Tag Archives: competition

How the “internet of things” robs us of our rights

Link here. Key quote:

One key reason we don’t control our devices is that the companies that make them seem to think – and definitely act like – they still own them, even after we’ve bought them. A person may purchase a nice-looking box full of electronics that can function as a smartphone, the corporate argument goes, but they buy a license only to use the software inside. The companies say they still own the software, and because they own it, they can control it. It’s as if a car dealer sold a car, but claimed ownership of the motor.

This sort of arrangement is destroying the concept of basic property ownership. John Deere has already told farmers that they don’t really own their tractors but just license the software – so they can’t fix their own farm equipment or even take it to an independent repair shop. The farmers are objecting, but maybe some people are willing to let things slide when it comes to smartphones, which are often bought on a payment installment plan and traded in as soon as possible.

How long will it be before we realize they’re trying to apply the same rules to our smart homes, smart televisions in our living rooms and bedrooms, smart toilets and internet-enabled cars?

This is once again why, when I buy something, I try to find the stupidest version I can. It is why I don’t use a smart phone, since all the companies that work with them do not respect my privacy. It is why I avoid Google and Facebook, for the same reasons. In every case, there is an immoral component to the actions of these companies, and it is the personal responsibility of each individual to not participate in or endorse such behavior.

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New Generation looks to establish private spaceport

Capitalism in space The new private partnership led by Canon, dubbed New Generation Small Rocket Development Planning, is now searching for a location to build its own private spaceport in order to bypass restrictions placed on launches at Japan’s two government launch sites.

While JAXA can launch at any time during the year, the deal with the local fishing council limits the number of launches per year to 17, and requires JAXA to coordinate its launches for the year with that council. For New Generation, which wants to compete in the smallsat rocket business and will thus likely need to launch dozens, if not hundreds, of times per year, this arrangement won’t work.

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Building launch backlog in China

The two launch failures in June and July experienced by China has forced an extended pause in rocket launches, resulting in an increasing launch backlog.

The main contractor for the Chinese space programme, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), had announced plans for a national record of close to 30 launches this year, but recent failures have halted progress, putting pressure on an increasingly intense schedule.

There have been no launches since the high profile failure of the second flight of China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5, on July 2. Preceding that, a Long March 3B, used for launches to geosynchronous and medium Earth orbits, left the Zhongxing-9A telecommunications satellite in a much lower than intended orbit. This partial failure has apparently hit the schedule for launches of China’s Beidou navigation satellites, while two more launch vehicles – the Long March 2D and 4C – also suffered issues last time out.

The Chinese launch calendar typically sees the vast majority of its activity in the second half of the year, and this will need to be the case once again to prevent a large mission backlog. China was looking to launch 6-8 new satellites for its own version of the GPS constellation, starting in July, but it is unclear if the first pair, Beidou-3M3 and Beidou-3M4, will be ready for launch from Xichang in mountainous Sichuan Province.

Right now China has only completed 7 launches in 2017. The article also notes that further launches might be delayed for political reasons:

With the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, a major political event that will see a once-every-five-years reshuffle of the country’s leadership, set for October, it is likely that unnecessary risks – particularly regarding a space programme regarded as a source of national pride and prestige – will be avoided.

What this article indicates is that China is undergoing the same kind of launch pressures experienced by Russia and SpaceX. Rocket science is hard, but the benefits are so great that it forces those involved to solve the problems. I expect we shall see China resume launches, at a fast pace, sometime after October.

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Hollywood’s worst summer box office in 25 years

Link here. The numbers and details are truly horrifying:

Even before this catastrophic Labor Day weekend is factored in (more on this below), the domestic 2017 box office is in hideous shape. This year is –6.3% behind 2016 and continues to fall behind 2015, 2013, and 2012.

If you figure in inflation, those numbers are even worse. For example, in 2012 the average ticket cost $7.96. Today it is almost a full dollar more at $8.89. Yeah, things are that bad and will look even worse on Tuesday.

With no apparent faith in their own product, this is the first Labor Day in 25 years where a new title has not been released on more than 1,000 screens. Over this weekend last year, the box office hauled in nearly $130 million. This year will do about a third of that. Summer attendance is at a 25-year low. The summer box office is down a whopping –16% compared to 2016.

The author provides some cogent analysis, all of which suggests things are going to get far worse for Hollywood in the coming years. The essence of the problem comes back to the same intellectual bubble that the elitists in Washington remain trapped in: A refusal to cater to the interests of their customers.

Unfortunately, this is the times in which we live. The dominate intellectual culture today is intellectually dishonest. The public has been making choices it disagrees with, and it continues to show an utter unwillingness to honestly assess those choices and figure out why. Instead, that culture, almost entirely leftwing and liberal in make-up, has decided that such dissent can only be the work of evil racists, an absurd conclusion that only serves to alienate that bankrupt intellectual culture more from the general public that is rejecting it.

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A look at UAE’s space program, its overall goals and its Mars probe Hope

Link here. Much of what this article discusses, the use of space to help diversify the UAE’s economy, have already been noted previously by this same site and linked to by me in an earlier post. However, the article also provides some details about the scientific mission of their Mars Hope probe, set to launch in 2020.

[Hope, or the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM)] will be the first probe to study Martian climate through the daily and seasonal cycles. It will explore the connection between the upper and lower atmosphere, study the events in the lower atmosphere such as changes in temperature and dust storms, and how they affect the upper atmosphere in the following days or weeks.

It will also seek to answer some of the key questions that we have about Mars such as why the planet is losing its atmosphere to space, by tracking the behaviour of hydrogen and oxygen, which are the building blocks of water. With the discovery of periodical water on the surface of the Red Planet, Hope will be able to answer if the source of the Martian water is from the atmosphere. This research will create the first global image of weather on Mars during the days, weeks, months, and years, adding a new dimension to human knowledge on how the Red Planet’s atmosphere really works.

Overall, it appears that the primary goal so far has been to train engineers in the building of satellites. This is a good thing, and you have to start somewhere, but the UAE nonetheless has a big hill to climb before it can compete in the global satellite market.

Note too that it appears that all the investment capital for this effort is coming from the Emirates’ leadership. If one of those newly trained engineers wanted to form their own company, would he or she be allowed to obtain capital elsewhere, thus becoming a truly independent and competing operation? I suspect not, which means that this will limit the long term diversification of this industry, despite that being the UAE’s number one goal.

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SpaceX completes static fire tests of Falcon Heavy first stages

Capitalism in space: SpaceX announced today that they have completed static fire testing of the three first stages that will be used on the first Falcon Heavy test flight, tentatively scheduled for sometime in November.

That November launch remains very tentative. The launchpad still needs to be prepped, and these stages still have to be shipped to Florida, assembled, and then undergo at least one static fire test, as a unit. Despite these caveats, it is clear that that SpaceX is getting closer to that first Falcon Heavy launch.

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India’s PSLV rocket fails to release satellite

India’s PSLV rocket failed to put a navigation satellite into orbit yesterday when the payload fairing did not separate.

The PSLV has had an excellent launch record, so this failure is unfortunate and a surprise. Whether it will effect that rocket’s next launch, putting two Google Lunar X-prize contestants into space, remains unknown.

We are about to leave Torry and head home. Further posts will be on the road, assuming I can get service.

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Angola establishes its first space strategy

The new colonial movement: Angola has enacted its first space strategy, aimed at encouraging a new space industry in that nation.

The document is mostly government bureaucratic blather. More important, it seems mostly centered on what Angola’s governmental space agencies will do in the future. The policy makes nice about encouraging the private sector, but offers little to actually accomplish this.

Nonetheless, this action once again shows that more and more countries across the globe want in on the exploration of the solar system. The international competition is going to be fierce.

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Dream Chaser test vehicle completes captive carry flight

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada’s engineering test vehicle for testing the glide abilities of its planned Dream Chaser shuttle craft successfully completed a captive carry test flight today.

After a long delay following the award of their cargo contract, it appears they are finally moving forward.

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Problems with 6 of 72 cubesats launched by Soyuz

Of the 72 cubesats launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket on July 14, 6 have unexpected problems.

Four of the 72 miniature satellites sent into orbit July 14 on a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket alongside the primary customer, the Kanopus-V-IK Russian Earth-imaging satellite, are not responding to commands from their operators and two additional cubesats are not in their intended orbits.

It appears that a variety of causes are behind the problems, not all of which are related to the Soyuz.

Posted from Torrey, Utah, just outside Capitol Reef.

