Wednesday, February 26, 2014


This NASA video excerpt shows Luca Parmitano's emergency abort of his July 16, 2013 spacewalk.

During a teleconference event today, NASA released a report identifying the causes of the water leak inside astronaut Luca Parmitano's helmet during a July 16, 2013 spacewalk that nearly caused him to drown.

According to the summary presentation released today, “The hardware failure has been traced to contamination in a portion of the spacesuit called the Fan Pump Separator, but the source of the contamination has not yet been determined.”

NASA revealed the water leak occurred at the end of Parmitano's last spacewalk one week earlier on July 9, 2013, but it was dismissed as a leaky water bag.

According to the summary, “This event was not properly investigated which could have prevented placing a crew member at risk a week later.”

Contributing to the severity of the event was the failure of the flight control team in Mission Control, as well as the crew, to immediately terminate the spacewalk as soon as water was detected in the helmet.

In the above video, you can watch in real time as Parmitano reports the leak, then Mission Control deliberates what to do as the anomaly worsens.

The report contains 49 recommendations grouped into three levels of importance.

The first recommendation is:

The ISS Program must reiterate to all team members that, if they feel that crew time is needed to support their system, a request and associated rationale must be elevated to the ISS Program for an appropriate decision.

According to the summary, the investigation board “did not find any evidence that fear, intimidation, or an unwillingness to raise safety concerns contributed to this event. Schedule pressure and pressure to maximize crew time used to perform science was so ingrained in the team that risks associated with their decisions to not request on orbit time for important activities were not always communicated to ISS managers.”

For some observers, including me, this harkens back to similar findings after the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Vice President of NewSpace

Space Florida issued a press release today announcing that Allison Odyssey has been named their Vice President of NewSpace Market Development.

It's the first time I've heard of a job title with the word “NewSpace” in it, but I'm also struck by Space Florida using the press release to define NewSpace:

Today the NewSpace industry is composed of hundreds of small and large businesses and according to industry analysts, is expected to reach 1,000 companies worldwide by 2016. NewSpace is characterized by lean companies that are backed by private investment and use space applications to serve a growing base of commercial customers. By evaluating the business needs of these companies from a technical and financial standpoint, Odyssey is responsible for shaping customized solutions, and providing support and investment in the areas that will have the largest impact and best position them for growth and success.

There are those in the blogosphere who deny such a thing as “NewSpace” exists. There are also those who deny climate change and President Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate.

Space Florida clearly acknowledges that NewSpace exists, and it's the future of the U.S. space program.

As I wrote in September 2012, a new economy has begun here in the United States based on opening space to the private sector. The U.S. space program is no longer NASA; it's NASA plus its commercial partners plus the other NewSpace companies seizing their own independent opportunity to reach into space now that NASA is no longer a government space monopoly.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Space Junk

Click the arrow to watch the “Gravity” trailer parody. You may be subjected to an ad first. Video source: Screen Junkies YouTube channel.

I've made clear my distaste for Gravity, which nonetheless looks poised to haul off a payload bay full of Oscars at the Academy Awards.

But it seems someone else has found fault with Gravity, and that would be the folks at Screen Junkies.

SpaceX Legs It Out

A Falcon 9 with legs attached. Image source: Elon Musk via Twitter.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted last night the above image of a Falcon 9 with legs attached. This booster is in the SpaceX horizontal integration facility at the Cape's Launch Complex 40.

In two accompanying tweets, Musk wrote:

Mounting landing legs (~60 ft span) to Falcon 9 for next month's Space Station servicing flight.

However, F9 will continue to land in the ocean until we prove precision control from hypersonic thru subsonic regimes.

The landing legs are to help evolve the SpaceX Grasshopper technology which intends to steer first-stage (and eventually upper stage) vehicles to a landing pad so they can be refurbished and used again.

Click the arrow to watch the October 7, 2013 Grasshopper test on YouTube. Video source: SpaceX.

While that demonstration is years in the future, for now SpaceX may attempt to demonstrate they can return the first stage to a specific target in the Atlantic Ocean.

