Saturday, January 26, 2019

SpaceX Update: Crew Dragon Moves One Step Closer to Launching on Its Maiden Flight Next Month (Hopefully)...

The Falcon 9 booster carrying SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule stands tall on the pad at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Last Thursday, SpaceX successfully conducted the static test-fire of the Falcon 9 booster that will launch Crew Dragon on its maiden flight to the International Space Station (ISS). The engine test took place at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...paving the way for Crew Dragon to lift off on an unmanned mission to the ISS next month. SpaceX is currently aiming for February 23 to launch Crew Dragon on Demonstration-1—even though this date is very uncertain as another U.S. government shutdown could begin on February 16. The previous one, the longest government closure in U.S. history, ended yesterday.

It remains to be seen what will happen next month...but one thing is certain: On its end, SpaceX is ready to fly its human-rated orbital vehicle that will hopefully begin sending astronauts to the ISS sometime later this year. Stay tuned.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is ready to be rolled out to the pad from its Horizontal Integration Facility at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule as seen from inside the Crew Access Arm at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A.

Astronauts heading to the International Space Station will hopefully walk through the Crew Access Arm into SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule sometime this year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Photo of the Day #2: Testing Continues on Components for NASA's Next Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle...

The structural test article for the Space Launch System's liquid hydrogen fuel tank is placed on a test stand at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama...on January 14, 2019.
NASA / Tyler Martin

SLS Liquid Hydrogen Tank Test Article Loaded into Test Stand (News Release)

The largest piece of structural test hardware for America’s new deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, was loaded into Test Stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama Jan. 14, 2019. The liquid hydrogen tank is part of the rocket’s core stage that is more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, and stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines.

The liquid hydrogen tank test article is structurally identical to the flight version of the tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens of hydraulic cylinders in the 215-foot-tall test stand will push and pull the tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight.

Source: NASA.Gov

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Photo of the Day: SpaceX's Starship Prototype Stands Tall in Texas...

SpaceX's hopper booster, a prototype of the Starship rocket that will take flight sometime next decade, stands tall at the SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, of January 10, 2019.
Elon Musk / SpaceX

Earlier today, Elon Musk posted this great pic of the SpaceX hopper—the test version of its Starship rocket—after assembly on it was recently completed at his company's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. Just like the hopper here, the actual Starship (which will launch on the Super Heavy...formerly known as the Big Falcon Rocket) will be comprised of stainless steel instead of composite materials. The reason for this being that stainless steel can withstand much higher temperatures during atmospheric re-entry than composites could. Also, stainless steel is much cheaper to produce.

The SpaceX hopper—a successor to the Grasshopper booster that paved the way for Falcon 9's 33 successful landing attempts since late 2015—should begin flights (to an initial altitude of around 16,000 feet) no earlier than this Spring. The hopper will soar into the air using three methane-fueled Raptor engines...which will also power Starship and its Super Heavy booster to Mars and beyond.