Commercialization: March 2010 Archives

NASA to investigate cause of Toyota problems

"The federal probe into runaway Toyotas has resulted in enough scientific mystery that investigators have asked NASA scientists for help. The nation's auto-safety regulators have tapped nine experts from the space agency to answer questions involving software, hardware and other electronics issues..."

Keith's note: No mention of this (yet) at NASA.gov. I wonder who the "NASA engineers" are? Where will the NASA funds come from?

Keith's update: According to Keith Henry at NASA LaRC PAO: "NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC), located at NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., has been asked to support the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) in its investigation of unintended acceleration related to Toyota vehicles and, potentially, of other vehicle makes. NASA's NESC has a cadre of engineers with specialized knowledge of electronic systems, and the effects of external interferences to electrical systems who can conduct an unbiased and independent review of the information. A formal (Space Act) agreement was signed Friday between NASA and DOT. The agreement is broad -- details are still being worked out. The agreement calls for DOT to fully reimburse NASA for its work. The testing program that will be suggested by NESC analysis has not been defined, to include location of tests. It is anticipated that the majority of tests will take place at DOT or DOT-related facilities."

House panel vows to save Constellation, Orlando Sentinel

"To emphasize its doubt, the subcommittee asked Thomas Young, a former Lockheed Martin executive, to testify. He flatly told the committee that the White House plan was untenable and said that NASA should not rely on commercial rockets to transport astronauts. "In my view, this is a risk too high and not a responsible course. The commercial crew option should not be approved," he said, adding that the best policy would continue a longstanding partnership between NASA and the aerospace industry because the U.S. needs NASA's space expertise."

Keith's note: As I Twittered yesterday: "Tom Young has his gaze firmly affixed on the past not the future and thinks of ways of how not to do things rather than how to do them. FAIL"

First Captive Carry Flight for Virgin's "Enterprise"

"VSS Enterprise completes her first captive carry... Virgin Galactic announced today that VSS Enterprise has completed her inaugural captive carry flight from Mojave Air and Spaceport."

Branson spacecraft completes test flight, CNN

"British billionaire Richard Branson's dream of space travel that thousands of people can afford took a leap toward reality with the maiden flight of the world's first commercial spacecraft over California's Mojave Desert. Branson's company Virgin Galactic announced Monday that the VSS Enterprise had successfully completed what it called a captive carry flight attached to a carrier plane."

FAA, NASA Vie for Authority Over Commercial Space Safety, WS Journal

"Congress hasn't yet voted on White House proposals to outsource manned space flights to private enterprise, but the concept already is prompting a bureaucratic tussle over which federal agency should be responsible for ensuring the safety of such flights. The Federal Aviation Administration believes it should be the agency in charge, while National Aeronautics and Space Administration believes the flights fall under its jurisdiction. The dispute came into public view Thursday during a hearing of a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee. The panel's chairman, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, home to thousands of NASA jobs, indicated that he views the space agency as the final arbiter of astronaut safety."

My Word by Buzz Aldrin: Let shuttle do heavy lifting, Orlando Sentinel

"I have proposed that the heavy-lift rocket, which nearly everyone involved in space policy agrees we will need, be based upon the existing space-shuttle architecture. That means the heavy lifter uses the four-segment solid-fuel boosters, external tank and shuttle main engines, existing shuttle facilities, and, equally as important, the existing shuttle work force. Only the winged orbiter is replaced with a payload canister with the three engines mounted at its base."

NASA Needs a Clear Destination for Space Exploration, Experts Say, space.com

"I think we need to consider the attention span of the public, and the term limit of people in Congress that want to get reelected," said Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. "We want to keep activity going that is inspirational for the young people, that is something that happens within term limits."

Why We Should Keep Flying the Space Shuttle, Buzz Aldrin, Huffington Post

"America has invested 30 years in the Shuttle system. Instead of retiring it and beginning with a new "clean sheet of paper" approach that will take extra time and money, I propose we follow the Russian example and make the basic Shuttle the foundation of a space program that can take us literally to Mars. Use the boosters, engines and big tank as the backbone of a new heavy lift rocket. Fly that rocket from the same facilities as the current Shuttles use. Keep much of the existing workforce working, because the only thing you will change is older designs and engines, making way for a heavy lift launcher derived from the Shuttle basics and capable of carrying large new spacecraft to the station or destinations beyond."

Remarks by Charles Bolden at the Washington Space Business Roundtable, Satellite 2010 Conference

"Commercial providers have long carried our most valuable payloads to space for the nation and have been integral to every human spaceflight mission since the beginning. My guess is that the American workers who have successfully built and launched the Atlas V 20 times in a row would disagree that US commercial spaceflight is untried or untested."

