Tag: SpaceX

U.S. Air Force Certifies SpaceX Falcon 9 for Military Missions

The series of images shows the journey of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from its launch at 4:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 14 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, to solar array deployment. (Credit:  NASA TV)

The series of images shows the journey of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from its launch at 4:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 14 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, to solar array deployment. (Credit: NASA TV)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. (USAF PR) — Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space, has announced the certification of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) Falcon 9 Launch System for national security space missions.

SpaceX is now eligible for award of qualified national security space launch missions as one of two currently certified launch providers. The first upcoming opportunity for SpaceX to compete to provide launch services is projected to be in June when the Air Force releases a Request for Proposal for GPS III launch services.
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NASA TV to Cover ISS Module Reconfiguration

This illustration shows the current location (blue) of the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) on the International Space Station and the location to which it will be repositioned (green) during the May 27 move. (Credit: NASA)

This illustration shows the current location (blue) of the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) on the International Space Station and the location to which it will be repositioned (green) during the May 27 move. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The International Space Station Program will take the next step in expanding a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit when work continues Wednesday, May 27, to prepare the orbiting laboratory for the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew and cargo vehicles. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the activity beginning at 8 a.m. EDT.

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Critical NASA Research Returns to Earth Aboard SpaceX Dragon

Dragon CRS-6 capsule descends under parachutes. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon CRS-6 capsule descends under parachutes. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:42 p.m. EDT Thursday with almost 3,100 pounds of NASA cargo from the International Space Station, including research on how spaceflight and microgravity affect the aging process and bone health.

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SpaceX Abort Test Video Seen From Dragon Capsule


NASA Flies Material Sciences Test Aboard X-37B


, May 6, 2015 (NASA PR) -
- Building on more than a decade of data from International Space Station (ISS) research, NASA is expanding its materials science research by flying an experiment on the U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane.

By flying the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) investigation on the X-37B, materials scientists have the opportunity to expose almost 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days. METIS is building on data acquired during the Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), which flew more than 4,000 samples in space from 2001 to 2013.

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Administration Opposes Measure Limiting RD-180 Procurement

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

The Obama Administration is strongly opposing a Senate measure that would limit the number of RD-180 engines ULA could import from Russia. SpaceNews explains:

Under the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, ULA would have as few as five of the Russian-made RD-180 engines available for upcoming competitive rounds of the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. In a best-case scenario, the Denver-based company could have as many as nine of the engines, which are being phased out due to the downturn in relations with Russia.

ULA and Defense Department officials say the company needs 14 RD-180s to be able to go head-to-head with emerging rival SpaceX until its next-generation rocket, dubbed Vulcan, begins flying. The Vulcan, unveiled in April and featuring a U.S.-made engine, is expected to make its first flight in 2019 and be certified to launch U.S. national security missions by 2021.

The Office of Management and Budget fired back in a Statement of Administration Policy about the measure:

The Administration strongly objects to section 1603, which would place restrictions on the funds to eliminate the Nation’s use of non-allied space launch engines for national security space launches by 2019.  The Administration also strongly objects to moving Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) development funding into the more restrictive Rocket Propulsion System Development line item.  The Administration is committed to transitioning from non-allied engines; however, an engine-centric approach as laid out in this section would not preserve the Nation’s assured access to space.  While rocket engines are a major component of a launch vehicle, they are only one of many critical components.  These components must be designed and developed together to meet the ultimate cost and performance goals, not only for the launch vehicle but also for the support, operations, and production infrastructure as well.  Without a comprehensive strategy that ensures the availability of operational launch systems, the government risks investing hundreds of millions of dollars without any guarantee of ensuring assured access to space.

NASA Certifies Falcon 9 for Science Missions

Falcon 9 lifts off on CRS-6 mission.

Falcon 9 lifts off on CRS-6 mission.

Some good news for SpaceX, which will now be able to bid to launch NASA science missions:

NASA has formally certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch all but the agency’s most costly robotic science missions. The first mission for SpaceX will be the launch of a United States and France oceanography satellite that is scheduled for liftoff from California in July.

