April 2011 Archives

NASA To Work Issue Over the Weekend and Targets Monday for Launch of Endeavour

NASA To Work Issue Over the Weekend and Targets Monday for Launch of Endeavour, SpaceRef

"It will be 24 hours from the scrub time before technicians can access Endeavour's aft cabin Load Control Assembly (LCA). The LCA, a switchbox, is now where engineers think the problem is. By dinner time Saturday managers feel they will be able to start troubleshooting the problem after they've gained access to the LCA. Managers will meet Saturday night and Sunday morning to discuss progress on the issue. If they are to launch on Monday NASA will have to make that call no later than early Sunday afternoon so that by around 3 pm EDT they can begin preparations for launch."

Space Shuttle Endeavour Poised to Launch TodaySpace Shuttle Endeavour on Track for a 3:47 Launch

This morning at 6:22 p.m. EDT the loading of the space shuttle's external tank with 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen began and the topping off of the tank's propellants will continue until launch time. All systems onboard Endeavour are functioning normally. There is a 70 percent chance of favorable weather for launch. The primary weather concern is for low cloud ceilings and crosswinds at the Shuttle Landing Facility.

8:53 am EDT Update: There is an issue which the KSC team is working with the pressure in the fuel tank in the right OMS pod, but they believe it can be corrected. They are trying a crossfeed between the OMS tanks.

9:40 am EDT Update: KSC is reporting that the OMS pressure issue has been resolved. Both left & right tanks are balanced & below pressure limits.

10:25 am EDT Update: The President is scheduled to arrive at KSC at 2:00 pm today.

12:30 pm EDT Update: We have a 48 hour scrub due to the failure of both heaters for Auxiliary Power Unit 1. A press briefing will be held later this afternoon to discuss the issue.

1:00 pm EDT Update: We NOW have a 72 hour scrub. NASA believes it has a problem in one of the load control assembly boxes, most like a short in that box or in the electrical lines to that box but won't know for sure until they can access the area and do detailed troubleshooting. They have to get into the aft of the orbiter and they'll first put in a platform set but the location is such that it will take some time to get to the load control assembly.

NASA Commercial Crew Program Requirements Workshop

"Save the Date of May 24 and 25 for NASA's Commercial Crew Program Requirements Workshop. The workshop purpose is to introduce the Commercial Crew Program's requirement set and to discuss the key features of each of the documents. The workshop location will be near Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Details concerning the requirement set, workshop agenda/location, and registration information will be posted within 2 weeks."

Hosted Payload Alliance Shares Perspectives With Panel of U.S. Government Officials in First Organizational Meeting

"A major goal of the Hosted Payload Alliance is to serve as a bridge between government and private industry to foster an open dialogue between potential users and providers of hosted payload capabilities," said Don Thoma, chairman of the HPA Steering Committee. "The fact that we brought together such a large and diverse group of attendees for the first general meeting of the Alliance is a clear validation of the need for this sort of forum."

Keith's note: A new SpaceX Commercial Crew video shows Dragon landing - on Mars.

CCDev2 Press Conference

As President Obama Marks Final Launch of Endeavour, Nation Looks to Commercial Space for the Future, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"John Gedmark concluded, "We'll finally be able to realize the sci-fi future people have been dreaming about, one that inspired an entire generation of dreamers and innovators. People are again imagining a future like we saw in the landmark film '2001: A Space Odyssey', where private spacecraft offered frequent flights into space. This is going to be one of the most exciting stories of the 21st century, and we are just at the beginning of that story."

NASA Briefing With Commercial Crew Development Award Winners

"NASA will host a media briefing at 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, April 28, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to highlight the four companies selected for the second round of the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) efforts."

- Blue Origin's Crew Transportation System, earlier post
- CCDev2 Selections Announced (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: NASA will host a media briefing at 11 a.m. EDT Thursday. The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed at: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv. Tweets from CSF can be found at @csf_spaceflight

White House Threatens Science Blog Over Use of Logo, Electronic Frontier Foundation

"When Keith Cowing made an innocuous post about a meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on his long-running science policy blog, Space Ref, he didn't imagine that it would trigger a phone call from the White House. But that is exactly what happened, and the White House was not calling to congratulate him on his excellent science policy coverage. Cowing's offense? Including an image of the seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States in his blog post. According to Cowing, White House staffer Rick Weiss objected to the seal's placement in proximity to an ad, which White House lawyers worried might be construed as an endorsement of the product."

White House bullies science blog over use of logo, TG Daily

"Cowing's use of a government logo isn't deceptive either. The seal is clearly used in relation with the news article and the ad is no closer on his blog than ads are on news websites and in most newspapers and magazines. In actuality, the seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States is widely used all over the internet. Sometimes it's even used in close proximity to advertising. The threatening calls from the White House seem more like attempts to curb free speech than anything else. It's quite pathetic actually. It raises the question; doesn't the White House have better things to do than bully bloggers who are involved in free speech? Sadly we live in a world where the White House needs more training on how the First Amendment works."

White House Threatens Blog For Accurately Using White House Logo, Techdirt

"The latest involves the White House, who apparently got upset that blogger Keith Cowing (of SpaceRef.com -- a blog about science/space policy) included the White House logo in his post about a meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In response, the White House actually called Cowing and demanded he take down the logo."

ksc_fire_th.jpgBrush Fire at KSC Near Media Center, SpaceRef

A small brush fire started shortly before 1:00 pm near the Kennedy Space Center media center. At present KSC fire personnel have responded to the fire and a NASA PAO representative has said they expect to have it under control soon. As you can see by these pictures fire personnel have been stationed near the media center. Inside the media center a Lego demo was ongoing and activity is normal.

Keith's note: According to Marc Boucher this brush fire is clearly spreading and flames are visible from locations near the press site. Here's a new photo taken moments ago from the press site.
SpaceflightNow is streaming live video of the fire.

Endeavour Is Good to Go

It's a Unanimous "Go" for Endeavour

"The Space Shuttle Program Mission Management Team voted unanimously to proceed toward Endeavour's scheduled liftoff at 3:47 p.m. EDT Friday. Mike Moses, chair of the Prelaunch Mission Management team, reported that it was a very short meeting and everything is in great shape and ready to go."

NASA Invites 150 Lucky Twitter Followers To Endeavour Launch

"NASA invited 150 lucky people to a behind-the-scenes perspective from the press site at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour on Friday, April 29. The launch is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. EDT."

Making Do With a Plywood Spaceship, New York Times

"Q. What was your response when NASA announced its decision?

A. A shuttle would have been our first choice. I won't pretend we're not disappointed, but we're moving forward.

Q. What are the plans for the Space Gallery?

A. We will have a full-size mockup of the space shuttle -- a full fuselage shuttle trainer. It looks exactly like the shuttle except that it doesn't have wings. One advantage is that because it is not a priceless artifact like the shuttle, we'll be able to use it for educational purposes. Some people, but not everyone, will be able to go inside. They won't be able to do that with the shuttles. The trainer is about the size of a 747. The tail is 56 feet high. From the outside it will look exactly like the shuttle except for the wings."

Keith's note: I predict that the Seattle folks will create an experience for visitors that will eclipse all others - even those that use real orbiters. Imagination can often trump reality. Seattle has that. Houston: take note.

NASA Solicitation: Flight and Payload Intergation Services for Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles

"This notice is issued by the NASA/DFRC to post a draft RFP via the internet, and solicit responses from interested parties. This document is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition."

NASA's NanoSail-D Satellite Continues to Slowly De-Orbit Earth's Upper Atmosphere

"NASA's nanosatellite NanoSail-D is slowly descending after successfully orbiting the Earth's upper atmosphere for 95 days since deploying its 100-square-foot sail on Jan. 20. The small satellite demonstration experiment continues its descent towards Earth, lending key sail data to the design of de-orbit mechanisms for future satellites."

Keith's note: I love the title of this MSFC press release: just how does a satellite "de-orbit Earth's upper atmosphere"? There certainly is a lot of it to "de-orbit". And where does the upper atmosphere go when once NanoSail-D has de-orbited it - the lower atmosphere?. Also, this sentence is a little odd: "NASA's nanosatellite NanoSail-D is slowly descending after successfully orbiting the Earth's upper atmosphere for 95 days since deploying its 100-square-foot sail on Jan. 20." Yea sure - but don't all satellites "orbit the Earth's upper atmosphere"? Actually, they orbit within the Earth's rarefied upper atmosphere - which is why NanoSail-D is deorbiting (drag). So ... maybe the word "within" would have been useful. Oh yes, what does "the large tent size sail" mean in terms of size - i.e. what is "large"? Is this the size of a 4 person tent? A circus tent?

See Your Exposure with Space Radiation iPhone app

"HAMPTON, Va. - Flying somewhere and want to find out your exposure to galactic and solar radiation? A new update to an iPhone app will let you do that. The $1.99 "Space Wx" app provides real-time information about exposure to radiation from solar activity and other sources from space, starting at an altitude of 16,000 feet (5). Exposure levels are broken down by altitude and latitude, with the highest exposures typically occurring higher and farther north."

Keith's note: Typical PAO goofiness: issue a press release about an iPhone app - but forget to provide a link to the app so people can actually use it. What has me puzzled is why this NASA press release says that they are charging $1.99 for this app when all other NASA apps are free. Didn't taxpayers already pay for this app? Or wait - is this a government advertisement for a commercial product? Doubly confused.

Here's the app.

NASA Pre-Countdown Update only has Weather as a Potential IssueNASA Pre-Countdown Update only has Weather as a Potential Issue, SpaceRef

"At today's NASA pre-countdown briefing NASA Test Director Jeremy Graeber said that there currently is no technical issues while a potential severe thunder storm coming through Thursday is the only issue at this time that could delay the shuttle launch."

Wings In Orbit: An Inside Look at the Shuttle, Aviation Week

"Published by the Johnson Space Center and the Government Printing Office, Wings In Orbit is scheduled for an April 8 release through major book stores, including Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, as well as at http://www.shopNASA.com."

Keith's 26 April note: This book is finally online. No one at PAO bothered to tell me despite repeated email inquiries and a FOIA request. Instead, a NASA Watch reader came across this link. As such, one would expect that PAO will not tell anyone about this link - and no one will know about it since you still cannot actually buy physical copies of this book. Another chance to inform/serve the public is going to be wasted.

NASA Hosts Conrad Foundation's 2011 Spirit of Innovation Awards

"Young innovators from across America are invited to solve the challenges of the 21st century by creating breakthrough technologies at the Conrad Foundation's 2011 Innovation Summit. The Summit will be held at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., on April 28-May 1, 2011. This year's categories for team entries are: aerospace exploration, clean energy and cyber security."

Budget crunch mothballs telescopes built to search for alien signals, Scientific American

"The hunt for extraterrestrial life just lost one of its best tools. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a field of radio dishes in rural northern California built to seek out transmissions from distant alien civilizations, has been shuttered, at least temporarily, as its operators scramble to find a way to continue to fund it. In an April 22 letter to donors, Tom Pierson, CEO of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., explained that the ATA has been put into "hibernation," meaning that "starting this week, the equipment is unavailable for normal observations and is being maintained in a safe state by a significantly reduced staff." The ATA is a partnership between the SETI Institute, which is responsible for building the telescope array, and the University of California, Berkeley, which is responsible for operating it."

The Shuttle Party Is Over

Transcendence Splashes Down, New York Magazine

"It is objectively no small feat, slipping the surly bonds of Earth. But somehow, over its 30 years of existence, NASA's Space Shuttle program has become roughly as thrilling as the Delta Shuttle. Still, there's something sad about the end of the program, which will officially shut down after Endeavour's 25th and final mission, on April 29, and one last there-and-back by Space Shuttle Atlantis in June. It's not so much that the program's increasingly prosaic missions--they have amounted, in recent years, to something like space carpooling--will be missed. The sadness instead comes from the petering out of space travel's promised transcendence."

With 'Coolest Job Ever' Ending, Astronauts Seek Next Frontier, New York Times

"What happens when you have the right stuff at the wrong time? Members of NASA's astronaut corps have been asking just that, now that the space shuttle program is ending and their odds of flying anywhere good anytime soon are getting smaller. The Endeavour is scheduled to launch this week, and the Atlantis is supposed to fly the last shuttle mission in June -- and all the seats are spoken for. "Morale is pretty low," said Leroy Chiao, a former astronaut who now works for a company that wants to offer space flights for tourists. "This is a time of great uncertainty."

Dick Underwood

Richard Weeden Underwood

"Dick was chief engineer on the production of the first topographic maps of the moon. He was the first person to view every photograph from the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and the first 23 space shuttle missions. He also provided technical training to every astronaut who went into space in the twentieth century. During his NASA career he presented 1506 lectures to audiences all over the world. He loved to travel and visited every county in the U.S."

H.R.1641 -- REAL Space Act (Introduced in House - IH), introduced by Rep. Posey

"In accordance with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, which established as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's priority goal: `To develop a sustained human presence on the Moon . . . to promote exploration, commerce, science, and United States preeminence in space as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations.', and in accordance with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, which endorsed `the broad goals of the space exploration policy of the United States, including the eventual return to and exploration of the Moon and other destinations in the solar system and the important national imperative of independent access to space', the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall plan to return to the Moon by 2022 and develop a sustained human presence on the Moon, in order to promote exploration, commerce, science, and United States preeminence in space as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations. The budget requests and expenditures of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall be consistent with achieving this goal."

Monopolizing ISS Access

Russian space agency won't let private US spacecraft dock with ISS until reliability proven, AP

"Russian news agencies are quoting a top space official as saying Russia won't permit a U.S. commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station until it is satisfied the ship conforms to safety standards. The California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has asked NASA for permission to send an unmanned cargo capsule to the space station later this year. The hookup also would need Russian clearance."

Keith's note: What a great way to continue a monopoly on access to the ISS. Curiously, the "digital" Soyuz was allowed to dock despite its ongoing problems.

Speeding Up Orion

Orion Program Shrinking To Save Money, Time, Aviation Week

"Lockheed Martin has cut out an entire test article from the Orion crew exploration vehicle that it is recasting in a new role as deep-space Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), combining test objectives for the remaining articles in an effort to keep the vehicle within the tight schedule set by Congress. By combining the tests that will be conducted with particular test articles, the company plans to send an Orion capsule into orbit on its first test flight in 2013, according to Cleon Lacefield, the company's program manager."

NASA's future depends on spaceflight neophytes, MSNBC

"This week brought the first hint that NASA's standards could be dropping. With the space shuttle era nearing its end, the agency awarded more than $269 million in contracts to build commercial spaceships: two capsules, a space plane and a gumdrop spaceship to taxi astronauts to and from the International Space Station or other destinations in low Earth orbit. NASA says Americans will be riding their own spaceships once again by the middle of the decade. But old hands argue that it'll be more like seven to 10 years."

Jay Barbree Needs A Fact Checker, earlier post

Florida Braces for Huge Crowds for Next Week's Space Shuttle Launch, Space.com

"The Florida space coast is expecting near-record crowds to flock to Cape Canaveral to watch the space shuttle Endeavour launch on its last voyage April 29. Crowds have been getting thicker and thicker for shuttle launches as NASA winds down its 30-year-old space shuttle program. After Endeavour's mission, there is only one more shuttle flight planned before the three orbiters are retired. The area around NASA's seaside Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, where the shuttles are launched, saw between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors for the last liftoff of the shuttle Discovery in February, according to Robert Varley, executive director of Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism."

Obama to attend April 29 space shuttle launch

"President Barack Obama plans to attend the April 29 launch of the space shuttle Endeavour at Cape Canaveral, Florida, a White House official said on Wednesday."

Royal wedding to upstage NASA shuttle's final launch

"The NASA space agency was unaware that the shuttle Endeavour's final mission to the International Space Station was in conflict with the royal wedding, a NASA chief said Tuesday. "The frank answer is no," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, when asked by a reporter if the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton were a factor in the shuttle scheduling. "I didn't realize when the wedding was when we moved the launch date," said Gerstenmaier. The shuttle was initially set to launch on April 19 and was later postponed to April 29. "We kind of set that date independently."

Elektron Failure on ISS

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 21 April 2011

"Elektron Failure: RSC-Energia reported this morning that the Elektron oxygen generator failed yesterday when reactivated after the REGUL-OS repair activities. ppO2 (oxygen partial pressure) is currently in the nominal comfort range, and work is underway to restore the electrolysis device to service. Should Elektron downtime stretch out longer, an O2 repress from ATV2 tankage could be performed next week, after which STS-134/ULF6 would supply oxygen, and another ATV2 repress could be done after Endeavour's departure."

NASA Spacecraft Reveals Dramatic Changes In Mars' Atmosphere

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has discovered the total amount of atmosphere on Mars changes dramatically as the tilt of the planet's axis varies. This process can affect the stability of liquid water if it exists on the Martian surface and increase the frequency and severity of Martian dust storms. Researchers using MRO's ground-penetrating radar identified a large, buried deposit of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, at the Red Planet's south pole. The scientists suspect that much of this carbon dioxide enters the planet's atmosphere and swells the atmosphere's mass when Mars' tilt increases."

Challenger Center Commemorates 25 Years of Inspiring Students through Space Science Exploration

"Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center), the nation's premier provider of science education inspiration, is marking its 25th anniversary with the launch of its "Challenger Changed My Life" program to highlight its life-transforming benefits for students. The non-profit organization was founded on April 24, 1986 in tribute to the seven fallen astronauts of the Challenger Space Shuttle and their education mission. With the ongoing support of the astronauts' families, NASA, leading scientists, business leaders, educators and the nation, Challenger Center continues its vital role in STEM (science technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Since its creation, its nationwide network of Challenger Learning Centers has served more than 4,000,000 students with simulated space missions and powerful STEM-focused learning experiences."

Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation People's Choice Awards - Everyone Has a Chance to Vote

"We need your vote! The annual Spirit of Innovation Awards is kicking off a two-week People's Choice competition (http://www.conradawards.org/competition) that challenges high school students to solve real-world problems by creating commercially viable science and technology based products. 27 teams of high school students have created unique inventions in the categories of aerospace exploration, clean energy, and cyber security. From Space Sleeping Pods to Solar Wind Power Generators to Parabolic Stoves and mobile apps that signal for help during times of duress, the 2011 Spirit of Innovation Awards high school student competitors have risen to the challenge and need your vote."

Shooting for the moon amid budget cuts, Politico

"Lawmakers from those states say their push is not parochial -- that it's rooted in the national interest to ensure the U.S. remains the base for an industry that supports thousands of highly skilled jobs. Moreover, they say it makes sense to give money to contractors with proven track records in this technical field, especially ones who have already begun work on the next generation of rockets."

I-Team: NASA losing large amounts of high-tech equipment, WFTS

"Former NASA employee Keith Cowing says NASA is losing more of its technology because the space shuttle program is ending and the agency is facing cutbacks. Cowing defends the agency, saying they shouldn't worry too much about lost equipment, which he believes likely consists of mostly outdated items."

Keith's note: I did not say that at all. Rather I said that as the program shuts down and lays off people, offices are moved and closed, equipment is piled up and things get lost. The sudden increase in misplaced things most certainly coincides with people being laid off at KSC. I did not say that NASA is "losing its technology". None of my frequent criticism of NASA's inventory processes was included either.

They are mashing my words together utterly out of context. I won't be doing an more video for Michael George or the I-Team. What a shoddy piece of gotcha editing. They only provided me with a very small list to review. They did NOT give me the 2 inch thick pile of lost items that - including the $100,000 editor gizmo - that the other person was allowed to review. They only gave me a little Excel file - here it is. Most of the items listed for me (again I did not have the other much longer list) had been traced to specific individuals or their loss/surplusing explained. At one point I asked whether it is in the best interest of taxpayers to pay someone's time to go out and find a TV from 1992 that is probably broken by now. But they don't tell you that, do they? You are left with the assumption that I had the benefit of the same data to review. I did not. Moreover, they did not include 99.999% of what I said on tape - only the last portion of a comment taken totally out of context.

Shoddy, crappy "reporting" (yea, I know the NASA Watch guy is complaining). That said, I urge people not to allow themselves to be interviewed by these folks - they will just edit your words into something you did not mean to say. They wanted a story that made NASA employees look inept and/or a bunch of petty crooks and that is what they aired. It is my fault for getting sucked into this.

These are the questions they asked me:

First Family at STS-134

Keith's note: According to a knowledegable government source the entire First Family will probably be attending the launch of STS-134 next week.

"Embrace the end of human spaceflight!", Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"The nearly simultaneous 50th anniversary of the beginning of human spaceflight and the forthcoming end of the Space Shuttle program has philosophical members of the chattering classes making the rounds to thumb their noses or hawk their wares, waxing poetic over historical ironies, wasted opportunities and dollars, and damn near exhausting Roget's Thesaurus searching for words to express their innermost profound thoughts about space exploration."

Greening NASA

NASA Releases Scorecard on Energy and Sustainability Goals

"NASA has released its fiscal year 2010 scorecard on sustainability and energy performance. The agency exceeded the 5 percent target on renewable energy use for federal agencies last year. The scorecard measures federal agency progress in a number of areas related to energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions and waste reduction. This is the first year federal agencies have published their scorecards."

Government using score cards to track federal agencies' greening efforts, Washington Post

"Using a scoring system modeled on a traffic light, the Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled a new way to track how the government's largest agencies and departments are scaling back their use of electricity, water and fuel."

Keith's 19 April update: According to a NASA Watch reader at JSC"They are broadcasting the Morpheus hot fire events live internally at JSC in HD - so I would assume they could broadcast them externally if they wanted to." So in other words all JSC PAO has to do is throw a switch and the rest of us can see this. But they won't. What are they afraid of? ABove is a screen grab taken by someone at JSC moments ago (click to enlarge). Yet anyone living in one of those houses across the field could webcast this, I suppose.

Keith's 20 April update: YouTube videos are now online for the 14 April firing and the 19 April firing. NASA JSC PAO had nothing to do with this. Project Morpheus staff did this. Indeed, JSC PAO has yet to make any statement or issue any material showing the results of these tests. Curiously, the same camera that recorded these videos could have easily been used to webcast the test live. The people who live across the field from the test site could see everything from their living room windows. Why can't the rest of us? All JSC PAO has to do is to want to make this happen. I am not sure if this inaction on JSC PAO's part is due to laziness or incompetence.

Obama to reporter: 'Let me finish my answers' next time, The Oval (with video)

"Obama also bristled at claims that is administration skipped Houston in the award of space shuttle orbiters and favored states that could help his re-election. "That's wrong," the president stated. "That had nothing to do with it; the White House had nothing to do with it." When Watson persisted, Obama said, "I just said that was wrong," and, later, "I just said that wasn't true."

Blue Origin Crew Transportation System Description for NASA CCDev-2

"Blue Origin is developing a Crew Transportation System, comprised of a Space Vehicle (SV) launched first on an Atlas V launch vehicle and then on Blue Origin's own Reusable Booster System (RES). NASA funding through CCDev 2 and the future Commercial Crew program will accelerate availability of the Blue Origin CTS. The biconic Space Vehicle will be capable of carrying seven astronauts and will transfer NASA crew and cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS), serve as an ISS emergency escape vehicle for up to 210 days, and perform a land landing to minimize the costs of recovery and reuse. It will also conduct separate commercial missions for science research, private adventure, and travel to other LEO destinations."

NASA Awards Next Set Of Commercial Crew Development Agreements

"NASA has awarded four Space Act Agreements in the second round of the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) effort. Each company will receive between $22 million and $92.3 million to advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of elements of their systems, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft. The selectees for CCDev2 awards are:

-- Blue Origin, Kent, Wash., $22 million
-- Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colo., $80 million
-- Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Hawthorne, Calif., $75 million
-- The Boeing Company, Houston, $92.3 million"

All four Space Act Agreements will be available later today at http://procurement.ksc.nasa.gov

Keith's note: What has me puzzled is the posting of this document (Original PDF) at http://procurement.ksc.nasa.gov. Then it disappeared an hour or so later. There are no proprietary or competition sensitve markings whatsoever on the document, so I have to assume it was OK for this to be posted online, right?

SMD and Webex Typos

Keith's note: I just got an email complaint from SMD regarding this calendar listing for the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee Planetary Science Subcommittee Meeting. NASA claims that I "typed" the webex passwords wrong. I did not "type" anything. I copied the notice VERBATIM from the Federal Register here which says "PSS--Apr18" and "PSS--Apr19". I have corrected the passwords, per the NASA SMD email, to read "PSS_Apr18" and "PSS_Apr19". It would seem from the email complaint I got that NASA JPL uses my site to update its staff (thanks guys!) but I find it to be a little curious how people seem to find out about these important advisory meetings via NASA Watch and SpaceRef - and not from NASA SMD itself ...

China Great Wall Confounded By SpaceX Prices, Aviation Week

"[Lei Fanpei, vice president of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CAST)] did not take questions, and declined an interview request. But colleagues from China Great Wall, the marketing arm of CAST, say they are opening a one-person office in Washington this summer to push Chinese space products, including solar arrays. Declining to speak for attribution, the Chinese officials say they find the published prices on the SpaceX website very low for the services offered, and concede they could not match them with the Long March series of launch vehicles even if it were possible for them to launch satellites with U.S. components in them."

"As part of the NASA Open Government plan released on April 7, 2010, NASA announced more than 150 milestones related to integrating Open Government into the agencies programs and projects. To celebrate the one year anniversary of our plan, we've released a new infographic to communicate our first year of progress toward becoming more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. While we've set high goals, we're committed to incorporating open government into every facet of our mission. We have made great progress in some areas; others have taken longer than we anticipated and extra time is required to fully realize the goals. We hope this will clearly communicate our progress and keep you informed of new and exciting things within NASA. All of these goals are fluid - you'll see growth and movement as we work to determine the best path toward openness. If you have any questions or comments, we encourage you to visit our new NASA Open Government Initiative website at http://www.nasa.gov/open and share your ideas."

View the project status infographic.

Adding up the final tab for the space shuttle program: $1.5 billion per launch, Houston Chronicle

"For Houston the benefits have been enormous, from basic economic development in the southeast part of the city, to the benefits of a large and talented workforce on our communities, to the cachet of housing and training the world's astronauts. With all that being said, nearly $200 billion is a lot of coin for science and technology. Was it money well spent?"

Shuttle programme lifetime cost, Nature

"The US Congress and NASA spent more than US$192 billion (in 2010 dollars) on the shuttle from 1971 to 2010. The agency launched 131 flights; two ended in tragedy with the loss of Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. During the operational years from 1982 to 2010, the average cost per launch was about $1.2 billion. Over the life of the programme, this increases to about $1.5 billion per launch."

Letter from Texas House Delegation to NASA Administrator Bolden About Shuttle Decision

"It is our hope that politics did not play a role in this historic decision. If there is no rational explanation based on definable factors for the choice of the Intrepid museum in New York City, and that the transfer of the Enterprise to that location will cost significantly more than a transfer to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, we will do everything in our power in Congress, including legislation to prevent funding of the transfer, to stop this wasteful decision."

"This was filmed between 4th and 11th April 2011. I had the pleasure of visiting El Teide. Spain's highest mountain @(3715m) is one of the best places in the world to photograph the stars and is also the location of Teide Observatories, considered to be one of the world's best observatories." More

Webcast: Makers in Space: Developing Experiments for the NASA Make Challenge

"We're hosting an imromptu webcast for the NASA Make Challenge next Tuesday! Dale Dougherty hosts: The NASA Make Challenge is an invitation for makers to participate in the exploration of space and give students an opportunity to build an experimental kit that can be flown on a future space flight. These experiments will be based on the CubeSat modules. To help makers think about building kits for space flight, we'll bring together some experts who have developed and used the Cubesat program. Wednesday April 19th, 11am PT/2pm ET. Watch at makezine.com/space or on UStream"

NASA Authorization Act of 2010

"Sect. 403 (2) COMMERCIAL MARKET ASSESSMENT. Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress an assessment, conducted, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, for purposes of this paragraph, of the potential non-Government market for commercially-developed crew and cargo transportation systems and capabilities, including an assessment of the activities associated with potential private sector utilization of the ISS research and technology development capabilities and other potential activities in low-Earth orbit."

Keith's note: This report was due to be delivered to Congress more than a week ago.

NASA Space Shuttle Contractor Announces Layoffs for 2,800 Workers, Space.com

"The NASA contractor responsible for most of the work of maintaining the space shuttles announced Friday (April 15) that it will have to lay off almost 50 percent of its employees - up to 2,800 workers - after the shuttle program shuts down this year."

Shuttle prime contractor details major layoffs, SpaceflightNow

"Through earlier layoffs and attrition, USA's workforce in Florida, Texas and Alabama has dropped from around 10,500 in October 2009 to a current level of around 5,600. In late July or early August, the company will implement another major workforce reduction, affecting between 2,600 and 2,800 employees across the company. Of that total, 1,850 to 1,950 job losses are expected in Florida, 750 to 800 in Texas and 30 to 40 in Alabama."

USA Announces End-of-Program Workforce Reduction, USA

"USA currently employs approximately 5,600 employees at its Florida, Texas and Alabama sites. The reduction in force will affect multiple disciplines and multiple organizations across the company. The reduction is expected to impact between 2600-2800 company-wide, including 1850-1950 employees in Florida, 750-800 employees in Texas, and 30-40 in Alabama."

Texas lawmakers introduce bill to bring space shuttle to Houston, CNN

"Two Texas lawmakers, upset that Houston was not picked as one of the retirement homes for NASA's space shuttles, introduced legislation [H.R. 1590] Friday that would bring the Discovery shuttle to the city for 15 years."

No retired shuttle for Houston? Not without a fight, Florida Today

"U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he heard an outcry -- "Earth to NASA" -- from congressional colleagues who thought the home of Mission Control and the Astronaut Corps was snubbed in its failed bid to land an orbiter. So Chaffetz introduced a bill [H.R. 1536] that seeks "to restore common sense and fairness to the space shuttle retirement home debate.""

Houston says NY shouldn't get shuttle; NY says it isn't, Seattle Post Intelligencer

"When the United States won the race to the moon in 1969, the first word on the moon was, 'Houston,' not 'New York City,'" [Rep.] Poe ranted on the House floor after Tuesday's NASA announcement, referring to the fact that mission control is in Houston, which is also where astronauts train."

New York deserves better than fake Enterprise shuttle prototype while L.A., VA get the real thing, NY Daily News

"The Enterprise didn't have an engine and never went on a space mission. After all those months of press conferences, photo ops and lobbying, the best Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand could get us was a prototype. What's worse is that L.A. is getting a real one: The Endeavour. Where are they gonna put it, Disneyland? And someplace called Chantilly, Va., gets the Discovery."

War Of Words Erupts Between NYC And Houston Over Shuttle Enterprise, CBS

"But to use another Texas phase, "that dog won't hunt," Poe's efforts to derail the shuttle wont work according to New York Sen. Schumer. "I would say to Congressman Poe what we say in Brooklyn, 'fuhgettaboutit,'" Schumer told Kramer."

Rear Admiral Craig Steidle Named President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Rear Admiral Craig E. Steidle (U.S. Navy, Ret.) has been named as President, effective May 15. Admiral Steidle was approved for the position by a unanimous vote of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation's board of directors and will serve full-time in this capacity working from the organization's headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C."

Rear Admiral Craig Steidle to lead Commercial Spaceflight Federation, The Hill

"The commercial space industry truly represents the future of America in space, and I'm excited to be a part of it," Steidle said. "This industry is inspiring kids, keeping America economically competitive, creating thousands of jobs, and ensuring our leadership in space. It is a privilege to lead the Federation as we embark on the grandest adventure of the 21st century: opening up space to everyone."

Keith's note: Quite honestly, CSF probably could have done a better job explaining Craig Steidle's selection and the importance thereof. If you check the comments section of this post and you will see that Jim Muncy makes that case quiet eloquently.

2011 Spending Bill Update

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's Statement On The 2011 Spending Bill

"With this funding, we will continue to aggressively develop a new heavy lift rocket, multipurpose crew vehicle and commercial capability to transport our astronauts and their supplies on American-made and launched spacecraft. We are committed to living within our means in these tough fiscal times - and we are committed to carrying out our ambitious new plans for exploration and discovery."

Alien Life on Earth

Astrobiologists Discover Strange Benthic Microbial Mats in Antarctica

"Photosynthetic microbial mats forming large conical structures up to half a meter tall have been discovered by astrobiologists in Lake Untersee, Antarctica. This research is described in a forthcoming article in the journal Geobiology. During the expedition, three members of the field team, Dale Andersen (SETI Institute), Ian Hawes (University of Canterbury), and Chris McKay (NASA ARC) explored the lake beneath its 3 meter thick ice-cover and discovered the large conical structures that dominate the under-ice landscape."

Yuri's Night On Orbit

Photo: Space Station Crew Celebrates Yuri's Night On Orbit

"On Orbit Expedition 27 crew members pose for a photo near the galley in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station in honor of the 50th anniversary of the spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin, the first human launched in space on April 12, 1961. A portrait of Gagarin is at center. Pictured are Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev (bottom center), commander; NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev (center) and Andrey Borisenko (top left), NASA astronaut Ron Garan and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli (right), all flight engineers."

Keith's 14 Apr note: Successful firing (Image). More at their Facebook page. Nothing whatsoever has been issued by JSC PAO about this event. This is sheer incompetence on the part of JSC PAO.

Keith's 16 Apr note: The project's official website is now online.

NASA JSC Project Morpheus Update

Internal NASA memo: "Out in the open field at the new Morpheus launch pad. West of JSC Building 14. If all goes well and there is no Govt. shutdown, the series of test firings may begin sometime Monday. The rocket engine burns methane and oxygen and is pressurized with helium. Note the ground restraint straps to keep it from "wandering." This constraint is necessary since there is no active flight control system installed yet. There is ES Div. engineering support to this program, but very little publicity."

