Arizona court kills local government’s real estate deal for World View

The Arizona court of appeals last month ruled that a land deal between Pima County and the high altitude balloon company World View was unconstitutional, and could not go forward.

Per the agreement, the county would fund the construction of facilities, including a 135,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, with office spaces and a launch pad, on property it already owned. World View would then lease the property from the county for 20 years. In return, the company would hire more than 400 employees, with an average salary of over $55,000, and spend $32.3 million on equipment.

Twenty years of lease payments were expected to total around $14 million, estimated to be the property’s value at that time. World View would then have the option to buy the facility for $10.

Six years ago the Goldwater Institute sued, saying this deal was illegal according to the state’s constitution. Last month the court agreed, killing the deal.

Since World View remains in operation in these facilities, Pima County will have to renegotiate at market rates. How that will effect the company itself, which now hopes to begin flying near-space tourist flights by 2024, charging $50K per person, remains unknown.

Another Indian rocket startup tests engine

According to India’s space agency ISRO, it recently provided the facilities for the Indian rocket startup company Agnikul Cosmos to complete a static fire engine test of its second-stage rocket engine.

The agency fired Agnikul’s fully 3D-printed second-stage rocket engine Agnilet for a duration of 15 seconds. Agnilet is a regeneratively cooled 1.4 kN semi-cryogenic engine that uses Liquid oxygen and Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) as propellants. According to Agnikul, the engine is capable of generating 3kN of thrust at sea level and would propel the upper stage of Agnibaan, the company’s under-development launch vehicle.

The company had said it hoped to complete its first launch this year, but that appears highly unlikely. Nonetheless, it has raised at least $14.1 million in investment capital.

Thus, it appears India now has two private rocket companies gearing up for launch in ’23, Agnikul Cosmos and Skyroot.

Astra to lay off 16% of its workforce

Astra, having abandoned its Rocket-3.3 in order to develop its larger Rocket-4 smallsat launcher, announced yesterday that is laying off 16% of its workforce as part of this change in direction.

The decision to abandon Rocket-3.3 has at this time removed the company as an operational rocket company, and has thus put it behind several other competitors which are now gearing up for launch. Its third quarter report also showed a $41 million loss this year, 26% larger than the same quarter last year.

As a result, the company’s stock value has declined 94%, and is now selling for 58 cents per share. If that price does not rise above $1 before April of next year, NASDAQ has said it would delist it.

German rocket startup unveils 2nd stage

The German rocket startup Rocket Factory Augsburg this week unveiled the second stage of its planned rocket, with its Helix engine attached.

This second stage will be used for engine tests in Sweden.

“The campaign will feature three main tests: The first test will last a few seconds, followed by one for around 10 seconds, then the full flight duration. Every engine is acceptance tested. Then each engine is fired a second time during stage acceptance and then started a third time for flight. We have already proven that we can fire the same engine 3x without switching out components with our long-duration hot-fire campaign. Now we want to repeat that achievement with a full upper stage.”

The company hopes to use this stage in the first orbital test flight of its RFA-1 rocket, targeting a launch late next year. That rocket will use nine more Helix engines in its first stage, and will thus be able to put into orbit slightly more mass than Firefly’s Alpha rocket or payload.

Cygnus successfully berthed at ISS

Cygnus approaching ISS on November 9, 2022

Despite on of its two solar panels only partly deployed, astronaut Nicole Mann was able to use the robot arm on ISS to grab Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus freighter and bring it into its port, where ground engineers successfully berthed it.

The image to the right is a screen capture from NASA TV as Cygnus approached. You can see the problematic panel at the bottom. Though it has folded out from its initial stored position, it has not opened up fully.

The freighter will stay docked to ISS until late January, during which the crew will unload about four tons of cargo and then fill it with garbage before sending it to burn up over the ocean. We should expect NASA and Northrop Grumman to also plan a spacewalk to not only inspect the panel to figure out what failed, but to see if it can still be deployed.

