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January 11, 2015

SpaceX launches fifth resupply rocket to International Space Station

SpaceX launches fifth resupply rocket to International Space Station

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Space transport services company SpaceX launched their fifth Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station yesterday. The spacecraft — containing more than 2,200kg (5,000 pounds) of food, experiments, and spare parts — successfully decoupled from the launch rocket and should reach the station early tomorrow.

File photo of SpaceX headquarters.
Image: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño.

The launch was postponed from Tuesday because of a technical issue on the second stage of the rocket. The shipment includes replacements for cargo aboard the spaceship Cygnus, destroyed during a failed launch in October. Cygnus belonged to the rival Orbital Sciences Corporation.

SpaceX tried unsuccessfully to land the Falcon 9 delivery rocket for reuse. The rocket reached an unmanned barge in the Atlantic, but landed too hard. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the landing “bodes well for the future, though”. The attempted salvage of the rocket was experimental, using new retractable fins. Next time they will add extra hydraulic fluid, Musk said.

The ship’s support equipment was damaged but, according to Musk, the barge is intact. Last year saw two successful SpaceX splashdowns but landing on such a small target as a ship is unique.



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November 19, 2012

Expedition 33 crew returns to Earth

Expedition 33 crew returns to Earth – Wikinews, the free news source

Expedition 33 crew returns to Earth

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Monday, November 19, 2012

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Recovery forces receive the astronauts.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Three astronauts return to Earth today, after touching down safely in Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz capsule in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning. The landing marks the culmination of a 127 day mission to the international space station, and only the fourth time a Soyuz capsule has landed at night in its missions to the International Space Station (ISS).

Astronauts Yuri Malenchenko, Sunita Williams, and Akihiko Hoshide were carried to reclining chairs to help them re-acclimate to gravity after being extracted from the sideways capsule by Russian recovery forces. The astronauts bundled up in their recliners as air temperature at the site hit -11°C (12°F).

The group started their trip to the ISS on July 15 launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. In their four and a half month stay on the station they completed a variety of different studies including the effects of microgravity on the human spine and studying melting glaciers. They also were aboard to receive the first commercial shipment made by SpaceX’s Dragon cargo resupply mission.

“It was a beautiful departure. It was just beautiful to watch the ship fly away,” said Kevin Ford, now the current commander of the ISS. Ford was passed command of the ISS after in a change of command ceremony on Saturday. During the ceremony Williams remarked, “I think we’ve left the ship in good shape and I’m honored to hand it over to Kevin.”

Upon approval of the medical team Williams and Hoshide will return to Houston, Texas, while Malenchenko heads back to Star City, Russia.



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December 10, 2010

SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches for the first time

SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches for the first time

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Friday, December 10, 2010

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Artist’s conception of the Dragon spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.
Image: NASA.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), a commercial spaceflight company, has successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft on its maiden voyage to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Wednesday. The launch was followed by a successful landing of the unmanned capsule in the Pacific Ocean hours later.

During its maiden flight, the Dragon capsule completed about two orbits around the Earth and executed successful de-orbiting operations, followed by successful reentry, parachute deployment, and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico.

The Dragon spacecraft is the first commercial space transport certified to reach orbit and return to Earth. The successful flight of the Dragon spacecraft makes SpaceX the first private firm to launch its own craft to orbit and return it to Earth.

The Dragon spacecraft is part of a contract between the California-based commercial spaceflight company and the United States’ space agency, NASA, to provide transport for crews and supplies to and from the International Space Station.



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November 23, 2010

SpaceX Dragon spacecraft certified by US Federal Aviation Administration

SpaceX Dragon spacecraft certified by US Federal Aviation Administration

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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Artist’s rendering of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.
Image: NASA.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a commercial spaceflight company better known as SpaceX, has received Federal Aviation Administration certification for its Dragon spacecraft. This certification, the first of its kind granted by the FAA, serves as a commercial license to re-enter a spacecraft from earth orbit.

According to NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, “With this license in hand, SpaceX can proceed with its launch of the Dragon capsule. The flight of Dragon will be an important step toward commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station.” NASA is contracting SpaceX to provide commercial transport of future crews and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

The maiden launch of the Dragon spacecraft is currently scheduled for December 7. The launch vehicle will be the Falcon 9 rocket, which made its maiden flight in June. During this first flight, the Dragon capsule is to launch, orbit the earth, and splash down in the Pacific Ocean.

“Milestones are an important part of space exploration and SpaceX achieved a very important one today,” according to NASA official Doug Cooke, “I congratulate SpaceX on this landmark achievement and wish them the best with their launch of the Dragon capsule.”



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June 4, 2010

SpaceX launches first Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX launches first Falcon 9 rocket – Wikinews, the free news source

SpaceX launches first Falcon 9 rocket

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Friday, June 4, 2010

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Profiles of Dragon Cargo and Dragon Crew capsule configurations.
Image: NASA.

Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX, successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket for the first time at 1845 UTC ( 2:45 pm EDT) from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States.

