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SpaceX

Post by Zaxxon » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:01 pm

SpaceX has come up in various and sundry other threads, but I don't think we have one dedicated to the company and its antics. In about an hour, SpaceX will be launching a resupply mission to the ISS. A secondary objective will be the recovery of the first-stage Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX gives that objective only a 30-40% chance of success today, but it's their first live attempt at a recovery. Recovery is the first step toward their ultimate goal of reusable rockets and much cheaper access to space.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Zaxxon » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:24 pm

Bah, scrubbed at the last minute to Friday due to a Helium leak.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Moliere » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:36 pm

Zaxxon wrote:and its antics.
That seems like a negative term. Do you disagree with the company and its objectives?
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Re: SpaceX

Post by Zaxxon » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:52 pm

Moliere wrote:
Zaxxon wrote:and its antics.
That seems like a negative term. Do you disagree with the company and its objectives?
No, I like the term 'antics' in general. :) I'm actually quite impressed with what SpaceX has done thus far, as I am with Musk's other baby, Tesla.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:02 pm

"Exploits" might be a better term.

Their current robotic supply missions, while historic, are hard to get very excited about. The crewed flights due to begin in 2017 will be more upworthy since SpaceX will have a capability that NASA lacks (Orion could be used for LEO shuttle service, but that would be overkill). And the heavy-lift Falcon is just plain cool.

I like hearing Elon Musk talk about his plans for Mars, but I do wonder how he's going to make that leap. Right now NASA is his only paying customer, and that business will dry up when the ISS is decommissioned in 2028.

Developing a profitable and expanding business is going to be trickier than developing the hardware.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Lorini » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:12 pm

I thought NASA was out of the spaceship business? If so and if there is going to continue to be a commitment to putting a person on Mars, then SpaceX and their ilk should be able to be profitable.
Steer into the drift.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Jeff V » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:26 pm

Lorini wrote:I thought NASA was out of the spaceship business? If so and if there is going to continue to be a commitment to putting a person on Mars, then SpaceX and their ilk should be able to be profitable.
What does one have to do with the other? I thought it was widely considered by the astronomy community that a manned trip to Mars would be extremely expensive and of dubious value. Unless a company is selling seats on the trip for a few $billion each, I don't see it as being profitable for private enterprise until, at the very least, we have a considerable support infrastructure in our own orbit (and possibly the moon).

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Re: SpaceX

Post by LawBeefaroni » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:38 pm

Lorini wrote:I thought NASA was out of the spaceship business? If so and if there is going to continue to be a commitment to putting a person on Mars, then SpaceX and their ilk should be able to be profitable.
They're out of the LEO cargo ferry business. They're not out of the spaceship business.

Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Lorini » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:40 pm

They need to get out of the spaceship business and I'm sure they will in exchange for letting the (useless) centers stay open.
Steer into the drift.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:51 pm

Lorini wrote:I thought NASA was out of the spaceship business? If so and if there is going to continue to be a commitment to putting a person on Mars, then SpaceX and their ilk should be able to be profitable.
NASA is out of the orbital taxi business -- that's where SpaceX and a couple of other companies come in. In 2017 NASA will be back in the deep space business with an Apollo-style capsule called Orion and a Saturn-class booster called, prosaically, Space Launch System.

There is currently no lander in development, which limits Orion/SLS to just flying around. Likewise there is no extended habitat module so Orion is limited to 3-week missions. Basically, it can get to the moon and back but it can't land there.

NASA plans to go to Mars in the 2030s, but they don't have a specific mission, timetable, or budget, and they can't do it with the hardware that's currently in development.

Elon Musk talks about going to Mars in SpaceX vehicles in the '20s. While he has certainly proven himself to be a determined visionary, I can't see how he plans to get from here (getting paid to supply the ISS) to there. But that's probably why he's a billionaire and I'm not.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Zaxxon » Mon Apr 14, 2014 6:41 pm

Kraken wrote:I like hearing Elon Musk talk about his plans for Mars, but I do wonder how he's going to make that leap. Right now NASA is his only paying customer, and that business will dry up when the ISS is decommissioned in 2028.
Quick correction: NASA is not at all their only paying customer.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Mon Apr 14, 2014 7:21 pm

