In announcing its plan to send two people around the moon using the Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 in 2018 before NASA can do so using its own rocket and spaceship, SpaceX paid tribute to the space agency that has funded its rise.
“Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible,” SpaceX said in a statement. “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission.”
NASA funding has been behind Elon Musk’s company every step of the way as SpaceX has developed Dragon and the Falcon 9 booster upon which the Falcon Heavy is based. So, no NASA and, in all likelihood, no SpaceX.
The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2017
Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)
State of the Payload Industry
Space industry companies and organizations worldwide, sometimes the same as launch vehicle manufacturers but also those specifically dedicated to spacecraft manufacturing, produce these spacecraft. Commercially launched payloads are typically used for the following mission types:
Commercial communications satellites;
Commercial remote sensing or Earth observation satellites;
Commercial crew and cargo missions, including on-orbit vehicles and platforms;
Technology test and demonstration missions, usually new types of payloads undergoing test or used to test new launch vehicle technology; and
Other commercially launched payloads, usually satellites launched for various purposes by governments of countries not having indigenous orbital launch capability.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sierra Nevada Corporation has put forth a proposal to send a crewed Dream Chaser to service the aging Hubble Space Telescope.
The discussions are still preliminary, no specific plans have been drafted and senior White House aides or administration advisers currently overseeing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration could veto the concept. Decisions about any potentially major NASA initiative await the appointment of a new agency head, according to industry and government officials.
But deliberations about sending a spacecraft to link up with NASA’s pioneering orbiting telescope—comparable to five earlier missions by the now-retired space shuttle fleet stretching back to 1993—illustrate the Trump team’s guiding principles when it comes to space investments. Industry and transition officials agree the focus is on seeking dramatic but relatively inexpensive space projects that can be readily understood by average Americans.
The Hubble repair proposal also has garnered administration officials’ attention because it appears to meet still other important White House criteria, according to these people. The goal is to put a lid on federal expenditures for space by fostering public-private partnerships, while devising projects that can be completed within the president’s current four-year term….
Sierra Nevada is betting that the Trump administration’s enhanced interest in commercial space projects—including transition memos extolling the potential benefits of manned missions orbiting the moon—could revive Hubble’s rejuvenation bid. The company twice presented its proposal to transition officials, according to one person familiar with the details.
Sierra Nevada is currently developing a cargo variant of Dream Chaser to resupply the International Space Station. That vehicle is not scheduled to begin deliveries to the space station until 2019.
It’s not clear how much work, funding or additional testing would be required to upgrade the cargo ship for crew use. Nor is it clear whether a mission to Hubble could be completed in time for Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020.
The company did make substantial progress toward a crew vehicle during NASA’s Commercial Crew Program before Dream Chaser was dropped from the program in 2014.
The two selected commercial crew companies, Boeing and SpaceX, have run into significant technical problems during the final phase of commercial crew development and testing. Both companies are running significantly behind schedule.
Sierra Nevada Corporation delivered its Dream Chaser spacecraft Wednesday to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, located on Edwards Air Force Base. The spacecraft will undergo several months of testing at the center in preparation for its approach and landing flight on the base’s 22L runway.
The test series is part of a developmental space act agreement SNC has with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The upcoming test campaign will help SNC validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser.
The Dream Chaser is also being prepared to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract beginning in 2019. The data that SNC gathers from this test campaign will help influence and inform the final design of the cargo Dream Chaser, which will fly at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the space station by 2024.
Editor’s Note: Dream Chaser was last at Edwards in October 2013 for its first and only drop test. It was released from a helicopter and glided to a runway landing. However, it crashed after part of its landing gear failed to deploy. Video of the accident has never been released.
At the time, Sierra Nevada was testing a crew version of the Dream Chaser under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The vehicle was dropped from the program the following year. However, NASA has given the company a contract to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) using a cargo variant of the spacecraft.
SPARKS, Nev. (Nov. 3, 2016) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and the Midland Development Corporation (MDC) today announce that Midland International Air & Space Port is now considered a compatible landing site for SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft. Midland International Air & Space Port, located in Midland, Texas, has successfully completed the compatibility portion of the Dream Chaser Landing Site Designation process, which is the first step toward becoming an approved landing site for Dream Chaser spacecraft landings. (more…)
With the recent news that commercial crew flights to the International Space Station will likely slip to the end of 2018, I thought it would be a good time to review what NASA has spend on the program since it began in 2010. And, since NASA has separated cargo and crew, we will also look at the space agency’s commercial cargo programs.
The table below shows that NASA has given out nearly $8.4 billion in contracts to Commercial Crew Program partners over the past six years. These figures do not include NASA’s overhead.
NASA and various commercial companies gave updates on their programs during the International Symposium on Commercial and Personal Spaceflight this week in Las Cruces, NM.
What follows are summaries that include:
suborbital programs (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin)
commercial cargo (SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation)
commercial crew (NASA, Boeing, ULA).
The summaries are based on Twitter posts from attendees. A big thanks to Thanks to Tanya Harrison (@tanyaofmars), Frank Slazer (@FSlazer), Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust), Michael Simpson (@SpaceSharer), and Melissa Sampson (@DrSampson) for the coverage.
SPARKS, Nev., September 27, 2016 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and have announced details of the first-ever United Nations space mission at the International Astronautical Congress today in Guadalajara, Mexico. The dedicated Dream Chaser® Mission is targeted at providing developing countries the opportunity to develop and fly microgravity payloads for an extended duration in orbit; however, all United Nations Member States will be able to propose payloads for the mission.
SPARKS, Nev., September 20, 2016 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Solar Junction Corporation (Solar Junction) are launching a revolutionary new technology that will increase the efficiency of spacecraft solar array production and operation and lower the overall cost, providing a direct savings to customers. These advanced solar arrays are manufactured utilizing a patent-pending Surface Mount Technology (SMT) assembly method. This method allows each cell to be installed faster, closer together and more accurately than ever before. This advancement significantly increases the amount of power generated per area, while decreasing cost and delivery time. SNC has teamed with Solar Junction, an innovative semiconductor technology company based in San Jose, California, to develop this industry-first spacecraft solar array technology. Solar Junction’s high-efficiency, multi-junction Surface Mount Cell with Coverglass (SMCC) enables automated, high-speed pick-and-place assembly of SNC-designed and manufactured solar arrays.
As SpaceX prepared to launch its first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station in October 2012, there was a rather curious aspect about the mission. While the Dragon spacecraft was advertised as being able to carry 3,310 kg of cargo, the ship was only loaded with 450 kg of cargo — less than 14 percent of maximum capacity.
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) held a meeting on July 21, 2016 at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Below is a summary of the status of the Commercial Crew program and the Boeing and SpaceX vehicles, including top programmatic risks.
SPARKS, Nev. (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has been selected to develop a deep space, long-duration, human habitat design and prototype for NASA. The partnership, under NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A, will allow SNC and its partners to use their experience to design a complete habitat system architecture and build a full-scale prototype for testing and evaluation.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Through exploration, NASA is broadening horizons, enhancing knowledge, and improving our way of life. Our efforts to explore and discover the universe are increasing in both scope and duration. The Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world, soon will launch the Orion spacecraft and its crew deeper into space than ever before. Expanding humanity’s presence farther into the solar system also requires advancements in the development of habitats and the systems to keep astronauts safe as they live and work in deep space for long periods of time.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected six U.S. companies to help advance the Journey to Mars by developing ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats.
Through the public-private partnerships enabled by the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A, NASA and industry partners will expand commercial development of space in low-Earth orbit while also improving deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions.