Readers Say: U.S. Space Program Not Nominal

Nominal PollParabolic Arc readers have pronounced the U.S. space program as being far from nominal in our latest poll.

A mere 13 percent of readers selected Nominal when asked how they thought the American program is going. Another 48 percent said Subnominal, while another 36 percent selected Subbasement Nominal.

A very small minority of voters thought the program is going Super Nominal (2 percent) and Superdupernominal (1 percent).

The poll did not have any options for readers to vote on why they think the program is going so poorly. Our current poll corrects that problem by providing the most likely reasons.

Thank you all for voting. And please vote in our new poll. Remember: vote early, vote often, just vote, dammit! Vote!

Generation Orbit Completes First Captive Carry Flight

Captive carry flight (Credit: Generation Orbit)
Captive carry flight (Credit: Generation Orbit)

ATLANTA, GA, JULY 31, 2014 – Yesterday, Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) completed the initial captive carry flight of the Flight Experiment Testbed (GO-FET). Operating out of Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, FL, the three hour test flight served as an demonstration of air launch operations both on the ground and in flight.

The flight configuration consisted of a Learjet 35 carrier aircraft with a standardized pod integrated to a wing hardpoint. The set of payloads carried within the pod were designed to gather environmental and dynamics data on propellant management, payload integration, and wireless communications.


Ukraine Conflict Could Cost Russia Nearly $1 Billion

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for the military conflict in eastern Ukraine are having a ripple effect on the nation’s military-industrial complex, which remains heavily dependent on imports of components from abroad.

Faced with impending EU sanctions on Russia’s defense industry, President Vladimir Putin on Monday urged the Defense Ministry to redouble its efforts to wean the defense sector off foreign suppliers, Interfax reported.

Russian firms currently make their own versions of just 58 of the 206 types of defense products that the country imports, but state development programs should add another 40 to their repertoire by 2020, said Alexander Shilov, deputy head of the Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos.

The defense industry has already been waylaid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s June decision to prohibit military-industrial cooperation with Russia amid the escalating crisis in Ukraine, blocking Russia from importing the Ukrainian equipment that its defense industry sorely needs.

Roscosmos, which operates several spacecraft that rely on Ukrainian components, last week estimated that Russia needs to spend about $940 million through 2018 to offset losses from the cutting of Ukrainian ties, with most of the cash to be drawn from federal investment programs in the space and defense industries.

President Putin is urging defense and space officials to wean themselves off foreign suppliers as soon as possible regardless of cost.

Read the full story.

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Gets New President

csf_logo_newestSpace News reports that Eric Stallmer will replace outgoing Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Michael Lopez-Alegria in September.

Stallmer has served as vice president government affairs at Analytical Graphics since 2001. Previous to that position, Stallmer had served as president of the Space Transportation Association.

UPDATE: Here’s the Federation’s press release:

Washington D.C. – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Eric Stallmer has been named as its next President. Stallmer will join CSF staff in September and will assume the position of President following the departure of Michael Lopez-Alegria.

NASA to Launch First Science CubeSat Mission

Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)
Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has chosen a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to build its first Earth science-related CubeSat mission.

The tiny payload, known as IceCube or Earth-1, will demonstrate and validate a new 874-gigahertz submillimeter-wave receiver that could help advance scientists’ understanding of ice clouds and their role in climate change.


A Look at Rocket Lab Funding Sources

Founder and CEO Peter Beck displays Rocket Lab’s accumulated expertise in carbon composite launch vehicles. (Credit: Rocket Lab)
Founder and CEO Peter Beck displays Rocket Lab’s accumulated expertise in carbon composite launch vehicles. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Small-satellite launch provider Rocket Lab has received funding over the past four years from the United States and New Zealand governments as well as Silicon Valley-based Khosla Ventures.

Rocket Lab announced in January 2011 that it had completed the first phase of a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA).


SpaceX Applies for Spaceport Building Permits, Acquires More Texas Land

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

With a crucial environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) behind it, SpaceX has begun to apply for building permits for its planned Texas spaceport as it acquires more land to support it:

On Monday, SpaceX’s Dogleg Park LLC submitted an application for a permit to install small solar panels off-grid in the vicinity of the proposed launch control center at the potential launch site. The contractor is SolarCity. Elon Musk, founder of the California-based Space Exploration Technologies, is chairman of SolarCity.

And on Tuesday, Brownsville Economic Development Council Executive Vice-President Gilbert Salinas also submitted an application for a commercial permit in connection with the BEDC-SpaceX-University of Texas at Brownsville’s STARGATE project for construction of a 12,000 square foot tracking center.

Meanwhile, t5he company has been buying up additional land in the Boca Chica Beach area south of Brownsville where the spaceport will be constructed:

The purchase from private landowners was officially filed in the public record July 8, one day before the FAA issued its Record of Decision to support the issuance of launch licenses that would allow Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical rockets from the proposed private spaceport at Boca Chica Beach….

Public records reflect that the 50 acres that were purchased this month through SpaceX’s company Dogleg Park LLC would have been those under option or lease since at least June 2012.

The purchase brings SpaceX’s property holdings at Boca Chica Beach to approximately 100 acres of land.

