SpaceX Launches 50th Falcon 9 Overnight, Delivers Heavyweight Hispasat 30W-6 to Orbit

Falcon 9 launching March 6 with the heavyweight Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite, the 50th flight of the Falcon 9. Photo: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

For the sixth time in as many months, SpaceX sent one of its “Block 4” Upgraded Falcon 9 boosters out for a spin in the opening minutes of Tuesday morning (6 March), delivering the heavyweight Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), at an altitude of 22,300 miles (35,900 km) above the Home Planet. Liftoff took place shortly after midnight, at 12:33 a.m. EST, from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The Block 4, which first flew in August of last year, represents a “transitional” variant of the booster, bridging the gap between the Upgraded Falcon 9 in service since December 2015 and the forthcoming Block 5, which is expected to generate a 7-8-percent thrust increase. Due to the size, mass and energy requirements of today’s Hispasat 30W-6 payload, no attempt was made to salvage the first stage, either at Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at the Cape or offshore on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS). Before the launch, CEO Elon Musk tweeted that, as well as being the 50th flight by a “single-stick” Falcon 9 booster, today’s flight was the largest and heaviest geostationary satellite launched by SpaceX.

Hispasat 30W-6 has been built by Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), based upon its highly reliable SSL-1300 “bus”, which in 2015 recorded 100 of these satellites launched successfully into orbit. There are, of course, major differences in that centenary of satellites. Compared to the first-flown member of the fleet—Japan’s Superbird-A, launched in June 1989—today’s SSL-1300 produces eight times more power, a 30-percent longer operational lifespan and can house four times as many transponders. Madrid-based Hispasat selected SS/L in July 2014 to build what was then designated “Hispasat-1F” and described as “a multi-mission communications satellite”. It was intended that the new bird would replace the 2002-launched Hispasat-1D at 30 degrees West longitude, delivering television, broadband, corporate networks and other telecommunications applications in Europe and the Americas. At the time of the contract, launch was targeted for 2016.

Long exposure off the pad. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

In March 2016, Hispasat redesignated its entire fleet of on-orbit and under-construction satellites. The change came “as a response to the Group’s growing number of satellites and orbital positions and reflects efforts to maintain designation coherency” and reflected the need “to establish a logical method to automate future designations and provide informative content regarding satellites’ position and age”. As a result, all missions would be prefixed with the “Hispasat” primary name, following by an alphanumeric designator, referring to their orbital location and order of arrival. The aging Hispasat-1D at 30 degrees West correspondingly became “Hispasat 30W-4” and its replacement, Hispasat-1F, was redesignated “Hispasat 30W-6”.

Weighing-in at 13,430 pounds (6,100 kg), the new satellite is one of the largest and heaviest ever orbited by SpaceX and it is thus unsurprising that the booster’s maximum performance is required to get it to high geostationary altitude and the option of a first-stage landing has been deleted from this mission. Hispasat 30W-6 carries a pair of X-shaped solar array “paddles” for around 11.5 kilowatts of continuous electrical power provision and can support an operational lifespan of 15 years. Its 48 Ku-band transponders will cover much of continental Europe and North Africa—including the Iberian Peninsula, the Balearic and Canary Islands, the Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira—as well as Canada and North and South America. Six Ka-band beams will also cover northwestern Africa and southeastern and central Europe, whilst a Ka-BSS band transponder will center on the Iberian Peninsula and a single C-band beam will provide coverage over Brazil.

Two years ago, Hispasat also reported that the satellite would provide broadband services to Morocco, both as a business-boosting tool and for connecting up to 4,000 schools in rural and remote locations. “Projects like this one,” it was noted, “show the importance of satellite infrastructure in facilitating universal internet access and reducing the digital divide.”

The 50th Falcon 9 passes the moon on its way to space March 6 with the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

And earlier this month, agreements were reached to utilize Hispasat 30W-6 to bridge the digital divide between major towns and cities and rural, mountainous or sparsely populated regions of Spain, where internet provision is either exceptionally lacking or slow. Significantly, Hispasat 30W-6 is expected not only to provide additional Ku-band coverage in the remote Andean region of South America, but also will “expand the Group’s transatlantic capacity in Europe-America and America-Europe connectivity”. It also represents SpaceX’s seventh launch of SSL-1300 bus, coming on the heels of a pair of AsiaSat and JCSat birds in the summers of 2014 and 2016, respectively, and more recently the flights of EchoStar-23 and BulgariaSat-1 in March and June of last year.

Hispasat 30W-6 arrived at Cape Canaveral last month, transported via truck from SS/L’s facility, whereupon it was immediately put through pre-flight testing and fueling. “It has been an honor to work closely with the Hispasat team to implement advances on a powerful state-of-the-art communications satellite,” said Dario Zamarian, group president of SS/L. “With Hispasat 30W-6 now at launch base, we are helping drive the industry forward with innovations that will help reduce mass and improve performance, resulting in a better business case for satellite communications.”

One specific new technology is a photonics receiver, which will prove the value of using photonics for data-routing within the satellite itself. Developers hope that photonics receivers will replace traditional microwave components with optical, solid-state components to enable greater flexibility and communications throughput.

Long-exposure image of Hispasat 30W-6 launching atop the 50th Falcon 9 on March 6. Photo: John Kraus / AmericaSpace

On 20 February, the 230-foot-tall (70-meter) Upgraded Falcon 9 was rolled out of its horizontal integration facility to SLC-40 and put through a smooth Static Fire Test of its nine Merlin 1D+ first-stage engines. Coincidentally, a continent away, on the West Coast, an almost identical booster was also rolled out Vandenberg Air Force Base’s SLC-4E in readiness for its own launch with the Paz radar-imaging satellite.

Launch was initially targeted for 35 minutes after midnight Sunday, 25 February, but SpaceX announced late Friday that the attempt had been scrubbed. “Standing down from this weekend’s launch attempt to conduct additional testing on the fairing’s pressurization system,” it tweeted. “Once complete, and pending Range availability, we will confirm a new targeted launch date.” Initial hopes that Hispasat 30W-6 might fly on Thursday, 1 March—on the same day as the Atlas V-boosted GOES-S—did not achieve Eastern Range approval, but by Friday it was revealed that authority had been gained for a launch attempt at 12:33 a.m. EST Tuesday, 6 March.

According to the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, the outlook for Tuesday called for 90-percent-favorable conditions, but deteriorated markedly to just 40-percent in the event of a 24-hour scrub and turnaround to Wednesday, 7 March. This change was caused by the anticipated approach of a cold front towards Central Florida, with noticeably declining conditions on Tuesday afternoon and clouds and rain on Wednesday. However, the favorable forecast for a just-after-midnight Tuesday T-0 carried “a slight concern for thick clouds ahead of the front” as its sole potential violating factor.

Liftoff of the 50th Falcon 9 with Hispasat 30W-6 on March 6. Photo: John Kraus / AmericaSpace

With launch of Hispasat 30W-6 targeted to occur just 33 minutes after midnight, efforts to load the Upgraded Falcon 9 with liquid oxygen and a highly refined form of rocket-grade kerosene (known as “RP-1”) got underway late Monday evening. At 12:25 a.m. EST, as the countdown passed T-10 minutes, the terminal autosequencer was initiated and the nine Merlin 1D+ engines were chilled, ahead of ignition. At T-2 minutes, the Air Force Range Safety Officer verified that all ground-side assets were “Go for Launch” and the vehicle transitioned to Internal Power and assumed primary command of all critical functions, entering “Startup” at T-1 minute.

Three seconds before launch, the Merlins thundered to life, ramping up to a combined impulse of 1.5 million pounds (680,000 kg). The stack departed SLC-40 precisely on time, at 12:33 a.m., offering a spectacular view and “midnight sunrise” for observers along the length of the Space Coast. The first stage provided the muscle for 2.5 minutes, before separating. Next came the ignition of the Merlin 1D+ Vacuum engine of the Upgraded Falcon 9’s second stage, which performed two “burns” to deliver Hispasat 30W-6 into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), at an approximate altitude of 22,300 miles (35,900 km). A little under 33 minutes after launch, the satellite was successfully released into orbit.

This morning’s launch also marked the 50th flight by a “single-stick” member of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 fleet of boosters since its inaugural mission—carrying a qualification unit for the Dragon cargo spacecraft—way back in June 2010. Since then, the vehicle has moved through several iterations, with a significant enhancement in capability, from the 1.1 million pounds (500,000 kg) of thrust produced by the nine Merlin 1C engines on the Falcon 9 v1.0 first stage, through the 1.3 million pounds (590,000 kg) from the Merlin 1D engines on the Falcon 9 v1.1, to the 1.5 million pounds (680,000 kg) from the Merlin 1D+ suite at the base of today’s Upgraded Falcon 9.

