SpaceX Launches OTV-5, Lands Another Falcon as Hurricane Approaches

OTV-5 launch. Photo: SpaceX

This morning SpaceX launched the Air Force’s reusable X-37B ‘mini shuttle” Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) from KSC launch pad 39A, putting the vehicle on orbit and bringing the rocket’s first stage booster back to Earth for another successful landing on “Landing Zone 1” just a few miles south of the launch site, just minutes after liftoff.

It was actually the fifth spaceflight for the X-37B program (OTV-5), and its first onboard a Falcon 9 (all previous were with ULA).

I’m incredibly proud of the 45th Space Wing’s contributions to the X-37B program,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander. “A strong relationship with our mission partners, such as the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, is vital toward maintaining the Eastern Range as the World’s Premiere Gateway to Space.”

The X-37B is led by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office with its operations overseen by Air Force Space Command’s 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron.

Built by Boeing, the OTV is designed to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operate experiments, which can be returned to and examined on Earth.

The X-37B’s first flight launched April 22, 2010, and spent nearly 225 days aloft. The second X-37B mission was launched March 5, 2011, and spent 469 days aloft. The third mission was launched on Dec. 11, 2012, and spent 674 days in orbit.

OTV-4 launched in May 2015, and stayed on orbit for nearly two years before landing at KSC in May 2017.

Boeing built two X-37Bs, and they alternate missions. The Air Force has taken over two former space shuttle orbiter processing facilities (OPF’s) at KSC, where the spaceplanes are now processed before and after flight (X-37B lands on the KSC shuttle runway nearby now).

The booster which launched OTV-5 is now standing tall at Landing Zone 1, but work is underway to quickly safe the vehicle and get it stored, as a powerful Hurricane Irma is raging towards Florida, and current forecast tracks bring it very close, if not on top of, the space center and Florida’s entire Atlantic coast.

SpaceX conducted several “controlled oceanic touchdowns” of their Falcon 9s in 2014, followed by four mixed-success efforts to physically land on their offshore barge (or ASDS), “Of Course I Still Love You”, throughout 2015 (that’s right, I said barge get over it).

The first wholly successful drone ship landing came in April 2016 and, since then, no fewer than nine Upgraded Falcon 9 first stages have been brought smoothly back to the ASDS deck. Added to this tally, with today’s successful landing after OTV-5 launch, seven booster cores have now accomplished “land” landings on Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Watch a replay of the launch and landing below:


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Missions » Air Force OTV »


  1. And the steamroller moves on. 13 flights and 10 landings so far this year. So much for the idea that F9 not was not up to the task for USAF missions.

  2. “So much for the idea that F9 not was not up to the task for USAF missions.”

    No…it is still a fact that ULA has never blown up and Falcon has twice. The Air Force should not have risked their space plane but obviously the back room deal was done. It is a game we are not allowed to watch.

      • Get with the program Jones. $100M+ visible savings for the taxpayer for one launch equals hidden back room deal in a game are not allowed to watch. We shouldn’t have to explain this to you. Don’t you realize that cost, flight rate, and technical feasibility are totally irrelevant for the true believer in spaceflight?

    • These thieves in federal “service” at NASA should be happy they got Crew Dragon killed with a farcical requirement for 12 tests that wasted the hardware (the same NASA that thinks the SLS can safely carry crew on flight no 2).

      I think in the back of their mind, the cost plus thieves must be wondering, “How does he do it? Who pushes all the phony baloney government jobs paper?”, and they honestly never realize that paper doesn’t need to be at all.

      • The “thief” in this story is your hero Tom. His engineering of subsidies and influence peddling definitely make those in federal service the people you want building a launch vehicle.

        The brain washed fanaticism of Musk fans is scary.

              • Satellite launches and Human Space Flight are conflated by SpaceX to decieve the public into thinking they are actually about space exploration. It is a scam. And the legion of fans that incessantly post free advertising for Musk on these forums are part of that scam. Everyone who has a basic grasp of space technology knows this.

                • And this Gary Church sockpuppet going by MichaelatNASA cannot answer why $500/lb to LEO costs are not far better than $5000/lb to LEO costs. Everyone with any grasp of the economics of spaceflight knows the SLS will be cancelled so NASA can afford to develop the payloads a Falcon family, ITS concept, or Blue Origin rocket will lift.

                  • Yes, I have noticed you and se jones call anyone that criticizes Musk or spaceX a “Gary Church sockpuppet”- like it is satan himself speaking blasphemy.

                    Pathetic. You “know” the SLS will be cancelled….pathetic.

                    • The cult of Musk fills forum comment sections excommunicating and excoriating any heretics. They mocked, insulted, and harassed the critics into silence years ago. What is left is a legion of goons patrolling these forums and zero public discourse on space exploration. The only thing generally discussed is how great the flagship company is doing. This has become embarrassingly obvious so now the comment sections are best kept empty by way of poisonous sarcastic thought policemen.
                      And here we are.

                      This is the AmericaSpace mission statement. Incessantly doxing Gary Church is not in that statement.

