Recently in Commercialization Category

Clash of the Titans

Musk and Gass Go Toe-to-Toe in Q&A, SpaceNews

"Musk and Gass appeared March 5 before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee to answer lawmakers' questions and, in an unusual twist, were given the opportunity to submit written questions to one another and provide answers back to the panel. Neither side landed a knockout blow, but the exchange was illuminating nonetheless."

Keith's note: You know that there is indeed a "there" there vis-a-vis the viability of space commerce when companies start trash talking their competitor's products.

NASA Selects Commercial Crew Program Manager

"NASA has selected Kathy Lueders as program manager for the agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Lueders, who has served as acting program manager since October 2013, will help keep the nation's space program on course to launch astronauts from American soil by 2017 aboard spacecraft built by American companies."

Keith's note: Of course this all came about because of Ed Mango's problems (see previous stories)

The Time for a New, All-American Advanced Liquid Rocket Engine Is Now, Mark Albrecht and Don Kerr, Roll Call

"We do not suggest that space cooperation with Russia is bad or that it should be totally curtailed or discouraged, but simply that there are elements of U.S. infrastructure that cannot be outsourced indefinitely. We must revitalize America's space infrastructure, and the right place to start is with an advanced-hydrocarbon-fueled booster engine -- an engine critical to U.S. leadership in rocket propulsion for access to space."

Keith's note: The authors dismissial of SpaceX progress and their 100% indigenous American engines is odd. The engines exist and are operational NOW. They also seem to be unaware of the much much larger, American-made engines that SpaceX (and undoubtedly Blue Origin) are developing. That said, the authors do make a good point about having non-Russian engines that other American launch vehicles could use. Alas, the authors decline to say who should pay for these new engines.

Another Dragon Visits ISS

Dragon Berthed at the International Space Station

"ISS Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, with the assistance of NASA's Rick Mastracchio, successfully berthed the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the space station at 9:06 a.m. EDT."

Can This 1970s Spacecraft Explore Again?, io9

"Imagine the heartbroken wailing and the cries of denial. Insert the demands to find out just how much it would cost to rebuild the antennas in time, and the blank stares when told even $1 was outside of NASA's limited budget. Soon, the inevitable idea emerged: crowdfund our way back into communication with the little spacecraft. The idea isn't as crazy as it sounds. "

Everyone But NASA Wants To Wake Up This Long-Dormant Spacecraft, Motherboard

"Where organizations lose their interest--which is to say, funding--the crowd is there to step in. It's true if there isn't money for a Veronica Mars movie, and it's true if the Mars Rover is taking up all of the space agency's cash and attention. An old, even distinguished, NASA spacecraft is coasting toward Earth, but NASA can't afford to bring it back online. That's why a couple of guys want to take on the "geeky endeavor" of bumping it back in to place--with as many 80 year olds as they can find and a satellite dish in Kentucky."

ISEE-3 - An Old Friend Comes to Visit Earth, (with videos) NASA

"Today, some citizen scientists are investigating whether it would be feasible to communicate with ISEE-3 for the first time in almost two decades in order to send commands to return it to L1. A daunting prospect after all this time with NASA's old friend."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project

NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects, GAO

"NASA projects have continued to make progress in maturing technologies prior to the preliminary design review. This year, 63 percent of projects met this standard, up from only 29 percent of projects in 2010. For example, in preparation for its upcoming confirmation review, one project has matured all 10 of its critical technologies, which GAO's past work has shown is important to decrease the likelihood of cost and schedule growth. NASA's heightened awareness of reducing technology risk is further evidenced by new guidance aimed at ensuring continued focus on technical maturity. As NASA continues to undertake more complex projects it will be important to maintain heightened attention to best practices to lessen the risk of technology development and continue positive cost and schedule performance."

Pad 39A Goes Commercial

NASA Signs Agreement with SpaceX for Use of Historic Launch Pad

"NASA Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Complex 39A, the site from which numerous Apollo and space shuttle missions began, is beginning a new mission as a commercial launch site. NASA signed a property agreement with Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., on Monday for use and occupancy of the seaside complex along Florida's central east coast. It will serve as a platform for SpaceX to support their commercial launch activities."

Dragon Cargo Craft Launch Scrubbed; Station Crew Preps for Spacewalk

"Monday's launch attempt of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, loaded with nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station's Expedition 39 crew, was scrubbed due to a helium leak on the Falcon 9 first stage. The next launch opportunity would be Friday, April 18 at 3:25 p.m. EDT if the issue can be resolved."

NASA TV to Air SpaceX-3 Status Update at Noon EDT April 13

"NASA Television will air a news conference at noon EDT on Sunday, April 13 at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The briefing will provide an update on the status of the SpaceX-3 cargo mission launch to the International Space Station, currently scheduled for 4:58 p.m. Monday, April 14, and on the failure on Friday of a backup computer component that provides redundancy for commanding the Mobile Transporter rail car on the truss of the station."

Keith's note: NASA has resolved issues on ISS such that it can safely accommodate Dragon and has cleared SpaceX for their launch tomorrow.

Curiously, the banner shown behind the briefers today does not show a SpaceX Dragon (the vehicle actually being launched) but shows a NASA Orion instead. I am told that this was done in "error". OK, that happens. But why is there a NASA graphic of ISS and Orion together in the first place? Orion is not going to visit ISS. Or is it?

NASA Solicits New Collaborative Partnerships with Commercial Space Industry

"Building on the success of NASA's commercial spaceflight initiatives, agency officials announced Monday plans to solicit proposals from U.S. private enterprises for unfunded partnerships to collaboratively develop new commercial space capabilities. An Announcement for Proposals will be released on March 31 for the competitive selection of one or more SAAs. NASA plans a pre-proposal teleconference on April 3 to discuss the initiative and answer questions."

SpaceX Conducts Falcon 9R Static Fire Test [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX successfully test fired the first stage of F9R--an advanced prototype for the world's first reusable rocket--in preparation for its first test flight in the coming weeks. Unlike airplanes, a rocket's thrust increases with altitude; F9R generates just over a million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space."

JAXA Selects Mitsubishi to Build New Flagship Launch Vehicle, SpaceRef Business

"JAXA has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to build a new flagship launch vehicle to replace the current H-IIA and H-IIB launch vehicles and intends to compete for international commercial contracts.

The new rocket is expected to come into service in 2020 and JAXA stated that they plan on cutting launch costs by half to try and compete directly with Arianespace, SpaceX and other commercial launch providers."

A Win-Win Sanction - It's past time for the nation that won the space race to get back in the business, National Review Online

"Russia may retaliate by cutting off our supply of RD-180 engines. Imported Russian RD-180s power the first stage of the American Atlas V rocket; the Atlas V launches our military satellites. If Putin does threaten our rocket shipments, we can dip into the two-year store that has been stockpiled for just such an occasion -- and two weeks ago, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk testified to Congress that his American-made Falcon rockets are ready to take over (for about $300 million less per flight than an Atlas launch costs taxpayers now)."

Orbital Drops Antitrust Lawsuit Against ULA, Space News

"Orbital is considering the RD-180 as a replacement for the AJ-26 engines that power the main stage of the company's Antares medium-lift rocket. Each Antares rocket uses two AJ-26 engines, which are actually Soviet-vintage NK-33 engines refurbished by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif. Orbital has secured only enough AJ-26 engines for the eight cargo-delivery missions to the international space station the company owes NASA through 2016 under a $1.89 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract signed in 2008."

Keith's note: Wouldn't it be prudent to start building Americanized versions of these engines - or develop home grown designs?

Space Florida Signs MOU With Swiss Space Systems

"Today, aerospace company Swiss Space Systems (S3) inaugurates its new U.S. subsidiary, S3 USA Operations (Florida) Inc., at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). S3 has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Space Florida for future utilization the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) and associated infrastructure for its flight operations, which are slated to begin in 2015 with zero gravity flights. S3 will also evaluate the SLF as a main site for satellite launches beginning in 2018."

Swiss Space Systems Opens U.S. Subsidiary and Plans to use KSC Shuttle Landing Facility, SpaceRef Business

Human Exploration Drives Space Launch System, Aviation Week

"It doesn't seem likely that NASA and it's congressional backers will trust human lives anytime soon to a 27-engine vehicle that bears an unfortunate resemblance to the ill-fated Soviet N-1 Moon rocket, which had 30".

Keith's note: Odd comment from Aviation Week given that NASA has been putting American astronauts on Soyuz launchers for a long time and they use 20 engines just to leave the pad. Oh yes, his rocket actually is a Soviet design.

NASA Names David W. Miller as Agency's New Chief Technologist

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday that David W. Miller, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., has been named the agency's new Chief Technologist. As chief technologist, he will be Bolden's principal advisor and advocate on matters concerning agency-wide technology policy and programs."

The Path Forward In American Space - 2014 Edition, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"I AM UNEASY. I resent the passive attitudes many scientists have toward the challenge of science, especially their passivity concerning the greatest scientific, technological, and industrial opportunity of all time--- the development of space--- a challenge so limitless and exciting as ultimately to surpass all previous human accomplishments.... I am angry that so many scientists do not voice the scientific benefits of the expedition to the moon, concerned that industrial directors in charge of tomorrow are tranquil to the future, disturbed that our non-scientific Congress is unrealistic in its reasons for space appropriations, and disgusted with scientific journals that have abdicated their responsibilities of leadership and fail, even, to present a point of view. Hundreds of important scientific and cold-cash reasons abound for going to the moon..."

These words could have been written by myself or a number of other space advocates over the last few years (it could also be written about Mars). However, these were written as the preface to a book "The Case for Going to the Moon", written in 1965 by Neil Ruzic, the editor and publisher of the 1960's era journal Industrial Research. The forward to the "Case for Going to the Moon" was written by Arthur C. Clarke. ...

Space Florida Space February 3 FY 2014 Tourism Report DEO Deliverables, Space Florida

"Space Florida's objective for the space tourism marketing appropriation is to define and develop the scope of space tourism throughout the state of Florida. Breaking the plan into three phases will allow us to address the different needs and goals of the aerospace industry. Each stage of this plan includes specific tactics with messaging relevant to the targeted demographic, as well as built in opportunities to measure reach, effectiveness and the return on investment of each individual tactic."

Keith's note: Looks like they want to do "train wraps" in Chicago, kiosks in New York City's financial district, Denver Airport ... They are ambitious - and they do have a viable precedent for attracting business to Florida: Ron Jon Surf Shop billboards up and down the east coast.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Says Private Companies Won't Take The Lead In Space Exploration, TechCrunch

"Tyson described space travel as "a long-term investment": "It's an investment that private enterprise cannot lead." He recalled the excitement around SpaceX's delivery of cargo the International Space Station, which sparked discussion about whether private companies would replace government as the main engine behind space travel. Tyson's response? "They brought cargo to the space station! NASA's been doing that for 30 years!" The problem, he said, is that it's hard to predict the risk and return on investment on "doing anything big and expensive first." He noted that the first Europeans to come to America were not the Dutch East India Company, but Christopher Columbus and his crew, whose expedition was paid for by Spain. After the initial exploration, there will be opportunities for private companies. "The first trillionaire in the world is going to be the person who first mines the asteroid belt," Tyson said."

Keith's note: Its rather odd that Tyson dumps on what SpaceX has accomplished i.e. that NASA did it 30 years ago (he doesn't explain that i.e the hugely expensive shuttle) but then he says that the person who first mines the asteroid will become a trillionaire. Assuming that the person gains these monetary riches by mining, you'd have to assume that they are a capitalist and that they did this commercially. So, Tyson dumps on commercial operations on space station as being ho hum and then says that the same mindset/world view i.e. commerce will be behind asteroid mining which he seems to equate with exploration.

Ukraine crisis could end U.S. space reliance on Russia, Politico

"In previous budgets, Congress hasn't fully funded commercial crew requests as a way of finding savings, to the chagrin of its advocates. "The president has been requesting approximately $800 million every year since his FY12 budget submission to fund the development of American vehicles to provide access to the ISS, only to have Congress, led primarily by the GOP but not exclusively, dramatically undercut that funding," said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the state's spaceport authority and aerospace development organization. But Russia's incursion into Crimean region of Ukraine has put the spotlight on the U.S. and Russia's codependence in space, and could provide the political capital necessary for the program to get full funding this time around."

GAO: National Defense: Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Competitive Procurement

"If DOD requires all offers to contain both fixed-price and cost-reimbursement features for launch services and capability, respectively, similar to the way it currently contracts with ULA, there could be benefits to DOD and ULA, but potential burdens to new entrants. Alternatively, if DOD implements a fixed-price commercial approach to launch proposals, DOD could lose insight into contractor cost or pricing. DOD could also require a combination of elements from each of these approaches, or develop new contract requirements for this competition."

GAO: Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: Introducing Competition into National Security Space Launch Acquisitions

"In December 2013, DOD signed a contract modification with ULA, committing the government to buy 35 launch vehicle booster cores over a 5-year period, and the associated capability to launch them. The new contract represents significant effort on the part of DOD to negotiate better launch prices through its improved knowledge of contractor costs, and DOD officials expect the new contract to realize significant savings, primarily through stable unit pricing for all launch vehicles. DOD is also leading a broader competition for up to 14 additional launches, expected to begin in fiscal year 2015."

Testimony of Elon Musk, Hearing on National Security Space Launch Programs

"Recently, some have claimed that the Air Force's block buy of 36 booster cores from the incumbent will save the taxpayer "$4.4 billion over the next several years." Any "savings" resulting from a block buy of 36 rocket cores from the incumbent provider are derived directly from a 50 percent year-over-year budget projection increase in FY2012, which was purposefully based on worst-case assumptions for a single- Launch buy, and acknowledged at the time by the incumbent as being inflated.5 If SpaceX had contracted for these missions, using the same baseline, we would have saved the taxpayer a total of $11.6 billion."

Testimony of Michael C. Gass, Hearing on National Security Space Launch Programs

"ULA was formed to enable assured access to space with two separate launch systems, with recognition the that market demand was insufficient to sustain two competitors. We went from two competing teams with redundant and underutilized infrastructure to one team that has delivered the expected savings of this consolidation."

Testimony of Scott Pace, Hearing on National Security Space Launch Programs

Webcast

NASA FY 2015 Budget - Commercial Crew is Investing in America, SpaceRef Business

"Early in his opening statement during the NASA teleconference on NASA's FY 2015 budget request, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden made it clear that reliance on the Russians for access to the International Space Station is choice Congress must choose to end.

Bolden said "budgets are about making choices, and let me clear about one thing, the choice here is between fully funding the request to bring space launches back to the U.S. or continuing millions in subsidies to the Russians, it's that simple. The Obama administration chooses investing in America. We believe Congress will choose this course as well."

On a day where tensions in Ukraine's Crimea only slighted abated, hammering on Congress about the choices they've made with respect to funding Commercial Crew budgeting in past years seemed appropriate. But was anybody listening?"

Inspiration Mars Sets Sights on Venus/Mars Flyby in 2021, Dennis Tito, opinion, SpaceNews

"Today, the IMF remains fully committed to its vision to help provide America with a viable, challenging and inspirational mission to Mars as a way to help accelerate our nation's plans for space exploration. However, given the extensive use of NASA assets that are already funded and under development, the strategy to pursue the mission opportunity in 2021 would clearly be the purview of the Congress, the Obama administration and NASA."

Keith's note: Tito's op ed is, at a minimum, disingenuous. Actually it is outright deceptive. This is bait and switch, plain and simple. As if no one would notice. Tito seems to want everyone to think that his original wholly-private funded Falcon-9 based plan for 2017 is somehow just a different flavor of his new 2021 SLS/Orion-based, NASA-funded plan. Ho hum. All that needs to be done is change the computer graphics, write some op eds, update the calendar app on your smartphones, and off we go to Mars. He says that it's all "Inspirational" so who cares, right?

Mr. Tito is asking NASA, Congress, and the White House to find billions of dollars on top of a budget that is going to be flat for the next few years, and launch the very first SLS/Orion mission on a trip to Mars with zero chance of return should anything go wrong. ANYTHING. Even the gutsy Apollo 8 had precursor shakeout flights of its launch vehicle and main spacecraft systems. No advisory committee has called for this mission.

And unless these extra billions are found the ISS will need to be abandoned by the U.S. There is simply no money to do both under the budget that everyone in Washington seems to want NASA to have. By going from the laudable notion of a privately-funded mission to one paid for by tax dollars Inspiration Mars is now simply an advertisement for more SLS funding. No "inspiration" there.

Tito just wants us all to do it as part of his legacy and he wants the rest of us to foot the bill. Has he disclosed how much of his own millions he will commit?

NASA Provides Updated Commercial Spaceflight Report, SpaceRef Business

"NASA has released its 14th 60 day Commercial Spaceflight Report. The bi-monthly report outlines the progress of NASA's commercial crew and cargo development programs. Highlights include Boeing completing 15 of 20 Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones, SpaceX completing 12 of 17 and Sierra Nevada 8 of 14."

"Of the five milestones left for Boeing, two will be completed in the first quarter of this year; M10: Spacecraft Primary Structures Critical Design Review and M17: Pilot-in-the-Loop Demonstration. Boeing's contract value is $480 million of which $404.5 has been paid with $75.5 remaining."

NASA Proposed Rule: Profit and Fee Under Federal Financial Assistance Awards

"NASA is revising the NASA Grant & Cooperative Agreement Handbook to clarify that NASA does not pay profit or fee on Federal Financial Assistance awards, i.e. grants and cooperative agreements, to non-profit organizations. This proposed rule would make changes to NASA regulations to reflect that revision."

"... There appears to have been some confusion with regard to the term `management fee'. Management fees that are allowable, allocable, reasonable and necessary costs in accordance with an entity's established accounting practices and Government cost principles will be paid by NASA. This rule is clarifying that NASA will not pay profit or fee where profit or fee is defined as the amounts above allowable costs. The language in this rule has been revised to clarify this point."

New NASA Policy Directive Signed: Challenges, Prize Competitions and Crowdsourcing Activities

"To encourage the use of challenge activities (challenges), including prize competitions and crowdsourcing activities, to further the Agency's mission at all levels of the NASA organization. The Federal Government has been encouraged to use prizes and challenges as tools to solve problems and drive innovation for specific needs. Challenges use afocused problem-statement approach to obtain solutions and/or stimulate innovation from a broad, sometimes undefined, public rather than a specific named group or individual. Prize competitions and crowdsourcing are two specific techniques for implementing challenges."

Keith's update: Waypoint2space is still selling their "train like an astronaut" courses - even though they admitted to NASAWatch that they are not training people to become astronauts. That does not stop them from prominently asking asking "Have you ever wanted to be an ASTRONAUT" on their main webpage.

This webpage claims "At Waypoint 2 Space, we are proud to be leading the evolution of Commercial Spaceflight Training through our collaboration with NASA centers. Operating from the global hub of space technology - Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - we are helping to shape the future of the Commercial Space Industry."

What "collaboration?" Has any agreement been signed between Waypoint2Space and NASA? NASA says no. Waypoint2space still claims to be "operating" from JSC (technically correct since they have a small office in a tech transfer building onsite) but they make no mention of the fact that their training will actually happen offsite in a rented building. Very misleading. They have removed all of the commercial space company logos that were previously shown on their website. They have also changed their main page so that you cannot easily see other links - but if you go to this page the old menu is still on top.

- Can You Train Like An Astronaut at JSC for $45,000? Not Without NASA's Permission, earlier post
- Waypoint2space: Closer Look at Website Claims About Operations at NASA JSC, earlier post
- Waypoint2space Clarifies A Few Things About Astronaut Training at NASA JSC, earlier post

Who Owns The Moon?

Lunar property rights, Economist

"According to the United Nations Outer Space Treaty, signed by every space-faring country, no nation can claim sovereignty over Earth's lunar satellite. 102 countries have entered into to the 1967 accord; China joined in 1983. But space law scholars debate whether the Treaty actually implicitly prohibits, or allows, private ownership on celestial bodies. Some commercial companies, such as Bigelow Aerospace, are hoping to use the ambiguity of the treaty's language to their advantage. Founded in 1999 and based in Las Vegas, the firm aims to manufacture inflatable space habitats. It already has an agreement with NASA to expand the International Space Station in 2015 using its flexible modules, and also to devise a plan for a privately developed, NASA financed, lunar base architecture."

Manned missions from Wallops?, DelmarvaNow

"Substantial development of the launch facilities on Wallops Island would be required to accommodate human space flight, [Mike Gold Bigelow Aerospace] said. But he called manned flights from Wallops "not only the next logical step but...a step we must take if we want to continue to grow our capabilities." The Virginia spaceport does not provide a particularly attractive trajectory for satellite launches, Gold said, adding, "That's why you see a company like SpaceX located in Texas rather than Wallops." "What we are good for is human spaceflight--the Eastern Shore has a great trajectory, great capabilities to support human spaceflight."

NASA OIG: Final Report - IG-14-014 - NASA's Award Closeout Process, NASA OIG

"As of October 2013, NASA had more than 15,000 award instruments that had expired but were not yet closed. NASA contracts with a private company to assist with the closeout process. The OIG found that although NASA has slowed the growth of its backlog of instruments awaiting closeout, the Agency needs to make further improvements to its closeout process."

Keith's note: Silicon Valley sources report that NASA will announce that Google-backed developer Planetary Ventures has been selected to lease Moffett Field and Hangar One. Details to follow.

Keith's update: GSA, NASA Competitively Select Planetary Ventures LLC for Rehabilitation of Hangar One, Use of Moffett Federal Airfield

Notice of Intent - Leasing Opportunity - Hangar One and Moffett Federal Airfield, earlier post

Delight Over ISS Extension, Debate Over Regulations Highlight 2014 FAA Commercial Space Conference, SpacePolicyOnline.com

"The FAA's annual Commercial Space Transportation conference covered a lot of ground this week (February 5-6, 2014), but two topics were highlights:  the Obama Administration's recent decision to extend operations of the International Space Station (ISS) by four more years and debate about the extent of government regulation of commercial human spaceflight."

Marc's update: Audio of the conference sessions are now available on SpaceRef Business.

Watch Live - Agenda

Keith's update: Guess what: this conference will be webcast live after all! In all of my interactions with FAA Commercial Space Transportation Office - as late as Tuesday morning - no one in that office knew about a webcast of this meeting. There is no mention whatsoever made of a webcast on the registration website or at their FAA website. Yet according to the helpful folks at FAA Headquarters Media Relations, this is the link for the two day event: http://weblinkaudiovideo.com/faa-live-webcast.php. The FAA Commercial Space Transportation Office staff need to talk to their own PAO office a little more often - they might learn something.

Necessary Updates to the Commercial Space Launch Act: Hearing Charter

"The industry has grown over the years since the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-575) thirty years ago, and this law has been amended several times since then. The Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) provides authority to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to license launches and indemnify launch providers from third-party claims should an accident occur. The law also provides a framework for the FAA's regulatory authority. This hearing will examine the various changes in the industry and what, if any, accompanying changes to the Commercial Space Launch Act may be needed going forward."

- Prepared Statement by George Nield
- Prepared Statement by Henry Hertzfeld
- Statement of Rep. Steven Palazzo
- Statement of Chairman Lamar Smith
- Commercial Space Launches: FAA's Risk Assessment Process Is Not Yet Updated, Alicia Puente Cackley, GAO

Review of NASA's Agency Consolidated End-User Services Contract, NASA OIG

"NASA's lack of adequate preparation prior to deploying the ACES contract together with HP's failure to meet important contract objectives has resulted in the contract falling short of Agency expectations. We attribute these shortcomings to several factors, including a lack of technical and cultural readiness by NASA for an Agency-wide IT delivery model, unclear contract requirements, and the failure of HP to deliver on some of its promises. In general, these issues fall into two categories: (1) issues related to the Agency's overall IT governance and (2) management and problems specific to the ACES contract."

Keith's note: I finally had a chance to talk with Kevin Heath from Waypoint2space about their astronaut training services in response to earlier postings on NASAWatch. Heath confirmed that they do not have a signed Space Act Agreement with NASA in place and that it is currently stuck in NASA Legal limbo (that certainly can happen). Waypoint2space says that they do have a signed agreement with Jacobs Engineering but that only deals with their interactions with Jacobs - not NASA. Heath also confirmed that NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) has declined to work with them but that the JSC Engineering Directorate was interested. As stated earlier, I find it somewhat perplexing to see how NASA can support a cmpany offering astronaut training when the very part of NASA (MOD) that does such things declines to participate.

Keith's note: The other day I wrote about the announcement made by Waypoint2space about the astronaut training services they are currently selling - services that claim use of NASA JSC facilities. I did get a few responses from the company (with legal disclosure caveats attached) before they stopped responding. I have asked NASA PAO to respond but they have yet to do so. Below are some observations regarding what is still posted on the Waypoint2space website. I'd be more than happy to post any responses from Waypoint2space - so long as they do not attach legal restrictions on the dissemination of those responses.

Keith's note: According to Waypoint2space.com "To go into space, step out of the vehicle, and float above the earth while reaching for the stars - but wondered if you have what it takes? For the first time in history, you can train like an astronaut using the most advanced facilities and equipment in the world. Operating from NASA's Johnson Space Center, we offer the definitive training experience with our fully comprehensive and immersive space training programs. These one-of-a-kind programs prepare you for spaceflight while you experience first hand what every astronaut has during their preparation for space. Additionally, SFP's are trained in accordance to our FAA Safety Approval ensuring a consistent level of spaceflight competency."

Sounds cool. But a closer look raises some important questions.

NASA Has Another TDRS

NASA Launches TDRS-L a Third Generation Communications Satellite (with video)

"NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite L (TDRS-L), the 12th spacecraft in the agency's TDRS Project, is safely in orbit after launching at 9:33 p.m. EST Thursday aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida."

- Boeing TDRS-L Relay Satellite Sends 1st Signals from Space
- ULA Successfully Launches Tracking and Data Relay Satellite

SNC Announces First Orbital Flight of Dream Chaser

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces that it has confirmed that the first orbital flight of its Dream Chaser(R) Space System will occur on November 1, 2016. Dream Chaser will be brought to orbit on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that is being built in Decatur, Alabama and will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida."

Keith's note: So ... who is paying for this launch? There's no mention of that in the press release. No mention anywhere else either. These things are not cheap ....

Virgin Galactic Conducts Successful Test Firings of LauncherOne Liquid Rocket Engine

"As part of a rapid development program, Virgin Galactic has now hot-fired both a 3,500 lbf thrust rocket engine and a 47,500 lbf thrust rocket engine, called the "NewtonOne" and "NewtonTwo" respectively. Further, the NewtonOne engine has successfully completed a full-mission duty cycle on the test stand, firing for the five-minute duration expected of the upper stage engine on a typical flight to orbit."

