Making Space Solar Power Available Globally for Fukushima-Like Emergencies

[Mumbai, June 26]

Indian news agency PTI quotes a National Space Society Director on a plan to provide electricity in case of a Fukushima-type or other emergency.

“Any equipment placed in space is totally immune to fires, earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, local wars and other forms of destruction on the ground,” John K Strickland, who specialises in issues relating to access to space, planetary bases, space solar power and environment and is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Space Society (NSS) in the US told PTI.

“A single satellite would cover most of Asia and I would assume that is where the first satellite would be placed. All that is needed at the site is a flat rooftop or area of ground about 50-100 feet wide to arrange the set of solar panels flat on the surface. The satellite, in the same orbit used by your TV signal satellite, would aim a laser beam also about 50-100 feet wide from 22,000 miles high down to the emergency site,” he said.

“Since all the equipment would be brought to the site and set up after the disaster, it would be undamaged and ready to provide power,” Strickland said.

Read full story.

Space Solar Power with Small, Operational Single-Launch Satellites

The latest addition to the NSS Space Solar Power Library is a paper by Al Globus which he presented at the 2011 International Space Development Conference: Towards an Early Profitable Power Satellite Part II. Globus investigated technologies and designs that could deliver small, operational single-launch power satellites for niche markets. A reasonably sized R&D program could jump start the project into a vigorous space solar power industry. Indeed, the necessary precursor work may be significantly easier than the paper suggests, with an almost 31% efficiency under space conditions. And if you missed it, here is Part 1 of the paper from 2010.

NSS Kicks-off Space Ambassador Program; Top Ambassador Will Get Ride on SpaceShipTwo

On May 7th, 2011, the National Space Society’s Space Ambassador program began its year-long mission. The top ambassador will be assigned a research trip to space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

The program, which was over two years in development, is the first of its kind. The mission of the Space Ambassador program is to communicate the benefits of space exploration to our daily lives and to inspire and educate young people and the public to pursue careers in science, engineering, and mathematics. We wish to inspire a new generation of leaders to take an active role in helping to create the future they wish to see come to pass.

Space ambassadors will achieve the program goals by scheduling and conducting speeches and presentations where they see fit, particularly in schools and universities. These presentations are conducted by volunteers who share the dreams and goals necessary to expand commercial space and space exploration endeavors of the future.

To date there are approximately 5,000 registered Space Ambassadors worldwide. Almost every country on Planet Earth is represented in this program. At the end of the program run, the top Space Ambassadors will be announced at the 2012 International Space Development conference in Washington D.C. and their award missions will be assigned.

The top ambassador will be assigned a research trip to space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and report back to the Society and its members. Other ambassadors will be assigned space training and research with ZeroG Corporation, NASTAR center and Aurora Aerospace, among others.

It is envisioned the program will reach out to over one million students around the globe during the course of the program and inspire future space industry leaders, giving its audiences valuable information regarding commercial space development and exploration progress. This will enable students to make educated decisions regarding their future education goals.

More informaton about the NSS Space Ambassador Program can be found at:

Mission to Asteroid Itokawa – The Seven Year Voyage

ISDC conference report by Dave Fischer

Professor Jun’ichiro Kawaguchi presented the history and results of the Hayabusa program, formally known as MUSES-C. Kawaguchi Professor Kawaguchi is the Program Manager for the MUSES-C program at the Lunar and Planetary Exploration Program Group at JAXA.

The spacecraft was launched on 9 May 2003. It was primarily an engineering demonstration project, with the following objectives:

  • 1. Interplanetary cruise via ion engines as the primary propulsion system
  • 2. Autonomous navigation and guidance using optical measurements
  • 3. Sample collection from an asteroid surface under micro gravity
  • 4. Direct reentry for the sample recovery capsule from interplanetary orbit
  • 5. Combination of low thrust and gravity assist for interplanetary missions

The spacecraft was relatively small with dimensions of 1.0m x 1.6m x 1.1m. It weighed a total of 510 kg, of which 380 kg was the spacecraft, instruments and engines, 70 kg of chemical fuel for thrusters and 60 kg of Xenon for the ion propulsion system. The engine was composed of four chambers, each of which developed seven (7) millinewtons of thrust with an isp of 3,000 seconds.

Professor Kawaguchi noted that the mission mostly entailed overcoming obstacles. He presented the following time line illustrating the issues encountered and solved:

  • 2004 Fall – Largest solar flare ever of class X25.
  • 2005 August – One Reaction wheel lost.
  • Arrival at Itokawa.
  • 2005 October – Second Reaction Wheel lost.
  • 2005 November – Fuel leak after the second touchdown.
  • 2005 December – Gas eruption tumbled the space craft. Contact was lost for seven weeks.
  • 2005 December – Functioning of the chemical engines was lost. Battery went dead.
  • 2006 January – Restoration of attitude control with Xenon cold gas.
  • 2006 – Refurbish operation. New attitude control established via Solar Radiation Torque. Charged the battery.
  • 2007 January – Closing of the capsule lid succeeded.
  • 2007 – First half of the ion engine delta-v burn completed.
  • 2009 March – April – Second half of the ion engine delta-v burn completed.
  • 2009 November – Ion engine emergency stop due to “End of Life”.
  • 2009 November – New ion engine configuration worked
  • 2010 June 13 – Final four burns and Re-entry and Recovery of the Capsule.

One of the major accomplishments of the Hayabusa mission was the demonstration of the navigation capabilities of the instruments related to surface detection and ranging. To this end, three markers were deployed as references in order to help zero out horizontal velocity. Using observations by the spacecraft for navigation, positioning improved by 1000%. Horizontal velocity was controlled to within one (1) centimeter per second (cm/s) and position was determined within 10 meters.

The goal was to land on the central (relatively) smooth portion of the asteroid. Eventually, Hayabusa touched down within 500 meters of the original target selected at the beginning of the mission.

One of the major achievements using the navigation system was the placement of the markers, followed by the return to one of them a week later. This was shown by the photographs taken of Itokawa and the navigation markers by the camera aboard Hayabusa:

White Navigation Marker placed 20 November 2005
Shadow of Hayabusa upon Autonomous Return on 26 November 2005.
Image Credit: JAXA

Professor Kawaguchi then discussed the scientific results from the mission. Initial observations from the return capsule did not show much. Eventually, about 1500 particles from Itokawa were recovered. All were smaller than 100 micrometers. Researchers across Japan took 52 of these particles and applied a range of microanalytical techniques – XRD, XRF, UMT, FIB, TEM, SEM, EPMA and SIMS. This alphabet soup clearly showed that Itokawa was a space-weathered ordinary LL chondrite asteroid. [Note: the results were presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, from 7 – 11 March 2011]

Professor Kawaguchi also commented that a follow on mission – Hayabusa 2 – is in the works for the 2014 timeframe.

ISDC 2011 Video Presentation – Paul Spudis

Paul Spudis Dr. Paul Spudis: Cislunar Space – The Next Frontier. Dr. Spudis, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Huston, was presented the 2011 NSS Space Pioneer Award for Scientific and Engineering Paper for his paper on “Mission and Implementation of an Affordable Lunar Return.” 32 minute video (slides and paper included).

Endeavour Docked with the International Space Station

NASA has released images of Endeavour and the ISS.

They were taken by Paolo Nespoli from TMA-20 as the Russian spacecraft departed on 23 May.

Endeavour and ISS
Space Shuttle Endeavour Docked with the International Space Station
Image Credit: NASA / Paolo Nespoli

ISDC 2011 – Flight System Development Forum

ISDC conference report by Dave Fischer

This is the first of two articles about the NASA Heavy Lift Vehicle program mandated by Congress.

Dan Dumbacher, Director of Engineering (NASA HQ)
Todd May, Associate Director, Technical (NASA MSFC)
Garry Lyles, Associate Director for Technical Management (NASA MSFC)

Dan Dumbacher introduced the panel by noting that NASA has been tasked with development of the next Heavy Lift Vehicle, and the folks at the Marshall Space Flight Center would like to get on with the job of building the next launch vehicle.

However, NASA’s budget is constrained by the current economy, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Indeed, it is likely to decrease somewhat over time.

The primary challenges in the confusing state of affairs revolve around the constituencies, as it always does in a political environment. The NASA Reauthorization Act of 2010, the 2011 budget from the administration, and the language of the compromise budget resolution for NASA in the summer of 2011 have all contributed to the muddled state of affairs.

The current manned programs include the International Space Station and Commercial Cargo and Crew. The new beyond-low-Earth-orbit program will require new infrastructure, a new launch vehicle, a new spacecraft (such as the Orion – Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle), and ground support.

Todd May comes from the International Space Station project, certainly the most ambitious and complex international project ever conducted. Todd reviewed the results of the 13 heavy lift proposals received from industry. There is no magic rocket. However, cost was heavily influenced by NASA management and oversight practices as well as flight rate.

Garry Lyles then gave a detailed description of the work done over the past year on the heavy lift vehicle. Interestingly, he noted that he had spent time at a conference of building architects. They taught him that design beauty grew out of the requirements of the building, and that operational simplicity grew out of internal complexity.

He chose to test the concept of machine beauty with the Requirements Analysis Cycle (RAC). Three teams were created. One was devoted to Lox/H2, the second to Lox/RP and the third could choose either combination, but would focus on a lean manufacturing philosophy. Their results would be folded into the first two teams within the first half of the cycle. The final instructions to the teams were to be innovative and have fun.

The teams conducted several thousand parametric studies. One result was that many combinations would satisfy the physical requirements. By the end of the studies, the primary drivers of affordability, however, turned out to be lean systems engineering, stable requirements and simple organization. Reduction in development time was critical. Private industry knew that first to market with reduced cycle time meant lower people costs, which are a major component of overall costs. The subject of how NASA’s program might relate to Falcon Heavy was not addressed.

Difficult changes will be required from the traditional risk-averse NASA culture in order to accomplish these goals. It is going to be hard for NASA to adapt and adopt the key practices:

1. The machine will be complex, but the operation must be simple
2. Adjust the design in order to simplify the manufacturing process
3. Requirements must be early and stable
4. There must be margin in performance
5. Cycle time must be as quick as possible, but no quicker
6. Streamline the oversight of contractors

Without these cultural changes, it will be impossible for NASA to accomplish the heavy lift task in front of it.

ISDC 2011 Video Presentations

Presentations from the 2011 NSS International Space Development Conference in Huntsville, Alabama.

Jeff Greason

Jeff Greason, President of XCOR Aerospace. Keynote Address at the Awards Banquet: A Settlement Strategy for NASA. This talk is widely regarded as a major statement in the field of space policy. 42 minute video.

Robert Bigelow

Robert Bigelow, President of Bigelow Aerospace, dedicated to developing next-generation crewed space complexes to revolutionize space commerce and open up the final frontier, and recipient of the 2011 NSS Space Pioneer Award for Space Development. Keynote Address at the Governors’ Gala. 32 minute video.

Owen and Richard Garriott

Owen and Richard Garriott. Father and son astronauts. Owen Garriott spent 60 days aboard Skylab in 1973 and 10 days aboard the Space Shuttle in Spacelab-1 in 1983. His son Richard Garriott is a video game developer and entrepreneur who funded his own 12-day trip flying on Soyuz to the International Space Station in 2008. 42 minute video.

Adam Harris

Adam Harris: SpaceX and the Future. Adam Harris is Vice President for Government Affairs, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). SpaceX President Elon Musk is recipient of the 2011 National Space Society Space Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur. 24 minute video.

ISDC Awards

NSS Awards Ceremony: 2011 ISDC Awards Ceremony in Huntsville, Alabama, May 21, 2011. 43 minute video.

ISDC 2011 Keynote Speech – Jeff Greason – A Settlement Strategy for NASA

Jeff Greason’s speech at the Awards Dinner at the 2011 NSS International Space Development Conference is being widely regarded as a major statement in the field of space policy. A video of the speech is now on the NSS website.

Greason is President of XCOR Aerospace and was a member of the Augustine Committee (Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee) established by the White House in 2009. He began his talk by defining the differences between goals, strategies, objectives, and tactics.

“Between having a goal and having tactics, you have to have a strategy — and we don’t. Until we have one, we’re going to continue to flail.”

We do have a goal, says Greason. Although it’s not widely recognized, it can be found in nearly every major policy document and commission report over the last 25 years. The Augustine Report, for example, “concludes that the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion in to the solar system.” But none of them quite dare use the “S” word, even though that’s what they are really talking about — [whisper] settlement. The reason they don’t dare use the word is they are not sure we can do it.

This point is illustrated in one of Greason’s slides about the lack of a strategy for settlement:

Absense of strategy.
Absence of strategy.

Greason then laid out — nondogmatically, as one of many possible approaches — his ideas for a possible strategy. “The purpose of the initial human outpost is not to be there and look cool. It is not to unfurl flags and take pretty pictures, and it is not the holy grail of science, although we will get all of those things. It’s to make gas.” Basically, each destination has the resources to make propellant to help reach the next destination — a strategy he calls “Planet Hopping.”

Greason includes the following elements of a strategy for space settlement:

* The key is to realize that cost per human being in space MUST constantly decrease in order to succeed.

* Each capability we add MUST be designed from the outset to transition to a private sector supported activity. Only in that way can we add new capabilities with constant budget.

* Each step forward must make maximum use of in-situ resources, both to lower cost of operations and to provide low cost resources to support next steps. This allows for exponential growth over time rather than linear.

Greason also pointed out that we have to realize that NASA’s budget is not going to go up. However, he added “It’s my belief that if we pursued this the right way, we actually could afford to do this, all the way out to the first landings on Mars, for the kind of budget NASA’s getting now.”

But Greason warned that if we continue on the current path, without a strategy, “we’re going to build a big rocket, and then we’re going to hope a space program shows up to fly on it. And in my opinion, that strategy — the strategy of default — is going to result in the end of the NASA human spaceflight program.”