SpaceX Dragon to Deliver Research to Space Station

Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology undergoes testing (Credits: Deployable Space Systems, Inc.)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — SpaceX is scheduled to launch its Dragon spacecraft for its eleventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station June 1 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s historic pad 39A. Dragon will lift into orbit atop the Falcon 9 rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers living aboard the station.

The flight will deliver investigations and facilities that study neutron stars, osteoporosis, solar panels, tools for Earth-observation, and more. Here are some highlights of research that will be delivered to the orbiting laboratory:

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NASA to Highlight Science on Next ISS Resupply Mission

Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology undergoes testing (Credits: Deployable Space Systems, Inc.)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 10 a.m. EDT Friday, May 26, to discuss select science investigations launching on the next SpaceX commercial resupply flight to the International Space Station.

SpaceX is targeting June 1 for the launch of its Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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RSC Energia Chief Questions Schedule for Elon Musk’s Moon Plan

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

The head of Russia’s most prominent spaceflight company questioned whether Elon Musk’s SpaceX will be able to launch people around the moon next year and said Russia plans to revive tourism flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2020.

“As for the state of affairs specifically at Elon Musk’s company, it would be difficult to carry out such a mission in 2018, and even in 2020,” Vladimir Solntsev, general director of RSC Energia, the primary contractor for Russia’s human spaceflight program, said in a wide-ranging Q&A with the Russian news agency TASS.

Read the rest of my Space.com story here.

GAO: Boeing & SpaceX Face Potential Further Delays in Commercial Crew Certification

Astronaut Eric Boe evaluates Boeing Starliner spacesuit in mockup of spacecraft cockpit. (Credit: Boeing)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says NASA’s commercial crew contractors face potential further delays into 2019 for certifying their vehicles to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a commercial basis.

“Boeing has proposed moving its certification review out to the fourth quarter of 2018—at least 14 months later than initially planned,” the report states. “SpaceX has moved its certification review to the third quarter of 2018—at least 15 months later than initially planned.
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Elysium Space to Launch Memorial Flight on SpaceX Falcon 9 Mission

Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

SAN FRANCISCO (Elysium Space PR) – The pioneering company in memorial spaceflight, Elysium Space, is announcing today that its Elysium Star II memorial spacecraft will be on Spaceflight’s SSO-A dedicated rideshare mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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SpaceX Launches Inmarsat Satellite

A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster launched the Inmarsat 5 F4 communications satellite on Monday from Pad 39-A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It was SpaceX’s sixth launch of 2017. Due to the demands of the mission, SpaceX did not attempt to recover the first stage.

According to the Inmarsat:

Inmarsat-5 F4 (I-5 F4) will boost the power of our award-winning Global Xpress network, which has been delivering seamless, high-speed broadband connectivity across the world since December 2015.

Like the other three satellites in our fifth generation fleet, I-5 F4 was built by Boeing in El Segundo, California as part of our investment of approximately US$1.6 billion in the first ever global Ka-band service from a single network operator.

Once in geostationary orbit, the satellite will provide additional capacity for Global Xpress users on land, at sea and in the air.

SpaceX Set to Launch Communications Satellite Tonight

The Autonomous Flight Safety System first flew from the Eastern Range on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 CRS-10 Feb. 19, 2017. The use of AFSS reduces range space lift costs through reductions in range equipment maintenance and upgrades. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is targeting launch of Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 from historic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The 49-minute launch window opens on Monday, May 15, at 7:21 p.m. EDT, or 23:21 UTC. Watch the webcast here.

A backup launch window opens on Tuesday, May 16, at 7:21 p.m. EDT, or 23:21 UTC. SpaceX will not attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage after launch due to mission requirements.

A mission press kit is available here.

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SpaceX Pays $3.9 Million to Settle Wages Lawsuit

SpacX Founder Elon Musk

A Los Angeles judge has approved a $3.9 settlement of a class action suit on behalf of 4,100 underpaid workers.

Los Angeles judge Elihu M. Berle gave his court’s backing to SpaceX’s settlement of the class-action lawsuit after first hearing, and dismissing, the objections of former SpaceX man Howard Smith, who was attempting to block the deal.

The settlement brings an end to several lawsuits brought over the last few years alleging that SpaceX’s shift patterns meant workers could not take their statutory rest periods and meal breaks. Each worker will receive an average of $500, with the highest payouts being $2,000 per person….

Smith had been trying to sue SpaceX himself under a Californian law that allows disgruntled employees to launch a lawsuit themselves with the backing of the state – but three-quarters of any payout goes to the state’s coffers in return, according to legal site Law360.

Read the full story.

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SpaceX Weighing Sending 2 Red Dragon Missions to Mars in 2020

Red Dragon enters Mars atmosphere. (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said on Tuesday that SpaceX plans to launch two Red Dragon missions to Mars during the 2020 launch window.

“Every 26 months, the highway to Mars opens up, and that highway is going to be packed. We start out at the top of that opportunity with a SpaceX launch of Red Dragon. That will be followed at the end of that opportunity with another Red Dragon. Those have been announced by SpaceX,” Green said during an appearance at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, DC.

The Red Dragon is a modified version of the Dragon spacecraft SpaceX uses to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. SpaceX will send these automated vehicles to the surface as a precursor to human missions it wants to fly in the 2020’s.

SpaceX has announced that it will send a Red Dragon to the surface in 2020.  However, Elon Musk’s company has said nothing publicly about a second spacecraft. Red Dragons are designed to perform automated descent, entry and landings on the martian surface.

SpaceX had planned to launch the first Red Dragon mission in 2018. However, the effort was pushed back two years due to the company’s other commitments, which include commercial cargo and crew missions for NASA and a backed up launch manifest caused, in part, by two Falcon 9 failures.

The inaugural flight test of the Falcon Heavy booster that will launch the Red Dragon spacecraft has also been delayed for more than four years. That test is currently scheduled for the third quarter of 2017.

NASA is providing about $30 million in in-kind support for the first Red Dragon flight in exchange for entry data. The space agency’s support includes trajectory analysis and tracking and communications via the Deep Space Network.

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Video: Elon Musk Discusses Tunnel, Tesla and SpaceX

Video Caption: Elon Musk discusses his new project digging tunnels under LA, the latest from Tesla and SpaceX and his motivation for building a future on Mars in conversation with TED’s Head Curator, Chris Anderson.

California Considers Tax on Launches Within the State

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

California’s Franchise Tax Board is seeking public comment on a proposed new tax that would fall upon ULA, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and other companies launching spacecraft from within the state.

The levy would apply to companies “that generates more than 50 percent of its gross receipts from the provision of space transportation activity for compensation in a taxable year,” the proposal states. Space is defined as 62 statute miles (100 km) or more above Earth.
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SpaceX Outlines Plan to Launch 12,000 Satellites to Provide Global Broadband

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16 at 2 a.m. EDT. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX Vice President Patricia Cooper outlined the company’s plans to provide global broadband with 12,000 satellites to the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday.

The initial constellation would consist of 4,425 satellites operating in 83 orbital planes at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km. The satellites would provide broadband and other communications services in the Ka- and Ku-band spectrum.

“To implement the system, SpaceX will utilize the availability of significantly more powerful computing and software capabilities, which will enable SpaceX to allocate broadband resources in real time, placing capacity where it is most needed and directing energy away from areas where it might cause interference to other systems, either in space or on the ground,” Cooper said in her prepared testimony. [Prepared Statement — PDF]

“Because the satellites will beam directly to gateways or user terminals, the infrastructure needed on the ground—particularly in rural or remote areas—is substantially reduced, essentially addressing the “last mile” challenge and helping to close the digital divide,” she added. “In other words, the common challenges associated with siting, digging trenches, laying fiber, and dealing with property rights are materially alleviated through a space-based broadband network.”

The company plans to launch two test satellites at the end of this year and in early 2018. SpaceX would begin launching operational satellites beginning in 2019, with all 4,425 spacecraft being in orbit by 2024.

“For the end consumer, SpaceX user terminals—essentially, a relatively small flat panel, roughly the size of a laptop—will use similar phased array technologies to allow for highly directive, steered antenna beams that track the system’s low-Earth orbit satellites,” Cooper said in her testimony. “In space, the satellites will communicate with each other using optical inter-satellite links, in effect creating a “mesh network” flying overhead that will enable seamless network management and continuity of service.”

SpaceX has filed a separate application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch a constellation of V-band 7,500 satellites that would operate at lower altitudes than the original constellation.

“In the future, these satellites would provide additional broadband capacity to the SpaceX system and further reduce latency where populations are heavily concentrated,” Cooper testified.

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Commercial Crew Spacecraft Will Offer a Quick Escape from Station


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

New, American-made spacecraft flying to the International Space Station will play a big role in bringing resident crews back home to Earth, but their missions also include the ability to provide the orbiting laboratory with a temporary shelter in case of an emergency in space, or even a safe ride back to Earth with short notice.

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