Tag Archives: Falcon Heavy

SpaceX could be the next to send humans to the Moon???

Yes, you heard that right.  They have yet to launch their crewed spacecraft as far as the ISS, but this week they announced that two undisclosed wealthy individuals have approached them about riding a Dragon capsule, boosted by their soon-to-fly Falcon Heavy, in a trip around the Moon.  (I’m betting they’re talking a lunar swingby mission, not an orbital mission.)  They plan on conducting this mission by the end of 2018.

For perspective, there are only two flights of Falcon Heavy currently on the manifest (the demo launch and a USAF experimental mission, one this year and one the next), and the crewed Dragon isn’t set to fly to the ISS until the fourth quarter of 2018 as it is.  (And the GAO recently expressed serious doubt about that even happening.)  So this is pretty ambitious.  Exciting, and very very cool, but certainly a stretch goal.

Who are the two individuals?  SpaceX isn’t saying.  They did, however, say they’d be happy to give NASA dibs on flying to the Moon aboard Dragon first — an announcement which came as a great shock to NASA, since they found out about all of this the same time the rest of us did.

This is sure to shake things up, and I’d not put odds on whether or not they’ll manage this.  I do have to wonder whether they’re overextending themselves.  They have put a lot of very ambitious challenges in front of themselves.  From a program risk perspective, this doesn’t seem like a good idea.  But if they pull it off . . . hoo boy.  There’s quite a payoff in terms of bragging rights, and it’s definitely a strong step towards their ultimate goal: Mars.

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Falcon 9 RTF has a launch date!

After the shocking pre-launch explosion of a Falcon 9 last September, destroying the payload and severely damaging the pad, SpaceX has announced a launch date for their return-to-flight.  The SLC-40 pad at Cape Canaveral is still not in usable condition, but SLC-4E at Vandenberg is of course perfectly fine; that’s where the next flight, with 10 Iridum NEXT satellites on board, will launch.

Pending FAA approval after submission of their failure investigation findings, the Iridium launch is expected to occur this Sunday, January 8.  SpaceX has a very full backlog that it will need to start working on right after that, but as SLC-40 will take time to repair, the next Florida launch (Echostar  23) will be from the venerable LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center, on Merritt Island.  LC-39A was originally built for the Saturn V, then modified for the Space Shuttle, and now is nearly ready to support Falcon 9.  Both SLC-4E and LC-39A will be capable of hosting the enormous Falcon Heavy, which SpaceX hopes to fly twice this year if all goes well — one test flight, and then the first operational flight on behalf of the USAF.  Meanwhile, cargo Dragon flights are scheduled to resume in February, and SpaceX tentatively plans to make their first uncrewed test flight of the crewed Dragon later this year.  However, their manifest is so full that even slight delays could push that into 2018.  Their ultimate dream has always been to fly humans, but they are committed to meeting their commercial obligations as well.

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Happy New Year, and Welcome 2017!

Welcome to 2017!  It’s gonna be a heckuva year!  Forget about politics — here’s some of the stuff I’m looking forward to in 2017:

1) Series 10 of Doctor Who!!!!!  More of the Twelfth Doctor (or, as my nine-year-old calls him, “Doctor Eyebrows”), new companions, new adventures . . . I can’t wait!

2) The total solar eclipse across the United States, August 21.  I’ve already made plans; my family will be camping across South Dakota and Wyoming, aiming to observe the event itself in Casper, Wyoming, which is expected to be way busier than it normally is; the longest duration will be closer to the tourist-trap haven of Branson, Missouri, but Wyoming is predicted to have the most reliable weather.  If you have not made plans, well, expect everything to be booked solid already…..  I’ve been anticipating this one for about twenty years.  😉

tse2017-1

3) The Falcon 9 return-to-flight mission.  After the shocking launchpad mishap last year, Falcon 9’s had a bit of a downtime, and now has a backlog to process.  They’re looking to return to flight possibly early in January, with a 10-spacecraft launch out of Vandenberg AFB on behalf of the Iridium NEXT constellation.

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4) Possibly also the Falcon Heavy maiden flight.  Resembling a Delta IV Heavy, and likewise comprised of three cores strapped together, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket in the world when it finally launches.  It’s a crucial element of SpaceX’s larger aspirations – they still have Mars in their sights.

5) November 13, there will be a very close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus.  They’ll be closer together than the width of the full moon in the sky, a rare visual treat.

6) New Mythbusters, perhaps?  With the annual Mythbusters Mega-Marathon underway, I’ve got Mythbusters on the brain; but it would be lovely to get some new ones.  Jamie and Adam have moved on, but Discovery is running a sort of game show to select their successors.  Should be interesting!  Expect explosions!

Talking of stuff on the screen, there are some awesome-looking movies coming:

7) LEGO Batman!  Really, ’nuff said.  😉

8) Beauty and the Beast looks pretty amazing too:

9) Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  Luc Besson is amazing, and this movie is seriously his baby.  The comic book it’s based upon was a huge inspiration and influence to him growing up, so this should be pretty spectacular.

So, there’s a taste of stuff to look forward to in the new year!  There’s definitely some cool stuff coming our way.  😉  How about you?  What are you looking forward to in 2017?

 

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Epic Falcon Heavy Animation

This is absolutely awesome: the entire flight profile of the Falcon Heavy, with three flyback first stage cores.  The animation manages to cover all the major elements of the flight, which is impressive since a lot of them are happening at once.  It’s gorgeous.

And while we’re on a SpaceX kick, here’s another lovely animation: the Dragon V2 flight profile, including the propulsive landing at KSC that they intend to migrate to later in the program.

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Is SpaceX stepping up their game?

NASASpaceFlight.com has an intriguing article on the subject of SpaceX’s plans for future super heavy lift vehicles, heavier even than the Falcon Heavy (which is planned to have three Falcon 9 first stages strapped together) — the Falcon X and Falcon XX would be more powerful than even the Saturn V, and would likely require a new engine. The Merlin engine is very much state-of-the-art for kerosene burners, but the propellant does have its limits, and the engine isn’t robust enough for the many restarts over a long maintenance-free period that would be needed during a Mars mission.  So what are they planning?

Well, surprisingly, it appears that this time instead of perfecting a very reliable, tried-and-true combustion cycle and propellant combination, they’re considering treading new ground with a full-flow staged cycle methane/LOX engine, with a novel turbopump design that would greatly improve longevity and safety.  It’s very ambitious, and could be the answer . . . but have they finally bitten off more than they can chew?  The answer will likely come when they start test-firing the Raptor engine.  It’s not clear when that would be, but they’re in the process of modifying a test stand at Stennis Space Center to supply the methane/LOX combination.  So, probably sooner rather than later.  Exciting.  😉

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/03/spacex-advances-drive-mars-rocket-raptor-power/

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