SpaceX

Elon Musk Predicts When SpaceX Will Build Its First Base on Mars

Elon Musk Predicts When SpaceX Will Build First Base on Mars

SpaceX is set to build the first human settlement on Mars, and it could arrive before the end of 2030. CEO of the company, Musk explained that the company’s plan to station a series of BFR rockets on Mars, alongside a permanent base and roads, could easily become reality by 2028.

Initially, Musk announced the plans in detail at the International Astronautical Congress in 2017. But, this announcement over the weekend is a huge update on their timescale and intentions. It was explained by Musk that he plans to send a couple of unmanned BFRs in 2022, followed swiftly by two more unmanned, and two manned BFRs in 2024. Musk himself has described the plans as “ambitious”.

Elon Musk Announces First Mars Base

Artist rendering of Mars base alpha. (Elon Musk/Twitter)




 

That six-ship fleet of BFRs will potentially serve as a starting point, from which a much more ambitious colony can be built. Each individual ship has the capability of carrying 100 tonnes of supplies, which will be the materials for the planned homes initially. The passengers from the final two ships will have the mammoth task of extracting one tonne of ice per day, and then returning home with the fuel that they have harvested.

While definitely ambitious, and seemingly impossible from the point of view of some readers (not me, I promise), this project is only the start, and will lay the groundwork for something much bigger – cities that offer greenhouses, life support, habitats, and an open environment for new experiments and research.

“The idea would be to expand out, start off not just with an outpost, but grow into a larger base, not just like there are in Antarctica, but really a village, a town, growing into a city and then multiple cities on Mars” Paul Wooster said earlier this month. Wooster is the principle Mars development engineer for SpaceX.




 

Not content with such ambitions, though, Elon Musk talked about his hopes for the project’s possibilities at the event, too. He said the BFR is “really intended as an interplanetary transport system that’s capable of getting from Earth to anywhere in the solar system as you establish propellant depots along the way.”

They do say shoot for the stars – we’re right behind you, Elon……at a safe and reasonable and “waiting to see what will happen” kinda distance.

Elon Musk First Mars Base

(Elon Musk/Twitter)


From our friends: Man Recreates Lord Of The Rings Scene With 150,000 Legos


 

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Yusaku Maezawa’s #dearMoon Project Aims For Lunar Art

Yusaku Maezawa, the world’s first private lunar passenger, wants to share the experience with all of humanity in a truly unique way; through they eyes and ears of select artists.

“I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself/ That would be a little lonely. I don’t like being alone, so I want to share these experiences and things with as many people as possible, so that is why I choose to go to the moon with artists!” said Maezawa during the announcement press conference.

A short video screened at the beginning of the #dearMoon announcement Sept. 17 included this vision of a violinist performing in space.
Credit: SpaceX




 

Maezawa, an eccentric billionaire, is also a seasoned art collector who during the press conference spoke about being inspired by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Lennon and Coco Chanel.

The project is being welcomed by the scientific community, in an interview with Space.com, former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott goes on to say that “The thing that makes me happiest about this is it’s bringing together space and art, which I think are just two naturally complimentary things,”.

Learn more about the #dearMoon project below.

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SpaceX Announces Identity Of World's First Private Lunar Passenger

SpaceX Announces Identity Of World’s First Private Lunar Passenger

At a Monday evening press conference held at the SpaceX Los Angeles headquarters, Elon Musk announced who will be the world’s first ever lunar passenger.

Not only did this person purchase their own seat, they also purchased seats for six to eight musicians, photographers, architects, and other artists who want to join the mission to the moon.

Our hero in question? Entrepreneurial billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. Maezawa’s fortune stems from founding China’s largest online fashion mall ZozoTown, and it appears he wants to share that fortune with interested artist parties. Maezawa did not disclose how much the trip has cost him, but he has stated it will be free for all selected attending artists. Musk estimates the trip cost at roughly $5 billion.




 

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon. Just staring at the moon filled my imagination. It’s always there and it’s continued to inspire humanity. That is why I could not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close, and at the same time I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself.” say Maezawa.

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Elon Musk Is Launching A Tesla Into Space – Here’s How SpaceX Will Do It

Ben Thornber, University of Sydney

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled for launch on February 6, and the entire space industry is watching with anticipation.

What is so special about this rocket? This vehicle will be the first of its kind, the world’s most powerful launch vehicle and targeting an unprecedented level of reusability. The launch has been delayed on numerous occasions since 2013, but if the mission is a success, we will be one step closer to Musk’s incredibly ambitious aim to launch a manned Mars mission within the next decade.




 

However, rocket science is famously difficult. As CEO of SpaceX, Musk himself is uncharacteristically reserved, stating:

I hope it makes it far enough from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider that a win.

We will have to wait and see. In typical Musk flair, the first payload will be his Tesla Roadster – which is set to become the world’s fastest car following its launch into a heliocentric orbit.

Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicles

Rockets capable of carrying a payload over 20 metric tonnes are classified under the Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle (HLLV) category. The rocket must carry its package up to at least 160km above the surface and achieve an orbit, requiring speeds above 8,000 metres per second.

To put these figures in perspective, the rocket could propel two fully loaded city buses more than 50 times the height of Mount Everest at 32 times the cruising speed of a Boeing 747.

The Falcon Heavy will achieve this by using three rockets, with the first two separating after stage one of the launch. The final rocket will then lift the Tesla Roadster up into space, where it will enter a highly elliptical orbit between the Earth and Mars. Without external interference, Falcon Heavy will remain in this orbit for thousands of years.

Currently, the Delta IV Heavy is the most capable HLLV operational. The most popular HLLV is the European Ariane V, which holds an extensive list of international clients. It is responsible for launching core components of the international space station, as well as launching interplanetary spacecraft, global navigation satellites and orbital telescopes.

According to SpaceX, the Falcon Heavy will lift twice the load at a third the cost of these current systems, placing SpaceX in an excellent position to be the first choice for all heavy lift missions.

Falcon Heavy standing at a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, USA, 28 December 2017. Space X/AAP




 

Pioneers of the new space industry

Since the early missions of Sputnik and Apollo, space has generally been a state-run affair. Organisations like NASA, the European Space Agency, Russia’s agency Roscosmos and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency have all been operated and funded by their respective governments.

Private space companies were formed alongside these agencies, capitalising on the success of their missions. However, given the enormous cost of space access, space innovation was always led by the world governments.

In the 21st century, however, things are starting to change. A space agency wasn’t behind the current push for reusable rockets (even though NASA was the first agency to launch one).

SpaceX has led the way in reducing launch costs and improving efficiency. The new space industry is growing rapidly, with companies like SpaceX at the forefront.




 

The ambitions of SpaceX are not going to stop with satellite launches using Falcon Heavy. The rocket has been designed to have acceleration profiles appropriate for manned missions, and SpaceX currently plan 2019 tests of its Dragon2 capsule – and have signed up two unnamed space tourists for an unpowered flight around the moon.

But, will it work?

Rockets have a notorious history of failing on the first few launches. Test campaigns usually run for several years; recently SpaceX engineers had encountered numerous issues before their first successful booster return in 2016.

The added challenge however for SpaceX is ensuring reusability. Each of the Falcon 9 rockets must be ejected during launch and safely returned to Earth. It was only two years ago that it achieved this milestone for the Falcon 9.

The Falcon Heavy is a very ambitious endeavour by SpaceX, and will certainly blaze a trail across the sky in one way or another. And it’s pretty clear that Musk is changing the landscape of the space industry, with lasting effects for decades to follow.

The ConversationThe author would like to recognise a significant contribution to this article from Joshua Critchley-Marrows, an engineering graduate of the University of Sydney, and Warwick Holmes, Executive Director of Space Engineering, the University of Sydney.

Ben Thornber, Associate Professor, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

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SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket

Elon Musk Gives Us A Look At SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket

Yesterday Elon Musk gave us space nerds an early christmas gift when he tweeted images of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket. And boy are they a sight.

Next month the Falcon Heavy will get its first test launch and the payload will be Musk’s red Tesla Roadster. It will launch next month from the same launch pad that sent Apollo astronauts to the Moon. The car will be sent into Mars’ orbit and left to drift into space.

If successful SpaceX will then move on to it’s next phase on Falcon Heavy testing which includes attempting to land all of the boosters on a drone ship at Cape Canaveral.

The rocket will measure 70 meters (230 feet) tall. SpaceX/Elon Musk




 

All three of the boosters will attempt to land. SpaceX/Elon Musk

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Elon Musk's Latest Plan Involves Sending His Tesla To Mars

Elon Musk’s Latest Plan Involves Sending His Tesla To Mars

The new SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is many things including the soon to be most powerful rocket in operation. Surprisingly, it’s also going to be used a delivery vehicle for Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster.

“Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity,” says Musk on Twitter, which many speculate will be this very car.

Confirmed by The Verge initially, he then claimed he “later made it up”. However on Saturday, Ars Technica was able to verify that the plan was indeed real.

The timing of the tweet and the recent announcement of the new Tesla Roadster has many speculating that this could be cross-promotional effort between the moguls owned companies.

While Musk’s claims are bold, the car may not make it all the way to Mars. SyFy reached out to Musk, and he responded letting them know that it will be placed in “a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.”, known as the Hohmann transfer orbit.

And there you have it, a Tesla Roadster on Mars.

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Elon Musk Reveals First Official Photo Of SpaceX Spacesuit

Elon Musk Reveals First Official Photo Of SpaceX Spacesuit

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has just posted the first official photo of it’s SpaceX space suit on Instagram. Musk notes in the post that more details will come in the next few days. The suit seen in the instagram post is a functional working model that was tested to double vacuum pressure. According to Musk, it was “incredibly hard” to walk the line between aesthetics, and function.

The suits are supposed to be used by SpaceX astronauts riding inside the Dragon Capsule. They’re worn for transport incase of the emergency of capsule depressurization. They are not meant for spacewalks and other activities outside of a craft.

