02 June 2010

Private Space Companies Try to Move into the Vacuum

The collapse of NASA has been ongoing ever since the 1990s. Obama merely administered the coup de grace. Private enterprises are attempting to occupy the ensuing vacuum left by the collapse of the NASA space enterprise, but they will need some help to be successful.
Seeing an opportunity, Masten Space Systems and XCOR Aerospace, two NewSpace companies based in Mojave, CA, announced plans to partner in a bid to work on proposed lander projects. Masten, which won over $1 million from NASA last year in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, will develop the vehicles under the partnership, while XCOR will provide engines powered by methane and liquid oxygen--the company has worked in the past with NASA to develop such engines.

"What triggered this," said XCOR president Jeff Greason at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Chicago on Friday, "is that we received strong indications from a strategic customer that signaled to us that they would welcome the pairing of Masten's vehicle technology with our engine technology--that if we put those two competencies together, it would scratch an itch that they really had no way to scratch right now." The two companies, virtually next-door neighbors, already know each other well.

The work will be done in addition to, and not in place of, existing commercial work by both companies. XCOR is developing Lynx, a suborbital space plane that Greason anticipates will begin prototype flight tests in mid-2011. Masten, meanwhile, is developing suborbital vehicles using its own engine technology. By next year, said company founder Dave Masten in a separate ISDC presentation, the company will be developing Xogdor, a vehicle capable of carrying payloads (but not people) to altitudes greater than 100 kilometers.

NASA's interest in inflatable modules, meanwhile, has not escaped the notice of Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas-based company that has successfully built and launched two prototypes and is currently working on larger modules. (In an ironic twist, Bigelow licensed the inflatable technology used in its modules from NASA, which had been developing a concept called TransHab that was canceled a decade ago.)

Mike Gold, director of Washington operations for Bigelow, said at ISDC that the company has been in discussions with NASA on a concept for the Bigelow Aerospace Module, a small inflatable module that could be attached to the ISS. Such a module, he said, would likely be comparable to the closet-sized Genesis prototypes the company previously launched. Gold has reservations, however, about NASA's apparent desire for a "full-scale" inflatable module. "I'm not sure whether you could safely put a full-scale inflatable on the ISS," said Gold, noting that adding even a small module to the station requires addressing issues such as structural fatigue and outgassing of module materials.

Bigelow also has an interest in an even bigger NASA initiative that involves some NewSpace companies: plans to spend $6 billion over the next five years to develop commercial systems that can transport astronauts to and from low Earth orbit. One company, SpaceX, is already developing the launch vehicle and spacecraft needed to carry that out; the rocket, the Falcon 9, is slated for its first launch from Cape Canaveral as early as this Friday. Such vehicles, besides meeting NASA's needs for access to the ISS, could serve other customers such as Bigelow. _TechnologyReview
Private space enterprises will truly arrive when they no longer need government contracts to prosper and grow. After that, it should not be long before private enterprises set up permanent outposts off-planet.

As long as governments hold space hostage, humans will be stuck on the birth planet, without hope of moving into the larger universe.

More: Carnival of Space #156 via Brian Wang's NextBigFuture

More yet:  Space X plans the debut launch of its Falcon 9 on Friday, 4 June 2010.

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Blogger gtg723y said...

So the question remains are we going to let the Russian's beat us to Mars? Or are we going to enter the race, lets face it competing against them makes us better.

Saturday, 05 June, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

The Russians are in a heap of trouble all of their own making. They can only make money off their space enterprise as long as the west hamstrings itself.

Soyuz cannot compete with a prospering private space enterprise if Obama Pelosi allows it to flourish.

Mars is not the goal. All of space is the goal. If Mars gets in the way of the goal, then Mars will have to wait until the right time.

Going to Mars just to go to Mars means that there are a lot of other things that you cannot do. Some of those other things might serve the overall enterprise of space discovery, exploration, and enterprise better than going to Mars.

Russia cannot afford to go to Mars unless chumps like Obama Pelosi pay their way.

Saturday, 05 June, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

True. But I'm afraid that Obama will continue to let Pelosi wear the pant and drive the ponzi scheme we call an economy into the ground until no industry can survive, while simultaneously going into debt with the Chinese to put the Russians on Mars.

Sunday, 06 June, 2010  

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