July 2020 Archives

H.R. 7617 Division-by-Division Summary, House Appropriations Committee

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - $22.63 billion, equal to the FY 2020 enacted level. This funding includes continued investments in human space exploration efforts, as well as other investments, including the following:

• $819 million for Aeronautics research, an increase of $35 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and equal to the President's budget request, to continue efforts to improve passenger safety, fuel efficiency, and noise reduction, and to make air travel more environmentally sustainable.

• $126 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, an increase of $6 million above the FY 2020 enacted level, to inspire young people to pursue future careers in science and engineering, and rejecting the Administration's request to eliminate funding for these programs."

Lucas and Babin: Appropriations Bill Fails to Prioritize NASA's Human Exploration Activities

"In particular, we need funding now to move forward on the Human Landing System, but this legislation provides only a fraction of what's needed to do that. As a nation, we need to prioritize human space exploration. This bill is shortsighted, and I hope we can do more to support NASA's critical missions."

Keith's 5:12 pm update: This is the response that NASA GSFC News Chief Dewayne Washington sent me: "We truly appreciate the innovative spirit displayed and sought to highlight the employee and her accomplishments. Upon further review, however, we don't have the ability to distribute lab equipment to all those who may request it or to validate the safety of uniquely-configured home lab workspaces. Moving forward, lab/technical equipment will remain on center. If access to the center is required for work, there's a process for approving proposed on-site work in Stage 3 and part of that process involves ensuring the proper workspace COVID-19 safety protocols are established for employees."

I sent a second inquiry to NASA PAO and GSFC management: "I have added a link on my original NASAWatch posting to the full text of the internal GSFC memo issued by Raymond Rubilotta which mentions the working at home issue stating "we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy". I am trying to understand how GSFC can publicly praise someone and then publicly criticize the exact same activity that GSFC just publicly praised them for. Can you send me the text of the actual policy that governs doing this sort of work at home? Is this a GSFC-specific policy or a NASA-wide policy? I am certain a lot of my readers across the agency are going to view this inconsistency with some concern - as if they do not have enough to worry about already."

Keith's note: "Give everyone something to look up to." Ford? GM? Chrysler? ... Tesla?

Keith's note: NASA Launched the Mars 2020 rover Perseverance today. As Perseverance departs it leaves a troubled world behind to explore a new one in search of life. At the Perseverance post-launch media event I asked NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen about exploring a new world during such difficult times.

I asked: "Right now the nation is in the midst of a pandemic nightmare that is not going to end any time soon, It is going to be a dark, scary winter. 328 million Americans are going to be staring at their computers and TVs as will billions around the world. NASA is sending an Astrobiology droid to Mars to look for evidence of life. It may discover that we are not alone. How cool is that. It has been nearly half a century since the Viking landers attempted much the same task. The world could use some good news now. How is NASA going to involve the world in a way that speaks to the way we are all isolated - yet still connected? How will NASA make the Perseverance mission a bright light amidst an otherwise gloomy winter?"

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, powered by the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, has blasted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station! The liftoff went right on time, at 7:50 a.m. EDT.

America's Space Strategy Comes of Age, Peter Garretson, opinion, Newsweek

"As such, the report is something of a net assessment of our competitive strategic position vis-à-vis all sectors of space, from civilian to military to commercial. It focuses, in particular, on the six areas thought most likely to decide the great power competition: namely, space policy and finance, space information services, space transport and logistics, human presence, power for space systems, and space manufacturing and resource extraction. In these areas, it offers an action plan of more than 40 recommendations cumulatively designed to give America an undeniable qualitative edge in future space development."

Keith's note: This is what happens when you put a Space Force fan into a discussion about space policy. To them its all about projecting military power in space - and they want to project that military power in an antagonistic fashion that is simply going to prompt others to do the same. When they talk about "America's global leadership in space" they do not really care about the scientific or exploration stuff. They just want "to get to the "Star Trek Future" where they have troops and other things up there guarding things.

If 20 years of peaceful cooperation amongst the nations participating in the ISS has taught us anything it is that space offers an unusually compelling adventure that is more important than petty terrestrial politics. Think of all of the bad vibes between the U.S. and Russia. Go ahead - make a list. Yes, its long. Now look at the conflicts on the ISS. Make a list. I'm waiting. Where are they? That's right - there are none. How is that possible? To be certain we need to be vigilant in protecting our national assets in space - as we have been for more than half a century. But the Space Force squad seems to be hell bent on creating problems to solve in space instead of trying to avoid having problems in the first place.

- Now Space Force Wants Its Own Starfleet Admirals, earlier post
- Space Force Really Wants To Take Over All Of NASA's Stuff, earlier post
- TV's Space Force Looks Like More Fun Than The Real One (Or Artemis), earlier post
- Space Force Official Flag Presented To The President On Friday Because Of Course It Was, earlier post
- Space Force Has The Air Force Academy. Why Doesn't NASA Have A Space Academy?, earlier post
- Space Force Really Wants To Be Star Fleet, earlier post
- More Space Force postings

Viking Mission Overview, NASA

"NASA's Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander, became the first space probes to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface; characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface; and conduct on-the-spot biological tests for life on another planet. Viking 1 was launched Aug. 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander separated from the orbiter and touched down at Chryse Planitia. Viking 2 was launched Sept. 9, 1975, and entered Mars orbit Aug. 7, 1976. The Viking 2 lander touched down at Utopia Planitia on Sept. 3, 1976."

Viking Landing Sites, NASA press release 7 May 1973

"Project Viking seeks to advance significantly scientific knowledge of the planet Mars, with emphasis on determining if life once existed or is now present."

