More cool news on the open frontier of space

Drawing of our possible ride to Mars. Credit: Flickr, SpaceX has placed this in public domain.
Drawing of our possible ride to Mars: Interplanetary Transport System Credit: Flickr; SpaceX has placed this in public domain.

Fun articles lately on the wide open frontier of exploring space:

  • More details on SpaceX’s framework for how they plan to get people to Mars.
  • Bidding for GPS 3 launches and purchase price for two more satellites of the GPS III constellation.
  • What criminal law will apply in space?
  • China’s moon rover, Jade Rabbit, finally dies after 31 months, which is in contrast to its expected 3 month life.

9/29 – – Feasible or Fantasy? SpaceX’s Mars Plan Draws Expert Reactions – Author pulls in a variety of initial reactions to SpaceX’s outline of how to get colonists to Mars. My summary of comments is the plans have a lot of technological, funding, and timing hurdles to clear. In addition, a lot of work needs to be done to develop how the technological, food sourcing, economic, and energy systems would work on the planet to support long-term residency.

One hurdle has already been cleared – the technology for a soft landing on Mars is already in place as demonstrated by the successful recovery of boosters.

9/29 – – SpaceX’s Mars Colony Plan: By the Numbers – Tidbits I found interesting:

  • ITS – Interplanetary Transport System – New name and acronym I need to have ready to tumble off my lips.
  • Number of people SpaceX hopes to transport to Mars over the next 50 or 100 years – 1,000,000
  • Lift from the ITS will be 3.6 times more powerful than the Saturn V, which carried astronauts to the moon.
  • First crewed flights to Mars will be in 2024 if absolutely everything goes perfectly. There will be cargo flight to Mars for several years before that, likely starting in 2018.
  • Saturn V was 365 feet tall. The ITS booster will be 254 feet tall and the spaceship will be 162 feet tall, for a combined height of 400 feet.
  • ITS will be able to lift 300 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO). The Saturn V had lift capacity of 135 tons.
  • Initial transit time is planned at 115 days, dropping to 80 with planets in ideal relative locations, eventually cut to 30 days as a goal.

8/3 – Behind the Black – ULA and SpaceX to compete for GPS launch. Article points to Space News, which provides more information on 8/3 – ULA, SpaceX expected to face-off for next GPS 3 contract.

The Air Force just released a request for bids to launch another GPS satellite. This will be the first head-to-head competition between United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. An April bid went to SpaceX by default at a price of $82.7M.

Behind the Black article says ULA says their average launch price recently is $225M.

$80M vs. $200M.

Looks like SpaceX has a rather dramatic price advantage.

In other learning for me, the current American GPS satellites are referred to as GPS 2F, of which there are 12 in orbit. The new generation of satellites are referred to as GPS 3, for which there will be a series of six launched during 2019.

9/30 – GPS Daily – US Air Force awards Lockheed Martin $395M Contract for two GPS 3 satellites – Tidbits of trivia I find interesting: USAF has purchased the 9th and 10th of the GPS III satellites under an existing option. The first 8 are under construction. First one will be delivered to USAF this year.

The newest GPS satellites, referred to as the III series, will have improved accuracy (three times better, whatever that means), improved anti-jamming capability (eight times better, whatever that means), and longer life (15 years instead of 12 years for ones in orbit now).

Per Wikipedia, the GPS Block IIIA constellation will have 32 satellites, with first launch now expected in May 2017.

Other trivia from Wikipedia: Satellites #3 and #4 were purchased for $238M in 2012. SpaceX will launch one of the GPS III sats by July 2018 for $82.7M. Satellites #9 and #10 likely to be launched in 2022.

So, here’s the data point: $197M for each of the brand new GPS III sats with 6 year construction timeline.

7/29 – – Crimes in Space: Whose Law Will We Use – Here is a new thought experiment: When travelers in space no longer consist of dedicated scientists and engineers with a decade or three of training, the chances of having to deal with illegal behavior will increase. How will those crimes be handled?

8/3 – Christian Science Monitor – Some grieve as China says goodbye to its Jade Rabbit moon mission – The lunar rover, cargo of China’s first soft moon landing, was supposed to operate for three months. It stalled out shortly after arriving, but just recently stopped operating. It continued collecting data for 31 months instead of the expectation of 3 months.

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