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From: Eric7/28/2017 8:12:32 AM
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Elon Musk Says SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket’s Test Flight In November

By Himanshu Goenka @HimGoJourno

On 07/27/17 AT 11:34 PM

The most powerful present-day rocket in the world which also has the largest payload capacity is SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, except one drawback — it has never even been fully tested, let alone flown. But company CEO Elon Musk announced late Thursday that SpaceX will finally test the Falcon Heavy in November, the clearest indication yet of the rocket’s “maiden launch.”

Musk made the announcement on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Even though the exact date for the test launch is not yet known, it will take place from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, since SpaceX does not have the facilities at its development site in Texas to support the thrust produced by the Falcon Heavy. With the power of almost three Falcon 9 rockets (27 Merlin engines, compared to nine in the Falcon 9), the Falcon Heavy is expected to generate 5.1 million pounds of thrust at take-off.

Read: Blue Origin Vs. SpaceX: Jeff Bezos' New Glenn Rocket Bigger Than Falcon Heavy?

The 27 engines actually come from three cores in the rocket’s first stage, each of which is a Falcon 9 rocket, one of them as the center booster and the other two as side boosters. After lift-off, the center core engines throttle down, and the side cores power the rocket till the end of the first stage, when the two boosters separate and the center core powers up to full thrust again.

In another tweet Thursday, Musk said the two side boosters will return to the Cape Canaveral facility in Florida, while the central booster will land on a droneship. SpaceX has demonstrated successfully a few times both types of landings that allow it to reuse its rockets.

The only rocket which had a larger payload capacity than the Falcon Heavy’s 54 metric tons (119,000 pounds) was the Saturn V moon rocket, which last flew in 1973. SpaceX claims the Falcon Heavy can carry twice the payload than the largest capacity rocket in operation, the Delta IV Heavy manufactured by United Launch Alliance (a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing). This high capacity for payload makes the rocket suited for crewed missions to the moon or even Mars.

However, getting the Falcon Heavy into orbit is no easy task. While the Falcon 9 has achieved that feat a number of times already, putting three of the lighter rocket’s engine cores together in one enormous machine is not just a simple matter of addition, as Musk explained at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, D.C., on July 19.

“At first it sounds real easy, you just stick two first stages on as strap-on boosters, but then everything changes. All the loads change, aerodynamics totally change. You’ve tripled the vibration and acoustics. You sort of break the qualification levels on so much of the hardware. … The amount of load you’re putting through that center core is crazy because you’ve got two super-powerful boosters also shoving that center core, so we had to redesign the whole center core airframe. It’s not like the Falcon 9 because it’s got to take so much load. Then you’ve got separation systems,” Musk reportedly said.

An artist's illustration of the Falcon Heavy rocket and the Dragon spacecraft taking off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Photo: SpaceX

Read: SpaceX Signs First Customer For Reused Falcon 9 Rocket

And despite knowing all that, and preparing accordingly, Musk wasn’t sure if the heavy rocket will actually be successful in its first launch test.

“There’s a lot of risk associated with Falcon Heavy, a real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit. I want to make sure to set expectations accordingly. I hope it makes it far enough beyond the pad so that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest,” Musk said of the November test.

If everything goes without a hitch, SpaceX has two more Falcon Heavy flights scheduled in the first half of 2018. If the rocket starts commercial flights by the end of 2018, as SpaceX plans, it could mean a big boost for the company, which is now already one of the world’s most valued privately held businesses. According to pricing made available by SpaceX, it will charge $90 million for carrying up to 8 metric tons of payload to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Data gathered by CNBC showed SpaceX is now valued at $21 billion, with only six other companies worldwide that are privately held and valued at over $20 billion.

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From: Eric7/31/2017 3:47:03 PM
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Why the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket Just Might Work

If Elon Musk wants to get to Mars, SpaceX will have to combine three rockets into one mammoth engine. Will it work? An expert weighs in.

By Bobak Ferdowsi

Jul 31, 2017

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made it pretty clear he wants to die on Mars (just not on impact!). He believes we should be a multi-planetary species, and SpaceX has been marching toward that goal since its founding in 2002. Every new rocket engine, every launch, every trip to the International Space Station is not just a business transaction but also an opportunity to upgrade SpaceX's engineering savvy and expand its portfolio of launch capabilities. Because before Elon can retire overlooking Olympus Mons, the company is going to need to get a lot of people and payload into space. That's why, before the year is out, they hope to launch what will be the most powerful rocket on the planet: the Falcon Heavy. It will be a challenge unlike any yet faced in the era of private spaceflight. Can the team at SpaceX pull it off?

To get larger things into orbit requires larger launch vehicles—there's a reason the Saturn V used for the Apollo lunar missions was, and remains, the most powerful rocket ever launched. Getting humans to Mars will require even more power, but building a larger vehicle today wouldn't make economic sense—there wouldn't be enough customers to justify the development and cost. (Consider that Sputnik, the first human-made satellite, was the size of a beach ball, whereas modern satellites used for communication are often the size of a school bus.) The other option is to augment an existing design with additional boost—like adding more locomotive cars to a train to pull more freight. This is what SpaceX is doing, with one wrinkle: Rockets are usually disposable, one-mission-only devices. SpaceX has been perfecting reusable rockets. You don't throw away a locomotive at the end of the trip.

A modern launch vehicle involves two stages: a first stage, the majority of what you see standing on the launchpad, responsible for pushing most of the way into orbit; and a second stage to finish the job. By jettisoning the extra mass of the first stage when it's done burning its fuel, a smaller, more efficient engine can get just the upper stage and payload into orbit. It's like a delivery service that uses airplanes, barges, and semi-trucks to move packages most of the way around the world, then does the last leg to your house with a van.

So how much rocket is the first stage of the world's most powerful launch vehicle? The Falcon Heavy combines three first stages from the Falcon 9, SpaceX's current launcher, whose moniker refers to its power source: nine of SpaceX's proprietary Merlin engines (its predecessor, the Falcon 1—a pioneer in private space launches—had only one). So the Falcon Heavy will have a total of 27 Merlin engines, each producing 190,000 lb-ft of thrust at sea level. (Generally, the thrust of a rocket engine increases with altitude as atmospheric density decreases.) That's enough to put 119,000 pounds into orbit, which SpaceX notes is "a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage, and fuel." To get the most payload into orbit, the Heavy could let its engines burn as long as possible—but that would leave no fuel to change trajectory, which is required for SpaceX to press its big advantage: recovery.

The Falcon 9's cycle—launch, then return of the first stage to terra firma or to a drone ship in the ocean—is becoming routine. Musk has already indicated he's planning to return all three components of the Falcon Heavy's first stage to Earth. The Falcon Heavy will use a common procedure for the three-part stage: The side boosters, clones of its center booster (essentially, each the first stage of a Falcon 9), burn out prior to the center and are jettisoned. The likely plan is to land the two outer boosters on solid ground, as their shorter burn times mean they will not have traveled as far, while the center booster will use a drone-ship landing, which has the flexibility to be placed wherever in the ocean is convenient, based on the rocket's trajectory. The more stages SpaceX can successfully recover, the cheaper launches will be for its customers.

If SpaceX's schedule holds, the first launch will happen before the holiday season. (In fact, Musk just tweeted that he plans for the maiden launch in November.) It carries a fair amount of risk in many phases of the mission, from the challenge of integrating three Falcon 9s to the recovery of three boosters—two by land, one by sea—in rapid succession. SpaceX's commitment to making Mars accessible means it will have to demonstrate that this scaled-up Falcon Heavy works and is reusable. Besides satellite launches, it is a key element to its planned Red Dragon capsule mission to Mars: an intermediate unmanned step toward sending people to the Red Planet. A demonstration of the Red Dragon is currently scheduled to launch in 2020 and land in 2021. While it may not be successful on the first try, Musk and company have shown patience and a willingness to learn from mistakes to get things right. Ultimately, they'll make the extraordinary become routine.

Bobak Ferdowsi is a systems engineer who helped land the Curiosity rover and is designing a satellite to observe Earth processes such as ice-sheet collapse. The opinions in this column are his own and not endorsed by his employer, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he is sometimes known as Mohawk Guy.

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From: Eric8/3/2017 9:01:44 AM
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  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business

  • New generation of giant rockets gets set to blast off

    Originally published August 2, 2017 at 6:01 pm Updated August 2, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    A Falcon 9 Space X rocket recently completed its 10th mission — carrying a communications satellite. (Craig Bailey/AP) Years in the works and the product of hundreds of millions of dollars of investments, a new generation of huge rockets will soon take off.

    Samantha Masunaga
    Los Angeles Times (TNS)

    It’s been 44 years since the mighty Saturn V last thundered skyward from a launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The towering rocket, generating enough power to lift 269,000 pounds into orbit, had been the workhorse of the Apollo moon missions.