This Falcon 9 will be used for their next commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station, scheduled to launch March 16. It's appropriate to use a NASA mission, because the agency's charter requires it to “contribute materially” to “the improvement of the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles.”

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Modern Day Kitty Hawk

Click the arrow to watch the video on YouTube. Video source: All Things Aero.

The web site All Things Aero recently posted the above video about the Mojave Air & Space Port in southern California.

The port is arguably the epicenter for NewSpace. Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Stratolaunch, Masten Space Systems, Scaled Composites, Orbital Sciences and more have operations here.

Lots of great quotes in the video, but my favorite is this one from Kevin Mickey, the President of Scaled Composites:

The enemy of innovation is the intolerance for risk and some failure.

That quote pretty much sums up the difference between NewSpace and OldSpace.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Retro Saturday: The John Glenn Story

Click the arrow to watch “The John Glenn Story” on YouTube. Video source: Air Force Space & Missile Museum.

This week's Retro Saturday feature is The John Glenn Story, a 30-minute 1963 documentary about the first American to orbit the Earth 52 years ago this week on February 20, 1962.

I'll be blunt.

This is a propaganda film.

Narrated by Jack Webb of Dragnet fame, it's “sponsored” by NASA and several other federal agencies. The film is introduced by no less than the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. It ends with America the Beautiful, classic scenes of Americana, and the mandatory U.S. flag flapping in the breeze.

Glenn's family members and friends are interviewed, but clearly they're reciting prepared lines.

Consider the era.

On May 25, 1961, Kennedy proposed the Moon program to create global prestige for the U.S. in its Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Two years later, Kennedy would confide that he feared some would think “putting a man on the moon really is a stunt and it isn’t worth that many billions.”

By then, Kennedy's thinking may have evolved to view Apollo as “a basic need to use technology for total national power” to quote NASA Administrator James Webb in their September 18, 1963 meeting.

Two days later, at the United Nations, Kennedy proposed that the U.S. and USSR combine their space efforts — an offer the Soviets declined.

So in this context, The John Glenn Story seeks to instill pride and patriotism in the American audience.

Propaganda films have always been a fascinating filmmaking genre for me. Wikipedia has a good page on the subject. Among the more classic examples are the 1935 Nazi film Triumph of the Will and the 1942 American film Why We Fight: Prelude to War by Frank Capra.

And if you don't care about politics ... watch it for all the historical footage.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bob Bigelow to the Moon

Click the arrow to watch the CNBC video. You may be subjected to an ad first.

CNBC posted an article February 18 about Bigelow Aerospace, which includes some nuances we haven't read before.

The article reports that the Bigelow Olympus, with a volume of 2,250 cubic meters, will need a “superheavy” launch rocket. The Olympus will have to be built near a seaport so it can be ferried to a launch site.

Bigelow's eventual goal is a lunar base, but it would be assembled in low Earth orbit, then pushed to lunar orbit and lowered to the surface using tugs.

An artist's concept of the Bigelow Olympus habitat. Image source: Bloomberg Newsweek.

In related news, The Economist on February 16 reported on Bigelow's request for the federal government to clarify private property rights on the Moon.

The application is not directly seeking private property rights or exclusive ownership of lunar resources; the company is requesting government, and by extension, Outer Space Treaty, assurance that its private spacecraft can run without interference or possible collisions with licensed vessels already in operation. In other words, Bigelow Aerospace is asking for the ability to use the moon and its resources in order to shore up its capital investments.

Whether such usage equates to property rights or ownership is an international legal debate. Bigelow Aerospace lawyers point out that an effective national and international licensing system has meant that satellite companies operate successfully and peacefully without actually owning the space they occupy.

The company also contends that FAA AST commercial licensing requires a 200km (124 mile) buffer zone of operation for each spacecraft. This means the government is obliged already to maintain safe operations in space, limit liability and prevent crashes between private entities that could cause damage on and around the Moon.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Space On Your Shelf

Click the arrow to watch the Amgen Prolia commercial. You may be subjected to an ad first. Video source: Platinum Adverts YouTube channel.

