"Building on the success of NASA's commercial spaceflight initiatives, agency officials announced Monday plans to solicit proposals from U.S. private enterprises for unfunded partnerships to collaboratively develop new commercial space capabilities. An Announcement for Proposals will be released on March 31 for the competitive selection of one or more SAAs. NASA plans a pre-proposal teleconference on April 3 to discuss the initiative and answer questions."
Commercialization: March 2014 Archives
SpaceX Conducts Falcon 9R Static Fire Test [Watch], SpaceRef Business
"SpaceX successfully test fired the first stage of F9R--an advanced prototype for the world's first reusable rocket--in preparation for its first test flight in the coming weeks. Unlike airplanes, a rocket's thrust increases with altitude; F9R generates just over a million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space."
JAXA Selects Mitsubishi to Build New Flagship Launch Vehicle, SpaceRef Business
"JAXA has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to build a new flagship launch vehicle to replace the current H-IIA and H-IIB launch vehicles and intends to compete for international commercial contracts.
The new rocket is expected to come into service in 2020 and JAXA stated that they plan on cutting launch costs by half to try and compete directly with Arianespace, SpaceX and other commercial launch providers."
"Russia may retaliate by cutting off our supply of RD-180 engines. Imported Russian RD-180s power the first stage of the American Atlas V rocket; the Atlas V launches our military satellites. If Putin does threaten our rocket shipments, we can dip into the two-year store that has been stockpiled for just such an occasion -- and two weeks ago, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk testified to Congress that his American-made Falcon rockets are ready to take over (for about $300 million less per flight than an Atlas launch costs taxpayers now)."
Orbital Drops Antitrust Lawsuit Against ULA, Space News
"Orbital is considering the RD-180 as a replacement for the AJ-26 engines that power the main stage of the company's Antares medium-lift rocket. Each Antares rocket uses two AJ-26 engines, which are actually Soviet-vintage NK-33 engines refurbished by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif. Orbital has secured only enough AJ-26 engines for the eight cargo-delivery missions to the international space station the company owes NASA through 2016 under a $1.89 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract signed in 2008."
Keith's note: Wouldn't it be prudent to start building Americanized versions of these engines - or develop home grown designs?
"Today, aerospace company Swiss Space Systems (S3) inaugurates its new U.S. subsidiary, S3 USA Operations (Florida) Inc., at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). S3 has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Space Florida for future utilization the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) and associated infrastructure for its flight operations, which are slated to begin in 2015 with zero gravity flights. S3 will also evaluate the SLF as a main site for satellite launches beginning in 2018."
Human Exploration Drives Space Launch System, Aviation Week
"It doesn't seem likely that NASA and it's congressional backers will trust human lives anytime soon to a 27-engine vehicle that bears an unfortunate resemblance to the ill-fated Soviet N-1 Moon rocket, which had 30".
Keith's note: Odd comment from Aviation Week given that NASA has been putting American astronauts on Soyuz launchers for a long time and they use 20 engines just to leave the pad. Oh yes, his rocket actually is a Soviet design.
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday that David W. Miller, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., has been named the agency's new Chief Technologist. As chief technologist, he will be Bolden's principal advisor and advocate on matters concerning agency-wide technology policy and programs."
The Path Forward In American Space - 2014 Edition, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef
"I AM UNEASY. I resent the passive attitudes many scientists have toward the challenge of science, especially their passivity concerning the greatest scientific, technological, and industrial opportunity of all time--- the development of space--- a challenge so limitless and exciting as ultimately to surpass all previous human accomplishments.... I am angry that so many scientists do not voice the scientific benefits of the expedition to the moon, concerned that industrial directors in charge of tomorrow are tranquil to the future, disturbed that our non-scientific Congress is unrealistic in its reasons for space appropriations, and disgusted with scientific journals that have abdicated their responsibilities of leadership and fail, even, to present a point of view. Hundreds of important scientific and cold-cash reasons abound for going to the moon..."
These words could have been written by myself or a number of other space advocates over the last few years (it could also be written about Mars). However, these were written as the preface to a book "The Case for Going to the Moon", written in 1965 by Neil Ruzic, the editor and publisher of the 1960's era journal Industrial Research. The forward to the "Case for Going to the Moon" was written by Arthur C. Clarke. ...
"Space Florida's objective for the space tourism marketing appropriation is to define and develop the scope of space tourism throughout the state of Florida. Breaking the plan into three phases will allow us to address the different needs and goals of the aerospace industry. Each stage of this plan includes specific tactics with messaging relevant to the targeted demographic, as well as built in opportunities to measure reach, effectiveness and the return on investment of each individual tactic."
Keith's note: Looks like they want to do "train wraps" in Chicago, kiosks in New York City's financial district, Denver Airport ... They are ambitious - and they do have a viable precedent for attracting business to Florida: Ron Jon Surf Shop billboards up and down the east coast.
"Tyson described space travel as "a long-term investment": "It's an investment that private enterprise cannot lead." He recalled the excitement around SpaceX's delivery of cargo the International Space Station, which sparked discussion about whether private companies would replace government as the main engine behind space travel. Tyson's response? "They brought cargo to the space station! NASA's been doing that for 30 years!" The problem, he said, is that it's hard to predict the risk and return on investment on "doing anything big and expensive first." He noted that the first Europeans to come to America were not the Dutch East India Company, but Christopher Columbus and his crew, whose expedition was paid for by Spain. After the initial exploration, there will be opportunities for private companies. "The first trillionaire in the world is going to be the person who first mines the asteroid belt," Tyson said."
