Tag Archives: competition

Arianespace’s Vega rocket launches Moroccan satellite

Capitalism in space: Arianespace’s yesterday evening successfully launched Morocco’s second Earth observation satellite using its Vega rocket.

This article gives some interesting background to Morroco’s space effort.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

33 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
9 Europe (Arianespace)
8 ULA

There have now been 94 launches in 2018, the most in any single year since 1992.

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NASA to hire private lunar probes for future missions

Capitalism in space: Rather than build its own future lunar landers and rovers, NASA is now planning to hire these services from private companies, with missions flying as soon as 2021.

Under a program called Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), NASA would buy space aboard a couple of launches a year, starting in 2021. The effort is similar to an agency program that paid private space companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). “This a new way of doing business,” says Sarah Noble, a planetary scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., who is leading the science side of NASA’s lunar plans.

Scientists are lining up for a ride. “It really feels like the future of lunar exploration,” says Erica Jawin, a planetary scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. She and other attendees at the annual meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group in Columbia, Maryland, last week were eager to show NASA why their small experiments would be worthy hitchhikers on the landers.

Several companies, including Astrobotic, Moon Express, and iSpace, are vying to establish a commercial moon market. Buying rides to the moon from launch providers like Rocket Lab, each firm hopes to become the go-to carrier for other companies seeking to prospect the moon for rocket fuel ingredients, or to gather rocks to sell for study. But a contract with NASA is the real prize. Moon Express, for example, has designed the MX-1, a lander roughly the size and shape of Star Wars’s R2-D2. But, “We won’t pull the trigger until we know we have a CLPS award,” says Moon Express CEO Robert Richards in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The companies selected for CLPS must deliver at least 10 kilograms of payload by the end of 2021, NASA says. It is scrambling to find instruments that are ready to fly. “What do you have sitting on shelf now that you can throw onto the mission immediately?” Noble says. “We’re looking for flight spares, engineering models, student-built projects. It’s a little bit of a weird call for us.” The agency is planning to pay up to $36 million to adapt eight to 12 existing scientific instruments to the initial small landers; by the middle of next decade it aims to build a pipeline of instruments for bigger landers that might also carry rovers.

These are going to small missions with limited lifespans and limited abilities. They will however be cheap, fast, and many. In the end I am certain NASA (and the taxpayer) will get far more bang for the buck.

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SpaceX now seeking a $250 million loan, not $500 million

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has reduced the private loan it is seeking from $500 to $750 million down to $250 million.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was initially canvassing investors for a $500 million deal for SpaceX. During marketing of the loan, Musk changed advisers and chose Bank of America to officially launch the deal to investors at $750 million.

The switch surprised bankers and investors, as Goldman is widely viewed as the Wall Street firm closest to Musk. It helped take Tesla Inc. public in 2010, led its $1.8 billion bond sale last year and advised Musk on his short-lived attempt to take the electric carmaker private for $420 a share Goldman balked when SpaceX, a first-time issuer, wanted wide latitude to raise additional debt in the future, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month.

The loan isn’t the only way Musk has been trying to raise cash with SpaceX, which was founded in 2002 and last valued at about $28 billion. He also recently inquired with at least one bank about a personal loan tied to his stake in the rocket company, a person with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month.

It seems to me that Musk is acting here in a manner that will allow him to maintain as much independence as possible, a very wise approach.

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Soyuz launch failed pinned to “unintentional error”

The Russian investigation into the October 11 Soyuz launch abort has said that the failure of the valve to open was likely caused by an “unintentional error.”

The abortive launch of a Soyuz-FG carrier rocket in early October might have been caused by an unintentional error made during the rocket’s assembly at the Baikonur space center, head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin said on Monday.

“There are two cranes there [in the assembly shop]. Probably they did something wrong. Most likely it was an unintentional error but we are looking at all possibilities,” he said, adding that neither of the shop’s workers has been suspended from work as of now, since it is up to law enforcement agencies to identify those responsible.

I remain very confident Roscosmos will figure out what went wrong and address the specific issue that caused it. I also remain very confident Roscosmos will do little to change the culture that is causing these repeated unforced errors and technical failures throughout their entire space industry. There is no competition right now within Russia’s space industry. Everything functions at the will of government policy and power politics, a very bad system for discouraging poor workmanship.

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Musk renames BFR

He must be reading BtB! Elon Musk today revealed new names for the two stages of his Big Falcon Rocket rocket, Super Heavy for the reusable first stage and Starship for the reusable orbiting second stage.

These are much more inspiring and saleable names. They also do not preclude SpaceX from giving each individual Super Heavy and Starship their own names as well, since these names apply to the class of rocket, not the ships themselves.

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China successfully completes another launch

China successfully launched five satellites yesterday using its Long March 2D rocket.

The main payload is apparently a military surveillance satellite.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

33 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China has widened its lead on the U.S. to 33 to 31. There have also been 93 successful launches this year, which ties 2014 for the most in the 21st century. My count of the number of future launches so far announced suggests that there will be about 110 launches total in 2018, the highest number 1990, the year before the fall of the Soviet Union.

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Hidebound government slowing smallsat industry

The smallsat industry has found itself slowed by the federal government’s reluctance to adopt the new technologies that allow tiny satellites to do the same things that once required big satellites.

Small satellites have been hailed as a game changer in the space industry, but the government’s slower than anticipated adoption of smallsat technology has been a disappointment for many companies. “When the smallsat movement started, the thinking was, ’We don’t need the government,’” said Bhavya Lal, a researcher at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute, a federally funded think tank. “But over the last five years, almost all the smallsat companies we talked to are eager for government contracts” to make up for lackluster commercial demand, she said. “It’s something they didn’t anticipate.”

IDA last year published a wide-ranging study of the small satellite industry. There is a “growing realization that there aren’t as many business customers as originally hoped,” Lal said. “Maybe that will change as broadband mega constellations come on line.” Companies like SpaceX and OneWeb are projected to build huge constellations of small satellites but projects have taken longer to materialize than predicted.

Advocates of small satellites say government agencies have little economic incentive to experiment with unfamiliar technology. They can afford to buy large satellites and have yet to be convinced that lower cost smallsats can provide comparable services. [emphasis mine]

I think the conclusion highlighted in the quote above is faulty, based on past data and not likely future events. They are looking at the customers that exist before the new smallsat rockets come on line. Once cheap access for smallsats is assured, from multiple launchers, I expect the number of business customers will rise quickly.

Nonetheless, there is no harm in lobbying our government for more business, as long as this new industry doesn’t become dependent on it. If that happens, expect costs to rise and innovation to slow.

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SpaceX delays today’s Falcon 9 launch using booster for 3rd time

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has delayed today’s Falcon 9 launch that would have been the first time a first stage had launched for the third time.

“Standing down from Monday’s launch attempt of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express to conduct additional pre-flight inspections. Once complete, we will confirm a new launch date,” SpaceX representatives said via Twitter on Saturday (Nov. 17).

They did not offer further details, so it’s unclear what issue prompted the call for further inspection.

The delay is expected to be about a week. I suspect that they decided, after their standard prelaunch static fire last week, to review the data more carefully. The Block 5 first stage has already flown twice this year, in May and August. A launch in November means they are averaging a relaunch every three months, a pace that is far faster than NASA ever achieved in reusing its space shuttle.

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SpaceIL gets $5 million for its lunar lander/rover

Capitalism in space: SpaceIL, the Israeli non-profit building a lunar lander/rover that had been a finalist in the Google Lunar X-Price, announced today that it has received a $5 million donation from a Canadian billionaire.

SpaceIL announced Monday that [Sylvan] Adams would be joining their groundbreaking project and donating $5 million to the effort. The nonprofit organization’s spacecraft is due to be launched in early 2019 and reach the moon two months later, making Israel only the fourth country to soft-land on the lunar surface.

“This contribution to strengthening the Israeli space program, and encouraging education for excellence and innovation among the younger generation in Israel, is the best gift I could have asked for,” said Adams, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, as he announced his contribution at the Israel Aerospaces Industries (IAI) MBT Space Division in Yehud, where the spacecraft is being assembled.

