June 2015 Archives

Orbital May Benefit From SpaceX's Fiery Rocket Fail, Cowen Says, Bloomberg

"SpaceX's explosive mission failure may benefit Orbital ATK Inc. as the two compete for future contracts to supply the International Space Station, according to Cowen & Co."

Analyst: Rocket Failure Unlikely To Hurt SpaceX, Forbes

"The launch failure by itself is not much of an issue," Ostrove told me. "Most people in the industry understand that launching rockets into space is really difficult and occasional failures are just the price of conducting launches. Overall, SpaceX has a pretty strong record of success (about 95%) with the Falcon 9."

McCain: Pentagon shouldn't rely on Russian rocket engines despite SpaceX explosion, The Hill

"Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) defended SpaceX on Monday after its Falcon 9 rocket exploded two minutes after a launch over the weekend. "I am confident that the that this minor setback will in no way impede the future success of SpaceX and its ability to support U.S. national security space missions," he said in a statement, noting the company has previously launched seven successful trips."

Will SpaceX explosion impact Air Force launch competitions?, Defense Systems

"The explosion Sunday of a Space X Falcon 9 rocket shortly after liftoff directly affected NASA and a resupply mission to the International Space Station, but its aftershocks could affect the military's plans for future launches of its spy satellites."

Keith's note: NASA quietly admitted today at the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) Meeting that one of the formally baseline, prime science requirements of the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) is to retrive a boulder from the surface of an asteroid and bring it back to lunar orbit where a human crew will do science with it. Despite the mission's name no "asteroid" will actually be "retrieved". As such NASA really should refine the mission to be the "Boulder Retrieval Mission". To be honest the whole notion of grabbing anything in space was never a driver for this mission - despite the name.

NASA seems to be having some issues with the whole boulder thing too. Today a speaker outlining hardware design work for ARM at JPL noted that there was a lot of hard thinking and work put into how to build a "synthetic boulder" to be used to test things. Its not a real boulder, its a mockup of a boulder. Its really odd that this would be so hard - especially in southern California where JPLers could easily visit Disney Land which has been making synthetic boulders since the 1950s. A little more freeway driving and they could also visit Hollywood which also has some fair expertise in the creation of synthetic boulders such as the one used in "Star Trek" in 1967.

Another topic of discussion was whether the SBAG get togethers should be a "conference" or a "meeting". This of course sent SMD's Jim Green into a long discussion of how hard it is for NASA to do conferences these days since it is hard for NASA to do conferences. It also led to a discussion amongst the participants as to what a "conference" is and what a "meeting" is. Gee, after half a century NASA still has not figured out what a "conference" or a "meeting" is and used meeting/conference time to discuss the topic. I am not certain anything was resolved on this topic.

Back to ARM. At its last meeting the NASA Advisory Council came within a millimeters of recommending that NASA abandon the whole ARM concept and use the solar electric asteroid grabbing vehicle to go to Phobos (and back) instead. This way it would actually serve as a real step on NASA's #JourneyToMars - by actually going to Mars - instead of a dead end sideshow. It is all but certain that the NAC will take this action at their meeting at JPL on 30-31 July. Of course, Congress is already formally against ARM and with the exception of a few companies who want to mine asteroids, no one really supports it at the present time. And NASA can't even admit that the $1.25 billion cost (without launcher) would balloon to $3 billion or so when it uses the two SLS flights it wants to use. And oh yes: the OSIRIS-REx mission will already do nearly all of the sciencey stuff ARM is doing (as an afterthought) - at a fraction of the cost of ARM.

So much for the first big step on the road to Mars. It just keeps shrinking.

- NASA Advisory Council Wants to Cancel Asteroid Redirect Mission and Send it to Phobos Instead
- Asteroid Retrieval Is Not The Prime Intent of NASA's Asteroid Retrieval Mission
- NASA: Two SLS Launches Likely Needed For $3 billion+ ARM, earlier post
- Asteroid Redirect Mission Critique
- Congress, NAC, SBAG, Question Asteroid Mission, earlier post
- Report of the Small Bodies Assessment Group Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, 30 July 2014 (Draft), earlier post
- SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, July 2014 presentation, earlier post
- Asteroid Experts Are Not Very Fond of NASA's Asteroid Mission, earlier post

Keith's note: In April 2015 the Planetary Society held an invitation-only "Humans Orbiting Mars" workshop wherein they unveiled their idea for a mission to Mars. At a quick press conference after the event (no media were allowed to attend the workshop) the Planetary Society promised more detail would be made public - later. Since then nothing but crickets. Well, it now looks like the Planetary Society Mars plan is now online - but only for a few weeks - then you will have to pay to read it. An article on the grand plan by Scott Hubbard will only be online here until 29 July 2015. I do not see any mention of this report's availability on the Planetary Society website. I am not sure how far a mission concept like this is going to get if no one can read the details. Given that most of these new space policy ideas have been semi-secret lately it would seem that the authors are not really interested in any meaningful public engagement.

- Stealthy Humans Orbiting Mars Workshop Update, earlier post
- Making Space Policy In Secret (Again), earlier post
- Good News Everyone: Another Closed Door Humans to Mars Thing, earlier post

SpaceX Falcon 9 Mishap: More Details Emerge, SpaceRef

"According to SpaceX telemetry received from the Dragon spacecraft showed that it too was functioning after the mishap occurred and telemetry continued to be sent back from Dragon for a significant period of time. SpaceX now confirms that the U.S. Air Force Range Safety Officer did initiate a destruct command but that this command was sent 70 seconds after the mishap occurred, as a formal matter of process. There was nothing left to destroy at that point."

Impact of CRS-7 Loss

Another major rocket failure for a space industry out to prove itself, Washington Post

"SpaceX and Dulles-based Orbital ATK won contracts to carry cargo to the station. Then last year, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to develop capsules that can carry astronauts to the space station, with the first such mission scheduled for December 2017. Politics may confound that. Congress recently slashed more than $300 million from the administration's budget request for the commercial crew program. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said the cuts would delay the mission by two years. And that was before Sunday's SpaceX failure."


