Merlin enginesUpcoming upgrades to the engine (Merlin 1D) will provide a vast improvement in performance, reliability and manufacturability – all of which could provide a timely boost to aiding the potential for success for the fully reusable Falcon 9.Increased reliability: Simplified design by eliminating components and sub-assemblies. Increased fatigue life. Increased chamber and nozzle thermal margins,” noted SpaceX in listing the improvements in work.Improved Performance: Thrust increased from 95,000 lbf (sea level) to 140,000 lbf (sea level). Added throttle capability for range from 70-100 percent. Currently, it is necessary to shut off two engines during ascent. The Merlin 1D will make it possible to throttle all engines. Structure was removed from the engine to make it lighter.Improved Manufacturability: Simplified design to use lower cost manufacturing techniques. Reduced touch labor and parts count. Increased in-house production at SpaceX.http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/01/spacex-testing-reusable-falcon-9-technology-this-year/Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) will begin testing on a vertical propulsion landing system later this year, part of a long-term project to evaluate the potential of creating a fully-reusable version of their Falcon 9 launch vehicle. SpaceX believe a fully and rapidly reusable orbital class rocket would provide a critical breakthrough for the human race’s ambition of becoming a multi-planetary species.SpaceX aren’t looking to redesign the wheel with their reusable ambitions. Instead, they are looking to keep their Falcon 9 launch vehicle design, along with its staging profile, whilst making revolutionary changes to what the expended stages do once they have completed their ascent roles – in essence, a highly advanced and wider-ranging version of the flyback booster concept.These plans were unveiled by SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk back in September of last year, plans which called for an improved Falcon 9, featuring first and second stages that would fly back to the launch site under their own power – something no other aerospace company has achieved. Mr Musk had previously hinted at such an ambition in 2009. This is a big part of how SpaceX hopes to get launch cost down as low as $50/kg to LEO.Millions on Marshttp://nextbigfuture.com/2011/12/elon-musk-says-he-will-put-millions-of.htmlNew Scientist - Musk declared recently that he could put a human on Mars in 10 to 20 years' time. It is a remarkable claim, yet even more astonishingly Musk tells me that he could do it for $5 billion, and possibly as little as $2 billion - a snip when you consider that the International Space Station (ISS) has cost at least $100 billion to build and operate, or that $2 billion is roughly the cost of launching four space shuttle missions.Musk doesn't just want to stop at one human. In his Heinlein prize acceptance speech, he said he wants to put 10,000 people on Mars. Musk rarely makes public statements merely for effect but a call for 10,000 would-be Martians is extraordinary, even by his standards. When I query him on this point, he pauses. Is he reconsidering? Yes... but, as with so much else about Musk, not in a predictable way. "Ultimately we don't really want 10,000 people on Mars," he says, after letting the pause linger a few seconds more. "We want millions."As well as making history, SpaceX is making money. Last year the company signed a $492 million deal to launch Iridium satellites, the largest single commercial launch contract in history. It also has a $1.6 billion contract to service the ISS, with options to provide another $3.1 billion's worth, too.Elon Musk says "We've not gone beyond Earth's orbit in a generation. I want to change that. Rapid reusability is what will take us to Mars."http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UTwRxtmQ9IYhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sSF81yjVbJEhttp://reason.com/archives/2012/01/23/rocket-men
Musk, a Stanford grad school dropout who was born in South Africa, made his fortune—estimated at $670 million—as one of the founders of the online payment site PayPal. Then he founded Tesla Motors, where he led development of an all-electric sports car. After the space shuttles were retired, NASA was forced to start paying Russians to ferry Americans and their gear back and forth to the International Space Station, at about $63 million per seat. Musk says SpaceX can do it for one-third the price. The added risk of throwing humans—or as Musk refers to them, “biological cargo”—doesn’t seem to worry him. Virgin has been working on SpaceShipTwo, which would carry two pilots and six passengers a few miles above the Karman line (the generally accepted threshold 62 miles up that separates Earth’s atmosphere from outer space) to check out the view and enjoy a brief period of weightlessness. Charging $200,000 per person (with a $20,000 deposit, please) Virgin Galactic already has 450 people signed up to fly as soon as the technology is ready and the regulatory hurdles have been cleared.Greason left a job at Intel to get into rocketry and thence into business for himself.