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SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test Successful

By Keith Cowing on January 19, 2020 4:47 PM.

NASA, SpaceX Complete Final Major Flight Test of Crew Spacecraft

"NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The launch escape test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft's capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency."

Keith's note: This is the question I had hoped to ask via the dial-in line but PAO only took a couple of questions from offsite media: "For Jim Bridenstine: you just made a full throated push for overt commercialization. OK - are you really going to go all the way to make - to allow - this emerging market to grow - like airlines do? By this I mean are you ever going to stop buying government-provided Soyuz seats from Russia? Will NASA barter seats between its commercial providers and Russia? Can NASA's commercial providers re-sell extra seats on their spacecraft not only to private passengers but to other governments?"

Continue reading: SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test Successful.


The New Space Force Uniforms Need Some Space Colors

By Keith Cowing on January 18, 2020 10:33 AM.


Senior Personnel Shuffle at NASA HQ

By Keith Cowing on January 16, 2020 6:06 PM.

Keith's note: NASA Chief of Staff Janet Karika is moving into the position of Principal Advisor for Space Transportation. Deputy Chief of Staff Gabe Sherman will become the new NASA Chief of Staff.


Getting Fired And Cashing In At Boeing

By Keith Cowing on January 14, 2020 10:01 PM.

Boeing's ousted CEO departs with $62 million, even without severance pay, NBC

"Boeing Co's ousted chief executive officer, Dennis Muilenburg, is leaving the company with $62 million in compensation and pension benefits but will receive no severance pay in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis. Muilenburg was fired from the job in December as Boeing failed to contain the fallout from a pair of fatal crashes that halted output of the company's bestselling 737 MAX jetliner and tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators. The compensation figures were disclosed in a regulatory filing late on Friday during a difficult week for Boeing when it also released hundreds of internal messages -- two major issues hanging over the company before new CEO David Calhoun starts on Monday. The messages contained harshly critical comments about the development of the 737 MAX, including one that said the plane was "designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys."

Keith's note: Muilenburg has it nice. Getting fired is lucrative, Meanwhile families who lost people in Boeing 737 Max crashes have not gotten a penny. With the delivery halt, suppliers are already laying workers off. Boeing workers will inevitably be laid off too. They are not going to be as generously paid. Meanwhile the guy who got fired is going to get enough money to buy a commercial crew seat on Boeing's Starliner.


The Space Gang Who Cannot Shoot Straight

By Keith Cowing on January 14, 2020 11:30 AM.

Keith's 17 January note: The authors finally fixed their error. Categories:

The First Iranian-American Astronaut

By Keith Cowing on January 12, 2020 7:44 PM.


CASIS Review Report To NASA (Update)

By Keith Cowing on January 10, 2020 2:13 PM.

Keith's note: Update and clarification: I've had multiple reports inside the NASA/CASIS community that the final report has been delivered. That is not exactly accurate. In fact, an out briefing on the final results has been made to NASA but the actual, formal document is still in preparation - as noted in these tweets today from SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen.

Keith's earlier note: The final report of the CASIS review panel has been delivered to NASA. It is not expected that we'll hear anything from NASA until the end of the month or the beginning of February. CASIS has been in stand down or "strategic pause" since this review committee was initiated. The CEO has been on leave ever since and several other senior staff have been reassigned. The acting CEO has kept the organization running smoothly in the interim - and both the review team and NASA have noticed this relative improvement.

The review has seen and highlighted the strengths (and there are many) among the folks at CASIS who do the real work. They have also documented all of the needless "drama" (a word commonly used in the review) associated with the prior management team. One would hope that the CASIS review team recommends that NASA continue with what works at CASIS and strives make it and its relationship with CASIS better while ejecting the people and things that hinder or undermine CASIS as it accomplishes its tasks.

The review panel has found many things at CASIS that are broken that are the fault of CASIS management. But they have also found that NASA was an absentee landlord and neglected to provide appropriate oversight of this activity. Without a healthy two-way relationship, NASA and CASIS failed to make the most of the relationship. That needs to change. NASA and CASIS need to redefine what CASIS is and is not expected to do, what NASA is and is not expected to do, how NASA and CASIS can better communicate and coordinate, and how they can both work together in synergy as a team - not as dysfunctional competitors.

The International Space Station is too vital a national - indeed a global - asset to waste. It has only begin to prove its value.

- NASA Orders A Review Of CASIS (Update), earlier post
- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post
- CASIS Quarterly Reports To NASA Are Now Online at NASAWatch, earlier post
- Previous CASIS postings

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The Boeing Company Has A Big Safety Culture Problem

By Keith Cowing on January 10, 2020 9:26 AM.

