SpaceX To Skeptics: We Can Beat China

Posted by on May 4, 2011 in China, Space Industry | 0 comments

SpaceX has sent out a press release aimed at silencing the chatter that the young rocket company prices are “too good to be true” (since not even China can match SpaceX’s prices).

However in the process of defending the reputation of his rocket company, CEO Elon Musk does reveal a few interesting tidbits about SpaceX that may have rivals rethink their current practices within the industry.

The price of a standard flight on a Falcon 9 rocket is $54 million. We are the only launch company that publicly posts this information on our website (www.spacex.com). We have signed many legally binding contracts with both government and commercial customers for this price (or less). Because SpaceX is so vertically integrated, we know and can control the overwhelming majority of our costs. This is why I am so confident that our performance will increase and our prices will decline over time, as is the case with every other technology.

 

The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million including inflation, or roughly $115m in today’s dollars, and we have a firm, fixed price contract with NASA for 12 missions. This price includes the costs of the Falcon 9 launch, the Dragon spacecraft, all operations, maintenance and overhead, and all of the work required to integrate with the Space Station. If there are cost overruns, SpaceX will cover the difference. (This concept may be foreign to some traditional government space contractors that seem to believe that cost overruns should be the responsibility of the taxpayer.) […]

 

SpaceX has been profitable every year since 2007, despite dramatic employee growth and major infrastructure and operations investments. We have over 40 flights on manifest representing over $3 billion in revenues. […]

 

China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mouse-trap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation. (SpaceX)

 

Note: Emphasis theirs.

Truthfully SpaceX probably would not post prices online if they were not confident that they could service their clients at those rates (as changing prices “midway” can open ones self to a plethora of lawsuits).

While SpaceX’s press release will not satisfy skeptics (something their first successful rocket launch was supposed to do), it may help encourage the rocket industry to become much more transparent with their prices (as forcing tax payers to fork out extra cash is a great to kill off public trust for private space companies).

With the space race heating up between the US and China (note: Russia is apparently having a few difficulties), America will need companies like SpaceX to help us not only get back to the Moon, but also help our species settle Mars without breaking the bank.

Image Credit: SpaceX

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Can SpaceX Put A Man On Mars By 2031?

Posted by on Apr 25, 2011 in Mars, Solar Essay, Space Industry | 4 comments

SpaceX (which is short for Space Exploration Technologies) is either the most brazen company ever formed by man or America’s last great hope for expanding free civilization across the star system.

Either way the company has announced plans to conquer the red planet before 2031, which is about six years before NASA’s original plan and four years before Russia’s.

The only question is, “do they have the right stuff?”

Note: Fast forward to 13:05

“We’ll probably put a first man in space in about three years,” Elon Musk told the Wall Street Journal Saturday. “We’re going all the way to Mars, I think… best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years.” […]

“Our goal is to facilitate the transfer of people and cargo to other planets, and then it will be up to people if they want to go,” said Musk, who also runs the Tesla company which develops electric cars. (Physorg.com)

With NASA nervous about landing anything over a ton upon Mars (let alone dealing with the side effects of cosmic radiation), one has to wonder how SpaceX plans on achieving this goal when the US government themselves are hesitant about the idea.

While SpaceX does have the fortitude to encounter Mars within our lifetime, there are at least a few problems the company will have to address if they want to see someone survive the trip towards Mars (let alone return home from it).

Exiting The Home World

Truthfully this should be SpaceX’s least difficult task, as their upcoming rocket (the Falcon Heavy) not only out performs their rivals, but their rocket is even less expensive than China’s (who usually have the cheapest price around).

While Falcon Heavy lacks the lift to help humanity break Earth orbit (let alone land on the Moon), it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company develop a Mars bound rocket within a decade (or even 15 years).

Into The (Radioactive) Black

Despite the celestial heaven’s serene appearance, the blackness of space harbors deadly cosmic radiation that can reduce an astronauts IQ to the level of a vegetable (not to mention wreak havoc upon the heart as well).

If SpaceX aspires to trek the vastness of space in order to help humanity migrate upon Mars, they will need adequate shielding to protect them from being microwaved by the universe.

Although layers of lead around the craft would suffice, it might be wiser to use magnetic shields instead which would help reduce the amount of weight SpaceX has to launch into orbit.

The private space firm might also want to ponder patients using anti-radiation drugs too, although building a radiation safe cabin (surround by lead) would be advisable.

Micro Gravity Blues

Despite the joys of weightlessness, the fact is that humans were not designed to thrive in micro gravity.

The lack of gravity can not only cause our muscles to waste away, but also weaken our bones as well. Worse, our immune system tends to slack off while at the same time provoking dangerous bacteria to become even more lethal.

While electrical shocks and omega-3 seafood could save future explorers muscles and bones (as exercise is not enough), SpaceX will need to figure out a sensible way of mimicking gravity upon their rocket lest future explorers skip landing upon Mars due to being too weak to survive Martian gravity.

Note: Do any readers have any ideas on tackling the gravity problem? Aside from spinning techniques that is.

Final Destination: Crimson Soil

Even if SpaceX finds a way to cheaply exit our homeworld and avoids succumbing to the effects of radiation and micro gravity, finding a way to safely land upon Mars will prove to be a daunting challenge.

It might be wiser for SpaceX to simply land their larger craft upon the Martian moon known as Deimos instead, and ferry astronauts to the surface using smaller space craft.