In July 2013, I wrote a blog article about five medical discoveries in microgravity that were on the market on pending clinical trials.

One of those is an Amgen product called Prolia, an treatment for older people with osteoporosis who are at high risk for a fracture.

Originally known as denosumab, the treatment was tested on mice in microgravity during Space Shuttle flight STS-108 in 2001. NASA continues to research bone loss treatments in space, as bone loss is accelerated by microgravity. An Amgen-sponsored experiment flew on STS-135, the final Shuttle flight, in July 2011.

The advantage for pharmaceutical companies is that the accelerated bone loss in microgravity will demonstrate much more quickly on a test subject if the medication actually works. It can significantly reduce the time to bring the product to clinical trials.

I saw the above commercial for Prolia play during the February 17 edition of The View. The commercial doesn't mention the product was tested on the Shuttle, but it's the first time I can recall seeing on TV a product tested and proven in space.

(Tang doesn't count ...)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bigelow Wallops the Cape

The Orbital Sciences Antares launches on September 18, 2013 from the NASA Wallops facility. Image source: Orbital Sciences.

The Delmarva Daily Times reports that Bigelow Aerospace may look at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility for crewed test flights.

A private space company wants to use the spaceport at Wallops for manned missions, a company representative told members of the Eastern Shore Defense Alliance at their quarterly meeting.

“We are prepared to make a proposal that will include human spaceflight from Wallops,” said Michael N. Gold, director of D.C. Operations for Bigelow Aerospace, a private company based in Las Vegas.

The company is talking to NASA about the possibility of conducting a demonstration mission that would involve human spaceflight — and Bigelow wants to use Virginia’s spaceport as its base.

Why not the Space Coast?

... Bigelow would like to use Virginia’s spaceport for future missions, Gold said, noting Wallops has advantages over other options available to private companies.

Kennedy Space Center in Florida has “so much activity that commercial activity will be bumped,” while developing a new launch facility takes years, he said.

“Wallops is just right; you’ve got everything you need in terms of legal and regulatory readiness, but it’s not so developed” that the company would encounter a lot of delays, Gold said.

The article doesn't mention the launch vehicle. The only company launching from Wallops is Orbital Sciences. Their Antares rocket sends the Cygnus cargo module to the International Space Station. Antares is not human-rated, and Cygnus burns up on re-entry so it can't be used for crew.

Reading between the lines, Mr. Gold's comments would seem to support recent claims by Space Florida that a separate commercial spaceport is needed here outside of KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The state agency is proposing a commercial spaceport at the site of the old Shiloh farm town north of State Route 402, near the Volusia County line.

The land is currently owned by NASA, and would have to be transferred to the State of Florida to exempt it from NASA oversight.

The proposal is opposed by some local environmental and fishing interest groups.

10 Cool Things About the U.S. Space Program

You don't see this in Houston ... SpaceX employees gather behind Mission Control to watch the November 28, 2013 Falcon 9 launch. That's a space-flown Dragon capsule hanging from the ceiling. Image source: SpaceX.

Still running into people who think the U.S. space program is over?

Here are ten really cool things you can tell them to show the U.S. space program is alive and well.

1. The U.S. space program isn't just NASA any more. When someone asks you what is the NASA budget this year, explain to them that the U.S. space program is not just NASA but also its commercial cargo and crew partners. Many other companies are developing space technology independent of NASA, and may soon fly into space without NASA involvement.

2. An entirely new space economy is emerging in the U.S. Often known as “NewSpace,” the new U.S. space economy doesn't rely solely on cost-plus government contracts for business. Under cost-plus, NASA contractors are guaranteed a profit, removing the incentive to deliver on schedule and on budget. The new incentive-based approach used in NASA's commercial cargo and crew programs forces companies to achieve milestones if they want an award. They're free to innovate and invest as much or little money as they want, so long as they demonstrate they can deliver a service safely and affordably.

The beauty of this approach is that it's encouraged entrepreneurs to invest in 21st Century technology that liberates space from the government. By the end of the decade, private customers will fly on private craft to private space stations. All that is happening here in the U.S.

3. SpaceX is The Most Interesting Company in the World. SpaceX founder Elon Musk is to innovation what the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World is to machismo.

The Most Interesting Man in the World ... Elon Musk in about twenty years?! Video source: Dos Equis Beer.

He made his fortune by creating PayPal. His Tesla Motors Model S electric car is the talk of the auto world. His SolarCity is developing affordable solar panels for home use. In his spare time, he's mulled the idea of a hyperloop to provide high-speed mass transportation system.

But it's SpaceX that is changing the future of human spaceflight.

For the last half-century, only governments could launch people into space. Their launch vehicles and spacecraft were often built by private companies, but if you wanted to go into space you had to go through a government.

Musk's original vision was to bring down the cost of launching satellites. This was at a time that the U.S. government granted a legal monopoly to Boeing and Lockheed Martin; those companies formed United Launch Alliance to launch government payloads. The result was that commercial satellites went overseas to launch.

In December and January, the first two commercial satellites to launch from Cape Canaveral since 2009 were lifted into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Pad 40. The monopoly is broken.

The SpaceX Dragon, a robotic 21st Century spacecraft, delivers cargo to the International Space Station. Designed for eventual use by people, Musk hopes to have his first crewed launch within two years.

The Falcon Heavy, which when operational would be the most powerful launch vehicle on Planet Earth, could have its first test flight by the end of 2014 from Vandenberg AFB.

SpaceX is negotating a lease with NASA for Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A. Originally used for the Saturn V moon rocket, and later for the Space Shuttle, SpaceX would take 39A from vertical integration to horizontal. The pad could see both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches, for NASA customers and perhaps the private sector as well.

But that's not enough for Musk.

He wants to build a Mars Colonial Transport that would place humans on Mars in the next decade, part of a vision to permanently colonize the Red Planet.

Sorry, Dos Equis. Elon Musk is the Most Interesting Man in the World.

4. Bigelow Aerospace is building expandable space habitats. Don't call them “space hotels.” Bob Bigelow frowns on the term. Just because he owns Budget Suites of America doesn't mean he's building space hotels.

NASA began developing inflatable habitat technology in the 1990s. Called TransHab, Congress killed the program but NASA was able to find an entrepreneur willing to license the technology. Bigelow founded his Las Vegas company Bigelow Aerospace to evolve this technology into a more affordable means of permanent human habitation in low Earth orbit and beyond.

A Bigelow Aerospace model of their expandable habitats on the surface of the Moon. Image source: Bigelow Aerospace via

A demonstration version called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is scheduled to launch to the ISS on the eighth SpaceX delivery sometime in 2015.

Bigelow also spearheads a joint program with NASA to explore the feasibility of a commercial program beyond Earth orbit, possibly to the Moon.

Speaking of our celestial neighbor ...

5. Golden Spike is developing a commercial lunar program. Founded by former NASA executives, the Golden Spike Company hopes to use largely existing or maturing technologies to operate a crewed commercial lunar service by the end of the decade.

An example of a Golden Spike lunar expedition using a SpaceX Falcon Heavy as the launch booster. Image source: The Golden Spike Company. Click the image to view at a larger scale.

The above notional image on the Golden Spike web site suggests the use of two Falcon Heavy rockets — one to launch a lunar lander, the other to launch a crew vehicle.

Golden Spike has hired Northrup Grumman to develop the lunar lander, and recently hired Draper Laboratory to identify potential landing sites.

6. Microgravity research benefits humanity. Last July, I wrote a blog article documenting five medical discoveries from microgravity research that are on the market or in clinical trials. It's clear that microgravity research will have medical benefits for humanity.

The February 2014 issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published two studies documenting how microgravity affects cells. One article documented how thyroid cancer cells became less aggressive when in microgravity. The key is to understand why, and see if that process can be duplicated here on Earth.

Microgravity can also improve foods without genetic mutation. Zero Gravity Solutions, Inc. believes it can manufacture substances in microgravity that can be used to enhance the growth of plant life on Earth.

Click the arrow to watch a Zero Gravity Solutions promotional video.

Last year, ZGSI released its first product, called BAM-FX. According to their press release:

Initial data utilizing our technology as applied to agricultural use on Earth has demonstrated, through independent certified laboratory analysis, the ability to systemically deliver targeted minerals and micronutrients throughout a plant from seed or root to maturity. This was accomplished without the use of genetic modification or traditional fertilizers. The ability to create highly nutritious, immune system enhanced crops that are not Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) is a potentially significant, disruptive agricultural technology.

7. CASIS can send your experiment to the space station. The Center for Advancement of Science in Space is a Space Coast-based non-profit that finds commercial and other research customers to conduct experiments on the ISS. The first CASIS payloads arrived at the ISS in January on the Orbital Sciences Cygnus.

CASIS manages the U.S. National Laboratory aboard the ISS on behalf of NASA. The agency can provide seed money, expertise, launch access, administratrive support and educational outreach.

8. NanoRacks can deploy your experiment at the ISS. NanoRacks is a Houston-based company offering an affordable means of conducting microgravity experiments inside or outside the ISS. Their customers include high schools and universities, pharmaceutical companies, and nations that are not part of the ISS partnership.

NanoRacks CubeSats are deployed from the International Space Station. Image source: NASA.

In October, NanoRacks announced the company had delivered over one hundred payloads to space.

9. Stratolaunch is building a horizontal-launch craft. Stratolaunch bought two 747 fuselages to strip them as the skeletons for the world's largest aircraft. Mounted below a common wing would be an Orbital Sciences booster that would deliver a payload into orbit.

Click the arrow to watch a Stratolaunch promotional video.

The vehicle is currently under construction at the Mojave Airport in Southern California. No deal has been struck, but informally Kennedy Space Center's former Shuttle Landing Facility has been cited as a possible runway for launch and landing. A demonstration flight is planned for 2017 at the SLF, but again there's no formal agreement.

10. You soon won't have to be a government employee to go into space. You've probably heard of Virgin Galactic, which for years has been promising adventure tourism flights to suborbital space. The company has flown to an altitude of 71,000 feet — about 13½ miles — but that's still far short of the international standard, which is 100 kilometers (about 62 miles).

Less well known is XCOR, which is developing a smaller suborbital space vehicle called the Lynx.

An XCOR animation of a suborbital flight aboard the Lynx.

XCOR hopes to evolve the Lynx to one day deliver small satellite payloads into orbit.

Virgin Galactic currently quotes a price of $250,000 for a two-hour flight, while XCOR would charge $95,000 for a 30-minute flight.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Retro Saturday: Electronic Computers and Applied Mathematics

Click the arrow to watch the video on YouTube. You may be subjected to an ad first. Video source: wdtvlive42 YouTube channel.

This week's Retro Saturday feature is Electronic Computers and Applied Mathematics, 1961 educational documentary on mainframe computers.

The documentary doesn't have much in the way of aerospace and rocketry, other than a few fleeting instances of references to programs such as the X-15 and the launch of Explorer 1.

But it was the evolution of this technology that allowed NASA to send astronauts to the Moon later in the decade.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Assets and Liabilities

Click the arrow to watch the hearing on YouTube. It runs about two hours. Video source:

Congress came to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on February 10, not as tourists but to assess the future of KSC facilities.

Although the topic was “Assessing NASA's Underutilized Property Assets,” some viewed it as the opening salvo in this week's battle over the proposed Space Florida commercial spaceport at Shiloh. The Federal Aviation Administration will hold public hearings today in New Smyrna Beach, and tomorrow in Titusville.

The hearing organizers may have anticipated a Shiloh dust-up when they sat side-by-side Jim Kuzma from Space Florida, and Charles Lee from the Audubon Society.

The more significant message for the future of the federal space program is that the members of this Congressional panel understand the days of OldSpace are over.

