Big Week-ish for Commercial Space
Okay, so it’ll be a bit over a week by the time it’s done, but:
- Planetary Resources is announced, with a four-stage approach to prospecting and mining near-Earth asteroids:
- Leo, a small space telescope placed in (appropriately enough) low Earth orbit.
- Interceptor spacecraft (Leo telescopes with additional propulsion and science equipment) to scout for near-Earth asteroids
- Rendezvous Prospector spacecraft to approach and gather data on specific asteroids
- Asteroid mining (umm…yeah, this is where it gets a little Underpants-Gnome-ish)
Instead of using a more traditional symmetrical capsule design, the Blue Origin Space Vehicle uses a biconic shape with one side of the capsule flattened and a split flap (most likely two) that can be used for directional control. The flap can be seen in the multicolored image above from the computational fluid design program used to develop the spacecraft. Similar designs have been developed in the past, most notably McDonnell-Douglas’ legendary Advanced Maneuvering Reentry Vehicle (AMaRV) developed in the 1970s. This vehicle also used split flaps for directional control, though it was designed to deliver weapons launched from a Minuteman missile.
- SpaceX is currently planning to launch its first flight (Dragon 2/3) to the ISS on May 7, but will have a test firing of the launch vehicle on Monday, April 30.