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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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Sunday, January 11, 2015

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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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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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February 18, 2010

Plane crash in California kills three

Plane crash in California kills three – Wikinews, the free news source

Plane crash in California kills three

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

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A similar Cessna 310.
Image: Ahunt.

A Cessna 310 plane hit an electrical pylon in Northern California shortly after taking off Wednesday. All three of the plane’s passengers were killed. The plane’s wing struck a house which caught fire, along with parked cars. No injuries on the ground were reported.

The crash occurred at 7:55 am local time (15:55 UTC). The Federal Aviation Administration said that the plane was originating from Palo Alto Airport and was en route to Hawthorne Municipal Airport in Hawthorne, California.

The persons killed were employees of Tesla Motors, later identified as Doug Bourn, Andrew Ingram, and Brian Finn, all involved with electronics at the company. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, released a statement saying, in part, “Tesla is a small, tightly-knit company, and this is a tragic day for us.”

The plane was registered to Air Unique Incorporated, in Santa Clara, California, which is owned by another Tesla employee Doug Bourn.


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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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August 21, 2006

NASA chooses Woomera, South Australia for rocket launch site

NASA chooses Woomera, South Australia for rocket launch site

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Monday, August 21, 2006

International Space Station. Photo taken from shuttle Discovery in August 2005

NASA has announced that rockets will be launched from Woomera in outback South Australia to service the International Space Station (ISS) — starting in 2008. NASA has selected two American companies to launch rockets from the Woomera base. Rocket Plane Kistler and Space-X will conduct orbital flight tests and commercial operations. The Woomera site would also be used to launch cargo such as fuel and food to the ISS as often as every two weeks.

Woomera, named for an Aboriginal spear-throwing tool, was originally involved in testing of long-range missiles and rockets for Britain during the Cold War. The site was also recently used by the Australian government to incarcerate asylum-seeking refugees.

SpaceX based in California, and Rocketplane-Kistler of Oklahoma City, will share up to $US500 million in NASA seed money to develop their launch vehicles. NASA has stated it wants commercial firms to take over ISS transportation services after the space shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.

SpaceX, owned by Internet entrepreneur and PayPal founder Elon Musk, made its launch debut in March with the Falcon 1 rocket but the vehicle failed shortly after lift-off. The two companies secured the NASA contract to demonstrate its “commercial orbital transportation services”. Kistler has scheduled the first launch of its K-1 rocket from Woomera in late 2008.

Woomera, South Australia

Kistler said work on a $100 million launch site at Woomera was expected to start in October. The site should be completed by the end of next year. Kistler Woomera chairman Alan Evans said the contract meant “hundreds of jobs” would be created within the aerospace industry in South Australia. “The jobs will be within the high-level end of the spectrum of the space industry, which is great news for the state,” he said.

K-1 will have crew transportation capabilities, meaning the Woomera site could see astronauts leave from Australia. The site may also be used to transport satellites into space for telecom companies and defence organisations. The K-1 launch vehicle is designed to be re-used 100 times. It is powered by liquid-propellant engines and lands back on Earth with the help of parachutes and airbags.

“Woomera was chosen because it can be used for polar and equatorial launches and because of its clean land areas,” Mr Evans said. “Kistler has already spent US$700 million developing this idea.”

Rocketplane Kistler say their K-1 launch system will also provide low cost space access for satellites and research payloads. Their sub-orbital XP Spaceplane is 50% complete, and scheduled for first flight in late 2008. The K-1’s hardware is 75% complete — and is scheduled for first flight in 2008.

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February 21, 2006

SpaceX delays Falcon 1 launch again

SpaceX delays Falcon 1 launch again – Wikinews, the free news source

SpaceX delays Falcon 1 launch again

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

SpaceX Corporation has postponed the launch of the maiden flight of their Falcon 1 rocket again at their Kwajalein launch facility. Although not as damaging as the previous delay on November 11, this is certainly a significant set back for Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX.

A full engine test was conducted on the rocket, and the launch pad equipment which holds the rocket on the launch pad after engine firing seemed to work as planned. This safety equipment is designed to keep the rocket from causing damage or being destroyed in the event that some equipment malfunction occurs immediately after the rocket engines start. Under similar circumstances with other rockets the entire rocket together with its payload would have been destroyed due to a computer report of malfunction.

The exact reasons for failure were not disclosed by SpaceX, but Elon Musk said on his web site, “I will post a longer update next week, after we have enough time to finish forensics of recent events and formulate next steps.”

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November 28, 2005

SpaceX scrubs Falcon I rocket launch

SpaceX scrubs Falcon I rocket launch – Wikinews, the free news source

SpaceX scrubs Falcon I rocket launch

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Monday, November 28, 2005

TacSat-1 spacecraft, which was supposed to be the successor to the Falcon I

SpaceX called off the much-delayed inaugural launch of their new Falcon 1 rocket on Saturday from Kwajalein’s Omelek Island launch site. The intent was to launch the U.S. Air Force Academy’s FalconSat 2 satellite, which will monitor plasma interactions with the Earth’s upper atmosphere and magnetosphere.

The launch was delayed, then finally cancelled after an oxygen boil-off vent had accidentally been left open. The oxygen was unable to cool the helium pressurant, which then proceeded to evaporate faster than it could be replenished. A main computer issue, probably serious enough to cause a scrub on its own, was also discovered.

This long-anticipated flight was originally expected to be launched in January 2005, however a series of setbacks forced a series of delays, with the flight most recently scheduled to be in early 2006. It was intended to be launched from the Kwajalein atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The maiden voyage was originally intended to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a Naval Research Laboratory satellite and a Space Services Incorporated space burial payload.

SpaceX

SpaceX is a startup company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, who is also known for founding the PayPal online payment service. The launch price per pound for the Falcon I is substantially cheaper than that of other US launch vehicles. In the past Musk has stated, “Long term plans call for development of a heavy lift product and even a super-heavy, if there is customer demand. We expect that each size increase would result in a meaningful decrease in cost per pound to orbit. For example, dollar cost per pound to orbit dropped from $4,000 to $1,300 ($8,800/kg to $2,900/kg) between Falcon 1 and Falcon 5. Ultimately, I believe $500 per pound ($1,100/kg) or less is very achievable.”

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