The central bank is not normally in the business of easing into an economy that is showing few signs of a recession, generally holding fire until more pronounced signs of a...The Fedread more
His case for gold comes as central banks get more aggressive with policies that devalue currencies and are about to cause a "paradigm shift" in investing.Marketsread more
CSX said it expects revenue to fall as much as 2% in 2019, well below a previous forecast of an increase of 1% to 2%.Marketsread more
Challenging conditions in the U.S. housing market, along with tighter currency controls by the Chinese government, cause a stunning drop in foreign demand for American homes.Real Estateread more
The growth in net interest income, a main engine of the industry's profit, looks to slow to a halt in the back half of this year.Banksread more
These are the stocks posting the largest moves midday.Market Insiderread more
Here's how Amazon sells ads, and why it has a natural edge over Google and Facebook in some areas.Technologyread more
Netflix reports earnings Wednesday as it loses licensed shows to rivals launching their own streaming services.Technologyread more
Federal Judge William Pauley wrote in a court filing made public Wednesday that materials related to Cohen's campaign-finance probe should be unsealed — and denied a request...Politicsread more
The "'Cadillac tax," set to go into effect in 2022, is unpopular with both Republicans and Democrats, who say it punishes the middle class.Health and Scienceread more
Facebook's head of Calibra David Marcus is grilled during a House Financial Services Committee hearing over the company's digital currency plans.Technologyread more
There's an unearthly market blooming in the Brazilian jungle.
The Alcantara base sits about 140 miles south of the Earth's equator, making it a prime location for launching satellites, a $260 billion business. From this spot, certain satellites can be launched more efficiently than from spaceports in the U.S.
The dormant military base "makes total sense" to be used "for launching large satellites with big rockets into geosynchronous orbits," or GEO, Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, told CNBC.
These GEO satellites, which circle the globe tens of thousands of miles away, orbit at the equator to provide maximum coverage for services such as communications or broadband.
Launching from the equator itself, therefore, is advantageous because it requires less fuel. A launch from a latitude much farther north — such as NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida or Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — requires rockets sending satellites to GEO to change direction in flight to reach the equator. Sometimes called "bootlegging," that process requires firing a rocket's engines multiple times to angle into position.
Launching those same satellites from Alcantara would save as much as 20 percent more fuel compared with a location such as Florida, McDowell estimated.
Similar savings would be seen for launches to equatorial low-Earth orbit, or LEO, McDowell noted. The case for Boeing and Lockheed Martin "makes sense," McDowell said, due to the large size of GEO-bound satellites.
Vector, on the other hand, wants to use its small rockets to tap a new equatorial LEO market by launching dozens of small satellites. The company's Vector-R rocket, which is nearing its first orbital launch in July, is about one-sixth the size of the often-watched SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. At less than $3 million per launch, Vector wants to use its rocket to tap into the rapidly-growing microsatellite industry.
Traditionally, equatorial LEO has been a minuscule portion of the satellite market. Small satellites are usually destined for orbits running over the Earth's poles. Reaching those polar orbits means "an equatorial launch site isn't an advantage," McDowell said.
Vector CEO Jim Cantrell thinks the demand for equatorial LEO is already here. Last month, Cantrell expressed even more enthusiasm than Boeing and Lockheed Martin when he told CNBC his company "is very interested in the opportunity" due to the fuel efficiency advantage.
"From a satellite launch perspective, there are many who want to launch into equatorial LEO," Cantrell said, in a follow-up interview. "We have seven customers at present that are looking for this. And [launching aboard a small rocket] is one of those services no one seems able to provide, as these customers are definitely not able to find a rideshare opportunity. "
These are "American and European customers" for Vector, Cantrell said, and include both start-ups and established customers. Of those looking to launch with Vector, communications satellites "are probably 75 percent of the demand," while remote sensing and imaging satellites are the remaining 25 percent, Cantrell said. The Vector-R rocket can lift about 80 kilograms into equatorial LEO, the rocketeer noted.
The Guiana Space Centre is another launch complex in the region, located to the north in French Guiana, a French territory. The complex is positioned around 345 miles north of the equator, providing similar launch advantages as Alcantara. Operational for nearly half a century, the Guiana Space Centre is owned by the European Space Agency and operated by the French national space agency.
"[The launch complex in] French Guiana has been a reason why [European rocket company] Arianespace has gotten so much of the commercial GEO market since it started in the 1980s," McDowell said.
Reopening Alcantara would allow U.S. companies to equal the playing field against European competitors. But the Brazilian site isn't ready for rocket launches just yet. Alcantara has been little used since August 2003, when a rocket with two satellites onboard exploded on the launchpad, killing 21 people and damaging the launchpad's infrastructure.
Brazil's defense minister, Raul Jungmann, has said the complex may be able to support up to five launchpads, but McDowell expects it will be "at least 5 years" until the first U.S. orbital launch from Alcantara occurs.
Vector's minimal infrastructure required — its rocket needs little more than a flat concrete foundation — means it may be able to get up and running a little more quickly.
"It would take us years to get service in place, so the soonest I could see us launching from Alcantara is 2020," Cantrell added.
Early talks have been reported to be positive but the remaining hurdle to a deal with Brazil is the signing of a Technology Safeguards Agreement with the U.S. to protect sensitive information about any rockets exported to Brazil.
A political window of opportunity may be at hand, as Brazilian lawmakers and military officials alike have expressed eagerness to establish a new TSA, matched in turn by the interest of U.S. companies. A non-proliferation agreement with the U.S. may see Brazil become the next step in an increasingly valuable space industry.