06 Oct

Check out the Blue Origins test of their capsule escape system

This is pretty amazing. Not only can SpaceX get a booster to restart its engines and land, but Blue Origins can as well. Here they are showing their ability to launch a booster, land it again after restarting the engines, and also test the escape system that shoots the capsule away in an emergency.

I know Blue Origins hasn’t gone orbital, but this puts us close to having two very amazing launch systems available going forward.

04 Feb

I’m digging on this computer generated video of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy

I really dig this generated video of what SpaceX is hoping the Falcon Heavy launch later this year will look like:

If SpaceX’s latest offering is as advertised, the Falcon Heavy should be capable of generating some 3.969 million lbs (17,615 kilonewtons) worth of thrust at liftoff. Shortly after the 27 Merlin 1D engines power the booster and its precious cargo off of the pad, the three booster cores will throttle back, not long after the two outer booster cores will detach, falling back to Earth (or, potentially, fly back) leaving the central core to throttle back up to full power.

(Via SpaceX: Falcon Heavy poised to fly this year – SpaceFlight Insider.)

And the next big launch is in 4 days, apparently. Hoping attempt number two to fly the booster back and land it on the drone ship works.

19 Jun

New senate bill pushed by Republicans aimed at slowing or stopping SpaceX in favor of… pork

This is fucked up:

“Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has put his thumb on the scale. He has added language to the Senate bill that will make it a lot harder for commercial space companies—like, say SpaceX—to launch humans into space. He’s basically adding a layer of government to the requirements for commercial companies, making them account for costs and pricing.

Oddly, this sort of accounting is already in place with contractors like Boeing—which, shockingly, is a big player with SLS, and which has a large plant in Alabama, Shelby’s home state—but is not in place in companies like SpaceX and Sierra Nevada. This means that the newer startup companies will be put at a disadvantage against the older government contractors.

Bottom line: Shelby’s addition makes it easier for SLS to get built, and harder for commercial companies to build their own vehicles to send humans into space (and, importantly, can do it far, far cheaper than SLS can). That means we’ll have to rely on the Russians more for the time being.”

(Via NASA funding: New Senate bill will keep us relying on Russians for rides to space..)

The continued attempts to block competition in space access by the party that supposedly should champion it is pretty sad. They’ve already pared back investment and pushed back the timelines of cheap rides to orbit by 2-3 years by cutting funding for the COTS program.

03 Jun

SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule


I’m sure you’ve probably already seen this. But in case you haven’t, I’m looking at pictures of the Dragon version 2 capsule. This is the one that Elon Musk hopes to send astronauts up in sometime in the next couple years.

And in keeping with his focus on reusability, this one has parachutes as a backup. The main way it’s planned to land is by using rocket thrusters. So that it can be sent back up after being refueled. Thus, bringing costs down.

But also, that means it can be used on other planetary bodies for landing and taking off.

Interesting? Yeah:

Key to making the Dragon V2 cost-effective will be getting a lot of reuse out of it. According to Musk, the V2 is built to withstand 10 flights without any significant refurbishment. After that tenth flight or so, the heat shield would likely have to be replaced. On the V2, that shield is a variant of NASA’s Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator, which SpaceX calls PICA-X 3 (it retains an X because it’s SpaceX’s variant, and a three because it’s the third version of such a shield.) But Musk said he expects that the next versions of PICA-X will last longer than the most current version. “It’s kind of like a brake pad, it does need to be replaced, but eventually we’d like to get up to 100 flights” out of the heat shield before replacement becomes necessary, he said, adding that SpaceX has improved the micrometeorite shielding on the Dragon V2, as well.

The Dragon V2 will be able to hold seven passengers as well as a ton of pressurized cargo, along with two to three tons of unpressurized cargo.

31 Jan

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.)

24 Sep

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.

19 Sep

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.)

15 Aug

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.)