Australian Space Agency confirms debris is from SpaceX Dragon capsule

Officials from the Australian Space Agency have inspected and confirmed that the debris that landed recently in the southeast Australia came from service module/trunk of a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

The agency had been alerted by Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University, who first realised the timing and location of the debris falling coincided with a SpaceX spacecraft which re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 7am on 9 July, 20 months after its launch in November 2020.

Tucker believes the debris came from the unpressurised trunk of the SpaceX capsule, which is critical to take off but dumped when returning to earth.

This capsule was Resilience, launched on November 15, 2020 on SpaceX’s second manned launch for NASA. The capsule and crew returned in April, 2021. The service module apparently remained in orbit until July 2022, when its orbit decayed.

This service module was considered small enough it would burn up in the atmosphere. That assumption was apparently wrong. Though the pieces caused no damage, SpaceX needs to revise its operations to make sure future service modules will come back over the ocean, just in case sections reach the surface.

Space junk thought to be service module of Dragon manned capsule found in Australia

In news that is related to the impending crash of the Long March 5B core stage, Australian farmers have found scattered space junk pieces that some are claiming are the remains of the service module or trunk section that re-entered on May 5th, the day of the splashdown of SpaceX’s Endurance manned spacecraft.

The debris is most likely the unpressurized “trunk” of the spacecraft, astrophysicist Brad Tucker told Space.com. “Having gone out there and looked at the bits myself, there is not a doubt in my mind it is space junk,” he said in an e-mail. The trunk is designed to send unpressurized cargo into space, and also to support the Crew Dragon during its launch, according to SpaceX (opens in new tab). Half of the trunk includes solar panels that power Dragon when the vessel is in flight or docked to the station. The trunk detaches from the spacecraft shortly before re-entry.

The sonic boom, Tucker said, was widely heard at 7:05 a.m. local time on July 9 and the pieces found near Dalgety were “very close to the tracked path of the SpaceX-1 Crew trunk.”

The problem with this claim is that the sonic boom on July 9th matches no SpaceX launch or re-entry. The material however could be from that Endurance capsule, which returned May 5th, if the trunk once detached did not re-enter until two months later.

If confirmed, this story is surprising, as that service module is thought to be too small to survive re-entry through the atmosphere. It is instead expected to burn up before reaching the ground.

Update on status of first orbital Starship/Superheavy

Link here. The main focus of the article is the state of Superheavy prototype #7, which experienced an explosion and some damage during testing earlier this month.

The day after the anomaly, Elon indicated on Twitter that Booster 7 would roll back to the production site to work on repairs to the vehicle and assess the next steps. Rollback occurred on July 14, and in the following days, it’s been observed that several Raptor engines have been taken off from the vehicle, likely for further inspection and testing at SpaceX’s McGregor test facility a few hours drive up north from Starbase.

As of writing, repairs are continuing on Booster 7, and it will likely still be undergoing repairs for the next week or two. So while an early retirement for the vehicle could be expected, the current target by teams is still an orbital flight by Booster 7 and Ship 24 with a notional target date of late August for the flight.

If SpaceX decides to retire #7, it already is prepping #8 and #9, with #8 likely to be put on the launchpad for testing in the next week.

The target date for that first orbital launch is still in August, but that schedule appears increasingly unlikely.

NASA is apparently withdrawing its permit for Starship launches in Florida

We’re here to help you: In requesting public input into SpaceX’s plans to expand operations in Florida to accommodate launches of its Starship/Superheavy rocket, NASA is apparently withdrawing the permit it issued in 2019, allowing for such launches.

While a Final Environmental Assessment for Starship was issued in September 2019, NASA said that communication with SpaceX will be ongoing prior to a future first flight from Florida.

“NASA will review the risks to the area and programs at KSC [Kennedy Space Center] prior to any hazardous work,” Bob Holl told Spectrum News in a statement. “NASA will be involved in the lead-up of activities prior to the first loading and any static fire events of Starship and coordinate impacts across the spaceport.” Holl serves as the chief of the Spaceport Management and Integration Division in the Spaceport Integration and Services Directorate at KSC.