Boeing Employees Mocked F.A.A. and 'Clowns' Who Designed 737 Max, NY Times

"The most damaging messages included conversations among Boeing pilots and other employees about software issues and other problems with flight simulators for the Max, a plane later involved in two accidents, in late 2018 and early 2019, that killed 346 people and threw the company into chaos. The employees appear to discuss instances in which the company concealed such problems from the F.A.A. during the regulator's certification of the simulators, which were used in the development of the Max, as well as in training for pilots who had not previously flown a 737."

Boeing releases internal messages on 737 MAX, calls them 'completely unacceptable"

"Boeing Co on Thursday released hundreds of internal messages that raise serious questions about its development of simulators and the 737 MAX that was grounded in March after two fatal crashes, prompting outrage from U.S. lawmakers. In an April 2017 exchange of instant messages, two employees expressed complaints about the MAX following references to issues with the plane's flight management computer. "This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys," one unnamed employee wrote. In one message dated November 2015, which appears to shed light on lobbying methods used when facing demands from regulators, a Boeing employee notes regulators were likely to want simulator training for a particular type of cockpit alert."

Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media
Boeing Just Fired Its CEO
Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock
Boeing Apparently Disagrees With NASA OIG Commercial Crew Report

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Dealing With All Of The Lights In The Sky

By Keith Cowing on January 8, 2020 8:36 PM.

Keith's note: There was a session and a media briefing today at the AAS meeting about large satellite constellations and their impact on astronomy. The SpaceX Starlink constellation got the most attention. It seems that people are either in the BAD or NO BIG DEAL camps. But there is a place in between where a bigger picture - an emergent property - presents itself. Pamela Gay from Cosmoquest managed to capture it. I experienced it in Nepal. We are becoming a spacefaring species - and that is now expanding to all corners of our planet. We can be smart about this and manage the impact, but there is no turning back. Space is useful.

Continue reading: Dealing With All Of The Lights In The Sky.


Why Is It So Hard For NASA To Explain What ISS Does?

By Keith Cowing on January 8, 2020 1:38 PM.

Keith's note: This tweet refers to "Publication Metrics from the International Space Station Results", a 6 January 2020 page which attempts to show how much research has been accomplished on the ISS. As you all know people outside of NASA constantly ask what it is those astronauts do up there. Alas, as is the case with all NASA research conducted by various directorates, missions, division, centers, and projects, no one at NASA truly has a central collection of ISS research data. Why? Because NASA cannot cooperate internally and externally to make this happen. Over the decades I have watched people try to pull it all together in one place. Invariably one effort collides with another group trying to do the same thing. Cooperation is not always the obvious solution since both efforts have separate funding streams and cooperating would lead to a cut in funding. So the building of independent data stovepipes continues.

There are some ISS research resources that NASA promotes to the public. But there are others, of great utility, that NASA goes out of its way to ignore - even though they are often more illustrative and linked to more of NASA's ISS research than the things NASA wants you to see. Two of those resources are NASA Spaceline Current Awareness and NASA's PubSpace.

Neither NASA's ISS National Laboratory, Publication Metrics from the International Space Station Results, Space Station Research & Technology, ISS Benefits for Humanity, Let's Explore Space Station Science, or Space Station Research Results Citations Resources link or make any mention of PubSpace or Spaceline Current Awareness.

If you go to the CASIS/ISS National Laboratory website or its publications page neither PubSpace or Spaceline Current Awareness are referenced or linked to either. In fact CASIS only makes one link back to one of NASA's ISS pages here on a sub page under their Research header link. NASA is not exactly linking up a storm to CASIS either.

Of course if you go to the NASA Spaceline Current Awareness page it makes zero linkage back to NASA or CASIS. Nor does it link to PubSpace. The NASA Spaceline page is hosted at NASAPRS. You will note that their archive only goes back to 2003. The only place you can currently find a complete archive of the Spaceline reports is on our SpaceRef website here - all the way back to 1996.

Historic note: NASA started a service to catalog space biology research results back in the late 1980s when I worked in the life sciences division as a space biologist at NASA HQ. Ron Dutcher and Janet Powers at USHUS saw this project through hard times - even when funding often disappeared. I took it upon myself to grab all of their reports when their site went dark for a while in the late 1990s/early 2000s and have kept it all online ever since. A few years back Spaceline found a new home at NASAPRS where it is maintained along the same lines of excellence that have characterized this labor of love since the 1980s.

Federal law enacted a few years back managed that all government funded research be made public in a fashion readily accessible. NASA chose to intergate its various research result collections with the PubMed Central (PMC) repository which is hosted by The National Institutes of Health. That resource is called PubSpace. PubSpace does not link back to NASA or CASIS pages on ISS research. Nor does it link to Spaceline.

Of course there is more to ISS research than life and microgravity science. There's stuff out on the truss looking out at the universe and back at Earth. The NASA Astrophysics Data System has lots of stuff about this. A simple search for "space station" shows that. Then there's the preprint server. A search for "space station" yields results there too. None of the NASA websites referenced above mention either of these resources even though NASA either funds the service an/or funds a vast portion of the research they contain.

There's something rather broken with the way that NASA coordinates all of its research result outreach efforts. When you visit one of them it is as if the others do not even exist.

So here we are. NASA is trying to promote the whole LEO commercialization thing with the ISS as a keystone on this effort. NASA tries to turn ISS off and give it to the private sector but Congress responds by extending its life and telling NASA to pay for it. Now NASA wants to build a mini-space station called Gateway in cislunar space to operate in parallel with ISS. Indeed Gateway is already being marketed in some ways as a way to do the sort of things that are done on ISS. As noted above there is a constant questioning of why we need a space station and what value it provides. NASA tries to respond to these inquiries but always manages to trip when it comes to making the big decisions required to truly explain - to a variety of audiences - what space stations do. Everyone has a different story. Some of the explanations resonate. Others do not.

NASA wants to establish a permanent human research presence in lunar orbit and on the surface and go to Mars and all that other stuff. If NASA cannot get itself on the same page regarding the whole cost/benefit equation in LEO on an established platform like ISS, then it is improbable that they will ever pull a cohesive plan together to explain the lunar and Mars things.

A good place to start would be to synchronize all NASA and NASA-funded space station outreach into a coordinated package with a single entry point - not a swarm of unconnected and independent efforts.


More Program Management Advice From The NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel

By Keith Cowing on January 7, 2020 4:46 PM.

NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases 2019 Annual Report

"NASA's human space flight brand and reputation are driven by 60 years of operational excellence performing complex missions in extraordinarily difficult endeavors. Nevertheless, the dynamic environment of Lunar 2024, imposed on an Agency still involved in complex and hazardous operations in orbit, while simultaneously developing or sponsoring development of new rockets, spacecraft, and critical equipment, will challenge the NASA community. As the Agency undertakes the most ambitious human foray beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) since 1972, we advise:

• Regardless of how NASA addresses the technical challenges, the nation must avoid fluctuating policy goals, ambiguous objectives, budget inadequacies, and instability--including partial and full-year Continuing Resolutions--which add complexity and uncertainty to program management.
• Acknowledging the value of setting challenging but realistic and achievable schedules, NASA must guard against undue schedule pressure that might lead to decisions adversely impacting safety and mission assurance.
• NASA leadership must deliberately focus on communication and engagement with the workforce to preclude disconnects in risk assumptions across the organization and a culture of risk taking rather than one focused on deliberate risk management.
• As NASA evolves its interactions with commercial providers, it must maintain focus on the core tenets of system development as the mission is ultimately still a NASA responsibility."

"The dynamic environment of Lunar 2024 imposed on an Agency that is still involved in complex and hazardous operations in orbit (ISS) while simultaneously developing or sponsoring the development of new rockets, spacecraft, and critical equipment will stress the NASA community. The cumulative effect of these changes on the workforce has the potential to impact risk management across the Agency. As the Panel has pointed out before, one of NASA's strengths is the unwillingness to give up when faced with a tough challenge; this strength could become a weakness if a management team establishes an unrealistic program that contains time and budget constraints without fully addressing and managing risks. We advise NASA leadership to deliberately focus on transparency and engagement consisting of candid discussions at and between all levels of management around questions such as these:

• What is the strategy and what are the impediments and concerns from the top down?
• What are the corresponding concerns from the bottom up?
• What is the management team evaluation and response to the bottom-up concerns?
• What are the ongoing processes to periodically "take the pulse" on all of the above and consider course corrections?
• Through what regular management- and workforce-engagement process is NASA confident that it is appropriately managing risk, not simply taking risk to meet objectives?"

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Another SLS Launch Delay (Update with NASA Comment)

By Keith Cowing on January 6, 2020 10:11 PM.

- SLS Software Problems Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- This Is How NASA Covers Up SLS Software Safety Issues (Update), earlier post
- MSFC To Safety Contractor: Just Ignore Those SLS Software Issues, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update), earlier post
- Previous SLS postings

Keith's update: Comment posted by Doug Loverro

"It's always a pleasure to address NASAWatch followers since you all collectively are some of the most ardent supporters of everything that NASA does. That said, I'm not sure where the Nov 2020 date came from, but it's certainly not a date that we in HEO have been tracking since I came on board, nor even a while before that (although I know it was a date from long ago).

