"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:47 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 26, southwest of Baja California with more than 3,000 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to a port near Los Angeles, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA immediately. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing."
Recently in Commercialization Category
"NASA has taken offline technical reports associated with a cutting-edge technology program out of concerns of a possible export control breach, an agency official said Aug. 24. Speaking at annual symposium of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jason Derleth, the NIAC program executive at NASA Headquarters, said the final reports associated with various NIAC research projects have been removed from the agency's website after one of them appeared to contain information that ran afoul of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) export control rules."
"For years, many have been waiting for the commercial space industry to become a real market, one where companies actually make money and prosper. William Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's human spaceflight division, said he thinks that the industry "is on the crest of another wave." "There's a lot of hype," he said at a Federal Aviation Administration space conference this year, citing other times when industry felt it was on the cusp of revolutionary change. "But will we be able to generate enough demand?" he said. "It can't just be solely government demand. It has to be augmented by the private sector. . . . Will that be enough to push us over or to reach that tipping point that actually enables this industry to become more self-sufficient than it was in the past?"
Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post
"The substance that the companies behind SLS and Orion use to keep people employed is identical to what they would theoretically use to operate ISS and routine crew and cargo transport: money. The money either comes from NASA or it doesn't but the financial health of these companies is all running on the same fuel. And whatever money NASA does not have to spend on one thing, it supposedly can spend on another. But this is an ecosystem - one that seems to want to expand off-world - where government money, money earned from government recycled back into other areas, and money from outside the NASA/contractor honey pot all gets mixed together. If one thing can feed another and spur interest amongst investors while others derive profit for the risks they took with their own money, well, that's how actual commerce establishes itself."
"In its RFI, NASA stressed that that for the moment, it just wants to hear ideas. It doesn't have a budget to help spur any proposed projects, or plans to release them for public perusal. NASA received 11 submissions "from a broad range of respondents including individuals, small companies and large companies," Sam Scimemi, division director for the ISS program, said in an e-mail."
"NASA's trying to develop economic development in low-earth orbit," [NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Bill] Hill said, speaking on a panel of NASA staff assembled to discuss the upcoming Mars mission. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-earth orbit, so that research can continue in low-earth orbit. ... NASA didn't specify any potential buyer, but two commercial entities are about to add significant real estate to the ISS: a new docking adapter is being put in place to support crew shuttle missions from Boeing and SpaceX, both of which are set to start shuttling personnel to the station in 2017."
Keith's note: Every time someone from NASA talks about the future of ISS and the #JourneyToMars thing they contradict themselves and further muddy the issue.
1. CASIS is supposed to be doing this commercial stuff already with the U.S. portion of the ISS - NASA doesn't mention that very often.
2. The ISS is owned by more countries/agencies than just NASA. So how can NASA hand the ISS over to anyone?
3. "Buyer"? NASA is going to sell the ISS? (see #2)
4. Boeing and SpaceX own their visiting spacecraft - "real estate" that comes and goes.
NASA's Plan For Commercializing Low Earth Orbit Is Still A Mystery, earlier post
NASA: We're on a #JourneyToMars - But Don't Ask Us How, earlier post
Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post
A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post
"Now available is the August 3, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers were Chris Sanders (AeroJet Rocketdyne), Mike Fuller (Orbital ATK), and Bob DaLee (Boeing), who discussed "NASA's Space Launch System: Powering the Journey to Mars."
Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.
Marc's note: The future is SLS folks, that's it. Just have a look at slide 9 for the comparison to existing rockets such as SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy (soon to fly) and ULA's Atlas V and Delta-IV. Oh, and the comparison is to the possible future SLS Block 1B and 2B, neither of which are funded or will be built anytime soon.
Keith's note: And of course what the BoeingLockheedMartinAerojetRocketdyneOrbitalATK guys never, ever mention is cost - what it cost to develop SLS, what each flight costs, what it would take to fund these larger versions of SLS. Yet they compare their rocket with things like Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy that you can buy - now. How many Falcon Heavy's can you buy for the the cost of one of these SLS vehicles? How many could you buy with what it cost to develop the SLS overall? That question is impossible to answer - since no one knows what SLS actually costs.
"NASA space missions are more ambitious and require the development and integration of more advanced and complex scientific instruments and vehicles than ever before. Hardware systems embedded with software challenge traditional ways of viewing and evaluating critical technology. 13 The issues include a lack of distinction among software types (newly developed, reused, and commercial-off-the-shelf), insufficient experience and knowledge when moving from the laboratory to a "relevant" environment, poor oversight during development, and inconsistent definitions of what represents new software technology. In addition, in some cases, it is no longer possible to evaluate the maturity of certain hardware technologies without their embedded software."
"NASA introduced TRLs in the 1970s and DOD introduced TRAs in the 1990s; they have been adopted by other agencies and industry, and internationally as effective tools for facilitating understanding and increasing knowledge about the maturity of critical technologies and their readiness for integration into larger acquisition systems. Some experts, however, have argued that existing assessment tools are not well suited to addressing various areas - including software systems and systems' integration. For example, historically, the TRL scale has not always been understood in terms of what needs to be demonstrated when it comes to software at each of the nine maturity levels, since software development did not start until the later phases of the acquisition life-cycle, such as after critical design review. New assessment tools or variations on existing tools have been developed for these areas and others."
"NASA has selected six U.S. companies to help advance the Journey to Mars by developing ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats."
"The selected companies are:
- Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas
- Boeing of Pasadena, Texas
- Lockheed Martin of Denver
- Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
- Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado
- NanoRacks of Webster, Texas"
Marc's note: It's interesting to note that in this follow-on contract from the 2015 NextSTEP selections, Sierra Nevada and NanoRacks are included. NanoRacks in particular is an intriguing participant as they attempt to expand their available products.
The Peaks of Eternal Light: a Near-term Property Issue on the Moon, arXiv.org e-Print archive
"The recently revealed highly inhomogeneous distribution of lunar resources changes the context of these issues. We illustrate this altered situation by considering the Peaks of Eternal Light. They occupy about one square kilometer of the lunar surface. We consider a thought experiment in which a Solar telescope is placed on one of the Peaks of Eternal Light at the lunar South pole for scientific research. Its operation would require nondisturbance, and hence that the Peak remain unvisited by others, effectively establishing a claim of protective exclusion and de facto appropriation."
"The U.S. Government has made a historic ruling to allow the first private enterprise, Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), permission to travel beyond Earth's orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. This breakthrough U.S. policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon's surface, beginning a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon's valuable resources."
"With Earth's population growing at an exponential rate, the future of agriculture - in particular precision agriculture - will continue to grow in importance as the world works to support its population. Satellite monitoring, a key component of precision ag, aids in the analysis of everything from crop type and crop health to yield prediction. And as the global agricultural stakes are raised as the population balloons, so too does the need for increased access to extremely high quality imagery, on a reliable and frequent basis."
"NanoRacks' commercial gateway to space is officially open for business. The NanoRacks External Platform (NREP) has been placed outside of the International Space Station (ISS) on the JEM Exposed Facility. The self-funded NREP is the first-ever commercial gateway-and-return to the extreme environment of space. Following the CubeSat form factor, payloads can now experience the microgravity, radiation and other harsh elements native to the space environment, observe earth, test sensors, materials, and electronics, all while having the opportunity to return the payload back to Earth."
The First Commercial Interplanetary Mining Mission, Deep Space Industries
"Deep Space Industries announced today its plans to fly the world's first commercial interplanetary mining mission. Prospector-1™ will fly to and rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid, and investigate the object to determine its value as a source of space resources. This mission is an important step in the company's plans to harvest and supply in-space resources to support the growing space economy."
"SpaceVR, a platform for creating cinematic, live, virtual space tourism, announced today that it has signed a launch agreement with NanoRacks LLC to send Overview 1, the world's first virtual reality camera satellite, into space. Overview 1 will be delivered to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX CRS-12 Mission. The satellite will then be deployed into Low Earth Orbit from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD)."
Lockheed Martin Finalizes Contract for NASA Lunar Imaging CubeSat, Lockheed Martin
"For being our familiar anchor in the night sky, the moon still holds mysteries for scientists. To illuminate the unknown, Lockheed Martin ) has signed a contract with NASA to deploy SkyFire, a 6U CubeSat planned to launch to the moon in 2018 with Orion's Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1)."
"The U.S. Government has made a historic ruling to allow the first private enterprise, Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), permission to travel beyond Earth's orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. This breakthrough U.S. policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon's surface, beginning a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon's valuable resources. Moon Express received the green light for pursuing its 2017 lunar mission following in depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA and other federal agencies."
"Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty requires, in relevant part, that "The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty." The FAA consulted with the Department of State as to the relevant portions of the Treaty and considered comments from the Department as part of the payload determination."
"The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST) has awarded Virgin Galactic an operator license for SpaceShipTwo. The license award, which will ultimately permit commercial operations of the vehicle, was the culmination of several years of in-depth interaction with the FAA. The license review process consists of an in-depth review of the vehicles system design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis, culminating in FAA-AST approval."
"The license prohibits Virgin Galactic from flying what are officially classified as "spaceflight participants" on SpaceShipTwo until the company can "successfully verify the integrated performance" of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo. "Verification must include flight testing, and the results must be provided to the FAA prior to conducting a mission with a space flight participant on board," the license states.
Virgin Galactic opted to receive the launch license, with those restrictions, over an alternative known as an experimental permit. Such permits allow for testing of suborbital reusable launch vehicles under a more streamlined regulatory environment, but prohibit the company holding the permit from using the vehicle for any commercial application. Blue Origin, for example, has an experimental permit for test flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle."
"Now available is the June 22, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Gary Barnhard of Xtraordinary Innovative Space Partnerships, Inc. (XISP-Inc) who discussed Near Real-Time State Models - a Foundational Technology for Space Automation and Robotics."
Includes: Presentation and audio recording of the telecon.
"Monday evening in Salt Lake City, some aerospace industry officials sat down to discuss this new development. The panel at an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics forum on propulsion had a provocative title, "Launch Vehicle Reusability: Holy Grail, Chasing Our Tail, or Somewhere in Between?" Moderator Dan Dumbacher said of the panel, "We purposefully tried to get a good cross-section of those who have been working on it." However, the panel included no one actually building reusable rockets and relied heavily on the old-guard perspective. Dumbacher himself, now a professor at Purdue University, previously managed development of the Space Launch System rocket for NASA, and he expressed doubt about the viability of reusable launch vehicles in 2014 by essentially saying that because NASA couldn't do it, it was difficult to see how others could."
Keith's note: Well of course SLS-hugger and former NASA SLS manager Dan Dumbacher can't see a world where the launch market is diverse in terms of customers, payloads, launch vehicles, and financing. He only has wetware that lets him see giant government-built rockets - so that is all that he can see.
"Imagine how exciting it would be to see your design made in space," said Glenn Smith, President and CEO of Mouser Electronics, a leading global distributor of the newest semiconductors and electronic components. "We are really excited to present this unique contest. We hope our wide range of electronic components will enable people to create whatever their imagination sparks." For the I.S.S. Design Challenge, Mouser has partnered with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Made In Space, along with Hackster and MacroFab. The winner of the I.S.S. Challenge will receive a 3D printer, a consultation with Made In Space - pioneers in additive manufacturing technology for use in the space environment - and the prestige of seeing their design 3D-printed aboard the I.S.S."
Keith's note: How cool. A bunch of companies are offering a competition where the winner gets to print something on a commercial device on board the ISS. Isn't this the sort of thing that NASA and CASIS should be promoting? Sam Scimemi from NASA and Greg Johnson from CASIS constantly proclaim their intent to bring education and commerce to Low Earth Orbit on board the ISS. But when it starts to happen in LEO on ISS - on its own - NASA and CASIS could not be bothered to even mention it. One would think that any news like this is good news for everyone involved with the promotion of ISS commercial capabilities. CASIS has signed agreements and has flown Made in Space hardware. But in this case, CASIS prefers to play around with comic book illustrators instead of highlight how its efforts and those of NASA are actually resulting in novel private sector interest in the ISS.
Yet just last week NASA put a notice out seeking new ideas for commercial activities in LEO - activities that involve both NASA and CASIS. If they ignore current efforts already underway, what confidence do we have that they will be able to identify new ones?
"This is a Request for Information (RFI) only and does not constitute a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will take action in this matter. NASA is investigating options and approaches to expedite commercial activity in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Specifically, NASA is looking to increase private sector demand for space research and expand on the work of Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the manager of the ISS National Laboratory. NASA is not only interested in technical solutions to advance these goals, but also in contract or agreement structures that potential offerors would see as beneficial to advance private sector demand for low Earth orbit research."
"A major mission for us here at CASIS is to find unique and innovative ways to bring notoriety to the ISS National Laboratory and the research that is being conducted on our orbiting laboratory," said CASIS Director of Operations and Educational Opportunities Ken Shields. It's also part of a secret mission that might help us get a Rocket and Groot of our very own. "The reward for us [is that] we'll actually have two characters go into space," said Mitch Dane, director of custom publishing. Then he joked, "With a little luck, there'll be a little cosmic radiation going on, they'll come back alive."
"Director James Gunn, whose "Guardians of the Galaxy" grossed $773 million worldwide in 2014, was awed by the decision. "So cool. NASA Oasis has paired with Marvel and is using Rocket & Groot as an official emblem for the mission to Mars," Mr. Gunn wrote."
A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post
"On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. Scimemi said: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."
Keith's note: CASIS issues a press release that mentions that Marvel comic book/movie characters at ComicCon are now ISS mascots or something. Alas NASA is there too - as @NASASocial - at the Marvel booth - and neither @NASASocial or @ISS_CASIS mention one another's presence. Apparently CASIS thinks that Groot, a giant
rock tree man thing, and a foul-mouthed raccoon are better poised to explain ISS science than ISS scientists. So - the movie director whose characters are being featured refers to "CASIS" as "OASIS" and doesn't seem to know that this is all about the International Space Station - referring instead to "the mission to Mars".
Meanwhile NASA makes no mention of this news and NASA is never mentioned in the CASIS press release. Yet news stories say that NASA is behind all of this. NASA only gets the credit from third parties - and when they get mention it is factually mangled. Nice job CASIS.
"In February 2016, Congress asked GAO to examine what is known about other countries with launch capabilities and whether or not countries had fostered competition among launch providers, similar to what the United States is attempting to do in the EELV program. GAO responded to this request with a written briefing on the worldwide space launch capabilities and the status of the United States and global launch market."
"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."
"The public-private partnerships between NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial companies have given us technological progress that has reduced the cost of accessing space and extended America's space leadership in the commercial, civil, and national security spheres. The entrepreneurship and innovation culture of the free market is revitalizing the nation's space capabilities, saving taxpayer money, and advancing technology critical to maintain America's edge in space and in other fields. To protect our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space by launching more scientific missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and ensuring that our space-related industries remain a source of scientific leadership and education."
Keith's note: Looks like the RNC just endorsed the Obama Administration's commercial space policy - just like New Gingrich and Bob Walker did. Then again Newt was against it before he was for it (or was it the other way around?). Of course, Mike Griffin was moving in this direction before Obama - and Sean O'Keefe before Griffin. Either way, its deja vu all over again with supporters of commercial space on both sides. Oddly, right now, Republicans in Congress are among the most vocal opponents of the current incarnation of the same commercial space policy that began in a Republican administration.
"We want to make that that sexy, badass persona that NASA has established in the government space exploration realm is carried forward into the private commercial space industry," says David Moritz, founder and CEO of Viceroy Creative, the ad agency behind the rebrand."
"Viceroy Creative, the full-service design firm specializing in brand strategy, brand innovation and package design is announcing the official rebranding launch of the newCommercial Spaceflight Federation. Previously viewed as a selective and discerning option for those looking to travel to space, the new rebrand and creative redesign democratizes the idea of space to the public while providing a sexy, cool, and innovative new look for their interactive website. "We wanted to create an identity that would set a standard for the commercial space exploration industry," says David Moritz, CEO and Founder of Viceroy Creative. "Through the new Commercial Spaceflight Federation rebranding, we're able to create a unique, sexy, and ownable identity that also has roots in a thrilling part of the space industry. We envisioned this rebranding and redesign to be sophisticated and alluring, but also thoughtful enough to be on par with a regulatory agency."
Keith's note: When an organization can't develop and implement a simple strategy and has problems explaining what it does for its members, the knee jerk reaction always seems to be the assumption that the problem will be solved re-branding and re-launching websites. So CSF hired Viceroy Creative whose specialty seems to be marketing alcohol. Based on this PR firm's press release it would seem that CSF is not even sure who/what its audience is. They (simultaneously) want to be "sexy", "sophisticated", "alluring" yet be "thoughtful enough to be on par with a regulatory agency". They need to pick one or the other and focus on that. Oh yes - they also want to do something that "democratizes the idea of space to the public".
And they say "sexy" twice in their press release. So CSF clearly wants you to think that they are sexy. Got that? There's a reason why: Viceroy Creative uses soft p*rn imagery in their PR (scroll down) - and they brag about it. They also worked with the Karadashians. Seriously. And note that the press release title says "Thrusts Into New Frontier". Taken together this explains the whole "sexy" thing, I guess. Just what the commercial spaceflight industry needs right now: gratuitous marketing hype used to hide a lack of substance.
CSF now has an audience/customer base comprised of the commercial space industry, Congress, the Federal government, and the public. Instead of developing a strategic focus CSF now wants to be everything to everyone. As for the rebranding launch thing I just went to their new website. Their old website was a bit stale but you could find what you needed quickly. Now it takes longer and has lots of flashy things. And yet all that they have online is the same stuff they had online before - with added flash. As for the website being "sexy, sophisticated, alluring" - no.
With regard to the democratizing thing CSF is aiming for, given that rides on commercial spacecraft are going cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for many years to come, the only "democratizing" that is going to happen is going to be among the super rich people who can afford the ride. The "public" (i.e. the rest of us) will just go about our normal terrestrial routine. I have never quite figured out exactly what CSF does. Now I am even more confused.
"In order for a viable, sustainable economy based on human spaceflight to emerge in low Earth orbit (LEO), a number of elements must be present. ... Recent developments in spaceflight suggest there is ample cause to be optimistic about the future. ... In addition to greatly advancing the state of rocketry, the new capability may have a significant democratization and commercialization effect, potentially enabling low-cost access to space for entrepreneurs, scientists, educators, and the general public."
Keith's note: Senior managers and PR people at CASIS have been heard to complain that they wish NASA would do more to promote them. So what does CASIS do to encourage more interaction with NASA? Why, they ignore NASA, of course. This press release is about research aboard the ISS that NASA paid billions to build and operate. NASA pays 99.97% or more of CASIS' budget every year. So everything that CASIS does is paid for with NASA money. Yet, if you read this press release, you will see that the word "NASA" is not even mentioned. This may sound trivial but CASIS is constantly taking credit for things without acknowledging NASA's role. And then they whine when NASA doesn't show them enough love. If the management of CASIS had half a brain they'd be trying to be NASA's best friend. Instead, all they do is throw them shade.
"Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) announced today that it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Air Force 45th Wing to license the historic Space Launch Complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral for its lunar lander development and flight test operations. The new arrangement for Launch Complexes 17 and 18 under the USAF 45th Wing will allow for Moon Express growth and expansion of its business and technical operations. Moon Express previously occupied Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 36A under an agreement established with Space Florida in January 2015."
Keith's note: Based on a recent NASA Freedom of Information Act response CASIS has been operating for two years without the Annual Program Plan it is required to have. Or maybe it is. Either way NASA doesn't seem to care.
On 5 April 2016 I submitted a FOIA request to NASA for information related to CASIS. CASIS (Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) is the non-profit organization that NASA relies upon to operate its research facilities aboard the International Space Station. CASIS gets $15 million a year from NASA to do this and relies on this funding for 99.97% of its annual budget.
At first the NASA HQ FOIA refused to even consider my FOIA request as a "media" request despite the fact that I have been accredited as media by NASA for more than 15 years. After a lot of emails, complaints, and foot dragging, NASA HQ's FOIA office finally complied with my FOIA request. To their credit they provided a lot of information which is going to take some time to analyze. My request was focused and straightforward:
"I am requesting the full text of NASA cooperative agreement NNH11CD70A between NASA and CASIS including any revisions, annexes, modifications, or associated contractual amendments made by NASA from the inception of this agreement with CASIS until the date of this FOIA request. I am also requesting all progress and status reports and memos provided by CASIS to NASA from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request as well as all correspondence/memos from NASA to CASIS in response to CASIS progress and status reports from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request."
Let's start with the means whereby NASA and CASIS agree on what CASIS should be doing i.e. the CASIS Annual Program Plan. In response to the FOIA request NASA provided CASIS Annual Program Plans for FY 2012 (submitted 31 October 2011); 2013 (submitted 21 March 2013); and 2014 (submitted 20 October 2013). However NASA did not provide a copy of the CASIS Annual Program Plan for FY 2015 (FY 2015 began on 1 October 2014) or the plan for FY 2016 (FY 2016 began on 1 October 2015). Both Annual Program Plans clearly fall within the period of time and scope specified in my FOIA request.
These reports are required to be prepared and submitted annually. According to the Cooperative Agreement between NASA and CASIS:
Keith's note: Three weeks ago I sent NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan (and NASA HQ PAO) a simple question about her statement regarding NASA's value to America's economy i.e."there was a report that showed that for ever $1.00 you spend on NASA you get $4.00 returned to the economy". As I have been ranting for the past month Stofan - and the rest of NASA - refuses to answer a simple media inquiry about a public claim by NASA about returns on investments in NASA technology. Yet that has not stopped NASA from putting out a report today titled "Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit" that includes complicated fancy math to calculate what an investment in ISS R&D can expect to see emerging from that investment (page 46):
As you can see the math in my original question was much simpler than what is in this report (image of full reference). The report goes on to gush about the economic potential of space commerce with regard to Low Earth Orbit. That economic potential is most likely quite real. Alas NASA is not necessarily the best equipped to actually understand that commercial potential - much less act strategically to facilitate its development. NASA is also under some collective delusion that it actually understands "commerce" since they seem to think that "commerce" is equivalent to government spending. Just ask Bart.
In the mean time it is clear that one part of NASA is not talking to other. While one office on the 9th floor is incapable of responding to a simple question on this topic just a few feet down the hall NASA's Deputy Administrator's office is co-launching this report with the White House - including the fancy math that is over the head of NASA's Chief Scientist.
NASA Cannot Answer A Simple, Basic Question on Its Value, earlier post
Report: Federal agents raid NASA construction contractor, Orlando Sentinel
"Investigators with NASA's Office of Inspector General, the agency in charge of probing crimes against NASA, removed boxes of documents and computer towers from SDB Engineering and Constructors Inc., according to Fox35. The company located on East Parrish Road has worked on several big projects at NASA's Kennedy Space Center including upgrades to the Vehicle Assembly Building and corrosion control work at Launch Complex 41 and Launch Complex 37, used for United Launch Alliance launches."
Keith's 7 July update:
A week Two weeks Three weeks ago I sent NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan (and NASA HQ PAO) a simple question about her statement regarding NASA's value to America's economy i.e."there was a report that showed that for ever $1.00 you spend on NASA you get $4.00 returned to the economy". NASA has still not gotten back to me with an answer. Either NASA refuses to answer or (more likely) they cannot answer - because their answer would reveal that they have no idea where their claims come from.
After 20 years I can totally understand that some people at NASA are loathe to respond to NASAWatch questions like this - especially ones with a high gotcha quotient. I get that. But you'd think that such a basic talking point - one repeatedly used by senior agency personnel to explain the purported value of NASA to our economy - would be one that is strongly grounded in research data - data that should be at everyone's finger tips. Guess again. If NASA is unable to answer such a simple, basic question about a commonly-used talking point, why should anyone take agency staff seriously when they start to talk about commerce, economics, and return on investment?
NASA has no idea what it is talking about when it comes to its economic value to our nation. So they just make stuff up and hope that no one asks any questions.
NASA has been getting ready for visits from presidential campaign transition teams in the coming weeks. Based on my sources agency leadership is under some collective pervasive delusion that space is actually an issue that campaigns intend to pay attention to prior to the election. Moreover, their aim is to tell the campaigns that NASA is doing what it should be doing, to please just let NASA do whatever it is doing, and not ask too many questions as to why NASA is doing what it is doing. Among the things NASA would normally do is drop the whole dollar-invested/dollar-returned thing into the briefing charts. If NASA cannot answer a simple media question about NASA's numerical claim of value added benefits to the economy, I am not certain that they should be perpetuating these urban factoids by telling them to representatives of the next administration.
Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee
"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) today sent letters to four senior officials requesting information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. ... The letters request a written copy of the administration's policy governing access to Indian launch services, an explanation of when and how this policy was promulgated, and a copy of licenses authorizing the launch of U.S. origin space technology on Indian launch vehicles and records associated with them."
"Prohibiting access to foreign launch services, like India's, who do not allow their payloads to fly on U.S. vehicles, has opened another set of opportunities for U.S. commercial companies to develop their own systems to serve the global satellite launch market. Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."
Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post
"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."
America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
NASA Final Rule: 14 CFR Part 1214: Space Flight, Federal Register
Keith's note: These rules apparently only apply to Orion (and SLS). No mention is made as to who is in charge aboard Dragon or Starliner (or other commercial vehicles) when NASA people are on board. That said, the take home message: no fist fights on the bridge.
"Sec. 1214.702 Authority and responsibility of the NASA Commander.
(a) During all flight phases, the NASA Commander shall have the absolute authority to take whatever action is in his/her discretion necessary to:
(1) Enhance order and discipline.
(2) Provide for the safety and well-being of all personnel on board.
(3) Provide for the protection of the spacecraft and payloads. The NASA Commander shall have authority, throughout the mission, to use any reasonable and necessary means, including the use of physical force, to achieve this end.
(b) The authority of the NASA Commander extends to any and all personnel on board the spacecraft including Federal officers and employees and all other persons whether or not they are U.S. nationals.
(c) The authority of the NASA Commander extends to all spaceflight elements, payloads, and activities originating with or defined to be a part of the NASA mission.
(d) The NASA Commander may, when he/she deems such action to be necessary for the safety of the spacecraft and personnel on board, subject any of the personnel on board to such restraint as the circumstances require until such time as delivery of such individual or individuals to the proper authorities is possible.
Sec. 1214.703 Chain of command.
(a) The NASA Commander is a trained NASA astronaut who has been designated to serve as commander on a NASA mission and who shall have the authority described in Sec. 1214.702 of this part. Under normal flight conditions (other than emergencies or when otherwise designated) the NASA Commander is responsible to the Mission Flight Director.
(b) Before each flight, the other flight crewmembers will be designated in the order in which they will assume the authority of the NASA Commander under this subpart in the event that the NASA Commander is not able to carry out his/her duties.
(c) The determinations, if any, that a crewmember in the chain of command is not able to carry out his or her command duties and is, therefore, to be relieved of command, and that another crewmember in the chain of command is to succeed to the authority of the NASA Commander, will be made by the NASA Administrator or his/her designee.
Sec. 1214.704 Violations.
(a) All personnel on board the NASA mission are subject to the authority of the NASA Commander and shall conform to his/her orders and direction as authorized by this subpart.
(b) This subpart is a regulation within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 799, and whoever willfully violates, attempts to violate, or conspires to violate any provision of this subpart or any order or direction issued under this subpart shall be subject to fines and imprisonment, as specified by law."
Keith's note: According to 18 U.S. Code § 799 if you break the NASA rules you "shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both". In other words the fine is (apparently) TBD and the longest you can sit in the brig for punching your captain is a year.
"... The most significant item lost during the SPX-7 mission was the first of two Docking Adapters necessary to support upcoming commercial crew missions. Although NASA had planned to have two Adapters installed on the Station before the first commercial crew demonstration mission scheduled for May 2017, it is now likely there will be only one installed in time for these missions.
... we also found that for the first seven cargo missions NASA did not fully utilize the unpressurized cargo space available in the Dragon 1 capsule's trunk, averaging 423 kg for SPX-3 through SPX-7 even though the trunk is capable of carrying more. The ISS Program noted that unpressurized payloads depend on manifest priority, payload availability, and mission risk, and acknowledged it struggled to fully utilize this space on early missions, but as of June 2016 the Agency's cargo manifests show full trunks on all future SpaceX cargo resupply missions.
... risk mitigation procedures are not consistently employed and the subjective launch ratings the Agency uses provide insufficient information to NASA management concerning actual launch risks. In addition, NASA does not have an official, coordinated, and consistent mishap investigation policy for commercial resupply launches, which could affect its ability to determine the root cause of a launch failure and implement corrective actions."
"GAO reported in 2015 that FAA's budget requests for its commercial space launch activities generally were based on the number of projected launches, but that in recent years the actual number of launches was much lower than FAA's projections. GAO also reported that, according to FAA officials, more detailed information was not provided in FAA's budget submissions because the agency lacked information on its workload overseeing commercial space launch activities. In addition, GAO reported that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation did not track the amount of time spent on various activities."
Keith's note: I just got this email from Carol Hively, Director, Public Relations & Team Communications telling me "NOTE TO MEDIA: Today, the Space Foundation will issue a press release announcing data from The Space Report 2016. In addition to the data found in the press release, an overview of the report is available free to media here. There will be a charge of $99 for media to access the complete pdf of The Space Report 2016, which includes more than 80 pages of data on global space activity during 2015. Go here to receive the discount code to order The Space Report 2016 pdf full report for the discounted media rate of $99."
I had to read that email more than once. Space Foundation charges immense fees for its member companies, puts on lavish events, and never does anything in an inexpensive way. Indeed, according to their 2014 Form 990 Space Foundation had over $7,000,000 in income. And yet they want the several dozen news media (those who pay attention to the Space Foundation that is) to pay $99 to read their self-congratulatory 80 page PDF file? Really? You'd think that the Space Foundation would best serve its membership by making the good news about space economy available to everyone who is interested.
Keith's update: According to their press release "The report can be purchased as a downloadable PDF for $399. A website subscription can be purchased for $3,500." So ... now the non-profit Space Foundation is in the commercial market forecasting business, I guess. Again, you'd think that this report should be out in the wild for anyone to read.
This must be what it was like when Rome was burning.
"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration has released a policy position paper highlighting the key issues that every presidential and congressional candidate should understand in order to ensure that deep space exploration remains a bipartisan priority over the next several years. The Coalition is the voice of America's deep space industry, with over 40 corporate members supporting NASA's deep space human exploration and science programs. The full paper, entitled "A Space Exploration Roadmap for the Next Administration," is available for download on the Coalition's website."
Keith's note: This document is mostly recycled word salad that states the obvious without ever getting to the point - other than to request continued support SLS and Orion. This is yet another attempt by this organization (actually there is no "organization", its just Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne with other smaller companies tossed in who write checks) to preserve the status quo. Everything else is just window dressing adjusted to meet the needs of these two programs. Note that there is no support for NASA's "Journey To Mars" or ARM so they're already throwing the Obama folks under the bus. As for space commerce, the Coalition makes little mention of it other than to describe it as something that happens in low Earth orbit - so long as it does not get in the way of SLS and Orion, that is.
We've seen this movie before. Just three months ago a similar effort by many of the usual suspects produced a similar document with the same intent:
"Such is the problem with these sort of documents from the space community. On one hand the space groups want to have a say in the political decisions that affect their members (and donors). But on the other hand they'd rather not have the politicians pay too much attention to space such that the current status quo is not upset. In other words "write us the checks but don't rock the boat" - or more bluntly "look but don't touch". This is, at best, naive thinking on the part of the space community. If you read the white paper it becomes immediately apparent that this coalition wants everything that they are doing to be supported and in some cases, they want even more money. They also want a stable funding environment (makes sense). The two main programs being supported by this coalition are SLS/Orion and Commercial Crew and Cargo with gratuitous mention of other projects that are important to the members of this coalition."
"The plane's wing, taking shape inside a 103,000-square-foot hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port, stands three stories off the ground and measures 385 feet from tip to tip. That's three times longer than the distance of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight in 1903. If the Enterprise is ever built to its "Star Trek" TV dimensions, now or in the 23rd century, the starship would be only a few dozen feet wider."
Keith's note: Vulcan Aerospace gave a hand-picked group of space journalists a tour of their facility. They saw Stratolaunch. It is big and it is 76% complete. No information was given as to customers, markets, etc. In other words: no news. Did I mention that it is big?
Keith's note: As readers of NASAWatch have noted by now, I have an interest in the utilization of the International Space Station. When the amazing capabilities of ISS are used to their fullest potential we all benefit. When those resources are under-utilized our tax dollars and the finite utility of the ISS are wasted. CASIS has been given responsibility for managing the U.S. assets aboard the ISS that have been collectively proclaimed as being the ISS National Laboratory. I've already written a lot about CASIS. I'll be writing much more in the weeks to come.
Let's start with a clear-cut example of how CASIS has stumbled: its preoccupation with golf and its relationship with Cobra Puma Golf, a large and very successful golfing gear manufacturer. If you look at the LinkedIn page of Patrick O'Neill, CASIS Marketing & Communications Manager, you will see that he was an account executive for VitroRobertson. Between 2008-2009 he was "Account Executive on the Cobra Golf Account. Managed the day to day operations of all Brand Marketing efforts and assisted in the production of all Advertising efforts for Cobra Golf." If you read CASIS President/Executive Director Greg Johnson's astronaut bio you'll see that he lists golf among his recreational interests. So, senior CASIS management likes golf. "Go with what you know", so they say.
On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. In that letter Scimemi notes: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab." Coincidentally this letter was sent on the same day that CASIS staff made a rather awkward presentation to the NASA Advisory Council.
The "Space Is In It" designation that CASIS calls an "endorsement" has apparently only been awarded once - to Cobra Puma Golf. As such it would be illustrative to examine how that whole process came about and what it says about the ability of CASIS to recognize the actual commercial research potential of the ISS.
Watch the full launch video and see some of the highlights in images.
"Blue Origin successfully launched its reusable rocket New Shepard today deploying the crew capsule on its suborbital mission. This was the 4th time this New Shepard rocket has flown, a feat never achieved to date by any other rocket."
"A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched and placed the EUTELSAT 117 West B and ABS-2A communications satellites into nominal orbits today."
The secondary mission of landing the Falcon first stage ended with a hard landing on the Of Course I Still Love You autonomous spaceport drone ship and resulted in its destruction. It was the first landing failure after four consecutive successes.
Landing video will be posted when we gain access to cameras on the droneship later today. Maybe hardest impact to date. Droneship still ok.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 15, 2016
"... Dula is not just a NewSpace pioneer, he's a defendant in a $49 million fraud suit calling him a con artist with a warehouse full of antiquated space junk that was never meant to get off the ground. It's the second time an investor has accused him of fraud -- a Houston woman, Donna Beck, previously sued him for allegedly duping her into an asteroid-mining scam. Beck and Dula agreed to dismiss the case, with prejudice, in early 2014. In the years after Dula accepted his prestigious [Space Frontier Foundation Pioneer of NewSpace] award, his space capsules have been to London's Parliament Square, Saudi Arabia and an auction house in Brussels. They just haven't been to space. The man who would sue Dula, Japanese billionaire Takafumi Horie, was actually considered a con man himself in his native country, where he was convicted of manipulating stock prices in his Internet company and sentenced to 21 months in prison."
Senate Reaches Agreement on Russian RD-180 Engines, SpacePolicyOnline
"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) brokered an agreement among Senators who have been at sharp odds over how to transition U.S. rocket launches away from reliance on Russian RD-180 engines to a new American-made engine. The Nelson amendment passed the Senate this morning by voice vote as part of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA itself then passed the Senate by a vote of 85-13. In brief, the compromise sets December 31, 2022 as the end date for use of the RD-180 by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Atlas V launches of national security satellites. It also limits to 18 the number of RD-180s that can be used between the date that the FY2017 NDAA is signed into law (enacted) and that end date."
"On Sunday the Space Angels Network released a letter in opposition to Mike Lee's amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which would allow the commercial use of ICBM's. The primary arguments are that the amendment would benefit one company and hurt the burgeoning small satellite commercial launch market."
Elon Musk provides new details on his 'mind blowing' mission to Mars, Washington Post
"Essentially what we're saying is we're establishing a cargo route to Mars," he said. "It's a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It's going happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station. And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it's going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments."
"Musk said 2022 would mark the first use of the Mars Colonial Transporter, a spaceship that's big enough to carry scores of people to Mars. The first MCT would be uncrewed. However, it's plausible to think that the craft could be pre-positioned at Mars to support the crewed mission to come, and the return trip to Earth. That's the part of the plan that's still fuzzy."
"In an email, Elon Musk, the PayPal and Tesla entrepreneur who founded SpaceX, a company that has developed launch vehicles, wrote that Ms. Smith had "helped lay the foundations for a new era in American spaceflight." "We are closer to becoming a multiplanet species because of her efforts," he added."
Keith's note: There was a time when Patti was the only person in the entire Federal government who was thinking seriously about commercial space. At that time, no one else really cared. She did. Look what happened.
Keith's update: Patti's family requests in lieu of flowers that donations can be made to the American Cancer Society in Patti's name. Patti's "Home-Going" Service will be held Monday, 13 June at 11:00 am at the Mount Sinai Baptist Church 1615 3rd St. NW in Washington, DC.
"We are not about incremental technology. Our mission is fundamental transformation," said Dan Goldin, Founder and CEO of KnuEdge. "We were swinging for the fences from the very beginning, with intent to create technologies that will in essence alter how humans interact with machines, and enable next-generation computing capabilities ranging from signal processing to machine learning."
"It's not all that easy to call KnuEdge a startup. Created a decade ago by Daniel Goldin, the former head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, KnuEdge is only now coming out of stealth mode. It has already raised $100 million in funding to build a "neural chip" that Goldin says will make data centers more efficient in a hyperscale age."
U.S. Set to Approve Moon Mission by Commercial Space Venture, WS Journal (subscription)
"U.S. officials appear poised to make history by approving the first private space mission to go beyond Earth's orbit, according to people familiar with the details."
Moon Express Becomes First Private Company in History to Initiate a Commercial Lunar Mission Approval Process with the US Government, Moon Express (earlier post, April 2016)
"Today, Moon Express made history as the first private space company to request the U.S government to conduct a payload review of its spacecraft and plans leading to regulatory approval of a commercial mission to the Moon in 2017. Moon Express initiated the review process through a submission to the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST), bringing the company another important step closer to the Moon."
Keith's note: There is no "news" in this Wall Street Journal article since Moon Express announced the ongoing interactions with FAA back in April - and they are still ongoing - and everyone knows that they are ongoing. So the news seems to be the use of the word "appear" except that was obvious several months ago as well.
SpaceResources.lu: New space law to provide framework for space resource utilization, Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy
"The Luxembourg Government forges ahead with the SpaceResources.lu initiative by presenting an overall strategy to be implemented progressively for the exploration and commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids. Amongst the key actions undertaken is the establishment of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for space resource utilization activities to provide private companies and investors with a secure legal environment. ... Dr. Simon "Pete" Worden said: "Perhaps the most important aspect of Luxembourg's spaceresources.lu initiative is the excitement it is generating across the world - particularly young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Everywhere I go I hear young people ask about these ideas. Recently, entrepreneurs from Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Colombia and Mexico contacted me to ask how they can get involved. I come from Silicon Valley - but I'm convinced that the Silicon Valley for space resources - and gateway to an unlimited future of resources for humanity, will be here in Luxembourg."
The XCOR Lynx Spaceplane Might Be Down for the Count , Popular Mechanics
"Even before this news, a shakeup was in the works. Some of the original XCOR gang-founder Jeff Greason and early backer Stephen Fleming-were bounced from the company's board of directors in March. Greason, XCOR's CEO turned chief technologist (another cross into Silicon Valley terrain) left the company in 2015. One board replacement: Michael Gass, the former president and chief executive of ULA. Those who see traditional space industry invading the private space movement, take note of this move."
Orbital ATK Conducts Test of Antares First Stage (with video)
"Orbital ATK today announced it conducted a full-power "hot fire" test of the upgraded first stage propulsion system of its Antares medium-class rocket using new RD-181 main engines. The 30-second test took place at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) on May 31, 2016 at Virginia Space's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A. Initial indications are that the test was fully successful. The Antares engineering team will review test data over the next several days to confirm that all test parameters were met. Assuming the success of the test is confirmed, it will clear the way for the resumption of Orbital ATK's cargo logistics missions to the International Space Station (ISS) from Wallops Island, Virginia, currently scheduled for July."
"Perhaps the best insight into Kennedy's motives can be found in a recording of a November 21, 1962 meeting in the White House Cabinet Room. Kennedy had boasted of the lunar plan just a month earlier at Rice. The main participants that day were Kennedy and James Webb, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At issue was the true purpose of NASA and the Apollo program, and at the outset of the meeting Kennedy asked Webb, "Do you think this program is the top priority of the agency?" In hindsight, Webb's answer was surprising: "No sir, I do not. I think it is one of the top priority programs, but I think it is very important to recognize here, that as you have found out what you could do with a rocket, as you find out how you could get out beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space to make measurements, several scientific disciplines that are very powerful have (begun) to converge on this area." To this Kennedy responds that Apollo is the top priority. That ought to be very clear, he explained. "This is important for political reasons, for international political reasons," Kennedy said. He told Webb he did not want to finish second to the Soviets in the "race" to the moon."
Keith's note: In other words had there been Twitter in 1960s we'd have heard nothing but #ManOnTheMoon on everything NASA PAO put out. In the case of Apollo in the 1960s NASA had a firm presidential mandate and a specific architecture in place in relatively short order - on a timeline what almost fit into a two-term Kennedy Administration. Flash forward: NASA is in no hurry to explain how it is going to send humans to Mars by a date that requires constant unwavering support from 4 to 5 presidential administrations - and a dozen Congresses. Most importantly, NASA now lacks that compelling reason to amass the requisite blood and treasure needed to mount an interplanetary project of geopolitical importance - because we're now competing with everyone (internally and externally) - each of whom is on their own timetable - each for their own purposes. Add in a lame duck Administration which has been disinterested - at best - for the past 7 years. Anyone with a reasonable grasp of history and current politics would be wise to ponder whether NASA and the U.S. government are no even capable of supporting a human missions to Mars in the ways needed for it to actually happen.
Its time to stop listening to the old professors, reading old advisory reports, and trying to find old historical resonances to justify or inspire future efforts. The world is as it is. Other nations are now starting to do interesting things in space because they see that it confers importance upon their nation, inspires their people, and offers access to new technologies. They also have their own reasons that have little resonance with America's. They learned both from our mistakes and successes and are now filling the vacuum created by our hesitance and lack of interest.
Others are seizing upon the opportunities presented by this American space malaise as well - and they are firmly established on American shores. The motivations may echo NASA's interests but they include many things that would not fit well on a NASA Powerpoint chart. Lets watch as SpaceX sends technology to Mars that NASA is incapable and/or unwilling of doing. There may well be an American #JourneyToMars - but mission control may be in Hawthorne - not Houston. And will the Americans who step out of a future human-rated Red Dragon be any less American?
"NASA is working closely with Bigelow Aerospace to understand why its module did not fully expand today as planned. Engineers are meeting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss a path forward for the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)."
Packing for space flattened NASA's Space Hotel, New Scientist
"The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, was installed on the space station on 16 April and was supposed to be inflated on Thursday. But like a stubborn air mattress that stays flat, folds in the soft fabric kept it from expanding even as astronaut Jeff Williams tried to pump in air. In a 27 May teleconference, representatives from NASA and Bigelow Aerospace discussed what went wrong. "We went through a sequence, stepping up the pressure," said NASA's Jason Crusan. After some initial growth, the habitat stopped expanding even as pressure built up. "We ran into higher forces than our models predicted," he said."
Proud to enable the first successful DNA amplification in space!https://t.co/if4DEQS32W— miniPCR (@miniPCR) May 25, 2016
"miniPCR announced the first successful DNA amplification on the International Space Station (ISS). Using a miniPCR thermal cycler, astronauts performed Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) on DNA samples on April 19th. Analysis performed today on Earth confirms that DNA amplification done in microgravity was successful, ushering in a new era in space exploration."
Keith's note: This is really cool news. But does CASIS make any mention of this major accomplishment on their website or @ISS_CASIS? Of course not.
Senate Schism on Russian Rocket Engines Continues, Space Policy Online
"The Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 defense appropriations bill today. Few details have been released, but in at least one area -- Russian RD-180 rocket engines -- the schism between Senate appropriators and authorizers seems destined to continue. The full appropriations committee will mark up the bill on Thursday."
"To ULA's credit, the company has successfully launched over 100 rockets without incident. But they've also been given vast resources to do so. For example, McCain refers to ULA's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch capability contract as "$800 million to do nothing." That's not exactly fair since the contract gives the Air Force tremendous launch flexibility, but $800 million a year to effectively be ready to launch seems tremendously generous."
SpaceX is about to attempt another extremely difficult landing, Business Insider
"SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic. SpaceX's track record for launches has been nearly flawless this year, with four successful launches and three successful landings (and retrievals!) of the first stage of the rockets. One of those successes took place on land in December; two more happened in April and May at sea. SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic."
Bolden: one challenge of cubesats is they have no propulsion. Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne: we're working on that. #posttransformers— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 18, 2016
"On Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing titled, "Next Steps to Mars: Deep Space Habitats." The hearing will examine Mars exploration, specifically efforts to develop deep space habitation capabilities."
"Russia has signed a contract with the United States to deliver six NASA astronauts aboard Russian-made Soyuz MS spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018-2019, according to a quarterly report released by Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation on Monday. Energiya Corporation is the producer of Russian spacecraft. According to the document, NASA will pay Russia 5.7 billion rubles ($88 million) for the delivery of NASA astronauts to the ISS and their return to the Earth. The deal was signed on January 27."
Boeing's first crewed Starliner launch slips to 2018, Ars Technica
"NASA has pinpointed next year as the time when its dependence upon Russia to fly its astronauts to the International Space Station will finally end. However, one of the two companies now slated to provide that service, Boeing, has said it will not be able to launch a crewed mission of its Starliner spacecraft until 2018 at the earliest."
Keith's note: That's $88 million per American astronaut.
"The U.S. Congress tasked the National Research Council with undertaking a comprehensive study of how the SBIR program has stimulated technological innovation and used small businesses to meet federal research and development needs, and with recommending further improvements to the program. In the first round of this study, an ad hoc committee prepared a series of reports from 2004 to 2009 on the SBIR program at the five agencies responsible for 96 percent of the program's operations -- including NASA. In a follow-up to the first round, NASA requested from the Academies an assessment focused on operational questions in order to identify further improvements to the program."
"Yet despite the potentially more cost-effective alternative, taxpayers will be paying the price for ULA's contracts for years to come, POLITICO has found. Estimates show that, through 2030, the cost of the Pentagon's launch program will hit $70 billion - one of the most expensive programs within the Defense Department. And even if ULA is never awarded another government contract, it will continue to collect billions of dollars - including an $800 million annual retainer - as it completes launches that were awarded before Musk's company was allowed to compete. That includes a block buy of 36 launches awarded in 2013. Meanwhile, ULA is under investigation by the Pentagon for possible corrupt bidding practices and is preparing to lay off 25 percent of its workforce. Its long-term viability is in doubt. Even the Pentagon's acquisition chief grants that the creation of ULA - a monopoly criticized by the Federal Trade Commission when it was formed at the government's behest a decade ago - may have been a mistake. "With the benefit of hindsight, you could say that," Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told POLITICO."
A bridge too far: Why Delta rockets aren't the answer, op ed, Tory Bruno, The Hill
"If you believe that competition is good, and if you believe that affordability is paramount, an Atlas bridge is the only answer. The hardworking, innovative men and women of ULA are proud of their support to America's space launch capability. From GPS and missile warning to secure communications and weather prediction, we've launched the satellites the military intelligence community depends on for every mission -- and we've done so with reliability no one can match. We're ready to continue that mission. Please ask Congress to create the smooth transition from Atlas to Vulcan Centaur that will keep America's launch industry healthy for decades to come."
ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby, earlier post
"ULA has ordered additional Atlas engines to serve our existing and potential civil and commercial launch customers until a new American-made engine can be developed and certified."
