Russia Will Spin-Off ISS Parts for New Space Station, Discovery News
"The Russian space agency Roscosmos says it will support U.S. plans to keep the International Space Station (ISS) operating through 2024, but then wants to split off three still-to-be launched modules to form a new, independent orbital outpost. The announcement this week by a senior planning board reverses previous statements by Russian officials that Russia would end involvement in the 15-nation program in 2020 when current agreements expire. Despite occasional rhetoric, the Russian-U.S. space marriage has been largely left out of growing economic and political tensions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year."
Keith's note: This is not a bad thing. And I am not talking about no longer having to deal with Russia since we'll certainly find a way to find ourselves in a political spat with someone else on Earth after they leave the ISS. Rather, it shows how assets in space can be repurposed, refurbished -- re-imagined. Instead of throwing things away in orbit (Skylab, Salyuts, Mir) we can now build upon these assets and move them around like Lego bricks to form new things as we need them - and then do this again and again. When the government is done with their hardware, it can be used by someone else - just like old military bases can become movie studios and shopping malls. The more orbital capacity that is available, the more customers it can collectively and individually serve. The more valuable these on-orbit assets become for government and non-government uses, the more everyone will want to safeguard that growing capacity (and isolate it from terrestrial squabbles) as has been the case with ISS recently.
"Perhaps the most ambitious part of the ASD agenda is a proposed "Cheap Access to Space Act" that would offer $3.5 billion in government prizes for the development of reusable launch vehicles. Those prizes include, in a draft version of the bill provided by ASD, $1 billion to the first fully reusable vehicle that can place at least one metric ton into orbit and fly again a week later."
Keith's note: Yet another space group comprised of the usual suspects. Yet another request by a space group for the government to give them billions in handouts. Sigh. This is getting old. These groups keep proposing the same old same old - under new names each time.
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Steve Jurczyk as the agency's Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, effective Monday, March 2. The directorate is responsible for innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use on future NASA missions. Jurczyk has served as Center Director at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, since April of 2014."
"There will be two important congressional hearings this week on Commercial Space.
First up on Tuesday, February 24th is the U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness hearing chaired by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Next up on Friday, February 27th is the House Subcommittee on Space Hearing; The Commercial Crew Program: Challenges and Opportunities chaired by Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The hearing will take place at 2318 Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. EST."
"This week marks the 53rd anniversary of John Glenn's first manned orbital space flight. The Monmouth University Poll finds that most Americans feel the nation's 1960s space program gave us long-lasting benefits and many say increased spending on the space program today would be a good investment. However, less than half the public supports spending billions of dollars specifically to send astronauts back to the moon or to other planets - a program that is currently in the works at NASA. Interestingly, this reluctance is similar to the public mood in the 1960s. A majority of Americans do support private space exploration, though. ... The future of space travel may now lie in private ventures, which most Americans do support."
Keith's note: Interesting how this poll of actual regular American citizens shows them to be far less bubbly in their support of NASA's human space flight programs than what the space advocacy crowd would have you think. I am not certain how well the overt "settlement" aspect of Rick Tumlinson's recent closed space summit is going to resonate with popular sentiments when even the precursor missions are not supported by a majority of those polled. However, the commercial space aspect of this poll is interesting as are the societal benefits. Yet no one from Blue Origin, SpaceX, or Virgin Galactic - or the non-space public seems to have had any role in this closed door meeting. Or did they? I guess we'll never know since nothing about this event's participants is being released.
The study also notes "Just over 4-in-10 (42%) Americans are in favor of the U.S. government spending billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids, while half (50%) oppose such an expenditure. There are no partisan differences in this opinion, although men (50%) are more supportive than women (36%) of funding this new program." I wonder what the demographics were for Tumlinson's space summit. If this conclave of the usual suspects followed old habits then the participants would have been overwhelmingly male and middle aged (and older).
If people get together with the aim of developing a broad-based policy (on any topic) for the entire country then they should, at a minimum, seek to pay some attention to the demographics of the group of people whom they purport to represent as well as what these people have to say on the topic. Moreover these would-be policy developers should seek to develop a policy that serves the real world interests of the population as a whole - not a policy that only serves the people who happen to be in the room arguing arcane philosophical and self-serving points.
If space advocates have all of the impact that they claim to have had over the past several decades then they need to share the blame for the dysfunctional way that this nation's space policy (such that there is one) has been formulated and implemented. If the space advocates shun responsibility for this train weck then they are admitting that they actually have little or no impact after all. Either way, given how screwed up America's space policy is, one would have to come to the conclusion that space advocates are part of the problem - not the solution.
"Last October's explosion of Orbital ATK Inc's Antares rocket may have been triggered when debris inadvertently left in a fuel tank traveled into the booster's main engine, two people familiar with investigations into the accident told Reuters. The sources said the preliminary findings suggest that a simple assembly mistake by Orbital ATK could have caused the explosion, which destroyed a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station."
"Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) has announced that it will continue flight tests at Kennedy Space Center using the newest version of its lunar lander test vehicle later this month. The "MTV-1A" vehicle is an advanced version of the MTV-1X lander test vehicle that successfully completed a series of initial flights in December, earning the company a $1M award from the Google Lunar XPRIZE."
"The delay is tied to carrying out the omnibus federal spending bill's $20 million appropriation for NASA to ensure that the money goes to repair of the spaceport, which operates at the national space agency's Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. "NASA is fully aware of the intent of the $20 million they didn't expect to get, but they got," said Kevin Hall, spokesman for Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., who worked with Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, D-Va.; Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; and members of both states' congressional delegations to secure the funding. Hall said his office is investigating the reason for the delay but is "trying to help the state navigate this process."
"Government and business leaders in the region are looking for more growth in the future after a string of successes the past two years at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, and despite one major setback the explosion shortly after liftoff in October of a rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station on Orbital Sciences Corporation's third commercial cargo mission under a NASA contract."
"Encouraging the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to conduct an environmental impact study related to landing commercial booster rockets and spacecraft at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility."
Registration still open for the 18th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference, set to take place this week (Feb. 4-5) at the National Housing Center in Washington, D.C. The conference will address the latest in U.S. commercial launch activities, human spaceflight, crew, and spaceports and includes the opportunity to meet and network with key federal officials from DOT, NASA, and DOD, industry leaders, space entrepreneurs, international space partners, legislators, astronauts, educators, and space enthusiasts. This is the premier event for information about the FAA's role and the future direction of commercial space transportation. Onsite registration and webcast options also available. More information at: http://www.faacst2015.com
Twitter hashtag: #FAACST2015
"The United States government has taken a new, though preliminary, step to encourage commercial development of the moon. According to documents obtained by Reuters, U.S. companies can stake claims to lunar territory through an existing licensing process for space launches. The Federal Aviation Administration, in a previously undisclosed late-December letter to Bigelow Aerospace, said the agency intends to "leverage the FAA's existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis."
Nissan and NASA partner to jointly Develop and Deploy Autonomous Drive Vehicles by End of Year, (revised with text of NASA Space Act Agreement) Nissan
"Nissan Motor Co., through its North American-based organization, and NASA today announced the formation of a five-year research and development partnership to advance autonomous vehicle systems and prepare for commercial application of the technology."
NASA's Stealth Autonomous Vehicle Partnership, earlier post