back to article 'Hey, Elon? You broke it, you bought it' says owner of SpaceX's satellite cinder

Battered by the loss of its satellite in last week's SpaceX earth-shattering kaboom, Israeli company Spacecom wants Elon Musk's launch company to part with cash or a free flight. The Amos-6 satellite fried in the disaster was intended to provide broadband coverage of Africa, with Facebook and Eutelsat among its intended …

  1. Big John Silver badge

    Plaintiffs ride free!

    I'm pretty sure Musk would not have a problem with a free flight. Not going to be enough tho.

  2. Keef

    Maybe God exists?

    "was intended to provide broadband coverage of Africa, with Facebook"

    Fuck me, if ever there was a case for divine intervention...

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Maybe God exists?

      "Fuck me, if ever there was a case for divine intervention..."

      Amen.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Maybe God exists?

      The thing is FB can be used for more than just selfies and school photos. Many small local groups can be set up to buy,sell,exchange things and service requests and so on. Surprisingly they kinda work better than other customised web sites. FB is actually really useful for this sort of thing (and you dont know how much I hate to say that) but I can imagine it being really really fucking useful for the people who could have had this - especially if the they can get FBP or equivalent too!

    3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Maybe God exists?

      "Fuck me, if ever there was a case for divine intervention..."

      That'll be an Act of God then.

      I don't think insurance pays out for one of those.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Going nowhere

    I'm having a hard time imagining that liability isn't strictly determined by the contract, especially in a business as inherently expensive and risky as launching satellites. If Spacecom is whining about it in a press conference, I'm guessing they don't have a legal leg to stand on.

    1. taxythingy

      Re: Going nowhere

      "If Spacecom is whining about it in a press conference, I'm guessing they don't have a legal leg to stand on."

      Agree, but publicly whinging about the service might bring about a free flight none-the-less, because it looks good to keep clients happy. Even if they guess a 10% chance of that happening, when the flight is $50M, that's a $5M statement right there.

      Of course, this is Elon Musk sitting opposite, who has more successful or trending-successful start-ups than 99.99% of the rest of us. Re-negotiated flight cost for repeat business - can see that. Free flight - not bloody likely.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Going nowhere

      +2

      > ...hard time imagining that liability isn't strictly determined by the contract...

      Quite. I'm also having some difficulty imagining that, at no point during any of the concerned parties activities, did "that's what insurance is for" occur to anyone.

      Sounds to me like some shyster is trying to use the "bad publicity" stick to extort a free ride... rather amusingly literally.

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          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Going nowhere

            @DAM . Yeah, yeah, and they killed that Jebus.

            With respect, the Israeli tech sector is infamous for hustlers. That's not to say that there aren't some very smart people doing clever things there because there are.

      2. SteveK

        Re: Going nowhere

        Quite. I'm also having some difficulty imagining that, at no point during any of the concerned parties activities, did "that's what insurance is for" occur to anyone.

        They probably had insurance, but the insurers insist it's a wear and tear failure and not covered

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Going nowhere

          "They probably had insurance, but the insurers insist it's a wear and tear failure and not covered"

          Or the insurance only covered the launch, not the pre-launch tests. ("Hey, it's a test. What can go wrong? Don't check that box.")

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Going nowhere

            "Or the insurance only covered the launch, not the pre-launch tests."

            that's the kind of fine print and careful l[aw]yering I'd expect from an insurance company...

            meanwhile, has anyone figured out what caused the problems? Did it START within the payload part of the rocket? Was it POSSIBLY caused by the PAYLOAD, and NOT the launch vehicle?

            Inquiring minds want to know!

            Life insurance doesn't pay out for suicides. What about rocket insurance when the payload itself blows the whole thing up on the launch pad? Maybe SpaceX will be asking for a few $million to cover launch pad repairs and cost of the rocket+fuel due to a FAULTY PAYLOAD???

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Going nowhere

              Video so car seems to indicate the fire started at the second stage fueling umbilical connection. The payload fairing was intact until it hit the ground, which suggests it was the second stage that exploded and collapsed.

            2. Mad Hacker

              Re: Going nowhere

              "Life insurance doesn't pay out for suicides."

              Says who? Most life insurance I've seen covers suicides after a couple of years of vesting.