The first use of the suits will be when SpaceX launches astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

A few years back a SpaceX suit surfaced on reddit and the design is similar to what was seen in the past. Welcome to the future.

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Elon Musk Releases Details Of Plan To Colonize Mars - Here's What A Planetary Expert Thinks

Elon Musk Releases Details Of Plan To Colonize Mars – Here’s What A Planetary Expert Thinks

Andrew Coates, UCL

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, has released new details of his vision to colonise parts of the solar system, including Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. His gung ho plans – designed to make humans a multi-planetary species in case civilisation collapses – include launching flights to Mars as early as 2023.

The details, just published in the journal New Space, are certainly ambitious. But are they realistic? As someone who works on solar system exploration, and the European Space Agency’s new Mars rover in particular, I find them incredible in several ways.

First of all, let’s not dismiss Musk as a Silicon Valley daydreamer. He has had tremendous success with rocket launches to space already. His paper proposes several interesting ways of trying to get to Mars and beyond – and he aims to build a “self-sustaining city” on the red planet.

Musk outlining initial plans in 2016.

The idea depends on getting cheaper access to space – the paper says the cost of trips to Mars must be lowered by “five million percent”. An important part of this will be reusable space technology. This is an excellent idea that Musk is already putting into practice with impressive landings of rocket stages back on Earth – undoubtedly a huge technological step.

Making fuel on Mars and stations beyond it is something he also proposes, to make the costs feasible. Experiments towards this are underway, demonstrating that choosing the right propellant is key. The MOXIE experiment on the NASA 2020 rover will investigate whether we can produce oxygen from atmospheric CO2 on Mars. This may be possible. But Musk would like to make methane as well – it would be cheaper and more reusable. This is a tricky reaction which requires a lot of energy.

Yet, so far, it’s all fairly doable. But the plans then get more and more incredible. Musk wants to launch enormous spaceships into orbit around Earth where they will be refuelled several times using boosters launched from the ground while waiting to head to Mars. Each will be designed to take 100 people and Musk wants to launch 1,000 such ships in the space of 40 to 100 years, enabling a million people to leave Earth.

There would also be interplanetary fuel-filling stations on bodies such as Enceladus, Europa and even Saturn’s moon Titan, where there may have been, or may still be, life. Fuel would be produced and stored on these moons. The aim of these would be to enable us to travel deeper into space to places such as the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud.

The “Red Dragon” capsule is proposed as a potential lander on such missions, using propulsion in combination with other technology rather than parachutes as most Mars missions do. Musk plans to test such a landing on Mars in 2020 with an unmanned mission. But it’s unclear whether it’s doable and the fuel requirements are huge.




 

Pie in the sky?

There are three hugely important things that Musk misses or dismisses in the paper. Missions such as the ExoMars 2020 rover – and plans to return samples to Earth – will search for signs of life on Mars. And we must await the results before potentially contaminating Mars with humans and their waste. Planetary bodies are covered by “planetary protection” rules to avoid contamination and it’s important for science that all future missions follow them.

Musk inspecting a heat shield at the SpaceX factory.
Steve Jurvetson/Flickr, CC BY

Another problem is that Musk dismisses one of the main technical challenges of being on the Martian surface: the temperature. In just two sentences he concludes:

It is a little cold, but we can warm it up. It has a very helpful atmosphere, which, being primarily CO2 with some nitrogen and argon and a few other trace elements, means that we can grow plants on Mars just by compressing the atmosphere.

In reality, the temperature on Mars drops from about 0°C during the day to nearly -120°C at night. Operating in such low temperatures is already extremely difficult for small landers and rovers. In fact, it is an issue that has been solved with heaters in the design for the 300kg ExoMars 2020 rover – but the amount of power required would likely be a show-stopper for a “self-sustaining city”.

Musk doesn’t give any details for how to warm the planet up or compress the atmosphere – each of which are enormous engineering challenges. Previously, science fiction writers have suggested “terraforming” – possibly involving melting its icecaps. This is not only changing the environment forever but would also be challenging in that there is no magnetic field on Mars to help retain the new atmosphere that such manipulation would create. Mars has been losing its atmosphere gradually for 3.8 billion years – which means it would be hard to keep any such warmed-up atmosphere from escaping into space.

The final major problem is that there is no mention of radiation beyond Earth’s magnetic cocoon. The journey to and life on Mars would be vulnerable to potentially fatal cosmic rays from our galaxy and from solar flares. Forecasting for solar flares is in its infancy. With current shielding technology, just a round-trip manned mission to Mars would expose the astronauts to up to four times the advised career limits for astronauts of radiation. It could also harm unmanned spacecraft. Work is underway on predicting space weather and developing better shielding. This would mitigate some of the problems – but we are not there yet.

Europa.
NASA

For missions further afield, there are also questions about temperature and radiation in using Europa and Enceladus as filling stations – with no proper engineering studies assessing them. These moons are bathed in the strongest radiation belts in the solar system. What’s more, I’d question whether it is helpful to see these exciting scientific targets, arguably even more likely than Mars to host current life, as “propellant depots”.

The plans for going further to the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud with humans is firmly in the science fiction arena – it is simply too far and we have no infrastructure. In fact, if Musk really wants to create a new home for humans, the moon may be his best bet – it’s closer after all, which would make it much cheaper.

The ConversationThat said, aiming high usually means we will achieve something – and Musk’s latest plans may help pave the way for later exploration.

Andrew Coates, Professor of Physics, Deputy Director (Solar System) at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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SpaceX Plans Expansion Of Rocket Refurbishing Facilities In Florida

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – SpaceX wants to expand facilities in Florida to refurbish and store its reusable rocket boosters as it increases the pace of launches, documents filed with authorities show.

The privately owned rocket company, operated by entrepreneur Elon Musk, proposes building a 67,222-square-foot (6,245-square meter) hangar just south of its Cape Canaveral launch sites to prepare recovered Falcon boosters for reflight, according to the documents.

The Port Canaveral Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider SpaceX’s proposed lease on Wednesday.

Since successfully landing its first Falcon rocket in December 2015, SpaceX has successfully returned boosters 12 more times on drone barges floating in the ocean or on a landing pad on the ground. Two of those boosters were refurbished and relaunched on second satellite-delivery missions.

SpaceX in March took over a spacecraft processing facility at Port Canaveral that once was used to prepare Spacehab science and equipment modules for flight aboard NASA’s now-retired space shuttles. The new lease is for 2.2 acres of vacant land adjacent to the Spacehab building.

The hangar that SpaceX wants to build there will be used for rocket refurbishment and storage, company spokesman John Taylor said. The old Spacehab building will be used for offices, rocket storage and to house equipment currently positioned at the dock where SpaceX’s floating landing pad returns from sea, Taylor said.

“Right now, we have that work dispersed at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This will allow us to consolidate and work more efficiently,” Taylor said.

SpaceX operates two launch sites in Florida, though one remains out of service following a September 2016 accident that destroyed a $62 million rocket, a $200 million communications satellite and heavily damaged the launch pad. Repairs are underway and SpaceX expects to resume flights from the pad, located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, later this year.

The California-based firm uses the space shuttle’s old launch pads at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, just north of the Air Force base. It also has a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and is building a launch site near Brownsville, Texas.

The company is preparing for its 10th flight of the year, and third launch in nine days, on Sunday. SpaceX has a backlog of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion, spokesman Taylor said.

 

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; editing by Joseph White and Grant McCool)

 

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SpaceX Wins Launch Of U.S. Air Force X-37B Space Plane

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp will fly its first mission for the U.S. Air Force in August when it launches the military’s X-37B miniature spaceplane, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said on Tuesday.

Four previous X-37B missions were launched by United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets.

FILE PHOTO: The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 3 space plane is shown after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California October 17, 2014 in this handout photograph provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base. REUTERS/Boeing/Vandenberg Air Force Base/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

“SpaceX will be sending the next Air Force payload up into space in August,” Wilson said during webcast testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. She later specified that the payload would be one of the Air Force’s two X-37B spaceplanes.




 

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Airforce’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 after landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 7, 2017. U.S. Air Force/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

(Reporting by Irene Klotz. Editing by Joseph White and Steve Orlofsky)

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SpaceX Will Send Your Ashes To Space For $2,490

SpaceX Will Send Your Ashes To Space For $2,490

Consider the history of mankind’s ritual death ceremonies, perhaps having your loved ones shot into space doesn’t qualify anywhere near the oddest or most elaborate, yet in this day and age folks can now arrange funerals centered around the event. Elysium Space, a San Francisco funeral home offers a number of space-based funerals to memorialize the lives of those most near and dear to us.

From their website, Elysium (named after the Greek Elysian Fields) the company says about its services:

“Imagine an everlasting memorial where family and friends can commemorate their departed loved ones anytime and anywhere. Instead of looking down upon the earth in reminiscence, we can raise our eyes to the eternal wonders within the night sky, knowing that our loved ones are always with us. Elysium Space offers its awe-inspiring celestial services to provide a connective experience for families and friends, creating a new sacred space for remembrance and an eternal memorial for those we love. By looking into the infinite beauty of the night sky, we can remember the beauty of those who have touched our lives forever.”




 

If that sounds a little bit dramatic, then consider how the Greeks conceived of Elysium:

“The good receive a life free from toil, not scraping with the strength of their arms the earth, nor the water of the sea, for the sake of a poor sustenance. But in the presence of the honored gods, those who gladly kept their oaths enjoy a life without tears, while the others undergo a toil that is unbearable to look at. Those who have persevered three times, on either side, to keep their souls free from all wrongdoing, follow Zeus’ road to the end, to the tower of Cronus, where ocean breezes blow around the island of the blessed, and flowers of gold are blazing, some from splendid trees on land, while water nurtures others. With these wreaths and garlands of flowers they entwine their hands according to the righteous counsels of Rhadamanthys, whom the great father, the husband of Rhea whose throne is above all others, keeps close beside him as his partner” (Pindar, Odes (2.59–75))

The four steps to cremation with Elysium.




