Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Falcon 9 Integrated at the Cape

According to the SpaceX website:
Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Falcon 9 is now fully integrated at the Cape! Today we mated the 5.2 m payload fairing to the Falcon 9 first stage (see above photo). This was the final step in the integration process—one day ahead of schedule.

With Falcon 9 integrated, our focus shifts to the big launch mount and erector. All the pieces have been delivered, and the coming days will see a tremendous amount of welding to join them all together.

The long hours put in by the SpaceX team over the last several weeks, particularly the folks on the ground at the Cape, are certainly paying off. Once the launch mount and erector are complete, we'll transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009. Happy New Year!

Details of the Falcon 9 (also from the SpaceX website):

Like Falcon 1, Falcon 9 is a two stage, liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) powered launch vehicle. It uses the same engines, structural architecture (with a wider diameter), avionics and launch system.

Length: 54.9 m (180 ft)
Width: 3.6 m (12 ft)
Mass (LEO, 5.2m fairing): 333,400 kg (735,000 lb)
Mass (GTO, 5.2m fairing): 332,800 kg (733,800 lb)
Thrust (vacuum): 5.56 MN (1.25 M lb)

The Falcon 9 is a human rated rocket, designed to carry the seven passenger Dragon spaceship to the ISS by 2010. The Dragon spaceship can also carry cargo and in fact its first trips to the ISS will be to ferry cargo rather than people.

The first launch of the Falcon 9 (of the very vehicle in the photo above) is scheduled for early 2009.
See SpaceX for more details.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas from Hamas

According to columnist Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post:
On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.

Read the whole article, Column One: The 'realist' fantasy. It is disturbing.

Israel and the Palestinians

There are people protesting against the Israeli assault on Gaza. Odd. I don't recall any protests being staged during all the weeks before when Hamas was shooting hundreds of rockets and morters at Israel. I don't recall any hurried meetings at the UN.

It takes two to make peace. If the Palestinians would lay down their arms, there would be peace. If the Israelis laid down their arms, the Palestinians would simply kill them all.

That's why there is no peace in the Middle East. When the Palestinians decide they want peace, they can have it.

In 1948 the UN partitioned Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab state. The Jews accepted the agreement, the Arabs rejected it and attacked. Between 1948 and 1967 Jordan and Egypt had control of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians did not attack Jordan and Egypt or demand they establish a Palestinian state. Instead they formed the PLO in 1964 and began terrorist attacks against the Israelis. If a Palestinian state is really so important to the Palestinians and the Arab nations, why didn't it happen druing the two decades they controlled those territories?

If Israel were not willing to do just about anything for peace, then why did they hand back the Sinai to Egypt (along with the only oil wells they ever had)in exchange for a peace treaty?

The Palestinians do not want peace. They simply hate the Jews and want to kill them. They are anti-Semitic thugs, and so are those protesting Israel's attempts to defend themselves.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Zechariah 4:10

Zechariah 4:10 reads:
Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

The "day of small things" refers to times when little progress is apparent for God’s people. In context, the author was speaking about the rebuilding of the Temple following the Babylonian captivity. But most of life is a matter of small things, of incremental steps. The writing of a novel does not happen in a day. Instead, it is like building a wall, brick by brick, or like eating a cow, something all of us have done, but its been one hamburger at a time. If you write one page a day, in a year you have a book.

Whatever it is that God has you doing, just keep at it. Perseverance over time is the key. Don't despise the day of small things. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he was just one more tiny infant born to unwed parents, a speck in the vast teaming mass that made up the Roman Empire. But in the fullness of time, he was the Savior of the world.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SpaceX Falcon 9 Selected by NASA for ISS Supply

Another SpaceX press release:
F9/Dragon Will Replace the Cargo Transport Function of the Space Shuttle after 2010

Hawthorne, CA – December 23, 2008 – NASA today announced its selection of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS) Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) contract award. The contract is for a guaranteed minimum of 20,000 kg to be carried to the International Space Station. The firm contracted value is $1.6 billion and NASA may elect to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion.

"The SpaceX team is honored to have been selected by NASA as the winner of the Cargo Resupply Services contract," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, SpaceX. "This is a tremendous responsibility, given the swiftly approaching retirement of the Space Shuttle and the significant future needs of the Space Station. This also demonstrates the success of the NASA COTS program, which has opened a new era for NASA in US Commercial spaceflight."

Under the CRS contract, SpaceX will deliver pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS, and return cargo back to Earth. Cargo may include both NASA and NASA-sponsored payloads requiring a pressurized or unpressurized environment. SpaceX will provide the necessary services, test hardware and software, and mission-specific elements to integrate cargo with the Dragon delivery capsule.

In 2006, SpaceX was named a winner under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition. Under the existing COTS agreement, SpaceX will conduct the first flight of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft in 2009. The final flight, currently scheduled for 2010, will demonstrate Dragon's ability to berth with the ISS.

Falcon 9 flight hardware has already started to arrive at the SpaceX launch site, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, in preparation for Falcon 9 going vertical on the pad within a few weeks. Construction of the SLC-40 launch site is proceeding ahead of schedule and is estimated to be completed in early 2009.

SpaceX Falcon 9 at the Cape

From a SpaceX Press Release:
Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Yesterday we lifted the first stage off the shipping truck and lowered it onto the integration assemblies. With all of the F9 hardware currently at or on its way to the Cape, we are on track for a fully integrated launch vehicle by year's end.

Barring any unforeseen delays, the second stage and fairing are expected to arrive at the Cape by December 28th and will be mated on December 31st, just in time for the New Year.

The erector is also on track towards operational status in early January, with the base assembly to be aligned and tacked by December 26th and welding to be complete early in the New Year. Hold down assemblies are expected to arrive shortly after the New Year and with our ground control system at SLC-40 currently operational, it's just a matter of days before F9 is vertical at the Cape.

Monday, December 22, 2008

40th Anniversary of Apollo 8

Forty years ago this week three men became the first human beings to travel to the moon. The astronauts of Apollo 8, James Lovell, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders, did not land on the moon: they merely orbited it ten times. But they were the first people to ever leave Earth orbit, the first people to see the Earth as a full sphere hanging in the blackness of space, the first to watch the Earth rise above the moon, and the first to find themselves completely isolated and cut off from the rest of the human race on the back side of the moon, unable to see the Earth at all, and unable to receive or send any radio communications. They were also the first human beings to celebrate Christmas in space. On Christmas Eve, 1968, they did a live television broadcast from orbit, reading the first ten verses of Genesis.

Apollo 8 was launched on the morning of December 21, 1968. It entered lunar orbit at 4:59 AM Eastern Time on Christmas Eve and left lunar orbit at 1:10 AM Christmas morning. It splashed down into the Pacific Ocean on the morning of December 27, 1968.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

WhiteKnightTwo Mothership Makes Maiden Flight

MSNBC reports:

A carrier aircraft designed to be the first stage of a commercial spaceline system made its maiden test flight Sunday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Designed by Scaled Composites, the huge and unique White Knight Two mothership rolled down the runway and muscled itself into the air using four Pratt and Whitney PW308A turbofan engines. The White Knight Two flew for about an hour, departing the runway at roughly 8:17 a.m. PT, safely touching down at the Mojave airport at approximately 9:17 a.m. PT.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SpaceX Update

From a SpaceX press release that I got today. It looks as if they are on track for the first demonstration flight of a Falcon 9 early in the new year:

Hawthorne, CA – December 18, 2008 – Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) announces the arrival of the Falcon 9 first stage flight tank at SpaceX's newest launch site, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Arriving as scheduled, delivery of the Falcon 9 first stage fulfills SpaceX's commitment to having Falcon 9 hardware at the Cape by year-end.

"Christmas has arrived a few days early for our team at the Cape," said Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "The packages measure extra large this year, and they will keep everyone busy in the coming weeks."
In preparation for the launch vehicle's maiden flight in 2009, all Falcon 9 elements and ground support hardware have departed SpaceX's manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, California. The hardware is currently making its way across the United States on a dozen big rigs which will converge at the launch site over the next two weeks.

Separated into sections for travel, the major parts of the 180 foot long, 12 foot diameter rocket included nine Merlin 1C engines mounted on a massive engine mount structure; a thrust skirt that transfers the force of the engines into the first stage propellant tank; a carbon composite interstage; a new Merlin Vacuum upper stage engine fitted to the second stage propellant tank; and the two halves of a 17 foot diameter payload fairing—large enough to enclose a school bus.

The prelaunch fitting will include a mix of both flight ready and qualification hardware which will undergo final integration at the launch site in a horizontal position, and then be raised to vertical on the custom built erector.

Arrival of Falcon 9 hardware at the Cape represents yet another critical milestone in a year of significant accomplishments for SpaceX. On November 22nd, the company successfully conducted a full mission-length firing of the Falcon 9, validating SpaceX's design which uses nine engines on the first stage.

