May 26, 2012

Editorial: Space No Longer a Government Program (Source: Orange County Register)
Now, the future for space exploration by the private sector seems limitless. "This shows what private entrepreneurs can do," Edward Hudgins told us; he's director of advocacy at the Atlas Society and author of "Space: The Free Market Frontier." He added, "This is the blossoming of a private space industry that will bring down costs. In the end, it will dwarf the government space sector."

Some critics have worried that America had become lost in space, with leadership ceded to the Russians and Chinese. In fact, America is just shifting to a private system. Another venture is Bigelow Aerospace, which, among other things, is developing space-station components. On May 10, Bigelow and SpaceX announced plans to send passengers "to Bigelow habitats orbiting the Earth." NASA and its shuttles proved innovative and advanced science, but they just cost too much, up to $1 billion a flight. For years, NASA tried to impede private spaceflight. "But now, NASA is facilitating private ventures," Mr. Hudgins said. (5/26)

Editorial: Americans Back in Space (Source: Oregon Register-Guard)
As Spacex and other companies expand their capabilities, NASA can shift its focus toward longer-term missions involving research and exploration. The era of manned space travel aboard American rockets may not have ended with the last shuttle flight after all. Instead, it may be starting a new and exciting chapter. (5/26)

Congress Should Fully Fund Commercial Crew (Source: Aviation Week)
The long march of New Space revolutionaries passed a meaningful marker with SpaceX's Falcon 9/Dragon flight. It was SpaceX's first “revenue flight,” carrying cargo in a vehicle intended one day to ferry people as well to and from low Earth orbit. It takes nothing away from their achievement to note the broad range of new commercial space projects in progress. Companies like Bigelow, Boeing, Blue Origin, Orbital Sciences, Sierra Nevada, Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace are not just drawing plans; they are building, testing and flying hardware—-and signing customers.

But there are storm clouds on the horizon, at least for those who hope the U.S. government continues to play a constructive anchor-customer role in the development of an industry that could one day make space flight as commonplace as air travel. The irony is that NASA, after years of ineptitude and broken promises regarding commercial space, finally seems to “get it.”

This new thrust began during the administration of President George W. Bush, and Barack Obama's has sought to accelerate it. Sadly, as bureaucrats place more trust in entrepreneurs and innovators—-and the private sector takes bigger risks—-powerful members of Congress seem determined to hold fast to the cost-plus, micromanaged procurement models of yesteryear. Click here. (5/26)

Mark Kelly: Obama's Tough Decisions Will Lead Nation Forward in Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The men and women who make our nation's space program great — like those who built our nation — are driven by the question, "What's next?" Americans are built to explore, discover and innovate. But a little more than a year ago, as I boarded space shuttle Endeavour on its final voyage into space, my fellow astronauts and I were left to ask, "What's next?" in a much different tone. President Obama has made some tough decisions to answer that question. He has a forward-looking plan for sustainable space exploration and innovation.

He supports the growing commercial space-transportation industry, which could create thousands of jobs over the next few years. And partnering with the private sector to invest in critical, next-generation research and development, he is keeping our space program moving forward toward the next scientific challenges. The decision to commercialize certain parts of our space program was not easy. I was not a fan at first of canceling the Constellation rocket program. I worried about what it would mean for NASA's overall mission, and what it would do to the brilliant and patriotic men and women who work there.

But I'm impressed by how far SpaceX has come in the past 17 months. And it's a bargain: The dramatic cost savings of commercial spaceflight — savings we need to reduce the deficit and grow our economy — let us expand the frontiers of space and stay at the forefront of technological innovation. The president made a tough, bold decision — and I now believe he was right. Our space program has fueled jobs and entire industries in the Space Coast and beyond. And if we are to out-innovate the rest of the world and create the jobs of the future, we need NASA and the world-class aerospace supply chain up and down the Space Coast to get us there. (5/25)

Weldon: 'I Have Very Little to Lose" in Long-Shot Senate Race (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Former Space Coast Congressman Dave Weldon has no illusions about his last-minute decision to enter Florida's Republican primary for U.S. Senate. "I know the odds against me are big," said Weldon, in a recent interview. But the ex-lawmaker from Brevard County said he was compelled to join last week because he doubts the current GOP field – namely, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV and one-time U.S. Sen. George LeMieux -- can beat two-term Democrat Bill Nelson this fall.

