Blue Origin to Receive the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard's West Texas launch facility before the rocket's maiden voyage. Credit: Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility before the rocket’s maiden voyage. Credit: Blue Origin

The entrepreneurial company Blue Origin is the winner of the Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering. This award recognizes the company’s two recent major achievements: (1) The first successful vertical landing by a large rocket which has reached space and carried a payload (an empty passenger capsule which descended separately by parachute). This flight by the New Shepard vehicle occurred on Nov. 23, 2015 at the company’s test range near the remote West Texas town of Van Horn. (2) Subsequently, the same rocket was flown again and performed a second perfect landing in January 2016, which constitutes the first re-use of a large rocket which has reached space. Creating reusable rockets has been the “holy grail” for many in the space industry for decades, and is a fundamental requirement for spaceflight to be inexpensive enough for general and large scale use.

Mr. Rob Meyerson, the company’s President, will accept the award in the name of Blue Origin on May 22 at the National Space Society’s 2016 International Space Development Conference® (isdc.nss.org/2016). This will be the 35th ISDC and will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino. The conference will run from May 18-22, 2016. NSS invites the public to attend ISDC and witness this award presentation.

About the Space Pioneer Award

NSS Space Pioneer AwardThe Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, as shown at left, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. NSS has several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988. Some of the recent winners of Space Pioneer Awards include Elon Musk, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bigelow, citizen astronaut Anouseh Ansari, Dr. Kip Thorne, and the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission team.

About Blue Origin and Its Reusable Rocket Development Program

Blue Origin is a privately funded company set up by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos. It designed and built the single stage New Shepard rocket as a means of developing a reusable vehicle and to provide sub-orbital launch services for passengers. The company has about 400 employees at several locations. It intends to build a rocket manufacturing plant near Cape Canaveral in Florida and is developing a new methane and liquid oxygen fueled rocket engine, the BE-4, which will be used to power orbital rockets, including ones of its own design. The company’s name refers to the Blue Planet: Earth, the origin of humanity. It has a headquarters in Kent, Washington, near Seattle.

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Space Solar Power Team Breaks Through at D3 Innovation Summit

SSPD3The National Space Society congratulates the Space Solar Power D3 (SSPD3) team on sweeping the awards in a March 2 multi-departmental competition to find promising new technology ideas that could simultaneously advance diplomacy, defense and development (D3). The SSPD3 team proposal was titled “Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill.”

“Our multi-agency industry team proposal was in the top 1% of ideas picked to present to the very senior panel including the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the D3 Innovation Challenge, a first-of-a-kind contest for ideas sourced from across the Department of Defense, Department of State, and United States Agency for International Development by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State themselves,” said team member Peter Garretson. “Our idea to start a national Space Solar Power Program won hands down, taking four of seven possible awards,” he said.

SSPD3

Paul Jaffe and Peter Garretson with Awards

Space Solar Power (SSP) is an energy concept where an orbiting satellite gathers energy from sunlight in space and transmits it wirelessly to Earth. SSP can solve our energy and greenhouse gas emissions problems and provide large quantities of energy to each and every person on Earth with very little environmental impact. This was the first time that SSP was briefed at such a high level.

The space solar power D3 team includes members of the Air Force’s Air University, the Naval Research Lab, Northrop Grumman, NASA, the Joint Staff Logistics and Energy Division, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, the Army, and the Space Development Steering Committee.

“Space Solar Power has made a giant leap forward thanks to Paul Jaffe, Peter Garretson, and the rest of the team,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President  and Chairman of the NSS Policy Committee, adding, “We at NSS look forward to continuing to promote SSP at the national and international levels.” Space Solar Power is one of the milestones that NSS envisions on the road to a prosperous future where the resources of space come to benefit us on Earth. The NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement (www.nss.org/roadmap ) documents this and other milestones.

Further Resources:

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D3 Space Solar Power Presentation

In 2015 a challenge was issued across the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the US Agency for International Development for the best ideas to advance U.S. diplomacy, defense and development (the 3 D’s of foreign policy). Of 500 ideas submitted, the D3 Space Solar Power D3 multi-agency-industry submission was in the top 1% of ideas chosen to present at the D3 innovation summit. This idea won 4 of the 7 possible awards: the Innovation Award, the People’s Choice Award, the best Interagency Collaboration Award, and also best Presentation. An 11-minute video of the presentation is below.

More on the D3 Space Solar Power proposal.

