Commercialization: June 2010 Archives

Tesla Motors shares surge in 1st day of trading, Business Week

"Shares of Tesla Motors Inc. surged in their first day of trading on Tuesday, gaining more than 20 percent after the company raised more than expected in its initial public offering of stock. Investors snapped up shares of the electric car maker even as the broader markets took a beating. Tesla shares were up $4.10, or 24 percent, to $21.10 in afternoon trading after hitting a high of $21.50 earlier in the session. Tesla's performance was a feat in a sour market that has forced many companies looking to raise funds through IPOs to accept lower prices to get deals done. The IPO came on a day when U.S. stocks fell more than 2 percent -- following Asian and European markets lower -- on worries that the economy is slowing. The offering appealed to investors, raising $226.1 million after selling 13.3 million shares for $17 apiece. It had earlier expected to price 11.1 million shares at $14 to $16 per share.

HLV BAA Released

NASA MSFC Internal Email: Procurement Sensitivity for Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) NNM10ZDA001K

"The BAA NNM10ZDA001K will be released to industry in the near future for the Heavy Lift and Propulsion Technology Systems Analysis and Trade Study acquisition at NASA/MSFC. Effective immediately, all MSFC employees will cease communications with industry concerning this procurement. This 'blackout' period of communication with industry will continue until proposals have been received and evaluated, the contract is awarded, and the BAA Evaluation Team is released from its responsibilities."

NASA Issues Broad Agency Announcement For Heavy Lift Studies

"NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals and industry input on heavy-lift system concepts and propulsion technology."

At Companies Tied to NASA, Casualties of a Changing Mission, NY Times

"The administration wants to turn to commercial companies for taking future astronauts to orbit while taking a hiatus from any ambitious missions to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. Yet Congress has not agreed to the scuttling of Constellation and added a clause in this year's federal budget that prohibited NASA from canceling the program or starting a new one without Congressional assent. The skirmishing continued in earnest this week. Staff members on the House Committee on Science and Technology are reviewing documents that NASA sent over Friday evening to comply with the committee's demand for information used in formulating the president's proposal. In addition, on Tuesday, 62 House members signed a letter sent to President Obama "to express concern" over the direction of NASA."

ATK gets reprieve in NASA funding, AP

"ATK Space Systems says it has been cleared for a scheduled ground test of a new rocket motor in September. ATK says it received notice from NASA that the company will receive $160 million to prepare for the rocket test despite doubts about the future of the space program. The situation could change after October, when a new federal budget year starts."

ATK: NASA releases funds: Ares rocket work may continue through at least September, McClatchy-Tribune

"NASA in the last month threatened to withhold funding and enforce a contract clause that could force ATK to put up $500 million in termination costs for Ares, which is part of the Constellation space project. ATK officials would not confirm it, but NASA projected the termination clause would cost more than 2,000 jobs at the Top of Utah company."

Does moon plan have a pulse?, Houston Chronicle

"And the full 60-member House Appropriations Committee will be deciding whether to adopt Senate-passed restrictions designed to block an administration effort to have Constellation contractors set aside funds to pay potential contract termination costs - a move that critics contend bleeds the program before Congress has taken action. The language is part of the must-pass wartime defense supplemental bill. The panels' deliberations follow a letter to Obama by 62 House Democrats and Republicans from 18 states on Wednesday that urged the president to work with lawmakers on a compromise on the Constellation program."

Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research - CRuSR - Flight Services

"This notice is being issued as a Request for Quotations (RFQ) for commercial resusable suborbital flight services. NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program has a requirement for the transportation of various Government-provided research payloads on the test flights of vendor vehicles (including vehicle prototypes) intended for commercial reusable suborbital markets. Each flight and related services shall be in accordance with the requirements of the Statement of Work (SOW) that is attached to this solicitation. A CRuSR Pricing Sheet is also provided for vendors to quote their proposed firm fixed prices to perform the indicated required services. Additional procurement documentation for completion by the offeror is also attached."

Open Letter To Congress On Commercial Space

"We, the undersigned space leaders, are strong supporters of human spaceflight. We are writing to urge you to both (1) fully fund the commercial crew to Space Station program proposed in the President's FY2011 budget request for NASA, and (2) accelerate the pace and funding of NASA's human space exploration projects beyond Earth orbit."

Letter: Commercial rockets are 'fundamental' to space exploration, Orlando Sentinel

"The war of words over President Barack Obama's new plan for NASA continued this week when more than 50 ex-astronauts, aerospace businessmen and scientists signed a letter supporting his proposal to replace the space shuttle with commercial rockets."

Boost NASA funding, space advocates demand, Florida Today

"The letter urged lawmakers to keep the $6 billion increase that Obama proposed for commercial spaceflight -- and to "accelerate the pace and funding of NASA's human space exploration projects beyond Earth orbit." "These twin pillars of human spaceflight are each crucial to the long-term health of our nation's space program," the letter read."

More Than 50 Astronauts, Scientists, and Industry Leaders Urge Congress to Fully Fund Commercial Crew, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes the support of more than 50 former NASA astronauts, scientists, and industry CEOs and leaders who sent a letter to Congress yesterday urging full funding of Commercial Crew and full support for NASA-led human space exploration beyond Earth orbit."

Senator Brownback Hosts Commercial Spaceflight Event with Norm Augustine

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), the former Chair of the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee, will be hosting an event for his Senate colleagues and their staff on June 24 to discuss commercial spaceflight. Senator Brownback said, "The private sector brings to the table many ideas for the next chapter of America's mission in space, and I look forward to hearing from leaders in the spaceflight industry about the best ways to achieve a thriving commercial spaceflight industry."


United Launch Alliance, Operator of the Atlas and Delta Rockets, Joins the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that United Launch Alliance of Denver, Colorado has joined the Federation as an Executive Member. United Launch Alliance operates the Atlas V, Delta II, and Delta IV launch vehicles. Michael C. Gass, President and CEO of United Launch Alliance, stated, "United Launch Alliance has close business relationships with many members of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, including Bigelow Aerospace, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Space Florida, and XCOR Aerospace. Additionally, ULA is a funded participant in NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program. So joining the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is a natural fit for us, and we are proud to do so."

NASA OIG Review of NASA's Microgravity Flight Services

"NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin released a report today that examines the performance of Zero Gravity Corporation (Zero G), a private company hired by NASA to provide reduced gravity flights for NASA research, engineering, and astronaut training. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that Zero G has provided inconsistent levels of microgravity flight services since it began providing NASA with reduced gravity flights in August 2008. Consequently, the OIG concluded that NASA should revise the contract's performance-based payment structure to motivate Zero G to provide more consistent, high-quality microgravity flights."

Keith's note: This review seems to be focused exclusively on contractor (ZeroG) performance - not the realism of requirements imposed by the customer (NASA) - or how well NASA's own self-provided services have - or would - fare in comparison to its own requirements and/or the costs of owning and maintaining its own aircraft .

However, perhaps it is time for recompetition of this contract as well as a restructuring (including performance fees, etc.) and a sanity check on requirements. It seems that despite the potential benefits such a contract could (and should) offer, everyone has some sort of problem with it - NASA, researchers - and ZeroG.

Bigelow Aerospace Joins the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"Robert T. Bigelow, Founder and President of Bigelow Aerospace said, "The future is being created now. Commercial crew transportation has the potential to revolutionize the space industry for public and private sector entities alike. The unprecedented success of the Falcon 9's inaugural launch clearly demonstrates that it's possible to dramatically reduce the cost of human spaceflight operations. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule were developed at a price substantially below that of traditional cost-plus programs - this should be a wakeup call that it's time for a new way of doing business. We are becoming a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation at this time to join with like-minded organizations, who want to see America be able to compete again in the global space launch marketplace, and push back against the pernicious misconceptions that are being perpetuated to harm the Administration's commercial crew initiative."

Iridium and SpaceX Sign Major Commercial Launch Contract

"Iridium Communications Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are pleased to announce that the Falcon 9 will be a major provider of launch services for Iridium NEXT, Iridium's next-generation satellite constellation. The $492 million contract, while being the largest single commercial launch deal ever signed, nonetheless represents a new benchmark in cost-effective satellite delivery to space."

Keith's note: so much for the SpaceX haters and doubters who are convinced that the company does not have a viable future independent of NASA.

Space Tugs

Space Tugs: Filling The Space Jobs Gap and Privatization Too!, John Strickland

"US space workers are currently faced with both the loss of the Shuttle program (correctly set in motion by the Bush administration years ago), and also by the temporary gap in space jobs caused by the probable cancelation of the Ares Program. Understandably they are all very concerned about their personal future, and also the seeming end of the manned space program. There is a way to at least partly alleviate both of these problems: (one financial and the other perceptual)."

NASA Sued for Refusing to Release Contracting Data on United Space Alliance, American Small Business League

"On Tuesday, June 8, the American Small Business League (ASBL) filed suit against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Federal District Court, Northern District of California. The case was filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after NASA repeatedly refused to release subcontracting reports for contracts issued to United Space Alliance, LLC, a joint venture between defense giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing."

SpaceX Illustrates Privatization Risk, WS Journal

"Mr. Musk's closely held company still needs a cash infusion of more than $1 billion in the next year or two to reach its goal of transporting astronauts to the international space station later this decade. ... "

Elon Musk Weighs in On WSJ Piece, and Future of SpaceX, PEHUB

"Andy Pasztor's article in the Journal was, I'm sorry to say, rife with errors. He was off by a factor of ten on what it would cost SpaceX to develop a launch escape system. Also, under no circumstances would SpaceX be seeking a financing round from the taxpayers. That doesn't make any sense."

