July 2018 Archives

Keith's note: Northrop Grumman has a big Webb Space Telescope Charm offense underway. Their ads are everywhere. First they took out that huge $200,000 full page ad in the Washington Post. Now they have a companion website using this code under ad links that pop up all over the place: http://www.northropgrumman.com/MediaResources/MediaKits/JWST/Home.aspx?utm_source=PrintAd&utm_medium=Redirect&utm_campaign=FromOrigJWSTurl+Redirect When you get to the website you are treated to nothing but happy aerospace banter. No mention of launch dates and delays, more than a decade of multi-billion dollar cost overruns, the need for Congressional reauthorization due to cost overruns, anger by NASA managers, dumb engineering mistakes, etc. Instead, NorthropGrumman just pounds out their oxymoronic tag line "Making History Requires Mission SUccess".

Clueless Webb Telescope Advertisement From Northrop Grumman

"Northrop Grumman just wants you to know that "mission success" is important. Duh. I am not certain they care so long as they get paid. This is not how America is going to do that whole leadership-in-space thing. If this is an example of how we do that leadership thing we won't be able to afford to lead the way."

The Air Force's $10000 toilet cover, Washington Post

"Loren Thompson, a defense consultant who works for the Lexington Institute, a think tank that gets funding from defense contractors, said he is worried the military will be unable to buy next-generation weapons systems if it spends too much on overpriced spare parts."

Northrop Grumman CEO will step down, Washington Post

"Loren Thompson, a defense consultant, said that when Warden was elevated to the COO position last year, "it was a signal that succession had begun." .. Thompson called Bush "a godsend for Northrop Grumman shareholders. Nobody in the industry believed when he became CEO that the share price would have get as high as it is today. In fact, the company was in such bad shape when Wes took over that his predecessor had to fight to get him the job."

Playing defense - but at a price?, Politico

"The 501(c)(3) Lexington Institute doesn't disclose its donors. But Thompson said it receives contributions from defense giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and others, which pay Lexington to "comment on defense."

Keith's note: It is rather odd that the Washington Post does not bother to tell its readers that Loren Thompson's employer, the Lexington Institute, gets significant funding from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and other defense companies - especially when he is being quoted in articles about those companies. Yet the post goes out of its way (quite properly) to tell people that Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post every time Amazon, Whole Foods, or Blue Origin are mentioned in a story.

Brad Smith

Planetary Exploration Newsletter: "Brad Smith was a pioneer in the exploration of the solar system. He participated in a number of US and international space missions, including Mars Mariners 6 and 7, the Mars Viking mission, the Soviet Vega mission to Halley's Comet, the Soviet Phobos mission to Mars, and the Wide Field/Planetary Camera team for the Hubble Space Telescope. He was the deputy team leader of the imaging team on the Mariner 9 Mars Orbiter, and was chosen by NASA to lead the camera team on the Voyager missions to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. He co-discovered a circumstellar disk around the nearby star, Beta Pictoris, the first direct evidence of a planetary system beyond our own, and continued these studies as a member of the infrared camera (NICMOS) experiment on the Hubble Space Telescope. For the full obituary and memorial service information, go to: http://shorelips.net/bradsmith The memorial service for Brad will be held from 2 to 5 PM on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Room 308, at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Please RSVP to Amy Phillips (amy_p -at - mac.com). More information will be posted at the above site as it becomes available."

NASA will consider sending another Israeli astronaut into space, Times Of Israel

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine met Thursday with Israel's Science and Technology minister, Ofir Akunis, and they agreed to expand cooperation on issues including the international space station, space exploration, and earth science research, the Hebrew media Ynet website reported. Akunis expressed interest in sending a second Israeli astronaut into space and Bridenstine said the United States would consider the request, Haaretz newspaper reported."

Columbia: Thinking Back - Looking Ahead, New Moon Rising

From the an event held on the one year anniversary of Columbia's loss at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC: "At the end of the event, Rona Ramon, Ilan's widow, spoke last. "Our mission in space is not over" she told the hushed audience. "He was the first Israeli in space -- that means there will be more."

From NASA PAO: "The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Thursday's announcement of the intended nomination by President Donald Trump of James Morhard to serve as the agency's deputy administrator: "Today the President announced his intent to nominate James Morhard as Deputy Administrator of NASA. "Morhard is the United States Senate Deputy Sergeant at Arms. Prior to this, he was the Staff Director of the Senate Appropriations Committee. During his tenure there, he ran the Senate Commerce, Justice, State subcommittee that included all NOAA programs, and the Military Construction subcommittee where public/private partnerships were first used for military housing. "This administration is committed to American leadership in space, and I look forward to working with Mr. Morhard upon his confirmation."

Keith's note: The following full page color advertisement by Northrop Grumman appears on page A5 of today's Washington Post (larger image).

"MAKING HISTORY REQUIRES MISSION SUCCESS.

Northrop Grumman is proud to lead the industry team of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope - the largest, most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. Webb will fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe, and we are focused on ensuring that this once-unthinkable achievement becomes a reality. Webb pushes the limits of technology. We only get one chance to get it right - and we take that responsibility seriously. From putting men on the moon to seeing he first images from Hubble, there are many great firsts in space. When Webb travels one million miles from Earth and peers back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe, we will marvel at its discoveries and write the next chapter of great firsts in space. Making history requires mission success and we are all in."

Yea, Northrop Grumman is "all in" on this. Non-stop cost increases and schedule delays for 16 years have turned this project into a cash cow for the company. You bet they're "all in" - even if they can't seem to attach fasteners properly and don't read the instructions on what solvents to use to clean hardware. But that's OK since NASA will just keep paying those invoices.

Advertisements like this in the Washington Post like this can easily cost between $100,000 to $200,000. At a minimum you'd hope that the money for ads (which should be spent on fixing Northrop Grumman's dumb mistakes) would at least be used for public commentary that is a little more honest about the situation. Instead, you see no mention of any of these screw ups or obscene cost increases - problems that are so bad that Congress now has to reauthorize this project.

Northrop Grumman just wants you to know that "mission success" is important. Duh. I am not certain they care so long as they get paid. This is not how America is going to do that whole leadership-in-space thing. If this is an example of how we do that leadership thing we won't be able to afford to lead the way.

More Cost Increases And Delays For Webb Space Telescope

"As a result of the delay, Webb's total lifecycle cost to support the March 202l launch date is estimated at $9.66 billion. The development cost estimate to support the new launch date is $8.8B (up from the $8B development cost estimate established in 2011)."

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. NASA today selected TRW, Redondo Beach, Calif. [Bought by Northrop Grumman 2 months earlier], to build a next-generation successor to the Hubble Space Telescope in honor of the man who led NASA in the early days of the fledgling aerospace agency. Under the terms of the contract valued at $824.8 million, TRW will design and fabricate the observatory's primary mirror and spacecraft. TRW also will be responsible for integrating the science instrument module into the spacecraft as well as performing the pre-flight testing and on-orbit checkout of the observatory."

GAO: NASA Commercial Crew Program: Plan Needed to Ensure Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station, GAO

"Further delays are likely as the Commercial Crew Program's schedule risk analysis shows that the certification milestone is likely to slip. The analysis identifies a range for each contractor, with an earliest and latest possible completion date, as well as an average. The average certification date was December 2019 for Boeing and January 2020 for SpaceX, according to the program's April 2018 analysis. Since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russia to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Additional delays could result in a gap in U.S. access to the space station as NASA has contracted for seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft only through November 2019.

NASA is considering potential options, but it does not have a contingency plan for ensuring uninterrupted U.S. access. NASA's certification process addresses the safety of the contractors' crew transportation systems through several mechanisms, but there are factors that complicate the process. One of these factors is the loss of crew metric that was put in place to capture the probability of death or permanent disability to an astronaut. NASA has not identified a consistent approach for how to assess loss of crew. As a result, officials across NASA have multiple ways of assessing the metric that may yield different results.

Consequently, the risk tolerance level that NASA is accepting with loss of crew varies based upon which entity is presenting the results of its assessment. Federal internal controls state that management should define risk tolerances so they are clear and measurable. Without a consistent approach for assessing the metric, the agency as a whole may not clearly capture or document its risk tolerance with respect to loss of crew."

Keith's note: On 13 June 2018 NASA civil servant John Guidi, Deputy Director of the HEOMD Advanced Exploration Systems Division, participated in a FISO (Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group) telecon. The title of his presentation was "NASA's Changing Human Spaceflight Exploration plans". That's certainly a topic of interest these days, yes?

FISO telecons are run by NASA GSFC civil servant Harley Thronson and Dan Lester at the University of Texas. The PDF of the presentation is here https://fiso.spiritastro.net/telecon/Guidi_6-13-18/Guidi_6-13-18.pdf unless the link does not work. Then maybe you can try this link http://fiso.spiritastro.net/telecon/Guidi_6-13-18/ unless it does not work either. Or maybe you can cut and paste the URL directly into your browser. Or maybe you can use another Internet access method. Tweeting links is a waste of time since they block that too. This is the sort of games that Harley Thronson and Dan Lester play.

The NASA civil servants who regular participate in these telecons do so as part of their official duties. Often times they release information at these FISO telecons that NASA has not officially released elsewhere. NASA PAO never announces these civil servant presentations as they regularly do for other conferences and workshops. So this all happens in semi-stealth mode - if Thronson and Lester let you know in advance or give you access to materials after the fact. If they do not like you then they block your IP address.

So here we are with NASA pivoting back to the Moon again and a presentation by a senior NASA Headquarters representative about NASA's current plans for returning to the Moon is available to some taxpayers on a private website but not others on an official NASA website. Why isn't this stuff posted on NASA.gov? Yea, NASA has this whole messaging thing down, doesn't it?

- Stealth Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecons, earlier post
- Yet Another Stealth NASA Briefing On Mars Mission Concepts, earlier post

Russian editor: Our space program is entering the "Dark Ages", Ars Technica

"As soon as next year, the United States plans to stop paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Russia for Soyuz seats, because it is developing its own transport to the space station. And the European Space Agency has signaled that it will stop launching Russian Soyuz rockets from its French Guiana-based spaceport in the early 2020s. A Russian space editor, Andrei Borisov, has captured the fading zeitgeist of the Russian space program in a lengthy article on the new leader of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, and the changes he has proposed. "The 'Russian Space' Rogozin is trying to create reminds one of the Dark Ages in Europe," Borisov writes on Lenta.Ru, where he serves as editor of science and technology. "In it, there is no place for modernization, there is only the mission of survival."

Earlier posts

Keith's note: I got this note from Homer Hickam today: "While reading about the kids in Thailand trapped in a cave by floodwaters and the rescuers thinking about training them to scuba dive, it first occurred to me that we teach youngsters to dive very quickly at Space Camp's Underwater Astronaut Trainer (UAT) and might be able to help. But on second thought, we do this in ideal conditions with perfectly clear, warm water. These youngsters in Thailand would have to deal with cold, very murky, and rapidly moving water so I concluded teaching them to dive was impractical.

Then I recalled that NASA developed Personal Rescue Enclosures (PRE) for shuttle rescues. Here's a mockup of the rescue ball as tested. In this case, the ball would be flooded, eliminating the buoyancy problem. Could be done and the kids could be fully controlled this way.

Report: Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes

"Planetary protection policies are facing unprecedented challenges as NASA and other national and international space agencies move forward on missions such as Mars Sample Return and exploration campaigns to the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. NASA also does not currently have a planetary protection policy in place regarding human exploration to Mars, which could take place in the 2030s. Moreover, the current U.S. government process to oversee samples returned from Mars and elsewhere dates back to the Apollo era and is out of date. The committee recommended that NASA's agency-wide planetary protection strategic plan prepare for the policy development challenges that sample return and human missions to Mars are creating, as well as revise or replace its provisions for engaging relevant federal agencies in developing protection policies for returned samples."

As Space Becomes a Busy Place, NASA Bolsters Its Planet-Contamination Police

"[NASA PLanetary Protection Officer Lisa] Pratt's debut comes just as NASA's Office of Planetary Protection itself goes through a more profound transition. Back in July 2017 NASA announced the office was being transferred from the Science Mission Directorate to NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance in Washington, D.C. That move, agency officials said, will inject more engineering rigor into the biological contamination control for outbound and inbound planetary spacecraft."


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