Space X Doubt. Blue Origin Ambition. Ariane/ULA Opportunity. Roscosmos Confusion. Mars! Bob Zimmerman,

Sep 14, 2016, 06:05 AM

09-13-2016 (Photo: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, due to launch on Saturday, exploded on a Cape Canaveral launchpad. Credit Reuters) Twitter: @BatchelorShow

Space X Doubt. Blue Origin Ambition. Ariane/ULA Opportunity. Roscosmos Confusion. Mars! Bob Zimmerman,

“In the heat of competition: Doug Messier has written an excellent essay today raising some serious questions about SpaceX and its methods of operation. The issues he raises go the heart of the company’s future. Moreover, he notes the unusual nature of the September 1 launchpad explosion that, unless explained, threatens the company business model. The rarity of a satellite launch vehicle exploding during fueling had people racking their brains and scouring the Internet to find out the last time something like this happened. At least in the United States, that turned out to be more than 50 years ago when rocketry was in its infancy and accidents were much more frequent.

The lack of any modern precedents and the speed of the accident — Musk tweeted that engineers were reviewing around 3,000 channels of telemetry and video data that cover only 35-55 milliseconds — are making the investigation challenging. Musk has said it is the most difficult of the six failure investigations the company has conducted since it was founded in 2002. Messier also takes a close look at SpaceX’s overall approach to innovation and development, and notes its unusual and somewhat risky nature. Read it all. It provides valuable information for anyone who wants to understand honestly the state of the American launch industry.”

“The competition heats up: Blue Origin today unveiled the orbital rocket it plans to launch before 2020, dubbed New Glenn. Named in honor of John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, New Glenn is based around two variants – a two stage and a three stage launch vehicle – and a reusable booster stage. No information has been released as to where the booster stage will land, although it is believed Blue Origin is evaluating the option of an “ocean-going platform,” per planning documentation associated with the launch site. “Building, flying, landing, and re-flying New Shepard has taught us so much about how to design for practical, operable reusability. And New Glenn incorporates all of those learnings,” Mr. Bezos added.

Mr. Bezos added that the two-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall, and its second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine (the BE-4U). The 3-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall. A single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powers its third stage. The booster and the second stage are identical in both variants. The three-stage variant – with its high specific impulse hydrogen upper stage – is capable of flying demanding beyond-LEO missions. The rocket will be quite large and comparable more to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy than its Falcon 9, indicating that the competition is not only forcing companies to lower their prices, it is forcing new designs to be larger and have more capacity.”