Category: (46)

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket makes its way through Cape Canaveral on Monday, June 6, 2016 from Port Canaveral. It was the fourth returned rocket moving into storage. The company will launch another rocket Monday and try to recover it at its landing zone on Florida's Space Coast. (Red Huber/Staff Photographer) (Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket makes its way through Cape Canaveral on Monday, June 6, 2016 from Port Canaveral. It was the fourth returned rocket moving into storage. The company will launch another rocket Monday and try to recover it at its landing zone on Florida’s Space Coast. (Red Huber/Staff Photographer) (Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel)

SpaceX will launch a refurbished rocket later this year from Florida’s Space Coast, with the rocket carrying with it a satellite meant to improve satellite coverage in areas of Latin America.

Calling the rocket “flight-proven,” Luxembourg-based SES officials announced today that its SES-10 satellite will hitch a ride with a spent rocket previously launched by SpaceX. It will be SpaceX’s first launch of a refurbished rocket.

Article by Marco Santana Orlando Sentinel – Complete Article [ HERE ]

NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission is positioned atop an Atlas V rocket for a planned launch next week from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Starting at 3:15 a.m. Monday, teams moved the space agency’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a Kennedy Space Center clean room to the processing tower at the Cape’s Launch Complex 41.

There the 4,650-pound probe was lifted atop the United Launch Alliance rocket targeting a liftoff next Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7:05 p.m.

“Our rocket now looks complete,” tweeted Dante Lauretta, the mission’s lead scientist from the University of Arizona.

OSIRIS-REx is an acronym for “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer.”

The $800 million mission aims to send the probe to a 2018 rendezvous with the dark, carbon-rich asteroid Bennu.

After mapping and studying the surface of the 1,600-foot-wide rock, the spacecraft will drop down to grab a minimum two-ounce sample of ancient gravel and dirt that is slated for return to Earth in a small capsule by 2023.

Scientists expect the pristine sample to advance understanding of the solar system’s formation 4.5 billion years ago, and think the material may hold organic molecules like those thought to be precursors of life on Earth.

The study of Bennu also hopes to improve tracking of asteroids that might eventually threaten Earth, and could prove valuable to private companies aspiring to mine asteroids.

The 189-foot-tall Atlas V is scheduled to roll a short distance to its launch pad next Wednesday, the day before launch.

Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 or jdean@floridatoday.com. And follow on Twitter at @flatoday_jdean and on Facebook at facebook.com/jamesdeanspace.

Article by James Dean, Florida Today, Complete Article [ HERE ]

This economic impact study shows a double return than 16 years ago. Although impressive, Donovan points out that it will be out of date as soon as Northrop Grumman completes hiring the necessary workforce to support its B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber development contract.

This economic impact study shows a double return than 16 years ago. Although impressive, Donovan points out that it will be out of date as soon as Northrop Grumman completes hiring the necessary workforce to support its B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber development contract.

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB) unveiled a study showing an estimated $2.61 billion annual economic impact on the community, affirming MLB as one of Brevard County’s leading economic powerhouses.

This is the first economic impact study on the Airport since 1999.

MLB is served by Delta Air Lines, Porter Airlines, American Airlines, Baer Air and Elite Airways with three runways, a 200,000 sq. ft. terminal and a 40,000 sq. ft. customs facility.  Airport tenants include Harris Corp. (world HQ), Embraer, Northrop Grumman, L3, General Dynamics, GE Transportation, Thales Group and Rockwell Collins.

Serving nearly 500,000 passengers annually, MLB is the closest airport to Port Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center and 72 miles of unspoiled beaches.

The study involved collecting and analyzing data from a majority of the companies (71 percent) located at the airport. It measured direct, indirect and induced effects on the aviation and non-aviation related businesses located at the airport, employment, visitor spending and construction.

“It’s important for the community to understand that one out of every $20 generated in Brevard County has ties to the airport.”“It’s fantastic to see these numbers, said Airport Executive Director Greg Donovan, AAE at a meeting of the airport authority this week.

Donovan emphasized that the study confirmed beyond question that the airport does not depend on Ad Valorem or general sales taxes.

