Main Engine Cut Off

SpaceX’s First Dedicated Starlink Launch Set for May

Michael Baylor, for NASASpaceflight:

Additionally, SpaceX recently filed for the FCC licenses needed to support a Falcon 9 launch from SLC-40 and a recovery on OCISLY. The droneship will be positioned about 600 kilometers downrange to the northeast. Interestingly, there is not a SpaceX customer on the near-term manifest with a payload that would require such a trajectory.

NASASpaceflight.com now understands that this is the first dedicated flight for SpaceX’s proposed low earth orbit internet constellation called Starlink.

The downrange distance for landing suggests that the launch will carry quite a payload.

Stark Contrast Between NASA Directorates Put On Display

This latest cost estimate is $8.3M above the cost trigger set in January 2019 and $16M above the original cost trigger set in February 2017. Altogether this represents a cost approximately three times the cost estimate presented in the original ICEMAG proposal.

The level of cost growth on ICEMAG is not acceptable, and NASA considers the investigation to possess significant potential for additional cost growth. As a result, I decided to terminate the ICEMAG investigation.

Jeff Foust, for SpaceNews, on an exchange between Jody Singer, director of NASA Marshall, and Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama:

“As chairman of the appropriations committee, I have more than a passing interest in what NASA does. And I have a little parochial interest, too, in what they do in Huntsville, Alabama,” where Marshall is based, he said. “Jody, you keep doing what you’re doing. We’ll keep funding you.”

Maxar Keeps SSL, Lays Off 4%

Caleb Henry, for SpaceNews, with an extensive update on Maxar’s rough patch:

Maxar Technologies, which will lay off more than 200 people as it seeks to return to profitability, says the struggling satellite division it decided to keep will need to bring in roughly $500 million this year to break even.

Executives of Westminster, Colorado-based Maxar said they can keep the doors open at Space Systems Loral in Palo Alto, California, if it can win one to two geostationary satellite orders annually.

If you’re interested in Maxar and SSL, read Caleb’s article.

Thanks to February Patrons

Very special thanks to the 261 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off on Patreon for the month of February. 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 36 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, Frank, Rui, 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.

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.

T+113: Q&A

This month, we talk the GEO slowdown, the LEO boom, and as always, take on some fun launch vehicle questions.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 35 executive producers—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, Frank, and six anonymous—and 223 other supporters on Patreon.

Canada Commits to Lunar Gateway, Canadarm3

David Pugliese, for SpaceNews:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Wednesday that Canada would be partnering with NASA and spending 2 billion Canadian dollars ($1.4 billion) over 24 years on the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway program, a human-tended facility in orbit around the moon, as well as other space programs.

We all knew Canada would contribute Canadarm3 to the Gateway, but it is politically important for NASA to have this stated commitment.

Unfortunately, Canadarm2 and the ISS will be operating until 2030, sucking up most of the time, money, and attention.

Senate Bill Introduced for ISS Extension to 2030, Human Space Settlement Amendment

Jeff Foust, for SpaceNews:

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced the Advancing Human Spaceflight Act Feb. 27, with its central provision authorizing an extension of operations of the ISS from 2024 to 2030.

Perhaps the most forward-looking portion of the bill would amend the National Aeronautics and Space Act to make human space settlement a national goal, inserting language declaring that “human space settlement and a thriving space economy will enhance the general welfare of the United States.”

The latter will not happen until the former is ended.

I am very supportive of the human space settlement amendment, but 11 more years of ISS makes me woozy.

T+112: SLC-20, SPD-4, and a Soyuz Soapbox

Firefly Aerospace is taking over Space Launch Complex 20, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-4, and NASA is looking to buy more Soyuz seats, even though they always say it’s too late to do that.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 35 executive producers—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, Frank, and six anonymous—and 220 other supporters on Patreon.

T+111: SpaceX, the Established Launch Provider

A tale of politics, protests, and contracts tells the story of how SpaceX is in transition—and maybe has already transitioned—from a scrappy upstart to an established launch provider.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 35 executive producers—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, Frank, and six anonymous—and 219 other supporters on Patreon.