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Mars

Elon Musk Proposes Spaceship That Can Send 100 People To Mars In 80 Days (theverge.com) 491

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Mars vehicle -- the spaceship his company plans to build to transport the first colonists to Mars. It will have a diameter of 17 meters. The plan is to send about 100 people per trip, though Musk wants to ultimately take 200 or more per flight to make the cost cheaper per person. The trip can take as little as 80 days or as many as 150 depending on the year. The hope is that the transport time will be only 30 days "in the more distant future." The rocket booster will have a diameter of 12 meters and the stack height will be 122 meters. The spaceship should hold a cargo of up to 450 tons depending on how many refills can be done with the tanker. As rumored, the Mars vehicle will be reusable and the spaceship will refuel in orbit. The trip will work like this: First, the spaceship will launch out of Pad 39A, which is under development right now at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. At liftoff, the booster will have 127,800 kilonewtons of thrust, or 28,730,000 pounds of thrust. Then, the spaceship and booster separate. The spaceship heads to orbit, while the booster heads back to Earth, coming back within about 20 minutes. Back on Earth, the booster lands on a launch mount and a propellant tanker is loaded onto the booster. The entire unit -- now filled with fuel -- lifts off again. It joins with the spaceship, which is then refueled in orbit. The propellant tankers will go up anywhere from three to five times to fill the tanks of the spaceship. The spaceship finally departs for Mars. To make the trip more attractive for its crew members, Musk promises that it'll be "really fun" with zero-G games, movies, cabins, games, a restaurant. Once it reaches Mars, the vehicle will land on the surface, using its rocket engines to lower itself gently down to the ground. The spaceship's passengers will use the vehicle, as well as cargo and hardware that's already been shipped over to Mars, to set up a long-term colony. At the rate of 20 to 50 total Mars trips, it will take anywhere from 40 to 100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization with one million people on Mars, says Musk.
Space

SpaceX Tests Its Raptor Engine For Future Mars Flights (techcrunch.com) 113

Thelasko writes: Elon Musk is preparing to unveil his plans to colonize Mars at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress tomorrow. As a tease to his lecture, he has released some details about the Raptor engine on Twitter, including pictures. Mr. Musk states that, "Production Raptor coal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tons) at 300 bar." He goes on to note that the specific impulse spec is at Mars ambient pressure. The Raptor interplanetary engine is designed for use with Space X's Mars Colonial Transporter craft. Musk notes that the "chamber pressure runs three times what's present in the Merlin engine currently used to power Falcon 9," according to TechCrunch. "Merlin has specific impulse of 282 seconds (311 seconds in the vacuum of space), and a relatively paltry 654 kilonewton (0.6 MN) at sea level, or 716 kN (0.7 MN) in a vacuum. You can view a picture of the "Mach diamonds" here, which are visible in the engine's exhaust.
Earth

SpaceX Dragon Returns Home From ISS (floridatoday.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Florida Today: A SpaceX Dragon capsule that helped prepare the International Space Station for future commercial astronaut flights has returned to Earth after a stay of more than month-long mission. A robotic arm released the unmanned capsule packed with 3,000 pounds of cargo at 6:11 a.m. EDT, then fired thrusters several times to move a safe distance away from the station orbiting about 250 miles up. The departure began a less than six-hour journey that culminated in a Pacific Ocean splashdown at 11:47 a.m. EDT, about 300 miles southwest of Baja, California. The Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral early July 18 on a Falcon 9 rocket and berthed at the station two days later. Among the cargo brought back from space Friday were a dozen mice from a Japanese science experiment -- the first brought home alive in a Dragon. Samples from mice euthanized as part of an experiment by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly also were on board. Results were returned from an experiment that studied the behavior of heart cells in microgravity, and from research into the composition of microbes in the human digestive system, NASA said. Findings from both could help keep astronauts healthy during deep space exploration missions. SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next Saturday, Sept. 3.
ISS

Astronauts To Install A Parking Space For SpaceX and Boeing At The ISS (popularmechanics.com) 77

Since Boeing and SpaceX will begin sending NASA astronauts into orbit next year, the International Space Station is going to need a place for them to park. Astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins will journey outside the ISS on Friday to install a new docking adapter for these two private companies. Popular Mechanics reports: "Installing these adapters is a necessary step in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which seeks to spur development of commercial crew spacecraft. The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 8:05 a.m. on Friday, and live coverage will start at 6:30. This will be Williams' fourth spacewalk, and Rubins' first." In the meantime, you can watch this video describing exactly what the spacewalk will entail.
Space

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Crashes Into Droneship (cbsnews.com) 130

SpaceX failed to successfully land its Falcon 9 on a drone ship at sea on Wednesday. Prior to today's crash, the company was able to conduct three successful experimental landing of its used rocket in a row. SpaceX founder Elon Musk noted that the booster rocket had a RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly, he explained) on droneship. From a CBS News report: It was the California rocket company's fifth unsuccessful drone-ship landing after three straight successes, one in April and two in May. Including a successful landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last December, SpaceX's recovery record now stands at four successes in nine attempts. But the landing attempt was a strictly secondary objective. The mission's primary goal, the launch of two powerful all-electric communications satellites, was a complete success and regardless of the loss of the first stage, company engineers expected to collect valuable data as they continue their push to make such landings routine.
Mars

First SpaceX Missions To Mars: 'Dangerous and Probably People Will Die' (arstechnica.com) 412

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: As we get close to the end of September, when Elon Musk has promised to lay bare his plans for colonizing Mars at an international space conference, it seems like the ambitious founder of SpaceX can hardly contain his excitement. In an interview with The Washington Post, Musk gushed, "I'm so tempted to talk more about the details of it. But I have to restrain myself." SpaceX fandom has speculated for years about details of Musk's ideas, which include the Mars Colonial Transporter concept. The Transporter likely consists of a large first stage rocket and an upper stage spacecraft meant to deliver hundreds of people to the surface of Mars during the late 2020s and 2030s. Unlike NASA, which relies on public money and is therefore risk averse when it comes to "loss of crew" requirements for human missions into space, SpaceX appears to be willing to take some risks with the unprecedented exploration to Mars. Those first explorers would understand the perils, just as the pioneers who explored the New World or the poles of Earth did. "Hopefully there's enough people who are like that who are willing to go build the foundation, at great risk, for a Martian city," Musk told Washington Post. "It's dangerous and probably people will die -- and they'll know that." Eventually it will be safe to go to Mars, Musk said, and living there will be comfortable. But this is many years into the future, he acknowledged.
Earth

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Predicts People On Mars In 9 Years (cnn.com) 224

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says his company should be able to land humans on Mars in nine years from now. "If things go according to plan, we should be able to -- we should be able to -- launch people in 2024, with arrival in 2025," Musk said. "That's the game plan," he added. CNN Money reports: Musk said he's planning to share an architectural plan for the colonization of Mars at a conference in September. The tech conference audience was enthralled by Musk's comments. He told interviewers Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg that plotting travel throughout the Solar System, and "ultimately other star systems," provides the kind of inspiration that makes life worth living.
Earth

SpaceX Successfully Lands A Falcon 9 Rocket At Sea For The Third Time (theverge.com) 107

An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for the third time in a row. The Verge reports: "It was the third time in a row the company has landed a rocket booster at sea, and the fourth time overall. The landing occurred a few minutes before the second stage of the Falcon 9 delivered the THAICOM-8 satellite to space, where it will make its way to geostationary geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). GTO is a high-elliptical orbit that is popular for satellites, sitting more than 20,000 miles above the Earth. The 3,100-kilogram satellite will spend 15 years improving television and data signals across Southeast Asia." The company landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship for the second time earlier this month. UPDATE 5/27/15: Frank249 writes in a comment: "Elon Musk just tweeted: 'Rocket landing speed was close to design max and used up contingency crush core, hence back and forth motion. Prob ok, but some risk of tipping.'" He went on to tweet: "Crush core is aluminum honeycomb for energy absorption in the telescoping actuator. Easy to replace (if Falcon makes it back to port)."
Earth

SpaceX Successfully Lands Its Rocket On A Floating Drone Ship Again (theverge.com) 150

Early Friday morning, SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea for the second time. The company has recovered the post-launch vehicle a total of three times, two of which involved the rocket landing on a floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Before the launch, the landing was deemed unlikely as the rocket would be "subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating" in its attempt to launch a Japanese communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit high above Earth. Elon Musk tweeted: "Rocket reentry is a lot faster and hotter than last time, so odds of making it are maybe even, but we should learn a lot either way." As a result of the successful mission, Musk followed up with, "May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar." The first successful launch was in December, when the rocket landed at a ground-based spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The second landing occurred in April on a floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Robotics

Elon Musk Open Sources New 'AI Gym' (csmonitor.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes: OpenAI, a billion-dollar research non-profit backed by Elon Musk and other Silicon Valley executives, just released a public beta of a new Open Source gym for computer programmers working on artificial intelligence. "Nothing beats a competitive environment to motivate developers," says Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "It's like a monster truck rally for AI programmers."

The gym lets developers run tests in a standardized environment and share their results, and was built by OpenAI to develop algorithms for the non-profit's own research, according to the Christian Science Monitor. "The gym's exercises range from robot simulations to Atari games and are designed to develop reinforcement learning, the type of computer skills needed for motor control, and decision-making. 'Long-term, we want this curation to be a community effort rather than something owned by us,' Greg Brockman and John Schulman wrote in an OpenAI blog post. 'We'll necessarily have to figure out the details over time, and we'd would love your help in doing so.'"

Space

SpaceX Intends To Send a Red Dragon To Mars As Early As 2018 (blastingnews.com) 119

Reader MarkWhittington writes: SpaceX has announced that it intends to send a version of its Dragon spacecraft, called "Red Dragon," to Mars as early as 2018. The mission, to be launched on top of a Falcon Heavy rocket, would be the first to another planet conducted by a commercial enterprise. The flight of the Red Dragon would be the beginning of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's long-term dream of building a settlement on Mars.Ars Technica reports: According to the company, these initial test missions will help demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads propulsively on Mars. This series of missions, to be launched on the company's not-yet-completed Falcon Heavy rocket, will provide key data for SpaceX as the company develops an overall plan to send humans to the Red Planet to colonize Mars. One of the biggest challenges in landing on Mars is the fact that its atmosphere is so thin it provides little braking capacity. To land the 900kg Curiosity rover on Mars, NASA had to devise the complicated sky crane system that led to its "Seven Minutes of Terror." A Dragon would weigh much more, perhaps about 6,000kg. To solve this problem, SpaceX plans to use an upgraded spacecraft, a Dragon2 powered by eight SuperDraco engines, to land using propulsion.

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