Tag Archives: SpaceX

Astronaut in space

How to get hired by a spaceline

As is becoming more obvious every day to those reading up on the latest in space travel, humanity will soon enter a new era. The day a friend or family member will be sitting at the dinner table, talking about how an acquaintance flew into space with one of these entrepreneurial companies will not be as far of as you might think. But how does the younger generation get to work for one of these groundbreaking start-ups (and let’s not rule out the likes of Lockheed Martin and Boeing who have their own projects on the go too)? Queue William Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic‘s Vice President for Special Projects who did an interview for EngineeringBecause (a social network for engineering students) which you can read in its entirety here. What you should take away from this is that this is not just a dream anymore. You could in fact apply to work on building a spaceship, right now!

“If you are early in your career and looking for your first job, you have an unprecedented level of choice about what kinds of projects to work on, what type of working environment to work in et cetera”, Pomerantz says, and he is absolutely right. If you are an engineer or technician (and are willing and able to relocate to the US in most cases) who thinks they should be a part of creating one of the first private spaceships, check out the links below and start applying! The Enterprise did not build itself you know…

Career links for (in alphabetical order – feel free to submit additional companies):

Blue Origin: http://www.blueorigin.com/careers/

Orbital Sciences Corporation: http://www.orbital.com/Careers/

Lockheed Martin: http://www.lockheedmartinjobs.com/index.aspx

Reaction Engines: http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/careers.html

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/careers

Virgin Galactic: http://www.virgingalactic.com/careers/

XCOR Aerospace: http://www.xcor.com/jobs/

Another fact to observe from the above career boards: you don’t actually have to be an engineer or technician to work for one of the coolest companies in the world. XCOR is hiring a HR Manager currently, while Virgin Galactic is hiring an Executive Assistant, SpaceX has many Intern positions open and several companies amongst them positions related to Business or Program Management open. Engage!


How to put a human on Mars

When the BBC starts making interactive sites ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23349496 ), you know something is a hot topic, so read on… Scientists at Imperial College London have designed a concept mission to land astronauts on Mars.

It would entail a craft existing of two parts: the Martian lander with a heat shield, in which the crew would also ascent into Earth orbit, and a cylindrical craft split into three floors. Travelling through space for long durations brings up major issues, perhaps the most important one being the muscle and bone wastage that weightlessness causes, which would render astronauts unable to walk upon arrival at their destination. To prevent this, the team explains that the two parts would, once in space, unwind from eachother on a steel cable. Short truster bursts would then set in motion the rotation needed to generate artificial gravity similar to Earth’s.

Aside from the deconditioning of the human body, another cause for concern is solar and cosmic radiation. Several solutions are proposed, including running water within the shell of the cruise craft to absorb the radtiation, while another solution would mean fitting superconducting magnets to the craft that would generate a magnetosphere similar to Earth’s.

You can read the full article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22952441

As more prominent organisations start to report of the possibilities of the first human visit to Mars, and the race to launch paying customers into space is heating up. But colonizing another planet, can you imagine? We already introduced the Inspiration Mars Foundation, headed up by business tycoon Dennis Tito. Another project out there is the Dutch Mars One which will be looking to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023 – talk about being ambitious! And then of course there is billionaire inventor Elon Musk of SpaceX who has also plans to visit the Red Planet, possibly permanently.

We might see the day when we will look up at the sky, and see our second home, like a red dot in a vast ocean of space. It might make us redefine our place in the universe… who knows.

SpaceX's Merlin rocket engines

How Does A Rocket Engine Work?

Ever wondered how rockets create all that trust to blast off into space? Queue Tom Mueller, SpaceX’s Vice President of Propulsion Development, who will tell you all about it with his narrated schematic of SpaceX‘s Merlin rocket engine here. Don’t forget to toggle the full screen option.

Of course, this engine isn’t your run of the mill rocket engine, if there is such a thing. According to Mueller this 140,000-pound-thrust Merlin 1D has the highest thrust-to-weight ratio of any rocket engine ever made, and they are made in-house! Not something that was planned originally but unworkable supplier demands and high proces meant they went for it by themselves. This decision did probably not only save the company millions in the long run but also secured SpaceX‘s status as one of the leading companies in the industry, with the technical know-how to prove it means business.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk (1971)

Billionaire genius, inventor and entrepreneur through and through, founder of companies like Tesla, Paypal and more relevant here SpaceX… who is the man they sometimes refer to as “the real Tony Stark” (aka Iron Man)?

Born in South Africa, Musk taught himself how to code and sold a game he programmed – called Blastar – when he was only 12 years old. Leaving home at 17 to avoid military service (this was during the time of the Apartheid), he ended up studying in Ontario, Canada (his mother was Canadian) for two years before pursuing business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.

After completing both those degrees, Musk then moved to Silicon Valley and started a PhD at Stanford, but dropped out after two days already to start Zip2 (with his brother Kimbal) which provided online content publishing software for news organizations – it got acquired by Compaq four years later for $307 million in cash and another $34 million in stock options!

