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Congrats Blue Origin! December 22, 2017

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This bit of news came through my email today:

We took our first 12 commercial payload customers to space on Mission 7 last week.


So now we have two officially active commercial players in the RLV industry.

Headstones for the old guard are being carved as we speak.





Teaching foreigners new American fairy tales May 31, 2017

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It’s about that time again…




I suppose that the the placement of this article on Voice of America is a form of truth in advertising – what better way to teach people English than with fantastical fairy tales..?

The Expendables May 22, 2017

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While still finishing my first cup of coffee, this headline came across my desk today:

New Zealand Space Program Could Surpass U.S., Electron Rocket Begins Testing On Monday


My first thought was, “Awesome! Middle Earth is getting ROCKETS!”





Sadly, what could have otherwise been a good article was mired by this little bit of, um, fake news:

“Additionally, unlike other designs, Rocket Lab created the rocket to be disposable.”


Just as a refresher: almost all of these are/were designed to be disposable:

The Expendables

The Expendables


The only good that can come of this… November 9, 2015

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Is if they promise to send Gov Christie up as the first passenger, on a one way trip to anywhere.

New Jersey Smokes Crack, Thinks It Can Build A Spaceport

Seriously – wtf?

I remember 16 years ago when there was a huge flurry of activity of states trying to win the VentureStar bid (yeah, remember that program..? Spiked the price of golf clubs for a few years… and that’s about it).  The reality was that there were only three states that had any chance of winning the bid: Florida, Texas, and California.  The rest of the states being duped into bidding were simply there to try to extract bigger and bigger concessions from the usual three.  The reason was pretty simple: everything is a function of the risk profile of downrange geography and the orbit you want to achieve.

So what, prattle, does NJ think it is going to do? Launch rockets over Manhattan? Be more cost effective than other launch sites that are closer to the equator?

But say the magic word “spaceport” and people get giddy.

PT Barnum was right.

Public Service Announcement October 4, 2015

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That is all.

The Inexcusability of Poor Reading Comprehension July 27, 2015

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When i was a science geek growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I used to wait expectantly every month for the arrival of a magazine which promised insights into fascinating aspects of the universe across a wide range of scientific disciplines – opening up the universe for me and exposing me to great insights and discoveries that were truly awe-inspiring.

When Scientific American would fall through our mail slot, i would gleefully rip off the brown paper wrapper, go sit under a lamp in my room and start reading, savoring one article at a time over the course of the month – chemistry, physics, biology, neurology, it didn’t matter.  Sometimes it would be way over my head, others would have me stretching for understanding, but all kept me wanting more…

In the 1990s, when i started working in the Space Industry, i was disappointed to find that, much like J Geils’ song about the childhood sweetheart turned centerfold, my cherished SciAm had devolved into a fancier version of… Popular Science.  Its pages were being filled with nonsensical articles about the coming space age that, as an “insider” and non Kool-Aid drinker, I knew to be utter [insert expletive here].  Which made me start to wonder about all of the other articles in the magazine, from disciplines that were not my forte.  Were experts in those fields (chemists, physicists, etc) reading articles in their areas of specialty and similarly rolling their eyes in exasperation..?

So I suppose it is no surprise that they would publish this:

The Inexcusable Jingoism of American Spaceflight Rhetoric

One hardly knows where to begin in explaining how poorly written this piece is.

But i’ll give it a shot.

Clearly, one would not be remiss in assuming that Dr Linda* has an issue with space development or settlement, as she has clearly stated exactly that in her own writings on her blog.

The idea of establishing a permanent and expanding human presence in space makes me queasy.

So it should come as no surprise that she would write an entire essay attacking the Space Frontier Foundation – an organization that I will in full disclosure admit I am an Advocate of, although long-lapsed as I have not paid dues in years since I more or less gave up on the commercial and government space industry ever changing for reasons that we have blogged about many times in various places here.

What is also no longer surprising, for reasons described above about the quality of Scientific American’s publications, is that they published it.

What was surprising to me is that the entire missive pivoted around a glaring example of poor reading comprehension on her part that was shown in the very first paragraph of her essay – and all that she said afterwards hinges on that mistaken inference.

Take, for example, the credo of the Space Frontier Foundation, an American nonprofit advocacy group “dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible … creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space.” Such rhetoric reveals an ideology of human spaceflight—a set of beliefs about the nation’s right to expand its boundaries, colonize other lands and exploit their resources.

Where her tragic flaw is revealed is in the bolded section – she makes a giant leap from the (true) position of the Foundation about wanting to open the space frontier to the (false) position that the Foundation is about America expanding to take over the universe.

The truth is that the Foundation is made up of people from many different national backgrounds.  Of COURSE it is an American not-for-profit – that is a reality of any corporation or organization (it has to have a country that it is based in), but so what?

The real issue that Dr Linda appears to have is with ANY human settlement or development of space.  I believe she would prefer that humanity take the long nap and let the universe progress without our descendants around to witness its majesty and wonders and discover other life that (I certainly believe) is out there.  And she is certainly entitled to that opinion if that is the case.  But to dress up her personal beliefs in such a poorly written attack on an organization that does good works (Teachers in Space, anyone?) is just mean, and should be beneath her.

More than 30 years of my own observations, along with results from public opinion surveys over at least as many years, indicate that the community of American human exploration advocates is predominantly white and male. The rhetoric of frontier conquest and exploitation may appeal to this demographic, but I doubt it has much allure more broadly.

First off, this author is not white – and space has long had an allure for me (even if the current commercial industry no longer does). As it does for many non-white people (last I checked, the two most aspiring space nations – both nonwhite, by the way –  represent over 2.5 BILLION human beings… roughly 8x the population of the United States).  Why don’t you ask the Chinese or the Indians how they feel about developing resources in space?  You might be surprised.

At a time when the U.S. needs to be building sustainable partnerships with other nations to continue exploring space, “USA, Number One!” is not a good way to start productive conversations.

Again, neither the SFF nor NASA can be accused of this sort of rhetoric, even if that is precisely what Dr Linda is insinuating (I won’t even bother to comment on her ridiculous attempts to link all of this to the Tea Party).   To be clear – the US has to build other partnerships for a very simple reason – we are unwilling to spend the $ required to maintain our own presence in space, and now must rely on partners to share the bill.  This is a failure of leadership that goes back decades – and begins with the saddling of the US with the Congressionally-designed and poorly thought out STS model for space access.  All that has happened since then stems from decisions made in the post-Apollo age.  Read the extremely well-written book “This New Ocean” if you need a primer.  The $100 BILLION boondoggle known as the Space Station is the vile offspring of that poor decision – sold on a lie to Congress that has been demonstrated after 2 decades to be just that. With, of course, no repercussions for the ones who told the lie.

Disagree, if you will, with the mission of the Foundation and of people who advocate for human expansion to the stars.  Freedom of expression is one of the things that does make America great.  And i’ll defend your right to disagree with the Foundation every day – i certainly have from time to time.

Just don’t take cheap, and patently false, shots in the process.

The Founding Cynic

*note – I refer to her as “Dr Linda” not to be disrespectful, but as that is how she chooses to refer to herself on her blog: drlinda.wordpress.com

And this is the same country that’s going to send humans to Mars..? May 3, 2015

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Heard about “Operation Jade Helm”?

Read this great blog post then come back here.

Let’s say this really was a thing.

Sure, just for the sake of argument, let’s say Obama really is planning on herding Texans into FEMA death camps disguised as Wal-Marts.

Why would he need the army?

Think about it. Why would you need some secret plot to get Texans into a Wal-Mart?

Announce a Veterans Day sale with 50% off all ammunition, Duck Dynasty camouflage, and frozen chicken nuggets, unlock the doors, and step the hell out of the way before you get trampled.

Honestly, where does the Army come in?

You can’t make this shit up.

Ted Cruz and his ilk are the buffoons – i won’t sully the word “leader” by associating it with people like this – who have been elected to Congress (and the Governorship of Texas, in the case of Greg Abbott).

The Congress that is supposed to somehow muster the vision and leadership to restart manned exploration of space?


Proof that legalizing marijuana in Colorado is not necessarily always for the best… April 18, 2015

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As the 31st National Space Symposium comes to an end (congrats to my friend Elliot Holokauahi Pulham and the entire team there at the Space Foundation for another great event – sorry I missed it!), it is clear that there must have been not just a few refeers passed around by execs in the old school launch industry, judging from the ridiculous PR that is passing for news these days at places like CNN.


Apparently, United Launch Alliance has announced that their Vulcan rocket will be ready in 2019 (or 2023, depending on the configuration).  Because, as we know, the old school space industry is SO good at forecasting when something will actually become operational.  More on that later, though. At least they did some heavy duty work on the graphics for the thing, right?

Screenshot 2015-04-18 00.16.37

Psst… ULA..?
The 1990’s called – they want their clipart rocket graphics back. Nice gratuitous use of the Stars and Stripes, though.

The name I can only assume was picked to try to appeal to the Trek-fanboys amongst the aerospace world by using a crowdsourcing campaign for naming – otherwise known as, “We’re just too lazy to come up with a name, so let’s use the interwebs”… but was poorly chosen as Paul Allen has made them aware, something that you’d think ULA’s trademark lawyers might have noticed if they, too, weren’t possibly enjoying the legal herbs now available readily in Colorado..?  Their response was amusing:

ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye said she is confident the company took all necessary steps to use the name.

