Posts Tagged ‘spacex’

Was SpaceX Sabotaged?

Friday, October 14th, 2016


WaPo had a pretty write-up:

The long-running feud between Elon Musk’s space company and its fierce competitor United Launch Alliance took a bizarre twist this month when a SpaceX employee visited its facilities at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and asked for access to the roof of one of ULA’s buildings.

Welcome Back, Baby!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Yeah, this is huge. The quick report, via Bloomberg Business

Elon Musk’s SpaceX showcased his dream of reusable spacecraft by making a Falcon 9 booster the first piece of an orbital rocket to land back on Earth minutes after lofting satellites toward orbit.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. pulled off the soft, vertical touchdown after the two-stage rocket propelled its payload of 11 Orbcomm Inc. satellites aloft. It was the company’s first flight since a fiery blast destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket in June, minutes after lift off.

“Welcome back, baby!” Musk wrote in a Twitter post on his way to the landing zone.

Monday’s mission helped validate Musk’s vision for lower-cost spaceflight and provides SpaceX a boost in his race with fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos to develop craft that can survive fiery blasts and return to Earth to be reused. Instead of ditching the booster, SpaceX used thrusters and sophisticated navigation to steer it from space to Landing Zone 1, a former U.S. Air Force rocket and missile testing range.

Very cool.

SpaceX Launch Anomaly

Monday, June 29th, 2015

I was bummed to hear of the Falcon 9’s launch failure yesterday.

Click here for a frame-by-frame analysis.

The images coincide with the initial clue that “an oxidizer tank in the rocket’s upper stage, which SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said became overpressurized.”

EELV ♥ SpaceX

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

greavesGreat news! The U.S. Air Force has certified SpaceX for national security space missions.

This milestone is the culmination of a significant two-year effort on the part of the Air Force and SpaceX to execute the certification process and reintroduce competition into the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The Air Force invested more than $60 million and 150 people in the certification effort which encompassed 125 certification criteria, including more than 2,800 discrete tasks, 3 certification flight demonstrations, verifying 160 payload interface requirements, 21 major subsystem reviews and 700 audits in order to establish the technical baseline from which the Air Force will make future flight worthiness determinations for launch.

Yes, it’s important to have competition in the marketplace. It’s more important to be rid of our reliance on Russian RD-180 engines.

Suck it, Putin.

Turkmen Satcom Irony

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Nice job by both Thales Space in building a Spacebus 4000C2 in 27 months and by SpaceX for launching it via the Falcon 9 from The Cape yesterday.

The spacecraft is going into a slot allocated to Monaco (52 deg. East). What they plan to do with it, we don’t know. First on the list is always some TV mux for direct-to-home application. It covers Africa, too, so I’m sure they’ll come up with something.

Ironically, the Turkmen government has issued an order to destroy all satellite dishes.

Authorities in Turkmenistan have started a new campaign of demolishing satellite dishes, aiming at fully blocking independent access to international TV and radio in the country, the Civic Solidarity Platform reported on April 19.

The government of Turkmenistan has taken a decision to liquidate all privately owned TV and radio satellite dishes in the country, demanding all of them to be demolished, be they on apartment buildings or private houses, and fully prohibit their use. This information has come from governmental sources.

This decision is aimed at fully blocking access of the population of Turkmenistan to hundreds of independent international media outlets which are currently accessible in the country only through satellite dishes, including all leading international news channels in different languages. The main target of this campaign is Radio Azatlyq, the Turkmen-language service of Radio Liberty/Free Europe. It is the only independent source of information about Turkmenistan and the world in the Turkmen language and is widely listened to in the country.

Overwhelming majority of the Turkmen public is able to listen to independent radio and watch foreign television through satellites; all houses in the cities of the country are equipped with dishes, legally bought by people in the last 20 years.

The demolition campaign started in the end of March. There have been earlier attempts in the course of the last few weeks when the local authorities at the level of communal management demanded that people take down the dishes or they will be demolished. However, residents refused, relocating the dishes from the walls to the roofs and collectively organising neighborhood watch groups on the roofs to protect their property from demolition. When local authorities demanded that people uninstall the dishes they did not present any legal grounds and did not produce any official documents, just citing a decision of the superior authorities. Now the government has started to use a new tactic: seasonal workers hired by municipal authorities come during the day when residents are at work and destroy the dishes, breaking the equipment. In Ashgabat the satellite dish demolition campaign is going full speed now, and thousands of satellite dishes have been already destroyed in many districts of the city in the last two weeks.

As a “replacement” for the demolished satellite dishes, the authorities offer “cable TV packages”, which include mostly entertainment channels produced by Russia, Turkey, and India. All TV and radio channels offering news are excluded from these “packages”.

The main argument used by the authorities to justify demolition of the dishes is that they “distort the architectural-urban image of the city.”

Experts believe that the authorities are now aiming at solving the problem of independent access to information through the satellite dishes for the third – and the last – time in anticipation of the next presidential elections scheduled for the beginning of 2017 to ensure full control over information.

You can’t be a modern country if you don’t allow free speech.

SpaceX Falcon-9 Feeds The Reefer

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Congrats to ORBCOMM, providers of ReeferTrak and other fine services, on their launch this morning…

Thanks to SpaceX for bolting a rocketcam to the fuselage!

Peeved EELV

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Filing suit in the Court of Federal Claims was the first step, then came the response from United Launch Alliance. And now, at the National Space Symposium in Colorado, they start swinging at each other.

The leadership at ULA may not read what’s happening with the Russian Federation’s attempts at global domination, but they do read Stars & Stripes

In the most recent court filing, the California-based Space Exploration Technologies, which is in the process of developing a launch site here on Boca Chica Beach, said its amended complaint is the result of four recent developments:

  • SpaceX has submitted all required flight data for its third qualifying certification launch, and SpaceX is therefore eligible to compete for the Air Force’s business.
  • Recent Air Force statements indicate that it will purchase some or all of its future launch vehicles on a sole-source basis from ULA, even though SpaceX is eligible to compete.
  • The Air Force recently indicated that, during the first quarter of fiscal year 2015, it will purchase a number of launch vehicles for which SpaceX is qualified to compete.
  • SpaceX learned on April 17 that the Air Force decided not to open the purchase to competition because the Air Force has an “existing 36-core contractual requirement” with ULA.

This is among the most recent developments in the complaint that SpaceX brought against the Air Force April 28 in the federal claims court in Washington D.C. ULA intervened in the litigation.

Lawyered-up ULA comes back with a 5-page press release, nicely distilled and summarized in the Denver Post

ULA CEO Michael Gass said the cost per launch averages $225 million, not the erroneously computed figure of more than $460 million that SpaceX founder Elon Musk frequently cites.

“SpaceX is very aggressive in their public relations and how they diffuse or obfuscate the issue is by not ever talking about apples and apples, it’s apples and oranges,” Gass said.

ULA’s simpler rockets cost $164 million and its most powerful rockets hit $350 million, he said.

At the heart of the debate is a $11 billion block-buy contract for 36 rockets awarded to ULA by the U.S. Air Force last year.

SpaceX sued the Air Force last month for what it claimed was illegal actions blocking competition by effectively giving ULA — a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. — a monopoly on launch services.

“People use a pejorative term like monopoly. Those are incongruent when you talk about national security. It’s not a commercial market, it’s not consumerism,” Gass said. “I like to think of it as a sole-source provider.

“The nation made a decision to meet its military needs. They wanted assured access and two systems. ULA was formed to solve that problem. Consolidate the infrastructure, deliver two systems as one team, more cost effectively to meet the end-mission needs.”

Gass also said the U.S. space industry is currently at the all-time peak for the number of launches but said that will drop off by 20 to 30 percent in the next five years.

“There was a thing called sequestration,” he said. “Satellites aren’t being ordered.”

When asked how this will impact ULA’s large operations, Gass said “we will right-size to the demand that can flourish again.” This likely means a 20- to 30-percent reduction in workforce, he said.

About 1,700 of ULA’s 3,600 employees are in Colorado.

ULA also released its add-on launch costs if the government decides to grant the company up to 14 more launches. Much to the surprise of observers, each additional launch would cost less than $100 million for the lower-capability rockets.

But SpaceX refutes these figures.

“The Air Force budget for 2015 speaks for itself — in the budget, three single core vehicles add up to $1.212B, or $404M per vehicle. Mr. Gass’ statements run counter to budget reality,” SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement Wednesday.

“ULA has the most expensive launch services in the world — nearly double that of the next most expensive competitor. When you don’t have to compete, there’s little incentive to control costs or innovate.”

A recent GAO report on annual assessments of major weapons programs puts the program unit cost at $420 million per launch, but that number looks at the whole life of the program not just this block buy.

And that’s how to get members of Congress to pay attention. Mess with us and there will be layoffs.

Give them a chance to compete. The launch market is looking good for SpaceX, so let them have a go at some EELV business. And their rocket engines are MADE IN THE U.S.A.

More Russian Bullshit

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

The original agreement for the International Space Station was to operate it until 2020.

So why is deputy prime minister Rogozin telling NASA to use a trampoline?

Thanks to Emily Gertz for pointing it out.

The U.S. is relying on Russia for transporting astronauts to and from the ISS for several years, and Russia’s space station modules currently provide propulsion for the structure. But on board the station itself, Oberg says, Russia’s sections and crew rely upon American-made and operated equipment for electricity and communications. Further, Russia’s effort to to complete and launch its own science section is “years behind schedule,” says Oberg, so it must rely upon the labs contributed by other nations.

No matter what happens with Russian space policy, Oberg is excited for the next decade of space science, which he believes will be shifting from a “CERN model” of multiple nations contributing to and collaborating at one research facility, to “the Antarctica model” of many smaller stations forming and ending cooperative efforts as the science requires.

If Russia does exit the ISS soon after 2020, he says, it will happen at about the same time that new “human-rated” spacecraft like SpaceX’s Dragon come into use, and end Russia’s current lock on crew transportation.

“The Ukraine crisis has not diverted the station’s evolution into a new path,” Oberg says. “It may have put into sharper focus the different paths the station could follow, but that was happening anyway.”

Good luck with those sanctions.

RD-180 Engines Suck

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Elon Musk is standing up to Russian imperialism: “It’s very questionable in light of international events. It seems like the wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin.”

Not only is he standing up for doing the right thing, he’s standing up to two 800-lb. gorillas in the military-industrial-complex: Boeing and Lockheed Martin. They’re co-owners of United Launch Alliance, launch service providers to the U.S. Air Force. ULA buys RD-180 engines from NPO Energomash in Russia. Like most important businesses in Russia, it’s controlled by Putin’s Mafia State.

So the pussy lawyers had this to say…

“ULA and the U.S. Department of Justice filed motions to dissolve the preliminary injunction supporting ULA’s earlier statements that the purchase of the RD-180 engines from our suppliers and partners, RD AMROSS and NPO Energomash, does not violate the Ukraine sanctions.

“Unfortunately, SpaceX has made many public but unfounded speculations to create negative perceptions of a competitor solely for purposes of its own self-interest. This frivolous lawsuit caused unnecessary distraction of our executive branch leaders during a sensitive national security crisis.

“The letters from U.S. Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce clearly state that NPO Energomash is not subject to any of the current sanctions and that ULA’s continued purchase of the RD-180 does not directly or indirectly contravene the Ukraine sanctions.

“As a result, both ULA and the Department of Justice have requested that the injunction be immediately lifted.”

As he’s been doing to honest business people in Russia, Putin is now fucking with international business.

Take this business away from entities controlled by Russian mafia and give it to an honest, smart, hard-working American company: SpaceX.

Who would you rather do business with: innovative leaders or murderous managers?

And which launch system is more reliable? The American one, naturally. Atlas launches cost 40-50% more than Russian launches (86% success rate since December, 2010). It’s worth it to keep the engineering talent and expertise here in the U.S.

Here’s another Proton failure, an anomaly at T+9:00 with the third stage. With a beast of a bird onboard (Express-4R/«Экспресс-АМ4Р» — a Eurostar 3000 bus built by Astrium), its payload had 30 C-band, 28 Ku-band, 2 Ka-band, and 3 L-band transponders — so this has to hurt.

When Russian contractors work for American or European customers, everything they do has to be diligently verified. With only Russian customers, nobody really cares that much. This is a remnant of the Soviet system and must be changed. You can’t complete as a world-class company with this attitude.

Here’s the video (warning: there’s no dramatic explosion)…

The detail given comes to us courtesy of

The Express AM4R spacecraft, worth approximately $200 million, was supposed to begin a 15-year mission beaming radio, television, broadband Internet and telephone services across Russia and neighboring countries.

But a few minutes after the 12,720-pound (5,770-kilogram) Express AM4R satellite launched from Baikonur, Russia’s primary space base, its Proton rocket ran into a problem.

The failure occurred during the third stage of the Proton’s ascent into orbit, according to a statement by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, the Moscow-based manufacturer of the Proton launcher.

An announcer declared an emergency during a live webcast of the launch, and Khrunichev’s statement also described the incident as an “emergency situation.”

Khrunichev said experts were analyzing telemetry to determine the cause of the failure.

A report by Interfax said debris from the rocket may have fallen the Altai or Amur regions of Russia’s Far East.

Spewing a brilliant flame of blue exhaust, the 19-story Proton rocket lifted off at 2142 GMT (5:42 p.m. EDT) to start a nine-hour flight to deploy the powerful European-built Express AM4R telecommunications satellite for Russian government and commercial customers.

The launch was at 3:42 a.m. local time at Baikonur.

The hydrazine-fueled rocket disappeared from the view of a ground-based tracking camera a few minutes later, with no visible signs of any trouble.

But a problem occurred about 545 seconds, or about 9 minutes, after liftoff, according to a report by the semi-official Itar-Tass news agency.

Another report by the Interfax media service said the time of the failure was about 500 seconds after launch.

Both of the times reported for the anomaly occurred during the firing of the Proton rocket’s third stage, which is powered by an RD-0213 main engine generating 131,000 pounds of thrust. A four-nozzle vernier steering engine is also mounted on the third stage to keep the rocket pointed in the right direction.

The rocket’s guidance, navigation and control system is a triple-redundant digital avionics package on the third stage.

Thursday’s mishap marks the fifth launch failure of the Proton rocket or its Breeze M upper stage in 36 flights since December 2010. Another Proton/Breeze M mission put the Russian Yamal 402 communications satellite in the wrong orbit, but the spacecraft was able to boot itself to the correct location.

The string of mishaps has brought focus on the quality control procedures of Khrunichev and its suppliers, with the Russian space contrator announcing expanded inspections, video monitoring in its factories and other measures to bolster the Proton’s reliability.

I suspect commercial payload customer on the Proton manifest are scrambling: Express AM6, Inmarsat 5 F2, ASTRA 2G and Turksat 4B.

1st Commercial Launch for Falcon-9

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Today’s launch of SES-8 into GTO made many rocket scientists very happy. Obviously, those who’ve worked at SpaceX for years are ecstatic. The entire launch vehicle community is happy for their success, as are those living on Florida’s Space Coast, who are expecting economic growth again.

The engineers who work on commercial satcom missions are happy to be back at the The Cape for launches. Let’s face it: compared to Kazakhstan or French Guiana, Florida is a better place for launches.

From a business perspective, satcom operators now have more options when it comes to launch vehicles. And with the SpaceX manifest of 50 launches, it seems this “crazy space business” is about to start making money.

We wish SpaceX and their commercial customers continuous success!

Here’s the full launch video…