Claude Frédéric Bastiat (left) and the Moon (right)

In his pamphlet The Law, French political theorist Claude Frédéric Bastiat wrote:

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

Those words, written in 1850, could easily describe the space-policy debates of today.

When NASA says it isn’t going to build a mining settlement on the Moon, members of Congress (and the media) conclude that NASA is against anyone going to the Moon.

When NASA tried to cancel the Ares V Space Launch System, they said NASA was against any space-launch capability.

If anything is to be done in space, they think it must be done by government.

Written by Astro1 on May 31st, 2013 , Space Policy and Management

NASA starship concept

The 2013 meeting of the 100 Year Starship Symposium, run by the DARPA-funded 100-Year Starship Initiative, is taking place on September 19-22 in Houston, TX. The call for papers has now passed, with abstracts due on May 31.

Meanwhile, Icarus Interstellar has announced its own Starship Congress, which is taking place at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas on August 12-18. A call for papers is now open with abstracts due on July 15. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on May 30th, 2013 , Events Tags:

Planetary Resources Arkyd-100 space telescope

Planetary Resources has announced a Kickstarter campaign for its Akryd-100 space telescope.

The Houston Chronicle’s “SciGuy” Eric Berger asks whether asking the public to fork over $1 million for a private space telescope is destined to fail. Less than one day after the announcement, Planetary Resources has received over $370,000 in pledges, so right now, it seems like it’s destined to succeed.

Berger says, “the public’s appetite for philanthropy toward space exploration is about to be tested.” It should be noted that what Planetary Resources is offering is not, strictly speaking, philanthropy. It is pre-selling services, which seem to be quite popular, based on the initial response. (It should also be noted that most large telescopes are funded by philanthropic donations, which far exceed $1 million.)

Written by Astro1 on May 30th, 2013 , Planetary Resources

A British radio journalist who goes by the moniker of “Radio Kate” or “Space Kate” has resurrected the old canard that “suborbital spaceflight isn’t exploration.”

Radio/Space Kate has been twittering up a storm. According to R/S Kate, international cooperation (exemplified by the European Space Agency) is the best way to explore space. Individual nations are not up to the task, and private space exploration is simply defined away. “Going suborbital is not new, it is not exploration,” according to Kate. “Exploration is about unknown and unfamiliar regions.”

And suborbital space is not unfamiliar or unknown, according to Kate.

Why Kate considers suborbital space to be familiar is unknown. It’s safe to say she has never been there. The number of astronauts who have flown suborbitally is quite small. Eight pilots were awarded suborbital astronaut wings in the X-15 program. Two astronauts flew suborbital flights in Project Mercury. Two more flew SpaceShip One. At the moment, that’s it. Only 12 human beings have flown suborbital flights — the same number who have walked on the surface of the Moon.

Yet, the Moon is considered to be unexplored while suborbital space is familiar territory? The scientists who discovered upper-atmosphere phenomena such as blue jets, ELFs, and sprites, all of which were unknown just a few years ago, would surely disagree.

How anyone can call a region which it’s been visited by only 12 human beings “familiar” is a mystery. Suborbital space makes the summit of Mt. Everest look like Times Square.

It’s also strange that Radio/Space Kate considers ESA a model for future space exploration. The European Space Agency has not sent astronauts anywhere but the International Space Station — which is more familiar, at this point, than suborbital space. So, if we accepted Kate’s definition, we would have to say that ESA astronauts have never explored space.

The exploration community, of course, does not use that definition. The Explorers Club recently honored citizen space explorer Greg Olsen, who visited ISS in 2005, in their Exploring Legends series.

The Explorers Club is an old, prestigious organization. Founded in 1904, it promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences. Club members have been responsible for an illustrious series of firsts, including the first explorers to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, and first to the surface of the moon.

Yet, the Explorers Club does not limit its membership to those who accomplish “firsts,” nor does it insist that all exploration must occur in remote, unknown, and unfamiliar locations. To quote the Club’s website:

Many of our members have contributed to field science and exploration in much less remote and dangerous ways. A field study of butterflies here in New York or recording bird migration data on the nearby Long Island seashore qualifies you for membership just as much as collecting data from the top of the highest peaks or the oceans’ deepest depths.

