"F-104 jet fighters just like the ones astronauts trained in for decades will become a more regular part of the skyscape above NASA's Kennedy Space Center as a private company expands its fleet of jets with plans to conduct more research flights, launch very small satellites into space and even take paying passengers into the stratosphere. The developments come four years after the company made its first flight from the Shuttle Landing Facility, or SLF, at Kennedy in April 2007."
Commercialization: May 2011 Archives
"This notice is issued by the NASA/DFRC to post a draft RFP via the internet, and solicit responses from interested parties. This document is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition."
Zero Gravity Corporation Awarded Safety Approval from the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation
"The Safety Approval, granted on April 20, 2011 and in effect for five years, allows ZERO-G to offer reduced gravity parabolic flight profiles to prospective suborbital launch operators to meet the applicable components of the crew qualification and training requirements outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (14 C.F.R. S 460.5). These regulations require crew members to complete training on how to carry out their roles on board or on the ground and to demonstrate the ability to withstand the stresses of spaceflight, which may include high acceleration or deceleration, microgravity, and vibration."
"A team of NASA-funded researchers has measured for the first time water from the moon in the form of tiny globules of molten rock, which have turned to glass-like material trapped within crystals. Data from these newly-discovered lunar melt inclusions indicate the water content of lunar magma is 100 times higher than previous studies suggested."
Lunar Water Brings Portions of Moon's Origin Story Into Question, Carnegie Institution
"Compared with meteorites, Earth and the other inner planets of our solar system contain relatively low amounts of water and volatile elements, which were not abundant in the inner solar system during planet formation. The even lower quantities of these volatile elements found on the Moon has long been claimed as evidence that it must have formed following a high-temperature, catastrophic giant impact. But this new research shows that aspects of this theory must be reevaluated."
Subcommittee Democrats Seek Assurance of Reliable and Timely Commercial Cargo Capability for the International Space Station, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
"In 2006, NASA laid out a two-phase plan to ensure that vital equipment and supplies could be delivered to the ISS after the retirement of the space shuttle. In phase one, companies would be required to develop and demonstrate the capability to safely deliver cargo to the ISS. In phase two, when confident that commercial cargo sources were available, NASA would sign long-term CRS contracts with commercial cargo providers. However, NASA signed long-term resupply contracts with SpaceX and Orbital before either company had successfully demonstrated a commercial cargo flight. Furthermore, in 2010, NASA canceled the Constellation Program, which would have served as a contingency backup in case commercial cargo services were delayed or failed. Commercial providers are now fully responsible for the critical task of resupplying the ISS when the Space Shuttle retires in July."
Critical Questions Remain on the Viability of Commercial Cargo Efforts to Support the Space Station, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS) noted that Congress has generally been supportive of NASA's commercial cargo efforts. However, he said that "Too often, requests for information have been met with a veil of secrecy and claims of company proprietary information." Subsequently, Palazzo said, "I want to remind NASA and the commercial partners that you are spending taxpayer money, and lots of it. So you will not be exempt from oversight and financial scrutiny."
"A new microsatellite designed to give scientists less expensive access to space will be demonstrated during a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket flight between 7 and 10 a.m., June 9, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."
Keith's note: When a witness testifies before this committee they are required to sign a "Truth in Testimony" from which the committee now posts on its hearing website (just look uner each witness' name for links). Yet the hearing charter that the committee posts on its site does not seem to be held to the same high standards. One glaring example:
"The terms of the contracts awarded to SpaceX and Orbital call for delivery of at least 40 metric tons (approximately 88,160 pounds) of cargo to the space station between 2010 and 2015 for $3.5 billion. SpaceX was awarded $1.6 billion to deliver 20 metric tons on 12 cargo resupply missions. Orbital was awarded $1.9 billion to deliver 20 metric tons on 8 cargo resupply missions. The following chart lists approximate costs to deliver one pound of cargo to the ISS under various programs. Development costs are not included in these calculations, and are considered proprietary information by the COTS partners.
Approximate cost per pound to ISS
Space Shuttle* - $21,268
Russian Progress - $18,149
Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) - $26,770
*Calculated assuming four missions per year with a capability to deliver 16 metric tons (35,264 pounds) to the space station at a total annual program cost of $3.0 Billion. $3,000,000,000 (4 flights 35,264 pounds/flight) = $21,268 per pound. Assumes no additional cost to transport 28 astronauts to the space station and return.
Costs for the Russian Progress and the Commercial Resupply program are NASA estimates. The CRS estimate would be higher, at around $39,700 per pound, if derived using a method similar to that used for the Space Shuttle; i.e. Dividing the CRS program cost ($3.5 billion) by the mass delivered to the space station (40 metric tons, i.e. 88,160 pounds)."
Keith's note: Are full shuttle development costs, sustaining engineering, post-Challenger and post-Columbia fixes etc. included in what it cost to develop and maintain the current shuttle capability - including costs picked up by the ISS program? Is any honest attempt whatsoever made to figure out what the development costs (mostly by the communist command economy Soviet Union) were for Soyuz/Progress system? Everyone knows that the Russians pick the highest cost they can get away with (they learned capitalism from us all too well). Yet this committee's staff (i.e. Ken Monroe) provides these misleading numbers to the members of the committee to cite as facts.
If witnesses (invited to voluntarily testify) are put through this scrutiny to calibrate their truthfulness/conflicts of interest, then shouldn't staff (and members who get political contributions) be asked to sign a similar form stating that their "facts" are as free from bias as they can possibly make them? And since some of these numbers come from NASA, shouldn't they also be called upon to at least provide caveats (in the case of Progress numbers)?
How can you possibly have a calm, reasoned discussion about the cost of things - and the relative merits of government vs private sector operations - when the numbers are either flawed, cooked, or skewed like this? Curiously, it was Shotwell and Culbertson who knew all of their numbers - and the numbers rolled off their tongues easily when asked - and often, when they were not asked.
"NASA proposes to revise the NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) to include guidance consistent with NASA's authority under Section 401 of the Commercial Space Competitiveness Act (CSCA) of 1992. NASA may enter into multi-year anchor tenancy contracts for commercial space goods or services. Anchor Tenancy means ``an arrangement in which the United States Government agrees to procure sufficient quantities of a commercial space product or service needed to meet Government mission requirements so that a commercial venture is made viable.''
"Is there a path forward for United States' space policy? When a new President takes office in 2013, he or she should propose to Congress that we start space policy and its administration from scratch. A new agency, the National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA), should be charged with specifically enabling America's and its partners' exploration of deep space, inherently stimulating education, technology, and national focus. The existing component parts of NASA should be spread among other agencies with the only exception being activities related to U.S. obligations to its partners in the International Space Station (ISS)."
Robert Bigelow presented a series of charts at the recent International Space Development Conference which outline his company's interesting product line of inflatable/expandable modular spacecraft. These charts are posted online at NASA Watch/SpaceRef/OnOrbit with permission of Bigelow Aerospace and can be found here.
"Contributor Loren Thompson's recent post on Forbes' Business in the Beltway blog ("What NASA Risks By Betting On Elon Musk's SpaceX", May 23, 2011) is the latest example of his transparent agenda to discredit commercial space providers that may provide significant competition to the big defense contractors that are his clients and benefactors. Mr. Thompson is a paid consultant for Lockheed Martin Corporation, which competes with SpaceX in various space ventures. He is also the chief operating officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute, a think tank often referred to as the "defense industry's pay-to-play ad agency," financed by and an advocate for the very defense companies most threatened by SpaceX's new approach to the launch business."
"NASA is currently developing requirements for a Commercial Crew Transportation (CCT) capability that would be able to transport NASA astronauts and other spaceflight participants safely to and from LEO and the ISS. This RFI will be implemented through direct collaborations with U.S. space industry participants who are actively developing a viable Crew Transportation System (CTS) or an element of a system (i.e., launch vehicle or spacecraft) with significant and recent flight history for the purpose of conducting market research under Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 10."
"NASA will host a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 24, to discuss an agency decision that will define the next transportation system to carry humans into deep space. Douglas Cooke, associate administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington, will take reporters' questions during the teleconference."
Space Florida "Call for Infrastructure Projects" - May 25 deadline
"Each year, Space Florida submits a list of project priorities to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for consideration in preparing a five-year work program in partnership with local Transportation Planning Organizations (TPOs). This five year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) serves as the basis for receiving Federal and State transportation funds for aerospace-related projects."
"DARPA is seeking ideas for an organization, business model and approach appropriate for a self-sustaining investment vehicle in support of the 100 Year StarshipTM Study. The 100 Year StarshipTM Study is a project seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. The genesis of this study is to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general population to consider "why not" and to encourage them to tackle whole new classes of research and development related to all the issues surrounding long duration, long distance spaceflight. DARPA contends that the useful, unanticipated consequences of such research will have benefit to the Department of Defense and to NASA, and well as the private and commercial sector."
Keith's note: Hmmm .... DARPA has its sights set on traveling to the stars - at least as a motivational exercise - yet NASA continues to trip over itself just to get out of LEO - something it knew how to do 40 years ago (technically and politically) but has since forgotten...
"Last week I had a rather remarkable experience: I flew into space in Pennsylvania. Well, almost. I attended a three day Suborbital Scientist Training Program conducted by The NASTAR Center. The program includes altitude chamber exposure to hypoxia, training and multiple rides in a centrifuge including full-acceleration simulations of a ride aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two, and classes on physiology, physics, and operations."
Future Scientist-Astronauts and Educator-Astronauts Receive Training at NASTAR Center, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
"The National Aerospace Training and Research Center (NASTAR) in Southampton, PA, a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, welcomed last week its latest set of future scientist-astronauts and educator-astronauts for training. Participants are training to conduct scientific research while flying onboard commercial suborbital spacecraft such as those operated by Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, XCOR Aerospace, and Armadillo Aerospace."
"Keith Cowing, a Board of Directors member of the Challenger Center for Space Education and well-known space journalist, remarked, "Based on my NASTAR experience (centrifuge & altitude chamber), ANYONE in good health with good training can fly to space. These new suborbital vehicles will inaugurate a new era for education and science, and I'm excited to cover it just as its true potential starts to unfold."
NASTAR: Day 1 - SkyHigh, Ben McGee
NASTAR: Day 2 - UnderPressure, Ben McGee
NASTAR: Day 3 - The FullMonty, Ben McGee
"It was particularly excitingfor me, looking at my training-mates who each appeared to stand a little taller, (even if only due to our spinal columns having been spread outunder high-g,) to notethat many if noteach ofmy classmateswill likelyhave flowninto space (becomingtrue astronauts) in the next few years. We each were standing amongst the pioneers of a new chapter in spaceflight, and I consider myself quite fortunate to have been able to take part."
"Early on Wednesday 4th May 2011, in the skies above Mojave Air and Spaceport CA, SpaceShipTwo, the world's first commercial spaceship, demonstrated its unique reentry 'feather' configuration for the first time. This test flight, the third in less than two weeks, marks another major milestone on the path to powered test flights and commercial operations. SpaceShipTwo (SS2), named VSS Enterprise, has now flown solo seven times since its public roll-out in December 2009 and since the completion of its ground and captive -carry test program."
"The U.S. House of Representatives' Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has asked your Member of Congress for their input about what programs in NASA (and other agencies) should receive increased or decreased funding in FY2012. This gives you an opportunity to have your Representative support vital NASA initiatives like Commercial Crew and Space Technology."
"Contact your Representative by Friday morning at the latest, and ask that they tell the Appropriations Committee that they support full funding for the NASA Commercial Crew and Space Technology programs."
"NASA and Denver-based United Launch Alliance (ULA) are negotiating to add the Delta 2 medium-class rocket to the agency's list of available launch vehicles capable of lofting small- to intermediate-sized science payloads to orbit. "ULA has indicated to NASA it is interested in on-ramping the Delta 2," NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said in a May 12 email response to questions."
This video is from a 11 May 2011 centrifuge run at the NASTAR center with SwRI scientist Cathy Olkin in the cockpit. The view simulates what one would see on a suborbital flight profile aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two. These centrifuge rides are an integral feature of the NASTAR Center's suborbital scientist astronaut training program.
"NASA believes that the projections described in this report are more than sufficient to justify Government support for the development and demonstration of commercial cargo and crew systems, especially considering that the U.S. Government has a demonstrated need for commercial cargo and crew transportation to/from the ISS."
Report of the FAA Commercial Human Spaceflight Workshop, FAA (reference - 2010)
Keith's note: My three centrifuge runs - Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two flight profiles - one at 50% acceleration and two at 100% acceleration - starts at 51:50 in the archived webcast. As you can see, we all had a great time. Let me tell you, the experience of pulling 6Gs is utterly exhilarating. With the proper training (such as NASTAR provides) and the right mindset, the more you do it, the better you get at it - and the more you want to do it - for real.
Going Suborbital at NASTAR, earlier post
"The News Clipping Services contract is a firm-fixed-price contract with a maximum ordering value of $557,447.00. The effective ordering period is five years from the date of award. Under the contract, the work at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC includes news clipping services."
Keith's note: Year after year the same company gets the same contract. Apparently no one else in America can provide this service. Amazing. Of course, if you have ever seen this product you will know that it never accurately reflects the "news" out in the real world that truly concerns/affects NASA - just a toned-down, politically correct version thereof - all for $100,000 a year for an exclusive audience inside NASA. Despite the fact that this internal news service is paid for with tax dollars, taxpayers can never see it. Neither can employees at field centers. Open government? Not in this instance.
NASA's $10B rocket plan recycles shuttle parts, draws flak, Orlando Sentinel
"... critics are already deriding the plan as "a rocket to nowhere" that would pay billions to the aerospace industry to perpetuate the use of 30-year-old shuttle technology while further postponing resolution of a fundamental question: What's the mission of NASA's human-spaceflight program? "What we seem to have is a desire to spend money on rockets in the hopes that we will develop a mission one day," said Jeff Greason, member of the 2009 presidential committee that looked at the future of U.S. human spaceflight."
"Johnsen spent nearly a decade at Broadcom Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of semiconductors for wired and wireless communications. He played a key role in helping transform Broadcom into a leading Fortune 500 technology company. There he developed processes that drove operating efficiencies, saving Broadcom millions of dollars annually. "
Florida Legislature Delivers $43+ Million for Space Industry, Space Florida
"Aerospace-related economic development played a significant role in the 2011 Florida Legislative Session, with more than $43 million being committed for growth of the industry in the coming year. Governor Rick Scott laid out an aggressive plan, not only for Florida's overall economy, but for Florida's space industry in particular, and that plan was formalized by the Legislature."
"Three days after Discovery 's launch ... two planetary scientists are talking with a group of fellow researchers about what should come next. Sipping his drink, Daniel Durda laments that after half a century, only about 500 people have flown in space. Access to humanity's final frontier is still restricted to people employed by a handful of powerful governments and corporations, plus the occasional joyriding mega-millionaire. "I'd prefer for anyone to be able to go, for any reason they choose," says Durda, of the Boulder, Colorado, branch of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI)."
- Video: First Suborbital Scientist Class Trains at NASTAR Center, earlier post
- Videos: Flying SpaceShipTwo in a Centrifuge, earlier post
Keith's note: I will be spending the next three days at the NASTAR Center ( http://www.nastarcenter.com ) undergoing suborbital scientist training. The NASTAR Center is the first FAA accredited facility able to meet the training requirements for commercial human spaceflight, both suborbital and orbital. This training involves classroom activities, altitude chamber sessions, and multiple rides in a centrifuge up to 6Gs simulating a ride aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two. I will be posting updates here and tweeting about this at http://twitter.com/nasawatch We hope to live stream some of us riding a full 6G Virgin Galactic flight on Wednesday. Stay tuned.
"Since GAO reported on the commercial space launch industry in 2006 and 2009, the industry has evolved and moved further toward space tourism. Commercial space tourism promises to make human space travel available to the public for the first time. In addition, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to use private companies to transport cargo, and eventually personnel, to the International Space Station after NASA retires the space shuttle later in 2011. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees the safety of commercial space launches, licensing and monitoring the safety of such launches and of commercial spaceports (sites for launching spacecraft), and promotes the industry."
"The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 included two related provisions that were the subject of much of today's discussion: the first authorized AST to regulate commercial human space flight launch systems; the second prohibited AST from regulating commercial human space flight for eight years in order to give space tourism companies an opportunity to design, develop and operate new and experimental launch systems. December 2012 marks the end of the eight-year regulatory ban, and the debate centered around the need for extending the ban."
"After the hearing, Representative Edwards said: "We still need to better understand the implications of having FAA operate as both the regulator and promoter of commercial space transportation safety. As NASA moves forward, they will need to work closely with private industry to rigorously address the issues of safety, regulatory authority, and liability in commercial space transportation to ensure the well-being of the public in space, near-space, and on the ground."