Post-Falcon Feedback

In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Cheer, Motley Fool

"It's a big dream, but SpaceX founder Elon Musk has never been one to shy away from a challenge. In the market for moving dollars from Point A to Point B, he built PayPal into a viable contender to Western Union before he sold off the company to eBay for a small fortune. He's taken said fortune and used it to found both SpaceX and electric car maker Tesla Motors."

SpaceX profitable despite CEO's cash problems -- but is an IPO needed?, VentureBeat

"But now SpaceX has responded to this question: Board member Luke Nosek of Founders Fund, a major investor in the company, told PEHub that SpaceX has been profitable for the last several years, and that it will be again in 2010, with or without federal funding. The company successfully sent its Falcon 9 rocket 155 miles up into orbit last week, and has more than 24 orders (totaling $2.5 billion in revenue) to deliver satellites into space over the next five years. The plan is to reinvest this cash in the company."

Columbia Accident Investigator Speaks Out Against NASA Commercial Crew Plan, Space News

"Fellow CAIB member John Logsdon, now professor emeritus at the George Washington University's Space Policy Institute here, said Tetrault is repeating the mantra of many commercial crew opponents by singling out "new entrepreneurial" and ignoring the fact that large, well-established companies including Boeing and United Launch Alliance are poised to compete for the $6 billion NASA intends to spend over the next five years on the commercial crew initiative."

SpaceX Achieves Orbital Bullseye With Inaugural Flight of Falcon 9 Rocket, SpaceX

"The NASA COTS program has demonstrated the power of what can be accomplished when you combine private sector responsiveness and ingenuity with the guidance, support and insight of the US government. For less than the cost of the Ares I mobile service tower, SpaceX has developed all the flight hardware for the Falcon 9 orbital rocket, Dragon spacecraft, as well as three launch sites. SpaceX has been profitable for three consecutive years (2007 through 2009) and expects to remain modestly profitable for the foreseeable future. The company has over 1000 employees in California, Texas and Florida, and has been approximately doubling in size every two years. A majority of the future growth is expected to occur in Texas and Florida."

For Mission to Mars, a New Road Map, NY Times

"At a workshop last month in Galveston, members of NASA study teams looking at how to put in effect the Obama policy presented their current thinking to 450 attendees from industry and academia. The NASA presenters, in describing how the space agency could make it to Mars on a limited budget, said their ideas represented "a point of departure" that would be revised with feedback. The new plans place a heavy emphasis on in-orbit refueling stations, which would reduce the size of rockets needed. For propulsion to Mars, the road map envisions a nuclear-powered ion engine."

In New Space Race, Enter the Entrepreneurs, NY Times

"If this business plan unfolds as it is written -- the company has two fully inflated test modules in orbit already -- Bigelow will be buying 15 to 20 rocket launchings in 2017 and in each year after, providing ample business for the private companies that the Obama administration would like to finance for the transportation of astronauts into orbit -- the so-called commercial crew initiative."

Space X update 4:53 pm EDT: Preliminary indications from NASA's recovery ship Freedom Star is that a debris field has been encountered in the area where the first stage was expected to be. Observation airfcraft confirmed the debris field. No parachutes were observed during descent. Apparently the Falcon 9 first stage hit the water rather hard. Initial impact location is 32 deg 07'N, 069 deg 15'W.

Space X update 4:40 pm EDT: Orbital info: Nominal shutdown and orbit was almost exactly 250km. Telemetry showed essentially a bullseye: ~0.2% on perigee and ~1% on apogee.

Falcon 9 Reaction

NASA Administrator's Statement on First Falcon 9 Launch

"Congratulations to Space X on today's launch of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Space X's accomplishment is an important milestone in the commercial transportation effort and puts the company a step closer to providing cargo services to the International Space Station. "Preparations are proceeding for the first NASA-sponsored test launch under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project later this year. COTS is a vital development and demonstration partnership to create a commercial space transportation system capable of providing cargo to the station. "This launch of the Falcon 9 gives us even more confidence that a resupply vehicle will be available after the space shuttle fleet is retired."

Kosmas Statement on SpaceX Falcon 9 Test Launch

"But we must both support the emerging commercial space industry and ensure a robust, NASA-led human spaceflight program in order to maintain our international leadership in space and keep our economy strong. I will continue fighting at every opportunity to minimize the human spaceflight gap, protect jobs, and ensure a bright future for the Space Coast."

