Recently in Commercialization Category

The Air Force's $10000 toilet cover, Washington Post

"Loren Thompson, a defense consultant who works for the Lexington Institute, a think tank that gets funding from defense contractors, said he is worried the military will be unable to buy next-generation weapons systems if it spends too much on overpriced spare parts."

Northrop Grumman CEO will step down, Washington Post

"Loren Thompson, a defense consultant, said that when Warden was elevated to the COO position last year, "it was a signal that succession had begun." .. Thompson called Bush "a godsend for Northrop Grumman shareholders. Nobody in the industry believed when he became CEO that the share price would have get as high as it is today. In fact, the company was in such bad shape when Wes took over that his predecessor had to fight to get him the job."

Playing defense - but at a price?, Politico

"The 501(c)(3) Lexington Institute doesn't disclose its donors. But Thompson said it receives contributions from defense giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and others, which pay Lexington to "comment on defense."

Keith's note: It is rather odd that the Washington Post does not bother to tell its readers that Loren Thompson's employer, the Lexington Institute, gets significant funding from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and other defense companies - especially when he is being quoted in articles about those companies. Yet the post goes out of its way (quite properly) to tell people that Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post every time Amazon, Whole Foods, or Blue Origin are mentioned in a story.

GAO: NASA Commercial Crew Program: Plan Needed to Ensure Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station, GAO

"Further delays are likely as the Commercial Crew Program's schedule risk analysis shows that the certification milestone is likely to slip. The analysis identifies a range for each contractor, with an earliest and latest possible completion date, as well as an average. The average certification date was December 2019 for Boeing and January 2020 for SpaceX, according to the program's April 2018 analysis. Since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russia to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Additional delays could result in a gap in U.S. access to the space station as NASA has contracted for seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft only through November 2019.

NASA is considering potential options, but it does not have a contingency plan for ensuring uninterrupted U.S. access. NASA's certification process addresses the safety of the contractors' crew transportation systems through several mechanisms, but there are factors that complicate the process. One of these factors is the loss of crew metric that was put in place to capture the probability of death or permanent disability to an astronaut. NASA has not identified a consistent approach for how to assess loss of crew. As a result, officials across NASA have multiple ways of assessing the metric that may yield different results.

Consequently, the risk tolerance level that NASA is accepting with loss of crew varies based upon which entity is presenting the results of its assessment. Federal internal controls state that management should define risk tolerances so they are clear and measurable. Without a consistent approach for assessing the metric, the agency as a whole may not clearly capture or document its risk tolerance with respect to loss of crew."

Keith's note: A month ago I mentioned the Facebook advertsing that Boeing has been doing (see "Boeing's Imaginary Space Program"). Well, they are at it again. I just saw this advertisement show up on Facebook (larger image). It leads with "NASA hasn't used American-made spacecraft to send astronauts to space since 2011. Sign the petition to show you support AMERICAN-MADE SPACECRAFT." What's their point? The only competitor Boeing has right now for NASA business is another 100% American-made spacecraft by SpaceX. And I suppose you can add in Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin too if you want. So no matter who flies on a commercial vehicle they will be flying on an American spacecraft. So why is Boeing trying to get you to support something that happens no matter what?

If you click on the link it sends you to this link (note the tracking code in the URL) - you are now an "enthusiast" for their "sls-space-race-petition". https://watchusfly.com/campaigns/space-american-made-petition-acquisition/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=video-post&utm_campaign=acquisition_petition_sls-space-race-petition-2-b&utm_term=space&utm_content=enthusiast which asks you to "Add your name to support American-made spacecraft." By giving your name, email, and zip code. Of course they also put cookies in your browser and know your IP number. Oh yes - take a look at their policy page and look at all the things you will let them do with this information (as if anyone reads this stuff):

"Your use of social media features will result in the collection or sharing of information about you, depending on the feature. The basic details we receive depends on your social network account privacy settings. We encourage you to review the privacy practices and settings of the social media sites you use to make sure you understand the personal information that may be collected, used, and shared by those sites."

Sierra Nevada Corporation Internal Memo: Mark Sirangelo: My Transition At SNC

"I wanted to let you know of decision that I have made. After reflecting on my commercial space journey over the past 17 years and after significant consideration I have concluded that it is time for me to make a change and end my executive role leading Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems. This decision is being made from a positive personal place and as a friendly transition from SNC with the knowledge that the SNC space business is stable and strong."

Space plane could make first Alabama landing in 2022, AL.com

"A mini space plane could return from space and land at the Huntsville International Aiport as soon as 2022, the Alabama Space Authority was told today. "When the space shuttle landed, thousands of people would come out. It was a huge event," John Roth, vice president of business relations for Sierra Nevada Corp., said in Huntsville. "We haven't had a landing like that in a long time. We think that first landing is going to be a giant landing, and we'd like it to be here."

Keith's note: Is Sierra Nevada pandering to the Alabama congressional delegation or is there an actual, logical, reason to land in Alabama? Oh yes - Sierra Nevada says that their first mission might be "sponsored by the United Nations". But who is actually paying for it? The UN?

SpaceX Launches CRS-15 to the International Space Station, NASA

"Experiments investigating cellular biology, Earth science and artificial intelligence are among the research heading to the International Space Station following Friday's launch of a NASA-contracted SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at 5:42 a.m. EDT. Dragon lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with more than 5,900 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the space station."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves the American Space SAFE Management Act

"The U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved H.R.6226, the American Space Situational Awareness and Facilitation of Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act), introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). This bill will establish the Department of Commerce as the civilian agency to provide civil space situational awareness and traffic coordination."

House Approves Space Technology and Commercial Space Bills

"Today, the U.S House of Representatives approved two bipartisan space bills that promote the Nation's leadership in rocket propulsion development and provide licenses for commercial space support vehicles and flights. These bills will ensure America remains a leader in space exploration and development. The American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act, or the ALSTAR Act, (H.R. 5345) was introduced by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Space Subcommittee. The Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act (H.R. 5346) was introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), a member of the Space Subcommittee."

Today the President will sign Space Policy Directive 3 (SPD-3) at the National Space Council meeting being held at the White House. SPD-3 deals principally with space traffic management. This morning in a media call National Space Council Executive Director Scott Pace said the U.S. needs to ave unfettered access and the ability to operate space - but space is becoming congested. The new policy (SPD-3) addresses these challenges.

SPD-3 establishes principles, goals, and guidance on how to achieve these goals. It also establishes responsibility within the U.S, government for taking on the task of implementing these goals: the Department of Defense will take the lead on developing an authoritative catalog of space objects; the Department of Commerce will be responsible for the releasable portions of the catalog for collision avoidance purposes; the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation will lead the development of standards and practices, and the State Department will lead U.S. efforts to conduct these activities internationally with transparency.

Pace says that this is going to be a "bottom-up process" using best practices from industry. As such no treaty-level document is envisioned. Pace said that the U.S. wants to avoid creating an international treaty since that would be complicated and take time to do Instead, Pace says that they will be working to make this happen faster by having recommendations incorporated into various countries' laws and regulations.

Pace concluded by saying that a next step for the space council will be space debris and proximity operations as it relates to on-orbit servicing.


Update: President Donald J. Trump is Achieving a Safe and Secure Future in Space - Fact Sheet, White House

"FURTHER SPACE DEVELOPMENT: President Donald J. Trump signed Space Policy Directive - 3 directing the United States to lead the management of traffic and mitigate the effects of debris in space."

Axiom Space Vapor Ware

Axiom Space offers space station vacations starting in 2020, for $55 million, Geekwire

"How much would you pay for a 10-day stay in low Earth orbit? Houston-based Axiom Space has set a $55 million price point for trips that it says could begin as early as 2020. If you want to fly that soon, Axiom Space is offering accommodations on the International Space Station. But the company, headed by a former NASA space station program manager, says it'll eventually have its own place in space. "It is an honor to continue the work that NASA and its partners have begun, to bring awareness to the profound benefits of human space exploration and to involve more countries and private citizens in these endeavors," Axiom Space CEO and President Michael Suffredini said today in a news release."

Keith's note: Where is the module where these space tourists will have their space vacation? Who will launch it? Where is the investment money needed to make this happen? Etc.

COMSTAC Meeting Today

Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee-Open Meeting

The COMSTAC meeting will take place on Thursday, June 14th from 10:00 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT. The event will be webcast live. NASA Administrator Bridenstine will be speaking at 10:45 am EDT. Agenda, webcast

Aerospace Corporation Policy Paper proposes Launch Unit Standards for SmallSats

"The Aerospace Corporation's Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) released a new policy paper today that explores the benefits of Launch Unit standards for smallsats during its Emerging Issues in Space Technology and Policy event at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. "More than 6,000 smallsats are expected to launch in the next 10 years, which is six times more than in the previous decade," said Carrie O'Quinn, senior project engineer for Aerospace's Research and Development Department. "As smallsats have increased in popularity, many stakeholders continue to advocate for cost-effective solutions in order to reduce cost and time-to-launch."

Majority of Americans Believe It Is Essential That the U.S. Remain a Global Leader in Space, Pew Research

"Sixty years after the founding of NASA, most Americans say the U.S. should be at the forefront of global leadership in space exploration and believe that - even as private space companies emerge as increasingly important players - NASA's role is still vital for U.S. space exploration. In a national survey of 2,541 U.S. adults conducted March 27-April 9, 2018, roughly seven-in-ten Americans (72%) say it is essential for the U.S. to continue to be a world leader in space exploration. Strong public support is widely shared across gender, generational, educational and political groups. Also, some 80% of Americans say the International Space Station has been a good investment for the country."

"- Monitoring key parts of Earth's climate system: 63% said it should be a top NASA priority; 25% said it should be an important but lower priority; and 11% said it is not too important or should not be done.
- Monitoring asteroids or other objects that could hit Earth: 62% top priority.
- Conducting basic scientific research to increase knowledge and understanding of space: 47% top priority.
- Developing technologies that could be adapted for other uses: 41% top priority.
- Conducting research on how space travel affects human health: 38% top priority.
- Searching for raw materials and natural resources for use on Earth: 34% top priority.
- Searching for life and planets that could support life: 31% top priority.
- Sending astronauts to Mars: 18% top priority, 45% important but lower priority, 37% not too important or should not be done.
- Sending astronauts to the moon: 13% top priority, 42% important but lower priority, 44% not too important or should not be done.
"

Keith's note: So, among those surveyed, observing and protecting Earth is NASA's most important task while sending people to other worlds is the lowest ranked. So much for the assumptions of many space advocates.

Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Stakeholder Perspectives (Webcast)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness will convene a hearing entitled 'Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Stakeholder Perspectives,' at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The second in a series of hearings to examine the role of the International Space Station (ISS), this hearing will provide ISS stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the value of the ISS to our national space program and the future of human space exploration."

- Bill Nelson [Statement]
- Cynthia Bouthot, CASIS [Statement]
- Jim Chilton, Boeing [Statement]
- Bob Mitchell, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership [Statement]
- Michael Suffredini, Axiom Space [Statement]

Northrop Grumman Expands Houston Operations, Looks to Local Businesses to Join Space Exploration Team


"Northrop Grumman Corporation announced today that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cleared Northrop Grumman's proposed acquisition of Orbital ATK Inc. The FTC's Bureau of Competition has completed its review of the merger, and the Premerger Notification Office has informed the company that the waiting period under the HSR Act has terminated, allowing the companies to complete the merger. As part of that clearance, the FTC issued a decision and order providing for solid rocket motors to be available on a non-discriminatory basis under specified circumstances and under processes defined in the order."

Note: Orbital ATK will now be known as Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems.

NASA's new administrator says he's talking to companies about taking over operations of the International Space Station, Washington Post

"NASA is talking to several international companies about forming a consortium that would take over operation of the International Space Station and run it as a commercial space lab, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an interview."

"'We're in a position now where there are people out there that can do commercial management of the International Space Station,' Bridenstine said in his first extensive interview since being sworn in as NASA administrator in April. 'I've talked to many large corporations that are interested in getting involved in that through a consortium, if you will.'"

Marc's note: The annual maintenance cost of the ISS per the article is about $3 - $4 billion in today's dollars. While the idea of the commercial sector taking over operations of the space station isn't a bad idea, I've yet to hear anyone present a business case that makes this work. I look forward to reading and evaluating any credible plan put forward.

Keith's Note: There is nothing new in this article other than a Bridenstine quote or two. This topic has been openly debated since the FY 2019 budget proposal was issued by the White House in January. Here are a few of our posts:

- Senators Tell White House: We Decide The Future Of ISS, earlier post
- If CASIS Is How NASA Will Commercialize ISS That Plan Will Fail, earlier post
- NASA OIG Delivers Blunt Reality Check On NASA's Faith-Based ISS Plans, earlier post
- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update), earlier post
- Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post
- Is Privatizing ISS A Smart Thing To Do?, earlier post
- NASA Budget Document Overlooks Multiple Advisory Group Findings and Recommendations on the ISS, earlier post
- ISS After 2025: Is CASIS The Solution Or The Problem?, earlier post
- White House Plan To Defund ISS By 2025 Moves Ahead, earlier post
- China Is Seeking Users For Their New Space Station, earlier post

Keith's note: This appears at the bottom of the newsletter that Boeing pays Politico to put out weekly: "A message from The Boeing Company: Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg asserted, "It's the only rocket being built that has the capacity to go back to the moon and then go to Mars." With 9.2 million pounds of thrust, there's no questioning the physical power behind the Space Launch System. The opportunities for exploration it will offer are even more undeniable. By rocketing into space, we will unlock clues about our place in the universe, spawn brand new innovations that will improve life back on Earth, all while inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers. That's the true power of the Space Launch System."

Where do I start? No one knows exactly when an SLS will actually fly. But it will not have the "capacity to go back to the moon and then go to Mars" since NASA is going to do all of the Moon and Mars stuff via the Deep Space Gateway thing.They are not sending SLS to Mars. SLS can send stuff to the Moon (but not as much as NASA had originally planned). Under NASA's current architectures (pick any one you want) things are going to be put together near Earth or the Moon before they go to Mars. When they will go to Mars - well (again) pick any one of them. It looks like it will be the mid-2030s.