 

For those that are interested but worried that the cost may be too high, an average funeral runs around $9000, and the cost of shooting your loved one into space is only $2,490. How does it work? The company takes a portion of the cremated remains, and then shoots them into space where telemetry reports its location and journey. Not only that, but loved ones can download an app that gives them instant updates on the satellite’s trajectory delivered right to their mobile phone. As word gets out more and more people are interested in memorializing their loved ones this way. With more and more companies jumping on the band wagon, it looks like burial by space is here to stay.

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SpaceX Rocket Lifts Off On First Launch For U.S. Military

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Florida on Monday, carrying the company’s first satellite for the U.S. military, and breaking a 10-year monopoly held by a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The 23-story tall rocket took off from its seaside launch pad at Kennedy Space Center at 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT.)

It will put into orbit a classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, an agency within the Defense Department that operates the nation’s spy satellites.




 

Nine minutes after takeoff, the rocket’s main section touched down on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just south of NASA’s spaceport.

Last month, Space Exploration Technologies Corp flew its first recovered booster on a second mission, a key step in company founder Elon Musk’s quest to cut launch costs.

The National Reconnaissance Office bought SpaceX’s launch services via a contract with Ball Aerospace, a Colorado-based satellite and instrument builder. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Musk battled for years to break the monopoly on the military’s launch business held by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in 2014 over its exclusive multibillion-dollar contract with United Launch Alliance. The company later dropped the suit after the military agreed to open more launch contacts to competitive bidding.




 

SpaceX has since won two launch contracts from the Air Force to send up Global Positioning System satellites in 2018 and 2019.

Monday’s launch was the 34th mission for SpaceX and the fifth of more than 20 flights planned for this year.

The privately owned firm, based in Hawthorne, California, has a backlog of more than 70 missions, worth about $10 billion.




 

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bernadette Baum)

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Extra Portion Of SpaceX Rocket Recovered From Launch, Musk Says

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Thursday salvaged half of the $6 million nosecone of its rocket, in what the space entrepreneur deemed an important feat in the drive to recover more of its launch hardware and cut the cost of space flights.

Shortly after the main section of SpaceX’s first recycled Falcon 9 booster landed itself on a platform in the ocean, half of the rocket’s nosecone, which protected a communications satellite during launch, splashed down via parachute nearby.

“That was the cherry on the cake,” Musk, who serves as chief executive and lead designer of Space Exploration Technologies, told reporters after launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Measuring 43 feet (13 meters) long and 17 feet (5 meters) in diameter, the nosecone is big enough to hold a school bus. It separates into two pieces, exposing the satellite, about 4 minutes after liftoff.

As a test, SpaceX outfitted the fairing with thrusters and a steerable parachute.

“It’s its own little spacecraft,” Musk said. “The thrusters maintain its orientation as it re-enters and then … the parachute steers it to a particular location.”

SpaceX has focused most of its efforts and more than $1 billion into developing technologies to recover the Falcon 9’s main section, which accounts for about 75 percent of the $62 million rocket. Musk’s goal is to cut the cost of spaceflight so that humanity can migrate beyond Earth.

“I hope people will start to think about it as a real goal to establish a civilization on Mars,” he said.




 

LANDING ON ‘BOUNCY CASTLE’

After some debate about whether the nosecone could be recovered, Musk said he told his engineering team, “Imagine you had $6 million in cash on a pallet flying through the air that’s just going to smash into the ocean. Would you try to recover that? Yes, you would.”

Musk envisions deploying a kind of “bouncy castle” for the fairing to land on so it can be recovered intact and reused.

The company plans up to six more flights of recycled boosters this year, including two that will strapped alongside a third, new first-stage for the debut test flight of a heavy-lift rocket.

A recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars toward space above a Virgin Airlines passenger jet, which had just departed Orlando International Airport, in Orlando, Florida, March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

Originally slated to fly in 2013, Falcon Heavy is now expected to fly late this summer.

“At first it sounded easy. We’ll just take two first stages and use them as strap-on boosters,” Musk said. “It was actually shockingly difficult to go from single core to a triple-core vehicle.”

SpaceX also may try to land the rocket’s upper-stage section, a feat the company has never attempted. “Odds of success low, but maybe worth a shot,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Privately owned SpaceX also is developing a commercial space taxi to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, a venture to send two space tourists on a trip around the moon and a Mars lander that is slated to launch in 2020.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Joe White and Mary Milliken)

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SpaceX Successfully Launches First Recycled Rocket Booster

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket recovered at sea from its maiden flight last year blasted off again from Florida on Thursday in the first successful launch of a recycled orbital-class booster, then capped the feat with another return landing on an ocean platform.

The unprecedented twin achievements of re-launching a used rocket and salvaging the vehicle yet again were hailed by billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk as a revolutionary step in his quest to slash launch costs and shorten intervals between space shots.

“This is a huge day,” Musk told reporters after the launch. “My mind’s blown.”

It took Space Exploration Technologies Corp, as the California-based company is formally known, 15 years to demonstrate that a rocket typically discarded in the ocean after a single flight could be recovered and reused.

The SpaceX chief executive said his next goal is to turn the booster around for relaunch in 24 hours, a milestone he said could be accomplished before the end of the year.

“The potential is there for (an) over 100-fold reduction in the cost of access to space. If we can achieve that, it means humanity can become a space-faring civilization and be out there among the stars. This is what we want for the future,” he said.

The Falcon 9 booster, which previously flew in April 2016, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 6:27 p.m. EDT (2227 GMT) to put a communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based SES SA <SESFg.LU>.

The booster’s main section then separated from the rest of the rocket and flew itself back to a landing pad in the Atlantic, where it successfully touched down for its second at-sea return.

“We made a little bit of history today … opened the door into a whole new era of spaceflight,” said Martin Halliwell the chief technology officer for SES, who joined Musk at the news conference.

SpaceX landed an orbital rocket after launch for the first time in December 2015, a feat it has now repeated eight times. The Falcon 9 booster launched for the company’s 33rd mission on Thursday was also the first to make a successful return landing in the ocean.

By reusing rockets, SpaceX aims to eventually cut its costs by about 30 percent, the company has said. It lists the cost of a Falcon 9 ride at $62 million but has not yet announced a price for flying on a recycled rocket.

Not all the savings will be passed on to SpaceX customers, some of whom were awaiting the outcome of Thursday’s flight before agreeing to fly on a used booster, Musk said.

The company spent at least $1 billion developing the technology to land and refly its rockets and aims to recoup its investment in the next year or so, Musk said.

The boosters are expected to be able to fly 10 times with no refurbishment and about 100 times with moderate reconditioning, though the one launched Thursday will be donated to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport for display, Musk said.

Proving the concept works is crucial to SpaceX, which is moving on from an accident in September that damaged another Florida site.

A recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars toward space above a Virgin Airlines passenger jet, which had just departed Orlando International Airport, in Orlando, Florida, March 30, 2017. The launch marked the first time ever that a rocket was reused for spaceflight. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

SpaceX also is working on a passenger spaceship, with two unidentified tourists signed up for a future trip around the moon. The company’s long-term goal under Musk is to establish a colony on Mars and ferry people and cargo back and forth between the planets.

On Thursday, the rocket’s second-stage, which is not recovered, continued firing to carry SES-10 into an initial egg-shaped orbit high above Earth, which it will provide television and other communications services to Latin America.

SES received a discount for joining the inaugural run, Halliwell told reporters, but he declined to say how much. The latest flight brings to 65 the number of SES satellites in orbit, with nine more slated for launch this year.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by James Dalgleish and Lisa Shumaker)

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SpaceX To Launch First Reused Rocket, Testing Cost-Cutting Model

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – SpaceX is aiming for another space industry first on Thursday when it plans to launch aFalcon 9 rocket that has flown before, a key step in billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s quest to cut the cost of space flight.

The rocket is scheduled to blast off at 6:37 p.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deliver a communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES SA .

Musk’s SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, made history in December 2015 when it landed an orbital rocket for the first time, a feat it since has repeated seven times.

By reusing rockets, SpaceX aims to cut its costs by about 30 percent, the company has said. It lists the cost of a Falcon 9 ride at $62 million but has not yet announced a price for flying on a used rocket.

SES received a discount for joining the inaugural run, chief technical officer Martin Halliwell told reporters this week, declining to specify the cost.

Price alone was not the reason SES, with a fleet of 65 satellites, decided to fly on a used rocket, he said.

“Someone has to go first,” Halliwell said. “Really what we want to do here is encourage the launcher industry to follow this way forward.”

Proving the concept works is crucial to SpaceX, which is moving on from an accident in September that damaged another Florida site.

SpaceX also is working on a passenger spaceship, with two unidentified tourists signed up for a future trip around the moon. The company’s long-term goal under founder Musk is to fly people to and from Mars.

For its 33rd mission, SpaceX is reusing a Falcon 9 booster that originally flew in April 2016.

“We don’t believe we’re taking an inordinate risk here,” said Halliwell, noting that the rocket is in sufficiently good shape that its launch insurance rates did not increase.

He declined to give the cost of the SES-10 satellite.

After sending the SES-10 satellite on its way to orbit, the rocket’s first-stage will turn around and attempt to land itself on an ocean platform. If successful, SpaceX could fly the booster a third time, said company spokesman John Taylor.

The rocket’s second-stage, which is not recovered, will continue firing to carry SES-10 into an initial egg-shaped orbit high above Earth. It will provide TV and other communications services to Latin America.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Letitia Stein and Bill Trott)

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SpaceX Scrubs Rocket Launch In Florida Due To High Winds

(Reuters) – Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, on Tuesday delayed the launch of a rocket set to carry a commercial communications satellite into orbit, because of high winds at its Florida launch site.

Wind gusts of up to 25 mph (40 kph) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida forced SpaceX to scrub the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket that was to have put into orbit EchoStar XXIII, a commercial communications satellite for EchoStar Corporation, the privately owned company said on social network Twitter.

