September 25, 2011

Privatization's Value Evident in Study (Source: Florida Today)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket would've cost almost three times as much to design, build and fly if it were done the way NASA usually does things. It's no shock that a small private company could field a rocket faster and cheaper, than the big, entangled government space program. It's somewhat surprising, however, to see someone put to paper how much more money it costs taxpayers when the government develops a rocket than when a private company does.

The potential differences in approach could have fundamental implications for the future of U.S. space launch, for both human exploration flights and unmanned missions. Using a sophisticated model developed by the space agency and the Air Force, experts initially determined it would cost a company following a "more commercial development approach" about $1.7 billion to develop the Falcon 9 rocket and build and launch the first rocket. If the rocket's development happened in the "NASA environment/culture," the model predicted the same project would cost about $4 billion.

Follow-up research and a revised estimate -- based on SpaceX's early success with the Falcon 1 rocket and other factors -- led to lower cost figures but the same giant disparity between the privatized model ($443 million) and the NASA way of doing things ($1.4 billion). To be clear, these are not SpaceX numbers. These are figures vetted by NASA and the Air Force. So, a long-standing cry that SpaceX is exaggerating its potential cost savings appears to be ill-founded. Click here. (9/25)

Russian-Ukrainian Rocket Sends European Satellite Into Orbit (Sources: RIA Novosti, Voice of Russia)
A Russian-Ukrainian Zenit carrier rocket has set European Atlantic Bird 7 satellite into orbit. The rocket took off from the Odyssey floating launch platform at the equator in the Pacific Ocean. The satellite’s weight is about 5 tons and its term of operation is 15 years. Its signal coverage includes Middle East, north and north-west of Africa.

This has been the first launch after a two years break in the operation of the Sea Launch consortium, which was set up in 1995 by Russian space corporation Energiya, Norwegian ship building company Aker solutions and a subsidiary of Boeing corporation. Sea Launch announced its bankruptcy in June 2009. In July 2010, Energia subsidiary Energia Overseas Limited (EOL) received 95% in Sea Launch by a bankruptcy court ruling. (9/25)

South African Space Agency to Use Space for the Benefit of All (Source: Times Live)
Sandile Malinga used to visit his only neighbor with a television set to watch Star Trek. Next week, he will introduce South Africa's new space administration to the biggest gathering of the world's space community at the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town. But while astronauts and rocket scientists talk about ways of getting to Mars, Malinga, newly confirmed head of the South African National Space Agency (Sansa), will be looking for ways to use space to improve mealie fields, mineral finds and math results in rural parts of the country. (9/25)

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