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I realize that this blog is not a personal blog, however, I feel that most of you interested in space and our journey into the universe will appreciate this.

This past week I ventured out to Orlando, Florida with my girlfriend and one of stops was Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. I had also planned the trip to coincide with SpaceX’s launnch of a Falcon 9 carrying cargo for ASIASAT, however Mr. Musk decided to cancel that launch. 

I haven’t been to KSC since I was a kid and MUCH has changed. We ran straight to the Space Shuttle Atlantis display which is revealed in a truly mind blowing way. Then we took a ride on the Shuttle Experience and blasted off into space! We opted for Lunch with Astronaut John McBride who told incredible stories about his mission on the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Columbia. We then took the Up Close tour of the Cape Canaveral complex to see the VAB and various lauchpads, the Crawler, and the shuttle runway. And finally I got to bask under the largest rocket ever made, the enormous Saturn V. This monumental 363-foot rocket was our ticket to bring the first men to the moon and back fulfilling the dreams and imagination of people around the world. This picture does no justice to the incredible size of this magnificent triumph of mankind’s accomplishment during the space race.

Needless to say the gift shop lightened my wallet quite a bit, but it was a great experience and I recommend any who have the means to do so to head out there!

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SpaceX Restartable Thrusters Pass Early Tests

SpaceX completed qualification testing for its SuperDraco thruster late last month. The engine will eventually be mounted on the manned version of the Dragon spacecraft as part of its launch escape system. It will also help the vehicle touch down on its return to Earth or on whatever other planet it visits.

SpaceX says the engine produces 16,000 pounds of thrust and can be fired multiple times. In an emergency, eight SuperDracos built into the Dragon will provide 120,000 pounds of thrust to propel the crew a safe distance from the rest of the vehicle.

The thruster’s engine chamber is made through the industrial 3-D printing process called direct laser metal sintering. It is composed of Inconel, a strong nickel-chromium superalloy able to withstand high temperatures. 

Read More

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Soon, it will be possible to buy a ticket to the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Lesser known than Elon Musk and Richard Bronson’s space tourism exploits is World View, a luxury flight capsule that, in an estimated four years, will start taking travelers on five hour tours through our earth’s atmosphere.

Do we really have to wait that long?!

MORE.

Inside The New Dragon Spacecraft

Last night, SpaceX unveiled the Dragon V2 capsule, destined to eventually carry astronauts to the International Space Station.

Although the previous version of the Dragon capsule was flightworthy enough to deliver supplies, its life support system wasn’t reliable for human passengers. Dragon V2, on the other hand, will be able to carry seven astronauts for seven days.”

Read more from popsci.

The is SpaceX’s Dragon V2 capsule, which the company unveiled this week. According to SpaceX, it will take seven passengers into space, before landing anywhere in the world “with the precision of a helicopter”.

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SpaceX successfully launched their first upgraded Falcon 9 rocket at 12pm EST (9am CST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California today. Sporting an elongated first stage, the vehicle’s 9 Merlin D-1 engines are more efficient and arranged in what SpaceX calls an “Octaweb” pattern, versus the 3x3 grid-like pattern from before.

The rocket launched a Canadian space weather observation satellite, Cassiope.

Photos courtesy SpaceX and the LA Times.

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SpaceX Releases Video Of Successful Falcon 9 Rocket Landing At Sea

Two weeks ago SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of the company’s third cargo resupply mission. It was also the first SpaceX launch with landing legs attached to test a soft landing of the rocket’s first stage at sea. Prior to launch SpaceX had estimated a 30 to 40 percent chance of success.

Later the same evening SpaceX confirmed via social media that the soft landing at sea was a success, saying:

"Data upload from tracking plane shows first stage landing in Atlantic was good! Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water."

The successful soft landing is a significant step forward in developing reusable-rocket technology that could dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration. The ultimate goal is have the Falcon 9’s first stage booster fly itself back to a landing pad, so they can quickly turnaround and reuse them.

