Category Archives: Private Space

Blue Origin

Here is the first flight of the New Shepard space vehicle from Blue Origin. The New Shepard was launched from the Blue Origin launch facility (probably Corn Ranch) near Van Horn Texas. The launch date was 29 April 2015.

A great looking launch sent the spacecraft to an altitude at 93.6 km / 307,000 feet on the first flight. It is a fine way to start, yet according to the news release from Blue Origin the New Shepard’s flight was not “perfect” because of a hydraulic pressure loss, the propulsion module could not be recovered. Don’t be so hard on yourselves, it’s just the first flight. Congrats Blue Origin!

Blue Origin is a privately funded aerospace manufacturer set up by Jeff Bezos ( This is just the first of many more flights from this company. In fact they are already building the Very Big Brother to New Shepard which is an orbital version.


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CRS 6 Leaves Falcon Returns

The Space X mission CRS 6 launched yesterday from Cape Canaveral Florida in a beautiful launch and nobody does a launch video like Space X.

Part of the Space X scenario is the ability to return and reuse the Falcon 9 first stage.

Space X doesn’t mean just splash down in the ocean for retrieval but a powered return and landing. No simple feat, the plan is to land on a floating platform.



The image shown is the Falcon 9 first stage just before landing on the platform. Apparently the Falcon landed but “excess lateral velocity” caused it to tip over post landing. There never seems to be video available, too bad the attempts are still incredible.

See more images and a little background here.

Images: Space X

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SpaceX Launch Replay

Here’s a replay of the SpaceX CRS-5 launch yesterday morning.

The attempt at landing the first stage on a “drone spaceport ship” almost worked. The rocket did not soft-land successfully on the floating spaceport, it did however, make it back so it appears they almost have a handle on the procedure.


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Orbital Aftermath

Damage to the Wallops Flight Facility. Image Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach
Damage to the Wallops Flight Facility. Image Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

Here is a look at the area around the launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility after the failed Orbital Antares flight. As dramatic as the scene is it appears visually at least to be less damage than I would have expected. I wonder how much damage the heat caused, can’t really tell.

I am happy to see NASA is standing behind Orbital with William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate saying in a press release:

“Orbital has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first two missions to the station earlier this year, and we know they can replicate that success. Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback. Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”

Below is a press release after the Wallops Incident Response Team had a look at the area:

The Wallops Incident Response Team completed today an initial assessment of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 28, from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
“I want to praise the launch team, range safety, all of our emergency responders and those who provided mutual aid and support on a highly-professional response that ensured the safety of our most important resource — our people,” said Bill Wrobel, Wallops director. “In the coming days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue to assess the damage on the island and begin the process of moving forward to restore our space launch capabilities. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will rebound stronger than ever.”
The initial assessment is a cursory look; it will take many more weeks to further understand and analyze the full extent of the effects of the event. A number of support buildings in the immediate area have broken windows and imploded doors. A sounding rocket launcher adjacent to the pad, and buildings nearest the pad, suffered the most severe damage.
At Pad 0A the initial assessment showed damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods, as well as debris around the pad.
The Wallops team also met with a group of state and local officials, including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Marine Police, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Wallops environmental team also is conducting assessments at the site. Preliminary observations are that the environmental effects of the launch failure were largely contained within the southern third of Wallops Island, in the area immediately adjacent to the pad. Immediately after the incident, the Wallops’ industrial hygienist collected air samples at the Wallops mainland area, the Highway 175 causeway, and on Chincoteague Island. No hazardous substances were detected at the sampled locations.
Additional air, soil and water samples will be collected from the incident area as well as at control sites for comparative analysis.
The Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Resources Commission reported today they have not observed any obvious signs of water pollution, such as oil sheens. Furthermore, initial assessments have not revealed any obvious impacts to fish or wildlife resources. The Incident Response Team continues to monitor and assess.
Following the initial assessment, the response team will open the area of Wallops Island, north of the island flagpole opposite of the launch pad location, to allow the U.S. Navy to return back to work.

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Wow! No early word on what happened. I don’t think it will take a long time to figure this out. I could be wrong of course.

As bad as this seems and no one got hurt so it could have been much worse, Orbital Sciences is going to learn a great deal from this incident and will wind up a stronger company because of it.

I’ve not seen enough Antares launches to know what is normal but there seemed to be venting in places where it might not supposed to be. Have a look frame by frame in the video and see what you think.

From Orbital Sciences:

Orbital Sciences Corporation confirms that today’s Antares rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility was not successful. Shortly after lift-off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at 6:22 p.m. (EDT), the vehicle suffered a catastrophic failure. According to NASA’s emergency operations officials, there were no casualties and property damage was limited to the south end of Wallops Island. Orbital has formed an anomaly investigation board, which will work in close coordination with all appropriate government agencies, to determine the cause of today’s mishap.

“It is far too early to know the details of what happened,” said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group.“As we begin to gather information, our primary concern lies with the ongoing safety and security of those involved in our response and recovery operations. We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. As soon as we understand the cause we will begin the necessary work to return to flight to support our customers and the nation’s space program.”

Orbital will provide more information as it becomes available and is verified.

Video source

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SpaceX CRS-4 Launch

The SpaceX CRS-4 mission was launched earlier today bound for the International Space Station with supplies.

Arrival is scheduled for 23 Sept 2014 at 11:04 UT / 07:04 EDT when ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will capture the Dragon cargo ship with the station’s robotic arm.

So far, nobody does launch videos like SpaceX – great in full screen.

Back to painting for me.

Video source

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