Charles Miller, Senior Advisor on Commercialization at NASA HQ, is leading a panel talking about applications for not only the suborbitals but also things like weightless aircraft. Purpose of panel is to discuss program and identify issues. Makes the point that the fifteen-million bucks in the budget is going to be leveraged to the hilt, and they also want to use it to maximize “disruption.” Turning it over now to Doug Comstock (his boss) to talk about parabolic flight.
Doing things because NASA needs the services. Larger budget for technology within the agency means that NASA will need more technology testbed flights in the environments, so greater need for programs like this. FAST was set up to do this for parabolic flights, and CRuSR (suborbital flights) grew out of it. Idea was for NASA to provide ride for free, but source of technology would pay for experiment. Flew nineteen last year, third from industry, third from government (mostly NASA), third from academia. Call will go out next week for technologies to fly this year. Looking for portfolio of demo capabilities to get technologies out of the lab and into missions. Will also include things like drop towers and thermal-vacuum chambers.
Next up Marine Colonel Paul Damphousse, from National Space Security Organization (NSSO). Currently detailed away from NSSO, but speaking for that office and not current job. Has three customers/partners — DoD, DCI, and NASA. Do architecting and studies, including things over the horizon. Some of this interest grew out of SUSTAIN back in 2002, in which it was conceptually proposed to put Marines on the ground anywhere quickly. Doesn’t expect it to come any time soon. They recognize it as a future need, that needs enabling technologies to provide spiraling path to that capability. Saw a lot of interesting potential in the private sector, and held series of workshops and technology fora to see how people would meet missions. Immediate application of vehicles being discussed here are to have one in a forward area, lob it up and take pictures. Other apps, high-speed logistics supploy, delivery of unmanned reconaissance, etc. Goal is to leverage capabilities coming on line, and figure out how to catalyze useful things. Sees a whole host of synergies with what’s happening today.
Michelle Brekke (sp?) from JSC. She is here to ask what industry needs to be innovative and successful. Already partnering with several companies along these lines, but unrelated to CRuSR. “Making space for business.” Leverage example: loaned an ISS payload rack that wanted to build its own interfaces and be compatible. Another: providing S-Band frequency that they don’t need right now for their comm needs. Could provide real-time telemetry for these new vehicles. Her experience is payload integration for Shuttle/ISS. Interested not just in low-cost access to space, but low-cost utilization. Five discussion points: 1) Suborbital is potential quality assurance and risk mitigation for orbital 2) Low-cost utilization needs KISS for integration process, better is the enemy of the good 3) Provide a payload integration service, don’t make experimenters learn all of that — payload integrator becomes advocate for the user 4) Industry should establish common form and interfaces — need USB-like standards for standard services 5) Readily-available integration hardware –keeps users from having to build or procure it themselves.
Head of CRuSR (didn’t catch name) talking now. Team consists of Bruce Pittman, Richard Mains (from Ames), Yvonne Cagle and a couple other names I didn’t catch. Need to be responsive to STEM/education. Concerned with safety, which is in no way associated with COTS, ISS or orbital human safety standards. CRuSR safety will be overseen by Dryden, and it will be a while before they will be flying NASA-sponsored humans. In the past NASA owned all responsibility/liability for safety. In the new environment, they are going to buy space for payloads. If they’re sharing a ride with ESA, Malaysia, a university payload, they’ll have to be assured that not just the vehicle, but the accompanying payloads are safe for their own. Need for organizations that can support not just safety, but FAA regulations and licensing (which NASA has no role in), including payloads. Need to be able to provide customer not only with environment, but the process of getting a ride. Repeating need for standardized interfaces. Most launch providers would prefer that payloads not be integrated in any way other than structurally (less services the better). Wants to stimulate discussion about all these issues. Putting up a long chart of them.
The discussion kicks off with a long discussion of payload integration issues. I point out something that I realized tonight, and had never thought about before. The FAA is responsible for third-party safety, but not second-party. In other words, the launch licensing process not only doesn’t address passenger safety currently, but it also doesn’t address payload safety. As long as the payload doesn’t blow up the vehicle, and squash an endangered species or foreign national on the ground, they don’t care whether it works or not. So payload integrators are going to have to worry about interactions with other payloads, because no one else will.
[Update a while later]
I got caught in a side discussion outside, and now my battery is dying, so probably no more blogging until I get back to my room (twenty miles away in snow) or in the morning.