But wait: You could assemble a human Mars mission using existing Falcon Heavy rockets at a fraction of the cost of using SLS rockets. But there is no need for that since SpaceX plans to start its self-funded BFR Mars program in 2022. Even if they are delayed they will get people and things to the Martian surface well before any of Boeing's SLS hardware will. And, of course, Boeing is not sending a damn thing to Mars or the Moon. NASA is. And if NASA did not pay Boeing to do this then they would be building combat aircraft instead. But Boeing keeps wanting everyone who reads their newsletter to think that they have their own space program when in fact they have none.

Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, earlier post

NASA Selects US Companies to Advance Space Resource Collection

"NASA has selected 10 companies to conduct studies and advance technologies to collect, process and use space-based resources for missions to the Moon and Mars. NASA placed a special emphasis on encouraging the responders to find new applications for existing, terrestrial capabilities that could result in future space exploration capabilities at lower costs."

How Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX beat Boeing to become a $28 billion aerospace juggernaut, CNBC

"SpaceX has upended the rocket industry, making founder Elon Musk the world's most disruptive space pioneer. The visionary entrepreneur is bent on building giant low-cost reusable rockets and spaceships that can be used to colonize humans on Mars. In the process, he is helping to catalyze a private space exploration industry in the United States while outmaneuvering mammoth aerospace companies like Boeing. SpaceX is the No. 1 company on the 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, announced Tuesday."

Ariane chief seems frustrated with SpaceX for driving down launch costs, Ars Technica

"With this background in mind, the chief executive of Ariane Group, Alain Charmeau, gave an interview to the German publication Der Spiegel. The interview was published in German, but a credible translation can be found here. During the interview, Charmeau expressed frustration with SpaceX and attributed its success to subsidized launches for the US government."

NASA Sends New Research on Orbital ATK Mission to Space Station

"Astronauts soon will have new experiments to conduct related to emergency navigation, DNA sequencing and ultra-cold atom research when the research arrives at the International Space Station following the 4:44 a.m. EDT Monday launch of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus lifted off on an Antares 230 rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Orbital ATK's ninth cargo mission under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract. The spacecraft is carrying about 7,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of the more than 250 investigations underway on the space station."

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

"The Center for the Advancement of Science In Space (CASIS) manages the activities of the ISS National Laboratory to increase the utilization of the ISS by other Federal entities and the private sector. CASIS works to ensure that the Station's unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of U.S. scientific, technological, and industrial communities. The ISS National Laboratory is helping to establish and demonstrate the market for research, technology demonstration, and other activities in LEO beyond the requirements of NASA. Commercial implementation partners are now bringing their own customers to LEO through the National Laboratory, as well."

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin

"Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the Station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the Agency's current plan. This concern is illustrated by NASA's limited success in stimulating non-NASA activity aboard the Station through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS). Established in 2011 to facilitate use of the ISS by commercial companies, academia, and other Government and non-Government actors for their research or commercial purposes, CASIS's efforts have fallen short of expectations. Apart from these privatization challenges, the amount of cost savings NASA may realize through commercialization of the ISS may be less than expected given that significant expenditures - particularly in crew and cargo transportation and civil servant costs - will likely continue even if many low Earth orbit activities transition to a privatized ISS or another commercial platform."

NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA OIG

"... With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018."

Keith's note: CASIS still depends on NASA for 99.7% of its $15 million annual budget from NASA. After 7 years it is still unable to fully utilize all of the crew and ISS resources that have been allotted to it. Yet NASA expects that CASIS will lead the way in all of its plans to end funding of ISS in 2025 and transferring ISS operations to the private sector. Good luck with that.

Study for Commercialization of Low Earth Orbit

"In May of 2018, NASA will be releasing a NASA Research Announcement (NRA) for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Commercialization. The purpose of this NRA is to inform NASA's strategy for enabling the commercialization of human spaceflight in LEO and meeting NASA's long-term LEO needs."

Questions and Answers Set #3

"79. Can the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) propose?
A: The NRA is open to all U.S. organizations, including industry, educational institutions, and nonprofit institutions."

- ISS After 2025: Is CASIS The Solution Or The Problem?, earlier post
- Previous CASIS postings

Keith's note: NASA is bringing its Robonaut unit back from the ISS to fix it. Meanwhile two of NASA's R5 Valkyrie robots are being fixed by college students. Neither R5 or Robonaut can move from one point to another unless they are hung from cables or moved by humans. They come in at the bottom of the heap whenever they compete against other robots. Yet NASA continues to pour money into their JSC in-house robots while the private sector surges ahead - Boston Dynamics' Atlas being one example.

Instead of proving that NASA does not know how to build a fully independent droid why not just put out a RFP to the private sector and let them provide the droids that NASA is looking for? At a minimum NASA should reveal how much money they have spent on their bots (including the shipping costs to/from ISS). They should also reveal the actual program plan for R5 and Robonaut - you know, what specific technological or programmatic needs are these things supposed to be meeting - and how well have they met those needs.

- Hey NASA: These Are The Droids You Should Be Looking For, earlier post
- Does NASA Have A Robot That Can Do This?, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- NASA Challenges People To Use Its Broken Robot To Fix Things on Mars, earlier post
- Using a Last Place Robot for NASA's Robotics Challenge, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post

NASA Preproposal Conference for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Acquisition

Elon Musk's SpaceX is using a powerful rocket technology. NASA advisers say it could put lives at risk, Washington Post

"... But in a 2015 letter to NASA, Thomas Stafford, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and then chairman of the agency's space-station advisory committee, wrote that "there is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board the Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally." At the hearing this year, William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the agency had not decided whether it would allow SpaceX to load crews before loading the fuel, but he did not rule it out. He vowed that the agency would "make sure that we're really, really safe to go fly, and the system is ready for crew before we put them on board."

NASA: Assessments of Major Projects, GAO

"The cost and schedule performance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) portfolio of major projects has deteriorated, but the extent of cost performance deterioration is unknown. NASA expects cost growth for the Orion crew capsuleone of the largest projects in the portfoliobut does not have a current cost estimate. In addition, the average launch delay for the portfolio was 12 months, the highest delay GAO has reported in its 10 years of assessing major NASA projects.

The deterioration in portfolio performance was the result of 9 of the 17 projects in development experiencing cost or schedule growth. Four projects encountered technical issues that were compounded by risky program management decisions. For example, the Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems programs are large-scale, technically complex human spaceflight programs, and NASA managed them to aggressive schedules and with insufficient levels of cost and schedule reserves. This made it more difficult for the programs to operate within their committed baseline cost and schedule estimates."

Keith's note: In case you are interested in other ways that NASA is going to do the Lunar landing thing, this is the NASA Procurement notice for "Commercial Lunar Payload Services - CLPS"

"NASA's release of a draft request for proposal for the delivery of lunar payloads to the Moon via commercial services is the latest step in the agency's expanding efforts in Lunar Exploration combined with support for the development of a the commercial space industry. NASA requires transport services to the lunar surface for instruments and technology demonstration payloads. This DRFP is the latest step in a long-running effort by NASA to support the development of commercial lunar capabilities considering the Moon as a destination for future human spaceflight. In the DRFP, NASA seeks to contract with the commercial sector to deliver scientific payloads to the Moon."

NASA Preproposal Conference for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Acquisition

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/watchusfly.jpg

Keith's note: We've all heard about those misleading campaign ads on Facebook. Well, while the campaign ads are under scrutiny big aerospace companies are quietly luring people to websites that are not what they seem to be at first glance.

This ad is currently running on Facebook. According to the coding embedded in the link it is "campaign=acquisition_newsletter_tier-two-space-race-b" and I am an "enthusiast". When you go to the link it sends you to this page at watchusfly.com (registered by Boeing in 2016) which says "America is in a modern-day space race, and Boeing is leading the charge by building the spacecraft that will keep us in the lead. Boeing's Space Launch System is the world's largest and most powerful rocket. It is the foundation for America's plan to send humans to Mars. Boeing's Starliner is a re-usable capsule that will soon be the method NASA uses to send astronauts into space." But when you go to this page for more information it says "NASA's Space Launch System provides a critical heavy-lift capability, powering people and cargo beyond our moon and into deep space."

For starters NASA is building the SLS. Boeing - along with Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, Orbital ATK, and Airbus are building the pieces. One page says it is Boeing's SLS. The other says it is NASA's. Which is it? And yes, Starliner will be sending human crews into space but it is not "the method NASA uses to send astronauts into space." It is one of the methods - SpaceX is another method.

Blue Origin's New Shepard Goes To Space - And Back - Again (with video)

"New Shepard flew again for the eighth time on April 29, 2018, from Blue Origin's West Texas Launch Site. Known as Mission 8 (M8), the mission featured a reflight of the vehicle flown on Mission 7. The Crew Capsule reached an apogee of 351,000 feet (66 miles, 107 kilometers) - the altitude we've been targeting for operations. For the second time, Blue Origin's test dummy "Mannequin Skywalker" flew to space conducting astronaut telemetry and science studies. The flight also carried research payloads for NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and commercial customers."

NASA OIG Audit of Commercial Resupply Services to the International Space Station

"However, despite a requirement to compete task orders among all contractors, NASA approved sole-source awards for all 31 CRS-1 missions and the 8 CRS-2 missions awarded as of December 2017. With the addition of a third contractor under CRS-2, we believe NASA has more flexibility to compete task orders or possibly open the contract to new entrants through its On-Ramp clause that allows NASA to recompete contracts with new contractors for any missions beyond the guaranteed six. In addition, we believe NASA could realize substantial savings if Sierra Nevada uses a less expensive launch vehicle than the Atlas V currently planned for the company's first two missions.

... we question as premature $4.4 million paid to Sierra Nevada to begin certifying its second Dream Chaser configuration. We believe ISS Program officials should have delayed these payments until after the first Dream Chaser configuration is successfully demonstrated.

... Although less risky than the CRS-1 missions, all three contractors face technical and schedule risks as they prepare for their CRS-2 missions. Development and launch of the Dream Chaser spacecraft poses the greatest technical and schedule risk to NASA due to its lack of flight history and Sierra Nevada's plan to not conduct a demonstration flight. Additionally, Sierra Nevada intends to only build one Dream Chaser and this raises concerns about potential schedule delays if an anomaly or failure occurs."

House Approves American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act

"The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act (H.R. 2809), which simplifies and strengthens the space-based remote sensing regulatory system, enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space operators. The bill is sponsored by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)."

The Reinvention of NASA, Harvard Business Review

"NASA today is a very different beast from the NASA of the 1960s. Though many would call that decade NASA's golden age, we'd argue that NASA's innovation and influence is even greater today."

"Since the Apollo program, NASA has faced funding cuts, competition from other nations for space leadership, and a radical restructuring of its operating environment due to the emergence of commercial space - all of which have forced the organization to change its ways of thinking and operating."

Keith's note: I guess ULA has adopted a humpback whale as a standard unit of measure with which to compare launch vehicles. In so doing Tory Bruno is now mocking - my mockery - of his original infographic with whales - except his original used trucks and tanks - and likely had its inspiration in part from Elon Musk's space Tesla. This is kind of like featuring Space Shuttle Enterprise in the opening of "Star Trek Enterprise" when in fact Space Shuttle Enterprise was named after the original USS Enterprise in a TV show. Or something like that - with time travel.

SpaceX moving fast on Mars rocket development, BFR tent spied with more tooling, Teslarati

"Spotted inside the temporary structure thanks to open flaps and a human desire for a breeze amidst the warm Los Angeles springtime, the main cylindrical component is truly vast - large enough that the eye almost glazes over it at first glance. Dwarfing the humans clambering about it, very rough estimates using knowledge of the tent's reported area (20,000 square feet) and size comparisons with machinery blueprints suggest a diameter of around 8-10 meters (26-36 feet), loosely conforming to the expected 9m diameter of BFR, as of CEO Elon Musk's IAC 2017 update."

Aerospace Corporation White paper: Cislunar Development: What to Build - and Why

"The Aerospace Corporation's Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) released a new policy paper that explores future opportunities in cislunar space - essentially, the space inside the moon's orbit and the orbital area around the moon. Cislunar Development: What to Build - and Why discusses the possible applications for cislunar space - for example, outposts on the moon, extraterrestrial mining operations, interplanetary waystations - and determines the infrastructure that will be needed to realize those ambitious goals. Author Dr. James Vedda, senior policy analyst with CSPS, says that the cislunar region remains a largely underdeveloped resource, and any coherent, long-term strategy for space commerce and exploration will need to make better use of it."

SpaceX not to blame for lost mystery satellite, report says, Cnet

"A super secretive US government satellite SpaceX launched in January never made it to orbit after it failed to separate from the upper stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. Three months later, it still appears the satellite manufacturer Northrop Grumman may be to blame for the loss and not SpaceX. A new report from The Wall Street Journal published late Sunday says two teams of investigators have found that a payload adapter, which was modified by Northrop Grumman to accommodate the reportedly sensitive spy satellite, is the culprit behind the loss of the $3.5 billion craft."

Zuma Update: SpaceX Exonerated by USAF, earlier Post

Orion Span says it'll put space hotel in orbit by 2022, but some details are up in the air, Geekwire

"A startup called Orion Span says it's planning to open a luxury hotel in orbit in 2022, but a lot of the details have yet to be filled in. ... It'll accommodate up to six residents at a time, including two professional crew members. The flight plan calls for the module to be launched into a 200-mile-high orbit in late 2021, and host its first guests in 2022."

First-Ever Luxury Space Hotel, Aurora Station, to Offer Authentic Astronaut Experiences, Orion Span

"Prior to take-off, those set to travel on Aurora Station will enjoy a three-month Orion Span Astronaut Certification (OSAC). Phase one of the certification program is done online, making space travel easier than ever. The next portion will be completed in-person at Orion Span's state-of-the-art training facility in Houston, Texas."

Keith's note: Here we go again. What training facility? Where is it? What is the address? Orion Span claims that they will go from zero to an operational orbital space station in 4 years with no track record whatsoever. This is going to cost many hundreds of millions of dollars and would be a challenge for an experienced company to accomplish.

Virgin Galactic VSS Unity Completes First Supersonic Rocket-Powered Flight

"SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity has safely and successfully completed her first supersonic, rocket-powered flight. After two years of extensive ground and atmospheric testing, the passing of this milestone marks the start of the final portion of Unity's flight test program. The flight was also significant for Virgin Galactic's Mojave based, sister manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company. Unity is the first vehicle to be built from scratch for Virgin Galactic by The Spaceship Company's talented team of aerospace engineers and technicians. They were justifiably proud today to be a part of this compelling demonstration of their capabilities in action."

Chamber of Commerce after Trump's Amazon attacks: 'Inappropriate' for officials to attack an American company, The Hill

"Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says it is "inappropriate" for government officials to use their offices to criticize American companies. "It's inappropriate for government officials to use their position to attack an American company," Bradley told The New York Times in an article published Tuesday. Bradley's comments came after President Trump launched a series of tweets over several days in which he accused tech giant Amazon of scamming the U.S. Postal Service and failing to collect taxes on some sales."

The Pentagon is close to awarding a $10 billion deal to Amazon despite Trump's tweets attacking the company, business Insider

"But behind the scenes, some Department of Defense agencies are so sure that Amazon will be awarded the contract that they are preparing for a transition to GovCloud, which is Amazon's cloud infrastructure designed specifically for government use, according to this source. And Safra Catz, the CEO of another Amazon cloud competitor, Oracle, dined Tuesday with Trump. Oracle is competing against Amazon for the JEDI contract. Catz complained to Trump during the dinner that the Pentagon's intent to award the contract to a single company made it difficult for anyone but Amazon to win the bidding process, according to Bloomberg."

Keith's note: We've already seen this sort of behavior from the White House intrude upon procurement for several large aerospace projects - Air Force One and F-35. It is inevitable that a space project will find itself similarly perturbed. This is not the sort of environment that should be created to encourage and support a growing space industry.





NASA chief explains why agency won't buy a bunch of Falcon Heavy rockets, Ars Technica

"Since the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, NASA has faced some uncomfortable questions about the affordability of its own Space Launch System rocket. By some estimates, NASA could afford 17 to 27 Falcon Heavy launches a year for what it is paying annually to develop the SLS rocket, which won't fly before 2020. Even President Trump has mused about the high costs of NASA's rocket. On Monday, during a committee meeting of NASA's Advisory Council, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale raised this issue. Following a presentation by Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, Hale asked whether the space agency wouldn't be better off going with the cheaper commercial rocket. ... One difficulty with Gerstenmaier's response to Hale's question is that NASA does not, in fact, yet have any "large-volume, monolithic pieces" that could only be launched by the Space Launch System."

Making Life Multi-Planetary, Elon Musk

"We are targeting our first cargo missions in 2022 - that's not a typo, although it is aspirational. We've already started building the system - the tooling for the main tanks has been ordered, the facility is being built and we will start construction of the first ship around the second quarter of next year. In about six to nine months we should start building the first ship. I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and be ready for a launch in about five years. Five years seems like a long time to me. The area under the curve of resources over that period of time should enable this time frame to be met, but if not this time frame, I think pretty soon thereafter. But that is our goal, to try to make the 2022 Mars rendezvous. The Earth-Mars synchronization happens roughly every two years, so every two years there is an opportunity to fly to Mars. Then in 2024 we want to try to fly four ships - two cargo and two crew."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves Space Exploration and Entrepreneurship Bills

"The American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act, or the ALSTAR Act, (H.R. 5345) was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Space Subcommittee. The Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act (H.R. 5346) was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), a member of the Space Subcommittee. The Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act (H.R. 5086) was introduced on February 26, 2018, by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), ranking member on the Research and Technology Subcommittee, and cosponsored by Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), a member of the Research and Technology Subcommittee."

NASA Independent Review Team SpaceX CRS-7 Accident Investigation Report Public Summary

"The SpX CRS-7 mission consisted of a SpaceX Falcon 9 version 1.1 launch vehicle and a Dragon spacecraft loaded with 4303 lbs (1952 kgs) of cargo. At approximately 139 seconds into flight, the launch vehicle experienced an anomalous event in the upper stage liquid oxygen (LOx) tank, resulting in the loss of the mission. The first stage of the vehicle, including all nine Merlin 1D engines, operated nominally. The Dragon spacecraft also indicated no anomalous behavior prior to the mishap, and survived the second stage event, continuing to communicate with ground controllers until it dropped below the horizon."

Elon Musk, speaking at SXSW, projects Mars spaceship will be ready for short trips by first half of 2019, CNBC

"Musk held a surprise question and answer session at the annual technology and culture festival in Austin, Texas on Sunday. The billionaire told attendees that "we are building the first Mars, or interplanetary ship, and I think well be able to short trips, flights by first half of next year." Mindful of elevating expectations too high, Musk hedged a bit. "Although sometimes, my timelines are a little, you know..." he said to laughter."

FCC Accuses Stealthy Startup of Launching Rogue Satellites, IEEE Spectrum

"The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm's application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft. If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites. On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm's system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy."

Keith's note: The following comments were made this morning by President Trump:

"Before me are some rocket ships [there were rocket models in front of him on the table]. You haven't seen that for this country in a long time...Many of the jobs we're doing are privately financed. We're letting them use the Kennedy Space Center for a fee and, you know, rich guys, you know, they love rocket ships. That's good. That's better than us paying for them. And I noticed the prices of the last one they say cost $80 million. If the government did it, the same thing would have cost probably 40- or 50-times that amount of money...I'm so used to hearing different numbers with NASA."

"But NASA is making tremendous strides and we're using a lot of private money, a lot of people that love rockets and they're rich. So they're going to be a little less rich probably, but a lot of rockets are going up. And we're really at the forefront -- nobody's doing what we're doing. And I don't know if you saw last -- with Elon -- with the rocket booster where they're coming back down. To me, that was more amazing than watching the rocket go up, because I've never seen that before. Nobody's seen that before, where they're saving the boosters, and they came back without wings, without anything. They landed so beautifully. So we're really at the forefront and we're doing it in a very private manner."

"At the same time NASA is very much involved and doing their own projects, but we're bringing that whole space flight back. We'll be sending something very beautiful to Mars in the very near future, and we're going to areas that nobody thought possible, certainly not this quickly. So we're very proud."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/trump.wordcloud.jpg

Gerstenmaier: U.S. Leadership in Space is "Ours to Lose" If Direction Changes Too Many Times, Space Policy Online

"Bill Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said today that the United States is the "partner of choice" for countries wanting to engage in international space cooperation, but that leadership is "ours to lose" if too many changes in direction drive partners away."

Keith's note: Sage advice. And of course Gerst is totally faultless when it comes to all of the changes in direction. right? Lets dial back a decade or so. First Gerst was behind the Ares I/V/Orion Constellation thing. Then he was behind the SLS/Orion thing when the Constellation thing was turned upside down. Then he pushed the Journey to Mars thing. Then he jumped in behind the Asteroid Retrieval thing which eventually became the grab the small boulder thing. When no one liked the asteroid thing any more, he picked up the pieces and jumped behind the Deep Space Gateway thing. Then, to pay for the Deep Space gateway thing he jumped behind the commercialize ISS thing (with no one lined up to pay the bills). Then when the Mars thing was fading he pivoted to the Back to the Moon thing but he still wants to walk away from ISS in LEO to build a mini-ISS with no as-yet determined purpose out near the Moon.

Gerst is certainly flexible and adaptable. And he has kept a lot of important things alive that others sought to kill. But consistent in his direction? No. Not surprisingly, year after year he'll tell you that the Ares V/SLS is the perfect rocket for all of these ever-changing missions and destinations - even if he can never give a consistent cost of what an SLS costs to launch as the schedules continue to slip to the right. Of course he'll tell you that all of these pivots were all due to White House and/or Congressional direction and re-direction. He's correct. But behind the scenes in all of those scenarios, Gerst and HEOMD were constantly pitching their ideas to impressionable staffers - always trying to pivot to stay in synch with the space flavor of the month and stay one step ahead of the budget axe to keep the marching army employed. And of course no one has money for any of the payloads that SLS will fly. But its all notional anyway, so why bother with the actual budget thing.

Now, NASA can buy Falcon Heavy launches at 1/5 (or cheaper) the cost of an SLS with roughly 70% of a SLS launch capability online. And more cheap heavy lift is on the way from other suppliers coupled with nimble, small launchers from another suite of suppliers. Gerst is quite correct to warn that constant changes in direction can sour current and potential partners on future projects. But he seems to not see that this very problem he cites has been happening under his watch. Possible partners are now looking to China because China offers them what they want - while NASA offers potential parters what they can have. These two things are not the same.

The old way of exploring space no longer works. If NASA doesn't everyone else will. In fact, they already are. The agency is stuck in outdated subroutines that run in circles that result in increasingly inefficient output. Its time to hit the reset button.

Trump threatens to slap retaliatory tariff on European cars as trade war talk heats up, CNBC

"Trump's hasty decision to impose tariffs on steel imports has stoked talk of a brewing trade war, roiling both the political establishment and the global economic order. The move also prompted E.U. trade chiefs to weigh hitting a broad array of U.S. imports with a 25 percent tax, Reuters reported this week."

New Tariffs Could Harm Industry Critical to American Economic Security, Aerospace Industries Association

"Friday morning on CNBC, AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning was featured immediately following Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, emphasizing: "This is going to impact companies big and small in the aerospace and defense world. More importantly, we're concerned about retaliation. The aerospace and defense industry generates the largest net surplus in the manufacturing sector - over $86 billion a year. These companies thrive on the exports of their products."

Why Europe and Canada may retaliate against bourbon, Harleys and Levi jeans, Washington Post

"Another alternative would be to ban U.S. companies from bidding on Canadian defense and infrastructure contracts, Mendes, the economist, said. The advantage to that approach would be that Canadian consumers wouldn't feel the impact in their wallets. When Boeing launched a complaint against Bombardier, claiming the Canadian company had benefited from unfair government subsidies in the production of its C Series jet, the Canadian government retaliated by saying it wouldn't consider buying fighter jets from Boeing. That dispute was effectively settled in January, when the U.S. International Trade Commission voted that Boeing was not harmed by Bombardier."

Keith's note: I am waiting to see how the trade war that the White House has started will affect willingness of affected nations to cooperate with U.S. on future human spaceflight and on U.S. commercial space sector - and example of both being the Deep Space Gateway. Protectionism and isolationism do not seem to be synonymous with such an expansive endeavor as the exploration and utilization of space.

Bigelow Space Operations Announces Partnership with CASIS to Fly Payloads to the International Space Station

Bigelow Aerospace Announces the Creation of Bigelow Space Operations

Keith's note: I submitted a series of questions to NASA PAO and NASA HEOMD this morning (the same questions I sent to Bigelow after the press event) in advance of this story's posting at 5:00 pm ET. Bigelow responded. NASA decided not to say anything other than what one of their PAO officers sent me by email at 5:12 pm "most of the questions seem better suited to Bigelow and/or CASIS, and I would recommend following up with them. Below is our statement. If I hear anything additional, I'll be sure to pass it along: "NASA supports entrepreneurial efforts as the marketplace in low-Earth orbit matures and we work to expand private interest in the lunar vicinity. NASA is proud of the role it plays in enabling companies to explore space."

In other words "we're not really involved in any of this - so go ask someone else."

Full Story below

SKY7 spots stealthy space startup testing its rocket in Alameda (with video), Sky7

"A lease application filed with the City of Alameda gives some clues about what's in the works: a rocket called Astra that the company claims is the world's smallest. The document includes a scale diagram showing its diminutive size and capacity compared to other rockets: The SpaceX Falcon Heavy, with a payload capacity of about 56,000 kg dwarfs the Astra rocket, which is made to carry only 100 kg -- a rocket aimed at launching the new generation of small satellites, the document says. ... We caught up with it and learned it belongs to a startup that doesn't have a name yet -- in fact, an employee cheerfully answered the phone by saying, "Stealth space!" when we called."

- This is the general neighborhood

Keith's note: Yesterday NASA held a briefing with Acting CFO Andrew Hunter. When asked about how NASA plans to operate the ISS after 2025 when funding by NASA will cease, Hunter had no answer. The only clue he offered was that CASIS would continue to be part of the NASA space station utilization plan until 2025. Somehow, between now and 2025, NASA claims that it will be handing over all of its operational responsibilities to some yet to be defined private sector entities. It would seem, therefore, by default, that NASA intends to use CASIS to develop the multi-billion dollar customer base that will take over U.S. operations on the ISS and that NASA would be just another customer. How anyone can expect CASIS to complete a task several orders of magnitude greater than the one that they have failed to accomplish thus far is baffling in the extreme. All you have to do is read recent GAO and NASA OIG reports to see that there is extreme doubt with regard to CASIS' abilities.

Of course, NASA has still refused to deliver the ISS Transition Plan mandated by law and due last year. Based on this budget briefing NASA clearly has no plan and they have only begun to work on it.

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA OIG

"... With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018."

"... In its FY 2016 assessment memorandum, NASA noted that absent growth in the project pipeline, the crew utilization rate for three crewmembers could drop below 50 percent. NASA intends to increase the number of crew aboard the U.S. segment of the ISS from three to four in late 2018 and plans to allocate a portion of the additional crew hours available to CASIS who, in turn, will need to recruit additional users. Consequently, without sustained increases in the number of new and repeat users, CASIS's crew time utilization could fall even further when the fourth crew member is added."

"... Even though in recent years NASA has become more involved in measuring CASIS's performance, the Agency still has not developed a performance strategy for the remaining 7 years of the agreement or provided quantifiable metrics by which to assess CASIS and help improve the organization's performance."

"... Despite CASIS's recent progress, FY 2017 fundraising is still far below the amounts discussed in the original CASIS proposal. CASIS officials stated that they replaced the fundraising model in the reference model and original proposal with a sponsored program model, which focuses on obtaining external funding to directly support research and STEM projects. Officials explained that CASIS was not able to pursue all fundraising sources described in the reference model and proposal such as royalty fees, which were prohibited in the agreement, and the membership structure that was found to be unsuccessful."

