January 8, 2015

Launch Industry Disrupted in 2014 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
With SpaceX reeling off one successful launch after another, ULA pivoted on several fronts. One was to announce efforts to significantly reduce costs on its highly reliable but pricey Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. But, even that proved to be insufficient as SpaceX threatened ULA on several fronts. In August, ULA named Tory Bruno as its new president and CEO to replace Michael Gass, who had served in those roles since the company was founded in 2006. Click here. (1/7)

U.S. Government Should Fund Private Space Companies, Not NASA (Source: Daily Northwestern)
In recent years, entrepreneurs saw the opportunity and created companies like SpaceX and Sierra Nevada. Boeing has also expanded its space program. For the past year or two, with the rockets they have built, these companies have been carrying cargo, essentially building and transferring some of the infrastructure for NASA.

One of the most important features of these companies was the fact that they were not regulated strictly by NASA; it wouldn’t tell them how to build their rockets. This freedom led to faster expansion with these programs – bigger, faster and more capable rockets were built.

But in 2014 the U.S. government chose to fund NASA projects instead of private companies, a huge mistake. Private companies such as SpaceX can build whatever NASA builds faster, cheaper and better. For example, SpaceX’s Falcon-Heavy rocket can carry much more cargo than the SLS rocket of NASA, while costing only the equivalent of 1.25 years of the SLS’s funding. The Falcon rocket will also be released at an earlier date than the SLS, which would allow time for more extensive testing. Click here. (1/7)

Air Force 'Close' to Certifying Falcon-9 for Military Payloads (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday it was close to certifying a second company to launch military and intelligence satellites into space, and announced a review of the process used to vet new entrants. Currently, the United Launch Alliance is the only company certified to launch large military and intelligence satellites.

Lt. General Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, said the Air Force had missed a December deadline for certification, but added that "a new entrant is close." Greaves did not name the company, but the Air Force's top military acquisition official said SpaceX would soon be certified to carry out launches. (1/6)

Delay in Air Force Certification for SpaceX Triggers Process Review (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force, which as of mid-December had hoped to certify SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch national security payloads by the end of the year, is now targeting the middle of 2015, the service said Jan. 7.

The delay, which has prompted the Air Force to re-evaluate its certification process, raises fresh doubt about SpaceX’s ability to win a competitive contract to launch a payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, operator of the nation’s spy satellites. Bids for that contract were due in August, but only certified launch services providers are eligible to win. (1/7)

How Deep Can a Space Patent Dispute Go? (Source: Medium)
For space companies, technologies which seem in one’s grasp more often prove elusive. Years go by and millions upon millions of dollars can be spent before there is an actual working prototype demonstrating that, in fact, the technology works as envisioned. Better (or worse!) funded competitors may pop up at any moment, using similar technologies to steal the low hanging fruit of the existing space-related market.

What is a space entrepreneur to do in order to protect their developing technologies and efforts from relegation to also-ran status? As previously mentioned here, part of one emerging space company’s answer to this conundrum was filing at least one somewhat curious patent application: Blue Origin's application for "Sea Landing of Space Launch Vehicles." Click here. (1/7)

Kistler Beat Elon Musk to Reusable Rocket Idea (Source: Upstart)
Kistler Aerospace for years aspired to the same reusability feat entrepreneur Elon Musk had wanted to attempt this week. Kistler, a space launch company that was ahead of its time before descending into bankruptcy in 2003, is considered one of the first companies to attempt a reusable space launch vehicle, the holy grail of the industry.

The only problem was the company, which for a time was located in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, ran out of money before its creation ever flew. While Kistler was well respected in the industry in the late 1990s, partly because most of its top leaders were former NASA engineers, it never accomplished a successful launch.

Kistler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2003, with nearly $600 million in debts to secured and unsecured creditors. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company also has been attempting reusability with its New Shepard space vehicle, but has not yet been successful. (1/6)

Why Elon Musk is the Best and Worst Thing to Happen to Orbital Sciences (Source: Fed Biz)
The next SpaceX launch will be one more reason why the Dulles-based company is probably wishing Elon Musk would just go away. Like everybody else, I was disappointed to hear California-based SpaceX scrubbed Tuesday's Falcon-9 launch, anxious mostly to see whether the company would pull off an attempt to recover the rocket, landing it upon reentry on a barge floating in the Atlantic. This is no cheap endeavor. And Musk himself pegs the odds of success at only 50 percent.

