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How SpaceX and Elon Musk could conquer the market for military satellite launches


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SpaceX is still privately held and is the next big thing company I want to invest in. Despite the folks that are angry when Musk succeeds because they said he would not, and love it when he seems to have a setback, there is no doubt, that folks who listened to me and bought Apple @$55 in 2005 when they announced they were going to start using the x86 architecture developed by Wintel for Windows machines primarily, and held long, or bought Tesla and held long when it was $17 ( I'm keeping all the rest of mine until after the grand opening of the Gigafgactory) made way more money than anyone, including me, thought at the time.


I've talked about watching for an IPO of SpaceX before but he just might need to go public instead of owning 90% or so himself as a private company like he did with Tesla until two years after the Roadster was sold out and he needed to get the factory done.


Today's news might be interesting for some who can guess what is next. And please when you are reading this bear in mind that the ULA spent millions inside the beltway trying to freeze SpaceX out of getting any contracts because they don't like competition either. Space X was told in the media by the ULA that Musk can't come up with a working rocket in under 5 years he originally set and then he did, and now he got some ISS contracts that the ULA thought wetren't important.


But the ULA was launching Homeland Defense critical military missions yet not only were outsourcing their engines overseas, but were getting them from Russia. I am not going to go into a rant about why those two powerhouse companies and all their suppliers can't do what an upstart that has been in the business only 10 -15 years or so. And employ American workers to do the manufacturing on our own soil, for the betterment of our economy. But that they risked our launch capabilities, and security when the country was at war, which was phenomenal hubris IMO. So now that Putin doesn't like us condemning his actions while he invaded the Ukraine, he is not getting along with us and stopped the export of rocket engines to the US. So now the ULA is essentially out of biz. Lucky for US that Musk can do the mission.


Here from The Washington Post:




"SpaceX has been launching civilian payloads into orbit for some time. But the company has its eyes on a much more lucrative prize: putting military satellites into space for the Air Force. And thanks to a strange confluence of circumstances, its pursuit of that goal could give it an effective monopoly over those missions, according to a Republican lawmaker.


Here's how.

SpaceX's biggest rival in the space launch industry these days is a company known as United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between the aerospace goliaths Lockheed Martin and Boeing. ULA has been the dominant player in Pentagon space launches for years, putting up all kinds of sensitive GPS and communications equipment for the military that's used to direct troops and gather intelligence.


But ULA is in a tight spot. Its main workhorse for national security launches is the Atlas V, a rocket that relies on a Russian-made engine. Dwindling supplies of the Russian RD-180, along with political concerns about depending on foreign equipment, means that the Atlas V will soon no longer be fit for those missions. To replace the RD-180, ULA's designing a new, American-made engine with the help of Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin. (Bezos also owns the Washington Post.)


The problem for ULA is that this new engine won't be certified for Air Force launches until 2022 at the earliest, ULA chief executive Tory Bruno told a House committee Tuesday. And ULA's other alternative for doing the launches, the Delta IV, is pretty pricey — about 30 percent more costly than the Atlas V, Bruno said.


ULA can't afford to develop a new engine while also maintaining the Delta IV. So ULA has resolved to retire the Delta IV entirely and focus on the new engine, known as the Blue Engine. The Delta IV will be phased out beginning in 2018, after ULA finishes all of the scheduled launches that call for it.


You could say this poses a risk for the U.S. military; ULA, the Air Force's longtime launch partner, won't have a way to put Pentagon payloads into space between 2018 and 2022.


"We are at war. We have to have these … platforms up in the air," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.).


Here's the twist. SpaceX's rocket, the Falcon 9, is about to be cleared by the Air Force for military launches. Final approval could come as early as June, said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in Tuesday's hearing.


You can see where this is going. If SpaceX's rockets effectively replace ULA's Delta IVs, the Pentagon will have traded one monopoly for another. That's ironic, considering how much of SpaceX's upstart rhetoric revolves around the idea of making the space launch industry more competitive.


Rogers picked up on that dynamic and questioned Shotwell about it.


"If [uLA] stops the Delta IV rocket launches," said Rogers, "is there anybody else that can compete with you for those missions?"


Shotwell struggled to answer, referring vaguely to there being international launch providers. She then went back and conceded that the Pentagon probably wouldn't trust those international services with sensitive military payloads.


That was precisely the point, said Rogers.


"You would have a monopoly, is where I'm going on this," he said.


Spokespeople for SpaceX and ULA did not immediately respond to requests for comment."


The whole article is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/03/18/how-elon-musks-spacex-could-conquer-the-market-for-military-satellite-launches/?wpisrc=nl_tech&wpmm=1


Monopoly? lol! They had to bring suit to be getting any missions at all. I was also enjoying seeing ULA decide to advertise how they already have a Mars spacecraft planned and in testing.


