A French rocket startup enters the competition

A new French rocket startup, Hyprspace, has assembled the engine and body of a first stage demonstrator, dubbed Terminator, to be used to test that new engine in preparation for the first suborbital test launch.

On 4 May 2024, the company shared the first glimpse of the Terminator demonstrator at its facility in Le Haillan, France. According to the update, teams had worked through double shifts over a three-week period to prepare the demonstrator for its test firing. The test will be conducted at a Direction générale de l’armement missile test facility in Gironde, France. HyPrSpace has not yet revealed when the test is expected to take place.

This engine will eventually be used in the company’s planned orbital Baguette-1 rocket for launching smallsats.

We now have at least five European rocket startups, three in Germany (Rocket Factory Augsburg, Isar, Hyimpulse), one in Spain (PLD), and one in France (Hyprspace). We also have Avio in Italy taking over ownership from Arianespace of its Vega family of rockets. That company is about to begin static fire testing a Vega-C upper stage, its engine nozzle completely redesigned following a launch failure. It hopes to resume flying by the end of the year.

France’s space agency puts out calls for rocket companies to lease the French Guiana launchpad formerly used by Russia’s Soyuz rocket

Capitalism in space: France’s space agency CNES has now issued a request for commercial rocket companies to bid on leasing the launchpad formerly used by Russia to launch its Soyuz rocket from French Guiana.

The launchpad became available after the European Space Agency (ESA) broke off its partnerships with Russia in February 2022.

Following the cessation of Soyuz launches, it was agreed that ESA would transfer ownership of the site back to CNES under the provision that it would host two new launch systems. The first will be selected by CNES as part of its recently published call. The second will be selected by ESA as part of the agency’s launcher challenge, which was publically announced in late 2023.

According to the CNES call, prospective candidate vehicles will be required to be capable of deploying payloads of at least 1.5 tonnes into low Earth orbit. Additionally, a maiden flight from the launch site will need to be completed no later than 2027. This will drastically limit the potential bidders.

The article at the link lists three potential bidders, Rocket Factory Augsburg, Maiaspace, and Avio. The first two are rocket startups, having not yet launched a rocket. Avio is the lead contractor for Arianespace’s Vega family of rockets, so it already has experience with an operational rocket, though that rocket is presently grounded due to recent launch failures.

There are a number of other rocket startups in Europe, including PLD in Spain and Hyimpulse and Isar in Germany. The incentive to bid for this launchpad might encourage them to upgrade their rocket to meet the bidding requirements.

Head of France’s space agency blames too many subcontractors for high cost of Ariane-6

At a conference yesterday the head of France’s CNES space agency, Philippe Baptiste, strongly blasted the European Space Agency’s (ESA) system of distributing contracting work to many subcontractors in its partner countries for high cost of its new expendable Ariane-6, a high cost that makes it uncompetitive in today’s launch market.

While giving his remarks, the CNES boss explained that “the European space industry, which is largely French, is in danger today. Our industry is not pivoting quickly enough. We must move quickly, reduce cycles, costs, otherwise we will all die.” It should be noted that the hyperbole towards the end of that statement may be exaggerated thanks to its translation from French to English.

On Ariane 6, Baptiste stated that “today, we are too expensive, including on Ariane 6. We are missing several tens of millions of euros, which we cannot find among European subcontractors.”

As the article then notes, this is not a new problem. ESA attempted to reduce it when it agreed in 2017 to give ownership of Ariane-6 to ArianeGroup, a joint partnership of Airbus and Safran, two of Europe’s biggest aerospace companies. The idea was that ArianeGroup would be in charge, and thus less bound to give out multiple subcontracts to many different companies scattered throughout ESA’s European partners.

This apparently did not happen, and the reason is likely because Ariane-6 was still a rocket conceived by the ESA to be run by the ESA, not a private company. That government control is also the reason Ariane-6 was designed not be reusable, even though in 2017 it was very obvious that an expendable rocket would be uncompetitive in the 2020s launch market. The bureaucrats at ESA didn’t want to take chances, so they choose a conservative design.

