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.

National Space Society Message to Congress on Commercial Crew

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.

NSS Issues Political Action Network Alert in Support of Commercial Crew

On June 5, 2014 NSS issued an alert to the NSS Political Action Network concerning support for Commercial Crew in the current Senate Appropriations Bill.  The alert can be found at:

http://www.nss.org/legislative/alerts/NSS.Legislative.Alert.2014.Jun.5.pdf.

The alert calls for requesting full funding for Commercial Crew at $848 million as requested by NASA, rather than the $805 million appropriated by the Senate, or the House allocation of $785 million.  In addition the alert calls for the removal of language that would impose FAR (Federal Acquisitions Regulations) accounting on fixed price Commercial Crew and Cargo contracts, with the intent of making these programs more expensive and slowing them down. Additional information on Commercial Crew can be found in the recent NSS position paper at:

http://www.nss.org/legislative/positions/NSS_Position_Paper_Commercial_Crew_2014.pdf