Congress, White House

White House, members of Congress respond to Antares launch

Sunday afternoon Orbital Sciences Corporation successfully launched its Antares rocket on its inaugural flight, a test mission carrying a demonstration payload and several smallsats. Company officials said the launch, one of the final milestones in the company’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) award from NASA, went well, paying the way for a launch this summer of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft on Antares to the International Space Station.

Within a half-hour of liftoff, the White House released a statement from Office of Science and Technology Policy director John Holdren. “The growing potential of America’s commercial space industry and NASA’s use of public-private partnerships are central to President Obama’s strategy to ensure U.S. leadership in space exploration while pushing the bounds of scientific discovery and innovation in the 21st century,” Holdren said in the brief statement. “With NASA focusing on the challenging and exciting task of sending humans deeper into space than ever before, private companies will be crucial in taking the baton for American cargo and crew launches into low-Earth orbit.”

Two Democratic members of the House Science Committee also marked the successful flight in a press release (not yet posted on their website.) “Having a safe, reliable, and cost effective cargo resupply capability is critical to the full and productive utilization of the ISS,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member of the full committee, in her congratulatory statement. “This new era of launch activities will aid economic growth in the Delmarva region. In the months and years ahead, continued teamwork will be critical to the completion of Orbital’s first demonstration flight to the ISS and subsequent operational flights in performance of its Commercial Resupply Services contract (CRS) with NASA,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the committee’s space subcommittee.

And Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), an avid supporter of Wallops Flight Facility, where the launch took place, also congratulated the launch in a stream of tweets Sunday evening:

84 comments to White House, members of Congress respond to Antares launch

  • Dark Blue Nine

    It’s good for what it does, but it’s too bad that there’s no obvious evolution path for Antares to lower-cost, larger, reusable, and/or manned launch. I hope they eventually get a ballute on Cygnus for cargo return.

    • Coastal Ron

      Dark Blue Nine said:

      It’s good for what it does, but it’s too bad that there’s no obvious evolution path for Antares to lower-cost, larger, reusable, and/or manned launch.

      When Orbital was initially competing on COTS, it was probably thought to be a elegant and good business idea to develop a transportation system that utilized many existing systems (AJ-26 engines, the cargo module based on existing ISS designs, etc.).

      If SpaceX hadn’t come, we’d probably be thinking Orbital was “cutting edge”, and compared to Boeing and Lockheed Martin they probably are, or at least they were during the COTS competition. But time passes, and things change.

      It’s hard to see Orbital winning any new Antares/Cygnus business once someone other than SpaceX becomes operational for Commercial Crew, since the vast amount of logistics can be done by Commercial Crew vehicles. Sure some bulk equipment fits better in a Cygnus than a Dragon, but the Dragon carries more mass, and you could still stick a Cygnus on top of a Falcon 9 if you needed more mass delivered than what an Antares can push.

      I think the Antares will have a short life, but I think the Cygnus could have a future for supporting operations in space, even though it won’t return cargo to Earth. Orbital is already looking into that, and though it’s a small market, it could be enough to be useful. If anything, the SM on the Cygnus could be expanded to provide tug service for dumb payloads, and that would be useful for LEO and beyond.

      But at least for now, it looks like we’ll have a redundant resupply system, which is a step in the right direction.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Companies play to their strengths and OSC’s is “integration” not technology development. On that they did a good job with the rocket…they went from nothing to this in 5.56 or so years…which beats the “integration effort” of NASA with Ares V or SLS by well who knows…the date there is still open

        I dont know how long or short a life the rocket has; nor do I really know its cost structure…but the fact is that in under 6 years from parts they built a rocket and it flew.

        That should embarrass the heck out of NASA…RGO

        • DCSCA

          Companies play to their strengths and OSC’s is “integration” not technology development. On that they did a good job with the rocket…they went from nothing to this in 5.56 or so years…which beats the “integration effort” of NASA with Ares V or SLS by well who knows…the date there is still open

          Pffft. they are not comparable systems. Again, an attempt at parody using false equivalency by NewSpacers.. They do everything but what counts- fly someone.

          • Coastal Ron

            DCSCA whined:

            They do everything but what counts- fly someone.

            Even more oddness from our in-house oddity.

            Maybe to you the only thing that counts is being able to fly someone, but then again you are trying to rekindle the “excitement” of your youth. Do it on your own dime, this here is work being done.

            Orbital is trying to provide something important, which is redundancy and competition for LEO resupply. If don’t have a redundant and competitive logistics system to support what we want to do in space, then all your dreams for space exploration won’t happen.

            And that’s because your space dreams cost money – and $0.42 of each dollar you want to spend on space exploration has to be borrowed. Don’t you realize that?

            Redundancy and Competition – those should be your new watchwords.

            • DCSCA

              “Orbital is trying to provide something important, which is redundancy and competition for LEO resupply.” weeps Ron.

              Redundancy to a doomed space platform is a waste of resources when subsidied by tax dollatrs. If they’re financing on their own dime. fine. But not with mine. Doyuz and Progress are just fine, thank you. On the other hand, Orbital may just have a loss leader on their hands with just enough investment and integration to service a dead end project snd get thm int the running for the next project of scale. Space X, not so much. Soyuz and Progress work just fine, Ron. BTW, has Elon flown anybody yet??? Of course not,.Tick-tock, tick-tock.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA said:

                Doyuz…

                Everyone has the occasional typo or mangled sentence, but you seem to go out of your way to do it on purpose. Suck it up and proof read before you post!

                Doyuz and Progress are just fine, thank you.

                Uh huh, if you’re a Putin fanboi maybe they are, but we here in America don’t want to be able to do things ourselves. If you were a U.S. citizen you would understand that…

              • “Redundancy to a doomed space platform is a waste of resources when subsidied by tax dollatrs”

                So, assuming you believe in concepts like permanent presence, or at least staying somewhere a serious length of time, where do you want to go instead, that does not require resupply?

                “Soyuz and Progress work just fine…”

                True, last time I checked. But we both know that’s not always been true of the hardware or its launchers…and there’s no Plan B. Do you believe in supply alternatives (note the plural) for your preferred locations of humans in space (that would also require tax dollars…oh, wait. We’ll get X billions back in geopolitical leverage for that. Got it.)?

                “BTW, has Elon flown anybody yet??? Of course not,.Tick-tock, tick-tock.”

                Again, as if that were all that mattered…but to you it will be an insignificant repeat of what was done in the 60′s when it happens. Some things can be seen coming.

          • Mader

            I look forward to how you will move goalposts after SpaceX flies people.

            • JimNobles

              He’s already floating the “How’s that retirement on Mars working out for ya’” ballon. He has some profound emotional problems with commercial space.

              • He has some profound emotional problems with commercial space.

                That sentence is three words too long.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “He has some profound emotional problems”

                And typing problems.

                And spelling problems.

                And comprehension problems.

                And obsessive-compulsive problems.

            • Gregori

              When SpaceX fly someone it will be; oh well they only flew someone to LEO going around in circles going no place fast.

              When they go to the Moon, it will be; oh well guberment did that back in 1969, its onto the next PROJECT OF SCALE!!!

              Soon enough he will be blaming SpaceX for not going to Alpha Centauri.

              • DCSCA

                “When SpaceX fly someone it will be; oh well they only flew someone to LEO going around in circles going no place fast.”

                You said it. But your press release should read ‘if’ not ‘when.’

              • By the way, Gregori, New Space will NEVER reach the Moon. As a matter of fact the Moon is such an anathema to them, & these entrepreneurs have zero interest in going there; from all the contemptuous statements that they’ve made since the 2010 Obama decision-to-cancel all things Lunar. No, New Spacers want Mars, the stars, and NEO’s. They expressly don’t want to do the things that are feasible & plausible in the near term! THIS anti-Lunar rhetoric is precisely why persons like myself & DCSCA have a counter-disdain for New Space. If the space entrepreneurs succeed, it’ll be upon the gravestone of Return-to-the-Moon efforts. (AND it will mean NASA’s confinement to LEO for another couple of decades.)

              • Mader

                Gregorgi: When SpaceX fly someone it will be; oh well they only flew someone to LEO going around in circles going no place fast.

                DCSCA: You said it. But your press release should read ‘if’ not ‘when.’

                I thought flying people was something that counts? To remind:

                DCSCA: They do everything but what counts – fly someone.

