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Congressmen Concerned About SpaceX Failure Investigation

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Congress has weighed in on the investigation into the loss of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in June, accusing NASA of giving the company special treatment and calling upon the U.S. Air Force to take an active role in the probe.

Continue reading ‘Congressmen Concerned About SpaceX Failure Investigation’

A Look Inside SpaceX’s Crewed Dragon Spacecraft

Interior of crewed Dragon (Credit: SpaceX)

Interior of crewed Dragon (Credit: SpaceX)

Crewed Dragon instrument panel (Credit: SpaceX)

Crewed Dragon instrument panel (Credit: SpaceX)

Crewed Dragon instrument panel (Credit: SpaceX)

Crewed Dragon instrument panel (Credit: SpaceX)

New SpaceX Video: Crew Dragon in Orbit


Video Caption: Step inside Crew Dragon, SpaceX’s next-generation spacecraft designed to carry humans to the International Space Station and other destinations: www.spacex.com/crew-dragon

Musk on The Late Show: Terraform Mars By Nuking the Poles


Video Caption: Elon Musk is either trying to save the world or destroy it. Stephen’s not sure which one.

SpaceX Wears Out its Welcome in Boca Chica Village

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor's Office)

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

The residents of a small Texas village located less than two miles from SpaceX’s future launch site are not pleased with the company’s future plans.

People who live in Boca Chica Village, all 26 of them, knew Elon Musk’s SpaceX company would put the South Texas town on the map after it was selected last year as the world’s first commercial rocket-launch site. Now, many want SpaceX gone and their obscurity back.

The residents say SpaceX representatives told them recently they would be required to register with the county, wear badges and pass through checkpoints on launch days, which will occur about once a month beginning as soon as next year. During a 15- hour launch time frame, their movement around the village could be restricted. If they happen to be picking up groceries past a designated “point of no return,” forget about going home.

SpaceX’s proposed methods to enforce the safety rules — sweeping the beach with drones and video surveillance — aren’t helping matters. While the rules still might change, all this makes residents wish SpaceX would go away, with some even talking about acts of civil disobedience or maybe a lawsuit.

“I’m like, ‘Are you out of your mind?’” said Cheryl Stevens, 55, who settled in Boca Chica Village a decade ago in search of quiet, rustic beauty. “It’s like Nazi Germany.”

Update on Falcon 9 Failure Investigation


NASASpaceflight.com has an update on the Falcon 9 failure investigation, which has included the examination of failure modes other than just a failed strut:

During the last month, a leading alternate path was examined (L2) – specific to a potential leak in a propellant feedline that runs from the upper tank, through the lower tank, to the engine. It is thought such a leak could explain the pressure increase in the system. However, following an investigation into this potential path, it was deemed not to be credible and subsequently removed from the fault tree.

The failed strut continues to be the leading candidate for the failure, backed up by additional testing that has been conducted at SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas.

With SpaceX utilizing the investigation period to conduct a “deep dive” review of all their hardware and processing paths, engineers reviewed the history of modifications to their evolving Falcon 9, including elements such as the optimization of the Second Stage that have been implemented over recent years….

Noticed during inspections of Falcon 9 hardware at SpaceX’s base in Hawthorne, California – engineers visually observed a small issue relating to weld points associated with a helium line – hardware classed as “inconel tubes” – via inspections (L2).

Although this issue was unlikely to have impacted on the vehicle during flight, a decision was taken to change them out on the F9-19, 21 and 22 vehicles. F9-21 and F9-22 were still without their engines at the time of the decision, expediting the changeout process.

The website also reports SpaceX might try to accomplish an additional four launches by the end of the year as part of its return to flight.

Boeing Revamps Production Facility for Starliner Flights


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

Meet the CST-100 Starliner, the newly unveiled name of Boeing’s commercial crew transportation spacecraft. It’s been designed with a focus on automated flight, reliable operation and frequent flights carrying NASA astronauts to the space station. It also may take paying customers to the awe-inspiring heights of low-Earth orbit and the unique sensation of sustained weightlessness.

Continue reading ‘Boeing Revamps Production Facility for Starliner Flights’

Musk Wins Round in Landing Barge Patent Battle


Score one for SpaceX in its battle with Blue Origin about landing a rocket stage on a floating ocean platform:

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has backed down under a legal challenge from rival Elon Musk’s SpaceX, over the validity of a prior Blue Origin patent the covered the process of landing a rocket on a raft.

In a document made available this week, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board accepted Blue Origin’s motion to drop 13 claims in what had been a protracted dispute between the two companies.

At issue was whether Blue Origin’s 2014 patent on the concept of landing a spent booster on a raft at sea could prevent SpaceX, or anyone else, from doing so.

Blue Origin filed for the patent in 2010, but SpaceX challenged the patent soon after it was granted, arguing that the concept had earlier been developed by other scientists, and that it wasn’t Blue Origin’s to patent.

Read the full story.

Shotwell: Still a Couple of Months From Falcon 9 Return to Flight

Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said on Monday the company is still a couple of months away from returning the Falcon 9 booster to flight following the launch failure on June 28.

The investigation of the accident is taking longer than originally planned, Shotwell said during a panel discussion at the AIAA Space 2015 Conference in Pasadena. The company is doing a review of its supply chain.

The company has blamed the failure of a strut in the upper stage for the failure, which destroyed a Dragon cargo ship headed for the International Space Station.

The return to flight will feature the first test of the upgraded Falcon 9, which is being tweaked to improve its performance. Shotwell admitted this flight was keeping her up at night.

She said a customer has been identified for the return to flight but would not identify it.

Editor’s Note: I’ve been hearing reliable reports that something more than the strut was the cause of the accident in June. The last I heard, they were still trying to figure out exactly what happened.

SpaceX Powers Up Crew Dragon Avionics Test Bed

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (NASA PR) — SpaceX recently powered up its Crew Dragon avionics test bed at its facility in Hawthorne, California, by simulating a crew flight to the International Space Station. During the avionics functionality check, engineers were able to make sure the spacecraft’s hardware and software worked well together in a flight-like environment. The avionics are known as the brains of a spacecraft, controlling all the critical automated operations of a flight.

“It may not sound exciting, but it’s a really, really important tool. We can basically fly the Crew Dragon on the ground — flip the switches, touch the screens, test the algorithms and the batteries – all before testing the avionics system in flight,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of mission assurance for SpaceX. “It’s important to get the avionics right before putting it into the capsule.”

The SpaceX avionics test bed is similar to the Shuttle Avionics Integration Lab, or SAIL, in Houston, which was used throughout NASA’s Space Shuttle Program to test the interaction of hardware and software before modifying code on the vehicles for flight.