Recently in Commercialization Category

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

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

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

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

That Giant Asteroid of Gold Won't Make Us Richer

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

Jeff Bezos's Master Plan, The Atlantic

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

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

NASA Administrator to Visit SpaceX Headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

CASIS Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That NASA/SpaceX Thing

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

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

NASA Hands Elon Musk a Reality Check, The Atlantic

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

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

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

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

Um, Which Rocket Is Delayed?

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

Earlier posts

How SpaceX Is Perplexing NASA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Questions and answers below

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Key conclusions reached were:

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

Larger image

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

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

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

Starhopper Does A Big Hop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASA to seek independent review of ISS National Laboratory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASA Announces US Industry Partnerships to Advance Moon, Mars Technology

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

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

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

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

What Is CASIS Up To?

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

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

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

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

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

"Recommended Changes to CASIS, Inc. Bylaws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson [statement]

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

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


Starhopper Did Not Hop

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Static Fire Test Anomaly Investigation Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CASIS Clarifies Its Expansion Ambitions, earlier post

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

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

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

NASA to Announce Commercial Opportunities at International Space Station

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

NASA Plan for Commercial LEO Development

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

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

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

Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summaries of each company's proposals

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

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

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

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

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

"Dear Trustees,

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

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

Full Letter after the link

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

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

NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Lunar Gateway Power, Propulsion

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Origin Reveals Its Lunar Lander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your time."

NASA Investigation Uncovers Cause of Two Science Mission Launch Failures

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

NASA Investigative Summary: Taurus XL T8 and T9 Mission Failures

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

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

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

SpaceX Statement on Crew Dragon Test Stand Anomaly

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

NASA OIG Audit: NASA's Technology Transfer Process

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

Stratolaunch Takes Flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 March 2016 NASA letter to CASIS

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

SpaceX Trifecta

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"1.1 Introduction

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

1.2.1. CASIS Mission

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

1.2.2. CCASIS Goals

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

1.2.4 Prohibition of Other Activities

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Earlier posts on CASIS and ISS

CDSE Statement Following Senate Commerce Hearing with the NASA Administrator

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian Rocket Program Sputters in New Race to Space, Bloomberg

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

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

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

SpaceX Crew Dragon Arrives At The International Space Station

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

Space Station Crew Opens Hatch to Crew Dragon After Docking

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

SpaceX Launches First NASA Commercial Crew Demonstration Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SpaceShipTwo Returns To Space With Crew Of Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Human Landing System Broad Agency Announcement Industry Day presentations

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

Some Twitter notes from the event today:

Earlier posts

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

NASA, SpaceX, and Being Update Commercial Crew Launch Dates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Space Foundation Briefing: "The State of Space"

"Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor's remarks will highlight the roles, challenges and opportunities space has for our national, economic and educational security and explore the critical roles our public and private sectors, as well as students, teachers, taxpayers, investors and entrepreneurs, have in the next great human adventure in space. Following Space Foundation CEO, Tom Zelibor's remarks, an industry panel moderated by award-winning journalist, Jeanne Meserve will be held, along with an audience and media Q&A availability for program participants."

Webcast at 9:00 am ET: http://bit.ly/StateofSpace2019

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Keith's note: Boeing is continuing its creepy and deceptive social media campaign - one that lures you with an innocent social media ad on Facebook to a website where they grab a lot of information about you for uses that they will not describe. Boeing uses social media ads that do not mention Boeing. In this case, they ask you to sign a petition to support the ISS. Sounds innocent enough. You click on the link and this is what it is actually sending you to:

https://watchusfly.com/campaigns/space-iss-3-0-petition-acquisition/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=link-post&utm_campaign=acquisition_petition_space-iss-3-a&utm_term=space&utm_content=enthusiast

You have now been caught on a Facebook ad. You arrive at the petition page at watchusfly.com which claims that "Watch U.S. Fly is a community of Americans that believes that America should lead the world in technological advancements. We realize that in order to maintain our edge, American aerospace must have the support of policymakers so they can continue to chart the future." In the lower corner in a small, faint font, it says "Copyright © 2019 Boeing"

The disclaimer says "Site intended for use by U.S. residents 14 years of age or older. Boeing may use the information you provide to send you future communications about Boeing and issues that may be of interest to you. For further information, please review Boeing's Privacy Policy." But they do not tell you this when they entice you to visit from Facebook. Too late. If you sign in to their page using Facebook then they really have you. Their cookies are in your browser and all of your Facebook, Internet, and geolocation information is now theirs to use and/or sell as they see fit - unless you take convoluted steps to try (I repeat try) and extricate yourself from their info cache on you. Here's what they tell you that they can do with the information they tricked you into giving them. According to Boeing's Privacy Policy page.

"Boeing Services often contain cookies or similar technologies from third-party providers that help us compile statistics about the effectiveness of our promotional campaigns, perform analytics, enable social networking features, and other operations. These technologies enable the third-party providers to set or read their own cookies or other identifiers on your device, through which they can collect information about your online activities across the Services and other, unaffiliated devices, applications, websites, or services... Boeing also enables cookies and third-party tracking mechanisms to collect your information for use in interest-based advertising. For example, third parties use the fact that you visited our Services to target online ads for Boeing services to you on non-Boeing websites. In addition, our third-party advertising networks use information about your use of our Services to help target non-Boeing advertisements based on your online behavior in general... Data collected from a particular browser, app, or device can be used with a linked computer or device. For example, we or our third-party service providers display ads to you on your laptop based on the fact that you visited Boeing Services on your smartphone."

Remember, if you visit, its too late unless you have disabled cookies, use a VPN, etc. Most people do not. But if you sign the petition, they got you. Boeing never tells you who they will share and/or sell your data to. Nor do they tell you what these third parties will do with the tracking that they can now do based on your visit to the watchusfly.com site. Political campaigns can buy this information, Boeing can now make pro-Boeing, anti-someone else ads appear on your browser - as you probably know by now. We've taken notice of this creep behavior before (see links below). Boeing is doing a lot of lobbying and targeted media buys these days.

This is how big aerospace is using the same shady tactics that skewed the 2016 election for their own, undisclosed purposes. Congratulations, if you visited this stealth Boeing site you have now become part of this ongoing sneaky Boeing effort.

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

10% Layoff At SpaceX

SpaceX to lay off 10% of its workforce, LA Times

"SpaceX will lay off about 10% of its more than 6,000 employees, a person familiar with the matter said Friday."

SpaceX Statement on Workforce Downsizing

"To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft anda global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company. Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team. We are grateful for everything they have accomplished and their commitment to SpaceX's mission. This action is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary."

Keith's update: S. 3277 failed passage on the House on a 239 -137 vote under a suspension of the rules wherein debate is limited, no amendments allowed, and a 2/3 majority is required for passage.

Bill Nelson's last big space bill approved by U.S. Senate, Florida Politics

"Senate Bill 3277, which was introduced in July with Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz as primary sponsor and Nelson and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts as the co-sponsors, was approved unanimously Thursday. It's closest companion, House Resolution 2809, was approved in the House of Representatives in April, though there are some significant differences. SB 3277 includes a number of provisions, many of them offered by Nelson, which would streamline and clarify the roles played by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies in promoting the commercial space business, and extend and expand NASA's program to work with such private space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin at centers such as Kennedy Space Center."

AIA Comment on Senate Passage of the Space Frontier Act

"This bipartisan bill is a strong statement in support of America's growing commercial space industry. It would update space transportation regulations and commit to the full use of the International Space Station through 2030 for critical commercial and scientific purposes. We look forward to working with members of Congress next year to get commercial space legislation passed and signed into law, ensuring American space presence and dominance into the future."

S.3277 - Space Frontier Act of 2018

Space Infrastructure Leasing Bill Sent to President's Desk, House Science Committee

"Today, the House of Representatives unanimously approved S. 7, the NASA Enhanced Use Lease Extension Act of 2018, sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss). The bipartisan bill is now on its way to the President's desk. S.7 enables commercial access to valuable NASA infrastructure and facilities. NASA's enhanced use lease authority gives NASA a crucial tool to partner with the private sector."

Keith's update: Sources report that CASIS Executive DirectorJoseph Vockley has actually been asleep at the wheel at CASIS. Literally. CASIS employees say that he falls asleep at both internal CASIS and external meetings - including those held with NASA. Vockley has stated to many people that he is really not in charge at CASIS - and that the CASIS Human Resources Manager and Board Secretary, actually runs the organization. This is how NASA plans to convert ISS into a fully commercial venture - the people in charge at CASIS are not actually in charge.

Keith's 11 December note: CASIS, the non-profit created to run the ISS National Laboratory, has been on a hiring spree of late. Three high level executives have been hired at $300K+ annual salaries recently. Meanwhile, existing CASIS staff are not getting cost of living increases and having their vacation benefits cut. It would seem that no one is going to fix the big, lingering problems at CASIS.

Joseph Vockley was recently hired as the new Executive Director of CASIS. He has zero experience with space but he's pulling in a salary close to $400k a year. In addition to Vockley CASIS has hired CASIS Chief Strategy Officer, Richard Leach (an old buddy of Vockley's) and Vice President Christine Kretz. Neither of the positions filled by Leach or Kretz were advertised. Neither Kretz or Leach have any space experience.

When you ask Bill Gertsenmaier and Jim Bridenstine how they will be certain that the ISS will be able to be taken over by commercial funding when NASA pulls out, they point to CASIS as the prime solution to that looming problem. CASIS' response is to hire new leadership with no basic space flight experience. This is not what you'd expect an organization that needs to beef up its space commercialization skill set would be doing to meet that challenge. Indeed, CASIS is still unable to use all of the crew and other resources that NASA offers it on the ISS.

We've been looking into the CASIS mess since its inception. In the past year Bill Gerstenmaier finally seemed to have gotten the message and had his staff tell CASIS to clean up its act after years after year of underperformance. In "Is CASIS Fixing Its Management Problems?" the series of NASA and CASIS interactions on management are examined. Alas, it would seem that CASIS was only paying lip service to NASA's concerns and NASA is utterly disinterested in making CASIS do the job that they are being paid to do.

- CASIS Responds To NASA's List Of Problems With CASIS, earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post
- Earlier CASIS postings

Keith's note: In September 2004, I was sitting in the auditorium at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in the final session of the NASA Administrator's Symposium "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Moon and the Stars". I co-chaired this event with Astronaut/NASA Chief Scientist John Grunsfeld. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe departed the event early so as to fly in and be at Mojave for the attempt at winning the XPrize. We watched a live video feed in the meeting room. There was a scary moment at one point - actual risk, as was the discussion at our event - and then success at 100 km/62 miles - landing - and then celebration.

Yesterday's flight by Virgin Galactic, albeit to a lower altitude, is a milestone of sorts - one that was only won with a lot of hard work and ultimate sacrifices by multiple employees. When one enters "space" is a matter of definitions and opinion. In 2004 it was 62 miles. Yesterday it was 51.4 miles. Whatever. You can call them and ask why they picked the easier goal to strive for.

That said, and numbers not withstanding, a lot has been invested in this. Soon, paying customers will ride close to - or (depending upon your opinion) into "space". The formal definition is somewhat arbitrary but still a matter of formal definition that can always be adjusted. OK, so who cares. From where SpaceShipTwo was poised, Earth's curvature is obvious. There is no air outside. And your blood would boil if you opened the door. Its outer space. Deal with it. NASA is no longer the only way to get there.

A few years ago I completed the Suborbital Astronaut Certification program at NASTAR. I flew several full acceleration profiles in a world class centrifuge based upon data from the original SpaceShipOne flight. I was pumped and tried to bribe the centrifuge operator for a third flight. Anyone in resonable health can do this. You just need several hundred thousand dollars to spare. That is the greater challenge.

FWIW Virgin Galactic is hyper-sensitive to media depictions of their events. Some media outlets have dumped on them relentlessly for reasons that remain obscure. Despite rather positive depictions of their efforts and lots of off-the-record chats with staff over the years about how to do media, NASAWatch was not invited to cover this event.

OK. That's your call George. Nice spaceship.

Richard Branson Welcomes Astronauts Home from Virgin Galactic's Historic First Spaceflight

"The historic achievement has been recognised by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who announced today that early next year they will present pilots Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow with FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings at a ceremony in Washington DC. CJ, as a four-time Space Shuttle pilot, will become the only person to have been awarded NASA and FAA wings."

