Falcon 9 Receives NASA Category 3 Rating to Carry Most Complex Science Missions

The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself. GRACE-FO is sharing its ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has certified as a Category 3 launch vehicle. Category 3 launch vehicles are certified to support NASA’s highest cost and most complex scientific missions. The following statement is from SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell:

“LSP Category 3 certification is a major achievement for the Falcon 9 team and represents another key milestone in our close partnership with NASA. We are honored to have the opportunity to provide cost-effective and reliable launch services to the country’s most critical scientific payloads.’

The process of designating launch vehicles as Category 3 is designed to assure the highest practical probability of success. Falcon 9 has completed over 60 missions, including the NASA LSP missions Jason-3 and TESS.

Swedish Company Signs Agreement with SpaceX for Falcon Heavy Launch

Lifting off at 3:45 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its demonstration flight. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

SOLNA, Sweden, October 16, 2018 (Ovzon PR) — In an important step towards growing its satellite service offering, Ovzon has entered into an agreement with SpaceX for launch of Ovzon’s first GEO satellite. The launch is expected to take place no earlier than Q4 2020. The next step for the company is to finalize the procurement of the satellites.

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ispace to Launch Lunar Missions on SpaceX Falcon 9 in 2020, 2021

Latest HAKUTO-R Lander and Rover design. (Credit: ispace)

TOKYO, September 26, 2018 (ispace PR) – ispace, a company developing robotics for lunar delivery and resource exploration, announced today that SpaceX will be the launch provider for its maiden voyages to the Moon scheduled for 2020 and 2021. The company’s first two lunar missions will be carried out under the program name HAKUTO-R, standing for “Reboot”, a reference to ispace’s management of HAKUTO, a Google Lunar XPRIZE competition finalist.

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Shotwell: Elon’s Fine, Nothing to See Here

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

The kids are all right. So is Elon.

That’s the assessment of SpaceX President & COO Gwynne Shotwell, who was asked about her boss Elon Musk’s erratic behavior in recent months during World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris. Bloomberg reports:

Elon is a brilliant man,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday after speaking at a satellite industry conference in Paris. “He is as lucid and capable as he has ever been. I wish people would not focus on triviality.”

There’s “no chance” that Musk’s conduct will impact SpaceX’s ability to win contracts, and there’s been “no impact at all” on the level of confidence in him on the part of the closely held company’s backers, Shotwell said.

“Look at the work that Elon’s companies do and focus on that. Not on what he does” in his own time, she said.

Shotwell also said that although she loves cars, she has no interest in taking a similar position at Musk’s struggling car company, Tesla Motors.

Video of Gwynne Shotwell’s TED Talk

Video Caption: What’s up at SpaceX? Engineer Gwynne Shotwell was employee number seven at Elon Musk’s pioneering aerospace company and is now its president. In conversation with TED curator Chris Anderson, she discusses SpaceX’s race to put people into orbit and the organization’s next big project, the BFR (ask her what it stands for). The new giant rocket is designed to take humanity to Mars — but it has another potential use: space travel for earthlings.

SpaceX to Build BFR at Port of Los Angeles

BFR servicing the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have confirmed the company plans to build its BFR rocket at the Port of Los Angeles.

The city Board of Harbor Commissioners will vote Thursday on whether to lease 19 acres to SpaceX for the manufacturing site. The commission’s staff has recommended approval of an initial 10-year term, with two 10-year options, at an annual rent of approximately $1.38 million….

SpaceX, based in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, already uses the Port of Los Angeles for missions that recover Falcon 9 first-stage boosters on a floating platform in the Pacific and when it recovers supply capsules that parachute into the ocean after missions to the international space station.

“SpaceX has called the Port of Los Angeles home to our west coast recovery operations since 2012 and we truly appreciate the City of Los Angeles’ continued partnership,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and COO, said in a statement.

“As announced today by Mayor Garcetti, the Port will play an increasingly important role in our mission to help make humanity multi-planetary as SpaceX begins production development of BFR — our next generation rocket and spaceship system capable of carrying crew and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

Read the full story.

AIAA to Honor Shotwell, Nield at Gala

George Nield

RESTON, Va., April 2, 2018 (AIAA PR) — The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has announced the 2018 recipients of its most prestigious awards. Presentation of these awards and recognition of the Institute’s newly elected Fellows and Honorary Fellows will take place on May 2 at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

The AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala is an annual black-tie event recognizing the most influential and inspiring individuals in aerospace, whose outstanding contributions merit the highest accolades.

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Zuma Blame Game Begins

In the wake of the apparently unsuccessful launch of the secret Zuma payload, there is still some confusion about what exactly happened and who is to blame.

The top secret satellite for an unidentified government agency is believed to have burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere after failing to separate from the second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster.

However, SpaceX officials say that the Falcon 9 booster performed exactly as planned, so the company is not responsible for any failure that might have occurred.

