SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell Wins National Space Society’s Space Pioneer Award for Entrepreneurial Business

The National Space Society takes great pleasure in awarding its 2014 Space Pioneer Award for the Entrepreneurial Business category to SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne R. Shotwell. NSS will present the Space Pioneer Award to Mrs. Shotwell on Saturday May 17, at NSS’s annual conference, the 2014 International Space Development Conference (ISDC).  The conference will be held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, CA, and will run from May 14-18, 2014.

About Gwynne Shotwell:

Gwynne ShotwellWith this award we recognize Mrs. Shotwell’s immense service to the space community. We are honoring her specifically for her day to day management of SpaceX business, as an effective spokesperson, and in leading the sales of over $5B in launch services business to a global set of customers. She is also in charge of a wide array of other critical company operations. As the seventh employee of SpaceX in 2002, she has given over 11 years of her life to the fastest growing space company in history, contributing to its excellence in business discipline and restoring the US as a major space launch provider. Her two degrees (BA and MA) in mechanical engineering and applied math from Northwestern University, along with her undergraduate concentration in economics, have served her very well in working with SpaceX engineers and in explaining both the technical and the business details to customers, at conferences, and to the Congress. She previously worked at the Aerospace Corporation and Microcosm, Inc. During her career she has authored dozens of technical papers on spacecraft design, and also participates in STEM scholarship programs.

About SpaceX:

The work currently progressing at SpaceX has a high potential of finally allowing the long awaited economic breakout into space. The core mission of SpaceX is to lower the cost of accessing space by creating a system of reusable rocket boosters and spacecraft, with a policy of continuous improvement. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk and Tom Mueller. It has grown to over 3000 employees and is now the world’s largest producer of rocket engines. The company has a manifest of about 50 launches, has already provided several resupply missions to the Space Station, recovering its Dragon capsule safely each time, and will be testing new hardware in 2014 leading to a reusable rocket first stage within a few years. The company’s long-range goal is to create a fully reusable space transportation system to allow large numbers of people to reach Mars.

About the Space Pioneer Award

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 Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. There are several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988.  The NSS Awards Committee has been chaired by John Strickland since 2007 and its members seek prestigious award candidates on a continual basis.

About the ISDC:  The International Space Development Conference (ISDC) is the annual conference of the National Space Society bringing together NSS leaders and members with leading managers, engineers, scientists, educators, and businessmen from civilian, military, commercial, entrepreneurial, and grassroots advocacy space sectors.

National Space Society Supports 2015 NASA Commercial Crew Budget

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) has been a consistent supporter of NASA’s Commercial Crew program to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).  In the NSS position paper on the NASA Commercial Crew Program released today, the Society strongly endorses $848 million in the 2015 NASA budget for Commercial Crew, along with the $250 million supplemental Commercial Crew request.  Furthermore, the $171 million “hold” placed on the program last year should be removed.

At a time when the availability of the Russian supplied Soyuz, our current sole method of getting American astronauts to the ISS (at $70 million per seat), is being increasingly questioned and political relations with Russia are deteriorating, we need to move Commercial Crew to the top of NASA’s priority list.

NSS believes, however, that the nature of the Commercial Crew program is as important as the amount of funding.   Commercial Crew must support a minimum of two independent American providers of crewed access to ISS.   Failure to provide this level of capability will lead to rising costs and hinder the growth of a vigorous private commercial launch industry that will lead to a vibrant, sustainable commercial space industry and the high tech jobs growth that it will create.  In addition, NSS believes the Commercial Crew program will have adequate safety, and should proceed without further funding shortfall-based delays.

NSS also endorses the recent decision by the Obama administration to extend the life of the ISS by four years to 2024.  NASA should take additional steps to further extend both the life and the capabilities of the ISS, including using the Commercial Crew vehicles to support a larger ISS crew, creating greater science, technology and commercial output.

NSS Executive Vice President Paul Werbos summed up the situation.  “We face great uncertainty in our ability to access the ISS.  We can develop a competitive, commercially successful American means to do this.  There is little or no benefit to waiting.  Let’s do it.”

