NSS working to influence the next Administration

On Saturday October 8th, 2016, NSS organized a workshop directed at recommending a space policy to the new Administration. Steve Jurvetson, a partner at the well-known Sand Hill Road venture capital firm DFJ hosted the meeting at the DFJ offices. Eleven thought leaders from government, industry, and academia gathered in a fruitful collaboration to produce a set of five recommendations. NSS Senior VP Bruce Pittman organized the meeting, which included a tour of Steve Jurvetson’s private museum of space artifacts.

The resulting paper, which has been submitted to the Transition Team, is reproduced below (also available is a PDF version).

RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE NEXT ADMINISTRATION REGARDING COMMERCIAL SPACE

Tremendous progress has been made in the commercial space arena since the last presidential transition in 2008. To ensure that the impact of these changes is adequately reflected in U.S. space policy the National Space Society (NSS) assembled a hand-picked group of experts to prepare recommendations for the incoming administration. This group met at the venture capital firm DFJ in Menlo Park California on Saturday Oct. 8th 2016.  After a full day of discussion and deliberation, five major recommendations – focused on commercial space – were agreed upon.

Recommendation #1 – Reestablish the National Space Council

In 2008 the Obama campaign stated “There is currently no organization in the Federal government with a sufficiently broad mandate to oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government’s space-related programs, including those being managed by NASA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Commerce Department, the Transportation Department and the other federal agencies.” We recommend that the U.S. Government re-establish a National Space Council (NSC). The chair of the National Space Council should be appointed by and report to the President, and advise the President on space policy topics including NASA Administrator candidates.

There are a number of space related challenges that the next Administration will have to address, including orbital debris, the militarization of space, space situational awareness and traffic management, international cooperation, and competition to name just a few.  The goal of the re-established National Space Council will be to oversee and coordinate civilian, military, commercial, and national security space activities. The NSC should solicit public participation, work with commercial entities, engage the international community, and develop a 21st century vision of space that will continuously push the envelope on new technologies and new applications, as well as promote American space leadership and security.

Recommendation #2 – Enable and Support a Thriving Space Economy

For the exploration, development and eventual settlement of space to be truly sustainable, there must be a viable space economy to support it. We recommend that the U.S. Government establish that one of NASA’s goals should be to facilitate and promote a thriving space economy. A recent (9/15) report by the Tauri Group for the Satellite Industries Association showed the worldwide market for all satellite services in 2014 to be $203 billion, of which the U.S. portion was 43% ($87.2 billion); however, the U.S. growth rate (2%) was significantly below the international growth rate (6%).[i]  There are a number of other emerging space markets in Earth observation, low Earth orbit (LEO) communications, and microgravity processing that have the potential to grow to be as large if not larger than the geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) communication satellite economy, with proper support from the federal government.

In 2015 United Launch Alliance (ULA) presented their “Cis-Lunar 1000” view of the potential for space development growth over the next 30 years. Their estimate was that the space economy could expand from its current $330 billion to $2.7 trillion by 2045.[ii] To make this projection a reality, the U.S. Government will need to play a vital but different role than it has traditionally fulfilled. The use of public/private partnerships as exemplified by the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program and its use of funded Space Act Agreements (SAA) must become the norm instead of the exception. By aligning public and private strategic goals, dramatic financial leverage can be developed. A 2011 analysis of the development cost of the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 9 launch vehicle that was developed for the NASA COTS program was conducted by the office of the NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Policy using the NASA/Air Force Costing Methodology (NAFCOM) computer modeling tool. This analysis showed an almost 10X cost reduction using the funded SAAs that were utilized by COTS as compared to the normal NASA cost plus contracts that are typically signed ($400 million for actual SpaceX Falcon 9 development vs $3.977 billion cost predicted by NAFCOM under a cost plus contract scenario).[iii]

Another key government initiative supporting commercialization of space was the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program. While COTS and the SAAs were utilized to demonstrate the capability to delivery cargo to the ISS, the CRS was a fixed price procurement contract for the actual delivery of payloads to the ISS over multiple years. The CRS contracts that were awarded to both COTS winners in an open competition allowed the two companies (SpaceX and Orbital/ATK) to raise the money required to pay for their significant share of the COTS development costs. This example of NASA acting as an anchor customer to help establish new commercial capabilities and new markets demonstrates the key role that the government can and must play to ensure U.S. space leadership.

There are three ways that SAAs and public-private partnerships can be used to advance the commercialization of space:

  • NASA should produce a plan to transition the ISS National Laboratory from the ISS to leased space in commercial LEO stations, and to assist new space businesses that use the ISS in a similar transition. As part of this transition plan, a goal should be to increase the quality, quantity, and variability of gravity levels available in which to conduct research and manufacturing activities. This policy will support the emerging LEO commercial sector.
  • NASA should purchase rocket fuel and oxygen/water to use at any location in space (LEO, GEO, BEO) from commercial entities if such commodities are commercially available. This policy will encourage the nascent asteroid and lunar mining industries, as well as lower the cost of an eventual journey to Mars.
  • NASA bases/gateways/stations in any location in space, including the lunar surface, lunar orbit, and others, should contract with commercial services to provide cargo and crew to such stations. This policy will enable the development of economic and reusable cislunar transportation, and will support goals such as #3 below and an ultimate journey to Mars.

Recommendation #3 – Establish a Public/Private Lunar Base

There are a number of scientific and commercial reasons for returning to the Moon. Scientifically the Moon offers a treasure trove of information about the early formation of the solar system and its evolution. We now know that there are huge quantities of water ice in the permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles, and this water has great interest not only to the scientific community who want to understand how it got there, but also to the space resources companies who want to explore the feasibility of harvesting water as a resource and offering it for sale to help facilitate the exploration, development and eventual settlement of the solar system. This water can be used for growing crops as well as drinking and for a number of industrial purposes. The water can also be separated into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket propellant and the oxygen can be used for life support.

The International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) is a collaboration of 14 space agencies working cooperatively to coordinate the activities of the member countries to facilitate the exploration of the solar system. Almost all of the members of the ISECG except for the U.S. have set their sights on human and robotic exploration of the Moon first and then expanding outwards to Mars. Earlier this year ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich proposed that the world should collaborate to create a permanent lunar base that he is calling the “Moon Village” which could support science, business, tourism and even mining.[iv]

We recommend that the U.S. Government take a leadership role in establishing a lunar base focused on the extraction of lunar resources. This should be undertaken as a public/private partnership with commercial companies who have already set their sights on the Moon such as Astrobotic, Moon Express and Masten Space Systems, all of which are currently participating in the NASA Lunar Catalyst program. ULA’s previously mentioned CisLunar 1000 concept lays out their plan for developing their ACES/XEUS space tug and lunar lander such that both vehicles can be refueled from resources mined from Lunar ice deposits. By partnering with these companies (and others) that already want to develop the Moon, as well as our international partners, the cost of a lunar base could be dramatically reduced. Key components of such a base might be owned and operated by NASA or international partners, but other elements would be owned and operated by commercial enterprises. [v]

Recommendation #4 – Create a Space Commodities Futures Trading Exchange

In order to create and sustain a thriving space economy it will be necessary to be able to buy and sell commodities that are assembled, produced or mined in space. To facilitate this process, we recommend that the U.S. Government establish a Space Commodities Futures Trading Commission (SCFTC) for the space industry. The Commission, with input from industry, academia and government, would establish the guidelines to enable a board of trade or designated market-maker to establish and operate an exchange or alternative exchange mechanism (collectively, the Exchange). The Exchange would design, standardize and trade in the future commitments to deliver goods, services or other units constituting the various commodities necessary to get to, operate within, and return from space (e.g. launch, water, energy, insurance and currency). The Exchange would be a private or public-private entity with primary responsibility for operating all aspects of the market operations. The SCFTC would be responsible for oversight, space commodities forecasting, futures contract enforcement, clearing and risk, and mediation.

  • The Exchange would create a standardized set of agreements for the exchange of commodities, such that the tenure of ownership of the commodities could be readily ascertained.
  • The federal government would refer to the Exchange for the acquisition of commodities it regulates through the SCFTC, and would prototype futures contracts for acquisition of commodities it would like to stimulate supply of, and that could be offered through the Exchange.
  • The federal government shall recognize the commercial viability of any commodity listed on the Exchange as prima facie evidence in satisfying federal acquisition requirements for the proof of commercial viability in order to develop the science, technology and production that would supply the commodity.

In order to benefit from and coordinate with terrestrial experience, history and financial practices in trading commodities futures, consideration would be given to having the SCFTC operate as part of, or via strategic partnership with, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission codified at 7 U.S.C. Chapter 1, as amended.

Recommendation #5 – Establish a Major Breakthrough Space R&D Program Throughout its history NASA has always been associated with major technological advancements, from the Saturn 5 that took American astronauts to the Moon, to the remarkably versatile, reusable but complex space shuttle, to the International Space Station that has been permanently occupied for 16 years. No technological challenge seemed to be too great during this period. But recently, NASA’s technological reach has been significantly reduced, and very few breakthrough technologies and/or capabilities now emerge from the agency’s far more conservative and fiscally constrained endeavors

We recommend that the U.S. Government enable NASA to return to its cutting edge technology roots by establishing a significant ($1 billion/year) Breakthrough Technology R&D program focused on providing the new capabilities and dramatic cost reductions to the aerospace industry that have been achieved in almost all other industries. Commercial companies, often backed by significant venture capital investments, are increasingly leading in the development of the cutting edge technologies required by our 21st century space program. NASA needs to team with these companies to encourage and mature selected technologies that can best enable ambitious future NASA missions. The establishment of an innovative and long term Breakthrough Technology R&D program, one that focuses on high risk but high payoff technology development and demonstration, would help not only NASA, but commercial space suppliers and users as well. This is similar to the role that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) played in the last century to ensure U.S. leadership in aviation.

This program should be “DARPA-like” in that it takes on true game-changing challenges with specific objectives and a requirement for measurable progress to receive phased funding. Examples of the types of breakthrough capabilities that might be targeted include self-sustaining habitats in space, propellant production and storage (at the Moon, at small bodies, and at Mars), in situ manufacturing (Moon, small bodies, Mars), reusable large-scale solar electric or nuclear propulsion systems, space solar power (SSP), and others. These technologies must be matured to the point where system and/or flight proven technology (TRL 6/7 or higher) can be incorporated into future NASA and/or U.S. commercial ventures.

Bruce Cahan, CEO Urban Logic and Adjunct Professor Stanford University School of Engineering

Sarah Cooper, former research fellow National Space Grant Association at NASA AMES

John Cumbers, Founder, SynBioBeta

Jason Dunn

Daniel Faber, CEO Deep Space Industries

Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the Executive Committee, National Space Society

Jim Keravala, CEO OffWorld Consortium

John Mankins, CEO Artemis Innovation

Bruce Pittman, Senior Vice President and Senior Operating Officer, National Space Society and Chairman, Commercial Space Group, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Rod Pyle, Author

Dale Skran, Executive Vice President, National Space Society

[i] 2015 State of the Satellite Industry Report prepared by The Tauri Group, Sept. 2015

[ii] http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Published_Papers/Commercial_Space/2016_Cislunar.pdf

[iii] https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/586023main_8-3-11_NAFCOM.pdf

[iv] http://www.esa.int/About_Us/DG_s_news_and_views/Moon_Village_humans_and_robots_together_on_the_Moon

[v] http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/nexgen/Nexgen_Downloads/NexGen_ELA_Report_FINAL.pdf

National Space Society Congratulates Orbital ATK on a Successful Return to Flight for the Antares

On October 17, 2016, the upgraded Orbital ATK Antares rocket returned to flight following an October 14th, 2014 launch accident. The Antares is boosting a Cygnus cargo capsule to the International Space Station loaded with supplies and scientific equipment.

Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President said, “NSS applauds NASA’s support of multiple providers in the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program. The successful return to flight of the Antares/Cygnus at a time when the SpaceX Falcon 9 is grounded underscores the value of launch services provided by technologically independent sources.”

Antares

“Reliable access to space is critical to an expansive human future in space,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “NASA’s initiative in requiring multiple competitive cargo providers to the ISS is a key step laying the groundwork for the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement. Today that vision made another step forward.”

National Space Society Congratulates Blue Origin for Its Successful In-flight Escape Test of New Shepard

On October 5, 2016, for the fifth time, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket successfully flew to the edge of space and returned to its West Texas launch site intact. National Space Society Executive Vice President Dale Skran said, “Blue Origin is to be congratulated for putting together a systematic test program to demonstrate all the features of the New Shepard sub-orbital system. NSS members look forward to the first crewed flight of the New Shepard, and to sub-orbital tourist flights once New Shepard is operational. Additionally, New Shepard will provide expanded low-cost access to micro-gravity for researchers.”

Fifth Landing of New Shepard (Credit: Blue Origin)
Fifth Landing of New Shepard (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin again made history by successfully demonstrating the operation of the capsule’s in-flight escape system. About 45 seconds into the flight, the 70,000 pounds of thrust New Shepard solid fuel escape motor pushed the capsule away from the booster and toward a parachute assisted landing in Texas.

New Shepard Crew Capsule Landing (Credit: Blue Origin)
New Shepard Crew Capsule Landing (Credit: Blue Origin)

“Blue Origin’s successful capsule escape demonstration represents a material step toward a fully re-usable sub-orbital vehicle,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President and Senior Operating Officer. “We endorse Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos’ vision of ‘millions of people living and working in space’ – this is the heart and soul of the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement. Today that vision made another significant step forward.” (See www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap).

In a remarkable achievement, the New Shepard booster was not destroyed by the firing of the escape motor, and continued a nominal flight first to the edge of space and then back to the launch site. Blue Origin has announced that following this fifth test flight, both the capsule and the booster will be retired and put on public display. (See a replay of the 1.25-hour flight webcast.)

Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin CEO said, “Like Mercury, Apollo, and Soyuz, New Shepard has an escape system that can quickly propel the crew capsule to safety if a problem is detected with the booster. Our escape system, however, is configured differently from those earlier designs.” The New Shepard is a “pusher” rather than the old tower “pull” system used by Apollo, allowing the escape system to be re-used. Bezos continued, stating that “Expending an escape motor on every flight drives up costs significantly. Further, the jettison operation is itself safety critical. Failure to jettison the tower is catastrophic.”

National Space Society Space Settlement Campaign Supports Elon Musk’s Mars Settlement Plans

At today’s meeting of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, announced his bold plan to build a city on Mars. For over 40 years the National Space Society has led advocacy for space settlement. According to Mark Hopkins, economist and Chair of the Executive Committee of the National Space Society, “The vast majority of the resources of our solar system lie in space rather than on the Earth. By settling Mars and other locations in space we can overcome the resource limits of Earth leading to a hopeful, prosperous future for all of humanity.”

During the talk Musk detailed the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) for the first time. The first stage of the ITS towers 77.5 meters with a diameter of 12 meters and uses 42 Raptor engines to provide a total of 28 million lbs of thrust. The second stage is 49.5 meters long, 17 m in diameter, uses 9 Raptor engines, and comes in both a crew/cargo model and a tanker model. Musk’s plans are based on four key approaches: full reusability of all components, refueling in orbit around Earth, refueling on Mars with locally produced propellant, and using a rocket fuel (methane/oxygen) that can be easily manufactured on Mars. Musk envisions that the eventual cost of a ticket to Mars will be in the $100K-$200K U.S. dollars range, allowing ordinary people to eventually travel to Mars.

SpacX ITS launch
SpacX ITS launch
SpaceX ITS reusable first stage return
SpaceX ITS reusable first stage return
SpaceX ITS refueling in orbit (image: SpaceX)
SpaceX ITS refueling in orbit
SpaceX ITS approaching Mars
SpaceX ITS approaching Mars
SpaceX ITS nearing Mars
SpaceX ITS final approach to Mars
SpaceX ITS Mars entry
SpaceX ITS Mars entry
SpaceX Raptor engine test
SpaceX Raptor engine test
SpaceX has already built an ITS prototype composite fuel tank
SpaceX has already built a prototype ITS composite fuel tank

What has been a bold vision of the future for humanity is now becoming reality. Humanity has begun the first concrete steps towards space settlement. The next decade will be one of the most pivotal in human history. Today we are beginning the journey to becoming a multiplanetary species.

In recognition of these momentous developments taking place the National Space Society is convening the first “Space Settlement Summit” in January to bring together leading people, companies and organizations that are making space settlement a reality. Participation in this event will be by invitation only and limited to entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, venture capitalists, and thought leaders deeply involved in making space settlement a reality. The objective of the event will be to show the synergistic in-space ecosystem that is emerging; to facilitate a convergence of interests and opportunities among the key players; and to identify critical issues along the path to space settlement. We are at the dawn of a new era for humanity and the National Space Society is continuing its role as the leading voice for space settlement.

Musk’s reveal of his Mars colonization plan follows the announcement September 12th of the Blue Origin “New Glenn” heavy-lift vehicle by Jeff Bezos. The New Glenn is 7 meters in diameter and comes in both a two stage and a three stage version. The reusable first stage is powered by seven BE-4 engines fueled by liquid natural gas and liquid oxygen, providing 3.85 million pounds of thrust. The second stage uses a single BE-4 engine, and the optional third stage a single liquid hydrogen-oxygen BE-3 engine, the same engine used in the flight proven reusable New Shepard sub-orbital vehicle.

“The New Glenn is a major step forward for commercial space,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “With the SpaceX ITS and Falcon Heavy, the United Launch Alliance Vulcan, and the Blue Origin New Glenn operational, the U.S. will have four domestic options for commercial medium to heavy lift. This will allow NASA to make use of commercial heavy lift services with greater confidence than if only a single operator existed.”

The U.S National Space Policy of 2010 states “To promote a robust domestic commercial space industry, departments and agencies shall: Purchase and use commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent when such capabilities and services are available in the marketplace and meet United States Government requirements.”

“NASA ought to welcome the usage of the ITS, Vulcan, the New Glenn and the Falcon Heavy in future NASA planning,” said Skran. “NASA can only benefit from the existence of multiple commercial medium to heavy lift providers with re-usable first stages that offer the possibility of significant cost reductions.”

Milestone 2 on the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap is titled “Higher Commercial Launch Rates and Lower Cost to Orbit” (http://www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap/RoadmapPart2.html). Future NASA usage of commercially available partially or fully re-usable medium to heavy lift vehicles will be critical to achieving this milestone.

“Competition like that seen between Blue Origin and SpaceX is key to rapid progress in space,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President. “Elon just presented a plan for settling the solar system in this century that is realistic and affordable. In my paper, ‘A Pathway to a Thriving Commercial Space Economy’ at IAC, I also laid out a path forward to a thriving new economy in space that produces new opportunities for all.”

Musk’s plan’s address MILESTONES 15 (“Logistics System”), 16 (“Base”), and 17 (“A True Martian Settlement”) in the evolving NSS Space Settlement Roadmap (see http://www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap). NSS supports the exploration, development, and settlement of space, including free space, the Moon, asteroids, and other locations in addition to Mars.

NSS has been pushing hard via legislative outreach in cooperation with the Alliance for Space Development to make space development and settlement part of the objectives that guide NASA. In March 2016 Rep. Dana Rohrabacher introduced H.R.4752 the “Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act (see https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4752/text) to make development and settlement of space part of the fundamental law governing NASA.

