April 2019 Archives

NASA Investigation Uncovers Cause of Two Science Mission Launch Failures

"NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) investigators have determined the technical root cause for the Taurus XL launch failures of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory missions in 2009 and 2011, respectively: faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer, Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI). LSP's technical investigation led to the involvement of NASA's Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ's efforts, recently made public, resulted in the resolution of criminal charges and alleged civil claims against SPI, and its agreement to pay $46 million to the U.S. government and other commercial customers. This relates to a 19-year scheme that included falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum extrusions to hundreds of customers. NASA's updated public summary of the launch failures, which was published Tuesday ..."

NASA Investigative Summary: Taurus XL T8 and T9 Mission Failures

"The combined cost of both mission failures was in excess of $700,000,000."

Keith's note: It took NASA KSC, NASA OIG, and DOJ nearly a decade to figure out what went wrong - on missions worth $700,000,000 - and all that the responsible company has to pay is $46 million - 5% of the loss to taxpayers that they caused - after deliberately and systematically engaging in a "19 year scheme". Really?

High cost, lack of support spell trouble for 2024 Moon landing plan, Ars Technica

"It will be a lot of money, regardless. According to two Washington, DC-based sources, NASA has informed the White House that it will need as much as $8 billion a year, for the next five years, to speed development of the Space Launch System rocket, a Lunar Gateway, a lunar lander, new spacesuits, and related hardware for a 2024 landing. This is on top of the agency's existing annual budget of about $20 billion, which includes everything from the International Space Station to astrophysics research."

Keith's 12:32 PM note: I sent the following request to NASA HQ and KSC PAO:

"K. Scott Piel @spiel2001 who claims to be a "Software Engineer / TOSC @ NASA/KSC EGS/LCS - Amateur Photographer" refers to a new KSC policy that prohibits employees from any photography while on the job.

1. Has NASA KSC implemented a new policy wherein, according to Piel "employees are no longer permitted to photograph or share images from *any* operations cat KSC without authorization. Regardless of source. Photographing, or sharing images, from operations is grounds for termination." (yes/no)?
2. If NASA KSC has implemented a new policy with regard to photography does it apply to contractor personnel only, NASA civil servants only, or both?
3. Can you provide me with a copy of the current NASA KSC policy with regard to photography - on-site - by KSC employees?"

Keith's 1:14 PM update: NASA replied (very quickly BTW): "NASA does not have a new photo policy. All employees are required to follow federal and contractual requirements, which prevent the sharing of imagery that is export controlled and/or proprietary. I will circle back to you with the policy shortly."

Keith's 1:30 PM update: "As promised, I am including the language below from the Kennedy NASA Procedural Requirement that outlines KSC's photography policy."

"10.4 KSC Photography Policy

More below

Former NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot Joins Lockheed Martin

"Robert Lightfoot, a longtime NASA executive who served as both the agency's acting administrator and highest-ranking civil servant, will join Lockheed Martin Space as vice president, Strategy and Business Development, effective May 6. In his new role, Lightfoot will lead strategic planning, advanced technology concepts, and new business strategy for the corporation's Space business area. Lockheed Martin Space is a $9 billion, 18,000-person enterprise that has been a leader in satellite and launch systems since the dawn of the space age. The business area's programs include GPS, missile warning and communications satellites for the Department of Defense; human and robotic exploration systems for NASA; weather and commercial communications satellites, and strategic missile and missile defense systems."

NASA to perform key test of the SLS rocket, necessitating a delay in its launch, Ars Technica

"In a memo shared with senior agency managers earlier this week, NASA's chief of human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, said the green run test would proceed. He also acknowledged that the first test flight of the rocket, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), would likely be delayed beyond 2020. "Ultimately, it was my recommendation to the agency that we stay the course with the plan that we have had for many years," Gerstenmaier wrote in the memo, dated April 22, which Ars obtained. "Although there is no certainty in when we launch, I believe this is the best approach to achieving a successful EM-1 flight test and put NASA on the path to achieving an EM-2 crewed mission in 2022 and a Lunar Surface mission in 2024."

