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Space Policy: No One Knows What Is Going On

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 8:28 PM.

Keith's note: If you look at our calendar for the coming week you will see an unusual number of meeting, briefings, seminars, etc. here in Washington, DC. Everyone will be talking about where they they think space (e.g. NASA) policy and science will be going in the next few months and years. Many events conflict with one another in terms of timing. Many more of these events overlap in terms of their participants with a high quotient of the usual suspects in attendance saying the same thing over and over again to one another. Guess what: no one knows what is going on. Seriously. From the White House on down, no one knows where space policy is going. And the more someone tells you that they do know, the more suspicious you should be of what they say - starting with me. Its a mess folks.

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There Is Another OSTP

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 8:19 PM.

Obama's science diaspora prepares for a fight, Washington Post

"Phil Larson, who focused on space exploration issues at OSTP under Obama for five years before leaving for SpaceX and now the University of Colorado, said the way Obama and Holdren emphasized science and technology left a mark on those who worked there. "Their time at OSTP specifically under President Obama and Dr. Holdren galvanized a whole new kind of passion from them, because they saw it being paid attention to at the highest levels. ... The Obama administration was considered among the most science-friendly administrations in history, so it isn't surprising that his staffers at the center of that effort feel a sense of mission that carries beyond the White House gates. And now, with the Trump administration's assault on science taking form, that mission is rapidly increasing in scope and magnitude."

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Confusing Message and Messenger at Planetary Society

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 7:51 PM.

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"Life" Is A Truly Stupid Movie

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 2:38 PM.

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Chief of Staff Erik Noble Has Left NASA

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2017 6:25 PM.

Keith's note: Erik Noble, a member of the Trump Beachhead team at NASA headquarters has departed NASA for a position at NOAA. Noble had been serving as Chief of Staff on the 9th floor. No word yet as to who is replacing him in that position.

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Appreciating The Value Of The International Space Station

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2017 10:44 AM.

Somebody Just Buy the ISS Already, Wired

"Officially, Congress must make a decision on the ISS by 2024, when its funding expires. But beyond routine maintenance and the occasional orbital boost, the station needs no major repairs. "As it happens, some stuff is functioning vastly better than imagined," says Keith Cowing, editor of NasaWatch (a NASA watchdog), who helped design the station as a NASA employee in the 1990s. "Maintenance is little things like replacing batteries when they die or tightening valves when they need it."

... Even with a government-mandated nonprofit charged specifically with ginning up business, nobody has found a killer app for low Earth orbit. Yet. Cowing sympathizes with NASA's funding plight, and says it shouldn't indefinitely tie up resources on a mission barely beyond the stratosphere. But he doesn't think that should seal ISS's fate. "NASA has spent decades building and operating this thing, has gotten it just to the point where it can actually start doing things, and all of a sudden you want to scrap it all and start building something else," he says. What a waste.

... Plus, buying it lets you do whatever the hell you want. "I like to refer to the ISS as the Undiscovered Country, both in the Shakespearean and Star Trek-ian sense," says Cowing. "It's completely underutilized."

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GAO to FAA: Insurance Calculations Need Fixing

By Keith Cowing on March 23, 2017 9:22 PM.

Commercial Space Launch Insurance: Weakness in FAA's Insurance Calculation May Expose the Federal Government to Excess Risk, GAO

"Because FAA has not yet addressed the identified weakness in the cost-of- casualty amount used in its calculation, the federal government may be exposed to excess risk. FAA has identified potential steps to update the information the cost-of-casualty amount is based on, including seeking public input on whether and how to revise the amount, but the agency does not have a complete plan for updating the cost-of-casualty amount. Federal internal control standards require that agency management respond to risks related to achieving the entity's objectives, define how to achieve objectives, and set time frames for achieving them. FAA has not responded to the risk identified in using outdated data as the basis of the cost-of-casualty amount because FAA has prioritized other work, such as reviewing launch license applications, ahead of this issue."

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NASA FOIA Follies Continue

By Keith Cowing on March 23, 2017 2:14 PM.

NASA blocks FOIA request for potential White House 'media blackout' orders, Daily Dot

"Users of a popular online service that helps the public acquire legal access to government records face new hurdles when petitioning NASA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The National Aeronautics Space Administration has begun rejecting public records requests from users of FOIA request-filing service MuckRock, which doesn't provide what the agency calls a "personal mailing address," even though the requirement appears to have no basis under the law. Last week, following nearly two months of back and forth, NASA formally denied the Daily Dot access to any records--which may or may not exist--related to White House decrees affecting its use of social media and other forms of communication. The request, filed less than a week after Trump's inauguration, was sent using MuckRock's online submission system and contained MuckRock's mailing address. "Please be advised, that everyone submitting a FOIA Request via Muckrock, who are not a staff members [sic] must provide their personal mailing address when submitting a requests [sic]," NASA's FOIA officer, Josephine Shibly, wrote in a letter to the Daily Dot on March 10."

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SSL Sues Orbital ATK Over Unauthorized Access of Data on NASA Server

By Marc Boucher on March 23, 2017 12:02 PM.

SSL sues rival Orbital ATK over theft of trade secrets: lawsuit Reuters

"At least four confidential SSL documents were viewed and distributed by an Orbital ATK employee working at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where the data is stored as part of an ongoing SSL partnership with the U.S. space agency, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia."

"The documents contain information about SSL's technology for robotic satellite assembly, repair and servicing; research and development efforts; financing and business plans; procurement and performance strategies; customer development; and subcontractor and vendor relationships, the suit said."

Marc's note: Things are heating up in the Orbital ATK / SSL (MDA) commercial battle for satellite servicing. Orbital fired the employee in question but the damage is done. NASA is conducting an investigation. More to follow.

Earlier:

- Satellite Servicing Heats up with Orbital ATK Suing DARPA

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Preview of Trump Funding for Astrobiology?

By Keith Cowing on March 23, 2017 11:26 AM.

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NASA Valkyrie R5 Robot Will Compete - But Only Against Itself (Update)

By Keith Cowing on March 23, 2017 12:01 AM.

Northeastern puts NASA's Valkyrie space robots through its paces, TechCrunch (video)

Keith's update: At one point in this video Valkyrie stumbles and requires the cables to catch her - unlike the Boston Dynamics robots that can do just about anything and retain perfect balance and run around, jump, etc. But yes, I said "her". Despite NASA JSC PAO's reversal and subsequent stern denial about this NOT being a female-inspired robot, the robot at Northeastern is referred to by the student in this film as "she" and "her" dozens of times. See "NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses)" Question 7.

This Valkyrie R5 humanoid robot is put to the test with Mars colonization on the horizon, Fox

"NASA reportedly produced three other R5 models. One was held in-house, and NASA "awarded two as research loans to Northeastern University and nearby MIT, while a fourth was acquired by Scotland's University of Edinburgh. According to NASA, in the finalist round, "each team's R5 will be challenged with resolving the aftermath of a dust storm that has damaged a Martian habitat. This involves three objectives: aligning a communications dish, repairing a solar array, and fixing a habitat leak."

Keith's note: Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of these two college teams to fix NASA's broken Valkyrie R5 robot it cannot walk by itself and needs to be held up by straps. And one R5 will be competing against another R5 - not against other robots. The last time NASA's R5 competed with other agency's droids NASA came in last place. Meanwhile, check out the dancing, hopping, running droids - without tethers - at Boston Dynamics. These commercial products are much more sophisticated - and NASA could buy them - but then what would Ellen Ochoa's JS robotics hobby shop do?

- The Robot NASA Should Buy To Replace Broken Valkyrie, earlier post
- Hey NASA: This Is The Droid You Were Looking For, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- Previous R5 postings

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UK Student Tells NASA How To Fix Its Experiment

By Keith Cowing on March 22, 2017 9:49 PM.

UK schoolboy corrects NASA data error, BBC

"A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data. The 17-year-old from Tapton school in Sheffield said it was "pretty cool" to email the space agency. The correction was said to be "appreciated" by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem. "What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds," Miles told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme. The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries. During UK astronaut Tim Peake's stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS."

TimPix Project

"In partnership with Professor Larry Pinsky at the University of Houston, and in collaboration with NASA, the Institute for Research in Schools is able to release data from the Timepix detectors on board the ISS and give students and teachers the opportunity to take part in this research."

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So Much For The Impact of Those Rogue and Alt Twitter Accounts

By Keith Cowing on March 22, 2017 12:06 PM.

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Hearing On The Future of ISS

By Keith Cowing on March 22, 2017 11:31 AM.

Space Subcommittee Hearing- The ISS after 2024: Options and Impacts

"It is the policy of the United States to support full and complete utilization of the International Space Station through at least 2024. What happens to the ISS after that date remains an open question. The hearing will examine the range of choices facing our nation and the impacts of those various options."

Witnesses
- [Statement] William Gerstenmaier, NASA
- [Statement] Mary Lynne Dittmar, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
- [Opening Statement] Eric Stallmer Commercial Spaceflight Federation
- [Statement] Robert Ferl University of Florida
- Rep. Babin Opening Statement
- Rep. Bera Opening Statement
- Rep. Johnson Opening Statement
- Hearing Charter

Watch live

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Will Bridenstine Make A Russian Pivot?

By Keith Cowing on March 21, 2017 9:30 PM.

Russia's Space Program Is Struggling Mightily, Slate

"Yet, despite maintaining a presence in space, Roscosmos has been beset with corruption, mismanagement, and crony capitalism that is the hallmark of the larger post-Soviet economy. In a tech sector that needs to meet very high standards, these problems have led the workforce on the ground to cut corners. In the past six years, the Russian space program has seen an abysmal 15 rocket failures. ... On top of the onslaught of failures, the sanctions and the precipitous plunge in oil and gas prices have hobbled the Russian economy. In response, the government slashed space spending for the next 10-year cycle by more than half, from $64 billion to $21 billion. As a point of comparison, NASA is expected to spend about $18.8 billion in 2017 alone. The European Space Agency; Japan; and, of course, China spend much more on space annually than the Russians, while the Indians are catching up."

- Russia Begins To Reduce ISS Participation, earlier post
- Russian Space Follies, earlier post
-ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby, earlier post

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NASA ISS Weekly Space to Ground Report - 24 March 2017

NASA ISS Weekly Space to Ground Report - 24 March 2017 Video in Story

NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station.

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