January 3, 2017

Will SpaceX IPO Under Trump Administration? (Source: Profit Confidential)
There is now considerable evidence-drawn from a motley collection of SpaceX news stories-that President Trump will embrace private space contractors. In fact, the incoming administration may even fast-forward the timeline of a SpaceX IPO. Just take a look at the people Trump is appointing to his NASA transition team. There's Charles Miller, a NASA alumni that pushed for commercial space programs; Alan Stern, who is currently serving as Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation; and Alan Lindenmoyer, the former head of NASA’s commercial space taxi program.

But more to the point, Trump is being steered by Peter Thiel, a longtime friend of Elon Musk. In fact, the two went into business almost two decades ago when they merged Confinity and X.com to create one of the first online payments companies: PayPal. Thiel even invested significant amounts of money in SpaceX. As a result, he stands to make a killing off a SpaceX IPO, the date of which is still a mystery. Musk has always maintained that the eventual SpaceX IPO was tied to his Mars ambitions.

Editor's Note: Of course this is all speculation, but it's ironic that SpaceX and Elon Musk have been accused by Republicans of benefiting from "crony capitalism" during the Obama administration. Crony capitalism seems to be precisely the kind of situation described in this article under the Trump administration. (12/27)

Birdenstine: Why the Moon Matters (Source: Birdenstine Blog)
The discovery of lunar ice deposits should have immediately transformed America’s space program. Water ice not only represents a critical in situ resource for life support (air and water); it can be cracked into its components, hydrogen and oxygen, to create the same chemical propellant that powered the Space Shuttle.  Even better, this chemical propellant sits at the poles of the Moon, which receive almost constant sunlight at an angle that creates permanent shadows. 

While the water ice is in the shadows, the permanent sunlight enables photovoltaic power, which is necessary to crack the water into hydrogen and oxygen. All of this is available on a world that has no atmosphere and a gravity well that is 1/6th that of Earth.  In other words, standard aerodynamic limitations do not apply permitting the placement of the propellant into orbit either around the Moon or around the Earth.

From the discovery of water ice on the Moon until this day, the American objective should have been a permanent outpost of rovers and machines, with occasional manned missions for science and maintenance.  The purpose of such an outpost should have been to utilize the materials and energy of the Moon to drive down the costs and increase the capabilities of American cis-lunar space operations. (12/29)

EmDrive: Has the 'Impossible' Technology Started a New Space Race Between US and China? (Source: IB Times)
China lately claimed that it's conducting tests using the "impossible" technology, none other than the EmDrive. Did this announcement make NASA pull its socks and conduct researchers regarding the same within the orbits? China had last month revealed that it was conducting the tests aboard its Tiangong-2 space station after successfully carrying it out on Earth after funding researches for five years.

The controversial EmDrive space propulsion engine technology is said to function without any rocket fuel and aid astronomers in space travel much quicker than usual. This spacecraft releases microwaves in a cone-shaped engine, which helps it in moving forward and carrying out its functions, enacting like a propulsion system. (1/2)

SpaceX Concludes Accident Investigation, Targets Return to Flight on Sunday (Pending FAA OK) (Source: Ars Technica)
SpaceX has concluded an investigation into its rocket explosion incident and submitted its findings to the FAA. The company now targets Jan. 8 for a return to flight from its California launch site. The investigation concluded that one of three composite overwrapped pressure vessels, or COPVs, inside the rocket's second stage liquid oxygen tank failed. "The failure was likely due to the accumulation of oxygen between the COPV liner and overwrap in a void or a buckle in the liner, leading to ignition and the subsequent failure of the COPV."

The investigation identified several "credible causes" for this failure, all of which can be avoided in the short term by changing the COPV configuration to allow for the loading of warmer helium, and returning helium loading procedures to a "prior flight proven configuration." Presumably this means prior to December 2015, when the company began using supercooled liquid oxygen and kerosene fuels to increase the performance of its rocket.

In the long term, SpaceX said it will apply a permanent fix to this problem by implementing design changes to the COPVs that should prevent buckles. These changes are expected to be in place before human launches on the Falcon 9 some time in 2018. The FAA still must clear the company's rocket before it begins flying again. (1/2)

Could Donald Trump Be Better for NASA in Alabama Than Obama? (Source: Huntsville Times)
Donald Trump has only hinted at the future of NASA. But his campaign suggestions - more deep space exploration, less Earth science - seem to bode well for Alabama and for Marshall Space Flight Center. The center's 6,000-person workforce is a key part of Huntsville's economy. And deep space exploration plays to Marshall's strengths as NASA's propulsion center and manager of the Space Launch System (SLS), the new rocket capable of going beyond Earth orbit to deep space.

NASA employees here say they heard the question often over the holidays: "How do you feel about Trump?" One employee's answer seemed to stand out: "We're certainly better positioned than last time."

The last time the White House changed occupants, incoming President Barack Obama canceled the NASA rocket program being developed in Huntsville. Constellation, as it was called, was designed for America's space goals under Obama's predecessor, former President George W. Bush. It was to enable a permanent moon base to support missions to "Mars and other destinations." (1/2)

Rocket, Satellite Factories to Rise at Exploration Park in 2017 (Source: Florida Today)
The New Year will see a pair of major new space manufacturing facilities rise at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park. OneWeb, a startup planning to build hundreds of small communications satellites, entered the holidays with a billion-dollar momentum boost from investors. The company on Dec. 19 announced a $1 billion investment by SoftBank Group of Japan, which owns Sprint, and said that earlier investors were pumping in another $200 million.

"OneWeb is a tremendously exciting company poised to transform internet access around the world from their manufacturing facility in Florida," said Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank, in a statement. The companies said the new investment would create 3,000 jobs over four years, though no total was projected for Florida. The local satellite manufacturing operation, announced in April, was expected to bring 250 jobs.

OneWeb plans to build a constellation of nearly 650 small satellites in low Earth orbit that will expand broadband internet access around the world, with a first batch of 10 launching in early 2018. (1/2)

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