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Breaking The RD-180 Addiction

By Keith Cowing on May 22, 2015 9:10 AM.

Lockheed-Boeing rocket venture needs commercial orders to survive, Reuters

"Bruno last week announced a 30-percent cut in management as part of the restructuring. On Thursday he said Boeing and Lockheed were still approving investment in the new Vulcan rocket only one quarter at a time given uncertainty about how Russian engines the company can use to compete for national security launches. He said the Air Force had a strong argument to request a Pentagon waiver if Congress continues to block use of Russian engines ordered but not paid for before the Crimea invasion. Barring a waiver or change in the current law, ULA would only be able to compete for five Air Force launches between 2019 and 2022, when the new rocket is expected to be certified. ULA says its other rocket, the Delta 4, costs too much to compete. "We must have access to the Atlas as a competitive platform until we have the replacement rocket engine. There really is no Plan B," he said."

America Plays Russian Rocket Roulette, Wall Street Journal

"But recent allegations that Mr. Putin's cronies gain big rewards from the RD-180s (by inflating delivered engine costs and taking other markups via various middlemen) are damaging to the pro-Russian-rocket side. After a November 2014 Reuters report on the purchases of rockets with RD-180 engines, Sen. John McCain said in a statement that he had long been concerned that U.S. taxpayers "are paying millions of dollars to companies that may have done no work but merely served as a 'pass-through' to enrich corrupt Russian businessmen connected with Vladimir Putin." Let's be clear: No one should play down the significance of the Air Force's concern about ensuring reliable access to space. And despite some bluster in Moscow about holding up shipments of RD-180 engines, no reports have surfaced of delivery delays. Moscow desperately needs the hard currency."

Putin-backed RD-180 Markup Scheme Unveiled, earlier post

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Space Commerce Legislation Cracks Along Partisan Lines

By Keith Cowing on May 21, 2015 2:51 PM.

McCarthy-Smith SPACE Act Passes with Broad Bipartisan Support, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today joined House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in praising passage of H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act. Almost 50 Democrats joined Republicans to pass the bill with broad bipartisan support, 284-133."

"House Passes Commercial Space Industry Wish List - Misses Opportunity to Pass Bill that Could Become Law, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"Today the House passed H.R. 2262, the SPACE Act of 2015. The bill takes a fundamentally unbalanced approach to the issues facing the commercial space launch industry. Moving far beyond addressing the legitimate needs of the industry, the bill is heavily skewed towards industry's desires. .. Congresswoman Edwards said, "Pursuing House passage of a bill that is going nowhere in the Senate seems to me to be the ultimate exercise in futility, and one that does a real disservice to the commercial space launch industry that we all are trying to help succeed. But we don't have to go down that path."

- Pro-Commercial Space Bills Approved in Committee, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Congress Can Help the Commercial Launch Industry This Week if We're All Willing to Work Together, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Hultgren: SPACE Act Facilitates Pro-Growth Environment for Commercial Space Sector (with video)
- The Facts Behind SPACE Act, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Chairman Smith Speaks in Support of SPACE Act (Remarks), House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Recent posts on Congress and NASA

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Yet Another Stealth NASA Briefing On Mars Mission Concepts

By Keith Cowing on May 20, 2015 11:55 AM.

NASA FISO Telecon: A Scenario for a Human Mission to Mars Orbit in the 2030s

"Our Wednesday, May 20, Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon colloquium will host Mr. Hoppy Price (JPL) who will speak on "A Scenario for a Human Mission to Mars Orbit in the 2030s. As always, the colloquium will be at 3pm ET. And please note that there is a new dial-in number for the colloquium as NASA has migrated to a new service: TEL: 844 467 4685 PC: 442398"

Keith's note: If you go to NASA's Journey to Mars page there is no mention of this NASA-sponsored, openly-accessible telecon regarding a NASA study of how the agency might go to Mars. There is no mention of this telecon on NASA's calendar either - nor is there mention on NASA's Human Exploration and Operations home page, or NASA Goddard's home page (where telecon organizer Harley Thronson works), or on JPL's home page where presenter Hoppy Price works. Indeed, this NASA-funded JPL study apparently had a lot to do with the Planetary Society's recent stealth Mars workshop (note the agenda). Yet the Planetary Society is mum on this too.

