January 2020 Archives

James Webb Space Telescope: Technical Challenges Have Caused Schedule Strain and May Increase Costs, GAO

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project has made significant progress since GAO's last report in March 2019, such as completing testing of the observatory's individual elements and integrating them together in August 2019. However, new technical challenges have required the project to use more schedule reserve extra time set aside in the project's schedule to accommodate unforeseen risks or delays than planned. As of October 2019, the project had used about 76 percent of its available schedule reserve and no longer plans to launch in November 2020. The project is now managing to a March 2021 launch date but estimates only a 12 percent likelihood that this date will be achieved. NASA plans to reassess the launch date in the spring of 2020."

Challenger

Keith's note: On this date 28 January 1986 the crew on board Space Shuttle Challenger, itself named after a fabled ship of learning and exploration, left Earth on a trip above the sky. And that trip ended in the sky. But their mission continues at challenger.org Ad Astra

Challenger STS 51-L Accident

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/architecture.s.jpg


Keith's note: If you have been following NASA's exploration plans for more than 10 minutes you know that there have been a lot of pivots along the way. The chart above (minus my snarky large yellow arrows and captions) is floating around NASA and puts the past few decades of pivots, false starts, and detours in NASA's exploration plans into context. Notice that even though the whole focus right now is on the Moon the chart only shows Mars. It is rather obvious to see that we spent half a century between the Apollo era of actual exploration on another world and today talking about what to do next. While the immensely capable ISS has orbited Earth for 20 years it just goes in circles. It does not go anywhere. Nor have we. Only robots get to do the exploring. When is this going to change? Larger version (image) (pdf).

Today there is a briefing of the National Space Council's Users Advisory Group (UAG) on the current state of NASA's Artemis 2024 landing architecture. The UAG name is somewhat misleading in terms of its name since there are few actual "users" of space on the panel. It is mostly big aerospace company representatives (sellers), political appointees with little space expertise, aerospace trade group representatives and lobbyists, and retired NASA employees who now consult. But I digress.

The briefing will be held in the 9th floor conference room near the NASA Administrator's suite. The event runs from 9:30 am until 4:00 pm. The briefing will be chaired by HEOMD AA Doug Loverro and run by Deputy AA Ken Bowersox and Acting Deputy AA for Human Lunar Exploration Programs Marshall Smith. FWIW at the 24 July 2019 UAG meeting Marshall Smith told participants that NASA is going to "turn and burn" from the Moon to Mars, so keep that in mind. In addition, Jake Bleacher, Doug Craig, Dan Matizak, Michelle Rucker, and Pat Troutman will provide background information to UAG attendees.

At the last UAG meeting one of the actions was to form a UAG Task Force to look into NASA's plans to meet the Vice President's direction to dial up NASA's original plans and land people on the Moon by 2024 - and how that meshes with the White House's three previously issued Space Policy Directives. The UAG Task Force members are Eileen Collins, Pam Melroy, Mary Lynne Dittmar, Les Lyles, and David Wolf.

After this briefing the Task Force will go off and do up an assessment - of NASA's assessment - and eventually toss it back to the full UAG and eventually to the National Space Council itself. And then something else will happen I suppose where everyone lays their hands on it for group approval.

This briefing will be "pre-decisional" and "notional", of course. As such, whatever detail emerges please remember that your mileage may vary, contents may settle, etc.

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station

"The element will attach to the space station's Node 2 forward port to demonstrate its ability to provide products and services and begin the transition to a sustainable economy in which NASA is one of many customers. NASA and Axiom next will begin negotiations on the terms and price of a firm-fixed-price contract with a five-year base performance period and a two-year option."

Keith's note: To be certain, the full potential of the International Space Station has yet to be fully tapped - and it has an inherent capacity to be greatly expanded beyond its current configuration with commercial interests being a likely partner. But who is the customer for the use of this addition? Is it only NASA? What user demand model is the basis for facility's size and operations and what assumptions is it based on? NASA still can't fully use the ISS that it has in orbit now and it has dueling (and sometimes conflicting) utilization systems via NASA and CASIS. Isn't it a little odd to sign an agreement with these uncertainties before we know who is going to pay for this and how much they're going to pay? Just sayin'.

Keith's update: Some questions come to mind - this is the stream of consciousness order in which they occurred to me (I used to do space station payload utilization when I had a real job - at NASA): What payload attributes does this Axiom space facility have? How many payload racks will there be? What are the utilities offered at each rack location? Out of whose operations budget do the power, cooling and other utility allocations come? How many racks can be configured for sub-rack payload integration? What payload facilities (glove boxes, integration hardware) will be provided by Axiom? What does the customer have to provide? Will the payload allocation be in addition to NASA's allocation or will rack space be considered part of the overall payload space subject for use by ISS partners? Does CASIS have an allocation within these facilities? Who is the prime user interface for NASA customers - the ISS program office? CASIS? Both? Someone else? Will the cost of flying a payload via ISS program office, CASIS, and Axiom be the same or different? If so how - and why? How much of the facility's capability is owned by Axiom? Does NASA or the other iSS partners have any approval/veto over payloads? Will the U.S. and the international partners be able to include Axiom facilities in their long-standing practice of bartering resources? How does Axiom intend to cover ITAR/IP Issues - is this considered a U.S. facility for those purposes? Will Axiom fly private astronauts to the ISS? If so from whom do they buy seats and is the price the same or different than what NASA pays? At the end of its operational lifetime is Axiom responsible for cost and conduct of the disposal/de-orbit of their facilities? What payload/utilization demand models did NASA and Axiom use as the basis for this agreement? Were these models made available to other bidders? Can these payload models be made available publicly? What orbital lifetime will NASA guarantee to Axiom? What provisions are in place in case NASA is forced to withdraw from supporting ISS? Has Axiom been given options to buy or lease current on-orbit facilities located in other parts of the ISS? And so on.

If there was a press event for this announcement and I was able to ask questions I can guarantee that the answers to my questions would be "we'll get back to you"; "that has not been determined yet", "I do not know"; "That's up to Axiom" (who would decline to answer); "That's up to NASA" (who would decline to answer); "It depends on Congress"; "we are confident that people will want to use this world class facility". And FWIW when they say "we'll get back to you" that is always followed by nothing but crickets. As such its not really worth contacting PAO about this.

NASA Authorization Bill Update By NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

"I am concerned that the bill imposes some significant constraints on our approach to lunar exploration. As you know, NASA has successfully fostered the development of a rapidly expanding commercial economy for access to space. We would like to continue building on this success as we develop the most efficient mission architectures and partnership approaches to accomplish our shared goals.

NASA seeks to expand the sphere of economic activity deeper into space by conducting space exploration and development with commercial and international partners. Without the dynamic participation of commercial partners, our chances of creating a sustainable exploration program are significantly diminished. In particular, we are concerned that the bill's approach to developing a human lander system as fully government-owned and directed would be ineffective. The approach established by the bill would inhibit our ability to develop a flexible architecture that takes advantage of the full array of national capabilities - government and private sector - to accomplish national goals. NASA would appreciate the opportunity to work with the Committee to develop language that would support a broader national and international effort that would maximize progress toward our shared exploration goals through the efficient application of our available resources.

NASA is fully committed to a lunar exploration program that supports and enables human missions to Mars. The Committee should be aware that the exploration of Mars is a very challenging goal both technically and from a resource perspective. If we are going to accomplish this goal, we will need the flexibility to rapidly develop technical expertise using the Moon and to fully engage commercial and international partners. We do think that the bill's concerns for limiting activities on the Moon could be counterproductive. If we are going to explore Mars in a safe and sustainable way, we will require a strong in situ resource utilization capability and significant technology development using the surface of the Moon. NASA would appreciate more flexibility in defining lunar surface activities that may contribute directly to Mars exploration."

Keith's note: Dear person in charge of the NASA interns thing: Did anyone bother to look at this all-male image before it was tweeted? Did no qualified women apply? Really? Have you read the responses to this tweet? You apparently did not get the Artemis generation memo.

Apollo 1

Apollo 1

"Jan. 27, 1967, tragedy struck on the launch pad at Cape Kennedy during a preflight test for Apollo 204 (AS-204). The mission was to be the first crewed flight of Apollo, and was scheduled to launch Feb. 21, 1967. Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives when a fire swept through the command module, or CM."

AIA's Mike French on House NASA Authorization Act

"The space policy community should be smiling. After record marks last month, we now have bipartisan, bicameral support across Congress and the Executive Branch to return to the Moon this decade and go on to Mars. On the eve of an anticipated strong budget request, I'm looking forward to working as a community to secure and fund this consensus."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation statement on House Space Subcommittee Draft NASA Authorization Bill

"As written, the NASA Authorization bill would not create a sustainable space exploration architecture and would instead set NASA up for failure by eliminating commercial participation and competition in key programs. As NASA and the White House have repeatedly stated, any sustainable space exploration effort must bring together the best of government and commercial industry to achieve a safe and affordable 21st century space enterprise. We look forward to working with members of the House Space Subcommittee to address a number of concerns with the bill."

Letter to Congress From The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Regarding The NASA Authorization Bill

"This Committee should withdraw this bill and engage in a fully transparent process to seek NASA, industry, academic, and public input in a meaningful way. This legislation was apparently drafted with no input from critical stakeholders, the public, or even Members of the Committee, and should be reconsidered."

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Statement Regarding H.R. 5666

"However the path to executing this goal - including meaningful activity at the Moon - remains a topic of significant discussion, and this bill is helping to spark a robust exchange about the best way to achieve that bipartisan vision."

Keith's note: Vice President Pence put his authority on the line last Spring when he directed NASA to do the Artemis return to the Moon effort by 2024 "by any means necessary". His direction had the implied, implicit backing of the President. And Pence entrusted NASA to make it happen. Jim Bridenstine took that ball and, to his credit, ran long and strong with it. 

Now Congress, in a bipartisan action in the House with new NASA Authorization legislation, delays human landings, deletes hardware and puts a new item in the critical path, and deletes any useful use of capabilities on the lunar surface once we return with humans. Exploration and utilization is now Flags and Footprints 2.0. This action by Congress seeks to kick Pence and Bridenstine in the knees and remove any urgency or sense of purpose. While the 2024 date did have a few people wondering if it was doable, NASA's push to try and make it happen has been admirable - and refreshing - at least in my personal opinion.

The exact means whereby NASA would accomplish this 2024 goal has been lacking and is overdue for delivery. A rebooting of HEOMD management led to a rethinking of the overall game plan thus delaying things further. Congress has expressed doubts too. A new federal budget is due to be dropped by the White House soon wherein their plans for NASA will be revealed. Now this proposed legislation seeks to impose its own, downsized architecture upon NASA, undermine presidential directives, and negate a series of high-level procurements NASA has already put into motion.

Are there other ways to accomplish this 2024 goal? Of course there are. But that is not what this legislation does. It eviscerates the goal itself and shoves it off into an increasingly distant and uncertain future.

There is some discontent on the part of Users Advisory Group (UAG) members to the language in the NASA Authorization bill. Some of that discontent is in the process of being conveyed up to Pence. The bill's mark-up is scheduled 29 January and some NASA briefings to UAG members and others over NASA's Artemis architecture issues. There is also a big FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference event here in DC this coming week and NASA will pause to mourn the people lost in the exploration of space. Lots of things happening in simultaneity.  

Will Pence say something? Will Jim Bridenstine? I will be watching to see what, if anything bubbles up into the public arena. I am not sure that being optimistic is a useful place to be.

Most of the UAG is composed of big aerospace representatives and political appointees who will still make money anyway or not be affected by any change in course. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation has made their stance clear about this bill which "would not create a sustainable space exploration architecture and would instead set NASA up for failure by eliminating commercial participation and competition in key programs.". Yet AIA's statement and lack of any response from the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration or any other of the big aerospace industry groups suggests that they are fine with whatever happens since their corporate members and supporters will do OK. AIA's Mike French sits inside his bubble inside the Beltway and suggests that everyone is "smiling". In his world that is an expected opinion to promote since big aerospace will get more money to do less exploration. But who cares. The money must flow.

Keith's update : Coalition for Deep Space Exploration has issued a statement. It is wimpy and takes no stance whatsoever - since their member companies stand to benefit the most from the way this bill is written.

Authorization acts do not necessarily affect reality since they have no teeth when it comes to actual funding.  Agencies ignore these authorization acts when they can and embrace them when they need to.  NASA has often operated just fine for years without an authorization act governing their activities. But these authorization bills do reflect congressional thinking that can affect appropriations. And they also reflect the impact of corporate lobbyists on that thinking.

Up until Friday afternoon NASA was embarked on a plan to swiftly return to the Moon - with some urgency, And once NASA returned it had plans to make the most of a renewed human and robotic presence on the lunar surface. Indeed, Jim Bridenstine openly talked of extracting lunar ice. That is not flags and footprints folks. That's advanced exploration and utilization of another world. 

Now the House, bolstered by some aerospace company lobbying, wants to pull back from that urgency and turn the Artemis program into a long-term, level-of-effort endeavour where all of the aerospace companies get guaranteed income while taking forever to actually accomplish the end goal. The lunar landings will now be glorified stunts, and the goal of landing humans on Mars has been replaced with a goal of simply orbiting Mars.

We went to the moon in less than a decade half a century ago - inspiring a generation in the process since it happened in a time scale they could grasp in their daily lives. Half a century later it will take us much, much longer to just do a pale imitation of that earlier effort. Where is the inspiration in that? We used to actually do great things in space. Now our national goal in space is to delay doing mediocre things as long as possible.

When I was growing up in the mid-1960s as a young boy we were all told that we'd be on the Moon by the "end of this decade". My young life was pegged against the regular progress made toward that goal which we as a nation achieved. Jim Bridenstine has been telling young boys and girls and their parents of a similar goal. After more than a decade of development there will be a landing of men and women on the Moon in their immediate future. Now after mere months that 4 years is 8 years unless it changes again. We used to be able to set goals and meet them. Now everything is up for negotiation. Its hard to pin your hopes on something that is constantly changing.

Jim Bridenstine opened his initial presentations about going back to the Moon with a cautionary note that this is not another "Lucy and the Football" effort - one wherein everything is set up - only to have the ball taken away and the goal posts moved. NASA has been through this sort of policy stop-and-go pivoting whiplash far too many times in the half century since we dared to walk on another world.

Alas, in less than 2 years NASA is once again being denied access to the ball that was supposed to be in play. Sitting on the sidelines on the journey to nowhere is now what we aspire to instead. Sad.

More space policy news

Full text

Committee Members Introduce NASA Authorization Legislation

"This afternoon, Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Kendra Horn (D-OK) along with Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Babin (R-TX), Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introducedH.R.­­ 5666, the "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2020." H.R. 5666 reaffirms NASA's foundational authority as a multi-mission agency and emphasizes the importance of balanced exploration, science, aeronautics, technology, and education portfolios. The Act establishes frameworks that put a premium on planning, oversight, transparency, and responsible fiscal and program management."

Markup of: HR 5666, the "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2020"

Excerpts:

"-- The goal of NASA's Moon to Mars program shall be to land humans on Mars in a sus9 tainable manner as soon as practicable. The Moon to Mars program shall have the interim goal of sending a crewed mission to the lunar surface by 2028 and a goal of sending a crewed mission to orbit Mars by 2033.

-- In order to reduce risk and complexity and make maximum use of taxpayer investments to date, the Administrator shall in the conduct of the Lunar Precursor Initiative employ an architecture that utilizes the Orion vehicle and an integrated lunar landing system carried on an Exploration Upper Stage-enhanced Space Launch System for the human lunar landing missions. The Gateway to Mars shall not be required for the conduct of human lunar landing missions.

- The Administrator shall establish a Moon to Mars Program Office within 60 days of the enactment of this Act to lead and manage the Moon to Mars program.

- The Administrator shall complete development of the Space Launch System and the Space Launch System variant enabled by an Exploration Upper Stage, pursuant to section 302 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010. The Administrator shall take steps to develop the Block 2 variant to provide the full range of launch capability and performance available to the United States for the Administration's crewed and robotic exploration of deep space. The Administrator shall complete the development and testing of the Exploration Upper Stage for the Space Launch System.

-- Within 120 days of the date of enactment of this Act, the Ad3 ministrator shall develop an overall architecture and plan, consistent with sections 203(c)(1) and 203(c)(2), including-- (A) a list of the minimum set of human and robotic lunar surface activities that must be completed to enable a human mission to Mars, including those to be tested on the Gateway to Mars, along with a plan for completing those tasks within five years after the first human lunar landing; and (B) a list of the capabilities and risk re14 duction measures listed in section 203(f)(3).

- five-year funding estimates and profiles for the Moon to Mars Program. The budget profiles should include estimated funding requirements and profiles for the program elements in section 203(f), and related infrastructure, facilities, and operations that are consistent with the achievement of a crewed mission to Mars orbit by 2033

- Any establishment of a continuously crewed lunar outpost or research station shall not be considered an element of the Moon to Mars Program and shall be budgeted separately from the Moon to Mars program. (b) OTHER CREWED ACTIVITIES.--Crewed activities on or around the surface of the Moon that do not contribute to the goal of landing humans on Mars in as sustainable manner as practical shall not be included in the Moon to Mars Program and shall be budgeted separately from the Moon to Mars Program. (c) LUNAR IN-SITU RESOURCE UTILIZATION.-- Lunar in-situ resource utilization shall not be considered as risk reduction for the initial crewed missions to orbit and land on Mars. Any lunar in-situ resource utilization activities and shall not be included in the Moon to Mars Program and shall be budgeted separately from the Moon to Mars Program."

Jim Lehrer

Remembering Jim Lehrer, PBS

"PBS NewsHour co-founder Jim Lehrer, a giant in journalism known for his tenacity and dedication to simply delivering the news, died peacefully in his sleep at home on Thursday, at the age of 85. For Jim, being a journalist was never a self-centered endeavor. He always told those who worked with him: "It's not about us." Night after night, Jim led by example that being yourself -- journalist, writer, family man, citizen -- can be a high calling. For 36 years, Jim began the nightly newscast with a simple phrase: "Good Evening, I'm Jim Lehrer."

Keith's note: I have been on PBS NewsHour 4 or 5 times. The way the stage is set in the DC studio is that Jim Lehrer has his side and all of the interviews were done on the opposite side. One time, after I finished doing my interview with Ray Suarez, a voice asked me to walk around to Lehrer's side. The voice making the request was very familiar. Lehrer looked over at me, smiled, and said "Well done Mr. Cowing". I was told later that this was quite the compliment - sort of like Johnny Carson inviting new comedians to come over and sit in the guest chair. I was totally stunned.

NASA Administrator Names Marla Pérez-Davis Director Of Glenn Research Center

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Marla Pérez-Davis director of the agency's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, effective immediately. Pérez-Davis has been serving as the acting director of Glenn since Oct. 1, 2019. Prior to this appointment, Pérez-Davis was the deputy director of Glenn, sharing responsibility with the center director for planning, organizing, and managing the agency-level programs and projects assigned to the center."

Keith's 24 Jan note: Boeing has a lot of damage control to do these days - managerially and PR-wise. Interestingly, as these various problems have popped up for Boeing, they have stopped most of the in-your-face social media (see below) and traditional PR efforts - especially here in Washington DC. Add in the $62 million that its fired CEO gets as he walks out the door it is probably a good idea for the Boeing PR shop to lay low and let the company focus on fixing things.

Keith's 25 Jan update: I was contacted by Boeing who agreed that a tweet by one of their communications staff was inappropriate and it has since been removed. My personal appreciation to Boeing for reaching out to contact me in a professional manner on this issue.

Boeing-built DirecTV satellite may explode in orbit after suffering unexpected malfunction, CNBC

"But DirecTV is now under a time crunch, as a Boeing review of the satellite's data found Spaceway-1′s batteries "cannot be guaranteed to withstand the pressures needed to support safe operation of the spacecraft in eclipse operations." Spaceway-1 is currently relying on solar power but, with the satellite set to pass into Earth's shadow on Feb. 25, the company said Spaceway-1 must be taken out of orbit and decommissioned. Additionally, the satellite should discharge its remaining fuel, the company said, "to reduce the risk of accidental explosion."

Boeing drops out of DARPA Experimental Spaceplane program, SpaceNews

"In a Jan. 22 statement to SpaceNews, DARPA spokesman Jared Adams said that Boeing had notified the agency of its decision to exit the Experimental Spaceplane Program "immediately." DARPA didn't state why Boeing was dropping out of the program. "Following a detailed review, Boeing is ending our role in the Experimental Spaceplane (XSP) program immediately," Boeing spokesman Jerry Drelling said. "We will now redirect our investment from XSP to other Boeing programs that span the sea, air and space domains."

Fallout from Boeing 737 MAX spreads in Kansas, Oklahoma, Yahoo

"The layoffs follow Spirit's Jan. 10 announcement that it was laying off 2,800 workers in Wichita, where the company is based. Austin said in an email that Spirit is laying off the workers because of uncertainty about when production might resume for the 737 MAX, which was grounded last March after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people."

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

"In our examination of the CCP contracts, we found that NASA agreed to pay an additional $287.2 million above Boeing's fixed prices to mitigate a perceived 18-month gap in ISS flights anticipated in 2019 for the company's third through sixth crewed missions and to ensure the company continued as a second commercial crew provider. For these four missions, NASA essentially paid Boeing higher prices to address a schedule slippage caused by Boeing's 13-month delay in completing the ISS Design Certification Review milestone and due to Boeing seeking higher prices than those specified in its fixed price contract. In our judgment, the additional compensation was unnecessary given that the risk of a gap between Boeing's second and third crewed missions was minimal when the Agency conducted its analysis in 2016."

Starliner's thruster performance receiving close scrutiny from NASA, Ars Technica

"Although it did not fly up to the altitude of the space station and perform a rendezvous and docking during its test flight, Starliner did fly an "abort demonstration" that simulated approaching and backing away from the space station. The NASA source said Boeing may also have failed this test due to thruster issues. Boeing denied this. "In testing the system the spacecraft executed all the commands, but we did observe a lower than expected delta V during the backing away phase," Boeing said in a statement. "Current evidence indicates the lower delta V was due to the earlier cautionary thruster measures, but we are carefully reviewing data to determine whether this demonstration should be repeated in the subsequent mission."

