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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Astronaut Garrett Reisman Joins SpaceX

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

Joining Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance Team as SpaceX Prepares to Carry Astronauts

Hawthorne, CA– Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is proud to announce that NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman is joining the company as a senior engineer working on astronaut safety and mission assurance.

“We’re excited about the great team that we are building. Our talent is the key to our success. Garrett’s experience designing and using spaceflight hardware will be invaluable as we prepare the spacecraft that will carry the next generation of explorers,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Technology Officer.

Dr. Reisman will join former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox’s team in preparing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. In December, Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully return from orbit. In the coming years, NASA will use Dragon for at least 12 cargo missions to the International Space Station, creating strong flight experience before the first manned mission.

“I am excited to help SpaceX because I care deeply about the future of human spaceflight,” said Dr. Reisman. “I see commercial spaceflight as our country’s best option for a robust and sustainable human spaceflight future.”

Beyond safety, Dr. Reisman’s experience as an operator of both American and Russian spaceflight hardware will help SpaceX in the development of human interfaces including controls, displays, seats, suits and environmental control systems.

“After the Space Shuttle’s last flight later this year, America will be dependent on our Russian partners for getting NASA astronauts to space. NASA’s commercial crew development program is our only hope for a quick, safe and affordable alternative, and SpaceX is well-positioned to lead this effort given the strength of their performance during the NASA COTS program,” said Reisman.

Both the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been designed from the start to one day carry astronauts.

Dr. Reisman comes to SpaceX from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration where he has served since 1998. He has flown on two Space Shuttle missions, which include launching with STS-123 and returning with the STS-124 crew, as well as flying on STS-132. During these two missions, he logged over 3 months in space including over 21 hours of extravehicular activity (EVA) in 3 spacewalks. Dr. Reisman served with both the Expedition-16 and the Expedition-17 crews as a Flight Engineer aboard the International Space Station. Early in his time at NASA he was assigned to the Astronaut Office Robotics Branch, worked in the Astronaut Office Advanced Vehicles Branch, and was a crewmember on NEEMO V in 2003, living on the bottom of the sea in the Aquarius habitat for two weeks.

Dr. Reisman holds a B.S. in Economics and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from the University of Pennsylvania, a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He is an FAA Certified Flight Instructor. Dr. Reisman is from Parsippany, New Jersey.

Astronaut Garrett Reisman joins SpaceX as a senior engineer working on astronaut safety and mission assurance

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In Historic First, Three Scientists to Fly on Commercial Spacecraft

Washington, D.C., Monday, February 28, 2011 – Three scientists, including a former NASA executive, will become some of the first scientists to fly on a commercial spacecraft – and they will fly multiple times – under the terms of two funded agreements announced between the nonprofit Southwest Research Institute and two commercial spacecraft providers, Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace.

The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), a nonprofit research institute with annual revenue exceeding $500 million, will purchase a total of 8 to 17 scientific research flights on two vehicles – Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx Mark I – to fly both scientists and scientific payloads to the upper atmosphere and space.  The scientists selected for the flights are Dr. Alan Stern, Dr. Dan Durda, and Dr. Cathy Olkin, and the science payloads will include biomedical, microgravity science, and astronomical imaging projects.  All three scientists selected have trained for suborbital spaceflight aboard zero-G aircraft, in NASTAR centrifuges and aboard Starfighter F-104 jet fighters in the last year.

Dr. Stern, the former head of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, stated, “We at SwRI are very strong believers in the transformational power of commercial, next-generation suborbital vehicles to advance many kinds of research.  We also believe that by putting scientists in space with their experiments, researchers can achieve better results at lower costs and a higher probability of success than with many old-style automated experiments.”

George Whitesides, President and CEO of Virgin Galactic said, “This agreement signals the enormous scientific potential of the Virgin spaceflight system. Virgin Galactic will be able to offer researchers flights to space that are unprecedented in frequency and cost. Science flights will be an important growth area for the company in the years to come, building on the strong commercial success already demonstrated by deposits received from over 400 individuals for Virgin’s space experience.”

XCOR Aerospace’s COO, Andrew Nelson, stated, “When someone issues a commercial contract with their own money, this means something,” and XCOR’s chief executive officer, Jeff Greason, added, “I look forward to the pioneering work this partnership will achieve.”

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Executive Director John Gedmark added,  “This is a historic moment for spaceflight — a scientific research institution is spending its own money to send its scientists to space.  I expect that these scientists will be the first of many to fly to space commercially.  As the scientific community realizes that they can put payloads and people into space at unprecedented low costs, the floodgates will open even wider.”

Dr. Dan Durda, one of the Southwest Research Institute scientists selected to fly, said, “We’re another step closer to the era of routine ‘field work’ in space research.  More and more researchers will soon fly with their own experiments in space, and do it regularly enough to allow the important advances that come with iterative investigations. I’m looking forward to that future and helping it become a reality.”

The announcements come as more than 300 scientists, educators, engineers, and students are registered to attend the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference which began today in Orlando, Florida at the University of Central Florida, to discuss the topic of scientific applications of commercial suborbital spacecraft.  The conference runs through March 2nd.

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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Former Senator Schmitt Advocates A National Energy Plan As Constitutionally Mandated

February 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Off-Earth Resources 

The constitutional mandate for a rational, scientific, and economically sound national energy plan lies in its close modern relationship to the constitutionally mandated “common Defence”.  Dependence on foreign sources of oil, and therefore transportation fuels, limits both near and long-term national security options. That dependence also creates an economic burden to our economy that restricts the liberty of Americans and their 9th Amendment guarantee of the pursuit of happiness.

Dependence on imported oil removes the defensive and foreign policy leverage needed to prevent attacks by terrorist states.  Imports subsidize the financial supporters of terrorism. Dependence has the further effect of giving the United States no influence over the price it pays for oil.  If the price of oil came under the direct economic influence of the United States, for example, Iran would have great difficulty affording the development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.

Dependence on oil and gasoline imports also gives China further means to intimidate our national leaders into acquiescence to its continuing ambition for international dominance.  China’s rapidly growing economy has a major influence on world energy supply and cost, competing directly with our needs.  Cold War II has begun; however, it is being fought on an economic and energy front as well as on a military deterrence front.  On this point, China’s rapidly developing space capabilities and its expressed interest in lunar helium-3 energy resources cannot be ignored.

Many varied elements are necessary to a long-range plan that would ultimately provide for energy independence and a more stable economy.  A scientifically and economically based, long-range plan also would provide far more benefit to the preservation of the environment and natural resources than possible today.

In the near term, Congress must take back the control of regulatory laws it has transferred to the Executive Branch, particularly those rules that prevent attaining energy independence from commercially viable natural energy resources.  Closely tied to independence are the facilities necessary to refine domestic crude oil into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.  The One House Legislative Veto described previously in these essays [link] constitutes a constitutional means for the Congress to control rule making delegated to the Executive.

President Obama’s continuing statements and restrictive actions notwithstanding, the only commercially viable natural resource that currently offers an unsubsidized path to independence from imported oil is domestically accessible crude oil along with the domestic refineries necessary to create fuel oil, diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel.  Natural gas offers some potential to reduce imports; however, the use of tax credits or direct subsidies of the initial capital costs for fleet or aircraft conversions to natural gas, or even personal automobile conversions, should come with payback provisions as those  conversions realize long-term economies.

To fully understand the potential and challenges of gaining near-term energy independence, industry, national, and state policy makers require a more complete understanding of the potential resources of oil and natural gas available beneath public lands and in off-shore areas.  A rapid, cooperative industry-federal-state scientific assessment of those potential resources would provide the knowledge necessary to evaluate the private investments and national enabling policies necessary to achieve and maintain independence.

