CCDev2 – Blue Origin

Blue Origin
Blue Origin Spacecraft
Image Credit:
NASA / Blue Origin

Third in our series on the second round of funding in the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program is the secretive Blue Origin company. The award of $22 million has been announced by NASA.

Funding from this round will help with development through the requirements review stage including work on the thermal protection system and an analysis of the aerodynamics of its cone shaped body.

The spacecraft is designed to carry seven astronauts to low Earth orbit.

It will carry astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station and serve as an ISS emergency escape vehicle for up to 210 days. The vehicle is designed for launch on an Atlas V rocket.

Endeavour – Scrubbed

Endeavour at T-Minus 6 Hours
Image Credit: NASA TV

The launch of Endeavour was scrubbed today due to a failed heater in the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) of the Shuttle. It looks like there are multiple failures on APU1. The Load Control Assembly appears to be the problem, although a short is possible. The next launch opportunity following repairs will be no earlier than Monday, and most likely Wednesday.

CCDev2 – Sierra Nevada

Image Credit: NASA

The second round of funding in the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program has been announced by NASA.

Sierra Nevada Corporation received $80 million in the second round to go with the $20 million it received in 2010. Sierra Nevada acquired the Dream Chaser project in December 2008, and won funding in round one of the CCDev program. This was the largest award in round one.

The project derives from the HL-20 program undertaken in 1990 by NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

The Dream Chaser is designed to carry up to seven people to the International Space Station and back.

The vehicle is designed to launch vertically on an Atlas V rocket and land horizontally on conventional runways.

CCDev2 – Boeing

Boeing CST-100
Image Credit: Boeing

NASA announced the second round of funding in the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.

Boeing was the big winner in CCDev-2, getting $92.3 million, on top of the $18 million it won last year.

The initial $18 million allowed Boeing to complete several risk reduction demonstrations and a System Definition Review (SDR) in October, 2010. The CST-100’s system characteristics and configuration were base-lined. Boeing designed, built and tested a pressurized structure of the crew module. It also developed an avionics systems integration facility to support rapid prototyping and full-scale development.

Boeing notes that the CST-100 spacecraft relies on proven materials and subsystem technologies that are safe and affordable.

Plans include ferrying astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), as well as crew and passengers to the Space Station being proposed by Bigelow Aerospace. The CST-100 is designed to carry up to seven passengers and is designed to be launched by a number of different expendable launch vehicles. These include United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 and Atlas 5, Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9, and the European Ariane 5.

NASA’s new 14-month CCDev-2 Space Act Agreement will enable Boeing to further mature its system to a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), a critical step that ensures the system design meets all requirements.

Students from India win Space Settlement Design Contest

The Grand Prize for the 2011 NASA/NSS Space Settlement Contest went to a  team of seven high school students from Punjab, India, for their double-torus space settlement design called Hyperion. The winning design was selected from 355 submissions from 14 countries.

The Hyperion Space Settlement has a diameter of 1.8 kilometers and would provide a safe and pleasant living and working environment for 18,000 full time residents and an additional population (not to exceed 2,000) of business and official visitors, guests of residents, and vacationers. The settlement would be constructed primarily from lunar materials and be located at the Earth-Moon L4 libration point.

Hyperion Space Settlement
Hyperion Space Settlement

The complete Hyperion design is available for download as a 96-page, 11 MB PDF file.

The winning student team consists of Gaurav Kumar, Deepak Talwar, Harman Jot Singh Walia, Mahiyal B. Singh, Kaenat Seth, Ishaan Mehta, and Navdeep Singh Makkar. They write: “We would like to express thanks to NSS/NASA for this amazing platform that they have created which brings out the best in every individual. It has really helped us chase our dream and bring something we had only imagined to a global stage where it will be judged by the best. We feel elated to be a part of this lifetime experience and that is why we are really grateful to NSS/NASA from the very bottom of our hearts.”

National Space Society Announces Space Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur to be Awarded to SpaceX

In recognition of SpaceX’s groundbreaking year in 2010, with the successful launch of two Falcon 9 rockets, and the safe return of its Dragon capsule, the National Space Society (NSS) is today announcing that Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will be the recipient of the NSS’s 2011 Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur. This award will be presented at the NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC), which will be held from May 18-May 22, 2011 in Huntsville, Alabama. Adam Harris, SpaceX’s Vice President for Government Affairs, will accept the award on behalf of SpaceX.

NSS Executive Director, Gary Barnhard states, “There are certain milestones and breakthroughs that accompany any successful venture, including those in the space industry. SpaceX has clearly demonstrated the engineering skill and tenacity to be a serious contender in the evolving commercial cargo and crew launch vehicle market.”

SpaceX recently announced its proposal to build a new Falcon Heavy lift launch vehicle, with a projected launch date sometime in late 2013 or in 2014. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated that SpaceX is working towards cost reduction in manufacturing while making the rockets lighter and stronger with improved engine thrust and reliability. Even larger vehicles, with greater lifting capabilities are envisioned by SpaceX and others to meet the requirements of NASA’s Heavy Lift program. Says Rick Zucker, NSS Executive Vice President, “Expanding our launch capabilities to include heavy lift options, such as the one which has now been proposed by SpaceX, could make a significant contribution to space exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit.”

Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee, notes that, “The high cost of launch has always hampered the exploration and development of space. With its Falcon Heavy vehicle, SpaceX seeks to achieve a major reduction in launch costs. Such a reduction could enable entirely new categories of space industry, such as commercial space stations and privately funded activities on the Moon in cooperation with a government funded lunar program.”

Information about the Falcon Heavy is at
Information on the ISDC is at:

SpaceX Announces Launch Date for the World's Most Powerful Rocket

Falcon Heavy will lift more than twice as much as any other launch vehicle

See video of full press conference.

WASHINGTON – Today, Elon Musk, CEO and chief rocket designer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) unveiled the dramatic final specifications and launch date for the Falcon Heavy, the world’s largest rocket.

“Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket, which was decommissioned after the Apollo program. This opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions,” Musk told a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“Falcon Heavy will arrive at our Vandenberg, California, launch complex by the end of next year, with liftoff to follow soon thereafter.  First launch from our Cape Canaveral launch complex is planned for late 2013 or 2014.”

Musk added that with the ability to carry satellites or interplanetary spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons or 117,000 pounds to orbit, Falcon Heavy will have more than twice the performance of the Space Shuttle or Delta IV Heavy, the next most powerful vehicle, which is  operated by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.

Just for perspective, 53 metric tons is more than the maximum take-off weight of a fully-loaded Boeing 737-200 with 136 passengers. In other words, Falcon Heavy can deliver the equivalent of an entire airline flight full of passengers, crew, luggage and fuel all the way to orbit.

Falcon Heavy’s first stage will be made up of three nine-engine cores, which are used as the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.  It will be powered by SpaceX’s upgraded Merlin engines currently being tested at the SpaceX rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.  Falcon Heavy will generate 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.  This is the equivalent to the thrust of fifteen Boeing 747s taking off at the same time.

Above all, Falcon Heavy has been designed for extreme reliability.  Unique safety features of the Falcon 9 are preserved, such as the ability to complete its mission even if multiple engines fail. Like a commercial airliner, each engine is surrounded by a protective shell that contains a worst case situation like fire or a chamber rupture, preventing it from affecting other engines or the vehicle itself.

Anticipating potential astronaut transport needs, Falcon Heavy is also designed to meet NASA human rating standards, unlike other satellite launch vehicles.  For example, this means designing to higher structural safety margins of 40% above flight loads, rather than the 25% level of other rockets, and triple redundant avionics.

Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket in history to do propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the center core, thus leaving the center core with most of its propellant after the side boosters separate. The net effect is that Falcon Heavy achieves performance comparable to a three stage rocket, even though only the upper stage is airlit, further improving both payload performance and reliability.  Crossfeed is not required for missions below 100,000 lbs, and can be turned off if desired.