Baptiste’s remarks today I think help explain France’s decision earlier this week to award contracts to four rocket startups. France has finally realized that its partnership in ESA has been hindering its own space industry, and is now moving to encourage its growth outside of ESA.

There is great irony here. France led the way in creating ESA, because it wanted others to help pay for its space program. Now it rejects that partnership because its partners are simply doing what is natural, demand their own piece of the action.

Regardless, this breakup is good news. It means the European government monopoly on launch services is truly ending.

France to award four rocket startups launch contracts worth as much as 400 million euros

Capitalism in space: According to a story today at the European Spaceflight website, the French government will later this week announce contract awards to four different rocket startups worth as much as 400 million euros.

The four launch startups that will receive a combined €400 million in subsidies are HyPrSpace, Latitude, Sirius Space Services, and the ArianeGroup subsidiary MaiaSpace.

The HyPrSpace OB-1 and Latitude Zephyr rockets will be the smallest of the lot and will be capable of delivering between 100 and 200 kilograms to low Earth orbit. The Sirius 1, Sirius 13, and Sirius 15 rockets will be capable of delivering between 175 and 1,100 kilograms to orbit. The Prometheus-powered Maia rocket is expected to be the most powerful, with a payload capacity of up to three tonnes when launched in its expendable configuration.

All four companies however will only receive a small upfront payment, with the bulk of the award only paid if a company achieves a maiden launch by 2028.

That the French government is now signing deals with new private and independent launch companies and not with Arianespace, the commercial arm of the European Space Agency (ESA) that has always been dominated by the French, is a major development. Up until now most of the action encouraging independent rocket companies has come from Germany and Spain. That France has now joined the party signals the almost certain death knell to the failed two decade-long effort by Arianespace to make a profit, even when it controlled about 50% of the launch market.

Expect the government monopoly of Arianespace to fade away in the next five years. Expect it to be replaced with a thriving industry of mulitple rocket companies, all charging less and coming up with new ways to lower cost.

India and France sign deal to partner selling flights on their rockets

India and France have apparently signed a deal to not compete in selling flights on their biggest rockets, but instead work together to keep prices under their control.

Under the terms of the MoU [memorandum of understanding], NSIL’s [the commercial space division of India’s government] heavy-lift launch vehicle, LVM-3, and Arianespace’s Ariane-6 will be at the forefront of this joint endeavor.

The article at the link provides no information at all about the specifics of this deal. I am simply guessing that is it designed to control prices, especially because France by itself does not own the Ariane-6 and thus can not award launch contracts for it. All it can do is convince India to not charge less for its comparable LVM rocket (a variation of its GSLV rocket). If so, it is a bad deal for India, which can easily undercut any price that Arianespace can charge for the expensive Ariane-6. It will drive business from India, since other companies (such as SpaceX, ULA, and hopefully Blue Origin in the near future) will be under no obligation to match Ariane-6’s high cost.

It is also possible that the deal is simply an empty political gesture, timed during the visit to India by France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Its vague language suggests this. It gives Macron a photo op, but as an MOU it leaves India under no long term obligation.

Three European nations sign deal with Arianegroup for use of Ariane-6

In a separate deal outside of the European Space Agency, Germany, France, and Italy have signed a deal with the private rocket company Arianegroup to use its still unlaunched Ariane-6, assuming the company can reduce costs.

The agreement will provide €340 million ($365 million) of financing a year for Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rocket in exchange for a commitment to an 11% cut in costs. The rocket will also be awarded at least four missions from public institutions a year, while the lighter Vega C launcher will get at least three.

Essentially the deal is intended to keep Ariane-6 afloat, as its high cost has made it difficult to attract customers. At the same time, the contract demands those costs be reduced, and adds pressure to that demand by noting that future and additional launches will be awarded on a purely competitive bidding process. It appears these three countries will open bidding not only to the new rocket startups being developed in Europe, but American rocket companies as well.

Two new European rocket startups sign deal with France to launch from French Guiana

The French space agency CNES today signed agreements with two different European smallsat rocket startups, Spain’s PLD Space and Germany’s Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA), allowing each to launch from France’s old launchpad in French Guiana that was used in the 1970s by its long abandoned Diamant rocket.

