NASA Watch

This is not a NASA Website. You might learn something. It's YOUR space agency. Get involved. Take it back. Make it work - for YOU.
nasawatch@spaceref.com | Voice +1.703.787.6567 | RSS Feed | Twitter | Advertising | Important Disclaimer

JSC Center Director Ellen Ochoa Picks Up Yet Another External Job

By Keith Cowing on June 21, 2017 10:38 PM.

Mutual of America Life Insurance Company Appoints Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa to its Board of Directors

"Mutual of America Life Insurance Company, which specializes in providing retirement products and related services to organizations and their employees, as well as individuals, announced the appointment of Dr. Ellen Ochoa to its Board of Directors. Mutual of America partnered with Korn Ferry's Board and CEO Practice to conduct a national search, which resulted in Dr. Ochoa's appointment."

Ellen Ochoa Appointed to Dallas Fed Board

"The Federal Reserve Board of Governors has appointed Ellen Ochoa of Houston to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board of directors. She will fill an unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2017, and will be eligible for appointment to a full three-year term on the board. Ochoa previously served as chair of the Bank's Houston Branch board."

JSC Center Director Ochoa Elected to Deathcare Product Company Board, earlier post

"Service Corporation International, the largest provider of deathcare products and services in North America, today announced that it will nominate Dr. Ellen Ochoa to be elected to the SCI Board of Directors at the Company's Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held in May 2015."

Johnson Space Center's director to serve on National Science Board

"Science has always had an advocate in Dr. Ellen Ochoa, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center. Now, it is official, as Ochoa has been named the final member of the National Science Board's (NSB's) class of 2022."

Keith's note: That's four companies/organizations for whom Ellen Ochoa serves on the board of directors while also serving as Center Director for NASA Johnson Space Center. If she has the time to do all of this external stuff perhaps she is not spending enough time on her day job. Just sayin'.

Categories:

Today's Commercial Space Policy Events

By Keith Cowing on June 21, 2017 10:42 AM.

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Commercial Space

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement." Note: Postponed until after the July 4 recess.

The Implications of the Growing Small Satellite Market for Launch and Key Applications (webcast)

"The Center for Strategic and International Studies will be hosting a two-session event to highlight and amplify awareness of the implications of emerging space technologies, particularly those provided by smaller space systems. These discussions will examine implications from the perspective of both changes in the way space missions are executed and in the way that transportation to space is provided."

Categories: ,

Infomercial Update on NASA's Journey To Nowhere

By Keith Cowing on June 20, 2017 4:40 PM.

This Week at NASA: Mid-Year at NASA (video), NASA

"2017 is shaping up to be another year of unprecedented exploration, amazing discoveries, technological advances and progress in development of future missions - and we're just six months into the year. Here are some of our top stories of 2017, so far - Mid-Year at NASA."

The Journey to Mars seems to be pretty much dead, Ars Technica

"The other planet not mentioned in the video is Earth, which NASA's charter in 1958 specifically calls upon the new federal agency to study. NASA has made some significant discoveries about Earth this year, from clouds and ice to the radiation belts that surround the planet."

Keith's 4:37 pm EDT note: This video is suddenly offline. The older one used to be here. First Eric writes his article and tweets it. I tweet a reply and post a link here at 12:26 pm EDT. Then a few hours later NASA just takes the video offline. FWIW we posted a link to it on SpaceRef last Saturday - and no one at NASA had a problem with it prior to that. Oops.

Oh but wait: they posted a revised version here. They removed the old SLS footage were it talks about "commercial" rockets and replaced it with a Falcon 9 launching followed by Orion orbiting the Moon. Meanwhile, the NASA infomercial narrator guy says "future crews will launch on American-made commercial spacecraft and will carry out exploration missions that will take humans farther out into space than ever before." One small problem: Orion is not "commercial". And its service module is made in Europe. If they re-edited the video to change the SLS clip to show a Falcon 9 (commercial launch vehicle) then why did they not include a Dragon or Starliner as well - unless, who cares?

Categories:

False Positives and Planetary Protection

By Keith Cowing on June 19, 2017 10:10 PM.

The Goals, Rationales, and Definition of Planetary Protection: Interim Report, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

"Avoiding forward and back contamination in missions to Mars can be viewed as addressing contamination that travels from Earth to Mars and back. From its origin in the 1997 SSB study and its implementation in COSPAR and NASA documents, the third rationale has been associated with preventing a "false positive" in a sample returned to Earth from a solar system body. However, molecular biology has advanced considerably in the last 20 years, and the committee needs to investigate more thoroughly whether new methods in molecular biology make false positive and negative results in biohazard assessments conducted on returned samples far less likely."

Categories:

Spaceport America: Just Send Us More Money

By Keith Cowing on June 19, 2017 8:04 PM.

Waiting for liftoff at the Spaceport, Santa Fe New Mexican

"The concept of space tourism was all the rage when Spaceport America was pitched to New Mexico taxpayers a decade ago as a gateway for rich adventurers willing to pay $250,000 for a ride to the heavens. But as the state has waited year after year for the first of what were supposed to be regular flights into space from the nearly $220 million facility, people behind the program are reimagining it more as a hub for the commercial spaceflight industry rather than space tourism. That change in approach could require pouring millions more in public money into a place that plenty of critics have called one of state government's biggest boondoggles. Dan Hicks, new executive director of the spaceport, says the spaceport must construct additional facilities and offer more services to draw more business."

Categories:

Kepler Reveals New Worlds

By Keith Cowing on June 19, 2017 11:37 AM.

NASA Releases Kepler Survey Catalog with Hundreds of New Planet Candidates

"NASA's Kepler space telescope team has released a mission catalog of planet candidates that introduces 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star's habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet. With the release of this catalog, derived from data publically available on the NASA Exoplanet Archive, there are now 4,034 planet candidates identified by Kepler. Of which, 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified."

Categories: , ,

So Much For Russian Engine Sanctions

By Keith Cowing on June 19, 2017 10:40 AM.

Amendment may keep Iran-Russia sanctions bill from stopping ISS launches from Wallops, Daily Press

"An Iran-Russia sanctions bill threatened to torpedo Orbital ATK's commercial resupply missions for NASA from Virginia to the International Space Station until an amendment cleared the U.S. Senate Thursday to remove the bill's unintended consequences to civilian agencies. Senators voted overwhelmingly -- 94 to 6 -- to approve the amendment after several members, including Virginia's Mark Warner, described the "unintentional harm" the original bill could inflict on "crucial science, civil and commercial space missions" that support NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research."

Categories: ,

NASA Leadership Update

By Keith Cowing on June 19, 2017 10:15 AM.

Categories:

How Much Do ULA Launches Really Cost?

By Keith Cowing on June 15, 2017 8:33 PM.

Air Force budget reveals how much SpaceX undercuts launch prices, Ars Technica

"One person who has reviewed the Air Force budget and is sympathetic to the new space industry said the following: That is a tad more expensive than the amount ULA would ever tell taxpayers they are paying for one of its launches, and it illustrates the extent to which those taxpayers are forced to subsidize ULA in order to maintain the fiction that it is a competitive private sector company. Essentially, then, while ULA has talked publicly about lowering the costs of its boosters for the commercial sector and the federal government, the US Department of Defense is suggesting in its budget that ULA's costs are as high as they have ever been."

Categories: ,

Space Policy Gossip Update

By Keith Cowing on June 14, 2017 3:25 PM.

Categories:

Yet Another National Academy Report That No One Will Pay Attention To

By Keith Cowing on June 14, 2017 3:06 PM.