In addition, SpaceX has been rapidly upgrading SLC-40 into a state-of-the-art launch facility which will serve as a gateway to a new era in commercial space operations. Located on the Florida space coast, just south of NASA's launch site for all Apollo moon missions and Space Shuttle flights, SLC-40 is a world class heavy lift launch facility, capable of supporting Falcon 9 and future Falcon 9 Heavy missions, as well as cargo and crew carrying missions using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

"2008 has been a year of rapid progress for SpaceX," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The delivery of the Falcon 9 to the Cape is a major milestone in designing and deploying the most reliable, cost-efficient fleet of launch vehicles in the world. I applaud our SpaceX team who has worked 24/7 to make this happen."

SpaceX currently has four Falcon 9 flights on the manifest for 2009, two of which are demonstration flights with the Dragon spacecraft as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition. Under this agreement, SpaceX will conduct a total of three flights of its Falcon 9/Dragon system to demonstrate cargo delivery capabilities to the International Space Station (ISS). At the option of NASA, the agreement can be extended to include demonstrating transport of crew to and from the ISS. The Falcon 9 will be the first vehicle since the Saturn V and Saturn 1 to have the ability to lose any engine/motor and still be able to complete its mission without loss of crew or spacecraft.

A video tour of SpaceX launch facilities at SLC-40, Cape Canaveral AFS, led by Elon Musk, can be found at the SpaceX website: www.spacex.com.

About SpaceX

SpaceX is revolutionizing access to space by developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by internally-developed Merlin engines, SpaceX offers light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any altitude and inclination, from low-Earth to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions. On September 28, 2008, Falcon 1, designed and manufactured from the ground up by SpaceX, became the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.

As a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition (COTS), SpaceX is in a position to help fill the gap in American spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Under the existing Agreement, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS. SpaceX is the only COTS contender with the capability to return cargo and crew to Earth. NASA also has an option to demonstrate crew services to the ISS using the Falcon 9 / Dragon system.

Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers more than 620, located primarily in Hawthorne, California, with additional locations, including SpaceX's Texas Test Facility in McGregor near Waco; offices in Washington DC; and launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.

Go to the SpaceX website, SpaceX.com, to see photos and other information.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Beethoven's Birthday

The composer Ludwig van Beethoven was born December 16, 1770 in Bonn, Germany and moved to Austria in his 20s.

Monday, December 15, 2008

MKV: Multiple Kill Vehicle Test

Interesting video of the test at Edwards, AFB. Science fiction made real:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

"A Day That Will Live in Infamy..."

Quote for the Day:
...December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day

Last year, Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day was on Saturday, December 8, as reported in Wired Magazine:

The whole idea is to pretend for the day that you are a traveler from a different time - except that, of course, you can't actually *tell* people you're a time traveler, because they'll think you're crazy. There are, of course, options as to how a traveler from a certain other time might act:

1) Utopian/cliché Future - "If the Future did a documentary of the last fifty years, this is how badly the reenactors would dress." Think Star Trek: TNG or the Time Travelers from Hob. Ever see how the society in Futurama sees the 20th century? Run with it. Your job is to dress with moderately anachronistic clothing and speak in slang from varying decades. Here are some good starters:

- Greet people by referring to things that don't yet exist or haven't existed for a long time. Example: "Have you penetrated the atmosphere lately?" "What spectrum will today's broadcast be in?" and "Your king must be a kindly soul!"

- Show extreme ignorance in operating regular technology. Pay phones should be a complete mystery (try placing the receiver in odd places). Chuckle knowingly at cell phones.

2) Dystopian Future - This one offers a little more flexibility. It can be any kind of future from Terminator to Freejack. The important thing to remember is dress like a crazy person with armor. Black spray painted football pads, high tech visors, torn up trenchcoats and maybe even some dirt here or there. Remember, dystopian future travelers are very startled that they've gone back in time. Some starters:

- If you go the "prisoner who's escaped the future" try shaving your head and putting a barcode on the back of your neck. Then stagger around and stare at the sky, as if you've never seen it before.

- Walk up to random people and say "WHAT YEAR IS THIS?" and when they tell you, get quiet and then say "Then there's still time!" and run off.

- Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell "NOOOOOOOOO"

- Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished.

- Take some trinket with you (it can be anything really), hand it to some stranger, along with a phone number and say "In thirty years dial this number. You'll know what to do after that." Then slip away.

3) The Past - This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing (preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything. Since the culture's set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. Some pointers:

- Airplanes are terrifying. Also, carry on conversations with televisions for a while.

- Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it.

- Be generally terrified of people who are dressed immodestly compared to your era. Tattoos and shorts on women are especially scary.

This year December 8 is on Monday. Have fun!