September 2014 Archives

Sierra Nevada Corporation Develops Design for Stratolaunch Air Launch System for Low Earth Orbit

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced a design for an integrated system for human spaceflight that can be launched to low Earth orbit (LEO) using Stratolaunch System's air launch architecture and a scale version of SNC's Dream Chaser(R) spacecraft."

International Astronautical Congress Opens with Fanfare But Russia and China Have Visa Issues, SpaceRef

"Delegates from around the world were treated to Canadiana during the opening ceremonies of the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. Highlights included a love story on ice, a cross country taste of Canadian music including fiddlers from Nova Scotia and First Nations from British Columbia and of course an appearance by former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield who galvanized the world with his social media presence during his stay aboard the International Space Station."

Sierra Nevada Corporation Protests NASA's Commercial Crew Program Award, SpaceRef Business

"A representative from Sierra Nevada Corporation has confirmed to SpaceRef that they have filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office regarding the CCtCap contract."

Sierra Nevada Corporation Challenges Award of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced today that it has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. The CCtCap program will restore U.S. transportation capability to the International Space Station.

SNC, Boeing and SpaceX submitted separate proposals for the CCtCap program. While all three competitors were found to be compliant and awardable under the criteria set forth in the request for proposal (RFP), only two proposals were selected (Boeing and SpaceX), one of which would result in a substantial increased cost to the public despite near equivalent technical and past performance scores."

NASA Expands Commercial Space Program, Requests Proposals for Second Round of Cargo Resupply Contracts for International Space Station

"On the heels of awarding groundbreaking contracts to U.S. commercial space companies to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA has released a request for proposals (RFP) for the next round of contracts for private-sector companies to deliver experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory."

Soyuz Launched From Baikonur

"The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft docked to the International Space Station at 10:11 p.m. EDT while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency will welcome Soyuz crew. Coverage of hatch opening begins on NASA TV at 11:30 p.m. EDT."

Investigative Report,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Review of Improper Expenditure for GOES-R Ground Segment Team Activity

"The OIG also determined that 13 movie attendees--six government and seven contract employees--had failed to charge their attendance at the movie as non-work hours. The timecards for those 13 employees were later amended or annotated, after the OIG initiated investigation 13-0948-I, to reflect the use of annual leave/personal time or a reference to offsetting hours worked to cover participation in the team event. The OIG concluded investigation 13-0948-I on March 17, 2014, with a determination that, absent these adjustments, the government paid $3,487.31 in taxpayer-funded wages for employees to attend the theater showing of "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Keith's note: I can understand the whole time card thing. But ... NOAA GOES-R (a satellite) employees, who work at an agency (run by a former astronaut) that operates a large number of satellites (in outer space) - attend a SciFi movie (about space) and someone thinks that this contributed to GOES-R delays? Its possible, I suppose - if the individuals involved were actually in launch-critical positions. But DC Metro and traffic delays probably had a much more prominent effect. Meanwhile, everyone wanted NASA to do more tie-in promotions with the very same movie. I hope someone files a FOIA request seeking out the time charges (expense) for the NOAA IG to do this report.

Audit of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series: Comprehensive Mitigation Approaches, Strong Systems Engineering, and Cost Controls Are Needed to Reduce Risks of Coverage Gaps, 25 April 2013.

RARE! NASA 16' Transonic Wind Tunnel Sitka Spruce Wood Fan Blade Propeller Model

Sitka Spruce Fan blade from NASA Langley 16' Transonic Wind Tunnel *Very Rare*

"This wind tunnel no longer exists, and very little remains as historic artifacts available to the public from this remarkable tunnel. You are buying a true piece of aviation and aeronautic history. Most of these fan blades were re-purposed by NASA and used as tributes to the historic tunnel. Now you can have the same in your museum or board room."

ISEE-3 Is In Safe Mode

ISEE-3 Is In Safe Mode

"The ground stations listening to ISEE-3 have not been able to obtain a signal since Tuesday the 16th. Arecibo, Morehead, Bochum, SETI, as well as the Usuda 64 meter dish in Japan and the Algonquin 45 meter dish in Canada have all pointed at the spacecraft with no positive results. So, at this time we are assuming that the spacecraft has gone into safe mode."

Earth's Water Is Much Older Than the Sun, Carnegie Institution for Science

"Our findings show that a significant fraction of our solar system's water, the most-fundamental ingredient to fostering life, is older than the Sun, which indicates that abundant, organic-rich interstellar ices should probably be found in all young planetary systems," Alexander said."

Water On Earth Is Older Than Our Sun, University of Exeter

"A pioneering new study has shown that water found on Earth predates the formation of the Sun -- raising hopes that life could exist on exoplanets, the planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. The ground-breaking research set out to discover the origin of the water that was deposited on the Earth as it formed."

Keith's note: This is a rather profound finding - the sort of thing that would make Carl Sagan excoted - something that you'd think a lot of people would like to know about. The Carnegie Institution for Science notes: "This research was supported by the NSF, the Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship, NASA Astrobiology, NASA Cosmochemistry and NASA.". Yet no mention is made at @AstrobiologyNAI, astrobiology.nasa.gov, science.nasa.gov, or at NASA.gov. The word "inept" once again comes to mind with regard to NASA's Astrobiology program.

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Program to Continue, SpaceRef Business

"Having lost out to Boeing and SpaceX for the lucrative Commercial Crew Program contract, Sierra Nevada's Mark Sirangelo told the Denver Post the companies plans to go forward with development of the spacecraft and bid on future contracts."

India's Mars Orbiter Sends Back Its First Images

"India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft has captured its first image of Mars. The image was taken from a height of 7300 km; with 376 m spatial resolution. Another image shows the limb of Mars."

India becomes first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit, joins elite global space club, Washington Post

"By comparison, India's $72 million Mars orbiter is the cheapest interplanetary mission ever. [Indian Prime Minister] Modi said that India's Mars mission cost less than what it took to make the famous Hollywood space movie "Gravity." "We kept it low cost, high technology. That is the Indian way of working," Sandip Bhattacharya, assistant director of B.M. Birla Planetarium in the northern city of Jaipur, said in a telephone interview. " ... "

Five things to know about India's Mars orbiter, CNN

"In a rapid turnaround, the ISRO worked at breakneck speed to engineer, assemble and launch the Mars Orbiter. By November 2013, it launched from Chennai and 10 months later, it reached Mars' orbit to inspire a nation. From announcement to execution, the Mars mission took India's space agency two years and one month."

Why India's Mars mission is so cheap - and thrilling, BBC

"So how has India done it? For sure, people costs are less in this populous nation, and the scientists and engineers working on any space mission are always the largest part of the ticket price. Home-grown components and technologies have also been prioritised over expensive foreign imports. But, in addition, India has been careful to do things simply."

NASA Solicitation: Space Launch System RS-25 Core Engine

"In developing the SLS, the Act directed the Administrator to utilize, to the extent practicable, existing contracts, investments, workforce, industrial base, and capabilities from the Space Shuttle Program (SSP), Orion, and Ares I projects. This includes SSP-derived components and Ares I components that draw extensively on SSP heritage propulsion systems, including liquid fuel engines, external tank or tank-related capability, and solid rocket motors. To achieve this mandate, NASA initiated the development of the SLS with SSP and Ares I derived assets. Specific to the Core Stage Engine, the system will utilize modified RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) hardware and Ares I components to provide the required lift capabilities. This procurement action is to acquire six additional RS-25 Core Stage Engines. These six flight engines in combination with the available RS-25 residual inventory will support the SLS flight manifest through the first five flights."

NASA Solicitation: Space Launch System Exploration Upper Stage Engine

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invites Industry to submit a response to this Request for Information (RFI) to assist NASA in the planning for a new Exploration Upper Stage Engine (EUSE) acquisition development."

Keith's note: Funny how NASA makes these overt statements about using Ares stuff - stuff that cost billions - and yet when you ask how much SLS costs they never seem to include the cost of all the Ares stuff.

NASA's Emerging Space Office Releases New Report, SpaceRef Business

"NASA's Emerging Space Office (ESO), part of NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, has released a new report "The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight." According to NASA the "report provides an introduction and overview to the emerging space ecosystem and American private-sector space activities."

NASA Administrator Resigns After Leak Of Offensive Anti-Moon Email, The Onion

"I wish I could understand what would possess someone so committed to space exploration to say such ugly things about the moon," NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said, adding that he was shocked and appalled when he read Bolden's wish that the moon would "just wane itself out of existence." "But his comments were clearly inexcusable. Unfortunately, I think his resignation was the only way for NASA, and for Charles himself, to move forward."

Keith's note: (sigh) Yes folks, this is a parody. Its The Onion after all. Although it was hard to tell it was fake - until they quoted Robert Lightfoot as having refered to Charlie Bolden as "Charles" - then I knew it was fake. ;-)

India Enters Mars Orbit

India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft Enters Mars Orbit (with video)

"India successfully placed its Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft into orbit around Mars this evening - and in so doing it became the first nation to put something into Mars orbit on its very first attempt."

New Space Vs Old Habits

NASA views "new space" with hope, support -- and wariness, Houston Chronicle

"The ruthlessness of Musk and SpaceX bend toward a singular goal, to drive down the cost of access to space. And it's working. NASA paid SpaceX a relative pittance, less than $400 million, for the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft that's now supplying the space station. NASA estimated it would have cost the space agency four to 10 times as much to do the same thing. Musk is also building a massive rocket, the Falcon 9 Heavy, which could fly three years earlier than the heavy lift rocket NASA is building, the Space Launch System, and may deliver cargo to orbit at a tenth of the cost. For Musk, however, these are just baby steps. He, too, wants to build reusable rockets. "What SpaceX has done so far is evolutionary, but not revolutionary," Musk said earlier this year."

SpaceX Breaks Ground on New Texas Spaceport, SpaceRef Business [Download artist illustrations]

"Today SpaceX broke ground for the development of their new Texas spaceport at Boca Chica Beach. Along with CEO Elon Musk, Texas Governor Rick Perry and other dignitaries were in attendance."

