"In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA; 42 United States Code 4321 et seq.), Council on Environmental Quality NEPA implementing regulations (40 Code of Federal Regulations parts 1500 to 1508), and FAA Order 1050.1E, Change 1, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures, the FAA is announcing the availability of the ROD to issue a reentry license to Lockheed Martin Corporation for the reentry of the Orion MPCV from Earth orbit to a location in the Pacific Ocean."
Recently in Commercialization Category
"The FAA has established requirements for human space flight of crew and space flight participants as required by the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004. The information collected is used by the FAA, a licensee or permittee, a space flight participant, or a crew member. The FAA uses the information related to public safety to ensure that a launch or reentry operation involving a human on board a vehicle will meet the risk criteria and requirements with regard to ensuring public safety."
Keith's note: NASA just loves to tell everyone about its spinoffs, commercial applications, tech transfer, and the ways that the private sector uses things developed at NASA. As such, you'd think that they'd tell people as soon as they learn of yet another spinoff or tech transfer opportunity. Not at all. NASA's Patent Counsel, Office of the Chief Counsel sits on these things and issues them all at once in one big batch via the Federal Register.
Have a look at what they dumped into the Federal Register for 20 May 2013 (below). How long has some of this stuff gathered dust in someone's in box waiting for a stamp of approval? NASA now has hundreds of millions of dollars proposed for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. Maybe they can speed this process up a bit? Is there going to be any mention at their home page? Doubtful. At NASA Tech Briefs Doubtful. I forget: what is it that they do anyway?. Do the Space Tech guys ever tweet about these notices? Send out a newsletter? An email?
Several of these notices make mention of http://technology.nasa.gov/ (NASA Technology Transfer Portal) the vast majority of these notices do not even bother to mention a link to NASA. This portal makes no mention of these Federal Register notices. http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/ doesn't mention things such as these Federal Register notices either. And the Langley -hosted Technology Gateway is totally out of date in addition to making no mention of things like this. Of course, it is also confusing to have so many places at NASA.gov purporting to do the same thing - but that is standard procedure at NASA.
- Uncoordinated Technology Transfer at NASA, earlier post
- Dysfunctional Technology Efforts at Langley (Update), earlier post
- More Stealth NASA Spinoffs (2nd Update), earlier post
- Stealth NASA Spinoff Day on the Hill
Keith's note: Federal Register Notice postings below:
"Poised on the cusp of these new systems, we run the risk of being penny wise and pound foolish as we make the same mistake that doomed the space shuttle to much higher cost operations: starving a spacecraft development program in the name of saving a few pennies for today's budget bottom line resulting in the compromised systems that, if they fly at all, will not be cheap enough to enable business in space."
Internal NASA GSFC memo: "Congress just passed a law that bars NASA, National Science Foundation, Department of Commerce, and Department of Justice from buying IT systems that have been "produced, manufactured or assembled" by companies "owned, operated or subsidized" in any way by the Chinese. The only exceptions to this rule are for hardware that is deemed to be in the interests of national security, or if the FBI decides that a component's acquisition does not carry any risk of "cyber-espionage or sabotage." While Goddard is working out processes to handle this legislation, the direction from Goddard's Chief Information Officer is that no IT products shall be purchased at this time, via P-card of any other mechanism. This applies to hardware, software and maintenance, and to both civil servant and contractor purchases."
"Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee, inserted a version of the measure in an appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 drafted last year. It was subsequently added to the Senate's version of the continuing resolution that covered full appropriations for several agencies, including Commerce, Justice, NASA and NSF."
Keith's note: This applies across the agency. There are Lenovo ThinkPad laptops on the ISS. Lenovo is owned by Chinese business interests. And these ThinkPads can't be replaced by Mac laptops or iPads because most (nearly all) of them are assembled in China. Larger image
"OpenStack pools compute, storage, and networking equipment together, allowing all of a data center's resources to be managed and provisioned from a single point. Scientists will be able to request whatever amount of CPU, memory, and storage space they need. They will also be able to get a virtual machine with the requested amounts within 15 minutes. CERN runs OpenStack on top of Scientific Linux and uses it in combination with Puppet IT automation software."
"Ray O'Brien, acting CIO at NASA Ames, when asked May 30 by InformationWeek about NASA's participation, used diplomatic language to say that NASA still endorsed the project, was proud of its founding role, and might be a user of OpenStack components in the future. "It is very possible that NASA could leverage OpenStack as a customer in the future," he wrote in his email response. ..."
USAF, SpaceX Close To Agreement On Launch Certification Plan, Aviation Week
"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and the U.S. Air Force are "days away" from agreeing on the details of a certification plan that would enable the private company to compete for national security payload launch contracts with the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy."
Will competing plans hurt nation's future in space?, Florida Today
"But Commercial Crew has been a tough sell, politically. Lawmakers reluctantly have provided enough money for it to limp along, but not nearly enough to meet some of the ambitious deadlines the Obama administration originally set. And they question whether aerospace companies are being given too much flexibility in developing a new vehicle to carry U.S. astronauts to the space station."
"Boeing Co.'s sprawling satellite-making operation in Southern California has just concluded a round of voluntary buyouts in an effort to slash its workforce by 250 to 300 employees. The Chicago-based company said the reduction in its 5,500-employee workforce is necessary because of changes in the way it designs and builds satellites -- not because of a lack of orders or cutbacks in federal spending."
Continued Sequestration Will Short-Circuit SLS, Aviation Week
"Mikulski and Shelby consider that budget request inadequate, particularly in the funding for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that is intended to take humans beyond low Earth orbit. NASA wants $820 million to keep at least two competitors in the running for a commercial route to the International Space Station, but many lawmakers would like to see $300 million of that transferred into the $1.385 billion SLS request for fiscal 2014."
"NASA has awarded a contract to J.P. Donovan Construction Inc. of Rockledge, Fla., to modify the mobile launcher that will enable the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket to send humans to an asteroid, Mars and other new destinations in the solar system. The work under this firm fixed-price $20.7 million contract will begin in June and be completed in 18 months."
- NASA KSC Solicitation: Construction of Constellation Crew Launch Vehicle Mobile Launcher (2007)
- NASA Awards Contract for Ares I Mobile Launcher (2008)
- Space Shuttle Program Hands over Launch Platform to Constellation (2009)
- NASA OIG: NASA's Plans to Modify the Ares I Mobile Launcher in Support of the Space Launch System (2012)
"Governor Susana Martinez today announced that Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, has signed a three-year agreement to lease land and facilities at Spaceport America to conduct the next phase of flight testing for its reusable rocket program. The company will be a new tenant at Spaceport America, the state-owned commercial launch site located in southern New Mexico."
"Spaceport America Executive Director Christine Anderson said the Grasshopper project is moving from McGregor, Texas, to New Mexico because the rocket needs to be tested at higher altitudes. The reusable rocket could revolutionize the commercial space industry by greatly reducing costs, she said. Traditional rockets burn up on re-entry."
"A Boeing X-51A WaveRider unmanned hypersonic vehicle achieved the longest air-breathing, scramjet-powered hypersonic flight in history May 1, flying for three and a half minutes on scramjet power at a top speed of Mach 5.1. The vehicle flew for a total time of more than six minutes. The flight was the fourth X-51A test flight completed for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. It exceeded the previous record set by the program in 2010."
"Just months after reaching a deal with NASA to build an inflatable space room, local entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is working with agency officials to find ways for business executives to take part in human space missions. His company, Bigelow Aerospace, signed a deal with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration last month to explore how the private sector can contribute to missions beyond the area known as "Low Earth Orbit," about 1,200 miles above sea level. That could include missions to the moon, which is about 240,000 miles away, and Mars, which is at least 33.9 million miles from Earth."
Keith's note: So why won't NASA openly admit that it has signed this Space Act Agreement? Where is the press release? I asked for a copy of ths SAA weeks ago and NASA never sent it to me - despite the fact that these agreements are supposed to be made public and are usually provided by NASA PAO upon request. Alas, I obtained it through other means. Baffling PR tactics at work.
- Full Text of the NASA/Bigelow Space Act Agreement, earlier post
- Is NASA Going to Buy a Moon Base From Bob Bigelow?, earlier post
"Three years ago, the Administration put forward a public-private partnership plan, the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to ensure that American companies would be launching our astronauts from U.S. soil by 2015. It's a plan that supports the U.S. human spaceflight program, boosts our economy, and helps create good-paying American jobs. If NASA had received the President's requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights. Because the funding for the President's plan has been significantly reduced, we now won't be able to support American launches until 2017."
"Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJC, completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic's entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico."
"SpaceX's Grasshopper flies 820 feet, tripling its March 7th leap. Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up in the atmosphere during reentry, SpaceX's rockets are being designed to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing."
"The purpose of this Agreement is to facilitate and explore, in a manner that meets both national and commercial goals and objectives, joint public/private arrangements that would continue to build the ability for humans to live and work in space through the expansion of exploration capabilities beyond low Earth orbit. By conducting this joint effort, the Parties build on their experience and their mutual recognition of the value of a human presence and exploration development in low Earth orbit, ranging outward from Bigelow Aerospace's existing contract with NASA to conduct a technology demonstration of expandable structures on the International Space Station ("ISS") to significant private sector involvement and operations in beyond low Earth orbit including cislunar space and beyond."
"Corporation Sunday launched its Antares rocket at 05:00 p.m. EDT from the new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The test flight was the first launch from the pad at Wallops and was the first flight of Antares, which delivered the equivalent mass of a spacecraft, a so-called mass simulated payload, into Earth's orbit."
"Today's successful test flight of Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket from the spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia, demonstrates an additional private space-launch capability for the United States and lays the groundwork for the first Antares cargo mission to the International Space Station later this year."
"The Coalition for Space Exploration (Coalition) and the NASA Visitor Center Consortium are pleased to announce the winners of the "Why Space Matters to the Future" video contest: Addie Augsburger, Clyzzel Samson, and Elizabeth Paddock. The winning entries were selected for both their creative demonstrations of the importance of space exploration and their unique visions for the future if the boundaries of space continue to expand."
"Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that the next launch attempt for the new Antares rocket will be no earlier than Saturday, April 20, at 5 p.m. The mission management team met this afternoon to evaluate weather forecasts and optimum crew work schedules to provide two back-to-back opportunities for a launch attempt."
"The performance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) portfolio of major projects has improved in the areas of cost and schedule growth since GAO's first assessment in 2009. Average development cost growth and schedule delay for the current portfolio have decreased to about a third of their 2009 levels. These figures exclude the cost and schedule growth of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), NASA's most expensive science project, in part because of its disproportionate effect on the portfolio average. Including the JWST in the calculation would increase the 2013 portfolio's average development cost growth from 3.9 percent to 46.4 percent and would double the average launch delay, from 4 to 8 months and obscure the progress the rest of the portfolio has made toward maintaining cost and schedule baselines."
Volunteers Line Up For Tito's Mars Flyaround, Aviation Week
"Doug Cooke, a recently retired top NASA manager who spearheaded exploration-systems development for the agency, has joined the private group's board advisors, MacCallum said. ... MacCallum said work has already started on ground facilities to test the life support hardware, which will be largely crew tended for simplicity, but will be designed effectively to give two-fault-tolerant redundancy comparable to NASA safety standards. Eventually some components and subsystems probably will be tested on the International Space Station."
Keith's note: Not that this is a bad idea (its actually a smart one since ISS is a great testbed), but who is going to pay to fly these systems to the ISS? Flying racks of hardware to the ISS is not exactly cheap.
Keith's update: Out of curiosity, I have checked online sites for the State of California and IRS for non-profits - or regular companies named "Inspiration Mars Foundation" or variations thereof. Nothing results from these searchs. One might conclude that the organization does not yet exist despite what is on their website.
Keith's update: Update: Inspiration Mars was incorporated in Delaware on 25 Jan 2013 as a Non-profit corporation - File #5279943 - but still no evidence of its 501(c)(3) status (probably in application phase).
"History continues to be made in the skies above the Mojave Desert. Hot on the heels of last week's nitrous venting and feather test, SpaceShipTwo achieved another successful first today with a spectacular "Cold Flow" flight. The test objectives were successfully met, advancing another important step towards powered flight."
George Knapp: To infinity -- and beyond!, Las Vegas City Life
"Business deals don't get much bigger than this one. Have you ever read a contract that gives a governmental green light to a program to "place a base on the surface of the moon?" Ever see an agreement signed by the U.S. government that declares a specific goal "to extend and sustain human activities across the solar system?" Me, either. Yet that is essence of an adventurous deal already reached between NASA and Las Vegas space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow. An official announcement is still a few days away and will likely happen during a news conference at NASA headquarters."
Keith's note: Something is in the works. Stay tuned. This will be a rather odd turn of events given that just a week ago Charlie Bolden said "NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission ... NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things." Then again, Charlie Bolden first said NASA was going to go to an asteroid. Then he wanted to go to L2. Then he said that you did not have to go all the way to an asteroid to visit one. Then he said he'd bring the asteroid back to Earth (L2). Things change quickly in Charlie Bolden's strategy, it would seem.
>NASA OIG: NASA's Management of Energy Savings Contracts
"We found that Johnson mismanaged its $42.7 million energy contract. Specifically, Johnson officials did not require Honeywell to submit annual savings verification reports and accepted a flawed report for the first year, did not consider the effect of renovations to or demolition of facilities on the guaranteed savings rate, and added work to the contract without ensuring that energy savings would cover the additional costs. Based on our interviews and document review, it was apparent that Johnson contracting officials did not effectively administer the energy contract. Moreover, neither Johnson nor NASA had developed sufficient guidance or an effective training program regarding administration of energy contracts. As a result, Johnson may have overpaid Honeywell because it could not verify that the conservation measures installed under the contract resulted in the guaranteed $2 million in annual energy savings."
"Early this morning, Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) rolled out the first fully integrated Antares(TM) rocket from its assembly building at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in eastern Virginia in preparation for its inaugural flight that is scheduled for April 17 at approximately 5:00 p.m. (EDT)."
Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free-Return Mission in 2018, Inspiration Mars, Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon colloquium
Keith's note: One chart in this presentation lists using SLS as an option. What are these people smoking? They cannot afford to buy one of these launches at $1 billion or more, NASA certainly is not going to give them one for free, and its not certain that SLS will even be ready to launch in time to meet their tight schedule - much less with the reliability NASA is going to require before allowing humans fly to Mars on a trajectory that offers no bail out options.
"At their [Tito and another executive of his Inspiration Mars non-profit organization] request NASA briefed them on the capabilities of SLS and Orion," Marshall spokeswoman Kim Henry said Wednesday. Asked if SLS could support a Mars mission, Henry said that it could. It was not immediately clear, however, how SLS could meet Tito's deadline for a launch of Jan. 15, 2018. That timing is critical to take advantage of a Mars-Earth alignment that won't occur again before 2031, Tito's organization says."
Inspiration Mars Is Being Pushed by NASA To Consider SLS, earlier post
Orbital's private launch may show whether NASA made right call, Orlando Sentinel
"In the past four years, a different Orbital rocket failed on two separate NASA missions. Jeff Foust, editor of The Space Review, said Orbital needs a success to stake a bigger claim on the space-launch market. "If they have problems with [these Antares test flights] ... it starts to raise the question on whether they can make this whole thing work," Foust said, adding that it's a test of whether a midsized company such as Orbital can survive in an evolving space economy that features both upstart tourism ventures and heavyweight defense companies such as Lockheed Martin."
"The CTS certification contract (s) - Phase 2 is part of the Commercial Crew Program's phased acquisition intended to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from low earth orbit including the International Space Station (ISS). This acquisition strategy utilizes competitive down-selection procedures that will enable the eventual purchase by NASA of commercial services to meet its ISS crew transportation needs, once the capability is certified by NASA."
SpaceX official testifies before House committee, Brownsville Herald
"At Thursday's committee hearing, Caryn Schenewerk, counsel and director of government affairs for SpaceX, testified that Texas is high on the list for the future site of a launch facility for the company's rockets. "We want to be somewhere where our activity is valued." she added. The SpaceX official testified that what SpaceX is doing is a capital-intensive endeavor and before the company chooses a site it wants to ensure that it will face no last-minute legal issues that might prevent rocket launches. "We don't want the one-in-10,000 person who wants to stop our activities and tries to get, for example, an injunction against the noise it will create. We want to know that we come to a community and to a state that values that noise," she said."
Keith's note: BTW @SpaceX refers to the Grasshopper cowboy as "Johnny".
Cowboy Rocketship, earlier post
Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, Mike Loucks, John Carrico and Dennis Tito
"Dennis Wingo provided some comments for us in his article Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan. Dennis Wingo is a friend of ours. We welcome input from any source, especially visionaries like Dennis. Our IEEE Paper is an attempt to show the feasibility of the simplest possible Mars flyby mission. We chose a simple Mars flyby trajectory (the one from the Patel reference), and will choose a simple ECLSS, heat shield, etc., using existing designs and technologies on a single launch. We may eventually deviate from these assumptions, but only when we have proven that we must."
Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, Dennis Wingo, earlier post
"We found that NASA's efforts to reduce its underutilized facilities have been hindered by several longstanding and interrelated challenges: 1) fluctuating and uncertain strategic requirements; 2) Agency culture and business practices; 3) political pressure; and 4) inadequate funding. To its credit, NASA is undertaking a series of initiatives aimed at "rightsizing" the Agency's real property footprint. However, we noted that many of these efforts are in the early stages and may ultimately be insufficient to overcome the cultural and political obstacles that have impeded past efforts to reduce unneeded infrastructure. Accordingly, an independent outside process similar to the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure Commission may be necessary."
"This Agreement shall be for the purpose of NASA corroborating with the partner evaluating the aerocapture and reentry phases of Paragon's proposed Inspiration Mars Mission using baseline vehicle architecture and Paragon-defined mission parameters, NASA will use its unique expertise and facilities to predict the aerodynamic and aerothermal environments during the Earth reentry maneuvers and assess the performance of critical vehicle systems, such as the thermal protection system (TPS)."
"We continue to hear that the SLS/MPCV system will serve as a back-up for Earth-to-orbit transportation in the unlikely event that none of the other systems in development are successful. Last year's request for this "back-up system" was more than 300% of the appropriated level of the primary system. By acting on this type of faulty logic, we have created a national debt as large as our GDP and still our nation refuses to take its foot off the deficit spending accelerator. SLS is unaffordable, and with relatively modest expenditures on specific technology development, we do not need a heavy lift vehicle of that class to explore the Moon, Mars, or near-Earth asteroids."
"While NASA's Commercial Crew program could be the primary means of transporting American astronauts, we cannot be solely reliant on this program. The Orion MPCV, Space Launch System, and Commercial Crew programs require a program track with a sufficient budget to support the Space Station as soon as possible in preparation for the next steps of human exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit and ensure American preeminence in space."
Keith's note: It would seem that the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have a fundamental disagreement when it comes to the implementation of NASA's human and commercial space flight priorities.
"SpaceX's Grasshopper doubled its highest leap to date to rise 24 stories or 80.1 meters (262.8 feet) today, hovering for approximately 34 seconds and landing safely using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate precision thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad. At touchdown, the thrust to weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9. Today's test was completed at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas."
Keith's note: The image to the right is the best one I could find of the cowboy that stands on the deck of the Grasshopper. You can see it at the end of this video for a few seconds. SpaceX PR folks did not have anything better to offer me. When you enlarge this video frame grab you can see that the SpaceX cowboy bears more than a passing resemblence to Guy Fawkes. I'm just sayin'...
"Contract Award Amount: $400,000
Contractor: Jefferson Consulting Group, LLC 1401 K St NW STE 900 Washington, DC 20005-3455
Description: Continuing Non-NASA New Business Support Services"
"A previously competed MAS Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) award, NNCI 1DC82D, to Jefferson Solutions resulted in the development of a Center Strategic Plan for identifying and attracting non-NASA Business. The contract also led to the development of a three day training course for Business Development, External Partnering, and Communication and Engagement Skills for Business Development. At this time, the center desires to provide two additional sessions of the training course and to assess the implementation of the plan on a quarterly basis as well as, if necessary, to revise the plan andlor training based on said assessment. The Government estimates, but does not guarantee, that the volume of purchases through this agreement will be $400,000."
Keith's note: I wonder if NASA GRC is able to quantify how much new business (in a dollar amount) has been (or is expected to be) generated by this $400,000+ contract and the activities it covers. The real question: does this government expenditure actually generate real business? What metrics are used to determine if this training is worth doing?
"At this time, NASA is taking every step to mitigate the effects of these cuts, but based on our initial analysis, it is possible that your contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or Space Act agreement may be affected. In addition, planned actions for new and existing work may be re-scoped, delayed, or canceled depending on the nature of the work and the degree to which it directly supports the Agency's mission goals. To the extent that your contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or Space Act agreement is affected due to these budget cuts, you will be contacted by your Contracting, Agreement or Grant Officer with additional details."
"The Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station at 8:56 a.m. EST Sunday. The delivery flight was the second contracted resupply mission by the company under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract."
UPDATED at 3:50 p.m. EST and includes launch video and audio file of post-launch media briefing: "This morning at 10:10 a.m. EST, a SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon spacecraft launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on its second of 12 NASA contracted resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS)."
Less than 24 hours after launching, the SpaceX Dragon was supposed to arrive at the ISS where the station crew would grapple and berth the spacecraft to the ISS for an expected three week visit.
However, after the Dragon spacecraft had separated from the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, and just before the Dragon solar arrays were to deploy, an anomaly occurred with the thrusters where only one of four was enabled. The spacecraft appeared to be in the correct orbit."
"Following a meeting with Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), GSA, NASA, and the White House at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 26, the General Services Administration will issue a Notice of Intent regarding Hangar One and Moffett Federal Airfield, which reflects the following: 1. Moffett Federal Airfield will NOT be excessed. It will remain a restricted Federal Airfield and NASA will remain its custodian. 2. The Notice of Intent outlines a competitive bid process and the Request for Proposal (RFP) will be released this spring seeking a qualified lessee to provide for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic Hangar One."
"While the primary objective is to facilitate the expeditious re-siding of Hangar One, the Government will also consider proposals to manage the Moffett Federal Airfield."
Keith's note: Charlie Bolden has been relentlessly trying to shut this airstrip down and/or get rid of it for years.
"However, of the 67 sampled awards, we identified 20 that were made to firms that self- certified as being owned and controlled by women. Of those 20, we found indications that 7 (35 percent) may have been to companies that falsely self-certified their eligibility as a woman-owned small business."
"The Inspiration Mars Foundation, a newly formed nonprofit organization led by American space traveler and entrepreneur Dennis Tito, invites you to attend a press conference detailing its plans to take advantage of a unique window of opportunity to launch an historic journey to Mars and back in 501 days, starting in January 2018. This "Mission for America" will generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration. It is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again, in doing the hard things that make our nation great, while inspiring youth through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and motivation."
- New insights on that private (crewed?) Mars mission, NewSpace Journal
Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free-Return Mission in 2018, Dennis Tito et al, 2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference
"In 1998 Patel et al searched for Earth-Mars free-return trajectories that leave Earth, fly by Mars, and return to Earth without any deterministic maneuvers after Trans-Mars Injection. They found fast trajectory opportunities occurring two times every 15 years with a 1.4-year duration, significantly less than most Mars free return trajectories, which take up to 3.5 years. This paper investigates these fast trajectories. It also determines the launch and life support feasibility of flying such a mission using hardware expected to be available in time for an optimized fast trajectory opportunity in January, 2018. ... We used a mission duration of 500 days (d) in a SpaceX Dragon class of vehicle. Crew size is a primary driver so we compared crew sizes from one to four people, and determined that two crew is optimal given mass and volume constraints."
Keith's update: The mission outlined in this paper uses SpaceX hardware for analysis purposes. As outlined, this conceptual mission would depart Earth on 5 Jan 2018, reach Mars on 20 August 2018, and return to Earth on 21 May 2019. This paper will be presented at the 2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference on 3 March 2013 at 9:50 pm. This paper has been widely circulated for several weeks by the authors and their associates within government, legislative, industry, and advocacy communities, and has been referenced online - in great detail - for more than a week. I cannot post this paper due to IEEE copyright policies. The press event will be webcast live tomorrow at 1:00pm EST. You can sign up at the Inspiration Mars website. There is a Twitter account at @InspirationMars that will become active soon.
Keith's update: Update: this paper is now online at Inspiration Mars Foundation..
"As part of the Obama Administration's recognition of the critical role that space technology and innovation will play in enabling both future space missions and bettering life here on Earth, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has announced the creation of the Space Technology Mission Directorate. The directorate will be a catalyst for the creation of technologies and innovation needed to maintain NASA leadership in space while also benefiting America's economy."
"Sustainable public advocacy will depend upon around bold goals and clear plans that warrant substantial investments. Writing in Reason magazine, Gregory Benford correlated public interest in space exploration with a natural desire for vicarious adventure. Benford observed that: "Much of the passion in science fiction springs from a deep-rooted human need: to reach out, to prefer movement to stasis, to understand." Accordingly, he concludes that NASA has a choice: "swing for the bleachers or die."
"On Thursday, the children arrived in the big recreation room and found a spacesuit waiting for them. "There's no one inside. That's fake!" one girl insisted. "I"m right here," said Leland Melvin, standing behind her, delighted at her defiant challenge. Melvin is an astronaut. "What do you think I do in this blue suit?" he asked, pointing to his flight suit. "Nothing," a bunch of kids wisecracked. It's a tough crowd. Every year, Melvin brings a NASA spacesuit and a slide show of his adventures in space. It doesn't hurt that he also tells the kids about his time in the NFL, getting drafted to play with the Detroit Lions. And then getting injured."
Keith's note: If you ask NASA for their plan - i.e. their strategy - guidance - goals - for engaging the public in education and public outreach activities they cannot provide you with one. Yet they always tell you (they think) that some one is working on one - but it doesn't cover everything that NASA does because NASA is incapable of adopting an agency-wide strategy or plan. And even if something resembling a plan starts to emerge, it never goes beyond draft stage due to infighting and turf disputes. After 4 years the NASA Advisory Council Committee on Education and Public Outreach has done absolutely nothing to address this situation. They are meeting in Washington in a week or so. Not sure why they even bother.
All this being said, you still see poignant attempts to go beyond the normal audiences such as Leland Melvin did at this homeless shelter. Alas, these activities go unnoticed since NASA is clueless as to how to inform others that they even take place. Oh yes - OMB is going to significantly cut NASA's Education budget for FY 2014 - again. And yet they will tell you with a straight face that the White House supports education blah blah blah. I guess its hard to totally blame NASA when the White House won't even stand behind its own rhetoric.
Keith's note: Official AXE slogan: "Leave a man. Come back a hero." (Sigh) So much for the other half of humanity. I guess girls need not apply to this promotional stunt for a chance to fly into space.
Keith's note: What are the odds that a tweet by both @ISS_CASIS and @GoldenSpikeCo - tweets that are exactly identical to each other - could be posted simultaneously using the same Twitter App? I called @ISS_CASIS on this and their tweet suddenly disappeared. Here is a screen grab I took from TweetDeck just before @ISS_CASIS deleted their tweet. Is CASIS (paid by NASA to do ISS utilization) now supporting commercial Moon exploration efforts?
Keith's update: Apparently this was a Tweetdeck glitch (yes they happen).
NASA Spinoff 2012 (PDF)
"Curry agrees: "In the future, you can envision almost all computing being done in the cloud, much of which could be powered by OpenStack. I think that NASA will need to receive significant credit for that in the history books. What we've been able to do is unbelievable-- especially when you remember that it all started in a NASA lab."
NASA Drops OpenStack For Amazon Cloud, Information Week (2012)
"Ray O'Brien, acting CIO at NASA Ames, when asked May 30 by InformationWeek about NASA's participation, used diplomatic language to say that NASA still endorsed the project, was proud of its founding role, and might be a user of OpenStack components in the future. "It is very possible that NASA could leverage OpenStack as a customer in the future," he wrote in his email response. Then, in a June 8 blog, NASA CIO Linda Cureton dispensed with the diplomacy: "NASA [has] shifted to a new Web services model that uses Amazon Web Services for cloud-based enterprise infrastructure," she wrote."
Keith's note: I find it rather odd that NASA brags about developing OpenStack in its Spinoff 2012 document but does not bother to inform the reader (taxpayer) that the agency actually dumped OpenStack.
NASA CIO Dumps NASA-Developed Open Stack, earlier post
"Griffin, a persistent critic of President Obama's space program, said the current system consists of companies such as SpaceX operating with "government as their venture capitalist."
For NASA Administrator, This Mission Is a Tad Personal, Washington Post (2009)
"Griffin's press secretary, David Mould, told the Associated Press that Griffin isn't campaigning and expects the incoming president to name a new administrator. But Griffin would be "honored" to be asked to stay on, Mould said. "A lot of people seem to like and support Mike and think he's doing a good job," he said."
Keith's note: Why would Mike Griffin be "honored" to have been Obama's choice if he is so against what President Obama is doing i.e. continuing - and expanding upon - the pro-commercial (pro-business) space policies started under the Bush II Administration? Indeed, Mike Griffin personally signed a number of these agreements. Baffling.
Israeli space cadets say moon shot is no fantasy, Times of Israel
"SpaceIL is a nonprofit foundation, and is relying on donations to get into space, explained Margalit. So far, about $20 million of the $30 million needed to run the project has been raised. On SpaceIL's Facebook page, visitors are encouraged to make a donation in multiples of "chai" -- 18 shekels or dollars. The organization does not plan on keeping the GoogleX prize if it does win, stated Winetraub; instead, it will channel that money back into science education, and conduct more programs to expose more kids to the importance of space travel and research."
"NASA's shift to open-source content management is back on after the incumbent contractor withdrew a bid protest on Feb. 4. The withdrawal of the protest, filed by e-Touch Federal Systems on Dec. 28 after NASA awarded Rockville-Md.-based InfoZen a $40 million blanket purchase agreement, allows InfoZen to begin replacing NASA's existing content management system with open source architecture to run its 140 websites and 1,600 web assets and applications."
NASA Website Upgrades Are On Hold, earlier post
"Earlier this month the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel issued its 2012 Annual Report. Looking for hazards across the space agency's wide-ranging portfolio of on-going and proposed operations and facilities, the panel assessed six issues and concerns. Only one of the six in the three-color-coded graphic was red: the continuing issue of funding uncertainty. "NASA's budget is the 'elephant in the room' both for commercial space and for longer term exploration" the panel warned."
Commercial Space Exploration Needs an Obama Relaunch, Robert Walker and Charles Miller, Wall Street Journal (subscription) (Paste the article title into the Google search box and it will give you a link that works)
"NASA, in fact, has not successfully developed a new rocket in over three decades. U.S. private industry successfully developed three brand-new rockets in just the past decade--Boeing with the Delta IV, Lockheed with the Atlas V, and SpaceX with the Falcon 9. Industry succeeded because of a partnership with the government, much like the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century. Industry was responsible for development and was taking large risks, but with government incentives. ,,,, A renewed and refocused NASA is critical to America's future. So as the country struggles with trillions in debt and deficits, it makes no sense for NASA to build rockets that are already available or can be developed at much lower cost by U.S. private industry. Why spend approximately $20 billion to build an unneeded SLS super-heavy-lift rocket, for instance, when existing commercial rockets can carry payloads more often, efficiently and cheaply?"
State requests spaceport land near Oak Hill, Daytona Beach News Journal
"In a response released last week, NASA said the property in question isn't "excess," that it's still needed as a buffer zone between NASA missions and the community and as "a potential site for future mission requirements. However the agency indicated it would like to "further discuss" how it might make lands available for a commercial launch complex "independent of the federal range." Space Florida President Frank DiBello called the response "disappointing," saying it did not reflect the "sense of urgency or commitment for commercial market thinking." On Saturday, Dale Ketcham, Space Florida's chief of strategic alliances, said the corporation "won't give up on this effort to develop new commercial launch capabilities."
Keith's note: I was just out walking, listening to NPR's "Science Friday" when noted data visualist (and CAIB Powerpoint analyst) Edward Tufte was on. During a short break the announcer mentioned that Science Friday was "sponsored in part by CASIS" followed by a short description and their web address. A week or two ago I noticed that CASIS took out a full page adverstisement in Science magazine. CASIS may still be dragging its feet in many areas, but at least someone at CASIS is putting some thought into catching the attention of scientists - and people interested in science - in the places that those people are likely to be found.
"NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Wednesday a newly planned addition to the International Space Station that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology. NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration."
Keith's note: I will be live blogging the press conference at @NASAWatch
Keith's update: Apparently some news media were given advance copies of a press release and images while others were not. Some of us were given dial-in information for the press event, others were not. If NASA and its commercial partners want the media to pay attention to what it is they are doing, then they need to make it easy - not hard for us to do so. FAIL.
"This report is based on the panel's 2012 fact-finding and quarterly public meetings; center visits and meetings; direct observations of NASA operations and decision-making; discussions with NASA management, employees, and contractors; and the panel members' past experiences. The report highlights issues that could have an impact on safety."
"In FY13, we predict this planning-funding disconnect will again drive a change to acquisition strategy, schedule, and/or safety risk. The ASAP is concerned that some will champion an approach that is a current option contained in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. There is risk this optional, orbital flight-test demonstration with a non-NASA crew could yield two standards of safety--one reflecting NASA requirements, and one with a higher risk set of commercial requirements. It also raises questions of who acts as certification authority and what differentiates public from private accountability. Separating the level of safety demanded in the system from the unique and hard-earned knowledge that NASA possesses introduces new risks and unique challenges to the normal precepts of public safety and mission responsibility. We are concerned that NASA's CCiCap 2014 "Option" prematurely signals tacit acceptance of this commercial requirements approach absent serious consideration by all the stakeholders on whether this higher level of risk is in fact in concert with national objectives."
Keith's note: It is exceptionally odd that the ASAP gets all hot and bothered about certifying American-produced commercial crew spacecraft when the ASAP all too willingly said it was OK to fly Americans on Russian Soyuz spacecraft - spacecraft which have never been given the same level of formal safety certification by NASA - i.e. the certification that the ASAP apparently wants for domestically produced commercial spacecraft. A number of years ago, at a time when Americans living on Mir were exposed to repeated accidents, I asked (then) NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory in a public setting if Russian spacecraft meet or exceed NASA safety requirements. Gregry said "clearly they do not". This question and response was subsequently referenced in a congressional hearing.
It is also a bit odd that the ASAP was perfectly happy with NASA's plan to fly crews on Orion/Ares 1 flight after only one unmanned test. The same (apparently) goes for the current plan for Orion/SLS. The ASAP's credibility suffers when they pursue contradictory and inconsistent paths such as this.
Space Tourism Companies Make Giant Leaps In 2013, HuffPost Live
"Space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic are planning to send spaceships into the skies this year. Will private space travel finally lift off?"
Keith's note: I'll be one of the participants on this Google Hangout. Starts at 5pm EST.
"NASA will hold a status update news conference to discuss the progress of the agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 9. The briefing from Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website."
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's plans to transition to a content management system with open source architecture are on hold for a little while. The agency awarded a $40 million blanket purchase agreement in mid-December to Rockville, Md.-based InfoZen to replace the agency's existing CMS - operated for several years by eTouch Federal Systems LLC - with open source architecture to run its 140 websites and 1,600 web assets and applications. But that contract has come under protest from eTouch Federal Systems LLC, which filed a formal bid protest on Dec. 28 against NASA's new deal with InfoZen."
"NASA has selected InfoZen Inc. of Rockville, Md., for the Web Enterprise Service Technologies prime blanket purchase agreement to support agency websites."
NASA seeking to lease or sell space-shuttle facilities, Orlando Sentinel
"The process is mostly secret, because NASA has agreed to let bidders declare their proposals proprietary, keeping them out of the view of competitors and the public. NASA has at various times published official notices seeking proposals and spelled out that the proposals should be space-related, though the agency will consider alternative uses under certain circumstances. But information about who wants to do what may not come until agency officials actually select finalists for negotiations."
Keith's note: Odd how NASA hasn't bothered to issue any overt procurement notices on this. Why can't they list what is for sale on their website so everyone can see?
"SpaceX's Grasshopper took a 12-story leap towards full and rapid rocket reusability in a test flight conducted December 17, 2012 at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Grasshopper, SpaceX's vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL), rose 131 feet (40 meters), hovered and landed safely on the pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. The total test duration was 29 seconds."
"Tucked into the annual U.S. defense budget bill making its way through Congress this week is a long-fought and potentially lucrative reprieve for U.S. satellite manufactures and suppliers to export their products, officials said on Wednesday. Since 1999, spacecraft and their components have been grouped with ammunitions, fighter jets and other defense technologies and subject to the nation's most stringent export controls. The restriction followed a 1996 Chinese rocket launch accident that claimed a U.S.-manufactured satellite. In the course of the investigation, the company was accused of inadvertently transferring restricted technology to China. Before 1999, the State Department had the option of processing satellite and spacecraft component export requests under more lenient commerce control guidelines. "We are going to give the president back that power," space attorney Michael Gold, who headed a Federal Aviation Administration export control advisory group, told Reuters."
Just as the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 did not put the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads in charge of the economic development of California and the yet to be formed states in between, there is no reason for NASA to be in charge of the economic and industrial development of the solar system. Thus the vision statement for a national space policy short and succinct could be: "The economic and industrial development of the resources of the solar system for the benefit of the United States of America and all mankind is the goal of our national space efforts."
NASA Human Space Flight Industrial Base in the Post-Space Shuttle/Constellation Environment, Bureau of Industry and Security's Office of Technology Evaluation
"The Shuttle retirement and CxP transition will impact future NASA HSF programs through a loss of unique skills, capabilities, products, and services by select suppliers. The assessment highlights and prioritizes immediate areas of concern for NASA, with focus on the 150 survey respondents that identified themselves as dependent on NASA. Within the group of 150 NASA- dependent companies, the 46 NASA-dependent companies that reported negative net profit margins for at least one year from 2007-2010 should be given particular attention. Without continued business opportunities, these companies have the highest potential of shutting down. Ongoing efforts to develop a deep-space exploration capsule and heavy-lift rocket capability are important first steps to maintaining capabilities, and should be viewed as the building blocks to spur a sustainable HSF supply chain."
Lockheed-Boeing Launch Monopoly to Be Ended by Pentagon, Business Week
"The U.S. Defense Department plans to open more than a dozen rocket launches to competition, moving to end a monopoly held by a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing (BA) Co. joint venture. The Air Force is authorized to buy as many as 14 booster cores over the next five years from potential challengers such as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX and headed by billionaire Elon Musk, and Orbital Sciences Corp., Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, wrote in a Nov. 27 memo obtained by Bloomberg News. A booster core is the main component of a rocket."
SpaceX Bests Orbital Sciences In First OSP-3 Duels, Aviation Week
"Already, about $100 million has been obligated under a new Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP)-3 contract for the missions. Another $162 million is expected to be set aside in the coming days, Pawlikowski says. SpaceX "was considered the best value to the government," she tells Aviation Week."
"One day before the Common Instrument Interface working meeting, on December 12, 2012, the Hosted Payload Alliance (HPA) is hosting a Working Meeting from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the James E. Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street, SW, Washington, DC, the same location as the CII meeting."
Keith's 15 Nov note: According to the HPA website this event is "for HPA members only". I find it rather odd that NASA uses its resources to put out a formal, official, government solicitation notice - one that includes an announcement for this meeting - one that uses public (government facilities) but that the public and media will not be allowed to attend. Moreover NASA doesn't even bother to tell anyone that this is a closed meeting or why it is closed.
Keith's 28 Nov update: The Hosted Payload Alliance contacted NASAWatch to note that "the note on the HPA website about the event being Members Only was an administrative error, and has been removed - this meeting is most definitely for the public, and has been planned as such from the beginning. Any and all individuals who would like to attend are more than encouraged.."
"Traditionally, NASA attempts to commercialize and otherwise transfer the good work done in its research labs to the public by two means: directly auctioning its patents to the private sector, or maintaining the patents but actively choosing not to enforce them if doing so would impede innovation. NASA claims over 1,200 success stories in this regard, and there's plenty to show for it. But arguably no single NASA patent has had the same kind of market-disrupting effect that OpenStack has had merely by opening the doors to the community and letting the market drive development and adoption. That's food for thought."
Keith's note: Of course, NASA's response to the potential of OpenStack? NASA CIO Linda Cureton walked away from OpenStack - while industry has embraced it. And you wonder why NASA cannot figure out how to keep sensitive data off of laptops that are continually stolen? Clearly some management changes are needed in this regard. Check out her blog - its full superficial treatment of important IT issues and pop management babble. Clueless.
"But back to PGMs. We have something that we know the demand for, in the short term at least, is relatively insensitive to price. An increase in supply of as little as 250,000 ounces - seven metric tons - will drive the price down by a quarter. So instead of the $500m they were hoping for, our lads [at Planetary Resources] would only (yes, I know, "only") get $375m. Can we run a space programme on that? The more platinum they try to bring down from space the lower the price gets, and so even more has to be brought down to finance the whole shebang."
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's Chang'e-3 to land on moon next year, China Daily
"Ma said the Chang'e-3 would probe and explore the lunar surface, and carry out various environmental and space technology related tests. It will spend 15 days on the moon to lay the foundations of what he called, further deep space exploration."
Chang'e 3, Wikipedia
Keith's note: None of the Google Lunar X Prize competitors will be capable of landing on the Moon during 2013, so it is a foregone conclusion that the prize will drop in value. Add in the lack of real (existing) flight hardware, firm and fully-funded launch contracts, and all other funding required to cover other mission aspects of launch and operations, and it is becoming increasingly unlikely that any of the teams will be able to meet the Prize's requirements by 31 December 2015. I would most certainly like to be proven wrong when someone lands on the Moon.
"Today, H.R. 6586, a bill that provides a two-year extension to the existing commercial space launch indemnification regime, passed the House by voice vote under suspension of the rules. Under the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments of 1988, a system was established that spreads the risk from a commercial space launch mishap or failure between the launch provider and the government for potential damages or losses concerning uninvolved public or property. It has been extended five times since its original enactment."
"Administration and industry witnesses provided compelling evidence that indemnification for third-party claims is needed to preserve a US commercial launch market," said Subcommittee Chairman Palazzo."
Keith's note: This action yesterday is rather important news for commercial space sector. Not a word from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. What is it that they do again?
Citing SpaceX Threat, Lawmakers In France Urge Early Ariane 6 Start, SpaceNews (behind paywall)
"French Sen. Bruno Sido said to compare the SpaceX facility with the equivalent manufacturing operation of the Ariane 5 rocket, some of which is done in Les Mureaux, France, is to become fearful for the future of Europe's launch vehicle autonomy. "Visiting Les Mureaux is like entering an impressive laboratory," Sido said in a press briefing here. "Visiting SpaceX, which occupies an old factory that once belonged to Boeing, is like entering IKEA. This company has already won many contracts, is well-supported by NASA and is building low-cost launcher that constitutes a real and serious threat."
Obama failed space program; Romney would revitalize it, opinon, Gene Cernan, Orlando Sentinel
"Frankly, the world's leading space-faring nation shouldn't have to pay Russia for rides to the International Space Station. That's not only an insult to the hundreds of women and men like me who have built a legacy based on, literally, reaching for the stars, but it also hurts the local economy and puts local jobs at risk at a time when Florida's unemployment rate is already higher than the national average."
Keith's note: With all due respect, Gene, a little history lesson (not that you care): when George Bush decided to shut down the Space Shuttle program in 2004, there was a blatant and openly admitted gap in American human access to space that no American spacecraft - Constellation or otherwise - would have met under even the most optimistic scenarios until 2014-2018 (that date constantly slipped). Your good friend and ghostwriter Mike Griffin openly admitted that repeatedly. George Bush set us on the path to paying Russia to gain access to the ISS - regardless of what timeline you chose to refer to. He then proceeded to underfund Constellation and did not push Congress for funding so as to make it incapable of achieving its avowed goals.
Under the plans now in place for NASA's commercial crew programs, there will likely be indigenous American access to space sooner than Mike Griffin would ever have achieved with his bloated, underfunded, and oft-delayed Constellation program. Let me suggest that you check your facts before you embarrass yourself further.
"NASA is contemplating space journeys far beyond a near-Earth asteroid, the moon or Mars for its new heavy-lift rocket in development. The Space Launch System (SLS), as it is called, could instead visit the moon of Pluto or return samples from other outer planets."
Keith's note: Curiously, not a word is mentioned in this article about the cost of these missions (both launching the SLS and building/operating the payloads). The reason for that omission is quite simple: there is no budget to pay for any of these proposed payloads - however cool, nifty, or useful they might be.
First Outing for SpaceX, Editorial, New York Times
"SpaceX currently has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to carry out at least 11 more cargo resupply missions through 2016. Another company, the Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., has built a new cargo spacecraft under NASA contract and is preparing for a test flight next year. The best news from this first commercial flight is that the Falcon 9 rocket was able to complete its cargo delivery mission despite the loss of an engine. Although it was not perfect, the outing shows that private companies can carry out relatively mundane tasks like space cargo transport."
"Blue Origin conducted a successful Pad Escape test last week at its West Texas launch site, firing its pusher escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital Crew Capsule from a launch vehicle simulator. The Crew Capsule traveled to an altitude of 2,307 feet under active thrust vector control before descending safely by parachute to a soft landing 1,630 feet downrange."
@NASAWatch Tweet: 24 hrs - nothing from #NASA.gov mentioning Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space - just one single tweet yesterday bit.ly/RN6PiR
Keith's note: Buzz surrounding Felix Baumgartner's parachute jump from 24 miles, with a top descent speed of Mach 1.24, is still all over the media and clearly captured the public's imagination. 8 million people watched on YouTube - a new record. Tribute and parody YouTube videos have already gone viral (cats anyone?). Yet, other than a single tweet yesterday (unless I missed something) NASA has not said a single thing about this amazing feat. Yet there was constant mention by the news media as to how such a jump could lead to better spacesuits for NASA (among others). Alas, NASA was originally approached to participate in this activity but declined the offer to do so. Sources tell me that many NASA managers went out of their way to find ways to say "no" to this.
Its now clearly possible for non-NASA entities to approach - and reach space - and do things NASA cannot do. And, after half a century, NASA's increasing absence from these efforts doesn't even seem to be odd anymore. Is this the end of an era - and the beginning of another?
Has NASA even noticed?
Yes, the Space Jump Mattered, Mashable
"So pay no attention to the naysayers. This was just as giant a leap as it felt. It reminded us that making a taller iPhone does not have to be the ultimate ambition of the technically minded. We can dare to look up from our Star Trek-inspired smartphones, gaze at the heavens, and dream of doing things that seem completely ridiculous."
"Due to uncertainties in the business case and yet-to-be mitigated technology risks associated with the Reusable Booster System (RBS) concept, it is currently premature for Air Force Space Command to invest substantially in developing RBS, says a new report from the National Research Council. However, the report strongly endorses the continued research and advanced technology development needed for future launch systems and concludes that reusability remains an option in the future."
