Commercialization: August 2013 Archives

Neil deGrasse Tyson Doesn't Think Elon Musk's SpaceX Will Put People On Mars, Business Insider

"Renowned astrophysicist and StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't think a private enterprise, such as SpaceX, could ever lead a space frontier. "It's not possible. Space is dangerous. It's expensive. There are unquantified risks," Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us. "Combine all of those under one umbrella; you cannot establish a free market capitalization of that enterprise."

Keith's note: Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist who does TV shows and runs a planetarium. Elon Musk is a billionaire who builds rockets that fly into space. Neil deGrasse Tyson goes out of his way to talk about how you can't do things. Musk just goes out and does those things. deGrasse Tyson is afraid to take the risks that go with exploration. Musk takes the risks.

My money is on Musk.

Virginia, Alaska form space launch alliance, AP

"The spaceports don't compete for the same launches, so they could work together to offer customers launching options on both the East and West coasts, said Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. Nash came to Virginia in 2012 after departing as CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corp, which operates KLC, a spaceport on Kodiak Island. The Alaska facility has struggled financially, with the Legislature there threatening to cut its funding if it didn't bring in more business."

Governor McDonnell Announces New Partnership with Alaska to Strengthen Virginia's Space Industry, Virginia Office of the Governor

"The MOU defines the intent of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Alaska to initiate a collaborative and cooperative partnership for spaceport operations. Future launch customers will realize business advantages as the partnership will promote efficiency between MARS and the Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) designed to create commonality between the two spaceports that decreases costs and improves performance."

Summary of Rules and Requirements, Google Lunar X Prize

"The competition's grand prize is worth $20 million. To provide an extra incentive for teams to work quickly, the grand prize value will change to $15 million whenever a government-funded mission successfully explores the lunar surface, currently projected to occur in 2013."

China sets course for lunar landing this year, CNN

"China set a bold new course in its ambitious space program Wednesday, when it announced plans to land its first probe on the moon by the end of the year."

- Google Lunar X Prize: Changing Rules - and Fewer Entrants?, earlier post
- Changes Coming to the Google Lunar X Prize, earlier post

Elon Musk Wants to Build the Iron Man Hologram UI For Real, Gizmodo

"The hologram interfaces Tony Stark uses in Iron Man are awesome, no doubt. But they also aren't real. Yet. Elon Musk has been cooking up something very Stark-y, and he's planning to show it off soon. Musk isn't sharing any of the nitty-gritty details yet, but he mentioned his grand scheme on Twitter. This better not be a joke."

Russian rocket engine export ban could halt US space program, Russia Today

"Russia's Security Council is reportedly considering a ban on supplying the US with powerful RD-180 rocket engines for military communications satellites as Russia focuses on building its own new space launch center, Vostochny, in the Far East. A ban on the rockets supply to the US heavy booster, Atlas V, which delivers weighty military communications satellites and deep space exploration vehicles into orbit, could put a stop to NASA's space programs - not just military satellites."

Keith's note: The RD-180 powers the Atlas V. This report is posted on Russia Today - an organization that loves to post conspiracy theories as "news" and often serves as a de facto propaganda arm of the Russian government. The link to this story seems to work intermittently.

Keith's note: CASIS sent out a news release today by email to the news media. At the bottom of the email was a confidentiality clause i.e. "The information contained in this e-mail message is intended only for the personal and confidential use of the recipient(s) named above. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by e-mail, and delete the original message."

I was never asked in advance by CASIS or anyone else if I wished to receive confidential information from CASIS nor do I desire to receive confidential information from CASIS. So I asked CASIS about this.

$10 million Genomics X Prize canceled: 'Outpaced by innovation', NBC

"For the first time in its 18-year history, the X Prize Foundation is canceling one of its $10 million competitions for technological innovation: the Archon Genomics X Prize, which was designed to reward quick and accurate whole-genome sequencing. ... In her report on the prize program's cancellation, PHG Foundation's Phillippa Brice said the decision was bad news for the entrants, "who apparently come away with thanks and good wishes and (presumably) a refund of their $25,000 entrance fee, but without so much as a memory stick to help further their research."

Master Team Agreement 4.1 out for Team signature, EuroLuna Blog, Google Lunar X Prize

(typos corrected) "The Master Team Agreement version 4.1 is now out for signature. Given the importance of this document, and the time it has taken to reach this point, a signature timing of 10 days in the middle of August seems a bit too short... The Euroluna Team has therefore asked for an extension until the 7th of September 2013."

