NASA private space cuts don’t leave a lot of room for error


“NASA’s big-ticket missions have been spared the Congressional ax. The Orion crew vehicle gets $1.2 billion, the Space Launch System (SLS) gets $1.9 billion. Together, these are supposed to get humans to Mars or an asteroid, or both.

But there’s some who are not quite so happy: the private space companies vying to get astronauts to orbit by 2017, including Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada. The White House request for $821 million to support the commercial crew program was trimmed to $696 million. “

(Via Is the Relationship Between NASA and Private Space About to Sour? – Popular Mechanics.)

DARPA’s space plane project


Interesting. DARPA projects have a way of coming true.

“Key XS-1 technical goals include flying 10 times in 10 days, achieving speeds of Mach 10+ at least once and launching a representative payload to orbit. The program also seeks to reduce the cost of access to space for small (3,000- to 5,000-pound) payloads by at least a factor of 10, to less than $5 million per flight. “

(Via DARPA trying to make a Mach 10+ unmanned spaceplane that can fly ten times in ten days.)

What is most intriguing to me is that we know have Elon Musk’s SpaceX working on a reusable rocket. DARPA. The British SABRE project. We have three private space companies working with NASA’s commercial crew transport program (SpaceX, Orbital, and DreamChaser).

There’s a lot of concurrent activity going on. Which is encouraging.

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


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.)

New Dragon 9 gets ready for launch [pic]


A brooding picture of the all new Dragon 9.1, which is being shipped for a launch later this month.

The lower stage will attempt to control its descent and hover right before hitting the ocean. Something Musk says they have a ’10% chance’ of achieving this first time.

But it’s another step forward…

Newer SpaceX Grasshopper divert video has better angle, and more cows

This angle of the SpaceX Grasshopper test recently gives you a much better view of how cool the divert was in terms of guiding the rocket for a landing:

Plus: cows!

SpaceX Grasshopper’s Divert Maneuver

Another important step in fine control of a reusable returning rocket stage:

“SpaceX proved yesterday that their Grasshopper prototype Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle can do more than just go straight up and down. The goal of the test, said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Twitter was, ‘hard lateral deviation, stabilize & hover, rapid descent back to pad.’

On August 13th, the Grasshopper did just that, completing a divert test, flying to a 250-meter altitude with a 100-meter lateral maneuver before returning to the center of the pad. SpaceX said the test demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights.”

(Via SpaceX Grasshopper Performs Divert Maneuver.)

John Carmack’s private space program shutters up

Well, it had been fun to watch as it went:

“Armadillo Aerospace, the private rocket-building enterprise founded by gaming godfather John Carmack, is being put on hold. At QuakeCon, Carmack told New Space Journal that in the face of a failed landing in January and growing organizational problems, ‘things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode.’ Armadillo, the Journal reports, had hit a snag after giving up private contract work to chase a reusable cargo craft of the kind used by NASA. That meant that instead of operating at a profit, Carmack paid over a million dollars a year to finance the company and narrowed its focus to producing working suborbital rockets with existing technology.”

(Via John Carmack’s private space program ‘in hibernation’ after progress stalled | The Verge.)

Boeing’s new capsule inches closer


Neat. Though I didn’t realize NASA was only going to award a contract to the winner of the race (looks like it’s between SpaceX and Boeing). I thought they would award more business to the winner, but use both if both turned out to be awesome? Guess I was wrong.

Hopefully it’ll work out that both will continue competing.

“The CST-100 is scheduled to take off in 2016 for a test flight that could help Boeing win a coveted NASA contract to deliver crew to the ISS. Boeing is one of three companies, along with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Sierra Nevada, competing for the job through NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.”

(Via Boeing Shows Off Space Taxi’s Sleek Interior | Space | TechNewsWorld.)

Dragon Roadmap: From domestic crew independence to humans on Mars |


Something more cheerful and space-related than the grim past few days, a look at where Space X is along its path to human-certified launch:

“SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is continuing to make solid progress during the early years of its incremental roadmap, a path that has a firm focus on sending humans to Mars. With successful Commercial Cargo missions already under its belt, Dragon is already targeting the role of transporting NASA crews to the International Space Station (ISS).”

(Via Dragon Roadmap: From domestic crew independence to humans on Mars |

SpaceX tests reusable first stage rocket

SpaceX has another iterative test of its reusable first stage:

What’s additionally intriguing is how golden age this is: a rocket landing on a tail of fire.