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The National Space Council Meeting That No One Is Talking About

By Keith Cowing on November 30, 2021 2:39 PM.

Keith's 30 November update: I just got an email invitation to a post-National Space Council reception by the usual big aerospace suspects. "Following the National Space Council meeting on December 1, AIA, AIAA, CDSE, and CSF will be hosting a reception at the Willard Continental Hotel. Proof of vaccination will be required. This is a widely attended gathering." Funny how the White House and the NSpC can't bother to tell the media or the public when/where/what/why about the actual NSpC meeting. But the standard after-party planning thing still goes on - even as a new pandemic surge looms. From what I gather the NSpC has dropped a number of space media off of their distribution list for what they sent out yesterday under embargo. I did not get anything but I have in the past. So I will post what I can - when I can - if I can.

The event starts at 1:30 pm ET and is no more than an hour or so in length. So don't look for any actual space policy to be revealed. There will be some sort of live webcast but the actual link will not be known until Wednesday. Apparently NASA is not going to show it since there is no mention on their TV schedule. Or maybe they will.

Keith's 29 November update: Looks like the National Space Council Meeting is being held at the United States Institute of Peace. But there is still no agenda, media advisory, links to webcasts etc. No mention is made at the Institute's website. Apparently NASA Senator Administrator Bill Nelson will be there. They picked a fancy backdrop - just like the sort of venue that the Trump folks liked to pick. Let's hope that there is actually some important content to match the photo ops at this impressive location.

The NSpC staff really need to pay a little more attention to the real world. Given the bad vibes that VP Harris has been getting about staff issues etc. - warranted or not - this whole space issue is going to rise or fall based on what media writes and how the public perceives what the VP's office does with the NSpC. They should have started on 5 Nov to circulate memes, links to relevant events, Biden Administration policy synergies etc. They should have posted an agenda in Federal Register with 5 place holder bullet points. Moreover, the NSpC needs to demonstrate that it is worth the time of people within and outside of the space bubble that space is worth thinking about during a relentless global pandemic and increasing civil strife. We'll see what they do. Or not do.

Keith's 25 November note: On 5 November 2021 Vice President Harris visited NASA GSFC. During that event it was announced that the first meeting of the National Space Council under the Biden-Harris Administration would be on 1 December 2021. No location or agenda was provided. In checking the Federal Register since then there seems to have been nothing posted by The Executive Office of the President or NASA regarding any event having to do with the National Space Council. Usually such advisory events are required to give at least 2 weeks prior public notice.

The NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR) makes no mention and if you go to their helpful links page, after months of pointing this out, they still have no idea where the text is regarding the establishment/operations of the National Space Council. If you visit the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group (UAG) web page it is still in fossilized form dating back to the last time that the Trump Administration did anything. The UAG sought new member nominations several months ago but no one has said anything about when the new committee will be announced or when it will meet - if it will meet.

No mention is made at, on NASA TV's schedule here or here, nor has any press release or media advisory been issued. Given that the meeting is supposed to be happening in a few days it would seem that no one at the White House or NASA is especially interested in telling people that it is even happening or what (if anything) will be discussed. Is this any way to develop a space policy?

Space Team Biden Needs To Get The Space Council Thing Right The Very First Time, earlier post

"IMHO ... the National Space Council (NSpC) needs to make an attempt to put space - logically - into a larger societal context - and do so right out of the gate in the very first presentation on 1 December. This societal context needs to be one wherein we make big decisions - with big budgets - so as to do things (like space) - in a time of limited resources and societal upheaval. And it must be made crystal clear why we do these things in space i.e. to provide real, measurable value to actual people - not focus groups that PR firms create. The gee whiz, "exploration is in our DNA", "isn't space inspirational" thing works for a short time - but only on a subset of the populace. If the value of space, as put forth by this Administration, is not instantly obvious - and pre-briefed to cynical media/stake holders in advance - then the whole NSpC effort - and the Biden/Harris Administration's chances of doing something valuable in space - will evaporate before they even start. There are really no second chances to get things right in DC any more."

- After 9 Months Biden's Space Policy Is Totally TBD, earlier post
- Sleepwalking Through Space Policy At NASA Headquarters, earlier post
- No One Really Knows/Cares What The NASA Advisory Council Does, earlier post
- Joe Biden's NASA Needs A Wake Up Call, earlier post
- Chirag Parikh Selected As National Space Council Executive Secretary, earlier post
- National Space Council's Chirag Parikh Says The Right Things, earlier post
- Biden No Longer Gives All Those NASA Shout Outs, earlier post
- Join Space Team Biden: Apply For The National Space Council Users' Advisory Group, earlier post
- Actors Were Hired To Promote The Whole VP Space Thing, earlier post
- VP Harris Kicks Off World Space Week And NASA Ignores Her (Update), earlier post
- NASA History Office Loved Those Space Council Photo Ops, earlier post

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NASA OIG Report: ISS And LEO Commercialization

By Keith Cowing on November 30, 2021 10:28 AM.

NASA's Management of the International Space Station and Efforts to Commercialize Low Earth Orbit, NASA OIG

"... Under the Agency's current plans, both health risk mitigation and technology demonstrations will not be complete by 2030 - the expected retirement date of the ISS. Consequently, a substantial gap between the Station's retirement and the introduction of a new, commercial destination in low Earth orbit would force NASA to accept a higher level of health risk or delay start dates for long-duration, deep space human exploration missions."

"...Challenges of commercialization include limited market demand, inadequate funding, unreliable cost estimates, and still-evolving requirements. The risk of deep space human exploration missions will increase significantly if NASA is not able to conduct the required microgravity health research and technology demonstrations on a habitable space destination in low Earth orbit. Furthermore, without a destination the nascent low Earth orbit commercial space economy would likely collapse, causing cascading impacts to commercial space transportation capabilities, in-space manufacturing, and microgravity research."

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Comparing Cliffs On Earth - And On A Comet

By Keith Cowing on November 29, 2021 4:56 PM.


Webb Launch Delayed Due To Ground Processing Issues (Update)

By Keith Cowing on November 25, 2021 10:48 PM.

Testing Confirms Webb Telescope on Track for Targeted Dec. 22 Launch, Arianespace

"Engineering teams have completed additional testing confirming NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is ready for flight, and launch preparations are resuming toward Webb's target launch date of Wednesday, Dec. 22, at 7:20 a.m. EST. Additional testing was conducted this week to ensure the observatory's health following an incident that occurred when the release of a clamp band caused a vibration throughout the observatory."

NASA Provides Update on Webb Telescope Launch

"The launch readiness date for the James Webb Space Telescope is moving to no earlier than Dec. 22 to allow for additional testing of the observatory, following a recent incident that occurred during Webb's launch preparations. The incident occurred during operations at the satellite preparation facility in Kourou, French Guiana, performed under Arianespace overall responsibility. Technicians were preparing to attach Webb to the launch vehicle adapter, which is used to integrate the observatory with the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket. A sudden, unplanned release of a clamp band - which secures Webb to the launch vehicle adapter - caused a vibration throughout the observatory." A NASA-led anomaly review board was immediately convened to investigate and instituted additional testing to determine with certainty the incident did not damage any components. NASA and its mission partners will provide an update when the testing is completed at the end of this week."


SpaceRef on NASA's DART Mission

By Keith Cowing on November 24, 2021 3:15 PM.


Blue Origin Announces A 6 Person Crew For NS-19

By Keith Cowing on November 23, 2021 7:56 AM.

Alan Shepard's daughter Laura Shepard Churchley and GMA co-anchor Michael Strahan to fly on NS-19 alongside four customers, Blue Origin

"Blue Origin today announced the crew of its upcoming NS-19 flight on December 9 will include two honorary guests and four paying customers. Guests include Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly to space. The four customers include space industry executive and philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess, and Cameron Bess. Lane and Cameron Bess will become the first parent-child pair to fly in space."

