Recently in Commercialization Category

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

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

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

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

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

NASA Watch On BBC For Crew-1

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

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

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

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

NASA OIG: NASA's Management Of Its Acquisition Workforce

"In addition, 95 percent of NASA's certified acquisition workforce met continuous learning requirements needed to maintain their certification in the reporting periods we evaluated. However, the Agency's migration to the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS), the official system of record for acquisition programs, is incomplete. As such, NASA relies on multiple systems and stakeholders to manage these certification programs, reducing the Agency's ability to fully validate the accuracy and completeness of workforce certification and training data."

The Future Is Here, Y'all

Wicker Introduces Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency Act

"U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act. The legislation would authorize the Department of Commerce (DOC) to provide space situational awareness (SSA) services to civil, commercial, and international space operators."

Keith's note: My question to the 1:00 pm Asteroid mission media telecon: "There is a lot of talk these days from NASA about the collection and utilization of resources in the solar system - indeed, the recently signed #Artemis Accords specifically deal with this issue with regard to the Moon, Mars, Asteroids, and comets. Is the OSIRIS-Rex sample collection system open source - can other space agencies or companies use this technology? Is it being considered for use on other missions? Same question about the Lucy, Psyche and DART systems."

With regard to OSIRIS-Rex Lori Glaz said that NASA needs to check. Regarding the Psyche mission Lindy Elkins-Tanton said that it is being done via a partnership with Maxnar who was selected because they have a lot of experience over a hundred spacecraft. The hope is that the design of the mission will be available to future missions. Regarding Lucy, Hal Levison said that a lot of the hardware is proprietary to Lockheed Martin and is based on flown hardware to reduce costs. No mention was made regarding DART technology.

Keith's update: At the 3:00 pm briefing I re-asked the question of SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen adding: "NASA is going to do something that it has never done before with applicability to many future missions and activities in space - things that have been called out in the Artemis Accords. Many of the missions you are sending out are technology demonstrators. If you are sending a thing to a world with the specific task of demonstrating a way to do something new on that world, then the results - and the way you got them - are of equal importance - and the Artemis Accords would seem to want you to make a lot of that information accessible. Is NASA going to make OSIRIS-Rex technology available in an open source fashion for other agencies - and perhaps companies - to use? I know there is a difference between scientific results and engineering performance and that there are always ITAR issues. How is the dissemination of this new technology going to evolve?"

He replied: "We have been a leader internationally in making things public. We are also making our models public. We believe in the dissemination of science since that speeds up discovery and also broadens it. We think that doing so inspires people to figure out things to do with our science in ways that we would have never thought to do. There were multiple solutions to the technology needed for this mission. In this case the arm was developed by a Lockheed Martin employee - so according to U.S. law the company owns that invention. I talked to Lockheed Martin and asked what they'd do if someone was interested in the design and they said to come on in since they are interested in spreading this technology. There are many different avenues to take regarding intellectual property (IP). IP is an important ingredient of pharmaceutical discovery. If we want to encourage the speed of discovery then we need a IP model that adapts to way that this actually works. Success for us at NASA is not just that the mission is successful. We want any company that can use the technology that we have developed to enhance business base to create more jobs around the country. In that regard I think we are consistent with the Artemis Accords."

NASA Detects Lattice Confinement Fusion, NASA GRC

"A team of NASA researchers seeking a new energy source for deep-space exploration missions, recently revealed a method for triggering nuclear fusion in the space between the atoms of a metal solid. Their research was published in two peer-reviewed papers in the top journal in the field, Physical Review C, Volume 101 (April, 2020): "Nuclear fusion reactions in deuterated metals" and "Novel nuclear reactions observed in bremsstrahlung-irradiated deuterated metals. ... With more study and development, future applications could include power systems for long-duration space exploration missions or in-space propulsion. It also could be used on Earth for electrical power or creating medical isotopes for nuclear medicine."

Keith's note: As you know I have been posting Cold Fusion sightings on NASAWatch for years. NASA Glenn and Langley have had some folks working on this for years. They usually use center director's discretionary funds or other funding sources that require little scrutiny from the normal research funding process. And they make big claims for their research but they rarely have proof to back up their claims. Now it seems that these folks have published in peer reviewed journals in April 2020. The implications, as mention on this official NASA web page could be profound. So, assuming that everything mentioned in this NASA GRC post and the associated papers is true, then why has NASA been silent about this? Seriously, this would be one heck of a spinoff for NASA to crow about. Does NASA HQ not know about this? Do they know but do not care? Or is there still something missing that makes this whole thing a real solution to space travel?

- Earlier Cold Fusion Postings

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces Historic Commercial Space Transportation Reforms, FAA

"U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today announced the publication of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements Final Rule for commercial space transportation launches and reentries. "This historic, comprehensive update to commercial space launch and reentry licensing requirements facilitates greater growth in this industry and helps America to maintain our #1 position in the world," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. This rule modernizes the way FAA regulates and licenses commercial space operations and allows the burgeoning aerospace industry to continue to innovate and grow, while maintaining public safety."

HeroX Helps NASA Advance Lunar Exploration with a Miniaturized Payload Prototype Challenge, HeroX

"HeroX, the world's leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition "Honey I Built the NASA Payload, The Sequel" on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The challenge seeks to develop miniature payload prototypes that can be sent to the Moon to help fill gaps in lunar knowledge. Lunar resources are potentially abounding, and these prototypes can also help discover some of these key resources scientists think might be on the Moon."

Keith's note: This stuff is cool. NASA should do more of it. But, coolness, aside, NASA is not interested in making any mention if it as far as I can tell. If you go to the NASA Tournament Lab website no mention of this new challenge is made. Indeed the page was last updated on 9 July 2020. This NASA Tournament Lab is apparently run by the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) at JSC in collaboration with Harvard University - they do not mention this challenge either. Nor does SMD, HEOMD, STMD, or the Artemis web page. And the official Twitter account @nasa_ntl and the main NASA Twitter account for these sort of things at @NASASolve have not made any mention either.

Why hold these cool events if you don't bother to tell people about them, NASA?

- NASA Space Apps Challenge: An Underutilized Tool For Global Reach, earlier post
- How NASA Uses DIME/Soft Power To Extend A Global Reach (Update), earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post
- NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated, earlier post

Space Force considers merging Cape Canaveral with Kennedy Space Center, Ars Technica

"Would NASA be willing to listen as well? The space agency administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said yes. "I'm glad to see big ideas being proposed such as a potential merger," he told Ars. "This, and other ambitious concepts for the future should all be given due consideration. However, such a proposed merger would require a great deal of work and effort. For the time being, NASA will continue to focus on enhancing the efficiencies and capabilities at our existing launch facility. Our team at KSC has already done a great job creating a thriving spaceport to serve both NASA and commercial needs."

Keith's note: Every time you turn around it seems that Space Force is trying to grab a piece of NASA's turf. First it was floating the idea of putting military soldiers in orbit and on the Moon, now they want to start grabbing NASA launch facilities. I get the whole efficiency thing but it sure sounds like Space Force is in the driver's seat on these ideas and NASA is playing catch-up in responding to them. The idea originated with Space Force because of their needs - not NASA's. NASA did not seek out this activity. Funny how everything works just fine for 60 years - then Space Force appears and starts to try and change everything to suit their needs. Just sayin'.

- Space Force Says That It Plans To Send Troops To The Moon, earlier post
- NASA And Space Force Are Collaborating, earlier post
- Space Force Fans Want To Implement The "Green Agenda", earlier post
- Space Force Is Obsessed With Being Space Force, earlier post
- Military Space Guys Argue Over The Whole Space Force Rank Thing, earlier post
- Space Force Really Wants To Be Star Fleet, earlier post
- Now Space Force Wants Its Own Starfleet Admirals, earlier post
- Space Force Really Wants To Take Over All Of NASA's Stuff, earlier post
- TV's Space Force Looks Like More Fun Than The Real One (Or Artemis), earlier post
- More Space Force postings

Economic development projects to bring 510 new jobs to Huntsville area, Made in Alabama (Alabama Department of Commerce)

"The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber today announced that new economic development projects will bring 510 new jobs and more than $71 million in investment to the community."

Keith's 27 Sep 10:54 am EDT note: This release was issued on 25 September 2020 - the same day as the NASA economic Report came out. The Made in Alabama (Alabama Department of Commerce) website makes no mention of the NASA Economic Impact report. NASA HQ makes no mention of this news from Alabama. NASA Marshall makes no mention of this local economic news or the NASA economic report on their website but their twitter account retweeted @JimBridenstine's tweet - once.

NASA's Impact on Economy Is No Secret to Space Coast, MyNews13

"In Florida, NASA employs 33,000 workers and makes a $5.9 billion impact on the Space Coast, according to Space Florida's Dale Ketcham. Planned missions to return to the moon and to go to Mars for the first time are responsible for a lot of that impact, he said."

There is no mention of this report (or a link to it) on the Space Florida website but they are responding to media requests. There is no mention on the NASA Kennedy website but they did retweet @JimBridensine's tweet - once. No mention is made on the Florida Governor's website or the Department of Economic Opportunity. Rep. Bill Posey has posted nothing on his website or his Twitter account. Sen. Rick Scott makes no mention on his website or Twitter account. Sen. Marco Rubio has nothing on his website but he does make mention on his Twitter account. Given the immense amount of money NASA has sent to Florida over the past half century you'd think that the folks there would be a little more interested in spreading the good news - especially when the economy is in such dire shape. Its baffling that NASA Kennedy is not making more of this good news.

Oddly, while Johnson Space Center makes no mention of this NASA economic impact report on their homepage, they do have an old link prominently featuring their own report: "Texas Comptroller Releases NASA Economic Impact Report". I mentioned this report back in September 2019 when JSC did a stealth launch of their own:

"Look at this Texas portion (larger image) of the list of companies that are suppliers to SLS/Orion/Artemis: "2019 Deep Space Exploration Systems Supplier Locations". These 182 companies are located all over Texas. I'll be willing to bet that nearly all of these companies have no idea that there is a NASA website that lists all of the small business that work on this project. The Texas Comptroller seems not to know about it. JSC does not mention it either. Why go through the time and expense of collecting this information if no one is told that it exists?"

While JSC still features this old economic news from a year ago on their website, JSC makes no mention of the new report - but they did retweet Jim Bridenstine's tweet - once.

There is no mention on the NASA Ames website; none at NASA Armstrong's website; nor any mention at NASA JPL's website - this despite the fact that the report cites California having "69,725 jobs in the California economy were supported by NASA activities in Fiscal Year 2019" and that "The total income impact of NASA in California was $6.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2019."

Keith's 28 Sep 12:21 pm EDT update: NASA Langley just issued this press release today at 12:13 pm EDT. NASA's Moon to Mars Economic Impact Study Shows Significant Benefit for Virginia - but no mention on their homepage.

No mention is made by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology or the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (Jim Bridenstine will be testifying there on Wednesday - maybe he will mention the report).

No mention of the NASA report is made at the Aerospace Industries Association, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Space Foundation, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - or the National Space Council. To their credit, the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration does make brief mention on their website and links to the NASA report. And of course none of the space advocacy groups have bothered to say anything.

I could go on and research the PR given to this report for all 50 states. A simple Google news search will show how underwhelming the response has been. Let me be clear: this report is overflowing with great news for NASA and hundreds of communities across the nation. I hope NASA publishes more things like this since they have only scratched the surface of what NASA provides to this nation. America needs good news right now. The inspirational aspect of what NASA does as part of this good news is an added bonus in these dark times. But it is downright depressing to see NASA drop the ball when it comes to promoting its own good news - once again.

What happend to all of that presidential "Make Space Great Again" hoopla? Or was that just for campaign ads?

- NASA's Economic Impact Study Misses Much Of NASA's Economic Impact, earlier post
- NASA Economic Impact Report Released, earlier post
- NASA Report Details How Agency Significantly Benefits US Economy, earlier post

Keith's note: NASA put out an "Economic Impact Study" today. Not much thought was put into making the most of this report given that it was issued at 7:00 am on a Friday. So NASA will get one day of media bounce before a weekend at a time when news recycles every 17 minutes. Bad rollout planning aside, the report is quite useful and contains some very important information that bears on NASA's future - not just for the whole space thing - but as an economic and societal force. But this report is only useful to the extent that people know that it exists and that those people who convey its contents understand what it says and convey that information such that a broader audience can ingest and use it. NASA issued a brochure for the media but odds are very few regular taxpayers will ever know about it. That's a shame since NASA's impact is considerable.

As for the report itself, the breakdown of economic numbers is done on a state by state level. At the end of the day it is obvious that most economic policy has a high state level quotient to it. But if NASA really wanted to explain where it has an impact (and by default where it does not) the breakdown should be done at a town or zip code level. These maps with large states give a somewhat inaccurate impress of where the impact is derived. In many cases it is located in metropolitan or regional areas that either focus a state's economic power to limited areas, or span the borders of more than one state and offer a regional focus.

In many cases these maps point out woeful inequalities by default such as Montana (less than 1 FTE who earned $10,000), Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, etc.. Nothing is ever said in this report with regard to why some parts of America do not share in all of this NASA economic goodness. But wait: they do. These states have large agricultural and natural resource sectors of their economy that benefit from remote sensing. GPS and satellite communications enable many economic activities that would otherwise be impossible. And every person who lives there derives some benefit from all of these 'spinoffs" that NASA is forever waving its arms about. Yet I see no mention in this report as to how these technologies with clear NASA heritage and continued involvement impact these states. It just looks like they get nothing. Why would anyone in those states ever care about NASA's benefits since NASA shows there to be virtually none?

The report uses lots of models and makes incessant mention of how one NASA FTE civil servant job leads to X number of other jobs but the report never provides actual examples i.e. where a specific program with a specific number of civil servants resulted in contracts to specific companies and how many people they hired and what their collective economic impact on their community was. I think that would be most enlightening since most people are unaware of how this all works. I suppose some of the company stuff is proprietary but absent any granularity it seems that a 'one size fits all' metric is used to compute and express this multiplier effect.

Also - the efficiency with which a large aerospace contractor hires and conducts work vs how a small business does hiring can be vastly different. Since we constantly hear about how much of America's business is done by small businesses one would think that would be very useful information. Oh yes, although this was based on older FY 2019 information, given that we are all working at home now in a dispersed mode - and will be for some time to come - this would also give some insight as to what a dispersed, but networked, workforce can do.

It would be interesting to see how NASA's economic impact fares when compared on a dollar:dollar basis with scientific organizations such as NSF and NIST and on large developmental/operational organizations such as NOAA and DoD. It would also be interesting to compare what an academic dollar buys you vs what a commercial dollar can buy.

It would, of course, be interesting to see how the economics map put when compared to Congressional districts. Having once worked for a large aerospace contractor I can tell you with certainty that they know exactly who gets what. And if someone was really industrious they'd map political contributions ... but I digress.

I guess what I am looking for is how you translate this report (which I am certain has accurate information) into words that people outside of economic wonkery and internal beltway spin can understand. NASA put together a nice data dump but it is somewhat cold and devoid of any human connectivity. Does the report mention how often state and local organizations interact with NASA on business matters? Does it mention how many high school and college graduates take on majors related to - or inspired-by NASA and how that contributes to a broader aspect of the nation's economy?

This is a very useful report and I am sure there is a lot in there that I have missed. The reach of the agency's economic impact is chronically under appreciated and rarely quantified in such a comprehensive fashion. Kudos to the authors and sponsors.

But if I were a state economic official (from Montana) and I looked at what other states got from NASA, I'd like to know why they got what they did and why my state did not. If I was at a state or local chamber of commerce I'd like to see some local examples and lessons learned. It would be nice to see some plain language success stories - such as how a machine shop with several dozen employees got to make a part that goes in a NASA rocket and how the income from that one part employed people, how those people felt about their work, what the actual impact was interns of the specific jobs created, and how all of that translated (or did not translate) into visibility for NASA's role at an organic level. In essence I'd like to see how the mere presence of a company doing space stuff has impacts other than sheer numbers.

Members of Congress like big numbers and often fall under the spell of lobbyists and big aerospace companies and the self-serving yarns that they spin. But they also like small stories. They like to get letters about home town impacts and success stories based on real people leading normal lives. Such stories can often exceed they impact of a lobbyists' spin. You cannot quantify hope or inspiration and the impact that they have with mere numbers. But a report on NASA's economic impact is incomplete without presenting the impact of hope and inspiration - and pride - especially right now when people are looking for a bright light at the end of this horrible tunnel

NASA's impact on America is woefully underestimated - sadly, it is all too often underestimated by NASA itself.

NASA Report Details How Agency Significantly Benefits US Economy

"NASA released Friday the results of its first-ever agencywide economic impact report. The report shows that, through all NASA activities, the agency generated more than $64.3 billion in total economic output during fiscal year 2019, supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide, and generated an estimated $7 billion in federal, state, and local taxes throughout the United States."

NASA Highlights Science, Business on Next Northrop Grumman Mission to Space Station

"Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA and St茅phane de La Faverie, group president, The Est茅e Lauder Companies and global brand president, Est茅e Lauder, who will discuss plans to photograph the company's New Advanced Night Repair serum in the space station's iconic cupola window as part of NASA's efforts to enable business activities at the space station and develop a robust low-Earth orbit economy."

Keith's note: We got an advanced look at one of Phil's slides. NASA apparently did extensive simulations of the perfume photo op. Larger image

Day 2 of ISSRDC Online Series to Feature Space Investment, Commercialization, and NASA-driven Programs

"Day 2 of the 9th annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) will take place virtually this Thursday, September 17, bringing together researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and the general public to showcase the benefits of conducting research and technology development onboard our nation's industrial incubator in low Earth orbit (LEO). Each year, ISSRDC is hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA, and the American Astronautical Society. The day will kick off with a session focused on space-based research that is leading to commercial product applications. Multiple plenary sessions will be dedicated to NASA-driven initiatives like GeneLab and the Cold Atom Lab. Additionally, a session focused on trends within the investment community will be led by executive leadership within Nasdaq."

The conference will also air on NASA TV

Space Travel Reality Show Set To Send Contestant To ISS In Works From Space Hero Company & Propagate, Deadline

"The trip of the Space Hero winner will be on a SpaceX Dragon rocket. Space Hero, billed as the first space media company, is working with Axiom Space, manufacturer of the world's first privately funded commercial space station -- a module for the ISS where the private astronauts can stay -- and full-service human spaceflight mission provider. Led by Mike Suffredini who served as NASA's International Space Station program manager for 10 years, Axiom handles all aspects of the Space Hero private astronaut mission, from brokering the trip to the ISS -- currently earmarked for early 2023 -- and securing the rocket seat to training the aspiring astronauts and insurance coverage."

NASA astronauts have a new task: make videos of Estee Lauder products, CNN

"The International Space Station has served as the world's most unique laboratory for two decades, hosting hundreds of scientific experiments, crews of astronauts and even the occasional slime. But now, NASA, one of the space station's primary operators, is preparing to oversee the largest push of business activity aboard the ISS. Later this month, up to 10 bottles of a new Est茅e Lauder (EL) skincare serum will arrive at the space station, a NASA spokesperson told CNN Business. NASA astronauts are expected to film the items in the microgravity environment of the ISS and the company will be able to use that footage in ad campaigns or other promotional material."

Space Resources are the Key to Safe and Sustainable Lunar Exploration

"Today, we're taking a critical step forward by releasing a solicitation for commercial companies to provide proposals for the collection of space resources. When considering such proposals, we will require that all actions be taken in a transparent fashion, in full compliance with the Registration Convention, Article II and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, and all of our other international obligations. We are putting our policies into practice to fuel a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity. The requirements we've outlined are that a company will collect a small amount of Moon "dirt" or rocks from any location on the lunar surface, provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location, and conduct an "in-place" transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith or rocks to NASA. After ownership transfer, the collected material becomes the sole property of NASA for our use."

Pick an agency, any agency, Space Review

"Congress, though, rejected the proposal, with appropriators skeptical that Commerce was the best agency to handle civil STM. Prior to SPD-3, the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, had been the leading candidate to handle STM in addition to its work licensing commercial launches and reentries. While the administration decided to give that authority to the Office of Space Commerce, some in Congress still thought AST was the better home. ... The report, led by a panel chaired by Michael Dominguez, former assistant secretary of the Air Force and which included former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe and former NRO director Marty Faga, was released August 20. And, much to the relief of the administration, it concluded that the Office of Space Commerce was indeed the best agency for the job. "Following its evaluative criteria, the Panel determines OSC to be best suited to perform STM tasks within the federal government," the report succinctly stated."

NASA Administrator to Open Space Station Research and Development Conference, NASA

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is set to open the ninth annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 27, as the microgravity laboratory celebrates the 20th anniversary of continuous human presence in space."

Day 1 of ISSRDC Online Series to Feature NASA Leadership and Promote Commercialization of Low Earth Orbit, CASIS

"The 9th annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) kicks off as a virtual event this Thursday, August 27, bringing together researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and the general public to showcase the benefits of conducting research and technology development onboard our nation's industrial incubator in low Earth orbit (LEO). Each year, ISSRDC is hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA, and the American Astronautical Society. This year, the conference will take place as an online series featuring three days of virtual plenary sessions: Day 1 on August 27, Day 2 on September 17, and Day 3 on October 22. The virtual sessions are free to attend; however, registration is required for each day."

Watch live on NASA TV

Keith's note: I will be live tweeting the entire ISSRDC on Thursday on @NASAWatch with the hashtag #ISSRDC I urge others who might be listening to try and do the same.

Report Offers Roadmap to Mitigate Effects of Large Satellite Constellations on Astronomy, AAS

"The report from the Satellite Constellations 1 (SATCON1) workshop, organized jointly by NSF's NOIRLab and the American Astronomical Society (AAS), has been delivered to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Held virtually from 29 June to 2 July 2020, SATCON1 focused on technical aspects of the impact of existing and planned large satellite constellations on optical and infrared astronomy. NSF, which funded the workshop, also finances most of the large ground-based telescopes widely available to researchers in the United States. More than 250 astronomers, engineers, commercial satellite operators, and other stakeholders attended SATCON1. Their goals were to better quantify the scientific impacts of huge ensembles of low-Earth-orbiting satellites (LEOsats) contaminating astronomical observations and to explore possible ways to minimize those impacts."

Keith's note: I sent the following to NASA PAO: "Last night imagery of two NASA astronauts appeared in a Democratic National Convention video. Did the DNC seek permission from NASA and/or the astronauts portrayed to use this imagery for political purposes? If so did NASA grant permission? Does NASA intend to file a complaint with the DNC for the use of this imagery of two of its employees in a political context and/or ask for it to be deleted?"

The response I got today says "NASA was not made aware of the video before it was released and we did not provide any assistance or footage, which was publicly available online."

U.S. prosecutors probe ex-NASA official, Boeing over space contract: sources, Reuters

"The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal probe into whether NASA's former head of human spaceflight gave Boeing Co improper guidance during a lucrative lunar-lander contract competition, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday. The Justice Department has sent subpoenas to NASA, Boeing and Doug Loverro, who led the space agency's marquee space travel program until he resigned in May, as part of a grand-jury investigation into the possible violation of federal procurement laws, the sources said. In the probe, opened in June, prosecutors are focusing on communication between Loverro and Boeing space executive Jim Chilton in late January, during a blackout period for the Human Landing System competition, one of the sources said. Representatives for Boeing and Loverro declined to comment. NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

Keith's note: These NASA procurement activities aren't just a few people in a room working late on Friday afternoons. Hundreds are involved - for weeks - including lawyers, FAR experts etc. Lots of spreadsheets and PowerPoint. Something is missing from this story - either that or a whole lotta people at NASA and Boeing screwed up collectively.

CASIS Board of Directors Welcomes New Members, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the organization that manages the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory pursuant to a Cooperative Agreement with NASA, has inducted four new members to the organization's board of directors. As directors on the CASIS board, these highly decorated and scientifically diverse leaders will work with existing board members, executive staff, and NASA stakeholders to determine organizational priorities. The board seeks to ensure and enhance the ability of CASIS to optimize the use of the ISS National Lab through basic and applied space-based investigations that will continue progress toward our nation's goal of developing a sustainable market economy in low Earth orbit."

My Statement on the Successful Splashdown of NASA-SpaceX Dragon Endeavour, Joe Biden

"Congratulations to NASA, SpaceX, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, and all the hardworking women and men who made possible a successful conclusion to this historic mission. The first American splashdown in 45 years was executed with precision and professionalism, just like the entirety of this awe-inspiring trip to the International Space Station. This is a victory for American innovation and persistence, and I am proud of the role President Obama and I had in fighting to ensure that commercial crew flights from American soil would become a reality. As president, I look forward to leading a bold space program that will continue to send astronaut heroes to expand our exploration and scientific frontiers through investments in research and technology to help millions of people here on Earth."

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Celebrate Successful Splashdown of SpaceX Demo-2

"After a momentous launch to space from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade, NASA astronauts have successfully returned home after a productive mission on the International Space Station," said Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). "The safe return of these two NASA astronauts is a significant milestone for America's space program. I want to welcome Astronauts Hurley and Behnken home and congratulate all those who made their mission possible."

America must return to the moon 'as soon as possible', Harrison Schmitt, Politico

"It has been remarkable to see the National Team, including Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, work closely together with NASA. Blending established entities and entrepreneurial space firms is a good prescription for success. The team is aptly named, as it represents our national heritage in lunar exploration, our national pride in science and technology innovation, and the national strength of our commercial space industry."

Keith's note: The sole intent of this op ed is not to sing the praises of America's plans for returning humans to the Moon as the title suggests. Rather, it is to sell the industry partnering of "the National Team" led by Blue Origin. If the op ed really focused on all that NASA is doing for the Human Landing System and Artemis you'd see SpaceX, Dynetics, Maxar, Astrobotic, Boeing, and a bunch of other companies mentioned. But they are not. Indeed the impression the uninformed (Congressional) reader is that the "National Team" mentioned herein is indeed America's official National Team since no one else is mentioned. Oh, and the listed author is a Blue Origin consultant.

The real "National Team" is composed of all of the companies and institutions supporting NASA's Artemis program - not just those who belong to one contractor team or another - or belong to either the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration or the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Caveat Emptor.

Former Spaceflight CEO and French entrepreneur join forces to launch astronaut training startup, Geekwire

"If the 2010s were the decade when small satellites revolutionized the space industry, the 2020s will be when commercial space odysseys finally go mainstream. At least that's the gamble that Jason Andrews, the co-founder and former CEO of Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, is taking with French-born tech entrepreneur Nicolas Gaume. Today Andrews and Gaume are taking the wraps off Orbite, a Seattle startup that will focus on getting would-be spacefliers ready for those future odysseys. "You're going to go to a space camp for the next generation," Gaume said."

Keith's update: (Sigh) Yet another company backed by rich people to train commercial astronauts for their space flights. Of course there is a rich seaside spa angle to this with all the luxury perks. Maybe R2D2 will serve drinks. But there are no actual training facilities yet. And no one is flying commercial space passengers yet - suborbital or orbital. But this space camp resort thing will open in 2023 or something. And since all of these spaceflight tickets are ultra expensive - the equivalent of a house or several college educations - what's another few tens of thousands of dollars to the rich folks?

I have had two rounds of parabolic flights on ZeroG and did the suborbital astronaut scientist centrifuge training program at NASTAR. They are excellent, professional introductions to what can be expected for suborbital flights, and I highly recommend both. As for all of the other adult space camp stuff Orbite (and its competitors) will offer - who knows. The facilities that you need to actually do provide this kind of training are not cheap and they don't just pop into existence. But ... there are lots of former astronauts looking for a new gig - so the instructor recruitment part will be easy. But until the actual demand appears it is questionable as to whether these luxury add-ons to commercial spaceflight will be able to survive. As always, caveat emptor - and Beam Me Up.

Orbite website

Keith's note: Bragging about things that a simple Google search can refute isn't the best marketing approach, Lockheed Martin. Here's a list of the past week's desperate bragging attempts by Boeing and Lockheed Martin:

- Denial At Boeing Regarding Poor Performance On SLS, earlier post
- You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly, earlier post
- Lockheed Martin's Flawed Comparison Between Orion and Dragon, earlier post

NASA Provides Update on Commercial Crew Program, Close Call Review of Boeing's Orbital Flight Test

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 7, to discuss the outcome of its High Visibility Close Call review of the December 2019 uncrewed Orbital Flight Test of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft. Participants in the briefing will be: Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program."

