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Why couldn't a US company sell space craft overseas?

Posted by: Andy Hill - Sun Jun 28, 2009 10:23 pm
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Why couldn't a US company sell space craft overseas? 
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Post Why couldn't a US company sell space craft overseas?   Posted on: Sun Jun 28, 2009 10:23 pm
There's been some talk in the UK recently as to whether we will be buying the latest version of Trident for our nuclear deterant. If the US is willing to sell us Trident then do you think that the UK cold buy a crew capsule from a US company?

I've seen a lot of discussions where such things are prohibited by ITAR but if the US will allow a nuclear missile to be sold to the UK then how can this possibly apply to a crew capsule?

Perhaps there might be a market for off the shelf craft for the UK and other freindly nations (this is not to say that the UK would be interested but you never know).

All this assumes that Boeing or Lockheed would be interested in building craft for sale, but say they were to produce something like a basic 4 man gemini capsule suitable for launch on Ariane. Would they be stopped and would Europe buy it? As I say I cant see how ITAR could apply given the willingness of the US to sell nuclear missile technology to us and the fact that Europe has its own launcher.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 28, 2009 11:12 pm
ITAR doesn't prohibit the transfer of technology per se, it just means you need to have a license for such transfer to take place from the state department, at least on the US side. for something benign like selling the europeans a crew capsule, as long as nasa was ok with it i imagine there would be no difficulty from ITAR. if say armadillo and starchaser wanted to collaborate on a rocket or crewed vehicle for some reason, this would be much more difficult. not necessarily because they couldn't get a license for some tech transfer but because they would have to get approved for EVERY technology transfer that took place, which would be ridiculous and impossible. that being said, it's possible that since they're in the UK it would be easier just cause we're closely allied, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 28, 2009 11:35 pm
TerraMrs wrote:
that being said, it's possible that since they're in the UK it would be easier just cause we're closely allied, but I wouldn't bet on it.


You're right Virgin seemed to have some problems working with Scaled because of ITAR.

So if ITAR is not the problem I wander why ESA considered working on Klipper with the Russians rather than with a US company? The Russians didn't appear to want to fly something on Arianne but a commercial company like Boeing would probably have no problem with doing that.

Perhaps ESA never considered working with a US company directly and going through NASA was probably not to appealing after the failure of the joint project to produce an ISS lifeboat together..

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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:01 am
There is more than just ITAR. When working with the states on anything serious ten or more agencies come to bear. This includes the treasury department who are going to want to rubber stamp every financial transaction either company is involved in, not just those related to the tech.

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Post Re: Why couldn't a US company sell space craft overseas?   Posted on: Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:20 pm
If this situation does not change then it is almost enevitable that the US will be caught and eventually overtaken by other space faring nations. At the moment I think that it is true that there may be investors based in other countries that would like to partner with US companies that are watching to see how the Virgin/Scaled situation pans out and how difficult it will be for Virgin to operate equipment outside the US. If this proves to be a problem then other countries might step in, although at the moment there doesn't seem to be too many alternatives this will not always be the case.

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Post Re: Why couldn't a US company sell space craft overseas?   Posted on: Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:30 pm
Almost no commercial launches are on American rockets anymore. A lot of space companies around the world now offer 'ITAR-free' vehicles and equuipments, which basically means 'American-free'.

American space is already really hurting and has fallen behind in the commercial realm.


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Post Re: Why couldn't a US company sell space craft overseas?   Posted on: Fri Jul 03, 2009 8:49 am
idiom wrote:
Almost no commercial launches are on American rockets anymore. A lot of space companies around the world now offer 'ITAR-free' vehicles and equuipments, which basically means 'American-free'.

American space is already really hurting and has fallen behind in the commercial realm.


I was thinking specifically more about crewed capsules which I think the US still has a lead in rather than commercial launch services , although no one can ever rule out the Russians with regard to this as well.

Would it be possible for a country to buy a new gemini capsule from Boeing (who bought McDonnell the original main contractor) and use their own launcher? I imagine that the drawings and specifications still exist but I dont know how complete they might be given NASA's own tendancy to loose information over time. Still you could update the electronics fairly easily and new materials would make it lighter if you had to redesign part of it. This occurred to me because I saw recently that a group of steam enthusiasts got together and built a new steam locomotive from the original 1950s plans and thought why not do the same thing in space?

Gemini weighed under 4000kg and there are a few rockets around that could put that mass into LEO these days.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Gemini

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Post Re: Why couldn't a US company sell space craft overseas?   Posted on: Sat Jul 04, 2009 1:57 am
You could do a lot better than Gemini if you started a clean sheet design with the same original requirements.

We have learnt a huge amount, far beyond materials and electronics, that would make a modern two man capsule much better and cheaper.


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Post Re: Why couldn't a US company sell space craft overseas?   Posted on: Sat Jul 04, 2009 5:30 pm
idiom wrote:
You could do a lot better than Gemini if you started a clean sheet design with the same original requirements.

We have learnt a huge amount, far beyond materials and electronics, that would make a modern two man capsule much better and cheaper.


This is all true but the development time is a killer and no one actually gets to the point of a finished craft, starting with a craft that has already flown and making as few simple modiications as possible might mean you end up with a working vehicle rather than an engineering mock-up or a stack of powerpoint slides. Besides pitching it at Gemini size will mean launch costs are kept down and a wider variety of boosters can be used. Improvements can always be made over time, the car industry doesn't start from scratch every time this years model comes out why does the space industry need to? The Russians use this approach with Soyuz, since they will be the only ticket to the ISS soon it seems to have worked for them.

Boeing need not spend the entire budget in development when they have a flight tested vehicle.

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