SpaceX plans to launch the Falcon 9 this week!

By Phil Plait | May 26, 2010 12:00 pm

Florida Today is reporting that SpaceX is planning to launch their first Falcon 9 rocket as early as this week, May 27 or 28! [Update: I just found out that the launch has been delayed to Jun 2/3 due to a slip in the schedule of a launch of a Delta IV.]

spacex_f9_statictest

I am an unabashed fan of SpaceX, one of many commercial companies building rockets to make access to space easier, more reliable, and less expensive. They have already shown themselves to be capable of putting rockets into space, and being resilient while doing so. The Falcon 9 is the next in their series of rockets; this one capable of getting supplies to the Space Station, sending astronauts into orbit, and eventually, being able to put a 20 ton payload into geosynchronous orbit.

You can keep up-to-date with what’s what on the SpaceX updates page. I’ll be keeping a close watch on events as well. This is the future of space exploration, quite literally, and I’m very excited about it.


Related posts:

Obama lays out bold revised space policy
Falcon 9 getting ready for maiden voyage
Falcon 1 launch a success!
Falcon 9 standing tall
High roller


Image credit: Space X.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Space
MORE ABOUT: Falcon 9, SpaceX

Comments (58)

  1. Mike

    Free enterprise makes us libertarians proud!

  2. JohnK

    Free enterprise makes us libertarians proud!

    SpaceX is hardly free enterprise. They have gotten millions from NASA.

    BTW this rocket was supposed to be launched last December.

  3. Do you think all the delays due to “issues” while “testing” the flight termination system by the air force is caused by political maneuvering from the people that oppose the cancellation of the Constellation program?

    We know that the longer sensitive hardware stays on the pad exposed to the elements, the more chances something will go wrong.

  4. Mike

    @2 JohnK

    I love it when statists self-identify themselves. They have gotten millions from NASA in the form of awarded contracts for future services, not for what they’ve already accomplished, so nice try with that one.

    As for delays, you’re totally spot on, JohnK. Those hapless moron rocket engineers over at Space X can’t even launch a rocket into orbit without any delays! I mean, come on, what is their problem?!

  5. I could care less if you are libertarian, rebublican, democrat, socialist, communist, or whatever.

    As a Human Being this makes me happy! Especially as a human being interested in science and advancing our capabilities as a species to reach space. :)

    20 tons to geosynchronous orbit? That’s pretty damn impressive actually!

  6. Ed

    You can argue all you want about whether or not taking on NASA contracts conflicts with SpaceX being a “private enterprise”, but I think that taking them on as so close a contractor and partner in their business was a bad move, unless they absolutely could not move forward financially. The reason for this is that by simply working with NASA in this way, they’ve now opened themselves up to criticism. Being visited by the President, posting pictures of his visit on the website, and Elon’s open message endorsing the President’s plans for space only further impresses that they aren’t a private company, but simply an arm of NASA and Washington.

    I’ve followed SpaceX enthusiastically from the beginning, but my excitement with them is beginning to cool. One of the most exciting aspects of SpaceX was that they were “doing it on their own”. Now, they’re about as fun to follow as Lockheed or Boeing; interesting from a technical and scientific standpoint, but not from the vantage point of someone interested in the private space industry.

    Best of luck to SpaceX on their upcoming Falcon 9 launch (whenever that might be…) but I really wish they would have stuck to their private entrepreneurial roots, the ones that they laid from the beginning, rather than becoming another arm of NASA.

  7. Mchl

    This is like sitting on needles… I’m on a verge of suspecting a conspiracy of Big Rocketry.

  8. Benjamin Brown

    Hmm, what does that make the 9th or 10th delay of the Falcon 9 launch? Any bets on another? As for me, I’m not impressed with Space X. I hope they do well, but thus far they haven’t really shown that they’re moving into the direction of an independent and successful company.

  9. Darth Wader

    I live very close to the Space X Texas test facility. I though about applying for a job there but the only postings were for engineers. Dang my lack of experience, skills and high school diploma.

    If someone from Space X is reading this, I will do the most menial, degrading jobs for 15 an hour and the ability to gawk at the rocket.

