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Quick Reflections on Space in 2023 (from Portobello)

By Dr Nic Ross



Here are some quick reflections and commentary on events that have happened over the last 12 months or so.


The Virgin Orbit Fiasco

The opportunity to achieve Sub-orbital and Orbital spaceflight from a Scottish spaceport is truly significant and could be “game-changing”. Achieving launch would resonate far and wide and realise the full space supply chain within Scotland.


However, real care has to be taken since a there could be a lack of market for spaceflight, or moreover, completing against the price points offered by e.g. SpaceX Transporters or even other European launch sites (e.g. Esrange, in Sweden). The critical example of Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit demonstrates that it does not matter how good the technology (which wasn’t in the case of VO) or local infrastructure is for spaceflight, if the market and launch economics are not present as well.


The FCC Won't let DISH TV be

In a world first, the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Dish Network $150,000 for failing to properly remove a satellite from geostationary orbit.


The settlement includes an admission of liability from DISH for leaving the EchoStar-7 at 122 kilometers above its operational geostationary arc, less than halfway to the 300km graveyard orbit the satellite broadcaster had agreed. EchoStar-7, launched in 2002 for a 10 year mission, had a 10 year extension in 2012. Whether this extension was the cause of the lack of orbital disposal is unclear. $150,000 was seen as a ‘bandaid for a bullet wound’ by many. However, what a lot of folks have missed is that DISH’s share price fell by nearly 4% immediately following the FCC announcement, pushing the company’s $3 billion valuation down about $100 million. This action by a national regulatory is a precedent. From the UKs perspective, will the CAA or Ofcom follow suit?


Further reading:


Starship

I’m not a fan of Musky boy. However, SpaceX are lightyears ahead of anyone, including NASA and especially ESA, when it comes to rocket technology. The demonstration flights of Starship strongly suggest that >100t payloads to orbit via a reusable rocket are now a matter of when not if and that if is probably pretty soon. Somewhat ironically for the “NewSpace” sector that has thrived, but at the point that Starship becomes fully operational, essentially SWaP constraints go out the window and the race to the Moon truly becomes not a sprint, but a true relay.


Written by:

Dr. Nicholas P. Ross MSci (Hons) PhD LLM

Founder & CEO




Sustainable Progress for Space

UK Space Agency Explore Accelerator Alumni, Class of 2023


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