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Home | Tag Archives: spaceX

Tag Archives: spaceX

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Week of Success for NASA and SpaceX

Space, the final frontier…a frontier we haven’t been able to reach from American soil since the last space shuttle flew nearly 9 years ago. But that looks to change thanks to a successful test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon earlier this month.

Perched atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon was launched into a beautiful pre-dawn sky from Cape Canaveral, Floriada on March 2nd.

With a crew consisting solely of a dummy astronaut named Ripley, and a stuffed Earth plush toy, the capsule was also carrying supplies for those aboard the ISS.

Elon Musk, having dreamed of this moment since he started SpaceX in 2002, felt honored to have the Crew Dragon launch from Pad 39A. This is the very same launch pad from which the NASA Apollo moon missions took flight, as well as the last space shuttle mission back in 2011.

“Thank you for letting us do that,” Musk told NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine.

“Thank you for refurbishing it,” Bridenstine replied, referring to SpaceX’s upgrade to the launch site.

As one might expect, this was a little overwhelming for Musk, after having suffered so many failures early on with SpaceX test launches.

Back in those early days, Musk felt there was maybe only a 10% chance of SpaceX ever getting anything into orbit. “I’m a little emotionally exhausted. It’s super stressful, but it worked, so far,” Musk said in a post-launch press conference at Kennedy Space Center.

And the success continued!

On March 3rd, Demo-1, as the mission is being called, docked with the ISS in a display of remote precision that had everyone cheering. You can see highlights of the launch and docking here.

After having spent 5 days in space, delivering 400lbs of supplies to the space station, the Demo-1 mission ended, and the Crew Dragon saw success once again as it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Florida early this morning. You can see its re-entry and touchdown here. 

All of this helps pave the way for SpaceX to start plans for sending crewed flights into orbit this summer.

“The whole goal of SpaceX was crewed spaceflight. Improved space exploration technologies,” says Musk. “That’s actually the full name of the company, Space Exploration Technologies.”

But SpaceX is not alone in its endeavors. It is one of two companies contracted with NASA to fly astronauts to and from the ISS. Boeing, the other company working with NASA, is developing the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that looks to launch astronauts into space using the Atlas V rockets.

Like SpaceX, Boeing plans to test uncrewed flights and in-flight abort systems before sending humans into orbit.

In fact, Starliner’s first uncrewed test mission to the ISS could likely launch as early as next month. Boeing will be testing the capsule’s emergency escape test system and, if successful, the first crewed demonstration flight could occur as early as May and then again in August of this year.

In the meantime, SpaceX is looking to launch its first crewed flight, called Demo-2, as early as July.


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Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: To the Moon and Beyond

Earlier this week, NASA Chief Bridenstine met with the Senate to assure them that Space Directive One, as laid out earlier this year by President Trump was well underway.

During this meeting, he explained that low Earth orbit needs to be driven by commercial enterprise. “And that’s underway right now.”

To accomplish this, NASA plans to use “Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLIPS).” This would give commercial companies the opportunity to land on the moon and NASA will become a paying customer of that. This falls in line with a recent announcement by SpaceX.

The company stated that should development and testing of the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) go smoothly, they have plans to launch the first orbital flights of the 100-passenger spaceship by 2020 or 2021 at the earliest.

NASA’s next plan will be heavier landers capable of heavier payloads as well as prospectors, “…things that can dig,” said Bridenstine. “We know from NASA’s achievements back from 2008 and 2009, we know that there are potentially hundreds of billions of tons of water ice on the moon. Beyond that we need heavier landers that can take humans to the moon.”

Parallel to this plan, SpaceX also recently entered into a contract with iSpace. This Japanese start-up company is set to launch its lunar lander and mini-rovers aboard the Falcon 9 rockets in 2020 and 2021.

In time, iSpace hopes to set up a robotic lunar transportation service in order to use its rovers to help identify and exploit the potential resources available on the moon.

Further, NASA plans to use Tugs (commercial spacecraft like the Falcon 9) that go from low earth orbit to the Gateway, and from the gateway to the surface of the moon.

“These become a critical part of the infrastructure that can be used to capitalize on, with the commercial partners and international partners,” Bridenstine said. The potential of the Gateway is exciting because it gives more access to more parts of the solar system than ever before.

To help best utilize the new NASA budget for these initiatives, Bridenstine stated “Under the president’s budget request, the International Space Station will no longer receive direct support in the year 2025.”

Meanwhile, SpaceX has been planning a similar venture starting with a mission called #dearMoon that could lift off by 2023 on a week-long journey around the moon and back again. This first lunar flight would have the first paying passengers on board: Japanese billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa as well as six to eight artists.

The company is also planning to establish a base on the moon by 2028.

One of the ideas for a lunar base or permanent settlement being considered is the potential for something below the lunar surface. Staying below the surface could give the possible benefit of better protection from harmful solar radiation than anything man-made above ground.

To explore the viability of this, scientists have been practicing at Lava Beds National Monument in California. During their time in the lava tubes, three types of portable technologies are being evaluated: ground-penetrating radar, a magnetometer, and a gravimeter. Hopefully these evaluations will help future lunar settlers map lava tubes from the surface in order gauge the stability of each prior to entering.

Once we have mastered how to survive and build on the moon, we can begin moving on to other worlds like Mars. Especially since launching from the moon requires far less fuel to reach escape velocity.

And with both NASA and SpaceX aiming for the moon within the next decade, establishing a base on Mars seems more like more science fact than science fiction.


To read Amy’s previous stories, click here.

SpaceX to fly Two Private Citizens Around Moon in 2018

SpaceX, a private space transportation company started by Elon Musk in 2002, announced Monday their intent to send a manned mission to the moon in late 2018.

The mission would come some 50 years after the first manned flight around the moon – Apollo 8 – which spent Christmas orbiting the moon in 1968.

Via a news release, officials with SpaceX stated “We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission.”

“Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow,” officials added.

What follows comes from SpaceX’s official release about the manned mission to the moon:

Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.

Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission. In addition, this will make use of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed with internal SpaceX funding.

Falcon Heavy is due to launch its first test flight this summer and, once successful, will be the most powerful vehicle to reach orbit after the Saturn V moon rocket. At 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust, Falcon Heavy is two-thirds the thrust of Saturn V and more than double the thrust of the next largest launch vehicle currently flying.

Later this year, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, we will launch our Crew Dragon (Dragon Version 2) spacecraft to the International Space Station. This first demonstration mission will be in automatic mode, without people on board. A subsequent mission with crew is expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018.

SpaceX is currently contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. By also flying privately crewed missions, which NASA has encouraged, long-term costs to the government decline and more flight reliability history is gained, benefiting both government and private missions.

Once operational Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the moon and return to Earth. Lift-off will be from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral – the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions. This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them.

Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage. These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.

Medical Center of the Americas partners with CAI to launch ‘The SpaceRace’

The Medical Center of the Americas (MCA) Foundation has partnered with the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) to launch the SPACE RACE, a Paso del Norte (PDN) Innovation Challenge designed to spur regional economic growth by launching new startups to advance and commercialize NASA’s commercially viable inventions That are available for [DMP(1)] licensing.

CAI, a nonprofit organization based out of Bethesda, MD focused on accelerating commercialization and creating new entrepreneurial platforms is leveraging the new Startup NASA initiative, which offers startups the opportunity to license patented NASA technologies with no upfront fees.

Startup NASA helps address two of the biggest challenges faced by startup companies: raising capital and securing intellectual property rights.  The SPACE RACE will also help the PDN region address its biggest challenges to growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem, lack of commercially-viable deal flow and limited trained entrepreneurs.

 A prime example of a NASA invention is a voiceless communication device which is a wearable sensor that measures the movement of speech muscles, translating this measurement to sound.

“This invention is only one of the thousands of breakthrough technologies NASA has developed that have significant commercial viability and are near to the goal line,” said Rosemarie Truman, Founder and CEO of CAI.  “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to hyper-accelerate the commercialization of “gazelle-like” NASA inventions by pairing our challenge accelerator model with NASA’s new licensing arrangement,” said Rosemarie. “The SPACE RACE challenge will be different in that we are raising a substantial seed fund with the MCA and regional investors to give new startups enough escape velocity to get to Series A financing.”

The first stage of the initiative is a challenge-accelerator program where teams will compete to launch startups around MCA & CAI-identified NASA inventions that have near-term commercialization potential and are a good fit to the PDN region’s capabilities.

MCA & CAI will crowdsource multi-disciplinary teams to create elevator speeches and write business plans exploring the market potential of the technologies and proposed path to commercialization. The CAI accelerator entrepreneurship training program will provide invaluable experiential learning to help startups have a high probability of successful outcomes.

The teams will submit their business plans and perform a live pitch to a world-class panel of judges, such as Jim Cantrell, co-founder of SpaceX.  Winners will be selected based on the quality of their elevator speech, business plan, financial model, live pitch and other deliverables, and they will be given a cash prize.

Winning teams will be then encouraged to become startup founders and pursue licensing of the technologies from NASA.

 Winners of the business plan phase will be eligible to enter the second stage of the competition where they will be eligible to receive angel and seed funding through the MCA Innovation Fund that will provide an investment of up to $1.2 million into a select number of startups that meet due diligence requirements.

 The challenge will be repeated up to four times over four years, each year with a different technology focused on regional strengths and capabilities:  the first year will include Advanced Manufacturing (medical device, optics and robotics); the second year will focus on Healthcare and Life Sciences; year three will centered on Clean Energy and Water Technologies; and the cornerstone of year four will be Border Trade and Cyber Security inventions.

 “The MCA’s main goal is to create a platform in the region that will unlock our entrepreneurial potential and strengthen the economy,” said Emma Schwartz, president of the MCA Foundation.

“As a region we are working to combat our falling rank as a city to become more globally competitive.  I believe that we have the capability and potential, but we need a robust program like this SPACE RACE Challenge to galvanize the regional players together with the global entrepreneurial and venture ecosystem.”

Over the four years of the Challenge, MCA and CAI hopes to launch up to 40 high-tech startups in the region, provide national and international exposure to the PDN region’s resources, bring serial entrepreneurs to the region and provide training to members of various organizations through the accelerator.

 Interested parties should start forming their teams now and nominating inventions for the challenge; please go to this link to connect with others prospective team members or to vote for a technology:  An overview of team requirements can be found here.

NASA inventions will be the topics of the challenge; teams may find the final NASA inventions selected for the challenge at  Teams may enter their teams into the challenge starting January 19, 2015; challenge submissions will be accepted until March 27, 2016.

A press conference will be held on January 25th with the MCA, CAI and Dan Lockney, global head of tech transfer from NASA, as well as Jim Cantrell, co-founder of SpaceX.  The MCA and CAI will have a “RoadShow” from January 25th to 29th across several locations in the region to explain the SPACE RACE and recruit teams.

To stay up to date on the detailed challenge launch, please sign up for updates here and follow Twitter @CAIStartups

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