Recently in Commercialization Category

People Unaware and Concerned When It Comes to Space, Finds Landmark Report by Inmarsat, Inmarsat

"The world is largely unaware of key activities in space, with Gen-Z twice as likely to associate space with aliens, Star Wars and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos than older generations, according to the largest representative survey of global consumer attitudes towards space1, unveiled by Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications.

The report, What on Earth is the value of space, found that those aged 65 and above, who were teenagers when humans first walked on the Moon, are more optimistic and hopeful than Gen-Z. They are more likely to associate space with research and exploration, rockets, and satellites - with their understanding of space more rooted in science than science-fiction.

Only a quarter of the public (23 per cent) said they feel space exploration is 'important'. Almost half (46 per cent) consider satellites when thinking of space, while 37 per cent think of expeditions to the Moon and Mars, 21 per cent think of aliens, and almost 1 in 10 think of Star Wars (9 per cent). Fewer than 1 in 10 people globally think of communications and connectivity.

This focus on Hollywood rather than Halley's Comet fuels how respondents feel about space. Only a third of people feel 'excited' about space (34 per cent), while 18 per cent feel nervous - just 38 per cent wish they knew more about 'up there'. A quarter (24 per cent) of people feel 'overwhelmed' by space, which comes as no real surprise with films like Don't Look Up recently capturing the public consciousness."

Keith's note: If NASA was actually in tune with what the public really thinks (as opposed to the slanted view that they imagine that the public has since everyone at NASA thinks space is great) then you'd see an ongoing adjustment in how NASA public Affairs, Education, and mission outreach efforts communicates. Instead, it is the same old stale approach that only transmits - but never listens. This is the basic take that this report has on the public's perception of the influence and importance of space in their daily lives - or lack thereof.

- A majority of people surveyed are unaware of ground-breaking things happening in space.
- 97% of people see space as a threat - with space junk and pollution the biggest perceived threats.
- 1 in 9 people are 'terrified' of what could happen in space - just 1 in 3 are excited or hopeful.
- Younger generations associate space more with science-fiction than science and they're considerably more concerned and nervous about the impact of space on our lives.
- However, older generations are much more hopeful and optimistic about what space brings to life on Earth.
- Gen-Z is twice as likely to associate space with aliens, Star Wars and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos than members of older generations.

NASA GAO Report: NASA's Compliance with the Payment Integrity Information Act for Fiscal Year 2021

"We found that NASA was not in compliance with PIIA for FY 2021 because it did not publish improper payment estimates for the Space Launch Sy stem (SLS) program in the accompanying materials to the AFR as required by the statute. In our FY 2019 improper payment compliance audit, we reported that NASA failed to identify the SLS program as susceptible to significant improper payments based on the Agency's established risk assessment methodology, and since then the Agency has been working to bring the program into compliance. In FY 2021, NASA completed its improper payment testing and found no improper or unknown payments for the SLS program. However, the Agency failed to report the testing results in its AFR or to OMB. As a result, SLS reporting for FY 2021 was absent from the Agency's AFR and the dataset and payment integrity dashboard on PaymentAccuracy.gov. The Agency should have submitted SLS-related data such as the $2.2 billion in program outlays and amount properly paid, the 100 percent payment accuracy rate, and the corresponding improper and unknown payment amounts and rates. Therefore, NASA was not compliant with PIIA's requirement to publish improper and unknown payment estimates for programs susceptible to significant improper and unknown payments in the accompanying materials to the AFR."

GAO Report - NASA Assessments of Major Projects, GAO

"Continuing a recent trend, NASA's portfolio of major projects experienced significant cost and schedule overruns and more projects were added (see figure). Of the 21 major projects in the development phase of NASA's acquisition process (which includes building and launching the system), 15 were responsible for cumulative cost overruns of about $12 billion and cumulative schedule delays of 28 years. But just three projects--the James Webb Space Telescope, Space Launch System, and Orion--are responsible for more than three-quarters of the cost growth and almost half of the delays.

In the past year, the majority of NASA's projects in development increased their cost estimates, schedule estimates, or both. Technical issues and new scope were the primary causes of overruns. However, COVID-19 exacerbated these challenges with government and contractor facility shutdowns and remote work.

Current overruns and the risk of future COVID-19 issues could have a cascading effect on NASA's ability to manage its portfolio. NASA designates cost reserves to help projects address risks. However, when projects exhaust these reserves and need additional funding, it can limit the agency's ability to fund existing missions or start new ones. For example, NASA officials said some new projects are preparing for later launch dates due in part to funding limitations caused by other projects' cost overruns. NASA is taking steps to improve its portfolio management, but it is too soon to determine the results of these efforts."

- NASA's Cost Estimating Process Is Flawed. Duh. Who Knew?, earlier post
- NASA Still Has No Idea What A SLS Launch Will Cost
- Yet Another GAO Report That NASA Will Automatically Ignore, earlier post
- GAO: Human Space Exploration: Persistent Delays and Cost Growth Reinforce Concerns over Management of Programs, earlier post
- GAO: NASA Assessments of Major Projects, earlier post
- GAO Releases Report Critical of NASA, Citing Financial Risks Involved With CEV Acquisition, earlier post
- GAO: NASA: Assessments of Major Projects, earlier post
- GAO Report: NASA - Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects, earlier post
- NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects, earlier post
- NASA: Lack of Disciplined Cost-Estimating Processes Hinders Effective Program Management , earlier post
NASA Needs Integrated Strategy to Control Mission Costs

And so on

FAA Requires SpaceX to Take Over 75 Actions to Mitigate Environmental Impact of Planned Starship/Super Heavy Launches, FAA

"The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will require SpaceX to take more than 75 actions to mitigate environmental impacts from its proposed plan to launch the Starship/Super Heavy vehicle from Boca Chica, Texas. The actions are part of the agency's environmental review. The environmental review must be completed along with public safety, national security, and other analyses before a decision on whether to grant a launch license can be made. The license application is still pending."

Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (Final PEA) and Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision (Mitigated FONSI/ROD) for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program at the SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas, FAA

"Provisions contained in CEQ's NEPA‐implementing regulations and in FAA Order 1050.1F, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures, require the preparation of a supplemental EA if the applicant makes substantial modifications in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns or there are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns or bearing on the proposed action or its impacts (see, e.g., FAA Order 1050.1F, Paragraph 9‐3). After independently reviewing SpaceX's project modifications noted above, the FAA does not consider these modifications to be "substantial" in the context of presenting new or additional potential impacts beyond the scope already addressed in the draft PEA. Further, the removal of the proposed infrastructure reduces the Proposed Action's anticipated environmental consequences."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management Of The Mobile Launcher 2 Contract

"The ML-2's substantial cost increases and schedule delays can be attributed primarily to Bechtel's poor performance on the contract, with more than 70 percent ($421.1 million) of the contract's cost increases and over 1.5 years of delays related to its performance. For example, Bechtel underestimated the ML-2 project's scope and complexity, experienced ML-2 weight management challenges, and experienced staffing turnover and retention issues. Additionally, Bechtel's lack of a certified EVMS since inception of the ML-2 contract--a contractually required tool for measuring and assessing project performance--has limited NASA's insight into the project's cost and schedule issues.

Bechtel's performance notwithstanding, NASA's management practices contributed to the project's cost increases and schedule delays. NASA awarded the ML-2 contract while the Exploration Upper Stage--the primary reason NASA needed a second mobile launcher--lacked final requirements, impacting the ML-2 design. With respect to contract management, while NASA withheld award fees for a 6-month performance period in spring 2021 due to Bechtel's poor performance, the Agency did not continue this practice despite the contractor's continued poor performance in the subsequent award period. Therefore, we question nearly $3 million in award fees NASA awarded to Bechtel for this period."

Keith's note: So ... NASA awarded this contract, did not give Bechtel all the information it actually needed tp do the work, then let work proceed, dinged Bechtel on an award fee payment, but otherwise just let things go ahead without any attempt to halt work, re-bid, etc. NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana was Center Director at KSC from 2008 until 2021 throughout much of this contract. NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL Ret.) fought for this work at KSC while a U.S. Senator. Nelson brought Cabana up to DC where he oversaw much of the agency including work being done on Artemis. This contract was awarded in 2019 when Cabana was running KSC and Kathy Lueders was running HEOMD. While Bechtel is certainly to blame for much of this mess - so is NASA - and the mismanagement of this contract starts at the very top of the agency inside the glass doors on the 9th floor.

GAO: International Space Station: Opportunities Exist to Improve Communication with National Laboratory Users

"CASIS officials have not obtained input from the advisory committee on how to allocate laboratory resources, even though the committee is chartered to advise CASIS on resource utilization. CASIS officials stated they have not obtained this input for several reasons, including that the committee is unlikely to provide a consensus perspective. However, a lack of consensus does not preclude communication. Diverse input could enhance CASIS's understanding of risks and opportunities across the laboratory portfolio.

Additionally, CASIS has not routinely provided the advisory committee information about past and planned resource allocations, including visibility into the flight queue for projects waiting to travel to the International Space Station. The chairs of the advisory committee and its five subcommittees told GAO they could more effectively advise CASIS if they had more information about past resource allocations. These members also stated that greater transparency into planned allocations would be valuable for users conducting time-sensitive research--such as biological science research involving cell and tissue samples. CASIS officials said they have not routinely provided the committee this information because the resource allocation process is complex and fluid. However, NASA and CASIS officials acknowledged laboratory users would benefit from improved visibility into the resource allocation process."

Keith's note: I spent a lot of time looking into CASIS as you may recall. After more than a decade it is still broken. NASA never wanted it and only pays attention to CASIS when Congress or NASA HQ or GAO points out glaring issues. This time CASIS openly admits that it really does not care what its own advisory panel does. Then they all write a report, reshuffle management - and eject the good employees, and then this all disappears back into the NASA mis-managerial mist again. CASIS is located in Florida so NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL Ret.) is not going to be too tough on them. The $15 million CASIS gets from NASA every year is mandated by Congress - no matter how good or bad they do their job. That is unlikely to change any time soon. The space station could be so much more than it is - if NASA cared enough about it, that is.

Toyota Connected 'Cabin Awareness' Concept Uses New Tech to Detect Occupants, Toyota

"Toyota Connected North America (TCNA), an independent software and innovation center of excellence, today introduced its Cabin Awareness concept technology that uses millimeter-wave, high-resolution 4D imaging radar to help detect occupants (including certain pets) in cars and has the potential to detect them if ever they're left behind. ... Inspiration for the Cabin Awareness concept came from microwave radar technology created by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to support underground rescues after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in 2015. In this application, NASA engineers and rescuers were able to detect human breathing and heartbeats under more than 30 feet of rubble, helping responders know where to dig holes. "NASA's use of radar technology was inspiring," said Kursar. "The idea that you can listen to heartbeats using contact-less technology opens up new possibilities to give Toyota the potential to produce a service that is beneficial to the evolution of our in-vehicle services."

Using Space Radar To Hear Human Heartbeats in Nepal, SpaceRef (2015)

"On 24 April 2015 a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal - a nation woefully unprepared to respond to such an event. Nearly 300 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater have rattled the country for the past month. One especially large aftershock of magnitude 7.4 on 12 May caused the already-shattered infrastructure to collapse further. Nepal needed help - help that did not rely upon a non-functional infrastructure. Much of the help was traditional. But some of that help arrived in the form of assets in space and space-derived assets on the ground. One piece of NASA-developed hardware utilized in Nepal was able to detect human heartbeat amidst huge piles of rubble. And it saved lives. Other machines orbited overhead in space analyzing the earthquake itself and how Nepal changed as a result. Both technologies shared similar technology."

Radar Device Detects Heartbeats Trapped under Wreckage, NASA Spinoffs (2018)

"In the early 2000s, the Department of Defense approached JPL wondering about the possibility of using remote sensing to determine whether there were troops alive on a battlefield and to take remote biomedical readings. Some work was done, and Lux says the latter application could still be of interest for monitoring astronauts in the International Space Station, for example. But funding dried up."

Keith's note: A piece of innovative NASA technology has truly spun off to inspire a possible commercial product by Toyota that could affect millions of consumers. Let's see if NASA even notices.

Boeing And NASA Complete The First Starliner Space Station Flight Test, Boeing

"Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft landed at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at 5:49 p.m. Central Time on Wednesday 25 May. The safe return to Earth brings a close to the successful end-to-end uncrewed orbital flight test that was flown to demonstrate the quality and performance of the transportation system prior to crewed flights. "We have had an excellent flight test of a complex system that we expected to learn from along the way and we have," said Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program. "Thank you to the NASA and Boeing teammates who have put so much of themselves into Starliner."

Keith's update: Starliner docked with the ISS on Friday night.

Boeing Starliner Launches To The International Space Station, NASA

"Starliner lifted off on NASA's Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) at 6:54 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Following an orbital insertion burn 31 minutes later, Starliner was on its way for a rendezvous and docking with the space station."

Starliner enters orbit, headed to space station, but not without a glitch, Washington Post

"Boeing's Starliner spacecraft finally reached orbit Thursday on its way to docking with the International Space Station, completing a major step after two previous failed attempts that became part of the company's many woes and a symbol of its fall from grace. But the accomplishment was marred when at a postlaunch briefing, Boeing revealed that two of the four thrusters that were to put the spacecraft into the correct orbit failed."

Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA

"The Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation regulates the Unites States' (U.S.) commercial space transportation industry, and ensures compliance with international obligations of the U.S. and protects the public health and safety, safety of property, and national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S.; encourages, facilitates and promotes commercial space launches and reentries by the private sector; recommends appropriate changes in Federal statutes, treaties, regulations, policies, plans and procedures; and facilitates the strengthening and expansion of the U.S. space transportation infrastructure. The Associate Administrator executes the role of the position via a highly technical workforce of approximately 120 employees to include three Executives and the administration of an annual operational and research budget of approximately $40M."

Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearing - Space Situational Awareness: Guiding the Transition to a Civil Capability (with witness statements)

- Chairwoman Johnson Opening Statement

"As the amount of space debris and number of satellites orbiting the Earth have exponentially increased in recent years, SSA is critically important to maintaining space safety and ensuring that we continue to reap benefits on Earth from monitoring, operating, and living in space."

- Babin Opening Statement

"The debris created by a recent Russian anti-satellite test highlights why SSA remains an important issue. As I said at our Subcommittee's hearing in 2020, near-misses in space attract media attention and calls for draconian regulations, but overreacting could be just as detrimental to our nation's space enterprise. There are, however, some important issues I think we can all still agree on."

- Chairman Beyer Opening Statement

"Mega constellations of thousands of satellites are creating orbital congestion, and orbital debris from past missions--and reckless anti-satellite tests--are compounding the risks of operating in space. The sustainability of the space environment is in peril if we don't act."

Keith's note: According to an official press release issued on 9 May "NASA and Boeing will hold a media teleconference at about 6 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 11". So when you go to the NASA media page for the beginning of the event around 6:00 pm EDT the official website says "5:30 p.m. - Media briefing for NASA's Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2)". The media event ended at 6:11 pm EDT. Neat trick to get media and/or the public who wanted to listen in to miss the event. From what I can tell NASA seems to have managed to confuse the space press corps.

Lift And Mate Of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner For OFT-2

NASA, Boeing to Discuss Readiness of Uncrewed Flight Test

"NASA and Boeing will hold a media teleconference at about 6 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 11, following the Flight Readiness Review for the agency's Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), the second uncrewed flight test of the company's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for the agency's Commercial Crew Program. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency's website."

Boeing clashes with key supplier ahead of Starliner spacecraft launch, Reuters via CNN

"The disagreement, which has not been reported before, comes at time when Boeing already is scrambling to emerge from successive crises that have hobbled its jetliner business and drained cash. The Aerojet dispute is the latest illustration of Boeing's struggles with Starliner, a program costing the company $595 million in charges since 2019. Facing fixed-price NASA contracts that leave Boeing with little wiggle room financially, the company has pressed forward with the Starliner test. Boeing in a statement provided by a spokesperson to Reuters acknowledged for the first time that it ultimately intends to redesign Starliner's valve system to prevent a repeat of the issue that forced last year's test-flight postponement. The Boeing statement said that "we are working on short- and long-term design changes to the valves."

NASA's Cost Estimating and Reporting Practices for Multi-Mission Programs

"Congress is not receiving the federally mandated cost and schedule information it needs to make fully informed funding decisions for NASAs multi-mission programs. Specifically, for the programs supporting Artemis, the Agencys return-to- the-Moon and ultimately to Mars effort, NASA is circumventing required cost and schedule controls by categorizing certain production costs as operations costs when, in our opinion, they should be categorized as development costs. When the Constellation Program was cancelled in 2010, Congress directed NASA to continue development of several major components, including the rocket, crew capsule, and ground launch infrastructure. Without clearly defined missions for these major items, NASA only made cost and schedule commitments to Congress to demonstrate the initial capability of each system. The three separately-managed programs the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion Multi- Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion), and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) will provide the primary components for Artemis missions, the first of which is scheduled to launch no earlier than May 2022. Even though NASA has multiple Artemis missions planned, it has not adjusted the three programs life-cycle cost estimates or commitments to account for future missions. The result is incomplete cost estimates and commitments for these programs and missions.

We raised questions with the Agencys recent update to NASA Procedural Requirements (NPR) 7120.5F, NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Requirements, which establishes the requirements, life-cycle processes, and procedures by which NASA formulates and implements space flight programs and projects. Rather than resolving the major shortcomings with the Agencys cost estimating and reporting practices, the recent policy amendments formalized known deficiencies as acceptable management practices. NASA had previously stated that it intended to establish new policies and procedures that would provide additional transparency for major programs with multiple deliverables and unspecified end points. Instead, it codified its poor cost estimating and reporting practices in a new policy that fails to comply with Title 51 of the United States Code, which requires the Agency to annually provide an estimate of the life- cycle cost for major programs, with a detailed breakout of the development cost and program reserves as well as an estimate of the annual costs until development is completed. The policy also weakens NASAs ability to account for some risks in programs consisting of multiple projects, a situation that may affect cost and schedule if risks are unidentified in the estimates. Furthermore, the revised policy will not adequately address several open NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendations regarding incomplete and missing cost estimates and the corresponding baseline commitments for programs supporting Artemis missions.

Congress, NASA OIG, and GAO have identified longstanding problems with the completeness and credibility of NASA's life-cycle cost estimates for major acquisitions. Ultimately, NASA is not providing full visibility into its investments as it begins a multi-decade initiative to transport humans to Mars at a cost that could easily reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Because the programs that support these exploration missions are still in their early development stages, it is critical that NASA establish credible and complete cost and schedule estimates."

SpaceX Gets Unwelcome News From Army Corps Of Engineers, Space Policy Online

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has withdrawn SpaceX's application to expand its Boca Chica, TX test site because the company failed to provide required information requested last year. The environmental evaluation by the Corps is in addition to a separate ongoing environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration."

In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing National Strategy, Product of the In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing Interagency Working Group of the National Science and Technology Council

"This National Strategy outlines how the United States will support and stimulate the United States Government (USG), academic, and commercial ISAM capability development. It provides strategic goals to advance ISAM capability development discussed in the United States Space Priorities Framework. The next step following the strategy is to develop USG implementation action plans to fulfill the goals. Six strategic goals build on existing investments and emerging capabilities, and chart a course for using a national approach to realize the opportunities enabled by ISAM. The six goals are: (1) advancing ISAM research and development; (2) prioritizing the expansion of scalable infrastructure; (3) accelerating the emerging ISAM commercial industry; (4) promoting international collaboration and cooperation to achieve ISAM goals; (5) prioritizing environmental sustainability as we move forward with ISAM capabilities; and (6) inspiring a diverse future workforce as a potential outcome of ISAM innovation. These six goals aim to guide the United States as it continues to develop ISAM capabilities."

George Nield, Astronaut

Polaris Program Announced - Human Dragon And Starship Missions

"Today Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 (NYSE: FOUR), announced the Polaris Program, a first-of-its-kind effort to rapidly advance human spaceflight capabilities, while continuing to raise funds and awareness for important causes here on Earth. The program will consist of up to three human spaceflight missions that will demonstrate new technologies, conduct extensive research, and ultimately culminate in the first flight of SpaceX's Starship with humans on board. The first mission, Polaris Dawn, is targeted for no earlier than the fourth quarter of this year and will be commanded by Isaacman, an accomplished pilot and astronaut who led Inspiration4, the world's first all-civilian mission to orbit that helped raise over $240 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®."

Aerojet Chairman Sues CEO Over Control of Rocket-Engine Maker's Board, Blooomberg

"Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc.'s chairman and three directors asked a judge to block the CEO and her allies on the board from using company resources in a fight for control of the rocket-engine maker. A lawsuit unsealed Friday revealed long-simmering tensions between Chairman Warren Lichtenstein and Chief Executive Officer Eileen Drake who are at the heart of a proxy battle launched as U.S. antitrust regulators move to block Aerojet's $4.4 billion takeover by Lockheed Martin Corp. The dispute has left the board split between warring factions."

Lockheed Martin Terminates Agreement To Acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne

"Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) today announced it has terminated its agreement to acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD). The decision to terminate the agreement follows the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) lawsuit filed late last month seeking a preliminary injunction to block the acquisition."

Aerojet Rocketdyne Positioned to Continue Driving Growth, Profitability and Value Creation -- Announces Termination of Merger Agreement with Lockheed

"Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD) (the "Company") today reaffirmed its strong foundation for substantial value creation following the termination of its merger agreement with Lockheed Martin Corporation."

10 Feb 11:00 pm EST

11 Feb 1:00 am EST

NASA: Lessons from Ongoing Major Projects Could Improve Future Outcomes, GAO

"The complexity of NASA's major projects means they will always carry inherent risk--but prior GAO work found that management and oversight problems contribute to cost and schedule growth. As NASA works to execute new missions, including those that rely on commercial partners, GAO's past work provides lessons that, if applied, could strengthen NASA's management and improve outcomes of its major projects.

For example, NASA could:

Better manage cost and schedule. Increases associated with NASA's most costly and complex missions can have cascading effects on the rest of the portfolio. For example, in April 2013, GAO found that cost growth for the now $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope would have reverberating effects on the NASA acquisition portfolio for years to come.

Minimize risky decisions. NASA leadership has approved decisions that compound technical challenges. For example, in May 2021, GAO found that NASA's planned pace to develop a human landing system (illustrated below) was months faster than other spaceflight programs. The initial proposals also included unproven technologies, which adds technical and schedule risk to the program.

Establish a governance structure. While it has made some progress, NASA has not yet finished establishing its governance structure to oversee and manage its Artemis effort--a series of missions to return astronauts to the lunar surface. In December 2019, GAO recommended that NASA determine a schedule for integration reviews to help ensure that requirements between mission and program levels are reconciled. NASA held the first review in fall 2021. However, in September 2021, NASA announced a reorganization of its human exploration mission directorate. It is too soon to know how these changes will affect NASA's governance of Artemis missions or programs."

Keith's note: If I included a lits of previous postings about GAO reports that addressed these topics at NASA over the past 25 years it would require a lot of scrolling to reach the bottom of the list. NASA does not listen to external advice and never will. And when they are asked why things are so screwed up they tell you that "space is hard".

NASA Provides Updated International Space Station Transition Plan, NASA

"As NASA looks forward to a decade of results from research and technology development aboard the International Space Station, the agency is taking steps to ensure a successful transition of operations to commercial services. In response to Congressional direction, NASA has now provided an updated International Space Station Transition Report that details the goals for the next decade of station operations leading to a smooth transition to commercial services, the steps being taken to develop both the supply and demand side of the low-Earth orbit commercial economy, and the technical steps and budget required for transition."

Selection Statement For Commercial LEO Destinations (Announcement Number 80JSC021CLD), NASA (PDF)

"In order to cost-effectively meet U.S. long-term research and technology development needs in LEO, a robust commercial human spaceflight economy must be established including commercial destinations and new markets to allow various customers access to a broad portfolio of commercial products and services. Development and operation of a commercial destination to provide those services will require significant private investment over many years and significant non-NASA demand to ensure long-term financial viability."

Blue Loses Two

Reliable Robotics Expands Commercial Team with Key Executive Hires

"A.C. Charania, Vice President of Product Strategy ... will further develop the product and service architectures for the Remotely Operated Aircraft System."

Voyager Space Announces Clay Mowry as Chief Revenue Officer

"Voyager Space, a global leader in space exploration, today announced the appointment of Clay Mowry as Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). Mowry, a space industry veteran and seasoned business strategist, joins Voyager from Blue Origin where he served as the Vice President of Global Sales. As CRO, Mowry will lead revenue and sales operations for the company and its subsidiaries."

Blue Origin Launches 6 New Astronauts Into Space, SpaceRef

"The third crewed flight of a Blue Origin New Shepard launch system was conducted today. The "RSS First Step" left Earth just after 10:00 am ET for a quick flight above the Karman Line followed by a perfect landing of the booster and space capsule at the Texas launch site. On board were Dylan Taylor, Voyager Space; Michael Strahan, ABC; investor Evan Dick; Lane Ventures founder Lane Bess and his son Cameron Bess; and Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of the first US astronaut Alan Shepard."

Journey to the Dream -- Part I, Dylan Taylor

"As I wrap up Part 1 of this blog series, I want to announce a set of gifts that I would ask all other commercial astronauts to consider. I call it buy one, give one, a term I first heard coined by my friends Ami Dror and Navyn Salem. It is simple, donate to worthy causes here on Earth the equivalent of the ticket price for the spaceflight. Commercial Astronauts are predicted to spend several hundred million dollars in the next five years. The impact that cohort could have here on Earth if they all supported this initiative could be very substantial."

Journey to the Dream -- Part II, Dylan Taylor

"I strongly believe that our current focus on reaching space doesn't mitigate our focus on important causes and issues that impact life here on Earth. On the contrary, I believe our collective future in space is fully dependent on us addressing seemingly intractable problems here on Earth. Those problems require perspective and they require resources. Commercial astronauts are predicted to spend several hundred million dollars in the next five years and if they were to all help support an initiative on Earth, their impact could create significant accessible and diversified space exploration opportunities and advancement for humanity here on Earth."

Journey to the Dream -- Part III, Dylan Taylor

"With the simulator (affectionately known as the tortoise) we are able to experience a mission from start to finish, many times over. This has two primary benefits. First, we will know what to expect on launch day, not only in terms of what will happen but the order and timing of each event. And, secondly, we can practice many different scenarios for emergency response and "what-if." After my first full day of training, I can honestly say I learned more about the New Shepard launch system in one day, then I had gleaned in several years of following the program. That is how good the training and trainers are at Blue Origin."

NASA Selects Companies to Develop Commercial Destinations in Space

The total estimated award amount for all three funded Space Act Agreements is $415.6 million. The companies that received awards are:

Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, for $130 million
Nanoracks LLC, of Houston for $160 million
Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, for $125.6 million

- Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin Awarded NASA Contract to Build First-of-its-Kind Commercial Space Station
- Northrop Grumman Signs Agreement with NASA to Design Space Station for Low Earth Orbit
- NASA Selects Orbital Reef to Develop Space Station Replacement

NASA's Management of the International Space Station and Efforts to Commercialize Low Earth Orbit, NASA OIG

"... Under the Agency's current plans, both health risk mitigation and technology demonstrations will not be complete by 2030 - the expected retirement date of the ISS. Consequently, a substantial gap between the Station's retirement and the introduction of a new, commercial destination in low Earth orbit would force NASA to accept a higher level of health risk or delay start dates for long-duration, deep space human exploration missions."

"...Challenges of commercialization include limited market demand, inadequate funding, unreliable cost estimates, and still-evolving requirements. The risk of deep space human exploration missions will increase significantly if NASA is not able to conduct the required microgravity health research and technology demonstrations on a habitable space destination in low Earth orbit. Furthermore, without a destination the nascent low Earth orbit commercial space economy would likely collapse, causing cascading impacts to commercial space transportation capabilities, in-space manufacturing, and microgravity research."

Alan Shepard's daughter Laura Shepard Churchley and GMA co-anchor Michael Strahan to fly on NS-19 alongside four customers, Blue Origin

"Blue Origin today announced the crew of its upcoming NS-19 flight on December 9 will include two honorary guests and four paying customers. Guests include Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly to space. The four customers include space industry executive and philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess, and Cameron Bess. Lane and Cameron Bess will become the first parent-child pair to fly in space."

Journey to the Dream, Dylan Taylor, Voyager Space Holdings

"As I wrap up Part 1 of this blog series, "I want to announce a set of gifts that I would ask all other commercial astronauts to consider. I call it buy one, give one, a term I first heard coined by my friends Ami Dror and Navyn Salem. It is simple, donate to worthy causes here on Earth the equivalent of the ticket price for the spaceflight. Commercial Astronauts are predicted to spend several hundred million dollars in the next five years. The impact that cohort could have here on Earth if they all supported this initiative could be very substantial."

Newly Released Court Documents Obliterate Blue Origin's Lawsuit Against NASA, Futurism

The US Court of Federal Claims has released a 47 page document detailing its decision to drop Blue Origin's legal challenge against NASA -- and it's a scathing rebuttal, full of damning details. In the documents, shared by New York Times space reporter Joey Roulette on Twitter today, the court expanded on its decision. "The Court finds that Blue Origin does not have standing because it did not have a substantial chance of award but for the alleged evaluation errors," it reads. The court also found that Blue Origin's proposal "was priced well above NASA's available funding and was itself noncompliant."

NASA Statement on Artemis Lunar Lander Court Decision

"NASA was notified Thursday that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied Blue Origin's bid protest, upholding NASA's selection of SpaceX to develop and demonstrate a modern human lunar lander. NASA will resume work with SpaceX under the Option A contract as soon as possible."

How Commercial Companies Are Advancing Space Exploration, Newsy

"He says, 'I want to die on Mars, just not on impact,'" editor for Spaceref.com Keith Cowing said. "I've known Elon forever, for like 20 years. I met him when he was actually a kid and I was a lot younger with less gray hair. So, for him to do this doesn't surprise me. He's always just been as awed by this stuff as anybody else, which I think is kind of important when you're trying to do audacious things."

Exploration Production and Operations Long-Term Sustainability, NASA

"The primary goals enabling this vision include 1) moving ESD programmatic implementation to a construct in which industry owns vehicle production and the flight hardware, and leads the ground operations services, 2) production, operations, and maintenance costs at a substantial savings of 50% or more off of the current industry baseline per flight cost with a flight rate of one crewed flight and potential for at least one cargo flight per year (costs are inclusive of Orion/payload and system integration but exclusive of the Orion hardware, payload hardware, government personnel and government facility costs), and 3) a programmatic construct that is a launch service (across 2 contracts) available for additional customers, including other government agencies, international partners and commercial entities."

Keith's note: This RFI is hilarious. NASA wants people to submit ideas as to how to save "50% or more off of the current industry baseline per flight cost" when NASA itself has never said what a SLS flight costs. So ... how exactly does one submit a proposal to cut that unknown cost in half? And who would want to own this launch system for that matter since it was mandated by Congress - a rocket that took a decade longer and billions over budget to build? How predictable is its long term use when it took so long to build it in the first place? It has not even flown once.

And who is the customer? Oh, its NASA, of course, which has already shown its chronic willingness to spend vast amounts of money on this system - and bet their entire Artemis architecture on it. That means that any contractor knows going into this that they have NASA right where they want them. And if the contractor underbids or the rocket does not perform - and NASA is stuck without a ride - who will pick up the tab? Why NASA of course. This whole RFI is a fool's errand. I can't wait to see who responds.

Keith's note: This is going to be a real paradigm shift - and big (old) aerospace is not ready for it - and NASA has no idea whatsoever as to how it should respond.

New Orbital Destination Opens Up Space For Business And Travel, Creating New Ecosystem

"Blue Origin and Sierra Space today announced plans for Orbital Reef, a commercially developed, owned, and operated space station to be built in low Earth orbit. The station will open the next chapter of human space exploration and development by facilitating the growth of a vibrant ecosystem and business model for the future. Orbital Reef is backed by space industry leaders and teammates including Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions, and Arizona State University."

Mary Lynne Dittmar Testimony - Hearing: International Collaboration and Competition in Space: Oversight of NASA's Role and Programs

"Axiom is the first (and so far, the only) company to develop a new station destined for low Earth orbit (LEO) without government funds for development, launch, and operations."

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station, NASA

"On Feb. 28, 2020, NASA awarded Axiom a firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum potential value, inclusive of options, of $140 million over an up to seven-year ordering period consisting of a five-year base period and a two-year option. NASA has selected Axiom Space of Houston to provide at least one habitable commercial module to be attached to the International Space Station as the agency continues to open the station for commercial use."

Keith's note: If you read the Space Act Agreement between NASA and Axiom you will see that it states that Axiom will get the funds to actually build and launch its first module. But let's apply a simple sanity test to all of this. NASA is giving Axiom $140 million for data and other lessons learned from this effort. If the claim that $140 million from NASA to buy data from the development of this module has nothing to do with construction, would Axiom have gone ahead and built and launched the module and docked it to the ISS without the NASA money? If there is no connection whatsoever between the $140 million and the development and launch of the Axiom module - as Axiom would have you think - then the answer should be "yes", right? You then have to ask if investors would have even been interested in Axiom without the $140 million financial vote of confidence from NASA. Also, $140 million goes a long way to develop data and lessons learned, while serving to keep a brand-new company going before it has any actual product. Just saying.

As for the question of whether NASA should be priming the pump to spur commercial use of space - sure, why not. It is a good role for NASA and the commercial crew/cargo experiences show that there is clear value for all involved. As such there is no reason why NASA should not help with ISS and LEO operations either. But splitting hairs and claiming that no government assistance was given - when in fact it was - a massive amount - simply muddies the reality of what is going on - and how it is happening - and leaves people shaking their heads.

Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin Teaming to Develop Commercial Space Station, Nanoracks

"Nanoracks, in collaboration with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT], has formed a team to develop the first-ever free flying commercial space station. The space station, known as Starlab, will be a continuously crewed commercial platform, dedicated to conducting critical research, fostering industrial activity, and ensuring continued U.S. presence and leadership in low-Earth orbit. Starlab is expected to achieve initial operational capability by 2027."

George Washington Carver Science Park - The World's First Science Park in Space, Nanoracks

"Now, given the increasing maturity of the LEO ecosystem, it is time for Nanoracks to take the next step in driving LEO utilization operations. After intensive investigation and discussion with industry experts, I am delighted to announce that the Nanoracks collection of hardware on the ISS will henceforth be operated as a Science Park. A Science Park is a well-known business model that brings together companies and organizations in a shared endeavor, and I am thrilled to share our Science Park will be named for the great American agriculture scientist, Dr. George Washington Carver."

Q&A: The World's First Science Park in Space With Jeffrey Manber

"Nanoracks could not imagine a more aligned mission. The GWC Science Park will conduct operations based on our lessons learned from over a decade on the ISS, combining them with the wisdom of seasoned science park operators, to create a seamless experience for all our customers aboard the ISS. Taken together, we will begin developing the systems, procedures, and metrics to facilitate additional capital, allow a more sophisticated dialog with NASA and CASIS, and ultimately, prepare for the coming era of commercial space stations."

To Understand Low-Earth Orbit, Look to Mt. Everest

"Getting to low-Earth orbit is a lot like climbing Mt. Everest. It's not impossible, but it's difficult, expensive and risky. As experience grows, the difficulty of reaching the destination drops steadily, and the risk becomes more manageable."

"...the commercial era of Everest expedition rises with the ability of the general public to pay commercial outfitters to climb Everest at a fraction of the cost it took to climb in the 1920s."

"Ordinary people can pay commercial outfitters ot climb, making Mt. Everest more acceptable and less expensive to summit."

Keith's note: What a mess. For starters anyone who spent even a bare minimum amount of time researching this article and talking to actual climbers such as NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski, or read regular news from the Everest region might learn something than what was written.

In a nutshell they'd learn that the risk to climbers has increased as access has expanded due to crowding on the mountain; an increased number of under-skilled people putting themsleves and others at risk by trying to climb a mountain they are not capable of climbing; increased pollution at base camp and on the mountain which affects climbers and residents; and continued economic stresses on the residents of Nepal who are grossly underpaid for the risks that they take. Oh yes "ordinary people" cannot - and should not ever - be climbing a mountain like this - regardless of cost or affordability. But they do - in greater numbers - thus negating whatever point about risk reduction that the author is trying to make.

It is also rather weird that NASA would put an article online about Everest up and not mention the fact that a NASA astronaut scaled it, another NASA astronaut died trying to climb it, and that a piece of the summit of Everest has been on board the International Space Station for more than a decade.

FYI I spent a month living at Everest Base camp in 2009 supporting a person who summitted and witnessed injuries and deadly avalanches with my own eyes.

And also, FWIW I have spoken to a number of astronaut mountaineers and they will tell you that the risks involved in climbing a mountain like this are vastly more complex to deal with and the effort itself is equally more physically arduous than sitting in a rocket while it does all the work of taking you to and from space. If you are going to compare these things you need to actually compare them for what they are.

But this sort of sloppy writing seems to pass as acceptable at NASA PAO these days. If this article reflects the way NASA is actually planning its Moon and Mars exploration then there are going to be some big problems for the people who go there. To put badly written things like this online is deceptive, superficial, and not in the best interest of informing the public.



Space Billionaires On SNL

Keith's note: Sources report that the NASA Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM) has been moving all of its contracted work to MORI Associates Inc. under a contract awarded on a sole source basis via JSC under a new umbrella contract called Communications, Outreach, Multimedia, and Information Technology (COMIT). OSTEM AA Mike Kincaid has had previous experience working with MORI when he was at JSC.

This sole source contract is being awarded to MORI for all OSTEM work even though MORI was not the existing incumbent for all of this work at NASA OSTEM and NASA HQ. Meanwhile sources report that Mike Kincaid's brother Scott Kincaid, who works for Salesforce, a cloud-based Internet provider, has sat in on official NASA OSTEM meetings with NASA staff. The current plan, according to sources, is for NASA OSTEM to move its online platform work to ... Salesforce.

I have received no feedback or commentary on my reporting from Mike Kincaid or NASA PAO - so one has to assume that they do not contest any of it. Sad. NASA is the Earth's pre-eminent space agency with a vast reach oozing with softpower and inspiration - one that is truly global. As such, with an extra pot of money in the FY2022 budget request, you'd think that NASA would want to obtain the best contractor support possible to enable its education and outreach efforts. Guess again. Instead, they go for easy, unimaginative procurement solutions and grab the low-hanging fruit instead. I am rather sure this is not what Joe Biden had in mind when he coined the whole "Build Back Better" thing. Quite the contrary.

Nearly two months after discovering a problem with its Starliner spacecraft, Boeing is still searching for answers, Washington Post

"Several days after Boeing discovered the latest problem with its Starliner spacecraft, it removed the capsule from the rocket and returned it to the factory where engineers have been playing detective, trying to figure out what went wrong. But now, some two months after it first discovered an issue with some of the valves in the spacecraft's service module, the company still doesn't know with 100 percent certainty what caused 13 of those valves to remain shut when they should have been open, the latest embarrassment for a program that has suffered a series of blunders. And it's unclear when the company may attempt to launch it again."

