Tag Archives: competition

ArianeSpace will make a profit in 2011, the first time in three years

ArianeSpace will make a profit in 2011, the first time in three years.

Helped by the two Soyuz campaigns, which occurred in October and December, Arianespace in 2011 apparently averted a third consecutive year of losses. Its financial accounts are not finalized until June, but Le Gall said the company expects to report a slight profit on about 985 million euros in revenue.

In other words, it was the addition of the Russian low-cost Soyuz rocket to their fleet that helped avoid another year’s loss. This doesn’t reflect well on the profitability of the Ariane 5 rocket.

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American Airlines files for bankruptcy

American Airlines files for bankruptcy. Note this as well:

American was the only major U.S. airline that didn’t file for bankruptcy protection in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks that triggered a deep slump in the airline industry. The last major airline to file for bankruptcy protection was Delta in 2005.

This list of bankrupt airlines does not include Southwest, however, which has seen its business boom in the past decade. I wonder, could these other airlines be driving customers away with their high baggage fees, complex ticket rules that end up costing customers money or convenience, and their willingness to go along with the abuses of the TSA?

Whenever I can, I fly Southwest, because they don’t charge for baggage and allow me to change or cancel flights without penalty. However, I also fly as little as possible these days, mostly to avoid being treated like a criminal by the TSA. And I know I am not alone in this.

Thus, all airlines have lost business due to TSA abuse. You’d think they’d wake up and start to fight this government intrusion into their operations.

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How Richard Branson started Virgin Atlantic

How Richard Branson started Virgin Atlantic.

“In ’79, when Joan, my fiancee and I were on a holiday in the British Virgin Islands, we were trying to catch a flight to Puerto Rico; but the local Puerto Rican scheduled flight was cancelled. The airport terminal was full of stranded passengers. I made a few calls to charter companies and agreed to charter a plane for $2000 to Puerto Rico. Cheekily leaving out Joan’s and my name, I divided the price by the remaining number of passengers, borrowed a blackboard and wrote: VIRGIN AIRWAYS: $39 for a single flight to Puerto Rico. I walked around the airport terminal and soon filled every seat on the charter plane.

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Memo to the Occupy protesters: Ten things we evil capitalists really think

Memo to the Occupy protesters: Ten things we evil capitalists really think.

I especially like #8:

8. Capitalism, with all its imperfections, is the fairest scheme yet tried. In a system based on property rights and free contract, people succeed by providing an honest service to others. Bill Gates became rich by enriching hundreds of millions of us: I am typing these words using one of his programmes. He gained from the exchange (adding fractionally to his net worth), and so did I (adding to my convenience). In a state-run system, by contrast, third parties get to hand out the goodies.

Another way to say this is to call it freedom.

Read the whole thing.

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Training space tourists for their suborbital flight

Training space tourists for their suborbital flight.

In the NASTAR Center’s Observation Lounge, trainees can watch the centrifuge through a large window, as well as see a live video feed of its rider. Meanwhile, Henwood iterates the importance of the correct timing of breaths. “If you’re going to need it, you’re going to want to do it right.” Failing to begin the manoeuvre before the onset of the g’s can result in loss of consciousness.

“You’ll tell me when to breathe?” the first flier of the course says over the intercom to Greg Kennedy, NASTAR Center’s director of educational services and the monitor of participants’ in-flight safety.

“Yes,” Kennedy says. “Are you ready for your flight?”

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The case against SpaceX

The case against SpaceX. From one of the company’s biggest supporters.

Trent Waddington raises many good points, all of which must be considered to have a clear, educated sense of where the future stands for American manned spaceflight. Two quotes:

The goal of SpaceX is human spaceflight, and the greatest repository of knowledge about human spaceflight is NASA. As such, it would appear obvious that getting NASA to help you to fly humans safely is a good idea. The way to do that is with Space Act Agreements. This is what SpaceX did under the COTS program, and later under the CCDev program.. and they got paid for the privilege. As a result, the Dragon spacecraft will soon be fully qualified as safe for human habitation on orbit as it will be berthed to the ISS and have astronauts inside it.

The problem is that NASA is a precocious customer. They know what they want, they think they know even better than you do how to make it, and they feel no guilt about changing their mind halfway through the project. As such, Space Act Agreements just totally grind NASA’s gears. They don’t have enough control. [emphasis in original]

NASA money is like heroin.. once they start taking it, most people find it very hard to stop. There’s a dependence that has grown between NASA and SpaceX, and although it is obviously a love-hate relationship, it’s going to be very hard for SpaceX to let go.. but, inevitably, they must. The current needs of NASA are very different to the long term goals of SpaceX.

And this:

Fundamentally, SpaceX has a shoddy business case which is best described as a house of cards.. that they’re still trying to play poker with.. and there’s dogs at the table, and they’re smoking cigars! Yeah, metaphor.

Read the whole thing. It’s quite good.

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A Singaporean businessman, his wife and two children have paid $1 million to become the first Asian family to fly together on SpaceShipTwo

This is my idea of a family outing: A Singapore businessman, his wife, and two children have paid $1 million to become the first Asian family to fly together on SpaceShipTwo.

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NASA moves first flight test of Orion capsule up three years to 2014

NASA has moved the scheduled first flight test of the Orion capsule up three years to 2014.

This action, while good, was almost certainly triggered by the competition from the private space companies. The managers at NASA are finally realizing that if they don’t speed up deployment of their own spacecraft, they will certainly lose in the competition for government dollars. That they will have to use another rocket other than their heavy-lift vehicle for this launch, however, will not help that particular project’s lobbying effort.

Either way, I think this action is only further proof that the more competition we have, the quicker we will get into space. And the journey will cost less too, not only because it will take less time and therefore less money, but the competition between companies (or NASA) will force everyone — including NASA — to lower costs to show they can do it better.

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Doubts on Display from Congress during hearing on Private Space

Several Congressmen expressed doubts about and resistance to the new private space manned effort by companies like SpaceX during hearings today in the House.

Let’s be honest: it’s all about pork and only pork. Unfortunately, the new companies don’t deliver the same kind of pork to the right congressional districts, even if they might deliver a real product faster and for less money. To quote the article:

Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., rallied to the industry’s defense, citing a “hostility” to the private space industry. “Much to my dismay, I see some of the worst elements of decision making,” he said. “I see an anti-commercial-space attitude that could have very negative consequences.” Rohrabacher (who represents a district near SpaceX’s headquarters) seemed to chide Hall and Johnson, the two Texans who chair the panel, for parochial views. “Focusing on one’s own district and directing federal funds seems to be having a major impact on this decision,” he said.

As we anticipated yesterday, there were other regional pleas connected to the word of choice heard in the halls of Congress: jobs. Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., for instance, asked how the space contract could be used to create jobs in his district of metropolitan Detroit. The witnesses made the most diplomatic kowtows they could. “I’ve been pushing SpaceX to use more automotive suppliers,” Musk responded. Other space industry execs went on to claim Michigan subcontractors, to praise the auto industry, and to speak of spin-offs from space science programs.

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Tea Party in Space argues for more money for commercial space

Andrew Gasser at the Tea Party in Space website today argues strongly for Congress to fully fund the new commercial space program at the $850 million amount requested by the Obama administration.

As much as I am for these new commercial companies, I do not think it a good idea to fund them at these high levels.

For one thing, the government is still broke. It can’t afford to spend that much money. It is therefore unseemly for a website that uses the “tea party” label to advocate more spending at this time.

For another, the more money the government commits to these companies, the more control the government is going to demand from them. Far better to keep the government participation as small as possible. Make it just enough to allow the companies to succeed but not enough so as to make the whole effort a government program.

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Orbital announces revised schedule for its initial Taurus 2 and Cygnus flights

Orbital Sciences has announced its revised schedule for the initial Taurus 2 and Cygnus flights.

Orbital will conduct a test of the Taurus 2’s first stage on the launch pad in late January [2012], and the inaugural Taurus 2 flight in late February or early March. This will be followed, in early May, by a Taurus 2 flight carrying the Cygnus station cargo vehicle, a flight during which Cygnus is expected to demonstrate its ability to berth with the station. The first operational space station cargo-delivery mission for Taurus 2 and Cygnus will occur in late August or early September under this revised schedule, Orbital officials said.

Based on conversations I’ve had with people at Orbital, this delay was expected, and is a good thing. The company was under incredible time pressure to get ready for a December launch. Given that this will be the first test flight of Taurus 2, and it must work for the Cygnus cargo flights to follow, better they give themselves some working room to get it right.

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GAO and SpaceX blast military’s plans to spend $15 billion for all its launches through 2018 in one purchase

GAO and SpaceX blast the military’s plans to spend $15 billion for all its launches through 2018, in one bulk purchase.

The reason given by the military for buying all these launches up front is to save money. In reality, it is to favor the companies they want to do business with, rather than open up the business to as many competitors as possible.

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Eco-friendly festival closes down due to lack of attendence

Eco-friendly festival closes down due to lack of attendance.

Reminds me of a local news piece here in Maryland last week, where a team from the University of Maryland in College Park won a Department of Energy competition for the best built solar powered house. The problem is that the house cost $330,000 to build, is only 920 square feet in size, and the best price they hope to get for it is $250,000, if that.

In other words, it appears that these ecological projects have little to do with the real world, where creating something that customers will want to buy is the only way to succeed. All else is fantasy.

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Russia drops plans to build a replacement for Soyuz rocket

Russia has dropped its plans to build a replacement for its Soyuz rocket.

This is not the first time that the Russians have abandoned plans to come up with a new rocket, which suggests once again that — as successful as their space effort has been — they lack the ability to come up with new product. This in turn makes vulnerable the Russians’ market share in commercial space.

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Five myths about China’s space effort

Five myths about China’s space effort. Key recommendation:

Recognize the significance of space as a field of competition. Beijing is not engaged in a space race with Washington. But China is engaged in a great power competition with the U.S. in which space is one arena. American decision makers should come to terms with this duality. In this regard, the Chinese are unlikely to be manipulated by American proposals on “codes of conduct” or meetings with the head of NASA. As long as Beijing and Washington are in competition, space will be one of the major venues.

And competition is not a bad thing. It is going to be the fuel that gets the human race into space.

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China finds SpaceX’s launch prices challenging

Competition! China finds SpaceX’s launch prices low — and a challenge to meet.

Declining to speak for attribution, the Chinese officials say they find the published prices on the SpaceX website very low for the services offered, and concede they could not match them with the Long March series of launch vehicles even if it were possible for them to launch satellites with U.S. components in them.

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