Liftoff of the 50th Falcon 9 with Hispasat 30W-6 on March 6. Photo: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

All told, the evolution of the rocket over the last eight years and 50 flights has seen its payload capacity more than double, from an estimated 23,000 pounds (10,450 kg) to low-Earth orbit for the Falcon 9 v1.0 to 50,300 pounds (22,800 kg) for the Upgraded Falcon 9. And size matters, too, for today’s 230-foot-high (70-meter) booster is a full 50 feet (15 meters) taller than its pathfinding ancestor of June 2010.

The Falcon 9 v1.0 flew five missions from SLC-40 until it was retired in March 2013, delivering three Dragon cargo ships to the International Space Station (ISS). On the whole, its performance was successful, but during its fourth launch in October 2012 a thrust shortfall caused its Orbcomm OG-2 secondary payload to be injected into a lower-than-intended orbit. In September 2013, the next-generation Falcon 9 v1.1 entered service, inaugurating SpaceX operations at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. It flew 15 times, through January 2016, launching five Dragons and—for the first time—communications satellites to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). Unlike the Falcon 9 v1.0, however, it also succumbed to the program’s first catastrophic, in-flight failure, when it exploded during ascent in June 2015, destroying the CRS-7 Dragon.

The current configuration, variously and unofficially described as “Full Thrust” or “v1.2” or “Upgraded Falcon 9”, made its maiden flight in December 2015 and immediately stamped its advanced credentials, by bringing its first stage spectacularly down onto Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at the Cape. Since then, and including this morning’s launch of Hispasat 30W-6, no fewer than 30 Upgraded Falcon 9s have flown from SLC-40 on the East Coast or SLC-4E on the West Coast, delivering 15 payloads to GTO, six Dragons to the space station and a multitude of others, including 40 Iridium NEXT communications satellites and a pair of secretive missions for U.S. Government sponsors. Juxtaposed against this record of success was the catastrophic on-the-pad explosion of the Amos-6 booster in September 2016.

The Falcon’s second stage is visible to the left in this long-exposure, delivering Hispasat 30W-6 to orbit on March 6. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

The reusability of first-stage hardware, which seemed unimaginable to many a little over two years ago, has now engendered a peculiar sense of appearing “commonplace”. Since December 2015, no less than 21 Upgraded Falcon 9 first stages have returned safely to Earth. Scarred, scorched and battered from the extremes of highly dynamic launches and high-energy re-entries, nine made it back to LZ-1 and the others have alighted on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) in the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.

It has taken SpaceX almost eight years to reach its 50th “single-stick” Falcon 9 flight, but with the launch cadence having dramatically increased—from a paltry two missions per annum in 2010 and 2012, rising to just three in 2013, doubling to six in 2014 and 2015, then taking significant leaps to eight in 2016 and a personal-best-beating 18 last year—it can be expected that not many more summers will pass before the Hawthorne, Calif.-based organization logs No. 100.



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  1. Hmmm.

    Your call:
    A) Troll
    B) Crank
    C) Heuristically guided random text generator

    Always glad to see another good F9 launch, wondering a great deal about the latest in BFR development, Raptor, fuselage, etc. ?

  2. I’ve been waiting for “Nibiru” to appear since the cranks claimed Comet Elenin was “Nibiru” back in 2011. Even Richard C. Hoagland has been quiet about such nonsense lately.

  3. It is 50 flights already? Well no one can say that it is an unproven boosterx anymore. I wonder how long that it will take for the mext 50 flights?

      • 15 months is possible, my guess is toward 24. Murphy can get involved at any time. I would count an FH flight as one flight. I would count all three cores as number of cores used, but just one flight. I think it just depends on what one is interested in tracking.

        One thing that might be tracked is successful flights in a row compared to ULA. Or if Delta IV, Atlas V individually, how many to beat the established Delta IV record, and how many to beat the Atlas V record. In that case it might matter whether it is cores or flights being counted.

  4. In case anyone’s missed it, yesterday at the South by Southwest Film Festival, Musk released a music montage of the Falcon Heavy launch. The video was made by Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy, the creators of HBO’s “WestWorld”.

    The first publicly released footage of the ill-fated center core slamming into the Atlantic next to the drone ship, can be seen at 1:13 in.

    Link below. Enjoy!

  5. It’s striking how much quieter the SpaceX critics have gotten around here of late.

    • You want me to take up some of the slack? I’m occasionally critical of SpaceX.

      • John,
        I really wanted Musk to man rate the FH to send people to the moon with a Propulsive Dragon. Musk has announced that he is moving straight ahead to the BFR and has no plans for the FH other than cargo, and says we will see a fully man rated BFR in 4 years. I am thinking that this will be 10 to 15 years before we see the BFR…What say you?

        • I don’t know about BFR. It will likely be more that 4 years to reliable service. Test flights sooner. There are so many conflicting views that I wouldn’t commit myself without much better information.

          I see no reason to man rate FH. Much simpler to use the soon to be available F9 Dragon and use the FH to refuel the F9 upper stage for longer missions. Alternatively dock a propulsion module from the FH to the dragon. Either way, FH throw weight for longer missions without jumping through the rating hoops. Knowing when to not do things frees up time for more critical things that do need to be done.

          • John Hare,

            Thank you very much for your insights. I agree now that there is no need to Man rate the FH. And as you pointed out a propulsion module brought up by a FH and then another FH bringing up a BA330 with a F9 D2 could create a system for going to the Moon pretty quick. Hopefully we will see this configuration within 12 months.

            • Sorry no. You won’t be seeing some sort of FH refueling tanker or BA330 moonship in 12 months or probably ever. Redesigning an upper stage so that it can remain active (powered) on orbit for days (not minutes), keep the LOX liquefied, rendezvous and dock with another vehicle, settle the propellants at one end, pump thousands of gallons of propellant into the other vehicle and so on and on and on… is a big deal. Big deal = $$$$.

              After receiving much (deserved) criticism for having too many irons in the fire, Musk & SpaceX are focused now on THE most immediate and important near term goal, getting the crewed Dragon V2 certified and into service. The two major tasks for the Dragon V2 are: getting the final Block 5 Falcon 9 flying and filing the mountains of paperwork required by NASA for crew certification. Even if everything goes perfectly, NASA quietly admitted a few months ago, that they don’t have enough civil service personnel to process all the paperwork that SpaceX and Boeing are required to submit for the CCP program -SIGH.

              Proving the reliability of F9, FH and Dragon V2 and MAKING MONEY are the goals now, anything else is very very unlikely for the next few years. Unlike the mega giant aerospace “old space” companies like Boeing who exist to pay dividends to share holders (not that there’s anything wrong with that), SpaceX will be plowing profits back into R&D for the BFR system.

              About the only thing that might lead to a crew Dragon beyond low earth orbit, is if the US government puts the SLS debacle out of its misery. Could the SLS be cancelled? Sure, people should not fool themselves into thinking this thing is “too big to fail”.

              “Will the Last Person Leaving SEATTLE — Turn Out the Lights”

              billboard near Sea-Tac International Airport following the 1971 cancellation of the Boeing SST (42,000 jobs $7.5 billion CD)

              • I was about to argue with you before catching the 12 months when rereading. 12 months ain’t happening. When ready for an extended trip though, an F9 with V2 could rendezvous with an FH delivered propulsion or refueling stage with likely much less paperwork than man rating the FH to NASA standards. Even for non-NASA crew flights beyond LEO, it makes sense to develop the refueling capability that will eventually be needed rather than divert resources to crew rating the FH that will supposedly have a fairly short shelf life anyway as a filler until BFR arrives.

                  • I agree that it wouldn’t happen in 12 months. Crew Dragon will have rendezvous capability, so it could dock with an FH delivered propulsion package for extended trips. I also believe refueling on orbit will be less of a problem than many people think.

                    • “Crew Dragon …could dock with an FH delivered propulsion package for extended trips

                      I personally doubt this “Gateway” make-work thing will survive the next change of administration, but if it does survive, odds are pretty good there will be some sort of problems with SLS/Orion. Each Gateway assembly flight is to be manned, with each Gateway station element riding under Orion on SLS.

                      With a flight rate of ONE per Year, the slightest problem with SLS or Orion would likely lead to a long stand-down. If Gateway reaches some kind of operational status, I agree there would be interest from our international partners in an alternate crew transport to Gateway, other than the hyper expensive Orion. If the money’s there, a DV2 docked to a FH upper stage could be the hot ticket.

                      The first crack in the SLS/Orion/Gateway foundation happened a few weeks ago when NASA quietly issued a request for proposals to launch the first
                      Gateway element on a commercial LV. That’s a start.

                • John Hare,
                  You will have to forgive Se Jones as he it unfamiliar with rapid test to market concepts of the fixed price contracting..

                  • SE Jones and I go back a long way on several forums. I never discount his points as his track record is very good. Disagreement does not have to be about who is wrong or right, and is quite necessary to avoid stagnation. Agreeable to be agreeable with friends can be just as damaging as disagreeing just to disagree with opponents.

                    It works that way in business as well. When the boss is always right with no dissent allowed, then every mistake the boss makes becomes major problem. From personal experience with job scared people and arrogant bosses.

                    • Se Jones,

                      “The Gateway has exactly ZERO utility to the military, zero zip none.”

                      The that would be the perfect mission for SLS…Which is really for only spending money …A high tech jobs program…. Or….

                      “Oh boy, you and your conspiracy stuff.”….A source of funding for the secret space program that has bases on Mars, Pluto and Alpha Prime to protect us from …The Borg

                    • John,
                      Disregard the above..double post as for Se Jones price contracting knowledge was all in jest I am sure he is a good guy just wrong.

              • About the jobs argument. On an economics blog I follow this story occasionally crops up. An economist was on a foreign trip where he saw hundreds of men with shovels and wheelbarrows building a dam. He told his guide that the same job could be done much faster with a few men with modern equipment. The guide explained that doing that would eliminate too many jobs. Oh, the economist replied, I thought you wanted a dam, if you wanted more jobs you should have had them using spoons.

                • Jobs?

                  May I present the: American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act (Brooks):


                  115TH CONGRESS
                  2D SESSION H. R. ll
                  To designate the Marshall Space Flight Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to provide leadership for the U.S. rocket propulsion industrial base, and for other purposes.

                  Mr. BROOKS of Alabama introduced the following bill; which was referred to
                  the Committee on———————–
                  To designate the Marshall Space Flight Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to provide leadership for the U.S. rocket propulsion industrial base, and for other purposes.

                  Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

                  3 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
                  4 This Act may be cited as the ‘‘American Leadership
                  5 in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act’’ or the
                  6 ‘‘ALSTAR Act’’

              • Se Jones

                Always the realist…I should have said 12 months from Dragon V2 crew certification. Which should come very quick because Russia is part of the new “Gateway Project” which really means we can stop paying them for crew transport to ISS and now send them money for “R&D” of the “Gateway Project” which will also be serviced by SLS so there will always be a need for it. The entire “Gateway Project” is for security or surveillance.

                The BFR will need a lot of testing in a lot of areas. One of those areas is fuel transfer in orbit. If BFR is to happen anytime soon (within 10 years IMO)SpaceX will need to leverage its current systems extensively.

              • UH-OH apparently I messed up again as Musk was interviewed at SXSW “which took place at the 2018 South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. During the interview, Musk reiterated his earlier statements that test flights would begin in 2019 and an orbital launch of the full BFR and Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS) would take place by 2020.”

                Also they pointed out that “Space Launch System (SLS) – which is NASA’s proposed means of getting to Mars – is scheduled to conduct its first launch in 2019 as well. Known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), this launch will involve sending an uncrewed Orion capsule on a trip around the Moon.”

                Read more at:

                So maybe with a race to the demonstration flights there actually will be hardware going up to orbit…Not Crewed ready but still hardware. Time will tell

  6. “Also they pointed out that “Space Launch System (SLS)…-is scheduled to conduct its first launch in 2019 as well”

    Nnnnooope. Way back in November SLS management announced a “risk informed” EM-1 launch date of June 2020, and sure enough many of the risks they were referring to have come to pass, including ESA’s problems with the service module.

    A couple of weeks ago during the Space Counsel meeting at KSC, NASA quietly confirmed that they won’t be building a second mobile launch tower, that means a 33 month (face it…3 years) stand down between EM-1 and EM-2 while they modify the mobile launch tower to work with the taller SLS Exploration Upper Stage.

    Speaking of the Exploration Upper Stage, the Astronaut Office at JSC is (again…quietly) rebelling at the agency’s plan to fly crew on the FIRST flight of the new Exploration Upper Stage atop the second flight of the SLS. The agency is dragging its feet, driving SpaceX and Boeing nuts with mountains of paperwork for Loss of Crew statistical analysis, yet the SLS gets a pass on the same flight test requirements. If NASA relents and requires at least ONE unmanned test flight of the Exploration Upper Stage, there won’t be humans launched by SLS until at least 2024. 2025 if EM-2 is bumped for a Europa orbiter mission using a second SLS with Interim Upper Stage.

    There’s not much of a race to demonstration flights, SLS is moving at a glacial pace. And that’s an insult to glaciers everywhere. Whatya expect for $3+ billion a year for over a decade, a miracle or something?

    • “The agency is dragging its feet, driving SpaceX and Boeing nuts with mountains of paperwork for Loss of Crew statistical analysis, yet the SLS gets a pass on the same flight test requirements.”

      And you are surprised because…? Musk knows that sooner or later he will need to relocate his operations outside of the US if he really wants to get a large number of people off this planet.

      “2025 if EM-2 is bumped for a Europa orbiter mission using a second SLS with Interim Upper Stage.”

      Or the Europa mission might be the maiden launch of SLS…then on to the Secret Stuff at the “Gateway”….with our partners …The Russians.

      • “Or the Europa mission might be the maiden launch of SLS”

        This just in my inbox: CAPE CANAVERAL—”The Trump administration’s $20 billion fiscal 2019 spending plan for NASA proposes to fly the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s ocean-bearing moon aboard a commercial launcher rather than the agency’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said March 19 during a webcast presentation at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference”

        One year’s funding for the SLS debacle would fully fund the Kilopower all the way to flight hardware. Kilopower fission reactor powered electric thrusters could send the Europa s/c to the Jupiter system in LESS time than SLS could, and then the reactor could power a SERIOUS synthetic aperture radar to map out Europa’s surface and potentially sup-surface as well.
        Oh well, dreaming again, the SLS will continue to eat everyone’s lunch till the bitter end.

        • UH-OH I missed this …How many billions is this costing LM….Now I see the problem with Trump…He is saving to much damn money he’s got to go!

  7. “Europa mission might be the maiden launch of SLS…”
    No, the timing is wrong and the EM-1 is cast in stone as a flight test of Orion. The Europa mission would require the larger Exploration Upper Stage, which will not be ready for at least 33 months after EM-1.

    “…then on to the Secret Stuff at the “Gateway”
    Oh boy, you and your conspiracy stuff. Sorry, the “Gateway” (now called “The Deep Space Gateway”)
    The Gateway has exactly ZERO utility to the military, zero zip none. Once upon a time in the 1970s, the AF had their Manned Orbiting Laboratory program, but in June 1969 they drove a stake through its heart and that was that.

    Today’s your lucky day, over at The Space Review this week, Dwayne A. Day has part 1 of a retrospective on the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. If you take the time to read it, including the comments, you should get an idea why technical advances rendered manned space observation platforms moot.

    • Tracy The Troll
      March 22, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Se Jones,

      “The Gateway has exactly ZERO utility to the military, zero zip none.”

      The that would be the perfect mission for SLS…Which is really for only spending money …A high tech jobs program…. Or….

      “Oh boy, you and your conspiracy stuff.”….A source of funding for the secret space program that has bases on Mars, Pluto and Alpha Prime to protect us from …The Borg

    • Se Jones
      This just in….

      “Lawmakers gave NASA nearly $1.1 billion more than the space agency received in fiscal year 2017, and $1.6 billion more than the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request…. NASA’s behind-schedule Space Launch System, a multibillion-dollar rocket that has been a cornerstone of the agency’s human spaceflight program since 2011, will receive $2.15 billion in the fiscal 2018 budget. The Orion crew capsule, which will launch on top of the SLS, will get $1.35 billion….The budget provides $350 million for construction of a second SLS mobile launch platform, a project NASA says could shorten the gap between the first and second Space Launch System flights.”

      It doesn’t matter if Musk has 100 BFRs and a complete system for customer transport to cities on Mars, Ceres, Titan and Pluto…The Senate Launch System will be with us forever…

      • $350 million only gets them started on a second MLP, if the next budget cycle doesn’t follow through with more funding, it’s more money into the furnace, as it were. The modified existing MLP is costed out at over $900 million. MLP: an incredibly expensive piece of infrastructure right next to ~6 million pounds of flaming fuel and oxidizer.

        SLS: $50 billion to make reusable engines disposable. Now that’s progress.

  8. This Just In…

    The James Webb Telescope is delayed for another Year due to “a slew of technical snags and “avoidable errors,”. Its good thing we really don’t need this thing to protect us from an asteroid strike…On the bright side maybe they can put it on the SLS Maiden Launch in 2025, by then both systems Might be ready to go…And it might be the only thing that SLS launches as the Senate searches for uses.

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