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.”

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.

National Space Society Congratulates NASA, ULA, and Lockheed Martin on the Successful Launch of OSIRIS-REx

With the successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 411 on September 8 at 7:05 PM EST, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, NASA’s mission to travel to a near Earth asteroid and return a sample got underway. NSS congratulates the team who made this happen. OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer.

“OSIRIS-REx has NSS members really excited,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President. “The craft will provide a complete map of the chemistry and mineralogy of a carbon based asteroid. Such asteroids will be critical for both the economic development and settlement of space. The TAGSAM sample collection device may provide a foundation for the development of future asteroid mining robots. Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, and his team at the University of Arizona have put together a really impressive mission.”

The probe is the third in NASA’s “New Frontiers” program of medium-sized exploration missions, and cost about $800 million in addition to launch and operations costs. The Lockheed Martin built spacecraft will journey to Bennu, a Near-Earth asteroid, arriving in August 2018. After two years of study, an innovative sample collection device, TAGSAM, will use jets of nitrogen gas to assist in collecting a minimum of 60 grams of samples.

OSIRIS-REx
OSIRIS-REx will leave Bennu in March 2021, and arrive back at Earth two and a half years later. The sample return canister is targeted toward a parachute landing at the Utah Test and Training Range on September 24, 2023. Although the primary mission objective is to return to Earth a pristine sample of a carbon rich asteroid for analysis, other objectives focus on resource identification, planetary security, and regolith exploration. Other “New Frontiers” missions include Juno, which is currently orbiting Jupiter, and New Horizons, which flew past Pluto in July 2015 and is now heading toward another object in the Kuiper Belt, with an expected arrival in January 2019.

Additionally, OSIRIS-REx will measure the effect of sunlight on the orbit of the asteroid, allowing the risk of an asteroid hitting the Earth to be better understood. “NSS advocates increased U.S. spending on protecting Earth from passing asteroids and comets,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “OSIRIS-REx is a major step toward achieving the goals set forward in the NSS position paper on Planetary Defense.

Development of asteroid resources is fundamental to NSS’ vision of our future in space (see our Roadmap to Space Settlement Milestone 18 “Exploration, Utilization, and Settlement of Asteroids”) and yesterday’s events have brought that future materially closer.

National Space Society Urges Renewed Commitment to Competition and Reusability Following Falcon 9/Amos 6 Incident

At about 9:07 AM September 1, 2016, during preparation for a routine static fire test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, an explosion resulted in the loss of both the F9 and the satellite payload. At this time there are no reports of injuries in the incident. Although Elon Musk has reported that the explosion “Originated around [the] upper stage oxygen tank” the cause remains unknown.

“Clearly this incident is a setback for SpaceX,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “However, it emphasizes the wisdom of NASA in supporting multiple cargo and crew carriers to the International Space Station. NASA deserves the highest praise for holding fast to supporting multiple providers with dissimilar vehicles to provide both competition and redundancy. NSS looks forward to the return to flight of the Orbital ATK Antares rocket hauling cargo to the ISS later this year, and welcomes the addition of Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser to the list of ISS cargo haulers.”

With eight launches to orbit so far this year, SpaceX has already exceeded its previous record for successful launches in a single year. While launching commercial satellites to geosynchronous orbit and cargo to the ISS this year, SpaceX demonstrated the landing of an F9 first stage five times, one with return to launch site and four times with a landing on a drone ship. “Dramatic innovation such as SpaceX has been pursuing entails risk,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President. “And the recent incident exemplifies that risk. However, NSS is confident that SpaceX will discover the root cause of the problem, evaluate other potentially catastrophic failure modes and return to flight with a robust system. NSS strongly supports SpaceX’s efforts to develop reusable vehicles and lower launch costs.”

SpaceX is one of two providers selected by NASA to ferry crews to the ISS. Its capsule, the Dragon 2, which is designed to land propulsively, has the capability of allowing the crew to escape a pad explosion. David Cheuvront, member of the NSS Policy Committee and former NASA Safety Engineer for Orion and the Commercial Crew Certification Strategy Team said, “If there had been a crewed Dragon 9 on the pad instead of the Amos 6 satellite, there is good reason to believe that the crew and capsule would have survived.” Elon Musk agreed, saying “This seems instant from a human perspective, but it [is] really a fast fire, not an explosion. Dragon would have been fine.”

“The payload lost during this incident was not a high-value NASA payload. This underlines the wisdom of NASA using commercial launch services that fly many customers’ payloads frequently rather than NASA owned rockets that fly rarely. There is every reason to expect that by the time crews fly to the ISS on an F9, a high level of reliability will have been demonstrated,” said Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee.

The National Space Society Applauds Alan Stern Winning the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal

The National Space Society congratulates Dr. Alan Stern on winning the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. This award is the highest honor that NASA can bestow. NSS has also awarded one of our highest honors to Dr. Stern, the NSS Wernher von Braun Award, which he received at our International Space Development Conference last May in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Stern was Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. “Leading New Horizons has been the greatest honor of my lifetime, but it’s important to recognize so many others who also contributed to the success of this mission,” said Stern. “I dedicate this award to the 2,500 men and women who worked so hard to build, launch, and fly New Horizons across the solar system to explore Pluto and its system of moons.”

Portrait of Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. Image courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Portrait of Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Image courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls.

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.