Constellation and Commercial Crew Not Mutually Exclusive

June 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Lawmakers introduced the “Protecting Human Space Flight Act of 2010″ yesterday with the aim of forcing NASA to spend 90 percent of the program’s remaining funds in the last quarter of this fiscal year. Let’s all hope that they succeed.

If you find that puzzling coming from a commentator touting commercial, human space flight, remember this: Constellation is, and always has been, about going back to the moon – so much more so following the earth-shaking discoveries made in just the last several months (see A New Decade and Infinite Possibilities, January 11, 2010 STN). Most of the pundits have reduced the argument to an either-or proposition: a) go back to the moon, or b) fund the private sector to create a commercial transport system to low earth orbit. I assure you, there is an option c.

Yes, private enterprise can and should be funded for the creation of a commercial transport to LEO. And yes, Constellation should go forward, albeit without Ares (see Constellation Plan-B A Good Idea, March 5, 2010 STN). But funding one to the exclusion of the other makes no sense. The inspiration and purpose behind transporting humans to the International Space Station and all other points in earth orbit is to create an environment economically conducive for building an orbiting infrastructure, itself capable of supporting transportation to the moon and eventually Mars. Building a inexpensive transport system while canceling Constellation is about as useful as building an elevator to nowhere. Conversely, moving forward with Constellation and spending a needless amount of its budget reinventing booster rockets when the private sector can do it at a fraction of the cost is equally ridiculous. Such an expenditure could undercut other systems like the Altair lunar lander to the point where they are ultimately unachievable. Again, the whole point is going back to the moon. To put it in perspective, if you’re goal is to drive across country, your limited funds are better spent on a good set of tires. How much sense, then, would it make to spend your entire vacation budget on inventing and manufacturing your own wiper blades, leaving no money for the tires… any tires? The bottom line is that going back to the moon and creating a commercial crew transport capability are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the one compliments the other.

How is it that these simple but conspicuous principles completely escape the grasp of our President and the Administrator of NASA? Perhaps it’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom. And perhaps the administration also suffers from a case of Not Invented Here. As for the commercial folks backing the cancelation of Constellation, I’m less critical. Before the President’s proposed 2011 budget was announced, they were facing rigid, myopic forces bent on shutting them out. Still, parties on both sides should be concentrating more on what’s best for the country. It’s called balance, and when it’s observed, everyone wins.


The Undiscovered Country

June 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

What we know today of the moon’s fundamental nature is light years ahead of what it was only a year ago, thanks to a spacecraft named LCROSS, or Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite. It’s mission was to look for evidence of water by slamming a large mass into a permanently shadowed crater at the lunar south pole then directly sample the impact plume by flying through it. A painstakingly meticulous post-impact examination of the telemetry revealed that they had indeed found what they were looking for. Over night, the cries of “bombing the moon” and “mission failure” were replaced with the infinitely more rational realization that we were witnessing one of those moments in history when knowledge takes a huge leap forward. Scientists, engineers and just plain enthusiasts of the moon immediately recognized the discovery as a “game changer,” because in one fell swoop, it meant that the cost of establishing and maintaining a human presence there, be it an outpost or a colony, was profoundly reduced.

NASA’s Project Constellation to permanently return humans to the moon would seem to have gotten a shot in the arm from the revelation that it would no longer need to transport tens of tons of water from earth at enormous cost in fuel. Water for drinking, mixing with lunar-derived concrete with which to build shelters, deriving oxygen for breathing and a myriad other necessities for the wet substance can now be extracted on site. But before the ink is even dry on the scientific papers that proclaim this most fantastic of discoveries, the political powers that be, in their most boundless wisdom, propose to scrap the entire program.

The debate over the fate of the moon program is still building, and it remains to be seen where it all leads. A defiant Congress intent on saving Constellation has dug in its heels, only last week demanding that NASA produce all documents used in reaching its decision to end the program. But whether the politicians succumb to the Not Invented Here syndrome (remember, Constellation was the Vision of another president), the fact that we now know the moon to be immanently obtainable as a destination and a new source of natural resources, wealth and prosperity remains.

So where do we go from here? As I see it, there are two courses for returning to the moon possible within the current environment.