To set the record straight, the HEO team is just now beginning to run the assessment I promised 35 days ago to allow me to set the first SLS launch date. I expect to be able to do that in time for Congressional Hearings. But that does not mean we are standing still. In fact the Artemis 1 core is currently being "gift wrapped" and headed to the Pegasus Barge for shipment to Stennis on 8 Jan for our long planned Green Run test.

We expect that test to run through this coming fall, not far from that Nov 2020 date. And the really good new is that this ship date is within less than two weeks of the date planned to ship predicted back in March when VPOTUS asked us to land on the moon by 2024;. I can't promise we'll always be that good, but credit where credit is due--hats off to the NASA and Boeing team at MAF."

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Is Gateway Actually A Stealth "Space Station"?

By Keith Cowing on January 5, 2020 8:28 PM.

Keith's note: On more than one occasion Jim Bridenstine (and others at NASA) have sought to make it clear that NASA does not see Gateway as a "mini space station" only to call it a "space station" moments later. The meme they want to promote is that Gateway is supposed to be some sort of super service module that moves around and enables the whole human lunar landing thing. Well, now Paul Hertz from SMD is saying that they will be using Gateway for "astrophysics and other scientific investigations". In other words, Gateway is actually a space station (shh!) with inherent/embedded ability to do things that have zero relevance to landing people and things on the Moon. Statements like this simply serve to perpetuate the notion that NASA is simply recreating a ISS in lunar orbit and that they are trying to sell it by saying that it will do something for everyone.

Meanwhile NASA still cannot figure out how to fully utilize the space station they already have in Low Earth Orbit. Oh yes: there are people in HEOMD who seem to think that all of this lunar stuff is just temporary and that they will pivot toward Mars as soon as they can - thus leaving the Gateway with nothing to do. So maybe SMD is thinking of how to get in line for access to Gateway after HEMOD packs up and heads to Mars.

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CASIS Quarterly Reports To NASA Are Now Online at NASAWatch

By Keith Cowing on January 5, 2020 8:20 PM.

Keith's note: Over the past few years I have submitted regular FOIA requests to NASA HQ for documents related to how NASA and CASIS interact with one another. Specifically I asked for the quarterly reports submitted by CASIS to NASA. Below is a collection of these reports. For the most part they are un-redacted. Sometimes they are - alas the redactions are not consistent over the entire collection with somethings blacked out on one report only to be in the clear on another. Since CASIS' perfomance is currently being reviewed by a panel chartered by NASA HQ I thought his information - along with other things I have posted about CASIS over the years - would be of interest to the review panel.

FY 19 Quarters [1] [2]
FY 18 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 17 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 16 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 15 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 14 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 13 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 12 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]

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Did NASA Invite Japanese Astronauts To Fly To The Moon? (Update: Not Exactly)

By Keith Cowing on January 3, 2020 7:10 PM.

US and Japan in talks to boost space ties, send Japanese astronauts to moon in 2020s, The Mainichi

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine proposed to the Japanese government during a visit in September 2019 that it join the U.S. in a plan to put Japanese astronauts on the surface of the moon in the latter half of the 2020s, multiple sources familiar with the matter said. Bridenstine then held an unofficial meeting on Sept. 24, 2019, in Tokyo with figures including Yoshiyuki Kasai, head of the government's Space Policy Committee and honorary chairman at the Central Japan Railway Co., Takafumi Matsui, deputy head of the same committee as well as the director at the Chiba Institute of Technology's Planetary Exploration Research Center and a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and Takehiko Matsuo, head of the National Space Policy Secretariat among others. At the meeting, Bridenstine is reported to have petitioned the attendees to carry out a forward-thinking assessment with a vision of having Japanese astronauts stand alongside American ones on the moon."

Keith's 2 Jan note: I have asked NASA PAO if this is accurate. Stay tuned.

Keith's 3 Jan update: NASA PAO sent the follow in response to my inquiry: "NASA's Artemis program relies heavily on the support of our commercial and international partners and several of our international partners have expressed great interest in potential collaboration. We're aggressively pursuing ways that other nations can contribute going forward. As he has done with other countries, Administrator Bridenstine discussed potential opportunities with counterparts in Japan during his visit there in September, but specific contributions and timelines have yet to be worked out. Various nations, including Canada, Japan, Australia and the member nations of the European Space Agency, have all expressed their strong support for Artemis Program and plan to join us for this new chapter in lunar exploration."

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More stories for January.

Small Satellites Conference 2020

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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 January 2020 - Two More Spacewalks Scheduled This Month

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 January 2020 - Two More Spacewalks Scheduled This Month Video in Story

The Expedition 61 crew is fresh off the first spacewalk of 2020 and preparing for two more before the end of the month. Meanwhile, the International Space Station residents continue ongoing microgravity research and life support maintenance.

More updates...