Keith's note: At yesterday's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel meeting it was made clear that the ASAP wants NASA to do the SLS Green Test engine firing. This pushes EM-1 back and makes the already sporty plan to land Americans on the Moon by 2024 (at the end of the Trump Administration's potential second term) increasingly improbable.

- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post
- CASIS Announces Its Commercial Business Expansion Plans, earlier post
- CASIS Continues Its Stealth Commercialization Plans (Update), earlier post

SpaceX Statement on Crew Dragon Test Stand Anomaly

"Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand. Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners."

Evaluation of a Human Mission to Mars by 2033 - Full report(PDF)

"In August 2017, NASA asked the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) to conduct this independent assessment, specifically requesting that STPI use NASA's current and notional plans for human exploration as the basis for the spaceflight systems and timelines presented in this study. STPI produced a draft report in December of 2017. Because NASA's exploration program was refocused in 2018, STPI was asked to update the earlier report in September 2018. Additional research was conducted between September 2018 and January 2019. This report is the result of those efforts."

"Under NASA's current and notional plans, four complex elements--SLS, Orion, Gateway, and the DST--need to be developed and completed to launch a human mission to orbit Mars. These technology developments would occur while NASA also designs and launches lunar landers and human astronauts to the Moon's surface. Figure ES-1 depicts a notional schedule for an orbital crewed mission to Mars orbit. We find that even without budget constraints, a Mars 2033 orbital mission cannot be realistically scheduled under NASA's current and notional plans. Our analysis suggests that a Mars orbital mission could be carried out no earlier than the 2037 orbital window without accepting large technology development, schedule delay, cost overrun, and budget shortfall risks. Further budget shortfalls or delays in the construction or testing of the DST would likely require the mission to depart for Mars in 2039 at the earliest."

"Given that NASA's investment in SLS, Orion, and the Gateway will continue with or without the orbital mission to Mars, the additional cost beyond these elements, of just the orbital mission to Mars, is $45 billion in FY 2017 dollars, which includes the costs of SLS launches, Orion capsules, the DST and its supplies, and ground support during DST missions."

"We found that NASA's current Human Research Program Integrated Research Plan to study human health risks associated with long-duration deep space spaceflight lacks sufficient detail in both evidence and strategy to justify the predicted timeline to develop risk mitigation strategies, or even estimate a realistic cost to retire the risks. Further, the document does not present a unified plan to prioritize NASA's approach to filling in gaps in knowledge, especially on the combined effects of radiation, low-or-micro-gravity, and isolation on astronauts. Accordingly, NASA's current approach to studying human health in deep space presents high risks to astronauts on a three-year mission to Mars."

Jerrie Cobb

Geraldyn "Jerrie" M. Cobb, first woman to pass astronaut testing in 1961 passes away at 88.

"After living sixty-six adventure filled years as a pilot and advocate for female pilots, and sharing over fifty years of her life with the indigenous Indian tribes of the Amazon, Jerrie's humble smile and sky-blue eyes live on in our hearts. It is fitting that Jerrie was born in, and would leave us in, Woman's History Month. Jerrie Cobb passed away peacefully on March 18, 2019 in Florida. Whenever we look to the heavens, we will see those sky-blue eyes and be reminded of her humble smile, deep compassion and steely determination."

Keith's update: This is NASA PAO's response - they declined to confirm Bridenstine's statements that NASA will deliver its revised budget to Congress by the end of April / early May as reported by multiple news publications. "Last week, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine formally announced the agency's plan to get the next man and first woman on the Moon by 2024. We are in the process of evaluating and discussing what additional resources will be needed to land NASA astronauts on the Moon in five years. We'll provide further information in the near future."

Keith's note: I sent a request to NASA PAO but have not received an answer. Meanwhile it looks like Jim Bridenstine talked to some media the other day. Of course this Moon 2024 thing requires not one but 4-5 sequential NASA budgets - all at optimum levels - to achieve. Otherwise there will be delays and/or cannibalization of other NASA programs. This is a Hail Mary pass. But why not try it since the standard approach doesn't work. The challenge for Bridenstine is to parse his people - the ones who want to try to fix the situation and those who do not. Those who prefer the status quo can be a formidable impediment to surmount since they have had decades of practicing schedule delays and cost overruns.

