SpaceX, Hughes and Viasat qualify to bid for $20.4 billion in FCC rural broadband subsidies

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX, Hughes Network Systems and Viasat are eligible to compete for a share of the $20.4 billion in broadband subsidies the FCC plans to dole out under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) starting later this month.

The Federal Communications Commission on Oct. 13 released a list  of  “qualified bidders” for the RDOF funds, which will be awarded via reverse auction to telecom providers bidding to bring subsidized voice and broadband internet services to rural communities and other underserved parts of the United States.

FCC’s list of qualified bidders includes 386 telecom providers, including SpaceX, Hughes and Viasat.

Inclusion on the list makes them eligible to participate in an RDOF reverse auction set to begin Oct. 29. That’s when the FCC will begin accepting bids from telecom providers for delivering services to some six million homes and businesses in census blocks entirely unserved by voice and broadband with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second. A second round of awards, the dates for which haven’t been set, will expand the program to cover partially served locations as well as locations passed over during the first round.

“Viasat is proud to be included on the FCC’s list of Qualified Bidders for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction,” John Janka, Viasat chief officer for global government affairs and regulatory, told SpaceNews by email. “We believe we are well qualified to offer broadband connectivity under the FCC’s performance metrics for RDOF, but are unable to comment further given the FCC rules governing the auction process.”

While there was little doubt that Hughes and ViaSat would make the list of qualified bidders, SpaceX’s inclusion wasn’t a given because the Starlink constellation does not yet offer commercial service.

In the lead up to the competition, satellite operators complained that the

HBO is making a limited series about Elon Musk and the founding of SpaceX

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HBO is in the process of developing a six-episode limited series about the founding days of SpaceX and Elon Musk, Variety reports. The show will be based on Ashlee Vance’s biography of the Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder, but the billionaire entrepreneur himself is not directly involved in the project, according to the report.

The limited series will focus on Musk’s recruitment of a small team of engineers, and their development of the first SpaceX rocket, following its construction and launch. The series will be executive-produced by Channing Tatum and his production company, as well as Doug Jung, and it will be written by Jung who previously wrote a number of sci-fi films, including Star Trek Beyond, as well as Netflix series Mindhunter.

This depiction of SpaceX and Musk should be an interesting one, as it’ll be one of the first times the eccentric billionaire founder has been portrayed in a work of biographical fiction.

Musk’s founding of SpaceX is also great fodder, given that it involved approaching Russian space companies to potentially buy a rocket ready-made, before deciding that was too expensive and opting instead to build their own.

If you’re curious, you can also check out Kimbal Musk’s Blogspot detailing some of the process of SpaceX and its early days creating its original launch vehicles.

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Sorry, SpaceX. Watch This Week As NASA Pays $90 Million To Launch U.S. Astronaut On A Russian Rocket

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U.S. astronauts now fly to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil, right?

So why is a NASA astronaut about to blast-off to the ISS from Russia at a cost of over $90 million?

Despite the success of “Launch America” back on May 30, 2020 when NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley journeyed to and from the ISS in SpaceX hardware during the historic SpaceX Crew Demo-2 mission, NASA astronaut Kate Rubin will this week leave Earth from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

As I reported back in June, it’s the final part of an existing contract between NASA and the Russian space agency to send a US astronaut to the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

When is the next rocket launch to the ISS?

Rubin is due to lift-off on Wednesday, October 14, at 1:45 a.m. EDT (10:45 a.m. Kazakhstan time) together with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. Their two-orbit, three-hour journey will begin their six-month mission on the ISS.

Where to watch the rocket launch to the ISS

You can tune-in to the launch online by visiting NASA TV on the space agency’s website or NASA TV on YouTube:

Why is NASA paying Russia $90 million to launch an astronaut when it now has SpaceX?

NASA has been signing contracts with Russia to buy seats on Soyuz spacecraft since 2011 when the Shuttle was grounded. This is its last currently contracted seat, NASA confirmed to me last week. In fact, a contract modification in May 2020 procured one seat at a cost of $90,252,905.69. The cost covers training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing

SpaceX rocket issue delays astronaut launch

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Astronauts make round trip to space station from U.S. soil

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley (C) waves to onlookers as he boards a plane at Naval Air Station Pensacola to return him and NASA astronaut Robert Behnken home to Houston a few hours after the duo landed in their SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft off the coast of Pensacola, Fla,, on August 2, 2020. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

NASA, SpaceX Delay Crew-1 Mission Due To ‘Off-Nominal Behavior’ From Falcon 9

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KEY POINTS

  • NASA and SpaceX’s crewed mission has been delayed to November
  • The agency cited “off-nominal behavior” from the Falcon 9’s engine
  • The delay can provide more time to ensure the mission’s safety

NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-1 has been delayed due to “off-nominal” behavior from the Falcon 9.

It was in May when NASA and SpaceX successfully launched astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS), marking the first time that American astronauts launched from American soil in nearly a decade. But that successful mission was just a demonstration and the first actual crewed operational flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft, the Crew-1 mission, was set for a late October launch following several delays.

But on Oct. 1, NASA released a statement on the Crew-1 mission, noting a new target of “no sooner than early-to-mid November.” The agency cited “off-nominal behavior” from the Falcon 9’s first stage engine gas generators during a recent non-NASA mission.

Although the agency did not specify which mission this was, it was just last Oct. 2 when the Falcon 9 launch set to carry a GPS 3 satellite was scrubbed just two seconds before liftoff. An earlier Falcon 9 Starlink launch was also scrubbed with just seconds before liftoff although it was later successfully launched on Oct. 6, SpaceNews reports.

“NASA and SpaceX will use the data from the company’s hardware testing and reviews to ensure these critical missions are carried out with the highest level of safety,” the agency said in the statement.

Meanwhile, another launch set to use the Falcon 9, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, is still scheduled for Nov. 10.

No matter when the launch will take place, NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission remains the same, with the plans to send NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and