SpaceX Applauds Breakthrough Compromise in U.S. Senate on NASA Budget

Press Release from SpaceX:

Legislation Supports Domestic Commercial Crew Initiatives to Reduce Reliance on Russian Soyuz and Bring Critical High-Tech Jobs Back to the U.S.

Hawthorne, CA, July 20, 2010SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) applauds the efforts of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for their unanimous, bipartisan approval of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. This landmark legislation ushers in a new era in human spaceflight by embracing the commercial sector as a full partner and recognizing commercial crew services as the primary means of astronaut transport to the International Space Station (ISS).

“We are pleased that the Senate Commerce Committee has recognized that the best and only near-term option for eliminating America’s reliance on the Russian Soyuz for astronaut transportation is the development and use of commercial systems, such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft,” said Elon Musk, CEO & CTO, SpaceX. “For about the same amount that is currently being spent on purchasing seats on Russian launch vehicles, we can create thousands of high-tech, high-paying jobs right here at home.”

In 2010, NASA will pay the Russian Space Agency $287.4 million for 6 seats on Russian Soyuz flights, which amounts to $47.9 million per seat. By 2013, the price per seat paid to Russia to carry U.S. astronauts will exceed $55 million.

Though it provides less funding than the President’s request, the new legislation provides $312 million in FY11 funding for the development of American commercial systems to transport crew to the ISS. SpaceX is one of several companies currently developing commercial crew technology funded by NASA, including Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corporation, Illinois-based Boeing Company, Colorado-based United Launch Alliance, Washington-based Blue Origin, Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace, and Arizona-based Paragon Space Development Corporation.

SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft test article in June 2010, meeting 100% of mission objectives on its first attempt. The first demonstration flight with a fully operational Dragon spacecraft is targeted for late summer 2010. This flight will be the first under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program which was established in 2006 to encourage private companies to develop commercial space transport capabilities. SpaceX currently employs over 1,100 people across California, Texas and Florida.

NASA Senate Authorization Bill

The National Space Society Commends the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s Unanimous Approval of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010.

The National Space Society (NSS) commends the members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for their unanimous agreement on the provisions of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. The authorization bill, which was approved by the Committee on July 15th, calls for a balanced and sustainable space program. The bill establishes a bi-partisan framework that provides a basis for compromise between both the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as with the Executive Branch.

Establishing the long-term goal of the human space flight and exploration efforts of NASA as the expansion of the permanent human presence beyond Low Earth Orbit is in keeping with and a necessary precursor to achieving the Society’s goals of people living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.

The expansion of human space flight beyond the International Space Station and Low Earth Orbit requires a combination of launch systems, crew vehicles, infrastructure, and technology development all of which are integral to the bill as approved.

NSS supports the requirement for the immediate development of a Space Launch System as a follow-on launch vehicle to the Space Shuttle, and commends the Committee’s emphatic emphasis on the importance of the heavy lift launch capability being missionenabling, sustainable, and affordable to use. NSS supports the requirement for developing a multi-purpose crew vehicle designed to support beyond earth orbit exploration capable of being launched by the Space Launch System.

NSS supports the requirements for the development of and the investment in the necessary infrastructure and technology to allow for an increasing ability to operate in, and extend human presence into, space.

NSS supports the requirements for the Commercial Cargo Development Program and expansion of the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2011 and going forward at the fastest supportable rate. NSS implores those involved to fund these activities to the fullest extent possible, without compromising the ability of commercial firms to deliver on the promise of a broadly competitive space transportation market.

“The NSS has long championed a balanced, multi-faceted approach to the future direction of our nation’s space program: Support for commercial efforts to develop rockets that will service the International Space Station and to otherwise provide flight operations to and from Low Earth Orbit, while at the same time having NASA focus instead on development efforts for exploring beyond Low Earth Orbit with both human and robotic missions,” said Gary Barnhard, Executive Director of the NSS.

A summary of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, as approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with additional related material, can be found on the NSS website at

“The NSS is gratified that the branches of our government are working together to find a solution to the great challenges, both fiscal and otherwise, which face our nation’s space program,” said Rick Zucker, NSS Vice President for Public Affairs.

Added Zucker, “Through its many activities, including its annual conferences, its educational outreach, and its grassroots space advocacy efforts, the NSS serves as a leader in the space advocacy community. NSS will continue to be a staunch advocate for a comprehensive and sustainable space program and budget, and will continue to work with the executive and legislative branches, industry, the space advocacy community, and the general public to attain that goal.”

Moon Day in Dallas July 18

The National Space Society of North Texas, in conjunction with the Frontiers of Flight Museum, is hosting Moon Day 2010 on Sunday July 18 from 1 pm to 5 pm. In addition to displays and demonstrations by numerous space-related organizations, “Moon Day” features “lunar sample bags” of giveaway items for the first 150 visitors, door prizes throughout the day, and a considerable array of family-oriented programs and activities. The Frontiers of Flight Museum is located on the southeast corner of Dallas Love Field Airport at 6911 Lemmon Avenue (entrance at University and Lemmon) and the regular $8 admission to the Museum applies to this event.

Complete schedule of events (PDF file).

NASA Senate Authorization Bill

Below are summaries and links to the actual text of the draft NASA 2010 authorization bill as of July 13, along with relevant proposed amendments, to be marked up in committee/subcommittee July 15 (Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Science and Space, chaired by Senator Bill Nelson).

NASA Authorization Bill:

– It’s a 3-year bill, authorizing FY2011-2013
– Over that period, the 3-year total funding for commercial crew is cut 66%, from $3.3B to $1.2B
– The FY2011 funding is explicitly not to begin the program, but only to expand CCDev and conduct a number of studies
– There are at least 6 separate studies and reports that NASA must do before a full Commercial Crew program would move forward.
– Orion is fully revived as a crew exploration vehicle
– An extra shuttle flight is added
– A shuttle-derived heavy-lift development is called for, starting immediately
– To pay for these additions, exploration technology is cut 90%. OCT technology is cut 50%.

Warner Amendment One (“commercial crew/close the gap amendment”):

This amendment proposed by Senator Warner of Virginia would close the gap by fully reversing cuts to commercial crew development funding and by removing arbitrary restrictions preventing a commercial crew competition from beginning in 2011. The amendment would boost commercial crew funding to the level recommended by the President, adding $2.1 billion over three years, a nearly threefold boost. This will close the gap and ensure U.S. access to the International Space Station.

Boxer Amendment One (“technology and robotics amendment”):

This amendment proposed by Senator Barbara Boxer of California would restore cuts to robotic precursor missions, advanced technologies like fuel depots, in-space propulsion, and radiation shielding, and university research. In FY11, the amendment boosts Robotic Precursors by 130%, Exploration Technology Demonstrations by 230%, and the Space Technology Program by 55%, for a total of $356 million more for technology and robotics in FY11.

Udall Amendment One (“commercial suborbital science amendment”):

This amendment proposed by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico would bolster a small but high-profile program, designed to allow students, small companies, and researchers to fly experiments on-board new commercial suborbital space vehicles such as Virgin Galactic or XCOR Aerospace. The amendment would ensure that this program, known as Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR), would be fully funded at $15 million per year and report directly to NASA’s Chief Technology Office to give it high-profile status.

The Demise of Rocketplane

Rocketplane, one of the NewSpace companies that tried to offer suborbital space tourism, quietly filed for liquidation in June, unnoticed until it was reported in an informative article in the Oklahoma Gazette on July 7. An excellent article in today’s Space Review analyses the decline of Rocketplane and its implications for other NewSpace companies.