Commercialization: March 2018 Archives

NASA chief explains why agency won't buy a bunch of Falcon Heavy rockets, Ars Technica

"Since the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, NASA has faced some uncomfortable questions about the affordability of its own Space Launch System rocket. By some estimates, NASA could afford 17 to 27 Falcon Heavy launches a year for what it is paying annually to develop the SLS rocket, which won't fly before 2020. Even President Trump has mused about the high costs of NASA's rocket. On Monday, during a committee meeting of NASA's Advisory Council, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale raised this issue. Following a presentation by Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, Hale asked whether the space agency wouldn't be better off going with the cheaper commercial rocket. ... One difficulty with Gerstenmaier's response to Hale's question is that NASA does not, in fact, yet have any "large-volume, monolithic pieces" that could only be launched by the Space Launch System."

Making Life Multi-Planetary, Elon Musk

"We are targeting our first cargo missions in 2022 - that's not a typo, although it is aspirational. We've already started building the system - the tooling for the main tanks has been ordered, the facility is being built and we will start construction of the first ship around the second quarter of next year. In about six to nine months we should start building the first ship. I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and be ready for a launch in about five years. Five years seems like a long time to me. The area under the curve of resources over that period of time should enable this time frame to be met, but if not this time frame, I think pretty soon thereafter. But that is our goal, to try to make the 2022 Mars rendezvous. The Earth-Mars synchronization happens roughly every two years, so every two years there is an opportunity to fly to Mars. Then in 2024 we want to try to fly four ships - two cargo and two crew."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves Space Exploration and Entrepreneurship Bills

"The American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act, or the ALSTAR Act, (H.R. 5345) was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Space Subcommittee. The Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act (H.R. 5346) was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), a member of the Space Subcommittee. The Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act (H.R. 5086) was introduced on February 26, 2018, by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), ranking member on the Research and Technology Subcommittee, and cosponsored by Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), a member of the Research and Technology Subcommittee."

NASA Independent Review Team SpaceX CRS-7 Accident Investigation Report Public Summary

"The SpX CRS-7 mission consisted of a SpaceX Falcon 9 version 1.1 launch vehicle and a Dragon spacecraft loaded with 4303 lbs (1952 kgs) of cargo. At approximately 139 seconds into flight, the launch vehicle experienced an anomalous event in the upper stage liquid oxygen (LOx) tank, resulting in the loss of the mission. The first stage of the vehicle, including all nine Merlin 1D engines, operated nominally. The Dragon spacecraft also indicated no anomalous behavior prior to the mishap, and survived the second stage event, continuing to communicate with ground controllers until it dropped below the horizon."

Elon Musk, speaking at SXSW, projects Mars spaceship will be ready for short trips by first half of 2019, CNBC

"Musk held a surprise question and answer session at the annual technology and culture festival in Austin, Texas on Sunday. The billionaire told attendees that "we are building the first Mars, or interplanetary ship, and I think well be able to short trips, flights by first half of next year." Mindful of elevating expectations too high, Musk hedged a bit. "Although sometimes, my timelines are a little, you know..." he said to laughter."

FCC Accuses Stealthy Startup of Launching Rogue Satellites, IEEE Spectrum

"The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm's application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft. If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites. On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm's system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy."

Keith's note: The following comments were made this morning by President Trump:

"Before me are some rocket ships [there were rocket models in front of him on the table]. You haven't seen that for this country in a long time...Many of the jobs we're doing are privately financed. We're letting them use the Kennedy Space Center for a fee and, you know, rich guys, you know, they love rocket ships. That's good. That's better than us paying for them. And I noticed the prices of the last one they say cost $80 million. If the government did it, the same thing would have cost probably 40- or 50-times that amount of money...I'm so used to hearing different numbers with NASA."

"But NASA is making tremendous strides and we're using a lot of private money, a lot of people that love rockets and they're rich. So they're going to be a little less rich probably, but a lot of rockets are going up. And we're really at the forefront -- nobody's doing what we're doing. And I don't know if you saw last -- with Elon -- with the rocket booster where they're coming back down. To me, that was more amazing than watching the rocket go up, because I've never seen that before. Nobody's seen that before, where they're saving the boosters, and they came back without wings, without anything. They landed so beautifully. So we're really at the forefront and we're doing it in a very private manner."

"At the same time NASA is very much involved and doing their own projects, but we're bringing that whole space flight back. We'll be sending something very beautiful to Mars in the very near future, and we're going to areas that nobody thought possible, certainly not this quickly. So we're very proud."

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Gerstenmaier: U.S. Leadership in Space is "Ours to Lose" If Direction Changes Too Many Times, Space Policy Online

"Bill Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said today that the United States is the "partner of choice" for countries wanting to engage in international space cooperation, but that leadership is "ours to lose" if too many changes in direction drive partners away."

Keith's note: Sage advice. And of course Gerst is totally faultless when it comes to all of the changes in direction. right? Lets dial back a decade or so. First Gerst was behind the Ares I/V/Orion Constellation thing. Then he was behind the SLS/Orion thing when the Constellation thing was turned upside down. Then he pushed the Journey to Mars thing. Then he jumped in behind the Asteroid Retrieval thing which eventually became the grab the small boulder thing. When no one liked the asteroid thing any more, he picked up the pieces and jumped behind the Deep Space Gateway thing. Then, to pay for the Deep Space gateway thing he jumped behind the commercialize ISS thing (with no one lined up to pay the bills). Then when the Mars thing was fading he pivoted to the Back to the Moon thing but he still wants to walk away from ISS in LEO to build a mini-ISS with no as-yet determined purpose out near the Moon.

Gerst is certainly flexible and adaptable. And he has kept a lot of important things alive that others sought to kill. But consistent in his direction? No. Not surprisingly, year after year he'll tell you that the Ares V/SLS is the perfect rocket for all of these ever-changing missions and destinations - even if he can never give a consistent cost of what an SLS costs to launch as the schedules continue to slip to the right. Of course he'll tell you that all of these pivots were all due to White House and/or Congressional direction and re-direction. He's correct. But behind the scenes in all of those scenarios, Gerst and HEOMD were constantly pitching their ideas to impressionable staffers - always trying to pivot to stay in synch with the space flavor of the month and stay one step ahead of the budget axe to keep the marching army employed. And of course no one has money for any of the payloads that SLS will fly. But its all notional anyway, so why bother with the actual budget thing.

Now, NASA can buy Falcon Heavy launches at 1/5 (or cheaper) the cost of an SLS with roughly 70% of a SLS launch capability online. And more cheap heavy lift is on the way from other suppliers coupled with nimble, small launchers from another suite of suppliers. Gerst is quite correct to warn that constant changes in direction can sour current and potential partners on future projects. But he seems to not see that this very problem he cites has been happening under his watch. Possible partners are now looking to China because China offers them what they want - while NASA offers potential parters what they can have. These two things are not the same.

The old way of exploring space no longer works. If NASA doesn't everyone else will. In fact, they already are. The agency is stuck in outdated subroutines that run in circles that result in increasingly inefficient output. Its time to hit the reset button.

Trump threatens to slap retaliatory tariff on European cars as trade war talk heats up, CNBC

"Trump's hasty decision to impose tariffs on steel imports has stoked talk of a brewing trade war, roiling both the political establishment and the global economic order. The move also prompted E.U. trade chiefs to weigh hitting a broad array of U.S. imports with a 25 percent tax, Reuters reported this week."

New Tariffs Could Harm Industry Critical to American Economic Security, Aerospace Industries Association

"Friday morning on CNBC, AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning was featured immediately following Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, emphasizing: "This is going to impact companies big and small in the aerospace and defense world. More importantly, we're concerned about retaliation. The aerospace and defense industry generates the largest net surplus in the manufacturing sector - over $86 billion a year. These companies thrive on the exports of their products."

Why Europe and Canada may retaliate against bourbon, Harleys and Levi jeans, Washington Post

"Another alternative would be to ban U.S. companies from bidding on Canadian defense and infrastructure contracts, Mendes, the economist, said. The advantage to that approach would be that Canadian consumers wouldn't feel the impact in their wallets. When Boeing launched a complaint against Bombardier, claiming the Canadian company had benefited from unfair government subsidies in the production of its C Series jet, the Canadian government retaliated by saying it wouldn't consider buying fighter jets from Boeing. That dispute was effectively settled in January, when the U.S. International Trade Commission voted that Boeing was not harmed by Bombardier."

Keith's note: I am waiting to see how the trade war that the White House has started will affect willingness of affected nations to cooperate with U.S. on future human spaceflight and on U.S. commercial space sector - and example of both being the Deep Space Gateway. Protectionism and isolationism do not seem to be synonymous with such an expansive endeavor as the exploration and utilization of space.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from March 2018.

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