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Elon Musk, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln: SpaceX Roars Back to Life as We Celebrate Famous Presidential Birthdays

Over the President’s Day weekend, that is the holiday celebrating the birthdays of General George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the most exciting event was the successful launch of SpaceX’s CRS-10 (Commercial Resupply Services mission) and recovery of the first stage rocket. The launch was delayed one-day from the historic Apollo 11 pad at the Kennedy Space Center and now the Dragon Spacecraft is en-route to the International Space Station with 5,500 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments. The last 18-months have been one of ups and downs for SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk, from a fantastic week in April 2016 to a launch pad disaster six-months later, also at Kennedy Space Center, that severely damaged the Cape Canaveral Air Force Launch Complex 40. It is being rebuilt by SpaceX for future use.

Elon Musk has become the face of private space endeavor in an industry that is certainly become exciting and fun for fans of adventure and exploration. He has also become someone whose perseverance and vision in the face of daunting odds has come to be admired around the world. Musk displays that rare gift of an extraordinary capacity to push harder when everyone tells him it is a crazy notion; that rare ability to work 100 hours a week in pursuit of something he imagines entirely possible that is widely considered impossible; that special quality of irrational pursuit that is a mix of passion, insight and ambition.

Setbacks, failures and near defeat haunt and pursue but don’t conquer people like Elon Musk.

Now to General George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two of the most important figures in American history whose lives are filled with success, failure, sacrifice and, yes, suffering. After eight years commanding the armed forces during the American Revolution, the only thing Washington wanted was to return to Mount Vernon and become a full-time farmer. But his nation called on him and he reluctantly accepted the role of the First President of the United States with all the stress and strain that would entail. The great general set many of the precedents of American presidential leadership, such as stepping down after two-terms, that are still connected with the office today. He was truly “the indispensable man” during the American Revolution and beyond.

Total power was his for the asking, but that he didn’t ask for it because that was not what the Revolution was all about. This was truly one of the most unselfish political acts in human history.   

In contrast to George Washington we have Abraham Lincoln, an ambitious man with a keen political mind helped by a razor-sharp wit that could cut opponents to the bone. But it was a split convention of the new Republican Party, built on the ashes of the Whig Party, which brought Lincoln to the role of Commander in Chief during the most cataclysmic time in American history. Technological change ushered in changes in war that resulted in a blood bath no one could have imagined, and Lincoln suffered under the strain of it that none of us can imagine going through. Brother against brother, friend against friend, indeed the country is still dealing with the fallout from that conflict in a thousand different ways. At the same time, Lincoln suffered personally with a host of family problems that tested his resolve as a father and husband.

Elon Musk celebrated a success this President’s Day Weekend that is great step for SpaceX and the American private space game, and the citizens of the United States must be thankful to General George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for their gallant service in the name of liberty.

God Bless the United States of America.
Brad Butler
Global High Seas Marine Preserve
c@ebgoinc.com

Space Tech by Danny Quintana: SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon Spacecraft Made Space History and Changed Economics of Space Game, Remember John Glenn and Brave Men and Women Pushing Space Envelope

For fans of space travel, science fiction and technology, the retirement of the Space Shuttle, which forced the U.S. to buy rides to ISS from Russia, and cutting back on NASA’s budget seemed to signal the U.S.  pulling away from aggressive exploration of space. There were even rumors that the International Space Station, which is showing its age, was going to be abandoned. However, that development opened the door for private investment in space and for other countries to up their game in space delivery systems, which at this point are primarily designed to put satellites in space for private industries or governments lacking that capability.

Now a host of companies are in the game designing rockets, logistical systems, habitats for ISS, spacecraft, space planes for tourism and much more. SpaceX, Orbital ATK, United Launch Alliance (Boeing-Lockheed Partnership), Bigelow Aerospace, Spaceflight and others are in the game and NASA is employing them on various tasks.