NASA's plan to put humans on the moon by 2024 is taking shape -- but will they get the money?, Houston Chronicle

"So, NASA is working up a budget that would allow for faster operations without sacrificing safety. Bridenstine said he will deliver that budget to Congress in late April or early May."

How much will the Moon plan cost? We should know in two weeks, Ars Technica

"Then, Bridenstine will have to work to finalize the budget amendment before the end of April and begin the process of selling that to Congress, including skeptical Democrats. The agency will have to start choosing lander designs this summer and procure funding from Congress by early fall. If NASA is to reach the Moon, Bridenstine will have to keep right on running."

Owen Garriott

NASA OIG Audit: NASA's Technology Transfer Process

"Goddard, however, is experiencing poor technology transfer performance outcomes when compared to the other three NASA Centers we reviewed, to include a lower percentage of licenses as well as delays in processing of NTRs and patent applications. We found Goddard's technology transfer process was hindered by a lack of adequate controls and poor collaboration between its Technology Transfer Office and the Office of Patent Counsel, leading to many instances where the Patent Counsel did not use the standard review process for determining commercial viability of a new technology. As a result, NASA lacks reasonable assurance that federally-funded, commercially-viable new technologies at Goddard are being effectively reviewed and disseminated to the widest extent practical to benefit the public and private sector".

Stratolaunch Takes Flight

Scaled Composites Flies World's Largest Wingspan Aircraft, SpaceRef Business (With video)

"Scaled Composites, LLC made aviation history today with the flight of the largest wingspan aircraft. During this initial flight, the team tested out specific handling qualities to validate the design."

Examining Staff and Board Member Salaries at CASIS, earlier posting (2015)

"Note: CASIS Chief Economist Resnick recently left CASIS. CASIS employees were told that this was in connection with a NASA OIG investigation into travel accounting and that there would be additional questions about this issue."

Former ISS National Lab executive indicted for allegedly 'expensing' prostitutes, Florida Today

"Federal prosecutors have charged a former executive of the Brevard County-based nonprofit that runs the International Space Station's national laboratory for using government funds to pay for escort services, and for falsifying tax returns. Charles Resnick, served as chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, which is primarily funded by about $15 million annually from NASA. According to a 10-count indictment filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, Resnick created phony receipts and other documents when filing expense reports that hid spending on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015."

Statement on behalf of CASIS (ISS U.S. National Laboratory) Regarding Resnick Indictment

"CASIS is fully aware of the recent charges brought against former employee Charles Resnick. In 2015 CASIS immediately cut ties with Mr. Resnick upon discovering his actions, which were in clear violation of company policies and procedures. We immediately launched a full investigation into Mr. Resnick's travel and accounting practices resulting in referral to the NASA OIG. CASIS has fully cooperated with the OIG's investigation and will continue to do so. We will not have any further comment while this criminal matter is pending."- Joseph Vockley, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer

Keith's note: FYI now that CASIS has changed its name to the "ISS National Laboratory" all of the news stories will be saying things such as "Former ISS National Lab executive indicted for allegedly 'expensing' prostitutes". Great PR for the space station, right? NASA should have thought this name change thing through when CASIS first proposed it. Oh wait. CASIS just did it on their own.

- CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not, earlier post
- CASIS Now Has An Official Fictitious Name - NASA Watch, earlier post
- CASIS Is Changing Its Name But It Missed A Few Things (update), earlier post
- Why Is CASIS Making Itself Disappear?, earlier post

Oh yes, NASA warned CASIS about their branding activities but CASIS did not listen.

31 March 2016 NASA letter to CASIS

"We would advice caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to ensure that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."

SpaceX Trifecta

SpaceX Successfully Launches the Arabsat-6A Satellite and Lands Three Boosters, SpaceRef

"SpaceX accomplished its primary mission of launching the Arabsat-6A telecommunication satellite late this afternoon from famed Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida."





Israel succeeded in getting its spacecraft in orbit around the moon, however an engine problem during the landing attempt caused the spacecraft to crash. Prime Minister Netanyahu in attendance said shortly after the news that "if you don't first succeed, try again." No doubt Israel will try again. A nation came together on what started as a Google Lunar X Prize entry. It can celebrate the effort and achievements it made along the way.

Short Doc - Commanding Space: The Story Behind the Space Force, Center for Strategic and International Studies

"When President Trump announced plans to create a new military service for space in 2018, it took many by surprise. But the idea of creating a Space Force had been simmering behind the scenes for decades. This short documentary looks at the history of the Space Force debate and how it became a top priority for the Trump administration and some members of Congress."

The 2019 Breakthrough Discuss Conference: "Migration of Life in the Universe" is being held on 11-12 April. A live webcast starts at 800 am PDT/1100 am EDT at http://www.youtube.com/breakthroughprize. Details on the event can be found here. Live tweeting will be done at @Astrobiology

Astronomers Capture First Image of a Black Hole, National Science Foundation

"The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) -- a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration -- was designed to capture images of a black hole."

Keith's note: This has to be the most inbred, self-serving, kiss-up award ever given by the space community to itself. Have you no shame Space Foundation?

The chair of the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group is James O. Ellis Jr. Ellis was elected to the Space Foundation Board of Directors in January 2010 and served as its Chairman from January 2016 through November 2017. The Space Foundation has a scholarship in his name. Could the inter-relationship be any more obvious?

And its not just the Space Foundation. AIAA has a similar and obvious overlap with the National Space Council - and they even bragged about that a few weeks ago: "American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) members Col. Eileen Collins, Daniel Dumbacher, Sandra "Sandy" Magnus, and Wanda Sigur will lend their expertise on human space exploration at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council on March 26 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama."

Both of these organizations have boards made up of Big Aerospace and military representatives - most of whom have a lifetime pass to the revolving door between the industry, government, and Congress. For a large industry organization funded by companies who get their incomes from NASA and DoD to turn around and give an award to an advisory group they also participate in - the same one that will shape the future of American space policy (i.e. their business) - is the height of hubris.

To confound the whole matter this award is for public outreach. Public outreach? When has the National Space Council done any actual public outreach? They hold meetings at big aerospace events such as Space Symposium where all of the usual suspects meet up once a month and listen to each other talk and then give each other awards. Someone please show me how the National Space Council has made an effort to reach the remaining 99.999% of the nation - you know, the people who pay the taxes that pay for all the nifty space toys? They only do inreach - not outreach.

And you wonder how things like SLS never die despite chronic delays and overruns?

Pace Accepts Space Foundation's Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award on Behalf of Vice President Pence, National Space Council

"The Morrow Award stands for an important concept: heightening the public awareness and understanding of space programs and technology. The President, by reinvigorating the National Space Council, and the Vice President, through his determined leadership, have taken strides in elevating space policy on the national stage."

Keith's update: Looks like they are drinking the same flavor of Koolaid at the National Space Council. "elevating" is not outreach. Go ask 100 people at random on the street anywhere outside of Washington DC what they think of "SPD-1". You can even explain the acronym as you ask. No one will know what you are talking about. All they know is that NASA does not have spacesuits for women in space. Tick tock.

NASA Internal Memo: Appointment of Mark Sirangelo

"I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Mark Sirangelo as a Special Assistant to the Administrator. In this role, Mark will have broad responsibility to work across the Mission Directorates to further develop the agency's plans for the Exploration Campaign. This includes a strategy to meet the Administration's policy to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. He will also lead the planning for the proposed agency restructuring to create the Moons to Mars Mission Directorate that will manage the programs to develop the Gateway, human rated lander and surface systems to return to the Moon and establish a permanent presence. The new proposed Directorate will also manage the Exploration Research and Technology programs to enable capabilities required for exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond."

