Tag: Falcon 9

Iridium Announces Successful First Launch of Iridium NEXT Satellites

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Falcon 9 lifts off. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Falcon 9 lifts off. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

MCLEAN, Va., Jan. 14, 2017 (Iridium PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:IRDM) announced today the successful launch of its first ten Iridium NEXT satellites. The satellites were delivered into low-Earth orbit approximately one hour after the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:54:39 a.m. PST. Iridium NEXT is the company’s next-generation satellite constellation, replacing and enhancing its existing network of low-Earth orbit satellites spanning the entire globe — the largest commercial satellite constellation in space.

Continue reading ‘Iridium Announces Successful First Launch of Iridium NEXT Satellites’

SpaceX’s Shotwell to be Deposed in Whistleblower Lawsuit

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Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell will be deposed in a lawsuit filed by former employee  Jason Blasdell, an avionics test technician who claims he was fired in 2014 after blowing the whistle on managers for cutting corners on tests.

He received consistently positive reviews from management for his work, his lawsuit states. However, he began seeing safety issues related to the testing procedures of rocket parts, leading him to question the quality of the testing and the risks it posed not just for possible rocket explosions, but for the potential loss of human life as well, according to his attorneys’ court papers.

Blasdell complained to Shotwell, to SpaceX founder Elon Musk and to the company’s human resources department that there were potentially dangerous deviations from protocol that his managers were pressuring test technicians to make, his lawsuit alleges.

Shotwell, 53, told Blasdell during an October 2013 meeting that she would investigate his concerns and hire an outside consultant to investigate, the suit claims. Blasdell followed up in early 2014 when he inquired of Shotwell by email whether the consultant had been hired.

“Ms. Shotwell never responded to plaintiff’s inquiry, but instead wrote a separate email to plaintiff criticizing the manner in which plaintiff communicated with management,” according to the court papers….

In their papers, SpaceX attorneys called Blasdell’s lawsuit “baseless.”

Read the full story.

SpaceX Return to Flight Set for Saturday

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spacex_iridium1_patchHAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for Iridium, a global leader in mobile voice and data satellite communications. The 10 satellites are the first of at least 70 satellites that SpaceX will be launching for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT.

SpaceX is targeting launch of Iridium-1 from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The instantaneous launch window opens on January 14 at 9:54:39 am PST or 5:54:39 pm UTC. The satellites will begin deployment about an hour after launch.

The webcast is available here.

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WSJ Report: SpaceX Recorded $260 Million Loss in 2015

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

The Wall Street Journal managed to get a hold of some internal SpaceX financial documents. The results are very interesting:

  • SpaceX lost $260 million in 2015, the result of an explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket that grounded the rocket for six months;
  • Elon Musk’s company ended 2015 with $1.3 billion in cash, primarily from a $1 billion investment by Google and Fidelity investments “as well as huge upfront payments for development work and launch reservations”;
  • Although SpaceX’s revenues peaked at $1 billion in 2014, its operating profit was thin;
  • SpaceX projected $55 million in operating profit for 2016 based on launching 20 times, but it only flew eight times before a Falcon 9 exploded on the launch pad on Sept. 1 and grounded the booster;
  • SpaceX projected launching 27 times in 2017 with an increase to 44 in 2018;
  • Despite a long-standing claim that the SpaceX was “profitable and cash-flow positive,” the company had an operating loss in every quarter in 2015 and a “negative cash flow of roughly $15 million”;
  • SpaceX removed the claim that it was “profitable and cash-flow positive” three weeks after a Falcon 9 exploded on the launch pad on Sept. 1, indicating that it likely lost money in 2016;
  • The company is betting big on its 4,000-satellite Internet business, expecting it to generate annual operating profits of $15 billion to $20 billion by 2025; and,
  • The satellite Internet business is Musk’s big hope for funding his plan to colonize Mars.

Read the full story. (If you hit a paywall with this link, type the story headline into Google and then click on the link that comes up.)

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Until Jan. 14

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Return to Flight Set for Monday

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Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 booster with 10 Iridium communications satellites on board from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Monday at 10:22 a.m. PST.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has Tweeted that a pre-flight engine firing conducted on Thursday was successful. The FAA also issued a license today for SpaceX to perform the launch. The approval includes

The launch will be the first Falcon 9 flight since a booster caught fire and exploded on the launch pad on Sept. 1. The accident, which SpaceX says was caused by a breach in a second stage helium tank, destroyed the $195 million Amos-6 communications satellite.

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The Year Ahead in Space

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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Arianespace Signed 13 Launch Contracts in Past Year

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Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

While Elon Musk and SpaceX have been dominating the media spotlight with their spectacular Falcon 9 first-stage landings and even more spectacular launch pad firexplanomaly, Arianespace has quietly went about the task of putting satellites into orbit and signing new launch contracts.

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A Video Explanation of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly

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Video Caption: On September 1st a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad during a fueling test, the reasons for this have been open so some wild speculation but in the end it’s nothing to do with UFOs – It’s all to do with COPV’s, LOX & SOX.

SpaceX Eyes Falcon 9 Return to Flight on Jan. 8

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX Accident Investigation Update
January 2, 2017, 9:00am EST

Over the past four months, officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), along with several industry experts, have collaborated with SpaceX on a rigorous investigation to determine the cause of the anomaly that occurred September 1 at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This investigation team was established according to SpaceX’s accident investigation plan as approved by the FAA. As the primary federal licensing body, the FAA provided oversight and coordination for the investigation.

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Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

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The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Part 2 of 2

There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

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A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

Part 1 of 2

The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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Video of Elon Musk & Team Watching First Falcon 9 First Stage Landing at Cape

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Video Caption: With unprecedented access to Elon Musk and his SpaceX team, witness the historic landing of a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral.

NASA Will Take 2 Years to Complete Investigation into 2015 Falcon 9 Failure

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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

NASA’s investigation into the Falcon 9 launch failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship in June 2015 keeps getting more and more interesting.

I checked in again last week with the space agency about when it would be releasing a public report on the 18-month old accident. This is what a NASA spokesperson told me (emphasis mine):

NASA’s final report on the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap is still in work. While the report is important in providing NASA historical data of the mishap, the accident involved a version of the Falcon 9 rocket that is no longer in use. Furthermore, while the public summary itself may only be a few pages, the complete report is expected to exceed several hundred pages of highly detailed and technical information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA anticipates its internal report and public summary will be finalized in the summer 2017.

That is a rather long time, even for a sometimes pokey government agency investigating the failure of a booster variant no longer in use.
Continue reading ‘NASA Will Take 2 Years to Complete Investigation into 2015 Falcon 9 Failure’

SpaceX Loses Inmarsat Launch to Arianespace Due to Delays

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Arianespace_logoLONDON, 8 December 2016 (Inmarsat PR) — Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L), the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications, has today signed a contract with Arianespace to launch its S-band satellite for the European Aviation Network (EAN) on an Ariane 5 heavy lift launch vehicle.  The EAN payload is part of a ‘condosat’ constructed by Thales Alenia Space, which incorporates a second payload for Hellas-Sat.  The condosat is scheduled to be launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana in mid-2017.

The condosat was originally scheduled for launch with SpaceX.  However, following the delay in SpaceX’s launch schedule, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat took the decision to move the condosat to an Arianespace launch.

Inmarsat will launch Inmarsat-5 F4, a Global Xpress (GX) satellite, with SpaceX.  This launch is planned for H1 2017 and Inmarsat is looking forward to continuing to work with SpaceX going forward.

“We are delighted with flexibility that Arianespace has shown in being able to provide a launch slot that enables us to place our European Aviation Network S-band satellite in orbit by mid-2017,” said Michele Franci, CTO, Inmarsat. “This launch schedule supports the introduction of our ground-breaking integrated satellite and air-to-ground network, developed by Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, which will deliver a very high capacity broadband Wi-Fi experience for passengers flying throughout Europe.”