A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.

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Missions to Moon, Mars, Mercury & More Set for 2018

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

Updated with SpaceX’s Red Tesla launch.

An international fleet of spacecraft will be launched in 2018 to explore the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Sun. Two sample-return spacecraft will enter orbit around asteroids while a third spacecraft will be launched to search for asteroids that contain water that can be mined.

NASA will also launch its next exoplanet hunting spacecraft in March. And the space agency will ring in 2019 with the first ever flyby of a Kuiper Belt object.

And, oh yes, Elon Musk is launching his car in the direction of Mars.
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SpaceX Raises Additional $100 Million

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s recent fund-raising efforts have proven to be more successful than originally reported.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has raised another $100 million as part of its latest funding round, according to new regulatory documents.

In August, the space exploration company sold $349.9 million worth of shares, a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing showed. That amount has now risen to $449.9 million, a new filing showed on Monday, adding an extra $100 million onto the current fundraising effort.

The latest injection of cash values SpaceX at $21.5 billion, according to Equidate, a platform that facilitates the trading of shares in private technology firms. SpaceX was not immediately available for comment on the valuation when contacted by CNBC.

The Votes Are In: Elon Musk’s BFR Point-to-Point Plan is Wackadoodle

The people have spoken. And, by a narrow margin, they think that Elon Reeve Musk’s BFR point-to-point commercial travel plan is wackadoodle.

There were 129 votes for Wackadoodle — It’ll Never Happen, which represents 28 percent of the total.

Great Idea — But I Have REALLY Serious Doubts came in a close second with 171 votes (27 percent).

Awesome Sauce — Let’s Do It! came in third with 26 percent or 165 votes.

That was followed by Great Idea — But I have Some Doubts (115 votes, 18 percent) and Not Sure (13 votes, 2 percent).

I want to thank all the Parabolic Archers who voted. Please remember to vote in our new poll. And remember: vote early! Vote often! Just vote, dammit! Vote!

 

SpaceX Aims for Late December Launch of Falcon Heavy

Artist’s conception of a Falcon Heavy launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

It looks like Elon Musk is not letting the holidays get in the way of the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy booster, even though it is already running about five years behind its original schedule:

SpaceX is understood to be targeting mid-December for the Static Fire of Falcon Heavy followed by a late-December, No Earlier Than 29 December, launch of the heavy lift rocket.

SpaceX schedules a lot of NET (no earlier than) launch dates. They usually slip. We’ll see if the same thing happens here.

Jurvetson Investigated for Alleged Sexual Harassment

Steve Jurvetson

Prominent space backer Steve Jurvetson is being investigated for alleged sexual harassment, his venture capital firm admitted this week. Jurvetson’s investments have included two of Elon Musk’s companies, SpaceX and Tesla Motors.

Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the VC firm he founded, said Tuesday it had launched an inquiry into Jurvetson a day after an entrepreneur alleged that “predatory behavior is rampant” at DFJ. The woman, Keri Kukral, did not name Jurvetson in her Facebook post.

“DFJ has never received a complaint about the professional conduct of any of our partners or investment professionals,” DFJ spokeswoman Carol Wentworth said in a statement to Recode. “Earlier this summer we became aware of indirect and second-hand allegations about one partner, Steve Jurvetson. We immediately opened an independent investigation, which is ongoing at this time.”

“Women approached by founding partners of Draper Fisher Jurvetson should be careful,” wrote Kukral, who runs a startup called Raw Science, which has not received DFJ funding in the past. “The situation I found myself in is personally atypical and I’ve not been in any other situation remotely like it. I was not seeking investment or trying to further my career.”

Elon Unbound: Musk’s Giant Leap to Mars

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Since Elon Musk unveiled his Big [Expletive] Rocket (BFR) in Adelaide last month, there has been a lot of analysis of the engineering aspects. Musk’s Ask Me Anything session on Reddit was an engineer’s dream, with the billionaire providing detailed answers about the Raptor engines, thrust to weight ratios and a host of other technical issues.

Amid all the technical talk, there has been little attention paid to what a giant leap this venture is for Musk, SpaceX and possibly the entire human race. Not only will BFR be larger and more powerful than any other rocket ever built, the audacious things Musk wants to do with it – ranging from point to point transportation on Earth to satellite delivery to sending colonists to the moon and Mars – are on a scale never before attempted. They are certainly beyond anything contemplated by the world’s space agencies.

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SpaceX Receives Additional $40.8 Million from Air Force to Develop Raptor Engine

Raptor engine hot fire. (Credit SpaceX)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded an additional $40.8 million to SpaceX for the development of its Raptor rocket engine.

The funding, awarded under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, involves the extension of a $33.7 million contract originally awarded in January. SpaceX agreed to spend $67.3 million under the jointly funded program under the original contract.

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Highlights From Musk’s Ask Me Anything Session on Reddit

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk conducted an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit on Saturday. Below are selected responses to questions. A full list of questions and answers is located here.

BFR Development

Will be starting with a full-scale Ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance. Those are fairly easy on the vehicle, as no heat shield is needed, we can have a large amount of reserve propellant and don’t need the high area ratio, deep space Raptor engines.

Next step will be doing orbital velocity Ship flights, which will need all of the above. Worth noting that BFS is capable of reaching orbit by itself with low payload, but having the BF Booster increases payload by more than an order of magnitude. Earth is the wrong planet for single stage to orbit. No problemo on Mars.
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Morgan Stanley: SpaceX Value Could Grow to $50 Billion

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)

An interesting analysis of SpaceX by Morgan Stanley.

SpaceX could become a $50 billion juggernaut through its launch of a satellite broadband network, a team of Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a report Thursday….

Morgan Stanley says SpaceX developing reusable rockets is “an elevator to low Earth orbit.”

“When Elisha Otis demonstrated the safety elevator in 1854, the public may have struggled to comprehend the impact on architecture and city design. Roughly 20 years later, every multistory building in New York, Boston, and Chicago was constructed around a central elevator shaft,” Morgan Stanley said. “It all comes down to SpaceX.”

Reducing the cost to launch a satellite to about $60 million, from the $200 million that United Launch Alliance charged through most of the last decade, was a monumental breakthrough. SpaceX is trying to reduce its cost to $5 million per mission, and Morgan Stanley says the launch business “generates limited operating income.”

Read the full story.

USAF Issues RFP for New Launch Vehicles

The U.S. Air Force issued a request for proposals (RFP) last Thursday for a new launch vehicle to handle national security space (NSS) requirements.

“The goal of the EELV acquisition strategy is to leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers that also meet NSS requirements, including the launch of the heaviest and most complex payloads,” the proposal states.

“The Launch Service Agreements (LSAs) facilitate development of at least three EELV Launch System prototypes as early as possible, allowing those launch systems to mature prior to a future selection of two NSS launch service providers for Phase 2 launch service procurements, starting in FY20,” the proposal adds.
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