    In November, SpaceX plans to launch its most powerful rocket yet from the same pad. The long-awaited Falcon Heavy is key to the California company’s plans to get more defense business, send tourists around the moon and launch its first unmanned mission to Mars.

    But unlike the Saturn V, the Falcon Heavy will have plenty of competition.

    Years in the works and the product of hundreds of millions of dollars of investments, a new generation of huge rockets will soon take off. Their manufacturers range from space startups to aerospace giants to the space agencies of the United States, Russia and China.

    Because of advances in fuel, materials and electronics, the new rockets, while smaller than some of the Space Age beasts, may be more efficient and cost-effective. They will be able to hoist big spy satellites to a high orbit or ferry crews into space.

    The rush of new rockets has prompted some to question whether NASA even needs to build its own massive new space vehicle — and whether there will be enough launch business to go around.

    After years of a monopoly, the lucrative business of launching sensitive national- security satellites is now competitive. But at the same time, the launch demand for large satellites is not expected to change.

    And in the case of SpaceX, the workhorse Falcon 9 rocket — which recently completed its 10th mission of the year — has been upgraded to the point where it can handle heavier loads than originally expected.

    Whereas SpaceX first thought that it would fly the same numbers of Falcon 9s as Falcon Heavys, it is turning out that Falcon 9s will have two to three times as many commercial missions. The company’s May launch of the Inmarsat-5 F4 satellite on a Falcon 9 was originally slated for a Falcon Heavy.

    “There is a part of the commercial market that requires Falcon Heavy,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. “It’s there, and it’s going to be consistent, but it’s much smaller than we thought.”

    SpaceX says the price of a Falcon Heavy launch will be at least $90 million, versus $62 million for its Falcon 9.

    That hasn’t deterred rocket makers.

    Last year, CEO Jeff Bezos announced a plan for a heavy-lift rocket called New Glenn to be built by his Kent-based space firm, Blue Origin. The rocket, which will have two-stage and three-stage versions, was designed to launch commercial satellites and to take humans into space.

    United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has proposed a new rocket called the Vulcan, which would eventually replace its current intermediate- and heavy-lift vehicles.

    Orbital ATK, a commercial aerospace firm in Dulles, Va., intends to expand its lineup with its first intermediate and heavy-lift rockets, known for now as the Next Generation Launcher (NGL).

    Europe’s Arianespace already can use its Ariane 5 heavy launcher to take two large satellites into space.

    The U.S. government and its contractors have a long history of developing large rockets. That includes the Saturn V, the largest and most powerful rocket ever flown successfully, and ULA’s Delta IV Heavy, the most powerful rocket currently used by the Air Force to carry national-security satellites to orbit.

    The heavy-lift launchers of tomorrow would take advantage of key developments in composite materials, electronics and other technologies.

    The first-stage booster of ULA’s proposed Vulcan rocket, for example, could be powered by BE-4 engines under development by Blue Origin that run on oxygen-rich staged combustion of liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen. Those engines will also be used in Blue Origin’s New Glenn heavy-lift rocket.

    Not all the technology is cutting edge. The core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System vehicle will use four RS-25 engines — relics from the space-shuttle program that are being retrofitted with new controllers that are smarter and lighter than past computers.

    NASA already had 14 engines that had flown on the space shuttle and enough material to make two new engines, said Jim Paulsen, vice president of NASA programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne, which makes the engines. The company will perform tests on the engines to make sure that everything is running properly before being tested as a core stage.

    Reusing parts after launch has changed the conversation about rocket economics, and it could be a factor in knocking down prices of the big rockets too, if there is enough demand. Both Blue Origin and SpaceX designed their first-stage boosters to be able to land after launch.

    SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the Falcon Heavy will attempt to land its two side boosters — which on its demonstration flight will be reused first stages from previous missions — as well as its center core booster in a kind of “synchronized aerial ballet.”

    Shotwell, the SpaceX president, said the company is working to see if it can bring the side boosters back to land, which would require overhauling its landing zone at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX may also need to build more drone ships if the company chooses to land the side boosters at sea, she said.

    SpaceX’s success two years ago in challenging ULA’s monopoly on military launches may have emboldened new challengers to try to compete for the limited number of military and other national-security launches.

    Orbital ATK plans to compete with its proposed NGL intermediate- and heavy-lift rockets in future Air Force launches. So far, the company has passed design reviews and is working toward a static fire of its four-segment heavy-lift booster in about 2022. The company expects that rocket to be operational in 2024.

