The 'Other' News about Space Business

This page is a collection of news story abstracts, collected each week, about the 'other' state of the

Space Industry. The "good" news always makes the headlines and is touted by Spaceport proponents. Similarly, the difficulties within the industry: the lay-offs, the questionable credibility of ideas and companies, technology failures, consistent failure to meet performance goals and schedules, and sketchy funding schemes should all be understood as part of the risks associated with Spaceport Camden. 

When you follow the Space industry closely, it is hard to find a financial argument supporting Spaceport Camden. The Spaceport could far more likely be just a mirage for a County hungry for the illusory jobs.

July 23, 2016

RocketCrafters Switches Gears From Spaceplane to Vertical Launchers

"RocketCrafters, the small aerospace company that planned to develop a family of dual-propulsion spaceplanes for point-to-point spaceflight, has changed its business plan to focus on developing an "Intrepid" family of vertical-launch hybrid-fueled rockets to deliver small satellites to orbit. 

"The company relocated from Utah to Florida's Space Coast in 2012 to design and build its spaceplanes, with the potential for creating up to 1300 jobs and a manufacturing facility at Titusville's Space Coast Regional Airport, adjacent to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The company's rockets would likely launch from Florida for many missions, but perhaps also from Puerto Rico where RocketCrafters is considering a site for high-inclination and polar-orbit launches." Florida SPACErePORT (7/23)

Take a look closer at this New Space company. LINK Typical of most, they have exciting artwork portraying what they want to build someday, but little to show in the way of a functioning system. The industry is still in its infancy, so a few of these small rocket companies will eventually produce working rockets. But as Rocket Crafters shows, they cannot even decide on whether their ultimate design will use a horizontal or a vertical launch spaceport. Whichever company succeeds in proving their technology will grab most of the future business for micro satellites, with other companies ceasing development of launch vehicles. XCOR is an example of such a company. 

One thing to remember is that most of these small companies are using venture capital or other private funding. No taxpayer dollars are at risk unless governments can be convinced to build a spaceport now, and they will come.

July 22, 2016

Vector Space Hopes to Launch From Kennedy/Canaveral

Vector Space Systems is another of the handful of small companies looking to launch small payloads like microsatellites into low earth orbit. They say they are schedule for a 2017 test launch at a hobby-rocket site in California and is "in discussion" with Kennedy/Canaveral to use the new launch pad 39C.


Vector recently acquired Garvey Spacecraft Corp. which has been working since at least 2004 on the Nanosat Launch Vehicle, a two-stage vehicle designed to launch payloads weighing 22 to 50 pounds into low Earth orbit. That design will serve as the basis for Vector Space System’s Vector 1 vehicle. Garvey has conducted 32 suborbital flight tests since 1998 but has not achieved commercial launch potential.  


Vector/Garvey  has about 20 employees in Arizona and California.

May 02, 2016

OP-ED | WHY DOES THE AIR FORCE WANT TO DESTROY THE STRUGGLING U.S. SPACE LAUNCH BUSINESS?

An Editorial in SpaceNews paints the picture of a very unsettled future for the commercial space industry. Dan Gouré writes:

 

“The U.S. Air Force appears to have formulated the perfect plan for wrecking the already struggling domestic space launch business. Take a sector that has struggled for years with too little demand to create an efficient launch program, add new entrants to further divide the market, force everyone to compete based on price and not safety for launch services, allow the participants to create improbable plans for future launch vehicles – some based on unproven propulsion technologies – and tie your primary launch services provider to the purchase of Russian rocket engines that could be cut off at any moment.”

 

How does Camden County square comments like those expressed by Mr. Gouré, and the facts he brings to light about excess capacity and low demand,  with the expectation by Camden officials that there will be sufficient demand to justify the investment and risk of the Spaceport?

April 25, 2016

IS SPACEX REALLY CHANGING THE WORLD?

New excitement in the Space Industry is being generated by predictions that lower launch costs being introduced by SpaceX and the Indian Space Research Organisation will drive a huge increase in demand for launches. But contrary to the excitement in the news, the FAA predicts that launch growth will remain stable through at least 2024. This Management Today article reinforces the sobering prospective that growth in the space industry may take much longer than expected.

 

“Indeed, not everyone is convinced that any of the space players are going to revolutionize 21stcentury life. ‘Since I entered the space business in 1983, I’ve been hearing claims about big money to be made in space tourism, the space launch business, space mining, space manufacturing,’ says  Linda Billings, space consultant and former editor of Space Business News, who also served on the US National Commission on Space under Ronald Reagan. ‘The longer I’ve been listening the more skeptical I’ve become about the more extreme of these claims.’

 

‘The great paradox of space is that it’s incredibly high tech and futuristic, but actually moves quite slowly in terms of our expectations,’ concludes Greg Sadlier, head of aerospace at London Economics.  ‘But we need to believe. You need long term dreamers, especially dreamers with enough capital behind them to make stuff happen... because without long term planning, nothing will happen.’ 

April 23, 2016

N4T INVESTIGATORS: TUCSON SPACEPORT ABORT?

World View has never put a tourist in the air, and doesn’t have federal permission to try. More importantly, Pima County (Tucson, Arizona) voters overwhelmingly rejected similar subsidies last November. But that didn’t stop county officials from negotiating a secret deal to give loans and handouts to the company.

 

The Goldwater Institute is taking legal action against Pima County, saying that county officials violated state law and the Arizona Constitution's gift clause with a $15 Million deal to build a headquarters and launch pad that World View will rent. (Greater Tucson has a population of 1,010,000 - almost 20 times more than Camden County.)