Keith's note: The deadline for all Google Lunar X Prize entrants to sign the mandatory (revised) Teaming Agreement was Friday 23 August. This teaming agreement contained a major revision to the rather strict set of rules levied upon all entrants as to what they can and cannot do. Sources report that a number of existing entrants did not sign the agreement by the deadline.

Can lightning strike twice for RLVs?, The Space Review

"In a speech the following day at the conference, [Mike] Griffin said that X-vehicles in general can do several key things essential in aerospace development, including proving out technologies before getting locked into vehicle configurations, determining what the requirements should be for future vehicles, and demonstrating systems engineering. He lamented, though, the lack of X-vehicle development today. "It is a lapse of government science and technology policy at the very top levels that has caused our aggressive pursuit of X-vehicle programs to lapse," he said. "I would do anything to bring it back to the forefront of public thinking."

Keith's note: Gee, Mike ... who was it that killed everything that Craig Steidle wanted to do at NASA? There was certainly a whole lot of x-vehicle type thinking in Steidle's plan. And Steidle's plan was killed so as to create your government-designed "Apollo on Steroids" (your exact words)? Am I missing something? Pot-Kettle-Black, Mike?

Musk, Bezos fight to win lease of iconic NASA launchpad, Orlando Sentinel

"Sources on Capitol Hill and within NASA said Blue Origin's protests forced the space agency to announce a competition for the pad in May. The dispute also has drawn the attention of two members of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. In a July 22 letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said "NASA appears to be racing to lease LC-39A" and urged a closer review. "Given that taxpayers have invested hundreds of millions, if not a billion dollars, to develop this launch complex, there are serious questions of fiscal responsibility and transparency," they wrote. Agency officials have put no timeline on a decision, although it's widely thought NASA wants to select a winner by Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year."

- Long-term Lease for Pad 39A Almost Set, earlier post
- Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A, earlier post

Orbital's Cygnus Readying for First Space Station Flight, OnOrbit

"Orbital Sciences' Cygnus cargo craft is bound for the International Space Station on a test flight. This flight will prove Cygnus' ability to rendezvous with the station and be captured by the crew on board."

Marc's note: With just under a month to the Orbital Antares launch to the Space Station, NASA has released this slick video on the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program itself including SpaceX, but focusing on Orbital's Cygnus.

Much at Stake for Proton, Antares as September 15 Nears, Space Policy Online

"Purely by coincidence, if all goes according to plan September 15 will be a big day for a venerable Russian rocket recovering from a recent spectacular failure as well as a new U.S. rocket that is powered by Russian engines. A lot is at stake for both.

... A successful Proton launch could help restore confidence in the Russian space launch industry. A failure would add to the gloom and potentially drive commercial customers to competitors like Ariane, Sea Launch, and SpaceX.

Quite separately, the U.S. company Orbital Sciences Corporation is targeting September 15 for the first launch of its new Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). Antares will launch Orbital's Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS as part of NASA's commercial cargo program."

NASA Announces Additional Commercial Crew Development Milestones, NASA

"NASA announced Thursday it is adding some additional milestones to agreements with three U.S. commercial companies that are developing spaceflight capabilities that could eventually provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

The milestones are:

-- Boeing Spacecraft Safety Review. NASA's investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014.

-- SpaceX Dragon Parachute Tests. NASA's investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished over several months culminating in November 2013.

-- SNC Incremental Critical Design Review #1. NASA's investment is $5 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in October 2013.

-- SNC Incremental Reaction Control System Testing #1. NASA's investment is $10 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014."

SpaceX Grasshopper Performs Divert Test [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX completed what appears to be a successful divert test yesterday of its Falcon 9 Test Rig, code named Grasshopper.

According to SpaceX the Grasshopper flew to a height of 250 meters with a 100 meter lateral maneuver before returning to the center of the pad. Grasshopper is is taller than a ten story building."

Virgin Galactic CEO Counts 625 Customers For Suborbital Trips, Aviation Week

"Virgin Galactic has signed up 625 individuals for its planned suborbital spaceflights, lining up revenue of at least $125 million, in what CEO George Whitesides asserts is a strong sign of the excitement and potential of commercial space ventures."

More Than 200 Tickets Sold For Space Travel, Curacao Chronicle

"About 230 tickets of $ 100,000 each were now sold to travel to space from Curacao space, according to a NOS report. The first flight from Curacao will be carried out in 2016 by Space Expedition Corporation with the Lynx. The commercial space flight is becoming a reality."

Marc's note: While the numbers and revenue look ok for a pricey service which hasn't launched a single customer yet, the true test will be to see how the customer rate climbs after the few customer launches. Meanwhile according to the Curacao Chronicle XCRO has sold 230 tickets though it's launch base in Curacao has yet to be approved.

Dream Chaser Completes Ground Tow Tests [Watch], Sierra Nevada Corporation

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces the completion of the Dream Chaser Space System tow testing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The ground tow tests were conducted in preparation for the upcoming approach and landing test scheduled for the third quarter 2013."

"We are very excited to complete this series of tests and achieve another critical milestone for our Dream Chaser flight test program," said Steve Lindsey, SNC's Space Systems senior director of programs and former NASA astronaut. "Watching Dream Chaser undergo tow testing on the same runway where we landed several space shuttle orbiters brings a great amount of pride to our Dream Chaser team. We are another step closer to restoring America's capability to return U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station."

Masten and JPL Team Up

JPL, Masten Testing New Precision Landing Software, NASA

"A year after NASA's Mars rover Curiosity's landed on Mars, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are testing a sophisticated flight-control algorithm that could allow for even more precise, pinpoint landings of future Martian spacecraft.

Flight testing of the new Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance algorithm - G-FOLD for short - for planetary pinpoint landing is being conducted jointly by JPL engineers in cooperation with Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif., using Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing experimental rocket."

Marc's note: It's great to see this type of collaboration. With a limited market at the moment, and purely for discussion, I wonder if Masten might be an attractive acquisition by a larger company who would be interested in their technology and with the funds to do more.

Hyperloop


Hyperloop By Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO, Tesla

"When the California "high speed" rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL - doing incredible things like indexing all the world's knowledge and putting rovers on Mars - would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying "one of". The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn't the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.

Marc's note: Musk has put forward another potential disruptive idea that if enacted could disrupt terrestrial transportation as we know it. Musk has made it clear he doesn't have the time to devote to this project but would be willing to collaborate with others and having someone else take the lead. Any takers?"

Update: In a teleconference Musk said his thinking has changed and he would like to build a "demonstration article".

Easily Retrievable Objects among the NEO Population, arXiv.org

"Asteroids and comets are of strategic importance for science in an effort to understand the formation, evolution and composition of the Solar System. Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are of particular interest because of their accessibility from Earth, but also because of their speculated wealth of material resources.

The exploitation of these resources has long been discussed as a means to lower the cost of future space endeavours. In this paper, we consider the currently known NEO population and define a family of so-called Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs), objects that can be transported from accessible heliocentric orbits into the Earth's neighbourhood at affordable costs.

... Despite the highly incomplete census of very small asteroids, the ERO catalogue can already be populated with 12 different objects retrievable with less than 500 m/s of {\Delta}v. Moreover, the approach proposed represents a robust search and ranking methodology for future retrieval candidates that can be automatically applied to the growing survey of NEOs."

NASA Selects University Teams for New SmallSat Collaborative Projects, NASA

"NASA has selected 13 university teams for collaborative projects to develop and demonstrate new technologies and capabilities and spur innovation in communication, navigation, propulsion, science instruments, and advanced manufacturing for small spacecraft.

Selected project teams will work with engineers and scientists from six NASA centers. The goal of these efforts is to transform small spacecraft, some of which weigh only a few kilograms, into powerful but affordable tools for science, exploration and space operations."

Statement from SARG Chair Dr. Steven Collicott on Suborbital Research Needs, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG) of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation notes John Carmack's August 2, 2013 statement regarding the hibernation of rocket development at Armadillo Aerospace. The STIG rocket appeals to researchers by providing many of the advantages characteristic of next-generation suborbital vehicles including a gentle lift-off, pressurized payload bay, late payload access before launch, rapid payload access after landing, and a lower cost than traditional sounding rockets. Armadillo's success to date, including domestic and international payloads lofted and safely recovered on several mission development flights and a flight to 95km memorably captured on video, highlights how close their hard work has brought them to achieving an important operational research capability eagerly awaited by many scientists. The researchers of SARG encourage Armadillo and all of the new suborbital companies in their pursuit of success with investors and vehicles""

Previous:
- John Carmack Joins Gaming VR Company Oculus Rift
- Armadillo Aerospace "Out of Money"

Marc's note: Armadillo Aerospace isn't the first space startup to run out of money and it won't be last. It's nice to see the CSF standing up for Armadillo and others but it's a bit late for Armadillo. Carmack has moved on and has made it clear the company is low in his priority list. As for others, market forces and or government support will determine if they survive and possibly thrive.

