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SpaceX Releases Press Kit for Falcon 9 Launch Today

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

SpaceX has just released the press kit for the Falcon 9 launch this morning. has good coverage of the launch preparations and is currently noting that the 11:00 launch is in a race against bad weather that's coming in. SpaceX is supposed to show the launch on its website, too, but I can't get into the site.

NASA/Commerce Space Workforce Update Delayed to 10:30

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

According to a notice on NASA TV, the briefing by Charlie Bolden and Secretary of Commerce Locke will now be at 10:30 instead of 10:00. Unless it's really short, it will end up conflicting with the Falcon 9 launch at 11:00.

Musk Reasonably Confident of Falcon 9 Launch Friday

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

In a media teleconference today, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that he feels there is about a 75 percent chance that the first launch of Falcon 9 will succeed tomorrow. He stressed that if it fails, that should not be interpreted as a failure of the commercial space launch industry. Indeed, he insists that the future of the space program depends on commercial companies like his because the government simply does not have the money to continue with the space program as it has in the past.

The four hour launch window
opens at 11:00 am EDT tomorrow. Saturday has been reserved for a second attempt in case anything goes awry, like the weather.

In response to a question about how much has been invested in Falcon 9, Musk said that it is impossible to separate Falcon 9 from Falcon 1 since so many aspects of it are the same, such as the Merlin engine, avionics, software, and ground support equipment. He said that SpaceX has invested a total of $350-400 million total to date for all versions of the Falcon and associated technology and launch site infrastructure.

He also stressed that complete reusability is his goal, although recovery will be attempted only of the first stage of Falcon 9 on this flight. For the future, though, he commented that "I would not consider SpaceX a complete success unless we get complete reusability."

A reporter asked if he felt that SpaceX was a political football, and Musk answered "Yes, we're a political punching bag, a whipping boy," adding that it was unfortunate. Opponents have taken aim at SpaceX while ignoring the Atlas and Delta, he said.

He also clarified that recent media stories about a delay between the launch of the first and second COTS demonstration flights missed the important point that what SpaceX is really trying to do is accelerate the demonstration of delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). The plan was for three demonstration flights, with the third actually berthing with the ISS to deliver cargo. He now wants to do that on the second demonstration flight instead, and the third flight would be used as a backup if the second flight was not fully successful. NASA has not yet approved the new plan, however, he added.

As for the flight tomorrow, SpaceX is aiming for a 250 mile circular orbit due east out of Cape Canaveral. Musk repeated what the company put out in a press release yesterday that they will consider it a good day if only the first stage flies as planned; it would be a "great" day if the first and second stages performed correctly and the payload reached orbit.

National Security Strategy Calls for Security and Stability in Space, Healthy Workforce

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

In the introduction to his National Security Strategy released last week, President Obama once again invoked his childhood fascination with the space program, mentioning his "awe at watching a space capsule pulled out of the Pacific" while espousing that "America's greatest asset is its people." He added that "Our long-term security will come not from our ability to instill fear in other peoples, but through our capacity to speak to their hopes."

Though brief references to space capabilities are scattered throughout the report, the most extensive treatment is in the section on "Prosperity" where it is the fifth of five elements under "Enhance Science, Technology and Innovation." It asserts that the United States will "pursue activities consistent with the inherent right of self defense," but the focus is international cooperation and promoting "security and stability in space." It also emphasizes the need for investing in space technologies and "the people and industrial base that develops them." The full text of that paragraph (p. 31) is as follows:

"Leverage and Grow our Space Capabilities: For over 50 years, our space community has been a catalyst for innovation and a hallmark of U.S. technological leadership. Our space capabilities underpin global commerce and scientific advancements and bolster our national security strengths and those of our allies and partners. To promote security and stability in space, we will pursue activities consistent with the inherent right of self-defense, deepen cooperation with allies and friends, and work with all nations toward the responsible and peaceful use of space. To maintain the advantages afforded to the United States by space, we must also take several actions. We must continue to encourage cutting-edge space technology by investing in the people and industrial base that develops them. We will invest in the research and development of next-generation space technologies and capabilities that benefit our commercial, civil, scientific exploration, and national security communities, in order to maintain the viability of space for future generations. And we will promote a unified effort to strengthen our space industrial base and work with universities to encourage students to pursue space-related careers."