Continue reading: Yet Another Stealth NASA Briefing On Mars Mission Concepts.

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Bolden's Plan: Americans on Mars in 2016

By Keith Cowing on May 20, 2015 8:08 AM.

Investing in Our Journey to Mars Posted on May 19, 2015 at 6:01 pm by Administrator Charles Bolden.

"This at a time when a new consensus is emerging around NASA's goal, timetable, and plan for sending American astronauts to Mars by 2016. Make no mistake: This plan is clear. This plan is affordable, and this plan is sustainable."

Keith's note: "Sending American astronauts to Mars by 2016" Charlie? Really?

This is a screengrab of what the blog post originally looked like - NASA eventually changed the post to say "2030s".

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Cutting The Notional #JourneyToMars Budget

By Keith Cowing on May 19, 2015 8:45 PM.

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White House Responds to House Legislation Affecting NASA

By Keith Cowing on May 19, 2015 6:48 PM.

OMB Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2262 - Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015

"The Administration strongly supports the development of a commercial space sector that pushes the boundaries of space exploration while creating jobs and strengthening the American economy. The American commercial launch industry is the most competitive in the world. Over the past several years, the industry has rapidly increased its share of the global market for sending satellites and other payloads into space. The Administration agrees with the goal of H.R. 2262 to bring more stability and certainty to this growing market. While the Administration does not oppose House passage of the bill, it has serious concerns with certain provisions of the bill."

OMB Letters to House Appropriations Committee Regarding FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

"The bill cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program by $243 million, or 20 percent, relative to the President's Budget. The Commercial Crew Program will build a safe and costeffective U.S. capability to launch astronauts to the space station. The Subcommittee bill cuts will delay the program and force continued reliance on and payment for Russian capabilities for transporting U.S. astronauts. While directing an impractical level of funding toward the Jupiter Europa mission, the bill cuts important NASA Science programs by more than $200 million compared to the President's Budget, jeopardizing Earth Science missions that are helping us understand how our climate is changing and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events. The bill also reduces investments in Space Technology by $100 million, or 14 percent, delaying development of a cutting-edge laser communication system and other space technology demonstrations, slowing progress on the journey to Mars, and impacting the international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry."

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Another NASA Spinoff That NASA Ignores

By Keith Cowing on May 19, 2015 3:34 PM.

First In Humans Clinical Trial Demonstrates Non-Invasive Expulsion of Kidney Stones, NSBRI

"The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) announced that Dr. Jonathan Harper will present the findings of an FDA-registered "first in humans" trial to non-surgically propel and expel kidney stones from the body, during today's plenary session at the 2015 American Urological Association (AUA) annual meeting in New Orleans. ... This clinical trial has been advanced with funding from NSBRI, as a project within the portfolio of the Institute's Smart Medical Systems and Technology (SMST) Team. The goal of the SMST Team is to develop intelligent, integrated medical systems to deliver quality health care during spaceflight and exploration. New technologies developed by this team also deliver immediate benefits for medical care on Earth."

Keith's note: NASA funding into space exploration has resulted in technology with clear potential to deliver health benefits to the population as whole back on Earth. This is the sort of "spinoff" NASA yearns to develop. But try and find mention of this news online at NASA at ISS National Lab, CASIS, NASA Spinoff page, NASA Technology, etc. You won't. Why?

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House Budget For NASA Comes Into Focus

By Keith Cowing on May 19, 2015 11:21 AM.

- Report No. 114-____] Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes. (NASA starts on Page 58).

- REPORT [To accompany _____] The Committee on Appropriations submits the following report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.

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How To Calm a Jittery Astronaut

By Keith Cowing on May 19, 2015 12:56 AM.