Keith's 11 Apr note: I asked JSC PAO why they are ignoring Morpheus. I got this response: "Morpheus is at an early phase of testing, there will be more info as the project continues to develop. The release was the initial step in making people in the local area aware of the upcoming tests that the project will be conducting this week and next. NASA social media sites are in the process of being linked to NASA web pages which will continue to provide updates." In other words, they are not interested.

According to posts made today to the Project's Facebook page "Hot fire delayed until tomorrow due to weather." This image has the caption "Running through final checks and tweaks with the extra time. Hot fire, here I come!". This image is captioned "My team is covering the straps with insulation in preparation for Monday's hot fire." Follow their Twitter for updates on the hot fire test since JSC PAO won't be paying attention.

Keith's 12 Apr note: This image shows a view looking down at Morpheus. This image shows prepaprations for today's test. Meanwhile JSC PAO continues to officialy ignore this activity. FAIL.

Keith's 12 Apr 6:00 pm EDT note: Twitter update: "Hot fire portion of test scrubbed for today. Continue with an igniter test and then wrap up for the day. Watch here for info on future tests"

Keith's 13 Apr 11:00 pm EDT note: According to a Twitter update: "Unless something comes up in the post test overviews, my next hot fire test will be on Thursday." ... "Problem appears to have been faulty regulator on the helium trailer used to bring tanks up to pressure. This is why we test, and test a lot"

Why Does JSC Hide Their Cool Stuff?, earlier post

Why Houston Did Not Get A Shuttle, Wayne Hale

"Immediate reaction from many people in the Houston area was that the Orbiter disposition decision was politically tainted. For example, this was the explanation of my old Rice classmate Annise Parker, her honor the Mayor of Houston. Maybe there is some truth to that. It's hard to say what goes on inside the Washington beltway with any certainty. But my suspicions lie closer to home. Houston didn't get an orbiter because Houston didn't deserve it."

NASA Chief Suggests JWST Won't Launch before 2018, Space News

"Hutchison also said NASA's 2012 budget includes too much money for commercial crew initiatives. NASA is seeking $850 million to seed development of privately developed spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting astronauts to the international space station. "While I know the commercial companies will eventually become successful I do not feel that the information now available justifies such a large investment of federal dollars for commercial vehicles," Hutchison said."

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Meeting 19 May 2011

"This notice sets forth the schedule and summary agenda for a partially closed meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), and describes the functions of the Council. "

Keith's 12 Apr note: I just got a call from from someone rather senior Rick Weiss at OSTP at the White House. He Weiss called to officially complain about the use of the OSTP logo with this meeting notice and told me that their lawyers told him that they wanted it removed (or something scary would happen to me I guess). I have been doing this for more than a decade as do many news outlets. Use of the logo to illustrate a story on an agency does not imply any sort of affiliation or endorsement and is covered by fair use provisions.

(Sigh) I have to hope that these White House guys have more important things to do than to have their senior staff call little websites to complain about logos used in connection with OSTP stories and information. The caller Weiss did not sound too thrilled to have to make the call (I guess their lawyers are afraid to do so).

Here are more websites that are not authorized to use this logo for the White House Logo Police to call. Rest assured, I'll be tracking the White House logo cop enforcement progress: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

F.B.I., Challenging Use of Seal, Gets Back a Primer on the Law, NY Times

"Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the dust-up both "silly" and "troubling"; Wikipedia has a First Amendment right to display the seal, she said. "Really," she added, "I have to believe the F.B.I. has better things to do than this."

Keith's 13 Apr note: Wikipedia openly uses the OSTP logo here, here, here and here. Why hasn't Weiss called them with a take-down notice?

None of the websites I have listed has removed the OSTP logo. I informed Weiss of this list. Selective enforcement = no enforcement, Rick.

NASA Chief Suggests JWST Won't Launch before 2018, Space News

"Last November, an independent review ordered by Mikulski and led by John Casani of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, concluded that the JWST was at least $1.5 billion over budget and 15 months behind schedule. The Casani report said NASA would need to add $500 million to JWST's budget in 2011 and 2012 in order to keep the telescope on track for a September 2015 launch. NASA's 2012 budget request, sent to Congress in February, includes $375 million or less for JWST for each of the next five years. NASA said at the time that those were placeholder budget figures likely to be revised once NASA completes its own assessment of the program's cost and schedule. Bolden indicated during the hearing that NASA would not be seeking the amount of money recommended in the Casani report and would accept a lengthier launch delay instead."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation to Make Major Announcement on Wednesday, April 13

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the industry association of leading businesses and organizations working to make commercial human spaceflight a reality, will be making a major announcement on Wednesday, April 13, 2011, the day after the 50th anniversary celebration of the world's first human spaceflight in 1961. Following the announcement, a press availability will be held at 1:30 pm Mountain Time at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Representatives of the media onsite in Colorado Springs are invited join us at Symposium Media Center Press Room #1, on the 2nd floor of the Exhibit Center."

Cislunar Space Rationale

A Rationale for Cislunar Space

"At a recent workshop on lunar return, a critical part of the discussion focused on the need for a statement of purpose - a value proposition for the Moon. Over the years I've attempted to distill my rationale for lunar return (my "elevator speech" if you will) into a clearly stated and persuasive argument about the need for enabling human reach beyond low Earth orbit - into all the areas between Earth and Moon (cislunar space) where all of our satellite assets reside. So, as the elevator doors are closing, I will state my Rationale for Cislunar Space:"

NASA Announces New Homes For Shuttle Orbiters After Retirement

"After 30 years of spaceflight, more than 130 missions, and numerous science and technology firsts, NASA's space shuttle fleet will retire and be on display at institutions across the country to inspire the next generation of explorers and engineers."

Space Shuttle to Land in Manhattan, NY Times

"A space shuttle is coming to Manhattan, but not one of the three that have carried astronauts into orbit. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is getting the fourth shuttle, the Enterprise, according to a person who had been briefed on the decision."

Seattle's Museum of Flight won't get a space shuttle

"Seattle's Museum of Flight won't be home to a space shuttle orbiter, according to a person briefed on the decision but not authorized to discuss it publicly. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is set to announce the winners at 10 a.m., Pacific Time.

City officials: Houston will not get one of the retired space shuttles, KHOU

"City officials on Tuesday confirmed to KHOU 11 News that Houston will not receive one of NASA's retired space shuttles. The official announcement was set to be made by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at noon at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Sen. Sherrod Brown blasts NASA denial of Dayton's space shuttle bid, Cleveland.com

"NASA ignored the intent of Congress and the interests of taxpayers," Brown said in a press statement. "NASA was directed to consider regional diversity when determining shuttle locations. Unfortunately, it looks like regional diversity amounts to which coast you are on, or which exit you use on I-95. Even more insulting to taxpayers is that having paid to build the shuttles, they will now be charged to see them at some sites."

Abort mission: Adler, lakefront won't be home to retired shuttle, Chicago Sun Times

"Adler will get a space-flight simulator used to train astronauts that's currently in Houston. It will become a new centerpiece for the planetarium, said Adler President Paul Knappenberger. The simulator is three-stories high and features a "full-scale mock-up of the crew compartment'' of a space shuttle, he said."

Houston Gets No Space Shuttle: See What Happens When You Don't Have a Texan in the White House?, Houston Press

"This is certainly disappointing, but not entirely unexpected as the Administration has been hinting that Houston would not be a winner in this political competition," Mayor Annise Parker said in an issued statement. "I am disappointed for Houston, the JSC family and the survivors of the Columbia and Challenger missions who paid the ultimate price for the advancement of space exploration. There was no other city with our history of human space flight or more deserving of a retiring orbiter. It is unfortunate that political calculations have prevailed in the final decision."

Resolution Taken up on Initiative of Russian Federation, 'Cold War Space Race Is Over; We All Won,' Says United States Representative

"An annual International Day of Human Space Flight was declared by the General Assembly this afternoon, to be celebrated on 12 April, the date of the first manned space flight in 1961. By to a new resolution adopted unanimously by the world body (document A/65/L.67), the first International Day in 2011 would mark the fiftieth anniversary of the flight of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and reaffirm "the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples".

12 April: International Day of Human Space Flight, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

"Yuri Gagarin's flight is an inspiration that engenders a quest for excellence; an inspiration that fans the flames of passion to pursue a dream, especially among the young. There is no higher value you can place on his achievement," stressed Mazlan Othman, Director of UNOOSA on the occasion."

NASA to Hold 30th Anniversary Ceremony at Kennedy Space Center and Announce Permanent Space Shuttle Locations

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will participate in a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Tuesday, April 12 on the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch. At 3 p.m. on April 12, NASA will hold a media teleconference to discuss the placement of the orbiters. Senior NASA officials will be available to answer questions."

Letter to NASA's Bolden requests equity on shuttle (Texas delegation), editorial, , Houston Chronicle

"Houston is the rightful place for a space shuttle to be put on permanent display. It will continue Houston's legacy in human space flight, it will enrich the learning experience of the children and adults alike who visit and will inspire future generations. We hope that you will recognize both Houston's unique contribution to human space flight and its eligibility under the NASA Authorization Act by deciding to place one of the last orbiters at Johnson Space Center."

Washington delegation lobbies for space shuttle

"Seattle's Museum of Flight should get a retiring space shuttle orbiter, members of Washington's Congressional delegation write to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Wednesday."

Public can watch shuttle announcement live at museum, Dayton Daily News

"The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will offer the public a chance to watch NASA's announcement of its plans for three retired space shuttles on Tuesday. The museum located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is one of 21 facilities nationwide vying to receive a shuttle."

3-2-1-blastoff to space shuttles' last destination, AP

"Twenty-one museums and science and visitor centers around the country are vying for one of NASA's three retiring spaceships. They'll find out Tuesday on the 30th anniversary of Columbia's maiden voyage. Snagging Discovery, Atlantis or Endeavour for display doesn't come cheap. NASA puts the tab at $28.8 million. Consider that a bargain. Early last year, NASA dropped the price from $42 million."


U.S. Space and Rocket Center will learn today if it gets a retired shuttle from NASA, Huntsville Times

"It's not likely one is coming to Huntsville. The starting price to get one of the shuttles was more than $28 million, plus the costs of meeting NASA's conditions, such as displaying the orbiter in a climate-controlled indoor space."

Space shuttle Discovery coming to Smithsonian, Washngton post

"The process for prepping the shuttle will take months before it likely goes on display at the National Air and Space Museum, Space.com reports. The Discovery is the most prolific traveler of the trio of NASA spaceships."

Keith's note: The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a Hearing on NASA's FY 2012 Budget request today at Dirksen Office Building Room -192. The hearing will be webcast live on C-SPAN here starting at 4:00 PM EDT

International Space Station: Ongoing Assessments for Life Extension Appear to be Supported, GAO

"NASA is using analytical techniques, physical tests, and inspections to assess primary structures and functional systems and determine sparing needed to support safe functioning and full scientific utilization of the ISS through 2020. These assessments are ongoing, so all results are not yet available. Our work indicates that NASA's assessments appear to be supported by sufficient, accurate and relevant underlying data. We found, however, that NASA's estimates of ISS sparing needs are sensitive to assumptions about hardware reliability. To evaluate NASA's approach, we reviewed relevant technical documents and data NASA used to support its analysis and interviewed responsible officials. In a limited number of cases, we replicated NASA's calculation used to update predicted failure rates for essential spares."

"Dr. Blumberg's family has requested that memorial gifts be sent to the American Philosophical Society for the Baruch S. Blumberg Fund for the Lewis and Clark Grants for Exploration and Field Research. He established the Lewis and Clark Grants in 2004 (during the bicentennial year of their epic journey) to assist younger scientists and scholars with projects at a critical time in their careers. "I believe that a passion for exploration is deeply rooted in the American character, and it is regrettable that funding for field studies is so difficult to obtain," he said. Including this year's projected grants, the Lewis and Clark program will have supported more than 250 emerging scientists and scholars since its founding. Funeral services: Sunday, April 10, 2:00 p.m. at the Society Hill Synagogue (on Spruce between 4th and 5th), Philadelphia. Reception to follow in Benjamin Franklin Hall, 427 Chestnut Street."

Revised NASA Shutdown Plan Submitted to OMB

"Pursuant to OMB Circular A-1 1, Section 124.2, NASA is hereby submitting a revised shutdown plan in the event of a lapse in appropriations, replacing the plan submitted to OMB on December 16, 1995. In this plan, NASA continues to require each NASA Center to provide protection of life and property. The decision on what personnel should be excepted from furlough is very fact specific, and Directors in charge of NASA Centers are in the best position to make detailed decisions regarding the suspension of ongoing, regular functions which could imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property."

Government Shutdown Would Idle All but 500 NASA Workers, SpaceNews

"All but about 500 of NASA's 19,000 civil servants would be furloughed if the Congress and White House fail to reach a deal to keep the federal government operating beyond April 8. Among the employees who would not be allowed to work are those preparing the Space Shuttle Endeavour for its scheduled April 29 launch."

Keith's 8 April update: False alarm - for now.

Notice of Furlough Status for NASA Headquarters Civil Service Employees

"All NASA Headquarters employees, unless individually informed today, April 7, 2011, via an email message from Yvette Coles, Acting Director, Headquarters Human Resources Management Division, are designated as non-excepted. This means that, if funding lapses, you will be furloughed. Our contingency plan assumes that International Space Station activities will continue to protect the lives of the crew members on orbit and the safety and security of the space station. Existing satellite missions in operation also will continue to protect the satellites and the data being collected. In addition, all other activities involving protection of life and property will continue. All other agency activities not determined to be legally exempt will close, including all satellites in development. Our contingency planning for the potential funding lapse includes legal determination of which agency functions are excepted from a furlough. These determinations have been made."

Keith's 5 April note: Word has it there is going to be a CCDev-2 announcement by NASA on Wednesday, 6 April. If so, where is the media advisory?

Keith's 6 April update: Industry sources are reporting that they have been given semi-official tip that no one is going to get a heads up phone calls from NASA in advance of the CCDev 2 announcement - whenever that happens. This is somewhat of a departure from the way this is normally done.

NASA mulls commercial space plan, MSNBC

"Update for 11 a.m. ET April 7: The CCDev2 announcement has been delayed indefinitely, apparently because of the continuing back-and-forth over the federal budget, according to John Elbon, vice president and program manager for commercial crew programs at the Boeing Co."

Project Morpheus To Begin Testing at NASA's Johnson Space Center

"Neighbors of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston may notice some loud noises coming from the 1,600-acre site in the coming weeks. Johnson's Engineering Directorate is ready to begin testing its prototype lander as part of - Project Morpheus - a vertical test bed designed to integrate technologies that could be used to build future spacecraft intended to land on the moon, Mars, asteroids or any other foreign surface."

Keith's note: I am baffled. JSC is doing cool stuff like this - but in this press release they offer no pictures of the lander, the test site, not even a website for it? No streaming video is offered, nothing on YouTube? Why do you hide cool things, JSC? FAIL.

Keith's 2:15 pm EDT update: According to a NASA Watch reader, here are NASA JSC's Stealth Social Media sites (awaiting some sort of approval): Twitter.com/morpheuslander, Flickr.com/morpheuslander, Youtube.com/morpheuslander, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Project-Morpheus/156555054405321?ref=sgm. Their Facebook page also lists http://morpheus.jsc.nasa.gov and another Project Morpheus page as well.

Keith's 3:05 pm EDT update: When I first posted these links, with the exception of the Facebook page, they were devoid of content. Suddenly things are being posted. Too bad JSC PAO needs to be kicked in the butt to do this stuff - stuff they should just do naturally as a standard part of their job.

EADS North America expands Space and related product activities in the U.S.

"EADS North America today announced that it has further integrated and expanded the company's Space and related product activities in the U.S., supporting government agencies, private sector customers and academia. The line of business (LOB) will be led by John Schumacher, who will serve as Vice President, Space line of business. "John Schumacher brings decades of demonstrated leadership in developing and growing world-class cooperative programs in Space-based research, exploration, human Space flight, and communications, as well as formulating government policy related to this key area of aerospace and defense," said Sean O'Keefe, CEO of EADS North America."

NASA campus in Loveland could mean 10,000 new jobs

"At the cost of $5.5 million, the Agilent technology campus could soon have dozens of companies working to turn thousands of NASA patents into products. They are jobs the mayor of Loveland says the town welcomes. "These are the kind of jobs that are good paying jobs and the kind of jobs you can raise your family on," Mayor Cecil Gutierrez said. The Federal Space Act agreement calls for the creation of the park. It also calls for NASA to partner with a nonprofit designed to strengthen Colorado's clean energy industry, a group known as CAMT (Colorado Association of Manufacturing and Technology)."