Artist rendering of SpaceX Dragon spacecraft delivering cargo to the International Space Station.
Image: NASA.

The Falcon 9, second in the Falcon series of rockets, has a first stage that is powered by nine Merlin 1C engines, and a second stage powered by one Merlin vacuum engine. Today’s inaugural launch carried the Dragon Spacecraft Qualification Unit (DSQU), a boilerplate version of the Dragon capsule. The Dragon is intended to take cargo — and possibly people — to the International Space Station through NASA’s COTS program. The program is intended to help develop commercial space transportation, a goal that fits with President Obama’s recent change of direction for NASA. Under President Obama’s new plan, NASA would hand over the mundane task of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) launches to private companies, and instead concentrate on new technology development.

However, no private firms yet have the capability to independently launch humans into space, without NASA assistance. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk hopes that the Falcon 9 will eventually fill the void in human rated commercial rockets, but he also recognizes the inherent risk and danger of rocket launches. “There’s nothing more fear and anxiety-inducing than a rocket launch,” said Musk.

Not everyone agrees with President Obama and Elon Musk. Republican Senator Richard Shelby doesn’t think private firms are ready for the challenge of taking humans into space, preferring that government funding be directed to NASA instead. “Today the commercial providers that NASA has contracted with cannot even carry the trash back from the space station, much less carry humans to or from space safely,” the Senator said.

Although today’s launch succeeded, Musk had said earlier neither the success nor failure of the Falcon 9 would be the ultimate arbitrator of the fate of NASA’s new commercial-friendly direction. “They sort of focus everything on us and try to create a situation where our first launch of Falcon 9 is somehow a verdict on the president’s policy, which is not right,” he said.

Falcon 9 1 minute prior to the first, failed, launch attempt

Falcon 9 1 minute prior to the first, failed, launch attempt

The rocket shortly after the failed launch attempt

The rocket shortly after the failed launch attempt

1 minute prior to the successful second launch attempt

1 minute prior to the successful second launch attempt

The rocket during takeoff

The rocket during takeoff

The view from the rocket 1 minute after takeoff

The view from the rocket 1 minute after takeoff

The rocket shortly after the separation of the first stage

The rocket shortly after the separation of the first stage



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November 24, 2008

SpaceX successfully test fires Falcon 9 rocket in Texas

SpaceX successfully test fires Falcon 9 rocket in Texas

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Monday, November 24, 2008

A Merlin rocket engine. Each Falcon 9 rocket uses 9 Merlin engines
Image: SpaceX.

A computer simulation of a Falcon 9 launch
Image: NASA.

At 10:30pm on November 23, 2008, near the airport in McGregor, Texas, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) tested their new Falcon 9 rocket at full thrust for nearly 3 minutes (160 seconds). The engineers then shut down two of the nine engines — in order to limit potential damage to the launch pad — and continued the test for 18 more seconds before finally shutting the rocket down. “We ran the engines just like they would run during flight, but instead of being up in the air, they were held down. They weren’t moving,” said Lauren Dreyer, SpaceX’s manager for business development. This was the Falcon 9’s first major test firing, and it marks a milestone for the company in its plans to capture a section of the commercial launch market.

The test reportedly shook the windows of houses 5 miles away, causing agitation among residents who felt that they had not received adequate warning. “I appreciate the fact that the company notified [the City of] McGregor, but did they not think the test would affect the surrounding communities?” asked commenter Lorena Resident on the website for the Waco Tribune-Herald. Waco lies just east of McGregor.

The Falcon 9 rocket, and its smaller sibling the Falcon 1, are the first rockets capable of entering Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to have their design be privately funded in its entirety. According to SpaceX the Falcon 9 can generate 4 times the maximum thrust of a Boeing 747 while firing in a vacuum, and will eventually be able to perform interplanetary missions in addition to its initial role as an orbital launch vehicle. SpaceX is also designing a crew and cargo capsule for the Falcon 9, which it has named the “Dragon“.

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SpaceX is a contender for future commercial contracts from various government run space agencies, with NASA expressing particular interest. NASA will be retiring their fleet of Columbia Class Space Shuttles in 2010, but will not have the Shuttles’ replacements (the Ares I and Ares V rockets) ready until at least 2014. NASA hopes to fill some of this gap using commercial launches from companies such as SpaceX. SpaceX has already reached an agreement with NASA to conduct three test flights of the Dragon capsule in conjunction with the Falcon 9. The first of these flights is expected in 2009.

Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, said, “The full mission-length test firing clears the highest hurdle for the Falcon 9 first stage before launch. In the next few months, we will have the first Falcon 9 flight vehicle on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, preparing for lift-off in 2009.”

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September 29, 2008

SpaceX rocket successfully orbits on fourth attempt

SpaceX rocket successfully orbits on fourth attempt

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Monday, September 29, 2008

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The Merlin Engine, which powers the Falcon 1 Rocket
Image: SpaceX.

