NASA Authorization Bill Passed by House September 30, 2010Posted by Nick Azer in : Commercial Crew Development [CCDev], Constellation, NASA, National Space Policy, Obama, Space Shuttle , add a comment
The Senate version of the NASA Authorization Bill has been passed by the House!
The bill, approved late Wednesday, gives NASA clearer ‘marching orders’ (as Rick Tumlinson put it on the Huffington Post) going forward, and allows Congress its own modifications on (while finalizing) Obama’s new direction for the space program.
- $60 billion over three years for NASA
- An official end to Constellation
- $1.9 billion towards initial development of a new heavy lift vehicle, as a replacement to the cancelled Ares rockets. The rocket will begin development in 2011, four years earlier than the 2015 originally slated.
- One additional shuttle flight in 2011, while officially extending NASA involvement with the ISS to 2020
- $1.3 billion towards a new deep space capsule
- $312 million for commercial crew craft (private space)—versus the $500 million mentioned in the original White House 2011 budget plan
It’s good to see a bill passed that doesn’t dramatically alter Obama’s vision, and it is nice to see that new heavy lift moved up four years—even if it potentially is reusing parts of the Shuttle and Ares systems. With the new plan basically bypassing the Moon (as private companies lodge it in their sights), moving up the rocket four years could mean any NASA involvement on (or benefit from) the Moon could happen that much sooner.
A Look at NASA's New CCDev (Commercial Crew Development) Funding Awards February 11, 2010Posted by Nick Azer in : Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, Boeing, Commercial Crew Development [CCDev], Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceDev, Uncategorized, United Launch Alliance , 2comments
In the wake of all the hububb over NASA’s new direction, an important step in that direction landed a little quietly—the awarding of $50 million in stimulus funds to five commercial firms.
“The president has asked NASA to partner with the aerospace industry in a fundamentally new way, making commercially provided services the primary mode of astronaut transportation to the International Space Station. We are pleased to be able to quickly move forward to advance this exciting plan for NASA.” -NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, NASA Press Release
The press release calls this a ‘first step’ in the new direction for NASA. Technically speaking, though, this actually builds off of a step taken just days into the Obama administration—the big Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contracts given to SpaceX and Orbital for the resupply of the ISS (previously done by the Space Shuttle).
So now, in addition to SpaceX and Orbital, NASA has doled out funds to additional companies for develop solutions for crew transportation to low-earth orbit (and thereby, help ‘catalyze‘ the private space industry—and by association. the economy). Here’s a look at the five winners, and the projects they’re working on (in order of totals awarded):
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SpaceDev)
The Sierra Nevada Corporation, which acquired private space company SpaceDev in 2008, was awarded $20 million of the $50 million total. While the NASA release doesn’t specify projects, this appears to be towards the development of SpaceDev’s lifting-body spaceplane called the Dream Chaser (pictured above).
The Dream Chaser is based off the the old NASA HL-20 concept, designed as an affordable backup plan to the Shuttle. Here’s a quick Youtube video (with some hip music :D ) that gives an idea:
A longtime stalwart of space efforts, Boeing received $18 million towards the development of an unspecified crew module concept. Alongside Boeing with this CCDev project is Bigelow Aerospace, an established leader in the development of commercial crewed space stations:
“We’re excited about this program and the Boeing partnership in general. Boeing brings with it unparalleled experience and expertise in human spaceflight systems, which will be combined with Bigelow Aerospace’s entrepreneurial spirit and cost-conscious practices.” -Robert T. Bigelow, president and founder of Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing press release
The United Launch Alliance
Already operators of the oft-used Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, this partnership between Boeing and Lockheed was awarded $6.7 million to develop an Emergency Detection System to help make the Atlas and Delta rockets become human-rated launch vehicles.
Blue Origin, the slightly mysterious private space firm started by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, received $3.7 million, apparently (as Jeff Foust of the NewSpace Journal and Space Politics tweeted) for the development of a “concept for bi-conic crew vehicle that could be launched on Atlas 5“, the Atlas V of course being the United Space Alliance’s vehicle.
