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What Happened at the House Committee Hearing on Commercial Crew

From Spacepolitics.com-

Wednesday’s hearing by the House Space, Science, and Technology Committee on NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) programdidn’t yield any major breakthroughs or other significant news. Industry members in the hearing’s first panel expressed their confidence to develop systems to transport NASA astronauts and serve other markets in the next several years, provided adequate funding. NASA’s associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier also backed the program, while NASA inspector general Paul Martin covered some of the challenges the program faces. Two themes did emerge from the nearly three-hour hearing, though.

1. Congressional skepticism is about markets, not capabilities:During the hearing several members of congress, including committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), expressed their doubts that CCDev would unfold as NASA and industry claim…

CCDev’s FY12 budget is looking increasingly likely to be no more than $500 million: As NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver warned last week, Gerstenmaier said that funding CCDev at $500 million (the current Senate mark) rather than the administration’s request of $850 million would result in a one-year delay in vehicles entering service, to 2017, with the result that NASA would have to pay $480 million to Russia for an additional year of flight services. However, when asked by committee members, Gerstenmaier said that one-year delay would be the only major impact provided the program was adequately funded in future years. He added that NASA was still about a year away from making a decision to buy additional Soyuz seats…

Full story…

Nasawatch has links to statements from John Elbon, Boeing, Steve Lindsey, Sierra Nevada, Elon Musk, SpaceX, Charles Precourt, George Sowers, United Launch Alliance, Paul Martin, Inspector General, and Bill Gerstenmaier, HEOMD, NASA.

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Garver-Commercial Space Must Succeed

From Space.com-

For NASA to achieve any of its lofty goals for the future, the commercial space industry must succeed, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said.

The space agency has bet big that private spaceships will be ready to carry cargo and astronauts to orbit soon. The future of the International Space Station, as well as the future of NASA’s robotic science missions and human deep space ambitions, depend on that outcome, Garver said yesterday (Oct. 20) here at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.

“In order to make good on the entire plan, it is this part of the plan that must be successful,” Garver said…

Full story…

Well, duh. If you make something an essential part of a plan, don’t be surprised when that part of the plan is considered essential!

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Iron Man to Speak to House Technology Committee Next Week

Elon Musk from SpaceX is on the list to discuss Commerical Crew at a House Technology Committee next week.

From spacepolicyonline-
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee today released the witness list for its hearing next week on commercial crew.

The October 26 hearing is entitled NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program: Accomplishments and Challenges and will begin at 10:00 am in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. The witnesses are:

Panel One

Mr. John Elbon, Vice President and General Manger, Space Exploration Division, The Boeing Company
Mr. Steve Lindsey, Director, Space Exploration, Sierra Nevada Space Systems
Mr. Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, Space Exploration Technologies
Mr. Charles Precourt, Vice President and General Manager, ATK Space Launch Systems
Mr. George Sowers, Vice President, Business Development and Advanced Programs, United Launch Alliance

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SpaceX Completes Review of Launch Abort System

From Universetoday-

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is now one more step closer to sending astronauts to orbit. The commercial space firm announced today that it has completed a successful review of the company’s launch abort system (LAS). SpaceX’s LAS, dubbed “DragonRider” is designed differently than abort systems that have been used in the past.

The first review of the system’s design and its subsequent approval by NASA represents a step toward the realization of the space agency’s current objective of having commercial companies provide access to the International Space Station (ISS) while it focuses on sending astronauts beyond low-Earth-orbit (LEO) for the first time in four decades…

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Nasa Flip-Flops on SLS vs Fuel Depots? Well, Maybe

Nasawatch has a headline that says “NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS.” Well, yes, and no. Click on the article and it takes you to Spaceref where we learn that this comes from a press release by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher! Yeah great source. Like we should really care what a politician says.

The Nasa source is supposedly a real fuel depot study, linked here, dated last July 21. This looks like an updated version of some of the same study charts that showed SLS to be the best choice over a year ago. You can actually do things cheaper with fuel depots, but the flip side is you actually have to develop and own some fuel depots, and you still have the logistics and manufacturing turntimes to build more vehicles if you have no SLS. Click the link and read to the end where it talks about the necessary conditions to use depots. (and don’t pay attention to politicians!)

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Dream Chaser May Fly, Someday

A Dream Chaser may fly, someday. Blogs and news sites have some interesting details on when the vehicle may have a test flight.

From dvice.cm-

NASA has been flirting with a number of private firms in the hunt for a company that could offer the U.S. an option in getting its astronauts back into space by the end of 2016. It looks like one such company will be ready for a test flight by as early as next summer.

Pictured above is the Dream Chaser, a seven-seater space plane that’s one of the crew vehicle hopefuls in the running to be the next space shuttle. NASA initially invested $80 million in the craft, and just tossed another $25.6 million at it, lining it up for a test flight next year…

Full story…

Oh, so next summer, someone is going to put a vehicle on a rocket and launch it like the picture shows?

Well, no. Next summer the Dream Chaser gets a drop test. Woohoo.

From Universetoday-

It looks as though the efforts to get commercial space taxis off the ground – is succeeding. Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) “Dream Chaser” space plane is slated to conduct its first test flight as early as next summer. SNC is one of four companies that have had proposals selected by NASA under the Commercial Crew Development Program – 02 (CCDev2).

The test flight, what is known as a high-altitude free-flight test or “drop-test” will see Dream Chaser lifted high into the air, where the craft will then be released from its carrier aircraft and attempt an unmanned landing. During the course of this flight test program SNC will test out the space plane’s autoland and other capabilities…

Full story…

So, by next summer, we will know for sure if gravity still works, and if you somehow had a vehicle in space and a crew needs to go home, they could drop back down somehow.

I liked this headline on Aviationweek, “NASA-Backed Space Taxi To Fly Test Mid-2013.” This story slipped the schedule by one year already.

Maybe NASA or Sierra Nevada just need to hire this guy-

Link…

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450 People In Line for a Space Ride and No Travel Date

From Spacenews-

Venture capitalist Alan Walton, one of the first to sign up for a ride to the edge of space on a Virgin Galactic ship, has given up on his dream. After waiting for seven years, the 75-year-old asked for a $200,000 ticket refund, the Associated Press reported.

“This was a decision I wish I didn’t have to make,” he said. But “it was time.”

The promise of space tourism generated excitement in 2004 after the experimental SpaceShipOne completed the first manned, private spaceflight. Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson predicted a maiden passenger flight would take off in 2007…

Full story…

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Former Space Shuttle Manager Mike Moses Joins Virgin Galactic

From Universe Today-

One of the most respected members of NASA’s space shuttle program has joined Virgin Galactic as the commercial space company’s Vice President of Operations. Mike Moses, NASA’s former Space Shuttle Launch Integration Manager, will oversee the planning and execution of all operations at Virgin Galactic’s headquarters at Spaceport America in New Mexico. In a press release, the company said Moses will develop and lead the team responsible for Virgin Galactic spaceship operations and logistics, flight crew operations, customer training, and spaceport ground operations, with overall operational safety and risk management as the primary focus.

“I am extremely excited to be joining Virgin Galactic at this time,” Moses said, “helping to forge the foundations that will enable routine commercial suborbital spaceflights. Virgin Galactic will expand the legacy of human spaceflight beyond traditional government programs into the world’s first privately funded commercial spaceline.”

Moses served as the Launch Integration Manager from 2008 until the landing of the final Shuttle mission in July 2011. He was responsible for supervising all Space Shuttle processing activities from landing through launch, and for reviewing major milestones including final readiness for flight.

Moses was part of the team that made regular appearances at launch briefings at Kennedy Space Center and was a media favorite for his no-nonsense, but congenial and sometimes humorous answers to questions…

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Orbital, SpaceX Face Further Delays in Space Station Resupply Programs

From Spacenews.com-

Critical test launches of rockets and capsules NASA is counting on to deliver supplies to the international space station in the coming years are falling further behind schedule for both technical and logistical reasons.

Launches of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus 2 and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 rockets, which until recently were scheduled for this year, are now expected to push into January and February, respectively, according to an internal NASA manifest. A second Taurus 2 flight, this one carrying Orbital’s Cygnus cargo module for the first time, is still officially scheduled for February, but the NASA manifest indicates a May launch date.

Both the Falcon 9 and Taurus 2, developed with funding assistance from NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, are expected to begin making regular cargo runs to the space station starting in 2012. But the rockets and their associated cargo capsules first must successfully complete a series of COTS flight demonstrations intended to convince NASA and its space station partners that the new vehicles can safely do the job…

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NASA is Not the Only Space Workplace Downsizing (Bigelow Too)

Bigelow joins NASA on the “downsizing” list. This is from Spacenews.com last week-

Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing inflatable space habitats for commercial use, laid off some 40 of its 90 employees Sept. 29, a company official confirmed.

“We are proceeding with a core group of fifty plus engineers, managers and support staff,” Mike Gold, Bigelow Aerospace’s director of Washington operations and business growth, said in an emailed response to questions from Space News. “This core group allows us to retain key human capital and capabilities, with which we are continuing to aggressively pursue the development and eventual deployment of the BA 330 system.”

The BA 330 is a six-person inflatable space station Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nev., is developing to serve commercial and government human spaceflight markets. The BA 330 is one of the proposed commercial platforms Boeing Co. intends to serve with the CST-100 space capsule it is developing with financial assistance from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.

Bigelow Aerospace employees told Space News that the company laid off nearly all of its machinists and that most of the workers retained are associated with the Boeing CCDev effort. Bigelow’s partnership with Boeing on the CST-100 predates Boeing’s 2010 CCDev award…

Full story…

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