Commercialization: May 2017 Archives

Paul Allen's Stratolaunch Systems brings monster plane out of hangar for first time, Geekwire

"Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said the plane's emergence from its hangar at California's Mojave Air and Space Port was part of a "major milestone in its journey toward providing convenient, reliable and routine access to low Earth orbit." The plane is designed to carry up to three Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rockets at a time into the air, and then set them loose to launch payloads into orbit. .. Stratolaunch says the first launch demonstration, involving a single Pegasus XL, will take place as early as 2019."

Keith's note: So ... when will they announce that they have found a commercially viable reason to launch Dream Chaser?

Reusing Old Dragons

SpaceX set to join rare company by re-flying an orbital spacecraft, Ars Technica

"Although the company has never placed a hard dollar value on the Dragon, the savings could be considerable. SpaceX received a contract worth $1.6 billion from NASA for 12 cargo supply missions to the station in 2008--about $130 million per flight. That would have included the cost of the booster, of course, so therefore an individual Dragon spacecraft is likely valued at between $20 million to $60 million."

Rocket Lab Makes It Into Space On Its First Launch (with videos)

"Rocket Lab broke new ground today when its Electron rocket reached space at 16:23 NZST. Electron lifted-off at 16:20 NZST from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It was the first orbital-class rocket launched from from a private launch site in the world. "It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn't quite reach orbit and we'll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our programme, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business," says Beck."

Boeing, DARPA to Design, Build, Test New Experimental Spaceplane

"Boeing will develop an autonomous, reusable spaceplane capable of carrying and deploying a small expendable upper stage to launch small (3,000 pound/1,361 kg) satellites into low Earth orbit. Boeing and DARPA will jointly invest in the development. Once the spaceplane - called Phantom Express - reaches the edge of space, it would deploy the second stage and return to Earth. It would then land on a runway to be prepared for its next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft."

Aerojet Rocketdyne Selected As Main Propulsion Provider for Boeing and DARPA Experimental Spaceplane

Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space, Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness


"This hearing will examine U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing will also explore the Treaty's potential impacts on expansion of our nation's commerce and settlement in space."

- James Dunstan, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC [statement]
- Laura Montgomery, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC [statement]
- Matthew Schaefer, University of Nebraska College of Law [statement]
- Mike Gold, Space Systems Loral [statement]
- Peter Marquez, Planetary Resources [statement]
- Colonel Pamela Melroy, Retired and Former Astronaut [statement]
- Bob Richards, Moon Express [statement]

Space Acquisitions: DOD Continues to Face Challenges of Delayed Delivery of Critical Space Capabilities and Fragmented Leadership, GAO

"Many major Department of Defense (DOD) space programs GAO reviewed have experienced cost and schedule increases. For example, costs for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program grew 118 percent and its first satellite was launched more than 3.5 years late. Costs for the Space Based Infrared System grew nearly 300 percent and its scheduled launch was delayed roughly 9 years. Both programs are now in the production phase during which fewer technical problems tend to surface. Satellite ground systems have also been challenged by cost and schedule growth. In fact, ground system delays have been so lengthy that satellites sometimes spend years in orbit before key capabilities can be fully utilized."

Top SpaceX employee throws shade at just about all of his competitors, Ars Technica

"About 10 days ago, a founding employee of SpaceX, Tom Mueller, made a Skype call to a group of "fans" of the company with the New York University Astronomy Society. The call was recorded and posted to It garnered little attention until Saturday, when a user on the SpaceX subreddit called attention to it. Although the provenance of the 54-minute call is not entirely clear, there is no question it is Mueller speaking, and he is doing so in a rare, unfiltered way. ... This call is reminiscent of remarks made a little more than a year ago by a senior-level employee of SpaceX's competitor, United Launch Alliance. During candid remarks at a University of Colorado-Boulder seminar, which Brett Tobey did not know were being recorded, the vice president of engineering said United Launch Alliance could not compete with SpaceX on price. He was terminated almost immediately by the company."

GAO Requested to Study Restoring FAA Commercial Space Office to Secretary's Level, SpacePolicyOnline

"Three members of the House have sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a study on the feasibility of elevating the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) to the Secretary of Transportation's office. Advocates believe that would facilitate getting needed financial and personnel resources to allow the office to fulfill its duties as the commercial space launch business expands."

California plans for collecting taxes on spaceflight, SF Chronicle

"Thomas Lo Grossman, a tax attorney at the Franchise Tax Board, said the proposed rules are designed to mirror the ways taxes are levied on terrestrial transportation and logistics firms operating in California, like trucking or train companies. Those rules are based largely on the way California and other states calculate taxes when goods are shipped from one state to another. In what's known as a market-based approach, companies tally sales -- and then the taxes based on those sales -- in the state where the good or service is received. But in the borderlessness of space, precisely where a product gets delivered is difficult to define."

Title 18, California Code of Regulations Text of Regulation Section 25137-15

"1. Mileage ratio numerator. The numerator of the mileage ratio for each launch contract shall be the total projected mileage that all launch vehicles launched or planned to be launched pursuant to that launch contract will travel within this state. If a launch occurs or is planned to occur in this state, the contribution of that launch to the numerator of the mileage ratio shall be 62 statutory miles. If a launch occurs or is planned to occur outside of this state, the contribution of that launch to the numerator of the mileage ratio shall be zero."

Keith's note: This may seem silly - but stop and think for a moment: people are now treating space commerce as just another business thing that can be taxed. The space sector gets more "real" every day.

NASA: Lunar Surface Cargo Transportation Services Request for Information (RFI), NASA

"NASA has identified a variety of exploration, science, and technology demonstration objectives that could be addressed by sending instruments, experiments, or other payloads to the lunar surface. To address these objectives as cost-effectively as possible, NASA may procure payloads and related commercial payload delivery services to the Moon. Such delivery services need to be consistent with the National Space Transportation Policy (NSTP). The NSTP requires U.S. Government primary and secondary payloads to use U.S.-manufactured launch vehicles. "Hosted payloads" that meet the hosted payload definition within the National Space Transportation Policy can fly as part of a mission using a foreign launch vehicle. As a first step, NASA is interested in assessing the availability of payload transit and delivery services from Earth to the Lunar surface as early as Fiscal Year 2018 and through the next decade. This approach offers NASA the potential to simultaneously address critical strategic objectives related to exploration, science, and technology demonstration using commercially provided domestic space services and hardware."

Keith's 4 May update: @DanaPerino deleted this tweet (but it is still on her Instagram page). Why would she do that - unless she did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

Keith's 5 May update: Now @Astro2fish has deleted his tweet as well. Why would he do that - unless he also did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

The only reason that the text of these embedded tweets still appears is that I embedded them before deletion and the words are in the embed code. If you click on the date/time you will get a deletion message. This is what they both looked like - with pictures - before Dana Perino and Jack Fischer deleted them.

Keith's 4 May update: I sent an inquiry to NASA HQ and JSC PAO and got this response:

"- Is there a Space Act Agreement or MOU in place between NASA and Dana Perino and/or Fox News that allows a NASA civil servant on board the ISS to use their NASA position and work place to promote Dana Perino's book?
- Can you provide me with a copy of the official NASA process whereby book authors/publishers can apply to have astronauts conduct promotional activities while aboard the ISS? Have other book authors applied for this promotion aboard ISS?
- What cost to NASA is associated with these on-orbit book promotions? (What is the cost of launching this Felt Jasper, NASA personnel time to coordinate with Perino/Fox, TDRSS bandwidth etc.)
- Did the NASA OGC at JSC or NASA HQ issue a waiver and/or give formal written permission to Jack Fischer to conduct these commercial promotion activities with Dana Perino and Fox News while on board the ISS?
- Under what payload allocation was the "Felt Jasper" flown to the ISS? Did Jack Fischer carry it with him on his Soyuz flight or was this launched on a cargo vehicle? Is this a personal item or is it a NASA PAO-endorsed activity?
- Did NASA PAO interact directly with Fox News to coordinate the coverage given on Dana Perino's Twitter account and/or provide NASA imagery of the Felt Jasper on "The Five" segment that aired last night on Fox News?
- What will be done with the Felt Jasper that Fischer has in orbit? Will it be returned to Earth and used for commercial purposes?
- Will Jack Fischer and Dana Perino be doing any further commercial promotion activities for Perino's book on-orbit or when he returns to Earth?
- Did Jack Fischer personally send the following tweet from the ISS? If he did not, who sent it? "@Astro2fish Well, finally got a chance to show Felt Jasper the office @DanaPerino & pretty sure he dug the view-I know I did! #SpaceDogWalks #NASARocks 5:59 PM - 2 May 2017"

This is what I got back:

"Hi Keith, Astronauts are permitted to take personal mementos to space. Jack Fischer's flight of a "Felt Jasper" as a personal memento and his subsequent release of imagery of that memento via his social media does not imply an endorsement of any commercial activity. Thank you, Jenny, Norma Jennifer Knotts, Public Affairs Specialist"

Apparently Trumpish commercial endorsement behavior is the new normal at NASA. An astronaut is allowed to use his official government position and work place to give significant social media visibility to a book written by a former Bush press spokesperson who appears on the President's favorite news channel (Fox). And that visibility is repeated on Fox News. Yet none of the Trump political appointees on the 9th floor at NASA HQ see anything wrong with this and are OK with a two sentence non-response. Tick tock.

Keith's 2 May note: Now it is apparently acceptable for NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion tie-ins for books written by Fox News celebrities like @DanaPerino who has a book out titled "Let me tell you about Jasper". Since Fischer has the mini-Jasper in orbit this promotion had to have planned this ahead of time. How much did Perino pay for this - or did NASA give this orbital PR away for free? Check out her Twitter banner. This a rather overt tie-in. Apparently Fischer and Perino already knew each other prior to his departure - here he is holding a copy of her book at some event they both attended. The "felt Jasper" is something that is used to promote Perino's book.

Keith's update: Fox Five just aired a piece about the Felt Jasper book promotion dog in space and Perino's book. Of course all of this PR and product promotion stuff was coordinated and approved by NASA PAO, right?

Vector Completes Successful Flight Test of Vector-R Launch Vehicle, SpaceRef

"This successful flight test represents Vector's next technical milestone of the Vector-R launch vehicle. The flight test, which took place in Mojave, Calif. on May 3, featured Vector's first stage 5K-lbf engine and 3D additive manufacturing printed injector, which was successfully tested in December 2016, and developed in partnership with NASA's Flight Opportunities Program."

Keith's note: Tweets from the "ULCATS Symposium: Igniting An Industrial and National Security Revolution in Space" held this morning in Washington, DC. I asked Newt Gingrich how the Trump Administration could support ULCATS (Ultra-Low Cost Access to Space) such as described in this new report done for the USAF - yet simultaneously support UHCATS - Ultra HIGH Cost Access to Space offered by NASA's SLS program. Gingrich looked like he was waiting for this question and was clearly not a fan of SLS or other large, expensive launch systems supported by the government. More tweets at #ulcats

SpaceX Successfully Launches U.S. NRO Spy Satellite (With video)

"SpaceX launched a spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) early this morning after a one day delay. The launch appears to have placed the secret payload into a low earth orbit. SpaceX also successfully landed the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket."

Marc's note: The video portion showing the return of the first stage is quite spectacular, providing views we haven't seen in this detail before. It starts around the 24 minute mark.



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