Today during a twitter conversation about the new SpaceX Texas Spaceport one of the people in the discussion send the following tweet.
@ChrisDMarshall you seem to be determined to downplay commercial space potential and options.
— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) August 30, 2014
This got me thinking as personally I fully believe in Commercial Space as being the key to the future of human access to space. The reason I am writing this post is to share my perspective Commercial Space.
Yes during the twitter conversation it could be viewed that I was downplaying Commercial Space, however that really wasn’t the case, I was basing the information on what I had learned this week from Garrett Reisman of SpaceX who during a Q&A session after his presentation at the NASA FISO forum stated that the SpaceX Texas Spaceport would not be used for crewed missions. This was because at present the only customer for Commercial Crew is NASA and to get to the space station from Texas would have required flying over populate land which is not allowed under FAA rules.
It is my hope that at least two companies are selected under the up coming CCtCap awards which are due to be announced any time now. Yes I would love SpaceX to be one of those awarded not only because I am a fan of SpaceX but also because currently Boeing and Sierra Nevada plan to use the Atlas 5 launcher which uses the RD-180 Russian engine, although both have said that they could fly on Falcon 9 too.
In an ideal scenario all three companies would be funded to give the US a huge advantage over the rest of the world when it comes to launching crew to orbit, longer term it is my hope that future missions for NASA would use commercial crew for missions especially to LEO and even as far as the moon. Eventually there would be no need for NASA to have there own launcher and instead could focus there money on science and exploration.
In an article that I plan to publish next month I talk a lot more about this, personally I believe that any successor to the International Space Station (ISS) should be derived from commercially available platforms like the Bigelow inflatable modules or others yet to come. Smaller versions of these inflatable modules could be used to provide crew quarters for longer distance missions.
Bigelow are currently planning to launch at least one of their BA-330 module in 2017 presumably once there is at least one Commercial Crew provider available. Once there modules are in space and depending on their orbit it could well be that crew could be launched from Texas or even from California.
Space Resource provisioning
For us to be successful in space we need to establish a reliable way of supplying missions from space itself, this would reduce the amount of cargo/fuel that needs to be launched allowing larger payloads, pair that with inflatable spacecraft then longer distance missions could be launched where only the supplies that cannot be sourced in space need to be included.
So why am I playing down the potential
That was never my intention, however I can certainly see from what was said recently that it could be viewed that way, and will certainly be more careful how I say things in future.
I fully believe that the only viable solution to human’s permanent presence in space is through commercial companies. I closely follow the Commercial Crew programs from Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX, as well as what is happening with Bigelow and any other companies that are trying to future the use of space.