- The Boeing Company Has A Big Safety Culture Problem, previous post
- Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock, previous post
- Boeing Uses Deceptive Social Media To Grab Your Browsing Data , previous post
- Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, previous post
- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity, previous post
- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, previous post

Delivery of Nauka module to Baikonur postponed over fuel tank adjustments, TASS

"The construction of the Nauka module began in 1995. Russia initially planned to launch the Nauka lab to the ISS as a back-up of the Zarya compartment (the station's first module that continues its flight as part of the orbital outpost) but the launch was numerously delayed. In 2013, the Nauka module was sent to the Khrunichev Space Center after metal chips were found in its fuel system. Rogozin said on December 16 that the module may be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in early 2021 instead of late 2020 as was initially planned."

Khrunichev Delivers Multi-purpose Laboratory Module "Nauka" to Energia, 2012

NASA Names Dennis Andrucyk New Goddard Space Flight Center Director

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Dennis Andrucyk director of its Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, effective immediately. Andrucyk has been serving as the acting director of Goddard since Dec. 31. Prior to becoming Goddard's acting center director, Andrucyk was the deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington."

What should we call the men and women of Space Force?, Rick Tumlinson, Space News

"I believe the best name for Space Force members is Spacer. It combines simplicity and gender neutrality with the ability to apply it specifically to the enlisted ranks. Now hold your giggle. It works. Like Sailor, Soldier or Marine, Spacer encompasses anyone in the service regardless of rank or gender. This is important for morale, creating a unified bottom-up identification for all ranks and levels of command. Thus, while everyone in the Space Force would be a Spacer, it is also a specific prefix for enlisted members (Spacer Second Class, First Class,etc..)."

Keith's note: "Spacer". Make sense to me.

More on Space Force

NASA, SpaceX Complete Final Major Flight Test of Crew Spacecraft

"NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The launch escape test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft's capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency."

Keith's note: This is the question I had hoped to ask via the dial-in line but PAO only took a couple of questions from offsite media: "For Jim Bridenstine: you just made a full throated push for overt commercialization. OK - are you really going to go all the way to make - to allow - this emerging market to grow - like airlines do? By this I mean are you ever going to stop buying government-provided Soyuz seats from Russia? Will NASA barter seats between its commercial providers and Russia? Can NASA's commercial providers re-sell extra seats on their spacecraft not only to private passengers but to other governments?"

Keith's note: NASA Chief of Staff Janet Karika is moving into the position of Principal Advisor for Space Transportation. Deputy Chief of Staff Gabe Sherman will become the new NASA Chief of Staff.

Boeing's ousted CEO departs with $62 million, even without severance pay, NBC

"Boeing Co's ousted chief executive officer, Dennis Muilenburg, is leaving the company with $62 million in compensation and pension benefits but will receive no severance pay in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis. Muilenburg was fired from the job in December as Boeing failed to contain the fallout from a pair of fatal crashes that halted output of the company's bestselling 737 MAX jetliner and tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators. The compensation figures were disclosed in a regulatory filing late on Friday during a difficult week for Boeing when it also released hundreds of internal messages -- two major issues hanging over the company before new CEO David Calhoun starts on Monday. The messages contained harshly critical comments about the development of the 737 MAX, including one that said the plane was "designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys."

Keith's note: Muilenburg has it nice. Getting fired is lucrative, Meanwhile families who lost people in Boeing 737 Max crashes have not gotten a penny. With the delivery halt, suppliers are already laying workers off. Boeing workers will inevitably be laid off too. They are not going to be as generously paid. Meanwhile the guy who got fired is going to get enough money to buy a commercial crew seat on Boeing's Starliner.

Keith's 17 January note: The authors finally fixed their error.

Keith's note: Update and clarification: I've had multiple reports inside the NASA/CASIS community that the final report has been delivered. That is not exactly accurate. In fact, an out briefing on the final results has been made to NASA but the actual, formal document is still in preparation - as noted in these tweets today from SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen.

Keith's earlier note: The final report of the CASIS review panel has been delivered to NASA. It is not expected that we'll hear anything from NASA until the end of the month or the beginning of February. CASIS has been in stand down or "strategic pause" since this review committee was initiated. The CEO has been on leave ever since and several other senior staff have been reassigned. The acting CEO has kept the organization running smoothly in the interim - and both the review team and NASA have noticed this relative improvement.

The review has seen and highlighted the strengths (and there are many) among the folks at CASIS who do the real work. They have also documented all of the needless "drama" (a word commonly used in the review) associated with the prior management team. One would hope that the CASIS review team recommends that NASA continue with what works at CASIS and strives make it and its relationship with CASIS better while ejecting the people and things that hinder or undermine CASIS as it accomplishes its tasks.

The review panel has found many things at CASIS that are broken that are the fault of CASIS management. But they have also found that NASA was an absentee landlord and neglected to provide appropriate oversight of this activity. Without a healthy two-way relationship, NASA and CASIS failed to make the most of the relationship. That needs to change. NASA and CASIS need to redefine what CASIS is and is not expected to do, what NASA is and is not expected to do, how NASA and CASIS can better communicate and coordinate, and how they can both work together in synergy as a team - not as dysfunctional competitors.

The International Space Station is too vital a national - indeed a global - asset to waste. It has only begin to prove its value.

- NASA Orders A Review Of CASIS (Update), earlier post
- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post
- CASIS Quarterly Reports To NASA Are Now Online at NASAWatch, earlier post
- Previous CASIS postings

Boeing Employees Mocked F.A.A. and 'Clowns' Who Designed 737 Max, NY Times

"The most damaging messages included conversations among Boeing pilots and other employees about software issues and other problems with flight simulators for the Max, a plane later involved in two accidents, in late 2018 and early 2019, that killed 346 people and threw the company into chaos. The employees appear to discuss instances in which the company concealed such problems from the F.A.A. during the regulator's certification of the simulators, which were used in the development of the Max, as well as in training for pilots who had not previously flown a 737."

Boeing releases internal messages on 737 MAX, calls them 'completely unacceptable"

"Boeing Co on Thursday released hundreds of internal messages that raise serious questions about its development of simulators and the 737 MAX that was grounded in March after two fatal crashes, prompting outrage from U.S. lawmakers. In an April 2017 exchange of instant messages, two employees expressed complaints about the MAX following references to issues with the plane's flight management computer. "This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys," one unnamed employee wrote. In one message dated November 2015, which appears to shed light on lobbying methods used when facing demands from regulators, a Boeing employee notes regulators were likely to want simulator training for a particular type of cockpit alert."

Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media
Boeing Just Fired Its CEO
Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock
Boeing Apparently Disagrees With NASA OIG Commercial Crew Report

Keith's note: There was a session and a media briefing today at the AAS meeting about large satellite constellations and their impact on astronomy. The SpaceX Starlink constellation got the most attention. It seems that people are either in the BAD or NO BIG DEAL camps. But there is a place in between where a bigger picture - an emergent property - presents itself. Pamela Gay from Cosmoquest managed to capture it. I experienced it in Nepal. We are becoming a spacefaring species - and that is now expanding to all corners of our planet. We can be smart about this and manage the impact, but there is no turning back. Space is useful.

Keith's note: This tweet refers to "Publication Metrics from the International Space Station Results", a 6 January 2020 page which attempts to show how much research has been accomplished on the ISS. As you all know people outside of NASA constantly ask what it is those astronauts do up there. Alas, as is the case with all NASA research conducted by various directorates, missions, division, centers, and projects, no one at NASA truly has a central collection of ISS research data. Why? Because NASA cannot cooperate internally and externally to make this happen. Over the decades I have watched people try to pull it all together in one place. Invariably one effort collides with another group trying to do the same thing. Cooperation is not always the obvious solution since both efforts have separate funding streams and cooperating would lead to a cut in funding. So the building of independent data stovepipes continues.

There are some ISS research resources that NASA promotes to the public. But there are others, of great utility, that NASA goes out of its way to ignore - even though they are often more illustrative and linked to more of NASA's ISS research than the things NASA wants you to see. Two of those resources are NASA Spaceline Current Awareness and NASA's PubSpace.

Neither NASA's ISS National Laboratory, Publication Metrics from the International Space Station Results, Space Station Research & Technology, ISS Benefits for Humanity, Let's Explore Space Station Science, or Space Station Research Results Citations Resources link or make any mention of PubSpace or Spaceline Current Awareness.

If you go to the CASIS/ISS National Laboratory website or its publications page neither PubSpace or Spaceline Current Awareness are referenced or linked to either. In fact CASIS only makes one link back to one of NASA's ISS pages here on a sub page under their Research header link. NASA is not exactly linking up a storm to CASIS either.

Of course if you go to the NASA Spaceline Current Awareness page it makes zero linkage back to NASA or CASIS. Nor does it link to PubSpace. The NASA Spaceline page is hosted at NASAPRS. You will note that their archive only goes back to 2003. The only place you can currently find a complete archive of the Spaceline reports is on our SpaceRef website here - all the way back to 1996.

Historic note: NASA started a service to catalog space biology research results back in the late 1980s when I worked in the life sciences division as a space biologist at NASA HQ. Ron Dutcher and Janet Powers at USHUS saw this project through hard times - even when funding often disappeared. I took it upon myself to grab all of their reports when their site went dark for a while in the late 1990s/early 2000s and have kept it all online ever since. A few years back Spaceline found a new home at NASAPRS where it is maintained along the same lines of excellence that have characterized this labor of love since the 1980s.

Federal law enacted a few years back managed that all government funded research be made public in a fashion readily accessible. NASA chose to intergate its various research result collections with the PubMed Central (PMC) repository which is hosted by The National Institutes of Health. That resource is called PubSpace. PubSpace does not link back to NASA or CASIS pages on ISS research. Nor does it link to Spaceline.

Of course there is more to ISS research than life and microgravity science. There's stuff out on the truss looking out at the universe and back at Earth. The NASA Astrophysics Data System has lots of stuff about this. A simple search for "space station" shows that. Then there's the arXiv.org preprint server. A search for "space station" yields results there too. None of the NASA websites referenced above mention either of these resources even though NASA either funds the service an/or funds a vast portion of the research they contain.

There's something rather broken with the way that NASA coordinates all of its research result outreach efforts. When you visit one of them it is as if the others do not even exist.

So here we are. NASA is trying to promote the whole LEO commercialization thing with the ISS as a keystone on this effort. NASA tries to turn ISS off and give it to the private sector but Congress responds by extending its life and telling NASA to pay for it. Now NASA wants to build a mini-space station called Gateway in cislunar space to operate in parallel with ISS. Indeed Gateway is already being marketed in some ways as a way to do the sort of things that are done on ISS. As noted above there is a constant questioning of why we need a space station and what value it provides. NASA tries to respond to these inquiries but always manages to trip when it comes to making the big decisions required to truly explain - to a variety of audiences - what space stations do. Everyone has a different story. Some of the explanations resonate. Others do not.

NASA wants to establish a permanent human research presence in lunar orbit and on the surface and go to Mars and all that other stuff. If NASA cannot get itself on the same page regarding the whole cost/benefit equation in LEO on an established platform like ISS, then it is improbable that they will ever pull a cohesive plan together to explain the lunar and Mars things.

