Sunday, February 19, 2017

SpaceX: Elon Musk describes his space plans

SpaceX begins with the launch of a Falcon 9, which took off without a hitch. Just four months after the sudden explosion of a rocket that was parked with a full fuel load on the pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida, the Elon Musk Space company scored a new success bringing the first 10 satellites in orbit for telecommunications voice and data that are part of a new constellation in progress by Iridium. Falcon 9 had to put in orbit an Israeli communications satellite that was to support the by Mark Zuckerberg.

While waiting for the flight back to Florida, for this first mission of 2017, the takeoff took place in the military base at Vandenberg in California. The starting procedure, the separation of the first stage and subsequent landing on the ocean shelf off the California coast, and the continuation of the second stage until the release in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites of the 10 have taken place.

SpaceX has thus demonstrated a great ability to return to normal operation after the explanation of the last incident which occurred in extreme synthesis due to solidification of liquid oxygen caused by an unwanted reaction with the inner surface of the tank and subsequent overheating by the friction of the walls of the Falcon 9 up to the explosion. It convinced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States, who last week gave its approval for this new mission.

The launch took place as scheduled at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. In the first stage has separated itself from the second, which carries the payload, returning successfully to the ground, on the floating platform arranged in the Pacific Ocean, in order to be reused in the future.

Musk, who is also in the Tesla Motors created SpaceX in 2002 with the objective of launching satellites and other space vehicles with low costs, creating reusable carriers to reduce the cost of commissioning in orbit (at time equal to about 60 million dollars to launch, according to the Wall Street Journal, that is a quarter of the Boeing-Lockheed Martin consortium).

SpaceX was successful in making 18 successful launches in a row against 100 by rival Boeing-Lockheed Martin and 75 of Arianespace. The second stage was put into orbit successfully, an hour and 19 minutes after launch, from a height of 622 km, the first group of 10 satellites Iridium Next, on 70 totals to replace the current ones of the only cellular network satellite covering the whole world. The original Iridium constellation was launched into orbit between 1997 and 2002. The new Iridium Next constellation is built by Thales Alenia Space and will include around 81 satellites. The transaction should be completed by 2018.

But the aerospace company of Hawthorne wants to go further, and one of the announced projects involves the launch into orbit of a network of well 4,425 satellites, three times those currently revolving around the Earth, to provide high-speed internet connections in every corner the planet. The project was unveiled in early 2015 by the same Musk, who had estimated the cost of the operation to 10 billion dollars, with investors like Google and Fidelity, which together accounted for a billion. According to the document, the satellites should weigh 386 kilograms each and orbit at an altitude of about 1,200 kilometers.

Even more ambitious is the project of the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), to colonize Mars. The floor of the California based company, which plans in 2017 to launch the first astronauts to the space station and send an automated shuttle to Mars in 2018, is still almost everything to be developed. Starting from the carrier rocket, which should be a different fourth-generation rocket, more powerful currently under construction.

The project includes designing a powerful carrier driven by 42 Raptor engines, capable of carrying a load twice as heavy as the Apollo, and a 50-meter shuttle to accommodate up to 200 astronauts. The trip to Mars would last only 80 days and, in the most optimistic scenario, the cost per passenger would be just $ 100 thousand.