CAMT: Loveland's Agilent campus not a done deal for ACE park, TimesCall.com

"The Aerospace Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Park is a joint effort by NASA and the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology. CAMT and the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. are partnering to select sites for the park. One, an existing facility for a portion of the park and the other, a "greenfield" site where new facilities will be built. Various news reports Tuesday stated that the former Agilent site in Loveland had been chosen as the location for the existing facility portion of the park. CAMT issued a statement Wednesday morning contradicting those reports."


NASA Deal Could Bring 10000 Jobs To Colorado, 7news

"This is incredible potential for Loveland and Northern Colorado," said Gutierrez. Betsey Hale of Loveland said it's anticipated 10,000 jobs will come to the state as a result of this venture. Hale said up to about 100 companies could move in to the business campus."

Loveland officials: ACE will take time but will bring revenue, Loveland Connection

"The park, which will house up to 100 clean energy and aerospace companies, could create 7,000 primary employment jobs regionally and 10,000 statewide within five years, Cahill said. Businesses in the park will have access to a NASA innovation official and resources such as education and shared services to assist in faster product development, according to an informational sheet about the program."

ACE deal not final yet, NOCO5news

"The long-vacant Agilent Technologies, Inc. campus in Loveland has been selected as the preferred site for ACE. However, during a press conference Thursday, Loveland city officials stressed that negotiations have yet to take place to finalize the deal."

Baruch Blumberg Passes Away, David Morrison, SETI Institute

"I was privileged to have lunch with Barry the day he died. He was attending a conference at Ames discussing exploration planning and its relationships with science and education. He presented a paper on the value of citizen science, where thousands of ordinary people can contribute significantly to science while also enjoying themselves in working with real spacecraft data, such as the high-resolution images now being received from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter."

Nobelist Baruch Blumberg, who discovered hepatitis B, dies at 85, Washington Post

"He also enjoyed canoeing, running and playing squash, and he co-owned Antietam Meadows, a cattle farm in Western Maryland. "Shoveling manure for a day on my farm," he said, "is an excellent counterbalance to intellectual work."

Baruch Blumberg, Nobelist who discovered Hep B, dies, Nature

"In 1976, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering hepatitis B and showing how the virus causes liver disease. In the 1960s, Blumberg found a mysterious blood protein in Australian aboriginals who had received transfusions and developed jaundice. The protein, which he named Australia antigen, turned out to be a surface protein of hepatitis B."

Baruch Samuel Blumberg 1925-2011, earlier post

Ala. NASA center cutting up to 300 jobs, AP

"Center spokesman Dominic Amatore told The Huntsville Times on Wednesday that a combination of factors led to the layoffs. He cites the lack of a federal budget for this year, continued funding by stop-gap measures and cuts in this year's budget including nearly $300 million removed from the line-item that funds general operations at all of NASA's centers."

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center cuts spending and up to 300 more jobs in Huntsville, Huntsville Times

"A statement issued by Marshall today said that, "Due to budget constraints, Marshall Space Flight Center officials have conducted a comprehensive review of all institutional procurement and other expenditures and established funding priorities, ensuring that essential Center functions are maintained and that operational capabilities are in no way compromised."

Commercial Crew Market Study Generates Small Firestorm, Space News

"Meanwhile, Braukus said, NASA is wrapping up a much more comprehensive commercial market analysis that was called for in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. "The Aerospace report was a completely different type of analysis than what was requested in the Authorization Act for the Commercial Market Assessment," Braukus said in the email. "The objective of the Aerospace work, as it was described in the report, was 'to provide ballpark results for what it would take to make a stand alone private enterprise business case close.'"

NASA Authorization Act of 2010

"Sect. 403 (2) COMMERCIAL MARKET ASSESSMENT. Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress an assessment, conducted, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, for purposes of this paragraph, of the potential non-Government market for commercially-developed crew and cargo transportation systems and capabilities, including an assessment of the activities associated with potential private sector utilization of the ISS research and technology development capabilities and other potential activities in low-Earth orbit."

Keith's note: This report should be finding its way to Congress in the next few days ...

Commercial Crew Market Study Generates Small Firestorm, Space News

"NASA spokesman Michael Braukus said the Aerospace Corp. analysis, paid for by the agency's Independent Program and Cost Evaluation office, led by Michael Hawes, is one of many commissioned to assess the business case for private space taxis. "The Aerospace Corporation used their own assumptions for many of the inputs to the analysis; they did not use proprietary data inputs from companies developing commercial crew systems or from NASA, which makes their analysis of limited use," Braukus said in a April 5 email, one day after a set of Aerospace Corp. briefing charts on the study surfaced on NASA Watch. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), an advocacy group here, blasted the report's assumptions as not based in reality, and said many of its findings are flawed."

Aerospace Corp Study Dumps on Commercial Crew Prospects, earlier post

Aerospace Corp Background and Messages: Commercial Crew Financial Feasibility/Reliability White Paper

"Q. So the results are to determine what?

A. We produced a modeling tool that could be applied to a variety of data sets to produce conclusions about the costs associated with scenarios for a commercial crew transportation system. The results shown to NASA and Congress recently were not intended to represent any specific real world scenario. We modeled a scenario utilizing data from as long as 10 months ago in order to demonstrate the tool's viability, not the viability of any specific commercial crew transportation system."

Keith's note: Hmm ... if they did not use actual company data - or NASA data - then why do this in the first place - and why brief it to the Administrator, Deputy Administrator, and Associate Administrator of NASA? Shouldn't Bolden/Garver/Scolese be focusing on the "real world" - not Aerospace Corp's parallel universe?

According to the overview from actual 1 Feb 2011 report: [continued after the link] :

U.S. mustn't give up on space, Opinion, Gerry Griffin, USA Today

"Going forward, commercial space companies and NASA must be considered partners, not competitors, in the U.S. human spaceflight enterprise. NASA's plan to support commercial spaceflight would significantly strengthen the agency's chances to have humans explore beyond Earth orbit once again. Human spaceflight to and from Earth orbit provided by commercial companies would enable NASA to focus more of its energies and very constrained budget on exploration beyond Earth's orbit. Today, it will be better, even necessary, to have NASA focus its tight resources on preparing to send astronauts ultimately to destinations such as Mars."

"Andrew Chaikin explains why humans need to follow in the footsteps of their robotic emissaries and travel to Mars."

Keith's note: I learned with profound sadness last night that Baruch Blumberg died suddenly yesterday. He was in a small meeting focused upon how to move humanity off this world onto others. His passing was swift - and true to form he was enthused and learning up until his last breath.

Barry was one of those people you only meet once in a lifetime. He was truly a transcendent person - as humble as he was accomplished. Barry was a true Renaissance man in every sense - one who I was deeply honored to call a friend. And he counted many, many people among his friends.

I spent more than one dinner with him, talking about biochemistry, cattle ranching, rock climbing in Wales when he was in his 60s - he even visited Devon Island at an age when most folks have given up travelling altogether.

Barry was a Nobel Laureate and was the first director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. NASA has never enticed anyone finer to join its ranks. Barry's choice for NAI went vastly beyond the norm - and Dan Goldin was the one who made that choice. Goldin entered into another realm of inspiration when he picked Barry to run NAI (Barry had a habit of doing that to people) and that decision will affect the course of Astrobiology for decades to come.

I managed to reach Dan Goldin on Barry's passing. He told me "The world has lost a great man. Barry saved lives through his research on the Hepatitis B virus. He also inspired a whole generation of people world wide through his work in building the NASA Astrobiology Institute. On a personal level, he improved my life through his friendship. Our planet is an improved place as a result of Barry's few short days in residence."

Sean O'Keefe told me this morning that Blumberg "impressed me as a man whose humility was only surpassed by his capacity to inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue the human passion to want to learn from everything around us. He truly was a remarkable man."

NASA is placing the work of another Nobel Laureate (AMS) on-orbit in a few weeks. Maybe something reminiscent of Barry Blumberg could be placed on it ... it would be fitting since Barry truly did know something about everything and yet still sought to learn more up until his last moments on this planet.

Ad Astra, Barry.

- Astrobiology at T+5 Years, Baruch S. Blumberg and Keith Cowing, Ad Astra Magazine
- Web of Stories - Baruch Blumberg - A field trip to Devon Island (video)

Message from the NASA Administrator: Planning for an Orderly Shutdown

"As soon as funding lapses, federal departments and agencies will not be permitted to incur further financial obligations performing activities funded by annual appropriations, except those related to the orderly suspension of operations or performance of excepted activities. This means that some employees will be furloughed and unable to work. Our contingency planning for the potential funding lapse includes determining which agency functions are excepted from a furlough. Should it become necessary to implement our contingency plans, you will receive formal notice from your manager no later than Friday, April 8th regarding the designation of your position and furlough status."

