Friday, August 13, 2010

SpaceX Looks Beyond LEO

Aviation Week reports that SpaceX has a Merlin 2 engine in the works that would power a "super heavy lift" vehicle that could be used by NASA for missions beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) founder Elon Musk says plans laid out recently by a company official for growth beyond International Space Station resupply and missions beyond low Earth orbit are not official SpaceX policy.

Referring to a presentation given at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Joint Propulsion Conference in Nashville, Tenn., by McGregor rocket development facility director Tom Markusic (Aerospace DAILY, Aug. 5), Musk says, "Tom was throwing out a bunch of ideas for discussion."

Musk says provisional concepts for a deep space architecture were outlined as "brainstorming ideas" by Markusic. "The only thing SpaceX is intending to do for sure in the long term is to try to move toward super heavy lift," Musk says. The key element of this, as outlined in Markusic’s presentation, is development of the Merlin 2 engine. "Part of it depends on NASA and its willingness to fund a portion of that. We’d certainly hope it would be a private-public partnership with NASA, because that’s what it would take in the long term."

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