Zaxxon wrote:
Kraken wrote:I like hearing Elon Musk talk about his plans for Mars, but I do wonder how he's going to make that leap. Right now NASA is his only paying customer, and that business will dry up when the ISS is decommissioned in 2028.
Quick correction: NASA is not at all their only paying customer.
That certainly makes a difference. I stand corrected. Now I wonder how heavily subsidized those commercial launches are -- all of their competitors are governments.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Mon Apr 14, 2014 7:38 pm

Zaxxon wrote: Recovery is the first step toward their ultimate goal of reusable rockets and much cheaper access to space.
This only tells part of the story. After all, NASA recovered and refurbished used SRBs for decades. What makes the Falcon recovery unique is explained here.
SpaceX will be testing new technology that will allow the primary rocket section to carry its Dragon capsule payload to the international space station and then return to Earth. It will fire its rocket again, and lower to land vertically on the four landing legs you can see in the image above. - See more at:
Yeah: If this works, their boosters are going to return to earth and land on legs in powered flight. I've seen a few videos of this technology (called Grasshopper) in tests -- didn't realize they were ready to roll it out, or even understand how they intended to use it. This is very cool.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Zaxxon » Mon Apr 14, 2014 7:50 pm

Thanks for the assist, Kraken. My original summary was very lacking.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Zaxxon » Sun Apr 20, 2014 8:30 am

The rescheduled launch happened Friday afternoon, and seems to have gone as well as SpaceX could have hoped.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Lassr » Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:00 am

Lorini wrote:They need to get out of the spaceship business and I'm sure they will in exchange for letting the (useless) centers stay open.
So who will build the deep space rockets? Will not be private enterprises with no means of turning a profit. The goal of NASA right now is to do the stuff private companies cannot or will not do. They are more than capable of supplying the station now and they are doing it. But they are not going to pour billions of dollars into developing cutting edge technology because as of now there are no customers unless you just want NASA to funnel 100% of the funding from SLS to private business for them to do the work, then tack on the profit they need to make on top of the funding.

Which centers do you consider useless? Each center has a specific purpose. You could close some and combine those tech capabilities with another center but it would cost a lot of tax payer dollars to relocate those capabilities. It could be done but we know congress will not be happy about closing a center in their state.

I can think of one redundancy off the top of my head since I work at Marshall (MSFC). Stennis took all the engine testing duties several years back from Marshall. Marshall's test stands date back to Apollo and the start of the shuttle program but are still functional. For Stennis to stay viable they took over all testing and now host the NSSC which the accounting center for all of NASA. We could have easily updated the MSFC test stands and hosted the NSSC at the IFMP center (Office that does the upkeep for NASA's accounting software provided by SAP) near Marshall but that would mean Stennis would have had very limited capabilities and that did not sit well with the Mississippi congressmen.

I see so many ways to save tax payer dollars working for the federal government but as usual congress is the main culprit in bogging any savings attempts down with red tape.
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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:30 pm

SpaceX is suing the government to force competition in military launch contracts.
Elon Musk’s space company will sue the U.S. Air Force to protest a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. (BA:US) team’s monopoly on Pentagon satellite launches, the billionaire said today.

“These launches should be competed,” he told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. “If we compete and lose, that is fine. But why would they not even compete it?”

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, is trying to break the joint venture’s lock on U.S. military satellite launches, which have an estimated value of $70 billion through 2030. He has said competition in that market may save taxpayers more than $1 billion a year.
Musk's premise is sound. SpaceX can save the government money, and the government can steer phat loot to SpaceX. Currently, the Russians are the only ones who know how to make a particular alloy that goes into rocket engines, so they're vacuuming up a lot of US taxpayer dollars; that's obviously got drawbacks.

SpaceX has not yet demonstrated the reliability necessary to win that business...but that could change by the time this works its way through the system. According to the article, they only have to demonstrate 3 successful launches (versus the hundreds that Atlas boosters have racked up) and hand over their tech specs.

I say: Be careful what you wish for, Elon. NASA had a prickly relationship with the Pentagon in the early days of the space shuttle program. It turned out that you can't work for the military-industrial complex without becoming part of said complex -- and NASA was originally chartered so that the US would have a civilian space program (thanks, Ike!). If you're launching military payloads, you're surrendering sovereignty over your operations (for example, did you know that Keyhole spy satellites determined the shuttle's payload capabilities?). Whenever there was a military mission, NASA basically gave up command and control to military personnel. The Challenger disaster ended that shotgun marriage to the relief of both parties.