It appears NASA and the federal bureaucracy have decided that a new environmental assessment is necessary for SpaceX’s proposed new operation in Florida. After a 30-day period for public input, ending on July 29th, NASA will issue a new draft environmental assessment by September, which will then be subject to another public comment period. Then, the agency will issue a final decision in November, either declaring the new work causes no further impact or that a new environmental impact statement is required.

If the latter, expect Starship launches at Kennedy to be delayed several years.

This action continues the increased regulatory oversight on new space activities being imposed since the arrival of the Biden administration. The federal government is now apparently trying to set a new policy whereby any new work by a private company on or even near federal land will require its full approval, and even if given that approval will carry with it strict and endless governmental demands, all designed to slow things down.

The political timing of this new action however is significant, since this decision will occur after the November midterms. If control of Congress shifts significantly into Republican hands, as expected, the Biden administration’s new heavy-handed regulatory approach might face some pushback.

UAE names astronaut to fly on six month commercial ISS mission, purchased from Axiom

Sultan Al Neyadi in training
Sultan Al Neyadi in training

Capitalism in space: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday announced that 41-year-old Sultan Al Neyadi will fly on six month ISS mission, launching in the spring of 2023. purchased from Axiom.

The UAE purchased a seat on the Falcon 9 rocket from Axiom Space, a space infrastructure development company in Houston. This is the Falcon 9 seat that Axiom Space was given by Nasa after the company gave up its Russian Soyuz rocket seat for American astronaut Mark Vande Hei in 2021.

MBRSC did not disclose how much they paid Axiom for the seat, but the agreement includes transport to and from the space station; comprehensive mission support; all necessary training and preparation for launch; flight operations, landing and crew rescue services.

The deal behind this seat is very complex. Essentially, Axiom paid for the seat of Mark Vande Hei’s flight on a Soyuz capsule from 2021 to 2022 (because NASA had no authorized funds to purchase that seat), and got a later seat on a Dragon for an Axiom commercial customer. It then signed a deal with the UAE for Al Neyedi’s flight in late April.

The result is the first long term commercial mission to space.

Al Neyadi has been in training for four years, and acted as the back up astronaut to the first UAE manned flight to ISS, purchased from the Russians in 2019.

SpaceX launches another 53 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to launch another 53 Starlink satellites into orbit.

This was the eighth flight of the first stage, which successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic. This was also the company’s sixth launch in July, in only three weeks.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

33 SpaceX
24 China
9 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 46 to 24 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 46 to 40.

SpaceX successfully launches another 46 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to place another 46 Starlink satellites into orbit.

The first stage, completing its fourth flight, landed successfully on a drone ship in the Pacific.

This was SpaceX’s 32nd launch in 2022, exceeding the record of 31 launches it set last year, and doing so only a little more than halfway through the year.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

32 SpaceX
23 China
9 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 45 to 23 in the national rankings, and the entire globe combined 45 to 39.

SpaceX launch aborted 46 seconds before launch

Capitalism in space: In what has become a rare event for SpaceX, the company was forced to abort a launch of a Falcon 9 rocket today carrying 46 Starlink satellites only 46 seconds before launch.

The company has scrubbed a few launches in the past three years due to weather, but I think this is the first launch abort apparently due to a technical issue in several years.

No details were given for the abort, but whatever the issue was, it was apparently not serious, as the launch team immediately announced that they have recycled the launch to its back-up date tomorrow.

NASA awards SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch contract for Roman Space Telescope

Capitalism in space: NASA yesterday awarded a contract to SpaceX to use its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the Roman Space Telescope in October 2026.

. The total cost for NASA to launch the Roman telescope is approximately $255 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs. The telescope’s mission currently is targeted to launch in October 2026, as specified in the contract, on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX’s normal launch price for the Falcon Heavy is $100 million. This higher price in probably because NASA has imposed additional requirements. It is also likely because SpaceX has no comparable competitor, and can raise its price in certain situations — such as when the government is buying — because no one can undercut it.

That launch by the way will not happen in ’26. Roman is certain to be delayed further. It was proposed in 2011 as a major astronomy project for that decade. Instead, as expected it has become a two-decade long jobs program like Webb.

SpaceX completes 31st launch in 2022, matching its entire output in 2021

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched 53 Starlink satellites with its Falcon 9 rocket, completing its 31st launch in 2022, matching the company’s entire output for all 2021 in only a little more than six months.

The first stage completed its 13th mission.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

31 Space
23 China
9 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 44 to 23 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 44 to 39.

SpaceX is targeting 60 launches in 2022. With the year just a little more than half over, it is setting a pace capable of achieving that goal.

Falcon 9 launches cargo Dragon to ISS

Capitalism in space: SpaceX tonight successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to launch a Dragon freighter to ISS, with docking expected on July 16 at 11:20 am (Eastern).

The first stage landed successfully on a drone ship in the Atlantic, completing its fifth flight. The cargo Dragon is flying its third flight to the station.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

30 SpaceX
22 China
9 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 43 to 22 in the national rankings, and the entire globe combined 43 to 38.

OneWeb agrees with SpaceX: Dish’s ground-based plans a frequency threat

Capitalism in space: In a filing with the FCC, OneWeb has come out in full agreement with its competitor SpaceX, stating that Dish’s proposal to use the 12 GHz wavelength would threaten its satellite communications.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, OneWeb urged the regulator to reject a request from satellite broadcaster Dish Network and spectrum holder RS Access to run two-way mobile services in the band. If approved, “it would leave significant areas of the United States unusable by the otherwise ubiquitous NGSO [fixed satellite service] user terminals,” wrote Kimberly Baum, OneWeb’s vice president of spectrum engineering and strategy.

To connect user terminals, the SpaceX-owned Starlink and OneWeb megaconstellations use a satellite downlink band that extends from 10.7 GHz to 12.7 GHz. The analysis from OneWeb is the latest in a string of studies assessing how a high-power mobile network in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band would impact NGSO services.

Though the FCC has not yet made a final decision, it has already rejected Dish network’s request to block SpaceX’s use with Starlink of these wavelengths.

Superheavy prototype #7 explodes during tanking test

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Superheavy prototype #7 exploded yesterday during a tanking test in Boca Chica, Texas.

I have embedded the video of the explosion below, cued to just before it occurred.

According to Musk, the engineering teams are presently assessing damage. The booster itself appeared relatively intact afterward, though leaning slightly to one side.

At a minimum this incident will delay the orbital launch attempt, especially if booster #7 must be replaced with booster #8, already being prepped in the assembly building nearby.

» Read more

SpaceX launches another 46 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: Using its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX today successfully launched another 46 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The first stage completed its sixth flight, landing on the drone ship in the Pacific.

A minor note: SpaceX has clearly decided to simplify these broadcasts. Each is now starting much closer to launch, and the announcers have reduced their narration to the absolute minimum. Overall, this seems a wise policy, because though these live streams are good advertising, most of the people listening at this point do not need detailed explanations of everything. If anything, too much chatter is annoying, and as always less is more.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

29 SpaceX
21 China
9 Russia
4 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 41 to 21 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 41 to 36. The forty-one launches in just over half of ’22 beats the U.S.’s total for the whole year just two years ago.

Elon Musk gives a tutorial on the Raptor-2 engine

Tim Dodd of Everyday Astronaut on Friday released another video from his most recent tour of Starbase at Boca Chica with Elon Musk. I have embedded it below.

Essentially, this 41 minute video is Elon Musk giving us a tutorial on how SpaceX simplified and improved its Raptor engines from its first iteration to the present Raptor-2. He does this while standing in front of a long row of finished Raptor-2s, all meant for installation in the seventh prototype of Superheavy, the booster now on the launchpad with those engines installed and being prepared for its first static fire test prior to the orbital flight.

Musk revealed two interesting factoids during this video. First SpaceX blew up approximately 20 to 30 Raptor engines during the development phase, and melted the chambers on another 50. All of this was perfectly acceptable, because they designed engine manufacture so that a high production rate was built in. As Musk noted, “A high production rate solves many ills.” Losing engines during testing and development was no big deal because they were able to quickly replace them, with revisions and upgrades.

Secondly, Musk claimed that the Raptor-2 engine has a 99% efficiency, a level of efficiency that is unheard of in any engine for any purpose ever. I wonder if that claim will hold up as new companies and engineers work to beat SpaceX in the coming centuries.

» Read more

Dish Network condemns Starlink and SpaceX study

Constellation wars! In an apparent response to the FCC’s decision last week to reject the Dish network’s request that the agency block Starlink from using the 12GHz frequency band so that Dish could use it, Dish (as part of a coalition) now claims that SpaceX’s study on the use of that band is “scientifically and logically flawed” and used “cherry-picked” data.

While the FCC had rejected Dish’s blocking request, it also said it was still studying whether Starlink’s orbital system and Dish’s ground-based system could both use the frequency at the same time. Today’s statement is obviously Dish’s effort to influence that FCC study.

The coalition’s full statement also said this about the request by Starlink to its customers to send their own comments to the FCC:

In addition to this manipulated filing, Starlink has initiated a public misinformation campaign by falsely telling customers and the public that coexistence is not possible in the band among Starlink and 5G services – despite nationwide data proving otherwise. This tactic, which is commonly used by Elon Musk, is not only disingenuous, but it promulgates an anti-5G narrative that is harmful to American consumers who deserve greater competition, connectivity options and innovation. It also stands to threaten America’s global leadership in the 5G and technology sector as other countries outpace the nation in delivering next-generation services.

This constellation war has hardly begun. Expect politicians to soon get involved, both pro and con, prompted by campaign contributions from the commercial players (which when paid to ordinary we call it “bribes”).

Meanwhile, SpaceX announced yesterday that Starlink is now offering its service to boat owners, though the service is hardly cheap.

Starlink Maritime costs $5,000 per month, plus an initial $10,000 fee that covers two high-performance satellite dishes. It promises to deliver download speeds of 350 Mbps. Regular Starlink internet costs $110 per month, along with $599 for the necessary hardware.

SpaceX launches another 53 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: Earlier this morning SpaceX successfully launched 53 Starlink satellites, using its Falcon 9 rocket.

The first stage was flying its thirteenth flight, and supposedly landed successfully, though the stage’s video cut off just before landing, the drone ship video did not show it on the pad, and the confirmation of that landing was very late. It is possible it landed on a spot that the camera did not show, or that the landing occurred in the ocean and the stage was lost. We shall have to wait and see.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

28 SpaceX
21 China
8 Russia
4 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 40 to 21 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 40 to 35.

FCC approves Starlink for moving vehicles; rejects DISH’s request to use Starlink wavelength

The FCC made two decisions yesterday that were both favorable to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation.

First, it gave Starlink permission to provide service on moving vehicles such as cars, trucks, boats, and aircraft. Second, it rejected a DISH network request to use a wavelength in its ground-based system that is presently being used by both Starlink and OneWeb satellites.

This decision will continue the shift in communications from high-orbit/ground-based to low-orbit satellite constellations.

Amazon to FCC: Consider limiting SpaceX’s Starlink constellation for our benefit

In a letter sent to the FCC last week, Amazon asked the agency to limit the size of SpaceX’s full constellation so that Amazon will be free to someday launch its own Kuiper constellation.