SpaceX has made big headlines by sending the first private spacecraft (Dragon) to deliver supplies to ISS and become the first entity to safely recover the first stage of a delivery rocket, which blasted Dragon into orbit, by landing it on a barge in the ocean. Recovery of a first stage rocket for re-use had been thought impossible until Elon Musk and SpaceX did it, thus altering the economics of space delivery systems dramatically. Everyone else must now play catch up, including the bureaucratically heavy NASA which continues to take far too long on major projects.

Bob Zimmerman, who runs the website Behind the Black and is a regular on the John Batchelor and Coast to Coast Radio Shows, really loves the entry or aggressive private companies in the space game and often decries how slow and bloated NASA has become in many projects. He is always a great source of information at www.BehindtheBlack.com.

Being a Space Fan has become fun again, but make no mistake it is a serious business as evidenced by a recent SpaceX rocket exploding and destroying a NASA launch pad. Advances in technology will keep making it easier and cheaper to go into space, but it will probably always be dangerous and unpredictable. In July 1992 I flew around the world across Russia with a bunch of single and twin engines planes and luckily the GPS system had just been released by the United States for civilian use, which was probably a life saver as flying over Siberia offered few navigation aids for small aircraft with limited range. A result of the Space Race and it is now a normal part of our everyday lives, in our cars, smart phones and many other devices.     

American space icon John Glenn.

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – Astronaut John Glenn, Jr. before prepping for launch aboard Mercury Atlas 6. FEB. 20, 1962

We recently lost American icon John Glenn, war hero fighter pilot, test pilot, speed record holder and the first American in space. He didn’t believe he would make it home from that mission, but then again that was his attitude every time he went up to fight during his war service. Glenn loved to fly and become the oldest person to go into space. We must never forget those who have braved the unknown to test new aircraft, who crawled into tiny capsules and shuttles to be thrust into space by powerful rockets into the heavens to expand Man’s reach and explore the heavens.  

Here are some descriptions and facts about SpaceX rockets and Spacecraft from the SpaceX website: 

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.” –Elon Musk

FALCON 9 ROCKET: It is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. As the first rocket completely developed in the 21st century, Falcon 9 was designed from the ground up for maximum reliability. Falcon 9’s simple two-stage configuration minimizes the number of separation events—and with nine first-stage engines, it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown.

Falcon 9 made history in 2012 when it delivered Dragon into the correct orbit for rendezvous with the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first commercial company ever to visit the station. Since then SpaceX has made multiple flights to the space station, both delivering and returning cargo for NASA. Falcon 9, along with the Dragon spacecraft, was designed from the outset to deliver humans into space and under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is actively working toward that goal.

INTERSTAGE: The interstage is a composite structure that connects the first and second stages and holds the release and separation system. Falcon 9 uses an all-pneumatic stage separation system for low-shock, highly reliable separation that can be tested on the ground, unlike pyrotechnic systems used on most launch vehicles.

FIRST STAGE: Falcon 9’s first stage incorporates nine Merlin engines and aluminum-lithium alloy tanks containing liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellant. After ignition, a hold-before-release system ensures that all engines are verified for full-thrust performance before the rocket is released for flight. Then, with thrust greater than five 747s at full power, the Merlin engines launch the rocket to space. Unlike airplanes, a rocket’s thrust actually increases with altitude; Falcon 9 generates more than 1.7 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to over 1.8 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage flight to limit launch vehicle acceleration as the rocket’s mass decreases with the burning of fuel.

ENGINES: 9

BURN TIME:162sec

THRUST AT SEA LEVEL: 7,607kN1,710,000 lbf

THRUST IN VACUUM: 8,227kN1,849,500 lbf

NINE MERLIN ENGINES: With its nine first-stage Merlin engines clustered together, Falcon 9 can sustain up to two engine shutdowns during flight and still successfully complete its mission. Falcon 9 is the only launch vehicle in its class with this key reliability feature.

