We’ll try this again. The previous attempt posted despite only one item, and I pulled it. Not sure if this is going to be a regular weekly feature or not, but I’ve really been ignoring a lot of space-related issues and stories. So here are a few.
NASA gives space cargo contracts to start-up firms
NASA, rejecting aerospace giants Lockheed and Boeing, awarded $3.5 billion (2.37 billion pounds) in contracts to start-up companies on Tuesday to deliver cargo to the International Space Station after the U.S. space shuttles are retired.
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), a Hawthorne, California-based company headed by PayPal founder Elon Musk, and Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp are due to start cargo shipments to and from the space station beginning in 2010.
I think this is huge news and a great move. In fact, it’s so good and so welcome that I fear it’s untrue. Can the Russian Progress and the European ATV not keep up with demand? They’ve got to be fuming over this decision. (via Instapundit)
NASA Renegades Pitch Obama Team New Post-Shuttle Plan
During a morning meeting at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. with Obama administration transition team members, a handful of advocates today pitched an idea to scrap NASA’s existing post-shuttle plan.
Instead, they want to create a different launch vehicle from space shuttle parts that could reach the International Space Station and, eventually, be used for a return to the moon. According to the current plan, NASA’s launchers are slated to fly in 2015, five years after the shuttle is retired. The alternative plan, called Jupiter Direct, promises to trim that date by two years and tens of millions of dollars.
Jupiter Direct has not died. I keep saying the only thing worse than keeping the Shuttle flying too long would be to stop flying it too soon.
A few days back I noted 5 Policy Changes Obama Should Make Now and noted that I’d support the new President on all of them. A commenter disagreed on proposal #5, which was “Reboot NASA”:
I disagree with the NASA issue and calling a return to the moon nothing more than reliving the hits of the Apollo era. Going to Mars and/or an asteroid is a great goal, but we have a lot to learn before we get there, and the moon is the best place to do that.
I will agree that calling a return to the moon “nothing more than reliving the hits of the Apollo era” is not right, but the concept of kind of tossing everything and trying to start with a clean slate appears the only way that NASA is going to stay productive. (Putting it that way, too, is over-simplistic and not EXACTLY what I mean, but it’s close…)
Rand Simberg puts it better:
I disagree that the moon isn’t a useful goal — my concern is the horrific expense of the way that NASA proposes to do it
Simberg thinks the policy suggestion is wrong on continuing the Ares heavy-lifter, and I suspect he’s probably right about that, too.
Chair Force Engineer: A Reprieve for SSME?
Rob Coppinger suggests that the days of the Space Shuttle Main Engine may not be over when the shuttle system is retired in 2010. When the shuttle program ends, there will be a number of engines that have not exceeded their lifetimes. It’s conceivable that a commercial rocket could use them on a single-use basis, although it’s unlikely that anybody would want to sink millions of dollars into developing a rocket if the supply of engines is finite.
Another (remote) possibility is that the SSME’s may find their way back onto the Ares V, as per the original ESAS studies of Summer 2005.
Carnival of Space #87
Mars Methane, Humans in Space, and Black Holes and Holograms and Podcasts, Oh My!
Lots of links.