SpaceX Launches Iridium NEXT-2, Lands Offshore and Pulls Off ‘Double-Header’ Weekend

The Upgraded Falcon 9 thunders downrange in the first minutes of Sunday afternoon’s flight. Photo Credit: SpaceX/Twitter

With Sunday’s spectacular launch-and-landing of an Upgraded Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., almost a quarter of all of SpaceX’s missions have flown in 2017 alone. Nine launches in the first six months of the calendar year establishes a new “personal best” for the Hawthorne, Calif.-headquartered organization, which previously achieved eight flights in 2016 and six fully successful missions in 2015 and 2014 apiece. SpaceX has long insisted that it aims to launch its Upgraded Falcon 9s at intervals of around two weeks—a boast which, by and large, it has accomplished in 2017—but this weekend also offered a unique “double-header” for CEO Elon Musk, coming a mere 48 hours after Friday’s successful BulgariaSat-1 launch. It also secured another record for SpaceX, which has now launched three missions in the span of a single calendar month.

“We are once again proud to support another successful launch of Iridium NEXT,” said Air Force Col. Michael S. Hough, who witnessed his first launch since taking over as 30th Space Wing Commander at Vandenberg, earlier this month. “This launch is a perfect demonstration of the high level of teamwork and precision that exists between Team Vandenberg and SpaceX.”

Today’s flight—which left Earth at the start (and end) of an “instantaneous” launch window at 1:25:18 p.m. PDT—represented only the fourth outing by a SpaceX vehicle from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at mountain-ringed Vandenberg on the United States’ west coast. Eight minutes later, its first stage plunged back to Earth and alighted smoothly on the deck of the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), nicknamed “Just Read the Instructions”, positioned offshore in the Pacific Ocean. The mission was tasked with delivering a second set of ten Iridium NEXT communications satellites into low-Earth orbit, following on the heels of lofting an inaugural “batch” in January 2017. In doing so, SpaceX would fulfil the second segment of a seven-year-old contract which should see it deliver 75 Iridium NEXT birds into orbit by mid-2018.

When the details for this mammoth contract were agreed between SpaceX and Iridium, back in June 2010, it marked the largest single launch deal ever signed, worth an estimated $492 million. Over the next few months, Iridium NEXT will completely replace an aging network of its first-generation satellites, whose earliest members were launched two decades ago. In June 2010, the second-generation Iridium NEXT system was unveiled, with Thales Alenia Space and its subcontractor Orbital Sciences Corp. (later Orbital ATK) selected to build dozens of operational satellites and on-orbit and ground-based spares.

The second batch of Iridium NEXT satellites are encapsulated within the bulbous payload fairing of the Upgraded Falcon 9. Photo Credit: Iridium

Iridium NEXT is based upon the Extended LifeTime Bus (ELiTeBus)-1000 spacecraft design, previously employed for low-orbiting GlobalStar communications satellites. Weighing around 1,760 pounds (800 kg), they are powered by twin solar arrays and capable of supporting a decade-long lifespan. The solar arrays—spanning 31 feet (9.4 meters) when fully unfurled and capable of generating 2 kilowatts of electricity—would offer a 50-percent uplift over the power-producing potential of the first-generation Iridiums.

SpaceX was originally expected to deliver 70 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit, spread across seven missions by its Upgraded Falcon 9. The first flight occurred in January and successfully placed ten satellites into low-Earth orbit, with an expectation that the next mission would occur in April, followed by the remainder at roughly two-month intervals. However, on 31 January Iridium announced that it would benefit from a “rideshare” arrangement, flying another five spare satellites on another Upgraded Falcon 9, carrying NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission in early 2018. All told, it is expected that SpaceX vehicles will transport no fewer than 75 Iridium NEXT satellites into space. Launch of the second batch was initially targeted for mid-April 2017, but in February a delay of two months was announced.

By the beginning of May, the initial ten satellites completed a rigorous testing and validation process and had been fully integrated into the Iridium on-orbit constellation. “We are deploying the largest satellite constellation and the world and it works,” exulted Bertrand Maureau, executive vice president of telecommunications at Thales Alenia Space. “We met challenges that were unprecedented in the space sector, in terms of end-to-end system performance and production rate.”

As SpaceX’s launch cadence improved during the first few months of 2017, an initial target date of 29 June was announced for the second Iridium NEXT batch. By the third week of May, Iridium CEO Matt Desch revealed that the first pair of satellites for the launch—as well as the first stage of the Upgraded Falcon 9 itself—were en-route to Vandenberg. On the 25th, Mr. Desch noted that the second stage of the rocket had arrived at the West Coast launch site and that four of the Iridium NEXT satellites were deep into processing. At the same time, he revealed that the “instantaneous” launch was being brought forward to 1:25:18 p.m. PDT on 25 June, due to the opening of Western Range availability.

With SpaceX’s launch of the CRS-11 Dragon cargo mission correspondingly moved into the first week of June, and the high-energy BulgariaSat-1 also slated for June, this promised the tantalizing possibility that (for the first time) as many as three Falcons might fly in a single calendar month.

“We’re excited for this next launch,” said Mr. Desch in an Iridium press release. “Satellites have already started to arrive at the launch site and are undergoing pre-launchg preparations, so we’ll be ready to go. An earlier launch date is all the better for our constellation deployment plans.” By 6 June, all ten satellites were on-site at Vandenberg, mated to their specialized dispenser, with fueling about to commence. A week later, fueling was complete and the Iridium batch was encapsulated inside the bulbous payload fairing of the Upgraded Falcon 9. However, following last September’s on-the-pad explosion of Amos-6, customers’ payloads are now installed after the customary Static Fire Test of the nine Merlin 1D+ engines of the first stage.

This firing took place on Tuesday, 20 June, after which the booster was returned to a horizontal configuration and the Iridium NEXT batch was installed. “Static fire a success,” tweeted Mr. Desch. “Weekend VAFB weather looks benign so far as well, so we’re on track for a Sunday launch.” That same day, Iridium Corp. itself tweeted that all ten of its satellites were “locked and loaded” for launch. Late on Saturday, SpaceX released an image of the 230-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9, only hours away from its fourth flight out of Vandenberg Air Force Base. The west coast site was previously used for the launch of Canada’s CASSIOPE science mission in September 2013, followed by NASA’s Jason-3 ocean altimetry spacecraft in January 2016 and most recently the first batch of Iridium NEXT satellites in January 2017.

