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Congress Poisons Space Program with Pork

In the latest NASA authorization bill, a cabal of pork-seeking congressmen complain that too much money is going into the program that will end America’s manned space gap—NASA’s Commercial Crew program. America has not been able to get its citizens into space on American vehicles for four years. Instead, America pays the Russians to take its astronauts to the International Space Station on Soyuz rockets at a cost of over $70 million per round-trip ticket. Thanks to a Congressional and Senatorial lobby that sees America’s space budget as a source of pork, America is funneling a total of $4 billion into Vladimir Putin’s space industry. And that’s the way Congress apparently wants to keep it.

Since 2009, the Obama Administration has supported a program to produce “space taxis,” advanced American vehicles that will give US astronauts access to space on American vehicles for the first time since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011. The space taxi effort is the Commercial Crew Program. Under the Commercial Crew program, NASA has contracted with Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build vehicles that can carry humans to orbit by the end of 2017.

But that displeases the space pork lobby. It wants to reduce the space taxi funding. The Sense of Congress resolution that accompanies the new NASA authorization bill complains that, “the budgetary assumptions used by the Administration in its planning for the Commercial Crew Program have consistently assumed significantly higher funding levels than have been authorized and appropriated by Congress.”  In other words, the space pork lobby wants to reduce space taxi funding. It wants to cut the Commercial Crew money supply.

NASA’s CFO, David P. Radzanowski, explains that a cut of this kind could extend America’s space gap and funnel more money to the Russians. He says, “If Congress does not fund the $1.244 billion of milestones that are planned for SpaceX and Boeing, we cannot fund them, and therefore we will have to renegotiate those contracts. As a result, we will not be able to certify those services by the end of 2017.”

In addition, NASA’s Inspector General Paul Martin warns that the space pork cabal’s reduction of the Commercial Crew budget has already delayed America’s manned access to space from 2015 to 2017. Further cuts could push access back even farther.

What’s more, the space pork lobby wants to cut SpaceX out of the space taxi program. It has tried in the past to tie SpaceX up in red tape, but in this budget authorization, the desire to scissor SpaceX out of the picture shows up in the following phrase:

“The objective of the Administration’s Commercial Crew Program shall be to assist the development of at least one crew transportation system to carry Administration astronauts safely, reliably, and affordably to and from the International Space Station and to serve as an emergency crew rescue vehicle as soon as practicable within the funding levels authorized.”

The irony is that of the three companies competing for Commercial Crew dollars—Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX—SpaceX is the closest to having a capsule that can take passengers to space. It’s the only competitor with a capsule, the Dragon V2, that can land on legs using retro-rockets. It’s the capsule best equipped to act “as an emergency crew rescue vehicle.” And, because it’s reusable, the Dragon V2 can make access to space for humans inexpensive.

Why does the space pork lobby insist on crippling America’s manned (and womanned) access to space? To protect what is known by space insiders as The Rocket To Nowhere, the Frankenrocket, and the Senate Launch System. Formally called the Space Launch System, the SLS, this heavy lift rocket will cost $2 billion per flight (versus less than $300 million for a comparable SpaceX rocket launch). It will only be able to fly once every two years. And it will be based on 50 year old technology. Worse, even if it stays on schedule (it won’t) the SLS is not slated to take Americans into space until 2022, seven years from now.

So why does the space pork cabal insist on holding our space program—yours and mine—hostage to its pet rocket? Why has it cut down the Commercial Crew budget for four years in a row? To protect jobs. Jobs in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Utah, and Colorado.

Jobs at any cost, including the cost of America’s standing in the space race with China, India, and Russia. And including the cost of America’s hopes and dreams.

 

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New Book by Sean Moss Outlines a Permanent Mars Settlement

Sean Moss has written a book entitled, The International Mars Research Station: An Exciting New Plan to Create a Permanent Human Presence on Mars.

It is available as a Kindle download for $4.99 Get it here.

Sean describes the book:

For years we’ve dreamed of sending people to Mars. With the emergence of disruptive new technologies from space companies and university researchers, it’s now possible to design mission architectures that can send people to Mars and return them to Earth more safely and cheaply than ever before. This book outlines a practical and affordable plan for establishing a base on Mars for use by international crews over numerous missions, initiating a process of settlement, and opening up a new world for human civilisation, while simultaneously bringing together the nations of Earth in a noble and historic endeavour.

As interest in Mars settlement increases, books like Sean’s are sure to help lay the foundation for practical settlement.

 

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Technically-achievable, Near-term Space Logistics

 

Spacefaring image Snead

This is a post by Mike Snead, President of the Spacefaring Institute and Associate Fellow of the AIAA.

If this comes as a surprise, so be it. The United States has a remarkably robust aerospace industrial base that has been capable, since the 1990s, of building an integrated, airline-like spacefaring logistics infrastructure throughout the Earth-Moon system. This infrastructure would be suitable for passenger—yes, passenger in every legal/ethical sense of the word—travel as well as payload and cargo transport throughout the Earth-Moon system. In fact, we would now likely be entering the third generation of such a capability—the operational equivalent of what you see in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” would be reality today.

The 2006 technical paper summaries what one such integrated infrastructure could look like using mid-1990s American technologies. The reusable flight systems would be certified for “aircraft-like” safety—not the passenger-inadequate “human-rated” safety approach of NASA—while the in-space logistics capabilities would be built using the heavy-lift launch capability of a system similar to the Space Launch System now under development. Starting today, we could have the initial infrastructure to LEO built within 10 years. Why we are not doing this is not a technology limitation, but imposed political limitations focused on the wrong outcomes, operational capabilities, and disregard for appropriate levels of human safety and operational effectiveness.