From the RFA press release:

Until now, the launch pad in Kourou has only been used by CNES for its Diamant rocket in the 1970s. Now the launch complex is to be given a new purpose, in the tradition of opening access to space through innovative and groundbreaking ventures. As such, RFA is one of the first NewSpace companies to be given the opportunity to use it. The new launch pad will be upgraded and equipped in the coming years with the aim of being used for launches from 2025.

These agreements are part of a slew that have come out of Europe in the past year or so that all indicate that the European Space Agency (ESA) and its partners have finally abandoned any attempts to build rockets, and are instead looking to private enterprise to do it for them. First Germany encouraged private rocket startups, independent of Arianespace and ESA. Then Spain followed with PLD Space. Then Arianespace, the commercial arm of ESA that for decades built all rockets for ESA, announced it was making agreements with these startups to have them launch payloads instead.

These new deals today indicate that France has now joined the rush to private enterprise, which is a very significant development as France as always been the leader in having ESA build its own rockets through Arianespace. It appears it is now looking away from government-run space.

All these actions are also suggest a dim future for ArianeGoup’s Ariane-6 rocket, built under the old system but with an attempt to give private enterprise more power, with ArianeGroup, not Arianespace, owning and controlling it. Its design however was dictated largely by ESA, thus resulting in a rocket that is too expensive and therefore not competitive.

The long term result will be greater competition, both in Europe and worldwide, which in turn is going to fuel a renaissance in rocket development, which in turn is going to speed the exploration and colonization of the rest of the solar system.

Hat tip to BtB’s stringer Jay.

France orders Eutelsat to stop broadcasting Russian channels

Arcom, the French television regulation agency, yesterday ordered the communication satellite company Eutelsat to stop allowing three Russian channels from broadcasting using the satellites.

In a news release, Arcom said the television stations’ coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine “include repeated incitement to hatred and violence and numerous shortcomings to the honesty of the information.” Eutelsat said in a brief statement that “it will no longer be involved in the broadcasting of the three sanctioned channels within the prescribed time-frame.”

Arcom’s decision comes a week after France’s top administrative court, prompted by a request from the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders advocacy group, ordered Arcom to review an initial decision to permit Eutelsat to continue carrying the stations.

Arcom’s claim, that it made this order because of the content of the broadcasts, is another example of the blacklisting/censorship culture we now live in. The French regulators could have simply stated that, as an ally of the Ukraine in the Russian-Ukraine war, it does not want French-regulated satellites to provide aid to the Russian side. There is a war going on, and this alone is a rational reason to block the Russian channels.

Instead, Arcom uses censorship as its justification. It doesn’t like what the Russians are saying, and therefore has the right to censor them. Remember this argument, because in the future Arcom will likely use it again, but next time against any one of the other broadcast channels under its control that simply says something it doesn’t like.

France, Germany, and Italy agree on allowing competition from European rocket startups

Capitalism in space: France, Germany, and Italy yesterday signed an agreement [pdf] whereby they agreed to push European policy-makers to allow competition from independent European rocket startups for launch contracts.

At least, this is what I think they have agreed to. I have read the article and the agreement several times, and remain somewhat unsure of their intent. The agreement is couched in the typical bureaucratic language specifically designed to obscure meaning. The article does little to clarify things.

It appears this is the key language in the agreement:

The proposed acknowledgement of operational European NewSpace micro and mini launch systems for ESA satellite launch service procurements, upon its adoption by Council, would effectively represent a first step towards an evolution of the launch service procurement policy for ESA missions as referred to in the ESA Council Resolution adopted in 2005.

What I gather is that these three countries no longer want European launch contract awards limited to the Arianespace rockets Ariane-6 and Vega-C. They want bidding opened to all European rocket startups, and they want the elimination of rules that require all contracts distributed by quota to European countries.

Germany already has three commercial rocket startups on the verge of their first launch, and apparently wants the European Space Agency to stop favoring Arianespace in launch contracts. That France and Italy are going along with this is significant, since Ariane-6 is dominated by French developers and Vega-C is dominated by Italian developers.

France signs Artemis Accords

The U.S. State Department yesterday announced that France has become the twentieth nation to sign the Artemis Accords.

The full list of signatories so far: Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the Ukraine, and the United States.

France’s signing is a major breakthrough, as both it and Germany, major players in the European Space Agency, have appeared to resist signing on because to do so would have limited their ability to partner with Russia on space projects (Russia opposes the accords). The Ukraine War has apparently ended France’s resistance. It no longer has any partnerships with Russia, and is not likely to form any new ones in the near future.

We should expect Germany to sign on in the near future as well.

As I wrote in May, the future factions in space are now becoming clearer. On one side we have the American Alliance, signers of the accords who support private property. On the other we have Russia and China, who oppose the accords because they also oppose private property.

In May I also included a third faction, made up of non-aligned space powers. That faction now appears to be fading away, though it still includes Germany and India.

France re-approves Starlink service

Capitalism in space: After finally completing what France’s telecom bureaucracy ARCEP calls “a public consultation,” the French government once again approved Starlink service on June 2nd.

ARCEP had authorized Starlink in February 2021, however, France’s highest administrative court revoked the license April 5 after ruling that the regulator should have first launched a public consultation.

That ruling came after two French environmental activist organizations submitted an appeal to challenge Starlink’s frequency rights, citing concerns including the impact of megaconstellations on views of the night sky and space debris.

This approval, combined with recent approvals of Starlink in the Philippines and Nigeria, continues the steady expansion of Starlink service globally.

The future factions in space become clearer

Based on two stories yesterday, it appears that the future alliances between nations in space are now beginning to sort themselves out.

First there was the signing ceremony announcement of Columbia becoming the nineteenth nation to sign the Artemis Accords with the U.S. and the third Latin American country to do so.

The Artemis Accords were created by the Trump administration as an international treaty to bypass the restrictions on private property imposed by the Outer Space Treaty. By signing bilateral agreements with as many nations as possible, the U.S. thus creates a strong alliance able to protect those rights in space.

The full list of signatories so far: Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the Ukraine, and the United States.

In the second story, France and India — both of whom have so far resisted signing the Artemis Accords — announced their own bilateral agreement intended to strengthen their partnership across many fronts, from security to economic development to the Ukraine war. The agreement also included this paragraph on the subject of space:
» Read more

French company raises €2 million to launch commercial solar sail

Capitalism in space: The French startup Gama has successfully raised €2 million to build and launch its first test solar sail, with the goal of eventually selling those sails for other interplanetary missions.

Gama plans to deploy a 73.3-sq-metre solar sail in a 550km-altitude orbit in October. It will be launched as an additional payload on a SpaceX rocket.

There have been a number of previous solar sail deployment tests by Nasa and the American space advocacy group the Planetary Society. However, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency had been the only organisation to successfully sail on sunlight. In 2010 it used a solar sail to power the experimental Ikaros (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun) spacecraft to Venus.

If successful the company will follow with two more test missions in ’24 and ’25, first testing at higher orbit and testing in interplanetary space.

Starlink delivers 5,000 terminals to Ukraine; loses license in France

Capitalism in space: Starlink today continued its aggressive support for the Ukraine in its war with Russia by delivering another 5,000 terminals to that beleaguered country.

Space reporter Joey Roulette tweeted Wednesday that the majority of the terminals — 3,667, to be exact — as well as the associated internet service were donated directly by SpaceX at a cost of “roughly $10 million,” with USAID purchasing the remaining 1,333 terminals. These numbers apparently came from an earlier version of the USAID release; the updated release doesn’t give dollar figures and refers only to 5,000 Starlink terminals donated by a public-private partnership.

Roulette also suggested in another tweet that France and Poland had made contributions to the Starlink shipments to Ukraine, citing an earlier conversation with SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell. The USAID announcement only refers to the American partnership, however.

In a second story today, however, Starlink lost its ability to provide service in France, when a court ruled its license had been issued improperly.

France’s Conseil d’État ruled April 5 that French telecoms regulator ARCEP should have launched a public consultation before authorizing Starlink in February 2021.

“In law, they should normally cease [providing services] immediately, pending ARCEP’s public consultation” following the court’s decision, a Conseil d’État spokesperson told SpaceNews.

The court case was apparently instigated by two French environmental groups, who are demanding more regulations against the large satellite constellations.

France to set up military space command within its Air Force

Copycat! French President Emmanuel Macron announced yesterday that he is proceeding with the creation of a space corp within this country’s air force.

Addressing military personnel a day before the Bastille Day parade, Macron said the new military doctrine setting up a space command would strengthen protection of French satellites. He said the investment involved had yet to determined. “To give substance to this doctrine and ensure the development and reinforcement of our space capabilities, a space command will be created next September in the air force,” Macron said, adding that it would later become the Space and Air Force.

Remember the ridicule heaped on Trump when he first proposed the need for reorganizing the U.S.’s military space operations into a single bureaucracy? He first pushed for a new military branch, but I think that was a negotiating tactic to force Congress and the Pentagon to act. As a result, it looks like the U.S. is almost certainly going to get a space corps as part of the Air Force, with all military space operations unified, as many in the military have been begging Washington to do for probably a decade. (This second link describes a bill by the Democratically-controlled House that includes authorization of the space corps, that has now been approved by the entire House.)

Now Macron recognizes the need to reorganize his military space operations as well. Surprise, surprise! Maybe those who kneejerk criticize Trump on everything should learn to think a bit before doing so. You might not agree with everything he does, but he is no fool, and there is almost always logic behind his actions.

Foreign elections: UK, India, France, Italy, Israel

Foreign elections in the past week all suggest that Trump’s victory in the U.S. is no accident, and that our so-called betters in the elitist class in DC had better recognize this or they will find themselves out of work.

In Europe supporters of the European Union generally got crushed:

Turn-out was up across the board, which with these victories for the populist parties also indicates the public favors them, and wanted to give them victories. As one would expect, the press has routinely labeled the winners here as “far-right,” a slander aimed at discrediting them.

The European Union was without doubt a good idea. Sadly, its implementation by the elitists in Europe was terrible, as bad if not worse then the terrible job the U.S. establishment has done for the past three decades, failing to do anything right while simultaneously drowning the country in debt and stifling regulation.

Meanwhile in India, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came away with a landslide victory. In many ways Modi’s win mirrors the European elections. Overall, Modi has worked to shift India away from the centralized socialist/communist policies that dominated its government in the last half of the 20th century, policies that are very similar to the policies followed by the ruling EU parties. In India those centralized policies worked as badly as they have in Europe and the U.S., which is why they experienced a political collapse.

Modi’s shift to private enterprise has resulted in a booming economy and great prosperity, so much so that it has allowed India to expand its space program significantly.

Finally, in Israel, the victory several weeks ago of Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition has not yet resulted in a new government. It appears Netanyahu is having trouble forming a government.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that he would meet with the leaders of the prospective coalition parties in the coming hours in a final effort to save the new government and avert new elections. “I am now making my last-ditch effort to form a right-wing government and to prevent unnecessary elections. I gave the partners a proposal for a solution. It is based on the principles that the army has established and on the data that the army has established – there is no reason to reject it, “Netanyahu said.

It appears that the conservative haredi religious parties that normally ally themselves with Netanyahu’s Likud party have been playing hard ball, preventing an agreement. In other words, the demand is that the government shift even more righward, a pattern comparable to Europe.

Widespread Yellow Vest protests in France

The “Yellow Vest” protests in France appear to be expanding, with numerous protests appearing to take place today throughout the country.

The reasons for these protests are complex, but they appear mostly rooted in a growing distrust of and contempt for the status quo French ruling class, which like the U.S. ruling class has not served its citizenry well in the past two decades, from either side of the political spectrum.

The response of the leftist Macron French government to these protests, which have been on-going for the past two months?

On February 5th the National Assembly passed a new law to restrict protests, a law pushed by President Macron and his party “La Republic En Marche”.

It would give local authorities the right to exclude specific people from protesting and allow judges to ban protests entirely.

I am not surprised that the protests have grown since this law was passed. It goes against every principle of western civilization, and can only spark outrage.