This economic impact study shows a double return than 16 years ago. Although impressive, Donovan points out that it will be out of date as soon as Northrop Grumman completes hiring the necessary workforce to support its B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber development contract.
In addition, executive jet manufacturing giant Embraer’s Legacy 450/500 Jet project will be complete in 2017, adding $52.8 Million in aircraft production infrastructure and 600 jobs at MLB.“Project Magellan” adds $500 million in infrastructure and 1,800 jobs with an average salary of $100,000 airside at MLB.

The study was conducted by Patrick Mac Carthaigh, MSA, while completing a Master’s Degree program at Florida Institute of Technology for its airport development and management program.

Mac Carthaigh is now airfield supervisor at MLB. For more information, visit www.MLBair.com

Article by SpaceCoastDaily, Complete Article [ HERE ]

Brevard County business leaders met at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place for Orlando Business Journal's Doing Business in Brevard panel luncheon. Photo by Jim Carchidi

Brevard County business leaders met at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place for Orlando Business Journal’s Doing Business in Brevard panel luncheon. Photo by Jim Carchidi

 

In a short time, Brevard County has come a long way since the end of space shuttle program in 2011, which resulted in more than 8,000 job cuts and a major blow to the manufacturing industry that relied on NASA’s need for parts. But the county is making a comeback with new projects and big job creation.

“It was only five or six years ago that we had the layoffs from the shuttle program,” EDC of Florida Space Coast’s President and CEO Lynda Weatherman said to a room full of business owners and professionals at Orlando Business Journal’s Doing Business In Brevard County event. “It is quite phenomenal what has happened in such a short time. I challenge you to find another community that is comparable to what we’ve done here.”

Here’s a quick recap of projects, completed and in the works, in Brevard County:

Needless to say, Brevard County has its plate full, which isn’t a bad thing, as the county wants to diversify its business rather than focus entirely on the space industry.

But that doesn’t mean the area is without its challenges. Percy Luney, Space Florida’s vice president of education and talent supply chain, said the local commercial space industry is in a fierce competition with other states vying to take projects. And while the area has the infrastructure, cluster of space companies and history, we can stand to improve our talent.

“Jobs are changing,” he said. “And while community colleges are taking up advanced manufacturing, more manufacturers are focusing on robotics. These young students need training in that field and in coding and engineering. We are entering a whole new era.”

Check out more details from the panel discussion in Orlando Business Journal’s upcoming Sept. 2 issue.

Richardson covers technology and general assignments for online and print.

Article by Matthew Richardson, Orlando Business Journal, Complete Article [ HERE ]

 

A study released Wednesday says Orlando Melbourne International Airport has a $2.6 billion impact on the Space Coast economy. (Photo: Provided)

A study released Wednesday says Orlando Melbourne International Airport has a $2.6 billion impact on the Space Coast economy.
(Photo: Provided)

An in-house study released Wednesday says the economic impact of Orlando Melbourne International Airport grew to $2.6 billion from about $1.04 billion 15 years ago.

The report, put together by Patrick Mac Carthaigh , an airfield supervisor at at the city-owned airport, looked a variety of factors in his analysis to arrive at the $2.6 billion figure. Those factors included direct employment, indirect employment, airport construction, visitor spending and both aviation and non-aviation businesses at the airport.

Airport officials plan on using the analysis to emphasize to various groups, and others, just how valuable of an economic engine Orlando Melbourne International is to the Space Coast.

“It’s nice to have updated information and it’s fantastic to see these numbers and how really important this is,” said Greg Donovan, executive director at Orlando Melbourne International. “You’ll hear us go on a public campaign of awareness.”

The report was delivered as the Melbourne Airport Authority unanimously approved a $39.4 million operating budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. That’s a 4 percent decrease from the current revised budget.

With the study, Donovan said for years the airport have used outdated economic impact data that could have been off target by a billion dollars or more.

“I think it’s important for the community to understand, one out of every $20 dollars that is generated in Brevard County, has ties to the airport,” he said. “This is a very important financial instrument of our community. I think the more that we explain that the more that we explain that we’re not dependent on ad valorem or general sales taxes. Those are things the community needs to fully understand.”

Mac Carthaigh, a former airport intern who graduated with a master’s degree in airport development and management from the Florida Institute of Technology said he interviewed 62 businesses, made site visits and also gleaned financial and employment data from sources such as Dun & Bradstreet, Hoover’s and individual company reports.

“I’d like to add as a caveat,” Mac Carthaigh said, “that this was a very conservative study.”

Contact Price at 321-242-3658 or wprice@floridatoday.com.

Article by WPrice at Florida Today, Complete Article [ HERE ]

United Launch Alliance has won a $243 million contract to launch NASA’s next Mars rover from Cape Canaveral in 2020, the space agency announced Thursday.

An Atlas V rocket equipped with four strap-on solid rocket boosters is expected to blast the Mars 2020 mission on its way to the Red Planet in July 2020.

The $2.4 billion mission will search for evidence of past life on Mars and collect a sample of rock and soil for return to Earth by a later mission.

“We are honored that NASA has selected ULA to provide another robotic science rover to Mars on this tremendously exciting mission,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA’s vice president of custom services. “ULA and our heritage rockets have launched every U.S. spacecraft to the red planet, including Mars Science Lab, as well as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.”

The Mars 2020 rover builds upon the design of the six-wheeled, one-ton Mars Science Laboratory, better known as Curiosity, currently exploring an area known as Gale Crater.

The same type of Atlas V rocket launched Curiosity from Cape Canaveral in November 2011, and the rover touched down in August 2012 with the help of a first-of-its-kind “sky crane” system.

NASA has extended Curiosity’s mission at least into 2018.

The Mars 2020 mission’s $2.4 billion cost includes development of the rover and its seven instruments, the Atlas V launch and $300 million to perform its science mission for one Mars year, or about 22 Earth months.

Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 or jdean@floridatoday.com. And follow on Twitter at@flatoday_jdean and on Facebook at facebook.com/jamesdeanspace.

 Article by James Dean, Florida Today, Complete Article [ HERE ]

SpaceHAB

SpaceX is moving some of its operations to Port Canaveral, port Chief Executive Officer John Murray said Wednesday.

The space launch company plans to lease the now-vacant former Spacehab building on the north side of the port, and is looking at constructing a second building on vacant land adjacent to that site, Murray told port commissioners.

SpaceX is expected to process and refurbish rockets, as well as potentially perform other functions, at the port, Murray said.

“We’re happy to announce that they’re onboard,” he said. “It’s good for the port, it’s good for the community, and it’s a high-visibility project. So we’re really excited about that. They’re a great client to have on our port. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

A formal lease agreement with SpaceX could come before port commissioners for approval as early as next month. In the meantime, Murray said SpaceX plans to move into the 52,000-square-foot former Spacehab building through a temporary property use permit between the company and the port.

“We are pleased to have been granted temporary use of this facility to give us time to evaluate the building’s suitability to support SpaceX’s business in Florida on a longer-term basis,” SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said.

SpaceX operates two launch pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center, but has needed more room since it began landing Falcon 9 rocket boosters in December.

The first stages of six rockets launched from the Cape have been recovered, including four landed on ships in the Atlantic Ocean that returned to the port.

“With SpaceX’s recent progress in recovering first stage Falcon 9 boosters, we’re looking to expand our facilities on the Space Coast to support rocket refurbishment,” Taylor told FLORIDA TODAY earlier this month.

Murray said SpaceX’s “rapidly expanding” operations and upcoming “very aggressive” launch schedule were factors in the company deciding to expand onto port property.

Details about how many people will work at SpaceX’s Port Canaveral facilities and other specific tasks they’ll perform there have not been announced.

Port Authority Vice Chair Wayne Justice said he “couldn’t be more excited” to hear that SpaceX will become a tenant at Port Canaveral.

“This is great for us,” Justice said. “It’s like a shot of adrenaline. It’s that exciting.”

Port Commissioner Bruce Deardoff said he expects the lease agreement with SpaceX to also include resolving concerns SpaceX recently raised related to a proposed $15,000 fee each time a 30-ton rocket booster returns there.

SpaceX’s next Cape rocket launch and water landing attempt tentatively are targeted for early Sept. 3, a mission launching the AMOS-6 communications satellite for Israeli company Spacecom.

Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 or dberman@floridatoday.com.

Twitter: @bydaveberman

Facebook: /dave.berman.54

Article by Dave Berman, Florida Today, Complete Article [ HERE ]

 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lights up the night sky as it streaks over the Cocoa Beach Pier during liftoff early on Aug. 14 from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Aboard is a Japanese communications satellite. The men at top are billionaires Richard Braonson, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Paul Allen. (Craig Rubadoux/Florida Today/AP)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lights up the night sky as it streaks over the Cocoa Beach Pier during liftoff early on Aug. 14 from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Aboard is a Japanese communications satellite. The men at top are billionaires Richard Braonson, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Paul Allen. (Craig Rubadoux/Florida Today/AP)

Later this year, tech entrepreneur turned space pioneer Elon Musk is planning the blastoff of a new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, that would be twice as powerful as any other in use and one of the biggest since the Apollo era’s mighty Saturn V. The stage for the rocket’s debut: the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took off for the moon in 1969.

SpaceX’s use of 39A is the ultimate symbol that the government’s monopoly on space travel is over. To Musk, it also is proof of an additional triumph – over his fellow billionaire and rival Jeffrey P. Bezos, who had fought to secure the launch pad for himself.

Nearly five decades after the United States beat the Soviet Union to the moon, another space race is emerging, this time among a class of hugely wealthy entrepreneurs who have grown frustrated that space travel is in many ways still as difficult, and as expensive, as ever. Driven by ego, outsize ambition and opportunity, they are investing hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money in an attempt to open up space to the masses and push human space travel far past where governments have gone.

Musk, who made his first fortune on Zip2 and PayPal, and Bezos, who founded Amazon and owns The Washington Post, are the most prominent of a quartet of billionaires aspiring to open the frontier of space the way the public-private partnerships of the 19th century pushed west at the dawn of the railroad age.

The two others are Paul Allen, a Microsoft founder, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. All have upended industries, including retail, automobiles and credit cards, and are now embarking on the greatest disruption of all – making space travel routine – in a business long dominated by commercial-space contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

While their efforts have reignited interest in space, they also have raised moral complexities and regulatory challenges in pursuing an endeavor that is inherently dangerous. Congress has opted to regulate the industry only loosely, granting it an extended “learning period” that would allow companies to grow and to practice space travel.

Already, one pilot has died in the quest to make commercial space travel a reality. But his sacrifice came in the service of a company, Scaled Composites that was operating a spacecraft for Virgin Galactic, not a government acting in the national interest. Some critics, such as Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said that safeguards should not be overlooked.

“When the inevitable accident with significant loss of life occurs – whether it’s a year from now or five years from now,” she said, “the American public will look back at what we are doing today and ask how we could be so short-sighted?”

Since late last year, when Musk and Bezos traded what were interpreted as barbs on Twitter over who pulled off the most daring feat in space, they’ve apparently entered a detente, with peace offerings, even words of encouragement.

But there’s something about the exchanges that still bothers Musk, who in a recent interview wanted to make it clear: Space is not orbit.

That’s what he meant when he lit up Twitter after Bezos’s Blue Origin flew a rocket to the edge of space and landed it at its West Texas test range, a feat that NASA has never achieved. Bezos declared the reusable rocket “the rarest of beasts.”

“Not quite ‘rarest,’ ” Musk shot back, pointing out that SpaceX has previously launched rockets in test flights and landed them after relatively short trips. In a series of tweets, he vowed something even more spectacular, and difficult – landing a much larger and more powerful rocket capable of traveling many times the speed of sound, which is required for going into orbit.

Later, after SpaceX landed its Falcon 9 rocket, Bezos tweeted what many considered a backhanded compliment: “Welcome to the club!”

Months later, Musk still was fixated on it. Bezos’s Blue Origin may have crossed the boundary into “space,” a somewhat arbitrary barrier generally agreed as starting at 62 miles above Earth’s surface. But Musk’s SpaceX spacecraft don’t just go up; they go up and out, following an arc and moving so fast – about five miles per second – that they stay aloft and can circle the Earth in less time than it takes to watch “Star Wars.”

Reaching the threshold of space is a somewhat simple up and down endeavor – “like shooting a cannon ball up and then the cannon ball falls down for four minutes of free fall,” Musk said.

Orbit and space “are different leagues,” Musk said.

The tension began appearing in legal briefs in 2014. SpaceX challenged a patent held by Blue Origin that gave it the right to land rockets on floating barges at sea – a feat SpaceX has now pulled off multiple times.

