More SpaceX Presser Coverage

Alan Boyle has his story up now. I have to repeat how struck I was by how adamant and vehement Elon was about the goal of reusability. It was almost Churchillian — we shall fight for it on the shop floor, we shall fight for it at the launch pad, we will never, ever give up. It should be noted, as always, though, that he also insists that reusability is not necessary to meet his current price goals. What it will do is give him more cost margin, either for lower prices, or higher profits, or both.

Taking America For Granted

Some thoughts from a grateful Tunisian/American cabbie:

The driver was recently back in Tunisia. And a curious incident occurred, in the town. A horse reared up and injured somebody (not badly). The owner subdued the horse as quickly as he could. Later, a mob came and beat the owner up, as punishment. “My sister said, ‘Good, he deserved it.’ And she is a doctor, a psychologist. If she thinks this way — that a mob can just do what it wants — what about common people?”

America, he says, has an independent judiciary, and legislatures, and executive branches. In Tunisia — as in most places — it’s all one. The cab driver thinks that the separation of powers is a miracle. Again, amazing what we take for granted.

And one that we’re in danger of losing, when we have a president who thinks that it’s perfectly fine to extort twenty billion dollars from a private business as a political slush fund.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Representative Joe Barton isn’t impressed with the shakedown, either.

And Iain Murray says that Mordor is looking for more wealth to pay its orc mercenaries.

An Immodest Journalist

…with much to be modest about. As one commenter says, what is this, 2004?

[Update a few minutes later]

Jeez. Here’s another one:

Is journalism 100 unpaid bloggers all talking and yattering at once, or a city filled with amateur citizen journalists uncoordinated in all their efforts? Those bloggers and citizen reporters are as close to real reporters as karaoke is to Frank Sinatra live and in person.

Never mind that most of those “real reporters” are clueless about most of the subjects on which they report, and most of whom have “educations” that have imparted little of real-world value.

Ain’t No Sunshine?

Or at least not enough sunspots:

Even with the solar cycle finally under way again, the number of sunspots has so far been well below expectations. Something appears to have changed inside the sun, something the models did not predict. But what?

We don’t know as much as we think we do, about climate on either the sun or the earth. Imagine the cosmic irony if we end up with a mile of ice over Chicago because we pauperized ourselves to keep the planet from warming.

Telling It Like It Is

Bob Bigelow doesn’t suffer the fools who have been stupidly criticizing commercial space gladly:

We are becoming a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation at this time to join with like-minded organizations, who want to see America be able to compete again in the global space launch marketplace, and push back against the pernicious misconceptions that are being perpetuated to harm the Administration’s commercial crew initiative.”

“Specifically, I’m appalled by the condemnation of commercial crew as being somehow less safe than government programs, and the refrain that commercial companies need to prove they can deliver cargo before they deliver crew. In regard to the latter, a leading contender for commercial missions, the Atlas V, has had 21 consecutive successful launches. This rocket is arguably the most reliable domestic launch system in existence today. It strains the bounds of credulity to claim that any new rocket would be able to trump the safety of a system that has an extensive record of flawless operations.”

“Moreover,” Bigelow added, “we’re extremely pleased to be part of the Boeing team constructing the CST-100 capsule under the auspices of NASA’s own Commercial Crew Development program. Boeing’s unparalleled heritage and experience, combined with Bigelow Aerospace’s entrepreneurial spirit and desire to keep costs low, represents the best of both established and new space companies. The product of this relationship, the CST-100 capsule, will represent the safest, most reliable, and most cost-effective spacecraft ever to fly. Again, I don’t understand the critics who say ‘commercial’ entities can’t safely build a capsule. Why is it that Boeing, the company that constructed the ISS itself, can’t safely build a capsule that would go to their own space station? These are the sorts of questions and issues that we will be posing in Washington as a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.”

