Space policy roundup – Mar.31.2019

A sampling of links to recent space policy, politics, and government (US and international) related space news and resource items that I found of interest:


** Episode T+116: On the Moon by 2024 – Main Engine Cut Off – “The National Space Council met this week and Vice President Pence announced the administration’s intentions to see humans land on the moon by 2024. I break down my thoughts and observations coming out of the meeting.”

** Scott Manley – JPL Visit, Mars 2020, Moon in 5 Year, EVA Changes, Indian ASAT

** Scott Manley – Shooting Down A Missile With Another Missile, In Space.

** March 29, 2019 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black

** March 27, 2019 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black


Come Fly with Us: NASA’s Payload Specialist Program
(Outward Odyssey: A People’s History of Spaceflight)

Space settlement roundup – Mar.30.2019

A sampling of items that I’ve come across related to space settlement:

** 3 private teams share a $100,000 award from NASA for their Mars habitat design submissions in the agency’s 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge:

Teams competing in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge completed the latest level of the competition – complete virtual construction – and the top three were awarded a share of the $100,000 prize purse. This stage of the challenge required teams to create a full-scale habitat design, using modeling software. This level built upon an earlier stage that also required virtual modeling.

Team SEArch+/Apis Cor won first place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The unique shape of their habitat allows for continuous reinforcement of the structure. Light enters through trough-shaped ports on the sides and top. Credits: Team SEArch+/Apis Cor

Eleven team entries were scored and awarded points based on architectural layout, programming, efficient use of interior space, and the 3D-printing scalability and constructability of the habitat. Teams also prepared short videos providing insight into their designs as well as miniature 3D-printed models that came apart to showcase the interior design. Points were also awarded for aesthetic representation and realism. After evaluation by a panel of judges, NASA and challenge partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, awarded the following teams:

    1. SEArch+/Apis Cor – New York – $33,954.11
    2. Zopherus – Rogers, Arkansas – $33,422.01
    3. Mars Incubator – New Haven, Connecticut – $32,623.88

The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge will culminate with a head-to-head subscale structure print May 1-4, 2019, and the awarding of an $800,000 prize purse. Media and the public will be invited to attend the event in Peoria, Illinois.

This video describes the top scoring Team SEArch+/Apis Cor Mars habitat design:

In February, Team SEArch+/Apis Cor Mars and three others shared $300,000 after their 3D printing samples withstood a series of tests:

Four teams will share a $300,000 prize for successful completion of the seal test stage of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a competition to create sustainable shelters suitable for the Moon, Mars or beyond using resources available on site in these locations. For this level of the competition, teams submitted 3D-printed samples that were tested for their ability to hold a seal, for strength and for durability in temperature extremes.

Team Zopherus won second place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The team’s design would be constructed by an autonomous roving printer that prints a structure and then moves on to the next site. Credits: Zopherus.
Watch their virtual video model here.
The virtual design from team Mars Incubator won third place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The team is a collection of engineers and artists.  Credits: Mars Incubator
Watch their virtual video model here.

** Dennis Wingo talk at at NASA Ames on March 6th, 2019 in which he lays out the “direction and steps to the Industrialization of the Moon”:


** Some space settlement related conferences upcoming this year:

**** International Space Development Conference 2019 (ISDC 2019), June 6-9, Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel, Arlington, Virginia.

The National Space Society‘s annual conference always has many Space Settlement Sessions on the agenda.

**** SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise | Space Studies Institute (SSI) –  Sept 9-10, Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

A renewal of the Space Studies Institute‘s series of conferences:

The Space Settlement Enterprise will be an exciting two-day event featuring some of the space industry’s top thinkers. Nestled alongside history-making exhibits, experts will seek to identify the technological and economic obstacles to space settlement. Panel discussions will cover six major areas:

    • Habitats and Facilities: What do we want to build?
    • Construction: How do we build it?
    • Resources: Where and how do we get the materials?
    • Transport: How do we get there?
    • Life in Space: How do we survive there?
    • Economics: How do we pay for it?

We have structured the event to allow plenty of time for questions and audience interaction. The questions developed at this conference will inform SSI’s research programs over the next few years.

