Tag Archives: competition

Using video game software, Surrey Satellite has devised a way for nanosatellites to seek each other out and then dock to form a larger satellite.

The competition heats up: Using video game software, Surrey Satellite has devised a way for nanosatellites to seek each other out and then dock to form a larger satellite.

If the STRaND-2 satellites are able to dock with one another, it opens up a whole new world of space engineering. Instead of building one large spacecraft, as in conventional satellite manufacturing, or using microsatellites flying in formation as is being developed currently, dockable satellites would be modular “space building blocks” according to [Surrey]. Satellites could be made as plug-and-play components that could be sent up in segments using smaller, cheaper rockets or piggybacked with other payloads and then linked together. This would not only be a cost savings, but would allow for much greater design flexibility. It would also make it much easier to repair, maintain, refuel or upgrade satellites. Today, a satellite with a failing power system is an expensive write off. Tomorrow, it would simply a matter of sending up a new power module.

Even the fight against space junk would benefit, since a dockable micro-satellite with a booster pack could easily dock with a dead satellite and either return it to the Earth’s atmosphere or out to a space disposal area.

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An Israeli company has discovered a giant off-shore oil and gas field within Israeli territorial waters.

An Israeli company has discovered a giant off-shore oil and gas field within Israeli territorial waters.

“The quantity of gas discovered in the licenses, and the high probabilities, make it the third largest offshore discovery to date,” according to Israel Opportunity chairman Ronny Halman, quoted by Globes. He added, ”This quantity guarantees Israel’s energy future for decades, and makes it possible to export Israeli gas, and boost the state’s revenues without worrying about gas reserves for domestic consumption.”

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Environmental activists have launched a petition drive to stop SpaceX from building a commercial spaceport in Brownsville, Texas.

The wrong side of history: Environmental activists have launched a petition drive to stop SpaceX from building a commercial spaceport near Brownsville, Texas.

“I love the space program as much, if not more, than anyone,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “But launching big, loud, smelly rockets from the middle of a wildlife refuge will scare the heck out of every creature within miles and sprays noxious chemicals all over the place. It’s a terrible idea and SpaceX needs to find another place for their spaceport.”

This guy obviously doesn’t know that almost all of the Kennedy Space Center is a wildlife refuge, and a successful one at that. But then, what do facts have to do with most environmental causes?

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Sea Launch successfully put an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit today from its floating launch platform in the Pacific.

The competition heats up: Sea Launch successfully put an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit today from its floating launch platform in the Pacific.

This is the company’s second successful launch since it was reorganized after bankruptcy.

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From a past SpaceX critic: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy could wipe its launch competition.

From a past SpaceX critic: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy could wipe out its launch competition.

This announcement [of SpaceX’s deal with Intelsat] is an indication that SpaceX is now threatening the dominance of Arianespace and ILS in the commercial launch arena. If a Falcon 9 Heavy can carry two or more large GEO communications satellites for half the launch price of an Ariane 5 or Proton M booking, then this could spell the end of their commercial operations as going concerns. It is not only on the commercial front that SpaceX may dominate. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Heavy launch service promises to be less than half the cost of using equivalent Atlas and Delta rockets. So even the cosy launch provider-governmental relationships that previously benefited the likes of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney/Rocketdyne could now be threatened.

As much of a fan of SpaceX as I am, and as much as I agree with the above statement, we must remember that Falcon Heavy is not yet built. Moreover, I suspect that the deal with Intelsat does not yet include any transfer of funds. SpaceX has a long way to go before any of this happens. Nonetheless, the company’s continued success very obviously is beginning to make its competitors nervous.

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SpaceX has gotten its first contract, with Intelsat, for its not-yet-built Falcon Heavy rocket.

The competition heats up: SpaceX has gotten its first contract, with Intelsat, for its not-yet-built Falcon Heavy rocket.

