News Article | May 10, 2017
SpaceX is gearing up for its next big step forward in spaceflight: launching the Falcon Heavy. The heavy-lift launch vehicle will use three Falcon 9 cores bolted together-two first stages that have already been launched, landed and recovered, as well as a shiny new core stage that will sit in the center of the two used boosters. The Hawthorne, CA-based company is aiming to launch the Falcon Heavy before the year is out, and yes, SpaceX will attempt to land all three first stages of the Falcon Heavy. Last week, Elon Musk's space startup test fired the center core of the new rocket at their facility in McGregor, TX. SpaceX tweeted out a video of the test fire today. The Falcon Heavy will be similar to the Delta IV Heavy operated by United Launch Alliance (ULA), which also uses three cores in the first stage and is currently the largest payload capacity rocket flown. However, on paper, the Falcon Heavy will be able to lift more than twice as much as the Delta IV Heavy to low-Earth orbit, 140,660 pounds for the Falcon Heavy compared to 62,540 pounds for the Delta IV Heavy. The real improvement over the Delta IV Heavy, though, should be in the ability to land and relaunch all three of the Falcon Heavy's first stage cores. The only question is, when will it fly? You Might Also Like
News Article | May 15, 2017
Six companies are developing different concepts for the station The six US companies designing ground-based prototypes for NASA’s Deep Space Gateway (DSG) station — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bigelow Aerospace, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Orbital ATK, and a consortium called Ixion —are to receive grants totalling $65 million up to the end of this year as part of a programme NASA calls NextSTEP (Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnership), with a decision taken on which designs will go on to become flight modules in 2018 or 2019. The DSG could potentially acclimatise crew for the long durations in space required for deep-space missions, and to develop and test systems for long-duration spaceflight and the conditions distant from Earth. It will be a space station positioned in lunar orbit, around a quarter of a million miles from Earth and well outside the protection of the magnetosphere. Each of the six companies is developing different concepts for the station. Bigelow, whose 3m-diameter BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) chamber is part-way through a two-year trial on the ISS, is developing another expandable structure, known as B330, as a habitat module for the DSG. Projected to be 13.7m long and 6.7m in diameter, the module is a made of a multi-layer material capable of withstanding micrometeorite strikes, and, although designed to be inflated with compressed air, should be regarded as more similar to a steel radial tyre than a balloon. Sierra Nevada is a space industry veteran, currently working with NASA to develop Dream Chaser, a lifting-body reusable spaceplane concept intended to ferry crew and supplies to the ISS. Like Sierra Nevada, Orbital ATK is basing its concept on features of an existing spacecraft, the Cygnus capsule. “This award allows us to mature plans to develop an Exploration Augmentation Module [EAM] based on the Cygnus product line and a new docking node concept,” said Frank DeMauro, head of human spaceflight systems. “Cygnus modules can be added to increase pressurised volume for the crew and outfitted to increase the associated functionality of the EAM. Ixion includes satellite and space hardware specialist Nanoracks, which has worked extensively on ISS projects, along with Space Systems/Loral, another satellite builder, and United Launch Alliance (ULA). Ixion is studying the feasibility of converting ULA Centaur rocket upper stages into habitat modules. NASA’s first space station, Skylab, was originally proposed to be made from converted upper stages, and Nanoracks explains this is “more affordable and involves less risk than fabricating modules on the ground and subsequently launching them into orbit.” Lockheed Martin is developing a multipurpose habitat module that it is converting from an ISS logistics module, a container originally developed to be carried in the Space Shuttle’s cargo bay, explained programme manager Bill Pratt. “These modules were made in Italy, and the one we’re converting for our ground-based prototype never actually flew,” he said. The prototype module will include ECLSS and avionics systems, included for ‘form-and-fit’ testing, Pratt said. However, he added, Lockheed Martin anticipates that in use, the DSG will use an Orion module, which would always be docked to the station when it is crewed, as a ‘flight deck’ for the station. “It’s rated for deep space, and it has all the necessary functionality, including avionics, communications, a toilet, galley and its own ECLSS that could augment any system on the DSG,” he said. The DSG will have to use a different internal architecture from the ISS, Pratt said. “We just won’t have the space for the large racks that house equipment in the ISS; most things will have to be on pallets, and ideally reconfigurable.” An example of this might be a shielded area for crew to shelter from the radiation of solar storms. “We don’t want to have a permanent refuge, we’d just want to be able to put one up when it’s needed.” One possibility might be to use the docked Orion’s shelter, he said. Other radiation such as energetic cosmic rays could be more of a problem, Pratt added. “We really don’t know much about them. We might use the DSG in autonomous mode, with no crew on board, to study them so we can come up with a protective system when crew go on board.” Boeing is using its experience as prime contractor for the US portions of the ISS and in designing SEP systems, and has unveiled concept designs both for the DSG and a SEP-equipped deep-space transit vehicle. Much of the hardware it is developing uses technology developed for the ion-driven Dawn spacecraft, which visited the asteroid belt last year, and the 702 series of high-power communication satellites.