                      “As America’s human space flight program transitions from the Shuttle program to one focused on beyond earth exploration, AmericaSpace will continue to cover this evolution in spaceflight while expanding our coverage of aeronautics, milspace, and planetary exploration.”

        • He has engineered no subsidies of note. GE created the solar subsidy*, and GM created the EV subsidy.

          ULA engineered it’s ~$1bn subsidy just to exist, and you seem untroubled by that.

          *I think that was GE. I looked up the GM subsidy for electric vehicles just yesterday, so I know they did that one.

            • And obvious lie when applied to SpaceX, because SpaceX receives no subsidies [i]and[/i] again, none of Musks companies receive federal subsidies created for them.

              Tesla took GM’s subsidy from them.
              Solar City took GE subsidy from it.

              There is no moral hazard accruing to Musk in the $4.9bn lie, because he did not lobbying for those subsidies.

              You also have no evidence of “backroom deals” or evidence SpaceX should have had to sue for access to the government launch market, much less stood for the crony capitalist ULA locking up that market in the first place.

              • Your “crony capitalist ULA” has launched well over one hundred times without fail.
                And what does “moral hazard” mean? Nonsense. Like all spaceX fans you just babble endless streams of nonsensical misdirection. SpaceX is essentially one giant subsidy by way of NASA. Everyone understands this except brainwashed Musk groupies.

          • No one really knows what the future costs of SLS launches and the diverse heavy payloads it will send uphill into space will be in ten to thirty years from now or how valuable and critically important those future SLS launches and very heavy payloads could be in enabling the Home Planet’s capabilities of tapping Lunar resources and building strong defenses against any incoming nasty NEO that just might be heading for the city you or I live in.

            If you don’t think nature would target you or me, you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately.


            Additive 3D printing, graphene, various other new materials, and evolving manufacturing technologies could significantly lower the costs of the SLS, other launchers, and their payloads.
            The Space Shuttle Main Engines can continue to evolve or possibly be replaced by highly efficient future hydrolox rocket engines that make use of nanoparticles of metallic hydrogen mixed with liquid hydrogen as a propellant and those future rocket engines might have as high an Isp as 1,700.
            The more often the SLS launches, the lower its launch costs. No one can really predict if we will need one SLS launch per year or twenty such launches per year in ten to thirty years.
            The SLS may eventually have several reusability options.
            If eventually each year the SLS is launching several Blue Origin lunar lander missions, several other large lunar lander missions, one new super large module for the permanent International Space Station, one science mission to the outer Solar System, several commercial low Lunar orbit space station missions, several ‘Battle Star’ NEO and Missile Defense Satellite missions, and several International Orion civilian and military missions per year, each of those launches would be much cheaper than if the SLS only launches one International Orion mission per year.
            Soon the SLS with its 8.4 meter diameter core will have the widest faring options as well as well the heaviest payload capabilities to LEO, GEO, and Lunar orbit. And that effective combination of various super wide farings and heavy duty payload capabilities may efficiently and quickly enable a wide variety of civilian and military space missions that no other launcher in the world could accomplish anytime soon.
            If Russia eventually has a launcher family with a 70 to 170 or even 180 ton LEO payload capability, that can also launch 25 to 30% lighter payloads when reusing the boosters and cores, then it is quite likely the US will also eventually have one or several launchers with similar or perhaps even much greater capabilities.
            Eventually Blue Origin, SpaceX, Orbital ATK, ULA, Europe, India, China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, and some other countries and large companies probably could also build such heavy lift launchers similar to Russia’s with sometimes used reusability options for the boosters and first stage core that would decreases those various launchers’ payloads to LEO by 25 to 30% from what they could do in a non-reusable mode.
            Don’t worry so much about counting SpaceX launcher beans. Just stay cool and remember that Mr. Elon Musk, Mr. Jeff Bezos, and a whole lot of other folks around the world want to make some really big money on the Moon and in the rest of Cislunar Space. That ongoing Cislunar money making process and reality will eventually grow large enough to help justify super large investments in lots of beyond Cislunar Space missions.
            Time will tell how the Lunar resource tapping businesses and the industrialization of the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space will work out.
            And if you must worry, worry productively about all the nasty NEOs that will eventually hit and hurt the Home Planet if we continue to squabble and squabble and fail in building serious in-depth defenses against those super fast incoming NEOs.

            • The core of the SLS and its Exploration Upper Stage is 8.4 meters in diameter.

              The core of the New Glenn and its second stage is 7 meters in diameter.

              The core of the Falcon Heavy and its second stage is 3.66 meters in diameter.

              Ultimate fairing diameter, even with a hammerhead design, tends to be somewhat restricted by the diameter of the core and second or third stage.


              “New Glenn customers so far are Eutelsat and OneWeb for one launch and five launches, respectively.”

              And, “Mowry said the 7-meter fairing is the result of input from market demand and customer reactions. The original fairing was 5.4 meters, he said.”

