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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bigelow News

Some stuff from Bigelow Aerospace who's Genesis II will launch early 2007.

Ace Up Our Sleeve
It's the workplace pastime for those taking a discreet break from work: Playing computer solitaire. In the best Bigelow Aerospace tradition of making spaceflight fun, a solitaire game with a Bigelow Aerospace twist has been launched today at
Bigelow Aerospace Solitaire functions similar to the Klondike game that is one of the most frequently used files on a Windows computer. The BA game has a space theme with images throughout from the Bigelow Aerospace files. Players also have at their disposal different card backsides.
A running leaderboard is also included of the fastest 20 times worldwide.
Play Bigelow Aerospace Solitaire now at this link:

Winning a World View
Another ongoing and popular game at is “Where in the World?”
In this two-part game, Web site visitors try to solve an online slide puzzle to see one of the latest pictures beamed down from Genesis I.
The challenge doesn’t end there. The user then needs to figure out just where on Earth Genesis I was flying over when the picture was taken based upon land features and other landmarks seen in the photo. The first visitor to submit the correct answer is recognized on the Web site.
The latest Where in the World? winner — Robert Gutowski — has been announced at

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Private Space Tibbits

Benson Space has signed an agreement with SpaceDev to develop Phase I of the Dream Chaser space ship. Benson said: "It's official -- we've begun our countdown to what I expect will be BSC's first suborbital flights by the end of 2008."

Sounds good to me.
The Astronaut Farmer was obviously written by the private space group I mentioned last week who thinks NASA is the great evil of the world.
Michael Belfiore's new book Rocketeers is coming this summer.
UGS will be building the software for the K-1 for RocketPlane Kistler.
Curran R. Kemp thinks only private colonies will work. He thinks that is why we haven't settled Antarctica.

Shanan Dale on COTS

Deputy Director of NASA, Shana Dale, has an editorial out about vision and innovation. On the anniversary of the Wright Brother's flight (December 17th), she says:

NASA is leveraging the power of innovation to enable a viable commercial enterprise in space. This approach is a radical departure from tradition for NASA, which previously has relied on major aerospace contractors and its own engineering talent and resources to acquire their own space capabilities. The demands today, however, are for more efficient, more affordable access to space, something the Wright brothers of today are keen to deliver.


With the Vision for Space Exploration, which includes human and robotic missions to the moon and Mars, NASA will need to free its resources to focus on long-range highly complex engineering challenges. Routine yet necessary missions to bring humans and supplies to the Moon, to service the International Space Station, and for other purposes will need to become more of a streamlined, turnkey operation. Building this essential infrastructure for space exploration, however, will require a dedicated and strong commercial sector.

Hard to argue with that.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dan Rather is Excited about the Lunar Base

Never thought I would agree with Dan Rather on something...

FAA Private Space Requirements and other Priavet Space News

The FAA has released the official requirements for private space passengers and crew.
An interview with T/Space and how they are continuing forward after loosing the COTS money.
Beyond Earth Enterprises had their 8th successful "consumer based" launch
Ideas on Lunar commercial markets
Richard Branson's space travel agents are out and ready to take your order.

NASA News and Such

NASA and Google have signed an agreement to work "on a variety of challenging technical problems" related to information management, distributed computing, and human-computer interaction. I guess the Google servers have reached sentience and are ready to leave Earth :)
An idea to keep ISS going.
Saddam Hussein was apparently saddened by the Challenger tragedy.
Space Ties with India and what that could mean.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NASA Budget News

Congress can't get their act together. They only had a year to get the 2007 budget approved. But they have acted to continue funding everything at the 2006 level until Feb 15, when they can pull it together.

This screws the Exploration side of NASA, but aeronautics is happy. If I set up my budget this way, I would be bankrupt and in prison.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Private Space Tibbits

Bigelow has posted two articles on their website about the coming launch of the Genesis II.

(hat tip to RLV and Space Transport News).


An interview with Elon Musk on his interests in space and electric cars.

Focus of the VSE

Space thinks we need to talk up Mars more:

To attract the future generation of explorers, NASA needs to establish
itself as the agency of the future, not the agency of the past. A return to the
Moon is merely the stepping stone necessary to set foot on Mars and beyond, but
advertisements would have the audience think the return to the Moon is the main
goal of the VSE.

I would argue that the goal of the VSE is to get humanity into space permanently. If we get fixated on one destination, we sell ourselves short.

Mike Griffin Responds on the Cost of Exploration

In the USA Today, Mike Griffin rebuts the idea that we can't afford to explore space:

Our great-great-grandparents accepted the challenge of their frontier. Will today's generation do less? And if so, why? To save 15 cents per day? To save six-tenths of 1% of the federal budget? Because that is the cost to the average citizen of our nation's space program. Whether we wish to explore space or not, to say that we cannot afford space exploration is ridiculous.

Today's investments in space exploration are, like the Louisiana Purchase, a down payment on our future. We are focusing NASA's investments on key technologies that will enable our nation to bring the solar system into our economic sphere and for scientific discovery. The geography of our solar system dictates that our first, halting steps will be to the moon — three days journey away from Earth. A lunar outpost might follow soon afterward, allowing us to exploit the resources and vantage point of the moon.
Of course the robot guys come out in the comments.

Given ample evidence for Moore's Law of exponential computing power, it's not
unreasonable to conclude that humans will be eclipsed by A.I. in a few more
years. Why not let intellectually superior robots explore the cosmos and
report back what they find, the way same way the people currently bring back a
bone from the butcher to give to their dogs?

Are you crazy? We are no closer to true intelligence in AI than we were when Charles Babbage designed the Difference Engine. Besides why would we let our creation do something we want to do. Dogs did not create humans. Bad analogy. Besides, if the dog had the power, I am sure he would prefer to go to the butcher shop. By the way, Moore's law is really more of a rule of thumb and is just few years from a brick wall. You can only make wires and transistors so small before quantum mechanics starts mucking with your hardware.

Eventually, yes, we'll need to colonize. Let's figure out how we'll be able to
do that, put the research funds into that, then send people up.

Yeah, good idea. We will figure out how to live on the Moon on the Earth. Then once we know exactly what to do, we will do it. Good call. I know that works in city planning...

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's Not Just a New Mission, it is a New Charter

After reading a story about Mike Griffin and the Moon Base plan, I came across this interesting comment:

And [the VSE] gives the space agency a mission without an end date when the budget axes start coming out, he said.

Hmm. I think that is where we have a problem. President Bush didn't give NASA a new mission to perform along with all the other "missions" they have been doing since Apollo ended. He gave them a new charter. A new direction, if you will, that should change how everything else is viewed.

The Vision for Space Exploration does not say "Go to the Moon while you are at it," but rather "Go to the Moon, Mars, and put humanity in the solar system. Drop everything that doesn't help this goal." At least that is the speech I heard.

Treating this as a single mission that can be cut and moved and dropped if necessary is an injustice to our future. It isn't about which date we get there and what check boxes were fill out, it is about getting America off this rock. It isn't a 30 year plan, or a 60 year plan, but a new direction for our society.

And it isn't just about NASA. I think President Bush was calling our country to a new direction. Burt Rutan, and Elon Musk, and you and I need to look forward at what we can achieve. Where can we be in 20 years, 60 years, and 100 years from now. Think about it.

My $0.02 Worth what you paid for it.

New Ideas in Space

GPS like navigation? Cool.
Spaceport America's continuing development.
Aviation Week is focusing on New Space:

For a summary of the subscription only articles, check out RLV and Space Transport News.


Did I mention the Shuttle Launched Saturday?

And it is doing fine.

Astronomy Tidbits

Jupiter's Super Hurricane Red Spot (really more of a brown, though).
Detecting Asteroid impacts on extrasolar planets

Back to the Moon Discussions

Jeff Foust thinks NASA needs to better explain why we are going back to the Moon.
Jeff Brooks devises an international plan to allow people to buy land on Mars. Anything with the word international in it is doomed.
NASA is talking a lot about getting "generations" into space. Specifically the "coastal regions of low Earth orbit." Sounds awesome, I won't hold my breath, though. At least they are seriously talking now.
Mike Griffin talks again about what a mistake the shuttle was. He then goes on to the future moon base.

NASA Releases 3 new RFIs

NASA has released three new RFI (courtesy of Commercial Space Watch):

  1. ISS Cargo Transportation: Obtain information on ISS commercial resupply opportunities in the interim period prior to completion of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Phase I demonstrations and initiation of COTS Phase II.
  2. Constellation Program Design for Operations: system designs and integrated processes that enhance, simplify, and streamline the operations of the Program.
  3. Constellation Technical Support: the resources and capabilities to conduct engineering integration and engineering tasks in support of the Constellation Program.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Gene Cernan's thoughts on the Moon Base

(From RLV and Space Transport News):

Flight Global has an interview with Gene Cernan Commander of Apollo 17 about the new Moon plan. He thinks that NASA needs to include the Apollo astronauts on some of the design decisions on the new mission. I would agree with him.

Zero-G Gets its Own Jet; Virginia Launch; X-Prize Cup; More on Orbital Outfitters

Zero-G is doing so well they are buying a 727F so they can run full time. Previously they used two B727-200 cargo jets on the weekends. Way to go Zero-G.
Chair Force Engineer discusses if Virginia can sustain a space launch facility.
The X-Prize cup may be expanding to more than one location.
Alan Boyle has more on Orbital Outfitters mentioned yesterday.

Russian Helping on the Moon; Shuttle, Moon Bases

Russia wants to contribute technology to the NASA's 2024 Moon Base plan. Probably because they don’t' have any money. Hmm, Russia seems to covering all their bases, since they have agreements with the ESA and China. Whoever gets to space, Russia wants to be there.


Shuttle Launch has been postponed until Saturday.


