Sunday, January 29, 2012

Report: Next Soyuz Spacecraft Damaged Beyond Repair reports that a recent test of the next Soyuz spacecraft damaged it "beyond repair," which may delay the next launch.

The spacecraft that carries crew members is also named Soyuz, and on Friday Russia announced that the Soyuz spacecraft assigned for the next crew launch, expected on March 30, failed a test. Anatoly Zak at reports today that Russian industry sources and the website Novosti Kosmonavtiki (Space News) are indicating that during testing the spacecraft was pressurized "up to 3 atmospheres, instead of the nominal 1.3-1.5 atmospheres....The bad quality of materials in the spacecraft...had also been suspected. Another report surfaced on January 29, 2012 ... that a welding line on the descent module had broken as a result of the internal pressure" and the "descent module was damaged beyond repair." Zak estimates that the next launch might be delayed until the end of April at the earliest if a decision is made to use a replacement descent module.

Articles of Interest

It's nice having Florida Today as my hometown newspaper, because almost every issue has something newsworthy on space exploration.

In today's Sunday edition are two commentaries by Florida Today columnists.

Space columnist John Kelly writes that Republican candidates are short on the details when it comes to space policy.

Opinion page editor Matt Reed writes that Newt Gingrich has a seductive space plan but his political legacy suggests he may be insincere.

Reporter Patrick Peterson writes that Brevard County's economy is on the rebound thanks in part to the new commercial space industry. The apocalyptic claims made when the Shuttle program ended have turned out to be wrong, and local officials have learned that economic diversity is the key to survival.

Reporter Dave Berman writes about Saturday's astronaut memorial in Titusville.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Remembering STS-51L

Click the arrow to watch NASA's video on the 25th anniversary of the Challenger accident.

The accident of Space Shuttle Challenger, mission 51-L, interrupting for a time one of the most productive engineering, scientific and exploratory programs in history, evoked a wide range of deeply felt public responses. There was grief and sadness for the loss of seven brave members of the crew; firm national resolve that those men and women be forever enshrined in the annal of American heroes, and a determination based on that resolve and in their memory, to strengthen the Space Shuttle program so that this tragic event will become a milestone on the way to achieving the full potential that space offers to mankind.

— Preface to the Report of the Presidential Commission
on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident

Space Shuttle flights in the early 1980s lost their sequential numbering. STS-51L meant the mission was scheduled for 1985, hence the "5". The "1" meant it would launch at Kennedy Space Center, while a "2" meant it would launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. And the "L", the 12th letter of the alphabet, meant it was the 12th scheduled launch for that "51" moniker in 1985.

The flight suffered repeated delays, and frustration with those delays led to NASA management ignoring the warnings of contract engineers that it was too cold to launch. Seventy-three seconds after liftoff, a right solid rocket booster failure detonated its external tank and the Space Shuttle was destroyed.

The Shuttle would fly again, but NASA learned a lesson that can only be taught by hubris. That lesson would be taught again on February 1, 2003.

The loss led to the creation of the Challenger Center network of space education facilities. To quote their web site, "Our network of Challenger Learning Centers, diverse classroom programming, and community outreach programs, excite students' natural curiosities and encourage them to learn."

The Challenger accident was a loss of innocence, yet it also inspired a generation of teachers to fulfill the vision of the first Teacher in Space, Christa McAuliffe.

Click here to watch CNN's live coverage of the launch and aftermath.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Romney Delivers Campaign Speech in Cape Canaveral

Click on the arrow to watch the video on the Florida Today web site. You may be subjected to an ad first.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke to a campaign rally this afternoon at Astrotech in Cape Canaveral.

He offered no specifics about his space policy other than he'd organize a study before making recommendations.

Elsewhere, eight leaders in the aerospace industry issued a letter endorsing Romney. Among them were prior NASA administrator Michael Griffin, and astronauts Gene Cernan and Bob Crippen.

UPDATE January 28, 2012Florida Today on yesterday's Romney campaign stop:

Speaking just outside the gate of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday afternoon, Romney said, “A strong and vibrant space program is part of being a successful nation.”

But he didn’t wow the Brevard crowd with talks of moon bases or trips to Mars, saying it would be foolish to make such promises without first establishing objectives and well-defined funding mechanisms. He vowed, if elected, to bring leaders of NASA, the military and the commercial space industry to the White House to define America’s goals for space as well as establishing ways to achieve those goals.

Remembering Apollo 1

Click the arrow to watch ABC News science editor Jules Bergman on January 28, 1967.

Test pilots die with almost distressing regularity. It's part of the business, and they accept the risk.

— Jules Bergman

The above video aired on ABC News the day after a fire in the spacecraft took the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee on January 27, 1967. It shows you the astronauts not only in their final days, but also gives you a window into a pivotal moment in our space history.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NASA Remembers Fallen Astronauts

Click the arrow to watch NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's statement.

The next week marks three solemn anniversaries in the history of space exploration — the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967; the destruction of Challenger on January 28, 1986; and the loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

NASA released the above video by Administrator Charles Bolden. At Kennedy Space Center, a wreath was laid before the Astronaut Memorial mirror by center director Robert Cabana.

President Barack Obama issued a statement:

On this solemn day, we join the NASA family and all Americans in honoring the brave men and women who gave their lives in the pursuit of space exploration.

It is important to remember that pushing the boundaries of space requires great courage and has come with a steep price three times in our Nation’s history – for the crews of Apollo 1 and the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. The loss of these pioneers is felt every day by their family, friends, and colleagues, but we take comfort in the knowledge that their spirit will continue to inspire us to new heights.

Today, our Nation is pursuing an ambitious path that honors these heroes, builds on their sacrifices, and promises to expand the limits of innovation as we venture farther into space than we have ever gone before. The men and women who lost their lives in the name of space exploration helped get us to this day, and it is our duty to honor them the way they would have wanted to be honored – by focusing our sights on the next horizon.

NASA's web site has an interactive feature looking back at the three incidents.