Keith's note: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo reached an altitude of 51.4 miles today after 15 years of struggles to replicate the performance of SpaceShipOne in 2004. AFter some additional tests commercial passengers will reportedly be carried. But did they go to "space" today?

According to Wikipedia "The Kármán line, or Karman line, lies at an altitude of 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft) above Earth's sea level and commonly represents the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space. This definition is accepted by the Fédération aéronautique internationale (FAI), which is an international standard-setting and record-keeping body for aeronautics and astronautics. ... The U.S. Air Force definition of an astronaut is a person who has flown higher than 50 miles (80 kilometres) above mean sea level, approximately the line between the mesosphere and the thermosphere. NASA formerly used the FAI's 100-kilometer (62 mi) figure, though this was changed in 2005, to eliminate any inconsistency between military personnel and civilians flying in the same vehicle."

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two only reached 51.4 miles. So that's not "space" if you accept the decades-old internationally-accepted definition. Ironically, all of the hoopla and arm waving in 2004 when SpaceShipOne won the XPrize happened only after it had passed the 100km/62 mile Karman line. It took Virgin 15 years to almost make the same altitude again.

But now there's an effort a foot to lower the internationally-accepted altitude to make it easier to reach "space". But no one has formally adopted that yet, As such it looks like Virgin Galactic jumped the shark to some extent for the purposes of marketing, etc. In some countries and from the perspective of some regulatory agencies, they did not reach "space" - yet. Just sayin'.

Boeing Was Going to Build Satellites for a China-Funded Firm. Why It Just Backed Out of the Deal, Fortune

"Boeing has canceled a deal to build a communications satellite -- which it has almost completed -- on the basis that the startup that ordered it has defaulted on payments. The sudden cancellation, however, comes on the heels of a report that detailed how the project was actually financed by a firm owned by the Chinese government. The Wall Street Journal exposed the situation earlier this week. The startup that ordered the satellite is called Global IP, and it wanted to use it for African Internet access. However, the deal was financed by an outfit called China Orient Asset Management, which is owned by the Chinese finance ministry and bankrolls military technology suppliers in the country. According to that report, some national security officials suspected Boeing was trying to bypass a ban on selling satellites directly to China. The ban is in place because of fears over the Chinese military gaining access to sensitive technology."

2 Companies Pay Penalties For Improving China Rockets, NY Times (2003)

"Two leading American aerospace companies have agreed to pay a record $32 million in penalties to settle civil charges that they unlawfully transferred rocket and satellite data to China in the 1990's. The agreement, which was completed on Tuesday and released today, comes two months after the State Department accused the companies, Hughes Electronics Corporation, a unit of General Motors, and Boeing Satellite Systems of 123 violations of export laws in connection with the Chinese data transfers. In a joint statement the companies said they ''express regret for not having obtained licenses that should have been obtained'' in the 1990's by a Hughes unit, the Hughes Space and Communications Company, which was acquired in 2000 by Boeing."

Keith's note: This has happened before. And this time Boeing only discovered the Chinese financing of this satellite in the past few days when the Wall Street Journal figured it out? Really Boeing?

A SpaceX Delivery Capsule May Be Contaminating The ISS, Wired

"Part of the problem here, though, is NASA's reluctance to talk about both the problem and the plans to fix it. The presentation, shared during the Payload Operations Integration Working Group meeting back in April, was approved for unclassified and unlimited public release and placed on the NASA Technical Reports Server in early September. I asked for an interview about it on September 25. The next day, the presentation was gone. "The record details page you tried to access cannot be found on this server," the page now says. I inquired about the dead link, and more than three weeks later, I received a response: "The document is under review," wrote Meagan Storey, of the NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program, "and we advise that you make a FOIA request for the item." Statistically, that's probably a losing prospect."

Keith's note: SpaceX successfully placed a Dragon cargo vehicle into orbit today. Alas, as it returned to Earth, the Falcon 9's first stage lost control and it landed in the ocean.

NASA Announces New Partnerships for Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery Services

"Nine U.S. companies now are eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts, as one of the first steps toward long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars. These companies will be able to bid on delivering science and technology payloads for NASA, including payload integration and operations, launching from Earth and landing on the surface of the Moon. NASA expects to be one of many customers that will use these commercial landing services."

NASA will retire its new mega-rocket if SpaceX or Blue Origin can safely launch its own powerful rockets, Business Insider

"I think our view is that if those commercial capabilities come online, we will eventually retire the government system, and just move to a buying launch capacity on those [rockets]," Stephen Jurczyk, NASA's associate administrator, told Business Insider at The Economist Space Summit on November 1. However, NASA may soon find itself in a strange position, since the two private launch systems may beat SLS back to the moon -- and one might be the first to send people to Mars. ... "We haven't really engaged SpaceX on how we'd work together on BFR, and eventually get to a Mars mission -- yet," Jurczyk said of NASA's leadership. "My guess is that it's coming."

Keith's note: Dave Mosher is a solid reporter so I am confident he reported what was said. Either Steve Jurczyk misspoke or was mistaken. Either way the boss just cleared this up. Twitter is handy that way.

Another Cygnus Leaves Earth

NASA, Northrop Grumman Launch Space Station, National Lab Cargo

"The spacecraft launched on an Antares 230 Rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad 0A at Wallops on the company's 10th cargo delivery flight, and is scheduled to arrive at the orbital laboratory Monday, Nov. 19. Expedition 57 astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the space station's robotic arm to grapple Cygnus about 5:20 a.m."

SLS contractor gets real, says program needs to focus on "affordability", Ars Technica

"We here inside the program tend not to think about the need to advocate," Precourt said. "There are a lot of people with other ideas about how we should do this mission, so I think it's incumbent on us. It's not too early to be thinking about the transition from development to production. And that means a totally different management philosophy and cost structure for all of us." Precourt said contractors should consider a future in which NASA's present multibillion expenditures on rocket development costs need to be cut in half in order for the SLS vehicle to have a robust future. "All of us need to be thinking about [how] our annual budget for this will not be what it is in development," he said. "That's a very serious problem that we have to look forward to, and to try to rectify, so that we are sustainable." If the other speakers had thoughts about Precourt's comments, they did not share them during the ensuing discussion."

