffering Significant Delays in Evaluating Commercial Crew Hazard Reports

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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Improvements Needed to Ensure Timely Reviews of Contractor Development Efforts

NASA is responsible for managing the certification process for the Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew transportation systems to ensure they meet Agency human rating requirements. Timely insight into the contractors’ activities is vital to ensure this process proceeds on schedule and within the agreed-upon budget. As part of the certification process and to provide insight into contractor efforts, Boeing and SpaceX conduct safety reviews and develop reports on potential hazards and the controls they have put in place to mitigate them (hazard reports) for NASA’s review.

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Boeing’s Starliner Challenges: Weight, Vibrations, Software & Landings

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Boeing CST-100 Starliner high bay (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Boeing CST-100 Starliner high bay (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Boeing’s CCtCap contract initially included 23 milestones ranging from the establishment of an original requirements baseline to the final vehicle certification. Within the first 2 years of the contract, Boeing and NASA modified the contract to separate three of the milestones into multiple segments, replace one milestone, and add seven milestones related to NASA-imposed software upgrades, landing qualification tests, and hardware modifications.18 These modifications increased the number of milestones to 34 and the total contract value by approximately $46 million.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Challenges: Welds, Cracks & Water Seepage

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

SpaceX’s CCtCap contract initially included 18 milestones ranging from establishment of the original requirements baseline to final vehicle certification. During the first year of the contract, SpaceX and NASA agreed to separate SpaceX’s Propulsion Module Testing and Critical Design Review into multiple segments, which increased the total milestones to 21.20

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Crew Dragon Challenges: Welds, Cracks & Water Seepage’

Boeing Commercial Crew Milestone Status

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Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

In 2016, Boeing amended its schedule to reflect receipt of certification in January 2018 and the first certified flight in the spring of 2018. Notwithstanding the contractors’ optimism, based on the information we gathered during our audit, we believe it unlikely that either Boeing or SpaceX will achieve certified, crewed flight to the ISS until late 2018.
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