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Posted 12 July 2013 - 00:35
Posted 12 July 2013 - 20:55
No Contest for Pad 39A? SpaceX Appears To Be Only Bidder
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) appears to be the only company that put in a proposal to NASA to take over one of the space shuttle’s mothballed launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
NASA declined to comment on how many bids it received in response to a solicitation that closed on July 5, but a survey of U.S. launch companies by SpaceNews shows only SpaceX saying it put in a proposal to take over Launch Complex 39A.
United Launch Alliance, which flies the Delta and Atlas rockets, and ATK, which has been developing a shuttle-derived launcher called Liberty, said they passed on the Pad 39A solicitation.
Orbital Sciences Corp., which this year completed the first test flight of its new Antares rocket to fly cargo to the international space station, launches from Wallops Island, Va. Company spokesman Barry Beneski said he did not know of any plans to expand to Florida.
Likewise passing is Space Florida, the state-backed economic development agency that has been selected to take over operations and develop the shuttle’s runway for commercial operations.
NASA is looking for a commercial partner to lease Pad 39A, and intends to keep the second shuttle launch pad, 39B, for its heavy-lift Space Launch System. The design for 39B also would accommodate commercial users.
California-based SpaceX already flies its Falcon 9 rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of Kennedy Space Center, and is preparing for launch of its first rocket from a newly developed site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The company has been on the hunt for a third site, preferably one that would be overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration, not NASA or the military. An environmental assessment of a potential site in Texas is under way.
Documents posted on NASA’s solicitation website shows the agency wants to have a commercial operator for Pad 39A in place by Oct. 1, 2013, when funding for maintenance is slated for termination.
Posted 15 July 2013 - 05:46
Rain and SpaceX thunder
I'd thought the weather would preclude testing at SpaceX's McGregor site today — but on the other hand, they've now confirmed they can fire the first stage during a gap in the rain.
I haven't heard back from SpaceX yet, but the rumble that matched the usual SpaceX-test noise started at around 7:41 pm Sunday and lasted around three minutes — which is the duration a Falcon 9 first stage usually fires during an ascent. The previous test — which lasted at least two minutes, but how much longer than that is unknown — was on July 4.
(There had been some Twitter discussion the last few days on whether the first stage would burn for a shorter time on missions where SpaceX wanted to reuse it — that's what the R in "Falcon 9-R" stands for, after all — and I don't honestly know whether this settles that question.)
Posted 15 July 2013 - 12:55
Posted 15 July 2013 - 16:35
Elon Musk ‏@elonmusk
Just completed full mission duration firing of next gen Falcon 9 booster. V proud of the boost stage team for overcoming many tough issues.
@elonmusk How do you guys plan grasshopper re-entry and landing from space? Nose first then swivel closer to ground :? How do you slow down?
Elon Musk @elonmusk
@_Balefire_ Hard to properly answer in 140 chars, but I can say that it stays engines down thru whole descent profile
@elonmusk Very interesting, will you need a disposable cone protecting against re entry (aero) on base or can the nozzles take it? Dankie!!!
Elon Musk @elonmusk
@_Balefire_ nozzles are designed to handle extreme loads. Should be able to handle max Q on reentry without protection.
Tobias Vandenbempt @TobiasVdb
@elonmusk How much % extra fuel would you need to make a landing like grasshopper? Is the entire braking procedure by firing trusters?
Elon Musk @elonmusk
@TobiasVdb Yes, it is a purely propulsive landing, but using the huge landing gear A frames as air brakes. Landing prop < 5% of vehicle mass
Posted 17 July 2013 - 07:51
SpaceX gets McGregor approval to test Falcon Heavy
The city of McGregor has amended its lease with SpaceX to allow the company to test “future technologies” at McGregor’s industrial park — including possibly the Falcon Heavy, which reportedly will become the world’s most powerful private rocket — city and SpaceX officials confirmed.
“The basic change is that more thrust will be allowed than under the original lease,” McGregor City Manager Kevin Evans said.
SpaceX and McGregor also reached on agreement on how late crews can perform rocket tests, some of which can be heard for miles.
Tests on the Falcon Heavy would have to end by sunset, while those of the Falcon 9 could continue until 10 p.m., two hours earlier than the previous deadline of midnight.
