Here are the notes I took an hour or so again, when I had power and could see the show, but no Internet.
Alan Lindenmoyer of NASA speaks first. Established program three years ago: Invest to get safe reliable access to LEO and to create a market environment in which the providers were available for both government and commercial customers. SpaceX has achieved 14 of 22 objectives and NASA has paid out $234M, next milestone is to demonstrate rendezvous with a system to be launched on a Shuttle mission. Looking to first Falcon 9 demo launch later this year (Elon said at lunch that the launch had been delayed from August to late 2009).
Orbital is valued up to $170, they’ve completed eight milestones to date, and a hundred million has been paid out. Next milestone is CDR for pressurized cargo module in July. Important transition year for administration (White House) and NASA. Showing video of progress on COTS program. NASA not dictating design solutions, just program objectives. “Have need, seed money, technical expertise, and put together with capable providers, have the basis for a successful program.” Includes a PR segment from Orbital (“98% success rate in space missions over the last seven years” — I wonder what happened before that…?). Using components from existing vehicles to build COTS system. Now another one from SpaceX.
Do not confuse current COTS and additional funding from stimulus with COTS D. That will require much more money. Initial goals are just to ensure safety of ISS and of crew members. Working to best communicate crew safety requirements from NASA to new players.
OSC speaker: Head of COTS demonstration and follow-on phase for cargo resupply, and working both in parallel. Orbiter not stranger to development of commercial space systems, build satellites but also uses data buying approaches. Developing Taurus II with their own funds and leveraging money from COTS to provide end-to-end system, from ground through ISS delivery. Giving an overview of Taurus launch vehicle, and now discussing the Cygnus “visiting vehicle.” Has to have high reliability avionics, and essentially as reliable as an airliner to come into proximity of the station. It berths using the ISS arm. Describing standardized cargo bags that NASA has developed for ISS logistics. They have hired Carl Walz, ISS veteran, to help them with the program. Need for cargo supplies expanding with crew of six. They hope to help to support that need.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX: Praising NASA program office for ease of working with them. Proposed three demo flight: Dragon into orbit and back, Dragon approach ISS, Dragon dock with ISS. Showing pictures of new Hawthorne CA facility, current manifest. Describing Falcon 9, with its propulsion redundancy. First vehicle with this capability since Saturn, and it was used on Saturn to save crew. Think that it’s a valuable feature. They expect to be building more engines than any other entity in history shortly. Showing “tic tack toe” back end of the Falcon 9. NASA saw these multiple engines as the biggest risk. They have snuck up on engine testing incrementally, and did a full nine-engine test in November 2008. Using Launch Complex 40, former Titan IV pad at the Cape. They have tested ground support by erecting and taking down the vehicle on the pad. Still working range integration issues. Dragon undergoing structural qualification (pushed and pulled on it). Hadn’t anticipated building their own heat shield but that’s how it ended up. Developed material with NASA Ames. Propulsion uses “Draco” thrusters, using MMH/N204. Designed, built and qualified thrusters in less than two years.
They’re designing Dragon to be reusable and recoverable, but NASA wants new ones each time, so they’re looking for customers for used ones, called “Dragonlab.” Useful for orbital research.
Question: Why does NASA not turn on COTS D. Lindenmoyer: no funding appropriated. Option negotiated with SpaceX for $380M, but don’t have the money.
Question: Once COTS D is operational, is there a need for Orion and Ares 1 to support ISS? Lindenmoyer: They are complementary capabilities, and Ares and Orion are designed for lunar missions. It is designed for ISS capability, but they’d prefer to divert resources needed for LEO system to the moon.