November 2019 Archives

At NASA, 2019 was the year of the woman, yet women still are a big minority at the space agency, Washington Post

"But debate still surrounds it. In October, a chat board for members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) hosted a spirited discussion of the term, with some arguing that "manned" refers to all humans and, as one put it, "the word itself has nothing to do with gender." Lori Garver, a former NASA deputy administrator, wrote on the message board that "if we want to encourage women or non-conforming genders to be a part of our next grand adventure, it would serve us well to remove 'manned' from our lexicon." AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher responded on the board that the institute "prefers to use 'crewed' or 'human' rather than 'manned' when referring to space travel in our publications and on Increasing the diversity of the aerospace community and the future workforce has been -- and continues to be -- a mission priority for AIAA." The debate became so heated that ultimately the organization decided to shut down the discussion board, asking members to write statements "with empathy and respect for your fellow members."

- AIAA Moves Toward Diversity And Inclusion - Old Mindsets Persist, earlier post
- AIAA Responds To Diversity Concerns, earlier post
- AIAA Shuns Gender Diversity In Scholarship Selections, earlier post

2019 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission

"- China's goal to establish a leading position in the economic and military use of outer space, or what Beijing calls its "space dream," is a core component of its aim to realize the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." In pursuit of this goal, China has dedicated high-level attention and ample funding to catch up to and eventually surpass other spacefaring countries in terms of space-related industry, technology, diplomacy, and military power. If plans hold to launch its first long-term space station module in 2020, it will have matched the United States' nearly 40-year progression from first human spaceflight to first space station module in less than 20 years.

- China views space as critical to its future security and economic interests due to its vast strategic and economic potential. Moreover, Beijing has specific plans not merely to explore space, but to industrially dominate the space within the moon's orbit of Earth. China has invested significant resources in exploring the national security and economic value of this area, including its potential for space-based manufacturing, resource extraction, and power generation, although experts differ on the feasibility of some of these activities.

- Beijing uses its space program to advance its terrestrial geopolitical objectives, including cultivating customers for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while also using diplomatic ties to advance its goals in space, such as by establishing an expanding network of overseas space ground stations. China's promotion of launch services, satellites, and the Beidou global navigation system under its "Space Silk Road" is deepening participants' reliance on China for space-based services."

- Earlier China postings

Russia cracks down on spaceport mega-project mired in corruption, Guardian

"The Kremlin has launched a crackdown over a spaceport project that was supposed to be the jewel of Russia's space programme but has become mired in corruption costing more than $170m (£132m), with investigations alleging blatant theft and illegal enrichment by officials and contractors. As state investigators have opened new criminal cases, the project has also become the target of Russia's opposition, with the corruption whistleblower Alexei Navalny releasing an investigation into land and cars acquired by the head of Roscosmos, Russia's space agency. "A failed project that is still being built years after its deadline with a budget that has been doubled and during which billions [of rubles] were stolen: of course it should bear the name of Vladimir Putin," Navalny said in reference to the possibility that the spaceport could be named after the Russian president."

- Russia Wants To Lead In Space By Spending Less Money On It
- Vostochny Spaceport Has A Few Criminal Issues
- Putin Wants To Jail Spaceport Employees
- Earlier Russa postings

Proxima puts European space on silver screen, ESA

"The film also remains faithful to the international nature of space exploration, mixing an international cast and multilingual dialogue. "The world of space exploration is like that. It's a community of humans, in which Europeans, Americans, Russians and others live and work together in space," said Winocour. "Often in cinema, space exploration is represented through the prism of America's space agency NASA, and the astronauts are shown as sort of superhuman beings. What struck me, after observing the preparation process, is that there is nothing more fragile and human than astronauts as they confront space." Proxima premiered at the Toronto and San Sebastian Film Festivals in September and is set for release in France, Belgium and Switzerland on 27 November, in Spain on 13 December and UK on 17 April 2020."

GAO: Decision Matter of: Blue Origin Florida, LLC File: B-417839

"Blue Origin Florida, LLC, of Merritt Island, Florida, protests the terms of request for proposals (RFP) No. FA8811-19-R-0002, issued by the Department of the Air Force, for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, which seeks to procure commercial item launch services for NSSL missions. Blue Origin alleges that several terms of the RFP unduly restrict competition, are ambiguous, or are inconsistent with customary commercial practice.

We sustain the protest in part and deny it in part.""