Most Pima County taxpayers could never afford a ride in a World View balloon, which will cost $75,000 per ticket, about three times the average income per person in the area. But they’ll have to pay anyway, because it will take at least 15 years to pay off the debt that will build the facilities, and the county has no real recourse if the venture fails. 

 

Pima

May 02, 2016

EX-XCOR PRESIDENT REBOOTS

“So what am I doing next?” asked Greason at last month’s Space Access ’16 conference in Phoenix. His presentation offered some new insights on what he will, and won’t, be doing at Agile Aero. He said, “Everybody knows today that the space transportation part of the problem is still unaddressable because developing new vehicles is ridiculously expensive and very lengthy.”

 

He indicates that the problem with new space vehicle development is that the time horizons considered by venture capitalists demand fast return on investment. By comparison, Launch Vehicles are slow-return investments. Recent rapid development has come from a small group of billionaires who have privately pursued shaking up the space industry. While the occasional medium-lift and heavier vehicles are getting much of the publicity, the angel and venture capital investors are working with small development companies, some with just 25 or fewer employees. The Space Review reports that smallsat companies can develop spacecraft that can succeed or fail far more rapidly than launch systems, and thus be more attractive to investment.

 

Greason’s former company, XCOR, is still trying to get the first LYNX test spaceplane in the air more than 5 years late after it was first promised. Follow our page on XCOR.

May 01, 2016

Space Pork: NASA Is Building An $18 Billion Rocket To Nowhere

Politically connected Alabama (Alabama?) wins big with NASA without a spaceport. Here’s why:

 

The Senate space spending committee is headed by Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, and on the minority side by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, both of whom have NASA centers in their states. The SLS (nicknamed the “Senate Launch System”), will be built at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville Alabama, where a $45 million 15-story test stand for the rocket reached its intended height earlier this month.

 

Buzzfeed reports, “The futuristic space rocket, called the Space Launch System (SLS), won’t send any astronauts into space until at least 2023, and it doesn’t even have a space destination. But that doesn’t seem to matter to lawmakers. Since the moon landings ended, NASA is and has always been a jobs program, more about dollars spent on the ground than discoveries made among the stars, with the SLS bonanza just the latest example.  

 

“Scientists have long complained how little research takes place on the orbiting lab.

 

“The point is to spend money and create jobs the way the Soviet Union did on its rocket design bureaus,” Keith Cowing of NASA Watch told BuzzFeed News. The SLS — ‘a rocket to nowhere,’ as Cowing put it — fits this pattern neatly because it provides thousands of jobs in space states. “

 

Spaceport Camden has not received a single dime from Atlanta. How do our Camden officials expect to compete with Alabama, Texas and Florida?

April 25, 2016

WHY FEWER LAUNCHES ARE NEEDED

On April 25, 2016, Arianespace, the European Union Space Launch Company, launched a Russian-built Soyuz rocket from Kourou Space Center in French Guiana. After the primary Sentinel satellite was injected into its sun synchronous orbit at 686 km altitude, the second stage performed a second burn to deploy three small CubeSats in 453 x 665 km elliptical orbits. The second stage then performed two more burns before deploying the 303 kg Microscope satellite into a 711 km before performing a final deorbit burn. The record for multiple deployments to low earth orbit during a single launch is 29 satellites.  Multiple deployments more fully utilize the weight carrying capacity of rockets, lowering the cost for each satellite launched. Additionally, research, communication and sensing satellites that previously weighed thousands of pounds are now miniaturized to weigh only hundreds of pounds, or in the case of CubeSats, less than 3 pounds. 

 

 SOURCE: 4/26/16 Arianespace

April 25, 2016

SPACEX 2 YEARS LATE WHILE STABILIZING LAND AT TEXAS LAUNCH SITE

Construction on SpaceX’s new launch site at Boca Chica Beach is underway, but they have to fix the soil that will hold the launch pad, first. Currently, the ground is not stable enough to hold the complex. SpaceX provided this statement, “The new soil will be more suitable for supporting the foundations of the launch complex structures than the native clay sand. In addition, SpaceX will ensure that no non-native species will be accidentally dumped to the area.” When the final load is delivered, 310,000 cubic yards of soil will have been brought in, enough to cover a football field 13 stories high. This is equal to more than 14,000 triple axle dump trucks. The parade of dump trucks puts a lot of  wear and tear on the highway which leads to the site, so the Texas Department of Transportation crews are on hand to patch holes in the road as they appear.


The official groundbreaking for the Boca Chica site took place in September 2014. Elon Musk at the time speculated that launches from Boca Chica could commence as early as 2016. The timeline has now been pushed out to 2018.

April 23, 2016

SOLE-SOURCE GOVERNMENT CONTRACT NEEDED FOR KODIAK SPACEPORT

The US Missile Defense Agency on Friday released a Notice of Intent for a Sole Source Contract to Study the possibility of testing components of the nation’s ballistic missile defense systems at Alaska’s Kodiak Spaceport. The last launch from Kodiak was a failed 2014 attempt of the DARPA Hyper-Sonic ICBM, a project that was subsequently canceled. Since the first launch in 1998, a total of only 16 launches have been attempted from Kodiak Pacific Space Complex, only one was a commercial launch. Military ICBM’s use solid-fuel rocket propellant that is not being considered for Spaceport Camden due to its toxicity.

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