Recently in Commercialization Category

SpaceX Starship Users Guide Revision 1.0 March 2020

"SpaceX's Starship system represents a fully reusable transportation system designed to service Earth orbit needs as well as missions to the Moon and Mars. This two-stage vehicle--composed of the Super Heavy rocket (booster) and Starship (spacecraft) as shown in Figure 1--is powered by sub-cooled methane and oxygen. Starship is designed to evolve rapidly to meet near term and future customer needs while maintaining the highest level of reliability.

Starship has the capability to transport satellites, payloads, crew, and cargo to a variety of orbits and Earth, Lunar, or Martian landing sites. Potential Starship customers can use this guide as a resource for preliminary payload accommodations information. This is the initial release of the Starship Users Guide and it will be updated frequently in response to customer feedback."

Boeing Statement on Passage of CARES Act

"Boeing's top priority is to protect our workforce and support our extensive supply chain, and the CARES Act will help provide adequate measures to help address the pandemic. We have also taken a number of measures for affordability and liquidity as we navigate the challenges our industry currently faces, including forgoing pay for our CEO and board chairman, suspending our dividend until further notice, and extending our existing pause of any share repurchasing until further notice."

Statement From Lockheed Martin Chairman, President And CEO Marillyn Hewson On COVID-19 Response

"At Lockheed Martin, we recognize that the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its wide-ranging impacts have caused severe disruption across society and tragic loss of life around the world. We also recognize that the global pandemic has created a need for urgent action by government, business, communities and citizens. In response to this crisis, our company will be guided by and operate with three clear priorities. First, we will continue to protect the health and safety of our men and women on the job and their families. Second, we will continue to perform and deliver for our customers because what they do for our national security, global communications, and infrastructure is critical to our nation and our allies. Third, we will do our part to use our know-how, resources, and leadership as a company to assist our communities and our country during this period of national crisis."

Keith's note: Boeing begs for $60 billion in tax dollars but won't say what they will do with the money or how they will help their employees while Lockheed Martin specifically talks about taking care of their people and others. Hmmm ... $60 billion for Being. Assuming 150,000 employees (give or take) that would be $400,000 per employee. That's enough to keep people employed for a year or two. Just sayin'

Former U.N. envoy Nikki Haley quits Boeing's board over its plea for $60B in aid, Geekwire

"Earlier this week, Trump told reporters that he supported a Boeing bailout -- and referred indirectly to the company's 737 MAX troubles: "it was unthinkable what happened, with respect to Boeing. Probably I would consider it the greatest company in the world prior to a year ago. Now they get hit in 15 different ways and they have different management. I've met the new people running Boeing. I think it's going to be outstanding. "But, yeah, we have to protect Boeing. We have to absolutely help Boeing. They were doing a job. ... It was coming along well. And then all of a sudden, this hits. So, obviously, when the airlines aren't doing well, Boeing is not going to be doing well. So we'll be helping Boeing."

Boeing CEO says company may reject stimulus if Treasury seeks equity stake

"Boeing chief executive David Calhoun on Tuesday suggested that the aircraft manufacturer would not accept federal aid as part of a pending economic rescue bill if it meant giving the Treasury Department a stake in the company. ... Boeing is requesting $60 billion in federal loans from a $500 billion corporate assistance program created in the Senate's $2 trillion economic stimulus bill. The bill, which is still being negotiated, also allows the Treasury secretary to take a stake in bailed-out corporations, as the government did to major banks who received federal rescue funds in 2008."

Boeing to Emerge as Big Stimulus Winner, WS Journal

"The company has declined to detail the components of the $60 billion it has been seeking. After the Senate passed its stimulus bill late Wednesday, Boeing praised the package, saying its liquidity boost was "critical for airlines, airports, suppliers, and manufacturers to bridge to recovery." Faced with mounting financial strain, Boeing has suspended its dividend and has been considering potential layoffs. Executives have said they were working to avoid cutting or furloughing employees from its 65,000-worker commercial arm. Under the proposed stimulus plan, certain loan recipients must maintain at least 90% of their current workforce through Sept. 30, among other worker protections, eliciting praise from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents Boeing factory workers in the Seattle area."

Editorial: Why Coronavirus Cannot Kill Aviation, Aviation Week

"It is vital for governments, lawmakers and industry leaders to recognize that aviation will need help getting through such destructive upheaval. But in some cases, the optics will invite legitimate criticism. For example, Boeing has returned nearly $50 billion to its shareholders over the past five years while investing far less. Now it wants taxpayers to cough up tens of billions for a bailout? U.S. airlines are no better: They have sent 96% of free cash flow to shareholders over the last five years. And what about those airlines in Europe that should have been allowed to die long ago? Will they use this crisis as leverage for yet another government rescue?"

Trump says he is 'OK' with forbidding buybacks as condition of corporate bailouts, CNBC

"President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he would not oppose barring companies that receive federal assistance during the coronavirus pandemic from conducting stock buybacks."

COVID-19: Guiana Space Center suspends launch campaigns, Arianespace

"Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to fully implement the measures decided by the French government, launch campaigns underway at the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana have been suspended. These launch preparations will resume as soon as allowed by health conditions. This exceptional measure is designed to protect the health of employees and the local population, while also maintaining the security needed to prepare for scheduled launches. Arianespace, French space agency CNES and all companies involved at CSG are currently overseeing operations to place launchers and satellites in safe standby condition, in line with standard procedures."

Keith's note: NASA and Boeing held a media briefing today about the report of the NASA Internal Review Team (IRT) report on the various problems with the recent Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT). In summary the IRT found 61 things - recommendations - action items - problems - call them what you will - that need to be attended to by Boeing. We really do not know what they are since NASA and Boeing have not released them. But maybe they will.

According to NASA HEOMD AA Doug Loverro this was a close all with the possibility that the Starliner could have been lost at the beginning of the mission or at the end of its mission. Since this is a Boeing project with significant NASA insight Loverro has started the process with the NASA Safety office to set up an organizational root assessment of all Boeing and NASA actions leading up to this mission.

When Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch initially spoke he was, in essence, saying that he wanted to thank NASA IRT for helping Boeing to find these 61 issues that Boeing was unable to find prior to launch - despite the biliions spent on Starliner - and despite all the help from NASA.

Doug Loverro said that he was designating this whole Starliner thing as a "High Visibility Close Call" (HVCC) which is NASAese for setting up an internal NASA process that includes all involved plus NASA Safety to find out what went wrong. Loverro noted that Boeing had "graciously" agreed to support this team. Uh huh. Nice of them to be gracious about it.

I asked a question about these 61 technical issues and Chilton started to get into semantics as to whether they were "61 technical problems" since many of these things mapped against the same problems. And then NASA hung up on me before I could hear the rest of my question. It took a while to be able to reconnect to the telecon. Maybe its the snarky questions I ask. Then again Jeff Foust from Space News got thrown out of the question queue. Houston we have a problem ...

Listening to Doug Loverro talk he got into many fundamental aspects of how to manage a large aerospace program that speaks to experience gained from a 40 year career doing just that. Although he was trying to be positive about this it is clear that he is aware of pervasive Boeing/ NASA Starliner problems and that some structured adult supervision is required.

Everyone on the call wanted to know if there would be another OFT flight without a crew or with a crew. Loverro explained that the initial requirement for crew transport was to show NASA that the vehicle could safely deliver a crew to the ISS. Boeing opted for an actual docking to prove this requirement and NASA wrote it into the contract. Whether an un-crewed OFT re-flight is needed to do this or whether a crew can fly next time and make up for missed requirements is still TBD - and NASA was not showing its cards on this. Chilton later said that Boeing would re-fly the OFT if need be, but we do not know who'd pay for this extra mission.

Between my first question and my re-asking of that question an hour later I inquired of Boeing that since Boeing had all of these undiscovered problems prior to launch - of what they thought was a perfectly good spacecraft = one would assume that a more complex Boeing space vehicle such as the SLS would now require even more time to double check. Chilton said that there was output from the Starliner IRT effort and that it was being sent around their company for everyone to analyze to see if it applied to their programs. But other than that he did not get into specifics.

Loverro added that the pacing items on SLS were not software but instead were the green test (engine firing) and that other than a ground system issue at Stennis, no software needed to be finished. He also noted that the software team at IV&V was looking to all of this as well.

Of course Boeing and NASA originally thought that the Starliner's software was good to go - so its a little curious that no one is overly concerned that there are more undiscovered things lurking in otherwise certified SLS software given all of the software issues the Boeing SLS people have experienced at MSFC. And again, SLS is a much larger, energetic, and complex spacecraft than Starliner - one upon which a crewed vehicle will eventually fly.

As to whether the way that NASA Has bought commercial services is the issue Loverro commented that he has had great successes with fixed cost and cost-plus contracts as well as failures from both types of contracts. So the contracting mechanism is not the issue.. Instead Loverro thinks that this is a managerial issue - hence the convening of the follow-on internal assessment of how NASA and Boeing did what they did on the Starliner flight. No timeline was given so one would assume that no Starliners are going to fly until this effort is completed. So .. barring any unforeseen problems SpaceX looks to be poised to win the flag that awaits them on board the ISS.

When asked if any more Soyuz seats are being bought Loverro said that they are talking to Russia and the plan is to buy one more seat. The telecon closed with Loverro saying the obligatory "we won't fly unless its safe ... stuff" and the operator ended the teleconference. I was busy typing and did not hang up right away. Other reporters did hang up. Then the NASA guy came back and said that Jim Chilton had some closing thoughts and he had an important one - that if NASA wants Boeing to re-fly OFT then they will. Nice of NASA to tell reporters that the telecon was over before Chilton had a chance to say this.

If I sound a little impatient with NASA's teleconferencing system - I am. I did live video webcasts from Everest Base Camp for a month in 2009 using gear I carried on my back with far fewer technical problems than NASA has with a simple dial-in system. Seriously NASA, fix it. And get some new on-hold music too while you are at it.

NASA, Boeing to Provide Outcome of Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

"NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Friday, March 6, to discuss the outcome of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Participants in the briefing will be:

- Douglas Loverro, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
- Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch
- Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program
- John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Program"

Listen live

Boeing Statement on Independent Review Team Recommendations for the Starliner Orbital Flight Test Anomalies

"We accept and appreciate the recommendations of the jointly led NASA-Boeing Independent Review Team (IRT) as well as suggestions from the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel following Starliner's Orbital Flight Test (OFT). Their insights are invaluable to the Commercial Crew Program and we will work with NASA to comprehensively apply their recommendations.

- Regarding the Mission Elapsed Timer anomaly, the IRT believes they found root cause and provided a number of recommendations and corrective actions.
- The IRT also investigated a valve mapping software issue, which was diagnosed and fixed in flight. That error in the software would have resulted in an incorrect thruster separation and disposal burn. What would have resulted from that is unclear.
- The IRT is also making significant progress on understanding the command dropouts encountered during the mission and is further investigating methods to make the Starliner communications system more robust on future missions."

Keith's note: To date none of these Starliner briefings have revealed good news - for Boeing - or NASA. Boeing made a lot of mistakes - and NASA let them and/or did not notice. The IRT report is certain to flesh out the bad news we've already heard and, if the trend continues, will reveal more issues with Starliner. NASA has to decide how Boeing will fix all of the problems that have been identified before they fly Starliner again. The big question is whether there will be people on board the next Starliner flight - or not. NASA may require Boeing to re-do the initial flight without a crew on board. If they do there is a big question as to who pays for the launch which could easily exceed $100 million.

- Boeing's Starliner Transparency Is Still Cloudy, earlier post
- Starliner's Clock Was Really Really Wrong, earlier post
- Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock, earlier post
- Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test Was Technically A Success - But ..., earlier post
- Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media, earlier post


NASA, Boeing to Provide Outcome of Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

"NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Friday, March 6, to discuss the outcome of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program."

Keith's note: The first I learned of this event was a Tweet hours after it was over. I guess I would not invite me either. Maybe they will be a little more forthcoming next week when they are in the hot seat and NASA is sitting next to them.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/data.gifBoeing didn't perform full end-to-end test of its astronaut capsule before troubled mission, 'surprising' NASA safety panel, Orlando Sentinel

"Boeing and NASA officials are expected to release the results of an independent investigation into the set of issues that occurred during Boeing's late December test of Starliner, its astronaut crew capsule, within the next week. But speaking to the Orlando Sentinel, members of NASA's safety advisory panel expanded on some of the testing decisions Boeing made that drew questions about whether Starliner was ready to fly. Critically, the panel learned early this month that Boeing did not perform a full, end-to-end integrated test of Starliner in a Systems Integration Lab with ULA's Atlas V rocket. The test typically shows how all the software systems during each component of the mission would have responded with each other through every maneuver -- and it could potentially have caught the issues Boeing later experienced in the mission."

- Boeing Really Needs To Get Their Software Fixed, earlier post
- ASAP: Boeing Starliner Software Issue Potentially "Catastrophic", earlier post

Former ISS executive, accused of 'expensing' prostitutes, pleads guilty to tax fraud, Florida Today

"A former economist employed by a Space Coast nonprofit that operates the International Space Station's U.S. laboratory pleaded guilty to one tax fraud-related count in an indictment filed last year, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Charles Resnick, once the chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, was indicted in April by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa on 10 counts. The charges alleged the creation of phony receipts when filing expense reports, as well as hidden spending of government funds on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015."

Former exec at International Space Station science lab pleads guilty in tax case involving 'expensing' prostitutes, Orlando Sentinel

"The agreement also states that Resnick improperly deducted business expenses worth about $51,500 even though he had already been reimbursed for some of the expenses and that "some of the deducted expenses were not ordinary and necessary business expenses." The plea agreement does not mention the original indictment references to escorts or prostitutes. Resnick is responsible for total tax loss for the tax years from 2010-2013, according to the agreement, and that amount will be determined at sentencing, a date for which has yet to be determined."

Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post

Elon Hired Gerst

Keith's 9 Feb update: You should scroll down and click on the comments. At the top you will see that I highlighted comments by NASA HEOMD AA Doug Loverro. He replied to the question that I did not get to ask and spent a lot of time - with a lot of words - in a quality response. Well worth reading.

Keith's 7Feb note: NASA and Boeing held a telecon today about Starliner problems. They said that they held today's media telecon as a result of things posted in the media yesterday after the ASAP meeting. (See ASAP: Boeing Starliner Software Issue Potentially "Catastrophic"). Apparently Congress was reading the same articles. When asked about flying people on the next Starliner mission Jim Bridenstine punted. Doug Loverro went into some detail as to what needs to be done with Boeing next but would not answer yes/no either. Alas, NASA is picking favorites again on news telecons. Probably a good idea since this was my question for Boeing:

"Boeing launched a spacecraft designed to carry humans and discovered two fundamental software issues in flight. Now Boeing wants to launch people in that spacecraft the next time it flies. I have been reporting on software issues for another Boeing product - SLS. Add in 737 Max software problems and it would seem that Boeing has some major software weaknesses. Is there any overlap between software teams or management between Starliner and SLS (or 737 Max)? Since Boeing's current software process has clearly failed after many years and billions of dollars spent, what do you need to do differently in order to get this whole software thing working properly again?"

I was half tempted to get into the weeds with a question about breadboards, wiring jigs, software verification checks, and things like SAIL that we used to test Shuttle avionics and what passed for "software" - all done by Boeing and its heritage companies like Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas - all designed to beat problems out of a design with brut force before it flew. You'd think they'd have that down pat by now. That is the real story here - NASA and its contractors have forgotten how to do stuff like that.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/data.gifNASA, Boeing to Provide Update on Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

"NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. EST Friday, Feb. 7, to discuss the status of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program."

NASA Safety Panel: Second Starliner OFT Software Error COuld Have Been :Catastrophic", Space Policy Online

"In an emailed statement to SpacePolicyOnline.com this evening, Boeing said it accepts and appreciates the recommendations of the IRT as well as suggestions from ASAP: "They are invaluable to the Commercial Crew Program and we will work with NASA to comprehensively apply their recommendations."

Starliner faced "catastrophic" failure before software bug found, Ars Technica

"At Thursday's meeting, Hill revealed the second issue related to software and thruster performance publicly for the first time. However, as part of reporting on a story about Starliner software and thruster issues three weeks ago, a source told Ars about this particular problem. According to the source, Boeing patched a software code error just two hours before the vehicle reentered Earth's atmosphere. Had the error not been caught, the source said, proper thrusters would not open during the reentry process, and the vehicle would have been lost."

Keith's note: And of course there are all of the SLS software issues that have plagued the Boeing and NASA MSFC folks:

- SLS Upper Stage Changes While Software Problems Linger, earlier post
- SLS Software Problems Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- This Is How NASA Covers Up SLS Software Safety Issues (Update), earlier post
- MSFC To Safety Contractor: Just Ignore Those SLS Software Issues, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update), earlier post
- Previous SLS postings

But wait, there's more in other parts of Boeing:

Boeing Finds New Software Problem With Scandal-Plagued 737 Max Plane, Gizmodo

"During flight testing of the 737 MAX's updated software, an indicator light associated with the stabilizer trim system illuminated in the flight deck," a Boeing spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. "We determined that the illumination of this light was caused by differences in input data between the flight control computers (FCC). This is a result of the FCC cross compare redundancy software update issued in June 2019."

NASA to Industry: Send Ideas for Lunar Rovers

"As NASA's Artemis lunar exploration program mounts toward a robust decade of modern science, research, and human exploration at the Moon, the agency is asking American companies to think about how to get around on the lunar surface. NASA issued two separate Requests for Information (RFI) seeking industry approaches for development of robotic mobility systems and human-class lunar rovers. With these RFIs, NASA seeks to foster an emerging American market of lunar transportation capability by engaging the terrestrial vehicle and robotic communities."

Keith's note: As I have noted before NASA does not really seem to be interested in letting people know about their NASA iTech thing. Last Friday I posted some comments about the NASA iTech activity. I never heard from STMD so I sent NASA STMD and NASA PAO some questions, NASA PAO replied rather promptly. I have added some follow-up comments to the NASA responses.

In summary: This NASA iTech effort is supposed to engage companies with innovations that could benefit NASA as well as help innovators realize potential space applications of their technologies that may have been designed for another purpose.Hopefully that will inspire companies to invest their own money in the use of NASA technology. NASA makes claims that this program has led to $500 million in private sector investments - but they cannot actually verify that claim. Nor does NASA iTech bother to interact with the rest of the agency's various commercialization activities wherein much more technology awaits wider distribution and use. Most paradoxically, the NASA itTech folks are incapable of generating standard PR for their supposed successes. Also NASA cannot decide if NASA iTech is a NASA thing or something that a vendor does - or both - and NASA STMD clearly did not think this through when it allowed the NASA iTech folks to run around promoting this effort.

I am posting everything here as an example of just how scattered NASA can be when it comes to demonstrating its value to the public and private sectors. The fact that NASA STMD and NASA HQ refuse to give NASA iTech more visibility (given the $500 million claim) and that the NASA iTech folks seek to distance themsleves from NASA's global branding and visibility speaks to a lot of entrenched dysfunction within NASA's technology efforts. I hope someone fixes this. A lot of real value from NASA's abundant technology expertise is being woefully under utilized. And NASA iTech is not doing the best job it could to avail itself of the opportunity to highlight this technology.

1. Why don't the @NASAiTech and @NASA_Technology Twitter accounts mention one another? Why does Kira Blackwell, the NASA iTech Program Executive use her official NASA Twitter account @KiraBlackwell to only promote NASAiTech and yet make no mention of anything else that NASA STMD (or NASA) does?

NASA PAO: In addition to other NASA technology-related news, @NASA_Technology shares information about NASA iTech:
https://twitter.com/nasa_technology/status/1184210708432637952?s=21
https://twitter.com/nasa_technology/status/1181559974188736512?s=21
https://twitter.com/nasa_technology/status/1174094949442359296?s=21
https://twitter.com/nasa_technology/status/1171535613582925827?s=21

At this time @NASAiTech is not an official NASA social media account. NASA/STMD is reviewing the need for this account (and others) and will make the decision whether to make it an official NASA account or shut it down by directing followers to the broader agency technology account. This is something NASA/STMD did last year with an unofficial NASA Flight Opportunities account (@NASAfo). @KiraBlackwell is a personal account.

NASAWatch follow up: if you look at @NASAitech it says "The Official NASA iTech Twitter account. NASA's program searches for cutting-edge tech's external to NASA & that have potential to be a solution for NASA. NASA HQ -Space Tech Office https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/itech". [screengrab] If you look at @KiraBlackwell it says "Program Executive for @NASAiTech searching for innovative solutions to solve some of NASA's challenges." and it is used for official business purposes. There is no mention that it is a personal account. [screengrab]

2. Why does the NASAiTech activity exclusively use its own logo on its social media posts and on all of its large event displays and promotion materials and not use the official NASA logo? Is the NASAiTech logo officially recognized - and owned by - NASA?

NASA PAO: The NASA iTech identifying mark was created as "work for hire" under an existing cooperative agreement with NIA and is therefore owned by NASA. The identifying mark has been used since NASA iTech started under NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist.

NASAWatch follow up: But why is NASAiTech special - no other NASA programs seek to distance themsleves from NASA by purposefully not using the NASA logo?

3. Why aren't the NASAiTech "Ignite the Night" events promoted on the NASA STMD website? Why are they not mentioned in media advisories or press releases/media advisories? Why is there no mention of these events on the NASA.gov calendar?

NASA PAO: As we work to move the current .org NASA iTech website content to the nasa.gov portal, we are building out this information. There is a nasa.gov page dedicated to upcoming events where you can find information about the next Ignite the Night: https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/itech/upcoming_events.

The primary audience for Ignite the Night events is local innovators. Media are welcome to attend as well. NASA regularly interacts with local media who may be interested in covering iTech events.

The main nasa.gov calendar is, for the most part, limited to NASA TV coverage and launch/mission operations.

NASAWatch follow up: but NASA STMD and NASAiTech never send out media advisories? If this is so important why are live webcasts not promoted as are a myriad of other NASA activities - many of which have a local focus?

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

Keith's note: Boeing has restarted its social media campaign on Facebook which means they are mining your Facebook user data for other uses that it is not bothering to tell you about. The Boeing ad points you to this page https://www.boeing.com/space/space-launch-system/. But this is how it tracks the social media user from Facebook with a campaign they call "slsphase2"

https://www.boeing.com/space/space-launch-system/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialad&utm_campaign=slsphase2 ...

When you get to the page it says "Additional missions are planned with this configuration as the even more powerful Block 1B version of the rocket is designed and built. This follow-on, evolved two-stage configuration will provide a lift capability of more than 105 metric tons, using the Boeing-built Exploration Upper Stage."

Hmmm ... "slsphase2" Boeing is being rather blunt in what it sees this effort as. Unless I missed something NASA has not ordered production of EUS. As you may recall from the NASA Authorization Act wording in draft House legislation Boeing has been lobbying hard for the EUS and excluing private sector commercial alternatives at the same time.

Back in December Jim Bridenstine called B.S. on these efforts by Boeing, telling the Washington post "... any plan that requires an EUS to be ready by 2024 is a plan that reduces the probability of success. It's just not going to be ready. ... "All of our contractors lobby Congress to achieve what is in their best interest even though it may not be in the best interest of the nation," Bridenstine said in an interview. "This is another example of that. My job as NASA administrator is to make sure we do what's right for the country, and for the taxpayer."

And of course Boeing wants you to forget that the SLS is billions over budget, years behind schedule, and is still a year or more away from flying. They most certainly want you to forget that SpaceX is flying Falcon Heavy rockets and is preparing to test its immense Starship. Meanwhile development of Blue Origin's monster rocket New Glenn is underway.

- Boeing Uses Deceptive Social Media To Grab Your Browsing Data, previous post
- Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, previous post
- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity, previous post
- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, previous post

A Small Rocket Maker Is Running A Different Kind of Space Race, Bloomberg

"The 42-year-old CEO [Chris Kemp] spent almost five years at NASA, but he's not a rocket scientist by training. He joined NASA in 2007 after running a string of internet startups, eventually becoming the space agency's chief technology officer. Astra has operated in secrecy partly to avoid being pushed to set unrealistic deadlines. Most of its workers have online résumés that list their employer as "Stealth Space Company," and there hasn't been a website. At the former Alameda Naval Air Station, Astra took over a decrepit building used decades ago to test jet engines indoors, which has helped keep its secrecy intact. The facility has two long tunnels that send fire and scorching hot air up through exhaust towers and thick concrete walls capable of absorbing the explosive impacts of tests gone wrong. This setup has allowed Astra to conduct thousands of runs on its rocket engines without its neighbors noticing much of anything. It's also meant Astra can put the engines through their paces on-site and make adjustments to the hardware quickly, instead of going to the Mojave Desert or an open field in Texas where other rocket makers typically run engine trials."

Keith's note: On 27 January 2020 NASA issued a release NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station. This title and a lot of the wording are misleading since the release actually says "NASA selected Axiom from proposals submitted in response to a solicitation through Appendix I of NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 Broad Agency Announcement, which offered private industry use of the station utilities and a port to attach one or more commercial elements to the orbiting laboratory."

The Appendix says "All awardees will receive Task Order 1 for concept and business plan development." That's it. Down the road NASA says "At the time of contract award, depending on the concept maturity and availability of funds, NASA may award Task Order 2 to begin the early design phase and mature business plans, leading to subsequent task orders and an eventual decision point for prioritization of use of the ISS port."

This NASA agreement with Axiom is actually the first step in a series of agreements. NASA did not select Axiom to do anything other than come up with a plan - to develop a plan - do something that NASA still has to evaluate - something that requires lots of follow-up Agreements - and more plans. But everyone is reacting as if they are about to start cutting hardware. See "Expanding The ISS For Customers That No One Can Identify" for more thoughts on the Axiom agreement

According to a 30 January 2020 press release In a Space Industry First, NASA Grants KBR the Right to Train Private Astronauts at NASA Facilities from NASA contractor KBR (one of the partners in the Aziom team) "KBR (NYSE: KBR), a leading solutions provider to the civil, military and commercial space industry, will become the first company to train private astronauts at NASA facilities. The company recently signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Johnson Space Center allowing it to provide human spaceflight operation services to commercial companies. KBR currently holds the only agreement with NASA to provide these services using the agency's facilities and capabilities." and "The agreement directly supports one of five elements of NASA's plan to open the ISS to new commercial and marketing opportunities that will continue the agency's efforts to enable a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy. As was recently announced, KBR will further support this mission by working as a subcontractor to Axiom Space on the first commercial destination module for the ISS."

If you go to this NASA web page Current Space Act Agreements there are links to 4 recently updated lists of current agreements between NASA and a panoply of companies, organizations, educational institutions, and others. On this list (last updated 30 September 2019). There is no mention of "KBR" among the 1,131 SAAs listed. There are 3 SAAs with with Wyle Laboratories, Inc, a KBR subsidiary. One of these agreements is titled "NASA NEUTRAL BUOYANCY LABORATORY FACILITY USAGE AGREEMENT: with Wyle Laboratories, Inc (a KBR subsidiary). This SAA started 10 April 2017 and runs to 31 May 2021 (SSA-SA-16-22103-02). This SAA was signed in 2017 (but the text is not posted online) so I am not certain if that qualifies as "recent" unless there is another NASA SAA with KBR and/or Wylie or another part of KBR signed after 30 September 2019 that we have not been told about.

Axiom has 4 SAAs in place with NASA. These 2 are posted online: ""Flight Operations Directorate Axiom Training (which mentions KBR and several documents as being attached to the SAA which are not provided in the online text of the SAA)" and "Low-Earth Orbit Commercial Development Utilizing the ISS" which is an "umbrella agreement" established "for the purpose of establishing a reimbursable agreement between NASA and Axiom whereby NASA provides unique services and capabilities to Axiom in support of commercial development activities including pre-flight mission planning for prospective astronaut trainees" But nothing specific is mentioned as who pays how much for which service. And neithert KBR or Wylie mentioned.

There are SAAs between Axiom and NASA to use services (and KBR is in the mix on one of them) but there is no evidence of a SAA between NASA and KBR, as mentioned in their press release. Or are they talking about an older one from 2017 with Wylie (i.e, not "recent")? It would seem that KBR issued this press release about a SAA they claim to have that is actually several years old with one of its subsidiaries. NASA makes no mention of any SAA with KBR yet mentions over a thousand other SAAs. It looks like KBR tossed out this press release to capitalize on the recent news of the Axiom agreement signed with NASA representing a team to which KBR belongs.

Right now no one has given Axiom the green light to build and operate anything connected to ISS - just to pursue studies that would lead to further agreements. Good news. Someone has a basic plan that may bear fruit. I have asked NASA for a copy of this Space Act Agreement mentioned by KBR in direct reference to the Axiom activity and any others between NASA and KBR/Wylie that relate to astronaut training and/or use of NASA training facilities.

Keith's update: NASA JSC PAO replied that this agreement with JSC and SGT is the SAA that KBR is referring to. KBR bought SGT NASA JSC/SGT Vendor Partner Agreement 9/10/2019 9/10/2024 Reimbursable JSC SAA-CA-19-28973. Oddly, despite all of the crew training you'd think would go into having commercial astronauts on Axiom attached to the ISS for a prolonged period, that this training would cost a fair amount of money. This agreement says that "Partner agrees to reimburse NASA an estimated $84,606.77 for NASA to carry out its responsibilities under this agreement. In no event will NASA transfer any U.S. Government funds to Partner under this agreement." $84,606.77? That's it - for 5 years - for the use of all the facilities and people has on the payroll? Either NASA is underwriting the work in this SAA to a substantial degree with a hefty discount - or the hundreds of millions NASA has spent to train astronauts for ISS work over the past 20 years represents a gross waste of money on the part of NASA. Or ... this SAA and other documents mentioned above represent only a portion of what the real agreement between Axiom/KBR et al contains.

What JSC and HEOMD ought to be doing is to explain what these agreements are and (more importantly) are not. They need to explain - in normal language, who does what with/from whom, when everything happens, who pays NASA to do do things, and how much it costs (NASA has published "Commercial and Marketing Pricing Policy" price list). The press release by NASA is extremely misleading. Yes these agreements are a start but the title of the NASA press release should have been "NASA Selects The First Company To Submit Plans For A Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station". Just sayin'

Oh yes ... we've covered some earlier commercial astronaut training stories at JSC ...

- Waypoint2space Clarifies A Few Things About Astronaut Training at NASA JSC, earlier post (2016)
- Waypoint2space Wants You To Train Like An Astronaut (But You Won't Be One), earlier post (2016)
- More Q&A With Opifex Global About Their Astronaut Training Thing, earlier post (2019)

Letter From Concerned Scientists Regarding H.R. 5666

"We are writing in response to the draft bill, HR 5666. We strongly agree that bipartisan support for our Nation's space program is absolutely critical for its ongoing success. We also support the provisions for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. We additionally strongly assert that commercial sector involvement is a critical investment in the future of our country. However, we have grave concerns about the text of the draft bill that was released on 24 January 2020."

Snapshots From CST 2020

GAO: NASA Commercial Crew Program: Significant Work Remains to Begin Operational Missions to the Space Station

"NASA will have fewer astronauts on the ISS in 2020 unless the Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft are ready to fly missions, but significant work remains for both. NASA has few back-up options if delays continue and will have only one astronaut on the U.S. side by April 2020. Most of this astronaut's time will be spent on maintenance activities rather than on research and development.

To fly as soon as possible, NASA has been planning to complete its reviews of the contractors' systems under aggressive time frames. This approach is risky because it assumes the contractors will complete multiple activities on time. Boeing and SpaceX must conduct additional test flights, train astronauts, and get a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

FAA licenses cover the contractors' launch and reentry activities. FAA may grant waivers for changes to the license that do not jeopardize public safety. For example, FAA may grant waivers for changes in launch trajectory. NASA needs to know when such changes have been made in case they affect the crew. While NASA and FAA have coordinated on launch licensing for years, they have not yet decided how they will communicate about waivers. As a result, NASA may not have all the information it needs for launch decisions."

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boeing drops out of DARPA Experimental Spaceplane program, SpaceNews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASA, SpaceX Complete Final Major Flight Test of Crew Spacecraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith's note: Over the past few years I have submitted regular FOIA requests to NASA HQ for documents related to how NASA and CASIS interact with one another. Specifically I asked for the quarterly reports submitted by CASIS to NASA. Below is a collection of these reports. For the most part they are un-redacted. Sometimes they are - alas the redactions are not consistent over the entire collection with somethings blacked out on one report only to be in the clear on another. Since CASIS' perfomance is currently being reviewed by a panel chartered by NASA HQ I thought his information - along with other things I have posted about CASIS over the years - would be of interest to the review panel.

FY 19 Quarters [1] [2]
FY 18 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 17 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 16 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 15 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 14 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 13 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 12 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]

Boeing Just Fired Its CEO

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is out after disastrous year, CNN

"A spacecraft the company is building to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station also malfunctioned last week during its first-ever trip to space. The uncrewed test flight, which came after years of delays and setbacks, was intended to be the final major test before it was finally ready to fly humans. The company has also been roundly criticized by federal oversight officials over billion-dollar cost overruns and missed deadlines with another NASA contract: to build the Space Launch System, a massive rocket that the space agency wants to use to return humans to the moon. Boeing still has a strong balance sheet, and its stock is up marginally this year despite all of its setbacks. But questions about the company's leadership grew louder as the company's missteps added up."

- Bridenstine Calls B.S. On Boeing Exploration Upper Stage Claim, earlier post
- Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media, earlier post
- More Fake SLS News From Boeing, earlier post

Keith's note: 11 hours. Hmm. Apparently Starliner thought it just took off from Nepal - or the Phillipines - depending how you count an 11 hour time zone difference. That's a little bit more than having a clock that's a few minutes off. Just sayin'.

Starliner Has Landed

Boeing Starliner Completes First Orbital Flight Test with Successful Landing, Boeing

"Shortly after its December 20 launch and separation from its booster rocket, Starliner experienced a mission timing anomaly that made it use too much fuel to reach the intended destination of the International Space Station. Flight controllers were able to address the issue and put Starliner into a lower, stable orbit. The vehicle demonstrated key systems and capabilities before being signaled to return to Earth."

NASA, Boeing Complete Successful Landing of Starliner Flight Test, NASA

"Although Starliner did not reach its planned orbit and dock to the International Space Station as planned, Boeing was able to complete a number of test objectives during the flight related to NASA's Commercial Crew Program, including:

- Successful launch of the first human-rated United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket
- Checked out the Starliner propulsion systems
- Tested space-to-space communications
- Confirmed Starliner tracker alignments using its navigation system
- Tested Starliner's NASA Docking System
- Validated all environment control and life support systems
- Completed a positive command uplink between the International Space Station and Starliner"

Full audio recording. My question starts at 46:00

Keith's note: During the post-launch media briefing yesterday I was not allowed to ask a question even though I was listed by PAO as being online. Today I was last on the list (happens a lot) and there was a technical problem (ahem) so I had to repeat my question. I am not totally certain that everyone heard what I asked. Telecons are not something NASA has figured out how to do yet.

Otherwise not much in the way of news. Starliner will land tomorrow morning at White Sands around 7:57 a.m. EST. Boeing does not know why the Starliner's clock could not get the right data from the Atlas V, and the spacecraft is performing flawlessly.

NASA Television to Air Boeing Starliner Spacecraft Landing

Larger image

Keith's note: Boeing's Starliner was launched on time this morning. ULA gave it a perfect flight up to the point where the spacecraft separated. Then things started to go wrong. A planned engine burn did not happen because the spacecraft's clock was wrong and the spacecraft thought that it was somewhere else. Boeing tried to do a burn to fix the situation but a gap between several TDRSS satellites meant that the command would have been sent too late to allow the mission to have a chance to reach ISS. Boeing says that it has no idea why the clock was wrong. The curent orbital path will bring Starliner into a position to do a landing at White Sands in 48 hours. In talking about this problem NASA and Boeing tried to spin the mission as a success even though a prime objective was to dock with the ISS. It is too soon to know if a repeat flight to accomplish the original objectives will be required or if the next flight - with a crew - will be the first time that a Starliner docks with ISS.

One thing that was rather odd today: as soon as things started to go wrong NASA went dark. No TV, no meaningful updates. They said to go visit Boeing's website which had no information. After a couple of hours information started to emerge - not from NASA PAO or Boeing but from Jim Bridenstine's personal Twitter account. Indeed @NASA and @BoeingSpace were mostly mute. It is certainly good that the NASA Administrator has the personal capability and intent to inform the public what is going on. But I have to say that in the 25 years I have been covering NASA I have never seen such a news blackout drop into place for a launch or landing - and that includes the loss of Columbia.

Of course this is Boeing's mission so NASA is somewhat in the back seat in terms of PR. Boeing has none of the cameras on their flight like SpaceX does - just video images of motionless people with headsets staring at monitors. Boeing had to be ordered by Bridenstine to live webcast their recent parachute test (which also had problems that Boeing tried to ignore). And Boeing is lobbying Congress for the SLS Exploration Upper Stage which they claim will be used for Artemis III despite public statements to the contrary by the NASA Administrator. One certainly has to wonder if Boeing is going to exhibit the transparency and honesty one would expect as they continue to receive billions of taxpayer funds. Moreover NASA is asking taxpayers to foot a fast paced effort to return to the Moon. You'd think that someone at Boeing and NASA would get the bright idea that stonewalling and avoiding the media is not the way to garner public support.


Boeing Starliner launch on Friday comes at critical time for company amid 737 Max controversy, Washington Post

"A successful launch would be a moment of triumph amid the tumult that has dogged the company the past year and the news this week that it will halt production on its troubled 737 Max airplane in January, a decision that could not only harm Boeing's bottom line but also send shock waves through the economy. And [Jim Chilton] issued an emotional call to arms, both defending the company and its workforce while also pushing back against critics and competitors. The email, a copy of which was obtained by The Post, is part of a broader strategy inside Boeing to fight back aggressively that includes a radio ad playing in Washington touting the flight, saying it "is paving the way for the new age of space exploration." "Let's not allow this inaccurate report or the critical media coverage it's generating to become a distraction," Chilton wrote. "Our Starliner teammates have put their hearts and souls into developing a spacecraft that we can all be proud of, and they need all the support they can get from our broader space and launch team in the countdown to first flight."

- Bridenstine Calls B.S. On Boeing Exploration Upper Stage Claim, earlier post

Do you want to fly into space? Do you know someone who does? If so then this book is worth reading. "See You In Orbit? Our Dream of Spaceflight" by Alan Ladwig presents a comprehensive look by a space insider into the history of what space travel means to people. It details how individuals, space agencies, and companies have sought to give more people a chance to visit space.

In essence personal space travel has always been a factor in what we've done in space even if it was impractical. Efforts to expand the cadre of people going into space started before we even sent people into space and have continued ever since. Eventually some of these efforts caught on. To be certain there was always internal resistance as there was resistance from the outside as to who should go into space - and why. Now, nearly 3/4 of a century after we first threw things into space the dream of personally seeing space is as vibrant as ever. But now the ability to realize that dream is within the grasp of people who'd never have been offered a ride before.

Alas, this involves large sums of money and limits who gets to go. The eternal hope is that somehow this first generation of space tourists or spaceflight participants or commercial astronaut-passengers or whatever you want to call them will spur the development of more capabilities. In turn this surge of customer demand will somehow lead to a drop in the price of a ticket to space such that everyday citizens can anticipate a trip into space - for whatever reason propels them to do so. As to when that breakthrough happens, it seems to be getting closer than it has ever been but it is still illusively just out of reach.

Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator, partners with NASA Ames to offer startups access to space technology

"The Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator, announced this week it signed a partnership agreement with NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, to help startup founders connect to selected NASA software and technologies while providing a robust global network of startup resources. The accelerator also announced open applications for the "Founder Institute Advanced Technologies Accelerator" program in Silicon Valley. The new program will help startup founders and entrepreneurs to leverage NASA Technology and and the Founder Institute's Global Network to build companies of the future. Based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 180+ cities and 60+ countries, the Founder Institute has helped its alumni raise over $800 million in funding."

Remarks by Vice President Pence to NASA's Ames Research Center Employees and Guests

"To Dr. Tu and all the innovators and visionaries here who are designing and building that bright future of American leadership in space, it's a great honor to join you here in the beating heart of Silicon Valley at the NASA Ames Research Center. ... "Ames is proof that in today's age, the public and private sectors can achieve far more together than we ever have apart," Pence said. "And I really want to commend each and every one of you for the way that NASA and the way that NASA Ames are engaging the private sector to bring the best of America back to space."

Keith's 8 Dec note: There is no mention of this important news at the Main NASA Ames website, on its news page, or via @NASAAmes on Twitter. NASA HQ does not seem to know anything about this news. Ames sits in the middle of Silicon Valley. Vice President Pence noticed. So did The Founder Institute. The Founder Institute and Pence noted the value of public/private partnerships and the immense potential resident within NASA Ames. Too bad Ames PAO seems to be oblivious to both its location and potential.

Keith's 16 Dec update: Still no mention of this by Ames.

Rocket Lab Opens Launch Complex 2, Confirms U.S. Air Force Payload as First Electron Mission from U.S. Soil, RocketLab

"Rocket Lab, the global leader in small satellite launch, has today officially opened Launch Complex 2, the company's first U.S. launch site, and confirmed the inaugural mission from the site will be a dedicated flight for the U.S. Air Force. Located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 represents a new national launch capability for the United States. Construction on the site began in February 2019, with the site completed and ready to support missions just 10 months later. Designed to support rapid call-up missions, Launch Complex 2 delivers responsive launch capability from home soil for U.S. government small satellites. The ability to deploy satellites to precise orbits in a matter of hours, not months or years, is increasingly important to ensure resilience in space. At a press conference held at NASA Wallops Flight Facility today, the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program has been announced as the first customer scheduled to launch on an Electron vehicle from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2. The dedicated mission will see a single research and development micro-sat launched from the site in Q2 2020."

Keith's note: In case you have not been paying attention. NASA has been promoting commercial space - a lot. There was an announcement today by RocketLab at Wallops Island, Virginia regarding the opening of its new commercial launch facility. The facility is located on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (M.A.R.S.) directly adjacent to NASA Wallops. Great news, right? You'd think that NASA and M.A.R.S. would want to tell people about it. Guess again. No mention is made on its home page or on its news page but they did tweet about it - so its not like there was any prohibition on mentioning the event. Wallops is just too lazy to update its website. No mention is made on the M.A.R.S other than an old post from several months ago. website either. And NASA HQ seems to be totally uninterested - again, despite the agency's big push for commercial space. Just sayin'

Boeing, NASA clash over push for Congress to fund new stage for moon rocket, Washington Post

"In an interview, Bridenstine said that while the upper stage will be a great asset for NASA some day, he said "any plan that requires an EUS to be ready by 2024 is a plan that reduces the probability of success. It's just not going to be ready. ... "All of our contractors lobby Congress to achieve what is in their best interest even though it may not be in the best interest of the nation," Bridenstine said in an interview. "This is another example of that. My job as NASA administrator is to make sure we do what's right for the country, and for the taxpayer.""

Farther, Faster: The Next Stage of America's Moon Rocket Takes Shape, Boeing

"As the first Space Launch System (SLS) core stage completes final functional tests ahead of delivery to NASA, Boeing is building the second core stage while accelerating work on a powerful new upper stage that will boost the rocket's performance for the third moon mission and beyond."

Keith's note: This self-serving puffery by Boeing et al obscures the real costs of things and makes it harder to do an apples:apples reality check in the open at a time when no one really trusts any of the costs or schedules associated with Artemis. Indeed bogus claims like this one by Boeing certainly sounds like 'fake news' ;-)

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine and Doug Loverro attended the Space News award event in Washington today. I asked them about the Moon/Mars plan that the Vice President and the National Space Council asked NASA to deliver in 60 days. Specifically I asked them if it had been delivered and if so could we see it. Bridenstine replied that it had not been delivered as requested and did not indicate when it would be despite it being rather overdue. See "Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update)"

Prior to my question Doug Loverro announced that he was assembling a Baseline Assessment Team to conduct a review to see where the Artemis/SLS/Orion program is and then decide how to move forward. Specifically Loverro said he did not know what the Artemis 1 launch date would be and that this date would only be set once the entire program had been given a look over.

Loverro went on to say that he did not want to see funding as a "crutch" for not meeting the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024. He noted that he "does "not complain about gravity or radiation" and that funding is just another obstacle to overcome. Bridenstine cautioned that just because the date of Artemis 1 may change that does not necessarily mean that all other launch dates will be delayed.

When asked about the budget situation Bridenstine said he thinks that there is a chance that NASA will get areal appropriation by 20 December. If not, he said that he's talking to his lawyers about ways to "move forward in this politically charged environment". NASA has other lunar-focused efforts underway that have adequate funding and it is possible that some of them could be used to further assist the human lander effort.

With regard to the ISS Bridenstine said "We know that the space station can't last forever. What are we doing now to make sure we do not have a gap in LEO since we are not going to build another ISS.

Inevitably the topic of Space Force came up in light of recent agreements in Congress. Both Bridenstine and Loverro are strong supporters of Space Force and it showed in their comments. At one point, Loverro sought to link what he's doing at NASA with what Space Force will be doing at DoD: "I am going to the Moon in 2024 and I do not want there to be any space pirates out there". He was kidding. I think. But wouldn't you want a few pirates in the mix? Just sayin'.

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

"... the CCP's flight assumptions were flawed because they failed to take into consideration a normal flight cadence and the five Soyuz seats NASA planned to purchase from Boeing. ... "NASA's crew access analysis also did not include the five Soyuz seats the Agency was planning to purchase from Boeing for flights in 2017 through 2019. " ... "According to several NASA officials, a significant consideration for paying Boeing such a premium was to ensure the contractor continued as a second crew transportation provider. CCP officials cited NASA's guidance to maintain two U.S. commercial crew providers to ensure redundancy in crew transportation as part of the rationale for approving the purchase of all four missions at higher prices. "Additionally, senior CCP officials believed that due to financial considerations, Boeing could not continue as a commercial crew provider unless the contractor received the higher prices."

Boeing Statement Regarding OIG Report on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, Boeing

"We strongly disagree with the report's conclusions about CST-100 Starliner pricing and readiness, and we owe it to the space community and the American public to share the facts the Inspector General [IG] missed," said Jim Chilton, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Launch. "Each member of the Boeing team has a personal stake in the safety, quality and integrity of what we offer our customers, and since Day One, the Starliner team has approached this program with a commitment to design, develop and launch a vehicle that we and NASA can be proud of."

... Through fair and open negotiations with NASA in a competitive environment, we offered single-mission pricing for post-certification missions (PCMs) 3-6, thus enabling additional flexibility and schedule resiliency to enhance future mission readiness. This single-mission pricing for PCM 3-6 was included in the pricing table in the original contract. That original pricing table remains unchanged. Contrary to the conclusion in the IG report, Boeing contends that the benefits in shorter lead time and flexibility in adjusting launch dates are well worth the higher price in the table.

... Boeing rejects the average seat price assessment in the IG report. Boeing will fly the equivalent of a fifth passenger in cargo for NASA, so the per-seat pricing should be considered based on five seats rather than four. For proprietary, competitive reasons Boeing does not disclose specific pricing information, but we are confident our average seat pricing to NASA is below the figure cited."

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

"Boeing and SpaceX each face significant safety and technical challenges with parachutes, propulsion, and launch abort systems that need to be resolved prior to receiving NASA authorization to transport crew to the ISS. The complexity of these issues has already caused at least a 2-year delay in both contractors' development, testing, and qualification schedules and may further delay certification of the launch vehicles by an additional year.

Consequently, given the amount, magnitude, and unknown nature of the technical challenges remaining with each contractor's certification activities, CCP will continue to be challenged to establish realistic launch dates. Furthermore, final vehicle certification for both contractors will likely be delayed at least until summer 2020 based on the number of ISS and CCP certification requirements that remain to be verified and validated. In order to optimize development timelines, NASA continues to accept deferrals or changes to components and capabilities originally planned to be demonstrated on each contractor's uncrewed test flights. Taken together, these factors may elevate the risk of a significant system failure or add further delays to the start of commercial crewed flights to the ISS."

Keith's note: Over the past few years I have submitted regular FOIA requests to NASA HQ for documents related to how NASA and CASIS interact with one another. Specifically I asked for the quarterly reports submitted by CASIS to NASA. Below is a collection of these reports. For the most part they are un-redacted. Sometimes they are - alas the redactions are not consistent over the entire collection with somethings blacked out on one report only to be in the clear on another. Since CASIS' perfomance is currently being reviewed by a panel chartered by NASA HQ I thought his information - along with other things I have posted about CASIS over the years - would be of interest to the review panel.

FY 19 Quarters [1] [2]
FY 18 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 17 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 16 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 15 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 14 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 13 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 12 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]

Keith's note: The pad abort test of Boeing Starliner was technically a success today. The system quickly removed the capsule from the danger zone and landed exactly as planned but one of the three main parachutes did not deploy. The NASA and Boeing TV announcers repeatedly commented that 2 deployed parachutes are within the safety requirements of the system, that this is all about redundancy, and that a safe landing could have happened with one parachute. But one of the three main parachutes failed to deploy. Given previous parachute problems, it is possible that additional testing will be required before Starliner who can be launched. Boeing was originally not planning to do a live broadcast of this test until NASA Administrator Bridenstine told them that they were going to do it.

Keith's update: NASA's post- test press release says "Two of three Starliner's main parachutes deployed just under half a minute into the test, and the service module separated from the crew module a few seconds later. Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test perimeters and crew safety."

However Boeing's post-test press release makes no mention whatsoever of the parachute failure. Its a good thing that Jim Bridnestine directed Boeing to televise the test - otherwise we might not have known about the chute failure.

Keith's second update: Boeing posted this update "Boeing statement regarding CST-100 Starliner pad abort test" saying "We will review the data to determine how all of the systems performed, including the parachute deployment sequence. We did have a deployment anomaly, not a parachute failure." This is typical aerospace post-event mumbo jumbo. No one knows what happened so it is called an "anomaly". I get that. But the parachute failed to deploy. We could all see that it failed to deploy. This update was not emailed to the same distribution list Boeing uses for press releases. Also, the earlier press release (that makes no mention of any parachute issues) is still online at Boeing. Anyone who sees this press release or the version sent out to the media may be totally unaware that the parachute failed to deploy on a vehicle designed to carry people.

NASA TV to Air Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test

"NASA and Boeing will broadcast live coverage of the CST-100 Starliner Pad Abort Test on Monday, Nov. 4, from Launch Complex 32 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The test is scheduled for 9 a.m. EST (7 a.m. MST) with a three-hour test window. Live coverage is targeted to start at 8:50 a.m., on NASA Television and the agency's website. Coverage will be adjusted as necessary within the window."

NASA should shed lesser priorities to achieve a 2024 moon landing, Op Ed, Doug Cooke

"NASA should focus major new development on an integrated lander/ascent vehicle launched on an SLS 1B. With Orion launched on a separate SLS, the lunar landing would be achieved with these two flights, and at most one commercial launch with additional fuel. This is a much simpler approach with a significantly higher probability of success."

Keith's note: On one hand Boeing consultant Doug Cooke wants to kill Gateway because it adds complexity and increases the number of points where a failure could derail the Moon 2024 thing. No argument there. He then goes on to push for the SLS variant that features Boeing's Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) - and requires more SLS flights. The net result is likely going to be a wash when it comes to cost. And given the SLS program's chronic inability to do anything on time or within budget, there are likely to be SLS and EUS issues that will also cause the 2024 deadline to be missed.

Or, NASA could adopt an open source, multi-path, modular approach relying on existing commercial launchers, and standard interfaces. And if you have to build SLS then use it as a cargo vehicle only. If a large effort is to be mounted on the Moon and cislunar space then propellant depots should be thrown into the mix. Relying on SLS in an architecture for sending Americans and cargo back to the Moon is, itself, the prime risk factor so long as it remains in the critical path - whether it is 2024 or 2028 that you are aiming for.

Its anyone's guess right now as to how the election will turn out. As we've all seen, when a new Administration arrives they have a strong tendency to fiddle with the previous Administration's space goals. Adopting flexibility in terms of launch vehicles and space assets is the best way to assure that something will survive a potential transition and put people on the Moon. But sticking with a program that is utterly reliant upon SLS - a program that gets more expensive and extends its target date with every passing day - is not the best way to assure that we'll be heading back to the Moon. And if this whole Moon thing is supposedly being done to get humans to Mars sooner, then the need to be more flexible and creative is underscored.

Then again Jeff and Elon may just make this whole NASA Moon/Mars thing moot.

NASA paid SpaceX for safety review after Musk smoked pot, Politico

"The episode raises a number of questions, said Pete Garrettson, a recently retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and space strategist. "As a taxpayer why would I pay when I don't have to?" he asked. "If I was Boeing, I also would have said, 'Why am I being punished without the same compensation?' But if the aerospace giant wanted NASA to cover the costs of the review, he added, it may have faced uncomfortable questions about why its costs for the Commercial Crew Program are so much higher than SpaceX's. "If I was at NASA," Garrettson added, "I'd say, 'How much was your contract [for the Commercial Crew Program] padded compared to SpaceX?'"

"The idea of NASA ever giving SpaceX preferential treatment over Boeing is simply giggle-inducing to industry insiders," said Greg Autry, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California who served on the Trump administration's NASA transition team. "At every step of the way Boeing got more [money] in the [Commercial Crew development] program. Far, far more than $5 million. Even discussing $5 million in this context is silly."

Keith's note: This whole story is goofy. The initial investigation was highly questionable to say the least - but when space industry "experts" inject conspiracy mongering and start to conflate Boeing commercial crew costs with a routine workplace drug compliance review at SpaceX you gotta ask yourself if these experts can see the forest through the pot smoke.

That Giant Asteroid of Gold Won't Make Us Richer

"Rejoice, people of Earth! News outlets are reporting that NASA is planning to visit an asteroid made of gold and other precious metals! At current prices, the minerals contained in asteroid 16 Psyche are said to be worth $700 quintillion -- enough to give everyone on the planet $93 billion. We're all going to be richer than Jeff Bezos! OK, now for the bad news: This isn't going to happen. Yes, 16 Psyche and other asteroids will probably be mined for their metals. But once those metals start hitting the market in large quantities, they're unlikely to be precious for much longer. As any introductory economics student knows, price is a function of relative scarcity -- flood the market with gold, and it will go from being a rarity to being a common decoration. Supply goes up, price goes down."

Jeff Bezos's Master Plan, The Atlantic

"Bezos is unabashed in his fanaticism for Star Trek and its many spin-offs. He has a holding company called Zefram, which honors the character who invented warp drive. He persuaded the makers of the film Star Trek Beyond to give him a cameo as a Starfleet official. He named his dog Kamala, after a woman who appears in an episode as Picard's "perfect" but unattainable mate. As time has passed, Bezos and Picard have physically converged. Like the interstellar explorer, portrayed by Patrick Stewart, Bezos shaved the remnant strands on his high-gloss pate and acquired a cast-iron physique. A friend once said that Bezos adopted his strenuous fitness regime in anticipation of the day that he, too, would journey to the heavens. When reporters tracked down Bezos's high-school girlfriend, she said, "The reason he's earning so much money is to get to outer space."

Keith's 10 Oct update: I just got an answer from NASA PAO that there will be no media dial-in for offsite news media. It took them 3 days to respond.

NASA Administrator to Visit SpaceX Headquarters

"Following the tour, SpaceX will host a media availability with Bridenstine, SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - the crew for the Demo-2 flight test to the space station. The media availability will be streamed live on Bridenstine's Twitter account: https://twitter.com/jimbridenstine?lang=en."

Keith's note: I sent 2 inquires to PAO and SpaceX - yesterday and today - asking if off-site media can ask questions. No reply. Funny how PAO can use Jim Bridenstine's iPhone to send video of this out over his twitter account but no one knows how to have a speaker phone or take questions by email.

Keith's update: I have not heard anything at all about the time of this event or whether offsite media will be able to participate in the last minute thing. I used to do live webcasts from Everest Base Camp almost daily - for a month - a decade ago. So how hard can this be. Just wondering.

Keith's additional update: Well NASA quietly updated the online version of the release sent out 2 days ago but didn't bother to email media a revised version: "Editor's Note: This media advisory was updated on Oct. 8 to reflect the live stream of the media event now is scheduled for 5 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. PDT) Thursday, Oct. 10." Still no information as to whether there will be offsite media access to the web event which was announced at the last minute. But at least the world is in balance once again:

Keith's note: The ISPCS - International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight - is being held this week. They do not webcast anything and other than tweets this event is held in an echo chamber with the usual suspects engaged in choir practice. Its great that all of these rides into space will soon be available for purchase. But so long as short suborbital hops cost as much as a house, several college educations, or two years of care for an Alzheimer's patient, this is just going to be a limited market catering to the elite. The only exception to this seems to be the SpaceX Starship ... let's see where that goes.

CASIS Update

Keith's note: According to LinkedIn CASIS has a new Director of Programs and Partnerships - Gary Rodrigue. Based on his LinkedIn page Rodrigue apparently has zero space experience. No surprise. CASIS hires lots of people with no space experience to run the place. Oh yes - Rodrigue worked at IBM for nearly 20 years. Christine M. Kretz, CASIS Vice President of Programs and Partnerships worked for IBM for nearly 20 years. Just a coincidence.

The person who was supposed to replace former CASIS PR guy Brian Talbot, Chief Communications Officer John Murphy, is out of his job at CASIS. So is Chief Strategic Officer Rick Leach according to sources. CASIS CEO Joe Vockley is still on full pay - but without any current CASIS responsibilities.

The new NASA HQ liaison to CASIS, Doug Comstock, met with the CASIS board and Acting CEO Ken Shields last week. In essence, the NASA review of CASIS performance is going to take a while - longer than the 12 weeks mentioned in the 13 August 2019 NASA memo and CASIS is being told to stand down (the so-called "strategic pause") from new initiatives and focus on the payloads already in the pipeline.

This is not the best news for NASA's plans to move out on the commercialization of LEO on ISS and then move to cis-lunar space. On the other hand, taking the time to take a close look at CASIS, then sit back, and come up with a strategic plan to fix things, is a good idea. Alas, if NASA cannot get LEO commercialization to work on an existing, fully-operational and mature platform like ISS close to home, then the chances that they can make the whole commercial thing work all the way out in cis-lunar space are questionable. And of course, if the election changes out the current Administration then all of this will get a hard reset in early 2021.

ISS is too valuable a resource to waste. Stay tuned.

Letter From NASA JSC to CASIS Board Of Directors Regarding Cooperative Agreement No. NNH11CD70A/80JSC018M0005, NASA, Earlier post

"The NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration & Operations is requesting a strategic pause in CASIS activities relative to changes in the CASIS PI in order to enable NASA to establish an Independent Review Team to assess the underlying Cooperative Agreement to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth. NASA anticipates that this assessment will be completed within 12 weeks after the team has been established."

- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, Earlier post
- Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities, Earlier post
- Crisis at CASIS: New Opportunities or Looming End Game?, Earlier post

That NASA/SpaceX Thing

Elon Musk: Crew Dragon spacecraft for NASA could fly astronauts in 3 to 4 months, CNN

"SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule could be ready to fly NASA astronauts in three to four months. It would mark the first time humans have launched to orbit from US soil in almost a decade. CEO and chief engineer Elon Musk told CNN Business' Rachel Crane that SpaceX is "going as fast as we can" to get the overdue spacecraft, which is designed to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, ready for flight. Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said in an interview on Monday that he is not confident in that timeline. ... Bridenstine referred to Crew Dragon's explosion as a "catastrophic failure," and said one of the reasons he's skeptical of the idea that Crew Dragon will be ready in the near future is because the updated emergency abort system "has not been qualified" and has not been tested."

NASA Hands Elon Musk a Reality Check, The Atlantic

"Koren: After the big presentation on Saturday, a reporter asked Elon to respond to your tweet. Elon said, "did he say Commercial Crew or SLS?" [SLS stands for the Space Launch System, the NASA capsule and rocket that is meant to bring astronauts to the moon.] What do you make of that?

Bridenstine: Well, I don't think that's helpful. Commercial Crew is about getting to low-Earth orbit. We are spending $85 million every time we have to buy a Russian Soyuz seat to get to the International Space Station."

What's going on with Elon Musk and the head of NASA?, Quartz

"More shocking to observers of the space program is Bridenstine's decision to call out the chief executive of a NASA contractor before a public event. Boeing, the other company building a spacecraft for the commercial crew program, is also well behind schedule on that project, as well as on the SLS rocket it is building for NASA. Bridenstine has never challenged its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, ahead of a public appearance. Asked if Bridenstine could clarify where he saw SpaceX falling short or what problems needed to be addressed, a NASA spokesperson said no further comment would be forthcoming."

Um, Which Rocket Is Delayed?

Keith's note: Too bad NASA can't buy robots like this. Instead they build clunky things like Valkyrie and Robonaut in-house - tethered droids that break often and don't do much of anything. This robot can try out for the Olympics. At least the Russian's FEDOR space droid who just came back from a flight to ISS knows how to shoot a gun. Just sayin'

Earlier posts

How SpaceX Is Perplexing NASA

Keith's note: The other day I had someone of senior stature with decades of aerospace engineering experience at NASA ask me which of several pictures of Starship floating around social media were real and which are faked. One image was tweeted by Elon Musk at Boca Chica. Another tweeted pic was a deftly done Photoshop image of what Starship will look like when it is all done in a week or so. The person I spoke with told me that they had a problem separating Photoshop from reality while following your progress.

My response: "This is what happens when rapid prototyping happens in plain sight - in real time. Would NASA ever build a rocketship outside? Would NASA ever build a rocket in a few months - and then fly it - with a live webstream? Why are they photoshopping it? Because they can't wait to see it fly. Do you see people camped outside of SLS assembly sites eagerly awaiting the addition of every little piece? Have I answered your question?"

NASA Marshall to Host Small Business Alliance Meeting Sept. 19 at U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville

"Officials from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will share the latest contract opportunities with representatives of large and small businesses, NASA prime contractors and subcontractors at a Marshall Small Business Alliance meeting Sept. 19 at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, part of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Registration will begin at 7 a.m., followed by the event from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m."

Keith's note: Of course none of this will be streamed live or offered as a dial-in for the media. Its easy to do. A laptop is all that is needed - and the willingness on NASA's part to do so. MSFC is where SLS is built. Its also the place where the human lunar lander will be managed. Lots opportunities - nationally - for small businesses to participate. Last week at JSC there was an event with the states comptroller about the economic impact of NASA in Texas. NASA made no effort for media or small businesses inable to attend or located in other states to listen in to the event. If you go to 2019 Deep Space Exploration Systems Supplier Locations and click on Alabama 106 suppliers are located, But that's just Alabama. If you were to look at SLS program suppliers then there's hundreds of suppliers across the U.S. contributing to SLS and/or Orion.

While the NASA MSFC home page just added a post (for an event starting in 36 hours) There is no mention of this event on the nasa.gov calendar, the NASA exploration systems page. Once again, as was the case with the JSC event, you would think that NASA would want the local, state, and national level economic impact of the SLS/Orion and Artemis programs to be as widely known as possible. NASA is going to need all of the support it can muster when it comes time to push for funding in Congress. Instead, all that NASA does is to post things at the last minute and make these events and discussions as difficult as possible to hear.

- JSC Is Not Very Excited About NASA's Economic Impact on Texas (Update), earlier post
- JSC Goes Out Of Its Way To Hide Good News (Update), earlier post

Keith's update: I got another response from Barton Bollfrass at Opifex Global and their commercial astronaut training company in response to questions I submitted after they contacted me about doing a possible story. (Posted below)

I really do not want to dump on the enthusiasm that these folks have for what they want to do. Everyone should have a chance to become an astronaut. There many paths to get there. I have had microgravity, centrifuge, construction in remote hazardous locations, and expeditionary training. These folks claim to often a different approach. I just think they need to do a little more home work on their curriculum an campus - based on what I can see in public view. Perhaps we will hear more from them in the future.

"Keith, Apologies for the delayed response. We are a small team at present and have been working to add content to our website. We listened to your suggestion and posted a new website today. Here are the responses to your second set of questions, and thanks for your continued interest in what we're doing. Below you will find the answers to the follow-up questions. "

Additional Questions and answers below

NASA: A Texas Institution with a Large Economic Impact, Texas Comptroller

"The Johnson Space Center (JSC) makes a $4.7 billion annual impact on the Texas economy and supports more than 52,000 jobs, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said today in a visit to the NASA facility as part of his Good for Texas Tour. JSC currently operates three facilities in Texas covering nearly 1,700 acres. It's the site of Mission Control, which manages manned space missions, including the International Space Station, and serves as training center for the agency's 38 active astronauts and 11 astronaut candidates."

Keith's note: Here is the Texas Comptroller's report on NASA's Economic Impact on Texas. You have to dig through their website to find it. Alas JSC does not provide a link to the report on its website.

Keith's update: It took a while but JSC added a link to the report. I just did a news search. The first two results are press releases I posted on SpaceRef and an article by Aviation Week. That's it. Otherwise no one else (as mentioned below) is paying attention.

NASA's Chief Financial Officer is the former State Treasurer of Arizona. You'd think that he'd want to tell people about this. He is not. Given all of the rah rah rhetoric coming from NASA and the National Space Council on the economic potential of space you'd think that NASA HQ would mention this report. They do not.

You'd think that the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation , the Aerospace Industries Association, etc. would mention it. They do not. Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, Rep. Brian Babin, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson make no mention either.

JSC Goes Out Of Its Way To Hide Good News (Update), earlier post

"This is silly. After the decision to put the Human Lander responsibility in Huntsville, NASA wants everyone to know how much of an impact NASA spending has in Texas. But unless you can make it to a room at JSC next Thursday you won't be able to hear what is said. Johnson PAO apparently does not know how - or does not care to provide a simple dial-in for media - or an audio or video feed for people elsewhere to listen/watch. One would think that NASA would understand that this sort of news, while pertaining to Texas, has applicability to the region and can also raise awareness in other states with regard to NASA's economic footprint. Given the sheer number of vendors for Artemis and other NASA programs, the entire country benefits."

Report: The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy: Report on the Space Futures Workshop, Air Force Space Command 5 September 2019

"Key conclusions reached were:

- The U.S. must recognize that in 2060, space will be a major engine of national political, economic, and military power for whichever nations best organize and operate to exploit that potential.
- The U.S. faces growing competition from allies, rivals, and adversaries for leadership in the exploration and exploitation of space.
- China is executing a long-term civil, commercial, and military strategy to explore and economically develop the cislunar domain with the explicit aim of displacing the U.S. as the leading space power. Other nations are developing similar national strategies.
- A failure to remain a leading space power will place U.S. national power at risk. To avert this, the U.S. coalition must promote and optimize the combined civil, military, and commercial exploitation of space to best serves the nation's interests.
- The U.S. military must define and execute its role in promoting, exploiting, and defending the expanded military, civil, and commercial U.S. activities and human presence in space."

Larger image

Hooray: Space Command / Space Force Is Here!, earlier post

New documents reveal SpaceX's plans for launching Mars-rocket prototypes from South Texas, Business Insider

"New FAA documents sent to Business Insider provide a glimpse into SpaceX's plan to develop a disruptive new rocket system over the next two to three years. Every day at Boca Chica -- a hot, humid, narrow, and sandy strip of clay at the southernmost tip of Texas -- SpaceX workers toil over the rocket company's big project, called Starship. Elon Musk, the company's founder and CEO, envisions the vehicle as a shiny steel two-stage launch system that may stand nearly 400 feet tall and reduce the cost of access to space by 100- to 1,000-fold by having fully reusable hardware. It may be capable of sending massive payloads into orbit, humans to the moon and Mars, and scores of passengers around the world in half an hour."

Starhopper Does A Big Hop

Letter From NASA JSC to CASIS Board Of Directors Regarding Cooperative Agreement No. NNH11CD70A/80JSC018M0005

"Pursuant to Paragraph 4.6, Change in Principal Investigator or Scope, of the subject cooperative agreement, the CASIS decision to change or significantly reduce the availability of services of the International Space Station National Laboratory Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Joe Vockley (Cooperative Agreement Paragraph 3.1.g), is not approved at this time. The NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration & Operations is requesting a strategic pause in CASIS activities relative to changes in the CASIS PI in order to enable NASA to establish an Independent Review Team to assess the underlying Cooperative Agreement to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth. NASA anticipates that this assessment will be completed within 12 weeks after the team has been established."

Keith's original 15 August note: Joe Vockely is still on full salary but has no defined operational responsibilities at CASIS at this time. His continued involvement at CASIS, long term, is not clear. CASIS COO Kenneth Schields is now the Acting CEO of CASIS. The chairman of the CASIS board, Philip Schein has been removed and two board members are currently acting jointly to run the board's activities. NASA Administrator Bridenstine has identified the chair of this CASIS review team as being Elizabeth R. Cantwell, the Senior Vice President of Research and Innovation at the University of Arizona. However the members of this team or details of the format or activities of the team have yet to be released.

Keith's 19 August update: According to Dr. Schein he had clearly stated his intention to retire from the CASIS board several months ago after 5 years of service. He then formally submitted a letter of resignation to the CASIS board. He was not voted off of the board or "removed" as we previously reported. Our original posting was based on multiple sources within CASIS. Alas, CASIS itself simply refuses to respond to media inquiries. We regret this error and posted this update within minutes of being informed by Dr. Schein.

The phrase "strategic pause" has not been defined by NASA other than to refer to efforts associated with "changes in the CASIS PI". As such one might logically conclude that this means that CASIS staff will continue with 99% of the routine payload tasks they have - tasks unaffected by who the CASIS PI is.

Memo from NASA HEOMD AA Ken Bowersox To NASA HEOMD Staff Regarding CASIS/ISS National Lab Changes

"1. The heads of the Science Mission Directorate and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate will jointly commission an Independent Review to assess whether the ISS National Laboratory is on mission and appropriately organized and resourced to improve life here on Earth.

2. For the duration of the review, NASA's liaison to the ISS National Lab will move from HEOMD's ISS Division to the low Earth orbit commercialization activity currently being led by Doug Comstock. I appreciate all of your efforts as we work to develop the low Earth orbit economy. Feel free to stop by my office if you have any questions."

Keith's note: this review is a dual effort by HEOMD and SMD which underscores the overlapping interested between the directorates in terms of public/private activities on ISS and beyond. It also makes car that ISS Director Sam Scimemi is no longer the NASA liaison to CASIS.

- Crisis at CASIS: New Opportunities or Looming End Game?, earlier post
- NASA Asked CASIS To Stop Paying Its Board Of Directors, earlier post
- Earlier CASIS posts

NASA to seek independent review of ISS National Laboratory

"However, a NASA letter to CASIS, dated Aug. 13 and obtained by SpaceNews, called for a "strategic pause in CASIS activities" while the independent review panel works "to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth." The letter estimated the that review would take 12 weeks to complete. The letter also referenced a request by CASIS "to change or significantly reduce the availability of services" of Joseph Vockley, who is president and chief executive of CASIS and serves as principal investigator for NASA's grant to CASIS to operate the ISS national lab. NASA said it was deferring that request until after "this strategic pause and assessment." A source familiar with the situation said that the CASIS board recently sought to remove Vockley, a move that would require the concurrence of NASA."

Keith's note: I am told that the acting CEO of CASIS is CASIS COO Ken Shields. Sources also report that some final management decisions affecting senior leadership at CASIS - ones that require NASA concurrence - were put on hold last night. So these letters may have been superseded to some extent. Stay tuned.

Blue Origin protests launch contract rules as it competes with SpaceX, ULA, Northrop Grumman, Geekwire

"Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture is protesting the rules of the game for awarding future national security launch contracts, while continuing to play against SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Northrop Grumman. All four companies have submitted bids in the second phase of an Air Force competition aimed at selecting vendors for launches in the 2022-2026 time frame. In the first phase of the competition, the Air Force said it would set aside as much as $2.3 billion to support the development of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket, ULA's Vulcan rocket and Northrop Grumman's OmegA rocket. All those rockets are scheduled to enter service in the 2021 time frame. However, the Air Force said it would reduce the field to two companies next year. Moreover, SpaceX - which didn't qualify for development funds in Phase 1 - is joining the field for Phase 2 with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, both of which are already flying."

Keith's note: Last week after the conclusion of the ISS Research and Development Conference in Atlanta, the chairman of the CASIS board of directors stepped down. The board is now being run on an interim basis by several other board members. Changes in CASIS senior management are likely. Further changes at CASIS are also to be expected. There are many skilled and dedicated people at CASIS who are up to the task of fixing things - so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Meanwhile CASIS stakeholders at NASA, in Congress, industry, and the scientific community are all talking about what should be done to fix things at CASIS and the ISS.

NASA is currently proposing the construction of a mini-space station (Gateway) in cis-lunar space that will be operated by NASA with the assistance of the private sector. If NASA cannot make public/private, commercial/scientific efforts function successfully in LEO on board a fully operational and well-understood platform like ISS then the chances that NASA can do the same thing a quarter of a million miles away - building upon ISS experience - are questionable to say the least.

Personally I think that the ISS is the 'undiscovered country' and that we have yet to fully tap its potential. Hopefully NASA and its various stakeholders and partners will take this opportunity to re-examine how utilization of ISS is conducted, fix what is broken, and build upon what works. A fully enabled and utilized ISS can be a crucial stepping stone along the path of the human exploration of the solar system. Not making the most of the ISS could result in a large pothole in that path.

NASA Announces US Industry Partnerships to Advance Moon, Mars Technology

"SpaceX will work with Glenn and Marshall to advance technology needed to transfer propellant in orbit, an important step in the development of the company's Starship space vehicle."

Draft NASA Environmental Assessment for the SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy Launch Vehicle at Kennedy Space Center (KSC)

"Purpose and Need: NASA's purpose and need for the Proposed Action is to develop and implement formal agreements with SpaceX for use of NASA assets and to provide services and commodities to enable Starship/Super Heavy launches. Commercial use of KSC real property supports NASA's mandate to encourage the fullest commercial use of space, supports the goals of the National Aeronautics and Space Act, and advances the National Space Policy that federal agencies shall ensure that U.S. Government space technology and infrastructure is made available for commercial use on a reimbursable, noninterference, and equitable basis. The need for the Proposed Action also aligns with NASA's Space Act Agreement and the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation's mission, which is to support the U.S. goal of encouraging activities by the private sector to strengthen and expand U.S. space transportation infrastructure. Additionally, the Proposed Action will support NASA in its continued mission to expand commercial uses of space and the space industry by facilitating SpaceX efforts to strengthen United States (U.S.) space transportation and launch infrastructure. It would also provide greater mission capability to NASA and SpaceX by continuing the development of ever evolving next generation launch vehicles and spacecraft. Additionally, the Proposed Action may support NASA in meeting the U.S. goal of near-term lunar exploration."

"Operation - The SpaceX goal is to eventually launch Starship/Super Heavy approximately 24 times per year. As Starship/Super Heavy launches gradually increase to 24 launches per year, the number of launches of the Falcon would decrease. The Starship and Super Heavy would exceed the lift capabilities of the Falcon Heavy. Due to the higher lift capability, Starship/Super Heavy could launch more payloads and reduce the overall launch cadence when compared to Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. This would increase the cost effectiveness of the space industry. Starship/Super Heavy missions would include Lunar and Mars destinations, currently not supported by any other space vehicle, increased satellite payload missions, and human spaceflight. Missions could range from tests of the launch vehicle and ship, to cargo delivery. The manifest is incomplete at this time but would evolve as the rocket develops. There could be multiple launches in close succession required to support a single mission (i.e., Lunar Program sending multiple payloads to resupply)."

What Is CASIS Up To?

Keith's note: The CASIS-sponsored International Space Station Research And Development Conference is underway in Atlanta. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is speaking at ISSRDC on Wednesday. NASA has not issued any media advisories about Bridenstine's appearance or the conference in general but CASIS did last week.

You'd think that NASA would want people to know that this event is going on. Guess again. If you go to @Space_Station with its 2.7 million followers there has been no mention whatsoever. Nor has there been any mention by @NASA with its 32 million followers. No mention at NASA.gov, or at NASA TV, or at the NASA HQ ISS page.

A few weeks ago NASA went up to New York and did a big thing on Wall Street to promote NASA's plans to open up the ISS to more commercial uses. CASIS was invisible at that event and is not mentioned in any of NASA's new ISS commerce plans. Now NASA is going out of its way to dial back promotion of this ISSRDC event - even though there is a NASA logo all over everything.

If NASA was actually interested in the commercial potential of the ISS then you'd think that they'd use every opportunity to promote the potential of the ISS. But they don't. Why?

Keith's note: In a 7 March 2019 letter from NASA Space Station Director Sam Scimemi to CASIS CEO Joseph Vockley, Scimemi states that NASA believes that "the CASIS Board of Directors size and scope should be reduced. In addition to the subject if the Board's compensation addressed in CASIS Cooperative Agreement Modification 14, we recommend reducing the number and composition of the directors per the enclosed proposed revisions to your bylaws. We also believe that based on CASIS's performance since the NASA letter, dated November 16, 2017, that the ad hoc advisory committees created by the Board, including operations, business development, science and technology, and STEM education, are no longer required. The Board should retrun to a governing manner of corporate management and oversight in order to comply with the CASIS bylaws."

"Recommended Changes to CASIS, Inc. Bylaws

3.02 (2) The Board shall consist of not fewer than five (5) and not more than nine (9) managing directors with at least fifty percent of the exact number to be scientific of which shall be determined from time to time by the board.

3.10 Compensation of Directors. Directors may be reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of their duties to the Corporation in reasonable amounts but will not receive compensation for their service on the Board."

On 10 April 2019 Vockely signed off on a cooperative agreement modification which says that "The CASIS Board of Directors will not be compensated for their time in participating as a Board member (Travel expenses will be paid). This is consistent with best practices for non-profit Boards of Directors".

Hmm ... this change in policy states that not paying board members for their time "is consistent with best practices for non-profit Boards of Directors". If so then why did CASIS pay their board members in the first place? Where they not in compliance with best practices for non-profit Boards of Directors by virtue of making these payments? NASA highlighted issues with the CASIS board in a 16 November 2017 letter. CASIS replied to NASA about the issues raised by NASA on 22 January 2018. Apparently CASIS did not move on these issues thus requiring NASA to send another letter on 7 March 2019.

If you look at the most recent CASIS 990 form filed with the IRS for 2017 Part VII (pages 7 and 8) "Compensation of Officers, Directors,Trustees, Key Employees, Highest Compensated Employees, and Independent Contractors" you will see what the CASIS board members are paid an average of $40,000 a year and senior members of CASIS staff are paid from $200,000 to over $300,000.

Eleven CASIS board members are listed in the latest 990 form. With one exception the board members were paid between $38,000 and $41,000 a year for 8.00 hours a week of work. For the sake of analysis, let's assume an average of $40,000 a year for those 10 people serving on the CASIS board. If you assume a 52 week year that's 416 hours per year or $96/hr. If you assume a 2,080 hour annual work year that rate is equal to an annual salary of $200,000.

In an earlier story from 2015 "Examining Staff and Board Member Salaries at CASIS" I noted that the 2013 990 form showed that CASIS board members were paid an average of $49,750 a year for 6.00 hours of work a week or $159.45 an hour. This hourly rate is what someone with a salary of $330,000 earns. So ... CASIS board members took a big pay cut. But they were still being paid as of the last IRS filing.

The current board listed by CASIS shows 9 board members - the maximum number that NASA requested. Given that the 990 form filed by CASIS claims that these board members work 8 hours a week (i.e. one work day) is significant. That means they devote 20% of a standard work week - every week - to CASIS. Exactly what that work is or how it is confirmed as having been accomplished is not mentioned by CASIS. I have been on the board of directors of two space-related non-profit organizations (no compensation whatsoever) so I have an idea what is involved in board responsibilities and why people serve on these boards.

At this level of payment and expected workload CASIS board members were contributing significant labor to CASIS more akin to what a consultant would offer - beyond what you might expect a board member to be offering. That point is now moot since the board members are doing it for free - assuming that CASIS has complied with NASA's request, that is. Of course there is also the question of whether the board's responsibilities have changed now that they are not being paid - or if they are still working one day a week for CASIS. I'd ask - but CASIS does not respond to any NASAWatch inquiries.

But wait: there is a press event with Jim Bridenstine and Joe Vockley on Wednesday at the ISSRDC event. Alas, offsite media can only use social media to suggest questions.

- 17 November 2017 Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities
- 22 January 2018 Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities
- Earlier posts about CASIS

Elon Musk says SpaceX could land on the moon in 2 years, Business Insider

"We recently asked Jeff DeWit, NASA's chief financial officer, about Musk's statements for an upcoming episode of "Business Insider Today," a top daily news show on Facebook. DeWit, who's in charge of helping the agency make the most cost-effective decisions, said he thought that the odds of SpaceX pulling off a private lunar landing with Starship before NASA can return there "are slim," but he did not rule out the possibility of a NASA-SpaceX partnership on a moon mission. In fact, he underscored the possibility. "More power to him. I hope he does it," DeWit said of Musk. "If he can do it, we'll partner with them, and we'll get there faster." He added: "This isn't about us doing it -- it's about America doing it. He's [got] an American company. I'd love to partner with him and get that done." SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment about DeWit's statements."

- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson [statement]

"I want to commend our commercial space companies that are making such impressive progress. There's not a week that goes by without reading about a significant milestone in a commercial program, the deployment of a new capability in space, or an innovative plan that is attracting commercial investment."

- Rep. Kendra Horn [statement]
- Bhavya Lal, IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute [statement]
- Carissa Christensen, Bryce Space and Technology [statement]
- Eric W. Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation [statement]
- Mike French, Aerospace Industries Association [statement]
- Laura Montgomery, Catholic University's Columbus School [statement]


Starhopper Did Not Hop

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Static Fire Test Anomaly Investigation Statement

"Initial data reviews indicated that the anomaly occurred approximately 100 milliseconds prior to ignition of Crew Dragon's eight SuperDraco thrusters and during pressurization of the vehicle's propulsion systems. Evidence shows that a leaking component allowed liquid oxidizer - nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) - to enter high-pressure helium tubes during ground processing. A slug of this NTO was driven through a helium check valve at high speed during rapid initialization of the launch escape system, resulting in structural failure within the check valve. The failure of the titanium component in a high-pressure NTO environment was sufficient to cause ignition of the check valve and led to an explosion."

Virgin Galactic and Social Capital Hedosophia Announce Merger to Create the World's First and Only Publicly Traded Commercial Human Spaceflight Company, Virgin Galactic and Social Capital Hedosophia

"VIRGIN GALACTIC ("VG") and SOCIAL CAPITAL HEDOSOPHIA ("SCH"), a public investment vehicle sponsored by Social Capital and Hedosophia, announced that the boards of directors of each company have approved a definitive agreement under which VG and SCH will merge, with the current shareholders of SCH expected to own up to approximately 49% of the combined company. Upon closing of the transaction, which is expected in the second half of 2019, VG will be introduced as the first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company."

Marc's note: Not that I want to quibble with the marketing people who put this together, but you could argue that Boeing, which will soon be sending astronauts to space, is also a publicly traded company that includes human spaceflight as part of their product offering. And ULA, the launch provider, is jointly owned by Boeing.

Fire at SpaceX Starship facility in Cocoa causes damages to equipment, Florida Today

"Emergency crews responded to a SpaceX prototyping facility in Cocoa Monday afternoon, putting out a small fire that caused damages to equipment and infrastructure but no injuries."

Marc's note: Emre Kelly (@EmreKelly) of Florida Today is reporting there is about $50-$100K in damages.

NASA commercial Crew Program: Schedule Uncertainty Persists for Start of Operational Missions to the International Space

"As of May 2019, both contractors had delayed certification nine times, equating to more than 2 years from their original contracts (see figure). This includes several delays since GAO last reported in July 2018. ... NASA's ability to process certification data packages for its two contractors continues to create uncertainty about the timing of certification. The program has made progress conducting these reviews but much work remains. In addition, the program allowed both contractors to delay submitting evidence that they have met some requirements. This deferral has increased the amount of work remaining for the program prior to certification. In February 2019, NASA acknowledged that delays to certification could continue, and announced plans to extend U.S. access to the ISS through September 2020 by purchasing seats on the Russian Soyuz vehicle."

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Application For Special Temporary Authority (FCC)

"This application uses information from previous grant 0068-EX-ST-2019. This STA is necessary for Dragon2 capsule telemetry, tracking, and command, for the upcoming SpaceX Commercial Crew vehicle demonstration mission to the International Space Station. The launch and re-entry licensing authority is the FAA. Launch is also to be coordinated with the Eastern Range. On-orbit rendezvous with the ISS is to be coordinated with the NASA.

Requested Period of Operation
Operation Start Date: 11/01/2019
Operation End Date: 05/01/2020"

Bengaluru firm to build moon lander for Nasa 2020 mission, Times of India

"Confirming the development, Team Indus engineer Ananth Ramesh told TOI: "Yes, we will be building the lander. It is most likely to be built in India too." Team Indus CEO Rahul Narayan was in the US to sign the contract documents on Thursday."

America's first private moon lander will be engineered in India, Quartz

"Orbit Beyond, which will assemble the lander and spacecraft in Florida, also includes US firms Honeybee Robotics, Advanced Space, Ceres Robotics, and Apollo Fusion to handle tasks including the installation of scientific payloads, maneuvering from the earth to the moon, and operations on the lunar surface."

Keith's 15 June note: If you read articles about OrbitBeyond in the Indian press they all say that the lander will likely be built in India. If you read stories published in the U.S. they say it will be assembled here. This issue apparently came up in last week's space science hearings. OrbitBeyond is a privately held company that was only recently established and looks to be designed as more of a shell company to coordinate the activities of its various team members. The bulk of the hardware is going to be of Indian design. The lingering question is: where will it actually be built?

Keith's 18 June note: OrbitBeyond has not replied to requests on this issue.

Keith's note: Go to 36:50 for a question to Rick Leach from CASIS about their plans for space commercialization and to HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier at 2:08:20 for a question about whether NASA thinks that it can still transfer the total cost of ISS operations to the private sector - as was their plan last year.

HASC Chairman Smith Earmarks $500M Giveaway For SpaceX, Potentially Aborting Air Force Space Plans, Loren Thompson, Forbes

Keith's note: First Thompson goes on a rant against SpaceX:

"Smith's proposed language is Washington politics at its worst. According to the Air Force, if it becomes law U.S. access to critical national security orbits will be endangered, the military will need to rely longer on Russian rocket engines, and the cost of all national-security space missions will increase. As if that were not enough, the Air Force says Smith's proposal would reward an uncompetitive offeror while punishing successful competitors who have been sharing the cost of developing launch vehicles with the government."

Then after he's unloaded on SpaceX, Thompson tosses this little caveat out:

"I should note that the one "traditional" supplier that won an agreement is co-owned by two companies that contribute to my think tank, but that is really beside the point here".

Oh - so his salary at Lexington Institute is paid in part by companies that compete with SpaceX - but he's not biased since this is all "really beside the point". Got it. Funny how Thompson neglects to mention the de facto duopoly between Lockheed Martin and Boeing for EELVs that persisted for a very long time wherein the companies were paid to develop and then maintain their rockets so as to be ready to fly them for DoD. But, again, that is "really beside the point". Just sayin'

Keith's note: Rick Leach sought to downplay any expanded role for CASIS in overt commercial ventures on ISS (or elsewhere) the other day. CASIS had planned to try and turn up the volume on that topic at NASA HQ. CASIS sought to have a bigger role in ISS commercialization in earlier rmeetings with NASA. This is not the first time this has been discussed sources tell me. It was rather clear in comments made last week at NASDAQ and again on Monday at the U.S. Chamber of commerce by Bill Gerstenmaier that CASIS has a limited role - facilitating basic research - both scientific and technical - within the ISS National Laboratory portion of NASA's allotment on ISS. And NASA did not foresee any change in that role. CASIS was not a participant in the NASDAQ event - at NASA's direction. I guess not everyone at CASIS got the message. Stay tuned.

CASIS Clarifies Its Expansion Ambitions, earlier post

CASIS Announces Its Commercial Business Expansion Plans, earlier post (March 2019)

"CASIS Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach made a presentation "Forecasting the 2024-2035 Space Based National Laboratory for Life and Physical Sciences Space Research" at the National Academies of Science Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space meeting yesterday. During that presentation he announced that CASIS aka The ISS National Laboratory has expanded their scope of operations. They are now going to expand well beyond the ISS even though their cooperative agreement with NASA prohibits such an expansion." (larger chart image)

Keith's note: Today CASIS Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach made a presentation at an event hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce titled "Commercial Opportunities Aboard ISS National Laboratory and Future Gateway". I asked Leach about these charts which say "ISSNL can support a broad set of microgravity research platforms: new orbital platforms (crewed, crew-tended, free flyers, cis-lunar); sub-orbital vehicles; parabolic flight; balloons; drop towers; ground-based laboratories; and big data platforms". Specifically I asked how CASIS planned to proceed with this strategy in light of NASA's recent ISS commercialization plan and the fact that neither the CASIS charter or its cooperative agreement with NASA specify that CASIS can do these things. Leach replied that this chart was meant to show what CASIS could possibly do and that it would need new agreements and buy in from its stakeholders. Full audio below:

NASA to Announce Commercial Opportunities at International Space Station

"NASA will announce the agency's plans to open the International Space Station to expanded commercial activities at 10 a.m. EDT Friday, June 7, at Nasdaq in New York City. The news conference will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website. Participants in the news briefing are: Jeff DeWit, chief financial officer, NASA Headquarters, Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Robyn Gatens, deputy director, International Space Station, NASA Headquarters"

NASA Plan for Commercial LEO Development

"This plan, entitled NASA's Plan for Commercial LEO Development, addresses supply, demand, and lays out steps to date that have been taken. It also includes detailed steps that will be taken in the near-term, mid-term, and long-term."

NASA Opens International Space Station to New Commercial Opportunities, Private Astronauts

"This effort is intended to broaden the scope of commercial activity on the space station beyond the ISS National Lab mandate, which is limited to research and development. A new NASA directive will enable commercial manufacturing and production and allow both NASA and private astronauts to conduct new commercial activities aboard the orbiting laboratory. The directive also sets prices for industry use of U.S. government resources on the space station for commercial and marketing activities. Pricing released Friday is specific to commercial and marketing activities enabled by the new directive, reflects a representative cost to NASA, and is designed to encourage the emergence of new markets. As NASA learns how these new markets respond, the agency will reassess the pricing and amount of available resources approximately every six months and make adjustments as necessary."

Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements

"This announcement is for the development of experiment hardware with enhanced capabilities; modification of existing hardware to enable increased efficiencies (crew time, power, etc.); development of tools that allow analyses of samples and specimens on orbit; enhanced ISS infrastructure capabilities (ex. Communications or data processing); concepts contributing to the development of a sustainable, scalable, and profitable non-NASA demand for LEO services; and specific technology demonstration projects as detailed below."

The Economics of Space: An Industry Ready to Launch, Reason.org

"This can all happen within the current NASA budget. In a commerce-based approach, the private sector develops the space industry and NASA and other government parties buy transport and other key services, such as on-orbit facilities, as customers of the private providers. NASA has already begun buying some space transportation in this manner, just as we currently do with other transportation systems. Extending this good start and making it more consistent is the only way, within the current NASA budget, that leads to comprehensive advancement in space."

Keith's note: (sigh) Yet another space "commerce" study (with good ideas) that wants NASA to pay companies to develop things. In other words NASA needs to be an anchor tenant. Got it. Next.

Elon Musk's satellites threaten to disrupt the night sky for all of us, opinion, Washington Post

"if we let Silicon Valley disrupt the night sky, we will never get it back."

Keith's note: News flash - humanity started to change the nature of the night sky half a century ago. Without satellites we'd not know about weather until it happened. We'd have to use paper maps again. And we'd know far less about our planet and the universe. To truly bring back pristine night skies everywhere we'd have to forgo streetlights all together. Oh yes: A hundred thousand jets fill Earth's skies with lights and artificial clouds every day and cars and industry further ruin the atmosphere's clarity. They'd have to go too.

But this opinion piece singles out one company and goes after Elon Musk because he (and others) dare to offer the same level of Internet access developed nations have to everyone else on the planet. We have decided to become a planetary civilization - one that aspires further to become a spacefaring civilization. If we all believe in such a thing then that means that we will need to continue to transform our world so that everyone benefits.

There have been a number of op ed pieces like this that lament the loss of a dark sky for summer hikes with the kids. Yet none of them stop to ponder the question as to what these lights in the skies will mean to large portions of humanity: access to resources and opportunities that everyone else has had for decades - centuries.

It is confusing to see people such as the author of this opinion piece - who profess admiration for space exploration - ignore the obvious trappings that come with becoming a species that dares to go beyond the skies outward to the stars. Ancient peoples looked at those lights in the sky and immediately populated them with beings and created myths about their travels. Those stories served as the inspiration for innumerable feats of exploration. Astronomy has adapted to all manner of distracting things in the skies. It will adapt to these distractions as well.

We have gone from studying the lights in the night sky to building them. And in some cases, we now live on these lights in the sky. We have decided to become a planetary civilization. There is no turning back. Ad Astra.

NASA OIG Semiannual Report: October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019

Update: Former NASA Commercial Crew Director Mango Pleads Guilty to Federal Felony, earlier post (23 November 2013)

"This court document (actually it is two documents) contains the details of what Ed Mango's case is all about including his plea agreement."

Study Input Informs NASA Course for a Vibrant Future Commercial Space Economy

"New insights from companies in the growing space economy are helping NASA chart a course for the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit. Input the companies provided to NASA as part of the studies will inform NASA's future policies to support commercial activities that enable a robust low-Earth orbit economy. NASA selected the following companies to complete studies about the commercialization of low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station, assessing the potential growth of a low-Earth orbit economy and how to best stimulate private demand for commercial human spaceflight."

Summaries of each company's proposals

Keith's note: I got a note with these links from NASA HQ PAO today after I had been tweeting complaints about an ISS presentation by Robyn Gatens and Sam Scimemi at the NAC HEO committee today. Up until today NASA had only made hints as to what the studies they asked for actually said. Oddly neither Gatens or Scimemi made any mention that this material had been publicly released. PAO knows more about ISS commercialization than the ISS program senior management does, so it would seem. Also, if you go to the CASIS webpage they make no mention of any of these things.

Keith's note: I am wondering if the satellite spacing is some sort of binary message to Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos ... ;-)

Keith's 27 May update: I got this note from a reader, "cmdr2":

"I found out about the "Starlink satellite train" phenomenon yesterday, and I was very excited to find out when it would pass over my city. In case this is helpful to share with your readers, I've written a tool to show when the Starlink train will pass over your city. This tool essentially automates the steps that seemed to be working for redditors on r/space. A number of them have confirmed that they managed to see it using this tool. The original instructions were graciously posted by u/CreeperIan02 on reddit, and it involves a fair bit of data crunching to figure out. This tool simplifies that. It is based on Jens Satre's original code, modified for Starlink's data and a simpler interface. For your reference, the original instructions posted on reddit (that this tool automates): I've updated the tool to use the new tracking data shared by Marco yesterday, and only show timings 90 mins after sunset or 90 mins before sunrise (to improve accuracy)."

Keith's 29 May update: This internal letter was sent out by Kevin B. Marvel, Executive Officer, American Astronomical Society to trustees and other members:

"Dear Trustees,

As many of you are aware, Elon Musk's company SpaceX has launched some satellites to provide Internet service from space to ground. They are quite visible and videos of their night time appearance have been widely disseminated on the Internet, with a wide range of responses.

Although much data still needs to be gathered about their impact on astronomical research from the ground and the general quality of the night sky for all, the Twitterverse is exploding right now on the matter and calls for prompt action are now descending on our leadership, our committees and the Executive Office."

Full Letter after the link

Commercial Space Transportation: Improvements to FAA's Workforce Planning Needed to Prepare for the Industry's Anticipated Growth, GAO

"Since 2016, AST has taken steps to improve how it determines its current workforce needs to carry out its mission including licensing commercial launch vehicle operations. These steps include more comprehensively monitoring staff time spent on specific activities and measuring the volume of the staff's work. While AST officials told us that AST is planning to continue to improve its workforce-planning efforts, GAO found that some aspects of AST's efforts fall short of key principles of strategic workforce planning. Such principles underscore the importance of determining both current and future workforce needs and identifying potential gaps in employee skills."

NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Lunar Gateway Power, Propulsion

"This firm-fixed price award includes an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity portion and carries a maximum total value of $375 million. The contract begins with a 12-month base period of performance and is followed by a 26-month option, a 14-month option and two 12-month options."

Maxar Selected to Build, Fly First Element of NASA's Lunar Gateway

"Maxar previously conducted a four-month study to develop affordable and innovative electric-propulsion-enabled concepts for the power and propulsion element spacecraft. Building on the successful completion of the study, Maxar has been selected to proceed with development. The power and propulsion element will provide power, maneuvering, attitude control, communications systems and initial docking capabilities. Maxar is currently targeting launch of the element on a commercial rocket by late 2022."

Sir Richard Branson Announces Virgin Galactic Move to Spaceport America this Summer, as Company Readies for Commercial Service

"At a press conference today at the New Mexico State Capitol Building in Santa Fe, hosted by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic's development and testing program had advanced sufficiently to move the spaceline staff and space vehicles from Mojave, California to their commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America, New Mexico. The move, which involves more than 100 staff, will commence immediately and continue through the summer, to minimise schooling disruption for families. Virgin Galactic partnered with New Mexico in an agreement which saw the state complete construction of Spaceport America, the world's first, purpose-built commercial spaceport, and Virgin Galactic committing to center its commercial spaceflight activities at the facilities once its vehicles and operations were ready for service."

Blue Origin Reveals Its Lunar Lander

"Note: Blue Origin held an event in Washington DC today SpaceRef Interactive/NASAWatch and number of other news organizations were denied attendance. The company also decided not to livestream the event. It is difficult to understand why Blue Origin acts this way when it comes to making announcements. Their press release is below: ... Today, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced his vision to go to space to benefit Earth at a special event in Washington D.C. In addition, he also announced the Blue Moon lunar lander, which is capable of taking people and payloads to the lunar surface."

Jeff Bezos is about to speak publicly about Blue Origin, his secretive rocket company, CNN

"Things are different this week. Blue Origin is hosting a rare event with media in Washington, DC, on Thursday. Bezos himself is scheduled to speak, but it's not entirely clear what will be discussed. The invitations said that Bezos plans to give an update on Blue Origin's "progress and share our vision of going to space to benefit Earth." Spokespeople for Blue Origin declined to share further details."

Keith's note: Once again Blue Origin is playing favorites with the news media - some are invited - others are not.. I wonder if the Washington Post was invited?

Keith's note: On page 4 of CASIS FY18 Q2 Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2018 CASIS says:

"As manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, CASIS seeks to maximize both utilization of in-orbit resources and downstream value to life on Earth. To support these efforts, CASIS developed a methodology to assess the value creation of the projects in its portfolio. Working with external subject matter experts in an annual meeting, CASIS estimated (as of year-end FY17) the future value of the ISS National Lab portfolio will exceed $900 million in incremental revenue from addressable markets totaling more than $110 billion. Additional parameters indicating positive value to the nation include a time-to-market acceleration of 1-3 years and the development of more than 20 new solution pathways (a measure of innovation that can lead to a major advance in knowledge or new intellectual property). These data are updated annually but included in each quarterly report."

What does this even mean? Where is the "incremental revenue" being generated? On Earth? In space? Both? What are the "addressable markets"? How does CASIS know that these addressable markets are or will be $110 billion in size? Is CASIS saying that the stuff on the ISS i.e. "the ISS National Lab portfolio" is (or will be) producing revenue - in excess of $900 million? Where is this money coming from and where is it going i.e where is all of the selling happening? What is the time frame - years? Decades? Is this the CASIS portfolio (do they own things?) or is this NASA stuff? Or both? Is any company making a profit on their investment in their research on ISS? If so, then who are these companies? And what are these "solution pathways"?

CASIS is telling NASA in its official quarterly reports that the $15 million a year NASA spends on CASIS is resulting (or will result) in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue - or potential revenue - on stuff that CASIS is doing - stuff that could be worth $110 billion. Who are the lucky people who are going to be making this windfall? Names please. This certainly sounds great - but does CASIS actually explain any of their methodology - methodology they produced with NASA funding? No. They say that this is all updated annually but it never seems to be disseminated to NASA or to the taxpayers who are footing this party. Why is that? Is this how NASA is going to conduct its vastly expanded commercialization of the ISS in order to pay for its exploration plans - econo-babble and imaginary space markets?

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/casis.perf.17.jpg

Larger image Source: CASIS FY17 Q2 Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2017, page 12

Keith's note: When it comes to the utilization of the U.S. National Laboratory aboard the International Space Station, its what CASIS does with the free resources that they are offered by NASA that counts. The most important, and often the most limited resource, is crew time. As you can see in the figure above, as of mid-2017, CASIS has had a hard time using all of the crew time that NASA has given to CASIS.

Starting in mid-2018 CASIS stopped including detailed summaries of their actual ISS utilization (including previous year's percentages) in these quarterly reports to NASA. That's somewhat less than transparent. Let's see how they report how they have been doing in the past year. Stay tuned.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/casis.perf.18.jpg

Larger image Source: CASIS FY18 Q2 Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2018, page 22

Brian Talbot VP for Marketing & Outreach is out. A few weeks ago Joe Vockley fired Randy Giles, VP & Chief Scientific Officer. That's 15 firings since Vockley.


https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/casis.firing.jpg

Keith's note: I just read this during the public input portion of today's NASA Advisory Council Regulatory and Policy Committee Meeting:

"My name is Keith Cowing. I am a former NASA civil servant and space biologist whose job in the 1990s entailed many of the utilization tasks currently assigned to CASIS - except we were planning them before there was an actual space station. CASIS has had nearly a decade to get up to speed with regard to its responsibilities as laid out in their NASA cooperative agreement and as a non-profit entity. CASIS has a guaranteed annual income of $15 million which is provided to CASIS - by NASA - regardless of the quality of performance demonstrated by CASIS. After nearly a decade CASIS still relies upon NASA for 99.9% of its funding.

Despite being given a government sanctioned monopoly on the utilization of the US portion of the ISS - the so-called ISS National Laboratory - CASIS has yet to be able to fully utilize the on-orbit resources given to it by NASA - including the all important crew time. CASIS has been unable to provide adequate metrics to explain what it does. Both the NASA Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office have found significant problems with CASIS' performance as well as NASA's management of CASIS which could be characterized as being somewhat of an absentee landlord. When CASIS was given its ISS role NASA only envisioned partial utilization of its overall ISS assets - those covered by the ISS National Lab. Now, a decade later, NASA envisions turning over the totality of its operations on board the ISS to the private sector. To do so NASA needs to totally revisit how it manages ISS including the CASIS Cooperative Agreement.

Given that CASIS is already incapable of meeting its chartered responsibilities on just a portion of the ISS it is unlikely that it can be expected to assume additional responsibilities that would go with managing all U.S. assets on the ISS. As such I would urge NASA to end its agreement with CASIS and re-compete these ISS National Lab responsibilities as part of a larger effort to transfer operations of the ISS to a commercial entity - if that is indeed where NASA intends to go.

The ISS is an unprecedented research facility - one who's full potential has yet to be fully realized. Despite what they might want you to believe CASIS is not the solution to the under utilization of the ISS. Rather, CASIS is the cause of its under utilization. This under utilization has gone on for far too long. Indeed CASIS often seems to be far more interested in comic book character tie-ins than doing quality science.

NASA needs to get this whole utilization thing fixed before the agency tries to commercialize anything more on the ISS. Not to do so will be to continue to waste an astonishing facility - one constructed at great expense.

Thank you for your time."

NASA Investigation Uncovers Cause of Two Science Mission Launch Failures

"NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) investigators have determined the technical root cause for the Taurus XL launch failures of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory missions in 2009 and 2011, respectively: faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer, Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI). LSP's technical investigation led to the involvement of NASA's Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ's efforts, recently made public, resulted in the resolution of criminal charges and alleged civil claims against SPI, and its agreement to pay $46 million to the U.S. government and other commercial customers. This relates to a 19-year scheme that included falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum extrusions to hundreds of customers. NASA's updated public summary of the launch failures, which was published Tuesday ..."

NASA Investigative Summary: Taurus XL T8 and T9 Mission Failures

"The combined cost of both mission failures was in excess of $700,000,000."

Keith's note: It took NASA KSC, NASA OIG, and DOJ nearly a decade to figure out what went wrong - on missions worth $700,000,000 - and all that the responsible company has to pay is $46 million - 5% of the loss to taxpayers that they caused - after deliberately and systematically engaging in a "19 year scheme". Really?

- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post
- CASIS Announces Its Commercial Business Expansion Plans, earlier post
- CASIS Continues Its Stealth Commercialization Plans (Update), earlier post

SpaceX Statement on Crew Dragon Test Stand Anomaly

"Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand. Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners."

NASA OIG Audit: NASA's Technology Transfer Process

"Goddard, however, is experiencing poor technology transfer performance outcomes when compared to the other three NASA Centers we reviewed, to include a lower percentage of licenses as well as delays in processing of NTRs and patent applications. We found Goddard's technology transfer process was hindered by a lack of adequate controls and poor collaboration between its Technology Transfer Office and the Office of Patent Counsel, leading to many instances where the Patent Counsel did not use the standard review process for determining commercial viability of a new technology. As a result, NASA lacks reasonable assurance that federally-funded, commercially-viable new technologies at Goddard are being effectively reviewed and disseminated to the widest extent practical to benefit the public and private sector".

Stratolaunch Takes Flight

Scaled Composites Flies World's Largest Wingspan Aircraft, SpaceRef Business (With video)

"Scaled Composites, LLC made aviation history today with the flight of the largest wingspan aircraft. During this initial flight, the team tested out specific handling qualities to validate the design."

Examining Staff and Board Member Salaries at CASIS, earlier posting (2015)

"Note: CASIS Chief Economist Resnick recently left CASIS. CASIS employees were told that this was in connection with a NASA OIG investigation into travel accounting and that there would be additional questions about this issue."

Former ISS National Lab executive indicted for allegedly 'expensing' prostitutes, Florida Today

"Federal prosecutors have charged a former executive of the Brevard County-based nonprofit that runs the International Space Station's national laboratory for using government funds to pay for escort services, and for falsifying tax returns. Charles Resnick, served as chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, which is primarily funded by about $15 million annually from NASA. According to a 10-count indictment filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, Resnick created phony receipts and other documents when filing expense reports that hid spending on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015."

Statement on behalf of CASIS (ISS U.S. National Laboratory) Regarding Resnick Indictment

"CASIS is fully aware of the recent charges brought against former employee Charles Resnick. In 2015 CASIS immediately cut ties with Mr. Resnick upon discovering his actions, which were in clear violation of company policies and procedures. We immediately launched a full investigation into Mr. Resnick's travel and accounting practices resulting in referral to the NASA OIG. CASIS has fully cooperated with the OIG's investigation and will continue to do so. We will not have any further comment while this criminal matter is pending."- Joseph Vockley, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer

Keith's note: FYI now that CASIS has changed its name to the "ISS National Laboratory" all of the news stories will be saying things such as "Former ISS National Lab executive indicted for allegedly 'expensing' prostitutes". Great PR for the space station, right? NASA should have thought this name change thing through when CASIS first proposed it. Oh wait. CASIS just did it on their own.

- CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not, earlier post
- CASIS Now Has An Official Fictitious Name - NASA Watch, earlier post
- CASIS Is Changing Its Name But It Missed A Few Things (update), earlier post
- Why Is CASIS Making Itself Disappear?, earlier post

Oh yes, NASA warned CASIS about their branding activities but CASIS did not listen.

31 March 2016 NASA letter to CASIS

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

SpaceX Trifecta

SpaceX Successfully Launches the Arabsat-6A Satellite and Lands Three Boosters, SpaceRef

"SpaceX accomplished its primary mission of launching the Arabsat-6A telecommunication satellite late this afternoon from famed Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida."





Israel succeeded in getting its spacecraft in orbit around the moon, however an engine problem during the landing attempt caused the spacecraft to crash. Prime Minister Netanyahu in attendance said shortly after the news that "if you don't first succeed, try again." No doubt Israel will try again. A nation came together on what started as a Google Lunar X Prize entry. It can celebrate the effort and achievements it made along the way.

Keith's note: This has to be the most inbred, self-serving, kiss-up award ever given by the space community to itself. Have you no shame Space Foundation?

The chair of the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group is James O. Ellis Jr. Ellis was elected to the Space Foundation Board of Directors in January 2010 and served as its Chairman from January 2016 through November 2017. The Space Foundation has a scholarship in his name. Could the inter-relationship be any more obvious?

And its not just the Space Foundation. AIAA has a similar and obvious overlap with the National Space Council - and they even bragged about that a few weeks ago: "American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) members Col. Eileen Collins, Daniel Dumbacher, Sandra "Sandy" Magnus, and Wanda Sigur will lend their expertise on human space exploration at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council on March 26 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama."

Both of these organizations have boards made up of Big Aerospace and military representatives - most of whom have a lifetime pass to the revolving door between the industry, government, and Congress. For a large industry organization funded by companies who get their incomes from NASA and DoD to turn around and give an award to an advisory group they also participate in - the same one that will shape the future of American space policy (i.e. their business) - is the height of hubris.

To confound the whole matter this award is for public outreach. Public outreach? When has the National Space Council done any actual public outreach? They hold meetings at big aerospace events such as Space Symposium where all of the usual suspects meet up once a month and listen to each other talk and then give each other awards. Someone please show me how the National Space Council has made an effort to reach the remaining 99.999% of the nation - you know, the people who pay the taxes that pay for all the nifty space toys? They only do inreach - not outreach.

And you wonder how things like SLS never die despite chronic delays and overruns?

Pace Accepts Space Foundation's Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award on Behalf of Vice President Pence, National Space Council

"The Morrow Award stands for an important concept: heightening the public awareness and understanding of space programs and technology. The President, by reinvigorating the National Space Council, and the Vice President, through his determined leadership, have taken strides in elevating space policy on the national stage."

Keith's update: Looks like they are drinking the same flavor of Koolaid at the National Space Council. "elevating" is not outreach. Go ask 100 people at random on the street anywhere outside of Washington DC what they think of "SPD-1". You can even explain the acronym as you ask. No one will know what you are talking about. All they know is that NASA does not have spacesuits for women in space. Tick tock.

Keith's note: CASIS Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach made a presentation "Forecasting the 2024-2035 Space Based National Laboratory for Life and Physical Sciences Space Research" at the National Academies of Science Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space meeting yesterday. During that presentation he announced that CASIS aka The ISS National Laboratory has expanded their scope of operations. They are now going to expand well beyond the ISS even though their cooperative agreement with NASA prohibits such an expansion.

As previously noted CASIS now uses "ISS National Laboratory" as their new public name even though they claim that they have not changed their name. I need to refer to this non-profit as "CASIS" since it would be hard to refer to the ISS National Laboratory as both a facility and also as a separate non-profit organization (with the same name) that runs and represents itself to be the ISS National Laboratory - even though they are not one in the same. (see CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not )

Anyway - at this NAS meeting during "Space Science Week" here in DC, CASIS proclaimed itself to be a "space integrator" and no longer limits its activities to managing the U.S. portion of the ISS i.e. the ISS National Laboratory (per its cooperative agreement with NASA). CASIS will now be supporting a broad range of microgravity platforms including suborbital vehicles, balloons, parabolic flights, drop towers, ground based laboratories and big data platforms. (larger chart image)

How will CASIS do this? That is not clear. Recently I reported that CASIS is working to develop a commercial entity to manage its expanded portfolio of services to be offered in a commercial fashion. When I asked them about this publicly they denied that they were doing this much to the chagrin of CASIS staff, board members, affiliated companies, advisors and stakeholders - and of course, NASA. They have hired a top shelf law firm in Washington DC to help them do this. (see CASIS Continues Its Stealth Commercialization Plans and CASIS Had A Board Meeting Today)

Let's look at what CASIS is legally bound to do - and not do - with the funds that NASA provides: According to NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A - as modified 27 January 2015 (see this document, page 27)

"1.1 Introduction

This Cooperative Agreement is awarded pursuant to Section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-257, found at USC 8354) by NASA to the Center for the Advancement of Science in space ("CASIS"). The parties agree that the principal purpose of this Agreement is to authorize CASIS to serve as the not-for-profit entity for management of the International Space Station ("ISS") National Laboratory ("NL"), per section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, to maximize the value of the investment the U.S. government has made int the ISS and demonstrates the scientific and technological productivity of the ISS over the next decade.

1.2.1. CASIS Mission

CASIS will be responsible for maximizing the value of the ISS to the nation by developing and managing a diversified R&D portfolio based on U.S. national needs for basic and applied research and by using the ISS as a venue for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational activities.

1.2.2. CCASIS Goals

- stimulate, develop and manage the U.S. national uses of the ISS by other government agencies, academic institutions and private firms.
- Develop tools and techniques to communicate the value of uses of the ISS National Laboratory (IS NL) and increase the retuen on the U.S. investment in the ISS.

1.2.4 Prohibition of Other Activities

CASIS shall engage exclusively in activities relating to the management of the ISS NL and activities that promote its long term research and development mission as required by Section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, without any other organizational objectives or responsibilities on behalf of CASIS or any parent organization or other entity."

Note that according to section 1.2.4. CASIS is specifically prohibited from doing anything other than its stated tasks. These new business activities on non-ISS platforms would seem to be a direct violation of section 1.2.4. Moreover, since NASA pays 99.9% of the annual operating expenses of CASIS, the creation and operation of this new business entity (not a trivial endeavor) is most certainly being organized and operated with the use of personnel paid for with NASA funds - unless CASIS is now truly a business venture and is being paid to do these things on a commercial basis. The IRS should find that to be of interest.

Either way, in so doing, CASIS is openly seeking to compete in the private sector with companies that it is also supposed to be offering ISS National Laboratory access to - and they do so by confusingly calling themselves "ISS National Laboratory". Just a quick guess would suggest that CASIS is now going to enter markets where companies such as Nanoracks, Virgin Orbit, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, ZeroG and many others already provide commercial services.

Oh yes, one more thing when it comes to ISS National Laboratory branding: NASA's Director for the International Space Station Sam Scimemi, expressed concern about this in a 31 March 2016 letter to CASIS: "We would advice caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to ensure that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."

I wonder what NASA thinks about all of this. CASIS clearly steps over the line when it comes to what it is they are supposed to be doing - and not doing - and now they do it by claiming to actually BE the ISS National Laboratory in both name and function. Of course, this time, CASIS has kept NASA completely in the loop on these commercial plans and gave NASA a heads up on their upcoming NAS presentation, right? I don't think so.

Stay tuned.

Earlier posts on CASIS and ISS

CDSE Statement Following Senate Commerce Hearing with the NASA Administrator

"No launch vehicle other than the SLS can enable the launch of a fully-outfitted Orion, including the SM, to the Moon. As a result, the Administrator noted that this approach would require at least two launches of heavy-lift vehicles. It could also include in-orbit assembly of a launch vehicle with an upper stage, which would then be used to direct Orion and the SM to the Moon. The analysis to determine whether this approach is feasible is still ongoing. The integration challenges are significant. It is also clear that this approach would require additional funding, since the idea is to undertake both this mission and to continue development of the SLS apace.

The assessment of options such as these are the hallmark of both NASA and the aerospace industry that supports it. Distributed across all 50 states in civil, commercial and military space, the aerospace and defense industry is crucial to U.S. competitiveness across the globe and to American leadership in science, security, entrepreneurship and human exploration of space. The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration and its member companies strongly support forward-leaning efforts to speed human return to the Moon. We welcome the opportunity to join NASA in the flights of Orion, SLS and the Exploration Ground Systems that support these journeys, and the rapid expansion of science, commerce and human exploration at the Moon and beyond."

Keith's note: Looks like the SLS crowd is worried. Meanwhile, it is rather hilarious that The Coalition For Deep Space Exploration (created as a SLS/Orion lobbying organization) is suddenly worried that a commercial EM-1 might "require additional funding" after SLS has gone billions over budget and is 4-5 years behind schedule for EM-1 - thus creating the need for alternate thinking. Where was their outrage when SLS started to "require additional funding"?

Keith's note: Let's see: Saturn V was 363 feet tall and weighed 6,540,000 lb. SLS Block 1 (the only rocket this budget supports) is 322 feet tall for crew version and 313 feet tall for the cargo version and weighs 5.5. million lb. SLS Block 1 can put 209,000 lb in to LEO and Saturn V could put 310,000 lb into LEO. Oh yes a totally expendable Falcon Heavy can put 141,000 lb into LEO. You can buy a bunch of them for the same cost of a SLS. Then there's the Soviet N-1, and the upcoming Blue Origin New Glenn and SpaceX Starship - both of which may be operating before the fully upgraded SLS. Jim Bridenstine said "We're talking about a rocket that's bigger than any rocket that's ever been built in human history". So ... is SLS bigger than any rocket in history? Not so sure about that. Paper rockets don't count. Just sayin'. Larger image

Russia's passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth, Ars Technica

"I would like to point out something else interesting--from one point of view this is a good thing, because we were carrying astronauts, we were getting basically for free $400 million a year at about $90 million per seat for each foreign astronaut. That is more than the entire cost of the rocket and the ship and launch operations taken together. This means as long as we had at least one foreign astronaut on board, we were launching for free. For us this wasn't just a freebie--it was a narcotic. It allowed us to do absolutely nothing and still earn money. And now, this narcotic is going to be cut off, and we will be forced to do something. Either we will pass into history along with all of our space achievements, like Portugal, with its discovery of America and the voyages of Magellan and so forth, or we will have to seriously do something."