What the Washington Post thinks of NASA's Plan to build a Moon Base. They got this about the plan right for sure,

one that has ardent supporters and vocal detractors. But to a degree generally unappreciated by the public

Everyone continues to worry about where new scientists and engineers are coming from.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Space Advocate Coalilition Website

A New website from the Coalition for Space Exploration. Here is the press release. You can register and you get calls to action (when Congress is going to cut NASA's funding for example.) Time will tell where this goes. Of course it never hurts to sign up for one more space advocatcy group, you never know which one will get you there.

Orbital Outfitters Gets Space Suite Contract

Orbital Outfitters has signed a contract with XOR to make emergency space suits for next-gen space ships. Their CEO is Rick Tumlinson of Space Frontier Foundation fame. Good luck to them!

Why NASA? Why Private Space?

Darnell Clayton left a comment on my earlier post of the Wall Street Journals $50 billion Moon base prize idea. Basically he said: "I think it would be better via NASA, that way if something goes wrong, then we have somebody to blame " and " the private sector may have the passion but lack the financial resources for multiple attempts at the prize"

This got me thinking about the NASA cheerleaders vs. the Private Space guys (the IRC as Mark Whittington likes to call them). Is it possible we could view the foundations of their arguments and come to some useful middle ground.

As far as NASA supporters go, I think Darnell's views are a solid foundation to work from. The basic core beliefs are:

  1. NASA has more money
  2. NASA has put men into space
  3. NASA is accountable to citizens
  4. Private industry doesn't have the capital to support massive space activities

Lets examine each point objectively (pretending we don't really care).

Does NASA have more money and conversely does Private industry have enough money? I would agree that NASA has a concentration of money with about $15 billion a year budget. However, Boeing spent over $1 billion in the early 1960s to develop the 747 (over $6 billion in 2005 dollars). That was one company for a single jet. The GDP for R&D in this country is for 2005 was $320 billion. In 2005 $22 billion was invested in venture capital. There is a total GDP for 2005 was a little over $12 trillion dollars. I think it is safe to say that if industry was to jump into the pool of the space industry, they have the money. The private space industry currently gets a fraction of this money, but the American economy for all it's size, is very flexible when potential profits are good enough.

It is hard to argue with point two, since only NASA, Russia, and China have point men into orbit (Scaled Composites of course has put men into space, but not orbit). Of course it doesn’t immediately follow based on logic, that they are the only entity that could put men into orbit.
In a complex democracy it is difficult to really have any government agency accountable to the people. NASA is accountable to Congress and the President, but as space exploration is a low priority item nationally, representatives are mainly known for using NASA to fund pork projects for their own districts.

Now to continue with Private Space, here are the basic axioms as I see them:

  1. The government is inefficient & private industry can do things much faster and cheaper
  2. Everybody wants to go to space if they could just get the chance
  3. NASA is only out for their own interests and generally screws private companies whenever possible

Point one is generally true, I would say. However, there are specific cases were the government is a much better administrator. The military is a good example. For all it's inefficiencies, it would be hard to find someone who wants to privatize the military. There is to many possible conflicts of interests to allow our national security to be run for profit. Scientific research is another place where I would argue government funding for the good of all is safer than complete privatization. Does this mean that NASA is one of these types of industries? During the cold war I would say yes. Currently, I doubt it.

I would it is true that when it suits their goals, private industry is very efficient and inexpensive in developing new products. However, when it isn't they can block progress better than any bureaucracy (non-gas running cars, for instance). Industry needs a profit goal to jump on an idea. As you may have noticed, most of the private space companies developing new ideas are run and funded by idealists. They have a vision above profit motive, but for it to really move en mass, the profit has to be clearly defined.

Point 2 is difficult for me to remove myself from, as I have dreamed of space travel since I was little. However, I know people who wouldn't go up even if it was free. The truth is, while a majority of people express interest in going to space, very few are willing to do anything about it.

Point 3 is tough. I think is has been true in the past, that NASA has been a roadblock to private space development, lately, they seem to have come around (e.g. centennial prizes). The fact that NASA won't hand over the shop to private space doesn't mean they hate it. Large entities move slowly. I think it is in the best interest of private space supporters and industry to work with NASA and to support space development wherever it can occur.

To sum up, NASA is not the devil. Private Space is not the Savors. NASA is not the savor, Private space is not geeks who have read too many comic books. I think as we move forward to a privatized space industry, NASA must be a part. However, NASA cannot continue as it has in the past if it is to open new frontiers. It must give up smaller kingdoms to expand humanities place in the universe.

Just my $o.02. Comments welcome.

Private Moon Base Prize

The Wall Street Journal has a slightly different plan than NASA to settle the Moon:

[w]hy not take half of that and offer it as a bounty to the first private
company to build the station and man it. A prize in the neighborhood of $50
billion is bound to attract plenty of interest --
(thanks to RLV and Space Transport News)

Astronomy Tidbits

Mark Whittington has an article on Lunar Astronomy.

See a black hole eating a star. Here is the animation (4.1MB mpg file).


Interesting dicussion on the shape of the universe.

