Category Archives: Business

Kosmas And ITAR

“Bob-1” asked in comments whether I talked to Congresswoman Kosmas yesterday about ITAR. In fact I did. She seemed aware of the issue, or at least the word. I pointed out (in light of her praise of entrepreneurship) that it was actually a much bigger problem for the smaller companies and startups, because the big ones have staff dedicated to deal with it, and can factor it into their costs for government reimbursement, but for those small companies without such in-house expertise and not on the government cost-plus dole, it represents a formidable barrier to entry, and one that the big players don’t necessarily mind. I don’t think that she had heard this argument before, and seemed interested. She told me to talk to her staffer (who was with her) next time I was in DC. Of course, I don’t know when that will be, but if anyone else out there wants to talk to the staffer, the Congresswoman seemed supportive.


There’s no wireless in the meeting rooms, so I can’t do anything real time. I’m typing this from the patio, eating a ten-dollar pastrami sandwich (didn’t pay for the luncheon where Elon Musk is speaking, and getting a von Braun award).

What was interesting about the morning plenary session was the emphasis. In past meetings, they might have led with the wonderful things that NASA has in store for us. This year, the lead speaker was George Nield, head of the FAA-AST office, followed by Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace, and then Will Whitehorn, head of Virgin Galactic, so clearly, the conference programming committee considered suborbital tourism to be the headliner at this event. NASA’s plans (soon to likely be dramatically altered) will be presented tomorrow morning.

Both the Greason and Whitehorn talks were good. Jeff made his usual points, but he started to show a little gam on orbital, saying that he has started thinking about it, and dropping a couple hints. They have seriously depleted their bin of technology problems in suborbital, and are moving forward with the Lynx, but orbital promises to replenish it, so they’re thinking about how to get someone to pay them to solve the new issues, as they did with suborbital. He is clearly aiming toward a two-stage reusable system, with a flyback first stage, horizontal takeoff and land. This implies a very large first stage, or a very expensive first stage, or some combination, and he didn’t want to show us any pictures, because he wasn’t sure what direction it would go. Also no discussion of whether or not it would be an airbreather or rocket.

He also made some comments about flight test, and not to panic when something goes wrong, which is why it’s called flight test. In the days of blogs and texting, it’s easy to gin up a lot of speculation and doomsday warnings that are unwarranted, compared to the old days when no one paid any attention to what was going on at Edwards until the results were released. This was undoubtedly in reference to the recent kerfuffle over White Knight Two tail dragging. He said a lot more good stuff, but I suspect that others will have posts up. Jeff Foust has probably been twittering.

Will Whitehorn, refreshingly, didn’t bash Lynx (perhaps because he was grateful to Jeff for his flight test comments? Or perhaps he’s just realized that it’s not good marketing). He actually praised parts of Jeff’s speech. He says that there will be a flyover of Spaceport America with WK2 at the dedication this June, and captive carry of SS2 by the end of the year, perhaps with a drop and glide test. Engine integration will occur next year. He also showed video of hybrid engine tests at Capistrano. More later.

Financial Issues In Space And Hospitality/Tourism/Entertainment

First panel is to discuss the synergy between financing for space and entertainment. “Space is not a destination.” “Space is an enabler for a variety of business verticals.” “Space accelerates and expands business verticals by providing new, disruptive ways of doing business.” Using Internmet analogy with book sales. Space-related viability may exist in areas we haven’t heard of.

Four categories: launch infrastructure, R&D and manufacturing, system operations, end-user applications. latter includes entertainment. They build on each other. “Infrastructure” is categories of large-scale hardware systems, similar to railroad lines back in 1800s. Necessary for applications: healthcare, materials, science, media/entertainment, communications, governance, energy and mining, defense, transport operations. “Governance” is things like disaster relief and planetary monitoring.

Entertainment needs infrastructure beyond mere launch — more like real estate, with facilities in space. Near-term opportunities include media and entertainment, comm and governance. Other apps are longer term. Defining media and entertainment as space tourism, ground-based training and simulations, and documentaries and GPS-related games, live video feeds from orbit, real-time earth imagery, etc.

See suborbital space tourism as important near-term app which fits cleanly within hospitality/entertainment business that requires precursor infrastructure. Virgin Galactic embodies transition — selling one-week experience with suit and simulations, not just a flight. Shouldn’t forget orbital space tourism, which is further down the road, but Bob Bigelow’s modules are an early stage of the hospitality industry in orbit.