With 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the Falcon Heavy will have the ability to carry satellites or interplanetary spacecraft weighing more than 53 metric tons to low Earth orbit.
That is nearly twice the payload of NASA’s space shuttle, whose use has drawn to a close.
SpaceX communications director Christina Ra would not say when testing of the Falcon Heavy would begin, calling it a “proprietary matter.”
But the California-based company already has landed its first customer — Intelsat, a Washington, D.C.-based provider of satellite services worldwide — for the new rocket.
Ra, in a phone interview, said SpaceX wanted more options at its McGregor-based Rocket Motor Testing Zone “because it is our main rocket facility with an ever-growing footprint. There are a lot of projects, future technologies, that we will be working on there.”
Evans said SpaceX employs more than 200 people at its complex in McGregor, a figure that Ra confirmed.
SpaceX in recent weeks has been testing the Falcon 9-R — a next-generation version of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the “R” standing for reusable — in a series of louder-than-normal firings that began in May. The company also has been testing individual engines for the Dragon orbiter and Falcon rockets.
The Falcon 9 has nine Merlin engines in its first stage, while the Heavy will have three nine-engine cores, Ra said.
Like the Falcon 9 — which made it to orbit in an October 2012 despite losing an engine — the Heavy is designed to tolerate the failure of several engines and still complete its mission, according to the SpaceX website. A disabled engine is shut down and the remaining engines compensate for it.
“Anticipating potential astronaut transport needs, the Heavy also is designed to meet NASA human (safety) rating standards,” SpaceX reports.
The Falcon Heavy will have commercial, civil and national security applications, Ra said, adding that customers will pay $81 million to $135 million per launch, depending on the weight of the payload and the rocket’s destination.
That is about twice the price of a Falcon 9 launch, Ra said.
On Sunday, SpaceX test fired the core stage of the next-generation Falcon 9-R rocket that will be used to launch Canada’s CASSIOPE space weather satellite in September from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Ra confirmed in an email.
She said the Falcon 9 will have the same updated design on all flights moving forward, including continued supply trips to the International Space Station by the company’s Dragon cargo ship under a contract with NASA.
SpaceX also is flying its Grasshopper rocket as a testbed for technology in the Falcon 9-R, whose stages are eventually planned to return to the launch site for reuse instead of becoming space junk or breaking up as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
Company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said that early Falcon 9-R launches will test that return capability by trying to bring the first stage back to an ocean splashdown.
SpaceX has signed a three-year lease for land and facilities at Spaceport America near Las Cruces, N.M., for higher and farther Grasshopper flights, but also will continue Grasshopper tests in McGregor.
Posted 19 July 2013 - 06:55
SpaceX Testing Complete at NASA Glenn's Renovated Facility
CLEVELAND - How loud is 166 decibels? It's about as loud as the thrust of 20 jet engines or a rock concert with 36,000 speakers. It's also the level of noise some spacecraft experience when launched and is now the highest level of noise that can be produced in the Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility (RATF) located at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio.
For the first time in the RATF, spaceflight components were subjected to these high noise levels to determine if they would withstand acoustic reverberations during launch or launch aborts. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) completed testing on a 5.2-meter fairing for its Falcon 9 rocket in the RATF and Plum Brook's Space Power Facility (SPF) vacuum chamber this summer. The tests confirmed the fairing could withstand the harsh conditions associated with space travel.
According to Glenn's director, Jim Free, "The SpaceX fairing tests prove the Space Power Facility can enable strong commercial space transportation capabilities and other missions. The facility is now ready to provide vibroacoustic test capabilities and one-stop space environmental testing for space vehicles."
Glenn's Plum Brook Station is unrivaled in its space environment simulation test capabilities. The SPF combines the world's largest vacuum chamber and the world's most powerful low-frequency mechanical vibration test stand. With the recently-added acoustic test chamber, SPF has become the world's most powerful simulator of noise levels experienced during launch.
"While we're focused on rapid innovation, SpaceX's first priority is always to get our customers' payloads safely to orbit," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and chief designer. "Testing at Plum Brook enabled simulation of some unique flight conditions, furthering what we are able to do on the ground to ensure flight success."
With collaborations like Glenn's work with SpaceX to test its fairing, NASA is growing America's commercial space industry and, at the same time, taking steps to explore farther into our solar system and beyond.