News Article | February 23, 2017
Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, has out-of-this-world ambitions – with expansion plans to match. Permit filings at the city of Kent, Wash., reveal plans for a 236,000-square-foot warehouse complex and 102,900 square feet of office space, southwest of Blue Origin’s current 300,000-square-foot headquarters and rocket production facility in an industrial area of the city. Last year, Blue Origin purchased a 120,000-square-foot warehouse building across the street from its headquarters to support the production of the company’s BE-3 and BE-4 rocket engines, as well as its New Shepard suborbital boosters and crew capsules. “When we go to the next step with our next rocket, we’re going to use that building as a bigger facility for production,” the Puget Sound Business Journal quoted Blue Origin’s president, Rob Meyerson, as saying. Blue Origin didn’t respond to GeekWire’s inquiries about the existing warehouse building, or the bigger project that’s under consideration. But a planner for the city of Kent, Jason Garnham, confirmed that the future project is still in the works. In an email, Garnham told GeekWire that the construction permit applications are “currently on hold, pending our request for more information regarding environmental conditions of the site.” “Meanwhile, the project is also under review by other jurisdictions such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the applicant is awaiting review and approval by those agencies before proceeding,” Garnham said. The reviews could take another two to four months, he said. The project is listed in city records as “Avenue 55 Blue Origin.” Avenue 55, a Seattle-based development management company, did not respond to GeekWire’s requests for comment. Blue Origin’s workforce is growing along with its expansion plans. Last March, the company said it had 600 employees, but the number has since risen closer to 1,000. More than 100 job openings are listed on its website. Virtually all of those jobs are in Kent, 16 miles south of Seattle, with a smattering of additional openings at Blue Origin’s West Texas suborbital launch site and at its Florida office. A 750,000-square-foot factory is currently under construction near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and it’s due to be ready to manufacture Blue Origin’s New Glenn orbital rockets by the end of 2017. The end of this year is just about the time that Blue Origin hopes to start putting test astronauts on New Shepard’s suborbital spaceflights in West Texas. The New Shepard capsule, which has been tested six times over the course of the past two years, is capable of carrying up to six people to altitudes beyond 62 miles. The ride provides several minutes of weightlessness and an astronaut’s-eye view of Earth. During a recent interview published by the Welland Tribune in Ontario, newly hired Blue Origin engineer Ben Laurence said the company’s testing plan calls for three crew members to pilot the spacecraft. “The other three spots are being filled through a lottery within the company,” Laurence said. Laurence said he’d love to go. And Bezos has said paying passengers could be flying as early as 2018, although the ticket price hasn’t yet been set and reservations aren’t yet being taken. The New Shepard is powered by Blue Origin’s hydrogen-fueled BE-3 rocket engine, but the New Glenn will make use of the BE-4, a more powerful engine that burns liquefied natural gas. The BE-4 is also the current favorite for use on United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Vulcan rocket. However, Blue Origin is facing competition on that score from Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine. ULA is waiting to get the results from the first full-scale BE-4 engine firing before making its choice. That all-up static fire test is expected to take place sometime in the next few months. If the tests go the way Bezos hopes, Blue Origin aims to ramp up BE-4 operations to reach full production by 2019, either in Kent or someplace else – like Florida, for instance. In Florida, state and local officials have already set aside at least $18 million in incentives for Blue Origin’s orbital operations, and are talking about allocating $17 million more. Meanwhile, the Washington Legislature is considering a bill that would provide tax credits for Blue Origin and other companies engaged in advanced space manufacturing, as well as biotech and environmental ventures. For what it’s worth, an analysis from the Washington Department of Revenue suggests that the credits could have a fiscal impact of $30 million over the next two years. Not all of the credits would go to Blue Origin, of course. How many of Blue Origin’s big plans will turn into reality? Where and when will that happen? Figuring out the economic and policy calculations that will drive Jeff Bezos’ decisions over the next year could get as complicated as, well, rocket science.