In his concluding remarks, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) was quite blunt that the old ways of doing business have to change:

There was a time when America virtually had a monopoly on commercial space. A hundred percent of the satellites fundamentally were launched from right here. Under the old business model with NASA and the Air Force, we basically choked the Golden Goose to death with red tape and over-regulation, launch fees and other disincentives. Many in the commercial space industry found it much more advantageous to operate in other countries, where in fact instead of overregulating and essentially taxing the commercial space industry, they subsidized it. Pretty soon, we became not very competitive and we went from a hundred percent of the world's commercial launch business to probably less than ten percent.

Rep. Posey didn't mention the legal monopoly granted United Launch Alliance in 2006, to assure that Boeing and Lockheed Martin didn't exit the launch business. The result was the commercial satellite industry went overseas to find more affordable alternatives.

In December and January, SpaceX launched the first two commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) since 2009, attracting the industry back to the Cape with lower prices due to a more competitive business model.

Several members acknowledged a general lack of interest within Congress to increase NASA funding, a refreshing honesty from the usual rhetoric heard on the House and Senate space subcommittees. Those panels are loaded with members who represent districts and states that have NASA facilities and/or contractors. Those committees typically order NASA to direct limited resources to their districts, but don't provide adequate funding to execute programs on time or on budget.

A prime example is the Space Launch System, known as the Senate Launch System to its critics. SLS went all but unmentioned by this panel, which consisted mainly of members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) represented the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Posey was included because KSC and CCAFS are within his district.

All five attending members are Republicans, but for a change partisanship was left back in the District of Columbia.

This panel's purpose wasn't to protect OldSpace, but to hasten the arrival of NewSpace by removing bureaucratic obstacles to releasing federal properties to the private sector.

Shiloh can be viewed as a surplus federal asset, which is why it was a large part of this event.

A 1963 map showing five projected launch pads at Kennedy Space Center. Image source: NASA.

The proposed site was included within KSC's boundaries when the government acquired the land in the early 1960s. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) was created about the same time, sharing roughly the same borders as KSC, so that development would not encroach on launch operations.

Projected launch pads north of State Route 402, known locally as the Max Brewer Memorial Highway, never materialized but the land remained within NASA's purview.

Commercial companies launching from pads at KSC or CCAFS would be under bureaucratic restrictions imposed by those agencies, and much of the discussion during the hearing was about how to remove those obstacles. Moving outside their jurisdiction — the Shiloh approach — is one option, although panel members also discussed ways to direct those agencies to streamline their bureaucracy. The latter option would seem less preferable, because KSC/CCAFS tenants would have to wait while government launches took priority.

Charles Lee, the Director of Advocacy for Audubon Florida, said he believes it's time to transfer all land north of SR-402 to the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service. For land south of SR-402, “we believe that a maximum effort needs to be made to repurpose those properties for use by the private space industry, and for Space Florida.” Lee said that Congress should assure the government bureaucracy doesn't force private industry into “the pristine areas” of MINWR.

The problem with the latter argument is that Space Florida has repeatedly stated they don't intend to use “pristine areas.” Parts of MINWR were once a citrus plantation, long ago abandoned. The name “Shiloh” comes from the farming community located near the site that was demolished when NASA bought the land in the early 1960s. NASA still maintains some facilities in the area.

Lee also questioned the legitimacy of Space Florida's claims that the bureaucracy is an impediment, citing current negotiations between NASA and SpaceX for Pad 39A. Lee did not reveal how it is that he might have any inside information on the status of these negotations which have been ongoing for months. He also ignores the many public statements by SpaceX founder Elon Musk that his company will take commercial launches to Brownsville, Texas and elsewhere if they cannot escape federally controlled facilities in the Space Coast. SpaceX intends to use Pad 39A for NASA missions, such as commercial cargo and crew runs to the International Space Station, so Mr. Lee's claim is irrelevant for commercial payloads.

Rep. Miller questioned the wisdom of Lee's suggestion that lands north of SR-402 be withdrawn from NASA control.

I think that could be very short-sighted by the nation. I think that, optimally, the space program will begin really ratcheting back up at some point. I mean, there's always an ebb and flow to these kinds of things.

The Environmental Impact Statement scoping hearings in Brevard County this week may not have as much impact on the decision-making process as some may think. An EIS report identifies the potential environmental consequences of an action; it does not prohibit them. Even if the EIS finds that wildlife will be harmed by a commercial spaceport at Shiloh, Space Florida may still proceed; it will be up to the licensing agencies. In this instance, the FAA is the lead federal agency, although other agencies will participate. To quote from the FAA web site:

Space Florida will be required to obtain a Launch Site Operator License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation for the operation of the proposed Shiloh Launch Complex. The FAA is the lead Federal agency for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service are cooperating agencies. The EIS will evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the proposal (both operations and construction) and the No Action Alternative.

An artist's concept of the Shiloh commercial spaceport. Image source: Space Florida.

Space Florida Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Kuzma said he believed the EIS report would be available around July 2015, “which actually aligns to one of our commercial customers looking to that as an option for their launch site.” He did not say who the tenant might be; a Space Florida artist's concept of Shiloh shows two pads, one for a horizontal integration operator (such as SpaceX) and the other for vertical integration.

Near the end of the hearing, panel chair Rep. John Mica (F-FL) raised the possibility of a commercial site south of SR-402. KSC Director Bob Cabana said the center's master plan looked at a possible location north of Pad 39B — “you can call it 39C” — that would be south of SR-402. Audubon's Mr. Lee indicated his support for the so-called 39C, and in a post-event media gathering Mica suggested this solution might be an effective compromise.

It's possible that 39C might find its way into the EIS as an alternative, and into anti-Shiloh rhetoric, but I doubt events will wait for government funding to materialize for 39C.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Retro Saturday: Hey! What's Space Station Freedom?

Click the arrow to watch “Hey! What's Space Station Freedom?” on YouTube. NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program.

This week's Retro Saturday video is a 1992 NASA educational compilation titled, Hey! What's Space Station Freedom?

The cynic in me is tempted it be retitled, Hey! Where's Space Station Freedom?!

Anyway ... This was intended as an educational tool for middle school teachers and students.

Part of the video is a compilation of presidential addresses proposing new or expanded space programs. The commentator suggests teachers use this segment to encourage students to discuss these proclamations. I would suggest using it to help students understand the concept of unintended consequences, false promises, government pork and the inner workings of the space-industrial complex.

Gosh, there's the cynic in me again.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dan Rather Reports

Click the arrow to watch “Space to Ground” on YouTube. Video source: NASA.

Space to Ground is a weekly two-minute NASA recap of activities aboard the International Space Station. It's typically released Friday afternoons on the YouTube channel ReelNASA.

This week's episode was released a day early, because former CBS News anchor Dan Rather interrupts host Josh Byerly to do the commentary himself.

Rather was in town to serve as the keynote speaker for the 20th annual Space Exploration Educators Conference at Space Center Houston.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Musk: Human Spaceflight in Two Years

Click the arrow to watch the Elon Musk interview on the CBS This Morning web site. You may be subjected to an ad first.

In a two-minute video clip posted yesterday on the CBS This Morning web site, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said he hopes to fly humans in two years, then do a demonstration flight to the Moon in preparation for his Mars Colonial Transport program.

We've gotta restore American ability to transport astronauts with a domestic vehicle, and that's what we hope to do in about two years. And then, obviously the next step beyond that is to maybe send people beyond low Earth orbit to a loop around the Moon. Possibly land on the Moon, although I'm not super-interested in the Moon personally, I mean because obviously we've done that. Maybe just to prove the capability. And then we need to develop a much larger vehicle, which would be sort of what I call a kind of a Mars Colonial Transport system. This would really be, we're talking about rockets on a scale that would be a bigger scale than has ever been done before. It would make the Apollo moon rocket look small. And they would have to launch very frequently as well. That's what's needed in order to ultimately send millions of people and millions of tons of cargo to Mars, which is a minimum level to have a self-sustaining civilization on Mars. And I think we might be able to complete that in about ten or twelve years, so hopefully the first people we would send to Mars would be around the middle of the next decade.