Video of the event has been added.

Emerging Space: The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight, PDF, NASA Office of the Chief Technologist

"Crowdfunding offers space organizations avenues for fundraising outside traditional institutional methods. Sites like Kickstarter.com, Rockethub.com, and Indiegogo.com allow space companies to tap the financial resources of private citizens interested in space exploration. In addition to providing crucial funds for the companies, crowd funding allows citizens to directly engage in space exploration by funding the projects that interest them. The number of these projects continues to grow. Table 4 provides a few prominent examples known at the time of printing. ... ISEE-3, a NASA probe launched in 1978, became the first spacecraft in deep space to be operated by a private-sector organization thanks in part to a crowd funding campaign."

Keith's note: When you add ISEE-3 Reboot Project ($160K) and Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project ($62K) together (both conducted by the same team) over $222,000 has been raised via crowdfunding. Click on image to enlarge.

Meanwhile, since its inception several years ago, CASIS has raised only $14,550 in cash. We often raised that much in a day or two.

Mars Fleet +1

MAVEN Enters Orbit Around Mars

"NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars' orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars."

SpaceX Launches Dragon on 4th Commercial Resupply Mission to the ISS, NASA

"The spacecraft's 2.5 tons of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support 255 science and research investigations that will occur onboard the station."

Includes the post-launch briefing news conference.

Congress Passes CR but Postpones Work on Space Bills, Space News

"The U.S. Senate passed a short-term funding bill for the federal government Sept. 18, one day after the House of Representatives passed the same bill, but both houses delayed consideration of several space-related bills, in some cases until the next Congress."

Two Views: Dragon Vs CST-100

How NASA's New Spaceships Stack Up, NPR

"Boeing and SpaceX both have new displays standard on every model. But Keith Cowing says there is a difference in the way they look. The Boeing one does harken back to Apollo," he says. "The SpaceX one, I've been in there, and it's got a sci-fi vibe to it." SpaceX does look sleeker, and it'd be his first choice. But honestly? He'd fly in either one, if it meant going to space."

NASA misses chance to revitalize space program, Newt Gingrich, CNN

"The largest contract in a program designed to boost competition within the commercial space industry went to Boeing -- the gigantic, heavily subsidized government contractor with a history of huge cost overruns. Although SpaceX did win a smaller prize of its own, the fact that the old incumbent is getting a contract to provide services to the space station is going to limit the promise of America's commercial space industry."

NASA OIG: Extending the Operational Life of the International Space Station Until 2024

"In addition, while utilization of the ISS for research continues to increase, NASA and its partner responsible for attracting private research to the Station -- the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) -- continue to face challenges. For example, to date CASIS has raised only $14,550 in cash and received pledges of $8.2 million to supplement NASA's $15 million annual cooperative agreement. In addition, CASIS officials reported that provisions in its agreement with NASA that require researchers to assign certain patent licenses and data rights to the Government are deterring commercial stakeholders from conducting research on the ISS. "

A better golf club? Space may play a role in that., Florida Today

"This is not research on a golf club," said Duane Ratliff, CASIS chief operating officer. "This is industrial research and development on materials that is clearly targeted for the improvement of products that will go to the marketplace. ... Ratliff likely spoke for most of them when he joked, "Honestly, I'm hoping that whatever comes out of this will straighten out my slice."

CASIS and COBRA PUMA GOLF Team Up For Commercial Research Investigation On ISS, CASIS

"Through this investigation, the research and design team at COBRA PUMA GOLF hopes to gain a better understanding of certain material characteristics that can be used to create some of the most innovative and technologically advanced golf products in the market."

Keith's note: OK Duane - if this is not "golf club" research, then what other "golf products" are you doing research on? Why hasn't the past 2 years of CASIS-sponsored golf research on ISS yielded any published results or status reports from CASIS? As for your attempts to downplay the golfing aspect of what you are doing - your logo for these payloads clearly emphasizes golf over everything else.

As for the IG's report, "$14,550 in cash"? I have to wonder what a "pledge" actually entails - obviously not much in terms of actual cash. CASIS is clearly falling well short of where NASA - and everyone else - expected CASIS to be at this point.

Baseball raffles and golf-themed co-branding do not a vibrant ISS research program make.

- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS Would Rather Go Golfing Than Do Actual ISS Research, earlier post

Extending the Operational Life of the International Space Station Until 2024, NASA OIG

"Specifically, the ISS faces a risk of insufficient power generation due in part to faster-than-expected degradation of its solar arrays. Second, although most replacement parts have proven more reliable than expected, sudden failures of key hardware have occurred requiring unplanned space walks for repair or replacement. Third, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet NASA has a limited capacity to transport several large replacement parts to the Station should they be needed. While the ISS Program is actively working to mitigate these risks, anticipating the correct amount of replacement parts and transporting them to the ISS present major challenges to extending Station operations 10 or more years beyond its original expected service life.

