by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Development Council
September 30, 2016

Blue Origin to Follow Suborbital New Shepard with Huge Orbital New Glenn

Jeff Bezos announced that Blue Origin is developing a family of orbital rockets it’s calling New Glenn. Both the two-stage and three-stage versions of the rocket would stand taller than the United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy and SpaceX Falcon Heavy, according a new infographic released by Blue Origin. Both New Glenn 2 and New Glenn 3 would be powered by a cluster of seven liquid-natural-gas-fueled BE-4 engines. “The 2-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall, and its second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine. The 3-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall. A single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powers its third stage. The booster and the second stage are identical in both variants. “We plan to fly New Glenn for the first time before the end of this decade from historic Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. New Glenn is designed to launch commercial satellites and to fly humans into space. The 3-stage variant – with its high specific impulse hydrogen upper stage – is capable of flying demanding beyond-LEO missions.” — Space News

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Bezos Donates Heinlein Prize Money to SEDS

Jeff Bezos is donating a $250,000 space prize to a student group. Bezos, who formally accepted the Heinlein Prize for commercial space achievements Wednesday night in Washington, said the prize would go to Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), a group Bezos was a member of when attending Princeton University. Bezos is the third person to win the prize, after Peter Diamandis and Elon Musk. — Space News

 

We Need to Change the Wildly Inefficient Way We Design Rockets

There’s a renewed interest in exploring space, but the way we design the rockets and propulsion systems that actually get people to the final frontier is super inefficient and insanely expensive. If mankind really wants to explore deep space, that has to change. So says Vigor Yang, the William R. T. Oakes Professor and Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Aerospace Engineering. In the past, NASA and other agencies have spent up to 75 percent of their recourses on testing and redesigning propulsion systems. To Yang, that’s far too costly and not fast enough. High-fidelity designs — careful and precise planning ahead of the testing stage — and a “defense-in-depth” approach could make more advanced systems a reality. Consider how engineers tried out pretty much everything when designing the rockets that would eventually propel the Apollo missions to the Moon. For instance, the rockets required baffles — dividers used to restrain or direct the flow of gas or fuel. Yang said the scientists tested designs that had numbers of baffles ranging from a modest three to an absurd 81. Click here. — Inverse

 

Commercial Crew Companies Emphasize Safety Over Schedule

In the wake of a launch accident and a critical report, the two companies with NASA commercial crew contracts say they’re committed to maintaining their development schedules, but not at the expense of safety. Officials with Boeing, SpaceX and NASA are going to great lengths to emphasize they would not rush the development and test flights of crewed vehicles despite a desire to have at least one company’s system ready to start ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS before the end of 2018. Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, declined to give estimated dates for those missions. “Our focus is getting able to fly again soon from our overall fleet perspective,” he said of returning the Falcon 9 to flight. That investigation is not affecting various commercial crew activities, he added. “We’re full steam ahead on crew, while we listen to the data and understand what’s going on.” Chris Ferguson, deputy program manager for commercial crew at Boeing, restated a schedule for development of the CST-100 Starliner that the company has been reporting for several months. That plan includes an uncrewed flight test in late 2017 and a crewed flight test in February 2018. That schedule, he said, would allow the CST-100 to be certified in time for an operational mission in June 2018. — Space News

 

Space Exploration Funding’s Link with Public Interest

“The message space exploration sends to the rest of the human race is that when you get a bunch of people together who love what they do and put their talent together, you can do almost anything,” said Michael Genest, a key member of the Mission Control Center for the International Space Station in his lecture, “The International Space Station and The Future of Humans in Space,” Tuesday afternoon. Despite NASA’s problem-solving abilities, the program is still faced with significant challenges when it comes to funding and public support. “The lifeblood of space exploration for now is funding,” Genest said, and “as long as we’re in the Lewis and Clark mode of exploration — government funded, expensive and therefore purely exploratory — we’re going to be vulnerable to political will.” One potential solution would be to “shift the center of gravity more to a more self-interested, commercial model. Then the things that motivate all commercial successes will motivate space flight,” Genest said. Until there can be this shift toward a more commercial model, NASA has attempted to gain public support through social media efforts and through the internet. — Brown Daily Herald

 

What if SpaceX Beats NASA to Mars?

FILE - In this Thursday, May 29, 2014 file photo, Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, listens to a question during a news conference in front of the SpaceX Dragon V2 spacecraft, designed to ferry astronauts to low-Earth orbit, at the headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. The capsule was named for "Puff the Magic Dragon," a jab at those who scoffed when Musk founded the company in 2002 and set the space bar exceedingly high. SpaceX went on to become the first private company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and return it safely to Earth in 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, in front of the SpaceX Dragon V2 spacecraft. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

 

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been exceptionally clear about his goal to send a crewed spacecraft to the red planet by the year 2025.

FILE - In this May 27, 2016 photo made available by SpaceX, their Falcon rocket booster lands on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean after launching a satellite into orbit. Its name is a nod to the Millennium Falcon piloted by Han Solo in the Star Wars movie series. It's powered by Merlin engines. (SpaceX via AP)

Photo made available by SpaceX.

Faced with such a prospect, William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, had a very astute response: “It’s not a competition.” He went on to explain that whichever company or agency first able to make it to the red planet is irrelevant to the bigger picture of expanding the presence of humanity into deep space. “It advances us as a species,” he said. NASA is rooting for SpaceX and the success of the Red Dragon program as much as Musk and his team are rooting for NASA.  — Inverse

This artist's rendering provided by SpaceX on Tuesday, Sept 27, 2016 shows the company's proposed Interplanetary Transport System passenger module on the surface a moon orbiting the planet Jupiter. For the past decade, Elon Musk has borrowed from science fiction and fantasy when naming his rockets, engines, capsules and other space doodads. For his first passenger ship, he is leaning toward the name "Heart of Gold," the starship in the novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." (SpaceX via AP)

Image provided by SpaceX.

 

An Important Step Toward Virgin Launches

The successful test flight last week for SpaceShipTwo was an important step for Virgin Galactic as it continues working toward the start of commercial suborbital launches from Spaceport America. Those launches would have likely started by now if not for the 2014 explosion during a test flight above Mojave, California, that claimed the life of the spaceship’s co-pilot and set back testing and development considerably. — Las Cruces Sun-News

 

Norwegian Spaceflight Startup Plans Ocean Launches

Their plan calls for reusable cargo rockets to be built in shipyards, transported to open ocean, and launched from the sea, without so much as a floating launch pad to get in the way of the rocket’s journey from ocean to space. Now Innovation Norway, the Norwegian government’s official funding source for new startups, has reportedly awarded Ripple Aerospace a grant of unknown size to support the company’s launch system development. The company’s plans call for a test launch sometime next year of a rocket big enough to carry a small dog into space — which we can only hope is mentioned for the sake of size comparison. — Inverse

 

“Journey to Mars” is About Much More Than Actually Going to Mars

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When William Gerstenmaier discusses the agency’s “Journey to Mars,” he really stresses the “journey” part. It’s like a family vacation. Getting there is half the fun. “I wouldn’t focus on the destination,” NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said Thursday. What Gerstenmaier means is that NASA’s mission to Mars is not exclusively focused on Mars. It’s about helping humans establish a permanent presence in deep space (like supply stations on asteroids). The comments came during the third-and-final day of the American Institute of Aeronautics And Astronautics’s annual Explore SPACE Forum in Long Beach, California. Mars is merely one part of a broader vision to move us into exploring other worlds and moving habitable infrastructure into cislunar space — the space between Earth and the Moon — Mars, and beyond. “Right now we’re not ready to leave the Earthbound system,” Gerstenmaier said. — Inverse

 

SpaceX’s Mars Colonial Transporter Can Go “Well Beyond” Mars

Dragon Mars LandingArtist's rendition of a Dragon spacecraft landing on the surface of Mars.Credit: SpaceX

Image provided by SpaceX.

Elon Musk just teased that one of SpaceX’s more future-focused projects might be more ambitious than previously thought. On Twitter, the SpaceX CEO revealed that the company’s Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) will need a new name, since in fact, it “can go well beyond Mars.” The MCT is SpaceX’s personnel transport craft, designed to be used with the company’s large Raptor rocket engine to transport the first humans to Mars, with a pilot unmanned launch planned for 2022, and a first flight with people on board slated for 2024. Musk’s teaser is timely – we should find out more about the MCT and its mission at the International Astronautical Congress on September 27, where the SpaceX CEO is a special keynote speaker, and will deliver an address called “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.” — Tech Crunch

 

Exploration Team Shoots for the Moon with Water-Propelled Satellite

Cislunar Explorers spacecraft separating from each other after each deployment. Image courtesy Cornell University. A satellite propelled by the Earth’s most abundant natural resource? Yes, it’s true. Cislunar Explorers, a team of Cornell University students guided by Mason Peck, a former senior official at NASA and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is attempting to boldly go where no CubeSat team has gone before: around the Moon. Not only is Peck’s group attempting to make a first-ever Moon orbit with a satellite no bigger than a cereal box, made entirely with off-the-shelf materials, it’s doing so with propellant that you can obtain simply by turning on a faucet. “This has a very important goal, and that is to demonstrate that you can use water as a propellant,” said Peck, who served as NASA’s chief technologist in 2012-13. — Space Travel