SpaceX already did it! Here is an article from MAY, 2014!


Mars Ahead? SpaceX Unveils Dragon V2 Capsule for Astronaut Trips

By Alan Boyle




I for one am glad that we have one American company who does the whole space vehicles from skin to engines here in the US, by American workers.


They were originally to be in competition with Orbital Sciences now Called Orbital ATK, for the ISS resupply missions but Orbital's first launch blew up, taking a very expensive satellite with it. But here is the kick and why SpaceX will have a virtual unsought after monopoly. While the ULA was buying new rocket engines from Russia, Orbital was also buying their rockets from Russia.


But the rockets Orbital was buying were not new, but instead old mothballed Russian rocket engines. Surplus!


Boeing also refused Musk's offer to help when they had battery issues causing possible fires in their new aircraft. Remember how long it took for them to fix it? Months!


So why post here? This is my third stock prediction for everyone here, friends and foe alike. If/When SpaceX IPOs - buy it. I'm going to.


I will remind everyone that this is only going to be my second venture into buying and selling my own individual stocks for long term because the banks were paying less ~$100 in interest per $10k I had in savings. I liked to keep much more than a year's needs in savings, along with our investments with USAA funds in our 401 K and other vehicles. But now we have all but one year's money needs liquid, the rest we had in savings is in stock.


Declaration: I am the least experienced investor in the forum. I know next to nothing about buying and selling stocks other than how to buy Tesla and now waiting for SpaceX. But I started with Apple and chickened out at the last minute. I almost did with Tesla when they IPO'd too. See I am not a gambler. I don't consider holding my Tesla longer and buying SpaceX as soon as IPO gambling. Time will tell. I said that last time with Tesla and no one came back and said they were wrong! LOL! But we all know who they are. ;):D


I am about to be right again. Not because I'm smart about investing. But because Musk never announces prematurely. Heck his roadster was sold out and on the road for two years before he decided to finally IPO and get a loan for funding the factory. Most CEOs talk before they can deliver. Then say there were unforeseen technical problems. Or that it was just too expensive. GM and AT&T are two that have frustrated their shareholders doing that more than a few times. Because most owners/CEOs are not engineers and rocket scientists, we know to take a lot dished out as a breakthrough with a grain of salt. Making that mistake with Musk is a habit with some folks and publications.

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Good post, Derek - Thanks.


I am not into equity investing anymore... to old and too gone (on the road). But this is interesting - I have always been a huge supporter of the U.S. Space Program... and with its decline, I am glad to see something coming along to keep America as a 'Space Faring nation'. And Commercial efforts and structure is a splendid way to keep going.


I am sure Robert Heinlein would approve... :)


Thanks again

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YW Jim,

Sorry I missed your post as I had storms, mud and visitors, and some old RV friends we never met face to face came for a visit. It was a great week but mostly offline. Wait until you see the new thread I am starting about micro grids being put into place starting now. It is titled "SolarCity: Starting Its Own Grid Infrastructure"

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Birds of a feather? I think so. We know each other well enough to give that instant credence. Many might talk the talk, but decide naa if given the chance. If I burned up going up or down it would be worth the ride, especially after the lives we have led!.

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Yes, Birds of Feather, Derek - of the high flying type! To this day... when my wife and I get into the car to go on a drive... I buckle up, look at her and say, "Ready for Liftoff !" Did that when the kids were young, too.


Hehe, she knows me well by now, and the kids are big boosters of Space.


For many years I was a member of the National Space Institute (founded by Wernher Von Braun), which merged with the L-5 Society in 1994, and became the National Space Society. They are still around, and active I believe. I note that SpaceX is a corporate Sponsor for NSS.


Next time I am down home, we'll have to get together and talk Space... and if I recall... You can get into Barksdale's Museum?


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Yep Jim,

I can escort guests on base and we could take a few hours to get a good look at the static display aircraft, as well as the history walk through with artifacts inside. The base has tightened entry security in the past ten years.


Musk's dreamed the dream since he was a kid too.



I knew you'd go too. I tried to get a degree before my 35th Birthday to get a commission and do two years in missiles, then transfer into the then just forming Space Command. Didn't work. I earned several degrees, and used them a lot in my enlisted career. I got my first Bachelor's degree at the same time as my 35th birthday. No biggie, education is one of the few things that can't be taken from us. But I'd have loved taking an engineer slot for a shuttle mission.

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This just in:


"At the moment, NASA relies on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to take astronauts to the space station, but that could change in the near future. NASA is hoping to start ferrying astronauts to and from the outpost by buying seats aboard private spacecraft built by the American companies Boeing and SpaceX. Those missions could launch as early as 2017."