"Blue Origin raises multiple challenges to the terms of the RFP, alleging that the RFP includes terms that unduly restrict competition, are ambiguous, or are inconsistent with customary commercial practice. We note at the outset that the determination of the government's needs and the best method of accommodating them is primarily the responsibility of the procuring agency. ACME Endeavors, Inc., B-417455, June 25, 2019, 2019 CPD ¶ 224 at 2. Our Office will not sustain a protest challenging an agency's determination of its needs unless the protester presents clear and convincing evidence that the specifications are in fact impossible to meet or unduly restrict competition. Instrument Control Servs., Inc.; Science Mgmt. Resources, Inc., B‑289660, B-289660.2, Apr. 15, 2002, 2002 CPD ¶ 66 at 6. For the reasons that follow, we find that the Air Force's "when combined" basis for award fails to provide an intelligible basis upon which offerors are expected to compete, and therefore sustain the protest on that basis. We otherwise find no basis on which to sustain the protest.[7]"

NASA Announces Ninth Consecutive Clean Financial Audit Opinion

"The NASA Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) has led the way for an unmodified audit opinion on the agency's fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) financial statements. This represents NASA's ninth consecutive "clean" opinion from an independent accounting firm - the highest opinion possible. "This audit opinion is an affirmation of NASA's commitment to its fiduciary responsibility for maintaining the public trust regarding the agency's valuable financial resources," said NASA CFO Jeff DeWit. "Our highly trained financial professionals will continue the quest for accountability, efficiency, and excellence as NASA pushes each day to further America's leadership in space."

Keith's note: The announcement starts at 4:30 pm EST and will be carried live on NASA TV

New Companies Join Growing Ranks of NASA Partners for Artemis Program

"The selected companies are:

Blue Origin, Kent, Washington
Ceres Robotics, Palo Alto, California
Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colorado
SpaceX, Hawthorne, California
Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc., Irvine, California"

Keith's 18 Nov note: Here we go again. This just appeared online at NASA. "NASA Scientists Confirm Water Vapor on Europa". Look how the article opens: "Forty years ago, a Voyager spacecraft snapped the first closeup images of Europa, one of Jupiter's 79 moons. These revealed brownish cracks slicing the moon's icy surface, which give Europa the look of a veiny eyeball. Missions to the outer solar system in the decades since have amassed enough additional information about Europa to make it a high-priority target of investigation in NASA's search for life . What makes this moon so alluring is the possibility that it may possess all of the ingredients necessary for life. "

NASA has a program that searches for life elsewhere - its called Astrobiology. The program has existed for more than 20 years. Once again there's a NASA press release about research results with blatant, undeniable relevance to Astrobiology - yet no mention is made of NASA's Astrobiology program. Nor is any link made to anything related to NASA's Astrobiology program even though the prospect of finding life on Europa have been among the most prominent examples of what NASA's Astrobiology program is all about. All that talk we now hear of "ocean worlds" - well it started with Astrobiology's interest in Europa.

But its not just other parts of NASA that ignore Astrobiology-related news, NASA's Astrobiology program ignores it too. No mention is made of this at and the @NASAAstroBio Twitter account - with over 747,000 followers - has only been tweeting about one of a NASA staffer and his comic books for the past several weeks.

But wait: there's more: JPL issued this press release "Aquatic Rover Goes for a Drive Under the Ice" today. It also makes no reference or link to NASA's Astrobiology program, is not mentioned by NASA's Astrobiology program yet it is also filled with phrases overtly resonant with NASA's search for life aka Astrobiology.

"BRUIE, or the Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration, is being developed for underwater exploration in extraterrestrial, icy waters by engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It will spend the next month testing its endurance at Australia's Casey research station in Antarctica, in preparation for a mission that could one day search for life in ocean worlds beyond Earth. ... these lunar oceans, such as those on Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus, may be the best places to look for life in our solar system. ... The ice shells covering these distant oceans serve as a window into the oceans below, and the chemistry of the ice could help feed life within those oceans ... We've found that life often lives at interfaces, both the sea bottom and the ice-water interface at the top ... BRUIE will carry several science instruments to measure parameters related to life, such as dissolved oxygen, water salinity, pressure and temperature ... we only really know how to detect life similar to that on Earth."

And then there's this release "First Detection of Sugars in Meteorites Gives Clues to Origin of Life" also issued today by NASA GSFC. It also has multiple references to the search for life. It uses the word "astrobiology" at the end of the release and only links GSFC's Astrobiology page (not NASA's main Astrobiology page) and when you arrive at the GSFC Astrobiology page you are welcomed by a giant broken image.

Keith's 21 Nov: NASA updated to add the Europa and sugar in meteorites stories but only did so a day or two after NASA itself released them and news media wrote about them. They have yet to make mention of the BRUIE story. If you check our website you will see a number of Astrobiology stories - most of which represent NASA funded activities - that NASA's Astrobiology program simply ignores. If you go to google and search for "astrobiology" news stories you will see that dominates the search results. It is baffling that NASA is incapable - and apparently unwilling - to promote its own good news.

Thursday's Stealth Astrobiology Event At Ames, earlier posting

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of Crew Transportation to the International Space Station, NASA OIG

"... the CCP's flight assumptions were flawed because they failed to take into consideration a normal flight cadence and the five Soyuz seats NASA planned to purchase from Boeing. ... "NASA's crew access analysis also did not include the five Soyuz seats the Agency was planning to purchase from Boeing for flights in 2017 through 2019. " ... "According to several NASA officials, a significant consideration for paying Boeing such a premium was to ensure the contractor continued as a second crew transportation provider. CCP officials cited NASA's guidance to maintain two U.S. commercial crew providers to ensure redundancy in crew transportation as part of the rationale for approving the purchase of all four missions at higher prices. "Additionally, senior CCP officials believed that due to financial considerations, Boeing could not continue as a commercial crew provider unless the contractor received the higher prices."

Boeing Statement Regarding OIG Report on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, Boeing

"We strongly disagree with the report's conclusions about CST-100 Starliner pricing and readiness, and we owe it to the space community and the American public to share the facts the Inspector General [IG] missed," said Jim Chilton, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Launch. "Each member of the Boeing team has a personal stake in the safety, quality and integrity of what we offer our customers, and since Day One, the Starliner team has approached this program with a commitment to design, develop and launch a vehicle that we and NASA can be proud of."

... Through fair and open negotiations with NASA in a competitive environment, we offered single-mission pricing for post-certification missions (PCMs) 3-6, thus enabling additional flexibility and schedule resiliency to enhance future mission readiness. This single-mission pricing for PCM 3-6 was included in the pricing table in the original contract. That original pricing table remains unchanged. Contrary to the conclusion in the IG report, Boeing contends that the benefits in shorter lead time and flexibility in adjusting launch dates are well worth the higher price in the table.

... Boeing rejects the average seat price assessment in the IG report. Boeing will fly the equivalent of a fifth passenger in cargo for NASA, so the per-seat pricing should be considered based on five seats rather than four. For proprietary, competitive reasons Boeing does not disclose specific pricing information, but we are confident our average seat pricing to NASA is below the figure cited."

Keith's note: Mike Gold from Maxar has been tapped be become a special advisory to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Gold will be providing advice to Bridenstine on a range of topics with a special focus on expanding commercialization in low Earth orbit, cis-lunar space and beyond. In addition of working for Maxar he also served on the NASA Adviosry Council and was the energetic chair of the NAC Regulatory and Policy Committee. Mike also served on the board of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and worked for a number of years for Bigelow Aerospace. Mike is also a big Star Trek fan and should provide a balancing influence upon rabid Star Wars fan Jim Bridenstine.

- NAC bio
- Larger image

Keith's note: @VP Pence retweeted this tweet and it has gone viral. Oops.

VP Pence Visited Ames Today

Remarks by Vice President Pence to NASA's Ames Research Center Employees and Guests

"And unlike in years past, under this President's leadership, I'm proud to report we not only have the will, we not only have the support of the American people, we not only have the greatest innovators and inventors, but we also have the budgets to match. We're going to give NASA the resources they need to accomplish their mission. In fact, this President has already signed into law the largest budget ever for this agency in the modern era, and we're about to add another billion and a half."

Larger image

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of Crew Transportation to the International Space Station

"Boeing and SpaceX each face significant safety and technical challenges with parachutes, propulsion, and launch abort systems that need to be resolved prior to receiving NASA authorization to transport crew to the ISS. The complexity of these issues has already caused at least a 2-year delay in both contractors' development, testing, and qualification schedules and may further delay certification of the launch vehicles by an additional year.

Consequently, given the amount, magnitude, and unknown nature of the technical challenges remaining with each contractor's certification activities, CCP will continue to be challenged to establish realistic launch dates. Furthermore, final vehicle certification for both contractors will likely be delayed at least until summer 2020 based on the number of ISS and CCP certification requirements that remain to be verified and validated. In order to optimize development timelines, NASA continues to accept deferrals or changes to components and capabilities originally planned to be demonstrated on each contractor's uncrewed test flights. Taken together, these factors may elevate the risk of a significant system failure or add further delays to the start of commercial crewed flights to the ISS."

Keith's 13 Nov note: Last month the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) tweeted about their mailing list telling people to join. I tried to join only to find out that I was already a member. This list doesn't seem to mail anything. I just stumbled across this Astrobiology event which is happening tomorrow at Ames: "Celebrating the NAI at 20". I never got an email about this. Indeed I am rather certain that NAI has not mailed anything out for months.

If you look at the @NASAAstroBio Twitter account there is no mention whatsoever that this event is happening . But the NAI Twitter account seems to want everyone to know that NASA has an astrobiologist/artist named Aaron at NASA. If you go to there is no mention on the main page. You have to dig down to find it. There is no mention of it on the Ames home page or on the calendar. One would think that a 20th anniversary of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames would be worth a little promotion. This is really baffling. Its almost as if NASA's Astrobiology program simply does not want anyone to know what it is doing.

Keith's 14 Nov update: @NASAAstroBio finally got around to tweeting a link to this event - 2 hours after the event started.

Keeping Our Sights on Mars Part 2: Structuring a Moon-Mars Program for Success

Rep. Johnson

"Proponents of the Administration's crash program may argue that such a deadline will instill a sense of urgency and motivation into our space program. However, an arbitrary deadline that is uninformed by technical and programmatic realities, that is unaccompanied by a credible plan, and that fails to identify the needed resources is one that sets NASA up to fail rather than enabling it to succeed. Not only does that do the hardworking men and women of NASA and its contractor team a real disservice, but it will wind up weakening American leadership in space rather than strengthening it."

Rep. Babin

"At our last Space Subcommittee hearing, NASA said that maintaining the 2024 date for a Lunar landing is unlikely if they do not receive the additional funding they requested in their budget amendment. If a recent House Appropriations Committee hearing is any indication, the likelihood of receiving additional funding this year is decreasing."

Thomas Young

"A clear, unambiguous goal is required. Is the lunar part of the program to support success at Mars or is it to achieve sustained lunar presence? Does the Mars part of the program have specific objectives such as a Mars orbital mission followed by "boots on the ground," or is it a long-range objective? Answers to these questions will have a profound impact on schedule, cost and a reasonable timeline for humans to Mars. A clear, unambiguous goal must be followed by a detailed plan that is consistent with the goal and developed by the Mars-Moon program leadership. A detailed plan is the "glue" that integrates the vast array of Mars-Moon participants into the incredible team necessary to implement the Mars-Moon program. Additionally, a detailed plan is necessary to rally support, develop a credible budget, and obtain program and budget approval."

Thomas Stafford

"President Trump set a goal of returning to the Moon by 2024. NASA will have to make bold decisions and utilize a lot of the management techniques used during Apollo program. The leadership capability at NASA must be augmented at headquarters and at the applicable centers. The execution of a large complex program will require adequate systems engineering, integration and an appropriate budget to carry this out. The Congress will also need to produce adequate legislation to support this effort. Utilizing NASA and the aerospace industry as implementations capable of achieving this noble goal."

Rep. Horn

"Over the past 20 years, we have had a taste of the cost and effort involved in leading and maintaining long-term human spaceflight activities. Developing, assembling, and operating the International Space Station took over a decade to complete, represented a U.S. investment of over $80 billion dollars, and requires about $3 billion a year to support. Getting to the Moon and Mars will require much more."

Rep. Lucas

"As we set forth on our return to the Moon, we should always be mindful of the lessons we learned from Apollo and the decades that followed. Progressing incrementally on successive achievements, limiting the number of mission elements to decrease risk, and maintaining consistency of purpose are lessons that are just as relevant today as they were 50 years ago."

