Hers an interesting article about using Spacex for future science probes. http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100518/ ... 5276a.html
SpaceX hopes to move forward its bid to deliver supplies to the International Space Station to the second test flight of the Dragon capsule next spring, foregoing an extra mission to prove out the cargo ship's rendezvous capabilities.
"We're advancing the objectives of what's called the COTS 2 flight to enable COTS 2 to go all the way to the space station," Musk said. "We don't yet have final approval from NASA on that. We've discussed it with them at length. We're designing the COTS 2 flight to be capable of that, and we are optimistic that we'll clear the various regulatory hurdles to achieve that."
Under the earlier plan, the second Dragon flight would approach within approximately 6 miles of the complex test long-range navigation, rendezvous and radio communications systems. That mission would be scrapped under the new plan.
In this special edition of This Week in Space, SpaceX boss Elon Musk speaks to Miles O'Brien about the successful flight of his Falcon 9 rocket and hits back at critics of the rocket's role in the Obama space plan.
A major win for NASA’s plan to use commercial rockets for astronaut transport
Cape Canaveral, Florida – June 7, 2010 – SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) announced that the inaugural flight of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle successfully launched and achieved Earth orbit right on target, marking a key milestone for SpaceX and the commercial space flight industry.
Preliminary data indicates that Falcon 9 achieved all of its primary mission objectives, culminating in a nearly perfect insertion of the second stage and Dragon spacecraft qualification unit into the targeted 250 km (155 mi) circular orbit. SpaceX also gathered important aerodynamic data during ascent and vehicle performance, which will be used in final preparations for the upcoming NASA demonstration and missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
“This is a major milestone not only for SpaceX, but the increasingly bright future of space flight,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, SpaceX. “It was an incredible day for the employees of SpaceX, but it is important to note that we did not do this alone. I,d like to thank from the bottom of my heart all of our supporters in NASA—particularly the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) office—the US Air Force, the FAA and our customers. Their support has been critical to this success.”
SpaceX currently has an extensive and diverse manifest of over 30 contracted missions, including 18 missions to deliver commercial satellites to orbit. In addition, the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft have been contracted by NASA to carry cargo, which includes live plants and animals, to and from the ISS. Both Falcon 9 and Dragon have already been designed to meet NASA’s published human rating standards for astronaut transport, allowing for a rapid transition to astronauts within three years of receiving a contract to do so. The critical path item is development and testing of the launch escape system, which would be a significant improvement in safety over the Space Shuttle, which does not possess an escape system.
The NASA COTS program has demonstrated the power of what can be accomplished when you combine private sector responsiveness and ingenuity with the guidance, support and insight of the US government. For less than the cost of the Ares I mobile service tower, SpaceX has developed all the flight hardware for the Falcon 9 orbital rocket, Dragon spacecraft, as well as three launch sites. SpaceX has been profitable for three consecutive years (2007 through 2009) and expects to remain modestly profitable for the foreseeable future. The company has over 1000 employees in California, Texas and Florida, and has been approximately doubling in size every two years. A majority of the future growth is expected to occur in Texas and Florida.
Falcon 9 lifted off at 2:45 p.m. (EDT) / 18:45 (UTC) from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, approximately 5.5 km (3.5 mi) southeast of NASA’s space shuttle launch site. The Falcon 9 launch vehicle is powered by a cluster of nine SpaceX-designed and developed Merlin engines. Using ultra pure jet fuel and liquid oxygen, the engines generated nearly a million pounds of thrust for the vehicle upon liftoff. View a high definition liftoff video clip here.
The Merlin engine is one of only two orbit class rocket engines developed in the United States in the last decade (SpaceX’s Kestrel is the other), and is the highest efficiency American hydrocarbon engine ever built. The Falcon 9 first stage, with a fully fueled to dry weight ratio of over 20, has the world's best structural efficiency, despite being designed to higher human rated factors of safety.
Excellent news. It didn't make any sense to me to go 99.9% of the way and not finish it out. They should use COTS1 to do the ISS flyby if possible.docm":t0pights said:Let's not lose track of SpaceX and NASA discussing the compressing of the COTS demo schedule. Instead of waiting for COTS3 to dock with ISS they're saying that COTS2 will carry cargo, and if the flight is going well it will attempt to dock and transfer the cargo.
