Tag Archives: commercial

SpaceIL decides Beresheet-2 will not be lunar mission

The new colonial movement: The Israeli nonprofit company SpaceIL has decided that its second Beresheet spacecraft will not go to the Moon.

The association’s board of directors decided to involve the public in the process of choosing the challenge that Beresheet 2 will lead, as was done in the national mission to the moon. At the same time, the association will continue to focus on establishing the values ​​of the “Beresheet effect” among the younger generation in Israel.

What I think is really going on is that they have realized that they cannot raise the necessary cash to fly another lunar lander, and are therefore setting their sights lower in order to find a mission they can fund.

Share

SpaceX catches a fairing

Capitalism in space: During last night’s Falcon Heavy launch SpaceX was for the first time able to catch one of the rocket’s fairings using its ship, GO Ms. Tree (formerly called Mr. Steven).

As noted at the link, SpaceX now has in its hands a fairing untouched by salt water that it can analyze for future reuse, something no other rocket company has been able to do. Moreover, that the ship was able to make the net catch at night bodes well for future fairing recoveries.

Hat tip commenter geoffc.

Share

Falcon Heavy launches successfully

Capitalism in space: The Falcon Heavy successfully launched tonight, and is presently deploying the 24 satellites on board.

They successfully landed the two first stage side boosters, but the core stage apparently just missed hitting the drone ship in the Atlantic. You could see it come down, but not on the pad. While SpaceX has now successfully recovered all six side boosters on all three Falcon Heavy launches, they have not yet succeeded in recovering the core stage.

The mission’s full success will not be known for several hours, as the satellite deployments unfold. So far the first two satellites have been deployed successfully.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

8 China
8 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 Europe (Arianespace)
3 India

The U.S. has now widened its lead over China in the national rankings, 13 to 8.

Share

Falcon Heavy launch a go for 2:30 am (Eastern) tonight

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s third Falcon Heavy launch is now a go for launch at 2:30 am (Eastern) tonight.

You can watch it live at SpaceX’s website here or at the embedded video below the fold.

This launch should be especially spectacular, as it will be at night, and the sky is clear. Moreover, they will once again be trying to land all three first stage boosters, with the side boosters flying for the second time only two months after their first flight on the last Falcon Heavy launch.
» Read more

Share

Schedule for Dragon/Starliner manned flights revised

Capitalism in space: NASA has released a new updated planning schedule for the manned flights of both SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner manned capsules.

Boeing’s first unmanned demo flight of Starliner is now set for September 17, 2019. This will be followed by SpaceX’s first manned Dragon flight, scheduled for November 15, 2019. Boeing will then follow with its first manned Starliner flight on November 30, 2019.

These are considered target dates. I have great doubts that the Starliner schedule will proceed as described, while SpaceX’s schedule is more likely.

The article also had this interesting tidbit about the upcoming launch schedule of Sierra Nevada’s unmanned reusable cargo ship Dream Chaser:

According to the document, the first flight of Dream Chaser will take place in a planned September 2021 timeframe and will see the vehicle remain berthed to the International Space Station for up to 75 days before returning to Earth to land on a runway for reuse.

There are clearly issues with all these commercial projects. For example, the GAO today released a new report citing the numerous delays in this commercial manned program and calling for NASA to come up with a more complete back-up plan.

Nonetheless, the 2020s have the potential to be the most exciting decade in space exploration since the 1960s. If all goes even close to these plans, the U.S. will have three operating manned spacecraft (Dragon, Starliner, Orion), two reusable cargo spacecraft (Dragon, Dream Chaser), one non-reusable (Cygnus), and a plethora of launch companies putting up payloads of all kinds, from planetary missions to basic commercial satellites numbering in the thousands.

Much could happen to prevent all this. Keep your fingers crossed that nothing will.

Share

Blue Origin completes first test of lunar lander engine

Capitalism in space: This week Jeff Bezos revealed that Blue Origin had successfully completed the first static test firing of its BE-7 rocket engine, intended for use in its Blue Moon lunar lander.

Company founder Jeff Bezos tweeted June 19 that the test of the BE-7 engine took place the previous day at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The 35-second test went as expected, he said. “Data looks great and hardware is in perfect condition,” he wrote in the post, which included a video of the test.

Bezos is clearly lobbying here for the contracts to build NASA’s first manned lunar lander should its Artemis program get funded.

Meanwhile, there is been no update on the status of his company’s BE-4 engine since April 2018. I wonder why..

Share

Arianespace successfully launches two commercial satellites

Capitalism in space: Arianespace today successfully used its Ariane 5 rocket to launch two commercial satellites.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

8 China
7 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 Europe (Arianespace)
3 India

The U.S. continues to lead China in the national rankings 12 to 8.

Share

SpinLaunch gets first launch contract, from Defense Department

Capitalism in space: The smallsat launch company SpinLaunch has gotten its first launch contract from a division of the Defense Department.

