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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Friday, November 23, 2007

PlanetSpace, Lockheed Martin and ATK Team Up to Bid on NASA COTS

PlanetSpace is teaming with ATK and Lockheed Martin in order to win a share of NASA's COTS money. RocketPlane/Kistler missed to many milestones and NASA is currently deciding who to give their money to.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

From the folks at Space Pragmatism

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NASA Creates Inexpensive FASTSAT

NASA Has created an inexpensive ($4 million) satellite , called FASTSAT, to test if small, cheap satellites can be done. While I applaud their effort, I have to disagree with one thing. In speaking about SpaceX and their Falcon line of rockets, Marshall Space Flight Center's Edward "Sandy" Montgomery said:

"You wouldn't put an expensive payload on an inexpensive rocket – it's a risk issue. You'd use an inexpensive bus to fly an inexpensive instrument on an inexpensive rocket," says Montgomery.

Cheap doesn't equal risk. Now if he had said untested or new rocket, then I can't argue with him. But my little Suzuki was inexpensive, but I don't think it is riskier than driving a Ferrari.

Florida Needs SpaceX

When the shuttle is retired in 2010, Florida is putting its hopes in SpaceX, the front-runner in the race to offer delivery services to NASA when the shuttle is retired. SpaceX is part of NASA's COTS program and is building a launch facility in Cape Canaveral and hopes to launch from there next year. Without the shuttle, Florida is hopping to get rocket support jobs and supply chain industry in their state.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

SpaceHAB ready for COTS PDR

SpaceHAB has gone ahead with its unfunded Advanced Research and Conventional Technology Utilization Spacecraft (ARCTUS) for COTS. They just finished a spacecraft concept review on November 8 and will be ready for the preliminary design review (PDR) in early 08.

Average American's View in NASA's Budget

The average American thinks NASA gets 1/4 of the federal budget. That is roughly $600 Billion annually. In reality NASA gets 0.58% of the federal budget, or ~$17 billion.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Everyone is Looking for Astronauts

Astronaut openings.

Space Adventures is looking for people to train alongside their space tourist, Richard Garriott, for $3,000,000. You get to do all the same stuff. You just don't get to fly.

NASA is also accepting applications for the 2009 class of astronauts.

Of course, Virgin Galactic is always looking for more private astronauts, if you can only afford $200,000.

SpaceX Completes Merlin 1C Engine


New, More Powerful Engine to Launch Both Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 Rockets
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed development of its Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine. It is among the highest performing gas generator cycle kerosene engines ever built, exceeding the Boeing Delta II main engine, the Lockheed Atlas II main engine, and on par with the Saturn V F-1 engine.

The Merlin 1C is an improved version of the Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine, which lofted the Falcon 1 on its first flight in March 2006 and second flight in March 2007. The regeneratively cooled Merlin 1C uses rocket propellant grade kerosene (RP-1), a refined form of jet fuel, to first cool the combustion chamber and nozzle before being combined with the liquid oxygen to create thrust. This cooling allows for higher performance without significantly increasing engine mass.
“We performed the final test in the development series, a 170 second long mission duty firing,” said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX, from their Texas Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. “This series of runs has verified the final design features. Total run time on this engine exceeded 3,000 seconds across 125 hot fire tests.”

“The SpaceX Texas test facility was critical to the rapid and efficient development of Merlin,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “In August alone, we ran twenty-one major Merlin test firings, nearly one per working day, a rate we could not equal anywhere else. The success of Merlin is really due to the joint function of a great propulsion and test team.”

Merlin 1C in its Falcon 9 first stage configuration has a thrust at sea level of 95,000 lbs, a vacuum thrust of over 108,000 pounds, vacuum specific impulse of 304 seconds and sea level thrust to weight ratio of 92. In generating this thrust, Merlin consumes 350 lbs/second of propellant and the chamber and nozzle, cooled by 100 lbs/sec of kerosene, are capable of absorbing 10 MW of heat energy. A planned turbopump upgrade in 2009 will improve the thrust by over 20% and the thrust to weight ratio by approximately 25%.

The Merlin 1C will power SpaceX’s next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off in early 2008 from the SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific atoll of Kwajalein. SpaceX’s far larger Falcon 9 rocket, now in development, will employ nine Merlin engines on its first stage, and one on the second stage. The Falcon 9 will have over a million pounds of thrust – four times the maximum thrust of a Boeing 747.

The Merlin engine is the first new American booster engine in ten years and only the second in over a quarter century. The prior two American engines were the RS-68 developed in the late nineties by Pratt & Whitney’s RocketDyne division, used in the Boeing Delta IV launch vehicle, and the Space Shuttle Main Engine developed in the late seventies, also by RocketDyne.
SpaceX is preparing to produce more rocket engines than the rest of US production combined. In 2008, SpaceX targets the manufacture of approximately 50 booster engines, a number that exceeds the output of any country except Russia.

About SpaceX

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of both manned and unmanned space transportation ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by Merlin engines, SpaceX is able to offer light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any inclination and altitude, from low Earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions.
As winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA. This will culminate in Dragon berthing with the International Space Station and returning safely to Earth. When the Shuttle retires in 2010, Falcon 9 / Dragon will have the opportunity to replace the Shuttle in servicing the Space Station.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

SpaceDev Gets Two New Board Members and One new VP

SpaceDev has announced that Mr. G. Scott Hubbard, former NASA Ames Research Center Director and Mr. Hans J. Steininger Chief Executive Officer of MT Aerospace AG, have joined the SpaceDev Board of Directors.

They have also announced that former Auburn Associate Dean of Engineering, James S. Voss, will be the new VP of Engineering.

NASA has Started Launch Pad Construction

NASA has began construction on a launch pad to test the Orion's escape system.

China's ASAT Weapon Pushes Space Entrepreneurs

According to the NY Times, the Chinese ASAT weapons test in January has had an effect on private space, since the military needs faster cheaper launchers to combat the threat of space weapons.

Would You Spend $200,000 on a Space Flight

The SettlePI blog asks readers if they had an extra $200,000 would they by a flight on a spaceship. Of course, loyal readers, you know my answer.

D.J. McLeod says, as much as she would love to, she would rather spend $200,000 on a Community Resource Exchange where they can talk about homelessness and give homeless people government services. Well whatever works for you.

Will would rather pay off his house and max his retirement. In my opinion, it wouldn't be a spare $200,000 unless you had already done both.

Anonymous wants the price to drop (as do the rest of us).

Onyotaka Lukwe is milking goats to space apparently...

Just a cross section of what Seattle thinks of private space flight.

Feel free to comment on their comments (or answer the question for yourself).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Virgin Galactic's Sales Pitch

Andrea James has the pitch Bothell travel agent Angie Lepley has been using as one of 45 agents licensed to sale seats on SpaceShip2.

It sounds like fun to me.

Space Vision 2007

Dave Brooks seems to have had his mind changed (somewhat) about private space by Elon Musk and his Falcon Rockets.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Andrews Space Sponsors Laser Motive in 2007 Space Elevator Competition

Press Release: Seattle, WA - November 7, 2007 – Andrews Space, Inc. is pleased to announce its sponsorship of Seattle-based LaserMotive in the Elevator 2010 Power Beaming competition. The competition took place from October 19 – 21, near Salt Lake City, Utah.

Andrews contributed the use of their Rapid Prototyping Laboratory (ARPL) for LaserMotive to conduct laser testing and other system assembly requirements. Located near Seattle's Boeing field, the ARPL provides fabrication and assembly facility space. It houses Andrews' avionics integration and cryogenic test facilities, fabrication machine shop, and hardware integration and test facilities.

The NASA-sponsored 2007 Space Elevator Games had 30 teams competing in various categories, including the Climber Power Beaming competition. Teams entering the Power Beaming Challenge had to power a vehicle straight up a ribbon using only energy beamed to the vehicle from a ground-based laser, at a minimum of 2.5 m/sec. The 2007 prize purse, provided by NASA, was $500,000. No teams won the 2007 competition.

LaserMotive was recognized as having an innovative and potentially powerful technology. The LaserMotive system uses a high-power laser array to shine ultra-intense infrared light onto high-efficiency solar cells, converting the light into electric power, which then drives a motor. The system automatically tracks the vehicle as it climbs, compensating for motion due to wind, twisting of the ribbon, and other changes.

Andrews Chief Technology Officer Dana Andrews said, "LaserMotive had a promising start in this years' competition, and we expect them to come back strong next year in the 2008 competition. We believe their concept is the right approach to powering a planetary scale elevator."