Course 1: Constellation is saved, but is redefined and reworked. The expensive Ares rocket for transporting civil service and commercial astronauts to low earth orbit is deemed unsustainable and ended in favor of privately-developed rockets. Though it could survive from a purely technical standpoint, it is unlikely Ares could ever reach a flight rate that would make it economically viable. Leave that mission to the private sector, who despite all the hype to the contrary, are quite capable of fulfilling that role and are well on their way to proving their own designs and vehicles for both cargo and human transport.

The Orion capsule for transporting astronauts between earth, the moon and other deep space destinations and for returning them to earth, deserves further scrutiny. The private sector may be able to build and fly it – or a similar, capsule-based design – at far less expense than NASA. But either way, we need a vehicle with its capabilities, and unlike Ares, there is no vehicle currently in the private sector pipeline that can take on the mission of Orion.

Finally, the third – and to my mind most important – vehicle component to Constellation is Altair, which will take astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface. This part of the program, if no other, must continue. It is the heart and soul of Constellation. We must have a vehicle capable of transporting crew and cargo to the lunar surface, even if ultimately they become two roles slated for two, different vehicles. The same development program could produce both.

Course 2: Constellation and the billions already spent on it are added to the ash heap of NASA programs started in good faith throughout its history only to be scrapped later by political forces. In this case, it falls to the private sector to completely design and fund the venture.

Investors like Elon Musk of SpaceX, Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic are pumping tens of millions into private space ventures, but the overall number of investors is still insufficient to take on a program as massive as the settlement of the moon. But history has shown us that competition serves as a powerful mechanism through which this shortfall may be addressed. Take for example airline transportation. In the early part of the 20th century, there was neither enough pilots and airplanes nor was there the operations know-how to profit from transporting passengers, so the Orteig Prize was offered to jump start an industry that was as yet only the stuff of dreams. It was that $25,000 prize that spurred Charles Lindbergh to make his now famous flight from New York to Paris in May of 1927, forever altering the course or aviation history.

Fast forward to the latter part of that century when a visionary named Peter Diamandis realized that the time had come to offer up a prize for jump starting yet another industry that existed only in the minds of a few dreamers. It was called the X Prize, and it offered $10M to the first team to fly into space twice within two weeks and do it without any government money. Again, it was a prize that offered the best hope of encouraging research and development for

By 2003 when the competition was in full swing, it was anybody’s guess which of the 26 competitors would win, but I knew it would be Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites. No, I didn’t have a crystal ball and I’m not clairvoyant. Neither were necessary for picking the winner, because even a cursory assessment of the contenders revealed one very telling fact: that Scaled was the only group building and testing hardware. The remainder fielded nothing more than impressive, computer-generated pictures of concepts but not one, tangible thing on which you could place your hands; just so much vapor ware.

So today when I look to pick the winner of the newest X Prize offering $30M to the first team to place a robot on the moon, drive it 500 meters over the lunar surface and send back pictures, I once again look for who’s building and testing hardware. After all, computer models, no matter how impressive, can’t move a single inch much less fly to the moon and drive over it’s surface.

The Astrobotics team is one of the 21 teams now registered in the competition. Led by Dr. William “Red” Whittaker of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, they bring to bear an impressive knowledge base and practical experience gained from building robots to carry out missions too dangerous for humans on earth. There were Dante I and II deployed to the interior of volcanoes in Alaska and Antarctica as well as Pioneer, which went to the Sarcophagus at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor following the disaster in 1999. This team already has an impressive track record and a man at the helm with a practical, business approach to tackling new challenges.

Now the team is building Red Rover prototype robots designed to take on the harsh environment of the moon, which presents them with a few challenges not faced by the famous Mars rovers, Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity.

Rover Currently Under Testing. Courtesy Astrobotics and Carnegie Melon University

To begin with, lunar regolith, or dirt, is quite different from its counterpart on earth, because the geological processes it undergoes are so different. On earth, soil is exposed to constant weathering, which acts something like a tumbler, rounding off the edges of the individual grains. On the moon, however, this process is absent, so the grains resemble tiny shards of glass. And these shards are very abrasive to technology like robots and their inner workings, even more so than Martian regolith. And that’s to say nothing of the deleterious effects on human lungs.

Then there are the extremely cold temperatures to be found on the moon and the long periods over which those temperatures must be endured. Unlike the Earth and Mars, which have days and nights measured in hours, a single lunar night lasts for two earth weeks. During those two weeks, temperatures at the surface drop to minus 173 degrees Celsius (minus 279 degrees fahrenheit). That’s a long, deep freeze. Still worse are the temperatures found within the polar craters. Within the Cabeus crater at the south pole where water was discovered, temperatures plummet to an almost unimaginable minus 370 degrees fahrenheit! We’ve only recently learned that permanently shadowed areas such as Cabeus are the coldest places yet detected in our solar system.

The moon presents challenges, but Astrobotics has faced serious challenges before, and they have very interesting ideas on how to win the Google Lunar X Prize. The plan is to launch their robot late in 2012 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 heavy lifter. Red Rover will land on the lunar surface attached to its Artemis lander, and once there, they’ll set about meeting the objectives of the competition, which are to drive roughly about three tenths of a mile or roughly twice the distance Wilbur Wright flew he and his brother’s airplane during their first powered flights in December 1903. They’ll also send back video, but instead of grainy images likes those sent back to earth by Apollo 11, we’ll be seeing the surface of the moon in high-resolution 3-D!

Their expedition to capture the Google Lunar X Prize will not be a flash in the pan. Already they are drawing up plans for follow-on missions where the intent is to go after what I would call “targets of opportunity.” The opportunity was provided by yet another recent and unexpected discovery, this one made by the Japanese spacecraft Kaguya launched to the moon in 2007. By the end of 2009, it was discovered that images it had taken over the Marius Hills region on the earth-facing side revealed a curious feature, the existence of which lunar scientist have long suspected but until now had not been directly imaged.

The feature is called a “skylight.” Billions of years ago when vulcanism was active on the moon, lava flowed through tubes, some of which ran near the surface. Today, with that activity long dead, and where the roof of such a tube has collapsed, it forms an opening called a skylight. The Marius Hills Hole, as it has come to be called, presents a gaping maw of some 60 meters (197 feet) – big enough to swallow several houses. And within its recesses may lie still more water trapped by the same process that caused it to collect in the polar craters. We’ve known that there are places of permanent shadow in craters at the poles. There, where the light of day can never reach, temperatures plummet to roughly minus 370 degrees fahrenheit. In such frigid conditions, water becomes trapped. It stands to reason that within the darkness of the Marius Hills Hole, there too we will find water as well as a natural shelter against a harsh space environment.

Marius Hills Hole: 13.92 deg N latitude, 303.21 deg E longitude. Courtesy NASA

The logic is not lost on the Astrobotics team. “Yes, [the] skylight is an Astrobotics destination, and it is an early option, since that has advantages of being equatorial, favorable lat[itude] and lon[gitude] and for comm[unication], passive, and interesting to exploration,” says Dr. Whittaker. He realizes that the, “real payoffs of dwelling in or on a skylight wall will be protection from radiation, meteorite strike and extreme thermal gradients.” And though robots should never supplant humans for explorations, they can and should be our hunting dogs, at our sides every step of the way. These Astrobotics ‘hunters’ already have a well established pedigree, which places them at the head of the pack when it comes to taking on the tough terrain in and around these skylights. Dr. Whittaker points out that they are, “experienced practitioners of robot repelling.” And though the intent of the Google Lunar X Prize is not to take on this kind of exploration, follow-on missions are in the planning stages that will.

Though Red Rover will enjoy a degree of on-board autonomy, the bulk of their operations will make use of supervised teleoperation. From their command center on earth, an operator will direct the movements of the rover, driving it from place to place, or as Dr. Whittaker puts it, “safeguard and waypoint driving with visualization, oversight and intervention (when necessary) by human[s].” This is possible, because the moon is so close. The time it takes for 3-D video provided by onboard vision sensors to be beamed from the robot resting on the surface of the moon to the operator on earth and then for that operator to respond with control inputs that are then beamed back to the robot is short enough to allow real time operation: about 6 seconds for turnaround, not including the operator’s human response time. This was not possible with the Mars rovers. The time it takes for the signal to travel just one way from the red planet is roughly 18 minutes. That means that if either Spirit or Opportunity were to have approached a hazard, it would require – at a minimum – 36 minutes for that hazard to be conveyed to an earth-based operator and then commands to arrive back in time to save the rover; a design concept that would have presented far too much risk. In their case, what was required was a design that incorporated a great deal of autonomy and at a vast increase in expense over a moon rover needing only modest onboard autonomy.

