Tag Archives: competition

NASA has delayed the first test flight of Orion’s launch abort system by two years to 2017.

NASA has delayed the first test flight of Orion’s launch abort system by two years to 2017.

NASA officials have been warning since last year that work on Orion would be slowed to keep pace with the development of SLS and its launch infrastructure. The agency has proposed trimming Orion’s $1.2 billion budget back to $1 billion for 2013. With the high-altitude abort test facing at least a budget-driven delay, the Langley team has proposed conducting one or more less-expensive tests in its place. Ortiz said conducting a hot-fire test in 2015 or 2016 would “keep the [launch abort system] project moving forward and help alleviate risk.”

I predict that Dragon will not only test its launch abort system first, it will have humans flying on it before Orion. And Dragon will do this for a fraction of the total cost that Orion and SLS spend per year. I also predict that when Dragon does this, Congress will finally begin noticing this disparity, and SLS will die unlaunched.

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Excalibur Almaz has signed a deal to use Xcor’s Lynx suborbital craft to train its astronauts.

The competition heats up: Excalibur Almaz has signed a deal to use Xcor’s Lynx suborbital craft to train its astronauts.

Since Xcor has not yet flown Lynx, and Excalibur Almaz as a lot of work to do to make its Soviet-era modules flyable, I would bet that this news release is mostly public relations hype, centered as much on raising investment funds for both companies as it is about training astronauts.

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SpaceShipTwo was in the air on Friday, as WhiteKnightTwo did a 1.5 hour test flight with the ship attached to its belly.

The competition heats up: SpaceShipTwo was in the air on Friday, as WhiteKnightTwo did a 1.5 hour test flight with the ship attached to its belly.

This was the second flight of WhiteKnightTwo in three days, and is in line with Virgin Galactic’s test flight schedule announced in May. If the test flights go well, expect that first rocket-powered flight of SpaceShipTwo later this year.

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A new company has announced plans to use the Gemini capsule design from the 1960s to provide crew and cargo capability to orbit.

The competition heats up: A new company has announced plans to use the Gemini capsule design from the 1960s to provide crew and cargo capability to orbit.

“Since this is an existing and proven design we could begin construction six to eight weeks after funding and complete a flying prototype ten to thirteen months later,” said WestWind President Bill Jolly.

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The FAA and NASA have worked out their differences concerning their regulation of private commercial space.

The FAA and NASA have worked out their differences concerning their regulation of private commercial space.

Essentially, NASA has finally conceded with this agreement that it has no control over a private space launch that is not flying to a NASA facility. That the FAA continues to have as much regulatory control is bad enough, but getting NASA out of the loop will at least ease the bureaucratic burden for private companies.

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Despite the continuing lack of an agreement, Kazakhstan today gave Russia permission to resume launches from the Baikonur spaceport.

Despite the continuing lack of an agreement, Kazakhstan today gave Russia permission to resume launches from the Baikonur spaceport.

Their new as yet unfinished spaceport in Vostochny must appear increasingly important to the Russians.

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Orbital Sciences has delayed the first testing firing of its Antares rocket until late July or early August.

Orbital Sciences has delayed the first testing firing of its Antares rocket until late July or early August.

This fact is buried about halfway down in the article, and does not mention what caused the delay. (Hat tip to Clark Lindsey.)

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The real estate crash: We’ve only just begun

A real estate industry group today announced that there was a nine percent jump in foreclosures during the month of May.

RealtyTrac reported that 205,990 U.S. properties received filings last month, including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, marking the first monthly increase since January. Bank repossessions climbed steeply, up 7% to 54,844, after hitting a four-year low in April.

The report also noted that foreclosures made up 26% of U.S. home sales in first quarter and that more than 30% of mortgage borrowers were still underwater.

As someone who just moved to Tucson and spent more than six months searching for and finally purchasing a home, I can add a bit of personal experience to these dry statistics. And my perspective is sadly not encouraging.
» Read more

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China is in its final preparations for the launch of its next manned mission.

The new colonial movement: China is in its final preparations for the launch of its next manned mission, expected any day now.

This is the key quote from the article:

China aims to build a space station around 2020 based on the space rendezvous and docking technology that is currently being tested. Several components will be sent into space separately before being assembled into a space station through a variety of docking procedures.

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Unless they can find a buyer the United Kingdom will close down its 3.8 meter infrared UKIRT telescope on Mauna Kea in 2013.

Telescope for sale: Unless they can find a buyer the United Kingdom will close down its 3.8 meter infrared UKIRT telescope on Mauna Kea in 2013.

This is a tragedy. A 3.8 meter telescope is no slouch and can do amazing research. The problem is that all the available money in ground-based astronomy is now being eaten up by the construction of giant telescopes in the 20 to 40 meter range.

What astronomy needs are some wealthy philanthropists who would like to buy these mid-sized telescopes, put their names on it, and finance their operation. This is how most big telescopes were made possible before World War II.

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Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) has backed down and modified the language he had inserted in the NASA budget bill that would have limited the number of commercial space companies NASA could subsidize.

Good news: Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) has backed down and modified the language he had inserted in the NASA budget bill that would have limited the number of commercial space companies NASA could subsidize.

From Clark Lindsey:

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) , who is Chairman on the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations committee, put language into the recent House budget for NASA that requiree NASA to down-select immediately to one primary contractor in the commercial crew program. This would obviously eliminate competition on price and rule out redundancy in case one system is grounded. He has now relented and is willing to allow for “2.5 (two full and one partial) CCiCAP awards”.

As I wrote earlier, the success of Dragon is putting strong political pressure on Congress to support the independent commercial space companies over the NASA-built and very expensive Space Launch System (SLS) that Congress had mandated. Expect to see more elected officials back down in the coming year, with the eventually elimination of SLS from the budget.

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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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