Senator Shelby protects Alabama's role in rocket production, op ed, Huntsville Times
"In Decatur, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) builds the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets which launch our nation's military, NASA, and commercial satellites into space. The ULA plant employs or directly contracts with close to 1,000 Alabamians across north Alabama."
Keith's note: First ULA gets Shelby to side with them over the whole RD-180 thing to save jobs (among other things). Now you have to wonder whether Shelby is going to feel betrayed by ULA now that they want to close down Delta production in Alabama - i.e. JOBS. Then again with the unwieldy legacy arrangements that ULA has in place with DoD that will eventually go away it is probably time for them to do a drastic overhaul of how they do business. ultimately they need to able to compete in an open market on cost and performance - without DoD's finger on the scale.
Senate Armed Services Committee Sticks to Its Guns on RD-180 Rocket Engines, Space Policy Online
"U.S. national space transportation policy requires that at least two independent launch systems be available for national security launches. If one suffers a failure, access to space is assured by the other. For more than a decade, those two have been Atlas V and Delta IV, both ULA rockets. SpaceX argues that now the two can be its Falcon plus ULA's Delta IV. ULA and its supporters insist, however, that the Delta IV is prohibitively expensive compared to Atlas V and the best choice for the taxpayers is to keep Atlas V available until the early 2020s when ULA's new Vulcan rocket -- with a U.S. engine -- will be able to compete with SpaceX on price. SASC insists that a new U.S. engine can be ready by 2019 and only nine more RD-180s are needed until that time. That is the number set by the FY2015 and FY2016 NDAAs. However, the Senate Appropriations Committee undermined that authorization language in the FY2016 appropriations bill, essentially removing all limits."
"Boeing said Tuesday that it has pushed the date of its first manned space mission back from 2017 to 2018. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, which will carry the astronauts, is still under development. SpaceX, led by Tesla Motors (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, says it intends to have a manned mission in 2017 using its Dragon space capsule. Unlike the Starliner, Dragon is already built and in use, delivering supplies to the International Space Station with unmanned missions. But it will need to go through further testing before it can carry humans."
"However, if both companies stick to their stated schedules, SpaceX would become the first U.S. commercial venture to send astronauts to the space station and as a result would take possession of a highly prized trophy: a U.S. flag that was left aboard the station by the last space shuttle crew in 2011."
Keith's note: I have lived and worked in the Washington, DC metro area for 30 years. One thing I quickly noticed when I moved here was that big companies and organizations use a large canvas - literally - when they are pushing an issue at Congress. It is not uncommon to see Metro stations near the Pentagon or Capitol Hill transformed by a "take over" ad campaign with every possible surface covered with pictures and words. Then there's op eds like the one ULA's Tory Bruno managed to get placed in The Hill begging Congress to let him kill the Delta rocket. Funny thing: I can remember back in the day when Lockheed Martin and Boeing launched big ad campaigns begging Congress to allow them to form the ULA duopoly because it would save taxpayers money by combining EELV marketing. The appearance of the Internet has done little to dampen the use of traditional media such as newspaper ads.
When I opened up my Washington Post this morning page A5 glared back at me with a full page advertisement from Norwegian Air. Flipping the page, A7 glared at me with a full page counter advertisement from ALPA (larger image). The issue has to do with a certification battle over this airline. OK, it got my attention. I do have to wonder who did the advertisement strategy for Norwegian Air. Their ad trumpets "American crew. American jobs. American planes. That's Norwegian." Right: say "American" three times and it somehow equals "Norwegian". OK, if you say so. Now ULA wants Congress to let them kill one of the two rockets it was so desperate for Congress to let them sell - without competition - because there now is competition. Oh yes and they want to kill the one with American engines and keep the one with Russian engines. Rest assured some equally large advertisements with strange tag lines from Tory Bruno will soon start to stare back from the Washington Post stating that the best "American" rocket is one with "Russian" engines.
Keith's note: NASA wants you to think that everything they do in low Earth orbit these days has some sort of business potential. Alas, while that may be true, NASA is the least likely place to go if you want to find out what they are actually doing. In fact, most of the people dealing with commerce at NASA have no idea what commerce is.
Last week I saw an interesting tweet from @NASA_OSBP - NASA's Office of Small Business Programs saying "#DYK Over 800 #small businesses are contributing to the dev. of the #SpaceLaunchSystem? #NASA #DreamSmallBiz #NSBW" I replied via @NASAWatch "Interesting @NASA_OSBP can you post that list of companies online? #SpaceLaunchSystem? #NASA ". A few hours later @NASA_OSBP replied @NASAWatch List is pg 61-71 of new the pub. "SLS: A Case for Small Business" just posted at http://www.osbp.nasa.gov/publications.html". That link led me to the 74 page report "NASA Space Launch System: A Case For Small Business".
The report, published in 2016, is focused on things as they were in FY 2015. While the overall scope of the SLS program as it related to small businesses is discussed, only a few of those small businesses are profiled in any detailed fashion. There is a nice long list of the 800 or so small businesses associated with the SLS program at the end of the document. However, this is only a list in alphabetical order of the companies, their type, and who they subcontract with. Nothing is included about where the companies are located or what they do. Nor is there any sort of econometric information as to the value of each contract or the impact of these contracts on the local communities.
There is another report listed at the page link tweeted by @NASA_OSBP that looks to have been published in 2015 "NASA Deep Space Human Exploration Spacecraft Orion: A Case for Small Business". This report is structured in a nearly identical fashion to the SLS report complete with an alphabetical listing of all of the small businesses. But other than that there's little to explain how or why this is important to the business health of the national economy or to local communities. NASA just wants you to see that they are giving money to lots of small companies that you've never heard of.
There does not seem to be an intent to issue these two reports on an annual basis so as to allow people to understand how the program has adjusted to budgets, overall progress, and the addition or deletion of specific small businesses, or the current estimate of overall economic benefit to the communities where these small companies are located. Instead, NASA spends 6 months editing up and dumbing down last year's data, adding in some boilerplate PR, and then posts the document online. That's it.
"Elon Musk, determined to turn his electric-car company into a great maker of things, said that he keeps a sleeping bag in a conference room adjacent to Tesla Motors Inc.'s production line in Fremont, California."
Why Elon Musk Sleeps in a Sleeping Bag, Motley Fool
"So I move my desk around to wherever the most important place is for the company, and then I sort of maintain a desk there over time to come and check in on things. But I suspect probably by the end of this quarter most of my time will not be spent on the factory floor."
SpaceX Successfully Launches JCSAT-14 and Recovers Falcon 9 Rocket 1st Stage [With full launch webcast]
"SpaceX completed another successful launch delivering the Japanese JCSAT-14 satellite to a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and recovered the Falcon 9 first stage with a night landing at sea."
Keith's note: I sent the following email request to Glenn Delgado, AA for NASA's Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP): "I found this tweet to be very interesting. Can you provide me with a list of the specific 800+ small business companies that are contributing to SLS, where they are located, and what their products/services are in relation to SLS? People often do not appreciate just how pervasive NASA programs are in terms of procurement. Moreover it is often not appreciated how deeply these programs can reach into small communities a great distance from the cities/states where space activities are usually associated."
Keith's update: No response from Glenn Delgado or NASA PAO but this tweet from @NASA_OSBP just appeared. Impressive report (download). Too bad NASA PAO hasn't issued a press release about it. Oddly the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a pro-SLS/Orion lobbying group, has made no mention at all about it.
Reaching for the Stars by Paying for Results, Huffington post
"With all discretionary spending under pressure, a new paradigm will be required to ensure NASA's future is as bright as its heritage. Funding research at higher levels will call for development of a revenue base to augment the agency's general fund allocations. A robust space economy where private firms support government infrastructure, services and research in space via user fees can make that a reality. A revenue positive future is something that Congress and any administration should embrace."
"The economic vitality of the American space industry is best served with a clear and predictable oversight process that ensures access to space and imposes minimal burdens on the industry. The Administration supports a narrowly tailored authorization process for newly contemplated commercial space activities, with only such conditions as are necessary for compliance with the United States' international obligations, foreign policy and national security interests, and protection of United States Government uses of outer space. Through months of consultations among Federal departments and agencies and with the commercial space industry, this Office developed a legislative proposal for a "Mission Authorization" framework, which is appended to this report."
Keith's note: So what would this Dragon 2 mission to Mars cost? SpaceX would use a Falcon Heavy which they sell for $90 million. Of course it costs SpaceX a lot less to make the rocket than what they sell it for. Also, SpaceX is starting to build up an inventory of used first stages that they put into rockets and sell for something like 30-40% less than a new Falcon. Of course, they make a profit on these reused Falcons too. Conceivably they could build a Dragon Heavy for Mars mission use out of used Falcon first stages. Of course there's the cost of a Mars-capable Dragon V2 (aka "Red Dragon")that has to be developed and built. But by then they will have some Dragon V2 vehicles sitting around as well. Then again SpaceX could use all new hardware. With an increased launch cadence there's going to be a lot of these stages sitting in storage making subsequent missions less expensive as well.
My point? This private Mars mission business is not going to be as expensive as some of the SpaceX doubters would have you think - especially if they also start to sell payload space for science instruments. And given the multi-billion dollar cost schemes NASA floats about how it would do sample return missions, one would have to expect that a SpaceX Mars architecture could slash the cost and complexity such that it would be in NASA's best interest to invest. Depending on who you talk to a lot of people would like to have the Mars sample return thing done before humans ever get sent to Mars (e.g. answering the life on Mars question). NASA has a slow-motion, multi-decadal "plan" for sending humans to Mars. What is the value of accelerating the pace at which preliminary things such as sample return and large propulsive landing technology? Answer: billions of dollars and many years.
As some of these articles above start to consider, is there an actual market that investors might start to consider that involves doing things on Mars? The answer is yes since SpaceX just decided to start spending their own money on it.
"Mr. Musk lists his ultimate goal as "enabling people to live on other planets". Once upon a time the space race was driven by the competition between capitalism and communism. Now it is driven by the competition between individual capitalists."
With or Without NASA, SpaceX Is Going to Mars, Motley Fool
"What it means for investors: Unless and until SpaceX goes public, most of the above probably seems academic. We can't invest in SpaceX today; perhaps we never will. Be that as it may, one thing is clear: Mankind is going to Mars, and sooner than you think. That this will open up the possibilities of new investments -- literally out-of-this-world investments -- seems almost certain."
Changing The Way We Explore Space, earlier post
"SpaceX has their own vertically integrated launch and spacecraft company that can produce absolutely everything needed to do this mission. And they have enough money to do missions on their own. More importantly they have a leader who is compelled to explore Mars and he owns the company. They do not need NASA to do this mission."
"In September Elon Musk is going to reveal his plans for colonizing Mars. "NASA is cutting funding for a Mars landing technology demonstration project by about 85 percent in response to budget reductions to its space technology program and the need to set aside funding within that program for a satellite servicing effort. In a presentation to a joint meeting of the National Academies' Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and Space Studies Board here April 26, James Reuter, NASA deputy associate administrator for space technology, said the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project would get only a small fraction of its originally planned budget of $20 million for 2016."
"The purpose of this Amendment No. 1 to Space Act Agreement No. SAA-QA-14-18883 between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA") and Space Explorations Technologies Corp. ("Partner" or "SpaceX"), effective December 18,2014 (the "Agreement"), is to (1) further define areas of insight and assistance to SpaceX under the Agreement, (2) further define areas in which NASA will have access to and use of SpaceX data and technology to advance NASA's understanding of the development of SpaceX's propulsive descent capabilities and enable NASA's own Mission to Mars, and (3) extend the period of performance under the Agreement."
Keith's note: Wow, how odd that this all happened at exactly the same time. It is probably just a coincidence, right? With near-perfect simultaneity we learn that NASA has decided to cut funding for new technology needed to develop systems to land large payloads (you know, human-related stuff) on Mars. As this news was making the rounds, SpaceX announced that it is sending its own mission to the surface of Mars. If you read the opening section of the Space Act Agreement between NASA and SpaceX (signed 25/26 April, announced 27 April 2016) it is clear that NASA will be obtaining information from SpaceX while (maybe) providing some sort of unspecified assistance. To be certain, NASA has the world's pre-eminent expertise in landing things - big things - on Mars. But in the end, the bulk of the data flow is going to be from SpaceX to NASA - and SpaceX will be doing the vast bulk of the technology trailblazing - and all of the funding.
"The House Armed Services Committee voted Thursday morning to double the allowed purchase of Russian-made rocket engines from nine to 18, despite a desire to develop an American-made alternative. The committee adopted the amendment, by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), by voice vote, after vigorous debate that did not fall along party lines. The Air Force relies on United Launch Alliance -- a Lockheed and Boeing joint venture -- for its sensitive national security space launches, which uses a launch vehicle reliant on the RD-180 engines."
ULA rival SpaceX awarded its 1st Air Force satellite launch contract, Bizjournals.com
"ULA has since tried to lower its launch costs, shedding workers and re-engineering its processes to be able offer launches below $100 million. The 3,700-employee company is offering early retirement and employee buyouts this year and in 2017 in an effort to trim down to about 3,000 employees at its five locations nationwide."
"SpaceX announced today that it is going to start sending specially modified Dragon spacecraft aka "Red Dragon" to Mars as early as 2018. The purpose of these missions is to demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads propulsively on Mars. These Mars missions will also be pathfinders for the much larger SpaceX Mars colonization architecture that will be announced in September 2016. With this announcement SpaceX has upped the ante for the human exploration of Mars by beginning technology pathfinder missions a decade or more before NASA plans to do so."
"When he laid out his plans for NASA and the Journey to Mars in 2010, President Obama spoke of how partnership with industry could have the potential to "accelerate the pace of innovations as companies - from young startups to established leaders - compete to design and build and launch new means of carrying people and materials out of our atmosphere." This is exactly what's happening and it's one of the reasons that we're closer to sending humans to Mars than ever before."
"The purpose of this Amendment No. 1 to Space Act Agreement No. SAA-QA-14-18883 between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA") and Space Explorations Technologies Corp. ("Partner" or "SpaceX"), effective December 18,2014 (the "Agreement"), is to (1) further define areas of insight and assistance to SpaceX under the Agreement, (2) further define areas in which NASA will have access to and use of SpaceX data and technology to advance NASA's understanding of the development of SpaceX's propulsive descent capabilities and enable NASA's own Mission to Mars, and (3) extend the period of performance under the Agreement."
Keith's note: Oddly, just yesterday, NASA Administrator Bolden referred to Falcon 9 as "old technology" when asked why NASA was building SLS. Well, SLS, using decades-old technology, was created to send humans on NASA's #JourneyToMars. Yet those NASA missions won't start sending hardware to Mars until the late 2020s / early 2030s. Meanwhile SpaceX, with its "old technology" will beat NASA by a decade or more when it starts landing Red Dragons on Mars.
- Charlie Bolden Is Very Confused These Days, earlier post
Keith's note: I am not sure what to make of this comment by Charlie Bolden. Either he is very confused or someone is giving him really stupid talking points. Let's see, where do I start: how "old" is SLS technology? The Solid Rocket Boosters SLS uses are stretched and improved versions of the same design that Space Shuttles flew beginning in 1981 - but were designed in the 1970s (source). Oh, and SLS uses re-flown Space Shuttle Main Engines (RS-25) which were also designed in the 1970s (source). And, FWIW Bolden flew these vehicles multiple times in the 80s.
SpaceX vehicles and engines were designed in the 21st century, use advanced manufacturing technology and require an ever-shrinking number of people to launch. Instead of re-using the reusable SSMEs on SLS, NASA will throw them away whereas SpaceX can use their first stages over and over and over again - after they wash the soot off the rocket, that is.
Board member: why is NASA developing SLS when SpaceX has heavy-lift plans? Boldne counters that SpaceX's Falcon 9 uses "old technology."— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) April 26, 2016
"I am truly honored and thrilled to be leading a team of industry veterans on such an important and pivotal space startup. We see innovation and value creation being the strongest in the Micro Satellite sector and Vector Space Systems will create a development platform that will foster this innovation and bring the reality of space to a much larger pool of entrepreneurs who don't need to be space experts. I am likewise honored to have such an influential group of seed investors who will bring much needed Silicon Valley DNA to the space business and will deeply influence our business, sales, marketing and product development strategies," said CEO Jim Cantrell
Marc's note: Of note, Vector announced today it has received its first rounding of funding, $1M from angel investors who weren't disclosed. Competition comparisons include Rocket Labs and FireFly, though Vector says their launch vehicle is cheaper starting at $2M with their primary market being under 50kg. There's definitely a need for a dedicated microsatellite launcher. Launch sites they plan to use include Kodiak and Cape Canaveral. Yet another potential customer for KSC.
"A primary argument of the launch companies is that lifting the ban on the PSLV will enable vehicles subsidized by foreign governments to compete against American industry. The Antrix Corporation is mainly an administrative agent of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India's national space agency. ISRO provides the technical operations supporting Antrix's commercial launches. The PSLV was developed as an ISRO program, and the profits made off commercial launch feeds back into India's space budget. This does constitute government subsidy of the Indian launch market; in contrast, the American companies developing small launch vehicles have done so largely through private investment, with NASA purchasing their services through fixed-price contracts. Of course, those issuing counter-arguments to the preservation of the ban note that the United States does not hold such bans against the use of equivalent and similarly-subsidized Russian, European, or Japanese launch vehicles, such as the Dnepr, Vega, and Epsilon. According to the FAA Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation, the Dnepr is a medium-class vehicle used for multimanifested launches of small satellites at prices of around $29 million. The Epsilon is specifically suited for small payloads at launch prices starting at $39 million. The Vega is a small-class vehicle launching at prices also of $39 million."
"The proposed restrictions essentially would forbid the Air Force from funding several recently announced co-investment deals with Orbital ATK, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance beyond this year. The Air Force doled out $317 million worth of contracts to help fund Orbital ATK's development of a new solid-fueled launcher, SpaceX's development a new upper-stage engine, and ULA's development of Vulcan, a potentially reusable successor to the RD-180 powered Atlas 5 rocket."
"Dan Gouré is vice president of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va-based think tank that receives money from Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. ... Let's tally up the Air Force's recent moves. First, it insists it must depend on Russian rocket engines for at least another six years. Then it wants to take the high risk approach of launching important national security payloads aboard either the SpaceX system that has never been tried in such a mode or a new launch vehicle using a novel propulsion system. Finally, it wants to devastate what little remains of the U.S. rocket motor industrial base by selling off its stash of surplus Minuteman boosters."
"I think the concern about using Indian boosters is not so much the transfer of sensitive technology to a nation that is a fellow democracy, but rather whether the Indian launches are subsidised by the government to a degree that other market actors would be priced out of the market," Elliot Holokauahi Pulham, CEO of Space Foundation, said. Testifying before a Congressional committee, Mr Pulham said there has been some discussion about allowing US built satellites to fly on boosters such as the Indian PSLV. Eric Stallmer, president Commercial Spaceflight Federation, opposed efforts to facilitate a government-subsidised foreign launch company. "In this case, India, to compete with US companies. Such policy runs counter to many national priorities and undermines the work and investment that has been made by the government and industry to ensure the health of the US commercial space launch industrial base," Mr Stallmer said."
Keith's note: This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit.
Space companies feud over what to do with rockets in ICBM stockpile, Washington Post
"Orbital ATK wants to unearth the dormant missiles and repurpose them to launch commercial satellites into orbit. Russia has released its Soviet-era ICBMs into the commercial market, the company argues, so the Pentagon should be allowed to sell its unused ICBMs as well. But to do that, Congress would have to ease a 20-year-old restriction that prohibits the sale of the missile motors for commercial use. And that has touched off a rancorous battle that has extended from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill, where Congress is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue Tuesday."
Subcommittee Examines Commercial Satellite Industry, Policy Challenges, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"Those in favor of allowing excess ICBMs to be used for commercial launch services argue that many U.S. small satellites have launched on Russian DNEPR vehicles, derived from Russian ICBMs, and that by modifying existing U.S. policy, U.S. launch services could compete with Russia and bring this business back to America. Those in favor also argue that there is a cost to the taxpayer associated with storing excess ICBMs. By allowing the U.S. commercial launch industry to use excess ICBMs, you not only lower the tax burden, but also create potential revenue derived from the sale of these motors. However, those that oppose the policy change raise legitimate concerns that allowing excess ICBMs to be used for commercial launch purposes could distort the market in the United States, undermine future investment, and delay innovations that are on the horizon."
- Subcommittee Discusses Small Satellites, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Hearing Charter
- Hearing: Small Satellite Opportunities and Challenges
- Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation Testimony
- Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation Testimony
- More Solid Rocket Food Fights, earlier post
- Why Not Use Old Missiles To Launch New Satellites?, earlier post
"Contrary to the estimates you provided to me in private, I am left to conclude that your decision to publicly cite a figure as high as $5 billion was done so to obfuscate efforts to responsibly transition off of the RD-180 before the end of the decade," writes Chairman McCain. "I invite you to clarify the record in the context of proposals actually being considered by the committee While you chose to selectively omit the [Department of Defense Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE)] assessment in your response, we have since been briefed by the CAPE and have been provided with compelling analysis demonstrating cost implications that are starkly different from what you stated in your testimony. In fact, according to CAPE, the cost of meeting assured access to space requirements without the use of Russian rocket engines could be similar to what we pay today."
"There are two other means by which SpaceX poses an imminent threat to Roscosmos. The first is the impact it is having on United Launch Alliance (ULA), the immediate U.S. competitor to SpaceX. ULA currently buys Russian-made engines for its Atlas V rocket, but SpaceX's success may cause it to rethink. Without sales to ULA, Roscosmos' engine-making subsidiary, Energomash, will lose its main customer. An even greater impact is expected when SpaceX begins flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in the next two to three years. Since the U.S. space shuttles were retired in 2011, Roscosmos charged NASA $70 million for each seat. Musk promises to undercut that significantly, charging around $20 million on his "Dragon" spacecraft. Considering that Roscosmos is expecting an annual budget of $2 billion over the next decade, the loss of an $500 million annual subsidy is significant."
"United Launch Alliance plans to cut up to 875 jobs, or about one-quarter of its workforce, before the end of 2017 to better compete against rivals bankrolled by billionaire entrepreneurs including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, ULA's chief executive said on Thursday. ULA, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, expects a first round of 375 job cuts to be accomplished this year, mostly through voluntary layoffs. In an interview with Reuters, ULA CEO Tory Bruno said another 400 to 500 employees would be cut by the end of 2017. "We're in the process of transforming our company," Bruno said."
Commercial Competition Finding Way Onto ISS, Aviation Week
"Made In Space has booked the first six months of that capability, counting among its customers aerospace companies that want to use the 3D printing technology it offers to build subscale satellite structures optimized for microgravity, as well as tools and other objects that may be used in space. Engineering schools have also bought time on the device, and Made In Space plans to use it for its own experiments under a $20 million NASA technology development award. Rush said a typical run in the AMF will cost a customer $10,000-$20,000, with the selling point being a capability to manufacture structures and other objects that don't need to be rugged enough to survive the g-forces and other loads associated with space launch. That could enable "gossamer" spacecraft components that could not be built on the ground. The company will use the AMF capability to develop subscale test structures for the "Archinaut" advanced manufacturing and assembly hardware it is developing for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate under a two-year, $20 million "Tipping Point Technology" contract awarded last fall."
"It's not clear how long this happy relationship between SpaceX and NASA will last. The company may fly its Falcon Heavy rocket late this year or in 2017, and although it doesn't have quite the payload capacity that NASA's under-development Space Launch System does, it will cost far less to fly. The next president, or some in Congress, may begin asking why NASA is spending billions to develop its own heavy-lift rocket when SpaceX already has one. But on Friday night it was all good. Across NASA's field centers, in cubicles, offices, and coffee rooms, the engineers working on various projects were watching. As one young flight controller from Johnson Space Center told me about her experience, "There were about 20 people crowded around my screen, and we were all going nuts." Elon Musk hasn't forgotten NASA, either. The first thing he did during Friday's news conference was to thank the space agency that had made it all possible."
Groundbreaking Epigenetics Research to be Conducted on International Space Station, Zymo Research Corporation
"Zymo Research Corporation is taking epigenetics research to the next level outer space. DNA, that was bisulfite converted using the EZ DNA Methylation-Lightning Kit manufactured by Zymo Research Corporation, will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS), as part of the inaugural "Genes in Space" challenge. The contest invites young scientists to design a DNA experiment that uses PCR to test their scientific hypothesis."
Keith's update: This is a really cool project that taps the unique research capabilities of the ISS as well as stimulates students to pursue a career in science. I hope this is just the beginning and that there will be more payloads like this. But there is no mention in this press release of CASIS who underwrites experiments like these to the tune of $7.5 million - or of NASA who pays all of CASIS' bills. It is somewhat odd that CASIS has not made certain that they - and NASA - get some credit for underwriting things like this.
SpaceX Lands On A Barge in the Ocean While A Dragon Flies To Orbit (images and video)
"SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 this afternoon. The rocket's first stage returned from space and landed on an automated drone ship offshore a few minutes later. Meanwhile, the second stage successfully placed a Dragon spacecraft into orbit. SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is delivering almost 7,000 pounds of cargo, including the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), to the orbital laboratory following its launch on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:43 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida."
Keith's update: At a NASA press conference on Thursday a senior representative from CASIS refused to provide basic cost numbers for the space station payloads it funds. Yet last week another senior CASIS representative volunteered specific ISS payload cost information. Why is CASIS leadership so confused about the basic services that it provides?
The press conference was about the science payloads on the upcoming CRS-8 SpaceX flight, Ken Shields, CASIS' Director of Operations (on the right) appeared with 3 employees from Eli Lilly (in lab coats). Shields was asked what the costs associated with the CASIS-sponsored payloads aboard CRS-8 provided by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly are. Shields declined to provide specifics other than to say that CASIS supports these payloads. When pressed again for a dollar amount, Shields again declined to provide a clear answer as to the cost borne by CASIS or NASA and punted to Lilly who then declined to say how much money they had put into this research. NASA PAO did not inform off-site media in advance that there was a dial-in number for this press event, so I tried using the #askNASA option via Twitter (which of course was ignored).
AIA Talking Points: Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy for the 21st Century, Aerospace Industries Association
"To compete effectively in this promising new market domain, our nation needs a 21st Century Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy to ensure the U.S. is the commercial space leader for the next century. The U.S. will ensure its position as the first-choice provider of space-related goods and services by creating the conditions necessary to compete in the global commercial space marketplace and lead in areas like technology development, workforce training, exports, and innovation. Elements of a 21st Century Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy."
Keith's note: If you read through this AIA document you'll see that this "strategy" calls for the U.S. "to compete effectively" and that our government needs to create "the conditions necessary to compete in the global commercial space marketplace." No kidding. This broad issue has been addressed for years as a result of multiple national space policies, national space transportation policies, and commercial space legislation. Its election time, so the various trade groups start to wave their arms in the air and proclaim that a strategy is needed to avert some dire situation. What is really needed is for people and companies to work within the various polices and legislative frameworks that already exist. But again its election year, so its more important to cite scary problems than to actually work to fix them since, well, doing things is harder than talking about them.
"Orbital ATK is pressing U.S. lawmakers to end a 20-year ban on using decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) for launching commercial satellites and the effort has raised concern among companies that have invested millions of dollars in potential rival rockets. Orbital Vice President Barron Beneski said in an interview on Friday that the company was pushing Washington to get the ban lifted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that sets defense policy for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1. The missiles were idled by nuclear disarmament treaties between the United States and Russia in the 1990s. Virgin Galactic and other space startups said in interviews last week they worry that lifting the ban would give Orbital an unfair competitive advantage if it was allowed to use surplus government rocket motors in its commercial launch vehicles."
Keith's note: I know some companies are going to whine and complain about this. But why not use existing hardware that would otherwise be destroyed or left outside to rot - especially when it has already been paid for and now costs a lot of money to store? Every company that whines and complains has its own swarm of lobbyists trying to seek some advantage for the home team. The only caveat I would offer is that since the U.S. government paid for these rockets that they be offered - at the same cost - to any launch provider that wants to buy them. That not only levels the playing field but offers some of these start-ups a chance to jump ahead in terms of experience and capability. Of course this suggestion would simply change who is whining.
Dumping excess boosters on market would short-circuit commercial space renaissance, Op Ed, George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic
"Converting ICBM's to launchers was a bad idea when it was brought up the last three times, and it's an even worse idea now. Two decades of consistent, bipartisan space policy have sparked billions in private investment in a robust domestic commercial space industry. The current Space Transportation Policy, released by the White House in 2013, commits the government to "encouraging ... a viable ... and competitive U.S. commercial space transportation industry" while avoiding actions that might "discourage, or compete with U.S. commercial space transportation companies."
Keith's update: Let the whining begin. How much tax money was poured into Spaceport America so as to give Virgin Galactic a dirt cheap place to operate? And then there's the deal XCOR got in Texas, ULA's subsidies, etc. What is ironic about all of this is that Orbital used to complain about this idea when it thought that used ICBMs would allow other companies to compete with Taurus and Pegasus. When it comes to special favors and commercial space, where you stand depends on where you sit (or launch).
Keith's note: It is time to examine how NASA and CASIS have interacted since 2011. Little, if anything, has ever been publicly released with regard to how CASIS reports its progress to NASA or how NASA measures or responds to CASIS about their performance. The OIG and GAO have mentioned this matter in prior reports. Last week the NASA Advisory Council spent a lot of time trying (with little success) to figure out what CASIS does. So I just submitted a FOIA request.
Keith's update: Despite my voluminous FOIA request, NASA once again does not accept my claim to be news media even though they themselves granted me news media accreditation 16 years ago. See "NASA Refuses To Accept Its Own News Media Accreditation"
Despite their constant harping about the procedures that they have to follow the letter they sent me to deny my request was dated a year ago. So much for their attention to detail.
This FOIA request is long due to the fact that the last time I submitted a FOIA request in late 2015 NASA decided that I had to prove that I was a member of the news media after more than 15 years of being credentialed by NASA PAO and after having submitted multiple FOIA requests which were processed without incident for more than a decade. Indeed, some of my simple emails to PAO requesting information from NASA were converted into FOIA requests and then promptly processed as such without me even asking that they be considered as FOIA requests. The following is the full text of my FOIA request (click on the link below to read it all):
I am requesting the full text of NASA cooperative agreement NNH11CD70A between NASA and CASIS including any revisions, annexes, modifications, or associated contractual amendments made by NASA from the inception of this agreement with CASIS until the date of this FOIA request.
I am also requesting all progress and status reports and memos provided by CASIS to NASA from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request as well as all correspondence/memos from NASA to CASIS in response to CASIS progress and status reports from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request.
"NASA's infamous "Vomit Comet" zero gravity airplane briefly served as a delivery plane for the Navy and a private company owned by an ex astronaut, which some of the plane's crew members who filed formal complaints felt was a misuse of the craft, according to documents obtained by Motherboard. ... In the first instance, NASA officials pressured the crew to transport a giant wooden engine from Houston to Costa Rica as a favor to a former astronaut, according to two of the crew members. Although the mission was successful, NASA seemed to deliberately avoid publicizing the flight. On another occasion that year, the crew was asked to deliver Navy cargo to Greenland even though members of the crew said the trip was unsafe, resulting in a "near fatal crash," according to documents from a NASA Inspector General investigation. Despite conducting an investigation, the agency says it never reviewed a video that was taken of the incident, and never contacted one of the crew members who was deemed the "principal witness."
Keith's note: CASIS (Center for Advancement of Science in Space, Inc.) came to Washington this past week to talk about their management of science and commercial activity aboard the International Space Station National Laboratory. The first stop for CASIS was an event at the National Academy of Sciences on low Earth orbit commerce on Wednesday. The presentation that CASIS gave was their standard Powerpoint chart collection totally lacking in any meaningful information other than what you'd expect to see in a brochure.
As it always does, the presentation glossed over some important facts yet contained some outright inaccuracies about funding that CASIS avoided discussing. Since the Academy audience - as well as most of the other audiences that CASIS presents to - was not inclined to ask probing questions, CASIS sailed through their presentation and then sat down.
