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!

 

Stratolaunch to Test Rocket Engine Technology at NASA Stennis

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft (Credit: Dylan Schwartz)

Stratolaunch will test rocket engine technology next year at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi under agreements with the space agency.

Paul Allen’s company signed two agreements with NASA: an umbrella Space Act Agreement laying out the terms of cooperation, and an annex under with Stratolaunch will pay $5.1 million to the space agency to use the E1 facility at Stennis for engine tests.

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ULA, SpaceX Reschedule Launches

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)

UPDATE: SpaceX issued a statement late this afternoon: “We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”

SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of the mysterious Zuma payload for Friday, Nov. 17. The Falcon 9’s two-hour launch window opens at 10 p.m. EST at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ULA has rescheduled the launch of the JPSS-1 weather satellite aboard a Delta II booster for Saturday, Nov. 18.  The launch time is 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Below is the launch schedule for the rest of November.

November 21

Launch Vehicle: Long March 6
Payloads: 3 Jilin 1 Earth observation microsats
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China
Launch Time: Unknown

November 28

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: Meteor M2-1 weather satellite; Spire weather CubeSats; Telesat experimental communications satellite
Launch Site: Vostochny
Launch Time: 0541:46 GMT (12:41:46 a.m. EST)

SpaceX Wants More Government Funding for Renamed BFR

BFR servicing the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

Some news out of the NewSpace Europe conference:

The president of SpaceX said she expects the company would receive additional funding from the U.S. government to support the development of its large reusable launch system.

Speaking at the NewSpace Europe conference here Nov. 16, Gwynne Shotwell noted that SpaceX is already receiving funding from the U.S. Air Force supporting the development of Raptor, the engine that will power the vehicle known as BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, and the reusable spacecraft known as BFS or Big Falcon Spaceship.

“I do anticipate that there is residual capability of that system that the government will be interested in,” she said. “I do see that we would likely get some funding from the government for BFR and BFS.” She added, though, that work on the vehicles was not contingent on receiving government funding.

The U.S. Air Force recently issued a request for proposals that will fund the development of new launch systems to replace ULA’s Delta IV and Atlas V boosters.

Delta II Launch Scrubbed, Falcon 9 Flight Delayed

The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket carrying the JPSS-1 mission for NASA and NOAA was scrubbed today due to a range safety hold and high upper level winds. ULA is working to establish a new launch opportunity.

SpaceX has delayed the Falcon 9 launch of the Zuma payload by one day to Thursday to allow for some additional mission assurance work. The launch window opens at 8 p.m. EST and closes two hours later.

A Chinese Long March 4C launched the Fengyun 3D weather satellite into polar orbit from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center yesterday.

 

Steve Jurvetson Leaves Own Venture Capital Firm Over Harassment Claims

Steve Jurvetson

Steve Jurvetson — a key investor in SpaceX, Tesla Motors and Planet — is leaving the venture capital firm he founded, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, over allegations of sexual harassment. Recode reports:

DFJ announced the move in a letter to limited partners on Monday. The firm released a statement to Recode that read:

As of today and by mutual agreement, Steve Jurvetson will be leaving DFJ. DFJ’s culture has been, and will continue to be, built on the values of respect and integrity in all of our interactions. We are focused on the success of our portfolio companies, as well as the long-term vision for the firm and will continue to operate with the highest professional standards.

The firm did not specify the reason for the ouster in the letter, but sources said that the investigation uncovered behaviors by Jurvetson that were unacceptable related to a negative tone toward women entrepreneurs….

The departure comes as Jurvetson was being investigated by his own firm for harassment. An entrepreneur had alleged predatory behavior was “rampant” at DFJ. The woman, Keri Kukral, did not name Jurvetson in her Facebook post.

Jurvetson denied the claims in a Twitter post.

 

Clock is Ticking on NASA Human Deep Space Program

Lamar Smith

It seems that nothing so becomes a politician’s public life like the announcement that he or she is leaving it.

George Washington’s decision in 1796 to not seek a third term as president is widely hailed as the ultimate example of a small-r republican virtue of restraint the general demonstrated throughout his public life. Americans trusted Washington with power because they knew he would exercise it wisely and, that when the time came, he would walk away. Voluntarily.

In an age when many kings claimed a hereditary right to rule for life with absolute authority, relinquishing power was an astounding act. But Washington, a master of exits in war and peace, knew it was time to go. In so doing, he set a two-term precedent for the presidency that would stand for 144 years.

More recently, we’ve seen another result of what happens when politicians decide they’ve had enough: candor. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) both launched fiery broadsides at the current occupant of Washington’s old office — and a member of their own party, no less — upon announcing they would not seek re-election next year.

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Antares to Kick Off Busy Launch Period

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 launch of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket on Saturday morning will be the first of four launches planned over the next five days.

The Antares will launch a Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station. It is the second flight of the re-engineered Antares booster, which includes two Russian-made RD-181 engines in its first stage. Launch time is set for 7:37 a.m. EST (1237 GMT) from Wallops Island in Virginia. NASA TV will provide launch coverage.

ULA’s Delta II booster will launch NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) weather satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The launch window extends from 1:47:03 to 1:48:05 a.m. PST (4:47:03-4:48:05 a.m. EST or 0947:03-0948:05 GMT).  NASA TV will provide launch coverage. It will be the penultimate flight of the venerable Delta II rocket.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch the mysterious Zuma payload on Wednesday, Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. government, there are no other details about the spacecraft. The launch window extends from 8:00 to 10 p.m. EST (0100-0300 GMT on Nov. 16). It’s not clear whether SpaceX will webcast the flight.

China will launch the Fengyun 3D weather satellite into polar orbit aboard a Long March 4C booster from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday, Nov. 15. The launch window is not known.

SpaceX Loses Rocket Engine During Qualification Test

Merlin 1D test firing (Credit: SpaceX)

Some news out of the SpaceX engine test center in McGregor, Texas.

SpaceX is investigating why one of its rocket engines exploded during a test fire earlier this week at the company’s facility in Texas, the company confirmed Wednesday.

The explosion of the Merlin engine occurred Sunday during what the company called a “qualification test.” No one was injured, but now the company founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk once again has to figure out what went wrong with its hardware, as it suspends engine testing during the investigation.

The company said Tuesday in response to questions that it is “now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause” of the explosion. “SpaceX is committed to our current manifest, and we do not expect this to have any impact on our launch cadence.”

SpaceX has conducted 16 successful launches of the Falcon 9 this year. There are five more flights on the manifest for the rest of 2017.

Remaining SpaceX Launches for 2017

11/15/17: Falcon 9 — Zuma — KSC
12/04/17: Falcon 9 — CRS-13 — CCAFS
December 22: Falcon 9 — Iridum Next 31-40 — Vandenberg
December: Falcon 9 — Hispasat 30W-6 — CCAFS
December: Falcon Heavy Demo Flight — KSC

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.

SpaceX Outlines Satellite Internet Plan

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)

Statement of
Patricia Cooper
Vice President, Satellite Government Affairs
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX)
Before the
Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology
United States Senate
October 25, 2017

Selected Excerpts

SpaceX’s consumer focus sets it apart from most other proposed NGSO system. SpaceX has designed its system with the primary purpose of providing broadband service directly to end-users, particularly individual households and small businesses. Meeting this distinct direct-to-end-user goal demands far more on-orbit capacity, which in turn drives the larger number of satellites in the design and the focus on spectrum re-use efficiency.

Initially, the SpaceX system will consist of 4,425 satellites operating in 83 orbital planes (at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km). This system will also require associated ground control facilities, gateway earth stations, and end user earth stations.

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SpaceX & Orbital ATK Launches Set for Next Week

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)

SpaceX and Orbital ATK are scheduled to conduct launches on opposite sides of the country on Monday and Tuesday.

SpaceX will start things off on Monday with the Falcon 9 launch of the Koreasat 5A communications satellite for KTsat. The flight will be conducted from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The launch window is 3:34–5:58 p.m. EDT (1934-2158 GMT). This will be SpaceX’s third launch in October and 16th launch in 2017.

An Orbital ATK Minotaur-C booster is set to launch six SkySat Earth observation satellites for Planet and several CubeSats on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2:37 p.m. PDT/2137 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Minotaur-C is an upgraded version of the Taurus satellite launcher.

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.”

SpaceX Drone Ship Damaged After Falcon 9 Landing

SpaceX first stage recovery drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s drone ship named “Of Course I Still Love You” was damaged during the landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 that launched the SES-11 satellite earlier this month.

The exact series of events is unclear, but it is understood the booster leaked some of its residue RP-1 fuel, which flowed along the deck of the ASDS and pooled near the containers at the aft of the drone ship.

The booster then continued post-landing operations, designed to safe the booster ahead of crews boarding the ship to complete the safing process ahead of the trip back to port.

At some point shortly after landing there was an ignition of the pooled RP-1, likely via the purging of the Triethylaluminum-Triethylborane (TEA-TEB) that is used as the first stage ignitor. This has to be purged as part of the safing procedures for allowing crew near the rocket.

Fire hoses – staged on the deck of the ship – quickly doused the fire. However, the garage containing the robot – nicknamed “Roomba” or “OctaGrabber” (among other names) – was caught in the fire and damaged.

This was confirmed by the lack of the robot in view under the rocket during the ASDS’ return to Port.