Tag Archives: competition

A competitor has debuted its full-size prototype rover designed to hunt for water in the craters of the Moon.

The Google Lunar X-Prize: One competitor has unveiled its full-size prototype rover, designed to hunt for water in the craters of the Moon.

The company, Astrobotic Technology, is consider to be in second place in the race to build the first private lunar rover.

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An update on the Falcon 9 engine problems.

An update on the Falcon 9 engine problems.

Based on SpaceX’s press release, the rocket functioned as designed to overcome the engine failure. Nonetheless, it behooves them to find out why that engine shut down prematurely.

More worrisome for the company is the failure the Falcon 9 rocket to place in its proper orbit a secondary payload, an Orbcomm communications satellite. The satellite ended up in too low an orbit, probably because of the engine failure during launch. Orbcomm has a contract with SpaceX to launch a whole series of these satellites. This failure now, right at the get-go, won’t do them much good in terms of public relations.

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One engine of the Falcon 9 failed during launch.

Confirmed: One engine of the Falcon 9 exploded during launch.

Video at the link. The other 8 engines picked up the slack — as designed — and got Dragon into orbit.

This spectacular engine failure will of course have to be reviewed. However, if I were a commercial satellite company looking for a rocket to get my satellites into orbit, this failure would be recommendation, not a deterrent. The Falcon 9 demonstrated that even if one engine fails (and this one did by blowing up!), the rocket can survive the failure and make it to orbit. If that isn’t clear proof that this is a well designed and well built rocket, nothing is.

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In order to get a seat on a Soyuz capsule Sarah Brightman outbid NASA, bumping its astronaut out and thus forcing the U.S. agency to finally agree to a year long mission.

Irony of ironies: In order to buy her seat on a Soyuz capsule Sarah Brightman outbid NASA, bumping its astronaut out.

This was a win-win for the Russians. They get paid more by Brightman than by NASA (over $51 million), and they finally get that year long mission they’ve been campaigning for for years. Because Brightman has taken one of NASA’s seats, the U.S. agency was forced to agree to the extended mission in order to maintain a presence on the station throughout that time period. Otherwise, their astronaut would come home and be replaced by Brightman, but for only ten days.

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The rollout to the launchpad of the first stage of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket has been delayed until Saturday.

The competition heats up: The rollout to the launchpad of the first stage of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket has been delayed until Saturday.

The rollout had been scheduled for today, but had to be scrubbed due to a battery problem in the transporter for moving the rocket. Once on the pad, they will then spend the next 4 to 6 weeks preparing for a hold down firing test. And if that test goes well, they will follow it up with the first launch of Antares before the end of the year.

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The head of Russia’s space agency said today that they need to reorganize their industry in order to compete.

Isn’t competition wonderful? The head of Russia’s space agency said today that they need to reorganize their industry in order to compete.

Key quote: “Unless we act now – we will cease to be competitive,” he warned.

I wonder why? Could it be there is a company out there selling launch capability at half the cost?

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Boeing and the fear of competition

Boeing has indicated that it might shelve its CST-100 manned capsule, despite their recent almost half a billion dollar contract award from NASA.

This possibility illustrates why Boeing is losing market share, not only in space, but in the aviation industry. The article suggests that the NASA contract might not be enough to pay for CST-100, and that Boeing is unsure there is enough private market to make up the difference.

“That’s just for the ISS. That’s kind of the basement,” adds Elbon. More flights than those to the ISS are required he says, and Boeing is cautious about over-committing itself while future revenue streams are unclear.

I say bull hockey.
» Read more

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France and Germany in the European Space Agency are at loggerheads about the best way to compete in the launch market.

The competition heats up: France and Germany in the European Space Agency are in serious disagreement about whether to replace the Ariane 5 or upgrade it.

The French space agency, CNES, quietly backed by Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium, has argued that the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift vehicle has only a fragile hold on its current 50 percent commercial market share. Just as important, according to the French reasoning, is that the entire Ariane 5 system, including its ground infrastructure, is expensive to operate and likely to remain so. Because money is short in Europe, it would be preferable to move immediately to a next-generation vehicle that would carry payloads ranging from 2,500 kilograms to 6,000 kilograms — with an extension to 8,000 kilograms — into geostationary transfer orbit, one at a time. This modular vehicle ultimately would replace not only today’s Ariane 5, but also the Russian Soyuz rocket that is now operating from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.