    Orbital ATK sees NGL as a natural progression from its smaller rockets, such as Pegasus and Antares. Antares delivers supplies for NASA to the International Space Station.

    Orbital ATK and the Air Force together are investing more than $200 million to develop the launch system.

    SpaceX also plans to seek certification from the Air Force for its Falcon Heavy for national security launches. After a demonstration flight later this year, the Falcon Heavy’s first customer launch will be for the Air Force.

    NASA has embarked on a likely decades-long, multibillion-dollar program to develop the SLS rocket, the Orion crew capsule and its associated launch facilities.

    The smallest version of the rocket is set to make its first, unmanned flight in 2019 when it journeys to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon. The larger, 365-foot version of the rocket is expected to make its first flight in 2028 or 2029.

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    From: Eric8/12/2017 2:09:52 PM
       of 276
    SpaceX and HP Enterprise to send supercomputer to ISS next week

    by Matthew Hughes — 1 day ago in Insider

    Credit: SpaceX

    Next week, a SpaceX CRS-12 rocket will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

    Its payload will include a HP Enterprise (HPE) supercomputer, called the Spaceborne Computer, which will be used to see if off-the-shelf computer components can be built to withstand the harsh conditions of space.

    Space travel is notoriously brutal to tech. It often shortens the lifespan of hardy Thinkbooks to mere months, forcing NASA to send a regular supply of laptops to the International Space Station, alongside pouches of ready-to-eat chilli con carne and freeze dried ice cream.

    Consequently, most heavy computing is done on terra firma, with the results sent back to the ISS through the sparse data connections linking the facility with Earth.

    As our ambitions move from Earth’s orbit, to Mars, and even beyond our solar system, scientists need to figure out how to perform the hard computational work on the spacecraft themselves.

    That’s because the further you get from Earth, the higher the latency becomes. It could take up to 20 minutes to send a message to Earth from Mars, and another 20 minutes to receive a response.

    The HPE Spaceborne Computer, which is built with the assistance of NASA, is based on HP’s high-density (and aptly-named) Apollo 40 servers, running an unspecified version of Linux, and using a custom water-cooled enclosure for the mission.

    NASA only approves computers for space use if they’ve been sufficiently ruggedized in order to withstand space conditions — like radiation, solar flares, subatomic particles, micrometeoroids, and so on.

    To accomplish this, HPE built a software system that can automatically adjust for environmentally-induced computer errors, while adjusting the Spaceborne’s Computers performance based on current conditions.

    The SpaceX rocket carrying the supercomputer will launch on Monday, August 14, at 12:31 EST. If you’re lucky enough to live near Cape Canaveral, you’ll be able to watch the takeoff in person. The rest of us will have to settle for SpaceX’s YouTube channel.

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    From: Eric8/14/2017 12:47:54 PM
       of 276
    Another successful SpaceX launch and booster landing just a few minutes ago:

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    From: Eric8/14/2017 7:49:20 PM
       of 276
    Elon Musk Is Getting SpaceX Closer to Mars, One Rocket at a Time

    By Dana Hull, David Ingold and Jeremy Scott Diamond
    August 14, 2017

    SpaceX just launched its 40th Falcon 9 mission and 11th rocket this year. The rapid cadence of late is worlds ahead of where the company was seven years ago, when billionaire founder Elon Musk began firing off Falcon 9s at a pace of just two a year. As launches become more routine, SpaceX is gearing up for its next major hurdle: the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy rocket, now scheduled for November. Bloomberg has been tracking the milestones—and occasional mishaps—along the way to SpaceX’s ultimate goal: sending humans to Mars...

    The rest of the story:

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    From: Eric8/18/2017 2:15:34 PM
       of 276
    SpaceX Dragon Delivers Supplies (and Science) to Space Station

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    From: Eric8/22/2017 2:47:24 PM
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    SpaceX static fire Formosat-5 Falcon 9, aims for another ASDS landing

    August 19, 2017 by Chris Gebhardt

    Gearing up for their second Vandenberg flight in as many months, SpaceX has static fired the Falcon 9 that will lift an extremely light-weight Taiwanese satellite to orbit next week. The static fire, a key step in every Falcon 9 launch campaign, paves the way for the launch of Formosat-5 on Thursday, 24 August at 11:50 PDT from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, ahead of a first stage landing on the ASDS “Just Read The Instructions”.

    Static Fire and rearranged Western Range launch schedule:

    With launch five days away, SpaceX conducted the second-to-last critical step for the Falcon 9 ahead of its Thursday launch.

    The Static Fire sees the Falcon 9 first and second stages undergo a launch countdown – complete with fueling of RP-1 kerosene and LOX (Liquid Oxygen) – that culminates with a planned firing of all nine Merlin 1D engines on the base of the first stage for an average of 3.5 seconds in duration based on usual tests.

    For this particular first stage, Core 1038 completed construction in Hawthorne, CA, and was transported under security escort by road to McGregor, Texas, where it was erected on the S1 test stand and put through a series of tests, including a full duration hot fire.

    The exact date of the hot fire is not known precisely, though aerial photos – available to view on L2 – confirm Core 1038’s presence on the S1 stand on 20 June 2017, at which point the Formosat-5 launch was roughly one month away.

    Following a successful hot fire, Core 1038 was wrapped in its protective transport attire and shipped back west to Vandenberg Air Force Base, where it has undergone final pre-mission processing and integration with its second stage – which also underwent hot fire operations at McGregor.

    However, the launch schedule off the Western Range began to change, with SpaceX announcing a month slip to Formosat-5’s launch – placing the mission on 24 August and behind the NROL-42 launch on United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) Atlas V rocket.

    When NASA ran into processing issues with the TDRS-M communications satellite, which launched Friday morning from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida after a 15 day slip, the entire ULA launch schedule was forced to shift to accommodate the delay.

    See Also
    The TDRS-M slip forced a near one-month delay to NROL-42’s launch, pushing it from 14 August to 11 September.

    That placed Formosat-5 first on the launch manifest following the Western Range down period in July for standard maintenance and upgrades of tracking and support equipment. A similar down period also occurred on the Eastern Range in July.

    Now, SpaceX was targeting a Static Fire at 12:00 PDT on 19 August for Formosat-5’s Falcon 9. The entire static fire window extends to 16:00 PDT Saturday. A sign of a smooth countdown was the confirmation the test took place at the opening of the test window.

    Once Static Fire was accomplished, a quick look data review occurred to verify everything went according to plan and that the launch team can continue toward the scheduled Thursday launch. SpaceX’s tweeted confirmation came shortly after the test took place.

    A more detailed data review will follow, culminating in the Launch Readiness Review (LRR) two days before launch. The LRR will see all elements of the launch campaign and static fire discussed to formally clear the Falcon 9 and its light-weight payload for launch.

    If all goes well, SpaceX will launch the Falcon 9 with Formosat-5 on Thursday, 24 August in a launch window of 18:50-19:34 GMT (11:50-12:34 PDT).

    After Formosat-5, the Western Range will shift gears for ULA’s NROL-42 launch on an Atlas V 541 rocket (five meter payload fairing, four solid rocket motors, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage) on 11 September before configuring back for SpaceX and the Iridium Next 21-30 launch currently slated for 30 September at 06:30 PDT.

    After Iridium Next 21-30, the busy Vandenberg launch manifest for the rest of 2017 is currently:

    Date Rocket Payload Pad Launch Time
    Oct. 12 Delta II 7920 JPSS 1 SLC-2W 02:48 PDT
    Oct. 17 Minotaur-C Skysat SLC-576E 14:37 PDT
    NET Late Nov. Falcon 9 Iridium Next 31-40 SLC-4E TBD
    NET Dec. Falcon 9 Iridium Next 41-50 SLC-4E TBD
    Dec. 13 Delta IV M+ (5,2) NROL-47 SLC-6 TBD

    Formosat-5 – to RTLS or not to RTLS?

    A feature of all Vandenberg launches to date has been an inability to perform an RTLS (Return To Launch Site) landing of the Falcon 9 first stage due to high payload mass (e.g.: The Iridium Next flights) preventing enough margin in the Falcon 9 fuel tanks for the needed boost back, entry, and landing burns and because the official clearance investigations and forms from the USAF (U.S. Air Force), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), and DOT (Department of Transportation) were not completed.

    However, on 7 October 2016, all of the above agencies completed their assessments of various environmental impacts for the construction and use of a landing pad at SLC-4W to allow for RTLS landings of Falcon 9 first stages.

    “After reviewing and analyzing available data and information on existing conditions and potential impacts, including the 2016 EA (Environmental Assessment), the FAA has determined the issuance of licenses to SpaceX to conduct Falcon 9 boost-backs and landings at SLC-4W … would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment within the meaning of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act).”

    This was stated in the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation report on Adoption of the Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for Boost-back and Landing of the Falcon 9 Full Thrust First Stage at SLC-4 West at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California and Offshore Landing Contingency Option.

