Tag Archives: competition

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.
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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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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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