India teams up with France to prep for its first manned mission

The new colonial movement: India has signed a cooperative deal with France to provide them help in preparing for its first manned mission in 2022, now dubbed Gaganyaan by India’s press.

Following the signing of agreements between the two parties on Thursday, the agencies “will be combining their expertise in the fields of space medicine, astronaut health monitoring, life support, radiation protection, space debris protection and personal hygiene systems.”

The announcement was made by CNES [France’s space agency] president Jean-Yves Le Gall during the inaugural of Bengaluru Space Expo-2018 where he was the chief guest. It is being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry along with ISRO and Antrix, the agency’s commercial arm, from September 6 to 8.

The two countries will also work together on other space research.

Crowdfunding campaign to honor only cat to fly in space

A crowdfunding campaign has been started to build a 5-foot-tall bronze statue in honor of Félicette, the only cat to fly in space.

While the first dog in space, Laika, has a statue, and the first chimp, Ham, has a memorial, Félicette has close to nothing. There are some commemorative stamps honoring a mythical space cat “Felix.” But Felix’s portrait doesn’t look like Félicette and it has a male name, so this is not enough for Guy. If anything, he says, the stamps simply help erase the existence of female astronauts.

The French space program gathered 14 cats, implanted electrodes into their brains, and put them through training similar to the way that they train human astronauts. They ultimately chose Félicette to make the trip, either because of her docile personality, or because she had not put on too much weight, according to differing accounts.

She was launched into space from Algeria [in 1963], and made it nearly 100 miles above Earth. For five minutes, she was weightless. Félicette came back to Earth unharmed, parachuting down and being retrieved only 13 minutes after having left her home planet. She stayed at the program’s lab for two to three months, according to Guy, but scientists later killed her to study the effects of space travel on her body.

Seems to me to be the right thing to do.

France settles union dispute in French Guiana

The union strike that has stopped all Arianespace launches from French Guiana for the past month has been settled.

The article provides no details on the settlement itself. Instead, it outlines the company’s intention to complete all the scheduled launches they had planned for 2017.

Update: This story outlines the basic agreement.

It authorises an emergency relief plan of up to 2.1 billion euros, which includes funds for security, education, healthcare and business aid.

France had already approved 1.1 billion in aid for French Guiana at the beginning of April. The additional funds were offered to meet demands made by the collective and local representatives, who rejected the government’s initial offer.

France will prioritise the implementation of the spending plan, said Bareigts, who described the agreement as a “decisive day for the future of Guiana”.

Essentially, this is a payoff to the unions and group in French Guiana that organized the strike. I am sure a lot of the money will go for good purposes, but I am even more sure that a majority of it will simply end up in the pockets of the strike organizers, doing little to help the people of French Guiana themselves.

French court rules against freezing Russian assets

In a complicated court battle involving multiple courts, multiple nations, multiple companies, and multiple industries (including Roscosmos), a French court has ruled in favor of Russia and against the shareholders of the liquidated Russian Yukos oil company.

The Ivry First Instance Court ruled in favor of Roscosmos in a dispute with Cyprus-based offshore company Veteran Petroleum, a shareholder in the former Yukos oil company, according to Roscosmos. “They have acknowledged that our arguments are correct and that there is no need to seize the money,” Roscosmos representative Igor Burenkov told the TASS news agency.

France has seized Russian assets worth $1 billion in total following the Kremlin’s refusal to pay damages to former Yukos shareholders. The seized assets included $400 million owed by French-based satellite provider Eutelsat to the Russian Satellite Communications company and $300 million owned by French space launch provider Arianespace to Roscosmos.

More details here. The dispute here is not just between Russia and the shareholders of Yukos. There is also a battle going on between the Hague International Arbitration Court and the French courts. Whether Russia will be able get its money however remains unclear at this moment.

Russian assets in France seized

Russia’s refusal to pay damages in a court case has forced France to seize $700 million owed to Russia’s aerospace industry.

In total, France has seized Russian assets worth $1 billion following the Kremlin’s refusal to pay damages to former Yukos shareholders.