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Agile Aero CEO Jeff Greason to Receive the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Entrepreneurial Business

Jeff GreasonNational Space Society governor Jeff Greason is the winner of the Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Entrepreneurial Business. This award recognizes Jeff’s successes in founding and helping manage and direct technical work at XCOR and other entrepreneurial space companies. It also recognizes his bold spirit in founding Agile Aero, Inc., a new company that will seek to break through a rapid prototyping barrier that has slowed aerospace development for the last several decades.

Jeff will accept the award on May 21 at the National Space Society’s 2016 International Space Development Conference® (isdc.nss.org/2016). This will be the 35th ISDC and will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino. The conference will run from May 18-22, 2016.

Jeff presented a memorable speech regarding the future of space settlement at the 2011 ISDC in Huntsville. That speech (with transcript) can be viewed here and has over 11,000 views so far: www.nss.org/resources/library/videos/ISDC11greason.html.

About the Space Pioneer Award

NSS Space Pioneer AwardThe Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, as shown at left, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. NSS has several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988. Some of the recent winners of Space Pioneer Awards include Elon Musk, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bigelow, citizen astronaut Anouseh Ansari, Dr. Kip Thorne, and the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission team.

About Jeff Greason

Jeff Greason sits on the NSS Board of Governors and is a recent co-founder and new CEO of Agile Aero, Inc., a company targeting rapid prototyping capabilities for aerospace vehicles. Jeff’s achievements include being one of the four co-founders of XCOR (where he is also a board member) and leading the engineering team that developed ten different long-life, highly-reusable liquid-fueled rocket engines, a low-cost liquid propellant piston pump, and two manned reusable rocket aircraft – the EZ-Rocket and other similar vehicles. Agile Aero (www.agile.aero), which he recently founded with several other XCOR employees, is intended to help speed up the typically long vehicle development process which strains the finances and resources of many aerospace companies. He expects the results to aid other aerospace companies in making their visions a reality. The company is located in Midland, TX. Jeff was also a member of the President’s Human Space Flight Review (Augustine II) Committee in 2009.

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Space Solar Power Being Considered at High Level

The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates the “Space Solar Power D3” team on making it to the winners circle in a Department of Defense (DOD) competition to find promising new technology ideas that could simultaneously advance diplomacy, development and defense. Space Solar Power (SSP) is among only six winners out of 500 entries for the DOD’s first innovation challenge for the D3 (Diplomacy, Development, Defense) Summit. The SSP team proposal is titled “Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill.” Their team has won the opportunity to present to the highest-level gathering of the three departments that are primarily responsible for U.S. foreign policy.

Winning proposal briefings will be made Wednesday, March 2 to representatives of the Secretary of Defense, the Vice Joint Chief of Staff, DOD senior leaders, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the U.S. Department of State. The presentation will happen at the State Department and a live stream can be found at http://video.state.gov/live.

Space Solar Power gathers energy from sunlight in space and transmits it wirelessly to Earth. SSP can solve our energy and greenhouse gas emissions problems and provide large quantities of energy to each and every person on Earth with very little environmental impact. This will be the first time that space solar power is briefed at such a high level.

The space solar power D3 team includes members of the Air Force’s Air University, the Naval Research Lab, Northrop Grumman, NASA, the Join Staff Logistics and Energy division, DARPA, the Army, and the Space Development Steering Committee. NSS wishes them the best of luck in their presentation on March 2.

D3 team member Col. M. V. “Coyote” Smith, a professor at Air University’s School of Advanced Air and Space Power Studies, states: “When you think about what could advance U.S. diplomacy, development, and defense objectives simultaneously, what could be better than creating a source of global, constant green energy? Energy is going to be a $21 Trillion industry. Imagine if American industry was supplying green energy to the billions of people in the developing world. The studies suggest that could mean five million new high tech jobs in satellite manufacture and launch. The world of 2050 might require as much as 55 terawatts of energy. The Space-Based Solar Power resource is huge, many times the global requirement, with about 330 terawatts waiting to be tapped in Geostationary orbit alone.”

Smith continued: “A government-led demo would be the first step to retire the technical risk with commercial companies following quickly. The demo itself would have a strategic effect on our aerospace industry–generating about $5 Billion for satellite design and manufacture and another $5 Billion for the launch industry. We estimate the demo alone would generate approximately 171,000 new jobs.”

