Monday, April 25, 2011

Taking shots at commercial space

Item 1: Jay Barbree, who's been reporting on the space program since it was created, is not happy about how NASA carved up its awards for commercial flights to the ISS. He complains that Boeing was the only experienced company getting an award: SpaceX and especially two startups, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada, are unproven. NASA ignored real experience, he said (as in, ATK and Orbital Sciences).
Item 2: Russia, an ISS partner, is not happy with the whole commercial thing. Its officials say private ships can't dock at the ISS until they meet yet-to-be-defined standards. This is, of course, the same Russia getting $60M per seat to launch astronauts to ISS on the world's only functional post-Space Shuttle human-rated vehicle.
COMMENT: Barbree is right in the narrow sense that NASA didn't direct all its funding to traditional aerospace partners. But aren't those the same companies that went through so much trouble, so many cost overruns, so many problems with Ares-I and several junked X-vehicles and EELV (a reliable launcher with stupendous price increases)? Shouldn't NASA be in the business of backing some promising newcomers rather than preserving an ossified oligopoly? As to Russia...follow the money.
Every new industry and new company has hurdles to overcome. Here's hoping the new guys can do it.
REMINDER: As always, only more so: All comments represent solely the personal opinion of the author as a private citizen.

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