Falcon 9 Flight to Kick Off Busy Launch Period

Falcon 9 on the launch pad with Intelsat 35e satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

UPDATE: SpaceX has scrubbed for the day due to the need to replace a sensor on the second stage. The next launch window is Wednesday, Jan. 31.
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for late this afternoon will kick off a busy period of international launches that will see the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy and China’s sixth orbital mission of 2018. SpaceX has four flights scheduled by the middle of February. (Thanks to Spaceflight Now for the schedule.)

Jan. 30

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: GovSat 1
Launch Window: 4:25-6:46 p.m. EST (2125-2346 GMT)
Launch Site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The Orbital ATK-built satellite will provide secure communications as part of the nation’s contribution to NATO. There will be no attempt to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage.

Jan. 31/Feb. 1

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz 2-1a with Fregat upper stage
Payload: Kanopus-V 3 & V4
Launch Time: 9:07:18 p.m. EST Jan. 31 (0207:18 GMT on Feb. 1)
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

The twin satellites will assist Russia in mapping, forest fire detection and disaster response.

Feb. 1

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: CSES
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China

The China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite will study how electromagnetic signals in Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere to determine if they can help predict earthquakes. This joint mission with Italy will be China’s sixth launch of 2018.

Feb. 3

Launch Vehicle: SS-520-5
Payload: TRICOM 1R CubeSat
Launch Window: 12:00-12:20 a.m. EST (0500-0520 GMT)
Launch Site: Uchinoura Space Center, Japan

The second launch of Japan’s upgraded sounding rocket will carry the 3U TRICOM 1R CubeSat, which has an imaging camera and store and forward communications system.

Feb. 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon Heavy
Payload: Tesla Roadster
Launch Window: 1:30-4:30 p.m. EST (1830-2130 GMT)
Launch Site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy will send a red Tesla Roadster into deep space.

Feb. 10

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 11

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Progress 69P
Launch Time: 3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Feb. 14

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

Musk’s New Tesla Pay Package Seems to be Aimed at Mars

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Elon Musk has a new pay package with Tesla Motors that could net him $55 billion over the next decade if the company reaches a series of extremely ambitious targets, according to press reports. If he doesn’t reach those goals in 10 years, he could end up with nothing.

That might seem like a crazy plan even for Musk, who is known for taking great risks. But, it makes sense when you consider the billionaire’s ultimate long-term goal: to develop a transportation system to facilitate the establishment of human colonies on Mars.

Musk has said he is dedicating his personal wealth to that objective. And although his net worth is estimated at $21 billion, actual profits from his various businesses have been elusive.

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Steve Jurvetson Leaves Own Venture Capital Firm Over Harassment Claims

Steve Jurvetson

Steve Jurvetson — a key investor in SpaceX, Tesla Motors and Planet — is leaving the venture capital firm he founded, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, over allegations of sexual harassment. Recode reports:

DFJ announced the move in a letter to limited partners on Monday. The firm released a statement to Recode that read:

As of today and by mutual agreement, Steve Jurvetson will be leaving DFJ. DFJ’s culture has been, and will continue to be, built on the values of respect and integrity in all of our interactions. We are focused on the success of our portfolio companies, as well as the long-term vision for the firm and will continue to operate with the highest professional standards.

The firm did not specify the reason for the ouster in the letter, but sources said that the investigation uncovered behaviors by Jurvetson that were unacceptable related to a negative tone toward women entrepreneurs….

The departure comes as Jurvetson was being investigated by his own firm for harassment. An entrepreneur had alleged predatory behavior was “rampant” at DFJ. The woman, Keri Kukral, did not name Jurvetson in her Facebook post.

Jurvetson denied the claims in a Twitter post.

 

Jurvetson Investigated for Alleged Sexual Harassment

Steve Jurvetson

Prominent space backer Steve Jurvetson is being investigated for alleged sexual harassment, his venture capital firm admitted this week. Jurvetson’s investments have included two of Elon Musk’s companies, SpaceX and Tesla Motors.

Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the VC firm he founded, said Tuesday it had launched an inquiry into Jurvetson a day after an entrepreneur alleged that “predatory behavior is rampant” at DFJ. The woman, Keri Kukral, did not name Jurvetson in her Facebook post.