I'll also share this video I posted on YouTube last November as a tribute to U.S. human spaceflight.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gingrich Delivers Space Policy Speech in Cocoa

Click on the arrow to watch the video of Newt Gingrich's speech on the Florida Today web site. You may be subjected to an ad first.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich delivered his promised space policy speech this afternoon at the Holiday Inn Express Space Coast Convention Center in Cocoa.

After the speech, Gingrich participated in a space roundtable at Brevard Community College.

Click the arrow to watch the BCC space roundtable video on the Florida Today web site.

Click here for the initial report by Florida Today. I'll post more in the morning once the final stories are posted by local media.

UPDATE January 26, 2012Florida Today has posted a complete report on Gingrich's space policy campaign events.

Invoking presidents who proposed moon shots and construction of a transcontinental railway, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Wednesday promised a “bold” space program that would establish a lunar colony within eight years and shake up a NASA he believes is crippled by bureaucracy ...

The vision Gingrich unapologetically called “grandiose” offered few details about how it would be implemented, what budget was needed or whether it could earn support from Congress.

Reactions from space web sites: "Gingrich Space Plan Promises the Moon, Literally: Lunar Base by 2020"

Space Politics "Gingrich Offers New Goals but Same Philosophy in Space Speech"

Spaceflight Now "Gingrich Offers 'Grandiose' Vision for Space Program" "Gingrich Wants Moon Base by 2020, Mars Colony, New Propulsion, Prizes"

Aviation Week "Gingrich Calls For Moon Base, Space Contests"

Space Florida Seeks State Funding for KSC/CCAFS Projects

Florida Today reports that Space Florida will "seek approval to spend more than $10 million to renovate a former shuttle hangar at Kennedy Space Center, modernize a Cape Canaveral launch pad and update the state’s space master plan."

During a meeting in Tallahassee, board members also will consider a proposal that would give the agency title to a $100 million facility being built to house the retired shuttle orbiter Atlantis at the KSC Visitor Complex, a financing arrangement that helps the complex’s operator.

If approved, $5 million would start work to ready Kennedy’s Orbiter Processing Facility-3 and Processing Control Center for commercial use by The Boeing Co., which plans to assemble commercial crew capsules there.

Space Florida would also upgrade Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station "for potential launches of Athena or Minotaur rockets."

According to their web site, "Space Florida is an Independent Special District of the State of Florida, created by Chapter 331, Part II, Florida Statutes, for the purposes of fostering the growth and development of a sustainable and world-leading space industry in Florida."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New JFK Tape on Space

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum has released a brief recording of a conversation Kennedy had with Foy Kohler, his ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Kennedy and Kohler discuss the president's idea to merge the American and Soviet space programs.

As I wrote last May 25, on September 20, 1963, Kennedy addressed the United Nations to propose a joint U.S.-Soviet moon mission that would end the "space race."

President Kennedy proposes a joint U.S.-USSR Moon mission. Click the arrow to watch the video.

Kennedy met on September 18 with NASA Administrator James Webb. The president worried about the Moon program's spiralling costs, and mused about wrapping some sort of military justification around Apollo rather than simply "prestige" which had been the primary justification until now.

This new recording is of a meeting with Ambassador Kohler one day before Kennedy met with Webb.

Click here to listen to the recording.

The museum posted this partial transcript:

President Kennedy: The other thing I talked to him about was space. I don’t know whether we could ever –

Foy Kohler: They were very intrigued by this, Mr. President. I mentioned this when I talked to Gromyko before I left and it was obvious that they were intrigued but a little puzzled by this. I referred to it as a very imagining thing and asked whether they had given any thought to it. He said, well, they agreed it was imaginative. (pause) They’re obviously interested in this – by implication, they are clearly concerned about the cost of these damn things – about a race in space. So Gromyko said, well, it’s a very interesting idea and we would like you to come up with something more definite which we can take a look at. So far, I haven’t been able to consult with all the right people here to see whether anything can be developed.

President Kennedy: I would like to have an agreement on when we both try to go to the moon, then we wouldn’t have this intensive race – I don’t know whether they are going to the moon. Lovell says not.

Kohler: I think maybe he’s right. They have got – you think you have a serious resource distribution problem but believe me, Mr. Khrushchev has a more serious one. The pressure of the claims on a very limited budget must be enormous there and he does refer to it occasionally. Well my military people say one more, my scientist are always wanting more – the pressures must be great when resources are very limited.

The "Lovell" mentioned by Kennedy was Sir Bernard Lovell, a prominent British astronomer who toured the Soviet space program in the summer of 1963. Lovell had met with leaders of the Soviet program, and concluded that a Moon mission was not a priority.

This latest recording is further evidence that, despite mythology today to the contrary, Kennedy was seeking a way out of the space race. He had already approached the Soviets about the idea before his U.N. speech.

The best reference on the subject is John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon by Dr. John M. Logsdon. Click here to read my review.

Monday, January 23, 2012

NASA to Solicit Commercial Crew Proposals

Florida Today reports that NASA has issued a procurement notice in advance of its planned February 7 solicitation for the latest round of commercial crew funding.

In a procurement notice — read it here — NASA said it planned to award grants in the form of Space Act Agreements to "multiple" companies to best meet its goals within available funding ...

Companies must submit proposals within 45 days after the announcement. The awards are expected this July or August, with the performance periods extending through May 2014.

The next round of the program, managed at Kennedy Space Center, is called the Commercial Crew integrated Capability, or CCiCap.

February 7, ironically, was the day that SpaceX was scheduled to launch the COTS 2/3 flight to the International Space Station. That flight has been delayed until late March or April.

UPDATE January 24, 2012Space News with more on the third round for commercial crew.

Continuing a drumbeat it has sounded since last summer, NASA cautioned that the next round of awards will depend heavily on funding availability. “NASA intends to select a portfolio of multiple [commercial crew concepts] that best meet the [program’s] goals within the available funding,” the procurement notice says.

Gingrich Plans Space Policy Address

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Sunday he plans to give "a visionary speech" Wednesday when he appears at Brevard Community College.

Riding the momentum of his South Carolina win on Saturday, Newt Gingrich said Sunday he planned a week of big speeches offering “big solutions for a big country.”