The OIG also found the assumptions underlying the Agency's budget projections for the ISS are overly optimistic and that its actual costs may be higher. NASA projects its annual budget for the ISS Program to grow from $3 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2014 to nearly $4 billion by FY 2020. However, ISS Program costs rose 26 percent between FYs 2011 and 2013 and an average of 8 percent annually over the life of the program. Moreover, much of the projected cost increase is attributable to higher transportation costs, and the OIG found unrealistic NASA's current transportation estimates."

United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin Announce Partnership To Develop New American Rocket Engine, Blue Origin

"United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation's premier space launch company, and Blue Origin, LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced today that they have entered into an agreement to jointly fund development of the new BE-4 rocket engine by Blue Origin. This new collaboration will allow ULA to maintain the heritage, success and reliability of its rocket families - Atlas and Delta - while addressing the long-term need for a new domestic engine.

"The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s will power each ULA booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. "

Marc's Update: I've added the video of the news conference to the press release.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal

"Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."

Keith's note: When I asked today if Blue Origin had been part of Boeing's commercial crew proposal team (one that would use a United Launch Alliance rocket), ULA CEO Tory Bruno said "No". He went on to say that their bid used existing engine capabilities. Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos added later that yesterday's NASA commercial crew announcement and today's engine announcement were totally separate and unrelated.

Boeing, SpaceX to team with NASA on space taxis, CBS

"It also is not yet known whether Congress will appropriate enough money to fund the development of two spacecraft or whether NASA will be forced to down select to a single provider at some point down the road. But Bolden said he was confident Congress will provide the funding necessary to keep SpaceX and Boeing on track for maiden flights in the 2017 timeframe. Congress has appropriated about $2 billion for the commercial crew program since 2011, about a billion dollars less than NASA requested. The agency hopes to get around $800 million for the program in its fiscal 2015 budget."

Boeing and SpaceX Win $6.8 Billion for Apollo-Style Space Taxis, NBC

"NASA officials declined to discuss in detail why they selected Boeing and SpaceX while passing on the Dream Chaser, but said it was a close call. "This wasn't an easy choice, but it's the best choice for NASA and the nation," Bolden said. Lueders said the different amounts set aside for the two companies were based on the amounts proposed by the companies themselves. "Both Boeing and SpaceX proposed to the same set of requirements," she said. "NASA awarded the contracts based on their proposals. It's two contracts to the same requirements."

Keith's note: In summary: NASA does not know if it will have enough money to fund both Boeing and SpaceX, won't tell anyone why or how they made the selections, and gave Boeing $1.6 billion more than they gave to SpaceX to do the same work assigned to SpaceX. Just the sort of questions Congress will be asking.

NASA Selects SpaceX and Boeing to Ferry Astronauts to the Space Station, Marc Boucher

"NASA awarded a total of $6.8 billion in contracts with Boeing getting the larger share, $4.2 billion and SpaceX getting $2.6 billion for doing what appears the same work. NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders was asked several times by reporters why the difference in the funding allocation but only said it was based on the price submitted by the companies in their proposals."

NASA to Make Major Announcement Today About Astronaut Transport to the International Space Station

"NASA will make a major announcement today at 4 p.m. EDT regarding the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States. The agency will make the announcement during a news conference from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Keith's note: Moments ago Sen. Bill Nelson was on CNN. When asked what the NASA decision to give commercial crew awards to "Boeing and SpaceX" means, he confirmed that awards were being given to "these two companies".

Boeing-SpaceX Team Split Space Taxi Award, Lawmaker Says, Bloomberg

"Boeing Co. (BA) and Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will share a multibillion-dollar federal contract to help restart U.S. manned spaceflights and reduce reliance on Russian rockets, a congressional leader said. The two companies will split the award being unveiled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration later today, said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House Science Committee. NASA is planning an announcement on the program at 4 p.m. in Washington."

Keith's update: Rep. Johnson's PR person says that she never actually said said this. Here is what her office is putting out as a quote: Science Committee Democrats Congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on NASA's CCtCap Awards

Keith's note: It is official: Boeing will get $4.2 billion, SpaceX $2.6 billion.

American Companies Selected to Return Astronaut Launches to American Soil, Charlie Bolden

"While Boeing and SpaceX handle the task of taking our astronauts to the space station, the scientists on Earth and astronauts on the orbiting ISS National Laboratory will continue the groundbreaking research that has been taking place there for almost 14 years now without interruption. They will be able to add to that portfolio with an expanded crew made possible by the arrival of these new spacecraft."

FAA Releases Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety, SpaceRef Business

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) today released its first Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety document today during the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting.

From the introduction: "The purpose of this document is to provide a compilation of practices that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) believes are important and recommends for commercial human space flight occupant safety. The document is intended to enable a dialogue among, and perhaps consensus of, government, industry, and academia on practices that will support the continuous improvement of the safety of launch and reentry vehicles designed to carry humans."

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal

"The long-secretive space ambitions of Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., suddenly are about to get a lot more public. Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."

Boeing Takes Lead to Build Space Taxi, Wall Street Journal

"Boeing Co. appears positioned to beat out two smaller rivals for the bulk of a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from orbit, according to government and aerospace-industry officials. An award to Boeing would represent a victory over the newer Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, which had been considered a favorite in many quarters because of its lower costs and nimbler approach. The decision on the development of space taxis will be a milestone for commercial space endeavors, locking in unparalleled authority for contractors to develop and operate vehicles with limited federal oversight. An announcement is expected as early as Tuesday."

Keith's note: Just because something is published in the Wall Street Journal does not mean that it is accurate. The author of these stories has confused two separate stories with each other. Tomorrow's Blue Origin event was scheduled long before NASA even made its CCiCAP decision and would have gone ahead even if NASA had delayed making an announcement - and would have also been made regardless of what NASA will be announcing for CCiCAP.

Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) Set to Meet, SpaceRef Business

"Some of the items of interest include hearing from Kathy Lueders, NASA's relative new Commercial Crew Program Program Manager, an update from The Honorable Lamar Smith on the Congressional Perspective of the Commercial Space Launch Act, ASTEROIDS Act, and NASA Reauthorization, an update on DARPA's XS-1 and its application to Commercial Space Transportation, and an update from the Department of State regarding the Outer Space Treaty."

"With respect to Kathy Lueders speaking it will be interesting to hear why no commercial crew announcement has been made yet. On the other hand this would be a good opportunity for her to speak should an announcement be made beforehand. And with Lamar Smith scheduled to speak only hours after Kathy it will be interesting to hear his point of view on the status of the Commercial Crew Program irregardless of whether an announcement has been made."

Marc's note: The second day of the meeting will be webcast.

Marc's update: 7:25 PM ET: Twitter reports are circulating that the Commercial Crew announcement will be tomorrow. We have not been able to confirm them. I've also heard there would be two awards which is not what Congress wants. With Lamar Smith speaking shortly after Lueders, this could get interesting.

CASIS and COBRA PUMA GOLF Team Up For Commercial Research Investigation On ISS

"CASIS has been tasked by Congress and NASA to work with new and non-traditional researchers for the development of products, therapies, and services onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory," said CASIS President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson. "Our partnership with COBRA PUMA GOLF is an excellent example of a truly non-traditional research investigation taking advantage of the microgravity environment to advance knowledge in applied materials science." In June of 2012, CASIS and CPG signed an initial Memorandum of Agreement ..."

Keith's note: Has CASIS actually published or promoted any of the research results from this ongoing golf in space effort? I have seen zero evidence that it has. CASIS loves to promote these vapid press releases that promise - but never deliver - amazing return on NASA's investment via goofy sports tie-ins - yet they ignore actual commercial research such as that being done by Ardbeg on the ISS. And of course, CASIS is so inept that they cannot figure out how to tell people about the weekly ACTUAL ISS research results that NASA puts out as part of its Spaceline updates. What is baffling is why NASA continues to put up with this inadequate performance by CASIS.

- ISS Commercial Research That CASIS Utterly Ignores, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Signs Deal with COBRA PUMA GOLF for Research on ISS (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS: It Takes More Than Golf to Utilize the ISS, earlier post
- CASIS Defines Bedtime Stories on ISS as "Major Payload", earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Incapable of Doing Its Job, earlier post

NASA's Efforts to Identify Near-Earth Objects and Mitigate Hazards

"NASA has organized its NEO Program under a single Program Executive who manages a loosely structured conglomerate of research activities that are not well integrated and lack overarching Program oversight, objectives, and established milestones to track progress. In addition, NASA is undertaking NEO-related activities not managed by the Program and not sufficiently integrated into ongoing Program activities. Furthermore, NASA lacks formal agreements or procedures for NEO-related activities it conducts with other Federal agencies and foreign governments and has not taken advantage of possible partnership opportunities. Consequently, managers could not identify the level of resources required to adequately support the Program or explain how activities to which the NEO Program is contributing further Program goals. Even though the Program has discovered, categorized, and plotted the orbits of more than 11,000 NEOs since 1998, NASA will fall short of meeting the 2005 Authorization Act goal of finding 90 percent of NEOs larger than 140 meters in diameter by 2020."

Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Spaceflight Contest

"Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Spaceflight Contest - "Spaceship Earth Grants Corp. (SEG), a Public Benefit Corporation, is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible. SEG offers applicants a chance to travel to space while helping to fund efforts and organizations that are making a significant positive impact on planet Earth. SEG will be providing grants to individuals and organizations that are likewise committed to bettering their communities. For more information, visit spaceshipearthgrants.com.

About Star Harbor Space Training Academy - Star Harbor Space Training Academy will be the first-in-the-world publicly accessible, fully comprehensive and environmentally immersive space training academy. The Star Harbor team is led by CEO Maraia Hoffman and includes former NASA Astronauts Leland Melvin and Ron Garan. More information about Star Harbor will be announced in October."

Inside Kennedy Space Center and Spaceport Magazine, SpaceRef

"NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has released what could be a new regular video feature called Inside KSC. It appears to be a complementary product to the September edition of the KSC Spaceport Magazine."

