Rogozin Accuses Musk of Price Dumping

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Although praising Elon Musk as “a talented engineer and an outstanding promoter,” Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin last week accused the American billionaire of selling launch vehicles at below-market prices in order to squeeze out Russian providers.

“If you compare the price Musk sells his rockets to Pentagon at and the price he quotes for them on the market, you will see that this is nothing but pure dumping. In order to drive Russia from the market he sells launches at 40 to 60 million dollars while being paid 150 million for a launch by Pentagon,” he told Russia’s TV Channel One.

SpaceX officials have said that U.S. government launches require additional tasks that drive up the cost.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Glavkosmos Launch Services announced last week that it charges $48.5 million for a Soyuz 2.1 booster with a Fregat upper stage. A launch without the Fregat is priced at $35 million.

Both prices are below the amount SpaceX charges for satellite launches. The Falcon 9 is capable of orbiting larger payloads than the Soyuz 2.

Musk Settles SEC Case, to Give Up Chairmanship of Tesla for 3 Years

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the Securities and Exchange Commission have reached a settlement in a case in which the billionaire SpaceX founder was charged with fraud, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Musk and Palo Alto-based Tesla agreed to pay a total of $40 million to settle the case, and he will give up his chairmanship for at least three years. The electric-car maker also is required to install an independent chairman and two new board members, though Musk will remain on the board, according to terms of the settlement.

Musk and Tesla will each pay $20 million to settle the case; both reached the deal without admitting wrongdoing. The company declined to comment.

The SEC charged Musk with fraud Thursday, alleging that his tweets about taking Tesla private — at $420 a share — were “false and misleading.” As part of the lawsuit, the agency asked a federal court to remove him from the company’s leadership and ban him from running a public company.

Japanese Billionaire is Passenger on SpaceX BFR Moon Flight

Yusaku Maezawa at SpaceX headquarters. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa was introduced on Monday as the customer for SpaceX’s planned circumlunar flight aboard the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

The 42-year old billionaire, who founded the clothing company Zozo (www.zozo.com) and collects high-priced art, said he plans to invited six to eight artists on the trip who would create works of art after returning home. The passengers could include painters, sculptors, film directors, architects, writers and fashion designers.

Musk praised Maezawa as brave to take the flight. “This is dangerous, let’s be clear,” Musk warned. “This is no walk in the park.”

Maezawa’s flight is tentatively scheduled to occur in 2023. SpaceX Founder Elon Musk admitted he was not sure of the date because BFR is still under development.

Musk said Maezawa made a significant deposit on the expensive voyage around the moon. The funds will help fund the development and testing of the reusable rocket/spacecraft, which Musk estimated will cost $5 billion.

Maezawa is calling his flight Dear Moon and has established a website, dearmoon.earth. The flight’s Twitter handle is @dearmoonmission.

New Artist’s Conceptions of SpaceX’s BFR in Flight Released

BFR in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk and SpaceX have tweeted some new artist conceptions of the BFR in flight.

BFR in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

Musk tweeted that there is now a “forward moving wing” near the nose.

BFR in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

The announcement of the first passenger signed for a trip around the moon aboard BFR will be webcast tonight at 9 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. PDT) from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

SpaceX to Reveal First Passenger for BFR Circum-lunar Flight on Monday


HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle – an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space.

Only 24 humans have been to the Moon in history. No one has visited since the last Apollo mission in 1972. Find out who’s flying and why on Monday, September 17 at 6pm PT.

Editor’s Note: SpaceX announced in February 2017 to send two people around the moon aboard a modified Crew Dragon spacecraft using a Falcon Heavy booster.  The two individuals had already paid significant deposits toward the flight, which was to have taken place late this year.

In Febraury 2018, Musk announced that he had scrapped plans to use the Falcon Heavy and Crew Dragon. Instead, the BFR would be used for the cicum-lunar flyby. Musk said earlier this year that BFR could be ready for flights beyond Earth orbit in 2022.

 

Shotwell: Elon’s Fine, Nothing to See Here

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

The kids are all right. So is Elon.

That’s the assessment of SpaceX President & COO Gwynne Shotwell, who was asked about her boss Elon Musk’s erratic behavior in recent months during World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris. Bloomberg reports:

Elon is a brilliant man,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday after speaking at a satellite industry conference in Paris. “He is as lucid and capable as he has ever been. I wish people would not focus on triviality.”

There’s “no chance” that Musk’s conduct will impact SpaceX’s ability to win contracts, and there’s been “no impact at all” on the level of confidence in him on the part of the closely held company’s backers, Shotwell said.

“Look at the work that Elon’s companies do and focus on that. Not on what he does” in his own time, she said.

Shotwell also said that although she loves cars, she has no interest in taking a similar position at Musk’s struggling car company, Tesla Motors.

Review: Rocket Billionaires Elon Musk & Jeff Bezos Battle for Control of Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race
by Tim Fernholz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
304 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-328-66223-1
US$28

In 2004, a small vehicle named SpaceShipOne built by Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites and funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen flew three suborbital flights, becoming the first privately-built crewed craft to exit the Earth’s atmosphere. For their efforts, Rutan and Allen won the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Rutan quickly teamed with another billionaire, Richard Branson, to build a successor vehicle named SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic that would carry two pilots and six passengers on commercial suborbital flights as early as 2007. It didn’t quite work out as planned; 14 years later, SpaceShipTwo hasn’t flown anyone to space.

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SpaceX Could Play Crucial Role in Taking Tesla Private

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

CNBC has an update on Elon Musk’s pursuit of making Tesla Motors a private company once again.