“Standing down due to high winds; working toward next available launch opportunity,” the company messaged moments after the launch window opened.

SpaceX said it had a 2-1/2 hour window from 1:34 a.m. to launch the rocket that was to have deployed the satellite about 34 minutes after lift-off.

A backup launch window opens at 1:35 a.m. on Thursday, SpaceX said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Bezos’ Rocket Company Blue Origin Signs Eutelsat As First Customer

(Reuters) – Blue Origin, a rocket company owned by Amazon.com Inc Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, has signed France’s Eutelsat Communications SA as its first customer for satellite launch services, he said on Tuesday.

Blue Origin is developing a reusable orbital rocket called New Glenn that is expected to debut before the end of the decade.

“We couldn’t hope for a better first partner,” Bezos said during a keynote address at the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington.

The target date for the first launch is around 2021, Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer said. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

New Glenn is a follow-on program to Blue Origin’s suborbital New Shepard launch system, a rocket and capsule designed to fly payloads and passengers to about 62 miles above the planet. Test flights with crew members aboard are expected to begin this year.

The company has not yet set a price for rides.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and CEO of Amazon, speaks about the future plans of Blue Origin during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence’s SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Like New Shepard, the New Glenn booster is designed to fly itself back to Earth so it can be recovered and reflown, slashing launch costs. Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, also favors this approach.

New Glenn will have about twice the lift capacity of SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 rocket, with the ability to put about 100,000 pounds (45,400 kg) into low-altitude Earth orbits.

Blue Origin will compete with SpaceX, as well as the United Launch Alliance owned by Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, Europe’s Arianespace and other companies, for commercial satellite launch business.

Eutelsat operates a fleet of 39 communications satellites launched by several companies, including SpaceX, whose launches sell for about $62 million, the company’s website shows.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and CEO of Amazon, greets Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat, while speaking about the future plans of Blue Origin during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence’s SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“We think that our role as an industry leader is to stimulate competition so that there is a stream of innovation … and that access to space is easier,” Belmer said. “When the opportunity of … New Glenn presented itself, we jumped on it.”

Bezos said his goal was to lower the cost of flights so that millions of people can live and work in space. His vision is to shift energy-intensive, heavy industry into orbit and preserve Earth for human life, while Musk wants to colonize Mars.

(Reporting by Mike Stone and Irene Klotz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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Read NASA’s Statement About SpaceX’s Private Moon Venture

The following is a statement on SpaceX’s announcement Monday about a private space mission around the moon:

“NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

“For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity’s future in space.

“NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.”

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SpaceX Will Fly Passengers On A Private Trip Around The Moon In 2018

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Private launch company SpaceX plans to fly two paying customers on a tourist trip around the moon using a spaceship under development for NASA astronauts and a heavy-lift rocket that has not yet flown, Chief Executive Elon Musk told reporters on Monday.

The launch of the first-ever privately funded tourist flight beyond the International Space Station is tentatively targeted for late 2018, Musk told reporters on a conference call.

He declined to identify the customers or say how much they would pay to fly on the weeklong mission, except to say that it’s “nobody from Hollywood.” He also said the two prospective space tourists know each other.

“We would expect to do more than one mission of this nature,” he added. “This should be incredibly exciting.”

(Reporting by Irene Klotz at Cape Canaveral, Fla., Editing by Steve Gorman and Jonathan Oatis)

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SpaceX Cargo Ship Reaches Space Station After GPS Glitch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX cargo ship reached the International Space Station on Thursday, delivering science experiments, food and supplies to astronauts a day later than planned due to a GPS data glitch.

A NASA television broadcast showed the Dragon ship, filled with nearly 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg) of cargo, flying itself to the station, which orbits about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet of France then used the station’s 58-foot (17.6 m) robot arm to pluck the gumdrop-shaped capsule from orbit at 5:44 a.m. EST (1044 GMT).

“Looks like we’ve got a great capture,” U.S. station commander Shane Kimbrough radioed to Mission Control in Houston.

Ground control teams took over operations to drive the capsule to a docking port, triggering automatic bolts that locked it into place at 8:12 a.m. EST, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

Dragon’s arrival was delayed by a day due to a navigation glitch. The capsule blasted off from Florida aboard a Space Exploration Technologies Corp Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday.

The station crew expects to unload the capsule later on Thursday. Its cargo includes two science instruments to be mounted outside the station. One will measure the Earth’s ozone and atmospheric gases and particles, and another seeks to help scientists better understand lightning strikes, which occur about 45 times per second around the world, NASA said.

The capsule also carried dozens of experiments to be conducted inside station laboratories, including stem cell research. Astronauts also plan to test the effects of microgravity on the superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

The station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations, expects another cargo delivery from a Russian Progress ship, launched a day ago from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with docking at 3:34 a.m. EST on Friday.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Paul Simao)

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SpaceX Launches Rocket From NASA Pad In Florida, Completes Relanding

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off on Sunday from a historic NASA launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, then succeeded in landing itself back on the ground nine minutes later.

The rocket, which launched at 9:39 a.m. EST, carried a cargo ship with about 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg) of supplies and experiments for the International Space Station.

After the launch, the rocket’s first stage separated, turned around and touched down on a landing pad at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It marked the eighth successful landing for Elon Musk’s rocket company.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

It was the first time SpaceX launched a rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A, originally built for the 1960s-era Apollo moon program and later repurposed for the space shuttles.

The space company founded by entrepreneur Musk had scrubbed its first launch attempt on Saturday, 13 seconds before liftoff, due to concerns about the steering system in the rocket’s upper stage, the company said.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which hired SpaceX to fly cargo to the station after the shuttle program ended, was closely monitoring the launch to learn more about the company’s operations before it clears the company to fly NASA astronauts on SpaceX rockets.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket first stage returns to land at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Brown

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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Launch Of SpaceX Flacon Rocket Aborted Seconds Before Takeoff

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – SpaceX called off the planned launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from a historic launchpad in Florida seconds before liftoff on Saturday to investigate a potential problem with the steering system in the upper stage of the booster.

The flight, the first for the company from a launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center once used for NASA’s space shuttle program, was rescheduled for 9:38 a.m. local time (1438 GMT) on Sunday. The rocket will carry a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station.

The problem concerned an issue with the steering system of the rocket’s upper stage, SpaceX said.

“Standing down to investigate,” Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, wrote on Twitter.

SpaceX has not flown from Florida in six months. Flights were suspended after a rocket exploded while being fueled ahead of a routine, pre-launch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of Kennedy Space Center.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on the launch pad after being scrubbed due to a technical problem while due for a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Brown

The accident destroyed the rocket and its cargo and heavily damaged the launchpad, which is being repaired.

SpaceX resumed flying last month from a second launch site in California while it hustled to finish work on the shuttle’s old launchpad.

Originally built for the 1960s-era Apollo moon program, the Florida launchpad was refurbished for the space shuttles, which flew from 1981 to 2011. SpaceX signed a 20-year lease for the launchpad in 2014.

“My heart is pounding to come out here today. Not because you guys make me nervous but because I’ve got a vehicle on this extraordinary pad behind me,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told reporters at the launchpad on Friday.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on historic launch pad 39A after launch was scrubbed at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Perched on top of the rocket is a Dragon capsule loaded with about 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg) of supplies and science experiments for the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

NASA hired SpaceX and Orbital ATK to resupply the station after it retired the shuttles. The U.S. space agency last year added a third company, privately-owned Sierra Nevada Corp, for making cargo runs to the station beginning in 2019.

By then, SpaceX aims to be launching NASA astronauts, breaking Russia’s monopoly on flying crew to the space station.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Frank McGurty and Paul Simao)

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SpaceX To Hit Fastest Launch Pace With New Florida Site

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Space Exploration Technologies Corp, better known as SpaceX, plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks, its fastest rate since starting launches in 2010, once a new launch pad is put into service in Florida next week, the company’s president told Reuters on Monday.

The ambitious plan comes only five months after a SpaceX rocket burst into flames on the launch pad at the company’s original launch site in Florida. SpaceX, controlled by billionaire Elon Musk, has only launched one rocket since then, in mid-January.

“We should be launching every two to three weeks,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

SpaceX was approaching that pace last autumn, before the Sept. 1 accident, which happened during a routine preflight test. The explosion destroyed a $200 million Israeli satellite and heavily damaged the launch pad.

Shotwell said repairs to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which are still underway, should cost “far less than half” of a new launch pad, which she said runs about $100 million. The new launch pad is at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, just north of the Cape Canaveral site.

SpaceX is also modifying the rocket’s engines to increase performance and resolve potential safety concerns, said Shotwell.

The company plans to change the design of the Falcon 9’s turbopump – which provides propellants to the rocket’s engines – to eliminate cracks that have prompted concern from NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

NASA has hired SpaceX to taxi astronauts to and from the International Space Station starting in late 2018.

Shotwell said the new turbopumps will be installed before the first unmanned test flights of the commercial space taxi, scheduled for November.

SpaceX is one of two companies certified to fly military and national security satellites for the Air Force, the other being United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing Co; and Lockheed Martin Corp.

An exterior of the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California May 29, 2014.REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

“For us, the concern was not the cracks, but do they grow over time? Would these cracks cause a flight failure?” Shotwell said. “I think NASA is used to engines that aren’t quite as robust, so they just don’t want any cracks at all in the turbo machinery.”

SpaceX discovered two types of cracks during ground tests of its Merlin engines in 2015, Shotwell said. The cracks were not related to the Sept. 1 launch pad explosion.

To fix the more serious cracking issue, the company devised a software fix and then redesigned the turbine wheel, Shotwell said. The first of the redesigned turbine wheels flew in July 2016.

A second set of cracks in welds and shrouds are not a concern for flight, but NASA and the Air Force have asked for a redesign, Shotwell said.

