Recently in Commercialization Category

Commercial Space Launch Insurance: Weakness in FAA's Insurance Calculation May Expose the Federal Government to Excess Risk, GAO

"Because FAA has not yet addressed the identified weakness in the cost-of- casualty amount used in its calculation, the federal government may be exposed to excess risk. FAA has identified potential steps to update the information the cost-of-casualty amount is based on, including seeking public input on whether and how to revise the amount, but the agency does not have a complete plan for updating the cost-of-casualty amount. Federal internal control standards require that agency management respond to risks related to achieving the entity's objectives, define how to achieve objectives, and set time frames for achieving them. FAA has not responded to the risk identified in using outdated data as the basis of the cost-of-casualty amount because FAA has prioritized other work, such as reviewing launch license applications, ahead of this issue."

Northeastern puts NASA's Valkyrie space robots through its paces, TechCrunch (video)

Keith's update: At one point in this video Valkyrie stumbles and requires the cables to catch her - unlike the Boston Dynamics robots that can do just about anything and retain perfect balance and run around, jump, etc. But yes, I said "her". Despite NASA JSC PAO's reversal and subsequent stern denial about this NOT being a female-inspired robot, the robot at Northeastern is referred to by the student in this film as "she" and "her" dozens of times. See "NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses)" Question 7.

This Valkyrie R5 humanoid robot is put to the test with Mars colonization on the horizon, Fox

"NASA reportedly produced three other R5 models. One was held in-house, and NASA "awarded two as research loans to Northeastern University and nearby MIT, while a fourth was acquired by Scotland's University of Edinburgh. According to NASA, in the finalist round, "each team's R5 will be challenged with resolving the aftermath of a dust storm that has damaged a Martian habitat. This involves three objectives: aligning a communications dish, repairing a solar array, and fixing a habitat leak."

Keith's note: Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of these two college teams to fix NASA's broken Valkyrie R5 robot it cannot walk by itself and needs to be held up by straps. And one R5 will be competing against another R5 - not against other robots. The last time NASA's R5 competed with other agency's droids NASA came in last place. Meanwhile, check out the dancing, hopping, running droids - without tethers - at Boston Dynamics. These commercial products are much more sophisticated - and NASA could buy them - but then what would Ellen Ochoa's JS robotics hobby shop do?

- The Robot NASA Should Buy To Replace Broken Valkyrie, earlier post
- Hey NASA: This Is The Droid You Were Looking For, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- Previous R5 postings

House Science Committee Hearing: The ISS after 2024: Options and Impacts

"Witnesses:
Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA
Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Director, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration"

Keith's 16 March note: Notice that there are only two witnesses. The first witness is NASA's AA for government human space activities. The second witness is the mouthpiece for large aerospace companies who build the big things that the first witness wants to build. No representation whatsoever has been offered to the commercial sector (SpaceX, Blue Origin etc.) that is supposed to be a partner with NASA in the utilization of space.

Maybe Congress is afraid to hear what the private sector is going to do without NASA's help.

Keith's 20 March update: The witness list has been revised to include:

"Mr. Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
Dr. Robert Ferl, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research, University of Florida"

US astronaut's spaceflight to be financed by Russian corporation as debt repayment, TASS

"U.S. astronaut Joseph M. Acaba will fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) as a third crew member of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship. His flight will be financed by Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as debt repayment to US' Boeing under the joint project Sea Launch, a source in the Russian space industry told TASS on Monday. ... According to earlier reports, under an amicable agreement reached by Energia and Boeing as part of debt repayment under the Sea Launch project, the Russian corporation will give the American side five seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft, in particular one seat in 2017, one seat in 2018, and an option on three seats in 2019. Energia's debt to Boeing was 330 million US dollars, as was ruled by a California court in 2015. In the summer of 2015, the sides reached an amicable agreement where Energia undertook to repay its debt by means of works and new projects."

NASA Uses Bait and Switch Tactics To Buy Soyuz Seats, earlier post

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

Chairman Smith

"Unfortunately, the Obama administration issued a report last year that called for expansive regulations over all types of private space activities. The Obama administration also requested authority to conduct space traffic management. While the request was a non-starter, it does present an opportunity for Congress to streamline processes and enhance the strength of private sector space activities. For instance, stakeholders continue to raise concerns that they need certainty to attract investments and that they face pressing short-term launch dates and regulatory risks."

Ranking Member Johnson

"The legislative proposal put forth by the previous Administration included direction such that "the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, is authorized to examine the planned and actual operational trajectories of space objects and to advise operators as appropriate to facilitate prevention of collisions." While this proposal is one of a number of potential approaches, it or another measure will be needed to ensure that space remains a productive environment for scientific investigation, commerce, and governmental activities."

Prepared statements

- Chairman Babin
- Ranking Member Bera
- Ms. Laura Montgomery
- Dr. Eli Dourado
- Mr. Douglas L. Loverro
- Mr. Dennis J. Burnett
- Dr. Henry B. Hogue
- More information and archived video

Keith's note: Like everyone else at Satellite 2017 today I was taking pictures with my cellphone. As I left the exhibit hall I wanted to get a nice panoramic image to show the huge audience and large number of exhibitors so that my readers could see how big an event this is. I was at the top of the escalators several hundred feet away from the nearest booth. Just as I started a female security guard loudly ordered me to stop and not to take any pictures. I asked why and she said "no pictures are allowed at this meeting". A moment later a male security guard came over, looked down at my badge and also said rather rudely "no pictures are allowed at this meeting". I replied "Really? Anywhere? Everyone here is taking pictures all over the place". His response "well they are not supposed to".

I went to the conference press office but they seemed to be unaware/uninterested in this new rule or what impact it would have on media coverage. No mention is made in the program of any such rule nor was I ever told not to take pictures. Several exhibitors actually encouraged me to take photos. This strikes me as an especially odd way to get one's message out. The fact that several companies were streaming live video via Periscope and the thousands of people taking selfies seems to escaped the notice of the photo cops at Satellite 2017. There is a lot of really cool stuff at this meeting. I had hoped to go back after lunch and talk at length to several companies and feature their cool stuff. But the rules, as barked at me by conference security, made that pointless since I would not be allowed to take any pictures of the hardware I wanted to feature. So I left.

Blue Origin Announces First Customer for New Glenn Launcher, SpaceRef

"Jeff Bezos has a customer for his New Glenn launch vehicle, Eutelsat, which he announced at Satellite 2017 this morning in Washington, DC. While still years away from operations, Blue Origin has been making steady progress in a step-by-step fashion. It is this stead process 'in the right sequence' that Jeff Bezos views as being most important to his company's success."

Marc's note: At Satellite 2017 this morning Jeff Bezos unveiled a new video introducing the New Glenn rocket which follows in SpaceX's footsteps in returning the first stage for future reuse. Keith is at Satellite 2017 and you can follow his tweets @NASAWatch.

The US intelligence nominee can't believe India just launched 104 satellites, Ars Technica

"During his confirmation hearing this week, the Trump administration's nominee for this cabinet-level [Director of National Intelligence] position, former Senator Dan Coats, assured the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he would remain vigilant in keeping the nation's reconnaissance satellites ahead of the global curve. The United States would also speed up the process by which it gets new technologies into space, he said. However, when citing an example to make this point, Coats pointed toward the launch of the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle earlier this month and its deployment of 104 satellites. "I was shocked the other day to read that the nation of India, on one rocket launch, deposited more than a hundred satellites in space," he said, according to Space News. "They may be small in size with different functions and so forth, but one rocket can send up [more than 100] platforms ... We've seen now 11 nations that have the capacity to launch instruments into space."

Keith's note: As reader MarcNBarrett notes: "I wonder, is he also aware that India has an orbiter around Mars?" -- or that they send a spacecraft to orbit the Moon ...

Don't expect a space race. SpaceX and NASA need each other, LA Times

"The whole idea is that NASA is at the point of a spear," said Howard McCurdy, professor in the school of public affairs at American University. "It's like exploration of any terrestrial realm. This is the way the model is supposed to work." Indeed, the rapid ascent of Musk and other space industry pioneers is validation of the public-private partnership envisioned when Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984. By the mid-2000s, NASA was signing contracts with the private sector to fill in for its own funding constraints and the impending retirement of the space shuttle program."

Does SpaceX's moon plan threaten NASA?, Florida Today

"I don't think NASA has anything to be worried about if somebody else can do it 50 years later," said Alan Stern, a former head of NASA science missions. "NASA has much bigger plans and ambitions to explore other worlds with humans than just a figure 8 mission around the moon."

Keith's note: For a commercial entity to mount their own mission around the Moon using their own hardware and finances is quite an unheard of accomplishment. But now that the Commercial Spaceflight Federation under CSF Chairman Alan Stern's leadership has caved in and supported the SLS (which will compete with the commercial heavy lift launch sector) it is obvious that more commentary dismissing commercial space achievements is to be forthcoming from CSF. Contrary to Stern's comments NASA should be worried about this SpaceX mission.

NASA currently does not have - nor has it had - the ability to send humans around the Moon for nearly half a century. Even if SpaceX's Moon mission slips a few years it is still likely that they will beat NASA back to the Moon - for a fraction of what it will cost NASA to do so - even if you add every single cent NASA has ever given SpaceX for everything it has ever done. Moreover SpaceX has an assembly line that can churn out and launch these Moon rockets at a rate and cost that NASA will never be able to match. Oh yes. ULA and Blue Origin are not exactly sitting on their hands either.

Oddly, CSF sends its chairman out to diminish this capability rather than to openly praise it.

- What's With All The Commercial Space News?, earlier post
- Alternative Facts And Snake Oil From The SLS Mafia, earlier post
- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Sells Out and Endorses SLS (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: A lot of people in the private space sector are annoyed (some are angry) with the Trump folks since they directed NASA to look into the government side (crew on SLS EM-1 flight) of a proposed government/commercial return to the Moon. Then the "Commercial" Spaceflight Federation sold its soul and jumped on board to support SLS. There was a handshake sort of deal in place between the Alabama mafia and the commercial space folks. Apparently that deal fell through.

Suddenly Elon Musk announces his trip to the Moon. Then Virgin Galactic reveals a major restructuring and expansion of its launch plans. Then Robert Bigelow starts talking about his lunar plans. And then someone at Jeff Bezo's Blue Origin leaks something to Jeff Bezos' Washington Post about Jeff Bezos' new Amazon-delivery-to-the-Moon service. Was all of this done (in part) out of annoyance with Trump's people (probably just a little) - or is this finally the break-out in commercial space that so many people have been hoping for?

Regardless of the motivation(s) or timing, a lot of very interesting and important things just happened in commercial space. Too bad their trade group, CSF, has sold out to the Dark Side.

"Handle is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4​feet vertically. It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. ​Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles​found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds."

Virgin Galactic Announces New Commercial Space Company Virgin Orbit

"Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic are pleased to announce Virgin Orbit, a new commercial space company, and the appointment of Dan Hart as the first President of the newly created company. Virgin Orbit will offer flexible, routine and low cost launch services for small satellites via the LauncherOne system. Virgin Orbit's activities were previously conducted as a division of Virgin Galactic."

If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you're probably right, Ars Technica

"A more blunt assessment was offered by Mary Lynne Dittmar, who is familiar with the thinking of NASA's human spaceflight program managers. "I find it extraordinary that these sorts of announcements are being made when SpaceX has yet to get crew from the ground to low-Earth orbit," she told The New York Times. Dittmar serves as executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the organization formed by the principal contractors behind NASA's SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. These are the old-guard aerospace firms, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, whose government contracts are threatened by SpaceX. Orion, in particular, appears to be particularly vulnerable if SpaceX can show that Dragon is capable of performing the same kind of deep space missions and high velocity returns from the Moon. With his latest proposal, Elon Musk is playing a dangerous, but potentially winning, game with his lower-cost alternatives to NASA's existing programs. He recognizes that NASA has nurtured his company, and on Monday night, he remained publicly appreciative of the space agency. However by talking about Mars and now the Moon, he not only indicates that his company isn't entirely focused on its most important contract - commercial crew- but also is making a play for NASA's future deep space exploration plans."

Keith's note: FYI The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration is not an "organization". It is not incorporated anywhere. Dittmar is paid with funds that come directly from these aerospace companies. It is hypocritical in the extreme for her to criticize SpaceX for having not done things when in fact SLS has never flown and a stripped-down Orion test article flew just once on a rocket that it will never fly on again.

Meanwhile, Dragons launched on Falcon 9 rockets have made multiple visits to ISS and Falcon Heavy, composed of three of those Falcon 9's, has a significant flight record and is slated to launch this year - years ahead of SLS. SLS will fly only once every several years until the middle of the next decade - and only once or twice a year after that. Meanwhile Falcon 9s will soon be flying monthly. NASA studies looking at moving a crew onto EM-1 will soon show just how expensive and inflexible SLS/Orion actually is while the Falcon/Dragon product line continues to expand its capability without the ever-increasing costs that plague SLS/Orion.

No one is going to get (back) to the Moon fueled with alternative facts and snake oil.

SpaceX To Send Privately Crewed Dragon Spacecraft Beyond The Moon Next Year, SpaceX

"We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results."

NASA Statement About SpaceX Private Moon Venture Announcement, NASA

"We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station. "For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity's future in space. "NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration."

Keith's note: It is rather strange that NASA would issue a press release about this private commercial venture since this mission does not involve NASA in any way - other than using the launch pad that they rent from NASA and a self-purchased version of the spacecraft they let NASA use. This strikes me as a "well, we need to say something - don't we?" sort of press release from NASA. I guess NASA wants to remind people that they still have big rockets - even if their version of a lunar mission with 2 people will cost many times what SpaceX will charge, will take years longer to accomplish (if the White House says so), and will likely not be repeated i.e. a one-off stunt. Oh yes: notice the the #JourneyToMars thing is no longer automatically put into every NASA press release.

#BackToTheMoon anyone?

Fact Checking ULA's Tweets

SpaceX launched the CRS-10 mission on time this morning at 9:39 am ET from historic LC39A. The Dragon is in orbit and heading toward the ISS while the Falcon 9's first stage made yet another pinpoint anding back at its landing site in Florida.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/C5CSwj6WAAExvO2.jpg
http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/C5CTSsKVcAA31zl.jpg

This morning's attempted launch of Falcon 9 was halted moments before launch. According to a statement from SpaceX "Standing down to take a closer look at an engine actuator on the second stage. 9:38am ET tomorrow is our next earliest launch opportunity."

Shotwell to GAO: "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019", SpacePolicyOnline

"SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell reacted to GAO's report yesterday that commercial crew flights may slip from 2018 to 2019 by expressing utmost confidence in her company's schedule. At a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press conference today in advance of SpaceX's commercial cargo launch tomorrow, she said the company's response to GAO is "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019."

NASA Commercial Crew Program: Schedule Pressure Increases as Contractors Delay Key Events

"Both of the Commercial Crew Program's contractors have made progress developing their crew transportation systems, but both also have aggressive development schedules that are increasingly under pressure. The two contractors - Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies, Corp. (SpaceX) - are developing transportation systems that must meet the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) standards for human spaceflight - a process called certification. Both Boeing and SpaceX have determined that they will not be able to meet their original 2017 certification dates and both expect certification to be delayed until 2018. The schedule pressures are amplified by NASA's need to provide a viable crew transportation option to the International Space Station (ISS) before its current contract with Russia's space agency runs out in 2019. If NASA needs to purchase additional seats from Russia, the contracting process typically takes 3 years. Without a viable contingency option for ensuring uninterrupted access to the ISS in the event of further Commercial Crew delays, NASA risks not being able to maximize the return on its multibillion dollar investment in the space station."

Leading Commercial Space Group Embraces NASA's Biggest Rocket, Wall Street Journal

"Before his speech outlining the revised stance on the Space Launch System, Mr. Stern said his primary goal is "taking this off the table" as a divisive issue while White House aides formulate new NASA priorities. Looking ahead, he said, "there is plenty of market share to go around" to support a wide range of commercial and government launch systems."