"... CASIS met only one of nine metrics related to outreach publicizing the unique benefits of using the National Lab to potential users, the White House, Congress, non-NASA Government agencies, commercial companies and researchers, media, kindergarten through grade 12 educators and students, and the general public."

"... By 2024, NASA will have invested $196 million in CASIS. In our opinion, weaknesses in performance measurement and the lack of an overall strategy have created an environment in which NASA continues to accept incremental improvement rather than more tangible attainment of agreed-upon goals. Consequently, without significant change, CASIS likely will fall short of advancing NASA's goal for a commercial economy in low Earth orbit. NASA needs to engage more substantively with CASIS and exercise more effective oversight of the cooperative agreement to clarify CASIS's role in helping build a robust economy in low Earth orbit."

- Earlier posts on CASIS

The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a commercially run venture, NASA document shows., Washington Post

"The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry. The White House plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether, and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post. "The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time - it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform," the document states. "NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit."

Trump mulling privatization of International Space Station: report, The Hill

"The space station program manager of Boeing, which has been involved with the ISS for over 20 years, warned of privatizing the station. "Walking away from the International Space Station now would be a mistake, threatening American leadership and hurting the commercial market as well as the scientific community," Mark Mulqueen said in a statement to The Post."

NASA Budgets for a Trip to the Moon, but Not While Trump Is President, NY Times

"According to excerpts from NASA documents obtained by The New York Times before the budget's release, the administration will propose $19.9 billion in spending for the space agency in fiscal year 2019, which begins on Oct. 1. That is a $370 million increase from the current year, the result of the budget deal reached in Congress last week and signed by Mr. Trump. The budget numbers were confirmed by a person who was not authorized to talk publicly about them. In future years, the administration would like NASA's spending to drop to $19.6 billion and stay flat through 2023. With inflation, NASA's buying power would erode, effectively a budget cut each year."

NASA FY 2019 Budget Hints: ISS Lifespan To Be Limited (Update), earlier post

"- Ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities;"

Keith's note: You have to wonder what sort of feedback NASA is allowed to give to the White House on important decision like this given that NASA has had an acting Administrator for over a year. The feedback usually reverts to political appointees at NASA. Jonathan Dimock is one of the people who does this. Last year he listed his qualifications for this job below (Letter posted verbatim):

How Jonathan Dimock Auditioned To Be NASA White House Liaison, earlier post

"? National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA or Deep Space Exploration Administration or DESA)

o Aside from understanding the technical aspect of NASA and the components that goes into it. I can also understand the economics of launching satellites and supplies into space for both private and government entities. We all know that Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk with Space-X and various investors including Shaun Coleman with Vector Space are racing for more contacts with NASA and others. This is a time when NASA can scale back without huge loss to their operation and we can continue to provide suitable funding for suitable research that benefits the citizens both scientifically and economically. It is not outrageous to believe that a small cut in the $105.5b budget cannot be cut by even a small percentage for a large gain to the taxpayers while providing a big win for the administration."

- Ted Cruz On NASA, ISS, Star Trek, Bridenstine and "OMB Numbskulls", earlier post
- Trump Advisors Send Mixed Signals On ISS Support, earlier post
- Reaction To Proposed OMB Space Station Funding Cuts, earlier post
- NASA OIG Flunks CASIS - And NASA's Management of CASIS, earlier post

Why Do We Need SLS?

SpaceX could save NASA and the future of space exploration, Lori Garver op ed, The Hill

"NASA has spent more than $15 billion to try and develop their own heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), with a first flight planned in roughly two years - assuming all goes according to plan. Once operational, SLS will cost NASA over $1 billion per launch. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch. In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the coat of one SLS launch - and invest the remainder in truly revolutionary and meaningful missions that advance science and exploration. It is understandable that government employees, contractors and their elected officials want to keep this expensive rocket development program going. A large share of NASA's roughly $19billion budget has been spent on this constituency, and in turn is protected by them. We have come to accept this "tax" on the agency, but It is time for the nation to decide if we want a space program - or a jobs program."

Two Lessons From Starman

Keith's note: It worked.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Roars Into Space, SpaceRef

"SpaceX Launched its first Falcon Heavy today. All indications are that the flight has been a complete success thus far. More to follow. Pictures below."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/cScreen-shot-2018-02-06-at-.jpg

SpaceX Falcon Launch Vehicle Unveiled in Washington D.C., earlier post (2003)

"Among the speakers at the rocket's unveiling were Elon Musk, President and CEO of SpaceX and Patti Grace Smith, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA. Musk and Smith were introduced by Keith Cowing, editor of NASAWatch.com"

Keith's note: For those of you who may think that today's Falcon Heavy Launch of sports car with a spacesuited mannequin is a little unusual: this is not the first time Elon Musk has used a PR stunt to make a point - and push the envelope. In 2003 Frank Sietzen (SpaceX's first DC employee - and my late co-author whose ashes are flying on SpaceX later this year) and I came up with an idea for Elon: Bring his Falcon 1 rocket to Washington, DC. and park it in front of the Air and Space Museum. So he did. Who does something like that? Elon Musk does. So does Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Peter Beck ...

Commercial Space Transportation License Number: LLS 18-107, FAA

SPACE EXPLORATION TECHNOLOGIES Is authorized, subject to the provisions of 51 USC Subtitle V, ch. 509, and the orders, rules, and regulations issued under it, to conduct a launch.
General. Space Exploration Technologies is authorized to conduct:
(i) A flight of the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) transporting the modified Tesla Roadster (mass simulator) to a hyperbolic orbit; and
(ii) pre-flight ground operations at KSC associated with the flight, as identified in paragraph (i) of this license, of the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.
This license is granted subject to the terms, conditions, andlimitations set forth in licensing orders A, B, C, and D and any subsequent orders issued by the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The licensee shaii at ail times conduct its operations in accordance with the regulations prescribed by the Office of Commercial Space Transportation for the activities authorized by this license.
Issued: February 2, 2018
Effective: February 2, 2018




Elon Musk is set to launch his Falcon Heavy rocket, a flamethrower of another sort, Washington Post

"It could also play a part in the Trump administration's plans to return to the moon. Over the weekend, Nick Ayers, Vice President Pence's chief of staff, tweeted that the rocket would have "major (positive) ramifications for US space industry if this goes according to plan." SpaceX has said that the Falcon Heavy would cost $90 million a launch, a fraction of what NASA's more powerful Space Launch System would cost. Last year, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the SLS rocket would cost about $1 billion per launch. With such a vast difference in price, some have wondered if the Falcon Heavy obviates the need for SLS. "If the SpaceX model works, it creates direct competition to SLS," said Howard McCurdy, a professor of public affairs at American University."

What Trump Gets Right About NASA, Space Exploration, Eric Stallmer, CSF

"Today, a new generation of commercial space companies is taking the lead on space exploration and aerospace innovation. ... Other firms are developing commercial spacecraft systems to reach the moon and asteroids, land on the surface of other planets and preparing to deploy commercial habitats in space. Despite this progress, some inside the space community remain nostalgic about the government owning and controlling space assets. Late last year at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space annual conference, for instance, then-NASA administrator Charlie Bolden told audience members that he "is not a big fan of commercial investment in large launch vehicles. ... The alternative, which lawmakers need to begin insisting on? Firm, fixed price contracts. Under this model, which works best with privately owned space hardware, taxpayers shoulder far less risk - and companies are incentivized to complete projects on time and under budget."

Search For Zuma Unearths Lost NASA Satellite, Aviation Week (Paywall)

"An amateur astronomer on the hunt for the classified Zuma satellite has discovered a long-lost NASA science satellite. "Over the past week. the station has been dedicated to an S-band scan looking for new targets and refreshing the frequency list, triggered by the recent launch of the mysterious Zuma mission," amateur visual and radio astronomer Scott Tilley wrote on his blog skyriddles.wordpress.com." ... Tilley set to work to identify the signal and soon revealed the source: a NASA science satellite known as IMAGE, which disappeared from radar tracking on Dec. 18, 2005.

January 26, 2018 - NASA Confirms IMAGE is indeed alive!, Scott Tilley

"Over the past week the station has been dedicated to an S-band scan looking for new targets and refreshing the frequency list, triggered by the recent launch of the mysterious ZUMA mission. This tends to be a semi-annual activity as it can eat up a lot of observing resources even with much of the data gathering automated the data reviewing is tedious. Upon reviewing the data from January 20, 2018, I noticed a curve consistent with an satellite in High Earth Orbit (HEO) on 2275.905MHz, darn not ZUMA... This is not uncommon during these searches. So I set to work to identify the source. A quick identity scan using 'strf' (sat tools rf) revealed the signal to come from 2000-017A, 26113, called IMAGE."

Keith's note: Meanwhile former Trump Transition Team member Charles Miller can barely contain his enthusiasm for this "leadership" which involves abandoning ISS - all with another Transtion Team member's (Greg Autry) approval. Meanwhile other Trump advisors tell say that such a plan to prematurely abandon support for ISS is exactly the opposite advice that they have been giving the Administration at the highest levels with regard to encouraging the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit.

NASA FY 2019 Budget Hints: ISS Lifespan To Be Limited (Update), earlier post

Keith's update: I engaged in a Twitter exchange via @NASAWatch with @GregWAutry. Try as I did, I could not get this Trump Transition Team member to answer a simple question about the defunding of ISS after 2025.

Sierra Nevada Corporation Signs Two NextSTEP-2 Contracts with NASA


Sierra Nevada Corporation Signs Two NextSTEP-2 Contracts with NASA, Sierra Nevada Corporation

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has formalized its agreement with NASA under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), signing a contract to design and develop a prototype for a deep space habitat. The formal signing of the contract under NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A: Habitat Systems, aimed at enabling potential long-duration human missions in deep space, clears the way for actual production of SNC's prototype in the coming months."

Falcon Heavy Roars To Life

Rocket Lab successfully circularizes orbit with new Electron kick stage, Rocket Lab

"Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand, has successfully tested a previously unannounced kick stage on the Still Testing Electron launch vehicle, using it to circularize the orbits of the two Spire Lemur-2 CubeSats on board. The kick stage was flown and tested on board the recent Still Testing flight that was successfully launched on 21 January 2018 NZDT from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The complex mission was a success, with the new apogee kick stage coasting in orbit for around 40 minutes before powering up and igniting Rocket Lab's new restartable liquid propulsion engine called Curie, then shutting down and deploying payloads. With the new kick stage Rocket Lab can execute multiple burns to place numerous payloads into different orbits."

SpaceX gets good news from the Air Force on the Zuma mission, Ars Technica

"A little more than two weeks have passed since the apparent loss of the highly classified Zuma mission. Since then, SpaceX has publicly and privately stated that its Falcon 9 rocket performed nominally throughout the flight--with both its first and second stages firing as anticipated. Now, the US Air Force seems to be backing the rocket company up. "Based on the data available, our team did not identify any information that would change SpaceX's Falcon 9 certification status," Lieutenant General John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, told Bloomberg News. This qualified conclusion came after a preliminary review of data from the Zuma launch. That's according to Thompson, who said the Air Force will continue to review data from all launches."

SpaceX Can't Test Falcon Heavy During U.S. Government Shutdown, Newsweek

"A statement from the 45th Space Wing read: "Due to the shutdown removing key members of the civilian workforce, the 45th Space Wing will not be able to support commercial static fires taking place on KSC. Without our civilian workforce, the 45th SW is unable to support launch operations as well." The 45th Space Wing is a department of the Air Force supporting space missions. The Verge reported that it was initially unclear if the static test could take place without the 45th's support, or if the test will be on hold until civilian staff are no longer restricted. Today, however, SpaceX confirmed the launch will halt the static fire. "This shutdown impacts SpaceX's Falcon Heavy demonstration, which is critical for future [national security space] missions," John Taylor, a SpaceX spokesperson, said in a statement to The Verge."

Rocketlab Places Three Satellites Into Orbit (with video), SpaceRef

"Rocketlab conducted its second Electron launch today placing three cubesats into orbit. The launch occurred from the remote Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand. Mission control is located in Auckland, New Zealand. On board was a Planetlab cubesat named Dove Pioneer which will conduct Earth resource imaging and two Lemur-2 cubesats for Spire which will be used for weather and ship tracking. In all of its social media postings the company used #stilltesting tag to denote the fact that these initial launches still involve significant testing and proof-of-concept studies."

Commercial Crew Hearing

Hearing: Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development

"10 a.m. EST, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a Subcommittee on Space hearing titled An Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development. The purpose of the hearing is to examine the development of NASA's two commercial crew systems, being built by Boeing and SpaceX, to service the International Space Station."

- Watch live
- Hearing charter

Prepared statements:

- Cristina Chaplain (GAO)

"Both Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are making progress toward their goal of being able to transport American astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). However, both continue to experience schedule delays. Such delays could jeopardize the ability of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Commercial Crew Program to certify either company's option--that is, to ensure that either option meets NASA standards for human spaceflight--before the seats the agency has contracted for on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft run out in 2019."

- Patricia Sanders (ASAP)
- Hans Koenigsmann (SpaceX)
- John Mulholland (Boeing)
- William Gerstenmaier (NASA)
- Rep. Smith
- Rep. Babin
- Rep. Bera
- Rep. Johnson

GAO: Commercial Space Launch Insurance: FAA Needs to Fully Address Mandated Requirements

"The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) report evaluating its maximum probable loss (MPL) methodology did not fully address the evaluation and consultation requirements specified by the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA). FAA officials said they have not been able to take the actions needed to fully satisfy the mandated elements because of issues such as resource limitations and the lack of available data. However, by not resolving these issues, FAA lacks assurance that launch companies are not purchasing more insurance than needed or that the federal government is not being exposed to greater indemnification costs than expected."

