We Are Winning: Obama and NSS Space Policy

From NSS Executive Vice President Dale Skran:

NSS Chair of the Executive Committee Mark Hopkins frequently speaks and writes on the general topic that “We are winning.” A great example can be found in a recent interview with President Obama in Popular Science Magazine:

Popular Science: You’ve also advocated the development of a private space industry to work alongside and complement government efforts. What is your vision for space exploration and commercialization? Who does what?

Barack Obama: I’ve laid out a vision for space exploration where our astronauts travel out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay. To build a sustainable human presence in space, we’ll need a thriving private-sector space economy. I see the expanding space industry as an addition to, not a replacement for, the extraordinary work of NASA. With industry taking over tasks like ferrying cargo and crew to the International Space Station, NASA can focus even more intensely on the most challenging exploration missions, like landing astronauts on Mars or learning more about Earth and the rest of our solar system.

As we set our sights toward other planets, we can also create good jobs here on this one. American companies have begun to reclaim the lucrative market for launching commercial satellites. That’s just one example of the way that a growing space economy can help American workers succeed.

President Obama’s answer is not that different from ideas found in NSS position papers or text that appears on the NSS website (www.nss.org). The tagline “Not just to visit, but to stay” appears prominently on the Alliance for Space Development (ASD) website which is a joint project of NSS and the Space Frontier Foundation. When the President of the United States is echoing our ideas as his own, I think we can once again say – “We are winning!”

Luxembourg to launch framework to support the future use of space resources

The Luxembourg Government has announced a series of measures to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources. Amongst the key steps undertaken will be the development of a legal and regulatory framework confirming certainty about the future ownership of minerals extracted in space from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) such as asteroids.

Luxembourg is the first European country to announce its intention to set out a formal legal framework which ensures that private operators working in space can be confident about their rights to the resources they extract, i.e. rare minerals from asteroids. Such a legal framework will be worked out in full consideration of international law. Luxembourg is eager to engage with other countries on this matter within a multilateral framework.

Luxembourg will also invest in relevant R&D projects and consider direct capital investment in companies active in this field.

The SpaceResources.lu initiative will nurture an exciting and entirely new space industry. This industry will offer unprecedented access to mineral resources to be used essentially in Earth-orbit and beyond. The aim is to stimulate economic growth on Earth and offer new horizons in space exploration.

Luxembourg already has a strong track record in related sectors, with satellite operator SES, established in Luxembourg 30 years ago and now a major global player in its field.

The budget allocated to SpaceResources.lu will be part of the national space budget that will be defined in the frame of the preparation of the Luxembourg contribution to the next multiannual budget of the European Space Agency to be decided in December 2016. The government will decide on new means for a wide range of new activities and initiatives, including this one.

Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Étienne Schneider, announced the spaceresources.lu initiative today:”Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurling through space, without damaging natural habitats. We will support the long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space and satellite industries as a key high-tech sector for Luxembourg. At first, our aim is to carry out research in this area, which at a later stage can lead to more concrete activities in space.”

Jean-Jacques Dordain, the former Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) and advisor to Luxembourg Government on SpaceResources.lu, said:”This initiative is a clear demonstration that Europeans are innovative and able to take risks when the stakes are high. While futuristic, the project is based on solid grounds, i.e. technical prowess that already exists in Europe and around the world.”

Simon P. Worden, Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation said:”Humanity is on the verge of expansion into the solar system – and then beyond. Using the resources we find there is essential – not only for our expansion into space but also to ensure continued prosperity here on Earth.”

Rick Tumlinson, Co-founder and Chair of the Board of Deep Space Industries stated:”By opening up the resources of space, Luxembourg will help take the pressure off the Earth.”

Chris Lewicki, President and CEO of Planetary Resources stated:”We commend the Government of Luxembourg in leading the world by establishing this new resource industry, thereby enabling the economic development of near-Earth asteroid resources. Planetary Resources looks forward to working with Luxembourg.”

Karim Michel Sabbagh, President and CEO of SES stated:”We welcome Luxembourg’s visionary initiative to take, once again, a pioneering step in space technology and further leverage our shared knowledge and experience. We look forward to contributing with our unique capabilities to these future activities.”

Yves Elsen, Chairperson of the Luxembourg Space Cluster stated:”Over the past three decades, Luxembourg has built up extensive know-how in world-class space related activities. Luxembourg can write history once again by further sustaining the attractiveness of the country for a host of next generation space activities.”

Source: spaceresources.lu

National Space Society Applauds Selection of Dream Chaser, Dragon 2, and Cygnus for ISS Cargo Services

NSS congratulates Orbital ATK (Cygnus), Sierra Nevada (Dream Chaser), and SpaceX (Dragon 2) for being selected to provide cargo services to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Service 2 (CRS-2) contract. Orbital ATK and SpaceX, the CRS-1 cargo providers, are joined for the first time by the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser winged orbital vehicle. The CRS contract covers the delivery of supplies to the ISS, disposal of ISS waste, and the return of scientific samples from the ISS. The new contract provides a minimum of six missions to each of the three winners during the period 2019-2024. A NASA spokesperson said, “NASA’s service contracts to resupply the space station have changed the way the agency does business in low-Earth orbit. With these contracts, NASA continues to advance commercial spaceflight and the American jobs it creates.”

Dream Chaser cargo vehicle
Dream Chaser cargo vehicle docked at ISS. Image credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

“This announcement represents a major forward advance for NASA and the CRS program,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “Both Orbital ATK and SpaceX added significant new capabilities over the first contract. In the new contract, the up-sized Cygnus with new solar panels will be used, and the Dragon 2 offers options for both berthing and docking, along with a rapid return to Earth capacity via propulsive landing. However, the selection of Sierra Nevada and the Dream Chaser means that for the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttle reusable winged vehicles will be returning from space and landing at Kennedy Space Center.”

The Dream Chaser can deliver up to 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized supplies to the ISS. A runway landing supports low-g force return of fragile samples and equipment, and folding wings allow for the usage of a variety of launch vehicles, although the initial target is the Atlas V. In an area of improvement over the Space Shuttle, the Dream Chaser uses all non-toxic propellants. Finally, the system includes a “trailer” that can be used to dispose of ISS waste.

“NSS congratulates NASA on adding a third CRS provider,” said Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee. “The CRS-2 program now has triple redundancy in both orbital components and launch vehicles. NSS members look forward to the Dream Chaser’s first return from space.”

National Space Society Applauds Presidential Signing Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

On November 25, 2015, President Obama signed the landmark Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA). NSS congratulates President Obama and the Senate and House leadership for their hard work in hammering out a compromise between the previously passed House and Senate versions.

“It is hard to over-emphasize the importance of the CSLCA,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “There are a lot of excellent provisions in this legislation, and we want to thank House Majority Leader McCarthy for guiding the final version to the President’s desk.”

Perhaps the most historically significant part of the CSLCA calls for the establishment of a legal right for U.S. citizens to mine asteroids in a fashion consistent with international law, including the Outer Space Treaty. Milestone 18 of the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap calls for the exploration, utilization, and settlement of the asteroids. “NSS looks forward to the CSLCA enabling a new age of asteroid mining led by companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, making the vast resources of space available for the benefit of humanity,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President.

NSS has been working hard to support this legislation. NSS is a founding member of the Alliance for Space Development (ASD). The 2015 ASD objectives can be found at www.allianceforspacedevelopment.org. They include extending the learning period for commercial suborbital spaceflight and changing regulations to allow space tourism companies to conduct both experimental and operational flights under the same permit. Both of these items, which NSS believes are key to lowering the cost of access to space via supporting the growth of a vibrant space tourism industry, were included in the CSLCA just signed by the President. Another ASD objective for 2015 called for “increasing the utilization of the International Space Station,” something that has been accomplished in part by the CSLCA’s extension of ISS operations to 2024.

Throughout 2015, ASD member organizations, including NSS, worked to forward the above goals. The SFF (Space Frontier Foundation)/NSS March Storm Congressional Blitz focused attention on extending the “learning period.” In May, both NSS and SFF submitted public letters supporting the precursor legislation to the CSLCA (see for example our Open Letter to House in support of the SPACE Act of 2015). Next, the NSS/SFF August Home District Congressional Blitz pushed the case for ISS utilization. Finally, ASD submitted a private letter of comment to the House/Senate conference committee.

Help Support Space with the 2016 February Blitz and March Storm

By Dale Skran, Chair, NSS Policy Committee

February 21-23, 2016 SEA Blitz

NSS will be participating in the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) 2016 legislative Blitz.  During the SEA Blitz teams of up to four space advocates from various organizations visit Congressional offices in Washington, DC. NSS encourages all members to sign up for and participate in the SEA Blitz as described at www.spaceexplorationalliance.org/blitz.

We are currently planning on holding a special dinner for NSS members only on the evening of Sunday, February 21st, following the SEA training session. Dale Skran, Chair of the NSS Policy Committee will be coordinating NSS members. Please send him a short email message at dale.skran@nss.org indicating you plan to participate in the Blitz and whether you will be attending the Sunday evening NSS dinner.

Also, when registering for the SEA Blitz we request that you answer the last question by saying that you will represent NSS. SEA includes groups ranging from NSS and Explore Mars to AIAA, the Moon Society, the Mars Society, the Planetary Society, the National Society of Black Engineers, SEDS, and Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation.  The major goal of the SEA Blitz from an NSS perspective is to provide as much support for the NASA budget as possible during these difficult budgetary times. Now is the time to stand up for space and be counted. I look forward to seeing you in Washington, DC, February 21-23, 2016.

March 13-17, 2016 SFF/NSS/ASD March Storm   

If February in Washington DC is too cold for you, consider joining the MARCH STORM Congressional action event sponsored by the Space Frontier Foundation, NSS, and the Alliance for Space Development (ASD) from March 13-17, 2016. ASD includes groups like the Space Frontier Foundation, NSS, 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.

MARCH STORM is more focused on commerce and development than the SEA Blitz, and is an integrated part of a year-long legislative campaign managed by ASD that is designed for maximum legislative effectiveness. You can expect topics being pushed to include items like a Low Cost Access to Space Prize, full funding for Commercial Crew, and supporting a gapless transition from the ISS to commercial space stations.  The basic commitment is to a training session on Sunday, March 13, and to one day on the Hill on March 14th. Supporters with more time can join additional Congressional visits on March 15/16/17. If you are interested, register at www.marchstorm.com. I plan on joining the MARCH STORM, and look forward to seeing you there.

March 21-25, 2016 SFF/NSS/ASD 2016 March Storm Home District Blitz

This year we are also organizing the 2016 March Storm Home District Blitz for those who can’t make it to DC. Using the same materials as the DC March Storm, local groups will arrange to visit their Congressperson’s home district offices during the March 21-25 recess, just like the NSS/SFF 2015 August Home District Blitz. Signup is via www.marchstorm.com. Since I am organizing this effort, you will hear from me with more details after you sign up.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin talks to “Face the Nation” about Mars this Sunday September 6th

In CBS’ first interview with the Apollo 11 astronauts on Face the Nation in 1969 (5-minute segment shown below), Buzz Aldrin discussed future goals for space exploration. Aldrin will be back on Face the Nation this Sunday September 6, 46 years later, to talk about his vision for Mars. Check local listings for times.

NSS/SFF August 2015 Home District Legislative Blitz – Sign Up Now!

The National Space Society (NSS) is organizing jointly with the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) a “home district” blitz during August when Congress is in recess and members of Congress are most probably in their home districts. The themes for the blitz include supporting Commercial Crew, advocating for a gapless transition from the ISS to commercial space stations, supporting the “Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act” (SEDS Act) and protecting the Earth against asteroids and comets. Three of these four items are in support of the 2015 Campaign of the Alliance for Space Development.

