CommercialSpaceStation in sight

From this article in ParabolicArc
Axiom space image of their commercial space station.

Axiom is not as famous as SpaceX or BlueOrigin, even Boeing or NG but it is setting up to be a big noise in commercial space. “Axiom Space, Inc., which is developing the world’s first commercial space station, has raised $130M in Series B funding

Early Axiom module attached to the current ISS.
from this article in SpaceNews

In January 2020, NASA selected Axiom to begin attaching its own space station modules to the International Space Station (ISS) as early as 2024, marking the company as a primary driver of NASA’s broad strategy to commercialize LEO. While in its assembly phase, Axiom Station will increase the current usable and habitable volume on ISS and provide expanded research opportunities. By late 2028, Axiom Station will be ready to detach when the ISS is decommissioned and operate independently as its privately owned successor.

From the above ParabolicArc article.

But they are already in the ride share business, setting up launches of multiple smaller missions on one booster, Axiom buying the ride then working with the launch customers to integrate their satellites on the mission bus. Another recent milestone:

The four people who will fly to the International Space Station on Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission include (from left) commander Michael López-Alegría and passengers Mark Pathy, Larry Connor and Eytan Stibbe. Credit: Axiom Space. From this article in SpaceNews

Lots of cSpace development, keep it coming…

To explore you need Access

Photo of a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system from the Rover/NERVA programs (left) and a cutaway schematic with labels (right). SOURCE: M. Houts et. al., NASA’s Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Project, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, August 2018,
Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration
National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
National Academies Press
[ParabolicArc Executive Summary, Findings & Recommendations from National Academies Report on Space Nuclear Propulsion
February 13, 2021 Doug Messier

While a chemically powered trip to Mars is feasible given the ability to lift a lot of mass so orbit, See SpaceX-Elon Musk, this is probably not the solution you would go for first. I think it makes sense as part of the Vision Setting that Musk does but the preference has always been for nuclear propulsion it enables faster (safer) trips and makes reusability even more effective since the ‘shuttles’ are not spending many months in transit each way.

Posit a Freighter something like the illustration below. Departing Mars having dropped of say 2, 3, 4 starships’ worth of cargo. MarsStarships shuttle up and down and provide point to point transport on Mars. EarthStarships shuttle cargo up to earth orbit. Maybe LunarStarships shuttle fuel from production stations on the Moon to reduce the cost of fuel for the starships and the Freighter.

Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars. (Credits: NASA) [ParabolicArc: Executive Summary, Findings & Recommendations from National Academies Report on Space Nuclear Propulsion February 13, 2021 Doug Messier]

Now you have a system that provides Access to the solar system with significant cargos and the ability to establish and support exploration stations wherever you go.

Space news this week

Articles at Space.Com, SpaceNews, etc.

NASA Has decided to launch one of its astrophysics craft on Falcon Heavy as well as the first parts of Lunar GateWay. These had putatively been ‘assigned’ by congress to the Senate Launch System also known as the Space Launch System (SLS) or what I call the Big Boeing Boondoggle (B3). Hopefully this is a sign of NASA and congressional common sense (I known! Who’d’a thought?) The B3 made some sense until Falcon Heavy was proven now it’s a vast resource ($ and brains) sink that we could do without.

So Boeing is also screwing us because NASA once more has to go to Russia to buy seats to the space station. The notes all imply SpaceX Dragon could cause this…but the reality it is only because Boeing Starliner is late and still in question.

On other Boeing Space Crap, why is it that we have paid billions for the Orion spacecraft for ‘ ‘ Deep SPACE Exploration’ ‘ and that looks a lot like the StarLiner which we paid some towards as well? OK Boeing put up something towards StarLiner…but look I work(ed) in this sector for a long time. Companies in it rarely really put much if anything up in reality. They game money and work are fungible. The contractors make the money coming in for one program cover work that they use on others, calling it ‘in kind contribution.’ And it is, in a green eye-shady way but not in any sense like work coming from the real cSpace sector.

Looking at SLS and new push into space, and the SLS and Orion craft, Boeing and NASA have evolved into a ‘married couple.’ Congressional parsimony and special interest driven oversight cause this all the time. NASA cannot really compete anything in the system because once Boeing got the main contract they could make it far too expensive for anyone else to get the work. Boeing then pulls in subs from all over the country (with political weight as important as technical or cost) to make sure that congress stays satiated. This is a negative way of looking at it and you can spin it positive with some ‘necessary’ downsides. The reality is that for large government programs (due to regulation, oversight and parsimony) you get very very little choice once the program is past early concept. Costs are baked in and out of control almost as soon as metal starts getting bent.

It’s cold and I’m cranky…nuff said…cheers