Posts Tagged ‘SpaceX’

Falcon 9 launches as Dragon sets off on its second cargo supply mission

March 2, 2013

SpaceX has launched CRS-2 — its second  mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon capsule aboard the Falcon 9 rocket will dock with the ISS today, delivering 677 kg of cargo to the astronauts currently there, and will return in about 2 weeks.

Initial thruster problems threatened the mission but these seem to have been solved.

But vexing trouble with the capsule’s rocket thrusters quickly turned the $133 million flight into a high-tech cliff hanger. Six-and-a-half hours after launch, follwoing extensive troubleshooting and analysis, it appeared company engineers had resolved the problem, bringing all four sets of thrusters on line and setting the stage for a delayed rendezvous with the space station.

From Space X press release: 

Hawthorne, Calif. – Today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to orbit for SpaceX’s second mission under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. Falcon 9 completed its job perfectly, continuing its 100 percent success rate.

“Falcon 9 was designed to be the world’s most reliable rocket, and today’s launch validated this by adding to Falcon 9’s perfect track record with our fifth success in a row,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX.

After Dragon separated from Falcon 9’s second stage approximately nine minutes after launch, a minor issue with some of Dragon’s oxidation tanks was detected. Within a few hours, SpaceX engineers had identified and corrected the issue, normalizing the oxidation pressure and returning operations to normal. Dragon recomputed its ascent profile as it was designed to and is now on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with possible arrival on Sunday, just one day past the original timeline.

Dragon is the only spacecraft in the world today capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Dragon will stay on station for a three-week visit, during which astronauts will unload approximately 1,200 pounds of cargo and fill the capsule with return cargo, for return to Earth. Dragon is filled with supplies for the ISS, including critical materials to support science investigations. Later this month, Dragon will return a payload that includes research results, education experiments and space station hardware.

Updates on the CRS-2 mission can be found at www.spacex.com/webcast. Broadcast quality video may be downloaded at vimeo.com/spacexlaunch and high-resolution photos are posted at spacexlaunch.zenfolio.com.

About SpaceX

SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to revolutionize space transportation, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Today, SpaceX is advancing the boundaries of space technology through its Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Valor Equity Partners. The company has more than 3,000 employees in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Florida. For more information, visit SpaceX.com.

Boeing Dreamliner batteries could be “inherently unsafe” while Airbus says it has a Plan B

February 1, 2013

The fault with the Boeing Dreamliner Batteries/electrical systems has not yet been found. This is not good news for Boeing since the grounding of 50 aircraft continues. Each grounded aircraft poses a potential claim on Boeing for about $2.5 million per month. The delay in finding the fault also correspondingly delays the selection of a “fix” and the deployment of that “fix”. And since some 850 aircraft have been ordered and production has not been stopped, the fix has to be deployed on a large number of aircraft.

In the absence of any identified fault Boeing are continuing to defend the 787 batteries and I read this as Boeing defending both the design of the chosen batteries and their decision to select these for use. They cannot really do anything else since they cannot acknowledge any potential liability while compensation claims are up in the air (or down on the ground may be more appropriate!).

Airbus apparently has developed a Plan B in the event an alternative to lithium-ion batteries must be found for the A350.

Airbus warned about the risks of lithium-ion batteries at a closed meeting of airlines in March 2011, according to a presentation first reported by Reuters this week.

“We identified this fragility at the start of development and we think we resolved it about a year ago,” Bregier said. “Nothing prevents us from going back to a classical plan that we have been studying in parallel.”

But there is a view that the design chosen by Boeing is fundamentally unsound – that the design lends itself to the possibility of thermal runaways with overheating and subsequent fires. If the design itself is flawed and there are better designs available, then Boeing’s decision process which resulted in using a flawed design could be more damaging  than any monetary compensation for the actual groundings. Boeing can ill afford a suggestion that their design or decision process itself is flawed. The current investigation is focused on finding any faults in the units as built and not – yet – on the fundamental design itself.

They can probably absorb the financial hit but my guess is that Boeing will lose considerable ground to the Airbus A350 which could take a long time to recoup.

FlightGlobal: 

The lithium ion batteries installed on the Boeing 787 are inherently unsafe, says Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and owner of electric car maker Tesla.

“Unfortunately, the pack architecture supplied to Boeing is inherently unsafe,” writes Musk in an email to Flightglobal.

“Large cells without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect means it is simply a matter of time before there are more incidents of this nature,” he adds.