Zuma Non-Update Update

Lost in space? Questions mount over fate of secret satellite as SpaceX pushes ahead, Washington Post

"U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), who said he received a "preliminary briefing," had two concerns about the possible loss of the satellite. "One is the loss of the intelligence that would have been available," he said. "The second concern is the reliability of the delivery systems. And that issue is being debated between the contractors, SpaceX and the satellite manufacturer, Northrop." While he said he did not know who was to blame, he indicated that the dispute might lead to litigation. "Those two companies are going to have a long and, I suspect, very expensive discussion," he said."

After Zuma, SpaceX keeps pace in preps for next Falcon 9 launch, SpaceflightNow

"A network of amateur satellite trackers are on the lookout for Zuma in case it is still in orbit, but they are working off an estimate of its expected location, and it could take weeks to find the spacecraft, assuming it is still in space and is orbiting where predicted."

Pentagon: Ask SpaceX about Zuma. SpaceX: That's not our story to tell, Ars Technica

"Sources familiar with discussions behind closed doors have told Ars there are two primary working theories about what may have gone wrong with Zuma and caused it to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. One idea, in contradiction to SpaceX's official statements, is that the rocket's upper stage underperformed and caused the problem. However, at this time, it seems more likely that the mechanism built by Northrop Grumman to release the satellite failed to operate properly."

NASA's Commercial Crew Program Target Test Flight Dates, NASA

"Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): August 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): November 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (uncrewed): August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): December 2018"

Hearing : Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development

"January 17 2018, at 10 a.m. EST, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a Subcommittee on Space hearing titled An Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development. The purpose of the hearing is to examine the development of NASA's two commercial crew systems, being built by Boeing and SpaceX, to service the International Space Station."

GAO Reports Significant Delays in Commercial Crew Launch Dates (Update), earlier post (2017)

"At a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press conference today in advance of SpaceX's commercial cargo launch tomorrow, [Gwynne Shotwell] said the company's response to GAO is "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019."

CASIS and Marvel Entertainment Unveil Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Marvel Entertainment today announced the Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge is open for American students ages 13-18 to submit microgravity flight experiment concepts that could be conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The contest focuses on Rocket and Groot, characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book franchise, and students are encouraged to develop flight proposals based on the attributes of these Super Heroes. The contest will run through January 31, 2018."

- CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot
- CASIS Has A New Patch: May The Farce Be With You

OIG: NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)

"In addition, we found NASA failed to actively oversee CASIS's technical performance and instead took a largely "hands-off" approach to managing CASIS that has contributed to the organization's inability to meet expectations. For example, NASA has not developed an overall strategy identifying the achievements or outcomes expected from CASIS through the end of its cooperative agreement nor has the Agency provided guidance or set expectations for CASIS's performance."

Keith's note: Once again CASIS takes the comic book approach to its outreach efforts for NASA's portion of the International Space Station. But in the press release they issued, yet again, the word "NASA" appears nowhere. No mention is made by @NASA or @NASAedu Twitter accounts. No mention is made on the NASA ISS home page or the NASA Education home page. When you ask NASA or CASIS for metrics as to how well this comic book character approach works they cannot provide that information. If you doubt my observations, just read the newly released report on CASIS by the NASA OIG.

- NASA OIG Flunks CASIS - And NASA's Management of CASIS
- Prior Posts on CASIS

OIG: NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)

"Although CASIS awarded $21.7 million in grants to 140 projects between fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2016, the organization has underperformed on tasks important to achieving NASA's goal of building a commercial space economy in low Earth orbit. From 2011 through 2014, CASIS concentrated on standing up its organization and filling leadership positions. Consequently, after more than 5 years of operation CASIS has not fully met a majority of the goals and expectations set out by NASA. Of the nine performance categories we assessed, CASIS met expectations in only two: research pathways and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. For example, the STEM education performance category required CASIS to increase interest in using the National Lab as a platform for STEM education. CASIS met expectations for this performance category by funding 14 STEM education programs in FY 2016 with more than 325,000 participants.

For five of the remaining seven performance categories - grant awards and project portfolio, recruitment of National Lab users, matching research projects and investors, Implementation Partners, and fundraising - CASIS only partially met expectations. For example, in the grant awards and project portfolio performance category, CASIS awarded more than $3 million annually in research grants between FYs 2013 and 2016 but failed to ensure a balanced portfolio of research projects from theoretical to basic to applied research as required by the cooperative agreement. CASIS failed to meet expectations in the remaining two categories: utilization of crew time for National Lab research and outreach. With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018.

In addition, we found NASA failed to actively oversee CASIS's technical performance and instead took a largely "hands-off" approach to managing CASIS that has contributed to the organization's inability to meet expectations. For example, NASA has not developed an overall strategy identifying the achievements or outcomes expected from CASIS through the end of its cooperative agreement nor has the Agency provided guidance or set expectations for CASIS's performance. Instead, NASA has accepted CASIS's slow improvement over the first 5 years of the cooperative agreement without requiring corrective action plans or offering suggestions to improve performance. Although FY 2016 marked the first year CASIS's performance plan included metrics and quantifiable targets for several performance categories, these metrics and targets were not included for all performance categories."

Prior Posts on CASIS

Lockheed Martin, Boeing aerospace venture bilked U.S. for $90 million, lawsuit says, Denver Post

"A whistleblower has settled a lawsuit filed against a Centennial aerospace company formed by Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company that claimed the company defrauded the U.S. government out of at least $90 million by grossly overcharging for employee work hours. Whistleblower Joseph Scott filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and the government against United Launch Alliance and United Launch Services, under the Federal Civil False Claims Act. Scott is a former ULA employee. Under the terms of the settlement, ULA agreed to pay $432,826, of which Scott was to receive $82,237. The settlement says that ULA does not acknowledge wrongdoing."

Statement From Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX on Zuma Launch

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible. "

It's not official, but sources say the secretive Zuma satellite was lost, Ars Technica

"A media query to Northrop Grumman, which manufactured the satellite, was not immediately returned Monday. (Update: Tim Paynter, Vice President of Strategic Communications for Northrop Grumman, said, "This is a classified mission. We cannot comment on classified missions.") Actions taken by SpaceX on Monday indicate its confidence in the rocket's performance during the Zuma launch. Earlier in the day, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of the nighttime launch on Twitter. Also, the company continued with preparations for future launches, including rolling the Falcon Heavy rocket back out to a different launch pad in Florida for additional tests."

SpaceX'S top Secret Zuma Mission Set To Launch, Wired

"Veteran aerospace manufacturer Northrop Grumman built the payload, according to a document obtained by WIRED and later confirmed by the company. The company says it built Zuma for the US government, and it's also providing an adapter to mate Zuma with SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket."

Highly classified US spy satellite appears to be a total loss after SpaceX launch, CNBC

"Dow Jones reported Monday evening that lawmakers had been briefed about the apparent destruction of the secretive payload -- code-named Zuma -- citing industry and government officials. The payload was suspected to have burned up in the atmosphere after failing to separate perfectly from the upper part of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the report said."

Keith's note: No one is going to go on the record about anything Zuma did - or did not do. So its probably up to those folks who scan the skies for every object launched into - or returning from - space. They know where Zuma is "supposed" to be ...

Keith's note: Elon Musk could have some serious citizen science fun with this. I was thinking back to the ISEE-3 Reboot Project and all of the amateurs - many with home made satellite dishes - who listened for the spacecraft. If the #SpaceTesla does actually make it into space it would be an enticing object for amateurs to track - and analyze. It has known exterior characteristics. How much of its adaptation to space over time could be gleaned from citizen science observations? Not that a sports car with red paint is your ideal space craft. But if it is out there, why not use it as a thing to entice people to look up at the sky and figure out what it is doing? Maybe SpaceX could put a transponder on it. Has NASA discussed anything like this with SpaceX? This is the sort of thing a spacecraft in orbit around Mars should try and image ...

The UFO spotter: Navy pilots used Raytheon tech to track a strange UFO, Raytheon

"We might be the system that caught the first evidence of E.T. out there," said Aaron Maestas, director of engineering and chief engineer for Surveillance and Targeting Systems at Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems business. "But I'm not surprised we were able to see it." ... So how best to track an alien spaceship in our skies? "Wide-area search of some form or another," said Cummings. "I would want want at least two sensors, like radar and [electro-optical/infrared], to search the skies...One way to actually verify these and be absolutely certain that this is not an anomaly is to get the same target, behaving the same way on multiple sensors."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/falcontesla.jpg

SpaceX will try to launch Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster on new heavy-lift rocket, Spaceflight Now

"Musk told reporters in March that SpaceX would put "the silliest thing we can imagine" on the first Falcon Heavy flight. The company placed a wheel of cheese on the first flight of its Dragon cargo craft in an ode to the Monty Python comedy group. The Tesla Roadster weighs about 2,760 pounds (1,250 kilograms), measures nearly 13 feet (3.9 meters) long and spans about 5.7 feet (1.7 meters) wide, according to Car and Driver magazine. That's well within the Falcon Heavy's lift capability to go to Mars."

Keith's note: I totally get the playfulness with which SpaceX does many things. Its one of the things I really like about the company. Its often infectious - often disarmingly so - and helps to paint space as something more approachable than just launching expensive stuff that does hard-to-understand things into outer space. Its even more fun to kid around when the company does things that NASA cannot do.

Elon Musk has been totally blunt when he comes to the complexity of launching the first Falcon Heavy and that it may well blow up. Other than instrumentation needed to control and monitor the rocket, it would be a risky proposition for anyone to put anything of value on the rocket as a payload. NASA has often flown inert ballast on rockets during early test flights to allow the rocket to behave under properly loaded conditions. The Shuttle often flew with big slugs of lead to balance payloads.

But I have to wonder if something a little more useful could be done on this first Falcon Heavy flight- like auctioning off the $200,000 Tesla Roadster and using the proceeds to fund lots of cubesats that could be given out free to students with the caveat that they may become space toast. To a lot of people in America $200,000 is the cost of a house or one or two full college educations. This is Elon Musk's decision of course. And while it does have a sort of daring, tongue-in-cheek, out of the box aspect to it, I am also a little disappointed. This is a chance to do something that really resonates with people. Instead a lot of people will see some guy throw his expensive car away in outer space or make a shiny red reef in the Atlantic.

Too bad Elon couldn't put a Tesla SUV with fat tires inside a heat shield with a parachute and throw it toward Mars. He could even paint it red.

Keith's update: Now that I have been thinking about this a bit. Elon Musk could have some serious citizen science fun with this. I was thinking back to the ISEE-3 Reboot Project and all of the amateurs - many with home made satellite dishes - who listened for the spacecraft. If the #SpaceTesla does actually make it into space it would be an enticing object for amateurs to track - and analyze. It has known exterior characteristics. How much of its adaptation to space over time could be gleaned from citizen science observations? Not that a sports car with red paint is your ideal space craft. But if it is out there, why not use it as a thing to entice people to look up at the sky and figure out what it is doing? Maybe SpaceX could put a transponder on it ...

Elon Musk, ever the merry prankster, plans to launch a Tesla to Mars on a SpaceX rocket

"Since then, his rocket company has pulled off an array of increasingly important -- and improbable -- feats, from winning billions of dollars in U.S. government contracts to landing rocket boosters on ships at sea. But nothing would quite solidify Musk's merry-prankster, ringmaster status than his recently announced plan to use the often-delayed launch of his Falcon Heavy rocket into a cross-promotional marketing campaign for Tesla, one of his other companies."

Further Update:

iSpace Goggle Lunar X Prize Rover
iSpace rover model. Credit: SpaceRef

Marc's note: On Wednesday Japan and Luxembourg announced an agreement "to cooperate on exploration and commercial utilization of space resources." While this news is noteworthy, there is other news out of Japan today.

iSpace, a New Space company with ambitions to use the moons resources and which manages the Japanese Google Lunar X Prize entry, Hakuto, is set to announce on December 13 what it says "is the largest fund raised in Series A in the global space industry." They will also outline their next mission.

I spoke last week with Dr. Kazuya Yoshida, iSpace CTO, about the Google Lunar X Prize and their future plans. Read the story and listen to the podcast.

SpaceX will launch a secret government payload to orbit Wednesday, Mashable

"Very little is known about the Zuma mission, as no government or commercial entity has claimed it. Usually, even the National Reconnaissance Office - the branch of the government responsible for maintaining spy satellites - will say when a payload is theirs while keeping the mission details classified. But for some reason, whatever agency is behind Zuma isn't coming forward. All we know is that the aerospace and defense giant Northrop Grumman was asked by the government to procure a launch vehicle for the mission and it chose SpaceX, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman said via email. The spokesman also added that Zuma will be headed to low-Earth orbit, which is the region of space about 1,200 miles above the planet."

Dream Chaser Completes Free Flight Test

"Completion of Dream Chaser's free flight test on Nov. 11, 2017, was a major milestone under a space act agreement with NASA's Commercial Crew Program. NASA selected Sierra Nevada Corp., along with Orbital ATK and SpaceX, for the agency's second commercial resupply contracts to deliver critical science, research and technology demonstrations to the International Space Station from 2019 to 2024."

Orbital ATK Launches S.S. Gene Cernan To The International Space Station (with video)

"The Antares rocket launched the Cygnus spacecraft loaded with approximately 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of cargo to the crew of six who are aboard the space station. Following an approximate nine-minute ascent, the "S.S. Gene Cernan" Cygnus spacecraft, named in honor of the late astronaut and the last man to leave the moon, was successfully deployed into orbit. Orbital ATK's engineering team confirmed reliable communications have been established and the vehicle's solar arrays are fully deployed, providing the necessary electrical power to operate the spacecraft."


Hearing on An Update on NASA Exploration Systems Development

"The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a Subcommittee on Space hearing titled, An Update on NASA Exploration Systems Development. The purpose of the hearing is to examine the development of the Space Launch System, Orion Crew Vehicle and the associated ground systems."

