07 Jun

SpaceX plans first launch of a reused first stage rocket in a few months

This is the next big milestone, now that SpaceX is regularly re-landing first stage boosters, that SpaceX relaunch a booster and begin testing how that lifecycle works.

This article I’m linking talks about SpaceX talking to insurers about how the system is working so they can basically certify a used booster for launch in the new few months, and how much that will bring down their cost (to the $40 millions a launch range. Compared to $225 mil for their competition.

Pretty amazing stuff:

lists its starting price for the Falcon 9 rocket at $62 million. The average price of a launch with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. that competes with SpaceX for national security satellite launch contracts, is $225 million.

SpaceX executives say prices could go down even further — potentially by 30% — if the company is able to make good on its plans to offer reusable rockets for launch.

(Via SpaceX and Insurance Underwriters Will Discuss Risks of Reusing Rockets – Business Briefing on CIO Today.)

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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.

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20 Jun

SpaceX wants to beat NASA to Mars by 20 or so years

I just recently posted the graphic of NASA’s plans to put people on Mars in the 2040s. This article says 2030s, but 2040s sounds more like what’s coming out of the plans.

SpaceX has other ideas:

“Elon Musk, speaking to CNBC about how the future of humankind is rather closely tied to our ability to get off this planet, is ‘hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years’ — with SpaceX rockets and spacecraft, of course. This lines up with some of his previous comments about establishing a Mars colony in the 2020s. Meanwhile, NASA recently announced that it would try to put a human on Mars in 2035 — and only if it can secure the necessary funding and carry out a number of important milestone missions beforehand. Tantalizingly, Musk also spoke about SpaceX going public on the stock market — perhaps to raise the necessary funds to fly (and establish a colony?) on Mars.”

(Via SpaceX says it will put humans on Mars by 2026, almost 10 years ahead of NASA | ExtremeTech.)

The mention of SpaceX going public has me drooling. I was broke when Tesla went public, and I view it as too dear to trade now. Maybe I’ll have a little around when SpaceX goes public.

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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.

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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.)

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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.)

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14 Jul

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


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 | NASASpaceFlight.com.)

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