In a statement today (June 19), SpinLaunch announced that it has received a “launch prototype contract” from the U.S. Department of Defense under a deal arranged by the Defense Innovation Unit. The Long Beach, California-based company aims to launch its first test flights in early 2020 from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

SpinLaunch is developing a “kinetic energy-based launch system” that accelerates a small payload-carrying booster to hypersonic speeds with a spinning system on the ground. A chemical rocket would kick in once the payload has been launched from the ground system.

The image provided by SpinLaunch at the link appears to show a 3D-printed lifting-body type spacecraft attached to the arm of a large centrifuge. This suggests that after this spacecraft reaches orbit and deploys its payload, it would then return to Earth to be reused.

SpinLaunch has raised $40 million in investment capital, so they are real. Whether they can make this happen by 2020 remains to be seen.

Share

Ireland’s government releases its space strategy goals through 2025

The new colonial movement: Ireland today released a national space strategy designed to encourage the growth of a commercial space sector by 2025.

You can download the actual report here [pdf].

They want to increase both public and private investment by 50% by 2025. Whether that means investment in private companies or simply a growth in a government bureaucracy is uncertain, based on my reading of the report. It appears their goal is to grow the private sector, but they will be using European Space Agency approaches for doing so, which tend to favor government growth and control rather than developing an independent commercial industry.

Share

Sri Lanka’s first satellite launched from ISS

The new colonial movement: Built by two Sri Lanka engineers, astronauts this week successfully deployed that country’s first satellite into orbit from ISS.

The satellite was designed and developed by two Sri Lankan engineers – Tharindu Dayaratne and Dulani Chamika – studying space engineering at Japan”s Kyushu Institute of Technology.

Raavana-1 was deployed to the 400-km of orbit at an inclination of 51.6 degrees using the JAXA (Japanese Aerospace and Exploration Agency) owned Kibo experiment module, the paper said.

…Raavana-1 is expected to fulfil five missions including the capturing of pictures of Sri Lanka and surrounding regions, active attitude stabilization which ensures that satellite’s attitude is stable under the influence of external talks. It will have a minimum lifespan of one and a half years but was expected to be active for up to five years.

More significant than its Sri Lankan roots is that this cubesat was built entirely by only two engineering students. While it is apparently a simple engineering test satellite, that it could be put together so easily by only two people illustrates the revolution that the satellite industry is presently undergoing. Very soon it will literally be true that major satellites will be assembled in someone’s garage.

Share

Boeing shifts space headquarters from DC area to Florida

Capitalism in space: Boeing today announced that it is moving the headquarters for its space operations from Arlington, Virginia, to Titusville, Florida, just outside Cape Canaveral.

From an operations point of view this move makes sense. The timing of this announcement suggests to me that they are trying to put a PR band-aid over yesterday’s damning GAO report about the endless cost overruns and schedule delays of their SLS rocket.

Share

SpaceX reschedules manned Dragon demo flight to November

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has now apparently rescheduled its first manned Dragon demo flight to ISS to no earlier than November 1, 2019.

The information comes from a SpaceX application with the FCC, listing the launch window as sometime between November 1, 2019 and April 30, 2020.

This now gives us the time frame when both NASA and SpaceX expect to complete their investigation into the Dragon test explosion in March as well as institute changes as a result. It also suggests they now have a much better idea what happened and what they need to do, thus allowing them to create this time frame.

Share

NASA releases draft commercial Gateway resupply plan

Capitalism in space? NASA today released a draft document outlining its plan for having commercial companies provide cargo to its Lunar Gateway station.

NASA is creating the Gateway Logistics Services (GLS) arena that will oversee supply delivery efforts to the lunar outpost. The draft Request For Proposals document, released by NASA last Friday, will form the basis for the formal Request For Proposals that companies will use later this summer to submit their bids for selection as part of the GLS program.

The draft document will be reviewed by commercial industry providers who will then submit feedback for NASA to consider as the agency formalizes the document.

While not official in its entirety, large portions of the document will remain unchanged or only undergo minor tweaks/clarifications at this point. Thus, the draft provides excellent insight into services, pricing, and timelines that commercial companies will have to meet if selected to participate in the GLS offerings. Of note, any company selected to fly GLS missions would receive a guarantee of two missions, minimum, and each awarded contract would not exceed $7 billion (USD). The total number of contracts NASA can award is not constrained via the language in the draft GLS solicitation document.

The reason I question above whether this will be capitalism in space is because of one new rule NASA wants to impose on its commercial vendors:

Unlike the [ISS cargo] contracts which did not carry a “one successful flight” requirement if changes to the launch vehicle were made after initial certification (both the Falcon 9 and the Antares underwent significant design changes after their [cargo] flights began – with some of those changes debuting on [later cargo] flights), the draft GLS language seems to indicate that NASA would seek to prohibit launch vehicle design changes debuting on GLS contract flights.

If the draft language becomes formal, the GLS contracts would require a launch vehicle that undergoes a design change to complete one successful flight of those changes before its next GLS mission is allowed to proceed.

I can see no reason for this rule other than to prevent private companies from making NASA’s own slow development process look bad. Or to put it another way, NASA wants to prevent the U.S. from getting things done fast in space, because that will prevent the agency from stretching out development endlessly, as it routinely does.

The GLS plan does propose one very good change in NASA policy. It proposes to break the SLS monopoly on launching Gateway components. For years NASA has said that only SLS could launch Gateway components, something that is patently absurd. The Trump administration has been pushing against that shortsighted position, and this plan accelerates that push. It will instead allow commercial companies to compete for those launches, which puts more pressure on SLS to deliver or die.

Share

Two more commercial Proton launches later this year

According to Russian officials, they will have two more commercial launches later this year using their workhorse Proton rocket.

They made this statement at the Paris Air Show yesterday. However, the story did not specific who the customers were, which I find puzzling.

They will use the Proton to launch Russia’s first space telescope in decades later this week. If successful, and if the two other launches occur, that would be the most Proton launches in a year since 2017.

Share

India to use PSLV 4th stage for orbital research and docking tests

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO now plans to conduct research, including docking tests, using the 4th stage of its PSLV rocket following normal commercial operations.

The PS4 is the last stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, which until now used to go waste after putting the spacecraft into the desired orbit. ISRO, in the last two attempts tried to keep PS4 alive in space, and was successful. As the next step, it has now called for experiments from national and international institutions. The experiments will cover six areas, including space docking

“The PS4-Orbital Platform (PS4-OP) refers to a novel idea formulated by ISRO to use the spent PS4 stage (fourth stage of PSLV) to carry out in-orbit scientific experiments for an extended duration of one to six months. The advantage being the stage has standard interfaces & packages for power generation, telemetry, tele-command, stabilization, orbit keeping & orbit maneuvering,” Isro said on Saturday.

All of this is engineering research, finding ways to operate in space effectively. More important, they are doing what SpaceX does, letting their commercial operations pay for their research and development. Rather than fly separate missions to do these engineering experiments, they will let their commercial customers pay for it.

Share

Bridenstine: Artemis to cost $4-$6 billion per year

According to several reports this past weekend, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is now estimating the cost for the Trump administration’s Artemis lunar program at $20 to $30 billion, or $4 to $6 billion per year.

This has not been officially confirmed. Either way, I am not sure how Bridenstine will get this approved in the House, where the Democrats now have a policy to oppose any Trump proposal 100%. And if it doesn’t get approved, SLS will die after its second launch, as the bulk of this budget is to pay for its future flights to the Moon.

If a lower figure gets approved, that might force NASA to buy private rockets almost exclusively to get back to the Moon, rather than the mix of private and SLS as now proposed.

Share

Stratolaunch for sale?

A report today says that the Stratolaunch company, including its giant airplane Roc, are up for sale.

Sources say Vulcan Inc. is looking to sell Stratolaunch, the space venture founded by the late Seattle billionaire Paul Allen, and one report says the asking price could be as high as $400 million.

That price tag was reported today by CNBC, quoting unnamed sources who were said to be familiar with the discussions.

Vulcan had nothing new to say about Stratolaunch’s fate, which has been the subject of rumors for months. “Stratolaunch remains operational,” Alex Moji, manager of corporate communications at Vulcan, told GeekWire in an emailed statement. “We will provide an update when there is news to share.”

Since the sources are all anonymous, it is wise to not take the story too seriously. At the same time, it seems to fit with events since the death of Paul Allen.

Share

China announces international experiments to fly on its space station

The new colonial movement: China and the UN today jointly announced the nine international experiments that China will fly on its own space station, set to be completed by 2022.

The nine projects involve 23 entities from 17 countries in the fields of aerospace medicine, space life sciences and biotechnology, microgravity physics and combustion science, astronomy and other emerging technologies.

It seems to me that the competition in space is definitely heating up. Both China and Indian now plan their own space stations. And the Trump administration’s announcement that it will allow private commercial and competitive operations on ISS, is certainly going to lead eventually to more than one private station in orbit, plus ISS.

The result is going to be many different stations, all offering different capabilities and all in competition to lower the cost to get there and to do research or to sightsee. All are also going to be contributing aggressively in learning how to build vessels that humans can live on for long periods, which in turn will teach us how to build interplanetary spaceships. In fact, every one of these stations will be prototypes for those interplanetary spaceships.

Isn’t competition wonderful? After almost thirty years of boring international cooperation on ISS, with little new achievement or innovation, the space station competition coming in the next decade will revitalize space exploration in ways we as yet cannot imagine.

Share

Bigelow announces four tourist bookings to ISS using Dragon

Capitalism in space: The private space station company Bigelow Aerospace announced yesterday that it has booked four tourists to spend from one to two months on ISS.

The bookings will fly to ISS using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. Though the company did not say how much these tourists have agreed to pay, it said that it intends to charge $52 million per ticket.

This announcement follows directly from NASA’s announcement last week that it will allow commercial tourist flights to ISS. Previously Bigelow had said it would fly tourists to its own space station using Boeing’s Starliner capsule. Now it is going to take advantage of NASA’s new policy to send the tourists to ISS, and it will use Dragon, probably because Dragon is closer to becoming operational.

I also suspect that Bigelow’s long term plans are to add its own hotel modules to ISS for these flights, and then later follow-up by building its own independent space station.

Share
1 2 3 160