A Tour of Vector Space Systems (Source: Behind the Black)
Vector is presently in the testing phase leading up to their first
orbital launches, which they hope to start in 2018. Right now they are
building a series of full scale versions of their Vector-R rocket with
a dummy second stage. The idea is to do a string of suborbital test
flights, the first of which will fly in about a week from Mohave in
California, with the second flying from the Georgia spaceport in Camden
County. Click here.
The X-37B: America's
Amazing Space Plane (That Russia and China Fear) (Source:
A mysterious space plane has spent more than 670 days above Earth,
hurtling along an orbital path that includes some of the world’s most
volatile hotspots. Known the X-37B, the U.S. Air Force’s unmanned
mini-shuttle whizzes along an average of two hundred miles above the
surface of the Earth. Exactly what it’s doing up there is bit of a
The space plane that would eventually become the X-37B was originally
conceived of by NASA in 1999. The Space Shuttle program had failed to
bring down the per-pound cost of ferrying a payload to orbit, but a
smaller, unmanned aircraft using newer technologies might prove more
economical. Boeing’s Phantom Works division was given a four-year
contract to develop the X-37 in conjunction with NASA, followed up in
2002 with a new agreement to develop an Approach and Landing Test
Vehicle to test horizontal landing concepts.
In 2004 NASA transferred the X-37 program to the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA. The ALTV vehicle successfully
tested out atmospheric flight concepts, but NASA’s OTV space plane was
never built. Instead, the U.S. Air Force built its own OTV space plane
along the same lines. In fact, it built at least two. (4/1)
SpaceX Has Job openings
for 473 People — Here's Who it's Hiring (Source: Business
When tech mogul Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, the rocket company
"basically consisted of carpet and a mariachi band," Musk said in 2016.
"That was it." Today, SpaceX employs hundreds of people all over the US
and has expanded its size, scope, and prowess with increasing revenues
from government and private contracts.
SpaceX's careers page offers a bewildering variety of jobs across 41
departments. Of the 473 positions, 313, or about two-thirds, are based
at SpaceX's global headquarters in Hawthorne, California, which is
southwest of Los Angeles. The rest of the jobs are sprinkled across
Brownsville and McGregor in Texas; Cape Canaveral, Florida; Irvine and
Vandenberg in California; Redmond, Washington; and Washington, DC.
About half of the positions call for engineers, 33% for technicians, 5%
for machinists, 5% for specialists, 5% for managers, and 1% for
directors. These gigs — nearly all of them full-time — don't all
require multiple degrees or up-close experience working with rocket
engines, robots, software, explosive fuels, or other high-tech systems
required to colonize Mars. Click here. (3/31)
North Carolina 'Made a
Hard Run' for Blue Origin's Spaceship Manufacturing
(Source: Triangle Business Journal)
Public records show "Project Eagle," aka: Blue Origin, considered – and
rejected – North Carolina for a massive manufacturing operation in
2016. The company eventually opted for a site in Florida at the Cape
Canaveral Spaceport, with a generous collection of state and local
Note: The size of the rockets Blue Origin plans to
manufacture probably made any site far from the launch site
Increasing the visibility
of the Commercial Space Transportation Office (Source: The
Originally located in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation,
AST was transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in
November of 1995 as part of the Clinton administration’s
government-wide reorganization effort.
In the intervening decades, commercial space activity has greatly expanded,
placing an ever-increasing burden on AST. Since Fiscal Year 2006,
launch and reentry operations have increased by over 200 percent and
the number of authorizations issued by AST have increased nearly 500
percent, while staffing levels have not even grown 50 percent.
Currently, the office is engaged in 74 total active projects, up from
38 in 2015.
Clearly the demands on this office are increasing and, as many
commercial space companies will tell you, they are struggling to keep
up. We are also concerned with the status of the regulations governing
this industry and overseen by FAA/AST. Much of the rulemaking does not
keep pace with technological innovation nor the demand for commercial
launch. Operating based on outdated regulations is a time-consuming
burden for both this office and industry. Click here.
China's Secret Plan to
Crush SpaceX and the US Space Program (Source: CNBC)
China's breakneck economic expansion may be flagging, but the country's
ambitions in space show no signs of slowing down. Alongside ongoing
efforts to rival NASA by placing robotic landers, and eventually
astronauts, on the moon and Mars, China's government is increasingly
looking to its burgeoning space sector to rival U.S. companies like
Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX, which is targeting
March 30 for the latest launch of its Falcon 9 rocket.
Though Chinese space authorities have publicly announced the country's
ambitions to forge itself into a major space power by the early 2030s,
President Xi Jinping's government is also considering ways to direct
spending that will push Chinese tech companies toward breakthroughs in
downstream technologies like robotics, aerospace, artificial
intelligence, big data analytics and other 21st-century technologies.
Trump’s Air Force Pick
Says Increasing Space-Threat Awareness a Priority (Source:
Heather Wilson, President Trump’s nominee to be the next U.S. Air Force
secretary, said expanding awareness of space as a warfighting domain
would be one of her priorities if she’s confirmed.
“There are a variety of things I think we need to do,” Wilson said.
“But rethinking the way in which we think about space as a contested
domain has to be part of it. It’s the development of strategies,
techniques, and capabilities to be able to fight through, to be
resilient, to be as crafty and successful in space as we are in air.
That’s a very big change for the country to be starting to think that
way. I think there’s some elements of the Air Force that already are
starting to develop those thoughts.”
During her March 30 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed
Services Committee, Wilson noted that she was serving on the House
Intelligence Committee in 2007 when China put spacefaring nations on
edge by demonstrating an anti-satellite weapon by deliberately
destroying one of its aging Fengyun weather satellites. (3/31)
SpaceX to Launch Falcon
Heavy with Two “Flight-Proven” Boosters This Year (Source:
SpaceX plans to conduct the debut launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket
this summer using two boosters that have already flown on other
missions, Elon Musk said March 30. Speaking after the company’s success
in launching its first pre-flown first stage with the SES-10 satellite
aboard, Musk said SpaceX has worked out most of the challenges
associated with getting three Falcon 9 cores to fly together — a task
that has proven much more complex than it originally appeared.
“Falcon Heavy is one of those things that at first it sounded easy,”
Musk said. “We’ll just take two first stages and use them as strap-on
boosters. And like, actually no, this is crazy hard, and required a
redesign of the center core, and a ton of additional hardware. It was
actually shockingly difficult to go from a single core to a triple-core
Falcon Heavy is designed to lift more than 54 metric tons to low Earth
orbit, 22 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit, or 13.6 metric
tons to Mars. When SpaceX first revealed the Falcon Heavy in 2011, the
company anticipated a first mission in 2013, but complexities in
getting the vehicle to work, combined with delays from two Falcon 9
failures, dragged out that timeline. (3/31)
Vulcan Aerospace is Now
Stratolaunch, With a Redesigned Website (Source: GeekWire)
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s space venture is rebranding itself
and updating its website as it prepares to begin flight tests of the
world’s biggest airplane. The venture was launched in 2011 as
Stratolaunch Systems, but over time it morphed into Vulcan Aerospace,
with Stratolaunch Systems as a subsidiary. Now it’s officially known as
The venture’s website has been changed to reflect the new branding. The
site will be undergoing further updates in the months ahead, but more
importantly, Allen hopes to finish construction of the giant
Stratolaunch airplane in a California hangar and see it take to the air
by the end of the year. Eventually, the plane will serve as a platform
for sending air-launched payloads into orbit – as explained on the
How SpaceX's Historic
Rocket Re-Flight Boosts Elon Musk's Mars Plan (Source:
Elon Musk's Mars-colonization vision just got a step closer to reality.
The used rocket mission demonstrated the type of technology that could
help make Mars settlement economically feasible, Musk said. "There
needs to be at least a 100-fold, if not perhaps a 1,000-fold, reduction
in the cost per ton to Mars — actually, maybe 10,000-fold," he said.
"And reusability is absolutely fundamental to that goal," Musk added.
"So this, I think, is a very helpful proof point that it's possible,
and I hope people start to think of it as a real goal to which we
should aspire — to establish a civilization on Mars."
