Tag Archives: Space-X

SpaceX successfully launches third satellite in 12 days

34718447506_7ff2cfa1b2_oRApplied Technology Institute offers a variety of courses on Space, Satellite & Aerospace Engineering.  SpaceX launched a commercial communications satellite using a Falcon 9 rocket, its third flight in just 12 days.

The rocket blasted off on Wednesday evening at 7.38 p.m. (local time) from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, delivering the satellite called the Intelsat 35e to a geostationary transfer orbit, reports Xinhua news agency.

The satellite was deployed about 32 minutes after launch.

The California-based company tried to launch the satellite on Sunday and Monday, but stopped twice in the final seconds of countdown.

With a launch mass of over 6.7 tonnes, the Intelsat 35e is the heaviest satellite Falcon 9 has ever sent to orbit.

As a result, SpaceX did not attempt to recover the rocket’s first stage after launch this time, the company said.

It was lofted to provide high-performance services in both the C- and Ku-bands. Wednesday’s mission came just 10 days after SpaceX’s first-ever “doubleheader” weekend, when it launched two missions within about 50 hours.

One saw the launch of BulgariaSat-1, the first geostationary communications satellite in Bulgaria’s history, from the Kennedy Space Centre on June 23.

Another had 10 satellites launched to low-Earth orbit for the U.S. satellite phone company Iridium from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California two days later.

The Intelsat 35e also marked the tenth of SpaceX’s more than 20 launches planned this year. Last year, the company completed eight successful launches before an explosion during routine ground testing temporarily halted Falcon 9 launches.

Meanwhile, while the Intelsat 35e mission involved an expendable Falcon 9 first stage, SpaceX has recovered 11 first stages on previous missions, re-flying and re-landing two of them. The company has also started tackling the challenge of recovering and reusing the launch vehicle’s payload fairings.



Video Discussing the Future of Launch and Space-X

ATIcourses has been training rocket scientists for more than 30 years. We specialize in Space and Satellites courses, including launch Vehicle design and selection.

The Atlantic Council held its Captains of Industry discussion which featured Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX. This is the 1 hour+ recording of the event. The talk gives great insight into the space launch business and the differences between approaches.

The discussion focused on the future of American space launch, an issue of critical and timely importance. Last month, Russia threatened to cut-off U.S. supply of the RD-180 engine, revealing just how problematic U.S. reliance on these Russian engines really is. SpaceX offers a wholly-American rocket with an outstanding record of reliability and mission success.



Three new residents arrive at International Space Station

The Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft docked at the space station’s rooftop after a two-day orbital chase. Riding on the Soyuz were American astronaut Kevin Ford of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, who are beginning a five-month mission to the space station.

“We can see you, everything looks fine,” Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who was already onboard the station, told the approaching crew before the two spacecraft docked about 230 miles (370 km) over southern Ukraine.

Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin launched into space on Tuesday (Oct. 23) atop a Soyuz rocket that blasted off from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They are the second half of the space station’s six-person Expedition 33 crew, which is commanded by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams. Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide round out the crew.

The Soyuz spacecraft is bringing some fishy friends to the space station in addition to its human crew. The spacecraft is ferrying 32 small medaka fish to the space station so they can be placed inside a tank, called the Aquatic Habitat, for an experiment to study how fish adapt to weightlessness.

Thursday’s Soyuz docking at the space station kicks off a flurry of arrivals and departures at the International Space Station.

A robotic Dragon space capsule built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX will depart the space station on Sunday (Oct. 28) and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California. The Dragon capsule will return nearly 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of science experiment hardware and other gear back to Earth.

On Wednesday (Oct. 31), an unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft will launch toward the space station and arrive six hours later to make a Halloween delivery of food, equipment and other Halloween treats.

Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko are in the final weeks of their mission to the space station, and will return to Earth Nov. 12. At that time, Ford will take command of the space station crew to begin the Expedition 34 mission.

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California space law boosts business, not safety

Private cargo-carrying spacecraft? No problem, but put people on commercial flights and things get messy. Just as NASA set the date for SpaceX’s first official trip to the International Space Station, the firm’s home state of California passed a law lightening company responsibility for the safety of future passengers.

No private space firm yet sends crewed flights to space, but that is the plan. The new law treats spaceflight rather like sky-diving, requiring future travellers to give “informed consent”. They agree not to sue the company they fly with if they’re injured or killed in the process.

California is the last of the states hosting major contenders in the commercial space race to pass such a law, trailing Virginia, home to Orbital Sciences, New Mexico (Virgin Galactic), and Texas (Blue Origin), which have already done so.

The laws may make a state more attractive to space businesses, but without statistics on the safety of commercial flights, travellers sign away their right to sue blindly.

However, space tourists may not care: Virgin Galactic, which plans to launch its first crewed flight in 2013, has a roster of passengers who have signed consent agreements.

What is your opinion?

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The Bumpy Road to Space

The recent abort, and eventual successful launch, of the Space-X mission to resupply the space station is one of many bumps in the road to commercial space.  One should not expect the road to be smooth, or that replacing a Russian supply system with over a half century and almost 1,000 missions in its heritage will be easy.  While we all hope that the commercial efforts of such companies as Space-X and Orbital Science Corporation will succeed, we also know many problems will arise.

According to Ed Keith, an ATI teacher of rocket and missile design and technology, the NASA commercial space road is a major step in the right direction.  On the other hand, he sees many bumps along that same road.  Historically, American launch vehicles have been developed and operated with large government budgets.  New commercial ventures have an incentive to do the same type of missions at much lower cost.  This means that some short cuts are made, some new risks are accepted, and new ways of doing business are employed.

In Mr. Keith’s three day class on Fundamentals of Rockets and Missiles, the questions of commercial versus government design standards are compared.  The apparent effect is that a commercial rocket DDT&E (Design, Development, Test & Evaluation) effort, like the Space-X Falcon, should cost about one-fifth of what a government DDT&E program costs for a comparable sized rocket.  This cost difference is documented in some cost models or Cost Estimation Relationships (CER).  These same cost models fail to explain why any but commercials should be chosen.  Mr. Keith’s explanation is that the shortcuts have one major impact; lower initial reliability.  Indeed, the first three launch attempts of the Space-X Falcon-1 launch vehicles all failed.  Since then, there have been two successful launches of the Falcon-1 and three successful launches of the much larger Falcon-9.  Commercial space ventures have the opportunity to take calculated risk short cuts that government programs are mandated to avoid, and the business incentive to make wiser trade-offs and choices.

This does not mean that the road to commercial space will be smooth from here on in.  A more realistic expectation is for the road to be bumpy.  Space-X has had five successful launches in a row, but their proven historical reliability is five successes in eight tries, or 62.5% reliability. The best we can say regarding the Falcon-9 rocket is that we can be confident it is at least 75% reliable at this time.  If, or when, a Falcon-9 rocket fails in the future, it should be considered a bump on the way to commercial space, not a failure of this new way of doing business.

Even this latest successful launch cannot be counted as a victory for commercial space until the Dragon Space Capsule successfully docks with the Space Station.  While the launch is the most risky six minutes of the mission, Space-X still must get the craft safely to a docking port with all the cargo intact.  The difficulty and risks of rendezvous and docking of a spacecraft to the Space Station should not be underestimated.

There will always be critics of commercial space who will look for negative occurrences to undermine commercial style ventures.  There is also a high probability that a number of future commercial space missions will include embarrassing failures.  The criteria for success in commercial space should not be whether the road is bumpy with occasional failures.  The success criteria should be whether access to space is better, faster and cheaper using commercial methods and incentives than is practical with the type of government bureaucratic methods and incentives that have dominated the final frontier for the past half century.

Dr. Tom Logsdon teaches Orbital Mechanics and Global Positioning Satellite technology classes for ATI.  His colleague, Edward L Keith, teaches Fundamentals of Rockets and Missiles, Space Mission Analysis and Design and other rocket related classes for ATI. These instructors are available to reporters who need more information. Contact ATI at 410-956-8805.

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SpaceX Considering Texas Launch Site For Falcon 9 Commercial Rockets

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX is considering a new launch site in Texas. Details of the site were revealed in an April 9 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) document that sought environmental review ahead of construction.

According to the FAA the new site would be used “to launch orbital and suborbital launch vehicles from a private site in Cameron County in southern Texas,” flights from that area would fly directly over the Gulf of Mexico.

Building the new facility will allow SpaceX to handle up to 12 commercial launches per year and the site would specifically support SpaceX’s Falcon 9 medium rocket. The launch site would also support the Falcon heavy launcher however no paying customers have signed on yet to use that launcher.

SpaceX recently signed a $1.6 billion control with NASA and the company already plans to launch some of its Dragon space capsules from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The contract will fly cargo to the International Space Station.

In November SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company was considering launch sites in Alaska, California, Florida, Texas and Virginia. At this time SpaceX is not saying whether any one of those other suggested areas have been ruled out.

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SpaceX To Make First Commercial Cargo Run To Space Station April 30

The first commercial cargo to the International Space Station will be shipped by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, starting April 30.  If the company is

successful, it will be the first time a private spacecraft docks with the space station.

