Archive for the ‘Commercial Space’ Category

The Aerospace Corporation is a federally funded research and development organization.  To those in the space industry, their name is pretty familiar.

Now, having been involved in oversight of USAF and NRO boosters and spacecraft for 50 years, they want to expand further into the NASA arena, especially as commercial space players like SpaceX are actually launching rockets, and successfully at that.

Of course the whole oversight thing is contrary to what commercial space is all about.  Additionally, it runs counter to efforts typified at the Pentagon where the SecDef has said overhead accounts for 40 percent of total spending.

Given the fact the Pentagon itself is inauditable, that 40 percent claim is obviously a rough estimate.  Still, adding Aerospace overhead, some of the most expensive overhead there is, to commercial space is a certain recipe for cost increases.

A number of years ago, Aerospace wanted to go public, a move that would have created a windfall for some individuals within the company.  The USAF blocked the move and that’s where it stands today, as a federally funded effort.

During my time at a space launch unit, our on-site Aerospace guy was one of the two or three most trusted and valuable folks on the launch team and added mission assurance value to everything we did.  He’d worked the same launch program for about 35 years.

The rest of the Aerospace army may have added value as well (or not), but I’m absolutely positive they added plenty of cost.

How much cost does Aerospace add?  I’m unsure, but enough that a commercial space provider wouldn’t be willing to take that sort of cost risk and certainly enough to make a big difference in bid and proposal work.

Would a commercial space provider feel comfortable with a firm fixed price bid knowing someone like Aerospace might be directing re-work (and at minimum, data calls and meetings) all along the way?

Do you think SpaceX will post their cost-to-space on their web page if Aerospace is part of the equation?


The idea of refueling a satellite sounds great…until you think it through.

The fact that newly launched satellites will be more technically capable and modern is important; the fact refueling doesn’t equate to a straight-line life extension is important; the issue of liability should a spacecraft be damaged during refueling is important.  In summary, the fact that space refueling isn’t economically viable destroys the whole business case to do such activities.

That is why Canadian MDA Corp. can’t find any customers for refueling spacecraft.

If It's Sea, It's For Me

Sea Launch appears to have emerged from bankruptcy following a cash infusion from Russian rocket-maker Energia and a court order.  The cash infusion–$140 million–brings with it 95 percent ownership of Sea Launch.

Interesting Energia Sea Launch facts:

  • At full operation, Sea Launch’s operating costs will total less than $50 million per year
  • Sea Launch expects to be profitable with as few as two launches per year
  • Sea Launch expects to  perform four launches in 2012 and five in 2013
  • Sea Launch’s first post-bankruptcy mission will be as a marketing agent for Land Launch of Moscow. Land Launch uses the same hardware and operates from the Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • The Land Launch’s mission, scheduled for early 2011, is to orbit Intelsat 18 made for Intelsat by Orbital Sciences.  Intelsat is based out of Washington D.C.

Because Sea Launch operates from international waters, it has been unable to qualify as a U.S. rocket.  This means it can’t be used to launch U.S. government satellites. Likewise, it has not launched a Russian government satellite.

This lack of a government sponsor largely explains why Sea Launch went bankrupt in the first place!

Zombiesat, AKA Galaxy 15, continues to cause geostationary belt trouble.

Costs to date: about $2.5 million with perhaps another $1 million to go.

The Naval Research Laboratory says Galaxy 15 is victim one in the new solar cycle, which produced a space-flood of  magnetic energy in early April.

How does it all end?  Probably with a movie of some sort. The good news is the earth is not in danger.

Fried by a massive solar storm, Galaxy 15 continues to menacingly roam the geosynchronous belt.

Forcing innocent, non-zombie satellites to maneuver away from its undeconflicted signals, Galaxy 15 may soon lose all attitude control and die an icy, mechanical death.

Are your space systems prepared to repel a zombie sat attack?

Senate authorizers have taken the administration’s etch-a-sketch for NASA, turned it upside down, and shaken (not stirred) violently.

Granted it’s only an authorization bill and it hasn’t been sent to the full Senate, reconciled, or signed into law.  However…it will have legs.

The biggest deal in the near-years is it halves the Obama request for commercial space.

Only LL Cool J is contemplating about goin’ back to Cali…he doesn’t think so.

Satellite telephone provider Globalstar, on the other hand, is absolutely moving out of California, and will be relocating their corporate headquarters to Louisiana.

Globalstar chairman Jay Monroe said the move will “dramatically reduce our operating costs.”  Probably their commute times as well.