April 2018 Archives

Keith's note: In case you are interested in other ways that NASA is going to do the Lunar landing thing, this is the NASA Procurement notice for "Commercial Lunar Payload Services - CLPS"

"NASA's release of a draft request for proposal for the delivery of lunar payloads to the Moon via commercial services is the latest step in the agency's expanding efforts in Lunar Exploration combined with support for the development of a the commercial space industry. NASA requires transport services to the lunar surface for instruments and technology demonstration payloads. This DRFP is the latest step in a long-running effort by NASA to support the development of commercial lunar capabilities considering the Moon as a destination for future human spaceflight. In the DRFP, NASA seeks to contract with the commercial sector to deliver scientific payloads to the Moon."

NASA Preproposal Conference for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Acquisition

Changes At NASA HQ

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/watchusfly.jpg

Keith's note: We've all heard about those misleading campaign ads on Facebook. Well, while the campaign ads are under scrutiny big aerospace companies are quietly luring people to websites that are not what they seem to be at first glance.

This ad is currently running on Facebook. According to the coding embedded in the link it is "campaign=acquisition_newsletter_tier-two-space-race-b" and I am an "enthusiast". When you go to the link it sends you to this page at watchusfly.com (registered by Boeing in 2016) which says "America is in a modern-day space race, and Boeing is leading the charge by building the spacecraft that will keep us in the lead. Boeing's Space Launch System is the world's largest and most powerful rocket. It is the foundation for America's plan to send humans to Mars. Boeing's Starliner is a re-usable capsule that will soon be the method NASA uses to send astronauts into space." But when you go to this page for more information it says "NASA's Space Launch System provides a critical heavy-lift capability, powering people and cargo beyond our moon and into deep space."

For starters NASA is building the SLS. Boeing - along with Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, Orbital ATK, and Airbus are building the pieces. One page says it is Boeing's SLS. The other says it is NASA's. Which is it? And yes, Starliner will be sending human crews into space but it is not "the method NASA uses to send astronauts into space." It is one of the methods - SpaceX is another method.

Blue Origin's New Shepard Goes To Space - And Back - Again (with video)

"New Shepard flew again for the eighth time on April 29, 2018, from Blue Origin's West Texas Launch Site. Known as Mission 8 (M8), the mission featured a reflight of the vehicle flown on Mission 7. The Crew Capsule reached an apogee of 351,000 feet (66 miles, 107 kilometers) - the altitude we've been targeting for operations. For the second time, Blue Origin's test dummy "Mannequin Skywalker" flew to space conducting astronaut telemetry and science studies. The flight also carried research payloads for NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and commercial customers."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/bridenstine.banner.jpg

Keith's 29 April update: Looking back at my original posting I realized something that I had totally overlooked - something that someone like me should have paid much more attention to. In looking at @JimBridenstine tweets I saw speech patterns that I did not associate with the way that Jim Bridenstine talks. Of course, I did not stop to think that @NASAWatch - and NASAwatch.com - have a voice that is mine - but different than the way I actually speak. I have been doing this for so long I make the switch without thinking. Jim Bridenstine has surprised a number of people by diving directly into the use of social media. On one hand you want a NASA PAO strategy and filter on what the agency says and how it says it. On the other hand, these layers of filters can stiffle spontaneity and make it harder for NASA's new leader to chart his own course. Just take a look at how @ElonMusk does things. From all accounts I've heard thus far, NASA HQ was initially taken aback by this - and it is going to have to adapt to this new way of engaging with social media by its Administrator - not the other way around. This should prove to be interesting.

Keith's 28 April update: OK, so I guess this answers my question. Bridenstine's first public interaction with snarky NASAWatch and he made me eat my words. He learns fast.

Keith's note: I just heard from NASA PAO "As you know, our statement and the Administrator's tweet are now out. Regarding the LEAG letter, yes, there will be a response. In addition, we are working on cost and will get back to you."

The @JimBridenstine tweet points to this link which has an update:

"April 27, 2018 - Update: NASA is developing an exploration strategy to meet the agency's expanded lunar exploration goals. Consistent with this strategy, NASA is planning a series of progressive robotic missions to the lunar surface. In addition, NASA has released a request for information on approaches to evolve progressively larger landers leading to an eventual human lander capability. As part of this expanded campaign, selected instruments from Resource Prospector will be landed and flown on the Moon. This exploration campaign reinforces Space Policy Directive 1, which calls for an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system, including returning humans to the Moon for long-term exploration."

Keith's earlier note: It would seem that NASA Administrator Bridenstine is responding directly via @JimBridenstine and not through normal PAO channels. I sent the following request to NASA HEOMD, SMD, and PAO earlier today. I have not received an official response yet: "On 26 April 2018 the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) sent a letter to NASA Headquarters stating that the Resource Prospector mission had been cancelled by NASA and that no explanation has been offered as to why it was cancelled. (see http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=51363). However, on 26 April 2018 the official Twitter account @JimBridenstine stated (in part) "... Excited to get to work on our plan to sustainably return America to the surface of the Moon starting with an aggressive robotic program." (see https://twitter.com/JimBridenstine/status/989653579043614720). Mr. Bridenstine's tweet seems to be at odds with action taken simultaneously by NASA HQ.

1. Has the Resource Prospector mission been cancelled by NASA? If so when was it cancelled, who cancelled it, and why was it cancelled?
2. Will NASA be issuing a public statement with regard to the cancellation of the Resource Prospector mission?
3. Will NASA be responding to the letter sent by the LEAG on the topic of the Resource Prospector mission cancellation?
4. How much has NASA spent to date on the Resource Prospector mission?
5. Will any Resource Prospector- related activities continue after the cancellation of the mission itself? If so what activities will continue?
6. Was Administrator Bridenstine referring to the Resource Prospector mission in his tweet?"

LEAG Letter To NASA Administrator Bridenstine Regarding Resource Prospector Mission

"We wrote to Drs. Gerstenmaier and Zurbuchen to describe the community-wide support for RP on 2 March 2018, after the redirection for this initially HEOMD-led mission to be shared with the new Lunar Exploration and Discovery Program within SMD. We now understand RP was cancelled on 23 April 2018 and the project has been asked to close down by the end of May. This cancellation apparently stemmed from the transfer of RP from HEOMD to SMD due to lack of FY18 funding within the AES program and a misalignment between RP's goals and schedule and the new lunar program within SMD (which has different goals, timelines, and insufficient capability to deliver the RP payload). This action is viewed with both incredulity and dismay by our community, especially as the President's Space Policy Directive 1 directs NASA to go to the lunar surface. RP was the only polar lander-rover mission under development by NASA (in fact, by any nation, as all of the international missions to the lunar poles are static landers) and would have been ready for preliminary design review at the beginning of 2019."

Resource Prospector, NASA

Keith's 26 April update: Oddly Jim Bridenstine's Twitter account said this hours after this letter complaining about a canceled lunar robotics mission.

Keith's 27 April update: I sent the following request to NASA today: " On 26 April 2018 the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) sent a letter to NASA Headquarters stating that the Resource Prospector mission had been cancelled by NASA and that no explanation has been offered as to why it was cancelled. (see http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=51363)

However, on 26 April 2018 the official Twitter account @JimBridenstine stated (in part) "... Excited to get to work on our plan to sustainably return America to the surface of the Moon starting with an aggressive robotic program." (see https://twitter.com/JimBridenstine/status/989653579043614720)

Mr. Bridenstine's tweet seems to be at odds with action taken simultaneously by NASA HQ.

1. Has the Resource Prospector mission been cancelled by NASA? If so when was it cancelled, who cancelled it, and why was it cancelled?
2. Will NASA be issuing a public statement with regard to the cancellation of the Resource Prospector mission?
3. Will NASA be responding to the letter sent by the LEAG on the topic of the Resource Prospector mission cancellation?
4. How much has NASA spent to date on the Resource Prospector mission?
5. Will any Resource Prospector- related activities continue after the cancellation of the mission itself? If so what activities will continue?
6. Was Administrator Bridenstine referring to the Resource Prospector mission in his tweet?"

Former NASA Administrator Weighs in on New Space Agency Head, EOS

"Eos: Why wouldn't Jim Bridenstine have been your first choice?

Bolden: He would not have been my first choice because he's a politician. And he is the first person, to my knowledge, ever selected from political office to become the NASA administrator. I don't think it's healthy for the agency to have someone who's a partisan in that position. The position calls for somebody who can carry out the president's agenda to the best of his ability but do it in a nonpartisan way and be able to work across the aisle. And I think his history is such that he may find some difficulty in working across the aisle."

Keith's note: It is amusing to hear Bolden say this. He was not President Obama's first choice to head NASA. He got the job in great part due to overt political lobbying by Sen. Nelson. The bulk of Bolden's job was politics - internal and external. Indeed, his position was "political" in that President Obama nominated him to enact his Administration's policies. If Bolden had gained some political experience prior to heading NASA he might have made more headway on some of the ongoing political issues that he had with the White House and Congress. Just sayin', Charlie.

NASA OIG Audit of Commercial Resupply Services to the International Space Station

"However, despite a requirement to compete task orders among all contractors, NASA approved sole-source awards for all 31 CRS-1 missions and the 8 CRS-2 missions awarded as of December 2017. With the addition of a third contractor under CRS-2, we believe NASA has more flexibility to compete task orders or possibly open the contract to new entrants through its On-Ramp clause that allows NASA to recompete contracts with new contractors for any missions beyond the guaranteed six. In addition, we believe NASA could realize substantial savings if Sierra Nevada uses a less expensive launch vehicle than the Atlas V currently planned for the company's first two missions.

... we question as premature $4.4 million paid to Sierra Nevada to begin certifying its second Dream Chaser configuration. We believe ISS Program officials should have delayed these payments until after the first Dream Chaser configuration is successfully demonstrated.

... Although less risky than the CRS-1 missions, all three contractors face technical and schedule risks as they prepare for their CRS-2 missions. Development and launch of the Dream Chaser spacecraft poses the greatest technical and schedule risk to NASA due to its lack of flight history and Sierra Nevada's plan to not conduct a demonstration flight. Additionally, Sierra Nevada intends to only build one Dream Chaser and this raises concerns about potential schedule delays if an anomaly or failure occurs."

Keith's note: Funny. Just last week MSFC was denying that there was any change in SLS launch plans.

Radical Shift in SLS Launch Plans Discussed at MSFC (Update), Earier post

Newt Gingrich: A glimpse of America's future in space in 2024, Fox

"If the Trump-Pence team pushes it, Falcon Heavy rockets could have more than 100 launches through 2024. The New Glenn, which will lift almost as much as the Falcon Heavy and will be rated to carry humans from Day One, could add another 20 flights between 2020 and 2024. Together, these approximately 120 heavy commercial flights would lift as much payload as 60 of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) flights. However, there will be at most four SLS flights by end of 2024, according to current plans. Each reusable commercial flight will also cost less than $100 million, while SLS flights will cost $700 million to $1 billion per launch."

