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NASA and SpaceX Launch First Dragon Test Flight on March 2

The nine-day period between near the end of February and the first part of March was a busy period for NASA and for SpaceX. On February 21 SpaceX launched three satellites. The first launch was an Indonesian Nusantra Satu communications satellite, a small experimental satellite for the United States Air Force, and the Israeli Beresheet Lunar Lander.



On March 2, the Crew Dragon, also known as Dragon 2, was launched to meet and dock with the International Space Station. This was the first test in the evolution of the Dragon supply vessel to a manned vessel capable carrying seven people. It is America’s return to carrying its own people to space since July 8, 2011.


When the Dragon 2 passes its abort test it will be qualified to carry astronauts from earth to the International Space Station. It is built to carry seven people and can be used for carrying supplies to the ISS on future missions. Two of the improvements over previous Dragon models  are the solar panels are mounted on the outside of the trunk and the nosecone can now be opened to access the spacecraft stacking port.


Dragon 2 also incorporates eight SuperDraco thrusters which are hypergolic propellant liquid rocket engines designed and made by SpaceX. In a configuration of eight SuperDraco engines fault-tolerant propulsion provides redundancy as a launch escape system and propulsive landing thrust for the Dragon 2.


SuperDracos power the Dragon 2 spacecraft’s evolutionary launch escape system which is the first of its kind. If an emergency occurs during launch, eight SuperDraco engines built into the Dragon sidewalls will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety.


According to SpaceX, SuperDraco rocket engines utilize storable (non-cryogenic) propellant which allows his engines to be fired many months after viewing and launch. Draco is a family of hypergolic liquid rocket engines designed and built by SpaceX. The original Draco is a small rocket engine for use on the Dragon spacecraft. SuperDraco is derived from Draco but is over 100 times larger in terms of delivered thrust. In addition, the SuperDraco engines can be restarted many times and be precisely controlled during propulsive landing of the Dragon capsule although SpaceX has announced that they will not be using propulsive landing on the Dragon 2.


When Elon Musk builds a SpaceX product, his goal is to build the very best of class at a lower cost, often at a much lower cost, and his competitors. He does this by bringing the product design, testing, and manufacturing in-house we SpaceX as total control of the process. He continually proves that he is right about this. In order to meet these goals musk ascertained that SpaceX needed to utilize 3D printing. In 2013, SpaceX successfully fired a SuperDraco engine at full thrust using a 3D printed engine chamber evolved entirely in-house.


To quote SpaceX, ” The chamber is regeneratively cooled and printed in Inconel, a high performance superalloy. Printing the chamber resulted in an order of magnitude reduction in lead-time compared with traditional machining – the path from the initial concept to the first hotfire was just over three months. 


During the hotfire test, which took place at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas, the SuperDraco engine was fired in both a launch escape profile and a landing burn profile, successfully throttling between 20% and 100% thrust levels. To date the chamber has been fired more than 80 times, with more than 300 seconds of hot fire.


The Dragon Version 2 spacecraft represents a leap forward in spacecraft technology across the board from its Version 1 predecessor. When SuperDracos are flown on a demonstration of Dragon’s launch escape system later this year, it will be the first time in history that a printed thrust chamber has ever been used in a crewed space program.”


The success of the Dragon 2 space vehicle is an important milestone in immediate and future space travel. Elon Musk will tell you that he was one launch short of giving up on the whole business and thus his lifelong dream of putting mankind on different planets throughout the galaxy. SpaceX is proving that it can do better than giant corporations and governments i.e. United States, Russia, and China and put a man into space sooner and at a lower cost than they thought could be done.


In the future people will look back and say “Damn! You people were lucky to have been there to see that really cool stuff happen!”


Israel has a new Lunar Lander on its way to the Moon


On February 21, 2018, a SpaceX Falcon 9 carried three satellites into orbit. The most significant one was the launch of the Beresheet (“In the beginning”) Moon Lander scheduled to land on the moon in April. It is the result of a nonprofit group named SpaceIL and as Yonatan Weintraub stated it is “going to be the first private inter-planetary mission that is going to go to the moon.”


So, instead of a superpower (United States) or the two secondary powers (Russia and China) landing a spacecraft on the moon it will be Israel and Israeli investors.


Who are these investors? Beresheet was paid for by the Israel Space Agency and SpaceIL started by billionaire Morris Kahn, who like Elon Musk, was born in South Africa, Sylvan Adams, and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson as well as other investors.


SpaceIL is an example of an exceptional institution founded and staffed by 200 members with 95% of them being volunteers. It has grown to nearly 250,000 pupils all over Israel. The Beresheet lunar Lander was built by Israel Aerospace Industries I expect to provide more information about SpaceIL as time goes on.


Morris Kahn


Morris Kahn and his family moved from South Africa to Israel in 1956. Kahn made his own fortune primarily with Amdocs one of Israel’s largest and established high-tech companies with 26,000 employees worldwide. He also is the founder of Coral World which has underwater observatories around the world. In 2017 he gave $1 million to the Genesis Prize Award Fund which was presented to actress Natalie Portman who regifted it announcing that it would be granted to programs focusing on advancing women’s equality in all aspects of human behavior.



                                                        Philanthropist Morris Kahn,  Genesis Prize Laureate Natalie Portman, and Co-Founder and Chairmann Of the Genesis Project Prize Foundation Stan Polovets


Coincidentally, another name for the Moon Lander is Genesis.


Sylvan Adams


Another large contributor is billionaire Sylvan Adams who in the last couple of years moved from Montréal Canada to the luxury apartment overlooking Tel Aviv beachfront property. His father, Marcel Adams, a Holocaust survivor began the family’s real estate empire and Sylvan grew it to the size it is today. His son Josh now heads Iberville Development (the real estate business).


Adams has always had a passion for sports and physical abilities. He is a co-owner of the Israel Cycling Academy. As a cyclist himself he has won international competitive awards in the sport. Margaret and Sylvan established the Margaret and Sylvan Adams Family Foundation for the support of educational and medical projects in Israel and in Canada. He donated $80 million for the purpose of bringing the Giro d’Italia to Israel.


Adams has always had a love for the Jewish people. He made a substantial financial and time commitment to the Young Men’s – Young Women’s Hebrew Association YM-YWHA which is now called the Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA. To quote their press release:


As Mr. Adams stated, “The Jewish people are a gift to the world, having provided the foundational principles which shape our modern Western culture.  In order for the Jewish people to continue to make positive, disproportionate contributions to the societies where we live, we need to keep our institutions strong. Since the Y is an integral part of the Montreal Jewish Community, it is my greatest pleasure to provide support in any way I can.”


Andrea Rosenbloom, President at the Y, stated that the Y’s Board of Director is completely aligned with Mr. Adams’s philosophy.  “Our vision is securing Jewish continuity and now with Mr. Adams’ magnanimous gift, not only will our beloved Y survive, it will also thrive for future generations to come!”



Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson


Sheldon Adelson was born in 1933 in Boston Massachusetts into a low-income family. He now lives in Las Vegas Nevada and is 85 years old. It is currently worth around $36 billion.


Adelson is quoted as saying “an entrepreneur is born with the mentality to take risks though there are several important characteristics: courage, faith in yourself, and above all, even when you fail, to learn from failure get up and try again.”

It is a born entrepreneur having started a business at the age of 12 when he borrowed $200 from his uncle and purchased a license to sell newspapers in Boston. At age 16 he borrowed $10,000 from his uncle to start a candy vending machine business he attended city College of New York, did not graduate and joined the Army by his mid-30s he had built and lost a fortune twice and over the course of his career is created almost 50 businesses of his own.


In the 1970s, Adelson and others developed COMDEX which became the top computer tradeshow of the 1980s and 1990s. In 1995 he and the others sold COMDEX in the related businesses to Softbank Corporation of Japan. Adelson made more than $500 million in the deal.


In 1988 Adelson and his group purchased the Sands Hotel and Casino of Las Vegas. The Sands is going on to build casinos and resorts around the world. The Singapore Marina Bay Sands includes the third most expensive building in the world. The Marina Bay Sands which opened in 2010 is said to have cost $5.5 billion.


For a couple of decades Sheldon has been involved in supporting politicians and was a major contributor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He tends to support Republicans because they align more closely to his love of business and of Israel. Sheldon and his wife Miriam gave, according to the press, $24 million toward the Beresheet Lander.


Dr. Miriam Adelson was born in Tel Aviv in 1945 after her parents had fled to Poland in 1945. As a young woman she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology and genetics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and then her medical degree at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Medical School. From there she became the chief internist in the emergency room at Rokach Hospital in Tel Aviv.


She married Ariel Ochshorn a physician and had two children with him. They were divorced in the 1980s.


In 1986 as part of an exchange program, she went to Rockefeller University in which he specialized in the medical aspects of drug addiction. While there she met Sheldon Adelson who became her husband in 1991. She founded a substance abuse center and research clinic and they opened the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G Adelson Research Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada.


On November 16, 2018 Dr. Miriam Adelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her generous financial and humanitarian support.


Back to the launch. On Monday the 25th, Beresheet missed a planned maneuver. The spacecraft’s computer unexpectedly went into reset causing a maneuver to be automatically canceled. The ground control launch team went into fix-it mode and provided Beresheet with corrective measures and performed the maneuver putting the Lander back on track for landing which is now expected to occur on April 11.


In the meantime, the spacecraft will do a series of  “phasing loops” that will raise the orbit until Beresheet can be captured by Lunar gravity. So for the next four weeks we will patiently anticipate a great event.