Commercial Spaceflight Federation Applauds Winners of Round Two of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program

April 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Washington, D.C., Monday, April 18, 2011 – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation congratulates NASA’s announcement today to award a total of $269 million through NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Round Two (“CCDev2”) Program.  The winners include CSF members Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX.  The Commercial Spaceflight Federation would also like to congratulate the Boeing team that includes CSF Member Bigelow Aerospace.  The awards will allow US commercial companies to achieve critical milestones on the path to achieving commercial human spaceflight capabilities, thereby enabling America to end America’s reliance on Russian vehicles to send humans to space, lower costs to the U.S. taxpayer, replace some of the capabilities of the Space Shuttle when it retires later this year, and help spur new technology innovation and job growth in the U.S. space industry.

The CCDev2 program represents the continuation of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (“COTS”) Cargo and CCDev programs, under which companies have been developing various commercial launch vehicles and spacecraft. Awards will take the form of milestone-based, fixed-price, pay-for-performance NASA investment using Space Act Agreements instead of traditional government contracts.  The program will culminate in a Commercial Crew Program in which companies will demonstrate the capability of taking NASA crews to and from the International Space Station.

“Today is a landmark day for commercial spaceflight.  This is a big step towards opening up the space frontier,” said John Gedmark, Executive Director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.  “Leveraging private investment is the only way NASA can make its dollars go farther in these times of belt tightening.  And by investing in commercial spaceflight rather than continuing to sending billions of dollars to Russia, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is creating American jobs instead of sending them abroad.”

“Today’s announcement marks a critical milestone on the path to a commercial human spaceflight sector that will lower the cost of space access and open new markets,” said Eric Anderson, Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.  “To have a large and diverse group of U.S. companies among today’s winners, including both established contractors and newer entrants, emphasizes that American industry is ready to handle the task of commercial human spaceflight—safely, affordably, and rapidly. We expect immediate job creation across the United States, including in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, and Washington state.”

Anderson added, “A major advantage of commercial spaceflight programs over traditional NASA procurements is that the CCDev program is commercially structured so that NASA pays only when performance milestones are met.  These agreements are fixed-price, milestone-based, and leverage private investment.  These companies are investing their own money alongside NASA’s money adding even more investment in the final system.  Each taxpayer dollar goes farther.”

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to congratulate:

• Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, which will receive $22 million for orbital commercial spaceflight vehicle design and development, including testing of its pusher escape system and engine testing.

• Sierra Nevada Corporation of Louisville, Colorado, which will receive $80 million to mature the Dream Chaser human spaceflight system, focusing on multiple spacecraft items.

• SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, which flew its Dragon capsule to orbit and recovered it successfully last year, which will receive $75 million for items including launch escape system engine maturation and crew accommodation prototype development.

• The Boeing Company of Houston, Texas, whose team includes CSF member Bigelow Aerospace, which will receive $92.3 million for CST-100 crew spacecraft maturation and launch vehicle integration, focusing on multiple items including launch escape system propulsion.

About the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
The mission of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) 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 www.commercialspaceflight.org or contact Executive Director John Gedmark at john@commercialspaceflight.org or at 202.349.1121.

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Rear Admiral Craig Steidle Named President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

April 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Washington, D.C., Wednesday, April 13, 2011 – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Rear Admiral Craig E. Steidle (U.S. Navy, Ret.) has been named as President, effective May 15. Admiral Steidle was approved for the position by a unanimous vote of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s board of directors and will serve full-time in this capacity working from the organization’s headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C.

Admiral Craig Steidle, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

Admiral Steidle has a long and distinguished track record in aerospace as a former senior NASA official, flag officer, program manager, aerospace engineer, Naval aviator and combat veteran, and technology innovator.  At NASA, Adm. Steidle served as the first Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems, one of the most senior positions in the agency.  In 2004 and 2005, Adm. Steidle built the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate from the ground up into a $3 billion a year organization, personally initiating several innovative programs including efforts to foster commercial space transportation to the International Space Station, the Centennial Challenges prize program, and a far-ranging program of advanced technology development.

