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NASA's growing trust in private enterprise drives innovation

| Christian Davenport

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) – The rap on NASA is that it's risk averse, stuck in the old ways of doing things that are hampered by a big 60-year-old bureaucracy, by two fatal spaces was punished shuttle disasters.

That was the attitude that seemed to greet SpaceX's controversial tank plan. Instead of filling the rocket with fuel in front of the astronaut's lair, the company suggested they do it afterwards.

A flammable mixture of propellants loaded under NASA's finest alarm in some parts of the agency and among security experts who warned against it unlike decades of space travel. A watchdog group called it a "potential security risk" ̵

1; a spark while refueling could trigger an explosion, many feared in NASA. This is what happened when a SpaceX rocket exploded while receiving fuel in 2016.

But NASA recently announced that it would allow SpaceX's fuel supply, informally referred to as "load and go," on the condition that the company demonstrates it five times before obtaining formal certification. The decision was of great importance to NASA and signaled a progressive cultural change as the agency allied itself with a growing commercial space industry that thrives on border crossings.

The development of NASA has been in progress for years, officials said they give the industry more autonomy and freedom that many hope will create the necessary innovation for more sophisticated space travel.

Over the years, it has built strong partnerships with several companies that provide them with billions of jobs in their services. Under the administration of George W. Bush, NASA decided to hire contractors – SpaceX and Orbital ATK – to haul cargo and supplies for the International Space Station.

Under President Barack Obama, she placed orders with SpaceX and Boeing to fly crews on the first flights expected next year. The agency allowed companies to build, design and operate their spacecraft. And while NASA set up a list of requirements that companies must meet, they did not dictate how they should comply.

One of the most important was to be able to rely on private companies delivering a delivery service to the space station, "said Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Eric Stallmer," that has played a major role. "

NASA Logo will be on NASA's booth during the 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs – BLOOMBERG

NASA is providing their know-how and oversight, but at the same time, the agency's companies are teaching a few things about how You can apply business practices to open the limits of space, no more than Elon Musk's SpaceX, which has been resisting since its partnership with NASA, a clash of Silicon Valley style with government bureaucracy, youthful impatience with old bureaucracy. [19659002] Now President Donald Trump and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has done everything to praise the efforts of private space companies and make it clear that the agency will rely on them.

"Good guys, they love rocket ships," Trump said at a Cabinet meeting this year. "That's good, it's better than we pay for them."

In a statement to the Washington Post, Bridenstine said that the industry has a transformative effect on the agency: "Our trading partners challenge us to be more flexible To think differently, to buy smarter, and to develop more efficiently. "

SpaceX is not the only company that sees the benefits of NASA's shift. In the first component of its proposed Moon Gateway program, a space station hovering near the Moon, the agency welcomes input from the private sector much more.

Rather than dictate the requirements and design of the part of the moon A gateway that would provide power and propulsion, NASA contacted for suggestions, said Mike Gold, vice president of regulatory at Maxar Technologies, one of the companies that power and Propulsion module study.

"Load and go is just another example of a development that is taking place throughout the agency, where we see that NASA includes commercial practices and commercial experience in a variety of programs," he said.

For years it was believed that the rocket supplied with fuel stable and then allow the astronauts on board. That would limit their danger of disaster. That's what the Space Shuttle program did. And so Boeing, who also has the mission to fly astronauts for NASA, plans to refuel his rocket.

But SpaceX likes to do things differently.

To get more power out of its Falcon 9 rockets, it shakes fuel, liquid oxygen, and refined kerosene to extremely low temperatures. This makes them more dense and SpaceX can pack more fuel into its rockets, which gives them more power. But because the fuel is so cold, it can warm up quickly, so it needs to be charged at the last minute.

The company, which has never before flown people into space, says safety is of the utmost importance, noting that the Falcon 9 is also equipped with an escape system that allows the Dragon spaceship to land on the pad in the event of an emergency or fly away from the rocket engine during the flight.

"We never would have suggested it, I thought it was a less secure path," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer, to reporters this month. "The vehicle has more leeway when we charge the fuel near the take-off."

She added that the astronauts are "protected by the launcher system and protected by the heat shield between the Dragon and the rocket."

Since the blast of the rocket in 2016, the company has 33 successful launches in a row Carried out with this refueling technique and carried out dozens of further test fires

In a statement, NASA's commercial crew program director Kathy Lueders said that the agency had decided to pursue SpaceX's plan after "a comprehensive review of SpaceX Security for our personnel was the driver for this analysis, and the team's assessment was that this plan posed the least risk. "

Before completing the procedure, She said SpaceX has to demonstrate it five times, and then "NASA will have none left Estimate the risk before determining that the system is certified to fly with crew. "

If everything went according to plan, the astronauts would board the ship about two hours before take-off with the SpaceX ship. Then the ground crews would leave the launch area, the escape system would be activated and the refueling would start about 38 minutes before the start.

"NASA has learned a lot from SpaceX," said George Nield, a member of the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Board. "Not only is there a way to do those things, and with new technology and thinking outside the box, there are other ways that can benefit not just businesses but governments too … and Load and Go is an example NASA has been slowly warming up to. "

Last Spring, SpaceX Founder and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk told reporters that the rocket was the most robust in the world and concerned about it Reject (19659002) "I really do not think this is a security issue for astronauts," he said, calling it an "exaggerated problem."

Still, he said firing rockets was a dangerous business. Risk Level

"There could be a thousand things that could go right with this rocket and one that goes awry," he said. "The reason why it's so hard to build an orbital rocket is that your climb rate is 100 percent."

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