Keith's note: Sources have told us that there is a similarity between the valves in Starliner and some of the valves in the SLS.

Keith's note: Yesterday I was on Bloomberg Radio live - twice - doing launch commentary for their morning show in Asia and was on Deutsche Welle at 9:00 pm EDT. I was CNN New Day this morning morning to talk about the mission. I cut an interview on CGTN tomorrow afternoon about China's space station crew's return to Earth and ... no doubt ... talking to someone else about space in the next few days. Update: I just did an Al Jazeera Arabic interview.


'They could be your neighbors' and they're going to space. SpaceX gets ready to fly the Inspiration4 crew., Washington Post

"But the Inspiration4 mission is of particular importance because three of the crew members are not wealthy, [Alan] Ladwig said. "They're not billionaires," he said. "They are people that could be our neighbors, people you went to school with, people you work with. And for them to get this opportunity is pretty fantastic."

- Elon Musk is dominating the space race. Jeff Bezos is trying to fight back., Washington Post
- Amazon Takes a Swipe at Musk as Satellite Feud Escalates, Bloomberg
- Elon Musk goads Jeff Bezos on Twitter as their prolonged space spat escalates, Geekwire

FAA Grounds Virgin Galactic

Keith's note: This is the news Virgin Galactic wanted to focus on today:

Virgin Galactic Announces First Commercial Research Mission

"Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. ... today announced the manifest for the next rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity from Spaceport America, which will be the first commercial, human-tended research mission for the Company. ... The Company is targeting a flight window in late September or early October 2021, pending technical checks and weather."

Instead, this is what they had to deal with today (in chronologial order):

The Red Warning Light on Richard Branson's Space Flight, New Yorker

"On July 11th, nearly a minute into the rocket trip carrying Richard Branson ... But it was veering off course, and the light was a warning to the pilots that their flight path was too shallow and the nose of the ship was insufficiently vertical. If they didn't fix it, they risked a perilous emergency landing in the desert on their descent."

Virgin Galactic Statements In Response to New Yorker Article

"Although the flight's ultimate trajectory deviated from our initial plan, it was a controlled and intentional flight path that allowed Unity 22 to successfully reach space and land safely at our Spaceport in New Mexico. At no time were passengers and crew put in any danger as a result of this change in trajectory."

FAA Statement halting Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two Flights

"Virgin Galactic may not return the SpaceShip Two vehicle to flight until the GFAA approves the final mishap investigation report or determines the issues related to the mishap do not affect public safety."

Virgin Galactic Statement In Response To FAA Halt to SpaceShip Two Flights

"At no time were passengers and crew put in any danger as a result of this change in trajectory, and at no time did the ship travel above any population centers or cause a hazard to the public. FAA representatives were present in our control room during the flight and in post-flight debriefs."

Jeff Bezos' NASA Lawsuit Is So Huge It's Crashing the DOJ Computer System

"As if NASA didn't have enough issues on their hands, the agency's computers keep crashing because the files from Blue Origin's lawsuit are too big -- resulting in a further delay to SpaceX's Human Landing System (HLS) contract. The size of Blue Origin's lawsuit (which clocks in at more than seven gigabytes worth of PDFs) is causing the Department of Justice's Adobe software to crash, according to documents obtained by space reporter Joey Roulette. The issue stems from the fact that the Acrobat can't combine "several hundred files at one time without crashing."

Starliner Returning to Factory to Resolve Valve Issue

"Today, Boeing informed NASA that the company will destack its CST-100 Starliner from the Atlas V rocket and return the spacecraft to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) for deeper-level troubleshooting of four propulsion system valves that remain closed after last Tuesday's scrubbed launch."

Keith's 1:00 pm EDT update: This just serves to confirm what I wrote earlier. Boeing and NASA have a big problem to deal with - a spacecraft that is simply not ready for prime time.

NASA, Boeing to Provide Update on Starliner's Orbital Flight Test-2

"NASA and Boeing are continuing discussions on the status of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, and will host a joint media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 13, to discuss the second uncrewed flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station, as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program."

Boeing Works to Open Starliner Valves, Determine Cause of Valve Issues

"Nine of the previously affected 13 valves are now open and functioning normally after the application of electrical and thermal techniques to prompt and command them open. Similar techniques are now being applied to the four valves that remain closed."

What in the Hell Is Going on With Boeing's Starliner?, Gizmodo

"Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee and editor of the site NASA Watch, made his opinion known yesterday in a painfully brief post: How--why--did this spacecraft--one that is supposed to eventually fly humans--ever make it to the launch pad without fully operational propulsion valves in the first place? Just wondering."

Keith's note: Boeing shipped this spacecraft to the pad with the full intention of launching it. The first time this design flew its software did not know what time it was or where the spacecraft was. Then this new, basic problem arose in a fundamental spacecraft system. Rolling back from the pad is a serious decision. Now, after a week fiddling with some equipment required for both nominal and contingency operations of this human-rated spacecraft, Boeing still has not fixed the problem.

You are likely going to hear that much more invasive work needs to be done - and that means prolonged delays in launching this vehicle. That also means that an army of Boeing and NASA safety people will parachute into this process and participate in months of work. Odds are that a launch will only happen in 2022. And even if that uncrewed mission is successful you are not likely to see a human crew on board until this time next year at the earliest. And there is an Atlas V waiting for something to do.

All of this costs Boeing money out of their pocket on top of the cost of dealing with OFT-1 remediation. Boeing only stands to get a certain amount of reimbursement from NASA for the crews that the agency will pay them to fly. Commercial missions are buying the only ride in town - SpaceX. As such a non-NASA revenue stream is simply not there for Boeing. At some point Boeing is going to have to either fix this spacecraft such that NASA and its crews wan to fly on it - or - Boeing is going to have to face the fiscal music and pull the plug on the whole misadventure. Stay tuned.

Today's media event will likely be summarized in a few sentences by most competent reporters. The rest of the event will be spent by both NASA and Boeing as they try too put a happy face on this and downplay the cold engineering reality and the potential impact on the program. And of course Kathy Lueders will say "space is hard" at some point in the briefing because that is all NASA knows how to say in these situations.

Blue Origin Federation, LLC; Dynetics, Inc.-A Leidos Company B-419783; B-419783.2; B-419783.3; B-419783.4 July 30, 2021, GAO

"Significantly higher-priced offerors submitting proposals for a demonstration mission for a human landing system for lunar exploration, under a broad agency announcement (BAA) with a preference for two awards, argue that agency was required to advise them via an amendment or discussions (or otherwise cancel the BAA altogether) once the agency learned that it had less funding than it needed to support multiple awards for the effort. We deny the protests because the BAA expressly put all offerors on notice that the number of awards was subject to available funding and the agency could make multiple contract awards, a single award, or no award at all."

Related files

NASA, Boeing Make Progress on Starliner Valve Issue

"Work progressed to restore functionality to several valves in the Starliner propulsion system that did not open as designed during the launch countdown for the Aug. 3 launch attempt. The valves connect to thrusters that enable abort and in-orbit maneuvering."

Keith's note: How - why - did this spacecraft - one that is supposed to eventually fly humans - ever make it to the launch pad without fully operational propulsion valves in the first place? Just wondering.

Keith's note: OK space fans. While the focus of this taxpayer policy advertisement is not a majority opinion, it is not an infrequently heard one either. To be certain, the organization trying to push for tax reform abducted the images and symbolism of the Branson/Bezos flights and used it for a gratuitous flyby attention grabber - because, why not? It works.

Meanwhile, outside the space bubble, out in the real world, where people are unemployed, facing disease and possibly eviction, and otherwise not experiencing the happiest, forward-looking of times, seeing ultra-rich people cavorting in space is perhaps not the best way to advertise the promise of space. I'm not suggesting that these commercial efforts stop. Rather, that people in a position to influence events and public commentary pause for a moment to think of ways to counter the negative impact of the space tourism thing with mention of space-related things of basic, commonplace societal benefit.

NASA is not going to do this since NASA has never really demonstrated that skillset. And they will never have it. Rather, its something that others should be thinking about right now. Just a thought.

This angry taxpayer ad is not the only one to borrow the space meme to make a point. There are many others. You may not go for what Big Oil is trying to put forth in their ads, but they do portray space as something hopeful. It is possible. Just sayin'

Or this ad which speaks to young people who think about space - a lot.

Oh yes, then there's this space program analogy in an op ed yesterday about preparing for the next pandemic - from the President's science advisor ...

As bad as covid-19 has been, a future pandemic could be even worse -- unless we act now, Opinion, Eric Lander, Washington Post

"These goals are ambitious, but they're feasible -- provided the work is managed with the seriousness, focus and accountability of NASA's Apollo Program, which sent humans to the moon."

Nanoracks Appoints Marshall Smith as Senior Vice President of Commercial Space Stations

"Nanoracks, a Voyager Space Holdings Company, has appointed Marshall Smith, the former Deputy Associate Administrator (DAA) for NASA's Systems Engineering and Integration (SE&I), Human Exploration and Operations (HEO), as Senior Vice President of Commercial Space Stations."

GAO Statement on Blue Origin-Dynetics Decision - Protests Denied

"On Friday, July 30, 2021, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied protests filed by Blue Origin Federation, LLC, of South Kent, Washington, and Dynetics, Inc.-A Leidos Company, of Huntsville, Alabama. The protesters challenged their non-selection for awards and the award of optional contract line item numbers to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, under Option A to Appendix H of Broad Agency Announcement (the announcement) No. NNH19ZCQ001K. Broad Agency Announcements typically provide for the acquisition of basic and applied research for new and creative research or development solutions to scientific and engineering problems. The rules for these procurements are not the same as those for standard competitive federal procurements, as agencies generally enjoy broader discretion in selecting the proposals most suitable to meeting their research and development needs when utilizing broad agency announcement procedures. The announcement was issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for a demonstration mission for a human landing system for lunar exploration."

In denying the protests, GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award. NASA's announcement provided that the number of awards the agency would make was subject to the amount of funding available for the program. In addition, the announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all. In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award. GAO further concluded there was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement as a result of the amount of funding available for the program. As a result, GAO denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.

Letter From Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos To NASA Administrator Bill Nelson: Human Landing System

"In April (prior to your confirmation as NASA administrator), only one HLS bidder, SpaceX, was offered the opportunity to revise their price and funding profile, leading to their selection. Blue Origin was not offered the same opportunity. That was a mistake, it was unusual, and it was a missed opportunity. But it is not too late to remedy. We stand ready to help NASA moderate its technical risks and solve its budgetary constraints and put the Artemis Program back on a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path. Our Appendix H HLS contract is still open and can be amended.

With that in mind and on behalf of the National Team, we formally offer the following for your consideration:

• Blue Origin will bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2B to get the program back on track right now. This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments. This offer provides time for government appropriation actions to catch up.

• Blue Origin will, at its own cost, contribute the development and launch of a pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit of the lunar descent element to further retire development and schedule risks. This pathfinder mission is offered in addition to the baseline plan of performing a precursor uncrewed landing mission prior to risking any astronauts to the Moon. This contribution to the program is above and beyond the over $1B of corporate contribution cited in our Option A proposal that funds items such as our privately developed BE-7 lunar lander engine and indefinite storage of liquid hydrogen in space. All of these contributions are in addition to the $2B waiver of payments referenced above.

• Finally, Blue Origin will accept a firm, fixed-priced contract for this work, cover any system development cost overruns, and shield NASA from partner cost escalation concerns."

Keith's note: You have to wonder who advises Jeff Bezos on his outreach, PR, and overall tone setting. More than half of the stories that have circulated (or continue to circulate) about his flight last week are not positive. Indeed some are overtly negative. So, instead of sending a private letter to Bill Nelson to make this offer, he releases this thing with the clear intent of trying to use public pressure and money (as an afterthought) to Big Foot the matter and reverse the HLS decision. Bad press about space billionaires having their way in space now mixes with space billionaires trying to change NASA decisions that they do not like. No one benefits from this.

GAO is not deterred by external pressure and they will make their decision known - possibly as early as next week. Nelson is going to have a hard time arguing with the GAO's protest ruling if they side with NASA's earlier decision - especially since the basic factor that guided the sole source decision i.e. not enough money for more than one contractor - is still in force. NASA decided to make one HLS award since they could not make a decision to spend money that they simply do not have. NASA still has no idea where they are going to get all the money to keep the program of record on track for a 2024 lunar landing - or any other landing.

Members of Congress from the affected states will pressure NASA to consider this offer. Bill Nelson did not really hide his displeasure at the down select to one vendor so he may not put up much of a fight. The GAO analysis was made without this offer from Blue Origin. Blue Origin only focuses on their side of the equation and does not take into account the things NASA will have to do to adopt their proposal. And if they accept Blue Origin's proposal then why shouldn't they just give Dynetics a second shot or, for that matter SpaceX and the other bidders and just re-do the whole procurement. Heck, Elon could throw a billion Bitcoin in ;-) If this after-the-fact proposal is now considered, then the net result will certainly be yet another delay in the process of developing a Human Landing System for Artemis. It also sends a message to big aerospace that you can reverse NASA decisions - if you offer enough money.

Besides, SpaceX may well decide to just go to the Moon anyway on their own dime.

FAA National Policy: FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program

"Purpose of This Order. This Order provides guidelines, eligibility, and criteria for the administration of the FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program."

Has NASA Lost Its Mojo?

Opinion: The billionaires' space efforts may seem tone-deaf, but they're important milestones, Miles O'Brien, Washington Post

"While NASA (and its Pasadena, Calif.-based Jet Propulsion Lab) are unmatched at unmanned space probes, the agency's record for manned missions has lagged, to say the least. For decades, NASA has acted like that guy bragging in a bar about winning a state championship 50 years ago. You may not love them, but the billionaires behind these private-sector efforts have both the resources and the impatience with government bureaucracy to put Americans back in space - where they belong."

Blue Origin Launches Four Commercial Astronauts To Space And Back (with video)

"Blue Origin successfully completed New Shepard's first human flight today with four private citizens onboard. The crew included Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen, who all officially became astronauts when they passed the Kármán Line, the internationally recognized boundary of space."

Keith's note: FYI I will be live on BBC World News starting around 9:00 am to co-anchor live coverage of today's Blue Origin flight. I will be on BBC at noon to do a recap. I will be on Al Jazeera Arabic between 2:35-2:55 pm and then on Deutsche Welle just after 3:00 pm. and then ABC News Live at 3:15 pm. Then its a limo ride into DC and CNN's Situation Room some time between 5-7 pm, a limo ride home, DW again at 7:00 pm, CGTN (US) just after 8:00 pm, CTV at 8:30 pm, and then CGTN (Beijing) at 10:00 pm. Then I crash.

No Caption Necessary

Virgin Galactic Successfully Completes First Fully Crewed Spaceflight, Virgin Galactic

"Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. today announced that VSS Unity successfully reached space, completing the Company's fourth rocket-powered spaceflight. Today's flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company's founder, Sir Richard Branson. The crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America."

Omaze and Sir Richard Branson to Make History by Sending Two People to Space Aboard A Virgin Galactic Flight, Omaze

"Today, Omaze, the charity fundraising platform that offers the chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences and prizes, and Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic Founder, announced they will give away two seats on a Virgin Galactic commercial flight. The Omaze sweepstakes will support Space for Humanity, a nonprofit seeking to democratize space and send citizen astronauts of diverse racial, economic, and disciplinary backgrounds to space."

NASA Notice of availability of inventions for licensing: Human-Powered Ventilator

"The following application filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office under the Patent Cooperation Treaty is available for licensing: NASA Case No.: MSC-26813-1-PCT, Human-Powered Ventilator. The patent rights in this invention has been assigned to the United States of America as represented by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any prospective license will comply with the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 209 and 37 CFR part 404."

Inside NASA's Pandemic Response Campaigns

"Engineers at Johnson are offering a simpler ventilator solution, primarily for use in developing countries. As the pandemic unfolded, engineers who had developed a ventilator for use on the Orion spacecraft started updating it. The device is similar to human-powered ventilator bags used in ambulances, but those are squeezed by hand, which becomes tiring quickly. Johnson's ventilator is powered by larger muscle groups in the arms or even legs. It can be used to keep a patient alive for hours, perhaps while waiting for a bed to open up, said Kris Romig, technology transfer officer at Johnson."

Keith's note: Why isn't NASA talking about this? This is rather cool. It is 3-D printed, was designed for space but adapted for use on Earth. And it can be used in a wide array of locations including those with little or no resources - by the people who live there. Not only does it demonstrate the value of space technology's earthly applications it is also a source of potential soft power for NASA.

Imagine a remote village where this thing shows up with a NASA logo on the box - and their first interaction with America is via its space program. But wait: not so fast. NASA requires that you apply for a license to use this. Life saving inventions like this - developed at American taxpayer's expense - should be provided to anyone, anywhere with no constraints - especially as a global pandemic continues to rage in the places where people are often least capable of responding.

Oddly this release came out the other day - why is it that NASA requires a licensing process for the human powered respirator - which costs money and time to navigate - when the device could be saving lives as soon as someone uses a 3D printer to make it? Why doesn't NASA waive the patent rights as they have with all these other things and post the 3D printer file on GitHub or wherever they post the free stuff they share? I'd ask NASA PAO but they no longer answer questions. According to the Spinoff 2021 document (pages 67-68) there is some sort of effort to make it more widely available - but why go through this complicated process when you can simply post the file now?

NASA Software Benefits Earth, Available for Business, Public Use

Many of NASA's computational innovations were developed to help explore space, but the public can download them for applications that benefit us right here on Earth. The agency's latest software catalog has hundreds of popular programs, as well as more than 180 new ones, all available for free download. "From operations here on Earth to missions to the Moon and Mars, software is integral to all that NASA does," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "The good news is this technology is available to the public for free. The software suited for satellites, astronauts, engineers, and scientists as it is applied and adapted across industries and businesses is a testament to the extensive value NASA brings to the United States - and the world."

Keith's note: This tweet was posted around 1:00 pm EDT on 23 June. The launch is scheduled for the next day barely 19 hours away. NASA Wallops PAO never sent out a media advisory or a press release. I know this to be a fact since Keith Koehler at Wallops PAO recently confirmed that I am on the Wallops media list - so of course he'd have sent me one if there was one to send, right? Note that the tweet has a link to a youtube webcast - but no mention of anything at the Wallops website describing what the mission is about.

But if you go to the Wallops website - surprise surprise - there is a posting from 17 June 2021 - more than a week ago. Student Experiments to Blast Off from NASA Wallops. Ah, a student experiment. Does the NASA STEM Engagement office website or its Twitter account @NASASTEM mention this launch? No. NASA.gov has a Launches and Landings webpage devoted to upcoming agency launches. Does it mention this launch? No. NASA Wallops is managed by NASA Goddard. Doe you see any mention of these launches - managed by Goddard - mentioned by Goddard? No. NASA Langley is NASA's sister center in Virginia. No mention there either. But this is not surprising since all NASA field centers act as if they are the only NASA field center and rarely mention any other center (or NASA HQ for that matter).

GAO: Weapon Systems Annual Assessment Updated Program Oversight Approach Needed - Excerpt: National Security Space Launch (NSSL)

Keith's note: The ULA Vulcan program has contracted with Blue Origin to provide its BE-4 rocket engine. This BE-4 engine is not referred to by name in this report, but it is what is referred to in this report.

"A U.S. produced rocket engine under development for ULA's Vulcan launch vehicle is experiencing technical challenges related to the igniter and booster capabilities required and may not be qualified in time to support first launches beginning in 2021.
A joint program office and ULA team is tracking these challenges, and NSSL officials told us Vulcan remains on track to support first launches and certification in 2021. However, if ULA cannot complete engine qualification before the 2021 flight certification, the program might continue to rely on ULA's Atlas V--which uses engines manufactured in the Russian Federation--to support ULA's 2022 launches, despite a nearly $2.9 billion investment in new launch system development. SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles are certified to conduct national security launches. The Falcon Heavy is undergoing some modifications to fully meet launch requirements and is on track to support its first mission in May 2021."

SpaceX Launches Military Satellite on Reused Rocket, Bloomberg (Video)

"Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carries a U.S. Space Force satellite into orbit from its liftoff in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Bloomberg's Ed Ludlow and NASA expert Keith Cowing join "Balance of Power."

Keith's note: According to this posting on the NASA.gov website: NASA Seeks Proposals for Next 2 Private Astronaut Missions to Space Station which says "NASA is seeking proposals for two new private astronaut missions to the International Space Station as part of the agency's efforts to open space to more people than ever before. With these opportunities, U.S. commercial companies will continue to play an essential role in establishing a sustained presence in low-Earth orbit (LEO) through the agency's Commercial LEO Development Program."

A like to this was posted at NASA.gov. @NASA tweeted a link - once - around 1:00 pm on Friday 11 June. But nothing was sent out to the media press release email list or through the usual press release distribution channels. Friday afternoons are a great time to bury news - and it also means that some print publications have already decided on their edition for the following week. There is no mention of this at these official NASA pages where you'd expect commercial space station news like this would be posted: International Space Station, Commercial Space Economy, Commercial Crew Program. There is no mention at the CASIS/ISS National Laboratory website either - despite the fact that this opportunity involves work within the ISS National Lab. Oh yes: the International Space Station page still has no mention of the ISS National Laboratory or a link to it - so the ISS Program Office still ignores CASIS/ISS National Lab whenever possible.

A link to Research Opportunities for International Space Station Utilization NNJ13ZBG001N is on this NASA page, but no email from NSPIRES was sent out - which is odd since they send out emails about every other imaginable procurement and NASA opportunity. But if you try and click on "NNJ13ZBG001N" on the page you are sent to - well, there is no link to this thing that NASA just announced. But there are links to these old documents "Research Opportunities for ISS Utilization" and "ISS Commercial Activities Form" and an amendment that says "This amendment provides significant clarification updates for Focus Area 4A for Private Astronaut Mission (PAM) Provider and adds Focus Area 4A.1 for Solicitation for PAM Provider for Two Flight Opportunities." which is a modified version of "Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements"- which is apparently the thing NASA is announcing. So why doesn't NASA just have a simple link to this document instead of making you jump around, go down a rabbit hole. and guess that this is what they are talking about?

NASA has built up an elaborate Internet presence - one that can reach millions of people and the news media. Yet they simply decide to not bother using it. Nor can they make the actual information easy to find. Either this announcement is just not important or NASA cannot get its internal public relations act together. Hard to tell.

BTW Glavkosmos is now selling seats for flights to the ISS too.

Keith's note: I will be on CNN Friday morning around 6:30 am EDT talking about billionaires flying in their own rocket ships.

Keith's note: 2 weeks ago there was a posting on NASAWatch complaining about how badly NASA's Office of Small Business Programs website and social media usage were. This is how the website used to look just a few weeks ago. If you go to https://osbp.nasa.gov you are redirected to https://www.nasa.gov/osbp and a brand new website. What a coincidence. Alas, despite the spiffy new look, the NASA OSBP website still does not mention this "matchmaking" event being held tomorrow that its Twitter account @NASA_OSBP just tweeted about - one that is being held in Blue Origin's and Boeing's back yard.

Rogozin told on what conditions the United States handed over Sea Launch to Russia, RIA Novosti (auto translation)

"The United States agreed to transfer Russian space rocket complex "Sea Launch" under the condition that it will not compete with the US company SpaceX Elon Musk , said General Director of " Roscosmos " Dmitry Rogozin. "Specific strict restrictions were introduced when signing this contract for the transfer of two Sea Launch vessels to a Russian company (S7 - ed.) - an obligation that we do not have the right to use this Sea Launch in competition with Elon Musk," he said during parliamentary hearings in the State Duma. "Okay? That is, the US government, government lawyers act as a client of, in fact, a private company (SpaceX - ed.). Or maybe it is not a private company in this case, if with the help of state sanctions we are limited to compete with SpaceX?" "- added Rogozin."

Russia's space chief threatens to leave International Space Station program unless U.S. lifts sanctions

"Russia's space chief threatened Monday to withdraw from the International Space Station program if U.S. sanctions against Moscow's space entities are "not lifted in the near future." "If the sanctions against Progress and TsNIIMash remain and are not lifted in the near future, the issue of Russia's withdrawal from the ISS will be the responsibility of the American partners," Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said during a Russian parliament hearing on Monday, according to an NBC translation. "Either we work together, in which case the sanctions are lifted immediately, or we will not work together and we will deploy our own station," he added."

Roscosmos unable to launch some satellites due to sanctions -- Rogozin, TASS

"Russian space corporation Roscosmos will be unable to launch some satellites due to the lack of microchips that cannot be imported due to sanctions. "We have more than enough rockets, but there is nothing to put in space," Rogozin told the State Duma during hearings on Western sanctions and measures being taken to minimize their effects on the Russian economy and politics."

Issuance of a new Ukraine-related Executive Order; Ukraine-related Designations, U.S. Department of the Treasury

"ROGOZIN, Dmitry Olegovich (a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitriy; a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitry); DOB 21 Dec 1963; POB Moscow, Russia; Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (individual) [UKRAINE2]."

- Can Sanctioned Roscosmos Chief Rogozin Visit The U.S.?, earlier post

Keith's update: It took them a while but @NASA_Technology tweeted a link - a day after the procurement notice was issued. But there is still no mention of this NIAC opportunity on the NASA Technology Directorate or NIAC websites.

The rivalry between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos already was intense. Now it's extending to the moon., Washington Post

"In a flier distributed on Capitol Hill last week, Elon Musk's SpaceX warned that legislation now being considered would reward "Jeff Bezos with a $10 billion sole-source hand-out" that would tie up NASA's moon plans and hand "space leadership to China." Bezos's Blue Origin space company countered quickly and forcefully. "Lie." "Lie." "Lie," it said of each of the allegations in SpaceX's paper, adding: "What is Elon Musk afraid of ... a little competition?" (Bezos owns The Washington Post.) The dueling documents are the latest point of tension in a long-simmering rivalry between two of the world's wealthiest men, billionaire "space barons" who have sparred on and off for years in their quest to privatize human space exploration. Musk and Bezos have fought over a launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center, battled over a patent related to landing rockets and argued over which of them actually pulled off that feat first."

Keith's note: Well worth reading. Stop and think about this for a moment, space commerce fans: Two billionaires who take turns being the richest person on Earth - are spending billions from a seemingly inexhaustible pot of money - to develop their own space infrastructures that eclipses - much of which NASA is incapable of doing. And now they are spending time and money squabbling about doing things in space with each one (and other billionaires too) trying to out-compete the other by doing even more in space - usually with their own money.

In a nutshell: space is now something that is worth the effort of the world's business leaders to use their finite work hours to trash talk about. Space is now much more important than it was a decade ago. The last time this sort of clash of the titans happened we ended up with vast train and airline systems, global communications networks, transnational manufacturing trade, etc. Just think of what lies ahead.

Rep. Cartwright Holding Artemis Supplier and NEPA Small Business Industry Day with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson Monday, May 24

"The event will focus on opportunities for small business contracting to support space exploration technology research and NASA's Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024. An informational session will take place from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. ET, and matchmaking breakout sessions will be held from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. ET."

Keith's note: Where do I start?

1."first woman and the next man" is Trump lingo. "first woman and the first person of color" is Biden lingo. Gotta keep your memes and tag lines current, NASA. Just sayin'

2. Landing on the Moon "by 2024". Really? Who writes this stuff?

3. While the NASA OSBP Twitter account mentions this, if you go to the NASA Office of Small Business Programs website there is absolutely no mention of this event even though the NASA OSBP guy's smiling face is all over the graphic that came with this press release. (Update: they added something to their website late in the day).

4. This is a big deal for Pennsylvania, the Vice President's home state. So you'd think that the folks there would be psyched and all keyed up to support - or at least mention - this event. Nope. There is no mention at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce or at Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, etc.

5. There is mention of this event at @NASA, @NASAArtemis, @NASA_SLS, or @NASA_Orion on Twitter, or on the NASA.gov calendar, NASA TV schedule, NASA Artemis website, NASA commercial space website,

As you can see below NASA's Small Business team is not exactly up to date on the things that they are supposed to be up to date on. If they can't bother to be current with the important stuff then why should people take them seriously?

- That NASA SLS Small Business Report Is Out Of Date, earlier post
- SLS Spurred The Private Sector By Being A Bad Example, earlier post
- Yet Another Stealth NASA New Business Event, earlier post
- Another NASA Business Event Few Will Ever Hear About, earlier post
- JSC Is Not Very Excited About NASA's Economic Impact on Texas (Update), earlier post
- NASA Centers Can't Be Bothered To Mention The Economic Report, earlier post
- NASA Orion Buying Spree Makes Texas Happy Again, earlier post

Blue Origin's loss to SpaceX on the lunar lander contract may get Congress to do something it hadn't done before: Give NASA extra money, Washington Post

"Along with Dynetics, the defense contractor that also lost out on the contract, Blue Origin protested NASA's decision, saying the space agency "executed a flawed acquisition." It also took to Capitol Hill, lobbying its allies in Congress to force NASA to come up with the additional money and make a second award. On Wednesday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) of Washington state, where Blue Origin is headquartered, came through, introducing legislation that calls for NASA to do just that. The legislation, which passed as an amendment to another bill, would authorize but not appropriate an additional $10 billion to the Artemis program through fiscal 2026. It also calls for NASA to pick a second winner for the contract."

Senate committee approves 2021 NASA Authorization, requires second HLS system, Space Policy Online

"This new NASA authorization bill would require NASA to fund HLS design, development, testing and evaluation "for not fewer than 2 entities" and gives the agency just 30 days after the bill is enacted into law to do it. How NASA could implement that in such a short time is a mystery. It went through a source selection process and chose a winner with documentation as to why. That decision is under protest at GAO, which must make a ruling by August 4. GAO can uphold the award or require NASA to change its decision. Either way, how an additional layer of congressionally-directed procurement action would affect that process is murky and could hang like a Damoclean sword over HLS, delaying its development and the timeline for putting astronauts back on the Moon. HLS is necessary for ferrying crews between lunar orbit and the surface."

NASA, Axiom Space to Host Media Briefing on Private Astronaut Mission, NASA

"NASA and Axiom Space have signed a mission order for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station and will host a teleconference with media at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 10, to discuss more details about the mission."

Keith's note: Over the past several months NASA HEOMD PAO has repeatedly denied me access to ISS-related media events. In one case JSC and HQ PAO staff overtly lied to me. I am rather certain that neither PAO or Axiom really want me to be allowed to ask a question, so its not really worth the bother of trying to participate these days and I may just listen in instead. Here are some questions that come to mind however.

1. (Specifically) what NASA services will this Axiom Space mission use and how much are they paying NASA for them i.e. to what extent is NASA underwriting this mission or is Axiom Space playing the full (actual, real, non-discounted) cost of the services that NASA will provide? In other words will NASA use any appropriated funds to cover expenses incurred by NASA specifically due to the uniques aspects of this mission that the agency will not be reimbursed for by Axiom Space?

2. Is there any connection, overlap, or synergy between this privately funded Axiom Space mission and the $140 million that NASA is paying Axiom to do its commercial space station add-on work? That is, is anything that Axiom Space is doing with NASA funding going to support this mission, and if so, how much NASA funding is being spent to support this mission?

3. Is there any connection between the Axiom Space purchase of a flight from SpaceX and resale to the commercial passengers and Axiom Space's participation in the sale and swapping of commercial and Soyuz seats with NASA? If so how much NASA funding is involved and to whom is it being paid?

4. What ongoing NASA or other space agency activities on the ISS will have to be rescheduled to accommodate this Axiom Space mission and will Axiom Space be required to reimburse NASA or other agencies for these extra costs? If there is reimbursement involved how much will Axiom Space be paying and to whom?

5. Is the Dragon spacecraft new or used? Was the spacecraft being used for this mission specially built for Axiom Space or is it one built for use by NASA customers? Will any NASA crew missions to the ISS be affected by the addition of this Axiom Space flight? If so, how much work was required by NASA to readjust their schedule, how much did that additional effort cost, and how much of that additional effort was Axiom Space required to reimburse NASA for?

I might think of a few others. Feel free to post some suggestions in the comments section.

Sound On: FB Trump Ban, GOP Division, SpaceX (Podcast), Bloomberg

"Host Jack Fitzpatrick spoke to Boyd Matheson, former Chief of Staff for Senator Mike Lee, and Keith Cowing, astrobiologist and editor of the blog SpaceRef."

Keith's note: This aired on Wednesday. My piece starts at 25:30

Keith's note:
As you may recall NASA selected the SpaceX Starship-based proposal for the Human Landing System (HLS). Although work at SpaceX on HLS is on pause pending the Blue Origin/Dynetics protest evaluation, this test of SN15 should be considered as a test of NASA's HLS. Let's see if NASA bothers to make mention of this successful test. Or not.

Keith's note: This interview will air on the BBC World Service program "World Business Report" which is distributed on air and online - globally - to a weekly audience of ~ 300 million. It will air in the coming days.

Blue Origin Filed Protest With GAO Over NASA's HLS Option A decision, Blue Origin

"Today, Blue Origin filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding NASA's HLS Option A decision. Attached is a redacted copy of the protest. Additionally, here is a statement from Blue Origin: "NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Landing System program and moved the goalposts at the last minute. In NASA's own words, it has made a 'high risk' selection. Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America's return to the Moon. Because of that, we've filed a protest with the GAO."

Redacted copy of Blue Origin's formal protest, 175 pages, PDF

Keith's note: They say this, which has some inherent logic:

"NASA's selection of only a single provider based on the Source Selection Statement claim that "NASA's current fiscal year budget did not support even a single Option A award" is inconsistent with NASA's documented acquisition strategy and public statements. Additionally, with only a single HLS provider, NASA risks the Nation's return to the Moon entirely on SpaceX's ability to deliver its proposed solution - Starship and the new Super Heavy booster - despite the "immense complexity" and "high risk" NASA itself documented in the source selection rationale."

But then 2 inches away on the same page they say this - which is simply a reflection of how Big Aerospace sees the world i.e. everyone needs to piece of the pie - even if it is more expensive - and requires funds that NASA simply does not have:

"This single award endangers domestic supply chains for space and negatively impacts jobs across the country, by placing NASA space exploration in the hands of one vertically integrated enterprise that manufactures virtually all its own components and obviates a broad-based nationwide supplier network. Such supplier consolidation cuts most of the space industrial base out of NASA exploration, impacting national security, jobs, the economy, and NASA's own future options. Exacerbating this situation is the fact that SpaceX's Starship uses the Super Heavy booster. Starship is incompatible with other U.S. commercial launch vehicles, further restricting NASA's alternatives and entrenching SpaceX's monopolistic control of NASA deep space exploration."

Source Selection Statement, NASA

"My selection determination with regard to Blue Origin's proposal is based upon the results of its evaluation considered in light of the Agency's currently available and anticipated future funding for the HLS Program. Blue Origin's proposal has merit and is largely in alignment with the technical and management objectives set forth in the solicitation. Nonetheless, I am not selecting Blue Origin for an Option A contract award because I find that its proposal does not present sufficient value to the Government when analyzed pursuant to the solicitation's evaluation criteria and methodology."

Coalition for Deep Space Comment As NASA Continues Path to Return to Moon

"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) applauds NASA for awarding a Human Landing System (HLS) contract for the Artemis program. Along with the Space Launch System, the Orion spacecraft, Exploration Ground Systems, and the Gateway, the HLS is a critical component for enabling the return of astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo era."

Keith's note: If you read this Coalition for Deep Space Exploration statement carefully you will see that while they "applaud NASA" on the HLS contract thing they are so small that can't even mention or congratulate SpaceX. SpaceX is not a member of the Coalition but all of the Big Aerospace companies who lost out on this contract are members.

Sierra Nevada Memo Announcing New Company "Sierra Space"

"To achieve this growth and even greater impact more quickly, today we are announcing our space business area will transition to become an independent, commercial space company - Sierra Space. Our teams and technologies are uniquely positioned to realize this significant current market opportunity to build the new space economy. Sierra Space will remain part of the SNC family as a subsidiary and continue deep cooperation and synergy across customers, technologies, and many shared activities."

IMEC and Cook County Partner with NASA to Bring New Business Opportunity Event to Manufacturers

"Cook County Board President Preckwinkle, the Chicago Metro Metal Consortium (CMMC), and IMEC will host a 3-Day virtual event with NASA and its prime contractors to bring new business opportunities to manufacturers in Cook County and throughout Illinois. In 2020, NASA's prime contractors received over $2B in contract funding to support the Marshall Space Flight Center's ongoing development of NASA's Space Launch System and its proposals to create complementary systems."

Keith's note: If you look at what the Biden Administration is saying about business and infrastructure they have a page focused on Illinois. They have one for every state. They are looking to reinvigorate a broad range of activities in America - not just infrastructure but also basic aspects of business.

You'd think that someone at NASA HQ would be reading the policy memos from the White House as to what is important and worth promoting a visible way. This event sounds like it is resonating with all of these new White House efforts. You'd think that NASA would want everyone to know about this - and show the White House that they are on board with all of there initiatives - not just in Illinois - but as an example of NASA-related events that could be conducted across America. Guess again.

There is no mention of this event or associated activity at the NASA MSFC home page or on its Doing Business page. No mention at NASA.gov. No mention at the NASA Office of Small Business Programs, or the NASA SLS home page, or at the NASA Commercial Space page.

As you can see below this is not the first time that NASA has bungled the outreach for the true economic impact of what it does.

- That NASA SLS Small Business Report Is Out Of Date, earlier post
- Another NASA Business Event Few Will Ever Hear About, earlier post
- JSC Is Not Very Excited About NASA's Economic Impact on Texas (Update), earlier post
- SLS Spurred The Private Sector By Being A Bad Example, earlier post
- NASA Centers Can't Be Bothered To Mention The Economic Report, earlier post
- Lockheed Martin's Bad Orion Marketing Hype, earlier post
- NASA: A Texas Institution with a Large Economic Impact, earlier post
- NASA Orion Buying Spree Makes Texas Happy Again, earlier post



Keith's note: You may have seen some stories, tweets, and LinkedIn comments about Space Hero and their TV program that will send someone to the ISS. Stephen Colbert mentioned it on TV. They openly claim that NASA is a "partner" on their website. Well, I specifically asked NASA HQ Public Affairs about the overt statement at https://www.spacehero.org that NASA is a "partner" with Space Hero. NASA replied and declined to confirm that an agreement is in place between NASA and Space Hero - or that they are a "partner" - saying instead:

"You asked about Stephen Colbert's comments on the Space Hero release. For us, we're still working out the final details and agreements on the Private Astronaut Missions. We believe it opens the door to interesting opportunities for private industry and we look forward to seeing the final proposals that could lead to programs like a Space Hero. We know companies will be out there talking about their shows and once we have final agreements in place we will be able to talk more about NASA's participation."

Keith's update: But wait: there's more - and "its complicated".

My response to NASA PAO's original comment: "So the answer is that there is no agreement in place between NASA and Space Hero at the present time and that NASA is not officially a partner with Space Hero as is overtly stated on the Space Hero website - Yes?"

Answer: "It's not that simple. The agreement is in phases. There is an initial agreement in place, but there are other steps that need to be completed. We working toward a final agreement that makes it possible."

I am still waiting to find out if NASA is actually "partner" as is stated on the Space Hero website. NASA's lawyers get very finicky about people claiming that NASA is a "partner" and the use of the agency's logo to imply a formal relationship. Stay tuned.

Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX - Book Review

"This retro future we are now witnessing is happening in many companies in many countries. But it can be traced back to one company - and one person: SpaceX, the brainchild of Elon Musk. With the notion of reusing rockets now accepted fact due to the Falcon 9, Musk is now building shiny stainless steel rockets in the middle of nowhere in Texas and blowing them up on a regular basis. And as soon as he can he plans to send people around the Moon and then to the surface of Mars. And when he does it will be in shiny aerodynamically-shaped spaceships from more than half a century ago.

The story of SpaceX - utterly synonymous with the story of Elon Musk - is the subject of Eric Berger's marvelous book "Liftoff". In a nutshell this book is a day-to-day diary of frequent near death corporate experiences, world-class MacGyvering, and engineers propelled by one part caffeine, one part RP-1, and one part dreams. This is all mixed in with in-your-face political jockeying, and a child-like drive on the part of Musk who read far too much science fiction as a kid and has the means to make it become reality. So he does."

Keith's note: With mounting focus on whether the SLS/Orion Artemis program's delays and cost overruns will continue and how they might be dealt with, one would think that NASA would want to have all of the supportive information it has generated to be accurate so as to best make the case. Given that a lot of money is being thrown around for COVID recovery - and more talk of lots of infrastructure investments is in the wind - there is even more to support having the best information - information that is consistent across the agency - as these things are discussed. You'd also want to have the agency's website configure das as to make those supportive things easy to find. But NASA doesn't do that whole consistency and access thing very well.

You'd also expect that the big aerospace companies who stand to make huge profits - no matter how delayed the Artemis program is - and their external support groups like Aerospace Industries Association, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, and the Space Foundation, would want to see accurate agency numbers and supporting information on the impact of this spending that they can cite so as to be on the same page as NASA.

On 5 May 2016 I noticed a tweet from the NASA Office of Small Business Programs that "Over 800 #smallbusinesses are contributing to the development of the Space Launch System". So I enquired and eventually got more detail about a repeort that they had just issued: "Space Launch System: A Case For Small Business".

If you go to "Space Launch System: A Case For Small Business" you will see that it was published 5 years ago - in 2016 - based on FY 2015 budgets and plans when Charlie Bolden was Administrator. No one has since bothered to update it for the Artemis program changes made during the Trump Administration including the new contracts that were awarded. Also missed are the changes due to cost overruns and program delays. So the numbers are all out of date. The report refers to "Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) scheduled for launch in 2018" on page 10 and refers to "Orbital ATK" which became part of Northrop Grumman several years ago.

Keith's note: One would think that the NASA Office of Small Business Programs website would be super happy about this news. Guess again.They make no mention whatsoever of this news. In fact this website does not even have an obvious link to SBIR or STTR information - the "small business" efforts mentioned in the news. Unless you know to click under "business development and technology" (instead of the more logical "small business programs") which this link that eventually refers you to "news". This does not speak well to the seriousness with which NASA pays attention to small business. More to follow on that.

Russian Film Plans Mean NASA Astronaut Could Spend an Entire Year in Space, Gizmodo

"Russian director Klim Shipenko and an actress to be named later might join the Soyuz MS-19 mission, which is scheduled for launch in October, as AP reports. .. Once filming activities are done, Shipenko and his partner, along with Novitskiy, would return home on MS-18, likely within a week. The two seats were meant for Vande Hei and Dubrov, which means the pair might have to stay on the ISS until the next return trip home, likely in the spring of 2022."

Keith's note: So ... NASA no longer has an arrangement with Russia to buy Soyuz seats. As such they have to use Axiom Space (who has some sort of undisclosed deal with Roscosmos to own/control a Soyuz seat) that they can swap for a seat on a Boeing or SpaceX flight (another TBD deal) - all for the purpose of assuring a U.S. presence on the ISS. But wait: the return seat is not guaranteed and the American flying in the Axiom Space Soyuz seat may have to stay on the ISS for a year?

I thought the whole idea behind the commercial crew thing was that SpaceX and Boeing were going to be flying to/from ISS on a regular basis and do so in a fashion that assured U.S. access - in both directions? So why is it that an American can't get a ride home when they are supposed to? This sounds like American astronauts are now flying on standby tickets. I'd ask NASA PAO - but they never answer these sort of questions.

Who negotiated this mess?

- Congress Inquires About NASA/Russia - Soyuz Deals, earlier post
- Is NASA Running A Soyuz Seat Swap Scheme?, earlier post
- NASA Wants To Buy Russian While The White House Says Buy American, earlier post

Artemis will accelerate the commercial space sector , Space News

"As the first flight of Artemis moves ever closer from Kennedy Space Center, critics continue to raise questions around the cost of the U.S. return to the moon by pointing to private sector alternatives as more expeditious and less resource intensive. Somehow lost in this critique is that the private sector is, in fact, the workforce behind all of NASA's design and manufacturing of launch vehicles and crew modules. That was true in the 1960s for Apollo and remains true today for Artemis."

Keith's note: This op ed by Christian Zur, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is one of those industry apologist word salads that includes history, buzz words, and rabbit holes that have nothing to do with the intended topic and distracts from the point he is trying to make.

He starts with fallacies such as "After all, since the retirement of the Saturn V rocket, no nation nor company had even built a vehicle capable of delivering astronauts back to cislunar orbit. Until the Space Launch System, that is." Um ... Falcon Heavy can do that easily. It has already flown. SLS has not.

Zur then goes on to somehow equate a large NASA workforce, some World War II contracts and some other government programs that sparked the semi-conductor industry. OK, so space stuff drives innovation. Guess what: he is right: and the innovation now resides mostly in the private sector when launch services that rival NASA's can be bought - off the shelf - now - for vastly cheaper than what has been sunk into SLS - or what the per-use cost of each mission on SLS would be.

Artemis did indeed accelerate activity in the private sector by offering private sector a role. SLS also accelerated the capability of the private sector - but it did so by providing a wonderful example of what not to do ever again - starting with the building of a government-designed mega-rocket that is too expensive to operate - and then making it the choke point in a human exploration program that has chronic whiplash from 2 decades switching back and forth from one destination to another.

SLS is not the inovation we got from NASA rocket science investments. Falcon rockets are.

- George Abbey: Time To Reconsider The Need For SLS, earlier post

NASA Signs Contract to Fly a NASA Astronaut on April Soyuz Rotation to the International Space Station

"To ensure continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station, NASA has signed a contract with a U.S. commercial company Axiom Space of Houston to fly a NASA astronaut on an upcoming Soyuz rotation on Soyuz MS-18, scheduled to launch April 9. In exchange, NASA will provide a seat on a future U.S. commercial spacecraft, expected to launch in 2023, as part of a space station crew rotation mission. The "seat" on each flight includes transportation to and from the International Space Station and comprehensive mission support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing and crew rescue services.

Because the services are determined to be of comparable value to both parties, the contract contains no exchange of funds.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will launch aboard the Soyuz for a full expedition aboard the International Space Station. NASA will continue to work with Axiom to fly a non-NASA astronaut Axiom designates on a U.S. commercial spacecraft."

Keith's note: For starters Axiom Space does not have the ability to launch anything into space. They have to procure those services elsewhere. In this case Axiom clearly has some sort of deal with Roscosmos - one that Roscomos likes. Otherwise NASA would deal directly with Roscosmos as they have been for decades, right? So, assuming that the Russians are not stupid, is Axiom getting a special discount from Roscosmos as a marketing fee in exchange for selling a seat to NASA? Apparently so since they are certainly not doing this for free (they are in "business", yes?). So, why can't NASA get the same discount - without needing to use Axiom as a middleman?

Congress noticed the third party aspect of this: "Given the information and testimony listed above, it appears that NASA may be seeking to procure a Russian Soyuz seat from a third-party, on a noexchange-of-funds-basis, and that a formal agreement between NASA and Russia for seat exchanges may not be in place."

NASA Updates Pricing Policy to Full Value for Commercial Activities on Space Station

"In June 2019, NASA first released its commercial marketing pricing policy to establish subsidized pricing to stimulate and enable the use of resources on the space station. NASA anticipated revisiting the pricing policy periodically and adjusting prices as market forces dictated in response to interest, market growth, and competition (reference NID 8600.121). The pricing policy from June 2019 did not reflect full reimbursement for the value of NASA resources; it was intended to stimulate the market and was planned to be adjusted. Based on discussions with stakeholders, the current market growth, and in anticipation of future commercial entities capable of providing similar services, the agency has updated the Commercial Use Activities pricing policy effective immediately."

Keith's note: NASA has done a stealth increase on the cost of making commercial use of the ISS. This is what it cost on 13 July 2019. And this is what it costs now.

ISS expedition crew member time used to cost $17,500/hr. Now it costs $130,000/hr. Upmass (passive cargo) used to cost $3,000/Kg - now it costs $20,000/kg. The earlier rate chart included fees for private astronaut missions which cost $11,250 per day for life suport/toilet and crew suplies (and food) at $22,500 per person per day. The basic cost (without internet or power) was $33,750/day per person. NASA has yet to post a revised rate chart for private visitors but since everything else has increased by a factor of approximately 7, that daily cost will probably increase to around $236,250 per day.

- NASA Announces A Space Station Pricing Plan, earlier post
- OIG Announces Review Of NASA's LEO Commercialization Activities, earlier post
- SpaceX Announces First Wholly Civilian Crewed Space Mission, earlier post
- ISS Commercialization Is Here: Reality Shows and Perfume Ads, earlier post
- Trying To Figure Out The Axiom Team's NASA Agreements (Updated), earlier post
- Expanding The ISS For Customers That No One Can Identify, earlier post

Scrap the Space Launch System, Bloomberg

"Perhaps predictably, the program has been plagued with problems from the start. A report last year from NASA's inspector general warned of "rising costs and delays," "shortcomings in quality control," "challenges with program management," "technical issues," "development issues," "infrastructure issues," "performance issues" and more. A watchdog report in December found "uncertain plans, unproven cost assumptions, and limited oversight."

Bloomberg Assails NASA Space Launch System With Misconceptions And Faulty Logic, Forbes

"The editorial board at Bloomberg News launched a nonsensical attack on NASA's human spaceflight program last week. It was full of dubious assertions about alternatives to the Space Launch System, the first deep-space rocket NASA has built for human transport since Saturn V lofted Apollo missions to the Moon half a century ago. I don't normally call attention to arguments that I think are wrong, but since Bloomberg's screed was explicitly aimed at the Biden administration, I thought it might be useful to rebut some of the questionable claims advanced by the editorial board."

Keith's note: Forbes is pretty desperate for "news" comment when they print these blatantly biased columns about aerospace companies by Loren Thompson whose think tank employer is funded by the very same companies who get zillions of dollars from NASA to build the SLS. Despite his claim that he's responding to someone else's inaccuracies, what he actually wrote is a collision of contradictory nonsense, self-licking ice cream cones, and recycled Big Aerospace lobbying points.

This is my favorite, by far: "The editorial board complains that SLS is "years behind schedule." If it had bothered to look, it would have realized that every major launch vehicle developed by NASA and by private industry ends up running years behind schedule." So in other words, its OK for NASA to propose schedules and then let the companies walk all over them and stick out their hands to say 'more money please' since everyone overruns. Who needs schedules or budgets, right? It is just taxpayer money anyway.

To be honest though. I'm not sure the Biden folks are giving either of these op eds a whole lot of attention since they are two sides of the same problem.

Letter From House Science Committee Republicans To NASA On Soyuz Flights

"NASA's recent solicitation for "International Space Station Seat Exchange," indicated that "NASA has no remaining crew seats on Soyuz." At the January 2018 Committee hearing, the NASA witness testified that "[t]he manufacturing time of a Soyuz of approximately 3 years will not allow additional Soyuz to be manufactured." Given the information and testimony listed above, it appears that NASA may be seeking to procure a Russian Soyuz seat from a third-party, on a noexchange-of-funds-basis, and that a formal agreement between NASA and Russia for seat exchanges may not be in place. In order for the Committee to better understand what NASA intends to use the aforementioned solicitation to procure, and more specifically, how it intends to procure those services, please facilitate a bipartisan briefing for Committee staff. If you have any questions related to this request, please contact Mr. Tom Hammond with the minority Committee staff."

NASA Wants To Buy Russian While The White House Says Buy American (Update), earlier post

"So ... why is it that NASA is buying a seat from Roscosmos via a third party? Axiom Space has to be making some money off of this, right? So why go through Axiom Space and pay them a fee when NASA can just go directly to Roscosmos - minus the Axiom Space reselling path - as NASA has done for decades? Wouldn't that be cheaper? Does this involve the $140 million deal that Axiom Space has with NASA to study their commercial space station module? Or ... does the use of Axiom Space (an American company) as a middle man provide a way to technically "buy American"?"

Keith's note: Just in case you missed it, this report by IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute came out in March 2020: "Measuring the Space Economy: Estimating the Value of Economic Activities in and for Space". Among the authors is Acting NASA Chief of Staff Bhavya Lal.

"The purpose of this report is to provide more targeted estimates of the size of the space economy than are currently employed. It does so by adopting a more restrictive definition of the space economy that only includes the value of goods and services provided to governments, households, and businesses from space or used to support activities in space; it excludes activities that are enabled by space, but are primarily generated terrestrially. We adopt this definition because we believe that an estimate of the size of the space economy focused on activities from or in space would help U.S. Government policy makers develop better policies to foster the growth of commercial activities for or in space, and help clarify for investors and entrepreneurs interested in the space economy the current extent and size of markets focused exclusively on space."

NASA is bargaining with a US space startup for a Soyuz seat, The Verge

"NASA is planning to buy an astronaut seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft through Texas-based aerospace firm Axiom Space, according to two people familiar with the plans. It was unclear how much NASA is considering paying Axiom for the single Soyuz seat or what cut Axiom would get from the deal."

Keith's update: Nice scoop by Joey Roulette. So ... why is it that NASA is buying a seat from Roscosmos via a third party? Axiom Space has to be making some money off of this, right? So why go through Axiom Space and pay them a fee when NASA can just go directly to Roscosmos - minus the Axiom Space reselling path - as NASA has done for decades? Wouldn't that be cheaper? Does this involve the $140 million deal that Axiom Space has with NASA to study their commercial space station module? Or ... does the use of Axiom Space (an American company) as a middle man provide a way to technically "buy American"?

NASA Weighs Options for Additional Crew Transportation for Spring Soyuz Mission to Space Station

"NASA now is considering obtaining a supplemental seat on the upcoming spring Soyuz crew rotation mission for a NASA astronaut to add additional capability to the agency's planning. The agency issued a public synopsis to identify all sources that potentially could provide the crew transportation service in the needed timeframe beyond the capability NASA already has in operation with the agency's Commercial Crew Program. ... Securing an additional Soyuz seat assures the back-up capability of at least one U.S. crew member aboard the International Space Station in the event of a problem with either spacecraft. NASA is considering providing in-kind services for this supplemental crew transportation service, rather than an exchange of funds."

Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America's Workers, 25 January 2021

"Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration that the United States Government should, consistent with applicable law, use terms and conditions of Federal financial assistance awards and Federal procurements to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in, and services offered in, the United States. The United States Government should, whenever possible, procure goods, products, materials, and services from sources that will help American businesses compete in strategic industries and help America's workers thrive. Additionally, to promote an accountable and transparent procurement policy, each agency should vest waiver issuance authority in senior agency leadership, where appropriate and consistent with applicable law."

Keith's 9 Feb note: NASA has been crowing about its commercial crew capabilities with SpaceX and soon, with Boeing. The whole idea behind the commercial crew thing was to provide the U.S. with its own redundant ability to launch astronauts and to end the reliance on foreign providers. The idea behind having more than one domestic provider was that one could back up the other using dissimilar redundancy i.e. two different systems. Now, NASA apparently wants to back-up the back-up citing dissimilar redundancy as the rational. So it now wants doubly-dissimilar redundancy, it would seem. Or do they have doubts about Boeing and/or SpaceX?

With regard to NASA saying "NASA is considering providing in-kind services for this supplemental crew transportation service, rather than an exchange of funds.", the "in-kind services" that NASA is offering cost NASA something to provide. They are not provided to NASA for free. NASA is offering something that cost them money in exchange for these Soyuz seats - seats provided by an offshore source.

Meanwhile the White House issued an executive order mere days after taking office that mandates a government focus on procuring goods and service domestically. Is NASA somehow special in thinking that it can overtly ask for a foreign provider when we make nice sexy spaceships domestically? SpaceX just announced that it is launching an overtly commercial flight, and launching another for Axiom, and yet another for Tom Cruise. Is there really a lack of domestic capability? Or is NASA just falling back into old habits. Just wondering.

SpaceX: World's First All-Civilian Mission to Space Will Usher in New Era of Commercial Space Exploration

"Plans for the world's first all-civilian mission to space were announced today from SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. The mission is being targeted for the fourth quarter of this year and will be commanded by Jared Isaacman, the 37-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments [NYSE:FOUR] and an accomplished pilot. Named Inspiration4 in recognition of the four-person crew's mission to inspire support for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital® and send a humanitarian message of possibility, the journey represents a new era for human spaceflight and exploration. Isaacman is donating the three mission seats alongside him to crew members who will be selected to represent the mission pillars of leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity."

Ford v. Ferrari--in Space!, by acting Chief of Staff Bhavya Lal, Issues, June 2020

" ... this seems to be a victory for both the American taxpayer and the nation's space program. SpaceX intends to take not only NASA astronauts to the ISS but also private spaceflight participants, leveraging government investment to commercialize its now-proven launch services."

Kathy Lueders "Gets It"

FAA And NASA Sign MOU

FAA and NASA Sign MOU to Strengthen Partnership in Commercial Space Activities, FAA

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) (PDF) to support commercial space activities related to the transport of government and non-government passengers, cargo, and payloads for both orbital and suborbital missions. "This FAA-NASA collaboration at the Administrator level will advance America's commercial space sector, aid science and technology, and help coordinate U.S. national space policies," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao."

Boeing Charged with 737 Max Fraud Conspiracy and Agrees to Pay over $2.5 Billion, Department of Justice

"The Boeing Company (Boeing) has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal charge related to a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration's Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with the FAA AEG's evaluation of Boeing's 737 MAX airplane. Boeing, a U.S.-based multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells commercial airplanes to airlines worldwide, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in connection with a criminal information filed today in the Northern District of Texas. The criminal information charges the company with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Under the terms of the DPA, Boeing will pay a total criminal monetary amount of over $2.5 billion, composed of a criminal monetary penalty of $243.6 million, compensation payments to Boeing's 737 MAX airline customers of $1.77 billion, and the establishment of a $500 million crash-victim beneficiaries fund to compensate the heirs, relatives, and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passengers who died in the Boeing 737 MAX crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302."

After ISS - What?

The International Space Station can't stay up there forever. Will privately run, commercial replacements be ready in time?, Washington Post

"Wary of a gap, Bridenstine has increasingly been sounding the alarm, urging Congress to fully fund its requests to build a commercial presence in Earth orbit that would include private stations. Last year, NASA requested $150 million as part of its plan, but Congress granted just a tenth of that. For the fiscal 2021 budget, NASA requested the same amount but will receive just $17 billion, sparking a new round of warnings: "ISS won't last forever & incentivizing the private sector to begin follow-on capabilities are needed now," said Lori Garver, who served as NASA deputy administrator in the Obama administration. "This concept isn't hard, have we learned nothing in the last 10 years?"

Aerojet Rocketdyne to be Acquired by Lockheed Martin in $5.0 Billion All-Cash Transaction, Aerojet Rocketdyne

"We are pleased to bring together our complementary companies in a transformative transaction that will provide premium cash value for our shareholders and tremendous benefits for our employees, customers and partners," said Eileen P. Drake, CEO and President of Aerojet Rocketdyne. "Joining Lockheed Martin is a testament to the world-class organization and team we've built and represents a natural next phase of our evolution. As part of Lockheed Martin, we will bring our advanced technologies together with their substantial expertise and resources to accelerate our shared purpose: enabling the defense of our nation and space exploration. On behalf of the Aerojet Rocketdyne Board and management team, I'd like to thank all of our employees for their unwavering dedication and focus in helping us achieve this great milestone."

Keith's note: Every time one of these big aerospace dinosaurs eats another dinosaur they promise that there will be increased value to the customers etc. Except it never happens. Costs always go up and projects are always delayed. Stockholders may realize some profit but the customers (taxpayers) invariably have to spend more money for the same products.

Lockheed Martin now owns Aerojet Rocketdyne (Aerojet and Rocketdyne merged a few years ago) which means they control all SLS propulsion except for the SRBs and they build Orion. Boeing oversees SLS. Northrop Grumman ate Orbital ATK which was formed when Orbital Sciences and ATK merged. They control Cygnus and Antares and the SLS SRBs. So the SLS is now built by 3 companies that used to be 7 just a few years ago. Oh yes - Lockheed Martin co-owns United Launch Alliance with Boeing. ULA is going to use Blue Origin engines. Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman formed the HLS "National Team". Just keep this in mind when the whole Artemis project gets revisited in a few months because it costs too much and is years behind schedule.

Space Economy, Bureau of Economic Analysis

"BEA has developed a preliminary set of statistics measuring the contributions of space-related industries to the overall U.S. economy. These estimates give business leaders, policymakers, and the public a new tool to analyze the space economy and to inform investment decisions. Preliminary estimates of the U.S. space economy's GDP, gross output, private employment, and private compensation by industry were published in the December 2020 Survey of Current Business. BEA will continue to explore options for further work and extensions to these space economy statistics."

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract to Blue Origin for New Glenn Launch Services, NASA

"NASA has awarded a NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract to Blue Origin and their New Glenn launch service in accordance with the contract's on-ramp provision. The New Glenn launch service will be available to NASA's Launch Services Program(LSP) to use for future missions in accordance with the on-ramp provision of NLS II."

Keith's note: It is good to see that NASA is including the ever-expanding launch market to accomplish its various missions - even when the rides they buy are on vehicles that have yet to actually fly. Alas, once upon a time, NASA only gave out contracts such as this to companies with rockets that actually existed and had flown a half a dozen times. Now, NASA relies more on other factors to make these awards. Given the huge amounts of money involved and the fact that this rocket is part of what may support the Artemis Program, you'd think that we'd get a peek at the actual rocket. Some some insight into what basis upon which NASA made this decision - as was the case with Falcon 9 and Antares - would also be nice. Just sayin'

Keith's note: Heads up Jim Reuter: Have you seen "Welcome to NASA's Virtual Technology Day on the Hill" The page has 11 videos with speakers. Only one speaker is female.

Really?

NASA Selects Companies to Collect Lunar Resources for Artemis Demonstrations

"Space resources will play a key role in NASA's Artemis program and future space exploration. The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of establishing human lunar exploration. Moreover, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) will play a vital role in a future human mission to Mars. Like many other operations, ISRU activities will be tested and developed on the Moon, building the required knowledge to implement new capabilities that will be necessary to overcome the challenges of a human mission to Mars."

A top NASA official asked Boeing if it would protest a major contract it lost. Boeing then tried to profit from the inside information, Washington Post

"Boeing did not protest the award of the lunar lander contract -- which was awarded on April 30 to three bidders for a total of nearly $1 billion: a team led by Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin; the defense contractor Dynetics; and Elon Musk's SpaceX. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.) But it did something that NASA officials found just as alarming: After Loverro told Chilton that Boeing would not win the award, the company attempted to revise and resubmit its bid. That last-ditch effort to win one of the contracts was so unusual, given that the time for bids had passed, that members of the NASA committee considering the award feared it may amount to a violation of procurement regulations. They alerted the agency's inspector general, who in turn referred the matter to the Justice Department. The U.S. attorney's office in the District of Columbia has impaneled a grand jury and is investigating, officials said."

Keith's update: In this well-researched article we learn that former HEOMD AA Doug Loverro was concerned that Boeing would file a protest when it did not win and that the protest would slow down NASA's fast-paced effort to land humans on the Moon by 2024. So Loverro called to see if Boeing was going to protest a loss. In hindsight, not the best action to take - but he was not the selecting official so it did not affect the procurement. It is what Boeing did after that call that is highly problematic - possibly illegal - not what Loverro did.

A new era for space travel? Space X makes history with first crewed mission (video), France24

Keith's note: I was on France 24 today for a 45 minute segment on the SpaceX Crew-1 mission and space commerce. If you go to 9:15 you will hear my neighbor's cat "Ruby" ask to be on TV. And she was. Welcome to PandemicTV.

NASA Watch On BBC For Crew-1

Report of NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges, OIG

"Challenge 3: Sustaining a Human Presence in Low Earth Orbit

NASA's plan for the ISS, as detailed in the President's FY 2021 budget request, envisions new commercial facilities and platforms in low Earth orbit. This plan includes a request for $150 million for commercialization of low Earth orbit. The effectiveness of this plan while continuing to provide substantial funding to maintain and operate the ISS remains to be seen, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit. It is clear that the ISS will require significant federal funding beyond 2025, given the current limited commercial market interest in assuming the Station's operational costs. To the point, an independent review conducted in 2017 concluded that the profitability of a commercial platform like the ISS in low Earth orbit is questionable and will be highly dependent upon generating sufficient revenue from commercial activities and keeping operation costs low."

Keith's note: Odds are that the new NASA Administrator will be dealing with this next Spring/Summer.


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