Japan issues license allowing Ispace to do private business on Moon

With the launch of Ispace’s first lunar lander, Hakuto-R, only two weeks away, the private company has obtained a license from the Japanese government to conduct private transactions on the Moon.

The license allows Ispace to complete a contract awarded by NASA in December 2020, to acquire regolith from the lunar surface to sell to the space agency. During M1, Ispace is expected to collect regolith that accumulates on the footpad of the landing gear during the touchdown on the surface, photograph the collected regolith and conduct an “in-place” transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith to NASA. After ownership transfer, the collected material becomes the property of NASA, under the Artemis program. Under the contract, the lunar regolith will not be returned to Earth.

Under a second contract awarded to Ispace’s subsidiary [Ispace EU] … Ispace EU will acquire the lunar material on its second mission scheduled for 2024 as part of the HAKUTO-R program. An application for Mission 2 will be submitted to obtain a separate authorization.

This mission will also land the UAE’s first lunar rover, Rashid.

According to the Outer Space Treaty, it is the responsibility of each nation to regulate the private operations of its citizens in space. This action thus follows the laws that Japan has passed to supervise commercial space companies.

Bad news for Branson

Two stories today suggest that Richard Branson’s space empire continues to totter.

First, a judge ruled that the fraud lawsuit against Branson by other stockholders in the suborbital tourist company Virgin Galactic can go forward.

The suit claims Branson concealed safety problems while he sold off the bulk of his own stock at top dollar. Only after he had dumped his stock were those problems revealed, and the stock price plummeted, now trading at less than 10% of the peak in February 2021, when Branson sold.

Second, it appears that though Branson’s satellite orbital company Virgin Orbit is operational, it is not going to launch as many satellites this year as expected, and thus required an investment of $25 million on November 4th from Branson’s Virgin Group to stay liquid.

Branson clearly wanted to be a major player in space. In the end, he has mostly failed, though once again Virgin Orbit remains a viable launching company for smallsats.

India’s first private rocket company prepares for its first test suborbital launch

Skyroot, India’s first startup private rocket company, has now scheduled the first test launch of a suborbital version of its Vikram rocket for sometime between November 12the and 16th, depending on weather.

The rocket will be sent into space from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre spaceport in Sriharikota, off the Andhra Pradesh coast.

The space sector was opened up to facilitate private sector participation in 2020. In 2021, Skyroot became the first space technology startup to ink an MoU with ISRO for sharing facilities and expertise.

…The company’s COO & co-founder, Naga Bharath Daka, said “The Vikram-S rocket getting launched is a single-stage sub-orbital launch vehicle, which would carry three customer payloads and help test and validate the majority of technologies in our Vikram series of space launch vehicles.” The four-year-old Skyroot has successfully built and tested India’s first privately developed cryogenic, hypergolic-liquid, and solid fuel-based rocket engines. The R&D and production activities extensively use advanced composite and 3D-printing technologies.

The company has raised $51 million in private investment capital, the most ever raised by a private Indian rocket company.

One of two solar panels on Cygnus capsule fails to deploy

The failure of one of the two solar panels on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsule to deploy today shortly after launch might cause some issues with getting the spacecraft docked to ISS.

Northrop Grumman has reported to NASA that Cygnus has sufficient power to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Wednesday, Nov. 9, to complete its primary mission, and NASA is assessing this and the configuration required for capture and berthing.

The capsule does not dock directly with the station, but is instead grabbed by a robot arm, which then brings it into its port. The grapple point that the arm uses is on the end where the solar panels are, with the docking port at the capsule’s other end. What is not presently clear is whether that point is blocked by the undeployed panel.

Pre-election repost: Who and What to vote for in Arizona in 2022

Because I led a cave trip yesterday (and was also the oldest person on the trip by at least two decades), I am kind of beat today. I might get some energy later in the day to write up a blacklist column, but right now I don’t have the mental strength to do it.

So instead, I am reposting my voting recommendations for Arizona. While these recommendations cover the statewide elections, they are also tailored to my specific location in Pima County in southern Arizona. If you are in Arizona but in a different county you will simply have to do some of your own research. O the horror!

