Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space News

NASA Seeks Help Carrying Cargo Into Space 120

Dotnaught writes "NASA wants to outsource space missions to the private sector. The government space agency on Tuesday announced the establishment of the Commercial Crew/Cargo Project Office at the Johnson Space Center as part of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. The objective is to "create a market environment in which commercial space transportation services are available to Government and private sector customers." Proposals are due February 10, 2006."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Seeks Help Carrying Cargo Into Space

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    NASA seeks help from private rocketeers
    Entrepreneurs could take over job of sending cargo and crew into orbit

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - With the space shuttles due to retire, NASA is looking for private companies interested in taking over the potentially lucrative business of flying cargo and crew to the international space station.

    The U.S. space agency issued a long-awaited announcement Tuesday for firms interested in handling delivery services now provided by the three shuttles, which are due to stop flying b
    • dude it's msn.com
      good luck /.ing that
    • Other start-up firms that have expressed interest in NASA's space station business include t/Space, SpaceDev, Constellation Services International, AirLaunch LLC, SpaceHab, Andrews Space, Rocketplane Ltd., TACO BELL, Universal Space Lines and Bigelow Aerospace, according to an Excel spreadsheet on NASA's procurement Web site. Did anyone miss this ? Taco Bell wants to start sending stuff into orbit? I guess they plan on storing the Gas from there customers to propel there rockets into low and high orbit?
      • You didn't RTFA. I will quote the part of it of intrest to this thread now without adding Taco Bell or anything else for that matter.

        "Other start-up firms that have expressed interest in NASA's space station business include t/Space, SpaceDev, Constellation Services International, AirLaunch LLC, SpaceHab, Andrews Space, Rocketplane Ltd., Universal Space Lines and Bigelow Aerospace, according to an Excel spreadsheet on NASA's procurement Web site."

        See no Taco Bell. If you still don't belive me then j
  • Of course.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:00PM (#14207023) Homepage
    ...here's the big question...

    NASA has a way of bowing to pressure where they will say, "Oh, sure, we'll open it up to ____" and then making sure it won't happen behind the scenes.

    For example, neither the Soyuz nor the Shuttle comply with the standards they've set for spacecraft-that-may-operate-near-the-ISS. They were grandfathered in.
    • Re:Of course.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:12PM (#14207083) Journal
      NASA has a way of bowing to pressure where they will say, "Oh, sure, we'll open it up to ____" and then making sure it won't happen behind the scenes.

      Indeed. For some recent examples of this, just check out this posting from NASA Watch [nasawatch.com].

      One example: NASA Selects ATK to be Prime Contractor for First Stage of Next Generation Crew Launch Vehicle. Reader note from the page: "What is even more interesting is this was released during Thanksgiving week, with a due date of Dec. 2. How is anyone supposed to do the research required for even a minimal response in 7 working days? Somehow this doesn't seem fair or realistic." (It should also be mentioned that the solicitation was pretty much tailored so that only ATK could qualify.)
      • You know, I really had my hopes up there for a second.

        But then I read your post, and of course you're absolutely right. I remember how the shuttle people in NASA did everything they could to kill Delta Clipper. No doubt this will end up the same.
    • That wasn't a question.

      Sorry karma, I couldn't resist...
      • Oh yeah.

        So the question was, "why won't this be the repeat of every previous time, given that there was even a proposal to build an extra shuttle owned by a commercial company that NASA found ways to quash".
  • already in the private sector?
    I know they recieve my taxes, maybe im ignorant, are they an association? or a department of government?
    • National Air & Space Administration

      NASA website [nasa.gov] (notice the .gov)

      They are now, and always have been, a part of the US government.
    • If I remember my US Government class ( PLSC 101 for you Loyola University Chicago people...) NASA is a US Government Corporation. They are in the same catagory as the USPS.

      Of course, I may be wrong... I'm a computer scientist, not a political scientist.
      • Does this mean that they are legally prevented from running a for profit sub-business. I mean, if the ISS cargo runs are lucrative, why not do it themselves and funnel the profits into their coffers?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:02PM (#14207036)
    It was great we had NASA to jumpstart the space exploration field, and make the the USA the space superpower it is today, but now it's time that we turn it over the private sector. Private for-profit businesses can break the space doldrums we're in now.