Research and technology development aimed at future commercially viable alternative portable fuels should focus on the following: coal liquids, ethanol from nonfood crops, and algal bio-diesel, and water-derived hydrogen from catalytic systems energized by the sun or by waste heat from needed power plants. Significant historical and current technological progress has been made with regard to these fuels; however, commercial viability must include production costs low enough to enable the creation of convenient and cost-effective fuel delivery infrastructures.  Battery-based systems do not constitute a viable, broadly applicable alternative portable drive system due to their very low, coal- or uranium-to-power-train total efficiency, as well as their charging inconvenience.

Major solar energy systems such a large-scale wind and solar electric plants are far from being competitive without major subsidies from taxpayers or ratepayers.  For these systems to have any hope of being practical contributors to the national energy mix, a significant technology development effort must be undertaken by industry. Due to the great competitive gulf between these systems and standard coal and nuclear systems, it is questionable if the federal government should be funding a new round of technology development.  Many more critical energy initiatives require urgent attention.

Other essays in this series [links] have made the scientific case that climate change largely results from natural phenomenon and that attempts to reduce the very small human induced component to such change will have little practical effect.  At the same time, misguided political efforts to control climate change unconstitutionally restrict the liberties of Americans.  On the other hand, even if not persuaded by the scientific evidence against human-caused climate change, the replacement of end-of-life coal-fired power plants with advanced nuclear plants constitutes the best of all economic and environmental worlds.  The first step in such replacement should be the reform and streamlining of regulations governing nuclear plant construction.  If that is done, and the time necessary to construct plants is halved, investment capital will follow the demand without any need for loan guarantees or subsidies.

At the same time as America should be moving toward nuclear power as the source of most of its electricity, the effort to find underground repositories for the burial of spent nuclear fuel rods should be abandoned. Monitored, retrievable, above ground storage makes much more sense in the long-term.  Future reprocessing of these rods will provide additional fuel for electrical power generation as well as numerous useful isotopes for medical and industrial applications.  The actual useless waste, that is, the much reduced, left over high-level radioisotopes, ultimately can be changed (transmuted) into stable isotopes or easily confined short-lived radioisotopes.

Reprocessing of nuclear fuel rods and transmutation of the remaining high-level radioactive waste will require significant new investment by industry if allowed by federal authorities.  Although defense-related spent fuel rods are currently reprocessed, and France reprocesses their civil reactor fuels, commercial reprocessing development in the United States was terminated by the Carter Administration.  It should be restarted, immediately. Transmutation of actual waste from reprocessing can be done most efficiently by exposure of radioisotopes to energetic protons produced by helium-3 fusion systems.  Until reprocessing and transmutation technologies have been developed to a commercial level of readiness, above ground, spent fuel rod storage is the most practical solution to this contentious issue.

In the longer term, the development of modular nuclear breeder systems, high temperature gas reactors, thorium-fueled reactors, and lunar helium-3 fusion should be part of the mix of systems examined by robust research and technology development programs. Government, industry, and academia should be mobilized into joint technology development efforts not unlike those that made American aeronautics the envy of the world in the 20th Century. Unfortunately, inherent scientific, engineering, capital costs, and waste disposal issues mean that the billions spent on pursuing tritium-fueled fusion will not succeed in developing a commercially viable fusion power system.

A central underlying issue in the implementation of a defense-oriented national energy plan continues to be the lack of both objectivity and quality in the American educational system [links].  From beginning to end, most young people now miss both the essential foundations of history, constitutional government, and science and mathematics necessary to participate in the implementation of such a plan. No energy plan, much less our national defense can be successful unless the States begin to fully live up to their 10th Amendment responsibilities in education.  As during the height of World War II and the Cold War, the Federal Government only should be a non-controlling partner in the funding of those elements of science and engineering education essential to the “common Defence” but no more than this if liberty is to be preserved.

Previous Congresses and Administrations have not upheld their constitutional mandate to “provide for the common Defence” relative to energy and instead have used politically motivated legislation and regulation to prevent the private sector from providing for the nation’s critical energy needs.  This neglect has led to a national security crisis through progressively increased dependence on foreign sources of oil as well as other strategic resources.  The Constitution requires that there be a concerted and immediate federal focus on energy independence.  This is not what the Founders would have desired, but past neglect means no choice remains other than capitulation to the economic and military intimidation of the enemies of liberty.

