Tag Archives: freedom

Musk renames BFR

He must be reading BtB! Elon Musk today revealed new names for the two stages of his Big Falcon Rocket rocket, Super Heavy for the reusable first stage and Starship for the reusable orbiting second stage.

These are much more inspiring and saleable names. They also do not preclude SpaceX from giving each individual Super Heavy and Starship their own names as well, since these names apply to the class of rocket, not the ships themselves.

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SpaceX delays today’s Falcon 9 launch using booster for 3rd time

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has delayed today’s Falcon 9 launch that would have been the first time a first stage had launched for the third time.

“Standing down from Monday’s launch attempt of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express to conduct additional pre-flight inspections. Once complete, we will confirm a new launch date,” SpaceX representatives said via Twitter on Saturday (Nov. 17).

They did not offer further details, so it’s unclear what issue prompted the call for further inspection.

The delay is expected to be about a week. I suspect that they decided, after their standard prelaunch static fire last week, to review the data more carefully. The Block 5 first stage has already flown twice this year, in May and August. A launch in November means they are averaging a relaunch every three months, a pace that is far faster than NASA ever achieved in reusing its space shuttle.

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Virgin Orbit completes first capture-carry flight of LauncherOne

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit yesterday completed the first capture-carry flight of LaunchOne, flying the rocket attached to the bottom of Cosmic Girl, its 747 launch vehicle.

The flight lasted 80 minutes in total, during which Virgin Orbit’s flight crew assessed the take-off, landing, and low-speed handling and performance of the integrated system.

“The vehicles flew like a dream today,” said Virgin Orbit Chief Pilot Kelly Latimer (Lt. Col, US Air Force, Ret.). “Everyone on the flight crew and all of our colleagues on the ground were extremely happy with the data we saw from the instruments on-board the aircraft, in the pylon, and on the rocket itself. From my perspective in the cockpit, the vehicles handled incredibly well, and perfectly matched what we’ve trained for in the simulators.”

They are aiming to begin commercial flights next year, and appear on schedule. If so, they will jump ahead into the number two spot in the smallsat rocket race, behind Rocket Lab but ahead of Vector.

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Luxembourg accepts full loss from Planetary Resources investment

Capitalism in space: Luxembourg this week admitted that its 12 million euro investment in Planetary Resources is a complete loss.

They had sold off their ten percent investment when a blockchain company purchased Planetary Resources on November 1. This article merely confirms the full loss from the companies sale.

When Planetary Resources was first revealed, the mainstream press went nuts touting its claims that it was an asteroid mining company, mostly because of the supposed involvement of several rich Google investors. I however had reservations, mainly because the company was selling itself as an asteroid mining company when there was no chance it was going to do any mining, for at least a decade.

Simply put, I do not like it when companies or governments make false and unrealistic claims. It raises a red flag in the back of my mind, which in turn makes me suspect that the company or government is almost certainly not going to achieve what it claims. Over the past decades I have learned to take that red flag seriously, and this is another case where it served me well.

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SpaceX will not use Falcon 9 for BFR tests

In a series of tweets, Elon Musk revealed yesterday that SpaceX has decided it will no longer use its Falcon 9 to test Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) designs and has instead redesigned the BFR’s upper stage, dubbed the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS), and will do those tests with that.

I suspect that the company got pushback from NASA and the Air Force about making any big changes to the Falcon 9 upper stage, and decided it was better to leave well enough alone. They have more flexibility making these changes and tests with BFS.

However, the main conclusion that I draw from writing up this post is that SpaceX has got to come up with better names for BFR and BFS. What they have now is boring and unwieldy. I am sure that Musk can think of two more exciting and easier to use names for the new rocket’s reusable first and second stages. And he should do it, now!

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Antares rocket launches Cygnus freighter to ISS

Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket today successfully launched its Cygnus freighter to ISS.

This was only the second launch this year by the division of Northrop Grumman that used to be Orbital ATK. They have been trying to launch a research satellite using their Pegasus rocket, but have had engineering issues that keep delaying it.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remain unchanged:

31 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 30. The U.S. total now exceeds last year, and is the most this century. We have now had 91 launches this year, the most since 2014. I expect that number to go up significantly, with a real chance it will pass 100 launches for the first time since 1990, just prior to the fall of the Soviet Union.

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FCC approves four proposed satellite constellations, including SpaceX’s of 7,500+

Capitalism in space: The FCC has approved licenses to launch four different proposed smallsat satellite constellations, totaling almost 8,000 satellites.

Of that total, more than 7,500 would belong to SpaceX’s proposed Starlink constellation.