Both Boeing and Tesla use batteries fueled by lithium cobalt oxide, which is among the most energy-dense and flammable chemistries of lithium-ion batteries on the market. While Boeing elected to use a battery with a grouping of eight large cells, Tesla’s batteries contain thousands of smaller cells that are independently separated to prevent fire in a single cell from harming the surrounding ones.

“Moreover, when thermal runaway occurs with a big cell, a proportionately larger amount of energy is released and it is very difficult to prevent that energy from then heating up the neighboring cells and causing a domino effect that results in the entire pack catching fire,” says Musk.

…. “They [Boeing] believe they have this under control, although I think there is a fundamental safety issue with the architecture of a pack with large cells,” writes Musk in an email. “It is much harder to maintain an even temperature in a large cell, as the distance from the center of the cell to the edge is much greater, which increases the risk of thermal runaway.” 

Musk’s assessments of battery cells were confirmed by Donald Sadoway, a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I would have used the same words,” says Sadoway. “I’m glad someone with such a big reputation put it on the line.”

“He’s engineered [Tesla’s battery] to prevent the domino effect, while Boeing evidently doesn’t have that engineering,” adds Sadoway. ….. 

787 battery graphic

from Boeing

Design News:

The issue of battery cooling has been at the forefront of the Boeing story for a week. Donald Sadoway, the John F. Elliott professor of materials chemistry at MIT who is involved in a battery startup with Bill Gates, told us last week that a forced air cooling system and sensors may be needed to monitor and cool the battery in the event of overheating. Elton Cairns, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a fuel cell designer for NASA’s Gemini spaceflights, also suggested that an air- or liquid-cooled system would be necessary.

SpaceX’s “Grasshopper” successfully tested to 40m and back

December 25, 2012

Grasshopper, SpaceX’s vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL), rose 131 feet (40 meters), hovered and landed safely on the pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. The total test duration was 29 seconds.

The 12-story flight marks a significant increase over the height and length of hover of Grasshopper’s previous test flights, which took place earlier this fall. In September, Grasshopper flew to 1.8 meters (6 feet), and in November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet/2 stories) including a brief hover.

Testing of Grasshopper will continue with successively more sophisticated flights expected over the next several months.

The Dragon docks

May 26, 2012

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) made history when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle in history to successfully attach to the International Space Station.  Previously only four governments – the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency – had achieved this challenging technical feat.

  • May 22/Launch Day: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
  • May 23: Dragon orbited Earth as it traveled toward the International Space Station.
  • May 24: Dragon’s sensors and flight systems were subjected to a series of complicated tests to determine if the vehicle was ready to berth with the space station; these tests included maneuvers and systems checks in which the vehicle came within 1.5 miles of the station.
  • May 25: NASA gave Dragon the GO to attempt berthing with the station.  Dragon approached. It was captured by station’s robotic arm and attached to the station

The next steps:

  • May 25 – 31: Astronauts open Dragon’s hatch, unload supplies and fill Dragon with return cargo.
  • May 31: Dragon is detached from the station and returns to Earth, landing in the Pacific, hundreds of miles west of Southern California.

Live coverage of the hatch opening, including some of the first video from inside Dragon, will begin Saturday at approximately 3:00 AM PT/ 6:00 AM ET on www.spacex.com .

First private space flight to the ISS in November?

August 16, 2011

California-based rocket maker SpaceX said that it will make a test flight in late November to the International Space Station, now that NASA has retired its space shuttle program.The Dragon space capsule to be launched by a Falcon Heavy rocket has been given a November 30th launch date by NASA.

The Space X news release is here.

Space X Dragon capsule: image spacetourismnow.com

PhysOrg

“SpaceX has been hard at work preparing for our next flight — a mission designed to demonstrate that a privately-developed space transportation system can deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS),” the company, also called Space Exploration Technologies, said in a statement.

The mission is the second to be carried out by SpaceX, one of a handful of firms competing to make a spaceship to replace the now-defunct US shuttle, which had been used to carry supplies and equipment to the orbiting outpost.

“NASA has given us a November 30, 2011 launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS,” the company said.

It said the arrival of the vessel at the space station would herald “the beginning of a new era in space travel.”

“Together, government and the private sector can simultaneously increase the reliability, safety and frequency of space travel, while greatly reducing the costs,” SpaceX said.

The company won $75 million in new seed money earlier this year, after it became the first to successfully send its own space capsule, the gumdrop-shaped Dragon, into orbit and back in December 2010.


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