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  [Discuss] NASA Commercial Crew Development

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Author Topic:   [Discuss] NASA Commercial Crew Development
Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-29-2011 04:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Editor's note: In an effort to keep the topics ...focused on status updates, reader's feedback and opinions are directed to this thread.

Please use this topic to discuss the NASA's investment in commercial crew launch services and the four chosen companies' development updates and plans.

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-04-2011 02:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder if this means the modification of the launch pad being used for Juno or the construction of a new pad.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-04-2011 04:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Boeing/ULA will use the same launch pad as Juno is launching from for CST-100.
Under the award, ULA will provide launch services from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station using the Atlas V 412 configuration with a single solid rocket booster with a dual engine upper-stage Centaur.
George Sowers, ULA vice president of business development said they were not planning to modify the pad but rather augment the mobile launch tower to support CST-100.
"Our preference is to have something that could attach to the existing mobile launch platform and not have to build a dedicated tower or gantry," said Sowers.
The selection of the Atlas V at this time is only for the first three test flights.
  • An unmanned orbital test flight in the first quarter of 2015.
  • An unmanned in-flight test of the abort system in the middle of the year.
  • A manned test flight with two Boeing pilots on board in the fourth quarter.
Boeing will re-compete the contract for its NASA launch vehicle, to begin operations in early 2016.

For the late 2015 test flight, Boeing is recruiting its own crew.

"The test pilots, we're just starting the interview process for that," said John Elbon, vice president and program manager of Boeing commercial crew transportation systems. "Of course, it is interesting to look at flown astronauts as candidates for this and certainly, we'll consider that as we make selections. They also could be test pilots maybe who haven't flown in space, or some mix of all that. We'll go through a selection process for that."

"Certainly, somebody who has flown in space would have great credentials and will fair well in the selection process I think," said Elbon.

issman1
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posted 08-11-2011 08:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is veteran US space correspondent Jay Barbree getting supportive of commercial crew development? His latest piece seems to be indicative:
Boeing has the experience and proven rocket and hardware to succeed. But if this is a race, it currently looks as if SpaceX will beat Boeing to the finish line. May be SpaceX will falter, and Boeing will pull ahead. Or may be one of the other contenders will take the lead.

328KF
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posted 08-11-2011 09:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did not read Barbree's article as a ringing endorsement of the current space policy, but rather a commentary on the sad state we now find ourselves in. This gap should have never happened to begin with. If the shuttle had to be retired, fine, but we should have had a new vehicle overlapping operations then picking up the load immediately after STS-135.

If there is new "excitement" being conveyed over the competition between the four major companies vying for the future contract(s), it is only due to the realization that until something else comes along, we have subsidized part of our national heritage to Russia.

Barbree is simply covering the story that now is. There's no point in him questioning the correctness of the policy anymore, but just wait until one of these companies has a failure. The media in general will jump all over Congress and NASA with sensationalized questioning of the decisions that have led us to this point.

issman1
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posted 08-11-2011 09:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I disagree, because Barbree had been outspoken and (dare I say) hostile towards commercial crew at nearly every NASA press conference at KSC since February 2010.

While Barbree laments the current condition of NASA, I direct you to the following quote which shows he has relented somewhat from his previous stance:

...it's just possible that America's stumble-along space agency has stumbled upon a pretty good plan for low Earth orbit.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-11-2011 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
...just wait until one of these companies has a failure. The media in general will jump all over Congress and NASA with sensationalized questioning of the decisions that have led us to this point.
Of course, the same happened after the loss of the space shuttles and the pad fire that claimed the Apollo 1 astronauts. As such, it doesn't matter who builds the spacecraft, or who owns them — if lives are lost, there will be (and have been) Congressional hearings and media criticisms. The angle of the questioning may be slightly different, but the result is the same.

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-11-2011 09:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Most of us feel that the fact that the U.S. will experience such a long gap between manned programs is a huge mistake. However, that battle was lost long ago.

