There is a markup session tomorrow at 12:00 pm EDT with the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Markup. It certainly looks like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) is trying to slip in language that would allow more Russian-built RD-180 engines to be purchased using tax dollars at the same time when Rogers is (otherwise) actively promoting policies that would punish the exact same sector of Russia's economy for actions in Ukraine and Iran, treaty violations, and other bad behavior.
Recently in Commercialization Category
"Today, the launch infrastructure of the United States National Security Space (NSS) -- comprised of the Department of Defense (DoD), the Services and the Intelligence Community (IC) -- is teetering on the edge of a gap in capability which, in less than five years, could mean no capacity to launch the bulk of critical national security missions for as long as ten years. We are close to retiring our existing fleet of launch vehicles without new ones to assure our access to space."
"The short-term goal should be to transition to existing American-manufactured launch vehicles, as opposed to phasing out systems such as the Delta IV, which continue to provide critical capability. In the long term, next-generation development programs should not involve major Russian subsystems and components."
"Orbital ATK Inc and engine maker GenCorp Inc on Tuesday offered competing explanations for what caused the Oct. 28 explosion of Orbital's Antares rocket, bound for the International Space Station. Ronald Grabe, Orbital's executive vice president and president of its flight systems group, told the annual Space Symposium conference that an investigation led by his company had concluded the explosion was caused by excessive wear in the bearings of the GenCorp engine. GenCorp said its own probe showed that the wear in the bearings was likely caused by debris in the engine."
Report: Environmental impact of Wallops explosion, DelMarva Now
"Despite initial concerns, and ash that rained down in the area, a final report on the environmental impact of the explosion shows only two recommendations moving forward -- a groundwater study, and possible continued monitoring. The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority report also details the steps taken after the explosion to contain any adverse impacts. While Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper Jay Ford said he was concerned immediately following the explosion, he was impressed with the federal reaction."
Keith's note: YouTube has flagged this video on copyright grounds. The creators tell me that they are working the issue and that it should be working again now.
@NASAWatch The "Ragnar Lothbrook Rocket" does have a certain ring to it...— Tory Bruno (@torybruno) April 15, 2015
"Hours after unveiling its next-generation "Vulcan" rocket, the company that launches most of America's satellites, United Launch Alliance, ran into its first problem - the rocket's name. "Vulcan is a trademark of Vulcan Inc. and we have informed ULA of our trademark rights," Chuck Beames, president of the Paul Allen-backed Vulcan Aerospace told Reuters. "Paul Allen and Vulcan were early leaders within space exploration with the launch of SpaceShipOne more than a decade ago. We are flattered by ULA's tribute to our legacy by naming their new rocket 'Vulcan,'" Beames added."
"The mission is the company's sixth cargo delivery flight to the station through NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract."
"SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station today to deliver over 1950kg of supplies. The attempt to land the Falcon 9 first stage on the drone ship in the Atlantic failed as the rocket toppled over after landing according to CEO Elon Musk."
"At a news conference at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tory Bruno unveiled their Next Generation Launch System (NGLS) with a crowdsourced new name, Vulcan.
Showing some of the showmanship that Elon Musk of SpaceX has been known for, Bruno tried to follow in Musk's footsteps ratcheting up the marketing hype to a level not seen in recent years at a ULA event."
Marc's Note: Competition is good. It's good for both companies, it's good for America, it's good as it should eventually drive down costs. The question is, can ULA really compete? Can they adapt from their culture to a something like a SpaceX silicon valley culture? It should be fun to watch.
"United Launch Alliance (ULA) unveiled its Next Generation Launch System (NGLS) today at the 31st Space Symposium. The new rocket, Vulcan, will transform the future of space by making launch services more affordable and accessible."
"Today, a Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on the 6th SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Yesterday, NASA held three news briefings to discuss the mission and research on the ISS."
Marc's note: At the briefing, SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann was asked what the probability of success for the Falcon 9 first stage landing on the drone ship. His response was 75% and then he said perhaps 80%. It seems SpaceX is quite a bit more confident on this third attempt.
Marc's update: The launch was scrubbed until Tuesday at 4:10 pm EDT due to weather. The weather forecast for tomorrow is 50-50.
"Blue Origin recently completed acceptance testing of its BE-3 rocket engine, the first new hydrogen engine to be developed in the United States in more than a decade. "The BE-3 has now been fired for more than 30,000 seconds over the course of 450 tests," said Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin founder. "We test, learn, refine and then test again to push our engines. The Blue Origin team did an outstanding job exploring the corners of what the BE-3 can do and soon we'll put it to the ultimate test of flight."
"The meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the National Transportation Safety Board Conference Center, 429 L'Enfant Plaza SW., Washington, DC 20594. This will be the 61st meeting of the COMSTAC."
Keith's note: The meeting is supposed to be webcast at http://faa.capitolconnection.org/ but it says that it will not start at 1 pm ET even though the meeting began at 8 am ET with a presentation by NASA Administrator Bolden. So ... half of the meeting is not being webcast. Odd.
Keith's update: FAA responded that the morning is just working group meetings so it won't be webcast. Yet Charlie Bolden just spoke. Is he in a working group? This is a bit of a bait and switch since the original agenda FAA sent us late last week (and had on their website) had NASA Administrator Bolden, FAA AA Nield, and Rep. Fattah as speakers. Again, are they working group members? Further, the FAA webpage says the webcast starts at 1:00 pm ET yet their agenda shows a start at 1:30 pm ET. Also - there is no indication that the afternoon is a full committee meeting. (Needlessly) Confusing.
"The U.S. Air Force must modify its annual "launch capability" contract with United Launch Alliance, to level the playing field for new competitors of the joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, senior U.S. Air Force and Pentagon officials told lawmakers on Wednesday. ... [Air Force Space Command Commander General John Hyten] said the contract made it impossible to have a fair competition, backing an argument often made by privately held Space Exploration Technologies. The company, also called SpaceX, hopes to be certified by June to compete for some satellite launches now carried out solely by ULA."
- Fiscal Year 2016 National Security Space Hearing, House Armed Services Committee, 25 March 2015
"SUMMARY: DoD, GSA, and NASA are considering amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to update the list of domestically nonavailable articles under the Buy American Act. DoD, GSA, and NASA are seeking information that will assist in identifying domestic capabilities and for evaluating whether some articles on the list of domestically nonavailable articles are now mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available commercial quantities and of a satisfactory quality. ... The current domestically nonavailable listing at FAR 25.104 is as follow: ... Beef, corned, canned ... Cashew nuts ... Fair linen, altar ... Goat hair canvas ... Hemp yarn ... Rabbit fur felt ..."
"Entering into this new agreement with HAS will lead to enabling all variants of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to land in Houston, offering the ability to return cargo and science to Houston directly from space," said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC's Space Systems. "Through this agreement, we want to promote broad awareness of the importance of utilizing low-Earth orbit as a source of research, science and the expansion of space flight that are critical to Houston's ongoing position as a 'Space City.' Houston has earned its place at the forefront of space exploration with such institutes as NASA's Johnson Space Center, Rice Space University, the Texas Medical Center, the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and many other organizations."
"The two made a number of pointed comments about each other before Ms Shotwell responded sarcastically when asked why SpaceX thought it could provide launches to the US government for an average $100m. SpaceX claims ULA's launches cost US taxpayers an average of $400m each. Ms Shotwell was asked why the company claimed to be able to offer its services for 25 per cent of the ULA price. "It's hard for me to say," Ms Shotwell replied. "I don't know how to build a $400m rocket. The more difficult question would be to say that I don't understand how ULA are as expensive as they are."
"If [ULA] stops the Delta IV rocket launches," said Rogers, "is there anybody else that can compete with you for those missions?" Shotwell struggled to answer, referring vaguely to there being international launch providers. She then went back and conceded that the Pentagon probably wouldn't trust those international services with sensitive military payloads. That was precisely the point, said Rogers. "You would have a monopoly, is where I'm going on this," he said."
Keith's note: Lockheed Martin just started a big media rollout for their new cargo concept for NASA's CRS-2 contract. Included in the PR effort are some infographics. Everyone makes mistakes, but given the large amount of money they are pouring into all of this, you'd think that they'd use a spell checker.
"Lugging groceries and supplies to the astronauts on the International Space Station may not be as cool as ferrying the astronauts themselves into orbit. But the NASA contract to fly cargo to the station in unmanned rocket ships has attracted bids from high-profile companies in what analysts say is another indication of commercial spaceflight's recent renaissance. It appears that at least five space firms have submitted proposals for the work, including giants such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which didn't bother to bid on the work the last time. In a new sort of space race, the contract has touched off an intense competition between stalwart defense contractors and new space start-ups that have, in just a few years, shown they can compete."
UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE BEFORE THE PATENT TRIAL AND APPEAL BOARD SPACE EXPLORATION TECHNOLOGIES CORP., Petitioner, v. BLUE ORIGIN LLC, Patent Owner. Case IPR2014-01376 Patent 8,678,321 B2. Paper 6
"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. ("SpaceX") filed a Petition ("Pet.") for inter partes review of U.S. Patent No. 8,678,321 B2 ("the '321 patent"). The Petition challenges the patentability of claims 14 and 15 of the '321 patent on the ground of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103.1 Blue Origin LLC, the owner of the '321 patent, did not file a Preliminary Response to the Petition."
"IV. CONCLUSION Because the challenged claims are not amenable to construction, we are unable to reach a determination on the reasonable likelihood of SpaceX prevailing on the prior art ground asserted in the Petition.
V. ORDER For the foregoing reasons, it is ORDERED that the Petition is denied."
Keith's note: The title of this post is taken directly from words and statements used in the USPTO decision. Read the document. As best as I can figure this legal mumbo jumbo out, everyone involved is confused about what the patent claims and whether it can be challenged - and if so, how. Yet the SpaceX Internet fan boys are all over social media chastising non-believers and saying that this is a big win for SpaceX while others are saying that its a win for Blue Origin. Indeed, sources inside SpaceX now say that this decision is good for them.
If SpaceX thinks that this decision is good for them - and they want people to know that this is good for them - then they need to put out a statement that says so. Expecting the Internet to figure it out - clearly and accurately - and then tell the world - is not going to work.
Keith's update: But wait. There's more. There is another USPTO document (see excerpt below) that just fell out of cyberspace into my inbox wherein USPTO agrees with claims made by SpaceX. Taken together these two documents are not a formal decision for - or against - Blue Origin/SpaceX. The patent is still the patent and more lawyers will need to weigh in before anyone changes anything in that patent - if anything is ever changed. My point still stands with regard to letting Internet chatter suffice for statements by the actual parties to this dispute (SpaceX and Blue Origin) and I await their responses/non-responses.
