Former NASA Astronaut Joins CSF

November 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 
Commercial Spaceflight Federation, November 20, 2009

Former NASA astronaut Samuel T. Durrance, a PhD astronomer and veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, has been selected as the latest addition to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG).

“We are very happy to have Sam aboard SARG to contribute his expertise as a two-time NASA payload specialist on the Space Shuttle,” said Dr. S. Alan Stern, Chairman of SARG and a space scientist who previously served as head of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.  “Sam also broadens our educator and astronomy experience base, and we are looking forward to his many contributions to the growth of the suborbital research and education markets.”

Including Dr. Durrance, SARG now consists of eleven researchers and educators, in disciplines ranging from microgravity physics to life sciences, who are aiming to increase awareness of commercial suborbital spacecraft in the science and R&D communities, work with policymakers to ensure that payloads can have easy access to these vehicles, and further develop ideas for the uses of vehicles under development by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace.

Dr. Durrance stated, “I am very excited to be joining the other scientists in SARG.  I think the astronomy community will be astonished by the capabilities of this new generation of commercial suborbital vehicles.  And having journeyed into space alongside a telescope I helped develop on the ground, I am excited about the human-in-the-loop capabilities of these new vehicles.”

After receiving his PhD degree in astro-geophysics from the University of Colorado in 1980, Sam Durrance served as a Principal Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University and was a co-investigator for the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope, one of the instruments for the Astro Observatory.  As a NASA payload specialist, Sam Durrance traveled into space aboard the STS-35/Astro-1 and STS-67/Astro-2 missions.  Complementing his astronomy training and astronaut flight experience, Dr. Durrance also has experience with sounding rockets and was a former director of the Florida Space Grant Consortium.  He currently works as a professor of physics and space sciences at Florida Tech.

In addition to Dr. Durrance and Dr. Stern, the other members of SARG are Dr. Steven Collicott (Purdue University), Dr. Joshua Colwell (University of Central Florida), Dr. Daniel Durda (Southwest Research Institute), Dr. David Grinspoon (Denver Museum of Natural Sciences), Dr. Richard Miles (Princeton University), Dr. John Pojman (Louisiana State University), Dr. Mark Shelhamer (Johns Hopkins University), Dr. Mike Summers (George Mason University), and Dr. Erika Wagner (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).


Investment in Commercial Spaceflight Grows to $1.46B

November 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 
Total investment in the commercial human spaceflight sector has risen by 20% since January 2008, reaching a cumulative total of $1.46 billion, according to a new extensive study performed by the Tauri Group and commissioned by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.  Revenues and deposits for commercial human spaceflight services, hardware, and support services has also grown, reaching a total of $261 million for the year 2008.
The analytic study, performed by the Tauri Group of Alexandria, Virginia, was based on aggregated data from a comprehensive survey of 22 companies engaged in commercial human spaceflight activities, including most Commercial Spaceflight Federation members.  The new Tauri Group study, which updates a similar study conducted a year earlier, includes the following key findings:
  • Deposits and revenue for direct commercial human spaceflight services, such as flights of private citizens to the International Space Station and deposits on suborbital commercial human spaceflights, rose to $50.0M in 2008, compared to $38.8M in 2007 and $28.8M in 2006.
  • Investment of $1.46 billion has been committed to the industry since January 2008, of which approximately $624 million has been spent to date and about $838 million is available.  Sources of investment include individuals and angel investors (about 52%), private equity (about 30%), government (about 15%), and corporate reinvestment (about 4%).
  • Revenue for commercial spaceflight hardware sales, development, and support services, increased to $211M in 2008, compared to $206M in 2007 and $123M in 2006.  (This category includes sales of hardware and services directly intended for commercial human spaceflight; sales of commercial human spaceflight-related products and services to customers in other industry sectors; and sales and services that develop technologies and corporate capabilities that can be leveraged for commercial human spaceflight applications.)
  • Total facility space expanded to 1,180,000 square feet (over 20 football fields) in 2008, compared to 762,100 square feet in 2007.
  • The commercial human spaceflight industry reached an employment level of 1,186 workers in 2008, not including employees at these 22 companies who are engaged in activities unrelated to commercial human spaceflight.
Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Bretton Alexander commented, “This survey reveals modest, but increasing, revenues from commercial spaceflight activities, including growing deposits and contracts for government development activities.  But the real highlight is the sizable investment that is not government related. Growing investment from private equity funds and other investors has turned longtime skeptics into people who are taking notice.”
Since the survey was primarily a rearward look at activities in the year 2008, several companies such as Orbital Sciences, United Launch Alliance (a Boeing-Lockheed joint venture), and other firms, which have made recent public expressions of interest in commercial human spaceflight, were not part of the tabulations above.