If the United States is to become a true commercial human spacefaring nation, building an integrated, airline-like spacefaring logistics infrastructure throughout the Earth-Moon system is a must do!

To begin to understand how this is achievable, see http://spacefaringinstitute.com/

Read the full paper here.

Mike Snead, PE, President, Spacefaring Institute LLC, Associate Fellow, AIAA and Past chair, AIAA Space Logistics Technical Committee

 

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Mars via the Moon

Hollister (Hop) David has several images worth seeing at his website. He argues for using Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1 as an interplanetary hub. Moving from LE1 has several advantages: not only can you park outside of Earth’s gravity well without millions of piece of space junk flying about, but you are close to the moon where you can pick up water or other needed supplies.

 

TucsonToOmaha

EML1 and 2 (just above and below the moon) could be valuable as transportation hubs in cislunar space. They could also be valuable staging points to launch interplanetary ships from.

Parking at LE1 is also a good idea for propellant depots. Without the space junk, the area is much safer for the depots.

Stages

 

And there is a third reason for leaving from LE1. The Oberth Effect allows the ship to use Earth as a flyby. Picking up speed as the ship passes Earth gives you a fuel boost from the increased kinetic energy of the fuel.

Visit Hop’s website for a ton of valuable information:

http://clowder.net/hop/TMI/LunaGraphics.html

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Mars at One Tenth the Cost: The Modular Path to Money Saving

John K. Strickland

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has enormous implications for Mars.  When Musk’s reusable rockets and upcoming reusable spacecraft become a reality, Mars missions will be possible at one-tenth the cost of the Mars plan NASA now has on its books.  One such low-cost Mars plan comes from the Space Development Steering Committee’s chief analyst John Strickland.  Working with artist Anna Nesterova, Strickland has developed the following program.

SpaceX’s Falcon-based reusable boosters will carry vehicles and crew that will travel to Mars.  A Falcon-based super-booster can carry 220 tons.

A logistics base will remain in low Earth orbit.  At this base, the cargos launched from Earth are attached to in-space propulsion units, units that will carry them to another logistics base further out in space.  The next destination will be a space truck stop at a gravitational “balance point” between the earth and the Moon called L1.  L1 provides an advantage—with minimal fuel you can stay in place.  And there’s a bonus at L1–no space debris.

The L1 logistics base will be built by robots. First they will build a long, docking truss.  Why is it called a “docking truss”?  Because this truss will provide docking, unloading, loading, and refueling facilities for cargos and vehicles doing the transport runs between the Earth, the Moon, and Mars.  This logistics base will be a full-service space truck stop and cargo depot.

The L1 truck stop will also be used for trips to the Moon and back.  Those trips can be very fruitful.  The moon’s water can be used to make the rocket fuel with which the truck stop refuels all the vehicles based at it. This Includes a fleet of vehicles headed for Mars.

At the L1 docking truss, key elements of the first Mars mission will be assembled in space. This Mars fleet will consist of twenty two vehicles. There will be twelve large vehicles designed to stay in Mars orbit, and each will have a 100 foot wide aero-capture heat shield.  The heat shield will use the Martian atmosphere as an air brake to ease the vehicle into orbit without using up valuable fuel.  Meanwhile, there will be ten Mars ferries that will go back and forth from Mars orbit to the red planet’s surface.  Seven ferries will carry cargo, and three will carry crew.

The Mars-bound crew clusters will go into low Mars orbit and stay there.  Two will support the crew operations before and during a landing, but they will not land.

Two crew clusters are docked together, a fact that has allowed the crews to work together during the long voyage to Mars. Within a few hours, the crew clusters will separate and reconfigure.  They will deploy two extra heat shields. Why?   To protect the propulsion modules that have thrust them into an Earth-Mars transit orbit.  Each propulsion module will use an aerocapture shield as an air brake to slow itself without using up fuel.  It will park in Mars orbit, where it will wait to provide propulsion for the trip back to Earth.

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Above, the Mars fleet has arrived safely in Low Mars Orbit. A robot on rails has built a Low Mars Orbit logistics base, and all the fleet’s vehicles have docked at the base. The robot has stacked all of the aero-shields like pancakes out of the way at the left end of the truss.  The vehicles that the shields protected during aero-capture are not designed to land.  They are crew clusters, propulsion modules, propellant depots and large cargo carriers. Mars landings are handled entirely by the ten conical Mars ferries. Three of these ferries carry crew.  In this picture, one of the seven cargo ferries is taking on fuel from a depot before landing on Mars. Together, the ten ferries can land over 600 metric tons of crew, habitats, food, equipment and rovers on Mars by making multiple trips.            Art: Anna Nesterova

 

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In the final picture above, the seven cargo ferries have landed the equipment (far right) to produce at least 100 tons of fuel per month from Mars ice and to set up a habitat for the crew.  Now, that the first 100 tons of propellant have been produced and stored, one ferry has enough fuel to go back into orbit.  In this picture the first crew ferry (in the foreground) has safely landed with even more cargo for the Mars base and with humans. The ferries descend and take off at a landing zone well away from the base itself for safety.  The cargo container is pulled directly out of the Ferry’s cargo bay with a winch.

John Strickland’s Mars mission is not a quickie.  It is not a flags and footprints mission.  It builds a permanent transport infrastructure in space.  And once we start landing this program’s components on Mars, we are on Mars to stay.

Art: Marcus Mashburn

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White House petition proposes space solar power as national energy and space goal

spsalphaA petition to the White House to task the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to examine space solar power (SSP) as a new energy and space goal for the U.S. has been posted on the White House WE the PEOPLE website, with a goal of 100,000 signatures by April 3, 2013. Read More