    Right now, NASA has become too distracted with political and budget battles to really take space technology to the next level. We need to see what the USA's brilliant minds in the private industries can do to keep the USA the best space power there is.
    • You can expect a lot more accidents in the private sector. Unless the evil red communists step in and enforce strong safety and quality control regulations...
      • "You can expect a lot more accidents in the private sector."

        On the flip side, neither businesses nor investors nor insurrers like to lose billion dollar investments.

      • Go private. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @11:10PM (#14207443) Journal
        Look, after Apollo 1, we were flying again within 9 months. After challenger, it took less than a year. Now, we are up to several years and will retire the equipment shortly thereafter. In addition, Nixon worked to kill NASA, Reagan scattered it in a million directions (without funding). Carter, Poppa Bush and clinton just went with the flow. The current bush now tasks them with going to the moon, but it appears that he will fund it less than what he did "no child left behind". About the only real leaders that we have had for the last 50 years, has been Eisenhower (road systems) and Kennedy (NASA amongst others). Plain and Simple, America's space systems can not be left to idiots.

        Yes, private companies will crash and burn; literally. And people will die. Make no mistake about it. Private companies will lose ships and ppl. But these ppl will have died doing something that they believed in and was useful to not only America but the world as whole. Well worth the price.
      • You can expect a lot more accidents in the private sector.

        This, of course, is why we see so many accidents from commercial airlines and air cargo companies like FedEx. Their craft are so much more dangerous than government-operated vehicles.
        • Private airlines aren't safe because they're private. They're safe because of a slew of regulations.
          • Private airlines aren't safe because they're private. They're safe because of a slew of regulations.

            Right. It's only because of the regulations. Consumers aren't smart enough to not buy tickets on an airline which crashes regularly.

            That said, what gives you the impression that the FAA isn't going to have any regulations on private spaceflight?
            • Customers didn't have a choice. The zero crashes a year thing only started happening since after 2001. Until then, while flying was safer than driving, you had no idea which plane was poorly maintained.

              Such safe quality of service is expensive, and this is one of the reasons airlines are going out of business now.

              Go do a google on GM - their CEOs actually found it was cheaper to eat a bunch of lawsuits over defective and dangerous cars than to recall them, or make them safer. You can betcha the same rule wi
              • Customers didn't have a choice. The zero crashes a year thing only started happening since after 2001. Until then, while flying was safer than driving, you had no idea which plane was poorly maintained.

                I'm not sure I follow. Customers could choose to fly on a plane which was safer than the vehicle they use to get the airport. That's safe enough for me.

                In any case, I suspect we're operating off different definitions of "safe." I personally think that a consumer should be able to make a decision for themselve
                • What he's not explaining well is that the dollars-to-safety curve follows the law of diminishing returns.

                  So, the difference between what the airlines might like to see and what the FAA/citizens would like to see is probably a very small move up the curve, say from 10 crashes a year to 2 crashes a year.

                  But that tiny move may cost 5x in safety expenditures. From a purely-economics standpoint it doesn't make sense to spend 5x the money on safety if the difference is statistically insignificant, but from a mor
                  • But that tiny move may cost 5x in safety expenditures. From a purely-economics standpoint it doesn't make sense to spend 5x the money on safety if the difference is statistically insignificant, but from a moral standpoint it does.

                    That's where I disagree, I guess. For example, one could drastically cut highway deaths by cutting the speed limit nation-wide to 40mph, but it wouldn't be worth the economic cost.
                    • It's a societal value - most people would much rather die with their hands on the wheel than sitting in a chair holding a lifevest (over Nevada). Maybe when we get used to these newfangled flying aero-planes people will think of them more like buses. But there is still a generation of people who predate the jet and another generation raised by them. There's only 1 or 2 generations exposed to commercial airtravel at an early age.
    • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:45PM (#14207222) Journal
      While I agree with your sentiment, I can't say I agree with your take on private industries.

      One of the arguments for the Shuttle and Space Station is that somewhat circular argument where we need a Space Shuttle to build the space station and we need a space station so the shuttle has somewhere to go. If you accept that there is a reason for men to be in space, I would argue, we don't need a spacecraft for two week missions and a spacecraft for six-month missions and it's better to keep the space station and ditch the shuttle.

      The problem is that a big chunk of NASA's budget goes to supplying the space station and this is something that NASA needs to work on.

      To me, what NASA is doing is essentially punting here--and I'm not convinced it's a bad idea. The space shuttle is a great, awesome, wonderful vehicle. But it's kind of an expensive way to send people back-and-forth to the space station. Some senator used the SUV analogy which I think is apropos here--you don't need an SUV to pick up the groceries.

      Alot of the research and development of getting people back and forth to orbit has already been done. It's not a bad idea for NASA to get out of that business. After 40-some-odd years, I think the USA has proven that we can get people back and forth to orbit. There's still lots of things for people to do in orbit--which is what the space station is for. So if NASA can save money getting supplies and people up there by contracting it out to a third-party, I'm all for it.

      If some researcher needs to be in orbit for some research, they pay NASA x dollars for room and board on the station (appropriately subsidized by the American taxpayer--x may be zero). They then pay somebody else y dollars to get them up there and back.

      If anything, this gives NASA more money to devote to research and development of the next generation of space technology. I'm not as convinced as you that private industry would be the one to do this. At best, I could see private industry developing better rockets, etc. to get us up to orbit. But I'd count on NASA to come up with ways for me to actually live on the Moon, Mars, in orbit, etc.
      • >If some researcher needs to be in orbit
        >for some research, they pay NASA x dollars
        >for room and board on the station
        >(appropriately subsidized by the American
        >taxpayer--x may be zero).

        In which case the researcher writes out a grant proposal to NASA/NSF/DOE and asks for money to be used in paying NASA for room and board? Doesn't seem particularly effective, except possibly as a way to force through manned spaceflight at the expense of other programs if funding is ever cut. (Asking non-US re
    • Private for-profit businesses will only become interested in space when it's possible to, you know, make a profit. That's not possible at the moment. If it were, companies would be doing it already.
    • I think you're right in most of what you say, but you're not being fair when you say:

      Right now, NASA has become too distracted with political and budget battles to really take space technology to the next level.

      I live in a small town in the midwestern U.S. Most folks in these parts don't reckon there's much of a need for travelin' in outer space. ("We went to the moon. Yawn. Who do the Bears play on Sunday?")

      Generalizing, there's probably not a lot of constituent pressure on Congress to fund NA

    • by wass ( 72082 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:59PM (#14207332)
      What are you talking about, NASA has been outsourcing projects and components to private industry since its inception. Eg, Grumman Aircraft and Boeing, along with many other companies, contributed to the Apollo programs. Perkin Elmer produced the infamously flawed Hubble Telescope mirror, etc.

      In fact, many of the problems on NASA missions are due to outsourced companies providing sub-par work, cutting corners, and over-billing NASA. In other words, they've grown fat and dependent on NASA's pork. For a current example, there are companies outsourced to build parts for one of the replacement cameras on Hubble that will hopefully get launched. I've heard 'horror' stories about the outsourced work. One company made filters that used an epoxy not rated for space's thermal or vacuum conditions, and the filters are basically non-functional. They want to charge NASA double the price to make another round of proper filters. Another company made some electronic parts that should have been built in a cleanroom but they used a sweatshop in Puerto Rico. There are pictures showing pictures of shirtless guys covered in sweat assembling these electronics when they hould be wearing bunnysuits in a cleanroom. Of course, working yield was less than 25%, and they refuse to produce more or give NASA a discount. And these stories are only within the past 5 years, it's probably been worse throughout history.

      The problem isn't with NASA, the problem is with NASA's bureaucracy demanding that certain tasks be outsourced when it could be far more efficient to produce in-house. NASA has amazing fabrication resources, but for various political reasons they give pork projects to industry. Now if NASA had to spend $100,000 to develop an op-amp that could be bought for $5, obviously that's a waste. But if they spend $10 Million to pay a company to develop new filters, when they could develop themselves in proper cleanrooms and with proper thermal-vac testing for only $5 Million, then it makes sense to keep it in-house.

      The other problem is that certain companies are greedy with these NASA 'pork' projects, and they will charge NASA more money for a project than they'd charge another business. Unfortunately NASA's bureaucracy makes them outsource such projects at ripoff prices, in order to add pork for the various Congressmen in an area.

      • What are you talking about, NASA has been outsourcing projects and components to private industry since its inception.

        There's a significant between non-competitive cost-plus contracts and the new competitive commercial contracts which have just been proposed. With cost-plus contracts, it was actually in a company's interest to go over-budget, since it would result in greater budgets. Contract solicitations were also worded so that pretty much only a particular company could fit the requirements, so there wo
        • [i]The plans is for these newer contracts to be fixed-cost, with payments contingent on meeting pre-established milestones. I'm curious to see whether or not this new system will survive, as its success would cut back drastically on congressional pork.[/i]

          Note: I've received training on fed.gov contracting in the Air Force. While my field was computer aquisitions, the training was fairly generic, covering construction, equipment, and services such as busing the base's kids to school, as well as care of th
      • All I can say is that this is the generalized state of outsourcing across all industries (there are exceptions, but..)

        Generally, outsourcing (these days) is done to save money. You have to ask yourself why that savings is possible. Having seen many 'outsourcing' projects come and go and come again, it's always the same story: the outsourcing company finds minimal compliance methods to satisfy the SLA, and the result are expectations well below what was formerly done in-house.

        Cost at the expense of quality
    • I can see it now. Orbiting Ad-Words in space. Contextual to the latitude and longitude of the target audience.
  • Step 1.Paint large "42" on side of shuttle step 2.Release the mice
  • by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:03PM (#14207043)
    If this happens, what purpose would Nasa serve?

    The funding Nasa gets for scientific works could be diverted to researching at universities directly who could then use the funding pay private space companies to run the experiments.
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:07PM (#14207058)
      If this happens, what purpose would Nasa serve?

      NASA was created to yank aeronautics and space research out of the hands of the military. It is (or rather, should be) an agency dedicated to research, not hauling cargo in orbit. Things like that are done better by the Russians, the ESA and just about any country with spare headless transcontinental missiles.
    • Ideally, NASA will keep doing the big projects that are too expensive for individual universities (I doubt even Harvard has the money to build something like the Hubble on its own, and no grant is going to be big enough) and which don't have immediate profit potential for industry (in the very long run, there's a lot of money to be made by sending people Out There, but it will take decades, not quarters, to develop) while encouraging smaller, faster projects to be done by academia and industry. Basically N
    • by vought ( 160908 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:23PM (#14207130)
      If this happens, what purpose would Nasa serve?


      How about rulemaking and safety standards?

      The Department of Agriculture doesn't farm, and the FAA doesn't fly airplanes.
  • by penguin-collective ( 932038 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:05PM (#14207048)
    Well, they can easily outsource--I mean it isn't rocket science. Oh, wait.
    • Considering that the EM railgun is far closer to production than any space elevator, perhaps the DoD could release their research data on the railgun to private enterprise. I can see it now - a 10 MegaWatt nuclear reactor used to power railguns capable of delivering SST-sized (shuttle) payloads into LEO. Of course, this approach is unworkable for delivering living beings into space, due to initial G forces.
      • Actually, the studies were already done to show that it would be possible to use a chemical cannon to put people into orbit (without killing them... or even blacking them out). That would make a large railgun viable for passenger service.
      • Considering that the EM railgun is far closer to production than any space elevator, perhaps the DoD could release their research data on the railgun to private enterprise. I can see it now - a 10 MegaWatt nuclear reactor used to power railguns capable of delivering SST-sized (shuttle) payloads into LEO. Of course, this approach is unworkable for delivering living beings into space, due to initial G forces.

        Railguns are unworkable for unliving things too... It's not the G's that are the problem, but the t

  • A good idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    NASA has outlived its usefulness as an astronaut ferry operator. It's shown in the past few years that it is unable to reliably send astronauts into orbit or to even provide aid to the international space station.

    This is good.

