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Entries in space program (2)


Interview - Howard Bloom on Why the Rockets Blew Up

Listen Now to Howard Bloom

One of our favorite guests, Howard is on the show today to talk about a subject dear to his heart, the future of our space program.  He explains how we are facing a momentous challenge and battle of control over our space budget,  when it comes to supporting the David in a field of Goliaths, Elon Musk, and his plans to get the American space program back on track, with state-of-the art US made rockets taking us to the space station and beyond. 

And just what was the underlying cause of the Antares and Space Ship Two rockets blowing up so spectacularly last month?

A very insightful and engaging speaker, Howard will update you on what’s going on with our space plans and dollars.




Howard Bloom - Saving and Upgrading the US Space Program

Listen Now to Howard Bloom on the US Space Program

Even though we had Howard Bloom on last week’s show, we are bringing him back this week for a time sensitive discussion of saving the US Space Program from the death grip of a cabal of 3 US senators, and how we may move the program forward to greener planets, if you will.  

Here is Howard Bloom’s press release on the time urgent issues at hand:

SpaceX, the game-changing American company that launched a Belgian communications satellite on December 4 at one-third the normal cost, is scheduled to launch a communications satellite for Thailand’s Thaicom January 3, 2014.  But the significance of this launch is far greater than most of us realize. 

Three powerful Washington politicians—Bill Nelson (D, FL), Richard Shelby (R, AL), and Barbara Mikulski (D, MD)—have planted a cancer in America’s space program.  America lost its ability to get US citizens into space on American rockets in 2011, when the space shuttle was retired.  Since then, we’ve been sending our astronauts into space on Vladimir Putin’s Soyuz rockets…at a price per ticket of between $55 and$ 70 million.  In all, we are likely to shovel $4 billion into the coffers of the Russians. All because of Nelson, Shelby, and Mikulski.

The fact is that we could use the services of private companies like SpaceX or United Launch Alliance to get Americans into space on American rockets as early as 2015.  But the actions of Nelson, Shelby, Mikulski, and their allies have moved that date back to 2017, adding two more years of embarrassment.    What’s worse, in eight months, at the end of the summer of 2014, the three anti-space Senators will have an opportunity to continue crippling America’s space program even farther.  Their continued under funding could push back America’s ability to lift Americans into space on American rockets for another three years, rolling back the launch date of passenger-carrying American rockets until 2020 or later.

At issue is an inexpensive program called Commercial Crew.  The Commercial Crew Program is designed to help American companies like SpaceX, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, and Sierra Nevada carry American passengers on American rockets more safely and far more inexpensively than ever before.  But the Nelson-Shelby-Mikulski cabal has starved the Commercial Crew Program, giving it only 38% of the funding that NASA requested.  That deliberate funding famine is the cause of the delays in the start date of America’s access to space on American rockets. 

The events of the last few weeks, have revealed that we are in a new space race.  And thanks to the Nelson, Shelby, and Mikulski, we could lose.  The Indians launched a probe to Mars November 5th. The Iranians put a monkey into space and brought it safely back to earth December 14th.  And the Chinese put their Jade Rabbit rover on the Moon December 14th. American technology is still far more sophisticated than that of the Indians, the Iranians, and the Chinese.  But here’s the bottom line: China is able to get its astronauts into space on Chinese rockets.  We can’t say the same. 

The people who show promise of putting us back into the space race are high-tech entrepreneurs—PayPal billionaire Elon Musk, founder Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen—all of whom are developing new space launch technologies.  But far, far ahead of the pack is Musk, the head of SpaceX.  Which is where SpaceX’s upcoming launch of a Thai satellite comes in.  The commercial satellite industry is a $330 billion business. America lost its competitive edge in the launch business—the business of lofting satellites into orbit using rockets—20 years ago.  The reason?  Politicians hobbled American space companies with excessive security restrictions.  And they spoiled America’s mainstream aerospace companies, giving them blatantly overpriced space-launch contracts.  But SpaceX changed the game with its December 4th launch of the Belgian SES communications satellite into orbit.  Why?  Because SpaceX’s nine-engine Falcon 9 sent the Belgian SES satellite into orbit at a cost far lower than that charged by the previous bargain-price, high-reliability champs, the Chinese.

And SpaceX is working to drive costs down even farther.  It is developing the technology that will make its rockets reusable, so that each launch is not the equivalent of buying a Rolls Royce, driving it until it runs out of gas, then throwing it away. Reusability could lower the launch cost of satellites to one tenth of the going price today.  And, say some Space Development Steering Committee experts, SpaceX’s reusable rockets could even lower the cost to one hundredth of the current rate. 

What does this have to do with getting passengers into space?  Everything.  The same rocket that carried the Belgian SES satellite into orbit on December 4th could carry passengers.  It could do it with an upgraded variation of a capsule that has already docked successfully with the International Space Station, unloaded cargo, taken on used science experiments and other odds and ends from the Space Station, and brought them back to earth safely three times.  That capsule is SpaceX’s Dragon.  The upgraded, passenger-carrying version of that capsule could take less than a year to finish and is known as the DragonRider.

Aerospace expert R.D. Boozer, author of The Plundering of NASA and a member of the Space Development Steering Committee, points out that we could also have almost immediate human access to space using the rockets of United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin whose Atlas and Delta rockets have been safely carrying complex military satellites to space for a decade.  In fact, the Atlas’ predecessors carried humans safely to space half a century ago.  And the Atlas and Delta rockets have been continuously improved since then.   All that’s lacking, says Boozer,   is “the appropriate spacecraft” to launch atop these rockets, spacecraft, adds Boozer, “whose completion is slowed by Congress’ robbing Commercial Crew development.”

Why would Senators Nelson, Shelby, and Mikulski cripple America’s space program?  Pork.  The Washington trio fights tooth and nail to sustain a project that supports jobs in their districts: The Space Launch System, known derisively in the space community as the  Senate Launch System.  Says aerospace expert Boozer, the Space Launch System is “a pork barrel project: a giant rocket using obsolete Space Shuttle technology and antiquated contracting methods.”  Adds Boozer, “SLS’s development costs are so high that there are no funds left to develop payloads for it, earning it the nickname of The Rocket to Nowhere.”  Even worse, Boozer points out that “a study commissioned by NASA and done by Booz-Allen-Hamilton” states that the Space Launch System is so expensive and impractical, that, along with the overpriced space vehicle it’s slated to launch, it’s likely to suck up three billion dollars a year for a decade or more.   And its final version may never even see its first flight. Boozer explains that another expert group empaneled by the executive branch, The Augustine Commission, came to the same conclusion.  It called the monster rocket that has evolved into the Space Launch System “unsustainable.” 

Meanwhile, the funding for the Commercial Crew Program—the inexpensive, safe rocket program that could allow us to get back to space on American vehicles in 18 months or less—is being skimmed to support “The Rocket to Nowhere.” And the Iranians, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Indians are laughing.


 Howard Bloom