OIG Report On NASA Challenges

NASA OIG: 2019 Report on NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges


"Achieving the ambitious goals of landing humans on the Moon by 2024 and Mars in the 2030s will require strong, consistent, and sustained leadership by the President, Congress, and NASA. For its part, NASA must determine the long-term costs, set realistic schedules, define system requirements and mission planning, form or firm up international partnerships, and leverage commercial space capabilities. To this end, our oversight work has found NASA consistently struggling over the past decade to set realistic program cost and schedule goals. Therefore, the accelerated timetable for a lunar landing set out in the Artemis program further increases the risk of inefficient development programs or contract awards with increased costs due to limited competition or unstable program requirements. Although NASA has made significant progress on several fronts to further its human exploration efforts, many questions remain about the total costs, schedule, and scope of the Agency's Moon and Mars ambitions.

Cost increases and schedule delays are long-standing challenges for the Agency. Since its first annual assessment in 2009, GAO has consistently reported on cost growth and schedule delays in the Agency's major projects. For example, in its 2019 assessment GAO found that cost and schedule performance of major projects had deteriorated over the prior year with 9 of 17 projects in development reporting an average cost growth of 27.6 percent over the Agency Baseline Commitment and average launch delays of approximately 13 months. GAO noted the deterioration in cost and schedule performance was largely due to integration and test challenges on JWST and continued production challenges for the SLS.

The success of NASA's many projects relies on the Agency attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce with a diverse set of technical and management capabilities. NASA continues to rank as one of the top places to work in the federal government, a reputation that helps retain highly qualified individuals who are motivated by the Agency's mission. Despite this, NASA faces significant workforce challenges that can hinder its ability to deliver projects in a cost effective and timely manner.

The feasibility of increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit in the short or medium term poses another significant challenge to NASA's plans for increasing commercialization in low Earth orbit. In prior reports, we found that the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS) has had limited success in fostering commercial interest in ISS-based research, recruiting users for the ISS National Laboratory, and accomplishing tasks important to building a commercial space economy in low Earth orbit. In addition, we found that NASA failed to oversee CASIS's technical performance which contributed to the organization's inability to meet expectations. In August 2019, NASA announced an independent review of CASIS to ensure its activities are in line with the Agency's research.

NASA's challenges with contracting and acquisition oversight are long-standing. GAO first designated the Agency's acquisition management as high risk in 1990 given its history of persistent cost growth and schedule delays in the majority of its major projects. ... NASA's poor contract management practices also contributed to the SLS Program's 21⁄2-years of schedule slippage and approximately $4 billion over cost estimates. ... NASA's contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements are also at risk of fraud and misconduct. In particular, the Agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer programs are a long-standing OIG concern. ... Collectively, our audit and investigative work has consistently shown that NASA's poor management and oversight of contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements has resulted in inappropriate expenditures, wasted taxpayer dollars, and negatively impacted the Agency's mission.

For more than two decades NASA's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) has struggled to implement an effective IT governance structure that aligns authority and responsibility commensurate with the Agency's overall mission. Specifically, the Agency Chief Information Officer (CIO) and IT security officials have limited oversight and influence over IT purchases and security decisions within Mission Directorates and at NASA Centers.

Primary among NASA's challenges is that over 83 percent of the Agency's facilities are beyond their original design life. While NASA strives to keep these facilities operational, the Agency faces a deferred maintenance backlog of $2.65 billion as of 2019. This has resulted in unscheduled maintenance rather than scheduled maintenance costing up to three times more to repair or replace equipment after it has failed."

Living Next Door To SETI

NO SIGNAL: Growing Up in Green Bank, West Virginia, Observer (scroll down to page 36)

"I grew up in Green Bank, West Virginia, at the center of the federally mandated National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ), where interference like cell phones, wireless internet, and other devices are legally regulated. My hometown feels like another planet, full of opposites and tucked away from the world in a quiet spot. I grew up feeling no different than the average child, but it wasn't until middle school that I realized I lived in a unique area. Green Bank is a special town--the epicenter of the NRQZ, and also a site of fascinating technology used for astronomical research. Green Bank is home to what was, during my childhood, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and is now the Green Bank Observatory (GBO). At GBO, there are eight telescopes, but the most impressive telescope is the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, or the GBT."

Going Off Source: Time Away With SETI In West Virginia, (1997)

"For the past several months I had been meaning to get out to Seneca Rocks, West Virginia to check in with the folks at the Gendarme Rock Climbing Shop. You see, I [used to] run their website, and I have been too busy to get out there - or "get vertical'" for quite some time. Just as this particular need to go out to West Virginia was becoming obvious, along came another reason: I needed to catch up with some SETI folks - and they were going to be in nearby Green Bank for a day or so, an hour's drive from Seneca Rocks. Two perfect excuses to escape the Washington DC metro area, and go off source."

Keith's note: The new name is "Arrokoth" which means 'sky' in Powhatan. It is cool that the IAU named 2014 MU69 this way. Oddly the formal announcement was done in a windowless NASA room with no public visibility. They should have done it outdoors under the 'sky' at the National Museum of the American Indian 2 blocks away. Just sayin'

Keith's update: NASA did talk to the National Museum of the American Indian about hosting this event however the museum does not host events like this so they declined.

Subject: Name of Powhatan heritage and the Algonquian languages Program
Date: 12 November 2019 08:56
To: ""

Good morning SMD: Please join us for an official ceremony to formally bestow upon 2014 MU69 a name of Powhatan heritage and the Algonquian languages. NASA Headquarters Webb Auditorium Tuesday, November 12, 2019 9:00-10:00 a.m. EST".

Keith's update:

New Horizons Kuiper Belt Flyby Object Officially Named 'Arrokoth'

"In a fitting tribute to the farthest flyby ever conducted by spacecraft, the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 has been officially named Arrokoth, a Native American term meaning "sky" in the Powhatan/Algonquian language. With consent from Powhatan Tribal elders and representatives, NASA's New Horizons team - whose spacecraft performed the record-breaking reconnaissance of Arrokoth four billion miles from Earth - proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union and Minor Planet Center, the international authority for naming Kuiper Belt objects. The name was announced at a ceremony today at NASA Headquarters in Washington."

It's tough being small in a big-suit world. We still spacewalked., Op Ed, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, Washington Post

"One could say that the first all-female spacewalk was worth celebrating simply because it overcame history. It was the story of two girls who gazed at the stars with an improbable dream, who as women were given the "go" to egress the airlock. But there's more than that. The real achievement is the collective acknowledgment that it is no longer okay to move forward without everyone moving together. NASA's mission is to answer humanity's call to explore. If there is any part of humanity that's not on that journey, we are not achieving our mission. The efforts to equalize exploration are what really ought to be celebrated. ... We are entering a new era where we must commit to go boldly only if that means we all go, an era in which any person who dares to dream will have the opportunity to contribute. Our successes will be greater because not a single innovative idea will be turned away -- that is what diversity and inclusion mean. And that is why a long-overdue all-female spacewalk so captivated the world it served."

That Time Wernher von Braun's Rocket Tried To Kill My Father

"Humanity now lives in space permanently. Our spacecraft have left the solar system. Our space telescopes look back to the beginning of time. We are spacefarers. Space technology has its roots in weapons of war. America's early accomplishments in space were achieved with direct use of Nazi technology and personnel. Russia followed a similar path. Today North Korea, Iran, and other nations use rocket designs with a clear lineage originating with Hitler's V-2. All technology is iterative. Smart technology persists and finds peaceful uses despite its war making origins. As we focus on the 50th anniversary of America's Apollo 11 mission, it would be informative to glance back at the legacy of using Nazi technology to accomplish this epochal feat of human ingenuity. For me this is incredibly personal. Hitler's V-2 nearly killed my father. Yet I helped design things that flew into space on rockets inspired by V-2 technology - often with my friends on board. The technology that tried to kill my father gave me a career."

Keith's note: Two Titan III rockets - enhanced versions of one of America's first ICBMs - sent the twin Voyagers on a path that has carried them out of our solar system towards the stars. Titan rockets were originally designed to kill vast numbers of people in an instant. They were descended directly from Nazi technology that attempted to do the same. The first humans sent into space were lofted aboard modified ICBMs. Luckily the Titans - and other ICBMs - have never been used as weapons. But the V-2s were. As we honor those who fought to defend against these early space weapons - and mourn those killed by them - and those who died as slave labor building them - its is more important than ever to work to resist heading down that path again.

The White House puts a price on the SLS rocket--and it's a lot, Ars Technica

"The Europa mission could be launched by a commercial rocket," Vought wrote to the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Alabama Republican Richard Shelby. "At an estimated cost of over $2 billion per launch for the SLS once development is complete, the use of a commercial launch vehicle would provide over $1.5 billion in cost savings. The Administration urges the Congress to provide NASA the flexibility called for by the NASA Inspector General."

Keith's note: Over the years I asked Bill Gerstenmaier what the cost of an SLS launch was on a regular basis. I never got an answer. Instead I'd usually get some sort of "we'll get back to you" or "we're still working on that". The ususal assumption was around $1 billion with an expectation that it would be much more. Well, now it is much more.

Of course NASA never explains where they get these numbers. They never include the real cost i.e. going back through the development of SLS into Ares V where this all started. Nor do they get into improvements in ground systems, and dead ends like certifying J-2 for Ares V and then mothballing that effort. Oh yes and then there is the cost of making reusable Shuttle SSMEs into disposable RS-25s. And then there is the cost of the payload - the only actual payload for SLS that currently exists: Orion (unless you count the cubesats that will be launched). NASA talks about using EUS but there is zero money for that new upper stage.

The $2 billion may well be the cost per unit now that all of the sunk costs are spent. But if you look at what it actually took to get to the point of being being able to actually build and fly this rocket, the reals cost per launch is much, much more than $2 billion.

Letter from OMB to Sen. Shelby regarding Senate versions of appropriations bills (NASA/Space excerpts)(PDF)

"The bill includes funding that the Administration believes is not in line with the overall effort to control non-defense spending reflected in the FY 2020 Budget request or underfunds key investments in critical areas supported in the FY 2020 Budget request, including:

- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Administration appreciates the Committee's continued support for space exploration, reflected in the $22.8 billion provided in the bill for NASA, which includes an increase of $680 million for lunar-focused exploration programs. However, the $1.6 billion provided for exploration research and development (R&D) is insufficient to fully fund the lander system that astronauts would use to return to the Moon in 2024. Funding exploration R&D at the $2.3 billion level requested in the FY 2020 Budget is needed to support the Administration's goal of returning to the Moon by 2024.

The Administration would also like to take this opportunity to share its views regarding language provisions in the bill including:

- NASA Europa Mission. The bill requires that NASA use the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to launch the Europa Clipper mission. The Administration is deeply concerned that this mandate would slow the lunar exploration program, which requires every SLS rocket available. Unlike the human exploration program, which requires use of the SLS, the Europa mission could be launched by a commercial rocket. At an estimated cost of over $2 billion per launch for the SLS once development is complete, the use of a commercial launch vehicle would provide over $1.5 billion in cost savings. The Administration urges the Congress to provide NASA the flexibility called for by the NASA Inspector General and consistent with the FY 2020 Budget request.

- NASA financial systems report language. The Committee report includes directive language for NASA that would hinder the Administration's efforts to help the agency make necessary corrections to its financial systems. These changes are needed to eliminate current deficiencies and improve NASA's ability to efficiently comply with the Antideficiency Act.

- Satellite Instrumentation Report Language. The Committee report includes language that would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to study the impacts that instruments operating in the 23.6 to 24 gigahertz bands have on weather satellites. Such a study would be directly duplicative of past Agency studies on this subject, which were fully considered by the Administration in a lengthy interagency process earlier this year, leading to a carefully-wrought compromise that balances the spectrum needs of government and private enterprise. The Administration believes that further study is unnecessary, and asks that the language be removed.

The Administration appreciates that the bill includes funding for critical priorities, including:

- Space Force. The Administration greatly appreciates that the Committee establishes an "Operations and Maintenance, Space Force" appropriation within the Department of Defense (DOD) for the first time and has provided the requested funding for the initial operations of the United States Space Force. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to complement the Committee's work by modifying Title 10 of the United States Code to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces in FY 2020."

Ron Reisman

Keith's note: This is from Ron's wife Marcia on his Facebook page: "Dear Friends of Ron, Ron passed away early this morning from complications from pancreatic cancer. Although we knew his time was limited, this still came as a shock. Ron made a lot of friends through the years, and I know appreciated all of you. He leaves behind me, our 3 kids, and endless books and projects."

Ronald J. Reisman, MS, Lifeboat Foundation

"Ron authored A Brief Introduction to the Art of Flight Simulation and coauthored Augmented Reality in a Simulated Tower Environment: Effect of Field of View on Aircraft Detection and Design of Augmented Reality Tools for Air Traffic Control Towers. His patents include Real-time surface traffic adviser and Automated traffic management system and method."