- DC Lobbying Firms Enter The SLS Vs Commercial Space Proxy War , earlier post
- Big Aerospace Reaches For The Stars While Using Smear Tactics, earlier post
- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity Online, earlier post
- OIG Audit: NASA's Management of the Space Launch System Stages Contract, earlier post

First Mate: Virgin Takes Step Forward with First Mating of LauncherOne Rocket and Cosmic Girl 747, Virgin Orbit

"Today at Long Beach Airport stands a 747 aircraft with a rocket under its wing. For the first time ever, Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket has been integrated with its carrier aircraft, marking a major milestone on the path to the innovative small satellite launch service's first space shot. The successful operation capped off a banner day of firsts on Wednesday for the company at its Long Beach, Calif. base."

Marc's note: As NASA has a contract with Virgin Orbit this is good news. There soon should be another option to launch small satellites.

Keith's note: Great commercial space news. RocketLab is coming to NASA Wallops in Virginia to do commercial space launches. You'd think that all parties involved would want as much media present as possible - especially Virginia-based space media (like NASAWatch). Guess again. I first learned about this event, held on a NASA facility, staffed by NASA personnel, announced after it was underway on social media and broadcast on a NASA TV channel when I saw mention of it on Twitter. NASA Wallops PAO sent me nothing in advance. I caught the tail end of the webcast and discovered that there was also a phone bridge for media who are offsite to dial in to ask questions. No one at NASA Wallops PAO told me about that either. This is not the first time Wallops PAO has played this sort of games with me. I have sent an email to NASA PAO and Wallops personnel asking why NASAWatch was excluded from the advance notice and access provided to other news media. Until/unless I get a response (normally I get no response from Wallops) I am torn with ascribing this to incompetence - or spite- on Wallops' part given that this happens to me with some regularity.

Although I had no advance notice of this event, this is the question that popped into my head for RocketLab: "You are going to be doing a lot of launches at Wallops - and they do a lot of suborbital launches for student projects. Is your company looking to work with NASA and M.A.R.S. to provide additional opportunities for students and interns in Virginia to learn about space?".

Paul Allen

Virgin's Richard Branson, tech investor Steve Case distance themselves from Saudi Arabia over alleged Khashoggi killing, Washington Post

"Branson said he was suspending his work as a director of two Saudi tourism projects and suspending discussions with the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund about a proposed investment in the space companies Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit. "I had high hopes for the current government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and it is why I was delighted to accept two directorships in the tourism projects around the Red Sea," Branson said in a blog post Thursday. "What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government."

Inspector General Attack On NASA Super-Rocket Marred By Mistakes, Omissions, Loren Thompson, Lexington Institute

"I have read the audit through twice and talked to Boeing executives about its findings. It appears to be a political document engineered by a holdover appointee from the Obama administration -- the same administration that tried to kill all of NASA's human exploration programs. It omits important information, misstates key facts and isn't even internally consistent in its assertions. ... First, the audit fails to provide historical context that might help explain why problems have occurred. This is only the second time in history that any country has tried to develop such a powerful rocket. The first time was the Saturn V program for Apollo missions to the Moon, half a century ago. With the demise of the Space Shuttle program, key skills were lost, infrastructure aged and the supply chain atrophied. NASA understood there were major challenges ahead, but the Inspector General is mum on their impact."

Keith's note: The core thrust of Thompson's paid whining is either Blame Obama or its so hard to build a big rocket (even though companies that Boeing bought did it half a century ago).

Air Force awards three Launch Service Agreements, USAF

"The U.S. Air Force announced today the award of three Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Service Agreements to (in alphabetical order) Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and United Launch Alliance. The award to Blue Origin will be for development of the New Glenn Launch System. The award to Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems is for development of the OmegA Launch System. The award to United Launch Alliance will be for development of the Vulcan Centaur Launch System."

Keith's update: Dave Mosher at Business Insider is now on the trail of Boeing's stealth smear campaign against SpaceX.

Boeing may have used a lobbying firm to plant a scathing opinion piece about SpaceX in US news outlets. At stake is billions of dollars in NASA contracts, Business Insider

"Hagar said he never submitted the op-ed article to The Washington Times. He said he shared his written opinion with only one person, a Boeing employee, whom he repeatedly declined to identify. "I don't want to start anything," Hagar said. "I'm not interested in that." Shortly after Hagar gave his op-ed article to Boeing, he said, it appeared in The Washington Times. He said he gave Boeing "permission to publish it wherever." "I knew it would be in different publications, but not how many," he said."

A shadowy op-ed campaign is now smearing SpaceX in space cities, Ars Technica

"According to the LMG website, the 15-year-old firm "develops and executes public-, Hill-, and agency-facing issue advocacy campaigns that shift the narrative in a changing world." More bluntly, the SourceWatch website calls LMG a "secretive Washington DC public affairs firm" with a history of placing op-eds, and it seeks to mask the op-eds' financial sponsors. Ars could not confirm the ultimate sponsor of the op-eds, but there are some potentially pertinent facts. For one, Boeing is touted on the LMG website as a client, and it is listed as one of LMG's three main "featured narratives" on its homepage. (LMG says, as part of its campaign for a Boeing tanker plane, that it "developed and executed an aggressive 'outside game' campaign working with dozens of major grassroots organizations, labor unions, suppliers and vendors and national security experts to make the case for Boeing's bid. We developed messaging... and helped manage a newly developed social media campaign amplifying our nationwide chorus of genuine American voices supporting Boeing.") Boeing, which is not mentioned in the op-eds, is also the only competitor to SpaceX in the commercial crew program. Could Boeing be the client behind the anti-SpaceX op-eds? A spokesman for Boeing, Jerry Drelling, told Ars, "We have no comment."

Keith's note: This is creepy. What is Boeing up to? As noted above, a firm overtly linked to them is connected to an anti-SpaceX editorial campaign. Boeing has deep pockets when it comes to PR. They have poured a lot of money into a weekly space news letter with Politico. Boeing is also prominently featured in a space-related event with Vice President Pence here in Washington, DC later this month. And of course they send lots of money to the overtly pro-SLS organization Coalition for Deep Space Exploration. Meanwhile Boeing has an ongoing social media campaign on Facebook which entices people to sign up for a newsletter - one that as an obscure but lengthy terms of service that reserves the right for Boeing to collect, use, and resell information about people who sign up. They use space as a topic to entice people to sign up but then route you to pages that urge you to support a lobbying effort for a weapon system they want Congress to buy. Again, what is Boeing up to?

- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, earlier post
- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity Online, earlier post
- Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, earlier post

The op-ed effort exposed by Eric Berger is eerily similar to another stealth smear effort that NASAWatch exposed back in 2016 wherein a DC PR firm (Orange Hat Group) was linked to a website designed to attack Elon Musk and SpaceX (See "Why Does Brad Summey Hate On Elon Musk So Much?". To this day I am not certain who footed the bill since no one would comment. The website they created, whoiselonmusk.com, was still online until September when the domain registration expired. Remnants of the site are online here. Shortly after I outed this site this was added to the bottom of the page "The Center for Business and Responsible Government (CBRG) is a non-partisan organization dedicated to highlighting cronyism and its effect on American taxpayers and policy. We believe public officials should establish an even playing field for all businesses to compete in the marketplace, not just those special interests who line their pockets." Of course this organization does not exist and never did.

This is how big aerospace and other actors try and undermine the competition these days.If they can't compete with a better product at a better price they head for the gutter instead. What is pathetic is how badly they try and hide their tracks such that any enterprising journalist can use Google searches and make a few phone calls to reveal the true nature of these smear efforts.

National Space Exploration Campaign Report - Pursuant to Section 432(b) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10), September 2018, NASA

Keith's note: Once again NASA is trying to tell us that all is well in space and that it is moving ahead with a plan - "The National Space Exploration Campaign aims to revitalize and add direction to NASA's enduring purpose to carry out human and robotic exploration missions, expanding the frontiers of human experience and scientific discovery of the natural phenomena of Earth, other worlds, and the cosmos as a whole."

Despite the lofty words including the addition of the "cosmos" among NASA's ambitions, this plan is actually a withdrawal from earlier, more lofty exploration goals.

Of course, this report from NASA was due quite some time ago (last year) but NASA never bothers to do what Congress directs them to do - even if it is in the form of public law i.e. P.L. 115-10 which was enacted on 21 March 2017.

According to this report: "2024 - Based on results of human-class lunar lander capability demonstration missions, status of other human systems, other possible mission enhancements (e.g., retro-braking stage, launch vehicle availability) make decision on date and method of human lunar surface return and the mission objectives." In other words we still have to wait until 2024 to decide how to land Americans on the Moon a gain. But then it will take how may years before we actually do this?

All the report says is "Post-2024 Decisions - Based on the cost of lunar surface access, viability of higher-power systems and ISRU, as revealed by exploration and science missions and technology investments, and on private-sector and international demand for lunar surface access, determine the nature of a sustainable American human presence on the lunar surface and associated infrastructure development projects."

In other words it will be close to the 2030s before an American lunar lander reaches the Moon. During the Obama Administration we were going to be sending human crews to Mars (if you believed their Powerpoint slides) by the early 2030s. So now NASA is going to take almost as long only to land humans a quarter million miles away. Those are certainly lowered expectations. That sounds like negative progress - again, if you believe NASA's notional Powerpoint slides and white papers.

Meanwhile, in another potential magic act. NASA will wave more Powerpoint charts and make ISS totally commercial:

"2022 - Based on status of commercial module and/or free-flyer space station development and emerging commercial activities on ISS, fine-tune plans to end direct Federal funding of ISS by 2025 to ensure continuous access to a LEO space platform. Post-2024 Decisions - Based on the status of commercial module and/or free-flyer space station development and emerging commercial human spaceflight activities in LEO, decide on appropriate NASA and overall governmental support to ensure ongoing NASA requirements and permanent U.S. presence in LEO."

In other words NASA says that this ISS conversion to private sector operations will happen - unless it doesn't happen.

As For Mars, well, the whole "by the mid-2030s" thing that Obama people made NASA say does not look very plausible now. Not only will NASA just be landing its first people back on the Moon again, but according to this report it won't even have an architecture for going back to Mars for another 6 years (Apollo had one before people even flew on Apollo but who cares). One would assume, at this snail's pace, that vehicle design and construction would drag on like Orion/SLS has for the past decade.

"2024- Based on results of investment in Mars-forward technology R&D investment portfolio, Gateway development and operations, launch vehicle and crew vehicle development and operations, decide on architecture of human Mars orbital mission and begin associated systems development. Post-2024 Decisions - Based on results of robotic roundtrip mission, cislunar operations, and progress of Mars-forward technology R&D investment portfolio, determine set of technology investments and timeline required to achieve human landing on the surface of Mars."

In a nutshell, NASA's words may indicate that it has lofty goals but the murky timeline it presents suggests that its ability to do the things needed to meet these goals decreases in terms of speed with every passing year. Meanwhile, American commercial companies with billions in their own funding are planning to send people back to the Moon.

What's wrong with this picture?

Why NASA Needs a New Logo, Space.com

"The logo looks more vintage than victorious, according to the designers I interviewed. (Disclosure: None of the designers I spoke to works for, or has worked with, NASA. They are all experts, however, regarding branding campaigns for major public or private organizations.) The logo is an anachronism. A new logo should appeal to the entire nation, since NASA works with scientists and engineers throughout the United States and is funded by American taxpayers. It should show us where the agency intends to go, with our flag planted not in conquest but in camaraderie, with satellites among the stars and our spaceships as vessels of peace and goodwill."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/IMG_5388.m.jpgUnderstanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post

"You would think that NASA would want to capitalize on such a potent branding strength. To be certain, they try. Due to Federal regulations the NASA logo cannot be used for commercial purposes or to imply any endorsement without formal approval by NASA. While this limits its use to some extent NASA is able to control its brand - something that is very important. But the one thing that you would think that NASA should be able to do i.e. use that logo in overt advertising and promotion, is banned by Federal law. Congress seems to think that NASA promotes itself too much. Yet they simultaneously chide NASA for not explaining itself better."

Keith's note: This Space.com article by Michael D. Shaw needed more research. NASA had a logo. Then they got a new one. Then they used the old one again. Impact? It's silly to try and get yet another logo for improved advertising and PR purposes when NASA is overtly prohibited by law from advertising. After more than 20 years of re-use, the NASA meatball logo is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. NASA's problems have nothing to do with brand visibility. It has that. Rather, NASA needs to find a way to get its mojo back again. Playing with logos will not accomplish that.

