Monday, March 3, 2008

SpaceX Releases Mission Manifest

Well, it seems as if SpaceX has really been busy of late, and is ramping up for full-scale operations. They just released their revised mission manifest for launches from this spring all the way to 2011. There is some pretty interesting stuff here! It goes something like this:

CustomerLaunch Date  Launch Vehicle  Launch Site
US Government & ATSBQ2 2008Falcon 1Kwajalein
ATSB (Malaysia)Q3 2008Falcon 1Kwajalein
US GovernmentQ4 2008Falcon 9Cape Canaveral
MDA Corp. (Canada)2009Falcon 9Cape Canaveral
Avanti Communications (UK)2009Falcon 9Cape Canaveral
NASA COTS - Demo 12009Falcon 9Cape Canaveral
NASA COTS - Demo 22009Falcon 9Cape Canaveral
SpaceDev2009Falcon 1Kwajalein
NASA COTS - Demo 32010Falcon 9Cape Canaveral
MDA Corp. (Canada)2010Falcon 1Kwajalein
Swedish Space Corp. (Sweden)  2010Falcon 1Kwajalein
Bigelow Aerospace2011Falcon 9Cape Canaveral

Some of these are simply communications satellite launches. However, the items 5, 6, and 8 that say NASA COTS are of some interest. These are demonstration launches of SpaceX's pressurized Dragon capsule. The NASA COTS program (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) has been set up to finance demonstration flights by several commercial space launch companies to see who might best be able to provide cargo and crew transportation for the international space station after the space shuttle retires, but before the Ares/Orion vehicle project is completed. These three launches will demonstrate the capabilities of the Dragon capsule for NASA, in the hopes that it will be chosen to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. These will also serve as the Dragon's only currently planned test flights (SpaceX is all about the saving of the moneys).

The second interesting item is launch 7. This launch is being performed for SpaceDev, the company that designed SpaceShipOne's rocket, and is a former competitor in the COTS program. The goal of this launch is to put a number of very small satellites in orbit (called micro- and nanosatelites) developed by SpaceDev and others to advance the technologies behind mini floaters of doom. Or something.

The last, but most interesting item is the last on the list, the launch for Bigelow Aerospace. Bigelow Aerospace is a company that is developing very exciting space habitat technologies based on an inflatable design originally developed by NASA. The payload on this launch will likely be Bigelow's Sundancer prototype craft, the third of Bigelow's flight prototypes, though this has not been confirmed. If successful, this launch will almost certainly lead to more interesting space tourism potential.

It looks like SpaceX is going to attempt its first satellite launch this spring without having made a successful test flight, so one way or another, this will be an exciting year for the company! I posted in greater detail about SpaceX just last week here, I will post in greater detail about Bigelow Aerospace in the next few days, and a full profile of SpaceDev is on my to-do list later down the road.

Progress: 3.24% Flight Time: 0:04:51

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