News Article | March 1, 2017
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., March 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 March 1 at 9:50 a.m. PST. Designated NROL-79, the mission is in support of...
News Article | February 15, 2017
Hollaender® Manufacturing has introduced a new family of Speed-Rail® solar pipe rack fittings which allow installers of Unirac® ULA large array pipe rack kits to use standard 2” IPS Sch. 40 pipe as cross braces in place of the current Unirac® supplied square braces. The new fittings may reduce the cost per watt of installed solar rack by allowing installers to use the same pipe for cross bracing as is used for other pipe components. Hollaender® pipe rack fittings include the 25R-9 which replaces the ULA rear cap; the 17 adjustable tee that replaces the ULA slider; the 25S-9 that replaces the ULA front cap; and the 5-9 that replaces the ULA front cap when no bracing is required. Hollaender’s® Speed-Rail® slip-on pipe fittings are used with aluminum or galvanized steel, to easily and cost-effectively build solar panel racking systems. They are strong and lightweight, and come in a wide variety of fixed and adjustable configurations, including the tees and flanges most commonly used in solar panel installations. All Speed-Rail fittings are made of 535.0 aluminum-magnesium and are the most corrosion resistant fittings on the market. They are backed by a 10-year warranty against corrosion, will not rust, and can be used with galvanized steel or other metals without concern for galvanic corrosion. Solar rack systems that utilize Speed-Rail® fittings install quickly, securely and cost effectively, especially when compared to welded and other more complex systems. Hollaender® can provide engineering data to solar rack installers when provided with dimensions of the existing ULA system via email at sales(at)hollaender(dot)com.
News Article | January 21, 2017
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral on Friday, Jan. 20. The launch that was initially scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 19 was postponed due to some glitch in the sensor when the restricted area was fouled by an aircraft. The ULA's Atlas V rocket took off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:42 p.m. ET, on a mission that is valued around $1.2 billion. The weather squadron of the U.S. Air Force cited that conditions were favorable by 70 percent when the 19 storey workhorse thundered away from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Tech Times reported that the Atlas V will be carrying a 10,000 pound geosynchronous missile detection satellite designed by the U.S. Air Force. The satellite also referred to as space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-3 was dropped off in orbit 44 minutes later, on its way to a surveillance post more than 22,000 miles above the surface of the earth. Reports suggest that Atlas V's Russian built RD-180 generated 860,200 pounds of thrust and quickly boosted the rocket and its payload out of the dense lower atmosphere. Four minutes after the lift-off the Russian-built engine shut down as was planned and then the flight continued on the power of the Centaur second stage's single hydrogen-fueled Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine. After a second Centaur "burn," the SBIRS was released to fly on its own in an initially elliptical orbit. For the next nine days, the thrusters placed on board will put the solar-powered spacecraft into the circular orbit, situated 22,300 miles above the equator. "Geo Flight 3 will provide faster and more accurate missile warning to the warfighter, detect dimmer events and shorter missile burns than the ... DSP satellites," says Dennis Bythewood, the Director of Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center in L.A. GEO-3 will join the other two satellites GEO-1 and GEO-2, that are already up there and were launched in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The satellites are reportedly equipped with two infrared imagers, one will scan the disc of the Earth while the other one will focus on specific areas of interest. GEO-3 is SBIRS's third satellite while the fourth is scheduled for November 2017. The fourth satellite will be fitted with state-of-the-art infrared and "staring" sensors to keep an eye out for Earth. The sensors in the satellite can detect the heat of any missile produced during a rocket launch and will be able to quickly trace the course of the missile from its original location. The fifth and sixth satellites are still in the production. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | March 1, 2017
