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My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


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Viasat drops launch contract with Ariane-6

With SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy having just completed the first of three launches for Viasat’s new geosynchronous constellation of communication satellites, the satellite company has announced that it is cancelling its launch contract with Ariane-6 for the third launch.

The decision means the launch contract is up for grabs for the third ViaSat 3 internet satellite, the last of a three-satellite constellation Viasat is deploying to provide global broadband connectivity from space.

Viasat announced in 2018 it selected SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and Arianespace to each launch one ViaSat 3 satellite, awarding launch contracts to three industry leaders.

The ULA launch, on its Atlas-5 rocket, is still scheduled for either late this year or early next.

The development of Ariane-6 however is years behind schedule. Furthermore, Arianespace has given priority on Ariane-6 to all of the ESA launches that formerly were going to be launched on Russian Soyuz rockets, further delaying Viasat’s launch.

For Viasat, the delays have become unacceptable, and it has now opened that third launch to bidding. Though both ULA’s Vulcan and Blue Origin’s New Glenn rockets could do the job, neither is operational either. It appears SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is the only rocket available and is therefore almost certain to get the contract, a conclusion further confirmed by the timing of this announcement, just prior to that successful Falcon Heavy launch.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Ray Van Dune

    “The ULA launch, on its Atlas-5 rocket, is still scheduled for either late this year or early next.”

    So, is an Atlas 5 going to be capable of duplicating the launch performance of a fully-expended Falcon Heavy?

  • Mitch S.

    “Viasat announced in 2018 it selected SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and Arianespace to each launch one ViaSat 3 satellite”

    Wonder how the pricing worked out. Did Viasat contact to pay more for Ariane and ULA or did they match SpaceX’s price (even if it meant losing money)? (Though it’s not a cheap SpaceX launch since they had to expend the boosters)
    Atlas 5 use Russian engines? I recall ULA said they still have some in stock.

  • Ray Van Dune

    AFAIK, all remaining Atlas 5 launches will use Russian RD-180 engines, since it would be cost-prohibitive to integrate the BE-4 into a soon to be discontinued rocket.

  • Jay

    Ouch. With the delays in Vulcan, now a launch in July, I see SpaceX getting another contract.

  • Ray Van Dune

    With Falcon Heavy batting 1,000.0, why would you put your money anywhere else? This is the real “Big Guy”!

    I wouldn’t be surprised if SpaceX decides to human-rate it, for Artemis emergency use. To think Elon wanted to cancel it, until Gwynne Shotwell straightened him out.

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