Tag Archives: competition

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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Russia is considering ending its joint commercial program with the Ukraine and Kazakhstan to launch satellites using its Dnepr rocket.

Russia is considering ending its joint commercial program with the Ukraine and Kazakhstan to launch satellites using its Dnepr rocket.

There are several reasons this decision might happen. One, the Russian government under Putin might now be shifting away from capitalism after two decades of financial success. And if so, that will be to the United States’ advantage. Two, they might have decided that the Dnepr system can’t compete on the market, and it is wiser not to throw good money after bad.

Either way, the abandonment of Dnepr will be bad for Kazakhstan and the Ukraine, and suggests that when the Russians finally get their Vostochny spaceport operational, on their own soil, they will abandon Baikonur in Kazakhstan forever.

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One step closer to a robust competitive space industry

Not surprisingly, last night’s successful launch of Falcon 9 has produced a large number of news articles. Rather than list them all, go to spacetoday.net for the links.

However, I think Clark Lindsey, in describing Elon Musk’s reaction to the successful launch, captured the most important aspect of last night’s success:
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Falcon 9 has cleared the tower

Falcon 9 has cleared the tower and is “looking good.”

First stage has completed its job and has been released. The second stage is firing as planned.

Dragon has separated from the second stage and is now in orbit. Now comes the real test of this mission: Can Dragon maneuver and rendezvous with ISS?

The best moment for the entire launch sequence was when Dragon’s solar arrays deployed. The camera link was still working, so that everyone could see it. When the arrays locked open, there was a gigantic roar from the crowd of people watching at SpaceX’s mission control. Dragon was in orbit and operational!

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The countdown has begun

Tonight’s Falcon 9 launch: The countdown has begun, and the weather conditions have improved.

SpaceX will begin its own webcast at 3 am (Eastern), which is midnight here in Arizona.

An aside: The ashes of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the 1960s television show Star Trek, will be among 308 other cremated remains launched into space by Falcon 9 tonight. As one commenter for the above article noted quite appropriately,

You haven’t really covered any of the important questions here.

i.e. Are there enough dilithium crystals in the engine room to get Scotty up there? And are they using photon torpedoes to blast him out into space? And when they launch, will someone say, “Take her out, Mr. Sulu. Warp factor one.”?

Godspeed, Scotty old bean.

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SpaceX has reported that they have found the cause of the Falcon 9 launch abort this morning.

In an email update, SpaceX reports that they have found the cause of the Falcon 9 launch abort this morning.

During rigorous inspections of the engine, SpaceX engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine. We are now in the process of replacing the failed valve. Those repairs should be complete tonight. We will continue to review data on Sunday. If things look good, we will be ready to attempt to launch on Tuesday, May 22nd at 3:44 AM Eastern.

If this is true, than this entire exercise is an unqualified success and illustrates a certain robustness to SpaceX’s engineering on Falcon 9. Their control computer during the launch process spotted the problem before it caused a complete loss of the vehicle and payload. They can now locate the problem, fix it, and proceed with launch.

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Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) on Monday attacked the House version of NASA’s budget that required the agency to make a quick decision on its commercial manned launch company.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) on Monday attacked the House version of NASA’s budget that required the agency to make a quick decision on its commercial manned launch company.

Nelson faces a difficult election campaign from the right. Thus, I suspect he has realized that he is better off promoting free enterprise than local pork. It is unfortunate that the Republicans in the House haven’t yet realized this.

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The assembly of the first test vehicle of XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx suborbital craft has begun.

The competition heats up: The assembly of the first test vehicle of XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx suborbital craft has begun.

I will admit to great deal of skepticism about this particular space company. Somehow XCOR always manages to get a great deal of coverage in the space community press, despite what I see as lack of any actual space-related results.

I could be wrong however, and if so, I will be the first to celebrate. This article suggests they might finally start test flights by the end of this year.

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SpaceShipTwo to resume flight tests in June after a nine month hiatus.

SpaceShipTwo to resume flight tests in June after a nine month hiatus.

The long pause in flight tests, as well as the apparent delays in flying the ship with its rocket engine, suggest that there have been engineering issues with the ship and engine that Scaled Composites hasn’t revealed. Hopefully the resumption of testing is an indication that these issues have been overcome.

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ATK today announced that it is building its own manned capsule for its Liberty solid rocket.

The competition continues to heat up: ATK today announced that it is building its own manned capsule for its Liberty launch system.

The capsule’s first two flights are scheduled in 2014, both abort tests, followed in 2015 by an orbital flight and, finally, a crewed orbital flight. The spacecraft is designed for ten flights each, and ATK plans to build a minimum of four capsules. All flights will be launched by the Liberty launcher, and ATK is not actively exploring adapting the capsule for other [launch vehicles].

Liberty is based on the upgraded shuttle solid rocket boosters that were developed for the Ares rocket, now cancelled.

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An Australian billionaire is building a full scale replica of the Titanic.

Want to relive history? An Australian billionaire is building a full scale replica of the Titanic.

When fully built, the Titanic II will be 270 meters (886 feet) long and capable of holding 1,680 passengers. By modern standards, this is actually fairly small for a cruise ship, especially when compared to newer passenger liners like the behemoth Oasis of the Seas, which measures 360 meters (1,180 feet) long and can hold 5,400 guests.

The Titanic II is set to make the same maiden voyage as the original, traveling from England to New York, by late 2016.

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SEC documents have revealed that the total development costs for Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket have increased to $472 million, $184 million more than what NASA is paying them.

SEC documents have revealed that the total development costs for Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket have increased to $472 million, $184 million more than what NASA is paying them.

That the company has been willing to commit these extra funds to develop Antares suggests to me that they see a commercial value for the rocket that will exceed these costs. Or to put it more bluntly, they see a market for their rocket that will pay for their investment, and then some.

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SpaceX’s static fire test of the Falcon 9 still set for 3 pm today.

SpaceX’s static fire test of the Falcon 9 still set for 3 pm today.

I will be discussing this story and the mining of asteroids on The Space Show today, even as this static fire occurs. Don’t forget to tune in.

Update: the static firing appears to have been a success, after an initial abort.

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