And also … why not? "You can't win if you don't throw your hat in the ring. And I have very little to lose. If I do lose, I can go back to my practice," said Weldon, 58, an internist who returned to medicine full-time after leaving the U.S. House in 2008. Editor's Note: Weldon could be viewed as taking badly needed Space Coast votes away from Mack and LeMieux, causing them to pay more attention to issues of importance to Space Coast voters, including the space program. (5/26)

'New Car Smell' as Space Station Crew Enters Dragon (Source: CNN)
"Like the smell of a brand-new car" were the words of International Space Station astronaut Don Pettit on Saturday after he carefully opened the hatch and entered the Dragon capsule for his first glimpse inside. Dragon connected with the station Friday, making history as the first private capsule to reach the orbiting spacecraft. Pettit opened the hatch at 5:53 a.m. ET with Russian cosmonaut and station commander Oleg Kononenko by his side. The two men, wearing T-shirts, khaki shorts, goggles and masks gave the thumbs up to the camera after they floated inside. The initial inspection went smoothly and ahead of schedule and the interior looked good, according to SpaceX. (5/26)

Silicon Valley Heavyweights Urge Obama to Weigh In on Hangar One's Fate (Source: San Jose Mercury News)
Three influential Silicon Valley business groups this week urged President Obama to keep Hangar One under NASA's control and make the agency respond to a proposal from Google executives to save the historic structure. "We strongly oppose any Obama Administration effort to excess NASA's current management of Moffett Federal Airfield and Hangar One to (the General Services Administration) or any other agency. The very vitality and future of NASA Ames as a Center is at risk," states a May 22 letter. The groups call on Obama to maintain the public-private partnerships and significant innovative science-based collaborations at the field. (5/26)

Ariane 5 Booster Roars in Test (Source: ESA)
An Ariane 5 solid-propellant booster was test-fired yesterday at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to help improve the reliability of Europe’s heavy launcher. The firing was performed in the booster engine stand, specifically designed for the vertical testing of motors at the site. The motor burned for about 135 seconds, simulating the firing time during an Ariane 5 flight. (5/26)

Texas Reaches Out to Land Spaceport Deal with SpaceX (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Even as SpaceX continued to make history on Friday by berthing its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, the state of Texas has stepped up its efforts to woo the company here. State officials are developing an incentive package to encourage SpaceX to build a spaceport near Brownsville. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company is also considering launch sites in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Two sources familiar with the negotiations said the state is working on a multimillion-dollar package that could include funding from the Texas Enterprise Fund, infrastructure support from the state Department of Transportation and assistance from the Texas Workforce Commission, among others. The discussions come about a month after SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Texas could be bringing more to the table.

"There's been a lot of good action by the authorities in the Brownsville area; there's not been that much at the state level, and we'd certainly appreciate more from the state level," Musk said at the time. On Friday a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry confirmed that the state is engaged in talks with SpaceX. (5/26)

Final Frontier: Space Collisions and Liability (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Timothy Nelson, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, has considered a future in which private spacecraft and their jetsam clog Earth’s orbit, greatly increasing the chances of a collision. Space vehicles, as a rule, are expensive. KIA hasn’t entered the game yet. So let’s say you’re a telecom company whose satellite crashes into a piece of space junk cast off by a SpaceX craft. It’s broke, and you want someone, be it SpaceX or the U.S. government, to pay.

“There’s a very undeveloped area of law concerning the liability of parties arising from space debris,” Mr. Nelson said. he 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space — aka the Outer Space Treaty — and the 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects — aka the Space Liability Convention — were written with the assumption that claims would be resolved between states, he said.

If a busted U.S. satellite slams through the roof of the Kremlin, the U.S. pays for a new roof. But when a private space vehicle crashes into another, “it’s not clear how you attribute liability,” said Mr. Nelson. Maritime law could offer a guide, Mr. Nelson said. When a private vessel flying the Stars and Stripes clips another private vessel flying the Union Jack, neither government is liable. So should we assume the U.S. is liable for a privately controlled spacecraft? (5/26)

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