- Chairman Babin Opening Statement
- Chairman Smith Opening Statement
- Ranking Member Johnson's Opening Statement
- Ranking Member Bera's Opening Statement
- Prepared Statement by William Gerstenmaier
- Prepared Statement by Sandra Magnus


Breitbart, other conservative outlets escalate anti-SpaceX campaign, Ars Technica

"The central canard of these attacks is that John McCain did not, in fact, add "Section 1615" to the Defense Authorization Act, which is now being finalized by a conference between the House and Senate. This clause does not exist at all in the Senate language. Rather, it was inserted into the House legislation by US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Alabama. ... Two sources familiar with the legislation told Ars that Rogers added Section 1615 specifically to benefit Aerojet and its AR1 rocket engine."

Elon Musk made a secret appearance to elite US Marines and gave a stirring speech, Business Insider

As the guest of honor, Musk reportedly delivered the opening statement that appeared to make an impact to the group of elite Marines. "I will never forget it; it set the tone for his entire talk," Musselman said. "He said, 'I wanted to come and speak to this group,' and I get the chills even saying it, 'Because whenever there's danger in the world, you all are the first to go and die."

Vice President Mike Pence met with Elon Musk, source says, CNN

"Vice President Mike Pence discussed the National Space Council with entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk during a trip to California last month, a source familiar with the meeting says. The two powwowed at a Los Angeles hotel one evening while the vice president was in the state for a fundraising swing. The conversation focused on the council, which aims to streamline and coordinate national space policy. Pence leads the panel at President Donald Trump's direction."

Canadian Minister of Transport's Director of Policy Alain Berinstain Leaving Government for Moon Express, SpaceQ

"SpaceQ has learned that Alain Berinstain, the current Director of Policy for Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, is leaving government to work for the U.S. based space exploration company Moon Express."

"Before Berinstain began working for Minister Garneau, he had worked 17 years at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). He left the CSA in 2013 and at the time was the Director of Science and Academic Development and before that was the Director of Planetary Exploration and Space Astronomy."

- Moon Express press release.

Orbital ATK Successfully Launches Minotaur C Rocket Carrying 10 Spacecraft to Orbit for Planet

"Orbital ATK ... announced its commercial Minotaur C rocket successfully launched 10 commercial spacecraft into orbit for Planet. The Minotaur C launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California."

Minotaur-C, Wikipedia

"Minotaur-C (Minotaur Commercial), formerly known as Taurus ... Three of four launches between 2001 and 2011 ended in failure."

Keith's note: I just got this advertising email from Axiom Space titled "The Promise of Human Spaceflight for Investors" bragging about Axiom being featured in lots of high visibility magazines. The email is slick, with nice portraits of the Axiom team - the faces they apparently want investors, the public, and the news media to see. I am certain that everyone is highly skilled, etc. But as I scrolled down this very long email something struck me: its all 50-something males. After eight of their smiling faces scrolled by there was a single woman - at the bottom of the list. Eight males, one female. I guess this is the optics that Axiom Space wants to put forward for their vision of the future human spaceflight.

I asked Axiom about this. Amir Blackman replied "Other than the two founders, all team members are listed in alphabetical order. Gender is not a consideration in our hiring process. We are an equal opportunity employer and seek out team members based on their qualifications and experience." Right. Like I said eight males, one female.

Here is a larger version of their email (I thought I'd give them some free PR).

Solid Rocket Motors: DOD and Industry Are Addressing Challenges to Minimize Supply Concerns, GAO

"The consolidation in the SRM industrial base has also been accompanied by a decrease of suppliers throughout the supply chain. For example, one SRM manufacturer estimated a decrease in suppliers, from approximately 5,000 to 1,000, over the last 20 years. This increases the risk of production delays and disruptions in the event that key components and materials available from a single source become unavailable from that source. GAO found that DOD and industry are taking steps to identify and mitigate these risks, such as by establishing alternative sources and requiring advance notice when suppliers are considering exiting the market."

Survey: Americans Support Entrepreneurs in Space But Want Improvements on Earth, Brodeur Partners

"The new poll of more than 600 Americans' attitudes toward business in space was conducted earlier this month by the Brodeur Partners' Space Group. The new survey found that Americans:

- Still see national security as the top space activity;
- At the same time, they support private sector activity in space;
- However, they want some degree of government regulation, especially privacy protection;
- And they expect space development to directly benefit Earth; and
- Think the U.S. is a leader, if not the leader, in space technology.

"Americans still view space technology through the old lens of defense and national security," said Jerry Johnson, a partner at Brodeur Partners and author of the study. "But we also found that there is support for commercial activity in space, even government funding for that activity, if those businesses are reasonably regulated and can demonstrate benefits on Earth."

Keith's note: Once or twice a year someone does a space poll that says the same things that all of these space polls always say: people like space. Of course, this poll will be cited by those who see validation for their stances on space and will be ignored by those whose viewpoints are not strongly supported. Based on the press release (that's all that has been released) you can pretty much project whatever you want upon the poll and also extract whatever you want from it. We have no idea who paid for this poll, who the pollsters talked to, how they did the poll (phone, writing) or all of the questions the participants were actually asked. So ... your mileage may vary. Yawn.

Lyft Me To The Moon

This past week I interviewed Keith on the SpaceQ podcast. We discussed Jim Bridenstine and NASA, Elon Musk and SpaceX, and Lockheed Martin and Mars.

You can subscribe to the podcast using your favourite podcast app (iOS and Android). For apps like OverCast or Pocket Cast you can search using the podcast title SpaceQ or use the RSS feed URL listed below.

The RSS feed URL is: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:286233381/sounds.rss

The podcast is also available on Apple iTunes and SoundCloud.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management Of Space Parts For Its Flight Projects, OIG

"While NASA Centers are required to use SMS to track their supply and material inventory, we found that five of nine are instead using stand-alone inventory control systems or other NASA systems to manage their flight inventory, including spare parts. These non-SMS systems contain over $252 million worth of flight inventory. As a result, Headquarters' Logistics Management Division's visibility into flight assets across the Agency and its ability to accurately account for flight inventory Agency-wide is limited and inconsistent."

FAA: Stakeholders' Perspectives on Potentially Moving the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, GAO

"Representatives from commercial space launch companies and spaceports GAO interviewed described advantages and disadvantages of moving the Office of Commercial Space Transportation to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, but most of them favored moving the office. Conversely, most Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials GAO interviewed did not favor the idea. A senior official in the Office of Commercial Space Transportation said that there are advantages and disadvantages to moving the office and that whether such an action would be beneficial depends on the implementation details and the administration's preferences. Officials from the Office of the Secretary of Transportation said they currently do not have plans to move the office."


A Real Life-Saving NASA Spinoff

NASA FINDER Technology Aids Search Following Mexico Earthquake, NASA JPL

"Disaster relief workers on the ground in Mexico City were responding to this week's 7.1-magnitude earthquake by using a suitcase-sized radar instrument capable of detecting human heartbeats under rubble. This technology was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate in Washington. FINDER, which stands for Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response, was developed as a collaboration between the two agencies. Since 2015, two private companies have acquired licenses for the technology. They have since taken it to disaster zones, training relief workers to use it and manufacturing new units."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/finder11.jpgUsing Space Radar To Hear Human Heartbeats in Nepal, SpaceRef (with detailed hardware and operations information)

"On 24 April 2015 a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal - a nation woefully unprepared to respond to such an event. Nearly 300 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater have rattled the country for the past month. One especially large aftershock of magnitude 7.4 on 12 May caused the already-shattered infrastructure to collapse further. Nepal needed help - help that did not rely upon a non-functional infrastructure. Much of the help was traditional. But some of that help arrived in the form of assets in space and space-derived assets on the ground. One piece of NASA-developed hardware utilized in Nepal was able to detect human heartbeat amidst huge piles of rubble. And it saved lives. Other machines orbited overhead in space analyzing the earthquake itself and how Nepal changed as a result. Both technologies shared similar technology."

NASA and DHS sponsored a demonstration of FINDER technology at the Virginia Task Force One Training Facility in Lorton, Virginia, on 7 May [2015]. Personnel were able to find someone hiding in an unknown location in the rubble at the facility. Several dozen media were in attendance. As best as I can tell, I was the only one covering space technology who was there. Unfortunate.

Keith's note: I do not recall the NASA SLS mafia heading out to a specific state to talk to see how local companies are helping out on SLS - at least not recently. Is this just a one-off thing to curry favor in the Vice President's home state - or are they going to start doing this for every state in the union? And are the going to do this for other NASA programs? If this is a national effort then that would be an interesting way to demonstrate just how wide an industrial base is required to build large space hardware. But if this is just a dog and pony stunt to kiss up to the VP then its value will be minimal. This also smells like the beginning of a slow motion effort to assure the SLS faction that NASA has got their back.

Checking this page at NASA.gov you get this list of companies that support SLS/Orion and GSDO *(Ground Systems Development and Operations) in Indiana. So there is certainly a there - there - as there is across the country.

So NASA, what is the next state that the SLS road show will be visiting?

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/indiana.jpg

Northrop Grumman to Acquire Orbital ATK for $9.2 Billion, Northrop Grumman

"Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC), a leading global security company, and Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Northrop Grumman will acquire Orbital ATK for approximately $7.8 billion in cash, plus the assumption of $1.4 billion in net debt. Orbital ATK shareholders will receive all-cash consideration of $134.50 per share. ... Upon completion of the acquisition, Northrop Grumman plans to establish Orbital ATK as a new, fourth business sector to ensure a strong focus on operating performance and a smooth transition into Northrop Grumman."

Press conference presentation

Keith's note: Lockheed ate Martin Marietta. Boeing ate Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas. Aerojet ate Rockedyne. Lockheed Martin and Boeing created a sanctioned monoply (ULA). Northrop ate Grumman. ATK ate Orbital. Now Northrop Grumman is going to eat Orbital ATK. That's one less company to pay Coalition for Deep Space Exploration membership dues. How is this good for competition? Oh yea - that is what SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin offer.

The Coalition for Deep Space Dancing Dinosaurs, earlier post

For some reason, Ron Paul has taken to Fox News to skewer SpaceX, Ars Technica

"Three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul has written an opinion piece for Fox News that comes out swinging against SpaceX, accusing the company of benefiting from potentially having a monopoly on national security launches. The article also attacks US Sen. John McCain as a "lead sponsor" of provisions to give SpaceX a monopoly on launch services."

Ron Paul: Crony defense budget hands SpaceX a monopoly - why?, Ron Paul, Fox News

"Allowing SpaceX to obtain a monopoly over launch services harms taxpayers much more than forbidding the Pentagon from purchasing Russian products harms Vladimir Putin. If this provision becomes law, SpaceX will be able to charge the government more than they could in even a quasi-competitive market. This monopoly will also stifle innovation in rocket launching technology."

Keith's note: This is just too funny. Only a few years back SpaceX was shut out of national security launches for dubious reasons. So they kept launching rockets and doing the dance moves DoD asked them to do. When they had a chance to compete against a government created - and sanctioned duopoly (ULA) they won on cost and performance. And now former members of Congress who got big donations from ULA's parent companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing (also Coalition for Deep Space Exploration charter members) are complaining about an imaginary SpaceX monopoly?. Coincidence?

Keith's note: Who'd have thought that the day would come when promoting videos of your product blowing up would be a way to promote your business? There's a subliminal paradigm shift at work here ...

Support builds for Bridenstine to lead NASA despite past skepticism on climate change, Washington Post

"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, representing many of the big legacy contractors, said it also welcomed the nomination, saying Bridenstine "has been an active and vocal advocate for space on Capitol Hill." But in a subsequent statement to The Washignton Post, the coalition's president, Mary Lynne Dittmar, backed away from a full endorsement, saying, "We look forward to learning more from Rep. Bridenstine during the Senate confirmation hearings."

Keith's note: This is the dilenma that Mary Lynne Dittmar and her organization face. They want to have it both ways. On one hand they envision a world where there is no SpaceX or Blue Origin - just the usual aerospace suspects building the giant Senate-designed SLS mega-rocket where everyone gets a piece of the contracting pie. On the other hand they resent the success of upstarts like SpaceX and Blue Origin and want to be seen as being just as sexy and cutting edge and able to "compete" in a commercial marketplace. Alas that is just impossible. Its like expecting a big dinosaur to eat an entire forest every day and yet still be able to tap dance when they are done eating.

Bridenstine has signaled an interest in seeing SLS and other big NASA projects through. Yet he also talks about lots of paradigm shifting ideas that are antithetical to the status quo. This drives Dittmar et al nuts. Stay tuned.

Hearing on Private Sector Lunar Exploration

"September 7, at 10:00 a.m. EDT, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a Subcommittee on Space hearing titled, Private Sector Lunar Exploration. The purpose of the hearing is to discuss private sector exploration of the moon. In addition to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) support for the private sector, companies are also investing their own capital in exploration in the hopes of serving a future market for transportation, cargo delivery, and surface operations (including in situ resource utilization). The hearing will review these efforts, and NASA's role, in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities that they present."

- Live webcast
- Statement of Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) Private Sector Lunar Exploration
- Ranking Member Johnson's Opening Statement for Private Sector Lunar Exploration Hearing
- Ranking Member Bera's Opening Statement for Private Sector Lunar Exploration Hearing

Prepared Statements: Jason Crusan, NASA; Bob Richards, Moon Express; John Thornton, Astrobotic Technology; Bretton Alexander, Blue Origin; and George Sowers, Colorado School of Mines

Lucasfilm Creates Mission Patch Representing International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory Research, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced the unveiling of its latest mission patch, designed by Lucasfilm, featuring characters and space ships from the Star Wars franchise. The mission patch represents all payloads intended for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in calendar year 2017. CASIS is the organization that oversees research on the ISS U.S. National Laboratory benefitting life on Earth."

Keith's note: Nowhere in this press release does CASIS mention "NASA". Yet NASA pays 99.97% of CASIS' budget - year after year. Its almost as if CASIS wants you to think that they built and now operate the space station - not NASA. As to their latest logo, I totally understand the interest in wanting to reach a broader audience. But CASIS seems to be obsessed with things like this - almost as much as they avoid mentioning NASA.

First there was their strange fascination with co-branding golf research on the ISS - research that never actually happened with the exception of some golf clubs that claimed to be " inspired" by space research. Then there was getting actor Seth Green to design a logo. Then they made "Groot" from "Guardians of the Galaxy" a mascot in another logo. Now there's a "Star Wars" logo. CASIS never answers my questions on things like this. So I file FOIA requests. I have a lot of stuff received via FOIA that I have been analyzing and hope to publish soon.

In a nutshell CASIS just makes this stuff up as they go. They have no strategic plan and have virtually no means of collecting and analyzing metrics from things such as these Sci Fi mission patches. If CASIS cannot determine if these things have a real value (one that can be expressed in numbers) then why does CASIS continue to do these things? How many Twitter impressions and social media mentions have these logos created? How many people first learned of the ISS as a result of these logos? How many business partners came to CASIS as a result of these logos? How much employee time has CASIS put into the development and use of these logos?

Again, its great when CASIS, who only has money because NASA pays 99.97% of their budget, tries to reach out to new audiences. But when they have no way to determine if an approach even works, you have to wonder if they truly understand how any of their NASA-funded efforts have actually, tangible,concrete results that represent a worthy return on investment for taxpayer dollars.

Below is just a small sample of all of the missteps that CASIS has made. More soon.

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

"Oddly, if you look at SPACE IS IN IT, CASIS APPROVED - Trademark Details you'll see that the trademark is classified as being "International Class 028 - Games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees. - Games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees." Sounds like a perfect category for golf-related stuff."

CASIS Announces Significant ISS News But Forgets To Mention NASA, earlier post

"Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing."

CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot, earlier post

"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 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."

CASIS Recycles NASA Hype In Its Quarterly Reports To NASA, earlier post

"Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. NASA.gov blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017 [Update as of 6 Sep 2017 @iss_casis account has 114,000 followers].
. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation."

More CASIS postings

Space, nuclear security, polar bears: Russia and the U.S. still agree on some things, Washington Post

"Farther afield, American astronauts have been relying on Russia to fly them to the International Space Station since the U.S. space shuttle program shut down in 2011. Despite muttering in Moscow about cosmic retaliation for the latest U.S. sanctions, the Kremlin is not expected to follow through. Not when it costs NASA $80 million for a seat on a Soyuz rocket."

How much secrecy does Spaceport America need? , Las Cruces Sun News

"Spaceport America hasn't always been so secretive. In addition to releasing Virgin Galactic's lease without redactions before Hicks was in charge, the agency has also shared details about its agreement with SpaceX. Hicks' predecessor, Christine Anderson, was quoted in 2013 as saying SpaceX would be paying $6,600 a month for three years to lease a mobile mission control facility and $25,000 per launch to test a reusable rocket. In other words, today the spaceport is trying to keep secret information it released to the public four years ago that's still available online."

Funding woes could 'cripple' NM spaceport as other states invest in space race, Las Cruces Sun News

"The New Mexico Spaceport Authority, the state agency that operates the facility, has shored up its annual operating budget since 2012 with excess money from taxes collected in Doña Ana and Sierra counties. That's been controversial. Officials pledged to voters who approved the tax increase a decade ago that three-fourths of the money would be used for construction of the facility that was to be built in the desert west of Truth or Consequences. The remaining one fourth of the tax money was pledged to education programs in the two counties. Officials said the state would fund the spaceport's operations."

Transparency problems plague Spaceport America, Las Cruces Sun News

"Spaceport America is a publicly owned government entity, so the law requires its financial and other dealings to be open to the public, with few exceptions. And yet in 2017 the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, the state agency that runs the spaceport, has violated the state's transparency laws several times in response to requests for documents filed by NMPolitics.net, a citizen from Truth or Consequences, and a reporter with KTSM-TV in El Paso. Those violations, in addition to other possible infractions, blocked or delayed public access to information about the spaceport."

SpaceX informed NASA of slowdown in its commercial Mars program, SpaceflightNow

"Confirming rumors and suspicions that SpaceX is adjusting its plans to begin dispatching robotic landers to Mars, NASA officials said the commercial space company has informed the agency that it has put its Red Dragon program on the back burner. Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement between NASA and SpaceX, the government agreed to provide navigation and communications services for the Red Dragon mission, which originally aimed to deliver an unpiloted lander to Mars in 2018. SpaceX confirmed earlier this year the launch of the experimental lander on a Falcon Heavy rocket had slipped to 2020."

- SpaceX Will Go To Mars Starting in 2018, earlier post
- NASA's SpaceX Mars Mission Briefing That NASA Is Not Telling You About, earlier post

GAO: Surplus Missile Motors: Sale Price Drives Potential Effects on DOD and Commercial Launch Providers, GAO

"The Department of Defense (DOD) could use several methods to set the sale prices of surplus intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) motors that could be converted and used in vehicles for commercial launch if current rules prohibiting such sales were changed. One method would be to determine a breakeven price. Below this price, DOD would not recuperate its costs, and, above this price, DOD would potentially save. GAO estimated that DOD could sell three Peacekeeper motors--the number required for one launch, or, a "motor set"--at a breakeven price of about $8.36 million and two Minuteman II motors for about $3.96 million, as shown below. Other methods for determining motor prices, such as fair market value as described in the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board Handbook, resulted in stakeholder estimates ranging from $1.3 million per motor set to $11.2 million for a first stage Peacekeeper motor. The prices at which surplus ICBM motors are sold is an important factor for determining the extent of potential benefits and challenges of allowing the motors to be used for commercial launch."

Here are the business leaders who are - and aren't - officially advising Trump, Business Insiders

CEOs of at least 3 major companies quit WH board over Trump Charlottesville response

"Thanks for checking in. We don't have a comment," said a spokesman for Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson."

As Trump disbanded advisory groups, this is who was in and who was out, CNBC

"Marillyn Hewson Lockheed Martin CEO No comment"

SpaceX Launches Cargo Resupply Mission to the Space Station (With multiple videos)

"Experiments seeking a better understanding of Parkinson's disease and the origin of cosmic rays are on their way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft following today's 12:31 p.m. EDT launch."

"Carrying more than 6,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies, the spacecraft lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the company's 12th commercial resupply mission. It will arrive at the space station Wednesday, Aug. 16, at which time astronauts Jack Fischer of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the space station's robotic arm to capture it."

Rocket Lab Completes Post-Flight Analysis

"Rocket Lab's investigation team determined the launch, named 'It's a Test', was terminated due to a data loss time out, which was caused by misconfiguration of telemetry equipment owned and operated by a third-party contractor who was supporting the launch from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1. Four minutes into the flight, at an altitude of 224 km, the equipment lost contact with the rocket temporarily and, according to standard operating procedures, range safety officials terminated the flight. Data, including that from Rocket Lab's own telemetry equipment, confirmed the rocket was following a nominal trajectory and the vehicle was performing as planned at the time of termination."

After failed space flights, NASA investigation leads to Portland, The Oregonian

"Twice in the past decade, NASA launched unmanned spacecraft ferrying advanced satellites into Earth's orbit as part of a mission that could offer researchers an unprecedented new source of data on climate change. But the satellites failed to deploy and, within minutes, NASA's $550 million investment and years of work vaporized in fiery balls of space junk. NASA has been investigating ever since. Now the inquiry has led to a nondescript industrial building in Northeast Portland, where a company called Sapa Extrusions acknowledges it has been dealing in bad aluminum and bad faith for as long as two decades."

NASA Creates Glory Satellite Mishap Investigation Board, earlier post

"NASA's Glory mission ended Friday after the spacecraft failed to reach orbit following its launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA has begun the process of creating a Mishap Investigation Board to evaluate the cause of the failure. Telemetry indicated the fairing, a protective shell atop the satellite's Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected. The launch proceeded as planned from its liftoff at 5:09 a.m. EST through the ignition of the Taurus XL's second stage. However, the fairing failure occurred during the second stage engine burn. It is likely the spacecraft fell into the South Pacific, although the exact location is not yet known. NASA's previous launch attempt of an Earth science spacecraft, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory onboard a Taurus XL on Feb. 24, 2009, also failed to reach orbit when the fairing did not separate."

Mission Approved - Bob Richards on the Moon Express Plan to Commercialize the Moon, SpaceQ

"Moon Express has raised $45 million(US), built hardware, tested some of it, and gotten the FAA and other government agencies to approve of its first commercial mission to the moon, and in less than a year might have its first spacecraft on the moon."

"In this episode of the SpaceQ podcast Bob Richards, CEO and co-founder of Moon Express talks about the latest news from the company, including how lunar samples they return could be worth tens of millions, possibly even hundreds of millions. If true, and if Moon Express can return those samples, then an important part of their business plan will have been accomplished and a new commercial frontier will have been opened up."

NASA's Commercial Crew Program Target Flight Dates

"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. To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation mission. The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly-releasable dates for both providers."

Michael J. Fox Foundation and CASIS Announce Partnership to Grow Key Parkinson's Protein on International Space Station

"The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announce a partnership to send a key Parkinson's protein to the International Space Station for growth under microgravity conditions. Microgravity may allow bigger, more regular LRRK2 protein crystals to grow, which helps solve the protein's structure. That information could help scientists design optimized therapies against LRRK2, a key target in the pursuit of a Parkinson's cure."

LRRK2

"Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), also known as dardarin (from the Basque word "dardara" which means trembling), is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the PARK8 gene. LRRK2 is a member of the leucine-rich repeat kinase family. Variants of this gene are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease and also Crohn's disease."

Keith's note: Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing. Even if CASIS is trying to distance itself from NASA, anyone with an ounce of Internet savvy would know that "NASA" is a search term that would heighten the visibility of this press release as it is posted elsewhere on the Internet. Again - this is significant news and CASIS should be congratulated for pulling it off. I'm just not sure they have a full grasp of the responsibility that they have been given by NASA.

CASIS Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2017

"Executive Summary: The second fiscal quarter (Q2) of 2017 (FY17) brought forward meaningful progress for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and demonstrated signals of opportunity for future space science platforms. From a big picture perspective, key developments in commercial space outside of the ISS National Lab are noteworthy for our stakeholder community. In March, SpaceX achieved a historic milestone on the road to reusability in space transportation with the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket. This achievement in reusability signals the tangible progress that the industry is making toward lowering the cost of transportation, a well-established barrier for space research and development. In addition to this milestone, commercial companies publicly announced this quarter intent to develop standalone, privately funded space stations within the decade. Finally, Congress' actions to pass the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 provide a firm foundation for continuity of progress toward America's leadership in commercial space. These developments are encouraging to both traditional and nontraditional users of the ISS National Lab as our nation looks to develop long-term research initiatives in space. Adding to this renewed excitement in commercial space, momentum with space research development on the ISS National Lab continues to accelerate and expand."

Keith's note: What's really bizarre is that CASIS is feeding this overt NASA PR hype back to NASA as part of a quarterly report to its (sole) customer. As if NASA had not already read its own hype without the need for CASIS to regurgitate it as part of a contract deliverable. Or maybe CASIS is just trying to make NASA feel better and simultaneously inflate its on value by aligning itself with the NASA spin machine. Hard to tell. Maybe they hope the new White House staff are reading these things. There's actually a lot of really important updates in these quarterly reports (more to follow) that are worthy of wider dissemination. Valuable research is being accomplished on the ISS. I am just baffled as to why CASIS feels the need to puff it all up with hype.

Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. NASA.gov blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation.

Keith's note: I was at the ISS R&D Conference today in Washington, DC (I'll be there all week). One of today's events was a panel that discussed the role of the National Academy of Science in advising NASA - specifically the Decadal Survey done on human spaceflight back in 2011. To be certain, as I have noted before, a lot of the NASA/NAS interaction is akin to choir practice in an echo chamber. But there is a lot of useful observation and advice embedded in these NASA reports that NASA would be wise to consider with regard to human spaceflight.

There was an odd interaction toward the end of the session when ISS Director Sam Scimemi asked if there was anything that the NAS could do to interest other federal agencies in spending money on space activities - which is an odd thing to consider even asking the NAS since they simply do not do that sort of advocacy. They are supposed to be impartial. As such its rather strange for the senior NASA civil servant running the ISS to be thinking - much less to say something like this in a public forum. Does he not know what role the NAS plays? Maybe someone should explain this to him. Its even odder that Scimemi would be out trying to drum up more funds for space given how well NASA did in the FY 2018 White House budget when compared to how badly other science agencies did in that same budget proposal. This makes NASA seem greedy and/or clueless.

Vector Space Systems - Small Rockets, Small Satellites and Possibly a Big Payday, SpaceQ (Story and Podcast)

"In 2016 Jim Cantrell and group of veteran space professionals started Vector Space Systems. Their goal? Nothing less than than building a small satellite launch company capable of launching upwards of 100 small satellites a year from at least three spaceports."

Note: Vector received some initial grant money from NASA.

Related: $30 Billion Market Value for Small Satellites Over Coming Decade, Euroconsult

"According to Euroconsult's latest report, Prospects for the Small Satellite Market, significant expansion in terms of capabilities and demand is underway in the smallsat market. Over 6,200 smallsats are expected to be launched over the next ten years, a substantial augmentation over that of the previous decade (several mega constellations are now included within the scope of this report). The smallsat market from 2017-2026 will be driven by the roll-out of multiple constellations accounting for more than 70% of this total, mainly for commercial operators."

"The total market value of these smallsats could reach $30.1 billion in the next ten years, up from $8.9 billion over the previous decade."

Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement (with video)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene the rescheduled hearing titled "Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement" at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 13, 2017. The subcommittee will examine partnerships between the U.S. government and commercial space industry to advance space exploration."

- Statement by Robert Cabana
- Statement by Tim Ellis
- Statement by Tim Hughes
- Statement by Jeffrey Manber
- Statement by Moriba Jah
- Statement by Sen. Bill Nelson

Moon Express Unveils Lunar Mission Architecture, Moon Express

"On July 12, 2017, Moon Express unveiled its exploration architecture, including plans to establish the world's first permanent lunar outpost at the South Pole of the Moon by 2020. The company's robotic explorers are flexible, scalable platforms that will help reopen the American frontier on the Moon, conduct prospecting and sample return operations, and support lunar science, exploration and commerce."

What You Need To Know About The Space Law Congress Is Considering, The Federalist

"Want to make money in space? It appears that Congress wants to help. It also appears from what Congress has so far proposed that their help will have only a limited value. The heart of the problem is twofold. First, the regulatory framework that American companies must navigate to get projects off the ground is difficult and complex. They must deal with multiple government agencies whose conflicting needs cause delays and increased costs. Sometimes this bureaucracy kills projects entirely. Second, there is significant worry in the investment community about the uncertainty of property rights in space. Article II of the Outer Space Treaty forbids countries from claiming territory in space, which means it is difficult for capitalist countries like the United States to establish secure property rights for its citizens on any territory in space."

It was a case of the third time being the charm as SpaceX conducted its 10th launch this year. The Intelsat 35e has separated from the Falcon 9 second stage as expected and is in a good orbit.

- Launch replay.

SpaceX Dragon's second splashdown is a historic first, CNET

"Until now, no single craft has visited the ISS and returned to Earth more than once. In fact, all other non-SpaceX vehicles that visit the space station are designed to burn up in the atmosphere after a single flight. SpaceX has been recovering its Dragon capsules via splashdowns in the ocean, but this is the first time that one of those recycled craft has completed a second re-supply mission."

MDA Sells Majority Stake in its Satellite Servicing Business and Gets its First Customer, SpaceQ

"MDA, which had announced in early May the creation of Space Infrastructure Services (SIS) to handle its nascent satellite servicing business, today announced that Finance Technology Leverage LLC would take a majority stake in SIS and that global satellite communications company SES would be its first customer."

"As part of today's announcement, SIS has awarded a contract to MDA's U.S. division, SSL, a contract valued at US$228 million (CA$305 million)."

SpaceX's final Falcon 9 design coming this year, two Falcon Heavy launches next year, SpaceNews

"We are flying Block 3s right now," Shotwell said. "Block 4s start flying shortly, and then Block 5 at the end of this year. We definitely have gotten better [at] more smooth introducing of change. You don't see the big impacts to production we've had before when we've changed vehicle designs." SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk had previously stated in an online question-and-answer session in October 2016 that Block 5 would be the final upgrade to the Falcon 9 design. The Falcon 9 Block 5 is expected to be far more reusable than the Block 3. Shotwell said a Block 5 booster could relaunch " a dozen or so times." The Block 3, by comparison, has an estimated life of two or three missions. Shotwell said the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 won't need refurbishing, but will mainly undergo inspections prior to launch, streamlining the process compared to the first reused boosters."

SpaceX will try for third Falcon 9 launch in less than two weeks, SpaceflightNow

"After back-to-back launches last weekend, SpaceX could launch its next Falcon 9 mission as soon as Sunday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a high-power Intelsat communications satellite. Liftoff Sunday will hinge on the ability of SpaceX's launch team to prepare KSC's launch pad 39A for another flight after the successful June 23 blastoff of a Falcon 9 booster with the first Bulgarian-owned communications satellite."

SpaceX Launches Two Missions in Two Days (with videos), SpaceRef

"SpaceX has upped the ante when it comes to reusable launch systems. Within 49 hours the company launched and recovered two Falcon 9 first stages while putting it's customer's payloads safely into orbit."

Keith's note: Imagine if NASA adopted the same incremental product upgrading approach - one based on operational and customer experience/feedback - with forward and backward compatibility such as what SpaceX has adopted. Imagine also that this ability to improve a product is a feature inherent to the original product design and not an afterthought. Imagine all you want. NASA is incapable of doing this or even grasping how to do it - but there were faint glimmers of it during development of the Apollo/Saturn program. Cost and performance benefits aside, having a flexible space launch infrastructure like SpaceX has (I'm sure Blue Origin is no different) with inherent design resilience launched in a steady cadence is how space will be best utilized - not by using monster rockets that NASA cannot even afford to fly more than once every year or so.

Hubble Contact Lenses

"Go to your exam, try out Hubble contacts, and get your prescription."

Hubble Servicing Mission 1, NASA

"After Hubble's deployment in 1990, scientist realized that the telescope's primary mirror had a flaw called spherical aberration. The outer edge of the mirror was ground too flat by a depth of 2.2 microns (roughly equal to one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair). This aberration resulted in images that were fuzzy because some of the light from the objects being studied was being scattered. COSTAR (the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement) was developed as an effective means of countering the effects of the flawed shape of the mirror. COSTAR was a telephone booth-sized instrument which placed 5 pairs of corrective mirrors, some as small as a nickel coin, in front of the Faint Object Camera, the Faint Object Spectrograph and the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph."

Keith's note: On their visit a doctor page they refer to "Dr. Edwin". As in Edwin Hubble. Get it?

After nine launches in 2017, it's tough to be an honest critic of SpaceX, Ars Technica

"SpaceX garners a lot of acclaim for its achievements, and it has legions of admirers within the aerospace community and the public at large. But it also has critics, primarily competitors who look at SpaceX and see a company that gets a lot of hype but doesn't always deliver. What is perhaps most striking about this weekend's back-to-back launches is that the company's successes drove a stake into some of the most credible criticisms that have been levied against SpaceX in recent years."

Waiting for liftoff at the Spaceport, Santa Fe New Mexican

"The concept of space tourism was all the rage when Spaceport America was pitched to New Mexico taxpayers a decade ago as a gateway for rich adventurers willing to pay $250,000 for a ride to the heavens. But as the state has waited year after year for the first of what were supposed to be regular flights into space from the nearly $220 million facility, people behind the program are reimagining it more as a hub for the commercial spaceflight industry rather than space tourism. That change in approach could require pouring millions more in public money into a place that plenty of critics have called one of state government's biggest boondoggles. Dan Hicks, new executive director of the spaceport, says the spaceport must construct additional facilities and offer more services to draw more business."

Finance authority grants spaceport limited use of tax revenue for operations, Santa Fe New Mexican

"Spaceport America, the government-subsidized operation that promised new business for New Mexico by luring wealthy space travelers but in six years hasn't had any such flights, won a partial victory Thursday in its pitch to use more tax money to increase its operating budget. The New Mexico Finance Authority agreed to let the spaceport for one year use extra money from the taxes that shoppers pay in two Southern New Mexico counties. But the spaceport wanted the excess tax money in perpetuity, a proposal that the finance authority declined to grant as its chairman raised questions about the facility's financial strength."

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Commercial Space

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement." Note: Postponed until after the July 4 recess.

The Implications of the Growing Small Satellite Market for Launch and Key Applications (webcast)

"The Center for Strategic and International Studies will be hosting a two-session event to highlight and amplify awareness of the implications of emerging space technologies, particularly those provided by smaller space systems. These discussions will examine implications from the perspective of both changes in the way space missions are executed and in the way that transportation to space is provided."

Amendment may keep Iran-Russia sanctions bill from stopping ISS launches from Wallops, Daily Press

"An Iran-Russia sanctions bill threatened to torpedo Orbital ATK's commercial resupply missions for NASA from Virginia to the International Space Station until an amendment cleared the U.S. Senate Thursday to remove the bill's unintended consequences to civilian agencies. Senators voted overwhelmingly -- 94 to 6 -- to approve the amendment after several members, including Virginia's Mark Warner, described the "unintentional harm" the original bill could inflict on "crucial science, civil and commercial space missions" that support NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research."

Air Force budget reveals how much SpaceX undercuts launch prices, Ars Technica

"One person who has reviewed the Air Force budget and is sympathetic to the new space industry said the following: That is a tad more expensive than the amount ULA would ever tell taxpayers they are paying for one of its launches, and it illustrates the extent to which those taxpayers are forced to subsidize ULA in order to maintain the fiction that it is a competitive private sector company. Essentially, then, while ULA has talked publicly about lowering the costs of its boosters for the commercial sector and the federal government, the US Department of Defense is suggesting in its budget that ULA's costs are as high as they have ever been."

World View Announces First -Ever Multi-Day Stratollite Mission, World View

"In need of a spaceflight partner to literally launch KFC's new flagship spicy Zinger chicken sandwich to space in an entirely new and different way, KFC and creative agency Wieden+Kennedy approached World View about participating in a historic flight to the edge of space. Intrigued by the idea, World View saw this as a great opportunity to publicly demonstrate the Stratollite's capabilities to a mass public audience, while simultaneously financing a portion of the vehicle's development program. Thus, the World View and KFC partnership was born, aiming to usher in a new era of stratospheric discovery and chicken sandwich space exploration."

Keith's note: Really - the only partner they could find for this "historic flight" was KFC - and the only payload they could fly to almost-space is a chicken sandwich? I'm not so sure if the promise of commercial space is what everyone says it is going to be if this is what passes as ground breaking use of otherwise promising hardware. Remember that pizza that Pizza Hut delivered to ISS in 2001? Of course you don't. (Pizza Hut is owned by Yum! Brands Inc. the same people who own KFC, by the way). Then again, if KFC uses its its global marketing prowess then a lot of people may know that there is a chicken sandwich almost in outer space. Will that translate into ticket sales for World View?

Now ... if they had a competition wherein students from around the world created artwork or did something else that did not focus only on cold fast food on a balloon - something that was then flown with an education and outreach program weaved into the marketing - then maybe this could have been a memorable moment. No word yet as to whether the sandwich (530 calories, 1,330 mg of sodium, 26 g of fat) will even be edible when it returns from 4 days in almost-space.

Keith's note: A few moments ago NASA Wallops completed a webcast. The audio and video were not in synch, video was jittery, and they had bad microphone issues. One might get the impression that Wallops PAO has never done a webcast before. Someone needs to buy them more bandwidth or better hardware. They also need to practice doing these things and write down their audio/video settings. Their mics were constantly being mixed by someone - room echo came and went, there was a loud audio hum, and lots of line static. And the audio dropped completely when audience members asked questions or panelists answered them. It was like they were hitting random buttons on their mixing panel to see what sounded the best. I did live webcasts from Everest Base Camp 8 years ago at 17,600 feet using a satellite unit I carried on my back and had far fewer problems than this.

For this press event, unlike all other NASA centers, there was no dial-in for offsite media. You had to send your questions in by email or text. Why is it that Wallops can't do a simple conference call? Teenagers do it on their cellphones.

Here is the question I submitted: "Now that you've had a chance to do all of the accounting, can you tell me what the complete, final cost of repairing damage at NASA Wallops/M.A.R.S. from the Orbital ATK 2014 mishap was? How much did of this amount NASA contribute? How much did Orbital ATK contribute? How much did the State of Virginia and/or M.A.R.S. contribute?" Follow up: "Has NASA required Orbital ATK to increase contingency funds it sets aside and/or its level of insurance coverage in the case of future launch accidents?"

Answer from NASA NASA: "It was a little $15 million over 11 months. It was split three ways."
Orbital: "we have modified our insurance and contingency funds to be in compliance with regulations"

NASA does not even know how the cost of paying for the damage was divided up - unless they mean that NASA, Orbital ATK, and M.A.R.S. each paid exactly one-third i.e. $5 million. If that was the case then why couldn't NASA just say that - as I asked them to do?

Oh yes, in opening the media event, Center Director Bill Wrobel went through a long list of things that Wallops and Orbital ATK do - and did so glowingly: rockets, planes, balloons. One thing he did not mention: Wallops just dropped an expensive payload from one of its balloons the other day at high altitude without a parachute. They had webstreaming and social media issues last night too for one of their sounding rockets. Wallops just does not seem to be ready for prime time.

SST Committee Approves the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 simplifies and strengthens the outdated space-based remote sensing regulatory system. At the same time, this bill enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space companies."

Support Grows for the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space,and Technology announced growing support for H.R. 2809, the "American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017." The legislation was favorably reported out of committee today by voice vote. Keep reading to see what they're saying."

Keith's note: This press release has quotes from 19 people representing New Space companies or organizations. Only 2 females are quoted. New Space is still a boy's club. Just sayin'.

Smith Introduces American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"Rep. Bridenstine: "Providing maximum certainty with minimal regulatory burden for the commercial space industry has been one of my top priorities in Congress. The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act moves us in the right direction. Years of uncertainty over which government agency has the responsibility to authorize and supervise commercial space activity has created a chilling effect in the industry, hindering capital formation and innovation. Chairman Smith, Chairman Babin, and I authored this bill to provide a clear, transparent process to meet Outer Space Treaty obligations while ensuring America is open for business in space."

Markup of the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

Opening statements: Committee Chairman Smith, Subcommittee Chairman Babin, Rep. Bridenstine, Ranking Member Johnson

Could NASA and SpaceX cooperation turn into competition?

"... So, it came as a surprise to NASA when SpaceX founder Elon Musk held a conference call in February announcing plans to use a powerful rocket that hasn't yet flown to sling private tourists around the moon next year--an ambitious timeline, according to Mary Lynne Dittmar who represents some of SpaceX's competitors through the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration. "If you're putting all the schedule pressure on, you are essentially -- you're automatically assuming more risk. You're automatically creating an environment where you are operating at higher risk because you have to meet the deadline," Dittmar explained. Dittmar said she is concerned about the 2018 deadline for SpaceX."

Keith's note: Meanwhile Mary Lynne Dittmar's favorite rocket - the one she's paid to promote (SLS) is years behind schedule, over budget, and fraught with ongoing software and manufacturing errors. SpaceX launches (and lands) rockets on a regular basis. Falcon Heavy is composed three of these rockets strapped together and will launch soon. SLS will not launch until 2020 (maybe) and then not again for 2-4 years. Infrequent launches are one easy way to generate a lot of programmatic risk. So ... who has more in-house, currently functional operational experience under their belt, Mary Lynne? Certainly not the SLS folks.




SpaceX Wins Launch of U.S. Air Force X-37B Space Plane, Reuters

"Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp will fly its first mission for the U.S. Air Force in August when it launches the military's X-37B miniature spaceplane, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said on Tuesday. Four previous X-37B missions were launched by United LaunchAlliance Atlas 5 rockets. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co . "SpaceX will be sending the next Air Force payload up into space in August," Wilson said during webcast testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. She later specified that the payload would be one of the Air Force's two X-37Bspaceplanes."


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