NSS Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest

NSS Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest
NSS Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest

The NASA Space Shuttle Enterprise never made it to orbit. While that was the original intent, subsequent redesigns undertaken during the Enterprise testing phase made this impractical.

Most tragically, another Enterprise – Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise, crashed in the Mojave Desert on October 31, 2014 – a crash in which co-pilot Michael Alsbury lost his life. VSS Enterprise had undertaken more than thirty successful test flights and was the first of five planned suborbital spacecraft to be used to send tourists and experiments on suborbital trips to space.

Unfortunately the news media focus on the space tourism aspect of companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace while largely ignoring the fact that these spacecraft will be important platforms for conducting a wide variety of experiments in a microgravity environment.

But suborbital is not orbital. With luck and public support the first Enterprise to orbit the Earth will be the NSS Enterprise Orbiter which will carry approximately 100 competitively selected student experiments into low Earth orbit and after a week’s time return them safely to Earth.

Before the Enterprise can be built it must be designed. And this is where you can help. One feature of this program is that the Enterprise in Space team is calling on artists, engineers, science fiction fans, students, designers, space activists, and dreamers to come up with their own concept of what the NSS Enterprise Orbiter should look like. And unlike the overwhelming majority of art, graphics, and design contests that require entrants to pay a submission fee, entry in the Enterprise in Space Design Contest is free!

If designing spacecraft isn’t for you then you can support the Enterprise in Space project by:

As the newly appointed manager for the EIS Orbiter Design Contest I offer the following basic tips for those entering the contest.

My first tip is to do it. Not only are there some great prizes for the contest winner but the winner will have a place in the history of private/personal space exploration.

My second tip is that you don’t have to be a master of 3D or CAD software. I’ll remind you that such software is a very recent invention. It’s the design that counts and that can be illustrated using nothing more complex than paper, pencil, and ruler.

Third is to follow the rules. An important rule is to not design a spacecraft that looks like a spacecraft that is associated with a spacecraft from TV or film. It must be your own original design.

Fourth is to be mindful that the spacecraft you design will be housing somewhere around one hundred student experiments. That means avoiding a design that minimizes internal volume. Once manufactured, your orbiter will physically have as its maximum dimensions 8 feet by 8 feet by 6 feet so be mindful of the factors 8 x 8 x 6 in designing your craft.

So now is the time to either fire up your favorite graphics software or grab your drafting supplies and get to designing a spacecraft that is truly unique. The submission deadline is fast approaching so don’t delay. But first make sure you fully understand the contest by reading the Enterprise In Space Design Contest Rules.

Lastly, I would like to wish everyone entering the contest the best of luck and I look forward to seeing the designs you create.

Ad Astra, Jim Plaxco; Manager, Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest

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National Space Society Encourages Virgin Galactic To Press On

The National Space Society (NSS) extends its support to Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites over the tragic loss of SpaceShipTwo and offers its heartfelt sympathy to the families involved and to everyone who worked on that program.

“We are extremely honored that Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides served on the NSS team as our Executive Director and we all stand by him in this time of difficulty,” said Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the NSS Executive Committee. “We expect that the cause of the accident will be found and fixed so that the Virgin Galactic dream of ‘opening space to tens of thousands of people’ can become a reality.”

NSS encourages Virgin Galactic to continue moving forward. NSS has been a consistent supporter of private efforts to develop space commercially, including both orbital and sub-orbital tourism. Economic returns from spaceflight are necessary for humanity’s long-term future in space.

NSS notes that fatal accidents during both the testing of aircraft and their operation were relatively common during the early days of commercial aviation, and now it has happened in commercial space flight. America was always built on the courage of those who dared to explore new frontiers. From Lewis and Clark to the Apollo astronauts, great men and women have tested themselves against the frontiers of their age.

The frontier of space is far from tamed. The men and women of Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites are engaged in one of the great efforts of our time: opening space for all humanity. That is a noble pursuit and we are all thankful for their work and for their sacrifice.

NSS Executive Vice President Paul Werbos sums up: “This is a sad moment for the space tourism industry and the families of the pilots. The Scaled Composites pilots are true heroes who risked their lives to blaze a trail to a better future for everyone.”

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SPACE IS OUR FUTURE: A Campaign for Space

The National Space Society (NSS) has initiated a campaign to explain the importance and wonder of space exploration and development. To support this campaign, NSS conducted a Kickstarter project to produce a short, compelling video that explains the great things we can do in space, and why they matter. Focusing on the exciting new opportunities that are now appearing, the video includes interviews with a wide range of space proponents, from artists to astronauts, scientists to students, engineers to entrepreneurs. They all explain, in their own words, why space is important to them and to humanity, and how everyone can be involved. Their passion is evident, and typifies NSS’s commitment. The video is intended to be used with a wide range of audiences, from students to investors, civic groups and Congressional representatives, and explains why “Space Is Our Future”. The video consists of several independent segments that are shown here together in one 15-minute video.

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National Space Society Leaders Have Their Say

NSS Senior Vice President and Senior Operating Officer Bruce Pittman was featured on The Space Show on October 13, speaking for 90 minutes on the emerging commercial space industry and related topics. You can listen to the program here.

NSS Board of Directors member John Strickland had an article published in The Space Review, also on October 13: The Incredible, Expendable Mars Mission. Five years ago, NASA published its latest detailed architecture for human missions to Mars. Strickland’s article explores that architecture and discusses several ways it could be improved to make it more robust and less expensive.

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Sierra Nevada Corporation Developing Dream Chaser Version for Stratolaunch

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has announced a design for an integrated system for human spaceflight that can be launched to low Earth orbit (LEO) using Stratolaunch System’s air launch architecture and a scale version of SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft.

The Dream Chaser is a reusable, lifting-body spacecraft capable of crewed or autonomous flight. Dream Chaser is the only lifting-body spacecraft capable of a runway landing, anywhere in the world. Stratolaunch Systems is a Paul G. Allen project dedicated to developing an air-launch system that will revolutionize space transportation by providing orbital access to space at lower costs, with greater safety and more flexibility.

As designed, the Dream Chaser-Stratolauncher human spaceflight system can carry a crew of three astronauts to LEO destinations. This versatile system can also be tailored for un-crewed space missions, including science missions, light cargo transportation or suborbital point-to-point transportation. The scaled crewed spacecraft design is based on SNC’s full-scale Dream Chaser vehicle which, for the past four years, has undergone development and flight tests as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Chuck Beames, president, Vulcan Aerospace Corp and executive director for Stratolaunch Systems said, “Combining a scaled version of SNC’s Dream Chaser with the Stratolaunch air launch system could provide a highly responsive capability with the potential to reach a variety of LEO destinations and return astronauts or payloads to a U.S. runway within 24 hours.”

“This relationship would expand our portfolio to include the highly flexible Stratolaunch system for launching reusable crewed or uncrewed spacecraft, or for rapid satellite constellation deployment,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems.

In addition to supporting development of human spaceflight capability, SNC studied satellite launch options and mechanisms, as well as point-to-point transportation options using the Stratolaunch launch system with a Dream Chaser spacecraft derivative. The Stratolaunch system is uniquely designed to allow for maximum operational flexibility and payload delivery from several possible operational sites, while minimizing mission constraints such as range availability and weather.

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Baen Memorial Contest Opens

Baen Books has opened the 2015 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award contest. Co-sponsored by the National Space Society, the contest focuses on stories of near-future space exploration. The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2015.

The grand prize includes publication on the Baen website at professional rates, an engraved award, an assortment of Baen books, free admission to the 2015 International Space Development Conference, a year’s membership in the National Space Society, and National Space Society merchandise. The winners will be honored at the 2015 International Space Development Conference in Toronto, Canada, May 20-24, 2015.

Eligibility requirements and more information.

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NSS at the Atlantic Council

Dale Skran, Deputy Chair of the NSS Policy Committee,  and Scott Pace, NSS Board of Governors, spoke at “The Final Frontier: Renewing America’s Space Program,” an Atlantic Council event held September16, 2014 at the Newseum in Washington DC.  Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., the Chairman of the Atlantic Council, opened the meeting.  The first major speech was by Jill Tarter, former Director of the Center for SETI Research, SETI Institute, and the model for the Jodie Foster character in the movie CONTACT.  Along with a call for the search for extraterrestrial life, Tarter supported two major NSS themes: asteroid mining and protecting the Earth from cosmic impacts (see the NSS position paper on this topic).

Scott Pace, Director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy and Director, Space Policy Institute, The George Washington University, participated in the first panel, moderated by Jeff Foust of Space News (a video of the full 2-hour panel is available on YouTube).  The title of this panel was “Sustaining NASA Human Space Exploration” and much of the discussion was in response to the recent National Research Council report on Human Spaceflight.  Many of the other panel members had been part of the NRC committee that produced the Human Spaceflight report.  A notable panel member was Hannah Kerner, Board Chair of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), and also of Planet Labs, who made the case for space settlement as the primary horizon goal for humans in space as opposed to the “footprints on Mars” position taken by the NRC report.

Dale Skran supported the second panel, titled “Pathways to Collaboration,” moderated by Damon Wilson of the Atlantic Council (video of the full 90-minute panel is also available on YouTube).  Other participants included Jeff Feige (Space Frontier Foundation and CEO of Orbital Outfitters), John M. Olson (VP Space Systems, Sierra Nevada Corporation), and William Pomerantz (VP Special Projects, Virgin Galactic).  The discussion focused on human space flight cooperation with commercial entities and international groups.  A Storify summary of both panels can be found on the Atlantic Council website.

Atlantic Council panel

Dale Skran (center), Deputy Chair of the NSS Policy Committee, participates in Atlantic Council panel.

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National Space Society Launches “Enterprise In Space”

The National Space Society (NSS) is launching a new project called “Enterprise In Space” (EIS).  This project will design, build, launch, orbit, re-enter, tour, and display a science-fiction-inspired satellite as a science education and technology demonstration project for all ages and as a tribute to the great visionaries of science and science fiction.

Inspired by the classic science fiction writers of the 20th century including Heinlein, Clark and Roddenberry, the EIS project is a grassroots effort by a dedicated team of aerospace, information technology, and education veterans. The goal of the EIS project is to launch an orbital mission by 2019 that will carry 100 or more competitively selected student experiments from around the globe, and to test out new space technology. This is an opportunity for people to directly support something truly historic. EIS will reach out to people with interests in space, science, education, astronomy, cosmology, and science fiction.

A three-minute video explains the entire idea at the Enterprise in Space website (www.enterpriseinspace.org).

Bruce Pittman“The National Space Society is proud to launch the Enterprise in Space project to the world,” said National Space Society Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “This is an opportunity for people worldwide to come together to help transform this exciting concept into a remarkable reality. EIS is yet another example of the burgeoning free enterprise use of space.”

Shawn CaseWhat began as a dream by Oregonian science fiction and space enthusiast Shawn Case four years ago is now a major NSS project. Case and his team have prepared a well-defined project plan to launch an orbiter dubbed “NSS Enterprise,” with its artistic design to be conceived by a public competition. The spacecraft will re-enter from orbit for retrieval, go on a tour along with the results of the student experiments, and ultimately be displayed in a major museum along with the names of all who helped fund it.

Case has assembled a professional team skilled in project management, aerospace, social media, and education to carry out the project. Case believes that giving each donor the opportunity to be a virtual crew member and get his or her name on an electronic chip to be carried aloft on this historic flight will greatly increase interest in the project and in space exploration.

Buzz AldrinFamed Apollo 11 moonwalker and NSS Governor Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin endorses EIS: “There’s an exciting new project called Enterprise In Space that I want to tell you about. Together with the National Space Society, the Enterprise In Space project will launch an eight-foot Enterprise satellite into orbit and bring it back to Earth. This is an educational and inspirational tribute to all Enterprise ships in history, to science visionaries, and to the vision of the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry. My name has been to space and back. Now it’s your turn. Rendezvous with me and support the Enterprise in Space project. Help make history all over again.”

Lynne ZielinskiProposals for experiments to be flown on the orbiter will be sought from students of all nations and ages, from kindergarten through university. Lynne F. Zielinski, a national award-winning educator, NSS Director and Vice President of Public Affairs, will head the EIS education team. “In my 32 years of teaching, I have worked with hundreds of students to send experiments aboard six space shuttle and nine NASA sub-orbital rocket flights,” Zielinski said.  “Students really have a lot to offer. I’ve seen the potential of students when they’re excited about being a real part of space flight exploration. Age is no barrier. They quickly adopt cutting-edge ideas and technology.”

The project’s appeal to those interested in space, science, and education goes hand-in-hand with its appeal to science fiction fans, many of whom have a naturally optimistic view of the future and of humans living and working in space–the goals that NSS has promoted since its founding.

Great visionary science fiction writers created hopes that people would be on the Moon and on the way to Mars by now. Let’s help to turn science fiction into science reality, bridging the conceptual gap through education, imagination, and inspiration. Through real-world enterprise, the people of Earth will contribute to the vision of Enterprise In Space.

enterpriseinspace.org
facebook.com/EnterpriseInSpace
twitter.com/EnterpriseSat

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New NASA report on “Emerging Space” emphasizes private-public cooperation

When NASA was founded, only a government program could undertake a voyage from the Earth to the Moon. This may not be true in the future.

Thus begins a new NASA report, “Emerging Space” that emphasizes private-public cooperation in creating a “new economic ecosystem in space”. The 42-page, 44-megabyte report is available for free download in PDF format.

Emerging Space

Below are paragraphs from the first and last pages:

The next era of space exploration will see governments pushing technological development and the American private sector using these technologies as they expand their economic activities to new worlds. NASA’s next objectives for exploration—visits to asteroids and Mars—are more complex than any previous space mission attempted. They will happen in the context of relatively smaller NASA budgets and an expanding commercial space economy. Teaming with private sector partners to develop keystone markets like low Earth orbit (LEO) transportation and technological capabilities like asteroid mining will help NASA achieve its mission goals, help the space economy evolve to embrace new ambitions, and provide large economic returns to the taxpayer through the stimulation and growth of new businesses and 21st century American jobs.

Fifty years after the creation of NASA, our goal is no longer just to reach a destination. Our goal is to develop the capabilities that will allow the American people to explore, pioneer, and expand our economic sphere into the solar system. To do this we will build on our long-standing relationships with American industry by embracing new and diverse forms of partnerships. Private-sector leadership in space exploration was the normal state of affairs in America before the foundation of NASA. Today, we have recognized the advantages of that earlier model in terms of private-sector energy and initiative, combined it with NASA’s legacy of technical expertise and programmatic accomplishment, and have helped give rise to the birth of a ‘Second Space Age’. The space economy of the future will come about through the combined efforts of government, private industry, scientists, students and citizens, each playing their own unique and essential role. Together, we will create a new economic ecosystem in space that will hasten our journey into the cosmos.

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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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