Commercialization: July 2017 Archives

Mission Approved - Bob Richards on the Moon Express Plan to Commercialize the Moon, SpaceQ

"Moon Express has raised $45 million(US), built hardware, tested some of it, and gotten the FAA and other government agencies to approve of its first commercial mission to the moon, and in less than a year might have its first spacecraft on the moon."

"In this episode of the SpaceQ podcast Bob Richards, CEO and co-founder of Moon Express talks about the latest news from the company, including how lunar samples they return could be worth tens of millions, possibly even hundreds of millions. If true, and if Moon Express can return those samples, then an important part of their business plan will have been accomplished and a new commercial frontier will have been opened up."

NASA's Commercial Crew Program Target Flight Dates

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation mission. The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly-releasable dates for both providers."

Michael J. Fox Foundation and CASIS Announce Partnership to Grow Key Parkinson's Protein on International Space Station

"The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announce a partnership to send a key Parkinson's protein to the International Space Station for growth under microgravity conditions. Microgravity may allow bigger, more regular LRRK2 protein crystals to grow, which helps solve the protein's structure. That information could help scientists design optimized therapies against LRRK2, a key target in the pursuit of a Parkinson's cure."


"Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), also known as dardarin (from the Basque word "dardara" which means trembling), is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the PARK8 gene. LRRK2 is a member of the leucine-rich repeat kinase family. Variants of this gene are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease and also Crohn's disease."

Keith's note: Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing. Even if CASIS is trying to distance itself from NASA, anyone with an ounce of Internet savvy would know that "NASA" is a search term that would heighten the visibility of this press release as it is posted elsewhere on the Internet. Again - this is significant news and CASIS should be congratulated for pulling it off. I'm just not sure they have a full grasp of the responsibility that they have been given by NASA.

CASIS Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2017

"Executive Summary: The second fiscal quarter (Q2) of 2017 (FY17) brought forward meaningful progress for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and demonstrated signals of opportunity for future space science platforms. From a big picture perspective, key developments in commercial space outside of the ISS National Lab are noteworthy for our stakeholder community. In March, SpaceX achieved a historic milestone on the road to reusability in space transportation with the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket. This achievement in reusability signals the tangible progress that the industry is making toward lowering the cost of transportation, a well-established barrier for space research and development. In addition to this milestone, commercial companies publicly announced this quarter intent to develop standalone, privately funded space stations within the decade. Finally, Congress' actions to pass the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 provide a firm foundation for continuity of progress toward America's leadership in commercial space. These developments are encouraging to both traditional and nontraditional users of the ISS National Lab as our nation looks to develop long-term research initiatives in space. Adding to this renewed excitement in commercial space, momentum with space research development on the ISS National Lab continues to accelerate and expand."

Keith's note: What's really bizarre is that CASIS is feeding this overt NASA PR hype back to NASA as part of a quarterly report to its (sole) customer. As if NASA had not already read its own hype without the need for CASIS to regurgitate it as part of a contract deliverable. Or maybe CASIS is just trying to make NASA feel better and simultaneously inflate its on value by aligning itself with the NASA spin machine. Hard to tell. Maybe they hope the new White House staff are reading these things. There's actually a lot of really important updates in these quarterly reports (more to follow) that are worthy of wider dissemination. Valuable research is being accomplished on the ISS. I am just baffled as to why CASIS feels the need to puff it all up with hype.

Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation.

Keith's note: I was at the ISS R&D Conference today in Washington, DC (I'll be there all week). One of today's events was a panel that discussed the role of the National Academy of Science in advising NASA - specifically the Decadal Survey done on human spaceflight back in 2011. To be certain, as I have noted before, a lot of the NASA/NAS interaction is akin to choir practice in an echo chamber. But there is a lot of useful observation and advice embedded in these NASA reports that NASA would be wise to consider with regard to human spaceflight.

There was an odd interaction toward the end of the session when ISS Director Sam Scimemi asked if there was anything that the NAS could do to interest other federal agencies in spending money on space activities - which is an odd thing to consider even asking the NAS since they simply do not do that sort of advocacy. They are supposed to be impartial. As such its rather strange for the senior NASA civil servant running the ISS to be thinking - much less to say something like this in a public forum. Does he not know what role the NAS plays? Maybe someone should explain this to him. Its even odder that Scimemi would be out trying to drum up more funds for space given how well NASA did in the FY 2018 White House budget when compared to how badly other science agencies did in that same budget proposal. This makes NASA seem greedy and/or clueless.

Vector Space Systems - Small Rockets, Small Satellites and Possibly a Big Payday, SpaceQ (Story and Podcast)

"In 2016 Jim Cantrell and group of veteran space professionals started Vector Space Systems. Their goal? Nothing less than than building a small satellite launch company capable of launching upwards of 100 small satellites a year from at least three spaceports."

Note: Vector received some initial grant money from NASA.

Related: $30 Billion Market Value for Small Satellites Over Coming Decade, Euroconsult

"According to Euroconsult's latest report, Prospects for the Small Satellite Market, significant expansion in terms of capabilities and demand is underway in the smallsat market. Over 6,200 smallsats are expected to be launched over the next ten years, a substantial augmentation over that of the previous decade (several mega constellations are now included within the scope of this report). The smallsat market from 2017-2026 will be driven by the roll-out of multiple constellations accounting for more than 70% of this total, mainly for commercial operators."

"The total market value of these smallsats could reach $30.1 billion in the next ten years, up from $8.9 billion over the previous decade."

Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement (with video)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene the rescheduled hearing titled "Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement" at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 13, 2017. The subcommittee will examine partnerships between the U.S. government and commercial space industry to advance space exploration."

- Statement by Robert Cabana
- Statement by Tim Ellis
- Statement by Tim Hughes
- Statement by Jeffrey Manber
- Statement by Moriba Jah
- Statement by Sen. Bill Nelson

Moon Express Unveils Lunar Mission Architecture, Moon Express

"On July 12, 2017, Moon Express unveiled its exploration architecture, including plans to establish the world's first permanent lunar outpost at the South Pole of the Moon by 2020. The company's robotic explorers are flexible, scalable platforms that will help reopen the American frontier on the Moon, conduct prospecting and sample return operations, and support lunar science, exploration and commerce."

What You Need To Know About The Space Law Congress Is Considering, The Federalist

"Want to make money in space? It appears that Congress wants to help. It also appears from what Congress has so far proposed that their help will have only a limited value. The heart of the problem is twofold. First, the regulatory framework that American companies must navigate to get projects off the ground is difficult and complex. They must deal with multiple government agencies whose conflicting needs cause delays and increased costs. Sometimes this bureaucracy kills projects entirely. Second, there is significant worry in the investment community about the uncertainty of property rights in space. Article II of the Outer Space Treaty forbids countries from claiming territory in space, which means it is difficult for capitalist countries like the United States to establish secure property rights for its citizens on any territory in space."

It was a case of the third time being the charm as SpaceX conducted its 10th launch this year. The Intelsat 35e has separated from the Falcon 9 second stage as expected and is in a good orbit.

- Launch replay.

SpaceX Dragon's second splashdown is a historic first, CNET

"Until now, no single craft has visited the ISS and returned to Earth more than once. In fact, all other non-SpaceX vehicles that visit the space station are designed to burn up in the atmosphere after a single flight. SpaceX has been recovering its Dragon capsules via splashdowns in the ocean, but this is the first time that one of those recycled craft has completed a second re-supply mission."



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