“Pernicious misconception” is actually kind of a nice phrase for it. I’d like to see more details on the “CST 100” capsule. I wonder what the TLA is? Crewed Space Transportation? And what happened to 1-99? 😉

SpaceX Press Conference

Elon — half a billion dollars, biggest commercial launch deal in history. Reinforces fact that Falcon 9 is vehicle of choice not just for NASA but also for commercial sector. Also a lot of international customers. Good thing for US in particular because vehicles are built 100% in the US. US hasn’t been cost competitive in launch market, but are now.

2015-2017 for launch. Expect a couple dozen launches before then.

Bobby Block: What does mean in terms of what you’ll be looking for from the government to accelerate both crew and cargo?

Elon: Won’t make much difference, but does validate the NASA’s approach. Over the long term the cost to NASA and the taxpayer will be less because fixed costs will be divided by larger number of launches. Dragon is currently long pole, and this deal doesn’t affect that.

Block: People talking about Shuttle extension and more flights. If Shuttle is extended will it affect COTS?

Elon: Doesn’t see it affecting things. Assume that everyone knows that extending/restarting not a viable option. An extra Shuttle flight will cost a lot of money, more than SpaceX is getting for the entire NASA constract.

Claire Moskowitz: When launching out of Vandenberg?

Elon: Two years from now, roughly. Using SLC-4, former Titan IV facility (just like at the Cape). So they have a good understanding of what it takes to convert, 12-18 months.

Moskowitz: How about Taiwan launch on Falcon 1e?

Elon: Been in discussion for a couple years. Planning to do a number of Falcon 1e launches. Over forty launches manifested by the end of the year.

Alan Boyle: How many launches is the contract? About ten? One more provider to receive lion’s share?

Elon: No insight into other provider. SpaceX is primary provider, so other will be a backup or secondary. Can’t comment on exact number of launches, depends on final satellite configuration.

Elon: Most of the money goes to satellite production, the half billion is just the launch piece. Part of the cost is dispenser development, so it’s not all launch costs.

MSNBC: When is next launch, and what is cash situation (talking about Pasztor’s billion-dollar number).

Elon: Pasztor’s article rife with errors. In good financial shape but may take on debt for working capital. May also take in strategic investor. Next launch toward end of summer. Falcon 9 carrying operational version of Dragon.

Todd Halvorson: What is total backlog of Falcon 1/9 launches?

Elon: Low thirties in terms of backlog. Will be over forty by the end of the year.

Halvorson: Assuming that Iridium are polar, will any be equatorial?

Elon: Some chance of equatorial, but all current plans high inclination.

Irene Klotz: Location of Falcon 1e with Taiwan satellite?

Elon: Kwaj.

Klotz: How much to convert SLC-4 for Falcon 9?

Elon: $40-$50M.

Klotz: Who was competition for Iridium?

Elon: Everyone. French satellite, so no restrictions on American content issue. Global competition.

Klotz: How is data analysis from flight going?

Elon: Not a lot to report. It went great. Slight roll anomaly isolated to probably the roll-control actuator, but still not positive, still seeking internal consensus. A little too concerned that it went too good. Will be looking for “near misses” to prepare for next flight.

Space News: Is contract for all seventy two birds, or just a piece of the Constellation?

Elon: Doesn’t want to discuss that, ask Iridium.

ALan Boyle: Any better sense of how long the Dragon test article will stay in orbit? Is there another client for the mission, perhaps classified? Can you say anything?

Elon: Laughs, can neither confirm or deny. Dragon will stay up for a year or two, and burn up on entry.

Halvorson: Comment on how SpaceX operates versus legacy companies in terms of costs?

Elon: Doesn’t like to give sound bites — oversimplifies. Needs to write a paper on it. Like asking why Southwest is cheaper. Not just because they use 737s. SpaceX operates on a Silicon Valley OS and DNA. Sort of like an Intel or Apple or Google of space transport. Vertical integration helps also, once problems are solved. Too much outsourcing in traditional aerospace. They cut out middlemen. Using legacy components means inheriting legacy cost structure. Tightly integrated team, with factory on the same floor as engineering. Everyone in a cube, including him. Also, very simple, with same propellants in both stages. Upper stage simply a short version of first stage. Same engine on both stages, so lots of economies of scale from Merlin.

Klotz: Launch escape in house, or contract?

Elon: Building liquid escape engines into sidewall of Dragon, which will be safety improvement over solid. Won’t have to eject a tower. Having something that you have to eject every flight seems like a crazy idea. Will have escape capability all the way to orbit.

International Business: Is this part of the two and a half billion in contracts?

Elon: Yes, it’s about $2.7B, including this, through 2017, but bulk over the next five years.

Are Chinese competition?

Yes, when international customer.

How much financial margin? Can you avoid the Sea Launch problem?

Elon: Cash flow not significantly affected even in stand down. Sea Launch suffered from single-point failure of launch platform. Tough to recover from. SpaceX has site flexibility of Vandenberg, Cape and Kwaj.

Space News: Might want to check out if Chinese were eligible to bid for Iridium work.

Elon: Not sure they were, just thought they were because of French satellite. You may know more than me, but didn’t think there was an ITAR issue.

Conference over.

[Update a few minutes later]

The one question that I didn’t capture was mine. I asked him if they knew yet why the first stage didn’t survive entry, or if they would have to wait for another flight to get better data (because they didn’t get the microwave imaging data they wanted). He said that they still didn’t know, and might not figure it out until they try again. I followed up, asking if he could conceive of a time that they might just give up on it, and pull the recovery systems out to give them more payload. I was surprised at the vehemence of his answer (paraphrasing): “We will never give up! Never! Reusability is one of the most important goals. If we become the biggest launch company in the world, making money hand over fist, but we’re still not reusable, I will consider us to have failed.” I told him that I was very gratified to hear that, because I like reusability.

[Early afternoon update]

Here’s Bobby Block’s report on the presser.

Racist Conservative Soccer Hatred

Jonah has some thoughts on the idiotic notion that conservatives don’t like soccer because they’re racist. I agree with him that most anti-soccer animus is just backlash against “progressive” soccerphilia, much of which derives, I suspect, from a knee-jerk multi-culti worship. It’s not an American sport, therefore it is to be admired. I am indifferent to soccer, but I do enjoy poking fun at it, only because it stirs up the right sort of people:

it seems to me that Zirin is displaying that all too common tendency among leftwingers to assume that if conservatives dissent from liberal affections and priorities, it must be because conservatives are evil. A far more plausible and good faith explanation for the conservative reaction to soccer can be found in the liberal overreaction to soccer. It seems to me that most of the conservatives I know who make a fuss about the World Cup (I should say a “make a negative fuss,” since I know quite a few conservatives who love soccer and the World Cup. I am not one of them.) do so because they are sick of being told how soccer is the future; how it’s elegant and sophisticated and cosmopolitan. As with women’s professional basketball, journalistic and other elites tell the masses they’re supposed to love it – and they just don’t. Moreover they resent being told to “evolve” in their sports tastes. Now, tastes change of course, and soccer will undoubtedly grow in popularity. But being told that all the smart and decent people love something is a sure way to get the Irish up in a lot of Americans. I am willing to concede that some conservatives get carried away in their anti-soccer tirades, usually just for fun, but I’d very much like to see a few more liberals admit that at least some of the soccer-mania here in the states is driven by a faddish desire to seem hip and worldly.

But we know that any disagreement with “liberals” has to be rooted in racism, right?

[Update a while later]

Per some comments, I would note that my sports preference is for a game with strategy and time to contemplate the next move (e.g., football, baseball). I have an extreme dislike for any game with continuous motion with the point of getting a ball/object into the opposing team’s goal. That is, basketball, hockey…and soccer.

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