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Who and What to vote for in Arizona in 2022

Liberty enlightening the world
The citizen is sovereign, and your vote demonstrates that power

I first posted my election choices in Arizona on October 11, 2022, the day before the start of early mail-in voting in this state. However, I am now posting my choices again because there were two propositions (#128 and #130) then that I was unsure about how I wished to vote. I have now done a bit more research, and made my choices. I think my analysis will be useful to my readers.

I have also included more information about the candidates running.

I want to once again emphasize that though I am not partisan, based on the steady decline of thought in the Democratic Party combined with its increased passion for arresting and violently harassing its opposition, I cannot at present vote for anyone in that party. I wish this was not the case, but I also believe strongly that if American voters throw out as many Democrats as possible in November, it will allow for that party to reform itself. With the defeat of its present leadership, the party will be faced with a stark choice: find new leaders, shift gears, or die (allowing a new party to replace it). With any of these options, the voters would be provided with a new choice in future elections, coming from a different direction.

As a perfect example of the mindless corruption that has now taken over the Democratic Party, witness President Joe Biden’s statement this past weekend throwing his full support behind the castration and mutilation of children in order to change their sex, as advocated by the “trans” movement — which in plain English is a movement of cross-dressers demanding more power over everyone else.

The president denounced Republican states that have passed laws attempting to ban or limit sex change surgeries and transition treatments – like hormone blockers – for children who identify as non binary or transgender. Biden spoke with a panel of six progressive activists for the NowThis News presidential forum on Friday, which aired on Sunday. One of the six panelists was TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney who is documenting their transition from a male to trans woman.

When asked if red states should have the right to pass laws limiting access to gender-affirming treatments, Biden said: ‘I don’t think any state or anybody should have the right to do that.’

‘As a moral question and as a legal question, I just think it’s wrong,’ the president added.

This corruption in the Democratic Party has also made the Republican Party unreliable, which is why the Republican slate in Arizona is so important. All of the state’s major candidates (governor, senate, secretary of state, attorney general) are not from the established party. They are mostly Trump outsiders, who are running on platforms calling for major reform. Giving them all a win will send shockwaves throughout the political landscape, on both sides of the political aisle. The establishment controlling both parties might finally realize they must pay attention to the citizens of the country, not their own wishes.

All these factors suggest that this is a truly significant election. or as Doug Ross noted in this excellent essay:

This is our generation’s fork in the road and the stakes of our decision could not be higher. If we are to protect our society from the inevitable decline and despotism that has infected so many societies since the beginning of time, in whom should we trust? If we are to shield our children from the tyranny against which our founders fought and so many Americans shed blood, in whom should we put our faith?

I contend that we must fight the anti-Constitutional counter-revolution using every political tool at our disposal. We must pledge to return our country to the rule of law, as it was originally defined by our founders and codified in the Constitution. For anything less condemns our descendants to the fate that Thucydides described. The choice is clear. The question is simple.

Which road will you choose?

Thus, below are my updated final election choices. Note too that I have not contributed any money to any of these candidates, nor have I received any money from any candidate or party as well. These opinions are solely my own.
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Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket launches Cygnus freighter to ISS

Capitalism in space: Early this morning Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket successfully completed its second launch this year, lifting off from Wallops Island and carrying a Cygnus freighter for ISS.

This launch is also the next-to-last for this version of Antares. Northrop Grumman is using up the last few first stages built in the Ukraine that use Russian engines, after which it will send the next three Cygnus capsules into space using SpaceX’s Falcon 9. It hopes to introduce a new Antares using a Firefly first stage following that.

The leader board in the 2022 launch race remains the same:

51 SpaceX
48 China
19 Russia
9 Rocket Lab
7 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 73 to 48 in the national rankings, but trails the rest of the world combined 76 to 73.