Nasty Space Weather Ahead

ALERT: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 (G3), Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA)

WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 or greater (G3 or Greater), Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA)

"NOAA Scale: G3 or greater - Strong to Extreme

- Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 50 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Power system voltage irregularities possible, false alarms may be triggered on some protection devices.
- Spacecraft - Systems may experience surface charging; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites and orientation problems may occur.
- Navigation - Intermittent satellite navigation (GPS) problems, including loss-of-lock and increased range error may occur.
- Radio - HF (high frequency) radio may be intermittent.
- Aurora - Aurora may be seen as low as Pennsylvania to Iowa to Oregon."

Alerts and related information available at @SpaceWeather

Keith's note: @FCTMike publicly tweeted something interesting (that overtly refers to a photo) and NASA Watch told people about it. Its clearly a slow flight controlling day at NASA for @JohnathanKim

Keith's update: The original tweet has apparently been deleted. Indeed, both Twitter accounts - @FCTMike and @JohnathanKim - have apparently been deleted. That is a little strange. That said, you can see what was originally posted. I am not going to post a screen grab.

Reining in Richard Branson

Virgin Galactic Delays First Commercial Flights to 2015, Space News

"... That timeline represents a delay from statements Branson made as recently as last month. In an interview with USA Today published Aug. 17, he said he expected to be on that first commercial flight by the end of this year. "I'll be bitterly disappointed if I'm not into space by the end of the year," he said. A Virgin Galactic spokewoman said that, despite Branson's comments, the company has no formal schedule for beginning commercial flights. "As we've stated in the past, the inaugural commercial flight date will be set by safety and readiness," Jessica Gilbert said Sept. 11 via email."

Mission to Mt. Sharp - Habitability, Preservation of Organics, and Environmental Transitions
Senior Review Proposal Sections 1 and 2 April 2014

Keith's note: Jim Green just made a point of spelling out the URL for this report. He did so rather defensively in an effort to show that there was a science plan in place for MSL. In the process he sought to minimize the comments made by NASA's own NASA Planetary Senior Review Panel Report wherien the MSL science plan was bluntly criticized. If Green thinks that the Review Panel was wrong on their MSL criticism, then does that not call into question everything else they said? If so why did NASA make funding decisions based on the committee's report?

Looking at the report there are no ITAR or SBU notations. Of course they were removed - or were they? Looking at the document properties [image] it is clear that this document was created on 10 April 2014 and modified on 9 September 2014. Why is it that NASA only voluntarily releases documents like this to defend their actions but they don't just publish them - for all to see - simply because they are interesting? Why didn't NASA release this document when the review committee report first came out? Why wasn't this report mentioned in yesterday's hearing where Green testified - when this topic came up?

Oh yes ... by voluntarily releasing this document NASA SMD has set a new precedent for things that a FOIA request can obtain. They have nulified any "predecisional" claims that they might have once been able to make. Oops.

Preparing for Hurricanes

Media Day at Wallops for NASA Hurricane Airborne Mission

"As the Atlantic Ocean's hurricane season hits its peak, media are invited to visit NASA's latest airborne hurricane research mission using remotely piloted aircraft on Thursday, Sept. 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT, at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The presentation to the media will be streamed online live beginning at 10 a.m.  at:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-tv-wallops"

NASA Holds Teleconference to Discuss Science Campaign of Curiosity Mars Rover

Keith's note: NASA SMD PAO's Dwayne Brown continues to refuse to respond to media inquiries from last month's Mars 2020 media opportunity - despite overtly soliciting such inquiries. Let's see who Dwayne ignores during this briefing - since he's NASA PAO - and I am not. As such I am not going to bother to dial in since it is a waste of my time. More opportunity for others to ask questions. I have had multiple interactions with NASA PAO on this non-response by Dwayne and their lack of response is a de facto endorsement of Dwayne's behavior. So it goes. I'll live tweet the event - with commentary.

- SMD Wants To Talk About MSL Science (Or Lack Thereof), earllier post
- Results of Planetary Science Mission Review: MSL = Yawn, earllier post
- NASA PAO Promises To Answer Questions and Then Does Not, earllier post

New Commercial Moon Study

New Commercial Moon Services Study Available, SpaceRef Business

"The Space Angels Network brought to my attention a new study by Chad Anderson a Managing Director of the Space Angels Network. Chad completed the study while obtaining his MBA at Oxford. The study was finished in 2013 but has only been recently made public."

Planetary Science Hearing

Subcommittee Considers Asteroid Mining, Planetary Exploration Priorities

"The Space Subcommittee today held a hearing to review issues facing planetary exploration of our solar system, including NASA's proposed budget for planetary science, and potential commercial interests. Witnesses also testified on the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities In Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, H.R. 5063."

Prepared statements: Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Steven Palazzo, Jim Green, Jim Bell, Mark Sykes, Joanne Gabrynowicz, Philip Christensen

Keith's note: Don't expect to see a commercial crew selection announcement this week. Unless things change, of course.

NanoRacks Update on CubeSat Deployer Problem, SpaceRef Business

"NanoRacks this morning provided an update on the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers (NRCSD) which had inadvertently deployed thee CubeSats while not deploying others when commanded. The NanRacks team has been able to replicate the problem on the ground which they hope will lead to a solution."

Crimea Catch-22: Russia Space Training May Put NASA in a Bind, NBC

"Here's the kicker: Shifting the survival training to Russian-occupied Crimea will require foreign cosmonauts to accept travel there without Ukrainian visas, an explicit acquiescence to the new diplomatic status of the province. Refusal to attend survival training is equivalent to failing the training, which by existing training regulations is an automatic disqualification for flight certification. No Crimea trip, no space trip. Lonchakov hinted that Crimea might be used for more than sea survival training. "We are also planning, if it works out, to hold sea and mountain survival training," he told the Itar-Tass news agency. He has also said a post-flight rehabilitation center for cosmonauts could be reopened near Yevpatoria, a Crimean coastal resort."

Earlier posts on Russia

NASA Holds Teleconference to Discuss Science Campaign of Curiosity Mars Rover

"NASA will host a teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 11, to discuss mission status and the future science campaign for the Mars rover Curiosity mission."

NASA Planetary Senior Review Panel Report

"Unfortunately the lead Project Scientist was not present in person for the Senior Review presentation and was only available via phone. Additionally, he was not present for the second round of Curiosity questions from the panel. This left the panel with the impression that the team felt they were too big to fail and that simply having someone show up would suffice. ... As Curiosity is a flagship mission, the panel was surprised by the lack of science in the EM1 proposal ..."

Hearing Charter: Exploring Our Solar System: The ASTEROIDS Act as a Key Step, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"Specifically, the panel felt that Curiosity's extended mission plan to take only eight samples in the next two years was not efficient and that "this is a poor science return for such a large investment in a flagship mission." The panel also found that "the proposal lacked specific scientific questions to be answered, testable hypotheses, and proposed measurements and assessment of uncertainties and limitations."

Crowdfunding in Space

Space Crowdfunding: What's the Secret?, Winners and losers among the space start-ups, Air and Space

"I had guys clambering over the [radio antenna] dish in Arecibo [Puerto Rico], hanging hardware while people were still giving money, and people were saying, 'This is great!' " he says. "I was live-tweeting everything we did. Every geeky expression that happened in the control room I threw out there, and people were telling me they got in trouble for not going to work, or skipping class, sitting on the subway reading it on their phone." "The bulk of the people that give you money don't quite even understand exactly what you're going to do," says Cowing. But success comes "if you tell a compelling story, couch this in a way that there's adventure involved, but also a payback opportunity that people feel is important, that there's something to be learned."

The First Orion Crew Module Is Complete

"NASA's first completed Orion crew module sits atop its service module at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew and service module will be transferred together on Wednesday to another facility for fueling, before moving again for the installation of the launch abort system. At that point, the spacecraft will be complete and ready to stack on top of the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into space on its first flight in December."

NASA Selects U.S. Firms to Provide Commercial Suborbital Flight Services

"NASA has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA's continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth's atmosphere."

Researchers reel from defunding of only UC-owned observatory, The Daily Californian

"[Alex] Filippenko and other researchers blame fellow astronomer Steven Beckwith, the former UC vice president of research and graduate studies, for inappropriately acting on personal biases against Lick Observatory. Beckwith, Filippenko pointed out, is a former director of the Space Telescope Science Institute and has publicly belittled the merits of ground-based telescopes, such as those at Lick, in comparison to space-based instruments, such as Hubble telescope. "The guy has openly expressed in rather contemptuous ways his lack of interest in ground-based telescopes," said Garth Illingworth, a UC Santa Cruz professor of astronomy. "He views himself as a person to choose the direction of UC astronomy like a CEO in a company. But that's not his job." ... In June 2013, the UCO Board recommended the university terminate all funding for Lick. Following suit, UCOP will implement a "glide path" for Lick in 2016, phasing out all funding from $1.3 million to zero by 2018."

Save the Greenbank Telescope, Greenbriar Valley Economic Development Corporation

"On August 14, 2012, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Astronomical Sciences Portfolio Review Committee issued a report entitled: Advancing Astronomy in the Coming Decade; Opportunities and Challenges. In that report, the NSF recommended that two NRAO instruments, the GBT and the Very Long Based Array (VLBA) in New Mexico, be fully divested from the NSF Astronomy Division's research facilities portfolio within five years."

Space whiskey returning to Earth soon (hurry, please), CNet

"In 2011, vials of Ardbeg scotch whiskey were sent to the International Space Station as part of an experiment to see how the spirits' maturation process is affected by the near zero gravity of near space. Now it's almost time for a homecoming."

- Ardbeg Distillery Launches U.S. Rocket Tour Celebrating "World First" Space Experiment, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores, earlier post
- Whisky in Space: the Road Show - Update, earlier post

Keith's 1 May 2012 note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen. A preview of things to come, I am afraid.

Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image that I made a few weeks ago people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend. Oops.

Noel Hinners

Noel Hinners, former NASA scientist, dies at 78, AP

"Keith Cowing, who runs the blog NASA Watch, said Hinners was a reader of his website and would post comments. He called him "one of the last of a certain breed" of NASA scientists from the early days of space exploration programs. "He had one foot firmly placed in the old NASA and one in the new NASA," Cowing said. Hinners worked a variety of positions at NASA, Cowing said. "He did everything you could do in and around NASA once," Cowing said."

Noel Hinners, a top NASA official, dies at 78, Washington Post

"At the Greenbelt facility, he showed his adherence to the doctrine of management by walking around and visiting scientists and others at their jobs. This included working with the maintenance crew on a night when a snowstorm had left Washington roads impassible. Not one to fear getting his feet wet -- or cold -- Dr. Hinners joined in snow plowing operations on the Goddard grounds, and learned, he said, that "there's an art to it."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 4 September 2014 , SpaceRef

"Today: NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers: Additional attempts to launch CubeSats from deployers #4, 7, and 8 were made overnight without success. 24 commands were sent attempting to deploy #4, 30 commands were sent to deployer #7, and 17 deploy commands were sent to deployer #8. Ground Teams are continuing to assess the issue and are working on a forward plan."

Previous: NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 25 August 2014, SpaceRef

"Today: NanoRacks Inadvertent Deploy: On Saturday, ground teams observed the inadvertent deploy of two Cosmogia CubeSats from Deployer #5 of the NanoRack Cubesat Deployer (NRCSD). The ISS was still in the deploy attitude and the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS) was still positioned for the deployment. No issues have been identified with the deployment trajectory, the CubeSats or the ISS. Ground teams are investigating the probable cause and discussing future operations with the NRCSD and CubeSats remaining in the deployer."

Update: The September 5th ISS status report details another "inadvertent deploy" from the #7 launcher door.

DARPA Seeking Ideas for Public-Private Partnership to Jumpstart Robotic Satellite Servicing, SpaceRef Business

"Seeking to "jumpstart" the on-orbit robotic satellite servicing concept, DARPA has issued a request for information (RFI) for companies to submit ideas to enable a flight demonstration within the next five years."

NASA Planetary Senior Review Panel Report

"After the presentation and subsequent discussion within the panel during executive session, other questions were formulated and then presented to the Curiosity team. Unfortunately the lead Project Scientist was not present in person for the Senior Review presentation and was only available via phone. Additionally, he was not present for the second round of Curiosity questions from the panel. This left the panel with the impression that the team felt they were too big to fail and that simply having someone show up would suffice. ... As Curiosity is a flagship mission, the panel was surprised by the lack of science in the EM1 proposal (the Overguide budget would support greater roving distance over samples analyzed, with only a promise of a maximum of eight analyses throughout EM1)."

"There should always be one Senior Review panel - not two that meet at separate times as there was in 2014. The Senior Review is for the Planetary Science Division, not the Mars Program and then everyone else. Having one panel assures that ALL missions are treated equally and fairly."

NASA Still Won't Look For Existing Life on Mars (update), earlier post

Keith's 31 July note: I obviously expected Jim Green to answer in the same cautious way that NASA has always answered this question - one I have asked again and again for the nearly 20 years. Instead, Green launched into a detailed description of all the things that the Mars 2020 rover could detect that have a connection with life. Much of what he said clearly referred to extant / existing life. Now THAT is cool. To clarify things I sent the following request to NASA PAO "Can the Mars 2020 rover detect extant/existing life on Mars?  Will NASA be looking for extant/existing life on Mars?" Let's see how they respond.

Keith's 3 Sep update: Well it has been more than a month. Dwayne Brown from NASA SMD PAO specifically asked media reps who were on the telecon to send him any questions via email they might have and that he'd get an answer back to them. I haven't heard a thing from him since I sent him the email he requested (wth cc: to SMD management). So much for his promises. Either NASA cannot/will not answer this rather simple question or it is not on Dwayne's priority list right now. I sent additional requests via email to NASA SMD and PAO last week. Still no response.

SpaceX Challenges Patent Filed by Blue Origin, SpaceRef Business

"An employee of Docket Alarm earlier today posted on tech news blog Slashdot that SpaceX had filled a challenge to the patent owned by Blue Origin for "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods", which was granted earlier this year. Blue Origin has three months to provide a preliminary response."

Marc's Note: It was bound to happen sooner or later and it is unfortunate as it costs both companies to deal with the challenge. Is this an isolated case or are more patent skirmishes going to be forthcoming?

Keith's note: The Thunderbirds were doing all of these various launch and landing scenarios - on dry land - and in the water - in the 1960s. Who thought all of this up first?

Future In-Space Operations Teleconference with SpaceX Garrett Reisman, SpaceRef Buisness

"On August 27, 2014, former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman participated in the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) teleconference. Now the DragonRider Program Manager for SpaceX, Reisman presented a slide show on SpaceX commercial spaceflight."

Jockey "Supporting Greatness" TV advertisement.


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