Despite being designed to higher structural margins than other rockets, the side booster stages will have a mass ratio (full of propellant vs empty) above 30, better than any vehicle of any kind in history.

Falcon Heavy, with more than twice the payload, but less than one third the cost of a Delta IV Heavy, will provide much needed relief to government and commercial budgets. In fact, Falcon Heavy at approximately $1,000 per pound to orbit, sets a new world record in affordable spaceflight.

This year, even as the Department of Defense budget was cut, the EELV launch program, which includes the Delta IV, still saw a thirty percent increase.

The 2012 budget for four Air Force launches is $1.74B, which is an average of $435M per launch. Falcon 9 is offered on the commercial market for $50-60M and Falcon Heavy is offered for $80-$125M. Unlike our competitors, this price includes all non-recurring development costs and on-orbit delivery of an agreed upon mission. For government missions, NASA has added mission assurance and additional services to the Falcon 9 for less than $20M.

Note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the US Congress.  That vehicle is intended to carry approximately 150 tons to orbit.  SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars.  Musk also referred to the possible  future development of a Falcon “SuperHeavy” under consideration at SpaceX.

See video animation of the Falcon Heavy.

See video of full press conference.

Space Solar Power – A Multi-National Power Resource


Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a Senior Fellow at India’s Institute of Security Studies, and Senior Fellow at India’s Observer Research Foundation, is urging the United States and India to jointly develop an energy alternative that can take us beyond nuclear technology. Events like the recent earthquake in Japan are causing many to rethink traditional energy sources. The energy alternative suggested is Space Solar Power (SSP). In the online publication “Analysis” of the Indian Observer Research Foundation, Dr. Rajagopalan writes, “With the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, isn’t it time for India and the US to make serious commitments to Space-Based Solar Power?”

Dr. Rajagopalan points out that the concept of space solar power is 40 years old. Much of its technology has been in use for close to sixty years. But space solar power has never been seriously pursued as a major energy option, even though there are supporters of space solar power in Japan, Russia, the European Union, and most of the world’s leading nations.

The National Space Society (NSS) has recently teamed with a former president of India, Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, in the Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative, to drive home the potential of what Dr. Kalam calls “energy harvested in space.” Kalam is famous for his accomplishments in the aerospace field. He is known as the “Missile Man of India” and currently serves as Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology. Dr. Rajagopalan quotes Dr. Kalam: “By 2050, even if we use every available energy resource we have, clean and dirty, conventional and alternative, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, coal, oil, and gas, the world will fall short of the energy we need by 66%.”

Space solar power involves placing large arrays of lightweight solar panels in high Earth orbit, where sunlight is 36 percent stronger than on Earth. Any equipment placed there is totally immune to earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, local wars, rust, corrosion, hail, and other forms of destruction occurring on the ground. The solar power gathered by the arrays is beamed down to a receiver on the ground. Clean electrical energy would be efficiently and safely delivered night and day, 7 days a week. Space solar power could provide a large alternate supply of carbon-free electrical power to the whole Earth. For details see Dr. Rajagopalan’s article.

Most importantly, the prestigious International Academy of Astronautics is expected to complete a study of SSP within weeks, which may set the stage for the first substantial steps towards making SSP a reality. The National Space Society plans to hold a press conference at the National Space Club in Washington DC concerning the study when it is released. NSS also plans to hold a SSP symposium as part of its annual convention, the International Space Development Conference, in Huntsville, Alabama, May 18-22, 2011.

Dr. Rajagopalan’s article can be found here.
A video of the November 4, 2011 NSS press conference announcing the Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative is available here.
Information on Space Solar Power is at:

Keeping Tabs on the International Space Development Conference May 18-22

The NSS International Space Development Conference (ISDC) will be this May 18-22 at the Von Braun Center and Embassy Suites Hotel and Spa in Huntsville, Alabama. You can keep tabs on announcements regarding the ISDC via the following social media outlets:

Twitter (short messages and updates)

Facebook (longer messages and pictures)

LinkedIn (broadcasting to a professional audience) (for merchandise sales)

And, of course, the main ISDC website:

Coming to Huntsville in May: NSS 2011 International Space Development Conference

The 30th International Space Development Conference (ISDC), the annual gathering of the National Space Society (NSS), is coming to the Von Braun Center in Huntsville May 18-22, 2011. NSS and its local chapter, the Huntsville Alabama L5 Society (HAL5), are looking forward to hosting entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, politicians, and private citizens who are interested in creating a spacefaring civilization “From the Ground Up,” which is the theme of the conference.

ISDC 2011 on The Space Show: ISDC 2011 Chair, Bart Leahy, and Business Track Chair, Cliff McMurray, were on The Space Show with David Livingston on March 22. They talked about ISDC 2011, space advocacy, space policy, and space networking. Click here to listen.

With all the changes and uncertainties in the space business, it would be nice to get some perspective, as well as some idea of what the future might hold. ISDC does just that. ISDC will cover the broad spectrum of space topics, including the current and future states of space policy, the proposed Space Launch System, the future of the International Space Station, military space activities, Earth and planetary sciences, and the Google Lunar X Prize. Other sessions will discuss space-based solar power, biotechnology, breakthrough science and technology, space settlement and colonization, living in space, education, advocacy, and outreach, economy and business, and space history…but that’s not all.

To address these challenging topics, our programming will feature panels and talks by professionals from across the industry, from NASA to commercial space to military space to the halls of Congress to the science community. Among these speakers will be international, national, and local experts, including:

  • Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator
  • David Neyland, Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Office (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office
  • George Nield, Associate Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation
  • Dennis Stone, Manager, Program Integration, Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, NASA
  • John Logsdon, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University
  • Phil McAlister, Acting Director, Commercial Human Spaceflight, NASA HQ
  • Buzz Aldrin, Former Apollo 11 Astronaut, Author, and Founder, ShareSpace Foundation
  • Michael Griffin, UA Huntsville Eminent Scholar and former NASA Administrator
  • George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic
  • Michael Simpson, President, International Space University
  • Ken Money, President, National Space Society and former Canadian astronaut
  • Klaus Dannenberg, Deputy Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Simon ‘Pete’ Worden, Director, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Robert Zubrin, Founder and President, Mars Society
  • Les Johnson, Deputy Manager, Advanced Concepts Office, NASA MSFC, and Author
  • Tim Pickens, Chief Propulsion Engineer and Commercial Space Advisor, Dynetics, and Team lead, Rocket City Space Pioneers
  • Deborah Barnhart, CEO, U.S. Space & Rocket Center

In addition to these luminaries, NSS will be presenting the Wernher Von Braun Award ( to Japanese Hayabusa team for their work in developing a spacecraft to bring samples of asteroid material back to Earth. The award is given every other year and recognizes excellence in management of, and leadership for, a space-related project. Previous winners of the award include Burt Rutan, Steven W. Squyres, Donna Shirley, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., George Mueller, Max Hunter, and Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger. This year, we are privileged to have Curt Von Braun, an executive at Raytheon and nephew of Wernher von Braun, presenting the award on behalf of NSS.

This year’s ambitious agenda also will feature a trade show for civil, military, academic, and non-profit groups interested in space activities; a job fair hosted by Huntsville Space Professionals and Next Step in Space; and a book fair showcasing the latest in space-themed authors. All of these activities will be hosted in the VBC East Hall, while technical programming will occupy most of the North Hall.

Prior to ISDC proper, which begins on May 19, on May 18 the National Space Society will host the Space Investment Summit, an invitation-only event that educates space-minded entrepreneurs on the ins and outs of securing investors and doing business. Huntsville entrepreneur, “rocket man,” and Google Lunar X Prize team leader Tim Pickens will be the keynote speaker for this event.

Other opportunities for registered conference attendees include tours of Marshall Space Flight Center, the United Launch Alliance plant in Decatur, and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, and discounts at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp.

For more information on exhibiting or sponsoring, attending, or volunteering for ISDC 2011, visit the web site is Come learn how to make a spacefaring civilization grow “from the ground up!”