    The same report also returned a Finding of No Significant Impact for terrestial and marine life for Vandenberg RTLS landings.

    After the report’s official acceptance in October 2016, SpaceX began construction of the landing pad at SLC-4W – located just 1,412 feet (center point to center point) from the launch mount at SLC-4E.

    Now, a little more than 10 months after clearance to construct the landing pad at SLC-4W and the ability to issue RTLS landing licenses to SpaceX for west coast launches, the first mission with a light enough payload to support RTLS is here.

    Taiwan’s Formosat-5 satellite weighs only 475 kg (1,047.2 lb) – leaving more than enough margin in Falcon 9’s tanks to perform the needed boost back, entry, and landing burns to make it safely back to SLC-4W.

    However, the launch and landing licenses requested from SpaceX and granted by the FAA for Formosat-5 call for a landing of the 1st stage on the Just Read The Instructions ASDS (Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship), which will be positioned ~344 km (214 mi) downrange from Vandenberg.

    This raises the question of why an ASDS landing will occur instead of an RTLS landing, as all environmental hurdles are cleared and the Falcon 9 has the performance to conduct an RTLS.

    One possibility is that the landing pad and associated facility upgrades to support and RTLS booster landing were not completed by the time SpaceX had to file for the Formosat-5 launch and landing licenses on 28 June 2017.

    It’s certainly conceivable that the landing pad and facility upgrades would have to have been completed by the time a landing license was applied for as the FAA would be hard pressed to approve a landing without the ability to review the operational status of all landing assets.

    It is also possible that the landing pad and associated facilities upgrades are not yet complete at this time.

    Regardless of the SLC-4W landing pad’s current status, Formosat-5 will be an ASDS landing and will mark the 9th attempt this year to recover a Falcon 9 first stage.

    (Images: SpaceX, Chris Gebhardt and Philip Sloss for, Google Maps and L2 McGregor via Gary Blair)

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    From: Eric8/22/2017 3:11:57 PM
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    Elon Musk Takes Us Into His World, Shares Picture Of SpaceX Factory As Seen From Space

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    From: Eric8/23/2017 12:34:04 PM
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    Future Tense

    SpaceX just teased a chic new spacesuit

    by Jackie Wattles and Rachel Crane @CNNMoney August 23, 2017: 12:21 PM ET

    Elon Musk unveils SpaceX's new spacesuit

    The world just got a glimpse of the suits astronauts may one day wear when they travel to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX craft. Elon Musk -- the billionaire serial entrepreneur behind SpaceX -- shared a photo Wednesday of an astronaut wearing a crisp white suit with black paneling, and a helmet with a large, tinted face shield.

    Musk said via an Instagram post that the suit pictured is an actual, functioning version of what the company will one day give to astronauts.

    "Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup)," he wrote. "Was incredibly hard to balance esthetics and function."

    The spacesuit is designed to be used on SpaceX's Crew Dragon -- a new spacecraft the private company is developing that will ferry astronauts to the space station under contracts with NASA.

    SpaceX is in a race against Boeing ( BA) to make history by becoming the first private company to complete that sort of mission. Until now, only governments have sent humans into orbit.

    The United States hasn't had a craft certified to carry humans into space since NASA retired the Space Shuttle program in 2011. So in recent years, NASA has relied on Russian missions to get its astronauts to and from the space station.

    Related: NASA powers up spacecraft that could one day carry humans to Mars

    Boeing and SpaceX have each been developing a crew-worthy spacecraft for years. NASA put its faith in the two companies by awarding them both contracts in 2014 to one day fly crew.

    Both have been awarded missions, and the companies received $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion respectively.

    Now, it's a race to the launch pad. Both Boeing and SpaceX are expected to launch their first crewed missions at around the same time, possibly next year.

    Boeing was first in one respect: the company has already revealed its spacesuit design. It's a notably different esthetic -- bright blue material and mid-calf boots designed by Reebok.

    Apart from the spacecrafts under development by Boeing and SpaceX, there's one more crew vessel in the works: NASA's Orion, which Lockheed Martin ( LMT) is building under a federal contract.

    Orion, however, is intended for missions more complicated than space station trips. Rather, NASA has designed it for trips to the moon, Mars and even beyond.

    NASA says the suits for Orion missions will be modified versions of the bright orange jumpsuits astronauts wore for take off and landing during Shuttle missions.

    SpaceX declined to share more details about its spacesuit design on Wednesday.

    Musk teased on Instagram, "More in days to follow."

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