Reader note: "FYI I tried to reach CASIS by phone. When you call their CASIS Corporate Headquarters listed here i.e. 321.253.5101 and hit 3 for "Contracts" you get a dead end. Your call is eventually disconnected.
ULA ready to compete against Elon Musk's space startup, CEO says, Washington Post
"Still, [ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno] also said that ULA is far more reliable in launching on schedule than SpaceX. When asked if he thought it was risky to rely on SpaceX he said, "I do." "We have a perfect mission success record and our schedule certainty is also substantial," he said. "Launching on time is huge." SpaceX took exception to Bruno's comments. "The Air Force and the taxpayers deserve more from ULA and its latest CEO, whose remarks are purposely misleading, but not unexpected," SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said in a statement. "In anticipation of having to face real competition for the first time, ULA is distorting the facts in an effort to hide its own shortcomings. This is merely the latest example that ULA is realizing that its long-held monopoly is coming to an end."
Keith's note: Then there's this gem: "Bruno said that since ULA's inception, the company "has cut the price of launch in half, and I'm going to cut it in half again." While he declined to provide specific numbers, he vowed to "be competitive with SpaceX's prices."
Hmmm ... with reusable stages SpaceX may do this too - making their cost even harder to beat. At some point Bruno will not be able to turn a profit if he's focused only on cutting prices to chase SpaceX down this path.
Marc's note: Looking at the commercial launch market the last four years, ULA has had 2 launches, both last year for WorldView 3 and NASA's EFT-1. SpaceX on the other hand has had 11 launches and this is before the coming increase in cadence. (All data from the FAA)
SpaceX Launches Dual Payload to GTO [With Video], SpaceRef Business
"A SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched the ABS 3A and EUTELSAT 115 West B satellites towards a supersynchronous transfer orbit. The launch took place on time when the launch window opened at 10:50 p.m. EST on Sunday, March 1, 2015, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida."
Marc's note: With this launch SpaceX has completed three launches so far this year. They completed six last year. By mid-year they should have equalled last years total and probably surpassed it based on the current schedule. Their launch cadence is clearly picking up as you would expect with a rocket and company that is maturing.
Russia Will Spin-Off ISS Parts for New Space Station, Discovery News
"The Russian space agency Roscosmos says it will support U.S. plans to keep the International Space Station (ISS) operating through 2024, but then wants to split off three still-to-be launched modules to form a new, independent orbital outpost. The announcement this week by a senior planning board reverses previous statements by Russian officials that Russia would end involvement in the 15-nation program in 2020 when current agreements expire. Despite occasional rhetoric, the Russian-U.S. space marriage has been largely left out of growing economic and political tensions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year."
Keith's note: This is not a bad thing. And I am not talking about no longer having to deal with Russia since we'll certainly find a way to find ourselves in a political spat with someone else on Earth after they leave the ISS. Rather, it shows how assets in space can be repurposed, refurbished -- re-imagined. Instead of throwing things away in orbit (Skylab, Salyuts, Mir) we can now build upon these assets and move them around like Lego bricks to form new things as we need them - and then do this again and again. When the government is done with their hardware, it can be used by someone else - just like old military bases can become movie studios and shopping malls. The more orbital capacity that is available, the more customers it can collectively and individually serve. The more valuable these on-orbit assets become for government and non-government uses, the more everyone will want to safeguard that growing capacity (and isolate it from terrestrial squabbles) as has been the case with ISS recently.
"Perhaps the most ambitious part of the ASD agenda is a proposed "Cheap Access to Space Act" that would offer $3.5 billion in government prizes for the development of reusable launch vehicles. Those prizes include, in a draft version of the bill provided by ASD, $1 billion to the first fully reusable vehicle that can place at least one metric ton into orbit and fly again a week later."
Keith's note: Yet another space group comprised of the usual suspects. Yet another request by a space group for the government to give them billions in handouts. Sigh. This is getting old. These groups keep proposing the same old same old - under new names each time.
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Steve Jurczyk as the agency's Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, effective Monday, March 2. The directorate is responsible for innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use on future NASA missions. Jurczyk has served as Center Director at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, since April of 2014."
"There will be two important congressional hearings this week on Commercial Space.
First up on Tuesday, February 24th is the U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness hearing chaired by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Next up on Friday, February 27th is the House Subcommittee on Space Hearing; The Commercial Crew Program: Challenges and Opportunities chaired by Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The hearing will take place at 2318 Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. EST."
"This week marks the 53rd anniversary of John Glenn's first manned orbital space flight. The Monmouth University Poll finds that most Americans feel the nation's 1960s space program gave us long-lasting benefits and many say increased spending on the space program today would be a good investment. However, less than half the public supports spending billions of dollars specifically to send astronauts back to the moon or to other planets - a program that is currently in the works at NASA. Interestingly, this reluctance is similar to the public mood in the 1960s. A majority of Americans do support private space exploration, though. ... The future of space travel may now lie in private ventures, which most Americans do support."
Keith's note: Interesting how this poll of actual regular American citizens shows them to be far less bubbly in their support of NASA's human space flight programs than what the space advocacy crowd would have you think. I am not certain how well the overt "settlement" aspect of Rick Tumlinson's recent closed space summit is going to resonate with popular sentiments when even the precursor missions are not supported by a majority of those polled. However, the commercial space aspect of this poll is interesting as are the societal benefits. Yet no one from Blue Origin, SpaceX, or Virgin Galactic - or the non-space public seems to have had any role in this closed door meeting. Or did they? I guess we'll never know since nothing about this event's participants is being released.
The study also notes "Just over 4-in-10 (42%) Americans are in favor of the U.S. government spending billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids, while half (50%) oppose such an expenditure. There are no partisan differences in this opinion, although men (50%) are more supportive than women (36%) of funding this new program." I wonder what the demographics were for Tumlinson's space summit. If this conclave of the usual suspects followed old habits then the participants would have been overwhelmingly male and middle aged (and older).
If people get together with the aim of developing a broad-based policy (on any topic) for the entire country then they should, at a minimum, seek to pay some attention to the demographics of the group of people whom they purport to represent as well as what these people have to say on the topic. Moreover these would-be policy developers should seek to develop a policy that serves the real world interests of the population as a whole - not a policy that only serves the people who happen to be in the room arguing arcane philosophical and self-serving points.
If space advocates have all of the impact that they claim to have had over the past several decades then they need to share the blame for the dysfunctional way that this nation's space policy (such that there is one) has been formulated and implemented. If the space advocates shun responsibility for this train weck then they are admitting that they actually have little or no impact after all. Either way, given how screwed up America's space policy is, one would have to come to the conclusion that space advocates are part of the problem - not the solution.
"Last October's explosion of Orbital ATK Inc's Antares rocket may have been triggered when debris inadvertently left in a fuel tank traveled into the booster's main engine, two people familiar with investigations into the accident told Reuters. The sources said the preliminary findings suggest that a simple assembly mistake by Orbital ATK could have caused the explosion, which destroyed a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station."
"Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) has announced that it will continue flight tests at Kennedy Space Center using the newest version of its lunar lander test vehicle later this month. The "MTV-1A" vehicle is an advanced version of the MTV-1X lander test vehicle that successfully completed a series of initial flights in December, earning the company a $1M award from the Google Lunar XPRIZE."
"The delay is tied to carrying out the omnibus federal spending bill's $20 million appropriation for NASA to ensure that the money goes to repair of the spaceport, which operates at the national space agency's Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. "NASA is fully aware of the intent of the $20 million they didn't expect to get, but they got," said Kevin Hall, spokesman for Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., who worked with Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, D-Va.; Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; and members of both states' congressional delegations to secure the funding. Hall said his office is investigating the reason for the delay but is "trying to help the state navigate this process."
"Government and business leaders in the region are looking for more growth in the future after a string of successes the past two years at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, and despite one major setback the explosion shortly after liftoff in October of a rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station on Orbital Sciences Corporation's third commercial cargo mission under a NASA contract."
"Encouraging the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to conduct an environmental impact study related to landing commercial booster rockets and spacecraft at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility."
Registration still open for the 18th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference, set to take place this week (Feb. 4-5) at the National Housing Center in Washington, D.C. The conference will address the latest in U.S. commercial launch activities, human spaceflight, crew, and spaceports and includes the opportunity to meet and network with key federal officials from DOT, NASA, and DOD, industry leaders, space entrepreneurs, international space partners, legislators, astronauts, educators, and space enthusiasts. This is the premier event for information about the FAA's role and the future direction of commercial space transportation. Onsite registration and webcast options also available. More information at: http://www.faacst2015.com
Twitter hashtag: #FAACST2015
"The United States government has taken a new, though preliminary, step to encourage commercial development of the moon. According to documents obtained by Reuters, U.S. companies can stake claims to lunar territory through an existing licensing process for space launches. The Federal Aviation Administration, in a previously undisclosed late-December letter to Bigelow Aerospace, said the agency intends to "leverage the FAA's existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis."
Nissan and NASA partner to jointly Develop and Deploy Autonomous Drive Vehicles by End of Year, (revised with text of NASA Space Act Agreement) Nissan
"Nissan Motor Co., through its North American-based organization, and NASA today announced the formation of a five-year research and development partnership to advance autonomous vehicle systems and prepare for commercial application of the technology."
NASA's Stealth Autonomous Vehicle Partnership, earlier post
"NASA's independent safety panel accused the agency of a "lack of transparency" about its program to hire commercial space companies to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, saying the opacity could create increased safety risks. In its annual report to Congress, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said the lack of communication about critical safety measures "has been a concern for a number of years." And it made it impossible for the panel "to offer any informed opinion regarding the adequacy of the certification process or the sufficiency of safety" in what is known as the "commercial crew" program. The "failure to engage in open and transparent communication is reminiscent of the problems" surrounding the causes of the fatal Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, according to the report released Wednesday."
SpaceX Releases New Animation of Falcon Heavy and Booster Recovery, SpaceRef Business
"SpaceX has released a new animation depicting the launch of a Falcon Heavy from famed Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) with the controlled recovery of both boosters and the first stage."
Marc's note: From animation to reality in a few years? Yeah, we like that. Why can't other companies do this?
NASA News Conference: Update on the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceRef Business
"NASA, Boeing and SpaceX will held a news briefing on NASA Television at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Jan. 26, to highlight key development activities, test plans and objectives for achieving certification of two American crew transportation systems."
Marc's note: Missed the news conference? Watch it from the link above.
Google Lunar XPrize Makes $5.25 Million in Awards, Google Lunar XPrize
"The deadline for the Google Lunar XPRIZE was officially extended until December 31, 2016. As part of this revised timeline, at least one team must provide documentation of a scheduled launch by December 31, 2015 for all teams to move forward in the competition."
"These five Milestone teams, with representatives from all over the world, will be gathered in San Francisco on Monday, January 26, for a glitzy awards ceremony."
Keith's note: 5 teams were competing for these milestone prizes. The same 5 teams won these milestone prizes. Has there ever actually been any real competition?
"The Air Force and SpaceX have reached agreement on a path forward for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program that improves the competitive landscape and achieves mission assurance for national security space launches. Under the agreement, the Air Force will work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process in an efficient and expedient manner."
Elon Musk: Guest-Starring on The Simpsons Was 'Kind of Trippy', BloombergBusinessWeek
"Moon Express and Space Florida have signed an agreement that will lead to Moon Express spacecraft development and flight test operations at SLC-36 starting early this year. The agreement allows Moon Express and the state of Florida to make investments into the refurbishment of SLC-36, leading to a revitalized range and the immediate creation of 25-50 new jobs and potentially hundreds of direct and indirect new jobs over the next 5 years."
Marc's note: Updating my story from yesterday, SpaceX this evening issued the following statement.
"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has raised a billion dollars in a financing round with two new investors, Google and Fidelity. They join existing investors Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn. Google and Fidelity will collectively own just under 10% of the company.
SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches the world's most advanced rockets and spacecraft. This funding will be used to support continued innovation in the areas of space transport, reusability, and satellite manufacturing."
With this new investment, SpaceX is now valued at over $10 billion. A nice way to start the year even if their Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship suffered some damage from that spectacular crash landing earlier this month by the Falcon 9 first stage recovery attempt.
"[HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier]: On August 6, 2014, the Source Evaluation Board (SEB) appointed to evaluate proposals for the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract (CCtCap) under Request for Proposals (RFP) NNK14467515R presented the results of its evaluation to me and other senior officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). I held a follow-up meeting on August 19th to ask additional questions of the SEB and receive input from my advisors. My decision on selection of the successful Offeror is set forth in this Source Selection Statement."
"Sierra Nevada alleges that NASA's evaluation of proposals departed from the RFP's stated criteria, and was unequal and unreasonable. We deny the protest."
Gold Plates, GSA Auction
One lot consisting six 24KT gold plates weighing 6,015.5 grams. These plates were reportedly flown in space for 69 months. Please click on attachment for purity information rounded to the nearest 1/10th determined by x-ray fluorescence.
"LDEF's 69 months in space provided scientific data on the long-term effects of space exposure on materials, components and systems that has benefited NASA spacecraft designers to this day."
Keith's note: Hmmm ... These plates were reportedly flown in space for 69 months. Sounds like LDEF to me. But "reportedly flown"? Is GSA uncertain whether these things have been flown in space? Can't they just ask NASA?
"Musk's series of images also prompted a response from United Launch Alliance president and chief executive Tory Bruno. He noted his company has a number of employees who worked on the DC-X, a 1990s-era project to demonstrate vertical takeoff and landing technology for future reusable launch vehicles. "Let me know if we can help," Bruno wrote."
"July 31, 1996 [DC-XA] Landing strut 2 failed to extend; vehicle tipped over and LOX tank exploded; vehicle destroyed."
Elon Musk Releases Pictures of Falcon 9 "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly", SpaceRef Business
"Elon Musk has released several images through Twitter of what he charaterizes as the "rapid unscheduled disassembly" of the Falcon 9 first stage as it approaches the SpaceX Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. The pictures are spectacular."
"Znak&Jones, the recently launched production company of veteran reality producers Natalka Znak and Simon Jones, has partnered with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space the organization selected by NASA to oversee research onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory with the goal of enhancing the health and well-being of people and the planet to develop programs centered around the ISS."
Keith's 13 Jan note: Of course, CASIS makes no mention of this on their website. Really - why bother? Its only a huge facility we all paid $60-100 billion to build. I wonder if the "reality" aspect of this show will portray the dysfunctional relationship that CASIS, NASA HQ, JSC, and other parts of the agency endure as they stumble to use this amazing on-orbit facility. As best as I can determine, no one at NASA knows anything about this.
Keith's 14 Jan update: According to Patrick O'Neill, in a response to NASAWatch: "Thanks for the note. At this juncture, while it is accurate to say that CASIS is exploring the possibility of developing content promoting the research opportunities that exist on the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, no deal is in place with a network or cable outlet. Talks are still in the preliminary stages. Should a partnership to showcase the ISS become solidified, CASIS will provide the public with as much detail as possible regarding any content generating project."
Summary: Znak&Jones say that they have partnered with CASIS. CASIS says they have no partnership. And no one at NASA knows anything about the Znak&Jones/CASIS thing.
Here is a link to the late Late show episode last night with Seth Green hyping his CASIS patch. Alas, CASIS doesn't seem to want (or know how) to promote the link on its website. Slide to 16:27 and wait for 500 commercials to air. Larger view.
CASIS is nowhere close to meeting the fundraising goals it is supposed to have met by now. Instead of focusing all of its efforts on ISS research (Nanoracks is the one good thing that has emerged) CASIS stumbles around with golf company endorsements and PR stunts that, however well-intentioned, never seem to go quite right.
And the added value of CASIS is ... ?
"The U.S. federal claims court on Tuesday denied a motion by United Launch Alliance, a venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed by privately held SpaceX against the U.S. Air Force and the Lockheed-Boeing joint venture. Judge Susan Braden said she was denied the motion because the case was still ongoing, and none of the actions taken by Congress or the Air Force in recent weeks invalidated the SpaceX lawsuit, which challenges the Air Force's decision to award 36 rocket launches to United Launch Alliance."
Update: SpaceX, U.S. Air Force To Enter Mediation over ULA Block Buy, SpaceNews
"Today's launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 to the International Space Station (ISS) on its fifth commercial resupply (CRS-5) was successful. The Dragon spacecraft is safely in orbit heading towards a Monday rendezvous with the ISS. The SpaceX attempt of landing the first stage on the drone ship was not successful."
Images of damage to the SpaceX Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. Click for larger images.
More on the next page.
"Nissan Motor Co., through its North American-based organization, and NASA today announced the formation of a five-year research and development partnership to advance autonomous vehicle systems and prepare for commercial application of the technology. Researchers from Nissan's U.S. Silicon Valley Research Center and NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., will focus on autonomous drive systems, human-machine interface solutions, network-enabled applications, and software analysis and verification, all involving sophisticated hardware and software used in road and space applications."
Keith's 8 Jan 8:00 pm ET note: This is rather cool news. Too bad NASA Ames PAO has not posted or released anything about it because who cares, right?
Keith's 9 Jan 8:48 am ET update: Stories are online in Italy about this. Nothing online at NASA.
Keith's 9 Jan 2:40 pm ET update: NASA Ames PAO finally posted a short thing on their website - a day after Nissan sent materials out to media outlets. But has ARC PAO sent this out to news media who might want to cover this story? Did they have this material ready the day the event happened? Of course not.
"Whitesides told the audience that while the October accident that destroyed SpaceShipTwo and took the life of co-pilot Michael Alsbury was the "the toughest thing we could undergo, nine weeks later, we are turning the corner and looking toward the future - our team and investors remain committed to the goal of opening space for all."
"NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has released its latest Inside KSC video feature. This weeks video takes a look at some of KSC's upcoming missions including the Cargo Resupply mission by SpaceX, the SMAP and DSCOVR launches and the MMS mission."
UPDATED: SpaceX Set to Launch NASA CRS-5 Resupply Mission to the ISS, SpaceRef Business
"Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services Flight (CRS-5) will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. It will also carry CATS, a laser instrument to measure clouds and the location and distribution of pollution, dust, smoke, and other particulates in the atmosphere."
Keith's note This morning's launch attempt was aborted shortly before launch. Since this was an instantaneous window opportunity there won't be another attempt today. The next attempt will be no earlier than Friday at 5:09 am ET. SpaceX was quietly working an actuator issue last night. No word as to whether is is related to this morning's launch abort although we're heard reports of an "actuator drift" issue in the Falcon's Thrust Vector Control (steering) system during today's countdown attempt.
"Blue Origin, LLC ("Blue") filed U.S. Patent Application No. 12/815,306, entitled "Sea Landing of Space Launch Vehicles and Associated Systems and Methods" with a priority date of June 15, 2009 which ultimately issued as U.S. Patent No. 8,678,321 in March of 2014. More popularly known as the Sea Landing Patent, this patent currently covers the broad process of a vertical takeoff rocket taking off on land and vertically landing on a sea-based floating structure. SpaceX has been incrementally and painfully working toward actually pulling this off for several years now and are just now about to attempt the task. To date, no one has attempted, much less accomplished, this feat. If/when SpaceX is successful, the barriers to a mainstream space economy will have demonstrably lowered and yours truly will be one big robotic rocket-powered step closer to lawyering in space."
"Years before an unmanned rocket erupted in a fireball in October, NASA officials knew the metal in its 50-year-old Soviet-made engines could crack, causing fuel to leak and ignite, government documents show. As early as 2008, a NASA committee warned about the "substantial" risk of using the decades-old engines, and a fire during a 2011 engine test in Mississippi heightened the agency's concern. The engines had a "fundamental flaw in the materials," said a top manager for NASA's contracted rocket builder, Orbital Sciences, in a 2013 interview with an agency historian. The Soviet engines were built in the 1960s and 1970s in a failed attempt to take cosmonauts to the moon."
"On January 5, 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest filed by Sierra Nevada Corp., of Louisville, Colorado, challenging the award of contracts to The Boeing Co., Space Exploration, of Houston, Texas, and to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract (CCtCap)."
Keith's note NASA PAO has released this statement: "The GAO has notified NASA that it has denied Sierra Nevada Corporation's protest of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract awards. NASA is pleased the GAO's decision allows the agency to move forward and continue working with Boeing and SpaceX on the Launch America initiative that will enable safe and reliable crew transportation to and from the International Space Station on American spacecraft launched from the United States, ending the nation's sole reliance on Russia for such transportation. The case remains under the protective order and blackout until the GAO releases its decision."
This Week in Space - January 5-11, 2015, SpaceRef Business
"Here are some of the highlights for the coming week. As always, you can add an event to our events calendar by using this form. You can also take advantage of low advertising pricing, starting at $75/mth, to further promote your event or product on the SpaceRef network of websites."