SpaceX Falcon Launch Vehicle Unveiled in Washington D.C., earlier post (2003)

"Among the speakers at the rocket's unveiling were Elon Musk, President and CEO of SpaceX and Patti Grace Smith, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA. Musk and Smith were introduced by Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch.com."

Keith's note: How time flies. I must say that this was a really interesting event. I was also one of the people standing at the podium to introduce Patti and Elon referring to the Falcon 1 as "not your father's rocket". The idea for this, as best as I can recall, emerged from a discussion that my late friend and co-author Frank Sietzen and I had. At that time Frank was SpaceX's first employee in Washington, DC. I think I said something to the effect of "why not bring the rocket to DC and just park it in front of NASA Headquarters?" Frank said I was crazy and then admitted that Elon was a little crazy too. He suggested it to Elon. Then it happened - again, as best I recall.

FYI one of the buildings in the picture is the old NASA HQ. Maybe I should Photoshop a Falcon 9 in front of the current NASA HQ ...

The Next Expedition To The Moon Will Be Filled With Artists

"SpaceX exceeded everyone's expectations tonight by announcing that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa bought not just one but all of the seats in a BFR mission to fly by the Moon. Stating "I choose to go to the Moon", Maezawa, who made his money in the entertainment and clothing business, explained that he had been fascinated by the Moon since he was a kid. Maezawa said that he did not want to go alone. So, in Elvis Presley fashion, he bought out the venue and is going to invite a number of artists to go along on the Moon trip with him."

U.S. - Canada Space Cooperation Remains Strong

Canada and U.S. Space Cooperation Remains Strong but Funding Drives Programs, SpaceQ

"On September 7 the Wilson Center's Canada Institute in Washington organized a one day event titled "Over the Horizon: A New Era for Canada-U.S. Space Cooperation?" As with many events like this, discussions behind the scenes is where a lot of the action was. Though, there was one clear fact that no one could surmount."

@SpaceX: "SpaceX has signed the world's first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle--an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Find out who's flying and why on Monday, September 17."

Why NASA's next rockets might say Budweiser on the side, Washington Post

"NASA has steadfastly stayed away from endorsing any particular product or company -- even going so far as to call the M&Ms astronauts gobble in space "candy-coated chocolates" out of fear of appearing to favor one brand of candy. But during a recent meeting of a NASA advisory council made up of outside experts who provide guidance to the agency, Bridenstine announced he was setting up a committee to examine what he called the "provocative questions" of turning its rockets into corporate billboards the way advertisements decorate NASCAR race cars. "Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?" Bridenstine said. "I'm telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don't know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is."

Keith's note: CASIS has had a less than stellar record of accomplishment since its inception. After kicking the can down the road for more than 5 years NASA has finally started to actively manage CASIS and has told them what needs to be fixed. CASIS' Management among the many things that had to be addressed. Given that NASA seems to feel that CASIS is going to play a pivotal role in the commercialization of the International Space Station starting in 2024, its about time they paid attention to its operation.

In a 15 November 2017 letter from NASA to CASIS NASA directed that "CASIS must examine its processes and communication in order to ensure inclusion and transparency to all CIPs. As partners in upholding the public's trust, we must quickly address these concerns - particularly those that could give even the appearance of impropriety - in order to ensure continued confidence in the ISS National Laboratory. To that end, I propose the following actions: ... - Installation of an experienced Chief Operations Officer (COO), to be responsible for day-to-day CASIS operations within the organization and working with implementing organizations in executing National Lab activities. The COO would be under the authority of the CASIS Executive Director and would report activities to the CASIS Board of Directors along with the CASIS Executive Director."

In the 22 January 2018 response from CASIS to NASA CASIS responded to mostly everything NASA discussed at a high level and semi-committal fashion but made no mention of changes to CASIS senior management that NASA had suggested. Yet 3 weeks later CASIS informed NASA in a 14 February 2018 letter that "the Executive Director / Principal Investigator position. Col. Gregory H. Johnson, the current Executive Director and Principal Investigator, will be leaving CASIS effective March 10, 2018." on 29 June 2018 CASIS sent a letter to NASA informing them that "CASIS has hired a new Executive Director, Joe Vockley, and will begin his employment on July 1, 2018. There will be a transition overlap period between Executive Directors as Mr. Vockley becomes familiar with all aspects of the ISS National Lab operations."

In a 1 March 2018 letter to NASA, CASIS said "The Board also made a careful and well-considered review of the performance of its Executive Director: The Board felt that he had made many important improvements and had built the CASIS organization into a strong level of capability. However, we felt that a new set of talents and style of leadership would be needed for the dynamic new environment facing the CASIS mission. Hence, a decision was reached to seek new leadership for the program. A national search for a replacement has been launched." They go on to say that "Additionally, and at the request of NASA, the Board created the position of Chief Operating Officer. Warren Bates was selected to serve in that position until a permanent appointee has been named. A national search was initiated but was subsequently suspended pending the selection of a new Executive Director. Mr. Bates, in the opinion of the Board, is serving ably in his new capacity."

Reading the letter that NASA sent to CASIS seems to suggest that NASA was directing CASIS to find some new blood to be COO. Instead, they picked Warren Bates, someone who has been at CASIS since 2012 who, based on his LinkedIn profile, is not the "experienced Chief Operations Officer" NASA was looking for CASIS to hire.

When CASIS hired Johnson he had no apparent scientific or nonprofit or research management experience. He had familiarity with NASA but he was a former fighter pilot/astronaut - not an obvious choice to lead a new organization with educational, commercial, and scientific responsibilities. Johnson's replacement Dr. Joseph Vockley certainly has an extensive background in biomedical research and management, but has no apparent background in space research and utilization.

So ... CASIS has gone from being run by an astronaut with no science or management background to being led by someone with decades of science and management experience - but no background in space. One could argue that the science and management experience is what CASIS desperately needs right now. There are plenty of space people floating around to advise Vockley. Based on what is posted on various web pages about Vockley, this would seem to be a wise move.