The new regulatory approvals set the stage for two companies, SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, and Telesat of Ottawa, Canada, to expand constellations already approved last year with more satellites in the rarely used V-band spectrum. Canadian startup Kepler Communications and LeoSat, a company licensed from the Netherlands, also received approvals, Kepler for 140 Ku-band satellites and LeoSat for 78 Ka-band satellites.

Of the four, SpaceX is by far the largest with 7,518 satellites constituting what it calls a “very low Earth orbit,” or VLEO constellation that would operate slightly below 350-kilometers. At that altitude, SpaceX says atmospheric drag would pull spent satellites down in one month, assuaging concerns about the magnitude of debris that that many satellites could create in higher orbits.

While SpaceX likely plans to launch its satellites on its own rockets, the other companies will likely depend on the new smallsat rocket companies — Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, Vector — that are about to all come on line.

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Rocket Lab raises an additional $140 million

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab has raised an additional $140 million in investment capital following its successful first operational launch last week.

The company announced Nov. 15 that it closed a Series E funding round, led by existing investor Future Fund, an Australian sovereign wealth fund. Several other existing investors also joined the round, including Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC (Data Collective), Promus Ventures and K1W1. One new investor, Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand, joined the round.

The Series E round comes after the company raised $75 million in a Series D round in March 2017. The company has now raised more than $288 million to date. Rocket Lab did not disclose the valuation of the latest round, but said it exceeded the “$1-billion-plus” valuation from its Series D round.

In the race to grab the smallsat market, Rocket Lab is far ahead of its nearest competitors, Virgin Orbit and Vector. If I had to rank them at this moment, I would say that Virgin Orbit is second with Vector third.

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SpaceX successfully launches Qatar communications satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a communications satellite for Qatar.

The first stage, previously flown in July, successfully landed on their drone ship. They intend to fly it for an unprecedented third time in the very near future. With this launch SpaceX has tied its record for most launches in a year, 18, which is also the most ever in a single year by a private company.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

31 China
18 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 29.

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Virgin Orbit completes fastest taxi test of LaunchOne

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit this past weekend completed the fastest taxi test of its LaunchOne smallsat rocket airplane, with LaunchOne attached.

In a tweet posted today, Virgin Orbit said the Nov. 11 ground test revved up the plane, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, to a speed beyond 110 knots (125 mph) on a runway in Victorville, Calif. That’s fast enough to simulate an aborted takeoff. “We also used the day as an opportunity to load real flight software onto LauncherOne for the first time,” the company said.

My 2016 prediction, that Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne will reach space before Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, looks increasingly likely. They had said they wanted to do their first launch by the end of the 2018 summer. Though this did not happen, their launch license [pdf] is effective through December 2019, and it appears they are moving towards that first launch within a few months.

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Vector applies for license for launch in Kodiak, Alaska

Capitalism in space: Vector has applied for an FAA license for a suborbital test launch in Kodiak, Alaska of its Vector-R smallsat rocket.

The launch is planned to occur no later than April 2019.

Their original suborbital test schedule was supposed to have occurred already, but those were mere verbal announcements. This is more concrete.

Vector does need to get off the ground however. Two years ago it was considered in a close race with Rocket Lab. Now Rocket Lab has pulled far ahead, and Vector might be losing ground to other smallsat launch companies.

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Is Rocket Lab an American or New Zealand company?

Link here. According to Rocket Lab’s own president, his company is American, even though much of its history is based in New Zealand.

When I asked Peter Beck whether his company was Kiwi or American, he didn’t shirk from waving the Stars and Stripes. “Look, we’ve been an American company and proud of it for many years,” he said.

“The New Zealand element is very important and very special to us but we never tried to hide the fact we’re a US company and this is where New Zealand companies go wrong in the fact that if you want to be a large, successful global company, it’s very difficult to be that out of New Zealand.”

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Stan Lee dies at 95

R.I.P. Stan Lee, the central writers for Marvel Comics in the 1960s and co-creator of all its most popular creations, has passed away at 95.

Lee was credited as the writer for almost every single comic book Marvel published throughout most of the 1960s. Teamed with a variety of artists (Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were the most important), these individuals helped shape much of the culture of that time, while influencing, for good or ill, almost all artistic culture to have since followed.

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Rocket Lab successfully completes its first operational Electron launch

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully completed its first operational launch, the third Electron rocket launch attempt (two of which succeeded) and the second successful launch this year.

You can see a replay of the launch here. The payload was six smallsats and a “drag sail” designed to test technology for deorbiting satellites more efficiently.

They plan to follow with another launch in a month.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remained unchanged:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead in the national rankings. Last year I initially counted Rocket Lab as an American company, but was convinced by others that it was better labeled as New Zealand, since the rocket was assembled and launched there, using a local team. I now have decided this is a mistake. The rocket is essentially American-made, and the company that markets it is American-based. It also plans to add an American launch site at Wallops Island. This is a tough call, but I have decided to change Rocket Lab back in my listings as an American launch company. This means China now leads the U.S. 31 to 28.

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Watch Rocket Lab launch tonight

You can watch Rocket Lab’s launch of its smallsat Electron rocket tonight at 10 pm (Eastern) at Space.com, or at the company’s own website.

A lot hinges on the success of this launch. The company is gearing up to move to monthly and eventually weekly launches, but to do so it must still demonstrate it can launch successfully and with some regularity. If they succeed tonight, they plan to follow with another launch in a month.

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NASA approves Falcon 9 for all science missions

NASA today announced that it has certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket as qualified to launch all of its science missions.

With only one mission out of 61 flights of the Falcon 9 ending in failure, the rocket appears to have met the high standards NASA demands from all of the rockets it uses. Two of those successful missions include other flights under the LSP: Jason-3 and TESS.

With the addition of this latest notch on its belt, SpaceX is poised to conduct the most sensitive, in terms of cargo, flights that the agency has—those of astronauts to the International Space Station.

As noted in the quote, this certification makes it certain that NASA will allow its astronauts to fly on the Falcon 9, even if its own safety panel continues posing its bureaucratic demands.

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“The world is watching us, remember.”

Link here. An American man brings his Ukrainian wife to the United States for her first visit. Her impression will bring tears to your eyes.

And her husband’s impression?

The truth is, every American, each and every one of us, is privileged. We’re privileged because we are American.

If you don’t think so then lift your eyes to the horizon, over which exists a world where the overwhelming majority of humanity does not enjoy the self-evident entitlements we so flippantly take for granted—things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The more cynical among us will likely roll their eyes at the preceding sentence, writing it off as overwrought jingoism. But when hardship and war comprise your daily reality, you don’t take America’s greatness lightly, or for granted.

Whether we want it or not, we Americans have inherited an awesome responsibility. We are the caretakers of the promise of democracy for people around the world who yearn for it.

Of course, we’re not the only democracy in the world. But I’ve seen firsthand how the ideal of American democracy stands alone in the eyes of Ukraine’s soldiers, the Kurds in Iraq, or even octogenarian Tibetan freedom fighters. For them, America symbolizes a dream worth fighting for.

Remember. As Kennedy said, “We stand for freedom.” This means we have to defend it every day, even against our own neighbors and friends who have forgotten what freedom means.

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SpaceX to build test prototype of BFS, test on Falcon 9

Capitalism in space: SpaceX announced today that it is building a test prototype of its Big Falcon Spaceship, the upper stage of its Big Falcon Rocket, and it will use the Falcon 9 to do orbital flight tests.

Musk in a tweet said that they hope to to do the first flight by June 2019. Musk also said that they will not be testing vertical landing with this prototype, focusing instead on atmospheric re-entry. From this I can only assume it will not be recovered after its return to Earth.

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Leftist mob at home of Tucker Carlson: “You are not safe!”

They’re coming for you next: A leftist mob tonight gathered in front of the private home of Fox anchor Tucker Carlson, making threats against him and his family.

They chanted, “We know where you sleep at night!” Then,

Tonight, we remind you that you are not safe either. …Racist scumbag, leave town,” the group chants.

It is revealing how the left repeatedly demands that everyone but them tone down the rhetoric.

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SpaceX’s Tesla passes Mars’ orbit

Capitalism in space: The Tesla roadster that was put into solar orbit by the first Falcon Heavy launch in February has now successfully flown beyond Mars’ orbit.

The significance of this achievement is that this payload was put into solar orbit by a private company, using its own funds. The government had nothing to do with it.

For the entire history of the space age such a thing was considered absurd and impossible. You needed government to fund and build these big space projects. With this launch SpaceX and Elon Musk once again demonstrated how that accepted wisdom was bunk.

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Luxembourg awards prize to Taiwan company

Capitalism in space: A Taiwanese company has won Luxembourg’s second SpaceResources.lu challenge, winning €500K.

Initiated by the ESA, the Space Exploration Masters competition targets participants from all around the world. A total of 7 prizes were awarded in collaboration with international partners, including a 500.000 euros prize by the Luxembourg Space Agency.

ODYSSEUS Space is a startup created in 2016 with the aim to provide innovative technologies and solutions for future deep space and swarm small satellite missions. To date, ODYSSEUS Space team members have participated in over 15 small satellite missions from 7 different countries.

As part of the deal, the company will move its headquarters from Taiwan to Luxembourg.

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Musk endorses Trump’s Space Force proposal

In a long hour long interview (which you can listen to at the link), Elon Musk endorsed President Trump’s proposal to create a Space Force.

Elon Musk sees a new branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as “obvious” as Americans travel far off the planet. “It’s basically defense in space. And then I think also it could be pretty helpful for maybe expanding our civilization,” Musk told Kara Swisher on a new episode of Recode Decode. “I do think it will become obvious over time that a Space Force is a sensible thing to do.”

Donald Trump pitched the new military operation this year, and hopes to have it running by 2020, bringing the military into conversation with space leaders like NASA and Musk’s SpaceX. It would sit alongside branches like the Army and the Air Force.

Musk described the agency as similar to the Air Force, something he said was criticized as unnecessary when air wars were managed by the Army but which is now a specialized division. “And people today may not realize back then it was wildly penned as a ridiculous thing to create the Air Force, but now everyone’s like, ‘Obviously you should have an Air Force,’” Musk said. “And I think it’s gonna become obvious that we should have a Space Force, too.”

I don’t have time now to listen to the hour-plus-long interview, but it appears Musk talked about other things of interest, making worth one’s time.

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Planetary Resources bought by blockchain company

Capitalism in space: The so-called asteroid mining company Planetary Resources has now been bought by computer blockchain company.

Planetary Resources said in a statement that it was acquired by ConsenSys, Inc. in an “asset-purchase transaction.” The companies did not disclose specific terms of the agreement. Chris Lewicki, the president and chief executive of Planetary Resources, and Brian Israel, the company’s general counsel, will join ConsenSys as part of the deal.

ConsenSys describes itself as a “blockchain venture production studio focused on building and scaling tools, disruptive startups, and enterprise software products powered by decentralized technology, specifically Ethereum.” Ethereum itself is a decentralized computing platform best known for supporting a cryptocurrency called Ether similar to the better-known bitcoin.

Don’t ask me how ConsenSys makes its money. I haven’t the faintest. I also haven’t the slightest idea what they intend to do with Planetary Resources. I can say without doubt that it won’t be asteroid mining.

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Shake-up in SpaceX’s Starlink satellite division

Capitalism in space: It appears that Elon Musk has done a major shake-up in SpaceX’s Starlink satellite division, firing a number of managers because he was unsatisfied with the slow pace of development.

The management shakeup followed in-fighting over pressure from Musk to speed up satellite testing schedules, one of the sources said. SpaceX’s Behrend offered no comment on the matter.

Culture was also a challenge for recent hires, a second source said. A number of the managers had been hired from nearby technology giant Microsoft, where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk’s famously short deadlines. Another senior manager that left SpaceX was Kim Schulze, who was previously a development manager at Microsoft, one of the people said. Schulze did not respond to a request for comment.

“Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites,” one of the sources said. “Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner.”

A billionaire and Chief Executive Officer of Tesla Inc, Musk is known for ambitious projects ranging from auto electrification and rocket-building to high-speed transit tunnels.

Musk’s desire for speed here actually makes very good economic sense. There are other companies developing similar internet satellite constellations, and if SpaceX’s launches late they will likely lose a significant market share.

His concern about the slow pace seems to me also justified. This technology, while cutting edge, shouldn’t require as much testing and prototype work as it appears the fired managers wanted. Better to get something working and launched and making money, introducing upgrades as you go, as SpaceX has done so successfully with its Falcon 9 rocket.

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SpaceX confirms it will do first hopper tests of BFR in Boca Chica

Capitalsm in space: SpaceX has now confirmed that it will do the first hopper flight tests of its Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) in its new spaceport facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

They hope to start these flight tests as soon as late 2019, but don’t be surprised if they don’t meet that date. It also appears that these test flights will be of the BFR’s first stage as well as its upper stage, presently dubbed the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS). This upper stage is being designed somewhat like a space shuttle, capable of gliding into the atmosphere in order to shed speed. Unlike the shuttle, however, it will then land vertically.

In related news, the Air Force has admitted that it is having discussions with SpaceX about someday using the BFR to transport cargo from point-to-point, on the Earth.

The article at the link gives the impression that the Air Force is discussing this with multiple companies, but right now the only rocket being designed and built that would be capable of doing this at a reasonable price would be SpaceX’s BFR.