Keith's note: Dan Billow specifically asked for an answer from both SpaceX and NASA as to whether a destruct signal was sent to the Falcon 9. Gwen Shotwell answered. NASA did not.

Keith's update: When I asked NASA PAO "Did the Range Safety Officer send a signal to the Falcon 9 to self-destruct?" they replied "No, the range didn't have a chance."

SpaceX Falcon 9 Mishap: More Details Emerge, SpaceRef

"SpaceX now confirms that the U.S. Air Force Range Safety Officer did initiate a destruct command but that this command was sent 70 seconds after the mishap occurred, as a formal matter of process. There was nothing left to destroy at that point."

SpaceX Launch Failure

Keith's note: The Falcon 9 Carrying CRS-7 either exploded or was destroyed shortly after launch a few minutes ago. SpaceX has assembled a team to look into this. NASA has referred to a launch vehicle "failure" and that the last data came down from the vehicle at T+ 2:19. No more news or NASA TV until contingency press conference no earlier than 12:00 pm 12:30 pm 12:50 pm 1:00 pm EDT.

- SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Fails on Launch, SpaceRef

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/explode.lrg.jpg

Keith's note: this is Internet rocket analysis and has nothing to do with what actually happened.

Keith's note: This slow motion video from Astronomy Now shows that the Falcon 9 engines seem to be burning well after the explosion - and also that something shaped like a Dragon is seen exiting the cloud. Note: this is Internet rocket analysis and has nothing to do with what actually happened.

A Memorial to Our Fallen Shuttle Family Members

"Today, NASA and our nation take a step toward the future by honoring our past. The story of humans in space is more than 50 years old, and a major part of that exploration was our incredible flagship Space Shuttle Program. It's now time to tell the full scope of the shuttle's achievements; of the men and women who made the program great; and the sacrifices of those who lost their lives to push the boundaries of human achievement. NASA and the families of the STS-51L (Challenger) and STS-107 (Columbia) astronauts want the stories of these crews' accomplishments and sacrifices to be told in a meaningful and personal way in the context of the entire program's legacy. We have done that, and today I have the privilege of visiting the new Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex memorial "Forever Remembered" with the families of our Challenger and Columbia crews."

NASA honors fallen astronauts, lost shuttles, CBS

"In the first memorial of its kind, NASA and the families of the 14 men and women who lost their lives aboard the shuttle Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 have joined together to remember the astronauts with pictures, personal mementos and, in an emotional first, iconic wreckage from both orbiters. The "Forever Remembered" memorial at the Kennedy Space Center's commercially operated Visitor Complex opened to the public Saturday after private viewings Thursday and Friday by family members."

Tory Bruno, ULA
Rob Meyerson, Blue Origin
Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne
Frank Culbertson, Orbital ATK
Katrina McFarland, DoD
John Hyten, USAF Space Command
Jeffrey Thornburg, SpaceX
Samuel Greaves, USAF Space and Missiles Systems Center
Michael Griffin, himself

Hearing: Assuring National Security Space: Investing in American industry to end reliance on Russian rocket engines

Keith's note: The House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing Friday with quite a cast of characters - Tory Bruno, Rob Meyerson, Julie Van Kleeck, Frank Culbertson, Jeff Thornburg, Katrina McFarland, John Hyten, Samuel Greaves, and, to round out the fun, Mike Griffin. This hearing ought to be a classic example of the old Washington adage "where you stand depends on where you sit".

You can catch the live tweeting stream from this morning's hearing that was posted on Twitter by @NASAWatch by following tweets with the #RD180 hashtag

SpaceX Prepared Testimony by Jeffrey Thornburg

"Continued reliance by U.S. launch providers on risky foreign supply chains for major subsystemsincluding propulsionhas materially weakened the U.S. industrial base. Now, however, private industry is investing internal funds to restore America's leading edge in rocket technology. As a matter of industrial policy, it makes little sense to extend reliance on foreign sources of key subsystems when American technology can step in today."

United Launch Alliance Discusses Future Innovations While Maintaining Industry Leading Reliability and Capability

"To end use of the RD-180 engine and make commercial investments in a new engine and system that will meet our national launch requirements, ULA needs the ability to compete into the next decade," said Bruno. "The House has correctly addressed concern over the RD-180 engine by allowing ULA to use engines already on contract while prohibiting additional purchases, which reflects the original intent of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Open Innovation Challenge

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for the use of an established external crowdsourcing support platform with a curated crowd in order to publically post one challenge (external to NASA) to enable interaction with an existing global solver network. Specifically, NASA requires the use of an established platform in order to run a single, short-duration challenge. NASA/JSC intends to purchase the items from InnoCentive, Inc. due to the substantial duplication of cost that is not expected to be recovered through competition. Unacceptable delays in fulfilling the agency's requirements would result given any other action due to current circumstances. ... Interested organizations may submit their capabilities and qualifications to perform the effort in writing to the identified point of contact not later than 4:30 p.m. local time on June 29, 2015. Such capabilities/qualifications will be evaluated solely for the purpose of determining whether or not to conduct this procurement on a competitive basis."

Keith's note: JSC issued this non-compete notice on 24 June and wants anyone who thinks that they can do the tasks to reply before COB on 29 June - that's 5 days, 2 of which are on a weekend. Curiously, the original response date listed on the solicitation was 6 July 2015. I guess someone someone is in a hurry.

JSC also issued this cluster of NASA Open Innovation Services contract awards all awarded 4 June but only announced on 23/24 June - each of which states "Contract Award Amount: 20000000" ($20,000,000) - and each of which says "Multiple Award Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) for NASA Open Innovation Services (NOIS) were awarded NTE $ 20M overall." to Tongual, Inc., Patexia, The Common Pool LLC, Ideo LP, Ninesigma, Inc., Luminary Labs, LLC, Kaggle Inc., HeroX PBC, Appirio Inc., - and Innocentive, Inc.