We spoke to a former president of the Explorers Club not too long ago. He did not express the slightest doubt that suborbital spaceflight was exploration.

We’re sure the Explorers Club will welcome a great many citizen space explorers in the next few years. Almost all of them will be suborbital explorers. Sorry about that, Kate.

Written by Astro1 on May 30th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

NASA Administrator Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) recently toured the maker-technology lab at NASA Ames Research Center. NBC Bay Area reports.

Written by Astro1 on May 28th, 2013 , Electronics, Nanosatellites

The Astronomer Royal is a peculiar British position with no official duties and an salary of £100 per year, which makes him somewhat less important than the royal gardener. Nevertheless, the Astronomer Royal tends to get quoted in the press with some frequency,because of his impressive-sounding title.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on May 28th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

Scientists have started searching for Dyson spheres, artificial constructs where a star is entirely surrounded by a swarm of facilities or habitats, utilizing all available solar energy.

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Written by Astro1 on May 27th, 2013 , Astrobiology, Astronomy

NASA Gemini 6 and 7 rendezvous in Earth orbit

Flying the Gusmobile is a great article on the Gemini capsule, published by Air and Space Smithsonian.

The Gemini capsule was fondly known as the Gus mobile in honor of Gus Grissom, who played a major role in its design. Gemini was actually sized for Gus Grissom, who was the shortest astronaut at the time. As a result, many of the other astronauts found it a tight fit. Nevertheless, Gemini was the astronaut’s favorite capsule. Apollo, by contrast, was considered something of a lemon.

Contrary to popular belief, Gemini was not designed solely for missions in Low Earth Orbit. Jim Chamberlin, the chief designer for Gemini, intended for the capsule to go to the Moon. Unfortunately, NASA management would not allow that. Instead, it pushed forward with the defective Apollo capsule, which resulted in the deaths of three astronauts in the Apollo I fire.

In 2004, President George W. Bush announced that NASA would return to the Moon. This was to be done using a replica space capsule — “the first of its kind since Apollo.” The replica capsule, which NASA Administrator Mike Griffin dubbed “Apollo on steroids,” was later named Orion. The Gemini design, whose relative merits were well known to astronauts in the 1960’s, was not even considered.

That’s what happens when politicians run your space program.

Written by Astro1 on May 27th, 2013 , Space History

California State Senator Steven Knight (the son of X-15 pilot Pete Knight) has introduced a bill that grants a sales-tax exemption for spaceflight equipment and materials.

Senate Bill 19, the Space Flight Sales Tax Exemption Act, provides an exemption for “the gross receipts from the sale of, and the storage, use, or other consumption of, qualified property for use in space flight.”

The exemption also includes “equipment and materials used to construct, reconstruct, or improve new or existing facilities designed to operate, launch, manufacture, fabricate, assemble, or process equipment that facilitates the renovation, rehabilitation, or reconstruction of commercial space launch sites.”

The bill, which has been endorsed by the American Insitute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is intended to improve California’s business requirement, which has caused companies such as Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems and XCOR Aerospace to leave California. Whether it will be sufficient remains to be seen.

Written by Astro1 on May 26th, 2013 , Space Policy and Management, Spaceports

NASA Administrator (and former astronaut) Major General Charles Bolden flew the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser simulator during a visit to NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base on May 22.

If Dream Chaser is not the future, it is much closer than NASA’s $10-billion attempt to recreate the Apollo capsule — but who will tell Congress that?

Written by Astro1 on May 26th, 2013 , Sierra Nevada

U.S. Air Force 920th Rescue Wing in NASA Orion space capsule recovery exercise

Jeff Foust just tweeted this from the International Space Development Conference in San Diego:

Aldrin on capsule splashdowns: just because Elon loves salt water doesn’t mean thats’s the way spacecraft should return from space.

That is a bit unfair, since Elon Musk is developing technology to land future versions of his Dragon capsule on land — perhaps because of his experience with salt water. We suspect that Aldrin was twitting Musk and trying to draw a rise out of the audience.

Yet, he does have a point, as the United States government continues to spend billions of dollars to develop the Orion capsule, duplicating capabilities NASA had in the 1960’s. Meanwhile, the Dream Chaser spaceplane, based on 30 years of NASA and Soviet research, is in danger of cancelation even as it continues to advance toward flight test. It’s as if the Congress is determined to freeze the development of human spaceflight capabilities at 1960’s levels.

