National Space Society Congratulates SpaceX and NASA on the Return to Flight Status of SLC-40 and the Launch of CRS-13

The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates SpaceX and NASA on the successful launch of Commercial Resupply Services 13 (CRS-13) Falcon 9/Dragon to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10:36 AM EST.

SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing at Landing Zone-1 after boosting CRS-13 toward the ISS. Credit: NASA.

Friday’s flight is SpaceX’s 17th this year, the fourth usage of a “flight proven” first stage, and the 14th first stage landing during 2017. These numbers put SpaceX in a leading position among launch providers world-wide. For example, in 2017 so far, the United Launch Alliance has lofted eight rockets and Arianespace nine. SpaceX by itself leads all Chinese launches (16) and falls just short of Russia (19).

This flight is also notable for many “firsts”:

  • 1st launch from SLC-40 since it was damaged in the Amos incident last year.
  • 1st time NASA allowed the use of a “flight proven” first stage as part of the CRS program (the first stage flown was initially used to launch CRS-11 on June 3, 2017).
  • 1st time a “flight-proven” first stage and a re-used Dragon capsule have flown together (the Dragon was initially used on CRS-6 in April and May, 2016).

“NSS members are especially excited about Made in Space’s optical fiber manufacturing facility Dragon is carrying to the ISS,” said Dale Skran, the NSS Executive Vice President and Chair of the NSS Policy Committee. “If successful in demonstrating the superiority of ZBLAN* fiber made in space, this trial run may produce the first products manufactured in space and sold on the Earth, opening a new era of orbital commerce. Research indicates that ZBLAN fiber pulled in microgravity may not crystallize as much, giving it better optical qualities that allow for more data to be sent over longer cable runs without repeaters, saving money and increasing security.”

NSS believes that in-space manufacturing as envisioned by Made in Space and NASA will be an important step toward achieving Milestone 7: Applications of Space Technology on and for Earth in the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap (

“SpaceX has capped the year with a really impressive achievement,” said NSS Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “We look forward with great anticipation to the results of the fiber ZBLAN fiber cable manufacturing tests, and continuing usage of ‘flight-proven’ first stages by NASA and commercial customers. The return to operational status of SLC-40 opens the way for the first flight of the Falcon Heavy from Launch Complex 39A next month.”

CubeSat Structures Competition Opens Space Design to Students of the World

The CubeSat Structures Competition invites students from around the world to help advance the state-of-the-art of new space technology by designing new CubeSat structures. Winning designs will be evaluated for use in carrying future student experiments to space aboard SARGE rockets built by the launch vehicle company EXOS Aerospace.

Enterprise In Space, an international initiative of the National Space Society, along with EXOS, 3D Hubs, and Sketchfab are initiating a worldwide search to find the perfect CubeSat Structure. What are CubeSat structures? Experiments that fly in space need a structure to hold them. These structures can be of many shapes and sizes depending on the type of rocket that will take them to space.

Two challenge categories are available to entrants. They can propose a 3D printed design, or they can design with regular fabrication techniques. In both categories, semifinalists will be given the opportunity to build the structure and send it to EXOS Aerospace for evaluation. The Grand Prize winner in each category will have their design flown in space.

Students can enter now for a chance to be a part of NewSpace history via the competition website,

New Shepard Flight Brings Sub-Orbital Tourism Closer

UPDATE: On December 19th Blue Origin announced that the December 12th flight of New Shepard was done under a new operational license from the FAA, and as a result revenue was booked on a New Shepard flight for the first time.  Blue stated that the cargo manifest for 2018 was mostly full, and that the first crewed test flight could be expected toward the end of 2018, with paying customers in late 2019.  This is a BIG DEAL.  For the first time, a company seeking to make a business out of sub-orbital tourism is taking in revenue, and the pathway to fully operational status seems clear.  More information can be found at:

The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Blue Origin on the seventh New Shepard flight December 12, 2017. After reaching over 98 kilometers in height, both the booster and the capsule were successfully recovered. The upgraded capsule, targeted for crewed flights in 2018, features the largest windows ever flown in space – 2.4 feet by 3.6 feet – and carried 12 commercial, research, and educational payloads, along with a dummy “Mannequin Skywalker.” This is the first of an expected series of tests of an upgraded version of the New Shepard expected to lead to sub-orbital tourist flights in the near future. The New Shepard booster is powered by the re-usable liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen BE-3 engine.

New Shepard capsule after successful landing showing large windows with “Mannequin Skywalker” visible. Credit: Blue Origin

“Blue Origin plans to use the technology from New Shepard to build its ‘Blue Moon’ lander,” said Dale Skran, the NSS Executive Vice President and Chair of the NSS Policy Committee. “This is a great example of pioneering private-sector technology that as part of a public-private partnership could support a USA return to the Moon as called for in Space Policy Directive 1.” On December 11, 2017, President Trump signed “Space Policy Directive 1,” which called for the United States to “lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization” while working with “commercial and international partners.”

New Shepard booster just after landing. Credit: Blue Origin

NSS believes that sub-orbital tourism of the sort envisioned by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic will be an important step toward achieving Milestone 2: Higher Commercial Launch Rates and Lower Cost to Orbit in the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap (

“Blue Origin has established an impressive string of successful launches of the same New Shepard vehicle, and it’s great to see a next generation New Shepard take to the skies,” said NSS Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “We look forward with great anticipation to seeing crews fly on New Shepard, leading to commercial tourist flights.”