“I’ll be at the space coast in Florida this week giving a speech — a visionary speech — on the United States going back into space in the John F. Kennedy tradition,” the former House Speaker said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

Two years ago, Gingrich co-authored an opinion article that supported President Barack Obama's plan to rely on commercial launch services to reach the International Space Station.

Despite the shrieks you might have heard from a few special interests, the Obama administration’s budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration deserves strong approval from Republicans. The 2011 spending plan for the space agency does what is obvious to anyone who cares about man’s future in space and what presidential commissions have been recommending for nearly a decade.

Gingrich has been sharply critical of NASA on the campaign trail.

In June, Gingrich said in a candidate debate that NASA "ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector."

For those who missed it, Gingrich accused NASA's bureaucracy of wasting hundreds of billions of dollars that it's spent since the 1969 moon landing. Without such waste, he said, "we would probably today have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles."

NASA is "standing in the way" of a "new cycle of opportunities" when it "ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector," said the former House speaker.

In his 2007 book Real Change, Gingrich wrote that NASA had hijacked the "great space adventure":

One of the great disappointments of my life has been the hijacking of the great space adventure by the NASA bureaucracy. Space should be an area in which American innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship are producing constant breakthroughs that increase our economic capability, improve our quality of life, and raise our prestige around the world. Instead, space has been hijacked by dull, inefficient, and unimaginative bureaucracies and transformed into an expensive, risk-adverse, and sad undertaking.

I propose a dramatically bolder approach. NASA currently has plans to spend twenty years getting to Mars at a cost estimated of up to $450 billion. A very significant amount of that time and money will be spent studying, planning, and thinking. We would get much further much faster if we simply established two prizes: a tax-free $5 billion prize for the first permanent lunar base and a tax-free $20 billion prize for the first team to get to Mars and back.

How all this will play on the Space Coast is unclear.

For decades, Brevard County's economy has been hitched to that "dull, inefficient and unimaginative" NASA bureaucracy. Many locals falsely blame Obama for cancelling the Space Shuttle program, even though Shuttle was cancelled by President George W. Bush in January 2004 after the Columbia disaster. In any case, space worker union representatives disparage commercial space, one claiming that "privatization of the space program will never work."

Anecdotally, I've heard and read some locals rooting for SpaceX test flights to fail, as they want NASA to maintain its monopoly on access to space.

So I don't think there will be much support here in Brevard County for Gingrich's privatization of space access. And if he bashes Obama's space policy, he'll look like a hypocrite after endorsing it two years ago.

It's curious that Gingrich would promise a return to the "John F. Kennedy tradition," because that "tradition" gave birth to the bloated bureaucracy he disparages today.

Kennedy's famous 1961 speech proposing man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s was actually a long and somewhat boring address to Congress listing a number of ideas to end a mild economic recession. Kennedy, essentially, proposed a stimulus program, and the Moon mission was one idea. The Moon proposal was near the end of the speech, only a few paragraphs. Those in attendance barely reacted at all, perhaps bored by the long and somewhat uninspiring speech.

As detailed in John Logdson's John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, the Moon program was largely about restoring American prestige in the wake of Soviet space spectacles. Kennedy was not a space visionary. He was a Cold Warrior who feared looking weak on Communism.

In 1963, as the NASA budget spiraled out of control, Kennedy ordered three separate reviews of the Apollo program, perhaps looking for a way out of his commitment. In September 1963, Kennedy proposed that the U.S. and U.S.S.R merge their space programs, and even toyed with the idea of justifying Apollo as a matter of "national security" rather than simply "prestige."

Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, and the Moon program became a memorial to his legacy, so we'll never know whether he would have pulled the plug on Apollo, perhaps during his second four-year term.

If this is the model Gingrich plans to propose, it certainly contradicts his past rhetoric criticizing NASA bureaucracy.

Nor do Gingrich's remarks address the real cause, namely the penchant for pork among his former colleagues in Congress.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rocketdyne vs. SpaceX?

Florida Today reports that a recent Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne campaign could be aimed at SpaceX.

The company, whose engines power United Launch Alliance’s Delta and Atlas rockets and propelled space shuttle crews to orbit, touts its record of producing “smoke and fire” in 14 launches last year, rather than “smoke and mirrors.”

“While the other guys launch powerful press conferences, we power launches of people and critical payloads,” an ad reads.

The left side of the ad’s split image shows a microphone on a table with the tag, “Others’ idea of making noise.” On the right side, the microphone takes the shape of an Atlas V rocket blasting off, with the retort, “Ours.”

The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne ad on their web site.

The ad refers readers to the web site Near the top of its home page is an icon labelled, "Alert! Contact Congress Now!"

Click on that link, and you're taken to a new page that falsely claims:

The U.S. Space Shuttle program ended on July 8, 2011, and NASA has yet to announce its plan for continuing human space exploration beyond Shuttle.

The truth is that NASA's primary mission for human spaceflight through the end of the decade is the International Space Station. NASA flies crew rotations to the ISS every six months. NASA is also working on the Congressionally mandated Space Launch System. Congress ordered NASA to build the SLS without giving NASA a mission or destination. NASA is required to submit a proposed schedule of missions later this year, but there's no guarantee that Congress will act upon it.

The bottom of the web site has a Pratt & Whitney logo.

A Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne video uploaded to YouTube on December 7 has the title card, "Smoke and Fire ... Not Smoke and Mirrors."

Click on the arrow to watch the video.

The video ad does not mention SpaceX or show the microphone graphic seen in the print ad.

The Florida Today article quotes a SpaceX spokesperson:

A spokeswoman for Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX called the ads “silly.”

“Making history, producing amazing technology, and shaking up the industry might make us newsworthy, but they aren’t running ads because of our press coverage,” spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham said. “That we have emerged as a serious competitor in the launch business, with a manifest that is growing every day, that might be another story.”

The New Home for Enterprise

An artist's concept of Enterprise on temporary display aboard the Intrepid museum in New York City. Image source: Intrepid museum.