SpaceIL has said it’s mission is focused on education and inspiring Israel’s youth. If so, it seems to me that it is missing the boat. There is money to be made marketing their ability to build inexpensive planetary spacecraft.

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Virgin Orbit completes first capture-carry flight of LauncherOne

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit yesterday completed the first capture-carry flight of LaunchOne, flying the rocket attached to the bottom of Cosmic Girl, its 747 launch vehicle.

The flight lasted 80 minutes in total, during which Virgin Orbit’s flight crew assessed the take-off, landing, and low-speed handling and performance of the integrated system.

“The vehicles flew like a dream today,” said Virgin Orbit Chief Pilot Kelly Latimer (Lt. Col, US Air Force, Ret.). “Everyone on the flight crew and all of our colleagues on the ground were extremely happy with the data we saw from the instruments on-board the aircraft, in the pylon, and on the rocket itself. From my perspective in the cockpit, the vehicles handled incredibly well, and perfectly matched what we’ve trained for in the simulators.”

They are aiming to begin commercial flights next year, and appear on schedule. If so, they will jump ahead into the number two spot in the smallsat rocket race, behind Rocket Lab but ahead of Vector.

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China launches two GPS-type satellites

China yesterday used its Long March 3B rocket to successfully launch two more GPS-type satellites for its planned Beidou constellation of 35 satellites.

They have launched about half the constellation this year, and plan to complete it next year.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

32 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China has widened its lead over the U.S. to 32 to 30 in the national rankings. China also seems on schedule to meet or at least come very close to its predicted 40 launches this year, a number that doubles its previous high.

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Luxembourg accepts full loss from Planetary Resources investment

Capitalism in space: Luxembourg this week admitted that its 12 million euro investment in Planetary Resources is a complete loss.

They had sold off their ten percent investment when a blockchain company purchased Planetary Resources on November 1. This article merely confirms the full loss from the companies sale.

When Planetary Resources was first revealed, the mainstream press went nuts touting its claims that it was an asteroid mining company, mostly because of the supposed involvement of several rich Google investors. I however had reservations, mainly because the company was selling itself as an asteroid mining company when there was no chance it was going to do any mining, for at least a decade.

Simply put, I do not like it when companies or governments make false and unrealistic claims. It raises a red flag in the back of my mind, which in turn makes me suspect that the company or government is almost certainly not going to achieve what it claims. Over the past decades I have learned to take that red flag seriously, and this is another case where it served me well.

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SpaceX will not use Falcon 9 for BFR tests

In a series of tweets, Elon Musk revealed yesterday that SpaceX has decided it will no longer use its Falcon 9 to test Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) designs and has instead redesigned the BFR’s upper stage, dubbed the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS), and will do those tests with that.

I suspect that the company got pushback from NASA and the Air Force about making any big changes to the Falcon 9 upper stage, and decided it was better to leave well enough alone. They have more flexibility making these changes and tests with BFS.

However, the main conclusion that I draw from writing up this post is that SpaceX has got to come up with better names for BFR and BFS. What they have now is boring and unwieldy. I am sure that Musk can think of two more exciting and easier to use names for the new rocket’s reusable first and second stages. And he should do it, now!

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NASA suggests retirement of SLS when BFR and New Glenn fly

Capitalism in space: During an interview at a November 1st conference, a NASA official mentioned that if SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) and Blue Origin’s New Glenn begin flying successfully the agency will seriously consider retiring SLS.

“I think our view is that if those commercial capabilities come online, we will eventually retire the government system, and just move to a buying launch capacity on those [rockets],” Stephen Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator, told Business Insider at The Economist Space Summit on November 1.

However, NASA may soon find itself in a strange position, since the two private launch systems may beat SLS back to the moon – and one might be the first to send people to Mars.

I have been saying that this should happen since almost the first day this website was started in 2011. To quote from a September 14, 2011 post:

To be really blunt, this new rocket, like all its predecessors, will never fly either. It costs too much, will take too long to build, and will certainly be canceled by a future administration before it is finished. It is therefore a complete waste of money, and any Congress that approves it will demonstrate how utterly insincere they are about controlling spending.

It appears that I was wrong with this prediction on one count. SLS might actually fly a few times, but only to allow its supporters in Congress and NASA to justify that support. When the private rockets come on line in the early 2020s, cheaper, faster, and better designed (with re-usability), NASA and Congress will then finally say that these rockets are better and that SLS will die, and they will also both make believe they were saying that from the very beginning.

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Antares rocket launches Cygnus freighter to ISS

Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket today successfully launched its Cygnus freighter to ISS.

This was only the second launch this year by the division of Northrop Grumman that used to be Orbital ATK. They have been trying to launch a research satellite using their Pegasus rocket, but have had engineering issues that keep delaying it.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remain unchanged:

31 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 30. The U.S. total now exceeds last year, and is the most this century. We have now had 91 launches this year, the most since 2014. I expect that number to go up significantly, with a real chance it will pass 100 launches for the first time since 1990, just prior to the fall of the Soviet Union.

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FCC approves four proposed satellite constellations, including SpaceX’s of 7,500+

Capitalism in space: The FCC has approved licenses to launch four different proposed smallsat satellite constellations, totaling almost 8,000 satellites.

Of that total, more than 7,500 would belong to SpaceX’s proposed Starlink constellation.

The new regulatory approvals set the stage for two companies, SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, and Telesat of Ottawa, Canada, to expand constellations already approved last year with more satellites in the rarely used V-band spectrum. Canadian startup Kepler Communications and LeoSat, a company licensed from the Netherlands, also received approvals, Kepler for 140 Ku-band satellites and LeoSat for 78 Ka-band satellites.

Of the four, SpaceX is by far the largest with 7,518 satellites constituting what it calls a “very low Earth orbit,” or VLEO constellation that would operate slightly below 350-kilometers. At that altitude, SpaceX says atmospheric drag would pull spent satellites down in one month, assuaging concerns about the magnitude of debris that that many satellites could create in higher orbits.

While SpaceX likely plans to launch its satellites on its own rockets, the other companies will likely depend on the new smallsat rocket companies — Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, Vector — that are about to all come on line.

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Rocket Lab raises an additional $140 million

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab has raised an additional $140 million in investment capital following its successful first operational launch last week.

The company announced Nov. 15 that it closed a Series E funding round, led by existing investor Future Fund, an Australian sovereign wealth fund. Several other existing investors also joined the round, including Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC (Data Collective), Promus Ventures and K1W1. One new investor, Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand, joined the round.

The Series E round comes after the company raised $75 million in a Series D round in March 2017. The company has now raised more than $288 million to date. Rocket Lab did not disclose the valuation of the latest round, but said it exceeded the “$1-billion-plus” valuation from its Series D round.

In the race to grab the smallsat market, Rocket Lab is far ahead of its nearest competitors, Virgin Orbit and Vector. If I had to rank them at this moment, I would say that Virgin Orbit is second with Vector third.

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SpaceX successfully launches Qatar communications satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a communications satellite for Qatar.

The first stage, previously flown in July, successfully landed on their drone ship. They intend to fly it for an unprecedented third time in the very near future. With this launch SpaceX has tied its record for most launches in a year, 18, which is also the most ever in a single year by a private company.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

31 China
18 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 29.

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India to attempt four more launches in 2018

The new colonial movement: In outlining the success of yesterday’s GSLV launch, the head of India’s space agency noted that they will attempt to complete four more launches before the end of the year.

Following the missions, Mr Sivan said, in January next, ISRO would launch the Chandrayaan-II mission (lunar lander) which will be the first operational mission of the GSLV-Mk III-vehicle.

Addressing reporters after the successful launch of the second developmental flight GSLV-MkIII-D2 carrying communication satellite GSAT-29, he said, “we have to achieve 10 missions before January.”

“That is six satellite missions as well as four launch vehicle missions. Definitely, the task in front of us is very huge,” he said.

According to him, after Wednesday’s flight, the heaviest launcher of India has completed its development flights and is entering into the operational group of launchers of ISRO, that is along with the PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle) and GSLV.

Four launches in six weeks would require a launch every week and a half. IF ISRO can do this, they will demonstrate the ability to launch almost weekly, a capability that would place them close to becoming a world power in space.

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Virgin Orbit completes fastest taxi test of LaunchOne

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit this past weekend completed the fastest taxi test of its LaunchOne smallsat rocket airplane, with LaunchOne attached.

In a tweet posted today, Virgin Orbit said the Nov. 11 ground test revved up the plane, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, to a speed beyond 110 knots (125 mph) on a runway in Victorville, Calif. That’s fast enough to simulate an aborted takeoff. “We also used the day as an opportunity to load real flight software onto LauncherOne for the first time,” the company said.

My 2016 prediction, that Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne will reach space before Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, looks increasingly likely. They had said they wanted to do their first launch by the end of the 2018 summer. Though this did not happen, their launch license [pdf] is effective through December 2019, and it appears they are moving towards that first launch within a few months.

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Vector applies for license for launch in Kodiak, Alaska

Capitalism in space: Vector has applied for an FAA license for a suborbital test launch in Kodiak, Alaska of its Vector-R smallsat rocket.

The launch is planned to occur no later than April 2019.

Their original suborbital test schedule was supposed to have occurred already, but those were mere verbal announcements. This is more concrete.

Vector does need to get off the ground however. Two years ago it was considered in a close race with Rocket Lab. Now Rocket Lab has pulled far ahead, and Vector might be losing ground to other smallsat launch companies.

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India’s GSLV-Mark 3 rocket successfully launches communications satellite

The new colonial movement: India today successfully launched a new Indian communications satellite on the third launch of its larger GSLV-Mark 3 rocket.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk.III, or GSLV Mk.III, is India’s newest and most powerful rocket. After making a suborbital demonstration launch in late 2014, the rocket made its first orbital mission last June when it deployed the GSAT-19 spacecraft.

Wednesday’s launch was designated D2, indicating that it was the rocket’s second developmental launch, however like last year’s flight its payload – GSAT-29 – is a fully operational satellite.

I have embedded a video of the launch below the fold. The launch occurs at about 25 minutes in.

With this success, the fifth launch this year by India, that country will be able to move forward on the January launch by the GSLV of its Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remains unchanged:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 28.
» Read more

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Another private lunar rover unveiled

Capitalism in space: The private start-up company Lunar Outpost today unveiled its tiny 10 kilogram (22 pound) rover, designed to map lunar resources.

The first Prospector was demonstrated driving and drilling in Lunar regolith simulant at the Colorado School of Mines’ new Lunar testbed facility in the Earth Mechanics Institute overseen by the Center for Space Resources. This event marks the first commercial Lunar Prospector publicly tested in the United States.

Evidence of valuable resources on the Lunar surface, such as water, precious metals, and helium-3 have been established by remote sensing on flyby missions around the Moon. This scientific data has been used to create general resource models of the Lunar surface, which now require ground-truthing to establish optimal landing sites and plan future resource extraction operations. Groups of Lunar Outpost Prospectors will map the surface and subsurface resources of the Moon, while autonomously navigating along waypoints and avoiding hazards such as large rocks and craters. These Prospectors can also be teleoperated if needed and can utilize NASA’s Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway concept as a center of operations.

This is a tiny inexpensive rover, essentially an upgraded drone. Very smart, and efficent. Below the fold is the company’s video of this demo test. The drilling capability is especially impressive.

Their website does not say how much they will charge for this rover, but they also note that it has 5 kilograms of cargo capacity, meaning that they can also offer this to customers.
» Read more

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Is Rocket Lab an American or New Zealand company?

Link here. According to Rocket Lab’s own president, his company is American, even though much of its history is based in New Zealand.

When I asked Peter Beck whether his company was Kiwi or American, he didn’t shirk from waving the Stars and Stripes. “Look, we’ve been an American company and proud of it for many years,” he said.

“The New Zealand element is very important and very special to us but we never tried to hide the fact we’re a US company and this is where New Zealand companies go wrong in the fact that if you want to be a large, successful global company, it’s very difficult to be that out of New Zealand.”

