California Considers Tax on Launches Within the State

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

California’s Franchise Tax Board is seeking public comment on a proposed new tax that would fall upon ULA, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and other companies launching spacecraft from within the state.

The levy would apply to companies “that generates more than 50 percent of its gross receipts from the provision of space transportation activity for compensation in a taxable year,” the proposal states. Space is defined as 62 statute miles (100 km) or more above Earth.
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SpaceX Again Aims for High Launch Cadence

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’ is hoping the fourth time will be a charm.

For the fourth year in a row, SpaceX is trying to significant increase its launch rate.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp, better known as SpaceX, plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks, its fastest rate since starting launches in 2010, once a new launch pad is put into service in Florida next week, the company’s president told Reuters on Monday.

“We should be launching every two to three weeks,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

During each of the past three years, the company tried to vastly improve its launch cadence only to hit significant setbacks.

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SpaceX to Launch Dragon Supply Ship from Historic Launch Pad 39A

SpaceX’s 300-foot long processing hangar, which stands at the base of Launch Pad 39A, and the upgraded launch infrastructure will support the needs of astronauts and ground support staff who will access SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as it stands on the pad for launch to the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A will see its first flight in nearly six years in mid-February when a SpaceX Falcon 9 launches a Dragon resupply ship to the International Space Station.

The California-based company announced over the weekend that the launch of the EchoStar 23 communications satellite, set to be the first from the renovated pad, would be delayed until after the CRS-10 Dragon supply flight.

SpaceX is leasing the historic launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center under a 20-year agreement with NASA. The company has been modifying the launch complex for launches of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters.

SpaceX’s main launch complex at the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has been out of action since September when a Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded as it was being fueled for a pre-flight engine test. Repairs are still under way.

Pad 39A last saw a launch in July 2011 with the 135th and final space shuttle mission. Atlantis flew a nearly 13-day logistics flight to the space station. Prior to the start of the shuttle program in 1981, the complex hosted Saturn V launches for the Apollo program.

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Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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Space Florida Approves Minotaur Launches From Florida

minotaur4
Minotaur IV booster

The Space Florida Board of Directors last week approved a plan to allow Orbital ATK to use Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46) at Cape Canaveral for Minotaur launches. The board instructed staff members to complete negotiations and enter into a contract with the Virginia-based company.

The board’s approval clears the way for Orbital ATK to launch the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space’s ORS-5 SensorSat spacecraft in mid-2017.

SensorSat will be launched aboard a Minotaur IV rocket under a $23.6 million contract.

“The risks associated with operating the site and launching the vehicle are born by [Orbital ATK],” according to the board’s meeting agenda. “The Company will pay a reimbursement fee to Space Florida for all fees and costs incurred by Space Florida associated with the use of the Premises.”

SLC-46 increases the locations where Minotaur rockets can be launched to four. Orbital ATK has launch facilities for the booster in Virginia, California and Alaska.

Space Florida is eyeing SLC-46 for other launches, including or a test of the Orion abort system in 2019.

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KSC Avoids Direct Hit By Hurricane Matthew

This visible image on Oct. 6 at 1:00 p.m. EDT from NOAA's GOES-East satellite shows Hurricane Matthew as it regained Category 4 Hurricane Status. (Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)
This visible image on Oct. 6 at 1:00 p.m. EDT from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite shows Hurricane Matthew as it regained Category 4 Hurricane Status. (Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

Hurricane Matthew Update
NASA Kennedy Space Center

Oct. 7, 2016, 9:45 a.m. EDT – Hurricane Matthew has now passed offshore from Cape Canaveral and is north of Kennedy Space Center.  The wind is starting to decline but remains near tropical storm strength.  However, until the wind is consistently below 50 knots a crew cannot be sent outside to begin a more thorough look at KSC. That is expected sometime this afternoon.  At this time there is observed to be limited roof damage to KSC facilities, water and electrical utilities services have been disrupted and there is scattered debris. Storm surge has been observed to be relatively minimal, limited to localized portions of the space center. The Damage Assessment and Recovery Team will be brought in for its formal assessment Saturday morning.

Editor’s Note: KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station dodged a bullet by avoiding a direct hit. The hurricane ended up tracking about 20 miles to the east of where forecasters initially believed. This kept the strongest winds off shore.

Hurricane Matthew Bears Down on Cape Canaveral

Video Caption: Cameras on the International Space Station captured new views of Hurricane Matthew at 4 p.m. Eastern time Oct. 5 as the Category 3 storm moved to the north of Cuba toward the Bahamas at about 12 miles an hour, packing winds of 120 miles an hour. After inflicting major damage to western Haiti and eastern Cuba, Matthew is heading toward the east coast of Florida where it could pass close to or over NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane warnings from north of Golden Beach, Florida to the Flagler/Volusia county line to Lake Okeechobee.

Editor’s Note: There’s a lot of concern that Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Base could get hit pretty hard by this storm. Both facilities are being evacuated and will be shut down the rest of the week. There’s concern the Vehicle Assembly Building and other structures could be damaged by the high winds.

SpaceX Pad Explosion Endangered NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

Credit: USLaunchReport.com
Credit: USLaunchReport.com

“No sooner had we accomplished the securing of the pumps when I was approached by another one of our range users who explained they were losing pressure on the chillers at a neighboring launch complex. Without those chillers the spacecraft for the next launch would be lost. [Emphasis added] Needless to say at this point I had to reestablish our priorities and get a team working on a way to get our IRT into Space Launch Complex 41 to allow access for technicians to enter in order to make the necessary repairs.”

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx was sitting on top of an ULA Atlas V on Space Launch Complex 41. Read the full story below.

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Blue Origin Eyes Second Launch Complex in Florida

Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)
Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is looking to expand its footprint on Florida’s Space Coast:

Blue Origin has asked permission to build at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a launch pad that has been dormant since the 1960’s.

Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ company wants to build on Space Launch Complex 11, which hasn’t seen a launch since 1964, and the adjacent Space Launch Complex 36.

The plan was revealed in permit applications with the St. Johns River Water Management District, which oversees permitting on that land.

The permits hint at a plan to test rockets onsite while launching from the launch pad.

Read the full story.

ULA Atlas V to Launch NASA’s OSIRIS-REx on Thursday Night

The high gain antenna and solar arrays were installed on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prior to it moving to environmental testing (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
The high gain antenna and solar arrays were installed on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prior to it moving to environmental testing (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

United Launch Alliance to Launch
NASA’s OSIRIS-RE
x Spacecraft on Sept. 8

What: A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is set to launch the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission for NASA.

Location: Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

When: Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016; launch window is 7:05-9:00 p.m. EDT

Mission Description: The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, called Bennu (formerly 1999 RQ36), and bring at least a 2.1-ounce sample back to Earth for study. The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

Resources for Coverage:

About ULA: With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 100 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch, twitter.com/ulalaunch and instagram.com/ulalaunch.

Falcon 9 Pad Failure Throws SpaceX Schedule into Doubt

Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)
Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)

The loss of a Falcon 9 rocket and its Amos 6 communications satellite payload in a launch pad accident on Friday morning throws the company’s ambitious launch schedule into confusion.

SpaceX has launched eight rockets successfully in 2016. The company had planned 10 more launches by the end of this year.  (See table below; information courtesy of Spaceflightnow.com). That plan was very ambitious, and it is unclear the company would have flown all these missions.

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Forecast Looks Good for Friday Morning Delta IV Launch

ULA Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-45 mission lifts off from Vandenberg. (Credit: ULA)
ULA Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-45 mission lifts off from Vandenberg. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — The ULA Launch Readiness Review was completed today everything is progressing toward the ULA Delta IV launch carrying the AFSPC-6 mission for the United States Air Force.

The mission is set to lift off on a ULA Delta IV rocket on Friday, Aug. 19, from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 12:47-1:52 a.m. EDT. Today’s L-2 forecast continues to show a 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

Weather Forecast

Overall probability of violating launch weather constraints: 20%
Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds

Overall probability of violating launch weather constraints for 24-hour delay: 20%
Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds

The launch will be webcast at http://www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

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SpaceX, ULA Launches Set for Next Week

deltaiv_nrol45_l3
Delta IV launch (Credit: ULA)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully completed a pre-flight static engine test on Thursday. The launcher is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base with the JCSAT 16 communications satellite on Sunday morning at 1:26 a.m. EDT (0526 GMT). The launch attempt has a two-hour window. SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket is scheduled to launch the U.S. Air Force’s AFSPC 6 mission from Cape Canaveral on Friday, Aug. 19. The launch period is listed as being from 12:00-4:00 a.m. EDT. (0400-0800 GMT).

Space Florida Approves Financial Measures for Blue Origin, OneWeb

space_florida_logoThe Space Florida Board of Directors approved funding measures last week to support project by Blue Origin and OneWeb. The spending includes:

  • $2.7 million for transportation improvements between Blue Origin’s launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the rocket production facility it is building at Exploration Park; and,
  • $3 million for a short-term bridge loan to OneWeb in support of a planned satellite manufacturing facility at Exploration Park.

Read the full story.

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Starliner Crew Access Arm Undergoes Evacuation Water Test

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Engineers and technicians gathered at dusk recently at a construction site near Kennedy Space Center in Florida to test systems that will support Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The Crew Access Arm and White Room saw some of the most dynamic testing thus far, when hundreds of gallons of water were sprayed along the arm and beneath it for an evaluation of its water deluge system. The system is a key safety feature for future launches on the Starliner, one of two commercial spacecraft in development to carry astronauts to the station.

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