“The technology that we’re missing is capitalism,” Greason says later during the same presentation, given at an April TEDx conference in San Jose. “The same thing that makes things work in every other arena of modern life.”In an interview with Senior Editor Brian Doherty, Greason expanded on that theme: “I’m confident we can develop a profitable market in suborbital spaceflight without the government’s beneficial influences—of course we have to continue to ensure they don’t become a regulatory obstacle, and right now they’re not.” (Read more about their conversation in “Space on Earth” on page 60.)Insiders see XCOR as an underrated rival to flashy players like Branson and Musk. XCOR has taken a gradualist approach, flying a succession of small but ever-larger rockets, including the aptly named EZ-Rocket. The current Lynx model is a two-seater that allows horizontal takeoff and landing but only goes up 38 miles, leaving the goal of outer space for the next generation rocket. But that distinction may not matter if Greason becomes the first entrepreneur to fly a paying customer on a rocket he built himself. At $95,000 for the Lynx’s single passenger seat, this small company is also offering the cheapest ticket on the market.Peter Diamandis is the chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, the nonprofit organization that dreamed up the Ansari X Prize—$10 million for a reusable suborbital launch vehicle—and is now offering prizes for everything from better oil spill management technology to rapid sequencing of human genomes. Richard Branson snagged the first winner, SpaceShipOne, to form the basis of Virgin Galactic’s program. But just as important, from Diamandis’ perspective, were the 25 losers. Collectively, the teams spent more than $100 million in pursuit of the prize. And that was precisely the idea. Simonyi paid to go to the space station, twice. Both times Simonyi paid Space Adventures to set up the jaunt. Simonyi entered space on a Russian Soyuz rocket—the only ride a private buyer can legally hitch for the moment, although that’s likely to change soon. The billionaire paid $25 million for the first flight in 2007, taking off from the same launch pad where cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin kicked the space race into high gear a half-century agoigelow Aerospace, has launched two experimental orbiting modules, Genesis I and Genesis II, into space since its founding in 1996. Bigelow already has spent well over $200 million of his own money and says he’s ready to drop another $300 million on his quest to be the final frontier’s first hotelier and commercial real estate baron.Like everyone else in the private space industry, Bigelow says prices will come down when business picks up. Right now he is pricing flights at $28.8 million per person for a month-long hotel stay, travel included. It’s no coincidence that his price is just a smidge cheaper than Space Adventures’ rumored going rate. Bigelow is explicit that he’s taking the Budget Suites concept to new heights: cheap digs where you can hang out as long as you like and take care of your own business, whatever that may be. Of course, cheap is a relative term: Putting up two astronauts for three months in one of Bigelow’s inflatable space habitats will run you $97.5 millionNield’s role at the FAA is twofold: He is charged with ensuring public safety but also with promoting the fledgling commercial space transportation industry. “Frankly, I think it’s fair to say that we are not your typical regulatory bureaucracy,” he says. “We’re not just going to say no and kick back the applications and see if somebody brings up a better rocket. We really want industry to succeed.”John CarmackArmadillo Aerospace is the part-time venture of the lead programmer of Doom, Quake, and other 3D graphics-intensive video game megahits. It’s also the leanest of the companies described here. Before he started Armadillo Aerospace, Carmack had very little experience in building spaceships, but his company went on to scoop up a couple of prizes that NASA was offering for building lunar landers while simultaneously working on suborbital (and eventually orbital) rockets. Armadillo’s strategy is physically different from those of most of its competitors, featuring a rapidly evolving form that adhered to Carmack’s credo to try out lots of options and abandon failures quickly—pretty much the opposite of NASA’s modus operandi. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) may be Congress’ only proud space geek. On the accomplishments section of his official website, the beach-district congressman lists his work on commercial space first, boasting in particular about serving as chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics from 1997 to January 2005, “having been given a two-year waiver to serve beyond the normal six-year term limit,” and helping enact the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, which sheltered start-up commercial space companies from overly burdensome regulation. He has also pushed the Zero Gravity, Zero Tax Act, which would protect “space-related income” from taxation and offer tax credits to investors in some types of space companies.