- Trump Transition Team Wants Old Space Vs New Space Smackdown, earlier post
- Newt Gingrich Thinks SLS May Become a Museum Piece - Soon, earlier post

NASA Internal Memo: Tom Cremins Appointed Acting Chief of Staff

"I wanted to let the workforce know that I have asked NASA veteran Tom Cremins to serve as my Acting Chief of Staff on an interim basis while I transition into the job of NASA Administrator. Tom led the overall transition effort and was critical to Robert Lightfoot's work to lead the agency over the past 15 months, and I know I will benefit from his 25 years of diverse NASA leadership experience. Tom will continue to serve as the Associate Administrator for Strategy and Plans, as he has since November 2015. I am grateful to Tom for his willingness to help in this role until I bring aboard a permanent Chief of Staff. Ad astra, Jim Bridenstine"

NASA Strategic Plan 2018

"NASA inspires the world with our exploration of new frontiers, our discovery of new knowledge, and our development of new technology. Our work benefits Americans and all humanity. Since NASA's inception in 1958 to present day, the Agency's history is written with each unique scientific and technological achievement. We have landed people on the Moon, visited every planet in the solar system, touched the Sun, and solved some of the core mysteries of our home planet. Today, our Nation's economic prosperity, National security, and cultural identity depend on our leadership in aeronautics, space exploration, and science. NASA accepts the challenge to continue our legacy of achievement and greatly expand the benefits we provide to mankind. Our success will be determined largely by the planning and investments we undertake today. This commitment is what drives our Vision, Mission, and overarching approach that form the core of our 2018 Strategic Plan."

Keith's note: In case you missed it, NASA issued yet another "strategic plan" in February. As is the case with previous iterations this is neither "strategic" nor is it a "plan". Rather, this is just the annual NASA justification - done in reverse - of what NASA has already decided to do for one reason or another. And again, this document is written as if all of these things sprang forth logically from the stated strategic goals - goals that are constantly in flux - and were developed after all of these programs were already undertaken.

One thing to note: the whole "Journey To Mars" thing is more or less gone. Mars, while mentioned, is no longer the agency's prime destination for human spaceflight. The Moon is now that prime focus for human spaceflight. How long before NASA tosses everything up in the air again?

House Approves American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act

"The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act (H.R. 2809), which simplifies and strengthens the space-based remote sensing regulatory system, enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space operators. The bill is sponsored by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)."

Remarks by Vice President Pence at Swearing-In Ceremony of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Call to the International Space Station

"MS. WANG: ISS, this is headquarters. How do you hear us? (Laughter.) ISS, this is headquarters. How do you hear us? It is 220 million miles away. ISS? This is headquarters. How do you hear us? I'm being told in my ear that we're connecting through Johnson Space Center right now.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Did you pay the bill? (Laughter.)
MS. WANG: ISS, this is headquarters. How do you hear us?"

Vice President Pence Swears in New NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (with video)

"It is a great privilege for me to be here today, to be able to usher in on behalf of the President of the United States what we believe is a new chapter of renewed American leadership in space with the swearing-in of the newest Administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine," said Vice President Pence."

Message from the Administrator: Greetings From Jim Bridenstine

"Greetings! It is my great pleasure to join the NASA team today. In the last few days, I have heard numerous times, "welcome to the NASA family." It truly feels like a family, and I am humbled to be a part of it. I want to thank the President and Vice President for the confidence they have placed in me and the entire NASA family as we continue NASA's critical missions. I also want to thank Robert Lightfoot for his strong leadership as the Acting Administrator during a time of transition and for his decades of service to NASA and our nation. His legacy is one of commitment to our mission and leadership in all capacities. NASA has a history of great leaders from the early days of Hugh Dryden and James Webb to our most recent leaders, Sean O'Keefe, Michael Griffin, and Charlie Bolden. I will do my best to serve our storied agency to the utmost of my abilities as we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind. NASA represents the best of our country. We lead, we discover, we pioneer, and we inspire. I look forward to our journey together. Ad astra, Jim Bridenstine"

Keith's note: I took this picture in the "press spray" today at NASA HQ of the all hands senior staff meeting with newly sworn-in NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Vice President Pence. This all happened at the last second. We did not expect this kind of access and then suddenly one of the VP's press people was escorting us past lots of security check points. FWIW everyone in the room seemed to be happy that the leadership issue had been settled and that Bridenstine is on board. At the meeting Pence said that President Trump wanted Bridenstine "in the Oval Office before the day is out".

The Reinvention of NASA, Harvard Business Review

"NASA today is a very different beast from the NASA of the 1960s. Though many would call that decade NASA's golden age, we'd argue that NASA's innovation and influence is even greater today."

"Since the Apollo program, NASA has faced funding cuts, competition from other nations for space leadership, and a radical restructuring of its operating environment due to the emergence of commercial space - all of which have forced the organization to change its ways of thinking and operating."

NASA Invites Media to Swearing-In of New Administrator James Bridenstine

"Media are invited to see Vice President Mike Pence swear in Jim Bridenstine as NASA's new administrator at 2:30 p.m. EDT Monday, April 23, at the agency's headquarters in Washington. The ceremony will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. Following the swearing-in, Vice President Pence and newly sworn-in NASA Administrator Bridenstine will speak live with three NASA astronauts currently living and working aboard the International Space Station."

Why a 7 year old walked out of school alone, CNN

"Seven-year-old Havana Chapman-Edwards was the only student at an Alexandria, Virginia, elementary school to participate when students across the nation walked out of school in support of school shooting victims, according to her mother."

Keith's note: Watch the video. Look at what Havana Chapman-Edwards is wearing and what she wants to be when she grows up.

Keith's 19 April update: The vote tally today is 50 to 49. Jim Bridenstine is the next administrator of NASA. Vice President Pence was present in case there was a 50/50 tie. Sen. Flake waited until the last minute to vote yes and then Sen. Duckworth cast the final vote (No) for the day. Sen. McCain was not present for voting today. When/where Bridenstine will be sworn in is not known. But there is extreme interest in having Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot to hand over the Keys to NASA to Bridenstine before Lightfoot leaves NASA on Friday.

Keith's note: I guess ULA has adopted a humpback whale as a standard unit of measure with which to compare launch vehicles. In so doing Tory Bruno is now mocking - my mockery - of his original infographic with whales - except his original used trucks and tanks - and likely had its inspiration in part from Elon Musk's space Tesla. This is kind of like featuring Space Shuttle Enterprise in the opening of "Star Trek Enterprise" when in fact Space Shuttle Enterprise was named after the original USS Enterprise in a TV show. Or something like that - with time travel.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/pence.wordcloud.jpg

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the 34th Space Symposium Colorado Springs, CO

"You know, since day one of our administration, President Trump has been working to keep his promise to restore America's proud legacy of leadership in space, because the President knows that space exploration is essential to our national security, it's essential to our nation's prosperity. But the President and I also understand it is essential to the very character of America. The work each of you do in the skies and in space supports our armed forces, spurs scientific discovery, drives innovation, helps America's farmers feed the world, creates the jobs of the future, and fills the rising generation with wonder and pride. The companies represented here today, and the thousands of American companies that form your supply chains, employ men and women in all 50 states - men and women who helped build the most advanced rockets, spaceships, and satellites in the world."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves Bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2018

"The U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), today approved the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5503) by a vote of 26-7. The bill was introduced by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), chairman of the Space Subcommittee, and cosponsored by Chairman Smith along with 17 committee members.

- Authorizes $20.74 billion for NASA for fiscal year 2018, the level enacted in the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, and $21.21 billion for NASA for fiscal year 2019
- Supports President Trump's vision of American space leadership by funding Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft
- Supports NASA using American private sector innovation and investments to unlock the economic potential of outer space"

SpaceX moving fast on Mars rocket development, BFR tent spied with more tooling, Teslarati

"Spotted inside the temporary structure thanks to open flaps and a human desire for a breeze amidst the warm Los Angeles springtime, the main cylindrical component is truly vast - large enough that the eye almost glazes over it at first glance. Dwarfing the humans clambering about it, very rough estimates using knowledge of the tent's reported area (20,000 square feet) and size comparisons with machinery blueprints suggest a diameter of around 8-10 meters (26-36 feet), loosely conforming to the expected 9m diameter of BFR, as of CEO Elon Musk's IAC 2017 update."

Aerospace Corporation White paper: Cislunar Development: What to Build - and Why

"The Aerospace Corporation's Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) released a new policy paper that explores future opportunities in cislunar space - essentially, the space inside the moon's orbit and the orbital area around the moon. Cislunar Development: What to Build - and Why discusses the possible applications for cislunar space - for example, outposts on the moon, extraterrestrial mining operations, interplanetary waystations - and determines the infrastructure that will be needed to realize those ambitious goals. Author Dr. James Vedda, senior policy analyst with CSPS, says that the cislunar region remains a largely underdeveloped resource, and any coherent, long-term strategy for space commerce and exploration will need to make better use of it."

Keith's earlier note: Sources report that the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be NASA Administrator is now moving forward in the Senate along with other nominees. A vote could happen soon.

Keith's update: The floor debate and vote on Bridenstine's nomination could come as early as this Thursday thus allowing Robert Lightfoot to handover the reigns of NASA to Jim Bridenstine before Lightfoot departs on Friday.

Keith's update: NASA quietly posted the International Space Station Transition Report pursuant to Section 303(c)(2) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10) a few days ago.

"This report responds to direction in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10, hereafter "the Act"), Section 303(c)(1), to submit to Congress a report evaluating the International Space Station (ISS) as a platform for research, deep space exploration, and low-Earth orbit (LEO) spaceflight in partnership with its four foreign space agency partners, and the commercial space sector (see Appendix for text of the reporting requirement, excerpted from the Act)."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Markup NASA Authorization Act of 2018

"TUESDAY, April 17, at 10 a.m. EDT, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will meet to consider the following legislation: H.R. 5503, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018, introduced today by Rep. Brian Babin (R- Texas). The legislation authorizes the programs of NASA for fiscal years 2018 and 2019."

Keith's 13 April note: According to this text of HR 5503 the ISS Transition Report has been submitted to Congress. So when will NASA release it to the public?

Sec. 202. ISS Transition (a) Findings

"(4) The ISS transition report, submitted pursuant to section 50111(c)(2) of title 51, United States Code, provides an explanation of NASA's plans to foster the development of private industry capabilities and private demand with a goal of ending direct NASA support for ISS operations by the end of fiscal year 2024.

(5) The plans laid out in the ISS transition report are conditionally flexible and require feedback to inform next steps. In addition, the feasibility of ending direct NASA support for ISS operations by the end of fiscal year 2024 is dependent on many factors, some of which are indeterminate until the Administration carries out the initial phases of the ISS transition plan."

- What About That Space Station Transition Plan NASA?, earlier post
- Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post
- Is NASA Going To Break The Law By Not Delivering An ISS Transition Plan To Congress?, earlier post
- Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post
- Is Privatizing ISS A Smart Thing To Do?, earlier post
- White House Plan To Defund ISS By 2025 Moves Ahead, earlier post
- Reaction To Proposed OMB Space Station Funding Cuts, earlier post

"The United States depends on space across the full spectrum of military operations. These space systems, both U.S. government satellites and those of commercial and international partners, are vulnerable to a wide array of threats, ranging from jamming and cyberattacks to direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. While the need to improve the resiliency of space systems to different forms of attack is often discussed publicly, the progress other nations are making in developing and deploying counterspace weapons is not. Space Threat Assessment 2018 reviews and aggregates open-source information on the counterspace capabilities and activities of other nations, focusing in particular on China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The report also assesses the space and counterspace activities of select other nations and some non-state actors. This report is not a comprehensive assessment of all known threats to U.S. space systems because many capabilities and activities are not publicly known. Instead, it provides an unclassified assessment that aggregates and highlights publicly available information and makes it accessible for policymakers and the general public." Read the full report here.

