Tag Archives: commercial

More than 6,000 people submitted their applications to NASA last week to become astronauts, the most since 1978.

More than 6,000 people submitted their applications to NASA last week to become astronauts, the most since 1978.

Once again, this is strong evidence that Americans want to explore space, and that there is a market out there for private enterprise to cash in on. NASA doesn’t even have a way to put any of these astronauts into space, and yet, people come out in droves to apply.

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More and more the Atlas V appears to be “the vehicle of choice for manned missions.”

More and more the Atlas V appears to be “the vehicle of choice for manned missions.” Key quote:

NASA could have gone down this path last decade and possibly shaved years — and billions of dollars — off the development time of a capability to carry astronauts to the space station.

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Virgin Galactic hopes to begin the first powered flight tests of SpaceShipTwo this coming summer.

Getting close: Virgin Galactic hopes to begin the first powered flight tests of SpaceShipTwo this coming summer.

“Over the next few months we’re integrating parts and pieces of the hybrid rocket motor into the SpaceShipTwo airframe, completing ground testing of the rocket motor, and then [will] try and start powered flight over the summer,” [chief executive officer and president George] Whitesides told SPACE.com. Those rocket-powered flights, he said, will continue for some period of time. Whitesides said it looks possible “to get up to space altitude by the end of the year, if all goes well.”

The company is also building a second WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo,

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New dates, March 20 and May 15 respectively, have been set for the ISS launches of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and the next manned Soyuz capsule.

New dates, March 20 and May 15 respectively, have been set for the ISS launches of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and the next manned Soyuz capsule.

The launch date for Dragon, however, is far more tentative.

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Lobbying to save commercial space

Jeff Foust reports today that the long delayed final FAA reauthorization bill also includes language that will extend until 2015 the restrictions on the FAA’s ability to regulate commercial space.

How nice of them.

When the Commercial Space Law Amendments Act (CSLAA) passed in 2004 I wrote in my UPI column Space Watch that I thought it was a bad idea and would cause great harm to the commercial space industry. All the law accomplished was hand power to the FAA and Congress to restrict commercial activities in space, without providing the industry any real benefit. Even with this extension space commercial companies remain at the mercy of Congressional action or FAA regulation, neither of which is really interested in helping this new industry.

The bad elements of the bill are finally beginning to come to light.
» Read more

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Romney puts forth his space plans at a rally in Florida

In a campaign rally Friday in Florida, Mitt Romney put forth his perspective on the state of the American space program, and what he plans to do about it.

The speech is about 16 minutes long. It is worth listening to it in its entirety.

In it, Romney outlined the reasons he thinks a robust space program is important: defense, innovation, exploration, and the ability to respond to potential natural threats from space. Having done so, however, he then refused to outline any specific actions he would take to address these issues, saying instead that once in office he will bring together the right kinds of space experts who will then advice him on the right kind of plan to achieve all these important goals.

I appreciate his refusal to pander. At the same time, his vagueness does not make me enthusiastic. Moreover, he is only offering us the same thing we have seen numerous times before, another blue ribbon panel study outlining a plan. It would make me far happier if he already understood better the problems of the space program, and could articulate the actions he wishes to take, as Gingrich did.
» Read more

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Because of technical problems with the Soyuz spacecraft it appears the Russians are going to postpone the next two manned launches to ISS.

Because of technical problems with the Soyuz spacecraft it appears the Russians are going to postpone the next two manned launches to ISS.

So, in one breath Americans whine about how we are dependent on the Russians to get into space, while in the next breath they lambast the only Presidential candidate (Gingrich) willing to aggressively do something about it without spending billions of dollars. You would think they’d at least be interested in what he had to say.

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The full Gingrich speech on space

As noted by one commenter, the full Gingrich speech on space is available here on C-SPAN.

I have now listened to the whole speech, and can say without hesitation that everything I wrote in my previous post was correct. Gingrich is knowledgeable about space, science, and history. He is basing his proposals on past successful models where the U.S. government did nothing but buy the product developed by private individuals or companies. These proposals actually continue as well as accelerate the Obama administration’s efforts. And he is not proposing a giant pork program.

His proposal to have a moon base by 2020 is unquestionably campaign talk that won’t happen. Nonetheless, this proposal is aimed at energizing the American aerospace industry by focusing the government’s goals, which will then need to be purchased by the government from private companies. He also made it very clear he wants to shrink the NASA bureaucracy, reducing its budget while devoting ten percent of that savings (equal to billions of dollars) for prizes. The example of a $10 billion tax-free prize for the first to get to Mars was only for illustration. As he said,

The model I want us to build is largely is the model of the ’20s and ’30s, when the government was actively encouraging development but the government wasn’t doing anything. The government was paying rewards, it was subsidizing the mail. … We had enormous breakthroughs in aviation in the ’20s and ’30s at very little cost to the government because lots of smart people [outside the government] did it.

I beg everyone to listen to this speech, in its entirety. It illustrates a thoughtful man who understands history. Gingrich might not be a perfect man, and he certainly is not the perfect candidate for President, but don’t tell me what you think of him if you refuse to listen to him. For two decades too many people have eagerly expressed opinions about him without really listening to what he has actually said or done. And what he says here is reasonable, intelligent, and certainly worthy of consideration.

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Another green company, backed with federal grants from both the Bush and Obama administrations, has gone bankrupt.

Another green company, backed with federal grants from both the Bush and Obama administrations, has gone bankrupt.

A dollar here, a dollar there, who cares? It’s the thought that counts!

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Gingrich’s speech on space

In the days ahead there is going to be a lot of talk about Newt Gingrich’s proposals for space exploration. I think it important that people actually see and listen to the entire speech before discussing it. Here is the longest clip I can find on youtube, covering the first seven and a half minutes. I think it is complete, but unfortunately, I can’t be sure. It doesn’t appear to include his remarks about awarding space prizes, and when it ends Gingrich does not appear to be finished. When I find a longer clip I will post it.

Several points immediately come to mind:
» Read more

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Some details on the cause of the Dragon/Falcon 9 launch delay

Bill Harward has some details on the cause of the Dragon/Falcon 9 launch delay.

Essentially, nothing seems critical. They found a few minor issues that they felt needed more testing, and are simply making sure these issues are resolved before launch. All in all I find this report very encouraging. Stay tuned.

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Orbital Sciences has once again delayed its first launch of Antares, the rocket that will lift its Cygnus cargo capsule to ISS.

Orbital Sciences has once again delayed its first launch of Antares, the rocket that will lift its Cygnus cargo capsule to ISS.

A hold-down test of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket, a prerequisite for the launch vehicle’s maiden flight, likely will not be completed before April because of ongoing tests and certification work on the vehicle’s launch pad at Wallops Island, Va., a launch official said.

As much as I am a fan of these private companies (Orbital and SpaceX), I also recognize the great risks. Both companies are building new rockets and capsules, and have many enemies. If they fail, those enemies will jump on their effort like sharks, ready to shut them down and move all government funding to NASA’s big heavy-lift program. Thus, they have to succeed. Better to delay and get things right then hurry and have them blow up in everyone’s face.

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The satellite communications company Intelsat has backed out of a deal to have a robot refuel some of itsr orbiting satellites.

Bad news: The satellite communications company Intelsat has backed out of a deal to have a robot refuel some of its orbiting satellites.

Apparently Intelsat would rather rake in the cash by launching new satellites rather than take a risk at a new technology that could save its customers a lot of money.

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X-Prize offers $10 million prize for anyone who can build McCoy’s tricorder

Life imitates art: The X-Prize announced today a $10 million prize for anyone who can build McCoy’s tricorder from Star Trek.

The X PRIZE Foundation and Qualcomm Foundation said the prize, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will go to the team that “develops a mobile platform that most accurately diagnoses a set of 15 diseases across 30 consumers in three days,” a release from the the two foundations said. The device must be light enough to be portable, weighing no more than 5 pounds.

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Researchers in California have produced a cheap plastic capable of removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.

Researchers in California have produced a cheap plastic capable of removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.

The article focuses on how this could save us from global warming. What I see is a possible tool for making the construction of interplanetary spaceships more practical. On any vessel in space, something has to cleanse the air of carbon dioxide. Finding a cheap way to do this makes building those vessels much easier.

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NASA administrator Bolden met with former Apollo astronauts today to smooth over his agency’s attempt to prevent their ability to sell artifacts from their missions.

NASA administrator Bolden met with former Apollo astronauts today to smooth over his agency’s attempt to prevent their ability to sell artifacts from their missions.

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