Smith added: “We’re not the only one in the game. In fact, at the moment, we’re behind in what we believe is the only space race that really matters. The Chinese have an increasingly robust program. So do the Japanese. Europe, too. But not the U.S. The Chinese proponents have it right that this is the most ambitious space project in history, and that Space-Based Solar Power will trigger a new industrial revolution and determine who will be the global leader. Space-Based Solar Power is not a competition in which we can afford to come in second.”

“Space Solar Power may be the answer to both the energy crisis and climate change,” said Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the NSS Executive Committee. “We have worked for many years to place SSP on the national and international agendas, including working with India’s former President Dr. APJ Kalam to begin a US-India collaboration. NSS is fighting for a prosperous hopeful future for all of humanity.”

In December, NSS leaders Mark Hopkins, Dr. Feng Hsu who is chairman of the NSS Space Solar Power Committee, and Dr. Don Flournoy who runs the International SunSat Design Competition that brings forward the best new ideas in SSP, traveled to China. There they met with Chinese leaders and their renewable energy and space solar power experts to establish a new initiative, the International Consortium for Space Solar Power Research and Development. NSS is also working with Space Canada to support the International SunSat Design Competition.

“We at NSS firmly believe,” says Dr. Feng Hsu, “that SSP is a viable and potentially permanent solution to address many humanity’s top challenges regarding environmental, economic or even global geopolitical issues.” He added, “SSP certainly deserves attention by the world community at the highest level. The time for a full-scale SSP demonstration and R&D program has been long overdue since the 1979 NASA-Department of Energy studies, and the time has now finally arrived for the U.S. government and the space and energy industries to take concerted actions in support of SSP.”  Feng concludes, “I have no doubt that if we in the U.S. continue to ignore the great idea of harnessing the Sun’s energy in a massive and unparalleled scale from space, we will risk being left further behind by the next technological and industrial revolution to be brought about by cheap, clean and abundant energy from space!” “National Security demands that America fund SSP research,” said Hopkins. NSS has created the world’s largest online library on SSP at nss.org/ssp.

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Space Invaders: The Mojave Entrepreneurs

From Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President:

A lot of things are happening related to space that don’t get covered by the mainstream media. This 13-minute video produced by the Economist magazine travels to Mojave Spaceport in California where young engineers at space startups are building the future.  Companies featured include XCOR, Virgin Galactic, and Masten Aerospace. The video includes interesting footage I’ve never seen before. Ad Astra!

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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!”

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You can help develop space settlements!

NSS Director Al Globus is working on a new space settlement design and you can easily help just by taking this short space settlement survey.

It’s a one page introduction followed by eight required and six optional questions. The survey usually takes less than ten minutes to complete. You will not be asked for contact information and there are no ads. Your answers will be used to help form the design of a new generation of space settlements!

Kalpana 2

Image courtesy Bryan Versteeg, spacehabs.com

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The Gravity of the National Space Society’s Vision

Thorne award

NSS Executive Committee Chairman Mark Hopkins Presents Space Pioneer Award to Dr. Kip Thorne

We, the members of the National Space Society, believe exploring the unknown is one of the things that drives our vision of “people living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.” The recent discovery of gravitational waves by NSS Space Pioneer award recipient Dr. Kip Thorne is another giant leap forward.

We are very proud and honored to congratulate the amazing achievement of our NSS member Dr. Kip Thorne for his leading involvement in the creation of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) project. LIGO’s recent world-changing detection of the existence of gravitational waves predicted by Einstein a century ago in his General Relativity Theory is opening new eyes on the cosmos and the doors that will bring humanity closer to the NSS vision!

Regarding the grand NSS vision, Dr. Thorne remarked, “I think that it’s clear that it is attainable to colonize the solar system. Getting beyond the solar system is going to be exceedingly difficult. We are going to either require a lot of brute force over a period of several centuries or else a brilliant idea that none of us has grasped yet. The first thing is the solar system, but we have not been moving at anything like the pace that we could or we should.”

Thorne at ISDC

Dr. Thorne was honored at the National Space Society’s 2015 International Space Development Conference® (ISDC) in Toronto, Canada for his work with the movie Interstellar and spoke not only to the conference participants, but also to more than 400 Space Settlement Design Contest winning students from around the world.

Thorn at ISDC

At the Toronto ISDC, Dr. Thorne visited with the students, viewing their Space Settlement Design Contest poster presentations, and posing for group photos with the winners. Here is Dr. Thorne with a winning team from Romania.

The ISDC, which brings together and engages students, scientists, business leaders, space industry stakeholders, families, policy makers and people from all walks of life, is held annually at different locations. This year it will be held at the surprisingly inexpensive location of San Juan, Puerto Rico! By attending ISDC Puerto Rico, you’ll be able to meet a whole new batch of winning space settlement students, the latest Space Pioneer Award winners like Pluto New Horizon’s Alan Stern, NASA center director Elen Ochoa, and Blue Origin’s president Rob Meyerson.

Here’s a quick look of what the ISDC 2016 holds for its attendees:
https://youtu.be/aYC3G-6hzFQ

When asked during an interview at the ISDC how pleased Dr. Thorne was to see that this type of conference, exists, he replied, “Well I think it’s very wonderful, particularly getting the young people involved around the world and being an inspiration for them. It’s very important for the future of science and the future of space.”

About the Gravity Wave Discovery

On February 11, 2016, a team of four physicists using LIGO announced that they had heard and recorded in September 2015 the gravitational wave motion of two black holes colliding 1.3 billion light-years away. The announcement team included Kip Thorne, David Reitze, Gabriela González, and Rainer Weiss.

Gravity waves

This is the first time scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime, called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. Dr. Thorne’s work has dealt with the prediction of gravity-wave strengths and their temporal signatures as observed on Earth. Dr. Thorne cofounded the LIGO Project in 1984 to discern and measure any fluctuations between two or more ‘static’ points on Earth. Such fluctuations would be evidence of gravitational waves. The specter of gravitational waves will show us the universe in a brand new light.

“With this discovery, we humans are embarking on a marvelous new quest: the quest to explore the warped side of the universe — objects and phenomena that are made from warped spacetime. Colliding black holes and gravitational waves are our first beautiful examples,” says Dr. Thorne.

NSS congratulates Professor Kip Thorne and the entire LIGO team for the confirmed detection of Gravitational Waves and his support of the National Space Society, it’s ISDCs, and projects like Enterprise In Space!

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NSS Pays Tribute to Late NSS Governor Dr. Marvin Minsky, A Pioneer in Artificial Intelligence

Marvin MinskyThe National Space Society pays tribute to Dr. Marvin Minsky, a pioneer of artificial intelligence, who served as a long-time member of the NSS Board of Governors, and was involved in the original merger of the L5 Society and the National Space Institute to create the National Space Society.  Dr. Minsky was very involved in early NSS activities and was part of many NSS space policy projects such as the 1981 “Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy.” He attended Board of Governors meetings and participated in NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference®. He died on January 14 in Boston from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 88 years old.

Marvin was also the thesis advisor for current NSS Governor K. Eric Drexler, a pioneer in the field of nanotechnology and an early activist who helped start NSS.

Hugh Downs, Chair of the NSS Board of Governors, said, “Marvin Minsky was a bright light in the arena of accelerating knowledge in modern physics. Where many of us plodded along to keep up with these changes, he seemed to always manage to be even with them. He will be sorely missed by those who worked with him and knew him well.”

Marvin Minsky was Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research led to both theoretical and practical advances in artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, neural networks, the theory of Turing Machines and recursive functions. He made other contributions in the domains of graphics, symbolic mathematical computation, knowledge representation, computational semantics, machine perception, and both symbolic and connectionist learning. He was also involved with advanced technologies for exploring space.

In October 2015, the MIT Media Lab presented Marvin with a gift in honor of his lifetime commitment to MIT students. “What a beautiful thing. What does it do?” he asked, when studying the world’s first 3D-printed clear glass object. View the presentation here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tIIe3NnodU.

The report from the Citizens Advisory Council, in which Marvin participated, was titled Space: The Crucial Frontier and includes this preamble:

“Space is potentially our most valuable national resource. A properly developed space program can go far toward restoring national pride while developing significant and possibly decisive military and economic advantages. In exploring space we will rediscover frontiers and more than frontiers; we can rediscover progress. The exploitation of space will have far reaching historical significance. The statesmen who lead mankind permanently to space will be remembered when Isabella the Great and Columbus are long forgotten.” (www.nss.org/settlement/L5news/1981-council.htm)

Today, NSS is vigorously promoting our expansion into space.  We are engaging with the international community via collaborations, tracks at our annual International Space Development Conference, and articles in Ad Astra and in major international publications. NSS volunteers today maintain the Space Settlement Nexus (www.nss.org/settlement) in carrying forward Marvin Minsky’s vision.

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