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:

http://time.com/3945033/buzz-aldrin-spacex-commercial-space-travel/

National Space Society Urges NASA and SpaceX to Continue Developing Innovative Rocket Reuse Technology

The loss of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 7 (CRS-7) mission on June 28th demonstrates, in the view of the National Space Society (NSS), the wisdom of NASA’s policy of maintaining technologically different competitive CRS providers. This was the seventh of 12 contracted flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX. All 18 previous flights of the Falcon 9 (including five v1.0 flights and thirteen v1.1 flights) have been successful in meeting their primary objectives. CRS-7 was to have launched a new docking ring to the ISS for future use by NASA Commercial Crew flights and would have made another first stage recovery attempt.

NSS would like to express continued support for SpaceX and NASA as they analyze and test to understand and recover from Sunday’s launch failure.  “Spacecraft engineering is a very challenging profession and failure is always one possible outcome but we learn, implement and move forward,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Operating Officer. “NASA and the US government should continue to support the ISS, including the commercial cargo and crew programs.”

Paul Werbos, member of the NSS Board of Directors, said, “In a free market world, the government is supposed to be taking on the burden of the most advanced, highest risk challenges, in an open competitive way. NASA has been doing this by supporting SpaceX via the Commercial Resupply Services program as SpaceX develops the technology to reuse launch vehicles.”

NSS fully supports Space X’s efforts to upgrade its Falcon 9 rocket, especially its efforts to make it reusable.   As SpaceX said recently, “A jumbo jet costs about the same as one of our Falcon 9 rockets, but airlines don’t junk a plane after a one-way trip from LA to New York. Yet when it comes to space travel, rockets fly only once-even though the rocket itself represents the majority of launch cost (www.spacex.com/news/2015/06/24/why-and-how-landing-rockets).” NSS believes reusable rockets, once perfected, will be inherently more reliable than expendable vehicles, as well as less costly.

NSS Executive Vice President Dale Skran said: “After a failure like this, voices will be heard calling into question NASA’s use of commercial launch service providers. We need to recall that in spite of the best efforts of NASA and the expenditure of many billions of dollars, NASA lost two space shuttles with their entire crews. Eventual success is built on lessons learned from failures. We are confident that SpaceX will learn from the loss and rapidly return to service.”

National Space Society Opposes Senate Gutting of Commercial Crew Program

The National Space Society (NSS) strongly opposes the Senate Appropriations Committee’s $344 million (27%) cut of the 2015 Commercial Crew budget requested by the Administration. The Senate cuts were $100 million more than those recently passed by the House.

NSS stands with NASA administrator Charles Bolden when he said “By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts into space – and to continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.”  The two winners of the Commercial Crew competition, Boeing and SpaceX, have been making excellent progress, exemplified by the May 6th successful pad abort test of the SpaceX Dragon 2 crew escape system. Both are on track to fly astronauts in 2017 assuming funding is provided.

Until Commercial Crew vehicles are flying, the only way for anyone to get to the ISS is the Russian Soyuz. Unfortunately, the Russian space program has recently displayed a worrisome lack of reliability. On May 16th the failure of the third stage of the Russian Proton resulted in the loss of the MexSat-1 communications satellite. During April, a Russian Progress M-27M carrying cargo to the ISS went out of control and was lost with all its contents. More recently, the unexpected firing of the engine of a Soyuz spacecraft attached to the ISS shifted its orbital position. Congress, which has underfunded and thus delayed Commercial Crew consistently, will bear a significant share of the responsibility if the next Russian accident results in injuries to astronauts or the abandonment of the ISS.

Some have advocated reducing the Commercial Crew program to a single vehicle, reducing current costs and eliminating competition. NSS has long supported competition in the Commercial Crew program (see the 2014 NSS position paper on the NASA Commercial Crew Program). The failure of the Orbital ATK Antares cargo rocket during a launch attempt to the ISS last year demonstrated the value of redundant systems, underscoring the vital importance of having multiple Commercial Crew providers.

It is imperative that Congress provide full funding to Commercial Crew so that both Boeing and SpaceX reach operational status. The Commercial Crew program has been one of NASA’s biggest success stories, generating large amounts of real product innovation while reducing costs to the government. Any expansive future in space, such as that envisioned in the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement (www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap) requires lower cost specialized systems such as those being created by Commercial Crew and Commercial Resupply Services (CRS).

“NSS urges the Senate to pass a clean amendment restoring full funding of $1.244 billion to Commercial Crew when this Bill comes to the Senate floor for final passage,” said NSS Executive VP Dale Skran. “We are extremely concerned with the increasing difficulties in the Russian space program and suggest NASA immediately develop a contingency plan for Russian withdrawal other than evacuating the ISS.”

NASA Administrator Statement on Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Vote on Commercial Crew Budget

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee vote Wednesday on NASA’s Fiscal Year 2016 commercial crew budget:

Charles F. Bolden
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

“I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA’s plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia.

“Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President’s Budget.

“By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.

“I support investing in America so that we can once again launch our astronauts on American vehicles.”

National Space Society Political Action Network Alert, June 9, 2015: Full Funding for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Last week the House passed an Appropriations bill that cut the funding for NASA’s commercial crew program to restore U.S. independent crew access to the International Space Station by $243 million dollars. This sets Commercial Crew at 20% below NASA’s request.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will be marking up the House-passed Appropriations bill containing Commercial Crew funding this Wednesday (10:30 AM Eastern, Subcommittee) and Thursday (full Committee).

Please contact both of your Senators and ask them to support full funding and continued competition for NASA Commercial Crew at the level requested by the Administration – $1.243 billion.

Contacting them by Close of Business (COB) Tuesday June 9th will have the most impact if they are on the subcommittee (see the member list at: www.appropriations.senate.gov/subcommittee/commerce-justice-science-and-related-agencies ).

Contacting them by COB Wednesday June 10th will have the most impact if they are on the full committee (see the full committee list at www.appropriations.senate.gov/about-committee/committee-members ).

In any case, after these two committee meetings the full Senate will vote, so please contact your Senators by COB Friday June 12th at the latest.

If this is your first Political Action Network (PAN) alert or if you are uncertain who your Senator is or how to contact them, please look at this PAN alert instruction guide: www.nss.org/legislative/congress.htm. This guide tells you exactly how to find your Senator and how to contact them. For this alert, please either send email or call as it is critical that the Senator’s office be contacted by COB Friday June 12th, 2015.

Once you’ve contacted your Senators please let us know so we can follow up with them.  You can do so by emailing dale.skran@nss.org. You can also email any questions you may have at the same address

Thank you,

Dale Skran
Chair, NSS Policy Committee
NSS Executive Vice President

Suggested Message Content:

The heart of the message: “I’m [your name] from [your town in that Senator’s state.] I’m calling/writing to ask Senator [their last name] to support full funding and continued competition for NASA’s Commercial Crew program.”

Your talking points might mention that the Commercial Crew cuts will:

  • Cause program delay and disruption
  • Prolong dependence on (increasingly unreliable) Russian launches. There have been a number of Russian launch failures recently, including of a Russian Progress cargo flight to the ISS.
  • Force NASA to spend more on additional Russian launches than the cuts save
  • Potentially end two providers for Commercial Crew. This is important since two competing different providers will:
    • Keep prices down.
    • Provide assured Station access even if one system has problems.
  • You can look at these NSS position papers for more ideas:

International Lunar Decade Declaration Unveiled at National Space Society Conference

June 1, 2015 – Toronto, Canada

The National Space Society has released an International Lunar Decade Declaration in support of an international campaign to return to the Moon. The campaign will continue its scientific exploration, begin a program of development to learn how to use the Moon’s resources for the benefit of the Earth, and lay the foundations to advance further to Mars and the asteroids.

The 14 largest space agencies currently share their plans and look for collaborative opportunities to explore space. They have created an International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG – www.nasa.gov/exploration/about/isecg/) as a forum for these discussions. This is a voluntary and non-binding process for all of the member countries. Each country decides what interests and resources may be committed to projects of common interest. These countries have published a Global Exploration Roadmap, which describes the activities and missions that member countries are planning in low Earth orbit and beyond.

The International Lunar Decade Declaration calls for member countries of the ISECG to develop a number of projects that would establish permanent human presence on the surface of the Moon. This way, member countries will learn to live and work on another planet and lay the foundations for further human exploration and presence on Mars and the asteroids.

These International Lunar Decade projects can be realized in a ten-year campaign beginning in 2017. This can occur if the largest space-faring countries collaborate to share the risks, costs, and benefits of exploration and economic development in space. This requires the cooperative context of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group.

The National Space Society conducted a Return to the Moon – International Lunar Decade Workshop at the International Space Development Conference®, which was held in Toronto, Canada, May 22-24.

A copy of the NSS International Lunar Decade Declaration can be found at www.nss.org/news/LunarDeclaration.pdf.

