Commercialization: October 2018 Archives

SLS contractor gets real, says program needs to focus on "affordability", Ars Technica

"We here inside the program tend not to think about the need to advocate," Precourt said. "There are a lot of people with other ideas about how we should do this mission, so I think it's incumbent on us. It's not too early to be thinking about the transition from development to production. And that means a totally different management philosophy and cost structure for all of us." Precourt said contractors should consider a future in which NASA's present multibillion expenditures on rocket development costs need to be cut in half in order for the SLS vehicle to have a robust future. "All of us need to be thinking about [how] our annual budget for this will not be what it is in development," he said. "That's a very serious problem that we have to look forward to, and to try to rectify, so that we are sustainable." If the other speakers had thoughts about Precourt's comments, they did not share them during the ensuing discussion."

- DC Lobbying Firms Enter The SLS Vs Commercial Space Proxy War , earlier post
- Big Aerospace Reaches For The Stars While Using Smear Tactics, earlier post
- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity Online, earlier post
- OIG Audit: NASA's Management of the Space Launch System Stages Contract, earlier post

First Mate: Virgin Takes Step Forward with First Mating of LauncherOne Rocket and Cosmic Girl 747, Virgin Orbit

"Today at Long Beach Airport stands a 747 aircraft with a rocket under its wing. For the first time ever, Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket has been integrated with its carrier aircraft, marking a major milestone on the path to the innovative small satellite launch service's first space shot. The successful operation capped off a banner day of firsts on Wednesday for the company at its Long Beach, Calif. base."

Marc's note: As NASA has a contract with Virgin Orbit this is good news. There soon should be another option to launch small satellites.

Keith's note: Great commercial space news. RocketLab is coming to NASA Wallops in Virginia to do commercial space launches. You'd think that all parties involved would want as much media present as possible - especially Virginia-based space media (like NASAWatch). Guess again. I first learned about this event, held on a NASA facility, staffed by NASA personnel, announced after it was underway on social media and broadcast on a NASA TV channel when I saw mention of it on Twitter. NASA Wallops PAO sent me nothing in advance. I caught the tail end of the webcast and discovered that there was also a phone bridge for media who are offsite to dial in to ask questions. No one at NASA Wallops PAO told me about that either. This is not the first time Wallops PAO has played this sort of games with me. I have sent an email to NASA PAO and Wallops personnel asking why NASAWatch was excluded from the advance notice and access provided to other news media. Until/unless I get a response (normally I get no response from Wallops) I am torn with ascribing this to incompetence - or spite- on Wallops' part given that this happens to me with some regularity.

Although I had no advance notice of this event, this is the question that popped into my head for RocketLab: "You are going to be doing a lot of launches at Wallops - and they do a lot of suborbital launches for student projects. Is your company looking to work with NASA and M.A.R.S. to provide additional opportunities for students and interns in Virginia to learn about space?".

Paul Allen

Virgin's Richard Branson, tech investor Steve Case distance themselves from Saudi Arabia over alleged Khashoggi killing, Washington Post

"Branson said he was suspending his work as a director of two Saudi tourism projects and suspending discussions with the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund about a proposed investment in the space companies Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit. "I had high hopes for the current government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and it is why I was delighted to accept two directorships in the tourism projects around the Red Sea," Branson said in a blog post Thursday. "What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government."

Inspector General Attack On NASA Super-Rocket Marred By Mistakes, Omissions, Loren Thompson, Lexington Institute

"I have read the audit through twice and talked to Boeing executives about its findings. It appears to be a political document engineered by a holdover appointee from the Obama administration -- the same administration that tried to kill all of NASA's human exploration programs. It omits important information, misstates key facts and isn't even internally consistent in its assertions. ... First, the audit fails to provide historical context that might help explain why problems have occurred. This is only the second time in history that any country has tried to develop such a powerful rocket. The first time was the Saturn V program for Apollo missions to the Moon, half a century ago. With the demise of the Space Shuttle program, key skills were lost, infrastructure aged and the supply chain atrophied. NASA understood there were major challenges ahead, but the Inspector General is mum on their impact."

Keith's note: The core thrust of Thompson's paid whining is either Blame Obama or its so hard to build a big rocket (even though companies that Boeing bought did it half a century ago).

Air Force awards three Launch Service Agreements, USAF

"The U.S. Air Force announced today the award of three Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Service Agreements to (in alphabetical order) Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and United Launch Alliance. The award to Blue Origin will be for development of the New Glenn Launch System. The award to Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems is for development of the OmegA Launch System. The award to United Launch Alliance will be for development of the Vulcan Centaur Launch System."

Keith's update: Dave Mosher at Business Insider is now on the trail of Boeing's stealth smear campaign against SpaceX.

Boeing may have used a lobbying firm to plant a scathing opinion piece about SpaceX in US news outlets. At stake is billions of dollars in NASA contracts, Business Insider

"Hagar said he never submitted the op-ed article to The Washington Times. He said he shared his written opinion with only one person, a Boeing employee, whom he repeatedly declined to identify. "I don't want to start anything," Hagar said. "I'm not interested in that." Shortly after Hagar gave his op-ed article to Boeing, he said, it appeared in The Washington Times. He said he gave Boeing "permission to publish it wherever." "I knew it would be in different publications, but not how many," he said."

A shadowy op-ed campaign is now smearing SpaceX in space cities, Ars Technica

"According to the LMG website, the 15-year-old firm "develops and executes public-, Hill-, and agency-facing issue advocacy campaigns that shift the narrative in a changing world." More bluntly, the SourceWatch website calls LMG a "secretive Washington DC public affairs firm" with a history of placing op-eds, and it seeks to mask the op-eds' financial sponsors. Ars could not confirm the ultimate sponsor of the op-eds, but there are some potentially pertinent facts. For one, Boeing is touted on the LMG website as a client, and it is listed as one of LMG's three main "featured narratives" on its homepage. (LMG says, as part of its campaign for a Boeing tanker plane, that it "developed and executed an aggressive 'outside game' campaign working with dozens of major grassroots organizations, labor unions, suppliers and vendors and national security experts to make the case for Boeing's bid. We developed messaging... and helped manage a newly developed social media campaign amplifying our nationwide chorus of genuine American voices supporting Boeing.") Boeing, which is not mentioned in the op-eds, is also the only competitor to SpaceX in the commercial crew program. Could Boeing be the client behind the anti-SpaceX op-eds? A spokesman for Boeing, Jerry Drelling, told Ars, "We have no comment."

Keith's note: This is creepy. What is Boeing up to? As noted above, a firm overtly linked to them is connected to an anti-SpaceX editorial campaign. Boeing has deep pockets when it comes to PR. They have poured a lot of money into a weekly space news letter with Politico. Boeing is also prominently featured in a space-related event with Vice President Pence here in Washington, DC later this month. And of course they send lots of money to the overtly pro-SLS organization Coalition for Deep Space Exploration. Meanwhile Boeing has an ongoing social media campaign on Facebook which entices people to sign up for a newsletter - one that as an obscure but lengthy terms of service that reserves the right for Boeing to collect, use, and resell information about people who sign up. They use space as a topic to entice people to sign up but then route you to pages that urge you to support a lobbying effort for a weapon system they want Congress to buy. Again, what is Boeing up to?

- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, earlier post
- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity Online, earlier post
- Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, earlier post

The op-ed effort exposed by Eric Berger is eerily similar to another stealth smear effort that NASAWatch exposed back in 2016 wherein a DC PR firm (Orange Hat Group) was linked to a website designed to attack Elon Musk and SpaceX (See "Why Does Brad Summey Hate On Elon Musk So Much?". To this day I am not certain who footed the bill since no one would comment. The website they created, whoiselonmusk.com, was still online until September when the domain registration expired. Remnants of the site are online here. Shortly after I outed this site this was added to the bottom of the page "The Center for Business and Responsible Government (CBRG) is a non-partisan organization dedicated to highlighting cronyism and its effect on American taxpayers and policy. We believe public officials should establish an even playing field for all businesses to compete in the marketplace, not just those special interests who line their pockets." Of course this organization does not exist and never did.

This is how big aerospace and other actors try and undermine the competition these days.If they can't compete with a better product at a better price they head for the gutter instead. What is pathetic is how badly they try and hide their tracks such that any enterprising journalist can use Google searches and make a few phone calls to reveal the true nature of these smear efforts.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from October 2018.

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