Every member of Congress who has a NASA center in his district seems to think that makes him an expert on space technology. Fortunately, their opinions may not be relevant much longer. The sooner we take human spaceflight out of the hands of politicians, the better.

Written by Astro1 on May 25th, 2013 , Space Policy and Management

The first Space Hacker Workshop for Suborbital Experiments, held in Mountain View (Silicon Valley) on May 4-5, spurred a considerable amount of media interest. Here, in no particular order, are links to some of the stories. There was at least one television story, which doesn’t seem to be available online, and one Danish magazine article which was online but seems to have disappeared.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on May 24th, 2013 , Citizens in Space Tags:

Reuters reports that DoD’s costs for Delta and Atlas launches, purchased under the Enhanced Expendable Launch Vehicle or EELV program, will more than double. That figure is somewhat misleading. As the article notes, the number of planned launches is increasing, from 91 to 151 (an increase of 66%).

Nevertheless, the cost per launch is increasing, even if the increase is not as dramatic as the headline implies. This is problematic, given the flat or shrinking military budgets expected in future years.

The Clinton-era policy of forced defense consolidation, which resulted in Delta and Atlas being marketed by a single organization, United Launch Alliance, has backfired. To the surprise of many in Washington DC, and no one outside the Beltway, creating a monopoly did not reduce costs.

Faced with this problem, the US Air Force (which manages military space programs) has created Orbital/Suborbital Program 3 (OSP-3) to certify additional launchers, such as Lockheed’s Athena, Orbital’s Antares and Minotaur, and SpaceX’s Falcon, for military launches. Of these rockets, only Falcon has a growth path that would allow it to compete with Atlas and Delta for the largest military payloads. SpaceX recently qualified for two launches under OSP-3, but the military’s approach to new launchers remains highly conservative, due to understandable concerns about the unproven reliability of new rockets as political pressure to protect existing contractors. As a result, Delta and Atlas are expected to carry the bulk of DoD launches for years to come.

Written by Astro1 on May 24th, 2013 , Military Space

(Cont’d from Part 1)

On May 14, 1073, NASA launched Skylab 1, America’s first space station using a Saturn V rocket.  The Orbital Workshop, or OWS, as it was called, was unoccupied at launch; the first crew, comprising Pete Conrad, Paul Weitz, and James Kerwin, was to follow the next day in an Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) launched by a Saturn IB rocket.  About 63 seconds after the OWS lifted off, a solar and micrometeoroid shield wrapped around the station tore away, taking one of the two solar panels with it.  The other panel was jammed shut by debris. When Skylab reached orbit, the sun’s rays beat mercilessly on the OWS and temperatures inside the station soared.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Greg Kennedy on May 23rd, 2013 , Space History

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Red Dragon capsule landing on Mars

Statements made at the Space Tech Expo in Long Beach raise new questions about the Mars One project.

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Written by Astro1 on May 23rd, 2013 , Space Settlement

Spiderfab 3D printers creating large in-space antenna structure

Tethers Unlimited of Bothell, Washington is developing a system to fabricate solar arrays in space, using a combination of 3D printing and automated composite layup. The system, which Tethers Unlimited calls Trusselator, is based on the Spiderfab technology which Tethers Unlimited has been developing under funding from DARPA and NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. The Trusselator system will enable the deployment of large solar arrays providing many tens or hundreds of kilowatts for solar-electric propulsion missions and space solar power systems.

Trusselator is one of four projects being funded under NASA Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts signed by Tethers Unlimited this week.

Another funded project is SWIFT-NanoLV, which will develop a suite of low-cost, lightweight, compact, and reliable avionics for small launch vehicles. Last year, NASA said that there is a “technology gap” in small-launch-vehicle avionics, which it cited as the reason for canceling the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge before the competition even began.

Also funded are SWIFT-HPX, which will develop a Ka-band transceiver to provide high-speed (100 megabit-per-second) cross-links and downlinks for nanosatellites, and SPIDER (Sensing and Positioning on Inclines and Deep Environments with Retrieval), which will develop robotic technologies to traverse craters, ravines, and other difficult terrain on asteroids and planetary bodies using anchored tethers.