Bolden and Locke To Update Plans to Help Florida Space Workers

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke will provide an update on the work of their task force that was created in response to President Obama's April 15 promise to spend $40 million to help space workers along Florida's space coast. The event starts at 10:00 am EDT and will be held at the Orlando Airport Hyatt Hotel in Orlando, FL. It can be viewed on NASA TV.

UPDATE: Soyuz Safely Home

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: The Soyuz landed safely at 11:25 pm EDT today (9:25 am June 2 in Kazakhstan).

ORIGINAL STORY: Soyuz TMA-17 is on its way home. The spacecraft carrying threeof the six International Space Station (ISS) crew members undocked from the ISS at 8:04 pm EDT. Landing will be at 11:24 pm EDT in Kazakhstan. Live coverage is available right now on NASA TV.

Rep. Parker Griffith Loses Primary

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

Representative Parker Griffith (R-AL), who represents Huntsville, AL, lost his Republican primary battle yesterday. Rep. Griffith was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 2008, but switched to the Republican party in 2009.

When he was a Democrat, he was a member of the House Science and Technology Committee. He lost that seat when he switched parties, but continued to attend some NASA-related hearings as a non-member, supporting the Constellation program. He lost the Republican primary decisively, 51 percent to 33 percent.

First Falcon 9 Launch Still Set for Friday

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The first flight of the SpaceX Falcon 9 is still set for Friday a company spokeswoman, Emily Shanklin, said in an email tonight. The four-hour launch window opens at 11:00 am EDT. The next day has been reserved for a second attempt if needed. Weather is forecast to be 40% no go at this time, according to Shanklin.

Apparently hoping to dampen expectations for this much anticipated flight, the email emphasizes that the goal is to gather flight data and

"It would be a great day if we reached orbital velocity, but still a good day if the first stage functions correctly, even if the second stage malfunctions. It would be a bad day if something happens on the launch pad itself and we're not able to gain any flight data.

"If we have a bad day, it will be disappointing, but one launch does not make or break SpaceX as a company, nor commercial spaceflight as an industry...."

Dordain May Stay as ESA Director General

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The BBC reports that Jean-Jacques Dordain may be reappointed as Director General (DG) of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Dordain, a Frenchman, became DG in 2003 and is nearing the end of his second term. He was expected to be replaced by a German as head of the intergovernmental organization. The leading German candidate, Jan Woerner, announced on Monday that he did not want the job, saying on his blog that consequently France and Germany were jointly proposing that Dordain be asked to stay,the BBC reported.

Dordain is the sixth DG of ESA. The others were:

  • Roy Gibson (UK), 1975-1980
  • Erik Quistgaard (Denmark), 1980-1984
  • Reimar L st (Germany), 1984-1990
  • Jean-Marie Luton (France), 1990-1997
  • Antonio Rodot (Italy), 1997-2003

ESA's 18 members are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Spudis and Zubrin Join Forces to Oppose Obama Plan

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

In an op-ed for The Washington Times yesterday, Paul Spudis and Bob Zubrin joined forces to oppose President Obama's new human space flight plan and support President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration. Spudis is a senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute and well known advocate for lunar research. Zubrin is an ardent supporter of human exploration of Mars and is President of the Mars Society. President Obama sees no need to return to the Moon "because we've been there before" and wants to focus on sending crews to orbit Mars first, with a landing only sometime within his lifetime. Thus it may not be as surprising as it would seem at first blush to see Spudis and Zubrin working together to support the Bush plan despite their past differences.

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