Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dragon Splashdown Marks End of Landmark Flight

SpaceX completed a landmark mission May 31 that saw its Dragon capsule deliver half-a-ton of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station and return safely to Earth.

The flight made history as the first privately built spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station. Its true impact is expected to be seen in coming months as the company sends regular re-supply missions to the orbiting outpost and continues work to launch astronauts into orbit in a few years.

“We are hoping to continue working with NASA and hopefully flying crew within three years,” said Elon Musk, the founder, CEO and chief designer for the Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX. “This was a crucial step and makes the chances of becoming a multi planet species more likely.”

NASA engineers worked closely with SpaceX throughout preparations for the uncrewed demonstration mission.

“As a country, we should be very proud,” said Mike Suffredini, NASA International Space Station program manager. We took a capability that this agency has nurtured over many years, combined that with a different thought process in spacecraft design and created a team that worked very well. The SpaceX team learned a lot and so did our NASA engineers.”

The SpaceX mission combined the goals of two separate flights under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Program, known as COTS. Originally slated to fly by the station and then come back to Earth, SpaceX and the NASA agreed to let the Dragon connect to the laboratory as long as a string of performance tests were successful.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SpaceX signs first commercial customer for Falcon Heavy

SpaceX announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket Tuesday, unveiling a deal with Intelsat, the world’s largest communications satellite operator.

The company’s statement did not say when or where the launch will occur, but one industry source said Intelsat is eyeing 2017 or 2018 for the mission.

Intelsat has not identified a satellite for the launch, and Alex Horwitz, an Intelsat spokesperson, said the company has not decided whether the flight would launch a single or multiple payloads.

The contract’s monetary value was also not disclosed, but SpaceX has said the Falcon Heavy would sell for between $80 million and $125 million per flight, about one-third the price of a less powerful United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket.

“SpaceX is very proud to have the confidence of Intelsat, a leader in the satellite communication services industry,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO and chief designer. “The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world. With this new vehicle, SpaceX launch systems now cover the entire spectrum of the launch needs for commercial, civil and national security customers.”

The Falcon Heavy is designed to haul the largest U.S. government and commercial satellites into orbit, and it could dispatch up to 30,000 pounds of payload on a trajectory to Mars.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

SpaceX Commercial Spacecraft Makes History With 1st Space Station Flyby

A private spaceship on its first trip to the International Space Station made a flyby of the orbiting laboratory early Thursday (May 24), zipping just below the outpot in an unprecedented space first.

The unmanned vehicle, called Dragon, is built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), and is the first commercial spacecraft ever launched toward the space station. During the rendezvous, the spacecraft approached within 1.6 miles (2.5 km) of the outpost. Dragon launched to orbit from Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday (May 22) atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and is due to arrive at the station on Friday (May 25).

Today is a final testing day for the capsule before it can be cleared to attempt its first docking. Crewmembers inside the orbiting lab have been monitoring the vehicle’s activities.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch (2001-02-07)

The launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-98) from near Cocoa Beach:

Mission: International Space Station Assembly Flight 5A
Space Shuttle: Atlantis
Launch Pad: 39A
Launched: February 7, 2001, 6:13:02 p.m. EST
Landing Site: Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Landing: February 20, 2001, 3:33 p.m. EST
Runway: 22
Rollout Time: 57 seconds
Revolution: 203
Mission Duration: 12 days, 20 hours, 20 minutes and 4 seconds
Miles Traveled: 5.3 million

Crew:

Kenneth D. Cockrell (4), Commander
Mark L. Polansky (1), Pilot
Robert L. Curbeam (2), Mission Specialist
Thomas D. Jones (4), Mission Specialist
Marsha S. Ivins (5), Mission Specialist

Payload:

7th Space Station Assembly Flight ISS-07-5A (US Lab), ORU, PDGF

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Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour (2010-02-08)

The last scheduled night launch (if you consider 4:15 am “night” anyway) of a shuttle as seen from my back yard…

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