NASA Chief Bolden Sees Opportunities for Industry, Reuters

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden defended the U.S. space agency's budget on Tuesday and said its focus on commercial space transportation would provide "incredible opportunities" for U.S. companies. "This budget is good for NASA because it sets the agency on a sustainable path that is tightly linked to our nation's interests," Bolden told space industry executives at the Satellite 2010 conference. One of few agencies to get a top-line budget increase, NASA's funding is due to increase by $6 billion over the next five years, Bolden said."

Air Force warns of increased launch costs, AIr Force Times

"Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, told members of Congress on Wednesday that the Obama administration had not asked the Air Force to examine the effects of canceling NASA's Constellation program before the Feb. 1 announcement. The military and intelligence community rely on the same manufacturers as NASA to build the rockets that launch their satellites, but the White House plans to turn to commercially owned rockets to launch astronauts following retirement of the shuttle later this year. Early information shows the price of rocket propulsion systems for the military and NRO "might double" as a result, Payton said."

Keith's note: FYI Gary Payton was Mike Griffin's Deputy at SDIO back in the 1990s. It is somewhat strange that someone in a very senior position such as Payton is being this public with their overt criticism of the President's space policy and how it was formulated. Stay tuned ...

Keith's update: Looks like we'll be able to ask Payton all about this on 26 March: STA Lunch with Gary Payton, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs

Sen. Says Solid Rocket Motor Costs Will Double, Navy Disagrees, Defense News

"The Navy, which has studied the matter, says prices will probably rise, but they won't double. During a Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing, Rear Adm. Stephen Johnson, said he expects solid rocket motor prices to rise 10 to 20 percent. He assured Vitter that 100 percent price growth is not likely. Johnson heads Navy strategic systems programs."

A HotFire for Falcon 9

Photos and Video: SpaceX Completes Test Firing of Falcon 9, OnOrbit

"SpaceX completed a successful static fire today, full 3.5 secs. Official statement below, video/photos to come as available. Today, SpaceX successfully completed a test firing of the inaugural Falcon 9 launch vehicle at Space Launch Complex 40 located at Cape Canaveral. Following a nominal terminal countdown, the launch sequencer commanded ignition of all 9 Merlin first stage engines for a period of 3.5 seconds."

Bigelow Aerospace Position Opening: Astronaut

"Bigelow Aerospace seeks professional astronauts to fill permanent positions. Qualified applicants need to have completed a training program from their government or recognized space agency and have at least some flight experience on a recognized space mission. Specialized training and/or experience (ie: Medical, Payload Specialist, EVA, Pilot, etc.) is not a pre-requisite, but is definitely a plus."

Changes at USA

Keith's note: Sources report that Dick Covey announced his retirement as the head of United Space Alliance this morning.

NASA JSC Memo: Commercial-Crew Vehicle Transition Concepts 1 March 2010

"The President's 201 1 Budget Proposal which was unveiled on February 8, 2010, places an emphasis on commercial vehicles "to provide astronaut transportation to the International Space Station (ISS), reducing the sole reliance on foreign crew transports and catalyzing new businesses and significant new jobs." The following paper provides recommendations for the transition to a commercial-crew vehicle to the ISS which leverages the experience gained in the operation of the Space Shuttle, the ISS, and in the design of Constellation."

To Boldly Go Where Ever - If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there, Elliott Pulham, Space Foundation

"As of yet, there are no commercial systems that can take crew and cargo to orbit and dock with the ISS. There are, of course, several such systems in development. A SpaceX Dragon crew capsule prototype was on display at the 25th National Space Symposium, and we look forward to seeing what commercial solutions are on exhibit at the upcoming 26th National Space Symposium. But financing, testing, regulating, and human-rating such systems will not be easy or inexpensive. Given the scale of investment required, and financial and technical risk that must be assumed, the markets for these systems need to be global, as they are with the commercial aircraft industry, to enable a reasonable return on investment. Yet we're no closer to meaningful ITAR reform that would open those markets."

Keith's note: Thus sayeth the dinosaur. With this kind of defeatist thinking coming out of a major aerospace business organization, one might conclude that American business is no longer up to the challenge of space. Elliott certainly seems to think so. Indeed, he clearly seems to think that the only solution is to have the government run everything, call all the shots, etc. One look at Constellation's technical and funding woes speaks to the inadvisability of this. Which is better, one monolithic approach ("on steroids") with no Plan B, or one that utilizes a variety of approaches, from multiple sources in a synergistic, flexible, adaptable arena?


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from March 2010.

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