According to George Diller, a spokesperson from NASA, the space agency’s Launch Services Program, which manages the agency’s rocket procurements for research missions, concluded the multi-year certification on Tuesday.

This new milestone now clears the Falcon 9 to launch what NASA calls “medium-risk” science missions, a classification that includes most of the agency’s Earth observation satellites and many of its interplanetary probes.  The Falcon 9 is now certified by NASA as a “Category 2″ launch vehicle.

In order to launch the most valuable spacecraft, such as the multibillion-dollar interplanetary flagship missions, NASA requires a Category 3 certification.  The Atlas 5, Delta 2 and Pegasus XL rockets operated by SpaceX rivals United Launch Alliance and Orbital ATK currently meet the stringent requirements for Category 3 certification.

The certification clears the way for SpaceX to launch NASA’s Jason 3 ocean altimetry spacecraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch is scheduled for July 22.

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ULA Lays off 12 Executives


ULA_logoLooks like heads are beginning to roll at ULA under new CEO Tory Bruno:

United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N), on Friday said it was cutting its executive ranks by 30 percent in December through what it called voluntary departures by 12 executives.

Tory Bruno, chief executive of the venture, told Reuters in an emailed statement the layoffs were part of ULA’s ongoing efforts to adapt to what he called “an increasingly competitive business environment” and redesign its leadership team.

ULA, formed by the two largest U.S. weapons makers in 2006, has long been the sole company able to launch U.S. military and intelligence satellites into orbit, but the Air Force expects to certify a new rival, privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, to compete for some of those launches next month.

The company is also under pressure from a new law that limits its use of the Russian RD-180 rocket engines that power its Atlas 5 launch vehicles after 2019. Congress passed the law after Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine last year.

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Years of Failures Haunt Russian Space Program

Holy shi'ski! The rocket...it go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Proton rocket falls to Earth at Baikonur in July 2013. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Sixteen botched launches in six years.

That’s the Russian space program’s sad record since May 2009. The failure of a Proton rocket earlier today with the loss of a Mexican communications satellite was yet another sign of the prolonged crisis affecting Russia’s once powerful space program.

The crash came less than three weeks after a botched launch left a Progress supply freighter spinning end over end like an extra point before it burned up in Earth atmosphere. There was also news today that another Progress cargo ship attached to the International Space Station failed to fire its engine as planned to boost the station’s orbit.

The list of Russian launch accidents over the last six years includes:

  • 13 complete failures resulting in the loss of all payloads;
  • 3 partial failures that left spacecraft in the wrong orbits;
  • complete loss of 20 spacecraft;
  • 6 Russian GLONASS navigation satellites destroyed; and,
  • an ambitious Mars mission left stranded in Earth orbit.

The table below shows the full extent of the damage.

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Israel Confident Arianespace Can Compete With SpaceX

Stephane Israel (Credit: Arianespace)

Stephane Israel (Credit: Arianespace)

Arianespace seems confident it can weather la tempête de SpaceX:

The head of Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium on May 12 said the company can beat competitor SpaceX in the open market with a euro/dollar exchange rate at today’s levels and the planned 5-6 percent reduction in Ariane 5 rocket production and launch costs.

Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel also said a fresh canvassing of large commercial satellite fleet operators has found that SpaceX’s planned reuse of its Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage — designed to cut Falcon launch costs — at this point presents no real threat to Arianespace.

The Ariane 6 rocket agreed to by European governments last December, he said, has sufficient commercial attributes of its own to maintain its commercial market position against a partially reusable Falcon 9, Israel told the Economic Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly, or parliament….

Israel said Arianespace and Airbus Safran Launchers, a joint venture that owns a 39-percent stake in Arianespace and is prime contractor for the current Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 rockets, have agreed to find production and operating savings of 5-6 percent.

He said those savings should be enough to keep SpaceX at bay if the euro remains about where it is now versus the U.S. dollar.

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