Musk once said he considered three areas he wanted to get into that were “important problems that would most affect the future of humanity”, as he said later, “One was the Internet, one was clean energy, and one was space.” So, after Zip2, he founded Paypal which changed the way we pay online. After that he founded SpaceX which is now a major player in the race for space, and bidding for NASA contracts. Then came Tesla, which might some day change (or debatably has already changed) the way we all look at our cars, and he is also the chairman and main chairholder of SolarCity… the man has no limits it seems.

Focusing on SpaceX, which he founded with $100 million of his early fortune and of which he remains its CEO and CTO, the company won a major NASA contract in the first program to entrust private companies with delivering cargo to the International Space Station. Worth between $1.6 billion and $3.1 billion, it has become a cornerstone of the Space Station‘s continued access to cargo delivery and return. But aside from cargo missions, Musk’s goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 10 and much like Stephen Hawking’s thinking wants to secure the future of the human race by “expanding life beyond this green and blue ball“.

In the coming years, Musk will focus on delivering astronauts to the International Space Station, but as he stated before, his personal goal is that of eventually enabling human exploration and settlement of Mars. At SXSW this year he joked: “I Would Like to Die on Mars, Just Not on Impact”.


SpaceX Dragon


In May of last 2012, Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully rendezvous and connect with the International Space Station (ISS) and with that it put SpaceX firmly on the map. For those curious on how that would have looked like, check out the following link and make sure to drag your cursor around. Resupply missions aside (regular cargo flights started in October 2012), SpaceX is developing a crewed variant of the Dragon called DragonRider, which will be able to carry up to seven astronauts to and from low Earth orbit – those seven will probably be best of friends by the time they arrive as the pressurized part of the capsule is only 10 cubic metres “big” inside so it will be quite a cramped ride.

Taking the more conventional approach (unlike Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo combination), Dragon sits on top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket for lift off. The capsule is made up of a disposable cone, the spacecraft itself housing the astronauts (or specialized cargo) and the trunk, which can carry up to 14 cubic meters of cargo. You can see the specifications here. Its second resupply mission will take place this November, but Elon Musk, SpaceX‘s billionaire founder and CEO is already looking towards the future. In March this year he gave away some details about the second version, and it won’t be your conventional capsule anymore either. The next version will have side-mounted thruster pods and pop-out legs so it can land on solid ground. More details to be unveiled later this year; no more tweets telling them to go fishing then…

For a time table of milestones to look forward to, December 2013 will see a pad abort test (in which Dragon will use its abort engines to launch away from a stationary Falcon 9 rocket – it’s one of the safety tests required), followed by an in-flight abort test coming April 2014 (same test, but this time in flight), and the first crewed Dragon (DragonRider) flight is currently scheduled to happen mid-2015. The last in a series of impressive feats will then see a crewed spacecraft dock with ISS no sooner than December 2015.

Spaceport America

Spaceport America

Spaceport America can be found in New Mexico, United States and is the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport. It opened for business in October 2011 and since then has already signed up several permanent tenants: UP Aerospace was the first, Sir Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo fleet, and just this May Elon Musk‘s SpaceX signed a three-year lease.

Plans for the spaceport can be traced back to the early 90’s but construction only started in 2006, the year Richard Branson announced that the new Virgin Galactic would make New Mexico its world headquarters. Completed in August 2012 at a total cost of $209 million, the site covers 18.000 acres (about 72 square kilometers or 28 square miles), and you can check out the facility map here.

Designed in collaboration with Foster + Partners, a UK company with extensive designing airport buildings (view their stunning picture gallery here), the spaceport lies low within the desert-like landscape of the site in New Mexico and seen from the historic El Camino Real trail, the organic form of the terminal resembles a rise in the landscape. Foster + Partners managed to achieve the prestigious LEED Platinum accreditation with its design. From the low-lying form dug into the landscape to exploit the thermal mass acting as a buffer from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as catching the westerly winds for ventilation, the natural light that enters via skylights, to a glazed façade reserved for the terminal building, establishing a platform for the coveted views onto the runway, this is one stunning sight to behold.

The first images (hopefully in 2014!) of space tourists lifting off from this futuristic spaceport will  herald an exciting era for space travel – let the future begin!

SpaceX Dragon C2


Let’s take a closer look at SpaceX. If the fact that it was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk (aka “the real Tony Stark“) doesn’t guarantee it success (he did after all start PayPal and Tesla Motors amongst others!), the numbers do most of the talking: with nearly 50 launches on its manifest, representing more than $4 billion in contracts, SpaceX continues to push the boundaries of space technology down at 1 Rocket Road in California where their 3000 staff are headquartered.

A year ago, SpaceX successfully launched a private unmanned spaceship on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which made a bold statement that one of their main objectives is to offer a viable alternative to the now retired space shuttle program. With that effort, SpaceX‘s Dragon capsule became the first commercial spacecraft to attach to the space station, deliver cargo, and return to earth.

The company has this month also signed a three-year lease with Spaceport America to test their Grasshopper reusable rocket, meaning they can test at higher altitudes, as well as Sir Richard Branson having neighbours in New Mexico. Furthermore, plans are underway though for a commercial launch facility in Texas to keep the action closer to home. SpaceX is on a mission. As Elon Musk recently said at SXSW:

“I’d like to die on Mars, just not on impact”