November 2014 Archives

NASA FY 2014 Agency Financial Report"Audit of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Fiscal Year 2014 Financial Statements (IG-15-006, November 14, 2014) The Office of Inspector General contracted with the independent public accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) to audit NASA's fiscal year (FY) 2014 financial statements. PwC performed the audit in accordance with the Government Accountability Office's Government Auditing Standards and the Office of Management and Budget's Bulletin No. 14-02, "Audit Requirements for Federal Financial Statements."

Keith's note: Much of this report was assembled rather sloppily starting with page 107. It gets really bad starting on page 147. The words are not words - just fuzzy images of text - not actual text. its like they scanned a document that had been copied 5 or 6 times and then faxed. I'd be willing to bet that large portions of this document are not Section 508 compliant. Things improve after page 160. You'd think that NASA would spend a little more time to make the document legible. in addition, due to the fact that a substantial portion of this report is not text searchable - and that the fuzzy text pictures almost certainly cannot be run through an OCR program, there are certain Open Government non-compliance issues as well.

- NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee - Meeting Postponement
- NASA Advisory Council Science Committee - Meeting Postponement
- NASA Advisory Council - Meeting Postponement

"The meeting is being postponed by NASA due to exceptional circumstances and schedule conflicts of the NASA top leadership in connection with post-launch programmatic requirements of the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT- 1) on December 4, 2014, at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Keith's note: The original notices for these NAC meetings were posted in the Federal Register 1-2 weeks ago. How many months has everyone known that EFT-1 was going to be launched on 4 December 2014? Just wondering. There's an app for things like this.

Federal Acquisition Regulation; Year Format, NASA

"DoD, GSA, and NASA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register at 79 FR 16274 on March 25, 2014. No public comments were submitted. The final rule makes no changes from the proposed rule. DoD, GSA, and NASA are amending the FAR to delete obsolete coverage relating to the year 2000 compliance at FAR 39.002, 39.101(a) and 39.106. Also, the rule makes conforming changes to FAR 39.107 and the introductory text to the clause at FAR 52.239-1. The year 2000 coverage is outdated, and no longer needed because all of the issues addressing the transition to year 2000 compliance language have been resolved."

Lewis Peach

Keith's note: Sources report that Lewis Peach has died. Lew was always working on interesting things. Always. Ad astra.

"Lewis Peach died on Nov. 22 at his home in Arnold. He retired from Senior Executive Service at NASA where he served as Project Manager in the Office of Space Flight, and the NASA Academy for program/Project and Engineering Leadership. He was a vice-president for exploration/development at USRA. Lewis began his career at NASA's Ames Research Center. He was a board member of Hawaii's Pisces space program and was a Vietnam veteran."

More arrangement information below

Earth and Life Sciences, Aircraft Ops Under Microscope in NASA Consolidation Effort, Space News

"NASA's latest attempt to right-size its 10 U.S. field centers will begin with a focus on a roughly $3 billion cross-section of the agency's nearly $18 billion budget that could affect some 10,000 civil servants and contractors, a senior agency official said here Nov. 20. .. Roe, former director of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is co-leading NASA's Technical Capabilities Assessment Team (TCAT) along with her boss, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. TCAT began in 2012 but will not be in full force until after February, when NASA plans to appoint so-called capabilities leaders to monitor its 10 field centers and point out areas where two or more centers are spending money on the same things."

Keith's note: Once a decade (maybe more than once) NASA spins up an effort like this (Zero Base Review, Synthesis Team, Faster Better Cheaper, ISO 9000 etc.) The team members semi-earnestly look for overlaps and synergies, suggest how to re-tune things, and then ... (dramatic pause) all of the field centers promptly ignore the recomendations - backed by their respective congressional delegations - because: why change? We've seen this movie before. As such, you can ignore any and all "efficiency" TCAT babble from Robert Lightfoot and Lesa Roe - since the White House no longer cares about that babble (hey - where's Charlie?)

In murky Pentagon deal with Russia, big profit for a tiny Florida firm, reuters

"For months, a powerful U.S. senator has been pushing for details of a murky deal under which a Russian manufacturer supplies the rocket engines used to launch America's spy satellites into space. At issue: how much the U.S. Air Force pays for the engines, how much the Russians receive, and whether members of the elite in President Vladimir Putin's Russia are secretly profiting by inflating the price. Now, documents uncovered by Reuters provide some answers. A tiny Florida-based company, acting as a middleman in the deal, is marking up the price by millions of dollars per engine. That five-person company, RD Amross, is a joint venture of Russian engine maker NPO Energomash and a U.S. partner, aerospace giant United Technologies. According to internal company documents that lay out the contract, Amross stands to collect $93 million in cost mark-ups under its current multi-year deal to supply the RD-180 rocket engine."

