Commercialization: August 2014 Archives

Marc's note: Last week I decided to run a poll on who our readers thought would be selected for funding in the next round of NASA's Commercial Crew Program which many expect to be announced tomorrow. The results were surprising at first. I expected, considering the wide variety of readers we have, to have a very close poll. What I didn't expect was the blatant padding of the results for two of the companies.

Until Monday the results were headed to what I was expecting. However at some point on Monday, "block voting" began. The votes were coming from 4 IP addresses. 3 of these IP addresses came Connecticut - specifically from the area around Norwalk (where Boeing has an office). The last IP block was traced to Sierra Nevada Corporation. It should be noted that the poll was setup with cookies so that repeat voting was not allowed. SpaceX votes were distributed across the U.S. and other countries with nothing traceable to a SpaceX office.

So presented here are two poll results. As you can see there was considerable padding of the results, but once the block voting was removed it shows a much closer result.You may interpret this unscientific poll anyway you like.

SpaceX Update on AsiaSat 6 Mission

"What we do want to triple-check is whether even highly improbable corner case scenarios have the optimal fault detection and recovery logic. This has already been reviewed by SpaceX and multiple outside agencies, so the most likely outcome is no change. If any changes are made, we will provide as much detail as is allowed under U.S. law."

Europe's Latest Galileo Satellites Injected Into Wrong Orbit After Launch, SpaceRef Business

"An investigation is underway after yesterday's launch by Arianespace of a Soyuz rocket which left its twin payload of Europe's fifth and six Galileo GPS satellites in a lower wrong orbit.

According to a statement released by Arianespace "complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit."

Galileo Launch, Initially Hailed as Success, Is a Failure, Space News

Marc's note: After congratulatory speeches it was later learned from U.S. military data that the satellites were in the wrong orbit. One of the many questions include why didn't the launch telemetry indicate the wrong orbit? The almost two hour Arianespace broadcast did not indicate anything wrong. Details courtesy Space News Paris Bureau Chief Peter B. de Selding.

Marc's update: Based on what we know now this could be a candidate mission for future on-orbit servicing.

"Earlier today, in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX conducted a test flight of a three engine version of the F9R test vehicle (successor to Grasshopper). During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission. Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times. With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program. Today's test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test. As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test. SpaceX will provide another update when the flight data has been fully analyzed."

NASA and Commercial Partners Review Summer of Advancements, NASA

"NASA's spaceflight experts in the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) met throughout July with aerospace partners to review increasingly advanced designs, elements and systems of the spacecraft and launch vehicles under development as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiatives."

... "In August or September, NASA plans to award one or more contracts that will provide the agency with commercial services to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station by the end of 2017."

Boeing Commercial Crew Program Completes Critical Design and Safety Reviews, NASA

"Boeing recently completed the Phase Two Spacecraft Safety Review of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft and the Critical Design Review (CDR) of its integrated systems, meeting all of the company's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones on time and on budget."

Video: Small Satellite Conference 2014 Keynote Speaker Steve Jurvetson, Small Satellite Conference

"Steve Jurvetson is one of the commercial space industry's most successful investors. He is a partner of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, where he serves on the boards of Planet Labs, SpaceX, Synthetic Genomics and Tesla Motors."

Elon Musk's SpaceX Is Raising Money At A Valuation Approaching $10B, TechCrunch

Space Exploration Technologies, the commercial space transportation startup founded by Elon Musk with ambitions to land people on Mars, is raising investment that values the company somewhere south of $10 billion, TechCrunch has learned.

Musk's SpaceX Denies Blog Report of Capital Raising Plan, Bloomberg Business Week

"SpaceX is not currently raising any funding nor has any external valuation of that magnitude or higher been done," John Taylor, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. "The source in this [TechCrunch] report is mistaken."

Marc's note: It should be noted SpaceX did not refute the original story by Quartz in April where Quartz said SpaceX was close to closing a round of funding at that time.

CCtCAP Commercial Crew Announcement Expected Soon, SpacePolicyOnline

"NASA declined today (August 18) to confirm rumors that it will announce the winner(s) of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contract by the end of the month, but anticipation is mounting. Whenever it happens, it will be a major step forward for the commercial crew program and achieving the oft-stated goal of restoring America's ability to launch American astronauts into space on American rockets from American soil. A NASA spokesman replied to an email query this morning by saying only that NASA still expects to make an announcement in the late-August, early-September time frame, as it has been saying for months. NASA officials are not allowed to discuss the selection process before announcing the award(s), even to say who submitted bids. Expectations are that at least the three companies being funded under the current phase of the program - Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) - did so."

- Who Will Win the Next Round for the Commercial Crew Program?, Earlier Post
- SpaceX Hater Article Disappears From Forbes Website, Earlier Post

NASA Closes On Commercial Crew Selection, Aviation Week

"Almost five years after beginning its search for a U.S.-developed spacecraft to carry humans into orbit, NASA is poised to award at least one contract to its industry partners in the Commercial Crew Program."

When SpaceX Falters, Washington Looks The Other Way (From Forbes) Loren Thompson at Lexington Institute

"Space Exploration Technologies Corporation -- SpaceX -- has won broad support in Washington by offering a low-cost, innovative alternative to traditional launch providers for lofting satellites into orbit.  However, the company is struggling to meet commitments to its government customer, and eventually that may tarnish its image. ... I have written a commentary for Forbes here."

Keith's note: The Forbes article that Thompson refers to at Forbes is no longer online. Several websites have apparently reprinted the article such as this one [update - now removed]. Hmmm why did Forbes pull this article offline? Could it be that the article was ... inaccurate?

The curious case of a deleted Forbes.com commentary on SpaceX, Space Politics

"SpaceX is no stranger to both strong support and harsh criticism of its activities, particularly in political circles. Last month, for example, three members of the House of Representatives asked NASA for details on an "epidemic of anomalies" they claimed the company's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have experienced. But the company's decision early this month to establish a commercial launch site near Brownsville, Texas, generated praise from various officials, including US Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)."

Emerging Space: The Next Industrial Revolution - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef Business [Video]

"At this years AIAA Space 2014 conference a panel of experts from industry and government discussed Emerging Space: The Next Industrial Revolution.

The availability of the International Space Station and the corresponding improved access to and from LEO has ushered in the start of a new entrepreneurial renaissance. In addition there are companies exploring revolutionary approaches to Earth observation, space manufacturing, and resource utilization of the lunar and asteroidal material. This panel will explore the broad sweep of possible applications as well as looking at how these companies could combine to form a new commercial space ecosystem."

SpaceX Releases Falcon 9 First Stage Reentry Footage from Chase Plane, SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX has released a video from the July 14th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying six ORBCOM satellites showing the first stage reentry from a chase plane."

New Bigelow Video Released

Bigelow Aerospace Releases BEAM Promotional Video, SpaceRef Business

"Bigelow Aerospace has released a promotional video on their Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). It runs six and a half minutes and includes new footage."

3 commercial companies compete in new space race, Houston Chronicle

"NASA should make its decision on the "commercial crew" competition in the next few weeks. At stake is not just a $4 billion contract, but prestige. The next spacecraft that flies U.S. astronauts will have an American flag, yes, but also a prominent corporate logo. That company will also join the elite club - whose only members include the United States, Russia and China - that has flown humans in space."

Marc's note: Insider vs outsider, who will win?

Also, while the article overall is worth reading, the characterization of Senator Bill Nelson as "a former astronaut" is misleading if you don't the know history. Nelson indeed did fly as a mission specialist on STS-61C, but he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time and like Senator Jake Garn who preceded him the year before, he flew on the Space Shuttle because of his role in the House of Representatives.

On-Orbit Servicing Update

The Near Term Future of On-Orbit Servicing is Robotic, SpaceRef Business

"Currently, over "$500 billion dollars in satellite assets are stationed in geosynchronous orbit (GEO)," according to Gordon Roesler, a program manager in the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), and if those assets break down, "given the remote, heavily radiated atmosphere of GEO, a company only has one replacement option at this time - launching a replacement system."

Yes, Virginia, You Will Be Able to Download your iTunes on Mars, Eventually, SpaceRef

"Our world is becoming rapidly connected and as humanity ventures off planet they will take their appetites for LOLz, cat memes, silly YouTube videos, and iTunes with them making a need for space-based internet and other broadband services a reality according to panelists speaking on "The Future of Space-Based Communications" at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

SpaceX Slapped With Wage Class Action Over Mass Layoff, Law 360

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is facing a putative class action in California court accusing it of not properly notifying its former employees of a mass layoff of up to roughly 400 workers in the state, and not paying them wages earned before termination. The proposed class action, filed Monday, alleged that SpaceX ordered the mass layoffs of between 200 and 400 workers on or about July 21 without giving advance notice to the them, in violation of California's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act."

Dismissed SpaceX Employees Sue over Lack of Warning, SpaceNews

"The lawsuit, filed Aug. 4 in the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, appears to hinge on whether SpaceX's dismissal of several hundred employees is viewed by the court as a "layoff." The lawsuit says that under California law, a "layoff" is defined as "a separation from a position for lack of funds or lack of work."

Our Nation Networks of Spaceports is Thriving - But More Needs to Be Done to Ensure Continued Growth, SpaceRef Business

"The nation's commercial spaceport network will be expanding from the "8 that are operating now, to 17 in the next few years," Brian Gulliver, a spaceport development team leader at Reynolds, Smith and Hills, told an audience attending the panel "An Expanding Network of Commercial Spaceports" this morning at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

Did NASA Validate an "Impossible" Space Drive? In a Word, No., Discover

"Worst of all is this statement from the paper: "Thrust was observed on both test articles, even though one of the test articles was designed with the expectation that it would not produce thrust." In other words, the Cannae Drive worked when it was set up correctly--but it worked just as well when it was intentionally disabled set up incorrectly. Somehow the NASA researchers report this as a validation, rather than invalidation, of the device."
Don't Get Too Excited About NASA's New Miracle Engine, io9

"Carroll's final point - that the researchers measured thrust not only when the drive was configured to produce it, but also when set up to do nothing at all - may be the most important takeaway of all."

- EMdrive tested by NASA, Reddit

- JSC's Strange Thruster Violates The Laws of Physics, earlier post

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Spacecraft on Track for November 2016 Launch, SpaceRef Business

"Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft is "on track for its anticipated first launch in November 2016," Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC Space Systems, told a press conference on August 5, 2014, at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

Related: Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser Program Expands, SpaceRef Business

"The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has announced an expansion of its Dream Chaser program, which now includes a mix of small businesses, legacy aerospace firms, university partners, and foreign space operation organizations, in "32 states, 50 Congressional districts, and 2 foreign nations."

SpaceX Signs Agreement with Texas for Brownsville Spaceport, SpaceRef Business

"Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that the state of Texas will provide incentives to SpaceX so that the company can build a commercial spaceport in Cameron County.

The incentives include $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). As well the state will provide $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. to support the development of infrastructure necessary for establishing a spaceport."

Gov. Perry Announces State Incentives Bringing SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility, 300 Jobs to the Brownsville Area

Marc's note: Hours after signing the agreement with Texas SpaceX launched AsiaSat 8 (Watch).


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

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