All sorts of false and absurd allegations have been made about how the orbiter Enterprise will be displayed at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

One Houston writer falsely claimed that Enterprise would be displayed "next to a strip club."

Houston politicians schemed to seize Enterprise from New York, claiming Enterprise would be displayed in "a Big Apple parking lot."

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown alleged a "bait-and-switch" and claimed that Intrepid is "woefully unprepared to house the Enterprise Shuttle," hoping to seize the orbiter for the Air Force Museum in Dayton.

The Intrepid museum received title to Enterprise on December 11, effectively ending any schemes to acquire the orbiter through lies and smears.

On December 14, the Interpid museum published on its Twitter account an artist's concept of the temporary display for Enterprise. No parking lots, strip clubs or other dens of iniquity to be seen.

Friday, January 20, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Flight Delayed Until Late March

MSNBC reports that the SpaceX demonstration flight of Dragon to berth at the International Space Station will be delayed until late March.

SpaceX had planned to launch its unmanned supply ship from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Feb. 7. But the company said more testing was needed with the spacecraft, named Dragon. On Friday, officials confirmed that the Dragon's launch on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket would not occur until late March.

SpaceX did not provide details on the further testing that would be required.

Space station commander Daniel Burbank said that he wanted to take part in the historic event, but that it was more important that SpaceX fly when it's ready. Burbank is due to return to Earth in mid-March.

UPDATE January 20, 2012 4:30 PM ESTFlorida Today reports that SpaceX has reserved March 20 with the Eastern Range for its launch.

UPDATE January 20, 2012 6:00 PM has more details on the SpaceX delay, including an estimate that the launch may be delayed into April.

The article quoted NASA commercial cargo manager Alan Lindenmoyer:

"Down at the Cape, the rocket's in good shape, it's ready to go," he said. "This is the first time they're checking out and integrating the Dragon with all its new systems on it. So I would say down at the Cape they're taking some extra time just to complete a full checkout of the vehicle and complete some integrated systems testing down there. ... They're closing out all the, what they call 'open tickets' on anything that needed resolution before they button it up and get it n final shape for flight."

At the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, meanwhile, "their software engineers have been so busy finishing up the integration work with the integrated testing with the station and making sure everything they learned coming out of that testing was properly implemented into their software, they wanted to take some extra time and just do a good, solid job of software mission assurance testing.

"And they recognized they really hadn't tested the software to the same extent that they did for that previous flight and their engineers reported that to (SpaceX management) and they decided well, you know, they're going to take the time that's needed to make sure they're comfortable that flight software's ready to go."

UPDATE January 20, 2012 9:00 PM has comments by the Expedition 30 crew about the SpaceX delay.

CNN has learned the launch will be in late March at the earliest. SpaceX spokeswoman Kirsten Grantham says, “we need more time to check out and test the systems.” Grantham added, “Its an incredibly challenging mission.”

“Space flight is tough,” Burbank told me. “It’s really, really hard, and to think that anybody could just roll into this and very quickly field a system that’s gonna be ready to go on the first day planned, and be absolutely reliable, is a little bit unrealistic,” he said.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Forbes: Can Commercial Space Bank on NASA Contracts?

The business magazine Forbes takes a look at commercial space and raises the question, "Can Commercial Space Bank On NASA Contracts?"

There are two principal issues. First, uncertain budgets and launch market commitments make NASA an unreliable customer, causing large R&D investments to be very risky. Second, working with NASA imposes contract complexities, schedule delays and added costs that jeopardize business viability. This is particularly true in regard to design control over manned mission flight safety provisions.

The original premise was that private industry can build and operate space transportation vehicles more rapidly, cheaply and flexibly than can government, opening a new era of spaceflight. But the big rub is that while this may be very true, they cannot do so the “government way”. Accordingly, companies are reportedly pushing back against NASA rules establishing how their vehicles must be designed rather than how they must perform. This is analogous to authorizing the Federal Aeronautics Administration to certify the design of airplanes- not just certifying their airworthiness.

Well worth your time to read in its entirety.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Atlantis Museum Groundbreaking at KSCVC

Florida Today reports that groundbreaking ceremonies will be held today for the Atlantis orbiter museum at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Kennedy Space Center and visitor complex operator Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts will conduct the ceremonial groundbreaking in the shuttle plaza area of the complex starting at 11 a.m. Members of the public who pay for a ticket to the Visitor Complex can watch the event.

UPDATE January 18, 2012 8:45 PM reports on today's groundbreaking event, along with artists' concepts.

Florida Today on the ceremony. The below Florida Today video is on YouTube:

Click the arrow to watch the video.

UPDATE January 19, 2012 — NASA has posted on YouTube its own video about the groundbreaking ceremony:

Click the arrow to watch the video.

Monday, January 16, 2012

SpaceX Postpones Dragon Launch

Space News reports that SpaceX has postponed its February 7 Dragon launch to the International Space Station.

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has postponed the scheduled Feb. 7 launch of its Dragon logistics capsule to the international space station for unspecified reasons, according to a company spokeswoman.

“We believe there are a few areas that will benefit from additional work and will optimize the safety and success of the mission,” SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham wrote in a Jan. 16 email to reporters. “We are now working with NASA to establish a new target launch date, but note that we will continue to test and review data. We will launch when the vehicle is ready.”

UPDATE January 16, 2012 9:00 PM offers an analysis of the demonstration flight and an implied speculation for the delay.

The comment about launching only when the vehicle is ready is an absolute standard throughout the launch industry, yet the language of the SpaceX release matches the recent heritage of NASA managers tasked with providing a green light for a Space Shuttle launch.

The post-RTF era for the Shuttle earned a large amount of respect for NASA, as Flight Readiness Reviews and Mission Management Team meetings often slipped a launch or delayed the target date late into the flow, avoiding the obvious strain of “schedule pressure” – something which can cause a negative outcome.

UPDATE January 17, 2012Florida Today reports on the Dragon delay.

The launch could move later in the month, after a spacewalk by Russian station residents and a military satellite launch from the Cape that are planned in mid-February. After that, NASA has said opportunities in March are limited, potentially pushing the flight to April.

