Op-Ed in The Hill: NASA is Playing Favorites With SpaceX

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Well, this is interesting.

There’s an opinion piece in The Hill concerning the CRS-7 accident:

Time for NASA to stop playing favorites with Elon Musk’s SpaceX

The op-ed deals with the handling of the investigation in the June 2015 loss of a Dragon spacecraft by NASA and SpaceX. It supports a provision in the Senate appropriations bill that requires the FAA to produce a public summary.

After promising to produce a public summary last year, NASA reversed itself last month. The agency said it was not required to produce one and said the responsibility lies with the FAA.  So, Senators are telling the FAA to produce one.

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Dragon Supply Ship Launched to Space Station

Falcon 9 first stage landing at Cape Canaveral. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched a Dragon resupply ship to the International Space Station on Monday afternoon.

The picture perfect launch took place at 12:31 p.m. EDT from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dragon successfully separated from the Falcon 9 second stage and deployed its solar panels. It will take the ship about three days to reach the station.

Falcon 9’s first stage made a pinpoint landing back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Start-up Space Blasts Off

Bryce Space and Technology has produced a new report, Start-up Space: Update on Investment in Commercial Space Ventures.

Below is the executive summary. You can also download the full report.

Executive Summary

The Start-Up Space series examines space investment in the 21st century and analyzes investment trends, focusing on investors in new companies that have acquired private financing. Space is continuing to attract increased attention in Silicon Valley and in investment communities world-wide. Space ventures now appeal to investors because new, lower-cost systems are envisioned to follow the path terrestrial tech has profitably traveled: dropping system costs and massively increasing user bases for new products, especially new data products. Large valuations and exits are demonstrating the potential for high returns.
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Techshot Research System Headed for International Space Station

ADvanced Space Experiment Processor ((Credit: Techshot)

GREENVILLE, Ind., August 8, 2017 (Techshot PR) – Onboard the next SpaceX cargo spacecraft launching to the International Space Station (ISS) from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center will be a commercial research system owned and operated by Techshot Inc. The equipment will conduct regenerative medicine experiments on board the station before returning to Earth in the same capsule for a splashdown off the coast of Southern California approximately 30 days later.

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Video: Elon Musk Describes Vision for a Human Civilization


Video Caption:
Elon Musk has never been one to keep his long-term plans to himself. Beyond the development of reusable rockets, electric cars, and revolutionizing solar power, he has also been quite vocal about establishing a colony on Mars within his lifetime. The goal here is nothing less than ensuring the survival of the human race by creating a “backup location”, and calls for some serious planning and architecture.

These and other aspects of Musk’s proposed mission to Mars were outlined in an essay titled “Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species“, which was published in the June 2017 issue of the journal New Space. The paper is a summary of the presentation he made at the 67th Annual Meeting of the International Astronautical Congress, which took place from September 26th–30th, 2016, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The paper was produced by Scott Hubbard, a consulting professor at Stanford University and the Editor-in-Chief of NewSpace, and includes all the material and slides from Musk’s original presentation. Contained within are Musk’s thoughts on how the colonization of Mars could be accomplished in this century and what issues would need to be addressed.

Science Payloads Set for Launch Aboard CRS-12 Mission

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., August 8, 2017 (CASIS PR) The SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle is poised to launch its 12th cargo resupply mission (CRS-12) to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than August 13th, 2017 from Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will carry more than 20 ISS National Laboratory payloads to conduct research across a variety of areas aimed at improving life on Earth, including research on Parkinson’s disease, new anti-bacterial compounds, new approaches to treating blood pressure, and pioneering new advances in the use of stem cells for repairing damage from disease, among many others. Thus far in 2017, the ISS National Lab has sponsored more than 100 separate experiments that have reached the station.

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Senate Appropriations Measure Requires FAA Report on SpaceX CRS-7 Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

A Senate Appropriations bill would require the FAA to produce a report on the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that destroyed a Dragon resupply ship and $118 million worth of space station cargo in June 2015.

“The report must consolidate all relevant investigations by, or at the request of, the Federal Government that were conducted, including those completed by NASA as part of the FAA report, and must also include a summary suitable for public disclosure,” according to a committee report that accompanies the spending bill.