All of these awards were made in response to this 2014 Open Innovation Services solicitation NNJ15517388R. Although there seems to be a limit of $20,000,000 for JSC to play with, it would seem that all of the awards have a potential award of $20,000,000. So ... it would seem that JSC is not exactly sure who is going to be doing what - but that they will need 10 companies to do the innovation stuff and split the $20,000,000 in a TBD fashion. Competition seems to have been somewhat pointless given that so many awards were made. There is no press release from JSC on these awards - and only a contract specialist is listed, so ...

Invitation to Membership on the Formulation Assessment and Support Team for the Asteroid Redirect Mission

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) intends to release a letter of invitation for membership on the Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST) for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). ARM is part of NASA's plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight capabilities needed for a human mission to the Martian system in the 2030s, as well as other future human and robotic missions. ARM includes the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) and the Asteroid Redirect Crewed Mission (ARCM), along with leveraging the global asteroid-observation community's efforts to detect, track and characterize candidate asteroids. For additional information on how to apply for FAST membership ..."

NASA Advisory Council Wants to Cancel Asteroid Redirect Mission and Send it to Phobos Instead, earlier post

Bush's former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says Obama's Space Launch System 'next essential step': guest opinion, Huntsville Times

"The SLS vehicle design materialized from an extensive, unbiased set of NASA technical studies which compared all possible scenarios, with a focus on efficiency and budget constraints."

Keith's note: "Unbiased", eh Mike? Nothing about "Apollo on Steroids" using Ares 1-X etc which also arose from what you call "an extensive, unbiased set of NASA technical studies which compared all possible scenarios" -- or the proscriptive language from the Senate (where did that come from, hmm?) as to what old Space Shuttle parts NASA was ordered to use along with left overs from your stalled and overpriced Ares program. (Sigh) I guess if you say this often enough in op eds people will eventually start to believe it out of sheer tedium and lack of long term memory - until there are problems with the launch vehicle in question. THEN they start to wonder how we got here to begin with. Rather, how we are still not out there as you and others had promised we'd be by now.

Then there's this other whopper from Mike: "And, contrary to some suggestions, SLS launches will cost no more than existing commercial U.S. systems - which are currently advertised at about $4.5 million per ton of payload." How can you possibly make such a statement when the number of launches is unknown - and a lot of SLS development was paid for by Ares V and not included in Mike's secret math. But who cares, right? No one inside or outside of NASA has ever grasped what it really costs for the agency to develop and launch things.

This op ed piece also appeared in The Hill last week. Oddly the same exact words in the Mike Griffin/Dan Dumbacher op ed in the Huntsville times ("Contrary to some suggestions, the SLS will be very competitive with the advertised price of commercial U.S. systems - on the order of $4.5 million per ton of payload.") are to be found in an op ed "U.S. will keep lead in space with NASA's launch system" that appeared several days ago in the Orlando Sentinel - but this op ed has Doug Cooke and Steve Cook as the authors. If you read the Huntsville Times and Orlando Sentinel op eds side by side you will see that they were clearly written by the same people. Once again the Ares V mafia is mounting a PR effort to convince everyone that they were right all along.

Empty Promises On NASA's Road to Mars, SpaceRef

"These days you can't seem to go anywhere in the Internet without seeing #JourneyToMars slapped on Tweets about, well, everything that NASA does - regardless of how it is actually related to sending humans to Mars. Its in press release titles, on posters, YouTube videos. NASA is all about the "Journey To Mars" these days and its marketing campaign reflects a concerted effort to make you truly believe that this is happening - except ... it is not."

A spacecraft launched in 2006 is about to try for our first good photo of Pluto, Washington Post

"NASA's Jim Green is dismissive of the controversy: "That's nomenclature. To me, that's unimportant. What's important is that this is a body well worth going to. It represents a brand new frontier." Does Alan Stern think Pluto is still a legitimate, no- qualifiers "planet"? "Of course I do!" Stern said. "It has all the attributes of a planet. Screw the astronomers! Would you go to a podiatrist for brain surgery? They don't know what they're talking about!"

Keith's note: At a time when NASA is focusing on education and inspiring the next generation of space explorers I find it rather odd that a NASA mission principal investigator, speaking in an official capacity, would be dumping on astronomers in such a public fashion. Why would anyone want to pursue a career in astronomy if a NASA mission PI says things like this in connection with their mission? Its also a bit baffling that a NASA PI, using their mission as a pulpit, pushes their own personal planetary nomenclature system - one that is at odds with what the agency and astronomical community has adopted.

NASA Names New Director for Langley Research Center

"NASA has announced that Dr. David E. Bowles has been named director of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, succeeding Stephen G. Jurczyk who served in that capacity from April 2014. Bowles has been serving as the acting center director since March of this year when Jurczyk was temporarily assigned to NASA Headquarters as the acting Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. Jurczyk has since been named associate administrator."

Senate Passes FY2016 Defense Authorization, But Blocked on Defense Appropriations, Space Policy Online

"The Air Force is trying to convince Congress to give it a few more years to make the transition, arguing that it needs more time to develop, test and certify a new launch system (of which an engine is part). It wants an extension to 2022. The House-passed FY2016 NDAA provides that flexibility, but the Senate bill insists on 2019. The RD-180 and launch competition issues have become entwined. ULA has been a monopoly provider of launch services to the Air Force and intelligence community since it was created in 2006, but now a competitor, SpaceX, has emerged. DOD, the Air Force and ULA assert that they embrace the drive for competition, but want to make certain SpaceX does not itself become a monopoly provider in the 2019-2022 time frame when Atlas V's no longer can be launched (because RD-180s are prohibited), but a ULA alternative is not ready. These issues not only split the House and Senate authorizing committees, but the Senate authorizing and appropriations committees. McCain's Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is the one holding DOD's feet to the fire on 2019, while the other three are siding with DOD."

Knights Templar Inspired Business Moves at ULA, earlier post

SpaceX Early-adopter SES Ready To Reuse Falcon 9 For the Right Price, SpaceNews

"Satellite fleet operator SES on June 17 said it wants to reuse the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the SES-9 satellite by September for a future, discounted SpaceX launch, and is awaiting the response of SpaceX. In a presentation to investors in London, SES Chief Technical Officer Martin Halliwell said he remains convinced that Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX is on the verge of proving its reusability thesis, which is that recovering, refurbishing and reusing a Falcon 9 first stage will dramatically reduce launch costs."

Keith's note: Certified pre-owned rockets anyone?

Ride Sally Ride

Sally's Ride Through the Clouds

"On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7 from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-7 crew consisted of astronauts Robert Crippen, commander, the first two-time space shuttle astronaut; Frederick H. Hauck, pilot; and three mission specialists -- Ride, John M. Fabian and Norman E. Thagard."

Russian Official Proposes International Investigation Into U.S. Moon Landings, Moscow Times

"Venting his frustration with what he viewed as "U.S. prosecutors having declared themselves the supreme arbiters of international football affairs," [Russia's Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir] Markin proposed that international investigators could likewise examine some of the murkier elements of America's past. An international investigation could help solve the mystery of the disappearance of film footage from the original moon landing in 1969, or explain where the nearly 400 kilograms of lunar rock reportedly obtained during several such missions between 1969 and 1972 have been spirited away to, Markin suggested."

Russian official wants to investigate whether U.S. moon landings actually happened, Washington post

"The op-ed is unlikely to raise worries among NASA officials. In 2009, NASA itself admitted that it had erased the original video recordings of the first moon landing among 200,000 other tapes in order to save money, according to Reuters."

NASA FISO Presentation: Inflatable Antenna for CubeSats

"Now available is the May 6, 2015 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Alessandra Babuscia (NASA JPL) who discussed "Inflatable Antenna for CubeSats".

Marc's note: Harley Thronson of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Dan Lester of the University of Texas, to their credit, have been holding almost regular weekly "Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Presentations" since 2006.

UrtheCast Releases First Full-Color HD Videos from the International Space Station, SpaceRef Business

"Today UrtheCast released their first full-color HD video of Earth filmed in roughly 1 meter resolution of London, Boston and Barcelona."

Marc's note: It's quite something to watch cars drive around from LEO.

Keith's note: The "Pioneering Space National Summit" was held in Washington, DC on 19-20 February 2015. Attendance was by invitation only and media were refused entry. The organizers - most notably master of ceremonies Rick Tumlinson - spoke of all the wonderful things that would result from this event. Well, it has been 4 months. Other than a declaration that was proclaimed shortly after the meeting, nothing else seems to have been generated. Checking the website there seems to be little in the way of output - just two documents only a couple of pages long that are mostly semi-edited meeting notes/outlines: Report: Deliberation #1 - Vision (Group A) and Report: Deliberation #2 - Strategy (Group A). Two other documents are apparently being edited.

That's it?

- Yet Another Plan For Outer Space, earlier post
- Pioneering Space National Summit Details Emerge, earlier post
- Alliance for Space Development: Yawn - Yet Another Space Group, earlier post
- Space Advocates Work Together By Not Working Together, earlier post
- Move Along. This Is Not The Space Policy You're Looking For., earlier post

Lockheed says rocket launch venture hinges on U.S. law waiver

"Lockheed Martin Corp issued a warning on Sunday over the viability of its rocket launch joint venture with Boeing Co, saying the venture urgently needed the United States to waive a law banning the use of Russian engines to launch military and spy satellites. Rick Ambrose, who heads Lockheed's space business, told Reuters in an interview that concerns about the United Launch Alliance (ULA) venture's prospects had prompted the partners to approve funding for its new U.S.-powered Vulcan rocket only one quarter at time."

The Space Destination Debate Gets Us Nowhere ... Literally (Op-Ed), Space.com

"In following the incessant debate about potential NASA missions, I often hear NASA leaders, industry advocates and Congressional champions alike point to the value of these missions to inspire the next generation. Yet the more their arguments cause inaction, the more cynicism they generate in those they seek to inspire. The problem is not that young people don't understand the importance to humanity or relevance to individuals of a certain NASA mission. We understand perfectly fine. But we also see that these missions are doomed to die a political death when leadership at NASA or elsewhere in government has a change of heart."

NASA makes music video for its huge new Mars rocket, CNet

"The minute-long animated teaser below, posted Tuesday, might manage to pump up those of us nerds who have been following NASA's ambitious yet often agonizingly slow (20 more years to Mars? Really? But we got to the Moon in 10 with the processing power of a graphing calculator...) plans to explore deeper into the solar system. However, the uninitiated might be more likely to respond with, "What's this? NASA made a video game?"

Keith's note: The video contains the shaky camera angles and "Matrix"-like slo-mo effects that are trendy these days. As for the "music", well it is just awful.

Mikulski Amendment Rejected - No Relief for NASA in Senate Appropriations Markup

"The amendment was defeated by a 14-16 party line vote. CJS subcommittee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) opposed the amendment, but said that if a new budget deal is indeed negotiated, he will work with Mikulski on how to allocate any additional funding."

CSF Applauds Mikulski Amendment to Avoid Extending U.S. Reliance on the Russians

"Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill. The bill increases NASA's budget by $279 million above its FY 2015 budget, but underfunds NASA's Commercial Crew program by more than $300 million. Failing to fully fund the Commercial Crew program in FY 2016 would result in the United States human spaceflight gap being extended, again, and ensuring further payments to the Russians for launches of American astronauts to the ISS beyond 2017. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Vice-Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offered an amendment that would have restored the $300 million to the Commercial Crew program, avoiding a further gap and reliance on the Russians. The Committee failed to adopt the amendment."

