Tag: SpaceX

PopSci’s Best of What’s New: Dragon V2, LDSD & Chang’e-3

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Popular Science has published its year end  Best of What’s New list. In the aerospace category, the list included two NASA-funded programs and China’s first landing on the moon.

SpaceX Dragon Version 2 – Grand Award Winner

Elon Musk debuted a model of the human-rated Dragon spacecraft at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., in May. The vehicle, being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, could carry astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2016.

Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:

The LDSD project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped design could reach the altitudes and air speeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

For more information about the LDSD space technology demonstration mission: http://go.usa.gov/N5zm


The Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.

The Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.

China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft soft landed on the lunar surface in December 2013 and then deployed the Yutu rover to further explore the moon. The moon landing was the first for China, and it marked the first exploration of the lunar surface in nearly 40 years. China is aiming to return soil samples from the moon with its Chang’e-5 spacecraft.

Sierra Nevada Shuts Down Poway, Lays Off More Than 100

Dream Chaser hybrid motor test firing. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser hybrid motor test firing. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sources report that Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has shut down its rocket engine test facility in Poway, Calif., where the company has tested propulsion systems for the Dream Chaser space shuttle and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle.

The company laid off more than 100 employees last week, including around 70 in Poway with the rest in Colorado, sources report.

Sierra Nevada lost out on two big contracts this year. In May, Virgin Galactic announced it was switching from SNC’s rubber hybrid to a nylon hybrid engine developed by Scaled Composites to power SpaceShipTwo. The rubber hybrid had been tested down in Poway.

In September, SNC lost out on the next round of NASA Commercial Crew Program contracts when the space agency selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop vehicles to fly to the International Space Station. SNC’s Dream Chaser shuttle was not selected.

SNC has appealed the decision. The Government Accountability Office has until early January to make a decision on the appeal.

NASA Commercial Crew Partners Continue System Advancements


WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s industry partners continue to complete development milestones under agreements with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The work performed by Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX during partnership and contract initiatives are leading a new generation of safe, reliable and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit destinations.

Blue Origin conducted an interim design review of the subsystems in development for its Space Vehicle spacecraft designed to carry people into low-Earth orbit. The September review was performed under an unfunded Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA. In October, NASA and Blue Origin agreed to add three additional unfunded milestones to the agreement to continue the development work and partnership. Those milestones will include further testing of Blue Origin’s propellant tank, BE-3 engine and pusher escape system.

Continue reading ‘NASA Commercial Crew Partners Continue System Advancements’

WorldVu Satellites Issues RFP for 640 Satellites

Greg Wyler

Greg Wyler

It looks like Greg Wyler and WorldVu are moving forward on its global broadband plan:

WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which has secured regulatory approval for the use of Ku-band spectrum in a non-geostationary-orbit constellation of hundreds of satellites for a global broadband Internet service, has issued requests for bids to satellite manufacturers for 640 125-kilogram satellites, industry officials said.

The system, which has been variously described as affiliated with Google and more recently with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. founder Elon Musk, is estimated to cost about $1.5 billion, including launch, for satellites that would each have 14 gigabits per second of throughput and orbit at 1,200 kilometers in altitude. The satellites would have a design life of seven years or more.

One official said the bid request asks for responses by mid-December and features a requirement that the prospective manufacturers agree to creating a joint-venture company in which WorldVu would co-own the satellite production facility.

“The idea behind this is that the way people build satellites today is not the way they should be built tomorrow,” this official said. “It’s true that the [profit] margins in the satellite manufacturing business stink. But there is a value in having full control of the design so that iterations could be made throughout the manufacturing process.”

Space News has the full story.

Musk Looks to Launch Large Constellation of Broadband Satellites


The Wall Street Journal has more on the story:

Mr. Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran and former Google Inc. executive, these people said. Mr. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which controls a large block of radio spectrum.

In talks with industry executives, Messrs. Musk and Wyler have discussed launching around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, the people said. That is about half the size of the smallest communications satellites now in commercial use. The satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the largest current fleet, managed by Iridium Communications Inc.

To be sure, the venture would face large financial, technical and regulatory hurdles, and industry officials estimate that it would cost $1 billion or more to develop the project. The people familiar with the matter cautioned the venture is in its formative stages, and Mr. Musk’s participation isn’t certain.

Messrs. Musk and Wyler are considering building a factory to make satellites, the people said. One of the people said initial talks have been held with state officials in Florida and Colorado about locating the factory.

In addition to Mr. Musk, WorldVu is seeking a satellite industry partner to lend expertise to the project, this person said.

Dragon Released From ISS, Heads for Splashdown in Pacific

SpaceX Dragon freighter at ISS. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX Dragon freighter at ISS. (Credit: NASA)

Update: Dragon splashed down safely in the Pacific this afternoon.

NASA Mission Update

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was released from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 9:57 a.m. EDT. The capsule will begin a series of departure burns and maneuvers to move beyond the 656-foot (200-meter) “keep out sphere” around the station and begin its return trip to Earth. The capsule is currently scheduled to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at 3:39 p.m., about 265 miles west of the Baja peninsula.

SpaceX Builds Enough Merlin 1D Engines for 10 Falcon 9 Flights

The 100th Merlin 1D engine to come off the assembly line. (Credit: SpaceX)

The 100th Merlin 1D engine to come off the assembly line. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) – Less than two years after SpaceX began producing the Merlin 1D engines that power the Falcon 9 rocket, the 100th Merlin 1D engine is complete. SpaceX is currently the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Builds Enough Merlin 1D Engines for 10 Falcon 9 Flights’

Judge Knocks Down SNC’s Motion for Commercial Crew Work Stoppage

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

A Federal Court of Claims judge has rejected a motion by the Sierra Nevada Corporation to re-impose a stop-work order on NASA’s commercial crew program, according to press reports. It is not immediately clear why Judge Marian Blank Horn rejected the motion.

NASA has initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work on commercial crew contracts the agency awarded the two companies while the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed an appeal by Sierra Nevada, which did not receive an award.

However, NASA later lifted the order, saying any delay would imperil efforts to keep the commercial crew program on schedule and meet its commitments for operating the International Space Station. Sierra Nevada subsequently appealed that decision.

The GAO has until Jan. 5 to rule on Sierra Nevada’s appeal of the commercial crew awards.

Court Holds Initial Hearing on Sierra Nevada’s Effort to Reimpose Commercial Crew Stop Work Order

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Marian Blank Horn heard initial arguments on Friday on a motion by Sierra Nevada Corporation to stop Boeing and SpaceX from continuing work on recently awarded NASA commercial crew contracts pending an appeal of the awards.

The judge did not rule on the motion, but set an additional hearing on Tuesday to hear further arguments, according to press reports.

Sierra Nevada has appealed the awards NASA has made to Boeing and SpaceX citing alleged irregularities in the process. NASA’s decisions left Sierra Nevada without additional government funding to complete its Dream Chaser shuttle.

NASA initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work under the contracts, but the space agency later reversed its decision. Sierra Nevada is seeking to reinstate the stop work order.

The Government Accountability Office has until early January to rule on Sierra Nevada’s protest of NASA’s commercial crew awards.

Cool Falcon 9 Landing Video


Video Caption: This Falcon 9 video combines videos of the returning Falcon 9 first stage, from a range of Space X video sources for the CRS3 and Orbcomm missions, and features a NASASpaceflight.com animation of the ocean landing.