    3. rh587

      Re: Going nowhere

      I'm having a hard time imagining that liability isn't strictly determined by the contract, especially in a business as inherently expensive and risky as launching satellites

      I read elsewhere that in these sorts of complex contracts (especially where you have multiple underwriters and the like), it's actually part of the contract to lodge a lawsuit early to head off other lawsuits down the road - it's basically a de rigeur part of the claim process. You've clearly got the claim down and there can't be quibbling down the road because a court has seen the initial claim.

      IANAL, and I have not seen SpaceCom's insurance policy, but it seemed this was a standard move - of course a bit of public posturing is never a bad thing, but I wouldn't expect to pay for a flight if the operator set it on fire before launch - either get me a new rocket or give me a refund.

  4. LaeMing Bronze badge

    I'm guessing they skimped on insurance.

  5. guyr

    indented customers

    Or should I say

    .....indented customers?

    (Darn, I can't find markup capabilities on El Reg.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: indented customers

      You have to type them in the <olde>old fashioned</olde> way ;)

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: indented customers

        is there a flashing multi coloured markup just like old tripod pages?

        1. raving angry loony

          Re: indented customers

          <blink>kill the heretic</blink>

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insurance covered the launch

    Accident happened pre-launch, hence zero liability.

    Tough yogurt, as they say.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Insurance covered the launch

      That could be it...

      Anyway, as long as the cause of the failure? malfunction? has not been determined it's a bit early to point fingers and make demands.

    2. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: Insurance covered the launch

      Nah. These checks were an essential precursor to launching, the insurance company would get laughed out of court trying to evade.

      Loads of satellites get destroyed before reaching orbit, the insurance for them is pretty mature these days.

      If this one was not /adequately/ insured that is the client's fault, not SpaceX. Bluster and Bullshit

    3. Peter 26

      Re: Insurance covered the launch

      You'd like to think considering the amount of money, that scenario would have been covered.

  7. Paratrooping Parrot
    Mushroom

    Space travel is always risky

    This is why you have insurance, to cover you for failure. You should have read the small print Spacecom.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Space travel is always risky

      Not always - sometimes the premiums are so high (due to the risk - oddly enough) that companies decide to go without and make that gamble themselves. But usually though just for the first flight or two of a new design of rocket, etc, where the risk is high/unknown.

  8. Alister Silver badge

    Curious why Spacecom feel they can go after the builders for compensation - AFAIK there was nothing wrong with how it was built (apart from not being built exclusively from asbestos).

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Doing a pre-launch test burn, especially with the payload attached is not the way other companies launch satellites. Everyone tests the rocket once it's built, but only SpaceX follow up their tests in Texas (where the rocket is assembled), with a test burn on the launchpad with the payload attached.

      As to why they perform a test burn with the payload attached, it's mainly to save time. Apparently it's also optional.

      So, Spacecom may feel that they have grounds that SpaceX were doing something unusually risky. However, if having the payload attached is an optional part of the test, you can bet that somewhere there's a signature from someone at Spacecom agreeing to it.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        @ phuzz

        Yes, I get why they feel they have a case against SpaceX, but the article also said they were pursuing compensation from the satellite builders IAI.

  9. Reliance
    FAIL

    Never too early

    When things go bust, it's never too early to start making demands.

    Insurance company lawyers are professional spin doctors too.

  10. Paul Smith

    Basic maths

    $280 million buyout, contingent on $250 million launch. Did they have any other assets or am I missing something?

  11. lukewarmdog

    Free Flight

    Why the hell would you ask for a ride on the very thing that just blew up your satellite?

    Unless the business just took out massive life insurance policies on the bosses and is hoping for a repeat performance..

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Free Flight

      'cause it was an exception rather than a rule?

  12. RealBigAl

    They obviously missed the insurance small print

    They must've signed up for a voluntary excess of $50 million

  13. kq6ly1

    Launch insurance

    What if the insurance was for launch, this was only a test!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Launch insurance

      Lawyer could argue launch is contingent on a successful test, making the test part and parcel with the launch procedure.

    2. Fred Bauer

      Re: Launch insurance

      There is typically separate insurance that covers pre-launch.... unless the insurance excluded this test it should have been covered under that.

  14. danR2
    Facepalm

    Insurance? Because someone can't even pump liquid oxygen? For a TEST?

    Perhaps it's too early to say, but how did Musk manage to 'blowed up real good' that rocket just pumping LOX? What is there to explode—I mean... to 'fast fire'?

    I can see insurance baulking at gross incompetence.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Insurance? Because someone can't even pump liquid oxygen? For a TEST?

      "What is there to explode—I mean... to 'fast fire'?"

      the propellant stored within the payload, maybe?

      also worth pointing out, a launch pad test burn like this simulates what will happen during the actual launch. It hadn't even lit off the engines yet. If high levels of O2 around the payload were the cause [this is a normal pre-flight condition], then the test fire isn't the reason for the rocket-shattering kaboom. What if the payload were leaking hydrazine [or some other such volatile fuel]? THAT might have been it... hydrazine vapors contacting the O2 in sufficient concentration, spontaneously combusting. oops.

      yeah no open flames while fueling

      1. Fred Bauer

        Re: Insurance? Because someone can't even pump liquid oxygen? For a TEST?

        I doubt it was Hydrazine leakage... the video clearly shows the payload dropping to the ground almost 15 seconds after the initial explosion. A hydrazine explosion would have taken out the payload first.

        1. danR2

          Re: Insurance? Because someone can't even pump liquid oxygen? For a TEST?

          I doubt it also. There have been no significant hydrazine-related incidents in any rocketry in over 30 years. If it was hydrazine then maybe Musk should stick with something less risky. Like Hyperloop.

      2. danR2

        Re: Insurance? Because someone can't even pump liquid oxygen? For a TEST?

        There hasn't been a hydrazine-related explosion/deflagration incident in rocketry since 1983. Again, Musk seems unable to deal with old technology in any predictable fashion.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's an act of sabotage, who pays for that?

    It's clearly an act of sabotage, who pays for that? Check the video. 4 or 5 frames right around where the explosion starts, something black comes racing in from the right and exits left just as the flame flares up. So if this was intentional, who pays???

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It's an act of sabotage, who pays for that?

      Likely it was a bird, possibly anywhere between the camera and the rocket, likely no where near the rocket. Closer to the camera, the higher the apparent speed.

      1. Jez Lawrence

        Re: It's an act of sabotage, who pays for that?

        Don't come here with your la-de-dah logic. Honestly. What kind of el reg commentard are you?!

        :p

        (FWIW I concur about the 'mysterious object'. Perspective is tricksy)

  16. Jez Lawrence

    anyone play shadowrun?

    Anyone?

    Because never mind "Aliens" (as some conspiracy nuts have latched onto) this has all the hallmarks of an industrial or state-sponsored run:

    Chinese company wants to buy Israeli space company.

    Predicate this purchase on a successful launch.

    Mysterious object seen nearby at same time as mysterious "during fuelling" anomaly event causes the thing to blow up.

    Launch fails.

    40% (40%!) wiped off Israeli company's share value, SpaceX, basically the world's current premiere private launch company, once again have their momentum slowed.

    ???

    Profit.

    I'm not saying these types of things *can't* happen by accident. I'm just saying there are about 250 million good reasons for someone to take out the launchcraft. Keep your eye on Spacecom share sales, because if this *was* a run, they would be snapped up by various "entirely unconnected" organisations/companies that aren't anything like as unconnected as the public paper trail might suggest, who would at the very least proxy the shares into the hands of a single representative agent.

    Of course, if I'm right, I'll probably also be dead in about 24 hours. /sigh. I should keep my mouth shut really.

    1. Paul Smith

      Re: anyone play shadowrun?

      Ssshhh!!! Be quiet or you will have the lawyers onto you for releasing the script of the next Bond movie.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Agile

    So this is when Agile methodology meets engineering of critical systems? Never mind, just have a scrum, look at your backlog, write a new user story.

    "As an owner of the satellite, I want the rocket not to explode during the next test, so that I will not lose my satellite."

    Anon, for I work at an agile sw dev company.

  18. Tim Jenkins

    TANSTAAFL*

    *'Launch', of course...

  19. BitDr
    Joke

    Perhaps the satellite...

    Was using Galaxy note 7s as a compute cluster and they went afire during the "refueling" operation.

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