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.”
“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.”
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.
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!
The 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!
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.
Sponsors: The August 2016 Home District Blitz was jointly sponsored by the National Space Society (NSS), Space Frontier Foundation (SFF), and the Alliance for Space Development (ASD).
The Blitz team in Maryland obtained a picture of the team with Rep. Ruppersberger (above).
There was a fierce battle between Illinois and Florida for blitz leadership, but Florida finished with five total visits, topping Illinois with three. Overall, a total of 20 visits were conducted spread over ten different states.
The Senate Authorization sub-committee solicited input privately from ASD. ASD responded with a letter of comment jointly signed by NSS, SFF, and SEDS. This may be the first time that this has occurred, and it is certainly the first time in recent memory. It represents a real breakthrough for NSS in terms of DC influence.
25% of the members of the Senate Authorization Committee were visited.
The combination of March Storm and the August Blitz appears to have had a significant effect on the Senate Authorization process, with the current version of the Senate “NASA Transition Act of 2016,” which was marked up by the Committee on 9/21/16, reflecting strong ISS “gapless” language and weaker but still significant support for space settlement.
Budget: No NSS, SFF, or ASD money was spent on the Blitz. All activities were of a volunteer nature.
Themes/Objectives: The two major themes of the 2016 Home District Blitz were:
Moving into legislation calling for a gapless transition from the ISS to future commercial LEO stations (ASD developed draft text).
Moving forward H.R.4752 (Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act) in both the House and the Senate.
On September 26, 2016 3,000 delegates from 80 countries gathered in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the 67th International Astronautical Congress. The theme of this year’s congress was “Making space accessible and affordable to all countries.” The Congress aims to show how more and more countries are becoming involved in space exploration.
During the conference, policymakers and industry representatives discussed the latest technological breakthroughs and developments in space exploration. This Congress was full of important and interesting announcements, panels, presentations and lectures.
The most popular was Elon Musk’s keynote speech entitled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.” Musk discussed the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation was focused on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.
Another extraordinary event was a special live coverage of the final descent toward the comet of the famous spacecraft, Rosetta. The final moments of this historic mission were broadcast live from ESA’s mission control in Germany and gathered about 1,000 attendees at 5 am on September 30. ESA’s Director General Johann-Dietrich Woerner, as well as the heads of the German, French and Italian space agencies, were in attendance at the event.
As always, members of NSS took an active part in this important astronautical forum. John Mankins, Dr. Paul Jaffe, Gary Barnhard, and professor Nobukaia presented their research at the Space Power Symposium. Mark Hopkins, CEO of NSS, did a lot of networking with important commercial space organizations and key people, introducing NSS as the number one organization to promote space settlement.
Next year the International Astronautical Congress will be organized in Adelaide in Australia.
At the International Space Development Conference 2016 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I promised to deliver the coveted Heinlein Award directly to Jerry Pournelle. Mission accomplished! I met with Jerry, son Alex, Larry Niven and Larry’s wife Marilyn on September 11, 2016 at the Four ‘N 20 Restaurant in Sherman Oaks, CA (West LA).
Over the summer, I read three acclaimed collaborations from Jerry and Larry: A Mote in God’s Eye, Lucifer’s Hammer, and Footfall, all available at Amazon. (Revenue from Amazon enabled Blue Origin—go Blue Origin!)
The usual question people ask them is “How do you two work together?” and the answer, spoken in unison, is “Superbly.”
I asked Jerry what he thought about Starshot (from Breakthrough Technologies, Pete Worden’s latest venture) as it relates to A Mote in God’s Eye, and science fiction moving into the realm of science fact. Jerry gave credit to physicist Robert L. Forward, the creator of the beam-pushed lightsail concept in 1985.
Jerry told in depth stories about the times he shared with Robert and Virginia Heinlein and where they lived. I further realized how appropriate the Heinlein Award was for Jerry as he was a very close friend of Heinlein’s. The Heinlein Award features a brass cannon inscribed with one of Heinlein’s favorite acronyms, “TANSTAFL.” The original title of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was to have been The Brass Cannon, but reasonably, the publisher changed it. The cannon is featured in that novel as a symbol of the Lunar Republic.
Jerry shared his personal account of Robert’s relationship with the cannon:
The story about the cannon is not one that happened to Robert or anyone he knows so far as I know. I have heard him tell it several times over the years, and it’s always about a nameless city councilman’s brother-in-law who was given a sinecure job polishing the brass cannon in front of the court house. One day he came home from work, saying that he’d had this job for years and was very good at it, but he wasn’t getting anywhere, so he had decided to quit. His wife was alarmed and asked what he would do. He told her he had thought about this a long time, saved up his money, and bought his own brass cannon, so now he was in business for himself.
The story about TANSTAFL was originally my father’s and wasn’t associated with the brass cannon. Dad was fond of telling about free lunch counters, and always added There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch, TANSTAFL. A well known San Francisco news columnist told this, crediting Mr. Heinlein, who took the trouble to get the chap – I forget who he was, but apparently he was well known in San Francisco – to say in one of his Sunday columns that Robert had got it from me, and that my father, who was in radio in the 30’s and at one time the general manager of WHBQ in Memphis as well as Chief announcer and sales manager, was actually the originator. I grew up hearing it. If dad got it from anyone before him I never knew it.
Robert eventually acquired his own signal cannon. Now Jerry has one too.
What a privilege and honor it was to spend quality time with two of the giants of hard science fiction. I only wish I had a cannon to share with Larry Niven. I invited Jerry and Larry to be guests of honor at ISDC 2018 in Los Angeles. They gratefully accepted and appreciated the convenience. Thank you NSS Membership for supporting ISDC, the Awards Committee and the awards we bestow on the movers and shakers that are opening the frontiers of space.
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.”
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.
“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.”
It is no secret that the last National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030 spectacularly missed space. The question is — will this next Global Trends, due in December 2016, miss it again?
“The Moon could serve as a new and tremendous supplier of energy and resources for human beings,” said Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China’s Moon-exploration program. “This is crucial to sustainable development of human beings on Earth. … Whoever first conquers the Moon will benefit first.”
“Our long-term goal is to explore, land and settle [the Moon],” chimed in Wu Weiren, China’s chief designer for Moon missions. More recently, Lt Gen. Zhang Yulin — deputy chief of the Chinese military’s armament-development department, suggested that “China would next begin to exploit Earth-Moon space for industrial development. The goal would be the construction of space-based solar power satellites that would beam energy back to Earth.”
“Thus, the state has decided that power coming from outside of the Earth, such as solar power and development of other space energy resources, is to be China’s future direction,” wrote Gao Ji, Hou Xinbin and Wang Li from the China Academy of Space Technology.
The lack of cognizance by policymakers constitutes grounds for strategic surprise. “China had built up a solid industrial foundation, acquired sufficient technology and had enough money to carry out the most ambitious space project in history,” wrote Wang Xiji, designer of China’s first carrier rocket. “Once completed, the solar station, with a capacity of 100 megawatts, would span at least one square kilometer, dwarfing the International Space Station and becoming the biggest man-made object in space.”
In the absence of anything resembling a space development or space industrialization policy, U.S. companies are going abroad and interesting new actors are appearing on the scenes. Luxemburg courts U.S.-based space mining companies, Dubai woos U.S.-based space solar power companies.
Specifically, NIC Global Trends scenarios need to specifically address lunar and asteroid mining, space solar power, and space settlement. These are important topics to explore because there is both a range of serious actors working in this space and because these could have vast societal consequences.
In the United States, these underlying societal attitudes are manifesting themselves in the exploits of self-financing industrialists such as Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla, Paypal), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin, Amazon), Paul Allen (Vulcan Aerospace, Microsoft) and Robert Bigelow. Musk is building rockets and a space-based internet not for their own sakes, but to finance taking millions of people to build a city on Mars and become a multi-planet civilization. “In terms of the first [manned] flight to Mars, we are hoping to do that around 2025,” Musk said. Bezos openly talks about a vision of “millions of people living and working in space” and moving heavy industry and energy to space in order to save Earth.
All of this reflects a shift in societal attitude rejecting space exploration for space exploration sake, or for the sake of “showing off” in favor of viewing space exploration as an activity we do toward some larger end — species survival, space settlement, space industrialization, space resources. Changing ends will result in different outcomes.
Small programmatic decisions by this president-elect will or will not position U.S. companies to be at the forefront of a new commercial age of space. These near term decisions may decide the speed at which an end-to-end space transportation and supply chain are built to incorporate the solar system into our economic sphere of influence, including promoting or hindering the development of commercial fully-reusable launch vehicles — a lead the United States should consolidate.