"NASA partner United Launch Alliance (ULA) has completed the fifth and final milestone for its Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with the agency's Commercial Crew Program. The Hazard, System Safety and Probabilistic Risk Assessment detailed how ULA's Atlas V rocket launch system hardware would ensure crew safety during launch and ascent. "The ULA team did an outstanding job outlining how it plans to integrate its launch vehicle with completely different spacecraft designs," said Ed Mango, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager."
NASA Signs Agreement to Develop Nasal Spray for Motion Sickness, NASA (with full text of Space Act Agreement)
"Under the Space Act Agreement, Epiomed will formulate the drug, called intranasal scopolamine, or INSCOP. Astronauts often experience motion sickness in space. As a result, NASA has conducted extensive research into the causes and treatments for the condition. Scopolamine is effective and can be administered as a tablet or injected. With a precise dosage, the NASA spray formulation has been shown to work faster and more reliably than the oral form."
"Epiomed will take responsibility for further development and commercialization of INSCOP, assisted by NASA-HH&P (Human Health & Performance Directorate) technology, and assume sponsorship of the IND (Investigational New Drug) from NASA under the SAA."
"NASA's Technology Portfolio System (TechPort) is a new agency internal website now available to NASA civil servant and contractor employees who log in from a nasa.gov domain. TechPort is an integrated, agency-wide software system designed to capture, track, and manage NASA's portfolio of technology investments. TechPort provides detailed information on individual technology programs and projects throughout NASA. ... The Office of the Chief Technologist will seek employee feedback on the website, and plans to make TechPort publicly available in the future. Users will be able to browse, search, track, analyze and report on the portfolio of technology investments being pursued at program and project levels, with the resulting benefits being the easy access to information about programs and project results."
Keith's note: Given the self-professed interest on the part of NASA to show taxpayers that there are many non-space ways that NASA-developed technology provides added uses (often and inaccurately referred to as "spinoffs") one would think that there'd be great interest in getting this sort of tool in the hands of consumers, taxpayers, developers, students etc. ASAP. As with the case of many online tools, crowd sourcing is often a great way to take a tool and make it better - by allowing the end-users to participate in the improvement process. I asked NASA when TechPort would be available to the public. They responded: "for the first year we plan on keeping TechPort internal. This is to both help familiarize the resource with employees and to encourage their use of it as a collaborative tool for tracking and managing projects and programs. After our "shake down flight" of TechPort, we hope to make it public -- in about a year."
This seems like a rather long time to me. I guess it also makes me wonder if TechPort is intended as an internal tool that will eventually be made public (with full or partial functionality) or a public tool that will be played with internally for a year before public release. Let's find out. Given NASA's chronic inability to link its various technology activities (see links below) this sounds like a hopeful departure. But as long as it is hidden behind the firewall, most people will never know. The site is online (via nasa.gov only) at https://techport.nasa.gov. Screen grabs, FAQs, downloads of TechPort from internal NASA users would be most appreciated. Send them to email@example.com
Keith's update: A NASAWatch reader sent this screen grab of TechPort. Larger view.
Also, you would think that NASA's technology efforts would combine all of its established branded technology activities - including NASA Tech Briefs (with its existing subscriber base) - except ... NASA and NASA Tech Briefs make virtually zero mention of each other - and do not seem to be at all bothered by this mutual ignoring of one another.
I decided to snoop around NASA.gov to see what I could find. According to the NASA.gov search function, this link http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/strategic_integration/tech_portfolio_tracking_detail.html used to point to "NASA - Technology Portfolio Tracking An Agency-wide process and system for tracking all of the significant technology investments, activities, and products by NASA." but now it simply points to the OCT home page.
This "DRAFT not for official use" Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan (online at NASA.gov with a creation date of 17 July 2012) says:
"The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has been successfully captured at the International Space Station. At approximately 6:56AM ET / 3:56AM PT, Expedition 33 crew member Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency used the station's robotic arm to grapple Dragon. Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA remarked, "Looks like we've tamed the Dragon. We're happy she's on board with us."
"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) today successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on the first official cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch went off on schedule at 8:35 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The SpaceX CRS-1 mission marks the first of at least 12 SpaceX missions to the space station under the company's cargo resupply contract with NASA. On board the Dragon spacecraft are materials to support investigations planned for the station's Expedition 33 crew, as well as crew supplies and space station hardware."
"Approximately one minute and 19 seconds into last night's launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first stage engine. Initial data suggests that one of the rocket's nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued immediately. We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Our review indicates that the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads ruptured due to the engine pressure release, and that none of Falcon 9's other eight engines were impacted by this event."
"The OG2 prototype satellite, flying as a secondary payload on this mission, was separated from the Falcon 9 launch vehicle at approximately 9:00 pm EST. However, due to an anomaly on one of the Falcon 9's first stage engines, the rocket did not comply with a pre-planned International Space Station (ISS) safety gate to allow it to execute the second burn. For this reason, the OG2 prototype satellite was deployed into an orbit that was lower than intended. ORBCOMM and Sierra Nevada Corporation engineers have been in contact with the satellite and are working to determine if and the extent to which the orbit can be raised to an operational orbit using the satellite's on-board propulsion system."
SpaceX Dragon to Carry 23 Student Experiments to Space Station
"SSEP offers a unique flight opportunity that allows students to experience both the excitement and the challenges inherent in conducting research in a microgravity environment," said Roosevelt Johnson, deputy associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It really is STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] in action, using the International Space Station -- which has America's only orbiting National Laboratory -- to host these students' science experiments."
Keith's note: No mention is made of this news at the CASIS website. Nor is any mention made at the Space Station or ISS National Laboratory websites. NASA's education website does mention this news. CASIS seems to be going out of its way to ignore the very things it is supposed to be promoting. This project involves Nanoracks which signed an agreement with CASIS to utilize the ISS. Yet CASIS continues to ignore what Nanoracks is doing on the ISS. Baffling.
"NASA engineers, student interns and amateur radio enthusiasts around the world are listening for signals from a small, cube-shaped satellite launched into orbit from the International Space Station Thursday."
IAC 2012 Commercial Space Transportation Initiatives (Video), Commercial Space Watch
"Plenary Event 3 at the 2012 International Astronautical Congress in Naples focus was on commercial space transportation initiatives.The Plenary Event provided "a snapshot of the political, economic, and technical landscapes to best determine if, when and how much humankind could be ready to embark on futuristic scenarios based on massive space commercialisation."
- Alan Bond, Founding Director, Reaction Engines (UK)
- George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (USA)
- William Gerstenmaier, Associate Director, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (USA)
- Silvio Sandrone, Head of Business & New Programmes Development Astrium Space
- Luce Fabreguettes, Vice President Business Development, Arianespace (France)
- Georges Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic (USA)
"ABC News has learned that singer Sarah Brightman, of "Phantom of the Opera" fame, will be the next tourist in space, sometime in 2014 or 2015. To get her seat she had to pay the Russian space agency more than the $51 million NASA budgets on average to send its astronauts to the station. To maintain its presence in orbit when Soyuz seats are limited, NASA had to agree to commit at least one of its astronauts to spend a year in space, instead of the six months they currently stay. Brightman's trip will be announced in Moscow on Oct. 10."
Keith's note: In case you were wondering, for $51 million, according to a per-person cost of $2.58 from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, you could vaccinate 19,767,442 people (yea 19+ MILLION) in developing nations with "5-in-1 vaccine" or "pentavalent" vaccine which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B. You could also buy 275,675 OLPC XO-1.75 laptops for students in a developing country at $185 each.
Of course, its her money so she can spend it as she wishes. But I wonder what Sarah Brightman is going to do in conjunction with her flight that compares with the impact that this $51 million could have elsewhere. I certainly hope that she talks with Anousheh Ansari, Richard Garriott, Guy Laliberte, and Mark Shuttleworth.
Here's a thought. She's a stunning vocalist. Take a cue from "First Orbit" and "Fragile Oasis" - and the record sent on the Voyager probes. As she flies over the hundreds of ethnic and national borders on our planet, sing a song - in every language she flies over - in real time. Make a recording - donate all proceeds to a non-profit organization. That would be cool.
I'd ask her this question, except, based on past experience, Space Adventures would simply never allow me access to her in a media opportunity.
"An ABC News report by producer Gina Sunseri claimed opera singer Sarah Brightman outbid NASA for a seat aboard a Soyuz rocket -- and an astronaut was consequently bumped from the rocket ride. Nonsense, the space agency said. "Crews for International Space Station expeditions have been assigned through 2013," NASA spokesman Joshua Buck told FoxNews.com. "None of those astronauts has been 'booted' from his or her respective mission."
"NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy's Office of Science announced on Wednesday the launch of the Big Data Challenge, a series of competitions hosted through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL). The Big Data Challenge series will apply the process of open innovation to conceptualizing new and novel approaches to using "big data" information sets from various U.S. government agencies. This data comes from the fields of health, energy and Earth science. Competitors will be tasked with imagining analytical techniques and software tools that use big data from discrete government information domains. They will need to describe how the data may be shared as universal, cross-agency solutions that transcend the limitations of individual agencies."
"NASA and Harvard University have established the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which with the enabling capabilities of the TopCoder community allow for competitions to create the most innovative, most efficient, and most optimized solutions for specific, real-world challenges being faced by NASA researchers. The NTL provides an online virtual facility for NASA researchers with a computational or complex data processing challenge to "order" a solution, just like they would order laboratory tests or supplies."
"TechAmerica Foundation's much anticipated report "Demystifying Big Data: A Practical Guide To Transforming The Business of Government," which was released today, gives the federal government a comprehensive roadmap to using "Big Data" to better serve Americans."
"This is a great example of NASA investment fostering entrepreneurial activity in other markets" said Phil McAlister, director of NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Development in Washington. "The technology was developed as part of an effort to stimulate the private sector to develop commercial space transportation concepts and enable capabilities for future commercial support of human spaceflight with U.S. taxpayer dollars and Paragon's private investment. The company then found another market for it, leading to the development of a new commercial product and service, which will help save the lives of American miners."
"The project is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. Says Managing Director Jeffrey Manber, "NanoRacks is delighted to again be working with the educational community, this time for showing students the potential of using space as a tool for learning."
More Stealth NASA Spinoffs (2nd Update), earlier post
Keith's update: I have learned that NASA posted this article on the mining technology on 27 September and sent out one tweet via @Commercial_crew. Otherwise, no media alerts were sent out by email. If you saw the single tweet or happened to visit the commercial crew or KSC webpage, then you saw the article. Otherwise, you would not know where to find it. Meanwhile, the Odyssey Moon/NSL, Nanoracks news is till being ignored by CASIS and NASA.
"Orbital Sciences Corporation Monday rolled the first stage of its Antares rocket to the launch pad of the nation's newest spaceport - the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va. - while in Florida, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) moves ahead with preparations for an Oct. 7 launch to the International Space Station for NASA's first Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission. These developments mark progress in returning space station resupply missions to American soil."
"Cost increases and schedule delays on NASA's projects are long-standing issues for the Agency. A 2004 Congressional Budget Office study compared the initial and revised budgets of 72 NASA projects between 1977 and 2000. The initial budgets for these projects totaled $41.1 billion, while their revised budgets totaled $66.3 billion, a 61 percent increase. Moreover, since its first annual assessment of NASA projects in 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has consistently reported on cost growth and schedule delays in the Agency's major projects. For example, in its 2012 assessment GAO reported an average development cost growth of approximately 47 percent, or $315 million, much of which was attributable to JWST. As GAO noted, cost and schedule increases on large projects like JWST can have a cascading effect on NASA's entire portfolio."
NASA learns the dark side of a sunny outlook, Federal Computer Week
"Then the IG noted the "Hubble Psychology." The report defined it as "an expectation among NASA personnel that projects that fail to meet cost and schedule goals will receive additional funding and that subsequent scientific and technological success will overshadow any budgetary and schedule problems." In other words, NASA officials believe that major NASA projects will get funding for science's sake, despite how the projects are managed. The Hubble Space Telescope is one major project that exemplifies the risks of optimism in the report. The program has had its problems, but they have been mostly forgotten, the IG wrote."