*****

Harrison H. Schmitt is a former United States Senator from New Mexico as well as a geologist and Apollo 17 Astronaut.  He currently is an aerospace and private enterprise consultant and a member of the new Committee of Correspondence.

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Conservative, Free-Market Leaders Call for Competitive Market in U.S. Spaceflight

February 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Competitive Space Task Force Unveils Framework for American Leadership, Innovation in Emerging Space Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 8, 2011 – The Competitive Space Task Force, a coalition of fiscal conservatives and free-market leaders, unveiled today its strategy for creating a free and competitive market for spaceflight and space services enabling the country to recapture the imagination and innovation of America’s space program and foster a new entrepreneurial spirit in the emerging Space Economy. The Task Force unveiled its core strategy and principles today at a press conference in the hearing room of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Retired Congressman and former Chairman of the House Science Committee Robert S. Walker remarked, “The Space Economy is emerging as the next great frontier for economic expansion and U.S. leadership. If we really want to ‘win the future’, we cannot abandon our commitment to space exploration and human spaceflight. The fastest path to space is not through Moscow, but through the American entrepreneur.”

In recent years, between the long-planned retirement of the Space Shuttle and the cancellation of Constellation and NASA’s troubled Ares rocket program, the U.S. has grown increasingly reliant on the Russian Soyuz for transportation to and from the International Space Station costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over just the next few years.

Rather than funding the Russian space program, the U.S. could be creating jobs at home by relying instead on America’s private space industry. America’s dependence on the Russian program is complicated by our foreign policy as we seek to discourage the Russians from aiding U.S. adversaries in the development of nuclear weaponry and missile technology.

Said Rand Simberg, Chairman of the Competitive Space Task Force, “America cannot simply sit in the passenger seat and expect to lead. We need to pilot the ship. We need to lead the way.”

According to the Task Force, an open and free market for both space transportation and services would fuel innovation, lower costs and create jobs. Recommendations to Congress include:

  • Accelerating efforts to stimulate new American industrial competitive crew transportation systems to low Earth orbit;
  • Opening up the U.S. segment of the International Space Station to the fullest possible economic utilization by the U.S. private sector;
  • Utilizing fixed-price, pay-for-performance contracts to reward private investment and innovation in human exploration and spaceflight projects;
  • And dramatically reducing the costs of NASA programs while opening up new commercial opportunities for private business in space.

The flawed assumption in the management of America’s space program, according to Task Force leaders, is that centralized five and ten-year plans through cost-plus contracts to selected contractors is the most efficient way to innovate and compete with the global space community. While the Task Force acknowledges this approach worked for the Apollo program, they point to recent successes and innovation in commercial space transportation, increased international competition and the limitations on government funding as catalysts for a new decentralized and entrepreneurial approach.

Said Simberg, “Government can and should create a framework for American industry and individuals to pursue their ideals and dreams, and space should be no exception. By opening space up to the American people and their enterprises, NASA can ignite an economic, technological, and innovation renaissance, and the United States will regain its rightful place as the world leader in space.”

About Competitive Space Task Force

Competitive Space Task Force (“CSTF”) is a coalition of leading conservative and free-market thinkers from organizations committed to creating a free and competitive market for U.S. spaceflight and space services, reducing government waste at NASA, and reclaiming America’s proud legacy of achievement in human spaceflight and technology innovation. Members of the Task Force include the Honorable Robert Walker; Competitive Enterprise Institute; Citizens Against Government Waste; TechFreedom; Andrew Langer, Institute for Liberty; Robert Poole, Reason Foundation; Ed Hudgins, The Atlas Society; and James Muncy, Space Frontier Foundation. Rand Simberg of the Competitive Enterprise Institute serves as Chairman of the Task Force.

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To Profit and Beyond

January 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Man’s greatest discoveries have most often led to great commercial gains – some more rapidly than others. Take, for example, the mere decade it took to go from Kitty Hawk and Orville Wright’s maiden twelve seconds in the air, during which time Wright traveled only 120 feet, to the first commercial air flight, piloted by Tony Jannus, which traveled from St. Petersburg to Tampa on January 1st, 1914. We all know how many industries have been developed since that time, that are either directly or indirectly related to air travel. If it were not for entrepreneurship and the private sector, flying might never have been developed to the extent it has for the general public.

Though flight was the foundation for space travel and lunar exploration, leaving Earth’s gravitational pull has been a very different business model. But all that is changing. Back when Neil Armstrong’s left boot hit lunar pay dirt on July 20th 1969, those of us fortunate enough to remember it probably did not know that the Apollo missions were costing the United States seven percent of its national budget. It has been almost forty years that Gene Cernan has held the title “The last man to step foot on the moon,” and that’s in no small part because of stricter government funding. The technology and manpower exist to return man to the moon, but until recently, national space programs were the only routes to get there. However, with the advent of business interests in space and lunar exploration, private funding is increasingly becoming available, which will allow man to truly understand the resources beyond Earth’s atmosphere, as well as to explore and expand possibilities of extended life support in space.

The private sector’s time has come. Lunar exploration has yielded interesting finds about resources for which mankind has a pressing need. With some of Earth’s resources rapidly depleting, both governments and businesses alike have been searching for more methods to recycle dwindling resources like water and petroleum, and to develop new ones such as bio fuels. But recent lunar exploration has proven what was earlier doubted, namely that the Moon has both large quantities of water, which may be made potable and a resource for hydrogen, as well as the Helium 3 ion, a crucial element of fusion power that is almost non-existent on Earth. Fusion power, unlike nuclear power, creates almost no waste, and could become mankind’s primary power source if harvested sufficiently. Still further, lunar platinum could bridge a large gap in the amount of the metal needed to convert all current internal combustion engines over to hydrogen power cell technology. As it stands, all the platinum on earth would not be enough to fill that gap, but the moon may have many times that here at home.

Obviously, with many national space programs lacking adequate funding, the private sector sees a great opportunity in lunar exploration. Lunar exploration can offer not only a significant harvesting ground for vital resources, but can also function as an outpost of the Earth for further space exploration. With only a single second time lag in communications, the Moon is close enough to our planet to allow man to control robots and other machines remotely, and can conveniently serve as a much-needed launching pad for any future private or national deep space telescope and research facilities. And along the way, a space-based infrastructure will be built to support these flights, reducing the cost of repeat flights and making the entire venture profitable and thus sustainable.

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Help NASA Find It’s Wayward Nanosat

I report on opportunities for the public to get involved with space exploration whenever I find them, and here’s the most recent.

If you’re a ham radio operator, you’ll be interested to know that NASA is asking for your help. This past November when the agency launched its Fast Affordable Scientific and Technology Satellite or FASTSAT, the NanoSail-D solar sail microsat stowed inside failed to deploy upon reaching orbit and was thought a loss until yesterday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time when a “spontaneous” ejection was detected.

Unfortunately, no confirmation has yet been received that NanoSail-D is active, and this is where you come in. NASA reports that the beacon signal can be found at 437.270 MHz. They ask anyone detecting a signal at that frequency to report the findings to the NanoSail-D dashboard at http://nanosaild.engr.scu.edu/dashboard.htm.

Artists rendering of NanoSat-D with its solar sail fully deployed. Courtesy NASA.

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Astrobotics: First Iteration of Rover Solar Array

January 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

From the Google Lunar X Prize site, comes this update from the Astrobotics team. And if you’re not familiar with this outfit, you’ll want to read the June 23, 2010 STN post titled The Undiscovered Country. Led by “Red” Whittaker of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, they’ve got the best lunar exploration plan I’ve seen to date.

—–

Our power systems team reached a major milestone by integrating a full complement of four solar panels into the rover’s avionics. These solar panels, which were fabricated in house, provide power to the rover’s electric motors and computers during field tests. A second iteration of the rover solar array is in development; this next iteration will incorporate space rated materials and be flight worthy.

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Taking the Next Step: Commercial Crew Development Round 2

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

December 8th 2010 marked an incredible accomplishment for SpaceX.  As most of you know, we became the first commercial company to successfully recover a spacecraft from Earth orbit.  This is a feat previously only accomplished by six other nations/government agencies, and was made possible only through our ongoing partnership with NASA.

While the flight was a significant technical achievement for SpaceX as a company, it was probably most significant for the American taxpayer.  The United States has an urgent, critical need for commercial human spaceflight.  After the Space Shuttle retires next year, NASA will be totally dependent on the Russian Soyuz to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station for a price of over $50 million per seat.

The December 8 COTS Demo 1 flight demonstrated SpaceX is prepared to meet this need–and at less than half the cost.

We believe the now flight-proven Falcon 9 and Dragon architecture is the safest path to crew transportation capability.  Both vehicles were designed from the beginning to transport astronauts.  The cargo version of the Dragon spacecraft will be capable of carrying crew with only three key modifications:  a launch abort system, environmental controls and seats.

In addition to last month’s successful demonstration, SpaceX recently took another critical next step towards the development of an American alternative to the Russian Soyuz.  On December 13th, we submitted our proposal to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev2) to begin work on preparing Dragon to carry astronauts.  The primary focus of our CCDev2 proposal is the launch abort system.  Using our experience with NASA’s COTS office as a guide, we have proposed implementing the crew-related elements of Dragon’s design with specific hardware milestones, which will provide NASA with regular, demonstrated progress including:

  • initial design of abort engine and crew accommodations;
  • static fire testing of the launch abort system engines; and
  • prototype evaluations by NASA crew for seats, control panels and cabin

SpaceX has proposed an integrated launch abort system design, which has several advantages over the tractor tower approaches used by all prior vehicles:

  • Provides escape capability all the way to orbit versus a tractor system , which is so heavy it must be dumped about four minutes after liftoff.
  • Improves crew safety, as it does not require a separation event, whereas any non-integral system (tractor or pusher), must be dumped on every mission for the astronauts to survive.
  • Reduces cost since the escape system returns with the spacecraft.
  • Enables superior landing capabilities since the escape engines can potentially be used for a precise land landing of Dragon under rocket power.  (An emergency chute will always be retained as a backup system for maximum safety.)

Click here to view the video.

While the maximum reliability is designed into our vehicles, there is no substitute for recent, relevant flight experience when it comes to demonstrating flight safety.  The Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to fly at least 11 more times and the Falcon 9 launch vehicle is scheduled to fly 17 times before the first Dragon crew flight.  Given the extensive manifest of Falcon 9 and Dragon, the SpaceX system will mature before most other systems will be developed.

The inaugural flight of the Dragon spacecraft confirmed what we have always believed—the responsiveness and ingenuity of the private sector, combined with the guidance, support and insight of the US government, can deliver an American spaceflight program that is achievable, sustainable and affordable.  The SpaceX team is excited about the new opportunities and challenges the New Year will bring.   Thank you for your ongoing support and we look forward to helping build America’s future space program.

Illustration of Dragon spacecraft in orbit. Credit SpaceX.

Photo of actual Dragon spacecraft after its first successful orbital flight. Credit: Mike Altenhofen / SpaceX

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Space Adventures Concludes Agreement to Offer Commercial Spaceflight Opportunities to the International Space Station

January 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Three seats available beginning in 2013

January 12 2011

Space Adventures, the only company that has provided human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, announced today the conclusion of an agreement with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA) and Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013.

These seats will be made available through the increase of Soyuz production, from four to five spacecraft per year. Each flight will be short duration, approximately 10 days, and will contribute to the increase of launch capacity to the ISS.

“We are extremely excited to announce this agreement and would like to thank our Russian partners in increasing Soyuz production and providing Space Adventures these well sought-after transportation services on the only commercially available manned spacecraft currently in operation,” said Eric Anderson, Chairman of Space Adventures. “Since Guy Laliberte’s mission, there has been an increase of interest by private individuals, organizations and commercial entities seeking ways to access the space station. We have been speaking with these parties about science, education and multi-media programs and hope to make some major announcements in the coming year.”