SpaceX has a backlog of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion. It has successfully flown 27 out of 29 times since the Falcon 9’s debut in 2010.

The company flew eight missions in 2016 before the launch pad accident in September grounded the fleet. The rocket returned to flight last month, flying from a second launch site in California, which is only used for satellites heading into polar or high inclination orbits.

A fourth launch site in Texas is under construction.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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SpaceX Says Fix Underway For Rocket Turbine Wheel Cracking

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – SpaceX’s final version of the Falcon 9 rocket, which Elon Musk aims to launch before the end of the year, will fix a potential problem with cracks in its turbopumps, the company said on Thursday. Its statement followed a report that the U.S. Government Accountability Office will flag turbine wheel cracks in the rocket’s turbopumps as a safety issue. NASA, the U.S. space agency, and the Air Force are among SpaceX’s customers.

The GAO’s preliminary findings were reported by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

In an email to Reuters, SpaceX said it has “qualified our engines to be robust to turbine wheel cracks. However, we are modifying the design to avoid them altogether,” said spokesman John Taylor.

In addition to flying cargo to the International Space Station, SpaceX has NASA contracts to begin flying astronauts to the orbiting research laboratory as early as 2018.

“SpaceX has established a plan in partnership with NASA to qualify engines for manned spaceflight,” Taylor said.

GAO investigators found that the Falcon 9 turbopumps, which are part of the system that delivers propellants to the engine, have blades that are prone to cracking, the newspaper said.

SpaceX last month resumed flights following a 4-1/2-month investigation into why a rocket blew up as it was being fueled for a routine pre-launch test in Florida.

The cause of the accident was traced to a burst canister of helium in the rocket’s second stage liquid oxygen tank. It was unrelated to the issue with the rocket’s turbopumps.

The accident was SpaceX’s second since the Falcon 9 debuted in June 2010. The company’s next launch is targeted for Feb. 14.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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SpaceX Returns To Flight, Sending Satellites Into Orbit

(Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off from California on Saturday, returning the company to flight for the first time since a fiery launchpad explosion in September. The 230-foot (70-meter) rocket launched from VandenbergAir Force Base at 9:54 a.m. PST (1754 GMT) to deliver 10satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications Inc.

“It’s a clean sweep – 10 for 10,” SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker said after the satellites were released. SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk’s ambitious flight plans had been grounded since the Sept. 1 explosion during fueling ahead of a pre-flight test in Florida.

About 10 minutes after Saturday’s launch, the first stage of the rocket, which had separated from the rest of craft, successfully touched down on a platform in the Pacific Ocean, a feat previously accomplished by four other returning Falcon rockets. SpaceX intends to reuse its rockets to cut costs.

“Rocket is stable,” Musk posted on Twitter. “Mission looks good.”

Two other returning Falcon boosters landed on the ground.

The mission tested changes implemented by SpaceExploration Technologies Corp, known as SpaceX, since the launchpad explosion.

Accident investigators determined that a canister of helium burst inside the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen tank, triggering the explosion. The canister is being redesigned, but until then SpaceX is addressing the issue by modifying its fueling procedures.

The explosion destroyed a $62 million SpaceX booster and a$200 million Israeli communications satellite that it was to put into orbit two days later.

The accident clouded the company’s aggressive agenda, which includes beginning to ferry U.S. astronauts into space next year, when it also plans to make its first voyage to Mars.

Saturday’s flight begins to clear a logjam of more than 70 planned missions, worth more than $10 billion, involving SpaceX Falcon rockets, which last flew in August, SpaceX said.

The launch is the first in a seven-flight contract with Iridium worth $468.1 million, company spokeswoman Diane Hockenberry said.

SpaceX aims to launch 27 rockets in 2017, more than triple the eight flights the privately held firm managed in 2016,according to a report on Friday in the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to its dozens of commercial customers, SpaceX is one of two companies hired by NASA to fly cargo to the International Space Station.

The company’s 2017 agenda includes the debut launch of a heavy-lift booster, flying its first reused rocket and repairing the Florida launchpad damaged in the explosion.

SpaceX Falcon rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, U.S., January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Tom Brown)

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SpaceX 2015 Accident Cost Hundreds Of Millions

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s SpaceX lost more than a quarter of a billion dollars in 2015 after a botched cargo run to the International Space Station and the subsequent grounding of its Falcon 9 rocket fleet, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The accident derailed SpaceX’s expectations of $1.8 billion in launch revenue in 2016, an analysis of the privately held firm’s financial documents showed, according to the Journal, which said it had obtained the documents.

SpaceX declined to comment on the Journal’s report.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, SpaceX Chief Financial Officer Bret Johnsen said the company “is in a financially strong position” with more than $1 billion in cash reserves and no debt.

SpaceX, owned and operated by Musk, who also is chief executive of Tesla Motors Inc &lt;TSLA.O&gt;, is aiming to return to flight on Saturday following a second Falcon 9 accident on Sept. 1.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Handout of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasting off from launch pad in Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Aims For Jan. 8 Return To Flight With Falcon Rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to resume flying rockets next week following an investigation into why one of them burst into flames on a launch pad four months ago, the company said on Monday.

In a statement, SpaceX said it expected to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base on Jan. 8 to put 10 satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications Inc.

SpaceX had suspended flights after the same model rocket went up in a blaze on Sept. 1 as it was being fueled for a routine pre-launch test in Florida.

The explosion at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida destroyed the $62 million rocket and a $200 million communications satellite.

Space X, owned and operated by Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Musk, has a backlog of more than 70 missions for NASA and commercial customers, worth more than $10 billion.

The company statement said that accident investigators concluded that a canister of helium inside the rocket’s upper-stage oxygen tank had exploded.

In the short term, SpaceX plans to revamp its fueling procedures so that the super-cold liquid oxygen will not build up between the helium tank’s liner and its outer covering, it added.

SpaceX said accumulation of oxygen in a void or buckle in the liner most likely led to the explosion.

“In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the (helium canisters) to prevent buckles altogether,” the statement said.

The company did not say when new helium canisters would be ready to fly, but that using warmer temperature helium and a slower fueling operation will prevent them from bursting.

“Iridium is pleased with SpaceX’s announcement on the results of the September 1 anomaly as identified by their accident investigation team, and their plans to target a return to flight,” company spokeswoman Diane Hockenberry said in a statement.

SpaceX has not said how much damage the Sept. 1 accident did to its primary Florida launch pad, nor when a new second pad in Florida, located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, will be put into service.

By Irene Klotz

(Reporting by Irene Klotz, Editing by W Simon)

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Inmarsat Switches To Arianespace For Satellite Launch After SpaceX Delays

LONDON (Reuters) – British satellite company Inmarsat will switch to using Arianespace from rival SpaceX to launch a new satellite to provide broadband connectivity to air passengers, it said on Thursday.

The S-band satellite had been scheduled to launch with technology billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX but Inmarsat said setbacks to SpaceX’s launch schedule prompted it to turn to Arianespace instead.

Inmarsat said on Thursday that European-owned Arianespace will launch the S-band satellite in mid-2017.

SpaceX has been forced to delay December rocket launches until January as an investigation continues into why one rocket burst into flames on Sept. 1.

SpaceX has a backlog of more than 70 missions for NASA and commercial customers, worth more than $10 billion.

No-one at SpaceX was immediately available to comment on the loss of the contract, the value of which was not revealed by Inmarsat.

Inmarsat said that it still planned to launch a different satellite, the Inmarsat-5 F4, with SpaceX during the first-half of 2017, adding that it looked forward to working with SpaceX in future.

Inmarsat plans to use the S-band satellite for providing air passengers with connectivity, as part of the European Aviation Network project with Deutsche Telecom.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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SpaceX Rockets To Remain Grounded Until January

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – – Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been forced to delay the return of its rockets to flight until January as an investigation continues into a launch pad explosion earlier this year, the tech billionaire’ s company said on Wednesday.

The company had hoped to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 16 to put 10 satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications Inc, but did not receive a required license to fly from the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees U.S. commercial space transportation.

“We are finalizing the investigation into our September 1 anomaly and are working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight, now in early January,” SpaceX said in a statement.

SpaceX suspended flights after one of its rockets burst into flames on Sept. 1 as it was being fueled for a routine pre-launch test in Florida.

The company traced the explosion to a fuelling system problem that caused a pressurized container of helium inside the rocket’s upper stage to burst.

The accident destroyed a $200 million satellite owned by Israel’s Space Communication Ltd.

In a separate statement Iridium said it remained “confident as ever in (SpaceX’s) ability to safely deliver our satellites into low-Earth orbit.”

SpaceX on Wednesday declined to comment about what measures it will take to ensure the problem will not reoccur.

The company uses extremely cold liquid propellants loaded just prior to blastoff to increase the rocket’s power so it can fly back to Earth and be reused.

A NASA advisory panel last month publicly questioned the safety of SpaceX’s fuelling process, especially since the company has been hired to begin flying astronauts to the International Space Station in 2018.

The Sept. 1 accident was the second for SpaceX in 29 flights of the Falcon 9.

The company, owned and operated by Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Musk, has a backlog of more than 70 missions for NASA and commercial customers, worth more than $10 billion.

Also on Wednesday, the Russian news agency Tass reported that a third-stage Soyuz rocket engine failure doomed a Russian cargo run to the space station on Dec. 1. The accident remains under investigation.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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spacex-aims-for-december-16th-return-to-flight

SpaceX Aims For December 16th Return To Flight

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX hopes to return its Falcon 9 rocket to flight on Dec. 16, said Iridium Communications Inc, which plans to have 10 of its satellites on board for launching.

The launch is contingent on approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees U.S. commercial space transportation, Iridium said on Thursday.

“We are looking forward to return to flight,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement from Iridium.

SpaceX suspended flights after one of its rockets burst into flames on Sept. 1 as it was being fueled for a routine prelaunch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The company traced the explosion to a fueling system problem that caused a pressurized container of helium inside the rocket’s upper stage to burst.

The accident destroyed a $200 million satellite owned by Israel’s Space Communication Ltd.

“We are confident that SpaceX understands its fueling process now and will do it successfully for our launch,” Iridium spokeswoman Diane Hockenberry wrote in an email to Reuters.

Iridium’s satellites, however, will not be aboard the rocket during the prelaunch engine firing, she added.

SpaceX declined to comment about the status of its accident investigation or what measures it will take to ensure the problem will not reoccur.

The company uses extremely cold liquid propellants loaded just prior to blastoff to increase the rocket’s power so it can fly back to Earth and be reused.

A U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration advisory panel last month publicly questioned the safety of SpaceX’s fueling process, especially since the company has been hired to begin flying astronauts to the International Space Station in 2018.

The Sept. 1 accident was the second for SpaceX in 29 flights of the Falcon 9. The company, owned and operated by Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Officer Musk, has a backlog of more than 70 missions for NASA and commercial customers, worth more than $10 billion.

SpaceX has not disclosed the extent of the damage at its primary launch site in Florida. The Iridium satellites will be launched from SpaceX’s California launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Iridium intends to replace its current mobile communications network with 81 new satellites made by Italy’s Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture of Thales SA and Leonardo Finmeccanica SpA under a contract worth $2.3 billion.

SpaceX is under contract to launch at least 70 of the satellites.

(Story corrects contract value in second to last paragraph to $2.3 billion from $2.8 billion)

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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SpaceX Seeks Approval For Global Internet Via Satellite Network

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Private rocket launch service SpaceX is requesting government approval to operate massive satellite network that would provide high-speed, global internet coverage, according to newly filed documents with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The California-based company, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, has proposed an orbiting digital communications array that would eventually consist of 4,425 satellites, the documents filed on Tuesday show.

The project, which Musk previously said would cost at least $10 billion, was first announced in January 2015.

The latest documents, which include technical details of the proposed network, did not mention cost estimates or financing plans.

Financial backers of the company, whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp, include Alphabet’s Google Inc and Fidelity Investments, which together have contributed $1 billion to Musk’s space launch firm.

The proposed SpaceX network would begin with the launch of about 800 satellites to expand internet access in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the FCC filings showed.

“The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide,” SpaceX said in technical documents accompanying its filing.

Similar internet-via-satellite networks are under development by privately owned OneWeb and by Boeing Co.

Such a system would provide a space-based alternative to cable, fiber-optics and other terrestrial internet access currently available.

SpaceX did not say when its launches would occur.

The satellites would be launched into orbits ranging from 714 miles to 823 miles (1,150-1,325 km) above Earth.

Each satellite, about the size of an average car, not including solar panels, would weigh 850 pounds (386 kg), SpaceX said.

SpaceX’s primary business is launching satellites into orbit for government and commercial customers. It also flies cargo supply ships to the International Space Station for NASA.

SpaceX rocket launches have been on hold since a Sept. 1 launch pad accident that destroyed a $62 million Falcon 9 booster and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite. The company hopes to resume flights next month.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler)

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils his plans to colonize Mars during the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara

SpaceX Aims To Return To Flight Next Month

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday his space launch company is aiming to return its rockets to flight in mid-December following a launch pad accident two months ago.

During an interview with CNBC, Musk said investigators had figured out why a Falcon 9 rocket burst into flames on Sept. 1 as it was being fueled for a routine, preflight test.

The accident destroyed a $200 million Israeli communications satellite and grounded the Falcon 9 fleet for the second time in 14 months.

The cause of the accident was a fueling system issue that inadvertently produced solid oxygen inside the rocket’s upper stage tank. The oxygen then reacted with a carbon composite bottle containing liquid helium that sits inside the oxygen tank, triggering an explosion.

“I think we’ve gotten to the bottom of the problem,” said Musk, who is also chief executive of Tesla Motors Inc;. He added that the issue had never been encountered in the history of rocketry.

Musk did not specify what mission would launch next, nor whether SpaceX would fly from a new launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, or from its West Coast site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

SpaceX’s primary launch pad, located just south of Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, was damaged in the Sept. 1 accident. SpaceX has declined to release details on the extent of damage.

The company has a backlog of about 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion.

Also on Friday, NASA and Orbital ATK Inc; said Orbital’s next cargo run to the International Space Station would use the heavier-lift Atlas 5 rocket, made by United Launch Alliance, rather than Orbital’s Antares booster. The switch will allow NASA to fly an extra 660 pounds (300 kg) of cargo to the station while SpaceX returns to flight.

NASA hired Orbital and SpaceX to fly cargo to the station after the shuttles were retired in 2011.

Terms of Orbital’s contract with United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp & and Boeing Co, were not released. The launch is targeted for early 2017, NASA said.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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Experts Concerned With SpaceX Plan To Fuel Rockets With Passengers Aboard

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A proposal by Elon Musk’s SpaceX to fuel its rockets while astronauts are aboard poses safety risks, a group of space industry experts that advises NASA has told the U.S. space agency.

“This is a hazardous operation,” Space Station Advisory Committee Chairman Thomas Stafford, a former NASA astronaut and retired Air Force general, said during a conference call on Monday.

Stafford said the group’s concerns were heightened after an explosion of an unmanned SpaceX rocket while it was being fueled on Sept. 1.

Causes of that explosion remain under investigation.

Members of the eight-member group, including veterans of NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs, noted that all previous rockets carrying people into space were fueled before astronauts got to the launch pad.

“Everybody there, and particularly the people who had experience over the years, said nobody is ever near the pad when they fuel a booster,” Stafford said, referring to an earlier briefing the group had about SpaceX’s proposed fueling procedure.

SpaceX needs NASA approval of its launch system before it can put astronauts into space.

NASA said on Tuesday it was “continuing its evaluation of the SpaceX concept for fueling the Falcon 9 for commercial crew launches. The results of the company’s Sept. 1 mishap investigation will be incorporated into NASA’s evaluation.”

SpaceX said it is developing its human launch operations “hand-in-hand” with NASA and has spent 18 months identifying potential hazards and how to handle them.

SpaceX, owned and run by technology entrepreneur and Tesla Motors Inc CEO Musk, said it would re-evaluate its fueling system and launch processes depending on results of the accident investigation.

On Friday, SpaceX said it believes a fueling system issue caused a pressurized container of helium inside the rocket’s upper stage to burst on Sept. 1, triggering a fireball that destroyed the booster and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite it was to carry.

SpaceX uses extremely cold liquid propellants loaded just prior to blastoff to increase the rocket’s power so it can fly back to Earth and be reused.

SpaceX’s passenger spaceships, expected to begin flying in 2018, will be outfitted with an emergency escape system that can fly the capsule away from a failing rocket before or during launch.

NASA, which retired its shuttles in 2011, hired SpaceX and Boeing Co to fly crews to the space station. Until then, astronauts have been flying on Russian Soyuz capsules, at a cost exceeding $70 million per person.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Here’s How Elon Musk Plans To Colonize Mars

Elon Musk has shared plans for a human vision to mars which plans to send humans to the red planet by 2024.

Elon Musk and SpaceX have plans to build a “self-sustaining city” on Mars, and he’s recently released details about his plan to make this happen. During the International Astronautical Congress meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico Musk dropped a bomb:

“I don’t have an immediate doomsday prophecy,” noted Musk, although he did see two possible outcomes. “One path is to stay on Earth forever, and there will be some extinction event. The alternative is to become a multi-planetary species, which I hope you will agree is the right way to go.”

Becoming a “multi-planetary species” requires a plan, a plan backed on the wings of SpaceX’s new Interplanetary Transport System, which is ship capable of transporting 100 tons of cargo to Mars. Requiring 28,730,000 pounds of thrust just to lift off, the ITS’s solar array will  generate 200KW of power on it’s mission to mars.

The ITS was formerly known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, but Musk recently changed the name believing the ship is capable of travelling to multiple planets. 

Below you can see a view of Mars from the ITS:

heres-how-elon-musk-plans-to-colonize-mars

The SpaceX team published a video which you can see above, in this video the team shows what a future on Mars may look like, cautiously; “This is not what it might look like — this is what we plan to make it look like,” says Musk.

Traditionally this mission would be incredibly expensive (estimated at upwards of $10 billion per person to travel to Mars) with Musk’s revolutionary ideas, he would love to drop this figure to roughly $200,000 per person and eventually push this number below $100,000.

The Mars mission would launch from the Kennedy Space Center near the beginning of 2018. Musk has revealed a timeline for the mission that details ship, booster, and orbital testing beginning in 2018, with Mars flights beginning 2022.

Below you can see comparisons for Musk’s Mars Vehicle and previous shuttles: 

musk-plans-to-colonize-mars

During the conference the SpaceX billionaire joked “Who wants to be among the first to build everything, from refineries to the first pizza joint?” and although it’s a light-hearted gesture, it’s actually one heck of an opportunity. We’re entering a new age in the space race, a commercial age of expanding goals and ever efficient costs – it’s a wicked exciting time to be alive.

While Musks plans still leave a little to the imagination, such as it’s exact plans for paying for this mission, “a huge public-private partnership” is to be expected that will sustain the Mars 2022 dream. The plan is fully expected to take 40 to 100 years to achieve a “fully self-sustaining” status, so stay tuned for more on Musk and the ITS.

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Raw Footage Of The SpaceX Rocket Explosion

Raw video has just been released showing the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explosion in full detail.

The explosion took place at 9:07 am EDT on September 1st at Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 40. Onboard the rocket was a $200 million payload including an Israeli communications satellite.

“SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s standard pre-launch static fire test, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.” SpaceX said in a statement

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A SpaceX Rocket Just Exploded At Cape Canaveral

SpaceX has been making immense strides of late; from landing it’s aircraft on barge in the middle of the sea, to signing it’s first customer to fly it’s rocket’s – the company is never short of a headline. Today’s headline: SpaceX rocket explodes

A Falcon 9 rocket that was intended for use on Saturday exploded only moments before a static test fire. A static test fire is when the rocket fires up its engines while being held to the ground. The test helps to ensure all systems are functioning normally.

