Ed Driscoll

You Can Still Rocket In America

More please! Jesus Diaz of Gizmodo notes  “Private Rocket Successfully Puts Satellite In Orbit for the First Time:”

[youtube WTFlFFrfEB0]

It may not be as exciting as the Apollo 11, but I do find exciting that SpaceX has put a commercial satellite in orbit for the first time, launching a Falcon I rocket from the Marshall Islands.

SpaceX launched a Malaysian satellite into orbit using the two-stage Falcon, a rocket developed and built from scratch by the company. The satellite, called RazakSAT, is designed to take high resolution pictures of Malaysia.

If all goes as planned, SpaceX will soon deliver material to the International Space Station in the future. [SpaceX]

Elsewhere at Gizmodo, Kit Eaton writes that the clock is ticking on NASA’s creaking Space Shuttle program: “500 days—or thereabouts: That’s the amount of time between now and the final flight of the awesome Space Transportation System, better known to you and me as the Space Shuttle. Here’s what comes next…”

Update: More space news found via the Professor: “NASA To De-Orbit International Space Station In 2016″:

Despite nearing completion after more than a decade of construction, and recently announcing some upcoming improvements to accompany its full crew of six astronauts, NASA plans to de-orbit the International Space Station in 2016. Meaning the station will have spent more time under construction than completed.

The fact that the ISS has already had $100 billion dumped into it over the years is reason for criticism over the proposed de-orbiting. Proponents of the extra-terrestrial shelter feel 2016 would be too soon to let the 700,000 pound craft crash into the Pacific Ocean. Critics against it say it wastes too much money with few tangible outcomes.

Many of the station’s research programs have already been cut and the US Space Shuttle program is ending in 2010, which leaves few big-ticket programs left on the agenda (save for the station’s yet-to-be-installed Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which searchers for dark- and anti-matter).

But don’t count the ISS out yet–while 2016 is the currently planned decommissioning date, NASA says they’re conducting a study about potentially extending the lifespan of the structure into the 2020’s.

When do we start construction on Space Station V? It was supposed to be ready by 2001

Update: Ronald Bailey of Reason adds, “Return to the Moon: Unless it’s profitable, it won’t be permanent.”