That would appear to point the finger at Northrop Grumman, which provided the satellite and the adapter that connected it to booster. The company had declined to comment, saying it doesn’t comment on classified missions.

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SpaceX Says Falcon 9 Performed as Planned on Zuma Launch

Falcon 9 launches Zuma spacecraft (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has issued a statement concerning the Falcon 9 launch of the classified Zuma payload, which reports say was lost:

For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible.

Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule. Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight. We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government from SLC-40 in three weeks.

Reports indicate that the satellite’s builder, Northrop Grumman, provided its own payload adapter. So, if the satellite failed to separate from the second stage as reports indicate, the problem lay with the adapter and not the Falcon 9.

The Joint Space Operations Center did enter an object from the launch into its master catalog. That would indicate the satellite did enter orbit; however, it might not still be in orbit.

SpaceX Wants More Government Funding for Renamed BFR

BFR servicing the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

Some news out of the NewSpace Europe conference:

The president of SpaceX said she expects the company would receive additional funding from the U.S. government to support the development of its large reusable launch system.

Speaking at the NewSpace Europe conference here Nov. 16, Gwynne Shotwell noted that SpaceX is already receiving funding from the U.S. Air Force supporting the development of Raptor, the engine that will power the vehicle known as BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, and the reusable spacecraft known as BFS or Big Falcon Spaceship.

“I do anticipate that there is residual capability of that system that the government will be interested in,” she said. “I do see that we would likely get some funding from the government for BFR and BFS.” She added, though, that work on the vehicles was not contingent on receiving government funding.

The U.S. Air Force recently issued a request for proposals that will fund the development of new launch systems to replace ULA’s Delta IV and Atlas V boosters.

SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell to Drop By The Space Show


This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, June 19, 2017: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): CHRIS STONE is back for updates with DOD and National Security Space matters.

2. Tuesday, June 20 , 2017: 7-8:30 PM PDT, 10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT: We welcome back DR. JASON REIMULLER of Integrated Spaceflight Services and PoSSUM for updates.

3. Wednesday, June 21, 2016:: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details.

4. Thursday, June 22, 2017; 2-3PM PDT, 5-6 PM EDT, 3-4 PM CDT: We welcome back GWYNNE SHOTWELL of SpaceX. Please be succinct with your calls and emails. One question per listener to allow as many as possible to engage with Ms. Shotwell. Thank you.

5. Friday, June 23, 2017; 9:30-11AM PDT, 12:30-2 PM EDT, 11:30AM-1 PM CDT: We welcome back DR. DOUG PLATA. Doug will report on ISDC and much more.

6. Sunday, June 18, 2017: 12-1:30 PM DST (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): OPEN LINES. Call in about the topics you want to talk about. First time callers welcome. Space and STEAM topics welcome.

Shotwell: Need to Get Falcon 9 Reuse Down to 24 Hours

Gwynne Shotwell

Speaking earlier this week in Colorado Springs, SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell said the successful reuses of a Falcon 9 first stage last week is just the beginning.

The way she sees it, rocket reusability doesn’t really count unless the rocket can be reused “almost as rapidly as you turn around an aircraft.”

“Our challenge right now is to refly a rocket within 24 hours,” she said here today at the 33rd Space Symposium. “That’s when we’ll really feel like we got the reusability just right.”

Shotwell didn’t specify the exact cost of the refurbishment but said it was “substantially less than half” of the original manufacturing cost.

“We did way more on this one than we’re doing on future ones, of course,” Shotwell said.

Shotwell said at least one piece of the fairing was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean after last week’s launch, although she didn’t say whether it was slated for reuse. “It looked pretty good,” she said, “and you’ll see more fairing recoveries as we go this year.”

Read the full story.

Falcon 9 Launch Succeeds, Reused First Stage Lands on Ship

Reused Falcon 9 first stage after landing on drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched the SES10 communications satellite on Thursday evening, with its reused first stage performing as expected and landing on an off-shore drone ship.

In a brief statement during the live webcast, SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk called the flight a historic day for the company and the space industry. It had taken 15 years to get to this moment, he said.

In a video prior to launch, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company spent about four months refurbishing and testing the first stage booster after it landed on the drone ship after launching a Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station last April. That flight marked the first time a first stage had landed on the drone ship.

Shotwell said the company’s eventual goal is to land the first stage, refuel the booster, and then launch it again the same day. She did not give a time table for when such a flight would be possible.

Musk has said that such a rapid turnaround is crucial to making first-stage reuse truly economical and significantly bringing down the cost of launches.

SpaceX does not recover the second stage of the Falcon 9 booster. So any same-day re-flight would include the installation of a new second stage as well as the payload.

There were reports that SpaceX would attempt to recover the payload shroud used for Thursday’s launch for later reuse. There is no word yet on whether that effort was successful.