Written by Astro1 on May 22nd, 2013 , Innovation

NASA has resumed tethered flight testing of the Morpheus lander, based on the Pixel lander developed by Armadillo Aerospace for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

The first Morpheus lander was destroyed in an accident on August 9, 2012 during the first attempted free-flight test at Kennedy Space Center. NASA has funded two replacements, Morpheus B and C. The new vehicles have an upgraded 5,000-pound thrust engine, about 20% than Morpheus A (4,200 pounds thrust).

The first fully integrated test of Morpheus B was conducted on May 1.

The following video, posted on May 21, shows the first use of a flame trench with the Morpheus lander.

The Morpheus lander is sized to land a Robonaut-sized payload on the Moon. The goal of the current tethered tests is to prepare for future free flights at Kennedy Space Center, including a kilometer-long approach test along the former Shuttle runway as shown in the following simulation.

Written by Astro1 on May 21st, 2013 , Armadillo Aerospace

Raytheon will relocate its Space and Airborne Systems headquarters, one of the company’s four business units, from El Segundo, California to McKinney, Texas, just north of Dallas.

The move is part of a continuing migration of aerospace companies (along with other industries) from California to Texas. In July 2012, XCOR Aerospace announced that it is moving its headquarters from Mojave, California to Midland, Texas — a move that is expected to occur later this year.

Raytheon already has 8,000 employees in North Texas. The move will add an additional 170 jobs.

Written by Astro1 on May 21st, 2013 , Commercial Space (General) Tags:

The failure of multiple experiments on the Russian Bion M biosatellite mission shows the limitations of automation.

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Written by Astro1 on May 21st, 2013 , Astrobiology, Space Policy and Management Tags:

The Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser test article arrived at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center on May 15, in preparation for the next phase of its test program.

For the next phase, a truck will tow the vehicle down the runway to validate performance of the nose strut, brakes, and tires. Those tests will be followed by captive carry tests using an Erickson Skycrane helicopter, leading to unmanned drop tests later this year.

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Written by Astro1 on May 20th, 2013 , Sierra Nevada

Make Magazine has announced Maker Camp 2013, 30 Days of Discovery, a free online “camp” based on the Google+ social-media platform. Maker Camp 2013 runs from July 8 to August 16.

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Written by Astro1 on May 20th, 2013 , Education

Clear your calendars for July. Planning for the next Space Hacker Workshop is underway — with funding from the Department of Mad Scientists!

Written by Astro1 on May 16th, 2013 , Citizens in Space

Swiss Space Systems (S-3) recently announced its intent to develop a small satellite launcher. The S-3 launcher would comprise an unmanned spaceplane carried on the back of a zero-g-certified Airbus A300. The spaceplane would be launched from the A300 at an altitude of 10 kilometers (32,800 feet) and climb to an altitude of 80 kilometers (49 miles) on rocket power. At that point, it would deploy an upper stage and satellite before gliding back to its spaceport for landing, as shown in the following video.

Swiss Space Systems, which is working with the French Aerospace firm Dassault and Belgian firms Sonaca and Space Application Services, will leverage work previously done for the European Space Agency’s Hermes spaceplane and NASA’s X-38 lifting body. The system is designed to launch satellites weighing up to 250 kg (550 pounds) at a price of 10 million Swiss Francs (about $10.5 million) per launch. The company hopes to bring the new launch system to operation by 2017 at a cost of 250 million Swiss Francs (about $260 million). It has already signed a contract with the Van Karman Institute for four launches.

Although unconventional, the idea of using a large airliner as a launch platform for a reusable spaceplane is not a new idea. In fact, the idea is more than 30 years old.

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Written by Astro1 on May 15th, 2013 , Space History, Swiss Space Systems


Buy Tickets to Maker Faire Today!

Once again, Citizens in Space is back at Maker Faire in the Bay Area.

This year, we’ve combined booths with our next-door neighbor (NASA). Come see Citizens in Space, PhoneSat, and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, all in one booth.

On Sunday, Citizens in Space will take part in a DIY Space Chat at 4:00. Also taking part will be Peter Platzer, co-founder of NanoSatisfi, which is developing the Ardusat satellite, and Matt Reyes from NASA Ames Research Center. Keith Hammond, projects editor for Make Magazine, will moderate.

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Written by Astro1 on May 14th, 2013 , Citizens in Space, Events