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SpaceX updates (Grasshopper RLV)

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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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dragon_in-space-12-10.jpg

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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.com/downloads/spacex-brochure.pdf

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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 ;)

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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.

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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 -

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

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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 :)

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Excerpt from above

dragonmars.jpg

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

f9-c2.jpg

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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.

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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.

2011-3175-m.jpg

2011-3178-m.jpg

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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!

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

DragonOnTheRoad.jpg

DragonOnTheRoad2.jpg

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what?! just like that, on the truck? no tarps or anything? what the hey? and did you take these?

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I find using the capsule and a rocket to be anticlimactic, more junk tossed in outer space more waste or resources (at lest from the vid anyway)

I wish they would actually make a shuttle replacement not a damn soyuz

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I didn't take those and it was an engineering test Dragon, not flight hardware. Still, one helluva thing to see on the freeway :)

Spaceplanes have only one non-cosmetic advantage in orbital ops: a large cross-range capability, meaning they can glide to a landing up to a few hundred km either side of the orbital track, and because of its flying brick shape and huge mass the shuttle couldn't even do that very well.

This might make sense for a space ambulance or station evacuatiin vehicle that could land on any airport near a medical center, but otherwise....

In all other aspects of spafeflight; crago mass as a % of launch mass, volume/mass etc. spaceplanes operate at a severe disadvantage to capsules.

Remember your science 101: the shape with the greatest volumetric efficiency (internal volume divided by surface area) is a sphere, and capsules are closer to spherical than winged flying bricks. Dragon & Soyuz have the highest volumetric efficiency of todays capsules (CST-100 & Orion are more conical).

In beyond Earth orbit space, of which Dragon, Soyuz and Oriion are capable, wings are dead weight, their mass better used to increase cargo capability, and there isn't a spaceplane design that could handle those re-entry velocities.

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heh heh i thought you took those pics. and good to know it wasn't the actual ship, uncovered would have been bad...

i know you're not a big fan of spaceplanes Doc, but as you see the popular opinion is indeed in their favor. your explanations only have scientific grounding because we've been reluctant to do the right thing...for the billions we've spent on crap hardware that hasn't flown yet we could have indeed built the Valkyrie shuttle from Avatar...for real.

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Valkyrie is cool sci-fi. but until new engine tech allows for single stage to orbit with margins to burn capsules have too many advantages including safety.

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Looks like the decision point for combining the Dragon C2 test flight and the C3 ISS mission is late June, and if C2+C3 is approved it'll be in the latter half of November. The main issue seems to be a relatively minor problem with the S-Band (2-2.5ghz) Omni comm gears power flux density.

Clearer shot of the test Dragon on the road - gives some scale, though it's minus the trunk/service module.

dragonontheroadzoom.jpg

Just for fun -

DragonMarsLanding.jpg

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Expanding a bit, the issue woth power flux density is asafety one vs. humans in the gears output beam. Basically, too high a PFD is bad. PFD is a function of distance from the transmitter, so (IIRC) -

PFD® = kW*Gt/(4*PI*r^2)

when kW is isotropic radiated power, Gt is transmitter gain and r is meters. The result is in kw/m^2

But power at distance isn't the only standard. Basic standards come down to the direction of the max signal strength, its polarization, frequency & strength of the ambients, and the duty cycle.

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SpaceX Names Bret Johnsen as Chief Financial Officer

Former Broadcom Executive Joins Company at a Time of Incredible Growth

Hawthorne, CA ? Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has named Bret Johnsen as Chief Financial Officer, bringing 20 years of financial leadership experience in high-profile, publicly traded companies to SpaceX as it undergoes rapid growth on the back of tremendous technological and market success.

Johnsen's appointment follows the company?s fourth straight year of profitability (2007-2010). The total value of SpaceX NASA and commercial contracts recently topped $3 billion for over 40 launches. The company has also grown to more than 1,300 employees.

?Bret has an exceptional talent for financial management in high-growth, publicly held technology companies,? said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and CTO. ?Looking at his career, he is clearly someone that always sought out tough challenges and produced impressive results. His experience will be invaluable to SpaceX as we implement the financial standards and processes needed to allow for the possibility of becoming a public company.?

?I am thrilled to be part of a team that is transforming the space industry,? said Johnsen. ?It is exciting to join such a pioneering company as it continues to grow and increase market share. My job at SpaceX will be to ensure financial discipline, while supporting the formula that makes SpaceX great.?

Johnsen spent nearly a decade at Broadcom Corporation, the world?s largest manufacturer of semiconductors for wired and wireless communications. He played a key role in helping transform Broadcom into a leading Fortune 500 technology company. There he developed processes that drove operating efficiencies, saving Broadcom millions of dollars annually. Starting out as Controller for a number of business groups within Broadcom, he quickly rose up the ranks. He ultimately was named Vice President, Corporate Controller and Principal Accounting Officer, overseeing an 80-member accounting organization in nine countries for the cutting-edge technology company.

After leaving Broadcom, he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Mindspeed Technologies. Last year, he was named ?CFO of the Year? by the Orange County Business Journal for bringing the chip maker through the recession by cutting costs, reworking debt, selling stock and raising cash through patent sales. ?The moves helped reposition Mindspeed for profitability and brought renewed attention from Wall Street,? the Journal said.

Johnsen holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Southern California and a Master of Science in Finance from San Diego State University. He is a certified public accountant in the State of California.

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NASA Admin. Gen. Charles Bolden & Princeton Astrophysicist Christopher Chyba think SpaceX is "disruptive," in the good way. Prof. Chyba also testified as much in Senate testimony....

Aviation Week...

NASA might ease its ?delicate position? by following the cost-cutting approaches used by Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX) in developing the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, a key member of the panel that reviewed U.S. human spaceflight plans for President Barack Obama is telling Congress.

Administrator Charles Bolden apparently agrees, saying that the SpaceX approach to management is ?disruptive technology? that can bring ?great gains? to the space program.

?They don?t spread things all over the country the way that NASA and defense contractors tend to do,? Bolden told the President?s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on May 19. ?They?re very focused in two locations in the country. They bring everything in-house. They have no subcontractors, so everything comes to them. That?s disruptive.?

As NASA struggles to restructure itself with the government in a cost-cutting mood, agency analysts have put some numbers behind Bolden?s view, notes Christopher F. Chyba, a professor of astrophysics and international affairs at Princeton University. Chyba played a key role in the 2009 deliberations of the panel headed by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine.

Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee on May 18, Chyba repeated his 2009 warning that NASA has never been able to develop one vehicle and fly another at the same time, and is unlikely to be able to do so today (AW&ST Aug. 3, 2009, p. 28). But he says NASA may be able to learn from SpaceX as the agency develops the heavy-lift launch vehicle Congress has ordered it to build for missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).

?I think one would want to understand in some detail . . . why would it be between four and 10 times more expensive for NASA to do this, especially at a time when one of the issues facing NASA is how to develop the heavy-lift launch vehicle within the budget profile that the committee has given it,? Chyba says.

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good, sounds like healthy competition and perhaps even inspiration.

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