I agree with 328KF that the "excitement" is partially due to the fact that we can't wait to see us launch people from the KSC again. If you add the fact that the HLV development and a few flights could cost as much as $38 billion according to the Orlando Sentinel, this might be the only game in town.

328KF
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posted 08-11-2011 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
I direct you to the following quote which shows he has relented somewhat from his previous stance
I don't think we can derive Jay's opinion of the policy with this one line. Short of talking to the man himself, I think it will take some time and some more editorials from him to see if his true feelings have changed.

To Robert's point, yes, failures with loss of life have always drawn media attention and scrutiny because that's the kind of things they think sells well. But my statement was intended more toward a failure in the early unmanned test/demo flights.

The criticism and questioning following Challenger, Columbia, and Apollo 1 were largely focused on operational decisions made within the organization, unless one considers the arguments of the shuttle's configuration with SRB's.

I think that the media/Congress questions following a failure like I described would be more along the lines of the larger policy decisions regarding the retirement of the shuttle, the large flight gap to fill in the shortest period of time, and the entire concept of handing over LEO to the commercial sector.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-11-2011 01:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
Short of talking to the man himself, I think it will take some time and some more editorials from him to see if his true feelings have changed.
Well, Jay and I spent a bit of time in the lead up to STS-135's launch talking about SpaceX and Boeing and others, and while I wouldn't dare speak for him, I can say he didn't seem hostile to the prospects of commercial launch services succeeding.

I'll be seeing him again later this month and can put the question directly to him.

quote:
I think that the media/Congress questions following a failure like I described would be more along the lines of the larger policy decisions regarding the retirement of the shuttle, the large flight gap to fill in the shortest period of time, and the entire concept of handing over LEO to the commercial sector.
Perhaps, but I doubt very much would come of it.

The reason you have demo/test flights is to verify your readiness and work out any problems before you start full-up operations, otherwise there would be no need for them. As technically illiterate as Congress and the media can sometimes be, even they can understand that process.

I'm not suggesting there wouldn't be increased scrutiny and political posturing, but with four different commercial spacecraft under development, at most I think it would result in greater emphasis being placed on one or more of the other three rather than a wholesale discounting of them all.

issman1
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posted 09-17-2011 04:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is NASA undermining commercial crew development? From the news report:
NASA will impose various requirements to ensure systems can be certified as safe to fly NASA crews.
This may explain the sudden favouritism towards the Astrium-ATK Liberty rocket, while SpaceX has the most to lose. I would suggest Musk keeps doing what he's doing with Falcon 9, Dragon and Falcon Heavy inspite of this.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-17-2011 09:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The change from Space Act Agreements to contracts is explained in the linked (Florida Today) article, as what NASA is doing to make the transition less jarring.
Procurement rules say the agency must use contracts governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulations when services are being provided directly for the government's benefit.

Some companies prefer Space Act Agreements because they provide more freedom to design systems, fewer burdensome federal regulations and fixed rewards for meeting technical milestones. They fear compliance with the contracts will drive up costs and slow vehicle development.

NASA promises a "non-traditional" contracting approach that limits burdensome accounting requirements and continues to pay companies fixed awards for meeting technical milestones.

So long as this is more a procedural change than a requirements change, the impact should be minimal.

issman1
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posted 09-20-2011 07:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't fully understand this new draft request for proposal. Did any clients of Virgin Galactic ever request a tailor-made spacecraft?

I was under the impression the whole ethos of commercial crew development was to let those companies run things without bureaucratic oversight. If NASA wants a standing army for its space launch system and multi-purpose crew vehicle that's fine. But keep the other thing simple, otherwise too many cooks spoil the broth.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-20-2011 10:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
I was under the impression the whole ethos of commercial crew development was to let those companies run things without bureaucratic oversight.
CCDev was never about NASA picking an off-the-shelf spacecraft. From the start, CCDev has always been about commercial companies developing spacecraft to meet NASA's mission and safety requirements.

The primary difference between CCDev and the more traditional cost-plus contract was two-fold: (a) the companies would invest their own money into their development efforts, and (b) in return, they would not only own their spacecraft but be able to offer them for use to customers other than NASA.

