Tag: SpaceX

SpaceX Loses Inmarsat Launch to Arianespace Due to Delays


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.”

SpaceX Slips Falcon 9 Return to Flight into January

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX provided the following update on the Falcon 9 return to flight this morning:

We are finalizing the investigation into our September 1 anomaly and are working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight, now in early January with the launch of Iridium-1. This allows for additional time to close-out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch.

You will undoubtedly recall that the second stage of a Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded on the launch pad three months ago as it was being fueled for a pre-flight engine test. A Spacecom communications satellite valued at $195 million was destroyed in the accident.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Slips Falcon 9 Return to Flight into January’

SpaceX Targets Dec. 16 for Falcon 9 Return to Flight


Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch 10 Iridium satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. it will be the first flight of the booster since one blew up on the launch pad while being fueled for a test on Sept. 1. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would need to sign off on the flight before it could occur. That approval would come after the FAA reviews the results of SpaceX’s investigation into the September accident.

Companies Propose Launching 8,700 Satellites into Non-Geosynchronous Orbit

OneWeb satellite. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

OneWeb satellite. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

While SpaceX has received most of the attention for its plan to launch more than 4,000 broadband satellite network, the constellation makes up just over half the number of spacecraft that companies have proposed placing in non-geosynchronous satellite orbit (NGSO).

Companies have filed applications with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 8,731 NGSO communications satellites. While most of the constellations would provide broadband and communications services, others would collect Earth observation data.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, NGSO spacecraft “occupy a range of orbital positions (LEO satellites are located between 700km-1,500km from the Earth, MEO satellites are located at 10,000km from the Earth), and do not maintain a stationary position, but instead move in relation to the Earth’s surface.”

SpaceX leads the pack with 4,425 spacecraft, followed by Boeing with 2,956 and WorldVu (aka, OneWeb) with 720. Boeing has a second application before the FCC for a constellation with 60 satellites.

The table below provides a summary of the applications filed with the FCC.

SpaceX Hawthorne, CA 4,425 Ka, Ku Global broadband
Boeing Seattle, WA 2,956 V Advanced communications, Internet-based services
WorldVu (OneWeb) Arlington, VA 720 Ku Global broadband
Kepler Communications Toronto, ONT 140 Ku Machine-to-machine communications (Internet of Things)
 Telesat Canada Ottawa, ONT 117 Ka  Wide band and narrow band communications services
 Theia Holdings A, Inc. Philadelphia, PA 112 Ka Integrated Earth observation and communications network
Spire Global San Francisco, CA 100 Ka Maritime monitoring, meteorological monitoring, and earth imaging services
 LeoSat MA Pompano Beach, FL 80 Ka Broadband services
Boeing Seattle, WA 60 Ka Very high speed connectivity for end-user earth stations
 O3b Washington, DC 60 Ka Broadband services
ViaSat  Carlsbad, CA 24 Ka, V Broadband services
 Karousel LLC Alexandria, VA 12 Ka Communications
Audacy Communications Walnut, CA 3 K, V Data relay constellation providing satellite operators with seamless access to NGSO satellites
Space Norway AS Oslo, Norway 2 Ka, Ku Arctic broadband





Conservative Group Targets Elon Musk


A conservative political action committee (PAC) headed by Laura Ingraham has specifically targeted Elon Musk and his three companies with a website titled Stop Elon From Failing Again.

Billed as “The One Stop Database on Stopping Elon Musk,” the website is a compilation of critical news stories about Musk, SpaceX, SolarCity and Telsa Motors. A major criticism is that the companies have received billions in government subsidies and tax credits.


The web site is one of several projects of Citizens for the Republic, a group headed up by conservative activist and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.  Donald Trump has Ingraham on the short list of candidates for presidential press secretary.


SpaceX Wins NASA Launch

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. Launch is targeted for April 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The total cost for NASA to launch SWOT is approximately $112 million, which includes the launch service; spacecraft processing; payload integration; and tracking, data and telemetry support.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Wins NASA Launch’

Trump, Musk, Bezos, Bruno & the Future of America’s Space Program

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

There’s been a lot of speculation since the election on  what president-elect Donald Trump will do with the nation’s civilian and military space programs.

Two Trump advisors laid out some goals before the election: more commercial partnerships, boosting defense spending, increasing hypersonics and slashing NASA Earth science. However, most details remain unclear.

A key question is whether Trump really cares about space all that much. That’s a little hard to discern given his comments during  the campaign.

When first questioned on the subject, he expressed a preference for fixing potholes in America’s crumbling streets over sending people to Mars. Trump has promised a large infrastructure repair program.

During a visit to Florida, he attacked the Obama Administration for allegedly wrecking NASA and the space program. During another appearance in the Sunshine State about a week later, Trump praised the space agency for how well it was performing.

So, NASA is either doing great, a disaster that needs to be made great again, or an obstacle to pothole repair. Assuming Trump actually cares, and he’s willing to spend some money on making NASA great again, what might he do? What major decisions does he face?
Continue reading ‘Trump, Musk, Bezos, Bruno & the Future of America’s Space Program’

Another SpaceX Director of Communications Leaves

Dex Torricke-Barton

Dex Torricke-Barton

Over the years, SpaceX has seen a revolving door of communications directors as one after another has left for various reasons. Some have reportedly run afoul of CEO Elon Musk. Others undoubtedly grew frustrated over Musk’s practice of dominating this area, leaving them with few communications to actually direct.

SpaceX lost yet another director of communications last week, but apparently not for the usual reasons. Dex Torricke-Barton quit after only six months on the job because he just couldn’t stomach the election of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president.

Here in the United States, my home for the last eight years, Tuesday’s election result is yet another huge setback,” Torricke-Barton said in a Facebook post. “This has been an election marked by repeated attacks on immigrants, minorities, women, and many other communities. I have always believed in an America that is confident and outward-looking, that works hard to drive the world to action on what matters most. Now, the loudest voices are calling for building walls between people.

“As an immigrant and the son of a refugee, and as someone dedicated to advancing the interests of humanity, I don’t want to watch while the world slips backwards,” he added. “So I’m choosing to go and make whatever contribution I can – no matter how small – toward making the change we need: standing up for openness, compassion and sound global leadership.”

Torricke-Barton said he’s going to spend his free time “working at the grassroots level to help address the deep and growing social divides in this country.” He’s also going to write a book.

SpaceX Files for FCC Approval for 4,425 Satellite Global Broadband Constellation

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to launch a satellite constellation composed of 4,425 satellites to provide global broadband and communications services.

The satellites, which will weight 386 kg apiece, will fly in orbits from 1,110 km to 1,325 km and provide services in the Ku and Ka frequency bands.

Key excerpts from the application follow.

SpaceX Satellite Constellation
Application Excerpts

Space Exploration Holdings, LLC seeks operating authority (i.e., approval for orbital deployment and a station license) for a non-geostationary orbit satellite system in the Fixed-Satellite Service using the Ku and Ka frequency bands.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Files for FCC Approval for 4,425 Satellite Global Broadband Constellation’

Video: Branson Says Space Tourism Competition Good


Report: NASA Mulling Long-Term Replacement for Orion

NASA's Orion with the European Service Module (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros)

NASA’s Orion with the European Service Module (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros)

Eric Berger at Ars Technica reports that NASA has begun to consider possible alternatives to the Orion spacecraft beyond the initial crewed flights of the Lockheed Martin-built deep-space vehicle.

Nevertheless, three sources familiar with the RFI, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, told Ars there is more to the request than a simple extension for Orion’s primary contractor, Lockheed Martin. Perhaps most radically, the RFI may even open the way for a competitor, such as Boeing or SpaceX, to substitute its own upgraded capsule for Orion in the mid-2020s.

This RFI process, which originated in the Washington, DC-based office of the manager of NASA’s human spaceflight operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, appears to be an effort to keep the agency’s options open during a presidential transition. “This is NASA taking a breath and looking at alternatives,” one source told Ars. “Part of why they also did it is they are signaling to the next administration that they may be willing to look at alternatives.”

In a heated competition a decade ago, Lockheed Martin won the initial contract to design and develop the deep-space Orion spacecraft, which was supposed to fly its first crewed mission in 2014. While the contractor has had to manage several significant change requests, there is nonetheless growing frustration with Lockheed inside NASA. The agency has spent nearly $10 billion so far on Orion, and although there was an uncrewed test flight in 2014, the first human mission won’t come for at least five more years.

The new RFI states that Lockheed will continue with development of Orion through a second uncrewed flight set for late 2018 and Exploration Mission-2, the first crewed mission, as early as 2021. However, once this “base vehicle” configuration is established, the RFI signals NASA’s intent to find a less expensive path forward. “This RFI serves as an examination of the market, which is an initial step in pursuing any of the available acquisition strategies, including the exercising of existing options,” the document states.

Read the full story.

Musk Predicts Falcon 9 Return to Flight in Mid-December

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told CNBC on Friday that investigators have found the root cause of the fire and explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 booster on Sept. 1. The company expects to resume launches by the middle of December.

Musk, confirming earlier discussion about the investigation, said the failure involved liquid helium being loaded into bottles made of carbon composite materials within the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s upper stage. This created solid oxygen, which Musk previously said could have ignited with the carbon composite materials. However, he did not go into that level of detail in his CNBC comments.
Continue reading ‘Musk Predicts Falcon 9 Return to Flight in Mid-December’

Tom Stafford’s Letter to NASA About SpaceX Falcon 9 Safety Concerns

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

NASA has released a copy of a December 2015 letter from Tom Stafford, chairman of the NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee, to Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier expressing concerns about the safety of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Stafford wrote that the committee unanimously believes SpaceX’s plan to load astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon before fueling the Falcon 9 booster is counter to safe practices that have been in place for more than 50 years.

Continue reading ‘Tom Stafford’s Letter to NASA About SpaceX Falcon 9 Safety Concerns’

Orbital ATK to Launch Next Cygnus on Atlas V

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Despite the successful return to flight of its Antares booster less than three weeks ago, Orbital ATK will launch its next Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station aboard an United Launch Alliance Atlas V.

“Orbital ATK has responded to NASA’s needs for enhanced schedule assurance for cargo deliveries and maximum capacity of critical supplies to the space station in 2017,” the company said in a statement.

Continue reading ‘Orbital ATK to Launch Next Cygnus on Atlas V’

Inmarsat Looking at Alternatives to Falcon 9

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Inmarsat could shift one of its satellites to another launch vehicle due to the problems with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Inmarsat Chief Executive Rupert Pearce said Thursday the launch of its fourth Global Xpress satellite due this year on a SpaceX rocket would be delayed until next year and that the company may shift a spacecraft due for launch next year to another rocket.

“We are actively looking at alternatives,” Mr. Pearce said in an interview.

The satellite that may be shifted to another rocket is a critical element of Inmarsat’s plan to provide high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi to airline customers flying in Europe. British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA on Wednesday announced it would be the launch customer for the service, which is due to commence next year.

Inmarsat is worried that even after SpaceX resumes launches with the Falcon booster, it may not be able to make up lost time to assure its satellite is placed on orbit as scheduled. Alternatives the London-based company is considering include flying the spacecraft on the European Ariane 5 rocket, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Atlas V, or the Russian Proton booster. Mr. Pearce said Inmarsat could stick with SpaceX if it can get an earlier launch slot.