Statement by Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot - Hearing on NASA FY2019 Budget

"NASA plans to launch an initial, uncrewed deep space mission, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), in FY 2020. The mission will combine the new heavy-lift SLS with an uncrewed version of the Orion spacecraft on a mission to lunar orbit. A crewed mission, EM-2, will follow in 2023. The FY 2019 budget fully funds the Agency baseline commitment schedule for EM-2 and the Orion spacecraft and enables NASA to begin work on post EM-2 missions. Missions launched on the SLS in the 2020s will establish the capability to operate safely and productively in deep space."

FY 2019 Budget Hearing - National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Video of hearing)

NASA may fly crew into deep space sooner, but there's a price, Ars Technica

"NASA will likely launch its first astronauts into deep space since the Apollo program on a less powerful version of its Space Launch System rocket than originally planned. Although it has not been officially announced, in recent weeks mission planners at the space agency have begun designing "Exploration Mission 2" to be launched on the Block 1 version of the SLS rocket, which has the capability to lift 70 tons to low Earth orbit. Acting agency administrator Robert Lightfoot confirmed during a Congressional hearing on Thursday that NASA is seriously considering launching humans to the Moon on the Block 1 SLS. "We'll change the mission profile if we fly humans and we use the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), because we can't do what we could do if we have the Exploration Upper Stage," Lightfoot said."

Keith's note: Note that there is no mention of this substantial internal activity in Lightfoot's prepared statement at the hearing. One has to assuem that they would have rather not talked about this if at all possible. In addition to all of the excellent points raised in this article there is another looming factor that will affect this decision. Readers of NASAWatch will recall that there has been a lot of chaos at NASA MSFC in the safety group that is certifying the SLS flight software. One of the things that scared this team the most was the sad state of current software and what would have to be done to human rate SLS - with the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) on EM-2. Sources report that the internal consensus was that the software would have to be started from a clean slate in order to human rate the SLS.

But, not only was NASA planning to launch humans on SLS for the first time on EM-2, they were going to launch them for the first time on a launch vehicle configuration that had never flown before (SLS + EUS i.e. Block 1B Crew). The last time NASA did this was STS-1. If this expanded use of Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) is going to become the new baseline, sources report that the task of human rating it will be simplified since they can start much earlier. And, when humans do fly on it there will be at least one full-up flight of the SLS+ICPS SLS Block 1 configuration (EM-1) under their belt.

And then, of course, there is the issue of flying probes to Europa on SLS - a task Congress has put on NASA's agenda. The whole idea behind using SLS was to get there faster. ICPS is not the solution and Falcon Heavy becomes exceptionally competitive if that option comes forward.

That said, the SLS software safety issue is still a mess - as will soon be revealed in internal and external reports on this situation.

- SLS Software Problems Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- This Is How NASA Covers Up SLS Software Safety Issues (Update), earlier post
- MSFC To Safety Contractor: Just Ignore Those SLS Software Issues, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update), earlier post
- Previous SLS postings

President Trump still pushing NASA pick Bridenstine despite slim path to Senate confirmation, USA Today

"The White House is standing by their NASA man. President Trump remains firmly behind his choice of Oklahoma GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be the next administrator of the space agency, even though he does not appear to have the votes for Senate confirmation. "Senate Democrats should stop their pointless obstruction, and confirm our eminently qualified nominee immediately," said Lindsay Walters, deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement to USA TODAY. "The President looks forward to Rep. Bridenstine's swift confirmation by the Senate, and is confident he will ensure America is a leader in space exploration once again."

McConnell sends warning over nomination votes, The Hill

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hinted Monday that he's willing to keep the Senate in town through Friday, or even into the weekend, as Republicans work to confirm a slate of President Trump's nominees. "We have a number of nominees to consider in the next several days. ... The Senate's workweek will not end until all of these amply qualified nominees are confirmed," McConnell said from the Senate floor."

Keith's note: Sources report that NASA is hopeful that NASA Administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine's nomination will be part of a batch of nominations being pushed forward through the Senate. Right now the math for Bridenstine is still precarious. Sen. Rubio is still seen as being in the "no" column and Sen. McCain is in Arizona. If the vote was taken today it would likely be 50 against, 49 for Bridenstine. Either McCain or Rubio needs to support the nomination or (unlikely at this point) a Democrat needs to break ranks and support the nomination. In case of a 50/50 spli, Vice President Pence could break the time in favor of Bridenstine. Stay tuned.

Putin Says Space Exploration With U.S. Will Go On Amid Sanctions

"Russia wants to continue international cooperation in space and won't break off programs with the U.S. in retaliation for its latest economic sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said."

Putin says Russia will not quit international space cooperation programs, TASS

""We are not going to upset anything or to quit these programs. We are determined to complete them. We have partners in the exploration of Mars and the Moon - the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union," Putin said during a visit to the Kosmos (Space) pavilion at the VDNKh exhibition center."

US imposes sanctions against Russian oligarchs and government officials, CNN

"The Trump administration is unleashing additional sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin along with 12 companies they own or control. The measures announced by the Treasury Department on Friday were also aimed at 17 senior Russian government officials and the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, which has long-standing ties to Syria and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank."

Russia says it will respond firmly to new US sanctions, CNBC

"Moscow said on Friday it would respond firmly to new U.S. sanctions imposed against Russian businessmen, companies and government officials. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that no pressure could make Russian change its course and that the sanctions will only unite Russian society."

NASA And Boeing May Change Commercial Crew Flight Test Strategy

"The change includes the ability to extend Boeing's CFT from roughly two weeks to up to six months as well as the training and mission support for a third crew member. Cargo capabilities for the uncrewed and crewed flight tests were also identified."

Keith's 6 April note: The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Russia and Russia is threatening to respond in kind. So far the oligarchs and companies sanctioned by the U.S. have not directly affected Russia's space activities. But this cannot be expected to remain the case forever since the U.S. will be seeking new pressure points to exploit on RUssia and vice versa - and there are only so many oligarchs and large companies to sanction. As we all know the only way for Americans to reach ISS is on Russian Soyuz flights. That is an obvious choke point that Russia could exploit, should it so desire. There are other things that RUssia could do as well. There are various reasons behind NASA's interest in transforming Boeing's CFT into something more than a simple visit to the ISS. Gaining a Soyuz replacement capability sooner is one of them - even if NASA won't say so.

How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? On the bright side, the longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a loftier way to transcend such ephemeral political threats. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later. There are contingency plans, to be certain. But given the state of flux that NASA finds itself within - without an Administrator - and in the midst of yet another space policy formulation - while the future of ISS is TBD and commercial crew services are delayed - threats to the future of the ISS could not come at a worse time.

Keith's 12 April update: And then there's this additional factor that will inevitably have an impact on US/Russia cooperation in space.

- Growing Hints That Russia Might Sanction NASA?, Earlier post
- Will U.S. Sanctions On Russia Impact ISS Operations?, Earlier post
- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, Earlier post
- Earlier posts on Russia

Letter From Lunar Research Community To Congress Regarding NASA Lunar Exploration and Discovery Program Budget

"We write today to express our enthusiastic support for the FY 2019 Budget Request for NASA's Lunar Exploration and Discovery Program. America's forward steps to the Moon are long overdue, and the proposed Lunar Exploration and Discovery Program in the FY 2019 Budget Request represents a credible plan to re-engage in lunar surface exploration as part of an innovative attempt to do so in an expedient and cost-effective way. We urge establishment of the Lunar Exploration and Discovery Program, as requested in the FY2019 budget, to fully fund the ongoing and highly successful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, and restore to the United States' a technical capability to access the lunar surface and to once again lead lunar exploration once again."

Jim Green Named NASA Chief Scientist as of May 1st, NASA

"Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot has named the Science Mission Directorate's Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green as the agency's new chief scientist, effective May 1. He succeeds Gale Allen, who has served in an acting capacity since 2016 and will retire after more than 30 years of government service."

SpaceX not to blame for lost mystery satellite, report says, Cnet

"A super secretive US government satellite SpaceX launched in January never made it to orbit after it failed to separate from the upper stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. Three months later, it still appears the satellite manufacturer Northrop Grumman may be to blame for the loss and not SpaceX. A new report from The Wall Street Journal published late Sunday says two teams of investigators have found that a payload adapter, which was modified by Northrop Grumman to accommodate the reportedly sensitive spy satellite, is the culprit behind the loss of the $3.5 billion craft."

Zuma Update: SpaceX Exonerated by USAF, earlier Post

The former head of NASA awarded the Order of friendship, Russia News Today

"The former head of NASA, Charles Bolden awarded the Russian Order of friendship for contribution to development of cooperation of Russia and USA in space, the corresponding decree of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin published on the official Internet portal of legal information."

Order of Friendship

"The Order of Friendship (Russian: Орден Дружбы, Orden Druzhby) is a state decoration of the Russian Federation established by Boris Yeltsin by presidential decree 442 of March 2, 1994[1] to reward foreign nationals whose work, deeds and efforts have been aimed at the betterment of relations with the Russian Federation and its people."

- Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State under President Donald Trump, and former CEO of ExxonMobil.

NASA Contractor Whistleblowers: Steps Taken to Implement Program but Improvements to Timeliness and Guidance Needed , GAO

"From 2008 through June 2017, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contractor and grantee employees submitted 48 reprisal complaints such as alleged firing or demotion for reporting fraud, waste, or abuse within the government. NASA's Inspector General addressed all 48 complaints, completed inv estigations for 6 of those complaints, and forwarded investigation reports to the NASA Administrator, who is responsible for making a final determination of whether reprisal occurred. The Administrator determined that none of the complaints qualified for protection under the law. Further, in 5 of the 6 cases forwarded by the OIG, the Administrator was required by statute to make a final determination of reprisal within 30 days. GAO found that the Administrator did not meet this required time frame for all 5 cases and had no documented response for one of them (see figure for all 5 cases). According to officials from NASA's Office of General Counsel, each case must be handled on a case by case basis to ensure due process and 30 days is insufficient time to is sue an order of final determination of reprisal. However, in order to ensure that whistleblower reprisal complaints are handled within required timeframes, NASA would have to monitor and evaluate its processes for making final determinations of reprisal, but it has not yet taken this step. Consequently, NASA does not know what changes may be needed to ensure that it is meeting the statutory 30- day requirement."

NASA Announces Independent Review Board Members for James Webb Space Telescope

"The Independent Review Board review process will take approximately eight weeks. Once the review concludes, the board members will deliver a presentation and final report to NASA outlining their findings and recommendations, which are expected to complement recent data input from Webb's Standing Review Board. NASA will review those findings and then provide its assessment in a report to Congress at the end of June. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, the project's observatory contractor, will proceed with the remaining integration and testing phase prior to launch."

Management Shake Up on Webb Space Telescope, earlier post

"NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is taking essential steps to refocus efforts to ensure a successful mission for the agency's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) after an independent assessment of remaining tasks revealed more time is needed for testing and integration to meet a new launch window of approximately May 2020."

Management Changes at Webb Announced (2010)

"For the past 8 years, the JWST team has been led by Phil Sabelhaus, and in my view, no one could have been more effective leading this government, industry, and international team, especially in light of the enormous challenges and constraints."

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP) Final Report (2010)

"The problems causing cost growth and schedule delays on the JWST Project are associated with budgeting and program management, not technical performance. The technical performance on the Project has been commendable and often excellent. However, the budget baseline accepted at the Confirmation Review did not reflect the most probable cost with adequate reserves in each year of project execution. This resulted in a project that was simply not executable within the budgeted resources."

NASA Announces Contract for Next-Generation Space Telescope Named after Space Pioneer (2002)

"The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for launch in 2010 aboard an expendable launch vehicle."

Former NASA scientist to lead National Air and Space Museum, Washington Post

"Ellen Stofan will become the John and Adrienne Mars Director of NASM starting April 30, the museum announced Thursday. She succeeds Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey, who retired in January after 18 years at the helm of one of the world's most popular museums. After 25 years working in space-related organizations, Stofan said she is eager to shape the way the museum educates and engages the public about aviation and space. "One of my biggest passions is outreach and communication about science and technology," Stofan, 57, said. "What better place than the Air and Space Museum to engage everyone in the excitement of aviation and exploration."

Keith's note: I have been visiting NASM since it opened. For more than 30 years it has been minutes from my home. I have also rented it for receptions, done interviews there, written for its magazine, and seen one of my books sold there. And now there's an annex 11 miles from my house. I am a fan - for life. Alas, I have also seen how this organization fought back against innovation, ignored other people's ideas, and seems oblivious to the changing nature of how people interact in the real and virtual world. Some of their exhibits (the solar system for example) have not changed in more than 30 years with only a new picture inserted now and then. The organization needs a kick in the butt. I am hoping Ellen can do that. NASM could be much more than it already is if only they considered input from people other than the usual suspects.

Keith's note: I agree with Alan Stern. I doubt that the mission would have ever been sold were it not for "the last planet we have not visited" meme. Visiting something described as being somehow less than a planet (or less important/interesting than a "planet") - for nearly a billion dollars - would have been quite a stretch - and it was a big stretch to begin with.

Orion Span says it'll put space hotel in orbit by 2022, but some details are up in the air, Geekwire

"A startup called Orion Span says it's planning to open a luxury hotel in orbit in 2022, but a lot of the details have yet to be filled in. ... It'll accommodate up to six residents at a time, including two professional crew members. The flight plan calls for the module to be launched into a 200-mile-high orbit in late 2021, and host its first guests in 2022."

First-Ever Luxury Space Hotel, Aurora Station, to Offer Authentic Astronaut Experiences, Orion Span

"Prior to take-off, those set to travel on Aurora Station will enjoy a three-month Orion Span Astronaut Certification (OSAC). Phase one of the certification program is done online, making space travel easier than ever. The next portion will be completed in-person at Orion Span's state-of-the-art training facility in Houston, Texas."

Keith's note: Here we go again. What training facility? Where is it? What is the address? Orion Span claims that they will go from zero to an operational orbital space station in 4 years with no track record whatsoever. This is going to cost many hundreds of millions of dollars and would be a challenge for an experienced company to accomplish.

Virgin Galactic VSS Unity Completes First Supersonic Rocket-Powered Flight

"SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity has safely and successfully completed her first supersonic, rocket-powered flight. After two years of extensive ground and atmospheric testing, the passing of this milestone marks the start of the final portion of Unity's flight test program. The flight was also significant for Virgin Galactic's Mojave based, sister manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company. Unity is the first vehicle to be built from scratch for Virgin Galactic by The Spaceship Company's talented team of aerospace engineers and technicians. They were justifiably proud today to be a part of this compelling demonstration of their capabilities in action."

"With such a flurry of activity--from Elon Musk and Space X to the Administration's vow to send Americans to the moon and Mars--we see an opportunity to take advantage of a gap and make POLITICO the foremost leader in covering the 21st Century space race." The new POLITICO Space newsletter is launching in partnership with Boeing and will be released each Friday beginning April 6. It will be accompanied by an official launch event on April 12, featuring Scott Pace, Executive Secretary of the National Space Council and Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration. The event will also feature a conversation between Dennis Muilenburg, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Boeing Company and Patrick Steel, Chief Executive Officer of POLITICO to discuss strategic priorities of the aerospace industry. More information about the event can be found here. Sign up for POLITICO Space here"

Keith's note: So, a newsletter aiming to be the "foremost leader" in space news overtly sponsored by a "partnership" with a big aerospace company. How much more fair and balanced can you get? LockheedMartin has that Lexington Institute thing to carry its water and bash its competitors so its only fair that Boeing try something too. Not sure what the "gap" the Politico folks are talking about is since Aviation Week and Space News (and us space website guys) have been covering the beat for decades. All of the speakers at the launch event are status quo or big aerospace types. Lets see if they actually cover the other companies who are not footing the bills - and what happens outside the Beltway ... that said, welcome to the space party Politico!

NASA GAO: NASA's Management of GISS: The Goddard Institute for Space Studies

"Apart from its substantial scientific contributions and contrary to NASA policy, we found that 43 of 66 (65 percent) new GISS scientific publications publicly released from October 2015 through September 2017 were not approved by GISS or Goddard officials prior to release. NASA policy requires numerous reviews and approvals before scientific information can be publically released. These procedures - which include a technical review, export control review, a series of supervisory approvals and, if needed, a legal review - are designed to ensure the accuracy of scientific information released to the public and to prevent inadvertent release of sensitive information. Moreover, we found inadequate NASA guidance related to the independence and qualifications of the initial approver in the technical review process and other practices not in conformance with best practices.

We also found multiple instances of unallowable use of NASA-appropriated funds by GISS employees, grant recipients, and contractors for salary expenses, sub-contracting, and computer equipment. Based on our review of these unallowable expenses, improper charges under GISS' support contract, and the improper use of purchase cards, we question $1.63 million of GISS' expenditures since 2012. In our judgment, this inappropriate use of NASA funds was largely the result of insufficient oversight by the principal investigators, NASA's technical officers, and approving officials coupled with the absence of a senior-level administrator at GISS to manage the Institute's grants and cooperative agreements.

Finally, GISS routinely collaborates with public and private institutions on an ad hoc basis to achieve NASA's strategic research goals. However, we found that the Institute is missing opportunities to partner with other Federal agencies and entities that conduct similar work because NASA lacks the long-term interagency agreements needed to set goals and objectives and provide needed funding. In our judgment, improved coordination may lead to efficiencies across agencies that do similar climate research and modeling."

Chamber of Commerce after Trump's Amazon attacks: 'Inappropriate' for officials to attack an American company, The Hill

"Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says it is "inappropriate" for government officials to use their offices to criticize American companies. "It's inappropriate for government officials to use their position to attack an American company," Bradley told The New York Times in an article published Tuesday. Bradley's comments came after President Trump launched a series of tweets over several days in which he accused tech giant Amazon of scamming the U.S. Postal Service and failing to collect taxes on some sales."

The Pentagon is close to awarding a $10 billion deal to Amazon despite Trump's tweets attacking the company, business Insider

"But behind the scenes, some Department of Defense agencies are so sure that Amazon will be awarded the contract that they are preparing for a transition to GovCloud, which is Amazon's cloud infrastructure designed specifically for government use, according to this source. And Safra Catz, the CEO of another Amazon cloud competitor, Oracle, dined Tuesday with Trump. Oracle is competing against Amazon for the JEDI contract. Catz complained to Trump during the dinner that the Pentagon's intent to award the contract to a single company made it difficult for anyone but Amazon to win the bidding process, according to Bloomberg."

Keith's note: We've already seen this sort of behavior from the White House intrude upon procurement for several large aerospace projects - Air Force One and F-35. It is inevitable that a space project will find itself similarly perturbed. This is not the sort of environment that should be created to encourage and support a growing space industry.





Keith's note: Recently-confirmed NASA CFO Jeff DeWit made a campaign video in 2014 singing Karaoke over a Disney song. Let's hope he does one at NASA too. Maybe he can cover this Bill Murray classic.

P.S. DeWit was sworn in today.

NASA Internal Memo: Presidents Management Agenda and upcoming GSA led satisfaction survey for mission support services

"This HR Message is being delivered to you via HRMES On Behalf Of: Krista Paquin, Deputy Associate Administrator. I am sending this note to provide you with some information on the recently released President's Management Agenda and to let you know about an upcoming GSA led satisfaction survey for our administrative services functions. On March 20, the Administration released the President's Management Agenda (PMA). This Agenda lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government in key areas, improving agencies' ability to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people. The Agenda lays out a plan to advance progress at the junctions where three key drivers of change intersect:

- Modern information technology (IT) will serve as the core function for Government to meet the needs and expectations of Americans while keeping sensitive date secure.

- Data, accountability, and transparency will provide the framework and data to deliver better outcomes to the public and hold agencies accountable to taxpayers.

- A modern workforce will drive needed civil service reforms to empower everyone from senior leaders to front-line managers to better align staff skills with evolving mission needs."

NASAWatch Is 22

Keith's note: NASAWatch turns 22 on 1 Apr 2018. It started as "NASA RIFWatch" on 1 Apr 1996 and was first hosted on a Mac Classic II on an ISDN line in my little condo in Reston, Virginia (see 20 Years Ago Today: The Seeds of NASAWatch). Here a few things from those early days that are still online:

- Rogue Webmasters, Government Executive, 1 Oct 1996
- NASA's Most Important Asset, Gerry Griffin, 31 December 1996
- Dan Goldin Comments to the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) Meeting, 6/17/96
- Changes in Thinking At NASA November 29, 1996, PBS News Hour

Plus this piece from 2016

- NASA Watch Celebrates 20 Years of Critiquing the Space Agency's Every. Single. Move., Inverse (2016)

Just to show you how things have changed, this photo should shock a few of you ... (well worth a click) - and no, it is not an April Fool's joke. Today, some up and coming bloggers and digeratti love to throw snark at me just like I threw it at Dan Goldin back in the day. Life is funny like that.

Those of you who have followed my 'other' exploits will know that I have had a certain interest in doing online updates from distant and extreme locations (Devon Island, Everest Base Camp, etc.). This website (still online), "The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Research Project - Life in Extreme Environments; An Antarctic Field Journal", done with my friend Dale Andersen, was one of the very earliest - possibly the first - website actually updated from Antarctica.

People have been asking me to look back on things and pick the events that are most memorable. After all I have spent 1/3 of my life running this thing. I have been given many chances to do things because of my peculiar notoriety. This shaky video, done live with my friend Miles O'Brien in 2009 - about our mutual friend Scott Parazynski - while this picture was being taken - is the one singular moment where it all came together.

Thanks to all of you for stopping by for the past 22 years.


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