SpaceX’s successful Friday launch opens weekend doubleheader

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying a communications lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Friday. Photo: AP

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying a communications lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Friday. Photo: AP

San Francisco: The year’s not half over, and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is about to launch more missions than it completed in all of 2016.

SpaceX successfully fired up a Falcon 9 rocket for the eighth time this year on Friday, matching its flight total for all of last year. Its next launch is scheduled just two days later, with the ramped-up cadence putting the company on track to achieve the 20 to 24 total missions it’s targeting for the year.

The quickening pace of launches illustrates how SpaceX has bounced back after one of its rockets and a customer’s satellite blew up on a Florida launch pad in September. The company was grounded for four months in the midst of an investigation into the incident before returning to flight in January. By racking up more successful launches, the closely held company has positioned itself again as a driving force in the new-age space race.

“SpaceX is coming back gangbusters,” Luigi Peluso, an aerospace analyst with AlixPartners, said in an interview. “You’re seeing a public proclamation that they are totally back from the September 2016 accident. And Elon has demonstrated that the concept of re-using rockets is feasible.”

Next launch

The rocket that took off Friday carried BulgariaSat-1, a communications satellite destined for geostationary orbit. It launched from the historic 39A pad at NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, where Neil Armstrong left from before landing on the moon in 1969.

The launch used a “flight proven” Falcon 9 rocket booster, which means it’s flown to space previously and been returned and refurbished. SpaceX chief executive officer Musk has championed reusability—once derided as a crazy idea—to drive down launch costs and win a growing roster of customers, including the US military. Friday marked the second time it’s used a pre-flown booster.

“It’s starting to feel kinda normal to reuse rockets. Good. That’s how it is for cars and airplanes and how it should be for rockets,” Musk tweeted earlier this month.

Rocket reuse

SpaceX successfully recovered the booster from this mission on an unmanned drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, though it had been bracing for a less favourable outcome.

“Falcon 9 will experience its highest ever re-entry force and heat in today’s launch. Good chance rocket booster doesn’t make it back,” Musk tweeted an hour before the scheduled launch.

After the BulgariaSat-1 mission, the next in line is a 25 June launch of 10 satellites for Iridium Communications Inc. from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast.

“Could be a weekend doubleheader,” SpaceX tweeted last weekend, referring to the Friday and Sunday launch plans. It would be the first time the company launched two rockets the same weekend—though they’d be taking off from opposite coasts.

SpaceX has several other flights listed on its manifest, but firm dates have not yet been announced.

Space customers

In addition to its commercial customers, SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) and a second pact valued at as much as $2.6 billion to eventually transport crews to the orbiting lab. SpaceX is also competing for contracts to fly missions for the US Air Force and plans to send two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year.

The Hawthorne, California-based company builds the Falcon 9 as well as the rocket’s Merlin engines in-house, taking a Silicon Valley approach to constant improvements and a tight collaboration between design and manufacturing. Musk has brought in executives from other industries to promote innovation including Andy Lambert, SpaceX’s vice-president of production, who previously spent more than a decade at BMW AG.

In March, SpaceX hit a significant milestone when it launched a reused rocket for the first time, a leap forward in Musk’s quest to drive down launch costs. SpaceX is now regularly recovering the 14-story-tall-boosters. Bloomberg


SpaceX’s sixth successful launch in 2017 puts Elon Musk’s company on pace to beat its rivals

Falcon 9 Inmarsat Elon Musk SpaceX Launch


Flying the biggest satellite that SpaceX has ever launched, weighing in at more than 6 metric tons, proved a routine piece of business for the company’s Falcon 9 rocket yesterday.

The Inmarsat-owned satellite, built by Boeing, was originally scheduled to fly on a larger rocket, the Falcon Heavy, that SpaceX hopes to debut later this year. Flying the big bird on a smaller rocket required some sacrifices on SpaceX’s part—the first stage booster could not be recovered for potential re-use, for example, since much of the fuel necessary would be used in flight. But the success puts the company on a path to finally hit its long-dreamed-of high-speed launch cadence.

SpaceX has been hoping to out-fly its competitors for the last several years, planning on a dozen to even 18 launches in a single calendar year. But in 2015, a mid-flight explosion grounded SpaceX’s rocket for six months, putting a kibosh on those plans, and a 2016 refueling mishap required four months of work to ensure the rocket was ready for flight.

Now, having launched six rockets before the halfway point of 2017, the company looks set to hit its goals and finally fly more rockets than its incumbent competitors, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance, and the European champion Arianespace. That’s striking, given that SpaceX’s first commercial mission was in 2012. (ULA was formed in 2006, and Arianespace in 1980.)

This year, Arianespace has been the victim of circumstance, with its major spaceport becoming a pawn in a political battle between impoverished French Guianans and the mainland French government. The protests have now been resolved, allowing the company to start launching again.

For the rest of this year, SpaceX has plenty to do. It will launch a Bulgarian television satellite, and communications birds for Intelsat, Iridium, SES, and Echostar. It is expected to launch satellites on behalf of Taiwan and South Korea. And the company plans to launch its own demonstration satellite to provide internet access. Perhaps most importantly, it will fly three missions to the International Space Station for NASA, as well as demonstrating an uncrewed flight of its new astronaut-carrying space capsule. Plus, it expects to fly the experimental Falcon Heavy.

That’s a lot of work—at least a dozen more missions—and it will require the company’s engineers and technicians to move fast and carefully, with no major mishaps. The company’s goal has long been a mission cadence of one flight every two weeks, a pace it hit this month and in March but has yet to sustain over time. The tiny signals of progress are there—during yesterday’s launch, the company began loading liquid oxygen into the rocket ten minutes later than usual, part of an effort to compress and shorten the countdown process.

The rewards of frequent launches are clear: Besides establishing the Falcon 9’s reliability, and the constant stream of data used by engineers after every launch to refine the vehicle, each launch represents revenue won by SpaceX.

While the company brushed off financial concerns after its 2016 mishap, with officials noting that it had no debt and $1 billion in cash on its books, replenishing its coffers will give SpaceX greater security and more resources to tackle big projects ahead—including its mooted satellite internet constellation and an inter-planetary transportation system for reaching Mars.


Cassini’s First Dive Between Saturn and Its Rings Successful, Says NASA

Cassini's First Dive Between Saturn and Its Rings Successful, Says NASA

Cassini’s first-ever dive through the narrow gap between the planet Saturn and its rings on April 26 was successful and the spacecraft is now in the process of beaming back science and engineering data collected during its passage, NASA said on Thursday.

NASA’s Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in California’s Mojave Desert acquired Cassini’s signal at 2:56am EDT (12:26pm IST) on Thursday and data began flowing at 3:01am EDT (12:31pm IST), the US Space agency said.

“I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape,” said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Images captured by Cassini spacecraft during its first “Grand Finale” dive past the planet have also been published.

The unprocessed images show features in Saturn’s atmosphere from closer than ever before.

“In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare,” Jim Green, Director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington said.

As it dived through the gap, Cassini came within about 3,000 kilometres of Saturn’s cloud tops and within about 300 kilometres of the innermost visible edge of the rings.

While mission managers were confident Cassini would pass through the gap successfully, they took extra precautions with this first dive, as the region had never been explored.

The gap between the rings and the top of Saturn’s atmosphere is about 2,000 kilometres wide.

The best models for the region suggested that if there were ring particles in the area where Cassini crossed the ring plane, they would be tiny, on the scale of smoke particles.

The spacecraft zipped through this region at speeds of about 124,000 kph relative to the planet, so small particles hitting a sensitive area could potentially have disabled the spacecraft.

As a protective measure, the spacecraft used its large, dish-shaped high-gain antenna as a shield, orienting it in the direction of oncoming ring particles.

Cassini’s next dive through the gap is scheduled for May 2.

Launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004.

Following its last close flyby of the large moon Titan on April 21, Cassini began what mission planners are calling its “Grand Finale.”

During this final chapter, Cassini loops Saturn approximately once per week, making a total of 22 dives between the rings and the planet.

The spacecraft is on a trajectory that will eventually plunge it into Saturn’s atmosphere – and end Cassini’s mission – on September 15.




25 Phone Sales Tips for Successful Cold Calling

Phone Sales Tips for Successful Cold Calling

Making cold calls might not be the most fun part of the sales process. But in many industries and businesses, it is necessary. To perfect the art of cold calling, take a look at some of the tips and tricks in the list below.

25 Phone Sales Tips

Prepare Yourself Mentally

Cold calls can be intimidating, especially if you’re unprepared. So before you get started, you need to get yourself in the right state of mind. This means coming up with a general script or talking points. But it also means coming up with a routine so that you’re comfortable and relaxed on each call.

Have One Goal in Mind

You should also have a specific goal in mind for each call so that you’re more likely to stay on task. Usually, your goal is to make a sale. But in some instances, your goal could be to sell a specific item, to upsell a new version of your product or even to just gather information from new prospects.

Practice Your Tone

In general, you want to sound relaxed but professional on each cold call. But you can’t hope to achieve that blend without some practice. So before and during each call, pay special attention to your tone and make note of any areas you might notice that need improvement.

Record Yourself

In addition, you might consider setting up an audio recorder on calls or practice calls so that you can hear yourself and make notes of areas that need improvement later on.

Build Up Your Confidence

Confidence is an absolutely essential part of creating a relaxed tone for cold calls. So that means you need to work on improving but also think about some of the things you do really well. And simply practicing and making a lot of calls can make you feel more confident over time.

Don’t Dwell on Small Talk

Small talk at the beginning of each call might seem friendly and natural. But too much of it can be distracting and time wasting. So say a quick hello and then try to get to the point of your call quickly.

Anticipate Obstacles

Not every cold call is going to go smoothly. In fact, there are some obstacles that might come up fairly regularly. If you notice some of those common issues, you should be able to anticipate them and come up with good responses to use on your cold calls going forward.

Keep Talking Points Handy

While you don’t necessarily need to stick to an exact script on every cold call, it can be a good idea to have a general outline. If you keep a few talking points nearby, it can help you stay on track in case you get distracted or thrown off.

Be Conversational

However, it’s important to not get too attached to those talking points. If you sound like you’re reading from a script, customers are less likely to buy. Instead, respond to each customer inquiry or response in a natural way that allows you to then lead back to your talking points.

Find a Way to Connect

If possible, it can be beneficial to find some kind of connection with your prospect early on in the call. If you’re from the same city or have a colleague in common, for instance, that can be a good way to build a rapport with them early on.

Create a Comfortable Space

When you’re making cold calls, you need to be both mentally and physically comfortable. So that means you need to set up your workspace in a way that will support you. Get a comfortable chair, put up some family photos and otherwise personalize your space.

Don’t Multitask

If you want to get a lot done, you might think that you should make cold calls while also completing other tasks. But your prospects deserve your full attention. And you don’t want to sound distracted on calls either.

Build Up Your Energy

You also don’t want to sound tired or disinterested on calls. So build up your energy with some healthy snacks or light exercise beforehand.

Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes

When talking to potential customers, it’s important to word things in a way that they’re likely to relate to. So think about what types of problems or needs they might have in order to better sell to them.

Keep the Focus on Their Benefit

In addition, it’s important that you always keep the focus on how your product or services can benefit them. So instead of just talking about the features you offer, focus on what your product or service can actually accomplish for your customers. For example, if you’re offering a software program, you can talk about the time saving benefits rather than outlining all the different capabilities it offers.

Highlight Your Track Record

You can also talk a bit about what your company has accomplished in order to offer some proof that it would be beneficial for customers to buy from you. For example, you can call attention to high ratings or reviews, or talk about how many years you’ve been successfully in business.

Ask Questions

You also need to fully understand your customers in order to effectively sell to them. That means that it can be a good idea to ask a fair amount of questions to gain a better understanding and keep the conversation going.

Don’t Be Pushy

However, you don’t want to be too pushy throughout your conversation. Doing so can turn customers off and ruin any future chance you might have of doing business with them.

Keep It Quick

You also don’t want your calls to run too long. If you go on and on forever, your prospects might get bored or disinterested. Or they might just not have the time to sit on the phone with you for that long, even if they are interested in purchasing. So get to your point fairly quickly and if it doesn’t work out, move on.

Make as Many Calls as Possible

Along those same lines, you also need to keep calls quick so that you can make as many of them as possible. You’re likely to get a lot of rejections, so the more calls you make, the bigger your chances are of making some sales.

Try Batch Calling

But don’t make just one or two calls at a time. Once you’re in the groove of making calls, make a lot of them. You’re likely to have all the information fresh in your mind. And you might even get more comfortable making those calls as you go.

Don’t Get Discouraged

It’s also important that you don’t get discouraged by rejection. When you’re calling people out of nowhere, you can’t expect them all to be ready to buy right away. So when you get rejections, just let it go and move onto the next call.

Take Breaks

Once you’ve made a fair amount of calls, you can take breaks to refresh and build your energy and confidence back up, especially if you need a break after some particularly harsh rejections.

Keep Records

As you make calls, you can take notes or keep records of each call in case those notes might help you make that sale or others in the future.

Follow Up If Necessary

And sometimes, making the sale might require that you make more than one call. So after your cold call, make any necessary notes and then follow up with them again later.

Phone Call Photo via Shutterstock