NASA Funds Studies on Commercializing Earth Orbit

The Cygnus cargo craft slowly departs the space station after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In an ongoing effort to foster commercial activity in space, NASA has selected 13 companies to study the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, including long-range opportunities for the International Space Station.

The studies will assess the potential growth of a low-Earth orbit economy and how to best stimulate private demand for commercial human spaceflight. The portfolio of selected studies will include specific industry concepts detailing business plans and viability for habitable platforms, whether using the space station or separate free-flying structures. The studies also will provide NASA with recommendations on the role of government and evolution of the space station in the process of transitioning U.S. human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit to non-governmental enterprises.


Commercial Space Entrepreneurs Look to the East for Funding

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo: Made in America, financed in the Middle East. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg)

While Europe lurches from sovereign debt crisis to debt crisis, the United States struggles with a ballooning budget deficit, and investors worldwide pull back on spending, there is one area of the world that still has a mountain of funds to spend. It’s a reality could have a major effect on the path of the nascent commercial spaceflight industry in the years ahead.


Report: CCDev Competition Down to at Least 7 Companies

A Boeing CST-100 crew module docks at a Bigelow Aerospace space station. (Credit: Boeing)

Space News is reporting that the competition for $200 million in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) funding is down to at least seven companies:

  • ATK
  • Blue Origin
  • Boeing
  • Orbital Sciences Corporation
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation
  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Citing industry sources, the publication says that representatives from the companies were invited to Johnson Space Center in Houston earlier this month to discuss their proposals. NASA plans to award funds next month contingent on Congressional action on its budget.


NASA CCDev Update: Three Down, Two to Go

The government has published status updates on NASA’s five Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) 1 grants which were awarded last February. Sierra Nevada Corporation, Blue Origin and Paragon Space Development Corporation have completed their work as planned by the end of the calendar year. The Bigelow/Boeing team and United Launch Alliance have been given extensions through March and April, respectively. NASA awarded a total of $50 million for the first round; it will award about $200 million in additional grants in March.

Individual status reports follow after the break.

NASA HSF: What the Frak is Going On?

Back in the day (which I think was only last year ago), the SyFy Channel (then known as SciFi) would produce short video recaps updating its perpetually perplexed viewers on the latest developments in its maddeningly complex space drama, “Battlestar Galactica.”

The recaps were titled “Battlestar Galactica: What the Frak is Going On?” Frak being the alien equivalent of a four-letter English that can’t be used on basic cable. Why was it OK to show people getting blown to bits but not cursing? Who knows? But, I digress…

In this spirit, I would like to briefly explain what I believe is going on with Obama’s proposed human spaceflight policy, “Galatica” style.


Bigelow Space Habitat Moves Closer to Reality

Exterior View of Genesis module
Exterior View of Genesis module

Space ‘Hotel,’ for Business or Pleasure, Takes Shape
ABC News

Imagine yourself, sometime in the next decade, with a fantastic idea for a new business that requires manufacturing in the weightlessness of space. Or maybe, having made your fortune on Earth, you’d simply like to vacation in a very high place.

The Russians charge upward of $50 million for a short trip to the International Space Station. NASA can’t help you at all. But there’s a Nevada company ready to offer a month’s stay in Earth orbit for $15 million — a bargain, considering that for 40 years, the cost of space travel has stubbornly refused to come down.


More Thoughts on Bigelow, Lockheed Martin Deal

Pundit Rand Simberg has weighed in on the proposed deal for up to 50 Lockheed Martin Atlas V launches to support Bigelow Aerospace’s planned Sundancer space station. Simberg discusses the rocket’s reliability as well as NASA’s decision not to use the Atlas as the basis for a shuttle successor.

Bigelow, Lockheed Near Deal for Up to 50 Atlas Launches

Flight Global reports that Bigelow Aerospace and Lockheed Martin are in final negotiations for Lockheed to provide a human-rated capsule and up to 50 Atlas V cargo and crew launches to an orbital space station by 2015.

Bigelow’s Sundancer space station will be composed of three inflatable modules and a propulsion unit. The modules are due to be launched into orbit in 2010 and 2011 aboard Atlas vehicles.

Read the full story here.

Climbing a Commercial Stairway to Space: A Plausible Timeline

Over at Hobby Space, Clark S. Lindsey reviews progress during the last year in commercial space activity and lays out what he believes is a believable timeline for the next dozen years. It’s a good review of current activities and challenges as well as future plans, so it’s worth a look.

No major hurdles to upgrade Atlas V rockets for people

New Scientist reports that there are no major obstacles to upgrading the Atlas V rocket for human spaceflight. Bigelow Aerospace is in negotiations with Lockheed Martin to launch humans and cargo to its planned orbital space station.

Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin defended his decision to reject the Atlas V for the shuttle successor in favor of a shuttle-derived Ares rocket. Griffin accused “losing contractors [of] spotting an opportunity coincident with an election year to reopen what was a settled issue three years ago.”

The Orlando Sentinel also has a story about Ares and Robert Bigelow’s plan for the Atlas V.

The Unsung Rocketeers

Cosmic Log’s Alan Boyle examines some of the unsung designers and engineers working with Burt Rutan at Scaled Composites, including Matt Stinemetze, Bob Morgan, Jim Tighe, Pete Siebold, and Luke Colby.

Boyle also rounds up the latest happens at Rocketplane Global, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Space Adventures, Bigelow and other leading commercial space companies.

Bigelow Aerospace Eyes Atlas 5 for Space Station

Robert Bigelow is planning to use the Atlas 5 rocket to launch tourists to his planned orbital space facility beginning in about 2011. The Las Vegas-based company is currently in negotiations with Denver-based United Launch Alliance to develop a human-rated of the Atlas rocket. has the full story here.