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Mar 11 2015

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Pretty good article on the present and near future of NASA and New Space cooperation

Shaping up: the future of US space transportation.

Key paragraphs:

Government is effectively stepping aside as long as NASA’s essential launch needs are met. This tracks what was done in the early days of aviation. Then, mail contracts beginning in 1925 were the vehicle for developing the aviation industry. Now launches to the ISS become the means by which an industry, now freed from government control, grows in capability and sophistication. Congress still holds to the older model with its continued insistence that the SLS and Orion be configured as a backup to the commercial vendors. At some point, you have to make the break and let NASA be NASA in space technology development, space science, and space exploration. The agency did its stint as the trucking company to LEO and the ISS, now NASA needs to move outward.

A more fundamental problem that must be addressed is the issue of US rocket engine development: reaching out to the Russians for recycled 1960s–1970s technologies is not the path to a sustainable future. SpaceX again shows the way, while others such as Blue Origin suggest other alternatives. Congress has appropriated money for an RD-180 replacement but for a sustainable commercial launch industry, one cannot proclaim your superiority over government and then wait around for another government program to build your tools. The legacy launch companies are accustomed to that model but NewSpace advocates suggest there is another way. Now is the time to walk the walk, not the talk.

The entire article is worth reading to see how our reliance on Russian rocket motors has hindered the entire industry. SpaceX is leading the way with American rocket engine development, and while ULA and Blue Origin have teamed to start working on their own engines, we’re likely 5 to 7 years out from a vibrant US rocket engine market.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/03/11/pretty-good-article-on-the-present-and-near-future-of-nasa-and-new-space-cooperation/

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