http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/21jul2011.pdfOn 26 September 2011, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) issued a press release regarding fuel depots. This included a letter to former Administrator Mike Griffin who had dismissed the notion of fuel depots and commercial launch vehicles as being a viable alternative to the Space Launch System(SLS) during Congressional testimony. Well, despite what NASA may or may not have been telling Rep. Rohrabacher about its internal evaluations regarding the merits of alternate architectures that did not use the SLS (and those that incorporated fuel depots), the agency had actually been rather busy studying those very topics.And guess what: the conclusions that NASA arrived at during these studies are in direct contrast to what the agency had been telling Congress, the media, and anyone else who would listen.This presentation "Propellant Depot Requirements Study - Status Report - HAT Technical Interchange Meeting - July 21, 2011" is a distilled version of a study buried deep inside of NASA. The study compared and contrasted an SLS/SEP architecture with one based on propellant depots for human lunar and asteroid missions. Not only was the fuel depot mission architecture shown to be less expensive, fitting within expected budgets, it also gets humans beyond low Earth orbit a decade before the SLS architecture could. Moreover, supposed constraints on the availability of commercial launch alternatives often mentioned by SLS proponents, was debunked. In addition, clear integration and performance advantages to the use of commercial launchers Vs SLS was repeatedly touted as being desirable: "breaking costs into smaller, less-monolithic amounts allows great flexibility in meeting smaller and changing budget profiles."Advantages* Tens of billions of dollars of cost savings and lower up-front costs to fit within budget profile* Allows first NEA/Lunar mission by 2024 using conservative budgets* Launch every few months rather than once every 12-18 months-Provides experienced and focused workforce to improve safety-Operational learning for reduced costs and higher launch reliability.* Allows multiple competitors for propellant delivery-Competition drives down costs-Alternatives available if critical launch failure occurs-Low-risk, hands-off way for international partners to contribute* Reduced critical path mission complexity (AR&Ds, events, number of unique elements)* Provides additional mission flexibility by variable propellant load* Commonality with COTS/commercial/DoD vehicles will allow sharing of fixed costs between programs and "right-sized" vehicle for ISS* Stimulate US commercial launch industry* Reduces multi-payload manifesting integration issues
The Falcon Heavy would make an excellent platform to put up propellant depots. Why Examine Propellant Depots Without HLLVs?* Large in-space mission elements (inert) can be lifted to LEO in increments on several medium-lift commercial launch vehicles (CLVs) rather than on one Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLLV)* Over 70 percent of the exploration mission mass is propellant that can be delivered in increments to a Propellant Depot and transferred to the in-space stages* Saves DDT&E costs of HLLV* Low-flight-rate HLLV dominated by high unique fixed costs. Use of CLVs eliminates these costs and spreads lower fixed costs over more flights and other customers.* Use of large re-fueled cryo stages saves DDT&E/ops costs for advanced propulsion stages (e.g., SEP)* Provides opportunity for more easily integrated commercial and international partner mission participation
Project Bifrost is an ambitious study examining emerging space technologies that could lay the foundation for future interstellar flights and investigates the utility of fission for future space missions.Project Bifrost was initiated by Research Lead Tabitha Smith (Strategic Officer of General Propulsion Science) and Brad Appel (Program Manager of Nuclear Propulsion at General Propulsion Science), working in collaboration with Icarus Interstellar Inc. a nonprofit foundation dedicated to achieving interstellar flight by the year 2100.Of course we need such nuclear fission based rockets in the inner system long before this date. They must be developed and tested in such conditions long before an interstellar mission can be launched. PROJECT ICARUS: What Would an Interstellar Mission Look Like?The fission rocket being referred to here is the Nuclear Thermal Rocket, or NTR. An NTR uses nuclear fission as an energy source instead of chemical combustion, and uses just hydrogen as a propellant, allowing it to achieve a very high exhaust velocity and high thrust. That's the kind of mind-boggling technology upgrade that means piloted missions to deep space, which are beyond the pale for chemical rockets, suddenly become very feasible.Beginning this month, Icarus Interstellar Inc., the managing company for Project Icarus, is teaming up with General Propulsion Sciences, a small propulsion research company based in Washington D.C., for a new effort to pursue the development of NTRs and other fission-based space technologies.The program, called Project Bifrost, recognizes fission as a crucial stepping-stone technology towards the next generation of space travel, and will take steps to advance the technological maturity of NTRs. In the coming decades, sending humans to Mars is considered by many to be the Holy Grail for space exploration, a mission which NTRs are ideally suited for.Brad Appel of General Propulsion Sciences frames the situation in more familiar terms: "To look at it another way, imagine you are planning a road trip from New York to Los Angeles and back. Except, there are no gas stations along the way -- you need to pack all of the fuel along with you. Using a chemical rocket to send humans to Mars would be like making the road trip in a cement truck. You might barely make it, but it would be one enormous, inefficient, and expensive voyage. Using an NTR, however, would be more akin to taking a Prius. It'll make it there comfortably, and it can go a lot further too."http://news.discovery.com/space/project-bifrost-interstellar-space-fission-120120.html