About LaserMotive

LaserMotive is a Seattle-based team that competed in the 2007 NASA-sponsored Power Beaming competition. They are comprised of world-class laser power beaming experts, experienced machinists, systems engineers, and experts from industry partners. Visit their Web site at for more information.

About Andrews Space

Andrews Space, Inc. was founded in 1999 to be a catalyst in the commercialization and development of space. The company is an affordable integrator of aerospace systems and developer of advanced space technologies. To learn more, please visit:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Carnival of Space #28 is Up

Emily Lakwdawalla is hosting this Week's Carnival of Space at

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Chinese Probe Enters Moons Orbit

China's probe, Chang'e 1, has entered lunar orbit.

"All of the subsystems of the Chang'e 1 are in normal operation so far," said Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for the China National Space Administration.

It is expected to send photos back later this month.

SpaceX Breaks Ground in Florida

SpaceX has broken ground on their launch facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Space Walk Shows Need for COTS

According to John Borland, at, the risky spacewalk to fix a broken solar panel shows the need for NASA to fund private launch companies through COTS, with the shuttle being retired in 2010.

With the shuttle being retired in a few years, it clearly can't serve that
purpose. But perhaps the new commercial spaceflight companies will be able to
fill that role, at least as well as the Soyuz missions launched by Russia. NASA
should make this a priority when it is funding and helping to guide development
of companies like SpaceX.

ISS Brings up Space Law Again

With the new European module Columbus launching on the Columbia shuttle in December, space law has been brought to the forefront again. The issues are: who's law will be enforced on Columbus and what if two astronauts got in a fight?

This was all a problem with the Russian modules, but I guess they didn't get it worked out sufficiently then.

SpaceDev Completes First Milestone under NASA Space Act Agreement for Development of Commercial Access to Space (Press Release)

SpaceDev Dream ChaserTM Space Plane Development Would Provide Cargo and Crew Transport

POWAY, CA – November 5, 2007 – SpaceDev, Inc. (OTCBB: SPDV) recently completed its first milestone under the Space Act Agreement that it signed with NASA in June 2007. This significant first milestone is to define the outer mold line (OML) of the SpaceDev Dream ChaserTM space vehicle. The SpaceDev team generated a surface model that will be used for future analysis, subscale flight test modeling, and full scale tooling of the Dream ChaserTM flight vehicle. The Dream Chaser™ OML surface model was derived from digitized scans of the original NASA Langley wind-tunnel tested models, which are currently on loan to SpaceDev.

SpaceDev entered into the Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Johnson Space Center to facilitate its development of reliable, safe and affordable transportation of passengers and cargo to and from Earth orbit. As part of the agreement, NASA is providing support regarding commercial vehicle requirements for rendezvous and docking with the ISS as well as ongoing regularly scheduled technical exchange.

Friday, November 02, 2007

SpaceDev Gets Air Force Contract for New Thermal Radiator Technology

SpaceDev has won a $100,000 contract with the Air Force to develop a new radar system to help with thermal control on satellites.

Risky Spacewalk to Fix Solar Panels

NASA is planning a risky spacewalk to fix a damaged solar panel to restore the ISS to full power in anticipation of a European science module scheduled to launch in December.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Carnival of Space #27 is Up

Fraser Cain is hosting this Week's Carnivalof Space at

SpaceDev Gets DARPA Propulsion Contract

SpaceDev has won a propulsion contract from DARPA worth $3.75 million.

SpaceDev to Release Earnings Nov 13

SpaceDev is holding a conference call to release their earnings report for the 3rd quarter 2007 on November 13, 2007.

Florida Conference to Atrract Commercial Space

Florida is holding a conference to attract commercial space companies.

China's Long March 5 Rocket

According to the Guardian, China is building a much more powerful rocket:

China laid out plans yesterday to build a rocket with enough power to put a
space station into orbit, raising fresh questions about whether it aims to
compete or collaborate with the US in space. The Long March 5 rocket will have
almost three times as much thrust as the existing launch vehicle, putting it on
a par with developed countries in its ability to carry heavy satellites, state
media said. The announcement came as the Chang'e 1 lunar probe pushed further
into space than any previous Chinese spacecraft. China plans to put a robot on
the moon in 2012 and an astronaut by about 2020.