“DFJ has never received a complaint about the professional conduct of any of our partners or investment professionals,” DFJ spokeswoman Carol Wentworth said in a statement to Recode. “Earlier this summer we became aware of indirect and second-hand allegations about one partner, Steve Jurvetson. We immediately opened an independent investigation, which is ongoing at this time.”

“Women approached by founding partners of Draper Fisher Jurvetson should be careful,” wrote Kukral, who runs a startup called Raw Science, which has not received DFJ funding in the past. “The situation I found myself in is personally atypical and I’ve not been in any other situation remotely like it. I was not seeking investment or trying to further my career.”

Musk Quits Trump Advisory Boards Over Paris Climate Accord Withdrawal

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX and Tesla Motors Founder Elon Musk has quit three White House advisory bodies over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

“Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

Musk said he had done all he could to convince the president not to withdraw from the global agreement to reduce carbon emissions to flight global warming.

Musk served on the White House Manufacturing Jobs Council, the Strategic and Policy Forum, and the Infrastructure Council.

Disney CEO Bob Iger also resigned from the Strategic and Policy Forum over Trump’s decision on the Paris Climate Accord.

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Analysis: SpaceX’s Revenue Projections for Satellite Internet Too Optimistic

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

A new analysis of SpaceX’s plans to have revenues of $30 billion per year for its global satellite Internet project is “too optimistic” and could damage the industry’s credibility by creating unrealistic expectations. It also claims that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly manipulated financial analysts with “totally unrealistic” schedules and projections.

Here’s an excerpt from the story. [Emphasis original]

WSJ’s [Wall Street Journal’s] article notes that SpaceX expects to attract over 40 M subscribers by 2025. The largest satellite Internet network today is operated by HughesNet, which has slightly above 1M subs after nearly a decade of operation. Combining ViaSat’s Exede and HughesNet, the year with the highest number of new subscribers was in the 300-350,000 range, which hints at how difficult it is to build the distribution channels for this kind of service. Of course, cheap, self-installation terminals and a global operation infrastructure could accelerate service take-up, but it appears very difficult to reach the 40M installed base in just 5 years. Compounding all of the above, one must not forget regulatory barriers as SpaceX would need to pursue landing rights in each and every country it wants to operate….

The best way to predict the future is building it, and NSR will only be pleased to see the satellite industry growing to the levels forecasted by SpaceX, as it would be beneficial for everyone. While it is true that forecasting revenues for such innovative ventures has a significant level of uncertainty, NSR nonetheless believes the $30 billion revenue projection is too optimistic no matter what assumptions are made and could stoke unrealistic expectations undermining the industry’s credibility.

One must also consider that SpaceX are masters of strategic communications and have repeatedly made extravagant announcements to push analysts, the financial community, the industry and employees in its favor. It is its CEO managing style, the day after he announced a totally unrealistic schedule and sales target for Tesla’s Model 3, auto analysts universally moved their own estimates up satisfying what probably was the original goal, shifting the paradigm. SpaceX has said very clearly that it plans a step deployment of the constellation starting commercial operations with a “modest” 800 satellite constellation (compared with the 4,420 of the full deployment), which hints at the venture having different growth scenarios with more reasonable assumptions. When analyzing SpaceX projections, being an investor, a competitor or an industry watcher, one must keep its independence and not fall in this expectations trap. Otherwise, industry’s credibility would be at risk.

Read the full story.

Trump Appoints Elon Musk to Strategic & Policy Forum

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

NEW YORK (Trump Transition PR) — President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that three additional members will join the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum: Travis Kalanick, CEO and Co-founder of Uber Technologies; Elon Musk, Chairman and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla; and Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.

Earlier this month, President-elect Trump established the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum and announced an initial round of 16 members. The Forum, which is composed of some of America’s most highly respected and successful business leaders, will be called upon to meet with the President frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the President implements his economic agenda. The Forum will be chaired by Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone.

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Conservative Group Targets Elon Musk

stopelonfromfailingagain
A conservative political action committee (PAC) headed by Laura Ingraham has specifically targeted Elon Musk and his three companies with a website titled Stop Elon From Failing Again.

Billed as “The One Stop Database on Stopping Elon Musk,” the website is a compilation of critical news stories about Musk, SpaceX, SolarCity and Telsa Motors. A major criticism is that the companies have received billions in government subsidies and tax credits.

elon_spacex_crash_trump

The web site is one of several projects of Citizens for the Republic, a group headed up by conservative activist and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.  Donald Trump has Ingraham on the short list of candidates for presidential press secretary.

 

The Good, the Bad and the Elon

elon_musk_vance_bookElon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
By Ashlee Vance
392 pages. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers

Is it possible for someone to be too smart for his own good?

That’s the question that echos through Ashlee Vance’s fascinating biography of Elon Musk. The SpaceX founder comes across as a brilliant visionary with a messianic zeal to improve the lot of humanity. His ultimately goal is to establish a settlement on Mars to ensure the the human race survives if Earth gets wiped out.

And yet, his brilliance, massive ego and single-minded ambition put him miles above the mass of his fellow human beings, who he tends to mistreat in the worst ways. At his best, he has the brilliance and charisma of Iron Man’s Tony Stark, at his worst, he turns into The Simpsons’ C. Montgomery Burns. And not in a funny way.

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Elon Musk to Receive Howard Hughes Award

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

LOS ANGELES (Aero Club PR) — Elon Musk, Chief Executive and Chief Technology Officer of SpaceX, the Hawthorne-based company which makes and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, has been selected to receive the 2014 Howard Hughes Memorial Award by the Aero Club of Southern California.

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What’s It Like to Work for Elon Musk?

elon_musk_control_panel
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Quora.com has some interesting input from Space.com and Tesla employees on what it’s like to work for Elon Musk. From the responses, it sounds awesome, challenging, demanding, inspiring and all measures of other superlatives. And it’s clearly not for everyone.

There’s one anonymous entry from one SpaceX employee who while professing to love the company and his job, nonetheless delves into some of the darker aspects of working for Musk:

Everything that’s been said is certainly true. SpaceX really is awesome. What’s been said is just one part of what it’s like to work with Elon Musk so I’ll discuss the side that you won’t often hear.

If you want a family or hobbies or to see any other aspect of life other than the boundaries of your cubicle, SpaceX is not for you and Elon doesn’t seem to give a damn.

This side of what it’s like to work with Elon shows that no one likes working with Elon. You can always tell when someone’s left an Elon meeting: they’re defeated. These are some of the hardest working and brightest people in the world, mind you. And they are universally defeated. At least in engineering, who knows what HR and finance does.
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Elon Musk to Receive Edison Award

elon_musk_control_panelPALOS PARK, IL (Edison Awards PR) — The Edison Awards announced that Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors and the CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), will be honored for his continuous contribution to human-centered design, as well as his positive influence on creating entirely new market opportunities and inspiring future leaders and innovators worldwide. The Edison Awards Ceremony will be held on April 29-30, 2014 at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco, California.

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The Impact of SpaceX on Telsa Motors

Via Wired: Tesla Motors is challenging the giants of the global auto industry with all-electric cars—and a new approach to building them. Take a look at their assembly lines, and the philosophy behind them.

California Dreaming: Space News From the Golden State

SpaceShipTwo in flight on Dec. 19, 2012. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo in flight on Dec. 19, 2012. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo reportedly went out flying on Monday. It did not appear to be a glide test. But, this probably means that one is coming fairly soon. I’m guessing later this week. The first glide flight took place just before Christmas, more than three months ago. (UPDATE: The duo were out flying again on Tuesday in another captive carry.)

This would be the second of three planned glide tests with the engine installed before powered flights begin. There’s a rumor of the first powered flight occurring in about three weeks’ time, but that remains unconfirmed.

As a sign of how busy things are, Scaled had an engine out on the test stand on Saturday. It’s not known if they fired up the engine, but it is clear that the Easter holiday provided no rest for the weary. (UPDATE:  The engine was indeed fired on Saturday.)

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic was out on a separate test stand doing brief firings of an engine last week. I don’t know for sure, but my best guess that it is a liquid engine designed to power LauncherOne and SpaceShipTwo.

HAWTHORNE

On Sunday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that his electric car company, Tesla Motors, had its first profitable quarter. He also hinted at bigger news coming on Tuesday.

musk_tesla_tweet

We’ll have to see just how important it is in the morning.