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.”

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Europe ponders choosing the design of the next generation Ariane rocket.

Europe ponders the design choices for the next generation of their Ariane rocket.

Though the article above makes no mention of Falcon 9 and its very low launch costs, I have no doubt that Falcon 9 hovers like a ghost over the negotiations on what ESA will do with Ariane 5, a rocket that despite an excellent launch record has never really been able to make a profit due to high costs.

Destroying polio: only three nations left to go.

Destroying polio: only three nations left to go.

It is revealing that the only three nations where polio still survives — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan — happen to be poor, corrupt, and heavily dominated or influenced by Islam. Moreover, the article notes that India just celebrated its first full year free from polio, even though it had been thought that the country would be a difficult challenge given its high population density and what the article calls “poor hygiene.” We shouldn’t be surprised, however. Since India abandoned socialism in the early 1990s and embraced capitalism and freedom, the country has thrived. And with increased wealth comes better education and better living conditions, both of which will aid in getting the population to cooperate in this effort.

At a conference in Washington DC yesterday both Russia and Japan announced the Moon as their next primary space exploration goal.

The new colonial movement: At a conference in Washington DC yesterday both Russia and Japan announced the Moon as their next primary space exploration goal.

If the U.S. gets a competitive private aerospace industry going — which seems increasingly likely — I’m willing to bet those companies will get to the Moon before either of these governments.

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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