Keith's note: NASA has posted Notice of Centennial Challenges Cube Quest Challenge in today's Federal Register. $5,000,000 to send a cubesat to the Moon. Very cool. The notice says "To register for or get additional information regarding the Cube Quest Challenge, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cubequestchallenge" If you visit that link you will get an error notice from NASA.gov.

I told NASA that the link was broken. Their response was "The link will not be live until the December 1 announcement.  CCP had planned to rollout the Challenge earlier this month, but HQ recommended to delay for two weeks.  The link will work once the site becomes active."

I replied "You really should tell people that in the notice that the link is not going to be active.  Now everyone will click on it and then lose interest after seeing that it is broken day after day. I am baffled as to why you put the notice out in the first place knowingly  including a link that does not work - without any notice to the public that the link is intentionally inactive until a future date.  Indeed the notice also says "The Cube Quest (CQ) Challenge is scheduled and teams that wish to  compete may now register."  However the next sentence contradicts this statement by saying "Challenge registration opens December 2, 2014".  So which is it: "now register" or "opens December 2, 2014"?  What is especially baffling is why such a confusing and deliberately inaccurate Federal Register notice is posted when it concerns a rather substantial  $5,000,000 NASA Challenge. One would think that a little strategic and editorial thought would be given to such a significant announcement."

Keith's update: I got this update from NASA MSFC. Odd that they think that the Federal Register has a "limited audience" given that it serves a vital role for a multi-trillion dollar government for a nation of over 300 million people. "In developing such a large Challenge, we wanted to be sure to promote it using the best audience available. HQ decided that the Challenge would get more attention during the events leading up to the Orion Launch. The Federal Register has a limited audience, whereas millions will be watching the first Orion launch. This is the largest NASA Prize Purse and first competition in space. CCP seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources of citizen inventors, private businesses, and academia. NASA HQ wanted to promote this opportunity to the largest audience possible, not just to those within the aerospace industry."

Oh yes - the link works now (http://www.nasa.gov/cubequestchallenge/) They also issued a press release late today - several weeks earlier than (I guess) they had planned to do so. Since no one reads the Federal Register, right?

Expedition 42 Launches on Time to International Space Station

"The Soyuz TMA-15M launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:01 p.m. EST (3:01 a.m. on Nov. 24 Baikonur time). Terry Virts of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency now are safely in orbit."

More HSPD-12 Abuses at JPL

A Question of Loyalty, Pasadena Weekly

"Over the past eight months, Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Cate Heneghan said she has been dealing with what she considers to be an abuse of authority by NASA, which has been trying to force her to sign what amounts to a loyalty oath -- asking intrusive questions about her allegiance to the United States. Heneghan, who was born and raised in Bethesda, Md., studied at New Mexico State and USC and has dual citizenship with Ireland, argues that the questions do not conform to NASA guidelines. "How is it JPL is implementing these questions beyond the adjudicative standard, which is required in HSPD-12?" asked Heneghan, who does concept development design for NASA missions and has been at JPL for 26 years. "No one can answer that question."

Earlier HSPD-12 postings

Goresat Gets Closer To Launch

DSCOVR Mission Passes Major Milestones

"NOAA will manage the DSCOVR mission, giving advanced warning of approaching solar storms. NASA, funded by NOAA, refurbished the DSCOVR satellite and instruments, which were in storage for several years. The U.S. Air Force is funding and overseeing the launch of DSCOVR, which will be aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket."

Keith's note: In storage for "several years"? It would be more accurate to say "for more than a decade".

- DSCOVR/Triana/Goresat Is Ready For Launch, earlier post
- Earlier DSCOVR/Triana/Goresat posts

How NASA Plans to Land Humans on Mars, Planetary Society

"On the surface, NASA's humans to Mars plans seem vague and disjointed. For instance, it's difficult to see how visiting a captured asteroid in lunar orbit fits into a bigger picture. But if you combine Gerst's speech with two days of symposium panels and a day of interviews at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the full breadth of what the agency is trying to do begins to makes sense. There is indeed a plan to put humans on Mars. Vague? Yes. Hard to see? Absolutely. But that's because Gerst and NASA are playing the long game. And right now, it may be the only game they can play."