More recently, on September 21, 2016, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee marked up S.3346, the NASA Transition Act of 2016. This bi-partisan Bill, co-sponsored by Senators Cruz, Nelson, Rubio, Peters, Wicker, and Udall, contains the following ground-breaking statement:

Section 202(a) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18312(a)) is amended to read as follows:
“(a) LONG-TERM GOALS—The long-term goals of the human space flight and exploration efforts of NASA shall be—
“(1) to expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and to do so, where practical, in a manner involving international, academic, and industry partners; and
“(2) the peaceful settlement of a location in space or on another celestial body and a thriving space economy in the 21st century.”

The entire S.3346 “NASA Transition Act of 2016” can be found at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/3346/text. NSS applauds the Senate for taking this forward-looking position in favor of space development and settlement, but much remains to be done to make space development and settlement a reality. Join us in the fight for a better future at www.nss.org.

Deep Space Industries Announces First Commercial Interplanetary Mining Mission

Deep Space Industries announced today its plans to fly the world’s first commercial interplanetary mining mission. Prospector-1™ will fly to and rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid, and investigate the object to determine its value as a source of space resources. This mission is an important step in the company’s overall plans to harvest and supply in-space resources to support the growing space economy.

“Deep Space Industries has worked diligently to get to this point, and now we can say with confidence that we have the right technology, the right team and the right plan to execute this historic mission,” said Rick Tumlinson, chairman of the board and co-founder of Deep Space Industries. “Building on our Prospector-X mission, Prospector-1 will be the next step on our way to harvesting asteroid resources.”

Prospector 1
Click image for larger version

Recently, Deep Space Industries and its partner, the government of Luxembourg, announced plans to build and fly Prospector-X™, an experimental mission to low-Earth orbit that will test key technologies needed for low-cost exploration spacecraft. This precursor mission is scheduled to launch in 2017. Then, before the end of this decade, Prospector-1 will travel beyond Earth’s orbit to begin the first space mining exploration mission.

“Our Prospector missions will usher in a new era of low cost space exploration” said Grant Bonin, chief engineer at DSI. “We are developing Prospector both for our own asteroid mining ambitions, but also to bring an extremely low-cost, yet high-performance exploration spacecraft to the market. At a tiny fraction of what traditional custom-built space probes cost, the Prospector platform has the versatility and ruggedness of design to become the new standard for low cost space exploration.”

Prospector-1 is a small spacecraft (50 kg when fueled) that strikes the ideal balance between cost and performance. In addition to the radiation-tolerant payloads and avionics, all DSI spacecraft use the Comet™ water propulsion system, which expels superheated water vapor to generate thrust. Water will be the first asteroid mining product, so the ability to use water as propellant will provide future DSI spacecraft with the ability to refuel in space.

“During the next decade, we will begin the harvest of space resources from asteroids,” said Daniel Faber, CEO at Deep Space Industries. “We are changing the paradigm of business operations in space, from one where our customers carry everything with them, to one in which the supplies they need are waiting for them when they get there.”

The destination asteroid will be chosen from a group of top candidates selected by the world renowned team of asteroid experts at Deep Space Industries. When it arrives at the target, the Prospector-1 spacecraft will map the surface and subsurface of the asteroid, taking visual and infrared imagery and mapping overall water content, down to approximately meter-level depth. When this initial science campaign is complete, Prospector-1 will use its water thrusters to attempt touchdown on the asteroid, measuring the target’s geophysical and geotechnical characteristics.

“The ability to locate, travel to, and analyze potentially rich supplies of space resources is critical to our plans,” continued Faber. “This means not just looking at the target, but actually making contact.”

Along with customer missions already in progress, such as the cluster of small satellites being built by DSI for HawkEye 360, the Prospector missions will demonstrate the company’s simple, low-cost, but high-performance approach to space exploration. The Prospector platform is now available to government and commercial explorers interested in developing sophisticated, yet low-cost missions of their own.

