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.
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.
April 21, 2016
MORE COMMERCIAL CAPACITY AWARDED AT KENNEDY
In their argument promoting Spaceport Camden, County officials continue to state that there is a shortage of commercial capacity in the space industry. Perhaps, when Camden first considered a spaceport use for the Union Carbide property in 2012, there was a projected need for more launch capacity. But technology advances allowing multiple satellites to be launched on a single rocket, and a change in national policy encouraging commercial use of Kennedy/Canaveral, have created plenty of US launch capacity.
NASA has selected Orbital ATK Inc. of Dulles, Virginia, to begin negotiations on an agreement to use High Bay 2 in the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That would position the rocket to launch from KSC’s pad 39B, which will be available between flights of NASA exploration missions that are expected no more than once a year.
Any additional launches from that pad would be a major victory in KSC’s effort to transform into a “multi-user spaceport,” making commercial use of facilities now limited to NASA missions. Overall, Kennedy/Cape Canaveral has moe than 19 retired launch sites. Many can be reactivated if need arises.
“We are now a true multi-user spaceport supporting a variety of different partners successfully,” KSC Director Bob Cabana said in a press release. “We look forward to working with Orbital ATK in the future to help expand the capabilities of this unique, historic asset.”
April 18, 2016
$100 MILLION ONEWEB SATELLITE FACTORY TO FLORIDA
OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said that the Space Coast’s aerospace and engineering workforce, plus up to about $20 million in financial incentives from the state and county, were key to the company’s decision on where to base the 100,000 square foot plant.
Space Florida will spend up to about $80 million to build and equip the factory, which will then be leased to OneWeb. The total incentive package equals $100 million because Space Florida's facility investment is a tax-beneficial "special-purpose entity" lease-back deal, allowing OneWeb to claim equipment and facility.
A few facts about OneWeb’s decision to open a huge satellite factory near Kennedy Space Center:
OneWeb is entirely foreign owned by One Web of Britain and the European Union’s Airbus Space and Defense Industries.
OneWeb will launch 900 satellites using Russian Soyuz rockets from Arianespace’s French Guiana spaceport. No launches will be on US-made rockets or from US Spaceports.
Space Florida kicked in $17.5 Million in Florida taxpayer’s cash.
OneWeb officials have said the Florida locale benefits from the presence of a half-dozen other aerospace manufacturing operations near the Kennedy Space Center, creating a pool of technical talent to draw from.
Camden County was not considered as a possible site for the factory.
April 17, 2016
THE CHALLENGES OF COMMERCIALIZING MANUFACTURING LOW EARTH ORBIT
A panel session on March 30 at the National Academies examined the commercial potential for manufacturing activities in low Earth orbit. What emerged from that discussion is that the technical infrastructure needed for performing research in low earth orbit, particularly by people, is finally coming together.
What was less clear from that discussion, though, was the demand for those systems: who will want a commercial space station, particularly when the commercial viability of LEO research remains uncertain?
As reported, the demand for commercialization is slow to develop, at least without the significant incentives provided by NASA and CASIS, the non-profit organization that oversees research on the half of the US part of the station designated a national lab by Congress.
April 17, 2016
We all lie, scientists say, but politicians even more so
A fascinating study in human nature that makes you wonder even more about what you hear about the market demand for Spaceport Camden.
"For more than two decades, researchers of different stripes have examined humanity's less-than-truthful underbelly. This is what they have found: We all stretch the truth. We learned to deceive as toddlers. We rationalize our fabrications that benefit us. We tell little white lies daily that make others feel good.
"Now magnify that. Politicians distort the truth more often, use more self-justifications and deceive in larger ways, and with more consequences, experts in psychology and political science say."
April 17, 2016
NO FUTURE LAUNCHES SCHEDULED
The whole premise of a Spaceport Camden is that there is demand beyond capacity at existing spaceports. The Patrick Air Force Base website [http://www.patrick.af.mil/] is the place to look for information and Launch Danger Zone notices for scheduled launches from Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. On 4/17/16 at 7:55pm, no future launches are scheduled at Kennedy/Canaveral. ULA and SpaceX launch exclusively from Kennedy Canaveral and Vandenburg AFB where there are also no launches scheduled. Of course, there will be more launches, but the schedule certainly isn't full.
April 15, 2016
ARE THE JOBS FOR CAMDEN, OR FOR GEORGIA?
Steve Howard: “We are closer to bringing countless supply chain jobs and new high-paying jobs to the Coast and keeping Georgia’s top aerospace talent within our state’s borders.”
It is common for our officials to mention that the spaceport will benefit Georgia. But Camden taxpayers have paid the bill for Spaceport Camden. In fact, even if the spaceport is realized, there is no assurance that a single STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) job will end up in Camden.
Georgia Tech is frequently referred to by spaceport supporters hoping to keep our “STEM graduates at home.” In 2015, only 5 students from Camden graduated from Tech out of 5,682 gaining degrees from all Tech colleges. Were any Camden graduates in Aerospace Engineering?
Georgia Tech also reports that 1,322 of their graduates were from foreign countries including China, Iran, India, Pakistan and Korea. If those graduates stay in the US and work on HB-1 visas, they can be hired for substantially less than American graduates. How does that help Camden students?
April 14, 2016
CONTINUED SPACE INVESTMENT GROWTH NOT GUARANTEED, INVESTORS CAUTIONED
Despite an influx of money being invested in space companies in recent years, investors and analysts warned that there is no guarantee this growth will continue in the coming years.
Will Porteous, general partner and chief operating officer of investment firm RRE Ventures, cautions that the investment climate can change quickly depending on the overall economic picture as well as industry-specific events. He didn’t name any specific threats, but his comments come among recent concerns that there is a “bubble” of investment in technology firms in general that could soon burst. A report published earlier this year by The Tauri Group concluded that there was a record $2.3 billion invested in space companies in 2015. Of that total, $1.8 billion was venture capital funding. There is increasing evidence that space companies are not spending their funds, but are saving them for when the investment stream slows and they need cash to operate.
April 13, 2016
ULA CANCELS LAUNCHES
ULA said on Wednesday its Atlas 5 rocket will need to be repaired before flights resume following an early engine shutdown on its last mission. “There will be corrective action," said Tory Bruno, ULA's chief executive. "I’m still confident that we’re going to get all the missions off within a year, but there’s going to be a little shuffling around,” Bruno said.
United Launch Alliance Suspends Atlas 5 Flights (Source: Reuters)
April 14, 2016
LAWSUIT IN ARIZONA: PUBLIC FUNDS MUST BE USED FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES
Pima County’s loan of $15 million to World View Enterprises, a space tourism company, has sparked a lawsuit. The defendants: Pima County, its entire Board of Supervisors, and County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. Jim Manley, Senior Attorney with the conservative think-tank Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, told us he’s filing the suit on behalf of three Pima County residents. “We're asking the court to put a stop to the World View deal and all of the deals that come out of it.”
Group Files Lawsuit Against Arizona County Officials in World View Incentive Dispute (Source: KVOA)
April 11, 2016
IT TAKES LOTS OF STATE SKIN TO BE IN THE SPACE GAME
A Maryland state Senate committee advanced a bill Wednesday that would give a $37.5 million tax break over five years to large aerospace, electronics and defense contractors, particularly Northrop Grumman Corp.
Maryland Panel Moves Bill To Give Northrop Grumman a $38M Tax Credit (Source: Law 360)
April 13, 2016
ULA CUTS 875+ JOBS AS NEW COMMERCIAL SPACE-RACE HEATS UP
ULA, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that builds and operates the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets, currently employs roughly 3,400 people throughout the United States. On April 8, ULA told The Denver Post it planned to eliminate about 375 jobs in 2016. On April 13, Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, said a second round of job cuts is planned for 2017. “This year is 375," he told SpaceNews. "Next year’s is a little bit larger— 400-and-something, but less than 500." Bruno said the job cuts would hit ULA’s Denver-area headquarters as well as manufacturing sites in Alabama and Texas and launch sites in Florida and California.
April 12, 2016
A BIG, EMPTY JDA BUILDING DID NOT WIN OneWeb
Space Florida is gearing up for a big announcement next Tuesday, and all bets are on a new spacecraft assembly building for satellite company OneWeb. Space Florida, an economic development agency, isn’t confirming any details, but many signs point to OneWeb, which began hiring top level engineers on the Space Coast recently.
The announcement will be made at the Space Life Sciences Lab at Kennedy Space Center, for invited media only. Space Florida is about to award a major new contract to build a new 120,000-square-foot spacecraft-assembly building next door to the lab.
Space Florida to Make Big Announcement: OneWeb? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
April 12, 2016
IF ULA CAN COMPETE WITH ONE EAST COAST LAUNCH PAD, WHY WILL SPACEX NEED THREE?
ULA believes its new Vulcan rocket will compete effectively for international launch business using a single launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The company is betting that a well-designed vehicle with a streamlined and flexible processing flow will allow a manifest of more than a launch per month from the pad, including cargo/satellite and human spaceflight missions for commercial, NASA and military customers.
SpaceX, meanwhile, believes it will need three launch pads to serve the same market, two at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and one at a new Boca Chica spaceport in South Texas (total of 36 licensed launch slots per year). SpaceX intends to shift its commercial missions to the Texas site while the Florida launch pads serve government and human spaceflight missions. (It is also possible that LC-39A in Florida might ultimately be converted for SpaceX's follow-on super-heavy rocket, for missions to Mars.)
ULA and SpaceX also launch from pads at Vandenberg Air Force Base, while one launch pad at California Spaceport has not been used since 2011. The third vertical launch operator, Orbital ATK launches exclusively from Wallops MARS Spaceport (12 licensed launch slots per year). (4/12)
April 12, 2016
THE ONLY FLIGHTS AT OKLAHOMA SPACEPORT
The U.S. Air Force has a awarded a $6.7 million, five-year contract to the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority. The authority owns and operates the FAA-licensed spaceport formerly known as Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base. The contract allows the Air Force the use of the airport for flight training operations of the 97th Air Mobility Wing from Altus Air Force Base, and the 71st Flying Training Wing from Vance Air Force Base. (4/12)
(Source: The Oklahoman)
April 11, 2016
A SPACEPORT NOT NEEDED TO WIN PRATT & WHITNEY JET ENGINE CONTRACT
Pratt & Whitney's plant in northwestern Palm Beach County will be one of two sites producing F-35 fighter-jet engines under a new $1.4 billion contract from the Department of Defense. They also will be produced in Connecticut where there is no spaceport.
Engines for F-35 Fighter Jet to be Built in Florida (Source: Sun Sentinel)
April 11, 2016
THE ONLY GEORGIA COMPANY MAKING SPACE NEWS
Generation Orbit has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Langley Research Center to collaboratively pursue the design, manufacture and test of a novel composite cryogenic tank as an evolutionary path for its GOLauncher family of air launch rocket vehicles. PS: Generation Orbit has a contract to operate from Cecil Field in JAX.
Generation Orbit Gets NASA Support for Air-Launch Propellant Tank Design (Source: Generation Orbit)
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