What are the Odds?

Someone at NASASpaceflight.com dug up the predictions thread for 2010 that I apparently started on New Year’s Eve a year ago…


Here were my predictions:

What I think will likely happen in 2010:

1- ISS will be extended to 2020 and Shuttle only to 2011 (with one added flight)
2- Ares-I will be canceled, but in order to buy off Shelby and Nelson, some sort of shuttle derived HLV (Ares-I Lite or Jupiter-ish) will be selected.
3- SpaceX will make it to orbit with Falcon 9, but not necessarily on the first try–I’m guessing they’ll have at least one more failure this year.
4- Obama will announce a new direction for the HSF program, with small sops thrown at all parties (anemic commercial crew program, small new tech-dev program, shuttle derived HLV, continuing with Orion, etc). And it will be denounced by all sides as being both too radical and not radical enough.
5- Both Armadillo and MSS will start flying customers to sub-100km altitudes, but neither will have a 100km vehicle in full commercial service by the end of the year (possibly doing some limited flights–but they’ll be test flights that happen to have a payload on board). And there will be at least one TLOV (Tragic Loss of Vehicle) between the two companies, possibly one for both.
6- Blue Origin will start flying something, but still won’t actually tell anyone much about what they’re doing.
7- Scaled will continue to face engine delays with SS2, but will at least start doing captive-carry tests. XCOR will face delays but will have Lynx Mk I partially completed–it will be targetting summer of ’11 for initial flight tests
8- Even if there are some successes on the commercial side, there will still be plenty of people willing to explain how “they really haven’t proven anything yet”.
9- Less than half of these predictions will be anywhere close to true (except this one).

I’m sorry guys, that’s just plain lucky. If I thought skill had anything to do with it, I wouldn’t have posted it.

But it is interesting:

1-Both were approved in the NASA Authorization Bill passed earlier this year.
2-Sop indeed, but at least NASA HQ is trying to do its darndest to make sure that SLS has a fighting chance of not being completely, 100% pork driven (maybe only 95%, but you gotta take what you can get).
3-SpaceX actually exceeded my expectations here. They orbited two F9s, without crashing any.
4-Obama actually did better than I expected here. Still sops all around, but smaller sops than I thought he would have the balls to try suggesting. End result coming out of Congress was a lot closer to what I thought Obama would propose, being something that neither side really likes. So gotta give kudos to Obama for exceeding my expectations in a positive direction.
5-Pretty close to what happened, though neither suborbital vehicle is as close to a 100km capable vehicle as I had expected. Of course, I didn’t predict that Masten would have to handle a huge turnover in its engineering staff, or that Armadillo would run into as many snags as it did.
6-This was the only prediction that looks like I was completely wrong on. Hopefully next year?
7-Scaled was about where I expected, but XCOR sounds like it’s a little behind where I expected. They are back on their feet and making progress again, but I’d really be surprised if they had Lynx to the point where they could start any sort of flight testing before this time next year.
8-Yup. Though admittedly, SpaceX’s knocking-it-out-of-the-park last week shut up the naysayers a lot more and for a long longer than I had expected. Apparently, your average politician must be only 95% completely lacking in shame–they do have their limits. This is good to know.
9-Ironically, it was my safest guess that was wrong.

I’m not sure I’m going to make any guesses for next year. I really can’t do better than I did this time around, and if I keep my mouth shut, maybe you guys will keep thinking I know something…

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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9 Responses to What are the Odds?

  1. Bill Hensley says:

    Brilliant! You definitely should quit while you’re ahead. But if you’ve got any stock picks please let us know. 🙂

  2. Bill,
    Well…there’s this little two-person shop in Louisville, CO whose stock value I predict to go up in value by at least 3 orders of magnitude this year… Unfortunately it’s not publicly traded.



  3. kert says:

    Here is a very sobering thought about starting up a rocket business : Armadillo started posting updates on their website in 2000.
    They have not made it to space in a decade.

  4. Kert,
    Yeah. We came up with the idea for Masten Space Systems in October of 2003, and formally started things in later summer of 2004. It took a while, due to tight funding, and a steep learning curve. Knowing what I do now I could probably catch up to a Masten level of capabilities within 18months or so, given $1-2M in funding…but I’m not really interested in competing in that market. There are other markets that need to be addressed that don’t have as many good, talented teams focusing on them.

    But yeah, don’t start a rocket company expecting instant gratification. This is definitely a marathon race, not a 100yrd sprint.


  5. Jim Davis says:

    They are back on their feet and making progress again…


    Back on their feet? Did something happen with XCOR? I don’t recall anything of the sort being mentioned on aRocket where a number of XCOR stalwarts hang out. Quite the contrary, they seemed consistently upbeat.

  6. Lars says:

    Nice predictions! And thanks for the link to the NSF thread – I must have missed that thread, but it certainly is amusing reading now.

    We are eagerly anticipating your 2011 predictions. 🙂

  7. Ian says:

    Jim, I think Jon meant funding-wise.

    Jon, 3 orders of magnitude? I’d say anything/0 = infinite! 🙂 Oh wait it didn’t start with 0 value…

  8. Paul says:

    I’m curious what 2010 events didn’t you predict, but that you now consider forehead-slappingly obvious or knee-slappingly “Where did that come from?”

  9. PrairieKirk says:

    Jon has posted his predictions for 2011 at NASAspaceflight.com:

    Jon — I think you should crosspost your predictions here!

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