The Tiny Edit That Changed NASA's Future, The Atlantic

"But in this year's bill, Congress added a momentous phrase to the agency's mission: "the search for life's origins, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe." It's a short phrase, but a visionary one, setting the stage for a far-reaching effort, that could have as profound an impact on the 21st century as the Apollo program had on the 20th. NASA's new directive acknowledges that we are tantalizingly close to answering perhaps the most fundamental question of all: Are we alone in the universe?"

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

"The Administrator shall enter into an arrangement with the National Academies to develop a science strategy for astrobiology that would outline key scientific questions, identify the most promising research in the field, and indicate the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe."

Keith's note: As much as I support the wording in this authorization act, authorization acts contain all kinds of interesting language that is usually ignored or slow-boated by NASA - especially if money is required to comply with the language - money that has not been appropriated. If reports (especially National Academy reports) are called for by the authorization bill, the reports are conducted by the usual suspects, take several years to create, and when they are delivered everyone has forgotten why they were asked for and/or the results have been overtaken by events. This 2017 NASA authorization act references an earlier NASA authorization act from 2010 which called for a National Academy report that was not started until 2012 and reported back to Congress in 2014. No one really pays much attention to the report since it punted on virtually every important task it was given to do.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

"In accordance with section 204 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (124 Stat. 2813), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, through its Committee on Human Spaceflight, conducted a review of the goals, core capabilities, and direction of human space flight, and published the findings and recommendations in a 2014 report entitled, ``Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration''."

Yet Another Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight, earlier post (2012)

"Net result: the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million.. The soonest that a NASA budget could be crafted that took this committee's advice into account would be the FY 2016 budget request. NASA and OMB will interact on the FY 2016 budget during Fall 2014 and it won't be announced until early 2015 - 4 1/2 years after this committee and its advice was requested in the NASA Authorization Act 2010."

Categories: ,

Goodbye ARM, Hello Gateway

By Keith Cowing on June 14, 2017 9:37 AM.

NASA closing out Asteroid Redirect Mission, Space News

"ARM called for sending a robotic spacecraft to a near Earth asteroid, where it would grab a boulder a few meters across from the asteroid's surface and return it to cislunar space. Astronauts flying on an Orion spacecraft would then visit the boulder, performing studies and collecting samples for return to Earth. The mission, though, struggled to win support since its introduction in 2013, particularly in Congress, where members were skeptical that the mission was on the critical path for NASA's long-term goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s. At recent hearings on NASA's 2018 budget request, members showed no interest in reversing plans in the proposal to cancel the mission."

Keith's note: On the heels of the ARM cancelation NASA has come up with a new large project - the mini-space station "Gateway" located near the Moon - under the same strange justification as ARM i.e. that it is necessary in order to send humans to Mars.

Categories:

National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex Suffers Significant Damage

By Keith Cowing on June 13, 2017 7:26 PM.

NASA ARC Internal Memo: National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) Incident

"Last Friday evening at about 6 p.m., the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) suffered significant damage when debris passed through the drive system during a test. There were no injuries, but the facility will require extensive repairs. The NFAC is leased and operated by the US Air Force, and we are coordinating closely with them in all aspects of the response. The Ames Safety and Mission Assurance Office and Protective Services, among others, are assisting to ensure that our campus is safe and accessible. At this time, we do not see a need to restrict access to the roads and buildings adjacent to the NFAC, but we are monitoring the situation closely and will take action when needed to safeguard our people and assets. We will share information regarding the incident, our response, and any impacts on the rest of the Center as they become available."

Categories:

World View Will Fly a Chicken Sandwich to Almost-Space

By Keith Cowing on June 13, 2017 9:47 AM.

World View Announces First -Ever Multi-Day Stratollite Mission, World View

"In need of a spaceflight partner to literally launch KFC's new flagship spicy Zinger chicken sandwich to space in an entirely new and different way, KFC and creative agency Wieden+Kennedy approached World View about participating in a historic flight to the edge of space. Intrigued by the idea, World View saw this as a great opportunity to publicly demonstrate the Stratollite's capabilities to a mass public audience, while simultaneously financing a portion of the vehicle's development program. Thus, the World View and KFC partnership was born, aiming to usher in a new era of stratospheric discovery and chicken sandwich space exploration."