    There are several large problems with having NASA in charge of space flight, and one of those is that it's the government tightly controlling who flies and who doesn't. If you aren't selected as an astronaut, you aren't going. Period. That means that it's just not feasible for the
    • Though we in the USA like to think that we control space and call all of the "shots", the reality is that China is well on it's way to puting us in second place in the next 10 years. Let's see, Russia and the European Space Agency routinely put rockets into space as does China. Japan, India, and even North Korea have rockets. Point is that if you want to hitch a ride into space, NASA is not the only show in town. NASA does not decide all who fly.
      • China is well on it's way to puting us in second place in the next 10 years

        Let's see, we're planning for a moon base (to fight aliens [theconservativevoice.com]) and China is doing John-Glen-style orbits.

        They get an A-for-effort though.
      • Though we in the USA like to think that we control space and call all of the "shots", the reality is that China is well on it's way to puting us in second place in the next 10 years. Let's see, Russia and the European Space Agency routinely put rockets into space as does China. Japan, India, and even North Korea have rockets. Point is that if you want to hitch a ride into space, NASA is not the only show in town. NASA does not decide all who fly.

        This is incorrect. The Chinese simply aren't launching in t

  • Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which manufacture and sell the Delta and Atlas expendable launch vehicles, have kept any aspirations of becoming NASA's space station truckers under wraps.

    "As long as it's a level playing field, we're open to compete with them any time and anywhere," said SpaceX's Williams.


    Level playing field. Any bets on that?

    </cynical>

    • Level playing field. Any bets on that?

      That's right, it's hard to keep anything level in zero-G.
    • Level playing field. Any bets on that?

      SpaceX is actually in the middle of a court battle right now with Boeing & Lockheed to try to keep them from locking competitors out of the Air Force's $32 billion EELV launch program. From this Businessweek article [businessweek.com]:

      The Defense Dept. may soon sign off on a Boeing-Lockheed joint venture that critics fear could lock up the Air Force's $32 billion heavy-payload launch program, known as Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV), until 2011. That would freeze SpaceX and
      • Elon Musk does not have a launch vehicle that can meet the Buy 3 performance requirements. Period. He has a dream. That is all. His rocket has yet to get a foot in the air. When it does he will have 1000 lbs to LEO capability. And one sample. Big deal. It is a long way from there to being able to lift 10 tons to GSO on a predictable basis. His costs are based on ignorance of what it takes to build and KEEP building some of the most sophisticated machines on the planet. They don't just come together
    • If it was a level playing field, they would simply use Ariane, or perhaps the Russian/Indian/Chinese launchers. There's already a competive space market out there.
  • by code65536 ( 302481 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:11PM (#14207078) Homepage Journal
    I think this is good... as long as...

    1/ I think that the core NASA missions should be kept at NASA for the sake of maintaining scientific integrity and also because it allows for riskier and more substantial undertakings. The grunt work of hauling cargo (which is what this is all about) is a good candidate for outsourcing, though. So as long as this doesn't turn into a slippery slope of a total NASA privatization...

    2/ I am reserved about how effective this can be. Can the private sector really do it for a lower cost? Will they be able to do a good job? NASA is not very efficient, so hopefully this won't be that hard to achieve, but until they can show that private companies really can be as effective, I'll take this as wait-and-see.

    And to comment on the article's constant mention of space start-ups: perhaps I shouldn't judge so much on just one incident, but the whole X-Prize thing did not serve as a good first impression for me personally for the private-sector start-up space industry. The kind of hoopula that went into what was essentially a glorified rocket plane that momentarily touched space and won by a design that was geared specifically towards meeting the winning requirements was really discouraging (like studying for a test by studying the test instead of the real material), and I fear that, at the moment, much of the talk about space start-ups in the US is just hype.
    • [quote]I am reserved about how effective this can be. Can the private sector really do it for a lower cost?[/quote]
      The private sector CAN do it cheaper for the private sector. Meaning, if a private company needs something launched, a private company can probably do it cheaper if all restrictions are removed by the government.

      But, don't expect private industry to make it cheaper when selling services to the government. Contracts are awarded based on politics... not cost or practicality.

