Tag Archives: capitalism

A look at the more than 450 tourists who have paid a deposit to Virgin Galactic to fly in space

A look at the more than 450 tourists who have paid a deposit to Virgin Galactic to fly in space.

They include comedian Russell Brand, Dallas star Victoria Principal, film director Bryan Singer, designer Philippe Starck, scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, property developers the Candy brothers, and PayPal developer Elon Musk.

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The state of the new commercial manned space efforts

Chris Bergin at NASAspaceflight.com today wrote a report on the four companies NASA is subsidizing to build manned capsules. The status of each company tells us something of whether they can eventually provide the United States with a replacement for the shuttle, and do it soon. Let’s take a look at each.
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How the end of NASA affects national security

How the end of NASA affects national security.

Though I don’t agree with all of Dinerman’s points, he provides a complete and excellent analysis of the present political state of NASA. To me, the key quote is this:

NASA’s Administrator and his Deputy worked hard, along with the President’s science advisor and the rest of the White House team, to alienate a critical mass of members of Congress by ignoring their concerns, rejecting their advice and blindsiding them with critical space policy decisions. The Obama administration then wrecked the previous program on the grounds that it was underfunded and behind schedule, and replaced it with a new program that looks as if it is now underfund and behind schedule. Congressmen and women being human, and under massive pressure to cut spending, have now cut the guts out of the space agency’s proposed budget.

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Senate Issues Subpoena to NASA for SLS Materials

The space war over NASA continues: The Senate has issued a subpoena to NASA, demanding documents related to its plans for building the Congressionally-designed Space Launch System (SLS), what I like to call the-program-formerly-called-Constellation.

In related news, NASAspaceflight.com reports that those NASA documents state that the agency’s plans for building SLS will take 21 years (!), with the first flight not taking place until 2032.

No wonder NASA has stalled releasing these documents. Nor am I surprised. Based on the budget that Congress gave the agency, it is literally impossible for NASA to build this rocket any faster. And at that rate, no one should be surprised if it never gets built at all. Far better to cancel it now and save the taxpayers the money.

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Public test of privately built moon lander delayed by gyro

A public test of privately built moon lander has been delayed by gyro problem. Key quote:

One customer has already bought a ticket with Moon Express, asking them to deposit a small telescope on the dark side of the Moon. Jain says the company will also offer low cost ways for anyone to use the moon as a kind of time capsule. “If something goes to the moon it stays there forever, people will pay to sends things like photos, or maybe your hair or DNA.”

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NASA changes its contract arranged for commercial space

Turf war: At conference yesterday at the Johnson Space Center, NASA proposed changing how it issues its commercial space contracts so as to give it more control over their design and construction. The commercial companies are not happy.

Brett Alexander, a space industry consultant who counts among his clients the secretive aerospace startup Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., said at the July 20 briefing that industry needs to know NASA’s legal reasoning for dismissing SAAs as an option for the next CCDev round. “From an industry standpoint … we’re kind of flying blind because [NASA] has not divulged what its legal reasoning is, and I think they need to do that in writing. Not a couple charts, not things that you brief, but a legal brief that says ‘here’s why’” a traditional procurement is necessary.

My own sources say this change in contractual approach will significantly slow development of the new commercial manned space rockets and ships, possibly beyond 2017.

The only reason I can see for NASA to do this is to maintain control over manned space, even if they are not building anything. I think NASA is instead going to find out that doing anything to slow this development will be politically very dangerous for them.

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A good summary of the present American manned space situation

Clark Lindsey has put together a very succinct but thorough summary of the present and future state of American manned space.

The bottom line is that the U.S. can easily have multiple rockets and spaceships to put people into space, in only a few short years, if only our government will get out of the way.

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Perry and other lawmakers blast Obama over shuttle retirement

Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as other lawmakers from Congress, blasted Obama today over the shuttle retirement.

Bah. Perry claims to be a so-called small government conservative, yet he wants the government to spend a fortune to build and run the space program. Meanwhile, Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Kate Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) were around in Congress when President George Bush announced the shuttle’s retirement seven years ago. Their effort since then to fund pork through NASA and thus have NASA build a giant new rocket system, either Constellation or its new Congressionally-designed replacement, has been a disaster. Right now it would be better, and far cheaper, if they stopped fighting the new commercial space companies and instead get behind them, especially since the Obama administration itself has done a very poor job of selling this new industry.

A little support from Congress could go a long way to not only reinvigorating the aerospace industry, it could speed our country’s return to manned space, with multiple competing companies.

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The U.S. and the rising Russian space program

The Russians yesterday successfully launched their first space telescope since the fall of the Soviet Union. Here is a Google translation of a Russian article describing Spektr-R’s research goals:

[Spektr-R is] designed to study galaxies and quasars in the radio, the study of black holes and neutron stars in the Milky Way, as well as the regions immediately adjacent to the massive black holes. In addition, using the observatory, scientists expect to receive information about pulsars and the interstellar plasma. It is planned that the “Spektr-R” will work in orbit for at least 5 years.

Though this particular space telescope is probably not going to rewrite the science of astrophysics, its launch is historically significant. It indicates that Russia has just about recovered from the seventy-plus years of bankrupt communist rule that ended in 1990.
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Being tone deaf is not a good way to fund a government space program

Yesterday the House appropriations committee’s released budget numbers that included no additional funds for commercial space, limiting the subsidies to $312 million, the same number as last year and significantly less than the $850 million requested by the Obama administration.

This is what I have thought might happen since last year. The tone deaf manner in which the Obama administration has implemented the private space subsidies is leaving all funding for NASA vulnerable.
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The painful transition to private space

It appears that U.S. aerospace layoffs more than tripled in the first half of 2011.

The downsizing, prompted by cutbacks in defense and government contracts, jumped from 6,121 in the first six months of 2010 to 20,851 this year, based on planned layoffs announced by major employers.

Though I have always favored shutting down the government space agency and replacing it with privately-built rockets and spaceships, the manner in which this is being done now is disgraceful. George Bush declared the retirement of the shuttle seven years ago. Since then Congress, Bush, and Obama have all done an abominable job preparing the nation for that retirement.
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Mining the moon for water and nuclear fuel

Mining the moon for water and fuel.

Texas-based Shackleton Energy Company has already begun operations aimed at mining the Moon within the next few years. 

The company’s plans for mining and refining operations would involve melting the ice and purifying the water, converting the water into gaseous hydrogen and oxygen, and then condensing the gases into liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen and hydrogen peroxide, all potential rocket fuels.

Shackleton CEO Dale Tietz says the water extracted would be used almost exclusively as rocket fuel to power operations both within Low Earth Orbit (LEO) – such as space tourism and the removal of space-debris – on the Moon, and further out into space. ‘We are a for-profit business enterprise moving forward, and so we are only going there really for one reason and that is to mine, prospect mine and harvest water for rocket propellant production,’ says Tietz.

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