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Have recent achievements demonstrated that the development of space launch systems is now within the realm of individual investors? Dwayne Day criticizes a recent analysis that tried to make that case.
It sounds like the perfect definition of “swords into plowshares”: converting ICBMs into satellite launch vehicles. Wayne Eleazer discusses the controversy proposals to do so have generated in the US launch industry over the years.
Among the sites seeking one of NASA’s space shuttles upon their retirement is New York’s Intrepid museum. Jeff Foust examines how the museum stacks up against the competition and whether a shuttle would be good fit in the Big Apple.
Last week a diverse group of space industry leaders released a joint letter supporting key elements of NASA’s proposed new direction. Alan Stern provides some background about the letter as well as the letter itself.
Earlier this month the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa returned to Earth with a capsule scientists hope contains samples of an asteroid. Dwayne Day engages in a bit of fictional speculation about the contents of that capsule.
The administration’s new plan for NASA had led to a debate about destinations, in particular the Moon versus near Earth objects. Dan Lester argues that the real issues revolve around the development of human spaceflight capabilities and the meaning of “space exploration”.
Six years ago today SpaceShipOne made history by being the first commercial manned vehicle to fly into space, a milestone seized by many as a triumph for the private sector over the government. Jeff Foust discusses why, today, the public and private sectors need to cooperate, not compete, in this aspect of spaceflight.
The achievement of Elon Musk’s SpaceX launching Falcon 9 outshines recent efforts by Korea, India, and the United States. Sam Dinkin analyses the implications of this transition.
Today we take live video coverage of space missions for granted, but in the 1960s such TV coverage was a challenge for more than technical reasons. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the effort to take live television to the Moon with the Apollo missions.
One element of the NASA budget proposal is funding for the development of a new hydrocarbon rocket engine that could be used on a future heavy-lift launch vehicle. Anthony Young examines what lessons that new effort could learn from the development of the F-1 a half-century ago.
The debate about the White House’s plans to cancel Constellation and make other changes to the nation’s human spaceflight program have generated a lot of debate in Capitol Hill since their introduction, but little substance. Jeff Foust says its time to move past the rhetoric into a more substantive debate about NASA’s future direction.
Advocates of human exploration of Mars are often challenged to defend their support by those who argue there are so many other terrestrial problems that should be solved first. Frank Stratford argues that human Mars exploration can, in fact, demonstrate how we can solve problems closer to home.
Several commercial travelers to the International Space Station have now written books or participated in documentaries about their journeys. Jeff Foust reviews one recent documentary about Richard Garriott’s trip to the ISS in 2008.
SpaceX and commercial space advocates were hoping for the best but also preparing for the worst with the inaugural flight of the Falcon 9; fortunately, they got the former on Friday. Jeff Foust reports on the successful test flight of the new rocket and its implications for industry and policy.
Like some other 1970s fads, space solar power (SSP) has enjoyed a comeback in the last few years. Dwayne Day contrasts the attention, or lack thereof, SSP received at a pair of recent conferences.
A new coalition government has taken power in the UK shortly after the formal establishment of a national space agency. Andrew Weston hopes the new government will take the opportunity to revisit some long-held opposition to efforts such as launch vehicle development and human spaceflight.
A speech by NASA administrator Charles Bolden at a recent space conference was interrupted by a woman protesting NASA’s plans to perform experiments on monkeys. Dwayne Day wonders if that was really an effective way to get their point across.
What is the best way to develop a sustainable, flexible space exploration architecture? Simon Vanden Bussche describes how the space industry can take a lesson from Lego.
Government officials, industry executives, and space activists all traveled to Chicago last weekend for the International Space Development Conference. Jeff Foust reports on two key themes of the conference: NewSpace developments and NASA debates.
The upcoming inaugural launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket comes as the company has become the focus of attention about NASA’s plans to rely more on the commercial sector. Alan Stern notes that while immediate success is not assured, a launch failure may only be a temporary setback.
The American space industry is facing an uncertain and potentially troubled future. James McLane argues that the best way to reinvigorate it, and the nation, is to sprint to Mars.
A solar storm last month turned a mild-mannered communications satellite into a rogue spacecraft drifting through the GEO belt and threatening to disrupt operations of other satellites there. Brian Weeden reviews the current situation involving Galaxy 15 and its implications for on-orbit servicing and related policy issues.
One of hottest areas of debate about the president’s new vision for NASA is its reliance on commercial providers to transport crews to low Earth orbit. Jeff Foust describes the debate about the capabilities of companies to do so safely, and the commercial viability of such ventures.
A book last year provided a fresh look at the race to the Moon, but one that was not with problems. Thomas Frieling examines the problems with the book Rocket Men and the reviews that failed to detect them.
Until a few years ago little was known about a secret 1960s mission known as QUILL. Dwayne Day describes the insights a new book provides on a radar satellite two decades ahead of its time.
t are the prospects for greater commercial use of space in the years to come? Jonathan Coopersmith reports on a recent conference in Texas that examined that issue.
On Friday the space shuttle Atlantis launched on its final scheduled mission. Jeff Foust reports on the launch and efforts to secure one more mission for that orbiter as the shuttle program approaches its end.
What might the President’s redesigned space program look like? Philip Stooke describes a plausible exploration program based on the proposed new plans.
Integrating technology development into operational missions will be a challenge for NASA. Doris Hamill examines how “mission pull” and “technology push” can help make that happen.
Is the commercial sector ready to handle the transport of astronauts to orbit, as the White House has proposed? Alan Stern sees parallels to the emergence of the commercial communications satellite business decades ago as a reason to believe that it is.
Part of the next Transformers movie will be filmed later this year at the Kennedy Space Center. While no fan of Michael Bay, Dwayne Day says there’s reason to look forward to this.
In his new direction for NASA, President Obama has directed the space agency to plan for exploration to multiple destinations beyond Earth orbit using new technologies. Doris Hamill explains why this will require a new spirit of cooperation between the operational and research sides of NASA.
Some in Congress have suggested adding one additional shuttle mission to the three remaining on the current manifest. Taylor Dinerman examines what useful things such a shuttle mission could do beyond simply keeping the shuttle workforce employed into next year.
Recent events like an ASAT test and satellite collision have illustrated the importance of space situational awareness to keep track of the growing number of objects in orbit. Jeff Foust reports on one spacecraft planned for launch this year that will aid those efforts.
India has shown recent interest in developing not just a missile defense system but also an ASAT capability. Victoria Samson analyzes these developments and their implications for space security.
The International Space Station, now almost completed, has had a long and tortured history. Roger Handberg examines that history and how, after nearly being discarded, the ISS is getting a chance to realize its full potential.
Proponents of NASA’s new exploration plan take note of the benefits of relying more on the commercial sector and on enhanced investment in technology. Daniel Handlin argues that this increased reliance may simply repeat the mistakes of the past.
NASA’s revised exploration plan all but ignores the Moon in favor of missions to near Earth asteroids and, later, Mars. Taylor Dinerman considers the prospects should other countries decide to devote their energies to lunar exploration, including establishing bases there.
The role the commercial sector should play in NASA’s future exploration plans has been a hot topic the last few months. Jeff Foust reviews a book that succinctly examines the rationales and prospects for privatized spaceflight.
Earlier this month President Obama outlined his vision for human spaceflight and space exploration. In the conclusion of a two-part article, G. Ryan Faith analyzes the potential for international cooperation in the plan and the long-term sustainability of this new strategy.
Once again the US military is showing interest in developing reusable launch vehicle technology, ultimately to replace existing expendable boosters. Taylor Dinerman describes this latest effort and what’s needed in order for it to be successful.
The Rocket Racing League took to the skies Saturday in Tulsa, their first public flights in over 18 months. Jeff Foust reports on the flights and related efforts by the city to win a big piece of space history.
The White House’s new exploration plan for NASA has been criticized by some for having a vague set of destinations and deadlines for NASA. Mark Sykes argues that we need to move beyond such goals to understanding whether and how humans can live beyond Earth.
In the early years of the Space Age there was a boom in advertising by companies using space imagery to attract business and recruit workers. Eve Lichtgarn reviews a book that displays and examines some of that advertising.
Two and a half months after the release of the 2011 budget proposal, President Obama finally discussed his plans for NASA last Thursday. Jeff Foust summarizes the speech and the reaction to it, and the the prospects for change at the space agency.
Last week President Obama outlined his vision for human spaceflight and space exploration. In the first of a two-part article, G. Ryan Faith analyzes crew and transportation elements of President Obama’s recently unveiled space exploration policy.
Throughout the agency’s history NASA has had single, monolithic human spaceflight programs, many of which have failed. Alan Stern argues that it’s time to break that pattern and establish a diversity of efforts that together stand a better chance for success.
What do you get when you put together a jumbo jet, a small spaceplane, and lots of rocket engines? Dwayne Day continues his examination of a little-known Air Force spaceplane program by looking at a proposal by Boeing to air-launch a vehicle from a modified 747.
Star Trek helped inspire countless people to pursue careers in space-related fields, including NASA. Jeff Foust reports on what one of the series’ legendary actors believes was the role NASA played in preserving the show, as well as his views about the agency’s new plans.
The entrepreneurial space industry, or NewSpace, has made advances in recent years but has higher expectations than ever thanks to NASA policy developments. Jeff Foust reports on recent developments in NewSpace and how mature the industry sees itself.
Florida’s Space Coast region was already facing the prospect of losing thousands of jobs when the shuttle was retired, a condition now exacerbated by the decision to cancel Constellation. Dwayne Day notes that this will not the first time the region has suffered a bust thanks to the space program.
Critics of NASA’s new direction claim that, without firm destinations and deadlines, the agency is left directionless. Angela Peura describes how the new plan, like Gemini nearly 50 years ago, is building up the technologies and techniques needed for future human space exploration.
The new NASA space exploration plan has been widely perceived as a major break with past efforts. Jonathan Coopersmith argues that the plan needs to go further and address the fundamental problem of space access.
In the 1960s the intelligence community sought to develop reconnaissance aircraft that could fly higher and faster over the Soviet Union. Dwayne Day describes one such concept: a rocket-powered vehicle nearly capable of achieving orbit.
NASA, NOAA, and the Defense Department are all grappling with the decision by the White House to end the troubled NPOESS weather satellite program. Taylor Dinerman examines what the aftermath of NPOESS means for both the agencies that need the data it would have provided as well as the prospects for interagency cooperation.
While many debate the commercial elements of NASA’s new space exploration plan, the overall commercial space industry is largely focused on other issues. Jeff Foust reports on the latest round of debate between launch services providers and satellite operators about whether there is a sufficient supply of commercial launchers.
The pending retirement of the space shuttle will have an impact that goes beyond just the agency and the shuttle workforce at the Kennedy Space Center. Dwayne Day looks at how the end of the shuttle program could affect the center as a tourist destination.
With all the attention that high-profile NASA missions get, it’s easy to forget that there is far more space activity elsewhere in the space arena. Claude Lafleur reviews some basic statistics about spacecraft and launch activity to provide insights on the present and future of spaceflight.
Many in the space community wonder what President Obama will say in his space conference on “Tax Day”, April 15. Edward Ellegood offers some suggestions to him in order to make improvements on the original plan and ease concerns in Florida.
As the number of nations that operate satellites grows, so does the risk of incidents in orbit caused by these new operators’ lack of expertise. Ben Baseley-Walker proposes one way that countries that launch satellites can mitigate this problem.
The prospects for reforming the US export control systems for space products look better now then they have in years. Jeff Foust reports on the potential reforms and the obstacles that stand in the path of achieving them.
What are the prospects for NASA’s proposed new exploration plan? Bob Mahoney brackets the range of potential outcomes to see what the most likely scenarios are.
Last week the British government formally announced the creation of the UK Space Agency. Andrew Weston sees this as an opportunity for greater cooperation between the UK and the US in space exploration and commercialization.
A key aspect of the proposed new NASA plan is to rely on the commercial sector to launch astronauts, a provision that has encountered resistance in Congress. Jeff Foust reports on efforts to win support for commercial crew, and whether time might be running out for commercial advocates.
Dwayne Day continues his study of a little-known military space vehicle project with a look at concepts by Rockwell for air-launched spaceplanes.
Throughout history civilizations have risen and fallen in part based on their access to and control of water supplies. Taylor Dinerman notes the same will be true when humanity expands into the solar system.
There is growing interest in using commercial suborbital vehicles currently under development to carry out research and educational missions. Alan Stern describes what more the government can do to help encourage such applications.
The latest IMAX space spectacular is about the Hubble Space Telescope and efforts last year to repair it. Jeff Foust reviews the film and wonders if the format, like the telescope, is is need of an overhaul.
Many in the space industry expect progress on export control reform from both the White House and Congress in the coming weeks. Christopher Stone examines the various arguments on the subject and offers a way ahead that preserves security while supporting the industry.
When NASA’s 2011 budget proposal was released last month, much of the debate initially centered around the cancellation of Constellation and related initiatives. Jeff Foust reports that there’s more attention now, though, to an issue once thought settled: the retirement of the shuttle.
Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin famously—or perhaps infamously—described Constellation as “Apollo on steroids”. Taylor Dinerman argues that he would have been better off trying to sell its core elements as an American Soyuz.
Some in the space industry were surprised not just that President Obama would hold a space conference next month, but also that he would choose “Tax Day” for it. Michael Huang wonders if this is a deliberate attempt by the administration to politicize the issue.
With the first era of orbital space tourism coming to a close, some who have flown to the ISS are looking back at their journeys. Jeff Foust reviews a new book that recounts the life of Anousheh Ansari and her efforts to realize a life-long dream of flying in space.
Since the rollout of the FY2011 budget proposal last month, with its major changes to NASA’s exploration program contained within it, the agency has struggled to win support from skeptical members of Congress and others in the space community. Jeff Foust discusses why the agency may need to make more of an emotional appeal, rather than just rely on budget documents, to win support in the coming months.
The administration’s decision to cancel Constellation and abandon the Vision for Space Exploration is another example of a decision made by NASA that impacts international partners. Taylor Dinerman argues for more stable multi-year funding for the agency for it to be considered a good partner by other nations.
Thirty years ago the Air Force explored the possibility of developing a spacecraft launched from a 747. In the second part of his history of the program, Dwayne Day reviews how one company responded to the Air Force’s interest in the concept.
How much does human spaceflight cost NASA? Claude Lafleur examines the historical record to determine just how much the space agency has spent on sending humans into space over the years.
Much of the attention devoted to NASA’s budget request has focused on plans to cancel Constellation and rely on commercial providers for human spaceflight. Luis Fernández Carril says that such a focus ignores the other key features of the budget proposal.
Commercial suborbital RLVs, once considered almost exclusively designed to go after the space tourism market, are attracting increased attention from the research community. Jeff Foust reports on a recent conference where vehicle developers, scientists, and NASA officials got together to discuss the roles these vehicles can play in supporting research.
What will be the fate of NASA’s change in direction? Roger Handberg argues that regardless of this particular plan’s outcome, human spaceflight has long suffered from resources that have failed to match expectations.
A recent episode of CSI: Miami used space tourism as the backdrop for their latest murder investigation. Dwayne Day wonders if, despite the show’s contrived plot, that attention is such a good thing for the NewSpace community.
NASA’s shift from Constellation is hardly the first time the agency has given up one program for another. Donald Barker provides an insider’s perspective on the shifts of emphasis on programs within the agency over the years and what’s needed to provide NASA and its workforce some stability.
As NASA reorients itself away from an immediate return to the Moon, what do some astronauts who have been there think of that? Anthony Young examines what the last two men to walk on the Moon think of the agency’s new plan.
The proposed 2011 budget for NASA begins an ambitious series of technology development efforts designed to enable future human exploration beyond Earth orbit. John Mankins identifies what he believes to be the critical technologies needed to enable cost-effective exploration.
The current debate about NASA’s future revolves around whether to continue Constellation or scrap it in favor of technology development and commercial crew efforts. Stephen Metschan argues for a third path that may avoid the disadvantages of those two alternatives.
One of the most intriguing—and secretive—companies in the NewSpace field is Blue Origin. Jeff Foust reports that while the company is still reticent to share information about its plans, a few more details about its efforts are now known.
Space shuttles taking off from aircraft are typically the stuff of science fiction, or at least bad James Bond movies. Dwayne Day begins a look at an effort thirty years ago by the Air Force to develop a small air-launched reusable vehicle.
NASA’s new approach to human spaceflight is likely to come under scrutiny this week in congressional hearings. Taylor Dinerman offers some advice from history on more effective ways to roll out new plans for the agency.
What happens to astronauts when the extraordinary experience of spaceflight ends and their ordinary lives on Earth resume? Jeff Foust reviews a new play that tries to tackle that and some other very big issues.
If all goes as planned, NASA will rely on commercial providers like never before for access to low Earth orbit. Jeff Foust reports on the views from both government and industry about this shift aired at a recent commercial space conference.
In the wake of NASA’s decision to cancel Constellation, there’s been a new wave of concern that the US is ceding the Moon to China. Dwayne Day examines the evidence and finds, once again, little proof that China is racing to the Moon.
NASA’s decision to embrace commercial spaceflight capabilities has raised the ire of some in Congress who prefer that NASA stick with Constellation. Taylor Dinerman cautions that by raising NewSpace’s profile, the new NASA policy could endanger entrepreneurial space efforts.
NASA’s new policy means another shift in direction for the space agency. Wayne Eleazer warns this may be another case of a “one size fits all” decision that doesn’t really fit the nation’s space access needs.
What’s the real reason why the White House has changed course on space policy? Would you believe “space Nazis”? Dwayne Day reveals the truth, at least as according to Richard Hoagland.
“Gateway” architectures: a major “Flexible Path” step to the Moon and Mars after the International Space Station?
NASA’s new exploration plan, as unveiled last week, appears to endorse the “Flexible Path” option in the Augustine Committee report. Harley Thronson and Ted Talay describe some of the studies that have been done on what could be a major element of such exploration.
Last Monday the White House released a NASA budget proposal that would make major changes to NASA’s human spaceflight programs. Jeff Foust reports on the changes and the reaction to them, and how this could be the beginning of a far more fundamental change for the agency.
How can private enterprise and governments cooperate in human space exploration? Bob Clarebrough offers some rebuttals to common objections about such cooperation.
Defying Gravity may no longer be on the air, but fans of the show can watch it again on a newly-released DVD set. Dwayne Day reviews the set, providing an opportunity to revisit the series.
NASA’s 2011 budget proposal would begin a major redirection of the agency from being driven by destinations to being driven by capabilities. Jeff Foust reviews a book by one space policy analyst who argues that is exactly the right direction the agency should be moving in.
The White House is expected to announce today a change in course for NASA’s human spaceflight program, and the rumored changes have already stoked debate on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Jeff Foust discusses those potential changes, and a much larger question that may be overlooked.
Monday might mark the beginning of the end of the Ares 1 launch vehicle, a concept with many supporters but also many detractors. Former NASA astronaut and associate administrator Scott Horowitz provides his insights into the development of the Ares 1 and why it’s still the right vehicle for NASA.
So what will happen if, as expected, the White House’s new plan ends the Ares 1 and 5 launch vehicles? Taylor Dinerman suggests that Congress will feel the need to “correct” that decision.
Yousaf Butt concludes his two-part examination of the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) by describing the threat posed by geomagnetic storms triggered by solar activity.
The changes in NASA’s exploration strategy, if enacted, could leave NASA without a heavy-lift launch vehicle. Edward Ellegood proposes a way for interested states to lobby for the development of one.
One of the prize-winning films at the recent Sundance Film Festival was a documentary about space tourism. Ryan Kobrick reviews the film and finds that it’s about a lot more than one person’s quest to fly into space.
A new report last week suggested that near Earth object survey efforts require significant additional funding. Jeff Foust examines why the relative lack of money so far may in fact be a rational decision, and what could be done to improve their funding prospects.
Electromagnetic pulses, with their ability to destroy electronics and disrupt the power grid, are closely associated with nuclear weapons, but such phenomena can also be created by geomagnetic storms. In the first of a two-part article, Yousaf Butt provides a primer on EMP and how serious a threat weapons-generated pulses are.
Another book about the history of the space age? Jeff Foust reviews a book that claims to offer the “inside story” about the history of human spaceflight.
The new space exploration policy expected to be released in the coming weeks will offer a new opportunity to examine the intersection of space science and human spaceflight. Jeff Foust reports on what policy and science experts think the relationship between the two fields should be in the future.
The recent test of a Chinese missile interceptor demonstrates that missile defense is becoming a bigger issue around the world and not just in the US. Taylor Dinerman describes the implications this has for space-based systems that can be used to support such systems.
Last week a Florida airport became the latest licensed spaceport in the US. Jeff Foust reviews the current state of spaceports and examines whether, at this stage of the industry’s development, there may be too many of them.
A recent article criticized space advocates for unduly focusing on some technologies or ideologies as the key to humanity’s future in space. John K. Strickland, Jr. responds by noting that while at times people do go too far with such “fetishes”, there are rational reasons for some of the advocacy.
While the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program is currently uncertain, some aspects of future policy appear inevitable. Roger Handberg argues one likely change is how the US works with international partners.
As the shuttle program winds down, some are studying the early history of the shuttle and the policy decisions that led to its development. Dwayne Day describes how some documents help explain how the NRO came to use the shuttle and the concerns it had on relying on it.
Over the last 15 years astronomers have discovered over 400 planets around other stars. Jeff Foust reports on how a NASA mission promises to generate a flood of additional discoveries, including the first exoplanets similar in size and orbit to the Earth.
There has been increased interest in recent years in antisatellite weapons, but this is not the first time major space powers have pursued them. Dwayne Day discusses how newly-released government documents shed new light on the US decision in the 1970s to pursue one ASAT program.
For some, science fiction and speculation helped generate interest in space exploration. Taylor Dinerman suggests that, in Europe, a couple of volumes of a popular comic book series may have been equally influential.
The next several months will be critical to NASA and its future plans as the White House prepares a new space exploration policy. Taylor Dinerman warns of the potential dangers facing NASA if the White House changes course or doesn’t raise then agency’s budget.
Some argue that human spaceflight is such a complex, dangerous venture that it should be left to government agencies. Bob Clarebrough counters that private ventures are just as capable as governments, if not more so, to explore the solar system.
A handful of shuttle flights in the 1980s and 1990s were classified military missions, and details about only one of those missions have been released. Dwayne Day provides some more information about this particular shuttle mission and why it may remain the only one to be declassified for years to come.
Nearly a decade after orbital space tourism became a reality, there have been remarkably few first-person accounts of these journeys. Jeff Foust reviews a book by Greg Olsen that recounts his space travel adventure.