National Space Society Praises Inclusion of Competition in NASA’s Commercial Crew Decision

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) has been a consistent supporter of competition in NASA’s Commercial Crew program to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). NSS today congratulates the winners of the Commercial Crew competition, Boeing and SpaceX. NSS also thanks NASA for its diligent efforts to maintain real competition in the Commercial Crew program.

The selection of Boeing and SpaceX represents a major milestone toward ending US dependence on the Russian Soyuz to put American Astronauts into space. NSS urges that Congress fully fund this program with full competition at the amounts requested by NASA so that both companies can move forward with dispatch. Further, the continued operation of the International Space Station needs to be funded by Congress to 2024 as requested by the Administration and as far beyond that as practical to enable the full exploitation of the opportunities for commercial research offered by the ISS. A key element of any effort to create more return from the ISS will be the ability of both the Boeing and SpaceX craft to carry up to seven astronauts, potentially allowing the ISS to support a permanent crew of up to 14.

Commercial Crew

Image courtesy NASA

NSS believes that the selection of two Commercial Crew providers is also an essential first step toward the non-governmental development of the resources of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). We look forward to both Boeing and SpaceX supporting Bigelow private space stations in the near future. It is also the hope of NSS that Sierra Nevada will find non-NASA funds to continue the development of its Dream Chaser lifting body.

NSS Executive Vice President Paul Werbos summed up the situation: “This is a great moment for Boeing, SpaceX, and NASA. The door to the American future in space is opening wider, and we need to ensure that Commercial Crew is fully funded to keep it that way.”

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National Space Society August 2014 Home District Blitz Report

By Dale L. Skran, Deputy Chair, NSS Policy Committee

During the month of August 2014, NSS volunteer Blitz teams visited 24 Representatives and Senators from states with a population totaling over 60 million and with a total of 76 representatives.

The August Blitz ran strong in California, boosted by the Space Society of Silicon Valley with help from the Sacramento L5 Society (led by Joe and Donna Bland) and new blitzers Brandon Larson, Doug Plata and Eric Opdahl. Teams participated in meetings with key leaders whose districts/states were blitzed: Representative Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA), House Ways & Means Committee Member Mike Thompson (CA-05), House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) and Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13).

The blitzed districts included those of three members of the House Space Sub-Committee: Ami Bera (CA-07), Julia Brownley (CA-26) and Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48).  In addition to this, blitz teams struck at the offices of key members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, including Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) and Scott Peters (CA-52). The Space Society of Silicon Valley made a practice of attempting to both talk to the Representative in the local district and the space staffers in the DC offices, noting “The hot topics were space commercialization, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, economic development, spaceport locality development, space research and STEM education. Space has a lot of support!”

Other key local coordinators include the Denver Space Society (Jim Barnard, President) and Karen Mermel (Illinois). Jim Barnard led the team that talked to Representative Mike Coffman (CO-6). Representative Coffman has most recently been in the public eye as one of three signers of an open letter to NASA Administrator Bolden calling attention to supposed “anomalies” in SpaceX operations.

The Oklahoma team led by NSS member Steve Swift met with Representative James Lankford (OK-5), who is running for a Senate seat with an excellent chance of winning. This is the kind of long-lead work that ultimately creates influence on Capitol Hill.

Dale Skran, NSS August Home District Blitz Coordinator, said “This was a great first effort and we learned a lot.  There was excellent web support from Fred Becker and David-Brandt Erichsen.  Larry Ahearn worked hard to get the word out to the chapters.  We’ll build on this effort and do more next year.”

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NSS Home District Legislative Blitz August 2014

NSS is organizing a “home district” blitz during August when Congress is in recess and members of Congress are most probably in their home districts. The themes for the blitz include supporting Commercial Crew, advocating for ISS extension and utilization, supporting commercial space, and protecting the Earth against asteroids and comets (see the NSS Blitz Talking Points). The August Blitz is a self-starting, NSS member centered activity. A slide set of guidelines on how to initiate and organize a visit to your Representative/Senator can be found here. AD ASTRAs for the visits can be ordered from dale.skran@nss.org before August 8th at the latest on a first come, first served basis.

If you are interested in participating in the home district visits please send an email to dale.skran@nss.org. This email should contain your contact information. By doing so, you are giving permission for a state/district coordinator to contact you for purposes of organizing home district visits. We especially encourage multiple volunteer coordinators for larger states such as California and Texas. Thanks in advance for your support.

Dale Skran, Deputy Chair, NSS Policy Committee    

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SpaceX Announces Progress on Reusable Rocket

SpaceX released the following statement July 23:

Following last week’s successful launch of six ORBCOMM satellites, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere and soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean. This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able to consistently reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity.

After landing, the vehicle tipped sideways as planned to its final water safing state in a nearly horizontal position. The water impact caused loss of hull integrity, but we received all the necessary data to achieve a successful landing on a future flight. Going forward, we are taking steps to minimize the build up of ice and spots on the camera housing in order to gather improved video on future launches.

At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment. However, our next couple launches are for very high velocity geostationary satellite missions, which don’t allow enough residual propellant for landing. In the longer term, missions like that will fly on Falcon Heavy, but until then Falcon 9 will need to fly in expendable mode.

We will attempt our next water landing on flight 13 of Falcon 9, but with a low probability of success. Flights 14 and 15 will attempt to land on a solid surface with an improved probability of success.

Posted in Commercial Spaceflight, Space Transportation | 1 Comment

NSS Supported Successful Integrated Space Plan Kickstarter

The National Space Society became a $500 logo backer to the “Integrated Space Plan” Kickstarter and encouraged NSS members to help this Kickstarter effort reach its goal.

The “Integrated Space Plan” project is to remake, maintain, and expand the uses of the Integrated Space Plan, a graphically detailed timeline of our future in space for the next 100 years.  NSS leader Ronnie Lajoie writes “The five team leaders are all NSS members, including Jay Wittner, a past NSS Officer and Director, and current chapter officer.  The ISP will complement and supplement our Roadmap to Space Settlement.”

Jay Wittner writes “20 years ago a detailed long term plan was created showing what was needed to develop a robust space infrastructure.  It was called the Integrated Space Plan (ISP).  It was an early infographic developed to depict our future in space.  The original plan by Ron Jones was a hit in the space community and it’s time to update the ISP and post it online so everyone can see the path forward!”  Ron Jones is part of the new team.

NSS leader Gary Barnhard adds “While no one has a monopoly on insight into the future, the combination of perspectives should be integratable into a common framework which provides a context for understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we could go.”

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H.R. 5063: To promote the development of a commercial asteroid resources industry

U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities and protections for private space companies looking to explore space. The American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014 establishes and protects property rights for commercial space exploration and utilization of asteroid resources.

“Asteroids are excellent potential sources of highly valuable resources and minerals,” said Rep. Bill Posey, a Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. “Our knowledge of asteroids – their number, location, and composition – has been increasing at a tremendous rate and space technology has advanced to the point where the private sector is now able to begin planning such expeditions. Our legislation will help promote private exploration and protect commercial rights as these endeavors move forward and I thank Representative Kilmer for working with me to help advance this industry.”

“We may be many years away from successfully mining an asteroid, but the research to turn this from science fiction into reality is being done today,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer, a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. “Businesses in Washington state and elsewhere are investing in this opportunity, but in order to grow and create more jobs they need greater certainty. That’s why I’m excited to introduce this bill with Representative Posey so we can help the United States access new supplies of critical rare metals while serving as a launch pad for a growing industry.”

Currently, rare minerals used to manufacture a wide range of products are found in a small number of countries. This has left the United States dependent on foreign nations for these resources. The limited supply and high demand for these materials, alongside major advances in space technology and a deeper understanding of asteroids, has led a number of private sector investors to begin developing plans to identify and secure high-value minerals found on asteroids and transport them for use here on Earth.

Some rare minerals that could be found within asteroids include: platinum group metals such as platinum, osmium, iridium, ruthenium, rhodium, and palladium in addition to nickel, iron and cobalt.

Posey and Kilmer’s bill would:
• Clarify that resources mined from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained them.
• Ensure U.S. companies can conduct their operation without harmful interference.
• Direct the President to facilitate commercial development of asteroid resources.

Copy of H.R. 5063.

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National Space Society Calls for Less U.S. Dependence on Russian Space Technology

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) strongly recommends in a position paper issued today that Congress should fully support the Commercial Crew program in order to restore independent access to the International Space Station (ISS), prepare to operate the ISS without Russian support, again make low-cost access to space a primary goal of U.S. space policy, and avoid replacing the RD-180 engine manufactured in Russia with a single new engine funded via cost-plus development.

NSS recommends that Congress should maintain competition among Commercial Crew providers while avoiding the imposition of additional contractual obstacles to this program. The U.S. must be self-sufficient in rocket engines for critical functions, both civilian and military. If Congress and the Administration decide a new rocket engine program is justified to replace the RD-180 (currently used in the Atlas V), it must result in multiple prototype liquid fueled hydrocarbon rocket engine development winners to promote competition and innovation and stimulate the entire U.S. aerospace industrial base. To increase affordability, to promote risk-sharing and to incentivize results instead of effort, the United States Government might use “other transactions authority” methods that were used to successfully develop the RS-68 and Merlin rocket engines.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has threatened to pull out of the ISS in 2020, after which the U.S. portion of the ISS would fall to Earth and be destroyed. Having been warned 6 years in advance, the United States should move systematically but immediately to develop commercial U.S. habitation and re-fuelable propulsion modules or other means of reboosting the ISS before 2020.

Paul Werbos, NSS Executive Vice President, said “The U.S. space program has become far too dependent on Russian technology. It is long past time to change that situation.”

See the NSS Position Paper on U.S. Dependence on Russian Technology.

Posted in Commercial Spaceflight, National Space Society, Space Policy | 1 Comment

In Memoriam: Frederick I. Ordway III (1927-2014)

The National Space Society is mourning the passing today of NSS Board of Governors member Frederick I. Ordway III.

Frederick I. Ordway III

Fred Ordway at a book signing at the 2011 NSS International Space Development Conference

Frederick Ira Ordway III was an educator, consultant, researcher, and author on space flight and energy programs. His career began in various geological and engineering positions for Mene Grande Oil Company in San Tome, Venezuela in 1949. Five years later he was in the guided missiles division of the Republic Aviation Corporation. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s he held positions with the General Aeronautics Research Corporation, the National Research and Development Corporation, and Saturn Systems office at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, where he developed a long-time association with Wernher von Braun. From 1960-64 he was Chief of Space Information Systems at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

Next came a period of consulting: 1965-66 for Paramount Pictures The Adventurer’s; and 1968-69 for the Encyclopedia Britannica, the American College Dictionary of the English Language, and Stanley Kubrick at MGM for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Throughout the 1970’s he was in various positions at the Department of Energy; during 1975-77 he was Assistant to the Administrator of ERDA and during 1977-1994 he was Policy and International Affairs director in the special projects office.

Ordway was the author of numerous books including Visions of Spaceflight: Images from the Ordway Collection, The Rocket Team: From the V-2 to the Saturn Moon Rocket, and (with Wernher von Braun) History of Rocketry and Space Travel.

Fred was the recipient of the 2012 National Space Society Space Pioneer Award for a Lifetime of Service to the Space Community as well as the recipient of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Lifetime Achievement.

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NASA selects Deep Space Industries for two asteroid contracts

NASA has awarded two contracts to Deep Space Industries Inc. to accelerate the agency’s plans to partner with private industry on asteroid prospecting and harvesting.  One will analyze commercial approaches to NASA’s asteroid goals and how an industry-led asteroid economy can make crewed Mars missions safer, sooner, and less expensive.  The second will examine several small asteroid-prospecting payloads that can be launched as hitchhikers on NASA missions.

Participating with Deep Space on both successful proposals will be Near Earth LLC, which has been raising capital for satellite and space companies since 2002 (and over $15 billion since 1993 at prior investment banks).  It also frequently provides financial and strategic advisory services to major aerospace companies, satellite operators, private equity firms, and hedge funds.

Dr. Mason Peck of Cornell University, a former Chief Technologist for NASA, will collaborate with Deep Space on the small ride-along payloads contract with research into tiny “Sprites” that could be released by the dozens or hundreds during asteroid encounters to gather wide-area data.

“Deep Space brings commercial insight to NASA’s asteroid planning, because our business is based on supplying what commercial customers in Earth orbit need to operate, as well as serving NASA’s needs for its Moon and Mars exploration,” said CEO Daniel Faber. “The fuel, water, and metals that we will harvest and process will be sold into both markets, making available industrial quantities of material for expanding space applications and services.”

“The space industry is transforming with new lower-cost launch options and inexpensive small satellites, trends that Deep Space intends to exploit for its prospecting missions,” said Hoyt Davidson, Managing Member at Near Earth LLC.  “These missions should position Deep Space for the next major growth opportunity in Space — supplying space enterprises and governments with resources found and processed in space.”

The first study will analyze the economic fundamentals of a commercially oriented Asteroid Initiative, and document the expanded exploration resources that industry could supply to NASA if this course were followed.  NASA would receive greatly improved sampling/surveying technologies for the crew inspecting the captured asteroid at no cost to the agency.  NASA also would gain use of potentially crucial resources harvested from the asteroid without needing to pay for the research and development costs required to unlock them.

Deep Space has several spacecraft types under development for its asteroid mineral surveys, all based on the same core subsystems. In the second study, the company will assess each of these spacecraft for compatibility with NASA’s launch vehicle for its asteroid mission plus the initial launch of NASA’s Space Launch System.  The missions will be designed to further commercial and academic goals through innovations like Cornell’s Sprites.

“Each Sprite is a functional spacecraft weighing less than a penny,” said Dr. Mason Peck.  “Sprites on Deep Space missions will be revolutionary new tools for gathering data across wide areas of interest, both on and around asteroids.”

“A profitable asteroid industry is upon us,” said David Gump, Vice Chair and Director of Marketing for Deep Space.  “During the current prospecting phase, Deep Space revenue sources include providing data to scientists and NASA, and enabling corporate marketers to activate their customers through direct  participation in the asteroid adventure.”

The two system concept studies start next month and will be completed in six months in support the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).  The full NASA announcement of the contract awards is at www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative.

Posted in Asteroid, Commercial Spaceflight, Near Earth Objects, Space Business | 2 Comments

National Space Society Message to Congress

The following was sent to key Congressional leaders.

Washington, DC (June 18, 2014)
Attention Members House/Senate Conference Committee:

National Space Society Urges House/Senate Conference to Fully Support Commercial Crew

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) has been a consistent supporter of NASA’s Commercial Crew program to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

*   While not at the President’s request level, NSS is pleased to see a strong financial commitment to the commercial crew program. Adequate funding is required to rapidly end US reliance on Russia for astronaut transport to the International Space Station.  We urge the Congress to adopt the Senate’s higher level ($805 million) as the bills move through the process.

*   Competition between multiple commercial crew suppliers in the operational service is an essential element of the program and is critical to maintaining the highest level of safety, staying on schedule, and maximizing cost efficiencies.

*   The next round of commercial crew development is progressing according to Congressional direction – through FAR-based firm fixed-price competitive contracts – and the process underway should not be altered or slowed down at this time.

*   The country needs to rapidly develop domestic Astronaut transportation capabilities and NASA’s current approach, coupled with appropriate funding, puts America on that path.

*   NSS also endorses the recent decision by the Obama administration to extend the life of the ISS by four years to 2024.  NASA should take additional steps to further extend both the life and the capabilities of the ISS, including using commercial crew vehicles to support a larger ISS crew, creating greater science, technology and commercial output.

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