During his tenure at the Navy, Admiral Steidle became most well known for serving in the mid 1990’s as Director of the Joint Strike Fighter Program – the single largest Department of Defense development program in history.  As program manager, he implemented the innovative “fly-off” competition between the X-32 and X-35 prototype aircraft.  Under his command, the Joint Strike Fighter Program was awarded the David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award.  Adm. Steidle also commanded the Navy’s F/A-18 Program, naval aviation’s largest production, research and development program, as well as the largest foreign military sales program, and the Secretary of Defense presented Steidle with the Navy’s Outstanding Program Manager Award.  Earlier in his career, Adm. Steidle flew carrier night combat missions as an attack pilot during the Vietnam War and has served as a test pilot and test pilot instructor.  A graduate with merit as an aerospace engineer from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Adm. Steidle also has M.S. degrees in aerospace engineering and aeronautical systems management from Virginia Tech and the University of Southern California, respectively.  Adm. Steidle is currently a distinguished visiting professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, and serves as a consultant to the Department of Defense.

Admiral Steidle will succeed Bretton Alexander, who has served as the President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation since December of 2006.  Alexander stated, “We are incredibly fortunate to have someone of Admiral Steidle’s caliber able to devote his full-time attention to our organization.  It’s been a delight to serve the Commercial Spaceflight Federation as President these last four years, during what has truly been a time of dramatic change for the space industry.  Commercial spaceflight is now the law of the land and will be the primary way NASA gets astronauts to and from the International Space Station.  This robust partnership between NASA and U.S. industry will transform human spaceflight, providing the opportunity for all people – not just government astronauts – to one day travel into space.  Membership in the Federation has grown from under 10 companies when I joined to over 40 now, providing a strong foundation for our members to work together to open spaceflight to all.  Admiral Steidle’s vision for commercial spaceflight while at NASA convinced me then that this was truly the space program of the future, and I can think of no better person to lead this effort moving forward.”

Eric Anderson, Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and CEO of Space Adventures, Ltd., stated, “We could not have found a more qualified candidate to lead the Commercial Spaceflight Federation than Admiral Steidle.  He is a true visionary who knows that commercial spaceflight is the key to unlocking humanity’s future in space, and he is a proven manager and engineer who understands what is necessary to make our dream of becoming a true space-faring people a reality.”  Anderson added, “Bretton Alexander has done an outstanding job leading the organization during a critical period of dramatic industry and policy changes, operating under very limited resources, and we look forward to building on his record of success.”

Admiral Steidle stated, “It is an honor to be selected as President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.  The commercial space industry truly represents the future of America in space, and I’m excited to be a part of it.  This industry is inspiring kids, keeping America economically competitive, creating thousands of jobs, and ensuring our leadership in space.  It is a privilege to lead the Federation as we embark on the grandest adventure of the 21st century: opening up space to everyone.”

Admiral Steidle added, “The commercial spaceflight industry encapsulates all that is best about American entrepreneurship – the Wright Brothers’ can-do attitude, Thomas Edison’s penchant for innovation, the job creation fostered by a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, and the youthful excitement of Google and Facebook.  America badly needs commercial spaceflight to succeed.  What could be more motivating to our nation’s youth than a good-news story about job creation, entrepreneurship, inspiration, and old-fashioned can-do spirit?”

About the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

The mission of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) 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 www.commercialspaceflight.org or contact Executive Director John Gedmark at john@commercialspaceflight.org or at 202.349.1121.

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SpaceX Announces Launch Date for the World’s Most Powerful Rocket

April 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

WASHINGTON – Today, Elon Musk, CEO and chief rocket designer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) unveiled the dramatic final specifications and launch date for the Falcon Heavy, the world’s largest rocket.

“Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket, which was decommissioned after the Apollo program. This opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions,” Musk told a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“Falcon Heavy will arrive at our Vandenberg, California, launch complex by the end of next year, with liftoff to follow soon thereafter.  First launch from our Cape Canaveral launch complex is planned for late 2013 or 2014.”

Musk added that with the ability to carry satellites or interplanetary spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons or 117,000 pounds to orbit, Falcon Heavy will have more than twice the performance of the Space Shuttle or Delta IV Heavy, the next most powerful vehicle, which is  operated by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.

Just for perspective, 53 metric tons is more than the maximum take-off weight of a fully-loaded Boeing 737-200 with 136 passengers. In other words, Falcon Heavy can deliver the equivalent of an entire airline flight full of passengers, crew, luggage and fuel all the way to orbit.

View the launch simulation video at www.spacex.com/multimedia/videos.php?id=59 or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTwRxtmQ9IY

Falcon Heavy’s first stage will be made up of three nine-engine cores, which are used as the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.  It will be powered by SpaceX’s upgraded Merlin engines currently being tested at the SpaceX rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.  Falcon Heavy will generate 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.  This is the equivalent to the thrust of fifteen Boeing 747s taking off at the same time.

Above all, Falcon Heavy has been designed for extreme reliability.  Unique safety features of the Falcon 9 are preserved, such as the ability to complete its mission even if multiple engines fail. Like a commercial airliner, each engine is surrounded by a protective shell that contains a worst case situation like fire or a chamber rupture, preventing it from affecting other engines or the vehicle itself.

Anticipating potential astronaut transport needs, Falcon Heavy is also designed to meet NASA human rating standards, unlike other satellite launch vehicles.  For example, this means designing to higher structural safety margins of 40% above flight loads, rather than the 25% level of other rockets, and triple redundant avionics.

Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket in history to do propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the center core, thus leaving the center core with most of its propellant after the side boosters separate. The net effect is that Falcon Heavy achieves performance comparable to a three stage rocket, even though only the upper stage is airlit, further improving both payload performance and reliability.  Crossfeed is not required for missions below 100,000 lbs, and can be turned off if desired.

Despite being designed to higher structural margins than other rockets, the side booster stages will have a mass ratio (full of propellant vs empty) above 30, better than any vehicle of any kind in history.

Falcon Heavy, with more than twice the payload, but less than one third the cost of a Delta IV Heavy, will provide much needed relief to government and commercial budgets. In fact, Falcon Heavy at approximately $1,000 per pound to orbit, sets a new world record in affordable spaceflight.

This year, even as the Department of Defense budget was cut, the EELV launch program, which includes the Delta IV, still saw a thirty percent increase.

The 2012 budget for four Air Force launches is $1.74B, which is an average of $435M per launch. Falcon 9 is offered on the commercial market for $50-60M and Falcon Heavy is offered for $80-$125M. Unlike our competitors, this price includes all non-recurring development costs and on-orbit delivery of an agreed upon mission. For government missions, NASA has added mission assurance and additional services to the Falcon 9 for less than $20M.

Vehicle Overview

Mass to Orbit (200 km, 28.5 deg):      53 metric tons (117,000 lbs)
Length:                                                        69.2 meters (227 ft)
Max Stage Width:                                       5.2 m (17 ft)
Total Width:                                                11.6 meters (38 ft)
Weight at Liftoff:                                 1,400 metric tons or 3.1 million lbs
Thrust on Liftoff:                                 1,700 metric tons or 3.8 million lbs

Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the US Congress.  That vehicle is intended to carry approximately 150 tons to orbit.  SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars.