Space Adventures became world-renowned 10 years ago with the launch of Dennis Tito, the world’s first privately-funded space explorer. Since then, the company has arranged seven additional missions to the ISS. Cumulatively, our clients have spent almost three months in space, traveling over 36 million miles, and have been true ambassadors in sharing their experience and explaining to millions of people around the world why it’s important to explore space,” continued Mr. Anderson.

“We are very pleased to continue space tourism with Space Adventures. Also, the addition of a fifth Soyuz spacecraft to the current manifest will add flexibility and redundancy to our ISS transportation capabilities. We welcome the opportunity to increase our efforts to meet the public demand for access to space,” said Alexei Krasnov, Director of Human Spaceflight of FSA.

In support of the continued partnership between FSA, Energia and Space Adventures, Vitaly Lopota, President of RSC Energia, commented, “We were first in the space tourism marketplace and we are glad to expand our capabilities by adding a fifth Soyuz and to use these three additional opportunities for commercial flight participants, starting in 2013.”

Space Adventures, the company that organized the flights for the world’s first private space explorers, is headquartered in Vienna, Va. with an office in Moscow. It offers a variety of programs such as the availability today for spaceflight missions to the International Space Station and around the moon, Zero-Gravity flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecraft. The company’s advisory board includes Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, Shuttle astronauts Sam Durrance, Tom Jones, Byron Lichtenberg, Norm Thagard, Kathy Thornton, Pierre Thuot, Charles Walker, and Skylab/Shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott.

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Daring to Dream Big

December 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

At 10:43 a.m. EDT today SpaceX launched their Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40. Ten minutes later it successfully reached orbit where it separated from the Falcon 9 booster, made two revolutions around the globe, then reentered the atmosphere and splashed down on target in the Pacific Ocean, 500 miles off the coast of southern California. The flight went exactly as planned.

The last time a space capsule splashed down was December 19, 1972 when Apollo 17, the last of 7 (counting the “successful failure” of Apollo 13) human exploration missions to the lunar surface, returned home. And now, nearly 4 decades later, it’s been done again, but this time there’s a critical difference: the entire transportation system, both the Falcon 9 rocket and the space capsule, were built and flown by a private company.

The Dragon was unmanned for this first demonstration flight of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract let by NASA. Under the current agreement with the agency, SpaceX will use this new system for transporting cargo to and from the International Space Station. But the capsule was designed from the beginning to carry people as well as cargo. The only thing standing in the way of Dragon reaching its full potential in replacing the space shuttle is the exercise of option D of the contract, but their’s been resistance.

There are those in government who stubbornly cling to the notion that NASA should not rely on the private sector for transporting astronauts to the Station or other points in earth orbit, citing a lack of experience. They would rather continue a strategy of government-funded space transportation systems, which has repeatedly proven itself to be prohibitively expensive and vulnerable to changing administrations and ever-shrinking budgets. Of course this is absurd. The private sector has decades of experience in building and launching spacecraft of every conceivable type, and they will continue to do so with the same high standards that have kept them in business, because in business, if you fail, you don’t survive.

So if you’re holding on to a bottle of champagne for a special occasion, this is it. Pop the cork and celebrate today’s successful flight and recovery of the Dragon. We’ve taken a huge step forward on the road to affordable transportation to space and not only for a few but for all of us. The day when the average person can look to space for a career, or even a new place of residence, just got a lot closer thanks to a few people who dared to dream big.

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Space Industry Leaders and Astronauts Congratulate SpaceX on Historic Flight of Dragon Spacecraft

December 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Washington, D.C., Wednesday, December 8, 2010 – Space industry leaders, astronauts, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation are issuing the following statements following the successful launch, orbital operation, and splashdown of the Dragon capsule, a milestone in commercial spaceflight:

Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation:

“It’s a milestone on the path to realizing the first commercial human spaceflight capability. It’s historic in that it’s the beginning of a paradigm shift from a government human spaceflight architecture to one that opens up human spaceflight to the private sector.”