Russian Rocket Program Sputters in New Race to Space, Bloomberg

"Russia's market share for rocket technology worldwide fell slightly in 2017, which Roscosmos blamed on sanctions, the weak ruble and increased competition, according to its annual report published on Friday. It singled out SpaceX for allegedly undercutting the market thanks to U.S. government assistance. ... The windfall funding from the U.S. hasn't always been spent wisely. Alexei Kudrin, the head of the country's Audit Chamber, told Russia's lower house of parliament in June that he found 760 billion rubles ($11.4 billion) of financial violations in Roscosmos's books. "Several billion have been spent, basically stolen, that we are currently investigating," Kudrin said in an interview aired Nov. 25 on state-run Rossiya 24 TV. "Roscosmos is the champion in terms of the scale of such violations."

- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

"I just love all the pictures of the car this article contains. This guy was embezzling money from Putin and yet he thought it was fine to be driving around in a "diamond-encrusted Mercedes". It would seem like he was either asking to be caught - or .... that cosmodrome construction workers commonly drive around in diamond-encrusted Mercedes."

SpaceX Crew Dragon Arrives At The International Space Station

"International Space Station's Harmony module forward port via "soft capture" at 5:51 a.m. EST while the station was traveling more than 250 miles over the Pacific Ocean, just north of New Zealand."

Space Station Crew Opens Hatch to Crew Dragon After Docking

"Aboard the space station, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko opened the hatch between the Crew Dragon and the orbital laboratory at 8:07 a.m. EST."

SpaceX Launches First NASA Commercial Crew Demonstration Mission

"For the first time in history, a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket, which launched from American soil, is on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Keith's note: NASA has completed its Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for the SpaceX Demo-1 fight of its crewed Dragon. The flight is scheduled for 2 March and will use a vehicle identical to the one which will eventually fly with humans with some sort of SpaceX dummy on board (think Starman in the Tesla). The only real issue that was mentioned had to do with software and one of the partners (Russia) wanted more work to done. Luckily the Russians did not detect any drilling mistakes ;-).

Listening to the NASA people talk at the press briefing today I could help but notice a certain weirdness. They all seemed to be pinching themselves - either because this is the first time NASA has approached a human mission in a while or that the spacecraft was not built by NASA. Or maybe a little of both.

I had hoped to ask Bill Gertstenmaier about this weirdness but KSC PAO decided otherwise. Had I been allowed to ask a question it would have been this:

"Bill, you and I sat in the same design reviews 30 years ago for Space Station. Our bosses were old Apollo guys. We were looking to build something that was a paradigm shift from what they did. Every now and then however they'd say something that spoke of great wisdom. This SpaceX Review was being held in the same room where shuttle FRRs were held. And there was a capsule on the powerpoint slides - just like Apollo. I was wondering if there were any friendly ghosts in the room prompting you to be the guy offering the wisdom."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/IMG_7050.jpg Keith's addendum: On the first day of my job at Rockwell International in Downey in 1981 I was assigned an old, military drab green desk. My boss told me to empty the drawers into a waste basket since it had not been used in years and that it was just "old Apollo stuff'. We were building Space Shuttles a few hundred feet away. I opened the big drawer and this was sitting inside with papers of similar age. I threw everything else into the waste basket except this - an Apollo 7 FRR badge. There is a long line in the NASA family that stretches back from today to the earliest days of space exploration - and it leads forward into the future. I was thinking about this today while I waited to ask Gerst a question.

Keith's update: I got this response from Bill Gerstenmaier to my question: "The badge and your story are amazing. There is something about human spaceflight that is special. The precision and expertise demanded from the team is unprecedented in any normal human activity. We are taking hardware to the limits while protecting human life. The Apollo folks were amazing, the Shuttle folks followed, and as you say this is the next generation of engineers and scientists. The tools that we have today are very sophisticated and are radically better than Apollo. However, the process of reviewing readiness for flight is still fundamentally the same. By building on the past, staying humble and being open to learning we can improve on the ways of the past and do ever more challenging things. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Nice that you kept this piece of history."

SpaceShipTwo Returns To Space With Crew Of Three

"This space flight means Chief Pilot Dave Mackay and co-pilot Michael "Sooch" Masucci become commercial astronauts and the 569th and 570th humans in space. Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic's Chief Astronaut Instructor, flew as the third crew member in a first, live evaluation of cabin dynamics. She is the 571st person to fly to space and the first woman to fly on board a commercial spaceship."

SpaceX, Boeing design risks threaten new delays for U.S. space program, Reuters

"Two people with direct knowledge of the program told Reuters that the space agency's concerns go beyond the four items listed, and include a risk ledger that as of early February contained 30 to 35 lingering technical concerns each for SpaceX and Boeing. Reuters could not verify what all of the nearly three dozen items are. But the sources familiar with the matter said the companies must address "most" of those concerns before flying astronauts and, eventually, tourists to space."

The Tragic Tale Of How NASA's X-34 Space Planes Ended Up Rotting In Someone's Backyard, TheWarZone

"The X-34 story took a very bizarre turn in the last couple of years when the Air Force apparently donated the craft to a museum in Florida. The man who was the point of contact for the museum had to take possession of them, but was not anywhere near ready logistically to move them across the country. This would have been a major administrative and operational undertaking as each state would require special permits to move the wide loads through. We can only imagine what the bill would be to ship the rocket planes 2,000 miles east would have been, but it would have been substantial. This is how they ended up in the back yard of the proprietor of Smith's Quickcrane Inc."

Bird poop and dust could seriously complicate Elon Musk and SpaceX's latest plan to reach Mars, Business Insider

"Dwayne Day*, who helped investigate the loss of NASA's Columbia space shuttle and its crew, said such clogs could come from any number of mundane factors. "What if a bird poops on your rocket and it plugs up a few holes, and then when the thing is returning no coolant comes out of those holes and that section of the vehicle overheats?" he said."

* Dwayne Day is a Senior Program Officer at the National Academy of Science Space and Aeronautics Board. His training is in space policy.

Keith's note: Earlier this week the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the commercial space community held their annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, DC. True to form they seemed to be uninterested in letting the rest of the country know what commercial space is all about and nothing was webcast. NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard spoke to the same old commercial space people inside yet another echo chamber.

In contrast, the day before this event, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and 2 staffers used a cellphone to livestream his comments to the World Ag Expo in rural California. Bridenstine told me today that he had 130,000 viewers for his live streamed remarks. Bridenstine has stated that he is overtly reaching out to new audiences. Using simple tools he did that. Meanwhile the usual suspects in Washington, DC would rather just be left alone to their inside-the-beltway choir practice sessions.

Oddly, one of the big things that the commercial space crowd wants to sell you these days is constellations of satellites that will offer communications and imaging to the same rural communities that Bridenstine reached out to. You'd think that these commercial space folks would want the broadest possible customer base to be aware of what is coming their way. Guess again.

Look at the net result of Bridenstine's trip. He's not on CNBC talking about commercial space. He's talking about NASA and agriculture and how space technology aids the production of food and supports farms large and small. At the end of the day his cellphone webcast probably had more real Impact than the commercial space thing in DC.

Watch NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine's full interview with CNBC from CNBC.

Keith's note: NASA held a media briefing session today at NASA HQ. The purpose of the briefing was to talk about the various lunar activities NASA is engaged in. Specifically there was discussion by NASA SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen about the science and technology missions that NASA is planning. Next week 12 payloads will be announced as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. 9 companies are cometing to place these payloads on the Moon. Zurbuchen is off on a race to make these things happen much faster than is usually the case at NASA. This means that there will be more risks taken - but with that comes a greater chance to try new things. Indeed, if the program achieves what it aspires to do, there could be payloads on the surface of the Moon by the end of 2019.

These missions will conduct pure science and applied technology. The applied technology is designed to build up capabilities that will be needed when human landings are attempted at the end of the next decade. Among other things locating resources for fuel generation and lunar base construction will be explored.

A Human Lunar Landing System Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) has been issued by NASA. NASA Administrator Bridenstine and HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier described the approach within this BAA as using an "open architecture". Yet when you read the BAA it refers to a "Reference Architecture" that proposers are supposed to base their ideas on - anything outside of that Reference Architecture would be deemed beyond the scope of this BAA. That sounds a bit contradictory. NASA says they want people's ideas - even if they are different than what NASA wants to do yet the procurement vehicle they use seems to preclude that.

The following is my question to Bridenstine and Gerstenmaier - in essence I asked what NASA would do if SpaceX shows up with a proposal and says that they can do everything NASA wants without the need of a Gateway-based architecture:

In essence NASA wants everyone's ideas - even if they may not match up against what this current BAA solicits. They say that will take ideas that do not conform to the BAA's language and consider them (even though the BAA does not mention this). The real question is whether NASA truly wants to use the engines of creativity that a fully open architecture would instill or whether they want to be seen as trying to be open when in fact they still want to impose agency solutions when all is said and done. This is sort of a "closed openness" approach.

Another analogy is to compare the way that Google leaves its Android architecture rather open to outside developers and hardware manufacturers while Apple has adopted a "walled garden" approach where they control the extent of software operations and hardware implementation. Both approaches work - but one is far more "open" than the other.

It might be a good idea for NASA to put out an amendment to this BAA that explicitly states this since simply reading the BAA could leave a proposer with the (apparently incorrect) impression that only ideas that resonate with the official NASA Reference Architecture as presented in the BAA are sought.

But to be honest NASA is trying to do the whole return to the Moon thing much faster than you'd expect. NASA has made flashy proclamations to this effect 4 or 5 times since humans last walked on the Moon. Yet half a century and many false starts later later we have still not put a human on the Moon again. This time NASA is taking more risks than they are used to taking. With that comes the chance to try more new approaches and get back to the Moon faster than might otherwise be the case.

- Human Landing System Broad Agency Announcement Industry Day presentations

Keith's note: CASIS, sometimes also known as the ISS National Laboratory (depending who you talk to), held a board meeting today in Washington, DC. In a nutshell, while they have spent a lot of money and time erasing "CASIS" from their branding, websites, and publications, they admitted that they are not changing their name - even if they are. They also claimed that there have been no discussions of setting up a commercial entity even though multiple sources tell me that they have had these conversations with and about this topic and CASIS. I had a short exchange with Joe Vockley, the executive director of CASIS.

Some Twitter notes from the event today:

Earlier posts

- CASIS Now Has An Official Fictitious Name
- CASIS Is Changing Its Name But It Missed A Few Things (update)
- CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not
- Why Is CASIS Making Itself Disappear?

NASA, SpaceX, and Being Update Commercial Crew Launch Dates

"Test Flight Planning Dates:
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019"

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/issdomain.jpg

Keith's update: A short time after I posted this someone bought this domain. It does not seem to have been purchased by CASIS. Oops.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/issdomain.2.jpg

Keith's 11:03 am ET note: CASIS has decided to change its name to "ISS National Laboratory." It has filed paperwork with the state of Florida to allow it to openly use a "fictitious name" to do business (that's what it says on the forms). Sources report that CASIS asked NASA if they could do this and NASA said no. So CASIS did it anyway. On Friday CASIS is having a public meeting. It will be interesting to see if this issue and CASIS' interest in starting up a new commercial entity will be discussed or swept under the carpet.

"ISS National Laboratory", as defined by the Congressional language that created it, refers to hardware in orbit owned, built and operated by the US government on board the International Space Station (ISS). It still belongs to the government. CASIS was hired by the government to run the process of finding users for ISS National Laboratory. No one gave ownership of ISS National Laboratory to CASIS. So how can CASIS claim to BE the ISS National Laboratory? This would be like a company that runs giftshops and cleans the bathrooms at a national Park deciding to adopt the name of the national park that they work for.

This name change is inherently deceptive and will inevitably be confusing. The NASA web page on ISS National Lab says "The ISS National Lab is managed by the Center for the Advancement for Science in Space under agreement with NASA." Will this change to say that "the ISS National Laboratory manages the ISS National Laboratory"? CASIS has always be shy about using the word "NASA" in its public facing statements. Now, they don't even want to use their own name. So, when people hear that "the ISS National Laboratory Announced ..." there is going to be a logical assumption that this refers to NASA.

The International Space Station is one of the most amazing pieces of human engineering ever created. NASA gives CASIS $15 million a year - 99.8% of CASIS' budget - to provide user access to ISS - often at a tiny fraction of what it actually costs - yet CASIS still can't use all the crew time and other resources that NASA gives them.

A week ago I sent the a series of questions to CASIS on these topics (with a cc: to NASA). CASIS has declined to respond.

Oh yes - with this name change comes the need to protect corporate identity and branding. It would seem that CASIS has not bothered to try and trademark its new name, thus leaving the option open for others to do so. While CASIS bought a few Internet domains such as issnationallab.org they did not buy domains such as issnationallaboratory.org (check here) The domains are still for sale. So now you too can pretend to be the ISS National Laboratory online with a nice, easy-to-remember domain. Too late. Someone read NASAWatch and bough all of the issnationallaboratory.*** domains. You had your chance!

- CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not
- CASIS Now Has An Official Fictitious Name
- Why Is CASIS Making Itself Disappear?
- Is CASIS Fixing Its Management Problems?
- CASIS Pays Big Bucks For Leadership With No Space Experience (Update)
- Earlier CASIS posts

Keith's note: CASIS is clearly trying to rebrand and/or rename itself. But instead of admitting it - and do so in an open, forthright, ethical - and legal way, they are trying to use smoke and mirrors - and some outright deception and misinformation instead. The ironic thing about all of this is that for years CASIS went out of its way to never mention "NASA" unless it absolutely had to. It was as if CASIS had built the ISS. Now CASIS is trying to make itself disappear in the same fashion so as to leave the impression that they are the ISS National Laboratory. Meanwhile, good luck finding the "NASA" mentioned anywhere. (see "CASIS Announces Significant ISS News But Forgets To Mention NASA")

I sent the following questions to CASIS and NASA today. I'll let you know if/how they respond.

"- Is this a board meeting for CASIS? Or is this a board meeting for an organization called the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory?
- Has CASIS been dissolved? If so, when did this happen? If not, why is CASIS no longer identifying itself by its legally incorporated name?
- Is "the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" the new (formal) name for CASIS? If so when did the name formally change? in what state was this name change formally made? Will this name change be reflected in formal quarterly reports to NASA on the CASIS contract? Will this name be used for all payload and commercial agreements?
- If there is a new entity called "the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" is it a non-profit organization? A for-profit company? An NGO? A partnership? An LLC?
- If there an organization called "the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" does it have a formal, legally document board of directors? If so where is that information formally recorded and who are the members of that board?"

Meanwhile:

International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory Annual Public Board Meeting

"On Friday, February 8, 2019, the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory will host its annual Public Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C."

Keith's note: The press release says that "the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory will host its annual Public Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C." It sends you to this link: https://www.issnationallab.org where you see "(ISS) U.S. National Laboratory" at the top of the page. If you scroll down to the bottom you see "THE ISS NATIONAL LAB IS MANAGED BY THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT FOR SCIENCE IN SPACE, UNDER AGREEMENT WITH NASA. © COPYRIGHT 2011-2019 THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE IN SPACE, INC."

This is not a "International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" board meeting. There is no non-profit organization in existence by that name. There is a non-profit named CASIS - "The Center for the Advancement for Science in Space" - and this is their annual public meeting. But they don't tell you that. The officers listed in this news release and on the agenda are officers for CASIS not for the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory. Oh yes: did I miss something? When was it announced that the ISS National Laboratory has a board of directors?

"CASIS" appears nowhere in the announcement or on the webpage. For that matter "NASA" is mentioned nowhere either. If you go to the original CASIS website address https://www.iss-casis.org/ you are automatically redirected to https://www.issnationallab.org/ "CASIS" is gone. If you go to the Internet archive you can see that a CASIS website existed as recently as 20 December 2018.

Who actually owns this "International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" thing? Its not a non-profit. Its not a government agency. Its a thing created by Congress. CASIS does not own it - it just runs it. Or does it run the ISS National Lab since CASIS seems to be trying to make itself disappear and become the ISS National Lab instead. I wonder if the IRS knows that CASIS is operating under a new name and that it is using somewhat deceptive public statements so as to confuse people as to what this meeting is actually all about.

Meanwhile CASIS is off trying to quietly develop its own commercial entity. They have been talking to various companies about it (who are not exactly pleased to hear this). Is non-profit CASIS trying to simultaneously hide itself behind the ISS National Lab while rebranding and reinventing itself as a company to use ISS National Lab resources? Maybe they will answer this at their meeting. Stay tuned.


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