Musk Hints Details on Scaled Down Interplanetary Transport System

Musk is talking about the scaled down version of the Interplanetary Transport System that he plans to unveil in Adelaide, Australia at the end of September. For comparison purposes, the vehicle he unveiled last year had a 12 meter diameter. Falcon 9 has a diameter of 3.7 meters. The diameter of the Saturn V was 10.1 meters.


UPDATE:
The above graphic shows the engine layout for the ITS. It would seem they would lose 21 outside engines by shrinking the diameter to 9 meters. That would leave the ITS with 21 Raptor engines on the first stage.

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NASA’s Hubble Sees Martian Moon Orbiting the Red Planet

The sharp eye of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured the tiny moon Phobos during its orbital trek around Mars. Because the moon is so small, it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures.

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Over the course of 22 minutes, Hubble took 13 separate exposures, allowing astronomers to create a time-lapse video showing the diminutive moon’s orbital path. The Hubble observations were intended to photograph Mars, and the moon’s cameo appearance was a bonus.

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Elon Musk’s Bad Historical Analogy

Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During his appearance at the International Space Station R&D Conference on Wednesday, Elon Musk recited an old argument to support his plans to colonize Mars.

Back in the day,California was an empty place where almost nobody lived. At least until some crazy visionaries built the Transcontinental Railroad to it even though everyone thought it was a completely crazy thing to do.

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Musk: Moon In, Red Dragon & Propulsive Landings Out

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

During an appearance at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference on Wednesday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said plans for propulsive crew Dragon landings and Red Dragon missions to Mars had been scrapped, downplayed the probability that the first Falcon Heavy launch will succeed, and even had a good word to say about the moon.

Here are notes from the talk.

State of Space Exploration

  • Entering a new era of space exploration
  • SpaceX and other companies developing new systems
  • NASA approaching things in new ways
  • Space station resupply program should be adapted across the government
  • Key to opening up space is “rapid and complete reusability”, but it is very difficult

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Has Mars Man Musk Pivoted to the Moon?

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc

Partway through an appearance at the International Space Station R&D Conference on Wednesday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk dropped a bombshell into a conference room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.

“If you want to get the public real fired up, I think we’ve got to have a base on the moon,” he said. “That would be pretty cool. And then going beyond that, getting people to Mars.”

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House Appropriations Committee Boosts NASA’s Budget

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ignoring the Trump’s Administration’s fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget request, the House Appropriations Committee has voted to boost NASA’ spending to $19.88 billion, including significant increases to the space agency’s Exploration and Planetary Science programs.

The appropriations bill is an increase of $779.8 million over Trump’s requested budget of $19.09 billion. It would increase NASA’s budget by $218.5 million over the $19.65 billion the space agency is receiving in FY 2017.

NASA’s Exploration program, which includes the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, would be boosted by $226 million to $4.55 billion under the House measure. The administration had requested $3.93 billion, a cut of $390 million under current spending.

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Will the National Space Council Make a Difference at NASA?

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

Warren Ferster Consulting asks whether the newly revived National Space Council will make much of a difference at NASA, whose human deep space programs are dependent upon the Congressionally supported Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.

Some have suggested that, with a space council chaired by Vice President Mike Pence cracking the whip, the full potential of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin can be brought to bear in support of the nation’s space goals. The implication is this hasn’t happened to date, which is puzzling since leveraging commercial capabilities to support the International Space Station was the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s space policy.

Obama was challenged in that effort not by the lack of a National Space Council, but by Capitol Hill, where key lawmakers viewed his outsourcing initiative as a threat to the pet program that they mandated, the decidedly uncommercial Space Launch System.

The super-heavy-lift SLS is exhibit A of the argument that getting the Executive Branch speaking with one voice on space policy, while sensible, won’t matter a great deal if Congress has a different agenda.

To recap, Obama’s human spaceflight policy was to outsource ISS crew and cargo transportation and invest in technologies with the potential to change the economics of deep space exploration. To make budgetary room, Obama canceled Constellation, a collection of hardware development programs begun under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The article notes that Bush got bipartisan approval from Congress for the Constellation program without a National Space Council. The program included Orion and two space shuttle-derived Ares boosters for human orbital and deep-space missions.

