February 2012

“Upon completion of Xaero’s free flight hover earlier this month, she performed yet another successful free flight to an altitude of 61 meters on February 17th, 2012. The exterior view of the flight reveals a bobble at apogee, as well as a slight rocking motion after touchdown. Despite these imperfections, the flight was a complete success, with all test objectives reached or exceeded.”Masten Space Systems

There are some great onboard shots in this video.

NASA has released a printable poster for the Commercial Crew Program. Here it is:


click to enlarge and link to NASA hosted full size poster


“This is a printable poster of the aerospace companies NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) entered into Space Act Agreements with during Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) activities. “ -NASA
Image credit: NASA

Are you a fan of SpaceX or just a space modeler or rocketeer looking for your next build? Why not build a SpaceX Falcon 9 in time for its first launch to the IIS in April?
You have a options when it comes to the build.

First option is you can buy the official model
made by SpaceX and sold at Amazon


SpaceX’s Falcon 9 kit

Second Option is to build a paper model

The static model is available to download and print from The Lower Hudson Valley Paper Model E-Gift Shop for free. (scroll 3/4 down the page)


You can download the static model and with a few simple conversions make it flyable like I did.
Here is my flyable model:

My Paper flyable Falcon 9

The model can be built using the standard static build and replacing the centering rings with more substantial material. I choose to build the Falcon 9 with Dragon crew capsule. I used foam board with a 13 mm hole used to run a 13 mm tube throughout the length. The rocket separates at the Dragon capsule and successfully flies on 13mm motors. I made the fins from clear plastic to keep the Falcon 9 no fin look.

Third option is to scratch build
See this scratch build here

Which ever option you choose the Falcon 9 makes a great addition to the fleet.

For more details on the Falcon 9 check out these references:
Falcon 9 – Wikipedia
Falcon 9 official site at SpaceX 

…and for more great paper models please visit my Ultimate Paper Rocket Guide

On 13 February 2012, the first Vega lifted off on its maiden flight from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012 - click for high res version

Vega Launch Vehicle VV01 - photo:ESA

The maiden flight of the ESA’s Vega launch vehicle is scheduled for Monday February 13th. The Vega  VV01 flight window is between 5am and 8am ET. The rocket will carry a payload consisting of 2 Italian Satellites(LARES and ALMASat-1) and 7 CubeSats from European universities.

The Upper Module and Payload section of the rocket are about 9 meters in height and sit upon a 3 stage engine configuration.

Vega Engine Stats

First Stage

Height 10.5 m
Diameter 3 m
Propellant mass 88 t
Burn time 107 s
Max. engine thrust 3040 kN
Second Stage

Height 7.5 m
Diameter 1.9 m
Propellant mass 23.9 t
Burn time 71.6 s
Max. engine thrust 1200 kN
Third Stage

Height 3.85 m
Diameter 1.9 m
Propellant mass 10.1 t
Burn time 117 s
Max. engine thrust 313 kN

Vega VV01 Site

Watch the Launch here

Xaero has finally been set free from tethered flight and in this new video rises into the sky for a 22 second textbook flight.


NASA’s administrator announced today a challenge to commercial space companies.

“Now, we’ve launched our call for the next phase of our ambitious program to develop an integrated system for transporting crew to LEO and potentially astronauts to the ISS. Earlier today, we released an announcement for proposals that asks U.S. companies to bring us their best plans to achieve a crewed orbital flight demonstration by the middle of the decade. The resulting space act agreement awards will range from $300 – $500 million, and we anticipate multiple awards.”

For the full announcement go here

Since winning the X-Prize for the Lunar lander Challenge  back in 2009 Masten Space Systems has continued to make technological advances. Specializing in VTVL(Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing) vehicles it has a number of test projects on the burner. In 2011 Masten signed a $400,000 contract with NASA to do demonstration flights at Launch complex 36 at Cape Canaveral.

Two of their vehicles are the Xaero and the Xombie. Here are some videos of testing these two vehicles.


“This lengthy hover flight of Xaero was intended to test our new closed loop controller across Xaero’s entire weight regime. Additionally, the modified algorithms were further validated in the presence of high winds, as shown by the fluttering of the tether. The new controller performed beautifully, rendering the flight a total success.”

“A view from the ground of Masten Space Systems’ first in-air engine relight on May 26, 2010. The test was a complete success and is another step forward in our test program.”

SuperDraco test - image:SpaceX

Hawthorne, CA – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has successfully test fired SuperDraco, a powerful new engine that will play a critical role in the company’s efforts to change the future of human spaceflight.

“SuperDraco engines represent the best of cutting edge technology,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Technology Officer. “These engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make Dragon the safest spacecraft in history and enable it to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy.”

The SuperDraco is an advanced version of the Draco engines currently used by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to maneuver on orbit and during reentry. As part of SpaceX’s state-of-the-art launch escape system, eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety should an emergency occur during launch.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program awarded SpaceX $75 million in April of last year to begin work developing the escape system in order to prepare the Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. Less than nine months later, SpaceX engineers have designed, built and tested the engine.

In a series of recent tests conducted at the company’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, the SuperDraco sustained full duration, full thrust firing as well as a series of deep throttling demonstrations.

SpaceX’s launch escape system has many advantages over past systems. It is inherently safer because it is not jettisoned like all other 
escape systems. This distinction provides astronauts with the unprecedented ability to escape from danger at any point during the launch, 
not just in the first few minutes. The eight SuperDracos provide redundancy, so that even if one engine fails an escape can still be carried 
out successfully.

SuperDracos can also be restarted multiple times if necessary and the engines will have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power. In addition, as a part of a recoverable Dragon spacecraft, the engines can be used repeatedly, helping to advance SpaceX’s long-term goal of making spacecraft more like airplanes, which can be flown again and again with minimal maintenance between flights. -SpaceX press release



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers