Demand from DragonLab Workshop Leads to New Business for Private Spaceflight Company
Photo Caption: SpaceX DragonLab(TM) Qualification Unit - a free-flying, fully-recoverable, reusable spacecraft capable of hosting pressurized and unpressurized payloads.
Hawthorne, CA - December 1, 2008 - Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announces the addition of two DragonLab missions to its manifest, as a result of demand from a successful workshop held at SpaceX headquarters on November 6 to introduce the new DragonLab product. The first two flights are scheduled for 2010 and 2011 respectively from the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch site at Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is currently working contractual arrangements with multiple prospective customers.
DragonLab is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft capable of hosting pressurized and unpressurized payloads to and from space. It is the newest commercial offering from SpaceX. DragonLab launches to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
DragonLab provides a platform for in-space experimentation, including recovery of pressurized and some unpressurized payloads, as well as deployment of small spacecraft. As a complete system, DragonLab provides for all aspects of operation: propulsion, power, thermal control, environmental control, avionics, communications, thermal protection, flight software, guidance, navigation and control, entry, descent and landing and recovery.
"The response to our DragonLab rollout has been absolutely astounding," said Max Vozoff, Product Manager for Dragon and DragonLab. "Our workshop was at full capacity and we even had to turn away qualified people. With the U.S. Space Shuttle retiring in two years, clearly there is great demand from principal investigators, companies and institutions looking for ways to fly payloads in space and return them to Earth," said Vozoff. "We are adding these missions to our SpaceX manifest to provide firm launch dates for users to work toward. Definitely one mission won't be enough to meet the large demand."
Attending the November 6 SpaceX DragonLab workshop were representatives from six NASA centers, NASA headquarters, the Department of Defense, university research departments and commercial aerospace companies. Attendees discussed their needs for using DragonLab for materials research, life sciences, biotech, radiation effects, thermal protection system validation, and robotic spacecraft servicing applications. In addition, attendees toured the 550,000 square-foot SpaceX headquarters and manufacturing facility, viewing the Dragon spacecraft Qualification structure (just prior to its shipment to Texas for structural testing); heat shield material production and samples; the qualification and first flight Falcon 9 first stages; Merlin engines and other propulsion components; the transporter-erector and other launch pad systems being prepared for shipment to Cape Canaveral for the Falcon 9's arrival at its launch site by year end.
SpaceX is revolutionizing access to space by developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by internally-developed Merlin engines, SpaceX offers light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any altitude and inclination, from low-Earth to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions. On September 28, 2008, Falcon 1, designed and manufactured from the ground up by SpaceX, became the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.
As a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition (COTS), SpaceX is in a position to help fill the gap in American spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Under the existing Agreement, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS. SpaceX is the only COTS contender with the capability to return cargo and crew to Earth. NASA also has an option to demonstrate crew services to the ISS using the Falcon 9 / Dragon system. The first Falcon 9 will arrive at the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch site at Complex 40, Cape Canaveral within the next few months, in preparation for its maiden flight in 2009.
Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers more than 600, located primarily in Hawthorne, California, with additional locations, including SpaceX's Texas Test Facility in McGregor near Waco; offices in Washington DC; and launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.