Mark Sirangelo, Chairman of Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems and Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation:

“On behalf of all the members of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation I would like to send our congratulations to Elon, Gwynne Shotwell and everyone working at SpaceX. The spaceflight community has received a historic piece of great news today. Years of hard work, resources and risk went into this flight and have led to this terrific achievement that stands as a door-opener for a new era in space.”

Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida:

“This flight marks another giant leap forward on the path of commercial spaceflight. Florida’s aerospace workforce can take special pride that SpaceX’s launch happened right here at the Space Coast. This success means more jobs for Florida and Floridians, and promises a vibrant commercial space capability for the nation. Florida is proud to host SpaceX for launch operations, and we look forward to many more flights of the Falcon and Dragon spacecraft as SpaceX and other commercial companies continue to create new jobs for Florida’s aerospace workforce.”

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation:

“In NASA’s new plans for space exploration a new player has taken center stage – American capitalism and entrepreneurship – and today’s SpaceX success strengthens my hope that entrepreneurial commercial space companies will at long last remove the cost barrier that slows our exploration of the solar system.”

Eric Anderson, Chairman of Space Adventures:

“What a tremendous accomplishment for SpaceX to succeed on the first Dragon spacecraft launch attempt. We see a bright future for the commercial spaceflight industry and today was another advancement.”

Byron Lichtenberg, former Space Shuttle astronaut:

“I expect that there will be a lot more astronauts in the future because of today’s success with Dragon. Lower cost launches means more flights, which means more astronauts. We’ve only had 500 astronauts in the history of the Space Age, but I hope to see thousands more in the decades to come thanks to new spacecraft like Dragon.”

Dr. Alan Stern, former NASA Associate Administrator for Science and now Associate Vice President at the Southwest Research Institute:

“Congratulations to SpaceX on this historic achievement and giant leap forward! Falcon 9, Dragon, and similar commercial rockets and spacecraft will open up commercial spaceflight in new ways, and make NASA’s Space Station program far stronger. They’ll also someday hopefully reduce or eliminate the need to depend on Russian launchers to get NASA astronauts to and from the Station, and that’s extremely important.”

Mike Lounge, former Space Shuttle astronaut:

“This is an exciting tipping point for commercial space. It goes a long way to validate a legitimate role for private enterprise in space exploration. Congratulations to SpaceX for their successful mission!”

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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FAA Awards SpaceX First Ever Commercial License to Re-Enter Spacecraft from Orbit

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

Hawthorne, CA – Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation was created in 1984, it has issued licenses for more than 200 launches.

On Monday, November 22nd, the FAA made SpaceX the first-ever commercial company to receive a license to re-enter a spacecraft from orbit.

Next month, SpaceX is planning to launch its Dragon spacecraft into low-Earth orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The Dragon capsule is expected to orbit the Earth at speeds greater than 17,000 miles per hour, reenter the Earth’s atmosphere, and land in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

This will be the first attempt by a commercial company to recover a spacecraft reentering from low-Earth orbit. It is a feat performed by only 6 nations or governmental agencies: the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Space Agency.

It is also the first flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to develop commercial supply services to the International Space Station and encourage the growth of the commercial space industry. After the Space Shuttle retires, SpaceX will make at least 12 flights to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station as part of a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract for NASA. The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft were designed to one day carry astronauts; both the COTS and CRS missions will yield valuable flight experience towards this goal.

The license is valid for 1 year from the date of issue.

About SpaceX

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft that will increase reliability and performance of space transportation, while ultimately reducing costs by a factor of ten. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, SpaceX has a diverse manifest of launches to deliver commercial satellites to orbit. After the Space Shuttle retires, the Falcon 9 and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will start carrying cargo, including live plants and animals, to and from the International Space Station for NASA. Falcon 9 and Dragon were developed to one day carry astronauts.

Founded in 2002, SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Valor Equity Partners. The company has over 1,100 employees in California, Texas and Florida. For more information, and to watch the video of the first Falcon 9 launch, visit the SpaceX website at SpaceX.com.

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