The point of landing the rockets, though is to reuse them, which then would dramatically lower the cost of space flight. SpaceX has yet to refly any of its rockets, however. Blue Origin, by contrast, has flown the same booster four times in test flights, showing that recovering the rocket is not the same as reusing it.

And there was Launch Complex 39A. Musk won the lease in 2013, but Blue Origin filed a legal protest, arguing that the criteria NASA used to come to its decision were flawed. Musk derided the protest as a “phony blocking tactic and an obvious one at that.”

Blue Origin had not yet sent a rocket to space, which Musk eagerly pointed out, and didn’t have one qualified to carry people.

“If they do somehow show up in the next 5 years with a vehicle qualified to NASA’s human rating standards that can dock with the Space Station, which is what 39A is meant to do, we will gladly accommodate their needs,” Musk wrote in an email published at SpaceNews.com. Then in a taunt that shot across the Internet, he added, “Frankly, I think we are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct.”

At the time, Blue Origin was tight lipped about the remarks. But years later, it responded by announcing that Bezos had secured a spot of his own at Cape Canaveral: Launch Complex 36, just down the road from 39A, so he and Musk will be neighbors.

It was supposed to have happened by now: Space tourism. Bases on the moon. Humans to Mars and beyond. The next giant leap. And the next.

Bezos was 5 years old during the Apollo 11 moon landing and remembers watching it on his living room television with his parents and grandparents. “It was a seminal moment for me,” he has said.

In 2013, he embarked on a three-week quest to recover from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean the F-1 engines used in the Apollo-era Saturn V rockets. Using deep-water rovers, his team found its quarry: castaway engine parts, more than three miles down, deeper than the wreck of the Titanic. Where others might have seen piles of rusted debris fit for a junkyard, Bezos saw art. “A magic sculpture garden,” he called it.

After Musk sold his first company, Zip2, to Compaq, for more than $300 million, he started thinking more seriously about space exploration and wondered when NASA was planning on getting to Mars. He searched the space agency’s website for its Mars plan but could not find one.

“Because, of course, there had to be a schedule,” he said in a 2012 speech. “And I couldn’t find it. I thought the problem was me. Because, of course, it must be here somewhere on this website, but just well-hidden. And it turned out it wasn’t on the website at all. Which was shocking.”

Musk, who also runs Tesla Motors, plans to send an uncrewed spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018, and hopes that people could arrive by 2025. While that seemingly impossible goal remains aspirational, SpaceX continues to build bigger and more powerful rockets, and has disrupted the existing commercial and military launch markets by offering affordable and transparent prices.

Last year, however, a unmanned Falcon 9 rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station blew up, forcing the company to delay all launches for six months. But it now has a backlog of more than 70 missions representing more than $10 billion in revenue.

“We’re sort of checking the various boxes that are needed to do this,” Musk said, “while providing useful services to NASA and commercial companies.”

As a child, Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, knew the names of the Mercury 7 astronauts, as if they were the star players of his favorite baseball team. “Like countless other boys, I planned to become an astronaut when I grew up,” he wrote in his memoir. “For sheer adventure, you couldn’t beat outer space.”

In 2004, Allen teamed up with legendary aerospace engineer Burt Rutan to develop SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million contest, and became the first commercial vehicle to reach space. Allen licensed the rights to the technology behind the spacecraft to Branson and concentrated on other interests.

But now he’s back. He’s building Stratolaunch, that would become the world’s largest airplane with a wingspan wider than a football field, end zones included. It is designed to carry a rocket tethered to its belly to an altitude of about 35,000 feet. The rocket would drop away from the plane, fire its engines and “air-launch” into orbit.

Branson’s goal is to create the first commercial spaceline, with the craft taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. And he’s proud that more than 700 people – more than the approximately 550 people who have actually been to space – have bought tickets to ride on his spacecraft, some paying as much as $250,000.

“Perhaps it is in our culture, perhaps it is in our DNA, or perhaps it is a bit of each of those, but we humans seem hard-wired to explore,” Branson’s Virgin Galactic says on its website. “But because government space agencies are not asked to help ordinary citizens to become astronauts, most of our planet’s seven billion people have had no opportunity to experience space and all of its possibilities for themselves.”

The last time the United States was not able to launch its own astronauts to space, the hiatus lasted 2,098 days, from the last of the Apollo-era missions in 1975 to the first space shuttle flight in 1981.

Today, NASA is again in a hiatus, this one beginning when the shuttles were retired in 2011. But now there is a painful twist: The United States has to rely on Russia, the country it bested in the Cold War race to the moon, to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

That is expected to end by late 2017, or early 2018, when a cadre of carefully chosen NASA astronauts would board a spacecraft on the Florida Space Coast and launch from U.S. soil. That historic moment would feature a rocket that for the first time would be owned and operated by a commercial company, not NASA.

Today, SpaceX and Boeing, the companies that NASA is entrusting with the lives of its astronauts, are vying to see which will fly first. The victor would become the company that restores U.S. human spaceflight in what would be one of the most tense and dramatic launches in decades.

Then could come the birth of regular commercial space-tourism trips. Wealthy ticketed passengers, fresh off days of space training camp, could board a private spacecraft, buckle into luxurious window seats and shoot just past the edge of space, where they would float weightless, joining the ranks of the world’s first space tourists in a flight that would last several minutes.

Virgin Galactic had said its first flight would be as early as 2009, but that has been delayed again and again, most recently when an aircraft came apart during a test flight, killing the co-pilot.

Since then, the company has rebounded, unveiling its new spacecraft earlier this year. While Virgin Galactic no longer gives a timeline, Bezos has said he believes Blue Origin could start taking tourists by 2018.

Branson and Bezos, both known to prize customer service, are honing their sales pitches, one promising a concierge to the cosmos and the other promoting windows the size of doors for a better view.

But while the companies say they are not in a race to see who flies customers first, some corporate jockeying is underway. Branson has said he thinks people would prefer the comforts of SpaceShipTwo, a space plane that would land on a runway, over a rocket launch that would propel a thimble-like capsule into space and then land under parachutes.

“We believe going into space in a spaceship and coming back in that spaceship, on wheels, will be a customer experience that people would prefer than perhaps one or two other options that are being considered,” he said in an interview late last year. “And we’d love to see whether we’re correct about that.”

To these space barons, the dawn of this new Space Age is similar to the advent of the personal computer and the Internet. Regular access to space is a new catalyst for innovation, one that as Allen recently said, “holds similar revolutionary potential.”

He, Musk and Branson have plans to launch constellations of small satellites. These satellites could more affordably beam the Internet to the billions who are not now connected, provide better communication and allow companies and governments to continuously monitor events on the ground – including phenomena as diverse as wars and agriculture.

“When such access to space is routine, innovation will accelerate in ways beyond what we can currently imagine,” Allen said. “That’s the thing about new platforms: When they become easily available, convenient and affordable, they attract and enable other visionaries and entrepreneurs to realize more new concepts.”

For years, many have been waiting for the commercial space industry to become a real market, one where companies actually make money and prosper. William Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA’s human spaceflight division, said he thinks that the industry “is on the crest of another wave.”

“There’s a lot of hype,” he said at a Federal Aviation Administration space conference this year, citing other times when industry felt it was on the cusp of revolutionary change.

“But will we be able to generate enough demand?” he said. “It can’t just be solely government demand. It has to be augmented by the private sector. . . . Will that be enough to push us over or to reach that tipping point that actually enables this industry to become more self-sufficient than it was in the past?”

Bezos, Branson and others are betting that there will be enough demand – especially if they’re successful in getting to space quickly and easily, like flying a plane. Bezos has talked about building “the highway to lower orbit” so that the next generation “will be able to use that heavy infrastructure that I put in place so there can be a huge dynamic entrepreneurial explosion in space.”

His goal is eventually to establish such a transportation link that all heavy industry could be moved off Earth into space, where companies could mine asteroids for their precious metals. Earth, then, could be preserved as if it were exclusively zoned “residential and light industrial,” he said.

Musk is focused on Mars.

“It’s fundamentally about transport. Without transport you can’t get there. You need to build the Union Pacific,” he said. “Once there’s a transportation link established to Mars, it’ll open up incredible entrepreneurial opportunities for anyone that wants to go there and establish everything from the first iron foundry to the first pizza joint to things we don’t even conceive of on Earth that are just new on Mars.”

That effort will be exceedingly difficult, and likely even fatal, he said. The timeline Musk has laid out is incredibly ambitious, with the first unmanned flight coming as soon as 2018. Of the 43 robotic missions to Mars, including fly-bys, attempted by four countries, only 18 have been total successes. No private company has ever dared try it before, and SpaceX has yet to fly the Falcon Heavy, which has been delayed repeatedly because of technical challenges.

In the past, such bold, “because it is hard” pronouncements were made by presidents, not billionaires. But Musk and Bezos are now cast in a sort of Cold War reenactment, performing the roles once held exclusively by nations and their heroes.

Bezos’s rocket is named after the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, who reached the edge of space in a 15-minute ride in 1961. But unlike his Soviet counterpart, Yuri Gagarin, Shepard did not reach orbit. That would not happen for the Americans until the next year, when John Glenn rode a more powerful rocket.

Bezos, too, is preparing his next giant leap: producing by the end of the decade a rocket that can reach orbit. By then, though, Musk could be shooting for Mars.

Article by By Christian Davenport / The Washington Post, Complete Article [ HERE ]

The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sailing into Port Canaveral, just three days after its launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – and what a gorgeous sight it was – welcome back! (Port Canaveral image)

The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sailing into Port Canaveral, just three days after its launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – and what a gorgeous sight it was – welcome back! (Port Canaveral image)

BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sailed into Port Canaveral, just three days after its launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 14 carrying the JCSAT-16 communications satellite for Tokyo’s SKY Perfect JSAT.

This satellite supports existing services in the Ku- and Ka-band for the Japanese market, enabling more stable satellite services.

Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s two-stage rocket manufactured to successfully transport satellites and their Dragon spacecraft into orbit.

Currently, the only rocket fully designed and developed in the 21st century, Falcon 9 delivers payloads to space aboard the Dragon spacecraft or inside a composite fairing.

With a minimal number of separation events and nine first-stage Merlin engines, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is designed so that even if two of the engines shut down, the rocket can still operate.

In 2012, SpaceX became the first commercial company to rendezvous with the International Space Station utilizing Falcon 9 and Dragon. Although these flights have not transported crew, SpaceX is working toward their goal of transporting astronauts to space in Crew Dragon.

Article by Space Coast Daily, Complete Article [ HERE ]

OSIRIS-REx_Artist’s_conception

Cape Canaveral, Florida: Nasa scientists are putting the finishing touches on a spacecraft designed to rendezvous with Asteroid Bennu in 2018 to find clues about the origins of life.

“We are days away from encapsulating into our rocket faring and lifting this spacecraft on to the Atlas V vehicle and beginning the journey to Bennu and back,” Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of the mission toldReuters at the Kennedy Space Center.

The $1 billion mission, known as OSIRIS-REx, is scheduled for launch on 8 September 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The solar-powered robotic spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, is set to rendezvous with asteroid 1999 RQ36, nicknamed Bennu, in two years’ time for mapping and surveys, then use a robotic arm to collect samples for return in 2023.

Scientists are interested in studying what minerals and chemicals the asteroid contains. Similar asteroids crashing into Earth are believed to have provided the organic materials and water needed for life to form.

“We expect to find materials that pre-date our solar system,” said Lauretta, adding that physical samples from the 1960s and 1970s Apollo moon missions are still bearing scientific fruit to this day.

“To understand the chemistry down to the molecular level we have to get a sample back and take them to the best labs in this country and around the world now and for generations to come,” added mission project scientist Jason Dworkin.

In 2010, Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft was the first to bring back physical samples of an Asteroid to Earth.

Along with sample retrieval, the Orisis-Rex spacecraft is equipped with a suit of cameras and sensors designed to study what forces influence the asteroids orbit.

Even planning the spacecraft’s flight plan for rendezvous with Bennu was difficult because the physics of asteroid trajectories isn’t a perfect science, said Lauretta.

“This turned out to be a much larger challenge than we originally anticipated because other forces like solar radiation pressure, even thermal emission off the asteroid itself will push the spacecraft around,” Lauretta added.

The mission, Dworkin said, will give astronomers new insights into how heat from the sun influences the movement of space rocks, data critical in protecting Earth from potential asteroid collisions in the future. Reuters