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) successfully launched and sent into orbit a Falcon 1 rocket, which was launched yesterday at 23:15 UTC from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

This was the fourth attempt to launch this class of rocket, and the first vehicle to be successfully launched by private spacecraft developers. Previous attempts to launch this vehicle ended in failure due to engineering errors. Perhaps the most critical part of this flight occurred during the stage separation between the first and second stages of this rocket. In this flight, unlike previous attempts, the separation was without incident and the second stage maintained the planned trajectory into orbit. The rocket achieved an orbit at an altitude of 135 miles above the Earth after approximately ten minutes of powered flight.

The main technical difference between the third and fourth attempts was an adjustment in the timing between shutting down the first stage rocket engine and when the stage separation takes place. On the third attempt, the first and second stages collided into each other immediately after stage separation, which in turn damaged the second stage engine and resulted in a mission failure. For this fourth attempt, the stage separation occurred without any problem, and was greeted with loud cheers and applause by SpaceX employees who were watching a live telecast of the launch at the Hawthorne, California, USA manufacturing plant. This telecast was also released as a live video feed on the SpaceX website during the launch.

While other rocket companies have been successful at sending vehicles into orbit before, this is the first vehicle that has been designed from scratch without any components that came from previous government-sponsored vehicles. This is also the first privately developed liquid-fueled vehicle that has achieved orbit.

Elon Musk, founder, primary investor, and CEO of SpaceX, congratulated his employees upon reaching this milestone, saying “That was frickin’ awesome! There’s only a handful of countries on Earth that have done this. It’s usually a country thing, not a company thing. We did it.” He also said later on, “Definitely one of the best days of my life.”

The payload of this rocket consisted of a 360 pound engineering test object made of aluminum, which was also fabricated by SpaceX in their Hawthorne manufacturing facility. Called the Ratsat, it was decorated with a logo of a rat by the SpaceX team that built it. Elon Musk estimates that it will remain in orbit for between five and ten years before burning up in the atmosphere.

Additional milestones accomplished by SpaceX on this flight included a successful deployment of parachutes on the first stage of this rocket, where SpaceX hopes to be able to recover this stage and be able to re-use that portion of the rocket on a future flight with some refurbishing. The second stage also performed an additional test by restarting its engine and moving to a higher orbit at between 300 to 450 miles (500 to 700 km) above the Earth with an inclination of 9.2 degrees, passing above the International Space Station during the maneuver.

“This is a great day for SpaceX and the culmination of an enormous amount of work by a great team,” said Elon Musk, “The data shows we achieved a super precise orbit insertion—middle of the bull’s-eye — and then went on to coast and restart the second stage, which was icing on the cake.”

SpaceX is offering future flights of the Falcon 1 to the public for a price of about $7.9 million USD each, although Mr. Musk estimated that the total cost to test and develop this rocket, including the three previous failed launch attempts, came to about $100 million USD.

The next launch of the Falcon 1 is slated to happen sometime toward the end of the year, with a satellite that was manufactured and paid by the Malaysian government. Also scheduled for early next year is the maiden flight of the Falcon 9 rocket, which uses a multiples of nine rocket engines that are identical to the engine that was used in today’s launch as well as many of the other components that were used on the Falcon 1. SpaceX is also under contract with NASA to develop a vehicle called the Dragon that will be supplying cargo to the International Space Station under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. This spacecraft is also intended to eventually be capable of manned spaceflight.


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April 27, 2008

Last Titan launch complex at Cape Canaveral demolished

Last Titan launch complex at Cape Canaveral demolished

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

The MSS after being toppled with explosive charges.
Image: NASA.

Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Merritt Island, Florida has been demolished. The Mobile Service Structure (MSS), which was once used to load payloads onto Titan III and Titan IV rockets, was toppled by explosive charges at 13:00 GMT (09:00 local time). The launch tower had already been dismantled.

Complex 40 was first used in 1965, for the maiden flight of the Titan IIIC rocket. Following the second Titan III launch, it was modified to serve as a launch pad for the US Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). In November 1966, a boilerplate MOL space station was launched on a Titan IIIC from the complex, along with a Gemini capsule, and four satellites. Following the cancellation of MOL, it was converted back to a regular Titan launch complex, and was used for 55 launches, of Titan IIIC, 34D, and IV rockets. Two planetary probes, two commercial satellites, a British military communications satellite, and numerous payloads for the American armed forces were launched from the complex, which ceased operations in April 2005, when the penultimate Titan IV launched the Lacrosse-5 spy satellite for America’s National Reconnaissance Office.

Along with Launch Complex 41, which was demolished in 1999, LC-40 was used for heavy-lift Titan rocket launches. The Mars Observer and Cassini-Huygens missions to Mars and Saturn respectively were launched from Complex 40. The launch pad is being demolished to make way for a new complex, which will be used by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, currently scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2009. As well as being used for commercial launches, the new LC-40 will be used for cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, under a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract with NASA. It could eventually be used for manned missions using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX currently has a five year lease on the site.



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