Set against this reasoning are industrial policy issues raised by the German space agency, DLR, and by Astrium, which is Ariane 5’s prime contractor. They say Europe needs to complete development of an upgraded Ariane 5 — at a cost of about 1.4 billion euros ($1.8 billion) — before embarking on a decade-long development of an Ariane 6 whose cost and industrial work-share distribution are unknown. [emphasis mine]

It is very clear that ESA has recognized that once Falcon 9 becomes completely operational, it will be difficult to get anyone to buy tickets on the very expensive Ariane 5. From the article it appears the battle centers on the fact that the French realize this, while the Germans are willing to look the other way.

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Prices, Demand, and SpaceX

For the past three days there has been a very lively debate by readers of Behind the Black, attempting to figure out the actual cost of launching payload to low Earth orbit by various rockets, including SpaceX, the space shuttle, and the NASA-built Space Launch System.

Three stories published today add some new information to this debate.
» Read more

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It appears that Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Georgia are all competing to be the location of SpaceX’s proposed private commercial spaceport.

The competition heats up: It appears that Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Georgia are all competing to be the location of SpaceX’s proposed private commercial spaceport.

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At the AIAA meeting this week in Pasadena, NASA officials admitted that the Space Launch System (SLS) will likely cost half a billion dollars per launch

It’s only money! At the AIAA meeting this week in Pasadena, NASA officials admitted that the Space Launch System (SLS) will likely cost half a billion dollars per launch.

That means that after only two flights this rocket will have cost about the same as the entire manned commercial program, from which three different space companies are building three different methods for getting humans into space. After three missions it will cost more, and after four missions it will have cost double. And this is assuming that the half billion dollar “target” number ends up correct.

We can’t afford this. We never could, which is why the Saturn 5 rocket was abandoned, and why the shuttle never fulfilled its stated goal of lowering the cost of access to space and after thirty years was abandoned as well. Instead, we have got to find a cheaper way to do this, and to my mind, competition and private enterprise is the only hope.

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A dispute over launch pricing between ArianeSpace, the launch company, and Globalstar, the satellite company.

A dispute over launch pricing between Arianespace, the launch company, and Globalstar, the satellite company.

The article only quotes an executive from Arianespace, who suggests Globalstar has been having troubles making payments. I wonder instead if maybe Globalstar has been balking at Arianespace’s prices (knowing there are other companies that can do it cheaper) and has been holding out for a price cut.

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Under the Obama administration regulations have increased by 7.4%, totaling 11,327 pages of new rules.

No wonder the economy is stalled: Under the Obama administration regulations have increased by 7.4%, totaling 11,327 pages of new rules.

I should add that these numbers were only slightly better under Bush or Clinton. In general, our federal government has done everything it can for the past two decades to stifle freedom and innovation.

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India’s space agency celebrated its 100th launch today.

The competition heats up: India’s space agency celebrated its 100th launch today.

It is unclear whether the numbers include their failed launches. Regardless, India has a vibrant space program, modeled somewhat after the Russian system, a government space agency focused on gaining commercial market share. Whether that model can successfully compete in the commercial world remains unknown. Russia has had success, but only during a period when they were faced with few competitors. Now that the competition is heating up it is unclear whether Russia’s model will be flexible enough to compete.

What is clear about India, however, is that they are passionate about space exploration. Historically, even the Russian government model has worked when the country using it was the new kid on the block.

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Sign the LunarCOTS petition.

Do you think the commercial space program led by SpaceX is the fastest and cheapest way for the U.S. to get humans back into low Earth orbit? Then why not do it for missions beyond Earth orbit?

The LunarCOTS petition is a campaign to have NASA subsidize private companies to design and build the United States’ future interplanetary missions rather than have NASA do it in big government programs like SLS. Makes sense to me, and so I signed the petition immediately.

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ATK and ULA yesterday successfully tested the solid rocket strap-on motor that is used by their Delta 4 rocket.

The competition heats up: ATK and ULA yesterday successfully tested the solid rocket strap-on motor that is used by their Delta 4 rocket. With video.

They are using a new manufacturer for the motor’s nozzle, and needed to test this under cold conditions.

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