But for any of this to work, there must be a reliable power source for running onboard systems, keeping them cool when exposed to sunlight and warm when exposed to darkness. And for this, there are two options. The first is called a radioisotope thermal generator, or RTG. This device has been used very successfully for decades on deep space missions where there is too little sunlight for generating electricity from solar cells. This ingenious design works, because of something called the thermoelectric effect. When two, dissimilar metal plates are brought very close together and a large temperature difference is applied between them, something very curious begins to happen. Electricity flows from one plate to the other. It’s very easy to chill one plate, because space itself is very cold. But what about the hot side? That’s where the “radioisotope” part of “RTG” comes in. A small pellet of plutonium provides all the heat necessary and is, for all intents and purposes, an unlimited supply. Spacecraft like Voyager 1 and 2 launched back in the 1970‘s and that have now left our solar system for interstellar space, are still provided with plenty of power by their RTGs even after three and a half decades of sustained space flight. Sadly, however, there is so much of a stigma attached to the “P” word that most missions opt not to use it unless there is no alternative. RTGs have been blown up, dropped from great heights, and suffered every conceivable type of destructive testing and in each case, passed. Still, the stigma remains, which brings us to option number two: solar cells.

The moon basks in the same, plentiful sunlight that we enjoy here on earth. But remember there are its two-week nights. And if you’re still trying to wrap your brain around that one, picture the moon as it orbits earth. It takes 28 days to complete just one of those rotations and with one side always facing the earth. It spends half that journey in darkness.

Having chosen solar cells as their power source, Astrobotics faces engineering challenges that must be overcome to use them. For the Google Lunar X Prize, it will not be necessary to survive longer than the short time it takes to complete their objectives. But successors will need to survive for extended periods. Those surface robots must bear freezing temperatures never faced by any of their predecessors and continue to function and make discoveries. And true to form, Dr. Whittaker and his team have come up with an answer: night hibernation.

“We’ve demonstrated recovery of key components like battery, computing, memory and some sensors.  Our motor controllers are likely to succeed [and] our next step is to combine these into a system mockup, then to recover and operate that after sequential cryo-freezing.” The robot will land near the dawn, making use of as much of the 14 days of light as possible, and when nights comes, it will role to a stop and hunker down. Already the team has made progress with cold tolerance. Their Scarab Drillbot concept is designed for ice exploration.

One other area in which robotic precursor missions to the moon will need to concentrate is something called In-Situ Resource Utilization. The more familiar term is “living off the land.” Every pound of material brought up from earth costs money in fuel spent to transport it there, so the more material that can be extracted from the surrounding lunar environment, the less it will cost for us to live there. Here again, the Astrobotics team has been thinking ahead, stating that, “ISRU is strategic for Astrobotic and CMU.” Perhaps they could begin with something like making a single ice cube from water extracted from the Marius Hills Hole. It sounds so simple, but it will represent a monumental achievement.

In his recent novel titled Platinum Moon, Bill White shows us a world where NASA has abandoned the moon and it’s left to private enterprise to return mankind to its surface to stay. The plot sounds eerily like what we’re seeing play out in the headlines today. But whether we go back to the moon under a national flag, flying the colors of commercial logos or a bit of both, it will happen. It must happen. Without the hardship and difficulties, the failures and the triumphs of new frontiers to conquer, a society falls into stagnation. Such will be our fate if we fail to express our innate need to explore and to embrace the undiscovered country – the eighth continent, if you will – that hangs right above our heads.


Iridium and SpaceX Sign Major Commercial Launch Contract

June 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Contract for Launch of Iridium NEXT Satellite Constellation Represents a New Benchmark in Value for Commercial Launch Services

MCLEAN, Va. and HAWTHORNE, Calif. – June 16, 2010 – Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are pleased to announce that the Falcon 9 will be a major provider of launch services for Iridium NEXT, Iridium’s next-generation satellite constellation. The $492 million contract, while being the largest single commercial launch deal ever signed, nonetheless represents a new benchmark in cost-effective satellite delivery to space.

Iridium operates the world’s largest commercial satellite constellation, and is the only communications company to offer mobile voice and data services across the entire globe. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle will carry multiple Iridium NEXT satellites per vehicle, inserting the satellites into a low-earth orbit (LEO) as Iridium replaces its current satellite constellation. The Iridium NEXT satellites are set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California between 2015 and 2017.

The contract stipulates that SpaceX will provide launch services to Iridium over a two-year period starting in early 2015. Iridium is also in discussions with, and expects to contract with, at least one additional launch services provider. Launch services are included in the total estimated cost of $2.9 billion for Iridium NEXT.

“This is the third major building block on the road to Iridium NEXT,” said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium. “Two weeks ago, we announced our fixed-price contract with Thales Alenia Space. We also announced our Coface-backed financing plan, and today I am pleased to announce our partnership with SpaceX for extremely cost-effective launch services.”

Added Desch, “We are proud to be partnered with SpaceX, and want to congratulate Elon Musk and the entire SpaceX team on its successful inaugural Falcon 9 launch. Hands down, SpaceX offered us the best value coupled with an unwavering commitment to flawless performance and reliability. SpaceX has combined the best of aerospace and commercial best practices to design reliable and cost-effective access to space, and Iridium will be the beneficiary of that effort.”

Desch further commented, “SpaceX also offered dedicated Iridium NEXT launch slots within its manifest, which currently has 24 Falcon 9 flights scheduled ahead of us, including those for commercial and government customers, during the coming five years. Clearly, SpaceX has established itself as a significant player in the launch industry, and we have great confidence that SpaceX will build on its recent success and continue to cement an impressive track record of successful space flight in advance of our mission.”

The June 4 inaugural launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 achieved 100 percent of its mission objectives, culminating in a near bull’s-eye insertion to its targeted 250km circular orbit. SpaceX has been working with Iridium and Thales Alenia Space, the prime contractor for Iridium NEXT, to ensure compatibility between the satellite design, the Falcon 9 vehicle and the Iridium NEXT program schedule. This full coordination positions Iridium, SpaceX and Thales Alenia Space for a successful multi-year process of designing, building and launching Iridium NEXT.

“Iridium NEXT is now our largest commercial satellite launch customer and we are excited to play such an integral part in the most significant commercial space program underway today,” said Elon Musk, CEO, SpaceX. “We are impressed by Iridium’s comprehensive approach and diligence in its planning as the company prepares for the design, build and launch of Iridium NEXT. SpaceX greatly appreciates Iridium’s efficient approach to satellite production – an approach we share when it comes to our launch vehicles. As the next generation of the world’s only global satellite constellation that reliably covers 100 percent of the Earth’s surface, the implementation of the Iridium NEXT satellites will mark a significant achievement in mobile satellite communications, and SpaceX is looking forward to making it happen.”

The SpaceX Falcon 9 is a medium-to-heavy lift, two-stage launch vehicle capable of lifting approximately 11 tons to LEO. Designed to the highest levels of reliability and performance, NASA selected Falcon 9, along with the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, to resupply the International Space Station starting in 2011. This $1.6 billion contract represents 12 flights to and from the International Space Station. Further validating the reliability and robustness of commercial launch, President Obama recently decided to turn over astronaut transport to the U.S. commercial sector, specifically mentioning the example of Falcon 9 in his historic speech at Cape Canaveral. The U.S. government’s confidence in SpaceX provided further validation for Iridium’s decision.

About Iridium Communications Inc.
Iridium Communications Inc. ( is the only mobile satellite service (MSS) company offering coverage over the entire globe. The Iridium constellation of low-earth orbiting (LEO) cross-linked satellites provides critical voice and data services for areas not served by terrestrial communication networks. Iridium serves commercial markets through a worldwide network of distributors, and provides services to the U.S. Department of Defense and other U.S. and international government agencies. The company’s customers represent a broad spectrum of industry, including maritime, aeronautical, government/defense, public safety, utilities, oil/gas, mining, forestry, heavy equipment and transportation. Iridium has launched a major development program for its next-generation satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT. The company is headquartered in McLean, Va., USA and trades on the NASDAQ Global Market under the ticker symbols IRDM (common stock), IRDMW ($7.00 warrants), IRDMZ ($11.50 warrants) and IRDMU (units).

About SpaceX
SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of 10. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles, SpaceX offers highly reliable/cost-efficient launch capabilities for spacecraft insertion into any orbital altitude and inclination. Starting in 2010, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will provide Earth-to-LEO transport of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, including resupply to the International Space Station.

