Tag: SpaceXPage 2 of 75

SpaceX to Fly Orbcomm, not SES, on First Test of Upgraded Booster


SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will loft 11 Orbcomm OG2 satellites into orbit instead of a SES spacecraft in a December launch that will be the rocket’s first flight since a catastrophic failure in June destroyed a Dragon cargo ship bound for the International Space Station. The launch will be the first test of upgrades to the Falcon 9 that will allow the rocket to lift heavier payloads.

In a statement, SpaceX said that unlike the geosynchronous SES 9 communication satellites, the OG2 spacecraft do not require a relight of the Falcon 9’s second stage following orbital insertion. Changing the order of the launches will allow SpaceX to test the second stage after the OG2 satellites have been deployed.

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A New Space Wedding Makes The New York Times



Congratulations to Mark and Molly. Ad astra!

Falcon 9 Return to Flight Set for Late November or Early December


SpaceX is looking for its Falcon 9 to return to flight by late November or early December, a company official said.

“We believe in the next six to eight weeks we’ll be able to return to flight,” Lee Rosen, SpaceX vice president of mission and launch operations, said on Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress under way this week in Jerusalem.

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LauncherOne’s Long & Winding Road to Orbit: A Timeline

LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

If the current schedule holds, Virgin Galactic’s revamped LauncherOne program will enter commercial service sometime in 2018 after roughly a decade of development. During that period, the program has been redefined several times, lost two of the key people hired to lead it, and changed its launch platform from WhiteKnightTwo to a jumbo jet. The estimates for the initial flight tests also have slipped by about  four years from 2013 to 2017.

Below is a timeline of the program’s major events, milestones, announcements, hires and departures, and other things. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything significant.

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Pentagon Denies ULA Request for Atlas V Engine Waiver

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-55 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 at 5:49 a.m. PDT. (Credit: ULA)

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-55 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 at 5:49 a.m. PDT. (Credit: ULA)

On Friday, the Pentagon denied a request from United Launch Alliance for a waiver from a U.S. law that limits the use of the Russian-made RD-180 engine in the first stage of the company’s Atlas V rocket for military and reconnaissance launches.

ULA, the monopoly provider of such launches since its creation in 2006, has said it needs the waiver to compete against privately held Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, in a new U.S. Air Force competition for satellite launches. Bids are due for the competition by Nov. 16.

The U.S. Defense Department said it would continue to monitor the situation, and was looking at a range of options, including possible sole-source contract awards, to keep both companies in business and ensure more than one supplier was available in the event of failures.

Prompted by Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, U.S. lawmakers banned the use of Russian RD-180 rocket engines for military and spy satellite launches after 2019….

The ban affects nine of 29 engines that ULA ordered but had not paid for before Russia annexed Crimea. Bruno said five other engines approved for ULA’s use by Congress last year were needed for commercial or civil missions, and were unavailable for use in a bid for the new GPS launch.

Read the full story.

Report: Lockheed Martin Eliminated From NASA Cargo Competition

Lockheed Martin's concept for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services 2 program.

Lockheed Martin’s concept for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 program.

The Wall Street Journal reports Lockheed Martin has been eliminated from the Commercial Resupply Services 2 competition:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration made its decision this past summer, according to the people familiar with the matter, and since then it has been a topic of discussion in industry circles. NASA made the call largely on the basis of price, according to one of these people….

Industry officials said Lockheed is expected to continue pursuing many of those same long-term goals, though probably at a slower pace, while it seeks to snare other federal dollars or related commercial business.

Slated to be announced in early November, NASA’s coming awards will be the next phase of cargo-delivery contracts currently totaling as much as $6.2 billion that the agency issued years ago to Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and a predecessor company to Orbital ATK Inc.

Both of those companies remain in the running for additional commercial cargo awards, along with Boeing Co. and Sierra Nevada Corp.

USAF Releases RFP for GPS III Launch


USAF_launch_systems_directorate_logoLOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Sept. 30, 2015 (USAF PR) — The Air Force released a final Request for Proposal (RFP) for Global Positioning System (GPS) III Launch Services, Sept. 30. Launch services include launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations for a GPS III mission scheduled to launch in 2018.  Proposals are due back to the Air Force no later than Nov. 16 in accordance with the solicitation instructions.

After evaluating proposals through a competitive, best-value source selection process, the Air Force will award a firm-fixed price contract that will provide the government with a total launch solution for the GPS III satellite.  The Air Force’s acquisition strategy for this solicitation achieves a balance between mission success, meeting operational needs, lowering launch costs, and reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions.

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Spaceflight Purchases SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SEATTLE, September 30, 2015 (Spaceflight PR)— Spaceflight, the company reinventing the model for launching small satellites into space, today announced the purchase of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the expansion of its launch services to include dedicated rideshare missions. Spaceflight’s first dedicated rideshare mission, named the “2017 Sun Synch Express,” will launch in the second half of 2017 to a sun-synchronous low Earth orbit which is popular for earth imaging satellites.

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Video: SpaceX Test Fires Upgraded First Stage


Video Caption: First static fire of the upgraded Falcon 9’s first stage with densified propellant, completed on 9/21/2015.

Officials Hope to Win Back Business for Proton

A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Khrunichev and International Launch Services are slashing prices and offering other incentives on its Proton rocket amid a strong and failures and stiff competition from American rival SpaceX.

Taking advantage of the slide in the value of the ruble, officials have slashed Proton flights to $65 million, which is close to what SpaceX charges for a Falcon 9 launch. They are also offering schedule priority to commercial launches and more insight into and access to Khrunichev’s manufacturing and quality control practices.

HISPASAT of Madrid, Spain, recently announced a Proton launch order for a satellite that will fly in the first half of 2017. The company also booked the launch of another satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.

Proton’s long string of recent failures has depressed launch sales in recent years to the benefit of SpaceX and Arianespace. The table below shows failures over the past five years.

Dec. 5, 2010 Proton-M/ Blok-DM-3 Uragan-M #739 Uragan-M #740
Uragan-M #741
Failure Rocket failed to reach orbital velocity after upper stage overfilled with propellant.
Aug. 17, 2011 Proton-M/ Briz-M Ekspress AM4
Failure Briz-M upper stage suffered failure of attitude control.
Aug. 6, 2012 Proton-M/ Briz-M Telkom-3
Ekspress MD2
Failure Briz-M upper stage failed 7 seconds into its third burn.
Dec. 8, 2012 Proton-M/ Briz-M Yamal-402 Partial Failure Briz-M upper stage shut down 4 minutes earlier than planned on fourth burn. Spacecraft reached intended orbit under own power.
July 2, 2013 Proton-M/DM-03 Uragan-M #748 Uragan-M #749
Uragan-M #750
Failure First stage failure.
May 15, 2014 Proton-M/Briz-M Ekspress AM4R Failure Proton third stage vernier engine failure due to turbo-pump leak.
May 16, 2015 Proton/Briz-M MexSat-1 Failure Premature third stage steering engine turbo-pump shutdown.

The Proton rocket has failed completely six times in the past five years, destroying 11 satellites in the process. The rocket also suffered a partial failure in 2012 with the premature shutdown of its upper stage. That satellite was able to reach its intended orbit using on-board fuel.

One Advantage of Having SpaceX as a Neighbor: Paved Roads

Location (in red) of SpaceX's proposed commercial spaceport. (Credit: Environment Texas)

Location (in red) of SpaceX’s proposed commercial spaceport. (Credit: Environment Texas)

Cameron County, Texas is making some much needed road improvements in and around Boca Chica Village, which lies close to where SpaceX is building its launch complex.

The county said it’s in anticipation of heavy traffic to come this fall, when construction is expected to begin for the SpaceX launch site.

Homeowners said the roadwork is long needed. CHANNEL 5 NEWS found out less than ten families live along these streets.

Dana Hollinger and her family moved to Boca Chica Village six years ago. They love the nature and privacy. They learned to deal with the remote downfalls. “If I had to call the village anything, it would be The Forgotten,” she said. “Almost all the roads out here were desperate need of repair.”

Six streets in the area were repaved, one was reconstructed. Cameron County Administrator David Garcia said they do have a priority list for all county roads. Boca Chica Village streets were placed on that list this year. But they moved to the top, when the roadwork on other projects was stalled.

Commercial Crew Marks Year of Progress

The astronauts who will train for the first Commercial Crew Program flight tests are Doug Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken and Sunita "Suni" Williams. (Credit: NASA)

The astronauts who will train for the first Commercial Crew Program flight tests are Doug Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken and Sunita “Suni” Williams. (Credit: NASA)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

A year after awarding landmark contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to build a new generation of human-rated space systems, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has made great strides to re-establish America’s capability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. Both companies are constructing the infrastructure needed to safely launch and operate crew space transportation systems. They also have offered detailed refinements to their designs and begun building the test vehicles that will be put through extreme analysis before their flight test regimens begin.

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The Good, the Bad and the Elon


elon_musk_vance_bookElon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
By Ashlee Vance
392 pages. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers

Is it possible for someone to be too smart for his own good?

That’s the question that echos through Ashlee Vance’s fascinating biography of Elon Musk. The SpaceX founder comes across as a brilliant visionary with a messianic zeal to improve the lot of humanity. His ultimately goal is to establish a settlement on Mars to ensure the the human race survives if Earth gets wiped out.

And yet, his brilliance, massive ego and single-minded ambition put him miles above the mass of his fellow human beings, who he tends to mistreat in the worst ways. At his best, he has the brilliance and charisma of Iron Man’s Tony Stark, at his worst, he turns into The Simpsons’ C. Montgomery Burns. And not in a funny way.

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NASA Seeks Permission to Increase Commercial Crew Spending


Congressional dysfunction is getting beyond ridiculous.

As NASA continues to advocate for full funding of its commercial crew program in 2016, the agency is seeking flexibility for the program in an upcoming short-term spending bill to avoid the risk of further delays.
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SpaceX, ILS Announce New Satellite Launch Orders

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX and International Launch Services (ILS) announced new launch contracts on Monday during the World Satellite Business Conference in Paris, France.

SpaceX will launch a communications satellite for HISPASAT on a Falcon 9 and Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat 6A communications satellite on a Falcon Heavy.  The flights are planned from Florida between late 2017 and 2018.

“We are pleased to add these additional launches to our manifest,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, in a press release. “The diversity of our missions and customers represents a strong endorsement of our capabilities and reflects SpaceX’s efforts to provide a breadth of launch services to our growing customer base.”

ILS will launch a communications satellite for HISPASAT aboard a Russian Proton rocket during the first half of 2017 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. HIPASAT is headquartered in Madrid, Spain.

“The partnership of HISPASAT satellites launching on Proton dates back over 10 years with the successful launch of HISPASAT’s first AMAZONAS satellite in 2004 on ILS Proton,” said ILS President Kirk Pysher. “We are proud that HISPASAT continues to place its trust in us to expand business with this launch in 2017, another powerful satellite to augment their fleet. ILS and Khrunichev look forward to working with HISPASAT on this important mission.”