With Sunday’s successful mission, a total of 20 Iridium NEXT satellites are now in low-Earth orbit. Photo Credit: Iridium/Twitter

Weather conditions at Vandenberg were predicted to be 100-percent favorable, with the 30th Space Wing anticipating the presence of low shallow stratus clouds and fog during the final phase of Sunday’s countdown. “By T-0, the marine layer will have broken out, the stratus will be clearing out and visibility restrictions lifted,” it was noted in an L-2 weather briefing on Friday. “The overall POV [Probability of Violation] will be 0% with no constraints of concern.” This was expected to remain favorable in the event of a 24-hour slip to the backup launch opportunity on Monday.

Due to the requirements of the Iridium NEXT payload, Sunday’s launch window was an “instantaneous” one, timed for 1:25:18 p.m. PDT, with no margin to accommodate last-minute technical issues. Any slip would almost certainly trigger a scrub and a minimum 24-hour recycle of the countdown.

Aiming for the bullseye, the SpaceX team pressed into Sunday with the effort to gets its personal-best-beating ninth Upgraded Falcon 9 of the year off the pad. Fueling of the booster with a highly refined form of rocket-grade kerosene (known as “RP-1”) got underway about one hour before T-0. Shortly thereafter, at 35 minutes before launch, liquid oxygen began flowing into the tanks. Unfortunately, hopes that Vandenberg’s fog would lift proved unfounded and the booster remained virtually shrouded in the gloom.

At 1:15 p.m. PDT, with ten minutes remaining before T-0, the terminal countdown autosequencer was initiated. The nine Merlin 1D+ first-stage engines, arranged in a circle of eight, with a ninth at the centre, were chilled, ahead of ignition, and the Flight Termination System (FTS) was placed onto internal power and armed. In the final minutes, the Upgraded Falcon 9 transitioned to internal power and the Iridium NEXT payload was powered-up, with the vehicle assuming primary command of all critical functions—entering “Startup”—at T-60 seconds. At the same time, the pad deluge system began to flood the SLC-4E surface with water to reduce the reflected energy at liftoff.

Three seconds before launch, the nine Merlin 1D+ engines roared to life, kicking out a combined thrust of 1.5 million pounds (680,000 kg). The vehicle departed SLC-4E precisely on the opening (and closure) of Sunday’s launch window, on the stroke of 1:25 p.m. PDT. Climbing smoothly into the fog, the booster performed with characteristic perfection, passing maximum aerodynamic turbulence (“Max Q”) at 70 seconds. Two-and-a-half minutes into ascent, the first stage was jettisoned, beginning a complex sequence of maneuvers to bring it back through the “sensible” atmosphere to alight on the deck of SpaceX’s West Coast-based drone ship, “Just Read the Instructions”.

The drone ship had been drawn out to sea from Port of Los Angeles by the NRC Quest cargo vessel on Saturday morning, bound for a position about 186 miles (300 km) off the California coastline. Shortly after the separation, the first stage deployed its four hypersonic grid fins, configured in an “X-wing” layout, which for this mission are of a noticeably modified design.

Dual-frame image of the second stage burning to deliver the Iridium NEXT satellites to orbit (at right) and the first stage executing its final descent to land on the drone ship. Photo Credit: SpaceX/Twitter

“Flying with larger & significantly upgraded hypersonic grid fins,” explained SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a recent tweet. “Single-piece cast & cut titanium. Can take re-entry heat with no shielding.” In a subsequent tweet, Mr. Musk noted that the fins are unpainted, since they would glow red-hot during their hypersonic re-entry. “Trying these things out for the first time today,” added former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, who now serves as SpaceX’s head of crew operations.

To accomplish a precise touchdown on the drone ship, the Upgraded Falcon 9’s first stage “flipped” itself, assisted by on-board nitrogen-fed thrusters, and executed Entry and Landing burns to incrementally slow it down, initially to about 560 mph (900 km/h) and finally to a touchdown velocity of 4.5 mph (7.2. km/h). However, conditions were anticipated to be less than optimum, due to weather conditions near the ASDS. “Drone ship repositioned due to extreme weather,” Mr. Musk tweeted, shortly before launch. “Will be tight.” Tightness aside, the first stage headed smoothly back through the “sensible” atmosphere and alighted on the deck at 1:32 p.m., a mere seven minutes and 45 seconds after leaving SLC-4E. “New titanium grid fins worked even better than expected,” tweeted Mr. Musk. “Should be capable of an indefinite number of flights with no service.”

In the meantime, the primary goal of today’s mission continued. Following the departure of the Upgraded Falcon 9’s first stage, the Merlin 1D+ Vacuum engine of the second stage ignited and burned for more than 5.5 minutes, shutting down a little over nine minutes after launch. At this point, the vehicle entered a prolonged period of “coasting”, lasting almost three-quarters of an hour, until the Merlin 1D+ Vacuum was lit a second time to position the Iridium NEXT group of satellites for deployment into an orbit about 390 miles (625 km) above Earth. By this point, the vehicle was moving in excess of 16,700 mph (27,100 km/h).

Fifty-two minutes after leaving Vandenberg, the second stage fell silent for the last time, allowing for the 15-minute deployment process to get underway, with each satellite departing at 100-second intervals. The tenth Iridium departed the second stage approximately 71 minutes after leaving Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX has now successfully transported more than a quarter of its 75-strong Iridium NEXT tally to orbit. Current plans envisage the next load of ten satellites to fly in August and the remainder to follow at approximately two-month intervals thereafter.



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    • Ya it is most be a real pain to see an American company bringing launch business back to the United States and launching 11 commercial satellites in one weekend.

    • Like Paul Spudis, I favor a sustained return to cislunar space, rather than Mars.

      Unlike Paul Spudis, I do not suffer from a terminal case of Musk Derangement Syndrome.

      It boggles the mind that people can still see SpaceX’s successes as a detriment to the long-term exploration and economic development of space.

      • Richard Malcolm

        Spudis put up a new blog post today. It’s the second one in a row where he’s toned down the Musk derangement syndrome. I appreciate his more civil and professional tone. Of course, the comments will be a hoot.

    • Regarding Paul Spudis,

      He lives in the Apollo era of NASA budget funding or present day funding of a $500 Billion per year…This guys are always living in the past.

    • I would like the honor to have replied to Mr. Church in a thread. Isn’t the FH the sort of SHLV you’ve wanted? And don’t forget the ITS can go to the moon too….

      • Gary does not seem willing to settle for anything less than something on the scale of the SLS Block 2. Launched 8 to 10 times a year, of course.