On a recent episode of The Space ShowEd Wright previewed SSI:50 The Space Settlement Enterprise:

**** New Worlds 2019 Space Settlement Conference, Austin, Texas, Nov.15-16, 2019

The annual meeting sponsored by The Earthlight Foundation (ELF) , which is

a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded and incorporated in 2012 to support the expansion of life and humanity beyond the Earth by providing vision, leadership and credibility.

The organization is run by a small core team encompassing broad field expertise relevant to space exploration, settlement, engineering and communications. ELF is minimalist in management structure to remain flexible and drive effective execution.

The Foundation’s mission is to support

the expansion of life and humanity beyond the Earth by creating, catalyzing and managing projects and activities that lead to public inspiration, education and action relating to space exploration and settlement – and to protect and expand the domain of life and humanity on this world by returning and applying the knowledge thus gained.

** Space based solar power has often been cited as a possible economic driver for in-space settlements. Here is a talk by Prof. Sergio Pellegrino of CalTech on the latest results of a multi-year project to develop a plan for space based solar power:

In 1968, Peter Glaser, the father of space solar power, envisaged kilometer-scale space systems comprising solar collectors and transmitting antennas that would beam power to the earth from geostationary orbit, but that dream has remained elusive. Until now. In his talk, Sergio Pellegrino will discuss the Caltech Space Solar Power Project’s pursuit to conceive, design, and demonstrate a scalable vision for a constellation of ultralight, modular spacecraft that collect sunlight, transform it into electrical power, and wirelessly beam that electricity to the earth. The basic module of this future solar power system is a giant coilable structure that elastically deploys after launch into orbit, and is made of paper-thin materials of high stiffness.

Sergio Pellegrino is the Joyce and Kent Kressa Professor of Aerospace and Civil Engineering at Caltech in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist; and Co-Director of the Space-Based Solar Power Project.

** A rotating habitat structure in space can provide “spin gravity” to simulate the mass gravity force on earth. Ideally the whole habitat spins and provides an earth-like environment along the inside wall of the structure.

A Bernal Sphere design for an in-space habitat. The structure rotates around the long axis to provide 1g spin gravity. Credits NASA Ames

In a small spacecraft such as a transport ship to Mars, it would not be practical to spin the structure beyond what could provide a small fraction of earth’s 1g. One possible way around this would be for the crew members to periodically undergo rides on a spin table. Detrimental health effects similar to those caused by long term exposure to weightlessness have been seen in subjects undergoing extended bed rest. ESA and NASA are sponsoring a new bed-rest study to test whether periodic rides on a spin table will ameliorate the negative consequences of lying horizontally for months at a time: Testing the value of artificial gravity for astronaut health – ESA

Once a day, a selection of the study’s participants will lie in DLR’s short-arm centrifuge. There they will be spun to encourage blood to flow back towards their feet and allow researchers to understand the potential of artificial gravity in combating the effects of weightlessness.

The intensity of the centrifugal force is able to be adapted to each person according to their size. DLR can also adjust the centre of spin so that subjects are spun around their heads or their chests. Changing the position in this way could have far-reaching consequences for rehabilitation but, as this is a new domain, these consequences are currently unknown.

A number of different experiments will be carried out over the course of the study, looking at cardiovascular function, balance and muscle strength, metabolism and cognitive performance among other factors. Seven of these experiments will be conducted by European-led research groups, with a view to validating the findings on the International Space Station during future missions.

The short-arm centrifuge at the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) :envihab facility in Cologne, Germany will be used during the first joint long-term bedrest rest study commissioned by ESA and US space agency NASA to investigate the potential of artificial gravity in mitigating the effects of spaceflight. The study begins on 25 March 2019 and will run for 89 days. Test subjects will need remain in beds with the head end tilted 6 degrees below horizontal for 60 of these days to simulate the microgravity of space.


The High Frontier: An Easier Way

Videos: “Space to Ground” report on the ISS – Mar.29.2019

This week’s episode of NASA’s weekly Space to Ground report on activities related to the International Space Station:

** A brief tutorial on how power is generated on the ISS:

Solar energy is a key element in keeping the International Space Station functional as it provides a working laboratory for astronauts in the unique microgravity environment. Astronauts rely on this renewable energy source to power the electronics needed for research and survival. In this episode, Expedition 55/56 Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold explains the process of generating power from the solar arrays on the space station to produce electricity for astronauts as they orbit approximately 250 miles above the earth’s surface. Visit for more educational resources that explore the research and technology of the International Space Station.