SpaceX aims to establish a million-person city on Mars using a
rocket-spaceship combo called the Interplanetary Transport System
(ITS), which is in the early development stage. Both the ITS rocket and
the spaceship will be reusable. Indeed, the booster will be designed to
launch at least 1,000 times, Musk said Thursday. (3/31)
Rockets Need Insurance,
Too. But Way More Than the Feds Think (Source: WIRED)
Launching rockets is a risky business. So, in addition to those
precious payloads, every mission carries an insurance policy juuust in
case something goes awry. Private insurers handle most of it, but the
federal government offers a backstop for those truly unusual
catastrophes—think rocket nosediving into an elementary school—that
would max out the private coverage.
And it turns out a Cape Canaveral cataclysm—or, if you prefer, a
Wallops Island walloping, or a Vandenberg devastation—could cost that
program far more than it expects. A report from the Government
Accountability Office says the federal program undervalues its launch
insurance and ought to update its estimates. Given that the entire
space launch insurance industry bases its rates on those same
estimates, any update could make even commercial updates more
expensive. Click here.
Timepieces Made From Flown Soyuz Rocket Metal (Source:
As it turns out, there is more than one way to reuse a rocket. Less
than 24 hours after SpaceX achieved the first re-flight of a flown
rocket first stage, a crowdfunding campaign has launched to land rocket
parts on space enthusiasts' wrists.
The Earth Collection, a selection of limited edition watches made in
part of metal recovered from a Russian rocket that launched a crew to
the International Space Station, is now being offered through
Kickstarter by Werenbach, a Zurich-based watch brand. Each timepiece
has a dial cut directly from the outer shell of the Soyuz MS-02 rocket.
Russia Plans at Least 30
Space Launches in 2017 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia is planning to carry out at least 30 space launches in 2017,
head of Roscosmos State Space Corporation, Igor Komarov, said Friday.
Komarov added that Russia currently maintains an almost 24-percent
share on the global market of space launches. (3/31)
Kremlin Believes Russia
Can Compete With Private Firms Like SpaceX in Space
Russia believes it can compete in space with private companies
including SpaceX, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday
commenting on the firm's achievements. Peskov told reporters the
Kremlin and government scientific bodies "closely monitor" SpaceX's
progress, including the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket's
refurbished first stage Thursday.
Earlier SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 9 carrier rocket with
the SES-10 satellite. The launch was the first attempt by SpaceX at
sending the well-known Falcon 9 rocket back to space — and since, it's
already been there back in April 2016, when it delivered necessary
supplies to the crew of the International Space Station (ISS), it's
been labeled as "recycled."
SpaceX started experimenting with drone ship landings in 2015. After
the successful drone ship landing in April 2016, Musk said that the
Flacon 9 booster could be used for 10-20 more flights and with the help
of some modifications, it could fly up to 100 times. (3/31)
Roscosmos Does Not See
Reusable Rocket Stage as Priority (Source: Interfax)
A reusable launch vehicle first stage is not a priority of Russia's
rocket and space industry, Roscosmos spokesman Igor Burenkov said.
"Reusability is a chiefly economic matter, so we should make a profound
feasibility study. Actually, we have neither forgotten nor neglected
this area, and Khrunichev Center continues its research. However, this
is not today's priority," Burenkov told the Echo of Moscow radio in an
interview, speaking of the reused stage of a Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Roscosmos is focused "on preserving and enlarging the Russian satellite
cluster, creating new launch vehicles, and developing new engines," he
said. At the same time, Burenkov acknowledged that the SpaceX
achievement is "keynote and very serious... They have successfully
accomplished their tasks," the Roscosmos spokesman said. (3/31)
Retrievable Rocket Components (Source: Interfax)
Roscosmos is working to develop retrievable parts of carrier rockets,
Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov said. "We are running pilot projects in
the sphere of retrievable components. Speaking of components, we have
engines which can work a multiple number of times, for example Engine
191 and the engine for Angara [rocket]. We will also be using the
potential of retrievable rocket components," he told journalists on
Komarov welcomed the successful launch of SpaceX's reusable rocket
Falcon. "This is a very important step, we sincerely congratulate our
colleague on this achievement. The innovations SpaceX is making are
forcing us to work on lowering the cost price and raising the product
quality. The main thing is to ensure a competitive product," he said.
Russian Space Contractor
Delivers RD-181 Rocket Engines to US (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Energomash rocket engine manufacturer has delivered a batch of
three RD-181 engines to US Orbital ATK, the Energomash press office
reported on Friday. "On March 29, the engines were delivered by air to
the United States where the sides signed acceptance/delivery
certificates," the press office said.
