Additional Comments Regarding GWU/Space Shuttle Children's Trust Fund Report

With regard to Astronaut Space Safety 2005:

Section 1.1: "We would have preferred to base this study on more primary sources, but these were not always available to us since this research effort was commissioned as an "independent" review. Indeed one of our prime findings is that efforts be made to obtain prime source reports from NASA on the areas of launch safety that we have identified as being of possible concern."

Editor's note: Then shouldn't you have worked harder to get access to those materials - or waited to release your report until such time as you had accurate and reliable information where upon to base your report? Isn't this supposed to be a scholarly document?


Section 1.9: "European Space Agency - Automatic Transfer Vehicle and the Columbia Laboratory. Japan Japanese Experimental Module (JEM, also known as Kibo), HII Transfer Vehicle and the Centrifuge Accommodation Module (CAM)."

Section 6.2: "European Space Agency - Automatic Transfer Vehicle and the Columbia Laboratory Japan - Japan Experimental Module (known as Kibo),"

Section 6.2.1.1: "Japanese Engineering Module (Known as Kibo) The Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), called Kibo, 6.5 shows an illustration of the completed JEM."

Section 6.2.3: "European Space Programs in Support of the ISS The European Space Agency (ESA) has been a crucial partner in the International Space Agency and has assisted the project in many different ways. The two prime contributions are the Autonomous Transfer Vehicle and the Columbus Laboratory."

Section 6.2.3.1 "European Autonomous Transfer Vehicle (ATV) - The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is an automatic, unmanned transport vehicle"

Editor's note: The actual names of these ISS elements are

- Automated Transfer Vehicle
- Columbus Laboratory
- Japanese Experiment Module

And just what is the "International Space Agency"?


Section 1.13 "For instance the effort by Bigelow Aerospace to use Space X launch systems to deploy the SpaceHab facility in low earth orbit suggest that the NASA review only considered limited options in reaching its conclusion."

Editor's note: SpaceHab is a Space Shuttle-launched facility.


Tables in Section 3.0

Editor's note: Criteria or methodology for numerical evaluation "Seriousness of problem" are not given. References are not cited.


Section 3.2.1 "Top management action has been taken to establish the Diaz Committee in order to enhance NASA-wide efforts to increase awareness and concerns for safety; the Return-to- Flight program, headed by Admiral Readdy ...."

Editor's note: Bill Readdy is not an Admiral.


Section 3.2.1: "On the other hand, confidential interviews undertaken by the GW study team with former NASA employees and astronauts, academics in the field and others knowledgeable about NASA programs reveal a different story concerning technical and program management."

Editor's note: The Individuals surveyed are not identified. The questionnaires used are not included. The means of evaluating and scoring data from these questionnaires are not included.


Section 3.2.1: "John Schwartz, a frequent reporter on NASA-related matters at the New York Times, for instance, wrote a newspaper article on July 9, 2004 that reported on secretly obtained internal space agency documents. These internal documents, according to the Schwartz report, apparently concluded that plans to use the International Space Station as a safe haven for a Shuttle crew in the case that their vehicle could not return to earth "would carry a high risk of failure if it were ever tried." Apparently these documents were presented to the independent Space Shuttle review board in June 2004"

Editor's note: Did GWU obtain these NASA documents? What are their titles and sources? Or is GUW simply relying upon The characterization by the New York Times?


Section 3.3.7.3: "The AX-5, a hard, all-metal suit, is being developed by the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) in California."

Editor's note: Development of this suit was cancelled more than a decade ago.


Section 3.4.3: "In short, what seems to be missing from the NESC organization structure are people with skills in engineering management, systems and safety engineers and people who would actively go out and "shake the trees" not only within NASA but within contractor plants to find out if "communications problems" exist and to learn where safety concerns may not be fully addressed."

Editor's note: Did GWU have access to a summary of the workforce skills of the entire NESC organization in order to make such an assessment?


Section 3.4.5: "The great emphasis on new initiatives in the proposed NASA budget for 2005-2009 is on robotics and new vehicles (just above $15 billion over the next 5 years), exploration of Mars ($4.5 billion over the next 5 years) and Exploration of the Moon ($1.3 billion over the next 5 years). The NASA budget for Fiscal year 2005-2006 will thus see progress toward the definition and the design of the Crew Exploration Vehicle and this will indeed involve the definition of the critical safety elements as well. The extent to which safety factors such as crew escape capability are built into the system specifications will have a critical impact on future safety performance. This thus appears to be a critical aspect of the specifications for the Crew Exploration Vehicle and all future vehicles designed to carry crew. (Dennis Overbye, New York Times, April 18, 2004)."

