Tag Archives: commercial

Researchers in California have produced a cheap plastic capable of removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.

Researchers in California have produced a cheap plastic capable of removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.

The article focuses on how this could save us from global warming. What I see is a possible tool for making the construction of interplanetary spaceships more practical. On any vessel in space, something has to cleanse the air of carbon dioxide. Finding a cheap way to do this makes building those vessels much easier.


NASA administrator Bolden met with former Apollo astronauts today to smooth over his agency’s attempt to prevent their ability to sell artifacts from their missions.

NASA administrator Bolden met with former Apollo astronauts today to smooth over his agency’s attempt to prevent their ability to sell artifacts from their missions.


Why the Doctor Won’t See You

Why the doctor won’t see you.

Estimates are that ObamaCare will succeed in insuring 32 million otherwise uninsured people. If economic studies are correct, once these folks are insured, they will try to double their consumption of health care. On top of that, ObamaCare does something that Massachusetts did not do. It will force the vast majority of people who already have insurance to switch to more generous coverage. For example, everyone will have to be covered for a long list of preventive care and diagnostic screenings, with no copay and no deductible. Once people have this extra coverage, they will be inclined to take advantage of it.

Get prepared, then, for a huge increase in the demand for care. The result will be growing waiting lines — at the doctors’ offices, at hospital emergency rooms, at the health clinics, etc.

The pattern here has been the same worldwide, in every country that has tried it: Let the government interfere with the “invisible hand” of the market and the market gets distorted in ways that no one predicted that are also counterproductive.


ArianeSpace will make a profit in 2011, the first time in three years

ArianeSpace will make a profit in 2011, the first time in three years.

Helped by the two Soyuz campaigns, which occurred in October and December, Arianespace in 2011 apparently averted a third consecutive year of losses. Its financial accounts are not finalized until June, but Le Gall said the company expects to report a slight profit on about 985 million euros in revenue.

In other words, it was the addition of the Russian low-cost Soyuz rocket to their fleet that helped avoid another year’s loss. This doesn’t reflect well on the profitability of the Ariane 5 rocket.


Space exploration and the unexpected consequences of government decisions

On Thursday, December 15, 2011, NASA management announced what seemed at first glance to be a very boring managerial decision. Future contracts with any aerospace company to launch astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) will follow the same contractual arrangements used by NASA and SpaceX and Orbital Sciences for supplying cargo to the space station.

As boring that sounds, this is probably the most important decision NASA managers have made since the 1960s. Not only will this contractual approach lower the cost and accelerate the speed of developing a new generation of manned spaceships, it will transfer control of space exploration from NASA — an overweight and bloated government agency — to the free and competitive open market.

To me, however, the decision illustrates a number of unexpected consequences, none of which have been noted by anyone in the discussions that followed NASA’s announcement back in mid-December.
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Congress has ended the corn ethanol tax subsidy

Congress has ended the corn ethanol tax subsidy.

That the taxpayer will no longer be shelling out billions to support this industry is a good thing. However, the news isn’t all good for the free market, as the mandates forcing an increase in ethanol use remain in effect.


How to self-destruct your company with just a few measly emails

How to self-destruct your PR company with just a few measly emails.

The reason this story has gone viral is that everyone has had to deal with rude and uninformed customer service people who not only don’t answer questions accurately, often downright lie to get you off the phone. And sadly, they can get away with it because companies allow them to. With this story, however, justice triumphed. Thank you Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade.


Why Are Indian Reservations So Poor?

Why are Indian reservations so poor? (Link fixed. Sorry.)

The vast majority of land on reservations is held communally. That means residents can’t get clear title to the land where their home sits, one reason for the abundance of mobile homes on reservations. This makes it hard for Native Americans to establish credit and borrow money to improve their homes because they can’t use the land as collateral–and investing in something you don’t own makes little sense, anyway.

“Markets haven’t been allowed to operate in reserve lands,” says [Manny Jules, a former chief of the Kamloops Indian band in British Columbia]. “We’ve been legislated out of the economy. When you don’t have individual property rights, you can’t build, you can’t be bonded, you can’t pass on wealth. A lot of small businesses never get started because people can’t leverage property [to raise funds].

Hat tip Ace of Spades.


The astonishing collapse of MF Global

The astonishing collapse of MF Global.

The failure of broker MF Global is a unique event in the annals of American corporate history: To my knowledge, it’s the first time a CEO singlehandedly bankrupted his firm through actions that the board of directors was not only knowledgeable of, but had indeed expressly sanctioned. “That takes some talent!” quipped Roderick Hills, a former chairman of the SEC.

