Commercialization: August 2011 Archives

Orbital Receives FAA Commercial Space Transportation License For Taurus II COTS Demonstration Mission

"Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world's leading space technology companies, today announced that it received a Commercial Space Transportation Launch License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program demonstration mission in early 2012. An expanded license covering the test flight of the company's Taurus(R) II rocket in late 2011 is expected to be granted in the near future."

SwRI Selected as Payload Integrator for Three NASA Suborbital Flight Opportunities Research Providers

"Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been selected to provide payload flight integration services as part of three suborbital flight provider contracts recently announced by NASA to Virgin Galactic, XCOR and Masten Space Systems. These contracts are an important step forward for the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, funded by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist and managed by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., and affirm the need for commercial space access for a range of research and educational applications."

Spaceport America Receives Repeat Federal Infrastructure Grant

"These matching funds from the FAA are crucial for improving our vertical launch capabilities and expanding services for our launch customers," said New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Executive Director, Christine Anderson. The roll-back vehicle integration building will be located inside the Vertical Launch Area (VLA) of Spaceport America and will be able to accommodate the larger vehicles that are under development. "Currently, we can only accommodate vehicles up to approximately 24 feet long and five feet wide," said Anderson. "New vehicles under development are much longer, and some have wings for gliding recovery," explained Anderson. "The new roll-back vehicle integration building will let us handle these new vehicles as they come on line."

Space Florida Reboots

New Space Florida Board of Directors Announced

"In addition to its new Board, Space Florida will also have an Industry Advisory Council to aid in its governance. This 15 member advisory council is appointed by the Governor and will be made up of Florida residents with expertise in the space industry. Specifically, the following areas of expertise will be reflected in the members that make up this Council: human space-flight programs, commercial launch, organized labor, other aerospace-related industries, and an alternative energy enterprise with potential for aerospace applications. The advisory council shall elect a member to serve as the chair of the council. This chair will serve ex-officio on the full board of Space Florida."

FAA Spaceport grants will strengthen America's commercial space industry

"If you're like me, you probably watched the final landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis last month with a strong sense of nostalgia for an astounding era in American space travel. The good news is that the Federal Aviation Administration has been working hard to usher in a new era for U.S. space transportation. Today, I'm excited to announce that the FAA is awarding grants to projects at three spaceports. With matching support, these projects will develop and expand our nation's commercial space transportation infrastructure. These grants will go a long way toward meeting President Obama's National Space Policy and its greater emphasis on using the commercial space industry to meet our current and future space transportation needs."

NASA GSFC Solicitation: Know Your Earth Message Displays

"NASA/GSFC has a requirement for messaging displays to posted in Chicago during the months of November and December, in support of the Know Your Earth 2.0, Chicago (KYE II) project. These include city wallscapes, shopping mall kiosk displays, rail transit posters, and airport dioramas. NASA/GSFC intends to purchase the items from Clear Channel Outdoor pursuant to FAR 13.106, for the acquisition of supplies or services determined to be reasonably available from only one source. The KYE II project is a joint venture between NASA's Earth-Observing missions and Clear Channel Outdoor. Each NASA Earth-Observing Mission involved has written the KYE project into their Education/Public Outreach Implementation Plans."

Keith's note: I have lost count how many times people at NASA have told me that they cannot self-promote, advertise, lobby, or otherwise try to use standard marketing tools to inform the public of the things that they do. They always cite dire Congressional prohibitions against such activities. Then they go off and totally violate these prohibitions with advertising procurements such as this one. I am not certain that they actually know what it is they are allowed or not allowed to do and just throw this answer out when they do not want to do something.

- Is NASA Advertising Allowed or Prohibited?, earlier post
- Got Space?, earlier post


Keith's 25 Aug update: Well, nothing was apparently launched - and if you go to the FAA NOTAM webpage the request from Blue Origin has mysteriously disappeared.

Rohrabacher Reacts to Russian Soyuz Launch Failure; Calls for Emergency Funding of Commercial Crew Systems

"I am calling on General Bolden, the NASA Administrator, to propose an emergency transfer of funding from unobligated balances in other programs, including the Space Launch System, to NASA's commercial crew initiative. Funding should be used to speed up the efforts of the four current industry partners to develop their systems and potentially expand the recent awards to include the best applicants for launch vehicle development. NASA could potentially transfer several hundred million dollars from this long term development concept, since the SLS project has not even started, to the more urgently needed systems that can launch astronauts to ISS, reliably and affordably. This transfer will boost the development of American controlled technology and greatly reduce our dependence on the Russians."

Report to NASA: Independent Cost Assessment of the Space Launch System - Executive Summary

"In general, the estimates prepared by SLS, MPCV, and 21CGS are consistent with Analysis of Alternative (AoA) level estimates and are reasonable point estimates for budget planning in the near-term 3-5 year budget horizon. They are serviceable in that they represent the basis to build upon for future life-cycle cost estimates of the quality required for long-term budget formulation and the development of program baselines. None of the estimates reviewed by the ICA Team support establishment of long-term budgets or detailed baselines consistent with NPR 7120.5 requirements. They are, however, reasonable AoA estimates appropriate for supporting trade studies and comparative analyses. All three Program estimates assume large, unsubstantiated, future cost efficiencies leading to the impression that they are optimistic. A scenario-based risk assessment, which excludes cost estimating uncertainty and unknown-unknown risks (historically major sources of cost and schedule growth), reveals all three Programs' reserves are insufficient."