UPDATE January 19, 2012Space News reports that SpaceX executive and former astronaut Ken Bowersox quietly left the company late in 2011. No reason was given for his resignation. Bowersox was the vice-president for astronaut safety and mission assurance.

Of tangential note, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced via Twitter that he and his wife have separated.

Is There Profit in Space?

Qn, a publication of the Yale School of Management, published in December an article titled, "Is There Profit in Outer Space?"

Unlike many articles these days about commercial space, this one looks primarily at Orbital Sciences. Orbital will send the Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station later this year.

For years, the bulk of Orbital Sciences Corporation's work has been designing, building, and launching commercial, scientific, and defense satellites—probably the closest thing there is to a reliable, profitable niche in the space business. Now the company is trying something new. In 2012, this silver and gold puck bristling with guidance sensors and wing-like solar arrays—Orbital's cargo-carrying Cygnus Advanced Maneuvering Spacecraft—is scheduled to navigate itself to a rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Any company in the business of space must be prepared for extreme complexity, as technical, logistical, regulatory, political, operational, and management challenges collide. The up-front costs are tremendous; the returns are uncertain. Tolerance for error is close to zero, yet the materials and engineering must push the bounds of what is currently possible. And though they seem innumerable, every contingency must be planned for. This isn't just rocket science; it's the business of rocket science.

The article suggests that spaceflight itself may never generate a "total profitability," but in the long run its benefit to humanity will justify the operating expense.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Next Space Station

February 3, 2011 — Las Vegas TV station KLAS reports on Bigelow Aerospace plans for an inflatable space station. Click the arrow to watch the video.

While doing research on YouTube, I came across the above video. It's a compilation of reports by KLAS Channel 8 in Las Vegas on February 3 and 4, 2011, about the Bigelow space station.

A year later, the optimistic timeline projected in the TV report has failed to materialize. In September 2011, Bigelow laid off 40 of 90 employees because the commercial launch industry is not yet at a point where they can launch customers to his space station.

But seven nations have signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with Bigelow for possible future flights. Those nations are Australia, Dubai, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

So it's still a matter not of if, but when.

Maybe It Shouldn't Be Saved

In his January 1 column, Florida Today space columnist John Kelly posed the question, how to save the space program.

He invited his readers to submit their own ideas:

I’m sure you have ideas about those, and others. I want to hear your ideas, too. I aim to utilize the column to shine the light on wasteful spending, off-mission projects, opportunities for collaboration and anything else you think is important to saving the space program.

I took him up on that offer, and my response is in today's issue.

Click here to read the article.

The article is essentially what I've written here for the last two years.

John didn't really define what he meant by "the space program." I assumed he meant the government's space program, and that's defined by the The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. The Act has been amended several times since then.

Nothing in the Act requires NASA to fly people into space, to explore other worlds or even to own its rockets. NASA was intended to be a civilian aerospace research and development agency. It was separated from the Defense Department so the Soviet Union wouldn't have a justification for militarizing space. (Not that the USSR would care ...)

In 1961, President Kennedy proposed that the government space program place a man on the Moon by the end of that decade. It was inspirational, but it also morphed NASA into something it wasn't meant to be — a bloated government agency controlled by elected politicians on the Congressional space subcommittees who use NASA to direct pork to their districts and to campaign donors.

In the article, I suggest that NASA needs to return to its original purpose, while routine space access is handled by the private sector. That's what we do with commercial airlines. Let's not forget that NASA is also an aeronautics research agency. It absorbed the old National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

Nobody expected NACA to be a government monopoly running the only airline that allowed people to fly in the air. NASA wasn't meant to run the only vehicle that allows people to fly in space. But it does.

So I posited that if by "space program" is meant a government monopoly, then perhaps it shouldn't be saved.

I'm all for space exploration, but as we've seen in the last few decades NASA can't build and operate a human spaceflight program without long delays and huge cost overruns. Part of the blame lies with an increasingly risk-averse culture. Part of it is Congressional apathy. Part of the blame belongs with us, because other than applauding at launches most Americans couldn't care less about space so long as it doesn't cost them any money.

It's time to allow NASA to return to its roots, and let American enterprise do what it does best.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spaceport USA

A sign welcoming guests to Spaceport USA. Image source:

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex was once known as Spaceport USA. In the 1985 IMAX film The Dream is Alive, Walter Cronkite referred to KSC as "America's spaceport."

Now that the private sector is welcome at KSC, the "America's spaceport" theme may be more true than ever.

Florida Today reports that "Kennedy could one day operate more like an airport, with NASA and private space companies each paying for facilities and services governed by an independent authority."

“I think that’s a real likely concept, that they’ll eventually create a governance authority with a board that would oversee the activities — a true spaceport, where you have a private-public partnership,” said Tom Beck, head of the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Division of Community Development.

Kennedy’s master plan will provide a road map as the spaceport seeks to transform into a “21st Century launch complex” more attractive to commercial space operations, after 30 years of domination by a single government program.

Friday, January 13, 2012

NASA Weighs Missions for Orion

An Orion prototype at the Dryden Flight Research Center in June 2011. Image source: NASA.

Aviation Week reports that NASA is discussing potential missions for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

“If you step back and think of what we’re doing, we’re looking at a capability — both SLS [the heavy-lift Space Launch System] and MPCV/Orion — that can support multiple destinations,” says William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations. “So instead of optimizing or building a vehicle that just supports one particular mission, we’re trying to look at a vehicle that has enough flexibility without carrying a huge penalty for that flexibility, that can support multiple missions and multiple destinations.”

Inside NASA, Gerstenmaier and other top managers are giving serious consideration to pulling modules from the International Space Station (ISS) when it is retired after 2020 and moving them to one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points or to lunar orbit as an early destination for Orion. The idea has some international support as the ISS partnership begins to consider post-station human spaceflight (AW&ST Oct. 10, 2011, p. 46).

The article notes ideas such as detaching an International Space Station module to place at a Lagrangian Point, missions to the dark side of the Moon, and perhaps a 900-day trip to Mars in the 2030s.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

SpaceX to Begin Testing Reusable Falcon 9 Technology

Click the arrow to watch a computer animation of SpaceX plans to launch a reusable Falcon 9. reports that SpaceX "will begin testing on a vertical propulsion landing system later this year, part of a long-term project to evaluate the potential of creating a fully-reusable version of their Falcon 9 launch vehicle. SpaceX believe a fully and rapidly reusable orbital class rocket would provide a critical breakthrough for the human race’s ambition of becoming a multi-planetary species."

The first element of testing the simulations with real hardware will begin via a technology test bed called “Grasshopper”. This concept – per Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information – points to a single-engine Falcon 9 First Stage with its own landing legs.

As confirmed by SpaceX in a response to, the company will begin testing on their vertical propulsion landing system for the Falcon 9 Reusable project later this year – a project they acknowledge is a long-term effort.

“We will begin testing our vertical propulsion landing system later this year. This is the research and development effort designed to help us learn more about propulsive landing systems to advance plans for producing reusable rockets,” noted SpaceX.

“This is a long-term project. SpaceX must successfully complete extensive testing before we will see reusable vehicles.”

More Space Business for the Space Coast

Three articles in this morning's Florida Today detail more business coming to the Space Coast.

United Launch Alliance has been awarded a $1.5 billion contract to launch nine military satellites. The launches will be at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California.

The new contract calls for five Atlas V launches and four Delta IV missions by June 30, 2014, according to a Defense Department procurement notice posted this week.

Among the cargoes: three National Reconnaissance Office payloads, two Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS) spacecraft, two Defense Meteorological Satellites Program (DMSP) military weather satellites, an advanced Navy 3G communications spacecraft and a payload dubbed Air Force Space Command-4.

One hundred jobs are coming to Kennedy Space Center from a NASA contract awarded to a.i. solutions inc.

Work on the contract, known as Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 2, will be based at KSC but will include operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and other launch sites.

Tasks to support commercial and Air Force launches include technical integration, analysis, telemetry and oversight on behalf of NASA. The company has had a role in NASA’s Expendable Launch Vehicle program since 1998, including support to the predecessor contract. This new contract resulted from a competitive, small-business set-aside.

And state incentives funded by Space Florida will help the Space Coast to become "a hub for microgravity research."

Space Florida named three flight providers that have expressed interest in the program: Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif.; Zero-G Corp. of Arlington, Va.; and a partnership between Kennedy Space Center-based Starfighters Inc. and Star Lab, a project led by 4Frontiers Corp. of New Port Richey.

The incentives are the latest step in efforts to establish Florida as a hub for microgravity research, part of a broader strategy to diversify space operations after the shuttle.

Last year, Space Florida announced plans to buy seats for a researcher and experiments on Virgin Galactic’s suborbital flights from New Mexico. It also started a nonprofit selected to manage non-NASA research on the International Space Station.

Educator Astronaut to Launch to ISS March 29

Florida Today reports that a former Melbourne High School science teacher will launch on March 29 to the International Space Station for a six-month tour of duty.

Following in the steps of Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Morgan, Joe Acaba will be designated an educator astronaut and hopes to have time for teaching lessons while aboard the ISS.

Acaba first flew into space on the STS-119 shuttle mission in March 2009.

He and six crewmates delivered the station’s fourth and final set of massive American solar wings. Acaba also performed two spacewalks during the 13-day mission, which was a sprint from launch to landing. Consequently, he didn’t have any time to teach lessons to students from outer space.

“With the shuttle flight, it was really short and really packed, so we didn’t have much time to do education stuff,” Acaba said in a separate news conference Wednesday.

“But, hopefully, now that I’ll be living up there for a longer period of time, there will be more opportunities to do some education component.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

XCOR Closer to First Test Flight

The XCOR Lynx could have its first test flight by the end of 2012. Image source: XCOR. reports that XCOR hopes to launch its first test flights this year.

Taxi tests are scheduled to begin in October or November, which will be quickly followed by a short hop and finally a brief first flight by the end of the year.

The Lynx Mk1 design will be limited to flight tests. For commercial operations, Xcor will roll-out a Mk2 version about nine months later with two major changes. The Mk2 aeroshell will be made with different material that is easier to maintain in the field. Secondly, the metallic liquid oxygen fuel tanks on the Mk1 will be replaced by a non-flammable composite material, McKee said.

Finally, a Mk3 version of the Lynx is still being designed. It will introduce a 3.4m-long, circular payload pay mounted on top of the fuselage. The added feature will allow the Lynx to launch satellites weighing up to 650kg into low-earth orbit.

Beyond the technical issues, the article also notes details about XCOR's financial model.

As first flight approaches, Xcor also has released a detailed market projection for its new product. Company officials are seeking to break the popular notion that suborbital spaceflight is aimed solely at the space tourism market.

Tourism will account for less than 10% of the roughly $6 billion "addressable market" Xcor anticipates for the Lynx by 2015, when the company envisions a growing fleet launching into space several times a day.

Another $1.1 billion in yearly sales is projected for launching payloads, as well as $1.4 billion in revenue for launching small satellites. Xcor also projects a $2.8 billion market for vehicle and equipment sales to third parties, including the possibility of selling the rocket engine to the United Launch Alliance as a replacement for the Pratt & Whitney RL10.

Busy Launch Year at Cape Canaveral

The third launch of the U.S. Air Force X-37B is scheduled for October. Image source:

Florida Today reports it will be a busy launch year at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Citing a busy 2012 launch schedule, the director of Florida’s storied rocket range said Tuesday that’s proof there is life after NASA’s shuttle program.

“We are alive and well, and we are in business here in Central Florida,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of the Air Force 45th Space Wing and director of the Eastern Range, the nation’s prime rocket-launching region.

A dozen launches are scheduled from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the coming months, including missions that are critical to the International Space Station as well as U.S. troops operating in theaters around the world.

“So folks, we are busy,” Cotton told members of the National Space Club Florida Committee at a luncheon in Cape Canaveral. “With the exception of the month of March, there is something going on at the Cape throughout the year.”

The article details the anticipated launch manifest.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What's Next for Orion

Aviation Week reports that "work is deliberately slowed" on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle "to avoid the 'unsustainable' cost growth that scuttled NASA’s plans to use it to send astronauts to an outpost on the Moon."

One of the few surviving elements of NASA’s Constellation program of human exploration spacecraft, Orion is now recast as a multi-destination deep-space crew vehicle with an asteroid tentatively tapped as its first target. The U.S. space agency already has spent more than $5 billion on the capsule, and is on track to run its first orbital flight test early in 2014.

If all goes as planned, a Delta IV heavy rocket will send a high-fidelity test article on a two-orbit mission designed to simulate loads the capsule will encounter returning from the Moon or points beyond, and to exercise techniques for recovering it at sea. That first “Exploration Flight Test” (EFT-1) will be followed by an ascent-abort test similar to the Little Joe tests of the Mercury and Apollo capsules.

“We don’t have the money every year to do every system,” says Mark Geyer, NASA’s Orion program manager. “So EFT-1 is a great example. We decided to focus our money on the high-risk things, TPS [thermal protection system], crew module structure, parachutes, entry, navigation and guidance. So that’s where we’re putting our money in ’11 and ’12.”

The end of the article discusses attempts by management to keep Orion costs from bloating as do many NASA programs.

NASA Program Manager Geyer says the push to hold down development costs goes beyond phasing the work to fit the funding profile, and includes attempts by NASA to mimic private-sector management practices.

“We’re trying to increase our efficiency in oversight,” he says. “[We’re also] really trying to reduce the reporting products . . . . There’s a lot of stuff that drives costs for taxpayers that derives from financial reporting—values, [work breakdown structure] levels, institutional requirements and how stuff is reported. It can be a very large overhead, so we are working with headquarters on streamlining that and reducing the number of unique formats and reports that are generated that frankly, in my mind, don’t necessarily really help us manage the program.”

Not surprisingly, the Orion program has met with some resistance to its cost-cutting efforts inside NASA. “It takes time to convince them as to why there’s another way to do this, Geyer says. “It’s not some evil intent, some evil bureaucrat who just wants to slow things up. [Sincere, dedicated] workers believe their piece is critical, and sometimes people act as if affordability is for the other guy.”

UPDATE January 11, 2012Florida Today reports that NASA hopes to increase its Lockheed Martin contract to fund a 2014 unmanned test flight for Orion.

NASA intends to increase Lockheed Martin’s $6.4 billion Orion spacecraft contract by $375 million to compensate the company for conducting an early orbital flight test of the capsule in 2014.

The extra money will enable the U.S. aerospace giant to procure a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket and launch services for the mission, which will blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ...

The 2014 flight test will launch an unmanned Orion on two highly elliptical orbits of Earth. Then the spacecraft will reenter the atmosphere at a velocity that is 84 percent of the speed of a capsule returning from a moon mission.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Need for Speed

CKCC president Pete Johnson and retired astronaut Jon McBride, who is a member. Image source: Florida Today.

The Chevrolet Corvette was the ironic muscle car of the 1960s space program. Most astronauts drove a Corvette, racing them on the back roads of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as well as the streets of Cocoa Beach.

Out of that era came the Cape Kennedy Corvette Club. Astronauts past and present have been members.

The January 8 Florida Today profiled the CKCC:

Over the years, several astronauts have been named honorary members, including Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard and Dick Gordan. Jon McBride and Bruce Melnick are current honorary members.

There are two other such clubs in Brevard County: the Space Coast Vettes, which was established in Melbourne in 1973; and the Titusville Corvette Club, established in 1976.

“It’s nice to be with people who have the same interest as you,” said Pete Johnson, president of the Cape Kennedy Corvette Club. “You don’t have to explain why you bought the car. They understand.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

KSC Prepares for Orion

An Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle test January 6 at Langley Research Center. Image source: NASA.

Florida Today reports that Kennedy Space Center is preparing to build NASA's new Orion spacecraft.

The effort marks a huge first for Florida’s Space Coast. It will be the first time a NASA spacecraft production operation takes place at the launch site rather than a factory elsewhere.

NASA spacecraft always have been built in other states; then the finished product would make its way to the Cape for launch.

“We actually moved the factory here,” said Jules Schneider, senior manager for Orion assembly, integration and production operations for Lockheed Martin. “So we’ll actually integrate the spacecraft here — build it, test it, and then we’ll deliver it to NASA.”

About 260 people already work on Orion at KSC. That number will increase to 350 to 400 by June as preparations for the first flight test in early 2014 pick up.

Friday, January 6, 2012

KSC's 21st Century Begins reports on renovation work under way at Kennedy Space Center.

One of the largest projects involves the revitalization of the KSC Water and Wastewater Systems, which have been in place since the spaceport’s initial construction, back during the drive towards the Apollo moon missions.

This effort is now into phase 3 of a multi-phased effort which will – through various enhancements – improve water quality, reduce water consumption and required flushing, replace or repair ageing pipes that are susceptible to breaks or leaks, and increase overall water and wastewater system reliability.

As for the old Shuttle launch pads ...

Currently, Pad 39B is preparing to host the Space Launch System (SLS), following its conversion from a Shuttle pad into what is known as a “Clean Pad”. Such a design is required to create the space for the use of the Mobile Launcher (ML) on site, which made its debut trip to the pad at the end of last year.

Pad 39A is currently mothballed as a Shuttle pad, as much as it will never host one of the iconic shuttle stacks ever again. It is likely that the pad will be leased to an unnamed commercial suitor, who may in turn convert the pad for their needs.

Regarding the "unnamed commercial suitor," an informed source told me two months ago that SpaceX was in talks with NASA about using 39A for the Falcon Heavy. But the source was not authoritative. Various media reports have stated that SpaceX is looking for a Florida launch site for the Falcon Heavy.

Barbara Morgan: No Limits

Astronaut Barbara Morgan appears at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex through January 8.

Barbara Morgan was an Idaho grade school teacher when she was selected in 1985 for NASA's Teacher in Space program. Morgan was assigned as the backup for Christa McAuliffe for the STS-51L Challenger flight.

