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.

Alliance Focused on Space Development, not the Destination

Al Globus, a member of the NSS Board of Directors as well as an NSS representative on the Alliance for Space Development Board of Directors, had the following letter published in Space News on April 13:

A recent op-ed by Paul Brower, “Why the U.S. Gave Up on the Moon” [Commentary, March 30, page 19], criticizes the Alliance for Space Development for not specifically advocating lunar settlement this year. Note that the Alliance is firmly focused on the development that must precede a successful settlement effort regardless of the location — the Moon, Mars, free space or asteroids. To this end, the Alliance’s 2015 goals are:

  • Incorporation of space development and settlement into the NASA Space Act.
  • Initiatives to improve launch, including a CATS (Cheap Access to Space) prize.
  • Full support of the commercial crew program.
  • Gapless transition from the International Space Station to private stations with NASA support.

By development we mean commercial, private, eventually self-sustaining industrialization of space. Successful development includes comsats and remote sensing, but neither of these involves life support. By settlement we mean places for people to live out their lives and raise their children. We’re not talking about flags and footprint missions or bases to do science. There’s nothing wrong with these activities, but they are not the focus of the alliance. We’re not looking to visit; we’re going into space to stay. This requires a strong, self-sustaining industrial infrastructure that is not dependent on the political winds of the moment, but rather on concrete benefits to large numbers of customers.

Note that the Alliance’s initial (2015) goals place a heavy emphasis on low-cost Earth-to-space transportation and innovative ways to develop it. To settle the Moon, or anywhere else, requires much lower launch costs than we have today. It is by far the most important single step for all space settlement and development, and is extremely important for all other space activities.

We need to transform how we do spaceflight — not just new rockets or spaceships, but more robust methods, economic models, value extraction and compelling justifications. That is why the Alliance is starting with these goals. We have proven that we can plant a flag with a heroic effort, but we can’t stay without affordable day-to-day logistical support and industrial capabilities in space. That is one of the goals of the gapless transition from the ISS to commercial space stations.

Every goal the Alliance supports is essential for settling the Moon, free space, Mars, asteroids and other solar system bodies. We each have our favorite location for the first space settlement (mine is free space), and the Alliance supports them all. The alliance does, and will, support a permanent return to the Moon, as well as to the other destinations, provided that we found these goals on clear and convincing answers to “why” and “how.”

In conclusion, as my colleague, Alliance board member Aaron Oesterle, wrote in an op-ed on March 14 [“We Need To Expand the Conversation About Space,” Commentary, page 19], the key isn’t which destination; the key is developing a self-sustaining, expanding private commercial and industrial capacity in space.

We are making progress…

NSS Executive Vice President Dale Skran writes:

In the current April 20-26 print issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, one of the top three business magazines in the country (along with Fortune and Forbes), the lead editorial is about when to get into the asteroid market. You can read it yourself at:

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-04-08/get-yourself-some-moon-rocks

The article is respectful and constructive, offering a serious proposal on how to handle asteroid mining rights. It reminds me quite a bit of the sort of articles you might see in the L5 News during the late 70s and early 80s.

National Space Society Calls SpaceX Launch Success a Step Toward Future Space Stations

The Falcon 9 launch by SpaceX to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 14th highlights the importance of the ISS in furthering space development and settlement. For example, Commercial Resupply Services 6 (CRS-6) lofted the Planetary Resources test spacecraft, the Arkyd 3, which will be launched from the ISS, and marks a significant step on a long road to mining the asteroids. However, the ISS is scheduled for destruction in 2024. If that time comes with no replacement, America’s and humanity’s hard-won foothold in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will be lost.

The National Space Society (NSS) has released policy recommendations to extend and expand this foothold in space. The full paper is available at:

www.nss.org/legislative/positions/NSS_Position_Paper_Next_Generation_Space_Stations_2015.pdf.

NSS does not suggest that the ISS be replaced by a single, large, government owned and operated facility. Instead, NSS proposes a program structured much like the successful Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) which led to the current CRS program and Commercial Crew (CCDev) programs where NASA helps develop multiple, privately owned, commercially operated space stations and then becomes an anchor tenant. The US ISS National Laboratory could continue to operate using these new space stations.

Additionally, NSS urges that NASA continue the existing CRS cargo and crew transportation arrangements for both up and down access to the new stations. Current international ISS partners and potential future partners would be invited to join the effort based on new partnership agreements, thus ensuring the continued international flavor of humanity’s LEO outposts.

Without adequate planning now, the end of the ISS program will result in the loss of a host of valuable capabilities and activities that promote commerce, science, space operations, and space settlement. Both Russia and China have said they will build stations of their own in the relatively near future. It seems self-evident that the USA will suffer a considerable blow in terms of prestige when the Russians and Chinese can offer stays on their LEO space stations to other nations while the U.S. offers nothing comparable.

NSS Executive Vice-President Dale Skran said, “We congratulate SpaceX on another successful launch demonstrating the efficacy of the COTS approach to developing significant space capabilities at low cost and urge NASA to adopt a similar approach to ensure a gapless transition beyond the ISS.”

NSS POLITICAL ACTION NETWORK ALERT: The Space Exploration, Development and Settlement Act of 2015

From Dale Skran, Chair, NSS Policy Committee

We need your help! The Space Exploration, Development and Settlement (SEDS) Act is about to be introduced in Congress. The purpose of the SEDS Act is to authorize and instruct NASA to pursue permanent human settlements in outer space as well as the development of space in general.  We need you to call your member of Congress (to be clear – your Representative, not your Senators) by April 17th and ask him or her to be an original co-sponsor of the Space Exploration, Development and Settlement (SEDS) Act.  Representative Dana Rohrabacher’s office will introduce the bill.

If this is your first PAN alert, or if you are uncertain who your Representative is, please look at this instruction guide: http://www.nss.org/legislative/congress.htm.

As an advocate for space, you know that NASA needs a big goal that can excite the public imagination and give clear direction to the human space flight program. The Space Exploration, Development and Settlement Act will make human settlement of space a long-term goal of the United States. By setting such a bold goal, Congress will assure U.S. predominance in outer space for decades, reinvigorate STEM education, catalyze massive economic growth, and energize public support for the space program.  The bill does not advocate for a specific destination, launch vehicle or contractual arrangement, nor does it calls for the expenditure of additional funds. It is a short, simple bill and is intended to give NASA clear guidance: get humans into space, this time to stay.

Please contact your member of Congress today and ask them to co-sponsor the Space Exploration, Development and Settlement Act.

Once you’ve contacted your Member of Congress 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.

[Copy of the Act in PDF]

Who Ya Gonna Call? The Oklahoma Space Alliance

From Dale Skran, Chair, NSS Policy Committee:

NSS members often associate Congressional visits with events like the SEA Blitz, the March Storm, and the August Home District Blitz. Even so, the great majority of these visits are with staff, not the Senators/Congress members themselves.

Hence, it was with considerable surprise when the office of Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK District 1) called Steve Swift, the President of the local NSS Chapter (the Oklahoma Space Alliance) requesting a briefing on space matters. Bridentstine is on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and is Chair of the Subcommittee on Environment.

Steve and members of the Oklahoma Space Alliance ended up talking with the Congressman himself for 1-½ hours on February 18, 2015!  To prepare for this important meeting, the chapter prepared a four-page document of talking points. Although this document is localized to the situation in Oklahoma, it is a good model for any NSS Chapter to follow. Please join me in congratulating Steve and the Oklahoma Space Alliance on this significant achievement!!!

March Storm now a joint SFF/NSS project – Join Up!

March Storm

By Dale Skran, Deputy Chair, NSS Policy Committee

Please consider joining the MARCH STORM Congressional action event organized by the Space Frontier Foundation and the National Space Society March 15-19. The MARCH STORM focuses on space development and settlement via a specific and practical set of requested actions. You can expect topics to include a Low Cost Access to Space Prize, establishing settlement and development of space as an official purpose of NASA, full funding for Commercial Crew, and increased funding for commercial research on the ISS. The basic commitment is to a training session on Sunday, March 15, and to at least one day on the Hill – March 16, 17, 18, or 19 to accommodate different schedules. Supporters with more time can sign up for multiple days. If you are interested, register ASAP at www.marchstorm.com. I plan on joining the MARCH STORM and look forward to seeing you there.

National Space Society and Space Frontier Foundation announce the formation of the Alliance for Space Development

The National Space Society (NSS) and the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) will announce the formation of the jointly managed Alliance for Space Development (ASD) at a media event on 25 February in Washington DC. ASD (allianceforspacedevelopment.org) is dedicated to influencing space policy toward the goals of space development and settlement. At press time the LifeBoat Foundation, the Mars Society, the Mars Foundation, the Space Development Steering Committee, the Space Tourism Society, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Students on Capitol Hill, Tea Party in Space, and the Texas Space Alliance have also joined ASD. Charles Miller, Executive Coordinator of ASD, said “We’re delighted at the support ASD, and the focused, coordinated, year-long strategy it represents, has received in the space community.”

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R) and Representative Chaka Fattah (D) will co-host the press conference in the House Space Subcommittee hearing room in the Rayburn office building. Chair of the NSS Executive Committee Mark Hopkins said: “NSS is proud to be a founding member of ASD. We see space as a place not just to visit but to stay. The time is right to galvanize the space community toward a greater focus on space development and settlement.” SFF President James Pura said: “The Space Frontier Foundation sees the new Alliance as an important way to advance the central issue for the next era of space—the development and settlement of space as a growing contributor to human prosperity and well being.”

ASD is organized around three key goals: (1) making the development and settlement of space clearly defined parts of why we are sending humans into space, (2) reducing the cost of access to space, and (3) stimulating and accelerating the growth of space industries.

In 2015, ASD objectives include (1) incorporation of space development and settlement into the NASA Space Act, (2) a four-point plan to reduce the cost of access to space, (3) full support of the Commercial Crew program as requested by the Administration, and (4) increasing the utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) while ensuring a gapless transition to private space stations with NASA helping with development and acting as an anchor tenant.

The ASD 2015 legislative strategy is a unified action plan that incorporates previously uncoordinated projects and activities, such as the March Storm (www.marchstorm.com), the August Home District Blitz (www.nss.org/legislative) and other activities of ASD member organizations.

The International Space Station as a Research Hub

From Dale Skran, Deputy Chair, NSS Policy Committee:

One of the major foci of the NSS Policy Committee has been and continues to be supporting the International Space Station and the associated critical Commercial Crew and Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) programs.  One reason both are so important to the ISS lies in the incredible value of the ability to both move new experiments to the ISS on a regular basis, and to return experimental results when they are ready.  It should be noted that the Russian Soyuz is a very tight fit for the three astronauts, and it has virtually no return-to-Earth cargo capacity.  Thus, without the CRS SpaceX Dragon, there would be no way to return experiments to Earth. NASA has produced the interesting half-hour video below that reviews science and technology efforts on the ISS during 2014.