Friday, March 1, 2024

This Time Space Force Says the Quiet Part Our Loud

Back in mid-December, I mused that Jeff Bezos had said the quiet part out loud when word got around that he was saying, "Blue Origin needs to be much faster, and it's one of the reasons that I left my role as the CEO of Amazon a couple of years ago," he said. "I wanted to come in, and Blue Origin needs me right now. Adding some energy, some sense of urgency. We need to move much faster. And we're going to." [bold added - SiG]

This week, it's the US Space Force's turn to say those quiet parts out loud. 

Frank Calvelli, the assistant secretary of the Air Force in charge of Space Force acquisitions, said a top concern for his office this year is the launch tempo of United Launch Alliance.

“I think it’s going to be really important for us to watch two amazing companies: ULA and Blue Origin,” Calvelli said Feb. 27. “They need to scale.”

This is from a talk Calvelli delivered at National Security Space Association’s Defense and Intelligence Space Conference.  It started with Calvelli applauding the successful first mission of ULA's Vulcan Centaur in January which launched the Peregrine lander toward the moon, and he emphasized the need for the company to adapt swiftly to a faster-paced launch schedule.

While Blue Origin and ULA are still separate companies, both desperately need changes in their methods. ULA has talked about getting up to one launch per month this year and two per month in 2025. That's a major change to a company that on average has flown every other month - six rockets a year - for the past five years.  Bear in mind that a mission every other month is still infinitely faster than Blue Origin because any number divided by zero...

Calvelli's only mention of Blue was saying they need to watch and make sure that Blue can deliver the BE-4 engines for Vulcan.  That's primarily because ULA is a launch contractor for Space Force while Blue isn't; they're a subcontractor to ULA.  Blue still hasn't made orbit, so they're unable to compete for USSF Launches and there's little pressure on them.  Remember that ULA originally won a 60% - 40% split with SpaceX to launch National Security payloads back in 2020.  Due to delays in Vulcan’s development, Vulcan still hasn't flown their two certification missions, so Space Force can't (legally) launch those payloads with them.  USSF had to reassign some missions so ULA will end up with 54% and SpaceX with 46% of Phase 2 launches.

A search for when Vulcan's Cert-2 mission will fly just shows a tentative date No Earlier Than June.

Frank Calvelli speaks at the National Security Space Association’s Defense and Intelligence Space Conference Feb. 27, 2024. Credit: SpaceNews

and now for something completely different

Dr. Jim mentions that Bob Heil, K9EID passed away this morning from cancer at age 83 and the news has been wrapping around the amateur radio world. Bob was the founder of a couple of companies devoted to audio, both professional and studio audio with Heil Sound, as well as ham radio microphones, speakers and headsets with Heil Ham Radio.  

One of the inventions Bob is best known for is the Heil Talk Box (or just Talk Box) he invented in 1973.  The talk box gave a distinctive sound that showed up in a lot of 1970s music - it used direct audio feedback of the guitar's amplified sound into the player's mouth delivered by a plastic tube, sound that they then modulated with their mouth.  An easy example that really shows the way it's used is a 1975 recording of Peter Frampton's "Show Me the Way", but this is far from the only popular music that used it.  Joe Walsh's early '70s hit "Rocky Mountain Way" used one for the distinctive sound, but a video showing it is harder to find.  This link doesn't show any live action but starts when the Talk Box is used the most.  

Personally, I've never used a single one of Bob's designs, whether microphones or headsets for the ham station, a talk box or anything else.  I just have the utmost respect for him and his work.  Rest well, Bob. 


  1. You can see the tube here at 3:21 -

    And here's Frampton:

    Been years since I listened to old Frampton. Had it on LP, which I no longer have. I think I need to re-acquire some.

    My main appreciation for Heil comes from his "Pine Board" series on the Ham Nation video show. Besides his technical accomplishments, he was obviously one heck of a nice guy.

  2. I've got a couple of his older "Gold Line" mics, with dual elements, mounted on Heil booms. They work very well, and look stunning.

  3. Reference ULA: The people in the boardroom are wasting the most valuable they have and that is time. They are fritterIng away time that they will never regain. China is launching at a faster rate, India and Japan are launching more often, even New Zealand is launching more often. Yes, most are small payloads, but dangnabit they are putting up payloads, getting experience and learning what works. ULA; not so much.
    Ole Grumpy.

  4. What Ole Grumpy said, in spades, doubled. ULA and BO have been pissing away time and talent like they have/had it to waste, while SpaceX and other newcomers (companies that started after ULA and BO and have launched and created and done things) have passed them by, in time, material and launches.

    It's sad that this has happened. Both ULA and BO had the chance to rapid design and create. Both companies spouted off about how CAD/CAM would speed their processes. Both companies then spent time building headquarters and increasing the size of their management staff while not building anything but vaporware for way too long.

    Meanwhile, executives like Musk are living in trailers or in condos or on site, spending more on engineers and techs and useful hands than on increasing their DEI footprint or mollycoddling special interest groups.

    1. Exactly, Beans, Ole Grumpy. There's not even 5-1/2 million people in New Zealand - a tiny fraction of the US' population and less than the top 23 states taken individually. Smaller than a handful of cities in Florida. And Rocket Lab is beating out ULA and Blue combined.

      It's just another symptom of the decline and collapse of the US. Everything becomes a grift. A portion of all the political purchases get fed back to the politicians.

      For the men and women in Space Force as well as NASA, some are very likely the same way - just part of the monetary feedback loop - but many actually care about their mission and want a highly functioning private industry.

  5. Thank you! I've wondered off and on all my life how Frampton got that sound...and what a strange place to run into the explanation this is!

  6. Surely made Rocky Mountain way such an epic piece of rock thats for sure, Joe Walsh pulled it off best too.

    The money these legacy aerospace tax dollar vultures have siphoned into their controllers offshore accounts still and always blow my mind what a true unmitigated racket, money laundering scheme, they are. And now with the truth of how the western NATO pack military aerospace systems and their weapons have failed, how can you express what its like to have been gulled and lied to so you spend from your teens till your 60's being an honest hard working man, all your life, always played by the rules, when all that time it was all a total effin' lie, everything we where told to believe was nothing but lies, and how much wealth was literally completely stolen from me.
    An entire civilization set up and controlled so it could be wealth strip mined for 2 centuries plus.
    How do you even express what its like to be played for suckers like this? Be surprised the last decade and some we ain't seen even 1% what they pilfer from our paychecks returned to us as infrastructure and overhead to run our governments.