In the recent letter, Amazon recommends the FCC license a “subset of SpaceX’s proposed system” (as opposed to the whole fleet) to give the agency additional time to consider the “novel challenges” such a significant expansion might present. For example, Amazon believes hundreds to “more than 10,000” of SpaceX’s new satellites could be operating in the altitudes already approved for its Kuiper satellites, which could cause interference in the spectrum and “orbital overlap.” The company claims SpaceX has refused its requests for communication around these concerns as it has urged the FCC to approve its application. It also cites eight other satellite operations who have objected to the plan, including Dish Network, which is currently engaged in a public battle over radio frequencies with SpaceX.

Amazon’s concerns might carry more weight if the launch of its constellation was not so delayed. Both Amazon and SpaceX began development of their satellite constellations at about the same time. Yet, while SpaceX has already launched almost 3,000 satellites, and is providing its service to several hundred thousand customers, Amazon has yet to launch a single satellite.

Thus, though what Amazon is asking the FCC seems reasonable, it is also asking the FCC to block a competitor’s successful operation while it dilly-dallies along, accomplishing little.

This pattern from Amazon fits the pattern of all of Jeff Bezos’s space-related projects: Big promises, little action, and when competitors get things done sue or demand the government play favorites. Sure does not seem to me to be a good long-term business plan.

SpaceX launches SES communications satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a SES communications satellite, using its Falcon 9 rocket.

The first stage, making its second flight, successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic. As of this writing, the satellite itself has not yet been deployed.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

27 SpaceX
21 China
8 Russia
4 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 37 to 21 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 37 to 34.

SpaceX preps for final engine tests before first orbital Starship/Superheavy flight

Capitalism in space: Having moved its 7th prototype Superheavy booster to the launch pad in Boca Chica even as its installs the six Raptor engines on the 24th prototype of Starship, SpaceX is now about to begin the final engines tests prior to the first orbital Starship/Superheavy flight.

For the first time the chopstick arms on the launch tower were used to lift and place the Superheavy booster onto the pad. It is expected that static fire tests of its 33 Raptor engines could begin within the next few weeks.

The orbital Starship meanwhile is still in the assembly building, where engineers are installing its own six Raptor engines.

Though SpaceX has not made public the exact schedule of tests leading to launch, it is expected that the company will do a short static fire test program with Superheavy alone, and then do a follow-up short series of tests once the Starship prototype is stacked on top. Based on past history, if the tests show no problems SpaceX will quickly move to launch. Though there have been indications that it is targeting July, it would not be surprising if that date slips to August.

The race between Starship and SLS for which will get into orbit first appears to be tightening.

NASA now targeting late August launch of SLS

NASA officials today confirmed that they are satisfied with the results from this week’s incomplete dress rehearsal countdown of the SLS rocket, and are targeting a late August launch of SLS.

NASA officials have reviewed the data collected during the test run and decided that a leaky hydrogen valve was not significant enough to force a delay in the launch of Artemis I, an uncrewed mission planning to orbit the moon and return to Earth. It’s the first step toward putting humans back on the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.

“The team is now ready to take the next step and prepare for launch,” said NASA’s deputy associate administrator Tom Whitmeyer.

NASA officials said they will roll the massive Space Launch System rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where the valve’s faulty seal will be replaced. Rollback is slated for Friday July 1, though weather concerns could push that back.

SLS won the five-plus year race with the Webb telescope on which would have the most delays and launch last. Now the race will be between SLS and SpaceX’s Starship/Superheavy. Which will launch first this summer? In a rational world, SLS should win hands down. It has been in development since 2004, while Starship only began design work in 2017.

This is not a rational world, however, and SLS’s long gestation had little to do with designing a rocket and everything to do with politics and a corrupt Congress and an incompetent NASA. The rocket that has come out of this is thus difficult to operate and incredibly cumbersome. Its components have also not been tested thoroughly.

SpaceX meanwhile has been designing and building its heavy-lift rocket with only one goal: the rocket must be efficient to operate.

