An illustration of an unidentified Rocket Crafters spaceplane design hosted on the company’s website. (credit: Rocket Crafters, Inc.)
One of the lesser known, and more quixotic, companies in the NewSpace field in recent years has been Rocket Crafters. The Utah-based company entered the field a few years ago with plans to develop hybrid rocket motors and vehicles that would use them, including suborbital spaceplanes. The company, though, disclosed few details about its development efforts and plans beyond its rather basic website.
That did not stop the company from signing agreements with spaceports and local governments eager to attract a part of the commercial spaceflight industry. In July 2012, Rocket Crafters and local officials announced a deal to establish the company’s corporate headquarters in Titusville, Florida, on the state’s “Space Coast” near Cape Canaveral. The company promised to create up to 1,300 fulltime jobs there and invest $72 million into facilities at the Space Coast Regional Airport, just across the Indian River from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Local officials proposed getting an FAA spaceport license for the airport to allow Rocket Crafters to perform suborbital flights there. In return, the company received “a State of Florida Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund (QTI) and workforce incentives,” according to the Space Florida announcement, and even a welcome from KSC officials, who were not involved in the deal but wanted to talk with Rocket Crafters about “how Kennedy’s unique assets and technical capabilities may be made available to enable their success.”
There has been, though, little public activity from Rocket Crafters since that July 2012 announcement, beyond an October 2012 announcement of a memorandum of understanding between the company and Spaceport Colorado, a proposed spaceport at the existing Front Range Airport east of Denver. That stated the company was interested in flying out of the spaceport, including test flights between the spaceport and what the company called the Neil Armstrong “International Air & Space Center” in Titusville. Rocket Crafters also proposed creating up to 80 fulltime jobs at the Colorado site, in addition to its activities in Florida.
In those earlier statements, Rocket Crafters officials said those job figures were its long-term goals, that would take several years to realize. But as the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times reported Friday, the company’s plans have been slow to take off, and may not do so at all. Rocket Crafters vice president Eric Witcher said the company currently has only two employees in Florida, and “has abandoned plans to create a rocket that can transport cargo and humans into space.” It wasn’t clear from the article what the company would do instead of developing suborbital or orbital vehicles; one possibility would be to focus on its rocket motor technology for other applications.
“We may or may not be in over our heads,” Witcher told the papers. With very little to show for what progress it has made to date, many observers may not share that sense of uncertainty.
Blue Origin tests its BE-3 liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen engine at its West Texas site. (credit: Blue Origin)
Unlike some of its fellow NewSpace companies, Blue Origin keeps a very low, even secretive profile about its activities. The company, founded and funded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has gained a reputation for saying very little about what it’s up to. ““We like to talk about things after we’ve done them, and not before that, and hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot from us in the future,” Brett Alexander, director of business development and strategy at the company, said at a human spaceflight symposium in October at the US Naval Academy.
And, earlier this week, we did hear a little more from Blue Origin. The company held a rare teleconference with reporters tied to a press release—itself a rare event—about the latest tests of the company’s BE-3 engine. The engine, which uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, will power the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle and, eventually, the upper stage of a planned orbital launch vehicle.
Blue Origin said it has fired the engine more than 160 times to date, with a cumulative burn time of 9,100 seconds. In the test highlighted by the company in its Tuesday announcement, the engine performed a “full mission duty cycle” of the type it would perform if being used a New Shepard flight. The engine fired at full thrust (490,000 newtons, or 110,000 pounds-force) for 145 seconds to simulate the boost phase of the flight, then shut down for four and a half minutes before firing again at less than a quarter of its boost phase thrust to simulate a powered landing. Blue Origin conducted the tests at its facility north of Van Horn in west Texas.
The test, Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson told reporters Tuesday, was part of the company’s unfunded extension of its Commercial Crew Development phase 2 (CCDev-2) Space Act Agreement with NASA. “This was one of the three milestones in our unfunded CCDev-2 agreement,” he said. The other two, he added, are reviews of cryogenic propellant tanks for New Shepard and an interim design review of the company’s orbital space vehicle.
The upper-stage version of the BE-3, dubbed the BE-3U, would be at least slightly different from the BE-3 that powers Blue Origin’s suborbital vehicle. The BE-3U will feature a different nozzle to account for the different expansion ratio at higher altitudes. Meyerson said there could also be other manufacturing changes to the BE-3U since it is designed to be an expendable engine, while the BE-3 used for New Shepard is reusable.
While the company was happy to talk about the recent engine test, Meyerson, keeping to company tradition, was less specific about the company’s future plans. “We’re in the development phases now, so we’re not going to talk about flight schedules, pricing, or any other details like that,” he said at the beginning of the press conference. Asked later for some general timeline of activity, Meyerson said we could expect the company to start flying New Shepard “in the next several years” while the company develops an orbital vehicle in parallel. For the latter, Meyerson offered a more specific date for its first orbital flights: the “2018 timeframe.”
A Falcon 9 v1.1 carrying the SES-8 satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. (credit: SpaceX)
Yes, the third time’s the charm. That old saying got used in plenty of headlines and stories last night, after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Tuesday evening and placed its payload, the SES-8 communications satellite for European company SES, into its planned geosynchronous transfer orbit. That launch came after technical issues scrubbed launch attempts on two days last week, Monday and Thursday.
This time around, the countdown for the launch went smoothly, and the rocket lifted off right at the beginning of the launch window. Thirty-three minutes later, after a critical second burn of the Falcon 9′s upper stage, the rocket deployed SES-8 into its planned geosynchronous transfer orbit. Those following the launch had to rely on social media, including SpaceX’s Twitter account, for the news since the company ended its webcast when the video link with the rocket was lost after the end of the second stage’s first burn. (A delay of several minutes by SpaceX relaying the news of the successful deployment did cause a bit of nervousness, but it all ended well.)
Both SpaceX and SES were understandably pleased with the launch. “The successful insertion of the SES-8 satellite confirms the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle delivers to the industry’s highest performance standards,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a statement issued after the launch. “We appreciate SES’s early confidence in SpaceX and look forward to launching additional SES satellites in the years to come.”
“SES’s maiden launch on board a Falcon 9 rocket is yet another example of our company’s spirit of innovation and advancement of the commercial space industry,” SES president and CEO Romain Bausch said in a statement by his company. The release adds that SES has contracts for three more launches with SpaceX, although only one, in 2015, currently appears on SpaceX’s own launch manifest.
Up next for SpaceX is another launch of a commercial geosynchronous orbit communications satellite: Thaicom 6 for Thaicom. That launch is currently scheduled for December 20, but it’s possible the delay in launching SES-8 could push that launch into January.
SpaceX officials, including CEO Elon Musk, said the last-second abort was triggered automatically when the thrust of the first stage engines didn’t ramp up as planned. SpaceX recycled the count to try again at the end of the launch window, 6:44 pm EST (2344 GMT), but scrubbed with just under a minute left in the countdown. Mission managers decided they did not have enough time to review the information from the earlier abort to clear the launch, and decided to call it a day (even though the customer for the launch, SES, had given permission to extend the launch window by 20 minutes.)
SpaceX, as of midday Friday, has not announced a new launch date for the mission, its first to launch a commercial satellite to geosynchronous orbit. At the time of the scrub, Musk tweeted that they would “bring the rocket down” (that is, lower it from the pad and bring it back into the hangar) for engine inspections.
We called manual abort. Better to be paranoid and wrong. Bringing rocket down to borescope engines …
One publication, Via Satellite magazine (which was reporting from the launch), tweeted after the scrub that the launch was rescheduled for Saturday, but didn’t provide a source for the information; there has been no confirmation of that date from other sources:
Update 11/30 10 am EST: While there was some discussion on Friday that a Saturday evening launch was still possible, SpaceX said early Saturday that the next launch attempt would take place no earlier than Monday evening. An explanation from Elon Musk:
Rocket engines are healthy, but cleaning turbopump gas generators will take another day. Aiming for Mon eve launch.
Mars One, the Dutch organization that has proposed sending humans to Mars on commercially-funded one-way trips, announced yesterday that it will be holding a press conference in Washington on December 10 to make an announcement “regarding the first private robotic mission to Mars.” That announcement will be made jointly with Lockheed Martin and “Surrey Satellite Systems Limited” (an apparent reference to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., a British company best known as a leading developer of small satellites.) Mars One will also use the press conference to “share new information on its public involvement activities leading up to this mission.”
The idea of Mars One doing a robotic Mars mission as some kind of precursor to its later human missions is not new. The Mars One architecture calls for a 2016 “demonstration mission” that would land on Mars to perform a “proof of concept for some of the technologies that are important for a human mission.” Mars One also proposes sending a communications relay orbiter in that same launch window.
In an interview during the Humans To Mars (H2M) Summit in Washington in May, Mars One founder Bas Lansdorp said that Mars One had been in discussions with Lockheed about the mission. “We can do a mission with a copy of hardware that has already been used,” he said, suggesting as one possibility the landing platform used for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, which landed on Mars in January 2004. “We’re getting in contact with Lockheed. We’re doing that, but it’s still preliminary discussions that are going on.” At that time, he said, the use of such hardware was a backup to doing a mission with hardware closer to what they want to use for later crewed missions, which make use of capsules derived from SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Lansdorp said in May they were in discussions about using SpaceX hardware for that 2016 mission, but had no contract in place with them yet.
Beyond the technical challenges of mounting a mission in about two years—the launch window opens in early 2016—is how much such a mission would cost, and Mars One would fund it. The least expensive (and successful) recent Mars lander mission was NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander, which cost $386 million including launch. It made significant use of hardware built for a 2001 Mars lander mission that was cancelled after the Mars Polar Lander failure, lowering its cost. (The British Beagle 2 lander, which hitched a ride to Mars on ESA’s Mars Express orbiter mission, cost about £50 million (US$80 million), but crashed.) As the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams have demonstrated, raising even tens of millions of dollars for a lunar lander mission is difficult; raising significantly more for a Mars mission, on a very tight schedule, will be even more demanding.
The 28 satellites of Flock 1, the first constellation of remote sensing satellites built by Planet Labs. The satellites will be launched on a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station in mid-December. (credit: Planet Labs)
A Dnepr rocket launched Thursday from a Russian missile base carrying a payload of more than 30 small satellites. Included in that launch were Planet Labs’s Dove 3 and Dove 4 smallsats, spacecraft based on the CubeSat form factor, about 30 centimeters long by 10 by 10 centimeters. (The launch also carried the first satellite for another commercial remote sensing company: SkySat-1 for Skybox Imaging.)
“We contacted Dove 3 on the first pass,” Planet Labs co-founder and CEO Will Marshall said in a telephone interview Monday. Dove 4 hasn’t been deployed yet: it was launched inside another satellite, Unisat 5, and is slated to be ejected in the next few weeks, he said.
The two spacecraft have more “specific performance,” or capability per kilogram, than the Dove 1 and 2 satellites launched in April, he said. The two new satellites feature upgraded attitude control system for improved pointing, improved radios for faster data rates, upgraded hard drive space on the spacecraft, and an “in house build” of the spacecraft’s telescope. “The most magical thing about what we have here is we have so much capability per unit mass,” he said. “In terms of capability per unit mass, we’re way, way out there” compared to other, larger remote sensing satellites.
Planet Labs is now focusing on an even bigger launch: its first full-fledged constellation of satellites, dubbed “Flock 1.” The company has completed 28 satellites, all similar to Dove 3 and 4, and delivered them to the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia earlier this month. Those satellites will be loaded into an Orbital Sciences Corporation Cygnus spacecraft that will be launched on an Antares rocket to the International Space Station in December.
Once at the ISS, the spacecraft will be deployed similar to launches of CubeSats from the station last week. The timing of the satellites has yet to be scheduled, Marshall said, but would likely be some time in January. The deployment of the satellites would also be phased to evenly distribute the satellites to provide global coverage, he said, although those details have also yet to be worked out.
A successful launch would mean that, counting the four Dove satellites, Planet Labs will have launched 32 satellites in less than a year. “We built these at an unprecedented rate,” Marshall said. “We now have more satellites built in this lab than we have employees.”
A successful deployment would give the company the largest remote sensing constellation in the world, and the potential benefits of access to frequently updated imagery from those satellites has attracted customer interest, he said. “We’ve had tremendous interest,” he said, declining to go into specific details about who has signed on. “We have quite a number of customers, and our investors are very pleased right now.”
Falcon 9 on the pad shortly before the final hold that scrubbed Monday’s launch.
The first launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a payload to geosynchronous orbit will have to wait until Thanksgiving, after a series of relatively minor glitches kept the rocket on the ground during Monday evening’s launch window.
SpaceX had hoped to launch the SES-8 satellite for European satellite operator SES during a 66-minute launch window that opened at 5:37 pm EST (2237 GMT) from Cape Canaveral. However, the countdown was held at T-13 minutes for some time to check a valve on the first stage of the rocket, with the launch rescheduled for 5:54 pm EST. However, the countdown was stopped at T-6:11 in the countdown because of an issue around the time the first stage was switching to internal power. SpaceX later said they needed to adjust a telemetry limit on a power supply, and rescheduled the launch for 6:30 pm EST, near the end of the window.
The countdown resumed and made it to T-3:40 before another hold was called because of a pressurization issue with the first stage liquid oxygen system. “We observed unexpected readings with the first stage liquid oxygen system so we decided to investigate,” the company said in a brief statement after the scrub. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also weighed in via Twitter about the scrub:
Saw pressure fluctuations on Falcon boost stage liquid oxygen tank. Want to be super careful, so pushing launch to Thurs.
With no chance to correct the problem before the launch window closed, SpaceX scrubbed the launch for the night and rescheduled it for 5:38 pm EST (2238 GMT) Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. (Weather forecasts were less promising for Tuesday and Wednesday, and there was also the difficulty of closing airspace for the launch during two busy pre-holiday travel days.)
Mission patch for Monday’s scheduled launch of the SES-8 satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket.
There’s a certain degree of confidence that one comes to expect from SpaceX as they discuss their upcoming launches and future plans, and understandably so: they consider themselves the upstart launch vehicle company that is disrupting an existing industry. And you expect any company to be confident in its own products or services. Sometimes, though, SpaceX’s customers can be even more enthusiastic than the company itself.
“We’re extremely excited to be here. We’re extremely excited to be the first commercial customer on SpaceX,” said Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer of SES, the European satellite operator whose SES-8 satellite is scheduled to be launched at 5:37 pm EST (2237 GMT) Monday on a Falcon 9 v1.1 from Cape Canaveral. Halliwell, talking to reporters Sunday afternoon on a conference call, spoke highly of SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket even though SES will be the first to have one of its satellites launched into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) by that rocket.
“The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a gamechanger,” he said during the half-hour call. He believes SpaceX, with its low-cost launches, will reshape the commercial launch industry, which today is dominated by a few companies, including Arianespace, International Launch Services, and Sea Launch. “It’s really going to shake the industry to its roots,” he said.
Halliwell is not concerned about what happened on the previous Falcon 9 v1.1 launch nearly two months ago. On that launch, after the Falcon 9′s upper stage successfully deployed its satellite payloads, SpaceX attempted to restart the upper stage, but failed. The company had offered few details about the incident, but SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said last month that it was wrapping up the investigation, and indicated then that they did not consider the problem a major issue.
A few days ago the company offered some more details: the liquid fuel used for the igniter for the second stage engine froze before the scheduled engine restart, apparently because it was close to the liquid oxygen propellant lines. “We’ve added a lot of insulation to those lines to make sure the cold oxygen doesn’t impinge on those lines,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said during a brief appearance on the call. (He was, he explained, taking his kids on a trip to Disney World Sunday afternoon.) “We believe that will address the restart issue.”
Halliwell sounded convinced as well. “We worked extremely closely with the SpaceX people,” he said. “We’re very, very confident. We understand exactly what the issue was… and we are pretty confident all the risk from that particular element has been retired. We’re ready to go with the launch.”
The proof will come 27 minutes after launch, when the second stage is restarted after an 18-minute coast. If successful, the Falcon 9 will place the 3,138-kilogram SES-8 satellite into an unusual “supersynchronous” transfer orbit, with an apogee of 80,000 kilometers, well above the geosynchronous orbit belt of about 36,000 kilometers. Shotwell said SpaceX worked closely with SES to develop this orbit; a similar one, with an even slightly higher apogee, will be used on its next launch, of the Thaicom 6 satellite next month.
Halliwell said such supersynchronous transfer orbits aren’t unusual for SES. “It allows us to reduce our fuel usage to decrease the inclination” using the spacecraft’s own engine post-deployment, he said. “It allows us to maximize our on-orbit stationkeeping fuel and lifetime for the remainder of the mission.”
Halliwell said this was not the first time SES has been involved in a new (commercially speaking, at least) launch system: SES was the first commercial customer of the Proton rocket in the mid-1990s, a vehicle that now has become one of the major commercial launch systems in the world. “We understand the impact that this is going to have on the commercial spaceflight world,” he said. “I would say—and it’s not really an understatement—that the entire commercial spaceflight world is looking tomorrow to see the success of this flight. It’s going to change the industry.”
On Friday, Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic found yet another way to get into the news. Friday morning, Branson announced that his commercial space company would accept payment in the form of bitcoins, a cryptocurrency that has attracted increasing attention in recent months as its value has skyrocketed. A single bitcoin is worth more than $800 as of midday Sunday, according to the bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, and reached $900 earlier in the week; just a month ago, a bitcoin traded for $200. In a blog post, Branson said one customer, an unnamed flight attendant in Hawaii, already paid for her Virgin Galactic ticket in bitcoins.
Of course, in many respects this news is primarily fluff, designed to ride the growing interest in bitcoin. We don’t know, for example, who this Hawaiian flight attendant is, why she decided to pay in bitcoin, or even she paid the full $250,000 ticket price in equivalent bitcoins or a smaller deposit amount. Branson, in an interview, said Virgin Galactic immediately converted the bitcoins into conventional currency, rather than holding onto the bitcoins. In essence, the bitcoins were more commodity than currency, as if someone elected to pay for a ticket using gold bullion—but paying in gold would be less interesting, or hype-worthy, than paying in bitcoin.
What’s more interesting about the announcement is how it was made. While Virgin published a blog post, Branson made the announcement first in a live interview Friday morning on CNBC TV (see video above). That choice is not surprising, and not because CNBC is a major business television network: CNBC is owned by NBCUniversal, which two weeks earlier announced an “exclusive partnership” with Virgin to cover the first commercial SpaceShipTwo flight next year. “NBC News’ award-winning Peacock Productions will chronicle the journey across a myriad of NBCUniversal brands and platforms including MSNBC, CNBC, SYFY, The Weather Channel and NBCNews.com,” the companies said in the statement, with a primetime special the night before the flight, which will be shown on NBC’s “Today” show.
For Virgin, that partnership is likely a good deal. Virgin gets access to a major television network, with plenty of opportunities to tell its story to a diverse group of audiences. And NBCUniversal likely expects to get a lot of attention and viewers—and advertisers—for the behind-the-scenes coverage it will apparently have exclusive access to. (The release makes no mention of any money, bitcoin or otherwise, changing hands between the two companies.)
One wonders, though, how beneficial it will be for other media, the general public, and even Virgin itself in the long term. NBC won’t have an exclusive on the first flight itself, entertainment trade publication Variety reported, but “would have direct access to a feed of footage inside the ship during its run and would be able to talk to Branson and his children while they are in the vehicle.” However, knowing that they’ll not have the same access as NBCUniversal, will other media outlets devote as much attention to Virgin Galactic as it ramps up to its first flight as they might have otherwise? Will NBC feel as free to scrutinize Virgin Galactic’s efforts, including its delays and concerns about its hybrid rocket engine, as it would be without its partnership with the company?
We can see, perhaps, a microcosm of that in the Virgin Galactic bitcoin announcement. CNBC got the exclusive, and while Virgin published a blog post with much of the same details shortly thereafter, it lacked the opportunity to ask questions about the announcement. The media coverage that followed had a “me-too” feel to it, largely regurgitating the announcement and details from the CNBC interview without adding much additional detail. To be fair, it’s not clear that, even without the Virgin-NBC deal, the media would have covered this relatively minor announcement much differently.
What’s clear is that, for better or for worse, media relations in the commercial space sector are different than those for government-run programs, where there’s a greater expectation of a level playing field. (Of course, that hasn’t always been the case, an example being the deal the early NASA astronauts had with Life magazine.) Companies can play favorites if they feel it’s in their best interests. However, there’s always the danger of a backlash if they go too far in that direction.
Illustration of the Inspiration Mars Vehicle Stack, the spacecraft that would take two people on a Mars flyby mission. It makes use of a modified Cygnus spacecraft as the habitat module and a Orion spacecraft with enhanced heat shield to return the crew to Earth. (credit: Inspiration Mars)
The Inspiration Mars Foundation is releasing today a 60-day report on its Mars mission architecture, tied to testimony that Tito plans to give at a hearing of the space subcommittee of the House Science Committee on commercial space. The report lays out the “baseline architecture” for the proposed mission, which would launch in late December of 2017 or early January 2018 on a 501-day mission to fly past Mars and return to Earth.
The architecture makes use of a mix of commercial and government vehicles and spacecraft. First, a Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, flying on its first mission, would place into orbit the “Vehicle Stack”, consisting of a modified Cygnus spacecraft from Orbital Sciences Corporation that would serve as the crew habitat and a “Earth Reentry Pod,” an Orion spacecraft with an upgraded heat shield that can handle the high-speed reentry when the crew returns to Earth. That Vehicle Stack would be launched with a Dual Use Upper Stage (DUUS) that has been proposed for development to enhance the SLS’s performance. Once in orbit, a commercial crew vehicle would launch and dock with the Vehicle Stack, transferring over the two-person crew, then depart. The DUUS then ignites its engines to place the Vehicle Stack on its Mars flyby trajectory. Upon return to Earth, the crew boards the Earth Reentry Pod and undocks from the Vehicle Stack for reentry and splashdown.
Accomplishing this mission would require accelerating development of some key systems, like the DUUS, and developing new ones, like the Cygnus-based habitat module, in a short timeframe: the launch window for this opportunity opens on Christmas Eve of 2017 and closes less than two weeks later, on January 4, 2018. It also means that systems under development today, like the SLS and commercial crew vehicles, have to remain on schedule; already, the timeline for commercial crew vehicles have slipped from 2015 to 2017 because of funding shortfalls. The DUUS is not expected to be available until 2023, according to a NASA document published in April; the Inspiration Mars report says that “extensive discussions” with NASA and Boeing led them to conclude the DUUS could be accelerated to be ready to support this mission.
The report pitches this mission as a public-private partnership that would benefit NASA at least as much as it does Inspiration Mars. “For America, this is our last chance to be first, and even the very movement of planets seems to be saying ‘Go,’” the report states, referring to the favorable trajectory that makes this mission possible at the beginning of 2018 but not again for 15 more years. “The Inspiration Mars spacecraft has to be on its way to Mars in the first days of 2018, if this mission is to happen at all. And if it does not happen, then where does that leave human space exploration by the United States?”
Having NASA support the mission, the report argues, accelerates the agency’s own long-term plans for human Mars missions. “It will not be any easier, or any cheaper, to do in 20 years what can be done in five,” the report states. “By doing it now, moreover, we expand the range of what can be achieved and learned in the 2020’s and 2030’s.”
One area the report doesn’t go into detail about is the cost of the mission. It does acknowledge that the partnership with NASA would require some additional federal spending: “perhaps several hundred million dollars,” it states, a sum it equates with the total expense of moving the Space Shuttle orbiters to museums. It would, though, seek to redirect current NASA spending on programs like SLS and Orion to support the mission: the unit cost of a single SLS, for example, has been estimated by NASA at $500–600 million alone. “More than any new federal funding for this mission – some might be needed, but not much – what NASA would require to carry out its part of the work is the freedom to direct existing funds to the enterprise,” the report argues. “This is a freedom that Congress can grant and the President can assure, as John F. Kennedy did to clear the bureaucratic path for Apollo.” And something he will likely be asking Congress to support today.