The article is long, detailed, and thorough. It describes a deep corruption that should chill the spine of anyone who has money in the investment world.

I must note that I do not advocate more regulations to eliminate this corruption. Such regulations never work. Take for example this quote from the article, describing the accounting systems that are required by law to prevent a client’s funds from being misused:

As noted above, it’s a major part of the CEO’s job to put the proper systems in place. In fact, regulations implemented through Sarbanes-Oxley — a bill that Corzine co-wrote while he was a senator — require that the CEO and CFO sign off on the effectiveness of the controls over financial reporting. … If those proper “controls and procedures” were in place, a breach of segregated client funds should have set off loud, blaring, obnoxious alarms that would have alerted management to that breach.

In the case of Jon Corzine and MF Global, those controls were obviously not in place, and thus the Sarbanes-Oxley bill wasn’t worth the paper that Corzine used to write the bill.

Rather than more regulations, what works is very simple and can be summed by two words: “Buyer beware.” Investors (as well as voters considering the political ambitions of Corzine and his friends) have to be more skeptical of whom they put their trust in. You have to protect yourself. You can’t ask others to do it for you.


A Spanish company has announced it will build a space hotel by 2012

A Spanish company has announced it will build a space hotel by 2012.

The story suggests that Virgin Galactic will providing the tourist ferry to their orbital hotel, which is puzzling as that company is only building a suborbital spacecraft at this time.


Richard Branson talks to the Wall Street Journal

Richard Branson talks to the Wall Street Journal about space.

Mr. Branson is still radiating enthusiasm. “We’ve got just short of 500 people now signed up to go, which is actually more people than have been up to space in the history of space travel, and we hope to put those up in our first year of operation,” he says, predicting the first commercial flight by “about next Christmas,” although he acknowledges that there have been many delays.


Alan Boyle describes the details behind NASA’s decision to go with simpler contracting for future commercial rocket contracts

Alan Boyle describes the details behind NASA’s decision to go with simpler contracting for future commercial rocket contracts.

If you read the article, you’ll notice that the opposition to this decision comes from a Congressman and the GAO. In both cases they cite safety as an issue, as is by some magic giving NASA a lot of bureaucratic approval rights on every design is going to make the rockets or capsules safer. All this will really do is slow things down, increase costs, and possibly increase risks as the companies will no longer have as many resources to focus on design issues. Instead, they will have to spend a fortune pleasing NASA bureaucrats.

And yes, I call them bureaucrats. Any NASA engineer who spends his or her time looking over the shoulder of another engineer — who is doing the real design work — is nothing more than a bureaucrat. Better to quit NASA and get a job with one of these new companies where you can do some real work.


NASA has decided to stick with the same contracting arrangement it used for the COTS contracts

Good news: NASA has decided to stick with essentially the same contracting arrangement it used for the SpaceX and Orbital Sciences cargo deals to ISS in its future commercial crew and cargo contracts.

This suggests that the NASA bureaucracy, which had wanted more control of the new commercial companies by using a more restrictive contract arrangement, has lost. However, we don’t yet have the details on how the new contracts will be administrated, and as always, the devil is in the details.


FAA tests find that LightSquared’s broadband system interferes “with a flight safety system designed to warn pilots of approaching terrain.”

FAA tests have found that LightSquared’s broadband system interferes with flight safety systems.

These results are in addition to the tests that found LightSquared interferes with 75% of all GPS units.


Germany’s space chief sees big battles in Europe over funding for ISS and Ariane

Germany’s space chief yesterday said he expected big battles in Europe over future funding for ISS and Ariane.

Ariane is a serious problem, as it is expensive and a money-loser, despite dominating the commercial market in recent years. And worse, it will be difficult to make Ariane competitive in the future:

ESA in 2010 hired an outside auditor to review the current Ariane 5 system to look for ways to save money. Its principal conclusion was that very few savings were possible without scrapping the forced geographic distribution of industrial contracts that preserves the political and financial support needed for the Ariane system.


Southwest orders 208 Boeing 737s valued at $19 billion

Some good news: Southwest Airlines has ordered 208 of Boeing’s 737, a deal valued at $19 billion. Plus this:

Last month, Boeing said Indonesia’s Lion Air committed to pay $21.7 billion for 230 Boeing 737s. Lion Air also has options for 150 more planes, valued at $14 billion, bringing the deal’s total potential value to $35 billion. But the Lion Air deal is not a certainty; it still has to complete the order. Also in November, Emirates Airlines ordered $18 billion worth of 777s.

Maybe Boeing should pump some of those profits into building the CST-100 manned space capsule and thus win more profits in the space tourism industry.

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