The next day the CASIS entourage, led by President and Executive Director Greg Johnson, showed up at the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting. Things did not go so well for them at the NAC. Within minutes of starting to talk, NAC members started to pepper Johnson with questions- questions that he was unable and/or unwilling to answer. It went downhill from there.
The CASIS presentation to the NAC did not provide the basic answers that the NAC membership sought. Committee members repeatedly asked CASIS' Johnson what the CASIS budget was, where it came from, and how much money CASIS had raised. You could hear the growing frustration in the voices of the NAC members the more that CASIS dodged their questions. Eventually CASIS' Johnson admitted that their budget was $15 million a year and that it all comes from NASA. When probed about fundraising that they had been so overt about in their presentation charts, Johnson eventually admitted that philanthropy had not worked for CASIS (in other words simply asking for money was not working). Johnson, with help from David Roberts, their lead scientist, then immediately started to crow again about all the money that CASIS had raised. This contradicted their prior statements. Further questioning eventually got Johnson and Roberts to admit that the money that they raised did not go to CASIS but rather, that funds from a sponsoring company went directly to the payload developer (which is not a bad thing).
CASIS' repeated refusal to speak clearly on the topic of its income, funding, grants, and operations became problematical for the NAC. When pressed further on their income CASIS said that they were not allowed to generate "revenue" (even though their IRS returns clearly show that they did generate revenue albeit only a little). When the NAC members asked for more details on what CASIS was funding CASIS emphatically stated that they are not a "funding" organization. Moments later CASIS staff showed slides that talked about funding.
NASA Advisory Council Meeting (dial in info, etc.)
"In accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Public Law 92-463, as amended, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announces a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council. DATES: Thursday, March 31, 2016, 9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; and Friday, April 1, 2016, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Local Time."
CASIS Is Not The Best Way To Use a Space Station, earlier post
"NASA has made explicit reference to the need to encourage the development of a robust Low Earth Orbit (LEO) commercial infrastructure to evolve so as to allow the agency to redirect its efforts (budget) toward cis-lunar space. When asked what happens if that LEO commercial activity does not appear in a significant fashion to reduce NASA's LEO costs, NASA says that it will have to reassess its cis-lunar plans. CASIS is poised as the cusp of that nascent LEO commercial infrastructure. Indeed, one might argue, that's a big part of their assigned task - their prime reason for existing. NASA is talking about doing stuff in cis-lunar space in a few years. If CASIS is the spark for the whole LEO commerce thing then someone needs to replace their spark plug - now."
Keith's note: CASIS is among the topics to be discussed. WRT the tweets below, there's a #JourneyToMars drinking game underway.
Keith's note: The National Academy of Sciences held a "Full-Day Mini Symposium: NASA Intentions for Commercial LEO" on Wednesday. Below are some Tweets regarding the opening session with Sam Scimemi. Among other things we learned that the 2024 ISS retirement date for NASA is, well, not a retirement date after all. Something different will happen. What? No one knows. P.S. sorry for the typos: the tweets were done rapid fire in real time.
"Although NASA's overall performance has improved, for 8 out of the last 9 years at least one major project has experienced significant cost or schedule growth. Such growth often occurs as projects prepare to begin system assembly, integration, and test; nine projects will be in that phase of development in 2016, including the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System, which are human spaceflight programs that have significant development risks."
Keith's note: On Saturday a Cygnus cargo vehicle arrived at the International Space Station (ISS). On board: a variety of experiments. Some of the experiments made it to the ISS via CASIS - a non-profit organization that relies on NASA for 99.9%+ of its income.
Yet if you look at the press release issued to news media by CASIS about Cygnus' arrival, there is no mention whatsoever of "NASA" - even though NASA paid for Cygnus - and all of CASIS' payloads on board.
Last Fall I posted a series of articles that looked into how CASIS operates. I am told that this exercise caused some consternation within CASIS and, to some extent, within NASA as well. I was also told that changes were being made at CASIS - by CASIS staff themselves. So I thought I'd wait a bit and see if anything started to change. It has been 6 months since I started posting this series. I detect no change in CASIS whatsoever. They are as oblivious to their long-standing problems - and equally as clueless as to the need to change - as they were last year.
CASIS is making a presentation at a National Academy of Sciences event on Wednesday and at a NASA Advisory Council meeting on Thursday. Since they're going to be explaining themselves to several influential audiences here in Washington, let's pick up where I left off - starting with a recap.
"In less than 10 years from now, SpaceX may or may not beat NASA in the race to Mars. Astrophysicist, Hayden Planetarium director, and host of the National Geographic Channel's StarTalk Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is placing his bet on "not." "The delusion is thinking that SpaceX is going to lead the space frontier. That's just not going to happen..." Tyson said in an interview with The Verge. Tyson laid out his arguments for why fans of a solo SpaceX trip to Mars suffer from a "delusion."
Keith's note: Once again Neil Tyson demonstrates that he has never run a multi-billion dollar business - nor has he ever been really, really, really rich. These non-trivial resources allow an individual to shift their own paradigms to suit their whims independent of usual norms. In Musk's case - that whim is the exploration of Mars. Deal with it Neil.
Keith's note: According to KSC Daily News for Thursday, March 24, 2016 it looks like you now need formal (that usually means written) permission from some unidentified "appropriate approval authority" at CCAFS to take pictures of "commercial launch sites, launch vehicles and equipment". So that apparently means not only are people onsite at a launch are forbidden to take pictures without the aforementioned but unspecified permission from the "appropriate approval authority" - but so are people who visit the CCAFS museum, on KSC bus tours - or standing on a causeway within the area watching a launch. Let me know when the rules get crazier.
"SAFETY, SECURITY, CLOSURES AND OUTAGES
Photography Strictly Prohibited on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
As a reminder to all KSC employees and guests, photography is strictly prohibited on all areas of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In accordance with the 45th Space Wing Integrated Defense Plan, it is a crime, under 18 U.S.C., section 795, to photograph defense installations without first obtaining permission from the installation commander. The taking of photos or videos of personnel displaying CCAFS entry badges, security posts, on-duty security personnel, security response activity or shift change also is strictly prohibited. Additionally, photography or videography of USAF restricted or controlled areas, and commercial launch sites, launch vehicles and equipment is prohibited without prior written approval from the appropriate approval authority. POC: Bill Cannon, 321-853-7874"
New funding matchmaker will cater to NIH rejects, Science Magazine
"Last year, U.S. researchers received about 42,500 pieces of bad news from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their grant proposal had been rejected; they wouldn't be receiving a piece of the agency's roughly $30 billion federal funding pie. For many, the next step is to cast around for slices of smaller piesgrants from nonprofit disease foundations or investments from private companies that might keep their projects alive. Now, a new program aims to play matchmaker between these researchers and second-chance funders. The Online Partnership to Accelerate Research (OnPAR), a collaboration between NIH and the defense, engineering, and health contractor Leidos, lets researchers upload rejected NIH proposals to an online portal where potential funders can review the scores received from reviewers, and decide whether to put up cash."
"His goal is to help facilitate a more interdisciplinary approach by giving scientists with out-of-the-box ideas the equipment, staff and connections to counterparts in math, engineering, physical sciences and computer science -- so their work can reach its full potential, he explained."
Keith's note: This is the guy behind XPrize, Planetary Resources, Stratolaunch, etc.
NIH is getting creative - so is Paul Allen. Why can't NASA do something like this? Perhaps this concept would not do much for multi-hundred million science mission proposals, but smaller things such as aerospace technology, life science, and material science research proposals might benefit. Not everything NASA turns down is bad. A lot of it is just fine, but the agency doesn't have the money - or the foresight to think outside of their traditional sandbox. CASIS is supposed to be doing something like this. Usually all they do is give away free (or allow reduced pricing) on rides to space and they do so with funding that is 99.997% from NASA.
Every now and then CASIS does find a biotech company that agrees to underwrite a portion of some research - but the details are fuzzy as to what this really means when its time to write a check. CASIS does not like to get into specifics in this regard. Although I do have to say that the one bright light that is happening via CASIS is Nanoracks. They have exhibited non-stop creativity and efficiency in all that they do. But CASIS has yet to repeat this example.
NASA is very binary on the matter of funding and picking winners - either you get funded or you don't. Or you can reapply until you get funded or just give up. It would be nice if the agency thought of ways to pool these proposals and match them with other potential funders. NASA employees (who have limited or zero private sector experience) regularly toss phrases around wherein they claim to want to bring "the entire economic sector" up to LEO. Well, they won't see that happen if they are the only funding source in LEO. Nor will this happen unless they do a lot more to actually remove hindrances and energetically facilitate access to LEO commercial funding by actual commercial entities - not just from a congressional creation (CASIS) which cloaks itself in a 501(c)(3) designation so as to launder NASA money.
By the way, you can listen to the NASA ISS National Laboratory/CASIS imaginary plan for LEO commercialization next Wednesday at a day-long symposium "Research in Commercial LEO" at the NAS Space Studies Board Space Science Week.
"Defense Secretary Ash Carter last week referred the matter to the Pentagon's independent watchdog agency following strong statements by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain."
"At the request of the Secretary of Defense, the OIG DoD has opened an investigation regarding assertions made by United Launch Alliance's former Vice-President of Engineering relating to competition for national security space launch and whether contracts to ULA were awarded in accordance with DoD and Federal regulations," wrote Randolph R. Stone, the deputy inspector general for policy and oversight at the Defense Department, in a memorandum today. Stone said the investigation would include "site visits, interviews, and documentation review."
- ULA VP Quits Over Controversial Remarks, earlier post
"The launch marks the beginning of the company's fifth operational cargo resupply mission (OA-6) for NASA, and the first Cygnus to conduct scientific experiments onboard the spacecraft. Cygnus will deliver vital equipment, supplies and experiments to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of its Commercial Resupply Services-1 (CRS-1) contract with NASA."
"The Arizona Republican opened a Thursday SASC appearance by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford by calling on the Pentagon to investigate Tobey's "disturbing statements." The request is the latest salvo in McCain's political battle to wean the US off of the Russian rocket engines supplied by ULA, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. "These statements raised troubling questions about the nature of the relationship between the Department of Defense and ULA," said McCain, R-Ariz."
"A senior United Launch Alliance executive resigned on Wednesday after saying the firm last year refused to bid on a launch service contract for the U.S. military's next-generation GPS satellite because it was hoping to avoid a "cost shootout" with Elon Musk's SpaceX."
"Don't get me wrong: SpaceX has done some amazing stuff," [ULA vice president of engineering. Brett] Tobey said. "The landing [in December] of that [Falcon 9] first stage at the Cape was nothing short of amazing. My wife and I were at Best Buy and watching it on my iPhone and I just got goose bumps. It was cool. "Watching them smash it into the barge was fun, too," he said of previous, and a subsequent, SpaceX attempts at landing the first stage. "It's getting tons of press. It's extraordinarily, engineeringly cool but it's dumb," Tobey said. "I mean: Really? You carried 100,000 pounds of fuel after deployment of the SES satellite [SpaceX's March launch of the commercial SES-9 telecommunications satellite, to geostationary-transfer orbit] just to try to land on the barge."
Keith's 16 March note: Gee, this ULA guy is dense. How much did that extra propellant cost? Pennies. What will it eventually allow SpaceX to do? Bring back and reuse rocket hardware that costs millions to produce. That means that you can sell the use of the same rocket more than once. This common business approach seems to elude Mr. Tobey. Then again ULA has been paid to be inefficient for decades, so this sort of thinking must be somewhat alien to them. Then there's way he refers to ULA's business partners. It would seem that ULA does not agree with what its own vice president has been saying. Tick tock.
"Compare it to having two fiances, two possible brides," Tobey said of ULA's relationship with the two companies during a talk at the University of Colorado-Boulder. "Blue Origin is a super-rich girl, and then there is this poor girl over here, Aerojet Rocketdyne. But we have to continue to go to planned rehearsal dinners, buy cakes, and all the rest with both."
"At NASA's booth, hundreds of people in the last few days have viewed the agency's VR pieces on an Oculus Rift. The three-dimensional video has been virtually taking them on a ride to the top of the SLS, which will be more than 300 feet tall when completed. Also, NASA has Google Cardboard sets for people who want to see a VR clip that features footage from Mars. It's NASA's third straight year at the tech festival, but it's the first time the company is leveraging virtual reality. The response to the films, Pierce said, "has been great."
"Just typing about that facet of the demo is making me nearly tear up. I can barely handle the thought that today, I was closer to outer space than I'd ever been in my life. Even with issues like a missing real-time shadow/lighting system and some nausea from driving up and down virtual hills, I was absolutely blown away by the experience - and the same could be said for the ISS simulator, whose texture quality was the pits and whose simulation could have used more ISS-specific hardware inside of it."
Keith's note: OK, so where do the rest of us who are not partying with the hipsters and digerati at SXSW download/view this stuff? NASA talks about their use of Occulus Rift, Kinect, Hololens, etc. but why isn't any of this stuff being released for people to experience - everywhere?
"The camera in your cell phone we invented that," [NASA Technology Transfer Program Executive David] Lockney said. "It's a lightweight, high resolution camera, doesn't draw a lot of power, we used it for space applications on a satellite. That same exact camera on a chip, is the same is the same exact camera that you have in your cell phone today."
Keith's note: This is a rather interesting claim that Lockney is making (assuming that he was quoted correctly). So I sent a request to him and PAO: "Can you tell me, specifically, where/when NASA invented this camera? What mission did it first fly on? Did NASA or a contractor file a patent claim for this camera technology? If so what is the patent number? Did NASA sign a technology transfer agreement or license with a company - if so what is the company's name and when was this agreement signed? Does NASA still own any intellectual property associated with this camera technology?"
Keith's update: I got a quick answer back from Lockney: the guy who invented the technology was Eric Fossum. "While Fossum was at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, then-NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin invoked a plan of "Faster, Better, Cheaper" for NASA Space Science missions. One of the instrument goals was to miniaturize charge-coupled device (CCD) camera systems onboard interplanetary spacecraft. In response, Fossum invented a new CMOS active pixel sensor (APS) with intra-pixel charge transfer camera-on-a-chip technology, now just called the CMOS Image Sensor or CIS ..." I learned something new today.
Alas, NASA paid for the work (NASA pays Caltech to operate JPL) but does not actually own the technology - and it never did so ... I may be splitting hairs but its a little hard to say that NASA invented something when it never even owned it to begin with. Too bad it did not try and hang onto what taxpayers paid for - think of the royalties NASA could have reaped from something that is used in a zillion cellphones. See patents 5471515
"The coalition lays out several policy proposals, which, if adopted, will help sustain U.S. leadership in space. Among them are: committing to predictable budgets, funding robust investments, promoting innovative partnerships, and repealing the Budget Control Act of 2011; continuing global space engagement through programs like the International Space Station; fully funding the Space Launch System, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and the Commercial Crew programs; providing increased resources for national security space and launch programs; promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education; retaining U.S.-educated workers; and further reducing barriers to international trade."
"Members of the coalition include the Aerospace Industries Association, Aerospace States Association, American Astronautical Society, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, Colorado Space Coalition, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Satellite Industry Association, Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable, Space Angels Network, Space Florida, Space Foundation, and the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space."
Marc's note: By creating this white paper this broad coalition is making a statement that will be read as it's shared among politicians and their staff of every stripe. However, during the press conference Elliot Pulham of the Space Foundation said that to some extent, he doesn't want space to be a campaign issue in case a candidate says something stupid. Considering what's already been said on the campaign trail, a candidate saying something stupid on any topic would be the norm. But, and more importantly, if the coalition wants traction, then making the case and speaking about the importance of the space economy should be discussed at every political level and by the candidates.
"The last time Ron Garan saw the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space was from his vantage point aboard the International Space Station. The next time he will see this sight will be from inside the capsule of World Views' high altitude balloon at the edge of space. Unlike both of his trips to and from space he will be in command of the capsule which will land under a large, steerable parawing. He'll be doing the steering. And when he does he'll be the first person to ever pilot such a flight."
"A coalition of 13 space organizations will release its white paper, "Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Space." White paper to call attention to the need for the next administration and Congress to make space exploration and use a policy priority. White paper will propose solutions to four challenges facing the U.S. space exploration and use enterprise: unpredictable budgeting, foreign competition, the hostile space environment, and workforce trends."
Air Force Awards Final Rocket Propulsion System Prototype OTAs, Space and Missile Systems Center
"Today the Space and Missile Systems Center awarded the final Other Transaction Agreements for shared public-private investments in Rocket Propulsion System prototypes. One award is to Aerojet Rocketdyne for development of the AR1 rocket propulsion system. The initial government investment is $115.3 million. The other award is to United Launch Alliance for development of the Vulcan/BE-4 rocket propulsion system and the ACES rocket propulsion system. The initial government investment is $46.6 million with $45.8 million for the Vulcan/BE-4 effort and $0.8 million for the ACES effort."
Aerojet Rocketdyne, ULA Announce Public-Private Partnership with USAF to Develop RD-180 Replacement Engine
"The U.S. Air Force selected Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc., and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to share in a public-private partnership to develop jointly the AR1 engine an American-made rocket propulsion system."
Aerojet Rocketdyne Names Dynetics as Key AR1 Engine Team Member
"Following the U.S. Air Force selection of AR1 for a Rocket Propulsion System award, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD), named Dynetics of Huntsville, Alabama, as a key team member for the AR1 engine development."
"United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Blue Origin LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, entered into a public-private partnership with the U.S. Air Force to develop a new rocket propulsion system to power Vulcan -- ULA's next-generation launch system."
"The year 2015 was a record-setting year for start-up space ventures with investment and debt financing of $2.7 billion (excluding debt financing, $2.3 billion). Nearly twice as much venture capital ($1.8 billion) was invested in space in 2015 than in the prior 15 years, combined. More than 50 venture capital firms invested in space deals in 2015, the most in any year during the 15-year study period (2000-2015)."
Virgin Galactic Unveils SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic
"Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJS, today unveiled its newly completed SpaceShipTwo. The rollout ceremony was attended by Sir Richard Branson and his family, Virgin Galactic's Future Astronauts, and partners. Based on the smaller X-PRIZE winning SpaceShipOne designed by Burt Rutan, SpaceShipTwo is designed to take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to space. Virgin Galactic's space flight experience features an air launch followed by a rocket-powered ascent at three and a half times the speed of sound, the silence of space, several minutes of out-of-seat weightlessness and views of our home planet."
"Although NASA is proceeding with development of the SLS, a number of outside panels have questioned whether NASA can afford to build, fly and, sustain the expensive program, especially with projections of low flight rates of one launch or fewer per year. The biggest concern is that the rocket is so expensive to fly it precludes a meaningful exploration program within NASA's existing budget."
Keith's note: With the cuts to both SLS and Orion in the Administration's FY 2017 budget you can expect the same food fight with Congress to pick up where it left off last time. And as was the case before, Congress will go after Commercial Crew and Cargo, Technology, and Earth Science to put SLS and Orion back at the level Congress wants. Of course, election time will soon skew everything and the chances that there will be a formal budget will drop. The net result is that NASA will not know for certain what its budget will be and this uncertainty will cause launch dates to slip to the right. With these slips the overall cost of the SLS and Orion programs will increase - and commercial crew will take longer to happen than might otherwise be the case.
Naturally, the next Administration will stall for time and eventually appoint a blue ribbon panel to write a report and the cycle will start all over again. Their conclusion will be that NASA has no plan (and that it needs to hurry up and develop one) and, by the way, NASA cannot do all of the things it has been tasked to do under a budget that does not grow. Considering that all of these arguments are set to occur under a NASA budget that is likely going to stay flat, nothing will change since no one will give up pushing for the things that they want NASA to do. The inevitable result will be that NASA will end up with a launch system that will have nothing to launch on the imaginary #JourneyToNowhere.
|Keith's note: @NASA tweeted this to more than 14,600,000 followers:||Keith's note: NASAWATCH replied:|
Keith's note: A request for NASA:
With regard to "1,600 new technologies a year" OK: "a year" means annually i.e. within a 365 day period. Implicit in this claim is the suggestion that this is (or has been) done every year. That public claim having been made, can you provide a list that includes each and every one of these "new technologies" - technologies that were created/announced/revealed within any single 365 day period in NASA's existence? Please provide that year, the name of each of the technologies, and how each item is a separate "technology" from any other "technology". Oh yes, please define what you mean by "technology". If you cannot provide such a list then, one might task, how can you make such a claim? Has this happend in more than one year?
With regard to "Thousands of products, services, and processes", the plural "thousands" clearly implies multiples of 1,000 i.e. more than 2,000. Can you list each of the "products, services, and processes" that you have collected so as to be able to make this claim? Again, if you cannot provide such a list then, one might task, how can you make such a claim?
Yes there will be FOIAs and additional requests for you to ignore. If your claims are true, then that's very cool and worth further promulgation. If they are not then this is a substantial disservice to taxpayers.
Orbital ATK: 880/1000
Sierra Nevada: 879/1000
Keith's 2 Feb update: Eric Stallmer and his staff at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation have risen to the challenge (on very short notice) and have set up their own livestream of this conference - you can view it here: . Too bad the FAA has not figured out a way to tell everyone that this event is now being streamed.
Keith's 1 Feb 2:53 pm note: The annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference is being held in Washington, DC on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Unlike the past several meetings none of the sessions will be webcast. So, unless you are in the room, you won't be able to listen in. As best I can understand the situation from the FAA they do not know how to do a webcast themselves and/or can only do a webcast that costs vast sums of money. Its too bad the FAA did not invite NASA TV to come over and do a webcast. NASA TV covers virtually everything that NASA does - and the whole space commerce thing is something that NASA is hot on these days. Indeed, if you look at the agenda multiple panels at this event are filled with NASA people. Oddly, no one from CASIS is speaking - and they are all about space commerce.
When things are deliberately closed off like this, its hard to take a lot of what FAA and NASA say about space commerce seriously - especially when they approach the promulgation of their activities so half-heartedly. NASA wants everyone to know that they are doing commercial crew and cargo and that they want the private sector to take over routine chores in LEO so that NASA can focus its efforts elsewhere. Indeed, their whole cis-lunar exploration plan requires that this happen. But when it comes to the meetings wherein the nuts and bolts of commercializing LEO are discussed - its suddenly too hard to do a simple webcast. Yes, its FAA's meeting - but the agency most affected is NASA. You'd think that something as simple as a webcast would be easy to do. I did them from Everest Base Camp for crying out loud.
Why investors are following Musk, Bezos in betting on the stars, Washington Post
"The new space investors are catching up with the slow, but growing development of the commercial space sector, which NASA has been fostering for years. With the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, NASA has awarded billions of dollars in contracts to commercial companies so that they could develop rockets to fly cargo and, eventually, astronauts to the International Space Station. Still, the industry is diverse, and different sectors are more advanced, and profitable, than others. Cubesats, the tiny satellites that can swarm around the Earth beaming back images of the planet, are already in high demand. Launching commercial and government satellites is also big business. But the emergence of other sectors, such as space tourism and asteroid mining, is still in the future."
Accomack Supervisors Blasted With Issues, Eastern Shore Post
"The rocket that malfunctioned at Wallops Island in October 2014 showed a grim picture of what could happen to nearby landowners. NASA's blast zone is worrying those who reside inside, people whose families have lived on the farms for generations. Some are scared of property damage while others are wondering just how the designation will shape their future. "It ought to be a big concern to anyone who lives in these circles," said Fred Darby of Assawoman, adding that those who live farther south haven't escaped because if his property values go down, those who live or own in Belle Haven or Parksley or elsewhere will have to "take up the slack." Darby warned, "There has to be a balance." And he noted the effect on the local "quality of life."
Blue Origin Flies New Shepard To Space - Again (with video)
"The very same New Shepard booster that flew above the Karman line and then landed vertically at its launch site last November has now flown and landed again, demonstrating reuse. This time, New Shepard reached an apogee of 333,582 feet (101.7 kilometers) before both capsule and booster gently returned to Earth for recovery and reuse."
Keith's 21 Jan note: This NOTAM - Notice to Airmen - has been issued by the FAA for the area where Blue Origin launches.
"!FDC 6/5414 ZAB TX. AIRSPACE VAN HORN, TX. TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS DUE TO SPACE FLIGHT OPERATIONS WI AN AREA DEFINED AS 17 NM RADIUS OF 3127N10446W OR THE SALT FLAT/SFL/VORTAC 125 DEGREE RADIAL AT 24 NM, SFC TO UNL. PURSUANT TO 14CFR SECTION 91.143 TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS ARE IN EFFECT. DLY 1300-2100 1601221300-1601232100."
Keith's Update: They did.
Charles D. Walker: Don't relinquish all space exploration to private firms, Charles Walker, Arizona Daily Star
"The idea is attractive, even if commercial plans for a Mars mission are hypothetical at best. But as much as I support the private space industry, experience and common sense tell me that a commercial Mars human landing won't ever get off the ground not unless NASA goes there first. Businesses are slaves to short-term balance sheets, and private space-industry investors and shareholders are notoriously risk-averse. Even wealthy entrepreneurs won't throw their money away. They'll back straightforward missions like delivering cargo to the space station 250 miles above the Earth using mature and well-tested technologies if they can turn a profit within a reasonable time with acceptable risk."
Keith's note: This is the sort of Pro-SLS, only-government-can-explore sort of nonsense that Mary Lynne Dittmar and her Coalition for Deep Space Exploration are pushing. (this op ed is linked to from the Coalition's website). This is how Dittmar retweeted a link to this op ed:
This statement by Dittmar is fundamentally silly given that the "whims of market or investors" are precisely what push the management of Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Orbital ATK, ULA, Aerojet, and the rest of the aerospace sector to pursue big government projects such as Orion and SLS. Dittmar can't have it both ways.
Keith's additional note: At the NASA Advisory Council meeting last year, Bill Gerstenmaier made it very clear that NASA needs to have a fully commercialized LEO infrastructure in order to free up NASA resources to focus on SLS/Orion-based exploration of cislunar space - and later, of Mars. When asked what would happen if that LEO commercialization did not happen, Gerstenmaier said that NASA would have to reassess how it would accomplish its exploration goals. Clearly, Mary Lynn Dittmar, NASA's future exploration of space is intimately tied to the success of LEO commercialization - an activity that will be driven by the "whims of market or investors". Besides, everyone knows that NASA's ability to explore is, always has been, and always will be "held hostage to whims of" -- Congress. As such, what is wrong with trying to find an alternate path to enable the exploration and utilization of space?
SpaceX Puts Jason-3 In Orbit and Almost Lands On A Barge (With launch video), SpaceRef
"The Jason-3 Satellite was successfully place in orbit today by a Falcon 9. However while that rocket's first stage landed within 1.3 meters of its target on the barge leg #3 did not lock properly."
RUD = "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly"
Keith's note: I received a hard copy of NASA Spinoff 2016 today. I have not actually held a hard copy of this publication in a long time. Having worked on portions of NASA Spinoff reports in the 80s and early 90s I have to say that this document is much more detailed and varied than what I worked on back in the day. That said, as hard as this office tries to include things, they often mission some glaringly obvious spinoffs. In one instance they missed a spinoff that has actually saved lives all by itself. The spinoff NASA missed is FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), an innovative device developed by JPL that uses radar to detect the heartbeats of people buried under rubble after a natural disaster such as an earthquake. Alas there is no mention of FINDER in the 2016 or 2015 NASA Spinoff reports. There was no 2014 report. If it is mentioned somewhere in these reports, then I apologize, but I could not find it.
On 24 April 2015 a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal - a nation woefully unprepared to respond to such an event. NASA FINDER technology was on site with a very short period of time and was used to locate victims under collapsed buildings. The basic technology behind FINDER is a microwave radar system that can detect a human heartbeat as well as their breathing under 30 feet of rubble or through 20 feet of solid concrete. The device is so precise that it can differentiate between a human and animals. This amazing device has quite a story. NASA and DHS sponsored a media demonstration in May 2015 while rescue operations were still underway in Nepal. I wrote about this in "Using Space Radar To Hear Human Heartbeats in Nepal". NASA also put a prominent feature online as well. Yet NASA's Spinoff people seem to not be paying complete attention to what the agency is actually doing.
Again, while NASA's tech transfer and spinoff efforts have made great improvements, they still manage to pass over some truly amazing pieces of technology that NASA has developed - hardware with a proven ability to save lives.
- Another NASA Spinoff That NASA Ignores, earlier post
- NASA's Latest Stealth Spinoff, earlier post
- Another NASA Spinoff That NASA Isn't Telling You About, earlier post
"NASA has awarded three cargo contracts to ensure the critical science, research and technology demonstrations that are informing the agency's journey to Mars are delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2019 through 2024. The agency unveiled its selection of Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia; Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada; and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California to continue building on the initial resupply partnerships with two American companies."
"NASA is on a Journey to Mars and a new consensus is emerging around our plan, vision and timetable for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. Our strategy calls for working with commercial partners to get our astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station while NASA also focuses - simultaneously -- on getting our astronauts to deep space."
- CSF Congratulates ISS Commercial Resupply Awardees and Partners
- NASA Selects Orbital ATK For Space Station Cargo Contract
- NASA Selects Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser Spacecraft for CRS2 Contract
-Smith, Babin Congratulate NASA Commercial Cargo Awardees
"Bid goodbye to Yosemite's familiar Ahwahnee hotel, Yosemite Lodge, the Wawona Hotel, Curry Village, and Badger Pass ski areaor their names, anyway. The National Park Service said today it will rename many well-known spots in Yosemite, as part of an ongoing legal dispute with an outgoing concessionaire that has trademarked many names in the world-famous park."
"Concessionaire Delaware North, which previously ran The Ahwahnee, Curry Village, and other properties at Yosemite, claims it was forced to purchase the intellectual property of the properties it operated, including the names, in 1993. Now Delaware North has lost the park contract to competitor Aramark and wants to be paid $50 million for the naming rights."
Keith's 14 January update: I am told that NASA will NOT be issuing a statement after all with regard to Trademarks held for "space shuttle atlantis" by Delaware North - the same company that ran services at Yosemite and still runs the KSC Visitor's Center.
SpaceX has released a slick new video of the December 21 Falcon 9 launch with new footage from the landing. Put it full screen, turn up the volume and enjoy.
"In December of 2015, we analyzed the amount of staff that we employed throughout all of our departments at Bigelow Aerospace, and discovered that numerous departments were overstaffed. Regrettably, we had to make the choice that, beginning with the New Year, we need to follow standard business protocols, which sensibly requires an attempt to achieve balance in how much staff is necessary. These layoffs will not compromise in any way our ability to execute the work and activities that we presently have ongoing."
Big Changes at Space News, Inc., SpacePolicy Online
"An email from Space News Publisher Bill Klanke last month announced that the "must read" newspaper/website for anyone who wants to know what's happening in the space business (apart from SpacePolicyOnline.com, of course!) was changing from a weekly newspaper to bi-weekly magazine format. The difficulties facing news publications in today's digital/social media age are well documented and that alone was not much of a surprise. But farewell messages today from Executive Editor Warren Ferster, a 21-year Space News veteran, and reporter Dan Leone, who covered the NASA beat, were stunning."
Keith's note: We at NASAWatch.com and SpaceRef.com wish Warren and Dan the best and hope that our friends at Space News continue to cover the space beat as they have for several decades.
Keith's update: Space News Copy Chief Todd Windsor and Office Manager Christine Frazee were also let go.
Is there a new reusable age around the corner? Sober analysis says no. https://t.co/k6OXJszMLB— George Sowers (@george_sowers) January 2, 2016
Keith's note: Now that Sen. Shelby has used his Dark Side powers to enable ULA's addiction to Russian engines to continue, ULA is off using its staff to sow seeds of anti-reusable technology such as that being promoted by SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. This slow motion desperation is a clear sign of a paradigm shift that has begun to leave some companies behind. In this case its ULA.
- ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby, earlier post
- Sen. Shelby: The King Of Political Cronyism and Hypocrisy, earlier post
- Knights Templar Inspired Business Moves at ULA, earlier post
Washington's 'Star Wars', Politico
"A Washington brawl has broken out over the future of the U.S. military's ability to reach orbit, with the powerhouse combo of Boeing and Lockheed Martin jostling with the scrappy yet well-funded upstart of entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX for multibillion-dollar contracts for launching satellites. The competition is upending the norms of the defense contractor heavyweights, who are not used to dealing with relatively fresh rivals, and has released a flood of lobbying cash. SpaceX has spent more than $1.3 million on lobbying this year and while the Boeing-Lockheed joint effort, called United Launch Alliance, spent more than $900,000 both on pace to easily set new records for the companies once the final quarter of 2015 is reported."
