Media Relations Hit Snag With CASSIOPE Launch—UPDATE

SpaceX's customer on the upcoming launch of the Cassiope mission, MacDonald Ditwiller & Associates Inc., has blocked all media from covering the launch. This is the latest, in a series of issues relating to SpaceX's media relations. Image Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace
SpaceX’s customer on the upcoming launch of the Cassiope mission, MacDonald Ditwiller & Associates Inc., has blocked all media from covering the launch. This is the latest in a series of issues relating to SpaceX’s media relations. Image Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has had its fair share of issues with the media. With the upcoming launch of the Cassiope mission, a new wrinkle has emerged: Media are currently not permitted to attend the liftoff of this historic flight as guests of SpaceX. Cassiope will be the first non-NASA flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket (excluding the inaugural test flight of the launch vehicle). Liftoff is currently scheduled to take place Sept. 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s (VAFB) Space Launch Complex 4 in California.

SpaceX initially stated the following regarding this decision: “We will likely not host media at this launch, per our customer’s wishes. Sorry about that!

In an effort to understand why SpaceX access to the launch of the Cassiope communications satellite was more restrictive than those carried out on the behalf of the Department of Defense by other launch service providers, AmericaSpace reached out to MacDonald Dettwiller & Associates Inc. (MDA). Although MDA did not respond, SpaceX’s Christina Ra did contact AmericaSpace to clarify the situation.

According to Ra, this event is an anomaly, one which stems from both the wishes of the customer and SpaceX’s situation at Vandenberg. According to Ra, SpaceX’s facilities at VAFB are currently less-developed than those at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. However, as VAFB is an Air Force installation, the infrastructure to handle the media is established. Indeed, Ra stated later that the Air Force’s Public Affairs Office at Vandenberg would host media per their protocol. Given this is a pivotal launch for SpaceX, it is odd that the Air Force, an entity that has no interest in this particular mission, will apparently be providing a greater level of media access than the two companies directly involved.

Reports have come in that SpaceX will not be allowing them to set up remote cameras at SLC-4, but that VAFB public affairs will escort them to set up remote cameras outside of SLC-4.

AmericaSpace reached out to several established aerospace companies in an effort to determine how unique this situation is. The general answer from these companies was that they consider the media to be an integral part of telling the space flight story and would not restrict media access in such a fashion. They would host the media and would have representatives present for interview, access to information, etc.

Logos of MacDonald Detwiller & Associates Inc. and SpaceX logos posted on AmericaSpace
While SpaceX is the launch service provider, the decision as to the level of access provided to the media is up to the wishes of the customer, in this case, MacDonald Detwiller & Associates Inc. Image Credit: SpaceX / MDA

While SpaceX might not be directly responsible for this latest issue, as the launch service provider it is unfortunate that such an abnormal situation will take place on this historic mission. It is also not the first time that SpaceXs media relations has had problems.

Indeed, even for highly classified launches, such as those conducted for the National Reconnaissance Office and U.S. Military, the media is encouraged to attend. During these launches, the U.S. Air Force and launch service provider for those missions escort media representatives to designated launch viewing sites.

For his part, SpaceX’s Chief Executive Officer Musk has had a well-reported history in his dealings with the media. During the course of researching this article, a journalist with another outlet relayed how they had received a profanity-laced email stating that the journalist’s efforts were outdated and best-suited to NASA and other commercial space companies. Then, of course, there are the issues he has had with the New York Times and Barron’s.

The company’s communications arm has also had a tumultuous history. Between 2010 and 2013, four media relations professionals joined SpaceX and subsequently resigned.

If the restrictions for the launch of Cassiope do turn out to be a one-time event, it is unclear how the company’s internal and external communications will be impacted, if at all. The company has four missions currently scheduled to take place for the remainder of 2013 (Cassiope, SES 8, Thaicom 6, and Orbcomm OG2). Ra stated that after the launch of Cassiope, normal media relations should be restored.

The launch date has slipped further as, according to a report on Spaceflight Now, issues cropped up during a countdown rehearsal test and have caused SpaceX to delay the launch of Cassiope again.


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  1. Space-X and Mr. Musk are an arrogant bunch for sure. They talk a good game but the results are average at best. All the Space-X fanatics out there will not like anyone not in agreement with them! Nice to see someone stand-up to Musk.

  2. “‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ Cried Alice.” Apparently Alice was operating on an entirely different level of reality. Hmmm.

  3. Why do people still not put dates on their articles? There is not mention of the year, or even if this article is current. Other than looking at comment dates.

    I am not surprised that SpaceX would not be accommodating to journalists.

  4. Not sure what the hubbub is. I don’t attend launches, but I do watch them on webcasts like the one ULA had for today’s Delta IV launch. If SpaceX has a webcast for the MDA launch, that is good enough first-hand information for me.

    For the comment from the anonymous reporter, I’m not sure there is enough information to understand the context of the conversation taking place. What was Musk responding to, and was it a valid response? And really, who cares? All that matters is what Musk does, not what he says to some anonymous reporter, right?

    People have always been surprised by how forthcoming SpaceX has been in their previous launches, so now that they aren’t (because of MDA or not) suddenly conspiracy theories start being bandied about. Maybe there is a conspiracy, but I guess we’ll find out on launch day. And if something does go wrong with the launch, then it won’t matter whether journalists are at the launch site or not, since everyone will be dissecting what happened regardless if they were there or not (or have facts or not).

    • The “hubbub” is that if this were to take place for any launch, one would think it’d be for a classified mission – not a comm sat & certainly not a launch with this many firsts attached to it. Further, the most secretive missions there are, those conducted for the DoD & NRO – host media. In fact, it’ll be the first in which the media is not hosted since I’ve been covering the space program – & that’s close to a decade.

      As to your comment about Musk’s response. I’m unsure what your profession is, but I think most folks would find receiving a profanity-laced email where Musk derides both his competitor as well as his largest customer to be, at best, highly unprofessional & a sign of something severely wrong within an organization. So, no – wrong.

      Actually, people in general & the media in particular have been surprised at the lack of openness within SpaceX. Not, sure where you’ve been getting your info from. Also not sure why you’re injecting conspiracy theories into this. The article is meant to show how this recent incident, through no fault of SpaceX’s, further impacts the company’s perception of being hostile to the media.

      As to your comment about how this would or would not impact SpaceX, if something were to go wrong on launch day – you couldn’t be more wrong. If the vehicle & its payload are lost? The highly-unusual move to not host media will be viewed as keeping them out just because of just such an incident. It’ll suggest the company knew this would happen & opted to not host media for that very reason (even though it might have been MDA that pushed for this).

      Lastly, the key point supporters of this move seem unaware of is any effort such as this needs to have someone there to question the rationale behind things. If all you hear is the glowing praise from the echo chamber, the adulation of their own, private, mutual admiration society, if they show they’re unable to handle criticism whatsoever? Then sooner-or-later a disaster, possibly one with crew on board is bound to happen. Whether SpaceX supporters choose to admit it or not, having a dose of cold water tossed onto your less-than favorable aspects – helps you keep perspective. By keeping the media at arms length you can’t get this & are bound to start believing your own press – because that’s the only thing you’re hearing.

      • The “hubbub” is that if this were to take place for any launch, one would think it’d be for a classified mission – not a comm sat & certainly not a launch with this many firsts attached to it.

        But since this is MDA’s decision, and not SpaceX (as SpaceX and commenter Lori state), isn’t this now kind of a non-story from the SpaceX perspective?

        I’m not in the media, but I do follow most U.S. launches. Compared to ULA and Orbital Sciences, SpaceX seems to be pretty comparable, or even more open about what’s going on. Your the first person I’ve heard that feels dramatically different, so maybe I’ve missed something. Do you have some examples you could point me to?

        Regarding your comment about Musk and other press, you cited the New York Times, but maybe you don’t remember that the New York Times ombudsman did say that their writer used bad judgement and opened himself up to valid criticism. I would agree that Musk is unusual in how communicative and talkative he is as a CEO, but I guess this is perceived by you as a bad thing. Do you think he should communicate less?

        • Given the historic nature of this mission? It’s the exact opposite of a non-story. You noted Lori mentioned how this was MDA’s decision – not SpaceX’s – but failed to mention I’d said as much in the article & in subsequent comments. One has to wonder why you omitted this.

          There are several instances where I’ve seen SpaceX representatives work to curtail / restrict the media. In some cases a threatening tone has been taken, in others company representatives have attempted to exercise control outside of what they’re allowed to. Rather than detail them here, if you want to know specifics you can contact me via email. I’ve had other instances relayed to me, but without the ability to verify them I won’t mention them. Having said that, there have been numerous occasions when SpaceX representatives have provided incredible access.

          The media’s job is not to serve to promote any one company – it is to report the good & the bad equally. While SpaceX supporters might want me to only report the former – that’s not how this works. I strive to be as fair as possible. It’d be nice if this was recognized.

          What I perceive as a bad thing, is when a CEO drops F-bombs & insults his current largest customer (NASA). Are you suggesting this is okay? Also, it wasn’t just the New York Times, it was Barron’s too.

          Between the incidents at Cape Canaveral, the high turnover rate of PR officials, the history of Musk’s relations with the media, I feel that not only is this not a “non-story” – that it points to a pattern within the company. The fact is, as soon as the announcement got out that SpaceX wouldn’t host media – it was inaccurately blamed on Musk/SpaceX. Why? Because the media has come to expect this sort of thing from them. Given the fact this article clears SpaceX in this matter one would think fans would be supportive. Yet this is ignored in the rush to criticize.

          SpaceX has improved their relationship with the media. The fact MDA/SpaceX will not host media for this mission is a problem, but not an insurmountable one (read the article’s last paragraph). In fact, the biggest issue I’ve seen is that SpaceX supporters appear unable to accept anything even remotely resembling criticism of the company.

          The use of the term “non-story” has been used by another SpaceX fan. It lends to the appearance those in the SpaceX camp cannot abide criticism & will work to downplay or excuse it. This is the first launch of an F9 from VAFB, the first launch of this rocket with a commercial, non-NASA customer – it’s historic. It’s also the first launch in recent memory where the media was not hosted by the LSP. I know you’re a SpaceX fan, but take a step back & look at this objectively – how can this be a good thing?

  5. NOT TRUE!!

    The Air Force is hosting the Media for this launch by default.

    MDA requested that SpaceX not host a media event. They don’t want the media at the launches until THEIR SATELLITES are in orbit.

    Let’s remember a few things:

    1. SpaceX is the launch provider. It’s not their show. It’s MDA’s show!

    2. MDA is a COMMERCIAL client, not NASA. They have a different apprioach to the media.

    3. This is the first commercial launch out of VAFB. The Air Force is excited about this and wants to host the media.

    4. SpaceX was INVITED by NASA to participate in and to invite the media – in addition to NASA’s media machine.



    They’re the client. It’s their right.

    So, Jason – while SpaceX isn’t hosting the media at VAFB, they will be there, in full force, at the pad and at all of the media events hosted by the USAF. They’ll be meeting with the media, doing one on ones, pad tours, etc. (My source? The highest it gets at SpaceX.)

    Hope this helps dispel all of this suspicion and negativity. They are simply not in control of choosing the media hosting. thye clients are, and that is as it should be!! (I know that this is a change from what we’re used to, because NASA always let SpaceX play a big role in the launches out of KSC. But, this is a whole new game : THEY HAVE COMMERCIAL LAUNCH CUSTOMERS NOW!!

    Sincerely, Jason … thanks for keeping everyone honest. YOU ROCK, DUDE!!

    • The article states the USAF will be hosting the media – but that SpaceX will not. This isn’t a USAF payload – so why are they doing more than either than MDA / SpaceX?

      The article states this was MDA’s decision.

      This sort of thing has not taken place in recent memory & presents a very disappointing turn in media relations.

      AmericaSpace contacted VAFB PAO – they stated SpaceX hadn’t even told them when they’d launch – doesn’t sound quite as close a relationship as you suggest.

      Again, you’re correct about it’s MDA right to not host media. However, this doesn’t make it right. Read my last comment as to how this is detrimental to those involved.

      Your source at SpaceX – has been directly contradicted by SpaceX’s Public Relations officer, Christina Ra – who stated the opposite. According to Ra, SpaceX won’t host media & she might be out there. It’s difficult to see how the possible presence of a single individual constitutes “full force.” Moreover, Ra has also contradicted your source in regards to the pad tours, one-on-ones, etc. Perhaps your source & Ra should talk to one another. In one paragraph you state SpaceX will be hosting the media & in another they’re not able to do so because of the customer’s wishes. This suggests confusion.

      Actually, it’s a big change in how any launch is done, not just NASA ones. That’s the point. All other commercial launches, NASA launches & those for the DoD & NRO – none has been handled this way (at least not in recent memory).

      Little confused, is your name Lori – or Jason? You close with “Sincerely, Jason…”

  6. As for the profanity laced emails … I wouldn’t be too happy getting one of those either! 🙂

  7. LOL – you should be a lawyer! I come in peace, Jason. I didn’t mean to close with “Sincerely Jason”. It was my personal comment to you, expressing sincere appreciation for what you do. 🙂

    Sometimes things aren’t expressed clearly by the right people, in the right way, at the right time. Nobody is very happy about this, but it happens. And then, the confusion snowballs I’m not a SpaceX employee – just a fan who has occasional anecdotal access to SpaceX management.

    I was assured that SpaceX WILL be there, in full force. They will be doing pad tours, one on ones, etc. and all else. But they will not be officially HOSTING (ie – “inviting”) the media because they were asked not to by MDA. They will be there, along with the Media Relations Team from the USAF, at the events “hosted” by the USAF.

    Anyone from the media who wants to attend the launch, should go to their media contacts from the USAF for an invitation. Please write to me the next day, and let me know if you saw SpaceX there meeting with the media. Deal?

    • Hi Lori,
      I was told SpaceX will not host the media, will not be having one-on-ones or pad tours. I sincerely hope you’re correct. As you mentioned earlier, this launch is a big deal. I’d prefer it if this article is proven wrong, or, at worst, serves as a catalyst to change the situation.
      Unfortunately, I’m based out of Florida – so if anyone from AS attends – it will be our VAFB correspondent.
      Sincerely and with much thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

  8. Jason, I know – it’s very confusing! That’s why I asked my contact for clarification. Your article upset me, and I sent tt on for an explanation. My subject title was “HATE THIS”. I gaqve you the explanation that I was given. It would never be my place to contradict Christina Ra, so please understand that it’s all just a misunderstanding. I’m sure that she was right at the time, that your article was also right, and that things have changed as a result! Nicely done!

    As I said earlier, I’m just a big fan. I run a FB Group of 3000+ called “SpaceX News and Views 2013”, and I follow the company fanatically. I’ve been a space engineer since 1979 (no joking), and this little company really has me jazzed up about moving things forward technically. The G’Hopper is the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen. I would give just about anything to see that first stage come home next month! But, I don’t have a single contact at the USAF! 🙂

    I read your articles religiously. I get what you do … and I like it! Keep up the good work, and maybe someday, you’ll become a SpaceX cheerleader too! They’re not perfect … but they sure are awesome from the perspective of a girl whose 35 year career revolved around designing commercial aircraft.

    Oh, to be 22 again! Things are just starting to get exciting … wish that I would be able to see Elon get to Mars in my lifetime – profanities or not. That guy is smart! 😛

    Warm regards, Lori
    Please keep in touch 🙂

    • Christina has been very accessible & accommodating. I have zero problems with folks being excited about SpaceX – I do however have issue with folks who choose (not you) to discredit anything critical that is posted about the company.

      I’m a journalist – I cannot become a SpaceX Cheerleader – I have to retain objectivity. I’ve posted positive review of SpaceX efforts – & negative one. It’s very disappointing that fans laud my pro-SpaceX articles as literary gold – but accuse me of all manner of things for pointing out the negatives.

    • I want to close with this. Some have tried to label this article as one assigning blame. If there was any intent behind it, it was to highlight a potential problem so that it can be addressed & rectified. One should never be closed to outside opinions or constructive criticism. In fact, it should be welcomed. Yes, the job isn’t easy & I don’t do it perfectly – but I feel it’s too important for me not to try. I also wanted to thank both you & Ben for working to keep me honest – it was much appreciated.

      • Thanks for the open discussion Jason. Let’s hope SpaceX has the same success ULA just had with the Delta IV Heavy.

        • You’re very welcome, I enjoyed it. If the launch of Cassiope is anything like previous F9 launches – it will be. SpaceX has got an excellent vehicle in the F9.

          • Yes they did have what was a very good vehicle in their F9 but how F9 v1.1 turns out has yet to be determined. It’s basically a new vehicle: new engines, new engine configuration, stretch stages, upgraded avionics, new pad. All the best.

        • Delta IV Heavy, what a beast. Imagine if SpaceX actually manages to fly FH. The U.S. won’t need SLS with two heavy lift commercial vehicles both capable of further lift mass upgrades. Enough capability to put the larger Bigelow space habitats in orbit or beyond. Possible replacement for ISS even if they do push out manage to safely extend the lifespan beyond 2015 or is it 2020?

          • Before considering relegating the SLS to the scrap heap in favor of the Delta IV Heavy or some proposed SpaceX vehicle, it might be advantageous to access the AmericaSpace archives and study the very well-written article by Jim Hillhouse (holder of advanced degree in aerospace engineering) which dispassionately compares and contrasts the various heavy-lift launch vehicles. No cheerleading, just engineering.

            • Hi Karol.
              What are the relative costs per mission of each vehicle and how does that translate to $/ lb to orbit? Seems to me that that should be part of the consideration as well as engineering capability. Should the taxpayer be required to fund space exploration no matter what the cost? What do you say since I have reasonable estimates for all vehicles except SLS and would appreciate those figures. Thanks.

              • I believe that Elon Musk testified before Congress that the taxpayer funded 90% of the cost of his venture. Do you have any figures as to what was saved by tossing Ares on the scrap heap in favor of the “private-sector-owned-taxpayer-paid-for” new direction for NASA. Yes, it IS about engineering capability if no other vehicle has the capability of the SLS to go to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

                • Hi Karol.
                  I believe there have been other studies that have suggested that existing commercial vehicles can do the job but you’re ignoring a basic fact governing all enterprise. That is that if there are insufficient funds for a venture then it doesn’t happen no matter how good it might seem to be. Mr Spudis may have the best plan in the world but he has no funding.
                  So, where is there funding for any Moon or Mars or L2 or …. Mission or colony? Check me if I’m wrong but I haven’t seen any. The only substantial government funding in the HSF space is for SLS, MPCV and ISS in order of magnitude. No other capability or hardware of any significance is being funded. In the absence of such funding, how do we go do any missions. Perhaps you could enlighten me. Thanks.