              And, “With a 7-meter fairing, New Glenn will be able to launch higher quantities of small satellites or geostationary satellites with larger antennas and structures.”

              From: ‘Blue Origin enlarges New Glenn’s payload fairing, preparing to debut upgraded New Shepard’ By Caleb Henry — September 12, 2017

              All three of these powerful and large launchers, and some other large, medium, and small American launchers as well, should hopefully be able to make useful and sustained contributions to enlarging and maintaining the permanent International Space Station, Lunar resource finding and tapping missions, and the industrialization of the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space.

                • 9m is given as the largest diameter the current tooling can accommodate for metal launchers. If it is to be carbon fiber, entirely new autoclaves will be needed so they may as well build to accommodate the largest diameter they anticipate using over the life of the autoclave. That would probably be up to 30m, which would in the meantime let them cure multiple sections.

  3. While Atlas V has “never blown up”, it has had two flights that were so “anomalous” that they prompted the grounding of Atlas V until the root causes could be determined.

    Delta IV Heavy’s first flight was a “partial failure”. DemoSat was placed in the wrong orbit and the other two satellites (3CS-1 and 3CS-2) failed to reach orbit.

    Furthermore, to be fair, ULA has “never blown up” a launch vehicle mostly because it did not develop either the Atlas V or Delta IV. These were developed by the parent companies before they merged their launch vehicle businesses into ULA. The previous versions of both Atlas and Delta absolutely did have launch failures, but the parent companies learned from the failures and made sure the latest versions were as reliable as can be. That reliability has come at a very steep price (literally).

    ULA ignored the up and coming SpaceX at its own peril. The fact is that ULA no longer holds a monopoly for US government launches. One cannot argue that this is a huge shift in the launch market in the US.

    • “ULA ignored the up and coming SpaceX at its own peril.”

      Stop making stuff up for dramatic effect. Neither the Atlas V or Delta IV has ever blown up.

      SpaceX has sued and politically intrigued and made back room deals to get where it is. The taxpayer largely paid for the company in hopes of our own ride to the ISS. See how that has worked out?
      You are ignoring that.

      • And you are ignoring the three Delta III failures in a row. In two of those I would count the vehicle as exploding one way or another. Delta IV DCSS based on heritage of Delta III.

      • Why should SpaceX not sue on behalf of all America, to prevent crony capitalists from corruptly locking up any part of the launch market? What back room deals do you pretend are needed for lower launch costs to be embraced by a customer?

        • Why shouldn’t Musk sue the Air Force of his adopted country?
          If you don’t know why you are…a Musk fan.

          • @ MichaelatNASA

            ” Why shouldn’t Musk sue the Air Force of his adopted country? ”

            Yes, why shouldn’t he. It was legally the most above board way to rescue them from the crony capitalism of ULA being permitted to lock up the market.

            ” If you don’t know why you are…a Musk fan. ”

            I’m a fan of the cost of access to LEO falling, because that is critical to humanity settling the solar system. Why you are opposed to that is the better question.

            • The “cost of access to LEO falling” is a worn out advertising slogan and is code for a satellite launch company paid for by the taxpayer who thought they were buying a quick and cheap ride to the ISS -and instead set Elon Musk up for free. It is not about “humanity settling the solar system”, it is about spacex launching satellites for profit.
              Any fool can see that. You are just part of the flim-flam Tom.

              • And regardless of your lies, a Falcon9 costs at most $2k/lb to LEO. 1st stage recovered. The FH will be less than half that with all but the 2nd stage recovered. An ITS methalox refuel to refly vehicle will be no more than $500/lb, and may be far less.

                ” it is about spacex launching satellites for profit. ”

                And what problem would a non-sociopathic person have with that, since competition will reduce the cost to a low integer multiple of the energy cost to orbit a pound?

        • Why should” Americans “not sue on behalf of all America, to prevent” the “crony” capitalist political friend of a former ‘lost in space’ President from again and again sliding his snake oil covered hands into the pockets of American taxpayers while loudly spouting ‘Mars Soon’ nonsense?

          Forget that question because it is way too difficult for you and a Jim Bridenstine broom will hopefully soon sweep away the nonscientific ‘lost in snake oil space’ nonsense and focus our space policy once again on the Moon’s surface and its many valuable resources and opportunities.

          “Assuming that sanity prevails, both the fake ‘Mission to Mars’ and the gimmicky ‘cislunar proving ground’ ideas will be dropped. What’s required now is a sustained, incremental approach to spaceflight beyond LEO, an architecture culminating in a return to the Moon and the processing of its resources to fuel a permanent space-based transportation system. His published writings clearly indicate how intricately Jim Bridenstine understands these needs.”

          From: ‘Thoughts on the Job of NASA Administrator’ By Paul Spudis September 3, 2017

          • @James

            There is no reason whatsoever for NASA to prefer going to the Moon or Mars, if for no particular reason only one is to be undertaken. The differences in settling the two are a nullity, other than the resources on MArs are a superset of what is on the Moon and it is logistically easier to justify keeping Moon settlers on a shorter leash.