                Aw, DCSCA. So its counts when SpaceX not yet managed this feat, but if SpaceX indeed manage to do it, it suddenly stops counting? How I can treat seriously anything that you say?
                No wonder almost everyone here laughs at you.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “By the way, Gregori, New Space will NEVER reach the Moon. As a matter of fact the Moon is such an anathema to them, & these entrepreneurs have zero interest in going there”

                If “entrepreneurs have zero interest in going” to the Moon, then why is Golden Spike, an entrepreneurial company, pursuing human lunar landings by 2020?

                http://goldenspikecompany.com/

                If “entrepreneurs have zero interest in going” to the Moon, then why is Golden Spike baselining an architecture based on Falcon Heavy and Dragon vehicles built by SpaceX, another entrepreneurial company?

                http://tinyurl.com/aohdrb9

                If “entrepreneurs have zero interest in going” to the Moon, then why is Bigelow Aerospace, another entrepreneurial company, studying lunar bases for NASA?

                http://spaceref.biz/2013/04/text-of-the-nasabigelow-space-act-agreement.html

              • By the way, Gregori, New Space will NEVER reach the Moon. As a matter of fact the Moon is such an anathema to them, & these entrepreneurs have zero interest in going there; from all the contemptuous statements that they’ve made since the 2010 Obama decision-to-cancel all things Lunar. No, New Spacers want Mars, the stars, and NEO’s. They expressly don’t want to do the things that are feasible & plausible in the near term! THIS anti-Lunar rhetoric is precisely why persons like myself & DCSCA have a counter-disdain for New Space. If the space entrepreneurs succeed, it’ll be upon the gravestone of Return-to-the-Moon efforts. (AND it will mean NASA’s confinement to LEO for another couple of decades.)

                This is one of the most ignorant, nuttiest things you’ve ever written, and that’s saying something. Are you saying that Moon Express, Shackleton Energy, and everyone else chasing the Google Lunar X-Prize have no interest in the moon? Or that they’re not “New Space”? Or what?

          • Isn’t that the truth! New Space aren’t actually going to fly anybody. They’re just enjoying this doldrum rift in time, that they’ve got exclusive center stage. Sure, they’ll launch a series of more unmanned LEO flights to resupply their gravy train: the ISS. But actually place an astronaut on board & fly them?? NOT in your sweet life! The next presidential term in January 2017 will arrive before that! Heck, I daresay that the year 2020 gets here, and New Space will just keep right on fumbling!

            • JimNobles

              Chris said,
              and New Space will just keep right on fumbling!

              New Space isn’t fumbling. At present New Space is the only one moving the ball. Old Space has practically sat down and quit. They can’t even see the goal posts from where they are.

              • @JM;….’Old Space’ has only dropped-the-ball because of the awful political decisions of this administration since 2010! Obamaspace effectively yields the whole playing field to the space entrepreneurs. The Orion craft could’ve easily been the American answer to the Russian Soyuz, but the powers that be wanted the vehicle iced, because of its planned Lunar applications. Bush’s space plans were demolished in favor of just stopping manned space flights and waiting patiently for Commercial Crew to eventually create something. This yielding of the government space program to fully accommodate the commercial people was terrible policy right from the start! The commercial boys have center stage for all their amateur stuff, with a guaranteed flow of government stipend money, with which to do it; and in the end all they’ll deliver on is a measly LEO capsule designed ONLY for taxi flights to & from the ISS, for space tourists to travel there!

              • Further, @JN; Sad to say, Golden Spike isn’t going to get anything off the ground, if it keeps to the commercial paradigm! Government is the only entity which could pull such a daring plan off; and of course such an endeavor could NOT rely on space tourism business. Certainly NOT at the beginning. A second manned Lunar Return will be a grand exercise in engineering & scientific might. Commercial Crew do NOT have the competence to carry out Beyond-LEO manned spaceflights.

              • JimNobles

                -
                Chris, you see things very differently than I do.

                This debate, at its heart, is not about Old Space vs. New Space but rather how most effectively to spend our space money. Constellations cancellation was not so much about politics but about money. That program had gotten so expensive and so behind schedule that I believe any competent administration, republican or democratic, would have cancelled it. If Constellation had been on-time and within budget it would be alive and well today. But it had become a boondoggle which realistically had no chance of doing its mission given the money and time that most people were willing to allocate towards it.

                When Constellation got cancelled it wasn’t a surprise to those of us who had been watching the program, the money, and the politics. We knew the program was falling behind and needed far more money than it was alloted. Despite what Mike Griffin said about always getting the money he asked for. We also knew that the political support for the program was very shallow except for those politicians in whose districts big Constellation contracts were in effect. We knew that the program was in severe danger of cancellation and many people, including myself, agreed with the cancellation when it happened.

                In my opinion the cancellation, on that fine day at KFC, was abruptly and ineptly presented. It hurt a lot of people’s feelings. Not only was their dream giant rocket program gone, to many their dreams of turning NASA into some kind of Moon Development Agency was also unceremoniously snatched away from them. There was much wearing of sack-cloth and gnashing of teeth. Many are still grieving. But, to be fair, this mainly happened because those people had been living in a bubble. They had not been paying attention to what was going on with the money and the politics. They did not know the score and many were blind-sided because of that.

                It didn’t take long for the politicians, in whose districts were companies and corporations who took the financial hit, to react. They threw together a big rocket design using only parts from the companies they represented and then wrote it into a bill that eventually became law. That’s how we ended up with SLS, an ugly and outdated retro flintstone rocket using parts and processes invented before many of us were born. The politicians designed the rocket in a way to bring money to people and companies in their districts. They did not design the rocket to be a cost-effective solution and to make the best use of taxpayer monies. Those politians have the souls of thieves.

                Meanwhile “New Space” comes along. Mainly people who grew up during the Space Age and who believe mankind is more than ready to move into space if only the processes for doing so are done competently. They know how to make rockets and get into space. We’ve been doing it for over fifty years and the people who did it took great care in recording how they did it. So the knowledge-base was there. What remained was how to improve and stream-line the processes. That’s basically the heart of what New Space is trying to do, get it done as economically and efficiently as possible but still actually getting the job done.

                I could go on and on but this is more than enough. New Space is basically about using money and resources in the most efficient way to get us into space. The arguments about “New Space can’t or won’t do this thing!” or “Old Space can’t do that thing!” are mostly just people acting badly, even though I occasionally indulge in them myself. But they are all stupid arguments, and beside the point.

                “New Space” is about getting into space, everywhere, the Moon, Mars, everywhere, in the most economical efficient way possible.

                “New Space” is about getting into space, everywhere, the Moon, Mars, everywhere, in the most economical efficient way possible.
                -

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “I think the Antares will have a short life”

        I don’t think so. Antares is designed to be sustainable with a very small flight rate. It’s designed to do what Delta II does without the anchor GPS customer that kept Delta II in business (until GPS migrated to EELVs). Even if its ISS business goes away after the commercial crew vehicles come online, as long as Antares wins one or two comsat or science probe launches a year, OSC will keep it around. Maybe they’ll have trouble even doing that in the face of Falcon 9 pricing, but I think SpaceX will have its hands full for the forseeable future.

        (What never made sense was Stratolaunch, which goes after the same Delta II market, but will be much more expensive to develop and operate than either Antares or Falcon 9 and has no ISS customer sharing its development or early operations costs.)

        “but I think the Cygnus could have a future for supporting operations in space”

        I think Cygnus is more iffy. If its ISS business goes away, then it has to develop new markets, something outside OSC’s control. Antares (and any other launch vehicle) can fall back on satellites, space probes, and other non-ISS payloads, something that Cygnus (and any other space capsule) cannot do for the forseeable future.

        Hopefully Bigelow or something else changes that before the decade is out.

        • Stratolaunch is for a different market — single-orbit rendezvous…

          • Dark Blue Nine

            Maybe in the future for the military or a Bigelow. But those requirements have not emerged, and moreover, that’s not how Griffin et al. sold the company at rollout. They were focused on the Delta II market post-GPS.

            • But those requirements have not emerged, and moreover, that’s not how Griffin et al. sold the company at rollout. They were focused on the Delta II market post-GPS.

              You give too much credence to what Griffin et al said at the rollout. This is the space version of the Glomar Explorer.

              • JimNobles

                Yeah, they could use it as a quick-reaction quick-attack satellite hunter or anything. Besides all the normal things that can be thought of.

              • Call Me Ishmael

                “This is the space version of the Glomar Explorer.”

                You mean it’s really intended to sidle up to some Soviet/Russian/Chinese derelict and do sneaky intelligence-gathering things to it?

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “You give too much credence to what Griffin et al said at the rollout. This is the space version of the Glomar Explorer.”

                Until there’s some evidence that the intel community or military is actually behind this, that rollout is the only direct evidence that we (or at least I) have to go on.

                The applications are obvious and the intel community or military could better shoulder the high costs of such a system. But that’s circumstantial.

                Other circumstantial evidence seems to point in the other direction. Unlike Howard Hughes, Paul Allen has no longstanding association with the military to be tapped by the DOD (or CIA or whomever). And the Air Force’s existing X-37 — its ability to persist on orbit for the better part of a year and rapidly change planes — also overlaps with an hours-to-orbit launch capability. And if the objective is pop-up ORS-scale smallsats for on-demand recon, counterspace, etc., then Virgin Atlantic’s proposed 200kg capability is much more relevant and useful than a Delta II-class capability.

                It’s not clear there’s a pressing national security need for this yet, that Paul Allen would be the go-to guy, or that there’s not better alternatives elsewhere.

                But anything’s possible in the white-is-black world.

                My 2 cents… FWIW…

              • Dark Blue Nine

                Actually, DARPA’s whole ALASA program, of which Virgin Galactic has a piece, appears to be how the national security community is going after this capability. Not to say that someone else in that community might be pursuing Stratolaunch, but it’s definitely going to be slower, more expensive, and less flexible than ALASA. Here are some links:

                http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Programs/Airborne_Launch_Assist_Space_Access_(ALASA).aspx

                https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=0ad6397acb2e17d4666acfe227d1b82b&tab=core&_cview=1

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_ALASA_program

                FWIW…

              • All I know is that if there is no mission requirement for single-orbit rendezvous, StratoLaunch makes no business sense.

              • Actually, I also know (FWIW) that when I speculated on this to someone in Colorado Springs a couple weeks ago who should know, his response was “no comment.”

              • JimNobles

                I wonder how many anti-satellite missle/spacecraft it could launch at once.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        One way that OSC could help develop new markets for Cygnus is by adding a return capability. If the DragonLab market develops, then a returnable Cygnus could compete. OSC has had discussions with NASA about adding a ballute to Cygnus, which would help Cygnus/OSC, cover the last bit of uncovered ISS return needs, and test/develop ballute technologies/workforce for future planetary applications (like Mars). There’s a good thread with links and pix at NSF on it:

        http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=29372.0

        • common sense

          A ballute would be a great idea since there are immediate application in the military world (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkrcTz4bQbo) which would provide another reliable customer.

          However I would submit that there are other technologies that should be looked upon in terms of deployables, for example http://www.planetaryprobe.org/sessionfiles/Session4/Presentations/1_Venkatapathy_Deployables.pdf

          FWIW.

        • Coastal Ron

          Dark Blue Nine said:

          One way that OSC could help develop new markets for Cygnus is by adding a return capability.

          I don’t see how the Cygnus can compete against the Dragon on cost for cargo return, and if Sierra Nevada gets the Dream Chaser operational, with the Dream Chaser on convenience.

          Our capabilities are rapidly starting to exceed our needs in space, from a lift standpoint today, and soon the logistics of moving supplies and crew to orbit. That’s a good thing, as maybe people will realize that transport and logistics are not the limitation anymore, and allow people and organizations to focus on the uses of space instead.

          Not NASA though, since Congress has it busy spending gobs of money to build additional excess transportation capacity… oh well.

      • DCSCA

        “The growing potential of America’s commercial space industry and NASA’s use of public-private partnerships are central to President Obama’s strategy to ensure U.S. leadership in space exploration while pushing the bounds of scientific discovery and innovation in the 21st century,” Holdren said in the brief statement.”

        This ‘strategy’ is dead as of January 21, 2017.

        • JimNobles

          DCSCA said,
          “This ‘strategy’ is dead as of January 21, 2017.”

          This Administration will be over then. The strategy however looks like it will live on. Because of it we have a real space program again instead of basically just a pork based dinosaur-space program designed to enrich a few corporations.

          • DCSCA

            The strategy however looks like it will live on.

            you’re short-sighted. It’s doomed as surely as the ISS is to a Pacific grave. Going in circls, no place fast for another decade isn’t much of a viable strategy at all, Jim.

        • Ain’t that the truth! If America is lucky enough to get a new president in 2017 from the other party, then we’ve got half a chance of things finally improving. The next person who attains the Oval Office, will have nothing at stake with New Space nor Flexible Path. He/she should eventually see the logic of America changing space strategy.

          • JimNobles

            Ain’t that the truth! If America is lucky enough to get a new president in 2017 from the other party, then we’ve got half a chance of things finally improving. The next person who attains the Oval Office, will have nothing at stake with New Space nor Flexible Path. He/she should eventually see the logic of America changing space strategy.

            Chris, what in the world makes you think that a republican administration is going stop or stifle commercial space and return America to the old way of doing things? Is it just because you are not happy with the current democratic administration so you just assume a republican administration would do things more the way you do like? If so, I think you’ll be disappointed. Generally speaking republicans tend to support commercial over big-government programs.

            I think the most republican thing about Bronco is his stance on commercial space. Well, that and killer drones.

            I’ll repeat, if you think a republican president is going to step on commercial space because Bronco supported it you are probably in for a rude surprise.

            I think your only real hope is if the next president comes from one of those states who need MPCV or SLS for the jobs.

