CCDev2 – SpaceX

Dragon
Cady Coleman and Scott Kelley in the Dragon
Image Credit: SpaceX

This is the final entry concerning the second round of funding in the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.

NASA awarded $75 million to spaceX to develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts.

“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.”

Dragon is designed to carry seven astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) along with cargo. It will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX. The cargo version of Dragon is expected to make a second trip into space in 2011.

SpaceX and NASA are negotiating whether this second flight will be allowed to approach the ISS, or a third flight will be required to prove the system.

CCDev2 – Boeing

CST-100
Boeing CST-100
Image Credit: Boeing

NASA announced the second round of funding in the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.

Boeing was the big winner in CCDev-2, getting $92.3 million, on top of the $18 million it won last year.

The initial $18 million allowed Boeing to complete several risk reduction demonstrations and a System Definition Review (SDR) in October, 2010. The CST-100’s system characteristics and configuration were base-lined. Boeing designed, built and tested a pressurized structure of the crew module. It also developed an avionics systems integration facility to support rapid prototyping and full-scale development.

Boeing notes that the CST-100 spacecraft relies on proven materials and subsystem technologies that are safe and affordable.

Plans include ferrying astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), as well as crew and passengers to the Space Station being proposed by Bigelow Aerospace. The CST-100 is designed to carry up to seven passengers and is designed to be launched by a number of different expendable launch vehicles. These include United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 and Atlas 5, Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9, and the European Ariane 5.

NASA’s new 14-month CCDev-2 Space Act Agreement will enable Boeing to further mature its system to a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), a critical step that ensures the system design meets all requirements.

National Space Society Announces Space Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur to be Awarded to SpaceX

In recognition of SpaceX’s groundbreaking year in 2010, with the successful launch of two Falcon 9 rockets, and the safe return of its Dragon capsule, the National Space Society (NSS) is today announcing that Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will be the recipient of the NSS’s 2011 Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur. This award will be presented at the NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC), which will be held from May 18-May 22, 2011 in Huntsville, Alabama. Adam Harris, SpaceX’s Vice President for Government Affairs, will accept the award on behalf of SpaceX.

NSS Executive Director, Gary Barnhard states, “There are certain milestones and breakthroughs that accompany any successful venture, including those in the space industry. SpaceX has clearly demonstrated the engineering skill and tenacity to be a serious contender in the evolving commercial cargo and crew launch vehicle market.”

SpaceX recently announced its proposal to build a new Falcon Heavy lift launch vehicle, with a projected launch date sometime in late 2013 or in 2014. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated that SpaceX is working towards cost reduction in manufacturing while making the rockets lighter and stronger with improved engine thrust and reliability. Even larger vehicles, with greater lifting capabilities are envisioned by SpaceX and others to meet the requirements of NASA’s Heavy Lift program. Says Rick Zucker, NSS Executive Vice President, “Expanding our launch capabilities to include heavy lift options, such as the one which has now been proposed by SpaceX, could make a significant contribution to space exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit.”

Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee, notes that, “The high cost of launch has always hampered the exploration and development of space. With its Falcon Heavy vehicle, SpaceX seeks to achieve a major reduction in launch costs. Such a reduction could enable entirely new categories of space industry, such as commercial space stations and privately funded activities on the Moon in cooperation with a government funded lunar program.”

Information about the Falcon Heavy is at http://www.spacex.com/falcon_heavy.php
Information on the ISDC is at: www.isdc2011.org

SpaceX Announces Launch Date for the World's Most Powerful Rocket

Falcon Heavy will lift more than twice as much as any other launch vehicle

See video of full press conference.

WASHINGTON – Today, Elon Musk, CEO and chief rocket designer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) unveiled the dramatic final specifications and launch date for the Falcon Heavy, the world’s largest rocket.

“Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket, which was decommissioned after the Apollo program. This opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions,” Musk told a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“Falcon Heavy will arrive at our Vandenberg, California, launch complex by the end of next year, with liftoff to follow soon thereafter.  First launch from our Cape Canaveral launch complex is planned for late 2013 or 2014.”

Musk added that with the ability to carry satellites or interplanetary spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons or 117,000 pounds to orbit, Falcon Heavy will have more than twice the performance of the Space Shuttle or Delta IV Heavy, the next most powerful vehicle, which is  operated by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.

Just for perspective, 53 metric tons is more than the maximum take-off weight of a fully-loaded Boeing 737-200 with 136 passengers. In other words, Falcon Heavy can deliver the equivalent of an entire airline flight full of passengers, crew, luggage and fuel all the way to orbit.

Falcon Heavy’s first stage will be made up of three nine-engine cores, which are used as the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.  It will be powered by SpaceX’s upgraded Merlin engines currently being tested at the SpaceX rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.  Falcon Heavy will generate 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.  This is the equivalent to the thrust of fifteen Boeing 747s taking off at the same time.

Above all, Falcon Heavy has been designed for extreme reliability.  Unique safety features of the Falcon 9 are preserved, such as the ability to complete its mission even if multiple engines fail. Like a commercial airliner, each engine is surrounded by a protective shell that contains a worst case situation like fire or a chamber rupture, preventing it from affecting other engines or the vehicle itself.

Anticipating potential astronaut transport needs, Falcon Heavy is also designed to meet NASA human rating standards, unlike other satellite launch vehicles.  For example, this means designing to higher structural safety margins of 40% above flight loads, rather than the 25% level of other rockets, and triple redundant avionics.

Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket in history to do propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the center core, thus leaving the center core with most of its propellant after the side boosters separate. The net effect is that Falcon Heavy achieves performance comparable to a three stage rocket, even though only the upper stage is airlit, further improving both payload performance and reliability.  Crossfeed is not required for missions below 100,000 lbs, and can be turned off if desired.

Despite being designed to higher structural margins than other rockets, the side booster stages will have a mass ratio (full of propellant vs empty) above 30, better than any vehicle of any kind in history.

Falcon Heavy, with more than twice the payload, but less than one third the cost of a Delta IV Heavy, will provide much needed relief to government and commercial budgets. In fact, Falcon Heavy at approximately $1,000 per pound to orbit, sets a new world record in affordable spaceflight.

This year, even as the Department of Defense budget was cut, the EELV launch program, which includes the Delta IV, still saw a thirty percent increase.

The 2012 budget for four Air Force launches is $1.74B, which is an average of $435M per launch. Falcon 9 is offered on the commercial market for $50-60M and Falcon Heavy is offered for $80-$125M. Unlike our competitors, this price includes all non-recurring development costs and on-orbit delivery of an agreed upon mission. For government missions, NASA has added mission assurance and additional services to the Falcon 9 for less than $20M.

Note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the US Congress.  That vehicle is intended to carry approximately 150 tons to orbit.  SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars.  Musk also referred to the possible  future development of a Falcon “SuperHeavy” under consideration at SpaceX.

See video animation of the Falcon Heavy.

See video of full press conference.

CRuSR

by Dave Fischer

Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program

NASA has awarded $475,000 as part of its program to development recoverable launch vehicles to be used for small payloads going to “near-space,” the region of Earth’s atmosphere between 65,000 and 350,000 feet. The awards were made under the CRuSR program (Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program). NASA’s press release states:

The CRuSR program fosters the development of commercial reusable transportation to near space. The overall goal of the program is regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads.

The awards were made to Armadillo Aerospace, home to the Super-Mod vehicle, and Masten Space Systems, home to the Xaero vehicle.

Armadillo will fly three missions from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Two are schedule for an altitude of nine miles each, and the third is scheduled for 25 miles (132,000 feet – 40,200 meters).

Masten will fly four missions this winter from the Mojave Spaceport in California. Two of the flights are slated for three miles and two are slated for 18 miles (95,000 feet – 29,000 meters).

Armadillo
Image Credit: Armadillo Aerospace
Masten
Image Credit: Masten Space Systems

Let us know what you think. What do you want to know about? Post a comment.

SpaceX Falcon 9 now vertical on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral

While the Obama commercial space policy is the news, SpaceX continues to move forward toward the initial launch of its Falcon 9 rocket within the next 1 to 3 months. The latest milestone was getting the rocket vertical on the pad.

The full flight-ready Falcon 9 launch vehicle with Dragon qualification spacecraft raised to vertical on the launch pad at SLC-40, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: SpaceX.
The full flight-ready Falcon 9 launch vehicle with Dragon qualification spacecraft raised to vertical on the launch pad February 20 at SLC-40, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: SpaceX.
Falcon 9 flight hardware undergoing final integration earlier this month in the hangar at SpaceXs Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida. Credit: SpaceX.
Falcon 9 flight hardware undergoing final integration earlier this month in the hangar at SpaceX's Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida. Credit: SpaceX.

In December 2008, NASA announced the selection of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon Spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. The Falcon 9 is designed to carry 23,000 pounds to Low Earth Orbit.

The Dragon Spacecraft, initially for cargo only, is later planned to carry astronauts as depicted in this SpaceX video.

Alan W. Dowd on The Gap

Surrendering Outer Space-America yields the high ground – By Alan W. Dowd in Policy Review published by the Hoover Institution.

What if, in the midst of the epic contest to explore and colonize the New World, Britain — the greatest seafaring power of its day — had to mothball its naval fleet and rely on other countries to transport British men and material across the oceans?

This much we know: With British subjects, ideas, and goods tethered to a little island off the coast of Europe, Britain and the world would be very different today.

Something not too dissimilar is about to happen in the heavens, as the United States prepares to retire its fleet of space shuttles. For almost 30 years, the venerable, if imperfect, space plane has been America’s workhorse in space, carrying astronauts, scientific experiments, and satellites into orbit, painstakingly building the International Space Station, and just as important, reviving America’s self-confidence and reinforcing America’s image as a pioneering nation. But by 2010, with the fleet grounded due to budget, age, and safety concerns, America will have no way of delivering its own astronauts into space. The hiatus could last almost 5 years.

America and the world — and space — could be very different by then.

Behind the Scenes at SpaceX

Behind the Scenes With the World’s Most Ambitious Rocket Makers– An improbable partnership between an Internet mogul and an engineer could revolutionize the way NASA conducts missions—and, if these iconoclasts are successful, send paying customers into space.

by early 2002 Mueller had moved his operations to a friend’s rented warehouse and was putting the finishing touches on the world’s largest amateur liquid-fuel rocket engine, an 80-pounder designed to produce 13,000 pounds of thrust.

Mueller’s ambitious moonlighting caught the attention of Internet multimillionaire Elon Musk, who met the engineer at the warehouse in January 2002 as Mueller was trying to attach his homemade engine to an airframe. Fresh from the $1.5 billion sale of PayPal to eBay, Musk was seeking staff for a new space company, soon to be called Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX. He eyed the rocket engine and asked a simple question: “Can you build something bigger?”

Mueller never fired that engine. He took it back to his garage, where it still sits. Instead, he took up Musk’s offer to join the nascent private space venture.

Welcome South Korea to the Club of Space Faring Nations

Congratulations to South Korea on their first successful rocket launch.

South Korea launches first rocket into space

It is South Korea’s first launch of a rocket from its own territory. Since 1992, it has launched 11 satellites, all on foreign-made rockets sent from overseas sites.

The rocket, built with Russian help, was carrying a domestically built satellite aimed at observing the atmosphere and ocean.

Lee Jones Reporting From The New Mexico Space Port Ground Breaking

July 19th, 2009. A date that will forever change the way we view space flight. In the arid desert just west of the mountain range that defines the western border of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, a group of about 420 space enthusiasts, press and dignitaries gather to witness an historic event. The ground breaking of the first commercial Spaceport on planet earth, Spaceport America was about to take place. With all eyes focused across the desert sands and brush, bright metallic figures approach from the not too distant east as spine chilling music played. Conquistadors! The first explorers to discover this great land called New Mexico approached. Commemorating the true spirit of exploration, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson among other distinguished dignitaries remember the legacy of spaceflight in its early beginnings just a short distance away. The first picture of planet earth from space was taken from a V2 rocket launched just a few miles away. A historic letter found in the New Mexico government archives was presented by Governor Richardson on behalf of this great state to Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic. This letter written by Governor jack Campbell in the early 1960’s and addressed to President John F. Kennedy stated; Dear President Kennedy. In light of this historic event, this great nation has now found its way to space. This is a true beginning that someday will evolve into commercial space transportation of people and cargo to space. Please consider the great state of New Mexico as that place where commercial space transportation should begin. This great visionary and the people of planet earth have now witnessed this dream come to pass. As each rocketeer scooped the desert sand and placed it in a small capsule, preparations were made to load the sand on to a rocket which ultimately closed the ceremony as it was launched toward space. Planet earth has now entered a new era in space travel and the sky is no longer the limit and commercial space is no longer a dream. It’s reality! 

Lee Jones 

Space Ambassador Program Director