Some Space Successes

Despite the doom and gloom that gets expressed here at times, there is some silver lining in the gathering storms.

Just this past weekend, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, a private space launch company, finally got their fourth launch to low Earth orbit:

SpaceX’s Falcon 1 became the first privately built liquid rocket to orbit the Earth tonight, following in the footsteps of SpaceShipOne which became the first privately built crewed spaceship to fly suborbitally in October 2004. One other thing they both have in common? All the people who said it was impossible.

The live webcast swung their cameras around and zoomed in on SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s impromptu thank you speech to the dedicated employees who have worked countless hours over the long years to success. He was far away and had his back to the camera, but it made all the difference to share in that triumphant intimate moment.

“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” Musk said. Clearly buoyed by the huge win tonight, he also talked about their Falcon 9 rocket development program, “We are going to be taking over for the Space Shuttle when it retires.” You could hear the pride at the huge accomplishment of a U.S. company getting to the point where they could say that.

“A lot of people said this wasn’t possible— I mean a lot…” Musk went on. SpaceX, like many innovators in the industry, have had a lot of naysaying to contend with. Before SpaceShipOne’s flight, the naysayers said it wasn’t possible, after it they dismissed the huge accomplishment as trivial— that the real challenge was going orbital. You can expect them to do the same here. “Orbital space flight? I am still not impressed. It is just a little one engine rocket.” They will then move on to claiming that the Falcon 9 missions are impossible. My advice? Don’t listen.

Congrats to Musk and SpaceX and may you bring light to the darkness!

Somewhere Robert Heinlein smiles knowingly and Jerry Pournelle is sitting in his livingroom drinking brandy, smoking cigars, saluting Musk and smiles knowingly at Heinlein’s ghost.

Space Visionariers Prove Naysayers Wrong – Again

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The success of the mission now shifts the focus to building the space station and plans to land a man on the moon, said Wang Zhaoyao, deputy director of manned space flight.

He said the program is looking to launch a new orbiting vehicle and set up a simple space lab by 2011. There are also hopes of sending unmanned and manned space vehicles to perform docking activities with the target vehicle.

By 2020, China wants to launch a manned mission to experiment with technologies that will enable astronauts to take care of spacecraft for longer periods of time, Wang told reporters at a briefing in Beijing after a parachute brought the astronauts’ capsule back to ground Sunday.

“After we have successfully completed these three steps, we will go to even more remote areas,” Wang said, adding China hopes to send a manned mission to the moon “in the near future.”

As bankrupt as our nation is, unless a private firm like SpaceX or VirginGalactic puts a mining base or hotel on the Moon, China will certainly beat us back there.

And nobody in America could care less. Sad.

China’s first spacewalk team feted with parade

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Early this morning, the Sea Launch Company successfully delivered the Galaxy 19 satellite to orbit from its ocean-based platform on the Equator. This is the international company’s fifth successful launch from sea in 2008.

A Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off at 2:28am PDT (9:28 GMT) from the Odyssey Launch Platform, positioned at 154 degrees West Longitude. Just over an hour later, the Block DM-SL upper stage inserted the 4,690 kg (10,340 lb) Galaxy 19 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Operators at the Hartebeesthoek ground station in South Africa acquired the spacecraft’s first signals from orbit shortly after spacecraft separation. All systems performed nominally throughout the mission.

“Congratulations to Intelsat and to Space Systems/Loral for this morning’s successful mission,” said Kjell Karlsen, president and general manager of Sea Launch.

Sealaunch utilizes a specially made ship that is able to park anywhere on the Equator to launch low-cost rockets for communication satellite services.

Launching from the Equator lowers the cost because the inertia from the Earth itself at that latitude provides the extra ‘kick’.

Sea Launch Successfully Delivers Galaxy 19 To Orbit

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