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SpaceX Set to Launch Again Tuesday, FAA Gives DragonFly Final Approval

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Falcon 9 launches AsiaSat8 into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launches AsiaSat8 into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

UPDATE: The launch has been shifted to Wednesday morning.

UPDATE: SpaceX successfully conducted a static fire of the Falcon 9 engines on Friday.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is set to soar again from Cape Canaveral early Tuesday morning with the AsiaSat 6 satellite. The launch window is set from 12:50-4:05 a.m. EDT (0450-0805 GMT).

SpaceX is set to conduct a static fire of the Falcon 9′s engine today.

Meanwhile, the FAA has issued its final environmental assessment for flights of SpaceX’s experimental DragonFly vehicle at the company’s McGregor test facility in Texas.

“After reviewing and analyzing currently available data and information on existing conditions and the potential impacts of the Proposed Action as compared with the No Action Alternative, the FAA has determined that the Proposed Action would not significantly impact the quality of the human environment. Therefore, preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is not required, and the FAA is issuing this FONSI [Finding of No Significant Impact],” the environmental assessment reads.

SpaceX to Get $13 Million, 10-Year Tax Exemption for Texas Spaceport

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Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

An update on the incentives package being worked out for SpaceX’s spaceport in Texas:

The Cameron County Commissioners’ Court agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes owed by SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corp., if the company brings its launch operations to South Texas.

Commissioners also approved a draft of an economic agreement with SpaceX that states the responsibilities of each entity involved, including the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp.

The Spaceport Board of Directors met Thursday afternoon to discuss the agreement and authorize Board Chairman Nick Serafy Jr. to sign it on behalf of the board.

The Spaceport Board also agreed to accept $13 million from the state’s Spaceport Development Trust Fund.

Read the full story.

 

SpaceX Faces Third Lawsuit Over Labor Practices

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spacex_logo_smLaw360.com reports SpaceX is facing a third lawsuit over its employment practices:

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. employees on Monday launched a putative class action suit in California court accusing it of fostering a racist working environment in which certain workers were subjected to slurs and passed over for promotions.

A previously filed lawsuit alleges that SpaceX did a mass layoff of workers in July without giving them 60 days notice as required by California law.  Another lawsuit charges SpaceX with failing to provide proper meal and rest breaks as required by law.

NASA and Commercial Partners Review Summer of Advancements

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ISS_lifeboat_graphic_no_title
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) – NASA’s spaceflight experts in the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) met throughout July with aerospace partners to review increasingly advanced designs, elements and systems of the spacecraft and launch vehicles under development as part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiatives.

Blue Origin, The Boeing Co., Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX are partners with NASA in these initiatives to develop a new generation of safe, reliable, and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit.

Continue reading ‘NASA and Commercial Partners Review Summer of Advancements’

Space Florida Sets Boeing Commercial Crew Rent

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High Bay of KSC facility used to manufacture Boeing CST-100 spacecraft.

High Bay of KSC facility used to manufacture Boeing CST-100 spacecraft.

Florida Today reports that Space Florida will charge Boeing up to $1 million per year in rent for facilities at the Kennedy Space Center where the company would assemble commercial crew vehicles.

The agreement is contingent upon Boeing winning a contract under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to build the CST-100 spacecraft, which would transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA is expected to announce the next round of program funding soon.

The 10-year lease, which would begin on Jan. 1, 2015, would include a former space shuttle processing facility, an engine shop and offices. Space Florida would spend up to $20 million to renovate the facilities.

Boeing has said the NASA contract would allow it to base more than 500 jobs in Florida. However, the company is not expected to continue with CST-100 development if it does receive additional funds from the space agency.

Boeing is in competition with SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation, which also are developing vehicles under the program. NASA expects to announce the next round of funding shortly. It is likely that at least one of the competitors will be eliminated.

SpaceX Denies It is Raising More Investment Funding

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Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

UPDATE NO. 1: SpaceX has denied the report. “SpaceX is not currently raising any funding nor has any external valuation of that magnitude or higher been done. The source in this report is mistaken,” spokesman John Taylor said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News.

UPDATE NO. 2: Tech Crunch is sticking by its original report. “We have followed up with one of our sources who maintains that there is a secondary offering in process with term sheets circulating.”

SpaceX is raising another round of funding based on a valuation “somewhere south of $10 billion, Tech Crunch reports:

The latest capital infusion includes a large secondary investment, which appears to be somewhere in the region of $200 million. This confirms some of the details published in April this year by Quartz, which cited a source reporting that the company might be raising between $50 million and $200 million.

TechCrunch understands that among those investing in SpaceX are international financiers making secondary investments, but also investment firms in the U.S. such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson. DFJ has been a past investor and it also noted, in May, that it is making an investment in SpaceX out of its latest $470 million fund; Blumberg Capital is another name that TechCrunch has heard in connection with SpaceX financing….

According to Crunchbase, SpaceX has raised $245.5 million in private backing, with the last round disclosed in December 2012. In its first 10 years of operation, SpaceX generated $4 billion in contracts (that includes funding from NASA of between $400 million and $500 million). The manifest for upcoming launches lists just under 40 missions planned between now and 2018.

Read the full story.

NASA Commercial Crew Decision Expected Soon

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Charles Lurio of The Lurio Reports that NASA is likely to announce contracts for the next round of the Commercial Crew Program on either Aug. 22 or Aug. 29. Sources have told him that the space agency is likely to make two full awards for partners to build and flight test their crew vehicles.

If he is correct, that would leave one of three competitors — Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation or SpaceX — without a seat at the table. Sierra Nevada and SpaceX have said they would continue with vehicle development if they are not chosen for this round. Boeing has said it would be difficult for the company to close the business case for its CST-100 spacecraft without additional NASA funding.

NASA’s goal is to have commercial crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2017. SpaceX has said that it believes it can begin service about a year prior to that deadline with its Dragon V2 spacecraft, which is an upgraded version of the Dragon cargo vehicle that has already flown to and returned from ISS four times. Boeing and Sierra Nevada have said they are on track to meet the 2017 deadline.

Video of Falcon 9 First Stage Descent From Chase Plane

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Video Caption: Following the successful launch of six ORBCOMM satellites, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere and soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean. This footage is from a chase plane filming the decent of the first stage back to earth.

Towards the end of the video, the camera operator attempted to zoom in and unfortunately lost sight of the stage and was unable to capture the tip over into the water.

SpaceX Faces Second Lawsuit Over Pay and Working Conditions

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SpacX Founder Elon Musk

SpacX Founder Elon Musk

UPDATE: This is a class-action lawsuit from one ex-employee alleging labor law violations. If he wins, it would affect former and present employees.

SpaceX is facing a second lawsuit from employees, this time from both past and present. Law360.com reports:

For the second time in a week, former and current employees of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. hit the rocket manufacturer with a putative class action in California court, accusing it on Friday of failing to provide rest breaks or pay full wages.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that SpaceX supervisors impose schedules on their employees that make it impossible for them to take statutorily required rest periods every four hours or first or second meal breaks as required by California law.

SpaceX is well known to have a culture in which many employees routinely work 60 to 80 hour weeks. It’s easy to imagine that such schedules require careful attention to rest and meal breaks and accounting for hours worked.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Faces Second Lawsuit Over Pay and Working Conditions’

SpaceX Seeks Additional Incentives From Local Communities for Texas Spaceport

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Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

After receiving $15.3 million in state assistance, SpaceX is now negotiating with local and regional authorities for additional financial incentives totaling up to $11.7 million for its launch complex south of Brownsville, Texas.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Seeks Additional Incentives From Local Communities for Texas Spaceport’