Following last week’s successful launch of six ORBCOMM satellites, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere and soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean. This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able to consistently reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity.
After landing, the vehicle tipped sideways as planned to its final water safing state in a nearly horizontal position. The water impact caused loss of hull integrity, but we received all the necessary data to achieve a successful landing on a future flight. Going forward, we are taking steps to minimize the build up of ice and spots on the camera housing in order to gather improved video on future launches.
At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment. However, our next couple launches are for very high velocity geostationary satellite missions, which don’t allow enough residual propellant for landing. In the longer term, missions like that will fly on Falcon Heavy, but until then Falcon 9 will need to fly in expendable mode.
We will attempt our next water landing on flight 13 of Falcon 9, but with a low probability of success. Flights 14 and 15 will attempt to land on a solid surface with an improved probability of success.
The National Space Society became a $500 logo backer to the “Integrated Space Plan” Kickstarter and encouraged NSS members to help this Kickstarter effort reach its goal.
The “Integrated Space Plan” project is to remake, maintain, and expand the uses of the Integrated Space Plan, a graphically detailed timeline of our future in space for the next 100 years. NSS leader Ronnie Lajoie writes “The five team leaders are all NSS members, including Jay Wittner, a past NSS Officer and Director, and current chapter officer. The ISP will complement and supplement our Roadmap to Space Settlement.”
Jay Wittner writes “20 years ago a detailed long term plan was created showing what was needed to develop a robust space infrastructure. It was called the Integrated Space Plan (ISP). It was an early infographic developed to depict our future in space. The original plan by Ron Jones was a hit in the space community and it’s time to update the ISP and post it online so everyone can see the path forward!” Ron Jones is part of the new team.
NSS leader Gary Barnhard adds “While no one has a monopoly on insight into the future, the combination of perspectives should be integratable into a common framework which provides a context for understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we could go.”
“Asteroids are excellent potential sources of highly valuable resources and minerals,” said Rep. Bill Posey, a Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. “Our knowledge of asteroids – their number, location, and composition – has been increasing at a tremendous rate and space technology has advanced to the point where the private sector is now able to begin planning such expeditions. Our legislation will help promote private exploration and protect commercial rights as these endeavors move forward and I thank Representative Kilmer for working with me to help advance this industry.”
“We may be many years away from successfully mining an asteroid, but the research to turn this from science fiction into reality is being done today,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer, a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. “Businesses in Washington state and elsewhere are investing in this opportunity, but in order to grow and create more jobs they need greater certainty. That’s why I’m excited to introduce this bill with Representative Posey so we can help the United States access new supplies of critical rare metals while serving as a launch pad for a growing industry.”
Currently, rare minerals used to manufacture a wide range of products are found in a small number of countries. This has left the United States dependent on foreign nations for these resources. The limited supply and high demand for these materials, alongside major advances in space technology and a deeper understanding of asteroids, has led a number of private sector investors to begin developing plans to identify and secure high-value minerals found on asteroids and transport them for use here on Earth.
Some rare minerals that could be found within asteroids include: platinum group metals such as platinum, osmium, iridium, ruthenium, rhodium, and palladium in addition to nickel, iron and cobalt.
Posey and Kilmer’s bill would:
• Clarify that resources mined from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained them.
• Ensure U.S. companies can conduct their operation without harmful interference.
• Direct the President to facilitate commercial development of asteroid resources.
The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) strongly recommends in a position paper issued today that Congress should fully support the Commercial Crew program in order to restore independent access to the International Space Station (ISS), prepare to operate the ISS without Russian support, again make low-cost access to space a primary goal of U.S. space policy, and avoid replacing the RD-180 engine manufactured in Russia with a single new engine funded via cost-plus development.
NSS recommends that Congress should maintain competition among Commercial Crew providers while avoiding the imposition of additional contractual obstacles to this program. The U.S. must be self-sufficient in rocket engines for critical functions, both civilian and military. If Congress and the Administration decide a new rocket engine program is justified to replace the RD-180 (currently used in the Atlas V), it must result in multiple prototype liquid fueled hydrocarbon rocket engine development winners to promote competition and innovation and stimulate the entire U.S. aerospace industrial base. To increase affordability, to promote risk-sharing and to incentivize results instead of effort, the United States Government might use “other transactions authority” methods that were used to successfully develop the RS-68 and Merlin rocket engines.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has threatened to pull out of the ISS in 2020, after which the U.S. portion of the ISS would fall to Earth and be destroyed. Having been warned 6 years in advance, the United States should move systematically but immediately to develop commercial U.S. habitation and re-fuelable propulsion modules or other means of reboosting the ISS before 2020.
Paul Werbos, NSS Executive Vice President, said “The U.S. space program has become far too dependent on Russian technology. It is long past time to change that situation.”
The National Space Society is mourning the passing today of NSS Board of Governors member Frederick I. Ordway III.
Frederick Ira Ordway III was an educator, consultant, researcher, and author on space flight and energy programs. His career began in various geological and engineering positions for Mene Grande Oil Company in San Tome, Venezuela in 1949. Five years later he was in the guided missiles division of the Republic Aviation Corporation. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s he held positions with the General Aeronautics Research Corporation, the National Research and Development Corporation, and Saturn Systems office at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, where he developed a long-time association with Wernher von Braun. From 1960-64 he was Chief of Space Information Systems at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
Next came a period of consulting: 1965-66 for Paramount Pictures The Adventurer’s; and 1968-69 for the Encyclopedia Britannica, the American College Dictionary of the English Language, and Stanley Kubrick at MGM for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Throughout the 1970’s he was in various positions at the Department of Energy; during 1975-77 he was Assistant to the Administrator of ERDA and during 1977-1994 he was Policy and International Affairs director in the special projects office.
Ordway was the author of numerous books including Visions of Spaceflight: Images from the Ordway Collection, The Rocket Team: From the V-2 to the Saturn Moon Rocket, and (with Wernher von Braun) History of Rocketry and Space Travel.