On January 19th, SpaceX successfully executed a crucial in-flight abort test of its Crew Dragon capsule that really needs to be seen to be appreciated. Now, it's only a matter of months before the private company becomes the first to shuttle human astronauts into space as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. At the post-launch press conference, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine lauded the achievement, saying the innovative aerospace firm and its partners are "increasing access to space."
In this issue of our newsletter, we're spotlighting the noteworthy launch, and turning an eye towards Detroit where General Motors is making massive investments in electrification that will create thousands of new jobs. Keep scrolling for more and we'll see you in a fortnight!
Kim Taylor CEO, Cluster
Number of satellites launched from 1957 to 2019
Next Stop – Low Earth Orbit
The last time an astronaut launched into space from American soil was July 2011. Since retiring its space shuttle, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to transport crewmembers to and from the International Space Station. Enter NASA's Commercial Crew Program designed to restart American launches.
In 2014, NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX contracts worth $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, to bring their astronaut taxis, CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon, to market.
With the success of the recent in-flight abort test, SpaceX is set to begin ferrying astronauts this spring. The NASA contract calls for the company to fly six such flights with Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket.
Boeing, however, suffered a well-publicized setback last December when its Starliner vehicle got stuck in an orbit too low to allow it to dock with the ISS. Still, Starliner performed well during its time in space so NASA is still weighing whether its next flight will be a crewed mission to the ISS.
"We're on the cusp of commercializing low Earth orbit," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Sunday's news conference following SpaceX's successful test.
General Motors Ups Investment in Detroit/Electric Vehicles
The United States' biggest automaker by sales, General Motors, announced it's investing $2.2 billion into its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to manufacture all-electric trucks in late 2021.
The facility will be GM’s first dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant. When fully operational, Detroit-Hamtramck will support more than 2,200 jobs. It currently employs 900 people who build the Cadillac CT6 and the Chevrolet Impala.
GM also plans to produce its recently unveiled self-driving shuttle designed for ridesharing, Cruise Origin, at the plant. And the automaker is investing an additional $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects related to its forthcoming all-electric trucks portfolio.
The announcement follows news that GM is partnering with LG Chem to mass produce battery cells for its electric vehicles. The two companies will invest up to $2.3 billion to establish a battery cell assembly plant on a manufacturing site in the Lordstown area of Northeast Ohio.
The battery cells venture will create more than 1,100 new jobs. In the meantime, GM will idle the Detroit-Hamtramck plant for several months, starting at the end of February, to transform it for its all-electric operations.
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Upcoming Events in SoCal
Feb 11 -13: ATX West 2020 - Automation Technology Expo Anaheim Convention Center Anaheim This three-day conference is aimed at hardware engineers interested in integrating automation technology into their day-to-day operations. The trade show floor will feature live demos and a panel of distinguished thought leaders who will deliver educational seminars. Info
Feb 13: Operations Development of the International Space Station El Segundo Public Library El Segundo This presentation describes how the US led the international cooperation between 16 nations in developing the International Space Station. Pizza and refreshments will be served! Info
Check out our calendar for all the latest SoCal events here
History's first flight lasted 12 seconds and flew 120 feet. Kitty Hawk, NC. 1903