Blue Origin’s known craft under development is the New Shepard, a vertical take-off and landing craft inspired by the old NASA DC-X concept. With a very 1950’s sci-fi style, it simply launches straight up (to orbit) and reenters the same way, all the way down to landing on struts. A video of their Goddard prototype’s 2006 test flight gives an idea:
Paragon Space Development Corporation
And last, but not least, Paragon, a company that develops life support and thermal control systems, was awarded $1.7 million towards a “revitalization system for use in crewed spacecraft“. Here’s a neat NASA video about Paragon, their background, and the work they do:
With these major selections—and NASA’s new direction being pointed directly at them—these companies will become, alongside other partners like SpaceX and Orbital, leaders in American space going forward. Expect to be hearing about those featured technologies a lot, particularly as the competition heats up for a preferred method :) It’s quite a wide variety of designs, too, so it should be fun to see the pros and cons of each play out.
Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #9 February 6, 2010Posted by Nick Azer in : Commercial Crew Development [CCDev], Google Lunar X Prize, Google Lunar X Prize Roundup, NASA , 2comments
With the cancellation of NASA’s Constellation program this week—and subsequent shift to a focus on private space—the Google Lunar X PRIZE has taken on greatly added significance, especially to Americans, as private space essentially is becoming our program. What role America plays in the integration and colonization of the Moon, will now be driven by what our private companies and citizens can accomplish.
Keep an eye here this coming week for a special look at the American Google Lunar X PRIZE efforts, and what they’re up to as they (along with companies like SpaceX) take on the mantle :)
But, without further ado, here’s your two-week edition of the GLXP Roundup!:
The X PRIZE Foundation held their third Google Lunar X PRIZE team summit! A recap:
- The X PRIZE Foundation issued a quick press release with highlights :)
- Lots of photos from the event on the official GLXP TwitPic page!
- Team Euroluna did a write-up on strategies discussed for communications-–essentially, the kinds of goodies teams post that make it onto these roundups :)
- Euroluna also posted a video about the summit.
- ARCA posted a photo of the gang.
All the other news and bits from across the spectrum:
- Popular Mechanics posted a great interview with X PRIZE Foundation Chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis on the changes for NASA. Diamandis also did an awesome guest post at the Huffington Post on the subject!
- Space systems company Sierra Nevada Corp., a member of Team Next Giant Leap, won the largest of NASA’s new CCDev (Commercial Crew Development) contracts—$20 million out of the $50 million in stimulus funds, for the development of its Dream Chaser spaceplane! (I’ll have more on those contracts this coming week…)
- Team Part Time Scientists announced a big new sponsor: Xilinx, the world’s largest supplier of programmable platforms! (Fun fact: Xilinx’s Portland, OR office may literally be visible from my apartment’s balcony…out of only 4 North American corp. offices! Low odds on that one)
- Team Micro-Space had a small NASA contract realised—a nice little milestone :)
- Team Astrobotic held a lunar expo at Carnegie Mellon University!
- The documentary “Space Tourists“, which includes ARCA team leader Dumitru Popescu, won a directing prize from Sundance!
- Paragon Space Development Corp., a partner of Team Odyssey Moon, was profiled in detail at SpaceNews.com!
- Moon Daily mentioned the GLXP in an article highlighting how Moon exploration is not dead.
- The Washington Examiner also mentioned the GLXP in an article on NASA’s shift towards private space.
- Team Odyssey Moon chief scientist Paul D. Spudis logged three interesting blog posts for his Air+Space Magazine blog, The Once and Future Moon!
- Team White Label Space looked at how many Super Bowl ads a Moon mission would cost.
- Team Astrobotic posted an update (w/ photo) on the ‘moldy’ progress of a robotic arm :)
- And last but not least, the kids’ paintings keep rolling in for Team ARCA :) (Personal anecdote #2: Have a few Romanian co-workers, and a roommate who recently spent two years there with the Peace Corps. Romania popping up at work, home, and blog!)
Phew! Tons of big stuff for that one, and virtually all of it was in only one of the two weeks. Pace should only continue with NASA’s new mandate :) Keep an eye out this week for my posts on the American GLXP efforts and on those big CCDev contracts!