  10. Mark Hall

    Heck yeah! I’ve been eagerly awaiting the launch of Falcon 9 for such a long time. Falcon 1 was neat and all but launching the Falcon 9 will show that SpaceX really means business.

  11. Free enterprise makes us libertarians proud!

    SpaceX is hardly free enterprise. They have gotten millions from NASA.

    LOL. Too true.

    And as if libertarians have a monopoly on enthusiasm for free enterprise.

    As a social democratic liberal, I am immensely proud of my siblings’ spouses (spouse-in-laws?) who have both created very successful businesses for themselves (my sister-in-law’s company manages the Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals). No government assistance required.

  12. So, assuming the Falcon 9 testing goes off okay, when will they be in a position to run missions of the Space Station?

    Also, I believe NASA has already signed a contract with the Russians to have Soyuz continue to ferrying goods and crew to and from the Space Station until some time in 2014. Does that mean Space X is shut out until then, or will they have a chance of winning some of that business before then?

  13. Ferris Valyn

    Dreamer – you can be a social democratic liberal, and still see the benefit of Obama’s proposal, and what SpaceX is trying to do – which is, lower the cost of human spaceflight, so we can actually develop & colonize it

  14. Sure, Ferris, I was merely reacting to Mike’s (@1) implication that libertarians have a monopoly on love for free enterprise.

    If a partnership between NASA and Space X helps reduce the cost of human spaceflight, I am all for it, even if it includes millions in grant money. If the money is spent wisely (a big if, I know) then I have no problem with government pumping money into the economy to kick start new businesses and enterprises that we will all benefit from in the long run.

    Green energy is a prime example of that.

  15. Joe

    Woot!

    @6:

    Your apprehension is the same as mine, but unfortunately I think the only way at this point to get private enterprise into space is to do away with NASA completely, and even if that somehow happens, there will be a painful period of no space exploration at all until companies like Space X can pick up the slack. I have no doubt that if NASA had never existed in the first place, we’d be on Mars right now. But we’ve created a dependency on NASA. Like Social Security, and soon healthcare, it’s far too late to make it seem natural not to have it.

    As it stands I’m extremely pumped and optimistic about this. What I’m really looking forward to is for some private incentive for space flight, which will quickly make NASA obsolete and unnecessary for funding these enterprises.

    Question: Why couldn’t you make a business out of launching commercial satellites? This would have the dual effect of speeding up LEO technology and giving the free market an incentive to keep these LEO areas clean. Why should NASA have a monopoly on american commercial satellite launches?

  16. bruce

    This is really great news. I hope that they move their future launches to Blue Origin’s port in Texas, eventually.

  17. Brian Too

    14. Joe,

    Commercial satellite launches ARE a business already. JAXA, ESA, Orbital Sciences, Lockheed-Martin, Space-X, the Russians, all are happy to take your money. Soon I imagine the Indians and Chinese will accept commercial payloads too. There is no monopoly and hasn’t been for years now. It’s expensive, that’s the main barrier, and launches still blow up with distressing frequency. Enough to make launch insurance super expensive.

    Also, I think it’s naive to think that the free market will keep the LEO areas clean of orbital debris. That’s a common area where ownership principles/incentives do not apply and military needs probably mean they never will. The private sector is far more likely to invest in things like Whipple shields and better radar tracking/detection systems (and even that seems unlikely).

  18. Messier Tidy Upper

    Good luck & best wishes Space X – I really hope this works. :-)

    Can the private operators really get their act together at last and replace the NASA Shuttle program? I’ve had my doubts about that for a long time but this doe ssound promising. Still I’ll believe it when I see it – which I hopefully will later this week. ;-)

    I do hope that I’m wrong and the BA right when it comes to this being the way to go for the future of manned space exploration and development.

  19. Ed an ex employee

    To Darth Wader, Please believe me when I tell you that you do not want to work for this company. They make you work 7 days a week. 15 hour days while breaking labor laws, THey do not pay people fairly, there are employees selling and using drugs on the facility, particularly cocaine, they will fire you if you so much as sneeze and two people have already committed suicide. Go apply somwhere else

  20. I have no doubt that if NASA had never existed in the first place, we’d be on Mars right now.

    Utter B.S.