            And I can’t see any new president starting a big-government moon program. Congress doesn’t want it that much and the people don’t want it that much. A moon program with NASA and commercial partners seems far more likely and it remains to be seen if that can even happen.

      • DCSCA

        But at least for now, it looks like we’ll have a redundant resupply system, which is a step in the right direction.

        It’s a waste of resources to a doomed space platform that returns nexto nothing to justify its #100 billion expense and multi-billion dollar annual operations costs.

        Splash it.

        • Gregori

          All human spaceflight is a waste of resources when if we want to just do exploration, robots are far cheaper and don’t risk precious lives.

        • You understand that, assuming your preference is a permanent facility on the Moon and/or Mars (if not, then what?), there are those who will say the same about it, do you not?

          Or have you forgotten what ‘moonbase’ talk did for the last campaign?

          Be mindful of that, as 2017 approaches…

          • The ‘moonbase talk’ didn’t go good in the Republican primary campaign because it was worded in too sensationalistic of terms. Newt Gingrich is a great supporter of space exploration, but he should never have phrased his support for it in too rosy & flowery of a way, that the general public would take it like a joke. He should’ve saved those statements about ‘the moonbase as the 51st state’ for when he was talking expressly to the space interest community. Like if he had been in an interview with Ad Astra magazine, or something. However, conversely, does it ever do anybody, politician or not, any bad to talk sensationalistically about colonizing Mars?? Look at Elon Musk bragging about ‘retiring on Mars’. Does anyone ever ridicule the Mars zealots?? Really? There seems to be a double standard going on here, with regard to the Moon versus Mars debate. If Gingrich had spoke about colonizing Mars & making it our 51st state, I much rather doubt that the media would’ve lampooned him! Meanwhile, guess what?—-the current man in the White House, is actually in fact, the Low Earth Orbit President!

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “He should’ve saved those statements about ‘the moonbase as the 51st state’ for when he was talking expressly to the space interest community.”

              Gingrich made those statements in Florida on the Space Coast. By definition, there’s no greater “space interest community”. And Gingrich’s lunar return still fell flat.

              • Guest

                That’s only because at the time nobody had a clue how to pull it off.

                That’s changed in a single year.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “That’s only because at the time nobody had a clue how to pull it off.

                That’s changed in a single year.”

                For the private sector, in the form of Golden Spike, that’s true. But the private sector doesn’t need policy direction from a President to make human lunar return happen.

                For NASA, it’s not true. There’s no policy direction to return to the Moon, and unlike the private sector, NASA would need that direction. And even if the direction was there, there’s no budget left over after SLS and MPCV for an $8-12 billion Altair-type lander. To get a NASA human lunar return going, a new President would have to pick that as a goal, terminate SLS/MPCV, and revamp NASA’s human space exploration programs (yet again).

                Given the low probability of that happening, I’d bet that Golden Spike (or Bigelow, etc.) will be on the Moon before NASA gets back.

            • You’re quite right in that Gingrich should have spoken very narrowly and specifically about Lunar research bases, on a par with what we do in Antarctica, and left talk about colonies and a 51st state to a more sympathetic audience (instead of allowing the concepts to be co-mingled), if at all…

              “Look at Elon Musk bragging about ‘retiring on Mars’.”

              Elon wasn’t running for President(and Constitutionally could not) , or even has a board of directors to please at this time. That, and slowly but steadily making good on the things he knows has to be done to enable that (and working mostly with his own money), he can afford to speak more boldly.

              “Does anyone ever ridicule the Mars zealots??”

              They’re smart enough to not run for office. Even so, Robert Zubrin even makes some space enthusiasts a bit…uncomfortable, at times.

              • True, when you are running for elected political office, you have to be careful & mindfull of what you say, and how you say it. Again, had Gingrich spoken soberly & pragmatically about how emplacing a lunar base, would be just as important as the bases we have in Antarctica, and left out all that sci-fi stuff about putting colonies up there, then his stated support for manned flight beyond LEO, might very well’ve been better received. Plus, prior to any lunar base, would be initial sortie missions—–to prove out the lander vehicle; & later: multi-week/multi-month long outpost stays, which would require the use of an automated/unmanned lunar module variant, to be sent Moonward.

    • red

      “It’s good for what it does, but it’s too bad that there’s no obvious evolution path for Antares to lower-cost, larger, reusable, and/or manned launch. I hope they eventually get a ballute on Cygnus for cargo return.”

      This isn’t the type or scale of change you’re talking about, but I think it’s interesting:

      “Re: Future Orbital Launchers – What’s After Antares?”
      http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=31721.0;all

      “How about qualifying the NK… I mean, AJ-26 for a few more % max thrust??? That would do wonders for performance, given the low initial T/W…” – antonioe

      You probably already know there are planned Antares and Cygnus upgrades and options.

    • Robert Clark

      It’s good for what it does, but it’s too bad that there’s no obvious evolution path for Antares to lower-cost, larger, reusable, and/or manned launch. I hope they eventually get a ballute on Cygnus for cargo return.

      Actually it wouldn’t be too hard. Orbital was considering making Cygnus into a manned capsule. Since it is already designed to be pressurized, you would only need to add life support and a heat shield.
      This would be great to have since it would be half size in weight to the Dragon. It could then do for example lunar landing missions with a launcher only half the size of that needed for the Dragon, i.e., you would not need the Falcon Heavy. This might be doable by a single Delta IV Heavy or Ariane 5 ME launch using half-size Centaurs as the in-space stages.
      In regards to reusability, dispense with the solid stage and replace it with a half-size Centaur. As more efficient stages, this would actually increase the payload. Then follow the SpaceX plan of using powered descent for each stage.

      Bob Clark

      • common sense

        It’s far more complicated than that. At least for the current configuration as shown on Orbital website.

        Packaging for a reentry (crewed) capsule is primordial and the sketches I’ve seen so far do not show that packaging would allow for an optimal center of gravity on reentry – or optimal usage of the available volume. Center of gravity is primordial since it dictates the reentry angle of attack which is necessary if you don’t want your crew to reenter at excessive acceleration (~11 Gs) which has an impact on heating as well. Sidewall angles might have to change or the length-to-diameter ratio for a given volume. Overall drag on entry is important for the ballistic coefficient. They would also need to install appropriate RCS in addition to a base heat shield, sidewall TPS and ECLSS, parachutes and/or ballute/deployable…

        In the end it might be “doable” but the vehicle would most likely be very different from the current design.

        FWIW.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    The cynic in me says that no doubt this will add WFF to the pork line. Cygnus and Antares now must receive NASA business to support jobs in Texas and Virginia (just as SpaceX must receive it to support jobs in California, Texas, Nevada and Florida and SLS must continue to support jobs… well, the phrase ‘ad nauseum’ seems to have been created for this).

    That isn’t to take anything away from Orbital’s achievement. The AJ-26 engines (actually NK-33) engines have been sitting in a post-Soviet munitions dump for 40 years and have been brought to operational condition. ATK managed to create a whole new space-capable solid stage and OSC, whose problems with staging and fairings is a matter of public record, managed to get the complex Antares PLF and interstage staging evolution to work essentially perfectly first time. These are fine achievements and my problems with politicians shouldn’t be allowed to detract from them.

    • Neil Shipley

      No there is no logic to your thinking. SpaceX doesn’t need NASA as it has a long list of commercial customers on its manifest – more than 50% non-NASA. Orbital has been doing very well in it’s own right without the CRS contract so neither firms are beholden to NASA and they would continue to grow and thrive without those contracts. The ‘jobs’ argument doesn’t hold water. Think again!

  • That’s one small step for commercial cargo, one giant leap for commercial space.

    The porkers on the House and Senate space subcommittees may continue to claim that NewSpace is dangerous and complain about the taxpayer dollar giveaway — even though the idea has been around since 2004 and the C3PO office since 2005 — but the bottom line is that it works and far more cheaply than the space-industrial complex porkfest.

    On to Cygnus in June.

  • Curtis Quick

    Kudos to Orbital. It takes great skill to get a Russian first stage work with an American second stage in order to orbit (in the future) a French cargo spacecraft. Very international and very difficult to pull off. I just wonder how long that supply of 40-year-old Russian engines will last.

  • josh

    good job, orbital. they don’t have grand long term plans like spacex but we can always use another reliable cargo launcher. redundancy and competition.

  • Fred Willett

    Congrats to Orbital. I see a big future here.
    ISS resupply contracts for Orbital and SpaceX run out in about 4 years.
    There will be a need for a second round of contracts for cargo to ISS even assuming ISS ends in 2020 (which is unlikely).
    At the same time ATV is coming up on its final flight and ISS crew is going up from 6 to 7.
    Thus the next round of resupply contracts are going to be even bigger.
    I suspect Orbital and SpaceX will get contracts as well as one other chosen from from Boeing and SNC. To add a second string to the down mass capability.
    Then, on top of that you have commercial crew coming on line.
    We could have 3, maybe even 4 commercial vehicles flying to ISS by 2020.
    Interesting times.