Since the red planet lacks an abundance of water in liquid form, SpaceX could use Ballutes to slow the craft down, enabling a human vessel to gently touch down upon the red planet instead of smashing into its surface.

Note: Future red planet residents might want to consider building a Skyhook (aka space elevator) upon Phobos, which could reduce the cost of landing upon Mars, as well as launching off of the crimson world.

Can SpaceX Put A Man On Mars?

Truthfully only time will reveal whether SpaceX can send a man (or woman) to Mars within the next two decades.

However if SpaceX is successful we could witness a new age for humanity, one that envisions us leaving our Earthen cradle in order to explore the solar playground around us.

Image Credits: NASA, ADAM

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Russia To Challenge Bigelow For Space Station Supremacy

Posted by on Nov 12, 2010 in Russia, Space Industry, Space Stations | 0 comments

Bigelow Aerospace has more or less been the main contender on the commercial space station front. While other challengers like Galactic Suite have emerged, most have yet to build anything beyond fancy diagrams and CGI videos.

However that may change with the entrance of a new comer to the commercial space station industry, one who hails from “mother Russia.”

Two Russian companies have also recently announced their intentions to build, launch and operate a private space habitat named the Commercial Space Station, or CSS. […]

“The most exciting possibilities include flights from the station to the moon or Mars,” Sergey Kostenko, chief executive officer of Moscow-based Orbital Technologies, told SPACE.com.

Orbital Technologies said the station will have a crew of up to seven and will be serviced by Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and potentially other commercially available vehicles. The station would consist of one module about 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter powered by solar arrays, with a usable volume of about 700 cubic feet (20 cubic meters), Kostenko said. The plan is to launch it in 2015 or 2016. (Space.com)

Orbital Technologies is already receiving backing from the Russian Federal Space Agency, and unlike Bigelow Aerospace the former intends to heavily cater towards the tourism market instead of seeking out nations or companies as primary clients.

According to Space.com the Commercial Space Station (note: yes, I know the name is rather generic) will hold up to seven inhabitants, and the company is boasting that they already have clients lined up to board their celestial station beyond the sky.

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t/Space Launch Concept: For Earth And Mars?

Posted by on Aug 13, 2010 in Space Industry, Technology | 0 comments

Borrowing off of its siblings design, t/Space (or Transformational Space for you non-space geeks) presents a unique concept on how to launch humans safely from Earth to the International Space Station.

While t/Space’s flight approach would benefit companies like Bigelow Aerospace (as one can see in the video below), it could also help out future explorers on Mars.

Although engineers are still working out the kinks when it comes to landing on Mars (at least anything over a ton), finding an inexpensive way to leave the Red Planet will be critical if humans ever settle there en mass.

Since land rockets would probably be expensive (regardless of where you’re launching them from), t/Space could provide an inexpensive alternative, especially when one considers that Mars has 38% of Earth’s gravity.

A small craft might be able to reach the asteroid moon Phobos, where passengers could then transfer to a larger space craft.

Either way t/Space’s design should give SpaceX some friendly competition, although hopefully t/Space will be able to demonstrate its feasibility in the wild soon as their technology could make traveling beyond the heavens not only cheaper, but safer as well.

(via Spaceports)

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Is Reaction Engines Martian Plan Sound? (Video)

Posted by on Aug 5, 2010 in Mars, Space Industry, Technology, United Kingdom | 0 comments

Known throughout the space community for their Skylon jets (which are still in development), Reaction Engines has proposed what appears to be a reasonable path to help humanity reach the red planet within our life time.

Note: If the video does not work above, you can visit Reaction Engines to watch the clip in its entirety.

While the plan for the most part is rather sound, the one fatal area is the length of time it takes to reach the crimson world as solar radiation might fry the astronauts brains before they even get an opportunity to land.

Unless artificial magnetic fields can be constructed around the space craft, future explorers may have to wait until VASIMR engines become a reality (in order to cut the travel time from 6 months to 39 days).

Trek time aside, Reaction Engines does have the wisest approach when it comes to establishing outposts upon Mars (i.e. sending future supplies ahead of a Martian landing), although time will only tell if humanity sends one of their own to visit the crimson world within the next half century.

(via RLV And Space Transport News)

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SpaceX To Challenge Russia (For US Rocket Transport)

Posted by on Mar 22, 2010 in Blog, Russia, Space Industry | 0 comments

With President Obama cancelling Constellation and outsourcing space to the private sector, many politicians have been complaining that ditching the NASA rockets will leave America in the hands of the Russians.

Now it looks like SpaceX, a company who thus far has been able to launch one successful rocket into space is challenging Russia for the right to launch Americans into space.

(Earth Times) As lawmakers weigh the pros and cons of turning over US manned spaceflight to contractors, one commercial hopeful vowed Thursday that her firm could fly US astronauts to the orbiting space station for less than a trip on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Gwynne Shotwell, president of Space X, said she could guarantee her company would be able to provide at least three flights to the International Space Station (ISS) for less than 50 million dollars a seat. A ride on the Soyuz currently costs the US space agency NASA 51 million dollars per astronaut, and that price is likely to rise when current agreements expire. […]

While other industry executives declined to offer such an exact price for their services, all said they would be ready to fly to orbit within three or four years.

SpaceX has designed the Dragon spacecraft (pictured above) to not only transport humans into space, but also cargo for the International Space Station.

Whether or not Congress will choose SpaceX over Russia has yet to be seen (note: it would be very foolish if they chose otherwise), but either way this could help the private space industry gain some much needed respect among the bureaucrats in Washington, DC.

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