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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.

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

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bigelow Aerospace Accelerates Future Plans After Genesis I Success

Genesis II, Launching in Early 2007, Will Now Be Only Opportunity to ‘Fly Your Stuff’

Las Vegas, Nevada – August 11, 2006, 3 p.m. PDT Due to a number of factors related to the outstanding performance of Genesis I, the hoped-for adequate performance of Genesis II and various additional factors — including, but not limited to, domestic and international issues forecast over the next four to five years bearing upon America’s transportation and launch deficits — we have made several bold decisions. An important announcement early in 2007 subsequent to the launch of Genesis II shall expose some of our plans.

Due to this change in direction, the Genesis II will be the only opportunity to fly photos and items for the “Fly Your Stuff” program. The general public is being urged to act quickly or they will lose their chance to be a part of this exciting program. Items and photos will be accepted only prior to November 1, 2006, or until all reservations are sold out on Genesis II, whichever comes first. Please be aware that there will be no second chances to fly personal items or photos in space through the “Fly Your Stuff” program.

Additionally, we are pleased to announce the “Fly Your Stuff” Money Back Guarantee. If, after 90 days, we cannot produce a recognizable image of a customer’s specific photo or item within Genesis II, Bigelow Aerospace will refund the entire purchase price to that customer. For full details, please see

Reservations are limited, and photos and items are accepted on a “first come, first served” basis.

For more information on the “Fly Your Stuff” program, go to and click on the “Fly Your Stuff” link.

- Robert T. Bigelow

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Genesis I Mission Update

Las Vegas, Nevada – August 10, 2006, 3 p.m. PDT One of the last major objectives of the Genesis I mission has been achieved, as we are nearing a full stabilization of the space module.

After discovering and fixing several minor glitches, the Genesis I Attitude Control System (ACS) has been activated. It has been active for the past several days and has dramatically slowed down the rotation of the spacecraft.

The rate has gone from one revolution per six minutes, to less than one revolution per orbit (approximately 100 minutes.) We expect to achieve a gravity gradient stabilized orbit, where the major axis of the vehicle is pointing at Earth throughout its orbit, in the next several days. This will give a substantial boost to the duration and reliability of our communication links with the spacecraft, and is another major achievement for the Genesis program.

- Robert T. Bigelow

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Space Elevator Games to take place at the 2006 X PRIZE Cup in New Mexico

August 08, 2006 (Los Angeles, CA) The X PRIZE Foundation and the Spaceward Foundation have signed an agreement that will bring the Space Elevator Games, a NASA Centennial Challenge, to the 2006 X PRIZE Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico. More than 20 teams are expected to compete for $400,000 at the Las Cruces International Airport on October 20-21, 2006.

“We are very excited to welcome the Elevator Games to the X PRIZE Cup.” Said X PRIZE Founder and Chairman Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. “Each year, we will bring together the most exciting spectator events and competitions in the space industry and this agreement with the Spaceward Foundation is a great step towards accomplishing our goal.”

The Space Elevator is a revolutionary space transportation system based on a ribbon that extends from a ship-borne anchor to a counterweight well beyond geo-synchronous orbit. The ribbon is kept taut due to the rotation of the earth (and that of the counterweight around the earth). Electric vehicles, called climbers, ascend the ribbon using electricity generated by solar panels lit by a ground-based high-power beam of light.

The objective of a space elevator is to make access to space easy, safe, and affordable. At under $100 per pound, the estimated cost of transporting materials and people to space is 100 times less expensive than today's method utilizing rockets. Low cost access to space, and the substantial carrying capacity of one or more space elevators will allow mankind to reach into space on an unprecedented scale.

This is the second year for the Space Elevator Games, last year’s competition matched 12 competitors against each other. This year the competition has heated up to include more than 20 competitors from all over the globe.

The Space Elevator was first proposed in the 1960's by Yuri Artsutanov, a Russian engineer, as a far-reaching engineering concept. The scientific principles underlying it are well understood and all the fundamental materials and technologies required for construction of an elevator exist today in some form. The present Space Elevator design was conceived by Dr. Brad Edwards working in conjunction with NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC).