Signup to the August Blitz this year is via google forms. Signup is open to anyone who wants to join, as this is a joint NSS/SFF activity. In other words, you do not need to be an NSS or SFF member to participate. However, you MUST fill out the google form. Please distribute this link to the google form to anyone you know who you think might be interested. Send email to dale.skran@nss.org with any questions.

The materials for the August Blitz are now available. They include:

It is planned to set up Contact team leaders on August 1st. The exact date of Congressional recess is still unclear, but is at least one or two weeks in the future from July 29, 2015.

You should read the first three bulleted items above as soon as you can. Please send any questions to dale.skran@nss.org and answers will be circulated to all participants. Please circulate the Blitz FAQ to anyone who may be interested in signing up. Remind them to fill out the google form if they have not yet done so.

Thanks to all who are helping,

Dale Skran
Chair, NSS Policy Committee
Chair, NSS/SFF August Home District Blitz

NASA-Funded Study Reduces Cost of Human Missions to Moon and Mars by Factor of Ten

Video of press conference below.

The National Space Society (NSS) and Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) today announced their support for NASA’s funding of the newly released NexGen Space study, illustrating how to cut the cost of human space exploration by a factor of 10. The study, “Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public – Private – Partnerships,” finds public-private partnerships are able to return humans to the Moon for approximately 90% less than the previously estimated $100 billion, allowing the United States to ensure national security in a new space age.

“The Space Frontier Foundation supports and recommends public-private partnerships in all proposed human spaceflight programs in order to reduce costs and enable these missions that were previously unaffordable,” said the Space Frontier Foundation’s Chairman of the Board, Jeff Feige. “This is the way that America will settle the final frontier, save taxpayers money and usher in a new era of economic growth and STEM innovation.”

NSS and SFF call attention to these conclusions from the study:

  • Enabled by public-private partnerships, NASA’s current human spaceflight budget is sufficient to return humans to the surface of the Moon and develop a permanent lunar base.
  • Mining fuel from lunar poles and transporting it to lunar orbit for use by other spacecraft reduces the cost of sending humans to Mars and other locations beyond low Earth orbit. These commercial fuel depots in lunar orbit have the potential to cut the cost of sending humans to Mars by more than $10 billion per year.

“NSS congratulates NASA for funding the team at NexGen that discovered how such cost reductions are possible,” said NSS Executive Committee Chair, Mark Hopkins. “A factor of ten reduction in cost changes everything.”

NSS and SFF add that any space programs able to establish viable commercial partnerships can potentially achieve similar cost reductions.

Video of one-hour press conference:

NSS/SFF August 2015 Home District Legislative Blitz – Sign Up Now!

The National Space Society is organizing jointly with the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) a “home district” blitz during August when Congress is in recess and members of Congress are most probably in their home districts. The currently expected themes for the blitz include supporting Commercial Crew, advocating for ISS extension and utilization, supporting the Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act (SEDS Act), and protecting the Earth against asteroids and comets. Signup to the August Blitz this year will be via a Google form. Signup is open to anyone who wants to join, as this is a joint NSS/SFF activity. In other words, you do not need to be an NSS member to participate. However, you MUST fill out the Google form. A few of you filled out an earlier test form; please fill out the form again as it is somewhat different than the test version.

Please distribute this link to the Google form to anyone you know who you think might be interested. Send email to me at dale.skran@nss.org with any questions.

The link is: http://goo.gl/forms/RfTEFF9XWC

2015 Training materials and talking points will be emailed to those who fill out the Google form.

Thanks in advance,

Dale Skran
Chair, NSS Policy Committee

Buzz Aldrin: SpaceX Failure Shows We Need More Commercial Space Travel—Not Less

Buzz AldrinBuzz Aldrin, second man on the Moon and member of the National Space Society Board of Governors, has a fine op-ed piece for Time magazine which we recommend: