Saturday, September 14, 2013

News on New Launch Vehicles - and Beyond

Congratulations to Japan on the launch of their new Epsilon rocket. The Epsilon is a "smart rocket" with most of the intelligence needed to control the launch on board: the launch can be directed from a laptop. 

Meanwhile, the first launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 v1.1 - with first stage reusable technology to test for the upcoming Falcon 9R - has been slipped after an anomaly was discovered in a test. Elon Musk and company are taking no chances. This is the rocket they are bidding for USAF Medium launches: SpaceX is the first New Entrant to challenge for launches under the EELV program - a program only the government-sponsored Delta and Atlas rockets have participated in for the last decade. The Delta IV and Atlas V have an amazing record of success, but the cost increases have been enormous.  SpaceX can, it is hoped, introduce real competition: and Musk sees that as only the first step toward developing his Falcon 9 Heavy variant and someday using it to send humans to Mars.  If you're going to dream, dream big.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson doesn't think it'll work: he things space exploration is essentially too big and complex a task for the private sector alone.  Tyson is a scientist and visionary I admire greatly (and a great guy) but for once I'm not sure he's right.  Musk may be a dreamer, but he's gotten some pretty amazing things done.

Space is big enough for all visions to play a part.  Maybe someday on Mars there will be the Tyson-Musk Spaceport.

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