Fixing Wallops (Update)

State assessing damage, considering future of commercial spaceport, WDBJ7

"Virginia's Secretary of Transportation says it could take a year and up to $20 million to repair the commercial spaceport on Virginia's Eastern Shore, after a mishap damaged the launchpad last month. Aubrey Layne says he expects the flights to resume, but with additional protections for Virginia taxpayers. "We do need to have our launch partner and the federal government take responsibility with us in this particular incident," Layne told WDBJ7."

McAuliffe wants risks shared for future rocket launches at Wallops Island, Times Dispatch

"We're not going to have a repeat of this in the future," said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne Jr., who is a board member of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which owns the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island. Layne confirmed Tuesday that the McAuliffe administration may seek to renegotiate the memorandum of understanding and launch services agreement with Orbital that the state revised substantially in 2012 under the administration of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell."

ATK and Orbital Continue to Support Plans for Merger

"Following this announcement on October 28, 2014, a failure occurred during Orbital's Antares launch.  Since the incident, the companies have conducted a thorough review and analysis of the launch failure and Orbital's proposed recovery plan and long-term competitive position.  Following this review, ATK's board of directors continues to support the strategic merits of the transaction and recommends that ATK stockholders vote to approve the issuance of shares to Orbital stockholders. Orbital's board of directors also continues to recommend that Orbital stockholders vote to approve the proposed transaction."

Osiris Spots Philae Drifting Across Comet 67P/C

"These incredible images show the breathtaking journey of Rosetta's Philae lander as it approached and then rebounded from its first touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014."

Philae Spacecraft - robotic european space agency (ESA) lander, eBay

"Highly complex spacecraft with on-board laboratory, solar panels (requires sun), inter-stellar communications pack. Power system, Thermal control system, Landing gear, Anchoring system (faulty). Buyer must collect item from it's storage location on Comet 67P."

Why we all fell in love with Rosetta's Philae lander, Washington Post

"By Friday night, we knew it was coming to an end: That morning, Rosetta scientists had told the public that Philae's batteries were almost certainly going to die during their next communication link with the probe. And sure enough, Philae's Twitter account followed through until the end, tweeting out a series of messages about going to sleep that made many (myself included) express grief for - and immense pride in - the little lander that could."

Caltech professor claims Israeli spy infiltrated JPL, Pasadena Star News

"Sandra Troian alleges Caltech administrators ignored the school's whistleblower policy and retaliated against her for the past four years because if they had documented her concern, they could have put an $8 billion contract with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at risk and put the school in a bad light. Troian said she is frightened for her career. ...

... "In a statement issued late Thursday, Caltech called Troian's lawsuit meritless and said the institution always abides by export control laws and ITAR. It also regularly cooperates with government agencies such as the FBI, the statement said. "The plaintiff, who was dissatisfied with the outcome of a recent internal campus investigation into her decision to list her cat as the author of a published abstract and omit recognition of a postdoctoral scholar who performed related research, suffered no retaliation and remains an active faculty member of the institution," the Caltech statement said."

NASA's 2014 Top Management and Performance Challenges

"NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) annual report discussing the most serious management and performance challenges facing NASA. The underlying theme of this year's report is sustainability. Specifically, the OIG noted that NASA's ability to sustain its ambitious exploration, science, and aeronautics programs will be driven in large measure by whether the Agency is able to adequately fund such high-profile initiatives as its commercial cargo and crew programs, Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, James Webb Space Telescope, Mars 2020 Rover, and associated personnel and infrastructure."

Sean O'Keefe's New Gigs

Sean O'Keefe Joins CSIS as Distinguished Senior Adviser, Center for Strategic and International Studies

"CSIS has developed a stellar reputation as an important, objective catalyst to shape the public policy debate on a wide range of global security issues," Mr. O'Keefe said. "I am delighted to have the privilege to participate in the debate with the added benefit of drawing on the partnership expertise of my colleagues at the Syracuse University Maxwell School."

Sean O'Keefe Appointed University Professor, Phanstiel Chair, Syracuse University

"O'Keefe has also been named the Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs."

Russians may visit China's orbital module, TASS

"Russian cosmonauts may in the future visit the Chinese orbiting module Tiangong-1, and their Chinese colleagues may visit the International Space Station (ISS), head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Oleg Ostapenko said on Wednesday. "As for the possible manned flight program projects, China has such an interest and they have expressed it in the negotiations we held today," Ostapenko said, answering reporters' questions at the Airshow China 2014 International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition."

Keith's note: Looks like the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla is not a fan of putting people in space - she endorsed this anti-human spaceflight tweet by a factor of "+100". This is kind of odd given that the Planetary Society pushed NASA and the White House to adopt the crewed Asteroid Retrieval Mission. Also, since she has endorsed this tweet, just what are the "highs and lows of the last week" ? SpaceShipTwo and Antares? What is the connection between an unrelated airplane control surface issue and a rocket engine malfunction with a ten year old robot landing on a comet? And how could any of this point to deciding factors as to whether its better to send humans or robots into space? Her follow up tweet is below. In essence it says we can send robots instead of humans because they are humans or we are them. Huh? We (they) are not - no more than your car or your cellphone is you.

Phil Larson Departing OSTP

Keith's note:This email from Phil Larson, Senior Advisor at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has been making the rounds here in Washington:

"After five extraordinary years, I wanted to let you know that I will be leaving the White House at the end of November. During a week in which the President forged a historic agreement to help combat climate change and continued his fight to maintain a free and open Internet, I couldn't be prouder to have been part of this Administration's science, technology, and innovation efforts. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to have served a President so intensely focused on cultivating the roots of American ingenuity and empowering people to change the world for the better. Whether it was helping launch and support a bold new era for NASA, ensuring our students have the tools they need to succeed in a 21st century economy, or lifting up a nation of geeks, I am deeply proud of what we've accomplished together and humbled to have been part of it. I look forward to connecting with each of you personally in the coming days, but let me just say how grateful I am to have worked with the greatest Science Advisor in history and the best OSTP team ever assembled. Still fired up."

Chinese hack U.S. weather systems, satellite network, Washington Post

"Hackers from China breached the federal weather network recently, forcing cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses, officials said. The intrusion occurred in late September but officials gave no indication that they had a problem until Oct. 20, according to three people familiar with the hack and the subsequent reaction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service. Even then, NOAA did not say its systems were compromised. Officials also said that the agency did not notify the proper authorities when it learned of the attack."

- Major Problem With NWS Satellite Data Continues
- NOAA Has IT Security Issues - Just Like NASA Does, earlier post

NTSB Investigative Update on Crash of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo

"The National Transportation Safety Board issued an investigative update today into the crash of SpaceShip Two on Oct. 31, 2014, in Mojave, Calif.

- The on-scene portion of the investigation into the crash of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, a test flight conducted by Scaled Composites, has concluded and all NTSB investigators have returned to Washington, DC.

- The SpaceShipTwo wreckage has been recovered and is being stored in a secure location for follow-on examination.

- The NTSB operations and human performance investigators interviewed the surviving pilot on Friday. According to the pilot, he was unaware that the feather system had been unlocked early by the copilot. His description of the vehicle motion was consistent with other data sources in the investigation. He stated that he was extracted from the vehicle as a result of the break-up sequence and unbuckled from his seat at some point before the parachute deployed automatically."

Philae Has Landed on a Comet

Philae Image of Comet From 3 km

"The image shows comet 67P/CG acquired by the ROLIS instrument on the Philae lander during descent on Nov 12, 2014 14:38:41 UT from a distance of approximately 3 km from the surface. The landing site is imaged with a resolution of about 3m per pixel."

Touchdown! Rosetta's Philae probe lands on comet

"ESA's Rosetta mission has soft-landed its Philae probe on a comet, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved. After a tense wait during the seven-hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the signal confirming the successful touchdown arrived on Earth at 16:03 GMT (17:03 CET)."

Tensions surround release of new Rosetta comet data, Science

"The comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which the Rosetta spacecraft is now orbiting, is by all accounts a fascinating chunk of dust and ice. This week, scientists using the spacecraft's high-resolution camera presented some staggering images of the duck-shaped comet at a planetary science conference in Tucson, Arizona. They showed the first color images of the comet. They showed dust grains being ejected from the surface, arcs that could be traced back, presumably, to geysers of sublimating ice. And they showed brightness variations less than 10 centimeters apart--which could indicate that they have found sparkling bits of ice peeking through a black crust of dust. But Rosetta's operator, the European Space Agency (ESA), has released none of these images to the public. Nor have any of these images been presented in Darmstadt, Germany, where scientists at ESA's mission control are preparing to drop the Philae lander to the comet surface on Wednesday. Project scientist Matt Taylor was reduced to learning about the new results at the Arizona conference by thumbing through Twitter feeds on his phone."

NASA's Plan to Visit an Asteroid Faces a Rocky Start, Scientific American

"What the critics don't seem to understand is that if we don't send humans to an asteroid that is moved closer to Earth, we will send humans nowhere for the foreseeable future, which means the next decade or two," Friedman says. "If we drop this mission, our planned rockets and crew modules can go out as far as the moon but we won't be able to land without investments that are frankly unrealistic right now." ARM's harshest critics, asteroid scientists such as [Mark] Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute and M.I.T. professor Richard Binzel, remain unconvinced. "It's an empty threat to say if you don't take this thing that came from nowhere you'll get nothing and that will be the end of everything," Sykes says. "Well, you know, okay, fine--pull the trigger, guys. Maybe some people don't get the toy that they want but there are other options our leaders can pursue."

Earlier posts

Expedition 41 Has Returned

Expedition 41 Returns to Earth

"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 touched down northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 10:58 p.m. EST (9:58 a.m., Nov. 10, Kazakh time). While in space, they traveled more than 70 million miles."

China's Moon Plans

China is Now Positioned to Dominate the Moon, Paul Spudis

"The complexity of the Chang'E 5 mission profile is somewhat curious, since it would be much simpler to make a direct ascent from the lunar surface and head straight back to Earth (like the Soviet Luna sample return missions of the 1970s). The fact that China is adding the step of rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit is significant, as this step is a critical milestone for the certification of an architecture for human missions to the Moon. China's choice of this mission profile for Chang'E 5 is a clear indication that they are planning such missions."

Earlier post on China

Loss of Contact with STEREO Behind

"Communications with the STEREO Behind spacecraft were interrupted on October 1, 2014 immediately after a planned reset of the spacecraft performed as part of a test of solar conjunction operations. There have been no successful communications since then, though attempts to recover the spacecraft continue. Here we explain the events that led up to the loss in communications, and the activities that have been carried out in an attempt to recover the spacecraft. As explained below, initial indications are that a series of problems in the guidance and control system led to the anomaly."

STEREO Behind Spacecraft Experiencing Communication Problems, Earlier story

Visiting Interstellar's Spacecraft, SpaceRef

"I had an opportunity to stand next to a spaceship from the film "Interstellar" this morning and fly through a simulation of yet another spacecraft from the film. I am not going to post a review yet for "Interstellar" since I can't really discuss the film in any detail without revealing important aspects. That said, there have been trailers and other PR efforts online for months now. One thing you can't miss in these previews is the spacecraft used in the film."

Keith's 4 Nov note: I saw "Interstellar" this evening - in 70mm IMAX on the largest screen in Virginia. I saw "2001: A Space Odyssey" in Cinerama - the IMAX of the day - when the film first came out and was stunned by the experience. That happened again this evening. Interstellar is deep and a wonder to behold. It is profound and loud and yet sublime and simple - simultaneously. I am going to have to think carefully about what I write so as to not spoil it for anyone. Let's just say that you take away from Interstellar what you bring to it.

Keith's 6 Nov update: I saw the film again last night at a really nice reception and showing at the National Air & Space Museum's IMAX theater sponsored by Northrop Grumman. The cast and director were there too. The "Ranger" spacecraft will be on display starting tomorrow at the NASM Udvar Hazy facility along with an Oculus Rift demonstration of the fictional "Interstellar" world.

ALMA Image Reveals Planetary Genesis, ESO

"This new image from ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, reveals extraordinarily fine detail that has never been seen before in the planet-forming disc around a young star. These are the first observations that have used ALMA in its near-final configuration and the sharpest pictures ever made at submillimeter wavelengths. The new results are an enormous step forward in the observation of how protoplanetary discs develop and how planets form."

Keith's note: This is a REAL IMAGE - not an artist's concept. Update: here's another - from Hubble.

Hubble Surveys Debris-Strewn Exoplanetary Construction Yards

"Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have completed the largest and most sensitive visible-light imaging survey of dusty debris disks around other stars. These dusty disks, likely created by collisions between leftover objects from planet formation, were imaged around stars as young as 10 million years old and as mature as more than 1 billion years old."

Past Transit Tragedies Point to a Way Forward for Virgin Galactic, Smithsonian

"Private spaceflight hit a large bump in the road to orbit last week, with Orbital Sciences' rocket explosion followed days later by Virgin Galactic's fatal spaceplane crash. But if early aviation and aerospace efforts can teach us anything, it's that the key to surviving such tragedies is transparency and learning from any mistakes. And in a counterintuitive twist, the disasters may even increase public support for spaceflight and space tourism."

Keith's note: Video of Challenger's and Columbia's loss is seared in our collective consciousness - both accidents caused prolonged self-examination and questioning as to whether it was all worth doing. Even commercial advertisements comparing consumer items to the shuttle were pulled. Yet NASA returned to flight - twice. When the shuttle fleet was retired there was exceptional interest and heated debate and overt food fights about who got the remaining shuttles - because of what they represented in people's minds. Indeed huge portions of the population demanded that NASA keep them flying. Remember the flyovers and parades? Major cities stopped everything - just to watch. Yet these very same shuttles that flew over America to such acclaim are identical to the two shuttle vehicles we all saw torn apart with their crews on board. A symbol of tragedy - twice - is now a symbol of American pride.

Orbital to Consolidate Cygnus Launch Manifest and Outsource at Least One Launch, SpaceRef Business

"Moving quickly to inform its International Space Station (ISS) resupply contract partner NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that not only would it complete its resupply contract by the end of 2016, it would consolidate its launch manifest and do it with four launches instead of five."

Orbital Announces Go-Forward Plan for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services Program and the Company's Antares Launch Vehicle

"Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world's leading space technology companies, today announced comprehensive plans to fulfill its contract commitments under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program as well as to accelerate an upgrade of the Antares medium-class launcher's main propulsion system. Under the new approach and in line with Orbital's existing CRS contract, all remaining cargo will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2016. There will be no cost increase to NASA and only minor adjustments will be needed to the cargo manifest in the near term."

Mike Alsbury Memorial Fund

"This fundraiser is being managed by Mike's friends and co-workers at Scaled Composites. This is the official site to help Mike's family with future expenses and all donations will go to Mike's wife, Michelle. Michael (Mike) Alsbury, Test Pilot and Project Engineer for Scaled Composites, passed away on October 31, 2014 due to an anomaly during flight test. Mike was a husband, a father of two small children (ages 10 and 7), amazing friend and co-worker. Mike had worked with Scaled for over 15 years.  This is a tragic loss that will leave a void in Mike's family, the Scaled family, and the surrounding community for years to come.  We would like to do anything we can to support Michelle and his two children."

SpaceShipTwo Update

NTSB Accident Investigation of SpaceShipTwo Could Take a Year to Complete Analysis, SpaceRef

"In their last press briefing from Mojave, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released no new clues to the cause of the breakup of SpaceShipTwo. The NTSB did provide new timeline details and an update of what they've been doing. Further press briefings will take place from Washington as needed."

Statement From Virgin Galactic On Latest NTSB Findings - Nov 4th 2014

"While this has been a tragic setback, we are moving forward and will do so deliberately and with determination.  We are continuing to build the second SpaceShipTwo (serial number two), which is currently about 65% complete and we will continue to advance our mission over the coming weeks and months.  With the guidance of the NTSB and the assurance of a safe path forward, we intend to move ahead with our testing program and have not lost sight of our mission to make space accessible for all."

NTSB Video: Fourth Briefing on Crash of SpaceShipTwo

Reporter: Virgin Galactic was too eager (Video) CNN

"Former Washington Post reporter Joel Glenn Brenner says Virgin Galactic's technology did not match their enthusiasm."

"And I will tell you this as well, that this engine that exploded today, even if they had had a successful flight, and even if they had not stolen my friend's life, OK... So, I am here to say that they took this pilot's life, and this engine still would not have gotten customers to space."

Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Crashes, Transcript, CBB

Keith's note: This is tantamount to accusing Virgin Galactic of some very serious crimes. Its quite clear from this interview on the day of the accident that Joel Glenn Brenner really hates Virgin Galactic. But the Washington Post thinks its just fine that she "report" on this accident after revealing her overt bias to millions. At a minimum, shouldn't the Washington Post put links and references up to her other comments? Shouldn't Brenner explain them to the Post's readers? Just wondering. What was just as bizarre was how CNN anchors Brooke Baldwin and Richard Quest allowed her to rant about herself - and her unsubstantiated accusations.

Data should be plentiful in explosion of SpaceShipTwo, By Drew Harwell and Joel Glenn Brenner, Washington Post

Thinking of "Interstellar": And the Children Shall Reach Out

"First posted Friday, May 20, 2005: Every now and again even the most cynical of us stumble across something so simple - and yet profound - as to take one's breath away - and remind us of why we are so captivated with space exploration's broader ramifications."

Food For Thought

NTSB Releases New Clues in SpaceShipTwo Accident Investigation (with video), SpaceRef

"Acting Chairman Christopher Hart's of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released new clues at the third media briefing Sunday evening.
1) The vehicle had a nominal release followed by a nominal Ignition.
2) Approximately 9 seconds after ignition, the "feather" parameters changed from lock to unlock.
According to Hart the "normal procedures are to command the feathers to unlock after Mach 1.4 so aerodynamic forces do not extend feathers prematurely."

SpaceShipTwo Update

Virgin Galactic Media Update 2 November 2014 4:30 pm PT

"Now is not the time for speculation. Now is the time to focus on all those affected by this tragic accident and to work with the experts at the NTSB, to get to the bottom of what happened on that tragic day, and to learn from it so that we can move forward safely with this important mission."

Wallops Sailboat Update

Fine unlikely for boat that delayed Antares launch, Delmarvanow.com

"The sailboat was about 40 miles out to sea, NASA Wallops Flight Facility Director Bill Wrobel said. It was in the first of two avoidance areas for the launch -- the one set for the first rocket stage. The area extends some 50 nautical miles out from shore in a wedge shape, some 37 nautical miles wide near the shore and 17 nautical miles wide at its outer limit. The vessel was well beyond the 12 nautical miles over which the United States exercises sovereignty."

- Wallops Launch Delayed By A Boat, earlier post

The Crew of SpaceShipTwo

Statement from Scaled Composites on SpaceShipTwo Crew

"The Scaled Composites family lost a respected and devoted colleague yesterday, Michael Alsbury, who was the co-pilot for the test flight of SpaceShipTwo. Peter Siebold, the Director of Flight Operations at Scaled Composites, was piloting SpaceShipTwo. He is alert and talking with his family and doctors. We remain focused on supporting the families of the two pilots and all of our employees, as well as the agencies investigating the accident. We ask at this time that everyone please respect the privacy of the families."

SpaceShipTwo Reactions

Comments from Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic

"This is a very tough time for all of us at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Scaled Composites, and our thoughts remain with the families of the brave Scaled pilots, and all those affected by this tragedy. We are determined to find out what went wrong and are working with the authorities to get that information. It is too early for me to add any details of the investigation at this stage."

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo and Pilot Lost During Test Flight

"On it's fourth powered test flight Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo was lost. The flight had a pilot and co-pilot. One did not survive, while the other was seriously injured. The drama unfolded in real time through social media."

On SpaceShipTwo and why space matters, Michael Belfiore

"... I say that money and time and effort and even lives spent reaching beyond the boundaries of Earth lift us all, even those of us who may never fly. ... To the pilot who gave his life and to the one who was injured yesterday, I say, "Thank you." Thank you for helping us all to look up. Thank you for doing what most of us lack the courage and the skill and the talent to do. And to their families, I also say, "Thank you." Thank you for sharing your loved ones with a dream that's much bigger than an individual or a family. Thank you for allowing them to risk all to make the world a better place."

- SNC Statement in Response to Inquiries Regarding Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Incident
- Space Frontier Foundation Mourns This Week's Events Involving SpaceShipTwo and Orb-3
- Media Update from Virgin Galactic - Oct. 31, 2014 6:15PM PST
- Statement from New Mexico Spaceport Authority on the SpaceShipTwo Mishap
- Statement from NASA Administrator on Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Mishap
- FAA Statement on SpaceShipTwo Incident
- Smith, Palazzo Statement on SpaceShipTwo Anomaly

MSNBC on SpaceShipTwo

Fatal crash deals blow to Virgin Galactic, MSNBC

"Chris Hayes reports on a fatal crash during the test flight for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, a commercial space ship designed to give passengers the sensation of weightlessness for $250,000 per flight. Guest: Keith Cowing, editor, NASAWatch.com"


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