NASA and Aerospace warming up to Blockchain Technology

"Blockchain has seen a lot of success in the past few months. Every industry is trying to get their hands on the success of Blockchain and this time its the aerospace sector. NASA is looking into different ways Blockchain technology can be used in their system. A NASA computer engineer, Ronald J Reisman, sees the scope of Blockchain technology in the US ATC system."

Ad astra Ron.

Commerce Leaders Introduce the NASA Authorization Act of 2019

"The NASA Authorization Act would:

• Support NASA's human spaceflight and exploration efforts to return American astronauts to the Moon and prepare for future journeys to Mars.
• Extend authorization for the International Space Station through 2030 and direct NASA to take steps to grow the "space economy."
• Require the United States to maintain a continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit through and beyond the useful life of the ISS.
• Support NASA's leadership in coordinating the development of next generation spacesuits.
• Leverage private sector investment to bolster human space exploration.
• Authorize NASA's Enhanced Use Leasing (EUL) authority. EUL allows companies to lease vacant or underutilized buildings owned by NASA with lease proceeds helping to fund capital improvements at the NASA centers.
• Provide rapid acquisition authorities similar to those that have proven successful at the Department of Defense and other agencies.
• Direct NASA to maintain and upgrade irreplaceable rocket launch and test infrastructure.
• Support vital life and physical science research to ensure that humans can live in deep space safely.
• Direct NASA to improve upon its planetary defense measures in order to protect Earth from asteroids and other near-Earth objects.
• Affirm NASA's commitment to aeronautics research by supporting a robust X-plane program as well as work on efficient propulsion concepts and advanced composites.
• Support NASA's STEM education and workforce efforts."

Keith's note: Over the past few years I have submitted regular FOIA requests to NASA HQ for documents related to how NASA and CASIS interact with one another. Specifically I asked for the quarterly reports submitted by CASIS to NASA. Below is a collection of these reports. For the most part they are un-redacted. Sometimes they are - alas the redactions are not consistent over the entire collection with somethings blacked out on one report only to be in the clear on another. Since CASIS' perfomance is currently being reviewed by a panel chartered by NASA HQ I thought his information - along with other things I have posted about CASIS over the years - would be of interest to the review panel.

FY 19 Quarters [1] [2]
FY 18 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 17 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 16 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 15 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 14 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 13 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 12 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]

Keith's note: The pad abort test of Boeing Starliner was technically a success today. The system quickly removed the capsule from the danger zone and landed exactly as planned but one of the three main parachutes did not deploy. The NASA and Boeing TV announcers repeatedly commented that 2 deployed parachutes are within the safety requirements of the system, that this is all about redundancy, and that a safe landing could have happened with one parachute. But one of the three main parachutes failed to deploy. Given previous parachute problems, it is possible that additional testing will be required before Starliner who can be launched. Boeing was originally not planning to do a live broadcast of this test until NASA Administrator Bridenstine told them that they were going to do it.

Keith's update: NASA's post- test press release says "Two of three Starliner's main parachutes deployed just under half a minute into the test, and the service module separated from the crew module a few seconds later. Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test perimeters and crew safety."

However Boeing's post-test press release makes no mention whatsoever of the parachute failure. Its a good thing that Jim Bridnestine directed Boeing to televise the test - otherwise we might not have known about the chute failure.

Keith's second update: Boeing posted this update "Boeing statement regarding CST-100 Starliner pad abort test" saying "We will review the data to determine how all of the systems performed, including the parachute deployment sequence. We did have a deployment anomaly, not a parachute failure." This is typical aerospace post-event mumbo jumbo. No one knows what happened so it is called an "anomaly". I get that. But the parachute failed to deploy. We could all see that it failed to deploy. This update was not emailed to the same distribution list Boeing uses for press releases. Also, the earlier press release (that makes no mention of any parachute issues) is still online at Boeing. Anyone who sees this press release or the version sent out to the media may be totally unaware that the parachute failed to deploy on a vehicle designed to carry people.

NASA TV to Air Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test

"NASA and Boeing will broadcast live coverage of the CST-100 Starliner Pad Abort Test on Monday, Nov. 4, from Launch Complex 32 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The test is scheduled for 9 a.m. EST (7 a.m. MST) with a three-hour test window. Live coverage is targeted to start at 8:50 a.m., on NASA Television and the agency's website. Coverage will be adjusted as necessary within the window."



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