"Relive SpaceX's 2014 highlights: launching rockets, landing stages, and unveiling our next generation crewed spacecraft."
Marc's Note: What are your thoughts in looking back at the year that was for SpaceX in 2014? Good year? Bad year? What you expected? Still the driver in the launch market? And how will 2015 shape up?
Looking Back at Virgin Galactic at ISPCS 2014, SpaceRef Business
"Two weeks before the tragedy that saw Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crash on a test flight, the company was out in full force at the annual International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS)."
2015 Could be a Milestone Year for Bigelow Aerospace [Video], SpaceRef Business
"Taking another step forward, Bigelow Aerospace will see its Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) launched and attached to the International Space Station in July of 2015."
NASA Commercial LEO Workshop (with presentations)
"On December 10-11, 2014, NASA held a workshop on the commercialization of low Earth orbit. The goal of the workshop was to start a dialog about creating a thriving commercial marketplace in LEO over the next decade, enabled by human spaceflight."
Another Stealth NASA ISS Event, Earlier post
"This NASA-sponsored ISS research event will not be webcast or recorded. No media advisory was sent out in advance. The event starts tomorrow. I find it especially odd that NASA has gone out of its way to not make this event more visible - and accessible - via simple webcasting (the event is being held directly across the street from NASA HQ) such that the potentially vast audience of possible users, media, decision makers, and students can better understand ISS potential capabilities."
"NASA announced Tuesday the selection of four U.S. companies to collaborate with NASA through unfunded partnerships to develop new space capabilities available to the government and other customers. The partnerships build on the success of NASA's commercial spaceflight initiatives to leverage NASA experience and expertise into new capabilities."
- ATK Space Systems, in Beltsville, Maryland, is developing space logistics, hosted payload and other space transportation capabilities.
- Final Frontier Design, in Brooklyn, New York, is developing intra-vehicular activity space suits.
- Space Exploration Technologies, in Hawthorne, California, is developing space transportation capabilities that could be used to support missions into deep space.
- United Launch Alliance, in Centennial, Colorado, is developing new launch vehicle capabilities to reduce cost and enhance performance.
"During our next flight, SpaceX will attempt the precision landing of a Falcon 9 first stage for the first time, on a custom-built ocean platform known as the autonomous spaceport drone ship. While SpaceX has already demonstrated two successful soft water landings, executing a precision landing on an unanchored ocean platform is significantly more challenging."
"NASA and SpaceX announced today the launch of SpaceX's fifth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station now will occur no earlier than Tuesday, Jan. 6. The new launch date will provide SpaceX engineers time to investigate further issues that arose from a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 16 and will avoid beta angle constraints for berthing the Dragon cargo ship to the station that exist through the end of the year."
Marc's Update: SpaceX Completes Static Fire Test Ahead of ISS CRS-5 Launch
"On Friday SpaceX completed a successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket in advance of the CRS-5 mission for NASA. The test was conducted at SpaceX's Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and ran for the full planned duration."
"Congressional concern about Russian aggression in the Crimean peninsula led to a ban in the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on using RD-180s purchased after Russia occupied the Ukrainian territory on Feb. 1. Grabe said that legislation will not affect the deal to buy RD-181s from Energomash. "We've coordinated with all relevant congressional committee staffs to keep them informed of our decision," Grabe said."
"Today the Google Lunar X Prize announced that the deadline for the competition deadline had been extended again, this time to the end of 2016. Also announced today were two milestone prizes being won by Astrobotic."
"In this role, Richard will be responsible for managing business development focusing on LauncherOne, the company's dedicated orbital launch vehicle for small satellites. Richard will be also responsible for managing the company's interactions with the US government."
SpaceX expansion could add 300 jobs locally, Waco Tribune
"In a report prepared by the city of Waco's economic development staff, SpaceX is proposing to invest $46.3 million in the site during the next five years. That will consist of about $32.4 million in real property improvements and $13.9 million in personal property improvements. SpaceX will add 300 new jobs by Dec. 31, 2018, with employees receiving benefits and an average hourly wage of $28.85, or about $60,000 a year. To receive incentive money, the company must fill 240 positions with people living in McLennan County, and 120 must reside in Waco."
"The launch of commercial flights to space from Spaceport America was supposed to help the economy here take off. However, after years and years of delays, the Spaceport is trying other things to make money, like starting a new online store."
"New Mexico, which has invested $218.5 million into the future of space tourism, is concerned about the viability of Spaceport America. Lawmakers grilled New Mexico Spaceport Authority executive director Christine Anderson [in November] about how it plans to deliver on the promise of the Spaceport, especially now since commercial flights by Virgin Galactic are postponed indefinitely following a deadly crash last month that killed one pilot."
"Paul Gessing, president of the conservative research group the Rio Grande Foundation, has been highly-critical of the nearly quarter billion dollar Spaceport. He told News 13 that no one knows when space tourism will become viable, but that he thinks the Spaceport likely won't be viable for a while. "It was like building an airport before the Wright brothers had their first flight," Gessing said. "I don't think there's any way to make the Spaceport successful unless we see regular, frequent space trips."
"The goal of this workshop is to start a dialog about creating a thriving commercial marketplace in LEO over the next decade, enabled by human spaceflight. Historically, NASA has been both the primary supplier and consumer of human spaceflight capabilities and services in LEO. However, NASA has begun to change this historical model by purchasing cargo transportation services commercially and is facilitating the development of commercial crew transportation and rescue capabilities."
Workshop agenda (PDF)
Keith's note: This NASA-sponsored ISS research event will not be webcast or recorded. No media advisory was sent out in advance. The event starts tomorrow. I find it especially odd that NASA has gone out of its way to not make this event more visible - and accessible - via simple webcasting (the event is being held directly across the street from NASA HQ) such that the potentially vast audience of possible users, media, decision makers, and students can better understand ISS potential capabilities.
Then again, NASA's ISS National Laboratory Office and CASIS are still unable and/or unwilling to make the NASA-funded Spaceline Current Awareness List, a weekly digest of real research being done on ISS available online (latest edition) SpaceRef has the only known online archive - back to the 1990s - one that is updated weekly.
There is no mention of this event on the events page on the CASIS website - or anywhere else on their site. Nor is there any mention on the NASA International Space Station National Laboratory webpage. This borders on inept disregard with regard to NASA's responsibility to make the widest possible dissemination of ISS and its research capabilities.
This becomes truly bizzarre when you consider that the non-public invitation sent to a select few to attend says "NASA intends to formulate a new strategy - including new initiatives and projects - designed to encourage the emergence of this commercial marketplace to the maximum extent possible." NASA's tactic: go out of their way to tell no one about the events associated with this "new strategy". Baffling.
"Orbital has contracted with United Launch Alliance for an Atlas V launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the fourth quarter of 2015, with an option for a second Atlas V launch in 2016 if needed. The Atlas rocket's greater lift capacity will allow Cygnus to carry nearly 35% more cargo to the ISS than previously planned for CRS missions in 2015."
"ACME Advanced Materials, Inc. today announced the successful commercialization of its process to produce large quantities of low loss, electrically defect free (EDF) Silicon Carbide (SiC) wafers in a microgravity environment."
Made in space, Albuquerque Journal
"We take crappy wafers, the lowest grade we can buy, and use a microgravity environment to turn them into what the industry would call prime 'A'-grade wafers," said ACME President and CEO Rich Glover. "We call them 'S'-grade, or 'space-grade' wafers. They're better wafers than you can get on the market today, and at a better price." Since last spring, the company has been sending batches of low-grade wafers for conversion to high-grade on contract flights in Texas, although details of the suborbital launches remain confidential. "We signed a three-year agreement with a flight partner," Glover said. "We've flown monthly since April."
Keith's note: This company (without a website - at least one that I can find) declines to say how they obtain microgravity conditions by "flying monthly". It is either parabolic flight, suborbital rockets, or orbital spaceflight. Or have they discovered a new way to "fly" and get "microgravity"? I asked. They won't say. Its is certainly their IP and its up to them whether they want to share it. But they have suddenly tweeted a lot about why they are not talking.
@NASAWatch haha ... nice try. We don't discuss our process. It's a matter of maintaining competitive advantage. Sorry.— ACME Adv Mat, Inc (@ACMEmicroG) December 9, 2014
More tweets below.
"Alliant Techsystems Inc. ("ATK") (NYSE: ATK) and Orbital Sciences Corporation ("Orbital") (NYSE: ORB) announced that the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") has unconditionally cleared the proposed merger of ATK's Aerospace and Defense Groups with Orbital. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") informed ATK and Orbital today, December 4, 2014, that the FTC and DOJ terminated the Hart-Scott-Rodino waiting period effective December 4, 2014. As previously announced, ATK and Orbital have entered into a transaction agreement, whereby ATK's Aerospace and Defense Groups will merge with Orbital immediately following the spin-off of ATK's Sporting Group business to ATK stockholders as a newly formed company called Vista Outdoor Inc."
Space Technology Unlocks Ancient Rituals through Innovation, Space Foundation
"Technology originally used in space can now help you meditate with ease. TIMEZ5 Global Inc. is the newest partner in the Space Foundation Space Certification program. After five years of intensive research and development, TIMEZ5 labs made startling discoveries in the connection between rituals, spirituality and physiology. They unlocked physiological practices that improve the physical and spiritual wellbeing through meditation. Through the development of ergonomics, biomechanics and physiology, coupled with space technology, the company's flagship product was born. The world's first physiological prayer mat uses sophisticated space and layering technology. All it takes is the counter-force of your body and it activates. The magic happens in the middle layers where it responds to body weight, posture and position. It keeps the user stable through its micro grip, and clean with its antimicrobial surface."
Keith's note: People have been praying to God for millennia without a space-certified prayer rug. How much did Space Foundation charge to "certify" this rug? I'll bet the cost for certification was the equivalent of a college education for someone.
"This notice issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC), Edwards, CA is a Request for Information (RFI) for Microgravity Flight Services or MFS. The intent of this notice is to obtain information on commercial capabilities to provide brief periods of near zero, partial gravity, and hyper-gravity conditions, collectively referred to here as microgravity, and associated capabilities for payload integration, safety, and airworthiness for various Government research, technology development, and training missions."
"The next ESA Ministerial Conference will take place this Tuesday in Luxembourg. At the top of the agenda is Europe's future access to space with a modular Ariane 6 intended to be meet the changing demands of the satellite industry as well as being more price competitive."