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 March 1 at 9:50 a.m. PST. Designated NROL-79, the mission is in support of national defense. "I am so impressed by the incredible teamwork between the NRO, U.S. Air Force our industry partners and the ULA team that resulted in today's successful launch. The integrated mission team overcame many challenges, including delays associated with the Vandenberg Canyon Fire last year," said Laura Maginnis, vice president, Government Satellite Launch. "Tragically, Ventura County firefighter Ryan Osler lost his life en route to assist in fighting the fire. We are honored to dedicate today's mission to Ralph and his family. Thank you to all of the men and women who worked to deliver this critical asset for our nation's security." This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter-diameter extended payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine. This is ULA's second launch in 2017 and the 117th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006. ULA's next launch is the Delta IV WGS-9 satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The launch is scheduled for March 8 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems. With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation's most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 115 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system. Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.
News Article | January 20, 2017
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) is geared up for its maiden mission of 2017 with the launch of the Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Initially, it was scheduled to be launched on Thursday, Jan. 19, but it has now been reported that the launch will take place on Friday, Jan. 20, instead. The ULA was established in 2006 and is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security. The company provides launch services to the U.S. government. It is reported, that the ULA will provide a live feed of the launch on YouTube. The $1.2 billion mission was initially scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7:46PM ET. However, due to sensor-related issues, when the Eastern Range was fouled by an aircraft, the ULA rescheduled the launch to Friday, Jan. 20, with a T-0 of 19:52 local time. According to the plan, a satellite designed by the U.S. Air Force will take ride on the ULA's Atlas V rocket into the high orbit. The geosynchronous missile detection satellite dubbed the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-3 will detect any missile launches so that it can issue an alert prior to any impending threats. It will detect the heat signatures that any missile will produce when it's about to get launched, this will give U.S military enough time to prepare themselves or to activate any defensive measure to counter the imminent threat. To provide this warning SBIRS utilizes satellites in two different orbital paths along with the data processing facilities available on the ground. GEO-3 is the third dedicated satellite that is about to make a journey to the geosynchronous orbit, situated 22,000 miles above the earth's surface. The other two satellites that are already there are GEO-1 and GEO-2 launched in 2011 and 2013, respectively. "SBIRS, considered one of the nation's highest-priority space programs, is designed to provide global, persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities to meet 21st-century demands in four national security mission areas, including missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness," noted a ULA representative in the mission description. Based on the contract made in 1996, Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for this SBIRS program, with the SBIRS-GEO spacecraft based around the company's A2100M platform. Each satellite has a mass of about 4.5 tons (4.4 Imperial tons, 5.0 US tons) and comes with a design which will last for 12 years. The satellites are packed with two infrared imagers, one of them scans the disc of the Earth while the other focuses on specific areas of interest. The imaging payload was manufactured by Northrup Grumman, which acquired TRW Incorporated (the main contractor of the earlier DSP program) in 2002. GEO-3 was supposed to launch in October 2016, however it was delayed due Lockheed's investigation into an issue related to the engine component. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 15, 2017
