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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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August 23, 2014

SpaceX test rocket crashes in Texas

SpaceX test rocket crashes in Texas – Wikinews, the free news source

SpaceX test rocket crashes in Texas

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The crashed rocket is a test unit for a reusable version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle. Pictured is the first flight of the V1.1, which launched Canada’s CASSIOPE spacecraft into a polar orbit in September 2013.
Image: U.S. Air Force/Michael Peterson.

SpaceX’s F9R test vehicle self-destructed yesterday during a test flight at their McGregor, Texas test facility. There were no injuries. According to a witness, “there is a big grass fire from falling debris.”

According to a statement issued by SpaceX, “Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times.”

John Taylor, a SpaceX spokesman, said that “[d]uring the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.” SpaceX has said that more information will be forthcoming once they’ve analyzed the flight data.



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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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August 28, 2010

Wikinews interviews William Pomerantz, Senior Director of Space Prizes at the X PRIZE Foundation

Wikinews interviews William Pomerantz, Senior Director of Space Prizes at the X PRIZE Foundation

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Regardless of who wins the prize, people all around the world will be able to experience the mission through high-def video-streams.
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Photo of William Pomerantz.
Image: X PRIZE Foundation.

Andreas Hornig, Wikinews contributor and team member of Synergy Moon, competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, managed to interview Senior Director of Space Prizes William Pomerantz of the X PRIZE Foundation about the competitions, goals, and impacts via e-mail for HDTVTotal.com and Wikinews.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngAndreas HornigWikinews waves Right.pngPlease introduce yourself and the Google Lunar X-Prize (GLXP)

Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam PomerantzWikinews waves Right.pngMy name is William Pomerantz, and I am the Senior Director of Space Prizes at the X PRIZE Foundation. In that capacity, I manage all of our space activities here at the X PRIZE, including most notably the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented international competition that is challenging and inspiring engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. By reigniting a race to the Moon, we are engaging a new generation, making lunar exploration not just a historical accomplishment but a tangible and ongoing reality. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a competition that will award US$30 million for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the Moon. The robot is required explore the Moon by travelling 500 meters along, above, or below the lunar surface and by transmitting high definition video and high resolution photos back to Earth.

Logo of the GLXP.
Image: Google.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngWhy is Google, an internet services provider, interested in philanthropic and scientific fields?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngGoogle believes that by setting an ambitious goal like landing on the surface of the Moon and by offering an incentive prize is a good way to both inspire the world and to incentivize the development of technologies and systems that will both allow us to explore the universe and, in so doing, improve the state of humanity in the world. As Larry Page said when we announced the Google Lunar X PRIZE, “science has a serious marketing problem, and I think this is the best antidote I’ve seen for that.”

A few choice words from Sergey Brin also help explain Google’s role in this endeavour: “We’re proud to sponsor the Google Lunar X PRIZE. … Google is sponsoring this PRIZE because it is really different than any other kind of corporate sponsorship that I’ve seen. It’s really going to accomplish something very, very impressive. … We hope to have helped make private space flight more viable. Efforts like this will stimulate a passion for space-related research and education in a new generation of potential innovators. … One of the things that really exited me about this project is how it can help with education. I mean, space really fascinates college students, and I think this will inspire a lot of interest in space, in the physics that surrounds it, the math, and the history of the space programs. I think all the interest and attention on this prize is going to be very beneficial to the education of our children. We’re hopeful that our sponsorship of the Lunar X PRIZE will help spark a new generation’s interest in the fields of math, science, and computer science, which should ultimately prove quite beneficial to both the international workforce in general and Google in particular.”” (WP)

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngOne of the tasks the GLXP-teams have to do is to capture and stream videos in high-definition quality from Moon back to Earth. Why is this important?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngAn important aspect of “Moon 2.0”–the new era of lunar exploration–is how participatory it is. Regardless of who wins the Google Lunar X PRIZE, millions upon millions of people all around the world will be able to experience the mission through these video streams. That’s hugely important as we look to capitalize on the excitement inherent in those voyages to get people of all background more excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngWhat conditions do these 720p videos have to meet? Bandwidth in space is still crucial and expensive, so high frame-rates and data-rates will be difficult to broadcast as a live stream and videos with frame-rates almost in still-mode aren’t interesting for audiences. So what wonderful dynamic sequences can we expect? And What cameraman’s and editor’s dreams do you want to see come true, like color-depth, contrast (finally seeing stars on Moon images not outshined by Moon’s surface) or even audio-video codec?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngWe’ve imposed a few minimum quality guidelines upon our teams, but the majority of these decisions will be left them. We want to give them the freedom to select both the shots and the technology that best fits their mission–the design of their spacecraft or spacecrafts, the landing site they chose, the manner in which they move along or above the lunar surface, et etcetera.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngWhat will happen to the video and the collected data? Is there a plan to publish the video on YouTube and to integrate the photos in Google-Earth? Is this the logic expansion of StreetView to bring people to places, where really most of us won’t never ever put a step?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngThe video and other footage will be majorly promoted around the world. We expect that this will be a massive, global story that appeals to a huge variety of audiences, and we’ll work with our partners to provide as many ways as possible for fans and for students to follow along.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngA nice little side-effect will be if one team will accomplish the secondary point to rover to one of the Apollo mission landing sites and capture images of the remaining relics. Wouldn’t it be helpful to prove a lot of Moon landing conspiracy theories wrong by finding and showing these relics? This will definitely influence the search rates of this topic on Google. And how do you achieve conservation of these almost sacred monuments of human accomplishment and not contaminating it with new tracks of landing and rover gears?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngThe Google Lunar X PRIZE includes a bonus prize for revisiting the sites of previous missions to the Moon–including not only the Apollo sites, but a variety of other robotic probe landing or impact sites. This is important not just for the reasons you mention, but also carries a huge amount of scientific significance as well. This is the reason why NASA itself has already conducted one such mission, when the Apollo 12 crew visited one of the Surveyor landers.

Our teams all understand that any such visit needs to be done respectfully, though. Thankfully, no one can appreciate the historical significance of the vehicles currently on the lunar surface more thoroughly than those people all around the world currently working on new lunar missions. Each of them will have enormous emotional incentives to ensure that whatever they do, they do respectfully–and, with teams relying largely on donors, corporate sponsors, and similar who are backing their missions to earn good will, they will have financial incentives as well.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngAlthough space-exploration has ever been an object of national prestige, the importance of international and multilateral connections are so intense that almost any big space project and mission is the result of close collaboration. The International Space Station (ISS) is on a global scale, the Ariane 5 launcher on a European scale and even the members of GLXP-teams are working together across borders. Is it possible to connect the collected data with other already collected data, like the Japanese SELENE-Mission, that Kaguya named orbiter also had a HDTV-camera on board and took videos from lunar orbit, or future missions like European long term mission plan (Aurora Programme) and Indian and Chinese missions planed to go to the Moon? Although the teams are privately funded the scientific data should be used for the benefit of everybody and that it could be validated by the scientific community.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngThe missions of the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams are indeed sure to add to the body of data used by professional and amateur scientists and engineers all around the world.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngThe Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee (Augustine Commission) last year and US President Obama’s speech in February changed the goals of the US space programs. Especially President Obama announced that the emphasis of private contractors should be strengthened to reduce public money in NASA and other related projects on the one side but also to encourage private enterprise to fill in the gaps (like private company SpaceX servicing the ISS with Falcon launchers). In this highly disputed way NASA should play the role of the arrowhead to do the high-level exploration and leaving ground for private business in low-level.

Way back before this was announced the GLXP was started. Did you foresee this and what could be GLXP’s part in this new orientation?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngIt’s difficult to say where exactly the final decision will end up regarding the future of NASA’s exploration programs, but one this is already clear: people on both sides of the debate are realizing that, if appropriately planned out, civil space agencies can greatly benefit from space exploration capabilities developed by private firms. To reach the ideal, most efficient situation, it’s important to ensure that the capabilities being developed by these commercial firms are complementary to, rather than competitive with, what NASA and its counterparts in other nations are developing. Thankfully, this is exactly the case, and indeed, we had veterans of both NASA and ESA involved in helping us draft the rules for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. In the end, the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams will be developing a large number of systems and technologies that NASA, ESA, and other agencies can use to accomplish more of the amazing things those agencies do for less money.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngAre there special points a team can get for capturing videos in stereoscopic 3D? Some Mars rovers had 3D-cameras on board and even director Cameron is investing private money to help NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Mission to get a previously dumped 3D-camera on board the Curiosity rover. On the one hand side it is scientifically worth to have this for optical measurements and on the other it will provide a more realistic view to the audience. And of course YouTube offers a beta status feature to present it in adequate ways with current stereoscopic video-players. You still have time to complete it.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngTeams will likely see some important financial incentives for capturing videos in 3D, but the Google Lunar X PRIZE itself does not explicitly reward this. Recall, though, that the Google Lunar X PRIZE should be just the first step of a long and lucrative business plan for our competing teams.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngWhat will you do for the first successful mission? is there media-coverage planned? from Twitter feeds to live-streams and of course videos on YouTube and possible documentary distribution, besides doing a celebration party on Googleplex! For the first moon landings the video is one of the most significant historical recordings and was broadcast all over the world, even with low resolution, noisy quality and in black-white. And some of this data was almost lost and poorly archived so that it had to be restored before being released in 720p for the 40th anniversary. How will you handle these priceless records?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngWe definitely plan on a huge, real-time online presence coinciding with any Google Lunar X PRIZE attempts. Social media will play a key role.

All-electric test drive by Cornell 100+ MPG Team for Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngI’m a Mars enthusiast, so what will come after the successful GLXP mission? will there be a Google Mars X-Prize eventually, or will there be a logical next step like a GLXP with sample return requirement? The X-Prize Foundation announced new Categories and more competitions every year. What can we expect?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngWe are currently considering a wide range of potential future space X PRIZEs. We’re looking at a broad range of technologies and missions, including everything from orbital debris clean up to radically more efficient launch technologies.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngIn closing, do you have a question, request or wish for our readers?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngPlease, be sure to follow along with the competition and with our teams by visiting our various web properties–see below for a list. Our teams really appreciate feedback: it is great to know that there are people out there following their progress, and cheering them on!

GLXP related websites: Official Webpage: googlelunarxprize.org YouTube Channel: youtube.com/googlelunarxprize Staff Blog: thelaunchpad.xprize.org Facebook: facebook.com/googlelunarxprize Twitter: twitter.com/glxp Tumblr: flightplan.xprize.org

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngThank you for this nice interview and clear sky for all teams!

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This interview originally appeared on HDTVTotal.com, released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Credit for this interview goes to HDTVTotal.com and Andreas -horn- Hornig.


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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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August 3, 2008

Falcon 1 rocket fails during third launch attempt

Falcon 1 rocket fails during third launch attempt

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

An engine test being conducted on a Falcon 1 in 2005
Image: Mark Mackley.

A SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket has failed during its third attempt to reach orbit. Over four years behind schedule, the rocket lifted off from Omelek Island, part of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, at 03:34 GMT this morning, carrying three technology development satellites, and the ashes of 208 people, including astronaut Gordon Cooper, and Star Trek actor James Doohan. According to a statement issued by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the first and second stages of the rocket failed to separate, making this the third consecutive unsuccessful launch for the Falcon 1, which is yet to conduct a successful mission. Musk described the failure as a “big disappointment”.

The primary payload for this flight was the Trailblazer satellite, which was to have been operated by the United States Air Force, and MDA. Two CubeSats, Pharmasat Risk Evaluation Satellite (PREsat) and Nanosail-D, were also to have been deployed. The CubeSats would have been operated by NASA and Santa Clara University. The space burial capsules, named Explorers and operated by Celestis, were to have intentionally remained bolted to the second stage of the rocket. The remains of several famous individuals were flown, most notably Project Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan, best known for his role as Montgomery Scott in the science fiction television series Star Trek. Director John Meredyth Lucas, who also worked on Star Trek, had some of his ashes on the flight as well, as did Mareta West an astrogeologist who was responsible for choosing the landing sites for the Apollo missions to the Moon. This is the second consecutive failure of a major orbital space burial mission, following a failed Taurus launch in September 2001. The last successful major orbital space burial was conducted in December 1999, although a single burial capsule was launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006.

This launch was originally planned to occur in early 2004, with the TacSat-1 satellite and the Explorers payload. It would have been the maiden flight of the Falcon 1. A number of procurement delays pushed it to 2005, and subsequent issues with the availability of Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg AFB, from where it was originally scheduled to launch, led to the first attempts to launch being made in late 2005. During the second attempted countdown, a faulty valve caused the first stage fuel tank to be deformed, leading to a delay.

In March 2006, a flight which was originally scheduled to be conducted after this one, with the FalconSat-2 spacecraft, was launched as the maiden flight, and ended in failure less than a minute after lift-off due to a fuel leak. This caused delays for all other Falcon launches, and a test flight without a functional payload was added to the schedule in order to ensure that the problems with the rocket had been resolved. This was launched in March 2007, and also failed – this time due to a sequence of events started by human error in setting the fuel ratio for the first stage. Despite the failure to reach orbit, most critical systems were tested, so the third flight was cleared to launch an operational payload.

In the meantime, the satellite that was to replace TacSat-1, TacSat-2, was launched, and TacSat-1 was subsequently cancelled as obsolete. During early 2008, the US Air Force announced that they would replace it with a satellite for a programme called Jumpstart, which would be selected a few weeks before launch. Trailblazer was chosen in late May, over two other options, PnPSat, or a pair of CubeSats. The launch was at that time scheduled for late June, but it was subsequently delayed due to small cracks in one of the rocket’s engines.

Today’s launch followed an eventful countdown, lasting almost to the end of the five hour launch window, with the loading of helium onto the rocket taking longer than expected, and requiring several long holds. Following this, an attempt to launch was made at 03:00 GMT, which resulted in a last-second abort at T-0, just after ignition of the main engine, due to a marginal performance issue with the turbopump. The launch was recycled, and the rocket lifted off 34 minutes later.

This was the first flight of an uprated version of the Merlin engine, which powers the first stage. The new version, named Merlin-1C, features regenerative cooling as opposed to ablative cooling used on the earlier launches. It is believed that the failure of the launch was unrelated to the presence of the new engine, the performance of which was described as “picture-perfect” by Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX.

The next Falcon 1 launch was scheduled to have been launched in September with the Razaksat spacecraft for ATSB of Malaysia, and up to three CubeSats. This will almost certainly be delayed whilst the failure is investigated. It is unclear whether this failure will affect the maiden flight of the larger Falcon 9, currently scheduled for 2009, on a demonstration mission for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services programme. Today’s launch is the 38th orbital launch of 2008, and following the resale and recovery of the AMC-14 satellite, the first outright failure of the year.



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Wikipedia Learn more about SpaceX and Falcon 1 on Wikipedia.
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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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