Transportation Nation

With NASA Shuttles Gone, Florida Towns Suffer, Court SpaceX

Friday, May 03, 2013


Florida's Space Coast boomed when NASA was launching shuttles. Now the region is struggling and pinning hopes of a space renaissance on private companies like SpaceX moving into old NASA facilities. But the government space agency isn't so quick to hand over the keys. 

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The Boomerang Rocket Ship: Shoot It Up, Back It Comes

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

SpaceX calls it the "Grasshopper" — it's a rocket that doesn't fall back to Earth haphazardly after launch. It carefully returns itself to the launchpad standing up, right where it started.

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Neil Tyson Pounds The Table, Demanding A Future, Now!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

What happened to the future? In the '60s and '70s, says astrophysicist Neil Tyson, kids thought about going to space, exploring; tomorrow seemed so, so near. But no longer. Our world these days, is tighter, more awake to limits, and that's not good, says Tyson, not good for kids, and especially not good for the economy. Tyson insists that dreaming makes us richer.

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Transportation Nation

SpaceX Hopes to Fly Supply Mission to ISS this Summer

Friday, June 01, 2012

Dragon on a barge after splashdown in the Pacific (Photo Courtesy of SpaceX)

(Orlando, FL -- WMFE) With the splashdown of a privately owned unmanned space capsule Thursday and a successful weeklong demonstration visit to the International Space Station, the company that built the craft is hoping the mission leads to regular resupply flights for NASA.

SpaceX hopes to get the green light from NASA to launch its first supply mission to the ISS  later this summer.

Dragon splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, nine  days after blasting off from Cape Canaveral. CEO Elon Musk said he was relieved to see the Dragon’s parachutes pop open, guiding the scorched capsule to its target a few hundred miles off the California coast, knowing the mission had been a success.

Musk described the test flight as like a “grand slam.”

“I almost feel like it’s more success than we had a reasonable right to expect, so I hope we’re able to repeat it,” said Musk.

“That’s going to be our focus is making sure that we repeat it well in future flights.”

Musk acknowledged his company would not have gotten this far without NASA’s help.

NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program manager Alan Lindenmoyer said after a final mission report comes back in a few weeks, SpaceX should be well on the way to starting services.

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The Takeaway

Is the Private Era in Space Officially Upon Us?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The United States, Russia, Japan, the European Union, and SpaceX: what do they all have in common? If all goes smoothly over the next few days, each entity will have successfully brought a vessel to the International Space Station. Yesterday, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and its unmanned Dragon capsule lifted off en route to the International Space Station, marking the first ever flight for a commercial spacecraft bound for the space station. Michael Lopez-Alegria, former NASA astronaut and current president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and Miles O'Brien, science correspondent for PBS NewsHour, discuss the future of space travel.

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Transportation Nation

Failure to Launch for First Privately Owned Space Shuttle

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Falcon 9 Rocket test firing engines on April 30, 2012. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX)

(Orlando, Fla. -- WMFE) A launch abort has delayed the first attempt by a private company to fly a spacecraft to the International Space Station. A potential engine problem was detected moments before lift off.

With good weather and the International Space Station in position over Florida, the launch was in its final countdown.

But after a rumble and a brief flash of fire, the Dragon capsule atop its Falcon 9 rocket remained on the pad at Cape Canaveral.

Half a second before lift-off, a computer detected high chamber pressure in one of the rocket’s nine engines, forcing a shut down.

Technicians will examine the engine to try and find out what went wrong.

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell says they'll try to fix the engine, but another option could be to replace the faulty engine with another one.

The next opportunity for launch is early Tuesday morning.

Late Saturday SpaceX said engineers had discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine.

Company spokesperson Kirstin Brost Grantham said they hoped to have the valve replaced by Saturday night.

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Transportation Nation

Companies to Offer Rides to Private Space Stations

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bigelow's Genesis II Space Habitat, launched in 2007 (Photo Courtesy of Bigelow Aerospace)

The private space companies Space Exploration Technologies and Bigelow Aerospace are planning to offer rides to international customers to private space stations.

The California based SpaceX is developing a reusable space craft and rocket, while Bigelow, which has offices and manufacturing plants in Nevada and Maryland, is working on an expandable space station which it says will be lighter and cheaper than rigid metallic structures traditionally used in space station design.  Bigelow's  BA330 habitat will be able to support a crew of six, and the company says it could be used by national space agencies, private companies and universities.

Mike Gold, Bigelow's Director of DC operations and business growth, says the plan is to lease space on the station much like a lease on a terrestrial building.

"Too often we treat space as something absolutely unique or different," says Gold.

"The business principles we've used here on earth for centuries apply just as well to space, and we're looking forward to bringing traditional business practices to space."

Gold says it's too early to tell what it would cost to lease one of the company's private space stations. "Until we know exactly what the cost of the rockets and the capsules we use for transportation are, I wouldn't want to say what the pricing will be."

Bigelow and SpaceX plan to begin a marketing campaign in Asia. Company representatives will travel to Japan to meet with officials after the upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch, which is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station on May 19th.

The Dragon capsule packed with cargo for the mission is designed to eventually carry astronauts into orbit. As part of its commercial crew program, NASA is providing funding and technical expertise to help  SpaceX develop its rocket and capsule.

The launch has been delayed several times while technicians work to refine computer software for the mission.

During the mission, the  space capsule will complete a series of maneuvers including docking with the ISS before returning to earth.

Bigelow's Mike Gold says he'll be watching the mission closely.

"There will certainly be a lot politically that occurs from this launch in terms of how much funding the commercial crew program receives, and therefore how quickly we can move forward with our own business plan."

Gold says he believes there could soon be a commercial station in orbit along with the International Space Station.



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Transportation Nation

Date Set for First Commercial Spacecraft to Dock at International Space Station

Monday, May 07, 2012

Dragon Space Capsule (Photo CC by Flickr user nsub1)

The first commercial spacecraft to perform a mission to the International Space Station is set to launch on May 19th. Commercial space company SpaceX announced on Friday the new launch date for its Dragon space capsule.

The capsule atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket was due to lift off from Cape Canaveral next Monday, but the launch was delayed to allow more work to be done on computer software for the mission.

The aim of the mission is to blast the Dragon capsule loaded with cargo into low-earth orbit before docking it with the International Space Station.

SpaceX spokesperson Kirstin Brost Grantham said Friday the company and NASA have nearly finished the software assurance process. “So far no issues have been uncovered during this process, but with a mission of this complexity, we want to be extremely diligent,” she said.

The backup date for the launch is May 22nd.

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