Space Industry Leaders and Astronauts Congratulate SpaceX on Historic Flight of Falcon 9 Vehicle, CSF

"Space industry leaders, astronauts, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation are issuing the following statements following today's launch of the Falcon 9 vehicle: ... "

Hutchison Statement on SpaceX Test Flight

"This first successful test flight of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is a belated sign that efforts to develop modest commercial space cargo capabilities are showing some promising signs. While this test flight was important, the program to demonstrate commercial cargo and crew transport capabilities, which I support, was intended to enhance not replace NASA's own proven abilities to deliver critical cargo and humans to low Earth orbit. Make no mistake, even this modest success is more than a year behind schedule, and the project deadlines of other private space companies continue to slip as well. This test does not change the fact that commercial space programs are not ready to close the gap in human spaceflight if the space shuttle is retired this year with no proven replacement capability and the Constellation program is simultaneously cancelled as the President proposes."

Falcon 9 launches successfully, Politico

"Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, whose state of Alabama is also a NASA stronghold, further decried the launch as a display merely replicating what "NASA accomplished in 1964." "Belated progress for one so-called commercial provider must not be confused with progress for our nation's human space flight program," Shelby said. "As a nation, we cannot place our future space flight on one fledgling company's definition of success."

Keith's note: This is hilarious. Ares 1-X was a suborbital mission with a fake second stage, a first stage motor different than the final one, and used borrowed avionics. Falcon 9 flew an operational vehicle first time out of the hangar and put a payload into orbit at a small fraction of the cost that an Ares would require. Falcon 9 has a better chance of closing the gap than Ares 1 will. Apparently the good senator (her staff that is) are utterly unaware of the fact that Ares 1 will not achieve any of its milestones until after Falcon 9 has already done so. Yet we never hear anything from her about that, do we?

As for Sen Shelby's comments, It would seem that SpaceX is better equipped to do what "NASA accomplished in 1964" than the NASA of 2010 can accomplish - and do so faster - and more cheaply. Ares 1 would cost much more and be ready later than Falcon 9.

Keith's note: After a last second halt in the countdown earlier in the day the Falcon 9 launch vehicle made a perfect climb to orbit at 2:45 pm EDT. All indications are that the vehicle performed flawlessly. So much for the commerical space haters out there - they are eating Falcon feathers right now.

Space X update 4:40 pm EDT: Orbital info: Nominal shutdown and orbit was almost exactly 250km. Telemetry showed essentially a bullseye: ~0.2% on perigee and ~1% on apogee.

SpaceX boss: 70-80 % chance of success for Falcon 9 launch, Orlando Sentinel

"Musk conceded that, historically, maiden launches of rockets have had no better than a 50 percent success rate. Their first three launches of a smaller SpaceX rocket, the Falcon 1, failed."

SpaceX cargo rocket set for high-profile maiden flight, CNet

"But in a major change, SpaceX has proposed launching the COTS-2 spacecraft on an actual resupply mission to the space station. The company originally planned to make the first rendezvous on the third COTS mission but Musk said it made more sense to move ahead with an actual rendezvous and to use the third flight as an operational backup."

SpaceX Targets Falcon 9 Launch for Friday, KSC Daily News Employee Update

"SpaceX is preparing the Falcon 9 rocket for its first test launch attempt Friday morning from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket will carry a mock-up of a Dragon spacecraft. There will not be a crew aboard the rocket. The four-hour launch window opens at 11 a.m., and the weather forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions. If the weather cooperates, SpaceX will provide a live webcast of the launch events, scheduled to begin 20 minutes prior to the opening of the launch window. If weather or other difficulties do not allow a Friday launch attempt, SpaceX can launch Saturday during the same window."

Keith's note: I find it interesting (and somewhat amusing) how KSC PAO felt that it was necessary to tell employees that "there will not be a crew aboard the rocket". Gee, wouldn't you think that everyone at KSC (and the rest of the space community) would have known by now if there was going to be a crew aboard - especially since flying crew would mean that the "gap" had just disappeared?

Watching Falcons

What will you say if SpaceX's test rocket fails?, Alan Stern, The Space Review

"Why is the Falcon 9 crucial? In part this is because NASA is relying on it to help ship equipment and supplies to keep our $100-billion space station operable and functioning after the Space Shuttle is retired. It is also crucial because its lower price is critical to NASA's science program. And, in part, it is crucial because the Falcon 9 has become a proxy for the success of the commercial space flight industry."

Preparations for First Falcon 9 Test Launch, SpaceX

"Friday 4 June 2010: Launch Window Opens: 11:00 AM Eastern / 8:00 AM Pacific / 1500 UTC, Launch window lasts 4 hours. SpaceX has also reserved a second launch day on Saturday 5 June, with the same hours As always, weather will play a significant role in our overall launch schedule. The weather experts at the Cape are giving us a 40% chance of "no go" conditions for both days of our window, citing the potential for cumulus clouds and anvil clouds from thunderstorms."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from June 2010.

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