Tag Archives: competition

The Stratolaunch system has entered system design review.

The competition heats up: The privately-built Stratolaunch system has entered system design review.

The key quote from this article is this:

Scaled Composites, which is building the aircraft, has purchased two ex-United Boeing 747-400s, and is in the process of dismantling them. Stratolaunch will use the engines, hydraulics system and several other major components to build its own aircraft. The remaining fuselage and wing shells will be scrapped. SpaceX is building the rocket, which will launch approximately 13,000lb into orbit. “This is really going after the Delta II market,” says Steve Cook, Dynetics chief technologist. The group eventually hopes to qualify the system for human spaceflight and begin launched manned spacecraft. [emphasis mine]

Stratolaunch is not being built for NASA. It is aimed at the commercial market instead, with the intention of providing a cheaper alternative for getting large payloads into orbit.

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Excalibur Almaz announced plans on Sunday to use its refurbished Soviet-era space station modules and capsules for commercial flights to the lunar orbit.

The competition heats up: Excalibur Almaz announced plans on Sunday to use its refurbished Soviet-era space station modules and capsules for commercial flights to the lunar orbit.

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Europe ponders choosing the design of the next generation Ariane rocket.

Europe ponders the design choices for the next generation of their Ariane rocket.

Though the article above makes no mention of Falcon 9 and its very low launch costs, I have no doubt that Falcon 9 hovers like a ghost over the negotiations on what ESA will do with Ariane 5, a rocket that despite an excellent launch record has never really been able to make a profit due to high costs.

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Destroying polio: only three nations left to go.

Destroying polio: only three nations left to go.

It is revealing that the only three nations where polio still survives — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan — happen to be poor, corrupt, and heavily dominated or influenced by Islam. Moreover, the article notes that India just celebrated its first full year free from polio, even though it had been thought that the country would be a difficult challenge given its high population density and what the article calls “poor hygiene.” We shouldn’t be surprised, however. Since India abandoned socialism in the early 1990s and embraced capitalism and freedom, the country has thrived. And with increased wealth comes better education and better living conditions, both of which will aid in getting the population to cooperate in this effort.

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Dragon has been approved to approach within one mile of ISS tonight in its first rendezvous test.

Dragon has been approved to approach within 1.5 miles of ISS tonight in its first rendezvous test. More information here.

If this goes well tonight, Dragon will next attempt to approach the station close enough for its robot arm to grab it.

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At a conference in Washington DC yesterday both Russia and Japan announced the Moon as their next primary space exploration goal.

The new colonial movement: At a conference in Washington DC yesterday both Russia and Japan announced the Moon as their next primary space exploration goal.

If the U.S. gets a competitive private aerospace industry going — which seems increasingly likely — I’m willing to bet those companies will get to the Moon before either of these governments.

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A rocket launch pushes Congress towards free enterprise

Several key elected officials who have generally been hostile to commercial space have commented positively to the successful launch of the Dragon capsule last night.

First, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) released this short statement:
» Read more

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Russia is considering ending its joint commercial program with the Ukraine and Kazakhstan to launch satellites using its Dnepr rocket.

Russia is considering ending its joint commercial program with the Ukraine and Kazakhstan to launch satellites using its Dnepr rocket.

There are several reasons this decision might happen. One, the Russian government under Putin might now be shifting away from capitalism after two decades of financial success. And if so, that will be to the United States’ advantage. Two, they might have decided that the Dnepr system can’t compete on the market, and it is wiser not to throw good money after bad.

Either way, the abandonment of Dnepr will be bad for Kazakhstan and the Ukraine, and suggests that when the Russians finally get their Vostochny spaceport operational, on their own soil, they will abandon Baikonur in Kazakhstan forever.

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One step closer to a robust competitive space industry

Not surprisingly, last night’s successful launch of Falcon 9 has produced a large number of news articles. Rather than list them all, go to spacetoday.net for the links.

However, I think Clark Lindsey, in describing Elon Musk’s reaction to the successful launch, captured the most important aspect of last night’s success:
» Read more

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Falcon 9 has cleared the tower

Falcon 9 has cleared the tower and is “looking good.”

First stage has completed its job and has been released. The second stage is firing as planned.

Dragon has separated from the second stage and is now in orbit. Now comes the real test of this mission: Can Dragon maneuver and rendezvous with ISS?

The best moment for the entire launch sequence was when Dragon’s solar arrays deployed. The camera link was still working, so that everyone could see it. When the arrays locked open, there was a gigantic roar from the crowd of people watching at SpaceX’s mission control. Dragon was in orbit and operational!

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The countdown has begun

Tonight’s Falcon 9 launch: The countdown has begun, and the weather conditions have improved.

SpaceX will begin its own webcast at 3 am (Eastern), which is midnight here in Arizona.

An aside: The ashes of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the 1960s television show Star Trek, will be among 308 other cremated remains launched into space by Falcon 9 tonight. As one commenter for the above article noted quite appropriately,

You haven’t really covered any of the important questions here.

i.e. Are there enough dilithium crystals in the engine room to get Scotty up there? And are they using photon torpedoes to blast him out into space? And when they launch, will someone say, “Take her out, Mr. Sulu. Warp factor one.”?

Godspeed, Scotty old bean.

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SpaceX has reported that they have found the cause of the Falcon 9 launch abort this morning.

In an email update, SpaceX reports that they have found the cause of the Falcon 9 launch abort this morning.

During rigorous inspections of the engine, SpaceX engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine. We are now in the process of replacing the failed valve. Those repairs should be complete tonight. We will continue to review data on Sunday. If things look good, we will be ready to attempt to launch on Tuesday, May 22nd at 3:44 AM Eastern.

If this is true, than this entire exercise is an unqualified success and illustrates a certain robustness to SpaceX’s engineering on Falcon 9. Their control computer during the launch process spotted the problem before it caused a complete loss of the vehicle and payload. They can now locate the problem, fix it, and proceed with launch.

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Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) on Monday attacked the House version of NASA’s budget that required the agency to make a quick decision on its commercial manned launch company.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) on Monday attacked the House version of NASA’s budget that required the agency to make a quick decision on its commercial manned launch company.

Nelson faces a difficult election campaign from the right. Thus, I suspect he has realized that he is better off promoting free enterprise than local pork. It is unfortunate that the Republicans in the House haven’t yet realized this.

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The assembly of the first test vehicle of XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx suborbital craft has begun.

The competition heats up: The assembly of the first test vehicle of XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx suborbital craft has begun.

I will admit to great deal of skepticism about this particular space company. Somehow XCOR always manages to get a great deal of coverage in the space community press, despite what I see as lack of any actual space-related results.

I could be wrong however, and if so, I will be the first to celebrate. This article suggests they might finally start test flights by the end of this year.

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SpaceShipTwo to resume flight tests in June after a nine month hiatus.

SpaceShipTwo to resume flight tests in June after a nine month hiatus.

The long pause in flight tests, as well as the apparent delays in flying the ship with its rocket engine, suggest that there have been engineering issues with the ship and engine that Scaled Composites hasn’t revealed. Hopefully the resumption of testing is an indication that these issues have been overcome.

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