Keith's note: Its rather odd that Tyson dumps on what SpaceX has accomplished i.e. that NASA did it 30 years ago (he doesn't explain that i.e the hugely expensive shuttle) but then he says that the person who first mines the asteroid will become a trillionaire. Assuming that the person gains these monetary riches by mining, you'd have to assume that they are a capitalist and that they did this commercially. So, Tyson dumps on commercial operations on space station as being ho hum and then says that the same mindset/world view i.e. commerce will be behind asteroid mining which he seems to equate with exploration.
"In previous budgets, Congress hasn't fully funded commercial crew requests as a way of finding savings, to the chagrin of its advocates. "The president has been requesting approximately $800 million every year since his FY12 budget submission to fund the development of American vehicles to provide access to the ISS, only to have Congress, led primarily by the GOP but not exclusively, dramatically undercut that funding," said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the state's spaceport authority and aerospace development organization. But Russia's incursion into Crimean region of Ukraine has put the spotlight on the U.S. and Russia's codependence in space, and could provide the political capital necessary for the program to get full funding this time around."
"If DOD requires all offers to contain both fixed-price and cost-reimbursement features for launch services and capability, respectively, similar to the way it currently contracts with ULA, there could be benefits to DOD and ULA, but potential burdens to new entrants. Alternatively, if DOD implements a fixed-price commercial approach to launch proposals, DOD could lose insight into contractor cost or pricing. DOD could also require a combination of elements from each of these approaches, or develop new contract requirements for this competition."
"In December 2013, DOD signed a contract modification with ULA, committing the government to buy 35 launch vehicle booster cores over a 5-year period, and the associated capability to launch them. The new contract represents significant effort on the part of DOD to negotiate better launch prices through its improved knowledge of contractor costs, and DOD officials expect the new contract to realize significant savings, primarily through stable unit pricing for all launch vehicles. DOD is also leading a broader competition for up to 14 additional launches, expected to begin in fiscal year 2015."
"Recently, some have claimed that the Air Force's block buy of 36 booster cores from the incumbent will save the taxpayer "$4.4 billion over the next several years." Any "savings" resulting from a block buy of 36 rocket cores from the incumbent provider are derived directly from a 50 percent year-over-year budget projection increase in FY2012, which was purposefully based on worst-case assumptions for a single- Launch buy, and acknowledged at the time by the incumbent as being inflated.5 If SpaceX had contracted for these missions, using the same baseline, we would have saved the taxpayer a total of $11.6 billion."
"ULA was formed to enable assured access to space with two separate launch systems, with recognition the that market demand was insufficient to sustain two competitors. We went from two competing teams with redundant and underutilized infrastructure to one team that has delivered the expected savings of this consolidation."
Hearing Summary: EELV costs under ULA up 166%, ULA leery of competition, SpaceX eager for competition.— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) March 5, 2014
NASA FY 2015 Budget - Commercial Crew is Investing in America, SpaceRef Business
"Early in his opening statement during the NASA teleconference on NASA's FY 2015 budget request, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden made it clear that reliance on the Russians for access to the International Space Station is choice Congress must choose to end.
Bolden said "budgets are about making choices, and let me clear about one thing, the choice here is between fully funding the request to bring space launches back to the U.S. or continuing millions in subsidies to the Russians, it's that simple. The Obama administration chooses investing in America. We believe Congress will choose this course as well."
On a day where tensions in Ukraine's Crimea only slighted abated, hammering on Congress about the choices they've made with respect to funding Commercial Crew budgeting in past years seemed appropriate. But was anybody listening?"
Inspiration Mars Sets Sights on Venus/Mars Flyby in 2021, Dennis Tito, opinion, SpaceNews
"Today, the IMF remains fully committed to its vision to help provide America with a viable, challenging and inspirational mission to Mars as a way to help accelerate our nation's plans for space exploration. However, given the extensive use of NASA assets that are already funded and under development, the strategy to pursue the mission opportunity in 2021 would clearly be the purview of the Congress, the Obama administration and NASA."
Keith's note: Tito's op ed is, at a minimum, disingenuous. Actually it is outright deceptive. This is bait and switch, plain and simple. As if no one would notice. Tito seems to want everyone to think that his original wholly-private funded Falcon-9 based plan for 2017 is somehow just a different flavor of his new 2021 SLS/Orion-based, NASA-funded plan. Ho hum. All that needs to be done is change the computer graphics, write some op eds, update the calendar app on your smartphones, and off we go to Mars. He says that it's all "Inspirational" so who cares, right?
Mr. Tito is asking NASA, Congress, and the White House to find billions of dollars on top of a budget that is going to be flat for the next few years, and launch the very first SLS/Orion mission on a trip to Mars with zero chance of return should anything go wrong. ANYTHING. Even the gutsy Apollo 8 had precursor shakeout flights of its launch vehicle and main spacecraft systems. No advisory committee has called for this mission.
And unless these extra billions are found the ISS will need to be abandoned by the U.S. There is simply no money to do both under the budget that everyone in Washington seems to want NASA to have. By going from the laudable notion of a privately-funded mission to one paid for by tax dollars Inspiration Mars is now simply an advertisement for more SLS funding. No "inspiration" there.
Tito just wants us all to do it as part of his legacy and he wants the rest of us to foot the bill. Has he disclosed how much of his own millions he will commit?