Thursday, February 16, 2017
In a quest to regain momentum after a serious launch pad explosion, SpaceX will launch a Space Station Resupply Mission, CRS-10, from one of NASA’s most historic launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Having signed a 20-year lease to use LC-39A, used by Apollo 11 in July 1969 going to walk on the Moon, SpaceX has been modifying the pad to accommodate the Falcon 9 rockets. Liftoff is set for February 18 at 10:00 am EST.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, posted a picture of the vertical Falcon 9 rocket, topped with the Dragon Spacecraft, on Instagram as the countdown has begun following a hot rocket test on the pad. The space game is ramping up worldwide with China planning lunar missions based on the Soviet model of creating their own orbiting space station that will serve as a way-port for large freight style craft bound for the lunar surface. This approach, viewed by Behind the Black’s Robert Zimmerman as “smart,” signals a step-by-step Chinese plan to establish a lunar base for their permanent tenancy. India’s program is progressing from a satellite launch provider into other areas and Great Britain has established a quasi-space agency in hopeful anticipation of independent operations.
Based in Hawthorne, California, SpaceX’s pad modifications are described by Robert Z. Pearlman of Space.com, “They made structural improvements to the fixed service tower that supported the space shuttle, added new propellant, data and power lines, modified the flame trench and installed new “rainbirds” to deluge the pad with water to combat acoustic damage at liftoff. SpaceX also erected a horizontal integration hangar at the base of the pad to process its rockets and designed a new transporter erector launcher (TEL) to move the boosters to the launch platform and stand them vertical for flight.
“Plans are also in place to remove the shuttle-era rotating service structure, though it was not necessary to complete prior to beginning use of the pad. The company accelerated its preparation of Pad 39A after a Falcon 9 exploded in September 2016 in the lead up to a static fire at the nearby Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. That pad, now out of service, is currently being repaired with work expected to be complete later this spring, at earliest.”
For the Trump Administration the key is to get the most for the public’s money, something NASA and their historic contractors have unable to accomplish while innovators like SpaceX, Orbital ATK, SpaceFlight and others add vital elements to the equation with an eye towards faster implantation and cost-cutting. SpaceX’s reusable first stage rockets changed the equations and forced Boeing and Lockheed Martin, partners in the United Launch Alliance, to take a closer look at their own operations as the United States Congress, and the President, will demand the same service from them.
For sure the positions of Lockheed Martin and Boeing within the defense establishment are solid, but it appears business as usual will not fly anymore, so to speak. Exploration of deep space with probes is a constant fascination for even casual observers and it should get more exciting in the coming years.
For more info go to www.SpaceX.com.
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Los Angeles, CA