Tag Archives: commercial

Automakers suing EPA over higher ethanol mix gas

Good intentions strikes again! Automakers are suing the EPA over its decision to allow a higher ethanol mixture in gasoline. Key quote:

Automakers say they are worried the EPA decision would eventually lead to motorists unknowingly filling up their older cars and trucks with E15 and hurting their engines. The problem could be exacerbated if E15 fuels are cheaper than more conventional blends, prompting owners of older vehicles to use the fuel despite the potential engine problems.

Share

The flight of Falcon 9/Dragon: Doing it right

For those that want to relive the experience of success, SpaceX has posted a short highlight video of last week’s successful test flight of Falcon 9/Dragon capsule.

It is difficult to overstate the importance or magnifience of this achievement, accomplished not by a government but by a private company. As SpaceX rightly brags on its website:

This marks the first time a commercial company has successfully recovered a spacecraft reentering from Earth orbit. It is a feat previously performed by only six nations or government agencies: the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Space Agency.

What I find even more telling is how quickly SpaceX got this done. The first launch attempt of their first rocket, Falcon 1, took place in March of 2006. About that same time they began work on Falcon 9, and were able to successfully fly its first mission only four years later. Contrast that with NASA. President Bush proposed building a replacement for the shuttle in 2004, and six years later all NASA could do was fly a mockup of Ares I/Orion, not the actual article. And that leaves out NASA’S numerous previous attempts to build a shuttle replacement that spent billions, and never did more than produce pretty powerpoint presentations.

SpaceX’s speed of operation (a sure sign of efficiency) is reminiscent of the early days of the space age. Then, NASA might have laid out the overall plan, but everything was built by private companies, all used to fighting for profits and market share. None could afford a leisurely pace, nor could they afford to do things badly. If they did either, their business would suffer. As a result, the United States was able to go from having no ability to put anything in orbit to putting its first man in space in less than three years, and was able to follow that up with the first manned lunar mission only seven years later.

Share

The greed for power, or why it is always better to do without government help

In an article today on spaceref.com “NASA: It’s Our Space Station – Not Yours,” Keith Cowing has some harsh words for NASA and its management of the research on ISS. Based on what he witnessed at a NASA meeting, it appears that NASA wants to retain control over all research on the space station, while denying access to outside other researchers. Key quote:

In addition to prohibiting the ISS National Laboratory contractor from getting its hands on human-based research, Mark Uhran also stated that any proposal that proposed to do anything with spacecraft systems or engineering would be similarly deemed non-responsive. In other words two of the most interesting things you can do on the ISS – the sorts of thing you’d want a larger research base to focus on (assuming you are really interested in outside participation) are off limits due to executive fiat.

Where is NASA’s justification for limiting the ability of the private and educational sectors from making full utilization of the amazing capabilities that are offered by the ISS? Answer: NASA made it up. Truth be known, NASA was dragged kicking and screaming into supporting this National Laboratory concept. Congress had to enact a law to make them do it.

None of this surprises me. NASA is a government agency, and as a government agency it is going to protect its turf, come hell or high water. It is for this reason I think it a bad idea for the new space rocket companies to take any NASA money, up front. If they do, NASA will immediately use those funds as a club to force these new companies to do things as NASA wishes, rather than being free to compete and innovate on their own. In other words, NASA will use the funds to maintain control of all space exploration.

Better the new companies build their rockets and spaceships on their own, and then sell these new inventions to NASA or whoever else wants to use them. Let the profits pay for the work, not the needs and regulations of a government agency.

Not only will this free competiton produce a lot more creativity and innovation, it will almost certainly help to reduce the cost of space travel, as these companies fight to gain market share. And most importantly, it will frame the future exploration of space in the context of freedom rather that a state-run endeavor.

And isn’t freedom the principle that the United States of America stands for?

Share

Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic team up to propose orbital craft

Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic have teamed up to propose a four person reusable orbital spacecraft to ferry crews to ISS. Key quote:

The spacecraft, designed to launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket and dock with the international space station, could be ready for test flights as early as 2014. The remotely piloted spacecraft would be able to carry four passengers initially, including three astronauts and one paying ticketholder, though based on market demand the number of private rides aboard the vehicle could grow to two, with four astronaut seats available, sources said. In the works at Orbital for the past year, the reusable spacecraft would be built using existing materials and technologies, employ standard hypergolic propellants and rely on a pusher escape system in the event of a launch mishap, sources said. [emphasis mine]

Note their insistence that they be allowed to fly tourists. This is a major change from how NASA has operated in the past, as a Soviet-style government agency hostile to commercial profits.

Correction: Clark Lindsey notes that the Orbital press release makes no mention of Virgin Galactic, as reported above.

Share

Falcon 9 launch a success. Dragon capsule returns successfully

SpaceX is two for two! The Falcon 9 launch today was a success, and was topped off by the successful return of the Dragon capsule after two orbits.

This is big news. Think about it: a private company — not a government — has designed and built a rocket and capsule, capable of carrying astronauts, and successfully launched both and recovered the capsule. Hot dog! True space travel might very well be around the corner at last.

Share

Falcon 9/Dragon launch likely delayed to at least Thursday

The Falcon 9/Dragon test launch is likely delayed to at least Thursday. Key quote:

During reviews of vehicle closeout photos this morning, engineers found a possible crack in the second stage engine nozzle. If the nozzle needs to be replaced, the first launch opportunity would be Friday or Saturday. Officials called “remote” a possibility that the problem could be resolved in time to fly Wednesday.

Share

Congress, Obama, and NASA fiddle while manned space burns

The space war continues to heat up again. In a hearing today in the Senate, several senators complained loudly that NASA isn’t implementing the details of the September authorization act.

What clowns. These same senators haven’t provided NASA (or anyone) with a budget. They have also given NASA an authorization bill that does not provide the agency with enough money while simultaneously demanding that things be done faster. And they’ve done this at a time the federal government is almost bankrupt. Moreover, the bill requires that NASA build things that the Obama administration doesn’t want to build (though in truth, the Obama administration itself is so confused that no one, including them, knows what they are going to do).

All in all, the whole thing is a mess.

As I’ve said earlier, it’s all pork. Even if NASA gets the money laid out in the authorization bill, it will accomplish nothing except spread some cash around to several congressional districts. Nothing will get built. And in the process of sending that money to new aerospace companies NASA will do much to squelch their creativity and innovation.

Better to cut it all, and let the aerospace industry sink or swim on its own. It will almost certainly do better that the government at this point. In fact, how could it do worse?

Share

Former Shuttle Manager Decries NASA’s Commercial Crew Safety Regs

A deal with the devil: Former shuttle manager decries NASA’s commercial crew safety regulations. Key quote:

The U.S. government did not always rely on voluminous specifications to safeguard pilots or astronauts, Hale said, citing requirements for the first U.S. military aircraft which covered only 2.5 pages and those of NASA’s Gemini capsule which were about 12 pages long.

Share

The coming train wreck for Commercial Human Spaceflight

This post by retired NASA engineer Wayne Hale explains why it probably is a good idea if Congress cuts the subsidies for new commercial space: The coming train wreck for commercial human spaceflight. This is the key quote, where Hale describes the regulations NASA is requiring these new companies to meet:

The document runs a mind-numbing 260 pages of densely spaced requirements. Most disappointing, on pages 7 to 11 is a table of 74 additional requirements documents which must be followed, in whole or in part. Taken all together, there are thousands of requirement statements referenced in this document. And for every one NASA will require a potential commercial space flight provider to document, prove, and verify with massive amounts of paperwork and/or electronic forms.

Share
1 160 161 162 163 164