Keith's update: NASA had a telecon with HEOMD AA Kathy Lueders and Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. In a nutshell they have completed their report on the problems associated with Boeing's Starliner OFT-1 flight, have 81 recommendations that need to be implemented. No firm date for the re-flight OFT-2 for Starliner were offered other than maybe by the end of this year. In essence the NASA/Boeing processes broke down and an extensive review was made to be certain that "no stone went unturned" - as had been directed by Lueders' predecessor Doug Loverro.

I asked: "You only discovered that you had major problems with Starliner after the vehicle was actually in flight. The NASA/Boeing preflight process clearly failed in this regard. Yet things like this did not happen with SpaceX. Why did the NASA/SpaceX process work so well when it did not work very well with Boeing? Shouldn't the NASA process be the same for both contractors or are they that different from each other that different approaches are required? Given that SpaceX seems to have a better handle on this are NASA/SpaceX lessons learned being applied to the NASA/Boeing process to get them up to speed?"

Some intersting answers resulted. Stich admitted that when one spacecraft provider comes forth with a newer approach (SpaceX) than another (Boeing) people naturally tend to pay more attention to the new approach. "Perhaps we did not take the time we needed to in hindsight. We learned a lesson and we will be applying those lessons equally." Stitch admitted that NASA probably felt somewhat more comfortable with Boeing's more traditional approach and as a result so SpaceX may have had more oversight since they had a newer approach. "This is a wakeup call for NASA and all of its contractors and they all want the lessons learned."

NASA Developing a Plan to Fly Personnel on Suborbital Spacecraft

"For the first time in the agency's history, NASA has initiated a new effort to enable NASA personnel to fly on future commercial suborbital spaceflights. NASA's Flight Opportunities program has successfully worked with emerging commercial suborbital transportation systems to fly research payloads to space for short periods of microgravity time. In addition, the Flight Opportunities program recently released a call that allows those non-NASA researchers to propose accompanying their payloads in suborbital space."

NASA Suborbital Crew Space Transportation Services

"In conjunction with a system qualification of suborbital transportation systems, NASA is considering acquisition of Suborbital Crew Space Transportation Services for NASA Astronauts and other NASA personnel from one or more U.S. providers through commercial services contracts. Depending on mission requirements, NASA may purchase single seats, multiple seats within one mission, or seats for an entire 'charter' mission. NASA is seeking pertinent information from industry which may be used to formulate one or more solicitations related to the SubC effort."

Keith's update: These two events happened a few hours - and a few hundred feet - apart from one another. Some people are looking up to the sky for answers while others seek some answers back on Earth.

NASA to Ring The Nasdaq Stock Market Opening Bell from the International Space Station in Honor of the First Commercial Crew Launch

"NASA will ring the Nasdaq Opening Bell remotely from the International Space Station to commemorate the first Commercial Crew launch. Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, Demo - 2 Launch Crew, Robert Behken, Douglas Hurley, and ISS Commander Chris Cassidy, will ring the Opening Bell in a virtual bell ringing ceremony from the International Space Station. Tuesday, June 2, 2020 - 9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ET"

Keith's note: Its not clear what bell will actually be rung - the ISS has a ship's bell which was rung to welcome the Dragon crew yesterday. A live event "Tue., June 2, 9:20 a.m. EDT: SpaceX employee event and Class of 2020 Mosaic presentation with ISS crew" is shown on the NASA TV schedule with the ISS crew starting at 9:15 am. Watch live

Keith's note: At today's media telecom with Jim Bridenstine I asked if he could clarify NASA's media reach during the Demo-2 launch since he says that it topped everyone's viewing habits. I got one number "10.3 million concurrent viewers across all NASA platforms". I asked about these "heat charts" that NASA showed which seem to only show limited interest in the states where Dragon was built and flown and asked for additional viewership statistics. I don't expect to see any. I also asked how NASA can be seen as being relevant when we see split screens on TV with NASA on one side and riots on the other. How is NASA going to convince these angry and worried people who are out in the streets wearing gas masks - and not watching 2 guys take off in a rocket ship - that this is more important than problems "back here on Earth" (as this question is often couched). His response below:

Remarks by President Trump at Kennedy Space Center

Keith's note: Today at a media briefing Jim Bridenstine said that there was representation "from both sides of the aisle" at the Demo-2 launch. Yet this is what the President chose to say about Congressional members present at they events:

"Also with us are many members of my Cabinet, including our great new DNI, John Ratcliffe. Thank you,John. Thank you.(Applause.) We have a great friend of mine, a special man, ran a great, great campaign: Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. (Applause.) Thank you, Ron. Thank you, Ron. Your Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Leader Kevin McCarthy. Kevin, thank you very much. (Applause.) Great job you do, Kevin. And Representatives Matt Gaetz, John Rutherford, Michael Waltz, Bill Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Daniel Webster, Brian Mast, Elise Stefanik, Bill Flores, Brian Babin, Rodney Davis, Roger Marshall, and Steven Palazzo. Thank you very much, fellas. Thank you. (Applause.) What a great group of people. They're warriors. They're really warriors. They helped so much get this done, and so many other things."

All of the people mentioned are Republicans. No Democrats were mentioned. Apparently they did not make any contribution to the day's events - otherwise they'd have been mentioned, right? Today at a crew conversation from JSC Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and House Science, Space, and Technology ranking member Brian Babin (R-TX) were there. That committee's chair, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) was nowhere to be seen. "Both sides of the aisle?" Just sayin'.

Viewing A Dragon Launch From Orbit

"Ivan Vagner @ivan_mks63 2 minutes before the #CrewDragon launch the @Space_Station passed Cape Canaveral. Captured some pictures of LC39A from where the Falcon 9 launched. Congratulations to everyone and looking forward to seeing @Astro_Doug, @AstroBehnken"

SpaceX Launches Astronauts on Historic Mission

"For the first time in history, NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifted off at 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

SpaceX's mission: A new chapter in space exploration -- and in humanity's age-old quest, OpEd, Sean O'Keefe, The Hill

"The Obama administration modified the strategy, slowing NASA's spacecraft development but accelerating the commercialization plan to develop new systems to competitively sustain the space station. This was the objective SpaceX has successfully pursued for the past few years, sending cargo and supplies to the space station -- the biggest, most advanced laboratory in space the world has ever conceived."

Trump Takes Credit For Space Launch That Got Its Start A Decade Ago, NPR

"Actually, it was two past presidents who put NASA on the path to this SpaceX launch, though it would be hard to know that from listening to the post-launch speeches."

- Commercial Crew Did Not Start With Trump. Just Sayin', earlier post

Oh, Hello Elon

Russia will not accept attempts to privatize the Moon, says Roscosmos CEO, TASS

"Attempts to privatize the Moon run counter to international law, CEO of Russia's Roscosmos State Space Agency Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station on Monday. "We will not, in any case, accept any attempts to privatize the Moon. It is illegal, it runs counter to international law," Rogozin pointed out. The Roscosmos CEO emphasized that Russia would begin the implementation of a lunar program in 2021 by launching the Luna-25 spacecraft to the Moon. Roscosmos intends to launch the Luna-26 spacecraft in 2024. After that, the Luna-27 lander will be sent to the Moon to dig up regolith and carry out research on the lunar surface."

- What Are The Artemis Accords And Why Do We Need Them?, earlier post

"It has been nearly a decade since an American space crew last lifted off from U.S. soil in a spacecraft built here. That's expected to change Wednesday afternoon with the relaunch of manned space flight. But the occasion will be very different from past launches, as this time, a private company is leading the way as a NASA partner. Miles O'Brien reports on the potentially "revolutionary" moment." Featuring Wayne Hale, Lori Garver, Garrett Reisman, Michael L贸pez-Alegr铆a and Keith Cowing.

President Trump to travel to Central Florida for historic astronaut launch

"President Donald Trump will be in attendance on Wednesday when NASA and SpaceX launch astronauts from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade. A White House officials tells WESH 2 News that Trump will travel to Central Florida to view the launch at Kennedy Space Center. "Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security," Trump said."

NASA Invites Public to Be Its Guests to Celebrate Historic 'Launch America'

"For the first time ever, NASA is hosting a global "NASA Social," an opportunity for social media users to get a behind the scenes view of the launch - virtually - and a unique way the public can celebrate the return of human spaceflight to American soil."

Airspace, Road, Bridge and Water Closures for SpaceX Demo-2

- Artemis Accords website
- Artemis Accords briefing charts

Keith's note: Looks like Mike LA may have a new call sign: "Goose".

Keith's note: I tweeted this and it went viral due to a retweet by Trump critic Rick Wilson. Oops.

Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources

"Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law."

Trump administration drafting 'Artemis Accords' pact for moon mining, Reuters

"The Artemis Accords are part of the Trump administration's plan to forgo the treaty process at the United Nations and instead reach agreement with "like-minded nations," partly because a treaty process would take too long and working with non-spacefaring states would be unproductive, a senior administration official told Reuters. As countries increasingly treat space as a new military domain, the U.S.-led agreement is also emblematic of NASA's growing role as a tool of American diplomacy and is expected to stoke controversy among Washington's space rivals such as China."

Keith's note: I know that you need to start somewhere. But cutting corners on the ususal process and expecting that major space powers like Russia and China will not sign sounds like this thing will be lopsided at the onset. And everyone is going ahead with their existing Moon plans and will claim areas as their own zones. How is this going to have any real impact unless everyone who is going to be doing things on the Moon agrees in advance? Just wondering.

Out Of This World! Tom Cruise Plots Movie To Shoot In Space With Elon Musk's SpaceX, Deadline

"I'm hearing that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk's Space X are working on a project with NASA that would be the first narrative feature film - an action adventure - to be shot in outer space. It's not a Mission: Impossible film and no studio is in the mix at this stage but look for more news as I get it. But this is real, albeit in the early stages of liftoff."

Keith's 4 May note: I have asked NASA PAO if this is true.

Keith's update: Yup.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine: Why our Launch of the SpaceX Demo-2 Mission to the International Space Station is Essential

"NASA is committed to fulfilling its obligations to the station's international partners as we work to return human spaceflight capability to American soil. Our commercial crew providers are in the final stages of development and testing of new human space transportation systems. To ensure the agency keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station until these new capabilities are routinely available, NASA is in negotiations with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall. NASA's contract with Roscosmos will meet the recommendations of several advisory committees including the GAO, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and the NASA Office of the Inspector General."

NASA to Host Preview Briefings, Interviews for First Crew Launch with SpaceX

"With the first mission to return human spaceflight launches to American soil now targeted to lift off May 27, NASA will highlight the historic flight with a series of news conferences Friday, May 1, that will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. In addition, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who will serve as crew for the mission, will be available for remote interviews."

The briefings start at 11:00 am EDT and air live at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

NASA Names Companies to Develop Human Landers for Artemis Moon Missions, NASA

"The following companies were selected to design and build human landing systems:
-- Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, is developing the Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV) - a three-stage lander to be launched on its own New Glenn Rocket System and ULA Vulcan launch system.
-- Dynetics (a Leidos company) of Huntsville, Alabama, is developing the Dynetics Human Landing System (DHLS) - a single structure providing the ascent and descent capabilities that will launch on the ULA Vulcan launch system.
-- SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, is developing the Starship - a fully integrated lander that will use the SpaceX Super Heavy rocket."

- Maxar Selected to Support Dynetics in Designing and Building a Lunar Human Landing System for NASA
- NASA Selects Blue Origin National Team to Return Humans to the Moon
- SNC to Lead Crew Module Development for Critical Piece of NASA's Artemis Program
- Dynetics to develop NASA's Artemis Human Lunar Landing System
- CSF Statement on NASA's Selection of Multiple Commercial Human Lander Awardees
- AIAA Statement: NASA selection of Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX for Artemis Lunar Lander Development
- Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Comments on HLS Awards

SpaceX launch: local officials scramble to plan for crowds on heels of coronavirus, Florida Today

"The launch is set for May 27, but Gov. DeSantis has not indicated yet what will be reopened by then. The governor did say Tuesday during a trip to the White House that he will make an announcement Wednesday about "Phase 1" of his reopening plan for Florida. "We're gonna approach it in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way, and I think that's what most of the folks throughout the state are looking for," DeSantis said as he sat next to President Donald Trump. Malik agrees with this plan. "I'm hoping by then things are better. I like the phased approach of opening some things up. We can't go from zero to 100 in a second," Malik said. But his goal is for hotels, restaurants and beaches to be open by the May 27 launch date. Now local officials are racing to devise a plan to deal with any crowds that do show up, even if it is comprised mostly of local residents cramming the beaches."

Florida governor: Keep movie theaters closed, no sporting events until 'far in the future', Politico

"Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is still formulating a plan to reopen Florida's economy, said on Saturday he does not envision movie theaters or bars opening any time soon -- or allowing sporting events with fans until "far in the future." DeSantis this week has contended that Florida's "measured" approach to shutting down the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic has "flattened the curve." The Republican governor set up a task force to examine reopening the economy, and he is supposed to start reviewing its recommendations next week."

Keith's note: A few days ago Jim Bridenstine asked people to "join us for this launch - but do so from home. We are asking people not to travel to Kennedy Space Center." OK, so what happens when the Governor of Florida starts to push hard to open more things up - like the beaches around KSC? What happens if the White House decides that this launch is something that that they want people to cheer on? NASA and the White House have been hyping the "launch Americans in American rockets from American soil again" thing for years. I have seen launches from just about every location around the Cape and there is no way you are going to enforce meaningful social distancing on the causeways or beaches. People are going to want to see this - and all of us space fans are happy that they do..

But ... "Allowing sporting events with fans until 'far in the future.' " Hmm ... rocket launches with tens of thousands of people on the causeways and highways all huddled together certainly bears some similarity to sporting events. I wonder if launches are included in this broad categorization of things. 27 May is only one month away. How does "far in the future" relate to the next month? Stay tuned.

GAO: Priority Open Recommendations: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, GAO

"To provide the Congress with the necessary insight into program affordability, ensure its ability to effectively monitor total program costs and execution, and facilitate investment decisions, the NASA Administrator should direct the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for each additional capability that encompass all life-cycle costs, to include operations and sustainment. NASA intends to use the increased capabilities of the SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations efforts well into the future and has chosen to estimate costs associated with achieving those capabilities. When NASA cannot fully specify costs due to lack of well-defined missions or flight manifests, forecast a cost estimate range--including life-cycle costs--having minimum and maximum boundaries. These baselines or ranges should be reported to Congress annually via the agency's budget submission."

"NASA stated that it is in discussions with Russia to obtain additional seats on its Soyuz spacecraft for NASA crew as a contingency plan. NASA is also providing Extra-Vehicular Activity and robotics training for a subset of cosmonauts to support U.S. Operating Segment operations, and looking at a possible extension of the duration of the Space X Demonstration 2 crewed test flight. In November 2019, NASA reported that it completed its actions for this recommendation. However, while NASA is working on potential solutions, there is no contingency plan in place. To fully implement this recommendation, NASA needs to provide documentation of its contingency plan."

GAO Report: NASA: Assessments of Major Projects, GAO

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) portfolio of major projects continued to experience significant cost and schedule growth this year and the performance is expected to worsen. Since GAO last reported on the portfolio in May 2019, cost growth was approximately 31 percent over project baselines--the third consecutive year that cost growth has worsened after a period of decline. The average launch delay was 12 months, compared to 13 months last year.

Additional cost growth and schedule delays are likely after NASA establishes a new launch date for Artemis I--an uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System, Orion crew capsule, and associated ground systems. Further, in 2019, GAO found that the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs have underreported cost growth. GAO recommended that SLS calculate cost growth based on costs that are currently included in the first mission and that the Orion program update its cost estimate to reflect the schedule agreed to in its baseline. Both recommendations still require action to address. Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame."

Excerpts:

"In addition, Boeing officials indicated the [SLS] core stage is the largest liquid hydrogen fueled rocket stage ever built and the green run test will be the first time the stage is filled with liquid hydrogen. Contractor officials indicated that one of the top remaining technical risks to the green run test is that the core stage may develop leaks when it is filled. ... According to program officials, Boeing underestimated both the complexity of [SLS] core stage engine section assembly and the time and manpower that would be needed to complete the core stage effort. As a result, the estimated stages development cost has increased by about $1.4 billion and the stages contract effort now exceeds the contract's negotiated cost ceiling."

"The [Orion] program has reported development cost growth of 5.6 percent; however, the program has not completed a cost estimate that supports its baseline schedule. ... According to program officials--in addition to the ESM delays--the Orion prime contractor has been underperforming and is in the process of renegotiating the contract due to exceeding its period of performance."

NASA Announces New ISS National Lab Leadership, NASA

"One of six action items NASA identified in its response was to identify an ISS National Lab program executive at NASA Headquarters as the primary liaison to CASIS. As a first step in NASA's response, Alex MacDonald, NASA's chief economist, will also serve as the agency's program executive for the ISSNL. In this capacity he will work closely with CASIS to lead the implementation of NASA's forward plan as the agency outlined in its response to the IRT to bring the ISSNL into a new era."

CASIS Welcomes New NASA ISS National Lab Program Executive, CASIS

"We recognize that modifications in the current model of the ISS National Lab are necessary for continued success and maximization of the return on investment for the American people," said CASIS Chief Operating Officer and NASA Liaison Ken Shields. "The entire CASIS management team and staff welcome the opportunity to work with Dr. MacDonald, NASA, and other stakeholders in swiftly implementing many important changes to how the ISS National Lab will operate moving forward."

International Space Station Research and Development Conference Postponed

"After careful consideration and extensive discussions amongst key stakeholders within the space station community, the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, the American Astronautical Association and NASA have elected to cancel the 2020 International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) as an in-person event in Seattle. Protecting the health and well-being of presenters, exhibitors, attendees and staff is our priority. Partners are presently evaluating alternative avenues to feature content slated for the conference, and will keep you informed should there be updates."

Rubio, Blumenthal Urge NASA to Expand Partnerships With Private Sector to Support Lunar Exploration Programs

"U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) urged NASA Administrator James Bridenstine to expand partnerships with the private sector to support the Artemis program and NASA's Human Landing System (HLS) program. In the letter, the senators highlight the importance of continued lunar exploration to support the goal of developing a sustainable presence on the Moon. "Under your leadership, the Artemis program will help our space industry validate human safety protocols, learn to use the Moon's vast resources, and undertake meaningful technology development and demonstration in support of the next giant leap to Mars." the senators wrote. "While the scale of these undertakings is significant, NASA has at its disposal a diverse and growing private, domestic space industry. Indeed, America's commercial space industry is a key enabler of our nation's endeavor to return to the Moon and journey on to Mars".

New document reveals significant fall from grace for Boeing's space program, Ars Technica

"Six years later, the perception of Boeing's bid for the lunar cargo contract is much changed. Of the four contenders, it had the lowest overall technical and mission suitability scores. In addition, Boeing's proposal was characterized as "inaccurate" and possessing no "significant strengths." Boeing also was cited with a "significant weakness" in its proposal for pushing back on providing its software source code. Due to its high price and ill-suited proposal for the lunar cargo contract, NASA didn't even consider the proposal among the final bidders."

NASA Shares Findings, Recommendations, and Response to Review of International Space Station National Lab

"An external team appointed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has completed its review of the operations and management of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, which the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages. The Independent Review Team (IRT) delivered its report to the agency in February, and NASA is now publicly releasing the report in full as well as the agency's response to its recommendations."

Message from the CASIS Board of Directors in Response to the Findings and Recommendations of the Independent Review of the International Space Station National Lab, CASIS

"With the goal of full utilization of ISS resources achieved, CASIS also recognizes that realizing the return on investment that the American people have made in the ISS requires important changes in the model of the ISS National Lab, and in its relationship with NASA," said Co-chair of the CASIS Board of Directors Dr. Andrei Ruckenstein. "We embrace the recommendations of the IRT report, many of which are fully aligned with our strategic plan and changes we have already begun implementing with our NASA colleagues. We are committed to working with NASA, other non-governmental organizations, implementation partners, and the broader user community toward maximizing access to the ISS for diverse users, accelerating sustainable commercial development of space and inspiring a next-generation of innovators and leaders."

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Comment on Independent Review of Space Station National Laboratory R&D Management

"We face important decisions about the future of the ISS and its research and development activities in low Earth orbit," said Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Kendra Horn (D-OK). "The IRT's report raises questions about CASIS's and its role in that future. I look forward to reviewing the IRT report as we work to ensure that NASA and the nation have an effective path forward for sustaining low Earth orbit research."

Earlier CASIS postings

Boeing Statement on Starliner's Next Flight

"The Boeing Company is honored to be a provider for the Commercial Crew mission. We are committed to the safety of the men and women who design, build and ultimately will fly on the Starliner just as we have on every crewed mission to space. We have chosen to refly our Orbital Flight Test to demonstrate the quality of the Starliner system. Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer. We will then proceed to the tremendous responsibility and privilege of flying astronauts to the International Space Station."

Administration Statement on Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources

"Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources. This order addresses U.S. policy regarding the recovery and use of resources in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies. Dr. Scott Pace, Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, released the following statement on behalf of the Administration: "As America prepares to return humans to the Moon and journey on to Mars, this Executive Order establishes U.S. policy toward the recovery and use of space resources, such as water and certain minerals, in order to encourage the commercial development of space."

Fact Sheet: Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources

SpaceX Starship Users Guide Revision 1.0 March 2020

"SpaceX's Starship system represents a fully reusable transportation system designed to service Earth orbit needs as well as missions to the Moon and Mars. This two-stage vehicle--composed of the Super Heavy rocket (booster) and Starship (spacecraft) as shown in Figure 1--is powered by sub-cooled methane and oxygen. Starship is designed to evolve rapidly to meet near term and future customer needs while maintaining the highest level of reliability.

Starship has the capability to transport satellites, payloads, crew, and cargo to a variety of orbits and Earth, Lunar, or Martian landing sites. Potential Starship customers can use this guide as a resource for preliminary payload accommodations information. This is the initial release of the Starship Users Guide and it will be updated frequently in response to customer feedback."

Boeing Statement on Passage of CARES Act

"Boeing's top priority is to protect our workforce and support our extensive supply chain, and the CARES Act will help provide adequate measures to help address the pandemic. We have also taken a number of measures for affordability and liquidity as we navigate the challenges our industry currently faces, including forgoing pay for our CEO and board chairman, suspending our dividend until further notice, and extending our existing pause of any share repurchasing until further notice."

Statement From Lockheed Martin Chairman, President And CEO Marillyn Hewson On COVID-19 Response

"At Lockheed Martin, we recognize that the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its wide-ranging impacts have caused severe disruption across society and tragic loss of life around the world. We also recognize that the global pandemic has created a need for urgent action by government, business, communities and citizens. In response to this crisis, our company will be guided by and operate with three clear priorities. First, we will continue to protect the health and safety of our men and women on the job and their families. Second, we will continue to perform and deliver for our customers because what they do for our national security, global communications, and infrastructure is critical to our nation and our allies. Third, we will do our part to use our know-how, resources, and leadership as a company to assist our communities and our country during this period of national crisis."

Keith's note: Boeing begs for $60 billion in tax dollars but won't say what they will do with the money or how they will help their employees while Lockheed Martin specifically talks about taking care of their people and others. Hmmm ... $60 billion for Being. Assuming 150,000 employees (give or take) that would be $400,000 per employee. That's enough to keep people employed for a year or two. Just sayin'

Former U.N. envoy Nikki Haley quits Boeing's board over its plea for $60B in aid, Geekwire

"Earlier this week, Trump told reporters that he supported a Boeing bailout -- and referred indirectly to the company's 737 MAX troubles: "it was unthinkable what happened, with respect to Boeing. Probably I would consider it the greatest company in the world prior to a year ago. Now they get hit in 15 different ways and they have different management. I've met the new people running Boeing. I think it's going to be outstanding. "But, yeah, we have to protect Boeing. We have to absolutely help Boeing. They were doing a job. ... It was coming along well. And then all of a sudden, this hits. So, obviously, when the airlines aren't doing well, Boeing is not going to be doing well. So we'll be helping Boeing."

Boeing CEO says company may reject stimulus if Treasury seeks equity stake

"Boeing chief executive David Calhoun on Tuesday suggested that the aircraft manufacturer would not accept federal aid as part of a pending economic rescue bill if it meant giving the Treasury Department a stake in the company. ... Boeing is requesting $60 billion in federal loans from a $500 billion corporate assistance program created in the Senate's $2 trillion economic stimulus bill. The bill, which is still being negotiated, also allows the Treasury secretary to take a stake in bailed-out corporations, as the government did to major banks who received federal rescue funds in 2008."

Boeing to Emerge as Big Stimulus Winner, WS Journal

"The company has declined to detail the components of the $60 billion it has been seeking. After the Senate passed its stimulus bill late Wednesday, Boeing praised the package, saying its liquidity boost was "critical for airlines, airports, suppliers, and manufacturers to bridge to recovery." Faced with mounting financial strain, Boeing has suspended its dividend and has been considering potential layoffs. Executives have said they were working to avoid cutting or furloughing employees from its 65,000-worker commercial arm. Under the proposed stimulus plan, certain loan recipients must maintain at least 90% of their current workforce through Sept. 30, among other worker protections, eliciting praise from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents Boeing factory workers in the Seattle area."

Editorial: Why Coronavirus Cannot Kill Aviation, Aviation Week

"It is vital for governments, lawmakers and industry leaders to recognize that aviation will need help getting through such destructive upheaval. But in some cases, the optics will invite legitimate criticism. For example, Boeing has returned nearly $50 billion to its shareholders over the past five years while investing far less. Now it wants taxpayers to cough up tens of billions for a bailout? U.S. airlines are no better: They have sent 96% of free cash flow to shareholders over the last five years. And what about those airlines in Europe that should have been allowed to die long ago? Will they use this crisis as leverage for yet another government rescue?"

Trump says he is 'OK' with forbidding buybacks as condition of corporate bailouts, CNBC

"President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he would not oppose barring companies that receive federal assistance during the coronavirus pandemic from conducting stock buybacks."

COVID-19: Guiana Space Center suspends launch campaigns, Arianespace

"Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to fully implement the measures decided by the French government, launch campaigns underway at the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana have been suspended. These launch preparations will resume as soon as allowed by health conditions. This exceptional measure is designed to protect the health of employees and the local population, while also maintaining the security needed to prepare for scheduled launches. Arianespace, French space agency CNES and all companies involved at CSG are currently overseeing operations to place launchers and satellites in safe standby condition, in line with standard procedures."

Keith's note: NASA and Boeing held a media briefing today about the report of the NASA Internal Review Team (IRT) report on the various problems with the recent Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT). In summary the IRT found 61 things - recommendations - action items - problems - call them what you will - that need to be attended to by Boeing. We really do not know what they are since NASA and Boeing have not released them. But maybe they will.

According to NASA HEOMD AA Doug Loverro this was a close all with the possibility that the Starliner could have been lost at the beginning of the mission or at the end of its mission. Since this is a Boeing project with significant NASA insight Loverro has started the process with the NASA Safety office to set up an organizational root assessment of all Boeing and NASA actions leading up to this mission.

When Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch initially spoke he was, in essence, saying that he wanted to thank NASA IRT for helping Boeing to find these 61 issues that Boeing was unable to find prior to launch - despite the biliions spent on Starliner - and despite all the help from NASA.

Doug Loverro said that he was designating this whole Starliner thing as a "High Visibility Close Call" (HVCC) which is NASAese for setting up an internal NASA process that includes all involved plus NASA Safety to find out what went wrong. Loverro noted that Boeing had "graciously" agreed to support this team. Uh huh. Nice of them to be gracious about it.

I asked a question about these 61 technical issues and Chilton started to get into semantics as to whether they were "61 technical problems" since many of these things mapped against the same problems. And then NASA hung up on me before I could hear the rest of my question. It took a while to be able to reconnect to the telecon. Maybe its the snarky questions I ask. Then again Jeff Foust from Space News got thrown out of the question queue. Houston we have a problem ...

Listening to Doug Loverro talk he got into many fundamental aspects of how to manage a large aerospace program that speaks to experience gained from a 40 year career doing just that. Although he was trying to be positive about this it is clear that he is aware of pervasive Boeing/ NASA Starliner problems and that some structured adult supervision is required.

Everyone on the call wanted to know if there would be another OFT flight without a crew or with a crew. Loverro explained that the initial requirement for crew transport was to show NASA that the vehicle could safely deliver a crew to the ISS. Boeing opted for an actual docking to prove this requirement and NASA wrote it into the contract. Whether an un-crewed OFT re-flight is needed to do this or whether a crew can fly next time and make up for missed requirements is still TBD - and NASA was not showing its cards on this. Chilton later said that Boeing would re-fly the OFT if need be, but we do not know who'd pay for this extra mission.

Between my first question and my re-asking of that question an hour later I inquired of Boeing that since Boeing had all of these undiscovered problems prior to launch - of what they thought was a perfectly good spacecraft = one would assume that a more complex Boeing space vehicle such as the SLS would now require even more time to double check. Chilton said that there was output from the Starliner IRT effort and that it was being sent around their company for everyone to analyze to see if it applied to their programs. But other than that he did not get into specifics.

Loverro added that the pacing items on SLS were not software but instead were the green test (engine firing) and that other than a ground system issue at Stennis, no software needed to be finished. He also noted that the software team at IV&V was looking to all of this as well.

Of course Boeing and NASA originally thought that the Starliner's software was good to go - so its a little curious that no one is overly concerned that there are more undiscovered things lurking in otherwise certified SLS software given all of the software issues the Boeing SLS people have experienced at MSFC. And again, SLS is a much larger, energetic, and complex spacecraft than Starliner - one upon which a crewed vehicle will eventually fly.

As to whether the way that NASA Has bought commercial services is the issue Loverro commented that he has had great successes with fixed cost and cost-plus contracts as well as failures from both types of contracts. So the contracting mechanism is not the issue.. Instead Loverro thinks that this is a managerial issue - hence the convening of the follow-on internal assessment of how NASA and Boeing did what they did on the Starliner flight. No timeline was given so one would assume that no Starliners are going to fly until this effort is completed. So .. barring any unforeseen problems SpaceX looks to be poised to win the flag that awaits them on board the ISS.

When asked if any more Soyuz seats are being bought Loverro said that they are talking to Russia and the plan is to buy one more seat. The telecon closed with Loverro saying the obligatory "we won't fly unless its safe ... stuff" and the operator ended the teleconference. I was busy typing and did not hang up right away. Other reporters did hang up. Then the NASA guy came back and said that Jim Chilton had some closing thoughts and he had an important one - that if NASA wants Boeing to re-fly OFT then they will. Nice of NASA to tell reporters that the telecon was over before Chilton had a chance to say this.

If I sound a little impatient with NASA's teleconferencing system - I am. I did live video webcasts from Everest Base Camp for a month in 2009 using gear I carried on my back with far fewer technical problems than NASA has with a simple dial-in system. Seriously NASA, fix it. And get some new on-hold music too while you are at it.

NASA, Boeing to Provide Outcome of Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

"NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Friday, March 6, to discuss the outcome of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Participants in the briefing will be:

- Douglas Loverro, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
- Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch
- Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program
- John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Program"

Listen live

Boeing Statement on Independent Review Team Recommendations for the Starliner Orbital Flight Test Anomalies

"We accept and appreciate the recommendations of the jointly led NASA-Boeing Independent Review Team (IRT) as well as suggestions from the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel following Starliner's Orbital Flight Test (OFT). Their insights are invaluable to the Commercial Crew Program and we will work with NASA to comprehensively apply their recommendations.

- Regarding the Mission Elapsed Timer anomaly, the IRT believes they found root cause and provided a number of recommendations and corrective actions.
- The IRT also investigated a valve mapping software issue, which was diagnosed and fixed in flight. That error in the software would have resulted in an incorrect thruster separation and disposal burn. What would have resulted from that is unclear.
- The IRT is also making significant progress on understanding the command dropouts encountered during the mission and is further investigating methods to make the Starliner communications system more robust on future missions."

Keith's note: To date none of these Starliner briefings have revealed good news - for Boeing - or NASA. Boeing made a lot of mistakes - and NASA let them and/or did not notice. The IRT report is certain to flesh out the bad news we've already heard and, if the trend continues, will reveal more issues with Starliner. NASA has to decide how Boeing will fix all of the problems that have been identified before they fly Starliner again. The big question is whether there will be people on board the next Starliner flight - or not. NASA may require Boeing to re-do the initial flight without a crew on board. If they do there is a big question as to who pays for the launch which could easily exceed $100 million.

- Boeing's Starliner Transparency Is Still Cloudy, earlier post
- Starliner's Clock Was Really Really Wrong, earlier post
- Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock, earlier post
- Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test Was Technically A Success - But ..., earlier post
- Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media, earlier post


NASA, Boeing to Provide Outcome of Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

"NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Friday, March 6, to discuss the outcome of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program."

Keith's note: The first I learned of this event was a Tweet hours after it was over. I guess I would not invite me either. Maybe they will be a little more forthcoming next week when they are in the hot seat and NASA is sitting next to them.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/data.gifBoeing didn't perform full end-to-end test of its astronaut capsule before troubled mission, 'surprising' NASA safety panel, Orlando Sentinel

"Boeing and NASA officials are expected to release the results of an independent investigation into the set of issues that occurred during Boeing's late December test of Starliner, its astronaut crew capsule, within the next week. But speaking to the Orlando Sentinel, members of NASA's safety advisory panel expanded on some of the testing decisions Boeing made that drew questions about whether Starliner was ready to fly. Critically, the panel learned early this month that Boeing did not perform a full, end-to-end integrated test of Starliner in a Systems Integration Lab with ULA's Atlas V rocket. The test typically shows how all the software systems during each component of the mission would have responded with each other through every maneuver -- and it could potentially have caught the issues Boeing later experienced in the mission."

- Boeing Really Needs To Get Their Software Fixed, earlier post
- ASAP: Boeing Starliner Software Issue Potentially "Catastrophic", earlier post

Former ISS executive, accused of 'expensing' prostitutes, pleads guilty to tax fraud, Florida Today

"A former economist employed by a Space Coast nonprofit that operates the International Space Station's U.S. laboratory pleaded guilty to one tax fraud-related count in an indictment filed last year, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Charles Resnick, once the chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, was indicted in April by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa on 10 counts. The charges alleged the creation of phony receipts when filing expense reports, as well as hidden spending of government funds on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015."

Former exec at International Space Station science lab pleads guilty in tax case involving 'expensing' prostitutes, Orlando Sentinel

"The agreement also states that Resnick improperly deducted business expenses worth about $51,500 even though he had already been reimbursed for some of the expenses and that "some of the deducted expenses were not ordinary and necessary business expenses." The plea agreement does not mention the original indictment references to escorts or prostitutes. Resnick is responsible for total tax loss for the tax years from 2010-2013, according to the agreement, and that amount will be determined at sentencing, a date for which has yet to be determined."

Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post

Elon Hired Gerst

Keith's 9 Feb update: You should scroll down and click on the comments. At the top you will see that I highlighted comments by NASA HEOMD AA Doug Loverro. He replied to the question that I did not get to ask and spent a lot of time - with a lot of words - in a quality response. Well worth reading.

Keith's 7Feb note: NASA and Boeing held a telecon today about Starliner problems. They said that they held today's media telecon as a result of things posted in the media yesterday after the ASAP meeting. (See ASAP: Boeing Starliner Software Issue Potentially "Catastrophic"). Apparently Congress was reading the same articles. When asked about flying people on the next Starliner mission Jim Bridenstine punted. Doug Loverro went into some detail as to what needs to be done with Boeing next but would not answer yes/no either. Alas, NASA is picking favorites again on news telecons. Probably a good idea since this was my question for Boeing:

"Boeing launched a spacecraft designed to carry humans and discovered two fundamental software issues in flight. Now Boeing wants to launch people in that spacecraft the next time it flies. I have been reporting on software issues for another Boeing product - SLS. Add in 737 Max software problems and it would seem that Boeing has some major software weaknesses. Is there any overlap between software teams or management between Starliner and SLS (or 737 Max)? Since Boeing's current software process has clearly failed after many years and billions of dollars spent, what do you need to do differently in order to get this whole software thing working properly again?"

I was half tempted to get into the weeds with a question about breadboards, wiring jigs, software verification checks, and things like SAIL that we used to test Shuttle avionics and what passed for "software" - all done by Boeing and its heritage companies like Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas - all designed to beat problems out of a design with brut force before it flew. You'd think they'd have that down pat by now. That is the real story here - NASA and its contractors have forgotten how to do stuff like that.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/data.gifNASA, Boeing to Provide Update on Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

"NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. EST Friday, Feb. 7, to discuss the status of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program."

NASA Safety Panel: Second Starliner OFT Software Error COuld Have Been :Catastrophic", Space Policy Online

"In an emailed statement to SpacePolicyOnline.com this evening, Boeing said it accepts and appreciates the recommendations of the IRT as well as suggestions from ASAP: "They are invaluable to the Commercial Crew Program and we will work with NASA to comprehensively apply their recommendations."

Starliner faced "catastrophic" failure before software bug found, Ars Technica

"At Thursday's meeting, Hill revealed the second issue related to software and thruster performance publicly for the first time. However, as part of reporting on a story about Starliner software and thruster issues three weeks ago, a source told Ars about this particular problem. According to the source, Boeing patched a software code error just two hours before the vehicle reentered Earth's atmosphere. Had the error not been caught, the source said, proper thrusters would not open during the reentry process, and the vehicle would have been lost."

Keith's note: And of course there are all of the SLS software issues that have plagued the Boeing and NASA MSFC folks:

- SLS Upper Stage Changes While Software Problems Linger, earlier post
- SLS Software Problems Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- This Is How NASA Covers Up SLS Software Safety Issues (Update), earlier post
- MSFC To Safety Contractor: Just Ignore Those SLS Software Issues, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update), earlier post
- Previous SLS postings

But wait, there's more in other parts of Boeing:

Boeing Finds New Software Problem With Scandal-Plagued 737 Max Plane, Gizmodo

"During flight testing of the 737 MAX's updated software, an indicator light associated with the stabilizer trim system illuminated in the flight deck," a Boeing spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. "We determined that the illumination of this light was caused by differences in input data between the flight control computers (FCC). This is a result of the FCC cross compare redundancy software update issued in June 2019."

NASA to Industry: Send Ideas for Lunar Rovers

"As NASA's Artemis lunar exploration program mounts toward a robust decade of modern science, research, and human exploration at the Moon, the agency is asking American companies to think about how to get around on the lunar surface. NASA issued two separate Requests for Information (RFI) seeking industry approaches for development of robotic mobility systems and human-class lunar rovers. With these RFIs, NASA seeks to foster an emerging American market of lunar transportation capability by engaging the terrestrial vehicle and robotic communities."

Keith's note: As I have noted before NASA does not really seem to be interested in letting people know about their NASA iTech thing. Last Friday I posted some comments about the NASA iTech activity. I never heard from STMD so I sent NASA STMD and NASA PAO some questions, NASA PAO replied rather promptly. I have added some follow-up comments to the NASA responses.

In summary: This NASA iTech effort is supposed to engage companies with innovations that could benefit NASA as well as help innovators realize potential space applications of their technologies that may have been designed for another purpose.Hopefully that will inspire companies to invest their own money in the use of NASA technology. NASA makes claims that this program has led to $500 million in private sector investments - but they cannot actually verify that claim. Nor does NASA iTech bother to interact with the rest of the agency's various commercialization activities wherein much more technology awaits wider distribution and use. Most paradoxically, the NASA itTech folks are incapable of generating standard PR for their supposed successes. Also NASA cannot decide if NASA iTech is a NASA thing or something that a vendor does - or both - and NASA STMD clearly did not think this through when it allowed the NASA iTech folks to run around promoting this effort.

I am posting everything here as an example of just how scattered NASA can be when it comes to demonstrating its value to the public and private sectors. The fact that NASA STMD and NASA HQ refuse to give NASA iTech more visibility (given the $500 million claim) and that the NASA iTech folks seek to distance themsleves from NASA's global branding and visibility speaks to a lot of entrenched dysfunction within NASA's technology efforts. I hope someone fixes this. A lot of real value from NASA's abundant technology expertise is being woefully under utilized. And NASA iTech is not doing the best job it could to avail itself of the opportunity to highlight this technology.

1. Why don't the @NASAiTech and @NASA_Technology Twitter accounts mention one another? Why does Kira Blackwell, the NASA iTech Program Executive use her official NASA Twitter account @KiraBlackwell to only promote NASAiTech and yet make no mention of anything else that NASA STMD (or NASA) does?

NASA PAO: In addition to other NASA technology-related news, @NASA_Technology shares information about NASA iTech:
https://twitter.com/nasa_technology/status/1184210708432637952?s=21
https://twitter.com/nasa_technology/status/1181559974188736512?s=21
https://twitter.com/nasa_technology/status/1174094949442359296?s=21
https://twitter.com/nasa_technology/status/1171535613582925827?s=21

At this time @NASAiTech is not an official NASA social media account. NASA/STMD is reviewing the need for this account (and others) and will make the decision whether to make it an official NASA account or shut it down by directing followers to the broader agency technology account. This is something NASA/STMD did last year with an unofficial NASA Flight Opportunities account (@NASAfo). @KiraBlackwell is a personal account.

NASAWatch follow up: if you look at @NASAitech it says "The Official NASA iTech Twitter account. NASA's program searches for cutting-edge tech's external to NASA & that have potential to be a solution for NASA. NASA HQ -Space Tech Office https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/itech". [screengrab] If you look at @KiraBlackwell it says "Program Executive for @NASAiTech searching for innovative solutions to solve some of NASA's challenges." and it is used for official business purposes. There is no mention that it is a personal account. [screengrab]

2. Why does the NASAiTech activity exclusively use its own logo on its social media posts and on all of its large event displays and promotion materials and not use the official NASA logo? Is the NASAiTech logo officially recognized - and owned by - NASA?

NASA PAO: The NASA iTech identifying mark was created as "work for hire" under an existing cooperative agreement with NIA and is therefore owned by NASA. The identifying mark has been used since NASA iTech started under NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist.

NASAWatch follow up: But why is NASAiTech special - no other NASA programs seek to distance themsleves from NASA by purposefully not using the NASA logo?

3. Why aren't the NASAiTech "Ignite the Night" events promoted on the NASA STMD website? Why are they not mentioned in media advisories or press releases/media advisories? Why is there no mention of these events on the NASA.gov calendar?

NASA PAO: As we work to move the current .org NASA iTech website content to the nasa.gov portal, we are building out this information. There is a nasa.gov page dedicated to upcoming events where you can find information about the next Ignite the Night: https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/itech/upcoming_events.

The primary audience for Ignite the Night events is local innovators. Media are welcome to attend as well. NASA regularly interacts with local media who may be interested in covering iTech events.

The main nasa.gov calendar is, for the most part, limited to NASA TV coverage and launch/mission operations.

NASAWatch follow up: but NASA STMD and NASAiTech never send out media advisories? If this is so important why are live webcasts not promoted as are a myriad of other NASA activities - many of which have a local focus?

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/BoeingEUSFacebook.jpg

Keith's note: Boeing has restarted its social media campaign on Facebook which means they are mining your Facebook user data for other uses that it is not bothering to tell you about. The Boeing ad points you to this page https://www.boeing.com/space/space-launch-system/. But this is how it tracks the social media user from Facebook with a campaign they call "slsphase2"

https://www.boeing.com/space/space-launch-system/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialad&utm_campaign=slsphase2 ...

When you get to the page it says "Additional missions are planned with this configuration as the even more powerful Block 1B version of the rocket is designed and built. This follow-on, evolved two-stage configuration will provide a lift capability of more than 105 metric tons, using the Boeing-built Exploration Upper Stage."

Hmmm ... "slsphase2" Boeing is being rather blunt in what it sees this effort as. Unless I missed something NASA has not ordered production of EUS. As you may recall from the NASA Authorization Act wording in draft House legislation Boeing has been lobbying hard for the EUS and excluing private sector commercial alternatives at the same time.

Back in December Jim Bridenstine called B.S. on these efforts by Boeing, telling the Washington post "... any plan that requires an EUS to be ready by 2024 is a plan that reduces the probability of success. It's just not going to be ready. ... "All of our contractors lobby Congress to achieve what is in their best interest even though it may not be in the best interest of the nation," Bridenstine said in an interview. "This is another example of that. My job as NASA administrator is to make sure we do what's right for the country, and for the taxpayer."

And of course Boeing wants you to forget that the SLS is billions over budget, years behind schedule, and is still a year or more away from flying. They most certainly want you to forget that SpaceX is flying Falcon Heavy rockets and is preparing to test its immense Starship. Meanwhile development of Blue Origin's monster rocket New Glenn is underway.

- Boeing Uses Deceptive Social Media To Grab Your Browsing Data, previous post
- 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
- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, previous post

A Small Rocket Maker Is Running A Different Kind of Space Race, Bloomberg

"The 42-year-old CEO [Chris Kemp] spent almost five years at NASA, but he's not a rocket scientist by training. He joined NASA in 2007 after running a string of internet startups, eventually becoming the space agency's chief technology officer. Astra has operated in secrecy partly to avoid being pushed to set unrealistic deadlines. Most of its workers have online r茅sum茅s that list their employer as "Stealth Space Company," and there hasn't been a website. At the former Alameda Naval Air Station, Astra took over a decrepit building used decades ago to test jet engines indoors, which has helped keep its secrecy intact. The facility has two long tunnels that send fire and scorching hot air up through exhaust towers and thick concrete walls capable of absorbing the explosive impacts of tests gone wrong. This setup has allowed Astra to conduct thousands of runs on its rocket engines without its neighbors noticing much of anything. It's also meant Astra can put the engines through their paces on-site and make adjustments to the hardware quickly, instead of going to the Mojave Desert or an open field in Texas where other rocket makers typically run engine trials."

Keith's note: On 27 January 2020 NASA issued a release NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station. This title and a lot of the wording are misleading since the release actually says "NASA selected Axiom from proposals submitted in response to a solicitation through Appendix I of NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 Broad Agency Announcement, which offered private industry use of the station utilities and a port to attach one or more commercial elements to the orbiting laboratory."

The Appendix says "All awardees will receive Task Order 1 for concept and business plan development." That's it. Down the road NASA says "At the time of contract award, depending on the concept maturity and availability of funds, NASA may award Task Order 2 to begin the early design phase and mature business plans, leading to subsequent task orders and an eventual decision point for prioritization of use of the ISS port."

This NASA agreement with Axiom is actually the first step in a series of agreements. NASA did not select Axiom to do anything other than come up with a plan - to develop a plan - do something that NASA still has to evaluate - something that requires lots of follow-up Agreements - and more plans. But everyone is reacting as if they are about to start cutting hardware. See "Expanding The ISS For Customers That No One Can Identify" for more thoughts on the Axiom agreement

According to a 30 January 2020 press release In a Space Industry First, NASA Grants KBR the Right to Train Private Astronauts at NASA Facilities from NASA contractor KBR (one of the partners in the Aziom team) "KBR (NYSE: KBR), a leading solutions provider to the civil, military and commercial space industry, will become the first company to train private astronauts at NASA facilities. The company recently signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Johnson Space Center allowing it to provide human spaceflight operation services to commercial companies. KBR currently holds the only agreement with NASA to provide these services using the agency's facilities and capabilities." and "The agreement directly supports one of five elements of NASA's plan to open the ISS to new commercial and marketing opportunities that will continue the agency's efforts to enable a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy. As was recently announced, KBR will further support this mission by working as a subcontractor to Axiom Space on the first commercial destination module for the ISS."

If you go to this NASA web page Current Space Act Agreements there are links to 4 recently updated lists of current agreements between NASA and a panoply of companies, organizations, educational institutions, and others. On this list (last updated 30 September 2019). There is no mention of "KBR" among the 1,131 SAAs listed. There are 3 SAAs with with Wyle Laboratories, Inc, a KBR subsidiary. One of these agreements is titled "NASA NEUTRAL BUOYANCY LABORATORY FACILITY USAGE AGREEMENT: with Wyle Laboratories, Inc (a KBR subsidiary). This SAA started 10 April 2017 and runs to 31 May 2021 (SSA-SA-16-22103-02). This SAA was signed in 2017 (but the text is not posted online) so I am not certain if that qualifies as "recent" unless there is another NASA SAA with KBR and/or Wylie or another part of KBR signed after 30 September 2019 that we have not been told about.

Axiom has 4 SAAs in place with NASA. These 2 are posted online: ""Flight Operations Directorate Axiom Training (which mentions KBR and several documents as being attached to the SAA which are not provided in the online text of the SAA)" and "Low-Earth Orbit Commercial Development Utilizing the ISS" which is an "umbrella agreement" established "for the purpose of establishing a reimbursable agreement between NASA and Axiom whereby NASA provides unique services and capabilities to Axiom in support of commercial development activities including pre-flight mission planning for prospective astronaut trainees" But nothing specific is mentioned as who pays how much for which service. And neithert KBR or Wylie mentioned.

There are SAAs between Axiom and NASA to use services (and KBR is in the mix on one of them) but there is no evidence of a SAA between NASA and KBR, as mentioned in their press release. Or are they talking about an older one from 2017 with Wylie (i.e, not "recent")? It would seem that KBR issued this press release about a SAA they claim to have that is actually several years old with one of its subsidiaries. NASA makes no mention of any SAA with KBR yet mentions over a thousand other SAAs. It looks like KBR tossed out this press release to capitalize on the recent news of the Axiom agreement signed with NASA representing a team to which KBR belongs.

Right now no one has given Axiom the green light to build and operate anything connected to ISS - just to pursue studies that would lead to further agreements. Good news. Someone has a basic plan that may bear fruit. I have asked NASA for a copy of this Space Act Agreement mentioned by KBR in direct reference to the Axiom activity and any others between NASA and KBR/Wylie that relate to astronaut training and/or use of NASA training facilities.

Keith's update: NASA JSC PAO replied that this agreement with JSC and SGT is the SAA that KBR is referring to. KBR bought SGT NASA JSC/SGT Vendor Partner Agreement 9/10/2019 9/10/2024 Reimbursable JSC SAA-CA-19-28973. Oddly, despite all of the crew training you'd think would go into having commercial astronauts on Axiom attached to the ISS for a prolonged period, that this training would cost a fair amount of money. This agreement says that "Partner agrees to reimburse NASA an estimated $84,606.77 for NASA to carry out its responsibilities under this agreement. In no event will NASA transfer any U.S. Government funds to Partner under this agreement." $84,606.77? That's it - for 5 years - for the use of all the facilities and people has on the payroll? Either NASA is underwriting the work in this SAA to a substantial degree with a hefty discount - or the hundreds of millions NASA has spent to train astronauts for ISS work over the past 20 years represents a gross waste of money on the part of NASA. Or ... this SAA and other documents mentioned above represent only a portion of what the real agreement between Axiom/KBR et al contains.

What JSC and HEOMD ought to be doing is to explain what these agreements are and (more importantly) are not. They need to explain - in normal language, who does what with/from whom, when everything happens, who pays NASA to do do things, and how much it costs (NASA has published "Commercial and Marketing Pricing Policy" price list). The press release by NASA is extremely misleading. Yes these agreements are a start but the title of the NASA press release should have been "NASA Selects The First Company To Submit Plans For A Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station". Just sayin'

Oh yes ... we've covered some earlier commercial astronaut training stories at JSC ...

- Waypoint2space Clarifies A Few Things About Astronaut Training at NASA JSC, earlier post (2016)
- Waypoint2space Wants You To Train Like An Astronaut (But You Won't Be One), earlier post (2016)
- More Q&A With Opifex Global About Their Astronaut Training Thing, earlier post (2019)

Letter From Concerned Scientists Regarding H.R. 5666

"We are writing in response to the draft bill, HR 5666. We strongly agree that bipartisan support for our Nation's space program is absolutely critical for its ongoing success. We also support the provisions for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. We additionally strongly assert that commercial sector involvement is a critical investment in the future of our country. However, we have grave concerns about the text of the draft bill that was released on 24 January 2020."

Snapshots From CST 2020

GAO: NASA Commercial Crew Program: Significant Work Remains to Begin Operational Missions to the Space Station

"NASA will have fewer astronauts on the ISS in 2020 unless the Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft are ready to fly missions, but significant work remains for both. NASA has few back-up options if delays continue and will have only one astronaut on the U.S. side by April 2020. Most of this astronaut's time will be spent on maintenance activities rather than on research and development.

To fly as soon as possible, NASA has been planning to complete its reviews of the contractors' systems under aggressive time frames. This approach is risky because it assumes the contractors will complete multiple activities on time. Boeing and SpaceX must conduct additional test flights, train astronauts, and get a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

FAA licenses cover the contractors' launch and reentry activities. FAA may grant waivers for changes to the license that do not jeopardize public safety. For example, FAA may grant waivers for changes in launch trajectory. NASA needs to know when such changes have been made in case they affect the crew. While NASA and FAA have coordinated on launch licensing for years, they have not yet decided how they will communicate about waivers. As a result, NASA may not have all the information it needs for launch decisions."

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station

"The element will attach to the space station's Node 2 forward port to demonstrate its ability to provide products and services and begin the transition to a sustainable economy in which NASA is one of many customers. NASA and Axiom next will begin negotiations on the terms and price of a firm-fixed-price contract with a five-year base performance period and a two-year option."

Keith's note: To be certain, the full potential of the International Space Station has yet to be fully tapped - and it has an inherent capacity to be greatly expanded beyond its current configuration with commercial interests being a likely partner. But who is the customer for the use of this addition? Is it only NASA? What user demand model is the basis for facility's size and operations and what assumptions is it based on? NASA still can't fully use the ISS that it has in orbit now and it has dueling (and sometimes conflicting) utilization systems via NASA and CASIS. Isn't it a little odd to sign an agreement with these uncertainties before we know who is going to pay for this and how much they're going to pay? Just sayin'.

Keith's update: Some questions come to mind - this is the stream of consciousness order in which they occurred to me (I used to do space station payload utilization when I had a real job - at NASA): What payload attributes does this Axiom space facility have? How many payload racks will there be? What are the utilities offered at each rack location? Out of whose operations budget do the power, cooling and other utility allocations come? How many racks can be configured for sub-rack payload integration? What payload facilities (glove boxes, integration hardware) will be provided by Axiom? What does the customer have to provide? Will the payload allocation be in addition to NASA's allocation or will rack space be considered part of the overall payload space subject for use by ISS partners? Does CASIS have an allocation within these facilities? Who is the prime user interface for NASA customers - the ISS program office? CASIS? Both? Someone else? Will the cost of flying a payload via ISS program office, CASIS, and Axiom be the same or different? If so how - and why? How much of the facility's capability is owned by Axiom? Does NASA or the other iSS partners have any approval/veto over payloads? Will the U.S. and the international partners be able to include Axiom facilities in their long-standing practice of bartering resources? How does Axiom intend to cover ITAR/IP Issues - is this considered a U.S. facility for those purposes? Will Axiom fly private astronauts to the ISS? If so from whom do they buy seats and is the price the same or different than what NASA pays? At the end of its operational lifetime is Axiom responsible for cost and conduct of the disposal/de-orbit of their facilities? What payload/utilization demand models did NASA and Axiom use as the basis for this agreement? Were these models made available to other bidders? Can these payload models be made available publicly? What orbital lifetime will NASA guarantee to Axiom? What provisions are in place in case NASA is forced to withdraw from supporting ISS? Has Axiom been given options to buy or lease current on-orbit facilities located in other parts of the ISS? And so on.

If there was a press event for this announcement and I was able to ask questions I can guarantee that the answers to my questions would be "we'll get back to you"; "that has not been determined yet", "I do not know"; "That's up to Axiom" (who would decline to answer); "That's up to NASA" (who would decline to answer); "It depends on Congress"; "we are confident that people will want to use this world class facility". And FWIW when they say "we'll get back to you" that is always followed by nothing but crickets. As such its not really worth contacting PAO about this.

Keith's 24 Jan note: Boeing has a lot of damage control to do these days - managerially and PR-wise. Interestingly, as these various problems have popped up for Boeing, they have stopped most of the in-your-face social media (see below) and traditional PR efforts - especially here in Washington DC. Add in the $62 million that its fired CEO gets as he walks out the door it is probably a good idea for the Boeing PR shop to lay low and let the company focus on fixing things.

Keith's 25 Jan update: I was contacted by Boeing who agreed that a tweet by one of their communications staff was inappropriate and it has since been removed. My personal appreciation to Boeing for reaching out to contact me in a professional manner on this issue.

Boeing-built DirecTV satellite may explode in orbit after suffering unexpected malfunction, CNBC

"But DirecTV is now under a time crunch, as a Boeing review of the satellite's data found Spaceway-1鈥瞫 batteries "cannot be guaranteed to withstand the pressures needed to support safe operation of the spacecraft in eclipse operations." Spaceway-1 is currently relying on solar power but, with the satellite set to pass into Earth's shadow on Feb. 25, the company said Spaceway-1 must be taken out of orbit and decommissioned. Additionally, the satellite should discharge its remaining fuel, the company said, "to reduce the risk of accidental explosion."

Boeing drops out of DARPA Experimental Spaceplane program, SpaceNews

"In a Jan. 22 statement to SpaceNews, DARPA spokesman Jared Adams said that Boeing had notified the agency of its decision to exit the Experimental Spaceplane Program "immediately." DARPA didn't state why Boeing was dropping out of the program. "Following a detailed review, Boeing is ending our role in the Experimental Spaceplane (XSP) program immediately," Boeing spokesman Jerry Drelling said. "We will now redirect our investment from XSP to other Boeing programs that span the sea, air and space domains."

Fallout from Boeing 737 MAX spreads in Kansas, Oklahoma, Yahoo

"The layoffs follow Spirit's Jan. 10 announcement that it was laying off 2,800 workers in Wichita, where the company is based. Austin said in an email that Spirit is laying off the workers because of uncertainty about when production might resume for the 737 MAX, which was grounded last March after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of Crew Transportation to the International Space Station

"In our examination of the CCP contracts, we found that NASA agreed to pay an additional $287.2 million above Boeing's fixed prices to mitigate a perceived 18-month gap in ISS flights anticipated in 2019 for the company's third through sixth crewed missions and to ensure the company continued as a second commercial crew provider. For these four missions, NASA essentially paid Boeing higher prices to address a schedule slippage caused by Boeing's 13-month delay in completing the ISS Design Certification Review milestone and due to Boeing seeking higher prices than those specified in its fixed price contract. In our judgment, the additional compensation was unnecessary given that the risk of a gap between Boeing's second and third crewed missions was minimal when the Agency conducted its analysis in 2016."

Starliner's thruster performance receiving close scrutiny from NASA, Ars Technica

"Although it did not fly up to the altitude of the space station and perform a rendezvous and docking during its test flight, Starliner did fly an "abort demonstration" that simulated approaching and backing away from the space station. The NASA source said Boeing may also have failed this test due to thruster issues. Boeing denied this. "In testing the system the spacecraft executed all the commands, but we did observe a lower than expected delta V during the backing away phase," Boeing said in a statement. "Current evidence indicates the lower delta V was due to the earlier cautionary thruster measures, but we are carefully reviewing data to determine whether this demonstration should be repeated in the subsequent mission."

- The Boeing Company Has A Big Safety Culture Problem, previous post
- Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock, previous post
- Boeing Uses Deceptive Social Media To Grab Your Browsing Data , previous post
- 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
- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, previous post

NASA, SpaceX Complete Final Major Flight Test of Crew Spacecraft

"NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The launch escape test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft's capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency."

Keith's note: This is the question I had hoped to ask via the dial-in line but PAO only took a couple of questions from offsite media: "For Jim Bridenstine: you just made a full throated push for overt commercialization. OK - are you really going to go all the way to make - to allow - this emerging market to grow - like airlines do? By this I mean are you ever going to stop buying government-provided Soyuz seats from Russia? Will NASA barter seats between its commercial providers and Russia? Can NASA's commercial providers re-sell extra seats on their spacecraft not only to private passengers but to other governments?"

Boeing's ousted CEO departs with $62 million, even without severance pay, NBC

"Boeing Co's ousted chief executive officer, Dennis Muilenburg, is leaving the company with $62 million in compensation and pension benefits but will receive no severance pay in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis. Muilenburg was fired from the job in December as Boeing failed to contain the fallout from a pair of fatal crashes that halted output of the company's bestselling 737 MAX jetliner and tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators. The compensation figures were disclosed in a regulatory filing late on Friday during a difficult week for Boeing when it also released hundreds of internal messages -- two major issues hanging over the company before new CEO David Calhoun starts on Monday. The messages contained harshly critical comments about the development of the 737 MAX, including one that said the plane was "designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys."

Keith's note: Muilenburg has it nice. Getting fired is lucrative, Meanwhile families who lost people in Boeing 737 Max crashes have not gotten a penny. With the delivery halt, suppliers are already laying workers off. Boeing workers will inevitably be laid off too. They are not going to be as generously paid. Meanwhile the guy who got fired is going to get enough money to buy a commercial crew seat on Boeing's Starliner.

Keith's note: Update and clarification: I've had multiple reports inside the NASA/CASIS community that the final report has been delivered. That is not exactly accurate. In fact, an out briefing on the final results has been made to NASA but the actual, formal document is still in preparation - as noted in these tweets today from SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen.

Keith's earlier note: The final report of the CASIS review panel has been delivered to NASA. It is not expected that we'll hear anything from NASA until the end of the month or the beginning of February. CASIS has been in stand down or "strategic pause" since this review committee was initiated. The CEO has been on leave ever since and several other senior staff have been reassigned. The acting CEO has kept the organization running smoothly in the interim - and both the review team and NASA have noticed this relative improvement.

The review has seen and highlighted the strengths (and there are many) among the folks at CASIS who do the real work. They have also documented all of the needless "drama" (a word commonly used in the review) associated with the prior management team. One would hope that the CASIS review team recommends that NASA continue with what works at CASIS and strives make it and its relationship with CASIS better while ejecting the people and things that hinder or undermine CASIS as it accomplishes its tasks.

The review panel has found many things at CASIS that are broken that are the fault of CASIS management. But they have also found that NASA was an absentee landlord and neglected to provide appropriate oversight of this activity. Without a healthy two-way relationship, NASA and CASIS failed to make the most of the relationship. That needs to change. NASA and CASIS need to redefine what CASIS is and is not expected to do, what NASA is and is not expected to do, how NASA and CASIS can better communicate and coordinate, and how they can both work together in synergy as a team - not as dysfunctional competitors.

The International Space Station is too vital a national - indeed a global - asset to waste. It has only begin to prove its value.

- NASA Orders A Review Of CASIS (Update), earlier post
- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post
- CASIS Quarterly Reports To NASA Are Now Online at NASAWatch, earlier post
- Previous CASIS postings

Boeing Employees Mocked F.A.A. and 'Clowns' Who Designed 737 Max, NY Times

"The most damaging messages included conversations among Boeing pilots and other employees about software issues and other problems with flight simulators for the Max, a plane later involved in two accidents, in late 2018 and early 2019, that killed 346 people and threw the company into chaos. The employees appear to discuss instances in which the company concealed such problems from the F.A.A. during the regulator's certification of the simulators, which were used in the development of the Max, as well as in training for pilots who had not previously flown a 737."

Boeing releases internal messages on 737 MAX, calls them 'completely unacceptable"

"Boeing Co on Thursday released hundreds of internal messages that raise serious questions about its development of simulators and the 737 MAX that was grounded in March after two fatal crashes, prompting outrage from U.S. lawmakers. In an April 2017 exchange of instant messages, two employees expressed complaints about the MAX following references to issues with the plane's flight management computer. "This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys," one unnamed employee wrote. In one message dated November 2015, which appears to shed light on lobbying methods used when facing demands from regulators, a Boeing employee notes regulators were likely to want simulator training for a particular type of cockpit alert."

Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media
Boeing Just Fired Its CEO
Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock
Boeing Apparently Disagrees With NASA OIG Commercial Crew Report

Keith's note: Over the past few years I have submitted regular FOIA requests to NASA HQ for documents related to how NASA and CASIS interact with one another. Specifically I asked for the quarterly reports submitted by CASIS to NASA. Below is a collection of these reports. For the most part they are un-redacted. Sometimes they are - alas the redactions are not consistent over the entire collection with somethings blacked out on one report only to be in the clear on another. Since CASIS' perfomance is currently being reviewed by a panel chartered by NASA HQ I thought his information - along with other things I have posted about CASIS over the years - would be of interest to the review panel.

FY 19 Quarters [1] [2]
FY 18 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 17 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 16 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 15 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 14 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 13 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 12 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]

Boeing Just Fired Its CEO

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is out after disastrous year, CNN

"A spacecraft the company is building to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station also malfunctioned last week during its first-ever trip to space. The uncrewed test flight, which came after years of delays and setbacks, was intended to be the final major test before it was finally ready to fly humans. The company has also been roundly criticized by federal oversight officials over billion-dollar cost overruns and missed deadlines with another NASA contract: to build the Space Launch System, a massive rocket that the space agency wants to use to return humans to the moon. Boeing still has a strong balance sheet, and its stock is up marginally this year despite all of its setbacks. But questions about the company's leadership grew louder as the company's missteps added up."

- Bridenstine Calls B.S. On Boeing Exploration Upper Stage Claim, earlier post
- Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media, earlier post
- More Fake SLS News From Boeing, earlier post

Keith's note: 11 hours. Hmm. Apparently Starliner thought it just took off from Nepal - or the Phillipines - depending how you count an 11 hour time zone difference. That's a little bit more than having a clock that's a few minutes off. Just sayin'.

Starliner Has Landed

Boeing Starliner Completes First Orbital Flight Test with Successful Landing, Boeing

"Shortly after its December 20 launch and separation from its booster rocket, Starliner experienced a mission timing anomaly that made it use too much fuel to reach the intended destination of the International Space Station. Flight controllers were able to address the issue and put Starliner into a lower, stable orbit. The vehicle demonstrated key systems and capabilities before being signaled to return to Earth."

NASA, Boeing Complete Successful Landing of Starliner Flight Test, NASA

"Although Starliner did not reach its planned orbit and dock to the International Space Station as planned, Boeing was able to complete a number of test objectives during the flight related to NASA's Commercial Crew Program, including:

- Successful launch of the first human-rated United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket
- Checked out the Starliner propulsion systems
- Tested space-to-space communications
- Confirmed Starliner tracker alignments using its navigation system
- Tested Starliner's NASA Docking System
- Validated all environment control and life support systems
- Completed a positive command uplink between the International Space Station and Starliner"

Full audio recording. My question starts at 46:00

Keith's note: During the post-launch media briefing yesterday I was not allowed to ask a question even though I was listed by PAO as being online. Today I was last on the list (happens a lot) and there was a technical problem (ahem) so I had to repeat my question. I am not totally certain that everyone heard what I asked. Telecons are not something NASA has figured out how to do yet.

Otherwise not much in the way of news. Starliner will land tomorrow morning at White Sands around 7:57 a.m. EST. Boeing does not know why the Starliner's clock could not get the right data from the Atlas V, and the spacecraft is performing flawlessly.

NASA Television to Air Boeing Starliner Spacecraft Landing

Larger image

Keith's note: Boeing's Starliner was launched on time this morning. ULA gave it a perfect flight up to the point where the spacecraft separated. Then things started to go wrong. A planned engine burn did not happen because the spacecraft's clock was wrong and the spacecraft thought that it was somewhere else. Boeing tried to do a burn to fix the situation but a gap between several TDRSS satellites meant that the command would have been sent too late to allow the mission to have a chance to reach ISS. Boeing says that it has no idea why the clock was wrong. The curent orbital path will bring Starliner into a position to do a landing at White Sands in 48 hours. In talking about this problem NASA and Boeing tried to spin the mission as a success even though a prime objective was to dock with the ISS. It is too soon to know if a repeat flight to accomplish the original objectives will be required or if the next flight - with a crew - will be the first time that a Starliner docks with ISS.

One thing that was rather odd today: as soon as things started to go wrong NASA went dark. No TV, no meaningful updates. They said to go visit Boeing's website which had no information. After a couple of hours information started to emerge - not from NASA PAO or Boeing but from Jim Bridenstine's personal Twitter account. Indeed @NASA and @BoeingSpace were mostly mute. It is certainly good that the NASA Administrator has the personal capability and intent to inform the public what is going on. But I have to say that in the 25 years I have been covering NASA I have never seen such a news blackout drop into place for a launch or landing - and that includes the loss of Columbia.

Of course this is Boeing's mission so NASA is somewhat in the back seat in terms of PR. Boeing has none of the cameras on their flight like SpaceX does - just video images of motionless people with headsets staring at monitors. Boeing had to be ordered by Bridenstine to live webcast their recent parachute test (which also had problems that Boeing tried to ignore). And Boeing is lobbying Congress for the SLS Exploration Upper Stage which they claim will be used for Artemis III despite public statements to the contrary by the NASA Administrator. One certainly has to wonder if Boeing is going to exhibit the transparency and honesty one would expect as they continue to receive billions of taxpayer funds. Moreover NASA is asking taxpayers to foot a fast paced effort to return to the Moon. You'd think that someone at Boeing and NASA would get the bright idea that stonewalling and avoiding the media is not the way to garner public support.


Boeing Starliner launch on Friday comes at critical time for company amid 737 Max controversy, Washington Post

"A successful launch would be a moment of triumph amid the tumult that has dogged the company the past year and the news this week that it will halt production on its troubled 737 Max airplane in January, a decision that could not only harm Boeing's bottom line but also send shock waves through the economy. And [Jim Chilton] issued an emotional call to arms, both defending the company and its workforce while also pushing back against critics and competitors. The email, a copy of which was obtained by The Post, is part of a broader strategy inside Boeing to fight back aggressively that includes a radio ad playing in Washington touting the flight, saying it "is paving the way for the new age of space exploration." "Let's not allow this inaccurate report or the critical media coverage it's generating to become a distraction," Chilton wrote. "Our Starliner teammates have put their hearts and souls into developing a spacecraft that we can all be proud of, and they need all the support they can get from our broader space and launch team in the countdown to first flight."

- Bridenstine Calls B.S. On Boeing Exploration Upper Stage Claim, earlier post

Do you want to fly into space? Do you know someone who does? If so then this book is worth reading. "See You In Orbit? Our Dream of Spaceflight" by Alan Ladwig presents a comprehensive look by a space insider into the history of what space travel means to people. It details how individuals, space agencies, and companies have sought to give more people a chance to visit space.

In essence personal space travel has always been a factor in what we've done in space even if it was impractical. Efforts to expand the cadre of people going into space started before we even sent people into space and have continued ever since. Eventually some of these efforts caught on. To be certain there was always internal resistance as there was resistance from the outside as to who should go into space - and why. Now, nearly 3/4 of a century after we first threw things into space the dream of personally seeing space is as vibrant as ever. But now the ability to realize that dream is within the grasp of people who'd never have been offered a ride before.

Alas, this involves large sums of money and limits who gets to go. The eternal hope is that somehow this first generation of space tourists or spaceflight participants or commercial astronaut-passengers or whatever you want to call them will spur the development of more capabilities. In turn this surge of customer demand will somehow lead to a drop in the price of a ticket to space such that everyday citizens can anticipate a trip into space - for whatever reason propels them to do so. As to when that breakthrough happens, it seems to be getting closer than it has ever been but it is still illusively just out of reach.

Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator, partners with NASA Ames to offer startups access to space technology

"The Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator, announced this week it signed a partnership agreement with NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, to help startup founders connect to selected NASA software and technologies while providing a robust global network of startup resources. The accelerator also announced open applications for the "Founder Institute Advanced Technologies Accelerator" program in Silicon Valley. The new program will help startup founders and entrepreneurs to leverage NASA Technology and and the Founder Institute's Global Network to build companies of the future. Based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 180+ cities and 60+ countries, the Founder Institute has helped its alumni raise over $800 million in funding."

Remarks by Vice President Pence to NASA's Ames Research Center Employees and Guests

"To Dr. Tu and all the innovators and visionaries here who are designing and building that bright future of American leadership in space, it's a great honor to join you here in the beating heart of Silicon Valley at the NASA Ames Research Center. ... "Ames is proof that in today's age, the public and private sectors can achieve far more together than we ever have apart," Pence said. "And I really want to commend each and every one of you for the way that NASA and the way that NASA Ames are engaging the private sector to bring the best of America back to space."

Keith's 8 Dec note: There is no mention of this important news at the Main NASA Ames website, on its news page, or via @NASAAmes on Twitter. NASA HQ does not seem to know anything about this news. Ames sits in the middle of Silicon Valley. Vice President Pence noticed. So did The Founder Institute. The Founder Institute and Pence noted the value of public/private partnerships and the immense potential resident within NASA Ames. Too bad Ames PAO seems to be oblivious to both its location and potential.

Keith's 16 Dec update: Still no mention of this by Ames.

Rocket Lab Opens Launch Complex 2, Confirms U.S. Air Force Payload as First Electron Mission from U.S. Soil, RocketLab

"Rocket Lab, the global leader in small satellite launch, has today officially opened Launch Complex 2, the company's first U.S. launch site, and confirmed the inaugural mission from the site will be a dedicated flight for the U.S. Air Force. Located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 represents a new national launch capability for the United States. Construction on the site began in February 2019, with the site completed and ready to support missions just 10 months later. Designed to support rapid call-up missions, Launch Complex 2 delivers responsive launch capability from home soil for U.S. government small satellites. The ability to deploy satellites to precise orbits in a matter of hours, not months or years, is increasingly important to ensure resilience in space. At a press conference held at NASA Wallops Flight Facility today, the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program has been announced as the first customer scheduled to launch on an Electron vehicle from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2. The dedicated mission will see a single research and development micro-sat launched from the site in Q2 2020."

Keith's note: In case you have not been paying attention. NASA has been promoting commercial space - a lot. There was an announcement today by RocketLab at Wallops Island, Virginia regarding the opening of its new commercial launch facility. The facility is located on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (M.A.R.S.) directly adjacent to NASA Wallops. Great news, right? You'd think that NASA and M.A.R.S. would want to tell people about it. Guess again. No mention is made on its home page or on its news page but they did tweet about it - so its not like there was any prohibition on mentioning the event. Wallops is just too lazy to update its website. No mention is made on the M.A.R.S other than an old post from several months ago. website either. And NASA HQ seems to be totally uninterested - again, despite the agency's big push for commercial space. Just sayin'

Boeing, NASA clash over push for Congress to fund new stage for moon rocket, Washington Post

"In an interview, Bridenstine said that while the upper stage will be a great asset for NASA some day, he said "any plan that requires an EUS to be ready by 2024 is a plan that reduces the probability of success. It's just not going to be ready. ... "All of our contractors lobby Congress to achieve what is in their best interest even though it may not be in the best interest of the nation," Bridenstine said in an interview. "This is another example of that. My job as NASA administrator is to make sure we do what's right for the country, and for the taxpayer.""

Farther, Faster: The Next Stage of America's Moon Rocket Takes Shape, Boeing

"As the first Space Launch System (SLS) core stage completes final functional tests ahead of delivery to NASA, Boeing is building the second core stage while accelerating work on a powerful new upper stage that will boost the rocket's performance for the third moon mission and beyond."

Keith's note: This self-serving puffery by Boeing et al obscures the real costs of things and makes it harder to do an apples:apples reality check in the open at a time when no one really trusts any of the costs or schedules associated with Artemis. Indeed bogus claims like this one by Boeing certainly sounds like 'fake news' ;-)

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine and Doug Loverro attended the Space News award event in Washington today. I asked them about the Moon/Mars plan that the Vice President and the National Space Council asked NASA to deliver in 60 days. Specifically I asked them if it had been delivered and if so could we see it. Bridenstine replied that it had not been delivered as requested and did not indicate when it would be despite it being rather overdue. See "Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update)"

Prior to my question Doug Loverro announced that he was assembling a Baseline Assessment Team to conduct a review to see where the Artemis/SLS/Orion program is and then decide how to move forward. Specifically Loverro said he did not know what the Artemis 1 launch date would be and that this date would only be set once the entire program had been given a look over.

Loverro went on to say that he did not want to see funding as a "crutch" for not meeting the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024. He noted that he "does "not complain about gravity or radiation" and that funding is just another obstacle to overcome. Bridenstine cautioned that just because the date of Artemis 1 may change that does not necessarily mean that all other launch dates will be delayed.

When asked about the budget situation Bridenstine said he thinks that there is a chance that NASA will get areal appropriation by 20 December. If not, he said that he's talking to his lawyers about ways to "move forward in this politically charged environment". NASA has other lunar-focused efforts underway that have adequate funding and it is possible that some of them could be used to further assist the human lander effort.

With regard to the ISS Bridenstine said "We know that the space station can't last forever. What are we doing now to make sure we do not have a gap in LEO since we are not going to build another ISS.

Inevitably the topic of Space Force came up in light of recent agreements in Congress. Both Bridenstine and Loverro are strong supporters of Space Force and it showed in their comments. At one point, Loverro sought to link what he's doing at NASA with what Space Force will be doing at DoD: "I am going to the Moon in 2024 and I do not want there to be any space pirates out there". He was kidding. I think. But wouldn't you want a few pirates in the mix? Just sayin'.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of Crew Transportation to the International Space Station, NASA OIG

"... the CCP's flight assumptions were flawed because they failed to take into consideration a normal flight cadence and the five Soyuz seats NASA planned to purchase from Boeing. ... "NASA's crew access analysis also did not include the five Soyuz seats the Agency was planning to purchase from Boeing for flights in 2017 through 2019. " ... "According to several NASA officials, a significant consideration for paying Boeing such a premium was to ensure the contractor continued as a second crew transportation provider. CCP officials cited NASA's guidance to maintain two U.S. commercial crew providers to ensure redundancy in crew transportation as part of the rationale for approving the purchase of all four missions at higher prices. "Additionally, senior CCP officials believed that due to financial considerations, Boeing could not continue as a commercial crew provider unless the contractor received the higher prices."

Boeing Statement Regarding OIG Report on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, Boeing

"We strongly disagree with the report's conclusions about CST-100 Starliner pricing and readiness, and we owe it to the space community and the American public to share the facts the Inspector General [IG] missed," said Jim Chilton, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Launch. "Each member of the Boeing team has a personal stake in the safety, quality and integrity of what we offer our customers, and since Day One, the Starliner team has approached this program with a commitment to design, develop and launch a vehicle that we and NASA can be proud of."

... Through fair and open negotiations with NASA in a competitive environment, we offered single-mission pricing for post-certification missions (PCMs) 3-6, thus enabling additional flexibility and schedule resiliency to enhance future mission readiness. This single-mission pricing for PCM 3-6 was included in the pricing table in the original contract. That original pricing table remains unchanged. Contrary to the conclusion in the IG report, Boeing contends that the benefits in shorter lead time and flexibility in adjusting launch dates are well worth the higher price in the table.

... Boeing rejects the average seat price assessment in the IG report. Boeing will fly the equivalent of a fifth passenger in cargo for NASA, so the per-seat pricing should be considered based on five seats rather than four. For proprietary, competitive reasons Boeing does not disclose specific pricing information, but we are confident our average seat pricing to NASA is below the figure cited."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of Crew Transportation to the International Space Station

"Boeing and SpaceX each face significant safety and technical challenges with parachutes, propulsion, and launch abort systems that need to be resolved prior to receiving NASA authorization to transport crew to the ISS. The complexity of these issues has already caused at least a 2-year delay in both contractors' development, testing, and qualification schedules and may further delay certification of the launch vehicles by an additional year.

Consequently, given the amount, magnitude, and unknown nature of the technical challenges remaining with each contractor's certification activities, CCP will continue to be challenged to establish realistic launch dates. Furthermore, final vehicle certification for both contractors will likely be delayed at least until summer 2020 based on the number of ISS and CCP certification requirements that remain to be verified and validated. In order to optimize development timelines, NASA continues to accept deferrals or changes to components and capabilities originally planned to be demonstrated on each contractor's uncrewed test flights. Taken together, these factors may elevate the risk of a significant system failure or add further delays to the start of commercial crewed flights to the ISS."

Keith's note: Over the past few years I have submitted regular FOIA requests to NASA HQ for documents related to how NASA and CASIS interact with one another. Specifically I asked for the quarterly reports submitted by CASIS to NASA. Below is a collection of these reports. For the most part they are un-redacted. Sometimes they are - alas the redactions are not consistent over the entire collection with somethings blacked out on one report only to be in the clear on another. Since CASIS' perfomance is currently being reviewed by a panel chartered by NASA HQ I thought his information - along with other things I have posted about CASIS over the years - would be of interest to the review panel.

FY 19 Quarters [1] [2]
FY 18 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 17 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 16 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 15 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 14 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 13 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 12 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]

Keith's note: The pad abort test of Boeing Starliner was technically a success today. The system quickly removed the capsule from the danger zone and landed exactly as planned but one of the three main parachutes did not deploy. The NASA and Boeing TV announcers repeatedly commented that 2 deployed parachutes are within the safety requirements of the system, that this is all about redundancy, and that a safe landing could have happened with one parachute. But one of the three main parachutes failed to deploy. Given previous parachute problems, it is possible that additional testing will be required before Starliner who can be launched. Boeing was originally not planning to do a live broadcast of this test until NASA Administrator Bridenstine told them that they were going to do it.

Keith's update: NASA's post- test press release says "Two of three Starliner's main parachutes deployed just under half a minute into the test, and the service module separated from the crew module a few seconds later. Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test perimeters and crew safety."

However Boeing's post-test press release makes no mention whatsoever of the parachute failure. Its a good thing that Jim Bridnestine directed Boeing to televise the test - otherwise we might not have known about the chute failure.

Keith's second update: Boeing posted this update "Boeing statement regarding CST-100 Starliner pad abort test" saying "We will review the data to determine how all of the systems performed, including the parachute deployment sequence. We did have a deployment anomaly, not a parachute failure." This is typical aerospace post-event mumbo jumbo. No one knows what happened so it is called an "anomaly". I get that. But the parachute failed to deploy. We could all see that it failed to deploy. This update was not emailed to the same distribution list Boeing uses for press releases. Also, the earlier press release (that makes no mention of any parachute issues) is still online at Boeing. Anyone who sees this press release or the version sent out to the media may be totally unaware that the parachute failed to deploy on a vehicle designed to carry people.

NASA TV to Air Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test

"NASA and Boeing will broadcast live coverage of the CST-100 Starliner Pad Abort Test on Monday, Nov. 4, from Launch Complex 32 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The test is scheduled for 9 a.m. EST (7 a.m. MST) with a three-hour test window. Live coverage is targeted to start at 8:50 a.m., on NASA Television and the agency's website. Coverage will be adjusted as necessary within the window."

NASA should shed lesser priorities to achieve a 2024 moon landing, Op Ed, Doug Cooke

"NASA should focus major new development on an integrated lander/ascent vehicle launched on an SLS 1B. With Orion launched on a separate SLS, the lunar landing would be achieved with these two flights, and at most one commercial launch with additional fuel. This is a much simpler approach with a significantly higher probability of success."

Keith's note: On one hand Boeing consultant Doug Cooke wants to kill Gateway because it adds complexity and increases the number of points where a failure could derail the Moon 2024 thing. No argument there. He then goes on to push for the SLS variant that features Boeing's Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) - and requires more SLS flights. The net result is likely going to be a wash when it comes to cost. And given the SLS program's chronic inability to do anything on time or within budget, there are likely to be SLS and EUS issues that will also cause the 2024 deadline to be missed.

Or, NASA could adopt an open source, multi-path, modular approach relying on existing commercial launchers, and standard interfaces. And if you have to build SLS then use it as a cargo vehicle only. If a large effort is to be mounted on the Moon and cislunar space then propellant depots should be thrown into the mix. Relying on SLS in an architecture for sending Americans and cargo back to the Moon is, itself, the prime risk factor so long as it remains in the critical path - whether it is 2024 or 2028 that you are aiming for.

Its anyone's guess right now as to how the election will turn out. As we've all seen, when a new Administration arrives they have a strong tendency to fiddle with the previous Administration's space goals. Adopting flexibility in terms of launch vehicles and space assets is the best way to assure that something will survive a potential transition and put people on the Moon. But sticking with a program that is utterly reliant upon SLS - a program that gets more expensive and extends its target date with every passing day - is not the best way to assure that we'll be heading back to the Moon. And if this whole Moon thing is supposedly being done to get humans to Mars sooner, then the need to be more flexible and creative is underscored.

Then again Jeff and Elon may just make this whole NASA Moon/Mars thing moot.

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


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