Falcon 9 is now fully integrated at the Cape! Today we mated the 5.2 m payload fairing to the Falcon 9 first stage (see below). This was the final step in the integration process—one day ahead of schedule.
With Falcon 9 integrated, our focus shifts to the big launch mount and erector. All the pieces have been delivered, and the coming days will see a tremendous amount of welding to join them all together.
The long hours put in by the SpaceX team over the last several weeks, particularly the folks on the ground at the Cape, are certainly paying off. Once the launch mount and erector are complete, we’ll transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009. Happy New Year!
And just in case you wanted to see just how quickly this company ships and assembles their rockets, check out the image below. This is the same Falcon 9 first stage as the one above pre-paint-job, before being shipped from the Hawthorn facility in LA, during my visit in October. How time flies…
What an exciting year 2009 is shaping up to be. We are living in historic times for commercial spaceflight, with SpaceX spearheading a new age for space travel…
NASA has just signed two very large cheques for two private spaceflight companies, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corporation. The contracts will allow private launches to re-supply the International Space Station beyond Shuttle decommissioning in 2010, and SpaceX claims they could be doing it by next year.
These contracts represent some of the largest ever given to private enterprise, and demonstrates the trust the US space agency is placing in these space start-ups. The contracts are worth $3.5 billion combined; $1.9 billion for Orbital Sciences and $1.6 billion for SpaceX, equating to 8 flights from Orbital and 12 flights from SpaceX. For now, these contracts are for cargo deliveries only, replacing the Shuttle and providing a viable alternative to the Russian Progress flights. Critically, the US now has a very real prospect to bridge the “5-year gap” from Shuttle retirement (2010) and Constellation launch (2015).
All we need now is for SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket system to become “human rated” and we could see the first routine commercial launches of US astronauts before the Constellation Program is even rolled out onto the launchpad. Very exciting times…
In my second assignment for Space Lifestyle Magazine, I was sent to the plush Beverly Hilton (in Beverly Hills, CA) to sit in on a grand announcement by XCOR Aerospace. Having seen the operations behind another space commercialization company (SpaceX) I was keen to see how the two companies differed. Firstly, comparing XCOR with SpaceX would be like comparing apples with pears; they belong to the same family (i.e. fruit), but they taste entirely different.
For starters, SpaceX is focused on launching payloads into orbit. XCOR is a space tourism venture (with it’s closest competitor being Virgin Galactic). They do however, have some common ground: both build their own rockets and both have a very enthusiastic outlook for this emerging industry.
So with that in mind, let’s consider the Armadillo Aerospace space tourism concept (pictured above). Call me old fashioned, but I’m a little worried about spaceships without wings. Yes, I know we are always sending rockets into space, delivering crew and cargo to the space station. The Soyuz vehicle doesn’t have wings and the cone-like re-entry capsule so many other space vehicles are based on are reliable modes of transport. But there’s something about the “controlled ascent” Armadillo design that makes me a little uneasy (give me a “ballistic ascent” any day!). Continue reading “Is the Armadillo Vertical-Lift Spaceship a Viable Tourist Route?”
This week’s Carnival is being hosted by Wayne Hall at Kentucky Space (KySat), an organization with an aggressive orbital agenda and punchy space flight motto: “fly stuff.” To be honest, this should be the motto for NASA… flying stuff around space is something we should be doing, all the time. Just because we can. If a non-profit organization can do it on a shoestring budget, we should be seeing more commercial ventures like SpaceX popping up all over the world. Here’s to hoping!
In addition to Week 74 of the carnival, Kentucky Space are currently preparing for the sub-orbital launch of one of their payloads from the Mojave Desert tomorrow! So be sure to keep an eye on their site.
Soon, space tourism companies such as Virgin Galactic will be flying several flights per day on sub-orbital joyrides. It is expected that this will be quickly followed by orbital “space hotels” where high-paying space sightseers can spend long periods looking down on the Earth (a venture being quickly developed by Las Vegas entrepreneur Robert Bigelow; there’s an unmanned space hotel prototype currently in orbit). It’s only a matter of time before space tourism becomes commonplace, opening a massive host of scientific and recreational possibilities.
Today marks the day when the first ever commercial space vehicle was launched into orbit. SpaceX will be relieved that Flight 4 of the Falcon 1 rocket was successful; the previous three had failed. Flight 3, last month, was carrying a commercial payload when an anomaly with the first stage separation brought disaster to the mission. So, the pressure was on the Californian company and its founder Elon Musk, should this flight have failed it might have been the last… Continue reading “Falcon 1 Launch Success! SpaceX Makes History (Video)”
SpaceX recently posted the launch video of the ill-fated Falcon 1, flight 3 launch on August 2nd. At the time, I was glued to the screen watching the live video broadcast of the event seeing the launch unfold. The first launch attempt was terminated due some minor parameter fluctuations, but the rocket was re-fuelled and prepped for a second attempt within the hour. However, although Falcon 1 made it to well above 200 km altitude, a very small thrust anomaly during stage separation had huge consequences for the space vehicle and payload… Continue reading “The Anatomy of a Rocket Launch Anomaly; SpaceX Falcon 1 Failure”