ULA CEO is looking to Manned Missions

While NASA doesn't seem to think the EELV's are good enough to take men to space, ULA CEO Michael Gass said while touring the Decatur, AL ULA plant:

Gass said Decatur-made rockets could one day have a role in manned space
missions. He noted that John Glenn entered orbit in a spacecraft perched atop an
Atlas rocket in 1962.

His statement, while oblique, was not idle. According to published reports,
Lockheed is in talks with Bigelow Aerospace to evaluate the business and
technical aspects of using the Atlas 5 for launching manned space vehicles. The
initial focus is on launching spacecraft to service orbital space complexes like
the International Space Station.

"Manned space flight is a possibility" for ULA products, Gass said.

New Stuff From NASA

Water on Mars:

Scientists say they have photographic evidence that suggests liquid water may
have been on the planet as little as five years ago.

That is a major find. Here is more (with thanks to

Also here is a preview of the next Mars Rover/Lander the Pheonix.

The Shuttle is only waiting on the weather to clear, now.

Reactions to the Moon Base plan released by NASA:

If you yourself are interested in living on the Moon, check out the Moon Society.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dateline December 6, Space News from the Internet

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dateline December 5, Space News from the Internet

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dateline December 1, Space News from the Internet

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dateline November 30, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dateline November 29, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dateline November 28, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dateline November 20, 2006: Space News from the Internet

  • The Air Force is working on an orbital test bed ship called the X-37B. It will be used to send equipment into orbit to test its reaction to space.
  • The Russians are about to smack a golf ball off the ISS.
  • The Space Review is out:

  • NASA response to the rumors that the Ares I would lift enough mass.
    Hanley said in an interview he normally does not respond so directly to what he characterized as misinformation that appears in “the pseudo media—blogs and so forth.
    Don't you just love NASA. Apparently it is in the same thrust category as the Saturn V 3rd stage. However, if I am not mistaken the Orion is heavier than the Apollo module, is it not?
    “If you held [Lockheed Martin's] feet to the fire and asked them what is their no-kidding projected mass, it would be something on the order of 15-20 percent lower than 48,500 pounds (21,825 kilograms),” he said. “They have plenty of margin.”
    I would like to get ahold of his crystal ball if that turns out to be true.
  • China may be building space weapons.
  • Jon Goff talks about dry launch.
  • A view on the first time to the Wirefly X-Prize Cup.
  • Armadillo may switch to Methane.
  • Alternatives to the Ares I & V.
  • A European game show may send a winner to the ISS for 9 days.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dateline November 17, 2006: Space News from the Internet

  • NASA has finished a review of all the Orion spacecraft and there respective launchers, the Ares I & V.
  • Let me just say for fans of Serenity, this is too cool. (The Notes of a Fridge are awesome).
  • Information on the test firing of the Shuttle SRB by ATK.
  • Masten-Space Systems progress, thus far.
  • Star Chasers test firing is being put off.
  • More on the Blue Origin. The Van Horn Advocate has the story (big shock).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dateline November 15, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dateline November 14, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blue Origin Rocket Test

Blue Origin fired a rocket test fire this morning, but you didn't hear it from me :) They will apparently release a statement later this week (likely through the Van Horn Advocate, the unlikely media center of all things Blue Origin.)

Dateline November 13, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Prelims are almost over, my life is calming down. Sorry about the lapse this fall, but you get what you pay for ;-)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dateline October 24, 2006: Space News from the Internet

  • More reasons I quite the planetary society and will never rejoin. Louis Friedman is a nut.
  • The decision on repairing Hubble is coming soon.
  • Progress is on its way to the ISS.
  • Brad Edwards take on the Space Elevator challenge.
  • Johm Carmack's report of the X-Prize Cup
  • Blue Origin got an FAA waiver for a short flight.
  • Mark Whittington has a column in the Washington Post on commercial space.
  • My representative Bud Cramer, thinks the monopoly concerns on the ULA are misplaced. I think he is an old b**tard that should be replaced. I just wish someone would run against him.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dateline October 23, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dateline October 11, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dateline October 10, 2006: Space News from the Internet

New Space News

  • Bigelow is selling advertising on the Genesis II, due to launch early next year.
  • John Goff has some thoughts on space tugs and cryo fuels in space.


  • NASA is planning the first flight test of the Ares I in 2009.
  • NASA is developing two versions of the J-2X engine.
  • It looks like NASA is doing studies of what would make them more exciting to the public. About time if you ask me. Of course they could save the trouble and actually do some stuff. Clark has some thoughts as well.
  • I got to agree with Mike Griffin on the ISS, much as I would like to chunk it into the Sun.

International Space News

  • Russia is working on a space tug, Parom.

Astronomy News

  • Hubble has (indirectly) shown that planets do in fact form from discs (well maybe...)
  • Black hole jets appear to be made of protons and electrons. The jets observed by Swift contain about the mass of Jupiter if it were pulverized and blasted out into intergalactic space. (cool, huh?)
  • "Space Scientists" never seize to amaze me. Now they are complaining about our new space policy being unilateral. Its our space policy, we can't plan the rest of the world.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dateline October 9, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Why I Want to go to Space

To see stuff like this up close:

[Zoom In]

This is the HiRISE image of the Victoria Crater the Mars Rover Opportunity drove through. Go here for more information.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Dateline October 6, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Battlestar Galactica is back

The single greatest show on television (since Firefly went off the air) is returning for Season 3 Friday night. Get your popcorn & mountain dew ready.

If you haven't ever seen it, The Story so Far.
If you haven't seen the 9 webisodes between Season 2 and Season 3, take a look.

BTW: I am a colonial. Try your luck with the Quiz.

And Boomer/Sharon is a hottie.

Dateline October 5, 2006: Space News from the Internet

  • NASA has modified the contractt with ATK Thiokol for the Ares I first stage. The extension goes through Dec 31, 2006 and adds $35 million making the total value of the contract $63 million.
  • Even the Washington Post thinks the ULA is a bad idea. The FTC is now intervening the formation of the ULA. They are requiring ULA to do the following:

    (1) ULA must cooperate on equivalent terms with all providers of government space vehicles;
    (2) Boeing and Lockheed's space vehicle businesses must provide equal consideration and support to all launch services providers when seeking any U.S. government delivery in orbit contract; and
    (3) Boeing, Lockheed, and ULA must safeguard competitively sensitive information obtained from other space vehicle and launch services providers.

  • Michael Belfiore has the cover of his book on private space business leaders out.
  • A new class of planets orbit their sun in hours rather than years.
  • The shuttle has a ding. Better not tell Dad ;)
  • Scientists are looking for other habitable universes (subscription)
  • Burt Rutan is one of Popular Mechanic's breakthrough leaders.
  • The Register thinks space tourism will help NASA with the public.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dateline October 4, 2006: Space News from the Internet

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dateline October 3, 2006: Space News from the Internet

  • The Lunar Surface Module will be called Artemis. I wish NASA would put out as much new hardware as it does new names.
  • A new survey on space tourism from Spaceport Associates and Incredible Adventures shows. Apparently, $25,000 for suborbital and $500,000 for orbital is the sweet spot as 2/3 of respondents would go at that price.
  • Apparently the FTC has cleared the Boeing Lockheed Martin joint venture, ULA. Help us Jesus. Jeff Foust discusses.
  • A launch ring. Very Heinleinian.
  • The Ares I recovery systems seem to be working.
  • An overview of the three Centennial Challenges taking place at or around the X-Prize Cup this year.
  • SpaceDev won a contract to work on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Monday, October 02, 2006

Dateline October 2, 2006: Space News from the Internet

[Editor - Sorry I have been out of action. I have a lot more stuff on me than I used to and it has taken some time to get schedule set so I could get everything done. Should be find now -djs]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bigelow Aerospace News September 14, 2006

'Fly Your Stuff' featured in Popular Science Magazine
Bigelow Aerospace's 'Fly Your Stuff' Program is featured on page 48 of this month's Popular Science Magazine in a story by Michael Belfiore. The program ends November 1, 2006 or when the space is filled, whichever comes first. Genesis II is scheduled for launch in early 2007. More at

Genesis II will be the ONLY opportunity to participate in the 'Fly Your Stuff' Program.
The 'Fly You Stuff' Program allows you to send a photo or item to space. Once there, it will be photographed by the cameras inside Genesis II and that image will appear on our website, along with text that you provide. More at
If you made a 'Fly Your Stuff' reservation and have not yet completed the transaction, please do so by today, September 15, 2006. After today, all unredeemed reservations will be released to the public.

The Bigelow Aerospace website is constantly evolving and adding new features, we encourage visiting us at for new features and updates.

Dateline September 15, 2006: Space News From the Internet

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fwd: SpaceX September 2006 Update

SpaceX Updates

Print Page Bookmark Page

Posted September 8, 2006

SpaceX Wins NASA Competition to Replace Space Shuttle

As you may have read by now, SpaceX was one of two winners of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition.  The SpaceX portion of the award is $278 million for three flight demonstrations of Falcon 9 carrying our Dragon spaceship, which are scheduled to occur in late 2008 and 2009.  The final flight will culminate in the transfer of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and return of cargo safely to Earth.
The agreement also contains an option of similar value for three demonstration flights of the seven person manned version of Dragon, which in this case will end up with us taking people to the ISS and back. If the demonstrations are successful, SpaceX will be in pole position to win ISS resupply business worth about $300M to $500M per year from 2011 to 2015 and perhaps beyond. There is obviously a tremendous amount that needs to be accomplished between now and then, but, provided SpaceX executes well, this win constitutes the first part of two to three billion dollars of NASA business.