In July 2014, The Hague international arbitration court ruled that Russia must pay $50 billion for expropriating the assets of Yukos. The seized assets include $400 million owed by French-based satellite provider Eutelsat to the Russian Satellite Communications company and $300 million owned by French space launch provider Arianespace to Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, the magazine reported, citing the Shearman & Sterling legal firm which represents the Yukos shareholders.

This story is similar to the Sea Launch court suit by Boeing, whom the Russians owe $300 million. In that case Boeing has moved to block Russia from selling Sea Launch.

Both stories suggest that the Russians are in big financial trouble, partly caused by a lack of understanding of capitalism. In both cases, they formed partnerships with western businesses and failed to realize that those partnerships placed financial obligations upon them. From its Soviet days Russia probably thought they could ignore those obligations if it became inconvenient, and they are now discovering that this is not really possible if they wish to sell their goods to the rest of the world.

I expect Russia’s space industry to increasingly become isolated from the rest of the world market, partly because of these events.

In related news, Roscosmos has revealed that after the initial launch at Vostochny in April, the second launch will not occur until 2017. This indicates that the first launch is merely a face-saving effort to hide the fact that construction is really more than a year behind schedule, not three months.

French Mars’ instrument repair looks good

The head of France’s space agency announced today that repairs to their instrument for NASA’s InSight Mars lander will be completed in time to ship the instrument to the U.S. in time for the scheduled March launch.

Briefing reporters here at the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Jean-Yves Le Gall said the leak, which compromised the required high-precision vacuum chamber carrying InSight sensors, was caused by a defective weld that is applied to close off the tank.

The leak’s cause has been identified and a new weld performed, Le Gall said. Tests to confirm the new weld’s integrity are underway and, assuming no problems, will be completed in time to ship the instrument to the United States in the first week of January. It will then be integrated into the InSight lander in preparation for the March launch.

Obama declares “we have contained ISIS” even as they execute an attack in Paris

Irony alert! Yesterday, in an interview with WABC’s Chief Anchor and Democratic Party operative George Stephanopoulos President Obama declared that ISIS has been “contained” by his policies.

“I don’t think they’re gaining strength,” the president told Stephanopoulos in an interview at the White House Thursday. “From the start our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq. And in Syria it — they’ll come in, they’ll leave.”

Today, a terrorist attack planned and executed by ISIS took place in Paris across seven different locations, killing dozens, including many of approximately 100 hostages in a concert hall, where the terrorists had been killing them one-by-one. Police moved in ahead of schedule because they had been getting texts from the hostages begging them to attack because they were going to be executed anyway and a police attack was the only way they had a chance of surviving.

Thank god Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama has contained ISIS. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see them do this sort of stuff. And it’s a good thing that France has strict gun control laws so the country is gun-free. Otherwise, how would these terrorists get access to weapons?

Construction by helicopter

An evening pause: As noted on the youtube webpage, “The last two components of the Incity Tower spire were put in place by helicopter on Sunday 21 June [2015]. This metallic spire, which measures 50 metres and weighs 25.9 tonnes, took the building to its final height of 200 metres. This confirms its position as the highest tower in Lyon and the third highest in France. Three aerial beacons and a lightning rod will now be placed at the top.”

Hat tip Phill Oltmann.

France considers developing reusable first stage

The competition heats up: Two French government aerospace agencies have announced that they are researching the development of a reusable first stage.

It is very unclear how this research will be applied, since Europe’s replacement for the Ariane 5 is being built by Airbus Safran and they have made it clear that they only intend to recover their rocket’s engines, not the entire first stage.

Islamic attack in France

Peace in our time: Even as a jihadist attacked military recruiting offices in Tennessee this week, there was also a major terrorist attack in France, with all evidence pointing at Islamic terrorists as the attackers.

The attack, three separate explosions at a petrochemical plant, has interestingly not been reported in detail by a single mainstream news source in the U.S. I wonder why. Could it be that these events put the lie to President Obama’s Iran deal, that agreeing to this deal will only make our lives more dangerous and will empower the radical and violent Islamic movement, which is as virulent in Iran as it is in the Islamic State?

Nah. It’s all in my imagination. President Obama couldn’t be wrong. He wouldn’t lie to us.

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