Warren Ferster Consulting asks whether the newly revived National Space Council will make much of a difference at NASA, whose human deep space programs are dependent upon the Congressionally supported Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.
Some have suggested that, with a space council chaired by Vice President Mike Pence cracking the whip, the full potential of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin can be brought to bear in support of the nation’s space goals. The implication is this hasn’t happened to date, which is puzzling since leveraging commercial capabilities to support the International Space Station was the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s space policy.
Obama was challenged in that effort not by the lack of a National Space Council, but by Capitol Hill, where key lawmakers viewed his outsourcing initiative as a threat to the pet program that they mandated, the decidedly uncommercial Space Launch System.
The super-heavy-lift SLS is exhibit A of the argument that getting the Executive Branch speaking with one voice on space policy, while sensible, won’t matter a great deal if Congress has a different agenda.
To recap, Obama’s human spaceflight policy was to outsource ISS crew and cargo transportation and invest in technologies with the potential to change the economics of deep space exploration. To make budgetary room, Obama canceled Constellation, a collection of hardware development programs begun under his predecessor, George W. Bush.
The article notes that Bush got bipartisan approval from Congress for the Constellation program without a National Space Council. The program included Orion and two space shuttle-derived Ares boosters for human orbital and deep-space missions.
Obama subsequently canceled the Constellation program, only to have Congress revive the program as SLS and Orion. Only the smaller Ares orbital booster was canceled.
Despite laying off its 21 remaining employees, XCOR Aerospace isn’t dead yet. But, it’s not in real good shape, either.
It turns out that a major blow to the company was the loss of a contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to develop an upper stage for the Vulcan booster.
The primary impetus for the layoffs, Acting CEO and XCOR Board member Michael Blum told me, is the loss of a contract for engine development that the company had with United Launch Alliance. “The proceeds should have been enough to fund the prototype of Lynx [the company’s planned spacecraft], but ULA decided they’re not going to continue funding the contract. So we find ourselves in a difficult financial situation where we need to raise money or find joint developments to continue.” ULA declined to comment.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce PR) — Blue Origin announced plans to manufacture its BE-4 engine in a state-of-the art production facility to be built in Huntsville, Alabama — the Rocket City.The new facility will be in Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second-largest research park, and construction can begin once an engine production contract with United Launch Alliance is awarded. The BE-4 is America’s next rocket engine and will power United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket, once down-selected. The production of this engine would end the nation’s dependence on Russia for access to space for critical national security space systems.
Officials at Orbital ATK and ULA breathed sighs of relief on Thursday as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.
The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.
By Douglas Messier
Back in February, Professor Brian Cox traveled here to Mojave with his friends Richard and Sam Branson to watch the third glide flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity.
Bowled over by what he saw even before the suborbital tourism vehicle glided overhead, Cox gave what amounted to a rousing endorsement of Virgin Galactic and SpaceShipTwo to a gathering of company employees.
“People ask me a lot because I’m a space geek and I’m obviously an evangelist for space, ‘Would you fly to space?” Cox said with Richard Branson seated beside him. “And I’ve always said, ‘Well yes and no, because in some sense it’s a dangerous thing to do.’ However, the moment I walked in this hangar and saw that aircraft, I thought, I want to get on that aircraft. So the answer is now is 100 percent yes.”
What was not widely known at the time was that Cox was filming a BBC-commissioned documentary about commercial space. And the company the corporation commissioned to co-produce it, Sundog Pictures, is owned and run by none other than Cox’s good friend, Sam Branson.
We lost a set of powerpack test hardware on one of our BE-4 test stands yesterday. Not unusual during development.
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) May 14, 2017
That’s why we always set up our development programs to be hardware rich. Back into testing soon. #GradatimFerociter
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) May 14, 2017
Ben Brockert says this means two big gas turbines exploded.
Florida’s success in drawing companies such as Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and OneWeb to the Space Coast could create a shortage of aerospace talent in the future, Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello said on Tuesday.
“I would even go so far as to say that this is the area I am most worried about for our aerospace future,” DiBello told several hundred guests at a National Space Club Florida Committee meeting in Cape Canaveral….
The Space Coast, anchored by the civil and military and space programs at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, has long been a hub for skilled aerospace workers.
And new companies had a ready supply to draw from after the retirement of NASA’s shuttle program in 2011 resulted in roughly 8,000 layoffs of contractors.
But looking ahead, DiBello said Florida does not produce enough aerospace-related degrees and lags a dozen states in attracting federal funding for space-related research, metrics that need to improve.
A source on the Space Coast recently told Parabolic Arc that NASA’s exploration ground system program, which is developing supporting infrastructure for the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, has been impacted by workers taking positions with Blue Origin, which is building a rocket production facility nearby and modifying a launch pad at Cape Canaveral.
WASHINGTON (Senate Science Committee PR) – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled “Reopening the American Frontier: Reducing Regulatory Barriers and Expanding American Free Enterprise in Space” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.
This hearing will examine the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act signed into law in November 2015, potential regulatory barriers to address in future legislation, and ways to expand commercial opportunities for American firms in space.
• Mr. Robert Bigelow, Founder, Bigelow Aerospace
• Mr. Rob Myerson, President, Blue Origin
• Mr. George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic
• Mr. Andrew Rush, CEO, Made in Space
* Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
In what is likely a surprise to no one, United Launch Alliance’s CEO said this week the company is leaning toward selecting Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine in the first stage of its new Vulcan rocket — providing upcoming engine tests go well.
That would leave rival Aerojet Rocketdyne and its AR1 engine without a booster to fly on.
In an interview during the 33rd Space Symposium here, Tory Bruno said that tests of the BE-4 engine, scheduled to begin “very soon” at Blue Origin’s test site in West Texas, are the last major hurdle the engine must clear before ULA decides to use it on Vulcan.
WASHINGTON, DC (NAA PR) — The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced last evening at their Spring Awards Dinner that the Blue Origin New Shepard has been named as the recipient of the 2016 Robert J. Collier Trophy “… for successfully demonstrating rocket booster reusability with the New Shepard human spaceflight vehicle through five successful test flights of a single booster and engine, all of which performed powered vertical landings on Earth.”
Our New Shepard flight test program is focused on demonstrating the performance and robustness of the system. In parallel, we’ve been designing the capsule interior with an eye toward precision engineering, safety, and comfort. Here’s a sneak peek.
If you happen to be attending the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs April 3-6, come see this for yourself. The high-fidelity capsule mockup will be on display alongside the New Shepard reusable booster that flew to space and returned five times.
By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
NASA recently marked a decade since it began a new era in commercial spaceflight development for low-Earth orbit transportation. The space agency inked agreements in 2006 to develop rockets and spacecraft capable of carrying cargo such as experiments and supplies to and from the International Space Station.
By Jeff Bezos
Although the BE-4 turbopump is smaller than your refrigerator, it generates 70,000 horsepower from a turbine running at nearly 19,000 revolutions per minute that pumps cryogenic propellants to pressures just under 5,000 pounds per square inch. To react the forces generated by the rotating turbine and impellers inside the pump, production rocket turbopumps to date have used traditional ball and roller bearings. For BE-4, we’re doing something different – we’re using hydrostatic bearings.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The portfolio of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will soon include large-scale satellite manufacturing following Thursday’s groundbreaking for a 150,000-square foot spacecraft factory in the center’s Exploration Park.