"For months, a powerful U.S. senator has been pushing for details of a murky deal under which a Russian manufacturer supplies the rocket engines used to launch America's spy satellites into space. At issue: how much the U.S. Air Force pays for the engines, how much the Russians receive, and whether members of the elite in President Vladimir Putin's Russia are secretly profiting by inflating the price. Now, documents uncovered by Reuters provide some answers. A tiny Florida-based company, acting as a middleman in the deal, is marking up the price by millions of dollars per engine. That five-person company, RD Amross, is a joint venture of Russian engine maker NPO Energomash and a U.S. partner, aerospace giant United Technologies. According to internal company documents that lay out the contract, Amross stands to collect $93 million in cost mark-ups under its current multi-year deal to supply the RD-180 rocket engine."
Keith's note: NASA has posted Notice of Centennial Challenges Cube Quest Challenge in today's Federal Register. $5,000,000 to send a cubesat to the Moon. Very cool. The notice says "To register for or get additional information regarding the Cube Quest Challenge, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cubequestchallenge" If you visit that link you will get an error notice from NASA.gov.
I told NASA that the link was broken. Their response was "The link will not be live until the December 1 announcement. CCP had planned to rollout the Challenge earlier this month, but HQ recommended to delay for two weeks. The link will work once the site becomes active."
I replied "You really should tell people that in the notice that the link is not going to be active. Now everyone will click on it and then lose interest after seeing that it is broken day after day. I am baffled as to why you put the notice out in the first place knowingly including a link that does not work - without any notice to the public that the link is intentionally inactive until a future date. Indeed the notice also says "The Cube Quest (CQ) Challenge is scheduled and teams that wish to compete may now register." However the next sentence contradicts this statement by saying "Challenge registration opens December 2, 2014". So which is it: "now register" or "opens December 2, 2014"? What is especially baffling is why such a confusing and deliberately inaccurate Federal Register notice is posted when it concerns a rather substantial $5,000,000 NASA Challenge. One would think that a little strategic and editorial thought would be given to such a significant announcement."
Keith's update: I got this update from NASA MSFC. Odd that they think that the Federal Register has a "limited audience" given that it serves a vital role for a multi-trillion dollar government for a nation of over 300 million people. "In developing such a large Challenge, we wanted to be sure to promote it using the best audience available. HQ decided that the Challenge would get more attention during the events leading up to the Orion Launch. The Federal Register has a limited audience, whereas millions will be watching the first Orion launch. This is the largest NASA Prize Purse and first competition in space. CCP seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources of citizen inventors, private businesses, and academia. NASA HQ wanted to promote this opportunity to the largest audience possible, not just to those within the aerospace industry."
Oh yes - the link works now (http://www.nasa.gov/cubequestchallenge/) They also issued a press release late today - several weeks earlier than (I guess) they had planned to do so. Since no one reads the Federal Register, right?
"Virginia's Secretary of Transportation says it could take a year and up to $20 million to repair the commercial spaceport on Virginia's Eastern Shore, after a mishap damaged the launchpad last month. Aubrey Layne says he expects the flights to resume, but with additional protections for Virginia taxpayers. "We do need to have our launch partner and the federal government take responsibility with us in this particular incident," Layne told WDBJ7."
"We're not going to have a repeat of this in the future," said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne Jr., who is a board member of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which owns the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island. Layne confirmed Tuesday that the McAuliffe administration may seek to renegotiate the memorandum of understanding and launch services agreement with Orbital that the state revised substantially in 2012 under the administration of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell."
"Following this announcement on October 28, 2014, a failure occurred during Orbital's Antares launch. Since the incident, the companies have conducted a thorough review and analysis of the launch failure and Orbital's proposed recovery plan and long-term competitive position. Following this review, ATK's board of directors continues to support the strategic merits of the transaction and recommends that ATK stockholders vote to approve the issuance of shares to Orbital stockholders. Orbital's board of directors also continues to recommend that Orbital stockholders vote to approve the proposed transaction."
"The National Transportation Safety Board issued an investigative update today into the crash of SpaceShip Two on Oct. 31, 2014, in Mojave, Calif.
- The on-scene portion of the investigation into the crash of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, a test flight conducted by Scaled Composites, has concluded and all NTSB investigators have returned to Washington, DC.
- The SpaceShipTwo wreckage has been recovered and is being stored in a secure location for follow-on examination.
- The NTSB operations and human performance investigators interviewed the surviving pilot on Friday. According to the pilot, he was unaware that the feather system had been unlocked early by the copilot. His description of the vehicle motion was consistent with other data sources in the investigation. He stated that he was extracted from the vehicle as a result of the break-up sequence and unbuckled from his seat at some point before the parachute deployed automatically."
"Private spaceflight hit a large bump in the road to orbit last week, with Orbital Sciences' rocket explosion followed days later by Virgin Galactic's fatal spaceplane crash. But if early aviation and aerospace efforts can teach us anything, it's that the key to surviving such tragedies is transparency and learning from any mistakes. And in a counterintuitive twist, the disasters may even increase public support for spaceflight and space tourism."
Keith's note: Video of Challenger's and Columbia's loss is seared in our collective consciousness - both accidents caused prolonged self-examination and questioning as to whether it was all worth doing. Even commercial advertisements comparing consumer items to the shuttle were pulled. Yet NASA returned to flight - twice. When the shuttle fleet was retired there was exceptional interest and heated debate and overt food fights about who got the remaining shuttles - because of what they represented in people's minds. Indeed huge portions of the population demanded that NASA keep them flying. Remember the flyovers and parades? Major cities stopped everything - just to watch. Yet these very same shuttles that flew over America to such acclaim are identical to the two shuttle vehicles we all saw torn apart with their crews on board. A symbol of tragedy - twice - is now a symbol of American pride.
"Moving quickly to inform its International Space Station (ISS) resupply contract partner NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that not only would it complete its resupply contract by the end of 2016, it would consolidate its launch manifest and do it with four launches instead of five."
"Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world's leading space technology companies, today announced comprehensive plans to fulfill its contract commitments under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program as well as to accelerate an upgrade of the Antares medium-class launcher's main propulsion system. Under the new approach and in line with Orbital's existing CRS contract, all remaining cargo will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2016. There will be no cost increase to NASA and only minor adjustments will be needed to the cargo manifest in the near term."
"This fundraiser is being managed by Mike's friends and co-workers at Scaled Composites. This is the official site to help Mike's family with future expenses and all donations will go to Mike's wife, Michelle. Michael (Mike) Alsbury, Test Pilot and Project Engineer for Scaled Composites, passed away on October 31, 2014 due to an anomaly during flight test. Mike was a husband, a father of two small children (ages 10 and 7), amazing friend and co-worker. Mike had worked with Scaled for over 15 years. This is a tragic loss that will leave a void in Mike's family, the Scaled family, and the surrounding community for years to come. We would like to do anything we can to support Michelle and his two children."
"In their last press briefing from Mojave, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released no new clues to the cause of the breakup of SpaceShipTwo. The NTSB did provide new timeline details and an update of what they've been doing. Further press briefings will take place from Washington as needed."
"While this has been a tragic setback, we are moving forward and will do so deliberately and with determination. We are continuing to build the second SpaceShipTwo (serial number two), which is currently about 65% complete and we will continue to advance our mission over the coming weeks and months. With the guidance of the NTSB and the assurance of a safe path forward, we intend to move ahead with our testing program and have not lost sight of our mission to make space accessible for all."
Reporter: Virgin Galactic was too eager (Video) CNN
"Former Washington Post reporter Joel Glenn Brenner says Virgin Galactic's technology did not match their enthusiasm."
"And I will tell you this as well, that this engine that exploded today, even if they had had a successful flight, and even if they had not stolen my friend's life, OK... So, I am here to say that they took this pilot's life, and this engine still would not have gotten customers to space."
Keith's note: This is tantamount to accusing Virgin Galactic of some very serious crimes. Its quite clear from this interview on the day of the accident that Joel Glenn Brenner really hates Virgin Galactic. But the Washington Post thinks its just fine that she "report" on this accident after revealing her overt bias to millions. At a minimum, shouldn't the Washington Post put links and references up to her other comments? Shouldn't Brenner explain them to the Post's readers? Just wondering. What was just as bizarre was how CNN anchors Brooke Baldwin and Richard Quest allowed her to rant about herself - and her unsubstantiated accusations.
Data should be plentiful in explosion of SpaceShipTwo, By Drew Harwell and Joel Glenn Brenner, Washington Post
NTSB Releases New Clues in SpaceShipTwo Accident Investigation (with video), SpaceRef
"Acting Chairman Christopher Hart's of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released new clues at the third media briefing Sunday evening.
1) The vehicle had a nominal release followed by a nominal Ignition.
2) Approximately 9 seconds after ignition, the "feather" parameters changed from lock to unlock.
According to Hart the "normal procedures are to command the feathers to unlock after Mach 1.4 so aerodynamic forces do not extend feathers prematurely."
"Now is not the time for speculation. Now is the time to focus on all those affected by this tragic accident and to work with the experts at the NTSB, to get to the bottom of what happened on that tragic day, and to learn from it so that we can move forward safely with this important mission."
Fine unlikely for boat that delayed Antares launch, Delmarvanow.com
"The sailboat was about 40 miles out to sea, NASA Wallops Flight Facility Director Bill Wrobel said. It was in the first of two avoidance areas for the launch -- the one set for the first rocket stage. The area extends some 50 nautical miles out from shore in a wedge shape, some 37 nautical miles wide near the shore and 17 nautical miles wide at its outer limit. The vessel was well beyond the 12 nautical miles over which the United States exercises sovereignty."
- Wallops Launch Delayed By A Boat, earlier post
"The Scaled Composites family lost a respected and devoted colleague yesterday, Michael Alsbury, who was the co-pilot for the test flight of SpaceShipTwo. Peter Siebold, the Director of Flight Operations at Scaled Composites, was piloting SpaceShipTwo. He is alert and talking with his family and doctors. We remain focused on supporting the families of the two pilots and all of our employees, as well as the agencies investigating the accident. We ask at this time that everyone please respect the privacy of the families."
"This is a very tough time for all of us at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Scaled Composites, and our thoughts remain with the families of the brave Scaled pilots, and all those affected by this tragedy. We are determined to find out what went wrong and are working with the authorities to get that information. It is too early for me to add any details of the investigation at this stage."
"On it's fourth powered test flight Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo was lost. The flight had a pilot and co-pilot. One did not survive, while the other was seriously injured. The drama unfolded in real time through social media."
