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Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

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The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

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A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

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The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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Video of 3 SpaceX Employees Being Struck By Car Outside Headquarters

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A news report about three SpaceX employees who were hit by a car on Dec. 17 after leaving work. The incident occurred at 2:15 a.m. About three hours later, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk posted the following Tweets:

A source tells Parabolic Arc that traffic on Crenshaw Boulevard where the employees were struck is heavy. During the day, crossing guards help guide people across the street. Musk has wanted a tunnel built under the street to make it easier and safer for employees to cross.

The Tweets set off a wave of media speculation that envisioned a frustrated Musk sitting in LA traffic devising a way of disrupting the tunneling business. Some speculated the tunneling was needed for the Hyperloop rapid transit systems; others thought it would be useful for underground martian settlements.

The source said it was disturbing that Musk was tweeting about how much traffic was bothering him, and talking about a new business venture, while making no reference to the accident or his injured employees in the hospital. The tweets came off as crass and unfeeling.

The three female employees survived the accident. Two of them were back in the hospital on Thursday for additional surgery, according to the NBC News 4 report. You can read more here: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Hit-and-Run-Video-Hawthorne-Crosswalk-Search-SpaceX-408680785.html

Commercial Crew Year in Review

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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Boeing and SpaceX made numerous advances on their crew transportation systems set to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Both companies began building the spacecraft that will fly the flight tests for the program before beginning crew rotation missions. Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner to fly on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and SpaceX is building its Crew Dragon spacecraft to launch atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

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Video of Elon Musk & Team Watching First Falcon 9 First Stage Landing at Cape

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Video Caption: With unprecedented access to Elon Musk and his SpaceX team, witness the historic landing of a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral.

Trump Adds Commercial Space Advocate to NASA Transition Team

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President elect Donald Trump has named commercial space backer Charles Miller to the NASA landing team amid reports that similar minded advocates will be added to transition group.

Miller is president of NexGen Space LLC, a company that advises clients on commercial, civil and national security space.  He previously served as NASA’s senior advisor for commercial space.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump officials are also working on appointing Alan Stern, chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and Alan Lindenmoyer, who formerly managed NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program. Both nominations are in the process of being vetted for conflicts of interest.

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Source: Musk Tweets on Tunneling Unrelated to Mars, Hyperloop

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So, Elon Musk’s cryptic Tweets on Saturday about getting into the tunneling business has had yours truly and many others speculating about what he’s up to this time. Is it for the Hyperloop? Underground colonies on Mars?

Nothing so grandiose, apparently. They were inspired by something much darker, actually.

Continue reading ‘Source: Musk Tweets on Tunneling Unrelated to Mars, Hyperloop’

Trump Appoints Elon Musk to Strategic & Policy Forum

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Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

NEW YORK (Trump Transition PR) — President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that three additional members will join the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum: Travis Kalanick, CEO and Co-founder of Uber Technologies; Elon Musk, Chairman and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla; and Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.

Earlier this month, President-elect Trump established the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum and announced an initial round of 16 members. The Forum, which is composed of some of America’s most highly respected and successful business leaders, will be called upon to meet with the President frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the President implements his economic agenda. The Forum will be chaired by Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone.

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NASA Will Take 2 Years to Complete Investigation into 2015 Falcon 9 Failure

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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

NASA’s investigation into the Falcon 9 launch failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship in June 2015 keeps getting more and more interesting.

I checked in again last week with the space agency about when it would be releasing a public report on the 18-month old accident. This is what a NASA spokesperson told me (emphasis mine):

NASA’s final report on the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap is still in work. While the report is important in providing NASA historical data of the mishap, the accident involved a version of the Falcon 9 rocket that is no longer in use. Furthermore, while the public summary itself may only be a few pages, the complete report is expected to exceed several hundred pages of highly detailed and technical information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA anticipates its internal report and public summary will be finalized in the summer 2017.

That is a rather long time, even for a sometimes pokey government agency investigating the failure of a booster variant no longer in use.
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Kennedy Space Center Becomes Multi-Use Launch Center

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Video Caption: The new Space Age is launching at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center through a combination of expertise and innovation among government and commercial providers.

SpaceX Slips Commercial Crew Flight Test Schedule

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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
Wake the neighbors and phone the kids.

SpaceX has update its commercial crew schedule for the first time in six months. Coupled with Boeing’s update from October, we now have a fully updated timeline for the entire program.  Below is the current schedule according to NASA.

Targeted Flight Test Dates to International Space Station

  • SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (No Crew): November 2017
  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (No Crew: June 2018
  • SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (Crew): May 2018
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (Crew): August 2018

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Slips Commercial Crew Flight Test Schedule’

Video: Forming a SpaceX Rocket Nozzle

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SpaceX Loses Inmarsat Launch to Arianespace Due to Delays

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Arianespace_logoLONDON, 8 December 2016 (Inmarsat PR) — Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L), the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications, has today signed a contract with Arianespace to launch its S-band satellite for the European Aviation Network (EAN) on an Ariane 5 heavy lift launch vehicle.  The EAN payload is part of a ‘condosat’ constructed by Thales Alenia Space, which incorporates a second payload for Hellas-Sat.  The condosat is scheduled to be launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana in mid-2017.

The condosat was originally scheduled for launch with SpaceX.  However, following the delay in SpaceX’s launch schedule, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat took the decision to move the condosat to an Arianespace launch.

Inmarsat will launch Inmarsat-5 F4, a Global Xpress (GX) satellite, with SpaceX.  This launch is planned for H1 2017 and Inmarsat is looking forward to continuing to work with SpaceX going forward.

“We are delighted with flexibility that Arianespace has shown in being able to provide a launch slot that enables us to place our European Aviation Network S-band satellite in orbit by mid-2017,” said Michele Franci, CTO, Inmarsat. “This launch schedule supports the introduction of our ground-breaking integrated satellite and air-to-ground network, developed by Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, which will deliver a very high capacity broadband Wi-Fi experience for passengers flying throughout Europe.”

SpaceX Slips Falcon 9 Return to Flight into January

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX provided the following update on the Falcon 9 return to flight this morning:

We are finalizing the investigation into our September 1 anomaly and are working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight, now in early January with the launch of Iridium-1. This allows for additional time to close-out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch.

You will undoubtedly recall that the second stage of a Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded on the launch pad three months ago as it was being fueled for a pre-flight engine test. A Spacecom communications satellite valued at $195 million was destroyed in the accident.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Slips Falcon 9 Return to Flight into January’

SpaceX Targets Dec. 16 for Falcon 9 Return to Flight

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Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch 10 Iridium satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. it will be the first flight of the booster since one blew up on the launch pad while being fueled for a test on Sept. 1. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would need to sign off on the flight before it could occur. That approval would come after the FAA reviews the results of SpaceX’s investigation into the September accident.