Journey to the Dream, Dylan Taylor, Voyager Space Holdings

"As I wrap up Part 1 of this blog series, "I want to announce a set of gifts that I would ask all other commercial astronauts to consider. I call it buy one, give one, a term I first heard coined by my friends Ami Dror and Navyn Salem. It is simple, donate to worthy causes here on Earth the equivalent of the ticket price for the spaceflight. Commercial Astronauts are predicted to spend several hundred million dollars in the next five years. The impact that cohort could have here on Earth if they all supported this initiative could be very substantial."


"The Hunt For Planet B": A Wonderful Documentary That NASA Simply Ignores

By Keith Cowing on November 20, 2021 11:49 PM.

Keith's note: I just watched "The Hunt For Planet B", a documentary on the James Webb Space Telescope which aired on CNN. I must say that this is a splendid film. It managed to capture the scope and breadth of what JWST is going to do and the scientific and political complexities that have dogged its development. Most importantly, however, this fim is about the people who have labored to build this spacecraft and those who have developed the science that will now be turbocharged once it is in operation.

When you work on something that takes decades to develop and then has decades of operations ahead, you find your lifetime becoming inexorably intermeshed with the mission. Some of the people in this documentary are young and have their entire careers ahead of them. Imagine what they will learn. Others in this film, some of whom I have known for 30 years, provide the shoulders upon which this next generation will stand. Yet despite their age, they are all compelled - drawn - sometime in ways that are hard to voice - to this mission for a singular purpose - to peer back in time and to understand the origin of the universe and the distribution of life beyond our own planet.

The focus of this film was very much in the direction of the search for life. NASA calls its program Astrobiology - a synergistic mix of astronomers, biologists, geologists, and others who are all drawn together to try and understand the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. I was at the original organizing meetings in 1996-1998 where Astrobiology was laid out. Back then we had no proof that there any planets - anywhere - except in our own solar system. Now they are discovered almost daily. Planets are not a bug - but rather, a feature of the universe it would seem.

Webb is scheduled for launch on 18 December. The 7 minutes of terror we have all gotten used to for Mars landings will stretch out across nearly a month as Webb journeys to L2 and deploys itself. Hopefully it will. Just as Hubble has caused billions to pause at least once and look at an image of the universe around us, Webb will take that to the next level.

At a time when civil strife is on the rise, a global pandemic threatens billions, and budgets are tight, a multi-billion dollar effort like Webb needs to have some context provided. NASA has done an OK job thus far. Alas, NASA Public Affairs and, to some extent, the Science Mission Directorate, is sadly lacking when it comes to utilizing all possible avenues to provide this context.

This film was shot on multiple NASA locations, featured many NASA employees starting with the SMD AA, and had extensive interaction with NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute, AURA, and Northrop Grumman. CNN offered a free, global platform to distrubute this wonderful documentary. You would think that NASA would want to utilize this opportunity. You'd think that NASA would want to use its social media presence which reaches 50 million people on the @NASA Twitter account alone, and hundreds of millions around the world via its websites. You'd think that good PR like this would be a welcome addition to the story of how this amazing instrument came to be and what it can do. Guess again.

NASA has made no mention of this documentary on Twitter at @NASA, @NASAWebb, @NASAExoplanets or @NASAAstroBio. No mention was made at websites such as,,,, or

I am utterly baffled as to why NASA PAO, NASA SMD, and NASA's Astrobiology Program constantly ignore things like this. They went out of their way to make NASA employees available. They were certainly aware that it was going to air. Yet when I ask NASA why they ignore it NASA ignores my questions. Yet NASA PAO doesn't pass up on a chance to do product placement for the stuffed Snoopy doll that they are sending to the Moon. And of course, if something goes wrong with Webb NASA PAO will suddenly want all of the news media to run with whatever spin the agency tries to put on the situation. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that something inside NASA Public Affairs and Outreach offices is very broken - and that NASA does not really care that it is.