“Prospector-1 is not only the first commercial interplanetary mission, it is also an important milestone in our quest to open the frontier,” said Tumlinson. “By learning to ‘live off the land’ in space, Deep Space Industries is ushering in a new era of unlimited economic expansion.”

More detailed information about the Prospector program, including the Prospector-X (eXperimental) and Prospector-1 missions, and the DSI technologies that are making these missions possible, can be found on the company’s website:
DeepSpaceIndustries.com/missions

National Space Society Applauds SpaceX Launch of IDA to the ISS and successful RTLS of the Falcon 9 First Stage

With a successful launch on July 18 at 12:45 AM EST, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, SpaceX achieved several dramatic milestones on the Commercial Resupply Services 9 mission (CRS-9). In addition to supplies and experiments in the pressurized part of the Dragon, an unpressurized “trunk” houses the 1,028 lb (467 kilogram) International Docking Adaptor (IDA), manufactured by Boeing. The IDA, once attached to the International Space Station (ISS) will be the connecting point for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crewed Dragon 2 spacecraft as they bring American astronauts to the ISS on American-built and operated vehicles for the first time since the end of the Space Shuttle program.

Experiments being lofted to the ISS by CRS-9 include a Biomolecule Sequencer that will attempt for the first time DNA sequencing in micro-gravity and a new type of heat exchanger being developed by NASA. CASIS/ISS National Laboratory projects include OsteoOmics, which will use magnetic levitation to increase our understanding of the bone loss that results from osteoporosis, and HeartCells, a study of the effects of microgravity on the human heart, which could improve treatments for heart disease on Earth.

“The CRS-9 delivery of IDA is on the critical path to our future in space,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “SpaceX continues to break new ground in lowering the cost of going into space, and the return to launch site landing of the first stage is key to eventually lowering the cost of spaceflight. With the successful installation of IDA on the ISS, America will be ready for the next epoch of human spaceflight based on commercial vehicles.”

International Docking Adaptor
International Docking Adaptor (IDA) ready for installation in the Dragon trunk [courtesy NASA]
On June 19, 2016 Blue Origin re-used its sub-orbital New Shepard booster on a flight to the Karman line (the edge of space) for the fourth time and returned the rocket to its launch site for further re-use while demonstrating the reliability of the capsule parachute system in the case of a failed parachute. “Competition like that seen between Blue Origin and SpaceX is the key to rapid progress in space,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President. “Today’s launch of IDA to the ISS and the successful RTLS [return to launch site] landing is a direct result of the competitive, commercial nature of CRS and Commercial Crew, and NSS advocates extending these types of programs into cis-lunar space.”

Lowering the cost of access to space is fundamental to NSS’s vision of our future there (see www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap) and today’s events have brought that future materially closer.

Videos of the SpaceX Reusable Rocket Program

Below are two 5-minute videos about the reusable rocket development program of SpaceX. The first video shows the live coverage of the first successful landing on an autonomous spaceport drone ship, with the tremendous excitement of the SpaceX team very audible in the background. The second video is a cool compilation of SpaceX reusable rocket testing over the previous four years.

The Billionaire’s Race to Colonize Space: Blue Origin and SpaceX

Elon Musk has made it clear that his mission with SpaceX is to colonize Mars and to help humanity become a multi-planet species.

Jeff Bezos states that Blue Origin is “working hard to bring closer the day when millions of people can live and work in space.”

See the interesting article on this subject by Trevor Nace on The Next Web Insider.

Space Invaders: The Mojave Entrepreneurs

From Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President:

A lot of things are happening related to space that don’t get covered by the mainstream media. This 13-minute video produced by the Economist magazine travels to Mojave Spaceport in California where young engineers at space startups are building the future.  Companies featured include XCOR, Virgin Galactic, and Masten Aerospace. The video includes interesting footage I’ve never seen before. Ad Astra!