Commercialization: May 2014 Archives

Images: SpaceX Reveals Dragon Version 2, SpaceRef

"This evening in short presentation which was delayed SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed the next-generation Dragon crewed spacecraft at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. These are the initial images. More to come."

UPDATE: Here is the reveal if you missed it and flight animation.

- Video: SpaceX Reveals Dragon Version 2
- Video Animation: Flight of the SpaceX Dragon Version 2

Orbital Antares Launch Postponed, Orbital

"Orbital has rescheduled the launch of its Antares rocket for the Orb-2 mission to a date of no earlier than (NET) June 17, 2014.

Orb-2 is the second of eight cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station under Orbital's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. The new launch schedule has been established to allow the engineering teams from the main stage propulsion supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne and Orbital to investigate the causes of an AJ26 engine failure that occurred last week at NASA's Stennis Space Center during customary acceptance testing."

SpaceX to Unveil Dragon V2 for Manned Spaceflight Thursday, SpaceRef Business

"True to his word, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will unveil Dragon V2 this Thursday, May 29th at SpaceX HQ to invited guests. SpaceX is calling the Dragon V2 "a next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts into space." It was April 29th that Musk tweeted that the "cover drops on May 29. Actual flight design hardware of crew Dragon, not a mockup."

Related Update: SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing of SuperDraco Thruster [With video]

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed qualification testing for the SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power the Dragon spacecraft's launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy."

Skybox Imaging Close to Being Sold to Google, SpaceRef Business

"According to Techcrunch Google is close to buying Skybox Imaging for over $1 billion. Skybox has plans for a constellation of 24 satellites of which the first, SkySat-1, went operational November 2013. Skybox released its first HD video last December."

Excalibur Almaz Capsule Sold in Auction, SpaceRef Business

"Commercial spaceflight services company Excalibur Almaz recently auctioned one of its assets, a Soviet era space capsule, the Vozvraschaemyi Apparat (VA), at the Brussels auction house Kunsthaus Lempertz KG for €1.26 million euros (US$1.72M)."

Amid Attacks, ULA Outlines Some EELV Pricing, Aviation Week

"ULA is battling to keep its Atlas V alive amid multiple attacks. Due to tensions over the Crimean annexation, Russia has said it will halt deliveries of the RD-180 first-stage engine for Atlas V to the U.S.; this would leave ULA with a current stockpile of 16 already in the U.S. Political pressure from the SpaceX lawsuit is also prompting some to question whether the Atlas V can be replaced by the Falcon 9v1.1. Gass said neither Russian manufacturer NPO Energomash or ULA have been formally notified of a halt in deliveries; five RD-180s have been ordered for delivery in 2014. Gass said the move announced by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was a hypothetical what-if, but not yet enacted."

Keith's note: "a hypothetical what-if, but not yet enacted"? Yea, that is how Putin does things before he sends in the troops. The majority owner of NPO Energomash is the Russian government. Rogozin works for Putin. Sounds like a plan.

Air Force spending $60 million to certify Musk's SpaceX, Stars and Stripes

"The Air Force is spending about $60 million and using as many as 100 people to certify billionaire Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. for launching military and spy satellites, according to the service's top uniformed acquisition official. "We've got folks busting their butt to get SpaceX certified despite what everything in the media seems to say," Lt. Gen. Charles Davis said in an interview."

Keith's note: Gen. Shelton seems to be utterly oblivious to the fact that large aerospace contractors incessantly file protests, complaints, and lawsuits about DoD decisions. Its a normal part of doing business with the government. As for the $60 million for these 100 people, that's $600,000 per person. Wow. That sure sounds efficient.

As for the cost of certifying SpaceX clearly the USAF has no concern about what things cost - either internally or via procurements. None whatsoever. And they will do what they want - when they want. Again cost is not a factor to them. NASA doesn't seem to care either. And no one seems to be at all interested in coordinating things like this - the net result being duplication of costly efforts - again, at additional expense. Then, when its budget time, these agencies never seem to have enough money to pay for this circus.

As NASA seeks next mission, Russia holds the trump card, Houston Chronicle

"During a private exchange of e-mails in August 2012, less than a month before he died, Neil Armstrong and a handful of other Apollo vets were grumbling about NASA's lack of a clear goals. They invoked a Yogiism describe the space agency, "If you don't know where you are going, you might not get there."

"Earlier this month NASA proudly tweeted photos of veteran astronauts Stan Love and Steve Bowen in the pool, testing tools and spacesuits that would be needed for the asteroid expedition the White House wants NASA to do. But the photos are far more revealing for what they didn't show. They didn't show the large section of the pool that's cordoned off, which NASA has leased to oil-services companies to help keep the lights on at this historic facility. In a pool once used exclusively by astronauts, oil rig workers now practice survival techniques in the event their helicopter has to ditch in the ocean. The photos also didn't show the remains of party that had been held the night before. The company Tracerco used the famous pool as a backdrop for a crawfish boil to fete attendees of the Offshore Technology Conference and show off its subsea scanning technology."

Keith's note: Dual use of NASA facilities is good. Thinking outside the box when doing so is even better. So long as barriers - many of which are artificial (and spring from NASA internal culture) - remain between how/what NASA does and how/what the real word outside NASA does NASA will miss out on opportunities to be seen as being more relevant - and part of the larger community whose taxes pay for their stuff. Yea, an oil service company had a crawfish boil in the NBL they were renting for diving training. Imagine the stories all of the attendees will be telling for years as to how cool that was. If NASA can let cheesy movies like "Armageddon" film in the NBL, have chili cookoffs and graze cattle on JSC property, then why not open up to the real world more often?

"I'm going over to NASA to [fill in the blank]" ought to be a far more common phrase than it currently is. Right now you probably hear "what do they do in there?" from people driving by on the freeway. NASA needs to adapt to the times that it finds itself in - not reminisce about times that have long since passed - never to return. Were people at NASA in the 1960's yearning for the way things use to be in 1910? Why should be be wanting to do the same in 2014? We are living in the future that the people at NASA in the 1960s hoped to create. Let's do something with that future by looking forward - not back.

As for things NASA already has - especially existing facilities, capabilities - and spacecraft - lets make NASA rethink how it can use these things in new ways - and perhaps learn to let go of somethings a little more readily. In so doing, NASA may find unexpected synergies and new opportunities where it least expected them to be.

Payload Avonics Systems and Avionics Elements for Lunar Surface Resource Prospecting Mission, NASA KSC

"NASA Kennedy Space Center is hereby issuing a Request for Information (RFI) for the purpose of seeking sources and soliciting information from private industry on Payload Avionics Systems and Avionics Elements to be used in a short duration lunar surface resource prospecting mission. This document is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition."

NASA Invites Media to Robotics Mining Competition at KSC Visitor Complex

"Teams of undergraduate and graduate students from around the country will demonstrate their excavator robots May 19-23 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida."

Rep. Mo Brooks joins leaders asking NASA for answers to Russian rocket engine ban, Huntsville Times

"In a statement released today, Brooks repeated his often-stated charge that America would not be without human spaceflight capability if the Obama administration had not cancelled the Constellation rocket program shortly after taking office in 2010. That decision, plus an earlier decision by the George W. Bush administration to retire the space shuttle and replace it with Constellation, has left America buying rides to the station from Russia while three companies race to provide American-owned access to space."

Keith's note: More imaginary facts from Mo Brooks. Even if Constellation was still in place NASA's commercial crew provider would fly crews sooner and vastly more cheaply than NASA ever could.

Feud between SpaceX and ULA over space contract grows more intense, Washington Post

"This week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said he would prohibit the export of Russian-made engines used in many U.S. rocket launches. That could eventually cause a disruption in how the Pentagon sends military satellites into orbit. And it plays into the hands of Musk, who is arguing that the nation's security interests in space shouldn't be dependent on the Russians."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Questions Stability of U.S.-Russia Space Partnership

"As we move forward, it is important that we fully understand our nation's independent capabilities with regard to ISS operations," the letter states. "While this new development is not related to access to the ISS for our astronauts in the next few years, it certainly pertains to the strength of our partnership with Russia. If Mr. Rogozin's statement proves to be accurate, we will have to take a step back and evaluate the costs and benefits of maintaining ISS beyond 2020 without our Russian partners."


Russia to Halt Export of RD-180 Engines for MilSat Launches and Questions ISS Future, SpaceRef Business

"The escalating war of words between Russia and U.S. just hit home hard for the Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) with the news today that Russia would no longer supply RD-180 engines for export to the U.S. if used by the Pentagon."

Moscow to ban US from using Russian rocket engines for military launches, Russia Today

"Moscow is banning Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines, which the US has used to deliver its military satellites into orbit, said Russia's Deputy PM, Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of space and defense industries. According to Rogozin, Russia is also halting the operation of all American GPS stations on its territory from June 1. Russia currently hosts 11 ground-based GPS stations, the Deputy PM said."

United Launch Alliance Statement on Russian Statements

"ULA and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions. However, if recent news reports are accurate, it affirms that SpaceX's irresponsible actions have created unnecessary distractions, threatened U.S. military satellite operations, and undermined our future relationship with the International Space Station."

NASA Statement on News Reports Regarding Russian Space Statements

"Space cooperation has been a hallmark of US-Russia relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station. Ongoing operations on the ISS continue on a normal basis with a planned return of crew tonight (at 9:58 p.m. EDT) and expected launch of a new crew in two weeks. We have not received any official notification from the Government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point."

Keith's note: The Technical Capabilities Assessment Team has decided to shut down the reduced flight program at JSC and transfer what is left of it to AFRC. JSC Center Director Ochoa has been directed to shut things down by mid-summer and mothball their C-9. Henceforth NASA will depend on one source: ZeroG. No real reason is given - and AFRC admits that it does not have the staff to run the program. A common ongoing complaint among users of ZeroG's jet is the poor quality of the microgravity levels during its parabolas. Typical NASA decision making process.

- Zero G and Other Microgravity Simulations Summary Report, NASA/TM-2013-217373
- Feasibility of Use of NASA JSC C9 Aircraft If It Were To Be Furnished As Government Furnished Equipment, earlier post
- Extension of NASA Microgravity Services Contract ( Zero Gravity Corporation)
- NASA OIG is Not Pleased With ZeroG, earlier post
- ZeroG Responds to OIG Report, earlier post

Just Asking: Charles Bolden, NASA administrator

Space exploration is becoming more of a private enterprise. Is that a good thing?

"I don't think space exploration is becoming more of a private enterprise. That's where we want it to go, but today there hasn't been a private enterprise go to Mars or go to the moon. Private enterprise talks while NASA acts. And that's not meant to sound like an arrogant statement, but we're trying to help people realize dreams, and we're trying to help private enterprise and entrepreneurs realize their dreams of doing the stuff that up until now only nations have done. The problem that private enterprise finds is that it's hard."

Keith's note: Huh? What happened to everything Bolden has said prior to this about the value of the private sector? Do we now ignore all of the pro-private sector speeches and reports from NASA? "Private enterprise talks while NASA acts"? Really? Does NASA have a way to send cargo to the ISS without use of a commercial vendor? Who is closer to sending crews into space? Certainly not NASA. Seems to me that the private sector is way out ahead of NASA - at a cost that is a fraction of what it would have cost NASA to do the exact same thing.

Keith's update: On the heels of these anti-private sector remarks NASA has released a video wherein Charlie Bolden sings the praises of the private sector. Go figure. NASA wants it both ways, it would seem.

Court Lifts NPO Energomash Injunction, SpaceX Back at Square One, SpaceRef Business

"Commenting to SpaceRef on the ruling a SpaceX spokesperson said: The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has taken steps toward understanding whether United Launch Alliance's current sole-source contract violates U.S. sanctions by sending taxpayer money to Russia for the RD-180 engine. That question, combined with the others specifically raised in the SpaceX Complaint, relating to the risks posed by dependence on Russian-made engines and the need to open competition for the Air Force space launch program - are timely and appropriate."

Court lifts injunction barring payments for Russian engine

"A federal judge Thursday lifted an injunction barring United Launch Alliance from buying Russian engines for the company's Atlas 5 rocket, concluding such transactions do not violate U.S. sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia's actions in Ukraine. A temporary injunction was granted April 30, two days after a complaint by ULA rival Space Explorations Technologies -- SpaceX -- that challenged the legitimacy of a sole-source "block buy" Air Force contract that was awarded to United Launch Alliance last December for 27 Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets."

Preliminary Injunction Lifted - ULA Purchase of RD-180 Engines Complies with Sanctions

"Sadly, SpaceX's frivolous lawsuit caused unnecessary distraction of the executive and judicial branch and increased tensions with Russia during a sensitive national security crisis. "SpaceX's actions are self-serving, irresponsible and have threatened the U.S.'s involvement with the International Space Station and other companies and projects working with Russian State entities."

- Russian Engine Drama Continues, earlier post
- SpaceX Gets Injunction Against Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post

U.S. Government Files for Dissolution of Injunction Against Payments to Russia, SpacePolicyOnline

"The United States Government filed a request with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims late yesterday asking the court to dissolve its injunction against the government or United Launch Alliance (ULA) from making payments to Russia because it might violate sanctions imposed by President Obama against Russian Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin. The court enjoined the Air Force and ULA from making payments to the Russian entity NPO Energomash for RD-180 engines, used for ULA's Atlas V rocket, on April 30."

- SpaceX Gets Injunction Against Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post
- Congressional Concerns Over Use of Russian Engines, earlier post
- Earlier posts

Falcon 9 Reusable Completes Test Flight to 1000 Meters [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX has release a second video of a Falcon 9 Reusable test flight, this time reaching 1000 meters before softly landing in the same spot.

... Early flights of F9R will take off with legs fixed in the down position. However, we will soon be transitioning to liftoff with legs stowed against the side of the rocket and then extending them just before landing."

Preliminary Injunction Issued Prohibits Further Purchases From NPO Energomash, SpaceRef Business

"A preliminary injunction was issued late yesterday in the matter of SpaceX vs The United States with one respect to the complaint. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has prohibited the Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) from "making any purchases from or payment of money to NPO Energomash" effectively blocking any further purchases of RD-180 engines used by ULA on the Atlas V."

ULA statement from Kevin G. MacCary, United Launch Alliance General Counsel, in response to Preliminary Injunction Related to National Security

"ULA is deeply concerned with this ruling and we will work closely with the Department of Justice to resolve the injunction expeditiously. In the meantime, ULA will continue to demonstrate our commitment to our National Security on the launch pad by assuring the safe delivery of the missions we are honored to support." 

Elon Musk's SpaceX granted injunction in rocket launch suit against Lockheed-Boeing, Washington Post

"A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge issued an injunction late Wednesday prohibiting a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing from proceeding with plans to buy Russian-made rocket engines. Judge Susan G. Braden's ruling came after SpaceX, a California-based rocket company, sued the federal government Monday, protesting the Air Force's award of a lucrative space contract, saying it should have been competitively bid."

Injunction Order text

- Congressional Concerns Over Use of Russian Engines, earlier post
- Building All-American Rocket Engines, earlier post



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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from May 2014.

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