Providing an overview of structure of hotel investment business. Major hotel chains are no longer significant investors in real estate — they manage the properties for investor groups. So don’t look to them for financing of space hotels. Look for private equity funds, insurance companies, private investment trusts, investment banks both domestic and international, which are the current industry financiers. Current markets are impacted by the financial crisis, but expects people to come back in the water in the future, because it’s a good traditional model. Hotels will be interested in participating via franchise names (e.g., Hilton) but no as investors.

What drives terrestrial hotels? Business traveler, groups and meetings, leisure. What services are required for space travel? Have to consider similarities and differences with: cruise ships, all-inclusive hotels, suborbital/orbital travel. Consider advance deposits for space hotels. Consider scuba industry as a model. Preparation somewhat similar to suborbital training in length/time, understanding of technical issues/risks. Has been very successful, and training could become significant industry in itself, even for people who don’t fly, at destination resorts.

[Late morning update]

I got pulled off into some discussions, but Jeff Foust is twittering the panels (not a permalink).

[Afternoon update]

Doug Messier blogged this panel as well.

The Contest For The Stupidest Congressman

Is the winner Alan Grayson? Would that it were true — it would be nice to think that he establishes a floor, but I think that he’s unfortunately typical, particularly among Democrats.

[Afternoon update]

Considering all of the trollery in comments, in which people desperately want to change the subject from economic ignorance to BUSH! and TORTURE! of INNOCENT TERRORISTS!, I wonder if any of them even bothered to follow the link, or just decided to pathetically play pin the tail on the Republican?

Why Government Can’t Run A Business


This isn’t really news, of course, but apparently, the lesson has to be relearned over and over.

I heard an interview a couple days ago with the Democrat who’s planning to challenge Chris Dodd in the primary, and he pointed out that he had started and managed several successful businesses, whereas Dodd had done nothing but be a politician his entire life. I wonder what he thinks of the Democrat president and vice president…, neither of whom has run so much as a lemonade stand? Or maybe Obama did when he was a kid, and his communist mother subsidized it?

The Problem With Soaking The Rich

They can vote with their feet:

We believe there are three unintended consequences from states raising tax rates on the rich. First, some rich residents sell their homes and leave the state; second, those who stay in the state report less taxable income on their tax returns; and third, some rich people choose not to locate in a high-tax state. Since many rich people also tend to be successful business owners, jobs leave with them or they never arrive in the first place. This is why high income-tax states have such a tough time creating net new jobs for low-income residents and college graduates.

One has to be particularly pig headed not to understand this.

[Thursday morning update]

Adios, New York:

Last week I spent 90 minutes doing a couple of simple things — registering to vote, changing my driver’s license, filling out a domicile certificate and signing a homestead certificate — in Florida. Combined with spending 184 days a year outside New York, these simple procedures will save me over $5 million in New York taxes annually.

By moving to Florida, I can spend that $5 million on worthy causes, like better hospitals, improving education or the Clinton Global Initiative. Or maybe I’ll continue to invest it in fighting the status quo in Albany. One thing’s certain: That money won’t continue to fund Albany’s bloated bureaucracy, corrupt politicians and regular special-interest handouts.

I thought it was stupidly amusing the other week when “Governor” Paterson expressed such glee that he was chasing Rush Limbaugh away with his policies. Well, there are a lot of other people who won’t be any more happy than Rush is to continue to fund these parasites.


[Evening update]

A disgusting but apt metaphor from Mark Steyn:

As Miss McArdle notes, whether you bail out states “too big to fail” or let them go bankrupt, it will cause pain to taxpayers. But the pain of the latter is relatively short-term. Passing Sacramento’s buck to Washington will accelerate the centralizing pull in American politics and eventually eliminate any advantage to voting with your feet.

Not to be too gloomy, but the country feels like it’s seizing up. It’s as if California and New York have burst their bodices like two corpulent gin-soaked trollops and rolled over the fruited plain to rub bellies at the Mississippi. If you’re underneath, it’s not going to be fun.

I hope that a bailout of California and New York will have huge electoral blowback (including from many Californians, like the ones who voted down the continued state tax and spending on Tuesday, and New Yorkers).