Monday, January 25, 2010

Interesting Developments in Commercial Space

These interesting articles were collected in my daily AIAA news brief.

White House Reportedly Will Fund Commercial Spaceflight.

The Wall Street Journal (1/25, Pasztor, subscription required) website reports that the White House has chosen to fund private companies to take astronauts into space with a program likely to cost $3.5 billion over five years. According to the article, Congress is expected to challenge this because of safety concerns. Even though the article predicts conflicts because it will shift money from existing programs to commercial companies, it also contends there will not be any major program cancellations.
        Meanwhile, in continuing coverage, Space News (1/23, Klamper, subscription required) reported NASA, according to unnamed sources "will not be getting the $1 billion budget boost civil space advocates had hoped to see," but the fate of the Ares I is still unknown. However, the Orion capsule would not be cancelled, according to the sources. "While Obama's funding proposal deviates from the Augustine panel's push for a spending increase, sources said NASA's 2011 budget request is expected to align with the panel's so-called Flexible Path plan." According to the article, "In hindsight, NASA officials say the agency set Ares 1 and Orion on an unsustainable spending trajectory."
        Space Frontier Foundation Chairman Sees Killing Ares As "Clear" Choice. In an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel (1/23), Bob Werb, chairman of the board of the Space Frontier Foundation, called for the cancellation of the "boondoggle" Ares I rocket program. It is "just pork dressed up as cost-effective human space transportation; it's not just wasteful, but destructive to future space exploration beyond Earth orbit." Werb believes there is an "overwhelming" case against the rocket, which he saw as a "bailout" for shuttle companies. "The commercial alternatives are based on well-tested, mature systems currently used to launch U.S. military, scientific and commercial satellites. Adapting these rockets to carry people is cheaper, faster and better." Werb saw this as a simple and "clear" decision.

Food fight's on!

I'm a little unclear on how you can call spaceflight whose only customer is the government "commercial" though...

In related news,

Bolden To Reveal NASA Budget In Press Conference Next Week.

Space News (1/26, Klamper, subscription required) reports, "NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will unveil the U.S. space agency's spending priorities for 2011 during a Feb. 1 press conference at NASA headquarters here, according to administration officials." The article notes Bolden is also "expected to discuss long-awaited details of the president's funding proposal in the morning, followed by a press conference hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to rollout Obama's research and development priorities - including those that affect NASA goals and funding- for the coming budget year, these sources said." The budget is "expected to realign NASA's human spaceflight activities and investments to foster development of commercial systems." Bolden "tentatively" scheduled to conduct another press conference at the National Press Club the following day.
        According to Spaceflight Now (1/25, Clark), the budget "is expected to include new direction for NASA." A White House spokesperson told Spaceflight Now, "NASA is vital not only to spaceflight, but also for critical scientific and technological advancements. The expertise at NASA is essential to developing innovative new opportunities, industries and jobs. The President's budget will take steps in that direction." However, the "fate of the agency's vexed exploration program is still unclear." The upcoming budget "may provide no direct guidance on the Constellation program."
        Former NASA Official Cautions Over Commercial Human Spaceflight. In an op-ed for Space News (1/25, subscription required), Scott Horowitz, former associate administrator for the exploration systems directorate, wrote about the role he saw for commercial space companies in manned exploration. "To date, commercial participants have made limited progress and experienced many challenges. Contracts have been pulled, failures have occurred and schedules have slipped up to two years. This has been a stark reminder that rocket development programs are challenging." Horowitz believes that only after a commercial company delivers cargo to the International Space Station "will be time to carefully consider commercial human spaceflight." Horowitz, listing commercial ventures that have failed, felt that this is "not a time to discard these proven systems" of Orion and Ares "in favor of immature, high-risk commercial options."

Ares and Orion are proven? When did those flights happen?

1 comment:

  1. Just yesterday Reuters noted that Russia, the first nation to launch a satellite into orbit and a man into space, has lost its standing as a scientific powerhouse for lack of research and development. Nations like China and South Korea are racing to close the aeronautical gap, and India has green-lit its first manned mission to space in 2016, a year when it appears the U.S. Space Agency will be measuring glacial ice and ocean currents.
    --New Obama Budget Reported to Axe Constellation, Future Moon Missions