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 ( 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.”

Posted in Commercial Spaceflight, National Space Society, Space Policy | 1 Comment

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.”

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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: ).

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 ).

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: 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 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:
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Interview of Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee

Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee, was interviewed on the subject of interstellar space settlement on the program “Contours” on FM radio station WNTI on May 28. WNTI  is a member supported public radio station providing non-commercial FM broadcast service for northern New Jersey and northeast Pennsylvania, operated by Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ. The 21-minute interview was conducted by Dr. Karl Hricko and is posted here with permission.

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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 – 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

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XCOR Aerospace Lynx spacecraft featured on ABC News

From ABC World News Tonight, May 21, 2015

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Dr. Kip Thorne, Renowned Physicist and Executive Producer of film Interstellar, to Speak at International Space Development Conference®

Conference convenes May 20-24 in downtown Toronto

The National Space Society’s 34th Annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC)®, being held next week in Toronto, Canada, features a presentation by famed physicist and author Dr. Kip Thorne. The National Space Society will present the 2015 Space Pioneer Award for Mass Media to Dr. Thorne at the ISDC Gala Dinner on Saturday, May 23, beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT.

The award recognizes individuals whose accomplishments have helped open the space frontier and whose work has contributed significantly to the endeavor of developing a spacefaring civilization beyond Earth.

Dr. Thorne will also give a presentation entitled “The Science of Interstellar” on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT. Among those attending the presentation will be over 300 award-winning students from around the world who are participants in the NSS/NASA Ames Space Settlement Design Competition. Students from last year’s competition appeared in Interstellar’s companion series The Science of Interstellar. Video clip:

Kip ThorneDr. Thorne is a theoretical physicist and an author known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics. He was the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology from 1977 to 2009 and is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In 2009, he left Caltech to ramp up a new career in writing, movies, and continued scientific research. Along with his distinguished career as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Thorne was an executive producer and scientific consultant on the 2014 Academy Award-winning film Interstellar, which was inspired by his work.

ISDC is the yearly conference of the National Space Society, a nonprofit organization that has hosted the gathering since 1982. The event is set for May 20-24, 2015 at the downtown Hyatt Regency in Toronto, Canada. The conference brings together leading managers, engineers, scientists, educators, and business people from civilian, military, commercial, entrepreneurial, and grassroots advocacy space sectors. The Canadian Space Commerce Association is hosting this year’s ISDC.

Online registration for the 34th Annual International Space Development Conference is currently open with a variety of options, from single day registration passes to full conference registration with meals. Discounts are provided for youth, full-time students, seniors, and members of the National Space Society and its affiliates.

For more information, visit

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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:
  • 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

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:

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

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International and U.S. Students and Teachers Headed to Toronto for 34th Annual International Space Development Conference®

Students competed in prestigious NSS-NASA Ames Space Settlement Design Contest – Video narrated by Matthew McConaughey

Hundreds of students and teachers from the United States and countries across the globe will converge in Toronto this month for the National Space Society’s (NSS) 34th annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC)® to celebrate and engage people in the goal of space settlement. The event is set for May 20-24, 2015 at the downtown Hyatt Regency in Toronto, Canada.

Students attending the conference, grades 6-12, will be sharing their imaginative ideas about how people will be living and working in space. They are attending the conference as a result of their participation in this year’s Space Settlement Design Contest, co-sponsored by the National Space Society and NASA Ames Research Center. The contest challenges students to design a space settlement, which must realistically address concerns such as atmosphere, food, gravity, radiation shielding, energy production, and recreation for human space colonists.

Students at last year’s ISDC were filmed and appeared in the movie Interstellar‘s companion series The Science of Interstellar (video clip above). Students this year will meet Interstellar‘s science advisor and world renowned physicist Kip Thorne, who will be receiving this year’s prestigious NSS Pioneer Award for Mass Media.

“The students attending the ISDC are so passionate and excited to be there to share their ideas and projects. There is so much to learn from them, their cultures, and creative insights,” said Lynne F. Zielinski, NSS Vice President of Public Affairs and chair of NSS’ Education and Outreach Committee. “We are always dazzled by their insightful and futuristic designs. Their enthusiasm is infectious and gives us all hope that we will soon be living and working in space ourselves. These students are the ones to take us there.”

Alexander C. Reeves

Alexander C. Reeves, Contest Grand Prize Winner

Each year, NSS invites contest participants to attend the organization’s ISDC. Throughout the conference, students will provide oral presentations about their space settlement designs, along with colorful artwork related to the contest. The NSS-NASA Ames Space Settlement Design Competition’s Grand Prize winner, Alexander C. Reeves of Ann Arbor, Michigan, will receive the $5,000 NSS Bruce M. Clark, Jr. Memorial Scholarship.

Alexander and his teacher, Dr. Deano Smith from Greenhills School, will be in attendance at ISDC. Reeves created The Freyr Project, an orbital settlement that provides a home and societal structure for 20,000 individuals and is designed to be part of a pseudo-modular system for long-term space settlement. The 247-page report is available here:

This year’s competition received 994 entries from 3,007 students sponsored by 380 teachers. Entries came from 21 countries: Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, India, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Pakistan, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Romania, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

ISDC is the yearly conference of the National Space Society, a non-profit organization that has hosted the gathering since 1982. The event brings together leading managers, engineers, scientists, educators, and business people from civilian, military, commercial, entrepreneurial, and grassroots advocacy space sectors. The Canadian Space Commerce Association is hosting ISDC 2015.

Online registration is currently open with a variety of options, from single-day registration passes to full conference registration with meals. Discounts are provided for youth, full-time students, seniors, and members of the National Space Society and its affiliates. This year, local Toronto and Ontario residents also receive a substantial discount.

“We would like to invite local attendees interested in space to the annual conference of the world’s premier space public interest group,” stated Aggie Kobrin, the conference organizer and NSS board member. “Kids today are somewhat lacking in inspiration to pursue STEM fields and this conference is making giant strides to solve this problem.”

For more information, visit

Posted in Education, ISDC, National Space Society, Space Settlement | Leave a comment

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 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 ( 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 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.

Posted in Space Policy, Space Solar Power | 2 Comments