Thursday, March 25, 2010

Garver - Aligning NASA with National Priorities

Remarks by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori B. Garver at the American Astronautical Society 48th Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium in Greenbelt, MD March 10, 2010

So this is what we mean in the new budget- better aligning NASA with our Nation’s priorities. It will bring us greater environmental quality. It will drive our economy through greater emphasis on technology and innovation. It will contribute to our country’s international relations through increased opportunities for international collaboration in many NASA programs, through benefits to people around the world, and through the extended use of the Space Station. It will inspire young people to go into science, technology, and math because there are so many more hands-on opportunities to work on NASA-related projects that truly contribute to society. And from a purely NASA-centric standpoint, NASA had to change in order to be relevant and sustainable in the future and to position ourselves for a bright future.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What Obama Should Say in His April 15th Speech

Below is the speech I hope President Obama gives on April 15th at the Space Summit in Florida.

I have been called upon to set a destination for further exploration. This is not the time for exploration or to set destinations. We have explored for five decades now. We are faced with a economic and an energy crisis. We have to find ways to get more from our investment in space besides inspiration and jobs. It is time space become part of the larger economy. It is time to stop exploring and start developing.

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before the end of my second term as president of building a solar power satellite. No single project, in this period, will be more impressive to mankind or more important for the long range development of space. It will be difficult but it is a project we can afford and we can achieve. A full scale space solar power satellite could bring a gigawatt of clean, carbon emission free power to the earth 24 hours a day.

This will not be an easy goal to accomplish, we will need a lot of help from thousands of engineers and scientist. A full scale solar power satellite is huge and will require a lot of launches from Florida to put up.

This is the time to recommit to US leadership in space. The United States should commit itself to returning to being an energy exporter. Space solar power can give us that. We could stop paying hostile nations billions of dollars a month if we were energy independent. If we were an energy exporter maybe our enemies would have to pay us for power. A space solar power demonstration satellite would put us well on the road to energy independence and returning to the glory days exporting energy.

While doing this we will be building the tools needed for all destinations outside of low earth orbit. The next president will have a clean canvas and a full set of supplies on which to draw his or her legacy in space. They will be left with a Heavy lift launch vehicle, long term life support and extraterrestrial resource utilization technology. So on Inaugration Day 2017 the new president can announce, the destination and it will be doable within two presidential terms.

The destination I set for NASA is to open possibilities for the nation not just for itself. Space solar power will do this. I call on NASA not just to lead the world in space capabilities but to lead the nation back to economic soundness and energy independence. Now is the time to be bold to maintain american greatness.

In the words of Martin Luther King “We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Obama's Visionary Space Policy

I would like to congratulate President Obama on his visionary new commercial space policy. While the dramatic change in direction embodied in the new policy will be painful in the short run. It will ensure American leadership in space in the long run.

To lead in space we in space we must have cheap access to space We will never have cheap access to space, as long asspace is a jobs programs. If trucking and trains were jobs programs the US economy would grind to a halt. To ignite the space economy we must stop treating space as a jobs program. While it is less than an ideal to cut jobs in the middle of a recession, maintaining programs which are unaffordable will just throw away money.

Many are uncomfortable with the lack of a destination, but right after a major shock is not the time to make major decisions. Spending a year or two winding down the Shuttle, Constellation and Ares, seeing if commercial space is on track to pick up the slack, while developing technologies which will be needed for any destination beyond earth orbit isn't a bad way to spend a year. After a year or so of discussing options, then a destination can be chosen. We must avoid the problem of premature choice described by Freeman Dyson. "When a project is sufficiently large that the "waste" of exploring more than one engineering alternative becomes embarrassing to public officials, they find the urge to immediately select one alternative and to kill all the others almost irresistible."

We must avoid premature choice and rash decisions, and explore all the options, so we can avoid having to shut down programs after several years of heavy investment, again when we realize we have taken the wrong path.

Does waiting for a destination mean we do nothing, hardly. Many of the options have need the same technologies we do not presently have. These include heavy lift launch, long term life support, in situ resource utilization. We need these technologies whether the destination is the Moon, Mars, an asteroid or Phobos. These technologies will also be needed for deflection of Earth impacting objects or space solar power.

Some argue that it will be cheaper to fly lots of small launch vehicles than fewer heavy lift launches. The problem with small launchers is they may not be able to carry items which can not be broken down into smaller pieces. There are also safety concerns due to launch pressure when a mission depends on a series of launches, personnel may be reluctant to voice concerns because the launch can not be delayed without jeopardizing parts already launched. Also multiple smaller vehicles may not actually be cheaper than a large vehicle due to range safety and labor costs being fixed regardless of the size of the launch vehicle. A heavy lift launch vehicle would make missions to the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, as well as planetary defense, space solar power, and large space telescopes much easier.

The inclusion of development funds for a heavy lift launch vehicle is a key to Obama's visionary space policy. The acknowledgement that the Ares and the Constellation were too expensive is another sign that Obama truely understood the issues. NASA has been going down the wrong road. We have to try a different path, a path which may actually get us to the Moon faster.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Experimentation is Required for Progress

There has been a lot of criticism of SpaceX because their pre-flight tests on the Falcon 9 haven't gone flawlessly. These critics don't seem to understand the nature of new technology development. To push the envelope means to move into the unknown and there will be some missteps. New technology development is a learning process. If everything works just as expected you are not developing new technology.

I think the fundamental problem here is that those in the US aerospace community are unfamiliar with the process of technology development because we haven't done much of it in the last four decades.

I have complete confidence that SpaceX will be able to make the Falcon 9 fly. It may take a few test flights but that has always been their plan. Those who point to experiments which don't go as hoped and declare the company a failure, don't understand the purpose of these experiments.

For SpaceX, a 'lesson learned' from valve failure during test from FLORIDA TODAY

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

SSP on Open Gov Progress Report

Space Solar Power is doing great on Open Gov. There are 4 different space solar power ideas proposed on Open Gov on 3 different agencies. The idea of a space solar power conference is leading government wide, on Open NASA, on Open Energy and Open OSTP. the idea of Orbital Solar Transmissions is in third on Open Energy. There is also the idea of Having a worldwide Common SBSP Program and NASA SBSP Consortium Office on Open NASA.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vote for the government to hold a Space Solar Power Conference

Space Solar Power on OpenGov
On OpenGov, the idea of a space solar power conference is in the lead. Check out the OpenGov Tracker. OpenGov is looking at ideas to open up the US government most agencies are involved and have sites. Ideas will be taken and voted on until March 19th.

The suggestion of a space solar power conference is running first at OpenNASA  as well as across the whole government, running second on OpenEnergy with idea for  Orbital Solar Transmissions running third and the space solar power conference is forth on the OpenOSTP .

Voting for these is a great way to push the concept of space solar power in the government and to the public. A few votes can make a big difference in this case.