Editor's note: Did GUW examine the voluminous amount of material released regarding the CEV procurement activity in late 2004/early 2005 or are they just relying upon this assessment from a NY Times article?


Section 3.4.5: "The President's Space Vision, as announced in January 2004, was reported by some analysts to have been significantly shaped by representatives from large aerospace companies. Regardless of whether this analysis is correct, most of the recommendations in the Vision do support larger, big project space missions that favor the largest aerospace companies. (Leslie Wayne, "Pentagon Brass and Military Contractors' Gold")"

Editor's note: Is this one article the source for this rather profound statement?


Section 4.3.2.1.2: "Propellant can be used by the Progress spaceship or by the Zverda service module to boost the orbit of the ISS..."

Editor's note: That's "Zvezda"


Section 4.3.6: "Studies have shown that there is a 50 percent chance the station would be destroyed within a year if there were no crew on board to rectify problems, although there has been ever-increasing knowledge about how to operate the ISS remotely with no crew aboard for short duration EVAs."

Editor's note: References? Whose studies?


Section 4.3.6: "Presently the only escape option for the crew of the ISS is to evacuate with the use of the Soyuz lifeboat that has certain limitations. Only if an upgraded Soyuz were ordered from Russia under new Astronaut Space Safety Report March 2005 enabling legislation from Congress could a full crew be accommodated."

Editor's note: Why would you need an upgraded Soyuz? You'd just need two of them to accommodate a 6-person crew.


Section 4.3.6 "Finding: It would appear necessary for efforts to be undertaken immediately to be able to procure a viable number of Progress1M/Soyuz vehicles both in terms of a waiver to the Iran non-proliferation..."

Editor's note: That's Progress M1


Section 4.4: "Review of potential terrorist threats The possibility of terrorist threat to either the Space Shuttle or the ISS seems remote to most people involved in the U.S. space program since the Space Shuttle facilities are reasonably well protected and that once in space the vehicles are physically remote from any would-be attackers. The nature of possible attacks on the ISS must be broken down into various elements.

As far as physical attack on the ISS is concerned there are, in fact, several possibilities. It might be possible for an explosive or more likely a poisonous gas canister to somehow be smuggled onto a resupply mission coming either from the U.S. or Russia with a timer or remote triggering of such a device. Although this seems unlikely, protection against such possibilities from either a U.S. or Russian launch site (or in the future European or even Japanese launch sites) should be undertaken.

Finding: It would be desirable for NASA to undertake a systematic screening and tracking of all elements that are launched on ISS missions or re-supply craft using the latest state of the art technology. This process would be at all launch sites around the world with cargo or crew going to the ISS and would be carried out from a terrorist security perspective rather than simple inventory control."

Editor's note: Comment on this same passage in an earlier, draft version of this report: "To be certain, in a post 9-11 world, many things we once though improbable or impossible have happened. Yet given the inordinate procedures that go into testing and certifying payloads in both the U.S. and Russian (and other programs) human space flight programs, anyone who would even suggest such a scenario has clearly never spent any time in the very process they suggest might have flaws. They also evidence a certain level of professional ignorance by suggesting the addition of tracking systems that have already long been in place."

I would add that re-reading this passage has me convinced that the author(s) of this report have spent far too much time reading 2nd rate conspiracy thrillers and direct-to-video cheesy SciFi movies. It is quite clear that they did not bother to seek advice from anyone with any expertise in this are whatsoever. This is hardly the hallmark of a scholarly endeavor.


Section 7.1.3: "Spiral Development Concept for the CEV - The winner of the fly-off in a few years time will, in theory, design the CEV and also take command of follow-on systems via what has been described as longer-term spiral development as follows. ("Crew Exploration Vehicle", www.wikipedia.com):"

Editor's note: This entry on the CEV in the Wikipedia, as is the case with virtually all information on this volunteer-developed website is anonymous. How did the GWU authors verify its accuracy?


A NASA Watch reader adds:

If you look at: Spacesafety.org

It says: "The Web-site is supported by the Space & Advanced Research Institute (SACRI) at George Washington University"

Then if you go to: http://www.sacri.seas.gwu.edu/IASR/

It says the correct name is: "Space and Advanced Communications Research Institute (SACRI)"

So Spacecesafety.org does not even seem to have the name right.

Moving on to: http://www.sacri.seas.gwu.edu/IASR/

"SACRI is dedicated to providing GWU with a center for research and development in the field of space communications."

And space communications and astronaut safety may overlap, but are hardly the same field of expertise.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on March 27, 2005 3:20 PM.

Comments from Jeff Bingham on GWU/Space Shuttle Children's Trust Fund Report was the previous entry in this blog.

How to Waste $300,000 (Substantially Updated and Expanded) is the next entry in this blog.

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