Founded in 2002, SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The SpaceX team now numbers over 1,000, with corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. For more information, and to watch the archived video of the Falcon 9, Flight 1 launch, visit the SpaceX Website at


Bigelow Aerospace Aims to Address Commercial Crew Transportation Misperceptions

June 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Washington, D.C., June 16, 2010 – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Bigelow Aerospace, LLC (“Bigelow Aerospace or “BA”) has joined the Federation as an Executive Member, having received unanimous approval by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Board of Directors.

Mark Sirangelo, Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, commented, “On behalf of the member companies of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, we are proud to welcome Bigelow Aerospace as an Executive Member.  Bigelow is a great fit with our other members, all of who are pursuing the common goal of a robust commercial human spaceflight sector.  With the addition of Bigelow Aerospace to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, all of the pieces of a self-sustaining commercial space economy are falling into place – launch providers, spaceports, suppliers, and on-orbit destinations.  For those who suppose there is no market for commercial crew launches other than NASA, Bigelow Aerospace serves as one counterexample.”

Robert T. Bigelow, Founder and President of Bigelow Aerospace said, “The future is being created now.  Commercial crew transportation has the potential to revolutionize the space industry for public and private sector entities alike.  The unprecedented success of the Falcon 9’s inaugural launch clearly demonstrates that it’s possible to dramatically reduce the cost of human spaceflight operations. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule were developed at a cost dramatically below that of traditional cost-plus programs – this should be a wakeup call that it’s time for a new way of doing business.  We are becoming a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation at this time to join with like-minded organizations, who want to see America be able to compete again in the global space launch marketplace, and push back against the pernicious misconceptions that are being perpetuated to harm the Administration’s commercial crew initiative.”

“Specifically, I’m appalled by the condemnation of commercial crew as being somehow less safe than government programs, and the refrain that commercial companies need to prove they can deliver cargo before they deliver crew.  In regard to the latter, a leading contender for commercial missions, the Atlas V, has had 21 consecutive successful launches.  This rocket is arguably the most reliable domestic launch system in existence today.  It strains the bounds of credulity to claim that any new rocket would be able to trump the safety of a system that has an extensive record of flawless operations.”

“Moreover,” Bigelow added, “we’re extremely pleased to be part of the Boeing team constructing the CST-100 capsule under the auspices of NASA’s own Commercial Crew Development program.  Boeing’s unparalleled heritage and experience, combined with Bigelow Aerospace’s entrepreneurial spirit and desire to keep costs low, represents the best of both established and new space companies.  The product of this relationship, the CST-100 capsule, will represent the safest, most reliable, and most cost-effective spacecraft ever to fly.  Again, I don’t understand the critics who say ‘commercial’ entities can’t safely build a capsule.  Why is it that Boeing, the company that constructed the ISS itself, can’t safely build a capsule that would go to their own space station?  These are the sorts of questions and issues that we will be posing in Washington as a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.”

Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, added, “Bigelow Aerospace joining the Commercial Spaceflight Federation will help us to further our organization’s goals — to promote the development of commercial human spaceflight, pursue ever higher levels of safety, and share best practices and expertise throughout the industry.  This is the start of an exciting new era for commercial spaceflight.”

About the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

The mission of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is to promote the development of commercial human spaceflight, pursue ever-higher levels of safety, and share best practices and expertise throughout the industry. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s member companies, which include commercial spaceflight developers, operators, spaceports, suppliers, and service providers, are creating thousands of high-tech jobs nationwide, working to preserve American leadership in aerospace through technology innovation, and inspiring young people to pursue careers in science and engineering.  For more information please visit or contact Executive Director John Gedmark at or at 202.349.1121.

About Bigelow Aerospace

Bigelow Aerospace, headquartered in Nevada, is a general contractor providing design, engineering, fabrication, testing, assembly, and marketing of future orbital space complexes. Bigelow Aerospace has already successfully launched and deployed two pathfinder spacecraft, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, launched in 2006 and 2007 respectively.  Bigelow Aerospace is currently constructing the habitats and hardware that will comprise the world’s first private sector space station, which will be deployed as soon as domestic commercial crew transportation becomes available.  For more information please visit or contact Mike Gold at or at 240.235.6016.


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