Bulgaria to sign Artemis Accords

NASA yesterday announced that Bulgaria will sign the Artemis Accords tomorrow, becoming the 32nd nation to join the alliance.

The full list of signatories is as follows: Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the Ukraine, and the United States.

The competing alliance of communist nations, led by China, includes only Russia, Venezuala, Pakistan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and South Africa. That former deep Soviet block nations like Bulgaria and Romania went with the west rather than China illustrates the international distrust of China and its authoritarian methods.

Regardless, we now see a rough outline of the coming cold war in space.

Latvian/Bulgarian commercial partnership to launch cubesats to monitor space weather

Capitalism in space: Mission Space, a Latvian company, plans to build a constellation of 24 cubesats designed to monitor space weather and solar activity, using cubesats manufactured by the Bulgarian company EnduroSat.

Mission Space plans to make its software model of the near-Earth radiation environment available in mid-2022, before launching its Aurora-1 detectors with EnduroSat in the fourth quarter of the year.

Mission Space was founded in 2020 to offer space weather monitoring as a service. With data supplied by its constellation, Mission Space will provide data and analytics to government agencies in addition to establishing a cloud-based platform to help commercial satellite operators prepare for solar storms, assess risks and monitor radiation levels.

EndoroSat already has five satellites in orbit, with ten more planned for launch in the next two years.

I think that both these companies demonstrate that a modern satellite business truly can be started in someone’s garage. Because cubesats are so small and are also somewhat standardized, you don’t need a large facility to build them.

SpaceX launches satellite with reused first stage, recovers stage

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has done it again. They have placed a Bulgarian television satellite into orbit, using a previously flown first stage.

The landing of the first stage had a moment of fear. Just before the stage was to land, as it was firing its engines during the landing burn, the video showed something hit the water next to the barge, then the image froze and was lost. For about fifteen seconds it appeared that possibly something had gone wrong during the burn. Then the image returned, showing the stage sitting neatly and upright and apparently unharmed, on the barge. Whether this stage will fly a third time will have to wait until they inspect it, but if it does, they will certainly prove without question that the decades of big space engineers telling us that such things were impossible was childish and narrow-minded hogwash.

Remember that the next time someone tells you something is too hard to try to do.

Bulgaria credits SpaceX’s low costs for making its satellite possible

Capitalism in space: The CEO of the Bulgarian company that built the television satellite that SpaceX plans to launch later today said that it was SpaceX’s low costs that made the satellite possible.

Maxim Zayakov, CEO of BulgariaSat and its affiliate television provider Bulsatcom, told Spacefight Now that SpaceX’s push to reduce the cost of space transportation has yielded tangible results for his country. “People don’t realize that, for small countries and small companies like us, without SpaceX, there was no way we would ever be able to even think about space,” Zayakov said. “With them, it was possible. We got a project. I think, in the future, it’s going to be even more affordable because of reusability.”

This is what I have been saying for more than a decade. You lower the costs, you make it possible for more customers to enter the market. This increase in customer base makes it possible for more launch companies to enter the market in response, and that forces the costs to drop further, which starts the whole cycle again. In the end we not only get a robust launch industry, the human race gets to settle the solar system.

The article also confirms that, at this time, SpaceX is only offering a 10% discount for the use of a reused first stage. They say this is because they wish to recoup their $1 billion investment to develop reusability. While this might be true, the real truth is that SpaceX doesn’t need to provide a larger discount. The discounted price of $55.8 million saves satellite companies another $6.2 million, which isn’t chicken feed, and offers them the cheapest launch price anywhere by far. SpaceX in turn makes more money per launch.

Should another company begin to challenge this launch price I would then expect SpaceX to lower the price further. They have the profit margin to do this.

Note that you can watch today’s Falcon 9 launch of the Bulgarian satellite at 2:10 pm Eastern at SpaceX’s website.

SpaceX to launch Bulgarian satellite in June with used first stage

Capitalism in space: SpaceX will fly its second used first stage in June when it launches a Bulgarian communications satellite.

In a statement, BulgariaSat said its BulgariaSat-1 spacecraft is scheduled to launch in mid-June on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first stage of that Falcon 9 will be the same one that launched 10 Iridium Next satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January. Maxim Zayakov, chief executive of BulgariaSat, said the use of a reused first stage lowers the launch price and “makes it possible for smaller countries and companies to launch their own satellites.”

The company did not disclose the price it is paying for the launch, including what discount it is receiving for using a “flight-proven” first stage.

Previously SpaceX had said it would charge about $40 million for a launch using a previously flown first stage, so I would suspect the discount is somewhere around that.

Another launch contract for SpaceX

The competition heats up: In a deal to build Bulgaria’s first communications satellite, Space Systems/Loral has contracted SpaceX’s Falcon 9 as launch vehicle.

The article makes a point of noting that the deal was financed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a detail that has in the past almost never been mentioned. The Ex-Im Bank however faces almost certain shutdown because of opposition in Congress, so this mention might be part of a vain attempt to save it.