Tag: SpaceX

The Year Ahead for Commercial Crew


By Steven Siceloff,

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Throughout 2017, NASA and its commercial crew partners, Boeing and SpaceX, will make major steps touching every area of space system development and operations, from completing flight-worthy spacecraft and rockets to putting the finishing touches on launch pads to performing detailed countdown and flight rehearsals.

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The Growing Cost of Not Having Direct Access to ISS

At the Integration Facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 49 crewmembers Shane Kimbrough of NASA (left) and Sergey Ryzhikov (center) and Andrey Borisenko (right) of Roscosmos pose for pictures Sept. 9 in front of their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft during a pre-launch training fit check. Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko will launch Sept. 24, Kazakh time on the Soyuz MS-02 vehicle for a five-month mission on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov)

Expedition 49 crewmembers Shane Kimbrough of NASA (left) and Sergey Ryzhikov (center) and Andrey Borisenko (right) of Roscosmos pose for pictures Sept. 9 in front of their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft during a pre-launch training fit check. (Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov)

Bloomberg Government reports that delays in fielding replacements for the retired space shuttle has forced NASA to send billions of dollars to Russia over the past six years.

NASA has spent $897 million with state-controlled Roscosmos since fiscal 2015 and $2.1 billion since the U.S. retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, Bloomberg Government data show….

NASA must rely on Russia to transport astronauts and equipment for at least two more years. Roscosmos will receive another $950 million in 2017 and 2018 for 12 more round trips on Soyuz ISS flights, according a September report by NASA’s Office of Inspector General.

Congressional budget cuts to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program forced the agency to extend its contract with Roscosmos to keep sending American astronauts to the ISS, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s August 2015 letter to Congress.

Putin consolidated the Russian space industry into Roscosmos in 2015, placing several close advisers in senior positions, according to Senator John McCain. Among them are Chairman Dmitry Rogozin and board member Sergei Chemezov, who are listed as Specially Designated Nationals on the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control SDN Sanctions List. Their names were added to the list following President Obama’s March 2014 emergency Executive Order 13660, issued in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Treasury denies that sanctions on Russia apply to the space industry. So while NASA isn’t in violation, it’s in an awkward position of paying billions of agency dollars directly to Russian government coffers to maintain a presence on the ISS.

The figures do not include the cost of additional Soyuz seats that NASA might end up buying for 2019 if commercial crew efforts by SpaceX and Boeing are delayed beyond 2018. NASA could purchase up to three seats through Boeing, which received them as part of a legal settlement of a lawsuit against Soyuz manufacturer RSC Energia.

Read the full story.


NASA Looks to Purchase Additional Soyuz Seats — From Boeing!

Credit: NASA

Soyuz and Progress vehicles docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

After months of saying it had no plans to purchase any additional Russian Soyuz seats to take U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA is looking to do exactly that.

Only there’s a twist: NASA won’t be purchasing the seats directly from the Russians. They will be buying them from Boeing, which has obtained already purchased five seats from Soyuz manufacturer RSC Energia.

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Iridium Announces Successful First Launch of Iridium NEXT Satellites

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.

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SpaceX’s Shotwell to be Deposed in Whistleblower Lawsuit

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.”

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SpaceX Return to Flight Set for Saturday


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

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.)

ASAP Report Targets Concerns Over SpaceX Propellant Loading

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

A new NASA reports says that while Boeing and SpaceX are making progress on their commercial crew spacecraft, but a number of key technical challenges remain and there is “a very real possibility” of “a substantial slip in the schedule” in the already delayed programs.

In its 2016 Annual Report, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) said it was concerned about SpaceX’s “load and go” approach of placing the load aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to loading the Falcon 9 booster with propellants, particularly in the wake of the loss of a booster in September while it was being fueled.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Until Jan. 14


SpaceX Falcon 9 Return to Flight Set for Monday

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.


The Year Ahead in Space

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

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


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.

NASA Awards Additional Crew Missions to Boeing, SpaceX

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA took another big step to ensure reliable crew transportation to the International Space Station into the next decade. The agency’s Commercial Crew Program has awarded an additional four crew rotation missions each to commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

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SpaceX Eyes Falcon 9 Return to Flight on Jan. 8

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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