See NSS Position Paper on the NASA Commercial Crew Program.

Commercial Crew Program

Mercury MESSENGER Team Wins National Space Society’s Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering

The National Space Society takes great pleasure in awarding its 2014 Space Pioneer Award for the Science and Engineering category to the (Mercury) MESSENGER Team.  MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.  This spacecraft entered an orbit around the planet Mercury and conducted an extensive scientific survey of the entire planet, the first human object to do so.  With this award, NSS recognizes both the importance of the first dedicated probe to orbit Mercury and the significance of the scientific results already released.

The National Space Society will present the Space Pioneer Award to MESSENGER project representatives Drs. Sean C. Solomon, Larry R. Nittler and Ralph McNutt at NSS’s annual conference, the 2014 International Space Development Conference (ISDC).  The conference will be held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, CA.  The ISDC will run from May 14-18, 2014.

About the MESSENGER Team:

The Principal Investigator for the Messenger Team is Dr. Sean C. Solomon. He also directs the prestigious Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.  Dr. Larry R. Nittler is MESSENGER’s Deputy Principal Investigator. Dr. Ralph McNutt is MESSENGER’s Project Scientist. The historic achievements of the MESSENGER Team (after construction and launch of the spacecraft) include successfully placing the spacecraft accurately into its intended orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011, after a series of six critical flybys of the Earth, Venus, and Mercury itself.  Besides the critical contribution of accurately mapping Mercury’s surface, the science results have confirmed the presence of water ice and organic chemicals at the poles, and the fact that Mercury’s magnetic field is offset to the north substantially from its equator.

About the MESSENGER Mission:

MESSENGER confirmed suspicions of major regional volcanism and mapped global patterns of thrust fault scarps that show Mercury has contracted several times more than Mariner 10 data indicated.  Global elemental and mineralogical mapping confirmed Mercury has a low-iron crustal mineralogy, but unexpectedly showed sulfur, potassium and other volatile elements are abundant, upsetting high temperature models of Mercury’s formation.  MESSENGER has discovered pitted “hollows” with bright halos, found in many craters, which appear to involve volatile loss but their formation mechanism remains enigmatic.

About the Space Pioneer Award

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 Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. There are several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988.  The NSS Awards Committee has been chaired by John Strickland since 2007 and its members seek prestigious award candidates on a continual basis.

About the ISDC:  The International Space Development Conference (ISDC) is the annual conference of the National Space Society bringing together NSS leaders and members with leading managers, engineers, scientists, educators, and businessmen from civilian, military, commercial, entrepreneurial, and grassroots advocacy space sectors.

Elon Musk Wins National Space Society Robert A. Heinlein Award

The National Space Society takes great pleasure in announcing that its 2014 Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award has been won by acclaimed space entrepreneur Elon Musk, the Chief Designer and CEO of SpaceX. In the last decade, SpaceX, under the leadership of Elon Musk, has been moving directly toward accomplishing goals that many of us in NSS think are of utmost importance, such as forcing a drastic reduction in launch costs by doing the very hard task which no one else in the world has been willing and able to tackle: working to create a family of commercially successful and reusable rocket boosters and reusable spacecraft.

The National Space Society’s prestigious Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award will be presented to Elon Musk at the 2014 International Space Development Conference (ISDC).  The conference will be held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. The ISDC will run from May 14-18, 2014.

The imaginations of our visionaries of the last 100 years will not be fulfilled until affordable, large scale and high mass operations can take place in Earth orbit and beyond. SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is reusable and SpaceX is making great progress towards a reusable rocket, the key development that would make such operations possible.