  • A M Swallow

    A possible extension to the Cygnus could be to stretch the fuel tanks so it can fly to GEO and EML-1/2. Spacestations at these locations will need cargo delivering.

    • amightywind

      Physics tell us that improvements in the upper stage are the best way to increase the payload capacity of a rocket. Study the rocket equation for the two stage case.

  • Fred Willett

    It’s also well to remember just how cheap this capability has been.
    COTS was $500M. Then NASA decided to add $300M for risk reduction. All up it cost $800M for 2 LVs and 2 spacecraft.
    So from NASA’s POV that’s $200M to develop Falcon 9
    $200M to develop Antares.
    $200M to develop Dragon.
    $200M to develop Cygnus.
    All the rest of the costs were picked up by the private companies concerned.
    And there were no cost over runs.
    Does this make commercial cargo the most efficient (and cheapest) NASA program ever?

  • josh

    @fred

    that’s why it scares the sh*t out of people like windy..

  • Mr. Mark

    New Space is dangerous? SpaceX delivering 2 cargo contract flights to ISS successfully is dangerous? A test of a new commercial launch vehicle, Orbital Antares, is dangerous? Some people have lost it here.

  • vulture4

    The NK-26 depends on sophisticated metallurgy for the oxygen-rich turbopumps. I wonder if Aerojet got enough information to duplicate it? If not, the engine is a pretty limited resource.

  • DCSCA

    “Uh huh, if you’re a Putin fanboi maybe they are, but we here in America don’t want to be able to do things ourselves.”

    Then you must be a ‘fanboi’ SLS/MPCV, as that is the HSF project in work for the United States of America.

    • JimNobles

      DCSCA said,

      Then you must be a ‘fanboi’ SLS/MPCV, as that is the HSF project in work for the United States of America.

      At present the HSF projects in work for the United States of America are ISS and commercial crew. ISS is flying. Commercial crew should be flying before long.

      MPCV and SLS are dreams at present. We don’t know if they will ever fly. When they do then you can brag on them. Until then… Fly Something, everyone’s waiting. tick-tock, tick-tock. Or admit they are vapour-ware.

      • DCSCA

        “At present the HSF projects in work for the United States of America are ISS and commercial crew.” says Jim.

        Private corporations owe no loyalty to any nation-state, Jim, only their stock holders and investors. Perhaps you believe American Airlines and BOA represent the United States government. They don’t.

        • Neil Shipley

          So! And your point is?

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA opined:

          Perhaps you believe American Airlines and BOA represent the United States government. They don’t.

          You sure don’t like free enterprise and capitalism, do you? How much money have you lost in the stock market?

          Look, maybe you want to live in a country where the government has to do everything, but that’s not America.

          And I think you think NASA’s budget is still being funded at the Apollo-era level, but it’s not. A simple look at the facts shows that NASA’s budget continues to shrink, both as a percentage of the national budget and in real dollars.

          The only way we’ll be able to afford human exploration beyond LEO for any period of time will be if private industry is a partner with NASA, or the private sector does it by themselves.

          And I don’t care if it’s a government employee or someone from the private sector, especially if they are U.S. citizens.

  • amightywind

    If you look at the launch video you see a low axial rate on the first stage. It must be a ‘barbeque roll’ thermal control. I think this is a good example of a vehicle spinning in control, for those of you who don’t understand the difference. (That’s you RGO.) Nice to see a new rocket launch without the accompanying corporate horn blowing and CEO histrionics.

    • “Nice to see a new rocket launch without the accompanying corporate horn blowing and CEO histrionics.”

      Yes, God forbid that a contractor might show some enthusiasm…

    • JimNobles

      Nice to see a new rocket launch without the accompanying corporate horn blowing and CEO histrionics.

      Elon truly does believe in his company and its products. He believes in his people and their shared dreams. He also truly believes in his new country and how we do things here. And he’s not particularly quiet about any of it.

      This bothers some people. It doesn’t bother me but it does bother some. I say we cut him some slack on his enthusiasm. As long as he is trying to move us into space we should cheer him on shouldn’t we?

  • Again, I tell you: Commercial Crew do NOT have the competence for Beyond-LEO manned spaceflight.

    • common sense

      If you could at least support your statements with something, anything. But facts are so 20th Century.

      Who needs facts when you can have “upper case”?

  • Superb overcom! I’d like to trainee while doing so because you change your web blog, exactly how may possibly we signed up for the blog page site? This bill made it easier for me a acceptable bargain. I’d been a bit more familiar of your a person’s broadcast given radiant apparent principle

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>