    There is no commercial reason for sending anything to Mars, and won’t be for decades, perhaps even another century or two. Without a commercial reason, private industry has no incentive — and certainly not one that could recoup even a small percentage of the hundreds of billions of dollars it would have needed.

    Only magical thinking would even countenance something like that, but I guess that’s what libertarians are best at…

  21. Byron

    I’ve got a photo of my buddy at the top of one of the support towers looking at the Falcon9. It’s a really, really, long way up.

  22. Ken (a different Ken)

    @6 Ed: I’m guessing here, but it seems to me that 3 launch failures in a row might be enough to send even the most aggressive commercial organization knocking on the doors of the people who know how to build rockets that work.

    @14 Joe: Orbital Sciences has been launching both government and commercial payloads for 20 years. Including, I believe, the most satellites orbited in a single launch (8 Orbcomm satellites stacked up at once). Also I believe the first air-launched rocket to orbit.

    As for keeping NASA out of the way, well, it’s like having to deal with the FAA for aircraft, or NHTSA for our highways. We all need to keep from accidentally stepping on each other’s toes, and minimize the chance of collateral damage should something go wrong. They, like FAA and assorted DOTs, also provide infrastructure that no private company could afford on its own (e.g. range tracking, TDRSS).

    As for the delays in the Falcon 9’s maiden launch, I have no doubt whatsoever that the story is as they say. Launch vehicles are tremendously complex machines, harnessing staggering amounts of energy. Range safety is a hugely important consideration, one handled by the Air Force not NASA. I can easily picture the flight termination system taking extra time to review and requiring extra tests if there is anything even remotely unusual about its configuration. It’s a case where legacy counts for a lot, and innovation brings lots of added scrutiny. If nothing else on the vehicle works, the FTS must be capable of saving the day (and neighboring towns).

  23. Michelle

    I was just wondering, why are you such a fan of SpaceX? Atlas has had something around 80 launches in a row with no issues, you can’t get more reliable than that!

    My hubby wants me to say/ask you – “NASA tried better, faster, cheaper and it didn’t work. The joke within NASA is that you can pick two of the three, but you can’t have all three.” (He’s referencing the Mars Polar Lander and ??another Mars one he can’t recall the name of.) The only way to know something is reliable is for it to be proven over time, again and again. So far SpaceX has been anything but reliable!

  24. Mchl

    I don’t get it why you people have problem with SpaceX receiving money from NASA. Falcon 9 was to be developed, wether NASA would invest into it or not. It just happened, that Falcon 9 specs meet NASA COTS program criteria, and as such has been granted money. And even then, they did not get money all at once to happily spend. They will only get it in partial amounts, if they can meet specific goals in specified periods of time. As far as I can tell this works somewhat differently with contractors for other NASA funded programs.

  25. JohnK

    Mchl,

    I don’t have a problem with SpaceX getting money from NASA or any government agency for that matter. I have a problem with the SpaceX cheerleaders who blow the horn of free enterprize or libertarism when its simply not true. It is a parternship between SpaceX and NASA.

  26. MadScientist

    I’m betting the Range Safety Officer gets to hit the big red button – given the flight history of the Falcon-1, I’d rate the chances of a successful flight at a mere 1/512. Well, OK, that’s not proper statistics but I’ll be mildly amused if it flies according to plan.

    So what systems are being tested on this flight – or is it just the motor assembly?

    @ioresult #3: I think that’s just paranoid speculation. It’s difficult to imagine people actively trying to screw up someone else’s program, even if their own was axed. SpaceX really do have numerous issues to sort out with their vehicles, which is why I roll my eyes when people say they think SpaceX will be able to deliver a payload to the ISS within the next 2 years. When something does go wrong it takes a very long time to wade through the data to find out what went wrong, then you go work out what to do, demonstrate that your fix is good, and try again.

  27. UmTutSut

    I don’t give a damn whose logo is on the rocket, and I hope the launch succeeds. But to bet the future of LEO human spaceflight on a company with a checkered (at best) launch record and other firms with nothing but paper rockets just makes no sense.

  28. Ferris Valyn

    Why is it everybody keeps thinking firms with no history will not take part? We already know thats NOT the case – Orbital Science has a long history of successfully launching rockets. United Launch Alliance, which launches the Atlas V and Delta IV, are likely going to be among the selected. Lockheed Martin & Boeing AREN”T a part of NASA, and they should be able to transition to the commercial marketplace just as well as SpaceX.

    Why does this seem like such a leap of faith here? We have 2 existing rockets, 2 more about to come online, that could easily take people to orbit, and we want to fund the capsules & operations slightly differently. AND IT IS ONLY AN AQUISITION ISSUE, at this point.

    The success of commercial spaceflight & Obama’s proposal doesn’t begin and end with SpaceX.

    BTW, UmTutSut – Ares I is a paper rocket, BIG TIME

  29. Grand Lunar

    At least we now have a launch date. Better late than never.

    And I hope all goes well with the launch.

    Let’s light this candle!

  30. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 23. Michelle :

    My hubby wants me to say/ask you – “NASA tried better, faster, cheaper and it didn’t work. The joke within NASA is that you can pick two of the three, but you can’t have all three.” (He’s referencing the Mars Polar Lander and ??another Mars one he can’t recall the name of.)

    Would that be you the Mars Climate Orbiter by any chance?

    From it’s Wikipedia page :

    The Mars Climate Orbiter (formerly the Mars Surveyor ’98 Orbiter) was one of two NASA spacecraft in the Mars Surveyor ’98 program, the other being the Mars Polar Lander (formerly the Mars Surveyor ’98 Lander). The two missions were to study the Martian weather, climate, water … [SNIP!] .. and to search for evidence of long-term and episodic climate changes. The Mars Climate Orbiter was intended to enter orbit at an altitude of 140.5–150 km (460,000-500,000 ft.) above Mars. However, a navigation error caused the spacecraft to reach as low as 57 km (190,000 ft.). The spacecraft was destroyed by atmospheric stresses and friction at this low altitude. The navigation error arose because the contractors for craft’s thrusters did not use SI units to express their performance.

    Otherwise known as the great metric /imperial mix up. :-(

    It was one of many failed missions around that decade or so along with the Mars Polar lander and earlier (1993) the Mars Observer Japan’s Nozomi and Russia’s Mars 96 leading to joking references to the supposed “Mars Curse” and even “The Galactic Ghoul” a fictional space monster that supposedly consumes Mars probes! Because at that stage (& even now really) the failure rate for Mars missions seemed exceptionally high.

    Regarding the whole “faster, cheaper better” approach, which I think is generally agreed to have failed, the old adage that “you get what you pay for” springs to mind. :-(

    I guess there’s room for both pribvate and public agencies to operate and I dont think it is zero-sum situation however, I do have some reservations over the balance here esp. in light of the historical records of NASA vs the private companies which have promised much and not really delivered all that much in comparison – yet.

    I’d be much happier if NASA was doing more and launching Ares flights at the same time as private agencies were doing stuff like Falcon-9.

    PS. I’ll try & post the Mars Climate Orbiterlink separately to let it go into moderation with fingers crossed – hopefully it won’t get wrongly marked as spam like the last link I tried did – a worry at present here. :-(

  31. UmTutSut

    Ferris Valyn wrote: “BTW, UmTutSut – Ares I is a paper rocket, BIG TIME”

    But the design DOES use upgrades of hardware already well-proven in launching humans into LEO and to the Moon. Orion LES has already been tested successfully, as has a 5-segment SRB.

  32. Messier Tidy Upper

    Posting the Mars Climate Orbiter link here :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Climate_Orbiter

    Fingers crossed – will this work? Will it cause me any more hassle like the last Wiki-link I tried to post here? Lets find out! [Takes deep breath, clicks ‘Submit comment’.]

  33. Messier Tidy Upper

    Yes! That seems to have worked. I can click on that to visit that page & its gone through moderation too by looks of it now. :-)

    Now let’s see if it will post this handy link of spacecraft affected by the “Mars curse” / eaten by “The Galactic Ghoul” ;-) :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_of_Mars#Mars_Curse

    BTW. Please BA could you give us a little more info here on what the restrictions and limits are with posting links here? I had a post get wrongly marked as spam and disappear on the Munster galaxy (NGC 1313) thread when I added – on editing – a single utterly inoffensive wiki-page link to the Magellanic Clouds the other day which still has me scratching my head in puzzled angst over the questions of “what the blazes happened there?” and “why *that* one!?”

    I’m happy to abide by your blog rules and follow your preferred link-posting methods here Dr Plait as long as I know what they are & what the situation is here. If you let me know what I’m doing wrong or am not supposed to do then I won’t do it!

    A post or sidebar link on this topic (& what html/ emoticons are /aren’t supported here) would be very much appreciated.

  34. Ferris Valyn

    UmTutSut wrote “But the design DOES use upgrades of hardware already well-proven in launching humans into LEO and to the Moon. Orion LES has already been tested successfully, as has a 5-segment SRB.”

    We’ve tested a 5-segment SRB on the ground, but we’ve never flown it. And the guidence system has never been flown. Its also worth noting that the upper stage has never flown

    And Falcon 1 has 2 successful launches, and shares many of the subsystems that Falcon 9 uses.

    So if you want to claim that Ares I has hardware history, so does Falcon 9.

    However, thats not even the main point. Let come to the 2 big main points

    Point 1 – The first test of the Ares I first stage will not happen until 2014. And I believe there either was going to be only 1 test of the entire vehicle before putting humans on it, or there wasn’t going to be a full up test (I can’t remember), and first flight of humans wasn’t until 2015 (and actually, its going to be later, because of budget issues, so figure 2017-2019 range). In that time, Falcon 9 & Dragon will have flown 15 missions, unmanned.

    Point 2 – THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT – Atlas V has flown 20 SUCCESSFUL missions RIGHT now, the. Delta IV has flown 11 SUCCESSFUL missions RIGHT now. Either one of those could easily carry a human vehicle on the top, without a lot of work.

  35. UmTutSut

    Ferris Valen wrote: “Atlas V has flown 20 SUCCESSFUL missions RIGHT now, the. Delta IV has flown 11 SUCCESSFUL missions RIGHT now. Either one of those could easily carry a human vehicle on the top, without a lot of work.”

    Not as simple as you think. For example, see: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/07/why-nasa-isnt-t/

    But if either ELV could be reliably human-rated AND have the necessary performance AND be ready before the “new space” commercial rockets, I’d be all for it. At least they have a proven track record, as you point out.

  36. Charles Boyer

    @Ferris: Point 2 – THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT – Atlas V has flown 20 SUCCESSFUL missions RIGHT now, the. Delta IV has flown 11 SUCCESSFUL missions RIGHT now. Either one of those could easily carry a human vehicle on the top, without a lot of work.

    If you don’t consider adding another layer of redundancy to Atlas-V a lot of work, the folks at ULA do. And since they build the rocket, I have to take their word over yours, no offense. Human rating requires three redundancies, Atlas V has two.

    Further, I presume you are speaking of Atlas V HLV (Atlas V Heavy) in any case. It and Delta-IV-Heavy were the two EELV platforms studied for human rating. Perhaps you recall the study of doing exactly what you say is easy that was completed by California-based Aerospace Corporation.

    BTW, Atlas V HLV has not had 20 successful launches. Despite its using a CCB (common core booster) and other components, the system has not been vaulted into orbit 20 times to date. Other Atlas configurations have, but they are different birds, not a single launch design.

    The results for both the Delta IV-H and Atlas V-H are encouraging, and point towards large margins on both the ISS and Lunar Orion vehicle. However, that is only part of the story.

    “ISS (requirement of 19.2 t). Delta IV-Heavy = 24.2 t. Atlas V Heavy = 25.4 t. Lunar (requirement of 21.8 t). Delta IV-H = 26.3 t. Atlas V-H = 27.3 t,” noted information acquired by L2.

    The Delta IV-H numbers include use of the RS-68A, which is an upgraded version of the current RS-68 – currently undergoing testing and due to come into service in a few years time.