Reading between the lines ...

The first SpaceX commercial crew demonstration flight is projected for 2016, which is consistent with past statements.

The Moon comments could refer to a potential arrangement with the Golden Spike Company. A Golden Spike lunar expedition concept suggests the use of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy as the launch vehicle.

Monday, February 3, 2014

ZGSI Plants Roots in the U.K.

Back in October 2013, I wrote about Zero Gravity Solutions, a Boca Raton biotech firm bringing to market products researched on the International Space Station. ZGSI was the subject of a Huffington Post article about using biotech research to address crop damage caused by climate change.

ZGSI issued a press release today announcing the establishment of a subsidiary in the United Kingdom.

Zero Gravity Solutions, Inc. (ZGSI or “the Company”) (Pink Sheets: ZGSI) announced today that it has established a wholly owned subsidiary, Zero Gravity Solutions Ltd (ZGSL), to service the Company’s operations and interests in the European Union (EU) and other international markets.

As of 16 December 2013, ZGSI is a 100% owner of ZGSL. ZGSL has established an office at Harwell Oxford's Satellite Applications Catapult facility at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK), a major space, biotech and life science development site in the UK. Harwell Oxford is becoming known as Space Central with the European Space Agency building a 50,000 square foot new building on this site. The campus already has 150 companies located there employing 4,500 people. This is estimated to expand to 20,000 over the next five years. Because of the resistance to the use of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) in food in Europe, we anticipate the EU to become a primary early adopter initially of our BAM-FX™ product and subsequently of our International Space Station (ISS) based plant stem cell technology. The European agricultural market is a USD300 billion/year enterprise as compared to the USA, which is USD175 billion/year.

The Road Show

Florida Today reports that Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park, FL) will hold a field hearing February 10 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

NASA’s handling of excess property after the shuttle program’s retirement will be the focus of an upcoming hearing at Kennedy Space Center led by U.S. Rep. John Mica.

The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 10 at the KSC Visitor Complex’s Debus Center.

Witnesses are expected to include representatives from NASA, Air Force 45th Space Wing, General Services Administration, Canaveral Port Authority, Space Florida and Audubon of Florida.

Mica, a Republican from Florida’s seventh district, chairs the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s subcommittee on government operations.

Mica's district doesn't include KSC — that's fellow Republican Bill Posey — but Mica has publicly expressed interest in the disposal subject before.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Retro Saturday: Army Satellites

Click the arrow to watch the video on YouTube.

Last week's Retro Saturday was a 1956 documentary on the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, where Dr. Wernher von Braun made his living in Huntsville until his team was transferred to NASA in 1960.

This week's episode is a semi-sequel titled “Army Satellites,” but it's really about the launch of Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958. Some of the film footage in this episode is recycled from last week's 1956 ABMA episode.

Explorer 1 was the first U.S. satellite, created specifically as a response to the Soviet Sputnik 1 launch on October 4, 1957.

Sputnik 1 shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone paying attention. Both nations were participating in the International Geophysical Year, and had committed years before to launch the world's first satellites.

Even though their Soviet counterparts had kept everyone apprised of their progress, apparently few in the U.S. program believed the Russians capable of doing it.

When the USSR launched Sputnik 1 on an R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile, part of the panic was that the Russians had used a military weapon as a booster. The U.S. had the Atlas in the wings, but it wouldn't be operational until 1959.

The Eisenhower administration was also concerned that if the U.S. used a military weapon such as von Braun's Redstone to launch a satellite, it would have set a precedent that would allow the USSR to militarize space. The Naval Research Laboratory was developing a nominally civilian rocket called Vanguard to launch their IGY satellite, but it wouldn't be operational until 1958.

Once Sputnik 1 launched, the Russians established the precedent of using a military booster, and also overflights by the satellite of other nations' territories, so the Eisenhower administration felt they could now authorize von Braun to use his Redstone.

For more information on the era, visit Vanguard — a History on the NASA History Office web site.