February 2010 Archives
In response to Buzz Aldrin's article in the Wall Street Journal Burt Rutan has circulated the following:
This sounds fine thru the lens of my friend Buzz Aldrin. However, the reality is that the new plan has no schedules, no $ and no programs to build government hardware for ANY future manned spaceflight activity.
In 1962 we contracted North American to develop the Apollo spacecraft before we had even decided that we would need to do LOR (lunar orbit rendezvous). It was another 3+ years before rendezvous was demonstrated in earth orbit! We boldly moved forward with the assumption that the technology would be there. In contrast, NASA has, for the last 2 decades shown that they can burn thru hundreds of billions of $ without flying anything new. The new plan almost guarantees another decade or two of the same behavior.
Burt Rutan has given Hyperbola permission to print in full the original memo the founder of Scaled Composites sent to Congressman Frank Wolf that was the basis for the Wall Street Journal article that has sparked so much comment including from Rutan himself. Rutan's further comments that he released on 26 February can be found here in Hyperbola's previous blog posting about this episode in the US national debate over what NASA should do next
I occasionally banter with my friend, Mike Griffin on subjects that
include golf, the AGW scare and NASA policy. After sending him my
latest tirade, he shared with me his recent letter to you regarding
taxpayer-funded space research. I promised him that I would send you my
thoughts on the debate, which follow:
From my past comments on NASA's post-mid-70s manned space
efficiencies/accomplishments, an observer might think that I would
applaud a decision to turn this important responsibility over to
commercial developers. However, he would be wrong.
Finally NASA has announced what has been trailled here at Flightglobal.com and Hyperbola for some time, with one twist. rather than the MPLM Raffaello becoming the PMM, it is now the module Leonardo
You can watch here NASA ISS programme manager Michael Suffredini talk about what it would take for this permanent module Shuttle mission. Incredibly NASA originally rejected this idea despite the clear gap in station spares and supplies once Space Shuttle is retired. Now the final Shuttle flight, STS-133/Discovery, will be an assembly mission adding more capability to the outpost and increasing its international contribution
NASA AND ITALIAN SPACE AGENCY FIND NEW USE FOR MODULE
WASHINGTON -- NASA and the Italian Space Agency announced a new use for an existing Multi Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) known as "Leonardo." It will be transformed into a Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) for the International Space Station.
Burt Rutan has released the following statement:
To my friends in the Press...
Since the WSJ chose to cherry-pick and miss-quote my comments to Cong
Wolf and since the blogs have taken that to further mischaracterized my
comments, I am forwarding the Wolf memo in its entirety, in the hopes
that some of this gets corrected. Some additional clarification of my thoughts follow:
With over a year to go before the 50th anniversary of the beginning of human spaceflight on 12 April 2011 the Russian Federal Space Agency (aka Roscosmos) has already started a Yuri Gagarin 50th anniversary webpage to collect Gagarin memorabilia and then showcase it on the website. The first flight of a human being into space is celebrated every year around the world on 12 April under the banner of "Yuri's night", no doubt the celebrations will be bigger and better than ever on the 50th anniversary. The video above is in Russian and also shows Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, mastermind of the Soviet space programme
UPDATED: here is another video
caption: Passed to Hyperbola will this authorisation bill have any more significance than any other?
NASA administrator Charles Bolden will be required to select a heavy lift vehicle concept and start detailed design work within six months of the enactment of the 2010 NASA authorisation act if the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee bill, as it was drafted on 9 February, is adopted
The alleged draft of the Senate committee's authorisation bill, entitled Human space flight capability assurance and enhancement act 2010, sent to Hyperbola includes the possibility of Space Shuttle extension, the expansion of NASA's commercial crew and cargo programmes to include beyond low Earth orbit capability and management by a non-profit organisation of the national laboratory that is the International Space Station's
In an interview with Russian spaceflight magazine Novosti Kosmonavtiki Anatoly Perminov (see picture) head of the Federal Space Agency (aka Roscosmos) talks about the agency's plans for its new launch vehicles and spacecraft, which now include "orbital tugs" and "transfer stages" for manned lunar missions
Click here to launch the Realplayer video of the 1h 38min Congressional webcast of the House of Representatives' committee on science and technology subcommittee on space and aeronautics 3 February 2010 hearing called Key Issues and Challenges Facing NASA: Views of the Agency's Watchdogs
credit: NASA / caption: Orion is to be cancelled but what will Congress and NASA do now?
If president Barack Obama's plan for human spaceflight wasn't disconcerting enough with little detail then the lack of consultation with NASA personnel in its formation speaks volumes
NASA's deputy associate administrator for strategic partnerships, and prolific blogger, Wayne Hale spoke to the Orion project office's "all-hands" meeting that was held last Friday at Johnson Space Center. Hyperbola has been told that Hale said the agency submitted its fiscal year 2011 request and never received any feedback around Thanksgiving when it normally would. But neither was this just some sort of delay, this time around everybody, and apparently it was everybody, found out what the budget was at the same time this journalist and everyone else clicked on the webpage at nasa.gov
credit: NASA / caption: the VASIMR engine could be on the ISS by 2015
Click here to go to the webpage to listen to the 3min 43s interview with Ad Astra Rocket company president and chief executive Franklin Chang Diaz, former NASA astronaut and inventor of the VAriable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). Chang Diaz talks about his plans for VASIMR and co-operation with NASA that could see commercial services for the propulsion technology during this decade. Above is a NASA created image of the company's VX-200-1 VASIMR flight engine installed on the International Space Station
C-SPACE says: "NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and others spoke to reporters and answered questions about NASA's fiscal year 2011 budget. The budget cuts most of the funding for missions to the moon and includes new funds for commercial space flight."
In some respects the location of the new European Space Agency facility at the Harwell Science Centre in Oxfordshire should have been a big clue. The centre is also a location for the UK's Atomic Energy Authority, aka UKAEA, and Harwell has been involved in nuclear research since 1945
The British National Space Centre's space science director David Parker told Hyperbola that a demonstration of European radioisotope power source technology could take place after the 2011 meeting of ESA's member states. Work on radioisotope power sources is already underway at ESA through two programmes, general technology research and Mars exploration, that have a financial investment of about €8 million ($10.8 million) until 2011
Credit: DLR / caption: EADS Astrium Phoenix was designed for autonomous landings
Meet Alpha the new suborbital vehicle under study for the European Union, or perhaps I should add the forerunner to Alpha that was called Phoenix, built by EADS Astrium (then known as Space) and tested in 2004 for the German Aerospace Centre DLR
Phoenix was a subscale reusable launch vehicle testbed for flight testing automatic subsonic approaches and landings
But sources involved in the European Union funded and European Space Agency managed Future high Altitude high Speed Transport (FAST) 20XX programme tell Hyperbola that Phoenix is the basis for the air launched reusable suborbital vehicle that is being called Alpha - just look at the official image for a start
credit: ESA / caption: Looks a bit like the EADS Astrium's Phoenix doesn't it
Or it is if this history blog is correct in its re-telling - discovered by this blogger via English language Indian tweeter Pradx - of that key moment in US space policy when the Richard Nixon administration ended Apollo
According to the Beyond Apollo blog site Nixon's NASA was presented with five options for what the agency could do next as the Moon programme was wound down
Agence France Presse reports alleged Russian intentions to hike NASA astronaut seat prices after 2012 and NASA has released its synopsis for buying Soyuz seats through Q2 2014
The Roscosmos news page reveals that the Multi-purpose Research Module Poisk has had its computer replaced. The new computer terminal arrived with the Progress vehicle M-04M. The news page also qoutes an official saying that International Space Station extension to 2020 will see additional Russian modules if a decision is taken in March but we already knew that new modules were in the offing
Perminov held a meeting at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and pictures can be found here at the Roscosmos news webpage. The English language report suggests that Russia plans a major expansion for the famous city for cosmonaut training. The GCTC, also known as Star City, became a civilian Roscosmos run facility last year after decades as a military centre
Interfax.com reports NASA and Roscosmos thinking about cooperation on new rocket engines using new sources of energy - nuclear perhaps? Go here for an interview with a Russian academic about the prospects for nuclear energy in space - you'll need to use Google translate if you don't read Russian
But to watch existing rockets do their thing go here for a live webcast of two launches taking place tomorrow on 12 February
The joint statement by the International Space Station partners can be found here welcoming president Barack Obama's comitment to extending ISS use and the boost for station related space operations in the fiscal year 2011 budget request. The statement says:
The MCB also noted that the U.S. Administration's 2011 NASA budget submission continues the ISS to at least 2020 and expands efforts to utilize this unique platform for scientific, technological, and educational purposes by increasing the ISS budget by $2B over four years.
The UK's "New Space" company Reaction Engines has posted a new news item on its website for January with a picture of the company's founder Alan Bond and employees at a NASA facility. The company reports that
There was considerable interest in SKYLON and many areas of possible cooperation are being explored further as a result.
The news item also reports that the UK company's heat transfer technology trials begin next month and that work is well underway on the D1 configuration for the single stage to orbit spaceplane Skylon
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Scotland's Lossiemouth is the best place for a UK spaceport for launching satellites by rocket and by air-launch according to the British National Space Centre (BNSC), which is expected to become a space agency later this year
David Williams, director general for the BNSC, told Hyperbola about the study's conclusion at the 10 February publication event of the Space innovation and growth team report. Within the report's 16 recommendations it proposes changes to the UK Outer Space Act - the UK's domestic law to comply with the cold war-era outer space treaties its ratified - to help space tourism operators
The BNSC study examined the UK's coastline for likely launch sites and due to launch system reliability and a need for a clear airspace Williams says that Lossiemouth is the best option. Due to its northerly location it also has advantages for satellites that are to be placed in a polar orbit
Lossiemouth is already the location of a Royal Air Force base. Because of the RAF's base long runway Virgin Galactic has expressed interest in operating from there. The spaceline is also interested in launching micro satellites using its WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft and an expendable rocket
UK space minister Lord Paul Drayson of Kensington announced that the BNSC would become a space agency last December
credit: BNSC / caption: this is the front cover of the Space IGS report
Not yet available at either the British National Space Centre or Space Innovation and Growth Team (IGT) websites but found here at its own website, here are some choice qoutes from the latest review of the UK's spaceflight industry, the Space IGT's strategy report
Over the last decade, industry and Government have collectively failed to grasp the opportunities we identify in this report. Space in the UK has been characterised by review after review allowing other countries to steal a march on us. This must now cease and be replaced by positive and practical actions. We must make up our minds where we want to go and where we want to be in 20 years time.
The council will oversee the implementation of recommendations from the Space innovation and growth team report. Published on 10 February it advocates a doubling of UK spending on spaceflight to over £500 million ($780 million) by 2020.
The report has 16 recommendations including a technology programme that begins at £20 million this year rising to £100 million by 2015, a UK Earth observation system, a satellite technology demonstrator, export credit guarantee support, satellites for universal broadband access and participation in robotic and human exploration.
Industry wants a decision on the £20 million technology programme by May but the UK is expected to have a general election that month.
Tweeted yesterday by Hyperbola, below is the full text of Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan's response to Associated Press science writer Alicia Chang:
That is not a "NASA plan"; it is the proposed budget from the White House. It will likely be revised by the Congress. I am for NASA doing either true Research, or doing forefront Exploration, with taxpayer $.
Ares/Orion is more of a Development program than a Research program, so I am not depressed to see it disappear. I am concerned to see NASA manned spaceflight disappear, since they provided world leadership in the 60s and part of the 70s. The result was America's universities being the leader in Science/Engineering PhDs.
Many American kids will be depressed by the thought that our accomplishments will not be continued and thus America will fall deeper away from our previous leadership in Engineering/Science/Math. I believe our future success depends on our ability to motivate our youth.
I would support a restructuring of goals and funding so NASA can be allowed to perform like the 60s on space Research and on Exploration. There is not a shred of evidence that the President sees any value in those goals.
Alicia, my thoughts have also been distributed to other Media.
credit: Sierra Nevada / caption: Sierra Nevada's Dreamchaser docks with the International Space Station
In the picture above Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dreamchaser reusable vehicle concept docks with the International Space Station. Of NASA's five Commercial Crew Development initiative funded space act agreements announced on 2 February Sierra Nevada won the largest sum, $20 million out of a total fund of $50 million
Sierra Nevada's Mark Sirangelo told Hyperbola: "We are planning to mature our rocket motor system and develop an early prototype drop test vehicle under this programme and supplementing it with our own resources. It is only an eight month programme in its current form. Our programme goal is to have a usable orbital vehicle in service by 2014. The vehicle will take seven crew and critical cargo to and from [low Earth orbit] destinations and be able to land on a 3,000m [9,800ft] runway. Our team consists of seven prominent space companies and universities all with considerable experience."
credit: Lockheed / caption: cancelled? but it could fly in 2013 says Lockheed
The total annihilation of the Constellation programme with the culling of the Orion crew exploration vehicle and any vestigal remains of the Ares V cargo launch vehicle was a surprise for this blogger. Despite the prospects for Constellation beginning to look bad last year with the Review of US human spaceflight plans Lockheed Martin officials could still be seen smiling at the technical conferences I attend while Ares contractors were obviously not happy bunnies
And that big smile on Lockheed's employees' faces seemed justified because, for what has felt like forever, we have been hearing that a commercial provider could deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station but something else would take the brave explorers beyond low Earth orbit. Throughout all of the kerfuffle over the cancellation of Constellation in the last few days this blog has not spotted (correct me if I'm wrong) any one asking the question, what are the astronauts travelling beyond LEO to travel in?
credit: Boeing / caption: Boeing's commercial crew capsule, so that's what happened to the Northrop/Boeing Orion
click on any of the images in this blog post to see larger versions in the same browser window
Originally planned to cost $500 million which the agency would match against private finance to help develop new transportation systems, the real cost now looks to be at least $800 million
In today's exploration FY2011 budget teleconference NASA exploration systems mission directorate head Doug Cooke admitted that the $312 million for "commercial cargo" was $300 million of additional monies - over the $12 million originally planned for FY2011 under the FY2010 budget
While the FY2011 budget document refers to "additional incentives" under commercial cargo on page 10 Cooke said in the telecon that the $312 million was "insurance" so they, the COTS companies Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences could succeed; and that the money would help accelerate the programme with "more flights" and enhancements such as "downmass," which could be a reference to Orbital's Cygnus spacecraft that unlike SpaceX's Dragon was not originally conceived as being able to bring back cargo
The hike could be an embarressment for president Barack Obama's new spaceflight vision and his NASA administrator Charles Bolden because the agency and administration has, in the past 48 hours, invested so much confidence in what is effectively the privatisation of low Earth orbit transport of crew and cargo - with the announcement of the Commercial Crew Development initiative funded space act agreement winners
This bloggers question, if selected during the teleconference Q&A, would have been, how does CCDev tally with this new commercial crew transportation programme that will get $500 million in fiscal year 2011. Is CCDev, for example, going to be the COTS to the commercial crew programme's CRS?
COTS being the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services demonstration project that is funding Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences and CRS, or Commercial Resupply Services, being a competitively tendered contract for ISS cargo resupply
The winners Bolden announced are Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin, Paragon Space Development and Sierra Nevada Corporation. We know that Bigelow Aerospace has teamed with Boeing. Space Exploration Technologies told this blog off the record a whileback that they were not expecting to be selected for CCDev
Deputy administrator Lori Garver explained during the teleconference that the companies that were part of the Constellation programme could use some of the output from that, from the approx. $9 billion invested, to offer spacecraft for the new commercial programme
More detail will be given tomorrow at the 2 February 10:00h local time (15:00h GMT) press conference at the National Press Club when NASA administrator Charles Bolden and John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, speak about the new commercial efforts
But with the NASA aprorpiations bill for FY2010 requiring Congressional approval to cancel the Constellation programme the mere fact that Obama has requested in his budget for FY2011 that it be cancelled does not make it so. Healthcare bills anyone?
OMB releases NASA budget higlhights - care of Jeff Foust