One of Bezos’ biggest rivals in the space game is SpaceX’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, who weighed in with an artful series of tweets that started out praising Blue Origin’s test flight but ended up downplaying it.
“It’s really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions,” Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said today in a news release. “It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan.”
Even though the first order went to Boeing, it has not yet been determined whether Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule or SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule will go first. The contracts required NASA to put in its orders early, but the scheduling decisions and required certifications will be made at a later time.
The big reveal comes when engineer and one-time spaceflier Howard Wolowitz (played by Simon Helberg) reluctantly joins his wife as well as his pal Raj and his girlfriend to help with Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter. Howard gets stuck washing the dishes, but loses control of his sink sprayer when he sees Musk walk in with a load of dirty plates.
“What are you doing here?!” Howard asks.
“I’m washing dishes … I was on the turkey line, but I got demoted for being too generous with the gravy,” Musk replies.
SpaceX is poised to win an Air Force national security launch contract by default because its archrival, United Launch Alliance, has dropped out of the competition.
ULA said this week that it decided not to bid on the Air Force contract for launching a GPS-3 satellite in 2018, leaving SpaceX as the sole bidder. The contract was the first of its kind to come up since the Air Force certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch national security payloads.
Reuters quoted ULA’s chief executive officer, Tory Bruno, as saying that the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture couldn’t submit a compliant bid because of a federally mandated ban on the use of Russian-built RD-180 engines for national security launches. ULA uses the RD-180s on the first stage of its Atlas 5 rocket, which has traditionally been used for such launches. A defense authorization bill currently under consideration in Congress includes a provision that would give ULA access to four more of the engines, but that bill has not yet been signed into law.
Bruno also told Reuters that the criteria for bid selection don’t give ULA enough credit for its record of reliability and schedule certainty, and that the accounting procedures for separating the funds for GPS-3 from other government contracts were too onerous.
Boeing says it’s out of the running for NASA’s next contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, but it’ll still be sending up cargo as well as astronauts on its CST-100 Starliner spaceship under the terms of different deal.
The update came as NASA said that its selection of contractors for the second round of commercial resupply services for the space station, previously scheduled to be announced today, would have to wait.
“CRS2 is a complex procurement,” NASA said in an emailed statement. “The anticipated award date has been revised to no later than January 30, 2016, to allow time to complete a thorough proposal evaluation and selection. Since the agency is in the process of evaluating proposals, we are in a procurement communications blackout. For that reason, NASA cannot answer questions about this procurement at this time.”
The CRS2 contracts are likely to be worth billions of dollars, and would cover a period running from 2018 to 2024.
What is it about Seattle that’s led some folks to call it the “Silicon Valley of space,”and how far can space entrepreneurs go in the next 20 years? One of the panels at Friday’s Xconomy Seattle 2035 conference tackled those questions – and added a couple of shorter-term predictions as well.
Jason Andrews, the CEO of Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc., listed three reasons why Seattle is up there with Southern California, Silicon Valley, Texas and Florida’s Space Coast when it comes to commercial spaceflight.
It’s been nine months since SpaceX’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, announced plans to put up a constellation of 4,000 satellites to provide global Internet service, and scores of employees are being hired in the Seattle area to start making it so. But today SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell signaled that the company is reconsidering those plans.
The project is technically doable, she said. “But can we develop the technology and roll it out with a lower-cost methodology so that we can beat the prices of existing providers like Comcast and Time Warner and other people? It’s not clear that the business case will work,” she said.
In the first deal of its kind, Seattle-based Spaceflight says it’s buying a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will be set aside exclusively for launching other people’s small satellites into orbit.
The first dedicated rideshare launch is due to go into sun-synchronous low Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California during the latter half of 2017, said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight’s launch business. Sun-synchronous orbits are particularly popular for Earth imaging satellites, and Spaceflight anticipates buying a dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 every year to service the market.
“By purchasing and manifesting the entire SpaceX rocket, Spaceflight is well-positioned to meet the small-sat industry’s growing demand for routine, reliable access to space,” Blake said in a statement issued Wednesday.