Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has released this video clip which spectularly shows its latest up and down flight during its experimentation with a rocket test vehicle exploring the science and art of operating reusable first stages. On June 14, SpaceX’s Grasshopper flew 325 m (1066 feet) from its luanch pad in McGregor, Texas, an altitude higher than Manhattan’s Chrysler Building, before smoothly landing back on the pad.
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Having previously hinted that he would make an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of stock in his SpaceX rocket firm after the success of the IPOs of the Tesla electric car firm and the SolarCity firm, billionaire entrepeneur Elon Musk now appears to have back tracked on the plan. Or rather he has noted that a SpaceX IPO will be a long time into the future. His response on Twitter to suggestions that an IPO was imminent was: “No near term plans to IPO @SpaceX. Only possible in very long term when Mars Colonial Transporter is flying regularly.” From this it has been taken that any SpaceX IPO could be years away.
Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) has announced that its latest version of its Merlin first stage and booster engine, the Merlin 1, has achieved flight qualification, follwing a 28 test qualification program. The Merlin 1D accumulated 1,970 seconds of total test time, the equivalent run time of over 10 full mission durations. The program included four tests at or above the power (147,000lb of thrust) and duration (185 seconds) required for a Falcon 9 rocket launch. The Merlin 1D engine was also tested at propellant inlet and operating conditions that were well outside the bounds of expected flight conditions.
The SpaceX Dragon CRS-2 cargo capsule was initially successfully launched by an Falcon 9 launch vehicle at 1510 GMT from Cape Canaveral on 1 March 2013. The initial orbit achieved was 329 x 199km at an inclination of 51.66 degrees. As part of its NASA funded commercial mission, the spacecraft was then to rendezvous with the International Space Station to be docked after being grappled by the station’s robot arm. However, it has emerged that a thruser anomaly delayed the spacecraft opening its solar arrays.
While NASA is already helping Boeing with its inquiry into how and why Boeing 787 aircraft batteries have been over heating recently, the rocket-to-electric car entrepreneur who leads both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Elon Musk has given his opinion to Flightglobal about why, in his view, the lithium-ion batteries used on the Boeing 787 are fundementally unsafe. Musk notes that the cells are too large and not protected enough to not get into runaway overheating state.
Space Year Review 2012: Launch vehicles – Falcon 9, Delta IV and Soyuz show robustness in mishaps but not so for Safir or Proton
According to the Flightglobal SpaceTrak database, at 78 orbital launch attempts in 2012, there were six less launches than in the previous year. With 139 spacecraft on these flights (Shenzhou 9′s orbital module is counted as an autonomous spacecraft) there were two more launched in the year compared to 2011.This increase is mainly as a result of an increase in the number of small satellites of under 100kg (38 in 2012 compared to 23 in 2011) which were often launched as multiple payloads.
Elon Musk, the billionaire Internet, clean energy and rocket entrepreneur who made his initial fortunes in the internet business, most noticeably via his interest in the sale of the Paypal business, has just added to his wealth via the public sale of the solar generation leasing firm, Solar City, in which he had a shareholding.
Opinion: Super-competitive SpaceX might soon have to turn business away if it does not get its flight rate up
There were yet more launch contract “wins” for SpaceX as it secured two launch orders for the US Air Force, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in 2014 and the Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) in 2015, under a US Air Force Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3) contract. The contracts are the first steps in breaking the ULA (United Launch Alliance) strangle hold on US government launch contracts.
While the Falcon 9 launch vehicle of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is repidly becoming the commercial launch vehicle of choice due to its low price (though Arianespace remains market leader), satellite operators are still wary of Falcon 9 launch schedule delays. As such, some operators are now booking back up launches with other launch providers lest SpaceX cannot get their “birds” up on time.
ESA really had three choices with respect to its launch vehicle development: it could built the Ariane 5 ME which might buy a little more time for Arianespace; or It could develop the module expendable (and cheaper) Ariane 6 rocket; or it could go for a full scale reusable or partially reusable rocket design. Each option had downsides.
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