Stratolaunch Systems, a Paul G. Allen project, is developing an air-launch system that will revolutionize space transportation by providing orbital access to space at lower costs, with greater safety and more flexibility. Delivering payloads in the 10,000lbm class [13,500 pounds into low earth orbit, the system allows for maximum operational flexibility and payload delivery from several possible operational sites, while minimizing mission constraints such as range availability and weather.The air-launch system is made up of four primary elements: a carrier aircraft, a multi-stage booster, a mating and integration system, and an orbital payload. Initial efforts will focus on unmanned payloads; however, human flights will follow as safety, reliability, and operability are demonstrated.Multi-Stage BoosterSpaceX’s multi-stage booster is derived from the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. At approximately 120 feet long, the booster is designed to loft the payload into low earth orbit. After release of the booster from the aircraft at approximately 30,000 feet, the first stage engines ignite and the spacecraft begins its journey into space. After the first stage burn and a short coast period, the second stage ignites and the orbital payload proceeds to its planned mission. The booster’s health and status during flight is monitored from the carrier aircraft and on the ground.
Mating and Integration SystemBuilt by Dynetics, the mating and integration system (MIS) provides the single interface between the carrier aircraft and the booster. The MIS includes all systems required for the booster to interface with the carrier aircraft, including mechanical, electrical, thermal, fluids, and gases. The MIS is designed to safely and securely carry a booster weighing up to roughly 500,000 pounds. The MIS will secure the booster to the carrier aircraft, from taxiing to flight maneuvers to release of booster. In the case of a mission abort, the MIS will keep the booster secure during return to base and landing.Dynetics is responsible for the mating and integration system and overall technical integration of the Air Launch System. To lead and accomplish this program, Dynetics has assembled a world class staff of space launch, propulsion, and aircraft expertise including David King, former Shuttle launch director and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) director; Steve Cook, former Ares Launch Vehicle program manager; Jim Halsell, former US Air Force test pilot, SR-71, and Shuttle pilot and commander; and Mark Fisher, former MSFC liquid engines program manager.Extensive experience in large air-dropped payloads, including leading the development, integration, and flight of the world's largest precision-guided air dropped munition, the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) and support to the follow-on program, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) has provided Dynetics with the expertise to successfully perform the Air Launch Systems program.http://stratolaunchsystems.com/presskit.html
China: Space 5 year planhttp://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2011-12/30/content_14354558.htmBBC News- The Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spaceships will be launched to dock with the Tiangong-1 space lab module. Officials have indicated that at least one of the two next Shenzhou missions would be manned and that 2012 might even see the country's first female astronaut."In the next five years, China will strengthen its basic capacities of the space industry, accelerate research on leading-edge technology, and continue to implement important space scientific and technological projects, including human spaceflight, lunar exploration, high-resolution Earth observation system, satellite navigation and positioning system, new-generation launch vehicles, and other priority projects in key fields. China will develop a comprehensive plan for construction of space infrastructure, promote its satellites and satellite applications industry, further conduct space science research, and push forward the comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development of China's space industry."1. Space Transportation SystemChina will build a stronger space transportation system, keep improving its launch vehicle series, and enhance their capabilities of entering space.It will enhance the reliability and adaptability of launch vehicles in service, and develop new-generation launch vehicles and their upper stages, implement the first flight of the Long March-5, Long March-6 and Long March-7 launch vehicles. The Long March-5 will use non-toxic and pollution-free propellant, and will be capable of placing 25 tons of payload into the near-Earth orbit, or placing 14 tons of payload into the GEO orbit. The Long March-6 will be a new type of high-speed response launch vehicle, which will be capable of placing not less than 1 ton of payload into a sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 700 km. The Long March-7 will be capable of placing 5.5 tons of payload into a sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 700 km.It will conduct special demonstrations and pre-research on key technologies for heavy-lift launch vehicles.2. Man-made Earth SatellitesChina will build a space infrastructure frame composed of Earth observation satellites, communications and broadcasting satellites, plus navigation and positioning satellites, and will develop a preliminary long-term, sustained and stable service capability. China will develop new types of scientific satellites and technological test satellites.1) Earth observation satellitesChina will improve its present meteorological, oceanic, and resource satellite series and its small satellites constellation for environmental and disaster monitoring and forecasting. It aims at developing and launching new-generation GEO meteorological satellites, stereo mapping satellites, radar satellites for environment and disaster monitoring, electromagnetic monitoring test satellites, and other new-type Earth observation satellites. It will work to make breakthroughs in key technologies for interferometric synthetic-aperture radar and gravitational field measurement satellites. It will initiate a high-resolution Earth observation system as an important scientific and technological project and establish on the whole a stable all-weather, 24-hour, multi-spectral, various-resolution Earth observation system.2) Communications and broadcasting satellitesChina will improve satellites for fixed communications services, television and radio service satellites and data relay satellites; develop satellites for mobile communication service; and develop a platform of higher capacity and higher power for new-generation GEO communications and broadcasting satellites.3) Navigation and positioning satellitesBased on "three-step" development plan - from experimental system to regional system and then to global system, China will continue building its Beidou satellite navigation system, implementing a regional Beidou satellite navigation system before 2012, whose navigation and positioning, timing and short-message services will cover the Asia-Pacific region. China aims at completing the global Beidou satellite navigation system by 2020, comprising five GEO satellites and 30 non-GEO satellites.4) Scientific satellites and technological test satellitesChina will develop and launch a Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope satellite, Shijian-9 new technology test satellite, and returnable satellites. It will begin to implement projects of quantum science test satellite and dark matter probing satellite.
Dawn, as a mission belonging to NASA’s Discovery Program, delves into the unknown, drives new technology innovations, and achieves what's never been attempted before. In Dawn’s case, it is orbiting one member of the main asteroid belt, Vesta, before heading to gather yet more data at a second, Ceres.Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations. Ceres and Vesta reside in the extensive zone between Mars and Jupiter together with many other smaller bodies, called the asteroid belt. Each has followed a very different evolutionary path constrained by the diversity of processes that operated during the first few million years of solar system evolution.
Vesta last month reached its lowest orbital point and more detailed photos are pouring in. Look at this and consider you are seeing the surface of a main belt asteroid and tell me this doesn't give you a shiver thrill.The top level question that the mission addresses is the role of size and water in determining the evolution of the planets. Ceres and Vesta are the right two bodies with which to address this question, as they are the most massive of the protoplanets, baby planets whose growth was interrupted by the formation of Jupiter. Ceres is very primitive and wet while Vesta is evolved and dry. The instrumentation to be flown is complete, flight- proven and similar to that used for Mercury, Mars, the Moon, Eros and comets. The science team consists of leading experts in the investigation of the rocky and icy planets using proven measurement and analysis techniques.Dawn has the potential for making many paradigm-shifting discoveries. Ceres may have active hydrological processes leading to seasonal polar caps of water frost, altering our understanding of the interior of these bodies. Vesta may have rocks more strongly magnetized than on Mars, altering our ideas of how and when dynamos arise with important lessons for Mars, Earth and Mercury. Ceres may have a thin, permanent atmosphere distinguishing it from the other minor planets.
http://news.ku.dk/all_news/2012/2012.1/a_wealth_of_habitable_planets_in_the_milky_way/Six years of observations of millions of stars now show how common it is for stars to have planets in orbits around them. Using a method that is highly sensitive to planets that lie in a habitable zone around the host stars, astronomers, including members from the Niels Bohr Institute, have discovered that most of the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars have planets that are very similar to the Earth like planets in our own solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, while planets like Jupiter and Saturn are more rare. The results are published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.About one out of every ten stars has an earth size planet in the habitable zone according to this gravitational microlensing survey.
Space News01.28.12 Jan 29, 2012
SpaceX• Improved Merlin Engines – Increased capability for Falcon heavy and future systems• Reusable launch systems• Elon Musk plans to put millions of people on Mars• Reason magazine feature on New Space age write-up
Rocket Men• Elon Musk (SpaceX)• Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic)• Jeff Greason (XCor)• Peter Diamandis (prize giver)• Charles Simonyi (passenger)• Robert Bigelow (space habitats)• John Carmack (Armadillo Aerospace)• Dana Rohrabacher (Legislator)• George Nield (FAA proponent)