Tag: SpaceX

ViaSat Shifts Satellite Launch From Falcon Heavy to Ariane 5

Artist's conception of a Falcon Heavy launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

Artist’s conception of a Falcon Heavy launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

ViaSat has moved a satellite from Falcon Heavy to Ariane 5 as a result of delays in launching SpaceX’s heavy-lift booster. Arianespace plans to launch the ViaSat-2 spacecraft during the first quarter of 2017.

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FAA Releases Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation


faa_compendium_2016The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2016

Executive Summary

The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29 percent, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity. Following this is government space budgets at $76 billion, or 24 percent, and services enabled by GNSS represent, about $76 billion in revenues. Commercial satellite remote sensing companies generated on $1.6 billion in revenues, but the value added services enabled by these companies is believed to be magnitudes larger. Because remote sensing value added services includes imagery and data analytics from other sources beyond space-based platforms, only the satellite remote sensing component is included in the global space industry total.

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Delta IV, Falcon 9 Launches Set


NROL45_MissionArtNight owls and insomniacs in California will be able to witness a spectacular night launch on Wednesday morning.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV is set to lift off at 3:39 a.m. PST (6:39 a.m. EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-45. If there are clear skies, the launch will be visible for hundreds of miles.

ULA will webcast the launch at http://www.ulalaunch.com.

SpaceX is planning to be back in action two weeks later with a planned Feb. 24 launch of its upgraded Falcon 9 booster. The rocket will carry SES-9 communications satellite for SES S.A. of Luxembourg. SpaceX will conduct the launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“In order to minimise the impact of moving the launch from late last year, SpaceX is supporting a mission modification,” SES said in a press release. “The changed mission will reduce the time needed for SES-9 to reach its orbital slot, keeping the Operational Service Date (OSD) in the third quarter of 2016, as previously foreseen….

“SES-9 will use a chemical bi-propellant apogee motor to quickly achieve a 24h synchronous orbit and then electric propulsion to circularise the final orbit and to remove eccentricity at 36,000 kilometers over the equator,” the company added. “Subsequent on-orbit manoeuvres will be executed with electric propulsion.”

Russians Doubt Reusable Boosters, Look to Phase Out Rockot Launches

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

Russia doesn’t seem overly impressed by the recent progress by SpaceX and Blue Origin in developing reusable launch vehicles. At according to TsNIIMash, which is the company’s main research institute.

“The economic feasibility of reusable launch systems is not obvious. First and foremost it will depend on how often launches will be made. At the moment it is hard to forecast which way the market of launch services will go when reusable space rockets become available. The designers are still to demonstrate the real costs of production and of making reusable stages for re-launching,” a TsNIIMash spokesman said.

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SpaceX Tests Technology at Pad 39A

Credit: SpaceX

Credit: SpaceX

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A critical piece of large equipment is being tested at Launch Complex 39A this week as SpaceX raises and lowers the transporter erector that will be used to move the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad for missions. Standing 212 feet high – more than 20 stories – the TE, as SpaceX calls the machine, will move launch-ready rockets and spacecraft from the processing hangar at the base of the pad up to the pad surface and into a vertical position over the flame trench.

The lift and lowering of the transporter erector are part of routine tests conducted on the pad to ensure all ground systems are prepared to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. The TE is a much larger and stronger version of the erector the company uses at Space Launch Complex 40, as it will also be used for processing and launching future Falcon Heavy rockets.

SpaceX Plans Higher Production, Launch Rates in 2016

Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said on Wednesday that the company plans to reach higher production and launch rates this year.

“Now we’re in this factory transformation to go from building six or eight a year to about 18 cores a year. By the end of this year we should be at over 30 cores per year,” she said. “So you see the factory start to morph.”

Shotwell, after her conference speech, said SpaceX plans to launch SES-9 “in the next couple of weeks.” The company then plans to maintain a high flight rate. “You should see us fly every two to three weeks,” she said.

While SpaceX plans to increase production of the Falcon 9, she suggested the company was still making changes to the vehicle. The Dec. 21 launch of 11 Orbcomm satellites was the first flight of an upgraded, or “full thrust,” version of the vehicle, and also the first time the company successfully landed the rocket’s first stage as part of its reusability efforts.

The latest changes, she said, came after a static fire test of the first stage Jan. 15 at Cape Canaveral. “We fired it up, and actually learned something about the rocket,” she said, without elaborating on what the company learned. “We’re going to make some mods based on what we saw on that stage landing and firing.”

SpaceX had earlier planned to reach the production of 40 cores annually by the end of 2015.

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Space Foundation Honors SpaceX for Falcon 9 First Stage Landing

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 1, 2016) – In December 2015, SpaceX, a known pioneer in the space industry, successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 left Cape Canaveral in Florida, delivered 11 satellites to orbit and historically landed the first stage minutes later. For that achievement, the Space Foundation has selected SpaceX to receive one of its top honors, the 2016 Space Achievement Award.

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Customers Edgy as SpaceX’s Schedule Slips; Falcon Heavy Flight Delayed Again

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s customers are again experiencing the effects of Elon Musk’s focus on continuous upgrades to its Falcon 9 rocket as launch dates slide to the right. Meanwhile, the long-delayed debut of the company’s 28-engine Falcon Heavy vehicle has been postponed by at least five more months.

SpaceX’s silence on the schedule delays of its Falcon 9 Upgrade rocket, whose inaugural flight on Dec. 21 was a success, is causing ripples of concern among commercial customers, which like NASA are counting on a high launch cadence in 2016 to meet these companies’ schedule milestones, industry officials said.
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NanoRacks Eyes Private Airlock on Space Station


nano_racks_logoNanoRacks is proposing to spend $12 to $15 million on a private airlock that would allow it to launch more satellites off the International Space Station.