Oculus Rift hires Doom co-creator John Carmack as Chief Technology Officer, engadget

"It turns out that Doom co-creator John Carmack is more than just a virtual reality fanatic -- he's joining the company that's leading the most recent VR revolution, today announcing that he's taking the reins as Chief Technology Officer at Oculus Rift. In an email from the folks at Oculus, Carmack was confirmed to be out at the company he helped found -- id Software -- and joining Oculus full-time as CTO. He will apparently still serve some role at id, as id's parent company told Engadget, "The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected." We've asked both Oculus and id's parent company for clarification."

Marc's note: Carmack tweeted this: "My time division is now Oculus over Id over Armadillo. Busy busy busy!" indicating exactly where his priorities are. Unfortunately with his new gig as CTO of Oculus Rift it would appear Armadillo Aerospace is truly out of business until such a time as some funding comes it way.

Letter From Virginia Secretary of Transportation to NASA Administrator Regarding Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Virginia Secretary of Transportation

"... we are concerned with two issues that may undermine Virginia's ability to continue developing MARS. The first involves allocation of 21st Century Space Launch Complex Program Funds. While the NASA/MARS team now provides half of U.S. access to the ISS, Wallops Island/MARS has received only a minimal amount of the 21st Century Space Launch Complex Program funding appropriated by Congress. In fact, the overwhelming majority of available funds has been spent in Florida. The second issue involves the pending lease of Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center ("KSC"). It is our understanding that NASA is considering leasing that pad to a commercial launch provider for a de minimis amount that does not reflect either the actual value of the pad or past investments in it."

- Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A, earlier post
- Space Florida Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: Launch Complex 39A, earlier post

Congressman Kevin McCarthy Introduces Bill to Streamline Commercial Spaceflight Regulations, SpaceRef Business

"Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R) has introduced H.R. 3038, the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, intended to streamline the regulatory process associated with commercial spaceflight.

The bill was referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee where it may get full support from the Republicans on the committee but likely no support from the Democrats.

Co-sponsoring the bill is Congressman Bill Posey (R) of Florida, who is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee."

KSC Releases New Commercial Crew Program Marketing Video, SpaceRef Business

"The two minute video aims to capture the history and spirit of human spaceflight. The slick video does capture the essence, but seems to fall short of its goal."

Carmack: Armadillo Aerospace in "hibernation mode", NewSpace Journal

"Armadillo Aerospace, the suborbital vehicle company founded and funded by video game designer John Carmack, has kept a low profile in recent months. The company did not participate in the recent Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Colorado, an event where Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace all had special sessions. The last news from the company was in late February, when it reported on the launch of its STIG-B rocket at Spaceport America in early January. That launch failed when the main parachute snagged and didn't deploy properly, causing the rocket to hit the ground at high speed.

There is a good reason for that silence over the last five months: the company is, for the time being, effectively out of money. "The situation that we're at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode," Carmack said Thursday evening at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas. "I did spin down most of the development work for this year" after the crash, he said."

Lease on Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39 may be near, Bolden says, Florida Today

"A long-term lease of a mothballed Kennedy Space Center launch pad may still be near, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden suggested Wednesday.

At least one company and some members of Congress have asked NASA not to award a single company exclusive use of pad 39A, saying it should be made available to multiple launchers.

But Bolden said it was the neighboring pad 39B, which NASA is overhauling to support its own exploration rocket, that the agency has always envisioned for shared use."

Previous: Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A

Update: Space Florida has sent a letter to NASA Administrator Bolden.

Space Florida Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: Launch Complex 39A

"Chairman Wolf has long been a champion of a strong and vibrant US space program and we have no doubt his intentions are well founded. However, the nature of this letter, and particularly the subsequent explanatory correspondence provided by Representative Aderholt's staff, seem uncharacteristically random and offer a number of implausible assertions that serve only to obstruct the ongoing KSC process. I believe the Chairman is being poorly advised to follow this course of action.

... We strongly advocate for allowing NASA to continue to transfer its underutilized infrastructure to commercial operators in a fair process with terms and conditions that support a commercially driven business approach. NASA's planned approach on Pad 39A for partnership with private industry will accelerate the capability to deliver not only cargo, but also crew, and quickly end our dependence on other nations to transport our nation's crew to the International Space Station."


Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from August 2013.

Commercialization: July 2013 is the previous archive.

Commercialization: September 2013 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.