Midnight repost: How the localized nature of Democrat vote tampering will influence the 2022 election

I first published this essay back in mid-July, because I thought it important to outline in detail the nature of the election tampering we should expect to see on Tuesday, November 8th, and how that tampering might be used by the corrupt urban Democratic Party to create undeserved victories in several states.

That analysis remains spot on, though it does appear that in some states, such as Wisconsin and Arizona, enough work as been done to mitigate or prevent the worst fraud. Republicans and other independent organizations in these states especially have taken actions comparable to what I recommended, and are aggressively monitoring the election process to make it much more difficult for election tampering to take place.

I think Americans however need to reread this essay, so that they understand well exactly what is going on when the results are delayed (as predicted by Joe Biden in one of his many ugly speeches last week) in states like Pennsylvania, New York, Minnesota, and Michigan. And if it looks like Democrats will lose in Oregon and Washington expect delays there as well. Those delays will be aimed at changing the results so that the Democrats do not lose.

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How the localized nature of Democrat vote tampering will influence the 2022 election

Based on the ample evidence of election fraud, corruption, and vote tampering done repeatedly by Democrats nationwide during the 2020 election, we can expect these politicians and their minions to commit similar election crimes in the upcoming 2022 mid-term elections, especially because the effort by some Republicans to reform their state election systems in the key purple states was so effectively blocked by Democrats, by many quisling Republicans, and by a willing leftist press.

It is however important to understand where that election tampering was done in 2020 in order to understand the election fraud to come, as well as creating a strategy to prevent it. As real estate agents like to say, “Location is everything!”, and it appears this applies to election fraud as well.

Summary slide outlining Powell voter fraud allegations
The 2020 fraud in Democratically-controlled Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia.

In 2020, in states that were purple and where the final result was in doubt, the Democrats took advantage of their total control of the local urban voting districts in those states — where there are very few Republican voters — to tilt the results. In such places (Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Phoenix) the government is essentially a one-party Democrat operation. Many election districts in these cities have no Republican election judges at all. If the Democrats wish to commit election fraud, there is no one looking over their shoulder to question them, with some districts actually taking aggressive action in 2020 to illegally keep Republican poll watchers out.

Thus we saw strong evidence in all of these cities of pro-Democrat ballot-stuffing, of all types, from fake ballots to ballots counted multiple times to evidence the votes on the ballots themselves were changed by computer. The fraud however was strongly localized to these urban centers controlled by Democrats. The vote tampering was able to tilt the statewide results. but not the local contests.

For example, Democrat mayors in Wisconsin teamed up to have drop boxes placed illegally in unsupervised locations, where Democratic Party mules could stuff them with thousands of harvested ballots. The Wisconsin Supreme Court finally ruled on July 8, 2022 that these boxes were illegal, and violated the plain language of the state’s election laws:
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Pushback: “I do not consent to your attempt to blacklist me.”

Victory
Image by freepik

Last night I discovered personally that every blacklisted person in America has a great deal of power. You need only exert that power to make the bullies who are trying to destroy you helpless and confounded.

First some background. In December 2021 I was blackballed by most of the Arizona caving community because I had disagreed with their decisions to discriminate against anyone who had not gotten a COVID shot. I and a number of other people had objected to the demands of these clubs that we be jabbed in order to come to a caving event. We considered such a rule discriminatory, even as it illegally demanded private medical information. We also tried to explain to the organizers that this policy made no sense because the evidence last year had already showed that the shots provided no protection against the virus.

Their answer: I along with two others were blacklisted from all further organized caving activities for the next two years.

Since then I have been mulling how I should react. I never accepted this vindictive action. Not only had it been done in violation of the actual bylaws of these organizations, it was especially vicious because it was done by people whom I had thought were close friends. I had now discovered they were not my friends, but responding in hate goes against my nature. The true oppose of hate is utter disinterest, and it has my goal over the last ten months to put aside my baser emotions and reach this more civilized state of mind.