Here's why a commercial space group endorsed NASA's SLS rocket, Ars Technica

"Theoretically, then, the United States could have three heavy lift rockets at its disposal in 2020. If the reusable Falcon Heavy costs $200 million per flight, and the reusable New Glenn costs $200 million, while an expendable SLS rocket costs $1.5 billion, the agency - and by extension Congress and the White House - will have an easy choice to make. One could argue at that time that NASA should never have spent in excess of $10 billion developing the SLS. But the bottom line is that, six years ago, Congress did not believe in the capacity of SpaceX to build a heavy lift rocket, and Blue Origin's intentions were not known at that time. So Congress bet on NASA and its traditional contractor Boeing, and the agency kept its large base of employees intact."

NASA's future deep space rocket gets critical endorsement from commercial space group, The Verge

"Alan Stern, the chairman of the board of directors for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), publicly announced the organization's support for the rocket at a conference in DC. ... However, Stern says that the extra capability of SLS will enable missions and partnerships with the private sector that cannot be achieved on commercial heavy-lift vehicles that are currently in development. Because of this, he wanted to get this perception "off the table" that the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is strongly against the vehicle when the organization is actually in favor of it. Stern sees the potential of the SLS being used to put something like a commercial lunar outpost on the surface of the Moon (that is if NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon again)."

Keith's note: Nonsense. This is not what I am hearing from CSF member companies. A number of them are not confortable with this decision and feel that they were pushed into it. SLS is a government-funded, congressionally-mandated rocket with no chance of ever recouping the billions spent to develop it. It can never compete in a true commercial sense unless the government decides to fix prices to make it fit. Saying that the private sector is not interested in developing heavy lift launch systems is utterly inaccurate and flies in the face of plans announced by CSF members SpaceX and Blue Origin. Stern may think he has "taken the issue off of the table" but it will jump back onto on the table in Congress as soon as the hearings start.

Trump advisers' space plan: To moon, Mars and beyond, Politco

"Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another commercial space evangelist with close ties to Trump, is also pushing the White House to embark on a major effort to privatize U.S. space efforts. "A good part of the Trump administration would like a lot more aggressive, risk-taking, competitive entrepreneurial approach to space," Gingrich said in an interview. "A smaller but still powerful faction represents Boeing and the expensive old contractors who have soaked up money with minimum results.

"It is a big fight," said former Republican Rep. Robert Walker of Pennsylvania, who drafted the Trump campaign's space policy and remains involved in the deliberations. "There are billions of dollars at stake. It has come to a head now when it has become clear to the space community that the real innovative work is being done outside of NASA."

- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Sells Out and Endorses SLS (Update), earlier post
- Trump Transition Team Wants Old Space Vs New Space Smackdown, earlier post
- Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public-Private-Partnerships, Charles Miller et al, Research Gate

More Money, More Problems for the Commercial Space Launch Biz, Wired

"But the two companies have used different strategies to keep clients. ULA, a collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has a flawless launch record. They've never lost a rocket, but safety comes at a cost. According to ULA's RocketBuilder tool, strapping your satellite to one of its Delta V [note: should say Atlas V] rockets will cost you a minimum of $109 million. SpaceX advertises the same service starting at $60 million, and that'll come way down once Elon Musk starts selling launches on used first stage boosters. "SpaceX is like a jackrabbit, and ULA is a buffalo that realizes it needs to be a jackrabbit," says Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee who runs the blog NASA Watch. SpaceX cuts costs by building all its own stuff, innovating quickly, and being able to shuttle payloads right out of the gate."

As tweeted by @NASAWatch from the FAA Commercial Space Transportation conference in Washington, DC today:

- Bridenstine: talking about Gene Cernan and his dream of sending Americans back to the Moon
- Bridenstine is presenting a laundry list of things China is doing/planning in space that America no longer does.
- Bridenstine: when we started paying Russia for Soyuz seats cost was $21m. Now it is $80m. "We are being gouged"
- Bridenstine: need to strike balance between what govt operates and what it procures
- Bridenstine: space situational awareness should be done by civilian entity no DOD
- Bridenstine wants to see govt models for for procurement augmented by commercial solutions
- Bridenstine: govt needs to plan for commercial systems in architectures
- Bridenstine: value of commercial solutions in space because prices lower due to competition
- Bridenstine: talks about commercial paths to cis-lunar space and surface of the Moon
- Bridenstine: need to update regulatory environment for space industry. FAA AST must be adequately funded.
- Bridenstine: FAA office commercial space has battles within FAA. Reorganization needed. Looking for Trump to elevate office
- Bridnestine: space is both an advantage and an Achilles heel

Pima County supervisors vote to appeal World View ruling,

"The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday morning to appeal a judge's ruling that said the county broke the law in its $15 million deal with the space balloon company World View. Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy voted against appealing the decision."

Keith's note: According to a statement provided to NASAWatch by World View: "Those of us at World View remain focused on growing our company. We're excited about our accomplishments and the growing market interest in our technology. World View is a world leader in stratospheric exploration and focused on opening a new stratospheric economy above Earth. Our broad-based business model encompasses both commercial and government markets. Our un-crewed Stratollite vehicle is now widely referred to as a revolutionary platform for high-altitude flight, scientific progress, and commercial access to space, and our space tourism platform will open a new market in the stratosphere and change human perspective for the better along the way. Regarding the ongoing litigation between the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the Goldwater Institute, it's important to note that World View is not a listed party in the lawsuit. Our commitment is to continue to work closely with Pima County, the City of Tucson and the State of Arizona to fully realize the vision of a thriving spaceport and aerospace corridor in Southern Arizona."

Potential Set Back For World View?, earlier post

NanoRacks and Boeing Building First Commercial Airlock on ISS, NanoRacks

"NanoRacks, LLC will partner with Boeing on the building and installation of the first commercial airlock module, which will attach to the U.S. segment on the International Space Station (ISS). In May 2016, NanoRacks and NASA signed a Space Act Agreement in order to install a private airlock module onboard the International Space Station - the first in station history. The NanoRacks Airlock Module will be both a permanent commercial uncrewed module onboard International Space Station, and also a module capable of being removed from the space station and used on a future commercial platform."

Judge voids Arizona county's development deal for World View's strato-balloon base, Geekwire

"A judge in Arizona has struck down Pima County's $15 million development deal with World View Enterprises for a stratospheric balloon launch facility near Tucson. Thursday's ruling by Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods dealt a setback to World View's plans to send tourists and payloads to heights above 100,000 feet."

Judge Voids World View Contract With Pima County, Goldwater Institute

"According to Judge Catherine Woods, the County was required to have the building appraised, hold a public auction, and set the lease rate no lower than 90% of the appraised value. The County ignored those requirements; therefore, the lease with World View will be cancelled. The Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit against the County on behalf of Pima County taxpayers."

Ron Garan's Next Adventure Will Be At The Edge of Space, SpaceRef

"To be certain, the view will be spectacular for everyone aboard. But there is much more to the potential of the World View balloon than just flying human passengers to look out the window. While the specifics are still being worked out, a range of payload opportunities are under consideration."

Keith's note: World View provided the following statement to NASAWatch: "The recent court ruling does not affect World View's current business operations. We remain focused on building our company and are excited about our recent R&D accomplishments and the increased market interest in our uncrewed Stratollite fight platform. While World View was not a listed party in the lawsuit between the Goldwater Institute and Pima County Board of Supervisors, we are committed to working closely with Pima County, the City of Tucson and the State of Arizona to fully realize the vision of a thriving spaceport and aerospace corridor in Southern Arizona."

United Launch Alliance is cutting jobs again, Denver Business Journal

"United Launch Alliance is again cutting jobs as it seeks to become more price-competitive with Elon Musk's SpaceX and other rocket companies. The Centennial-based rocketmaker, the largest space launch contractor to the federal government, is seeking voluntary departures to trim an unspecified number of positions. ULA said it isn't specifying the number because it considers that competitively sensitive information. The company shed 350 jobs last year through a combination of voluntary buyouts and layoffs and said last summer more cuts would be coming this year."

What Elon Musk stands to gain and lose with Trump, USA Today

"Musk has been blunt about wanting to send humans to Mars, joking that he'd even like to die there, "just not on impact." But getting there is going to require a lot of capital. SpaceX is still a small player when it comes to securing lucrative government contracts from NASA and the Department of Defense, the majority of which still get handed to longtime commercial partners such as ULA, says former NASA administrator Lori Garver."

Congressional Investigators Warn of SpaceX Rocket Defects, Wall Street Journal

"The Government Accountability Office's preliminary findings reveal a pattern of problems with turbine blades that pump fuel into rocket engines, these officials said. The final GAO report, scheduled to be released in coming weeks, is slated to be the first public identification of one of the most serious defects affecting Falcon 9 rockets. The crack-prone parts are considered a potentially major threat to rocket safety, the industry officials said, and may require redesign of what are commonly called the Falcon 9's turbopumps. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, they said, has warned SpaceX that such cracks pose an unacceptable risk for manned flights. A SpaceX spokesman didn't have any comment." ... "The final GAO report also will to delve into unrelated issues that threaten to delay initial launches of manned capsules by SpaceX and rival Boeing Co. Echoing conclusions of other studies by outside experts, GAO investigators have determined that both companies are likely to miss a 2018 deadline to start regular missions ferrying astronauts to the international space station."

Firm Commercial Crew Flight Dates Remain Elusive, earlier post

Station cargo flight leapfrogs commercial satellite launch on SpaceX manifest, Spaceflight Now

"SpaceX said Sunday that the first Falcon 9 rocket launch from pad 39A, a former shuttle-era complex at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is scheduled to send a Dragon supply ship to the International Space Station in mid-February, deferring a mission with an EchoStar communications satellite that was set to take off this month."

Technical troubles likely to delay commercial crew flights until 2019, Ars Technica

"Boeing has set a "no earlier than" date of August 2018 for its first crewed test flight, and SpaceX has targeted May 2018. But those dates seem optimistic. Ars spoke to a handful of sources familiar with the commercial crew program this week, and all expressed pessimism about the public timelines the companies have for reaching the launch pad. According to this unofficial analysis, even a single crewed test flight in 2018 by either company now appears unlikely, as teams from both Boeing and SpaceX continue to work through significant technical issues."

Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services From Boeing, NASA

"NASA is considering contracting with The Boeing Company (Boeing) for crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2017 and one crewmember in the Spring of 2018. NASA is considering purchasing these services from Boeing, without competition, because no other vehicles are currently capable of providing these services in Fall 2017 or Spring 2018. NASA has contracts with two U.S. commercial companies for crew transportation to the ISS. However, these vehicles are still in the developmental stage, and not expected to begin fully operational flights to the ISS until 2019. NASA also is considering an option to acquire crew transportation from Boeing for three crewmembers on the Soyuz in 2019, to ensure the availability of back-up transportation capability in the event the U.S. commercial contractor vehicles are delayed or to augment future ISS operations and research."

"Russia recently announced its plans to decrement the Russian crew count onboard ISS from three to two, beginning in CY 2017. As a result of Russia reducing its crew count by one crewmember, there is now an available Soyuz seat in the 2017-2018 timeframe on each of the two planned spacecraft that would have otherwise had two Russian crew aboard. Of the 24 total Soyuz seats available in 2017-2018, the three seats resulting from the Russian crew decrement are the only available means of transporting additional US crewmembers to ISS during this period."

"An agreement was recently reached between the Boeing Company and S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Public Corporation, Energia ("RSC Energia"), who is the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft and has the legal rights to sell the seats and associated services. As a part of this agreement, Energia agreed to provide to Boeing two specifically identified seats on the Soyuz spacecraft for long-duration travel to and from the ISS, one on a flight to occur in the Fall 2017 timeframe and another on a flight to occur in the Spring 2018 timeframe. Additionally, Energia provided Boeing three additional specifically identified seats in the Spring 2019 timeframe on two Soyuz spacecraft. Finally, Boeing and RSC Energia agreed that each of these five seats will include a launch of an individual to and from the ISS, including all services normally provided during launches to ISS. Boeing and RSC Energia have represented that Boeing has the full rights to these seats and can sell them to any third party."

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

As leadership departs, NASA quietly moves to buy more Soyuz seats, Ars Technica

"Last September, based upon anonymous sources, Ars reported that NASA had begun considering buying additional seats in 2019 as a hedge against further delays with the commercial crew program. Both NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the agency's head of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, subsequently denied this report."

NASA considering Boeing offer for additional Soyuz seats, SpaceNews

"NASA officials previous indicated that there were no plans by the agency to purchase additional Soyuz seats directly from Roscosmos. William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in an October interview that the deadline had passed for NASA to purchase additional Soyuz seats from Roscosmos for 2019 missions."

Keith's note: Have a look at the board of directors of RSC Energia. Five of the Eleven members work for Roscosmos including Yuri Vlasov "deputy general director for rocket and space industry of State Corporation for space activities Roscosmos". RSC Energia is owned by the Russian government. Buying Soyuz seats from RSC Energia instead of Roscosmos is a distinction without a difference. Boeing has not disclosed what the value of these seats are or what they will charge NASA for them.

SpaceX Nails It Again

- SpaceX Nails Launch and Landing on Return to Flight.

Exclusive Peek at SpaceX Data Shows Loss in 2015, Heavy Expectations for Nascent Internet Service, Wall Street Journal

"SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., transformed the aerospace industry with innovative rocket features and Silicon Valley-style software design principles mandated by Mr. Musk, its billionaire founder and chief executive. The 15-year-old company became the first American firm in years to compete for commercial launch contracts, and the first company to launch and return a spacecraft from orbit. SpaceX declined to comment on details of its finances, but said it has a solid record of success and strong customer relationships. "We have more than 70 future launches on our manifest representing over $10 billion in contracts," said SpaceX Chief Financial Officer Bret Johnson. "The company is in a financially strong position and is well positioned for future growth," adding it has over $1 billion of cash and no debt.

NASA Future In-Space Operations: NASA Satellite Servicing Evolution

Now available is the January 11, 2017 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Ben Reed (NASA GSFC) who presented "NASA Satellite Servicing Evolution."

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

SpaceX Anomaly Update 2 January 2017

"The investigation team identified several credible causes for the COPV failure, all of which involve accumulation of super chilled LOX or SOX in buckles under the overwrap. The corrective actions address all credible causes and focus on changes which avoid the conditions that led to these credible causes. In the short term, this entails changing the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration based on operations used in over 700 successful COPV loads. In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether, which will allow for faster loading operations."

Dealing With Orbital Traffic

Orbital Traffic Report Released

"The current Framework does not provide a holistic approach by leading in the combined development of technically informed "rules of the road" and the provision of value-driven, safety-based products and services used during spacecraft operations. Such "rules of the road", based on space traffic safety concerns, could lead to the maturation of international norms of behavior, which would greatly enhance the strategic stability of the space domain. Objectives for any space traffic safety governance framework were created by the study team that focus on mitigating space traffic safety-related risks, protecting and enhancing national security interests, and ensuring the economic vitality of the space domain and industry. Five Frameworks were created for consideration. Each Framework exists at a distinct point on a continuous spectrum of space traffic safety governance options in which the USG's prescriptive role ranges from low to high."

Trump's $440 billion weapon, Politico

"What Trump is doing, by targeting specific companies or specific federal contracts, is new and unprecedented, experts said. "Never seen anything like this," said Sean O'Keefe, a former secretary of the Navy and comptroller of the Defense Department. ... But political appointees are traditionally loyal to the president and civil servants would risk their career if they were to not fall in line. That means, in practice, contracting officers are likely to acquiesce. "They can choose to say, 'I refuse to do that,'" said O'Keefe, "and then obviously they find themselves counting barrels of fuel in Beirut or something after it's over."

Today's Episodes of Commercial Space were Brought to You by ..., Richard Cooper

"Below are just some of the names of people I think we need to recognize and celebrate for their courage and vision that have made todays and the future of commercial space possible. Some of these names are of people who have sadly passed away but others thankfully are still with us, and still very active in pioneering commercial space. Also note that my list is by no means complete. In fact in compiling these names and achievements it is a challenge that I want to share with others to contribute towards."

Commercial Crew Flight Dates Delayed To 2018

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. Targeted Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test: June 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test: August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1: November 2017
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2: May 2018"

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/nasa.charter.small.jpg

Keith's note: The next time you read about people on the NASA Transition Team saying that it is not NASA's job to conduct Earth science research - or wondering why NASA supports space commerce - just remind them: its the law. If they want proof then direct them to "National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, Pub. L. No. 85-568, 72 Stat. 426-438 (Jul. 29, 1958) As Amended".

Boeing Becomes Latest Company to Draw Trump's Ire, Dow Jones

"The Air Force earmarked $1.65 billion between 2015 and 2019 to develop two replacement jets, and said it may acquire up to three. However, it hasn't detailed the expected cost or delivery dates for building the planes as talks continue with Boeing, the White House and the Secret Service. "The statistics that have been cited [by Mr. Trump], shall we say, don't appear to reflect the nature of the financial arrangement between Boeing and the Department of Defense," said Obama White House spokesman Josh Earnest."

Did Donald Trump tank Boeing's stock because he was mad about a news article?

"As it turns out, though, the Trump tweet may not have been unprompted. CNN's Jake Tapper noted on Twitter that shortly before the tweet (which was posted at 8:52 a.m. Eastern) the Chicago Tribune posted an interview with the company's CEO, Dennis Muilenberg. "Anyone who paid attention to the recent campaigns and the election results realizes that one of the overarching themes was apprehension about free and fair trade," Muilenberg told the Tribune's Robert Reed. Fair trade has helped Boeing, which prides itself on being America's largest manufacturing exporter."

Trump sold all shares in companies in June, spokesman says, Washington Post

"Miller, the Trump spokesman, told The Post about Trump's stock sale Tuesday morning, following Trump's criticism of aviation giant Boeing. Trump reported owning between $50,000 and $100,000 of Boeing stock in the May filing. In the three years between Trump's original tweet about buying Boeing stock and June 2016, Boeing's share price climbed about 70 percent."

Keith's note: I just got back from the Aerospace Industries Association annual media luncheon in Washington EDC. There was a lot of nervous laughter about this news which was breaking just as well all arrived at the hotel. I am wondering what might happen if/when SLS/Orion cost increases and chronic delay - and the commercial alternatives - comes to Trump's attention. There are hints that this might be an issue in the op eds written by on-again off-again Trump advisor Bob Walker.

Dueling Space Barons

Rocket men: why tech's biggest billionaires want their place in space, Guardian

"Bezos and Musk have developed an intense personal rivalry, says Ashlee Vance. "As time has gone on and these companies have been successful, ambitions have grown. Musk and Bezos used to be cordial, but they're vicious now." In 2013, SpaceX and Blue Origin fought over control of a Nasa launch pad and a patent for landing rockets at sea; Musk won both tussles. When Blue Origin tried to block SpaceX from using the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Musk emailed Space News slamming the company and questioning its ability to build a rocket that would meet Nasa standards. "We are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct," Musk wrote. After a successful Blue Origin test launch and landing in November 2015, Bezos used his first ever tweet to boast about "the rarest of beasts - a used rocket"."

Keith's note: This sounds reminiscent of the late 1800s when dueling millionaires (often called "the barons of industry") dueled with one another - but, in the process, caused America to be covered with railroads, oil fields, coal mines, telegraph, telephone, and electrical grids, and eventually roads filled with cars and skies filed with airplanes.

FAA Should Examine How to Appropriately Regulate Space Support Vehicles, GAO

"Company officials GAO interviewed identified potential uses for "space support vehicles"- which include a variety of aircraft from high-performance jets to balloons and the aircraft portion of a hybrid launch systems (a vehicle that contains elements of both an aircraft and a rocket-powered launch vehicle) - but the size of the market for these uses is unclear. Company officials said they plan to use space support vehicles to train spaceflight participants and to conduct research in reduced gravity environments. For example, some company officials said they would like to use high-performance jets to train future spaceflight participants by exposing them to physiological and psychological effects encountered in spaceflight. Other company officials said they would like to use space support vehicles to research how objects or people react in reduced gravity environments. It is difficult to know the size of the market for spaceflight training and research as GAO found no studies on these markets. However, stakeholders said they expect interest in research to increase."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/spacebar.3.s.jpg

Space Food Bars Will Keep Orion Weight Off and Crew Weight On, NASA

"To help reduce the amount of supplies Orion will carry for its crew, scientists are developing a variety of food bars that astronauts can eat for breakfast during their spaceflight missions. In the United States, it's common for people to substitute an energy bar or shake for breakfast, or to skip the meal all together. Food scientists determined that developing a single calorically dense breakfast substitution can help meet mass reduction requirements."

Keith's note: Why is NASA spending money on a big fancy kitchen to produce something that I can buy at REI? Why doesn't NASA do Space Act Agreements with companies to figure all of this out - at their own expense - and give them the ability to put their logos on the snack bars we send on the #JourneyToMars ?

Keith's note: according to this NASA article "There's no commercially-available bar right now that meets our needs, so we've had to go design something that will work for the crew, while trying to achieve a multi-year shelf-life," said Takiyah Sirmons, a food scientist with the Advanced Food Technology team at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston."

So I have asked NASA "Can you provide me with a copy of the specific NASA nutritional and storage requirements that you are using as the basis for developing the food bars mentioned in this article?"

Let's see if they release this information or try and keep it secret and force me to file a FOIA request.

Commercial Space Launch Insurance: Views Differ on Need for Change to Insurance Approach but Clarification Is Needed

"Stakeholders in the space launch industry are divided on the need to change the current insurance approach, in which insurance for spaceports is not required but can be negotiated through contracts between launch companies, which operate launch vehicles, and spaceport operators, which run spaceports. Stakeholders identified some positive aspects of the current insurance approach - for example, some said that negotiating contracts specific to each launch allows for greater flexibility. However, they also raised concerns, including a lack of certainty about coverage for potential damage."

Letter From Tom Stafford to NASA Regarding Crewed SpaceX Falcon 9 Fueling Issues

"There is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that has beenin place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally. Historically, neither the crew nor any other personnel have ever been allowed in or near the booster during fueling. Only after the booster is folly fueled and stabilized are the few essential people allowed near it. Furthermore, in addition to the personnel risk, there is the risk of operating the engines outside their design input conditions. As an experienced "Prop" guy you know the problem here as well as anyone. Pump-fed chemical engines require a sufficient and consistent input pressure to reduce the likelihood of cavitation or unsteady flow operations. We are concerned that there may be insufficient precooling of the tank and plumbing with the current planned oxidizer fill scenario, and without recirculation there may be stratification of oxidizer temperature that will cause a variation in the input conditions to the oxidizer pump."

Experts concerned by SpaceX plan to fuel rockets with people aboard, Reuters

"It was unanimous ... Everybody there, and particularly the people who had experience over the years, said nobody is ever near the pad when they fuel a booster," [Chair Tom] Stafford said, referring to an earlier briefing the group had about SpaceX's proposed fueling procedure. SpaceX needs NASA approval of its launch system before it can put astronauts into space. In an email to Reuters sent late Monday, SpaceX said its fueling system and launch processes will be re-evaluated pending the results of the accident investigation."

Small Lunar Surface Payload Request for Information (RFI)

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) is seeking information on the availability of small payloads that could be delivered to the Moon as early as the 2017-2020 timeframe using U.S. commercial lunar cargo transportation service providers. Multiple U.S. companies are developing robotic lunar landing capabilities and have expressed plans to provide commercial cargo delivery services to the Moon in the near future. Information on lunar payloads that could be launched as early as 2017 would be valuable to NASA as it works to understand the potential role of the Moon in future exploration activities. Payloads of interest should address one or more of NASA's lunar exploration Strategic Knowledge Gaps (SKGs) or other agency strategic objectives."

Moon Express Announces $1.5 Million In Funding for NASA Payloads To The Moon Under Lunar Scout Program

"Moon Express has announced a new program that will provide $1.5M in private funding for NASA-selected payloads to fly to the Moon. The announcement was made today at the annual meeting of NASA's Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), in response to NASA's call for lunar instrument concepts that would be flown to the Moon utilizing commercial mission services. Under its Lunar Scout Program, Moon Express will provide up to $500,000 in funding for each instrument selected by NASA to fly aboard the company's first three commercial lunar missions of opportunity, beginning next year in 2017."

SpaceX AMOS-6 Anomaly Update 28 October 2016

"The investigation team has made significant progress on the fault tree. Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank."

"Pending the results of the investigation, we continue to work towards returning to flight before the end of the year."

Previous statements:

- SpaceX AMOS-6 Anomaly Update 23 September 2016
- SpaceX Anomaly Statement September 2, 6:45pm EDT

Spaceport America Relay Race Features an Amazing 200 Mile Course Along the Historic Rio Grande River from Texas to New Mexico, Spaceport America

"Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico in the USA, today announced that, in collaboration with relay racing specialists MH Enterprises LLC, the Spaceport America Crew will host and support a two-day, 200 mile, relay race event."

Spaceport America, Wikipedia

"As of August 2012, Spaceport America is substantially complete and the cost of the entire project was $209 million. ... In May 2015, budgetary details made public revealed that the substantially unused spaceport has an annual deficit that has been running approximately US$500,000, with the deficit being made up by state taxpayers. The primary planned revenue in the times of delayed operations by Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, with limited operations by other minor tenants, is local tax revenue, paid by the taxpayers of Sierra and Dona Ana counties."

Space Foundation CEO Steps Down, Space Foundation

"Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Space Foundation, Admiral James O. Ellis Jr., announced that Space Foundation CEO, Elliot Pulham, has resigned his position, and the board has commenced a search for new leadership of the organization. ... We are committed to an open and competitive process to select the Foundation's next leader, and are grateful for the continued support of the space community."

Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles

"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information. Yesterday's letters reiterate requests for a briefing and documentation on the current U.S. policy."

Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation Testimony , April 2016

"Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."

Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation Testimony, April 2016

"The concern about using Indian boosters is not so much the transfer of sensitive technology to a nation that is a fellow democracy, but rather whether Indian launches are subsidized by the Indian government to the degree that other market actors, for example American launch companies or those of allies, would be priced out the market."

Keith's note: Why is India being singled out for special treatment? Who own's most, if not all, of China's launch infrastructure? Russia's? Europe's? Japan's? Who sets their launch prices? Why is it that every time the U.S. buys Soyuz seats the price goes up far more than it should?

- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?, earlier post
- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, earlier post
- Hearing Discusses Using Old ICBMs As Satellite Launchers, earlier post

Orbital ATK Successfully Launches the Antares Rocket on its Return to Flight (with video), SpaceRef

"In a successful return to flight, Orbital ATK launched the upgraded Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch scheduled for 7:40 pm EDT (2340 GMT) was delayed briefly due to a minor engine anomaly. Mission launch control cleared the rocket to launch which it did at 7:45 pm EDT, right as launch window was closing."

Keith's note: It has been 2 years since I tried to watch a launch from the street in front of my house in Reston, VA. Not an easy thing to do in a town that is certified as a 'tree city'. Luckily the notch in the trees in the direction of Wallops is still there. About 2 minutes after launch a steady red light appeared and I could see it for another minute or so.

Interplanetary Frontiers, OSTP: Harnessing the Possibilities of Science, Technology, and Innovation

"At the beginning of his Administration, President Obama set out anew vision for space exploration, harking back to the spirit of possibility and exploration that defined the space race of the 1960s, while building upon and advancing 21st century technologies and capabilities. In 2010, the Administration restructured the U.S. civil space program to look forward to bold new goals, not backwards to old ones; to collaborate with, rather than compete with, American entrepreneurs; and to broaden participation and take advantage of new technologies being created at NASA and in America's laboratories."

Boeing delays Starliner again, casting doubt on commercial flights in 2018, Ars Technica

"After an initial delay from late 2017 into early 2018, Boeing has acknowledged a second slippage of its schedule for the first commercial crew flights of its Starliner spacecraft. According to a report in Aviation Week, the company now says it will not be ready to begin operational flights until December 2018, a full year after NASA had originally hoped its commercial crew providers would be ready. The admission by Boeing confirms a report by NASA's Inspector General, which found significant delays with both the Boeing and SpaceX efforts to develop private spacecraft to ferry US astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The delay also explains why, as Ars has previously reported, senior managers with the International Space Station program are likely to press ahead with the politically painful decision to purchase Soyuz seats for the calendar year 2019."

- Industry Groups Avoid Mention of OIG Reports on Cost/Schedule, earlier post
- NASA OIG Report Predicts Commercial Crew Delay To Late 2018, earlier post

Boeing says it will beat SpaceX to Mars, Business Insider

"Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing (one of SpaceX's biggest competitors) casually loosed the remark during a session of The Atlantic's "What's Next?" conference. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said during the recorded event."

Here's How Boeing Plans to Send Astronauts to Mars, Inverse

"Boeing doesn't offer a timeline for its missions. "Mars is at least 100 times further away than the moon," Duggan says. "The opportunity to travel from Earth to Mars comes around about every two years. The Earth has to be catching up with Mars in its orbit to give you that shortest distance, and that's the ideal launch window." That window, and the time it takes to develop the tech needed to send astronauts between the two planets, will determine when Boeing reaches the red planet."

Boeing Mars website

Keith's note: First Boeing says they don't have a timeline and then they say that a "Boeing rocket" will beat SpaceX Mars. And of course Boeing is not going to pay for any of this - that's NASA job.

Blue Origin Completes New Shepard Abort Test (with video and screen shots)

"Blue Origin just completed an apparently flawless in-flight aboard of its New Shepard launch vehicle. The capsule separated and made a perfect landing. The booster continued, undaunted, to space and then made a textbook landing."

Flores Backs Robust, Domestic Commercial Space Launch

"U.S. Representative Bill Flores (R-Texas) led a bipartisan letter, signed by 23 additional members of Congress, to the administrators at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Secretary of the United States Air Force supporting a robust, domestic commercial space launch industry. The bipartisan group of lawmakers expressed their support of the ongoing investigation into the recent mishap involving a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The letter states: "Accidents are unfortunate events, and accident investigations should not be politicized. We encourage you to reject calls for your organizations to abandon established, well considered, and long standing procedures."

- Possibility of Sabotage Considered During SpaceX Investigation, earlier post
- ULA Congressional Delegation Criticizes SpaceX For A Totally Legal Mishap Investigation, earlier post

Implication of sabotage adds intrigue to SpaceX investigation, Washington Post

"The long-running feud between Elon Musk's space company and its fierce competitor United Launch Alliance took a bizarre twist this month when a SpaceX employee visited its facilities at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and asked for access to the roof of one of ULA's buildings. ... The building, which had been used to refurbish rocket motors known as the SMARF, is just more than a mile away from the launchpad and has a clear line of sight to it. A representative from ULA ultimately denied the SpaceX employee access to the roof and instead called Air Force investigators, who inspected the roof and didn't find anything connecting it to the rocket explosion, the officials said."

Congress members question whether SpaceX should conduct its own investigation, LA Times

"The letter, dated Thursday, also cited SpaceX's prior explosion in June 2015 while carrying cargo for NASA to the International Space Station. The Hawthorne space company led its own investigation for that launch failure. Under federal law, SpaceX is allowed to conduct its own investigation. SpaceX ... and other companies lobbied successfully to extend the law last year. The FAA oversees such investigations. The Congress members said the investigation responses raised "serious concerns about the authority provided to commercial providers and the protection of national space assets."

"Ten Republican Congress members led by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have sent a letter to the heads of the Air Force, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration questioning whether SpaceX should be allowed to lead its own investigation ... Coffman's congressional district includes United Launch Alliance's headquarters. Many of the congressmen represent states where ULA has operations."

Keith's note: But wait. ULA did their own internal review when the first stage of the Atlas V delivering OA-6 Cygnus shut down early. Oops. H/t to Tim B.

United Launch Alliance Provides Update to OA-6 Cygnus Launch

"Per standard processes when a flight data item such as this has been identified, the ULA engineering team, along with our engine supplier and several government customers, forms a robust review team. The review team assessed all flight and operational data to determine direct and root causes and implemented the appropriate corrective actions for future flights. .. "We would like to thank our customers and supplier partners for their outstanding collaboration in the detailed review of this anomaly."

Elon Musk's presentation charts (pdf)


Elon Musk Outlines his Plan for Colonizing Mars and Why We Should Do It, SpaceRef [Includes the full video of Elon Musk's talk and the presentation slides.]

"In a presentation today at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk outlined his ambitious plan to colonize Mars. His personal motivation is to make humanity a multi-planetary species. The reason is to avoid an extinct level event on Earth that would wipe out humanity.

To achieve a self-sustaining society you'll need to send 1 million people to Mars which could take 40-100 years. To get those people there Musk introduced the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System. The rocket, the largest ever built, could carry 100 plus people per flight and would need 10,000 flights to carry those million people. Musk hopes to be able to eventually carry 200 people per flight which would reduce the number of flights needed."

Elon Musk has a lot to prove at today's Mars colonization announcement, The Verge

"This isn't a phone, or a new app, or new headphones - it's not a consumer product at all. Rockets are far too expensive; space colonies are more expensive still. If Musk doesn't announce financial backing, it means the presentation is meant to convince someone - probably NASA - to fund him. But this is an extraordinarily awkward time to try to win over money, since one of his rockets blew up earlier this month."

Get Ready, Elon Musk Is About to Outline His Plan to Colonize Mars, Popular Mechanics

"The new Mars shuttle and BFR are only design ideas that have been teased by SpaceX, so it remains to be seen whether a concrete plan to develop one or both of these new spaceflight systems - or something completely unknown to the public at this point - will be revealed during Musk's speech."

Elon Musk to discuss his vision for how he plans to colonize Mars, Washington Post

"Then in 2020, SpaceX would fly multiple Falcon Heavy rockets, he said in an interview with The Post earlier this year. The goal of those missions would be to perfect the difficult art of landing large objects on the Mars surface. If everything goes according to plan, SpaceX would launch a new, more powerful rocket in 2022, and then with crews in 2024."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/bolden.spacex.lrg.4.jpg

Elon Musk's dream of going to Mars is SpaceX's biggest strength, and its biggest distraction, Quartz

"Scott Pace, a former NASA official, said that any company attempting to do as much as SpaceX needed to carefully assess whether it was pushing its workers too hard. "It would be ambitious for any company to do a schedule like that," Pace says. "When you look at changes in launch schedule that are increasing over historical norms, you should be worried whether or not schedule pressure is putting unacceptable strains on the workforce." SpaceX rejects out of hand the idea that it is pushing its workers too hard."

Between a rocket and a hard place: Elon Musk to give the speech of his life, Ars Technica

"It also seems likely that NASA won't offer substantial support, either. The space agency is building its own heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System, and has its own #JourneyToMars. NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden, has wholeheartedly supported SpaceX and commercial space activities in low-Earth orbit, but has been far less effusive about private businesses venturing into deep space on their own. Earlier this month Bolden flatly stated he was not a "big fan" of private companies building heavy-lift rockets. With its Falcon Heavy and BFR, that is exactly what SpaceX is doing."

- Why SpaceX May Get Humans to Mars - First, earlier post
- Yet Another NASA Mars "Plan" Without A Plan - or a Budget, earlier post
- NASA's SpaceX Mars Mission Briefing That NASA Is Not Telling You About, earlier post
- Update on NASA's #JourneyToNowhere, earlier post
- NASA Is Still Kicking The Can Down The Road on the #JourneyToMars, earlier post

Raptor Roars

SpaceX AMOS-6 Anomaly Update 23 September 2016, SpaceX

"At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place. All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated. Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection with last year's CRS-7 mishap."

"... Pending the results of the investigation, we anticipate returning to flight as early as the November timeframe."

NASA FISO Presentation: NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission

"Now available is the September 21, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers was Philip McAlister (NASA HQ) who discussed "NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission".

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

NASA to have limited role in SpaceX's planned Mars campaign, Spaceflight Now

"Expertise, input and advice from seasoned NASA engineers will improve SpaceX's chances of nailing the first commercial landing on Mars as soon as late 2018, a senior space agency official said Wednesday, but Elon Musk's space transport company will likely seek more independence from U.S. government support on later expeditions to the red planet."

Programming note: SpaceRef will broadcast live Elon Musk's presentation, Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species, from the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara next week on Tuesday, September 27 at 2:30 pm ET.

Marc's note: We certainly live in a new age of exploration when a private space company is embarking on a mission that no government has yet to undertake.

That mission, to send an uncrewed technology demonstration human spacecraft mission to land on Mars has never been attempted. And make no mistake this is not the spacecraft that SpaceX would send to Mars with humans. It's a technology demonstration. The data collected by this mission will be invaluable to future manned missions to Mars and elsewhere.

NASA FISO Telecon: NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission

"The next Future In-Space Operations (FISO) colloquium will be Wednesday, September 21, when we will host Philip McAlister (NASA HQ), who will speak on "NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission."

Keith's note: Elon Musk is getting ready for his big Mars colonization plan presentation at the IAC next week. The first step in this path to Mars is the Dragon mission that SpaceX is planning to send to Mars in 2018. You'd think that NASA would want people to know how it is involved in all of this. Indeed, NASA's Director of Commercial Spaceflight Development Phil McAlister is making a presentation at this week's NASA FISO telecon. Yet no mention is made of this presentation on NASA's calendar, Journey To Mars page, NASA's Commercial Space Transportation page, or anywhere else at NASA.gov.

Why is NASA hiding this briefing? Is NASA afraid to be seen supporting a competing plan for the #JourneyToMars ?

ILS Offers Proton Variants For Smaller Payloads, ILS

"International Launch Services (ILS) announces a product line extension of the Proton Breeze M commercial launch vehicle designed to expand the addressable GEO market for cost effective launch solutions in the small and medium satellite class range (3 to 5 metric tons). Designated as "Proton Variants," these two additional vehicles will be optimized 2-stage versions of the time tested and flight proven Proton Breeze M launch system for exclusive commercial use by ILS."

Falcon Heavy? New Glenn? NASA chief says he's not a "big fan", Ars Technica

"On Tuesday, during a Q&A session at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2016 Conference, Bolden was asked for his opinion on the emerging market for small satellites and launchers. He chose to respond instead with his thoughts on NASA's own rocket, the Space Launch System, and private-sector development of larger launch vehicles. "If you talk about launch vehicles, we believe our responsibility to the nation is to take care of things that normal people cannot do, or don't want to do, like large launch vehicles," Bolden said. "I'm not a big fan of commercial investment in large launch vehicles just yet."

Keith's update: Hey Charlie, normal people seem to be building rockets at a much lower cost than NASA people can. Just sayin'.

As for "commercial investment in large vehicles", newsflash: that's not your money they are investing. Its theirs. Ask Steve Jurvetson, that guy you spoke with at AIAA today. As for your comment about "normal people" (who are they, BTW?) and their inability to build rockets is contrary to the open access, inclusive, Maker-oriented, commercial space policy advocated by the Obama Administration.

You are retiring from NASA soon, yes?

Marc's note: There are a couple of noteworthy commercial launch news items today.

ILS is introducing an expanded Proton line in an effort to capture part of the small to medium satellite market. ULA meanwhile is offering launch to customers within as little three months of booking an order. No pricing was provided for either of these news items.

ILS Introduces Expanded Proton Line of Cost-Effective Launch Vehicles

"International Launch Services (ILS) announces a product line extension of the Proton Breeze M commercial launch vehicle designed to expand the addressable GEO market for cost effective launch solutions in the small and medium satellite class range (3 to 5 metric tons).

Designated as "Proton Variants," these two additional vehicles will be optimized 2-stage versions of the time tested and flight proven Proton Breeze M launch system for exclusive commercial use by ILS."

United Launch Alliance Announces RapidLaunch™, the Industry's Fastest Order to Launch Service

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced a new, revolutionary service called RapidLaunch™ which provides the customer the fastest schedule from the initial order to launch service in the industry today.

"The priorities of all of our customers include ensuring their spacecraft launches on schedule, securing the soonest possible manifest date and completing the mission with 100 percent success," said Tory Bruno, ULA CEO and president. "To address these priorities, we have been working on this offering for more than a year, which allows our customers to launch in as few as three months from placing their order."

Video: AIAA Space 2016 Opening Plenary Featuring Charles Bolden, Winston Beauchamp and Steve Jurvetson

"Today the annual AIAA Space 2016 conference began with an opening plenary that included presentations by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Winston A. Beauchamp, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space, and the Director, Principal DoD Space Advisor Staff, and Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director, DFJ. This was followed by a panel with the opening speakers.

The addition of Jurvetson, of the venture firm DFJ, added a nice mix to the conversation including reinforcing the fact that venture firms no longer ignore space companies as possible investment opportunities."

Blue Origin Announces Immense "New Glenn" Rocket

"Named in honor of John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, New Glenn is 23 feet in diameter and lifts off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust from seven BE-4 engines. Burning liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen, these are the same BE-4 engines that will power United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan rocket. The 2-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall, and its second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine. The 3-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall. A single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powers its third stage. The booster and the second stage are identical in both variants."

Mars Rover Views Spectacular Layered Rock Formations

"Curiosity took the images with its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sept. 8. The rover team plans to assemble several large, color mosaics from the multitude of images taken at this location in the near future. "Curiosity's science team has been just thrilled to go on this road trip through a bit of the American desert Southwest on Mars," said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The Martian buttes and mesas rising above the surface are eroded remnants of ancient sandstone that originated when winds deposited sand after lower Mount Sharp had formed."

Keith's note: Boston Dynamics has robots that can do things that NASA's R5 and Robonaut are simply incapable of doing. Yet NASA continues to pour money into their antiquated in-house hobby shop efforts when the private sector would happily sell them vastly more capable devices - devices that constantly improve. Look at the Mars Curiosity images that NASA featured today. They were taken by a rover with a limited ability to traverse terrain. A robot like the ones that Boston Dynamics makes could scramble up these scree slopes with a rock hammer and get samples. NASA's broken R5 robot can't even walk without a hoist to keep it upright.

- NASA Challenges People To Use Its Broken Robot To Fix Things on Mars, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- Earlier posts

Satellite owner says SpaceX owes $50 million or free flight, Reuters

"Israel's Space Communication Ltd said on Sunday it could seek $50 million or a free flight from Elon Musk's SpaceX after a Spacecom communications satellite was destroyed last week by an explosion at SpaceX's Florida launch site. Officials of the Israeli company said in a conference call with reporters Sunday that Spacecom also could collect $205 million from Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the AMOS-6 satellite. SpaceX said in an email to Reuters that it does not disclose contract or insurance terms. The company is not public, and it has not said what insurance it had for the rocket or to cover launch pad damages beyond what was required by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial U.S. launches, for liability and damage to government property."

SpaceCom to recoup $173m, plus interest, for destroyed satellite, Times of Israel

"The satellite's owners, Space Communication, will receive over $173 million from IAI plus interest, which provided insurance for the device, a company official said. According to Space Communication, also known as SpaceCom, the total sum from IAI is "approximately $205 million." Under the insurance policy, IAI will have to pay the amount "in under 60 days," a spokesperson for the quasi-governmental firm said. In addition, the Israeli company said it expects to receive either $50 million from SpaceX or "have the launch of a future satellite carried out under the existing agreement and with the payments that have [already] been made."

SpaceX to shift Florida launches to new pad after explosion, Reuters

"With its launch pad likely facing major repairs, SpaceX said it would use a second Florida site, called 39A, which is located a few miles north at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and was used for space shuttle missions. The pad is on schedule to be operational in November, SpaceX said. The company had planned to use the pad for the first time later this year for a test flight of its new Falcon Heavy rocket. NASA spokesman Michael Curie said in an email that the site could be used for commercial and government flights, and SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in a May conference said one customer, SES SA of Luxembourg, had expressed interest in flying from the historic launch pad."

Op-ed: We love you SpaceX, and hope you reach Mars. But we need you to focus, Ars Technica

"I understand SpaceX has a master plan--the company wants to colonize Mars. It has been brilliant to watch the plan unfold as SpaceX has used NASA contracts to bootstrap up to the Falcon 9 rocket and used Falcon 9 flights to simultaneously test reusability and supersonic retropropulsion for the Martian environment. I mean, it's genius. But at some point you have to focus on the here and now, and that is the Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 rocket lies at the core of everything SpaceX wants to do. It delivers commercial satellites and cargo. It will deliver astronauts into orbit. Three Falcon 9 boosters will power the Falcon Heavy. It is the basis of proving the reusability of orbital launch systems. So if there is no Falcon 9, there is no business. And now there have been two failures in 15 months. While the cause of the second failure is not known to outsiders, and it may have been caused by ground systems rather than the rocket itself, the company has nonetheless lost two of its rockets and associated payloads in 15 months. That is sobering."

Video by uslaunchreport.com


Marc's update: Friday evening SpaceX provided an update on the explosion at their Cape Canaveral SLC-40 launch pad. My interpretation of the statement leads me to think that as long as the investigation reveals no issues related to the Falcon 9 itself, that SpaceX intends on going forward with launches from their two other pads at Vandenberg Air Force Base and Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy.

SpaceX Anomaly Statement September 2, 6:45pm EDT

"As for the Launch Pad itself, our teams are now investigating the status of SLC-40. The pad clearly incurred damage, but the scope has yet to be fully determined. We will share more data as it becomes available. SpaceX currently operates 3 launch pads - 2 in Florida and 1 in California at Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX's other launch sites were not affected by yesterday's events. Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base is in the final stages of an operational upgrade and Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center remains on schedule to be operational in November. Both pads are capable of supporting Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. We are confident the two launch pads can support our return to flight and fulfill our upcoming manifest needs."

SpaceX and Boeing delays could mean more money for Russia, NASA watchdog says, Washington Post

"Boeing has already said it would have to push back its first crewed flights to early 2018. SpaceX has maintained that it would fly by the end of 2017. But the IG investigators weren't buying either of those timetables: "Notwithstanding the contractors' optimism, based on the information we gathered during our audit, we believe it unlikely that either Boeing or SpaceX will achieve certified, crewed flight to the ISS until late 2018."

Commercial crew now delayed until at least 2018, report finds, Ars Technica

"Sources at Johnson Space Center, which plays a secondary role in managing the commercial crew program to Kennedy Space Center, have privately told Ars for months that neither Boeing nor SpaceX would fly in 2017. Moreover, these sources have said, it will be fortunate if either company launches test flights, with crew, during the second half of 2018. The key factor to watch now is whether NASA procures additional seats from the Russians to deliver NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019 and beyond."

NASA OIG: NASA'S Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts

"Moreover, both companies must satisfy NASA's safety review process to ensure they meet Agency human-rating requirements. As part of the certification process, Boeing and SpaceX conduct safety reviews and report to NASA on potential hazards and their plans for mitigating risks. We found significant delays in NASA's evaluation and approval of these hazard reports and related requests for variances from NASA requirements that increase the risk costly redesign work may be required late in development, which could further delay certification. Although NASA's goal is to complete its review within 8 weeks of receipt of a hazard report, the contractors told us reviews can take as long as 6 months. We also found NASA does not monitor the overall timeliness of its safety review process. Given delays in the Commercial Crew Program, NASA has extended its contract with Roscosmos for astronaut transportation through 2018 at an additional cost of $490 million or $82 million a seat for six more seats. If the Program experiences additional delays, NASA may need to buy additional seats from Russia to ensure a continued U.S. presence on the ISS."

The Future of the International Space Station Is Up to a Weird Little Florida Nonprofit, Wired

"Which brings us to March, when the NASA Advisory Council released a memo that included this: The Council has also been told by NASA that a successful transition from the "Earth Reliant" phase to the "Proving Ground" is dependent at least in part on the success of attracting future commercial users of the ISS and/or the availability of commercial LEO laboratory capability that NASA could use. The Council therefore feels that it would be beneficial for the agency to better understand the effect that the resources being devoted to the ISS National Laboratory might have on the important research needed to reduce technology and human health risk for the Journey to Mars."

Ken Shields, director of operations for Casis, takes issue with the assessment. "This is one man's opinion, but there were a few vociferous members of NAC who didn't do a lot of due diligence on what we do, our history," he says. "They read some news stories, brought some gotcha information, and I wish I had been there in person."

Keith's note: This is strange. With regard to this NASA Advisory Council meeting on 31 March/1 April 2016 CASIS employees Greg Johnson, Michael Roberts, and Brian Talbot from CASIS were physically in attendance. In addition, CASIS employees Ken Shields, Warren Bates, Patrick O'Neill, and Cindy Martin Brennan attended via dial-in. So Ken Shields should have heard the entire conversation, right? He could have sent a text to his boss and asked to say something if his ears were burning. NASA Advisory Council meetings are open to the public, available for free via dial-in and Webex. The words Shields takes issue with were blessed by the entire NAC.

At this meeting the NAC decided that a team should make a site visit to CASIS to look into these issues. Shortly thereafter the NAC chair, Steve Squyres resigned and NAC leadership was thrown into disarray. CASIS objected to the whole idea of a NAC site visit. During the leadership vacuum CASIS, NASA, and a sympathetic NAC member made certain that site the visit and further consideration of NAC were buried. It is quite clear that CASIS is afraid of external scrutiny and does not think that it should be help publicly accountable for what it does with $15 million of NASA money every year.

CASIS Had A Bad Week In Washington, earlier post, earlier post

"The next day the CASIS entourage, led by President and Executive Director Greg Johnson, showed up at the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting. Things did not go so well for them at the NAC. Within minutes of starting to talk, NAC members started to pepper Johnson with questions- questions that he was unable and/or unwilling to answer. It went downhill from there."

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. "

Letter From NASA to CASIS 31 March 2016, earlier post

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

SES-10 Launching to Orbit on SpaceX's Flight-Proven Falcon 9 Rocket

"SES and SpaceX announced today they have reached an agreement to launch SES-10 on a flight-proven Falcon 9 orbital rocket booster. The satellite, which will be in a geostationary orbit and expand SES's capabilities across Latin America, is scheduled for launch in Q4 2016. SES-10 will be the first-ever satellite to launch on a SpaceX flight-proven rocket booster."

Transparency lacking in spaceport search, editorial, Las Cruces Sun News

"There may be no more important hire in southern New Mexico this year than the next person who is selected to lead Spaceport America. Sadly, we have lost all faith that the process will be comprehensive or transparent. It was decided early on that, instead of hiring a search firm to lead the effort, the Spaceport Authority would rely on social media to get the word out. A subcommittee of four members of the Spaceport Authority board of directors was selected to review applications with former CEO Christine Anderson and send the best ones to Santa Fe for Gov. Susana Martinez. But before that subcommittee could hold its first meeting, the decision was made to call off the search and ship the applications to the governor's office. The Sun-News filed an open records request on Aug. 16 seeking copies of the applications being turned over to the governor's office. The response from the Spaceport Authority was that they would be unable to comply with the requirement that documents be produced within three business days, and would need until the end of the month instead. That's troubling, given that Spaceport Authority board Chairman Rick Holdridge has said that it is his intention to have a new CEO named well before then if possible."

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down with Crucial NASA Research Samples, NASA

"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:47 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 26, southwest of Baja California with more than 3,000 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to a port near Los Angeles, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA immediately. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing."

NIAC Has An ITAR Problem

NASA advanced technology reports taken offline after export control issue, Space News

"NASA has taken offline technical reports associated with a cutting-edge technology program out of concerns of a possible export control breach, an agency official said Aug. 24. Speaking at annual symposium of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jason Derleth, the NIAC program executive at NASA Headquarters, said the final reports associated with various NIAC research projects have been removed from the agency's website after one of them appeared to contain information that ran afoul of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) export control rules."

The inside story of how billionaires are racing to take you to outer space, Washington Post

"For years, many have been waiting for the commercial space industry to become a real market, one where companies actually make money and prosper. William Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's human spaceflight division, said he thinks that the industry "is on the crest of another wave." "There's a lot of hype," he said at a Federal Aviation Administration space conference this year, citing other times when industry felt it was on the cusp of revolutionary change. "But will we be able to generate enough demand?" he said. "It can't just be solely government demand. It has to be augmented by the private sector. . . . Will that be enough to push us over or to reach that tipping point that actually enables this industry to become more self-sufficient than it was in the past?"

Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post

"The substance that the companies behind SLS and Orion use to keep people employed is identical to what they would theoretically use to operate ISS and routine crew and cargo transport: money. The money either comes from NASA or it doesn't but the financial health of these companies is all running on the same fuel. And whatever money NASA does not have to spend on one thing, it supposedly can spend on another. But this is an ecosystem - one that seems to want to expand off-world - where government money, money earned from government recycled back into other areas, and money from outside the NASA/contractor honey pot all gets mixed together. If one thing can feed another and spur interest amongst investors while others derive profit for the risks they took with their own money, well, that's how actual commerce establishes itself."

NASA Wants to Bring Enterprise to the Space Station

"In its RFI, NASA stressed that that for the moment, it just wants to hear ideas. It doesn't have a budget to help spur any proposed projects, or plans to release them for public perusal. NASA received 11 submissions "from a broad range of respondents including individuals, small companies and large companies," Sam Scimemi, division director for the ISS program, said in an e-mail."

NASA hopes to hand the International Space Station to a commercial owner by mid 2020s, TechCrunch

"NASA's trying to develop economic development in low-earth orbit," [NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Bill] Hill said, speaking on a panel of NASA staff assembled to discuss the upcoming Mars mission. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-earth orbit, so that research can continue in low-earth orbit. ... NASA didn't specify any potential buyer, but two commercial entities are about to add significant real estate to the ISS: a new docking adapter is being put in place to support crew shuttle missions from Boeing and SpaceX, both of which are set to start shuttling personnel to the station in 2017."

Keith's note: Every time someone from NASA talks about the future of ISS and the #JourneyToMars thing they contradict themselves and further muddy the issue.

1. CASIS is supposed to be doing this commercial stuff already with the U.S. portion of the ISS - NASA doesn't mention that very often.
2. The ISS is owned by more countries/agencies than just NASA. So how can NASA hand the ISS over to anyone?
3. "Buyer"? NASA is going to sell the ISS? (see #2)
4. Boeing and SpaceX own their visiting spacecraft - "real estate" that comes and goes.

NASA's Plan For Commercializing Low Earth Orbit Is Still A Mystery, earlier post
NASA: We're on a #JourneyToMars - But Don't Ask Us How, earlier post
Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post
A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

NASA FISO Presentation: NASA's Space Launch System: Powering the Journey to Mars

"Now available is the August 3, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers were Chris Sanders (AeroJet Rocketdyne), Mike Fuller (Orbital ATK), and Bob DaLee (Boeing), who discussed "NASA's Space Launch System: Powering the Journey to Mars."

Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.

Marc's note: The future is SLS folks, that's it. Just have a look at slide 9 for the comparison to existing rockets such as SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy (soon to fly) and ULA's Atlas V and Delta-IV. Oh, and the comparison is to the possible future SLS Block 1B and 2B, neither of which are funded or will be built anytime soon.

Keith's note: And of course what the BoeingLockheedMartinAerojetRocketdyneOrbitalATK guys never, ever mention is cost - what it cost to develop SLS, what each flight costs, what it would take to fund these larger versions of SLS. Yet they compare their rocket with things like Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy that you can buy - now. How many Falcon Heavy's can you buy for the the cost of one of these SLS vehicles? How many could you buy with what it cost to develop the SLS overall? That question is impossible to answer - since no one knows what SLS actually costs.

GAO Best Practices for Evaluating the Readiness of Technology for Use in Acquisition Programs and Projects, GAO

"NASA space missions are more ambitious and require the development and integration of more advanced and complex scientific instruments and vehicles than ever before. Hardware systems embedded with software challenge traditional ways of viewing and evaluating critical technology. 13 The issues include a lack of distinction among software types (newly developed, reused, and commercial-off-the-shelf), insufficient experience and knowledge when moving from the laboratory to a "relevant" environment, poor oversight during development, and inconsistent definitions of what represents new software technology. In addition, in some cases, it is no longer possible to evaluate the maturity of certain hardware technologies without their embedded software."

"NASA introduced TRLs in the 1970s and DOD introduced TRAs in the 1990s; they have been adopted by other agencies and industry, and internationally as effective tools for facilitating understanding and increasing knowledge about the maturity of critical technologies and their readiness for integration into larger acquisition systems. Some experts, however, have argued that existing assessment tools are not well suited to addressing various areas - including software systems and systems' integration. For example, historically, the TRL scale has not always been understood in terms of what needs to be demonstrated when it comes to software at each of the nine maturity levels, since software development did not start until the later phases of the acquisition life-cycle, such as after critical design review. New assessment tools or variations on existing tools have been developed for these areas and others."

SpaceX Launches Japanese Satellite JCSAT-16 and Returns Falcon 9 First Stage [With video]

NASA Selects Six Companies to Develop Prototypes, Concepts for Deep Space Habitats

"NASA has selected six U.S. companies to help advance the Journey to Mars by developing ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats."

"The selected companies are:

- Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas
- Boeing of Pasadena, Texas
- Lockheed Martin of Denver
- Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
- Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado
- NanoRacks of Webster, Texas
"

Marc's note: It's interesting to note that in this follow-on contract from the 2015 NextSTEP selections, Sierra Nevada and NanoRacks are included. NanoRacks in particular is an intriguing participant as they attempt to expand their available products.

- NextSTEP Partners Develop Deep Space Habitat Ground Prototypes

The Peaks of Eternal Light: a Near-term Property Issue on the Moon, arXiv.org e-Print archive

"The recently revealed highly inhomogeneous distribution of lunar resources changes the context of these issues. We illustrate this altered situation by considering the Peaks of Eternal Light. They occupy about one square kilometer of the lunar surface. We consider a thought experiment in which a Solar telescope is placed on one of the Peaks of Eternal Light at the lunar South pole for scientific research. Its operation would require nondisturbance, and hence that the Peak remain unvisited by others, effectively establishing a claim of protective exclusion and de facto appropriation."

U.S. Government Approves Plan For Moon Express to Become First Private Company To Venture Beyond Earth's Orbit, Moon Express

"The U.S. Government has made a historic ruling to allow the first private enterprise, Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), permission to travel beyond Earth's orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. This breakthrough U.S. policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon's surface, beginning a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon's valuable resources."

UrtheCast Elevates High-Tech Farming With Superior Precision Agriculture, UrtheCast

"With Earth's population growing at an exponential rate, the future of agriculture - in particular precision agriculture - will continue to grow in importance as the world works to support its population. Satellite monitoring, a key component of precision ag, aids in the analysis of everything from crop type and crop health to yield prediction. And as the global agricultural stakes are raised as the population balloons, so too does the need for increased access to extremely high quality imagery, on a reliable and frequent basis."

NanoRacks External Platform is Outside of International Space Station, NanoRacks

"NanoRacks' commercial gateway to space is officially open for business. The NanoRacks External Platform (NREP) has been placed outside of the International Space Station (ISS) on the JEM Exposed Facility. The self-funded NREP is the first-ever commercial gateway-and-return to the extreme environment of space. Following the CubeSat form factor, payloads can now experience the microgravity, radiation and other harsh elements native to the space environment, observe earth, test sensors, materials, and electronics, all while having the opportunity to return the payload back to Earth."

The First Commercial Interplanetary Mining Mission, Deep Space Industries

"Deep Space Industries announced today its plans to fly the world's first commercial interplanetary mining mission. Prospector-1™ will fly to and rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid, and investigate the object to determine its value as a source of space resources. This mission is an important step in the company's plans to harvest and supply in-space resources to support the growing space economy."

SpaceVR Signs Launch Contract with NanoRacks to Deploy The World's First Virtual Reality Camera Satellite into Space, SpaceVR

"SpaceVR, a platform for creating cinematic, live, virtual space tourism, announced today that it has signed a launch agreement with NanoRacks LLC to send Overview 1, the world's first virtual reality camera satellite, into space. Overview 1 will be delivered to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX CRS-12 Mission. The satellite will then be deployed into Low Earth Orbit from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD)."

Lockheed Martin Finalizes Contract for NASA Lunar Imaging CubeSat, Lockheed Martin

"For being our familiar anchor in the night sky, the moon still holds mysteries for scientists. To illuminate the unknown, Lockheed Martin ) has signed a contract with NASA to deploy SkyFire, a 6U CubeSat planned to launch to the moon in 2018 with Orion's Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1)."

U.S. Government Approves Plan For Moon Express to Become First Private Company To Venture Beyond Earth's Orbit, Moon Express

"The U.S. Government has made a historic ruling to allow the first private enterprise, Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), permission to travel beyond Earth's orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. This breakthrough U.S. policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon's surface, beginning a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon's valuable resources. Moon Express received the green light for pursuing its 2017 lunar mission following in depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA and other federal agencies."

Fact Sheet - Moon Express Payload Review Determination, FAA

"Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty requires, in relevant part, that "The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty." The FAA consulted with the Department of State as to the relevant portions of the Treaty and considered comments from the Department as part of the payload determination."

FAA-AST Awards Virgin Galactic Operator License For SpaceShipTwo

"The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST) has awarded Virgin Galactic an operator license for SpaceShipTwo. The license award, which will ultimately permit commercial operations of the vehicle, was the culmination of several years of in-depth interaction with the FAA. The license review process consists of an in-depth review of the vehicles system design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis, culminating in FAA-AST approval."

Virgin Galactic receives FAA license for SpaceShipTwo tests, SpaceNews

"The license prohibits Virgin Galactic from flying what are officially classified as "spaceflight participants" on SpaceShipTwo until the company can "successfully verify the integrated performance" of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo. "Verification must include flight testing, and the results must be provided to the FAA prior to conducting a mission with a space flight participant on board," the license states.

Virgin Galactic opted to receive the launch license, with those restrictions, over an alternative known as an experimental permit. Such permits allow for testing of suborbital reusable launch vehicles under a more streamlined regulatory environment, but prohibit the company holding the permit from using the vehicle for any commercial application. Blue Origin, for example, has an experimental permit for test flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle."

NASA FISO Presentation: Near Real-Time State Models - a Foundational Technology for Space Automation and Robotics, SpaceRef

"Now available is the June 22, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Gary Barnhard of Xtraordinary Innovative Space Partnerships, Inc. (XISP-Inc) who discussed Near Real-Time State Models - a Foundational Technology for Space Automation and Robotics."

Includes: Presentation and audio recording of the telecon.

Market doesn't justify reusable launchers, expendable rocket makers argue, Ars Technica

"Monday evening in Salt Lake City, some aerospace industry officials sat down to discuss this new development. The panel at an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics forum on propulsion had a provocative title, "Launch Vehicle Reusability: Holy Grail, Chasing Our Tail, or Somewhere in Between?" Moderator Dan Dumbacher said of the panel, "We purposefully tried to get a good cross-section of those who have been working on it." However, the panel included no one actually building reusable rockets and relied heavily on the old-guard perspective. Dumbacher himself, now a professor at Purdue University, previously managed development of the Space Launch System rocket for NASA, and he expressed doubt about the viability of reusable launch vehicles in 2014 by essentially saying that because NASA couldn't do it, it was difficult to see how others could."

Keith's note: Well of course SLS-hugger and former NASA SLS manager Dan Dumbacher can't see a world where the launch market is diverse in terms of customers, payloads, launch vehicles, and financing. He only has wetware that lets him see giant government-built rockets - so that is all that he can see.

Mouser Electronics and Grant Imahara Launch Groundbreaking Contest to 3D-Print Design Aboard International Space Station

"Imagine how exciting it would be to see your design made in space," said Glenn Smith, President and CEO of Mouser Electronics, a leading global distributor of the newest semiconductors and electronic components. "We are really excited to present this unique contest. We hope our wide range of electronic components will enable people to create whatever their imagination sparks." For the I.S.S. Design Challenge, Mouser has partnered with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Made In Space, along with Hackster and MacroFab. The winner of the I.S.S. Challenge will receive a 3D printer, a consultation with Made In Space - pioneers in additive manufacturing technology for use in the space environment - and the prestige of seeing their design 3D-printed aboard the I.S.S."

Keith's note: How cool. A bunch of companies are offering a competition where the winner gets to print something on a commercial device on board the ISS. Isn't this the sort of thing that NASA and CASIS should be promoting? Sam Scimemi from NASA and Greg Johnson from CASIS constantly proclaim their intent to bring education and commerce to Low Earth Orbit on board the ISS. But when it starts to happen in LEO on ISS - on its own - NASA and CASIS could not be bothered to even mention it. One would think that any news like this is good news for everyone involved with the promotion of ISS commercial capabilities. CASIS has signed agreements and has flown Made in Space hardware. But in this case, CASIS prefers to play around with comic book illustrators instead of highlight how its efforts and those of NASA are actually resulting in novel private sector interest in the ISS.

Yet just last week NASA put a notice out seeking new ideas for commercial activities in LEO - activities that involve both NASA and CASIS. If they ignore current efforts already underway, what confidence do we have that they will be able to identify new ones?

Advancing Economic Development in LEO via Commercial Use of Limited Availability Unique ISS Capabilities, NASA

"This is a Request for Information (RFI) only and does not constitute a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will take action in this matter. NASA is investigating options and approaches to expedite commercial activity in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Specifically, NASA is looking to increase private sector demand for space research and expand on the work of Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the manager of the ISS National Laboratory. NASA is not only interested in technical solutions to advance these goals, but also in contract or agreement structures that potential offerors would see as beneficial to advance private sector demand for low Earth orbit research."

NASA Will Put Rocket Raccoon And Groot On Its New Mission Patch, Gizmodo

"A major mission for us here at CASIS is to find unique and innovative ways to bring notoriety to the ISS National Laboratory and the research that is being conducted on our orbiting laboratory," said CASIS Director of Operations and Educational Opportunities Ken Shields. It's also part of a secret mission that might help us get a Rocket and Groot of our very own. "The reward for us [is that] we'll actually have two characters go into space," said Mitch Dane, director of custom publishing. Then he joked, "With a little luck, there'll be a little cosmic radiation going on, they'll come back alive."

'Guardians of the Galaxy' team up with NASA: Groot, Rocket Raccoon on mission patch, Washington Times

"Director James Gunn, whose "Guardians of the Galaxy" grossed $773 million worldwide in 2014, was awed by the decision. "So cool. NASA Oasis has paired with Marvel and is using Rocket & Groot as an official emblem for the mission to Mars," Mr. Gunn wrote."

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. Scimemi said: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."

Keith's note: CASIS issues a press release that mentions that Marvel comic book/movie characters at ComicCon are now ISS mascots or something. Alas NASA is there too - as @NASASocial - at the Marvel booth - and neither @NASASocial or @ISS_CASIS mention one another's presence. Apparently CASIS thinks that Groot, a giant rock tree man thing, and a foul-mouthed raccoon are better poised to explain ISS science than ISS scientists. So - the movie director whose characters are being featured refers to "CASIS" as "OASIS" and doesn't seem to know that this is all about the International Space Station - referring instead to "the mission to Mars".

Meanwhile NASA makes no mention of this news and NASA is never mentioned in the CASIS press release. Yet news stories say that NASA is behind all of this. NASA only gets the credit from third parties - and when they get mention it is factually mangled. Nice job CASIS.

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: DOD Is Assessing Data on Worldwide Launch Market to Inform New Acquisition Strategy, GAO

"In February 2016, Congress asked GAO to examine what is known about other countries with launch capabilities and whether or not countries had fostered competition among launch providers, similar to what the United States is attempting to do in the EELV program. GAO responded to this request with a written briefing on the worldwide space launch capabilities and the status of the United States and global launch market."

Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post

"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."

- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?

Republican Platform

"The public-private partnerships between NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial companies have given us technological progress that has reduced the cost of accessing space and extended America's space leadership in the commercial, civil, and national security spheres. The entrepreneurship and innovation culture of the free market is revitalizing the nation's space capabilities, saving taxpayer money, and advancing technology critical to maintain America's edge in space and in other fields. To protect our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space by launching more scientific missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and ensuring that our space-related industries remain a source of scientific leadership and education."

- Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker Endorse Obama's New NASA Plan, Urge Bipartisan Support, CSF (2010)
- Is Gingrich's Pro-Obama Space Policy Stance About to Flip Flop ... (2012)

Keith's note: Looks like the RNC just endorsed the Obama Administration's commercial space policy - just like New Gingrich and Bob Walker did. Then again Newt was against it before he was for it (or was it the other way around?). Of course, Mike Griffin was moving in this direction before Obama - and Sean O'Keefe before Griffin. Either way, its deja vu all over again with supporters of commercial space on both sides. Oddly, right now, Republicans in Congress are among the most vocal opponents of the current incarnation of the same commercial space policy that began in a Republican administration.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/csf.notsexy.jpg

Private spaceflight trade group rebrands itself to look more like NASA, Mashable

"We want to make that that sexy, badass persona that NASA has established in the government space exploration realm is carried forward into the private commercial space industry," says David Moritz, founder and CEO of Viceroy Creative, the ad agency behind the rebrand."

Viceroy Creative Thrusts into New Frontier with Complete Rebranding Launch of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"Viceroy Creative, the full-service design firm specializing in brand strategy, brand innovation and package design is announcing the official rebranding launch of the newCommercial Spaceflight Federation. Previously viewed as a selective and discerning option for those looking to travel to space, the new rebrand and creative redesign democratizes the idea of space to the public while providing a sexy, cool, and innovative new look for their interactive website. "We wanted to create an identity that would set a standard for the commercial space exploration industry," says David Moritz, CEO and Founder of Viceroy Creative. "Through the new Commercial Spaceflight Federation rebranding, we're able to create a unique, sexy, and ownable identity that also has roots in a thrilling part of the space industry. We envisioned this rebranding and redesign to be sophisticated and alluring, but also thoughtful enough to be on par with a regulatory agency."

Keith's note: When an organization can't develop and implement a simple strategy and has problems explaining what it does for its members, the knee jerk reaction always seems to be the assumption that the problem will be solved re-branding and re-launching websites. So CSF hired Viceroy Creative whose specialty seems to be marketing alcohol. Based on this PR firm's press release it would seem that CSF is not even sure who/what its audience is. They (simultaneously) want to be "sexy", "sophisticated", "alluring" yet be "thoughtful enough to be on par with a regulatory agency". They need to pick one or the other and focus on that. Oh yes - they also want to do something that "democratizes the idea of space to the public".

And they say "sexy" twice in their press release. So CSF clearly wants you to think that they are sexy. Got that? There's a reason why: Viceroy Creative uses soft p*rn imagery in their PR (scroll down) - and they brag about it. They also worked with the Karadashians. Seriously. And note that the press release title says "Thrusts Into New Frontier". Taken together this explains the whole "sexy" thing, I guess. Just what the commercial spaceflight industry needs right now: gratuitous marketing hype used to hide a lack of substance.

CSF now has an audience/customer base comprised of the commercial space industry, Congress, the Federal government, and the public. Instead of developing a strategic focus CSF now wants to be everything to everyone. As for the rebranding launch thing I just went to their new website. Their old website was a bit stale but you could find what you needed quickly. Now it takes longer and has lots of flashy things. And yet all that they have online is the same stuff they had online before - with added flash. As for the website being "sexy, sophisticated, alluring" - no.

With regard to the democratizing thing CSF is aiming for, given that rides on commercial spacecraft are going cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for many years to come, the only "democratizing" that is going to happen is going to be among the super rich people who can afford the ride. The "public" (i.e. the rest of us) will just go about our normal terrestrial routine. I have never quite figured out exactly what CSF does. Now I am even more confused.

New NASA Publication: Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit

"In order for a viable, sustainable economy based on human spaceflight to emerge in low Earth orbit (LEO), a number of elements must be present. ... Recent developments in spaceflight suggest there is ample cause to be optimistic about the future. ... In addition to greatly advancing the state of rocketry, the new capability may have a significant democratization and commercialization effect, potentially enabling low-cost access to space for entrepreneurs, scientists, educators, and the general public."

CASIS and NCATS Collaborate to Promote Human Physiology Research on the International Space Station, CASIS

Keith's note: Senior managers and PR people at CASIS have been heard to complain that they wish NASA would do more to promote them. So what does CASIS do to encourage more interaction with NASA? Why, they ignore NASA, of course. This press release is about research aboard the ISS that NASA paid billions to build and operate. NASA pays 99.97% or more of CASIS' budget every year. So everything that CASIS does is paid for with NASA money. Yet, if you read this press release, you will see that the word "NASA" is not even mentioned. This may sound trivial but CASIS is constantly taking credit for things without acknowledging NASA's role. And then they whine when NASA doesn't show them enough love. If the management of CASIS had half a brain they'd be trying to be NASA's best friend. Instead, all they do is throw them shade.

Moon Express Announces New Home at Historic Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complexes 17 & 18

"Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) announced today that it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Air Force 45th Wing to license the historic Space Launch Complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral for its lunar lander development and flight test operations. The new arrangement for Launch Complexes 17 and 18 under the USAF 45th Wing will allow for Moon Express growth and expansion of its business and technical operations. Moon Express previously occupied Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 36A under an agreement established with Space Florida in January 2015."

Keith's note: Based on a recent NASA Freedom of Information Act response CASIS has been operating for two years without the Annual Program Plan it is required to have. Or maybe it is. Either way NASA doesn't seem to care.

On 5 April 2016 I submitted a FOIA request to NASA for information related to CASIS. CASIS (Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) is the non-profit organization that NASA relies upon to operate its research facilities aboard the International Space Station. CASIS gets $15 million a year from NASA to do this and relies on this funding for 99.97% of its annual budget.

At first the NASA HQ FOIA refused to even consider my FOIA request as a "media" request despite the fact that I have been accredited as media by NASA for more than 15 years. After a lot of emails, complaints, and foot dragging, NASA HQ's FOIA office finally complied with my FOIA request. To their credit they provided a lot of information which is going to take some time to analyze. My request was focused and straightforward:

"I am requesting the full text of NASA cooperative agreement NNH11CD70A between NASA and CASIS including any revisions, annexes, modifications, or associated contractual amendments made by NASA from the inception of this agreement with CASIS until the date of this FOIA request. I am also requesting all progress and status reports and memos provided by CASIS to NASA from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request as well as all correspondence/memos from NASA to CASIS in response to CASIS progress and status reports from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request."

Let's start with the means whereby NASA and CASIS agree on what CASIS should be doing i.e. the CASIS Annual Program Plan. In response to the FOIA request NASA provided CASIS Annual Program Plans for FY 2012 (submitted 31 October 2011); 2013 (submitted 21 March 2013); and 2014 (submitted 20 October 2013). However NASA did not provide a copy of the CASIS Annual Program Plan for FY 2015 (FY 2015 began on 1 October 2014) or the plan for FY 2016 (FY 2016 began on 1 October 2015). Both Annual Program Plans clearly fall within the period of time and scope specified in my FOIA request.

These reports are required to be prepared and submitted annually. According to the Cooperative Agreement between NASA and CASIS:

Keith's note: Three weeks ago I sent NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan (and NASA HQ PAO) a simple question about her statement regarding NASA's value to America's economy i.e."there was a report that showed that for ever $1.00 you spend on NASA you get $4.00 returned to the economy". As I have been ranting for the past month Stofan - and the rest of NASA - refuses to answer a simple media inquiry about a public claim by NASA about returns on investments in NASA technology. Yet that has not stopped NASA from putting out a report today titled "Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit" that includes complicated fancy math to calculate what an investment in ISS R&D can expect to see emerging from that investment (page 46):

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/ecomath.jpg

As you can see the math in my original question was much simpler than what is in this report (image of full reference). The report goes on to gush about the economic potential of space commerce with regard to Low Earth Orbit. That economic potential is most likely quite real. Alas NASA is not necessarily the best equipped to actually understand that commercial potential - much less act strategically to facilitate its development. NASA is also under some collective delusion that it actually understands "commerce" since they seem to think that "commerce" is equivalent to government spending. Just ask Bart.

In the mean time it is clear that one part of NASA is not talking to other. While one office on the 9th floor is incapable of responding to a simple question on this topic just a few feet down the hall NASA's Deputy Administrator's office is co-launching this report with the White House - including the fancy math that is over the head of NASA's Chief Scientist.

NASA Cannot Answer A Simple, Basic Question on Its Value, earlier post

Report: Federal agents raid NASA construction contractor, Orlando Sentinel

"Investigators with NASA's Office of Inspector General, the agency in charge of probing crimes against NASA, removed boxes of documents and computer towers from SDB Engineering and Constructors Inc., according to Fox35. The company located on East Parrish Road has worked on several big projects at NASA's Kennedy Space Center including upgrades to the Vehicle Assembly Building and corrosion control work at Launch Complex 41 and Launch Complex 37, used for United Launch Alliance launches."

Keith's 7 July update: A week Two weeks Three weeks ago I sent NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan (and NASA HQ PAO) a simple question about her statement regarding NASA's value to America's economy i.e."there was a report that showed that for ever $1.00 you spend on NASA you get $4.00 returned to the economy". NASA has still not gotten back to me with an answer. Either NASA refuses to answer or (more likely) they cannot answer - because their answer would reveal that they have no idea where their claims come from.

After 20 years I can totally understand that some people at NASA are loathe to respond to NASAWatch questions like this - especially ones with a high gotcha quotient. I get that. But you'd think that such a basic talking point - one repeatedly used by senior agency personnel to explain the purported value of NASA to our economy - would be one that is strongly grounded in research data - data that should be at everyone's finger tips. Guess again. If NASA is unable to answer such a simple, basic question about a commonly-used talking point, why should anyone take agency staff seriously when they start to talk about commerce, economics, and return on investment?

NASA has no idea what it is talking about when it comes to its economic value to our nation. So they just make stuff up and hope that no one asks any questions.

NASA has been getting ready for visits from presidential campaign transition teams in the coming weeks. Based on my sources agency leadership is under some collective pervasive delusion that space is actually an issue that campaigns intend to pay attention to prior to the election. Moreover, their aim is to tell the campaigns that NASA is doing what it should be doing, to please just let NASA do whatever it is doing, and not ask too many questions as to why NASA is doing what it is doing. Among the things NASA would normally do is drop the whole dollar-invested/dollar-returned thing into the briefing charts. If NASA cannot answer a simple media question about NASA's numerical claim of value added benefits to the economy, I am not certain that they should be perpetuating these urban factoids by telling them to representatives of the next administration.

Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee

"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) today sent letters to four senior officials requesting information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. ... The letters request a written copy of the administration's policy governing access to Indian launch services, an explanation of when and how this policy was promulgated, and a copy of licenses authorizing the launch of U.S. origin space technology on Indian launch vehicles and records associated with them."

Testimony of Eric Stallmer President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, April 2016

"Prohibiting access to foreign launch services, like India's, who do not allow their payloads to fly on U.S. vehicles, has opened another set of opportunities for U.S. commercial companies to develop their own systems to serve the global satellite launch market. Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."

Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post

"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."

America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post

NASA Final Rule: 14 CFR Part 1214: Space Flight, Federal Register

Keith's note: These rules apparently only apply to Orion (and SLS). No mention is made as to who is in charge aboard Dragon or Starliner (or other commercial vehicles) when NASA people are on board. That said, the take home message: no fist fights on the bridge.

"Sec. 1214.702 Authority and responsibility of the NASA Commander.

(a) During all flight phases, the NASA Commander shall have the absolute authority to take whatever action is in his/her discretion necessary to:
(1) Enhance order and discipline.
(2) Provide for the safety and well-being of all personnel on board.
(3) Provide for the protection of the spacecraft and payloads. The NASA Commander shall have authority, throughout the mission, to use any reasonable and necessary means, including the use of physical force, to achieve this end.
(b) The authority of the NASA Commander extends to any and all personnel on board the spacecraft including Federal officers and employees and all other persons whether or not they are U.S. nationals.
(c) The authority of the NASA Commander extends to all spaceflight elements, payloads, and activities originating with or defined to be a part of the NASA mission.
(d) The NASA Commander may, when he/she deems such action to be necessary for the safety of the spacecraft and personnel on board, subject any of the personnel on board to such restraint as the circumstances require until such time as delivery of such individual or individuals to the proper authorities is possible.

Sec. 1214.703 Chain of command.

(a) The NASA Commander is a trained NASA astronaut who has been designated to serve as commander on a NASA mission and who shall have the authority described in Sec. 1214.702 of this part. Under normal flight conditions (other than emergencies or when otherwise designated) the NASA Commander is responsible to the Mission Flight Director.
(b) Before each flight, the other flight crewmembers will be designated in the order in which they will assume the authority of the NASA Commander under this subpart in the event that the NASA Commander is not able to carry out his/her duties.
(c) The determinations, if any, that a crewmember in the chain of command is not able to carry out his or her command duties and is, therefore, to be relieved of command, and that another crewmember in the chain of command is to succeed to the authority of the NASA Commander, will be made by the NASA Administrator or his/her designee.

Sec. 1214.704 Violations.

(a) All personnel on board the NASA mission are subject to the authority of the NASA Commander and shall conform to his/her orders and direction as authorized by this subpart.
(b) This subpart is a regulation within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 799, and whoever willfully violates, attempts to violate, or conspires to violate any provision of this subpart or any order or direction issued under this subpart shall be subject to fines and imprisonment, as specified by law."

Keith's note: According to 18 U.S. Code § 799 if you break the NASA rules you "shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both". In other words the fine is (apparently) TBD and the longest you can sit in the brig for punching your captain is a year.

NASA's Response to SpaceX's June 2015 Launch Failure: Impacts on Commercial Resupply of the International Space Station, NASA OIG

"... The most significant item lost during the SPX-7 mission was the first of two Docking Adapters necessary to support upcoming commercial crew missions. Although NASA had planned to have two Adapters installed on the Station before the first commercial crew demonstration mission scheduled for May 2017, it is now likely there will be only one installed in time for these missions.

... we also found that for the first seven cargo missions NASA did not fully utilize the unpressurized cargo space available in the Dragon 1 capsule's trunk, averaging 423 kg for SPX-3 through SPX-7 even though the trunk is capable of carrying more. The ISS Program noted that unpressurized payloads depend on manifest priority, payload availability, and mission risk, and acknowledged it struggled to fully utilize this space on early missions, but as of June 2016 the Agency's cargo manifests show full trunks on all future SpaceX cargo resupply missions.

... risk mitigation procedures are not consistently employed and the subjective launch ratings the Agency uses provide insufficient information to NASA management concerning actual launch risks. In addition, NASA does not have an official, coordinated, and consistent mishap investigation policy for commercial resupply launches, which could affect its ability to determine the root cause of a launch failure and implement corrective actions."

Commercial Space: Industry Developments and FAA Challenges, GAO

"GAO reported in 2015 that FAA's budget requests for its commercial space launch activities generally were based on the number of projected launches, but that in recent years the actual number of launches was much lower than FAA's projections. GAO also reported that, according to FAA officials, more detailed information was not provided in FAA's budget submissions because the agency lacked information on its workload overseeing commercial space launch activities. In addition, GAO reported that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation did not track the amount of time spent on various activities."

Statements by: Taber MacCallum, George Nield, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Michael Gold, Rep. LoBiondo

Keith's note: I just got this email from Carol Hively, Director, Public Relations & Team Communications telling me "NOTE TO MEDIA: Today, the Space Foundation will issue a press release announcing data from The Space Report 2016. In addition to the data found in the press release, an overview of the report is available free to media here. There will be a charge of $99 for media to access the complete pdf of The Space Report 2016, which includes more than 80 pages of data on global space activity during 2015. Go here to receive the discount code to order The Space Report 2016 pdf full report for the discounted media rate of $99."

I had to read that email more than once. Space Foundation charges immense fees for its member companies, puts on lavish events, and never does anything in an inexpensive way. Indeed, according to their 2014 Form 990 Space Foundation had over $7,000,000 in income. And yet they want the several dozen news media (those who pay attention to the Space Foundation that is) to pay $99 to read their self-congratulatory 80 page PDF file? Really? You'd think that the Space Foundation would best serve its membership by making the good news about space economy available to everyone who is interested.

Keith's update: According to their press release "The report can be purchased as a downloadable PDF for $399. A website subscription can be purchased for $3,500." So ... now the non-profit Space Foundation is in the commercial market forecasting business, I guess. Again, you'd think that this report should be out in the wild for anyone to read.

This must be what it was like when Rome was burning.

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Issues Policy Paper to Guide Incoming President and Congress

"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration has released a policy position paper highlighting the key issues that every presidential and congressional candidate should understand in order to ensure that deep space exploration remains a bipartisan priority over the next several years. The Coalition is the voice of America's deep space industry, with over 40 corporate members supporting NASA's deep space human exploration and science programs. The full paper, entitled "A Space Exploration Roadmap for the Next Administration," is available for download on the Coalition's website."

Keith's note: This document is mostly recycled word salad that states the obvious without ever getting to the point - other than to request continued support SLS and Orion. This is yet another attempt by this organization (actually there is no "organization", its just Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne with other smaller companies tossed in who write checks) to preserve the status quo. Everything else is just window dressing adjusted to meet the needs of these two programs. Note that there is no support for NASA's "Journey To Mars" or ARM so they're already throwing the Obama folks under the bus. As for space commerce, the Coalition makes little mention of it other than to describe it as something that happens in low Earth orbit - so long as it does not get in the way of SLS and Orion, that is.

We've seen this movie before. Just three months ago a similar effort by many of the usual suspects produced a similar document with the same intent:

Space Policy White Paper = Shopping List For The Journey to Nowhere, March 2016

"Such is the problem with these sort of documents from the space community. On one hand the space groups want to have a say in the political decisions that affect their members (and donors). But on the other hand they'd rather not have the politicians pay too much attention to space such that the current status quo is not upset. In other words "write us the checks but don't rock the boat" - or more bluntly "look but don't touch". This is, at best, naive thinking on the part of the space community. If you read the white paper it becomes immediately apparent that this coalition wants everything that they are doing to be supported and in some cases, they want even more money. They also want a stable funding environment (makes sense). The two main programs being supported by this coalition are SLS/Orion and Commercial Crew and Cargo with gratuitous mention of other projects that are important to the members of this coalition."

- Pioneering Space National Summit One Year Later: No Clear Direction
- Fact Checking SLS Propaganda
- How The #JourneyToMars Becomes The #JourneyToNowhere

It's Big Jim

Paul Allen's Stratolaunch lifts veil on world's biggest plane - a giant bet on a new way to space, Geekwire

"The plane's wing, taking shape inside a 103,000-square-foot hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port, stands three stories off the ground and measures 385 feet from tip to tip. That's three times longer than the distance of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight in 1903. If the Enterprise is ever built to its "Star Trek" TV dimensions, now or in the 23rd century, the starship would be only a few dozen feet wider."

Keith's note: Vulcan Aerospace gave a hand-picked group of space journalists a tour of their facility. They saw Stratolaunch. It is big and it is 76% complete. No information was given as to customers, markets, etc. In other words: no news. Did I mention that it is big?

Larger image

Keith's note: As readers of NASAWatch have noted by now, I have an interest in the utilization of the International Space Station. When the amazing capabilities of ISS are used to their fullest potential we all benefit. When those resources are under-utilized our tax dollars and the finite utility of the ISS are wasted. CASIS has been given responsibility for managing the U.S. assets aboard the ISS that have been collectively proclaimed as being the ISS National Laboratory. I've already written a lot about CASIS. I'll be writing much more in the weeks to come.

Let's start with a clear-cut example of how CASIS has stumbled: its preoccupation with golf and its relationship with Cobra Puma Golf, a large and very successful golfing gear manufacturer. If you look at the LinkedIn page of Patrick O'Neill, CASIS Marketing & Communications Manager, you will see that he was an account executive for VitroRobertson. Between 2008-2009 he was "Account Executive on the Cobra Golf Account. Managed the day to day operations of all Brand Marketing efforts and assisted in the production of all Advertising efforts for Cobra Golf." If you read CASIS President/Executive Director Greg Johnson's astronaut bio you'll see that he lists golf among his recreational interests. So, senior CASIS management likes golf. "Go with what you know", so they say.

On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. In that letter Scimemi notes: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab." Coincidentally this letter was sent on the same day that CASIS staff made a rather awkward presentation to the NASA Advisory Council.

The "Space Is In It" designation that CASIS calls an "endorsement" has apparently only been awarded once - to Cobra Puma Golf. As such it would be illustrative to examine how that whole process came about and what it says about the ability of CASIS to recognize the actual commercial research potential of the ISS.

Blue Origin Successfully Launches New Shepard on its 4th Reusable Flight

Watch the full launch video and see some of the highlights in images.

"Blue Origin successfully launched its reusable rocket New Shepard today deploying the crew capsule on its suborbital mission. This was the 4th time this New Shepard rocket has flown, a feat never achieved to date by any other rocket."

SpaceX Successfully Launches EUTELSAT 117 West B and ABS-2A Satellites [With video and comments from Elon Musk], SpaceRef Business

"A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched and placed the EUTELSAT 117 West B and ABS-2A communications satellites into nominal orbits today."

The secondary mission of landing the Falcon first stage ended with a hard landing on the Of Course I Still Love You autonomous spaceport drone ship and resulted in its destruction. It was the first landing failure after four consecutive successes.

Selling Space: Entrepreneurs Offer Dreams and Schemes in the Hope of Making a Buck Off the Cosmos, Houston Press

"... Dula is not just a NewSpace pioneer, he's a defendant in a $49 million fraud suit calling him a con artist with a warehouse full of antiquated space junk that was never meant to get off the ground. It's the second time an investor has accused him of fraud -- a Houston woman, Donna Beck, previously sued him for allegedly duping her into an asteroid-mining scam. Beck and Dula agreed to dismiss the case, with prejudice, in early 2014. In the years after Dula accepted his prestigious [Space Frontier Foundation Pioneer of NewSpace] award, his space capsules have been to London's Parliament Square, Saudi Arabia and an auction house in Brussels. They just haven't been to space. The man who would sue Dula, Japanese billionaire Takafumi Horie, was actually considered a con man himself in his native country, where he was convicted of manipulating stock prices in his Internet company and sentenced to 21 months in prison."

Senate Reaches Agreement on Russian RD-180 Engines, SpacePolicyOnline

"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) brokered an agreement among Senators who have been at sharp odds over how to transition U.S. rocket launches away from reliance on Russian RD-180 engines to a new American-made engine. The Nelson amendment passed the Senate this morning by voice vote as part of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA itself then passed the Senate by a vote of 85-13. In brief, the compromise sets December 31, 2022 as the end date for use of the RD-180 by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Atlas V launches of national security satellites. It also limits to 18 the number of RD-180s that can be used between the date that the FY2017 NDAA is signed into law (enacted) and that end date."

Space Angels Network Opposes ICBM Amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, SpaceRef Business

"On Sunday the Space Angels Network released a letter in opposition to Mike Lee's amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which would allow the commercial use of ICBM's. The primary arguments are that the amendment would benefit one company and hurt the burgeoning small satellite commercial launch market."

Previous:

- Hearing Discusses Using Old ICBMs As Satellite Launchers
- Why Not Use Old Missiles To Launch New Satellites?

Elon Musk provides new details on his 'mind blowing' mission to Mars, Washington Post

"Essentially what we're saying is we're establishing a cargo route to Mars," he said. "It's a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It's going happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station. And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it's going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments."

SpaceX's Elon Musk teases 'dangerous' plan to colonize Mars starting in 2024, Geekwire

"Musk said 2022 would mark the first use of the Mars Colonial Transporter, a spaceship that's big enough to carry scores of people to Mars. The first MCT would be uncrewed. However, it's plausible to think that the craft could be pre-positioned at Mars to support the crewed mission to come, and the return trip to Earth. That's the part of the plan that's still fuzzy."

- The Real Cost of a Red Dragon Mission to Mars, earlier Post
- SpaceX Will Go To Mars Starting in 2018, earlier Post

Patti Grace Smith

Patti Grace Smith, Champion of Private Space Travel, Dies at 68, NY Times

"In an email, Elon Musk, the PayPal and Tesla entrepreneur who founded SpaceX, a company that has developed launch vehicles, wrote that Ms. Smith had "helped lay the foundations for a new era in American spaceflight." "We are closer to becoming a multiplanet species because of her efforts," he added."

Keith's note: There was a time when Patti was the only person in the entire Federal government who was thinking seriously about commercial space. At that time, no one else really cared. She did. Look what happened.

Keith's update: Patti's family requests in lieu of flowers that donations can be made to the American Cancer Society in Patti's name. Patti's "Home-Going" Service will be held Monday, 13 June at 11:00 am at the Mount Sinai Baptist Church 1615 3rd St. NW in Washington, DC.

Former NASA Chief Dan Goldin's Neural Computing Company KnuEdge to Transform Real-World Human-Machine Interaction

"We are not about incremental technology. Our mission is fundamental transformation," said Dan Goldin, Founder and CEO of KnuEdge. "We were swinging for the fences from the very beginning, with intent to create technologies that will in essence alter how humans interact with machines, and enable next-generation computing capabilities ranging from signal processing to machine learning."

Former NASA chief unveils $100 million neural chip maker KnuEdge, Venture Beat

"It's not all that easy to call KnuEdge a startup. Created a decade ago by Daniel Goldin, the former head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, KnuEdge is only now coming out of stealth mode. It has already raised $100 million in funding to build a "neural chip" that Goldin says will make data centers more efficient in a hyperscale age."

- KnuEdge

U.S. Set to Approve Moon Mission by Commercial Space Venture, WS Journal (subscription)

"U.S. officials appear poised to make history by approving the first private space mission to go beyond Earth's orbit, according to people familiar with the details."

Moon Express Becomes First Private Company in History to Initiate a Commercial Lunar Mission Approval Process with the US Government, Moon Express (earlier post, April 2016)

"Today, Moon Express made history as the first private space company to request the U.S government to conduct a payload review of its spacecraft and plans leading to regulatory approval of a commercial mission to the Moon in 2017. Moon Express initiated the review process through a submission to the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST), bringing the company another important step closer to the Moon."

Keith's note: There is no "news" in this Wall Street Journal article since Moon Express announced the ongoing interactions with FAA back in April - and they are still ongoing - and everyone knows that they are ongoing. So the news seems to be the use of the word "appear" except that was obvious several months ago as well.

SpaceResources.lu: New space law to provide framework for space resource utilization, Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy

"The Luxembourg Government forges ahead with the SpaceResources.lu initiative by presenting an overall strategy to be implemented progressively for the exploration and commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids. Amongst the key actions undertaken is the establishment of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for space resource utilization activities to provide private companies and investors with a secure legal environment. ... Dr. Simon "Pete" Worden said: "Perhaps the most important aspect of Luxembourg's spaceresources.lu initiative is the excitement it is generating across the world - particularly young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Everywhere I go I hear young people ask about these ideas. Recently, entrepreneurs from Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Colombia and Mexico contacted me to ask how they can get involved. I come from Silicon Valley - but I'm convinced that the Silicon Valley for space resources - and gateway to an unlimited future of resources for humanity, will be here in Luxembourg."

- Can Congress Authorize Mining On Asteroids?, earlier post
- Americans Can Now Legally Mine Asteroids, earlier post

Trouble at XCOR?

The XCOR Lynx Spaceplane Might Be Down for the Count , Popular Mechanics

"Even before this news, a shakeup was in the works. Some of the original XCOR gang-founder Jeff Greason and early backer Stephen Fleming-were bounced from the company's board of directors in March. Greason, XCOR's CEO turned chief technologist (another cross into Silicon Valley terrain) left the company in 2015. One board replacement: Michael Gass, the former president and chief executive of ULA. Those who see traditional space industry invading the private space movement, take note of this move."

Orbital ATK Conducts Test of Antares First Stage (with video)

"Orbital ATK today announced it conducted a full-power "hot fire" test of the upgraded first stage propulsion system of its Antares medium-class rocket using new RD-181 main engines. The 30-second test took place at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) on May 31, 2016 at Virginia Space's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A. Initial indications are that the test was fully successful. The Antares engineering team will review test data over the next several days to confirm that all test parameters were met. Assuming the success of the test is confirmed, it will clear the way for the resumption of Orbital ATK's cargo logistics missions to the International Space Station (ISS) from Wallops Island, Virginia, currently scheduled for July."

Kennedy's vision for NASA inspired greatness, then stagnation, Ars Technica

"Perhaps the best insight into Kennedy's motives can be found in a recording of a November 21, 1962 meeting in the White House Cabinet Room. Kennedy had boasted of the lunar plan just a month earlier at Rice. The main participants that day were Kennedy and James Webb, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At issue was the true purpose of NASA and the Apollo program, and at the outset of the meeting Kennedy asked Webb, "Do you think this program is the top priority of the agency?" In hindsight, Webb's answer was surprising: "No sir, I do not. I think it is one of the top priority programs, but I think it is very important to recognize here, that as you have found out what you could do with a rocket, as you find out how you could get out beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space to make measurements, several scientific disciplines that are very powerful have (begun) to converge on this area." To this Kennedy responds that Apollo is the top priority. That ought to be very clear, he explained. "This is important for political reasons, for international political reasons," Kennedy said. He told Webb he did not want to finish second to the Soviets in the "race" to the moon."

Keith's note: In other words had there been Twitter in 1960s we'd have heard nothing but #ManOnTheMoon on everything NASA PAO put out. In the case of Apollo in the 1960s NASA had a firm presidential mandate and a specific architecture in place in relatively short order - on a timeline what almost fit into a two-term Kennedy Administration. Flash forward: NASA is in no hurry to explain how it is going to send humans to Mars by a date that requires constant unwavering support from 4 to 5 presidential administrations - and a dozen Congresses. Most importantly, NASA now lacks that compelling reason to amass the requisite blood and treasure needed to mount an interplanetary project of geopolitical importance - because we're now competing with everyone (internally and externally) - each of whom is on their own timetable - each for their own purposes. Add in a lame duck Administration which has been disinterested - at best - for the past 7 years. Anyone with a reasonable grasp of history and current politics would be wise to ponder whether NASA and the U.S. government are no even capable of supporting a human missions to Mars in the ways needed for it to actually happen.

Its time to stop listening to the old professors, reading old advisory reports, and trying to find old historical resonances to justify or inspire future efforts. The world is as it is. Other nations are now starting to do interesting things in space because they see that it confers importance upon their nation, inspires their people, and offers access to new technologies. They also have their own reasons that have little resonance with America's. They learned both from our mistakes and successes and are now filling the vacuum created by our hesitance and lack of interest.

Others are seizing upon the opportunities presented by this American space malaise as well - and they are firmly established on American shores. The motivations may echo NASA's interests but they include many things that would not fit well on a NASA Powerpoint chart. Lets watch as SpaceX sends technology to Mars that NASA is incapable and/or unwilling of doing. There may well be an American #JourneyToMars - but mission control may be in Hawthorne - not Houston. And will the Americans who step out of a future human-rated Red Dragon be any less American?

Bigelow Module Fails First Expansion Attempt

"NASA is working closely with Bigelow Aerospace to understand why its module did not fully expand today as planned. Engineers are meeting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss a path forward for the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)."

Packing for space flattened NASA's Space Hotel, New Scientist

"The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, was installed on the space station on 16 April and was supposed to be inflated on Thursday. But like a stubborn air mattress that stays flat, folds in the soft fabric kept it from expanding even as astronaut Jeff Williams tried to pump in air. In a 27 May teleconference, representatives from NASA and Bigelow Aerospace discussed what went wrong. "We went through a sequence, stepping up the pressure," said NASA's Jason Crusan. After some initial growth, the habitat stopped expanding even as pressure built up. "We ran into higher forces than our models predicted," he said."

miniPCR announces first DNA amplification in space

"miniPCR announced the first successful DNA amplification on the International Space Station (ISS). Using a miniPCR thermal cycler, astronauts performed Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) on DNA samples on April 19th. Analysis performed today on Earth confirms that DNA amplification done in microgravity was successful, ushering in a new era in space exploration."

miniPCR, GenesInSpace

Keith's note: This is really cool news. But does CASIS make any mention of this major accomplishment on their website or @ISS_CASIS? Of course not.

Senate Schism on Russian Rocket Engines Continues, Space Policy Online

"The Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 defense appropriations bill today. Few details have been released, but in at least one area -- Russian RD-180 rocket engines -- the schism between Senate appropriators and authorizers seems destined to continue. The full appropriations committee will mark up the bill on Thursday."

As rocket wars wage in DC, a cautious move towards competition makes sense

"To ULA's credit, the company has successfully launched over 100 rockets without incident. But they've also been given vast resources to do so. For example, McCain refers to ULA's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch capability contract as "$800 million to do nothing." That's not exactly fair since the contract gives the Air Force tremendous launch flexibility, but $800 million a year to effectively be ready to launch seems tremendously generous."

SpaceX is about to attempt another extremely difficult landing, Business Insider

"SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic. SpaceX's track record for launches has been nearly flawless this year, with four successful launches and three successful landings (and retrievals!) of the first stage of the rockets. One of those successes took place on land in December; two more happened in April and May at sea. SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic."




Space Subcommittee Hearing - Next Steps to Mars: Deep Space Habitats

"On Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing titled, "Next Steps to Mars: Deep Space Habitats." The hearing will examine Mars exploration, specifically efforts to develop deep space habitation capabilities."

- Statement, Jason Crusan, NASA
- Statement, John Elbon, Boeing
- Statement, Wanda Sigur, Lockheed Martin
-Statement, Frank Culbertson, Orbital ATK
-Statement, Andy Weir, Author, The Martian

NASA to pay Russia $88 mln to deliver astronauts to world's sole orbiter in 2018-2019, TASS

"Russia has signed a contract with the United States to deliver six NASA astronauts aboard Russian-made Soyuz MS spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018-2019, according to a quarterly report released by Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation on Monday. Energiya Corporation is the producer of Russian spacecraft. According to the document, NASA will pay Russia 5.7 billion rubles ($88 million) for the delivery of NASA astronauts to the ISS and their return to the Earth. The deal was signed on January 27."

Boeing's first crewed Starliner launch slips to 2018, Ars Technica

"NASA has pinpointed next year as the time when its dependence upon Russia to fly its astronauts to the International Space Station will finally end. However, one of the two companies now slated to provide that service, Boeing, has said it will not be able to launch a crewed mission of its Starliner spacecraft until 2018 at the earliest."

Keith's note: That's $88 million per American astronaut.

NAS Report: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) at NASA

"The U.S. Congress tasked the National Research Council with undertaking a comprehensive study of how the SBIR program has stimulated technological innovation and used small businesses to meet federal research and development needs, and with recommending further improvements to the program. In the first round of this study, an ad hoc committee prepared a series of reports from 2004 to 2009 on the SBIR program at the five agencies responsible for 96 percent of the program's operations -- including NASA. In a follow-up to the first round, NASA requested from the Academies an assessment focused on operational questions in order to identify further improvements to the program."

How Elon Musk exposed billions in questionable Pentagon spending, Politico

"Yet despite the potentially more cost-effective alternative, taxpayers will be paying the price for ULA's contracts for years to come, POLITICO has found. Estimates show that, through 2030, the cost of the Pentagon's launch program will hit $70 billion - one of the most expensive programs within the Defense Department. And even if ULA is never awarded another government contract, it will continue to collect billions of dollars - including an $800 million annual retainer - as it completes launches that were awarded before Musk's company was allowed to compete. That includes a block buy of 36 launches awarded in 2013. Meanwhile, ULA is under investigation by the Pentagon for possible corrupt bidding practices and is preparing to lay off 25 percent of its workforce. Its long-term viability is in doubt. Even the Pentagon's acquisition chief grants that the creation of ULA - a monopoly criticized by the Federal Trade Commission when it was formed at the government's behest a decade ago - may have been a mistake. "With the benefit of hindsight, you could say that," Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told POLITICO."

A bridge too far: Why Delta rockets aren't the answer, op ed, Tory Bruno, The Hill

"If you believe that competition is good, and if you believe that affordability is paramount, an Atlas bridge is the only answer. The hardworking, innovative men and women of ULA are proud of their support to America's space launch capability. From GPS and missile warning to secure communications and weather prediction, we've launched the satellites the military intelligence community depends on for every mission -- and we've done so with reliability no one can match. We're ready to continue that mission. Please ask Congress to create the smooth transition from Atlas to Vulcan Centaur that will keep America's launch industry healthy for decades to come."

ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby, earlier post

"ULA has ordered additional Atlas engines to serve our existing and potential civil and commercial launch customers until a new American-made engine can be developed and certified."

Senator Shelby protects Alabama's role in rocket production, op ed, Huntsville Times

"In Decatur, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) builds the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets which launch our nation's military, NASA, and commercial satellites into space. The ULA plant employs or directly contracts with close to 1,000 Alabamians across north Alabama."

Keith's note: First ULA gets Shelby to side with them over the whole RD-180 thing to save jobs (among other things). Now you have to wonder whether Shelby is going to feel betrayed by ULA now that they want to close down Delta production in Alabama - i.e. JOBS. Then again with the unwieldy legacy arrangements that ULA has in place with DoD that will eventually go away it is probably time for them to do a drastic overhaul of how they do business. ultimately they need to able to compete in an open market on cost and performance - without DoD's finger on the scale.

Senate Armed Services Committee Sticks to Its Guns on RD-180 Rocket Engines, Space Policy Online

"U.S. national space transportation policy requires that at least two independent launch systems be available for national security launches. If one suffers a failure, access to space is assured by the other. For more than a decade, those two have been Atlas V and Delta IV, both ULA rockets. SpaceX argues that now the two can be its Falcon plus ULA's Delta IV. ULA and its supporters insist, however, that the Delta IV is prohibitively expensive compared to Atlas V and the best choice for the taxpayers is to keep Atlas V available until the early 2020s when ULA's new Vulcan rocket -- with a U.S. engine -- will be able to compete with SpaceX on price. SASC insists that a new U.S. engine can be ready by 2019 and only nine more RD-180s are needed until that time. That is the number set by the FY2015 and FY2016 NDAAs. However, the Senate Appropriations Committee undermined that authorization language in the FY2016 appropriations bill, essentially removing all limits."

- ULA Begs Congress To Let Them Kill Delta Rockets, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts

Boeing falls behind SpaceX in next space race, CNN Money

"Boeing said Tuesday that it has pushed the date of its first manned space mission back from 2017 to 2018. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, which will carry the astronauts, is still under development. SpaceX, led by Tesla Motors (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, says it intends to have a manned mission in 2017 using its Dragon space capsule. Unlike the Starliner, Dragon is already built and in use, delivering supplies to the International Space Station with unmanned missions. But it will need to go through further testing before it can carry humans."

Boeing's Starliner schedule for sending astronauts into orbit slips to 2018, GeekWire

"However, if both companies stick to their stated schedules, SpaceX would become the first U.S. commercial venture to send astronauts to the space station and as a result would take possession of a highly prized trophy: a U.S. flag that was left aboard the station by the last space shuttle crew in 2011."

Keith's note: I have lived and worked in the Washington, DC metro area for 30 years. One thing I quickly noticed when I moved here was that big companies and organizations use a large canvas - literally - when they are pushing an issue at Congress. It is not uncommon to see Metro stations near the Pentagon or Capitol Hill transformed by a "take over" ad campaign with every possible surface covered with pictures and words. Then there's op eds like the one ULA's Tory Bruno managed to get placed in The Hill begging Congress to let him kill the Delta rocket. Funny thing: I can remember back in the day when Lockheed Martin and Boeing launched big ad campaigns begging Congress to allow them to form the ULA duopoly because it would save taxpayers money by combining EELV marketing. The appearance of the Internet has done little to dampen the use of traditional media such as newspaper ads.

When I opened up my Washington Post this morning page A5 glared back at me with a full page advertisement from Norwegian Air. Flipping the page, A7 glared at me with a full page counter advertisement from ALPA (larger image). The issue has to do with a certification battle over this airline. OK, it got my attention. I do have to wonder who did the advertisement strategy for Norwegian Air. Their ad trumpets "American crew. American jobs. American planes. That's Norwegian." Right: say "American" three times and it somehow equals "Norwegian". OK, if you say so. Now ULA wants Congress to let them kill one of the two rockets it was so desperate for Congress to let them sell - without competition - because there now is competition. Oh yes and they want to kill the one with American engines and keep the one with Russian engines. Rest assured some equally large advertisements with strange tag lines from Tory Bruno will soon start to stare back from the Washington Post stating that the best "American" rocket is one with "Russian" engines.

Keith's note: NASA wants you to think that everything they do in low Earth orbit these days has some sort of business potential. Alas, while that may be true, NASA is the least likely place to go if you want to find out what they are actually doing. In fact, most of the people dealing with commerce at NASA have no idea what commerce is.

Last week I saw an interesting tweet from @NASA_OSBP - NASA's Office of Small Business Programs saying "#DYK Over 800 #small businesses are contributing to the dev. of the #SpaceLaunchSystem? #NASA #DreamSmallBiz #NSBW" I replied via @NASAWatch "Interesting @NASA_OSBP can you post that list of companies online? #SpaceLaunchSystem? #NASA ". A few hours later @NASA_OSBP replied @NASAWatch List is pg 61-71 of new the pub. "SLS: A Case for Small Business" just posted at http://www.osbp.nasa.gov/publications.html". That link led me to the 74 page report "NASA Space Launch System: A Case For Small Business".

The report, published in 2016, is focused on things as they were in FY 2015. While the overall scope of the SLS program as it related to small businesses is discussed, only a few of those small businesses are profiled in any detailed fashion. There is a nice long list of the 800 or so small businesses associated with the SLS program at the end of the document. However, this is only a list in alphabetical order of the companies, their type, and who they subcontract with. Nothing is included about where the companies are located or what they do. Nor is there any sort of econometric information as to the value of each contract or the impact of these contracts on the local communities.

There is another report listed at the page link tweeted by @NASA_OSBP that looks to have been published in 2015 "NASA Deep Space Human Exploration Spacecraft Orion: A Case for Small Business". This report is structured in a nearly identical fashion to the SLS report complete with an alphabetical listing of all of the small businesses. But other than that there's little to explain how or why this is important to the business health of the national economy or to local communities. NASA just wants you to see that they are giving money to lots of small companies that you've never heard of.

There does not seem to be an intent to issue these two reports on an annual basis so as to allow people to understand how the program has adjusted to budgets, overall progress, and the addition or deletion of specific small businesses, or the current estimate of overall economic benefit to the communities where these small companies are located. Instead, NASA spends 6 months editing up and dumbing down last year's data, adding in some boilerplate PR, and then posts the document online. That's it.

Musk Sleeps Near Factory Floor to Spur Tesla Manufacturing, Bloomberg

"Elon Musk, determined to turn his electric-car company into a great maker of things, said that he keeps a sleeping bag in a conference room adjacent to Tesla Motors Inc.'s production line in Fremont, California."

Why Elon Musk Sleeps in a Sleeping Bag, Motley Fool

"So I move my desk around to wherever the most important place is for the company, and then I sort of maintain a desk there over time to come and check in on things. But I suspect probably by the end of this quarter most of my time will not be spent on the factory floor."

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SpaceX Successfully Launches JCSAT-14 and Recovers Falcon 9 Rocket 1st Stage [With full launch webcast]

"SpaceX completed another successful launch delivering the Japanese JCSAT-14 satellite to a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and recovered the Falcon 9 first stage with a night landing at sea."

Keith's note: I sent the following email request to Glenn Delgado, AA for NASA's Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP): "I found this tweet to be very interesting. Can you provide me with a list of the specific 800+ small business companies that are contributing to SLS, where they are located, and what their products/services are in relation to SLS? People often do not appreciate just how pervasive NASA programs are in terms of procurement. Moreover it is often not appreciated how deeply these programs can reach into small communities a great distance from the cities/states where space activities are usually associated."

Keith's update: No response from Glenn Delgado or NASA PAO but this tweet from @NASA_OSBP just appeared. Impressive report (download). Too bad NASA PAO hasn't issued a press release about it. Oddly the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a pro-SLS/Orion lobbying group, has made no mention at all about it.

Reaching for the Stars by Paying for Results, Huffington post

"With all discretionary spending under pressure, a new paradigm will be required to ensure NASA's future is as bright as its heritage. Funding research at higher levels will call for development of a revenue base to augment the agency's general fund allocations. A robust space economy where private firms support government infrastructure, services and research in space via user fees can make that a reality. A revenue positive future is something that Congress and any administration should embrace."


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