Open Letter to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Open Letter to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology:

NSS Urges Passage of the “Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015” (SPACE Act of 2015)

The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) has been a consistent supporter of the rapidly expanding commercial space sector and the ISS. NSS thanks the House leadership, and in particular Representatives McCarthy, Smith, and Palazzo of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology for developing a strong pro-commercial space bill. NSS urges that the House approve the SPACE Act of 2015 with at least the following provisions, all of which are critical to the future growth of this sector:

  • Extension of the launch liability coverage period from 2016 to 2023.
  • Amends current law to allow commercial space launch companies to both test new vehicles and operate existing vehicles at the same time. An NSS position paper that addresses this and related issues can be found at: www.nss.org/legislative/blitz/NSS_Talking_Points_August_2014.pdf.
  • Extends the learning period for commercial spaceflight from 2015 until December 31, 2023, an eight year extension. NSS has previously taken the position that the learning period should be extended by 8 years in the same document.

At the current time, there is no mention of the operating life extension of the ISS in the SPACE Act draft. NSS strongly urges modifying the SPACE Act to amend the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 to extend the operating life of the ISS to the year 2024. NSS strongly supports this extension, and has expressed this position in the document cited above and www.nss.org/legislative/positions/NSS_Letter_to_Congress_June_2014.pdf.

NSS believes that NASA needs to support a seamless transition from the current ISS to a future in which the ISS National laboratory continues to operate with NASA as an anchor tenant in multiple commercially owned and operated space stations. A position paper on this topic can be found at: www.nss.org/legislative/positions/NSS_Position_Paper_Next_Generation_Space_Stations_2015.pdf.

NSS supports the Office of Space Commerce Act of 2015. 

The purpose of this Act is to rename the current Office of Space Commercialization, clarify its purpose, and have the newly renamed department provide support to Federal Government organizations working on Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing policy, including the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing.

NSS supports the general direction of the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015 (HR 1508). 

The purpose of this Act is to secure the property rights to materials mined from asteroids by US companies. NSS strongly supports the intent of this Act, and believes that the rights of companies and individuals to own materials mined from asteroids is important to moving toward space development and settlement. However, some terms in the Act, including “asteroid” and “harmful interference,” remain undefined. We also believe that the definition of “space resource” may need to be narrowed to avoid conflicts with existing legal regimes. We suggest that the House seek further input from space legal experts to ensure that this well-intentioned Bill is on the correct course.

Best Regards,

Dale Skran
Executive Vice President, NSS
Chair, NSS Policy Committee
Member, NSS Board of Directors
www.nss.org

NSS Applauds Northrop Grumman/Caltech Push Toward Space Solar Power

The National Space Society (NSS) applauds a recent Northrop Grumman announcement that it is providing up to $17.5 million to an initiative with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the development of Space Solar Power (SSP). SSP will be a major focus at NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC)® in Toronto on May 20-24 (nss.org/2015).

NSS Executive Vice-President Dale Skran said, “We are delighted to see Northrop Grumman and Caltech taking a significant step toward creating a future that includes space solar power, a major step in the settlement of space. At a time when the U.S. Government has virtually abandoned SSP research it is encouraging to see private industry and universities stepping forward to fill the gap.”

Establishment of an operational space-based solar power system transmitting the sun’s energy to Earth is Milestone 8 in the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap (nss.org/RoadmapPart3). SSP could be a particularly attractive way to bring electricity to the 1.3 billion people in developing countries that don’t have electricity due to a lack of both power generation and transmission infrastructure.

Construction of significant numbers of Solar Power Satellites will create a large new market for transportation to orbit, greatly enhancing current trends toward lower launch costs and reusable rockets. This scenario establishes the groundwork for affordable space settlement – on the Moon, on Mars, among the asteroids, and in Free Space. A possible side-benefit of this project would be improved power sources for “electric” (ion/plasma) rockets, currently planned by NASA to play a key role in trips to Mars and other destinations.

The Northrop Grumman/Caltech initiative will focus on three areas: high-efficiency ultra-light photovoltaics, ultra-light deployable space structures, and phased-array power transmission. Up to 50 students, post-docs, and senior researchers will eventually join the team, who will use specialized laboratories constructed for the initiative.

A good place to find an overview of the current state of SSP work is the NSS Space Solar Power home page at nss.org/ssp. A wide variety of SSP material can be found there, ranging from reviews of recent books like The Case for Space Solar Power by NSS Policy Committee member John Mankins, to the world’s largest library of Space Solar Power free downloadable PDF books and reports.