A good place to start would be to synchronize all NASA and NASA-funded space station outreach into a coordinated package with a single entry point - not a swarm of unconnected and independent efforts.

NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases 2019 Annual Report

"NASA's human space flight brand and reputation are driven by 60 years of operational excellence performing complex missions in extraordinarily difficult endeavors. Nevertheless, the dynamic environment of Lunar 2024, imposed on an Agency still involved in complex and hazardous operations in orbit, while simultaneously developing or sponsoring development of new rockets, spacecraft, and critical equipment, will challenge the NASA community. As the Agency undertakes the most ambitious human foray beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) since 1972, we advise:

‚ÄĘ Regardless of how NASA addresses the technical challenges, the nation must avoid fluctuating policy goals, ambiguous objectives, budget inadequacies, and instability--including partial and full-year Continuing Resolutions--which add complexity and uncertainty to program management.
‚ÄĘ Acknowledging the value of setting challenging but realistic and achievable schedules, NASA must guard against undue schedule pressure that might lead to decisions adversely impacting safety and mission assurance.
‚ÄĘ NASA leadership must deliberately focus on communication and engagement with the workforce to preclude disconnects in risk assumptions across the organization and a culture of risk taking rather than one focused on deliberate risk management.
‚ÄĘ As NASA evolves its interactions with commercial providers, it must maintain focus on the core tenets of system development as the mission is ultimately still a NASA responsibility."

"The dynamic environment of Lunar 2024 imposed on an Agency that is still involved in complex and hazardous operations in orbit (ISS) while simultaneously developing or sponsoring the development of new rockets, spacecraft, and critical equipment will stress the NASA community. The cumulative effect of these changes on the workforce has the potential to impact risk management across the Agency. As the Panel has pointed out before, one of NASA's strengths is the unwillingness to give up when faced with a tough challenge; this strength could become a weakness if a management team establishes an unrealistic program that contains time and budget constraints without fully addressing and managing risks. We advise NASA leadership to deliberately focus on transparency and engagement consisting of candid discussions at and between all levels of management around questions such as these:

‚ÄĘ What is the strategy and what are the impediments and concerns from the top down?
‚ÄĘ What are the corresponding concerns from the bottom up?
‚ÄĘ What is the management team evaluation and response to the bottom-up concerns?
‚ÄĘ What are the ongoing processes to periodically "take the pulse" on all of the above and consider course corrections?
‚ÄĘ Through what regular management- and workforce-engagement process is NASA confident that it is appropriately managing risk, not simply taking risk to meet objectives?"

- 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

Keith's update: Comment posted by Doug Loverro

"It's always a pleasure to address NASAWatch followers since you all collectively are some of the most ardent supporters of everything that NASA does. That said, I'm not sure where the Nov 2020 date came from, but it's certainly not a date that we in HEO have been tracking since I came on board, nor even a while before that (although I know it was a date from long ago).

To set the record straight, the HEO team is just now beginning to run the assessment I promised 35 days ago to allow me to set the first SLS launch date. I expect to be able to do that in time for Congressional Hearings. But that does not mean we are standing still. In fact the Artemis 1 core is currently being "gift wrapped" and headed to the Pegasus Barge for shipment to Stennis on 8 Jan for our long planned Green Run test.

We expect that test to run through this coming fall, not far from that Nov 2020 date. And the really good new is that this ship date is within less than two weeks of the date planned to ship predicted back in March when VPOTUS asked us to land on the moon by 2024;. I can't promise we'll always be that good, but credit where credit is due--hats off to the NASA and Boeing team at MAF."

Keith's note: On more than one occasion Jim Bridenstine (and others at NASA) have sought to make it clear that NASA does not see Gateway as a "mini space station" only to call it a "space station" moments later. The meme they want to promote is that Gateway is supposed to be some sort of super service module that moves around and enables the whole human lunar landing thing. Well, now Paul Hertz from SMD is saying that they will be using Gateway for "astrophysics and other scientific investigations". In other words, Gateway is actually a space station (shh!) with inherent/embedded ability to do things that have zero relevance to landing people and things on the Moon. Statements like this simply serve to perpetuate the notion that NASA is simply recreating a ISS in lunar orbit and that they are trying to sell it by saying that it will do something for everyone.

Meanwhile NASA still cannot figure out how to fully utilize the space station they already have in Low Earth Orbit. Oh yes: there are people in HEOMD who seem to think that all of this lunar stuff is just temporary and that they will pivot toward Mars as soon as they can - thus leaving the Gateway with nothing to do. So maybe SMD is thinking of how to get in line for access to Gateway after HEMOD packs up and heads to Mars.

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]

US and Japan in talks to boost space ties, send Japanese astronauts to moon in 2020s, The Mainichi

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine proposed to the Japanese government during a visit in September 2019 that it join the U.S. in a plan to put Japanese astronauts on the surface of the moon in the latter half of the 2020s, multiple sources familiar with the matter said. Bridenstine then held an unofficial meeting on Sept. 24, 2019, in Tokyo with figures including Yoshiyuki Kasai, head of the government's Space Policy Committee and honorary chairman at the Central Japan Railway Co., Takafumi Matsui, deputy head of the same committee as well as the director at the Chiba Institute of Technology's Planetary Exploration Research Center and a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and Takehiko Matsuo, head of the National Space Policy Secretariat among others. At the meeting, Bridenstine is reported to have petitioned the attendees to carry out a forward-thinking assessment with a vision of having Japanese astronauts stand alongside American ones on the moon."

Keith's 2 Jan note: I have asked NASA PAO if this is accurate. Stay tuned.

Keith's 3 Jan update: NASA PAO sent the follow in response to my inquiry: "NASA's Artemis program relies heavily on the support of our commercial and international partners and several of our international partners have expressed great interest in potential collaboration. We're aggressively pursuing ways that other nations can contribute going forward. As he has done with other countries, Administrator Bridenstine discussed potential opportunities with counterparts in Japan during his visit there in September, but specific contributions and timelines have yet to be worked out. Various nations, including Canada, Japan, Australia and the member nations of the European Space Agency, have all expressed their strong support for Artemis Program and plan to join us for this new chapter in lunar exploration."

Larger image

First Reported Occurrence And Treatment Of Spaceflight Medical Risk On ISS, LSU

"Ultrasound examinations of the astronauts' internal jugular veins were performed at scheduled times in different positions during the mission. Results of the ultrasound performed about two months into the mission revealed a suspected obstructive left internal jugular venous thrombosis (blood clot) in one astronaut. The astronaut, guided in real time and interpreted by two independent radiologists on earth, performed a follow-up ultrasound, which confirmed the suspicion. ... The study was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Human Research Program (grant NNJ11ZSA002NA)."

Keith's note: When I lived at Everest Base Camp for a month at 17,600 ft in 2009 with astronaut Scott Parazynski I saw something serious like this happen almost daily. People came off the mountain in a bad way. Some came down in bags. I was on stretcher duty to the helo pad at one point. Indeed I suffered from extreme food poisoning and dehydration and have a permanent medical issue to this day as a direct result. I never heard anyone complain about the medical stuff since this is part of what it meant to be there. We all signed waivers. Alpine research continues to try and better understand all of the maladies that come with high altitude living and mountaineering and how to avoid and, if need be, treat them. Meanwhile people still climb.

This is going to be the same with the human exploration of space. You can reduce risks and be prepared for the worst and hopefully for some of the unexpected. But at the end of the day there is an embedded risk that has to be accepted. This instance may be the first case of diagnosing and treating a medical issue like this - remotely - while the patient is in space. It will not be the last.

While NASA to its credit has sought to reduce the risks of space travel, there is now a new player on the scene: Space Force - and as a branch of the military they have a different approach to dealing with risk. Interestingly the military can openly advertise recruitment of people to risk their lives for their country but NASA is prohibited by law from doing similar advertising and recruitment. It will be interesting to see how these two parallel approaches to human activities in space intersect and/or compete.

This government-funded biomedical research was conducted by government personnel on government employees on a government research facility. We should all be able to read about it. According to the LSU press release (NASA has published nothing about this that I know of) the link that they include (Venous Thrombosis during Spaceflight, New England Journal of Medicine) points to a page where you have to pay to read the full summary of the article. There is no link to the actual article. Yet if you know about the non-advertised/promoted NASA PubSpace service you can search for the title and find an open access version of the paper (which was actually published a month and a half ago).

This research was mentioned in the NASA Spaceline Current Awareness List #875 22 November 2019 (Space Life Science Research Results) (see item #4) which links to this summary on NCBI's PubMed (where the nation's biomedical research is collected) which, in turn, links to the open access article. But you have to dig to find this resource since, as is the case with PubSpace, NASA and CASIS make little effort to tell you about it. FWIW we have a full Spaceline archive back to 1996. NASA only has an archive online that goes back to 2003).

NASA regularly gets open access for planetary science results and puts that in press releases. The same should be done for biomedical research. HEOMD, SMD, and PAO need to talk to each other as to how to get more of this science out to the people who paid for it. NASA was required by law to create PubSpace. It has also had Spaceline online since 1996. Yet NASA goes out of its way not to tell people that these resources exist. The only way that NASA is going to get everyone on the same page when it comes to understanding the risks of spaceflight and what research is being done on ISS to mitigate these risks is get itself on the same page and use the resources it has at hand. This is an important piece of research. NASA should have been talking about it in November 2019 not letting it sneak out in a university press release over the holidays.

Findings from the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group Final, 19 December 2019

"At the 6th meeting of the National Space Council, the following recommendation was adopted: "Within 60 days, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator will designate an office and submit a plan to the Chairman of the National Space Council for sustainable lunar surface exploration and development, including necessary technologies and capabilities, to enable initial human missions to Mars."

- Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update), earlier post

"I asked Jim Bridenstine today if this report has been delivered. He replied that it has not."

President Bush Offers New Vision For NASA, 14 January 2004

"Our third goal," Bush said, "is to return to the moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions beyond." He proposed sending robotic probes to the lunar surface by 2008, with a human mission as early as 2015, "with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods of time." Bush said lunar exploration could lead to new technologies or the harvesting of raw materials that might be turned into rocket fuel or breathable air."

Keith's note: 16 years ago this month NASA was directed by a President to have Americans back on the Moon by 2015. It is now 2020 - and we're not there yet. NASA has now been tasked by another President to move up plans for a 2028 human landing to 2024. After 16 years we are still going to be 9 (13) years late. Are we actually making progress? At this rate ...

- GAO: NASA Will Have Problems Explaining Its Moon Plans, earlier post
- NASA Really Really Needs An Artemis Plan - Soon, earlier post

Keith's note: If you look at this graphic it would seem to be something that you'd post on an internal website - not on an external, public social media account. or are they actually suggesting that they are going to try and modulate what citizens tweet to - and about - Space Force? I'm not sure that the Space Force social media folks totally understand that they are not in command of cyber "space".

Whoever runs the Space Force social media squad needs a lesson in social media. They are totally tone deaf. A look at the responses to this tweet demonstrates that. You really can't tell people in an open social media forum what they can and cannot say. That tactic simply breeds the very thing you do not want to see. Just sayin'.


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