** Update on activities at Kennedy Space Center:


Outpost in Orbit: A Pictorial & Verbal History of the Space Station

Videos: TMRO Orbit 12.10 – “The Uber of Space”

Here’s the most recent space show has an interview with Joel Sercel, CTO of Momentus Space:

Momentus is building the in-space equivalent of the connecting flight. Use a big rocket to fly to a common orbit on a cheap rideshare, then use their in-space rocket to get your satellite to any custom orbit 10 times cheaper than what has ever been possible.

The latest space news report from TMRO:


Space 2.0: How Private Spaceflight, a Resurgent NASA,
and International Partners are Creating a New Space Age

Space transport roundup – Mar.28.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport:

** Rocket Lab will try again this evening (22:30 UTC time) to launch an Electron rocket with a DARPA technology demo satellite on board: Launch Complex 1 | Rocket Lab

[ Update: The launch was a success:

Liftoff is at about 12:30 into this recording of the webcast:


Rocket Lab is currently targeting no earlier than 22:30, Thursday 28 March UTC (11:30 am, Friday 29 March NZDT) [18:30 EDT, March 28] for the next Electron mission.

The mission is the Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) launch for DARPA.

The mission will lift-off from Launch Complex 1 carrying a prototype reflect array antenna designed to improve radio communications in small spacecraft.

Follow @RocketLab on Twitter for regular updates. 

Technical issues and bad weather have delayed the launch from earlier in the week.

** First launch by China’s OneSpace went poorly:

[ Update: OneSpace vows to overcome this setback: Private launch firm: ‘We will never flinch or quit’ –

“We will endeavor to launch another OS-M carrier rocket, as well as two to three OS-X suborbital rockets before the end of this year,” [Shu Chang, CEO of OneSpace,] said late Wednesday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, where the first OS-M rocket mission was undertaken.

“I accept today’s failure,” he said. “Other solid-propellant carrier rockets before ours also have had setbacks in their development, but all of them passed through hard times and eventually succeeded. Explorations in science and technology have successes and failures. We will never flinch or quit.”


Video made by an observer:

An interview held before the launch with OneSpace CEO [Shu Chang]:

** Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser should start delivering cargo to the ISS by late 2020. Here is a new video showing how cargo would be loaded into the vehicle: SNC’s Dream Chaser® Milestone 5 Load/Unload on Vimeo

And here is an older video showing how the Dream Chaser would operate:

** Long-distance rocket transport services could reduce travel times between major global cities to 30-60 minute hops but whether such services are economically viable remains to be proven: Could suborbital point-to-point really be worth $20 billion a year in 2030? – The Space Review

All that said, the commercial aviation revenue is projected to be $885 billion in 2019. Introducing a point-to-point suborbital product could convince 5/8ths of one percent of current long-haul fliers to choose suborbital point to point. That is the percentage required to hit $20 billion a year at $12,000 per flight. That supports UBS’ claim that when the suborbital point-to-point market does finally arrive, it could be much bigger than the orbital, lunar or Mars markets.

** The smallsat launch market is too small to support the many small launch systems currently in development around the world: How the space industry learned to stop worrying and love the bubble –

If there’s one part of the space industry that seems the most primed for a shakeout, it’s the small launch vehicle sector. So many ventures have announced plans to create rockets for dedicated launches of smallsats that it’s hard to keep track of just how many are in development. At events like the SmallSat Symposium in Silicon Valley in early February, it was common to hear estimates of 100 or more vehicles in work.

Carlos Niederstrasser of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems has been keeping track of small launch vehicles programs for several years. As of January, he had identified 112 such vehicles worldwide in various phases of development. That figure, though, includes at least 10 that have since gone defunct and another 10 whose status is unknown. Many of the others are still little more than concepts.

The number of failed launch ventures will “start increasing significantly in the next two years,” he warned in a presentation at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington in January. “It has to. The market is simply not going to be able to support 112 of these companies moving forward.”

** SpaceX:

**** Second Falcon Heavy launch is set for April 7th and an engine test firing on the pad could happen next Monday: SpaceX’s first Block 5 Falcon Heavy days away from critical static fire test – Teslarati

The first commercial launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket – this time in a Block 5 configuration – is as few as ten days away from a targeted window beginning at 6:36 pm EST (22:36 UTC), April 7th. That target hinges on whether Falcon Heavy is ready and able to roll out to Pad 39A and successfully conduct its first integrated static fire, currently scheduled on April 1st.

The payload for this mission – communications satellite Arabsat 6A – had its original Lockheed Martin manufacturing and SpaceX launch contracts signed back in the first half of 2015, while the 6000 kg (13,200 lb) spacecraft was effectively completed once it was shipped from California to Florida at the start of 2019. After approximately 12 months of delays from an original launch target shortly after Falcon Heavy’s 2018 debut, Arabsat 6A’s four-year journey will hopefully reach completion in a geostationary transfer orbit. At the same time, the US Air Force says that it will be watching this launch – and the one meant to follow soon after – as a critical test along the path to fully certifying the powerful rocket for military launches.

**** Crew Dragon launch with astronauts could come as early as July or as late as November: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to launch astronauts in July, says Russian source – Teslarati

A source familiar with Russia’s aerospace industry recently informed state newspaper RIA Novosti that NASA has provided Russian space agency Roscosmos with an updated planning schedule for International Space Station (ISS) operations, including a preliminary target for SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon launch with astronauts aboard.

According to RIA’s source, NASA informed Roscosmos that the agency was tentatively planning for the launch of SpaceX’s Demonstration Mission 2 (DM-2) as early as July 25th, with the spacecraft departing the ISS, reentering the atmosphere, and safely returning astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth on August 5th. In a bizarre turn of events, Russian news agency TASS published a separate article barely 12 hours later, in which – once again – an anonymous space agency source told the outlet that “the [DM-2] launch of Crew Dragon is likely to be postponed to November”. For the time being, the reality likely stands somewhere in the middle.

**** Launch and landing highlights compilation video was quietly released recently by SpaceX:

**** Preparations for the Starhopper demo vehicle to begin its first low altitude “hops” continues at the company’s Boca Chica Beach facilities in South Texas: Starhopper progressing toward Static Fire test; Starship/Superheavy updates –

Testing of SpaceX’s Starhopper suborbital vehicle in Boca Chica, Texas, achieved a new milestone on Monday with another Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) and pre-burner test of the Raptor engine. This is another step towards engine ignition, which will technically result in its first hop, albeit by just inches due to being tethered to the pad.

**** A Starship must withstand intense heating when it enters the atmosphere of Earth or Mars: SpaceX’s steel Starship glows during Earth reentry in first high-quality render – Teslarati

Aside from a unique lack of ablation for Starship’s stainless steel hull and curious hexagonal steel heat shield tiles, SpaceX may end up having to implement a wholly unproven technology known as transpiration cooling, in which some of Starship’s liquid methane propellant would be intentionally pushed out from micro-scale holes drilled or perhaps laser-cut in certain hexagonal plates. After traveling through the steel skin/shield and out of the holes, the liquid methane would almost instantly vaporize into gas and then plasma as it confronts the spacecraft’s superheated bow shock wave, reducing the thermal loads on tiles with such an active cooling solution installed.

It’s unclear what the resulting methane-rich plasma plume might look like but it’s not out of the question that SpaceX’s graphic design team have either done the math themselves, so to speak, or asked engineers to verify what color Starship’s plasma tail might end up looking like. As shown in the latest render, a plume of hues ranging from light blue and indigo to red through white seems entirely plausible. Regardless, Starship is bound to look spectacular during orbital reentries thanks to its metallic skin and shield and planned hot structure, meaning that the entire windward half of the vehicle could end up glowing red, orange, yellow, and even white-hot, precisely like the thermal testing video Musk recently shared.

**** Two webcams now watch SpaceX Boca Chica Beach facilities to allow you to monitor StarShip activities:

**** Crew Dragon from the recent demo mission without any astronauts on board is lifted from the recovery boat to the dock at Port Canaveral in this video courtesy

**** SpaceX raises more funding to pay for its many projects including the Starlink broadband Internet constellation, that presumably would be launched with the help of both the Falcons and StarShips: Baillie Gifford defies Musk critics with £262m capital injection in SpaceX – Citywire


The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos