Space, Finally!

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Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 1.14.47 AMOne of these days we’re finally going to be back in the space business.  On Tuesday, NASA (a name which has almost disappeared from the public discourse lately) has awarded what for NASA and for those of us who have fought the good fight, trying to save the our American space effort, is a huge chunk of money to Boeing and SpaceX.  Trust me, for NASA, $6.8 billion is not exactly chump change.  The total FY 2015 budget request is $17,460.6 million.  There should be steady increases for the next few years – finally.  It never fails to shock me how poorly NASA is funded, when, of all the government programs, we get the biggest bang (literally and figuratively) for the dollar.  There are estimates that, for ever single $1.00 spent on NASA upward of $20 is put back into the economy.  NASA literally makes money for the country.

While the primary build site will be KSC, if Sierra Nevada had been chosen as one of the primary contractors, there would have been a larger job gain for the Space Coast area.  The reason is that Sierra Nevada has no real presence in the KSC area, and would need to do extensive hiring.  Boeing and SpaceX already has extensive employment in the area, so, while there will be some jobs gained, it will not have the same impact.

American Space
American Space

“…“This was not an easy choice,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the Sept. 16 announcement at the Kennedy Space Center, “but this is the best choice for NASA and the nation.” Boeing will receive $4.2 billion to build the CST-100 spacecraft, which it has been working on since the initial phases of NASA’s commercial crew program in 2010. The spacecraft will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

“Boeing has been part of every American human space flight program, and we’re honored that NASA has chosen us to continue that legacy,” John Elbon, Boeing vice president and general manager for space exploration said in a company press release. “The CST-100 offers NASA the most cost-effective, safe and innovative solution to U.S.-based access to low-Earth orbit.”

SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion to build its Dragon V2 spacecraft, an upgraded version of the Dragon spacecraft currently used to transport cargo to and from the ISS. Dragon V2 will launch on the company’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket.

“SpaceX is deeply honored by the trust NASA has placed in us,” SpaceX Chief Executive and chief designer Elon Musk said in a statement provided by the company. “We welcome today’s decision and the mission it advances with gratitude and seriousness of purpose.”…”

Space News
Space News

“...U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts NASA announced Tuesday. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017.

“From day one, the Obama Administration made clear that the greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on other nations to get into space,” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, the hard work of our NASA and industry teams, and support from Congress, today we are one step closer to launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017. Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry will also allow NASA to focus on an even more ambitious mission – sending humans to Mars.”

These Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts are designed to complete the NASA certification for human space transportation systems capable of carrying people into orbit. Once certification is complete, NASA plans to use these systems to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth. ..>”

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“...NASA officials expect that the SLS will be ready for its first flight no later than 2018. In its final configuration, the rocket will stand close to 400 feet tall (122 meters). For its first test flight, however, the rocket is expected to deliver an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit.

The Orion capsule is designed to take a crew of astronauts to deep space destinations like Mars or an asteroid towed into orbit around the moon. Orion is expected to launch on its first test flight aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket in December. The capsule is currently being assembled in Florida.

“Nothing about building the first of a brand new space transportation system is easy,” Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager, said in another statement. “But the crew module is undoubtedly the most complex component that will fly in December. The pressure vessel, the heat shield, parachute system, avionics — piecing all of that together into a working spacecraft is an accomplishment. Seeing it fly in three months is going to be amazing.”…”

Six years ago, when Barack Obama was running for POTUS, I said some very nasty things about my fear that he would destroy NASA.  I take it all back.

I don’t know about you, but I’m happy!

 

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