Main Engine Cut Off

Thanks to December Patrons

Very special thanks to the 245 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off on Patreon for the month of December. 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.

And a huge thanks to the 34 executive producers of Main Engine Cut Off: Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Jamison, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Jasper, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, and six anonymous executive producers. I could not do this without your support, and I am extremely grateful for it.

There are some great perks for those supporting on Patreon, too. At $3 a month, you get access to the MECO Headlines podcast feed—every Friday, I run through the headlines of the week and discuss the stories that didn’t make it into the main show. And at $5 a month, you’ll get advance notice of guest appearances with the ability to contribute questions and topics to the show, and you get access to the Off-Nominal Discord—a place to hang out and discuss all things space.

We just hit the $1,000 a month goal to start streaming shows and special events live, so stay tuned for that!

If you want to get in on some of those perks, or if you’re getting some value out of what I do here and just want to send a little value back to help support Main Engine Cut Off, head over to Patreon and do it there.

There are other ways to help support, too: head over to the shop and buy yourself a shirt or a pair of Rocket Socks, tell a friend, or post a link to something I’m writing or talking about on Twitter or in your favorite subreddit. Spreading the word is an immense help to an independent creator like myself.

Dream Chaser Launch Costs

Catching up on some reading, and there’s an interesting little tidbit on Dream Chaser’s launch costs in a SpaceNews article by Jeff Foust:

Competition in the launch market has helped drive down costs for SNC. “When those launch vehicle prices come down — which, by the way, is about 80 percent of our costs on every mission we fly — that opens up the commercial market,” he said. That includes other applications of Dream Chaser, such as a free-flying experiment platform.

The only fairings that can currently fit Dream Chaser (including its cargo module) are those of Atlas V and Ariane 5. Last we heard, Dream Chaser flights are currently slated for an Atlas V 552.

Based on the last numbers we have for an Atlas V 551 price (just above $150 million), we could assume the additional RL10 engine on a 552 pushes its price above $160 million. That figure puts the Dream Chaser portion of mission costs at around $40 million.

For now, Atlas V 552 is the cheapest launch vehicle that can carry Dream Chaser. We’ll see how prices for Vulcan, OmegA, and Ariane 6 shake out, but I think New Glenn is Sierra Nevada’s only near-term hope for dropping their price significantly. We still don’t have a price for New Glenn, but even if it’s $100 million, that would cut $60 million from Dream Chaser’s mission cost.

Pacific Spaceport Complex — Hawaii

Tom Callis, for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, has a report on Alaska Aerospace and their search for a new spaceport on the eastern side of Hawaii.

With this in mind, their rebranding of “Kodiak Launch Complex” to ”Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska” makes much more sense. They clearly would like to operate multiple Pacific Spaceport Complex locations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them explore other options in the Pacific, like Guam.

OneWeb Refutes Reuters’ Report

This statement is extremely oddly placed on OneWeb’s site, but here’s their statement:

Recently, certain press reports have emerged suggesting that OneWeb offered to sell a stake in the Company to the Russian Government. OneWeb has not offered to sell any stake in OneWeb to the Russian Government.

OneWeb is in the process of restructuring its existing commercial joint venture with its Russian partner, Gonets, to comply with certain regulatory requirements in Russia. The joint venture is solely for the commercialization of OneWeb’s satellite broadband services to customers in Russia. The joint venture will not have access to OneWeb's satellite technology or related know-how. The restructuring will result in Gonets owning a majority of the joint venture.

Props to Reuters for posting a full story with the update, rather than posting it as an update on the original story, or going full Bloomberg.

OneWeb Offering Russia 12.5% Stake

As if there wasn’t enough mystery as to what’s up with OneWeb lately, Maria Kolomychenko has an exclusive over at Reuters:

OneWeb has offered the Russian government the option of buying a 12.5-percent stake in the company in exchange for approving its request for a frequency band in the country, said the three sources, including one in the Kremlin. The offer was made at a meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earlier this year, they added.

If Russia buys a minority stake in OneWeb, it would be represented on the company’s board of directors and have access to the project’s technical documentation, the sources said.

I can’t imagine there will be too many US customers happy with that scenario.

Spaceflight to Launch Brazil’s Amazonia-1

Representing the largest spacecraft Spaceflight has launched to date, Amazonia-1 weighs approximately 700 kilograms and is 1.7 meters in diameter and 2.6 meters tall. It will be the primary spacecraft on the PSLV mission, with the excess capacity filled by Spaceflight’s smallsat rideshare customers. Targeting mid-2020, Amazonia-1 will be deployed to a mean altitude 760 kilometers sun-synchronous orbit, while the additional secondary rideshare spacecraft will be deployed at a lower altitude.

Pretty cool to see Spaceflight sign a deal like this, where they book a full-size primary payload and will match secondary payloads with it on a dedicated launch. Seems like an attractive service for all parties, and I hope to see more of it in the future.

The Mystery of NROL-71

Dr. Marco Langbroek, with an intriguing post about the upcoming NROL-71 payload:

So, if NROL-71 is a new electro-optical reconnaissance satellite in the KH-11 series, it represents a serious deviation from past KH-11 missions. The apparent abandoning of a sun-synchronous polar orbit, is surprising, as such orbits are almost synonymous with Earth Reconnaissance. The “why” of a 74-degree orbit is mystifying too. If it does go into a 74-degree inclined orbit, it doesn't seem to be a “Multi-Sun-Synchonous-Orbit”.

Alternatives have been proposed. Ted Molczan has for example suggested that, perhaps, NROL-71 could be a reincarnation of the Misty stealth satellites, warning that the unexpected orbital inclination for NROL-71 might not be the only surprise.

Strap in for a fun ride, because Misty is a hell of a good story.