Video: Next stop: space station?

  1. Closed captioning of: Next stop: space station?

    >>> have liftoff of the falcon 9 .

    >> stage one.

    >> one small step for man, a giant leap for the privatization of outer space . the american company , space x , launching the first privately funded spacecraft into orbit today. the unmanned dragon capsule took off from the cape -- from -- not the cape canaveral , from cape canaveral this morning and returned three hours later, splashing into the pacific ocean . other companies, including richard branson 's virgin galact galactic, as you surely know, carried out suborbittal flights before but none reached such as recent hours. the flight for nasa and could lead to a space station supply run next year. nasa has been relying on russia to ferry astronauts to and from the space station at the cost of $26 million a pop. the space agency hoping to buy american and give that work to a u.s.

By Space News
updated 6/24/2011 9:38:52 PM ET 2011-06-25T01:38:52

SpaceX is suing Herndon, Va.-based Valador Inc. and its vice president, Joe Fragola, for making what SpaceX says were defamatory allegations about the safety and reliability of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

At the heart of the lawsuit is a June 8 email Fragola allegedly sent to NASA’s chief of safety and mission assurance, Bryan D. O’Connor, saying he was trying to verify a rumor that the Falcon 9’s first stage experienced a significant anomaly during its December launch of the Dragon space capsule. The suit was filed June 14 in Virginia’s Fairfax County Circuit Court.

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"I have just heard a rumor, and I am trying now to check its veracity, that the Falcon 9 experienced a double engine failure in the first stage and that the entire stage blew up just after the first stage separated. I also heard that this information was being held from NASA until SpaceX can 'verify' it."

SpaceX denies there were any such problems on the flight, the second of the medium-lift Falcon 9 rocket. [Photos: SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket]

"First, there was no ‘double-engine’ failure (nor even a single engine failure)," SpaceX says in its complaint. “As planned, two of the nine first-stage engines shut down automatically ten seconds before the first stage shut down.

"Second, the first stage did not 'blow up' after separation from the second stage and spacecraft. The launch was broadcast by a camera on the Dragon spacecraft, which vividly showed the separation of the first stage — and no explosion occurred. Furthermore, the first stage was, at all times, tracked by ground telemetry including by NASA. No systems observed any 'explosion' of the first stage. As an 'expert,' Fragola should have known the notion of the first stage 'blowing up' was abjectly untrue."

O'Connor did not respond to a request for comment. Fragola, reached June 16 at Valador's Rockville Centre, N.Y., office, declined to comment, saying he had been advised not to talk about the case.

SpaceX also declined to discuss the case. "It’s still in the hands of counsel and we have no comment," SpaceX spokesman Bobby Block said June 17.

Fragola is a safety expert and a core member of the NASA Exploration Systems Architecture Study team that in 2005 picked the Ares 1 and Ares 5 rockets the agency then set out to build under the now-defunct Constellation program. In December 2009, Fragola testified before the House Science and Technology space and aeronautics subcommittee about ensuring safety in human spaceflight.

In its complaint, SpaceX says Fragola sought a consulting contract worth up to $1 million, claiming the company needed his independent analysis of the Falcon 9 "to bolster its reputation with NASA based on what he called an unfair ‘perception’ about SpaceX." [Video: Falcon Heavy - Most Lift Since Saturn 5]

"SpaceX subsequently learned that Fragola — within the scope of his employment at Valador, and using his email account at Valador — has been contacting officials in the United States Government to make disparaging remarks about SpaceX, which have created the very ‘perception’ that he claimed SpaceX needed his help to rectify," SpaceX’s claim states.

SpaceX also says that if anything went wrong during the flight, NASA would have known. "NASA officials were present with SpaceX controllers in the control center during the flight, and thus saw in real time all of the telemetry information SpaceX controllers saw," the complaint states. "SpaceX then provided extensive post-flight debriefings to NASA, including telemetry analysis. If any of the foregoing events claimed by Fragola had occurred, then NASA would have known as soon as SpaceX did."

Asked whether the Falcon 9 experienced any type of first-stage anomaly in its last outing, Block said: "Any observance noted had no impact on this or future mission success."

SpaceX, which holds a $1.6 billion contract to deliver supplies to the International Space Station using Falcon 9 and Dragon, is seeking at least $1 million in damages plus legal fees and is demanding that a jury hear the case.

SpaceX’s attorney in the suit, Douglas Lobel with the Cooley law firm of Reston, Va., did not respond to a request for comment.

This article was provided by Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

© 2013 All rights reserved. More from

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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