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SES flips satellites between SpaceX and Arianespace launches

Capitalism in space: In order to accelerate the launch of a needed satellite, SES
to flip the satellites between contracted SpaceX and Arianespace launches.

Their ability to do this now demonstrates the wisdom of SES’s policy in the past decade of aggressively supporting SpaceX. The result is that the company now has a much greater flexibility in how it gets its satellites into orbit.

Posted as we drove through Bynum, Montana.

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Dream Chaser engineering vehicle completes tow tests

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada’s engineering test vehicle for testing its Dream Chaser design has completed tow tests at Edward Air Force Base in California and is now being prepared for flight tests.

Posted on the back roads of Montana during our drive from Glacier to Capital Reef.

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Russia and China to team up to explore Moon?

Russia and China appear ready to sign a cooperative agreement involving the joint exploration of the Moon from 2018 to 2022.

The deal is expected to be signed this October and will bring significant benefits to both nations, particularly in manned and future missions to the moon….

The bilateral agreement will cover five areas including lunar and deep space exploration, developing special materials, collaboration in the area of satellite systems, Earth remote sensing, and space debris research.

No details yet. Moreover, the deal itself has not yet been signed, so this might all vanish into the ether. It does appear however that Russia’s financial problems are forcing it to partner with others, and China presently has a very sophisticated but inexperienced space program and lots of cash. Russia’s experience would be a great help to China, until they don’t need it anymore. Thus, the logic of the agreement.

Posted from the lobby of the Swiftcurrent hotel at the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. Diane completed a 10 mile hike today early, so we have the afternoon to relax. Tomorrow we make the long drive south to Capital Reef.

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Firefly emerges from bankruptcy

Capitalism in space: Firefly Aerospace, the company that was forced into bankruptcy when it lost a Virgin Galactic lawsuit for stealing their proprietary engineering, has emerged from bankruptcy.

The full article is behind a paywall, but it appears that the company includes its same management staff under a new owner.

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Private Japanese company to test fly again by December

Capitalism in space: Interstellar Technologies, the private Japanese rocket company attempting to enter the launch market with a low cost suborbital rocket, will attempt a second test flight before the end of the year.

Their first test flight failed to reach space when they had a communications problem and had to terminate the mission early.

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SpaceX’s flight suit for manned trips to ISS

Capitalism in space: SpaceX this week unveiled the flight suit that passengers will wear during their Dragon flights to and from ISS.

This is not strictly a spacesuit. It has limited capabilities, and can essentially only be used during the ferry flights. Nonetheless, I guarantee it as well as Boeing’s were developed for far less and much quicker than anything NASA could have come up with.

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SpaceX launches commercial satellite, lands 1st stage

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched Taiwan’s first homemade commercial satellite.

They also landed the first stage successfully on their barge.d

After a short hike this morning Diane and I decided to relax the rest of the day. Time to catch up on other stuff.

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ULA’s Atlas 5 successfully launches NASA communications satellite

Capitalism in space: ULA this morning successfully launched NASA TDRS-M communications satellite, following a several week delay caused by an accident during satellite preparation that forced the replacement of the satellite’s antenna.

This was ULA’s fifth launch for 2017, which is behind the once-a-month pace they have maintained for the previous five years.

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Proton successfully launches Russian military satellite

Russia today successfully used its Proton rocket to place a military communications satellite in orbit.

Though primarily a military satellite, it will also be used by civilian customers as well.

Meanwhile, in their effort to recover from last year’s engine recall that practically shut down their launch industry, the Russians are trying to up their launch rate, with additional Proton launches now set for September 9 and 28. At the moment, they and SpaceX are tied for the most launches in 2017, and I suspect it will be a neck and neck race for the rest of the year.

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Japan’s beginning shift to commercial space

Link here. The article provides a good sense of the state of Japan’s private space industry, which at this moment is generally restricted one company, Interstellar Technologies, and its as yet unsuccessful effort to launch a suborbital rocket. The following quote however helps explain why Japan has been unable to interest anyone in buying its H-2A rocket for commercial launches.

Launch costs associated with Japan’s main H-2A rocket are about ¥10 billion per launch (about $90 million), so miniature satellites often ride together with bigger satellites. A period of 50 days is required between launches, meaning the number of launches is low in Japan compared to countries including the United States, Europe, Russia, China and India. Large satellites are given priority in the launch schedule, so it is often difficult to choose a launch window for miniature satellites. [emphasis mine]

I think the $90 million price is a significant reduction from what JAXA used to charge. Fifty days to prep for launch however is ungodly slow.

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Russia to launch twice from Vostochny this year

Russian Deputy Prime Minister announced today that Russia will launch satellites from its new spaceport in Vostochny twice in 2017, first on November 28 and second on December 22.

On July 3, Rogozin said Russia would conduct five launches from the Vostochny space center in 2018. On July 11, Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation head Igor Komarov said the agency was determined to launch up to five carrier rockets for its foreign clients from Vostochny every year starting in 2019.

It appears that the Russian leadership decided to accelerate the launch schedule and move two of those 2018 launches to November and December, 2017. They must be feeling the competitive pressure coming from SpaceX, which has essentially stolen almost their entire share of the commercial launch market.

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Google Lunar X-Prize extends deadline

Capitalism in space: The Google Lunar X-Prize has announced that it has extended its contest deadline from the end of 2017 to the end of March 2018 for the finalists to complete their lunar rover mission and win the grand prize of $30 million.

They also announced several additional consolation prizes that all of the remaining five contestants can win should they achieve lunar orbit ($1.75 million) or successfully achieve a soft landing ($3 million), even if they are not the first to do it.

At least one team, Moon Express, will be helped enormously by the extra three months. This gives Rocket Lab just a little extra time to test its rocket before launching Moon Express’s rover to the Moon.

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S7 announces plans to resume launches on Sea Launch

Capitalism in space: The Russian private airline company S7 announced today that it plans to resume launches of the Ukrainian Zenit rocket on its Sea Launch platform, and will continue those launches through 2023.

The article is somewhat lacking in details, since it does not say when they plan to start launches, or how many launch contracts they have obtained.

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More Russian launch delays

Three stories out of Russia today suggest that that country’s aerospace industry has not yet fixed all of its quality control problems.

The last two stories both refer to the launch of Germany’s Spektr-RG, which was originally supposed to launch in 2014. The most recent schedule said the astronomical observatory would be launched in September 2018. That they need an extra month in order to “integration and ground development of the Spektr-RG spacecraft” does not seem out of line. At the same time, that they do not provide any reasons for the delay raises questions.

Meanwhile, that the Proton rocket for the Amazonas-5 launch has not yet been shipped seems incredible. The September 9 launch date was announced on August 9. You would expect that by now Russian companies would know exactly how long it takes to get a rocket to the launchpad. This suggests another more fundamental problem with the rocket that they are not revealing.

I know I am being a bit harsh on the Russians here. A more positive spin (which also might be true) might be that they are finally getting a handle on their quality control issues, and the result is these few additional delays as they clean things up.

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3D printing and how it will change what things look like

Link here. The article not only outlines some of the newer developments in 3D printing, it gives a nice look at how that technology is literally going to change what the things it builds look like.

Simple shapes are popular in human designs because they’re easy. Easy to design, especially with CAD, and easy to manufacture in a world where manufacturing means taking a big block or sheet of something, and machining a shape out of it, or pouring metals into a mold.

But manufacturing is starting to undergo a revolutionary change as 3D printing moves toward commercially competitive speeds and costs. And where traditional manufacturing incentivizes the simplest shapes, additive manufacturing is at its fastest and cheapest when you use the least possible material for the job. That’s a really difficult way for a human to design – but fairly easy, as it turns out, for a computer. And super easy for a giant network of computers.

The result: a stronger object, less weight, and less cost.

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Rocket Lab looks to second test flight of Electron

Capitalism in space: Having completed its review of its first May test flight of its Electron rocket, Rocket Lab now looks to the second test flight.

The article gives a good overview of the results from the first test flight. It also has this tidbit:

The second of Rocket Lab’s three planned test flights is scheduled later this year. If that launch goes well, the company will likely delete the third demonstration mission, and the first commercial Electron flight could be ready for takeoff by the end of December, Beck said last week.

“We’ve got the next test flight rolling out out to the pad in about eight weeks’ time,” Beck said. “If it’s a really good clean flight, we’ll probably accelerate into commercial operations.”

If they follow this schedule, then the next flight will be in mid-October, and the Moon Express launch of its lunar rover will occur in mid-December, just in time to win the Google Lunar X-Prize.

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