Tag Archives: space

Russian Space Plane Prompts Talk of a New Space Race

U.S. Air Force image of the U.S. X-37B before launch.

Flight Global reported yesterday on Russia’s announcement of a new space plane to rival the United States X-37B, an unmanned orbital craft designed to deliver payloads but not ferry people.

The Russian program was announced by Oleg Ostapenko, “the head of the armed forces unit dedicated to military space operations.”

David Axe of Wired’s Danger Room…(READ MORE)


SpaceX Falcon 9 Heads for Heaven With Dragon Capsule Mockup

An earlier test of the Falcon Rocket.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral this morning, bearing unmanned mockup of the Dragon Capsule intended to ferry cargo and personnel to the International Space Station, successfully separated from the Falcon launch rocket.

The NASA site is vague on details as of this writing, but CNN has the locker-room talk.

The Dragon differs from SpaceShip One, the first commercial space vehicle everyone got so worked up about a few years back. SpaceShip one looked ultra-cool, and was was built on an innovative model that essentially grew from the Space Shuttle. It brought plenty innovation, but it was basically a spaceplane like the Shuttle.

The Dragon, on the other hand, is retro-fabulous. It’s a capsule model — more like the orbital and re-entry craft the Mercury and Gemini astronauts rode in.

The big dif is, of course, that the Dragon is designed to be reusable, which is important if SpaceX wants to deliver crew and cargo to the ISS on a budget. The innovation nowadays is not on a strict cool-design model; pushing the envelope on thrifty economics is the most critical innovation necessary now, as NASA moves into its next era. (READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON TECHYUM)

The International Space Station’s Desperate Careen Toward Privatization

Soyuz TMA-18 launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in April, 2010. Public domain NASA image.

As you probably know, the US Space Shuttle program will call it quits next summer with STS-135, planned for June, 2011. However, the US space program isn’t calling it quits at that time; NASA plans to continue sending astronauts and materiel to the International Space Station using commercial carriers. The ISS is expected to remain in operation until at least 2015 and probably 2020; NASA plans to save US taxpayers about a gajillion dollars using private contractors, which is roughly the amount Dick Cheney planned to save by using Blackwater to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wait, did I say that out loud? Sorry, sorry, let me take off my snarky left wing fart-sniffer acey-deucey off and don my credulous space-nerd propeller beanie that celebrates all things post-terrestrial.

There; that’s so much better. What I meant to say, of course, is that NASA is privatizing its journeys to the ISS because that’s the best way to encourage scientific and engineering innovation.

The problem? Those commercial carriers don’t exist yet. Until they do, NASA’s going to have to keep sending Americans skyward on Russian Soyuz rockets. That costs tens of millions of dollars per person.