19 Sep

Orbital launches commercial space craft to ISS. Private space race officially on

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When the shuttle was canceled there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. But the SpaceX and Orbital solution has been cheaper and is looking solid.

Suck it haterz.

“At 10:58 EDT today, an Orbital Science Antares rocket took off successfully from NASA’s Wallops launch site in Virginia. Even as you read this, it’s flying a Cygnus into orbit in preparation for docking with the International Space Station in what is, so far, a seemingly flawless mission.

Orbital Sciences is part of the brand new space race between long-established names in space technology and younger, bolder new companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. Orbital, along with SpaceX, was selected by NASA to develop and then use private rocket tech to deliver vital supplies to the ISS in the post-Space Shuttle era–a long lull before NASA’s own rocket systems are ready.”

(Via The Commercial Space Race Is On: Orbital Science Corp. Launches Rocket To Space Station | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.)

To be fair, in this race SpaceX is so far well ahead of Orbital. SpaceX will be launching later this month a mission that will develop a first stage that will attempt to do a test recovery and ‘landing’ over the ocean (a hover at least) to test the Grasshopper technology they’re developing.

Meanwhile, NASA own SLS program plods ahead. It’s cheaper than the space shuttle, but I still find it less interesting than the above:

“If we were to take SLS’s preliminary schedule of one cargo flight and one manned flight every other year, we get $1.2 billion for the cargo flight, and $2 billion for the manned one using Orion. A development cost of 12.6 billion dollars will have to be spread out over the total number of flights too, so if we use 30 flights like mister Strickland did we have to add $420 million to every flight. Over 30 flights, the average cost of SLS would be $2.02 billion per flight, though the number of cargo missions would probably end up dominating later on since most current Design Reference Missions would require more cargo then crewed flights. With a ratio of 2:1, we get a total of $1.89 billion per flight. If we take the costs of SLS only, not counting Orion, we get $1.6 billion per flight, which equals $18.000 per kilogram. “

(Via The Armchair Space Expert: Space Launch System: reviewing the cost.)