                  • I believe there are also authoritative studies that have shown that smaller vehicles and more launches are not as safe, efficient, or economical as SLS approach. I also believe that although the Solyndra venture seemed to be a good idea and there were insufficient funds from the private sector, it still received funding. Charles Bolden stated on the first anniversary of the landing of the CURIOSITY MSL that boot prints will follow tire tracks, apparently a reference to a future Mars mission. With completion of ORION/SLS a more complete and accurate assessment of resources available for such a mission will be possible. I agree with John Logsdon and Scott Pace that a more well-defined set of goals and clearly-established timetable for human spaceflight is definitely needed at this time.

                    • a more well-defined set of goals and clearly-established timetable for human spaceflight is definitely needed at this time.

                      Maybe, but what is really missing is the money. And not just a little, but a lot of money over a period of decades. Our current politicians have shown no desire to fund such a level of effort, which is why the SLS is perceived as a rocket without a need.

                      This gets back to trade-offs. You can have the SLS, but as NASA has stated recently they only have enough money to launch it every four years, and no money to build any SLS sized mission payloads for it. Compared to commercial rockets that fly many times per year, that is too infrequent to be reliable.

                      The alternative is that you can use proven existing commercial rockets, use proven ISS architectures, and be launching modest exploration missions by the end of this decade at a modest rate.

                      Until the money to use the SLS frequently and safely is allocated, spending money on building it now doesn’t look like a good investment.

                    • Agree with some of what you say. However, the people who “perceive” SLS as not having a need – are those that want SLS’ funds.

                      NASA officials have said SLS will fly once every other year, perhaps once a year – if so? It will fly at the same current rate as SpaceX’s Falcon 9. I’m curious – which comparable commercial vehicles are you referring to? To the best of my knowledge, no rocket can do in a single launch what SLS is proposed to do.

                      Given ISS cost over $100B – I find your comments inaccurate. As do I find what you say about commercial companies. To date, they haven’t launched a single human being. Until commercial providers can prove they can do what they claim? That doesn’t sound like good investment either. They have two hurdles they need to clear. 1.) Launch humans. 2.) Show they can do it repeatedly & reliably.

                      The problem is, supporters of commercial, private, NewSpace – feel all that is needed is to hand everything over to commercial companies. What’s truly required is a two step process with NASA pathfinder missions, followed by public-private efforts. This is currently taking place on ISS. Once NASA completes initial exploration efforts, they in then turn operations over to private firms. Moon, Mars, beyond – each start with NASA, followed through by private organizations (that’s not AmericaSpace’s view – just my private opinion).

                      The one thing you said, that I totally agree with – is the two key problems facing space exploration – are the budget & politicians.

                    • However, the people who “perceive” SLS as not having a need – are those that want SLS’ funds.

                      Though there are some that feel that way, you have to recognize that there is validity to another view that sees no long list of funded missions and wonders why we have to build an HLV today. Why not build it later when there is a demonstrated need?

                      It will fly at the same current rate as SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

                      I think you are being a little technical here. One Falcon 9 has flown this year, and another is at the launch site getting ready to go. Then you have to remember that SpaceX has a backlog of flights for next year, which I think is around six.

                      But if you remember I am a ULA fan, and ULA plans 12 launches this year. NASA can’t hope to match that type of operational tempo, and repetition increases safety.

                      The last public update from Gerstenmaier stated they would fly at 4 year intervals through 2025. At that rate after each launch they might as well mothball the launch equipment, fire the workers, and then start everything back up when they get within a year of the next flight. It would save a lot of money, and likely not make a bit of difference from a safety standpoint.

                      Given ISS cost over $100B – I find your comments inaccurate.

                      Which part? Are you keeping in mind that part of that cost was Shuttle related? A complex ISS module like the Boeing built Destiny module cost about $1.2 Billion, and it houses life support and science racks. That could be the building block for a simple space-only exploration vehicle, and it has plenty of room for the crew to stay healthy on an extended trip. It’s the perfect complement to the Orion, which would deliver crew.

                    • From what I’ve learned from NASA, they’re handling things in this way (no list of missions) due to the budget. Moreover, the short term (tentative) mission for SLS – is the asteroid retrieval mission. Long term – Mars. Demonstrated need? We’ve been stuck for 40 years to get out of LEO – don’t you think that’s need enough?

                      Ben, is there any other way to be? SpaceX has had manifests of 12-16 launches a year – but has only been able to launch once per year. Until they achieve more than that – you can only base their record off what they have accomplished – not what they say they will. That’s one of my biggest gripes about commercial space proponents – they base their views off what these companies say they will do – not what they have actually done.

                      In some cases you’re comparing apples to oranges. A manned mission to another world is totally different than launching a comm sat into orbit. You also seem to overlook the complexity of man-rating the pad, structures & rocket.

                      I spoke with them personally in June, when did this update come out? (I’ve no doubt you’re correct – I just have not heard those numbers anywhere). Also, I think the budget is the determining factor. When things improve, the rate of both BEO & LEO missions should improve.

                      Ben, the $100B was not the shuttle’s fault. While I see the ISS as an amazing accomplishment, it came in extremely late & massively over budget.

                • I believe that Elon Musk testified before Congress that the taxpayer funded 90% of the cost of his venture.

                  I’ve heard that figure bandied about before, but I don’t know where it came from. Do you know what hearing it was? Because it might have been correct for a single point in time in the past, but it certainly isn’t correct today.

                  Let’s look at the facts. For the Commercial Cargo program, SpaceX received a total of $396M from the COTS portion, which was for successfully completing milestones per their COTS contract. The CRS contract is payment for services rendered, so that in no way would be considered “funding”.

                  For the Commercial Crew program they didn’t win any money under CCDev 1, but did win $75M under CCDev 2 back in April of 2011.

                  That is $471M, so you think that is 90% of what it took to build their Hawthorne factory, their Texas engine test facility, Falcon 1, Falcon 9 v1.0, Dragon cargo, their CCAFS SLC-40 facility, their VAFB SLC-4 facility, and the work they have been doing on the Grasshopper, Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 v1.1?

                  If they were able to do all that on that little of money, don’t you think that was worth it?

                  As a comparison, Lockheed Martin is going to be paid $16 Billion by the U.S. Government to build a 4-person capsule. And that is without a Service Module, since ESA is supposed to be building one of those (and only one).

                  As a taxpayer, which do you think has the better ROI?

                  • Hi Ben.
                    You’ve made some good points regarding SpaceX and government payments. Never really added up the infrastructure that SpaceX has invested in. There sure seems a lot.
                    Heard F9v1.1 is on the pad ready for its wdr and that the flight date has now slipped 5 days. If it gets off in Sept. and it is successful then I believe the hardware for the next 3 flights has already been built and tested prior to integration. They could still do a couple more before the end of the year. But they do have some way to go before they catch ULAs record. Be great to see commercial launches coming back to the U.S. I think that’s really where ULA let the side down over the last 10 or so years, failure to compete on all levels, not just reliability.
                    Interesting times ahead.

                    • But they do have some way to go before they catch ULAs record.

                      I’m sure they don’t care about ULA’s record on reliable launches. All they care about is their own record, since that is what their customers will judge them on. As long as they satisfy their customers, they will continue to be successful.

                      I’m a big ULA fan, especially of the Atlas V. But ULA can continue to have a perfect launch record and still lose customers because they are charging too much. That is what I fear their future is, since ULA is not doing anything to address their recent significant cost increases.

          • D-IV and Falcon heavy really don’t have the volume SLS has–and that will be needed for greater LH2 loads needed for Moon/Mars

  9. In the NYTimes and Barron’s articles your talking about Tesla correct?

    If so, in the NY Times article the reporter screwed up and tried to cover his tracks. Unfortunately for the reporter, all review vehicles have a ping to home which indicated that the reporters story did not match the actual data. Actually Musk apologized to the reporter at first because he thought something may have gone wrong with the car, but after the reporter posted the flaming article they went back to check the logs and found things were not as they seemed.

    As far as Barron’s article goes. Barron’s who has no clue how much batteries cost tried to debate with Musk about how much Tesla batteries cost. Musk got tired of debating and responded with this:

    “I have no interest in an article that debates what we consider to be an obvious point — which is that there is a dramatic reduction in battery costs,” Musk said, after a few questions.

    “You clearly do not understand the business. My apologies. I am terminating the interview.”

    So how exactly are these “issues”? More like stories blown out of proportion.

    • Why are you so defensive? The exact quote you’re referring to: Then, of course, there are the issues he has had with the New York Times and Barron’s.

      Do I say it was Musk being a monster in these two examples? No. I state he’s had issues with the media. I note you conveniently don’t mention the profanity-laced email, instead you focus on attacking both of the other instances mentioned. You go on to bad-mouth the Barron’s article. Given the amount of attention the NYT story got? I find it disappointing you’re so eager to dismiss it. I guess it’s just another “non-story.”

      If anything, I should thank you for validating what I’ve stated earlier. That is SpaceX/Musk reporters will excuse anything, place blame anywhere but with the company & it’s representatives. You might be correct about the NYT event. However, considering you follow on with the comment: “Barron’s who has no clue how much batteries cost tried to debate…” It’s far more likely you lack objectivity & are attacking any & everyone who points out a possible pattern/problem. My advice is to be a little more skeptical. One instance is an anomaly & can be excused. Multiple instances point to an issue.

        • The journalist mentioned is afraid of reprisals (one of the PR reps that joined & quit SpaceX instilled that fear in most reporters) & has asked me to not release info. Apologies, but it doesn’t cast Mr. Musk in a good light. Moreover, my own personal experiences with SpaceX representatives have shown there are issues both in SpaceX’s internal (within the company) & external (public – media) communications. While I recognize SpaceX supporters want to believe the company can do no wrong & runs perfectly. However, actually considering that the possibility all is not so perfect – should not be such a controversial topic. It’s important to keep an open mind.

          • What is Musk going to do to him exactly? hunt him down?

            If the email is not released even anonymously, then you can understand people will take things with a grain of salt. You gave me advice on top to be a bit more “skeptical”. Would someone claiming I have an email that makes Musk look bad but I can’t release it due to reasons. That would light anyone’s skepticism flag.

            Personally I am not doubting that such an email exist, Musk is the type of person who says what is on his mind. I am more interested in the context of the email.

            Because again, anything taken out of context can be manipulated one way or another.

            No one said that SpaceX can do no wrong either, but you can’t exactly say they are doing anything horrible either. If SpaceX limits media coverage and sends not nice emails, relatively speaking it is not that bad. Its like when you watch a cat video and read comments how not feeding the cat for 3 minutes is animal cruelty. Clearly.

            There are things that warrant outrage and there are things that warrant asking for improvement. If you want SpaceX to be more open, sure sounds good and I agree. But I am not going to hold it against them for not being open about everything. Because at end of the day, they are a private company.

            • His concern of being blacklisted is very real despite your rude comment (Why is it exactly that NewSpace supporters can’t help but make such comments?).

              Yes, I can, which is why I included all of the other references. One incident can be explained away, multiple incidents point to a pattern of behavior. It’s sad that you’re so intent on disproving everything that could cast the company in a bad light without even considering it.

              No, but your constant efforts to refute any & all information highlighting possible flaws suggests you’re trying to do just that. If that’s all that were to happen – you’re correct. Now imagine how well this behavior will be received when a crew is lost. That’s the problem. You see this article as an assault on SpaceX – when what it really is – is an effort to address these issues before they negatively impact the company’s efforts. It’s called constructive criticism, something to be encouraged – not attacked.

              Who’s asking anyone to hold anything against anyone? If anything we’re trying to hold their customer accountable. A fact you ignore. At the end of the day – Dow, Exxon, BP – are all private companies – whose poor media/public relations cost them. Fixing similar issues can only aid SpaceX. Why are you so opposed to this? Moreover, why are you ignoring that, in this current instance, SpaceX wasn’t the culprit (if anything they were the victim)? Is SpaceX so fragile they cannot handle a critical review? This appears to be another example of the inability of NewSpace supporters to handle criticism. Having an objective, outside, source critique your performance, contrary to your posts – is a good thing.