So what about competitor Orbital Sciences? Even if the Dulles company had the cash to do such a thing, it could never rationalize the investment to shareholders. Not with those odds.
"I have to think that Orbital would be interested to see what SpaceX's financials look like, if the company ever were to go public. But in the meantime, SpaceX just doesn't have the same degree of accountability," said Joe DeNardi.

What the company does have is a multi-billionaire at the helm, with a pretty unrelenting hankering with space travel. And that's not necessarily a bad thing for Orbital. If SpaceX succeeds Friday — or if SpaceX even just learns from this first attempt then succeeds later — Orbital and other competitors and the federal government would learn, too. And eventually, the whole industry could adapt. (1/7)

Arianespace Confident Current and Future Launchers Will Meet Needs (Source: Space Daily)
Building on its record year of mission operations in 2014 - and supported by European decisions to develop the heavy-lift successor Ariane 6, as well as an enhanced lightweight Vega C vehicle - Arianespace is looking to the future with confidence as a leader in the launch services marketplace. Click here. (1/7)

Is American Free Enterprise Poised to Rule Space (Source: American Specator)
For better or worse, NASA and the Obama administration ceded low Earth orbit (LEO) access to U.S. commercial operations for delivering both cargo and crew to the International Space Station (ISS). Since 2013, the United States has been paying U.S. commercial companies to delivery cargo to the space station and will continue to do so with follow-on contracts.

We are not dependent upon the Russians to bring groceries and science experiments up to ISS even after 2016. Incumbents Orbital and SpaceX, along with new entrants Boeing and Sierra Nevada, have all submitted bids — another sign of a healthy commercial market. NASA is also in the process of bringing manned commercial flight to the fore. (1/7)

Orion Spacecraft in Post-Mission Processing at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceRef)
Bearing the marks of a spacecraft that has returned to Earth through a searing plunge into the atmosphere, NASA's Orion spacecraft is perched on a pedestal inside the Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center, where it is going through post-mission processing. Click here. (1/7)

Nayak Named Interim Chief at ISRO (Source: Space News)
Shailesh Nayak, secretary of India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences, has been given the extra charge as secretary of the Department of Space following the retirement of Koppillil Radhakrishnan Dec. 31.

Nayak will hold the additional responsibility for one month effective Jan. 1, or until a new candidate  is appointed or pending a further order, according to an announcement by the Indian cabinet’s appointment committee. Typically, the secretary of the Department of Space also serves as chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization. (1/6)

China Leads Race to the Moon (Source: The Diplomat)
In October 2014, China’s Chang’e 5-T1 lunar probe, known as Xiaofei or Little Flyer, successfully completed an orbit around the Moon. This was the first time that a trip around the Moon and back of this sort had been made since the USA and Russian trips in the 1970s. The Little flyer is a precursor to Chang’e 5 which will bring back lunar soil (regolith) containing the nuclear fuel helium-3 that can be used for baseload energy production and the next generation of nuclear weapons. Click here. (1/7)

Japanese Space Tourist Training for Spot on ISS (Source: Japan Times)
A Japanese entrepreneur plans to train as a cosmonaut in Russia for a possible mission to the International Space Station. Space tourist Satoshi Takamatsu will fly in the event that another tourist cannot make it: British singer Sarah Brightman. Takamatsu, 51, is president of Space Travel, a Japanese startup that aims to offer space tourism services. (1/7)

Why Space Is Popular Again (Source: Space.com)
These days, the perception of space in our collective dialogue seems to resemble a roller-coaster Wall Street stock, racing up and down from every new development. For those of us who love outer space and what it represents for both the scientific and spiritual progress of humanity, it can test us to endure the whipsawing twists. It's like watching someone we love being grabbed onto a bandwagon one day, and then dragged toward the gallows the next. Click here. (1/7)

SpaceX Talks Plans for 2015 in South Texas (Source: KVEO)
It's been a few months since SpaceX founder Elon Musk decided that Boca Chica Beach would be the perfect site to launch rockets. But since then, there's been a few major updates on the company's next move, and many people in the Valley are wondering what's next?

"That 'next' is already here, which is, they've already posted some jobs," said Brownsville Economic Development Council Executive Vice President Gilbert Salinas. "It's a few jobs, I mean nonetheless, they are looking for some talent, in the region and the region being the Rio Grande Valley."

Over a ten-year period, SpaceX plans to hire at least five hundred people. As the launch site and command center move closer to completion, more jobs will open up. As of right now though, the launch site is still in the planning and design phase. "As far as moving dirt, pouring foundation, that will not happen until a few months down the road,:" said Salinas. (1/6)

No comments: