The sixth person to walk on the Moon, American naval officer, astronaut and explorer Edgar Dean “Ed” Mitchell passed on Thursday, after a long, adventurous and fruitful life.
|Ed Mitchell, at the Marriott Hotel Chicago on August 27th, 2000. For a sampling of the interview, please click on this link. Screenshot c/o The Space Library.|
But over the last thirty years, he had also explored inner-space, “and consciousness and the studies of the cosmology of mind and consciousness (and) how did all of this come to be,” According to Mitchell:
I have a suspicion that I’m likely to be remembered more for the latter than the former.
The work we have been doing for thirty years now is very, very significant. We have re-addressed the old questions and used all the tools of science to help try to understand it.
The ancient questions that every generation has asked; Who are we and how did we get here and where are we going and what is this all about…
Recent posts include the article “Willy Ley – Berliner, Raketenpionier, Weltraumhistoriker” by Wolfgang Both and a new history of the German Rocketry Society by Frank H. Winter, the retired Curator of Rocketry of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
Best of all, your funds will help to support not just the work being done through the Space Library but will also help to support the Commercial Space blog.
So be awesome. Help us get the word out.
Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.
|John McCain. Photo c/o Brietbart.com.|
|The RD-180 rocket engine, derived from the Russian RD-170 rocket engine used on the side boosters of the Soviet era Energia launch vehicle, is built by the Russian company NPO Energomash and sold to ULA under contract. As outlined in the July 17th, 2014 SpaceFlight Insider article, “With continued turmoil over RD-180, ULA mulls new rocket engine,” ULA has been exploring options for alternatives to the RD-180 since almost the beginning of the crisis in the Ukraine. Under RD Amross, a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney (P&W) and NPO Energomash, P&W is licensed to produce the RD-180 in the United States, although this has never occurred. Photo c/o NASA.|
Given that, and as outlined in the October 2nd, 2015 Space News post, “Bruno Says ULA Can’t Bid on GPS 3 Launch,” ULA began to refuse to bid on new launch contracts, citing it’s inability to compete for contracts against Space-X without the Russian rocket engine.
And, although McCain initially succeeded in getting a limit of nine Russian engines included in the FY16 DoD authorization bill, an additional provision added to the bill last week seems to have voided that limit.
|Tory Bruno, looking hungry. Photo c/o SpaceNews/Tom Kimmell.|
|A damaged SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket after a landing strut broke while making a hard landing on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions.” The rocket had just completed launching the US-European Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite into orbit on January 17th, 2016. As outlined in the January 13th, 2016 Motherboard post, “Why SpaceX’s ‘Next Few Missions’ Will Attempt to Land a Rocket at Sea,” SpaceX will continue to attempt soft landings on drone-ships down-range from the launch pad because it requires less fuel than having the rocket fly back to the launch pad before landing. Photo c/o @elonmusk.|
If you got a dollar every time a news article said that reusability is the holy grail of rocketry, you’d need a wheelbarrow to move the money (Keep in mind that Canada has a one dollar coin instead of a paper bill).
|Jeff Bezos. Photo c/o EuropeanCEO.|
For example, Blue Origin, the space company owned by Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos, successfully landed their New Shepard rocket in November. In the November 24th, 2015 Seattle Times article, “Bezos says Blue Origin landing achieves ‘Holy Grail of rocketry’,” Mr. Bezos referred to reusability as “the holy grail of rocketry.” In all fairness, despite the headline, he didn’t say Blue Origin had achieved it, but that reusability would make make spaceflight less expensive.
|Elon Musk. Photo c/o Reuters/Stephen Lam.|
There’s only one teeny weeny problem with that idea: nobody has proven it yet.
|Tory Bruno. Photo c/o ULA.|
Right now the only holy grails are a religious symbol and a Monty Python movie.
Time will tell if there’s a third.
Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.
It’s well known that the US military employs a cadre of “entertainment liaison officers” to glad-hand Hollywood executives and help decide which projects get Pentagon support, expertise, equipment, location permits and sometimes even funding.
|Actor, producer and space enthusiast Seth Green moderates a Comicon 2014 panel discussion with Dr. Jim Green (NASA’s division director of Planetary Science), Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, current NASA astronaut Mike Fincke and “Mohawk Guy” Bobak Ferdowsi, a NASA-JPL Engineer involved with the Curiosity and Europa Missions. Screenshot c/o NASA JPL.|
It’s less well known that NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and quite a few other organizations, often connect entertainment industry professionals with top scientists, engineers, military expertise and even funding in order to create a synergy between science and story lines.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a promotional tool which Canadian space scientists and entrepreneurs might consider copying.
The NAS even has a Science and Entertainment Exchange, which recently celebrated its “1000th consult,” on films such as “Big Hero 6, The Amazing Spiderman, The Avengers, Battleship, Iron Man 2, Prometheus, Thor, and Tron: Legacy, as well as hit television programs like Castle, Covert Affairs, Criminal Minds, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Fringe, The Good Wife, and House.”
According to the article, the “combination of nerds and sci-fi fanatics has proven too alluring to ignore and so one of the world’s biggest scientific institutions has joined the world’s largest military organisation in exploiting this opportunity.”
Of course, while NASA is a latecomer to comics culture, the organization has been involved in other aspects of the media almost since its inception.
For a list of some of the programs NASA has been involved with recently, check out the December 17th, 2015 post on the Spy Culture website under the title, “NASA Public Affairs/Media Liaison Documents.”
Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.
British astronaut Timothy Peake became the first British citizen to reach the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday and the UK government is using the event to highlight its plan for a distinctly private sector space program.
On Sunday, the British government released its first national space policy, a slim, fifteen page document which, among other things, sets the goal of growing UK private space activities into a £40Bln ($83.2Bln CDN) annual industry by 2030 from its current 2014 estimates of £11.8Bln ($24.54Bln CDN). The policy is also intended to grow the UK space workforce from 35,000 workers to 100,000 over the next 15 years.
|Major Peake, shown here during training, launched on a Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday as part of the expedition 46 “Principia Mission,” along with US astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko on a six-hour trip to the ISS. As outlined in the December 14th, 2015 Telegraph post, “Tim Peake’s launch into space will inspire a generation, says scientist,” the British public would be unlikely to know much about the latest mission had a British astronaut not been on board. Photo c/o Victor Zelentsov.|
The December 14th, 2015 Financial Times article, “Peake provides lift-off for renewed British space policy,” even quoted Sajid Javid, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills as referencing the classic Star Trek character Mr. Spock in support of the new policy. According to Javid:
Historically, we haven’t been a major player in space programmes. This policy will change that because, in the words of my hero Mr Spock, to do anything else would be highly illogical…
|“Fascinating!” Image c/o Paramount.|
According to Javid, “This is the first time that we have set out the wider UK government’s approach to space, creating a stable policy environment for industry and business.”
And as outlined in the December 14th, 2015 International Business Times post, “First-Ever UK Space Policy Quotes Mr. Spock, Says Anything Other Than Growing A Private Space Industry Would Be ‘Illogical’” commercial satellite companies are already a major contributor to the UK economy:
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. manufactures satellites and payloads, Inmarsat Plc delivers mobile satellite communications for broadband, machine-to-machine and maritime safety. Avanti Communications Group has its own fleet of satellites providing coverage to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Airbus Defense & Space has nine facilities in the U.K. The government has also invested in growth sectors and tech incubators like the Satellite Applications Catapult and the UK Space Gateway in Harwell.
But the UK space industry thinks there is an opportunity to get even bigger. According to the new report, space has become increasingly important to modern Britain and needed to be cultivated.
|British private sector astronaut Helen Sharman, who traveled on board Soyuz TM-12 with commander Anatoly Artsebarsky and flight engineer Sergei Krikalyov, to the MIR space station in 1991. Graphic c/o Daniel Space Collecting.|
Of course, Peake isn’t the only UK astronaut to go into space. British chemist Dr Helen Patricia Sharman visited the Mir space station in 1991, as part of Project Juno, a private sector arrangement between the Soviet Union and a group of British companies.
But the latest venture, with the publicly funded Peake, a current European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, has served as the jumping off point for a number of distinctly private sector initiatives. As outlined in the December 13th, 2015 UK government press release, “National Space Policy: science fiction into science fact,” the new policy is specifically designed to support “the Government’s new investments in areas such as human spaceflight and microgravity research as space becomes an increasingly essential part of our daily lives…“
In that way, and as outlined in the November 26th, 2015 post, “Say Hello to the New US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act,” recent American legislation has essentially attempted to acknowledge and encourage pretty much the same thing, while using a slightly different methodology.
Will Canada ever get around to developing the same sort of useful policy?
Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.
On November 24th, Blue Origin announced that it had successfully launched its New Shepard suborbital vehicle 100 km to the edge of space and landed it safely back on Earth. Though the launch marks a key milestone for both the NewSpace industry and spaceflight in general, reactions to it have been mixed. These reactions highlight fundamental differences between the NewSpace industry and old-style space advocacy.
|“400 very happy rocket scientists” watch the landing of the Blue Origin first stage at Blue Origin HQ on November 23th, 2015. Screen shot and video c/o Blue Origin.|
Built by Blue Origin, the Washington-based firm begun by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, the New Shepard is a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing (VTVL) reusable rocket intended for suborbital space tourist flights as well as suborbital science payloads. The New Shepard vehicle is named in honour of the first US astronaut to reach space, Alan Shepard. Founded in 2000, Blue Origin was a dark horse for the first decade of its existence, but has steadily grown into a powerful rival to the NewSpace industry’s current champion, SpaceX.
In 2013, Blue Origin attempted to block SpaceX’s leasing of Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Pad 39A (the launch point for the Apollo moon missions as well as the Space Shuttles). Though SpaceX was eventually granted the lease in 2014, Blue Origin announced in September 2015 that it had been granted a lease for launch facilities at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In September 2014, following the ancient formula of ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ Blue Origin entered into a partnership with SpaceX arch-rival United Launch Alliance (ULA). Under the terms of the partnership, Blue Origin will produce its BE-4 engines for use in ULA’s announced competitor to SpaceX’s Falcon rockets, the Vulcan.
|Here’s the real difference between the Blue Origin New Sheppard and SpaceX Falcon-9 rockets As outlined in the November 24th, 2015 Business Insider article, “There’s a major difference between SpaceX and Blue Origin that makes them incomparable,” they’re designed for two different purposes. New Shepard is a one stage rocket which can generate approximately 110,000 pounds of thrust and is optimized for suborbital launch and first stage soft landing and reuse. The latest Falcon 9 rocket is a two stage vehicle which can generate 1.3 million pounds of thrust and is optimized for launching satellites into orbit, but not for landing and reuse of the first stage. It’s worth noting that both companies are working on what the other is already capable of doing. Graphic c/o Business Insider using screen grabs from SpaceX and Blue Origin YouTube videos.|
Following the successful New Sheppard flight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sent out a tweet congratulating Bezos and his team. Musk shortly followed up with a series of tweets in which he downplayed the flight’s significance. Among his criticisms, Musk claimed:
Musk’s arguments, while technically correct, do not change the fact that Blue Origin’s vehicle landed successfully while SpaceX’s own vertical landing attempts have fallen just short of success. Musk, no doubt bitter at being upstaged, is rumoured to be planning a counterattack later this month.
According to the December 1st, 2015 Space.com article, “SpaceX May Try Land-Based Rocket Landing This Month, NASA Official Says,” SpaceX may move up its next attempt at vertical launch and landing to later this month. The official also said that SpaceX, doubtless trying to stack the deck in its favour, will aim to land its rocket on land rather than the sea-based drone ship used in its last attempt.
|Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos aren’t the only eccentric, rich inventors who ever disagreed publicly and tried to make money off their differences. As outlined in the August 1st, 2011 Space Review article, “VASIMR and a new war of the currents,” we’ve been here many times before, most memorably during the great “war of the currents” beginning in the 1880s. This battle over the future shape of the then embryonic electrical industry pitted American entrepreneur George Westinghouse and the eccentric but gifted inventor Nikola Tesla against Thomas Edison and his direct current technology Graphic c/o Topicalsquable.|
Reactions from space advocates on Facebook and various websites has been mixed, with many agreeing that the New Sheppard’s landing is unimportant since it was ‘only’ suborbital. Some have taken it a step further, saying that both SpaceX and Blue Origin’s vehicles are simply rehashes of the McDonnell Douglas DC-X (aka Delta Clipper) spacecraft of the 1990s and so NASA itself should be developing the technology rather than private firms.
Such nitpicking and doctrinal squabbling among space advocates is nothing new. In the four or so decades of its existence, space advocacy has been rent by many schisms; the Moon vs Mars, solid versus liquid fuels, government-funded versus privately funded space programs, space-as-pristine-scientific-realm versus space development. These schisms have done much to keep the space advocacy movement tiny, incoherent and inconsequential.
Like the railroad tycoons of old, this clashing of egos will lay the foundations of the future.
US president Barack Obama has just signed into law the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (HR 2262) of 2015. The action is a pointed reminder that lawmakers, advocates and those who can access the resources are often the real facilitators of space exploration.
If Canada wishes to compete effectively in the next great space age, we might want to consider passing a similar law.
|An infographic outlining the possible profits to be made from the nascent space mining industry. As outlined in the November 10th, 2015 press release, “Planetary Resources Applauds U.S. Congress in Recognizing Asteroid Resource Property Rights,” the legislation encourages “private sector investment” and “a more stable and predictable regulatory regime.” According to the November 16th, 2015 press release, “Deep Space Industries Congratulates U.S. Congress on Landmark Legislation,” the extension of ownership rights under US law to now include recovered space resources, as outlined in HR2262, “will allow the capital markets to take a closer look at the space resource utilization industry, now that we have a legal framework for operations.” Graphic c/o Planetary Resources.|
As outlined in the November 24th, 2015 Fortune article, “Obama is About to Give Private Space Companies a Big Break,” the HR2262 bill has passed both the US Senate and Congress and was widely expected to be signed into law just before the US Thanksgiving holiday.