Vockley's linkedIn page describes his current position as being "Executive Director (CEO) of International Space Station US National Laboratory (CASIS)". That's somewhat inaccurate. Also, the CASIS website refers to Warren Bates as the "Director of Business Strategy and Portfolio Management". That is also inaccurate since he is the COO. If CASIS can't be bothered to get people's titles correct ...

Meanwhile many more managerial issues remain with CASIS - one being its Board of Directors. Stay tuned.

- CASIS Responds To NASA's List Of Problems With CASIS, earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post
- Previous CASIS posts

Keith's note: Recently there has been a lot of talk about halting NASA funding for the International Space station is 2024 with the hope that all of the costs currently paid for by NASA would be picked up by the private sector. NASA hopes to use the savings they expect to achieve to pay for the Gateway and its Moon/Mars plans. So ... who will handle the commercialization of the ISS? When you ask NASA if CASIS is part of that plan they say yes - but never get too much into the details.

NASA is not too thrilled with CASIS. In a 16 November 2017 letter to CASIS from NASA, Sam Scimemi listed a series of specific, wide-ranging complaints about how CASIS conducts its activities in support of the International Space Station. Given the long period of time that CASIS has been in operation this is rather damning. But given how long NASA has allowed these things go on clearly points to mismanagement on NASA's part as well. In the letter below CASIS repsonds to NASA's concerned. Are they fixing their problems? Stay tuned.

Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

"We are responding to your letter dated November 16, 2017, presenting several issues voiced by the ISS Program, outside stakeholders, and ISS National Laboratory Implementation Partners (IPs). First, we would like to thank you for your candid feedback and confirm that we take these issues very seriously. We have corrective actions already in process; a subset was previewed with you in our meeting in Houston in December. Our interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), Warren Bates, will be leading these activities until the permanent COO national search begins later this month. The COO, who will function as the day-to-day operational executive at CASIS, will report the status of operational activities and receive guidance frequently from me and our Board of Directors. These actions are outlined below addressing concerns listed in your letter."

CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post

CASIS Is Still Broken

Keith's note: Recently there has been a lot of talk about halting NASA funding for the International Space station is 2024 with the hope that all of the costs currently paid for by NASA would be picked up by the private sector. NASA hopes to use the savings they expect to achieve to pay for the Gateway and its Moon/Mars plans. So ... who will handle the commercialization of the ISS? When you ask NASA if CASIS is part of that plan they say yes - but never get too much into the details.

As you all know NASAWatch has taken a special interest in CASIS and its poor performance over the years. Apparently NASA is not too thrilled with CASIS either. This 16 November 2017 letter from Sam Scimemi at NASA to CASIS is rather blunt. There will be much more to follow as to how CASIS says it will respond to NASA's concerns and what led up to this situation.

Keith's update: A response from CASIS Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

"I am writing this letter to you to address recent complaints about CASIS activities that have been brought to my attention both by the ISS Program and by outside stakeholders that require serious and immediate attention. Additionally, it is necessary to communicate some significant concerns brought forward by a number of the National Laboratory's commercial implementation partners (CIPs) so that actions may be taken to address these issues.

As part of NASA's oversight of agreements with companies who operate their own commercial hardware on ISS, NASA solicits feedback from them annually to assess their satisfaction with progress towards a robust commercial presence in space and to solicit opinions on any changes that may be needed. There were a number of positives from these exchanges; however, a number of items were raised indicating possible trends that must be addressed. NASA's chief concerns include the following:

- Unbalanced support to CIPs possessing similar capabilities: Since there are more ideas than there is funding available at this point in time, it is critical that CASIS continue to help all users find funding sources, whether they come from CASIS's own contacts or are commercial customers of the various CIPs;
- Lack of transparency and parity in CASIS's CIP selection process: Complaints were raised that CASIS was not consistent nor transparent in determining which CIPs would support National Lab users. While not strictly bound by the same procurement regulations as the federal government, it is critical that CASIS does not enter into situations that create real or perceived conflicts of interest;
- Protection of CIP intellectual property: CIPs indicated that their unique ideas, when brought to CASIS for funding consideration, were not always protected but instead openly competed;
- Delayed communications with CIPs: Complaints from a broad spectrum of CIPs that CASIS is not timely in providing responses to CIPs as well as potential users on projects they have been proposed to CASIS, including a lack of feedback to proposing CIPs on why they were not selected;
- Insufficient communications between the operations and business development teams: Reports of conflicting messages from CASIS departments to CIPs results in frustration and waste of limited resources;
- Limited CIP access to customers which were initially identified by CASIS: Reports of obstruction of direct communication between CIPs and organizations whose initial contact was through CASIS, as well as attempts to control CIP's ability to directly solicit funding at the source rather than going through CASIS;
- Perception of representational orcanizational conflict of interest: The appearance that CASIS endorses, supports, or otherwise advocates on behalf of some CIPs, but not all."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2018/boeing.club.jpg

Keith's note: Looks like Boeing is taking this recruitment drive seriously. Now you can become a member of their official fan club by going to this link and get exclusive content. Of course, to do this you have to sign in with your Facebook account (with all the risks that go with that) or give them your email. By visiting this page Boeing puts a cookie in your browser to track what you are doing. If you agree to become a member of their fan club you risk all of the things listed in their Boeing Privacy and Cookie Statement which says:

"Boeing collects personal information from and about individuals for a variety of purposes. In some cases Boeing requests personal information from you, or from your employer in the case of organizational Services. In other cases we obtain personal information by noting how you and the devices you use interact with our Services. Examples of personal information include: first and last names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, passport or government identification information, gender, date of birth, country of residence ... We acquire data from credible third-party sources that are either publicly or commercially available. This information includes personal data such as your name, address, email address, preferences, interests, and certain demographic data. For example, personal data is collected when you access our applications through social media account logins. We combine personal information collected through our Services with other information that we or third parties collect about you in other contexts, such as our communications with you via email or phone, or your customer service records. We treat such combined information as personal information and protect it in accordance with this Statement."

And if you are older than 14 Boeing will happily collect this information from anyone. Why does Boeing want to know this about you? We've discussed this creepy activity in previous posts.

- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, previous post
- Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, previous post

Keith's note: I'm the last person to say that NASA should not explore new ways to put its branding in front of people so as to further explain the agency's mission and accomplishments. Indeed I harp on NASA relentlessly to seek out new ways to get its brand out. People like to identify themselves with what NASA is and what it does. In so doing, NASA itself gets more visibility. And NASA just turned 60 so its doing a victory lap right now.

This recent article "NASA Releases Streetwear Fashion Line To Celebrate Its 60th Anniversary" talks about the new clothing line by Heron Preston that features NASA's retired "worm" logo: "If you would have asked me to figure out how NASA would celebrate their organization's 60th anniversary, I probably wouldn't have guessed a new streetwear fashion line. Yet, that's exactly what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration opted to do. .... If you're hoping to get your hands on some of the NASA gear, you better have some deep pockets, as t-shirts are currently priced at $326, while some of the more popular items like the iconic backpack ring up at a hefty $1,342. The most expensive item in the collection, the parka pictured above, will set you back nearly $2,000."

Great stuff. The items being sold by this designer perfectly match the logo usage that the agency's original stylistic guidelines specify and they look a lot like the stuff I used to buy in NASA gift shops when I worked at the agency in the 80s and 90s. And of course, as many of you know, I am a NASA worm logo fan. But I paid $20 for those t-shirts - not $326. Hmm.

NASA Assigns Crews to First Commercial Spacecraft Flights, NASA

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space." The agency assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet NASA's safety and performance requirements."

Keith's note: Boeing held a media telecon today to discuss the problems they had with a recent test of their Starliner. But instead of making sure that all of the space media had the story, Boeing hand-picked the media who were allowed to participate. NASAWatch was not contacted. This is not surprising since I have been mocking their lame, tone deaf human spaceflight PR campaign of late - so I probably hurt their feelings. My bad.

But they did not contact Space News to participate. That is odd given their long-standing reach across the space industry. As for what was discussed - apparently, based on tweets from those who did participate, there was less detail offered than Irene Klotz from Aviation Week already tweeted yesterday (see below). So I am not certain what the point of the media telecon was today other than to give quotes.

As we approach an era of commercial crew flights paid for by the government it will be interesting to see if companies like Boeing can be as open and transparent as NASA PAO tries to be when there are mishaps, accidents and mistakes. Hand picking news media isn't the way to do that. Just sayin'

Sens. Cruz, Nelson, Markey Introduce Space Frontier Act

"U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on Wednesday introduced the Space Frontier Act (S. 3277). This commercial space bill builds upon the 2015 Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act by streamlining and reforming the regulatory framework for commercial space launch and Earth observation operations, which is crucial to maintaining American leadership in space. The bill also extends the operation and utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030 to ensure that the U.S. is getting the maximum return on American taxpayer investment to avoid creating a leadership vacuum in low Earth orbit."

S. 3277

Keith's note: Contain your enthusiasm, space fans. This grab bag of ideas does not actually fund itself. It may well make it easier for space commerce to proceed with various commercial ventures by cutting some red tape. But in terms of the things this bill wants NASA to pay for (like ISS through 2030) this legislation just says that its OK to spend money on these things. Actually spending money to do these things is another matter entirely and is up to appropriators to argue about annually for the next 12 years or so. How NASA will be assured of the funding needed to fund ISS through 2030 while doing the whole Moon/Mars thing has yet to be addressed. Oh yes - what about Space Force?

NASA's Management and Utilization of the International Space Station, NASA OIG

"Specifically, we question whether a sufficient business case exists under which private companies will be able to develop a self-sustaining and profit-making business independent of significant Federal funding within the next 6 years. Likewise, any extension of the ISS past 2024 would require continued funding in the neighborhood of $3-$4 billion annually to operate and maintain the Station - a significant portion of which could otherwise be redirected to develop systems needed for NASA's cislunar or deep space ambitions. In addition, extending the Station's life would challenge NASA to manage the risks associated with continued operation of the Station's aging systems and infrastructure. Furthermore, any extension will require the support of NASA's international partners, whose continued participation hinges on issues ranging from geopolitics to differing space exploration goals."

OIG: NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) (2018) earlier post

"By 2024, NASA will have invested $196 million in CASIS. In our opinion, weaknesses in performance measurement and the lack of an overall strategy have created an environment in which NASA continues to accept incremental improvement rather than more tangible attainment of agreed-upon goals. Consequently, without significant change, CASIS likely will fall short of advancing NASA's goal for a commercial economy in low Earth orbit. NASA needs to engage more substantively with CASIS and exercise more effective oversight of the cooperative agreement to clarify CASIS's role in helping build a robust economy in low Earth orbit."

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin, (2018) earlier post

"Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the Station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the Agency's current plan. This concern is illustrated by NASA's limited success in stimulating non-NASA activity aboard the Station through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS). Established in 2011 to facilitate use of the ISS by commercial companies, academia, and other Government and non-Government actors for their research or commercial purposes, CASIS's efforts have fallen short of expectations."

OIG: NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) (2018) earlier post

"Although CASIS awarded $21.7 million in grants to 140 projects between fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2016, the organization has underperformed on tasks important to achieving NASA's goal of building a commercial space economy in low Earth orbit."

Previous ISS postings

Prepared Remarks by House NASA Caucus Launch Reception AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning

"As many of you know, this Caucus was established last October and it has been working largely behind the scenes in anticipation of tonight's keynote speaker being confirmed: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2018/capsule.wh.jpg

Orion Spacecraft at the White House for the Made in America Showcase

"NASA's Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to NASA's Kennedy Space Center where final assembly, integration and testing was completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to the spacecraft."

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Participates in White House "Made in America" Showcase

"NASA's Orion spacecraft is built by Lockheed Martin; the SLS rocket is built by Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman; and the rocket's Launch Platform/ Exploration Ground Systems is supported by Jacobs."

Keith's note: And the eager #MadeInAmerica fans left out a paragraph "The Service Module is being built by Airbus Defence and Space." which is, of course, a European company using lots of European subcontractors. The European Service Module (ESM) is a rather crucial part of the overall system. How odd that the Coalition - and NASA - seem to forget to mention this fact in the furry of trying to hop on the latest White House slogan bandwagon.

Its also odd, that in the rush to tow piece of space hardware inside the White House gate that no one mentions the wholly American spacecraft being built by the private sector by Boeing, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin. That is the real #MadeInAmerica story. And why wasn't the Commercial Spaceflight Federation invited to participate? Their members have more spacecraft and launch systems #MadeInAmerica than NASA does.


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