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The radical and ugly left reveals itself again

They’re coming for you next: At a campaign event yesterday for Marsha Blackburn, the Republican senatorial candidate for Tennessee, leftist protesters once again revealed their ugliness and dependence on smear tactics, and they did so in mere seconds.

Blackburn called for a moment of silence to mourn for the innocent people who had been killed by a anti-Semite in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Less than two seconds into that moment, a protester shouted “Marsha Blackburn is a white supremacist!” Watch below. It only lasts a minute.

This smear makes no sense. Not only is there zero evidence that Blackburn is a “white supremacist,” the slander occurs even as she is mourning the murder of Jews, something no white supremacist would do. How stupid do these leftist protesters really think people are? This isn’t going to convince anyone, and if anything, it reveals the bigoted hate-filled mentality of this protester.

It also offends the sensibility every ordinary person nationwide who watches this, both conservative or liberal. No decent person would spit on the graves of the murdered Jews as this leftist protester does. And the protester is doing this in support of the Democratic candidate in an effort to defeat the Republican.

If you are undecided on who to vote for this coming election, just remember this moment. Every Democratic Party win, anywhere, will be an endorsement of this kind of behavior.

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Utah man arrested for mailing poison to Republicans

A sign that even liberals are subject to the law: A Utah man has been arrested for mailing letters with material containing the poison ricin to Republicans, including Trump.

Utah resident William Clyde Allen, 39, “knowingly threatened to use a biological agent and toxin, specifically ricin, as a weapon,” according to a statement from the Justice Department and the US Attorney’s Office in the western state.

In addition to Trump, Allen’s targets included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, along with the FBI and CIA directors and commanders of the Air Force and Navy. Allen was arrested on October 5 shortly after the Pentagon intercepted suspicious mail. He pleaded not guilty.

This arrest happened six days ago. The poisoned letters and the arrest have attracted little or no press coverage. I had known about the letters, but not the arrest. I only learned about it today because of the coverage relating to the mailed bomb threats to Democrats.

Both events are vile. If we had a legitimate press, instead of one that works for the Democratic Party, both would have received equal coverage. Civilized people should find both equally unacceptable. It appears the press and the left (I repeat myself) are not bothered by anything like this, if it happens to conservatives.

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First ULA Vulcan launch delayed a year to 2021

The first ULA Vulcan launch has been delayed a year to 2021.

In an interview [at a recent conference, John Elbon, chief operating officer of ULA,] said the shift in the first launch to April 2021 is linked to the requirements of the LSA award from the Air Force. “As the procurement schedule was laid out, the Air Force schedule changed, and we synced up with that,” he said, adding that the company was moving ahead with more aggressive internal schedules for Vulcan’s development.

“While ULA was on schedule from a technical standpoint to meet 2020 target, once we reviewed the Air Force’s timeline in the LSA proposals & incorporated [additional] requirements into our plan, we aligned #VulcanCentaur launch dates to meet the Air Force schedule,” the company tweeted.

The LSA awards were Air Force subsidies ranging from $500 to $1 billion given to ULA, Northrop Grumman, and Blue Origin last week to support development of their new rockets. And just as Blue Origin was forced to immediately delay its first New Glenn launch after obtaining this award, so has ULA.

In other words, gaining big development money from the Air Force forced both companies to delay their launch to meet the Air Force’s demands, something that SpaceX apparently decided not to do.

We shall see in the coming years which approach works best for making the most money. I favor SpaceX.

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SpaceX lands another Falcon Heavy contract; seeks big loan

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has signed another Falcon Heavy launch contract, this time with the satellite company Viasat.

What is interesting here is that Viasat had previously had a Falcon Heavy contract, but switched to the Ariane 5 because of the long delays leading to the rocket’s first launch. That they have returned indicates that there is a strong need for a rocket that can lift this kind of large payload, even as a large part of the satellite industry is also miniaturizing.

In related news, SpaceX is reported to be negotiating for a half billion dollar loan.

Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX is seeking to borrow $500 million in the leveraged loan market, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is leading the talks with potential investors this week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because plan is private. Spokesmen for Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

This is especially interesting, based on the company’s philosophy to avoid taking government development money. While Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, and ULA recently accepted Air Force rocket development subsidies ranging from half a billion to a billion dollars for future military launches, SpaceX did not. Some reports suggested this meant the Air Force was going to exclude SpaceX in future contract bidding, a suggestion that I think is patently false.

This loan probably relates to development of the BFR, and will allow SpaceX to build it according to its desires, not the Air Force’s.

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