Morgan Stanley is telling its clients Elon Musk’s stake in SpaceX may be leveraged as a source of funding for his plan to take Tesla private….

“Elon Musk’s desire to potentially take Tesla private may require large amounts of new equity capital. We see scope for SpaceX to play a potentially crucial role in facilitating the required financing as well as the strategic narrative going forward,” analyst Adam Jonas said in a note entitled “How SpaceX Can Potentially Help Tesla Go Private” to clients Monday. “We believe investors should consider the potential role of SpaceX in the near-term financial options confronting Tesla and its shareholders.”

….In a blog post later that day, Musk said “the intention is not to merge SpaceX and Tesla.”

Despite the comment, Jonas said SpaceX could invest directly in Tesla as part of a strategic partnership.

“While we are in no position to dispute this statement on a merging of the two entities, we do not expect Elon Musk to rule out the potential for the involvement of SpaceX as a capital-providing strategic partner or the potential for the value of SpaceX equity held within Mr. Musk’s trust to be considered in the financing of a potential Tesla buyout,” Jonas said. “We see increasingly compelling areas of industrial and strategic cooperation between SpaceX and Tesla in telecommunications / satellite broadband which we see as potentially advantageous for shared and automated transport networks.”

Show of hands if all this sounds a bit familiar. Tesla Motors took over SolarCity in what Musk called a “no-brainer” of synergies and which critics charged was a conflict of interest riddled bailout of a failing company about to go under that benefited Musk and two cousins. The deal added to Tesla’s already enormous debt load.

Some critics are predicting Tesla will go bankrupt this year; Musk disputes that. SpaceX is also in better shape than Tesla was when it absorbed SolarCity.

SpaceX Hosting Stealth Mars Settlement Workshop

SpaceX BFR (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has convened an invite-only workshop on its plans to establish a colony on Mars at the University of Colorado Boulder today and tomorrow.

However, SpaceX may be getting more serious about preparing for human landings on Mars, both in terms of how to keep people alive as well as to provide them with something meaningful to do. According to private invitations seen by Ars, the company will host a “Mars Workshop” on Tuesday and Wednesday this week at the University of Colorado Boulder. Although the company would not comment directly, a SpaceX official confirmed the event and said the company regularly meets with a variety of experts concerning its missions to Mars.
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Launch Double Feature on Tap for Wednesday

Ariane 5 liftoff (Credit: ESA)

If you like rocket launches — and who doesn’t? — you’re in for a treat on Wednesday with two liftoffs 15 minutes apart.

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payloads: Galileo 23-26 navigation satellites
Launch time: 7:25:01 a.m. EDT; 4:25:01 PDT (1125:01 GMT)
Launch site: Kourou, French Guiana
Webcast: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Navigation/Galileo/Watch_the_launch_of_Galileos_23_26 (Coverage begins at 7:00 a.m. EDT/1100 GMT)

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: Iridium Next 56-65 communications satellites
Launch Time: 7:39:26 a.m. EDT; 4:39:26 a.m. PDT (1139:26 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Webcast: www.spacex.com (Coverage begins 20 minutes before launch)

The timing is perfect for folks on the East Coast and in Europe, but not so much for us out here in California. If I can roll out of bed in time, I’ll try to take some video of the Falcon 9 launch from here in Mojave. No promises.

The launch will be the 13th for the Falcon 9 and the 14th flight overall for Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2018. The company’s other launch was the successful maiden flight of Falcon Heavy in February.

A successful mission on Wednesday will put the United States in a tie with China with 20 launches apiece this year. The two launches will bring the worldwide total to 61 for the year.

Ariane 5 will be launching for the third time this year. It will also be the fourth launch of 2018 from Kourou.

Look Out Elon! Here Comes Zuck: Facebook Working on Satellite Internet Program

Mark Zuckerberg (Credit: Anthony Quintano)

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is working on a satellite Internet project designed to provide broadband access around the globe, Wired reports.

The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world,” according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC.

With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February.

The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.

The new emails detail meetings between FCC officials and lawyers from a firm Facebook appears to have hired, which specializes in representing clients before government agencies. In one exchange from 2016, a lawyer from the firm requests to meet with FCC officials in the Office of Engineering & Technology and the International Bureau Satellite Division to discuss applying for an experimental license to construct and operate a “small LEO [low Earth orbit] satellite system with a limited duration mission.” The emails indicate that Facebook also set up subsequent meetings with the FCC in June and December of 2017.

Musk’s Melts Down Over Thai Cave Rescue Criticism

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

Days after promising to behave himself better on Twitter, Elon Musk had what was arguably his worst public meltdown yet on Sunday when he leveled a charge of pedophilia against a diver who had been instrumental in saving a Thai soccer team and its coach trapped in a flooded cave.

Musk made the charge — without providing any evidence —  against Vern Unsworth, a British diver who lives in Thailand, who last week criticized submarines that a team at Musk’s SpaceX built for the rescue effort as “just a PR stunt” that had “absolutely no chance of working” in the twisted confines of the cave.

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Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

SpaceX to Launch Majority of 4,000 Starlink Satellites From Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.

That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.

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Cruz, Nelson Criticize Plan to End Direct ISS Funding in 2025

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Sharply conflicting opinions about the future of the International Space Station (ISS) and America’s path forward in space were on view last week in a Senate hearing room turned boxing ring.

In one corner was NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenamier, representing a Trump Administration that wants to end direct federal funding for ISS in 2025 in order to pursue an aggressive campaign of sending astronauts back to the moon. NASA would maintain a presence in Earth orbit, becoming one of multiple users aboard a privatized ISS or privately-owned stations.

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