Commercialization: April 2010 Archives

SpaceX's Elon Musk, Sen. Richard Shelby spar over Obama space policy, Huntsville Times

"The CEO of a company seeking to carry American astronauts into space says U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is fighting a new national space plan that would bring billions into North Alabama. "I just don't understand what his beef is," Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX) said in a telephone interview Friday night. "I don't really understand why Sen. Shelby is so opposed to commercial crew," Musk said, "given that Atlas and Delta are right there in Alabama, because no one's going to be a bigger winner in commercial crew than United Launch Alliance." Musk referred to the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture that builds Delta and Atlas rockets in Decatur for NASA, the military and commercial satellite customers. ULA and SpaceX are among the commercial companies wanting NASA contracts to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station if President Obama's space program is approved by Congress. "For ULA it's a certainty," Musk said of winning contracts. "For SpaceX it's much more a question mark."

- Shelby Goes Personal on Bolden
- Shelby: Obama Plan Would Destroy U.S. Space Supremacy
- Shelby: Gov't Spending is Bad - Except for Spending on NASA, earlier post
- Shelby Was For The Private Sector Before He Was Against It, earlier post
- Alabama Political Donations Go National, earlier post

Former Secretary of Transportation Mineta Praises Obama's NASA Plan For Jump-Starting Commercial Spaceflight

"Norman Mineta, who served as Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush and as Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton, and who represented Silicon Valley in Congress for more than 20 years, has published an op-ed stating, "With Russia, China and India close on our heels, the only way we can maintain our hard-won leadership in space transportation is by employing America's unique entrepreneurial strength. Obama's new plan for NASA does exactly that."

Will private spaceships have the right stuff? Commercial orbital taxis won't have to retrace NASA's footsteps, MSNBC

"First of all, the space taxis being created to serve the new policy are being designed for an entirely different mission. Unlike America's previous spaceships, these new taxis will be focused only on delivering passengers from Earth's surface to an existing space facility and back again. There's no need for long periods of independent orbital cruising. There's no need for carrying equipment to be later used for moon flights. The plan to reshape the Orion spaceship as a standby rescue vehicle for station crews has profound implications for the requirements of the commercial taxi and its cost. This strategy means the taxis won't have to last for six months "parked" in space, like Russia's Soyuz spaceships. The simplification of the taxi's mission will allow its hardware to be significantly less expensive to build and to validate."

Aerospace Must Adapt

Study concludes aerospace industry must evolve new ways to recruit and retain future engineers

"Aerospace companies must consider offering newly recruited workers flexible job assignments and a variety of projects to remain competitive with other scientific fields of employment. This was among the conclusions of the "2009 Survey of Aerospace Student Attitudes" discussed at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Joint Societies Capitol Hill Reception, April 13, on Capitol Hill."

Nervous in Florida

What's next for NASA?, opinion, Fran DiBello

"There are still many political battles to be discussed and fought nationwide. The looming dread of entire regions that stand to lose not just jobs but also valuable talent assets in the shuttle workforce, and now the Constellation teams too, hangs heavy over November elections. Florida's central region from Cape Canaveral to Tampa, known as its high-tech corridor, is a key voting block, and these policies will certainly sway voters as the potential loss of more than 23,000 direct and indirect jobs will grab headlines and the hearts of voters."

Obama's space plan adds insult to injury, opinion, Douglas Ma"cKinnon, Orlando Sentinel

"With all due respect to President Obama, regarding his speech in Florida on "Space Exploration in the 21st Century," I simply have to ask, "Are you kidding me?" As one who has consulted on and written extensively about our space program, worked in the White House and drafted a speech or two, I know shameless pandering filler when I read it."

Human spaceflight: diversify the portfolio, Alan Stern, Space Review

"The American people expect big things from our nation's human space flight enterprise. Tragically, however, for the past 20+ years, our country's civil human spaceflight effort hasn't been able to deliver big things, such as historic exploration milestones at far away destinations, or advancing the cause of easy human access to near-space locales. What we need now is more than just a flexible path. We need parallel paths. Instead, human spaceflight in the United States has struggled just to keep its sole domestic transportation system, the Space Shuttle, flying a few times per year, and to complete the assembly of its sole destination--the International Space Station."


Commercial Spaceflight Federation Hails President's Space Plan As Creating "More Spacecraft, More Astronaut Flights, and More Jobs"

"The President's plan increases NASA's budget by $6 billion over 5 years and includes new investments in exploration to Mars and other destinations, new technologies, and commercial spaceflight. The President stated, "I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future," and added, "We will work with a growing array of private companies competing to make getting to space easier and more affordable."

Space Exploration in the 21st Century, Coalition for Space Exploration

"While the steps outlined by President Obama are encouraging, many key issues and concerns remain with regard to the transition from the current programs to the proposed new exploration agenda and the impact that it will have on our nation's space industrial base and global leadership. Delaying a decision until 2015 on the design of a heavy-lift vehicle, the establishment of its first human exploration mission for no earlier than 2025, as a precursor to a Mars expedition in 2030, threatens to sacrifice a generation of experience and expertise in our nation's human space flight workforce."


Elon Musk: At Long Last, an Inspiring Future for Space Exploration

"Today, the President will articulate an ambitious and exciting new plan that will alter our destiny as a species. I believe this address could be as important as President Kennedy's 1962 speech at Rice University. For the first time since Apollo, our country will have a plan for space exploration that inspires and excites all who look to the stars. Even more important, it will work."

Today's Contrasting Views

White House Defends NASA Plans, ABC News

"Critics say NASA is being dramatically scaled back and tens of thousands of jobs are expected to be lost. The administration insists that this plan is actually going to create 2,500 more jobs in the Florida Space Coast by 2012 and 10,000 over the next decade. The new jobs will come from the development of the commercial space industry and a plan to modernize the Kennedy Space Center."

Obama tries to get support of space plan off ground, USA Today

"While the administration may have finally realized that its initial budget request was a complete disaster, the new plan, from the same team, still ends human spaceflight," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who sits on the subcommittee that decides how much to spend on NASA. "The president has replaced one visionless plan with another."

Americans in Space: A Dream of the Past?, Opinion, Houston Chronicle

"Today the United States manned space program lies in deep peril as our ability to reach destinations such as the moon, Mars and beyond continues to slip to indefinite timetables. If Congress accepts the president's budget proposal on NASA's Constellation program -- a program that enjoys bipartisan support -- Constellation will be eliminated from the federal budget, effectively ending the era of American leadership in space."

In space, no one hears you flip-flop, opinion, Eric Sterner, Washington Times

"There is no truly free commercial market for human spaceflight to low-Earth orbit. The current supply-and-demand curves do not intersect without massive government intervention. So-called space tourism to the International Space Station existed only because the Russian Space Agency was willing to sell government capacity to wealthy elites at the margins. (The same cannot be said for suborbital space, which is experiencing truly revolutionary developments in technology and free-market economics.)"

Keith's note: Oh, so let's just throw up our hands in defeat and walk away simply becuase of the way things are right now, eh? How about shifting the government-only monopoly to transport of crew and cargo to the ISS to one that is open to the private sector where market forces of supply, demand, competition, and innovation can work their magic? I continue to be baffled by how many Republicans, including my very good friend Eric Sterner, seem to have zero faith or interest - in seeing the private sector earn a role in the exploration and utilization of space - as it has had in virtually every other aspect of our society over the past several centuries.

Republicans have tried to spur economic development in space - and have met with only partial success. But they tried, to their credit. Yet, when a Democrat tries, they seek to stop him before he even has a chance to try. Go figure. At least Eric sees that another region of space i.e. "suborbital" is a place where market forces can create excitement and value. Hmm, why is that, Eric? People used to call this the "ignorosphere".

OSTP Fact Sheet on the President's April 15th Address in Florida: A Bold Approach for Space Exploration and Discovery

"On Thursday, April 15, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the President will outline a bold strategy for human spaceflight that increases the NASA budget by $6 billion over the next five years. His plan represents an ambitious effort to foster the development of path-breaking technologies; increase the number, scope, and pace of manned and unmanned space missions; make human spaceflight safer and more efficient; and help create thousands of jobs."

To do the heavy lifting, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"I'm confused. If a heavy lift launch vehicle (HLLV) is not needed for future human missions beyond LEO, why are we spending billions of dollars researching aspects of it in order to make a design decision five years hence? If a heavy lift launch vehicle is needed for such missions, why are we waiting five years to make that decision when we have the parts and workforce needed to make the vehicle now?"

Udall, Bennet Ask President to Explain, Re-evaluate Cut of Constellation Program

"For Colorado - where the Orion capsule is being developed - this move would lead directly to the loss of over 1,000 jobs and indirectly to thousands more. More broadly, we are concerned that a reliance on unproven commercial providers for U.S. access to low Earth orbit (LEO) compromises America's leadership position in space. It is also unclear what, if anything, will become of the significant investment in Constellation to date."

NASTAR Center Awarded First FAA Safety Approval from Office of Commercial Space Transportation

"Environmental Tectonics Corporation's NASTAR Center announced today that it is the first entity to receive a Safety Approval from the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation. This approval, granted April 7, 2010, allows NASTAR Center to offer prospective space launch operators seeking a launch license, its pre-approved, NASTAR Space Training Programs using the Space Training Simulator to satisfy the Crew Qualification and Training Requirements outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations require crew members to complete training on how to carry out his or her role on board or on the ground and to demonstrate the ability to withstand the stresses of space flight, which may include high acceleration or deceleration, microgravity, and vibration."

Aerospace Business Has Its Doubts About Plans to Revamp NASA, NY Times

"Michael C. Gass, president and chief executive of United Launch Alliance, has said that upgrading the low-end version of the Atlas V for astronauts -- adding a monitoring system to alert controllers of problems with the rocket and modifying the launching pad to handle astronauts -- would cost $400 million. "When you start getting into a heavier crew transfer vehicle and a dedicated launch facility, it's over a billion dollars, but less than two," Mr. Gass said. Those improvements "should be funded by the U.S. government" without additional investment from Boeing and Lockheed, he said."

