Commercialization: February 2010 Archives

What Burt Meant To Say

Burt Rutan Issues Clarification on Wall Street Journal Remarks

"To my friends in the Press... Since the WSJ chose to cherry-pick and miss-quote my comments to Cong Wolf and since the blogs have taken that to further mischaracterized my comments, I am forwarding the Wolf memo in its entirety, in the hopes that some of this gets corrected."

Space Pioneer Burt Rutan Blasts NASA Plan, WS Journal

"Commercial space pioneer Burt Rutan has sharply criticized Obama administration proposals to outsource key portions of NASA's manned space program to private firms."

Company Policy A-33, Basic 02/05/10


It has been the long standing policy of United Space Alliance (USA) and its subsidiaries to keep the public informed about company plans, programs, and accomplishments. With the evolution of social media tools and platforms, USA employees have access to participate directly in the free and open discussion of company, industry, and national issues. However, in doing so, employees must understand that their actions can have very real consequences for themselves, the company, and USA's customers.

Governor Bill Richardson Endorses Commercial Spaceflight, Obama's New NASA Plan, CSF

"In a piece titled "Commercial Spaceflight: Creating 21st Century Jobs" in The Huffington Post, Governor Richardson states, "I am pleased that President Obama and NASA chief Charlie Bolden have decided to promote commercial spaceflight -- let's get to work building this growing industry! The Wright Brothers would be proud." The article can be found here."

A New Exit to Space Readies for Business, NY Times

"President Obama's call last month for fundamental changes in the mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration seemed to open the door, or roof, ever wider to private industry. Some people here interpreted his words to mean that your seat back and tray table should be in their full upright positions, because commercial space travel is about to blast off. And this flat, deserted, mostly rain-free stretch of New Mexico is the perfect location, says Will Whitehorn, the president of Virgin Galactic, the spaceport's anchor tenant. "It is about the closest you get on planet Earth to a Martian landscape," he says."

The NASTAR Suborbital Scientist Training Program provides space flight physiology training for prospective 'Suborbital Scientist-Astronauts' interested in understanding how to take advantage of emerging low-cost, frequent suborbital 'human-in-the-loop' experiments and Research & Education Mission (REM) opportunities.

Photos of SpaceX's Falcon 9 Vertical at Cape Canaveral

"SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle is now vertical at Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral. Following its mate to the transporter erector, Falcon 9 was rolled from the integration hangar to the launch pad where final checks of the pad hydraulic and pneumatic systems were completed. Falcon 9 is undergoing a checkout of the critical flight connections including fuel, liquid oxygen, and gas pressure systems."

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference a hit, 2011 follow up conference planned, SwRI

"When we conceived the idea for NSRC last summer, many people were skeptical that such a meeting would generate much interest. Honestly, some thought the research and education communities were simply not interested in suborbital science," says meeting organizer Dr. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute. "But people voted with their feet and came to NSRC, over 250 of them, and we heard an amazing variety of proposals to exploit the capabilities of next-gen suborbital spaceflight."

Moon Dreams - The Americans may still go to the moon before the Chinese, The Economist

"WHEN America's space agency, NASA, announced its spending plans in February, some people worried that its cancellation of the Constellation moon programme had ended any hopes of Americans returning to the Earth's rocky satellite. The next footprints on the lunar regolith were therefore thought likely to be Chinese. Now, though, the private sector is arguing that the new spending plan actually makes it more likely America will return to the moon."

"Inspired by NASA's Constellation Program, iRover is a fun way to tour the Lunar surface and see some of the elements that make up NASA's Lunar architecture.

Description: Drive your Lunar Electric Rover (LER) over the Lunar surface to conduct missions. Rescue stranded crew members, transport crewmembers, and launch and recover other Landers. Avoid being caught on the surface unprotected during Solar Particle Events (SPEs)."

Buy it at the iTunes Apps store

Keith's note: I am at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Boulder. My plan is to stream several portions of today's event live via USTREAMTV. First, between 8:30 and 10:00 am MST, will be keynotes by Lori Garver, Pete Worden, Alan Stern, and George Nield. Then, at 12:00 pm MST, there will be a press conference with Alan Stern, Pete Worden, Jeff Greason and a representative from Virgin Galactic. The webcast will be available here.