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Bill Nelson's Infrastructure Windfall Is Much Smaller Than Promised

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2021 2:23 PM.

House passes infrastructure bill with $1,115 Billion For NASA, Space Policy Online

"The House finally passed the second bill to address President Biden's infrastructure agenda. This "human infrastructure" bill has $1.115 billion for NASA, far less than what NASA Administrator Bill Nelson once hoped for, but would be a significant boost for the agency on top of its regular appropriations nonetheless. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration."

Bill Nelson Says He's Discovered A New Pile Of Money For NASA, earlier post

"Nelson decided that the way for NASA to get out of the fiscal mess it is in is to do a Hail Mary pass and dive into the new TBD Jobs Bill that the Administration is formulating and grab some dollars. He said "You can put $5.4 Billion into the jobs bill for the HLS that would be at the end of the day producing jobs. Another $200 million could go into that bill for spacesuits." He went on to say "We can also put $585 million on nuclear thermal propulsion."

Nelson then turned to another pot of forthcoming money - the multi-trillion dollar Infrastructure bill and said "Part of the jobs bill is infrastructure - there's another $5.4 Billion. Look at NASA facilities in your state (congressman) - there is aging infrastructure." Do the math. All told, it looks like he wants to raid the cookie jar for something like $10 - 11 billion. One would assume that OMB is on board with this plan."

- NASA CFO Commentary On FY 2022 Budget Negotiations, earlier post
- Has Anyone Seen Bill Nelson's NASA Budget Windfall?, earlier post

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Blue Origin's HLS Proposal Had A Lot Of Problems

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2021 10:04 AM.

Newly Released Court Documents Obliterate Blue Origin's Lawsuit Against NASA, Futurism

The US Court of Federal Claims has released a 47 page document detailing its decision to drop Blue Origin's legal challenge against NASA -- and it's a scathing rebuttal, full of damning details. In the documents, shared by New York Times space reporter Joey Roulette on Twitter today, the court expanded on its decision. "The Court finds that Blue Origin does not have standing because it did not have a substantial chance of award but for the alleged evaluation errors," it reads. The court also found that Blue Origin's proposal "was priced well above NASA's available funding and was itself noncompliant."

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Meet The Rocket That Will Power The Future (Hint: Its Not SLS)

By Keith Cowing on November 16, 2021 10:42 PM.


NASA Ignores Free Global PR For Webb Space Telescope

By Keith Cowing on November 16, 2021 1:05 PM.


NASAWatch On BBC World News TV - Russian ASAT Test

By Keith Cowing on November 15, 2021 10:37 PM.

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NASA PAO Silent As ISS Flies Through Russian ASAT Test Debris (Update)

By Keith Cowing on November 15, 2021 7:25 PM.

Keith's note: Finally, after a day of not answering media requests, kicking the can down the road, and playing favorites via phone chats with certain friendly news media before saying anything to everyone else, NASA PAO finally released a Russian ASAT statement around 6:00 pm ET. They did so hours after other government agencies made public statements. Sources report that NASA was constrained from responding earlier while the situation was analyzed by the State Department and DOD.

There is a much broader issue here. Why would Russia deliberately blow something up in space such that its space debris knowingly threatened its own citizens and hardware on the ISS? Has the Russian military gone rogue? Or is this saber rattling something that should be considered in the larger context of the Ukraine build up? Stay tuned.

- Russian direct-ascent anti-satellite missile test creates significant, long-lasting space debris, Space Command
- NASA Administrator Statement on Russian ASAT Test, NASA
- Russia Conducts Destructive Anti-Satellite Missile Test, State Department

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NASA OIG Artemis Review: Delays And Cost Overruns Are A Feature - Not A Bug

By Keith Cowing on November 15, 2021 11:36 AM.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management Of The Artemis Program

"With Artemis I mission elements now being integrated and tested at Kennedy Space Center, we estimate NASA will be ready to launch by summer 2022 rather than November 2021 as planned. Although Artemis II is scheduled to launch in late 2023, we project that it will be delayed until at least mid-2024 due to the mission's reuse of Orion components from Artemis I. While the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Division--which includes HLS, Gateway, and next-generation spacesuits--is working on an integrated master schedule (IMS) for Artemis III that incorporates Exploration Systems Development (ESD) Division programs--SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems--the draft version does not include information on programs critical to Artemis that are outside of AES and ESD. Given the time needed to develop and fully test the HLS and new spacesuits, we project NASA will exceed its current timetable for landing humans on the Moon in late 2024 by several years.

In addition, NASA lacks a comprehensive and accurate cost estimate that accounts for all Artemis program costs. For FYs 2021 through 2025, the Agency uses a rough estimate for the first three missions that excludes $25 billion for key activities related to planned missions beyond Artemis III. When aggregating all relevant costs across mission directorates, NASA is projected to spend $93 billion on the Artemis effort up to FY 2025., We also project the current production and operations cost of a single SLS/Orion system at $4.1 billion per launch for Artemis I through IV, although the Agency's ongoing initiatives aimed at increasing affordability seek to reduce that cost. Multiple factors contribute to the high cost of ESD programs, including the use of sole-source, cost-plus contracts; the inability to definitize key contract terms in a timely manner; and the fact that except for the Orion capsule, its subsystems, and the supporting launch facilities, all components are expendable and "single use" unlike emerging commercial space flight systems. Without capturing, accurately reporting, and reducing the cost of future SLS/Orion missions, the Agency will face significant challenges to sustaining its Artemis program in its current configuration."

Keith's note: "$4.1 billion/launch" - "Artemis III several years after late 2024". Money cannot solve this. This is going to come up at NSpC meeting on 1 December 2021 whether or not it is on the agenda - and if not mentioned in the meeting - then it certainly will be mentioned in the media. Now would be a good time for Space Team Biden to really consider how to "Build Back Better" and consider a pivot wherein you open up the entire Artemis architecture up to private sector solutions - and do so from a blank sheet of paper. These companies have all been thinking about how to do this for years. The standard reflex government action of setting up a "blue ribbon panel" to find out what went wrong will simply delay all of this and result in the same answer that we already have. If America wants to put Americans back on the Moon then someone needs to start to take this issue seriously. It will not solve itself.

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Space Team Biden Needs To Get The Space Council Thing Right The Very First Time

By Keith Cowing on November 14, 2021 12:24 PM.

Keith's note: I have been watching some back and forth on Twitter where journalists are questioning the value of space and biased space people are responding with talking points. IMHO ... the National Space Council (NSpC) needs to make an attempt to put space - logically - into a larger societal context - and do so right out of the gate in the very first presentation on 1 December. This societal context needs to be one wherein we make big decisions - with big budgets - so as to do things (like space) - in a time of limited resources and societal upheaval. And it must be made crystal clear why we do these things in space i.e. to provide real, measurable value to actual people - not focus groups that PR firms create.

The gee whiz, "exploration is in our DNA", "isn't space inspirational" thing works for a short time - but only on a subset of the populace. If the value of space, as put forth by this Administration, is not instantly obvious - and pre-briefed to cynical media/stake holders in advance - then the whole NSpC effort - and the Biden/Harris Administration's chances of doing something valuable in space - will evaporate before they even start. There are really no second chances to get things right in DC any more.

Continue reading: Space Team Biden Needs To Get The Space Council Thing Right The Very First Time.


More stories for December.


In Fury Born by David Weber - Baen Books

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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Update 30 November, 2021 - Spacewalk Delayed

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Update 30 November, 2021 - Spacewalk Delayed

The evening of Monday, Nov. 29, NASA received a debris notification for the International Space Station.

More updates...