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Archive for the tag “SpaceX”

Ongoing amazing news from the open frontier of space

Recovered Falcon 9 booster after NORL-76 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.

There is a non-stop stream of amazing news from the open frontier of space:

  • SpaceX recovers Falcon 9 after launching spy sat
  • Another good launch of sat into geosyn orbit by India
  • ULA joint venture agreement expires
  • China starts test of cabin for lunar living

 

Falcon 9 booster about to land after NORL-76 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.

 

5/1/17 – Space.com – SpaceX Launches US Spy Satellite on Secret Mission, Nails Rocket Landing – SpaceX successfully put a classified satellite from National Reconnaissance Office into orbit. As a massive fringe benefit, they also recovered the first stage back at the launch site. This is their fourth successful recovery on land.

The photograph from the launch is incredible. In particular, there is a great view of the first stage separation, flip, and boostback burn.

Here is a clip on Instagram, posted by Elon Musk:

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More progress in the open frontier of space exploration, courtesy of the free market

SpaceX SES 10, recovery of Falcon 9 booster. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.

The number of private sector players involved in space exploration and the progress underway is astounding. Here are a few recent articles catching my attention:

3/20/17 – Investor’s Business Daily – There’s a New Space Race On, Courtesy of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos And The Free Market – The main point of the article, which is barely starting to be noticed:

Space remains the final frontier. And it will be private sector entrepreneurs, not government bureaucrats, who will take us there.

Article gives a summary of the private sector companies, funded by filthy rich guys who choose to pour their wealth into space exploration, that have expanded our reach into space. According to the article, these companies have done more than NASA has in the last several decades.

Consider:

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The space competition heats up. Aaaaand some competitors slow down.

SpaceX SES-10. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX for placing photos in public domain.

The competition to be a commercially competitive space launch provider gets far more serious with SpaceX successfully launching a reused Falcon 9 booster to get SES-10 into a geosync orbit.

On the same day as SpaceX made such tremendous progress, two competitors dropped further behind.

Competition speeds up

SpaceX SES-10. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.

I was so fortunate as to check my Twitter feed as SpaceX began its live coverage of the launch. It was such a joy to watch the successful launch and an even bigger thrill to see Main Engine Cutoff, which meant the reused booster did its job.

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Summary of accomplishments and plans for SpaceX and Blue Origin. Gotta’ love that competition!

Successful recovery of Falcon 9 booster during CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Found an article that summarizes accomplishments and plans for SpaceX and Blue Origin, the space exploration companies of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, respectively.

Check out Mike Wall at Space.com on 3/13/17To the Moon! The Musk-Bezos Billionaire Space Rivalry Just Reached New Heights.

Here are many of the key achievements and targets for both companies. I sorted and regrouped the items that drew my interest. As you consider the list, you can see both companies are making rapid progress. The competition is getting serious.

By the way, if the Space.com article and my little summary here does not satisfy your appetite for learning what is going on in space, you really, really need to check out Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry, by Robert Zimmerman, available in PDF format for free at Behind the Black. I am about half way through the paper. It is superb.

First steps

SpaceX:

  • 12/15 – successfully recover Falcon 9
  • Through 3/17 – have now successfully recovered a Falcon 9 lift vehicle eight times; 3 on land and 5 on drone ships at sea
  • 3/17 – planned first time reuse of Falcon 9 for launch of SES 10 satellite

Blue Origin:

  • 11/15 – successfully recover New Shepard
  • Late 2016 – retired a New Shepard booster after it was successfully recovered 4 times

Successful recovery of New Shepard booster on June 19, 2016. Credit Blue Origin.

Heavy lift

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Even more competition in the wide open frontier of private space exploration

Most of the current competitors, with a Saturn V for comparison. Illustration courtesy of Blue Origin.

I am astounded at the number of companies taking on the challenge to explore space. It’s staggering to see the innovation emerging.