            We already know you ignore all the actual evidence of the hazard radiation poses to people in space, which is that a 1 foot thickness of polyethylene provides all the shielding required for even very long periods.

            Sanity in NASA policy would be to presume launch costs will fall towards a low integer multiple of the energy cost required for it as available in kerolox and methalox fuel mixtures, which is to say well below $100/lb.

            In that cost regime, there is no meaningful question between going to the Moon or to Mars (and the Belt, and the gas giant moons). With that cost regime people go where they will.

            Spudis is an old dog refusing to recognize the cost assumptions which have dominated his useful working life have meaning only if market forces are not permitted to operate on the launch market.

            • “-no reason whatsoever for NASA to prefer going to the Moon or Mars-”

              You are so completely out of touch it is incredible- or you are lying on purpose like crazy.

              • Your world view has no relevance unless it costs more than $4k999/pound to LEO.

                In a meaningful way it can be said I am replying to a dinosaur who hopes to be appointed the last supplier of buggy whip technology to the Crown.

            • “Spudis is an old dog refusing to recognize the cost assumptions which have dominated his useful working life have meaning only if market forces are not permitted to operate on the launch market.” – TomPerkins

              Your persistent space ignorance is showing. Dr. Paul Spudis wants a doable and robust American Space Program that taps useful Lunar resources and builds infrastructure in Cislunar Space. His space views are logical and scientific while yours are neither.

              You are confused and endlessly promote a highly partisan, nonscientific, extremely risky, and super costly Mars Soon fantasy cult that ignores the realities and needs of the Home Planet that even your cult’s American government subsidized leader has finally and publicly recognized.

              “With all those issues, what got lost in the shuffle was Musk’s apparent interest in—or at least support of—a lunar base. ‘If you want to get the public really fired up, I think we’ve got to have a base on the Moon,’ he said at the end of a long answer about educating the public about the ISS. That triggered applause from the audience that packed a hotel ballroom for the event. ‘And then going beyond that,’ he added, ‘getting people to Mars.’”

              “Having some permanent presence on another heavenly body: a Moon base, and then getting people to Mars and beyond,” he said. ‘That’s the continuance of the dream of Apollo.’”

              Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, noted:

              “‘There is a business case for the Moon. You have folks that are Mars folks. We all saw the movie The Martian and loved it and thought we want to go,’ Bigelow said. ‘But there are certain practicalities that really, I think, need to cause us to focus on the Moon first.’”

              Both quotes were from: ‘The Moon is a harsh milestone’
              By Jeff Foust July 24, 2017 At:

              “After months of rumors, President Trump has finally nominated Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) to become the next Administrator of NASA.”

              And, “He is well known for the wide-ranging American Space Renaissance Act that he introduced in the last Congress.”

              And, “Last fall, he did come out enthusiastically in favor of lunar exploration, exclaiming ‘this is our Sputnik moment’ at a meeting of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG).”

              From: ‘Bridenstine Nominated to Be NASA Administrator’
              By Marcia Smith September 2, 2017

              Continue with your Mars Soon fantasy cult nonsense TomPerkins, or join with Jim Bridenstine, Elon Musk, Robert Bigelow, Paul Spudis, Jeff Bezos, many scientific and business space leaders around the world, and lots of other logical folks who can see the many business and other real benefits for our Home Planet of a permanent Moon base.

  4. Ok Ok Ok I know this is all so frightening to The Legacy Space Industry people that follow this site but remember the path of SpaceX is one that has been pursued by the Government and NASA for 50 years in trying to find cheap launch services. The Shuttle was supposed to fly weekly at $1000 per pound with a 2 week turnaround…Then the Venturestar was going to be $1,000 per pound with a 2 week turnaround…SpaceX represents the efficiency of the single manufacture concept using current market driven manufacturing abilities. I don’t know their prices are per pound but I think it is close to $1,000 per pound. And Musk has said publically that beginning in 2018 the NEW first stage boosters coming off the assembly line will have …24 hour turnaround capability. Yes it’s true, the free market is tough on monopolies!

    • Russia and Europe and everyone else with large rockets can also play various overt and covert large launcher subsidy games.

      Unfortunately, “corporate welfare” is often the way the national and international large launcher game is played.

      What was and is disastrous and politically and morally unacceptable was the use of NASA to play highly partisan, nonscientific, foolish, and noisy ‘Mars Soon’ political games to repeatedly enrich and benefit the former President’s political ‘friend’, “the king of corporate welfare”, and damage and delay as long as possible America leading the world in returning humans to the Moon to tap its many resources and other great opportunities.

      How many folks suffered, precious time was thrown away, and billions of dollars were wasted by the former President’s inane ‘lost in space’ and ‘Mars Soon’ policies is difficult for most folks to understand or accept.

      However, one can learn from the past but the past is gone and cannot be changed.

      We need to focus on how to enable our Lunar resource centered near future in Cislunar Space and the real hope for an inspiring, profitable, and healthy future that the Moon and its many resources and opportunities offer for everyone on the Home Planet.

      Various numbers of RD-171Ms rocket engines will power Russia’s upcoming heavy launcher family and enable those powerful launchers to place into LEO payloads from 70 to 170 or even 180 tons.

      See: ‘Russia’s evolving rocket plans’ By Bart Hendrickx September 5, 2017

      Such a highly capable Russian heavy-lift launcher family along with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, Blue Origin’s New Glenn and Blue Moon lander, China’s Long March 9 family, and America’s SLS and International Orion spaceship should play useful roles in tapping Lunar resources, building a permanent base, and industrializing the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space.


      “The Long March 9 (LM-9, CZ-9, or Changzheng 9, Chinese: 长征九号) is a Chinese super-heavy carrier rocket that is currently in study. It is planned for a maximum payload capacity of at least 140,000 kg[19] to LEO or at least 50,000 kg to Lunar Transfer Orbit.[20] Its first flight is expected in 2025 in preparation for a lunar landing sometime in the 2030s. It has been stated that around 70% of the hardware and components needed for a test flight are currently undergoing testing, with the first engine test to occur by the end of 2018. The proposed design would be a three-staged rocket, with the initial core having a diameter of 10 meters and use a cluster of four engines. Multiple variants on the rocket have been proposed, CZ-9 being the largest with four liquid-fuel boosters with the aforementioned LEO payload capacity of 140,000 kg, CZ-9A having just two boosters and a LEO payload capacity of 100,000 kg, and finally CZ-9B having just the core stage and a LEO payload capacity of 50,000 kg.[16]”

      From: ‘Long March (rocket family)’ Wikipedia

      • @James

        The regurgitation of relatively meaningless facts is entertaining. Thank you.

        Because the sole task not conceptually solved in detail that remains before the solar system is settled, is how 99.9% or better sealed ecosystems supporting healthy human life are to be engineered–and this is the same challenge wherever in the Solar System you go–no time whatsoever has been lost to interest in settling Mars.

        Almost 50 years or more have been lost to the politically convenient fiction that getting mass into LEO will always be many thousands of dollars per pound, but that is at an end and that cost regime will not be returned to in the United States. Other nations are welcome to provide the appearance of competition to spur US domestic interest in space exploration while those other nations pursue their interests at disastrous cost. They will of course not all fail to develop low cost access to LEO, at some point the appearance of competition will become real.

        It scarcely matters what the specific mass orbited by a given launcher is, other than how larger capacities necessarily become less expensive per pound as single fixed costs are spread across larger denominators of capacity. What matters is how the cost per pound to orbit is reduced. The capacity of the lowest cost system is simply made a part of mission planning and accommodated by more or less in orbit assembly by docking, prior to the next logical step of space settlement as a set of mature systems. Bootprints and flags missions are welcome to be continued in the meantime, and it does not really matter where they go.

        Whether from the ISS or some other platform, the aggregation of excess capacity in a given launch by low cost high capacity launchers must be undertaken, most probably by high Isp robotic tugs. Fuels, water, food, medical supplies, tooling, bulk material such as powdered metals and plastic prills, all are reasonably plausible cargoes to fill out any other wise unused capacity in a cheap bulk launcher.

        That China develops yet another expendable launcher is meaningless in the long run.

        Look for indefinite long period ECLSS development and freight waystation on orbit for the next meaningful steps in solar system settlement. Whether Apollo style missions depart for the Moon, Mars, or both in the meantime–that scarcely matters.

        • “There is no reason whatsoever for NASA to prefer going to the Moon or Mars, if for no particular reason only one is to be undertaken.” – TomPerkins

          “The regurgitation of relatively meaningless” opinion “was entertaining. Thank you.”

          • What reason do you pretend there is then?

            The quantity and variety of resources on Mars are greater than what is on the Moon. Travel time is trivial, everything has to work or have working backups the whole time they are away from Earth.

            Why not go for the brass ring which brighter and has more metal?

            • I’m an old Space Cadet that used to drive various trucks and have hauled a lot of different kinds of loads.

              Your comment is beyond strange, “Travel time is trivial, everything has to work or have working backups the whole time they are away from Earth.”

              Travel time in space adds greatly to mission risks, costs, and radiation exposure.

              Trying to mitigate known and unknown risks, known radiation issues, extended zero gravity medical problems, and the additional long mission mass requirements adds more mass and costs and unresolved reliability risk issues and while extending the meantime to failure in designs adds to research costs and can add up quickly to much higher costs per long mission compared to a short mission.

              That is why it will be quite few decades before we can go to live on or near Pluto but within a few decades we may have lots of folks living on the Moon and in orbit around the Moon.

              If my ‘spaceship truck’ could fly to the Moon in three days, I could maybe carry 10 tons of payload supplies to the Lunar surface and 10 tons of Lunar resource products as payload to Earth in six days. And if I got into trouble while flying there or back, there could be spaceships both on the Moon, Lunar orbit, high Earth orbit, low Earth orbit, or even sitting in a Launch on Need backup role on Earth that could save me.

              If my same ‘spaceship truck’ could fly to Pluto in four months and back in another four months, I could carry zip payload because of the extra mass of the radiation shielding, food, water, oxygen, artificial gravity unit, toilet paper, many spare parts, and other items with significant mass would greatly exceed the 10 ton cargo payload capacity of my spaceship truck.

              In fact, most likely my super overloaded spaceship truck couldn’t go to Pluto or anywhere else, and if I magically used pixie dust technology to try to do it anyway and got into serious trouble far away from the Earth or Pluto, there most likely wouldn’t be anyone nearby who could save me and I would die.

              With lots and lots of technological pixie dust, I might be able to fly maybe one roundtrip Pluto mission with my spaceship truck per year, and be able to carry zip payload a year, and then wait on Earth for four months while my spaceship truck is rebuilt.

              Obviously, my spaceship truck flying Pluto missions would cost tons of money each year and make a big negative profit and I would of course be put in prison for six years for being guilty of multiple counts of massive spaceship business fraud.

              However, with no need for technological pixie dust, I could fly maybe one Moon mission with my spaceship truck each week and rest on Sunday, and be able to carry 10 tons of payload each direction I flew, and each year I could fly 36 such roundtrips and then wait on Earth for four months while my spaceship truck is rebuilt.

              That would mean I could put 360 tons of payload on the Moon and 360 tons of payload on the Earth each year. That could earn me, and a smart bank, lots of money. I could maybe retire after working six years!

            • Distance and thus “Travel time” with our current limited technological base makes a big difference in total effective payload mass that can be safely moved from one place to another.

              And you wrote: “Travel time is trivial”. Wrong. I’ve gone on lots and lots of trips across America and the world. Long travel time and distance means a lot more careful preparation, worries, known and unknown risks, and costs.

              Pluto is a risky place. When things go seriously wrong, and they will go seriously wrong at some point, it is a very long and high risk haul back to the excellent hospitals and safety of Earth.

              The Moon is a risky place. When things go seriously wrong, and they will go seriously wrong at some point, it is a short three day and not so risky haul back to the excellent hospitals and safety of Earth.

              The Moon, and its resources and many opportunities, is valuable for the Home Planet precisely because it is very close to the Home Planet compared to other far more distant resource rich and someday useful spheres. And profitable large and small payloads can be quickly, efficiently, and far more safely hauled from the Earth to the Moon and from the Moon to the Earth than they can be hauled to and from far more distant spheres.

              Dead astronauts and failed space programs due to intellectual laziness and gross incompetence in understanding what our Home World’s current political, technological, intellectual, and economic bases are capable of implementing and supporting over short and extended periods of time in traveling through space and permanently staying on a nearby or far distant sphere is an wonderful example of inane arrogance and obviously false snake oil money grubbing politics.

              You might have noticed that your former ‘Mars Soon’ leader is now talking about the International Space Station and a permanent base on the Moon and both of those places are much closer to Earth than Mars and thus much more useful and easier and cheaper to safely gain access to at this time.

              Maybe Mars will quickly gain in importance once we have various types and sizes of powerful and super high Isp Orion nuclear pulse or other equivalent nuclear spaceships built on or in orbit around the industrialized Moon and capable of quickly and efficiently doing roundtrip Moon-Phobos-Moon missions.

              Another great thing about the nearby Moon is that many different kinds of robots working there can currently be easily and efficiently controlled or monitored in near real time by hundreds or thousands or millions of folks from many countries on the Home Planet.

              In short, the process of industrializing the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space can soon offer large numbers of Lunar robot technological educational opportunities for students and real Lunar robot technology jobs across the Home Planet.

              Creating such new technological jobs for many folks is a useful and wise thing.

              And if some robots get much more intelligent than humans, they probably will not want to spend their time controlling or monitoring robots on the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space. The super smart AI robots will probably get busy at more difficult tasks such as becoming billionaires and the Presidents of various companies and countries.

          • And more to the point, why do you pretend the SLS at <5k/lb to LEO is better than <$500/lb to LEO?

    • It is nice that some folks understand the realities of spaceflight and the usefulness of our Moon:

      “Those lunar resources include water ice in permanently-shadowed regions of craters at the lunar poles. ‘Water is the oil of space,’ said George Sowers, a professor in the new space resources program at the Colorado School of Mines. ‘Strategically, we should view the poles of the moon as the next Persian Gulf.'”

      From: ‘NASA preparing call for proposals for commercial lunar landers’
      By Jeff Foust September 7, 2017

      “Today Alexander said the Blue Moon lunar lander would be optimized to fly on NASA’s Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket that’s due for its first test flight in 2019. When paired with the SLS, Blue Moon could deliver more than 5 tons of cargo to the lunar surface. Smaller payloads could be delivered using New Glenn or other rockets.”

      And, “Alexander said that the lander would use a version of Blue Origin’s hydrogen-fueled BE-3 engine that’s optimized for in-space operation, and that Blue Origin has already made ‘significant investments’ in the technologies needed for the Blue Moon program.”

      From: ‘Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin makes its pitch to Congress for delivering cargo to the moon’
      By Alan Boyle on September 7, 2017

        • Because it presently is funded to fly once a year. This is the result of the ideological war being fought between “NewSpace” and “OldSpace” in the space agency.

          With the focus shifting to lunar resources the LEO-bound inferior lift rockets of NewSpace are on the way out. Increasing SLS “cadence” has already been discussed and there is little doubt as the space station to nowhere and it’s associated dead-end LEO programs end that will happen.

            • I made the qualification Chris. Due to it’s high cost. You made the qualification that it is a “death spiral” and the only people barking Death-to-SLS propaganda are the spacex fans like you.

              “During his comments this week, he noted that due to its high cost, the SLS rocket will only be able to fly once a year. “That doesn’t make for a very compelling human-spaceflight program,” he said. “We’re going to be using some of these other rockets to augment what we’re doing with SLS. So SLS is used for that unique case where we have to launch one very large mass that can’t be broken up into separate pieces”

      • Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin want the Moon and a whole lot more.

        “Moreover, New Glenn is also, as Bezos repeated Tuesday, ‘the smallest orbital rocket Blue Origin will ever build.’ In the future, even larger boosters are coming, such as the previously teased New Armstrong rocket. The tech mogul has recently said that lunar exploration is the next logical step for human activity in space.”

        From: ‘Blue Origin releases details of its monster orbital rocket’ By Eric Berger 3/7/2017

        “‘It’s time for America to return to the moon – this time to stay,’ said Bretton Alexander of Blue Origin in an opening statement. Blue Origin was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and is ‘committed to building the next generation of space transportation infrastructure.'”

        From: ‘Lawmakers eye private moon missions’ By Gray Cole 5 days ago

        “But Seattle billionaire Jeff Bezos has a different kind of off-Earth home in mind when he talks about having millions of people living and working in space.

        His long-range vision focuses on a decades-old concept for huge artificial habitats that are best known today as O’Neill cylinders.”

        And, “The idea is to create cylinder-shaped structures in outer space, and give them enough of a spin that residents on the inner surface of the cylinder could live their lives in Earth-style gravity. The habitat’s interior would be illuminated either by reflected sunlight or sunlike artificial light.”

        From: ‘Where does Jeff Bezos foresee putting space colonists? Inside O’Neill cylinders’
        By Alan Boyle on October 29, 2016

        That all sounds pretty good to me!

      • “In remarks first shared by GeekWire, Bezos said Earth should be zoned as a residential area. ‘I don’t like the Plan B idea that we want to go into space so we have a backup planet,’ he said, noting NASA’s efforts to send probes throughout the solar system. ‘Believe me, this is the best planet. There is no doubt this is the one you want to protect. This is the jewel. We evolved here, we’re kind of made for this planet. It’s gorgeous, and we can use space to protect it.'”

        And, “‘We need to go into space if we want grow as a species,’ he said. ‘Another route would be just to face stasis, but I don’t think that’s as interesting. I don’t think we want to just survive on this planet, I think we want to thrive and do amazing things.'”

        With his reusable approach to lowering the cost of spaceflight, Bezos said Blue Origin will try to provide the infrastructure needed to enable humans to do interesting things in space. Bezos said he believes that if he can provide low-cost access to space, the next generation will figure out how to creatively use zero gravity, 24/7 solar power, as well as valuable resources on the Moon and asteroids.”

        From: ‘Jeff Bezos dismisses idea of a backup plan, says we must protect Earth
        Amazon founder says he’s building rockets so future generations can innovate in space.’
        By Eric Berger – 10/31/2016

        Yep, Mr. Jeff Bezos makes good sense.

  5. Interesting how many of the comments were simply a waste of space and contributed next to nothing to the overall thread.
    Here’s my 2 cents worth.
    SLS wIll be used only if Congress funds launch and missions for it. Missions mean payloads. Can anyone point to a funded mission for SLS? Didn’t think so.
    One can then logically conclude that at this time SLS will not fly an operational mission but will only fly those launches for which there is funding. The future is unpredictable.
    Now compare SLS to New Glen and FH. Both these vehicles have commercial customers waiting to fly.

    • “SLS will be used only if Congress funds launch and missions for it. Missions mean payloads.
      – Neil

      Commercial space efforts and satellites are important and rapidly growing in economic and political influence.

      However, our Congress, and various national governments around the world, are often extensively involved with enabling key long-term economic and security opportunities such as international trade, tourism, and nuclear, wind, and solar power.

      Tourism relies on safe transportation, is a significant part of the world’s economy, and is important for job creation.

      Ensuring the safety and efficiency of trade and tourist transportation systems and their various destinations are normally government responsibilities.

      The Moon and asteroids with their diverse resources and extensive real economic opportunities are national security and economic growth issues for many countries.

      Obviously, polar Lunar H2O and volatiles will be mined and used to significantly reduce Cislunar spaceflight risks and transportation costs.

      What critically important resource of the Moon could also be tapped early in the industrialization of the Moon and what are the various interests of the American and other nations’ governments in the economic and risk reduction implications of that resource in enabling the tapping of asteroid resources?

      “In 1946 the public first became informed of uranium-233 bred from thorium as ‘a third available source of nuclear energy and atom bombs’ (in addition to uranium-235 and plutonium-239), following a United Nations report and a speech by Glenn T. Seaborg.”

      From: ‘Uranium-233’ Wikipedia

      “Lunar meteorite Sayh al Uhaymir 169 with a whopping 30 ppm Th is a “KREEPy” meteorite.”

      From: ‘Lunar Meteorites’

      “The estimated thorium concentration reaches 5.3 µg/g (5.3 micrograms per gram) while the surrounding highland basalts only contain between 0 and 2 µg/g. Compared to the Earth’s thorium concentration of 0.06 µg/g, the Compton–Belkovich’s is very high.

      From: ‘Compton–Belkovich Thorium Anomaly’ Wikipedia

      Thorium could be mined on the Moon and uranium-233 bred from it there.

      And then that uranium-233 could be used for the nuclear material core of the pulse units for the various types of large and risk reducing Orion nuclear pulse spaceships that could be used for mining asteroids and comets and even transporting tourists and other folks to Mars.

    • Mining rich deposits of Lunar thorium and converting it into uranium-233 is quite doable and would require various robust transportation systems to the Lunar surface.

      Various large and robust launchers, such as the SLS, Long March 9, Mini BFR, New Glenn, New Armstrong, and Russia’s upcoming RD-171M based super large launcher, and payloads, such as the International Orion and Blue Moon lander could enable polar Moon mines, Lunar based control, supervision, police, and security options, and Lunar and Cislunar space industrialization.

      Robust and safe deep space Orion nuclear pulse propulsion transportation systems home based in Lunar orbit could be critically important to the economic, technological, scientific, and industrial growth of the Home Planet, Moon, asteroids, and Mars.

      The Home Planet security options and other implications from mining the Moon’s rich deposits of thorium and the various super high Isp nuclear pulse propulsion options for large Orion spaceships enabled by the uranium-233 produced on the Moon from that thorium would be extensive.

      Given the diverse options and opportunities of the rich Lunar thorium deposits, most likely the American government, and in particular Congress, and many other countries and their governments will be willingly involved in funding various large and super large launchers and their Lunar surface bound spacecraft for many decades to come.

      • Orion nuclear pulse spaceships could be built on or in orbit around the industrialized Moon.

        However, the LEO payload of 170 or more tons for Russia’s upcoming super launcher based on the powerful RD-171M kerolox rocket engine for its core and boosters and that super launcher’s flexible modular booster design options suggests that Russia’s leaders may plan on eventually having the evolved high payload capability needed to put into LEO a large and relatively ‘lightweight’ laminated steel and graphene pusher plate for an Orion nuclear pulse propulsion spaceship.

        Once the large pusher plate is in LEO, Russia could send up the rest of the Orion spaceship in 170 ton pieces and assemble it near or at the International Space Station.

        Eventually, the assembled Russian Orion nuclear pulse spaceship would be moved into a high Earth or Lunar orbit by using chemical rockets, a super large Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) system, Electrodynamic tethers (EDTs), or perhaps future rocket engines that might eventually become available that could use metallic hydrogen and have an Isp of around 1700.

        Rich Lunar thorium ore deposits could be mined and the thorium used on the Moon to make the U-233 that would then be loaded into the super high Isp nuclear pulse units that would be put onboard on the Russian Orion only after it is in a high Earth or Lunar orbit that is usually outside of the Earth’s magnetosphere. Lunar material for radiation shielding would also be added to the Russian Orion while it is in the high Earth or Lunar orbit.

        The Russian Orion’s nuclear pulse propulsion system would only be started to leave Cislunar Space and head off to mine Ceres, Vesta, 16 Psyche, Europa, Callisto, or Enceladus when the spacecraft is outside the Earth’s magnetosphere and thus would avoid nuclear contamination issues for the Home Planet.


        ‘Russia’s evolving rocket plans’ By Bart Hendrickx September 5, 2017

    • “External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion (EPPP) systems are at the stage of engineering infancy with evolving paradigms for application, performance and general characteristics. Recent efforts have focused on an approach that employs existing technologies with near term EPPP development for usage in interplanetary exploration and asteroid/comet deflection, if mandated.

      And, “Unlike most space propulsion modes which have been studied extensively (i.e., nuclear thermal, gas core, solar electric, advanced chemical to name a few), EPPP has had no direct research other than the 1958 ORION program and a dozen papers over the past 30 years. It should be a clear recommendation that the vast array of configurations EPPP can take should be fully explored in future work by a variety of researchers, scientists and engineers.”

      From: ‘External pulsed plasma propulsion (EPPP) analysis maturation’
      By Joseph A. Bonometti and P. Jeff Morton July 2000

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