“We have done our due diligence regarding the legal right to use the name Vulcan,” she said via e-mail. ” ULA is committed to taking every reasonable step to avoid any confusion with other entities using this name and we are confident we can do so.”

There’s a lot of confidence wrapped up in this particular program – in the vehicle’s reusability, in the new engines that Blue Origin will be providing (powered by natural gas – at least they didn’t say they were just going to strap a few Blue Rhino LP tanks on from the local gas station…), or in the helicopter crew that is supposed to catch the plummeting engine before it comes crashing back down to Earth, so that it can be refurbished and reused…

hqdefault“pass that doobie around again… man that is some SERIOUSLY strong stuff…. “

It’s not because they are trying to play hide the ball with Congress while SpaceX is breathing down their necks and (rightfully) contesting the latest multi-billion dollar national security payload awards when ULA is busy using RUSSIAN rocket engines (how’s that for putting all your national security eggs in the wrong basket?), because they don’t know how to build their own engines (unlike, you know, SpaceX) and were making claims that are laughable at multiple levels (the following is from an article featuring Michael Gass, who was head of ULA in 2014):

“The whole tenor of the campaign is to make perfectly clear that there is a lot at stake when it comes to successful space launches — literally lives are at stake,” Gass said. “We also want to make clear that there is a big distinction between a company that has a 100-year combined heritage in successfully delivering satellites into orbit and a company that is not yet even certified to conduct one [national security] launch.”

Lives at stake?  Elaborate.

100-year combined heritage? Leaving aside how stupid that sounds, because… you know, we didn’t have rockets 100 years ago, so you’re just trying to make it sound like a big number – what you really should be looking at is the experience of the people working AT the company as it pertains to building rockets, launching them successfully, etc.  Because i’m pretty sure that just because someone in the distant past at Boeing or Lockheed (or one of the other myriad companies that was absorbed by one of those two) may have worked on a rocket program like the Saturn V, it in no way means ULA today has a particular competency that competitors lack.  And, from what i understand, you couldn’t build any of those older rockets today if someone put a gun to your head – which is why you are relying on the Russians for rocket engines while actual INNOVATORS like the folks at SpaceX are building and flying their own hardware.

For the record, going to Blue Origin for an engine doesn’t make you any more innovative.  Just like buying an iPhone 6 doesn’t make you innovative.

“Whether it is scientific missions, medical advancements, national security or new economic opportunities for businesses, ULA’s new Vulcan rocket is a game-changer in terms of creating endless possibilities in space,” said Bruno (CEO of ULA). “It will open up new opportunities for the nation’s use of space.”

Wait… that sounds vaguely familiar.

Kind of like what was said back in 2000 about this:


Shhh… we don’t talk about that program anymore.  After all, it’s no coincidence that Voldemort and VentureStar both begin with V.

Or maybe i’m just being paranoid.  After all, they say that’s one of the dangers of the recently legalized herb.

Not that I would know.

Fellow Spacers: Light the Night! August 12, 2014

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New Spacers, Alt Spacers, Space Tragics:

I’m raising $ for the Light the Night Foundation (Leukemia/Lymphoma Society) in memory of my dad, who passed away last year – he spent his life as an Oncologist/Hematologist at Kaiser fighting these terrible cancers in others so i wanted to do my part to help out.

I would GREATLY appreciate any donation you’d be kind enough to make at my fundraising page:


Thank you in advance!

Don’t forget, if your firm matches you can double the value of your donation.

(Don’t) “go the distance, Ray.” August 9, 2014

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field of dreams

If you’re old enough to remember the line, you know how this movie turns out.

A farmer (kevin costner) has a vision that inspires him to turn his prime farmland into a baseball field.  Never mind that he is WAAAY behind on his mortgage and will be foreclosed on… He keeps telling everyone that ghosts show up to practice on the field, but only he can see them.  

Of course, like any good Hollywood film, he perseveres and eventually is proven right, lots of people show up with cash in hand to watch the game, and the farm is saved.

“Space may be the final frontier,

but it’s made in a hollywood basement.”

-the Red Hot Chili Peppers

It was in 1999, while I was a manager at KPMG for the Aerospace and Defense group, that we conducted our assessment of the commercial viability of the International Space Station.  Back then, it was still early days for the program, and while the promises from NASA were full of hopes and dreams (and echoed by the space enthusiast community, who had dreams of a Babylon 5 station that they could run if NASA would only let them….) our hard nosed analysis of the actual “customers” found a major red flag:

NO ONE was interested.

15 years later, with the shuttle fleet ground and the US reliant on foreign nations (and soon) on our private sector to simply GET to the ISS, the question can be asked: what has been accomplished with the $100 Billion (with a “b”) we’ve thrown at the Great White Hope?

Well, according to Google searches… not much.

more to come, but it bears repeating the great quote from Carl Sagan at this point:

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”