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  1. #1
    MadCrawdad's Avatar
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    Default NASA OKs Feb. launch of private space station trip



    Looks like the actual privatization of space travel is almost officially here.

    NASA OKs Feb. launch of private space station trip - Houston Chronicle

    NASA OKs Feb. launch of private space station trip
    MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer
    Updated 10:04 p.m., Friday, December 9, 2011

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A private California company will attempt the first-ever commercial cargo run to the International Space Station in February.

    NASA announced the news Friday, one year and one day after Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, became the first private business to launch a capsule into orbit and return it safely to Earth.

    On Feb. 7, SpaceX will attempt another orbital flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This time, the unmanned Dragon capsule will fly to the space station and dock with a load of supplies.

    NASA stressed it is a target date.

    "Pending all the final safety reviews and testing, SpaceX will send its Dragon spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station in less than two months," said NASA's No. 2, deputy administrator Lori Garver. "So it is the opening of that new commercial cargo delivery era."

    NASA has turned to industry to help stock the space station now that the space shuttles are retired, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in this startup effort. The station currently is supplied by Russian, European and Japanese vessels.

    SpaceX's Dragon capsule will fly within two miles of the space station, for a checkout of all its systems. Then it will close in, with station astronauts grabbing the capsule with a robotic arm. The Dragon ultimately will be released for a splashdown in the Pacific. None of the other cargo carriers come back intact; they burn up on re-entry.

    If the rendezvous and docking fail, SpaceX will try again. That was the original plan: to wait until the third mission to actually hook up with the station and delivery supplies. SpaceX wanted to hurry it up.

    None of the supplies on board the Dragon will be one-of-a-kind or crucial, in case of failure.

    SpaceX — run by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk — is one of several companies vying for space station visiting privileges. It hopes to step up to astronaut ferry trips in perhaps three more years. In the meantime, Americans will be forced to continue buying seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

    "Every decision that we make at SpaceX is focused on ... taking crew to space," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said Friday at a forum in Seattle about NASA's future. She said the company is "thrilled" at the prospect of delivering cargo to the space station early next year, and noted that the company is shooting for 2014 with astronauts.

    Congress has appropriated $406 million for the commercial crew effort for 2012, considerably less than NASA's requested $850 million.

    "It is nevertheless a significant step," Garver said at the forum, televised by NASA. She said NASA is evaluating whether it can speed up when U.S. companies "deliver our precious astronauts to and from the space station."

    ___

    Online:

    NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/cots—

    SpaceX: SpaceX
    Mike

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  2. #2
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    Default

    Nice article here about Elon Musk and his dedication on getting
    the Falcon 9 to be a fully reusable, though not single stage, system:

    1 visionary + 3 launchers + 1,500 employees = ?
    Is SpaceX changing the rocket equation?
    By Andrew Chaikin
    He says he is committed to turning Falcon 9 into “the first fully and rapidly reusable rocket” because, he says, that accomplishment is key to making spaceflight affordable and routine. To cut the cost of getting to orbit to just $100 per pound, Musk says, “you need to be able to launch multiple times a day, just like an airplane. And it’s got to be complete, so you can’t be throwing away a million dollars of expendable hardware every flight either.” Musk has targeted reusability from the start. Merlin engines, for example, are designed to fly tens of missions—provided you can get them back. An animation on SpaceX’s Web site shows how that might happen: Cast-off Falcon 9 stages reenter the atmosphere at between 17 and 25 times the speed of sound, then use their own guidance systems and engines to fly back to the launch site, where they land upright on deployable legs. A test program called Grasshopper is already in the works at SpaceX’s Texas facility. No one can predict how many years it might take to achieve full and rapid reusability, but Musk says, “it’s absolutely crucial. It’s fundamental. I would consider SpaceX to have failed if we do not succeed in that.”
    The insistence on reusability “drives the engineers insane,” says Vozoff. “We could’ve had Falcon 1 in orbit two years earlier than we did if Elon had just given up on first stage reusability. The qualification for the Merlin engine was far outside of what was necessary, unless you plan to recover it and reuse it. And so the engineers are frustrated because this isn’t the quickest means to the end. But Elon has this bigger picture in mind. And he forces them to do what’s hard. And I admire that about him.”
    1 visionary + 3 launchers + 1,500 employees = ? | Space Exploration | Air & Space Magazine


    Bob Clark
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    then what you will wind up with will be a SSTO whether you intend it to or not.
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    Default

    Very interesting
    Fred, I served in the U.S. Navy from 84-88
    I am just getting into astronomy with my kids. I have a Bushnell 3” reflector with a 20mm and a 4mm E/P, along and Tasco Starguide 4 with a 20mm and a 10mm E/P.
    If you don’t already have it down load
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    you will find it very helpful and it is free program. Enjoy and clear skies to you.
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