National Space Society Congratulates SpaceX on the Falcon 9’s Return to Flight

The National Space Society congratulates SpaceX on the return to flight of the Falcon 9 on January 14, 2017, at 12:54 pm EST, successfully lofting ten Iridium NEXT communications satellites manufactured by Thales Alenia into polar orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Falcon 9 Iridium liftoff“NSS members are excited to see the F9 return to flight,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “SpaceX has been pushing the envelope to perfect the use of technologies like sub-cooled rocket fuel and first stage recovery. Companies can only take risks on new technology with the support of customers like Iridium that have the courage to do new things in space. NSS congratulates SpaceX, Iridium, and Thales Alenia Space on a job well done.”

“The use of sub-cooled rocket fuel enables more fuel to fit into the rocket, providing extra thrust to allow for re-use of first stages which should result in lower costs to reach space,” added NSS Chair of the Executive Committee, Mark Hopkins. The re-use of first stages supports Milestone 2: Higher Commercial Launch Rates and Lower Cost to Orbit of the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement which can be found at: www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap/RoadmapPart2.html. A great way to learn more about the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap is to attend the NSS International Space Development Conference (isdc2017.nss.org) in St. Louis, Missouri, May 25-29, 2017.

“NSS strongly supports the usage of space to provide benefits to people living on the Earth. The Iridium satellites enable first responders to communicate rapidly during an emergency anywhere in the world,” said NSS Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. The launch of the Iridium NEXT satellites support Milestone 7: Applications of Space Technology on and for Earth of the NSS Roadmap which can be found at:  www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap/RoadmapPart3.html .

This was the first flight for SpaceX since a Falcon 9 exploded on the pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 1, 2016, destroying an Amos-6 communications satellite. For the first time, SpaceX successfully landed a first stage on the drone ship “Just Read The Instructions” in the Pacific Ocean. This is the 7th time SpaceX has landed a first stage safely after a launch, and the third time SpaceX has launched from Vandenberg.

Falcon 9 Iridium landing

Iridium has a contract with SpaceX for seven Falcon 9 flights to launch a total of 70 Iridium NEXT satellites, including the 10 launched January 14th. When signed in 2010, the SpaceX/Iridium deal was the largest commercial launch contract in history. Since then, this record has been exceeded by a 21-launch order with Arianespace from OneWeb in 2015. The next launch by SpaceX for Iridium is expected in April 2017.

Eric Berger Wins the National Space Society’s 2017 Space Pioneer Award for Mass Media

Eric BergerEric Berger, who is the senior space editor at Ars Technica, is the winner of the National Space Society’s 2017 Space Pioneer Award in the Mass Media category. This award will recognize the exemplary work he has done in the space news field for both Ars Technica, (a major technology news web site), and previously for the Houston Chronicle. It will be presented to him on May 29, 2017 at the National Space Society’s 2017 International Space Development Conference (isdc.nss.org/2017). This will be the 36th ISDC and will be held in St Louis, Missouri, at the Union Station Hotel. The conference will run from May 25-29, 2017.

About the Space Pioneer Award

NSS Space Pioneer AwardThe Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, as shown at right, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by the greatly respected Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. NSS has several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988. Some of the recent winners of Space Pioneer Awards include Elon Musk, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bigelow, Apollo Astronaut Russell L. Schweickart, Dr. Michael Griffin, and the Rosetta Mission Team.

About Eric Berger

Eric Berger covers space business, space policy, space technology and other related areas such as astronomy. In the very fast paced field he is covering, his frequent, accurate and detailed articles and series have helped the space community keep track of what is happening, why and what the result may be. He is a good analyst and extrapolator as well as a reporter. He is not afraid to cover controversial topics, and that coverage is often invaluable. His articles are always technically accurate. He has an astronomy degree from the University of Texas, as well as a MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. In addition, he is a certified meteorologist. He lives in Houston, TX.

Celebrating the Life of National Space Society Governor and American Hero John Glenn

The National Space Society celebrates the life and contributions of the visionary champion of space exploration, Honorable Senator John Glenn, who passed away today.

“John Glenn was an inspiration for the National Space Society and all those who believe humanity’s destiny lies in the stars,” said Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the Executive Committee of NSS.

Hugh Downs, NSS Board of Governors Chair, said, “It was an honor to work with John Glenn as a member of the NSS Board of Governors. John had the courage of his convictions based on his knowledge of science. He did not fall for the myths that surrounded the medical risks of human space travel at the time. His understanding of the science was as important as his getting into the capsule and orbiting the Earth. It is hard to imagine today how important that was for the the U.S. at the time.”

Senator John Glenn served the National Space Society as a governor for over two decades. He was an advocate for a strong NASA along with the rest of the National Space Society. He appeared at the 2012 International Space Development Conference along with fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter where they both received the NSS Space Pioneer Award, for actually pioneering space!

Governors John Glenn and Art Dula, along with Scott Carpenter at ISDC 2012 in Washington, DC
NSS Governors John Glenn and Art Dula, along with Scott Carpenter at ISDC 2012 in Washington, DC

John H. Glenn was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. Following graduation from New Concord High School, Mr. Glenn enrolled in Muskingum College and began flying lessons at the New Philadelphia airport, earning his pilot’s license in 1941. He left college before earning his degree (he was awarded a bachelor of science in engineering from Muskingum in 1962) and enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. He was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1943. During his World War II service, Mr. Glenn flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific.

During the Korean conflict, he flew 63 missions with Marine Fighter Squadron 311 and 27 missions as an exchange pilot with the Air Force. He holds the Air Medal with 18 Clusters for his combat service and has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on six occasions. He is the recipient of numerous other honors, including the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

In 1959, he was selected to be one of seven NASA Mercury astronauts from an original pool of 508. Three years later, on February 20, 1962, he made history as the first American to orbit the Earth, completing three orbits in a five-hour flight and returning to a hero’s welcome.

After his NASA service, John took an active part in Democratic politics and early environmental protection efforts in Ohio. In 1974, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Senator Glenn retired in 1998.

John Glenn

Mr. Glenn returned to space from Oct. 29 to Nov. 7, 1998, as a member of NASA’s Shuttle STS-95 Discovery mission during which the crew supported a variety of research payloads and investigations on space flight and aging. During that mission, Mr. Glenn made 134 Earth orbits in 213 hours and 44 minutes.

Mr. Glenn has been married to Anna (Annie) Margaret Castor since 1943. They have a son, Dave, and a daughter, Lyn, and two grandchildren.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” We at NSS have no doubt that American Hero John Glenn heeded that call.

Enterprise In Space & Kepler Space Institute Sponsor Competition to Tackle Orbital Debris

Enterprise In Space (EIS), a non-profit program of the National Space Society (NSS), and the Kepler Space Institute have partnered with Global Aerospace Corporation (GAC) to launch the “Orbital Debris Mitigation” competition. In order to drive innovation forward in technology to remove the space debris orbiting Earth, EIS and its partners are offering university student teams a chance to propose experiments for space debris mitigation.

orbital-debris-mitigation-competition-banner

To enter the contest, university student teams may submit a white paper in either one of two competition categories. Category one is to design an experiment that fits on a CubeSat to detect, track or collect orbital debris. The second is to design an experiment to help evaluate the performance of GAC’s Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device (GOLD) that will de-orbit a CubeSat. To learn more about the competition, see the video presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA5T7A70CVs .

“Currently, there are over 500,000 pieces of space debris orbiting the Earth and traveling up to 17,500 miles per hour, potentially causing serious damage to any satellite or spacecraft,” said Kerry Nock, President of GAC. “At GAC, we have invented a device for removing this debris called GOLD which uses a lightweight, continuously inflated envelope to increase the drag area and accelerate the natural orbital decay process of antiquated satellites and large orbital debris by orders of magnitude.”

Up to three members of the grand prize winning team will receive complimentary registration to present their white papers at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference ® (ISDC), May 25-29, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. Grand prize winners will have their experiment results paper published in Ad Astra magazine and an industry trade journal for orbital space debris mitigation and remediation. One member of the grand prize team will also receive an R. S. Kirby Memorial Scholarship, valued at $5,000, from the Kepler Space Institute to be applied towards a full certificate program. The R. S. Kirby Memorial Scholarship aims to encourage space advocates the world over.

To learn more about the Orbital Debris Mitigation Competition or to enter, visit the contest page at enterpriseinspace.org/space-debris and become a part of NewSpace future.

