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September 5, 2005

1:45 am: New weblog ... Go to the new RLV and Space Transport Weblog...

September 2, 2005

5:35 pm: HS Outage ... I plan to move HobbySpace.com to a new hosting service this weekend. So you may find it unavailable during the transition, which I'm told can take up to 24 hours. I hope things will be back to normal by Tuesday morning.

9:05 am: News briefs ... Seems like methane thrusters are becoming popular. Earlier in the week XCOR announced that it had developed a 50lbf LOX/methane engine and now Orion Propulsion announces that it has developed a "100lbf Oxygen/ Methane RCS thruster". The engine will also work with other "easily stored propellants, including: propane/ nitrous oxide, ethane/ nitrous oxide, and hydrogen/ oxygen."

The announcement said that "Orion and HMX plan to jointly develop a product line based on this flexible engine design."

(Item via R. Snelson) ...

... You can now order tickets online for the XP Cup Expo: X PRIZE CUP E-Tickets * XP Invitation (Flash). (Item via Space Race News!) ...

... A MIT study claims that a direct-to-the-Moon system design for NASA's exploration program is the lowest priced option: Design choices may hurry humans to Mars - New Scientist - Sept.1.05. Maximizing the use of common elements between the Moon and Mars efforts would allow for a human Mar mission by 2020. The comparison of different system design tries to minimize the number of in-space operations required. (On the other hand, see this posting by Jon Goff for some arguments in support of on-orbit operations..) ...

... Legislative efforts to remove restrictions on the use of Russian Soyuz transports seem to be moving along: INA Action on the Hill - NASA Watch - Sept.1.05 * Progress on INA - Space Politics - Sept.1.05 ...

... Katrina may lead to additional delay in the next shuttle mission: Hurricane could delay next shuttle mission - spacetoday.net - Sept.1.05

September 1, 2005

12:55 pm: News briefs ... Jonathan Goff provides a tutorial on refueling in orbit: On-Orbit Refueling Primer - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.31.05 ...

... Florida leaders told to think of space as a place rather than an agency: Leaders pitch space ideas: Business execs challenge state to think outside NASA box - Florida Today - Sept.1.05 ...

12:55 pm: Realistic alt.space ... The final installment of the essay by Monte Davis on realism in space advocacy is available at Thinking Clearly About Space Part IV: The Virtuous Cycle - ad Astra / SPACE.com - Sept.1.05.

I had an interesting discussion via email with Monte about this series of articles. I think he overstates a bit the danger of excessive optimism on private space development. After all, a huge amount of progress has in fact been made in the past couple of years. SpaceShipOne made it to space, Virgin is investing over $100M in space tourism, several other organizations began building real hardware for both suborbital and orbital space transport, Bigelow is building space habitats, major legislation was passed dealing with regulation of commercial human spaceflight, a feasible commercial lunar fly-by mission is being marketed, etc, etc.

This progress would not have been made if those involved had not been energized by an optimistic view of the possibility of success. Making space happen is really, really hard and there have been and there will be far more failed projects than successes. In such a situation, I find the greater threat to be of skepticism devolving into paralyzing pessimism and cynicism.

On the other hand, I certainly agree with his general thesis that good things will most likely happen more slowly than we (i.e. alt.spacers) hope and that NASA will be a key player in making them happen. While I believe we have reached the point where it is theoretically feasible to develop space exclusively with private efforts, it will be a whole lot easier and quicker if some of those billions of dollars at NASA are added to the effort in a productive way.

Space advocates should pursue a pragmatic approach that combines support for both private space efforts and for NASA while relentlessly pressuring the agency to create and implement programs that are effective in advancing space development and settlement.

2:25 am: NASA plans ... Griffin spoke on Wednesday at the AIAA meeting in Long Beach and laid out NASA's long term plan for implementation of the VSE. As long known, the CEV will ride a shuttle derived vehicle and they will develop be a heavy lifter. The EELVs will be used where best suitable.

An Advance Look at NASA Administrator Mike Griffin's AIAA Speech - NASA / SpaceRef - Aug.30.05.

He did reiterate his intention to take advantage of private launch services for ISS cargo and crew delivery:

But the Station is expensive to sustain, if we continue to rely upon a government-only approach to that effort. As I stated earlier this year, one strategy NASA will employ to meet our future needs is to utilize, to the fullest extent possible, commercially-developed cargo resupply and, ultimately, crew rotation capabilities for the International Space Station. Indeed, we will issue this fall a request for proposal for such capabilities, with the development to be done on a commercial basis, much like that in the commercial communications satellite market. This is a priority for NASA. Utilizing the market offered by the International Space station's requirements for cargo and crew will spur true competition in the private sector, will result in savings that can be applied elsewhere in the program, and will promote further commercial opportunities in the aerospace sector.

2:25 am: News briefs ... The budget for the Russian space program will finally get a boost, which could help with projects like the Kliper: The new frontier: The Russian space industry is finally having its budget boosted. Its heritage, increasing opportunism and low costs could usher in a new period of growth - Flight International - Sept.05 ...

... Note that the Kliper section at Astronautix.com has been updated. ...

... Energia has "opened negotiations with European and US companies to outfit the Kliperís flightdeck and interior": USA and Europe offered Kliper outfitting contracts: Negotiations opened for work on reusable spacecraft's flightdeck and interior - Flight International. - Aug.30.05 ...

... StarChaser has begun shipping its equipment to New Mexico for display at the XP Cup: XP Cup Preparation - Starchaser - Aug.05 * Starchaser Prepares for X-Prize Cup - Space Race News! - Aug.31.05 ...

... Raytheon has some ideas on how robotic systems can transport themselves on the lunar surface: Robotic space penguin to hop across the Moon - New Scientist - Aug.31.05

Continue to August 31, 2005

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