- Viking, NASA

Joe Biden is the best choice for space progress, Opinion, Sean O'Keefe and John Grunsfeld, Florida Today

"Biden knows that NASA has accomplished a great deal by evolving and adapting to rapid change. Through his public service, Biden has had an important influence to forge bipartisan support for NASA. Seeing the vast potential of the burgeoning commercial space industry, the Obama-Biden Administration helped NASA seize opportunities to extend our exploration reach and conduct its other important activities. The recent NASA/SpaceX launch of American astronauts to the International Space Station was set in motion by a strategy devised in the George W. Bush Administration and enabled by policies established by the Obama-Biden Administration and is yielding results now. After the Falcon 9 launch in May, Biden noted, "We planted the seeds of today's success during the 2009 Recovery Act. According to NASA, it has now saved taxpayers up to $30 billion and invigorated an aerospace industry in Florida that accounts for more than 130,000 jobs in the state."

Companies Start to Think Remote Work Isn't So Great After All, Wall Street Journal

"Four months ago, employees at many U.S. companies went home and did something incredible: They got their work done, seemingly without missing a beat. Executives were amazed at how well their workers performed remotely, even while juggling child care and the distractions of home. Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., among others, quickly said they would embrace remote work long term. Some companies even vowed to give up their physical office spaces entirely. Now, as the work-from-home experiment stretches on, some cracks are starting to emerge. Projects take longer. Training is tougher. Hiring and integrating new employees, more complicated. Some employers say their workers appear less connected and bosses fear that younger professionals aren't developing at the same rate as they would in offices, sitting next to colleagues and absorbing how they do their jobs."

Keith's note: I have teleworked from home for more than 24 years. I have teleworked for a month at a time from Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet and Devon Island 800 miles from the north pole. If I have comms and my fingers are not frozen, then I can work. Astronauts telework from the ISS. Its not impossible - but management and personnel have to adjust - and workflow needs to be capable of being performed remotely.

The one positive thing I expect (hope) to see NASA embrace as it endures and then emerges from this pandemic is the ability to conduct meaningful work regardless of one's physical location. Not everything is amenable to teleworking - but a lot of it is - much more than previously anticipated. Part of making teleworking happen is to redouble one's focus on collaboration. But there is an equal need to function independently and self-motivate. Some people will adapt and thrive. Others will not. Either way, we'll never become a spacefaring species if we can't expand our collective workspace beyond our cubicles.

Bowser says people coming from coronavirus hot spots must quarantine for 14 days when arriving in D.C, Washington Post

"Visitors arriving from most states to the nation's capital soon must self-quarantine for 14 days to help slow the increasing spread of the novel coronavirus. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said her order, which takes effect Monday, will help the city battle a recent increase in coronavirus infections."

Keith's note: The maps shown on local TV news in DC show that the states under quarantine include Texas, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, California - and Oklahoma. So if you are the Administrator of NASA or an employee at NASA field centers you may not be visiting NASA HQ - or Goddard, Wallops, Langley - any time soon. And vice versa - unless you want to sit in a motel for 2 weeks. Virginia and Maryland exceed the limits as well but DC has not put them on the list.

America must return to the moon 'as soon as possible', Harrison Schmitt, Politico

"It has been remarkable to see the National Team, including Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, work closely together with NASA. Blending established entities and entrepreneurial space firms is a good prescription for success. The team is aptly named, as it represents our national heritage in lunar exploration, our national pride in science and technology innovation, and the national strength of our commercial space industry."

Keith's note: The sole intent of this op ed is not to sing the praises of America's plans for returning humans to the Moon as the title suggests. Rather, it is to sell the industry partnering of "the National Team" led by Blue Origin. If the op ed really focused on all that NASA is doing for the Human Landing System and Artemis you'd see SpaceX, Dynetics, Maxar, Astrobotic, Boeing, and a bunch of other companies mentioned. But they are not. Indeed the impression the uninformed (Congressional) reader is that the "National Team" mentioned herein is indeed America's official National Team since no one else is mentioned. Oh, and the listed author is a Blue Origin consultant.

The real "National Team" is composed of all of the companies and institutions supporting NASA's Artemis program - not just those who belong to one contractor team or another - or belong to either the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration or the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Caveat Emptor.

National Space Council Releases Report on Deep Space Exploration and Development

Today, the National Space Council released "A New Era for Deep Space Exploration and Development," a report prepared by the National Space Council staff in consultation with National Space Council members and the Users' Advisory Group that describes the rationale and purpose for the Administration's new direction in space. Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Scott Pace, Ph.D., released the following statement: "'A New Era for Deep Space Exploration and Development' represents a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to this Administration's ambitious space exploration efforts, providing a vision for a sustained human presence on, and the robust commercial development of, the Moon and Mars. This report describes how and why the United States will proceed with deep space exploration, delineating the strategic interests and specific programs that underpin America's position as the world's leader among spacefaring nation."

Full report

Keith's note: Nice words - but no explanation of how this will be paid for. The word "budget" appears twice: "The term "sustainable" can have different meanings, depending on the context. For example, financial sustainability is the ability to execute a program of work within budget levels that are realistic, managed effectively, and likely to be available." and "If we are to have an effective American space strategy, we need to align our policies, programs, and budget with enduring national interests that span multiple administrations and Congresses."

2020 Democratic Party Platform (Draft)

"Democrats continue to support the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and are committed to continuing space exploration and discovery. We believe in continuing the spirit of discovery that has animated NASA's human space exploration, in addition to its scientific and medical research, technological innovation, and educational mission that allows us to better understand our own planet and place in the universe. We will strengthen support for the United States' role in space through our continued presence on the International Space Station, working in partnership with the international community to continue scientific and medical innovation. We support NASA's work to return Americans to the moon and go beyond to Mars, taking the next step in exploring our solar system. Democrats additionally support strengthening NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth observation missions to better understand how climate change is impacting our home planet."

NASA Has A CFO Nominee

President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Individual to a Key Administration Post

"Today, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key position in his Administration: Dr. Greg Autry, of California, to be Chief Financial Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. ... Dr. Autry previously served on the NASA Agency Review Team and as the White House Liaison at NASA."

Keith's note: This is interesting since Autry was kicked off of the initial Trump "Beachead Team"/Transition Team at NASA a few months into the Administration. It is highly unlikely that this nomination will be taken up by the Senate before the election. If Trump loses it will never see the light of day. FWIW Autry is a former sidekick of White House official sinophobe Peter Navarro.

- Eric Trump's Brother-In-Law Is The New Deputy NASA Chief Of Staff. Seriously., previous post
- How Jonathan Dimock Auditioned To Be NASA White House Liaison, previous post

Space Admiral? House Lawmakers Want Navy Ranks for Space Force, Military.com

"House lawmakers have signed off on a proposal calling for the military's sixth branch to adopt the Navy's ranks and structure. The amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, proposed by Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, would require the Space Force to use "the same system and rank structure as is used in the Navy," according to a summary of the text. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, medically retired as a lieutenant commander. ... A naval command structure would align with strategic similarities space operations have to laws of the sea, Lt. Col. Peter Garretson, then-deputy director of the Schriever Scholars program at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, said in an interview last year. He has since retired. "In maritime theory, navies exist in order to secure commerce," he said."

Keith's note: These Space Force guys are not wasting any time trying to create StarFleet - especially when it comes to the uniforms and the ranks and all that. Other than that what has "Space Force" actually done? It slaps its logo on missions and organizations that already existed and spends lots of money on Facebook ads. Other than that Team Space Force seems to be all about projecting the image of Space Force - rather than actually creating a Space Force. Alas, they are better at that than NASA is - so maybe they could teach NASA how to do some better branding and marketing.

- Space Force Really Wants To Take Over All Of NASA's Stuff, earlier post
- TV's Space Force Looks Like More Fun Than The Real One (Or Artemis), earlier post
- Space Force Official Flag Presented To The President On Friday Because Of Course It Was, earlier post
- Space Force Has The Air Force Academy. Why Doesn't NASA Have A Space Academy?, earlier post
- Space Force Really Wants To Be Star Fleet, earlier post
- More Space Force postings

The crisis that shocked the world: America's response to the coronavirus, Washington Post

"Six months after the coronavirus appeared in America, the nation has failed spectacularly to contain it. The country's ineffective response has shocked observers around the planet. Many countries have rigorously driven infection rates nearly to zero. In the United States, coronavirus transmission is out of control. The national response is fragmented, shot through with political rancor and culture-war divisiveness. Testing shortcomings that revealed themselves in March have become acute in July, with week-long waits for results leaving the country blind to real-time virus spread and rendering contact tracing nearly irrelevant."

Keith's note: And the same White House that has put 328.2 million Americans at risk of serious illness and death as a direct result of its incompetent and woefully ignorant understanding of basic Biology wants to go back to the Moon, to do "science" there, etc. How can we lead in space when we have failed so spectacularly on Earth?

Yes, you detect blatant editorial bias. Get used to it.

Keith's note: Audi is airing this TV commercial again.

John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis, Space Station Savior, Passes Away, Space Policy Online

"Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) passed away yesterday. A legendary civil rights activist, his role at a pivotal point in the history of the space station program is less well known. He is the Member of Congress who cast the deciding vote in 1993 to continue the program despite years of cost overruns and schedule delays. Today's International Space Station might not exist without his support."

Keith's note: I sat at my desk at NASA Space Station Freedom Program Office in 1993 listening to the roll call wondering if I'd have a job. John Lewis did indeed save the space station.

In voting to keep the space station program alive Rep. Lewis said: "I still believe, as do the majority of the American people, that it is America's destiny to explore space. Not for the cold war reasoning of proving we are the greatest Nation on Earth, but because we are the greatest Nation on Earth. We became great by dreaming and pursuing that dream. As soon as we lose the ability to dream and reach for the stars we cease to be great. Madam Chairman, let us keep the dream alive. Support the space station. All mankind will continue to reap the magnitude of benefits from this program." Update - see below 1

1 Reader note: "It's a great quote, but it's from the wrong Rep. Lewis. This is from Rep. Tom Lewis of Florida, and he never actually had the chance to speak these word during the debate because he ran out of time and had to submit it in writing. Citation: Page 13669: https://www.congress.gov/103/crecb/1993/06/30/GPO-CRECB-1993-pt10-2.pdf - https://www.c-span.org/video/?43471-1/house-session"

Mac McCool

Alexander "Mac" A. McCool Jr.

"He was heavily involved in the design of the propulsion systems for the SATURN launch vehicles. In 1969, as Chief of the Systems Project in the Office in the Marshall Space Flight Center's Astronautics Laboratory, he directed project engineering for the SATURN/APOLLO and SKYLAB programs. In the 1970s, as the Director of Structures and Propulsion Laboratory, McCool assumed the leadership role in the early Development of the Space Shuttle's Main Engine and in the early '80s, managed the in-house development, test and flight phases of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters. After the Challenger accident in January 1986 Mr. McCool was selected to lead the Solid Rocket Boosters recovery activity at the Kennedy Space Center. His expertise made him a valuable commodity at NASA, being named Director of the Safety, Reliability, Maintainability, and Quality Assurance Office at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center."

James Webb Space Telescope to launch in October 2021, ESA

"The launch of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana is now planned for 31 October 2021. NASA has announced the decision, based on a recently completed schedule risk assessment of the remaining integration and test activities before launch, accounting for impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and technical challenges. Previously, Webb was targeted to launch in March 2021."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program

"We found that NASA's exclusion of more than $17 billion in Orion‐related costs has hindered the overall transparency of the vehicle's complete costs. Both federal law and NASA policy call for a Life Cycle Cost estimate for all major science and space programs costing more than $250 million, and for the Agency Baseline Commitment (ABC) to be based on all formulation and development costs. The Orion Program received approval from the NASA Associate Administrator to deviate from those requirements, resulting in exclusion of $17.5 billion in Orion‐related costs from fiscal year (FY) 2006 to FY 2030 due to the Agency's tailored approach to program management and cost reporting. Although these exclusions have been approved, the tailoring of these cost reporting requirements significantly limits visibility into the total amount spent on development and production efforts.

We also found that Orion has continued to experience cost increases and schedule delays. Since the cost and schedule baseline was set in 2015, the program has experienced over $900 million in cost growth through 2019, a figure expected to rise to at least $1.4 billion through 2023. At the same time, the program's schedule for Artemis I has slipped more than 3 years, while the schedule for Artemis II has slipped 2 years. Additional delays are likely as both Orion and SLS complete development efforts for Artemis I in the next 16 months and prepare for Artemis II. Meanwhile, Orion is proceeding with production of crew capsules for future Artemis missions before completing key development activities, increasing the risk of additional cost growth and schedule delays as issues are discovered late in the development effort, potentially requiring costly rework.

Further, NASA's award fee practices have hindered the program's control of contract costs. Given the Orion Program's significant cost increases and schedule delays, we found that NASA has been overly generous with award fees provided to Lockheed. From contract inception in 2006 through January 2020, Lockheed received $740.9 million in award fees. We attribute these overly generous award fees to the subjective nature of award fee evaluations coupled with nebulous and dated criteria used by the program. The result, for both the Orion Program and frequently other NASA programs, is that adjectival ratings such as "Excellent" given to the contractor often do not accurately reflect performance shortfalls. At a minimum, we question $27.8 million in fees awarded to Lockheed from September 2006 to April 2015. In addition, we found the continued use of the "Award Fee for End-Item Contracts" clause can serve as a disincentive to contractor performance because of the second opportunity to collect unearned fees once the end-item (in this case, the Orion capsule) is delivered."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program (2016)

"Over its life, the Orion Program has experienced funding instability, both in terms of overall budget amounts and the erratic timing of receipt of those funds. In past reports, we noted that the most effective budget profile for large and complex space system development programs like Orion is steady funding in the early stages and increased funding during the middle stages of development. In contrast, the Orion Program's budget profile through at least 2018 was nearly flat and Program officials acknowledged that this funding trajectory increased the risk that costly design changes may be needed in later stages of development when NASA integrates Orion with the SLS and GSDO. ... We also found prime contractor Lockheed Martin is expending its management reserves at a higher rate than both the Program and the company expected and that, if continued, would deplete its reserve account almost a year before the planned launch of EM-1. Moreover, we found NASA is not monitoring the impact of this possibility on the Orion Program.""

- Lockheed Martin's Bad Orion Marketing Hype, earlier post
- Lockheed Martin's Flawed Comparison Between Orion and Dragon, earlier post
- NASA Orion Buying Spree Makes Texas Happy Again, earlier post

Florida reports biggest one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started, Reuters

"Florida reported on Thursday the largest one-day increase in deaths from the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began and its second-largest increase in cases ever. Florida announced 13,965 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the state and the center of the latest outbreak to over 315,775, according to the state health department. Florida's COVID deaths rose by 156 to a total of 4,782, surpassing its previous one-day record of 133 new deaths on July 12."

COVID-19 surge continues as Texas reports records of 10,791 new cases, 110 deaths, Fort Worth Star Telegram

As Texas continues to struggle to contain COVID-19, the state reported on Wednesday a record 10,791 new coronavirus cases and a record 110 new deaths. Texas has reported more than 280,000 cases and 3,400 deaths, according to state data. It's estimated that more than 140,000 people have recovered. The state's seven-day positivity rate for testing is at 16.81%. Wednesday was the second day in a row that the state reported a record number of new cases. On Tuesday, it reported 10,745 new cases. Hospitalizations went down to 10,471 after a record 10,569 were reported Tuesday.

Keith's update: Infection rates are exploding in Florida, Texas, and California. Yet KSC, JSC, JPL, ARC, and Armstrong are still at Stage 3 - not stage 4. But other centers (GSFC, WFF, GISS) in states with low - and declining - infections surges are at stage 4 according to NASA. There seems to be an inconsistency in how NASA rates the severity of this crisis based on what is going on outside the gate.

U.S. Air Force cadets study idea of Space Force bases on the Moon, Science

"Featuring weekly speakers and formalized research projects the students hope to turn into peer-reviewed papers, the group aims to game out the policies and philosophies that could guide military space activity when they are old enough to be in charge. In particular, these young cadets are interested in whether the Space Force might someday have a military presence on the Moon, and how it might work with civilians. That activity could put the Space Force in conflict with scientists, who typically view the cosmos as a peaceful place for inquiry. But part of the club's mission is speculating about that interplay--between the military and civilian scientists, civil space agencies, and private companies. Cadet J. P. Byrne, who will graduate in 2021, is the group's current president. He chatted with ScienceInsider about the institute's work."

"Starting the year 2021, the Russian program": Dmitry Rogozin - about when and with whom we will fly to the moon, kp.ru (autotranlsated)

"For the United States this is now more of a political project. With the lunar project, we are witnessing the departure of our American partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that have developed with the ISS . They see their program not as international, but as similar to NATO. There is America, everyone else must help and pay. Honestly, we are not interested in participating in such a project. ... With the United States, with all that happens in our relations in a global sense, space remains an important bridge of interaction. I maintain my friendships with my partners in the USA. And above all, with my counterpart Jim Brandenstein, who heads NASA . I hope that this cooperation will continue and be less affected by the bad political situation, which, unfortunately, comes from Washington today."

NASA chief says Russia ties 'solid' as Moscow's space chief rejects U.S.-led moon program, Reuters

"NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Tuesday he still expected support from Russia's space corporation in its Artemis moon program despite Moscow's space chief slamming the U.S.-led lunar effort. Bridenstine said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday "the relationship between NASA and Roscosmos is solid" and emphasized that international partners will play a key role in NASA's plan to land humans on the lunar surface by 2024 and construct a space station orbiting the moon. "I've got a good relationship with Dmitri Rogozin, so I'm hopeful that there are opportunities for us to continue to collaborate," Bridenstine said, referring to the general director of Russia's state space corporation Roscosmos. But Rogozin called the moon program in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda on Monday a "political project" and likened it to NATO, the Western military alliance Russia has long shunned."

- Russia Says Nyet To Artemis Accords, earlier post
- Earlier posts about Rogozin

Former Spaceflight CEO and French entrepreneur join forces to launch astronaut training startup, Geekwire

"If the 2010s were the decade when small satellites revolutionized the space industry, the 2020s will be when commercial space odysseys finally go mainstream. At least that's the gamble that Jason Andrews, the co-founder and former CEO of Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, is taking with French-born tech entrepreneur Nicolas Gaume. Today Andrews and Gaume are taking the wraps off Orbite, a Seattle startup that will focus on getting would-be spacefliers ready for those future odysseys. "You're going to go to a space camp for the next generation," Gaume said."

Keith's update: (Sigh) Yet another company backed by rich people to train commercial astronauts for their space flights. Of course there is a rich seaside spa angle to this with all the luxury perks. Maybe R2D2 will serve drinks. But there are no actual training facilities yet. And no one is flying commercial space passengers yet - suborbital or orbital. But this space camp resort thing will open in 2023 or something. And since all of these spaceflight tickets are ultra expensive - the equivalent of a house or several college educations - what's another few tens of thousands of dollars to the rich folks?

I have had two rounds of parabolic flights on ZeroG and did the suborbital astronaut scientist centrifuge training program at NASTAR. They are excellent, professional introductions to what can be expected for suborbital flights, and I highly recommend both. As for all of the other adult space camp stuff Orbite (and its competitors) will offer - who knows. The facilities that you need to actually do provide this kind of training are not cheap and they don't just pop into existence. But ... there are lots of former astronauts looking for a new gig - so the instructor recruitment part will be easy. But until the actual demand appears it is questionable as to whether these luxury add-ons to commercial spaceflight will be able to survive. As always, caveat emptor - and Beam Me Up.

Orbite website

California closes indoor restaurants, movie theaters and all bars statewide as coronavirus cases rise, CNBC

"Newsom said the state recorded 8,358 new cases on Sunday. The state's positivity rate, or the percentage of all tests returning positive, has ticked up to 7.4%. "The data suggests not everyone is acting with common sense," Newsom said at a press conference Monday. California hospitals also reported an increase in the number of coronavirus patients, growing 28% over a two-week period, he said. There were 6,485 people hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Sunday."

Florida shatters US record of single-day Covid-19 cases, CNN

The Florida Department of Health reported 15,299 new Covid-19 cases Sunday, the highest number of new cases reported in a single day by any state since the coronavirus pandemic began. The previous record -- also set by Florida -- came on July 4, with 11,434 new cases reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The test positivity rate in Florida is 19.60%, according to JHU statistics.

Houston leaders call for lockdown as county reports more than 27,600 active coronavirus cases, CBS

Houston leaders are calling for another lockdown as the number of active cases of the coronavirus in the county increased to more than 27,600 on Sunday. Houston's Harris County -- the most populous county in Texas -- has been the hardest-hit in the Lone Star State. "Not only do we need a stay home order now, but we need to stick with it this time until the hospitalization curve comes down, not just flattens," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted Sunday. "Many communities that persevered in that way are reopening for the long haul. Let's learn from that & not make the same mistake twice."

Keith's note: NASA has global reach and soft power that it simply doesn't understand or appreciate.

- How NASA Uses DIME/Soft Power To Extend A Global Reach (Update), Earlier post
- NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated, Earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, Earlier post

Keith's note: There are two space science/exploration events happening back to back (with some overlap) today:

"Planetary Protection and Lunar Activities" starts at 2:00 pm EDT Jim Bridenstine will be speaking. Some important news about planetary protection and exploration of the Moon and Mars will be presented. But NASA PAO apparently doesn't care if no one knows about this. Planetary Protection is an important issue for Astrobiology yet NASA's Astrobiology program website and Twitter account ignore this event too. More info.

NASA Updates Planetary Protection Policies for Robotic and Human Missions to Earth's Moon and Future Human Missions to Mars

"NASA has released two NASA Interim Directives (NIDs) updating the agency's requirements for robotic and human missions traveling to the Earth's Moon, and human missions traveling to Mars. The first NID addresses the control of forward terrestrial biological contamination associated with all NASA and NASA-affiliated missions intended to land, orbit, or otherwise encounter the Moon."

Keith's update: NASA did not even bother to add links to the actual interim directives. Jim Bridenstine eventually tweeted the links and I included them in this annotated release. Maybe someday PAO will actually reveal the text of these directives in their release. Further update: PAO eventually added links. It is just baffling that PAO ignored this event to begin with and then they could not even be bothered to find links to the things that were being announced. It is a sad state of affairs when the Administrator of NASA is more responsive to media requests than NASA PAO is.

"NASA Science Mission Directorate Public Town Hall" - NASA's Science Mission Directorate will hold a virtual community town hall with Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen and other members of the Science leadership team at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 9, to discuss updates on the agency's science activities. NASA's Astrobiology folks are also ignoring this event. More info

Keith's note: Bragging about things that a simple Google search can refute isn't the best marketing approach, Lockheed Martin. Here's a list of the past week's desperate bragging attempts by Boeing and Lockheed Martin:

- Denial At Boeing Regarding Poor Performance On SLS, earlier post
- You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly, earlier post
- Lockheed Martin's Flawed Comparison Between Orion and Dragon, earlier post

NASA Provides Update on Commercial Crew Program, Close Call Review of Boeing's Orbital Flight Test

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 7, to discuss the outcome of its High Visibility Close Call review of the December 2019 uncrewed Orbital Flight Test of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft. Participants in the briefing will be: Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program."

Keith's update: NASA had a telecon with HEOMD AA Kathy Lueders and Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. In a nutshell they have completed their report on the problems associated with Boeing's Starliner OFT-1 flight, have 81 recommendations that need to be implemented. No firm date for the re-flight OFT-2 for Starliner were offered other than maybe by the end of this year. In essence the NASA/Boeing processes broke down and an extensive review was made to be certain that "no stone went unturned" - as had been directed by Lueders' predecessor Doug Loverro.

I asked: "You only discovered that you had major problems with Starliner after the vehicle was actually in flight. The NASA/Boeing preflight process clearly failed in this regard. Yet things like this did not happen with SpaceX. Why did the NASA/SpaceX process work so well when it did not work very well with Boeing? Shouldn't the NASA process be the same for both contractors or are they that different from each other that different approaches are required? Given that SpaceX seems to have a better handle on this are NASA/SpaceX lessons learned being applied to the NASA/Boeing process to get them up to speed?"

Some intersting answers resulted. Stich admitted that when one spacecraft provider comes forth with a newer approach (SpaceX) than another (Boeing) people naturally tend to pay more attention to the new approach. "Perhaps we did not take the time we needed to in hindsight. We learned a lesson and we will be applying those lessons equally." Stitch admitted that NASA probably felt somewhat more comfortable with Boeing's more traditional approach and as a result so SpaceX may have had more oversight since they had a newer approach. "This is a wakeup call for NASA and all of its contractors and they all want the lessons learned."

Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2021 Commerce-Justice-Science Funding Bill

Full Bill

"That the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall use the Space Launch System, if available, as the launch vehicles for the Jupiter Europa missions, plan for an orbiter launch no later than 2025 and a lander launch no later than 2027, and include in the fiscal year 2022 budget the 5-year funding profile necessary to achieve these goals."

"Provided, That not less than $1,400,500,000 shall be for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle: Provided further, That not less than $2,600,000,000 shall be for the Space Launch System (SLS) launch vehicle, which shall have a lift capability not less than 130 metric tons and which shall have core elements and an Exploration Upper Stage developed simultaneously to be used to the maximum extent practicable, including for Earth to Moon missions and Moon landings: Provided further, That of the amounts provided for SLS, not less than $400,000,000 shall be for SLS Block 1B development including the Exploration Upper Stage and associated systems including related facilitization: Provided further, That $459,700,000 shall be for Exploration Ground Systems including infrastructure in support of SLS Block 1B missions: Provided further, That the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall provide to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate, concurrent with the annual budget submission, a 5-year budget profile for an inte11 grated system that includes the SLS, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and associated ground systems that will ensure a crewed launch as early as possible, as well as a system-based funding profile for a sustained launch cadence that contemplates the use of an SLS Block 1B cargo variant and associated ground systems: Provided further, That $1,557,400,000 shall be for exploration research and development."

Keith's note: The $22.63 billion requested for NASA in FY 2021 is the same as it was for FY 2020. However the request for FY 2021 was for $25.2 billion - so thats $2.5 billion that is missing. Also, $1.57 billion is set aside for exploration research and development - but $4.72 billion was requested. How NASA is supposed to do the accelerated Artemis program such that they land humans on the Moon by 2024 is hard to fathom. Maybe the Senate will be more generous. As for the Europa missions on SLS - planing orbital mechanics to meet political direction using a Congressionally-designed rocket that has not yet flown is always a bad idea. But Congress still does it anyway. Meanwhile Jim Bridenstine is putting on a brave face. But this is an election year - one marked by racial, societal, and political strife amidst a pandemic that is increasingly out of control. So who knows.

Rethinking How And Who NASA Honors, earlier post

"At a time when everyone seems to be taking a hard look at commemorating past events with a light shone on racism and the denial of human rights, one would think that someone at NASA would reconsider having the heroic bust of a Nazi SS member who used slave labor to build his rockets as the way to greet people who arrive for work every day at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center. NASA openly admits that von Braun used slave labor. Yes he was the first center director at Marshall and led a large part of the Apollo effort that landed humans on the Moon. No one is suggesting that this be erased from the history books. But should NASA continue to honor him like this?"

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/dora.jpg Keith's note: FYI a reader reminded me of this exhibit at the U.S. National Holocaust Museum (larger view). It is captioned "In summer 1944, noted German film and still photographer Walter Frentz was assigned to document the construction and launching of the V-1 and V-2 rockets. He took these rare color photographs of prisoners in the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp assembling these weapons. Ullstein Bild, Berlin."

And then there's this photo of the Nordhausen factory showing V-2 rockets being assembled by Dora Concentration Camp slave laborers.

This bust has been in a place of honor at Marshall since 1994. A quarter of a century later one would think that this prominent NASA tribute to someone who used massive amounts of slave labor - with inhumane, lethal consequences - should at least be put in a box somewhere.

It's time.

Boeing Defense And Space's Leanne Caret: 'We're Owning Our Mistakes', Aviation Week

"Boeing is a bit late on delivering the Space Launch System (SLS), and it was left out of NASA's competition to build a lunar lander. What are you doing to turn those programs around? On Space Launch Systems, I am really proud of the team for the amazing capabilities they developed with the world's largest rocket. She's sitting on the stand at Stennis Space Center. After watching how this team has battled through the COVID crisis, I'm looking forward to having a hot-fire [test] later this year. Early on, we struggled on SLS from an execution phase. There were also different challenges from a funding perspective and other things. Over the course of the last 1.5-2 years, the team has been hitting its milestones and commitments."

Exploration is a team sport, Kathy Lueders, NASA

"Orion is complete and SLS is on track for its last major test later this year before flight. These systems will be integrated early next year and launched together for the first time on an uncrewed flight test around the Moon in 2021 followed by a test flight with crew around the Moon in 2023."

NASA Human Space Exploration - Delay Likely for First Exploration Mission, GAO April 2017

"With less than 2 years until the planned November 2018 launch date for its first exploration mission (EM-1), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) three human exploration programs--Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion), Space Launch System (SLS), and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS)-- are making progress on their respective systems, but the EM-1 launch date is likely unachievable as technical challenges continue to cause schedule delays."

NASA's Management of Space Launch System Program Costs and Contracts, 20 March 2020, NASA OIG

"Each of the major element contracts for building the SLS for Artemis I--Stages, ICPS, Boosters, and RS-25 Engines--have experienced technical challenges, performance issues, and requirement changes that collectively have resulted in $2 billion of cost overruns and increases and at least 2 years of schedule delays. We reported in October 2018 that Core Stage production is the primary factor contributing to overall SLS launch delays due to its position on the critical path and corresponding management, technical, and infrastructure issues driven mostly by Boeing's poor performance. Boeing's software development for the ICPS is also an ongoing concern as final modification of the software cannot be made until NASA finalizes the Artemis I mission requirements. ..."

"... In our October 2018 audit, we reported that Boeing's poor performance developing and building the first SLS Core Stage led to unsustainable cost increases and schedule delays for the SLS Program. We found Boeing officials in prior years had consistently underestimated the scope of work to be performed and the size and skills of the workforce required. In addition, Boeing did not fully understand the requirements necessary to complete development of the stage controller--that is, the command and control hardware and software needed to conduct an important test known as the Green Run--resulting in approximately an 18-month delay of the stage controller system. Further, and in parallel to the stage controller delays, contaminated rocket fuel tubing in the engine section, a misaligned welding machine, inadequate weld strengths, and a tornado at Michoud Assembly Facility (Michoud) resulted in significant delays to the delivery of the Core Stage flight hardware from Michoud to Stennis Space Center (Stennis). We found these and other issues would result in the first two Core Stages and an EUS costing at least $4 billion more than originally planned and falling behind schedule by 2.5 years."

GAO Report: NASA: Assessments of Major Projects, GAO

"In addition, Boeing officials indicated the [SLS] core stage is the largest liquid hydrogen fueled rocket stage ever built and the green run test will be the first time the stage is filled with liquid hydrogen. Contractor officials indicated that one of the top remaining technical risks to the green run test is that the core stage may develop leaks when it is filled. ... According to program officials, Boeing underestimated both the complexity of [SLS] core stage engine section assembly and the time and manpower that would be needed to complete the core stage effort. As a result, the estimated stages development cost has increased by about $1.4 billion and the stages contract effort now exceeds the contract's negotiated cost ceiling."

GAO: Human Space Exploration: Persistent Delays and Cost Growth Reinforce Concerns over Management of Programs, June 2019

"Any issues uncovered during planned integration and testing may push the launch date as late as June 2021."

Hopeful for launch next year, NASA aims to resume SLS operations within weeks, SpaceflightNow, May 2020

"The last official schedule from NASA had the first SLS test launch in March 2021, but managers have said for months that schedule was no longer achievable. After a thorough review, NASA says the first SLS launch -- named Artemis 1 -- is now planned in November of next year [2021]"

Keith's note: This program had already gone off the rails before COVID-19 became a problem - certainly more than 1.5 to 2 years ago. As for "lack of funding" - oh please. Congress often gave SLS/Orion more money than it asked for and cut commercial crew/cargo - and yet commercial crew/cargo are now working - and SLS ... not so much. Here are last week's examples of Big Aerospace denial with regard to SLS/Orion. They are clearly worried that the program is in trouble.

- You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly, earlier post
- Lockheed Martin's Flawed Comparison Between Orion and Dragon, earlier post

The right tool to go to the moon, op ed, Tony Antonelli (Lockheed Martin), Politico

"Contrary to the iconic scene from "Apollo 13," we don't aspire to dumping a box of parts on a table and trying to make it work. Let's take the Dragon. You could add more backup computers, strings of communications, the ability to fly for days after loss of air pressure, and the ability to navigate in deep space without GPS and return to the Earth without the help of Mission Control. But it would no longer be a Dragon. It would be some new, untested vehicle that is bigger, heavier, less understood, and less capable than Orion, which the best engineers and scientists from around the world have designed for the sole purpose of opening the Moon and Mars to humanity. Specific technologies are needed to go to deep space. NASA knew this when it designed Apollo more than 50 years ago; there's a reason it didn't send astronauts to the Moon in Gemini or Mercury spacecraft."

Keith's note: This is silly. A Lockheed Martin vehicle named "Orion" has flown once. Once. And when it flew it was a stripped down test vehicle with a fraction of the capabilities that the final version will have. An Orion has not flown since 2014. By the time it flies for a second time in 2021 (maybe) there will have been a gap 7 or more years. Humans will first fly on it in 2023 (maybe) - 9 years after the first flight. The SpaceX Crew Dragon has flown twice - once with a crew - and it will fly again (with a crew) in a few months and then 4 (or more) times before Orion carries its first crew. SpaceX will have vastly more operational experience with crewed Dragon vehicles before Lockheed Martin flies its second (uncrewed) Orion.

The Crew Dragon is based directly the fight-proven hardware developed for Cargo Dragon which has flown more than 20 times (reused on many of the flights) and will fly half a dozen more times before Orion carries a human crew. By the time Orion starts to fly SpaceX will already have an extensive body of cargo/crew flight experience upon which to draw for possible upgrades. Lockheed Martin will have virtually none. Unlike Orion, which is built along the standard old aerospace model wherein each vehicle is unique thus making upgrades more complex. Indeed it has already evolved from a cargo-only vehicle to a crewed vehicle (quite an increase in complexity). Indeed, SpaceX adopted classic consumer product thinking when it designed Dragon such that its spacecraft are designed - indeed expected - to be upgraded based on flight experience.

Stating that a theoretical Crew Dragon variant designed for lunar missions would be "bigger, heavier, less understood, and less capable than Orion" is something a big aerospace company PR shop wants you to say - hoping that readers (legislators) who do not know better will fall for it. If anything, when compared to the SpaceX Dragon family and its possible derivatives, Orion is "bigger, heavier, less understood, and less capable" than Dragon. Dragon is also much, much cheaper to fly than Orion and it always will be. And with regard to the difficulties of making new Dragon vehicles NASA has picked SpaceX's Dragon XL variant to service and supply the Gateway. NASA and SpaceX are already doing what Lockheed Martin's op ed is afraid of.

There seems to be some desperation amongst the SLS/Orion team these days. It is chronically over budget and years behind schedule and no one knows when it will actually fly. Indeed the SLS/Orion system is so problematic that the Artemis architecture it was supposed to be anchoring has been constantly changed to make up for its performance problems (Gateway, transfer stages) and delays (adding commercial launches and components). Just a few days ago the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration posted an op ed in The Hill which made some similarly misleading claims (see "You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly"). As one NASAWatch reader aptly put it "SLS is a national liability, not a national asset." You can expect more op eds like these from big aerospace as the election nears, the pandemic rages, the economy dives, and SLS slips further to the right while its imaginary budget evaporates.

Oh yes - although it is not part of the SLS/Orion project the other capsule being made by big aerospace, Boeing's Starliner, did not exactly wow its customer on its first flight.

Keith's 1 July note: Ads appear on your browser based on your entire browsing history and other online habits such as Amazon, eBay, etc. Google Adsense often targets ads based on words they see on websites or websites are selected by advertisers to be deluged with advertisements. The post about Jeff DeWit and the Trump campaign caused these Trump ads to start to appear. If I type "Joe Biden" (as I now have) that will likely cause Biden ads to appear (and then we will block them). We block as many of these political ads as we can (over a hundred thus far). But the advertisers are insidious and unrelenting. You can also block these ads yourself by clicking the "Ad Choices" box on the upper right. Alas, advertising helps keep NASAWatch online. By supporting our donation effort we can delete them all together.

Notice to the Trump campaign - if you are going to use advertisements to try and annoy our readers and/or skew the appearance or direction of our coverage rest assured it will have the exact opposite effect..

Keith's 2 July update: Well the Trump campaign just put another ad on our site. We'll nuke it as we have all the others. Hopefully the latest block will prevent more of these from showing up again. But the Trump campaign advertises like the Borg i.e. they rotate their shield frequencies in terms of ad codes - so who knows. There is a certain desperation that goes with incessant placement of annoying and unwanted political ads on websites that simply do not want them. Maybe Trump's son's brother-in-law Kyle Yunaska who is now Deputy NASA Chief of Staff can pass on our request to the campaign.

Coronavirus: Texas governor mandates wearing of face masks, CNN

"Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order that all Texans don face coverings in public in counties with 20 or more Covid-19 cases. Texas has seen a surge of hospital admissions in recent days, hitting a record high of more than 8,000 virus cases in a single day on Wednesday. "Wearing a face covering will help us to keep Texas open for business," Mr Abbott said, announcing the order. After an initial warning, those who refuse will face a fine up to $250."

Coronavirus: Florida reports 10,109 new cases of COVID-19, WPLG

"Florida reported 10,109 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, breaking the state's one-day record yet again as leaders work to prevent further spread over the July 4 holiday weekend. The previous record for a single day was 9,585 cases reported Saturday. Just two weeks ago, the state's single-day record was 3,207 cases."

Coronavirus updates: California shuts down many indoor businesses ahead of July 4, Sacramento Bee

"Faced with infection and hospitalization figures worsening by the day for more than two weeks, California is beginning its first major reversal of economic reopening from the raging coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered 19 counties with troubling COVID-19 trends to immediately close a wide slate of nonessential indoor businesses for at least three weeks. The group of counties, which includes Sacramento and Los Angeles, combine for about 70 percent of the state's population."

Alabama students throwing 'COVID parties' to see who gets infected: Officials, ABC

"Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday."

Kushner shakes up Trump campaign team, Politico

"Kushner on Tuesday replaced chief operating officer Michael Glassner with [Former NASA CFO] Jeff DeWit, who held the same position in Trump's 2016 campaign. ... DeWit, a former Arizona state treasurer, is a Trump loyalist who played a key role in the president's 2016 win. Trump later nominated him to serve as chief operating officer at NASA, a position DeWit stepped down from earlier this year. DeWit had been in talks with Kushner for several weeks. In his new position, he will oversee everything from budgeting to the planning of events and rallies."

- There's A New "Make Space Great Again" Campaign Video From Team Trump, earlier post

"It is hosted by Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle who works on the Trump campaign. Her guests are former NASA Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit and former astronaut and NASA GRC Center Director Janet Kavandi who is now a Senior Vice President at Sierra Nevada Corp."

- Eric Trump's Brother-In-Law Is The New Deputy NASA Chief Of Staff. Seriously., earlier post


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