NASA gets flack for giving Orbital Sciences COTS money despite lack of demonstration flights

Imagine if COTS didn’t exist and NASA had picked just Orbital… thanks goodness there are 3 COTS (2.5 really) participants. Looks like they really could have not paid Orbital and had 3.5 private programs going…

“NASA’s Office of the Inspector General has criticised NASA’s management in a report noting that it has apparently given funding to one of the commercial cargo operators before it has flown the required number of cargo demonstration missions.  Specifically it records that Orbital Sciences Corp has recevied ‘up to 70 percent of the funds associated with six of its eight CRS missions prior to having flown a demonstration flight, ‘

The report also notes that a ‘full demonstration flight required under the COTS Program most recently scheduled for June 2013 has slipped to August or September 2013.”

(Via NASA under fire for advancing Orbital Sciences commercial cargo cash – Hyperbola.)

SpaceshipTwo breaks sound barrier

Sweet.

“Today, Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJC, completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic’s entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.”

(Via News – VIRGIN GALACTIC BREAKS SPEED OF SOUND IN FIRST ROCKET-POWERED FLIGHT OF SPACESHIPTWO | Virgin Galactic.)

SpaceX Grasshopper takes another big hop on way to reusable rockets

SpaceX’s grasshopper does another test. Gets 820 feet up into the air and comes back down just fine. This is some amazing, they’re getting closer and closer to doing a first stage of a rocket that’s fully reusable.

Oh, and the private space race continues, Antares was just launched by Orbital Sciences here.

NASA is not going back to the moon

Current NASA head lays it out. Interesting:

“NASA has no plans to lead its own human return to the Moon under his watch. ‘NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission,’ he said. ‘NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things.’ Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. ‘We intend to do that, and we think it can be done.’

‘I don’t know how to say it any more plainly,’ he concluded. ‘NASA does not have a human lunar mission in its portfolio and we are not planning for one.’ He warned that if the next administration tries to change course again back to the Moon, ‘it means we are probably, in our lifetime, in the lifetime of everybody sitting in this room, we are probably never again going to see Americans on the Moon, on Mars, near an asteroid, or anywhere. We cannot continue to change the course of human exploration.’”

(Via Back to the Moon? Not any time soon, says Bolden « Space Politics.)

NASA mulls asteroid capture mission, manned missions

Don’t want to close my eyes
I don’t want to fall asleep
Cause I’d miss you asteroid
Flaming in to hit our world…

“NASA is working on plans to robotically capture and tow a small asteroid back to Earth’s vicinity by the end of the decade, setting the stage for manned visits to learn more about the threat asteroids pose, the resources they represent and to help perfect the technology needed for eventual flights to Mars.”

(Via NASA mulls asteroid capture mission, eventual manned visits – CBS News.)

Striking photo: Dragon spacecraft

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft in orbit and approaching the International Space Station:

Dragon crs2 2

(Via SpaceX | SpaceX CRS-2 Mission to the ISS.)

A cogent point about Moonshot returns

From Jonny Nexus Online, a brief blog post that makes a very good point:

…But when a US Navy party led by Admiral George J. Dufek had landed at the Pole in a C-47 Skytrain aircraft on 31st October 1956, they were first people to stand at the Pole since Scott’s party, in 1912, forty-four years previously

He makes the point that the 37+ year hiatus we’ve had since returning to the moon is fairly comparable to the polar hiatus.

I think he makes a good point.