While it might be a good deal for taxpayers, I fear that it will be a bad deal for the future of SpaceX.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Isgrimnur » Mon Apr 28, 2014 2:47 pm

Soft landing achieved. Sorta...
After flying to the edge of space, a spent SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster successfully returned to Earth, deployed its landing legs, and hovered for a moment. The ability, known as a soft landing, could allow the company to dramatically reduce the cost of spaceflight and one day land rockets on Mars.

Because it came down at a spot in the Atlantic Ocean, SpaceX’s rocket had nothing solid to land on. It crashed into the ocean and was lost to large waves from a storm before the company could get a boat out to recover it. But in the next few months, SpaceX hopes to reproduce the achievement.
...
“We expect to get more and more precise with each landing. If all goes well, I am optimistic that we can land a stage back at Cape Canaveral at the end of the year,” said entrepreneur and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, during a press conference Apr. 25 in Washington D.C.
...
By recovering the spent stages, SpaceX predicts it could reduce the cost of their launches, currently around $60 million per flight, by as much as 70 percent. Musk hopes that in the future the company would be able to fly a rocket stage to space, bring it back to a launch pad on the ground, refurbish and refuel it, and potentially fly it again the same day. Their goal is to eventually bring the cost of a single launch down to between $5 and $7 million.
...
At the press conference, Musk said that the Falcon 9 rocket stage came down within a few miles of its intended target. With better accuracy, SpaceX wants to bring this precision to within a mile. Eventually, the company “should be able to land with the accuracy of a helicopter,” said Musk, achieving a precision “within a meter of its target.”

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Thu May 22, 2014 9:43 pm

Meet the DragonFly.
the DragonFly RLV is described as a 7-ton Dragon capsule equipped with eight SuperDraco thrusters, an integrated trunk and up to four landing legs. The program calls for a series of increasingly ambitious tests, starting with a parachute-assisted landing and proceeding to a full propulsive landing and rocket-powered hops.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Zaxxon » Thu May 29, 2014 11:43 pm

Meet Dragon v2.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:34 pm

Private spaceport to be built on Brownsville, TX.
The state will contribute more than $15 million to the project, including $13 million from a spaceport trust fund and another $2.3 million from the so-called Texas Enterprise Fund, according to the release. The launch pad will create 300 jobs and generate $85 million in capital investment to the local economy, it states.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by LordMortis » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:46 pm

Isgrimnur wrote:Private spaceport to be built on Brownsville, TX.
The state will contribute more than $15 million to the project, including $13 million from a spaceport trust fund and another $2.3 million from the so-called Texas Enterprise Fund, according to the release. The launch pad will create 300 jobs and generate $85 million in capital investment to the local economy, it states.
And they will be able to tax the hell out of it, I'm sure. When I look at hotel taxes, I'm always :o . I can only imagine what kind of taxes they can put on going to space.

This is what the US charges you for a commercial flight
The tax situation on domestic flights is relatively straightforward.

The U.S. government imposes an "excise" tax of 7.5 percent of the fare on all domestic tickets. By Department of Transportation (DOT) rules, airlines must include that tax in their advertised fares.
Airlines can omit other government fees and taxes from their published fares, but the government requires that airlines collect them at the time you buy your ticket. Taxes and fees include $3.30 per flight segment, with a maximum of four segments charged on any round-trip ticket, plus a $2.50 fee per departure to fund security—a fee that might be going up soon.
Individual airports are allowed to impose "passenger facility charges" (PFCs) up to $4.50 per departure, with a maximum of four fees per round-trip ticket.

U.S. government taxes and fees on international tickets are much higher.

The government charges a departure fee of $14.50 and an arrival fee of $14.50 on international flight tickets—again, collected when you buy the ticket.
The U.S. also charges returning passengers $7 for immigration, $5 for customs services, and $5 to fund animal and plant inspections. These, too, are collected when you buy a ticket.
If I'm Texas I'm charging you to a gazillion dollars to maintain an outer space safety program as part of the fee for taking a commercial trip to space and another gazillion for safety inspection when you come back. I will, of course, impose these taxes after you break ground.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Aug 05, 2014 1:03 pm

Brownsville CoC
The hotel occupancy tax rate in Brownsville, Texas is 13% (6% state tax and 7% local city tax) of the cost of a room.
Texas rental car taxes
A gross rental receipts tax is imposed on motor vehicle rentals. The percent of tax imposed is based on the length of the rental contract.

Rates
* 10% (for contracts of 1-30 days) of gross receipts, less discount and separately stated fees for insurance, fuel, and damage assessments.

* 6 1/4% (.0625) for contracts exceeding 30 days but no longer than 180 days.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by JSHAW » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:35 am

CBS News 60 minutes has several stories on it's website about Space X and Elon Musk.

They recently reran and updated one of their stories on him that aired.

Good interviews, if interested you should check them out.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Isgrimnur » Thu Sep 04, 2014 1:32 pm

Aug 22nd: SpaceX Rocket Explodes over Texas
An experimental reusable rocket made by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. exploded over Texas on Friday, the company announced.

The test booster, known as the F9R and a successor to the Grasshopper rocket, self-destructed several hundred feet over the company’s facility in McGregor after a problem was detected. There were no injuries.

“Three engine F9R Dev1 vehicle auto-terminated during test flight,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted. “No injuries or near injuries. Rockets are tricky.”
Video at the link.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by cheeba » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:08 pm

"Rockets are tricky." I like that.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by LawBeefaroni » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:14 pm

I read somewhere the other day that after WWII, Operation Paperclip scored the US most of Germany's top rocket scientists. However, the Soviet equivalent scored the USSR most of Germany's top rocket technicians. It was because of this that the Russians had so many more successful launches and had the early lead in the space race. Meanwhile, the US was plagued with competing designs and many launch failures. The Soviets had the craftsmen. But eventually the US was able win because they had the visionaries. That was one guy's theory, anyway.
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Re: SpaceX

Post by malchior » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:32 pm

It probably didn't hurt that we were able to outspend the Soviets 2:1 or even 4:1 depending on the estimates.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by LawBeefaroni » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:48 pm

True, but I guess the point is that one approach is to build what works and launch it. Another is to build something to launch and learn how well it works. Obviously SpaceX strives to do both but Elon "Rockets are Tricky" Musk is certainly in the latter, visionary category.

And there's something to be said for both approaches. While we won the space race, we're still using Soyuz rockets (and counting on the success of SpaceX) to get humans into space and won't build another Apollo rocket ever again.
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Re: SpaceX

Post by malchior » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:39 pm

I personally discount the technicians/scientist thing. The Russians didn't really have the same level of commitment and they had a tendency to waste resources - for example they bizarrely had competing moon programs (landing versus orbiting) with different hardware; they also never developed heavy lift capability (and yeah - *that* totally could be a scientist thing ;) ). In the end they had worse political leadership in general and made many missteps that might have been fatal for their program alone even if they weren't getting outspent by a crazy margin.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by LawBeefaroni » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:43 pm

malchior wrote:I personally discount the technicians/scientist thing. The Russians didn't really have the same level of commitment and they had a tendency to waste resources - for example they bizarrely had competing moon programs (landing versus orbiting) with different hardware; they also never developed heavy lift capability (and yeah - *that* totally could be a scientist thing ;) ). In the end they had worse political leadership in general and made many missteps that might have been fatal for their program alone even if they weren't getting outspent by a crazy margin.
The blurb I read was really about the inital boost from the acquired Germans. The first decade or so, say up through Sputnik.

I took it further and probably ruined it. :lol:
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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:26 pm

LawBeefaroni wrote:and won't build another Apollo rocket ever again.
Or at least not until November 2018. In its final configuration SLS will be 40 feet taller than a Saturn V.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is likely to beat SLS by a year or more...assuming they don't have too many more setbacks like this one.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:32 pm

malchior wrote: they also never developed heavy lift capability
Well, not for lack of trying.
N1-L3 was underfunded and undertested, and started development in October 1965, almost four years after the Saturn V. The project was badly derailed by the death of its chief designer Sergei Korolev in 1966. Each of the four attempts to launch an N1 failed and the N1 program was suspended in May 1974, subsequently in 1976 the N1 program was officially canceled. Along with the rest of the Soviet manned Moon programs, the N1 was kept secret almost until the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by AWS260 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:03 pm

Kraken wrote:Well, not for lack of trying.
Each of the four attempts to launch an N1 failed
Including the largest non-nuclear explosion in history (video).