Coalition for Space Exploration Statement on CJS Appropriations Bill

"The Coalition for Space Exploration is grateful for the strong bipartisan leadership demonstrated by Chairman Shelby and Vice-Chairwoman Mikulski in support of our nation's space exploration program in the FY 2016 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill advanced by the committee today."

Get Putin Out of Our Rockets, Roll Call

"But ULA isn't happy with these restrictions and has been using its influence in Congress to push back. Indeed, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., whose district houses a major ULA factory has introduced a bill rolling back the limits on Russian engines. At the same time, ULA has decided to limit production of its American-made Delta IV launcher in an effort to strong arm the U.S. military into purchasing the RD-180 until at least 2020. This underhanded tactic might benefit ULA, but it'll endanger U.S. security while enriching Russia. ULA is able to execute such a ploy because of its long monopoly on rockets for national-security launches. America's interests would be far better served if we leveraged our existing, homegrown alternatives and encouraged U.S. technology and engineering companies to re-join the global space race."

Keith's note: Sen. John McCain raised the issue of continued purchase of Russian RD-180 engines on the Senate floor yesterday.

Transcript below (edited for typos)

QR Codes on Ceres?

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/ooPIA19568.QR.jpg

New Images of Ceres

"New images of dwarf planet Ceres, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the cratered surface of this mysterious world in sharper detail than ever before. These are among the first snapshots from Dawn's second mapping orbit, which is 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) above Ceres."

Keith's note: Looks like someone at NASA PAO used Dawn's ion drive to paint QR code graffiti on Ceres. Just sayin'.

Jack King

NASA Mourns Loss of Former Launch Commentator Jack King

"John W. (Jack) King, former chief of Public Information at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, died June 11, 2015. He was 84. A resident of Cocoa Beach, Florida, King worked in the space agency's Public Affairs office from 1960 until 1975. He returned to Kennedy in 1997, working for space shuttle contractor United Space Alliance until his 2010 retirement. According to Hugh Harris, retired director of NASA Public Affairs at Kennedy, King was instrumental in instituting open communications with the public during the beginning of America's civilian space program."

Expedition 43 Crew Returns to Earth (with video)

"Three crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) returned to Earth Thursday after a 199-day mission. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) touched down at 9:44 a.m. EDT (7:44 p.m., Kazakh time), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 9 June 2015

"Today at 10:27 a.m. Central time during the routine testing of communications systems between the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft and the International Space Station (ISS), Soyuz thrusters activated inadvertently which led to a slight change in the orientation of the ISS. Actions were immediately taken to reorient the ISS. There was no threat to the crew or the station itself, and the issue will have no impact to a nominal return to Earth of the Soyuz TMA-15M on Thursday. Roscosmos specialists are determining the cause of the incident. Once more information is known, additional information will be provided."

Keith's note: Hmmm ... rocket engines on a spacecraft just fire for some unknown reason, alter the ISS orientation such that contingency measures need to be taken and ... that's it: stay tuned? When I worked at NASA something like this in a safety review would have justifiably been a cosmic issue of epic proportions. Not any more, it would seem. I guess there will be some telecons and some Powerpoint slides.

- Soyuz Engines Fire When They're Not Supposed To, earlier post

Keith's note: Over the past 20 years I have done TV hundreds of times and am more or less oblivious to who might be on the other side of the camera somewhere out there - with one exception: the BBC. Their reach is truly global. My friend Chhabi in Kathmandu, Nepal tweeted this mere minutes after I did a live interview via Skype from my basement half a world away. What a small world this big planet is. Oh yes: Chhabi's TV is still on the floor due to ever-present aftershocks.

NASA Administrator Statement on Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Vote on Commercial Crew Budget

"I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA's plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia. Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President's Budget. By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own."

Senate Bill Offers $18.3 Billion For NASA, Space News

"A spending bill approved by a Senate appropriations subcommittee June 10 would provide $18.3 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2016, a cut of more than $200 million from both the administration's original request and a companion House bill. ... Commercial crew, however, would receive $900 million in the bill, $344 million less than requested. Space technology is funded at $600 million, $125 million less than requested."

Senate Appropriations CJS Subcommittee Approves Less than Requested for NASA, Space Policy Online

"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) voiced his objections to the $344 million cut to commercial crew on the Senate floor following the markup. He said if the cut is sustained, it will delay the ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets two more years, which means paying Russia for two more years, costing at least as much. "We need to wake up to what's happening," he implored, adding that Mikulski will offer an amendment tomorrow to restore the commercial crew funding and urging his fellow Senators to support it."

Nelson floor remarks, YouTube

KSC Employee Update: Photo Opportunity Thursday for The Martian Movie

"By special request from the film producers of the upcoming major motion picture "The Martian," NASA and Kennedy Space Center employees have been invited to participate in a group photo session on Thursday, June 11, at 7:30 a.m. This opportunity will take place at the KSC Visitor Complex Rocket Garden and should last no longer than one hour. The first 200 people to show up will be included in the photo. Be advised that the photo will be altered so that 10-15 faces will be superimposed by actual cast members from the movie."

Keith's note: It is rather odd for NASA KSC to invite people to a photo shoot with movie stars who will not be there and then be told that 10-15 of the people who show up will be replaced by the movie stars - who are not there. And then the photo will presumably be used to show how people who never actually met the movie star worked with those movie stars.

Unexpected Soyuz engine start shifts orbital position of ISS, Aperture

"A glitch at the International Space Station on Tuesday caused its position in orbit to change, but the crew was not in danger, the Russian space agency said. Roscosmos said the engines of a Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station unexpectedly started during testing of the radio system that controls the docking procedure. Steps were taken to stabilize the station and specialists were now working to determine what caused the engines to start, the agency said."

Keith's note: A Proton launch fails, a Progress launch fails, a planned Progress reboost burn fails, and now a Soyuz fires its engines at a time when they are not supposed to be firing. Meanwhile Russia's new cosmodrome is going to be delayed 3 years while an employees embezzles funds and drives around in a diamond-encrusted Mercedes. So ... what does Congress want to do? They want to cut the commercial crew program that will eliminate U.S. crew launching dependence on this increasingly unreliable space partner.

- Design Problems Are Causing Russian Launch Failures, earlier post
- A Bad Day for Russia, earlier post
- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post
Vostochny Cosmodrome First Launch Slips 3 Years, earlier post

NASA FISO Telecon: An Overview of NASA's Evolvable Mars Campaign

"Our next Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon colloquium will be June 10, when Doug Craig (NASA HQ HEOMD) will speak on "An Overview of NASA's Evolvable Mars Campaign." As always, the colloquium will be at 3pm ET. And please note that there is a new dial-in number for the colloquium as NASA has migrated to a new service: TEL: 844 467 4685 PC: 442398."

Keith's note: If you go to NASA's Journey to Mars page there is no mention of this NASA-sponsored, openly-accessible telecon regarding a NASA study of how the agency might go to Mars. There is no mention of this telecon on NASA's calendar either - nor is there mention on NASA's Human Exploration and Operations home page, or NASA Goddard's home page (where telecon organizer Harley Thronson works). NASA is all about the #JourneyToMars thing 24/7/365 according to Charlie Bolden and it is mentioned in virtually every press release the agency issues these days. NASA is telling everyone that it is headed to Mars yet it can't even figure out how to tell the public about openly accessible events like this? You know, how NASA might actually do this whole exciting Mars thing?

- How NASA Quietly Releases Alternate Mars Mission Concepts (Update), earlier post
- Yet Another Stealth NASA Briefing On Mars Mission Concepts, earlier post

A Grand National Space Strategy Could Save NASA (Op-Ed), Michael Potter, Space.com

"I recently examined the latest NASA Strategic Plan, and I was disappointed that it hardly resembled a plan at all. It reads and feels like a slick year-in-review annual report from a national charity organization. The vision statement reads, "We reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind." And the mission reads, "Drive advances in science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality, and stewardship of Earth." There are photographs of STEM outreach to schoolkids and lots of interesting "pieces," but there's a lack of a credible coherent vision and mission. The plan seems vaguely aspirational, and does not seem to reflect the basic political and funding realities of a fragmented Congress battling with the White House, or the competing internal interests perceived by other federal agencies."

NASA's Strategic Plan Isn't Strategic - or a Plan, earlier post

"This thing reads like an annual report - there is no "plan" in this strategic plan. The authors are utterly confused as to what a "goal", "objective", and "strategy" are and confusingly use the terms interchangeably. It is almost as if they say "it is important that we do what we are doing because we are already doing it". Also, doing things in a cost-effective and innovative way seems to be some sort of strategic objective preoccupation with the reports' authors. Well, DUH, you should always do such things in a cost-effective and innovative way as a matter of course in ANY project - government or otherwise - not do so as an end in and of itself."

More NASA Strategic Plan Vaporware, earlier post

"And now GSFC has taken the time to develop a plan to implement this confusing non-strategic non-plan. I can't wait to see how they measure their progress."

LightSail Unfurls Its Sail

"The Planetary Society's LightSail test mission successfully completed its primary objective of deploying a solar sail in low-Earth orbit, mission managers said today. During a ground station pass over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo that began at 1:26 p.m. EDT (17:26 UTC), the final pieces of an image showcasing LightSail's deployed solar sails were received on Earth. The image confirms the sails have unfurled, which was the final milestone of a shakedown mission designed to pave the way for a full-fledged solar sail flight in 2016."

Satellite Developed by Stellar Exploration Inc Completes First Deployment Test, Stellar Exploration

"Under a contract with the Society, Stellar developed and manufactured Lightsail. Two completed and tested satellites were delivered in early 2013 (Ecliptic Enterprises provided the final software update, and integration & testing support for the 2014 launch opportunity). This project was conceived as a major step along the solar sail roadmap Lightsail builds on the NASA experience with NanoSail-D2, doubling the sail dimension (thus quadrupling its surface area) and adding active attitude control, two cameras and other diagnostics. In turn, the Lightsail design evolved into the next solar sail missions, sponsored by NASA Flashlight and NEOScout."

Even NASA Got Infected With 'CryptoLocker' Ransomware, Motherboard

"Between September 2013 and June 2014, a virus known as CryptoLocker infected around 500,000 computers around the world. Designed to lock data on a victim's computer and hold it for ransom, it ended up extorting an estimated $3 million from victims who agreed to pay rather than lose their files. Among those victims of Cryptolocker were two NASA computers, according to an internal document obtained by Motherboard. The ransomware virus infected a computer at the NASA Ames Research Center in California on October 23, 2013, "resulting in the loss of access to NASA data," according to the document. It also hit another computer at the visitor center of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida two days later. The document was prepared by the NASA Office of Inspector General, and is scant on details."

Tech billionaires aim for cheaper spaceflight, Seattle Times

"Originally, SpaceX was to provide the booster rocket; Vulcan then switched to relying on rocket-maker Orbital ATK. As recently as last fall, Beames spoke about a plan to put a human-crewed spacecraft developed by Sierra Nevada on the tip of the Orbital booster rocket. But now that human spaceflight plan is shelved, along with Orbital's planned rocket. Beames said Orbital's rocket "was not hitting the economic sweet spot to generate revenue," so Vulcan has reopened the design plan and is "evaluating over 70 different launch vehicle variants."

Video: "The Martian"





Keith's note: The trailer for "The Martian" is out. (Once again) the public will love it - and Neil Tyson will hate it.

Deployment! LightSail Boom Motor Whirrs to Life, Planetary Society

"LightSail's tiny solar sail deployment motor sprung to life Sunday afternoon, marking an important milestone for The Planetary Society's nail-biting test mission. Sail deployment began at 3:47 p.m. EDT (19:47 UTC) off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, as the spacecraft traveled northwest to southeast. Telemetry received on the ground showed motor counts climbing to the halfway point before LightSail traveled out of range. Power levels were consistent with ground-based deployment tests, and the spacecraft's cameras were on. "All indications are that the solar sail deployment was proceeding nominally," wrote mission manager David Spencer in an email update. LightSail is currently out of range until 2:26 a.m. EDT Monday. Ground control teams at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Georgia Tech will begin transferring the spacecraft's images from its cameras to flight system. "

LightSail Reboots Itself - Now Ready to Sail, earlier post

Russia Delays First Manned Launch From New Spaceport to 2023, Moscow Times

"The first launch of a manned spacecraft from Russia's troubled new Vostochny Cosmodrome is slated for 2023, at least three years later than originally planned, the head of the Roscosmos federal space agency, Igor Komarov, said Friday, news agency RIA Novosti reported. Vostochny is a $3 billion spaceport under construction in the Amur region of Russia's Far East. The project is intended to ensure Russia's independent access to space by easing reliance on the Soviet-built Baikonur complex in Kazakhstan, but has been plagued by corruption allegations as construction deadlines have slipped."

Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

"Alleged to have embezzled four million roubles, video of arrest shows him driving diamond-encrusted Mercedes. A senior director suspected of embezzling funds from the construction of the new Vostochny cosmodrome has been arrested after going on the run."

SpaceX Video: Falling Back to Earth

"A GoPro inside a fairing from a recent Falcon 9 flight captured some spectacular views as it fell back to Earth. Footage is played in real time. Music: Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II"

Don't Back Down on Russian Sanctions, editorial, New York Times

"... But in recent years, Mr. Putin has become increasingly at odds with the United States. Meanwhile, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of the defense giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing also known as ULA, has become the Pentagon's primary rocket maker and gets its engines from NPO Energomash, a Russian company that reportedly has close ties to Mr. Putin. Senator John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, says NPO Energomash could gain $300 million on engine sales that are to end under the law. The Pentagon, backed by ULA and American intelligence agencies, is pushing to change the law, arguing that additional Russian engines will be needed for at least a few more years."

- USAF Admits The Obvious on RD-180 Engines, earlier post
- Breaking The RD-180 Addiction, earlier post

Hosting of Humanoid Robots and Validation of Performance for The NASA Space Robotics Challenge Appendix

"In 2012, NASA began the design and development of a new bipedal humanoid robot, R5, through the DRC. NASA seeks to advance innovation in basic and applied research and technology development for humanoid robots, like R5, with a focus on the performance of tasks related to space exploration missions. NASA seeks to advance space technology by providing additional units of R5 to the robotics community for active research of high-level humanoid behaviors. These robots are intended to be the instruments for the SRC, which NASA will administer separately through the Centennial Challenges Program beginning in 2016."

Keith's note: The R5 robot aka "Valkyrie" was developed in semi-secret by NASA JSC. Several years ago it tied for dead last in the previous DARPA challenge and can't compete this week. But JPL's Robosimian did much better last time and is competing again this year. So ... why is NASA investing all this money in R5, a last place robot design? Why not go with Robosimian instead? Or ... is NASA hoping that external teams, freed (somewhat) from internal NASA issues, might be able to rescue Valkyrie from all of its problems? If so, then maybe that's not so bad of an idea. But why does NASA need to make the R5 copies for people to use? Why not just open source the design and post it online so that others can build (and improve upon) it? After all, taxpayers paid for it. That way you get more R5 units.

Why not post Robonaut's design online too? And Opportunity's? Wouldn't it be cool if the first robot that students build is one that is based upon the actual design of real robots that really work in space? As for the usual ITAR silliness NASA often cites when you ask them to release information like this - what's the big deal? R5 does not work very well (on a good day), placed last among its peers - 2 years ago, and is clearly nowhere as sophisticated as other robots. Maybe someone else can make it work better.

NASA needs to take a page from the Lego Mindstorms playbook - after the public started to tinker with their in-house designs.

- Does NASA Have a Robotics Strategy? Did It Ever Have One?, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post

Keith's note: Why were all of these NASA folks at the New York Stock Exchange today? This article appeared at NASA.gov today - but its just a a classic say-nothing, click bait puff piece using all the catch phrases like "Journey to Mars" at least once. These smiling NASA people are shown at the NYSE but no explanation is offered as to why they were there. Was there a meeting? Was some MOU signed? Or did NASA just spend a lot of money for these folks to travel to NYC to take a selfie and ring a bell at the NYSE to give the impression that things are happening on ISS?

OK, so its a PR stunt. I get it. But does CASIS make any mention of this NYSE event on their webpage or the article NASA posted? No. Does the ISS National Laboratory mention this on their webpage? No.

Also, its odd that John Yembrick from NASA PAO (who does not work on ISS commercial stuff) is on the podium yet no one from Nanoracks is present. Nanoracks is one of the real stars of ISS commerce these days.

GAO Progress Report on CASIS: Disappointing, earlier post

"CASIS officials told GAO in July 2014 that setting measurable targets would be arbitrary because CASIS processes and metrics are still evolving. In January 2015, however, the Chairman of the CASIS Board of Directors told GAO that setting measurable targets is a priority for the board. CASIS, however, has yet to establish a date by which measurable targets will be developed. Using the established metrics, NASA is required by the cooperative agreement to perform an annual program review of CASIS's performance."

