"In accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations and FAA Order 1050.1E, Change 1, the FAA is announcing the availability of the ROD for the Spaceport America Commercial Launch Site, Sierra County, New Mexico. The ROD provides the FAA's final environmental determination and approval to support the issuance of a Launch Site Operator License to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) to operate Spaceport America, as proposed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) published in November 2008."
Commercialization: December 2008 Archives
SpaceX: More NASA Launches, Less Money, FreeSpace, Discovery News
"I attempt to cover the news without bias, but privately I cheered NASA's selection of startup SpaceX and innovative Orbital Sciences over The Big Three collaborative (not automakers, aerospace contractors) bidding on $3.5 billion of government work to deliver stuff to the International Space Station. I thought it was a little weird that SpaceX's share, totaling $1.6 B to start, covered 12 missions, while Orbital, which got an additional $300 million, was responsible for eight. In a conference call with reporters to announce the award, NASA's spaceflight chief Bill Gerstenmaier said the agency didn't see anything out of line with Orbital's bid."
NASA Rejects Trojan Horse, Motley Fool
"On Christmas Eve-Eve, NASA finally announced the results of its long-running Commercial Resupply Services competition, and as the tidbit above correctly points out, neither Lockheed nor Boeing (nor Alliant Techsystems, for that matter) wound up in the winners circle. What you may not know, is that none of these three companies were actually bidding for the contract at all, at least not directly. Instead, these three giants of the aerospace industry chose to hitch their carts to a foal of a company named PlanetSpace, which acted as the prime contractor in the bid. Turns out, NASA was not amused -- nor impressed."
NASA Awards Space Station Commercial Resupply Services Contracts
"NASA has awarded two contracts -- one to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and one to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif. -- for commercial cargo resupply services to the International Space Station. At the time of award, NASA has ordered eight flights valued at about $1.9 billion from Orbital and 12 flights valued at about $1.6 billion from SpaceX. These fixed-price indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts will begin Jan. 1, 2009, and are effective through Dec. 31, 2016. The contracts each call for the delivery of a minimum of 20 metric tons of upmass cargo to the space station. The contracts also call for delivery of non-standard services in support of the cargo resupply, including analysis and special tasks as the government determines are necessary."
"Yesterday we lifted the first stage off the shipping truck and lowered it onto the integration assemblies (shown below). With all of the F9 hardware currently at or on its way to the Cape, we are on track for a fully integrated launch vehicle by year's end. Barring any unforeseen delays, the second stage and fairing are expected to arrive at the Cape by December 28th and will be mated on December 31st, just in time for the New Year. The erector is also on track towards operational status in early January, with the base assembly to be aligned and tacked by December 26th and welding to be complete early in the New Year."
"XCOR Aerospace, Inc., announced today that it has successfully completed its first test fire of the rocket engine that will be used to power its Lynx suborbital launch vehicle to the edge of space. liquid oxygen and kerosene. The engine was fired Monday, December 15th, 2008 at XCOR's rocket test facility located at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The first test of the engine was performed using pressure-fed propellants whereas the final version of the engine will be fed using XCOR's proprietary cryogenic piston pump for liquid oxygen and a similar piston pump for kerosene."
"Two new international teams in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a $30 million competition by the X PRIZE Foundation to land a vehicle on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit a "Mooncast" back to Earth, were announced today in a tele-press conference from Google Headquarters. The announcement was held as part of a Team Summit at Google Headquarters and NASA Ames. These recent additions bring the total number of teams to 16, from seven different countries."
"The X PRIZE Foundation will reveal the identities of a "Mystery Team" competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE during a media briefing hosted at NASA's Ames Research Center on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008."
Editor's 16 Dec note: It would seem that MicroSat Systems has something to do with the so-called "Mystery Team". Stay tuned.
"Next Giant Leap, a small company that was the fourth team to register for the Google Lunar X-Prize, publically announced its name and team members at a press conference held today at the NASA Ames Research Center. The lead systems integrator is MicroSat Systems, Inc., known for its innovation in small spacecraft."
Editor's note: This is just too cool. Stop what you are doing and watch this video. Turn up the sound too. Thanks to William Pomerantz at X Prize on Twitter.
"Just days after the successful full mission-length test firing of the nine-engine first stage of Falcon 9, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) marked another significant advance with the performance of its smallest rocket engine, Draco. Known as a "thruster," the new engine fired continuously for ten minutes in a specially constructed vacuum test chamber that simulates the space environment. After a ten-minute thermal soak period, Draco was restarted for an additional minute, simulating its typical use in space. Performed at the SpaceX Texas Test Facility outside McGregor, this marks the longest firing of the Draco thruster, as well as the longest test on the new vacuum test stand, built by SpaceX and first put into operation in March 2008."
"Blue Origin is now noting that, in addition to providing the public with opportunities to experience spaceflight, New Shepard will also provide frequent opportunities for researchers to fly experiments into space and a microgravity environment. To help shape this activity, the group has announced that interested parties should contact Blue Origin's independent representative for research and education missions, Alan Stern, the former NASA chief of space science."
"I would like to take this opportunity to speak about something of interest to me and many of you assembled here: the role of prizes, such as NASA's Centennial Challenges, in spurring innovation through competition. I also want to talk about how and why NASA not only should, but must, pursue and nurture appropriate partnerships with the emerging commercial space sector when it is reasonably within the grasp of such firms to meet our needs. I believe that these issues are important, and I have been consistent in my emphasis upon them throughout my tenure as Administrator."
Editor's note: According to a Twitter posting Peter Diamandis "Mike Griffin announced that NASA is moving 100% of their parabolic flights from the C9 to our 727". This is a very smart move by Mike Griffin and NASA and is also very good news for space commercialization.
Alas, not everyone has gotten that message at JSC it would seem. There is a confusing solicitation notice "NASA JSC Solicitation: DC-9 Flight Training" that was released on 5 December 2008 from JSC which states "The Aircraft Operations Division (AOD) currently uses a DC-9 aircraft to support the Reduced Gravity Program at the Johnson Space Center. The members of the Division's aircrew, who fly the DC-9, have all completed the required DC-9 initial transition training. The objective is to acquire DC-9 aircrew refresher training. This training shall thoroughly cover aircraft systems, operational procedures, normal/abnormal procedures, and systems integration for the DC-9 aircraft."
Why is JSC seeking to continue DC-9 aircrew proficiency for parabolic flights if Mike Griffin is moving provision of these flights to a private sector vendor?
"We have conducted several flight tests with the Zero-G Corporation to determine whether they can meet the requirements for microgravity experiments that are currently performed on the government C-9 aircraft. These test flights included five experiments from small businesses developing technology under the auspices of NASA's SBIR program. While the tests are not yet complete, project managers are confident that Zero-G can meet NASA's needs. Thus, we are planning for the transition of all microgravity flight activities from the NASA C-9 to the commercial aircraft, while the C-9 continues to support Space Shuttle operations and acts as a backstop for the commercial microgravity service if necessary."
"XCOR partners with RocketShip Tours to provide a complete suborbital experience for our customers. Hear our chief test pilot, former NASA astronaut Richard Searfoss, describe the experience."
"For years, NASA civil servants have actively worked to get the best value for information technology (IT) products and services. Many have followed a "cost re-determination" process when the ODIN catalog price is greater than 15 percent of that of a tier-one vendor, such as Office Depot, CDWG, or PCMall. This instruction is being issued to formalize a "best practice" that has been in use for the past year. ... If you find IT peripherals that are priced 15 percent or more below the ODIN catalog price, then you should notify the delivery order contracting officer technical representative (DOCOTR) at your Center or submit a quote request to the ODIN vendor."
Reader note: "This is absurd! Why can't we just buy the better value instead of the bloated ODIN price? The policy seems to be gouge ya if they can, but if you find a better price (and you will), fill out some paperwork and maybe they will lower ODIN's price."
Editor's note: Another way to look at this: A 15% cost differential between ODIN costs and real world costs is apparently not an issue for ODIN management. They will happily charge that. Apparently, ODIN will only consider changes in pricing if it is more than 15% cheaper to buy it outside of ODIN - and only if YOU do the research and then YOU tell them about it.
"NASA/GRC has a requirement to produce a more environmentally friendly oxidizer for solid rocket boosters. The oxidizer is called ammonium dinitramide (A.D.N.).
NASA/GRC intends to purchase the items from The Swedish Defence Research Agency (called FOI for Forskningsinstitut) to produce a more environmentally friendly oxidizer for solid rocket boosters. The oxidizer is called ammonium dinitramide (A.D.N.). The U.S.A. had terminated their research in this area in the late 1990's due to the budget reductions from the work funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). The oxidizer, A.D.N., was found to have some sensitivity to temperatures that made its density low with poor packing of the oxidizer particles. The research proposed by the F.O.I. has begun to overcome these issues with temperature sensitivity and oxidizer density. Currently, the F.O.I. is the only organization that has the capability of performing this research. Their organization has significantly invested in this oxidizer development and garnered world-renowned propellant experts from several nations to complete their current internal research goals and developments."
Editor's note: Really? No one in America can do this research?
"NASA has signed a $141 million modification to the current International Space Station contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation services planned through the spring of 2012. The firm-fixed price extension covers comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, crew rescue, and landing of a long-duration mission for three station crew members. The crew members will launch on two Soyuz vehicles in the fall of 2011."
Editor's note: That's $47 million per crew member flown up and down. That is much more than the $30 million that Richard Garriott paid for his flight and all of the ancillary training and support services that went with it. I wonder what SpaceX would charge? The Transition Team seems to be interested as well.
"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announces the addition of two DragonLab missions to its manifest, as a result of demand from a successful workshop held at SpaceX headquarters on November 6 to introduce the new DragonLab product. The first two flights are scheduled for 2010 and 2011 respectively from the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch site at Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is currently working contractual arrangements with multiple prospective customers. DragonLab is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft capable of hosting pressurized and unpressurized payloads to and from space. It is the newest commercial offering from SpaceX. DragonLab launches to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle."
"The Aerospace Industries Association is launching an outreach campaign to underscore the value of the aerospace and defense industry to our nation's economic health. The initiative, aimed at the incoming administration and Congress, will encourage leaders to consider the industry as an economic driver that will help our nation overcome our current financial challenges."
Editor's note: Those of you who get the Washington Post print edition were greeted with a full page advertisement in this morning's edition about this effort by the AIA.
Nokia Launches N97 Wants to Dominate iPhone, OnOrbit Gadget Blog
"The Nokia N97 has a large 3.5" touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard. The home screen of the Nokia N97 features the people, content and media that matter the most to the user. This is one smartphone specifically designed to be the king of social networking. Friends, social networks and news are available by simply touching the home screen."
"Jules Klar, founder of Phoenix, AZ-based RocketShip Tours, has announced that his company will immediately begin selling rides to the edge of space for $95,000 per flight. Participants will fly XCOR Chief Test Pilot and three-time Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander, Rick Searfoss said the Lynx will carry people or payloads to the edges of space up to four times a day."
No Frills Tickets to Space to Go on Sale, Discovery
"It has been more than 10 years since Rick Searfoss, a retired Air Force colonel, test pilot and NASA shuttle commander has been in space, but that is about to change. His new gig should put him beyond the atmosphere as often as four times a day -- and maybe put you in the cockpit right next to him."
"The purpose of this synopsis is to provide notification to industry that NASA/MSFC intends to release in the near future a draft Performance Work Statement (PWS) for the purpose of communicating the preliminary requirements of the pending "NASA Integrated Communications Services (NICS)" acquisition.