Last week, NASA announced the addition of SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, Tyvak, and Ceres Robotics to the list of Commercial Lunar Payload Services providers. That brings the total number of providers to 14.
Blue Origin filed a protest back in August with a handful of complaints about the selection criteria for the National Security Space Launch program. The Government Accountability Office sided with Blue Origin on what seems like the most important complaint, but threw out a handful of other ones.
I think I’m too quick to shrug off the “domestic launch capability on demand” aspect of Virgin Orbit. That’s a big selling point for countries with no up-and-running spaceport, and even more so for countries with geography that isn’t conducive to the existence of one at all.
Very special thanks to the 335 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off on Patreon for the month of October. MECO is entirely listener- and reader-supported, so your support keeps this blog and podcast going, growing, and improving, and most importantly, it keeps it independent.
That’s some serious speed.
I still think that as a launch services company, it’s a bad idea to put yourself in a situation where you’re beholden to someone else’s business for your core engines. But the confirmation of moving to a single-core, reusable first stage, along with a doubling of Beta’s previous payload is at least the best case scenario here.
I’ve been genuinely excited to see what Firefly can do in the launch market. And I still am excited to see Alpha, but for Beta, this is a major violation of the rocket equivalent of Alan Kay’s theorem: people who are really serious about launch services should make their own engines.
Big week coming up: I‘ll be heading down to DC for IAC 2019. It’s sure to be packed with announcements and interesting information, so keep your eyes peeled here on the blog, over on Twitter, and become a supporter to get access to any and all bonus content I produce throughout the week. I will likely be doing some ad hoc recording (maybe even interviews?), so it’s a great time to hop in and support!
I’m not completely sure what to make of this new set of filings yet. The optimistic end of the spectrum is SpaceX preparing for massive growth in Starlink services over the next decade.
The RFP was released back in August, and as we heard then, the program contains up to 20 missions that will be competed as they are ready. The selected launch providers are a nice mix of those who are flying today, those who are coming up on their first flight, and those who are still early on in their work.
This will be a great pathfinder flight profile for vehicles with sufficient margin to make use of it effectively.
The industry’s first commercial satellite servicing mission has launched, with much less fanfare than I would have liked to see.