Through Dogleg and The Flats at Mars Crossing LLC, the firm consistently has purchased and had leased properties at the Boca Chica site from early June 2012 through this month.

Spaceflight Inc. Announces Small Satellite Data Communications Network

spaceflight_logoSpaceflight to become first and only company to offer both rideshare launch services for free-flying spacecraft and ground-station communications in one bundled service

SEATTLE, July 30, 2014 – Spaceflight Inc., the space logistics company reinventing the model for launching small satellites, today announced it is expanding its services to include Spaceflight Networks, a business dedicated to cost-effective spacecraft communications and operations for small-satellite customers. The expansion will make Spaceflight the first and only company dedicated to providing a bundled package of small-satellite communications and data services along with its existing rideshare launch services.


Virgin Galactic Promotes Doug Shane to TSC President

Doug Shane

MOJAVE, Calif. – July 29th, 2014 – The Spaceship Company (TSC), the space manufacturing venture owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, announced today that Doug Shane has been named President. TSC, the sister company of Virgin Galactic, is responsible for manufacturing the full fleet of Galactic’s innovative SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo space vehicles and has built extensive capabilities in all aspects of aerospace vehicle design, analysis, fabrication and test.

Shane will continue to report to George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.


Elon Musk to Appear on The Simpsons

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

One of America’s favorite billionaires will meet one of its most hated in the upcoming season of The Simpsons:

The Simpsons panel was unusually light on guest-star news, with exec producer Al Jean making only one announcement: Elon Musk will play himself in an upcoming episode in which Mr. Burns loses all of his money to the Tesla/SpaceX tycoon.

Mr. Burns is, of course, C. Montgomery Burns, the elderly and evil owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant who employs Homer Simpson. Musk owns two companies, Solar City and Tesla, that are focused on clean energy.

This is the 26th season of the animated show, which already has 552 episodes under its belt.

FAA Proposes Changes to Risk Assessment for Commercial Launches, Reentries

faa_logoThe FAA has proposed changing the way it calculates collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. A brief summary is reproduced below. For more information, visit the entry in the Federal Register.

Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking


The FAA proposes to amend the collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. Under this proposal, the FAA would separate its expected-number-of-casualties (E c) limits for launches and reentries. For commercial launches, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by the following hazards: Impacting inert and explosive debris, toxic release, and far field blast overpressure. The FAA proposes to limit the aggregate E c for these three hazards to 1 × 10 4. For commercial reentries, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by debris and toxic release, and set that E c under an aggregate limit of 1 × 10 4. Under the FAA’s proposal, the aggregate E c limit for both launch and reentry would be expressed using only one significant digit.

The FAA also proposes to clarify the regulatory requirements concerning hazard areas for ships and aircraft. The proposed rule would require a launch operator to establish a hazard area where the probability of impact does not exceed: 0.000001 (1 × 10 6) for an aircraft; and 0.00001 (1 × 10 5) for a water-borne-vessel.

Delta IV Roars Off Pad at Cape Canaveral for ULA’s 85th Successful Flight

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket successfully launched the AFSPC-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force on July 28 at 7:28 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-37. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (ULA PR) –
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket successfully launched the AFSPC-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force on July 28 at 7:28 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-37. This is ULA’s eighth launch in 2014, and the 85th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

“The ULA team is proud to have delivered the twin Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) spacecraft to orbit today,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “We are privileged to work with a top notch U.S. government and contractor mission team that is committed to mission success.”


Nanosatisfi Raises $25 Million Series A Funding, Changes Name to Spire

spire_sat_busSAN FRANCISCO (Spire PR) –Spire, a satellite-powered data company, announced today that it has raised $25 million in Series A funding. Spire is changing its name from Nanosatisfi, with rebranding rolling out through the end of the year.

“We listen to the three-quarters of the Earth that is remote or covered by water. Our customers make global business decisions and require detailed data in regions that have been critically underserved. Spire’s offering of high frequency, high accuracy data resonated with them, particularly in the areas of global trade, weather, shipping and supply chain, illegal fishing, and maritime domain awareness. Modern remote sensing traditionally focuses on the small fraction of Earth that is covered in land and is densely populated with people,” says Peter Platzer, Spire CEO. “What happens, particularly over the oceans, is critical in understanding global systems, and our proprietary technology delivers truly global perspectives that enable our customers to make smarter decisions.”


Rocket Lab Announces New Small Satellite Launcher

Los Angeles, California, July 29, 2014  — Rocket Lab announced today its plan to revolutionize the global space industry with the creation of Electron, a lightweight, cost-effective rocket, making it easier for companies to launch small satellites into orbit.

Rocket Lab is building the world’s first carbon-composite launch vehicle at its Auckland, New Zealand facility. The development of Electron will reduce the price of delivering a satellite into orbit. At a cost of less than $5 million dollars, this represents a drastic cost reduction compared to existing dedicated launch services[1].


WhiteKnightTwo Flying With SpaceShipTwo Today




Editor’s Note: Correction. This is a glide flight. It’s the first glide flight since Jan. 17.

Editor’s Note: This is mostly likely a captive carry flight to test out modifications to SpaceShipTwo. I’m still up in Silicon Valley today, so I’m not able to confirm this personally.