Former Air Force Commander Joins SpaceX

November 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Hawthorne, CA (November 9, 2009) –Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announces that Colonel Scott Henderson has joined the company. He will serve as the director of Mission Assurance and Integration and will also handle Florida external relations, assisting with state and local governmental, customer and media relations. Henderson will primarily support former astronaut Ken Bowersox, vice president of SpaceX’s Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance office, working out of the company’s Florida office.

Henderson joins SpaceX after 25 years in the United States Air Force (USAF), an experience that began by earning a degree in Astronautical Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy. His prestigious career in the USAF included assignments in a wide variety of high level space operations and acquisition positions. A certified acquisition professional, Henderson has also earned a masters degree in Engineering Management from the Florida Institute of Technology and was a National Defense Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Prior to SpaceX, Henderson held the position of Commander with the 45th Launch Group at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida. His responsibilities in this position focused on Department of Defense (DoD), civil and commercial space launch-related activities. Henderson joins SpaceX just as the company is preparing for the first Falcon 9 launch from CCAFS.

“Scott Henderson brings a great deal of operational launch experience and technical expertise to our company,” said Bowersox. “As we begin the first flights of the Falcon 9/Dragon system, Henderson will serve as a critical link between the SpaceX Safety, Mission Assurance, Operations and Integration teams.”


India’s Bid For The Moon: Will They Beat The US?

November 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

A new man has taken over as chief of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Dr. K. Radhakrishnan accepted the chairmanship of the Indian space agency on October 31 and will be working to advance his country’s standing among the spacefaring nations of the world. Among his stated goals are placing first a probe on the surface of the moon followed by a manned mission, an idea his predecessor introduced last year and which he is enthusiastically carrying forward. India orbited the moon recently with their Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. In short order, the mission proved that the US mistakenly abandoned the moon almost four decades ago under the assumption that there was nothing left to learn about it. India’s first, bold lunar venture suffered mechanical failure but not before it turned up evidence of water, which will be used to sustain a base there. And now with the benefit of lessons learned from Chandrayaan-1, the Chandrayaan-2 mission is already in the pipeline. Their dogged determination should serve as a reminder to the rest of the world what gains are to be made one concentrates more on the mission than the politics.


A manned mission fits within Indian technological capability but most importantly their national will. How ironic that a country still considered as developing could make such progress. They dare to dream, just like another country a few decades ago, but theirs is not a race for some finish line or any other ephemeral pursuit. They’re in it for the long haul. Indians recognize the prosperity that belongs to those audacious enough to establish a permanent human presence on the frontier of space. What’s more, the idea of capitalizing on the rapidly growing list of lunar natural resources is not lost on them.

The ISRO manned program began in earnest in 2007 with the successful launch and recovery of a 1200-pound space capsule, which proved their heat shielding technology and atmospheric re-entry and recovery operations capability. The capsule is to be launched aloft by their second generation Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, the GSLV Mark 2 and makes use of an indigenous cryogenic upper-stage engine, replacing the Russian-built engine flown on its precursor.

Some heated discussions have ensued surrounding the issue of whether the ISRO manned program is truly indigenous or if they are simply making use of foreign technology and operations capabilities to reach their goals. Though it is true that they have supplemented their own hardware and personnel with those from outside the country, it is also true that they are actively developing their own systems to supplant non-indigenous where doing so does not financially inhibit the program. But whether they use outside assistance, and to what degree, is immaterial. India is defining the goals and seeing them through from start to finish. Their use of outside help is no different than the designer of a skyscraper utilizing the talent of contractors. It is not the contractor who will be holding the scissors at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, nor should it. It was not the plumber’s vision, which shepherded the building from a mere idea to its final fruition, offering its shops, offices and living space for the benefit of society.

India has set its sights on the moon. Whether they accomplish what they’ve set out to do on their own or in partnership with another nation is yet to be seen, but the indications are that they intend to proceed in any event. That can-do attitude should remind us of what once made us great and can again, and it has earned India our respect.


The Lunar Lander Challenge is Won

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

From Rick Tumlinson, co-Founder of the Space Frontier Foundation

*CONGRATULATIONS to Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace for
winning the Lunar Lander Challenge!*

"Today's award of $1.65 million dollars to Masten and Armadillo
represents breakthroughs not just for the technical achievements of both
teams, but in new ways to stimulate and catalyze the amazing creativity,
genius and drive to be found beyond the traditional government domain
when it comes to the exploration and opening of space."