Download complete document

NASA MMO Game on Kickstarter: Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond

"Our small group of 20 developers have won a contest held for the best idea for an official massively multi-player online game depicting the future, and signed a "Space Act Agreement" with NASA, who chose our pitch over all others, the start of a project conceived of at NASA Learning Technologies. Can you believe it? Not only can we pick up the phone and call a NASA scientist to talk about our spaceship and exploration ideas, but we're being encouraged to be creative! It's a once-in-a-lifetime project for all of us: the kind of work you can only dream of as a game developer (and player)."

Communications, Navigation And In-Space Propulsion Technologies Selected For NASA Flight Demonstration

"NASA has selected three proposals as Technology Demonstration Missions to transform space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities. The projects will develop and fly a space solar sail, deep space atomic clock, and space-based optical communications system."

NASA Developing New Technologies for Deep Space Travel, Bobby Braun and Tom Kalil, OSTP

"Investments in research and technology are required to enable flight of NASA's future missions. These same missions drive and sharpen NASA's research and technology investment portfolio."

National Aerospace Week

National Aerospace Week Launched, Aerospace Industries Association

"Ongoing and emerging security threats, aging civil and space infrastructure, fiscal challenges and keeping and creating jobs all present our nation with enormous challenges. This year's National Aerospace Week, an event established by Congress, will focus on informing the debate over choices our government will make in the coming months. The aerospace and defense industry is the lifeblood of America's industrial base, employing approximately 800,000 workers directly, and supporting more than 2 million middle-class jobs in related fields. More than 30,000 suppliers in the industry provide high-skill, high-paying jobs in all 50 states."

Keith's note:If you visit the website of author Charles Justiz you will see that a photo of an astronaut holding his latest book on the International Space Station is featured. As I mentioned last March, when this first appeared online, I was not aware that authors could get NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion and commercial "product placement" on the ISS unless there was a clear EPO tie-in, Space Act Agreement, etc. The webpage that originally featured this product endorsement was eventually pulled offline after I took note. But now the product placement photo is back. I guess the rules have changed.

Product Placement on the ISS (Update), earlier post

Sen. Hutchison Calls on NASA to Announce SLS Design Immediately - Don't Allow Layoffs to Occur Next Week

"Today NASA is scheduled to formally receive the independent cost assessment for the Space Launch System (SLS) that was requested by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). I expect this independent assessment will confirm what myself and the NASA technical staff have known for many months - that the SLS plan is financially and technically sound, and that NASA should move forward immediately. "I remain very concerned about continuing delays. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act required NASA to bring forward a plan by January 10, 2011. The political leadership at NASA and at OMB has dragged their feet on implementation. After many requests for NASA to comply with the law, the Commerce Committee finally initiated a formal investigation earlier this summer. While that investigation is ongoing, I reiterate my call to NASA and the Administration to proceed with its SLS development program immediately, in compliance with the Assessment to NASA which confirms that NASA can move forward with implementation of SLS."

Keith's note: My question for Sen. Hutchison (and Nelson, Rockefeller etc.): regardless of what this NASA/OMB cost analysis for the SLS says, will you guarantee that the funding will be there to make it happen - all the way to launch? And what about the money to pay for the payloads that will be launched on these giant rockets - will you make a public pledge - now - to support full funding for them too? Of course you won't. None of you will.

Manned space flights no longer priority for Russia, Reuters

"Russia holds a monopoly on flights to and from the 16-nation station. Soyuz launches from its Baikonur cosmodrome are now the only way to space since the United States retired its 30-year shuttle programme in July. NASA pays it more than $50 million per flight to send its astronauts to the space outpost. Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said Russia was spending almost half of its space budget on manned flights and needed to shift focus to more technology-oriented projects. He added however it would stand by its station commitments."

Keith's note: I guess Russia is only interested in human spaceflight - but only so long as the U.S. writes them checks. So, when they say that they are "spending half its space budget on manned flights" I wonder how much of their budget actually came from the U.S. to begin with ....

Futron Corporation Releases Fourth Annual Space Competitiveness Index

"The 2011 results show that even as countries collaborate in space, competition has intensified. Dominant actors are losing ground to a rising middle tier of space players, and the competitive gaps separating all nations are narrowing. Futron's Space Competitiveness Index (SCI), an independent study, compares 10 leading space-participant nations across more than 50 individual metrics that together reflect three overarching competitiveness drivers: government, human capital, and industry. By evaluating these metrics, the Index numerically benchmarks the relative space competitiveness position of each nation."

Reusable Suborbital Market Characterization, Prepared by The Tauri Group for Space Florida March 2011, (PDF) Commercial Space WIki

"Purpose: Define and characterize the markets reusable suborbital vehicles will address

- Define market categories
- Identify market drivers
- Characterize current activities
- Provide basis for future market forecasting (Note that this study is not a forecast)

- Shared understanding improves quality and productivity of industry discourse
- A consistent taxonomy enables communications across the community, with Congress, press, and investors
- Accessible information helps industry participants assess opportunities, plan and coordinate activities, seek funding, and budget"

Falcon 9/Dragon: Preparing to Berth With the International Space Station

"Over the last several months, SpaceX has been hard at work preparing for our next flight - a mission designed to demonstrate that a privately-developed space transportation system can deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA has given us a Nov. 30, 2011 launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS. NASA has agreed in principle to allow SpaceX to combine all of the tests and demonstration activities that we originally proposed as two separate missions (COTS Demo 2 and COTS Demo 3) into a single mission. Furthermore, SpaceX plans to carry additional payloads aboard the Falcon 9's second stage which will deploy after Dragon separates and is well on its way to the ISS. NASA will grant formal approval for the combined COTS missions pending resolution of any potential risks associated with these secondary payloads. Our team continues to work closely with NASA to resolve all questions and concerns."

NASA GSFC Commercial Suborbital Vehicles Workshop

"NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Innovative Partnership Program (IPP) and Earth Science Division will be hosting a Commercial Suborbital Vehicles Workshop at the GSFC on September 7, 2011. The purpose of the proposed workshop is to provide information for Earth and Space scientists about these vehicles capabilities, and to examine and discuss science topics that might be conducted from these platforms. Suborbital reusable launch vehicles could enable researchers to directly access the mesosphere, lower thermosphere (MLT) region of the atmosphere (50-140 km altitude), repeatedly, many times per day, at low-cost, and at very low velocities in many different environmental locations around the planet (no hypersonic shock)."

SpaceX Plans To Be Top World Rocket Maker, Aviation Week

"While many beleaguered U.S. aerospace manufacturers are trimming back amid continuing uncertainty over the nation's long-term goals, California-based SpaceX is ramping up plans to become the world's largest producer of rocket engines in less than five years, manufacturing more units per year than any other single country."

"Boeing will announce the selection of its rocket for the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 on Thursday, August 4 at noon Eastern Time (11 a.m. Central Time, 9 a.m. Pacific Time). John Elbon, vice president and program manager of Boeing's Commercial Crew Programs will host the call, and he will be joined by a senior representative of the rocket company. They will make brief opening remarks and go into a question and answer portion. Three test flights will be flown with this rocket in 2015. With sufficient funding and selection for a development contract, Boeing expects to provide an operational capability to transport crews to and from the International Space Station in 2015."

Keith's note: Boeing has picked the Lockheed Martin Atlas V which is currently marketed by the Boeing/Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance. Boeing's CST-100 crew spacecraft will be launched on an Atlas 5 - 412.

Boeing Selects Atlas V Rocket for Initial Commercial Crew Launches

"The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] today announced it has selected the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket to launch the Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft from Florida's Space Coast."

Joint Statement of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Valador Inc.

"Since SpaceX filed its lawsuit (captioned Space Exploration Technologies Corp. v. Valador, Inc. and Joseph Fragola, Civil Action No. 2011-08756, Circuit Court of Fairfax County, Virginia), the Parties have been working collaboratively to resolve the matter. Regarding the underlying facts, Dr. Fragola investigated a rumor regarding the performance of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle during its most recent launch. Through email communications with both NASA and SpaceX on June 8, 2011, Dr. Fragola confirmed that the rumor was false in that no Falcon 9 engines failed and the first stage did not explode. There was independent NASA tracking and video of the flight, and subsequent debriefing with NASA, indicating no such failures or explosions."

SpaceX Vs Valador in Court, earlier post

Draft Letter to NASA in Support of Solid Rocket Motors Circulating on Capitol Hill

"As you know, the final design of the SLS is long overdue. This is perplexing since the parameters for the final design are clearly articulated in the Authorization and Appropriations Acts. The Authorization Act clearly states the SLS "shall be designed from inception as a fully integrated vehicle capable of carrying a total payload of 130 tons or more..." The Appropriations Act reinforced this requirement by stating "the heavy lift launch vehicle system... shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons." Both statutory texts were carefully crafted and agreed upon after consultation with rocket propulsion experts who unanimously concluded these design specifications were required to ensure a meaningful spaceflight program. These same experts also determined these legal requirements could only be realistically met through the use of solid rocket motors."

Keith's note: this letter is being circulated around Capitol Hill in search of additional signatures. Senate sources link this directly back to the Utah congressional delegation.

Reader note: The following from transcript of video of Senate press gallery statement by Sen. Orrin Hatch after the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was reported out of committee: "...the Commerce Committee's bill has established certain requirements which the [Space Launch] System must meet. After speaking with experts in Utah, it is their conclusion that these requirements can only be realistically accomplished by using solid rocket motors." video - press release



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