According to the article, HR2262 would extend a so-called “learning period” for the industry until at least 2023, keeping agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from regulating commercial space companies as closely as the rest of the aerospace industry. The intent of the bill is to exempt start-up “newspace” companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic from most US government oversight and regulation for the next eight years, as they develop and test new technologies.
The current act is the follow-on from a 2004 bill, which was set to expire at the end of this year.
|HH2262 isn’t a new idea. This paper on “Creating A Robust Canadian Space Research Exploration & Development Industry – The Canadian Mineral Industry Flow-Though Share Analog,” written by a mining executive and three MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) senior executives, was originally presented at the 2008 Canadian Space Summit. Its thesis was that private capital would flow into the space industry if the government provided the same tax breaks and legal protections (such as the ability to stake a “claim” on space based resources) as was provided to the mining industry. The paper became the basis for the second of three Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) submissions to the 2012 Emerson Aerospace review under the title “Using Tools from the Mining Industry to Spur Innovation and Grow the Canadian Space Industry.” Graphic c/o CSS.|
Of course, not everyone is happy with the new law, especially its provisions related to the ability of individuals and the private sector to stake claims over space based assets as a preliminary to working those claims and ownership of the assets which may be derived from those claims.
As outlined in the November 26th, 2015 NewEurope article, “Obama signs controversial space ownership law,” it “remains unknown whether the unilateral move by the US to claim space ownership is valid.”
The article also quoted the Popular Science website that, “according to the Outer Space Treaty, which the US, Russia, and a number of other countries have signed, nations can’t own territory in space,” and despite arguments claiming otherwise “this prohibition also extends to private entities.”
But, for those who’d care to check, there are obvious, relevant, historical examples of what did happen in situations where resources were subject to multiple competing claims and jurisdictions.
|Back in the day when he was simply the ex-president of the Canadian Space Society (CSS), future Deep Space Industries CEO Daniel Faber wrote an interesting commentary on “Who Owns the Moon?: Extraterrestrial Aspects of Land and Mineral Resources Ownership” by Virgiliu Pop. As outlined in the February 5th, 2010 post, “Feedback on ‘The Men Who’ve Sold the Moon‘,” history has a number of examples that show “how the implementation of appropriate ownership rights over a communally owned environment,” can allow individuals, corporations and even nations to benefit from the exploitation of natural resources, whether they’re on Earth or in space.|
One example would be the 1848 California gold rush. The initial find was in Sutter’s Mill, California, which was then technically a part of Mexico, although the territory was under American military occupation in the aftermath of the Mexican–American War. This historical situation created an environment where local residents operated under a confusing and changing mixture of Mexican rules, military regulations, American principles and personal dictates.
So what happened?
Essentially, the initially unorganized locals (and not the far distant, competing governments in Washington and Madrid) coalesced their disparate principles and dictates into a coherent system of rules they could operate under, for which ownership of resources required both access to the resource being claimed and the ability to utilize the resource within a reasonable time frame. Those who couldn’t access and work a claim would lose it in favor of those who could.
By the 1860’s many of these ad-hoc regulations had been proven so successful at adjudicating claims and encouraging development that they had been incorporated into US Federal law, where they mostly remain to this day.
HR2262 is a logical progression of earlier US laws and regulations in this area.
And the earlier gold rush in California is of direct relevance now, when access to space is not easily assured by private prospectors or even nation states, and space activities are addressed by possibly contradictory national laws (the most recent of which is HR2262) and international treaties (especially the 1967 Outer Space Treaty).
Of course, the basics of the technology needed to harvest space resources has existed for some time, and access to space is now improving thanks to companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, who were given several additional years of reduced regulations as part of other provisions included within HR2262.
And now that at least one nation has allowed for the legal ability to make an advanced claim on space resources, we can begin moving forward in this area.
It least, that’s the case if you’re an American citizen or corporation subject to US laws which now include HR 2262.
But Canadians are neither creating the laws, nor building the rockets nor in possession of the appropriate assets to stake a competitive claim in this area.
We should change this and the first step in doing so is to pass our own version of HR2262.
Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. He also wrote the second of three CSCA submissions to the 2012 Emerson Aerospace Review.