"We are thrilled to be working with the X PRIZE foundation for the second annual Space Elevator Games" said Ben Shelef, Founder of the Spaceward Foundation. "With an expected attendance of 20,000 people, the X PRIZE CUP venue is a perfect event to showcase and validate the worlds leading space elevator technologies." This year's challenge will feature teams from around the world competing for $400,000 of prize money, and it promises to be a spectacular competition."

This is the second of the NASA Centennial Challenges to take place at the X PRIZE Cup. The first, announced in May of 2006, was the $2m Lunar Lander Challenge. The Lunar Lander Challenge will take place at the X PRIZE Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico on October 20-21, 2006. As the world’s first space show, the X PRIZE Cup is the only annual event where the entire family can visit to see the next generation of spaceships up close and in the sky.

The Spaceward Foundation is a public-funds non-profit organization dedicated to furthering space science and technology in education and in the public mindshare. Spaceward Foundation intends to bring together leaders from the academic, commercial and educational worlds and create a series of challenges, exhibits, and educational activities that will re-invigorate the nation's interest in space.

NASA's Centennial Challenges promotes technical innovation through a novel program of prize competitions. It is designed to tap the nation's ingenuity to make revolutionary advances to support the Vision for Space Exploration and NASA goals. NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate manages the program.

In 2004, the Ansari X PRIZE proved that offering a prize is an effective, efficient and economical model for accelerating breakthroughs in science and technology. Based on that success, the X PRIZE Foundation is now expanding their efforts to offer more prizes in the space industry, as well as, in the areas of health, energy, transportation, and education.

For more information about the Spaceward Foundation please visit:

For more information about the Space Elevator Games, please visit

For more information about the X PRIZE Cup please visit:

For more information about Centennial Challenges on the Internet, visit:

Monday, August 07, 2006

Bigelow Aerospace delays Genesis II

Bigelow has delayed the launch of Genesis II to the last week in January so their staff can be home with their family over the winter holidays.


John Kavanagh, at COTS Watch, asked me to write if I thought realistic for NASA to be both the COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) customer and a competitor.

I have thought about this over the weekend. There are a few implied questions here that I will address individually.

1. Can NASA/Congress chose to buy private rides to the ISS if the CEV is available?

Yes, it is possible. If the political landscape changes such that Congress is thrifty, they will chose the cheaper option. NASA, for all it's past behavior, will do what Congress forces them to do. Will this happen? I don't know. It doesn't happen a lot. Congress-people tend to like to spend money for their state. If the CEV is available, their needs to be something else for it to do that will allow Congress to fund their constituents.

2. Should the CEV be built if private rides are going to be available?

I am not sure. It seems on the face, no. To change my mind, I would need to see what the plan for the CEV is. If it's sole purpose in life is to get people to orbit, then I have to stick my initial reaction. If someone can show me another use for it that private launchers can't fill, then yes.

3. Can the CEV and COTS share ISS needs?

No. There just isn't the economics to support this. In order for private companies to make money off this, they need all the launches they can get. Splitting up the launches between, say SpaceX and CEV, will make it very difficult for SpaceX to succeed.

So in effect, if NASA doesn't need the CEV, don't build it. If they do then make sure to elect economic conservatives to congress. Otherwise, COTS is doomed to a footnote in space exploration history.

[update: Thanks to Mark Whittingham for pointing out my typo. That will teach me to write when I am tired. --djs]

Dateline August 7, 2006, Space News from the Internet

The new Space Review is out:

Other news:

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dateline August 4, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dateline August 3, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I got Interviewed

Meme Therapy, a science fiction/futurist blog, has a string of running questions two of which they asked yours truly. Enjoy!

  1. Moon or Mars?
  2. Rockets & Extraterrestrial Life

Dateline August 2, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

See Genesis I in the Sky

Here is how to see the Bigelow Aerospace Genesis I in the sky (with or without binoculars).

New Genesis I Photos

This one is really cool (and Large).

Dateline August 1, 2006, Space News from the Internet