SpaceX to Launch Majority of 4,000 Starlink Satellites From Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.

That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.


Remaining Commercial Crew Milestones for All Companies

NASA Commercial Crew Program Remaining Milestones
July 2014

No. DescriptionOriginal DateStatusAmount
19Critical Design Review (CDR) Board. Boeing shall establish and demonstrate a critical baseline design of the CCTS that meets system requirements. CDR confirms that the requirements, detailed designs, and plans for test and evaluation form a satisfactory basis for production and integration.April 20143Q 2014$17.9 Million
21ABoeing Spacecraft Safety Review. Boeing shall prepare and conduct a Phase 2 Safety Review of the Commercial Crew Transportation System (CCTS) Spacecraft Critical Design Review (CDR) level requirements, system architecture and design, and associated safety products to assess conformance with Commercial Crew Transportation System certification process (CDR-level products). Focus is review of the updated hazard reports, hazard causes and controls, and specific safety verification methods to reflect the CDR level of design detail for the CCTS Spacecraft Segment. July 20143Q 2014$20 Million
4BEngineering Test Article Flight Testing. The purpose of these additional free flight test(s) is to reduce risk due to aerodynamic uncertainties in the subsonic approach and landing phase of flight and to mature the Dream Chaser aerodynamic database. A minimum of one and up to five additional Engineering Test Article free flight test(s) will be completed to characterize the aerodynamics and controllability of the Dream Chaser Orbital Vehicle outer mold line configuration during the subsonic approach and landing phase.April 2013March 2015 $8 Million
9Risk Reduction and TRL Advancement Testing. The purpose of these tests is to significantly mature all Dream Chaser systems to or beyond a CDR level.May 20143Q 2014$17 Million
15AReaction Control System Testing — Incremental Test No. 1. The purpose of the test on this pre-qualification unit is to support eventual qualification/certification by testing the thruster in flight-like environments.July 20143Q 2014$10 Million
11Pad Abort Test. SpaceX will conduct a pad abort test of the Dragon spacecraft. The scenario where an abort is initiated while the CTS is still on the pad is a design driver for the launch abort system as it dictates the total impulse and also requires parachute deployment in close proximity to the ground.December 20133Q 2014$30 Million
12Dragon Primary Structure Qualification. SpaceX will conduct static structural testing of all Dragon primary structure components to ultimate load factors, as applicable. This series of tests will validate the Dragon structure’s ability to maintain integrity during all driving load cases as well as verify the accuracy of math models used to analyze the Dragon structure. Individual tests will be designed to exercise all credible failure modes and minimum margin areas.January 20142nd Half 2014$30 Million
13BGround Systems and Mission Operations Critical Design Review (CDR). Part 2 of the CDR focused on ground systems and mission operations. The goal of the CDR is to demonstrate that the maturity of the CTS design is appropriate to support proceeding with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test. March 2014August 2014$3 Million
13CCrew Vehicle Technical Interchange Meetings. Part 3 of the CDR. The goal of the CDR is to demonstrate that the maturity of the CTS design is appropriate to support proceeding with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test. March 2014September 2014$5 Million
13DDelta Crew Vehicle Critical Design Review (CDR). The final milestone in the CDR.The goal of the CDR is to demonstrate that the maturity of the CTS design is appropriate to support proceeding with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test.
March 2014November 2014$5 Million
14In-Flight Abort Test. SpaceX will conduct an in-flight abort test of the Dragon spacecraft. The in-flight abort test will supplement the pad abort test and complete the corners-of-the-box stress cases. The in-flight abort scenario represents a Dragon abort while under propulsive flight of the launch vehicle during the worst-case dynamic loads on the CTS.April 2014March 2015$30 Million
1.4Space Vehicle Subsystem Interim Design Review. Review space vehicle subsystem design progress with emphasis on power and actuation systems, in-space propulsion, multiplex avionics, flight mechanics and GN&C.March 20142nd Half 2014$0
TOTAL REMAINING (OUT OF $1.17 BILLION) :$175.9 Million

CSF on NASA Space Act Decision: We Like It!

CSF PR – Washington, DC  – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation congratulates NASA on the space agency’s important decision, announced today, to continue to use Space Act Agreements for the Commercial Crew Development Program. This decision will shorten the gap in U.S. access to space, help spur additional private investment, reduce America’s dependence on Russia, save taxpayer money, ensure the future of the International Space Station, and increase industry competition. Now that the Space Shuttle has retired, the Commercial Crew Program is the fastest way for America to regain our domestic access to space.


Good New for Florida: Boeing Chooses Discovery Hangar for CST-100 Work

Florida Today
reports that Boeing has finalized plans to assemble its new CST-100 spacecraft at Cape Canaveral:

The Boeing Co. next week will confirm plans to assemble a commercial space capsule in one of the former shuttle hangars at Kennedy Space Center, work that could create more than 500 jobs.

The company on Tuesday emailed invitations to VIP guests for a 10 a.m. Monday event at a hangar that formerly housed the orbiter Discovery.

The invitation from John Elbon, head of Boeing’s space exploration division, promises a “milestone commercial space event.”

Elbon in July told FLORIDA TODAY the company was in discussions with NASA and Space Florida — and other states — about facilities suitable for manufacturing work on its seven-person CST-100 capsule…

Elbon said this summer that the local workforce, combined with proximity to the launch site, were advantages for KSC.

Read the full story.

SpaceX Welcomes New Policy on Launch Vehicle Certification

Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX PR — Hawthorne, CA – Today the U.S. Air Force issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NRO and NASA that serves as a joint agreement on the process they will use to allow new companies to compete to provide launch services. The MOU will be followed by detailed guidance for prospective new entrants.

“SpaceX welcomes the opportunity to compete for Air Force launches. We are reviewing the MOU, and we expect to have a far better sense of our task after the detailed requirements are released in the coming weeks,” said Adam Harris, SpaceX Vice President of Government Affairs.

The U.S. Air Force is the largest launch customer in the world, but is currently served by a monopoly provider whose prices have consistently risen. Equitable criteria for new entrants, coupled with meaningful opportunities for competition, would save the American taxpayer billions.

“Fair and open competition for commercial launch providers is an essential element of protecting taxpayer dollars,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO. “Our American-made Falcon vehicles can deliver assured, responsive access to space that will meet warfighter needs while reducing costs for our military customers.”

Virgin Galactic Inks $4.5 Million Deal With NASA for Research Flights

Gear down. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

VG PR – MOJAVE, CA – Virgin Galactic has confirmed an order from NASA for up to three charter flights on its privately-built spacecraft to provide opportunities for engineers, technologists, and scientific researchers to conduct cutting-edge experiments in suborbital space. The agreement calls for NASA to charter a full flight from Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, and includes options for two additional charter flights. If all options are exercised, the contract value is $4.5 million.


Video: YouTube Space Lab Competition Launched

Video Caption: We’re excited to announce YouTube Space Lab, launching with Lenovo and Space Adventures in cooperation with NASA, ESA and JAXA. Watch amazing space and science videos and, if you’re 14 to 18 years old, submit a space experiment idea for your chance to win out-of-this-world prizes. Find out more at Music composed by Aurotone.

UP Aerospace Awarded NASA, DOD Contracts for Spaceport America Launches

NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist Launch Opportunities Program has awarded UP Aerospace a contract to integrate technology payloads and launch them into space on up to 8 flights using the company’s SpaceLoft rocket. The launch contract is part of the 2 year IDIQ contract awarded to the firm on August 9, 2011. The contract reserves 2 SpaceLoft launches with options to purchase 6 additional flights in 2012 and 2013. The first flight for NASA is in the planning phase and is expected to be launched from Spaceport America in the 1st quarter of 2012. UP Aerospace has teamed with Schafer Corporation to provide NASA with comprehensive launch and payload integration services.

The US Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space Office has awarded UP Aerospace a full manifested sub-orbital launch contract to be flown from Spaceport America in New Mexico. UP Aerospace will launch their sixth SpaceLoft for the DoD to an altitude of 115 km. This will be the forth mission flown by UP Aerospace for the DoD and the first fully dedicated launch for the defense agency. The official launch date for this mission is under negotiations with the DoD but is anticipated to be in the first quarter of 2012.

ISS Cargo Delivery Flight Schedules Slide to the Right

Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station. (Credit: OSC)

SpaceX’s and Orbital Sciences Corporation’s schedules for COTS flights are sliding into 2012, according to an internal NASA manifest quoted by Space News:

Launches of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus 2 and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 rockets, which until recently were scheduled for this year, are now expected to push into January and February, respectively, according to an internal NASA manifest. A second Taurus 2 flight, this one carrying Orbital’s Cygnus cargo module for the first time, is still officially scheduled for February, but the NASA manifest indicates a May launch date.

Both the Falcon 9 and Taurus 2, developed with funding assistance from NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, are expected to begin making regular cargo runs to the space station starting in 2012. But the rockets and their associated cargo capsules first must successfully complete a series of COTS flight demonstrations intended to convince NASA and its space station partners that the new vehicles can safely do the job.


LaserMotive to “Ride the Light” With NASA

SEATTLE, WA–(LaserMotive PR – Oct 6, 2011) – LaserMotive, an independent R&D company specializing in laser power beaming and winner of the 2009 NASA sponsored Power Beaming Competition, today announced it is one of the companies named to work on the new NASA “Ride the Light” project, one of the space organization’s new space technology projects in the Game Changing Technology division to pursue revolutionary technology required for future missions.

“The technologies pursued in this effort have the potential to revolutionize both space launch and on orbit operations, we are happy to be working with LaserMotive and all of our partners to make power beaming a reality,” said Charles Taylor of NASA.


Need a Job? NASA is Recruiting Astronauts

NASA PR — HOUSTON — In early November, NASA will seek applicants for its next class of astronaut candidates who will support long-duration missions to the International Space Station and future deep space exploration activities.

“For scientists, engineers and other professionals who have always dreamed of experiencing spaceflight, this is an exciting time to join the astronaut corps,” said Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This next class will support missions to the station and will arrive via transportation systems now in development. They also will have the opportunity to participate in NASA’s continuing exploration programs that will include missions beyond low Earth orbit.”

For more information, visit:

A bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or math and three years of relevant professional experience are required in order to be considered. Typically, successful applicants have significant qualifications in engineering or science, or extensive experience flying high-performance jet-aircraft.

After applicant interviews and evaluations, NASA expects to announce the final selections in 2013, and training to begin that August.

Additional information about the Astronaut Candidate Program is available by calling the Astronaut Selection Office at 281-483-5907.

NASA to Demonstrate Communications Via Laser Beam

By Lori Keesey

It currently takes 90 minutes to transmit high-resolution images from Mars, but NASA would like to dramatically reduce that time to just minutes. A new optical communications system that NASA plans to demonstrate in 2016 will lead the way and even allow the streaming of high-definition video from distances beyond the Moon.

This dramatically enhanced transmission speed will be demonstrated by the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), one of three projects selected by NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) for a trial run. To be developed by a team led by engineers at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., LCRD is expected to fly as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite developed by Space Systems/Loral, of Palo Alto, Calif.


Astronauts of the Corn: A-maze-ing Way to Honor NASA’s Achievements

On Saturday, I drove out to the Dell’Osso Family Farm in Lathrop, Calif., to see this amazing maze they had cut into their cornfield to honor the 50th anniversary of NASA’s human spaceflight program. There are seven mazes across the country; this one focuses on the space agency’s Kepler planet finding spacecraft, which is run by the nearby NASA Ames Research Center.

NASA Ames officials were out on Saturday for the opening day. Dr. John Hogan talked about how to sustain life in space using regenerative life support systems. And Drs. Steve Bryson and Steve Howell did 40-minute presentations about the Kepler mission. (more…)

KSC, Space Coast Economic Development Commission Renew Partnership

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

NASA PR — CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Florida’s Space Coast are formally renewing their economic development partnership. NASA and EDC managers signed a new five-year Space Act Agreement on Monday at Kennedy that outlines economic development cooperation aimed at supporting NASA’s current and future missions.

“The Kennedy Space Center appreciates our relationship with the EDC of Florida’s Space Coast and looks forward to continuing our strong partnership with this agreement,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana. “It’s the people of the Space Coast that have made Kennedy a success over the decades, and it’s our hope that working with the EDC and other partners will help us and the surrounding communities continue to be successful.”