After Challenger and its crew were destroyed on January 28, 1986, Morgan remained with NASA's education division while she resumed her teaching duties in Idaho.

In 1998, NASA made her a full-time astronaut and began training her as a mission specialist. She went to space in August 2007 aboard the STS-118 Endeavour flight.

Morgan is now appearing at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Astronaut Encounter through Sunday January 8. I attended her presentation yesterday and was reminded by how inspirational her career and life have been for those of us who support space exploration.

In late 2008, PBS released a one-hour documentary about her titled, Barbara Morgan: No Limits. You can watch it online (click here) or click the arrow below. Well worth the hour of your time to be inspired yet again.

Watch Barbara Morgan: No Limits on PBS. See more from Idaho Public Television Specials.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

SpaceX Drops Orbcomm Payloads to Satisfy NASA

Aviation Week reports that SpaceX will no longer launch two Orbcomm payloads during its February 7 launch, to appease NASA.

SpaceX and Orbcomm announced their initial intent to include the deployment of two second-generation Orbcomm satellites on March 14. Following the announcement, NASA’s space station program raised concerns that the dual Orbcomm deployments might pose a belated collision hazard to the space station, as they evaluated a SpaceX proposal to combine what had previously been planned as independent COTS 2 and 3 demonstration missions. The first was to include a fly-by to test Dragon’s approach and abort capabilities, followed by a berthing mission if the first demo went well.

The article states that NASA will hold a Flight Readiness Review meeting on February 3 to "establish a formal launch date."

So the February 7 launch date is not 100% certain.

ISS Crew Prepares for Dragon's Arrival

Florida Today reports that the International Space Station crew is ready for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon cargo module in February.

U.S. flight engineer Don Pettit likened the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the pioneering opening of the American West in the 19th century.

“It’s sort of the first of many wagon-training wagons coming up here to bring us supplies,” Pettit said Wednesday.

“I think for all of us, we’re very excited about it,” added U.S. astronaut Dan Burbank, the current station commander.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Space Coast is All Business

The latest issue of Space Coast Business offers a look at the region's 2012 economic outlook and finds things aren't as apocalyptic as some were claiming one year ago.

In the article "Titusville: The Game Isn't Over", author George White notes that "the local population has not suffered the expected domino effect" after the retirement of the Space Shuttle.

"The early part of the year there was a lot of doom and gloom that this place was going to become a ghost town, but it hasn’t become a ghost town," said [District 1 County Commissioner Robin] Fisher, who has helped spearhead the Greater Titusville Renaissance.

"My mindset was the first way we have to save ourselves is we have to change the way we look and get some pride in ownership. This is not a 20- or 30-person thing. This is a community that has taken ownership. I’m not going to be happy until everyone that lives in North Brevard puts their name on it because that’s what I think it’s going to take to change it. You’ve got to get the whole community to embrace it," he said.

Added Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce President Marcia Gaedcke: "It’s about everybody coming together and pitching in. If we just sit around and wait for somebody to save us it’s not going to happen. Bit by bit, it’s changing for the better and people are getting enthused."

Mayor Jim Tulley is very much on board. "There are too many ‘Chicken Littles’ running around. There are too many naysayers. We’ve got to change the attitude of the whole community that this really is a great place to live," he said.

The article cites optimism that the welcome mat for commercial enterprises at Kennedy Space Center will help diversify the local economy.

"We’re reinventing what the term spaceport means to KSC. We’re going from just being a NASA field center to a future that provides NASA a significant opportunity to reduce its burden to support all of the things we have here at KSC and we can do that without demolishing or abandoning those capabilities where they are no use to anybody," Spaceport Development Manager Jim Ball said ...

"Titusville has paid their dues of being a company town. Is it better to have a single program that employs 6,000 people or ten programs that employ 600 people each or 60 programs that employ 100 people each? We want what creates the stronger, more sustainable economy. The economy that KSC is evolving into is a multi-user space launch complex that is much less vulnerable. This movement towards a capability that is less dependent on a single NASA program is only good for the community," he explained.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Should the Space Program Be Privatized?

In their Monday Debate editorial feature, Florida Today posed the question, "Should the Space Program Be Privatized?"

The format publishes pro and con opinion columns.

Click here for the "pro" position by Charles Parker. Mr. Parker is a high school and community college teacher and a former minister.

Click here for the "con" position by Fernando Rendon. Mr. Rendon is a business agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 606.

NASA Opening Competition for Space Taxi Development

Florida Today reports on NASA plans to begin the third round of Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) competition.

NASA in February plans to open competition for a third round of funding to further development of private spacecraft that could taxi astronauts to the International Space Station later this decade.

The request for proposals will reflect the revised contracting strategy announced in December. NASA changed its approach to account for the $406 million its Commercial Crew Program received this year — less than half what NASA requested from Congress.

The article notes that NASA's proposed FY 2013 budget also will be released in February. It should be interesting to see if they ask for another CCDev funding increase — or simply give up and assume that Congress wants us flying on Russian Soyuz capsules for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

How to Save the Space Program

In his Sunday column, Florida Today journalist John Kelly poses the question, how to save the space program?

Saving the space program is important to me, and to many of you.

Launching people and spacecraft from our soil to Earth orbit is important to United States’ leadership around the world and to our national security. A thriving, bustling spaceport is critical to a healthy, growing economy in Brevard County and across Central Florida. Venturing farther into our solar system is fundamental to expanding human knowledge.

The importance of the transition demands more attention, so the focus of this column throughout this new year will narrow to one topic: saving the space program.

Kelly posits "three main threats to the space program successfully navigating this post-shuttle period of transformation."

  • A clear, simple mission.
  • Less waste.
  • Lose the “not invented here” mentality.

Kelly closes with an invitation for you to participate in his answering this question:

I’m sure you have ideas about those, and others. I want to hear your ideas, too. I aim to utilize the column to shine the light on wasteful spending, off-mission projects, opportunities for collaboration and anything else you think is important to saving the space program.

Kelly's e-mail address is