      [quote]And to comment
    • 1/ I think that the core NASA missions should be kept at NASA for the sake of maintaining scientific integrity and also because it allows for riskier and more substantial undertakings. The grunt work of hauling cargo (which is what this is all about) is a good candidate for outsourcing, though. So as long as this doesn't turn into a slippery slope of a total NASA privatization...

      Seriously, what is a "core NASA mission"? Frankly, I'm not aware of one. IMHO, the Space Shuttle, ISS, even the space probes ar

    • I think you're missing the point that "private sector" does not equate to "start-ups" in any way. It could very easily be the same people that built the shuttle that undertake this. The difference would be that it's their dime when they launch the thing, so it would be much more efficient and probably more sturdy. After all, they would be designing it form the ground up to be used by themselves, so they would want to be able to maximize profits and make it as reusable and safe as possible. Not add on p
  • by code65536 ( 302481 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:14PM (#14207086) Homepage Journal
    If you want to get this at the ol' .com.com (never understood why they did that) instead of MSNBC, here's C|Net's article on this:
    http://news.com.com/NASA+seeks+private+replacement s+for+shuttle+trips/2100-11397_3-5986093.html [com.com]
    • If you want to get this at the ol' .com.com (never understood why they did that)...

      There was a time, once upon a time, where if you typed an incomplete or invalid address into the address bar on your browser, your browser would start cycling through the .com/.org/.net possibilities... so, say, you just typed "microsoft" into your browser bar, you'd end up at microsoft.com.

      By buying the .com domain, and then registering aliases for popular sites, ".com" is ensuring that they get immediate, huge traffic if t

  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) * on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:19PM (#14207109) Journal
    I think if everyone works together, launching payload into space will be easy. If you got everyone in a medium-sized town (54,000 people) to cooperate and have each person lift just 6 feet, you could get the payload into space without expensive rockets. I am stepping up to the plate and personally offering to lift the payload from 5400 feet to 5406 feet [normankoren.com]. Any takers for "5394 to 5400" or "5406 to 5412"?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is this possibly just a good reason for NASA to have a department called the "3C-PO"? Hmmm....
    -Timbo.
  • Excellent idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 )
    This will help provide some much needed incentive for companies to invest in space beyond satellites and the dreams of a few nutty billionairs. We need more SpaceShip1 s and genuenly American pioneers like this guy...http://www.popsci.com/popsci/aviationspace/e 08989c49db84010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html [popsci.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    NASA should just call UPS or Fedex. The overnight or 2nd day guaranteed delivery should be perfect!
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2005 @10:27PM (#14207144) Journal
    SpaceX [wikipedia.org] is one of the private launch firms mentioned in the article and considered by many alt.spacers as the foremost contender for the ISS commercial crew & cargo contracts. Businessweek just published a pretty informative article on them, The Final Frontier At Costco Prices [businessweek.com]. Here's some relevant quotes from the article:

    If SpaceX succeeds in lofting its rocket and an Air Force Academy research satellite into orbit, Musk will vindicate his vision and his investment. Financed almost entirely out of his own pocket, the company is the South Africa native's attempt to carve out a lucrative niche in the wildly expensive launch business. Musk believes that he can blast military and commercial satellites into space at Costco prices -- $6.7 million for a small payload and $38 million to $78 million for a heavyweight launch. By comparison, the Air Force's total cost for a Boeing or Lockheed Martin launch of a big payload comes to about $230 million, up from an inflation-adjusted $95 million in 1998. ...

    So far, satellite customers have rewarded Musk's optimism with $200 million in advance launch contracts. The company faces just two problems. While SpaceX, based in El Segundo, Calif., has fired off plenty of press releases, it has yet to get a rocket off the ground. Its first launch, already two years behind schedule, was scrubbed on Nov. 26 because of a balky computer and a liquid-oxygen leak from a valve inadvertently left open. The company expects to try again in mid-December. ...

      Such rock-bottom fees -- and a belief in the reliability of SpaceX's gear -- have attracted a range of clients, from an unidentified U.S. intelligence agency to the Malaysian government to Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace. The startup is betting that companies will want to do research on the inflatable space stations it plans to put into orbit. ...

      Musk says he has overcome many technical hurdles by simplifying launch hardware. For example, SpaceX uses the same engine on all its stages instead of different units. Its electronics are on chips instead of circuit boards, which reduces wiring glitches. To slice costs, most SpaceX rocket stages are reusable instead of expendable. And SpaceX intends to save money by recovering sections from the ocean instead of rebuilding an entire rocket. Musk also brought a Silicon Valley business model to Southern California, forming a small, innovative, 150-employee company, a sharp contrast to the bureaucratic legions who toil on launches for Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. In an age of outsourcing, SpaceX makes its engines and boosters in-house to avoid high-priced suppliers such as Pratt & Whitney (UTX ), General Electric (GE ), and Rolls-Royce. If he used those manufacturers' components, Musk says, he would be trapped in "the high-cost culture of the space industry." ...

      For Musk, beating the big guys out of a share of the launch market is just the start. His ultimate goal is to turn everyone into a highflier by making launches so cheap, easy, and common that humans will become, in his words, "a space-faring, multiplanet species." Musk wants to colonize Mars as a backup planet because Earth is vulnerable to manmade and natural disasters. Beachfront property on the Red Planet? Maybe someday. But first, Musk has to get off the beach at Kwajalein and show the doubters that his rockets can soar as high as his rhetoric.
    • Good luck to Musk. I've read about some of their proposed vehicles. I have more faith that Duke Nukem forever will fly before SpaceX's big birds. I'm not opposed to competition in the spacelaunch business - I'm just very pessimistic about it. There's a whole lot of inertia in this business. Some of it's because the gummint is involved, and some of it is because of military contracting involvement. (which is a different kind of inertia). It's a high-cost culture for a reason.
  • Freaking Space Elevators [wikipedia.org]!!!
    • Freaking Space Elevators!!!

      NASA is running contests [nasa.gov] to help make those more feasible. Unfortunately, Congress currently has a cap on the amount they're allowed to offer for competitive prizes -- it's very hard to turn a competitive prize into pork barrel for one's congressional district.
  • You know, I somehow suspect that the MSNBC site will be able to handle the traffic...
  • Outsource to ... (Score:2, Informative)

    How about the Antrix [antrix.org] corporation ?
    On a serious note, what are the prospects for international organizations bidding for the contracts? What are the implications?
  • "create a market environment in which commercial space transportation services are available to Government and private sector customers."

    Very magnanimous (as well as wise) of NASA however that was law 15 years ago -- PL101-611 the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990 [geocities.com]. Dan Goldin must have been too busy "reforming" NASA to bother following the reform laws grassroots activists got passed the aerospace lobbies.

  • Commercial Crew/Cargo Project Office ::= C3PO

    Someone has a sense of humor [google.com]...
  • NASA have already lost out any chance of getting money from private space use- the Russians and Europeans have the satellite launch business sewn up. If the US is to have any chance of competing here, it will be through private interests.

    If NASA turns over the commercially viable uses of space to private industry, then the Agency can concentrate on the kind of exploration missions that it should be doing - the private sector would never mount a Voyager or Pathfinder mission, for example. I think more missi

  • Gas Station (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Griffin also wants someone to develop a gas station [radarvector.com] in space so that his rockets can refuel from it instead of carrying extra fuel from earth.
  • by Max Threshold ( 540114 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @09:45AM (#14209714)
    Are they going to put "CCCP" on the sides of the vehicles?
    • And why would they not. CCCP for Commercial Crew/Cargo Project ...... oh, I see, wait just a moment..... that would mean that they have to keep right on using Russian rocketry to fulfill their obligations. Obviously a copyright/patent issue.
  • because NASA can't do it themselves and they know it... they haven't been able to do anything aside from the occasional sending a crew and supplies into space for at least the past 25 years. they just cant do it and make a profit - they dont know how. at the very least, the "private sector" will do what europe has been doing and send up something like an Arian rocket - no crew, just the payload (then you dont need to waste space with air, food, water or any of that stuff)
  • Will I be able to outsource a payload to the employer who outsourced my job, with this plan?

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

Working...