I've seen 3 space-exploration-related conspiracy theories spreading this past week, and I'd love to see links to any others that you might have encountered.
Conspiracy #1: Lockheed Martin Blew Up SpaceX's Rocket With a Laser
I'd planned to discuss the Falcon9 failure in depth soon after it happened on June 28, but I was waiting to hear more details beyond the high quality videos that became almost instantly available, but everyone has remained tight-lipped -- until now: Elon Musk did an hour long discussion with Mike Suffredini yesterday at ISSRDC 2015 (International Space Station Research and Development Conference) and will be holding a SpaceX press conference tomorrow.
Let's just say that the timing of June's Falcon9 failure, after 100% success in all 18 of its prior launches, was rather convenient for many of the major space players:
- it gave Orbital Sciences Corporation some breathing room after the explosion of its new Antares launcher [and Cygnus cargo capsule] on its third resupply attempt in October. OSC's Antares/Cygnus is NASA's "backup" carrier to resupply ISS, but it carries less payload to orbit, costs much more to launch than SpaceX, can't bring back any cargo [it burns up on re-entry] and can never be man-rated. OSC is an established military contractor for small launches, missiles, etc.
- It may give some breathing room to United Launch Alliance's heavy launch vehicles [Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy], by slowing the introduction/testing of the Falcon 9 Heavy which would carry comparable -- and greater loads, at far less cost. ULA is a merger of the two leading "old space" launch companies, Boeing Defense, Space & Security (which developed the Delta launcher) and Lockheed-Martin Space Systems (which developed the Atlas) Ironically it was formed after potentially devastating mutual court suits where Boeing and L-M each showed evidence the other was guilty of industrial espionage and dirty tricks. They decided to drop their mutual suits and form a combined company to protect their established space ventures again other emerging competitors.
- It delays the human-rating tests of SpaceX's interplanetary-capable Dragon Spacecraft [slated to being this year], so NASA's unfinished Orion space vehicle [the "manned" portion of the expensive Constellation boondoggle that Congress cancelled after decades of scandalous failure and $10s of Billion wasted] won't seem completely irrelevant. An Orion "test article" flew two orbits (unmanned) last year after being launched on a ULA Delta Heavy, and only has one "mission" planned -- another unmanned flight in late 2018, with ultimate human-rating testing being years further off
- Without the Orion, NASA's "Space Launch System" [ostensibly a NASA program, but being built by Lockheed and Alliant using Space Shuttle launch technology] would be a bust, lacking all purpose
Personally, I think it's pretty clear that the Falcon9 was MUCH too high at the time of disruption for ULA's Laser system to have hit it, and that even if someone *were* to seek to destroy that mission, it could better be done internally (e.g. by sabotaging one of the many schoolkid/amateur experiments aboard or introducing a hardware/software sabotage into the rocket itself -- i.e. "the old fashioned way". While it was hard to miss the "hotspot" on the launch video, even at the time, I don't see telltale signs of an IR beam --- and it would have been a terrible risk to undertake, if caught.