To ensure a rapid transition from cargo to crew capability, the cargo Dragon and crew Dragon are almost identical, with the exception of the crew escape system, the life support system and onboard controls that allow the crew to take over control from the flight computer when needed. This simulation shows Dragon approaching and berthing with the ISS. The reason that the simulation, which was developed by Odyssey Space Research, one of our partners in the COTS competition, is not as pretty as it could be is that this is not an "artist's impression". The software uses true physics and true dimensions and has been used for actual rendezvous analysis of ISS visiting vehicles, such as the European ATV and Japanese HTV. It is interesting to see the solar arrays on the ISS move to keep facing the sun and watch the ISS light up as it moves out of the Earth's shadow.
Since we already have three Falcon 9 launches on contract, the NASA flights will probably represent the 4th, 5th and 6th flights of Falcon 9, but will definitely be the first three flights of the Dragon spaceship.  In addition to servicing NASA needs, I expect that F9/Dragon will also be of service to Bigelow Aerospace, which recently had a very successful flight of their sub-scale commercial space station.  Bigelow Aerospace and SpaceX have an ongoing dialogue to ensure that F9/Dragon meets the human transportation needs of their planned space station as efficiently as possible.

Apart from a few minor bits & pieces, both Falcon 9 and Dragon are intended to be fully reusable. The F9 first stage, F9 second stage and Dragon are all designed to land via parachute in water, although we could always add airbags later for a land landing, if that turned out to be lower cost. If the recovery and reuse is successful, the F9/Dragon vehicle will be the world's first fully reusable system (the Shuttle system loses the large orange tank every flight, so is considered partially reusable). Making the economics of reusability work well, which is not a given even if all pieces are recovered, is fundamental to achieving a revolutionary reduction in spaceflight costs. If a Boeing 747 could only be used for a single flight, your ticket cost would be enormous and this is no less true for a rocket.

As you might imagine, SpaceX has an increased need for talented and driven people to join the team. If you are either personally interested or know someone who is a first rate candidate, please take a look at our jobs page.








Dragon on F9 Without & With Escape Tower
Dragon Side View

Dragon with Cargo


Dragon with Seven Crew and Solar Panels (reminds of me of a particular mouse)


Dragon Approaching Space Station


Dragon Berthed at Space Station

Falcon 1

The current schedule calls for a late November launch of Demo Flight 2 for DARPA.  However, given that we have increased the number of system aborts by a factor of 30, there is a high likelihood of false alarms in the countdown process pushing our actual launch into December.
The updated Merlin 1A engine with the robustness improvements passed its acceptance test last month, running 1.5 mission duty cycles at slightly better than expected combustion efficiency.  It is now mounted to the first stage, which is undergoing final checkout and will soon be transferred to the Kwajalein cargo ship with an expected arrival on island in October.
The last remaining major milestone is the acceptance test of the upper stage.  In this test, we will run the entire integrated second stage, including the avionics bay, for a full mission duty cycle.  Although the sub-components have already been acceptance tested, this provides a full checkout of the assembled upper stage, which will surface any infant mortality issues at the systems level. Once the upper stage completes its acceptance test next month, it will be flown to Kwajalein.  The upper stage is small enough to fit, just barely, through the cargo door of one of the regular flights to Kwaj and is quite light (about 1200 lbs), so there is not much of a cost penalty for air freight.

The third and fourth Falcon 1 vehicles are already in production at our Los Angeles plant for the Defense Dept (OFT/NRL) and Malaysian missions next year. The former, which follows Demo Flights 1 and 2 for DARPA, will constitute our first operational mission, where the flight is about the satellite rather than the rocket. The fact that our first flight was only a test or beta flight, containing a student satellite in lieu of an empty bay, seems to have been overlooked by much of the media. Given that the first Lockheed Athena, Boeing Delta III, Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL, Ariane 5, etc. all failed and those companies are the mainstay of western space launch, we are not at all discouraged. The reason SpaceX started out with a strategy of building the smallest useful orbital rocket was primarily to minimize the cost of mistakes. Far better to iron out problems at F1 scale than F9 scale.

Kwajalein Launch Site Upgrades

The payload processing facilities on Omelek have been significantly upgraded.  The clean room for processing satellites is now much larger with better than 10K cleanliness levels and very tight humidity & temperature control.  It is worth noting that the satellite is kept at a controlled temperature and humidity at all times and is never exposed to ambient conditions.  Satellite processing works as follows:
1. Customer brings satellite to the clean room at the launch pad (facilitated by SpaceX)
2. Satellite is removed from its protective shipping container and encapsulated in the fairing
3. We attach the mobile AC system to the fairing
4. Fairing is taken out of the clean room and into the adjacent main hangar, where it is rotated horizontal and attached to the rocket
In addition, the office space on Omelek has been doubled with the addition of a dedicated set of offices for customers.


I should probably say something about pricing, since some people think that it is only a matter of time before we raise prices significantly. They are missing the point. The very purpose of SpaceX is to lower the cost and increase the reliability of spaceflight by a factor of ten or more (relative to current US pricing) and everyone at our company is hell bent on making that happen. Humanity needs to become a true spacefaring civilization, where spaceflight is affordable by normal citizens and extending life to another planet is realistic, and the fundamental barriers to making that happen are cost and reliability.


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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Benjamin Franklin Citizen Scientist Award

News release

9/1/2006 For immediate release

Contact: John Powell
JP Aerospace
(916) 858-0185

Dr. Shawn Carlson
Society for Amateur Scientists
(401) 398-7001

John Powell, President of JP Aerospace, was honored with the 2006
Benjamin Franklin Citizen Scientist Award
at the fourth annual National Citizen Science Conference in
Providence, Rhode Island. He won for his years of
effort and achievements in space science, including space education
through his PongSat program, where
thousands of students have been able to fly their experiments, called
PongSats, to the edge of space at no charge.

Dr. Shawn Carlson, Founder and Executive Director of the Society for
Amateur Scientists, presented the award
during the Franklin Awards Banquet on August 26, 2006.

"JP has been leading quite a revolution in space science for over 27
years and has an extraordinary record of
success," said Carlson. "His commitment to inspiring the next
generation through his PongSat program was
cited in particular by the selection committee."

The award was created to recognize and promote excellence in citizen
science, for important contributions to
science without an earned Ph.D. Previous winners include astronomer
David Levy, paleontologist Jack Horner,
and electronics author/writer Forrest M. Mims III. A panel of some of
America's most distinguished scientific talent
chooses the winner from a list of candidates.

Powell's acceptance speech and lecture discussed his research working
at the edge of space, flying student
experiments on the company's high altitude platforms, and a call to
action in regards to the current state of science
education. The company is also known for its high altitude airship research.

JP Aerospace, "America's OTHER Space Program," is volunteer-based
research organization dedicated to
achieving cheap access to space "by just doing it." The group has
flown 87 missions to date.

The mission of the Society for Amateur Scientists is to remove the
roadblocks that prevent ordinary people, of all
ages, from participating in extraordinary science. Run by a unique
consortium of professional and amateur scientists,
the 12-year old organization is the only non-profit research and
education organization dedicated to helping people
enrich their lives by following their passion to take part in
scientific adventures of all kinds.

PongSat is a registered trademark of JP Aerospace.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dateline August 31, 2006, Space News from the Internet

  • If you want to know why I quick the Planetary Society, Dr. Friedman gives a good summary. Mark Whittington has a good reply.
  • The FAA has approved Jeff Bezos' plans for a suborbital launch operation in West Texas. This would be the first private spaceport.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dateline August 29, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dateline August 28, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Saturday, August 19, 2006

SpaceX Press Release on Winning COTS

SpaceX has released a press statement on being one of the COTS finalists.

As part of this Agreement, SpaceX will execute three flights of its Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spaceship. These will be the first flights of the Dragon spaceship and the fourth, fifth and sixth flights of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Rocketplane/Kistler Press Release on COTS Win

Here is the press release on Rocketplane/Kistler after the announcement today that they and SpaceX are the two finalists for the COTS program.

COTS Winners Announced

And the winners are Rocketplane Kistler and SpaceX
Kislter's website is here (not sure how new it is).

[upate: Cots Watch has a running Q&A transcript.

Here is some snipets:

How is the money allocated? And does this mean you will purchase from both or just one? No one is gauranteed a purchase out of this since the actual purchase of flights will follow a standard RFP. $207 mllion for RPK and $278 million for SpaceX.

Is there some definite notional market? Yes. On the order of half a dozen flights per year total.

If one of these companies hits the ball out of the park, what does that do to the CEV project? It seems that could put the CEV out of business? CEV is designed for the lunar mission. Just because you can go to the space station doesn't mean you can go to the moon. So the CEV's primary mission is the moon.]

Dateline August 18, 2006, Space News from the Internet

  • Remember the COTS announcement should be today at 3:00pm CST (4:00pm EST). Her is an interview with Mike Griffin about it. I like this statement:

"I think the space business has not progressed as rapidly as did aviation, in part, because we did not have that industrial entrepreneurship. Space from the first was viewed as more of a government-only activity. Frankly, I deplore that view," Griffin emphasized.

  • A Scaled Composite pilot was injured while training for an airshow.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dateline August 17, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An Interview with Dr. William Schneider, Developer of the TransHab Architecture

Dr. William Schneider joined NASA in 1962 and went on to work as an Aerospace Engineer working on flight components for Apollo. He moved through different divisions at JSC until he was made Senior Engineer for Space Systems and Assistant Director for Engineering. In 1997 he created the basic architecture for the Transit Habitat or TransHab for short. Since his retirement he has supported Bigelow Aerospace's use of the technology to build & launch Genesis I into orbit. This interview was conducted by Space Pragmatism in August after the success of Genesis I.

SP: You came up with theTransHabB concept in 1997 while working as Senior Engineer at Johnson Space Center. Was it one of those light bulb moments, or were inflatables something you had been working on for a while. In other words, where did the idea come from? How much did Dr. Lowell's Livermore Labs inflatable paper influence your design?

Dr. Schneider: It was not one of those light bulb moments. Actually I had, for some time, felt that with the newer high strength fibers such as Kevlar etc,
one could design a lightweight structure for space habitat. It was not
until I was asked to design a lighter weight habitat for the space
crew's mission to Mars than the large aluminum structure that was
envisioned. I am not familiar with the paper by Dr. Lowell that you
reference so it did not influence the design.