To quote the NASA release:
"The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge involves building and
flying a rocket-powered vehicle that simulates the flight of a vehicle
on the moon. The lander must take off vertically then travel
horizontally, flying a mission profile designed to demonstrate both
power and control before landing accurately at another spot. The same
vehicle then must take off again, travel horizontally back to its
original takeoff point and land successfully, all within a
two-hour-and-15-minute time period."

My take on it:
"This was an excellent Prize and worked exactly as such an incentive
should. It had modest yet challenging goals that were clearly defined
and designed to stretch the capabilities of those working to win them.

Congratulations to Northrop Grumman, NASA and The XPrize Foundation for
creating and managing the Challenge. This could have been a disaster or
a dead end, but they showed the ability to work with the teams involved,
adapt their own agendas and when needed get out of their own way so the
teams could "do their thing." The other teams who worked hard but did
not win should also be acknowledged, as they too represent the best of
what this nation has to offer in creativity and hard work. I hope they
too can apply what they have done to other endeavours.

The real challenge now is twofold: Can these firms leverage their
winnings to achieve commercial viability in any areas directly relating
to what they developed to win the prizes; and can and will NASA leverage
off of their demonstrated capabilities to improve, accelerate and lower
the costs associated with their own Lunar Program?

In other words, NASA and Grumman need to make sure that the successes of
these two firms can permeate the "not invented here" walls often put up
by their own development teams. These private teams accomplished for
pennies on the dollar what government programs spend to do the same
things. But the government managers should not feel threatened, for if
they are creative and embrace this work they can check some of their own
technical hurdles and use their own funds in other ways.

If NASA, Northrop Grumman and the other contractors working on our
exploration program do embrace Masten and Armadillo and incorporate
their work into their own through accepted business practices and
partnerships etc. the taxpayers and prize organizations will have really
done something important - and the prizes will have been a worthwhile

Prizes work, Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace have shown
that the American people have what it takes to open the space frontier -
if given the chance and the right incentives."

The Space Frontier Foundation
Return to the Moon
Founding Team Member:
Lunar Orbiter Project (SSI)
XTreme Space/Orbital Outfitters/Project:SpaceDiver
INSpace Media
Founding Trustee:
The XPrize

Commercial Space Flight Earns A Greater Voice

November 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Washington, D.C., November 2, 2009 – Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, has been appointed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to the NASA Advisory Council, a federally chartered body of experts that provides advice and counsel directly to the NASA Administrator. Additionally, Alexander has been selected to chair the newly formed Commercial Space Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

Following his appointment, Alexander attended a meeting of the full NASA Advisory Council on October 29 at the NASA Ames Research Center, which included discussions with NASA Administrator Bolden, Ames Center Director Dr. Pete Worden, and NASA Advisory Council Chair Dr. Kenneth Ford. According to NASA, “the NASA Advisory Council provides the NASA Administrator with counsel and advice on programs and issues of importance to the Agency… and presents any findings and recommendations to the NASA Administrator on a quarterly basis.”

Mark Sirangelo, Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said, “We are very proud that Brett has been granted this prestigious appointment by the NASA Administrator. As a well-respected and articulate leader in the commercial spaceflight industry, Brett is a fitting individual for this role.”

Added Alexander, “It is a deep honor to be appointed by the Administrator to serve on the NASA Advisory Council. I believe the Administrator recognizes that the success of NASA’s exploration activities must involve commercial spaceflight and I look forward to chairing the Commercial Space Committee.”

Alexander joins the following other members of the newly restructured NASA Advisory Council:

* Chair: Kenneth M. Ford
* Aeronautics Committee: Marion Blakey
* Audit, Finance and Analysis Committee: Robert M. Hanisee
* Education and Public Outreach: Miles O’Brien
* Exploration Committee: Gen. Lester L. Lyles
* Science Committee: Wesley T. Huntress, Jr.
* Space Operations Committee: Col. Eileen M. Collins
* Technology and Innovation Committee: Esther Dyson
* Ex officio members: Raymond S. Colladay and Charles F. Kennel (National Academies)

Bretton Alexander holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. In addition to his role as President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Alexander has previously served as Executive Director for Space at the X PRIZE Foundation, where he oversaw all aspects of the Google Lunar X Prize, the Lunar Lander Challenge, and the X PRIZE Cup, and was also Senior Advisor to Transformational Space Corporation (t/Space).

Prior to joining the entrepreneurial space community, Alexander served under presidents William J. Clinton and George W. Bush as Senior Policy Analyst for space issues. During his tenure at the White House, he was one of the primary authors of the “Vision for Space Exploration” announced by President Bush in January 2004. He has also held positions in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, the Aerospace Corporation, and ANSER Corporation.


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