The US aerospace firm Orbital ATK intends to mount the Russian engines
on the first stages of Antares carrier rockets for cargo deliveries to
the International Space Station. The RD-181 is a one-chamber
liquid-propellant rocket engine with a vertically-installed turbo-pump
unit. Energomash signed a contract with Orbital ATK in December 2014
for the delivery of rocket engines. (3/31)
Russia’s Proton-M Rocket
First Launch Scheduled for May (Source: Tass)
The first launch of Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket this year is
scheduled for the end of May, Chief Designer for Launch Vehicles and
Ground Infrastructure Alexander Medvedev said on Friday. "The first
launch is planned for the end of May," the chief designer said.
The launch of an EchoStar 21 spacecraft was planned back last year but
was delayed over problems found in the engines of a Proton-M carrier
rocket. A total of seven Proton carrier rocket launches are planned
until the end of this year under the federal space program and in the
interests of commercial customers. (3/31)
Russian Expert Says Musk
Uses Booster Relaunch as Show-Off for Investors (Source:
The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, in which Elon Musk’s SpaceX used a
re-fly booster to deliver payload into outer space is nothing more than
a show-off for investors and spectators, Corresponding Member of
Russia’s Tsiolkovsky Cosmonautics Academy Andrei Ionin said.
SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket with a SES-10 communications
satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Thursday. The rocket’s first
stage subsequently safely landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic
Ocean. Before that, the booster went into outer space in April last
year when it orbited a Dragon spacecraft with supplies for the crew of
the International Space Station. Therefore, SpaceX has been the first
in the world to use a re-fly rocket for payload delivery into outer
Russia Intends to
Increase Revenues from ISS Using Commerce and Tourism
Russian plans to increase incomes from the operation of the
International Space Stations (ISS) as much as possible, General
Designer of manned space systems Yevgeny Mikrin said. In his words,
ways of boosting incomes are "offering services of transportation to
the ISS for astronauts from partner countries, selling seats and cargo
kilograms aboard spacecraft, organizing commercial experiments, and
space tourism services." According to Mikrin, operating costs will be
reduced by means of the ISS automation in order to boost its
Collaborations in Space Always Reflect Politics on Earth
Five hundred forty-nine people from about 40 countries have orbited the
Earth. (It is impossible to give a precise number, because both dual
citizenship and the breakup of the USSR make such accounting choices
subjective and political.) Almost two-thirds of them are American.
China was the third country to send its own citizens to space. People
from Vietnam and Mongolia got to space before France or Germany. Saudi
Arabia got there before Japan.
These aren’t just cocktail-party factoids (though if you’re in the mood
for a good one, get this—Volkov’s son Sergei took off in a Soyuz of his
own in 2008, the first person to follow his dad into space).
Understanding the history of when and how the first representatives of
each of these countries got to space helps untangle the widely
misremembered ways in which commerce, national interest, science, and
adventure have been mixed together in space.
Advocates for human spaceflight often make the claim that space travel
fundamentally reshapes terrestrial politics. Seeing Earth from above
results in a realization of the artificial nature of political
boundaries and the fragility of human existence, and cooperation in
space, as with the International Space Station, a joint American,
Russian, European, Japanese, and Canadian endeavor, leads to harmonious
international relations on Earth. But human travel in space has been a
consequence of politics and commerce on Earth, not the other way
Kremlin Certain Roscosmos
Can Compete with Elon Musk’s Technologies (Source: Tass)
The Kremlin keeps a close watch on research being conducted by
companies belonging to multi-billionaire Elon Musk and is certain that
Roscosmos will be able to offer a decent competition. One of Musk’s
companies, SpaceX, is conducting research into breakthrough space
"The Kremlin and the agencies concerned keep a close watch on
technological breakthroughs. Our space industry specialists will keep
the development of such technologies in mind," presidential spokesman
Dmitry Peskov said. At the same time he recalled that Russia’s
corporation Roscosmos was currently in the process of transformation.
Its chief Igor Komarov has repeatedly briefed the president on cutting
edge products Russian specialists were working on.
"This is a rather tough competition. We have every reason to believe
that we will be able to participate in it and show good performance,"
Peskov said. (3/31)