May 2014 Archives

This Week at NASA: Mid-Year Report, NASA

"The This Week At NASA crew is on a short mid-year hiatus -- but we thought we'd leave you with a quick look back at some of the big and exciting news featured so far in 2014 on This Week at NASA."

Marc's note: Ok, we'll forgive them for issuing a mid-year report five months into the year. Just take it for what it is, a condensed look back at the first five months highlights in five minutes. Enjoy!

Images: SpaceX Reveals Dragon Version 2, SpaceRef

"This evening in short presentation which was delayed SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed the next-generation Dragon crewed spacecraft at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. These are the initial images. More to come."

UPDATE: Here is the reveal if you missed it and flight animation.

- Video: SpaceX Reveals Dragon Version 2
- Video Animation: Flight of the SpaceX Dragon Version 2

We Are Now In Command of the ISEE-3 Spacecraft

"The ISEE-3 Reboot Project is pleased to announce that our team has established two-way communication with the ISEE-3 spacecraft and has begun commanding it to perform specific functions. Over the coming days and weeks our team will make an assessment of the spacecraft's overall health and refine the techniques required to fire its engines and bring it back to an orbit near Earth."

ISEE-3 Spacecraft Status

"We have successfully commanded both of ISEE-3's data multiplexers into engineering telemetry mode. The current bitrate is 512 bits/sec.  We have been able to verify modulated data through ground stations in Germany, Morehead State in Kentucky, and the SETI Allen Array in California."

Keith's note: 34 years before the ISEE-3 Reboot Project there was another attempt to raise private funds to operate a retired NASA spacecraft - Viking 1. It was called "The Viking Fund." Never heard of it? Here's a story from 1980 that explains what they did. Sound familiar? I was involved. So this whole idea is not exactly a new one to me. The person behind all of this was Stan Kent.

After Decades Of Silent Wandering, NASA Probe Phones Home, NPR

"The initial contact was a tone followed by specific commands," project organizer Keith Cowing told NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce by email. "We learned a lot simply by being able to talk to it and get it to do things. "May not sound like much but that was a huge unknown," he adds."

Modernized Space Camp Allows Kids To Simulate Frustration Over Lack Of Funding, The Onion

"Aiming to provide attendees with an authentic glimpse into the nation's space program, representatives for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center announced Thursday that its newly updated Space Camp will allow children to simulate the anger and mounting frustration experienced by NASA personnel over a continual lack of funding."

Keith's note: The Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is making some sort of big extrasolar planet announcement Thursday. That's all we know (we have received nothing under embargo).

Keith's update: This announcement will be made on Monday at the AAS meeting.

Soyuz TMA-13M Launches with Expedition 40/41 Crew Headed to the ISS [Watch], NASA

"NASA Television covered the launch of the Expedition 40/41 crew launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 29, Kazakh time. Soyuz Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), NASA Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency will spend 5 1/2 months aboard the orbiting laboratory."

Orbital Antares Launch Postponed, Orbital

"Orbital has rescheduled the launch of its Antares rocket for the Orb-2 mission to a date of no earlier than (NET) June 17, 2014.

Orb-2 is the second of eight cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station under Orbital's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. The new launch schedule has been established to allow the engineering teams from the main stage propulsion supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne and Orbital to investigate the causes of an AJ26 engine failure that occurred last week at NASA's Stennis Space Center during customary acceptance testing."

Ralph Hall and NASA

Rep. Ralph Hall defeated by John Ratcliffe, Washinton Post

"Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Tex.), the oldest-serving member of Congress and one of the last World War II veterans serving on Capitol Hill, became the first incumbent House lawmaker to lose a primary challenge this year by losing Tuesday night to a tea party-backed challenger."

Keith's note: I really like Ralph Hall. He has every marble he started out with - plus a few others - and always manages to pull the perfect joke out of his head - exactly when needed - and tells it perfectly - with proper timing. At 91 that's just awesome. Even more importantly, he always seems to want to listen to the other side and work with them. That is increasingly rare (sadly). Although he's often aw shucks about it, no one in Congress has been a stronger supporter of a thriving space program than Ralph Hall - certainly no one exceeds his support in terms of sheer longevity and persistence. His wit and perseverance will be missed when this session of Congress concludes.

Keith's note: We have had the ability to contact the ISEE-3 spacecraft since last Friday. All hardware is in place at Arecibo and has been tested end-to-end. We are now awaiting authorization to proceed from NASA. First Contact can then happen almost immediately once our window opens.

Every day we delay shortens the time available to contact the spacecraft and begin the process of understanding its condition and verifying our ability to command it. The longer we wait, the more fuel and thrusting time will be required. This will soon become a critical factor as we get into the month of June. Given that the spacecraft is not where everyone thought it would be, the possibility of a lunar impact cannot be discounted. Yet another reason why we need to make First Contact ASAP.

SpaceX to Unveil Dragon V2 for Manned Spaceflight Thursday, SpaceRef Business

"True to his word, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will unveil Dragon V2 this Thursday, May 29th at SpaceX HQ to invited guests. SpaceX is calling the Dragon V2 "a next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts into space." It was April 29th that Musk tweeted that the "cover drops on May 29. Actual flight design hardware of crew Dragon, not a mockup."

Related Update: SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing of SuperDraco Thruster [With video]

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed qualification testing for the SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power the Dragon spacecraft's launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy."

The Planetary Society Announces Strong Support for NASA's Asteroid Initiative

"Our concern is that a rigorous and independent cost and technical evaluation of the mission has not yet been completed. We worry that the ARM effort will prove a great deal more expensive than is currently being suggested. As has happened too often in the past, cost overruns lead to budgeting difficulties for years into the future. NASA's numerous other worthy science and exploration endeavors become difficult to manage and complete. We thus urge NASA as soon as possible to undertake as comprehensive a cost and technical evaluation as is feasible at this early stage in mission definition."

Skybox Imaging Close to Being Sold to Google, SpaceRef Business

"According to Techcrunch Google is close to buying Skybox Imaging for over $1 billion. Skybox has plans for a constellation of 24 satellites of which the first, SkySat-1, went operational November 2013. Skybox released its first HD video last December."

Giant asteroid possibly on collision course with Earth, CNN

"Using their Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), the 10-mile wide object was found approximately 51 million miles from Earth. Scientists believe that during a close encounter with Mars, the asteroid was nudged slightly off its usual orbit and may currently be on a high speed collision course with our fragile planet. The asteroid is calculated to have a potentially lethal encounter with the Earth on March 35, 2041. Astronomers have placed the odds of an impact at 1 in 2.04, which is by far the most unprecedented risk ever faced to humanity, let alone from asteroids. Such an impact could potentially end civilization as we know it."

Keith's note: March 35? No comment from NASA. Love the tags: "beiber, war, gaming, stocks, science, cyrus, space, obama, earth, states" Screen grab

Keith's update: This news story was removed after being online for nearly 24 hours.

Oops. CNN runs bogus story saying asteroid has 1 in 2.04 odds of destroying Earth, Knight Science Journalism at MIT

"I emailed Keith Cowing to find if there was any NASA announcement that might have been misinterpreted or distorted. It looks more like a prank that was way too easy to pull off. "As for what happened: (my guess) long weekend combined with lax review standards," he said. The post is pretty cleverly written. Marcus575 put some thought into making it read like a real news story. And like most hoaxes, there's a lesson in it.  CNN has not responded to a request for comment. The Tracker would also welcome comments from Marcus575."

Oops now the link says this: "CNN PRODUCER NOTE NASA has confirmed via email that this story is false. A spokewoman for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the largest object detected by NEOWISE measures 3 km in diameter and poses no risk to Earth. The iReport has been removed. - davidw, CNN iReport producer"

- CNN destroyed by huge asteroid, Salon
- CNN Asteroid Hoax: No, An Asteroid Will Not Extinguish All Life In 2041, Huffington post UK
- Wait, So There's Not a Giant Asteroid Hurling Toward Us After All?

President Obama to Host White House Science Fair

"Khan Academy and NASA Collaborate to Help More Students Learn the Math and Science Behind Going to Mars:  Today, NASA and Khan Academy are collaborating to launch www.khanacademy.org/NASA, a series of interactive lessons that invite users to engage with the science and mathematics used to measure our universe and the exciting engineering problems involved in launching and landing on Mars and other space exploration endeavors."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project: Updates From the Front at Arecibo, Dennis Wingo

"The error in position has just elevated the concern level greatly. We know approximately what the offset error is from the existing ephemeris but we don't have enough information yet to plot a new course and generate a new ephemeris file. This has become extremely important as there is a solid statistical chance that the spacecraft could impact the moon or even be off course enough to threaten other spacecraft in Earth orbit."

Citizen scientists seek access to sleeping satellite, CBS (video)

"A first of its kind mission to wake up a sleeping satellite is underway. As Mark Albert explains, Keith Cowing and a team of 20 convinced NASA for the first time to turn over the satellite to a group of space enthusiasts."

Keith's note: Our ISEE-3 Reboot Project crowd funding campaign just ended.

We raised $159,502 - 128% of our original goal.

Time to wake up a disco-era spacecraft and make it do science again!

NASA Signs Agreement with Citizen Scientists Attempting to Communicate with Old Spacecraft

"NASA has given a green light to a group of citizen scientists attempting to breathe new scientific life into a more than 35-year old agency spacecraft. The agency has signed a Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreement (NRSAA) with Skycorp, Inc., in Los Gatos, California, allowing the company to attempt to contact, and possibly command and control, NASA's International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) spacecraft as part of the company's ISEE-3 Reboot Project. This is the first time NASA has worked such an agreement for use of a spacecraft the agency is no longer using or ever planned to use again. The NRSAA details the technical, safety, legal and proprietary issues that will be addressed before any attempts are made to communicate with or control the 1970's-era spacecraft as it nears the Earth in August."

Keith's note: We have passed our initial $125,000 goal - and our $150,000 'stretch' goal. First Contact with ISEE-3 is imminent i.e. hours/days. Please consider helping this project at http://rkthb.co/42228.

Crowd-funded "citizen scientists" will try to reboot 1970s NASA satellite, CBS

Asked if the goal was to resume science or just prove that it could be done, Cowing said "it's both." "Why not try it? We told people up front it's iffy, and we've gotten over $150,000 now from people and they knew exactly what the risk was. And, it's cool. The factor that's motivated a lot of people is 'why not?'" As for the potential science, "we're going to do our best to make sure whatever comes back from that spacecraft is on line as fast as we can get it online, that it's open to anyone."

NASA Is Letting Citizens Commandeer a Long-Lost Satellite, Gizmodo

If there was any doubt about whether modern Americans were still enamored with space, the results of their crowdfunding campaign squash it. The group blew through their $100,000 goal, and are currently getting close to a $150,000 stretch goal. There are only two days left to donate--and you should--but the fact that they've raised so much money in so short a time is remarkable.

More news

- ISEE-3 Reboot Away Team Likes Nice strong carrier from Xpnd B
- Stronger Signal at Arecibo
- Our Amplifier Arrived From Germany
- ISEE-3 Reboot Project In The News

NASA is getting ready to communicate with aliens (Update 2), Sploid

"We can say little, if anything, about what these patterns [above] signify, why they were cut into rocks, or who created them. For all intents and purposes, they might have been made by aliens." When a new NASA book on alien communications has a paragraph like that, you better pay attention. Update 2: NASA pulled the book and press release from their site. Now the book is available here, as pointed out by a commenter."

Keith's note: Someone found a book "Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication" online at NASA.gov - one that NASA paid for, published, and posted. At one point it off handedly talks about aliens leaving messages on rock. So NASA pulls it offline. Now, people reading the articles that refer to the book get a dead link [update: NASA put the book back online so the link works again]. Well, nothing ever really disappears on the Internet. You can download the book here. Duh.

Keith's update: Classic NASA explanation below. NASA should post it on NASA.gov - at the links that news articles have been linking to so that all the people coming to visit the broken link see the real reason. When NASA just pulls things offline with no explanation it simply fuels these sort of stories.  Without the original document online no one can see the context that NASA wants you to refer to. So they go with what NASA has left there - a big gapping hole.

Excalibur Almaz Capsule Sold in Auction, SpaceRef Business

"Commercial spaceflight services company Excalibur Almaz recently auctioned one of its assets, a Soviet era space capsule, the Vozvraschaemyi Apparat (VA), at the Brussels auction house Kunsthaus Lempertz KG for €1.26 million euros (US$1.72M)."

As NASA seeks next mission, Russia holds the trump card, Houston Chronicle

"Such is today's space Realpolitik that, while the United States paid for most of the $140 billion space station, launched nearly all of it into orbit, and controls most of its day-to-day operations from Houston, Russia still holds the trump card: access. "They have us right where they want us," said three-time NASA astronaut Mike Coats. The mounting Ukraine crisis has highlighted the space agency's vulnerability, but this state of affairs is not new. Russia began embracing NASA in a bear hug right after the space shuttle retired in 2011."

NASA: Space station can work without Russia, AP

"There is no single partner that can terminate the international space station," Bolden told reporters in Berlin, where he was attending the city's annual air show. Bolden said that the cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, on the International Space Station hadn't changed "one iota" in recent years. The project has withstood the increasingly frosty atmosphere between Washington and Moscow that saw the U.S. impose sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Still, Bolden indicated that if for one reason or other a country should drop out of the project, the others would seek to continue.

Amid Attacks, ULA Outlines Some EELV Pricing, Aviation Week

"ULA is battling to keep its Atlas V alive amid multiple attacks. Due to tensions over the Crimean annexation, Russia has said it will halt deliveries of the RD-180 first-stage engine for Atlas V to the U.S.; this would leave ULA with a current stockpile of 16 already in the U.S. Political pressure from the SpaceX lawsuit is also prompting some to question whether the Atlas V can be replaced by the Falcon 9v1.1. Gass said neither Russian manufacturer NPO Energomash or ULA have been formally notified of a halt in deliveries; five RD-180s have been ordered for delivery in 2014. Gass said the move announced by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was a hypothetical what-if, but not yet enacted."

Keith's note: "a hypothetical what-if, but not yet enacted"? Yea, that is how Putin does things before he sends in the troops. The majority owner of NPO Energomash is the Russian government. Rogozin works for Putin. Sounds like a plan.

Air Force spending $60 million to certify Musk's SpaceX, Stars and Stripes

"The Air Force is spending about $60 million and using as many as 100 people to certify billionaire Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. for launching military and spy satellites, according to the service's top uniformed acquisition official. "We've got folks busting their butt to get SpaceX certified despite what everything in the media seems to say," Lt. Gen. Charles Davis said in an interview."

Keith's note: Gen. Shelton seems to be utterly oblivious to the fact that large aerospace contractors incessantly file protests, complaints, and lawsuits about DoD decisions. Its a normal part of doing business with the government. As for the $60 million for these 100 people, that's $600,000 per person. Wow. That sure sounds efficient.

As for the cost of certifying SpaceX clearly the USAF has no concern about what things cost - either internally or via procurements. None whatsoever. And they will do what they want - when they want. Again cost is not a factor to them. NASA doesn't seem to care either. And no one seems to be at all interested in coordinating things like this - the net result being duplication of costly efforts - again, at additional expense. Then, when its budget time, these agencies never seem to have enough money to pay for this circus.

Pluto-bound probe faces crisis, Nature

"Nearly 4.3 billion kilometres from Earth, and most of the way to Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is in danger of missing out on half of its mission. Project managers face a looming deadline to identify an icy object in the outer Solar System for the probe to fly by after it passes Pluto. A visit to a Kuiper belt object, or KBO, was always meant to be a key part of New Horizons' US$700-million journey, which began in 2006. But there is only a slim chance that astronomers will find a suitable KBO with their current strategy of using ground-based telescopes - and securing time on the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope is far from guaranteed."

GAO: True Cost of SLS, Orion Unclear, Space News

"NASA has not released comprehensive, long-term cost estimates for SLS and Orion. The reason is to avoid giving Congress sticker shock, said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations. "If we laid out a path directly to Mars and we laid out all the vehicles and all the testing and all the work to get there, then you end up with a fairly long period of time with a lot of funding that goes into that activity that says this program is something maybe we don't want to go do," Gerstenmaier said in November during a panel discussion with SLS and Orion prime contractors at the Newseum in Washington."

GAO Sees Through NASA's SLS/Orion Smoke and Mirrors, earlier post

ISEE-3 Reboot Project Hardware Detects ISEE-3 at Arecibo

"The following are screenshots of data from the live receive session we did with our Ettus Research Software Defined Radio unit attached to the Arecibo antenna today (19 May). "Waterfalls" were generated by post-processing the recorded data. There are four recordings of various lengths as we were testing the setup, and this is the very, very initial result."

ISEE-3 Away Team Is at Arecibo

Keith's note: The ISEE-3 Away Team is onsite at Arecibo: Dennis Wingo, Balint Seeber, Austin Epps. A month ago when we started (14 April) we had $0.00. Today the team is installing hardware on the antenna.

Now that we've passed our initial goal of $125,000, we have asked for an extension to our crowd funding effort - a "stretch goal" of $150,000. As we developed the software, hardware, and procedures needed to contact and command the ISEE-3 spacecraft, it became clear to us that getting additional information on the precise location of the spacecraft was of great value. The best way to do that is to use NASA's DSN (Deep Space Network). Since NASA is not funding our project, we'd need to pay them for this activity. Based on the time we'd need to use the DSN, $25,000 is a very good estimate. We're already close to $132,000 $135,000 $136,000 $143,000. So, if you have not yet donated, here's your chance.

First Contact will occur very soon (we hope) within the next week. Please consider helping this project at http://rkthb.co/42228.

As NASA seeks next mission, Russia holds the trump card, Houston Chronicle

"During a private exchange of e-mails in August 2012, less than a month before he died, Neil Armstrong and a handful of other Apollo vets were grumbling about NASA's lack of a clear goals. They invoked a Yogiism describe the space agency, "If you don't know where you are going, you might not get there."

"Earlier this month NASA proudly tweeted photos of veteran astronauts Stan Love and Steve Bowen in the pool, testing tools and spacesuits that would be needed for the asteroid expedition the White House wants NASA to do. But the photos are far more revealing for what they didn't show. They didn't show the large section of the pool that's cordoned off, which NASA has leased to oil-services companies to help keep the lights on at this historic facility. In a pool once used exclusively by astronauts, oil rig workers now practice survival techniques in the event their helicopter has to ditch in the ocean. The photos also didn't show the remains of party that had been held the night before. The company Tracerco used the famous pool as a backdrop for a crawfish boil to fete attendees of the Offshore Technology Conference and show off its subsea scanning technology."

Keith's note: Dual use of NASA facilities is good. Thinking outside the box when doing so is even better. So long as barriers - many of which are artificial (and spring from NASA internal culture) - remain between how/what NASA does and how/what the real word outside NASA does NASA will miss out on opportunities to be seen as being more relevant - and part of the larger community whose taxes pay for their stuff. Yea, an oil service company had a crawfish boil in the NBL they were renting for diving training. Imagine the stories all of the attendees will be telling for years as to how cool that was. If NASA can let cheesy movies like "Armageddon" film in the NBL, have chili cookoffs and graze cattle on JSC property, then why not open up to the real world more often?

"I'm going over to NASA to [fill in the blank]" ought to be a far more common phrase than it currently is. Right now you probably hear "what do they do in there?" from people driving by on the freeway. NASA needs to adapt to the times that it finds itself in - not reminisce about times that have long since passed - never to return. Were people at NASA in the 1960's yearning for the way things use to be in 1910? Why should be be wanting to do the same in 2014? We are living in the future that the people at NASA in the 1960s hoped to create. Let's do something with that future by looking forward - not back.

As for things NASA already has - especially existing facilities, capabilities - and spacecraft - lets make NASA rethink how it can use these things in new ways - and perhaps learn to let go of somethings a little more readily. In so doing, NASA may find unexpected synergies and new opportunities where it least expected them to be.

Payload Avonics Systems and Avionics Elements for Lunar Surface Resource Prospecting Mission, NASA KSC

"NASA Kennedy Space Center is hereby issuing a Request for Information (RFI) for the purpose of seeking sources and soliciting information from private industry on Payload Avionics Systems and Avionics Elements to be used in a short duration lunar surface resource prospecting mission. 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 Invites Media to Robotics Mining Competition at KSC Visitor Complex

"Teams of undergraduate and graduate students from around the country will demonstrate their excavator robots May 19-23 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida."

Rep. Mo Brooks joins leaders asking NASA for answers to Russian rocket engine ban, Huntsville Times

"In a statement released today, Brooks repeated his often-stated charge that America would not be without human spaceflight capability if the Obama administration had not cancelled the Constellation rocket program shortly after taking office in 2010. That decision, plus an earlier decision by the George W. Bush administration to retire the space shuttle and replace it with Constellation, has left America buying rides to the station from Russia while three companies race to provide American-owned access to space."

Keith's note: More imaginary facts from Mo Brooks. Even if Constellation was still in place NASA's commercial crew provider would fly crews sooner and vastly more cheaply than NASA ever could.

2014 NASA Astrophysics Senior Review

Spitzer: "Given the budget climate, the SRP cannot recommend funding of Spitzer at the levels requested. Should the mission be unable to operate given the levels of funding recommended through FY18, the mission should plan, in consultation with NASA HQ, for termination."

NASA Response to the 2014 Senior Review for Astrophysics Operating Missions

"Spitzer Space Telescope: The Spitzer mission extension for FY 2015 is not approved due to the constrained budget conditions and based on the findings and recommendations of the Senior Review report."

"Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE): The MaxWISE proposal was recommended for selection by the Senior Review. However, the only source of funding would be to displace funding from higher rated operating missions in the Senior Review. Due to constrained budget conditions, the MaxWISE proposal is declined."

Export Controls: NASA Management Action and Improved Oversight Needed to Reduce the Risk of Unauthorized Access to Its Technologies

"Weaknesses in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) export control policy and implementation of foreign national access procedures at some centers increase the risk of unauthorized access to export-controlled technologies. NASA policies provide Center Directors wide latitude in implementing export controls at their centers. Federal internal control standards call for clearly defined areas of authority and establishment of appropriate lines of reporting. However, NASA procedures do not clearly define the level of Center Export Administrator (CEA) authority and organizational placement, leaving it to the discretion of the Center Director."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project Status and Schedule for First Contact, Dennis Wingo

"Today's update regards the progress of the ISEE-3 Reboot Project team in our preparations to contact the spacecraft. We started this effort 32 days ago on on April 12, 2014. Below is what we have accomplished in that time - and the challenges that lie ahead. Perhaps the toughest part of doing something like this in a very limited timespan is to climb the learning curve - and to do so with a spacecraft you knew very little about. Early on we did a preliminary evaluation of the spacecraft and its systems so as to better understand it. This was a long jump into deep water. As we did with our Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (concerns the 1960s era Lunar Orbiter spacecraft) the search for ISEE-3 documents has been intense and not without failure."

Space Hackers Prepare to Reboot 35-Year-Old Spacecraft , IEEE Spectrum

"Ettus has volunteered to help with the programming, and one member of the company will join Wingo in Arecibo. They'll set to work there on 19 May, using a 400-watt transmitter shipped in from Germany to try to make contact with the spacecraft."

Feud between SpaceX and ULA over space contract grows more intense, Washington Post

"This week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said he would prohibit the export of Russian-made engines used in many U.S. rocket launches. That could eventually cause a disruption in how the Pentagon sends military satellites into orbit. And it plays into the hands of Musk, who is arguing that the nation's security interests in space shouldn't be dependent on the Russians."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Questions Stability of U.S.-Russia Space Partnership

"As we move forward, it is important that we fully understand our nation's independent capabilities with regard to ISS operations," the letter states. "While this new development is not related to access to the ISS for our astronauts in the next few years, it certainly pertains to the strength of our partnership with Russia. If Mr. Rogozin's statement proves to be accurate, we will have to take a step back and evaluate the costs and benefits of maintaining ISS beyond 2020 without our Russian partners."

Letter

Fundraisers Expect Green Light from NASA To Recover 70's-Vintage Spacecraft", Space News

"A pair of space geeks quarterbacking an effort to bring a derelict NASA spacecraft back into orbit around Earth expect NASA on May 13 to legally bless their privately funded project to recover and restart the 36 year-old International Sun/Earth Explorer-3. "We expect the Space Act Agreement to be signed tomorrow," Dennis Wingo, president of Moffett Field, California-based Skycorp Inc. wrote in a May 12 email. "

Keith's note: We just passed the $116,000 $117,000 $118,000 $120,000 $121,000 $125,000 point in our crowd funding campaign. There is still much more yet to be done on this bare bones effort. First Contact is very soon. Please consider helping this project at http://rkthb.co/42228.

Expedition 39 Crew Returns to Earth

"The Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft carrying Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 9:58 p.m. (7:58 a.m. Wednesday, Kazakh time). Helicopters carrying the Russian recovery teams and NASA personnel reached the landing site shortly afterward to assist the crew and conduct medical examinations."