On SpaceShipTwo and why space matters, Michael Belfiore
"... I say that money and time and effort and even lives spent reaching beyond the boundaries of Earth lift us all, even those of us who may never fly. ... To the pilot who gave his life and to the one who was injured yesterday, I say, "Thank you." Thank you for helping us all to look up. Thank you for doing what most of us lack the courage and the skill and the talent to do. And to their families, I also say, "Thank you." Thank you for sharing your loved ones with a dream that's much bigger than an individual or a family. Thank you for allowing them to risk all to make the world a better place."
- SNC Statement in Response to Inquiries Regarding Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Incident
- Space Frontier Foundation Mourns This Week's Events Involving SpaceShipTwo and Orb-3
- Media Update from Virgin Galactic - Oct. 31, 2014 6:15PM PST
- Statement from New Mexico Spaceport Authority on the SpaceShipTwo Mishap
- Statement from NASA Administrator on Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Mishap
- FAA Statement on SpaceShipTwo Incident
- Smith, Palazzo Statement on SpaceShipTwo Anomaly
"Chris Hayes reports on a fatal crash during the test flight for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, a commercial space ship designed to give passengers the sensation of weightlessness for $250,000 per flight. Guest: Keith Cowing, editor, NASAWatch.com"
"Telemetry data has been released to Orbital and our engineers presented a very quick look assessment to the Accident Investigation Board at the end of the day. It appears the Antares vehicle had a nominal pre-launch and launch sequence with no issues noted. All systems appeared to be performing nominally until approximately T+15 seconds at which point the failure occurred. Evidence suggests the failure initiated in the first stage after which the vehicle lost its propulsive capability and fell back to the ground impacting near, but not on, the launch pad. Prior to impacting the ground, the rocket's Flight Termination System was engaged by the designated official in the Wallops Range Control Center."
"The thing to keep in mind in all this is that we don't know what caused the mishap," Cowing cautions. "We all saw the explosion at the bottom of the rocket, but that doesn't mean anything. These investigations take time, and sometimes we don't even end up with all the answers."
Did Soviet-era engines doom Antares?, Mad Science Innovation
"Not that older equipment is necessarily flawed. NASA Watch publisher Keith Cowing, with whom I also spoke on the phone today, says: I don't necessarily have a problem with old stuff, if you maintain it. If it used to work, it still can work. There are DC-3s in Antarctica that have been rebuilt three times that fly people to the South Pole. It's the issue of, does the machinery do a task that you need it to do? Do you understand it well enough that you can maintain it in operating condition, and does it make sense financially?"
NASA, Orbital Sciences Begin Antares Loss Investigation, Aviation Week
"Although investigators are keeping their options open, a prime suspect is expected to be a potential failure mechanism involving the AJ-26, a liquid oxygen/kerosene-powered engine originally developed for the Russian space program as the NK-33. An AJ-26 slated to power an Antares on a mission to the ISS in 2015 experienced a failure during a hot-fire test at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on May 22."
"The Wallops Incident Response Team completed an initial assessment Wednesday of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff Tuesday from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."
Rockets blow up; we move on, Leroy Chiao, CNN
"Without a doubt, critics will arise and question why we are entrusting cargo deliveries and future crew exchanges to commercial companies. The answer is simple: It is the logical evolution of technology and commercialization, following the same path as the development of the airplane and commercial air transportation."
"Alliant Techsystems Inc. said it is evaluating any potential implications from Tuesday night's explosion of Orbital Sciences Inc.'s Antares rocket, a hint their plans to merge could be in jeopardy."
"The Orbital Sciences' Antares commercial supply rocket blew up over the beachside launch complex at Wallops Island in Virginia. Trading in the stocks was halted so that Orbital, which has planned to buy Alliant, could hold a conference call to discuss the rocket's failure with investors and analysts."
"Shares of Orbital Sciences Corp. dropped $4.35, or 14.3 percent, to $26.02 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday."
"Instead, all four launches of the mighty N1 Soviet rocket, which used an earlier iteration of the first-stage engines used in Thursday's launch, failed between 1969 and 1972. And as the Soviet Union abandoned the idea of putting cosmonauts on the moon, those engines languished in Russia "without a purpose," reported Space Lift Now. That was until they were snapped up by Dulles-based Orbital Sciences, which built the rocket that exploded."
Keith's note: The NK-33 (AJ-26) engines are actualy a product of Aerojet Rocketdyne - not Orbital Sciences.
Thompson hints there are other, unnamed options on table beyond accelerating new engine, but "too early to comment on it just yet".— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) October 29, 2014
Orbital Antares Rocket Explodes Shortly After Launch Shocking Onlookers, SpaceRef Business
"The launch was proceeding as expected. Across the board, the Orbital team manning their stations had green lights. The weather was almost perfect. There was a sense of anticipation after seeing the launch scrubbed the day before because a boat had wandered into the range. No one could have foreseen what would happen next."
"While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences' third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today's mishap. The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies."
"It is far too early to know the details of what happened," said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital's Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group. "As we begin to gather information, our primary concern lies with the ongoing safety and security of those involved in our response and recovery operations. We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. As soon as we understand the cause we will begin the necessary work to return to flight to support our customers and the nation's space program."
Keith's note:According to Frank Culbertson from Orbital Sciences there was an indication of problems 10-12 Seconds into the flight and that the range safety officer sent a destruct command at around 20 seconds. No idea what happened other than the rocket stopped, started to come apart, and fell straight to the ground. Crews will be in early tomorrow to start looking for debris.
"Chairman Smith and Palazzo: "We add our disappointment to the thousands in the space community who worked tirelessly in support of Tuesday evening's launch attempt at Wallops Island. We are relieved to hear there are no reported fatalities, and we anticipate learning more about the circumstances surrounding the launch failure in the near future."
"The third Orbital Sciences cargo mission to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract is scheduled to launch at 6:22 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 28, from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."
Keith's note: Tonight's ORB-3 launch from Wallops was delayed by a boat in restricted waters offshore. I tried to find a copy of these restrictions. Not being a mariner, this is the best that I could do at the Coast Guard website but I can't seem to find anything in it. Dan Leone found this at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency but I am not sure if there is anything in there either. I know there are maritime channels that are supposed to be monitored. Again, I am not a mariner and profess my ignorance. But if it is this hard to find these launch restrictions, is it any surprise that someone might not know that a launch is imminent? Is just assuming that people will know ahead of time the most efficient way to prevent a lunch delay on a multi-million dollar mission? Just wondering.
I asked NASA PAO for a copy of these restrictions. WFF PAO sent me this Notice to Mariners: Wallops Rocket Launch issued by NASA WFF on 16 October 2014. I have asked NASA how this is relayed to people who might be sailing offshore.
"(1) Persons and vessels shall only be prohibited from entering the area when launch operations are being conducted.
What is Interesting is how the NASASocial #spacetweeps more concerned about villifying the boat and its owner and not seeing a launch (without any facts as to why the boat was there or whether NASA alerted everyone adequately) than the fact that NASA tried to launch until last second when safety regulations prevailed. The system may be inefficent - but it worked. If only these space tweeps could integrate a real world quotient into how they cover and report NASA activities.
"Today's launch of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station will include the first hardware from commercial startup Planetary Resources."
"Pending completion of final vehicle testing and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch of the Orb-3 mission will take place on Monday, October 27, with lift-off scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia."
"Lift-off of the Antares rocket is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT)"
Keith's note: Shortly after many of us in Northern Virgina see Cygnus launched we'll have a spectacular ISS flyover. According to NASA here in Reston, VA we'll see the ISS fly over at 6:49 PM for 6 minutes at an elevation of 89 dgerees heading from the North West to South East.
"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:39 p.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 25, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning 3,276 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station (ISS)."
"Today, after 34 months of intense planning, development and training, Alan Eustace, supported by Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) and its Stratospheric Explorer (StratEx) team, made history with a near-space dive from a high-altitude balloon at approximately 135,000 feet. Eustace broke several records, including national record for highest exit altitude; world and national record for free fall under a drogue chute; national record for vertical speed. Additionally, he became the second person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft."
"The Space Economy at a Glance 2014 shows that while space budgets in the 34 OECD countries totalled USD 50.8 billion in 2013, down from USD 52.3 billion in 2008, the combined space budget of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) swelled to USD 24.0 billion from USD 16.5 billion over the same period. Supply chains for spacecraft, launchers and parts are increasingly globalised, IT companies are becoming satellite operators and rapid growth in small satellite launches will mean more commercialisation of earth observation data."
"We found Kennedy has made progress in its effort to become a multiuser spaceport with the Center having leased or in the process of leasing approximately half of the 23 underutilized assets. However, because NASA lacks clear guidance regarding soliciting and awarding lease agreements, Kennedy has not consistently provided interested parties with information regarding how Center officials would choose among prospective tenants."
SpaceX Reaches Milestone With 100th Merlin 1D Engine, SpaceRef Business
"The 100th Merlin 1D engine has come off the assembly at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. According to SpaceX it was less than two years ago that production began on Merlin 1D. Currently SpaceX produces four new Merlin 1D engines per week and they expect production will ramp up to five per week before the year is out."
"On August 27, 2014, we wrote you to request an update on the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew vehicle shortly after NASA conducted its Key Decision Point C (KDP-C) review 1. We asked for a response by September 10, 2014. To date, we have only received an acknowledgement of the letter's receipt. ... Finally, on September 16, 2014, Subcommittee staff reached out to NASA in order to gain support for facilitating a briefing on the Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract source selection, as well as the source selection statement. After NASA issued the request for proposals (RFP) for the contract it declined to comment on the procurement so as to not influence the selection. Understanding the sensitive nature of the source selection process, the Committee decided to reserve questions regarding the procurement until after the selection. ... Please provide responses to all of the previous requests by October 28, 2014."
"In filings with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, Sierra Nevada filed requests for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to overturn a NASA decision Oct. 9 lifting an order stopping work on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp."
- Why Sierra Nevada Did Not Win Any Commercial Crew Funds, earlier post
- NASA Tells Boeing and SpaceX to Proceed Despite SNC Protest, earlier post
- Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Award, earlier post
"Boeing and SpaceX will not be forced to stop work again on NASA's commercial crewed spacecraft program. Federal Judge Marian Blank Horn on Tuesday denied Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Louisville-based Space Systems' request for a federal injunction to force NASA to order the work stopped while the awarded contracts are under protest. If granted, the work stoppage would have been the second in two months."
Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details, Aviation Week
"I studied this in graduate school where, under a NASA study, I was charged with how we could get to Mars quickly," says McGuire, who earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scanning the literature for fusion-based space propulsion concepts proved disappointing."
Scientists Are Bashing Lockheed Martin's Nuclear Fusion 'Breakthrough', Business Insider
Although Lockheed Martin issued a press release saying it had several pending patents for its approach, the company has yet to publish any scientific papers on this latest work."
Shana Dale Joins FAA Commercial Space Office as Deputy AA, Space Policy Online
"Shana Dale will become Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as of November 3, 2014. She succeeds George Zamka who left AST this summer to join Bigelow Aerospace. Dale has served in a number of positions on Capitol Hill and in the George W. Bush Administration. She is perhaps best known in space policy circles as the first woman to serve as Deputy Administrator of NASA from 2005-2009 while Mike Griffin was Administrator."
"There's interest outside government as well, with various private companies that see a potential business in mining of asteroids and celestial objects for use in space. Recently, I caught up Dr. Phillip Metzger, a former research physicist at NASA's Kennedy Space Center who has recently joined the faculty of the University of Central Florida, to discuss the longer term goal of "bootstrapping a solar system civilization."
Why NASA Rejected Sierra Nevada's Commercial Crew Vehicle, Aviation Week
"The internal document, signed by NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier on Sept. 15, the day before the contract awards were announced, says, "I consider SNC's (Sierra Nevada Corp.) design to be the lowest level of maturity, with significantly more technical work and critical design decisions to accomplish. The proposal did not thoroughly address these design challenges and trades." Gerstenmaier goes on to say that Sierra's proposal "has more schedule uncertainty. For example, some of the testing planned after the crewed flight could be required before the crewed flight, and the impact of this movement will greatly stress the schedule."
- SNC Protest Halts NASA Commercial Crew Efforts, earlier post
- NASA Tells Boeing and SpaceX to Proceed Despite SNC Protest, earlier post
MIT Analysis Paints Bleak Outcome for Mars One Concept, SpacePolicyOnline
"An analysis by a team of MIT students of the Mars One concept to send people to Mars on one-way missions to establish a settlement there offers a bleak picture of the outcome. The paper was presented at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014) in Toronto last week. Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Samuel Schreiner, Andrew Owens and Olivier de Weck conducted "An Independent Assessment of the Technical Feasibility of the Mars One Mission Plan" supported by grants from NASA and the Josephine de Karman Fellowship Trust."
"There's a battle of the brains under way online about just how long the first human colonists to set up a new home on Mars will last on the Red Planet. A group of MIT students have challenged the viability of Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit's plan to set up a permanent colony on Mars with hearty volunteer astronauts who get a one-way ticket to both the fourth planet from the sun and history."
Keith's 10 Oct note: The MIT student team that did the analysis of Mars On eProject held an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit here.
Keith's 11 Oct note: An Open Letter on the Mars One Analysis by MIT Researchers, MIT
"On Oct. 9, under statutory authority available to it, NASA has decided to proceed with the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. notwithstanding the bid protest filed at the U.S. Government Accountability Office by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements."
"XCOR Aerospace today announced marked progress on the path to commercial space flight with the integration of the cockpit to the fuselage on XCOR's Lynx(R) spacecraft. With the fuselage, pressure cabin and strakes delivered, XCOR is bonding these structures together and integrating sub-assemblies, such as the landing gear, at its hangar in Mojave."
"The company Space Adventures in 2018 is going to send two space tourists circled the moon on the Russian spacecraft "Soyuz", according to the company's website. "Using the already proven Russian spacecraft flight, we will send two individual and one professional astronaut around the side of the moon. They will be 100 km from the lunar surface. We expect that our first mission will take place in 2018," - said in a statement."
Roscosmos Disavows Plan to Send Space Tourists to Moon, Moscow Times (June 2014)
"Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said. The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan."
Roscosmos Says Nyet To Space Adventures' Moon Plan, earlier post
Keith's note: NASA usually keeps a close eye on companies that use NASA's logo to imply an endorsement of a company's products - unless NASA has an agreement in place. Then there's the curious case of NASA Tech Briefs - a company with whom NASA Has a long-standing agreement in place that allows them to use word "NASA" and the NASA logo. If you go to their website you see that NASA logo, the word "NASA" everywhere but when it comes to actually directing visitors to their website to NASA well ... they do not do that. I did a "view source" on the NASA Tech briefs home page such that I could search for links to things at "nasa.gov". As you can see there are no links. Looking at the site they seem to be operating some sort of parallel NASA tech effort that avoids actually mentioning what NASA is doing in that area.
The link "Who's Who at NASA" goes to a page that makes no mention of the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate. The link NASA Tech Needs goes to a page that has a lead item of "Insect Processing Technologies for Chicken Feed" followed by "New Synthetic Nematicides" and other things last updated on 1 October 2013.
This is not a new problem (see below) - but it is a problem NASA seems to be uninterested in addressing. I would be willing to bet that there are commercial efforts out there who coud do a vastly better job of presenting NASA's technology portfolio - if only this relationship was opened up for competition.
- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, 2012 post
- NASA Technology That Can't Link To Itself, 2012 post
- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, 2011 post
- Official NASA Publication Seeks Opinions On Gun Control, 2008 post
- NASA Technology Outreach Is Still Scattered and Dysfunctional, 2014 post
"Pioneers of the commercial space age celebrated the 10th anniversary of the SpaceShipOne rocket plane's final flight to the final frontier on Saturday, shedding fresh tears over a decade-old drama, hugging it out -- and then blowing out the candles on a cake. The festivities unfolded at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the SpaceShipOne saga reached its climax with the winning of the $10 million Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004."
Virgin Galactic 'on the verge' of private space launches, space.com via Yahoo
"A seat aboard the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo currently costs $250,000. So far, Virgin Galactic has sold more than 700 tickets. Initially in 2004, Branson expected that SpaceShipTwo would be flying customers by 2007. "It's been a great voyage," Branson said. "It has taken longer than we thought."
Keith's note: Interesting how XPrize and Virgin Galactic hand-picked the news media in attendance for this self-indulgent celebration of their 7th consecutive year of delays in beginning commercial service. Happy anniversary!
Boeing, SpaceX told to stop work under crew contracts, Spaceflight Now
"NASA has directed Boeing and SpaceX to halt activities under contracts awarded last month to build commercial space taxis to ferry astronauts to the the International Space Station while the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviews a protest of NASA's contract decision filed by Sierra Nevada Corp."
Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Award, earlier post
Why Boeing Beat SpaceX in NASA's Space-Taxi Contest, WSj (subscription)
"Boeing Co. received consistently higher rankings than Space Exploration Technologies Corp. during NASA's recent multibillion-dollar competition to build "space taxis," according to an internal agency document. The memo--dated Sept. 15 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal--provides an inside look at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's deliberations and reveals why agency officials rated Boeing's bid better across the board than the one submitted by SpaceX, as the smaller company is called. ... The document won't become public until a protest by a third company, Sierra Nevada Corp., is resolved. Sierra Nevada, which didn't receive any award but contends its rankings were comparable to the winners, has said the government could save $900 million by picking its proposal. Legal wrangling could drag on for months, potentially slowing down progress on the vehicles or putting work by Boeing or SpaceX on hold."
"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced a design for an integrated system for human spaceflight that can be launched to low Earth orbit (LEO) using Stratolaunch System's air launch architecture and a scale version of SNC's Dream Chaser(R) spacecraft."
Sierra Nevada Corporation Protests NASA's Commercial Crew Program Award, SpaceRef Business
"A representative from Sierra Nevada Corporation has confirmed to SpaceRef that they have filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office regarding the CCtCap contract."
"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced today that it has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. The CCtCap program will restore U.S. transportation capability to the International Space Station.
SNC, Boeing and SpaceX submitted separate proposals for the CCtCap program. While all three competitors were found to be compliant and awardable under the criteria set forth in the request for proposal (RFP), only two proposals were selected (Boeing and SpaceX), one of which would result in a substantial increased cost to the public despite near equivalent technical and past performance scores."
"On the heels of awarding groundbreaking contracts to U.S. commercial space companies to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA has released a request for proposals (RFP) for the next round of contracts for private-sector companies to deliver experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory."
"This wind tunnel no longer exists, and very little remains as historic artifacts available to the public from this remarkable tunnel. You are buying a true piece of aviation and aeronautic history. Most of these fan blades were re-purposed by NASA and used as tributes to the historic tunnel. Now you can have the same in your museum or board room."
Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Program to Continue, SpaceRef Business
"Having lost out to Boeing and SpaceX for the lucrative Commercial Crew Program contract, Sierra Nevada's Mark Sirangelo told the Denver Post the companies plans to go forward with development of the spacecraft and bid on future contracts."
NASA's Emerging Space Office Releases New Report, SpaceRef Business
"NASA's Emerging Space Office (ESO), part of NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, has released a new report "The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight." According to NASA the "report provides an introduction and overview to the emerging space ecosystem and American private-sector space activities."
NASA views "new space" with hope, support -- and wariness, Houston Chronicle
"The ruthlessness of Musk and SpaceX bend toward a singular goal, to drive down the cost of access to space. And it's working. NASA paid SpaceX a relative pittance, less than $400 million, for the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft that's now supplying the space station. NASA estimated it would have cost the space agency four to 10 times as much to do the same thing. Musk is also building a massive rocket, the Falcon 9 Heavy, which could fly three years earlier than the heavy lift rocket NASA is building, the Space Launch System, and may deliver cargo to orbit at a tenth of the cost. For Musk, however, these are just baby steps. He, too, wants to build reusable rockets. "What SpaceX has done so far is evolutionary, but not revolutionary," Musk said earlier this year."
SpaceX Breaks Ground on New Texas Spaceport, SpaceRef Business [Download artist illustrations]
"Today SpaceX broke ground for the development of their new Texas spaceport at Boca Chica Beach. Along with CEO Elon Musk, Texas Governor Rick Perry and other dignitaries were in attendance."
Video of the event has been added.
"The spacecraft's 2.5 tons of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support 255 science and research investigations that will occur onboard the station."
Includes the post-launch briefing news conference.
"In addition, while utilization of the ISS for research continues to increase, NASA and its partner responsible for attracting private research to the Station -- the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) -- continue to face challenges. For example, to date CASIS has raised only $14,550 in cash and received pledges of $8.2 million to supplement NASA's $15 million annual cooperative agreement. In addition, CASIS officials reported that provisions in its agreement with NASA that require researchers to assign certain patent licenses and data rights to the Government are deterring commercial stakeholders from conducting research on the ISS. "
A better golf club? Space may play a role in that., Florida Today
"This is not research on a golf club," said Duane Ratliff, CASIS chief operating officer. "This is industrial research and development on materials that is clearly targeted for the improvement of products that will go to the marketplace. ... Ratliff likely spoke for most of them when he joked, "Honestly, I'm hoping that whatever comes out of this will straighten out my slice."
"Through this investigation, the research and design team at COBRA PUMA GOLF hopes to gain a better understanding of certain material characteristics that can be used to create some of the most innovative and technologically advanced golf products in the market."
Keith's note: OK Duane - if this is not "golf club" research, then what other "golf products" are you doing research on? Why hasn't the past 2 years of CASIS-sponsored golf research on ISS yielded any published results or status reports from CASIS? As for your attempts to downplay the golfing aspect of what you are doing - your logo for these payloads clearly emphasizes golf over everything else.
As for the IG's report, "$14,550 in cash"? I have to wonder what a "pledge" actually entails - obviously not much in terms of actual cash. CASIS is clearly falling well short of where NASA - and everyone else - expected CASIS to be at this point.
Baseball raffles and golf-themed co-branding do not a vibrant ISS research program make.
- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS Would Rather Go Golfing Than Do Actual ISS Research, earlier post
"United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation's premier space launch company, and Blue Origin, LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced today that they have entered into an agreement to jointly fund development of the new BE-4 rocket engine by Blue Origin. This new collaboration will allow ULA to maintain the heritage, success and reliability of its rocket families - Atlas and Delta - while addressing the long-term need for a new domestic engine.
"The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s will power each ULA booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. "
Marc's Update: I've added the video of the news conference to the press release.
Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal
"Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."
Keith's note: When I asked today if Blue Origin had been part of Boeing's commercial crew proposal team (one that would use a United Launch Alliance rocket), ULA CEO Tory Bruno said "No". He went on to say that their bid used existing engine capabilities. Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos added later that yesterday's NASA commercial crew announcement and today's engine announcement were totally separate and unrelated.
"It also is not yet known whether Congress will appropriate enough money to fund the development of two spacecraft or whether NASA will be forced to down select to a single provider at some point down the road. But Bolden said he was confident Congress will provide the funding necessary to keep SpaceX and Boeing on track for maiden flights in the 2017 timeframe. Congress has appropriated about $2 billion for the commercial crew program since 2011, about a billion dollars less than NASA requested. The agency hopes to get around $800 million for the program in its fiscal 2015 budget."
"NASA officials declined to discuss in detail why they selected Boeing and SpaceX while passing on the Dream Chaser, but said it was a close call. "This wasn't an easy choice, but it's the best choice for NASA and the nation," Bolden said. Lueders said the different amounts set aside for the two companies were based on the amounts proposed by the companies themselves. "Both Boeing and SpaceX proposed to the same set of requirements," she said. "NASA awarded the contracts based on their proposals. It's two contracts to the same requirements."
Keith's note: In summary: NASA does not know if it will have enough money to fund both Boeing and SpaceX, won't tell anyone why or how they made the selections, and gave Boeing $1.6 billion more than they gave to SpaceX to do the same work assigned to SpaceX. Just the sort of questions Congress will be asking.
"NASA awarded a total of $6.8 billion in contracts with Boeing getting the larger share, $4.2 billion and SpaceX getting $2.6 billion for doing what appears the same work. NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders was asked several times by reporters why the difference in the funding allocation but only said it was based on the price submitted by the companies in their proposals."
"NASA will make a major announcement today at 4 p.m. EDT regarding the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States. The agency will make the announcement during a news conference from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website."
Keith's note: Moments ago Sen. Bill Nelson was on CNN. When asked what the NASA decision to give commercial crew awards to "Boeing and SpaceX" means, he confirmed that awards were being given to "these two companies".
"Boeing Co. (BA) and Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will share a multibillion-dollar federal contract to help restart U.S. manned spaceflights and reduce reliance on Russian rockets, a congressional leader said. The two companies will split the award being unveiled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration later today, said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House Science Committee. NASA is planning an announcement on the program at 4 p.m. in Washington."
Keith's update: Rep. Johnson's PR person says that she never actually said said this. Here is what her office is putting out as a quote: Science Committee Democrats Congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on NASA's CCtCap Awards
Keith's note: It is official: Boeing will get $4.2 billion, SpaceX $2.6 billion.
"While Boeing and SpaceX handle the task of taking our astronauts to the space station, the scientists on Earth and astronauts on the orbiting ISS National Laboratory will continue the groundbreaking research that has been taking place there for almost 14 years now without interruption. They will be able to add to that portfolio with an expanded crew made possible by the arrival of these new spacecraft."
FAA Releases Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety, SpaceRef Business
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) today released its first Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety document today during the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting.
From the introduction: "The purpose of this document is to provide a compilation of practices that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) believes are important and recommends for commercial human space flight occupant safety. The document is intended to enable a dialogue among, and perhaps consensus of, government, industry, and academia on practices that will support the continuous improvement of the safety of launch and reentry vehicles designed to carry humans."
Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal
"The long-secretive space ambitions of Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., suddenly are about to get a lot more public. Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."
Boeing Takes Lead to Build Space Taxi, Wall Street Journal
"Boeing Co. appears positioned to beat out two smaller rivals for the bulk of a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from orbit, according to government and aerospace-industry officials. An award to Boeing would represent a victory over the newer Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, which had been considered a favorite in many quarters because of its lower costs and nimbler approach. The decision on the development of space taxis will be a milestone for commercial space endeavors, locking in unparalleled authority for contractors to develop and operate vehicles with limited federal oversight. An announcement is expected as early as Tuesday."
Keith's note: Just because something is published in the Wall Street Journal does not mean that it is accurate. The author of these stories has confused two separate stories with each other. Tomorrow's Blue Origin event was scheduled long before NASA even made its CCiCAP decision and would have gone ahead even if NASA had delayed making an announcement - and would have also been made regardless of what NASA will be announcing for CCiCAP.
Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) Set to Meet, SpaceRef Business
"Some of the items of interest include hearing from Kathy Lueders, NASA's relative new Commercial Crew Program Program Manager, an update from The Honorable Lamar Smith on the Congressional Perspective of the Commercial Space Launch Act, ASTEROIDS Act, and NASA Reauthorization, an update on DARPA's XS-1 and its application to Commercial Space Transportation, and an update from the Department of State regarding the Outer Space Treaty."
"With respect to Kathy Lueders speaking it will be interesting to hear why no commercial crew announcement has been made yet. On the other hand this would be a good opportunity for her to speak should an announcement be made beforehand. And with Lamar Smith scheduled to speak only hours after Kathy it will be interesting to hear his point of view on the status of the Commercial Crew Program irregardless of whether an announcement has been made."
Marc's note: The second day of the meeting will be webcast.
Marc's update: 7:25 PM ET: Twitter reports are circulating that the Commercial Crew announcement will be tomorrow. We have not been able to confirm them. I've also heard there would be two awards which is not what Congress wants. With Lamar Smith speaking shortly after Lueders, this could get interesting.
"CASIS has been tasked by Congress and NASA to work with new and non-traditional researchers for the development of products, therapies, and services onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory," said CASIS President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson. "Our partnership with COBRA PUMA GOLF is an excellent example of a truly non-traditional research investigation taking advantage of the microgravity environment to advance knowledge in applied materials science." In June of 2012, CASIS and CPG signed an initial Memorandum of Agreement ..."
Keith's note: Has CASIS actually published or promoted any of the research results from this ongoing golf in space effort? I have seen zero evidence that it has. CASIS loves to promote these vapid press releases that promise - but never deliver - amazing return on NASA's investment via goofy sports tie-ins - yet they ignore actual commercial research such as that being done by Ardbeg on the ISS. And of course, CASIS is so inept that they cannot figure out how to tell people about the weekly ACTUAL ISS research results that NASA puts out as part of its Spaceline updates. What is baffling is why NASA continues to put up with this inadequate performance by CASIS.
- ISS Commercial Research That CASIS Utterly Ignores, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Signs Deal with COBRA PUMA GOLF for Research on ISS (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS: It Takes More Than Golf to Utilize the ISS, earlier post
- CASIS Defines Bedtime Stories on ISS as "Major Payload", earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Incapable of Doing Its Job, earlier post
"Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Spaceflight Contest - "Spaceship Earth Grants Corp. (SEG), a Public Benefit Corporation, is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible. SEG offers applicants a chance to travel to space while helping to fund efforts and organizations that are making a significant positive impact on planet Earth. SEG will be providing grants to individuals and organizations that are likewise committed to bettering their communities. For more information, visit spaceshipearthgrants.com.
About Star Harbor Space Training Academy - Star Harbor Space Training Academy will be the first-in-the-world publicly accessible, fully comprehensive and environmentally immersive space training academy. The Star Harbor team is led by CEO Maraia Hoffman and includes former NASA Astronauts Leland Melvin and Ron Garan. More information about Star Harbor will be announced in October."
"NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has released what could be a new regular video feature called Inside KSC. It appears to be a complementary product to the September edition of the KSC Spaceport Magazine."
"... That timeline represents a delay from statements Branson made as recently as last month. In an interview with USA Today published Aug. 17, he said he expected to be on that first commercial flight by the end of this year. "I'll be bitterly disappointed if I'm not into space by the end of the year," he said. A Virgin Galactic spokewoman said that, despite Branson's comments, the company has no formal schedule for beginning commercial flights. "As we've stated in the past, the inaugural commercial flight date will be set by safety and readiness," Jessica Gilbert said Sept. 11 via email."
New Commercial Moon Services Study Available, SpaceRef Business
"The Space Angels Network brought to my attention a new study by Chad Anderson a Managing Director of the Space Angels Network. Chad completed the study while obtaining his MBA at Oxford. The study was finished in 2013 but has only been recently made public."
Keith's note: Don't expect to see a commercial crew selection announcement this week. Unless things change, of course.
NanoRacks Update on CubeSat Deployer Problem, SpaceRef Business
"NanoRacks this morning provided an update on the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers (NRCSD) which had inadvertently deployed thee CubeSats while not deploying others when commanded. The NanRacks team has been able to replicate the problem on the ground which they hope will lead to a solution."
"NASA has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA's continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth's atmosphere."
"In 2011, vials of Ardbeg scotch whiskey were sent to the International Space Station as part of an experiment to see how the spirits' maturation process is affected by the near zero gravity of near space. Now it's almost time for a homecoming."
- Ardbeg Distillery Launches U.S. Rocket Tour Celebrating "World First" Space Experiment, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores, earlier post
- Whisky in Space: the Road Show - Update, earlier post
Keith's 1 May 2012 note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen. A preview of things to come, I am afraid.
Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image that I made a few weeks ago people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend. Oops.