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Space

Paul Allen Launches Commercial Spaceship Project 152

smitty777 writes "The phrase 'Where do you want to go today?' takes on a whole new meaning as Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and the world's 57th richest man in the world, looks to create a new spaceship company. Stratolaunch Systems plans to bring 'airport like operations' to the world of private space travel. Partnering with Burt Rutan, the plan is to field a test within five years and commercially available flights within ten. Spacecraft will be air-launched from a giant, six-engined aircraft. There is more information available on the Stratolaunch homepage."
Space

Submission + - SpaceX Reveals Plans For Full Reusability (hobbyspace.com)

FleaPlus writes: At a talk at the National Press Club, SpaceX's Elon Musk revealed the company's plans for making their Falcon 9 rocket fully reusable. A rendering depicts the first stage, upper stage, and Dragon capsule all separately returning to the Earth's surface and making a controlled rocket-powered landing. During the next few years SpaceX will be testing VTVL maneuvers and reusability with their Falcon 9-based 'Grasshopper' testbed, with up to 70 test launches per year. Musk stated that if reuse is successful it would result in a 100x reduction in their already-low launch costs, a key step towards Musk's long-term aim of lowering the price of a ticket to Mars to $500K.
NASA

Submission + - SpaceX Dragon As Mars Science Lander? (msn.com)

FleaPlus writes: Besides using the SpaceX Dragon capsule to deliver supplies to the ISS this year and astronauts in following years, the company wants to use Dragon as a platform for propulsively landing science payloads on Mars and other planets. Combined with their upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket, 'a single Dragon mission could land with more payload than has been delivered to Mars cumulatively in history.' According to CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX is working with NASA's Ames Research Center on a mission design concept that could launch in as early as 5-6 years.
Mars

Submission + - SpaceX Unveils Heavy-Lift Rocket Designs (aviationweek.com)

FleaPlus writes: At the recent Joint Propulsion Conference, SpaceX's rocket development facility director Tom Markusic unveiled conceptual plans for how its current Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 commercial rockets can be evolved into heavy-lift rockets, ranging from a Falcon X capable of lifting 38,000kg to orbit, up to a 140,000kg Falcon XX (more than either the Saturn V or the 75,000kg shuttle-derived rocket Congress currently plans on having NASA spend >$13B building). SpaceX presentations also discuss a new Merlin 2 heavy-lift engine, solar-electric cargo tugs, adapting their current engines for descent/ascent vehicles fueled by Mars-derived methane, and a desire for the government to take the lead on in-space nuclear thermal propulsion while commercial focuses on launchers. In a recent interview, SpaceX CEO/CTO Elon Musk expressed his goal of lowering the price of Mars transportation enough to enable early colonization in 20 years, and his own plans for retiring to Mars.
Space

Submission + - Second SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Being Assembled (spaceflightnow.com)

FleaPlus writes: Six weeks after the first launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, the first stage of the second rocket has finishing production/testing, and has arrived at Cape Canaveral for a launch as early as September, depending on the pace of a methodical review of the Dragon capsule systems and minor rocket modifications/fixes being made based on data from the inaugural launch. The rocket will launch the first operational unmanned Dragon cargo/crew spacecraft into orbit, where it will perform tests and then reenter off the California coast. CEO/CTO Elon Musk made the intriguing remark that Dragon's heat shield is strong enough to enable a return not only from Earth orbit, but also lunar orbit or Mars velocities as well.
Space

Submission + - SpaceX And Iridium Sign $492M Launch Contract (orlandosentinel.com)

FleaPlus writes: Following up on the successful first launch of their Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has signed a $492M deal for launching several dozen satellites for the Iridium NEXT constellation, the biggest commercial launch deal ever (teleconference notes). This is a needed boost for the US launch industry, which has dwindled to a fraction of the international market due to problematic ITAR arms regulations and high costs. SpaceX's next launch is scheduled for later this summer, carrying the first full version of the Dragon reusable capsule, which will run tests in orbit and then splashdown off the California coast.
NASA

Submission + - SpaceX SUccessfully Launches Falcon 9 Rocket (bbc.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: After aborting its first launch attempt with only seconds remaining on the clock, SpaceX succeeded in launching the Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon. The rocket carried an unmanned Dragon capsule qualifying unit, which was placed into orbit by Falcon's single-engine second stage. The first launch of Falcon 9 was designed to demonstrate the rocket and collect data for future Dragon capsule launches in support of NASA's ISS commercial resupply contract.

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