    It is also noted that the ULA used the same ascent trajectory constraints as Ares I, such as the LAS (Launch Abort System) jet at Upper Stage Ignition (+30 sec, -30×100nmi injection).

    The data did, however, point towards the ULA being required to optimize their current trajectory elements, although that would be refined after an “apples-to-apples” comparison with Ares I – which was the focus of the study.

    On costs, information notes a new, dedicated launch pad (LC-37A) for Delta IV-H – if required – would cost around $750M, although sources claim it would be a lower dollar figure. An alternative Vehicle Integration Building (VIB) and Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) for Atlas V-H on LC-41 would cost around $350M.

    It would also cost another $350m and 30 months to finish non-recurring work and field Atlas V-H.

    That’s not a lot of work? Heck yes it is.

    As for SpaceX, good luck and Godspeed to them. I am not entirely convinced that they have produced a safe and reliable booster, but I have to give them a chance to prove their work in. We’ll see in June, after the grownups put another D-IV into orbit.

  37. Ferris Valyn

    Charles Boyer – I am referring to Atlas V, specifically the 402 model, as opposed to the Atlas V Heavy. You don’t need something as big and heavy as Orion to go to ISS or LEO. There is the Boeing-Bigelow Capsule, the SNC Dreamchaser, or the Blue Origin capsule.

    We don’t need the Atlas V Heavy for this.

    Yes, Atlas V only has 2 of the 3 redundancies – Ares I has 0 redundancies, since it has NEVER flown.

    Further, the development costs for Ares I are now up to $40 BILLION (thats, Ares I, not Orion). Compare that to the numbers you cited, which, worst case scenrio, is around $1-2 Billion.

    This really isn’t rocket science. Admittedly, not a lot of work is relative, but you compare Ares I to Atlas V 402, or even Atlas V heavy (which, again, isn’t needed to go to LEO), its not a lot of work.

  38. Tyler Durden

    People who argue against innovation are the reason NASA has failed so spectacularly in its manned programs and its attempts to build viable HLLVs and a working space infrastructure.

    I think the people who argue that the only machines worth running are those that have been “proven” should, for the sake of their principles, only be driving around in cars that are at least 20 years old, and only using computers that predate 1990.

    After all, that’s the kind of proven performance these bithead engineers are always screaming for – it should be the only thing they’ll accept.

  39. Ferris Valyn

    Tyler – one point – its got to be the the right form of innovation. After all, would it REALLY make sense to spend millions of dollars trying to update the horse carriage?

  40. Nick B.

    I find it amazing how many people can’t tell the difference between a government grant (which SpaceX did not receive), and a contract for a product or service to be delivered (which SpaceX won in open competition). The latter is NOT a handout, and does not diminish a company’s free-enterprise credentials.

  41. ASFalcon13

    Phil, the Falcon 9 launch has been “this week” for about a month now. Where have you been?

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/tracking/index.html

    Heck, as of yesterday, they hadn’t even received their Range Safety approval yet. They aren’t going anywhere without that.

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/001/status.html

    In other words, I won’t believe it’s going until it’s on the pad and the engines are lit.

    As a side note to ioresult, the 45th Space Wing has little skin in the Constellation program debate. On the other hand, they absolutely must ensure range safety. If a flight termination system doesn’t meet the Air Force’s standards (which can’t be that difficult to do, since every other launch system at Canaveral, Vandenburg, Wallops, etc. seems to be able to do it), then they don’t fly, period.

  42. Nick B.

    And by the way, to the guy talking about long hours and low pay:

    Yes, the hours are long. They are long because people at SpaceX are passionate about the work they’re doing. Yes, pay can be somewhat lower than many more established and larger companies. No one is forced to take these jobs. The salaries are supplemented with stock options as is common with start-ups, giving people a stake in the work they’re doing. These things do not constitute violations of labor laws. Again, no one is being forced to do this work, and indeed many people would jump at the chance.

    On the subject of reliability, I think it’s unreasonable to take the Falcon 1 launches thus far and use them as a measure of reliability. Why? I would think that reliability would imply that a product is in production (not development), which also implies a relatively unchanged design from one launch to another. This was not the case with the first several F1 flights, as the problems uncovered were remedied in later vehicles. I would point out that the last two were completely successful, with only the last one really being, at least in my mind, a “production” unit, as there were still improvements between flights 4 and 5. Therefore, only if many more F1 vehicles (not the future F1e) were flown would we actually have a good figure for “reliability.”

  43. Ken (a different Ken)

    @36 Ferris:

    “This really is rocket science”

    There, fixed your typo for you …

  44. Charles Boyer

    @Ferris “I am referring to Atlas V, specifically the 402 model, as opposed to the Atlas V Heavy. You don’t need something as big and heavy as Orion to go to ISS or LEO. There is the Boeing-Bigelow Capsule, the SNC Dreamchaser, or the Blue Origin capsule.

    We don’t need the Atlas V Heavy for this.

    Yes, Atlas V only has 2 of the 3 redundancies – Ares I has 0 redundancies, since it has NEVER flown. ”

    The A-V 402 model has never been built nor flown. Yet, anyway. Yes, the Atlas 401 CCB has flown 10 times in the same configuration as the proposed 402, but truth is the real difference is the Centaur upper stage. CIII/DEC probably won’t cut the mustard and the new Phase 1 configuration needs to be finished. I agree with you it would be far easier to continue to develop the Evolved Centaur development already underway and finish the job, opening the doors to some real competition.

    FWIW:

    The Boeing-Bigelow capsule is the same size – 5.03 meters – as Orion and is well behind Orion in development. It is expected to be close to the same weight as Orion Lite.

    SpaceDev already has a memorandum of understanding with ULA to develop Dream Chaser for the Atlas 431.

    Blue Origin got 3.7 million recently from NASA – for a pusher LES and for a pressure vessel, but given their recalcitrance to test and fly anything, it is hard to consider them a real player in the game. One would have to believe that if the New Shepard real was ready to go that Jeff Bezos — never a shy man — would be front and center to compete against Elon Musk and SpaceX.

    I can name you several dozen reasons why I am no fan of Ares I, and would much prefer that we returned to the original intents of EELV and man-rated Atlas V and Delta IV iterations, but the fact remains that only SpaceX has anything on the pad and with a successful first and second test launch they may well end this debate for the near term.

    Honestly, there’s no real reason to doubt SpaceX will succeed in the long term. Whether people like them or not, they have come a long way and they are not run by the Master Blasters. There’s some real rocket-man horsepower over there.

    Hopefully ULA will join into the game and be able to offer the government a second source for launch capability (assuming SpaceX succeeding) and then we can all worry about a true heavy lift vehicle that we will need if we plan to move past Earth’s gravity well.

  45. gss_000

    @36 Ferris

    “You don’t need something as big and heavy as Orion to go to ISS or LEO. There is the Boeing-Bigelow Capsule, the SNC Dreamchaser, or the Blue Origin capsule.”

    You mean, we don’t need something whose ground test vehicle is one weld away from being completed versus three others you mention that are complete vaporware at this point.

    If you’re going to criticize Ares I for having 0 flights, which is valid, you can’t in the next breath tout the performance of capsules that have never flown.

    As for SpaceX, I hope it does well, but I lost faith in them performing as the claim years ago. We were supposed to have 6 Falcon 9 flights by last September, IIRC.

  46. Ferris Valyn

    gss_ooo – Orion is hardly 1 weld away from being completed, and it has 0 test flights as well. Yes, its further along than the other vehicles, but that doesn’t mean the others are all vapor ware.

    1. Dreamchaser is actually derived almost entirely from the NASA HL-20 project, which has been an on-again/off-again project from the 1990s (might even go back to the 80s, and was itself based on a Russian design)

    2. The Boeing-Bigelow Capsule is based on the Orion (although how much is open for debate).

    BTW, worth noting – Lockheed Martin (who is doing Orion) has never built a human spacecraft, while Boeing has done them all (or it now owns the IP from the companies it bought)

  47. Ian

    The delays are entirely due to SpaceX starting the whole FTS approval process far later than they should have. Until they get FTS approval, they really have no business even setting launch dates (not to mention pressuring the Air Force official responsible in every one of their recent status updates; that simply comes across as petulance).

