Tag Archives: SpaceX

SpaceX Successfully Launches The U.S. Air Force’s Secretive X-37B Unmanned Spacecraft Just Before Hurricane Irma Reaches Florida

SpaceX launched the Pentagon’s mysterious X-37B orbital space drone just before the Hurricane Irma hit Florida.

While people prepared for Hurricane Irma, the 45th Space Wing successfully launched a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A at 10 a.m. on Sept. 7.

The Falcon 9, a two-stage rocket designed by SpaceX for reliable and cost-efficient transport of satellites and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, carried into orbit a U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), marking the fifth space flight for the unmanned orbital vehicle program and its first onboard a Falcon 9.

The X-37B program completed its fourth classified mission on May 7, 2017, landing after 718 days in orbit and extending the total number of days spent in orbit to 2,085.

Approximately eight minutes after the launch, SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon 9 first-stage booster back at Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“I’m incredibly proud of the 45th Space Wing’s contributions to the X-37B program,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a public release. “This marks the fifth successful launch of the OTV and its first onboard a Falcon 9. A strong relationship with our mission partners, such as the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, is vital toward maintaining the Eastern Range as the World’s Premiere Gateway to Space.”

Whilst the “OTV is designed to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operate experiments, which can be returned to and examined on Earth,” the details of its mission remain classified.

Since its first flight in 2010, several theories about the role of the X-37B have emerged: according to someone, the orbital drone is a space-based weapons platform carrying a weaponized re-entry vehicle that could be released over or near a specific target; others believe the OTV is a space ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform able to carry a wide variety of sensor packages in its internal cargo bay; some analysts believe that the X-37B is *simply* a research platform used to perform tests in space environment.

OTV-5 was launched by Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, a historic pad that has been used to support U.S. space programs since the early 1960s: originally built to support the Apollo program, LC-39A supported the first Saturn V launch (Apollo 4), and many subsequent Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 in July 1969. Beginning in the late 1970s, LC-39A was modified to support space shuttle launches, hosting the first and last shuttle missions to orbit in 1981 and 2011, respectively.
In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA for the use of Launch Complex 39A. Extensive modifications to LC-39A have been made to support launches of both the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.

LC-39 along with the rest of KSC facility’s buildings built after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 are supposed to withstand winds between 130 and 135 miles per hour.

 

Inside Look at SpaceX Dragon V2, the first private spaceship to take astronauts to space

This could be the spaceship used to carry U.S. astronauts to space and back in the future.

At its California headquarters, SpaceX has unveiled the upgraded version of its Dragon spaceship that will be used to carry astronauts into orbit in the future.

Shorealone Films photographer Matt Hartman was there and took the images you can find in this article.

Top image

The new capsule, whose shape reminds that of the Apollo spacecraft, is equipped with 8 powerful engines and landing legs that make precision touchdowns, like those performed by helicopters, possible: in other words, rather than parachuting down into the ocean the new spaceship will gently land on any kind of surface.

“That is how a 21st century spaceship should land,” said SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk.

The Dragon v2, launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, will initially fly without passengers at the end of next year, with first flight with people planned in 2016.

SpaceX Dragon cabin empty 2

The reusable spaceship could be used to launch into space NASA’s astronauts restoring Washington’s autonomous capability to launch and recover its astronauts.

U.S. lost such capability after the Space Shuttles were retired in 2011. Since then, American astronauts have travelled to the International Space Station thanks to Russia’s Soyuz, with expensive tickets that cost U.S. taxpayers some 60 million USD each.

SpaceX Dragon cockpit

SpaceX Dragon is, along with SNC Dream Chaser and Boeing CST-100, one of the three commercial spaceflight transportation systems currently being developed with the financial and technical support of NASA, that will eventually select two, or just one of these projects to launch men in space beginning in 2017.

The predecessor of the new Dragon v2 capsule, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft (Space Shuttle Orbiter replacement), has recently completed the third commercial resupply mission and fourth visit to the International Space Station with a launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (closely followed by the Russian ocean tug “Nikolay Chiker”).

SpaceX Dragon 1

All images: Matt Hartman

 

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Russian tug off Florida: supporting nuclear attack subs or observing SpaceX launch?

A Russian tug has been operating off Florida for some weeks. What is it doing over so far from home?

The Russian “Nikolay Chiker” is an ocean tug that has often deployed alongside Russian Navy’s high value assets. According to Information Dissemination, the ship accompanied Russia’s spy ship Viktor Leonov to Cuba last month, before moving off Florida, where it was parked on Mar. 15, ahead of the launch of Dragon spacecraft (Space Shuttle Orbiter replacement) on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket scheduled of Mar. 16 from the SLC-40 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

However, the SpaceX launch was delayed and, since then, the ship has moved back and forth along U.S. East coast: it headed southbound, has made a port visit to Curacao, then it has operated in the Caribbean Sea and eventually returned more or less where it was on Mar. 15 and it is right now: off Cape Canaveral.

The fact that the tug moved off Cape Kennedy in the days of the scheduled launch of SpaceX and returned there in anticipation of the new launch window suggests that the “Nikolay Chiker” is somehow interested in observing the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft on the company’s third commercial resupply mission and fourth visit to the space station.

However, there’s someone who suggested that the ocean tug is actually supporting Russian nuclear attack submarines monitoring U.S. Navy East coast bases.

Hard to say.

For sure the Russian tug is not there by accident. During the Cold War, Russian and Americans have monitored each others special special operations, military exercises, invasions, maiden flights etc. This is not changed with the collapse of the USSR. On the contrary, close encounters (as the one in the Black Sea) and reciprocal snooping are probably going to increase.

Image credit: Marinetraffic.com

 

 

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Mesmerizing video: Rocket vertical take off and vertical landing filmed by a hexacopter drone.

On Oct. 7, Grasshopper, a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical landing (VTVL) vehicle, completed its highest leap to date, rising to 744m altitude.

And, above all, the weird maneuver was recorded from a single camera remote controlled hexacopter.

Grasshopper VTVL vehicle was designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. Indeeed, you can weirdly watch the rocket going up and down in an almost surreal way, as the footage, from a certain point, is played backward.

While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry or to fall in the ocean, SpaceX rockets are being designed to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing and the Grasshopper VTVL vehicle acts as a technological demonstrator to perform steps aimed at achieving that goal.

According to SpaceX, Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage tank, Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminum landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

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