Obama subsequently canceled the Constellation program, only to have Congress revive the program as SLS and Orion. Only the smaller Ares orbital booster was canceled.

Trump Administration’s NASA Policy Slowly Emerges

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week was long on rhetoric and short on details, but a few themes and priorities have already emerged in the Trump Administration’s slowly evolving approach to the nation’s civilian space program.

NASA Will Lead Again

In a speech in which he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump, Pence used some variation of the word “lead” a total of 33 times (“leadership” 18 times, “leader(s)” eight times,  “lead”  six times and “leading” once).
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Pence Promises Return to the Moon & Boots on Mars

Mike Pence

Vice President and newly minted Chairman of the revived National Space Council Mike Pence visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday where he gave a speech promising a return to the moon and boots on Mars.

When? How? What will it cost? And how are we going to pay for it?

Pence didn’t get into that level of granularity. In fact, he didn’t get into very many details at all during his address to KSC employees.

Pence’s speech consisted of a lot of platitudes delivered with attitude and lots of latitude as to what it all meant in practice.

If you watched it and were baffled, welcome to the club. That seems to be the consensus of the media coverage I’ve seen so far among reporters who cover space.

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India’s Mars Orbiter Hits 1,000 Days at Mars

Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft attached to the 4th stage of PSLV-C25 and ready for heat shield closure. (Credit: ISRO)

BANGALORE, India (ISRO PR) — Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the maiden interplanetary mission of ISRO, launched on November 5, 2013 by PSLV-C25 got inserted into Martian orbit on September 24, 2014 in its first attempt.  MOM completes 1000 Earth days in its orbit, today (June 19, 2017) well beyond its designed mission life of six months. 1000 Earth days corresponds to 973.24 Mars Sols (Martian Solar day) and MOM completed 388 orbits.

MOM is credited with many laurels like cost-effectiveness, short period of realisation, economical mass-budget, miniaturisation of five heterogeneous science payloads etc. Satellite is in good health and continues to work as expected. Scientific analysis of the data received from the Mars Orbiter spacecraft is in progress.

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Lockheed Martin Unveils New Space-Themed STEM Resources


Concerned the United States will lack a workforce capable of sending astronauts to Mars, Lockheed Martin has unveiled new resources to encourage students to study relevant STEM fields.

The additions to the company’s Generation Beyond program including a space-themed curriculum and new app that simulates what it’s like to explore the surface of Mars.

The expansion of the program follows a poll that shows low interest among students in studying STEM fields.

“According to the national survey of 1,000 teachers (conducted by Morar Consulting from April 5 – 11, ± 3.1% MOE), while just 38 percent of teachers report that a majority of students seem naturally interested in STEM, 83 percent see discussing space-related careers as a potential way to increase student focus on STEM,” Lockheed Martin said in a press statement.

“America’s hardworking teachers do an amazing job preparing students for success, and we owe them our support and partnership,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “The new Generation Beyond curriculum connects students to the real-world exhilaration of space exploration to ignite their interest in STEM. It’s incumbent on all of us to help teachers inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers.”

Lockheed Martin partnered with Discovery Education to create the Generation Beyond curriculum resources. They are available at generationbeyondinschool.com. The Mars Walk can be download for iPhone or Android phones.

Elon Musk’s Ambitious Mars Plan Now Online

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

If you liked the talk, you’re going to love the paper.

New Space journal has published an article by SpaceX Founder Elon Musk in which he puts down in writing the presentation he gave in Mexico last year about his company’s plan for a human transportation system to Mars.

You can read the paper here.

China Looks for Commercial Lunar, Mars Participation

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

China is looking to get more commercial companies involved in lunar and Mars exploration.

Tian Yulong, secretary general of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said that commercial aerospace programs had been carried out in low Earth orbit (LEO), but those in deep space exploration would be a challenge, at the Global Space Exploration Conference, which lasts from Tuesday to Thursday.

“In deep space exploration, we need to provide a favorable environment for middle and small-sized enterprises,” he said….

Tian said many Chinese companies showed enthusiasm for taking part in space exploration. In the last two years, more than 10 enterprises have been engaged in microsatellite research and development and about 100 have worked on the development and use of satellite LEO data.

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