Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

NewSpace 09: Ames Commercial Space Efforts

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 18, 2009
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Dan Rasky – Director, Space Portal, NASA Ames
John Hogan – Environmental Scientist, NASA Ames
Yvonne Cagle – Suboribtal Science and Advanced Life Support, NASA Ames

Dan Rasky
Director, Space Portal at NASA Ames

“With the new administration we have in place….I really believe that we’re looking at a new era for NASA where commercial space will play a significant role, a much greater role than it has in the past.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden statements on commercial space:

— ISS is something that Bolden wants to build upon….ROI on $100 billion investment in the space station…

— country was founded by entrepreneurs, not on government bureaucracy….tap into that growth engine….

A lot of efforts have been made over the years to open up NASA for cooperation with commercial space

Working with Google, SpaceX, Masten Space Systems, Blue Origin, Scaled Composites, Paragon SDC, Odyssey Moon, etc. etc.

SpaceX Co-op:

–Space Act agreement to support SpaceX on thermal protection systems – this is one technology that is only found within NASA….selected a NASA technology that Rasky invented for their heat shield technology on the Dragon capsule…

–Dragon capsule – “They’re moving along very very well on that vehicle.”

Rasky worked with SpaceX in helping to design Dragon….

–“What a pleasure that was. It was so much fun.”

–In a meeting where SpaceX’s Elon Musk in which they were making key design decisions. Elon asked him his opinion, he gave it, and they decided to do it that way. Rasky was shocked that he was able to actually have an effect on things….no multiple layers of bureaucracy to go through…

Yvonne Cagle
Commercial Suborbital Research Program

“New paradigm” – leverage private sector by purchasing seats on a variety of commercial suborbital space vehicle…

Will allow researchers like never before to do research in microgravity” – 3 to 4 minutes of free flight for each mission….a significant improvement on the 23 seconds or so with current parabolic aircraft….

“It’s not just about science, it’s about technology, too.”
Technology testing, milestones

Workforce development
– how do we maintain proficiency in payload processing in the gap between shuttle flights and first Orion ones…good opportunity
-can build new workforce….


~ 2011 – researchers will be able to fly experiments
~ 2012 – researchers will be able to fly with their experiments

NASA will wait for suborbital spacecraft to achieve an acceptable level of safety before letting researchers fly with their experiments

Has held several workshops with research community…a large pent-up demand for microgravity work….a wide range of things that could be done in 4 minutes of weightlessness….


Co-operation with commercial sector
Costs less
Customizable and agile
Uninterrupted period of weightlessness – no 2G pullout as with a parabolic aircraft flights
Easily repeatable
Greatly improves opportunities for student research

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