This is true, but according to Musk, they are looking at 6 years to develop a manned version of Dragon without a NASA contract versus 3 years with one. Also, an interesting tidbit here is that SpaceX is planning adding new engines to Dragon that will either serve as propulsion for the escape system or for a powered dry landing, eliminating the need for an escape tower. Sweet.Gravity_Ray":1founjnb said:I suspect SpaceX will man rate its Dragon capsule even if NASA doesn’t want it. As long as somebody like Bigelow is on the side waiting for a way to get people to his space stations. So work on the Escape system will go forward with or without NASA. Its just that if NASA puts in a request for man rating the Dragon the job will go forward much faster. At least so says Mr. Musk.
Another reason why I think SpaceX will man rate the Dragon with or without NASA is because there are other countries that would love to have astronauts (for whatever reason). Right now even with just one successful test flight SpaceX has a more advanced space program than most countries.
SpaceX signs deal to launch commercial satellites
(AP) – 1 hour ago
LOS ANGELES — SpaceX has inked a $492 million deal with Iridium Communications Inc. to launch a fleet of next-generation commercial satellites aboard its Falcon 9 rocket.
The deal, to be announced Wednesday, comes two weeks after Falcon 9 reached orbit on its maiden test flight.
Iridium previously announced plans to replace its current satellite network by launching six dozen next-generation satellites between 2015 and 2017 at a cost of $2.9 billion. The company, which covers the whole world, uses the satellites to provide voice and data services for commercial and government clients.
Neither company would say how many Falcon 9 launches would be required to put the satellites into low-Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Each rocket launch will carry multiple satellites into space.
"It's a perfect marriage," Iridium chief executive Matt Desch said of the agreement with SpaceX.
While SpaceX will be the main launch provider, Iridium expects to sign with at least one more rocket maker.
SpaceX — or Space Exploration Technologies — is run by PayPal founder Elon Musk. NASA hopes to use SpaceX to haul supplies and possibly astronauts to the International Space Station once the space shuttles retire.
Musk called the Iridium deal "a very big endorsement." The satellite phone company had its choice of international launch providers, but ultimately chose Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX.
"Falcon 9 is the vehicle of choice both for the federal government and the commercial sector," Musk said.
(COTS-1 yada, yada, yada.....)
The successful flight of Falcon 9 may free up money held in reserve for the company to flesh out preliminary designs for a launch escape system for Dragon so that it can carry crew. Musk says he has shelved plans for a traditional tractor tower escape system in favor of putting engines directly into the Dragon spacecraft.
“It makes the whole thing considerably lighter and there’s less to go wrong,” he says. “We also have the ability to abort all the way to orbit insertion. [With]the launch escape tower approach, you have to toss off shortly after second-stage ignition [due to weight], so you actually don’t even have it for most of your flight.”
Musk says the engines in a push-off escape system can double as a propulsive landing system, enabling Dragon to land on the ground and saving the expense and time of a water recovery.
The company had hoped NASA would exercise a $300-million addendum to its COTS contract for design work on the launch escape system, but with new players in the commercial crew transport game, that seems unlikely. Instead, SpaceX, Boeing and other firms are looking at the $6 billion the Obama administration wants to put in NASA’s budget over the next five years for fixed-price contracts to fly crew to the space station.
“We never exercised [the human-flight option known as COTS-D] because we didn’t have budget to do it,” says NASA’s associate administrator for exploration, Doug Cooke. “Our focus was on Constellation. Enough time has passed; there are new players and we’d probably run into protest issues if we didn’t run a competition. Competition tends to get you best value for the government.”
SpaceX plays a wierd game with their launch manifest. If you look at the bottom, it says that is the date when the hardware arrives at the launch site, not the actual launch.job1207":272yt9dq said:Here is the current SpaceX flight manifest, noting they are aiming to fly COTS 1 sometime this year. Also, there are MANY more flights showing up on their manifest these days.
Then, we also have SpaceX fanbois.mr_mark":22hqrkom said:Those are Spacex and Orbital Sciences haters. I would not pay them much mind.
Now that's an ad hominem attack. So anyone who doesn't revere Musk as the Ultimate God wants to stop commercial "at any cost"?mr_mark":22hqrkom said:Their goal is to stop commercial at any cost and what better way than to stop commercial cargo which is the gateway to commercial human spaceflight. You can't stop progress.
1.- They have over 40 reservations, which won't result in actual payloads unless their rockets perform well and safely.mr_mark":22hqrkom said:Spacex is so much more than COTS and they have over 40 commercial payloads on there launch manefest. Today they are also announcing plans to launch from Vandenberg AFB a series of satelittes. The COTS-1 rocket will be delivered to the cape in July, less than a month away.