commercial space

This is a passage from the introduction of Sarah Banet-Weiser’s Authentic™ (2012). I agree that we should “discard as false the simple opposition between the authentic and the inauthentic” and not only because the definitions of these terms entirely depend on each other. 

What I think that paragraph underplays is that “authenticity” as it’s understood within consumer culture is internal to that culture and not the trace of a way of life that preceded it, something off which consumer culture and brands are parasitically leeching. Authenticity as we understand it is a product of consumer culture, even though it is deployed to try to evoke the life untouched by commercialization. 

If “authenticity” evokes “spaces in our lives driven by genuine affect and emotions,” it is because the term works to fashion such spaces as commercial properties. “Authenticity” is that structuring process; it’s not a measure of the degree to which something eludes commercialization. “Authentic” things are not those that evade branding; in fact, only brands can be “authentic.” Authenticity-inauthenticity is fundamentally a continuum that can only be applied to brands. When we examine our own “authenticity,” we are thinking of ourselves in terms of our personal brand. If you are concerned about being authentic, you are concerned about your brand — not about how to escape the impact of branding on your self-concept.   

“Authenticity” is commercialized nostalgia for that way of life that was articulated by a different set of economic relations: precapitalistic, or pre-massified, or pre-globalized — whatever word you want to use to describe how it seemed when you were nine years old, when things were “real” (because you were too immature to understand how they became that way, and how the world as given was both mutable and the product of human decisions).  

In other words, authenticity doesn’t describe what we’ve lost through the relentless and implacable advances consumer culture; it is how that consumer culture structures how the past is to be consumed in the present moment. “Authenticity” articulates contemporary consumerist values as if they were really external to consumerism, and could ground it, give it transcendental meaning: you really can consume your way into being real! 

But authenticity and inauthenticity are both internal to the system of branding and commercialized communication. When something is “authentic” it is certainly not “outside of mere consumer culture”; it is instead the apotheosis of that culture. 

Trying to be “authentic” is to pursue an apolitical, individualistic solution to an intrinsically political question. To short-circuit this logic, one might begin by acknowledging that the affect and emotion generated by brands is as “genuine” as any other feeling. The extent to which “we need to believe” otherwise is the extent to which that “belief” precludes itself from becoming real. Letting consumer culture sell you a commodified sense of your immunity to consumer culture does not dismantle that culture. 

Built into that paragraph from Banet-Weiser above is the assumption that most people think “real feelings” are inherently anti-commercial or anticapitalist, but it may be that commercialization and measurable profit, in the kind of society to which we have been habituated, makes feelings feel more substantial, more shared, more real. Brands are “authentic” because they are valuable, profitable, popular, viral, etc. Many of us feel validated by the same sorts of things: we are more “real” when we get more likes. It is insufficient to think this is simply mass inauthenticity. 

It is not a political solution to insist on the pursuit of “real feelings.” That tends to lead to authenticity being used to disenfranchise those deemed “inauthentic” — that is, those who lack the means to insist on the standards that favor themselves.  

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Blue Origin’s New Shepard relaunches for a second suborbital flight.

For the second time in as many months, Blue Origin successfully relaunched their New Shepard booster first flown in November.

The company posted a video to their website yesterday showing the successful January 22 flight, which reached an altitude of 63.2 miles, a mile higher than November’s flight. The flight profile remained the same, here the crew capsule boilerplate was released at apogee and parachuted to the ground.

It also marked the first time their booster has been reused for suborbital flight. Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin’s CEO, stated that refurbishment protocols were straight forward. The crew capsule’s parachutes were repacked, pyrotechnics were reloaded, and general avionics checks were performed on the booster. He also stated that the largest single change was in landing software used by the rocket.

Instead of targeting the direct center of the landing pad, the booster now takes into consideration its relative lateral movement. This way, the rocket isn’t fighting low-level winds or other circumstances that would push the booster off-course. Bezos compares it to a runway aiming for the centerline of a runway, but still landing even if it’s deviated a few feet from it.

The first test of New Shepard was in April, 2015. The flight and crew capsule reached an altitude of 58 miles, however, the booster lost pressure in its hydraulic system, and it crashed upon impact. November 23 saw a second test vehicle reach an altitude of 62.4 miles and successfully landed 11 minutes after launch.

This was the first time a rocket flew above the von Karman line, the internationally-defined boundary between the atmosphere and space, and returned successfully to the Earth. Blue Origin and SpaceX are both developing rockets that can be reused after flight. However, New Shepard is a suborbital rocket while the Falcon 9 is an orbital-class vehicle. Read more about the differences between the two systems here.

H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act was just triumphantly passed in the Senate this week. Here’s what you need to know and why this is a significant moment in human history for not only the U.S. Space Industry, but all it’s poised to benefit in the coming years. Below excerpts were extracted fresh from the press release.

First, what is H.R. 2262? 

A bicameral, bipartisan bill that encourages competitiveness, reflects the needs of a modern-day U.S. commercial space industry, and guarantees operation of the International Space Station until at least 2024. The bill builds on key elements in S. 1297 that the Commerce Committee approved earlier this year and passed the Senate on August 4, 2015.

Essentially, the Space Act we’ve had in place since the creation of @nasa is outdated and doesn’t reflect the currently bustling space industry with respect to commercial/private entities involving asteroid mining and utilization of resources for propellant, fuel, oxygen, water, materials manufacturing, or agriculture; space tourism (i.e., low earth orbit ventures, hotels); shifting launch providers; variables via disruptive and exponentially evolving technologies; global collaboration (with includes the shelf life of the International Space Station); FAA provisions over commercial spaceflight activity, among other aspects of the bill.

Key provisions include the following:

Extends the Operation of the International Space Station

Provides a four-year extension of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2024 by directing the NASA Administrator to take all necessary steps to ensure the ISS remains a viable and productive facility capable of utilization including for scientific research and commercial applications.

Ensures Stability for Continued Development and Growth of the Commercial Space Sector

Provides an extension of the regulatory learning period through September 30, 2023 so that the commercial space sector can continue to mature and innovate before the Department of Transportation transitions to a regulatory approach. The current learning period expires on March 31, 2016.

This law makes a commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong commercial space sector and recognizes the major stake Texas has in space exploration. It also provides NASA and the International Space Station with nearly a decade of mission certainty by extending the operation and utilization of the International Space Station until 2024. Most importantly, it solidifies America’s leading role in the  commercial space sector and builds upon the work of President Reagan.

– U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Senator Ted Cruz (R- Texas)

Extends Indemnification for Commercial Launches

Extends through September 30, 2025 a key risk sharing provision in current law critical to keeping a level playing field in the global market for U.S. commercial space enterprises.

The researchers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers that make up our commercial space industry are driving innovation that helps grow our economy and furthers NASA’s research and human exploration priorities in space. I am pleased that we were able to come together with our colleagues in the House to craft a final bipartisan bill that promotes new research, creates jobs and encourages the next major advancements in space exploration.

– Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.)

Identifies Appropriate Oversight for the Commercial Development of Space

Directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, Secretary of State, NASA and other relevant Federal agencies, to assess and recommend approaches for oversight of commercial non-governmental activities conducted in space that would prioritize safety, utilize existing authorities, minimize burdens on industry, promote the U.S. commercial space sector, and meet U.S. obligations under international treaties.

This will help bolster an already thriving U.S. commercial space industry, especially in Florida where we are seeing an amazing transformation of the Kennedy Space Center into a bustling space port. It also paves the way for NASA to begin launching astronauts to the International Space Station on American-made commercial rockets while providing jobs for the economy.

– Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who sponsored the original Commercial Space Launch Act over thirty years ago.

Space Resource Exploration and Utilization (Asteroid Mining)

Establishes a legal right to resources a U.S. citizen may recover in space consistent with current law and international obligations of the United States. Directs the President to facilitate and promote the space resource exploration and recovery.

Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multi-planetary species. This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space.

– Daniel Faber, CEO of Deep Space Industries

This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is a landmark for American leadership in space exploration. Recognizing basic legal protections in space will help pave the way for exciting future commercial space endeavors. Asteroids and other objects in space are excellent potential sources of rare minerals and other resources that can be used to manufacture a wide range of products here on Earth and to support future space exploration missions. Americans willing to invest in space mining operations need legal certainty that they can keep the fruits of their labor, and this bill provides that certainty.

– Senator Bill Posey (R-FL) 

Updates Space Launch System

Provides a use policy for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System.

Today, the Senate passed a bill with far-reaching implications for the future of space exploration and the U.S. space industry.

– U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.)

The Senate-passed substitute amendment to H.R. 2262 renames the measure as the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act and merges agreed upon provisions based on the previously passed bills in the Senate and House. The amendment was sponsored by U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R- Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The bill now heads back to the House for final approval.

This is how you #FightforSpace.

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ULA, Bigelow Aerospace team up to launch world’s first commercial space station.

United Launch Alliance and Bigelow Aerospace announced a partnership at the 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado yesterday that, when completed, would see a revolution in space exploration and utilization. 