        It may be unfair to hold him to the fire on ITS until it moves beyond the PowerPoint stage. Falcon Heavy, on the other hand, should be a live reality in 4Q of this year.

        • I think for BLEO missions, it’s instructive to look at payload capabilities of heavy-lift launchers.

          Let’s start with payload. Without a cryo second-stage, what is the FH BLEO payload capability? What is that of the SLS Blk 1 (ICPS), 1A (UPS), and 2?

          Until the FH cryogenic second stage has been completed, its BLEO payload capability ties, or just falls-short of, those of a Delta IV Heavy or Atlas 551, doesn’t it?

          • Jim, there is no cryo second stage for FH. There is no need for it. FH without it can hit all necessary mission segments (Commercial, NASA and USAF/NRO) short of H-BLEO. For H-BLEO that will rely on some variation of BFR/BFS. FH is a stop gap until that time. Today F9 block III booster and block IV upper can demonstrate Atlas V 541 throw in expendable mode (INMARSAT-5). FH has the entire commercial/military segment covered.

            • I should add by stop gap I mean FH capable of throwing a D2 around the moon with crew but not much more.

              I also should add that first block IV upper already demoed the long duration mission kit after payload sep on NROL-76 and will be demoed again on FH. All EELV missions covered by F9/FH fleet short of vertical integration until that can be done of course.

    • Gary, what’s the point of using an alias if it is obviously identifiable as you? Name from SciFi, changed it up from E.E. Smith this time, but none the less the same drivel.

    • “The SLS is SpaceX’s worst nightmare”

      SLS’s first crewed flight (EM-2) now appears unlikely to fly before 2023. An awful long time to wait for a nightmare to come true.

      • I don’t know what other people are afraid of. But I don’t know how frightened anyone can be of a program whose first crewed flight has now slid to the right by eight years – even with Congress consistently appropriating an average of $1.4 billion extra every fiscal year over what administrations have asked for.

        • Completely without relevance that the FH will be five years behind the earliest posited date for it’s launch when it will be beating the competition, by like comparison, by 5 to 10 years–and doing it for far less money .

          The SLS is nothing SpaceX fears in the slightest, because in comparison to the 2 FH launches with the same capacity in a year, for approximately 1.5 billion less dollars in savings, after those launches you still have the rocket and can do 22 more more that year with them.

          The reason Gary Church, whatever name he’s using at the time, is called a troll (and more accurately, a crank) is because he is unable to recognize the abject superiority of the plan of cancelling the SLS and buying FH launches instead for far less money–letting far more pounds of hardware be launched if overall expenditures are held the same), and that that is true even if the FH has to get several failures under it’s belt before it is a mature and proven launcher.

          If the FH has two failures and 2 of 6 month stand downs while issues get fixed, it will still launch the SLS block II payload before the SLS launches a payload once, and it will cost half of one SLS program year to do it, saving (very roughly) 1.5 billion dollars.

          • ” SpaceX fanboys still think “cancelling the SLS” is “a plan”? ”

            It’s the part of the plan which pays for the rest of it. I was explicit about that, perhaps you can’t be honest?

            ” It is a cult. ”

            Then they wouldn’t be orbiting payloads for far less money than the other providers charge, and would have no path forward for lowering costs quite drastically further.

            Of course, they are and they do have such plans.

            • “It’s the part of the plan which pays for the rest of it.”

              You do realize what you just stated, right? That the cancelled SLS funding will go to buying FH’s…and that is “the plan.”

              Then you deny the SpaceX fanboys are not a cult. We should get rid of NASA and let Elon take over? That does not sound like some kind of…”Tony Stark/Howard Roark/John Galt” cult?

              I have to agree with Jim Hillhouse:

              “-it’s instructive to look at payload capabilities of heavy-lift launchers-what is the FH BLEO payload capability?- its BLEO payload capability ties, or just falls-short of, those of a Delta IV Heavy or Atlas 551, doesn’t it?”

              The SLS can loft payloads much larger than FH. But it is not SpaceX so it must be the nightmare for Elon the previous comment said it is.

            • ” You do realize what you just stated, right? That the cancelled SLS funding will go to buying FH’s…and that is “the plan.” ”

              No, you weren’t paying attention. Cancelling SLS will free up billions one quarter of which would buy FH launches. The rest would pay for payloads to launch.

              ” Then you deny the SpaceX fanboys are not a cult. ”

              Yes, because there is no factual basis which supports the existence of the SLS other than crass pork politics.

              ” The SLS can loft payloads much larger than FH. ”

              Which does not matter, because for the same money in a year a single Falcon Heavy can launch over 1700 tons into orbit and you still have the rocket, where the SLS has only launched 120 tons at most, and then you’ve lost the rocket and need to build another one. Or, the FH can launch 4 times, and you’ve got the money left over to build payloads for it to launch.

              This is why no one at SpaceX is the least bit concerned about the SLS.

            • SpaceX doesn’t currently list a TLI payload for Falcon Heavy. But they do list a Trans-Mars Injection payload – 16,800kg. So FH can lift at least that much to the Moon, which makes sense if they’re using it for this crewed Dragon 2 tourist trip, since D2’s wet mass is at least that much.

              For Block 1, SLS lists 28K kg to EM-L2, and 12k kg to Low lunar orbit. Of course, Block 1 is flying only once.

              For Block 1B, SLS lists 39.2k kg for TLI, which is obviously a big boost due to the EUS.

              So right now, it seems like SLS (in its Block 1B configuration, which is what it will have until 2029 or so) can loft at least twice as much as a fully expendable Falcon Heavy can to TLI.

              Problem is, SLS costs anywhere from 10 to 20 times as much as a Falcon Heavy does, depending on how you calculate its flight costs. And due to Michoud’s limited capacity, you can only fly it once every other year (initially) or once a year (by mid 2020’s). Falcon Heavy will be able to fly a lot more frequently.

              But more could be said. Gwynne Shotwell a couple weeks ago said that SpaceX is now looking at develop a higher energy Raptor based second stage for the Falcon. If that’s true, the numbers for both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy beyond LEO are going see a considerable jump in performance. We don’t know how long that will take to happen, though I wouldn’t expect it before 2020.

            • Hello Tom,

              “The rest would pay for payloads to launch.”

              And that’s the thing. Right now, SLS has no payloads to launch – except for Orion, which is just a ferry vehicle. Because SLS is soaking up all the HSF funding.

            • Gary

              ” The SLS is nothing SpaceX fears in the slightest, because in comparison to the 2 FH launches with the same capacity in a year, for approximately 1.5 billion less dollars in savings, after those launches you still have the rocket and can do 22 more more that year with them. ”

              Is what I wrote. It nowhere precludes that the money instead goes payload.

              If you are not aware the SLS has no payloads because it is sucking down all the money other wise available for payloads, perhaps you should learn what you speak of before commenting?

              ” Because SLS is soaking up all the HSF funding ”

              Is perfectly true, but nothing I wrote. When the comment tree runs out of depth, it is polite to make replies to one person and name the person being replied to.

              ” Funding that SpaceX wants. SpaceX fandom is in a separate reality where only Elon Musk and his rocket matter. ”

              No, what matters is lowering the cost of access to space, so we can afford launchers and payloads, and lots of them. Currently SpaceX is the only company making any progress to that goal. There will be others.

            • Relying to Richard,
              That also doesn’t include the tanker option. An FH tanker will have the capability of more mass for less cost than the standard FH due to no shroud or other payload integration mass Two FH with one being a tanker can put more in TLI than the block 1b.

            • Hello Race,

              “Funding that SpaceX wants. SpaceX fandom is in a separate reality where only Elon Musk and his rocket matter.”

              And yet, SpaceX now has more launches in 2017 than any other space-faring nation – and most of them are for commercial clients, not NASA. NASA funding is nice, but they are at a point where they can survive well enough without it now.

            • Hello John,

              “That also doesn’t include the tanker option. An FH tanker will have the capability of more mass for less cost than the standard FH due to no shroud or other payload integration mass Two FH with one being a tanker can put more in TLI than the block 1b.”

              That’s a fair point.

    • “…..we took our eyes off the prize”

      Actually, as far as three administrations and five congresses were concerned, beating the Godless communists to the Moon was the prize.

      And once that was done, their justification for funding Apollo vanished. It was never funded on any other grounds, unfortunately. Even at the peak of Apollo’s popularity (spring-summer 1969), the space program only barely climbed above 50% support in public polling. And it declined steadily thereafter.

      • The Shuttle was funded – barely.

        NASA’s budget dropped from a peak of $45.554 billion (2014 dollars) in 1965 to only $14.452 billion (2014 dollars) in 1975 – a drop of 68%. Nearly all of that came out of the HSF program. As was, Paine, Low and Fletcher ended up having to abandon a sizable pile of flight ready (or nearly so) hardware in order too come up with the development funding for STS in the early 70’s. STS was sold to Congress as a considerably cheaper and more cost effective (and safer) program than Apollo, and it was on that basis that it was approved beginning in FY 1973. For a more detailed read, look at John Logsdon’s AFTER APOLLO.

        Polls matter only as a measure of public support, and public support is what you need to get support on the Hill and in the White House for a program of this size. And the sad reality is that, however much we all support space exploration here, most Americans have never felt the same way. To the extent that we have a program at all, it’s mainly a function of preserving legacy jobs at major NASA facilities and contractors in key congressional districts. (Richard Shelby and Mo Brooks don’t really give a crap whether we go to the Moon or Mars. What they care about is keeping robust employment in Huntsville, Alabama.)

        Why haven’t we been back to the Moon? Because the political will simply has not been there. There isn’t some giant constituency for it. So you’re left to hope for a politician – actually a number of them – to have the courage to try to create one, swimming upstream. And the reality is that that kind of thing happens very rarely in modern democracies. Apollo at least be sold as a Cold War stunt – and that’s what it was. We were just lucky to squeeze some decent science out of it before the money ran out.

        • You were the one who claimed the Shuttle was funded.

          Problem is, you didn’t mention how much less funding it got than Apollo did.

          • I expect I don’t agree with your opinion. But we are talking about a verifiable fact, not an opinion.

            NASA’s budget dropped 68% in real dollars over the decade that Apollo was wound down. That’s an easily verifiable claim. Apollo level funding levels were NOT sustained, and therefore Apollo itself could NOT be sustained – at least not in that incarnation.

            And that’s because the whole point of the program was to beat Moscow to the Moon. THAT was the prize. And America snagged it, and so that was that for Apollo. I don’t know why this is difficult to understand.

            RaceBannon/Gary Church thinks the prize was establishing a massive government-run cislunar infrastructure. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and their Congresses always thought it was beating the Russkies to the Moon.

            • “RaceBannon/Gary Church thinks the prize was establishing a massive government-run cislunar infrastructure.”

              It is just RaceBannon. You want to self-identify as a NewSpace troll by joining in and with the Gary-Church-is-satan B.S. then go right ahead.

              And…that was the prize, you got that right. That you think it is wrong makes it clear what you are.

            • HellRace/Gary,

              “That you think it is wrong makes it clear what you are.”

              Odd. I never said it was wrong. I was just observing what happened.

              I think it would have been worthwhile to continue Apollo through a LESA man-tended base. We were just getting good at lunar operations. Alas, the political support wasn’t there for it.

              For some reason I thought you might be reachable for civil discourse, against all evidence. I can see that’s not the case. You are by far the most vicious, uncivil poster on this entire thread, and it’s long been the same story with you, wherever you go.

              I am generally for free and unmoderated comboxes. But in your case, I hereby urge AmericaSpace to ban you from commenting here under all known accounts. All you contribute are insults.

    • ” Well said Bill! ”

      BTW, who you are pretending is Bill? Did you copy paste that from another site without editing it?

      • BTW, who made you the moderator? Worry about your own comments. You have a problem take it up with Brian Enke who posted the link to the Spudis blog.

        • Brian Enke?

          FWIW, I posted the lampoon of Moon_Miner_James_Gary_Church with the link to Spudis’s blog, so people who comment on AmericaSpace could see for themselves how unhinged Spudis has become, and where the tinfoil hat crowd goes for inspiration.

          Brian will be amused.

          • Hello Se Jones Sir,

            Could you please post a link to that? Sounds like a good laugh.

            • That was the very first post on this thread Tom. Or you can get to Paul Spudis’s blog through Air & Space magazine, or just Google it.

              Ho um, another day, another carnival freak show by the billionaire hobby rocket, covered by the brainless media for the SpaceX fanboys.
              Coming soon, the first launch (kaboom no doubt) of the monstrosity Heavy. [link]


              • Hmm. Didn’t see any lampooning of Gary there other than his usual self as self parody.

                I agree Spudis’ explicit claim that sending paying customers on a lunar fly is a “montrosity” is an abject idiocy on his part–anything that helps the cost of lbs to LEO go down and become a commodity freight service is good. I will accord him the courtesy of not presuming he referred to the Falcon 9 generally as a monstrosity at that time.

                One hysterically funny thing is the commenter Joe who has in writing in his comments speculated SpaceX is lying about using subcooled propellants, it’s real tin-foil hat stuff. Spudis gives it a platform without comment, not to his credit.

                • anything that helps the cost of lbs to LEO go down and become a commodity freight service is good

                  Well no kidding.

                  Look, Spudis’s vision of a vast cis-lunar economy fueled by lunar ice is threatened by the promise of less expensive propellant delivered to LEO depots by SpaceX & BO reusable launch vehicles, Spudis has outright said so on several occasions. But Spudis says “well that may be true, but we still need to learn how to do ISRU on the Moon”.

                  Well for cripes sake, Jeff Bezos shares Spudis’s Lunar vision, SpaceX rockets can send payloads to the moon as well as Mars, the SLS soldiers on, and the Chinese are making progress; so why can’t Spudis just relax and enjoy the coming wave of capabilities?

          • ” You and a select group of SpaceX fanboys should be the only people allowed to comment here it seems. ”

            You have no reason to think that, and the only person I have ever seen make that sort of whine in any thread where SpaceX is mentioned is Gary Church. Hi Gary.

            He’s the only person I’ve seen who thinks they should be allowed to comment without comments in reply.

            ” I have noticed this is the attitude and it reflects very very poorly on your group. ”

            No, it reflects poorly on you Gary.

            You have no rational expectation of having your say without other people making replies.

            • Hi whoever you are that thinks you know who I am. You are not rational to start with. That you personally attack me for calling out the bad behavior (and everyone knows it is bad) of your mob is proof of irrationality and cultish obsessiveness.
              That such a brood of bizarro vulgar nasty creeps have been allowed to go on for year after year is sad and shameful.

          • You brought it up, Gary, right here –> “BTW, who made you the moderator?”

            And I clearly asked these questions –> “BTW, who you are pretending is Bill? Did you copy paste that from another site without editing it?”

            That was because you wrote ” Well said Bill! ”

            And there is no Bill here on this thread, and no William either. So whom! were you referring to?

            • ” You must be the one who decides who says what here. ”

              You are imagining things again, Gary.

              • Actually you are in some cases imagining it, and you originate it in still others.

              • Then Race/Gary,

                It will be no problem for you to quote a lie then. I’ll be waiting.

  1. Congratulations to SpaceX, Iridium, the Western range and everyone involved for the successful conclusion of another launch campaign.

    Right now there are two ships at sea, one on the Atlantic and one on the Pacific, each carrying a used rocket stage back to land. One of said stages finished its second launch campaign.

    I quite like this timeline.

  2. Maybe now we will see Lockheed Martin get off their AXX and give us the Venture Star that they shelved 25 years ago after taking $1B with absolutely nothing to show for it.

  3. As for Musk…There are a couple of other Industries that could use disruption…Healthcare and Housing.

      • Zippy,
        Musk has backed off of housing on Mars saying he wants to be the train to get there but leave building the actual city to others…No I am thinking more about the economics lesson that is going on by MUSK around the globe in his utilization of in house R&D, design, manufacture with software and robotics. Housing is an easy example of an industry that would be easy to automate with precision software and robotics when you consider the final phase of the Model 3 production plant will be with robots only. Similarly with Healthcare…We are fooling ourselves otherwise.

  4. Incidentally, Gary Church has found another website for his rants. For some mysterious reason, Marcia Smith occasionally allows “Bilgamesh” to post on Space Policy Online (dot com). Space Policy is ostensibly a serious website, so I can only assume Marcia Smith is indulging in a sense of humor.

    Enjoy Gary’s posts while you can, before he’s banned for rudeness and vulgarity, as always.

    • Actually Gary, you are doing the “flaming” claiming SpaceX is scared to death of the SLS, when owing to self-crippling cost the SLS is a nullity. It’s far worse than an anchor on a rowboat NASA is trying to row, it’s a whole sunken liner.

      • ” Flaming is a personal attack. SpaceX groupies believe an attack on Elon or his company is a personal attack on them- and that makes it a cult. ”

        No, flaming is an attempt to start a flame war, personal attacks are optional. You could have a flame war about whether Gandalf or Yoda was cooler, when of course really Buffy Summers is superior to either–because hot. Gary, because you post trollish nonsense completely divorced from reality, you are attempting flame wars where-ever you go.

        SpaceX has no reason to be concerned whatsoever about the SLs, for example. You claiming that is you trying to start a flame war right from your first comment in this thread. It’s too silly a claim to work, though.

        ” se jones and the rest of the mob don’t understand that if they ever run into people like Paul Spudis in real life they just might get punched in the face- and they deserve it ”

        See. That’s a trollish attempt to start a flame war. No sale, though, it’s giggle coefficient is too high.

        • Well said Tom.

          One can certainly have a spirited debate over US space policy and the direction of government funded aerospace R&D. These debates are a necessary and healthy thing, I appreciate AmericaSpace’s tolerance of these um free range exchanges.

          But, in keeping with the spirit of their unhinged leader at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), the JamesMoonMinerChurch cabal spew their NewSpace derangement every chance they get, turning every discussion into a mud fest.

          LPI is funded through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, I find it incredible that a senior staff scientist there would publicly espouse so much vitriol toward Musk, for the sin of being interested in Mars.

          • CRM Discriminator garbage and proving me right and exposing yourself as a complete fabricator.

            Those are direct quotes, copied and pasted directly from Dr. Paul Spudis’s blog, his words.
            And there are lots more, such as saying NASA’s PR would “make Joseph Goebbels proud”, Mars Society members are “a cancer”, and so on and so forth going back years.

            Sure Snowflake, you are harassed and intimidated by a mob of toxic ideologues.

            There’s some long overdue exposing going on here alright.

            • You are the thuggish one here Gary.

              And that’s what anyone frequenting space related forums knows.

            • You are thuggish. You bring no facts and spew insults. There has been no abuse of you you have not well earned.

              You cannot prevent the cost of getting a pound into orbit from falling to a single integer multiple of the energy cost of doing it. It will become sub $50/lb, and you cannot prevent that from being one of the greatest things to happen to humanity since fire. You also cannot make a case why the development is not to be universally praised by all who are sane.

              That what people reading you know.

            • Hello Tom,

              “You also cannot make a case why the development is not to be universally praised by all who are sane.”

              Near as I can make out, because it will represent a moral victory for Ayn Rand. Or some person Gary has yelled at in a space policy combox. Or both.

              But he thinks “there is no cheap.” That we will never reduce the cost of access to space. So I’m sure it’s nothing to fret about.

        • Thing is Gary, we bring facts to the conversation, you don’t–and then you revert to flinging poo when that is pointed out.

          That’s what “silences” you, you make yourself so obnoxious that you get yourself banned. You are Donkey(TM)*, you have the right to be silent and not show yourself to be an ass, what you evidently lack is the capacity.

          *Donkey is a trademark associated with the Shrek series of movies, Dreamworks.

      • …run into people like Paul Spudis in real life they just might get punched in the face- and they deserve it”

        I run into Spudis at conferences, he’s as objectionable in person as he is in print, but fisticuffs are unlikely in a professional setting.

        What drives Spudis is his extreme bitterness over the missions, funding, and attention given to Mars over the Moon in the last several decades.

        Science is incredibly competitive, there are always more good mission proposals than funding to go around. I have friends & colleagues who are perpetually resentful over the dearth of missions to Venus, the latest round of even more NASA missions to asteroids has everyone perplexed. Nevertheless, Spudis throwing around terms like “carnival freak show”, “brainless media”, “SpaceX fanboys”, “NASA PR that would make Joseph Goebbels proud”, and so on…are beyond the pale and do not advance his cause.

        At Mars science conferences and sites, you don’t hear hateful vitriol toward lunar mission planners. We are skeptical because of the great catch-22, but we work to steer public policy.
        The fact is, crewed Mars mission planners would welcome cheap(er?) lunar propellant delivered to LEO depots, and Blue Origin thinks they can do it. Jeff Bezos makes money, Spudis gets tons of lunar samples, NASA & SpaceX get prop for Mars-bound ships, everybody’s happy, what’s not to like?

        Oh yeah: SLS good, SpaceX poopy heads.

        • Mars is a joke. A swindle aimed at gullible emoting sci-fi fans.

          “Steering public policy”? LOL! It is a con.

    • that comment fell into a black hole when I tried to correct a typo the next day. Ms. Smith is very busy, so she doesn’t review comments on her site after a couple of days.

      That comment to Church is pasted below for your reading enjoyment. Clearly, math and data drive Church crazy, making for great fun.

      radiation environment in LEO compared to deep space is like comparing a duck pond to the North Atlantic

      Using the British CPC definition, the average duck pond is ≈10,000 m^2. The North Atlantic Ocean is 9 orders of magnitude larger. A six-month ISS tour gives ~160 mSv dose, while a (worse case w/ no polyethylene shielding) outbound Mars transit (assuming Mars missions are “deep space”) gives ~300mSv dose, well within the cumulative career equivalent dose limit based upon a maximum 3% lifetime excess risk. While the exact mass budget of shielding, the solar cycle, the transit time (based on delta-v & launch window) introduce some variability, there are no scenarios in manned spaceflight within the inner solar system, where the interplanetary cruise dose is orders of magnitude greater than in LEO. As usual, your analogy is of no utility whatsoever, as it is many orders of magnitude outside the bounds of reality.

    • to James (aka Moon Miner aka RaceBannon aka Grand Lunar ect.)

      I see Gary Church but no “Bilgamesh.”

      Billgamesh is Gary’s original handle and the one he uses on Spudis Lunar Resources Blog, which you should know since you’re a regular poster there as James.

      Gary took down his WordPress site, which is a darn shame.
      “Gravatar allows you to manage all of your online identities in one place on the web”

        • There is no functional distinction between you and any of Gary Church’s sockpuppets.

          • What a bunch of pathetic creeps. Now the very few who criticize Musk are all the same person, right? Church is Spudis and James but they are all really the great Satan threatening the beloved leader Musk.

            It is a cult.

            • Church might be Spudis’ Id, but it’s only a possibility. There is no reasonable doubt you are Gary Church, every tic is identical.

              What you have not begun to consciously figure out is, you are no threat to the price of the cost of putting a pound into LEO falling at all.

  5. …belittled and hounded into silence

    James, I see your posts on this site, The Space Review and others, all the time, how is it you’re “silenced”?

    “Belittled”? yeah sure you bet; dozens of SLS launches a month, giant lunar atomic bomb propelled spaceship factories, no LEO hotels or labs ever, manned comm sats in GEO . . . totally mainstream, constant repetitive replies to yourself, nope nothing to belittle there.

    NewSpace scam has set back exploration at least a decade
    So James, how about some, you know…numbers?
    _How much has NASA spent on seed money and services purchased from “NewSpace”?
    _Given the historical record of NASA budgets for exploration and related activities: how much further along would NASA’s (crewed) exploration be if no funds were ever given to “NewSpace”?
    _Given the lower cost of “NewSpace” services over government supplied services, how much would spending more on government supplied services have not set back exploration?
    _Given the private sector (NewSpace) investment in NASA’s infrastructure upkeep, how would maintaining that infrastructure out of NASA’s facilities budget, have advanced exploration? By how much?

      • RaceBannon


        Just helping you out there buddy. Clearly, you and Moon Miner James are engaging in some self-medication, you get a rush of endorphin each time you type “NewSpace mob”, James gets the rush each time he types “tap”. Tap the moon’s resources…tap tap tap.

        You enjoy being the persecuted one, the lone voice of reason crying in the wilderness.
        Actually, I didn’t troll you (as I understand the term), I baited you with the CRM Discriminator post. Enjoy.

        • See this is what I mean. Everyone I time I try to have a sane discussion about the future of space exploration, the ugly NewSpace mob rears its ugly head and tries to shout it’s way into silence. But I won’t stand for this. Not anymore. Once the cyberstalking thugs are arrested and the toxic hobby rocket are cancelled, we can fund SHLVs to the moon to mine water and make 1G rotating habitats around Earth’s orbit.

          • You’ve never ONCE tried to have a civil discussion here, or anywhere else, Gary.

            All you do is yell and insult.

            • Richard Malcolm

              “…messianic authoritarian socialist”

              Yes, and to a certain extent, GC was spawned by the most extreme Utopian wing of the L5 Society.

              GC belongs to an exclusive club along with that more successful contemporary space crank, Richard C Hoagland. While GC (aka Billgamesh) is content to just haunt the spaceflight forums, Hoagland managed to parlay his 15 minutes of fame into a career hawking the “face on Mars” NASA conspiracy.


              • Considering Utopia is literally “nowhere” and every socialist utopia gets to the Venezuela/Zimbabwe/Kampuchea stage if if lasts long enough, that the ones which are actually voluntary like New Harmony fade away as people vote with their feet–that certainly says a lot about the flavor of Gary Church’s insanity.

                I am sure the reason Mr. Spudis (who is intelligent if not wise) chose not to post my comments on his blog is how subtly I mentioned that the cost of space access falling means neither he nor the likes of Gary Church have any hope of being gatekeepers to it. Spudis is intellectually a coward.

            • to: Richard Malcolm

              Billgamesh rates high on John Baez’s Index, but Richard Hoagland still beats him for total points hands down.


              I recommend that Gary update his Ice on the Moon web site with nice graphics and illustrations of his plan. Believe it or not, I would help him with that! For instance, the concept of crewed GEO comm sats is nuts, but creating the CAD models & graphics would be fun. I’ve always enjoyed “alternate reality” sci-fi concepts, along the lines of “Man in the High Castle”. Imagine there was some global catastrophe (or near-miss) in the near future, leading to an all-powerful world government that implements Gary Church’s vision. Illustrating that would be tons ‘o fun and a CGI gold mine.

              some nice examples:


              1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.
              2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.
              3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.
              5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction.
              10 points for each new term you invent and use without properly defining it.
              10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a “paradigm shift”.
              20 points for emailing me and complaining about the crackpot index. (E.g., saying that it “suppresses original thinkers” or saying that I misspelled “Einstein” in item 8.)
              20 points for every use of science fiction works or myths as if they were fact.
              20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.
              20 points for each use of the phrase “hidebound reactionary”.
              20 points for each use of the phrase “self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy”.
              40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.
              40 points for claiming that the “scientific establishment” is engaged in a “conspiracy” to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.
              40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.
              50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.

              • How many of those 50 pointers can I pick up if I don’t expect people to take my word for it? Also some 10 pointers for paradigm shift. I’m an inventor, so I should be able to pick up some serious crackpot points in passing.

                I’ve blogged about….
                Tether/electric/chemical hybrid engines to 750 seconds.
                Multiple asteroid moving techniques.
                Lunar propellant to lift Earth goods from sub-orbital to LEO.
                Several rocket engine variations.

                I’ve got to have accumulated some serious points by now.

                • to John Hare

                  crackpot points in passing

                  Zero, the Boondocks team doesn’t expect people to take their word for it!

                  Over the years, you’ve had some quite cool, creative “warped” ideas. If I had one bit of advice for you, it would be to download Blender, get proficient with it, then make some nice CGI illustrations of your concepts. Or, take a look at OnShape, the open source SolidWorks(ish) CAD platform.

                  Of course, a crude napkin scrawl of a sound concept is still way preferable to Billgamesh rants.

                  Sucks about XCOR, I hope to hell someone gives Doug an equally satisfying, if not better paying, position.

          • Of course they are. He who used sock-puppets can’t complain if someone else does, and you have no credibility to claim someone did–and that’s your fault. And you’ve been banned from lots of sites that have passwords–no one can have faked your posting name.

            ” I cannot post anymore here ”

            Sure you can, you just blew it again, so you probably won’t, and it won’t matter if you do, you have nothing to say worth hearing.

            You can’t answer the simple question credibly, why you think it is a bad thing for the cost of getting a pound into LEO to drop drastically.

            • TomPerkins

              “…why…a bad thing for the cost of getting a pound into LEO to drop drastically.”

              Because LEO is not space Tom, and spaceflight must only be for “collective efforts…[&] goals faithful to advancing and preserving humankind.”

              It’s all on Billgamesh’s site:

              Space Flight shall not be confused with tourism: there is no cheap.
              GEO space stations, planetary protection, survival colonies, space solar energy as the solution to climate change; all are goals faithful to advancing and preserving humankind. Space tourism as a display of the obscene spending habits of the ultra-wealthy, subsidized with tax dollars, is the opposite and an obstacle to the good. Only vast governmental resources can enable a true space age to begin. Libertarian concepts of collective efforts as unnecessary are a prime stumbling block.

              • The best political label I can come up with for Gary is that he’s a messianic authoritarian socialist.

                Planetary protection, survival colonies, and addressing climate change might even be worthy goals; but for Gary, his plan is not only the best plan, but the only plan; and being in disagreement (or even uncertain) about them means you’re not only wrong, but an ignorant moron. Insults fly, and combox bans quickly follow.

              • ” The best political label I can come up with for Gary is that he’s a messianic authoritarian socialist. ”

                And very fortunately, and adjective you have not added between “a” and “messianic” fairly can be–failed. By any analysis, he is happy if costs to LEO stay north of $5000/lb, and that is an unnecessary disaster indeed.

              • se Jones

                ” Because LEO is not space Tom ”

                I’ve heard him insist on that before. I invite him to go there and try taking a deep breath in that “not space”.

              • Tom,

                “By any analysis, he is happy if costs to LEO stay north of $5000/lb, and that is an unnecessary disaster indeed.”

                It’s become apparent to me that it’s essential to him that “there is no cheap” be true. Because if it turns out that it’s basically impossible to lower the costs of access to space significantly (at least using chemical rockets), that means it’s really not going to be very viable in the long-term for commercial operators. Which means the load will have to be carried by state operators (national space agencies, or even an international one). And that means more power over how such resources are used – power you need to make this massive utopian dream come true.

                The problem is, virtually no one else on the planet shares that dream, and, at the cost that would be needed (which would run to trillions of dollars), most votaries would be readily opposed. (As Roger Launius has pointed out, public opinion polls in the U.S. throughout the entire decade of the 1960’s showed consistently that 45-60 percent of Americans believed that the government was spending too much on space. Only briefly, around the time of Apollo 11, did support for Apollo break 50%.) Nearly all the intrinsic value of space to humans derives from telecommunications, navigation and earth imaging, and so it’s not surprising that this is exactly where most of the money spent in toto globally actually goes.

              • @ Richard

                ” It’s become apparent to me that it’s essential to him that “there is no cheap” be true. ”

                And yet clearly there is. A reasonable upper bound on the cost of a FH launch is $1,200 / lb, and that is before any development cost is retired. As a mature system, it is very reasonable to think it will fall from there by a factor of two.

                There is very little reason to think the larger methalox rocket will not start it’s cost curve at that point ($600/lb) and fall from there by a factor of ten or more, since it is an entirely reusable system from the outset, and intended to take the Falcon 9 Block 5 and Falcon Heavy data and from those lessons, to be built a replenish to refly vehicle.

                If Gary Church is a true believer in communism (or I think more primitively a statist without a whole lot of economic theory to him, to go by his anti-liberty rants) then he may well be caught trying to get through the wire somewhere.

                The “Joe” you were replying to at Spudis’ site has speculated out lout that he disbelieves SpaceX is really using sub-cooled propellants. In addition to being an intellectual coward, Spudis is collecting about him fruitcakes and nutters. Does he have any introspective idea why that is?

  6. It’s unsupported, unreasoned criticism that gets negative comments. Have you really not figured that out?

    ” The NewSpace scam has set back exploration at least a decade. ”

    The SLS is still on the trajectory of OldSpace, at around 2 billion spent per launch and little or none left over for payload. That’s $8,333/lb to LEO in the most optimistic estimate. That cost keeps space unavailable, not just setting it back, but preventing it for as long as that cost regime obtains.

    NewsSpace costs $3,300/lb to LEO with the most expensive options which permit the re-use of the rocket. It can cost as little as $1,233/lb to LEO.

    It will soon cost only $1,250/lb to LEO for the most expensive option, and as little as $640/lb at the low end.

    If the BFR or a like system is built, cost to the customer can drop to as little as $50/lb.

    If you were actually a fan of space exploration, you would applaud that.

    As it is whether you are an insane fan of space exploration or in fact have a different agenda altogether is in doubt. You would do well to explain yourself.

    Since when are facts someone doesn’t like an infomercial?

    • Hello Race,

      Is it your position that the United States government should ban private space launch companies, and revert to government (either through NASA or DoD) as exclusive launch provider for any U.S. based space launches?

      • Hello Richard,

        Is it your position that the United States government should dismantle NASA and hand all launches over to private space launch companies?

        • No, it’s not.

          And unlike you, I can answer directly a question put to me.

          • I have for some, probably masochistic reason, tried to understand the reasoning behind the comments by the author of Gary, Billgamesh, Racebannon, etc posts. The best I can come up with is that it sees space as a zero sum game regardless of opposing evidence. In that viewpoint, any funds from any source that do not go to its’ preferred project could be considered an attack. The extension of that view is that there can be no value added by any activity in space. If there can be no value added, then the taxpayers must pay for all activity. If all funds come from the taxpayer, then every dime Newspace gets has been stolen from legitimate work.

            I think it fails to further reason that this line of thought suggests that its’ own favorite projects are also worthless.

            Does anyone have a better analysis of what I see as serious delusion?

            • No, no better analysis. I won’t call it a serious delusion unless he’s caught trying to get through a fence somewhere (or worse)–which may well be where this goes as NewSpace continues to make progress.

              ” I think it fails to further reason that this line of thought suggests that its’ own favorite projects are also worthless. ”

              I have from time to time seem comments which seem to be from GC which indicate he thinks it is of net benefit to humanity to spend money on space vehicles even if no practical use is made of them, because then the money is not spent on weapons, also that if it is government doing it then that is better than non-government entities doing it (because heaven forbid the action of the laws of economic are seen to impugn plenipotentiary government). The hysterical thing is he displaces all the certainty that launch vehicles are potentially weapons onto NewSpace vehicles, and never for example the SLS, Atlas, Delta, etc.

            • john hare

              …taxpayers must pay for all activity.

              As I understand it, the lunar ice mines, Orion nuclear pulse ships, distant nuclear weapon cache ships, and so on, are paid for by manned communication sats in GEO.

              Now, since even terrestrial antenna farms are only occasionally visited by technicians to clean out the bird nests, and existing GEO comm sats operate reliably, generating revenue for (on average) 15 years, one wonders what the humans are going to do all day up there in GEO?

              Tis a pity that we can’t post images here (or can we?). I’d PhotoShop a picture of what comes to mind; Ernestine the telephone operator with a space helmet! One ringydingy, two ringydingy… Comedy gold.


              GC’s collected works can be found here:

              • “…one wonders what the humans are going to do all day up there in GEO?”

                I was curious about that. Microgravity research? Playing Yahtzee? Unclear to me.

                Otherwise, robotic comm sats seem to be getting the job done quite well in GEO. Which is just as well, because anything that involves meatbags becomes exponentially more expensive. The latest Inmarsat 5 satellites run about $220 million to build, and (on Falcon 9) $60 million or so to launch. Any manned equivalent means tacking some zeroes on that.

                • Richard Malcolm

                  I was curious about that. Microgravity research?

                  Oh, no microgravity research! According to GC, humans must have Earth surface gravity and radiation levels to survive for any length of time. GEO will be limited to a handful of enormous “national reserve” manned communication platforms, bandwidth and 2° spacing be damned.

                  GC’s one world government will ban all other satellites which will be blasted out of orbit by high power lasers. Satellites other than GC’s manned GEO platforms are part of the “junkyard” and must be destroyed.

                  You can’t make this stuff up:

                • And I’m sure it’s all perfectly doable if you had several trillion dollars lying around.

                  Though why you would want to do it remains a mystery to me.

            • ” It is perfectly clear that SpaceX fans view it as a zero sum game. ”

              No, the whole point of SpaceX and Blue Origin is that it becomes an ex-panding pie and not one of fixed size.

              ” and…yes, the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. ”

              Please propose any rational mechanism by which it is the worst thing to happen to space exploration for it to have become less expensive, with it plausibly falling to no more than $50/lb to get into LEO.

              • ” SpaceX was hired for cheap ride to the ISS so we would not have to pay the Russians anymore. ”

                So what? Very literally, so what? He doesn’t get paid until he delivers, so what is your complaint? That he should have
                delivered the ComCrew vessel before the final Falcon revision was ready to loft it? That’s doesn’t make any sense. And so what if he developed a commercial launch business and largely at his own expense and by private investment–at least he developed something worth developing, a far less expensive refuel and refly system that is not a graceless holdover from Apollo intended to be discarded. He’s beating ULA on time and price, and ULA has no excuse not to have already developed that system any way–SpaceX should have had no market to grow into, because OldSpace was competent and satisfied that market. And they were not and are not competent.

                ” The worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. ”

                A claim you often make and never make any case for.

                Why is it a bad thing for the cost of getting pounds into LEO to drop drastically?

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