“NASA’s International Space Station program, along with our international partners, will take a look at the readiness of both station and SpaceX for the mission. If all is go, then SpaceX will be given a green light for an April 30 launch,”NASA officials said.

The Dragon capsule will be completely unmanned like the Russian, European and Japanese capsules that currently run supply missions to the space station.

SpaceX engineers designed the Dragon capsule to be used multiple times, unlike conventional supply ships which burn up while reentering the atmosphere. Using the Dragon capsule costs NASA per $133 million per delivery, far less than the $300 million it costs just to build a conventional capsule.

The Dragon capsule is part of the 2006 Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) directive designed to coordinate supply and passenger delivery by private companies to the International Space Station. NASA signed agreements with three companies, but SpaceX is the closest to reaching the space station.

Orbital Sciences, another company that is a part of the COTS program, will launch its unmanned spacecraft for the first time later in 2012.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, said he hopes to bring astronauts aboard the Dragon capsule within the next few years, according to Forbes. SpaceX completed its first crew trial on Friday, demonstrating that the capsule could carry either seven crew members or 13,000 pounds (5,900 kilograms) of cargo safely.

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How would you like to go to Mars?

US space transport company Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced Thursday that it plans to develop a fully reusable orbital launch system, with the goal of one day helping humans settle on Mars.

The vehicle would be a reusable version of the Falcon 9 rocket which SpaceX used to propel its Dragon space capsule to low-Earth orbit during a test mission last year. Its first cargo trip to the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled for January.

A trip to Mars would cost about $500,000 per person, which could be affordable for at least one person in a million. If Earth’s population is 8 billion by the time a Mars mission is available, that would imply at least 8,000 people could afford the trip.

Wouldn’t you like to go?

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More on Space-X, Orion and Falcon 9

Eric posted on the LinkedIn NASA group

If I remember the relevant discussions correctly, the Orion capsule by itself can be launched by the Atlas and Delta rockets, and possibly the Falcon 9 as well. It’s the launch abort system (LAS) that makes the system too heavy to launch on the existing EELV’s. This was one of the primary justifications given for developing the Ares I rocket in the first place. However, even its performance is extremely marginal. The design of the Orion capsule had to be scaled back a couple of times as the true capabilities of the Ares I became more clear.

The LAS is a hefty piece of kit, weighing somewhere between one-fourth and one-half as much as the Orion capsule (IIRC). That’s a pretty significant amount of payload that essentially gets jettisoned every launch without contributing anything to the nominal mission profile but peace of mind. It’s the insurance policy you pay for and hope you’ll never need.

Without the LAS, the remaining Orion capsule can be launched, unmanned, on top of a Delta or Atlas vehicle. Under the new plan, put forth by the current administration, Orion will be used to make cargo runs to the ISS, providing both up and down-mass capabilities. It may also serve as a backup lifeboat in case anything unfortunate should happen to either the station or the Soyuz docked at the station. NASA will be able to start getting some engineering data on Orion, and also begin incrementally introducing and testing out some more advanced technologies and capabilities that will eventually enable long duration crewed flight beyond LEO. Under the original Constellation plan, these developments would have had to wait until much later since all near term development funds were being consumed by the development of the Ares rockets. The continued development of the Orion is vital to NASA’s exploration plans since Orion is currently the only spacecraft designed to allow direct atmospheric reentry from beyond LEO. As such, it remains a crucial part of the Flexible Path architecture. By the time that NASA finally gets to build its heavy lift launch vehicle, it should be fairly straight forward to add the LAS and qualify the Orion for crewed ascent.

Personally, I prefer SpaceX’s approach to the LAS. For the Dragon, the LAS will be incorporated into the capsule itself, and can be used for more than just launch aborts. They should also be able to use it to do de-orbit burns and possibly retro-rocket powered landings. Not only are they getting more use out of the system during each mission, but if they are able to refurbish and relaunch the Dragon capsules, then that means the LAS/retro-rockets will also be reusable (i.e. do not have to be replaced for each mission). If you have to put that much mass on top of your rocket, you might as well get it all of the way into orbit and get some good use out of it.

I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of innovations we may be seeing from the private sector. The Apollo mode of throwing away 95% of the vehicle on each mission (and then not even reusing the 5% you get back), will no longer serve us if the goal is to create a sustainable presence in space. There must be a way to get much more use out of the hardware we put into space. Certainly, we must have spacecraft which can be used for long periods of time and for more than one mission, but it may also prove useful to re-imagine uses for spent stages and other hardware that would otherwise become abandoned space junk.
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