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FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation Budget Boosted in Senate Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee has ignored a request by the Trump Administration to cut the budget of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST), instead providing it with a significant boost.

The funding measure would raise the office’s budget from $19.826 million to $21.587 million for fiscal year 2018. House appropriators have approved an identical increase.

The Trump Administration had proposed cutting FAA AST’s budget to $17.905 million.

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SpaceX Commercial Crew Progress & Schedule

Dragon 2 weldment and heat shield. (Credit: SpaceX)

The following slides are from a recent NASA update on SpaceX’s Dragon 2 commercial crew effort. The company is currently schedule to fly an automated Dragon 2 flight to the International Space Station in February followed by a test flight with crew four months later.
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A Look Inside Bigelow’s BEAM Module on the ISS

BEAM module interior (Credit; NASA)

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik looks through the hatch of the International Space Station’s Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module (BEAM) on July 31, 2017. He shared this photo on social media on August 2, commenting, “Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft? Well, this is it.  First time inside the expandable BEAM module.”

The BEAM is an experimental expandable module launched to the station aboard SpaceX’s eighth commercial resupply mission on April 8, 2016, and fully expanded and pressurized on May 28.  Expandable modules weigh less and take up less room on a rocket than a traditional module, while allowing additional space for living and working. They provide protection from solar and cosmic radiation, space debris, and other contaminants. Crews traveling to the moon, Mars, asteroids, or other destinations may be able to use them as habitable structures.

The BEAM is just over halfway into its planned two-year demonstration on the space station. NASA and Bigelow are currently focusing on measuring radiation dosage inside the BEAM. Using two active Radiation Environment Monitors (REM) inside the module, researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are able to take real-time measurements of radiation levels.

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SpaceX Raises $351 Million as Valuation Soars

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16 at 2 a.m. EDT. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX has raised an additional $351 million in a Series H funding round, increasing its valuation to $21.2 billion and share price to $135, the website Equidate reports.

The increase in valuation makes SpaceX one of the most valuable privately held companies in the world, according to The New York Times.

The company was previously valued at $14.9 billion with a share price of $96.42 in March 2016, Equidate reports.

In related news, Axios reports that Founders Fund co-founder Luke Nosek is leaving the venture capital company to create a new investment firm called Gigafund that will be focused on raising capital for SpaceX.

A source says that Nosek has been spending an increasing amount of time on SpaceX business, and the idea behind Gigafund is to ensure that the space exploration company won’t have debilitating capital constraints. An SEC filing suggests that it’s seeking to raise an initial $100 million, with former Founders Fund venture partner Stephen Oskoui also involved.

SpaceX statement, per spokesman John Taylor: “While we wish Luke well in his new endeavors, there is no guarantee of future investment allocations in SpaceX or any other companies associated with Elon.”

Founders Fund has invested $200 million into SpaceX. Nosek is the fund’s representative on the company’s board.

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Updated SpaceX Commercial Crew Schedule

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)
Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX plans to conduct an automated flight test of its Dragon 2 crew spacecraft to the International Space Station in February 2018 , followed by a similar test with a crew four months later in June

That is the latest schedule presented to the NASA Advisory Council this week by agency officials. If the schedule holds and the tests go well, the Dragon 2 will be certified to carry astronauts to the station in September of next year.

In addition to the two flight tests, SpaceX will need to validate Dragon 2’s propulsion module, certify the parachute system, and conduct an in-flight abort test before it receives certification for the vehicle.

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NASA Promised a Public Report on CRS-7 Failure Multiple Times

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

My recent report on NASA decision not to release a public summary of its investigation into the Falcon 9 failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship has attracted some attention on various other websites. I’ve gotten some criticism there and also here for not understanding that the results of NASA’s investigations on commercial crew are confidential.

Fair enough. However, I was never told this by NASA in my multiple communications with the agency when I inquired about the summary last fall. In fact, they represented exactly the opposite.

Just so there is no confusion on this point, I’m reproducing the email responses I received from NASA when I inquired about this issue last fall as well as the one I received earlier in July.

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