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Elon Musk, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln: SpaceX Roars Back to Life as We Celebrate Famous Presidential Birthdays

Over the President’s Day weekend, that is the holiday celebrating the birthdays of General George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the most exciting event was the successful launch of SpaceX’s CRS-10 (Commercial Resupply Services mission) and recovery of the first stage rocket. The launch was delayed one-day from the historic Apollo 11 pad at the Kennedy Space Center and now the Dragon Spacecraft is en-route to the International Space Station with 5,500 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments. The last 18-months have been one of ups and downs for SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk, from a fantastic week in April 2016 to a launch pad disaster six-months later, also at Kennedy Space Center, that severely damaged the Cape Canaveral Air Force Launch Complex 40. It is being rebuilt by SpaceX for future use.

Elon Musk has become the face of private space endeavor in an industry that is certainly become exciting and fun for fans of adventure and exploration. He has also become someone whose perseverance and vision in the face of daunting odds has come to be admired around the world. Musk displays that rare gift of an extraordinary capacity to push harder when everyone tells him it is a crazy notion; that rare ability to work 100 hours a week in pursuit of something he imagines entirely possible that is widely considered impossible; that special quality of irrational pursuit that is a mix of passion, insight and ambition.

Setbacks, failures and near defeat haunt and pursue but don’t conquer people like Elon Musk.

Now to General George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two of the most important figures in American history whose lives are filled with success, failure, sacrifice and, yes, suffering. After eight years commanding the armed forces during the American Revolution, the only thing Washington wanted was to return to Mount Vernon and become a full-time farmer. But his nation called on him and he reluctantly accepted the role of the First President of the United States with all the stress and strain that would entail. The great general set many of the precedents of American presidential leadership, such as stepping down after two-terms, that are still connected with the office today. He was truly “the indispensable man” during the American Revolution and beyond.

Total power was his for the asking, but that he didn’t ask for it because that was not what the Revolution was all about. This was truly one of the most unselfish political acts in human history.   

In contrast to George Washington we have Abraham Lincoln, an ambitious man with a keen political mind helped by a razor-sharp wit that could cut opponents to the bone. But it was a split convention of the new Republican Party, built on the ashes of the Whig Party, which brought Lincoln to the role of Commander in Chief during the most cataclysmic time in American history. Technological change ushered in changes in war that resulted in a blood bath no one could have imagined, and Lincoln suffered under the strain of it that none of us can imagine going through. Brother against brother, friend against friend, indeed the country is still dealing with the fallout from that conflict in a thousand different ways. At the same time, Lincoln suffered personally with a host of family problems that tested his resolve as a father and husband.

Elon Musk celebrated a success this President’s Day Weekend that is great step for SpaceX and the American private space game, and the citizens of the United States must be thankful to General George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for their gallant service in the name of liberty.

God Bless the United States of America.
Brad Butler
Global High Seas Marine Preserve
c@ebgoinc.com

Hooray, SpaceX ISS Resupply Mission to Lift Off from Historic NASA LC-39A Pad, Kennedy Space Center, Global Space Race in Full Swing

In a quest to regain momentum after a serious launch pad explosion, SpaceX will launch a Space Station Resupply Mission, CRS-10, from one of NASA’s most historic launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Having signed a 20-year lease to use LC-39A, used by Apollo 11 in July 1969 going to walk on the Moon, SpaceX has been modifying the pad to accommodate the Falcon 9 rockets. Liftoff is set for February 18 at 10:00 am EST.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, posted a picture of the vertical Falcon 9 rocket, topped with the Dragon Spacecraft, on Instagram as the countdown has begun following a hot rocket test on the pad. The space game is ramping up worldwide with China planning lunar missions based on the Soviet model of creating their own orbiting space station that will serve as a way-port for large freight style craft bound for the lunar surface. This approach, viewed by Behind the Black’s Robert Zimmerman as “smart,” signals a step-by-step Chinese plan to establish a lunar base for their permanent tenancy. India’s program is progressing from a satellite launch provider into other areas and Great Britain has established a quasi-space agency in hopeful anticipation of independent operations.

Based in Hawthorne, California, SpaceX’s pad modifications are described by Robert Z. Pearlman of Space.com, “They made structural improvements to the fixed service tower that supported the space shuttle, added new propellant, data and power lines, modified the flame trench and installed new “rainbirds” to deluge the pad with water to combat acoustic damage at liftoff. SpaceX also erected a horizontal integration hangar at the base of the pad to process its rockets and designed a new transporter erector launcher (TEL) to move the boosters to the launch platform and stand them vertical for flight.

“Plans are also in place to remove the shuttle-era rotating service structure, though it was not necessary to complete prior to beginning use of the pad. The company accelerated its preparation of Pad 39A after a Falcon 9 exploded in September 2016 in the lead up to a static fire at the nearby Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. That pad, now out of service, is currently being repaired with work expected to be complete later this spring, at earliest.”

For the Trump Administration the key is to get the most for the public’s money, something NASA and their historic contractors have unable to accomplish while innovators like SpaceX, Orbital ATK, SpaceFlight and others add vital elements to the equation with an eye towards faster implantation and cost-cutting. SpaceX’s reusable first stage rockets changed the equations and forced Boeing and Lockheed Martin, partners in the United Launch Alliance, to take a closer look at their own operations as the United States Congress, and the President, will demand the same service from them.

For sure the positions of Lockheed Martin and Boeing within the defense establishment are solid, but it appears business as usual will not fly anymore, so to speak. Exploration of deep space with probes is a constant fascination for even casual observers and it should get more exciting in the coming years.

For more info go to www.SpaceX.com.

NASA Live Space Station 24-Hour High Def Earth Viewing Experiment from USTREAM

NASA Live Space Station 24-Hour Video Feed by USTREAM with Crew Action & Earth Views

SpaceX Stuns the Cynics: They Said it Couldn’t Be Done. And Then SpaceX did it—Again and Again and Again by Rick Smith, Motley Fools CAPS

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The May 6 SpaceX JCSAT-14 mission that silenced the critics. First they said SpaceX couldn’t land a rocketship. So SpaceX did it. Then they said SpaceX couldn’t land a rocketship on a boat. So SpaceX did that, too. Finally, cynics accused SpaceX of making that last landing too easy on itself. “Its rocket didn’t go far enough,” they accused. It didn’t reenter hot enough, or fast enough. Let’s see SpaceX try landing a rocket after launching to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), and not just low Earth orbit (LEO) — it won’t survive the attempt!

Touchdown: 
Well, surprise, surprise—last week, SpaceX did that too. After launching a Japanese communications satellite into GTO roughly 22,300 miles above Earth, SpaceX landed its Falcon 9 launch vehicle aboard a drone barge in the mid-Atlantic last Friday. This is something that no one else has ever done—not Boeing (NYSE:BA) nor Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), the twin titans of United Launch Alliance. Not Arianespace. Not even Blue Origin has accomplished such a feat.

GSpaceX’s Falcon 9: On a boat. After launching a satellite into
orbit 22,000 miles high. (Hint: It survived.) Image source: SpaceX.

The rundown

In fact, SpaceX has now successfully relanded three of its last five rockets launched, including those carrying:

  • The Orbcomm mission, launched to LEO and landed at spaceport on Dec. 21, 2015
  • Jason-3, launched to LEO and failed landing at sea on Jan. 17, 2016
  • SES-9, launched to geostationary orbit (GEO, which is similar to GTO in altitude) and failed landing at sea on March 4, 2016
  • CRS-8, launched to resupply the ISS in LEO and landed at sea on April 8, 2016
  • JCSAT-14, launched to GTO and landed at sea on May 6, 2016.

And yet, SpaceX’s critics have been right about one thing all along: Space is hard.

It took SpaceX two failed attempts before it finally stuck a landing on solid ground. It took the pioneering space exploration company two more failures before Falcon 9 would land safely on a boat at sea.

Turns out, the one thing everyone was wrong about was that landing a rocket after a GTO mission (delivering a satellite to 22,000-26,000 miles distant) would be appreciably harder for SpaceX than landing after an LEO mission (LEO is anything under 1,200 miles above Earth’s surface).

Yes, the speeds involved were higher, with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rising higher and therefore falling farther down Earth’s gravity well before landing. Yes, the temperature of reentry was higher. (Check out the discoloration on that rocket up above. It was white when it started its trip….) But SpaceX still did it.

The question now is: What will SpaceX do next?

What comes next

The easy answer to this question is: Thaicom 8.

On May 26, SpaceX is scheduled to fly a Falcon 9 rocket out of its Space Launch Complex 40 installation at Cape Canaveral, carrying the Thai communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit (GSO) roughly 23,000 miles above Earth. After that, SpaceX has three launches scheduled to take place in June, two flying out of Cape Canaveral and one leaving from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

SpaceX may or may not choose to relaunch the same Falcon 9 that landed at sea on April 8 for one of these missions—or for another mission yet to be announced. Elon Musk has said he’s “aiming for relaunch around May or June,” depending on whether SpaceX can find a customer willing to take a ride on a used rocket.

What comes after next

It’s after SpaceX finds that guinea pig, though, that things really get interesting. According to the company’s chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX plans to cut its usual advertised price for a space launch by about 30% when reusing a rocket. That should shave $20 million off the company’s usual launch price of roughly $60 million.

At $40 million a rocket ride, it’s going to be very difficult for any other space launch company to compete with SpaceX. Currently, Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s space launches cost $125 million and up. Arianespace has a plan in place to launch satellites two at a time aboard its new Ariane 64 rocket (once it’s built), for an average launch cost of $63 million—but even this won’t compete with a $40 million price, if SpaceX is able to offer that consistently.

The key, though, is consistency. SpaceX has launched and landed three rockets—and deserves all possible kudos for that. But can it re-launch and re-land a rocket? Can it rere-launch it and rere-land it? Because if it can, SpaceX will be able to underprice all comers, and change the economics of space exploration forever.

And in as little as a month and a half—or less!—we’ll know the answer.

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Spacex Up And Down
Up it goes and down it goes. But investors want to know: Can a SpaceX rocket yo-yo–can it go up-down-up? Image source: SpaceX.

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Rich Smith does not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. You can find him on Motley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he’s currently ranked No. 291 out of more than 75,000 rated members.

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