I predict Starship will reach orbit first, though if it doesn’t it most likely will be because SpaceX finds it needs to do more ground tests and revisions, not because SLS has surged ahead. And regardless, Starship will likely fly many times in the next three years, while SLS will only get off the ground once.

More important, the chances of SLS and Orion working perfectly throughout that that lunar orbit mission seem almost impossible, based on track record during the past eighteen years of both programs. Expect some issues to crop up, first during the launch countdown, forcing several scrubs, and then during the mission itself. None might be mortal, but all will raise questions whether it would be wise to put humans on this rocket and capsule on its next flight, and attempt to take them to the Moon.

NASA blocks Starship/Superheavy launches at SpaceX’s new Florida launchpad

Capitalism in space: NASA officials revealed yesterday that it will not allow any Starship/Superheavy launches at SpaceX’s new Florida launchpad, at least for the moment, because of the threat a launchpad failure might have on the launchpad SpaceX uses to launch manned Falcon 9 missions to ISS.

The NASA statement said the agency “is responsible for ensuring SpaceX remains compliant with the requirements of the property agreement for the use of Launch Complex 39A.”

“These requirements include those related to construction, safety and environmental conditions,” the statement said. “At this time, NASA has only provided approval to build. Additional review for hazards, operational impacts and supportability will be required prior to a launch.”

The new Starship launchpad is 1,000 feet away from pad 39A, which is SpaceX’s manned Dragon launchpad. NASA management thinks this is too close. However, the managers have also not ruled out future launches, only that they wish to do a thorough review of the issue with SpaceX.

Because NASA and the federal government is also relying on Starship to land its astronauts on the Moon, it can’t block Starship flights outright. It could be however that this issue might shift Starship operations back to Boca Chica, after federal government opposition there forced SpaceX to shift more operations to Florida.

In other words, the government wants its cake and eat it to. Some factions within the Biden administration and the Washington bureaucracy want to block Starship, others want it to fly. The result is a tug-of war, with SpaceX in the middle.

OneWeb to resume satellite launches this year, complete constellation by mid-2023

Capitalism in space: According to one OneWeb official at a conference yesterday, the company now expects to resume launching its satellites on SpaceX and Indian rockets by the fourth quarter of this year and will complete its constellation by the second quarter of next year.

Launches were suspended when Russia refused to do a launch — and confiscated the 36 satellites — after Europe imposed sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Speaking at the Fourth Summit for Space Sustainability by the Secure World Foundation and the U.K. Space Agency, Maurizio Vanotti, vice president of space infrastructure development and partnerships at OneWeb, said new launch agreements with SpaceX and NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL) would allow the company to launch the remaining satellites of its first-generation system by the second quarter of 2023.

“Our plan is to be back on the launch pad in quarter four, after the summer, and to complete deployment of the constellation by quarter two next year,” he said. It will take several months after that final launch for the satellites to move to their operational orbits, he added. “We’re going to be in service with global coverage, 24/7, by the end of next year,” he said.

At present OneWeb has not revealed the breakdown of launches from the two companies.

The battlelines and alliances shift over big satellite constellations in space

Two stories today show that the competition for frequency use and orbital territory in space are shifting, partly because of international politics and partly due to changes in technology.

First the harsh conflict between OneWeb and Starlink over the positioning and frequency use of their constellations in orbit now appears to have vanished.

The companies have written a joint letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), declaring harmony in low Earth orbit (LEO) for spectrum coordination between their respective current and next generation broadband constellations.

In the letter, which is dated June 13, SpaceX and OneWeb request that the FCC disregard previously filed dissenting comments regarding spectrum coordination in LEO. SpaceX and OneWeb both submitted proposals for their first-generation internet constellations to the FCC in 2016, followed by a second round of proposals in 2020 for each company’s next-generation broadband satellites. Simultaneously, both SpaceX and OneWeb submitted complaints with the FCC in an attempt to get a leg up on each other. Now, it seems the companies are operating on friendlier terms.