SkyMan1958
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posted 10-31-2011 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In an innovative agreement that will create new jobs, NASA today (Oct. 31) announced a partnership with Space Florida to exclusively occupy, use and modify Kennedy Space Center's Orbiter Processing Facility-3, the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility and Processing Control Center.
Smart politics by Boeing. I believe that of the four current main entries in the CCDev only two will survive at the end (due to funding as opposed to technology issues). I always figured Boeing, even given it's higher cost structure, would be one of them due to it's political pull (and unquestioned technological savvy). My best guess is that the other winner will be SpaceX.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-07-2011 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Andrew Chaikin interviewed Ed Mango, head of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, about what's required to operate a taxi service for NASA astronauts. An excerpt from "Certified Safe" written for Air & Space magazine:
There is a lot of skepticism about whether commercial companies, particularly the new ones, can accomplish reliable, safe, and cost-effective spaceflight. There's even resistance to letting them try. Can you accomplish what you're trying to do with this program in spite of the skepticism and resistance that's out there?

Well, we are doing our best to do that. And I would say that a lot of important things that have happened in the country, or in the world for that matter, have happened despite criticism and despite folks who want to slow it down or not have it happen at all.

The members of my team are not folks that we hired from industry yesterday. Most everyone on the team has either worked space shuttle, like myself, Constellation, like myself, test flying, like some of the folks — Brent Jett who's an astronaut and a very good test pilot is on the team — and then folks from the space station program. We also have other folks on the program that have launched Atlases and Deltas and been part of the launch services program for many years as well.

So I think my biggest pushback on the skeptics is that they need to look at who is on the team from the NASA program who’s making this stuff happen, and NASA engineers. Our history would tell us what is important and what is not important in order to go get a design that can go work. There are some areas where we will push extremely hard to make sure that we will have a safe vehicle. At the same time many of us have grown up … in the space shuttle program. We’ve seen some of the hard parts of the shuttle program, and where we can change the way we do business to make it more innovative and also make it more cost-effective.

I would also say the same thing is true in the companies. For [commercial crew], all of these companies are not folks that are right off the street. They are folks that had worked for NASA, and left NASA, and went to work for the contractors. There are folks that went from one company in aerospace to another company in aerospace. And I would put money on the table that says the best aerospace capabilities of the world are represented by our American aerospace industry. Whether or not they have a name that might be SpaceX, or Boeing, or Blue Origin, or Sierra Nevada or United Launch Alliance is secondary to the fact that as a nation we do have the best capability in order to go put a safe vehicle in space. And so that is what’s driving us, what's driving the program to go get a capability. When we get proposals and when we figure out who are the right ones, then NASA is bringing its 50 years of history to those contractors to help them make sure we have a safe vehicle to go fly. I am confident that we will have a safe vehicle when we go fly by the middle of the decade.

SpaceKSCBlog
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posted 03-16-2012 07:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceKSCBlog   Click Here to Email SpaceKSCBlog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
60 Minutes will have a segment on March 18 about SpaceX and founder Elon Musk.
With the Space Shuttle program now retired, NASA does not have a vehicle to put Americans into space. The Obama administration has decided to farm out the next manned spacecraft to the private sector. Musk, the Internet billionaire who co-founded PayPal, has invested $100 million into his company, known as SpaceX, to compete for the contract. "I think we are at the dawn of a new era," he tells Pelley, about the government handoff of the manned orbital space program to the private sector. Does he believe his rocket will be the next American craft to put an astronaut into space? "I believe that is the most likely outcome," says Musk.

But two of the people who inspired Musk - Apollo Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, who walked on the Moon - were early critics of the president's plan to commercialize space. They went before Congress to protest the government's reliance on the private sector as a mistake that could erode America's preeminent role in space exploration. "I was very sad to see that," says Musk, who said he was hoping men like them would cheer him on. "Those guys are heroes of mine, so it's really tough... I wish they would come and visit... see the hard work that we're doing here and I think that it would change their mind," Musk tells Pelley.

Finally, the mainstream media will acknowledge the space program didn't end with STS-135.

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-20-2012 08:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The 60 Minutes interview with Musk showed the SpaceX people putting the seats in for this test. It looks decent, but I do have one question... will there be provisions for a toilet/WCS?

So it may not be needed on a launch, but on an orbit after undocking if the crew members do fluid loading to prepare for 1G and they get waved off from reentry, be it an orbit or a day (and it has happened both ways with Soyuz craft), there are going to be a few people who will have an urge to go. Plus, you figure a group of seven is going to be in that thing for close to two days (at least a day and a half) before docking with the ISS.

Jim Behling
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posted 03-20-2012 08:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The shuttle paradigm is not applicable to other vehicles.
  1. There will be no wave off. They will only undock if conditions are good. Soyuz delays were due to hardware problems.

  2. There is no need for fluid loading. That was for the shuttle pilots.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 03-20-2012 08:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The seat liner is custom fit; can Soyuz swap seat liners with Dragon in case of an emergency?

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-20-2012 08:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Behling:
There is no need for fluid loading. That was for the shuttle pilots.
Based on what I have read, fluid loading is done on long duration flights as well for cosmonauts (with water and salt tablets to help the body retain fluid).

The body loses some of its fluid volume while in orbit due to the distribution changes. So astronauts and cosmonauts coming back on Soyuz have to go through a form of fluid replenishment so they don't risk dehydration complications once they are back in 1G (not necessarily blackout complications on reentry due to their seating positions).

They may not do it quite the same as shuttle, but they still do it. Even when long duration crew members were in reclined seats on shuttle, they still did fluid loading the same as the upright crew members.

As to hardware problems, a Dragon capsule can have hardware problems the same as a Soyuz. You can do all the status checks before undocking, but that does not guarantee a problem will not occur.

I know, I know, plan for the best case and not for the worst. But, believe me if somebody has got to go in orbit in a craft with seven people, at least one person is going to wish there is a toilet on board and others may wish the same thing after that one person goes.

Jim Behling
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posted 03-20-2012 08:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
Based on what I have read, fluid loading is done on long duration flights as well for cosmonauts (with water and salt tablets to help the body retain fluid).
Maybe it is just semantics. Shuttle was fluid "loading" almost 2 liters to prevent blackout. The Soyuz protocol is more like replenishment and not as much.

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-20-2012 09:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But two of the people who inspired Musk - Apollo Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, who walked on the Moon - were early critics of the president's plan to commercialize space.
The one thing I found a little misleading about the 60 minutes report was they didn't say the time frame of the footage of Armstrong and Cernan's testimony to Congress, which I believe was in relation to the 2010 OMB NASA budget release which practically killed Constellation. That testimony took place before Falcon 9's first flight as I recall and it was also in response to cutting Constellation rather than just being a voice of skepticism against commercial spaceflight.

For the record, I still support what they said on Capitol Hill because our current administration has gone for "mediocrity" it seems since we have no real destination other than the ISS (an important one, but not a long term future goal). CCDev is a different issue, but not exactly the same thing that was being addressed.

SpaceX has had two successful Falcon 9 flights since then and one successful Dragon flight. But nobody made an attempt to ask Armstrong, Cernan or Lovell about their thoughts SINCE that Congressional testimony implying that it was against SpaceX. On the other side, I also find it interesting that 60 Minutes didn't ask Elon about his "he's just a pilot" comment (from "This Week In Space" I believe) in regards to Neil Armstrong's comments during his Congressional testimony.

Maybe it didn't really have to be acknowledged I suppose since in the two or three recent interviews I've seen with Elon, he has backed off from a confrontational stance somewhat. He can be like a pitbull on some issues, which is a trait which helped him to get where he is. But it can be a negative trait as well sometimes, especially in this age of instant media.

In one interview with AOL, he acknowledged the idea to potentially make Falcon fully reusable was going to be a major challenge and it might not work, but they were going to study it anyway. Elon's body language during the 60 Minutes interview told me that he wanted to say something when asked about Armstrong and Cernan's comments, as he was shaking a little, but he held his comments in check (probably a good thing).

My own belief about SpaceX is they still need to prove themselves and flights are the way to do that. Put together a string of successes and do it quietly and orderly. Because in this business, success (or failure) is what your company will be judged by more so than just talk. NASA showed that the hard way with STS-51L and STS-107 (plus the Mars probe failures in the 1990s) while Roscosmos has recently had their dish served up with the Progress failure, Soyuz pressurization test failure and the loss of Phobos Grunt.

I want the Dragon test to go off safely and dock with the ISS just fine, but admittedly I have nothing at stake unlike Musk and his engineers (who have everything on the line). I wish I could be in Florida to watch the Dragon launch (not likely to happen with my budget) as I believe it should be a good one.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-20-2012 10:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
But nobody made an attempt to ask Armstrong, Cernan or Lovell about their thoughts since that Congressional testimony implying that it was against SpaceX.
Armstrong and Cernan testified again, restating much of the same as they had during their earlier testimony, before the House of Representatives in September 2011, almost a year after SpaceX flew and recovered its first Dragon spacecraft.
quote:
Elon's body language during the 60 Minutes interview told me that he wanted to say something when asked about Armstrong and Cernan's comments, as he was shaking a little, but he held his comments in check (probably a good thing).
To the contrary, if you watch it again, it appears he chokes up a bit, tears forming in the corner of his eyes.

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-20-2012 11:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wondered if anyone else picked up on his eyes looking a little moist. Maybe he does feel genuinely hurt (I didn't know about the second set of testimony before the house last year). But, again it boils down to success or failure as opposed to the potential for bruised feelings. So again, it is probably good to stay quiet in such an interview and not say anything.

One thing I personally took away from that interview is Musk seems to have a similar passion for space as many of us who post here, but unlike us, he has taken the time to invest the funding to back his vision up. Regardless of what many might think about the approach, I do have to admire that. I personally think when the history of Elon Musk is written for future generations, SpaceX is going to be mentioned as one of his accomplishments before any of his other ventures, such as Paypal or Tesla. Some would say it is certainly the riskiest venture of the bunch and one needs to be a little crazy to do a commercial startup company in the space business.

dabolton
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posted 04-01-2012 11:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX's one-piece molded couches would seem difficult to stow out of the way on a longer mission without the ability to fold up. Wonder if anyone has considered inflatable seats?

Glint
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posted 05-04-2012 02:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Boeing has a good shot of the drogue release shortly after its CST-100 mocked was dropped from the Erickson Air Crane.

They look like a pair of popped-out eye balls.

Chariot412
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posted 05-07-2012 09:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Chariot412   Click Here to Email Chariot412     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is today's NASA image of the day: Dream Chaser
The Dream Chaser model with its Atlas V launch vehicle is undergoing final preparations at the Aerospace Composite Model Development Section's workshop for buffet tests at the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel at NASA Langley. The scale model is being tested as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Development program to regain the American capability to launch astronauts safely to the International Space Station. The lifting body reusable spacecraft would carry as many as seven astronauts to the space station. Sierra Nevada Space Systems is developing the craft under a Space Act Agreement with NASA.
Anybody think the brand new Dream Chaser looks a lot like the very old Dyna Soar project?

SkyMan1958
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posted 05-11-2012 06:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With all the news we've heard recently about the assorted commercial systems that are competing for NASA money for building a manned orbital launch system, I find it hard to believe that more than one or at most two systems will, over the long run, continue to be semi-funded by NASA during their development. So, do you think NASA (by which really I mean the US Congress) will continue to fund the assorted systems (Boeing, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX etc.) that they are currently funding? If not, which corporations do YOU think will make the cut.

Being a cynic, and given their wallet and lobbying clout, (and, of course, they are a very capable company), I think Boeing for sure will be one of the winners. I'd guess if NASA continues to fund more than one system, SpaceX would be the other system that continues to get funding. I think the other systems will find the government tap turned off in the not too distant future.

So, who do you think will be left standing, or do you think NASA will continue with seed money for all the projects they are currently supporting?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-11-2012 06:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The House of Representatives has, in fact, recently passed a bill with language urging NASA to make an early downselect to one just commercial crew provider, or at most two (a "leader-follower paradigm"), which NASA has protested, arguing it removes the cost saving incentives driven by a larger competition.

The House plan received the endorsement of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell in a letter sent to appropriations subcommittee chairman Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA).

"It seems unlikely that NASA will receive significant budgetary relief in the foreseeable future," the three retired astronauts wrote in a May 4 letter to Wolf. "Consequently, it is mandatory to maximize return on the limited funds available to access low Earth orbit. An early downselect would seem to be prudent in order to maximize the possibility of developing a crew-carrying spacecraft in time to be operationally useful."
The Administration has opposed the House bill, stating:
The Administration strongly opposes the level of funding provided for the commercial crew program, which is $330 million below the FY 2013 Budget request, as well as restrictive report language that would eliminate competition in the program. This would increase the time the United States will be required to rely solely on foreign providers to transport American astronauts to and from the space station. While the Administration appreciates the overall funding level provided to NASA, the bill provides some NASA programs with unnecessary increases at the expense of other important initiatives.

SpaceKSCBlog
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From: Merritt Island, FL
Registered: Nov 2011

posted 05-11-2012 07:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceKSCBlog   Click Here to Email SpaceKSCBlog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, a few things here.

First, the language has to be adopted by the Senate, which is unlikely. Once the Senate passes its own budget bill, then the two houses go to conference committee to hammer out a compromise, and both houses vote on it.

Second, this is an election year, and as we've seen in recent years Congress is not inclined to pass the budget on time. The 2013 fiscal year starts October 1. My guess is Congress will pass continuing resolutions until at least after the November election, and might punt the whole thing to the next Congress in January, although sequestration will become effective if they don't.

Third, the CCiCap awards should be decided this summer. NASA might decide on its own to downsize, select one or two or three. Now that ATK has entered the game with Liberty, another player is in the mix, one with powerful lobbyists so NASA will be pressured by Congress to select Liberty along with Boeing's CST-100. In any case, NASA may down-select on their own and the language will be irrelevant.

SpaceX really needs to nail the COTS-2 flight, for their own sake and for the sake of commercial crew. A successful flight will help NASA defend the program to the porking members of Congress.

issman1
Member

Posts: 888
From: UK
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 05-13-2012 12:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just when things looked promising for commercial crew development, along comes a spider. It becomes self-evident why Musk teamed up with Bigelow and who could blame him.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-23-2012 09:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But two of the people who inspired Musk - Apollo Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, who walked on the Moon - were early critics of the president's plan to commercialize space. They went before Congress to protest the government's reliance on the private sector as a mistake that could erode America's preeminent role in space exploration. "I was very sad to see that," says Musk, who said he was hoping men like them would cheer him on. "Those guys are heroes of mine, so it's really tough... I wish they would come and visit... see the hard work that we're doing here and I think that it would change their mind," Musk tells Pelley.
Scott Pelley wrote the Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger to clarify Neil Armstrong's position as was described during Pelley's interview with Elon Musk on 60 Minutes.
We should have made it explicit in our story that, while Armstrong was "not confident" that the newcomers could achieve safety and cost goals in the near term, he did want to "encourage" them. We also should have spelled out more clearly that his concerns were directed toward the "newcomers" in general and not SpaceX in particular
According to the letter, Armstrong wrote Pelley to say that the 60 Minutes report led many to misconstrue his position.

issman1
Member

Posts: 888
From: UK
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 06-23-2012 11:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If Neil Armstrong is worried about being misconstrued, he should tour SpaceX like the NASA administrator.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-23-2012 01:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am not sure how a tour would stop others from misconstruing his position. If anything, it might add to the misunderstanding.

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