Although not formally announcing launch, the two companies have begun investigative work to integrate Bigelow’s B330 space habitat on a ULA Atlas V vehicle for launch in 2020. Two B330s – also known as XBASE, for Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement– would be delivered to ULA for launch in late 2019 and early 2020.

When launched, the B330s would be the world’s first  privately-owned, commercial space station in history, and would “democratize” Earth orbit, as ULA CEO Tory Bruno stated.

The B330 has been in development since mid-2001, and would be available for purchase by companies who desire to send experiments or other payloads into space. Space inside the station would also be available for rent if the entire station is not needed.

XBASE would be serviced by the existing fleet of commercial cargo ships as well as the in-development commercial crew vehicles. Bigelow stated that “Blue Origin, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and Boeing” could all bring cargo and crew to the station depending on what the customer prefers.

It is hoped that the initial XBASE would be attached to the International Space Station, serving as a technical successor to BEAM, which launched Friday on CRS-8. Pending NASA approval, XBASE would increase the habitable volume of the station by 30%, adding more than 330 cubic meters to the complex. It would also serve as a testbed for the agency to operate systems required for long-duration interplanetary spaceflight using inflatable structures.

The second XBASE Bigelow plans on launching would be an free-flying station in low Earth orbit. Once the first two stations are in orbit, Bigelow stated that locations for additional XBASEs would be investigated. Locations in cislunar or interplanetary space would be considered if there was enough commercial base to make them viable.

Watch the full announcement at the 32nd Space Symposium here.

P/c: Nathan Koga and Bigelow Aerospace.

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The Dutch company Mars One is looking for colonist for Mars for 2023. They will be announcing more details about the selection process today.

“Mars One is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to establish a human settlement on Mars through the integration of existing, readily available technologies from industry leaders world-wide. Mars One intends to fund this decade-long endeavor by involving the whole world as the audience of an interactive, televised broadcast of every aspect of this mission, from the astronaut selections and their preparations to the arrival on Mars and their lives on the Red Planet.” - Mars One

Hey…uhhhh…Nike…

As a woman in a wheelchair, I can’t exactly embrace my “uncomfort” zone.

See, as a woman in a wheelchair, I can’t really do those yoga poses.

And as a woman in a wheelchair, I can’t lift those heavy weights.

And as a woman in a wheelchair, I can’t run that marathon.

And as a woman in a wheelchair, I’m kind of offended (though not at all surprised) that you’re only focusing on able-bodied women.

(Seriously, you couldn’t have been even the tiniest bit progressive by showing a woman playing wheelchair basketball or something?)

Who would have supposed in early 1957 that the Soviet Union, and not the United States, would loft the first artificial satellite into Earth orbit, the first robotic lunar probe, and the first man, into space? And who would ever have predicted that the United States, stung by losses in a competition in which it had not even known it was engaged, would, or even could, respond by carrying out the first lunar landing eight years and two months after declaring the goal? Most then-knowledgeable observers believed that such a feat was unlikely to be achieved much before the end of the 20th Century, if then. Not even the most visionary of hard science fiction authors – Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein – imagined that it could occur as early as 1969. And then, having spent $21 billion (in mid-60s dollars) to develop the transportation system to make such a thing possible, was it even conceivable that such hard-won capability would be utterly discarded within a few years? Who would have imagined it? And yet it happened.
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Blue Origin successfully launches, recovers world’s first reusable rocket stage.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket made history Monday, November 23, when it became the first rocket to send a payload to space and safely land back on Earth.

Liftoff occurred at 11:21 am CST from the company’s western Texas launch facility. The flight saw New Shepard and its crew module reach a planned altitude of 329,839 feet, or 62.4 miles, before separating. This is above the internationally recognized boundary of space, which is 62.0 miles above the Earth’s surface and known as the Kármán line.

Achieving a maximum speed of Mach 3.72, New Shepard restarted its single BE-3 engine at an altitude of 4,896 feet to reduce velocity. Just a few dozen feet above the ground, the vehicle’s four landing legs were deployed, and the rocket came to rest at a speed of 4.4 miles per hour. Total time between liftoff and landing was 11 minutes.

Blue Origin, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company, has been developing New Shepard since 2006. Its first all-up test occurred on April 29, when it sent itself and a unmanned crew capsule to an altitude of 307,000 feet, or 58 miles.

That test saw the successful recovery of the crew capsule, though a loss of pressure in the landing system caused the rocket to crash land.

Blue Origin hopes to use New Shepard to loft up to 10 paying customers uphill to experience weightlessness and high-altitude views of the Earth. The company is also working on creating the BE-4 engine for ULA as a domestic replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 engine.