IAC Updates: Starliner, Rocket Lab and Long March 5

Electron lifts off on maiden flight from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The International Astronautical Congress has been going on all week down in Adelaide, Australia. In addition to Elon Musk’s presentation on Friday and some news I’ve already posted here, there have been a few updates on various programs.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner.  Boeing is aiming for a test flight of the CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station in the third quarter of 2018. However, the first crewed test flight could slip from the fourth quarter of 2018 into the first quarter of 2019.  Link

Rocket Lab. The company’s next test launch will carry will two Dove Cubesats from Planet and a pair of Lemur CubeSsats from Spire Global. The satellite will allow Rocket Lab to test deploying spacecraft from the second stage of its Electron rocket. The launch is planned for several weeks from now. Link

Long March 5. The failure of a Long March 5 booster in July will delay the launch of China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission, which had been scheduled for November. The Chang’e-4 mission, which will land on the far side of the moon, also will be delayed. That flight had been scheduled for late next year. The accident investigation is ongoing. Link

Musk’s Mars 2.0 Presentation Might Not be Webcast

Well, that’s the good news. The bad news?

It’s not real clear whether the world will be able to see his presentation on Friday. There were some Tweets suggesting it would be webcast. This was followed by an official tweet from the IAF that it would not be. I’ve seen some grumbling that the reason for not webcasting it involves the state of Australia’s Internet not being especially fast.

I will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as we get them. Now back to your regular Monday programming.

Branson Envisions 20 SpaceShipTwos; Brian Cox’s Space Race Doc Prepares to Drop

Richard Branson and George Whitesides gave out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop on Runway 12. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The Sunday Times of London has an update on Virgin Galactic that seems to be based around an upcoming Brian Cox documentary on space tourism, which is set to air early next month in Britain.

Branson could be first in the mass tourism market despite a disastrous 2014 test flight in which a pilot died. Unity is to start rocket tests this autumn, and two more craft are under construction.

“We are hoping to be into space by the end of the year,” said Branson, who has spent £450m on the project. “The cost has been a lot more than we thought . . . but we can see the price falling and we could have 20 spaceships operating so that . . . enormous numbers of people could go into space.”

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Start-up Space Blasts Off

Bryce Space and Technology has produced a new report, Start-up Space: Update on Investment in Commercial Space Ventures.

Below is the executive summary. You can also download the full report.

Executive Summary

The Start-Up Space series examines space investment in the 21st century and analyzes investment trends, focusing on investors in new companies that have acquired private financing. Space is continuing to attract increased attention in Silicon Valley and in investment communities world-wide. Space ventures now appeal to investors because new, lower-cost systems are envisioned to follow the path terrestrial tech has profitably traveled: dropping system costs and massively increasing user bases for new products, especially new data products. Large valuations and exits are demonstrating the potential for high returns.
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Video: Elon Musk Describes Vision for a Human Civilization


Video Caption:
Elon Musk has never been one to keep his long-term plans to himself. Beyond the development of reusable rockets, electric cars, and revolutionizing solar power, he has also been quite vocal about establishing a colony on Mars within his lifetime. The goal here is nothing less than ensuring the survival of the human race by creating a “backup location”, and calls for some serious planning and architecture.

These and other aspects of Musk’s proposed mission to Mars were outlined in an essay titled “Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species“, which was published in the June 2017 issue of the journal New Space. The paper is a summary of the presentation he made at the 67th Annual Meeting of the International Astronautical Congress, which took place from September 26th–30th, 2016, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The paper was produced by Scott Hubbard, a consulting professor at Stanford University and the Editor-in-Chief of NewSpace, and includes all the material and slides from Musk’s original presentation. Contained within are Musk’s thoughts on how the colonization of Mars could be accomplished in this century and what issues would need to be addressed.

Senate Appropriations Measure Requires FAA Report on SpaceX CRS-7 Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

A Senate Appropriations bill would require the FAA to produce a report on the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that destroyed a Dragon resupply ship and $118 million worth of space station cargo in June 2015.

“The report must consolidate all relevant investigations by, or at the request of, the Federal Government that were conducted, including those completed by NASA as part of the FAA report, and must also include a summary suitable for public disclosure,” according to a committee report that accompanies the spending bill.

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SpaceX Raises $351 Million as Valuation Soars

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16 at 2 a.m. EDT. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX has raised an additional $351 million in a Series H funding round, increasing its valuation to $21.2 billion and share price to $135, the website Equidate reports.

The increase in valuation makes SpaceX one of the most valuable privately held companies in the world, according to The New York Times.

The company was previously valued at $14.9 billion with a share price of $96.42 in March 2016, Equidate reports.

In related news, Axios reports that Founders Fund co-founder Luke Nosek is leaving the venture capital company to create a new investment firm called Gigafund that will be focused on raising capital for SpaceX.

A source says that Nosek has been spending an increasing amount of time on SpaceX business, and the idea behind Gigafund is to ensure that the space exploration company won’t have debilitating capital constraints. An SEC filing suggests that it’s seeking to raise an initial $100 million, with former Founders Fund venture partner Stephen Oskoui also involved.

SpaceX statement, per spokesman John Taylor: “While we wish Luke well in his new endeavors, there is no guarantee of future investment allocations in SpaceX or any other companies associated with Elon.”

Founders Fund has invested $200 million into SpaceX. Nosek is the fund’s representative on the company’s board.

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Musk Hints Details on Scaled Down Interplanetary Transport System

Musk is talking about the scaled down version of the Interplanetary Transport System that he plans to unveil in Adelaide, Australia at the end of September. For comparison purposes, the vehicle he unveiled last year had a 12 meter diameter. Falcon 9 has a diameter of 3.7 meters. The diameter of the Saturn V was 10.1 meters.


UPDATE:
The above graphic shows the engine layout for the ITS. It would seem they would lose 21 outside engines by shrinking the diameter to 9 meters. That would leave the ITS with 21 Raptor engines on the first stage.

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All Hail The Singularity!

The Internet would have blown their minds, man!

Part of an Occasional Series on Silicon Valley Buzzwords & Ideas

Fifty years ago during the Summer of Love of 1967, young Americans turned on, tuned in, dropped out, dropped acid, blew their minds, chanted mantras, played Sgt. Pepper’s and followed gurus like Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey and the Maharishi Yogi in an effort to obtain a higher level of consciousness.

The changes wrought during that crazy year and the rest of the tumultuous decade changed America forever, making the nation at once more open and liberal, but also creating a counter revolutionary backlash that gave us Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

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Elon Musk’s Bad Historical Analogy

Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During his appearance at the International Space Station R&D Conference on Wednesday, Elon Musk recited an old argument to support his plans to colonize Mars.

Back in the day,California was an empty place where almost nobody lived. At least until some crazy visionaries built the Transcontinental Railroad to it even though everyone thought it was a completely crazy thing to do.

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Musk: Moon In, Red Dragon & Propulsive Landings Out

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

During an appearance at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference on Wednesday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said plans for propulsive crew Dragon landings and Red Dragon missions to Mars had been scrapped, downplayed the probability that the first Falcon Heavy launch will succeed, and even had a good word to say about the moon.

Here are notes from the talk.

State of Space Exploration

  • Entering a new era of space exploration
  • SpaceX and other companies developing new systems
  • NASA approaching things in new ways
  • Space station resupply program should be adapted across the government
  • Key to opening up space is “rapid and complete reusability”, but it is very difficult

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