NASA Conducts Orion Parachute Test

"Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA's Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight. The test was the first to give engineers in-air data on the performance of the system that jettisons Orion's forward bay cover. The cover is a shell that fits over Orion's crew module to protect the spacecraft during launch, orbital flight and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. When Orion returns from space, the cover must come off before the spacecraft's parachutes can deploy. It must be jettisoned high above the ground in order for the parachutes to unfurl."

SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachute System

"Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) gathered in Morro Bay, Calif., in late December to demonstrate how the company's Dragon spacecraft's parachute system would function in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent. The test was part of an optional milestone under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative and approved by the agency in August."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Annual Report for 2013

"In an effort to devise a program that fits within available funding, the CCP is requesting proposals to develop a new system to transport humans into space by means of a fixed-price contract and source selection crite- ria that cause some within the space flight community to worry that price has become more important than safety. Competition between two or more CCP contractors potentially fosters improved attention to safety. However, the ability to sustain a competitive environment may fall victim to further funding shortfalls."

NASA to GAO on protest over $2B SAIC contract: You got it wrong, Washington Business Journal

"NASA has responded to the Government Accountability Office's decision to sustain a protest over a nearly $2 billion contract award to Science Applications International Corp. And it's saying the GAO got it wrong. That response came by way of a motion to reconsider, which was filed with the GAO Jan. 6, 10 days after the watchdog agency decided to sustain a protest over NASA's $1.76 billion contract for medical, biomedical and health services supporting NASA human spaceflight programs."

Did NASA screw up a $2B contract award to SAIC?, Washington Business Journal

"Science Applications International Corp. is not the same company it was last summer -- something it tried to warn NASA about while bidding for a nearly $2 billion deal. So whose fault is it that the agency opted to ignore the obvious?"

Decision Matter of: Wyle Laboratories, Inc., GAO

"Protest is sustained where the awardee's proposal, and the agency's evaluation thereof, failed to reasonably reflect the manner in which the contract will be performed, the level of costs likely associated with performance, and the corporate entity that will perform the contract."

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Applauds Passage of Bill Providing Funding for Commercial Programs and Renewal of Government Risk-Sharing

"The bill funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at $696 million, a significant increase from FY13. "With this bill's strong Commercial Crew funding, Congress has acknowledged the importance of quickly developing a U.S. system to carry American astronauts and reduce our dependence on aging Russian infrastructure," said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. "We applaud Congress for recognizing the importance of a robust U.S. space program and, in particular, an organic capability to provide human access to Low-Earth Orbit."

Keith's note: "strong Commercial Crew funding"? What CSF seems to not comprehend is the fact that the $696M in this budget is $125 million less than the $821M White House asked for in FY 2014. When you take into consideration that of this $696M, $171M is not being given to NASA anytime soon (unless they produce the ISS report that Congress requires), then NASA will only have $525M in FY 2014. $525M is $296M less than the White House asked for i.e. a one-third cut in what was requested.

In FY 2014 budget hearings last year Charlie Bolden was clear that if he did not get the $821M that the White House asked for in FY 2014 then having a commercial crew capability in 2017 was not going to happen. In addition, the NASA OIG noted in a report that previous cuts in commercial crew budgets have already forced a slip from 2015 to 2017. One would assume that future budget shortfalls would have a similar consequence.

No matter how you slice this, NASA is not getting the $821M that was the basis for the line in the sand drawn by Charlie Bolden last year with regard to the FY 2014 budget. Neither $696M or $525M is even close. If Bolden was accurate when he made these public statements, then as soon as the President signs this budget bill into law, NASA needs to be sending notification to Congress, per Bolden's statement, that 2017 is off the table. If not, then you have to question whether NASA can back up any of its statements with regard to what it needs for large projects - SLS, JWST, etc.

NASA Chief:Commercial Crew Safe from Sequester, for Now, Space News

"If we aren't able to get up to the $800 million level [FY 2014], then I will have to come back and officially notify the Congress that we cannot make 2017 for availability of commercial crew," Bolden said at that hearing."

NASA IG Warns on Commercial Crew as NASA Celebrates End of COTS, SpacePolicyOnline

"The OIG did not make any recommendations on the issue of unstable funding, but noted that for FY2011-2013, NASA received only 38 percent of its requested funding for the program, resulting in a delay from FY2015 to FY2017 of the first expected commercial crew flight. "The combination of a future flat-funded profile and lower-than-expected levels of funding over the past 3 years may delay the first crewed flight beyond 2017 and closer to 2020, the current expected end of the operational life of the ISS." The report includes the following table showing NASA's successive 5-year budget projections for the commercial crew program beginning in FY2009."

- Charlie Bolden Has His Head In The Sand Again, earlier post
- Confusion on "Pretty Darn Good" Statement from OSTP, earlier post
- Commercial Crew Transportation Capability RFP Released, earlier post
- NASA OIG Report on Commercial Crew Program, earlier post

NASA's Strategic Sourcing Program: NASA's Strategic Sourcing Efforts Are Disjointed and Incomplete, OIG

" While NASA established a Strategic Sourcing Program as required by a 2005 Office of Management and Budget memorandum, it has never conducted a comprehensive, Agency-wide spend analysis to identify commodities that could benefit from a more strategic procurement approach. Further, although NASA performed limited spend analyses on individual commodities, it has not established requirements regarding how such analyses should be developed, analyzed, and used. While NASA officials said they have realized savings under specific strategic sourcing initiatives, NASA does not track its Agency-wide strategic sourcing efforts and therefore was unable to determine the extent of any efficiencies or cost savings."

First CASIS-Sponsored Payloads Berthed to the International Space Station

"Below is an overview of the major payloads now on board the ISS sponsored by CASIS: ... Story Time From Space - Patricia Tribe, T2 Sciences & Math Education Consultants and Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, Author - This project aims to bring space station science to communities through the simple beauty of reading a book to a child. Crewmembers on the International Space Station host Story Time From Space by producing videotaped readings from a children's book, which are later broadcast on Earth. The astronauts also complete simple demonstrations that accompany the science, technology, engineering and math concepts in the books. The videos are edited and posted to an online library, with related educational materials, for use by educators and parents". 

Keith's note: I am the first one to say that using the ISS for educational purposes is important. While some of the other things listed are interesting, lumping this this bedtime story thing into the "major payload" category makes me wonder whether CASIS is truly up to the fullest utilization of the ISS for the maximum benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.

Max Luke and Jenna Mukuno: Boldly Going Where No Greens Have Gone Before, Wall Street Journal

"When you include the energy of the entire Virgin Galactic operation, which includes support aircraft, it is seven times more than the flight from Singapore to London. As such, a single trip on Virgin Galactic will require twice as much energy as the average American consumes each year. (These numbers were confirmed by a representative for Virgin Galactic.)"

Virgin's Spaceship Already Meets Fuel-Economy Goal, , George Whitesides, Wall Street Journal

"The article rightly implies that a return economy trip from London to Singapore, in any modern airliner, will generate a C02 footprint per passenger of at least two tons. The FAA estimates that Virgin Galactic's fully reusable SpaceShipTwo passenger spacecraft will take you to space and back leaving a carbon footprint of just 0.28 tons--in fact, less than the carbon output of an economy return seat from Los Angeles to New York. To be fair to the authors, Virgin Galactic, for safety reasons, launches its spacecraft from a specially designed carrier aircraft. This aircraft is the largest all-carbon-composite aviation vehicle ever built and is the lightest and most fuel-efficient aircraft of its size. Therefore, in a typical space mission fuel usage for the carrier aircraft will only equate to a carbon footprint per astronaut passenger of about 1.5 tons, giving a total for aircraft and spaceship of around 1.8 tons (less than a return economy class ticket from London to Singapore)."

SpaceShipTwo Goes Supersonic for Third Time, earlier post

SpaceX may pick Texas over controversial Merritt Island launch site, Orlando Sentinel

"Though Florida officials admit that the state is an underdog in the fight, they contend that Spaceport Shiloh, named for an abandoned citrus town in the Cape Canaveral area, is worth fighting for -- and not just for SpaceX. "We are going ahead with Shiloh with or without SpaceX," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, a booster group for the aerospace industry. As an alternate, Space Florida has looked at the Washington-based company Blue Origin, which has expressed an interest in launching its vehicles from Florida. "We remain keenly interested in Shiloh, as well as potential commercial launch sites in Florida and other locations," said Robert Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, in a statement."

Why Does Space Florida Need Its Own Spaceport?, earlier post

Kennedy: Launch presages economic benefits for state, Times DIspath

"Virginia's $150 million Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) asset awaits Richmond decision-making on whether it is to be a part of the future of human spaceflight. A leap to include commercial spaceflight passenger service to the commercial cargo launch manifest from the Eastern Shore requires public-private partnership investment and long-term planning."

Proposed SpaceX site near Brownsville sits on 87 acres near Boca Chica, The Monitor

"The proposed site of a facility for Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., where the world's first commercial rocket-launching complex would be located, consists of 87 acres in four tracts along state Highway 4 at Boca Chica Boulevard. The California-based space exploration firm has leased slightly more than half the land, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, and additionally owns about a quarter of the tracts on the site, as shown in public deed records providing information about property ownership in the area."

Cygnus Berthed at ISS

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus Spacecraft Docks With Space Station

"The spacecraft was then grappled and berthed with the station by the Expedition 38 astronaut crew earlier this morning. After Cygnus was launched into orbit by Orbital's Antares(TM) rocket on Thursday, January 9 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, it completed a series of thruster firings and other maneuvers bringing the spacecraft in close proximity to the ISS."

Virgin Galactic Reaches New Heights in Third Supersonic Test Flight

"Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, which is owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). In command on the flight deck of SS2 for the first time under rocket power was Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot Dave Mackay."

Keith's note: NASA gave the Space Frontier Foundation $100,000 with the specific intention that it be distributed to winners in their "NewSpace Business Plan Competition". SFF was not "giving away $100K to NewSpace startups" This was never their money in the first place. In addition to NASA money, the SFF also administered smaller prizes donated by several aerospace companies. But they seem to want people to think that it was their money that was being given out and do not mention NASA and other sponsors while they brag about the money they "give away".

There were problems with this recent business plan competition and it will be interesting to see how NASA picks the organization to conduct a similar function next time. Given that SFF had no competition when it was chosen by NASA in the past several years, one would hope that NASA puts this out for competition such that organizations with a track record in the business world have a chance to submit proposals to run future competitions offering NASA funds as prizes.

Cygnus Is in Orbit

Cargo Launched to Space Station Aboard Orbital-1 Mission

"The launch aboard Orbital's Antares rocket took place from NASA's Wallop's Flight Facility in Virginia Thursday, at 1:07 p.m. EST."

Orbital Launches Antares Rocket Carrying Cygnus On ISS Cargo Resupply Mission

"Under a $1.9 billion CRS contract with NASA, Orbital will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver up to 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over eight missions through late 2016. For these missions, NASA will manifest a variety of essential items based on ISS program needs, including food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments."

Orb-1 Launch Rescheduled

Orbital to Proceed With Antares Launch Tomorrow

"Following a comprehensive review of data related to the radiation environment in space, further reviews and modeling of the rocket's avionics systems, and the forecast for favorable terrestrial weather conditions at the Wallops Island launch facility, the Antares launch team has decided to proceed forward with a launch attempt of the Orbital-1 CRS mission to the International Space Station tomorrow, January 9."

Orb-1 Launch for Jan 8 Has Been Scrubbed

"Early this morning, Orbital Sciences Corp. decided to scrub today's launch attempt of the Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft on the company's first resupply mission to the International Space Station due to an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded constraints imposed on Antares."

SNC and ESA Sign MOU on Dream Chaser

"ESA and American company Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), have signed an understanding to identify areas of collaboration with European industry for developing hardware and mission concepts for the Dream Chaser orbital transportation system"

Sierra Nevada Corporation Announces International Expansion of the Dream Chaser Space System

"As the only lifting-body, low-g reentry spacecraft with the capability to land on commercial runways, anywhere in the world, Dream Chaser is uniquely adaptable to meet a variety of mission requirements, making it the only multi-mission space utility vehicle in the world."

NASA May Order More Soyuz Rides to Station Despite Commercial Crew Advancements, Space News

"Companies working on commercial crew transportation services to and from the international space station reported milestones in their efforts even as a NASA official warned that the agency likely will have to order more Russian Soyuz crew capsules to keep the orbital outpost fully occupied. Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters, told an advisory panel Dec. 9 that the agency may have to order another batch of Soyuz crew capsules from Russia unless Congress funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at the $800 million-plus level sought by the White House."

Space exploration in 2014: Waiting on the House to act, Daily Kos

"Suppose every time a civilian or pure research plane lifted off there was an obscure law, originally passed with good intentions, that had to be regularly reauthed by Congress or no more flights. And let's just say that Congress became hyper-polarized, a do nothing body, where even the simplest, once uncontroversial act morphed into a potential hot potato in a mid term election year. Air traffic would grind to a halt. Well, that's a fair analogy for a bureaucratic hurdle currently faced by NASA, along with contractors and customers, all waiting on a critical reauthorization before a score of rockets can be duly licensed and cleared for launch in 2014. Follow me below, deep into the cosmic weeds, and we'll review just how easy this should be to fix."

- Extending Commercial Launch Provider Indemnification, earlier post

Antares launch update: No Earlier Than January 8

"Orbital, in consultation with NASA, has decided to reschedule the Antares CRS Orb-1 Space Station Resupply Mission launch for no earlier than Wednesday, January 8, 2014.  The new target date was set due to the extreme cold temperatures that are forecasted for early next week, coupled with likely precipitation events predicted for Sunday night and Monday morning.  While we are preserving the option to launch on January 8, it is more likely that the launch will take place on Thursday, January 9 because of a much improved forecast for later in the week."

FAA Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement: Shiloh Launch Complex

"Based on comments received during the scoping period, the FAA may analyze additional alternatives. However, at this time, the alternatives under consideration include the Proposed Action and the No Action Alternative. Under the No Action Alternative, the FAA would not issue a Launch Site Operator License to Space Florida."

Federal review set for Fla. plan to build site for rocket launches, Washington Post

"Space Florida expects a new center for launches could be largely free of much of the federal red tape and the competing national priorities that can bog down private launches from the nearby Kennedy Space Center or from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch complexes. It's also close enough to the old Kennedy space shuttle landing strip, which Space Florida also is seeking to acquire, that the agency thinks companies could use them together. It's the only place, we believe, that Florida could offer the capability for a purely commercial launch site," said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida's director of strategic alliances. But the spot is within one of the most revered natural places in Florida, a 140,000-acre sanctuary of marshes, beaches, lagoons and abundant wildlife."

Keith's note: Why is more government land needed when so much of KSC and CCAFS's vast real estate already remains unused - and is begging for commercial users? Oh, and at the same time, why go out of your way to pick a national wildlife refuge to destroy? Creating a third spaceport next to KSC and CCAFS will result in duplication of capabilities at a time when consolidation and dual use are what people are striving for. While NASA is moving toward more commercial use of its facilities (LC-39A for example) it is odd that Space Florida wants to go in the opposite direction.

I do not understand how this is going to make things easier since this new spaceport would still need to cooperate with range issues on launches from KSC and CCAFS next door and would be subject to the same weather and face issues with use of a runway deep inside a government facility. They are just going to end up making things more complicated in the Space Coast area rather than less complicated. And just watch as Space Florida sticks their hand out looking for Federal (NASA) money to create this duplicate capability - directly and/or indirectly.

If anything the commercial launch sector ought to be looking for places that do not have space launch neighbors, comparatively blank slates in terms of operational complexity, and better weather - like SpaceX has been seeking to do in Texas. Why should Florida have a near-monopoly on launching things into space?

NASA Postpones Orbital Launch and Sets Spacewalks to Repair ISS

"NASA managers are postponing the upcoming Orbital Sciences commercial cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station to proceed with a series of spacewalks to replace a faulty pump module on the space station. NASA Television will air a news briefing at 3 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 18 to preview the spacewalks. Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft, atop its Antares rocket, now will launch no earlier than January. The postponement of the Antares launch will allow ample time for the station crew to focus on repairing a faulty pump module that stopped working properly on Dec. 11."

Cygnus Launch To ISS Delayed

NASA Delays Cygnus Launch Due to ISS Cooling Issue

"The launch has been delayed to no earlier than Thursday, Dec. 19 to enable engineers to continue their analysis of data involving a suspect Flow Control Valve in a pump module on the starboard truss of the station that malfunctioned on Wednesday. Orbital's Antares rocket and the Cygnus commercial cargo vehicle are now scheduled to launch from Pad 0A at the Wallops Flight Facility, Va. no earlier than Dec. 19 at 9:19 p.m. EST. NASA TV coverage of launch will begin at 8:45 p.m. EST."

GAO Decision on Blue Origin Protest Over LC -39A

"Blue Origin, LLC, of Kent, Washington, protests the actions of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in connection with its issuance of announcement for proposals (AFP) No. AFP-KSC-LC39A, for the lease of Launch Complex 39A (LC 39A) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Blue Origin maintains that the agency intends to misapply the terms of the AFP in evaluating proposals and selecting a prospective lessee for the facility. We deny the protest."

NASA Selects SpaceX to Begin Negotiations for Use of Launch Complex 39A

"NASA made the selection decision Thursday after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest filed against the Agency by Blue Origin LLC on Sept. 13. In its protest, Blue Origin raised concerns about the competitive process NASA was using to try to secure a potential commercial partner or partners to lease and use LC-39A. Blue Origin had argued the language in the Announcement for Proposals (AFP) favored one proposed use of LC-39A over others. The GAO disagreed."

- Congress Voices Support for NASA LC 39-A Leasing, earlier post
- SpaceX Statement on Shared Use of LC-39A (Update), earlier post
- New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo, earlier post

Review of Allegations of Improper Leasing and Provision of Aircraft Fuel at Moffett Federal Airfield

"The OIG found that consistent with NASA policy Ames based the price of its lease with H211 on the fair market value of comparable hangar space and that, as required, the lease and companion Space Act Agreement supported NASA's mission. Specifically, since 2009 H211 has flown more than 200 flights to collect climate data at no cost to NASA - science missions Ames officials estimate would have cost the Agency between $1,800 and $6,500 per flight hour to operate depending on the type of aircraft used. Accordingly, we determined that NASA benefitted from both its lease and Space Act Agreement with H211. ... We found that from September 2007 until August 2013, H211 purchased fuel at Moffett from DLA-Energy either directly or through NASA for both its personal flights and NASA science flights at a rate intended only for government agencies and their contractors. ... Even though we concluded that the fuel arrangement did not result in an economic loss to NASA or DLA-Energy, H211 nevertheless received a monetary benefit to which it was not entitled. Accordingly, we recommend that NASA explore with the company possible options to remedy this situation."

SpaceX Launches SES-8

SpaceX Launches SES-8

"SpaceX launched the SES-8 satellite this evening on a Falcon 9.1 rocket. Launch occured as the window opened at 5:41 pm ET. Second stage reignition and burn was a success. The SES-8 spacecraft is now in a nominal GEO transfer orbit. So far it seems that the flight was completely nominal."

Blue Origin Debuts the American-made BE-3 Liquid Hydrogen Rocket Engine (with video)

"Blue Origin reached a key milestone in the development of the liquid-fueled BE-3 engine by successfully demonstrating deep throttle, full power, long-duration and reliable restart all in a single-test sequence. The BE-3 is the first completely new liquid hydrogen-fueled engine to be developed for production in the U.S. since the RS-68 more than a decade ago."

NASA Commercial Crew Partner Blue Origin Test-Fires New Rocket Engine (with video)

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has been working with the company on several aspects of the engine's development. The program supported testing of the BE-3 under the agency's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiative and continues to offer technical support. NASA and Blue Origin also are partnered in review and tests of the company's Space Vehicle design."

FAA Interpretation Concerning Involvement of NASA Astronauts During a Licensed Launch or Reentry

"This interpretation responds to a request from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) regarding whether the space transportation regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would restrict NASA astronauts from performing operational functions during a commercial space launch or reentry under license from the FAA."

2 The pertinent FAA regulations simply require that space flight participants: (1) be informed of risk; (2) execute a waiver of claims against the U.S. Government; (3) receive training on how to respond to emergency situations; and (4) not carry any weapons onboard. See 14 CFR Sec. Sec. 460.45-460.53.

House Approves Bipartisan Bill to Extend Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the Space Launch Liability Indemnification Extension Act (H.R. 3547)  by a vote of 376 to 5.  H.R. 3547 is a bipartisan bill that extends for one year a commercial space transportation risk-sharing and liability regime that was established by Congress in 1988 with passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments."

House Approves Bill to Extend Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"The bill extends provisions of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments, which cover third-party liability for licensed commercial space launches. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), and Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-Md.)."

Congressman questions whether NASA has let go of enough unused property, Washington Post

"NASA is in the midst of a huge yard sale at Kennedy Space Center, peddling unused hangars, assembly buildings, launch complexes and even a landing strip to commercial space companies.
But at the request of Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), Congress soon may be asking whether the space agency is cleaning out the closets thoroughly enough. Mica said he will call for a congressional hearing early next year to explore NASA's options for land or buildings that might no longer be needed among the 140,000 acres and scores of facilities at the space center."

- NASA OIG: NASA's Efforts to Reduce Unneeded Infrastructure and Facilities, earlier post
- NASA OIG: NASA's Real Property Master Planning Efforts, earlier post
- NASA's Infrastructure and Facilities: Assessment of Agency's Real Property Leasing Practices, earlier post

Keith's note: The launch of SES 8 by SpaceX was called off after two attempts to launch tonight. Both countdowns got down to within seconds of a launch. The Falcon 9 is likely to be taken down, brought to the hangar, and inspected before the next attempt. There is a window available at the same time tomorrow evening but it sounds like this inspection process will take several days.

Which way to space?, Washington Post

"Old Space (and this is still the dreamers talking) is slow, bureaucratic, government-directed, completely top-down. Old Space is NASA, cautious and halting, supervising every project down to the last thousand-dollar widget. Old Space is Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman. Old Space coasts on the glory of the Apollo era and isn't entirely sure what to do next.

New Space is the opposite of all that. It's wild. It's commercial, bootstrapping, imaginative, right up to the point of being (and this is no longer the dreamers talking) delusional."

Keith's note: Funny thing: this article's top illustration shows "Old Space Delta IV Heavy" and "New Space Dream Chaser". Guess what rocket the "New Space" Dream Chaser is shown on? Looks like an Atlas V to me. According to the article's simplistic definition, that's an "Old Space" rocket. Joel Achenbach has fallen for the same gimmick that is annoyingly common in the space business today wherein a company is one or the other but not both. And "Old" = bad and "New" = good (if you talk to a New Spacer, that is).

This "New Space" Vs "Old Space" designation is just a semantic ploy used by people who want NASA money for their company or pet idea that is currently being given to another company/project. You have to convince NASA that you are worthy of funding so you make the status quo look like dinosaurs. Market analysis, engineering excellence, and sound investment never seem to be important to the New Spacers. Being "new" and not "old" is, so it would seem. People who try and pigeon hole companies as being either "Old Space" or "New Space" into one category or another are missing what is really going on.

NASA Solicitation: Crew Exploration Vehicle Cockpit Prototyping Phase Four

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Cockpit Prototyping Phase 4 research and development (R&D). The objective of the Phase 4 work is to provide human machine interface R&D for defining CEV cockpit layout requirements, displays, and controls rapid prototyping using iterative interaction."

Keith's update: "CEV" (Crew Exploration Vehicle) is not a term that has been used for nearly a decade. "CEV" became "Orion" under Constellation. Then Orion went away when NASA cancelled it. Then it quickly came back as "MPCV" which quickly reverted to "MPCV/Orion" and then simply "Orion". Now we're back to "CEV".

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

Former head of NASA's Commercial Crew program faces federal charge, Florida Today

"After stepping down last month as the head of NASAs Commercial Crew Program, Ed Mango has pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge that he improperly intervened to help a colleague to whom he had loaned money. Mango loaned undisclosed amounts starting in October 2012 to the colleague identified in court records as C.T. including funds to hire a lawyer after her arrest last December, according to a plea agreement signed Nov. 13 and filed this week in the U.S. District Court in Orlando."

KSC leader of manned spaceflight pleads guilty to federal felony, Florida Today

"Court records identify the employee as a single mother with the initials "C.T.," and in one instance as "Thomas." FLORIDA TODAY reported last December that Candrea Thomas, a NASA public affairs officer who served as a spokeswoman for the Commercial Crew Program and worked closely with Mango, was arrested at her office at the KSC Press Site on felony charges of forging public records. NASA confirmed that Thomas was the only employee who performed work with the Commercial Crew Program who was arrested at KSC that month."

NASA employee at KSC arrested on forgery charges, ClickOrlando (2012)

"A NASA employee, who works at Kennedy Space Center, was arrested on forgery charges on Thursday 38-year-old Candrea Thomas, an employee in the Public Affairs department at the Kennedy Space Center, has been booked into the Brevard County jail, according to Brevard County Sheriff's Office."

Management Changes at Commercial Crew Program (Update), earlier post

2013 National Space Transportation Policy

"The United States has long been a leader in space, and President Obama remains committed to maintaining America's competitiveness in the aerospace sector. The National Space Transportation Policy the President signed today will ensure that the United States stays on the cutting edge by maintaining space transportation capabilities that are innovative, reliable, efficient, competitive, and affordable, and that support U.S. interests."

- President Obama's National Space Transportation Policy: A Bold Vision for Space, NASA
- Boeing Statement on President's National Space Transportation Policy, Boeing
- New National Space Transportation Policy Reaffirms that Investment in Space is a Good Investment for the Future of Our Nation, Coalition for Space Exploration
- Committee Democrats Comment on the National Space Transportation Policy, House Science Committee

Bipartisan Bill Extends Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"A bipartisan group of Science, Space, and Technology Committee leaders today introduced a bill to extend for one year a commercial space transportation risk-sharing and liability regime that was established by Congress in 1988 with passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments."

Keith's 20 Nov. note: According to a Capitol Hill source, this morning, during a House Science subcommittee on Space, Republicans agreed to the Democrats' restriction to only pass a clean one year extension of indemnification for commercial launch service providers. Over in the Senate, Bill Nelson would like to see Congress enact the three year extension that was included in the Senate NASA Authorization bill through the end of 2016. Nelson is introducing this bill this afternoon (Wed.) and hopes to move it through the Senate tomorrow (Thurs.) so they can send it to the House before the Senate goes on recess.