Space Debris No Threat to Station, NASA

"Tracking data now indicates that a piece of orbital debris being monitored by Mission Control Houston will not pass close enough to the International Space Station to warrant the Expedition 27 crew members taking safe haven within their Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft."

SpaceX Announces Launch Date for the World's Most Powerful Rocket

"Today, Elon Musk, CEO and chief rocket designer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) unveiled the dramatic final specifications and launch date for the Falcon Heavy, the world's largest rocket. "Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket, which was decommissioned after the Apollo program. This opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions," Musk told a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC."

Renewal of a Life and Physical Sciences Research Program at NASA Could Facilitate Longer, Farther Human Space Missions

"By elevating its life and physical sciences research program, NASA could achieve the biological understanding and technical breakthroughs needed to allow humans to be sent deeper into space, including to Mars, says a new National Research Council report. In addition, access to the space environment -- for example, on the International Space Station -- will open up further opportunities for groundbreaking research in the physical and life sciences. The report, one of a series of decadal surveys that the Research Council has completed for NASA and the first on interdisciplinary life and physical sciences for exploration missions, lays out a research agenda for the next decade that could bring about developments with substantial payoffs for human exploration of space."

Barney Pell Silicon Valley Entrepreneur & Technology Pioneer Extends His Search as Co-founder Vice-Chariman & Chief Technology Officer of Moon Express

The Moon-Rush is on and Dr. Barney Pell, well known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and former NASA R&D Manager, has joined the race. As Co-Founder, Vice-Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Moon Express, Inc., Barney believes very strongly in the economic potential the Moon. "The Moon is Earth's eight continent," he said. "We have barely begun to explore the lunar surface and are already finding compelling evidence of resources that are very important to Earth."

Naveen Jain, Innovator, Philanthropist, and Entrepreneur, Is Reaching for the Moon as Co-Founder and Chairman of Moon Express, Inc.

"Naveen Jain shared with colleagues at the annual Explorers Club Awards Dinner in New York that he is Co-Founder and Chairman of Moon Express, Inc., winner of a $10M NASA commercial lunar contract and a leading contender for the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE. Why is Naveen reaching for the Moon? He explained, This is an extremely exciting project as Moon exploration is vital to solving Earth's present and future resource problems."

SpaceX: Something Big Is Coming - Elon Musk to Hold Press Conference in Washington Tuesday (with video)

"Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Technology Officer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), will hold a press conference on Tuesday, April 5th at the National Press Club in Washington to discuss his company's latest venture."

Keith's 31 March note: SpaceX justed tweeted "Something big is coming www.spacex.com". If you go to their website you see that the big day is 5 April 2011 ...

Space Station Crew Launches from Birthplace of Human Spaceflight

"One week shy of the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev launched to the International Space Station at 6:18 p.m. EDT Monday (4:18 a.m. local time, April 5) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan."

Expedition 27 Prepares to Launch From Yuri Gagarin's Launch Pad (Photo)

"The Soyuz, which has been dubbed 'Gagarin,' is launching one week shy of the 50th anniversary of the launch of Yuri Gagarin from the same launch pad in Baikonur on April 12, 1961 to become the first human to fly in space. The first stage of the Soyuz booster is emblazoned with the name Gagarin and the cosmonaut's likeness."

The Financial Feasibility and a Reliability Based Acquisition Approach for Commercial Crew - Presentation to Administrator Bolden John Skratt, The Aerospace Corporation

Summary of Financial Feasibility

Given current assumptions

- Development + 10 years of operations may cost NASA $10B to $20B for one viable commercial crew provider
- Domestic commercial crew launch capability may result in prices per seat 2 to 3 times that of foreign based alternative access options
- Due to the fixed and variable nature of space launch operations 2 viable CC

Summary of a Reliability Based Acquisition Analysis

- Completely commercial service is difficult to envision in the near-term given expected CS requirement
- LV offers most flexibility for choosing a commercial-like development approach within CC Program
- Parallel government / commercial efforts may allow near-term assured domestic capability, as well as "maturation ramp" for longer-term, commercially-provided crew launch services

Keith's note: This report (as is described by these charts briefed to Bolden) was clearly written by people who did not want to provide NASA with a positive answer with regard to space commercialization as it relates to crew transport. The underlying assumption seems to be that all involved are starting from scratch with no experience base whatsoever. That is simply not true.

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Responds to Recent Aerospace Corporation White Paper on NASA's Commercial Crew Program

"In conclusion, any model that does not make use of appropriate assumptions or real-world data will be of limited use. Given that the commercial spaceflight industry finds many of the model inputs, assumptions and assertions in the white paper to be incorrect or inaccurate, no findings or conclusions from the white paper's analysis should be considered accurate or of significance in any real-world setting without significant further review and industry input."

NASA Retargets Space Shuttle Endeavour's Launch For April 29

"Following discussions among the International Space Station partners on Sunday, NASA has targeted the launch of space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission for 3:47 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 29. The delay removes a scheduling conflict with a Russian Progress supply vehicle scheduled to launch April 27 and arrive at the station April 29."

Canceled NASA rocket resurfaces in private bid for tax dollars, Orlando Sentinel

"It's like the Dukes of Hazzard. They paint up an old car to make it look faster, but it's the same rocket," said Keith Cowing, editor of the watchdog site NASA Watch. "I'm glad they are trying to use this [Ares I] technology, but shouldn't taxpayers be getting a percentage of the profit? ... "It's a thinly-veiled attempt to profit at the expense of the taxpayers," said Rick Tumlinson, a co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation and longtime advocate of commercial space travel. "What ATK is trying to do is put the taxpayers' skin in the game and act as if it's their own." ... When asked about this arrangement, ATK officials did not directly address questions about the tax dollars the company has received to build Ares I."

- ATK (Apparently) Does Not Need NASA Money For Liberty [Update], earlier post
- ATK Was Against Commercial Crew - Before It Was For it., earlier post
- ATK Wants To Sell NASA a Recycled Ares 1, earlier post
- Nickname for Liberty, earlier post

Keith's note: What baffles me is how ATK can claim that this rocket will be ready 2 years earlier than Ares 1 would have been - for less money. Why didn't they offer that option to NASA before Ares 1 was cancelled?

Letter from College Students regarding the Future of Human Spaceflight, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS)

"Dear President Obama and Members of Congress: This year, as we celebrate both the fiftieth anniversary of human spaceflight and the accomplishments of the retiring Space Shuttle fleet, the exploration of space remains as critical as ever. Over the past year, many groups have offered their opinions on the best way for the US government to foster space exploration. However, one critical perspective has been missing from this conversation: that of the next generation. We, the signatories of this letter -- 280 students from universities and colleges across the nation -- are writing you today to ensure that our voice is heard in this ongoing discussion.

We are the ones who will be most affected by the decisions you make today. We are undergraduate and graduate students working hard to prepare ourselves for fulfilling careers as leaders and productive members of the civil, military, and commercial aerospace industries. We are the astronauts, engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs of tomorrow."

Keith's note: My friends got a little carried away with this whole April Fool's day thing. Then again, NASA Watch first went on line on April 1, 1996, so I guess I should have expected this to all go full circle some day. From what I understand there are people willing to pay big bucks to have the honor of pushing me out of an airplane somewhere over Texas -- whenever I manage to take off from that landing strip in Friendswood and jump, that is. Now I guess I have no choice but to jump since my cheap cardboard Avatar has already taken the plunge - otherwise Gwen Griffin gets to collect that cash prize by pushing my avatar out of the plane.

From what I can tell from this video, my Avatar landed in Leroy Chiao's back yard (sorry). I suppose I will have to actually re-enact this flight for real - while wearing a Keith mask - and that they will get Miles O'Brien to fly the plane (and dip it sideways so that I fall out).

Oh well, this is not the first time my Avatar has done strange things: my old NASA badge went to the summit of Mt. Everest with a picture of Gorbie the space dog (photo - that's "Doogie" Parazynski holding our pictures). Gorbie's parents live next to the hangar my Avatar drove into in the video. Maybe Gorbie will jump with me. At least dogs like me.

I am supposed to take NASTAR suborbital training in a few weeks and I am now scared of what I will find waiting for me inside the centrifuge. Durda, Stern, Conrad, and Throop are relentless. No doubt Parazynski will find some yak by-products to adorn my flight suit. I have certainly asked for it.

Visit more fun and abuse totally at my expense at KeithWatch.com.

Keith's note: This press release was sent to me by an organization that I have featured before. Had I read the entire thing very carefully - at the bottom - I would have seen that it was an April Fool's joke. My apologies for not performing due diligence.


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