About Elon Musk:

Elon MuskElon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971 and emigrated first to Canada and then to the US.  He has two B.A. degrees, one in physics and one in economics, from the University of Pennsylvania.  He became a multimillionaire in his late twenties when he sold his start-up company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers.  He went on to more early successes, launching PayPal via a 2000 merger.  He founded Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) in 2002, the same year that he became an American citizen and also the same year he earned the money to fund the new company from the sale of PayPal.  The SpaceX Falcon 1 was the first privately funded liquid fueled rocket to put a payload into orbit.  The larger Falcon 9 rocket has been flying since June 2010 and SpaceX is also developing a reusable version called Falcon 9R and a much larger rocket, Falcon Heavy.  SpaceX has a 1.6-billion dollar contract with NASA to supply the space station via its recoverable Dragon spacecraft.  They are also a competitor in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Like NSS, Musk views space exploration as important for the preservation and expansion of humankind. Musk likes to say that we should become “multi-planetary” as a hedge against all threats to our survival. He said, “Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct.” To help make that happen, Musk’s goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 100.

About the Robert A. Heinlein Award

The Heinlein award is presented once every two years for lifetime achievement in promoting the goal of a free, spacefaring civilization. The winner is determined by a vote of the NSS membership. The award consists of a miniature signal cannon, on a mahogany base with a black granite inlay and a brass plaque as shown.  The award concept came from Robert Heinlein’s classic book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Previous winners include Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Dr. Carl Sagan. More information about this award is at: http://www.nss.org/awards/heinlein_award.html.

Heinlein Award

About the ISDC: 

The International Space Development Conference (ISDC) is the annual conference of the National Space Society, bringing together NSS leaders and members with leading managers, engineers, scientists, educators, and businessmen from civilian, military, commercial, entrepreneurial, and grassroots advocacy space sectors.

National Space Society Issues Position Paper on Protecting Earth from Cosmic Impacts

On February 15, 2013, a meteor exploded over the Chelyabinsk region of Russia. The blast damaged over 7,000 buildings and almost 1,500 people suffered injuries requiring treatment. As we observe the anniversary of that event, it is important to understand its significance and specifically what it means for the United States. Millions of objects in space, including asteroids and comets, are in orbits around the Sun that cross Earth’s orbit. When they approach Earth, they are referred to as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). Some NEOs are large enough to cause significant damage if they impact the Earth. Many such objects have struck Earth in the past, inflicting damage ranging from trivial up to and including global catastrophe. While a future large strike with catastrophic consequences is certain, we do not know whether it will happen in 150 million years or fifteen months.

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) has been a consistent supporter of actions to defend our home planet from such events. In a position paper released today, the Society focuses attention on the near-term need and the opportunity to significantly improve our ability to detect and track collision threats to the Earth. While recognizing that this is a global problem, the paper focuses on recommended actions for the United States. Additionally, NSS urges all space faring nations to add an amount of at least one percent of their civilian space budget for developing defenses against these threats.

NSS believes that the immediate task before us is to find and track NEOs large enough to cause damage on Earth. To this end, current US ground-based searches should continue, including use of the Arecibo radio telescope. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope should be fully funded and encouraged to vigorously pursue NEO detection. The B612 Foundation’s Sentinel Project and the JPL NEOCam infra-red space telescope should be fully funded. The Society also feels that now is the time to more seriously address the detection of long period comets. Additional work should be done on NEO characterization and deflection research.

NSS Director and Space Settlement Advocacy Committee chair Al Globus summed up the situation: “We face an existential threat. We can develop the ability to remove it. There is little or no benefit to waiting. Let’s do it.”

See NSS Position Paper on Protecting Earth from Cosmic Impacts.

National Space Society Opposes HR 3625

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) strongly opposes the passage of House of Representatives bill HR 3625. This bill would (a) require NASA to obtain legislative permission to cancel four of its most expensive human spaceflight and science programs, and (b) allow contractors for these programs to have immediate access to hundreds of millions of dollars in funds which currently are held in reserve to pay the government’s obligations in the event of such termination. The four covered programs are the Space Launch System, the Orion crew capsule, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and the International Space Station.

Ordinarily, government agencies like NASA have the right to terminate a project if it no longer appears necessary or cost effective, provided it pays “termination liability costs” which are sometimes provided for in such contracts. It is unusual to require an act of Congress in order to stop a program. As a practical matter, getting Congress to pass such an act would be extremely difficult.