This is very unfortunate news from Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The rocket in question is not the re-useable rocket that SpaceX was planning to fly later this year, nonetheless it is a massive blow for the organization.

It was all going so well for SpaceX. Just yesterday, we brought you the news that it had signed its first customer to fly on one of its reusable rockets. But today, one of its rockets has exploded during a test at its Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The rocket was supposed to launch the $200 million Amos-6 communications satellite for Israel Aerospace Industries. Unfortunately the company has confirmed that both the satellite, and the rocket have been destroyed in the incident.

You can find video of the explosion below:

 

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SpaceX Launches Communication Satellite But Botches Sea Landing

SpaceX Undercut ULA Launch Pricing By 40%

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force will save 40 percent by buying a GPS satellite launch from Elon Musk’s SpaceX compared with what United Launch Alliance has been charging, the head of the Space and Missile Systems Center said on Thursday.

The Air Force on Wednesday awarded SpaceX an $83 million contract to launch the satellite, breaking the monopoly that ULA partners Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co had held on military space launches for more than a decade.

The disclosure of the cost gap between SpaceX and ULA highlights the challenge the latter will face in competing for future launch business.

“We believe … the awarded price for this mission is about 40 percent cheaper than (the) government estimate for previous missions,” Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, head of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, told reporters.

ULA is responding to competition from SpaceX and other startups by slashing costs and overhauling its lineup of rockets. The venture is upgrading its workhorse Atlas 5 rocket, cutting launch prices to less than $100 million per flight, and dropping its costly Delta 4 rocket line, ULA executives have said.

The Colorado-based firm plans to eliminate 875 jobs, or about one-quarter of its workforce, by end-2017, so it can better compete against SpaceX and other rivals, including the Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin, ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno told Reuters recently.

SpaceX and ULA are the only two companies certified to fly high-value national security and military payloads. Greaves said the Air Force received a second bid for the GPS 3 launch contract awarded to SpaceX, but would not elaborate.

ULA did not bid for the GPS 3 launch contract, but said on Thursday it intended to compete for future military launches.

“ULA is eager to respond to future national security launch opportunities,” company spokeswoman Jessica Rye said in a statement.

“SpaceX is honored to have been awarded the first competitively sourced national security mission in over a decade,” SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said.

Greaves said the Air Force is reviewing the GPS launch service solicitation and assessing feedback from industry before releasing its next request for launch service proposals in May or June.

The Air Force had relied solely on United Launch Alliance to launch satellites for the past decade, but decided to open up competition for a series of nine satellite launches to be awarded by 2018.

(Editing by Joseph White and Matthew Lewis)

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Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk attends a forum on startups in Hong Kong

SpaceX Breaks Boeing-Lockheed Monopoly On Military Space Launches

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday awarded billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX an $83 million contract to launch a GPS satellite, breaking the monopoly that Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. have held on military space launches for more than a decade.

The Global Positioning System satellite will be launched in May 2018 from Florida, Air Force officials said.

The fixed-price award is the military’s first competitively sourced launch service contract in more than a decade. It ends the exclusive relationship between the military and United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

ULA did not compete for the GPS launch contract, citing accounting issues, implications of trade sanctions limiting imports of its rockets’ Russian-made engines and, according to a former ULA vice president, SpaceX’s cut-rate pricing.

“This GPS III Launch Services contract award achieves a balance between mission success, meeting operational needs, lowering launch costs, and reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions,” Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, who heads the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said in a statement.

Between now and 2018, the Air Force plans to solicit bids for contracts covering eight more satellite launches.

ULA did not immediately respond to a request for comment about bidding on future launch contracts.

The $82.7 million fixed-price contract awarded to Space Exploration Technologies, as the company is officially known, covers production of a Falcon 9 rocket, spacecraft integration, launch operations and spaceflight certification.

Musk, a billionaire entrepreneur who helped found Tesla Motors Inc. and PayPal Holdings Inc. started SpaceX in 2002 with the goal of slashing launch costs to make Mars travel affordable.

SpaceX also said on Wednesday it plans to send an unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018, a first step in achieving Musk’s goal to fly people to another planet.

SpaceX holds more than $10 billion worth of launch service contracts for NASA and commercial customers. The company recently made spaceflight history by returning Falcon 9 rockets to landing pads on land and sea – a key step in Musk’s ongoing quest to develop a relatively inexpensive, reusable launch vehicle.

SpaceX declined to comment about its first military launch contract until after an Air Force conference call with reporters on Thursday.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Fla.; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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SpaceX Targets 2018 For First Mars Mission

SpaceX Targets 2018 For First Mars Mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – SpaceX plans to send an unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018, the company said on Wednesday, a first step in achieving founder Elon Musk’s goal to fly people to another planet.

U.S. space agency NASA, which is aiming for a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, said it will provide technical support for SpaceX’s first foray, known as Red Dragon.

SpaceX “could provide valuable entry, descent and landing data to NASA for our journey to Mars, while providing support to American industry,” NASA said in a statement.

The announcement marks SpaceX’s first target date for its unmanned mission to Mars.

The SpaceX program is intended to develop technologies needed for human transportation to Mars, a long-term aim for Musk’s privately held company, which is formally known as Space Exploration Technologies.

The company said it will provide details of its Mars program at the International Astronautical Congress in September.

“Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system,” Musk posted on Twitter. “Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight.”

He said that with an internal volume about the size of a sports utility vehicle, the Dragon spacecraft would be uncomfortable for people making the long journey to Mars.

Musk, a billionaire entrepreneur who helped to found Tesla Motors and PayPal, started SpaceX in 2002 with the goal of slashing launch costs to make Mars travel affordable.

SpaceX intends to debut its Mars rocket, a heavy-lift version of the Falcon 9 booster currently flying, later this year.

The company recently has made spaceflight history by returning Falcon 9 rockets to landing pads on land and sea – key to Musk’s quest to develop a relatively cheap, reusable launch vehicle.

SpaceX now flies cargo versions of its Dragon capsule to and from the International Space Station under a $2 billion resupply services contract with NASA.

SpaceX also is upgrading the capsules to carry astronauts, with test flights to the station scheduled for 2017, under a separate NASA contract worth up to $2.6 billion.

NASA does not plan to provide financial assistance to SpaceX’s Mars mission. The agency is investing in its own heavy-lift rocket, capsule and launch pad modifications targeting Mars travel.

By the time NASA expects to debut a test flight in lunar orbit with astronauts onboard in 2023, the agency will have spent about $24 billion on the program, an April 2016 Government Accountability Office report shows.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Letitia Stein and Bill Trott)

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bigelow-beam-inflatable-habitat-iss

BEAM Inflatable Habitat To Launch To International Space Station

An inflatable habitat will be launched to the International Space Station this week aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is an inflatable room that will be attached to the space station as a fully functional addition.

Astronauts will only be permitted into the inflatable module for a few hours at a time, four times a year, over a period of two years. The purpose of this strange timing is to test the unit’s durability against the harsh radiations and debris fragments from space. NASA wants to ensure that BEAM (built by a private aerospace company, Bigelow) will meet safety standards for its astronauts.

The benefit of inflatable habitats is that we can send them to space in a much smaller payload, then, they can be fully inflated once in space. This doesn’t change the amount of weight that is being lifted from the earth, but at the least it occupies less space within compact cargo crafts. When compacted BEAM is 105.9 cubic feet (3 cubic m). When fully inflated, it will provide astronauts with a total 565 cubic feet (16 cubic meters) of space to occupy.

bigelow-aerospace-beam

Cross section of the BEAM habitat. Credit: Bigelow Aerospace

But building inflatable space habitats is easy, relative to the rigours of constructing traditional habitats. The hard part is in shielding inhabitants from the dangers of space, and that is exactly why it will get such limited usage in it’s first few years. However, the company is quite confident that its unit meets the requirements of the rest of the space station.

The company is not able to elaborate on exactly what BEAM is made of (because it’s tech is proprietary) however Lisa Kauke, BEAM deputy program manager was able to share that it is comprised of a “soft goods, expandable material” and that it has demonstrated to “perform up to the standards of the ISS.”

 

“As a company, we’re really comfortable with the technology,” says Kauke.  “We certainly demonstrated successfully that these modules can hold their pressure on orbit. We demonstrated our materials and processes.”

BEAM will launch into orbit on April 8th aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule. When it arrives at the space station it will be removed from the capsule’s trunk by the ISS’s robotic arm. Astronauts on board will be responsible for inflating the unit (approximately 45 mins) as well installing a series of sensors to dest for radiation.

Because of the relative cost of BEAM, it’s construction (and destruction) can be justified easily. After its two year test the unit will be jettisoned from the station and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Space recycling at it’s finest.

 

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SpaceX Launches Communication Satellite But Botches Sea Landing

SpaceX Launches Communication Satellite But Botches Sea Landing

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida and thrust a communications satellite into orbit on Friday, but the launch vehicle’s reusable main-stage booster was destroyed when it failed to land itself on an ocean platform, the company said.

It marked the fourth botched at-sea return landing attempt for Elon Musk’s privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, though a Falcon main-stage rocket did achieve a successful ground-based touchdown after soaring back to Earth from a less demanding launch in December.

The latest try occurred after four SpaceX launch delays stretching back to Feb. 24.

On Friday, the 23-story-tall Falcon 9 bolted off its seaside launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as scheduled at 6:35 p.m. EST/2335 GMT. A half-hour later it completed the chief goal of its mission, putting the Boeing-built satellite, owned by Luxembourg-based SES SA, into orbit more than 25,000 miles (40,600 km) above Earth.

On its way up, the rocket’s first-stage booster separated as planned, turned around and headed toward a platform floating about 400 miles (645 km) off Florida’s east coast. The rocket found its target, but its velocity proved too great to allow for a safe landing on the drone barge.

“Rocket landed hard,” Musk, the founder and chief executive officer of SpaceX, said in a Twitter message more than an hour after blastoff. “Didn’t expect this one to work … but next flight has a good chance.”

The ability to safely and reliably return the rocket’s main stage to a landing pad at sea has been a key hurdle in Musk’s quest to develop a relatively cheap, reusable launch vehicle.

The rocket flying on Friday faced a particularly challenging mission to deliver the 12,613-pound (5,721 kg) satellite into an orbit more than 100 times higher than where the International Space Station flies.

The speed required to achieve that feat meant the rocket was going too fast to even attempt a ground landing.

SpaceX came close to nailing an ocean touchdown in January after blasting off from California to deliver a climate-monitoring satellite into orbit. The returning main-stage rocket settled itself on a platform in the Pacific Ocean, but a stabilizing landing leg failed to latch, causing the booster to keel over and explode.

SpaceX’s next mission, a cargo-delivery run to the space station for NASA, is targeted for launch in late March or early April.

The launch firm has contracts worth more than $10 billion from commercial companies, NASA and other agencies.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz from Cape Canveral; Editing by Steve Gorman, Chris Reese, Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)

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ses-9-mission-Watch The Falcon 9 Rocket Launch Live

Watch The Falcon 9 Rocket Launch Live

Join us to watch live as SpaceX attempts to launch and land a Falcon 9 rocket. A mission in which the company itself believes “a successful landing is not expected.”

The latest Falcon 9 launch will take off from Cape Canaveral. So far the launches have been relatively smooth, but the landings have been much harder to stick. Remember the failed Falcon9 landing we posted earlier last month.

Tonight the Falcon 9 will release a SES9 communications satellite above the earth. It will then try to make its first ever successful landing on a drone-piloted barge. When the rocket hits the barge on its landing attempt, things are still expected to go awry. SpaceX is testing out new experimental orbiting plans for its rocket and is not entirely sure of the outcome.

Its possible that the rocket could crash directly into the ship, or replicate its previous tip-over failure and explosion. Being optimistic, it could even succeed.

Even though the outcome is uncertain, this mission is hardly a failure. Scientists will be able to understand more about the trajectories they need to use to successfully land a craft the next time around.

The launch window opens at 6:46 p.m. (EST) and the live footage starts 20 minutes before. Join us for the excitement!

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spacex-explosion

Watch Falcon SpaceX Rocket Explode Attempting Barge Landing

MIAMI – The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that exploded into a fiery ball just after landing at sea off California on Sunday had descended with pinpoint accuracy onto an ocean barge before a landing leg buckled, causing the booster to tip over, a landing video showed.

Heavy fog at the rocket’s launch site in California may have caused condensation to collect in the latching mechanism and then ice it over, said technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, owner and chief executive of Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX.

SpaceX is seeking to develop a cheap, reusable rocket and a successful ocean landing would have marked a second milestone for the company, a month after it nailed a spaceflight first with a successful ground landing in Florida.

Musk posted the landing video on Instagram late on Sunday. The Falcon 9 blasted off earlier in the day from Vandenberg Air Force Base to put the U.S- and European-owned Jason 3 climate-monitoring satellite into orbit.

The feat of having made the landing on the tiny platform won accolades from fellow tech entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com Inc chief executive whose Blue Origin space company is pursuing similar technology.

“SpaceX will soon make Falcon 9 landings routine,” Bezos posted on Twitter. “Kudos SpaceX!”

Blue Origin landed a suborbital rocket during a November 2015 test flight.

SpaceX’s landing attempt on Sunday was the third time the privately owned firm had tried to recover a rocket on an ocean platform.

“At least the pieces were bigger this time,” Musk said on Twitter. “Am optimistic about upcoming ship landing.”

Last month, a Falcon 9 booster touched down on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida after dispatching 11 small communications satellites into orbit.

SpaceX wants to be able to land rockets on ocean platforms as well as on the ground to accommodate a wide variety of space missions. It has more than 60 launches on its schedule, worth more than $8 billion.

 

By Irene Klotz

Image: Bill Ingles/NASA

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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NASA Set To Award Space Station Contracts

NASA Set To Award Space Station Contracts

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A three-way competition to fly cargo to the International Space Station for NASA has ended, and the U.S. space agency is set to announce the winners on Thursday.

Incumbents Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital ATK are vying with privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp., which is developing a robotic, reusable miniature space plane known as Dream Chaser.

A news conference is scheduled for 4 p.m. EST to unveil the winning bids, NASA said.

Privately owned SpaceX, as the California-based company is known, and Orbital both currently ferry cargo to the space station aboard capsules.

NASA previously eliminated proposals from Boeing Co and Lockheed-Martin for space station resupply missions.

The U.S. space agency has said it intends to award multiple contracts, each including at least six cargo flights to the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

Image: Artist’s concept of the Space Launch System rocket ascending through the clouds/NASA

By Irene Klotz

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Will Dunham)

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SpaceX Releases Awesome Footage Of Last Month's Falcon 9 Landing

SpaceX Releases Awesome Footage Of Last Month’s Falcon 9 Landing

On December 21, 2015 SpaceX’s Falcon 9 conquered history by being the first mission to land an orbital rocket back on Earth. The achievement marks a new age of space exploration whereby we can reuse rockets – which will drastically cut our costs in leaving this planet.

A few videos have come out of the missions landing, but it’s not until now that SpaceX released this three and half minute edit of the Falcon 9 Journey.

The video not only gives you a look into the landing, but also the people behind the mission, the technology, and the science that make SpaceX what it is today.

We hope you enjoy.

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SpaceX Will Attempt Rocket Landing On A Barge, Again

SpaceX Will Attempt Rocket Landing On A Barge, Again

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Technology entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX will attempt to land its next Falcon 9 rocket on a barge in the Pacific Ocean, seeking another milestone a month after landing a booster on the ground in a spaceflight first, the company said on Friday.

The Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a NASA ocean-monitoring satellite, is slated to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 17.

About two minutes after liftoff, the first stage of the rocket will separate, flip around, fire engines to slow its fall, deploy landing legs and attempt to touch down on a floating landing pad in the Pacific Ocean.

SpaceX has tried ocean landings twice without success, but officials are optimistic after the company last month safely returned a Falcon 9 booster to a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Accomplishing an ocean landing will give the California-based SpaceX flexibility to recover its boosters from a wider variety of space missions. The firm, owned and operated by Musk, wants to refurbish and refly its rockets, potentially slashing launch costs.

Similar efforts are underway by fellow tech titan Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, as well as industry stalwart United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

For now, SpaceX is concentrating on reusing just the first stage of its Falcon rockets, which sell for about $61 million, the company’s website shows.

Of that, only about $200,000 is for fuel, Musk said at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco last month.

“With reusable rockets, we can reduce the cost of access to space by probably two orders of magnitude,” or a factor of 100, Musk said at the conference.

SpaceX eventually wants to return the rocket’s second-stage for reuse as well.

The rocket slated to launch NASA’s Jason-3 satellite is an older version of the rocket that flew last month and does not have the power to attempt a touchdown on land, SpaceX said.

The booster that landed on Dec. 21 will be test-fired in Florida, but probably not reflown, Musk told reporters after the landing. He said the company likely would attempt relaunch of another recovered rocket in 2016.

SpaceX has more than 60 missions on its schedule, worth about $8 billion.

By Irene Klotz

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; editing by Letitia Stein and Chizu Nomiyama)

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Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk attends a forum on startups in Hong Kong

FAA Grants SpaceX License To Resume Rocket Launches On Monday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket company has been cleared to resume flying following a launch pad explosion four months ago, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday.

The decision clears SpaceX to attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications Inc &lt;IRDM.O&gt; satellites as early as Monday, a day later than originally planned.

SpaceX, owned by Tesla Motors Inc &lt;TSLA.O&gt; Chief Executive Officer Musk, on Friday declined to comment about what caused the delay.

Liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is targeted for around 10:22 a.m. PST/1:22 p.m. EST.

The FAA, which oversees commercial U.S. space launches, oversaw SpaceX’s investigation into why a Falcon 9 rocket burst into flames on a launch pad in Florida as it was being fueled for a routine, prelaunch test on Sept. 1.

The accident destroyed the $62 million booster and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite that had been partly leased by Facebook Inc &lt;FB.O&gt; to expand internet access in Africa.

“The FAA … has closed the investigation,” the agency said in a statement.

“SpaceX applied for a license to launch the Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The FAA has granted a license for that purpose,” the statement said.

The launch will be SpaceX’s first since August. The company has a backlog of more than 70 missions for NASA and commercial customers, worth more than $10 billion.

As a result of the accident investigation, SpaceX is changing the way it fuels its rockets to prevent canisters of helium, located inside liquid oxygen tanks, from bursting. The company said the long-term solution will be to redesign the helium canisters, which are made of an aluminum liner and a carbon overwrap. The helium is needed to maintain oxygen tank pressure.

The SpaceX rocket was briefly powered up on Thursday as part of a preflight engine test.

“All systems are go for launch next week,” Musk posted on Twitter.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Debris From U.S. Rocket Recovered Off Coast Of Southwest England

Debris From U.S. Rocket Recovered Off Coast Of Southwest England

LONDON (Reuters) – Debris from a U.S. rocket, most likely the doomed SpaceX Falcon 9, has been recovered near the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of southwest England, the UK coastguard has said on Friday.

It was covered in barnacles and was initially mistaken for a dead whale.

Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a statement that a piece of metal alloy was recovered with the help of a local boatman. It measured around 10 meters by 4 meters (13 feet).

Martin Leslie, coastal area commander, said: “The markings show an American flag. It looks like it’s an American rocket and is similar to the unmanned Space X Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral in June.”

Photographs showed the debris covered in what Joseph Thomas, the boatman, told the BBC were goose barnacles.

“There were lots of gulls on the water and I thought initially it was a dead whale and the birds were feeding off it,” he said.

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Image Credit: NPR

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