Watch the (repaired) video from the Falcon 9 rocket’s onboard camera here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er66BActC4E

If you want to help improve the video quality of the raw footage received from the Falcon 9’s onboard camera, go here: http://www.spacex.com/news/2014/04/29/first-stage-landing-video

Most of NASA’s funding goes to out-of-house contractors, such as SpaceX, in the private sector. By advocating for an increase in NASA’s budget you are helping SpaceX reduce the cost of space exploration for all of us! Take action today! Tell Congress to increase NASA’s budget: http://www.penny4nasa.org/take-action/

The first image shows the Falcon 9’s first stage prior to launch with landing legs attached. The second image is of the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying cargo to the ISS. And the third image was captured by the Falcon 9 rocket’s onboard camera right before its successful splashdown at sea showing a controlled landing with the landing legs deployed properly.

Image Credit: SpaceX / NASA

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     Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, on Northern Merritt Island, Florida, was built in the mid-1960s, to launch the Saturn V moon rocket for peaceful exploration of space. Over the years, this complex launched every Saturn V, Saturn IB, all the Space Shuttle missions, and an Ares I rocket. Needless to say, this is the most iconic launch facility in history. The complex is split into two launch pads; 39A and 39B. Both pads launched Saturn rockets and shuttles, but the future of these pads will tell very different stories.

     The first photo in the set shows the crawlerway leading out to Launch Pad 39A. This path holds the weight of the crawler transporter as it moves the launch vehicles from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the pad. The second and third photos display the pad itself, which is now owned by SpaceX. As you can see, the shuttle launch tower is still in place, but this will eventually be scrapped, and SpaceX will convert the area for use with the Falcon 9 Heavy rocket. When this vehicle launches, it will be the most powerful rocket currently flying. The fourth photo shows a Liquid Hydrogen tank, which stored propellant for the space shuttle.

     Photo number five shows Launch Pad 39B, photographed from Launch Control Center, 3.5 miles away. The sixth photo shows the pad up close. NASA removed the shuttle launch tower from this facility, and constructed three large towers, used for lightning suppression, shown up close in the seventh photo. This pad configuration allows multiple types of launch vehicles to operate here, and will allow commercial companies to rent the facility when NASA doesn’t need it. NASA’s primary use for 39B will focus around the enormous Space Launch System (SLS), which is the most powerful rocket in history, edging out the Saturn V boosters that previously launched here. 

     The SLS mobile launch platform and tower, stored next to the Vehicle Assembly Building, can be seen in in the eighth photo. Our final photo shows a shuttle mobile launch platform next to the new SLS launch platform and tower. 

Watch on smithsonianmag.tumblr.com

SpaceX Rocket Causes Stampede

Private spaceflight company SpaceX caused quite a stir when they tested out their experimental reusable rocket in Texas. Nicknamed Grasshopper, the rocket is able to go into hover mode, move sideways, and return back to its launchpad.

It turns out, cows aren’t that impressed with space exploration as they run in front of the camera as Grasshopper ascends.

Ed note: Check out our article on Elon Musk, CEO and chief designer of SpaceX and winner of our American Ingenuity Award last year.

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Last night at a press event, SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled plans for the next generation of Dragon capsule. Dubbed Dragon V2, the vehicle would hold seven astronauts for a flight to the International Space Station. Boasting leather seats (yes, finally, a spaceship with leather seats!!), touchscreens and 3D-printed components, Dragon V2 is a “big step in technology” from its predecessor spacecraft. 

The capsule will have the ability to propulsively land anywhere on earth, offering more precise landings and greater flexibility. The spacecraft’s solar panels will be attached to the service trunk of the vehicle, offering greater aerodynamics in the atmosphere upon launch.

Check out spaceflightnow’s article of the event here, or the trailer of the new craft here. A great photo gallery from the verge is here.

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