Check out the number of competitors that are in the game. That is fantastic. The more companies pushing to figure out how to get in space and provide commercially attractive service at a profit, the harder everyone else will push for progress. Good.

Check out that awesome graphic at the top of the page. Lots of thanks and all the credit to Blue Origin. I’ve been looking for something like that visual for a long time. Yeah, you will be seeing it again and again on my blog.

Check out what some of the competitors are doing. This is what I’ve noticed in just the last few weeks:

2/27 – Space.com – SpaceX to Fly Passengers on Private Trip Around the Moon in 2018 – How does this sound for a great schedule?

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Brainstretchers from the open frontier of space

Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule launch. Add two more boosters, an upgraded Dragon 2 capsule, and imagine what could be done. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule launch. Add two more boosters, an upgraded Dragon 2 capsule, and imagine what could be done. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Here’s two articles that stretch the brain:

  • United Arab Emirates has a goal to establish an inhabited settlement on Mars by 2117 – Such an idea is no longer ridiculous. Ten years ago it would have been foolish; today, it is quite plausible.
  • A concept of how the moon could be occupied within four years – this is also not a silly idea anymore.

2/20 – Leonard David’s Inside Outer Space – UAE’s March to Mars – The United Arab Emirates plans to have an inhabited settlement on Mars by 2117.

In all seriousness, I say go for it!

They are recruiting a cadre of research scientists for an international team. They plan to  launch an orbiter to study the planet more closely. They want to develop a faster transport system. They are already designing a city, which will be robot-built, presumably to be near-inhabitable by the time humans arrive.

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Another successful launch and recovery for SpaceX’s Falcon 9

Successful recovery of Falcon 9 booster during CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Successful recovery of Falcon 9 booster during CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Just watched the recovery of a Falcon 9 booster. I missed the launch. Very cool video from the on-board camera as the booster descended through a cloud bank and landed dead center on the pad.

This mission, CRS-10, will deliver over 5,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station. Two really cool things. First, a private company providing supply runs to ISS is a thing. Second, it is almost routine to recover the first stage.

Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule on CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule on CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

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More amazing news from the open frontier of space

Falcon 9 landing. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Falcon 9 landing. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

News from space exploration continues to amaze. Consider:

  • Video of first time SpaceX recovered a booster
  • China sees first commercial launch on government rocket
  • Private sector, or what passes for it, in China gets into the launch business
  • EU’s GPS satellites having lots of unexplained clock failures

Video of the first vertical recovery of a rocket – Beyond the Black highlights What happened at SpaceX the first time they landed a first stage – SpaceX had a bunch of camera operators recording when it tried to recover a booster. Great video. National Geographic produced a documentary on the successful effort. Check it out:

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Tally of space launches in last two decades

Falcon 9 liftoff, carrying 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Falcon 9 liftoff, carrying 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Behind the Black has tallied the number of space launches by country and by US company, by year from 1998 through 2016.

Mr. Zimmerman provides the tally at Launch industry trends, based on recent history on 1/11. He provides more observations on the trends in the January 13, 2017 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast.

For a more overall view (and under fair use) I added up the launches from 1998 through 2006 and then from 2007 through 2016. I chose a break of 2007 because that is when Lockheed Martin and Boeing formed their joint venture, United Launch Alliance. Here are the long-term trends:

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SpaceX back in space with successful launch and recovery of Falcon 9 booster

Falcon 9 at Vandenber SLC 4E, ready to life 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Falcon 9 at Vandenberg SLC 4E, ready to lift 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

I just watched SpaceX lift 10 satellites into low-earth orbit for Iridium. This will allow Iridium to replace their constellation of communication sats. Another 71 sats will go up, of which 60 more will be lifted by SpaceX.

Here are merely two of the super cool aspects of this launch.

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Tally of planned launches for 2017

Ariane 5 on pad for VA227 launch. Credit: Arianespace.

Ariane 5 on pad for VA227 launch. Credit: Arianespace.

I’m constantly amazed at the activity in space. Maybe I’m just slow to catch on but there is a lot of work getting stuff into orbit.

Spaceflight 101 reports their tally of planned space shots in their post Spaceflight101 Launch Calendar.

I will modify their tally by adding another 15 launches by China as reported by GBTimes, China to attempt close to 30 space launches in 2017. Behind the Black explains that China is somewhat secretive about their space plans, so they don’t announce all their expected launches.

Previously mentioned the tally of actual launches for 2016.

In other news, Behind the Black reports India considers going to Jupiter and Venus. Their first manned flights are planned for 2024. BtB also reports Arianespace wins two contracts, aims for a dozen launches in 2017. Article guesses that Arianspace is getting these contracts because SpaceX has a backlog longer than their current capacity can deliver timely. Article indicates SpaceX needs to up their launch rate to stay competitive.

So, here is the list of planned launches. I also include the lift vehicle. That data is useful for me in order to keep straight what rockets belong to whom.

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Tally of space launches in 2016

Antares booster on launch pad. Courtesy of Orbital ATK. Used with permission.

Antares booster on launch pad. Courtesy of Orbital ATK. Used with permission.

Here is a list of actual launches in 2016. Next post will describe the planned launches for 2017.

Parabolic Arc – USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016 – Supercool article describes the launch successes and failures in 2016, including a tally of launches by country and life vehicles. Recap of status of all the US players.

I pulled the tally of attempts and successes, including the launch pad failure of a Falcon 9 as an attempt, even though it didn’t get off the ground and thus is not actually an attempt:

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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 – Space.com – 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 – Space.com – SpaceX’s Mars Colony Plan: By the Numbers – Tidbits I found interesting:

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More on the open frontier of space; cool info from The Economist

Imagine one of those providing enough bandwidth to allow merchant ships to operate without a crew. Imagine scaling that down to show-box size to allow a company to sell daily images of every spot on the earth. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Drawing of cubesat, courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Technology Quarterly issue from The Economist for August 27, 2016 described the open frontier of space. Check out Remaking the sky. I think that’s behind their paywall, so you may need a subscription.

Here are a few cool things I learned.

A sudden light – Nice description of the SpaceX launch when they recovered a booster back at the original launch site. Puts into context what an amazing step it is to recover a booster.

The small and the many – There are four major players in the world of communication satellites: Eutelsat, Inmarsat, Intelsat, and SES.

The typical cost for SES satellites range from $100M up to $300M. The launch cost is in ballpark of $100M. At those prices the entire satellite industry is very risk-averse. I get it. You cannot take a big chance when somewhere between $200M and $400M is on the line.

Tiny satellites, called cubesats, are built in multiples of blocks measured in “1U”, meaning a box 10 cm by 10 cm by 11.5 cm.

Cubesats are revolutionizing the satellite world by dramatically reducing cost and risk. The cost to develop a cubesat is small. One launch can lift a lot of cubesats which drops the cost. They don’t have the power to last very long and don’t have any propulsion, with both factors making it cheaper to experiment and not as risky to something trying something new.

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SpaceX reveals plans for travel to Mars

Concept video from SpaceX:

A colony on Mars is no longer just a silly fantasy. It is now in the range of maybe actually possible.

SpaceX announced the outline of their plans for shuttle runs to Mars in order to populate a self-sustaining colony.

Credit: Flickr, SpaceX has placed this in public domain.

Drawing of launch pad ready for launch. Credit: Flickr, SpaceX has placed this in public domain.

My summary of the concept

Here is my simple summary:

A booster rocket, standing 254 feet tall, will have 42 Raptor engines. The Falcon 9 in testing now is powered by 9 Merlin engines. The Raptor engine is three times as powerful as the Merlin. The booster will have thrust twice that of a Saturn V with ability to lift 300 tons into low-earth orbit.

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