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Mark-up

"U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building G50 to consider the following legislative measures and nominations.

S. 919, Space Frontier Act, Sponsor: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
S. 881, Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act, Sponsors: Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)"

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council Huntsville, AL

"Just a few moments ago, Buzz Aldrin was reflecting on his time in the Apollo program. He talked about that fabled Apollo 11 mission. He said, in 1962, we had an objective; we had time, but we didn't have a plan. In Space Policy Directive-1, the President directed NASA to create a lunar exploration plan. But as of today, more than 15 months later, we still don't have a plan in place. But Administrator Bridenstine told me, five minutes ago, we now have a plan to return to the moon. (Applause.)"

Opening Statement Chair Kendra Horn (D-OK) Full Committee Hearing: A Review of the NASA Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request

"Finally, a full year and a half AFTER its Congressionally-directed due date, the Committee received the report directed in Section 435 of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017. According to the report, it's clear that getting to the surface of Mars in the 2030s is impossible under this Administration's current approach to exploration. Moreover, the report acknowledges what many on this Committee have been surmising during past hearings--namely, that there is no actual Plan for a human Mars mission. It states that NASA's Exploration Campaign Report, "is a high-level strategy...is mainly a plan for a plan...and may not ultimately play a substantive role in efforts to place humans in Mars orbit by 2033. Further specificity of NASA's long-term plans in a public document would help Congress and other public policy officials make informed decisions over the coming decades."

Can We Please See The NASA Moon Plan?, earlier post

Chairwoman Johnson Opening Statement for NASA FY20 Budget Request Hearing

"Given the absence of an urgent crisis, it would be the height of irresponsibility for the Vice President of the United States to direct NASA to land astronauts on the Moon within the next five years without knowing what it will cost, how achievable the schedule is, and how it will impact NASA's other programs. I expect you, Mr. Administrator, to provide the same information to this Committee today as I assume you provided to the White House on each of those questions in advance of the Vice President's speech."

Moon 2024 Gets Cool Reception By House Committee Democrats, SpacePolicyOnline

"As for the cost, Bridenstine said the Administration is working on an amendment to the budget request and hopes to submit it by April 15. April 15 is the date by which Congress is supposed to adopt each year's Budget Resolution setting out the top-line numbers for how much money Congress can allocate for various purposes."

Ranking Member Frank Lucas Opening Statement at Full Committee Hearing - A Review of the NASA FY2020 Budget Request

"NASA is getting the bucks, so now it's time to deliver. Too often programs become complacent when funding is taken for granted. Congress and NASA need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We need to ensure these programs stay on schedule and within cost. Congress, along with the reconstituted National Space Council, led by Vice President Pence, provide this oversight."

Questions submitted to NASA Town Hall Meeting With Administrator Jim Bridenstine

"These are the questions submitted online at http://www.nasa.gov/townhall before and during today's NASA Town Hall with Jim Bridenstine. The number to the left is the number of votes the question got."

"Will the administration and congress back up this audacious goal with an appropriate influx of funding?

Isn't this the first step in the return to "schedule over safety"? Been there, done that - with catastrophic results.

Accelerating our return to the moon is an unfunded mandate. How will we do it without gutting our other important missions?

Please explain in detail what "We'll change the Agency, not the mission" entails.

NASA peaked at 34,000 engineers during Apollo, today we have half that. Are we going to receive more resources?

Over the past fifteen years, the Agency has been directed to go to Mars, then the Moon, then an Asteroid, then an Asteroid around the Moon, then Mars, then a space station around the Moon, and now the Moon again. What steps do you plan to take to reduce the programmatic whiplash that keeps us from actually accomplishing any of these grand plans?

VP Pence directed us to land a crew on the moon within the next 5 yrs "by any means necessary", what means will you be using?

What assurance can be given that this plan for lunar return will survive a change in administrations after the 2020 election?"

NASAWatch Is 23

Keith's note: NASAWatch turns 23 on 1 Apr 2019. 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 - link fixed) - 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 23 years.


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