The Falcon Heavy when completed will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn 5. If SpaceX can get it funded through commercial contracts, it will end forever the need for government subsidies in the aerospace industry. Government as a customer will still exist, of course, but it will no longer be in charge.

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Kazakhstan is blocking three upcoming Russian satellite launches from its spaceport in Baikonur because of a dispute over where rocket debris will fall.

Kazakhstan is blocking three upcoming Russian satellite launches from its spaceport in Baikonur because of a dispute over where rocket debris will fall.

I suspect that Russia is now even more enthused over completing its new spaceport in Vostochny.

In related news, a Russian analysis of the consequences of the Dragon docking at ISS. The article also notes some potential changes in the Russian space effort.

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Here’s a bit more information on the Excalibur Almaz proposal to launch commercial tourist flights to the Moon using refurbished Soviet-era space stations and capsules.

Here’s a bit more information on the Excalibur Almaz proposal to launch commercial tourist flights to the Moon using refurbished Soviet-era space stations and capsules.

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The Stratolaunch system has entered system design review.

The competition heats up: The privately-built Stratolaunch system has entered system design review.

The key quote from this article is this:

Scaled Composites, which is building the aircraft, has purchased two ex-United Boeing 747-400s, and is in the process of dismantling them. Stratolaunch will use the engines, hydraulics system and several other major components to build its own aircraft. The remaining fuselage and wing shells will be scrapped. SpaceX is building the rocket, which will launch approximately 13,000lb into orbit. “This is really going after the Delta II market,” says Steve Cook, Dynetics chief technologist. The group eventually hopes to qualify the system for human spaceflight and begin launched manned spacecraft. [emphasis mine]

Stratolaunch is not being built for NASA. It is aimed at the commercial market instead, with the intention of providing a cheaper alternative for getting large payloads into orbit.

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Excalibur Almaz announced plans on Sunday to use its refurbished Soviet-era space station modules and capsules for commercial flights to the lunar orbit.

The competition heats up: Excalibur Almaz announced plans on Sunday to use its refurbished Soviet-era space station modules and capsules for commercial flights to the lunar orbit.

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Europe ponders choosing the design of the next generation Ariane rocket.

Europe ponders the design choices for the next generation of their Ariane rocket.

Though the article above makes no mention of Falcon 9 and its very low launch costs, I have no doubt that Falcon 9 hovers like a ghost over the negotiations on what ESA will do with Ariane 5, a rocket that despite an excellent launch record has never really been able to make a profit due to high costs.

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Destroying polio: only three nations left to go.

Destroying polio: only three nations left to go.

It is revealing that the only three nations where polio still survives — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan — happen to be poor, corrupt, and heavily dominated or influenced by Islam. Moreover, the article notes that India just celebrated its first full year free from polio, even though it had been thought that the country would be a difficult challenge given its high population density and what the article calls “poor hygiene.” We shouldn’t be surprised, however. Since India abandoned socialism in the early 1990s and embraced capitalism and freedom, the country has thrived. And with increased wealth comes better education and better living conditions, both of which will aid in getting the population to cooperate in this effort.

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Dragon has been approved to approach within one mile of ISS tonight in its first rendezvous test.

Dragon has been approved to approach within 1.5 miles of ISS tonight in its first rendezvous test. More information here.

If this goes well tonight, Dragon will next attempt to approach the station close enough for its robot arm to grab it.

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At a conference in Washington DC yesterday both Russia and Japan announced the Moon as their next primary space exploration goal.

The new colonial movement: At a conference in Washington DC yesterday both Russia and Japan announced the Moon as their next primary space exploration goal.

If the U.S. gets a competitive private aerospace industry going — which seems increasingly likely — I’m willing to bet those companies will get to the Moon before either of these governments.

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A rocket launch pushes Congress towards free enterprise

Several key elected officials who have generally been hostile to commercial space have commented positively to the successful launch of the Dragon capsule last night.

First, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) released this short statement:
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