SP: I have read that the original purpose of tTransHabHAB was for a Mars mission. Is that right? How did the idea of using it as a habitation module for the ISS come about?

Dr. Schneider: The original purpose of the TransHab design was for the Mars
Mission. The Habitat for the Mars Mission was required to be 600 cubic
meters. For an aluminum shell structure, the type that had been
conceived, to be that large while being launched (enduring high launch
acceleration loads plus high launch vibrations)required a thick wall,
and heavy wall stiffening, and because of the large surface area the
entire Habitat became prohibitively heavy. An inflatable, however, could
be launched in the collapsed configuration, strapped tightly around a
central core so that it could easily withstand the harsh launch
environment (in that configuration) and once in orbit, where the
acceleration and vibration loads are zero, it would be inflated to the
required volume.

I pulled together a team of engineers and we performed the detail design
including deployable Micrometeorite and Orbital debris MM/OD protection.
The TransHab was designed and successfully tested to withstand four
atmospheres. No airplane cockpit or spacecraft crew module today could
be pressurized to that high level. The deployable MM/OD protection was
demonstrated to be better than a three inch of solid Aluminum.

The large volume afforded by the Mars TransHab Module, which
could be launched in the Shuttle, soon became a strong consideration for
the Space Station Module since it was approximately four to five times
as volumous an a single Aluminum Space Station Module.

SP: Congress cancellTransHabHAB in 2000. Was that expected or was the team shocked?

Dr. Schneider: It was not expected by the team and was a true shock. At that time I had already retired from NASA and was Teaching at Texas A & M.

SP: When did you leave NASA for Texas A&M?

Dr. Schneider: Aug 2000.

SP: How did Robert Bigelow meet you? Was he looking at inflatable spacecraft before you met or did you introduce the idea to him?

Dr. Schneider: Robert Bigelow read about the TransHab in the May 1999 issue of "Air & Space" Smithsonian (I believe) and saw that it was cancelled. He
contacted NASA and eventually me and asked if I would consult with him
(and his newly formed Bigelow Aerospace co.) in the development of this
Inflatable Module.

SP: Was NASA happy to deal with Bigelow Aerospace or were there a lot of bureaucratic headaches? Were you involved in the technology transfer?

Dr. Schneider: NASA was very happy to deal with Robert Bigelow.

SP: How involved have you been with Bigelow Aerospace as they have taken tTransHabHAB idea and turned it into Genesis and soon the Nautilus?

Dr. Schneider: I have been very involved with every detail of the design and
structural analysis of the Genesis as well as the other larger sized

SP: Where were you during the launch of Genesis I last month? What did you think of your inflatable ideas finally finding their way into space?

Dr. Schneider: I was on vacation on a mountain top in Colorado. The Russians had
delayed the launch approximately six weeks so I went on vacation
figuring the launch would transpire two weeks after I returned. But they
launched it during my vacation.

I thought it was "Fantastic!" The Module, by design, withstood the
launch loads and vibrations (which are much higher on the Russian rocket
than on the Shuttle) got successfully into 300 mile Earth Orbit,
successfully inflated, successfully held the pressure without leaks,
successfully deployed the solar cells and many cameras, etc.
It is a "Dream Come True" for the designers and something I am most
happy for Robert Bigelow himself.

SP: Do you think Bigelow's schedule for a Genesis II and a commercial space station by 2015 is reasonable?

Dr. Schneider: Yes I do.

SP: Have you noticed a difference in the work environment at Bigelow Aerospace and NASA JSC?

Dr. Schneider: There were some differences.

Clearly, Bigelow Aerospace does not have the Washington
bureaucracy to deal with.

Robert Bigelow, himself, is a highly motivated individual with a
high level of "can do it spirit." He, as I have said before, is much
like Howard Hughes. He is into every aspect of the development. He is
very bright even in the detailed engineering (even though not his field
at all)

When I first started going to Las Vegas, since his team was new,
many were not as experienced as the strong team of engineers a NASA
(JSC) that I was used to, but shortly they became very mature and in a
short time became very technically knowledgeable and experienced. I am
truly proud to work with each of them at Bigelow Aerospace.

Dateline August 16, 2006, Space News from the Internet

  • Mark Whittingham has an article on Bigelow's Space Hotel.
  • We may be getting three new planets in our solar system if and IAU panel of Astronomers has their way. They want to add Ceres, Charon, and "Xena" to the list. The proposal says any body that has enough gravity to be round and is not a moon or star is a planet. According to Mike Brown, who discovered Xena, it would give us 53 planets right now. Works for me. More from MSNBC.
  • Part 3 of an interview with Elon Musk.
  • Planet Space is building a space port in Nova Scotia?
  • Interview with Mike Griffin.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

20,000 Hits

Yesterday I received my 20,000th hit. Thanks to all my readers. It seemed like only yesterday I hit 10,000.

New Photos from Genesis I

Bigelow has released two new photos. Enjoy.

Dateline August 15, 2006, Space News from the Internet