An enormously successful first annual Space Settlement Summit hosted by the National Space Society (NSS) occurred on January 10-11, 2017, in Santa Monica, California. Industry leaders, financial experts, scientists and engineers, and leading space activists were brought together to assess the state of the art driving space settlement. The NSS invitation-only Space Settlement Summit featured industry leaders including Josh Brost, Director of Government Business Development SpaceX, Dr. George Sowers, VP Advanced Programs ULA, Michael T. Suffredini, President Axiom Space, Steven Oldham, Senior VP MDA, Karlton Johnson, Director Information Risk Management Arconic, Jeff Manber, CEO Nanoracks, Akshay Patel, VP Strategy and Business Development Planetary Resources, and energy CEO and famous actor Harry Hamlin. Special guest Astronaut Yvonne Cagle headlined a dinner event celebrating the success of the movie HIDDEN FIGURES, speaking on recent medical advances from NASA. Key industry experts speaking included Dr. John C. Mankins on space solar power, Lt. Col. Thomas P. Schilling USAF on ultra-low cost access to space, Steve Wolfe of SpaceCom on open-source space settlement design, and Jeff Greason (XCOR founder) on funding space startups. "The resources of Earth are limited and humanity is increasingly constrained by these limits. This is particularly true when reasonable environmental considerations are taken into account," said Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee. "Fortunately, the vast majority of the resources of the solar system both in terms of energy and materials lie in space rather than on Earth. Space settlement allows us to tap into these resources, thus smashing the resource constraints of Earth. Space settlement can create a hopeful prosperous future for all of humanity." "With Elon Musk calling for the colonization of Mars, and Jeff Bezos looking forward to millions of people living and working in space, space settlement is an idea whose time has come," said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. "NSS has been developing a Roadmap for space settlement for a number of years (see http://www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap/)," added Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President and Senior Operating Officer. "The Space Settlement Summit will provide input that guides NSS's current updating of the Roadmap. Anyone interested in learning more about how NSS is supporting space development and settlement should attend the International Space Development Conference in St. Louis Missouri May 25-29 (http://isdc2017.nss.org/)."
News Article | February 20, 2017
The proposed plan of SpaceX to send a robotic mission to Mars in 2018 has been changed to a new schedule. Now, the rover mission will be deferred for two years. Dubbed Red Dragon mission, the mission will take off in 2020 with due preparations, according to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. "We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program, so we're looking more in the 2020 time frame for that," Shotwell clarified. The Space X will use a modified Dragon V2 capsule for the mission. There is also a plan to launch a rocket every 26 months to Mars when it is aligned with Earth. The company's first manned mission to Mars will be in 2024 or 2026. According to Shotwell, the Red Dragon mission will be very exciting as SpaceX will facilitate many science experiments and payloads to the Martian surface. Red Dragon will carry equipment useful for future Mars mission crew. The NASA will spend close to $30 million in helping SpaceX launch the capsule to Mars. It will have all the functions of entry, descent, and landing (EDL). The capsule will deliver payloads of one ton (2,200 pounds) to the surface of the Red Planet without a parachute, as the use of one requires significant vehicle modifications. The aerodynamic drag will also assist the capsule to land at higher elevations with 6.2 miles of landing accuracy compared to using a parachute. Potential landing sites would be polar or mid-latitude sites with near-surface ice. Being cost effective, the Red Dragon mission will do good for NASA in obtaining Mars samples for study. It has the required systems to bring samples from Mars such as Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), hardware, and the Earth Return Vehicle (ERV). The Falcon Heavy rocket to be used for Red Dragon mission will be the largest ever launcher and can carry heavy payloads to distant parts of the solar system. Meanwhile, Space X has to gear up for transporting NASA astronauts to the International Space Station by 2018. NASA had awarded contracts to two private companies for such missions-Space X and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. A report by the Government Accountability Office that runs investigations for congress gave an update in January about the SpaceX's progress on building a crew vehicle for NASA for the ISS missions. It said both companies are lagging behind their deadlines. The launch systems were to be certified by end of this year, but both companies are delaying the launches to 2018. SpaceX and ULA were supposed to have their launch systems ready for certification review but have delayed their launches until 2018. There is pressure on SpaceX as ISS retirement is in sight by 2024. "The longer the delay is on these commercial launch systems, the less time these companies will have to demonstrate repeated flights to the station," said Christina Chaplain, director for the GAO review. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.