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Commercial Spaceflight Federation Responds to Recent Aerospace Corporation White Paper on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Washington, D.C., April 4, 2011 – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation released the following statement on the Aerospace Corporation’s Space Launch Projects Group/Launch System Division’s recent white paper on the business case of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, entitled “The Financial Feasibility and a Reliability Based Acquisition Approach for Commercial Crew”:

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a critical program for NASA’s future, serving as the fastest way to regain an American capability to fly astronauts to the Space Station and resulting in significant savings to US taxpayers.  While the Commercial Spaceflight Federation agrees with the Aerospace Corporation’s Space Launch Projects Group on its recognition of the importance of commercial spaceflight to NASA, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation finds many of the model inputs, assumptions and assertions in the white paper to be incorrect or inaccurate, and strongly disagrees with the white paper’s resulting conclusions.

As the authors of the white paper state, “The model and the results cannot validate the detail [sic] financials of any one commercial enterprise.”  Without appropriate inputs and assumptions, models cannot and should not be interpreted as generating real-world findings.

The white paper authors did not consult with industry in the course of their work, resulting in significant inaccuracies in the model inputs and assumptions. The white paper authors did not seek out real-world cost data, business case financials, or market assessments from potential commercial crew providers, such as United Launch Alliance, Sierra Nevada Corporation, SpaceX, Blue Origin, or others, nor did they contact the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.  The white paper authors likewise did not consult any of the private investors who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the commercial spaceflight industry based on this proprietary information.  As a result, many of the model inputs and assumptions used in the white paper are erroneous, contributing to conclusions that are incorrect and inaccurate.

The white paper primarily focuses on hypothetical spacecraft that are unlike those actually being developed. The white paper findings almost entirely revolve around the business case for spacecraft that have 4 seats, while most of the leading contenders for the Commercial Crew Program are developing vehicles with a capacity of 7 seats, including Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada Corporation.  For a given launch cost, a 7-seat capacity results in a significantly lower cost when compared with a 4-seat capacity.

The white paper assumes that commercial providers would sell seats to space tourists at a loss, but gives no explanation as to why a commercial business would sell its products or services at a loss. The commercial spaceflight industry categorically rejects this notion.  Industry further rejects the white paper’s additional notion that commercial providers would then increase rates to the government to subsidize that loss.  The Commercial Spaceflight Federation strongly disagrees with any of the white paper’s conclusions arising from these inexplicable assumptions.

The white paper ignores cases where sales of seats to other customers would actually decrease the per-seat cost to NASA. As one example, the white paper ignored the case where NASA purchases 4 seats on board a spacecraft that has a capacity of 7 seats.  Should no other customers participate, those three seats would fly empty, and NASA would pay the full cost of the flight.  However, if those empty seats are sold to other parties, the increased revenue from the flight could decrease the per-seat cost to NASA.  Alternatively, the extra volume and payload mass could be sold to NASA as room for additional cargo, generating additional revenue.

The white paper assumes a large fixed cost of $400 million per year per company, but gives no basis for this number. This assumed fixed cost, which would be in addition to the marginal cost of a given flight, is a primary driver for many of the resulting findings of the white paper.  Industry believes this number to be a significant over-estimate.  By comparison, SpaceX’s total expenditures over eight-and-a-half years as a company since it was founded are less than $800 million.  That includes the cost of developing two new launch vehicles from scratch (Falcon 1 and Falcon 9), developing the Dragon spacecraft, conducting seven launches, including an orbital test flight of Dragon, and building out the infrastructure for two separate launch sites.  It is highly unlikely that an additional $400 million per year in fixed costs would be required to conduct human spaceflight missions.  The Aerospace Corporation typically uses cost models based on historical costs of government systems, and is not equipped to do cost analysis for commercially developed systems, such as with the NASA Commercial Crew and COTS Cargo development programs.

The large assumed fixed cost appears to include significant double counting. Launch vehicle fixed costs are distributed between all launch vehicle customers, including: DoD and intelligence community national security missions, NASA science missions, commercial satellite missions, NASA technology demo missions, and unmanned cargo missions.  It is unclear if the white paper author’s fixed-cost number accounts for these effects.  In addition, this fixed-cost number is assumed to be a constant $400 million per company even when there are multiple winners, despite the fact that multiple winners may share launch vehicles, launch site infrastructure, training and medical facilities, recovery vessels, or other major components of fixed-cost estimates.