"To date only one company, Virgin Galactic, is known to be actively testing a prototype sub- orbital commercial human spaceflight vehicle. SpaceShipTwo, a larger version of the Ansari X-Prize winner, is undergoing unpowered atmospheric testing in California. According to the company, hundreds of interested purchasers have already placed down-payments with Virgin Galatic for the privilege of flying on their spacecraft once commercial flights get underway."
"Until recently, the OCST focus for human space flight regulations has been on sub orbital vehicles and passengers. The experimental permit period will end soon without any database on flights, safety, or passengers. This experimental period should be continued, but instead of an arbitrary period of years being designated for the sunset of that provision, other tests should be developed to determine when the regulations should be reevaluated by Congress."
"Throughout the past 50 years, NASA has become the world leader in human spaceflight, amassing vast experience and a wonderful track record in space travel. There is no equal. Similarly, during the past 50 years, the FAA has achieved a stunning record of safety in commercial aviation. We are now leveraging that half-century of experience and safety acumen in our regulation and oversight of the commercial space transportation industry."
"As part of a market sizing exercise for NASA's Commercial Crew Development bid, submitted on behalf of the Boeing Company, Space Adventures estimates that by 2020 approximately 140 more private individuals will have launched to orbital space. These participants would include private individuals, corporate, university and non-profit researchers, lottery winners and journalists. Destinations would include the International Space Station, commercial space stations and orbital free-flys."
"NASA proposes to revise the NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) to consolidate and make changes to three currently-existing cross-waiver of liability clauses. The changes include consolidation of the three clauses into two clauses and retitleing the two clauses to more closely align the clauses with current mission programs including International Space Station (ISS) activities, and Science or Space Exploration activities unrelated to the ISS. The existing Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) clause will be broadened to apply to contracts and subcontracts related to a launch of any kind other than one involving the International Space Station. The International Space Station (ISS) activities cross-waiver of liability clause is revised and its applicably broadened to include Space Shuttle activities related to the ISS. Accordingly, the Space Shuttle services clause will be deleted in its entirety with all Space Shuttle activity falling under one of the two remaining clauses."
"SCOPE OF WORK: This project is to demolish various facilities and structures located at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). These facilities previously housed administrative and technical support or were support structures. The work will be required to be performed with minimal impact to the surrounding roads and facilities. It is anticipated that the work will occur primarily during the typical work hours of 7:00am to 3:30pm."
"Whenever someone proposes to do something that has never been done before, there will always be skeptics. So when I started SpaceX, it was not surprising when people said we wouldn't succeed. But now that we've successfully proven Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon, there's been a steady stream of misinformation and doubt expressed about SpaceX's actual launch costs and prices. As noted last month by a Chinese government official, SpaceX currently has the best launch prices in the world and they don't believe they can beat them. This is a clear case of American innovation trumping lower overseas labor rates."
China Great Wall Confounded By SpaceX Prices, Aviation Week
"Declining to speak for attribution, the Chinese officials say they find the published prices on the SpaceX website very low for the services offered, and concede they could not match them with the Long March series of launch vehicles even if it were possible for them to launch satellites with U.S. components in them."
"I don't have a lot of confidence in that end of the commercial space spectrum getting us back into orbit any time soon. I'd like to hear all these folks who call themselves commercial space tell me who their investors are. Tell me where their marketplace is. A commercial venture is supposed to use private money. And who are their users? Suppose we, NASA, have no need for their services. There's no other marketplace for them. So is it really a commercial venture, or is it not? Is it a group of guys who have stars in their eyes and want to be a big space developer? I don't know."
"This notice announces a public meeting to solicit comments and information from the public on the regulatory approach to commercial orbital human spaceflight by the FAA. This public meeting is intended to aid the FAA in its regulatory effort by receiving early input from the affected community."
"In recent years excellent research has focused on suborbital demand, but few detailed studies have been available on actual market demand for orbital personal spaceflight. Additionally, the considerable change in the financial landscape since 2008 highlighted the need for up-to-date data on the demand for personal space travel, given the impact on wealthy individuals and cash availability for space tourism."
"However, if NASA chooses to leverage this hardware under existing contracts for the heavy-lift rocket, as directed in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, it could face a challenge from companies that are not currently in the mix. Propulsion provider Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., for example, has made clear its desire for a competition to build elements of the Space Launch System. "We need to pick a path where we have mitigated the possibility for a protest to the degree we can," Cooke said in an April 26 interview. "And no matter what path you take there is always that possibility. You can always get a protest."