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« The Proper ITAR Focus | Main | Heading Back To CA »

Jim Muncy Speaks

The conference is winding down. We just finished dinner at various places in the area (one of the features of this conference is no grand meal events--it allows people ample breaks, both dinner and otherwise, to schmooze and deal). Jim Muncy is about to give a wrapup of the current political situation, and I'll be live blogging it in a few minutes. It may be the last event on the program for this year's iteration of Space Access. Well, other than the mingling and drinking into the wee ones.

[Update about 8:40 MST]

He's talking about space the political frontier. Going to talk about current political affairs, focusing on two issues that are challenges/opportunities, then open it up to other subjects. Explaining what a space policy consultant does. Mission statement of Polispace is to help entrepreneurs in space succeed. Doesn't work for major contractors or NASA. Tries to do things that are different, and that generally doesn't include big companies. Tries to help with projects where they intersect with the political environment. Also includes business strategy and media work, as necessary.

"Space is in a crisis of change." Chinese word for this is two pictograms: danger plus opportunity. Good, but also a challenge. The people who like the way it's been in space for the past decades are not enjoying the change.Old order won't go down without a fight. "We are living in interesting times, and coming to the attention of important and powerful people."

Unlike when PCs challenged mainframes, and the mainframes were fat, dumb and happy, the current dinosaurs aren't doing well. Difference between Marshall Spaceflight Center and Jurassic Park? One was a massive area overrun by dinosaurs, and the other was a movie.

What was the "killer asteroid"?
Dennis Tito's flight?
Bush declaring that NASA will exit LEO?
X-Prize win?

He thinks it was Columbia, which led to the VSE speech.

Food supply drying up, and the dinosaurs are getting hungry. The fight between new and old space is a political fight, not about rocket science or economics. Politics is war without (much) bloodshed. The ends aren't political, but politics is how we manage society. Jeff Bezos can buy a space program, but for the rest of us there is politics. Andy Beal and Elon Musk have learned that space is about politics. Elon is competing against a US Space Transportation Policy that subsidizes his competitors, by paying fixed costs, letting them attack his range use, waive anti-trust for United Launch Alliance, etc.

Two fronts of the war are NASA, ISS and Apollo on Steroids, and the Operationally Responsive Space Initiative.

ISS: necessity is the mother of invention. NASA is being forced to turn to the private sector by the retirement of the Shuttle. Crew Exploration Vehicle will be able to carry crew/cargo, but it will be too expensive, and the unpressurized cargo version of it has already been cancelled. Even if they use CEV, there will still be a servicing "gap," due to the 2014 operational date. They also need to free up funds for development of their heavy lifter, EDS (stage that delivers things to the moon) and LSAM (lunar lander/ascent vehicle).

So they're doing COTS, and we should praise NASA (though that doesn't mean that we should say it is wonderful because they're throwing us a few crumbs). When they're doing something a little right, we should praise that, then ask for some more. We need to assuage the concern about the gap, and make an argument that we can help close it, without relying on the Russians or Chinese.

We want to avoid a slip of the moon program, so we can get them out of our hair and leave us to practice capitalism in LEO. So we should argue that adding more money to COTS could provide a more diversified portfolio of players (fund Kistler, t/SPACE and SpaceX to get at least one of them to develop a manned system).

Don't fight about the architecture. The fight is between any commercial activity in LEO and an all-government program. The fight is for enough resources so that more of us can get into business, regardless of how much money NASA wastes to send a few astronauts to the moon. We know there's a commercial market for it, we know there's an entertainment market for it. Once we get the costs down, someone will put the deal together and beat them, so why fight them.

Topic 2: Operationally Responsive Space. ORS means not just launching into space, but through space, and it's part of the US Space Transportation Policy. It's not about using ICBMs, or ELVs, a little faster and cheaper. The warfighters understand the need for true responsiveness, but the AF space bureaucracy doesn't get it.

Asking the current AF space bureaucracy how to get ORS is like asking IBM in the mid seventies how to put a computer on every desk. Many entrepreneurs are already spending their own money on this for their own reasons, independently of what the government is doing. Provides and opportunity for cooperation. Last fall we had a meeting in LA, and came up with a consensus document with the community and some in the Air Force. Didn't require that the government spend more money, or have set asides for the companies, but just requires a little money to coordinate this activity and start a dialogue to benefit the government from the private investment, and benefit the private investment by minimizing reinvention of existing government wheels. He sees this as a new version of what NACA did for aviation, which not only did technology development, but forced cross licensing on Curtiss and Wright, and forced the industry to work together. AF Research Laboratory will serve as a liaison between the entrepreneurs and the DoD.

Right now, to use an Air Force wind tunnel or test facility, you have to come with cash, due to full-cost accounting, but if some money were made available to AFRL, this process could be eased. Pro-Space helped draft legislation last month to set up a center at AFRL to start this cooperative process. This is another operational opportunity for the community. "There is an opening in the titanium wall." There are people within the system who want to work with new space, for whatever reason, and we have to seize the opportunity.

Taking questions now.

It's pointed out that there's a good match between what the community is working on and what ORS needs in terms of payload size.

Discussion going on as to whether or not a prize might be a solution to the X-37 quagmire, using the DARPA Grand Challenge as a precedent.

Question about potential impact of loss of one of the houses to the Democrats. Muncy doesn't think that new space is a partisan issue. Relates anecdote about Nick Lampson and Dan Goldin, when Goldin called Tito a bad American because he wasn't working with NASA, but when Tito actually flew, Lampson noticed that the people in his district were turned on by Tito's flight. Lampson said at the follow-up hearing with Tito that he, Nick Lampson, was wrong, and that he'd done more to promote spaceflight with his one trip than NASA's PR had, ever. You have to talk to Democrats in a different language with different emphases, but it can be sold to them (points out the amusing fact that Pete Worden just became Nancy Pelosi's NASA center director).

Talk to Democrats about showing thousands of people that there are no borders, that we can sensitize them to the fragility of the earth.

"The Democrats do not have a monopoly on stupidity in space policy."

Progress has been good under the Republicans, but not huge by any means.

If a Dem takes over the White House, we can make the argument to the anti-military-in-space types that it would be better to be able to quickly reconstitute capabilities by rapid satellite replacement, than to have to defend the assets with space weaponry.

[Upate a few minutes later]

Another Space Access Conference is history.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 22, 2006 08:57 PM
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I agree it was Columbia. NASA's manned space efforts were stuck with a lie -- that the shuttle and station weren't dead ends -- and Columbia made that lie impossible to continue. This would have been the case regardless of SS1 or other private sector activities.

Posted by Paul Dietz at April 23, 2006 06:11 AM

I hated missing this conference.

Posted by john hare at April 23, 2006 06:28 AM

ME TOO! Thanks to Rand for letting us at least hear a little bit of what occurred!

Posted by David Summers at April 23, 2006 12:07 PM

I don't know jack, but I love how even geeks can be funny.

"Unlike when PCs challenged mainframes, and the mainframes were fat, dumb and happy, the current dinosaurs aren't doing well. Difference between Marshall Spaceflight Center and Jurassic Park? One was a massive area overrun by dinosaurs, and the other was a movie."

Next, you'll be telling boobie jokes, and I will think that going back to school wouldn't kill my cool creds :)

Posted by wickedpinto at April 23, 2006 01:28 PM

"Space is in a crisis of change." Chinese word for this is two pictograms: danger plus opportunity.

Actually, that's a myth. See www.pinyin.****/chinese/crisis.html (The software on transterrestrial won't let me post a link to a dot info site, for some reason. Substitute "info" for "****" to see the relevant page.)

Posted by Mark S. at April 25, 2006 11:04 PM

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