"Do you know of a small company developing a medical product that could be adapted to solve a health or human performance challenge in space? Have you developed a biomedical product for the space program that could also improve health on Earth? The National Space Biomedical Research Institute's Industry Forum is soliciting applications for the Space Medicine and Related Technologies Commercialization Assistance Program (SMARTCAP) award that provides support in moving a selected product toward commercialization. The 2013 SMARTCAP award will be for a maximum of $250,000 for a one-year period."
"The world's first privately funded deep space mission - SENTINEL - received major support this week from prominent members of the business and financial community who joined the B612 Foundation's Founding Circle. In June, the B612 Foundation unveiled its plans to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission, a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun, up to 170 million miles from Earth, for a mission of asteroid discovery and mapping. This premier scientific instrument not only will provide millions of asteroid discoveries, but also help us prevent a major asteroid impact on Earth. Sentinel will detect and track asteroids accurately enough to give decades of warning of impending impacts to allow humanity to easily deflect threatening asteroids using existing technology."
"NASA cannot exercise the same level of insight it normally has in other technology development efforts. NASA has not been able to credibly estimate the expected total cost to certify the companies' designs, or the cost to buy launch services."
Ralph Hall, statement
"If our nation is going to ask crews to explore space, it is our responsibility to do everything possible to ensure that those astronauts return to Earth safely. I'm not convinced this approach is the right one but I'm willing to listen."
Witnesses Say NASA Must Have Expanded Role in Ensuring Astronaut Safety as Commercial Spaceflight Capabilities Develop, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"Vice Admiral Joseph W. Dyer, USN (Ret.), Chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, expressed significant concerns with NASA's proposed plans. Since the U.S. government will not own the vehicles, the designs, or the intellectual property, NASA cannot exercise the same level of insight it normally has in other technology development efforts. Admiral Dyer told Committee Members that NASA's, "current acquisition approach--commercial transportation system development that is funded under a space act agreement concurrent with certification that is funded under a federal acquisition regulation-based contract--is complex and unique. In our opinion, this approach is a workaround for the requirements and communications challenges implicit to the space act agreements."
"In response to Mr. Gerstenmaier's comments that NASA is "hoping" to get the funding level ($525 million) in the Senate appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013, as well as get the President's request level of about $830 million per year in fiscal year 2014 and beyond, Ms. Edwards said, "I strongly suggest, especially in this [current funding] environment, to pin an estimate of completion of an activity based on a 'hope' [for full funding], will be a real challenge, I think, for the agency."
- William Gerstenmaier, statement
- Joseph Dyer statement
"Boeing and NASA recently established the firm baseline configuration for the company's Commercial Crew Transportation System, achieving the first performance milestone in NASA's Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative."
NASA Requests Proposals for Initial Contracts to Certifying Commercial Crew Transportation Systems
"NASA on Wednesday released a request for proposals for the first of two contract phases to certify commercially developed space systems in support of crewed missions to the International Space Station. Through these certification products contracts, NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will ensure commercial missions are held to the agency's safety requirements and standards for human space transportation system missions to the space station."
Keith's note: The following hearings and meetings will be happening over the next few days (
3 2 are tomorrow). All of these events are overtly related to space commerce. Yet you see zero mention of any of these events by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. One would think that their member companies and other interested parties would like to know that these things are going on. Oh well.
- 12 Sep: Hearing: Examining NASA's Development of the Space Launch System and Orion Crew Capsule
- 12 Sep: Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee
- 14 Sep: House Science Space & Tech Committee Hearing: Recent Developments in NASA's Commercial Crew Acquisition Strategy
- 18 Sep: NASA Advisory Council Commercial Space Committee Meeting
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday new milestones in the nation's commercial space initiatives from the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The latest advances made by NASA's commercial space partners pave the way for the first contracted flight of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) this fall and mark progress toward a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next 5 years."
Keith's note: There has been no mention of this overtly commercial event by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. No mention of XCOR's big announcement either. CSF certainly isn't paying much attention to commercial space these days.
Keith's note: This JSC award has been given to YET2.COM Inc. for a contract not to exceed $2,700,000. No description whatsoever is given by JSC as to what this money will be used for. Having been to some NASA and OSTP open innovation-themed workshops, I have an 'idea' what this might be for. A quick Google search turns this up - but it does not speak to what this award is for. As I noted last week with regard to this other sparsely detailed (and inaccurate) JSC award, what baffles me is why JSC - and other parts of NASA - seem to be totally uninterested in providing taxpayers with even the barest rudiments of a description - an abstract or summary - as to what their tax dollars are being spent on.
JSC PAO has been working the earlier issue and told me last week
that I am supposed to get something any day now - but I haven't gotten a response back on my earlier request. See NASA Contract Award to Resources for the Future: Measuring Research Performance in Space Station Research (redacted copy). What is somehwat funny about this is that that this award seems to have something to do with making NASA more open and accessible to ideas from outside parties - yet the agency has gone out of its way to be anything but open about the process of obtaining such services.
- Cryptic Space Station Procurement From JSC, earlier post
"Plans call for XCOR to commence initial operations from a Florida location in 2014 when they plan on bringing the Lynx Mark I prototype for demonstration and pathfinder flights. This will be followed by the basing of a Lynx Mark II production vehicle in Florida, and eventually production of Lynx vehicles and other XCOR products should market demand materialize and the emerging commercial space industry maintain its current momentum."
Keith's note: This event has been known about for weeks. Does the Commercial Spaceflight Federation make any advance mention of this important event for one of its members - or note today's announcement? No. No mention of Bolden's media event on commercial space either.
"The ISS National Lab supports a variety of platforms to exploit the space environment in the development and testing of new materials for both commercial and academic investigators. Through these solicitations, CASIS continues in its mission to promote the full utilization of the ISS. ... This RFP will utilize the NanoRacks External Platform."
"NanoRacks, the leading company in low-earth orbit research and educational utilization, seeks to further stimulate the market for International Space Station usage by offering to designate and promote up to five (5) companies that can offer for retail sale NanoLabs for use in NanoRacks hardware now on the space station and on suborbital platforms."
Keith's note: CASIS makes a big deal out of its agreement with Nanoracks - but they don't seem to be interested in making any mention of this Nanoracks Announcement of Opportunity utilizing the ISS. Baffling - especially given the bundle of money CASIS gave Nanoracks.
"Media are invited to an interview availability and facilities tour with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden at noon EDT, Thursday, Aug. 23, at various locations in and around the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the media tour, Bolden will detail recent progress related to NASA's commercial spaceflight initiatives."
"XCOR Aerospace will announce details regarding its intent to establish a manufacturing and assembly center for XCOR Lynx Mark II suborbital reusable launch vehicles on Florida's Space Coast. ... Astronaut Encounter Theater Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex"
Keith's note: Charlie Bolden will be all over KSC on the same day - talking up space commerce - but he is not listed as a participant in the XCOR announcement. Strange.
Keith's update: Jim Muncy, XCOR etc. seem to disagree with what I have posted. OK, then why is Charlie Bolden's chief of staff listed as a participant in the XCOR event - and not Bolden himself? Given the respective positions of the others on the agenda Bolden's absence is puzzling.
Keith's 16 Aug 4:30 pm update: NASA JSC re-released the Award notice. It now says "Classification Code: 16 -- Aircraft components and accessories; NAICS Code: 541712 - Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)" but it still lists the award recipient as being "Research for the Future Inc., 1616 P ST NW, Washington, DC 20036-1400" even though the awardee is actually "Resources for the Future" located at that street address. I guess the name of the company isn't important in NASA awards.
Earlier posts below.
USAF Support For ULA Is Scrutinized, Aviation Week
The chairman and the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence even go so far in an Aug. 2 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as to call the Air Force's launch capability contract with ULA--worth billions of dollars annually to pay for the launch workers and support engineers--an "infrastructure subsidy."
This report was revised on August 13, 2012, to correct text regarding the space sector survey on page 10.
- GAO on DOD EELV Acqusition, earlier post
- GAO: EELV: DOD Needs to Ensure New Acquisition Strategy Is Based on Sufficient Information, earlier post
"Specifically, we found that NASA did not have clear guidance to ensure that property identified for leasing had a current or future mission use; lacked a complete inventory of space available for lease as well as an effective marketing program to attract potential tenants; lacked internal controls to ensure that its leases provide the best value to NASA and are fair to potential partners; and did not have guidance to ensure that in kind consideration that it accepts as part of a leasing arrangement benefits NASA."
"NASA will issue a news release to announce new agreements with industry partners for its Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative at 9 a.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 3. At 10 a.m. NASA will host a news briefing from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website. NASA also will host a follow-up teleconference for media representatives with detailed questions at 10:45 a.m., immediately following the briefing."
Slides being discussed during media telecon.
"NASA Friday announced new agreements with three American commercial companies to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years. Advances made by these companies under newly signed Space Act Agreements through the agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative are intended to ultimately lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial customers.
CCiCap partners are:
-- Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colo., $212.5 million
-- Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Hawthorne, Calif., $440 million
-- The Boeing Company, Houston, $460 million"
Futron Releases 2012 Space Competitiveness Index, Commercial Space Watch
"Futron has released its 2012 Space Competitiveness Index marking the 5th anniversary of the yearly publication. According to the report, the United States remains the overall leader in space competitiveness but is seeing a decline for the 5th year in a row. The decline is attributed to enhanced capabilities in other countries while the U.S. is undergoing a transition with 'significant' uncertainty. New to the index this year are emerging space nations Argentina, Australia, Iran, South Africa and the Ukraine."
"In summary, after reviewing hundreds of documents and interviewing more than 20 witnesses, the OIG found that by co-signing the letter to the FCC Parkinson improperly participated in a particular matter that had a direct and predictable effect on his financial interest. Parkinson's conflict resulted from his status as a stockholder and board member of Trimble Navigation Limited (Trimble), a California manufacturer of precision-GPS devices that helped form a coalition of GPS makers and users to block the LightSquared plan. However, we also determined that Parkinson's actions were not motivated by a financial interest but rather appeared to be driven by his desire to protect a critical national resource he had helped create."
"The introduction of new commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicles (SRVs) in the private sector has enabled the emergence of new markets. A number of these new companies are already testing their vehicles and plan to initiate commercial operations within a few years. This hearing will examine the potential launch markets and applications for SRVs, the unique benefits that SRVs offer the scientific community for research, and the regulatory uncertainties that currently have the most impact on the emerging commercial SRV industry."
Keith's note: There will be a hearing on Wednesday at 2:00 pm EDT titled "Emerging Commercial Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle Market". The hearing was announced several weeks ago. Yet the Commercial Spaceflight Federation has not issued a heads up or media advisory for this hearing. Nor is anything posted on their website. Not only are three of its members testifying, a representative of the CSF's Suborbital Applications Researchers Group is testifying as well. One has to wonder just what it is that the CSF does when it seems to go out of its way to not promote things of obvious importance to its members, the media, and the commercial space industry as a whole.
"Space Florida - the State of Florida's spaceport authority and aerospace economic development agency - and the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space (FAA-AST) - partnered in November 2011 to commission a study prepared by The Tauri Group, on the forecast 10-year demand for suborbital reusable vehicles."
Keith's update: This report has been issued by Space Florida (a CSF member) and was conducted by a company that will be testifying today. CSF has made no mention of this report.
"The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), Office of Technology Evaluation, in coordination with the U.S. Air Force, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Reconnaissance Office is undertaking a survey and assessment of the U.S. space industrial base supply chain network. The principal purpose of this project is to gain an understanding of the complicated network supporting the development, production and sustainment of products and services across the defense, intelligence community, civil and commercial space sectors."
"According to studies, the United States provides less commercial space launch indemnification for third party losses than China, France, and Russia. These countries put no limit on the amount of government indemnification coverage, which in the United States is limited by the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments of 1988 (CSLAA). Governments' commitments to pay have never been tested because there has not been a third party claim that exceeded a private launch company's insurance."
"The Department of Defense (DOD) has numerous efforts in progress to address the knowledge gaps and data deficiencies identified in the GAO report. Of the seven recommendations GAO made to the Secretary of Defense, two have been completely addressed. While two of GAO's recommendations have actions underway that are expected to be completed, two recommendations need more action for completion and one has had no action taken."
"GenCorp Inc. (NYSE: GY), headquartered in Sacramento, California, announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) from United Technologies Corporation (NYSE: UTX) for $550 million. "We see great strategic value in this transaction for the country, our customers, partner supply base and our shareholders," GenCorp Chief Executive Officer Scott Seymour said. "The combined enterprise will be better positioned to compete in a dynamic, highly competitive marketplace, and provide more affordable products for our customers."
"Regarding the IG report, Palazzo commented that "the IG found a general lack of awareness among NASA program managers about the technology transfer and commercialization process and that many personnel did not understand the range of technologies that could be considered as technological assets. Furthermore, the report found that the number of patent attorneys and dedicated Innovative Partnership Office staff - and related funding - was insufficient given the technology transfer and commercialization potential."
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has identified a potential pharmaceutical industry partner named Epiomed Therapeutics, Inc., having its principal place of business in Irvine, California, which is interested in assuming responsibilities for the further development and commercialization of a pharmaceutical dosage form for intranasal administration of scopolamine (INSCOP). NASA has been actively engaged in the clinical development of this agent and is now seeking a Space Act Agreement (SAA) Partner whose role will include production of the formulation under FDA stipulated GMP GUIDELINES for clinical trials."
Keith's note: No mention of CASIS - anywhere. Isn't this the sort of thing CASIS is supposed to be doing?
"United Technologies Corp (UTX) is in final discussions to sell its Rocketdyne business to GenCorp Inc (GY), a maker of aerospace propulsion systems, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The deal, which may come late this week or early next week according to one of the sources, represents part of the diversified U.S. conglomerate's efforts to divest non-core units and focus on closing its $16.5 billion acquisition of aircraft component maker Goodrich Corp (GR)."
Keith's note: GenCorp is the parent company of Aerojet.
Put space policy on the presidential to-do list, Jay Barbree, NBC
"Forty-five years later, one of the relative newcomers to the space business, SpaceX, is receiving roughly three-quarters of a billion dollars from NASA -- while one of the shuttle program's longtime contractors, ATK, is still trying to get in on the funding for space station resupply."
Keith's note: It is beyond odd that Jay Barbree focuses on the money spent on SpaceX but ignores the billions that NASA spent on Ares 1's first stage - which is now being used as the first stage of Liberty. Ares 1 was, itself, a derivation of another government-funded research program to develop the Space Shuttle SRBs. Given th ebillions spent on SRB and Ares 1, SpaceX is an incredible bargain by an order of magnitude.
"Most space veterans agree with those goals, Mr. President, but with a cautionary note: Don't prop up t.e newcomers while giving short shrift to America's most experienced aerospace companies. This happened before, when the White House took the contract from the experienced and gave it to the inexperienced. In 1967, the Apollo 1 astronauts paid with their lives in a launch-pad fire."
Keith's note: Contrary to Barbree's ill-informed statement, North American Aviation was far from being "inexperienced". Once again, it is odd how Barbree focuses on one company and a fatal accident but does not bother to mention Morton Thiokol (bought by ATK to form the basis of its solid rocket business) and its involvement in the Challenger accident which resulted from the very same SRBs that from the basis for the basic Ares 1/Liberty design.
Liberty should be allowed to succeed or fail on its own merits. Yet Jay Barbree continues to write this one-sided, badly-researched revisionist history. Indeed, the things he writes are downright misleading and are fraught with inconsistencies and glaring omissions. Does NBC simply not care enough to provide Jay Barbree with a research assistant or fact checker?
"NASA has selected United Launch Services LLC of Englewood, Colo., to launch the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) and Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) spacecraft. The spacecraft will launch in October 2014, July 2014 and November 2016, respectively, aboard Delta II rockets from Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California."
"NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., to launch the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Jason-3 spacecraft in December 2014 aboard a Falcon 9 v1.0 rocket from Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California."
Marc's note: The announcement of who will get selected for the next round of CCiCap could be as early as later this week, though more likely next week. The question is who will get funded. We know that NASA can select up to three companies to fund, two fully, one half funded. NASA does not need to select three companies. But based on previous NASA statements you could argue they will select three companies. One important factor is the funding level available to them. What do you think? Who will get funded? Vote in our poll.
"NASA has selected six proposals to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS). The awardees will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for SLS, a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit."
"The purpose of this hearing will be to examine the direct economic and societal benefits that investments in NASA have generated and highlight those areas where continued investments could help stimulate the pipeline for future economic growth."
- Democrats Highlight Importance of the Nation's Investments in NASA that Strengthen the American Economy, and Improve Our Daily Lives
- Beyond Tang and Teflon: Witnesses Highlight NASA-Derived Technologies that Save Lives and Fuel Economic Growth
- Hearing Charter
- S&A Subcommitte Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
- Mason Peck, Chief Technologist, NASA
- George Beck, Impact Instrumentation, Inc.
- Brian Russell, Zephyr Technology
- John Vilja, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
- Richard Aubrecht, Moog Inc.
"Today during the Farnborough International Air Show 2012, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, announced "LauncherOne", a new air-launched rocket specifically designed to deliver small satellites intoorbit. With substantial funding already raised from Virgin Galactic's partner aabar Investments PJS, and with commercial flights of this new orbital launch vehicle expected to begin by 2016, Virgin Galactic aims to offerfrequent and dedicated launches at the world's lowest prices."
"NASA's independent Verification and Validation office, which usually tests systems for the space program, will be reviewing the revamped 911-system, the Department of Information and Technology confirmed. NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey said the agency would act as "a second set of eyes...to ensure that what's being built is going to function properly." "Let's say you have a satellite that's supposed to look at the sun," Dickey said. "What IV&V does is make sure that the satellite is actually going to be able to do that -- that the software on board will make the satellite do what it's supposed to do."
Keith's note: Yet another example of NASA technology (i.e. a spinoff of sorts) having use outside of traditonal space-oriented applications. Something for NASA to make note of. But has NASA PAO or CTO bothered to issue a press release on this? No, of course not. No mention at IV&V either.
"Oral interpretation and written translation of official and technical/scientific/engineering documents ... Former Soviet States (Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan), Russian Federation, and China, Visa processing for ... and China ... Administrative coordination, advance preparation and support of conducting onsite overseas official meetings and high level visits; 8) Overseas logistics support primarily for the Former Soviet states and China, providing administrative, clerical and in-country ground transportation logistic services ..."
Keith's note:With regard to mention of "China", I thought NASA was supposed to NOT be working with China on any space matters. As such, why is "China" and "onsite overseas official meetings and high level visits" mentioned in this (or any) NASA procurement?
Evolving Traditions Aboard the International Space Station (2003) SpaceRef
Ed Lu: "I'd like to tell the team in Houston a little bit of story if you are ready to hear. I got an email today pointing out that Keith Cowing, the author - or the editor of NASA Watch introduced a story entitled "Why is there money on the International Space Station?".
SXC and Anton Kreil - "The First Trade in Space" via FInancial Times
"In an interview in the latest edition of the London-based publication Square Mile Magazine, Kreil has announced that he will be attempting to become the first person in history to make a financial markets transaction in Space, when he hops aboard the XCOR Lynx MKII shuttle with SXC in 2014."
Keith's note: You're a little late, Mr. Kreil. ISS residents have been exchanging various currencies in space in exchange for services for over a decade. Also, without getting into specifics, every ISS crew member has regular private conversations with their families back home and I know that these conversations have included financial matters. Enjoy your flight - and let me suggest that you do something of far greater value: look out the window.
"Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent will celebrate one of its great historical achievements with the 50th anniversary of the launch of Telstar I, the world's first active communications satellite. The launch on July 10, 1962, in partnership with NASA, ushered in the era of modern communications including real-time global telephone service, data communications and TV broadcasting. Telstar I, a sphere roughly a yard in diameter and weighing about 170 pounds, was a technology 'tour de force,' incorporating dozens of innovations from Bell Labs, including the transistor and solar panels, and was powered by 3,600 solar cells also invented by Bell Labs in 1954. The satellite could carry 600 voice calls and one black-and-white TV channel."
"The Midland Development Corporation (MDC) and XCOR Aerospace jointly announced today the establishment of XCOR's new Commercial Space Research and Development Center Headquarters that will be created over the next eighteen (18) months. XCOR manufactures reusable rocket engines for major aerospace prime contractors and is the designer, manufacturer and operator of the Lynx, a winged fully reusable, high performance suborbital space vehicle that is designed to safely carry two persons or scientific experiments to the edge of space and back up to four times per day."
Keith's update: There will be a media telecon at 3:00 pm EDT today. Live tweeting at @NASAWatch
Marc's note: There is a rumour circulating that SpaceX had pulled itself out of the running for CCiCap funding. I have confirmed with SpaceX that this rumour is false.
"During this unfunded Space Act Agreement with EAI, NASA learned valuable information about how the company plans to upgrade the existing capsule with modern flight capabilities," CCP Manager Ed Mango said. "We commend the EAI team for completing all of their established milestones during this partnership."
Marc's note: What happens now that Excalibur Almaz has completed its unfunded CCDev2 contract? Based on previous selections in the commercial crew program, and knowing only 2 1/2 proposals will be selected in the next round, it seems unlikely Excalibur Almaz will get funded. So it would seem Art Dula and co. will have to continue self-funding the project.
Fledgling NASA Nonprofit Starts To Liftoff, NPR (Morning Edition)
"At a hearing later in March, Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., asked the head of NASA, Charles Bolden, what grade he would give CASIS on its progress so far. Bolden said it was too soon to tell. "I'd give them a D-plus overall," says Keith Cowing, who runs the website NASAwatch.com. He worked for the agency in the early days of the space station program, and has been a persistent critic of CASIS. "They're making incremental progress, but I just don't think they're going fast enough," he says. "I don't think that they've engaged the people who have decades of experience in doing research in space. And I'm a little frustrated that they haven't gotten that message."
- More Whining From CASIS: Its Not Our Fault, earlier post
- CASIS: It Takes More Than Golf to Utilize the ISS, earlier post
- CASIS & ISS National Lab: Still Ignoring Their Own Stuff, earlier post
- Wake The Kids: CASIS Has A New Logo, earlier post
Keith's note: It has been a week since the CASIS-cosponsored ISS utilization conference in Denver. Nothing has been put online by CASIS in terms of presentations, videos, written summaries. Nothing. Alas, in this interview, CASIS representatives once again proclaim that "CASIS has to succeed" yet they seem to be going out of their way to help it fail by continuing to avoid explaining what it does outside of a very small constituency.
Astronauts support expansion of space station crew size, Houston Chronicle
"Astronauts aboard the International Space Station said this week they would welcome NASA's proposals to expand the lab's crew size from six to seven. "It would certainly help," said Don Pettit, a flight engineer and one of three crew members working in the U.S. half of the station. NASA senior leaders have begun talking about expanding the lab's crew size to seven when vehicles built by private contractors, such as SpaceX, come online as expected later this decade."
Keith's note: If you look over at the calendar on the right side of NASA Watch you'll note that the NASA Advisory Council and all of its committees are meeting toward the end of July. NASA has expanded the audience for these public meetings by putting them on Webex and dial-in audio feeds - live. A good use of technology - with one exception: the only committee that will not be available live via Webex or dial-in is the Technology and Innovation Committee which focuses on the NASA Chief Technologist's Office. Go figure.
ATK Makes Progress with the Liberty Launch System, Commercial Space Watch (With video)
"In a trio of media releases ATK announced today that is has signed a deal with NanoRacks, completed a milestone for its contract with NASA for the Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev) and that partner EADS Astrium has completed tests on tank structures for the Liberty rocket second stage."
"In a press conference at the California Academy of Sciences Thursday morning, the B612 Foundation unveiled its plans to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission - SENTINEL - a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun, ranging up to 170 million miles from Earth, for a mission of discovery and mapping."
"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with COBRA PUMA GOLFTM to carry out materials research projects on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory for use in its sporting goods products line."
"Combining instruction in the principles of both science and golf, 20 Title I students from St. Lucie County Schools will take part in the first-ever PGA STEM Enrichment Camp at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance this week, June 18-22."
Keith's note: CASIS certainly seems to have an interest in golfing. To be certain, golf balls are composed of rather sophisticated composites that are constantly tweaked to enhance performance. And the market is huge for balls that have even the slightest edge over the competitors. Maybe microgravity can provide an edge in the development of new polymers. As for the golf STEM camp - when I was in grad school I hacked a program on a PDP-8 computer that had been designed to calculate cannon ball trajectories so as to become a satellite launcher. Trajectories are trajectories. There are many ways to teach the concept. Some people may think golf deals are beyond CASIS' scope. I disagree. I see business and learning. And I see an effort to engage a new sector of commerce and consumers normally not part of the space utilization community. Well done. Do more, please.
That said, while CASIS is promoting its golf-in-space efforts, it has totally ignored its partner Nanoracks as it makes an announcement - and does so at a conference that CASIS itself co-sponsored. Oh yes, with the exception of two tweets @ISSCASIS was totally mute at the ISS conference in Denver. Indeed, only half a dozen or so people were using Twitter (#ISSRDC) to talk about what was happening at the conference. I have only found 2 articles - from the Huntsville Times - that refer to news from the conference. And nothing was webcast. How CASIS is going to expand visibility of ISS capabilities when it drops the ball like this escapes me. It takes more than a few golf agreements, CASIS.
NASA Releases Breakout Videos for the Commercial Crew Program, Commercial Space Watch
"Five of NASA's industry partners participated in the production of breakout videos that highlight the systems they're creating in collaboration with the Commercial Crew Program during Commercial Crew Development Round 2. Included videos come from: ATK, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and ULA."
"A high-altitude test of the Orion deep-space capsule's launch abort system could be delayed two years [FY 2018] to accommodate the tighter program budgets anticipated by NASA and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin."
"I just hope that there will no longer be budget proposals from the President, whoever that will be next year, that will appear to cut back on the future and fund the present because we have an authorization bill that assures both, we support both," Sen. Hutchison said at the hearing."
"Based on the availability of funding and industry performance, this strategy allows for adjustments in program scope, and enables a domestic capability to transport crewmembers to the ISS likely by 2017, based on the readiness of U.S. commercial providers to achieve NASA certification."
Keith's note: If the Orion abort test doesn't happen until FY 2018, then what does this mean for using Orion to take crews to the ISS? NASA plans for using the ISS now end in CY 2020. If Orion delays continue, commercial crew service providers could reach the ISS well before Orion can. How can Orion provide the "capability to be a backup system for International Space Station cargo and crew delivery" if commercial crew carriers fly well before Orion flies? As such, why is Orion/SLS being designed with the capability of going to the ISS in the first place?
Back Us On Kickstarter, Planetary Resources
"To offer you a chance to actually get involved, we've been tossing around the idea of adding additional capacity in our production run, and either offering you access to a portion of our of our orbiting spacecraft - or - if there's enough demand, actually build you an additional Space Telescope for your own use. We'd probably do this thru a Kickstarter campaign, but we ONLY if there's enough interest..."
Keith's note: This is bizzare. At the ISDC conference just a few weeks ago Eric Anderson from Planetary Resources was positively bragging about how much money they had. A room full of people heard him say this. Now they are asking for people to fund their ultra low cost telescopes on Kickstarter? What happened? Where did all those billionaires (and their money) go? Given that there is no hardware yet (just press releases), will the Kickstarter funds be used to fund hardware development or just to buy copies?
Keith's update: Clarification: I'm all for crowdfunding and crowdsourcing (I'm actually a big fan) but it is a little strange that this company announces itself with immense fanfare as being well-funded by ultra-rich people and then, before anything is event built or launched, they decide to use crowdfunding. It seems that their business model is a bit confused and is still evolving.
Mystery Billionaire-backed Space Company To Be Announced, earlier post
Keith's note: What's really ridiculous is how these billionaires are charging attendees at their press event $25 each. You have to wonder how much they are putting into this if they charge admission to press conferences ...
Open For Business: NASA Launches New Technology Transfer Portal
"In an effort to accelerate technology transfer from NASA into the hands of American businesses, industry and the public, the agency's new Technology Transfer Portal is open for business. NASA's Technology Transfer Portal provides an Internet-based one-stop front door to the agency's unique intellectual property assets available for technology transfer and infusion into America's new technology and innovation-driven economy."
Keith's note: I have to say this is a substantial improvement over what was online before. Some closer examination is called for. The next step ought to be to eliminate all of the separate field center tech transfer websites (each one is different, none of them interconnect, each one costs money to maintain etc.) and have one truly central portal where everyone has easy access to everything that NASA does.
A quick observation: based on the user interface on this new site I'd never find these three items posted by NASA LaRC the other day unless I already knew to click on the LaRC link that actually takes me to the NASA Technology Gateway Marketplace. Why not call the link by the name of where it sends you?
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity Byzantine Fault Tolerant Clock - A Self Stabilizing Synchronization Protocol
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity Air Coupled Acoustic Thermography Nondestructive Evaluation and Inspection of Structures
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity Adaptive Refinement Tools Software for Realtime of Unstructured Grids in Numerical Analysis
Oh yes: NASA Tech Briefs is linked from this page but NASA Tech Briefs still makes no link or mention of NASA itself. Odd.
- NASA Patent Offices Need to Coordinate Much Better Than They Do, earlier post
- NASA's Technology Transfer Continues To Be Uncoordinated, earlier post
- Uncoordinated Technology Transfer at NASA, earlier post
"The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space will hold a hearing on the "Risks, Opportunities, and Oversight of Commercial Space." This hearing will examine the commercial space industry, its role in the nation's space program, and its contribution to U.S. global competitiveness."
"Announcement: On June 28, 2012, the B612 Foundation will announce its plans to build, operate and launch the world's first privately funded deep space mission-a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun. We will create the first comprehensive dynamic map of our inner solar system showing the current and future locations and trajectories of Earth-crossing asteroids, paving the way to protect the Earth from future impacts and opening up the Solar System to future exploration."
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA have signed a historic agreement to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). The two agencies will collaborate to expand efforts that provide a stable framework for the U.S. space industry, avoid conflicting requirements and multiple sets of standards, and advance both public and crew safety."
Keith's note: When questioned by the media, NASA Administrator Bolden said that only NASA missions that go to the ISS will be required to adhere to both NASA safety requirements and FAA requirements. Missions to other locations (even if they use the same spacecraft that visit ISS) will not be subject to NASA scrutiny but will still have to adhere to FAA regs. When asked if there will be a TSA-like entity to handle the surge in people flying into space commercially neither NASA or FAA would "speculate about the future".
Keith's note: During today's NASA/FAA teleconference, Charlie Bolden said that the new commercial crew Space Act Agreements are targeted for July. However, Phil McAlister said that these downselects will not be "downselects" at all but will be open to any bidder. However Rep. Frank Wolf recently issued a press release that said "Additionally, NASA has stated that it will reduce the number of awards anticipated to be made this summer from the 4 awards made under commercial crew development round 2 to not more than 2.5 (two full and one partial) CCiCAP awards. This downselect will reduce taxpayer exposure by concentrating funds on those participants who are most likely to be chosen to eventually provide service to ISS."
Hmm. "reduce the number of awards" and "this downselect will reduce ..." It certainly sounds like Rep. Wolf thinks that he has agreed to a NASA "downselect". Phil might want to check with Rep. Wolf on this.
Boeing X-37B Completes 469 Day Orbital Mission (With Video)
"Boeing today announced the successful de-orbit and landing of the second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) for the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The X-37B landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 5:48 a.m. Pacific time today, concluding a 469-day experimental test mission. It was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on March 5, 2011."
Teledyne to Develop Space-Based Digital Imaging Capability
"Teledyne Technologies Incorporated announced today that its subsidiary, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc., in Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a Cooperative Agreement by NASA to foster the commercial utilization of the International Space Station. Under the agreement, Teledyne Brown will develop the Multi-User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES), an Earth imaging platform, as part of the company's new commercial space-based digital imaging business. Teledyne expects to provide the first commercial imaging system on board the facility."
Keith's 14 Jun note: There is no mention of CASIS or the ISS National Lab in this press release. No mention is made on the CASIS website. No mention is made at the NASA ISS National Lab website either. I thought this was the sort of thing NASA wanted CASIS to be doing? Guess not. It would seem that one does not have to deal with CASIS in order to use the ISS.
Keith's 15 Jun update: According to Twitter posts provided last night by CASIS employee Justin Kugler (@phalanx) the TBE agreement was done independent of CASIS: "MUSES was created as a National Lab Enabling project. It is not new. TBE registered with CASIS as an implementation partner" and "TBE is an implementation partner and MUSES preceded the transition. And we have been helping them with potential users.". Kugler added that "NASA is retaining the projects they are funding because of legal requirements."
"Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation, today announced the Foundation has joined forces with NanoRacks LLC, the leading company for low-earth orbit utilization, to launch a new program called DreamUp. The program will assist students in raising money to participate in a unique educational experience - conducting experiments in the microgravity of space. DreamUp is the first program to enable students to use American Express(R) Membership Rewards(R) points to fund student experiments onboard the International Space Station (ISS)."
"A report prepared for the NASA Applied Science Program and authored by economists at The Brattle Group finds that the use of NASA's solar and meteorological data services has greatly contributed to the U.S. and international goals of achieving greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources. The study, which was presented today at a workshop hosted by IEEE's Committee on Earth Observation, finds the economic value of the datasets to be between $79 million and $790 million worldwide, with higher ranges possible."
Keith's note: If you go to the NASA Applied Science Program website they make no mention of this report. This rather odd given that they paid for the report - one that has been released and makes some rather important assessments about the value of what NASA does.
"Keith Cowing, editor of NASAWatch.com, said Copenhagen Suborbitals has yet to convince anyone that they've built something safe to fly in. Spine-severing vibration, blackout-inducing acceleration and catastrophic hardware failures could each doom a would-be passenger. "But the fact that I'm not making fun of this and worrying about detailed technical aspects is fascinating. We don't giggle at it anymore," said Cowing, a former biologist who did payload integration for NASA and has completed suborbital scientist astronaut training. "In the past few years, it's no longer considered lunacy to try and build a rocket ship that you or someone could get into and take you to edge of space," he said. "I think we're watching something that may be bigger than we realize it is. Copenhagen Suborbitals is an extreme example."
"CASIS is now the manager of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Owing to a slow and unfocused start, tumultuous changes in management after barely six months, and pressure from those who lost the ISS National Lab management contract competition, some have called for CASIS to be removed from the job barely nine months after it was selected. Any move to retire CASIS -- still in its infancy -- and replace it with a still greener successor would be ill advised, I believe. ... I rather doubt that the detractors and would-be successors to CASIS have thought these implications through. But they should. And if they are ISS supporters, they should not only cease their calls to end CASIS and instead support it as it reboots with new leadership and a newfound effectiveness."
Keith's note: (sigh) It's never the fault of CASIS when things go wrong. Oh no. CASIS is the only answer - period. We're stuck with them - no matter what. So get used to it. And if you don't fall in step with whatever CASIS says and does (no matter how much they screw things up) you are a detractor and not a true believer. Yawn.
It is quite clear that CASIS thinks that the choice is to stick with them and their substandard ISS utilization - and not to even think of trying another approach so as to achieve far better utilization of the International Space Station. I vote for "better".
Keith's update: There are some interesting and lengthy comments (below) from someone inside the ISS utilization world that shed some light on issues confronting CASIS.