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SpaceX updates (Grasshopper RLV)


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#1 DocM

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 20:13

Consolidating SpaceX news into one thread.

This update is significant in that after celebrating their CCDev 2 selection they dropped a bombshell: the Dragon spacecrafts propulsive landing system will eventually be capable of landing on other planets. Wow....a crew ship and a lander - shades of the DC-X.

Latest update....

SPACEX WINS NASA CONTRACT TO COMPLETE DEVELOPMENT OF SUCCESSOR TO THE SPACE SHUTTLE

First Astronaut Mission Expected in Three Years


WASHINGTON – NASA has awarded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) $75 million to develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. The Congressionally mandated award is part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiative that started in 2009 to help private companies mature concepts and technologies for human spaceflight.

“This award will accelerate our efforts to develop the next-generation rockets and spacecraft for human transportation,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer. “With NASA’s support, SpaceX will be ready to fly its first manned mission in 2014.”

Musk said the flight-proven Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft represent the safest and fastest path to American crew transportation capability. With their historic successful flight on December 8th, 2010, many Falcon 9 and Dragon components that are needed to transport humans to low-Earth orbit have already been demonstrated in flight. Both vehicles were designed from the outset to fly people.

The announcement comes at a time when the United States has a critical need for American commercial human spaceflight. After the Space Shuttle retires in a few months, NASA will be totally dependent on the Russian Soyuz to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) at a cost of more than $753 million a year – about $63 million per seat.

Musk said Dragon – designed to carry seven astronauts at a time to the space station at a cost of $20 million a seat – offers a far better deal for the U.S. taxpayer. While considerable flight testing remains, the critical-path technology Dragon needs for carrying humans to orbit is the launch escape system.

New Launch Abort System

SpaceX’s integrated escape system will be superior to traditional solid rocket tractor escape towers used by other vehicles in the past. Due to their extreme weight, tractor systems must be jettisoned within minutes of liftoff, but the SpaceX innovative design builds the escape engines into the side walls of Dragon, eliminating the danger of releasing a heavy solid rocket escape tower after launch.

The SpaceX design also provides crew with emergency escape capability throughout the entire flight, whereas the Space Shuttle has no escape system and even the Apollo moon program allowed escape only during the first few minutes of flight. The result is that astronauts flying on Dragon will be considerably safer.

Furthermore, the integrated escape system returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport. Over time, the same escape thrusters will also provide the capability for Dragon to land almost anywhere on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy, overcoming the limitation of a winged architecture that works only in Earth’s atmosphere.

Under the award, SpaceX will modify Dragon to accommodate crew, with specific hardware milestones that will provide NASA with regular, demonstrated progress including:

Static fire testing of the launch escape system engines
Initial design of abort engine and crew accommodations
Prototype evaluations by NASA crew for seats, control panels and cabin

The December 8th, 2010, demonstration flight of Falcon 9 and Dragon was the first flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which was initiated to develop commercial cargo services to the International Space Station. After the Space Shuttle retires, SpaceX will fly at least 12 missions to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract for NASA.
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#2 OP DocM

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 19:18

Latest SpaceX brochure shows Falcon 9 getting the Falcon Heavy's core stretch (and presumably Merlin 1D) and an tncrease to LEO from 10.4 mT to 16 mT. Guess that's why it's in the running for the 13.5 mT CST-100.

http://www.spacex.co...ex-brochure.pdf

#3 OP DocM

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 04:01

There was a 90 second (1/2 mission length) Falcon 9 test fire at SpaceX's McGregor, Texas test facility. The following is from the local KWTX-TV stations comments thread -

Posted by: **** Location: Texas on Apr 20, 2011

We live 30 miles away and saw it out the window. Thought it was a nuke! Then a minute later felt the rumble and heard the roar. Good grief! How do those that live closer stand it.

'nuff said ;)

#4 OP DocM

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 22:47

Word is leaking that the next 2 Dragon test flights for NASA's COTS program, C2 and C3, will be blended into a single mission, docking at the next launch and accelerating Dragon's availability to resupply the ISS. If so it means work on crew Dragon can accelerate as cargo Dragon exits development and becomes operational.

Previously C2 was to be this summer and C2 around February 2012, but the blended mission could go in October 2011. The delay from summer to October is so NASA can reset itself and train the current ISS crew to do a mission the next crew was supposed to do.

#5 OP DocM

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 00:43

SpaceX looks to be getting the most out of their CCDev2 money -

'Ya gotta admit - these guys have big, round, brass ones.

The Dragon's side-mount launch abort system will be designed and built to the point of a full-duration engine firing on the ground by next May..

Which would be May, 2012. The propulsive launch escape/landing system would also allow it to land on other bodies than Earth, the Moon or Mars (this weeks Wall Street Journal interview.)

Animation of how it'll work -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2FpFZXWrvs

#6 neoadorable

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 14:08

thanks for the updates Doc, what kind of mission timeline are we looking at in summation then?

#7 OP DocM

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 21:42

The SpaceX CCDev 2 contract has milestones they have to meet to get each parcel of the money for the abort system and other crew items. They also have the blended COTS flight (C2 + C3) for ISS cargo missions coming up.

C2/C3 is slated for October-ish. When it flies they do the required C2 simulated docing maneuvers a few kilometers from ISS, then if all goes well C3 kicks in and Dragon docks at ISS on the American end and delivers a cargo load.

The first CCDev milestones have to be met by April 12, 2012. These include a ground test of the abort/manding engines, tanks, controls etc. Most informed observers believe most of this has been in development for some time and these tests could well be done earlier - perhaps the end of the year.

Once the CCDev 2 goals have been met by all participants, or the laggards drop out or are "fired", the CCDev 3 contracts will be offered. CCDev 3 would involve manned flights to the ISS.

Also, SpaceX posted a new Crew Draon promo showing more footage of Dragon doing a propulsive landing - and it isn't on Earth or the Moon :)



#8 OP DocM

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 23:00

Excerpt from above
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#9 OP DocM

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 05:14

Falcon 9 COTS-2/3 has arrived at KSC's Launch Complex 40. Nice pic of her with the engine covers off -

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#10 neoadorable

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 11:17

thanks for that, indeed the Mars landing makes me feel all nice and warm all over :laugh: it's definitely time for the next American adventure, or the next human adventure. keep us posted on this Doc.

#11 OP DocM

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 02:40

Universe Today article..

Behind the Scenes at LC-40....

#12 OP DocM

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Posted 04 May 2011 - 00:32

Falcon 9 C2 first stage arriving at KSC LC-40. Looks like they built a custom rig vs. the vanilla one previously used. Now you Southerners know what to look for on the freeway.

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#13 OP DocM

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Posted 04 May 2011 - 20:48

"WHY THE US CAN BEAT CHINA: THE FACTS ABOUT SPACEX COSTS"

http://www.spacex.com/updates.php

#14 neoadorable

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 13:59

nice photos! and i like the fact that they're comparing the US to China, competition is a huge motivator obviously. China's not exactly excelling in space, though, they're spending all their money on terrestrial concerns at the moment. i still hope they'll be able to proceed with their manned moon missions for later this decade, which will ultimately beg the issue of combining forces and doing a joint, much bigger mission. but yeah, all this SpaceX activity is really good for the economy of those states. i'd love to drive by one of the rockets on the interstate, they'd get a salute for sure!

#15 OP DocM

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 23:55

How about being on the freeway in California when this drove by -

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