    Regarding the delays, I suspect that Elon Musk was misinformed about the Air Force’s requirements for range safety. Possibly this is because Elon’s long goal is human-rating the Falcon 9, where explosive flight termination is not an option. Although they are using an “off-the-shelf” FTS, there is no such thing as “off-the-shelf” FTS integration. The Air Force rightly treats FTS+brand new Falcon 9 as a completely new system, which requires the same exhaustive testing as any other new launch system.

    I bet Elon is kicking himself that he didn’t plan to launch the first Falcon 9 from Olemek Island, where the Falcon 1 was tested. You have a lot more leeway when you are launching from your own island in the middle of the Pacific.

    I wish SpaceX the best of luck on their inaugural launch, whenever it happens. I admire their strategy for cost reduction and reliability, by bringing most development in-house, using simple designs, and automating most fabrication and testing.

  48. awesomekip

    “being able to put a 20 ton payload into geosynchronous orbit. ”

    According to the recently updated Falcon 9 Heavy page ( http://www.spacex.com/falcon9_heavy.php ), its GTO payload has been revised down to 15,010 kg. Also, that’s the payload to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit, not Geosynchronous Orbit. GTO just gets you to the altitude of geosync orbit, you still have to circularize once you’re up there, which takes fuel.

    15,010 kg is still about 2 tons more than Delta IV Heavy’s GTO payload though.

    Go SpaceX!

  49. jfb

    I suspect (having little evidence to go by) that the F9 requires more pad infrastructure than what Omelek can support.

    It will fly when it flies; this is a public beta as much as anything else, just to make sure all the parts work as expected. I’m just hoping they learned enough lessons from the three initial F1 flights to avoid *major* problems. I’m curious how well the 9-engine arrangement will work in flight (and whether the F9H, with 27 engines, will work at all).

    What I find fascinating about the F9/Dragon project is that SpaceX developed a man-rated launcher and spacecraft *on spec*; that took some balls. No doubt they were counting on winning some NASA contracts to recoup the costs, but that wasn’t certain, and the *only* customer with the desire and funds to support manned spaceflight to LEO and beyond is the government.

  50. Benjamin Brown

    40. Nick B. Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 10:15 am

    I find it amazing how many people can’t tell the difference between a government grant (which SpaceX did not receive), and a contract for a product or service to be delivered (which SpaceX won in open competition). The latter is NOT a handout, and does not diminish a company’s free-enterprise credentials.

    True enough, as I’m writing this though the Falcon 9 rocket schedule has slipped to the 4th of June. The problem with Space X is that they’ve little more than that contract to secure their place as a successful company. At least until they can launch rockets successfully with commercial payloads regularly. Which, they haven’t done yet.

    I want Space X to be successful too, but I do dislike the great big hoopla made out of Space X when they haven’t done anything yet. Its hard to believe Space X can help us close the gap in two years as they’re saying, when they can’t even launch rockets regularly yet.

    1 commercial payload, that’s it. Excuse me for being anything but impressed.

  51. Messier Tidy Upper

    @50. Benjamin Brown : 1 commercial payload, that’s it. Excuse me for being anything but impressed.

    You’re excused. ;-)

    At least by me, gotta admit I’ll also only be impressed when I see their bird fly and do what its supposed to do effectively too. Which I hope to do any day now. A week from launch eh – and that was said on May 26th. Hmm … was that “week” as in five days or seven I wonder? Either way not long left for Space X if they’re keeping their word.

  52. Messier Tidy Upper

    Ah – Just seen the update at the top of this – launch delayed til June 2nd / 3rd. D’oh! [blushes]

  53. Ferris Valyn

    @53 – MTU

    They have been delayed by the Delta IV. That finally got away, so that allows them to start moving forward.

  54. Ferris Valyn

    Messier Tidy Upper – besides, its not SpaceX that we are “relying on” if Commercial Crew happens – Its ULA (IE Lockheed Martin & Boeing) and SpaceX, and a bunch of traditional NASA contractors and new companies

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