Tuesday, February 02, 2010

NASA, White House Debut Private Space Pioneers

The White House and NASA today will introduce "new commercial space pioneers" poised to launch a "game-changing way of developing technology to send humans into space" -- a means President Obama believes is faster, better and cheaper than NASA could do on its own.

A day after rolling out a proposal to strip NASA of its longstanding job of launching U.S. astronauts into orbit, White House Science Advisor John Holdren and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will showcase companies selected to perform preliminary commercial crew transportation studies with $50 million in stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The companies include:

++Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., a privately funded aerospace company set up by Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos. The company will receive $3.7 million.

++The Boeing Co., an aerospace giant that is the lead U.S. contractor on the International Space Station. The company will receive $18 million.

++Paragon Space Development Corporation, which was established by a team of engineers and two crew members from Biosphere 2, an analog for a self-sustaining space colony in Oracle, Ariz. The firm will get $1.4 million.

++Sierra Nevada Corp. of Louisville, Colo., which is developing a small orbital spaceplane to ferry up to six astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The company will receive $20 million.

++ United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colo., which launches Atlas and Delta expendable rockets and has charted out plans to convert the military and civil science launchers into commercial crew transports. The joint venture of Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Co. will receive $6.7 million.

The event will be staged at 10 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and you can watch it here in The Flame Trench live. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.

A move to commercial crew transportation services would be a radical change in national space policy. NASA since its inception in 1958 has been responsible for the design, development and operation of the rockets and spacecraft flown by American astronauts.

Also today: Senior NASA leaders will hold a series of four media teleconferences to discuss President Obama's proposed 2011 budget and its impact on NASA science, space operations, exploration and aeronautics programs.

Here's how to listen in:
Starting at 11:30 a.m., click HERE to go to a NASA News Audio page where the media teleconferences will be streamed live.

Here's the line-up:

++11:30 a.m.: NASA Science Directorate.

++12:15 p.m.: NASA Space Operations Directorate.

++1 p.m.: NASA Exploration Systems Directorate.

++1:45 p.m.: NASA Aeronautics Directorate.

Also coming up today:

Six astronauts scheduled to fly on Endeavour amid all this change will arrive at Kennedy Space Center for final preparations for the planned launch Sunday of the first of five final missions before shuttle fleet retirement.

Mission commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts and four mission specialists -- Robert Behnken, Nicholas Patrick, Steve Robinson and Kay Hire -- are expected to arrive at the KSC Shuttle Landing Facility around 10:30 p.m.

You can watch the arrival live here in The Flame Trench. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page for live coverage.

Endeavour and its astronauts are slated to blast off from launch pad 39A at 4:39 a.m. Sunday. Their mission: To deliver the U.S. Tranquility module and an Italian observation deck dubbed Cupola to the International Space Station.


Anonymous said...

Wow, imagine that, nothing here. Maybe part of the plan is to stimulate the moving industry?

Anonymous said...

President Obama believes is faster, better and cheaper than NASA could do on its own.<---- of course there is zero evidence to back this up, but he believes it. Sound logic to me.

Anonymous said...

Isn't politics wonderful? Obama was not about to let Bush have a return to the moon associated with his name in the history books. To keep that from happening, he transfers manned space flight to private (commercial) industry with no track record of success. Makes sense to...who?

Anonymous said...

JFK: We chose to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard...

Obama: We chose NOT to go to the moon, not because it is easy but because it is hard...

And the Right Stuff ends...

Anonymous said...

Where's the guy who blames everything on the republicans???

John Hansen said...

$50 million will do absolutely NOTHING to bring the rockets we desperately need, but will soften the impact of the President's axing of a bold, steadily building, youth, education and world inspiring national exploration goal which private can not accomplish --- the total destruction of the moon (and Mars) goal leaves us boldly going nowhere.

One who talks more reasonably about this is former NASA engineer & repeat New York Times best selling author Homer Hickam in a blog post made a short time ago [ http://www.homerhickam.com/cgi-bin/blog.cgi ]. And thanks to the commenter who mentioned Helium 3! The administration is doing the exact oppositte of Kennedy. Instead of letting the military government of China take it, instead of letting our students (and our world) be cheated of the inspiration of America's space program, lets all tell him & congress, "We choose to go to the moon!"

Anonymous said...

A third rate space program for a second rate country. Thanks Obamatards!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Let's see...if NASA, with its decades of experience, couldn't make Constellation (based on a proven technology of 40 years ago) a viable program after several years of research and $9 billion, how is a private company supposed to start from scratch and develop a safe, dependable, mna-rated vehicle within our lifetime?

If the president wants to shut down the manned space program (which is what he's doing, in effect), then he should just say so and be done with it. Don't insult our intelligence by pretending that some innovative, unproven technology is going to magically appear in the next couple of years and everything will be fine.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know why SpaceX isn't on the list? They seem well positioned (best positioned) to provide the hardware. Seems odd.

Marv said...

I'm no expert but it seems as if Constelation was running behind more due to lack of funding than anything else. Sure there may have been a few technicalo areas that had some problems but it looked like nothing that could not be overcome. Now we are going to get a bunch of commercial amatures to try and build spacescraft on the cheap. Oh sure it might fly but at what cost, saftey, redundence, cheaper is not always better.

We now have at least 1 mobile launch platform and 1 launch pad that was nearly completed or completed to handle Aries launches that will now be dismantled and destroyedsad as it is to say they would have been better off waitning to see what the Prez did with the budget before building them/converting them.

Anonymous said...

Based on the complex technology and lack of experience in human spaceflight, private companies *may* be able to develop a human rated launch vehicle & spacecraft within 10-15 years. I'm just curious what the comments will be from all the other nations with established manned programs in 2025 when the US is, once again, simply attempting to launch a man into space. The Chinese will probably be rolling with laughter on the moon. Embarrassing!

Anonymous said...

It seems that from HQ on down to the center directors all have been told to put on the "This is good for NASA?" happy face.
Of course the contractors will pay with the loss of their careers but not the Feds. Between KSC & JSC there will be aprox 13,000 jobs down the tubes. But NASA has a bright future!!! NOT!!!

Anonymous said...

Remember, all that money for Constellation was from efficiency savings over the last six years in shuttle operations created by the very 7000 USA heros who will be laid off.

The shuttle has never run safer or more efficiently than when NASA began shifting their personnel and HQ management and Safety Panel agitation and Congressional oversight attention to Constellation.

Let the USA private commercial experts do their job the very thing the shuttle was built for launch missions to a space station. The safety of the shuttle was assessed as being better than Ares-1 for the first ten Ares launches. A completely new commercial launch system will have to get over that severe hump of manrating all systems, perhaps ten launches after it is first launched sometime maybe six years from now.

The only choice within budget is to continue shuttle launches for the next 5 years, two a year for ISS support. A shuttle derived cargo launcher can be built in three years, like should have resulted from the EADS evaluations. After four launches the new configuration would be man-rated. Take the five years to develop a crewed vehicle. Shuttle orbiters could then be parked, ready to be reactivated to return large payloads to Earth. Would anyone like to buy the Hubble telescope? Maybe defend the essential Air Forces DSP satellites? Geosycronous communications satellites worth $200 billion dollars? Invaluable Weather satellites?

Giving up shuttle is surrendering space for another generation when everyone will be too busy fighting for energy, food and water to ever try again.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone know why SpaceX isn't on the list? They seem well positioned (best positioned) to provide the hardware. Seems odd."

They probably did not contribute to Obama for President.

WordsmithFL said...

A lot of foolish rhetoric in this thread, as always.

Did any of you actually read the article? This is $50 million out of last year's stimulus fund to kick start some research. The private companies are expected to put up the rest of the money themselves. It's only for narrow, targeted research, not the entire program which is in next year's budget.

Anonymous said...

Option 5D is the only one that makes sense to me.