The National Space Society, America’s leading citizen space advocacy organization, calls attention to the fact that under its new administrator, James Bridenstine, NASA has the potential to make a major step forward in space. Moving beyond a limited usage of reusable rockets to supply cargo to the International Space Station, Bridenstine is calling for basing our return to the Moon program entirely on reusables including both vehicles and infrastructure. On August 2, 2018, while speaking at Johnson Space Center in Texas, Bridenstine said, “We want the entire architecture between here and the Moon to all be reusable. We know how reusability of rockets has changed the game for access to space and how it’s just driven down the cost, and it will continue to drive down the cost.”
“NSS is delighted that Administrator Bridenstine has endorsed the usage of reusable vehicles and equipment for our return to the Moon,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President and Chair of the NSS Policy Committee. “Reusable rockets and infrastructure will lead to an affordable future in space. Expendable rockets will not.”
Bridenstine, in his Johnson Space Center comments, continued “At NASA, we need to be looking at things differently. We need to be a customer when we can be a customer. We want to have multiple providers when we can have multiple providers all competing on innovation and cost. I think we are at the precipice of having an opportunity that didn’t even exist five or ten years ago on the commercial side.”
“A thriving cislunar space economy is the foundation of a sustainable future in space,” said NSS Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “Fully reusable Earth-Moon shuttles, space stations, fuel depots, lunar landers, lunar rovers, and space suits are all critical components of the evolving cislunar economy. Just as important as reusable vehicles is the usage of multiple, competing providers with different solutions to ensure both redundancy and competitive pressure to lower costs.”
NSS has been a frequent advocate for a sustainable future in space based on lower-cost reusable vehicles purchased as a service from competing private companies. The NSS position paper “Now is the Time: A Paradigm Shift in Access to Space,” which can be found at http://space.nss.org/wp-content/uploads/NSS-Position-Paper-Paradigm-Shift-in-Access-to-Space-2017.pdf, calls on the Administration, Congress, and NASA to fully utilize emerging reusable launch vehicles. Since this position paper was written, both SpaceX and Blue Origin have made dramatic strides in reusable launch vehicle technology, including the first launch of the Falcon Heavy. The National Space Society looks forward to seeing NASA purchase flights on reusable commercial vehicles as we return to the Moon as part of a strategy that makes optimum use of reusable technologies, architectures, and systems.
Image credit: Bridenstine speaking May 17 at NASA HQ in Washington DC (NASA photo).