That is the very last paragraph in a very long article here: http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2015/0329/US-Russian-astronauts-begin-one-year-space-mission 0.


I was bowled over by that sentence in that I doubt Boeing would jointly build any space craft with SpaceX. It is carefully written indeed. Perhaps intentionally by the writer or from Boeing press releases.


SpaceX is the only company building its own rocket Engines and will have a virtual monopoly on USAF satellite launches for three years, as Boeing and Lockheed, who make up the United Launch Alliance or ULA, have no rocket engines developed or tested and approved for top secret launches. And it will take them that long to get any new vehicle or engine system tested and certified for USAF launches.


It is funny that Boeing's name is first in the article. When their batteries were catching fire and their new jet s grounded, Musk offered to help with an immediate solution quite publicly. And just as publicly Boeing pig headedly took another several weeks or months to solve it rather than go to Musk. See they spent millions which of course they get from their government contracts to lobby inside the beltway against SpaceX being allowed to do any launches for the US. No they are the backseat and SpaceX is about to take over when the ULA runs out of the Russian rocket engines they can no longer buy from Russia.


I am sure most of us read and saw on the news all kinds of forward looking Boeing press releases, ads, and news stories about their spacecraft and Mars mission preparations. However only the folks following SpaceX know that Musk has also designed the Mars mission spacecraft. First.


Also the fun part: They are very close to completely reusable spacecraft and not dropping stages that cost millions into the ocean. So they have successfully launched a rocket and landed it on its fins in a tightly controlled proof of concept test. There is a 1:24 video of the grasshopper tests of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLkoPUC3kBo


The Dragon videos with animations of the current plans are there on that YouTube page as well as other SpaceX launches and videos.


Of course for those who are Space fans, and have no monthly data limits on their Internet connection, the best place is to go to the SpaceX website http://www.spacex.com/ and click around. They are doing a lot more than many realize. Like their cars you see no advertising and usually only answers and tweets from Musk and Tesla. You have to be interested to find out more. The Gigafactory is coming along too. Let's remember that any Mars mission or interplanetary manned mission will need both fantastic state of the batteries and solar arrays. Musk is working on those now.

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Thanks for the update, Derek. I think it to be very important to restore our own internal ability to reach orbital Space... on our own means. Seems like the players to watch are SpaceX, Boeing & Lockheed (United Launch Alliance)... and perhaps someday even NASA again.


Where do you think Richard Branson fits in with all this? He seems to be providing a 'Space travel service' rather than a launch product.


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Like I said with Tesla, (which I am still amused with and long on, at least until after the Gigafactory goes online,) as soon as SpaceX finally goes public with an IPO I'm investing all I can. I might sell stuff to do it too.


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  • 1 month later...

Looks like DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has plans on space launch. Quoted from a space.com website...


"DARPA expects to narrow down the field of competitors to just one company in 2015, when it enters Phase 2 of the project. A test flight is expected in 2018, and in the future the program could be done by the Navy, the Air Force or a commercial operator. Should it make it to flight, the XS-1 would soar to suborbital altitudes using the reusable first stage, DARPA added. The plane would then release a non-reusable upper stage to send a satellite into low Earth orbit. The spaceplane would return for a conventional landing and to prepare for another flight."

Full link: http://www.space.com/29287-xs1-experimental-spaceplane.html



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Wow! Looks like they are finally catching up to Dale Brown's fiction. http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Command-Dale-Brown/dp/006117372X


If you read this book the space plane concept ha serious military applications.


Also, since the ULA is out of the running for the three intervening years it looks to me like the ULA ( Boeing and Lockheed ) are through coasting on old tech and Russian Rocket engines they can no longer get. Now I understand their seeming premature ads for a Mars mission. Trying to keep an appearance of still being in the game, when they are not. Oh they will keep going, but so will Musk. His companies are empowering to his people and are not bound up in entrenched corporate design by committee.


Space X has that wrapped too. Cheaper and better. The ULA is a behemoth that depends on not having to count pennies in past government contracts. Essentially both the ULA's inability to field a certified rocket engine, and the military needs for secret launches,have given Space X all secret military launches as well as ISS resupply while Musk hones his ability to tail land his spacecraft for 100% reusable spacecraft, including reusing the expensive stages jettisoned into the ocean in previous and current ULA designs. He'll nail it.


Read the two Shadow Command books. Good reads for you and me, but if you read the reviews, their categorization as just fantasy reads turns out to now be closer to a blueprint of what comes next. Read it if you haven't. Most of us haven't a clue, the rest wouldn't believe it if you took them to watch takeoffs were they not secret.

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