"ULA has ordered additional Atlas engines to serve our existing and potential civil and commercial launch customers until a new American-made engine can be developed and certified. While ULA strongly believes now is the right time to move to an American engine solution for the future, it is also critical to ensure a smooth transition to that engine and to preserve healthy competition in the launch industry."
Rocket security for the Rocket City - thanks to Senator Shelby, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Huntsville Times
"We thank Senator Shelby for his leadership in the Senate, for securing our nation's defense, ensuring America stays on the technological forefront in space, and for keeping important, valuable jobs in North Alabama."
- Sen. Shelby: The King Of Political Cronyism and Hypocrisy, earlier post
- Congress Blinks on RD-180s, earlier post
- DoD Denies RD-180 Waiver For ULA, earlier post
- Rep. Rogers Hates Everything Russian - Except Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts
"... the FAA is announcing the availability of a FONSI, based on the analysis and findings of the U.S. Air Force's (USAF's) December 2014 Environmental Assessment for the Space Exploration Technologies Vertical Landing of the Falcon Vehicle and Construction at Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Florida (EA). Subsequent to the USAF issuing the EA, Launch Complex-13 was renamed to Landing Complex-1 (LC-1)."
Elon Musk's SpaceX returns to flight and pulls off dramatic, historic landing, Washington Post, (Owned by Jeff Bezos)
"On Monday, SpaceX's first flight since its Falcon 9 rocket blew up in June, Musk topped his fellow tech billionaire and space rival [Jeff Bezos], by landing a larger, more powerful rocket designed to send payloads to orbit, and not just past the boundary of what's considered space. It was a much more complicated feat that was celebrated as another leap forward for Musk and his merry band of rocketeers."
"A few weeks ago, Jeff Bezos inaugurated his Twitter account with the surprise announcement that his space company, Blue Origin, had launched and landed a rocket after suborbital flight. But SpaceX managed to deliver 11 satellites to orbit, which requires an order of magnitude more thrust, and land its rocket. SpaceX's booster is coming a hell of lot faster, and its landing much trickier. So Elon Musk's got this one. (For now.)"
"SpaceX made space exploration history tonight when it brought a Falcon 9 first stage back to a safe landing on Earth. Minutes after ending its portion of the launch, the first stage reoriented itself, fired its engines, and came in for a pinpoint landing at Cape Canaveral. Meanwhile the Falcon 9's second stage continued into space eventually deploying its entire 11 satellite ORBCOMM payload successfully."
Marc's note: SpaceX will attempt their return to flight Sunday evening with the launch of ORBCOMM-2 mission from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This follows the successful static fire test on Friday.
Of note, SpaceX may attempt landing of the Falcon 9 rockets first stage at Space Launch Complex 13.
Update: You can watch the launch live on SpaceRef on the SpaceX channel starting at 8:00 p.m. ET (0100 GMT).
Marc's Update: The launch has been delayed 24 hours as there will be more favourable conditions for a landing attempt tomorrow. The new launch window is between time is 8:29 - 8:34 p.m. ET.
"This is the third in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Boeing and SpaceX received their first orders in May and November, respectively, and have started planning for, building and procuring the necessary hardware and assets to carry out their first missions for the agency. NASA will identify at a later time which company will fly a mission to the station first.
Boeing met the criteria for NASA to award the company its second mission with the successful completion of interim developmental milestones and internal design reviews for its Starliner spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and associated ground system."
"A massive U.S. government spending bill, released by lawmakers Dec. 16, effectively lifts a ban on the Russian rocket engine that powers United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket at least until Oct. 1, re-energizing competition for Defense Department launch contracts between ULA and SpaceX. The new language, included in the omnibus spending bill for 2016, says "that notwithstanding any other provision of law" the Air Force could award a launch contract to any certified company "regardless of the country of origin of the rocket engine that will be used on its launch vehicle, in order to ensure robust competition and continued assured access to space."
"We found deficiencies in NASA's management processes and controls that may limit the usefulness of the Agency's efforts to better manage its space technology investments. First, although NASA has revised its technology roadmaps to provide additional information regarding how specific technologies will help meet Agency mission objectives, it needs to complete the ongoing revision of its Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan to provide the necessary detail to determine the projects that best support Agency priorities. Second, the information in TechPort remains incomplete and inaccurate, impairing the value of the database as a tool to manage and share information about NASA's space technology portfolio. For example, we selected a sample of 49 active projects and found the database contained no information for 16 (33 percent) of the projects."
Keith's note: On 17 November 2015 NASA issued a press release titled "NASA Awards Two Robots to University Groups for R&D Upgrades" regarding NASA JSC's R-5 robot. At the time I asked "Is JSC's R5 Droid Worth Fixing?". I sent NASA PAO a simple request asking "How many applications/proposals were submitted? Which schools submitted proposals?" PAO replied "Thanks for reaching out to us. To answer your question, it's not our practice to share information about the number of proposals we received or which proposals were not selected. The two university groups were chosen through a competitive selection process from groups entered in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge. The NASA challenge was limited to U.S. university participants in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals." (see Never Ask NASA a Simple Question)
Gee, all I wanted to know was how many organization submitted proposals and NASA refused to tell me that simple number. What now had me wondering was why NASA was so shy about providing such a simple answer. I did not ask who had applied, simply how many universities had applied. Hmmm ... could it be that only two universities applied? If so, how did it happen that they knew to apply? Did NASA drop hints to potential submitters? Do recall that the R-5 robot has been somewhat of a failure and JSC would just love to pull something successful out of this mess.
R-5 is not the droid you were looking for.
Developed in secrecy by NASA JSC, R-5 competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013 and tied for dead last. Indeed, the R-5 was not even able to get out of its own way in some portions of the competition. NASA never really explained what this robot was for or why it developed it to have a female shape and form.
After a period of silence, NASA decided in 2015 to haul out their failed R-5 droids out of storage and see if anyone could fix them. Since NASA could not/would not fix them, why not ask if others can help? Not a bad idea. So they asked universities to help them fix the broken robots.
When the two university teams were announced (no doubt highly capable). I wondered how many others had applied and what the interest was in this sort of thing on a national level I was also interested in how hard NASA had worked to actually find the best teams. Mostly I was interested in the number - so I asked PAO. And I got the odd non-response response that PAO provided me.
Not getting an answer I submitted a FOIA request on November 2015. Actually I submitted it twice since the NASA online FOIA submission website was broken that day. Here is the text of my FOIA request:
"Because of the growth and demand for small satellites, the Canadian Space Commerce Association decided earlier this year to host its first Canadian SmallSat Symposium this coming February 2nd and 3rd. The symposium is about opportunity, building capability and international partnerships."
Marc's note: I'm organizing this event. We've got some great speakers announced with more to come. We have Greg Wyler opening the symposium, Pete Worden keynoting a lunch and the President of the Canadian Space Agency delivering a plenary to just name a few people. Oh, and of course we'll have some speakers from NASA.
If the small satellite segment is your thing then why not come? There's still a few days to submit an abstract to speak and early registration is underway until December 23rd.
We've also set aside a Business to Business room for those who want to talk business.
SpaceRef/NASA Watch is the media sponsor for the event, though there will be other media present.
Contact me if you want more information: email@example.com or visit the symposium website: https://smallsat.ca
"In a statement last month, ULA said "it wants nothing more to compete," but was prevented from doing so because of the lack of engines, and because it could not comply with the accounting structures required under the contract. It also said that the Air Force used a procurement process that would give a lot of weight to the prices companies bid and not their experience and past performance, which could have given ULA an edge. But McCain said the assertion that it's a "low-price" contract "is erroneous." Rather the contract is a "best value" source selection that calls for "a careful evaluation of performance, launch operations, schedule and price," he wrote."
Suddenly, SpaceX Is the Only Game in Town, Motley Fool
"Turns out Tory Bruno wasn't just whistling Dixie. At a hearing before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee in March, United Launch Alliance CEO Salvatore "Tory" Bruno issued an ultimatum: Congress must either lift its ban on the purchase of new RD-180 Russian rocket motors for use in America's space program or resign itself to letting one single space provider dictate prices to the government on all future satellite launches. Turns out, it's going to be Door No. 2."
John McCain wants ULA audited, blasts Colorado space company, Denver Business Journal
"McCain, whom President Barack Obama defeated in the 2008 presidential election, also called for a report on whether ULA's decision to use its dwindling supply of Russian-made rocket engines on non-military launches was an attempt to "subvert" the will of Congress."
- ULA Passes on GPS Launch - SpaceX Wins By Default, earlier post
- DoD Denies RD-180 Waiver For ULA, earlier post
- The Four Amigos and The Future of Competition in Space Commerce, earlier post
- LockMart Sort Of Threatens to Kill ULA Over RD-180 Imports, earlier post
"The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station's Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 9:26 a.m. EST. Cygnus is the first cargo ship to be berthed to the Earth-facing port on the Unity module."
International Perspectives on Space Resource Rights, op Ed, Space News
"If the U.S. space resources law were about claiming territory, or an assertion of sovereignty or appropriation of "celestial land," there would be a case for opponents to invoke Article II that prohibits such actions. But it isn't; the U.S. law is simply about confirming and codifying the rights for U.S. private citizens/companies to peacefully explore, extract and own resources extracted, just like the U.S. and Soviet governments did back in the 1960s and 1970s, and just like China, India and other countries intend to do in the coming years through government and private missions."
"Even some people within the U.S. government have raised questions about the law. "I'm not sure that the U.S. Congress can pass a law that authorizes American citizens to go do something" like claim rights to space resources, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at a Dec. 1 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council at the Johnson Space Center, when asked by a council member about the new law."
Keith's note: NASA is trying to un-spin Bolden's comments - but this is not a gaff. He has said this to others before. He does not understand/and or agree with the concepts involved, what Congress supported, and what his boss signed into law.
- Bolden Says ARM Is About Planetary Defense But Not Protecting Earth, earlier post
- Asteroid Retrieval Is Not The Prime Intent of NASA's Asteroid Retrieval Mission, earlier post
- Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale, earlier post
- Earlier posts on Bolden and asteroids
"Moon Express, Inc. has received official verification today of their launch contract from XPRIZE as part of the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, a global competition for privately funded teams to land an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the moon by December 31, 2017. Moon Express will use a Rocket Lab Electron rocket combined with the company's "MX-1E" micro-lander as part of a 2017 mission."
Google Lunar X Prize to Verify Moon Express Launch Contract (October 2, 2015)
Here's what Chanda Gonzales, Senior Director, Google Lunar XPRIZE said on the contract issue "Our decision is based on a holistic assessment of whether the launch contract is genuine, whether there are any legal issues that might pop up, whether there are any obvious non-compliances with the rules, and whether a substantial commitment was made by both the team and the launch provider (e.g. non-refundable deposit of some certain minimum value)."
"At a press conference held in Jerusalem today, alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE, SpaceIL announced a significant milestone in its race to the moon: securing a "ticket to the moon" on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher, with a mission scheduled for the second half of 2017. With this, SpaceIL becomes the first team to produce a verified launch contract in the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, and aims to accomplish not only the first Israeli mission to the moon, but also the world's first private lunar mission."
Marc's note: So Moon Express announced their contract first but SpaceIL had theirs verified first. Each will claim they were first for history, but the only thing that matters at this point is that one or both and possibly more actually launch, make it to the moon, do something and build their business case.
"A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-4 Cygnus resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 Dec. 6 at 4:44 p.m. EST. The mission, flown for Orbital ATK under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract, marks the first time the Cygnus has flown on an Atlas V rocket. This was ULA's 12th launch in 2015. At just over 8 tons, Cygnus is the heaviest payload to launch atop an Atlas V rocket."
@StationCDRKelly Day 254. We got our candle lit. #HappyHanukkah and #GoodNight from @Space_Station!
"Virgin Galactic has introduced a 747 to its fleet of vehicles as part of a technical update on its LauncherOne small satellite launch service. The 747-400 commercial jet aircraft, previously operated by Virgin Atlantic under the nickname 'Cosmic Girl,' will provide a dedicated launch platform for the LauncherOne orbital vehicle."
"On the Monday before Thanksgiving NASA made what it deemed a momentous announcement: the space agency had awarded $1.16 billion to Aerojet Rocketdyne for rocket engines that would power its "Journey to Mars." By contrast, a few hours earlier, the private space company Blue Origin secretly launched a rocket into space and safely landed it. The contrast between the deal struck in corridors of Washington D.C. and what had happened in the desert of West Texas could not have been more stark."
"Blue Origin is not the only company in hot pursuit of reusable rockets. SpaceX has come close to succeeding in two attempts to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle on an ocean platform. In the near future, SpaceX will also attempt to touch down the first stage of the Falcon 9 on land close to the launch site. Sooner or later, SpaceX will succeed and will be nailing these landings, just like Blue Origin did. Other companies and countries are working on reusable rockets and spacecraft as well. Those working on reusable suborbital vehicles include Virgin Galactic with their SpaceShipTwo, XCOR Aerospace with their Lynx rocketplane, and Masten Space Systems with their vertical takeoff and landing rockets."
Keith's note: This is not the first time in recent memory that NASA has made decisions to revisit old technology as part of bad habits it just can't shake. The agency spent over a billion dollars on J-2X and then changed its mind. Meanwhile everyone outside of NASA who is spending their own money on rocketships is striving toward reusability for economic reasons. But NASA doesn't do economical things in-house, now does it?
"On November 6, 2015 UP Aerospace successfully executed a mission for NASA to deploy the Maraia Earth Return Capsule. The mission reached an altitude of 75 miles above Spaceport America and landed 30 miles down range on White Sands Missile Range. The missions was UP Aerospace's 10th SpaceLoft rocket launch and the first deployment mission."
XCOR Co-Founders Establish New Company, Space News
"The three left XCOR to found a new company, Agile Aero. That company, which, like XCOR, is based in Midland, Texas, will be focused on addressing a problem Greason says has afflicted XCOR and other aerospace companies: the inability to rapidly develop and test vehicles, be they high-speed aircraft or launch vehicles. "We've seen so many companies run into the same obstacle," he said in an interview. "Once you get past cylindrical designs into vehicles that have lift in the atmosphere, the complexity gets to the point where the ability of people to try things rapidly, and succeed or fail fast, runs out of steam."
"Greason noted that the past few years have seen a dramatic uptick in the pace of development for small satellites and rocket engines, but that "nobody has had much luck with rapid-prototyping [advanced aerospace] vehicles, except for making missile shapes." "We don't know exactly how to do it yet, but we have a clear understanding of the challenge," he said."
"XCOR Space Expeditions announced that it will raise the price of a flight aboard XCOR Lynx from $100,000 to $150,000 effective January 1st, 2016."
Keith's note: So ... the guys who founded and ran XCOR are leaving XCOR to start a new company that will solve the problems that they could not solve at XCOR. It does not seem like they have a good track record in that regard (both DeLong and Greason had prominent roles at Rotary Rocket). Just sayin'.
President Obama Signs Bill Recognizing Asteroid Resource Property Rights into Law, Planetary Resources
"Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, applauds President Obama who signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2262) into law. This law recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids."
"My view is that natural resources [in space] should not be allowed to be appropriated by anyone states, private companies, or international organizations," said Ram Jakhu, a professor at McGill University's institute of air and space law. He said the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S. and other countries, including Canada, makes it clear that the surfaces and contents of asteroids and other celestial bodies are protected from commercial harvesting."
The commercial space race, Ottawa Citizen
"If asteroids cannot be appropriated by any state, they can also never be owned by a company, and that includes parts of an asteroid that might be extracted. Any notion of property law which would allow a person to possess, use or sell an object, depend upon the existence of a sovereign jurisdiction. The U.S. cannot give away what it does not own."
"It remains unknown whether the unilateral move by the U.S. to claim space ownership is valid. According to the Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S., Russia, and a number of other countries, nations can't own territory in space. "Outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States," the treaty says, adding that "outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means." The new law, however, does include a very important clause, as it clarifies that it does not grant "sovereignty or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body."