The article I think correctly speculates that this new-found cooperation probably resulted from OneWeb’s need to use SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets to get its satellites in orbit, caused by Russia’s confiscation of 36 OneWeb satellites in response to Europen sanctions over the Ukraine War. During the launch negotiations I am sure SpaceX demanded both iron out their differences relating to the satellite constellations. While SpaceX might have been able to gain some advantages in that negotiation due to its strong position, I also suspect that OneWeb has not been hurt in any major way.

In the second story, SpaceX ramped up its opposition to a Dish 5G system in a wavelength used by its Starlink satellties.
» Read more

SpaceX completes its third launch in less than 48 hours

Capitalism in space: SpaceX tonight successfully completed its third launch in less than 48 hours, launching a commercial communications satellite.

The first stage completed its ninth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. At this moment, though the satellite is in orbit it has not yet been deployed.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

26 SpaceX
18 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 35 to 18 in the national rankings, and leads the entire world combined 35 to 29.

At this point the U.S. is halfway to matching its annual record for launches of 70, set in 1966. With the year not quite half over, the U.S. is also only seven launches behind its total of 48 last year, which had been the most launches for the U.S. in a year since 1968. SpaceX itself is only five launches behind its own record of 31 from last year, and is easily on a pace to meet its goal of 60 launches this year.

SpaceX successfully launches German military satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX this morning used its Falcon 9 rocket to successfully launch a German reconnaissance satellite, completing its second of three launches this weekend.

The first stage completed its third flight, landing at Vandenberg, in thick fog. The third launch is set for just after midnight tonight.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

25 SpaceX
18 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 34 to 18 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 34 to 29.

Musk sued even as a handful of employees organize to slander him

Musk hate: In the past twenty-four hours, the rising effort to damage SpaceX and Elon Musk by many in our generally petty and envious elitist culture reached new levels, as illustrated by two different stories.

First, it appears a small group of anonymous “woke” employees at SpaceX organized a campaign to publish a letter condemning Elon Musk.

An open letter to company executives was posted in an internal SpaceX Microsoft Teams channel with more than 2,600 employees, the Verge reported on Thursday (June 16). The letter asks the founder of SpaceX and Tesla to change his ways. “Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter states.

…”As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company,” the letter adds. “It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission or our values.”

Unlike most corporations today — that routinely kow-tow to such attacks — SpaceX’s management pushed back hard, with the company’s CEO, Gwynne Shotwell, immediately issuing a strong company-wide email condemning the letter and announcing that an investigation has identified several people involved and has fired them. From her email:
» Read more

SpaceX launches another 53 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to launch another 53 Starlink satellites into orbit, initiating a weekend where the company hopes to complete three launches in three days.

At the time of this writing, the satellites had not yet been deployed. The first stage landed successfully on the drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, completing its 13th flight, a new record. The video of the landing at the link was also one of the clearest yet, with little drop-out or distortion.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

24 SpaceX
18 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 33 to 18 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 33 to 29.

Our oppressive federal government really does want to squash SpaceX

Targeted by the government for destruction
Targeted by the government for destruction

In order to understand the full context of the FAA’s environmental reassessment of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas and its approval of Starship/Superheavy launches there, it is important to take a closer look at the entire document [pdf] that was released on June 13, 2022. While that approval will now allow SpaceX to proceed, the nature of the document shows us that this government permission has been given very reluctantly, and that there are factions in the federal bureaucracy that are working hard to lay the groundwork to block it at first opportunity.

First, what did the reassessment conclude about the impact of future heavy-lift rocket launches at Boca Chica?

In summary, the FAA concluded that SpaceX’s planned operations “would not result in significant environmental consequences.” [emphasis mine] It then proceeded to provide many pages of analysis for each of the following issues, with almost all coming to the same exact conclusion [emphasis mine]:
» Read more

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