              In 1986, after the loss of Challenger, the nation was appalled to see NASA shut its doors & not respond to the tragedy that had occurred. Now? You’ve just spent the past three posts, in essence, defending similar attitudes & behavior. How do you think the negative press will help SpaceX when a crewed Dragon is lost? It gets more than a little tiring to try to convince people that not burning bridges isn’t a bad thing. If SpaceX supporters think alienating the press is a good idea? Ask yourself how this attitude will help when the first crewed accident occurs.

              • The reason why I am asking for email proof is simple. Lately Tesla has been the victim of a lot of false reports. Here is one example of a fake report to the NHTSA:


                And look at that ironic last line.

                When a lot of fraud reports use that last line and then you throw it out there, you can’t help but feel a little skeptical. Think boy that cried wolf.

                As I pointed out, one indecent or multiple incidents do not point to any trend in behavior. It depends on the sample size and other factors. Trust me, you can make data look like anything just by picking and choosing. Especially if the data is taken out of context.

                That said, by the sound of things even if something does go wrong with the shuttle. The media is not going to report it due to fear of being blacklisted. I can understand the concern of being blacklisted and all, but end of the day it is a reporters job to report things as they are. If reporters are not doing their jobs due to fear of being blacklisted then what is the point of reporters? lets just replace them with yes men.

                Then again it is possible that the full context of the conversation, the reporter themselves said things that should not be said and fears the public will not take his side.

                You want SpaceX to be public about their dealings, I want the reporter to be public about the email, how is that any different?

                • I understand what you’re saying. However, it’s not as if the journalist’s email was a stand-alone event. I myself have seen how SpaceX has struggled (& in some cases failed), where they’ve restricted members of the media and worst. Having said that? They’re not doing so bad right now, they’ve come a long way. I’m neither a boy nor am I crying wolf, when I say SpaceX’s comm arm has had some severe issues – believe it. I hold degrees in public relations & journalism. What I personally saw SpaceX reps do & what I heard them say – reflected very poorly on the company. Are you going to call me a liar now as well? No offense, but judging from your comments today, I feel the reason you want the “proof” – is to provide you with a target to attack. Your handle is “Weapon” after all. Sadly, like any good journalist, I’m not revealing my source.

                  Those who overlook multiple incidents are willfully ignoring a problem. If you want to do that – that’s you’re right. As a member of the media, it’s my responsibility to highlight it. Again, you refuse to see any problem & nothing I say will convince you – so really what’s the point? You want to believe Musk/SpaceX can’t do any wrong & that any issue must be someone else’s fault (ironically the latest case highlighted in this article appears to be just that – the difference is, I can admit that, but you still can’t accept that there’s a history of external comm problems).

                  The shuttle is retired, I guess you meant Dragon. Thanks for making your Yes-Men comment. However, look at what’s happened here. I wrote a very fair article & yourself & other SpaceX fans have nitpicked it for days. Willfully ignoring prior problems, calling this a “non-story” & criticizing everything they could. At the end of the day you’re still not willing to concede a thing.

                  Again, you focus on the single element that, due to anonymity, you think you can defeat. I find it disappointing, but not surprising. As to our last comment. The difference is, I’m not asking for billions from the federal government, nor will what I do one day have several lives ride on its success. Yet again, you ignore the other salient points I made. No disrespect but, since you’ve proven unwilling to even consider SpaceX might have an issue, try to pick apart anything that might show problems within the company, it’s rather obvious nothing I say will convince you otherwise. I’m not interested in defending my report to someone out to discredit it.

                  The situation is getting better, but there’s still room for improvement. I’m truly sorry you feel the need to endlessly criticize a very fair review of events, one which excluded far worst examples & one which actually came down harder on MDA than SpaceX. However, after spending the better part of a day trying to explain the situation behind a single point you can’t seem to let go of, it’s fairly obvious even if you got the names/circumstances & they were the exact opposite of what you suggest? You’ll call them a forgery or something else. A while back, I wrote an article about NewSpace tactics. In it I describe one such tactic where commenters post a never-ending series of questions, never concede anything, never work to find a common ground, just attack, attack, attack. After seeing half a day go by, I can only surmise that’s what’s happening here. Also, I think any sane person would do as I’m doing right now.

                  Thanks for the conversation, have a great night.

      • Also, just wanted to point out that in Barron’s case. No one has any clue how much Tesla batteries cost other then Tesla and Panasonic. This goes for me, Barron or anyone else. Barron was trying to get an article out of Musk how his Gen III targets will not be met (Musk disagreed). Musk did the right thing by terminating the interview. And it is not uncommon for interviews to be terminated. I base my objectivity on the Barron’s final article in context with Musk’s response, but I welcome Barron to release the entire transcript.

        Now on the issue of one instance being an anomaly and multiple instances pointing to an issue. As someone who has spent a lot of time with market research, I will say this. Not true, it depends on sample size. If Musk had tens of thousands of interviews and public appearances and you can only find 3 “issues” out of thousands(even though as I pointed out that those 2 are non-issues blown out of proportions). Then that does not exactly point to anything.

        Lets put it this way, if I were to pick and chose 3 instances out of your life, I assure you I’d be able to make you anywhere from a saint to the devil himself.

  10. Jason I’m moving our conversation to a wider space.

    I got the 2025 SLS flight date from a June 28th article in SpaceNews covering a media tour of Michoud and Stennis. Being that top NASA officials were there it seemed the date came from them, but hopefully you can check it out with NASA directly to verify. I think NASASpaceFlight is also referencing the 2025 date.

    Regarding uses for the SLS, NASA is not the one stopping Congress from authorizing a long term plan for using the SLS. To my knowledge Congress has not asked NASA to propose missions, and Congress has shown no interest in funding non-Orion payloads for it when it’s supposed to become operational in 2021. The House even voted to make it illegal for NASA to consider the asteroid mission, which would have used at least one SLS flight.

    We’re just 8 years away from when the SLS is supposed to become operational, and I don’t think 8 years is enough time to get a SLS-only payload proposed, built, tested and ready for launch. Do you?

    Congress doesn’t seem to be concerned that the SLS will be sitting around for years without a need, so isn’t this a false trail for NASA? Even Senators Nelson and Shelby are not pushing for SLS missions, which I think is a bad sign.

    I wish we had enough activity in space to merit an HLV, but I see no evidence of when that will happen. It seems the SLS is currently a luxury NASA cannot afford, and that’s a bad situation to be in for NASA.

    • That’s odd – I was with Dan Leone on that tour (the Space News reporter covering that event). Neither Gerstenmaier nor Dumbacher said 4 years between launches. In fact – that’s when they told both of us SLS launches would occur every other year, possibly annually.

      Those self-same top officials – contradict that report. In fact? I’ll post the individual interviews in which they do so! I think you’re confusing two different dates. I think what you’re saying that the first manned mission will be pushed back 4 years. What you’re earlier comment suggested was that SLS would only fly every four years.

      Again, the single largest problem with NASA – is politics. As to your question about 8 years. In 1961 the first U.S. astronaut took to space on a sub-orbital hop – 8 years later – we were on the Moon. In between that period we flew not one – but 4 different spacecraft on five different boosters. So – yes I do believe 8 years is enough time.

      What you appear to be doing is cherry-picking certain facts, while ignoring other ones to support your view.

      I wouldn’t say false – I’d say inaccurate. Again, the best thing for NASA would be a new president & a new Congress under better financial circumstances. A lot of folks make the mistake of betting eternity on the moment. Meaning you map out the future for years & years based on what is going on this second. How do you think similar projections would have held up on Sept. 10, 2001?

      Your last statement is deeply disappointing, while it might be easy to be pessimistic under the current circumstance – it takes greater courage to be optimistic. I support LEO operations being turned over to private firms, while NASA focuses on exploration. Settling to hand over LEO operations to private firms & do nothing else – isn’t much of a future.

      • Jason, a good thing for NASA would also have been legislation sponsored by a number of Republicans and one Democrat in the House last session that would have made a modest effort to remove NASA from the political morass. It would have provided a director for NASA like the director of the FBI with an eight year term, would have created an advisory panel of ex-astronauts, aerospace engineers, astronomers, planetary scientists, and aerospace professionals to provide long-term goals, plans, standards, timetables, etc., and would have provided means for long-term budgeting necessary for the long-term plans critical for an effective program of space exploration. Of course, the proposed legislation (I believe part of the title was “Preserve American Leadership In Space) died a quick death, but it would have gone a long way to keep our space program from aimlessly lurching about as it is being pulled in a different direction every election cycle by individuals who may have little knowledge of the space program, are ambivalent about space exploration, or would just rather de-fund NASA and spend the funds elsewhere (like spending 100 million to bring Sesame Street to Afghanistan, until the Afghans told us they didn’t want it and that we could go stuff our Big Bird). Actually, at this point I wouldn’t even bet on our having a continuing resolution after 30 September to keep the lights on in Washington. Best wishes and highest regards Jason, Karol

  11. In fact – that’s when they told both of us SLS launches would occur every other year, possibly annually.

    No doubt that is what they hope. In fact Gerstenmaier had stated some point in the past that they hoped to fly 2-3 times per year, so you can see what the trend is here. And NASA does not control the flight rate, Congress does.

    Again, the single largest problem with NASA – is politics.

    Which will never go away.

    In 1961 the first U.S. astronaut took to space on a sub-orbital hop – 8 years later – we were on the Moon.

    That was NASA of 50 years ago, not the NASA of today.

    Again, the best thing for NASA would be a new president & a new Congress under better financial circumstances.

    I don’t think I’m cherry picking when I point out what the reality is today. Though I’d like NASA to get more funding, “Hope and Change” is not a valid way to do long term planning for a government agency.

    Your last statement is deeply disappointing, while it might be easy to be pessimistic under the current circumstance – it takes greater courage to be optimistic.

    I am by nature an optimist, and pointing out the reality of today is not being pessimistic, it’s being accurate. And excuse me for disagreeing on this, but it doesn’t take courage to be optimistic. Turning optimism into reality may take a lot of work, but courage implies a potential for severe personal sacrifice, and I don’t see where that comes in when talking about funding programs or not funding them.

    My view is that NASA’s plans should be sized to it’s current budget, not some fictional future one. And what it does spend money on should reinforce it’s other spending, otherwise you end up with a mismatch of goals and resources.

    You don’t have to answer this, but let me just pose this question. What happens if the next President and Congress don’t change the status quo? Then we will have built an HLV that will be doomed to sit for a decade or more waiting to be used. I don’t know about you, but that is not a good use of my taxpayer money.

    And based on the reality of today, that is what the future looks like.

    Thanks for the conversation, and I’ll end my part.

    • Working on the video now. It was Dumbacher who said SLS might fly once a year.

      Who’s to say the NASA 8 years from now won’t be dramatically different from the NASA of today? Ben, it’s clear from your comments you can’t look at NASA objectively.

      I think one of the worse things to happen to NASA in the past 20 years is President Obama.

      Your comments contradict your statement about being an optimist. In this day & age? It takes incredible courage to be optimistic. Space exploration, despite the “deep sighs & empty skies” policies of some is, in the end, about the survival of the human race. In such an effort, to fund or not to fund could come down to the ultimate sacrifice.

      This is where we invert our traditional roles. Earlier, when I debated on the facts, not on what commercial companies said they “would do” – you called me technical. It’s funny we should reverse roles when it comes to exploration efforts. The only difference is, you opted to use the word “fictional” in a derogatory way. Sorry, but is the “fictional future” of what these companies state any different than the “fictional future” of NASA? I don’t think so. The only differences are the scales of funding & that I see both possible futures as possible (as well as not mutually exclusive) – whereas you appear limited to just one.

      Glad you asked. Here’s my answer. If we continue to get narrow-minded leaders who cancel what has been started during the prior administration every four years? NASA will do what it’s currently doing – not much. You’re right. When each new president & Congress cancel what has gone on before? That’s wasteful. However, I’m willing to bet you voiced few complaints when Constellation was scrapped. Now that commercial is facing similar circumstances – you find your voice? Did you complain about the wasted 7 years & $9 billion when Constellation was cancelled? Did you decry that waste?

      Appreciate the conversation as well, it reminded me I still have content I haven’t used.

      • “I think one of the worse things to happen to NASA in the past 20 years is President Obama”.

        You hit the nail right on the head Jason! The cancelation of Constelation and the subsequent Obama space policy, seem more indicative of a nation that has lost its will and power for progress.

        I don’t know much about US politics compared to the average American citizen, but I’m not very optimistic that there will be better space policies soon. Maybe if outdside events give a kick in the US’s pants (I’m looking at China).

        What are the chances of a better space policy from the 2016 elections nominees?

        • Hi Leonidas! Great to hear from you again. I agree, the current administration seems to realize that although NASA could not be eliminated outright because it is still very popular with the general public due to the glorious successes of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo (as well as recently with Curiosity) if left to flounder about aimlessly with ill-defined goals unenthusiastically pursued, NASA will slowly wither and die from a death of a thousand cuts, with disappointed Americans grudgingly letting the irrelevant unaffordable agency allowed to pass into history. Our once proud program of space exploration for which so many sacrificed so much would then devolve into what former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R Tx.) foresaw as “billionaires sending millionaires on sub-orbital joy-rides. With apology for being off topic, if you have the opportunity Leonidas, please access the the recently twittered photos taken by ISS Expedition 36 Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano of you native Greek islands. I saw them yesterday, and what a beautiful sight they are!

          • Hi Karol! Great to hear from you also! 🙂

            Yes, My daily ritual when I wake up each day, is to log-in to Facebook and see all the marvelous photographs from the ISS expeditions! And I caught the occasional photos of Greece from space. Yet, on the same time they make me feel depressed, because I see the contrast between all this beauty from space and all the turmoil and depression that envelopes my country. And seeing all the different European countries that participate on the ISS and sending astronauts there (Italy, England, Denmark), I feel more and more like a third-class citizen, because although Greece is a full-time ESA member state, hasn’t bothered to express any interest through the years, and participate in the most exciting endeavour of all time! If for many Americans space is irrelevant, for Greece, space is an unrealised, unknown region, filled with all shorts of ‘hidden-from-view’ conspiracy going-ons and actions from the ‘big Satan’, the US-the typical idiotic Greek mindset that sees itself as the greatest ‘know-it-all’ and regards space as the realm of conspiracy theories and lies. It’s sad and pathetic…

            Sorry if my off-topic rambling depresses you. For me, being a life-long space advocate, the American space program is a source of joy and inspiration, and eventhough I’m not an American, I feel it ‘intimate’ and close to me. I wish things were different and I could have a more meaningful contribution to it. Maybe in a next incarnation! :p

            As for NASA, will reason prevail in Capitol Hill during the next election cycle? And will there be a new NASA Authorisation Act this year? And what happened to the REAL Space Act of 2013?

            Best regards to you Karol! 🙂

            • Leonidas, upon reading your eloquent, moving, beautiful statements as to your heartfelt affection for the America that is close and intimate to you, I am grateful to you for bringing to the fore my deep appreciation and love for my immigrant grandparents. Thank you my friend, for giving me pause for thought to appreciate what I have been given, and to give thanks to those brave veterans who have made it possible. I, and those of us who look to NASA with hope, admiration and appreciation so regret the fact that someone such as yourself who is so dedicated to the American space program is left to stand by dreaming of what could be if only given the chance, while legions of the intellectually indolent debate the earth-shaking ramifications of Molly Cyrus “twerking”. Leonidas, should you ever grant us the honor of immigrating to our beloved United States of America, joining us in this marvelous melting pot, a celebration party in Detroit’s Greektown Casino is on me!!

              • Oops, sorry. I meant great grandparents. But I will never forget the smell of the pipe tobacco, the delicious ‘hint of cinnamon’ raisin cookies, or how my small, smooth young hand looked in that large, wrinkled, work-worn hand.

              • Karol, from your comments, I take it that your grandparents were of Greek origin? Any way, I was also quite moved by your heartfelt appreciation of where you are in life.

                My mother studied in the US, in Chicago, and received her masters degree there, but returned reluctantly with my father in Greece, a year before I was born, choosing not to pursue a career at the University there, despite multiple offers. My sister was born there, but chose not to have an American or even dual citizenship, and she preferred Greece instead.

                As for me, it seems it wasn’t meant to be. I will always treasure the fact that I was called by the Universe (as Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it) in the tender age of 8, and the love had remained undying. But now, being in my 30s something, not having the academic credentials, I beleive that I have lost this particular train, of professionally pursuing my passion. Even while searching the NASA website for job offerings, I saw supporting positions held there, that do not require a Phd, but an American citizenhip was the basic requirement. As for ESA, I haven’t ever seen any non-technical positions open to apply for.

                Yet I can still dream about the stars, and pursue everyway that I can my passion, even if that means to only participate in the wonderful discussions here on AmericaSpace.

                Thank you for also giving me the chance to share my story. Again, every best and kind wishes! 🙂

        • The cancellation of Constellation was right move. Apollo Redux is not something NASA should be doing. Apollo was a one time only cold war project that accomplished its task, it was not a pattern meant to be followed.

          • By that logic, commercial cargo/crew should be cancelled, as it follows a pattern of trapping the U.S. in LEO, the same place we’ve been stuck since 1972.

          • Criticising Apollo as a one-time project with no additional value, is judging it by today’s standards. Engineers 50 years ago had a very different view, and their view was to base the whole beyond LEO exploration on it.

            The biggest rationale behind the cancellation of Apollo was that it was over expensive. By 2010s currency values, the whole Apollo project cost about $150 billion to the US. But that was a cost spread over a full decade. Its cost per year was about $15 billion – well inside the confines of NASA’s annual budgets (in today’s dollars).

            After the initial Apollo lunar landings, NASA had very detailed plans for going forward into the Solar System, based on the proven Saturn V/Apollo hardware – plans that it aggresively lobbied for. If Apollo wasn’t cancelled prematurely and had it been left to run its full course, with a cost of $15 billion a year (the amount of the annual NASA budget anyway), we could be having Moon bases and maybe even Mars bases by now – and probably some space stations in cislunar space. But alas, the political powers-that-be of the day didn’t want a future like that, and preferred a more Earth-bound one. And now 50 years later, the US tries to rebuild what it tossed back then.

            That the whole Saturn/Apollo hardware was scrubbed like that, still remains one of the biggest tragedies of the early Space Age.

    • Hi Ben,
      The video feature will run tomorrow (Monday) morning at 7 a.m. EDT. Pay close attention to Dumbacher’s interview. I think you’ll find he doesn’t corroborate what you said Space News reported about SLS’ timeline.
      Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

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