NASA is interested, and it may give NanoRacks approval to proceed with developing the airlock as soon as next month. The agency and its primary station contractor, Boeing, are conducting a formal assessment to see if the airlock can be safely integrated into the station. “We’ve very intrigued by it, and we haven’t found any showstoppers so far,” Mike Read, manager of the space station National Lab Office at Johnson Space Center, told Ars.

If approved by NASA, the airlock, which NanoRacks has dubbed the “Doorway to Space,” could launch as early as 2018 inside the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon capsule. The company says it could use the airlock as many as 12 times a year.

NanoRacks is proposing to build a large, half-cylinder-shaped airlock about two meters in diameter and 1.8 meters long. The airlock would attach to the end of the station’s Node 3 module, near the cupola. It would connect via a common berthing mechanism, or CBM, and then be pressurized. After pressurization, the hatch could be opened and the airlock configured for various tasks.

For commercial opportunities, NanoRacks has a small satellite launcher, and it is also designing a “haybale” system to launch as many as 192 cubesats at a time. After the airlock is configured, it would be depressurized and sealed. Then a station robotic arm could grab it, move it away from the vehicle, and deploy its payloads.

NASA is also interested in the opportunity to potentially fix large, external components of the space station….With a larger airlock, damaged components could be brought inside the station, assessed, and possibly fixed, saving NASA the expense of building and delivering a new unit to the station—or losing a valuable spare. Finally, the space agency could use the airlock to dispose of trash that accumulates on station and can be difficult to get rid of.

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USAF Could End ULA Launch Capability Contract Early


ULA_logoSome more potentially bad news for United Launch Alliance (ULA): the U.S. Air Force is considering ending its $800-million-a-year launch capability contract prior to its expiration in 2019 after the company’s decision not to bid on an launch contract.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, testifying Wednesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on military space launch, said she has directed staff to study the implications of ending the EELV Launch Capability contract early.

The Air Force buys ULA rocket hardware through a fixed-price EELV Launch Services contract but funds ULA’s launch infrastructure and engineering support through the cost-plus EELV Launch Capability contract that competitor SpaceX considers an unfair subsidy….

During Wednesday’s hearing, [Sen. John] McCain called ULA’s EELV Launch Capabilitity contract “$800 million to do nothing.” ULA disputes that characterization. On its website, ULA says the contract is not a subsidy since it “pays for very well-defined national security space requirements that allow the Air Force to launch exactly when and where it needs to launch.”

In her testimony, James said the contract currently is scheduled to end in 2019 after ULA carries out the final launch covered under an $11 billion sole-source block buy agreement with the Air Force. That deal, which predates the 2006 creation of ULA, covers the production of 36 Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rocket cores plus launch costs for a total of 78 missions.

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A Close Look at Spaceport America’s FY 2017 Budget Request

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Attention New Mexicans!

Have you been wondering exactly what Spaceport America costs to operate? Curious about what officials spend money on? Anxious to know what this is going to cost you in the fiscal year ahead?  Dying to learn how much anchor tenant Virgin Galactic is contributing to the budget?

Well, look no further. Parabolic Arc has the spaceport’s budget request for FY 2017, which begins on July 1. There’s a full description of spending and projected revenues right after the break.

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SpaceX Tests Crew Dragon Parachutes


COOLIDGE, Ariz. (NASA PR) — Four red-and-white parachutes unfurled high above the desert near Coolidge, Arizona, recently during a test of the system that initially will be used to safely land SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying astronauts back from the International Space Station. The test used a mass simulator as the weight of the spacecraft connected to the parachute system. The mass simulator and parachutes were released thousands of feet above the ground from a C-130 cargo aircraft. This test evaluated the four main parachutes,but did not include the smaller pilot and drogue chutes that a full landing system would utilize.

As part of its final development and certification work with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX continues to perform tests of flight-like hardware like this allow engineers to assess the reliability. Later tests will grow progressively more realistic to simulate as much of the actual conditions and processes the system will see during an operational mission.

Crew Dragon parachute test (Credit: SpaceX)

Crew Dragon parachute test (Credit: SpaceX)

Initially, the spacecraft will splash down safely in the ocean under parachutes, but ultimately the company wants to land the vehicle on land propulsively using eight SuperDraco engines. SpaceX tested its propulsive land landing ability in Texas in November.

SpaceX and Boeing are working in separate partnerships with NASA to build a new generation of human-rated spacecraft to take astronauts to the International Space Station.

USAF Testimony on Military Space Launches Before Senate Armed Services Committee


Capitol Building


Subject: Military Space Launch

Witnesses: Honorable Frank Kendall III
Under Secretary of Defense for
Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Honorable Deborah Lee James
Secretary of the Air Force

JANUARY 27, 2016

Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Reed, and distinguished Members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss how we deliver national security space capabilities to the nation’s warfighters and intelligence community (IC). These capabilities provide our nation decisive advantage in situational awareness, precision navigation and targeting, and command and control, and without assured access to space via reliable launch services, that advantage would be at risk.

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Video: Musk Talks About SpaceX, Mars Settlement


Musk begins talking about SpaceX at 27:48. Hopes to go to space station in five years. Hopes to launch crew to Mars around 2025. Will describe the Mars Colonial Transporter in September at the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara. Mexico.

Air Force Certifies Upgraded Falcon 9 Booster

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. (SMSC PR) — Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space and Missile Systems Center commander, updated the certified baseline configuration of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Launch System to Falcon 9 Upgrade, for use in National Security Space (NSS) missions. The baseline configuration of the Falcon 9 Launch System was updated to the Falcon 9 Upgrade on Jan. 25.

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