National Space Society Presidential Policy Workshop Leaders Urge Incoming Administration to Lead Lunar Base Construction

On Saturday, October 8th, the National Space Society (NSS) organized a workshop directed at recommending a space policy to the new Administration. Eleven thought leaders from government, industry, and academia gathered in a fruitful collaboration to produce a set of five recommendations.

Steve Jurvetson, a partner at the well-known Silicon Valley Sand Hill Road venture capital firm DFJ hosted the meeting at the DFJ offices. NSS has submitted the resulting white paper to the Trump Transition Team. The paper can be viewed at http://www.nss.org/legislative/positions/NSS-DFJ-Workshop-Recommendations-Nov-2016.pdf.

“NSS is proud to support this important workshop,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “We had a very extensive collaboration bringing together space entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and space activists to develop space policy recommendations for the new Administration.”

As a result of this workshop, the National Space Society calls upon the Trump Administration to:

  1. Re-establish a National Space Council.
  2. Establish a thriving space economy as a goal of NASA and implement this goal via public-private partnerships, including the purchase in-space of fuel mined from the lunar surface/asteroids, and the use of commercial services to supply future space projects on and near the Moon.
  3. Lead in the construction of a public/private lunar resource extraction base that includes international participation.
  4. Set up a space commodities futures trading exchange to jump start the use of space resources.
  5. NASA should conduct break-through R&D targeted at projects such as 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.
“The space paradigm is changing at an accelerating pace,” said Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the Executive Committee of NSS. “The dramatic progress in commercial space calls for new thinking about why and how we explore, develop and eventually settle space,” he said.

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.”

Enterprise In Space and Kepler Space Institute Launch Competition for University Teams to 3D Print Aboard the International Space Station

Enterprise In Space (EIS), a non-profit program of the National Space Society (NSS), and the Kepler Space Institute have partnered with Made In Space (MIS), Sketchfab, 3D Hubs, and Prairie Nanotechnology to launch the “Print the Future” competition. In order to drive innovation forward in space manufacturing technology, EIS and its partners are offering university teams a chance to 3D print a NewSpace experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

MIS has made history by installing two 3D printers aboard the ISS, including the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), the first commercial 3D printer in space. As humanity expands its exploration of the cosmos, 3D printing in microgravity will be a key NewSpace technology for manufacturing goods away from Earth.

“An essential technology to extending humanity’s reach in space is in-space manufacturing,” said NSS Director and Made In Space Co-Founder and Chief Engineer Michael Snyder. “By manufacturing new designs in space, we’ll be able to forgo the high cost of shipping supplies by rocket and instead fabricate them directly in microgravity.”

For the Print the Future competition, university teams are encouraged to push the bounds of 3D printing in microgravity to craft new designs that will serve humanity in expanding its presence among the stars. Designs should meet the requirements of the AMF aboard the ISS and demonstrate concepts that can aid the human species in interplanetary transport, construction, and habitation.

All entries will be submitted and displayed on the popular 3D modeling community Sketchfab. While finalists will have their projects prototyped free of charge through 3D Hubs, a network of 3D printing services, all contestants are encouraged to iterate designs via 3D Hubs as well.

The grand prize winner will work with MIS to 3D print their project on Earth before printing aboard the ISS. The project will be returned to Earth, where the winner will be able to leverage Prairie Nanotechnology’s advanced research equipment to study the results. Three members of the grand prize team will also receive R.S. Kirby Memorial Scholarships valued at $5,000 each at the Kepler Space Institute to be applied towards a full certificate program. The R.S. Kirby Memorial Scholarships aim to encourage space advocates the world over and to develop technologies, laws, philosophies, and a moral and societal framework to aid the global community in extending life through our solar system and beyond.

“We’ve all seen those exciting sci-fi films in which the human species has colonized the galaxy and is exploring space in order to answer life’s deepest questions,” said NSS President and EIS Program Manager Alice Hoffman. “But if we’re ever going to be able to pull that off, we still have to develop the NewSpace technologies that will make interplanetary travel and colonization possible. And we’ll need to train the next generation to drive those technologies even further.”

To learn more about the Print the Future competition or to enter, readers may visit the contest page at enterpriseinspace.org/print-the-future where entrants can become a part of NewSpace history.

Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition is an exciting STEM Challenge for Kids

Everyone agrees – we need to get more kids interested in STEM careers. National Space Society is doing its part by lending support to the Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition. In this year’s contest, students are gearing up to build and launch a solid-fuel powered rocket. This is a fantastic way to turn kids on to the STEM subjects. Nothing lends itself to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math like a launch. After all – this is rocket science!

rocket competitionThe five national winners in the 2015-2016 Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition will be celebrating in grand fashion this Saturday, October 15, under an October Sky event at Space Camp / US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Each winner will receive a Space Shuttle Challenger commemorative medal and a certificate signed by Astronaut Jon McBride. Captain McBride piloted the Challenger on her early missions. The winners get to conduct a victory launch of their rockets from Homer Hickam Field – named after NASA engineer and author of the memoir, Rocket Boys that became the movie October Sky. NSS Director Ronnie Lajoie will also present students with a congratulatory certificate from the National Space Society.

The only thing more exciting than a rocket launch – is a rocket competition. And, excitement is building for the 11th annual competition, 2016-2017. Open for ages 10 to 18 – competitions are being hosted across the USA by schools, YMCAs, Scouts, Challenger Learning Centers, 4-H, Boys & Girls Clubs and other youth groups. Held at their own location, there is no travel expense or hassle to compete. It is fun, affordable and easy to run.

The Competition honors the memory of Christa McAuliffe, 1st Teacher-in-Space. Everyone involved in the Competition receives a certificate that bears Christa’s likeness and her quote, “Push yourself as far as you can. Reach for the stars!” The background of the certificates is the artwork of astronaut and moonwalker, Alan Bean.

Ten astronauts recommend this competition. Several have presented medals to the national winners. Two, US Senator Bill Nelson and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, encourage the kids in video clips prepared especially for the competitors.

Contestants will compete at an event held in their area. After two launches and parachute landings, the closest average distance from an on-field target wins. Local winners’ results are sent to the national headquarters to determine the five national winners.

Competition director, Jack Colpas says, “We promise the national winners – memories to last a lifetime and bragging rights for generations to come. Launching their rockets from a historical location and receiving a medal presented by an astronaut allows us to fulfill our promise.”

This year’s competitions are already beginning to be held across the country. Local competitions can be held anytime throughout the year. Your kids can’t win it – if they’re not in it!

For photos and more details about the competition go to www.RocketCompetition.com.

Enterprise In Space Partners with Sketchfab and 3D Hubs for NewSpace Education

Enterprise In Space (EIS), a non-profit program of the National Space Society (NSS), is thrilled to announce two new partnerships with 3D Hubs and Sketchfab to further develop the world’s first NewSpace education program.

EIS is embarking on a bold initiative to establish a next generation educational model in which students from K-postgrad are given open access to high quality education using cutting edge technologies. Through the online EIS Academy, students of all grade levels work with skilled educators, NASA scientists, and NewSpace innovators to learn science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills, all with the help of an AI tutor named Ali. The program’s first Academy-wide project is the design, construction, launch, and retrieval of the 3D-printed NSS Enterprise spacecraft, which will blast into Earth orbit carrying 100+ student experiments.

Sketchfab and 3D Hubs have joined EIS in its mission by offering their knowledge and resources. Sketchfab is the leading community devoted to 3D modeling and 3D scanning for use in augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing, and more. The company will provide professional accounts to educators and students participating in EIS international education competitions.

3D Hubs is the world’s largest distributed network for 3D printing services. Offering a variety of additive manufacturing technologies, 3D Hubs allows anyone to 3D print prototypes, end parts, and other goods locally and on demand. For EIS competitions, 3D Hubs will make available its vast network to provide prototyping and 3D printing services on demand to participating students.

The Enterprise Centers for Excellence (ECEs) are housed within the EIS Academy. These now span ten cutting edge topics from space-based solar power to tissue regeneration in microgravity. They offer university and postgraduate students the opportunity to collaborate with high-level researchers and NewSpace companies to learn advanced technologies and develop experiments for the NSS Enterprise spacecraft.

The Sketchfab team is made up of the ideal experts for heading up the ECE for Virtual and Mixed Reality. The 3D Hubs team will join Made In Space to run the ECE on Space Additive Manufacturing, contributing their extensive knowledge of 3D printing. Both firms will populate the ECEs with educational content and work with the EIS education team to develop curricula in their respective subjects of expertise.

EIS and its new partners have already begun work on a new project that will come to fruition in the very near future. Stay tuned and follow the progress of the historic EIS program or donate at www.enterpriseinspace.org.

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.”