The white paper ignores the possibility of reductions in cost due to reusability. The Boeing CST-100, the SpaceX Dragon, and the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser have all been explicitly designed to be reusable, which would result in a significant reduction in the marginal cost of each mission.  The white paper made no effort to include this additional source of cost reductions.
The white paper ignores the “sovereign client” market entirely. The “sovereign client” market is well-established, and is defined as the sale of seats to other space agencies, other national governments, or similar entities.  By some estimates, this market could be equal to or larger than the orbital space tourist market.  Since 1978, the United States and Russia have flown almost 100 guest astronauts representing 30 countries, either in exchange for in-kind services or for payment.  There remains significant pent-up demand for additional spaceflight missions within these countries, and almost 150 nations have never had a citizen fly in space.  At least eight countries have active duty astronauts who have yet to fly in space and who are not currently manifested to fly on the Space Shuttle or Soyuz.  An example of this international interest is represented by the work of Bigelow Aerospace, which has already signed a number of MOUs with national space agencies, government entities, and companies in a diverse array of countries including the United Arab Emirates, Japan, and the Netherlands.

The white paper likely underestimates the demand for orbital space tourism to a significant degree. According to at least one study (Futron Space Tourism Market Study, 2002), the white paper authors significantly underestimate the demand for space tourist seats.  For example, the white paper assumes only 20 people in the world are willing to pay $30 million per seat.  There are currently approximately 30,000 people in the world worth $100 million or more who could purchase such a ticket.  Given that past experience shows people are willing to spend a significant fraction of their personal net worth in order to fly in space, such a minute market penetration seems unrealistic.

The white paper assumes a NASA demand of only 8 seats per year, which may significantly underestimate NASA’s demand over the long term. By comparison, NASA’s current demand for seats is approximately 40 seats to space per year, either through flights of the Space Shuttle or through Soyuz seat purchases.  It is reasonable to expect that with a robust, cost-effective U.S. commercial crew capability with large seat capacities, the government may in the future seek to restore NASA’s astronaut flights to 2010 levels in order to fully utilize the Space Station, to ensure a return on the $100 billion investment made in its construction, and to retain the national prestige that comes with having a vibrant astronaut corps.

The white paper ignores the potential for multiple winners to significantly keep development and operations costs low. The white paper does not model how competition in the market place would result in lower prices and work to prevent the significant cost overruns and schedule slips that have been the historic norm for government programs with a single winner.  The virtuous cycle of increased demand from NASA and other governments that would then result from these lower costs is likewise not modeled.

The white paper underestimates the rate of price increases by the Soyuz. The white paper assumes Soyuz prices are increasing at the rate of 5% per year and will have an average price of only $70 million per seat over 10 years of operations.  In reality, Soyuz prices have recently increased at the rate of 9-13% per year.  Even at steady (linear) increases of seat prices, current increases indicate an average price over 10 years of $87 million, a price level 24% higher than the price assumed by the white paper.

The white paper refers to the EELV’s as “government developed systems”, yet these systems were in fact commercially developed under a program structured almost identically to COTS and Commercial Crew. The EELV’s were developed using Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreements, with a fixed investment by the U.S. Air Force supplemented by private investment in order to meet government requirements.  Both EELVs, have had a distinguished record of success, with Atlas V having launched 24 of 24 flights successfully and Delta IV having launched 15 of 15 successfully.

In conclusion, any model that does not make use of appropriate assumptions or real-world data will be of limited use.  Given that the commercial spaceflight industry finds many of the model inputs, assumptions and assertions in the white paper to be incorrect or inaccurate, no findings or conclusions from the white paper’s analysis should be considered accurate or of significance in any real-world setting without significant further review and industry input.


About the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
The mission of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) 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 www.commercialspaceflight.org or contact Executive Director John Gedmark at john@commercialspaceflight.org or at 202.349.1121.

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