How the Seattle area became a satellite hotspot

SpaceX employees in Redmond

SpaceX employees in Redmond, Wash., give a cheer during the countdown to a Falcon 9 rocket launch that put dozens of Redmond-built SpaceX Starlink satellites in orbit on Nov. 11. (SpaceX via YouTube)

Seattle may not be the best place to put a launch pad, but the region is turning into one of the most prolific satellite production centers in the United States.

“How many of you know that Washington state is actually one of the world’s leading satellite manufacturers?” Roger Myers, a longtime aerospace executive who is currently president-elect of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, asked during a session of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s Economic Leadership Forum on Nov. 18.

In terms of sheer mass and revenue, Colorado-based Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s satellite operation in California still have bragging rights.

But when you tally up how many satellites have been launched in the past couple of years, it’s hard to beat SpaceX’s satellite development and manufacturing facility in Redmond, Wash.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heliogen claims solar power breakthrough

Heliogen plant

Heliogen’s commercial facility in Lancaster, Calif., was able to concentrate sunlight at a temperature high enough to replace fossil fuels in industrial processes. (Heliogen Photo)

By Todd Bishop and Alan Boyle

solar energy tech company founded by serial entrepreneur and inventor Bill Gross — and backed by investors including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — says it has developed a way to create concentrated solar energy at temperatures hot enough to replace fossil fuels in industrial processes that contribute significantly to global carbon emissions.

It works by using cutting-edge computer vision technology to align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a precise target. The process creates immense heat, exceeding 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 Fahrenheit), that can replace traditional fuels such as coal, gas and oil in the production of materials such as cement, steel and petrochemicals.

The Los Angeles-based company, Heliogen, said this morning that it achieved the high-temperature milestone at its commercial facility in Lancaster, Calif.

It described the innovation as a “major step towards solving climate change” that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes. Such processes are thought to account for one-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

GAO sides with Blue Origin in launch dispute

New Glenn

An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. (Blue Origin Illustration)

The Government Accountability Office is agreeing with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture that the Air Force needs to amend its rules for deciding who’ll get future contracts for national security space launches.

Today’s GAO decision comes in response to Blue Origin’s pre-award protest over the Air Force’s National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, which was filed in August when Blue Origin and three other companies submitted their bids for future procurements.

The launches covered by the process would be executed between 2022 and 2026, and are sure to bring billions of dollars to the companies that are selected.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

NASA adds 5 companies to moon delivery list

Blue Moon lander

Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander is designed for deliveries to the moon. (Blue Origin Illustration)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is among five companies that have just been cleared to deliver payloads to the moon for NASA. So is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is offering its Starship super-rocket for lunar trips.

Sierra Nevada Corp., Ceres Robotics and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems round out today’s list, joining nine other commercial teams that were put into NASA’s “catalog” for lunar delivery services a year ago. NASA has already picked two of those teams, headed by Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, to put science experiments on the moon in 2021.

The next delivery orders in what NASA calls the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS, are likely to call for payloads to be launched by 2022, said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s science mission directorate. One payload that’s certain to be on the list is NASA’s VIPER rover, which is destined to look for signs of water near the moon’s south pole in late 2022.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nanoracks will test metal-cutting robot in space

Nanoracks hardware

An artist’s conception shows the deployment of hardware that would deploy a set of satellites and then demonstrate a robotic metal-cutting technique for in-space habitat construction. (Nanoracks Illustration)

Nanoracks says it’ll put a metal-cutting robot to work in orbit next year as part of a satellite deployment mission, marking the first in-space test of a key habitat-building technology.

All this is due to be done under the umbrella of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program, which promises to provide a regular route to space for small satellites.

The hardware for Texas-based Nanoracks’ first in-space outpost demonstration mission is due to ride aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in late 2020. If the demonstration works, that would mark a significant step forward for Nanoracks’ plan to convert spent rocket stages into outposts for Earth orbit and deep space.

GeekWire was the first to report on Nanoracks’ outpost concept, more than a year and a half ago. The concept envisions setting construction robots loose inside a rocket’s upper stage, such as the Centaur stage of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5, after its fuel has been expended.

The robots would retrofit the upper stage and its fuel tanks to accommodate an air lock, storage space and even accommodations for human occupants. Nanoracks has offered the concept for consideration in NASA’s NextSTEP-2 space habitat initiative.

Nanoracks’ NASA-funded demonstration is meant to show that a robot built by one of its NextSTEP-2 teammates, Maxar Technologies, can cut samples of second-stage tank material safely and efficiently in space.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

MagniX gets set for electric flight tests in December

MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski

Roei Ganzarski, CEO of MagniX and chairman of Eviation, discusses electric aviation during a meetup in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Redmond, Wash.-based MagniX, which aims to become the Tesla of aviation, is gearing up for the first flight tests of an all-electric Harbour Air seaplane in British Columbia next month, the company’s CEO says.

But that’s not all: In addition to supplying a 750-horsepower Magni500 motor for use on a de Havilland Beaver that’s being converted to all-electric propulsion at Harbour Air’s B.C. headquarters, MagniX is experimenting on a converted Cessna Citation airplane in Moses Lake, Wash. The company is also laying plans for a next-generation 1,500HP Magni1000 motor.

Those are just some of the projects described by MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski this week during a meet-up presented by Hacker News Seattle Meetup Group and Cofounders Connect at ATLAS Workbase.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Report sharpens debate over spaceship costs

SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner

An artist’s conception shows Boeing’s Starliner capsule and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. (NASA Graphic)

Boeing is in line to get paid substantially more per seat than SpaceX for astronaut trips to the International Space Station, in part because it negotiated an increase in what was meant to be a fixed-cost contract, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General says in a watchdog report.

The 53-page report, issued Nov. 14, estimates the per-seat cost for flights on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule at $90 million, which would be more than the $84 million or so that NASA has been paying the Russians for rides on their Soyuz spacecraft. In contrast, the price for a seat on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule was estimated at $55 million.

In response, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “this doesn’t seem right.” He said it was “not fair that Boeing gets so much more for the same thing.

Boeing, meanwhile, took issue with the way the figures were calculated. And while the officials in charge of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program generally accepted the report’s findings, they said Boeing’s increased payout was fairly negotiated.

The inspector general’s report fueled criticism over cost overruns and scheduling delays in the development of commercial space taxis for transporting astronauts to and from the space station. NASA has had to rely on the Russians for such rides since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment