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.

Hold these dates! March 12-16, 2017 for March Storm

The Alliance for Space Development (ASD), the National Space Society (NSS), and the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) are sponsoring the annual March Storm Washington DC Blitz March 12-16, 2017. This is an early “heads up” to hold those dates. Sunday March 12 will be an all-day training event, followed by up to four days of Congressional visits.  Blitzers are asked to commit to a minimum of 2 days of Congressional visits, but those days can be picked from among March 13-16.

March Storm 2017 will support the Alliance for Space Development 2017 objectives, which will be available January 1st, 2017. However, it is very likely that at least two of the objectives will be supporting a gapless transition from the ISS to future commercial LEO stations, and continuing to to press for the Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act (H.R. 4752) to make space development and settlement a permanent part of the NASA mission.

NSS working to influence the next Administration

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

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

RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE NEXT ADMINISTRATION REGARDING COMMERCIAL SPACE

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

Recommendation #1 – Reestablish the National Space Council

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

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

Recommendation #2 – Enable and Support a Thriving Space Economy

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation #3 – Establish a Public/Private Lunar Base

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

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

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

Recommendation #4 – Create a Space Commodities Futures Trading Exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Cumbers, Founder, SynBioBeta

Jason Dunn

Daniel Faber, CEO Deep Space Industries

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

Jim Keravala, CEO OffWorld Consortium

John Mankins, CEO Artemis Innovation

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

Rod Pyle, Author

Dale Skran, Executive Vice President, National Space Society

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

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

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

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

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

Report on the 2016 NSS/SFF/ASD August Home District Blitz

By Dale Skran, National Blitz Coordinator

Left to Right: Randy Gigante (SFF), Miriam Winder Kelly (NSS), Rep. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (MD-2), Joe Gillen (NSS)
Left to Right: Randy Gigante (SFF), Miriam Winder Kelly (NSS), Rep. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (MD-2), Joe Gillen (NSS)

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).

Highlights:

  • 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:

  1. Moving into legislation calling for a gapless transition from the ISS to future commercial LEO stations (ASD developed draft text).
  2. Moving forward H.R.4752 (Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act) in both the House and the Senate.

Peter Garretson: What the New President Needs to Know about Space

NSS Director Peter Garretson has just published a significant article on what the new President likely won’t be hearing about space, but should be. Here are some excerpts:

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.

Read the whole article.

 

Astronaut Eileen Collins Gives Prime Time Address to Republican Convention

Eileen Collins was the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission and the first astronaut to address a 2016 political convention. Her 4-minute address is above, pointing out that “nations that lead on the frontier lead in the world.”

Eric Berger, senior space editor at Ars Technica, blogged:

Here’s what Collins really missed on Wednesday night…. Probably the most exciting spaceflight development of the last decade or so has been the successful pursuit of reusable rockets by SpaceX and Blue Origin. This low-cost rocketry is what will ultimately make America greater in space…. The reality is that the best way to “lead on the frontier” in the 21st century is not through flags and footprints, but rather by sending people into space to stay, in a sustainable way, with the eventual aim of making space profitable.

Disclaimer: The National Space Society does not endorse any political party or candidate. In her speech, Eileen Collins also did not endorse any political party or candidate.

2016 August Home District Blitz

You are cordially invited to join the 2016 Annual ASD/NSS/SFF August Home District Blitz congressional action event. This event supports the 2016 Alliance for Space Development (ASD) annual campaign. You can expect topics being pushed to include items like support for the Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act (H.R. 4752), a Low Cost Access to Space Prize, full funding for Commercial Crew, and supporting a gapless transition from the ISS to commercial space stations. During the blitz, local groups will arrange to visit their Congressperson’s home district offices during the August recess. Signup is via http://goo.gl/forms/40pGqMuGcU1n6aiB2. Please sign up immediately and follow the directions on the NSS legislative page at www.nss.org/legislative to set up an appointment with your Representative and Senators.

ASD includes groups like the Space Frontier Foundation, the National Space Society, the Lifeboat Foundation, The Mars Foundation, The Mars Society, the Space Development Foundation, the Space Development Steering Committee, the Space Tourism Society, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Students on Capitol Hill, the Tea Party in Space, and the Texas Space Alliance. You can find out more about ASD at www.allianceforspacedevelopment.org.

The National Space Society Pays Tribute to the Space Policy Leadership of Former FAA Leader Patricia Grace Smith

NASA bio
NASA bio

The National Space Society celebrates the life and contributions of a visionary champion of the commercial space industry and human space settlement, the Honorable Patricia Grace Smith. Ms. Smith unexpectedly passed away on June 5th, after quietly fighting pancreatic cancer over the last year.

“The commercial space industry owes a huge debt to Patti Grace Smith whose years of determined and well-reasoned advocacy combined with her natural charm and grace won over many converts in government and fostered the birth of a new industry. There might not be a commercial space flight industry were it not for Patti’s leadership,” said Bruce Pittman, Senior Operating Officer of the National Space Society.

Ms. Smith served her country for almost three decades, including eleven years as the Associate Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. She was appointed to this office shortly after it became part of the FAA and was instrumental in creating policies and guiding the FAA’s regulatory efforts in a manner that was supportive of the emerging commercial space flight industry

After retiring from the FAA in 2008, Ms. Smith became an important consultant to the commercial space industry and was the chair of the commercial space committee of the NASA Advisory Council until 2014. She was also the vice-chair of the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Academies and a Member-at-Large of the Board of Directors of the Space Foundation.

NSS is following the path opened by Patti Smith in one of our initiatives called the Space Exploration, Development and Settlement Act of 2016. This bill, just introduced in Congress, will change the NASA charter to enable NASA to do more. To help with this effort, citizens can take action here.

Patti’s family has asked that donations be made in her name to:

American Cancer Society
800-227-2345 action 2
Or
PO Box 22718
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73123-1718
Or
Cancer.org

Petition: USA Must Lead the Transition to Space-Based Energy

Your signature on this petition will have a very real and positive impact on the United States of America and on all future generations of humankind worldwide.

Sign this petition and send the following urgent message to the United States Congress, to the President of the United States, and to future congresses and administrations:

Pass and support legislation to ensure national energy security and to protect the worldwide environment by establishing congressionally chartered public-private corporations for space-based energy, space mining, and spacefaring logistics. These corporations shall provide the United States, its allies, and trading partners with sustainable and carbon emission free space-based energy.

The United States of America faces a looming national energy security threat due to its dependence on a finite supply of fossil fuels.

Humankind worldwide faces an environmental security threat due to its dependence on fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned.

Sustainable, carbon emission free energy from space-based solar power (SBSP) is the solution. Simply put–and challenging to accomplish–SBSP consists of orbiting solar power satellites continuously harvesting the sun’s intense energy in space. The energy is beamed wirelessly to rectifying antennas on the Earth, and then transmitted to existing electrical power grids. Unlike terrestrial renewable energy sources, space-based solar power is nearly infinitely scalable. It is also continuous, so it can supply the planet’s baseload energy requirements.

For more information see the NSS Space Solar Power Library (nss.org/ssp).

National Space Society Applauds SpaceX First Stage Drone Ship Landing and Successful Launch of CRS8/BEAM to the ISS

With a successful launch on April 8 at 4:43 PM EST, 2016 SpaceX achieved several dramatic milestones on their first supply run to the International Space Station (ISS) following the loss of a Falcon 9 in June of 2015. For the first time ever, the first stage of a rocket both returned intact to Earth and landed on a drone ship at sea. This new capability will enable lower-cost access to space by saving the fuel otherwise needed to fly the first stage back to the launch site, which SpaceX has previously demonstrated.

Falcon barge landing

In addition to this remarkable achievement, the Falcon 9 lofted the Cargo Resupply Services 8 mission (CRS-8) to the ISS. This is the 10th flight of the Dragon spacecraft. Once the Dragon docks at the ISS, for only the second time ever there will be six spacecraft attached to the ISS (Dragon CRS-8, Cygnus CRS OA-6, two Progress, and two Soyuz lifeboats). The Dragon contains a variety of experiments, including a cargo of live rats which will be used to test drugs that may combat the weakening of bones in space and on Earth.

In addition to pressurized cargo in the Dragon, an unpressurized “trunk” houses the 1,413 kilogram Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), an inflatable module that will be attached to the ISS for two years to test this new technology. The module, once inflated, will be 13.2 feet by 10.6 feet, and will provide a total volume of 564 cubic feet.

“In this mission it is hard to know what to be the most excited about,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “SpaceX continues to break new ground in lowering the cost of going into space, and the drone ship landing is key to maximizing the amount that can be lifted into space by a first stage that is flying back to Earth. BEAM will pave the way for more affordable future commercial and deep space stations.”

Recently Blue Origin re-used its sub-orbital New Shepard booster on a flight to the Karman line (the edge of space) for the third time and returned the rocket to its launch site for further re-use. “Competition like that seen between Blue Origin and SpaceX is the key to rapid progress in space,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President. “NSS has strongly supported competition in both the NASA Commercial Re-supply Services program and the Commercial Crew program. Today’s drone ship landing is a direct result of the competitive, commercial nature of these efforts, and NSS advocates extending these types of programs into cis-lunar space.”

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