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SpaceX F9R Test Rocket Self-Detonates In Mid Flight

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spacexexplodeIt’s hard to watch anything in the sky explode and not think: holy shit, what a disaster! But when a SpaceX Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) test rocket exploded over Texas yesterday, it wasn’t really a disaster. For starters, no one was inside, and secondly, self-detonation is what such crafts do when they realize there’s been some kind of technical glitch or error. So on the one hand, the safety measure worked; on the other, it’s never really an awesome thing for a test rocket to have an error that prompts it to self-detonate.

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SpaceX Files A Formal Protest Against The Federal Government

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falcon 9Back in March, GFR reported on SpaceX’s plans to conduct missions for the U.S. military. The private contractor has been racking up the necessary certifications to use its Falcon rockets to launch government satellites, positioning them to start competing for contracts starting next year. But even then, there has been skepticism about SpaceX’s plans, not because of lack of ability, but because the Air Force halved the number of launches it will award to competitors between 2015-2017. So far, they have awarded high-priority contracts to a single company: United Launch Alliance (ULA). Elon Musk and his company perceive this to be a monopoly, and are suing the U.S. Government.

Tomorrow, the suit will be filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and an official press release and documentation will be made public at www.freedomtolaunch.com. Musk argues that the ULA’s monopoly of Air Force launches will result in unnecessarily penalizing taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars. “The national security launches should be put up for competition and they should not be awarded on a sole source, uncompeted basis,” he says. Last December, ULA secured a contract to sell 36 rocket cores to the Air Force for future endeavors. The “block buy” purchase is like buying in bulk and receiving a discount, while simultaneously denying other companies the ability to compete. The Air Force planned to award 14 more cores to other companie, but half of those, as mentioned, have been deferred.

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SpaceX To Launch Missions for the U.S. Military

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Falcon 9SpaceX seems to be taking the world—make that the universe—by storm. The private contractor hauls cargo to the ISS, and despite an initial launch glitch, it has begun taking communications satellites into orbit. The company is also working on manned flight capabilities, with the long-term goal to get people to Mars. There seems to be no aspect of space travel SpaceX isn’t involved in, and now it’s poised to launch missions for the U.S. military.

This week, Elon Musk told the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that he’s ready to get in the running for Air Force contracts based on the strength of theFalcon rocket. “Frankly, if our rockets are good enough for NASA, why are they not good enough for the Air Force?” Musk says. Fair point, though NASA has different requirements for its contracts.

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3, 2, 1 — Uh Oh, SpaceX Reschedules Falcon 9 Rocket Launch For Thursday

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Falcon 9

Earlier today, SpaceX’s website was counting down, stopping, then counting down again, then stopping again, scrubbing the launch that was scheduled to take place at approximately 5:37pm EST. On Thursday, SpaceX will again attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket for a GEO Transfer Mission. The rocket, which will launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, will put an Orbital Sciences SES-8 satellite, designed to support Southeast Asian communications needs for about 15 years, into a geostationary transfer orbit. Then, about a half-hour after launch, the Falcon 9 will deliver the satellite into geostationary orbit at about 22,000 miles above Earth, roughly 25% of the way to the moon. Many launchers deliver a satellite in two phases, or burns, depending on how long and how much power it takes to reach the first apogee. The transfer to geostatic orbit phase is usually performed via solar power, which reduces overall costs. This launch is SpaceX’s first attempt at putting a communications satellite in orbit.

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SpaceX Is One Step Closer To Manned Flight Capability

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DragonBack in 2009, NASA began the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), designed to promote private sector development of human spaceflight. The eventual goal is to jumpstart a spaceflight industry capable of taking tourists and government astronauts into space. The program’s focus is on crew transportation system designs, an important first step in the development of a commercial industry which is predicted to deliver cheap, reliable, and more efficient transportation of space-going folks into Low-Earth Orbit. In 2012, NASA received proposals from companies committed to working on fully developed and integrated crew transportation systems. SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation were among those that received funding after a NASA evaluation, and are now expected to meet 15 milestones on the way to realizing their privatized human spaceflight plans. SpaceX just reached, and passed, the eighth milestone—a review of its in-flight abort procedures.

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft made its first manned test flight in December 2010, and a few years later became the first commercial vessel to dock with the ISS. Dragon is partially reusable, and will be sent into space by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The recent review focused on the craft’s SuperDraco engines, the software that controls the abort procedure, and the communication between the Dragon and the Falcon 9.