NSS at the Atlantic Council

Dale Skran, Deputy Chair of the NSS Policy Committee,  and Scott Pace, NSS Board of Governors, spoke at “The Final Frontier: Renewing America’s Space Program,” an Atlantic Council event held September16, 2014 at the Newseum in Washington DC.  Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., the Chairman of the Atlantic Council, opened the meeting.  The first major speech was by Jill Tarter, former Director of the Center for SETI Research, SETI Institute, and the model for the Jodie Foster character in the movie CONTACT.  Along with a call for the search for extraterrestrial life, Tarter supported two major NSS themes: asteroid mining and protecting the Earth from cosmic impacts (see the NSS position paper on this topic).

Scott Pace, Director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy and Director, Space Policy Institute, The George Washington University, participated in the first panel, moderated by Jeff Foust of Space News (a video of the full 2-hour panel is available on YouTube).  The title of this panel was “Sustaining NASA Human Space Exploration” and much of the discussion was in response to the recent National Research Council report on Human Spaceflight.  Many of the other panel members had been part of the NRC committee that produced the Human Spaceflight report.  A notable panel member was Hannah Kerner, Board Chair of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), and also of Planet Labs, who made the case for space settlement as the primary horizon goal for humans in space as opposed to the “footprints on Mars” position taken by the NRC report.

Dale Skran supported the second panel, titled “Pathways to Collaboration,” moderated by Damon Wilson of the Atlantic Council (video of the full 90-minute panel is also available on YouTube).  Other participants included Jeff Feige (Space Frontier Foundation and CEO of Orbital Outfitters), John M. Olson (VP Space Systems, Sierra Nevada Corporation), and William Pomerantz (VP Special Projects, Virgin Galactic).  The discussion focused on human space flight cooperation with commercial entities and international groups.  A Storify summary of both panels can be found on the Atlantic Council website.

Atlantic Council panel

Dale Skran (center), Deputy Chair of the NSS Policy Committee, participates in Atlantic Council panel.

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National Space Society Launches “Enterprise In Space”

The National Space Society (NSS) is launching a new project called “Enterprise In Space” (EIS).  This project will design, build, launch, orbit, re-enter, tour, and display a science-fiction-inspired satellite as a science education and technology demonstration project for all ages and as a tribute to the great visionaries of science and science fiction.

Inspired by the classic science fiction writers of the 20th century including Heinlein, Clark and Roddenberry, the EIS project is a grassroots effort by a dedicated team of aerospace, information technology, and education veterans. The goal of the EIS project is to launch an orbital mission by 2019 that will carry 100 or more competitively selected student experiments from around the globe, and to test out new space technology. This is an opportunity for people to directly support something truly historic. EIS will reach out to people with interests in space, science, education, astronomy, cosmology, and science fiction.

A three-minute video explains the entire idea at the Enterprise in Space website (www.enterpriseinspace.org).

Bruce Pittman“The National Space Society is proud to launch the Enterprise in Space project to the world,” said National Space Society Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “This is an opportunity for people worldwide to come together to help transform this exciting concept into a remarkable reality. EIS is yet another example of the burgeoning free enterprise use of space.”

Shawn CaseWhat began as a dream by Oregonian science fiction and space enthusiast Shawn Case four years ago is now a major NSS project. Case and his team have prepared a well-defined project plan to launch an orbiter dubbed “NSS Enterprise,” with its artistic design to be conceived by a public competition. The spacecraft will re-enter from orbit for retrieval, go on a tour along with the results of the student experiments, and ultimately be displayed in a major museum along with the names of all who helped fund it.

Case has assembled a professional team skilled in project management, aerospace, social media, and education to carry out the project. Case believes that giving each donor the opportunity to be a virtual crew member and get his or her name on an electronic chip to be carried aloft on this historic flight will greatly increase interest in the project and in space exploration.

Buzz AldrinFamed Apollo 11 moonwalker and NSS Governor Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin endorses EIS: “There’s an exciting new project called Enterprise In Space that I want to tell you about. Together with the National Space Society, the Enterprise In Space project will launch an eight-foot Enterprise satellite into orbit and bring it back to Earth. This is an educational and inspirational tribute to all Enterprise ships in history, to science visionaries, and to the vision of the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry. My name has been to space and back. Now it’s your turn. Rendezvous with me and support the Enterprise in Space project. Help make history all over again.”

Lynne ZielinskiProposals for experiments to be flown on the orbiter will be sought from students of all nations and ages, from kindergarten through university. Lynne F. Zielinski, a national award-winning educator, NSS Director and Vice President of Public Affairs, will head the EIS education team. “In my 32 years of teaching, I have worked with hundreds of students to send experiments aboard six space shuttle and nine NASA sub-orbital rocket flights,” Zielinski said.  “Students really have a lot to offer. I’ve seen the potential of students when they’re excited about being a real part of space flight exploration. Age is no barrier. They quickly adopt cutting-edge ideas and technology.”

The project’s appeal to those interested in space, science, and education goes hand-in-hand with its appeal to science fiction fans, many of whom have a naturally optimistic view of the future and of humans living and working in space–the goals that NSS has promoted since its founding.

Great visionary science fiction writers created hopes that people would be on the Moon and on the way to Mars by now. Let’s help to turn science fiction into science reality, bridging the conceptual gap through education, imagination, and inspiration. Through real-world enterprise, the people of Earth will contribute to the vision of Enterprise In Space.

enterpriseinspace.org
facebook.com/EnterpriseInSpace
twitter.com/EnterpriseSat

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New NASA report on “Emerging Space” emphasizes private-public cooperation

When NASA was founded, only a government program could undertake a voyage from the Earth to the Moon. This may not be true in the future.

Thus begins a new NASA report, “Emerging Space” that emphasizes private-public cooperation in creating a “new economic ecosystem in space”. The 42-page, 44-megabyte report is available for free download in PDF format.

Emerging Space

Below are paragraphs from the first and last pages:

The next era of space exploration will see governments pushing technological development and the American private sector using these technologies as they expand their economic activities to new worlds. NASA’s next objectives for exploration—visits to asteroids and Mars—are more complex than any previous space mission attempted. They will happen in the context of relatively smaller NASA budgets and an expanding commercial space economy. Teaming with private sector partners to develop keystone markets like low Earth orbit (LEO) transportation and technological capabilities like asteroid mining will help NASA achieve its mission goals, help the space economy evolve to embrace new ambitions, and provide large economic returns to the taxpayer through the stimulation and growth of new businesses and 21st century American jobs.

Fifty years after the creation of NASA, our goal is no longer just to reach a destination. Our goal is to develop the capabilities that will allow the American people to explore, pioneer, and expand our economic sphere into the solar system. To do this we will build on our long-standing relationships with American industry by embracing new and diverse forms of partnerships. Private-sector leadership in space exploration was the normal state of affairs in America before the foundation of NASA. Today, we have recognized the advantages of that earlier model in terms of private-sector energy and initiative, combined it with NASA’s legacy of technical expertise and programmatic accomplishment, and have helped give rise to the birth of a ‘Second Space Age’. The space economy of the future will come about through the combined efforts of government, private industry, scientists, students and citizens, each playing their own unique and essential role. Together, we will create a new economic ecosystem in space that will hasten our journey into the cosmos.

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National Space Society Praises Inclusion of Competition in NASA’s Commercial Crew Decision

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) has been a consistent supporter of competition in NASA’s Commercial Crew program to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). NSS today congratulates the winners of the Commercial Crew competition, Boeing and SpaceX. NSS also thanks NASA for its diligent efforts to maintain real competition in the Commercial Crew program.

The selection of Boeing and SpaceX represents a major milestone toward ending US dependence on the Russian Soyuz to put American Astronauts into space. NSS urges that Congress fully fund this program with full competition at the amounts requested by NASA so that both companies can move forward with dispatch. Further, the continued operation of the International Space Station needs to be funded by Congress to 2024 as requested by the Administration and as far beyond that as practical to enable the full exploitation of the opportunities for commercial research offered by the ISS. A key element of any effort to create more return from the ISS will be the ability of both the Boeing and SpaceX craft to carry up to seven astronauts, potentially allowing the ISS to support a permanent crew of up to 14.

Commercial Crew

Image courtesy NASA

NSS believes that the selection of two Commercial Crew providers is also an essential first step toward the non-governmental development of the resources of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). We look forward to both Boeing and SpaceX supporting Bigelow private space stations in the near future. It is also the hope of NSS that Sierra Nevada will find non-NASA funds to continue the development of its Dream Chaser lifting body.

NSS Executive Vice President Paul Werbos summed up the situation: “This is a great moment for Boeing, SpaceX, and NASA. The door to the American future in space is opening wider, and we need to ensure that Commercial Crew is fully funded to keep it that way.”

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National Space Society August 2014 Home District Blitz Report

By Dale L. Skran, Deputy Chair, NSS Policy Committee

During the month of August 2014, NSS volunteer Blitz teams visited 24 Representatives and Senators from states with a population totaling over 60 million and with a total of 76 representatives.

The August Blitz ran strong in California, boosted by the Space Society of Silicon Valley with help from the Sacramento L5 Society (led by Joe and Donna Bland) and new blitzers Brandon Larson, Doug Plata and Eric Opdahl. Teams participated in meetings with key leaders whose districts/states were blitzed: Representative Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA), House Ways & Means Committee Member Mike Thompson (CA-05), House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) and Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13).

The blitzed districts included those of three members of the House Space Sub-Committee: Ami Bera (CA-07), Julia Brownley (CA-26) and Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48).  In addition to this, blitz teams struck at the offices of key members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, including Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) and Scott Peters (CA-52). The Space Society of Silicon Valley made a practice of attempting to both talk to the Representative in the local district and the space staffers in the DC offices, noting “The hot topics were space commercialization, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, economic development, spaceport locality development, space research and STEM education. Space has a lot of support!”

Other key local coordinators include the Denver Space Society (Jim Barnard, President) and Karen Mermel (Illinois). Jim Barnard led the team that talked to Representative Mike Coffman (CO-6). Representative Coffman has most recently been in the public eye as one of three signers of an open letter to NASA Administrator Bolden calling attention to supposed “anomalies” in SpaceX operations.

The Oklahoma team led by NSS member Steve Swift met with Representative James Lankford (OK-5), who is running for a Senate seat with an excellent chance of winning. This is the kind of long-lead work that ultimately creates influence on Capitol Hill.

Dale Skran, NSS August Home District Blitz Coordinator, said “This was a great first effort and we learned a lot.  There was excellent web support from Fred Becker and David-Brandt Erichsen.  Larry Ahearn worked hard to get the word out to the chapters.  We’ll build on this effort and do more next year.”

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NSS Home District Legislative Blitz August 2014

NSS is organizing a “home district” blitz during August when Congress is in recess and members of Congress are most probably in their home districts. The themes for the blitz include supporting Commercial Crew, advocating for ISS extension and utilization, supporting commercial space, and protecting the Earth against asteroids and comets (see the NSS Blitz Talking Points). The August Blitz is a self-starting, NSS member centered activity. A slide set of guidelines on how to initiate and organize a visit to your Representative/Senator can be found here. AD ASTRAs for the visits can be ordered from dale.skran@nss.org before August 8th at the latest on a first come, first served basis.

If you are interested in participating in the home district visits please send an email to dale.skran@nss.org. This email should contain your contact information. By doing so, you are giving permission for a state/district coordinator to contact you for purposes of organizing home district visits. We especially encourage multiple volunteer coordinators for larger states such as California and Texas. Thanks in advance for your support.

Dale Skran, Deputy Chair, NSS Policy Committee    

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SpaceX Announces Progress on Reusable Rocket

SpaceX released the following statement July 23:

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.

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NSS Supported Successful Integrated Space Plan Kickstarter

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.”

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H.R. 5063: To promote the development of a commercial asteroid resources industry

U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities and protections for private space companies looking to explore space. The American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014 establishes and protects property rights for commercial space exploration and utilization of asteroid resources.

“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.

Copy of H.R. 5063.

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National Space Society Calls for Less U.S. Dependence on Russian Space Technology

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.”

See the NSS Position Paper on U.S. Dependence on Russian Technology.

Posted in Commercial Spaceflight, National Space Society, Space Policy | 1 Comment