A short note today on welcome news. While it isn’t necessarily new news at this point, it’s something that didn’t get a lot of play when it came out, and in my view it really should have.
So, what is it? It’s a sigh of relief for everyone rooting for the success of commercial spaceflight: Former members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) released a statement in early July announcing their support for the commercialization of low-Earth-orbit space travel.
Yep – those responsible for ensuring that the safety lessons of the Columbia space shuttle disaster are incorporated into all future NASA space activities have endorsed contracting astronaut flights to commercial aerospace firms.
To quote a portion of the statement, which was in the form of a letter to senatorial science subcommittee chairwoman Senator Mikulski, the former board members write:
- “The new strategy will task an array of companies, including both established industry stalwarts with decades of experience as well as newer service providers, to build simple spacecraft that are exclusively focused on the mission of sending crews to low Earth orbit. By using existing launch vehicles that are already accumulating extensive track records to launch these spacecraft, NASA will ensure that crews would not be risked on a vehicle that has not repeatedly demonstrated its safety and reliability.”
For everyone who feels that “private industry” will somehow sacrifice safety when compared to NASA initiatives, this is in my view a much-needed blast of cold water. Using the launch vehicles that have been putting satellites in orbit for nearly half-a-century leverages much tried-and-true experience that normally flies under the radar.
So, just a reminder. Commercial space will likely be safer than any new NASA launch vehicles.
The people who investigated our most recent space disaster say so.
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