Monthly Archives: December 2017

Watch a rocket tank being built, mostly by robots

Capitalism in space: The video below the fold shows the process by which Interorbital Systems built a rocket test tank for the Neptune smallsat rocket it is developing. It is definitely worth watching if you want to see the future of complex manufacturing. Robotic equipment does most of the work, in a precise manner that would be impossible for humans, which therefore allows for the construction of engineering designs that were previously impossible or too expensive. Now, such designs can be built relatively cheaply, and repetitively.

Hat tip Doug Messier at Parabolic Arc.

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Development at SpaceX’s Texas spaceport to pick up in 2018

Capitalism in space: Though construction at SpaceX’s Texas spaceport has been slower than expected, the company expects to accelerate development in 2018.

According to SpaceX, [people] won’t have to wait much longer for an increase in activity at the future spaceport. The recently installed antennas at Boca Chica are expected to be operational next year — although they’ll initially track flights blasting off from elsewhere — and the company also indicated development of the overall launch complex should pick up. “Even as our teams worked to modernize and repair our launch complexes in Florida so that we could reliably return to flight for our customers, SpaceX invested $14 million into the South Texas project,” said Gleeson, the company’s spokesman.

“Now, with our launch construction projects in Florida wrapping up by early 2018, SpaceX will be able to turn more attention to our work in South Texas,” he said.

In other words, once SpaceX has got its two launchpads in Florida both up and running, including the first use by the Falcon Heavy of one of those pads, the company will then be able to shift its launchpad operations down to Texas.

The article outlines in detail many of the reasons the development has been slow, but I think the issues highlighted in the quote above, issues I had not considered previously, might be the most important. After the September 2016 launchpad explosion in Florida, SpaceX had to divert resources to repairing that pad, which put Boca Chica on the back burner.

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Moon Express will launch to Moon in 2018, regardless of X-Prize deadline

Capitalism in space: The head of Moon Express said yesterday that the company will definitely fly its privately-built lunar rover to the Moon in 2018, regardless of whether that flight occurs in time to win the Google Lunar X-Prize.

The company is competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE which has a $20 million reward for the first private firm to put a spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit high definition video and images back to earth. The deadline for doing this is March 2018.

Jain did not give an exact date for the launch and said that getting the prize isn’t necessarily the main priority.

It appears to me that the main reason they will not make the deadline is because Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket won’t be ready in time. This is why its second test launch in the coming weeks is so important. If successful, it increases the chances that Moon Express will be able to meet the X-Prize deadline.

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