Texas Home District Blitz Keeps Rolling

By Dale Skran, Chair, NSS Policy Committee

On October 30, 2017, a team of five NSS members met with local staff for Representative Babin (R-36), the Chair of the Space Subcommittee of the House Space, Science, and Technology Committee. Babin is one of the most important leaders in the space area in the House, and NSS rolled out a large team, including including Chapter President Eric Bowen, NSS Secretary Anita Gale, and David Cheuvront, a member of the Policy Committee. The meeting lasted two hours, which may be a record, and was very constructive. The “Make-up” Texas Home District Blitz will continue to target key Texas Representatives in the weeks ahead.

Photo: Clear Lake Area NSS members and constituents of Mr. Brian Babin (Texas R-36) who met with his space policy advisor Ms. Jeannie Kranz on October 30th. From left: Peter Brandt; Ms. Kranz; David Cheuvront; Anita Gale; Jim Akkerman. Credit: Eric Bowen, NSS Member.

End of Year 2017 Space Development Preview

By Dale Skran
NSS Executive Vice President

The last two months of 2017 are shaping up as a very exciting time for space development. On October 30, SpaceX plans to launch Koreasat-5A from SLC-39A in Florida, followed by the unexpected secret Zuma satellite on November 15th, also from SLC-39A.  These will, if both successful be the 16th and 17th launches in 2017 by SpaceX, which is on-track to being the world’s largest space launch company in 2017. As one comparison, ULA launched six Atlas Vs and three Deltas, for a total of nine launches for 2017.

However, we are just getting started. On December 12th SpaceX is scheduled to launch CRS-13 to the ISS. This flight is important for at least three reasons. First, NASA has agreed that it will be the first NASA launch to use a “flight proven” F9 first stage. Second, the cargo will include Made in Space’s machine for manufacturing ZBLAN optical fiber in space, a step on the path to profitable space manufacturing. And third, the launch will take place from SLC-40, the first such launch since that pad was destroyed in the Amos 6 incident last year. With SLC-40 back to launching F9s, SLC-39A will be enhanced to support launches of the Falcon Heavy and Crew Dragons.

On December 22, Iridium NEXT Flight 4 will rocket into space from V-4E in Vandenberg using the fourth flight-proven F9 first stage to fly in 2017. Rounding out the SpaceX news, the Falcon Heavy is expected to fly by end of year 2017. If this occurs, it will bring the total of flights of “flight-proven” F9 first stages to six, as the two side boosters of the initial FH flight are both “flight proven.”

In other exciting news, Blue Origin recently announced the first successful firing of the Lox/Methane BE-4 engine targeted for both Vulcan and New Glenn, and in the next month or so Rocket Lab is on course for their second Electron test flight, which has a good chance of making orbit.

The next two months have the potential to be one of the most exciting periods in terms of space development related achievements ever. Ad Astra.

Two NASA Contests for Students Grades 8-12

1. Drop Tower Challenge: Microgravity Expulsion from Water

Teams of grade 9-12 students are challenged to design and build objects that sink in water in normal gravity, but will be expelled as far as possible out of the water during free fall in NASA’s 2.2 Second Drop Tower. Proposals are due by November 10, 2017 and can be submitted any time before that deadline.

More information:

2. CELERE: Capillary Effects on Liquids Exploratory Research Experiments

The design challenge is a joint educational program of NASA and Portland State University (PSU) enabling students to participate in microgravity research on capillary action related to that conducted on the International Space Station (ISS). Students create their own experiments using Computer-Aided Design (CAD). Experiment proposals, which each consist of a single CAD drawing and short entry form, are e-mailed to NASA. The test cells are then manufactured by PSU using the drawings and a computer-controlled laser cutter. The design challenge is for students in grades 8-12, who may participate as individuals or in teams of any size. Proposals must be submitted by March 1, 2018.

More information:

The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini

saturn-system-cover-webNASA is offering a free e-book as the Cassini mission comes to a dramatic end with a fatal plunge into Saturn on Sept. 15, 2017.

Over a period of 13 years, Cassini has captured about 450,000 spectacular images within the Saturn system, providing new views of the “lord of the rings” and a plethora of iconic images. To honor the art and science of Cassini, this book was developed collaboratively by a team from NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD), NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI). While these images represent the tip of the iceberg—each telling a story about Saturn and its mysterious moons—NASA’s hope is that the mission will inspire future artists and explorers. The sheer beauty of these images is surpassed only by the science and discoveries they represent.

You can get the free e-book here:

National Space Society Congratulates Representative Jim Bridenstine on His Nomination to be NASA Administrator

BridenstineThe National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1) on his nomination to be the next NASA Administrator.

“NSS looks forward to working with Representative Bridenstine in his new role as the NASA Administrator,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President and Chair of the NSS Policy Committee. “Representative Bridenstine over his years in Congress worked with NSS to advance America’s space program. He has introduced the American Space Renaissance Act, which has been a powerful tool for advancing new ideas to improve America’s position in space.”

Representative Bridenstine brings to his new job both political and aeronautical experience. A three-term member of Congress, Bridenstine served as a naval aviator from 1998-2007, and in the naval reserve from 2010-2015, mainly flying the E-2C Hawkeye. Additionally, Bridenstine was the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium. Bridenstine has degrees from Rice University (triple major in Economics, Psychology, and Business), and an MBA from Cornell.

“Representative Bridenstine is one of a growing group in Congress that fully appreciates the importance of space commerce and space resources to the human future,” said NSS Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “We look forward with great anticipation to working with Jim Bridenstine to lead America back to the Moon and to develop a thriving economy in space.”

Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee, added, “Some may be concerned that Representative Bridenstine is not an engineer or scientist. We should all recall that one of the greatest NASA administrators, Jim Webb, was a lawyer. America is lucky to have Jim Bridenstine as NASA Administrator.”