NASA Budget Update

House Debates and Passes FY2016 Funding Bill for NASA, NOAA, spacepolicyonline

"The House of Representatives passed the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on June 3, 2015 after a marathon debate. The bill funds NASA and NOAA among other departments and agencies. No amendments were adopted affecting the House Appropriations Committee's recommendations for NASA or for NOAA's satellite programs, though several were considered."

Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2578 (NASA Excerpts), OMB

"... It also cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program that will help end our reliance on Russia for transporting astronauts, critical space technology investments that will help pave the path to reaching Mars, and earth science research that is helping us understand how our climate is changing and how to respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events."

CSF Applauds Passage of Bridenstine-Rohrabacher-Posey Amendment, CSF

"Yesterday the House of Representatives passed an amendment to H.R. 2577, the FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which would partially restore a requested increase in funding for the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST)."

House Offers Partial Budget Increase To FAA Commercial Space Office, Space news

"The House of Representatives approved an amendment to an appropriations bill June 3 that gives the Federal Aviation Administration's commercial space office part of a budget increase it requested to keep up with its growing workload. The House approved by voice vote an amendment to appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development that transfers $250,000 from an FAA account for financial and management activities to its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Rep. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.) introduced the amendment with Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.)"

Got him! Director accused of fraud at new spaceport is detained in Belarus, The Siberian Times

"Alleged to have embezzled four million roubles, video of arrest shows him driving diamond-encrusted Mercedes. A senior director suspected of embezzling funds from the construction of the new Vostochny cosmodrome has been arrested after going on the run. The 45-year-old Georgian national, whose name has not been disclosed, had fled Russia after being accused of taking four million roubles ($75,000). But he has finally been caught and detained in Belarus, and will now face the allegations and a potential prison sentence if found guilty. It is alleged his company was given the money as an advance payment for contract work at the spaceport but the work did not start and he took the funds for his own needs. .. Police in the Amur region put the shamed director on the international wanted list and he was located in Minsk, where he drove a luxury Mercedes car decorated with Swarovski diamonds. According to local media, it cost $300,000 (16 million roubles) to have the vehicle covered."

Keith's note: I just love all the pictures of the car this article contains. This guy was embezzling money from Putin and yet he thought it was fine to be driving around in a "diamond-encrusted Mercedes". It would seem like he was either asking to be caught - or .... that cosmodrome construction workers commonly drive around in diamond-encrusted Mercedes.

Hubble Finds Two Chaotically Tumbling Pluto Moons

"If you lived on one of Pluto's moons Nix or Hydra, you'd have a hard time setting your alarm clock. That's because you could not know for sure when, or even in which direction, the sun would rise. A comprehensive analysis of all available Hubble Space Telescope data shows that two of Pluto's moons, Nix and Hydra, are wobbling unpredictably. Scientists believe the other two moons, Kerberos, and Styx, are likely in a similar situation, pending further study."

- News briefing materials

- Resonant interactions and chaotic rotation of Pluto's small moons, Nature (it costs $32 to read this article if you do not subscribe to Nature)

- Update: The text is online here - for free.

Air Force Releases Rocket Propulsion System Prototypes RFP

"Today the Space and Missile Systems Center released a formal solicitation seeking proposals for shared public-private investments in rocket propulsion system prototypes. This solicitation is part of a comprehensive Air Force plan to transition off the Russian supplied RD-180 propulsion system used on the Atlas V rocket by investing in industry launch solutions with the ultimate goal to competitively procure launch services in a robust domestic launch market."

Breaking The RD-180 Addiction, earlier post

NASA SpaceTech-REDDI-2015 Appendix F1: NASA Flight Opportunities Now Open

"The purpose of this Appendix is to provide funding for the testing or demonstration of crosscutting space technologies in relevant environments through flights on reusable suborbital launch vehicles. These flight tests should fit into an overall technology maturation plan as a bridge between laboratory testing and demonstration in Earth orbit or beyond. The proposer's organization will purchase the proposed flight(s) on currently available U.S. commercial parabolic or suborbital reusable platforms of their choice."

Progress M-27M Failure Caused by "Design Peculiarity", Space Policy Online

'Russia's space agency Roscosmos today revealed the results of its investigation into the April 28, 2015 Progress M-27M cargo ship launch failure. A "design peculiarity" related to frequency-dynamic characteristics between the Soyuz-2.1a rocket's third stage and the Progress spacecraft was to blame, it said."

Proton-M Failure Due to Same Design Flaw that Doomed 1988 Mission, Space Policy Online

"Russian authorities investigating the May 16, 2015 Proton-M rocket failure have determined that the root cause was a design flaw in the turbopump for the third stage steering engine and concluded it was the same root cause of a prior crash in 1988. Igor Komarov, head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, said today that the Proton-M third stage failed on May 16 because of excessive vibration in the turbopump."

LightSail Team Prepares for Possible Tuesday Sail Deployment, Planetary Society

"LightSail is almost ready for its moment in the sun. This afternoon, mission managers gave the go-ahead for a manual solar sail deployment as early as Tuesday, June 2 at 11:44 a.m. EDT (15:44 UTC), providing the spacecraft completes an arduous set of Monday preparations. Since waking up Saturday after eight days of silence, the spacecraft has been busy sending telemetry back to Earth, snapping test images and preparing itself for sail deployment."

Dale Meyers

NASA Legend Dale Myers Dies at 93; Helped Save Apollo 13, Times of San Diego

"Dale Myers, a famed NASA administrator who helped save the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission and resurrect the space shuttle program after the 1986 Challenger disaster, has died at his retirement home in La Costa. Myers was 93 when he died May 19 at La Costa Glen, his home for 10 years. But he had lived intermittently in Leucadia since 1962, where he had a vacation home, said Janet Westling of San Marcos, one of his two daughters. "He loved being independent," Westling told Times of San Diego. "He didn't stop driving, and was very happy and alive to the day he died. Friends of his say, 'We all want to go that way.'"

Dale Dehaven Myers


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