Tag Archives: capitalism

Private Japanese weather company to launch satellite to track Arctic Ice

A private Japanese weather company plans to launch a satellite to track Arctic ice for use by shipping.

The satellite will transmit images and information about sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Weathernews will combine the information with available data on sea currents, weather and wave height to provide consumers with a finished product enabling safe navigation along the northern route.

Though I know most people are skeptical of this idea, I think that all weather information should be gathered and sold by private companies, as Weathernews is doing above. For example, the Weather Channel makes its money providing weather information to the public. If they didn’t get the satellite data free from NOAA weather satellites, they would have every reason to launch their own satellites.


NASA to unveil its heavy-lift rocket design

Two stories, one from AP and the other from Florida Today, say that NASA will announce today the design of its heavy-lift rocket, mandated by Congress and estimated to cost around $35 billion. Here is NASA’s press release. To me, this is the key quote (from AP):

NASA figures it will be building and launching about one rocket a year for about 15 years or more in the 2020s and 2030s, according to senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet made. The idea is to launch its first unmanned test flight in 2017 with the first crew flying in 2021 and astronauts heading to a nearby asteroid in 2025, the officials said. From there, NASA hopes to send the rocket and astronauts to Mars — at first just to circle, but then later landing on the Red Planet — in the 2030s. [emphasis mine]

In other words, after spending $1.7 on the National Space Plane, $1.2 billion on the X-33, $1 billion on the X-34, $800 million on the Space Launch Initiative, and finally, almost $10 billion on Constellation, none of which ever flew, NASA is now going to spend another $35 billion on a new rocket that won’t fly for at least another decade.

To be really blunt, this new rocket, like all its predecessors, will never fly either. It costs too much, will take too long to build, and will certainly be canceled by a future administration before it is finished. It is therefore a complete waste of money, and any Congress that approves it will demonstrate how utterly insincere they are about controlling spending.

A clarification: Some of the $35 billion mentioned above has already been spent for the Orion capsule. This however still does not change any of my conclusions.


NASA and ATK sign new launch development agreement

At a press conference today, NASA and ATK announced a new launch development agreement, running through March 2012, to help develop ATK’s Liberty solid rocket into a launch vehicle that could bring both cargo and crews to ISS.

The agreement provides ATK no funds, but is designed to give ATK as much support from NASA as possible in developing Liberty, tested fired last week for only the third time. If this initial agreement goes well, it will position ATK to compete for the next round of development subsidizes.

According to ATK, they think they could launch by 2015, and are hoping to provide a rocket capable of flying the spacecraft and freighters of Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin, and even SpaceX (should Falcon 9 have problems and they need a rocket to launch Dragon).
» Read more


Speculation on what the ATK/NASA announcement later today will be about

More speculation here and here on what the ATK/NASA announcement later today will be about. As Jeff Foust notes,

Last Friday NASA announced that the space agency and ATK would announce an agreement this Tuesday “that could accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities”. (The announcement was originally going to be only available to media calling into a telecon line, but NASA said Monday the announcement will be on NASA TV at 3 pm EDT.) The announcement has generated various degrees of glee or despair, depending on one’s opinions about ATK’s work on solid rocket motors it has proposed for its Liberty rocket and is seeking to have incorporated into NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket.


$18 billion for one test launch

NASA thinks it will cost $18 billion to complete and launch in 2017 one test flight of the Congressionally-designed Space Launch System, the program-formerly-called-Constellation.

This is madness. One flight, unmanned, in seven years? No sane customer would ever buy such a product, especially when there are now a number of cheaper competitors who will likely be flying manned in less time.

Note also that even if NASA’s figures are exaggerated, which I am sure some Senators and Congressmen will claim, I would bet that they are not that far off, based on the space agency’s fixed labor costs and past history.


SpaceX Acknowledges Falcon 9 Engine Anomaly

This is not good if true: SpaceX has admitted that in its December 2010 test flight of Falcon 9 there was a problem with its first stage.

During the August meeting, held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, SpaceX told to the two advisory bodies that there had been an engine anomaly during the most recent Falcon 9 launch, according Charles Daniel, a shuttle and space station safety expert at Herndon, Va.-based Valador Inc., and a member of the ISS Advisory Committee. “There was no explanation or root cause analysis or corrective action for this particular anomaly,” Daniel said Sept. 9 during the public meeting. “This is a relatively troublesome statement not to recognize that a premature engine shutdown was a significant event.”


ATK test fires the five segment solid rocket for Ares 1

ATK today successfully test fired the five segment solid rocket originally intended for the Ares 1 rocket. More here.