Anyway, last night one of the Tucson cave clubs that had blacklisted us was having its monthly public meeting, in a pizza place. Since the president of that club had sent out a public invitation saying that all were welcome, I decided it was time to show up. Essentially, I had decided to follow the advice of journalist Matt Walsh, who when attacked for criticizing the purveyors of the queer agenda for their campaign to mutilate and castrate little kids, told them this:
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Rocket Lab successfully launches but fails to catch first stage

Rocket Lab today used its Electron rocket to successfully launch a Swedish atmospheric research satellite.

The attempt to catch the first stage with a helicopter as the stage came back to Earth on parachutes failed. Based on the live stream, the failure appears unrelated to the helicopter, which never even made an attempt to capture. Nor did the video from the copter ever show the stage in view. A later update explained that the helicopter had lost telemetry from the stage, and for safety reasons would not attempt a capture without that information.

The company will still recover the stage from the ocean and test its engines. An engine from a previous ocean recovery actually passed all subsequent engine tests, suggesting it could even be reused on a launch.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

51 SpaceX
47 China
19 Russia
9 Rocket Lab
7 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 72 to 47 in the national rankings, though it still trails the rest of the world combined 75 to 72.

Virgin Galactic losses 3x higher than last year

Even as Virgin Galactic has announced a contract with Axiom to fly a zero gravity suborbital training flight for one of its astronauts, the company also posted its 2021 third quarter statement, revealing losses three times higher than the previous year.

The company posted a net loss of $146 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with a $48 million net loss in the same period last year. The widened loss was in part driven by increased research and development cost, which came at $97 million in the June-September quarter, three times higher than last year.

The company posted a net loss of $146 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with a $48 million net loss in the same period last year. The widened loss was in part driven by increased research and development cost, which came at $97 million in the June-September quarter, three times higher than last year.

Quarterly revenue was only $767,000, down 70 percent from a year ago. Virgin Galactic hasn’t started commercial service of its suborbital spaceflight. The company currently makes money by taking deposits for future flights and providing engineering services to other companies.

Company officials still say that it will begin flying customers in the second quarter of ’23, as promised, though it also appears that the demand for its business has plummeted. At the same time, it reports it has $1.1 billion in its coffers for future development.

Orbital tug company signs launch agreement with German rocket startup Isar Aerospace

The German rocket startup company, Isar Aerospace, has now signed a launch agreement with a French orbital tug company, Exotrail, to put multiple tugs into orbit over a five year period.

The companies announced Nov. 3 they signed a launch services agreement to launch Exotrail’s spacevan vehicle on Isar’s Spectrum rocket on multiple missions between 2024 and 2029. The launches will take place from Andøya, Norway, and Kourou, French Guiana. The companies did not disclose a specific number of launches or the value of the agreement.

Exotrail will apparently act as the agent to get the satellite customer by providing that customer transportation to the desired orbit after deployment from Isar’s rocket.

This is the second orbital tug launch contract that Isar has won, with the first from the Italian company D-Orbit. Both deals will fly on Isar’s rocket Spectrum, which it hopes to launch for the first time next year.

Remains or DNA samples of numerous Star Trek actors/creators to be sent into space

Because the space burial company Celestis has now made agreements to fly into space the remains or DNA samples of so many actors or creators from the classic Star Trek television series on its next burial flight, it has named that flight its “Enterprise Mission.”

Slipping the gravitational bonds of Earth early next year, the Enterprise Flight will blast off in early 2023 using United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket carrying additional cremated remains and DNA samples of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry, “Star Trek” engineer James “Scotty” Doohan, and “2001: A Space Odyssey” VFX wizard Douglas Trumbull.

The Enterprise Flight’s trajectory will send the spacecraft roughly 93 million miles to 186 million miles (150 million to 300 million kilometers) into deep space beyond our familiar Earth-moon system. Celestis’ memorial mission intends on launching over 200 space burial flight capsules comprised of cremated ash remains, special messages, mementos and DNA samples from a range of international customers headed towards the great mystery of interplanetary space.