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Kraken » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:37 pm

AWS260 wrote:
Kraken wrote:Well, not for lack of trying.
Each of the four attempts to launch an N1 failed
Including the largest non-nuclear explosion in history (video).
I was surprised that the wiki didn't mention that. A Nova explosion took out a lot of Soviet scientists and effectively ended their moon program.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by cheeba » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:55 pm

malchior wrote:I personally discount the technicians/scientist thing. The Russians didn't really have the same level of commitment and they had a tendency to waste resources - for example they bizarrely had competing moon programs (landing versus orbiting) with different hardware; they also never developed heavy lift capability (and yeah - *that* totally could be a scientist thing ;) ). In the end they had worse political leadership in general and made many missteps that might have been fatal for their program alone even if they weren't getting outspent by a crazy margin.
I had a 400-level PoliSci class called Bureaucracy and Policy-Making, that argued that one of the big reasons the US won the space race was because of the open and efficient bureaucratic system the US created. In contrast, Russia wasted a lot of resources, time, money and manpower, trying to keep things top secret. One department couldn't talk to another, etc.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Lassr » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:11 pm

Kraken wrote:
LawBeefaroni wrote:and won't build another Apollo rocket ever again.
Or at least not until November 2018. In its final configuration SLS will be 40 feet taller than a Saturn V.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is likely to beat SLS by a year or more...assuming they don't have too many more setbacks like this one.

Our goal is still Dec 2017 and that is what our milestone goals are targeted for. The Nov 2018 was just a commitment to congress.
The only reason people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.

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Re: SpaceX

Post by Lassr » Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:17 am

Lassr wrote:
Kraken wrote:
LawBeefaroni wrote:and won't build another Apollo rocket ever again.
Or at least not until November 2018. In its final configuration SLS will be 40 feet taller than a Saturn V.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is likely to beat SLS by a year or more...assuming they don't have too many more setbacks like this one.

Our goal is still Dec 2017 and that is what our milestone goals are targeted for. The Nov 2018 was just a commitment to congress.
Message from our Center Director:
The Space Launch System (SLS) is continuing toward NASA’s Journey to Mars with its next major milestone: completion of the Vertical Assembly Center (VAC) located at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is the final of six major tools that will build SLS.

On Friday, September 12, I encourage you to join the live coverage of the event with real-time posts of videos, pictures, and quotes beginning at 10:00 a.m. I will join NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Michoud Assembly Facility Director Roy Malone, SLS Program Manager Todd May, NASA Astronaut Patrick Forrester, and Boeing Vice President and SLS Program Manager Virginia Barnes to share this significant accomplishment with employees and other key stakeholders and to mark the completion of another major SLS milestone.

Be sure to log on to ExplorNet on Friday, September 12, 10:00 a.m., so you can see one of the world’s largest welding tools. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website at 10 a.m., and Ustream beginning at 11:00 a.m. Questions will be taken both from the live and online audiences via Twitter using the hashtag #askNASA.
NASA Website
Ustream link:
http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv
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LawBeefaroni
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Re: SpaceX

Post by LawBeefaroni » Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:40 pm

Bezos enlists LMT and BA to battle Musk and SpaceX.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp plans to announce on Wednesday that it will team up with Blue Origin, a company run by Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos, to develop a new rocket engine, a source familiar with the plans said.

...

The partnership agreement will pit Bezos against Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, which is seeking certification from the Air Force for its own Falcon 9 rockets.
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Re: SpaceX

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:57 pm

Image

NASA plans to award a much-anticipated, multi-billion dollar contract to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station to both Boeing and SpaceX, according a person familiar with the process.
...
The person familiar with the deal spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract has not been awarded.

The awards represent a significant shift for NASA, which has long owned and operated its own rockets. Instead of going to space on government-owned rockets, NASA’s astronauts would essentially rent space on vehicles provided by Boeing and SpaceX. It was unclear how Boeing and SpaceX would divide the work and how big each company's contract would be.

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