This solid rocket motor has value, but ATK’s hope that NASA will use it as part of the Congressionally designed Space Launch System, what I call the program-formerly-called-Constellation, is probably a false hope. They might get a few years of funding from Congress, but the whole thing will die stillborn when the funding runs out.

Better that they packaged the motor as part of a private launch system and tried to get some commercial business with it.

Regardless, the video is fun to watch. Check it out.


Virgin Galactic hosts an industry day at New Mexico spaceport

Virgin Galactic announced today that it will co-host an industry day at Spaceport America in New Mexico on October 18 in order to locate suppliers for its space tourism business.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for companies ranging from local New Mexico firms to national corporations to understand our unique needs for goods and services, including our requirements in building and servicing multiple commercial spaceships as the market further develops,” said Virgin Galactic’s President and CEO George Whitesides. “Our intention is to establish these relationships and emphasize our desire to hire locally as much as possible.”


Sticker shock over Congressionally designed rocket

The Obama administration has discovered that the cost to build the program-formerly-called-Constellation, required by Congress, is going to be far more than they can stomach.

White House budget officials increasingly are concerned that some of NASA’s manned-exploration plans may be unaffordable, especially as the space agency weighs options that would raise the cost by billions of dollars by speeding up the development of rockets and spacecraft, according to people familiar with the issue.

The cost concerns are coming to a head, these people said, as the White House Office of Management and Budget ratchets up questions about NASA’s proposed program in light of the current emphasis on deficit reduction.

None of this surprises me.
» Read more


Amazon Chief’s Spaceship Misfires

Bad news for commercial space: A test of Amazon chief’s Blue Origin spaceship ended in failure on Friday.

After The Wall Street Journal reported on the failure, Blue Origin Friday posted a brief note on its website stating the spacecraft, while going faster than the speed of sound, suffered a “flight instability” at an altitude of 45,000 feet and the company’s automated “range safety system” shut off all thrust and led to its destruction. The problem appeared to stem from thrusters that didn’t respond properly to the initial commands, according to one industry official.


Bigelow in negotiations to supply privately-built modules to ISS

Bigelow Aerospace is in negotiations with both NASA and Japan to supply ISS with privately-built modules

The module could be rented out as an ISS storage unit, making the station less dependent on frequent resupply flights, says Hiroshi Kikuchi of JAMSS. To show that the modules are capable of safe, crewed operation, Bigelow is also negotiating with NASA to attach one to a US-owned ISS module.



The new commercial space companies question NASA contracting policies

The new commercial space companies are challenging NASA’s new contracting policy.

The article covers the conflict that I described in this post, whereby NASA is abandoning the more flexible contracting approach used for the commercial cargo contracts of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences and going instead with the contracting system it used for all past NASA subcontracts.

The article is errs badly when it calls the new contracting approach that NASA wants to use “non-traditional.” It is instead the way NASA has been doing things for decades, whereby the agency takes full control of everything and requires contractors to fill out so much paperwork that the costs double and triple.


66 Percent of CEOs Plan to Freeze or Downsize Workforce Size

Two-thirds of the country’s CEOs plan to freeze or downsize their workforce over the next year, according to a new survey.

“As I approach my 44th year in business, the last 20 as CEO, I can never remember a time when I felt so disenfranchised from our leadership in Washington. They seem determined to continue their ongoing anti-business attitude and to frustrate small and mid-sized businesses by uncertainty on taxes, government regulations, and simply too many bureaucratic restrictions. We desperately need a change in Washington.”

I guarantee that much of this reluctance to hire stems from uncertainty and fear of Obamacare and the regulations it brings.


The job boom for government regulators under Obama

The chart of the day, from John Merlune at Investor’s Business Daily:

Boom in jobs for regulators

Merlune’s article outlines in frightening detail how there has been a job boom in only one place during the Obama administration, the government regulatory industry.

Regulatory agencies have seen their combined budgets grow a healthy 16% since 2008, topping $54 billion, according to the annual “Regulator’s Budget,” compiled by George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis. That’s at a time when the overall economy grew a paltry 5%.

Meanwhile, employment at these agencies has climbed 13% since Obama took office to more than 281,000, while private-sector jobs shrank by 5.6%.


American manned space: dependent on the Russians in more ways than you think

American manned space: dependent on the Russians in more ways than you think.

As commentators from around the country gnash their teeth at U.S. dependence upon Russia to move cargo and astronauts to the mostly U.S. built/funded International Space Station (ISS), they’ve missed the bigger boat: With one exception, all the commercial spaceflight offerings currently in the works have Soviet or Russian engines as a key part of the rockets involved.

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