The flight will also include the remains or DNA samples from special effects artist Greg Jein, the series original associated producer Robert H. Justman, and actors Nichelle Nichols and DeForest Kelly.

What makes this burial flight especially unique is that the cremated remains and DNA samples will apparently be on a part of the Vulcan rocket that will escape Earth orbit and enter solar orbit.

Watching Rocket Lab’s launch and attempt to recover its first stage

In its scheduled launch today, Rocket Lab will attempt to recover the first stage of its Electron rocket, using a helicopter to snatch its parachute as it descends slowly over the ocean. This will the second attempt to do so, the first time failing after capture when the helicopter pilot decided to release the stage due to unexpected stresses and vibrations.

I have embedded the live stream below. The launch is presently scheduled for around 10:30 am (Pacific).
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Sunspot update: The pause in the ramp up to solar maximum continues

NOAA has once again published its monthly update of its monthly graph that tracks the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere. Below is that November graph, annotated by me with some additional details added to provide context.

Though sunspot number continued to be much higher than the prediction (almost double), October saw almost exactly the same number of sunspots as seen in September, which is why this new graph seems almost identical to last month’s.

In other words, the pause in the ramp up to solar maximum, first noted in August, continues.
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Travel agency buys two Space Perspective high altitude balloon flights

Space Perspective's Neptune Capsule
Graphic of Space Perspective’s Neptune capsule.

The travel agency Cruise Planners has reserved two future 20-mile-high flights on the high altitude balloon Spaceship Neptune, being built by the Florida-based company Space Perspective.

Cruise Planners has reserved two full capsules scheduled to fly in 2025 & 2027 respectively on Spaceship Neptune.

Spaceship Neptune will differ from other spacecraft by being attached and secured to the SpaceBalloon for the entirety of the flight, making it a safe and seamless journey for the traveler. Other vessels separate mid-flight and transfer to different flight systems. According to Space Perspective, Spaceship Neptune will be lifted to space by the SpaceBalloon, powered by renewable hydrogen with no rockets and no carbon footprint. Guests won’t have the jarring blastoff that is typical of space travel, but instead will ascend steadily at 12 mph, making the experience accessible for anyone who is able to fly with a commercial airline.

Space Perspective is one of three balloon companies now planning such high altitude flights. Ticket prices will range from $50K to $125K, depending on company. At the moment Space Perspective is charging the most, but expect that to change as the competition heats up.

NASA delays first manned Starliner mission again

NASA today announced that it has rescheduled the first manned demo mission of Boeing’s Starliner capsule to ISS from February to April, 2023.

The agency attributes the two month delay to scheduling conflicts with other visiting spacecraft at ISS. This might be true, but it also could be that Boeing wanted a little extra time to finish out the work it still needs to do to fix the anomalies that occurred on the unmanned demo mission, as well preparing the new capsule for launch.

This flight will carry two astronauts to ISS for about two weeks. The press release also noted this interesting tidbit:

The previously flown crew module, named Calypso, will be connected to a new service module later this year.

Apparently Boeing has decided to give names to these capsules, like SpaceX has. It also appears that the company and NASA are satisfied enough with the condition of the capsule after flying the unmanned demo flight to use it again for a manned mission.

American freedom sets a new yearly record for rocketry

Liberty enlightens the world
Liberty has now also enlightened the exploration of space

Capitalism in space: In 1966, more than a half century ago, the United States government was in a desperate space race to catch up with the communist Soviet Union, which for the previous decade had been first in almost every major achievement in space, from launching the first orbital satellite, the first manned mission, the first two- and three- manned missions, and the first spacewalk.

In 1966, the NASA and the U.S. military successfully launched 70 times in their effort to catch up, a number that has remained the record for more that five decades as the most American launches in a single year.

All but one of those seventy launches were either for NASA or the military, paid for and built not for profit but for achieving the political ends of the federal government. Many of those seventy launches were also short duration technology test satellites, whose purpose once achieved ended those programs.

By the end of the 1960s, this aggressive effort had paid off, with the U.S. being the first to land humans on the Moon while matching or exceeding the Soviets in almost every major technical space challenge. The need for such an aggressive government launch program vanished.

Thus, for the next half century, the United States rarely exceeded thirty launches in a single year. This low number was further reduced by the decision in the 1970s by the federal government to shut down the entire private launch industry and require all American manned and satellite payloads to be launched on NASA’s space shuttle.

Come 2011 and the retirement of the space shuttle, all this finally changed. The federal government began a slow and painful transition in the next decade from building and launching its own rockets to buying that service from the private sector. It took awhile, but that transition finally allowed the rebirth of a new American private launch industry, led by SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket.

Tonight, that SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket completed the 71st launch in 2022, breaking that 1966 record by placing in orbit a commercial communications satellite. And it did it with almost two months left in the year, guaranteeing that the record has not only be broken, it will be shattered.
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Freefall: an antenna company for space

Freefall: Antennas for Space!

Last week I had the opportunity to tour the offices space-based antenna startup Freefall, another one of Tucson’s many space-related companies.

Not surprisingly (and probably to the company’s credit), the offices and facility were themselves not that impressive. Essentially it was an open space with some areas reserved for desks and workers, and other areas where engineers could do some antenna construction and testing. In one corner was what the company’s CEO, Doug Stetson, labeled “their antenna graveyard,” past antenna experiments that were no longer needed or in use.

However, like all of these new independently-owned small aerospace companies popping up worldwide now that western governments have given up control of their space programs, what makes this company stand out is the creative innovations — both in design and manufacturing — that it brings to its products. In the case of Freefall, those products are all kinds of antennas, designed for all kinds of space-related uses.

First, there is design. The key to Freefall’s business model is its spherical dish antenna design.
» Read more

Two Saudi passengers to fly on Axiom’s second commercial flight to ISS

According to one NASA official, Axiom now plans on launching two as yet unnamed Saudi passengers on AX-2, its second commercial flight to ISS scheduled to launch in May 2023 on a Dragon capsule.

The names of the two Saudis on the flight have not been released, she said, but that “we are working very hard with them on training already.” A slide for her presentation noted the two would be named after formal approval by the ISS program’s Multilateral Crew Operations Panel. That slide also stated that crew training for the mission started Oct. 17.

The Saudi Space Commission and Axiom Space separately announced Sept. 22 plans to fly two Saudi citizens on a future Axiom Space mission. However, while it was widely rumored the two would fly on Ax-2, neither announcement stated a specific mission. The Saudi statement said that one of the two people would be a woman but did not disclose how the astronauts would be selected.

Neither Axiom nor the Saudis have revealed the ticket price, though it probably runs somewhere in the range of $20 to $50 million per ticket, based on past known purchase prices by NASA and others.

Rocket Lab to attempt 1st stage recovery on November 4th launch

Rocket Lab announced yesterday that it will make its second attempt to catch the first stage of its Electron rocket using a helicopter during its next launch on November 4, 2022.

Using a modified Sikorsky S-92 helicopter to catch and secure the rocket by its parachute line, Rocket Lab will bring the captured stage back to its Auckland Production Complex to be processed and assessed by engineers and technicians for possible re-use.

This Electron recovery effort follows the catch of an Electron first stage during Rocket Lab’s first helicopter recovery attempt on the “There And Back Again” launch in May, and the recovery attempt for this mission will follow the same concept of operations as the previous launch.

In the May recovery attempt, the helicopter caught the stage, but then released it almost immediately because of unexpected stresses on the helicopter. If Rocket Lab is successful this time, it will be only the second private rocket company to recover a first stage capable of reuse, after SpaceX.

The launch itself will take place at 10:15 am (Pacific). When the live stream is available I will embed it on Behind the Black.

Japanese private lunar lander HAKUTO-R now scheduled for launch on November 22nd

The private lunar lander HAKUTO-R, built by the Japanese company Ispace, has now been scheduled for a November 22, 2022 launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch of the first commercial lunar lander mission to attempt a landing on the Moon was originally scheduled between November 9 -15. However, ispace stated that after consulting with SpaceX, the new tentative launch date would be moved to November 22 because it “allows for best preparation for the mission when considering the fuel-loading schedule for the lander and launch date availability.” SpaceX has a busy schedule at the Cape and NASA still has the Artemis 1 launch scheduled for November 14.

HAKUTO-R’s primary mission is to test the lander. However, it also includes several customer payloads, the most significant of which is the Rashid rover from the United Arab Emirates. Rashid, which is about the size of a Radio Flyer red wagon, will operate for one lunar day, about two weeks. While its main mission is to test the engineering and to train the engineers who built it, it will have two cameras for taking pictures. In addition, on its wheels are test adhesive patches of different materials, designed to see how each material interacts with the Moon’s abrasive dust.

Lockheed Martin invests $100 million in startup satellite maker Terran Orbital

Lockheed Martin has now invested $100 million in the startup smallsat-maker Terran Orbital, which has already been building satellites of a wide variety for customers.

Under the deal, which runs through 2035, the smaller Florida-based firm will build SAR and other advanced payloads, as well as satellite sub-assemblies, for the aerospace behemoth, Terran said in a press release today. These include electro-optical, hyperspectral, infrared and secure communication payloads, as well as things like star trackers and flight computers.

With this deal, Terran has also decided that it will no longer launch its own radar constellation, as that constellation would have competed directly with its radar satellite customers. Instead, it will make its radar satellite for others, including Lockheed Martin.

As an example of the variety of smallsats Terran Orbital has been building, it manufactured the smallsat lunar orbiter CAPSTONE for NASA, now on its way to the Moon but being operated for NASA by a different private company, Advanced Space.

Orbex signs 50-year lease at Sutherland spaceport

The British startup rocket company Orbex has signed a 50-year lease to operate its own launchpad at the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport in Scotland.

The company will lease Space Hub Sutherland from a local development agency for an initial period of 50 years with an option to extend for a further 25 years. Orbex will soon commence construction at the 10-acre launch site on the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland. The bulk of the construction work will be contracted out to technology solutions company Jacobs, which also does a lot of work for NASA.

The company hopes to launch its Prime rocket in ’23. At present it is testing launch operations of a prototype on its launchpad. All told, Orbex has raised a little over $100 million in private investment capital.

Falcon Heavy launches successfully for 1st time since 2019

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully put a military reconnaissance satellite using its Falcon Heavy rocket, its first launch since 2019.

The two side boosters and core stage all made their first flight. The core stage was intentionally not recovered, as it needed to use all its fuel for getting the satellite to its orbit. The two side boosters successfully landed at SpaceX’s two landing sites at Cape Canaveral.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

50 SpaceX
47 China
18 Russia
8 Rocket Lab
7 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 70 to 47, though it still trails the rest of the world combined 74 to 70.

This year’s 70 successful launches ties the previous high for the United States in a single year, set in 1966. With two months still left in the year, it looks like that record will be broken, by a lot.

Stratolaunch’s giant Roc airplane flies for 1st time with Talon engineering vehicle attached

Test engineering vehicle attached below Roc
Test engineering vehicle attached on Roc

Stratolaunch yesterday successfully flew its giant Roc airplane with a Talon hypersonic engineering vehicle attached for the first time to its central fuselage.

The flight lasted just over five hours, reached an altitude of 23,000 feet, and was “focused on measuring the aerodynamic loads on the Talon-A vehicle while mated to Roc. The loads captured in flight will validate aerodynamic predictions to ensure the release mechanism will function as designed.”

The company will complete a series of captive carry flights in the coming months, culminating in a separation test of the TA-0 vehicle out over the Pacific Ocean in late 2022.

Even as these flight tests proceed, the company is building the actual Talon flight vehicles, designed as testbeds for doing hypersonic flight tests quickly and relatively cheaply. The plan is to have these flight vehicles ready for both military and commercial customers to fly them by ’23.

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