JSC leader fears tough transition, Houston Chronicle

"As NASA released more details Thursday about its restructuring under President Barack Obama's space proposal, the director of Johnson Space Center expressed optimism and concern. Though he welcomed the proposed addition of a five-year, $6 billion technology development program at the Clear Lake-area space center, director Mike Coats said he is concerned about job losses and not having a space vehicle to fly. "We have some challenges to confront here," Coats said. One of the big ones: Even contractors who will get jobs in the restructuring might find themselves out of work for up to a year as the new plans are being formulated."

NASA Announces Programs and Costs for Next 5 Years

"With all due respect to everybody," the general replied, "a serious and real concern for everyone is the jobs." As technology advances, there are fewer and "fewer manual-type jobs," he explained. Even with Constellation, several thousand jobs were going to be lost. "I think that is a significant issue for people," he said."

NASA to oversee space taxi development, USA today

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, "In terms of NASA planning, Constellation as a program is dead." Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, whose district includes Johnson Space Center, said Bolden's plans don't "change the fact that the president seems willing to hand off American dominance in human spaceflight to nations like Russia and China." "The president has a say in the budget process but by no means the last word," Olson said in a statement. "Opposition to killing Constellation, the program of record, is growing by the day."

Keith's note: Only a week and a half remain before the much-anticipated Space Summit at NASA KSC on 15 April. While no public mention has been made as to venue, agenda, participants, audience etc., there does seem to be a general consensus forming behind the scenes as to what sort of rethinking might be acceptable to all parties with regard to where NASA human spaceflight is going.

Small Glimmer of Hope for NASA in Houston, myFox

"Many will admit NASA has done a poor job proving its value to the American public. Some are asking what has the agency done to deserve nearly $20 billion in funding every year? "From the medical devices, fetal monitors for babies, to Lasik surgeries, MRI's, cell phones, the gps," says Mitchell."

Houston, we have a real problem, Opinion by Ed Perlmutter and Pete Olson, Denver Post

"The economic, scientific and technological returns far exceeded our investment. Observations from space have provided GPS, meteorological forecasts, predictions and management of hurricanes and other natural disasters, as well as surveillance and intelligence. Royalties on NASA patents and licenses go directly to the U.S. Treasury. NASA has been a solid investment because it does so much with so little."

Keith's note: I have to guess that the royalties paid on NASA patents are miniscule in comparison to what taxpayers have spent on NASA. Indeed, I suspect that if you were to put this to people who invest in new technologies in the private sector, that they'd tell you that NASA is a rather inefficient way to drive things from R&D to market. As for the NASA spinoffs that people often cite, no one ever runs a sanity check - GPS was "invented" and developed by DoD. As for "fetal monitors for babies, to Lasik surgeries, MRI's, cell phones" NASA was a bit player - at best - in pushing technologies that contributed to - but certainly did not create these and many other things. One would think that NASA would attempt to clarify such things when they appear in the news. There is some progress however: at least we don't hear about NASA inventing Teflon, Velcro, and Tang any more.

Previous NASA spinoff stories.

Obama's Space Summit Coming Amid Discovery's Mission, 13 News

"Even if the shuttle program were extended today, there would still be some a gap. "The real issue we would have is just in manufacturing," [space shuttle program manager John] Shannon explained. "While you have a supply chain, while you can get a workforce back to build things like external tanks, there would be some type of a gap -- and right now, we estimate that gap would be about two years, from when we're told to when we would have the first external fuel tank rolling off the assembly line."

If shuttles kept flying, what would mission be?, Orlando Sentinel

"In response, NASA has reached out to shuttle suppliers and vendors to check whether there would be any issues, beyond the cost of restarting production lines, should NASA keep flying the orbiter fleet. The agency is also examining whether there will be enough spares on the station to continue operations until 2020."

Without Shuttles, Astronauts' Careers May Stall, NPR

"NASA administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden talked about that prospect when he visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this year, saying it would be a different approach for NASA to rent not just the space vehicle, but also a private crew of astronauts to go with it. "We need to have the discussion of how important is it to have a career astronaut contingent, as opposed to none," Bolden said. He said that NASA's international partners like the idea of an elite corps, and that he doubted some random person could quickly be trained to perform at the same level as NASA astronauts, who have devoted their lives to preparing for work in space. "We need to have the discussion of what the future -- the next generation of astronauts -- will be like," Bolden said."

Buzz is Now an App

Buzz Aldrin App Now Available for the iPhone

"The APP Company announced the release of the Buzz Aldrin Portal To Science and Space Exploration iPhone App. Available for $1.99 on the Apple iTunes and App Stores, this iPhone app launched by the pioneering Apollo astronaut and moonwalker Buzz Aldrin takes the user on a journey through the world of everything that is Space Exploration."


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