Tag Archives: commercial

Tea Party in Space argues for more money for commercial space

Andrew Gasser at the Tea Party in Space website today argues strongly for Congress to fully fund the new commercial space program at the $850 million amount requested by the Obama administration.

As much as I am for these new commercial companies, I do not think it a good idea to fund them at these high levels.

For one thing, the government is still broke. It can’t afford to spend that much money. It is therefore unseemly for a website that uses the “tea party” label to advocate more spending at this time.

For another, the more money the government commits to these companies, the more control the government is going to demand from them. Far better to keep the government participation as small as possible. Make it just enough to allow the companies to succeed but not enough so as to make the whole effort a government program.

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Orbital announces revised schedule for its initial Taurus 2 and Cygnus flights

Orbital Sciences has announced its revised schedule for the initial Taurus 2 and Cygnus flights.

Orbital will conduct a test of the Taurus 2’s first stage on the launch pad in late January [2012], and the inaugural Taurus 2 flight in late February or early March. This will be followed, in early May, by a Taurus 2 flight carrying the Cygnus station cargo vehicle, a flight during which Cygnus is expected to demonstrate its ability to berth with the station. The first operational space station cargo-delivery mission for Taurus 2 and Cygnus will occur in late August or early September under this revised schedule, Orbital officials said.

Based on conversations I’ve had with people at Orbital, this delay was expected, and is a good thing. The company was under incredible time pressure to get ready for a December launch. Given that this will be the first test flight of Taurus 2, and it must work for the Cygnus cargo flights to follow, better they give themselves some working room to get it right.

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Elon Musk and the forgotten word

Elon Musk at National Press Club

When Elon Musk gave his speech at the National Press Club on September 29, he was asked one question to which he really did not know the answer. He faked it, but his response illustrated how completely forgotten is one fundamental fact about American society — even though this fact is the very reason the United States became the world’s most wealthy and powerful nation less than two centuries after its founding.

To explain this fundamental fact I think I need to take a step back and talk about the ongoing war taking place right now over how the United States should get its astronauts into space. On one side we have NASA and Congress, who want NASA to build a new heavy-lift rocket to carry its Orion capsule beyond Earth orbit. On the other side we have a host of independent new space companies, all vying for the chance to launch humans and cargo into space for fun and profit.

Which is right? What system should the United State choose?
» Read more

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GAO and SpaceX blast military’s plans to spend $15 billion for all its launches through 2018 in one purchase

GAO and SpaceX blast the military’s plans to spend $15 billion for all its launches through 2018, in one bulk purchase.

The reason given by the military for buying all these launches up front is to save money. In reality, it is to favor the companies they want to do business with, rather than open up the business to as many competitors as possible.

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Space News suggests Congress use the billions for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket to fund JWST

In an editorial yesterday Space News suggested that Congress use the billions it is allocating for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket to fund the James Webb Space Telescope instead.

This is not surprising. Webb already has a strong constiuency (astronomers, the public) while the Space Launch System has little support outside of Congress and the specific aerospace contractors who want the work. With tight budgets as far as the eye can see into the future, and the likelihood that Congress is going to become more fiscal conservative after the next election, it would not shock me in the slightest if SLS gets eliminated and the money is given to Webb. And if the SpaceX and Orbital Sciences cargo missions to ISS go well then cutting SLS would almost be a certainty, as this success would demonstrate that these private companies should be able to replace SLS for a tenth of the cost.

And I also think this would be a much wiser use of the taxpayers money.

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Eco-friendly festival closes down due to lack of attendence

Eco-friendly festival closes down due to lack of attendance.

Reminds me of a local news piece here in Maryland last week, where a team from the University of Maryland in College Park won a Department of Energy competition for the best built solar powered house. The problem is that the house cost $330,000 to build, is only 920 square feet in size, and the best price they hope to get for it is $250,000, if that.

In other words, it appears that these ecological projects have little to do with the real world, where creating something that customers will want to buy is the only way to succeed. All else is fantasy.

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If all goes well, 2012 will be a busy year at ISS for both Dragon and Cygnus

If all goes well, 2012 will be a busy year at ISS for both Dragon and Cygnus.

The article outlines the preliminary cargo schedule for both ferries next year, assuming their initial test flights succeed (a big assumption).

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Russia drops plans to build a replacement for Soyuz rocket

Russia has dropped its plans to build a replacement for its Soyuz rocket.

This is not the first time that the Russians have abandoned plans to come up with a new rocket, which suggests once again that — as successful as their space effort has been — they lack the ability to come up with new product. This in turn makes vulnerable the Russians’ market share in commercial space.

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The moon contains a vast resource of titanium

There’s gold in them hills! Actually, it’s titanium, and it’s on the Moon.

The highest titanium abundances on Earth are around 1 percent or less. The new map shows that in the [Moon’s] mare, titanium abundances range from about one percent to a little more than ten percent. In the highlands, everywhere TiO2 is less than one percent. The new titanium values match those measured in the ground samples to about one percent.

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An update on the ongoing X-37B mission

An update on the ongoing X-37B mission.

I like this quote from the article:

Meanwhile, Boeing has begun to look at derivatives of their X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle — including flying cargo and crew to the International Space Station. Speaking this week at the Space 2011 conference —organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and held in Long Beach, Calif. — Arthur Grantz of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems sketched out a host of future uses for the space plane design. For one, the X-37B, as is, can be flown to the space station and dock to the facility’s common berthing mechanism. No new technology is required for X-37B to supply cargo services to the ISS, Grantz said. Also, an X-37C winged vehicle has been scoped out, a craft that would ride atop an Atlas 5 in un-shrouded mode.

The Boeing roadmap, Grantz added, also envisions a larger derivative of the X-37B space plane, one that can carry up to seven astronauts, as well as tote into Earth orbit a mix of pressurized and unpressurized cargo.

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Five myths about China’s space effort

Five myths about China’s space effort. Key recommendation:

Recognize the significance of space as a field of competition. Beijing is not engaged in a space race with Washington. But China is engaged in a great power competition with the U.S. in which space is one arena. American decision makers should come to terms with this duality. In this regard, the Chinese are unlikely to be manipulated by American proposals on “codes of conduct” or meetings with the head of NASA. As long as Beijing and Washington are in competition, space will be one of the major venues.

And competition is not a bad thing. It is going to be the fuel that gets the human race into space.

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