Friday Rocket Blast To Be Streamed Live

Earlier this week, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) fired up their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft in a successful test to prepare for launch to the International Space Station, set for Friday, March 1, at 10:10 a.m. EST. Space travel fans can follow along during the event via LiveStream starting at 9:30 a.m.

Monday, SpaceX teams ran through all the countdown processes as if it were launch day. All nine engines on the Falcon rocket were successfully fired for nearly two seconds, clearing the way for the historic launch.

Friday’s launch will be the fourth flight for SpaceX’s uncrewed Dragon cargo spacecraft and the fifth and final flight for the company’s two-stage Falcon launch vehicle. It it the second SpaceX operational mission contracted to NASA under a Commercial Resupply Services contract.

Did you ever wonder what they send to the International Space Station on resupply missions?

[Photo Credit- NASA]

In addition to what we might expect; food, clothing and gear needed for survival in space, the 1493-pound mission manifest includes experiments sent from a variety of nations.

Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, for example, is sending stem cells. The Canadian and European Space Agencies have experiments going up also. NASA and the Russians are sending various supplies, computer resources and replacement parts.

With favorable weather expected, coverage of the launch from NASA’s Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida will begin at 8:30am on NASA TV.

Here is a short clip of that test-fire earlier this week-

Abandoned rocket factory haunts the Everglades

This creepy abandoned rocket factory once possessed aspirations to help send mankind into space using solid fuel rockets. Now, the graffiti splattered walls and crumbling facade tell the tale of stunted ambition. This documentary, called Space Miami, explores the story behind this abandoned rocket factory in the Florida Everglades known as Aerojet-Dade. Built in the early 1960’s, the factory tested rockets in the deepest hole ever dug in Florida – a 150 foot deep cavern. The solid fuel rockets were too large to be transported overland, so a man-made canal to the Atlantic was carved to transport the rockets by barge. All of this effort proved needless when the Apollo space mission decided to go with liquid fuel instead of the solid fuel. The plant drifted into obsolescence overnight.

In 1969, the lights were turned off, never to be turned on again.

Space Miami – Aerojet-Dade Rocket Site Documentary from Coffee and Celluloid on Vimeo.

NASA focused on commercial space travel

Crossing oceans isn’t enough for you? Well, NASA is working to scratch the most extreme of travel itches. The organization is putting $50 million of economic stimulus cash from the feds into putting the average traveler into space. Companies eager to develop a commercial space vehicle have 45 days to submit their proposals, and the winner will be announced by the end of September.

The program comes at a time when NASA is drastically changing its approach to space. After seven more missions next year, the space shuttle fleet is going to be retired – with the final touch being the completion of the International Space Station. Then, we’ll be outsourcing our space travel to Russia, with U.S. astronauts hitching rides to the space station. Cargo will be shipped to this extraterrestrial spot – 225 miles from Earth – by rockets and capsules being developed by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences.

So, commercial space travel appears to be the key to getting the United States back into the game. Some big names have shown some interest in building the vehicles, including Boeing, Retro Aerospace, Davidson Technologies and Emergent Space technologies.

Flight attendant wins trip into space — on Rocketplane!

I thought that Rocketplane was a show on the cartoon network until I read an article this morning reporting that a French Flight Attendant won a trip into sub-orbit with the galactic airline.

First, about the flight attendant: Mathilde Epron was working her daily flight schedule when she grabbed a quick Kit Kat snack, tossed the wrapper in the garbage and went on about her normal duties. Suddenly, struck with a feeling that she should have checked the wrapper, she went back to the trash two hours later, dug out the refuse lo and behold, won one of the first trips into space on fledgling space tourism company, Rocketplane.

Secondly, Virgin Galactic has competition? Where did Rocketplane come from? Tell us more about yourselves and your crazy moniker, Rocketplane, we’re delightfully curious.

Apparently, Ms. Epron is scheduled to get four days of astronaut training at Rocketplanes headquarters in Oklahoma then will be on one of the first flights scheduled in 2010.

Only a shade behind Virgin Galactic, which plans to unveil its White Knight Two later this month and carry passengers in 2009.

If Rocketplace sticks to its guns and testing goes well, we could have an interesting commercial space competition in the next ten years. Maybe all of this competition will drive the price of a flight down from 200-250k down to 100k. Time to start saving!

Other tales from the skies
Amazing and insane stories from a real-life flight attendant and co-pilot

Pilot reports seeing a rocket in mid-air

Some weird things can happen in the skies. At least if you are the Continental Airlines pilot who reported seeing a rocket fly past his cockpit window while he was about eight miles away from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

“We don’t know for sure what the object was. But we think it might be somebody doing model rocketing,” said Roland Herwig, an FAA spokesman. “The pilot saw the rocket and some people saw the rocket’s trail (of smoke).”

The incident has turned into a full-blown federal investigation, with both the FAA and the FBI looking into the matter. Fortunately no one was harmed or scathed. Just a little weirded out that a rocket may have flown past the cockpit window.

What strange things have been found on planes?

Click the image to read the bizarre story…