FAA to Hold Virtual Hearings Next Week on SpaceX’s Expansion at Boca Chica

Starship SN15 takes off on May 5, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX website)

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — Please join the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a public hearing on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program at the SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas.

The FAA will provide a project overview in English and Spanish. Afterwards, members of the public can provide oral comments. The presentations will be posted on the project website after the public hearings:  https://www.faa.gov/space/stakeholder_engagement/spacex_starship/

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Japanese Astronaut to Fly Aboard SpaceX Crew-5 Spacecraft

Koichi Wakata

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — JAXA astronaut, Koichi Wakata, currently preparing and training for the ISS Expedition, has been decided to board the fifth operational Crew Dragon developed by SpaceX. The launch is scheduled for autumn 2022 or later.

This is his fifth Space flight, marking the highest number of flights as a Japanese astronaut. The flight schedule will be announced when more details are available.

Comment From Astronaut Wakata

“It has been decided that I will be boarding the SpaceX’s fifth Crew Dragon. I have been training for a long duration mission aboard the ISS and it is an honor to board this new space vehicle for three consecutive years for JAXA Astronauts, succeeding Soichi Noguchi and Akihiko Hoshide.

“It will be my fifth flight to space, following three U.S. Space Shuttle fights in 1996, 2000, and 2009, and a Russian Soyuz flight in 2013. This coming flight is going to be my first flight onboard a commercialsSpace vehicle. I recognize remarkable developments in the space field and acknowledge dynamic activities by the private sector on the low Earth orbit.

“As the world is still coping with COVID-19, I will continue my focus on training and ask you for continued support.”

SpaceX, Dish Network Engaged in Battle Over Frequency Use

Sixty Starlink satellites separate from a Falcon 9 second stage on April 22, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX website)

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating story about the fight between SpaceX and Dish Network over frequency allocation. While SpaceX is spending billions to deploying thousands of satellites for its global Starlink broadband network, Dish Network wants the Federal Communications Commission to allow it to send Internet signals via cell phone towers.

In later filings with the FCC, Mr. Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, told the regulator it needed those airwaves, which sit above 12 gigahertz on the wireless spectrum, free and clear for its Starlink swarm of satellites to beam high-speed broadband internet service to disconnected homes across the country. SpaceX didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.

The Tesla billionaire’s main antagonist in this case is Dish Network Corp. Chairman Charlie Ergen, another mogul with a history of tangling with regulators. Mr. Ergen’s Dish and his allies—who include Dell Computer founder Michael Dell through his personal investment fund, MSD Capital—are pressing the government to allow cellphone towers to send high-speed internet signals over the same airwaves. SpaceX and fellow satellite operator OneWeb oppose changes that they say threaten their goal of expanding internet access from the skies….

This is the kind of skirmish that companies often wage in Washington over finite resources subject to government rules—but with more-prominent personalities and a nastier edge than most telecom disputes. Fights over wireless spectrum are becoming increasingly common as technological advances like 5G let companies stream data in ways considered impossible a few years ago, spurring new demand for space on the airwaves to carry those signals.

SpaceX says its new Starlink broadband service is already providing cablelike internet speeds to more than 90,000 customers. The FCC granted the company $885 million in incentives to provide more connections to areas of the U.S. that lack true broadband. Dish and its allies argue that looser rules for the 12 GHz frequencies would help the company build a network that will connect smartphones, factory machines and vehicle sensors with the kind of ultrafast internet speeds that 5G promises to deliver.

The story says that Musk was adamant in a phone with the FCC’s then-Chairman Ajit Pai that the regulatory agency not open the frequency for Dish Network to provide services via cell phone towers due to the threat it posed to Starlink.

It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out here and abroad. The U.S. is likely not on the only country where this move is being considered.

Environment Engineer Says Assessment of SpaceX Boca Chica Expansion is Deceptive, Incomplete and Illegal

Starhopper aborts a hop attempt at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX webcast screen shot)
  • Assessment authors accused of submitting false emissions numbers
  • Report leaves out entire structures and their environmental impacts
  • FAA accused of illegally fast tracking approval using less rigorous environmental assessment than required by law

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An environmental engineer has raised serious questions about the completeness and appropriateness of a draft programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) that covers SpaceX’s major expansion of its Starbase rocket launch and test site in Boca Chica, Texas.

According to a 12-part series on the blog ESG Hound, the assessment that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released for public comment last month violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to evaluate all of the impact of the project, which sits amidst environmentally sensitive saltwater wetlands.

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Mynaric Adds Space Industry Leader Hans Koenigsmann to Supervisory Board

Longtime SpaceX Vice President nominated by supervisory board to replace resigning supervisory board member

LOS ANGELES, Calif., October 6, 2021 – Mynaric today announced that space industry leader Hans Koenigsmann was nominated to join its supervisory board. Koenigsmann was nominated by the supervisory board to replace resigning supervisory board member Gerd Gruppe, a former Executive board member of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), contingent on court approval. Mynaric wins Koenigsmann for his first advisory role outside of SpaceX where he acted in various high-profile leadership roles during a 20-year tenure

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NASA Announces Astronaut Changes for Upcoming Commercial Crew Missions

NASA crew members of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station. Pictured from left are NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has reassigned astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Crew Program.

Mann and Cassada will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the Crew-5 mission. Additional crew members will be announced later.

