Cruz, Nelson Criticize Plan to End Direct ISS Funding in 2025

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Sharply conflicting opinions about the future of the International Space Station (ISS) and America’s path forward in space were on view last week in a Senate hearing room turned boxing ring.

In one corner was NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenamier, representing a Trump Administration that wants to end direct federal funding for ISS in 2025 in order to pursue an aggressive campaign of sending astronauts back to the moon. NASA would maintain a presence in Earth orbit, becoming one of multiple users aboard a privatized ISS or privately-owned stations.

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SpaceX Dragon 2 Making Progress

Elon Musk has taken a break from digging holes in the ground to tweet a bit on SpaceX and the Dragon 2 crew vehicle the company is building for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Earlier this month, Musk tweeted that the first Dragon 2 would be shipped to Cape Canaveral in about three months. If the prediction is accurate, that would be mean sometime in August. If his previous schedule predictions are anything to go by, delivery will occur later than that. Unless, of course, SpaceX ships the spacecraft earlier than Musk is predicting.

In any event, the spacecraft will likely require a lot of prep work at the Cape before it makes an automated flight test to the International Space Station. A second flight to ISS with a crew would follow before Dragon 2 would be certified to carry NASA astronauts on a commercial basis.

With Dragon 2 Still Unfinished, Musk Rolls Out an Even More Ambitious Plan

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

When on May 29, 2014, Elon Musk unveiled the Dragon 2 spacecraft at a gala ceremony at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., the future of American human spaceflight seemed assured and tantalizingly close.

By 2017, the new spacecraft would begin making crewed flights to the International Space Station, restoring a capability that had ended with the last space shuttle mission in 2011. NASA’s dependence on  Russian Soyuz spacecraft would come to an end.

Four years after its unveiling, Dragon 2 is still months away from making an automated flight test to the space station. A test flight with astronauts aboard might not occur until next year. The Government Accountability Office believes additional delays could push certification of the spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts on a commercial basis to December 2019. (Certification of Boeing’s crew vehicle might not occur until February 2020).

It’s good to keep all this in mind as Musk prepares to unveil his latest transportation plan this evening. At 7 p.m. PDT, Musk will hold a town-hall style meeting in Los Angeles to discuss plans by The Boring Company for tunneling under the city. The event will be webcast at https://www.boringcompany.com/.

Musk might have given a preview of the session on Twitter this week when he made a connection between his tunneling work and the mega rocket/spaceship that he is designing to render Dragon 2 and its Falcon 9 booster obsolete.

The spaceport in question is apparently the offshore platform where passengers will board the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which Musk says will be capable of going anywhere in the world in about 30 minutes. The rocket is also being designed to launch satellites and transport people and cargo to the moon and Mars.

It sounds as ambitious as anything Musk has attempted to date. If the past is any guide, his estimates on cost and schedules will be extremely optimistic.

Weekend Reading: Spaceport America, SpaceX, LightSail 2 & More

Richard Branson and his children hang out with Project Bandaloop dancers during the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility in October 2011. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Dream a Little Dream of Me: SpaceX’s launch of Bangladesh’s “dream” satellite, Bangabandhu 1, has them celebrating in Dhaka. https://www.thedailystar.net/science/space-science/bangladesh-bd-first-commercial-satellite-bangabandhu-1-on-way-orbit-after-successful-launch-space-spacex-florida-us-1575244

Musk’s Big Promises for F9 B2: Crazy Elon’s prices are so low they’re insane! https://www.investors.com/news/spacex-elon-musk-predictions-reusable-falcon9-lower-costs/

A Shot of Maple Syrup, Coming Right Up: Nick Rose samples the cuisine for David Saint-Jacques’ upcoming mission to the International Space Station. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/nekwyz/canada-astronaut-food-david-saint-jacques-perspective-space

All Quiet on the Spaceport Front: Maggie Grimason visits Truth or Consequences and finds patience is wearing thin. https://undark.org/article/spaceport-america-new-mexico/

Let there be LightSail: Jason Davis has an update on The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2, whose launch aboard Falcon Heavy is now set for the Fall.
http://www.planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis/2018/20180511-lightsail2-launch-slip.html

Kenya Enters the CubeSat Age: A homegrown satellite is launched from the International Space Station. https://qz.com/1275698/kenya-to-launch-first-satellite-into-space/

Musk: 100 Launches Per Falcon 9 Block 5 Booster is Possible

The first Falcon 9 Block 5 booster heads for the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk had a teleconference today concerning the Falcon 9 Block 5 launch vehicle prior to the planned first flight of the upgraded booster. The launch, which would have orbited the Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite for Bangladesh, was scrubbed for an undisclosed technical reason. SpaceX plans to try again on Friday at 4:14 p.m. EDT.

Below are notes from Musk’s teleconference about the upgraded booster and SpaceX’s future plans.
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SpaceX Readies for First Flight of Upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5

The first Falcon 9 Block 5 booster heads for the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (Credit: SpaceX)

Update: The launch was scrubbed for an undisclosed technical reason. SpaceX plans to try again on Friday at 4:14 p.m. EDT. Your local time may vary.


Elon Musk’s SpaceX will mark a major milestone for reusable rockets today with the launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5 booster.

The rocket is set to launch the Bangabandhu communications satellite for Bangladesh from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window runs from  4:12-6:22 p.m. EDT (2012-2222 GMT). SpaceX will webcast the mission at www.spacex.com.

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CNBC Looks at Elon Musk’s Program Portfolio & Problems at Tesla

Video Caption: Elon Musk has a lot on his to-do list. And it may be coming at the expense of his core business – Tesla.

Video Caption: Short-seller Jim Chanos, Kynikos Associates founder, shares his thoughts on Tesla, Elon Musk and the mass exodus of the company’s top executives.

Rogozin Seems to Throw in Towel on Launchers

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Well, this is interesting.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin believes that Russia should by no means seek competition with Elon Musk and his company SpaceX on the market of launch vehicles, because this segment constitutes a tiny 4% of the overall market of space services.

“The share of launch vehicles is as small as 4% percent of the overall market of space services. The 4% stake isn’t worth the effort to try to elbow Musk and China aside,” Rogozin said in an interview on the RBC-TV channel on Tuesday.

TASS also reports that Rogozin believes that Russia should concentrate on satellite manufacturing, which is where the real money is. That raises the question, how good exactly are the Russians at building satellites? Do they have the technology and skilled workers to compete?

I guess we’ll find out.

First Quarter Commercial Space Investment Reached Nearly $1 Billion

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX received $500 million of the nearly $1 billion in investment raised by commercial space companies during the first quarter of 2018, according to the Space Investment Quarterly report from Space Angels.

“SpaceX shows no signs of slowing down—after the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy, the company secured $500 million from Fidelity Investments to drive development of their satellite communications network, Starlink,” the report added.

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First Quarter 2018 Launch Report: China & USA Battle for Lead

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers have been extremely busy in the first quarter of 2018, with 31 orbital launches thus far. This is more than one third of the 90 launches conducted last year.

China leads the pack with 10 successful launches. The United States is close behind with a total of nine launches with one failure. The tenth American launch is scheduled for Monday afternoon from Florida.

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Review of Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight

Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight
by Joe Pappalardo
The Overlook Press
240 pages
2018

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Most travel books promote exciting locales such as Paris, Machu Pichu or Bali that people actually want to visit to relax and escape the pressures of life in the 21st century.

Joe Pappalardo had a different idea for his travelogue. The contributing editor for Popular Mechanics decided to visit various spaceports and rocket test sites to gauge how commercial space is transforming the industry.

Pappalardo’s travels take him from the sandy beaches of Florida and Virginia to the desolate deserts of the American Southwest and steaming jungles of French Guiana. Along the way, we meet everyone from Elon Musk to the crew at Masten Space Systems and the local gentry in the various towns adjoining these facilities.

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U.S. Air Force Awards Launch Contracts to SpaceX, ULA

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

The U.S. Air Force has announced the awarding of launch contracts to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and rival United Launch Alliance. SpaceX’s firm-fixed-price contract totals $290,594,130 while ULA was awarded a firm-fixed-price contract worth $354,811,947.

“This contract provides launch vehicle production, mission integration/launch operations/spaceflight worthiness and mission unique activities for a GPS III mission, with options for two additional GPS III launch services,” the Air Force said about the SpaceX contract.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received,” the press statement said. “Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement funding in the amount of $96,937,905 will be obligated at the time of award.”

ULA’s contract is for the launch of the AFSPC-8 and AFSPC-12 satellites to geosynchronous orbit.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received,” the Air Force said. “Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement; and fiscal 2018 research, development, test, and evaluation funding in the amount of $354,811,947 will be obligated at the time of award.”