AIAA Convention Coverage

Hey everyone.

I’m down in Pasadena today covering the afternoon sessions of the AIAA Space 2012 Conference & Exposition. There was a plenary session on NASA’s beyond Earth orbit exploration plans earlier, and then there are individual sessions for the rest of the day. A few things to note:

SLS and Orion

  • Everything is on course for an Orion test flight aboard a Delta IV rocket in late 2013
  • NASA will be able to scale the Space Launch System as needed for capacities of 70, 105 and 130 metric tons — tooling and production being designed to accommodate different cargo functionality
  • Officials expect the SLS launch rate to be two to three flights per year in early 2020s

Tauri Group Analysis of Suborbital Market
[Earlier PA Story]

  • Market over next 10 years largely driven by tourism flights (80 percent)
  • Rest of demand is research, tech demonstration, etc.
  • Technical obstacles to point-to-point (New York-Tokyo, for example) are insurmountable over the next decade — shorter flights (KSC to Cecil Field, for example) more likely but not much of a market
  • A lot of success driven by how well flights go — Ashton Kutcher flies and says its great, then interest will surge — Angelina Jolie comes back with vomit all over her Pradas, then business will suffer

Athena RideShare Program

  • Dedicated RideShare flights for small payloads
  • Smallsats and P-PODS (Cubesats)
  • Smallsats at $10 million apiece and P-PODS at $300,000 each at firm-fixed prices
  • Launched out of Kodiak on an annual basis
  • Joint Lockheed Martin-ATK effort to bring Athena rockets out of retirement with upgrades to service smallsat market
  •  Athena I rockets flew seven times from 1995 to 2001 (five successes, two failures according to Wikipedia)
  • Most famous payload was Lunar Prospector in 1998 (Wikipedia)