Consequently, if HR 3625 is enacted, even after the responsible agency determined that a project was no longer useful, contractors would continue to get millions of dollars for unnecessary and unwanted programs until such a time as Congress passed a bill specifically calling for the cancellation of the project and allocating the funds required for program termination.

“The ability to cancel a program for convenience is essential to allow the government to deal with changing circumstances,” said NSS Executive Vice President Paul Werbos. “Requiring explicit Congressional approval to terminate a program for convenience represents a significant shift in power between the Executive and Legislative branches of government that should not be taken lightly.”

National Space Society Position Statement on HR 3625
December 2013

The National Space Society (NSS) opposes passage of HR3625, which was approved December 11, 2013 by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. This bill, if approved by the full House and Senate, would have the impact of requiring that funds currently reserved for termination costs in the case of program cancellation for convenience be immediately spent on a short list of named programs. HR3625 also states that NASA cannot cancel these programs without Congress first passing a law to that effect.

Although this may initially sound like a good idea, HR3625 violates standards of professional program management and creates a special class of NASA programs that may be more difficult to cancel in the future. As a result, potential termination actions could focus on other NASA programs that are not covered by this Act. Additionally, HR3625 sets a bad example for management across the entire US government, and may lead to further attempts to create a wide range of specially protected programs. All NASA, and all government programs, are normally evaluated regularly on their merits by both executive and legislative branches. Although it is probable that HR3625 would have minimal impact on termination-for-cause actions that derive from poor performance, it would add additional obstacles to termination-for-convenience actions and make such actions more difficult. Finally, this bill potentially could create a “moral hazard” — a precedent encouraging companies to take additional risks if they felt a covered program would be more difficult to terminate.

National Space Society Congratulates SpaceX on First Successful GEO Transfer Mission

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) on the successful launch of the SES-8 telecommunications satellite. It was launched Tuesday, December 3, 2013 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:41 PM Eastern Time.

The SES-8 is a GEOStar-2 satellite built by Orbital Sciences. The hybrid Ku- and Ka-band spacecraft weighs 3,138 kg (6,918 lbs) and will provide communications coverage of the South Asia and Asia Pacific regions.

This is the first mission to geo-synchronous orbit for SpaceX, and the second flight of the Falcon 9 v1.1. The upgraded version of the Falcon 9 has 60% more thrust than the Falcon 9 v1.0, and can loft payloads of up to 4,950 kg (10,690 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit.

Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President, said, “This milestone injects a new US competitor into the international commercial satcom launch market, and is an important step toward lowering the cost of access to space, which in turn will help drive space development and settlement.”

This flight of the Falcon v1.1 represents a major step forward commercially for SpaceX, and also demonstrates progress toward the certification of the Falcon 9 for Department of Defense payloads. Critical to geostationary transfer missions, for the first time the upgraded Falcon 9 second stage re-ignited for a 5-minutes 20-seconds burn to put the SES-8 into the correct orbit. SES is the world’s second largest telecommunications satellite company, fielding 54 geostationary satellites.

Participate in the International SunSat Competition – Over $40,000 in Prizes Will Be Awarded!

The National Space Society in affiliation with Ohio University is pleased to announce that the International SunSat Design Competition is now registering competitive teams.  This two-year project is designed to link global scientific communities with university-based (and other) digital media labs for the purposes of advancing knowledge of space-based solar power satellites (SunSats) and illustrating their many Earth-energy applications.

International SunSat Competition

If you are a space scientist, engineer, academic, business or digital media professional with an idea for moving space solar power closer to implementation, consider forming a team to join in this effort. And please forward this message to others.

In the first cycle of this competition, two First Place prizes of $10,000 and three Second Place prizes of $5,000 are expected to be awarded at the May 2014 International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles. For registered teams successfully completing the Feb. 2014 “significant progress point,” an additional $1,000 incentive can be earned, and $1,000 travel assistance will be awarded to winners.

Winning entries of 2014 and 2015 will be published in the Space Journal as Issue No.18: Top SSP Designs.

To learn more, check  the SunSat Visualization Guidebook and look at the SunSat Design Competition website.

To see where the idea of a SSP Design Competition came from, take a look at SpaceJournal Issue No.16: Solar Power Satellites.

To see how Ohio University’s Game Research in Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, with the help of Georgia Institute of Technology, University of North Dakota and others in academia, has experimented with making the advanced science and technology concepts of SSP more accessible to the public, view SpaceJournal Issue No.17: Creative Visualization of Space Solar Power.

This competition is managed by Ohio University, the host institution for the Online Journal of Space Communication, but guided and juried by members of the National Space Society and the Society of Satellite Professionals International.

NSS Remembers Long-Time Member Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl, a long-time member and supporter of the National Space Society (NSS) and one of the great science fiction authors of the late 20th century, died Monday, September 2, 2013. He was 93.

Karen Mermel, Vice President for Development at NSS stated, “Fred often spoke at NSS chapter events and represented NSS on panels, including one with astronaut Jim Lovell to discuss the benefits of space exploration. Fred was a personal friend and a staunch NSS supporter who wholeheartedly believed in our goals and mission.”

Pohl was known as a dark humorist and satirist in novels such asThe Space Merchants (1953) and Gladiator-at-Law (1955). Both were written with frequent collaborator C. M. Kornbluth.

His long career included writing novels and short stories, editing, and being a literary agent for science fiction writers. He won three Hugo awards, was named a grand master of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1992, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1998.

Born November 26, 1919, in New York City, Pohl was an early science fiction fan who served as editor of Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories in 1939-43; in the 1970s, he edited the magazines Galaxy and If.

1977’s Gateway was one of Pohl’s many books that explored human space exploration after overpopulation and the depletion of Earth’s resources; the Times called it an “adventurous, extrapolative, and insightful novel.” As far back as the 1950s, Pohl edited science fiction anthologies, something he continued to do throughout his life to bring attention to other writers’ work. He published a memoir, The Way the Future Was, in the late 1970s, and continued the story in the 21st century online with The Way the Future Blogs.

Elizabeth Ann Hull (Betty), Fred’s wife, says she’ll be planning a memorial for Fred in the next six months or so. That way all friends and fans will be able to attend.

Frederik Pohl, Courtesy Fred Fox Studios, Ltd.
Frederik Pohl, Courtesy Fred Fox Studios, Ltd.

Space Settlements Represent Hope for Humankind

The National Space Society (NSS) offers a comparison of its vision for space settlement to that promoted by many dystopian science fiction movies of today.  NSS has supported the concept of rotating space settlements in orbit or deep space since the epochal publication by Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill of his seminal article on space colonies in Physics Today (1974).

Since those days, concepts of democracy and egalitarian societies have been integral to our vision. A goal of NSS is the creation of a free, spacefaring civilization with people living and working in space. We believe in democracy to build and operate space settlements, whether in space, on the Moon, on Mars, or even on planets around other stars.

A large part of the space movement today is founded on improving life on Earth by creating an ability to operate in space. This includes the ability to divert threatening asteroids, detect solar outbursts that could destroy our electrical grid, and build solar power collection/transmission satellites that could produce huge amounts of carbon free energy in space for use on Earth, enriching all of humankind. In fact, an early justification for building space settlements was to house the labor force needed to build the solar power satellites that would provide a global solar power source to all nations, helping to prevent the ecological and economic collapse and chaos depicted in many dystopian movies of today. NSS believes that we are making the future every day and that we want to build a hopeful future.

NSS is happy that space settlements are beginning to appear in popular culture such as the recent motion picture Elysium.  NSS applauds the cinematic skill that resulted in the depiction of the physical appearance and operation of a rotating orbital space settlement. While NSS accepts that a conflict is fairly fundamental to a good story, we would like movie viewers to keep in mind that the tyrannical government depicted in the movie does not represent the path of humans in space envisioned by the NSS and its thousands of members.