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EnduroSat and Exolaunch Announce Launch Agreements for SpaceX Falcon 9 Rideshare Missions

Reliant orbital transfer vehicle (Credit: Exolaunch)

SOFIA, Bulgaria/BERLIN, Germany, October 04, 2021 (EnduroSat/Exolaunch PR)  EnduroSat,  provider of software-defined NanoSats and Space Services for business and academia, and Exolaunch, the industry-leading provider of launch, integration, deployment and mission management services for small satellites, today announced the signing of launch agreements for sending two EnduroSat NanoSats into orbit aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The 6U XL SharedSat nanosatellites, built by EnduroSat for its customers, will be launched via Exolaunch in H1 2022 as part of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program.

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SpaceX CRS-23 Successfully Completes Mission, Returning Critical Science Back to Earth

Cargo Dragon CRS-23 atop a Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), October 1, 2021 (CASIS PR)  – On September 30, SpaceX completed its 23rd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) when its Dragon spacecraft safely splashed into the water off the coast of Florida. SpaceX CRS-23, contracted by NASA, brought back more than 25 payloads representing science and technology demonstrations sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. These investigations aim to leverage the unique space-based environment of the orbiting platform to bring value to our nation and drive a robust market in low Earth orbit.

Below highlights some of the ISS National Lab-sponsored investigations that returned on SpaceX CRS-23.

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SpaceX CRS-23 Dragon Returns Experiments on Brain, Muscles, Liver to Earth

Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide works aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

by Melissa Gaskill
International Space Station Program Research Office

HOUSTON — The 23rd SpaceX commercial resupply services mission returned samples from scientific experiments on the International Space Station. Back on Earth, scientists anticipate quick access to their experiments for additional observations and analyses.

Dragon undocked from the space station Sept. 30 and and splashed down near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the evening.

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FAA Examination of Blue Origin Safety Issues Likely to be Very Narrow

New Shepard launch (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said it will examine safety issues about Blue Origin’s crewed suborbital New Shepard vehicle raised by a group of current and former employees in an open letter published on Thursday.

The announcement comes 11 days before four paying customers, one reported to be Star Trek star William Shatner, are scheduled to board New Shepard for a trip to space. While a federal safety review might sound reassuring to these ticket holders, what does it actually mean in practice?

Probably not much.

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FAA Extends Public Comment Period for SpaceX’s Boca Chica Launch Site

SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility. A purple line extends around the developed areas of the site. New facilities are at the bottom. (Credit: SpaceX with Parabolic Arc labels)

FAA Notice of Public Comment Period Extension and New Public Hearing Dates for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program at the SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received requests for an extension of the public comment period for the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program at the SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas (Draft PEA). In consideration of these requests, the FAA is extending the public comment period for the Draft PEA. The FAA is also setting new public hearing dates which will provide additional time for the public to review the Draft PEA prior to the public hearing.

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Astranis Moves Launch of First Commercial Satellite to Falcon Heavy

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying 24 satellites as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission launches from Launch Complex 39A, Tuesday, June 25, 2019 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA)

Satellite will launch directly to geostationary orbit, meaning broadband internet service will come online months faster for underserved areas of Alaska

SAN FRANCISCO (Astranis PR) — Astranis announced today that its first commercial communications satellite, set to provide service for Alaska from geostationary orbit, will now launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on a direct-inject mission set for Spring 2022. The mission profile will allow the spacecraft to arrive at its orbital slot within days of launch and removes the need for a multiple-month orbit raise from a highly-elliptical geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

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Space System Command’s Launch Enterprise Awards Four Prototype Agreements

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SSC PR) — Space Systems Command (SSC) is partnering with industry on prototype projects to invest in next-generation rocket engine testing and upper stage resiliency enhancements.

SSC’s Launch Enterprise today awarded FY21 prototype projects for Raptor Rapid Throttling and Restart Testing; Liquid Methane Specification Development and Testing; and Combustion Stability Analysis and Testing to SpaceX for $14.47 million, for Uplink Command and Control for Centaur V to United Launch Alliance for $24.35 million, for Upper Stage Development for Neutron to Rocket Lab for $24.35 million, and for Cryogenic Fluid Management for Glenn Stage 2 to Blue Origin for $24.35 million, under the National Security Space Launch program using the Space Development Corps’ Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC).

Prototype projects for orbital transfer and maneuver are anticipated for award in early FY22, pending congressional approval of the FY22 budget request;

SpaceX Satellite Signals Used Like GPS to Pinpoint Location on Earth

Sixty Starlink satellites separate from a Falcon 9 second stage on April 22, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX website)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ohio State University PR) — Engineering researchers have developed a method to use signals broadcast by Starlink internet service satellites to accurately locate a position here on Earth, much like GPS does. It is the first time the Starlink system has been harnessed by researchers outside SpaceX for navigation.

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Lunasonde and Exolaunch Announce Agreements for Launch of Lunasonde’s Gossamer Satellite Constellation aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9

Falcon 9 launches the Transporter-2 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

This partnership aims at opening up a new frontier in resource exploration through the rapid access to space and cutting-edge radar technologies

TUCSON, Ariz. and Berlin, Germany, September 23, 2021 (Lunasonde & Exolaunch PR) –Lunasonde, a startup that focuses on subsurface imaging from space, and Exolaunch, a global leader in rideshare launch, deployment and integration services for small satellites, announce the launch agreements to fly a portion of the Gossamer satellite constellation to a sun-synchronous orbit aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Transporter missions in 2022.

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