from the rocket-surgery dept.
An executive from SpaceX's chief competitor, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), predicts that SpaceX won't conduct any more launches for the next 9 to 12 months, as it makes repairs and investigates the explosion of a Falcon 9 booster on Sept. 1:
"It typically takes nine to 12 months for people to return to flight. That's what the history is," Tory Bruno, chief executive of United Launch Alliance, told Reuters. [...] Bruno said the main issue after accidents involving space launches has "always been figuring out what went wrong on the rocket, being confident that you know ... how to fix it and then actually getting that fix in place." Repairing damage to the launch pad is usually not a significant issue, he said. "Historically, it had never been the pad that's taken the longest time," he said.
Bruno spoke with Reuters a few hours before ULA, a partnership of Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, was preparing to launch its 111th rocket, so far all successfully. An Atlas 5 rocket, carrying a NASA asteroid sample-return spacecraft, was poised for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida about 1.2 miles (2 km) away from the SpaceX launch site.[*]
Bruno said he called SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell shortly after the accident to extend sympathies and offer help. "It's a small community and issues especially around safety - but even mission success - kind of transcend the competitive piece of this," Bruno added.
ULA and SpaceX are rivals for private space missions and launches by U.S. government agencies. Musk's company in May broke ULA's monopoly on flying U.S. military and national security satellites, winning an $83 million Air Force contract to launch a Global Positioning System satellite in 2018. The two firms are expected to square off over a second satellite launch services bid, which closes on Sept. 19.
[*] See SoylentNews coverage: OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission - Launch Successful -Ed.
The BBC are reporting an explosion at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where SpaceX company was readying a rocket for launch.
The cause of the blast is not clear and it is not known if anyone was hurt. Nasa said SpaceX was test-firing a rocket which was due to take a satellite into space this weekend.
Pictures from the scene show a huge plume of smoke rising above the Cape Canaveral complex.
The force of the blast shook buildings several miles away.
Update: Launch successful.
NASA will launch the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft on Sept. 8. The spacecraft will attempt exploration and a sample return from the asteroid 101955 Bennu. It will arrive at Bennu in 2018 and map it before selecting a site for sample collection.
Bennu is thought to have formed soon after the sun, at around the same time as the solar system's planets. While the constant activity of volcanoes, earthquakes and erosion changed the chemistry of Earth's material since that time (as likely happened on other planets), Bennu remains virtually unmarred. A sample of the asteroid should therefore provide a time-capsule-like glimpse of the planets' youth, the researchers said.
[...] To complete its planned science objectives, OSIRIS-REx needs to collect a least a 2-ounce (60 grams) sample from Bennu. Once that material lands back on Earth, scientists will probe the sample with complex experiments that just aren't possible in space. [...] "This will be the largest sample-return mission since the Apollo era," said Christine Richey, OSIRIS-REx deputy program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The returned capsule will provide a bounty not only for today's scientists, but also for future generations, Richey said. Three-fourths of the sample will be archived for later study, allowing scientists to answer questions that haven't been thought of today, using instruments yet to be imagined.
Spaceflight Now has a page dedicated to providing updates on this flight: Live coverage: Thursday's Atlas 5 countdown and launch journal
It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in Chicago in October 2016.
On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—"We're going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we're going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."
Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."
The truth is that Boeing's rocket isn't going anywhere particularly fast. Although Muilenburg says it will launch in 2019, NASA has all but admitted that will not happen. The rocket's maiden launch has already slipped from late 2017 into "no earlier than" December 2019. However, NASA officials have said a 2019 launch is a "best case" scenario, and a slip to June 2020 is more likely.
Also, the next SpaceX flight is an ISS resupply mission and is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (December 12, 2017) at 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST) from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The plan is for the booster to return to landing at Landing Zone-1, also at Cape Canaveral.
Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan
SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans
SpaceX Putting Red Dragon on the Back Burner
SpaceX: Making Human Life Multiplanetary
Related: VP of Engineering at United Launch Alliance Resigns over Comments About the Space Launch Industry
ULA Exec: SpaceX could be Grounded for 9-12 Months
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
SpaceX Unlocks "Steamroller" Achievement as Company Eyes 19 Launches in 2017
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News