Keith's note: Really - the only partner they could find for this "historic flight" was KFC - and the only payload they could fly to almost-space is a chicken sandwich? I'm not so sure if the promise of commercial space is what everyone says it is going to be if this is what passes as ground breaking use of otherwise promising hardware. Remember that pizza that Pizza Hut delivered to ISS in 2001? Of course you don't. (Pizza Hut is owned by Yum! Brands Inc. the same people who own KFC, by the way). Then again, if KFC uses its its global marketing prowess then a lot of people may know that there is a chicken sandwich almost in outer space. Will that translate into ticket sales for World View?

Now ... if they had a competition wherein students from around the world created artwork or did something else that did not focus only on cold fast food on a balloon - something that was then flown with an education and outreach program weaved into the marketing - then maybe this could have been a memorable moment. No word yet as to whether the sandwich (530 calories, 1,330 mg of sodium, 26 g of fat) will even be edible when it returns from 4 days in almost-space.

Categories:

Dazed and Confused at NASA Wallops

By Keith Cowing on June 12, 2017 10:50 AM.

Keith's note: A few moments ago NASA Wallops completed a webcast. The audio and video were not in synch, video was jittery, and they had bad microphone issues. One might get the impression that Wallops PAO has never done a webcast before. Someone needs to buy them more bandwidth or better hardware. They also need to practice doing these things and write down their audio/video settings. Their mics were constantly being mixed by someone - room echo came and went, there was a loud audio hum, and lots of line static. And the audio dropped completely when audience members asked questions or panelists answered them. It was like they were hitting random buttons on their mixing panel to see what sounded the best. I did live webcasts from Everest Base Camp 8 years ago at 17,600 feet using a satellite unit I carried on my back and had far fewer problems than this.

For this press event, unlike all other NASA centers, there was no dial-in for offsite media. You had to send your questions in by email or text. Why is it that Wallops can't do a simple conference call? Teenagers do it on their cellphones.

Here is the question I submitted: "Now that you've had a chance to do all of the accounting, can you tell me what the complete, final cost of repairing damage at NASA Wallops/M.A.R.S. from the Orbital ATK 2014 mishap was? How much did of this amount NASA contribute? How much did Orbital ATK contribute? How much did the State of Virginia and/or M.A.R.S. contribute?" Follow up: "Has NASA required Orbital ATK to increase contingency funds it sets aside and/or its level of insurance coverage in the case of future launch accidents?"

Answer from NASA NASA: "It was a little $15 million over 11 months. It was split three ways."
Orbital: "we have modified our insurance and contingency funds to be in compliance with regulations"

NASA does not even know how the cost of paying for the damage was divided up - unless they mean that NASA, Orbital ATK, and M.A.R.S. each paid exactly one-third i.e. $5 million. If that was the case then why couldn't NASA just say that - as I asked them to do?

Oh yes, in opening the media event, Center Director Bill Wrobel went through a long list of things that Wallops and Orbital ATK do - and did so glowingly: rockets, planes, balloons. One thing he did not mention: Wallops just dropped an expensive payload from one of its balloons the other day at high altitude without a parachute. They had webstreaming and social media issues last night too for one of their sounding rockets. Wallops just does not seem to be ready for prime time.

Categories:

More stories for June.

Subscribe to NASA Watch

Loading


Monthly Archives




NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 June 2017 - Progress 67 Russian Cargo Ship Docked

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 June 2017 - Progress 67 Russian Cargo Ship Docked Video in Story

Traveling about 250 miles over the Philippine Sea, the unpiloted ISS Progress 67 Russian cargo ship docked at 7:37 a.m. EDT to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station.

More updates...

PRSpacewire