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ArianeGroup to cut 2300 jobs

Capitalism in space: Faced with a significant loss of market share, taken by SpaceX, the European rocket manufacturer ArianeGroup has announced it will reduce its staffing by 2,300 jobs by 2022.

A joint venture by European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran, it currently employs 9,000 people in France and Germany. Constructor of the Ariane rockets, the European Space Agency workhorse, ArianeGroup also produces ballistic missiles.

Ariane 5 rockets are soon to be replaced by the Ariane 6 which will be an estimated 40 percent cheaper to make, under pressure in particular from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

But European buyers have so far ordered only three Ariane 6 rockets ahead of the first scheduled launch in 2020.

The article at the link, produced by a French news service, is somewhat amusing. It repeatedly blames the lack of demand for the Ariane 6 on the U.S. government, which provides business to SpaceX. It doesn’t mention that ArianeGroup’s Ariane 6 rocket meanwhile is being built with government funds from the European Space Agency, and once completed in the 2020s will have a launch price that exceeds that of the Falcon 9 today. No wonder it hasn’t garnered many customers.

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Rocket Lab successfully completes its first operational Electron launch

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully completed its first operational launch, the third Electron rocket launch attempt (two of which succeeded) and the second successful launch this year.

You can see a replay of the launch here. The payload was six smallsats and a “drag sail” designed to test technology for deorbiting satellites more efficiently.

They plan to follow with another launch in a month.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remained unchanged:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead in the national rankings. Last year I initially counted Rocket Lab as an American company, but was convinced by others that it was better labeled as New Zealand, since the rocket was assembled and launched there, using a local team. I now have decided this is a mistake. The rocket is essentially American-made, and the company that markets it is American-based. It also plans to add an American launch site at Wallops Island. This is a tough call, but I have decided to change Rocket Lab back in my listings as an American launch company. This means China now leads the U.S. 31 to 28.

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Watch Rocket Lab launch tonight

You can watch Rocket Lab’s launch of its smallsat Electron rocket tonight at 10 pm (Eastern) at Space.com, or at the company’s own website.

A lot hinges on the success of this launch. The company is gearing up to move to monthly and eventually weekly launches, but to do so it must still demonstrate it can launch successfully and with some regularity. If they succeed tonight, they plan to follow with another launch in a month.

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NASA approves Falcon 9 for all science missions

NASA today announced that it has certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket as qualified to launch all of its science missions.

With only one mission out of 61 flights of the Falcon 9 ending in failure, the rocket appears to have met the high standards NASA demands from all of the rockets it uses. Two of those successful missions include other flights under the LSP: Jason-3 and TESS.

With the addition of this latest notch on its belt, SpaceX is poised to conduct the most sensitive, in terms of cargo, flights that the agency has—those of astronauts to the International Space Station.

As noted in the quote, this certification makes it certain that NASA will allow its astronauts to fly on the Falcon 9, even if its own safety panel continues posing its bureaucratic demands.

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Florida shuttle runway gets license as spaceport

Capitalism in space: The runway at Cape Canaveral that was used for space shuttle landings has now received a license from the FAA to operate as a commercial spaceport.

The license allows the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to support operations of aircraft that carry an air-launched vehicle such as the Northrop Grumman Pegasus, Vulcan Systems’ Stratolaunch, Virgin Orbit Launcher One, Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2, potential new national security programs and others.

In a sense this makes this runway unique, in that unlike all other runways its primary focus is commercial space launches, not commercial airline traffic.

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SpaceX to build test prototype of BFS, test on Falcon 9

Capitalism in space: SpaceX announced today that it is building a test prototype of its Big Falcon Spaceship, the upper stage of its Big Falcon Rocket, and it will use the Falcon 9 to do orbital flight tests.

Musk in a tweet said that they hope to to do the first flight by June 2019. Musk also said that they will not be testing vertical landing with this prototype, focusing instead on atmospheric re-entry. From this I can only assume it will not be recovered after its return to Earth.

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