Russian Cosmonaut Says Alcohol Should Be Allowed on ISS, MosNews (2005)

"The Russian cosmonaut said that it would be "desirable" for spacemen to have 50 milliliters of wine or cognac every day. "But only to improve our work, to better cope with the psychological stress," Sharipov said."

Keith's note: Perhaps this is a good idea. It sure beats the alternatives if on-orbit "psychological stress" is allowed to go untreated ... ISS Emergency Procedures: Behavioral - Suicidal - Emergency and Behavioral - Acute Psychosis

"Talk with the patient while you are restraining him. Explain what you are doing, and that you are using a restraint to ensure that he is safe. Restrain patient using Gray Tape around wrists, ankles, and use a bungee around the torso. Administer 5 mg *Valium (Diazepam) Oral (P1-A12) - Sedative, (blue) anticonvulsant, antiseizure drug"

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NASA OIG General Semiannual Report

By Keith Cowing on May 18, 2015 9:16 PM.

NASA Office of Inspector General Semiannual Report October 2014 - March 2015

"Over the past year, the Office of Inspector General has raised concerns about the sustainability of NASA's varied missions given that the Agency's "top-line" funding level is likely to remain relatively flat for at least the next several years. Accordingly, we believe the principal challenge facing NASA leaders is to effectively manage the Agency's varied programs in an uncertain budget environment."

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Dava Newman Reports for Duty at NASA

By Keith Cowing on May 18, 2015 4:42 PM.

NASA Administrator: Please Welcome Deputy Administrator Dava Newman

"Please join me in welcoming Deputy Administrator Dava Newman to NASA! Dr. Newman took her Oath of Office on Friday, and today is her first full day on the job. On a personal note, I have known and admired Dava for several decades. Her talents and skills as an educator and technological innovator will bring a new energy to our NASA leadership team, and I'm ecstatic to have her on board."

Dava Newman Begins Work as NASA's Deputy Administrator

"Along with Bolden, Newman is responsible to the agency administrator for providing overall leadership, planning, and policy direction for NASA. Newman will perform the duties and exercises the powers delegated by the administrator, assists the administrator in making final agency decisions, and acts for the administrator in his absence by performing all necessary functions to govern NASA operations and exercises the powers vested in the agency by law. Newman also is responsible for articulating the agency's vision and representing NASA to the Executive Office of the President, Congress, heads of federal and other appropriate government agencies, international organizations, and external organizations and communities."

New NASA Deputy Administrator is a Radio Ham, Southgate Amateur Radio News

"Prof. Dava Newman KB1HIK was sworn in as NASA Deputy Administrator on May 15 from her MIT office"


Knights Templar Inspired Business Moves at ULA

By Keith Cowing on May 18, 2015 10:26 AM.

Lockheed-Boeing venture lays off 12 executives in major reorganization, Reuters

"United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, on Friday said it was cutting its executive ranks by 30 percent in December through what it called voluntary departures by 12 executives. Tory Bruno, chief executive of the venture, told Reuters in an emailed statement the layoffs were part of ULA's ongoing efforts to adapt to what he called "an increasingly competitive business environment" and redesign its leadership team. ULA, formed by the two largest U.S. weapons makers in 2006, has long been the sole company able to launch U.S. military and intelligence satellites into orbit, but the Air Force expects to certify a new rival, privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, to compete for some of those launches next month."

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Disney/Google/NASA Collaborate To Inspire Girls

By Keith Cowing on May 18, 2015 9:30 AM.

Google, NASA work together on Disney show to inspire girls into sciences, Washington Post

"There are certain television tropes about computer scientists that just drive programmers nuts. They include the portrayal of coders as sun-starved and soft-bellied nerds who spend long hours alone in front of their computers. And almost always, those TV characters are male. So when Disney Junior approached Google and NASA last year for a new series about a space adventure-seeking boy, his smart sister who codes and mother who drives the family spaceship, everyone involved in the project was determined to bury those stereotypes. They agreed that done right, the show could help get girls interested in the sciences at an early age. After all, the data on gender and careers showed that the media can play a huge factor in girls' decisions to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, according to a 2014 report by Google."

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Does NASA Have a Robotics Strategy? Did It Ever Have One?

By Keith Cowing on May 17, 2015 11:11 AM.

Military pushes for emergency robots as skeptics worry about lethal uses, Washington Post

"Most of the [DARPA Robotics Challenge] entrants resemble humans, with two arms and two legs, and could be cast in Hollywood's next futuristic blockbuster. But there is also "CHIMP," developed by Carnegie Mellon University, a squat, long-armed machine that uses wheeled treads to get around. Another, named "RoboSimian," is a four-legged "ape-like" creature developed by NASA that, depending on how its limbs are situated, is also strikingly arachnid-like."

NASA Centennial Challenges Program: Space Robotics Challenge Request for information, NASA MSFC

"The robots involved as testbeds for the challenge would be both the Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 humanoids, as examples of surface and in-space robots. ... The target platforms for this challenge are the Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 robots at NASA JSC. ... Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 platforms would be available for preparing for the final challenge. Robots would be accessible at NASA Johnson Space Center, and NASA is currently seeking separate proposals for hosting Valkyrie robots around the country."

Keith's note: The next event is 5-6 June in Pomona, CA. There is no mention from NASA or JPL about Robosimian's participation in this event. JSC's Valkyrie robot is a no-show since it placed last in 2013 (they are not listed as a qualified team). Is JSC still funding Valkyrie? Is NASA HQ? The Centennial Challenges RFI seemingly speaks of Valkyrie as if it is still a viable ongoing/future program. But it is not clear who pays for it. What is JPL spending on Robosimian? Why is it not part of the Centennial Challenge effort along with Robonaut and Valkyrie? How are Valkyrie and Robosimian related to Robonaut? Does NASA actually have a coherent, focused robotics program or are various centers and directorates just doing whatever they want (because they can/lack of managerial guidance)? NASA spends all this money on these cool things, puts out a few flashy news things, and then they go silent about what they are doing. If you ask for a plan, they have none to offer and they just mumble #JourneyToMars and #YearInSpace.

If there is a strategy here, I do not see it.

Keith's update: I stand corrected NASA has posted 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps: Robotics and Autonomous Systems. I am not sure that a "roadmap" is a "strategy" or a formal "plan" - but this is NASA, so words like these are never clearly or consistently defined and are often used interchangeably. To my earlier point: if you search the document for the word "Valkyrie" you will see that this robot is not mentioned. Neither is "Robosimian". But "Robonaut" is mentioned several times. Not exactly an inclusive document that references all of what NASA is doing - and why.

- NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- JPL Rolls Out Robosimian While JSC Hides Valkyrie, earlier post

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A Bad Day for Russia

By Marc Boucher on May 16, 2015 9:39 AM.

ISS Orbit Correction Failed, Sputnik News

"Engines of the Progress M-26M cargo spacecraft, which is currently docked to the International Space Station (ISS), did not start on time, and a planned correction of the ISS orbit could not be carried out, a source in the Russian Federal Space Agency said Saturday."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 18 May 2015

"A reboost of the International Space Station using the Russian Progress 58 cargo craft was completed successfully on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. CDT. A previous attempt on Friday evening was aborted one second into the burn automatically by the Progress vehicle. Russian flight controllers identified an issue with one of the eight thrusters on the spacecraft that was disabled for Sunday's backup attempt."

Russian Proton Rocket Experiences Anomaly Shortly After Launch [With Video], SpaceRef Business

"Almost exactly to the day a year after Russia lost a Proton-M rocket, yet another Proton-M has failed. In this latest setback to the Russian commercial space program, today's Proton-M rocket appeared to launch normally, but failed soon into the launch and did not deliver its payload, a Mexican satellite, to orbit."

Marc's note: The Russians must be besides themselves with all these anomalies ongoing. It begs the question, if the Progress and Protons are having issues, could the venerable Soyuz have issues going forward?

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