NASA Puts One Space Station Propulsion Vehicle on Ice While Moving Ahead with Another, (2000)

"Meanwhile, the U.S. Propulsion Module (USPM) activity continues to move ahead. The USPM is a long term solution designed to provide reboost capability independent of that provided by the Russian Service Module. Unlike the ICM which was not designed to be refueled in orbit, the USPM would have all of the capabilities currently provided by the Service Module - without the pressurized living volume."

US Propulsion Module Why, What, When?

Alternate means for ISS GN&C/Propulsion system functions are required for potential loss of Russian partnership (Risk of unfriendly break-up)

NASA's 1999 Plan To Splash ISS

"NASA has always been required to have a way to bring the ISS back to Earth once its mission is completed. This briefing first appeared online at NASAWatch.com in April 1999. The Propulsion Module mentioned in this proposal was never built. It was being considered when Russia's delays on delivering the Service Module to orbit began to mount."

Keith's note: Yes, yes, the U.S. paid for FGB and we own it - but then there's Crimea.

Russia to Halt Export of RD-180 Engines for MilSat Launches and Questions ISS Future, SpaceRef Business

"The escalating war of words between Russia and U.S. just hit home hard for the Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) with the news today that Russia would no longer supply RD-180 engines for export to the U.S. if used by the Pentagon."

Moscow to ban US from using Russian rocket engines for military launches, Russia Today

"Moscow is banning Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines, which the US has used to deliver its military satellites into orbit, said Russia's Deputy PM, Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of space and defense industries. According to Rogozin, Russia is also halting the operation of all American GPS stations on its territory from June 1. Russia currently hosts 11 ground-based GPS stations, the Deputy PM said."

United Launch Alliance Statement on Russian Statements

"ULA and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions. However, if recent news reports are accurate, it affirms that SpaceX's irresponsible actions have created unnecessary distractions, threatened U.S. military satellite operations, and undermined our future relationship with the International Space Station."

NASA Statement on News Reports Regarding Russian Space Statements

"Space cooperation has been a hallmark of US-Russia relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station. Ongoing operations on the ISS continue on a normal basis with a planned return of crew tonight (at 9:58 p.m. EDT) and expected launch of a new crew in two weeks. We have not received any official notification from the Government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point."

Keith's note: The Technical Capabilities Assessment Team has decided to shut down the reduced flight program at JSC and transfer what is left of it to AFRC. JSC Center Director Ochoa has been directed to shut things down by mid-summer and mothball their C-9. Henceforth NASA will depend on one source: ZeroG. No real reason is given - and AFRC admits that it does not have the staff to run the program. A common ongoing complaint among users of ZeroG's jet is the poor quality of the microgravity levels during its parabolas. Typical NASA decision making process.

- Zero G and Other Microgravity Simulations Summary Report, NASA/TM-2013-217373
- Feasibility of Use of NASA JSC C9 Aircraft If It Were To Be Furnished As Government Furnished Equipment, earlier post
- Extension of NASA Microgravity Services Contract ( Zero Gravity Corporation)
- NASA OIG is Not Pleased With ZeroG, earlier post
- ZeroG Responds to OIG Report, earlier post

Just Asking: Charles Bolden, NASA administrator

Space exploration is becoming more of a private enterprise. Is that a good thing?

"I don't think space exploration is becoming more of a private enterprise. That's where we want it to go, but today there hasn't been a private enterprise go to Mars or go to the moon. Private enterprise talks while NASA acts. And that's not meant to sound like an arrogant statement, but we're trying to help people realize dreams, and we're trying to help private enterprise and entrepreneurs realize their dreams of doing the stuff that up until now only nations have done. The problem that private enterprise finds is that it's hard."

Keith's note: Huh? What happened to everything Bolden has said prior to this about the value of the private sector? Do we now ignore all of the pro-private sector speeches and reports from NASA? "Private enterprise talks while NASA acts"? Really? Does NASA have a way to send cargo to the ISS without use of a commercial vendor? Who is closer to sending crews into space? Certainly not NASA. Seems to me that the private sector is way out ahead of NASA - at a cost that is a fraction of what it would have cost NASA to do the exact same thing.

Keith's update: On the heels of these anti-private sector remarks NASA has released a video wherein Charlie Bolden sings the praises of the private sector. Go figure. NASA wants it both ways, it would seem.

Keith's note: We just passed the $112,000 point in our crowd funding campaign - 90% We started 27 days ago with nothing. We still need to reach $125,000. Please consider helping this project at http://rkthb.co/42228.

Our large transmitter is undergoing final assembly. Our software defined radio hardware was delivered to ISEE-3 Mission Control last week - more information here: Ettus Research Helps Power ISEE-3 Reboot Effort

On 10 August 2014 we'll be flying less than 50 km over the lunar surface. Join us.

Air Force to award 'Space Fence' contract to track orbital debris, Washington Post

"Hundreds of thousands of pieces of man-made debris are floating around out there, the detritus of more than 50 years of spaceflight. There have been chunks of dead satellites and spent rocket boosters -- even a glove that an astronaut dropped in 1965 and a spatula that escaped from a space shuttle in 2006."

Do We Need a Space Traffic Cop?

"There are currently three agencies that play a primary role in tracking and mitigation of orbital debris that may be hazardous to operational satellites or life and property on Earth, if the debris is large enough upon reentering the Earth's atmosphere. The Subcommittee will explore the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defense, FAA, and FCC in policing orbital debris, what authorities are currently granted by Congress to federal agencies, and how they coordinate these activities."

Subcommittee Discusses Space Traffic Management

"Members raised a number of questions such as whether space traffic management requires an international approach; what liability agencies in charge of space traffic management should assume if their actions or lack thereof result in a collision and creation of debris; and what information is needed before Congress would move forward with legislation on these issues."

- Hearing Charter

- Hearing: Space Traffic Management: How to Prevent a Real Life "Gravity"

Court Lifts NPO Energomash Injunction, SpaceX Back at Square One, SpaceRef Business

"Commenting to SpaceRef on the ruling a SpaceX spokesperson said: The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has taken steps toward understanding whether United Launch Alliance's current sole-source contract violates U.S. sanctions by sending taxpayer money to Russia for the RD-180 engine. That question, combined with the others specifically raised in the SpaceX Complaint, relating to the risks posed by dependence on Russian-made engines and the need to open competition for the Air Force space launch program - are timely and appropriate."

Court lifts injunction barring payments for Russian engine

"A federal judge Thursday lifted an injunction barring United Launch Alliance from buying Russian engines for the company's Atlas 5 rocket, concluding such transactions do not violate U.S. sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia's actions in Ukraine. A temporary injunction was granted April 30, two days after a complaint by ULA rival Space Explorations Technologies -- SpaceX -- that challenged the legitimacy of a sole-source "block buy" Air Force contract that was awarded to United Launch Alliance last December for 27 Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets."

Preliminary Injunction Lifted - ULA Purchase of RD-180 Engines Complies with Sanctions

"Sadly, SpaceX's frivolous lawsuit caused unnecessary distraction of the executive and judicial branch and increased tensions with Russia during a sensitive national security crisis. "SpaceX's actions are self-serving, irresponsible and have threatened the U.S.'s involvement with the International Space Station and other companies and projects working with Russian State entities."

- Russian Engine Drama Continues, earlier post
- SpaceX Gets Injunction Against Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post

Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Assess Long-Term Affordability of Human Exploration Programs, GAO

"- The SLS estimate is based on the funding required to develop and operate the initial 70-metric ton variant through first flight in 2017 but not the costs for its second flight in 2021. NASA is now incurring some costs related to the second flight, but it is not currently tracking those costs for life cycle cost estimating purposes. Furthermore, the estimate does not include costs to incrementally design, develop, and produce future 105- and 130-metric ton SLS variants which NASA expects to use for decades. NASA is now funding concept development and analysis related to these capabilities.

- The Orion estimate does not include costs for production, operations, or sustainment of additional crew capsules, despite plans to use and possibly enhance this capsule after 2021. It also does not include $4.7 billion in prior costs incurred during the approximately 4 years when Orion was being developed as part of NASA's now-defunct Constellation program.

- The ground systems estimate excludes costs to develop or operate the ground systems infrastructure beyond 2017, although NASA intends to modify ground architecture to accommodate all SLS variants."

House FY 2015 NASA Appropriations Bill, AIP

"Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee released an unnumbered Full Committee Print to accompany the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill. This is a draft version of the committee report that is to be issued providing all-important language on the departments and agencies funded by this bill. This FYI reviews the National Aeronautics and Space Administration portion of the report."

Top Senate Appropriators Fault FY 2015 NASA Budget Request

"Administrator Bolden, we really do strongly disagree on this" Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said at last week's hearing on the FY 2015 NASA budget request for science programs. Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) was also critical as he questioned the "administration's level of commitment to a forward-thinking inspirational space program."

Wow, an Increase of $170 million for Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

"The House would provide NASA with $1.45 billion for Planetary Science, which is $170 million above the White House request and an increase of $105 million over last year. This gets us to within spitting distance of The Planetary Society's recommended minimum of $1.5 billion per year for a healthy program, so we are quite pleased with this number!"

Rep. Adam Schiff - House Appropriations Bill Significantly Ups Planetary Science Funding

"I'm very pleased that the subcommittee has made such a strong investment in planetary science - one of the Crown Jewels of NASA's portfolio. With this funding increase, we will be able to keep Mars 2020 on track and begin an exciting new mission to Europa, two of the science community's highest priorities. We should also be able to continue the operation of craft that have exceeded their estimated lives but continue to produce valuable science."

Space Launch System Structural Test Stands to be Built at Marshall Space Flight Center

"NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) will have the largest cryogenic fuel tanks ever used on a rocket. Stands to test the tanks and other hardware to ensure that these huge structures can withstand the incredible stresses of launch will be built at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA is contracting for the construction of the test stands through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has awarded a $45.3 million contract to Brasfield & Gorrie of Birmingham, Alabama."

NASA OIG: NASA's Decision Process for Conducting Space Launch System Core Stage Testing at Stennis, earlier post

"Similar to the OIG's conclusions 5 years ago, the OIG found that NASA failed to follow its internal policies or its agreement with the DOD when it decided to spend approximately $352 million to refurbish and test the SLS core stage on the B-2 test stand at Stennis.  Moreover, the OIG found that NASA did not adequately support its decision given that refurbishing the B-2 stand will be more costly and take longer than two other possible options:  an Air Force test stand at Edwards Air Force Base in California and a test stand at the Marshall Space Flight Center."

U.S. Government Files for Dissolution of Injunction Against Payments to Russia, SpacePolicyOnline

"The United States Government filed a request with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims late yesterday asking the court to dissolve its injunction against the government or United Launch Alliance (ULA) from making payments to Russia because it might violate sanctions imposed by President Obama against Russian Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin. The court enjoined the Air Force and ULA from making payments to the Russian entity NPO Energomash for RD-180 engines, used for ULA's Atlas V rocket, on April 30."

- SpaceX Gets Injunction Against Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post
- Congressional Concerns Over Use of Russian Engines, earlier post
- Earlier posts

Bill Dana

Aerospace Pioneer William H. Dana Dies

"One of the nation's most respected aerospace pioneers has passed away. Distinguished research pilot and aeronautical engineer William Harvey Dana died on May 6, 2014. His long and illustrious career at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center spanned more than 48 years, during which Dana logged more than 8,000 hours in over 60 different aircraft from helicopters and sailplanes to the hypersonic X-15. Several of the airplanes he flew are displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project Near Term Objectives

"In 2014 this venerable spacecraft returns to Earth's orbit and our primary objective is to regain control of the spacecraft and command its engines to fire on a trajectory that will result in a capture into a permanent Earth orbit.  Following this, we hope to return the spacecraft to science operations, using its instruments as they were originally designed.  The data from the spacecraft will be open to the public and will be used by the heliophysics community and will be a tool for teaching operations and science data gathering from a spacecraft by students and the public.  In the following sections we will detail the engineering objectives of the project until it is in its final Earth orbit."

Keith's note: We just passed $90,000. We still need to reach $125,000. Please consider helping this project at http://rkthb.co/42228

NASA Inspector General Testimony on NASA FY 2014 Budget Request

"While acknowledging these and other achievements, we believe that NASA will continue to be challenged to effectively manage its varied programs in the current budget and political environment. We agree with the observation made by the National Research Council in its 2012 report examining NASA's strategic direction and management that, in effect, too many programs are chasing too few dollars at NASA. Accordingly, we continue to view declining budgets and fiscal uncertainties as the most significant external challenges to NASA's ability to successfully move forward on its many projects and programs."

- NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges 2013

Keith's note: NASA OIG dumps on NASA for IT issues but they can't even post documents such that their text can be copied and pasted.

Santa Susana Residents Clamor to Have NASA Clean Toxic Site, NBC 4

"After NASA this week announced it would delay its decision to clean up a long-contaminated Santa Susana lab site, neighbors began calling foul, claiming the tainted area is making them sick. Years of rocket engine testing has made roughly 450 acres of land -- located between Simi Valley and Canoga Park -- toxic. NASA also tested nuclear reactors in the area more than 50 years ago, and nearby residents say radiation has seeped from the site for years without them knowing."

Falcon 9 Reusable Completes Test Flight to 1000 Meters [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX has release a second video of a Falcon 9 Reusable test flight, this time reaching 1000 meters before softly landing in the same spot.

... Early flights of F9R will take off with legs fixed in the down position. However, we will soon be transitioning to liftoff with legs stowed against the side of the rocket and then extending them just before landing."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project Technical Update 1 May 2014, Dennis Wingo

"Today is May 1, 2014, the 17th day after we started our RocketHub project to raise $125,000 to allow us to attempt to contact, evaluate, and command the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) spacecraft to fire its engines in such a way as to return it to Earth orbit after a swing-by of the Moon on August 10 2014. Today I want to discuss some of the technical issues and hurdles that we face in bring this spacecraft back into a stable Earth orbit. I am leaving out the experiments for the time being as we have to focus on the engineering required before we get to that part."

Preliminary Injunction Issued Prohibits Further Purchases From NPO Energomash, SpaceRef Business

"A preliminary injunction was issued late yesterday in the matter of SpaceX vs The United States with one respect to the complaint. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has prohibited the Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) from "making any purchases from or payment of money to NPO Energomash" effectively blocking any further purchases of RD-180 engines used by ULA on the Atlas V."

ULA statement from Kevin G. MacCary, United Launch Alliance General Counsel, in response to Preliminary Injunction Related to National Security

"ULA is deeply concerned with this ruling and we will work closely with the Department of Justice to resolve the injunction expeditiously. In the meantime, ULA will continue to demonstrate our commitment to our National Security on the launch pad by assuring the safe delivery of the missions we are honored to support." 

Elon Musk's SpaceX granted injunction in rocket launch suit against Lockheed-Boeing, Washington Post

"A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge issued an injunction late Wednesday prohibiting a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing from proceeding with plans to buy Russian-made rocket engines. Judge Susan G. Braden's ruling came after SpaceX, a California-based rocket company, sued the federal government Monday, protesting the Air Force's award of a lucrative space contract, saying it should have been competitively bid."

Injunction Order text

- Congressional Concerns Over Use of Russian Engines, earlier post
- Building All-American Rocket Engines, earlier post


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