The first day of the 14 Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference featured increasingly confident corporations describing their burgeoning space capabilities. Now that NASA is formally relinquishing the role of directly placing humans into orbit, the agency is focusing on general manned and unmanned space research and funding a variety of US established and startup corporations. Although these corporations have not yet shown the capacity to launch humans into orbit, conference presenters seemed to agree that the industry was nearing a “tipping point” whereby they would demonstrate the ability to put substantial manned and unmanned vehicles into orbit. During the conference sessions presenters from Boeing, SpaceEx, Virgin Galactic, Armadilo Aerospace, and Bigelow Aerospace, presented both established and innovative concepts for sending payloads into orbit. Among the most interesting concepts was Boeing’s presentation of the CST 100 reusable space capsule. This capsule features inflatable, composite heatshields and can carry 7 astronauts. The Firestar corporation described the NOFBX monopropellant that is environmentally benign, safe to handle, reliable, and has a specific impulse of 320 seconds, and which has the potential to replace solid propellants. Robert Bigelow, the founder and President of Bigelow Aerospace gave a keynote entitled “Moon/Mars: China’s Prospects for Ownership” in which he argued that China could ignore the 1967 Space Treaty and effectively own the moon and mars by establishing outposts on them. By developing a substantial presence on these celestial bodies, Bigelow claimed, China could effectively control them and all of their resources.
Neil of Armadillo Aerospace mentioned:
– they are working on three launch license applications simultaneously
– They will use SuperMod (the Lunar Landing Challenge legacy vehicle) for the 4 currently contracted CRuSR flights and then probably retire it.
– Sold Pixel to NASA
– Developing Super-Quad, LOX-Methane, 48″ tanks for NASA. (Project M has become Project Morpheus). Probably won’t pursue this route further.
– Tube Vehicle – named STIG (I didn’t catch the acronym definition)
— built all with Armadillo technology
— very capable vehicle -> high altitude, fully recoverable, etc., meets CRuSR requirements.
— Showed OTRAG-like clusters of Tube Vehicles.
— A cluster could reach 500 km.
— 3 stages of clusters could reach orbit
– SOST (sub-orbital space transport)