You can follow tweets from the meeting here on Twitter.

Marc's update: SwRI Announces Pioneering Program to Fly Next-Generation Suborbital Experiments with Crew - "The Southwest Research Institute announces a new initiative to build and fly experiments with SwRI payload specialists on next-generation suborbital vehicles.

The program, supported with a $1 million allocation from SwRI, will be led by Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. It is the first program of its kind in the nation."

Keith's update: This morning, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced that the agency will propose $15 million/year for 5 years for the CRuSR (Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research) program - that's $75 million over the course of 5 years.

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes Historic NASA Commitment of $75 Million for Commercial Suborbital Flights, Payloads

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Announces New Research and Education Affiliates Program, Initial Participating Universities

New vision for NASA - Obama plan resets human spaceflight button, Roger Lanius/Mike Green, Florida Today

"In the 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," astronauts shuttled from the Earth to an orbiting space station aboard a commercial space plane and private firms carried out many other functions in low-Earth orbit, including the Hilton hotel on the station. Flash forward to 2018, and imagine NASA astronauts boarding a commercial space launcher delivering crews to the International Space Station. This may become reality for space exploration if Congress accepts the recently announced Obama administration's approach. This new direction proposes a major shift in the way NASA accomplishes human spaceflight."

And So It Begins

NASA cancels KSC contract leading to charge "Obama broke law", Orlando Sentinel

"The unilateral decisions by the Administration are likely in direct violation of the Impoundment Control Act," Posey said."

NASA Letter To Offerors Regarding Cancellation of Exploration Ground Launch Services (EGLS) Request for Proposal (RFP)

"The purpose of this letter is to notify offerors of the Exploration Ground Launch Services (EGLS) Request for Proposal (RFP) cancellation. Solicitation Number NNK09275664R Amendment 005, which cancels the solicitation, is attached. In light of recent events and the uncertainty of future ground processing requirements for fiscal year 2011 and beyond, it is in NASA's best interest to cancel the current solicitation. A procurement strategy for future program ground operations requirements will be developed as such requirements are identified."

Letter From House of Representatives to NASA Administrator Bolden regarding Constellation contract Cancellation

"We are compelled to remind you that setting aside funds may be a direct violation of the Impoundment control Act (as well as of the appropriations language for FYlO). That act resulted from the refusal of the Nixon Administration to allot funds to activities specified by Congress. According to GAO, the Act was also used to confirm Congressional authority at least twice during the Administration of President George W. Bush."

Prepare for Liftoff, Esther Dyson, Foreign Policy

"The U.S. Defense Department may have created the Internet, but had it kept control of the technology, it's unlikely the Web would have become the vibrant public resource it is today. That credit goes to the investment and activity of private citizens and private companies, starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With Barack Obama's new spending proposals, the same sort of thing could happen to space travel and exploration."

Space: The Final Frontier of Profit?, Peter Diamandis, Wall Street Journal

"Government agencies have dominated space exploration for three decades. But in a new plan unveiled in President Barack Obama's 2011 budget earlier this month, a new player has taken center stage: American capitalism and entrepreneurship. The plan lays the foundation for the future Google, Cisco and Apple of space to be born, drive job creation and open the cosmos for the rest of us."

Remarks by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver 13th Annual FAA AST Space Transportation Conference

"NASA will soon be spending more than a billion dollars per year to back-up our part in these commercial partnerships. We will be providing industry with NASA technical expertise, to help with the practical technical problems, as well as to make these vehicles safe enough for NASA astronauts to fly on. We will provide serious seed money on the investment side and a firm commitment to buy crew transportation services on the market side. We will diversify our risk by funding a portfolio of highly-qualified competitors. Instead of a highly-risky approach, in which we fund only one system, we are going to fund many systems to create redundancy. No single commercial system will represent the critical path. We are going to see the most exciting race that America has seen in a long time, and there is likely to be more than one winner."

Gingrich & Walker: Obama's brave reboot for NASA, Washington Times

"Despite the shrieks you might have heard from a few special interests, the Obama administration's budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration deserves strong approval from Republicans. The 2011 spending plan for the space agency does what is obvious to anyone who cares about man's future in space and what presidential commissions have been recommending for nearly a decade."

The Case Against Private Space, oped by Taylor Dinnerman, Wall Street Journal

"The private sector simply is not up for the job. For one, NASA will have to establish a system to certify commercial orbital vehicles as safe for human transport, and with government bureaucracy, that will take years. Never mind the challenges of obtaining insurance. Entrepreneurial companies have consistently overpromised and under-delivered. Over the past 30 years, over a dozen start-ups have tried to break into the launch business. The only one to make the transition into a respectably sized space company is Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va. Building vehicles capable of going into orbit is not for the fainthearted or the undercapitalized."

Keith's note: When chronic Obama critics Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker make a point of saying that there is value in President Obama's space plan, I sit up and take notice. Then again, these are both interesting guys who often think outside the box, so this is not all that surprising. I continue to be fascinated by how this new policy has parsed the space community with equal numbers of liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, politicians, and business representatives on either side of the argument.

On the other hand I am startled at how so many self-described experts in space commerce such as Taylor Dinnerman (whose supposed website is now used for credit repair links) have such a woefully thin level of confidence in the ability of the private sector to innovate and succeed. I guess he missed these Falcon 9 launch preparation pictures the SpaceX posted yesterday. Certainly looks "respectable" to me.

I guess this is a classic case of "where you stand depends on where you sit". I think it also shows that faith (or lack thereof) in the private sector is not the exclusive property of any one party or faction. Fascinating. I sense precursors to a paradigm shift in the making.

Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker Endorse Obama's New NASA Plan, Urge Bipartisan Support, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"In the op-ed, Gingrich and Walker state, "Bipartisan cooperation has been difficult to achieve in Congress, but here is a chance. By looking forward, NASA has given us a way to move forward. It deserves broad support for daring to challenge the status quo."

Obama's Move To End Constellation Prompts Industrial Base Questions, Space News

"This is not money-saving. This is having some kind of half-baked scheme that we can commercialize this," said Bishop, whose district is home to ATK Space Systems, the Magna, Utah-based solid-rocket motor manufacturer that is building the first stage of Constellation's Ares 1 rocket and major subsystems for its launch abort system. ATK executives told investors Feb. 4 that canceling Ares 1 would cost the company $650 million in contract backlog."

Keith's note: According to Lori Garver's comments at today's FAA commerical space meeting, NASA DFRC will now take the lead on flightworthiness evaluations for suborbital vehicles that will fly NASA crew or payloads. This is somewhat of a shift from what people might have otherwise expected given that COTS and CCDev were being handled out of JSC - and that crew issues have always been the province of JSC. DFRC is where X vehicle work has been done for decades. Is NASA now going to treat commercial vehicles like X-vehicles? Stay tuned.

SpaceX Announces Final Arrival of Falcon 9 Flight Hardware at Cape Canaveral in Preparation for Inaugural Launch

"We expect to launch in one to three months after completing full vehicle integration," said Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "Our primary objective is a successful first launch and we are taking whatever time necessary to work through the data to our satisfaction before moving forward." ... Though designed from the beginning to transport crew, SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft will initially be used to transport cargo. Falcon 9 and Dragon were selected by NASA to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) once Shuttle retires. The $1.6B contract represents 12 flights for a minimum of 20 tons to and from the ISS with the first demonstration flights beginning in 2010."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says Huntsville's role "vital," but still not clear in new NASA budget, Huntsville Times

"Critics of the Obama space plan point out that setting up private companies, like Falcon rocket-maker SpaceX, duplicates what NASA can already do and sets space exploration plans back. "I think the problem here is that the private sector doesn't really know what 'private space' means," said Steve Cook, vice president for space systems at Huntsville-based Dynetics and former Marshall Ares program manager. "Is it telecommunications? Is it launch vehicles? Is it research and science? All of those are functions and business models from established companies."

Keith's note: Hey Steve - in case you haven't noticed, you are in the 'private' sector now -- so, by definition, you don't know what is going on either!

Keith's note: The 13th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference is underway despite the closure of the federal government. Kudos to FAA and the AIAA! Live tweeting of FAA AST conference is going on at #astconf and #FAAcstc.

Keith's update: Charlie Bolden was originally scheduled to speak. Lori Garver will speak instead - but will be speaking at noon (not 8:00 am EST). I am not certain if NASA TV will carry Garver's speech.

"A Healthy Future" Commercial Space Forum Speech by J. Randolph Babbitt, FAA

"Commercial space is page one above-the-fold and the President's budgetary plans are going to keep it there. You'll hear more from Administrator Bolden tomorrow, but commercial space just got a huge boost budget-wise. On another front, just yesterday there were 150 people gathered right here to learn about the FAA's center of excellence in commercial space transportation. Separately, those events are the kind of signals you look for in any business. Put them together, and you've got all the makings of a grand slam. Personally, I don't think it's going to stop there."

Cernan: Pres. Unwilling to Invest in U.S. Future, Fox 26 TV Houston

"I'm angry. It's very short sighted on the part of this administration," said Cernan. "He is somehow unwilling to invest in the future of this country and the future of this country is important to me. I won't be here 20, 30, 40 years from now, but my grandkids will. I want them to have the country I had. I want something better for them."

We are Ready for Commercial Human Spaceflight, Leroy Chiao

"Many of my colleagues and peers have written articles and pieces, deriding the idea of commercial LEO access. Indeed, the track record of the self-described "New Space" companies has thus far, been marked generally with failure and arrogance. Not all, but many of these folks, before they run their companies into the ground, seem to spend the bulk of their time attending self-serving, self-aggrandizing conferences where openly slinging mud at NASA is sport. This is hardly constructive, and it brings discredit to others who have serious aspirations for the future of commercial spaceflight."

Launching NASA on a Path to Nowhere: Analysis, Tom Jones

"The new budget, announced Monday, seems merely an attempt to disguise the demise of U.S. leadership in space. The president does away with Constellation, its Orion spacecraft, and its Ares I and Ares V boosters. The abrupt cancellation means the U.S. no longer wishes to send its explorers to the frontiers of knowledge and spacefaring skill. We are deliberately choosing to have no better space capability than do Russia, China, or India."

Boosters Flare in Space Debate, MSNBC

"Another former shuttle astronaut, Ken Bowersox, is more bullish on the commercial prospects - perhaps in part because he's now an executive at one of those companies, California-based SpaceX. Today Discovery News quoted him as saying that space contractors "should be able to come up with new and innovative ways" to fill NASA's needs for resupplying the International Space Station."

Keith's update: And then there's my (non-Astronaut) two cents' worth ...

Blasting NASA, Living on Earth, NPR

"COWING: Well, it already is commercial, the funny thing is that the Russians have been taking paying passengers for the better part of a decade now. And I always find great humor in that you have a country who's got a capitalist economy that's barely been a decade and a half old and they came out of Communism, and yet they're teaching us how to commercialize space. And we've got an economy that's two and a half centuries old based on the capitalistic way of doing things. So, this isn't new, it's just it's new to America."

Keith's note: The NASA IPP NASA Commercial Space Initiatives Team Meeting is meeting on 9 Feb. Who knew? No Federal Register notice, no mention on the NASA IPP home page - no mention anywhere at You would think that with all of the recent emphasis on commercial space in the new Obama space policy that NASA would want these events to be widely known and heavily attended. Guess not.

NASA and GM Create Cutting Edge Robotic Technology

"NASA and General Motors are working together to accelerate development of the next generation of robots and related technologies for use in the automotive and aerospace industries. Engineers and scientists from NASA and GM worked together through a Space Act Agreement at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston to build a new humanoid robot capable of working side by side with people. Using leading edge control, sensor and vision technologies, future robots could assist astronauts during hazardous space missions and help GM build safer cars and plants."

Keith's note: I certainly hope that NASA and GM are going to create a road show for these cool-looking robots. Once you have built one or two then building multiple copies starts to get cheaper. NASA and GM should put them on display and then invite the public into GM plants across the U.S. to see them in action. Show how NASA technology is going to help the U.S. auto industry thrive and rebound as well as explore space. Take the robots to local schools and local chamber of commerce events and let people try them out for a drive, so to speak. Make certain that flyers and other promotional materials are in EVERY GM dealership in America and that very new GM car has something in the drivers sear about these robots to go with it. Put the robots in a GM TV commercial. Work with Mattel or other toy companies to make action figures. Work with Legos to make small hobby versions of the robot - indeed have school competitions where kids are encouraged to make their own copies.

This is a Education and Public Outreach activity that is just begging to be implemented. If NASA can lavish lots of attention on a fake robot like Buzz Lightyear one would hope that they could do the same for the real thing.

CCDev and COTS Update

NASA Unveils Commercial Human Spaceflight Development Agreements and Announces $50 Million in Seed Funding for Commercial Crew

"At a National Press Club event to "introduce new commercial space pioneers," the President's Science Advisor John Holdren and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden yesterday praised the seven winning companies of NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) and Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competitions."

- Boeing Chosen By NASA for Commercial Crew Development Initiative Funding
- Orbital Sciences Corporation Statement on NASA's New Direction

Keith's note: Brett Alexander will take on Mike Griffin on PBS Newshour Tonight at 6pm EST

Transcript and video, PBS

The Merchant 7

NASA's 7 new space pioneers are companies, AP via Forbes

"A half century ago the Mercury Seven embodied America's space future. Now it's the merchant seven - space companies for hire. Mimicking a scene 51 years ago when the Mercury astronauts were revealed, NASA's boss beamed Tuesday as he introduced the "faces of a new frontier:" representatives of the seven companies that NASA is funding to develop future private spacecraft."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes New NASA Human Spaceflight Plan, Congratulates Commercial Crew Development Winner

Larger image

GAO: NASA Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects

"Many of the projects GAO reviewed experienced challenges in developing new or retrofitting older technologies, stabilizing engineering designs, managing the performance of their contractors and development partners, as well as funding and launch planning issues. Reducing the kinds of problems this assessment identifies in acquisition programs hinges on developing a sound business case for a project."

NASA Selects Commercial Firms to Begin Development of Crew Transportation Concepts and Technology Demonstrations for Human Spaceflight Using Recovery Act Funds

"Through an open competition for funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, NASA has awarded Space Act Agreements to Blue Origin of Kent, Wash.; The Boeing Company of Houston; Paragon Space Development Corporation of Tucson, Ariz.; Sierra Nevada Corporation of Louisville, Colo.; and United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colo. The agreements are for the development of crew concepts and technology demonstrations and investigations for future commercial support of human spaceflight."

Space Industry CEOs Host Teleconference to Discuss President Obama's 2011 Budget Request for Expanded Role of Commercial Space

"The Next Step in Space Coalition and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, two organizations representing businesses, organizations, and people working to ensure the future of U.S. human spaceflight, today will hold a joint teleconference for members of the media. Top CEOs of the commercial spaceflight industry will provide comments on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) FY2011 Budget."

- Coalition for Space Exploration Awaits Collaboration between the White House and Congress on America's New Space Initiative and FY2011 Budget
- X PRIZE Foundation: NASA Budget Proposal Will Fuel Innovation and Investments in Game Changing Technology
- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes New NASA Human Spaceflight Plan, Congratulates Commercial Crew Development Winners

Senator Shelby response to State of the Union, January 27 2010

"Our focus must be on jumpstarting the economy and creating jobs through policies that spur economic growth in the private sector. The path to economic recovery and sustained growth runs through the private sector, not the federal government."

Shelby: NASA Budget Begins Death March for U.S. Human Space Flight

"We cannot continue to coddle the dreams of rocket hobbyists and so-called 'commercial' providers who claim the future of US human space flight can be achieved faster and cheaper than Constellation. I have consistently stated the fallacy of believing the cure-all hype of these 'commercial' space companies, and my position has been supported time and again by both the experts and the facts."

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