Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New spaceships on the horizon

At the recent Space Symposium (formerly National Space Symposium), Boeing had a full-scale mockup of its cool CST-100 human transport on display (right next to the even cooler Lynx spaceplane).  It looks essentially like a bigger Apollo capsule with a greatly improved interior. Then SpaceX grabbed the spotlight by unveiling what CEO Elon Musk called a flight article - in other words, real and complete - Dragon 2.  He may have been exaggerating a little about this being flight hardware, but there's no question SpaceX is well along toward being the first of the Commercial Crew units to fly humans. 
Senator Richard Shelby, in a blatant example of promoting business in his state at the expense of the taxpayers, has proposed language that will require SpaceX and the other commercial firms to provide cost and pricing data on every component of their vehicles. The Commercial Crew program was created to buy services to orbit as a commodity, creating a much faster, cheaper pipeline to orbit than sending people up on government (U.S. or Russian) spacecraft.  Shelby, who thinks everything related to the U.S. belongs on government vehicles like the Space Launch System and the EELVs being built in his home state, would wreck this premise and cost taxpayers billions.  Boeing, with its military experience, has the infrastructure in place to figure out and provide all this data: SpaceX and Sierra Nevada do not.  Shelby saw an opportunity to crush SpaceX as a competitor on price.  What's scary is that he might get his way.

Below: Boeing capsule at Space Symposium

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