SECOND STAGE: The second stage, powered by a single Merlin vacuum engine, delivers Falcon 9’s payload to the desired orbit. The second stage engine ignites a few seconds after stage separation, and can be restarted multiple times to place multiple payloads into different orbits. For maximum reliability, the second stage has redundant igniter systems. Like the first stage, the second stage is made from a high-strength aluminum-lithium alloy.

ENGINE: 1

BURN TIME: 397sec

THRUST: 934kN210,000 lbf

TECHNICAL OVERVIEW:

HEIGHT: 70m229.6 ft

MASS: 549,054kg1,207,920 lb

PAYLOAD TO LEO: 22,800kg50,265 lb

PAYLOAD TO MARS: 4,020kg8,860lb

DIAMETER: 3.7m12 ft

STAGES: 2

PAYLOAD TO GTO: 8,300kg18,300 lb

DRAGON SPACECRAFT: It is a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations. Dragon made history in 2012 when it became the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo to Earth, a feat previously achieved only by governments. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Currently Dragon carries cargo to space, but it was designed from the beginning to carry humans. Under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is now developing the refinements that will enable Dragon to fly crew. Dragon’s first manned test flight is expected to take place in 2-3 years.

OVERVIEW:

TOTAL LAUNCH PAYLOAD MASS: 6,000kg13,228 lbs

TOTAL LAUNCH PAYLOAD VOLUME: 25m3883 ft3

PRESSURIZED SECTION: The pressurized section of the spacecraft, also referred to as the capsule, is designed to carry both cargo and humans into space. Towards the base of the capsule but outside the pressurized structure are the Draco thrusters, Dragon’s guidance navigation and control (GNC) bay and Dragon’s advanced heat shield.

SPACECRAFT PAYLOAD VOLUME: 11m3388 ft3

TRUNK: Dragon’s trunk supports the spacecraft during ascent to space, carries unpressurized cargo and houses Dragon’s solar arrays. The trunk and solar arrays remain attached to Dragon until shortly before reentry to Earth’s atmosphere, when they are jettisoned.

TRUNK PAYLOAD VOLUME: 14m3494 ft3

TOTAL RETURN PAYLOAD MASS: 3,000kg6,614 lbs

TOTAL RETURN PAYLOAD VOLUME: 11m3388 ft3

INSIDE THE SPACECRAFT: The Dragon spacecraft has three configurations to meet a variety of needs: cargo, crew and DragonLab. To ensure a rapid transition from cargo to crew capability, the cargo and crew configurations of Dragon are almost identical. This commonality simplifies the human rating process, allowing systems critical to crew and space station safety to be fully tested on unmanned cargo flights. With DragonLab, essentially the same spacecraft can be used as a platform for in-space technology demonstrations and experiments.

DELIVERY AND RETURN SERVICES: Dragon is the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and currently the only cargo spacecraft flying capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Dragon accommodates pressurized cargo in the capsule as well as unpressurized cargo in its trunk.

VERSATILE CARGO RACKS: The racks are a honeycomb carbon-aluminum construction designed for efficient packing in a zero-gravity environment. They accommodate a variety of standard-size NASA cargo bags as well as freezers for carrying materials such as biological samples.

SpaceX Stuns the Cynics: They Said it Couldn’t Be Done. And Then SpaceX did it—Again and Again and Again by Rick Smith, Motley Fools CAPS

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The May 6 SpaceX JCSAT-14 mission that silenced the critics. First they said SpaceX couldn’t land a rocketship. So SpaceX did it. Then they said SpaceX couldn’t land a rocketship on a boat. So SpaceX did that, too. Finally, cynics accused SpaceX of making that last landing too easy on itself. “Its rocket didn’t go far enough,” they accused. It didn’t reenter hot enough, or fast enough. Let’s see SpaceX try landing a rocket after launching to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), and not just low Earth orbit (LEO) — it won’t survive the attempt!

Touchdown: 
Well, surprise, surprise—last week, SpaceX did that too. After launching a Japanese communications satellite into GTO roughly 22,300 miles above Earth, SpaceX landed its Falcon 9 launch vehicle aboard a drone barge in the mid-Atlantic last Friday. This is something that no one else has ever done—not Boeing (NYSE:BA) nor Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), the twin titans of United Launch Alliance. Not Arianespace. Not even Blue Origin has accomplished such a feat.

GSpaceX’s Falcon 9: On a boat. After launching a satellite into
orbit 22,000 miles high. (Hint: It survived.) Image source: SpaceX.

The rundown

In fact, SpaceX has now successfully relanded three of its last five rockets launched, including those carrying:

  • The Orbcomm mission, launched to LEO and landed at spaceport on Dec. 21, 2015
  • Jason-3, launched to LEO and failed landing at sea on Jan. 17, 2016
  • SES-9, launched to geostationary orbit (GEO, which is similar to GTO in altitude) and failed landing at sea on March 4, 2016
  • CRS-8, launched to resupply the ISS in LEO and landed at sea on April 8, 2016
  • JCSAT-14, launched to GTO and landed at sea on May 6, 2016.

And yet, SpaceX’s critics have been right about one thing all along: Space is hard.

It took SpaceX two failed attempts before it finally stuck a landing on solid ground. It took the pioneering space exploration company two more failures before Falcon 9 would land safely on a boat at sea.

Turns out, the one thing everyone was wrong about was that landing a rocket after a GTO mission (delivering a satellite to 22,000-26,000 miles distant) would be appreciably harder for SpaceX than landing after an LEO mission (LEO is anything under 1,200 miles above Earth’s surface).

Yes, the speeds involved were higher, with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rising higher and therefore falling farther down Earth’s gravity well before landing. Yes, the temperature of reentry was higher. (Check out the discoloration on that rocket up above. It was white when it started its trip….) But SpaceX still did it.

The question now is: What will SpaceX do next?

What comes next

The easy answer to this question is: Thaicom 8.

On May 26, SpaceX is scheduled to fly a Falcon 9 rocket out of its Space Launch Complex 40 installation at Cape Canaveral, carrying the Thai communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit (GSO) roughly 23,000 miles above Earth. After that, SpaceX has three launches scheduled to take place in June, two flying out of Cape Canaveral and one leaving from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

SpaceX may or may not choose to relaunch the same Falcon 9 that landed at sea on April 8 for one of these missions—or for another mission yet to be announced. Elon Musk has said he’s “aiming for relaunch around May or June,” depending on whether SpaceX can find a customer willing to take a ride on a used rocket.

What comes after next

It’s after SpaceX finds that guinea pig, though, that things really get interesting. According to the company’s chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX plans to cut its usual advertised price for a space launch by about 30% when reusing a rocket. That should shave $20 million off the company’s usual launch price of roughly $60 million.

At $40 million a rocket ride, it’s going to be very difficult for any other space launch company to compete with SpaceX. Currently, Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s space launches cost $125 million and up. Arianespace has a plan in place to launch satellites two at a time aboard its new Ariane 64 rocket (once it’s built), for an average launch cost of $63 million—but even this won’t compete with a $40 million price, if SpaceX is able to offer that consistently.

The key, though, is consistency. SpaceX has launched and landed three rockets—and deserves all possible kudos for that. But can it re-launch and re-land a rocket? Can it rere-launch it and rere-land it? Because if it can, SpaceX will be able to underprice all comers, and change the economics of space exploration forever.

And in as little as a month and a half—or less!—we’ll know the answer.

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Spacex Up And Down
Up it goes and down it goes. But investors want to know: Can a SpaceX rocket yo-yo–can it go up-down-up? Image source: SpaceX.

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Rich Smith does not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. You can find him on Motley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he’s currently ranked No. 291 out of more than 75,000 rated members.

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