Space Policy

Final Atlantis Rollout to VAB

by on May.25, 2011, under NASA

Mark Craig over at SAIC just forwarded this nifty satellite image of the Atlantis, rolling out from the OPF to the VAB, 5/17/2011.
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Transition to Commercial Services for LEO Transportation

by on May.22, 2011, under Commercial Space, Congress, NASA, Space Exploration, Space Policy

UPDATE: The Space Review has just published the paper with the new introduction.

Transition to commercial services for LEO transportation

“A major issue of contention for NASA’s near-term plans has been how much reliance it should place on commercial providers for crew transportation to low Earth orbit. Mary Lynne Dittmar presents a paper she prepared last year with the late Mike Lounge on one approach to handle that transition.”


Readers of this blog have seen references to a white paper written by Mike Lounge and I.  Before tonight it has not been publicly available.  Now it is.

The original Lounge~Dittmar paper, “Transition to Commercial Services for LEO Transportation”, was written in the Spring and early Summer of 2010.  Distribution was on a “not for release” basis, with the intent of supporting policy discussions without generating more controversy in an already-contentious time.  In December of that year, the paper surfaced at (NSF). NSF’s editor-in-chief & sitemaster, Chris Bergin, was the ultimate professional in his handling of the paper, suggesting at the time that it be released only in the non-public (subscription) portion of the site.  Chris was also kind enough to remove my personal contact information, which I had included when the paper was originally distributed.

Readers of this blog (and many others) are aware that Mike Lounge passed on during March of this year.  At that time, I began to explore the viability of publishing the entire paper in a public venue – in part to keep a promise to Mike, and in part with the hope that it might continue to inform discussion even though the thoughts that spurred it originated almost a year earlier.  (For background on the paper and on Mike, the 4-part series I wrote about our work together begins here.)

Several weeks ago I started on an update, including an introduction to the paper describing its genesis.  At the same time I reached out to Jeff Foust, publisher and editor of  The Space Review.  Jeff has reviewed the updated paper and has kindly agreed to publish it tomorrow, May 23, 2011.  That version contains new information that previously has not been published.

In keeping with his professionalism and support, tonight Chris Bergin has moved the original paper from behind the “L2″ firewall to the open (public) “Space Policy” thread at NSF in order to make it available to anyone wishing to read it.  It may be found here.

My thanks to Jeff and to Chris for their support and consideration.




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The Birth of the Orbiter “Discovery”

by on Feb.23, 2011, under NASA, Space Exploration

These were sent to me this morning from folks on the Shuttle Program.  Discovery is scheduled for launch for the final time tomorrow February 24, 2011, 4:50 pm EST.

Tomorrow is her end, these photos mark her birth. Where were you in ’82?

The Birth of Discovery  02/26/1982

Aft Fuselage   03/09/1982

Mid Fuselage  03/24/1982

Discovery Gets Its Wings  05/02/1982

Discovery Shaping Up  06/04/1982

Flight Deck  09/10/1982

Heat Shields Applied to Discovery

Final Systems Installation  04/19/1983

Liftoff! Discovery’s Maiden Voyage, STS-41D  08/30/1984

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Comments Sought: A Systems-Based, Integrated Operations Framework for Commercial Spaceflight

by on Jan.17, 2011, under Commercial Space, Space Policy

UPDATE: Thank you to all who commented – on this blog, on other sites, and in email. As promised, I’ll gather them together and post them along with comments that emerge when the document is circulated at the COMSTAC STOWG.

Comments are now closed.

Calling all commercial spaceflight fans, wonks, fiends, opponents, players, analysts, interested bystanders – here’s a chance to contribute your thoughts and experience toward development of of a national commercial spaceflight system.

A couple of months ago as a citizen-participant with the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee’s Space Transportation Operations Working Group (COMSTAC STOWG), I wrote a quick (very quick!) draft of some notions about long-term development of a commercial spaceflight architecture for the U.S.  (I recognize that this in turn must be a part of a systems approach to international operations for commercial spaceflight, to come later.)  Given that my background is in systems engineering and spaceflight operations, the “Statement” is focused on a “system of systems” approach to operations in particular. But by extension it applies to standards regarding all other aspects of the commercial system, where they make sense.  If we as a nation are serious about commercial spaceflight, we need to get cracking at developing a framework.  It will take many years to design and implement such a system.

Some of the operations standards I’m calling for already exist or are in the process of being developed in both the orbital and suborbital industries.  Some are not.  Some exist in other places. I am aware of no integrated approach to date, although I would love to be proven wrong.  In part this is because the two sectors overlap only a little in terms of their operational requirements – but they both must be integrated into the National Air Space (NAS). The management of that airspace is a systems challenge of considerable portent, both now and in the future.   

For the record, I’m in favor of as little regulation as possible, but as much as necessary.  The FAA has a daunting task in front of it. None of these issues are new to them.

The goal of the statement was to float some ideas and engender some dialogue.  That dialogue has expanded and the statement is now out for review to the entire COMSTAC STOWG – a subcommittee of the larger COMSTAC, which in turn serves in an advisory capacity to the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).  It is a brief, one-page .pdf file.  Comments are due back to the Working Group in a couple of weeks, and I decided just this afternoon to further broaden the discussion.  The best value will come if the discussion occurs via comments to this website; however if you’d rather comment to me directly, you can reach me here at   I also post as @dittmarml on Twitter and would be glad to discuss this there, as well.

 After we’ve collectively had a go, I’ll pull the inputs together, edit them, and report back to the Working Group.  I’ll also post whatever I send there, here.  To give me time to gather them up, please make your comments by January 28 – a week from this coming Friday. The file is below. Thanks.

Integrated Operations Framework Commercial Spaceflight

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