Text

- The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Supports S. 1753 to Extend Government-Industry Risk-Sharing Regime
- Bipartisan Bill Extends Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches
- House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Discusses Commercial Space

Statement of NASA Spokesman David Weaver Regarding Commercial Space and Inspiration Mars

"NASA has had conversations with Inspiration Mars to learn about their efforts and will continue discussions with them to see how the agency might collaborate on mutually-beneficial activities that could complement NASA's human spaceflight, space technology and Mars exploration plans. Inspiration Mars' proposed schedule is a significant challenge due to life support systems, space radiation response, habitats, and the human psychology of being in a small spacecraft for over 500 days. The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them. However, we remain open to further collaboration as their proposal and plans for a later mission develop."

Millionaire revises plan for Mars flyby in 2018: Now it's up to NASA, NBC

"Tito initially envisioned the flyby as an effort primarily backed by private contributions, but the 90-day study determined that the mission had to be done with NASA hardware. "This is really a NASA mission," Taber MacCallum, Inspiration Mars' chief technology officer, told NBC News. "This is a mission we believe NASA should do."

Inspiration Mars pivots, seeks government support and backing, Space Politics

"Are you suggesting that the mission couldn't be undertaken without additional NASA funding?" asked Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the space subcommittee. "Right now, I don't see a lot of evidence that money is available," Tito responded."

Keith's note: In a media interview today Dennis Tito and Taber MacCallum said that they viewed the Inspiration Mars mission as a "NASA mission" and that Congress and the White House would need to direct NASA to do this mission as part of their SLS program. Tito also said that there would be legislation submitted on their behalf soon but declined to say who the sponsor was. Tito and MacCallum also said that they had briefed the White House on the Inspiration Mars concept and that the White House was supportive. Administration sources contacted tonight note that it has been many months since Inspiration Mars briefed them and that the mission that they were briefed on was a wholly private venture that did not require NASA funds - certainly not a "NASA Mission". Administration sources add that it would be incorrect to state that Administration supports the Inspiration Mars mission as a "NASA mission" requiring NASA funds or hardware.

- Inspiration Mars Foundation Chairman Dennis Tito testifies before House Subcommittee on Space
- Tito prepared statement
- Inspiration Mars Architecture Study Report Summary
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, earlier post
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, earlier post

Statement by Rep. Kevin McCarthy on H.R. 3038, Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act

"The use of innovative public-private partnerships offers the government new ways of solving problems. A study shows these partnerships benefit the taxpayer, by providing space services at nearly one-tenth the cost of traditional contracting methods; getting results for less money; and catalyzing innovation, growth, and risk-sharing in the private sector. As NASA leads continued exploration missions and related technology development, entrepreneurs will follow, spending their own money and creating new industries. However, it is up to us as legislators to ensure our current regulatory environment is appropriate for the needs of the 21st Century and to make sure safety is paramount in the commercial spaceflight industry's endeavors. This is why I introduced H.R. 3038 to ensure that the U.S. commercial spaceflight industry has a clear path ahead as it continues to innovate and generate high-quality American manufacturing jobs."

Video

Keith's note: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip testified today at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Hearing on "Commercial Space". Interestingly the committee did not let McCarthy sit on the dais (protocol?) nor did they allow any of the subcommittee members to ask him any questions. Odd. This is one of House Speaker Boehner's inner leadership circle. Multiple sources report that this appearance was a message from House leadership that many of the positions being pushed by the leadership of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology are out of synch with Majority's positions. Stay tuned.

Minotaur 1 Rocket Launched (with video)

"Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world's leading space technology companies, announced that it successfully launched a Minotaur I rocket in support of the Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space Office's ORS-3 mission earlier this evening. Originating from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia, this mission marks the 25th launch for the Minotaur rocket, all of which have been successful, and the sixth Minotaur vehicle to be launched from the Wallops facility."

NASA Issues Commercial Crew Transportation Capability RFP

"Commercial Crew Request for Proposals Finalizes Development and Certification Process NASA took another step Tuesday to restore an American capability to launch astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station by the end of 2017, subject to the availability of adequate funding. The agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) requested proposals from U.S. companies to complete development of crew transportation systems that meet NASA certification requirements and begin conducting crewed flights to the space station."

NASA OIG: NASA's Use of Award Fee Contracts

"The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that shortcomings with NASA's award fee practices, including use of overly complex formulas to calculate the fees and a clause designed to hold contractors accountable for the quality of the final product that disregards interim performance evaluations, have diminished the effectiveness of NASA's use of award-fee contracts. In 26 of the 45 contracts we reviewed, we found erroneous award-fee payments totaling $66.4 million. We found that these errors resulted from NASA policy requiring the use of complex mathematical formulas to calculate interim and provisional payments. Although NASA has the opportunity to fix these errors as part of the final award-fee calculation, these funds are not available for NASA's use until corrected."

NASA Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle (sRLV) Flight and Payload Integration Services

"NASA/DFRC plans to issue a Competitive Request for Proposal (RFP)/Solicitation for the following Commercial item/services: ... The anticipated release date of the Draft RFP/Solicitation NND14480735R is on or about Dec 11, 2013. The final RFP/Solicitation is expected to be released on or about Feb 12, 2014 with an anticipated Proposal due date of on or about 28 March 2014. All responsible sources may submit a proposal which shall be considered by the agency."

NASA Hails Success of Commercial Space Program Private Space Station Resupply Underway, Plans Readied for Astronauts

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Wednesday hailed the success of the agency's public-private partnership with American companies to resupply the International Space Station and announced the next phase of contracting with U.S. companies to transport astronauts is set to begin next week."

Keith's note: The only "news" from this morning's webcast is that NASA will be issuing an RFP next week for commercial crew services. Despite a media advisory highlighting Bolden's participation in this morning's event, Bolden read some prepared remarks, posed for photos with company reps who got NASA awards, and then disappeared. There was no opportunity for media to ask him questions - all in keeping with PAO's "hide Charlie" strategy.

NASA IG Final Report: NASA's Management of the Commercial Crew Program

"... the Commercial Crew Program has received only 38 percent of requested funding for fiscal years 2011 through 2013, bringing the current aggregate budget gap to $1.1 billion when comparing funding requested to funding received. In addition, although NASA's Commercial Crew partners have completed their preliminary spacecraft designs, NASA managers have yet to develop a life cycle cost estimate showing the anticipated costs of the program year-by-year throughout its life from preliminary design through the end of operations. Without this type of detailed cost estimate, it is difficult for NASA to calculate how much funding is required each year given that costs over time can fluctuate significantly. "

Recognizing Giant Leaps: Google Lunar XPRIZE Establishes Milestone Prizes, Alex Hall, Space.com

"Two years ago, XPRIZE began a dialogue with teams to better understand the challenges that they were facing and to determine what steps we might take to better nurture and support this prize ecosystem. As a result, we determined that we needed to find a way to recognize and support the teams that were making substantial technical progress toward the requirements of the competition."

Keith's note: All of the Google Lunar X Prize competitors really need money. By creating these smaller prizes that are easier to achieve, the competitors have a chance to get some much-needed funding to keep their doors open. Of course, if Chang'e 3 lands on the Moon and deploys its rover, the Google Lunar X Prize automatically reduces by a significant amount. Add in the fact that none of the GLXP competitors have exhibited actual flight hardware or raised the funds to build and launch their vehicles and the chances for pulling this off by the December 2015 deadline are really starting to fade. This effort tosses some cash their way but also allows GLXP to proclaim "winners". Whether this will actually improve the odds that the teams launch anything remains to be seen.

Keith's update: The rules used to say "The competition's grand prize is worth $20 million. To provide an extra incentive for teams to work quickly, the grand prize value will change to $15 million whenever a government-funded mission successfully explores the lunar surface, currently projected to occur in 2013." Well, the prize decrease that would have resulted from a government-funded mission (e.g. Chang'e 3) has been removed. You can read the new rules here. Clearly the Google Lunar X Prize is quietly trying to get money to some of their teams much more easily - and sooner - and they are moving (or removing) the older goal posts so as to make it easier for teams to win these smaller prizes.

- Google Lunar X Prize: Changing Rules - and Fewer Entrants?, earlier post
- Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration, earlier post

NASA, Harvard & TopCoder Partner to Develop a Secure Solar System Internet Protocol

"TopCoder, the world's largest professional development and design community, with NASA and the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab (at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science), today announced the launch of a series of innovation challenges that will develop foundational technological concepts for disruption tolerant deep space networking. NASA has made significant progress in developing Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocols that aide in deep space communication. DTN protocols are an approach to network architecture that seeks to address the potential for lack of continuous connectivity in deep space. It is meant to aid NASA in the exploration of the solar system by overcoming communication time delays caused by interplanetary distances, and the disruptions caused by planetary rotation, orbits and limited transmission power."

Keith's note: This sounds pretty cool builds upon the Interplanetary Internet work that NASA has engaged in over the past decade or so. You'd think that extending the Internet (so to speak) to allow interaction between other worlds and spacecraft traversing our solar system would be something that all of NASA's IT and Technology, and Innovation people would want to crow about - especially since this effort is geared to engage the public via crowd sourcing. In this wired world, this is something that almost everyone in the public can relate to. Indeed, utilized crowd sourced efforts and making the results widely known is something that the Open Government Initiative is supposed to be promoting.

This effort is being coordinated by the NASA Tournament Lab at TopCoder. No specific sponsoring office or organization at NASA is mentioned. TopCoder put out a press release last week. Alas, despite the obvious nexus of interest you'd expect, NASA has been totally silent:

- NASA Public Affairs (no press release issued)
- NASA Chief Information Officer (no mention)
- NASA Space Technology Directorate (no mention)
- NASA - Office of the Chief Technologist (no mention)
- NASA Space Communications and Navigation (no mention - they also make no mention of LADEE's recent laser comms test)
NASA Open Government Initiative (no mention)

Curiously, NASA PAO did promote NASA's Interplanetary Internet efforts last year when someone commanded Robonaut to do something on the ISS. A week prior to this recently announced Interplanetary Internet challenge NASA posted this:

NASA Engages the Public to Discover New Uses for Out-of-this-World Technologies

"Now NASA has joined forces with the product development startup Marblar (www.marblar.com) for a pilot program allowing the public to crowd source product ideas for forty of NASA's patents. This initiative will allow Marblar's online community to use a portion of NASA's diverse portfolio of patented technologies as the basis of new product ideas."

Again, for the most part, NASA's Technology and Information organizations have been mostly mute:

- NASA Public Affairs (no press release issued - just an online feature)
- NASA Chief Information Officer (no mention)
- NASA Space Technology Directorate (no mention)
- NASA - Office of the Chief Technologist (posted a link)
- NASA Open Government Initiative (no mention)

Add in the curious case of innovate.nasa.gov which is apparently now "under construction, but we will be re-launching soon" after being online for a year and doing absolutely nothing to warrant its existence (or expense), and you really have to wonder what NASA is planning to do with all this Technology money that is heading their way. If the agency cannot internally coordinate a simple mechanism to organize this technology stuff - and then share it with the public - then maybe that technology money belongs elsewhere.

NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract CCTCAP

"NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to compete requirements for Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) Phase 2 of the Commercial Crew Program. The CCtCap contract is the second phase of a two-phased procurement strategy to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to achieve safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with a goal of no later than 2017."

NASA Procurement Information Circular PIC 13-05 October 25, 2013

"GUIDANCE: Under the terms of their contracts, contractors are responsible for submitting complete, proper requests for payment due to impacts of the Government shutdown, including identifying the contract clause under which payment is sought and including sufficient supporting documentation. [contracting officers] COs may not solicit requests; COs may respond to contractor questions but should not influence a contractor's choice of whether or how to pursue requests for payment. Contracting officers must evaluate contractor requests related to the Government shutdown on a contract-by-contract basis. CO evaluations must include an examination of the cost or delivery extensions requested, and a determination that adjustment is appropriate under the contract clause or term specified by the contractor. While it is not appropriate for the CO to advise the contractor on its options, during the evaluation process, the CO may determine that a request for payment should have been made under a different authority, and should notify the contractor accordingly."

NASA Technology That Can't Link To Itself, earlier post

Keith's note: NASA Office of the Chief Technologist has no link to NASA Tech Briefs. NASA Tech Briefs does not link to NASA OCT. In fact, I did a search of the source HTML code on the NASA Techbriefs home page. There are no links to anything at NASA.gov whatsoever. Yet this page features the NASA logo. Baffling.

NASA Engages the Public to Discover New Uses for Out-of-this-World Technologies

"NASA has joined forces with the product development startup Marblar for a pilot program allowing the public to crowdsource product ideas for forty of NASA's patents. This initiative will allow Marblar's online community to use a portion of NASA's diverse portfolio of patented technologies as the basis of new product ideas."

Keith's note: There is no mention of this overt technology news item from the other day on NASA's main Technology page. Given that Congress is already looking for vulnerable accounts with easy money to solve their budget problems next year (paying for SLS, Commercial Crew, Space Science) and the long knives are already out to carve up NASA's technology budget windfall and use it to solve other problems. If NASA cannot do a better job coordinating its technology portfolio and explain what it does with the technology money it has already gotten, then perhaps that money could be better spent on projects that the agency can explain - and justify.

Keith's update: @NASA-Technology noted that they have a list that collects all of NASA's technology Twitter account tweets. Its a start - but NASA still needs to coordinate its various technology efforts much better than it currently does. This list does not include coverage of @innovateDotNASA which is operated by innovate.nasa.gov. And I still find it unfathomable that NASA allows NASA Tech Briefs to continue to utterly ignore NASA - all while using "NASA" in its name and its logo as well.

- Another NASA Technology Data Dump No One Will Know About, earlier post
- NASA Praises a Spinoff That It Has Already Dumped, earlier post
- Bursting The NASA Spinoff Myth, earlier post
- More Stealth NASA Spinoffs, earlier post

Keith's note: SNC is having a media telecon tday at 11:30 am EDT. Follow @NASAWatch for tweets. Note that the video ends just before landing. Odd. You can see that the left gear was not deploying properly.

Keith's update: According to SNC's Mark Sirangelo the Dream Chaser flight on Saturday achieved 99% of what was planned. The prime purpose was to see if the vehicle would fly. It did - perfectly. This was the first test of a lifting body since the 1970s. As the landing gear deployed, the left side gear did not deploy properly. The vehicle could not compensate and skidded off of the runway ending up on its side. There was no damage to the interior of the cabin. Sirangelo said that this incident showed SNC just how strong their vehicle is. This specific vehicle was only supposed to have two drop tests before being reworked to perform orbital flight. SNC is looking into what the new plan will be for this specific vehicle. Sirangelo said that they got most of the data that they needed and that this incident will not really affect their testing plans.

Keith's 28 Oct note: Sources report that Ed Mango has resigned as head of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Kathy Leuders, the current Deputy Program Manager, will be taking over for Mango. She has the support and respect of all the companies, NASA, and the Administration. This management change will renew the tug of war between JSC and KSC over where this program should actually be managed.

Keith's 29 Oct update : According to NASA PAO: "Ed Mango, the Program Manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, has announced he's stepping down from his position to tend to personal matters, effective as of Oct. 21. Kathryn Lueders, Deputy Manager, Commercial Crew Program, is serving as the Acting Program Manager, working to ensure NASA's commercial crew partners remain on-track developing safe, innovative, cost-effective transportation systems to launch American astronauts from U.S. soil again as soon as possible."


'Anti-Troll' Marblar Unites NASA Patents, Samsung to Crowdsource New Products, ABC

"What do water filters, memory foam and invisible braces have in common? All those everyday products' origins can be found in NASA technology, and the new crowdsourcing website Marblar is taking advantage of that to find the next big thing. The site Wednesday announced that several hundred patents from NASA and other organizations would be available for its users to play with. Marblar CEO Daniel Perez said that although many companies' research and development departments spend millions of dollars on such patents, more than 95 percent of them sit unused."

NASA Engages the Public to Discover New Uses for Out-of-this-World Technologies

"NASA has joined forces with the product development startup Marblar for a pilot program allowing the public to crowdsource product ideas for forty of NASA's patents. This initiative will allow Marblar's online community to use a portion of NASA's diverse portfolio of patented technologies as the basis of new product ideas."

NASA MSFC/Moon Express Space Act Agreement

NASA MSFC/Moon Express Space Act Agreement Annex

"This Annex shall be for the purpose of MSFC providing support to Moon Express, Inc. (MEl) in their efforts to design, develop, integrate, and test their Guidance Algorithms for a terrestrial lander. The MEl provided algorithms will be integrated into the existing Guidance, Navigation and Control (GN&C) Software on-board MSFC's Warm Gas Test Article (WGTA) and used to perform a hazard avoidance test series."

"Partner agrees to reimburse NASA an estimated cost of $31,500.00 for NASA to carry out its responsibilities under this Annex."

Video of SpaceX Next Gen Falcon 9 Launch

"This video of the Next Gen Falcon 9 Demonstration Flight includes video footage of the first stage re-ignition done as part of a recovery attempt. This Falcon 9 rocket was launched on 29 September and delivered the CASSIOPE, CUSat, DANDE and POPACS satellites to orbit."

First CASIS-Funded Payloads Berthed to the International Space Station, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research onboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, congratulates Orbital Sciences on a successful launch of the Antares rocket and on the berthing of the Cygnus cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. Orbital's successful mission also represents a milestone for CASIS: The first-ever CASIS-funded payloads have now arrived at the ISS. Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule berthed with the station Sunday morning."

SpaceX Launch Update: This Sunday SpaceX will attempt to launch the first Falcon 9 v1.1. While similar to the original Falcon 9, the upgraded version sports the more powerful Merlin 1D engines which have yet to fly, a much longer fuselage, a new larger fairing and a number of other upgrades to the rocket including its software. The launch will be webcast.

The primary payload is the Canadian Space Agency CASSIOPE satellite. Several secondary nanosats will also be launched.

SpaceX is categorizing this launch as a "demonstration flight" with the risk higher than usual for a Falcon 9 launch. However I don't expect them to launch unless they are as certain as they can be of mission success.

UPDATE: SpaceX has successfully launched the Falcon 9 v1.1 on its maiden flight.

- SpaceX Successfully Launches Upgraded Falcon 9 Rocket on Maiden Flight [Watch] UPDATED, SpaceRef

Cygnus Rendezvous Complete

Updated Cygnus Rendezvous Date, NASA TV Coverage for Orbital Sciences' Demonstration Mission to International Space Station, NASA

"NASA and its International Space Station partners have approved a Sunday, Sept. 29, target arrival of Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft on its demonstration cargo resupply mission to the space station. NASA Television coverage of the rendezvous will begin at 4:30 a.m. EDT and will continue through the capture and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft."

Update: Cynus completed its rendezvous this morning and was berthed by the stations Canadarm2 at 8:44 am EDT.

- Statements on Berthing of Orbital Cygnus Spacecraft to the International Space Station, NASA

- NASA Partner Orbital Sciences Completes First Flight to Space Station as Astronauts Capture Cygnus Spacecraft, NASA

- Orbital's Cygnus Spacecraft Successfully Berths With The International Space Station, Orbital

- The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Congratulates NASA and Commercial Industry Partners on Successful Berth with the International Space Station, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

According to SpaceX on 20 Sep: "SpaceX has nearly 50 missions on manifest to launch over the proposed 5 year lease period and we can easily make use of the additional launch site. At the time we submitted the bid, SpaceX was unaware any other parties had interest in using the pad. However, if awarded this limited duration lease on 39A, SpaceX would be more than happy to support other commercial space pioneers at the pad, and allow NASA to make use of the pad if need be."

Musk Calls Out Blue Origin, ULA for 'Phony Blocking Tactic' on Shuttle Pad Lease, Space News

"[Blue Origin] has not yet succeeded in creating a reliable suborbital spacecraft, despite spending over 10 years in development," Musk wrote. "If they do somehow show up in the next 5 years with a vehicle qualified to NASA's human rating standards that can dock with the Space Station, which is what Pad 39A is meant to do, we will gladly accommodate their needs. Frankly, I think we are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct."

Congress Voices Support for NASA LC 39-A Leasing, earlier post

Space Forensics Website, NASA GSFC

"This announcement constitutes the only solicitation, which is issued as a Request for Quotation (RFQ); quotes are being requested and a written solicitation will not be issued ... Questions regarding this acquisition must be submitted in writing via e-mail ino later than September 26, 2013]."

Keith's 23 Sep note: NASA GSFC posts this solicitation on 20 September late in the day - the day before a weekend. That leaves 23, 24, 25, 26 September for any software firm that did not have a healthy heads from NASA up to create input for a credible proposal or quote - from scratch. In reality, this is clearly a sole source procurement masquerading as an open solicitation. Too bad GSFC can't be honest enough to admit that. As for the intent of the solicitation - sounds interesting. Too bad NASA GSFC is not willing or able to allow sufficient time for the best possible input to be developed from a wide range of potential bidders. At the speed they are doing this GSFC might be able to pick a vendor before the end of the fiscal year. I'll be that a simple FOIA request would reveal that they already know who they want to award this contract to.

Keith's 24 Sep update: NASA has posted an Amendment to the solicitation: "The due date for responses has been extended to October 9, 2013. Questions will be due no later than October 7, 2013." What a coincidence.

Cygnus Rendezvous Delayed Until 28 September

"This morning, Orbital and NASA together decided to postpone the approach, rendezvous, grapple and berthing operations of the Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft with the International Space Station until after the upcoming Soyuz crew operations are complete. The Soyuz crew is due to arrive at the ISS very late on Wednesday, September 25. The earliest possible date for the next Cygnus approach and rendezvous with the ISS would be Saturday, September 28. An exact schedule will be determined following the successful completion of Soyuz operations."

Cygnus Launched

The #Antares rocket has launched http://wapo.st/1eQ78ZA  on Twitpic

NASA commercial space partner Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

NASA Partner Orbital Sciences Launches Demonstration Mission to Space Station [Watch]

"NASA commercial space partner Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., successfully launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

This is the first time a spacecraft launched from Virginia is blazing a trail toward the International Space Station, heralding a new U.S. capability to resupply the orbiting laboratory."

Letter from Members of Congress to NASA Regarding LC 39A Leasing (pdf)

"In particular, we commend NASA for undertaking an open, competitive process regarding Launch Complex 39, Pad A, (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). As you are aware, the NASA Inspector General and the Agency have identified LC-39A as excess infrastructure and have no "future rnission-related uses for these facilities" (Report No. IG- 13-008). Consistent with the OIG's recommendation, as well as the need to reduce overhead in the current constrained fiscal environment, we understand that NASA is currently undertaking an open competitive process to transfer LC-39A to a private entity, with formal decisions relating to lease terms and duration to be determined through proper negotiation subsequent to award. Given KSC's expertise, it should be within their purview and judgment to determine what factors to consider and outcomes to render. We urge you to proceed with these plans."

Letter from Sen. Nelson and Sen. Rubio to NASA Regarding LC 39A Leasing (pdf)

- Letter from Rep. Wolf and Rep. Aderholt Regarding NASA's Leasing of Pad 39A, earlier post
- New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo, earlier post
- NASA Announcement for Proposals: Commerical Operation of Launch Complex 39A, earlier post

A critical time for commercial launch providers, The Space Review

"For a time last week, it looked like we would be in the midst of an unusually concentrated period of critical launches. In the span of less than a week, four launches of new, nearly new, or returning to flight vehicles were on global launch manifests: the inaugural launch of Japan's Epsilon small launch vehicle, the first launch of SpaceX's upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1, the second launch of Orbital Sciences Corporations Antares rocket carrying the first Cygnus cargo spacecraft, and the first Proton launch since a dramatic launch failure in early July.

Launch manifests are subject to change, of course, and that's what happened. While the Epsilon launch went off on schedule, and successfully, on Saturday, Orbital slipped its Antares launch a day, from this Tuesday to Wednesday, while the Falcon and Proton launches have been delayed until at least late this month. Nonetheless, all three upcoming launches remain critical in separate, but often interrelated, ways."

It's rocket science at Penn State's Applied Research Lab, Penn State News

MOA Between NASA JSC and Penn State for Collaboration on the Development and improvement of Reaction Control Engines

"NASA JSC and Penn State wish to collaborate on the further development of a JSC inhouse designed liquid oxygen (L02)lliquid methane (LCH4) reaction control engine (RCE) to characterize its performance over an expanded range of operating conditions... Penn State is seeking an RCE for their Lunar Lion vehicle as part of its participation in the Google Lunar X-Prize."

Defense and Civilian Agencies Request Significant Funding for Launch-Related Activities

"In contrast to procurement, the agencies indicate that together their need for RDT&E funding will decrease during the same period. NASA's expected RDT&E launch funding requirements outpace DOD's, with the agency planning to spend about $10.5 billion for launch-related development from fiscal years 2014 through 2018. Of that amount, NASA anticipates the need for approximately $7 billion for the development of its own deep space launch vehicle known as the Space Launch System, and the associated ground systems, to support human deep space exploration."

Elon Musk Wants to Build the Iron Man Hologram UI For Real, Gizmodo

"The hologram interfaces Tony Stark uses in Iron Man are awesome, no doubt. But they also aren't real. Yet. Elon Musk has been cooking up something very Stark-y, and he's planning to show it off soon. Musk isn't sharing any of the nitty-gritty details yet, but he mentioned his grand scheme on Twitter. This better not be a joke."

Keith's note: I just got a press release from Orbital Sciences. It was sent to a news media distribution list (that is not shown) so I do not know if I am supposed to get this email or not i.e. if I am ain "intended recipient". As is the case with all Orbital press releases it ends with legal mumbo jumbo (below) that could easily apply to me. Or maybe not. It talks about "reader" or "recipient" but no mention is made of all of the people who read a news website. Since NASAWatch can be read anywhere on Earth, the ITAR caveat applies (right?). How am I supposed to know what is or is not ITAR relevant? No other aerospace company does this (but CASIS does). The notion that people are supposed to "destroy the email message" if they get it in error shows an utter lack of understanding as to what email is and that it can never truly be destroyed - not even close. Just goes to show you what happens when you insert IT-deficient lawyers into the PR process.

3-D Printing in and for Space

NASA and 3D printing Sky-rocketing, Economist

"Aerospace was one of the first industries to take up three-dimensional (3D) printing. This is because 3D printers are good at making things which are complex and lightweight. ... So far, 3D-printed aerospace parts tend to be used in non-critical areas, such as brackets or ducts. Now NASA has shown that the technology is capable of a far more demanding role: making rocket engines."

- NASA Tests Limits of 3-D Printing with Powerful Rocket Engine Check, earlier post
- 3D Printer Headed to the International Space Station Passes Crucial Milestone, earlier post
- 3D Printing, NASA Hackspace

Neil deGrasse Tyson Doesn't Think Elon Musk's SpaceX Will Put People On Mars, Business Insider

"Renowned astrophysicist and StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't think a private enterprise, such as SpaceX, could ever lead a space frontier. "It's not possible. Space is dangerous. It's expensive. There are unquantified risks," Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us. "Combine all of those under one umbrella; you cannot establish a free market capitalization of that enterprise."

Keith's note: Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist who does TV shows and runs a planetarium. Elon Musk is a billionaire who builds rockets that fly into space. Neil deGrasse Tyson goes out of his way to talk about how you can't do things. Musk just goes out and does those things. deGrasse Tyson is afraid to take the risks that go with exploration. Musk takes the risks.

My money is on Musk.

Virginia, Alaska form space launch alliance, AP

"The spaceports don't compete for the same launches, so they could work together to offer customers launching options on both the East and West coasts, said Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. Nash came to Virginia in 2012 after departing as CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corp, which operates KLC, a spaceport on Kodiak Island. The Alaska facility has struggled financially, with the Legislature there threatening to cut its funding if it didn't bring in more business."

Governor McDonnell Announces New Partnership with Alaska to Strengthen Virginia's Space Industry, Virginia Office of the Governor

"The MOU defines the intent of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Alaska to initiate a collaborative and cooperative partnership for spaceport operations. Future launch customers will realize business advantages as the partnership will promote efficiency between MARS and the Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) designed to create commonality between the two spaceports that decreases costs and improves performance."

Summary of Rules and Requirements, Google Lunar X Prize

"The competition's grand prize is worth $20 million. To provide an extra incentive for teams to work quickly, the grand prize value will change to $15 million whenever a government-funded mission successfully explores the lunar surface, currently projected to occur in 2013."

China sets course for lunar landing this year, CNN

"China set a bold new course in its ambitious space program Wednesday, when it announced plans to land its first probe on the moon by the end of the year."

- Google Lunar X Prize: Changing Rules - and Fewer Entrants?, earlier post
- Changes Coming to the Google Lunar X Prize, earlier post

Elon Musk Wants to Build the Iron Man Hologram UI For Real, Gizmodo

"The hologram interfaces Tony Stark uses in Iron Man are awesome, no doubt. But they also aren't real. Yet. Elon Musk has been cooking up something very Stark-y, and he's planning to show it off soon. Musk isn't sharing any of the nitty-gritty details yet, but he mentioned his grand scheme on Twitter. This better not be a joke."

Russian rocket engine export ban could halt US space program, Russia Today

"Russia's Security Council is reportedly considering a ban on supplying the US with powerful RD-180 rocket engines for military communications satellites as Russia focuses on building its own new space launch center, Vostochny, in the Far East. A ban on the rockets supply to the US heavy booster, Atlas V, which delivers weighty military communications satellites and deep space exploration vehicles into orbit, could put a stop to NASA's space programs - not just military satellites."

Keith's note: The RD-180 powers the Atlas V. This report is posted on Russia Today - an organization that loves to post conspiracy theories as "news" and often serves as a de facto propaganda arm of the Russian government. The link to this story seems to work intermittently.

Keith's note: CASIS sent out a news release today by email to the news media. At the bottom of the email was a confidentiality clause i.e. "The information contained in this e-mail message is intended only for the personal and confidential use of the recipient(s) named above. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by e-mail, and delete the original message."

I was never asked in advance by CASIS or anyone else if I wished to receive confidential information from CASIS nor do I desire to receive confidential information from CASIS. So I asked CASIS about this.

$10 million Genomics X Prize canceled: 'Outpaced by innovation', NBC

"For the first time in its 18-year history, the X Prize Foundation is canceling one of its $10 million competitions for technological innovation: the Archon Genomics X Prize, which was designed to reward quick and accurate whole-genome sequencing. ... In her report on the prize program's cancellation, PHG Foundation's Phillippa Brice said the decision was bad news for the entrants, "who apparently come away with thanks and good wishes and (presumably) a refund of their $25,000 entrance fee, but without so much as a memory stick to help further their research."

Master Team Agreement 4.1 out for Team signature, EuroLuna Blog, Google Lunar X Prize

(typos corrected) "The Master Team Agreement version 4.1 is now out for signature. Given the importance of this document, and the time it has taken to reach this point, a signature timing of 10 days in the middle of August seems a bit too short... The Euroluna Team has therefore asked for an extension until the 7th of September 2013."

Keith's note: The deadline for all Google Lunar X Prize entrants to sign the mandatory (revised) Teaming Agreement was Friday 23 August. This teaming agreement contained a major revision to the rather strict set of rules levied upon all entrants as to what they can and cannot do. Sources report that a number of existing entrants did not sign the agreement by the deadline.

Can lightning strike twice for RLVs?, The Space Review

"In a speech the following day at the conference, [Mike] Griffin said that X-vehicles in general can do several key things essential in aerospace development, including proving out technologies before getting locked into vehicle configurations, determining what the requirements should be for future vehicles, and demonstrating systems engineering. He lamented, though, the lack of X-vehicle development today. "It is a lapse of government science and technology policy at the very top levels that has caused our aggressive pursuit of X-vehicle programs to lapse," he said. "I would do anything to bring it back to the forefront of public thinking."

Keith's note: Gee, Mike ... who was it that killed everything that Craig Steidle wanted to do at NASA? There was certainly a whole lot of x-vehicle type thinking in Steidle's plan. And Steidle's plan was killed so as to create your government-designed "Apollo on Steroids" (your exact words)? Am I missing something? Pot-Kettle-Black, Mike?

Musk, Bezos fight to win lease of iconic NASA launchpad, Orlando Sentinel

"Sources on Capitol Hill and within NASA said Blue Origin's protests forced the space agency to announce a competition for the pad in May. The dispute also has drawn the attention of two members of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. In a July 22 letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said "NASA appears to be racing to lease LC-39A" and urged a closer review. "Given that taxpayers have invested hundreds of millions, if not a billion dollars, to develop this launch complex, there are serious questions of fiscal responsibility and transparency," they wrote. Agency officials have put no timeline on a decision, although it's widely thought NASA wants to select a winner by Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year."

- Long-term Lease for Pad 39A Almost Set, earlier post
- Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A, earlier post

Orbital's Cygnus Readying for First Space Station Flight, OnOrbit

"Orbital Sciences' Cygnus cargo craft is bound for the International Space Station on a test flight. This flight will prove Cygnus' ability to rendezvous with the station and be captured by the crew on board."

Marc's note: With just under a month to the Orbital Antares launch to the Space Station, NASA has released this slick video on the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program itself including SpaceX, but focusing on Orbital's Cygnus.

Much at Stake for Proton, Antares as September 15 Nears, Space Policy Online

"Purely by coincidence, if all goes according to plan September 15 will be a big day for a venerable Russian rocket recovering from a recent spectacular failure as well as a new U.S. rocket that is powered by Russian engines. A lot is at stake for both.

... A successful Proton launch could help restore confidence in the Russian space launch industry. A failure would add to the gloom and potentially drive commercial customers to competitors like Ariane, Sea Launch, and SpaceX.

Quite separately, the U.S. company Orbital Sciences Corporation is targeting September 15 for the first launch of its new Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). Antares will launch Orbital's Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS as part of NASA's commercial cargo program."

NASA Announces Additional Commercial Crew Development Milestones, NASA

"NASA announced Thursday it is adding some additional milestones to agreements with three U.S. commercial companies that are developing spaceflight capabilities that could eventually provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

The milestones are:

-- Boeing Spacecraft Safety Review. NASA's investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014.

-- SpaceX Dragon Parachute Tests. NASA's investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished over several months culminating in November 2013.

-- SNC Incremental Critical Design Review #1. NASA's investment is $5 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in October 2013.

-- SNC Incremental Reaction Control System Testing #1. NASA's investment is $10 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014."

SpaceX Grasshopper Performs Divert Test [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX completed what appears to be a successful divert test yesterday of its Falcon 9 Test Rig, code named Grasshopper.

According to SpaceX the Grasshopper flew to a height of 250 meters with a 100 meter lateral maneuver before returning to the center of the pad. Grasshopper is is taller than a ten story building."

Virgin Galactic CEO Counts 625 Customers For Suborbital Trips, Aviation Week

"Virgin Galactic has signed up 625 individuals for its planned suborbital spaceflights, lining up revenue of at least $125 million, in what CEO George Whitesides asserts is a strong sign of the excitement and potential of commercial space ventures."

More Than 200 Tickets Sold For Space Travel, Curacao Chronicle

"About 230 tickets of $ 100,000 each were now sold to travel to space from Curacao space, according to a NOS report. The first flight from Curacao will be carried out in 2016 by Space Expedition Corporation with the Lynx. The commercial space flight is becoming a reality."

Marc's note: While the numbers and revenue look ok for a pricey service which hasn't launched a single customer yet, the true test will be to see how the customer rate climbs after the few customer launches. Meanwhile according to the Curacao Chronicle XCRO has sold 230 tickets though it's launch base in Curacao has yet to be approved.

Dream Chaser Completes Ground Tow Tests [Watch], Sierra Nevada Corporation

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces the completion of the Dream Chaser Space System tow testing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The ground tow tests were conducted in preparation for the upcoming approach and landing test scheduled for the third quarter 2013."

"We are very excited to complete this series of tests and achieve another critical milestone for our Dream Chaser flight test program," said Steve Lindsey, SNC's Space Systems senior director of programs and former NASA astronaut. "Watching Dream Chaser undergo tow testing on the same runway where we landed several space shuttle orbiters brings a great amount of pride to our Dream Chaser team. We are another step closer to restoring America's capability to return U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station."

Masten and JPL Team Up

JPL, Masten Testing New Precision Landing Software, NASA

"A year after NASA's Mars rover Curiosity's landed on Mars, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are testing a sophisticated flight-control algorithm that could allow for even more precise, pinpoint landings of future Martian spacecraft.

Flight testing of the new Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance algorithm - G-FOLD for short - for planetary pinpoint landing is being conducted jointly by JPL engineers in cooperation with Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif., using Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing experimental rocket."

Marc's note: It's great to see this type of collaboration. With a limited market at the moment, and purely for discussion, I wonder if Masten might be an attractive acquisition by a larger company who would be interested in their technology and with the funds to do more.

Hyperloop


Hyperloop By Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO, Tesla

"When the California "high speed" rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL - doing incredible things like indexing all the world's knowledge and putting rovers on Mars - would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying "one of". The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn't the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.

Marc's note: Musk has put forward another potential disruptive idea that if enacted could disrupt terrestrial transportation as we know it. Musk has made it clear he doesn't have the time to devote to this project but would be willing to collaborate with others and having someone else take the lead. Any takers?"

Update: In a teleconference Musk said his thinking has changed and he would like to build a "demonstration article".

Easily Retrievable Objects among the NEO Population, arXiv.org

"Asteroids and comets are of strategic importance for science in an effort to understand the formation, evolution and composition of the Solar System. Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are of particular interest because of their accessibility from Earth, but also because of their speculated wealth of material resources.

The exploitation of these resources has long been discussed as a means to lower the cost of future space endeavours. In this paper, we consider the currently known NEO population and define a family of so-called Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs), objects that can be transported from accessible heliocentric orbits into the Earth's neighbourhood at affordable costs.

... Despite the highly incomplete census of very small asteroids, the ERO catalogue can already be populated with 12 different objects retrievable with less than 500 m/s of {\Delta}v. Moreover, the approach proposed represents a robust search and ranking methodology for future retrieval candidates that can be automatically applied to the growing survey of NEOs."

NASA Selects University Teams for New SmallSat Collaborative Projects, NASA

"NASA has selected 13 university teams for collaborative projects to develop and demonstrate new technologies and capabilities and spur innovation in communication, navigation, propulsion, science instruments, and advanced manufacturing for small spacecraft.

Selected project teams will work with engineers and scientists from six NASA centers. The goal of these efforts is to transform small spacecraft, some of which weigh only a few kilograms, into powerful but affordable tools for science, exploration and space operations."

Statement from SARG Chair Dr. Steven Collicott on Suborbital Research Needs, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG) of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation notes John Carmack's August 2, 2013 statement regarding the hibernation of rocket development at Armadillo Aerospace. The STIG rocket appeals to researchers by providing many of the advantages characteristic of next-generation suborbital vehicles including a gentle lift-off, pressurized payload bay, late payload access before launch, rapid payload access after landing, and a lower cost than traditional sounding rockets. Armadillo's success to date, including domestic and international payloads lofted and safely recovered on several mission development flights and a flight to 95km memorably captured on video, highlights how close their hard work has brought them to achieving an important operational research capability eagerly awaited by many scientists. The researchers of SARG encourage Armadillo and all of the new suborbital companies in their pursuit of success with investors and vehicles""

Previous:
- John Carmack Joins Gaming VR Company Oculus Rift
- Armadillo Aerospace "Out of Money"

Marc's note: Armadillo Aerospace isn't the first space startup to run out of money and it won't be last. It's nice to see the CSF standing up for Armadillo and others but it's a bit late for Armadillo. Carmack has moved on and has made it clear the company is low in his priority list. As for others, market forces and or government support will determine if they survive and possibly thrive.

Oculus Rift hires Doom co-creator John Carmack as Chief Technology Officer, engadget

"It turns out that Doom co-creator John Carmack is more than just a virtual reality fanatic -- he's joining the company that's leading the most recent VR revolution, today announcing that he's taking the reins as Chief Technology Officer at Oculus Rift. In an email from the folks at Oculus, Carmack was confirmed to be out at the company he helped found -- id Software -- and joining Oculus full-time as CTO. He will apparently still serve some role at id, as id's parent company told Engadget, "The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected." We've asked both Oculus and id's parent company for clarification."

Marc's note: Carmack tweeted this: "My time division is now Oculus over Id over Armadillo. Busy busy busy!" indicating exactly where his priorities are. Unfortunately with his new gig as CTO of Oculus Rift it would appear Armadillo Aerospace is truly out of business until such a time as some funding comes it way.

Letter From Virginia Secretary of Transportation to NASA Administrator Regarding Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Virginia Secretary of Transportation

"... we are concerned with two issues that may undermine Virginia's ability to continue developing MARS. The first involves allocation of 21st Century Space Launch Complex Program Funds. While the NASA/MARS team now provides half of U.S. access to the ISS, Wallops Island/MARS has received only a minimal amount of the 21st Century Space Launch Complex Program funding appropriated by Congress. In fact, the overwhelming majority of available funds has been spent in Florida. The second issue involves the pending lease of Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center ("KSC"). It is our understanding that NASA is considering leasing that pad to a commercial launch provider for a de minimis amount that does not reflect either the actual value of the pad or past investments in it."

- Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A, earlier post
- Space Florida Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: Launch Complex 39A, earlier post

Congressman Kevin McCarthy Introduces Bill to Streamline Commercial Spaceflight Regulations, SpaceRef Business

"Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R) has introduced H.R. 3038, the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, intended to streamline the regulatory process associated with commercial spaceflight.

The bill was referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee where it may get full support from the Republicans on the committee but likely no support from the Democrats.

Co-sponsoring the bill is Congressman Bill Posey (R) of Florida, who is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee."

KSC Releases New Commercial Crew Program Marketing Video, SpaceRef Business

"The two minute video aims to capture the history and spirit of human spaceflight. The slick video does capture the essence, but seems to fall short of its goal."

Carmack: Armadillo Aerospace in "hibernation mode", NewSpace Journal

"Armadillo Aerospace, the suborbital vehicle company founded and funded by video game designer John Carmack, has kept a low profile in recent months. The company did not participate in the recent Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Colorado, an event where Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace all had special sessions. The last news from the company was in late February, when it reported on the launch of its STIG-B rocket at Spaceport America in early January. That launch failed when the main parachute snagged and didn't deploy properly, causing the rocket to hit the ground at high speed.

There is a good reason for that silence over the last five months: the company is, for the time being, effectively out of money. "The situation that we're at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode," Carmack said Thursday evening at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas. "I did spin down most of the development work for this year" after the crash, he said."

Lease on Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39 may be near, Bolden says, Florida Today

"A long-term lease of a mothballed Kennedy Space Center launch pad may still be near, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden suggested Wednesday.

At least one company and some members of Congress have asked NASA not to award a single company exclusive use of pad 39A, saying it should be made available to multiple launchers.

But Bolden said it was the neighboring pad 39B, which NASA is overhauling to support its own exploration rocket, that the agency has always envisioned for shared use."

Previous: Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A

Update: Space Florida has sent a letter to NASA Administrator Bolden.

Space Florida Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: Launch Complex 39A

"Chairman Wolf has long been a champion of a strong and vibrant US space program and we have no doubt his intentions are well founded. However, the nature of this letter, and particularly the subsequent explanatory correspondence provided by Representative Aderholt's staff, seem uncharacteristically random and offer a number of implausible assertions that serve only to obstruct the ongoing KSC process. I believe the Chairman is being poorly advised to follow this course of action.

... We strongly advocate for allowing NASA to continue to transfer its underutilized infrastructure to commercial operators in a fair process with terms and conditions that support a commercially driven business approach. NASA's planned approach on Pad 39A for partnership with private industry will accelerate the capability to deliver not only cargo, but also crew, and quickly end our dependence on other nations to transport our nation's crew to the International Space Station."

The Silicon Valley of space could be Silicon Valley, The Space Review

"For nearly a decade, many have called the Mojave Air and Space Port the Silicon Valley of the entrepreneurial space, or NewSpace, industry, and understandably so. The spaceport is home to Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic's The Spaceship Company, XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Stratolaunch Systems, and others, filling the spaceport's hangars and buildings to capacity. More recently, the Seattle area as tried to brand itself as a Silicon Valley for NewSpace, with a diverse set of companies ranging from Blue Origin to Planetary Resources.

...During that time, few considered Silicon Valley as an entrepreneurial space hub...

...What's different this time around is that the space companies taking root in the region are looking less like the large, established aerospace companies--sometimes dubbed, at least somewhat pejoratively, as "OldSpace"--but more like the other entrepreneurial companies in the region..."

Marc's note: With a half-a-dozen and growing small "NewSpace" companies setting up in the Valley and surrounding area, a change is underway. While traditional companies still dominate, and will for some time, these small new companies and others in other regions are worthing noting. The economics are changing. Are we seeing the groundwork for a sustained, broader and larger industry emerging? If so, then the next phase in the space age may be upon us.

New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo

"While news stories focus (inaccurately) on a contrived rivalry between space billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, entrenched interests in Florida are seeking to keep new players away from using launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center. These efforts could well backfire and cause these potential employers to pick locations other than Florida to conduct their growing commercial space activities.

Predictably, It is the possible commercial use of pad 39A that has caused a lot of concern for the powers that be in the Cape Canaveral are specifically United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA launches Boeing's Delta II/IV family and Lockheed Martin's Atlas V under a de facto monopoly on EELV-class missions sanctioned by the U.S. government. Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin pose a threat to this status quo - especially when they bring their decidedly new ways of doing things and lower costs to the half century old rocket launching world of the Space Coast."

- Letter from Rep. Wolf and Rep. Aderholt Regarding NASA's Leasing of Pad 39A
- Memo From Rep. Aderholt Staffer Mark Dawson: "NASA Launch Pad 39A; what's the big deal?"

Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration, SpaceRef Business

"The plans laid out in this draft document embody a radical departure from the current approach to awarding prizes i.e. one winner, one big prize with several smaller runner-up prizes. Now, multiple teams will be able to get even smaller cash prizes for efforts already completed or near completion - but far short of actually sending a mission to land on the Moon.

If approved, this approach would help inject some much needed cash into the coffers of several competitors. No word yet on whether this plan will be formally adopted or when it will be adopted but a quick turn around time for comments suggests that there is an interest in getting these new rules in place soon."

Keith's note: This document has been widely circulated among several hundred people inside and outside of the Google Lunar X Prize community for several weeks. No markings were placed on this document to note that it is either confidential or proprietary. Indeed, the cover memo encouraged its wider distribution for review and comment.

Marc's note: Changes to the Google Lunar X Prize have been rumored for some time. It should be noted that the competition deadline of end of 2015 has not changed. The changes should they go forward will energize a competition which seemingly had stalled. While some teams have had some success in raising funds, none to my knowledge, had raised enough to actually launch and successfully land on the money.

Boeing Unveils Interior of CST-100 Manned Spacecraft [Watch], Boeing

"NASA astronauts Serena Aunon and Randy Bresnik conducted flight suit evaluations inside a fully outfitted test version of The Boeing Company's CST-100 spacecraft July 22, the first time the world got a glimpse of the crew capsule's interior."

NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract CCTCAP Draft RFP, NASA

"The CCtCap contract is the second phase of a two-phased procurement strategy to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to achieve safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with a goal of no later than 2017.

The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12. This procurement is a full and open competition. The NAICS Code and Size Standard are 336414 and 1000 employees, respectively."

NASA Announces Effort to Form New Collaborative Partnerships with Private Space Industry, NASA

"NASA officials Wednesday released a synopsis requesting information from U.S. private enterprises interested in pursuing unfunded partnerships. The aim is to advance the development of commercial space products and services.

"As we have seen with NASA's previous agreements with the private sector, U.S. companies could significantly benefit from the agency's extensive experience and knowledge in spaceflight development and operations," said Phil McAlister, NASA's director for Commercial Spaceflight Development. "For new entrepreneurial efforts in space, NASA's archive of lessons learned, technical expertise and spaceflight data is an invaluable national resource and engine for new economic growth."

UK Space Agency to Develop World's First Air-Breathing Rocket Engine [Watch], UKSA

"Through the UK Space Agency, the Government is set to invest £60 million ($90.5) in the development of the SABRE - a British-designed rocket engine which could revolutionize the fields of propulsion and launcher technology, and significantly reduce the costs of accessing space.

SABRE has the potential to create 21,000 high value engineering and manufacturing jobs; maximise the UK's access to a conservatively estimated £13.8 billion ($20.8) launcher market over the next thirty years; and provide economic benefits from spill-over technology markets.

Built by UK company Reaction Engines (REL), the unique engine is designed to extract the oxygen it needs for low atmosphere flight from the air itself, paving the way for a new generation of spaceplanes which would be lighter, reusable and able to take off and launch from conventional airport runways."

Space Florida Initiates Environmental Study Process for Proposed Commercial Spaceport, Space Florida

"A Federal Aviation Administration-led environmental study to address the potential impacts of constructing and operating a commercial launch complex in the general vicinity of the former citrus community known as Shiloh, Fla., will be performed by an independent consultant in accordance with FAA conditions and procedures, the State's aerospace development organization announced today."

Marc's note: While the Air Force will be having a discussion on the concept of handing over the management of the Cape's Eastern Range to the FAA, it is only talk at this time. As such Space Florida needs to go ahead with the Shiloh study in case nothing comes of the Air Force's very preliminary discussion.

Air Force considers privatizing Cape operations, Florida Today

"Under a preliminary concept to be discussed in a public forum Thursday and Friday in Colorado Springs, responsibilities now handled by the 45th Space Wing would be turned over to a spaceport operator approved by the Federal Aviation Administration."

The Fixer-Upper, Space KSC

"Posted on the Federal Business Opportunities web site FedBizOpps.gov is an invitation to attend a public forum in Colorado Springs "to discuss a potential future concept to convert the Eastern Range (in part or whole) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) from an Air Force managed range to an FAA-licensed commercial launch site (i.e., a spaceport)."

Marc's note: Now here's an interesting development. While this is still very preliminary, a discussion only, it does reflect the growing move towards the commercial sector and the fiscal reality of the times.

No Contest for Pad 39A? SpaceX Appears To Be Only Bidder, Space News

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) appears to be the only company that put in a proposal to NASA to take over one of the space shuttle's mothballed launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

NASA declined to comment on how many bids it received in response to a solicitation that closed on July 5, but a survey of U.S. launch companies by SpaceNews shows only SpaceX saying it put in a proposal to take over Launch Complex 39A."

UPDATE: Blue Origin Bids for Shuttle Launch Pad, Space News

"At least one other company is competing against Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to take over a decommissioned space shuttle launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) here.

Privately owned Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, also responded to a NASA solicitation for proposals for Launch Pad 39A, company president Rob Meyerson told SpaceNews July 16."

The Satellite Industry Association Files Comments Supporting Draft Rules to Reform Satellite Export Controls, Satellite Industry Association

"The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) filed comments on Monday on the Administration's proposals to reform the U.S. export controls for satellites and related items. The Departments of State and Commerce published draft regulations in May to significantly update the satellite export control system, following the passage of enabling legislation in January. SIA's comments conveyed support for the Administration's proposals, citing the importance of efficient, clear, and sensible export control rules in supporting innovation, investment and competitiveness for the nation's space sector. SIA also identified several areas where the rules could be adjusted to improve clarity or bring them into better alignment with commercial practices and technology."

- SIA Comments (PDF)

Ariane 6 Next Steps

Ariane 6, ESA

"In November 2012, European Ministers responsible for space, meeting in Naples, Italy, approved the start of preparatory activities for Europe's next-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle. The objective of Ariane 6 is to maintain guaranteed autonomous access to space for Europe, while minimising exploitation costs and suppressing any support to exploitation."

Baseline configuration selected

The selected 'Multi P linear' concept is based on a lower 'composite' of four motors, each loaded with around 135 tonnes of solid propellant, providing also synergies with the Vega evolution perspectives. An "in-line" arrangement of three will serve as the first stage, while the fourth will be mounted above as the second stage.

The third stage will be an adapted version of the Ariane 5 ME upper stage, equipped with the Vinci engine and specific propellant tanks.

The 5.4 m-diameter payload fairing will be able to accommodate the same volume of satellites as Ariane 5.

... Ariane 6 will benefit from the advances by European industry in solid and cryogenic propulsion, structures, systems, avionics, ground segment and operations through the Ariane and Vega programmes."

Marc's note: I meant to post this a few days ago but with the budget news I held off. This rocket would still be on the drawing board if it weren't for SpaceX and their efforts with the Falcon Heavy. While there's no doubt that the heritage of the Ariane line will help development efforts, I have serious doubts that the Ariane 6 will be able to compete with the Falcon Heavy on price unless it's subsidized. SpaceX has a list price (2012) of $83 million to GTO for up to 6.4 tonnes and $128M for greater than 6.4 tonnes while reports suggest Arianespace is targeting €70 million ($91m) for 6.5 tonnes


Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Commercialization category.

Columbia is the previous category.

Congress is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.