Posts Tagged ‘Elon Musk’
Yesterday (September 29th), SpaceX launched the newest version of its Falcon 9 rocket, which includes an improved payload capacity of 13 tons to Low Earth Orbit. The new rocket also featured a preliminary version of the reusability package that SpaceX hopes will allow them to recover their rockets in a state suited to rapid turn-around, but there was no expectation that this rocket would return safely.
The primary payload this time was the Canadian Space Agency’s CASSIOPE satellite, which was launched into polar orbit. The CASSIOPE combined two distinct functions – the e-POP, which is supposed to gather information on solar storms, and Cascade, which is a technology demo for a digital broadband courier service. There were also five nano satellites on board.
Here’s the video from the launch. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of ‘Awaiting Vehicle Downlink’, and I wish they had just switched to a screen with telemetry data whenever the signal was lost. Still, the camera they had on the Falcon 9 provided a great view when the connection was active.
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, explains some of the back-end technology his company is working on that will revolutionize the way engineering is done. First he shows the technology used to manipulate 3-D designs intuitively with a hand in 3-D space instead of in a clunky way with 2-D interfaces (like a mouse). Anyone who’s tried to do 3-D design in the usual software using a mouse and all sorts of buttons will appreciate the potential that this new interface represents.
Unfortunately, he only shows manipulation of the design – there’s no indication that they can actually design parts from scratch using this interface. As a consolation, though, we do get to see them printing rocket parts with a 3-D printer (you know, a replicator).
Even though it’s not the great leap I was hoping for when Musk tweeted about it as a teaser, it’s still a step in the right direction from a company that’s producing a startling number of those steps, so I couldn’t resist sharing the video:
So, crossing your finger really doesn’t work, though I guess we should do some double-blind trials just to make sure.
The launch of SpaceX‘s Falcon 9/Dragon flight to the ISS went all the way to ignition early this morning, but engine five had abnormally high chamber pressure readings on lighting, requiring a computerized abort. SpaceX confirmed that this was not the result of a sensor malfunction nor any computer glitch. The fuel valve was apparently operating normally, so we’re still waiting to find out exactly what went wrong.
SpaceX noted that while a failure of two engines during flight would not cause a failure, all nine engines have to be operational for a successful liftoff. Pressure problems have occurred in testing and during the first demonstration flight as well, though in the first test the pressure was off by a narrower margin, suggesting a different fault.
Space X’s COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) Demo Flight 2 is scheduled for Saturday. If the demonstration completes all the objectives set forth by NASA, the Falcon-9/Dragon system will be certified for regular cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. In other words, the United States will finally have a private sector replacement for the Space Shuttle‘s cargo delivery function.
While we’re all hopeful for success in this new phase in space exploration, I wonder why we couldn’t have had a proven system in place earlier, before the retirement of the Shuttle. Why are we still dependent on Russia to get our personnel to and from the station? It feels like we’ve set ourselves back, as if it’s 1959 again and we’re once again behind the Russians. I hope we can close the gap again quickly.
Yesterday, Elon Musk and JB Straubel blogged details about the Tesla Model S‘s range and efficiency. You can read their original article here, with details about the test conditions. Incidentally, Elon Musk is not only the CEO of Tesla Motors, but also the CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, so our future in space may well rest in his hands. It’s worth paying attention to what he’s up to.
This graph provided by Tesla Motors neatly summarizes the performance of the Model S and the improvement over the Roadster on the critical issue of range: