Recently in Commercialization Category

SpaceX informed NASA of slowdown in its commercial Mars program, SpaceflightNow

"Confirming rumors and suspicions that SpaceX is adjusting its plans to begin dispatching robotic landers to Mars, NASA officials said the commercial space company has informed the agency that it has put its Red Dragon program on the back burner. Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement between NASA and SpaceX, the government agreed to provide navigation and communications services for the Red Dragon mission, which originally aimed to deliver an unpiloted lander to Mars in 2018. SpaceX confirmed earlier this year the launch of the experimental lander on a Falcon Heavy rocket had slipped to 2020."

- SpaceX Will Go To Mars Starting in 2018, earlier post
- NASA's SpaceX Mars Mission Briefing That NASA Is Not Telling You About, earlier post

GAO: Surplus Missile Motors: Sale Price Drives Potential Effects on DOD and Commercial Launch Providers, GAO

"The Department of Defense (DOD) could use several methods to set the sale prices of surplus intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) motors that could be converted and used in vehicles for commercial launch if current rules prohibiting such sales were changed. One method would be to determine a breakeven price. Below this price, DOD would not recuperate its costs, and, above this price, DOD would potentially save. GAO estimated that DOD could sell three Peacekeeper motors--the number required for one launch, or, a "motor set"--at a breakeven price of about $8.36 million and two Minuteman II motors for about $3.96 million, as shown below. Other methods for determining motor prices, such as fair market value as described in the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board Handbook, resulted in stakeholder estimates ranging from $1.3 million per motor set to $11.2 million for a first stage Peacekeeper motor. The prices at which surplus ICBM motors are sold is an important factor for determining the extent of potential benefits and challenges of allowing the motors to be used for commercial launch."

Here are the business leaders who are - and aren't - officially advising Trump, Business Insiders

CEOs of at least 3 major companies quit WH board over Trump Charlottesville response

"Thanks for checking in. We don't have a comment," said a spokesman for Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson."

As Trump disbanded advisory groups, this is who was in and who was out, CNBC

"Marillyn Hewson Lockheed Martin CEO No comment"

SpaceX Launches Cargo Resupply Mission to the Space Station (With multiple videos)

"Experiments seeking a better understanding of Parkinson's disease and the origin of cosmic rays are on their way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft following today's 12:31 p.m. EDT launch."

"Carrying more than 6,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies, the spacecraft lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the company's 12th commercial resupply mission. It will arrive at the space station Wednesday, Aug. 16, at which time astronauts Jack Fischer of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the space station's robotic arm to capture it."

Rocket Lab Completes Post-Flight Analysis

"Rocket Lab's investigation team determined the launch, named 'It's a Test', was terminated due to a data loss time out, which was caused by misconfiguration of telemetry equipment owned and operated by a third-party contractor who was supporting the launch from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1. Four minutes into the flight, at an altitude of 224 km, the equipment lost contact with the rocket temporarily and, according to standard operating procedures, range safety officials terminated the flight. Data, including that from Rocket Lab's own telemetry equipment, confirmed the rocket was following a nominal trajectory and the vehicle was performing as planned at the time of termination."

After failed space flights, NASA investigation leads to Portland, The Oregonian

"Twice in the past decade, NASA launched unmanned spacecraft ferrying advanced satellites into Earth's orbit as part of a mission that could offer researchers an unprecedented new source of data on climate change. But the satellites failed to deploy and, within minutes, NASA's $550 million investment and years of work vaporized in fiery balls of space junk. NASA has been investigating ever since. Now the inquiry has led to a nondescript industrial building in Northeast Portland, where a company called Sapa Extrusions acknowledges it has been dealing in bad aluminum and bad faith for as long as two decades."

NASA Creates Glory Satellite Mishap Investigation Board, earlier post

"NASA's Glory mission ended Friday after the spacecraft failed to reach orbit following its launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA has begun the process of creating a Mishap Investigation Board to evaluate the cause of the failure. Telemetry indicated the fairing, a protective shell atop the satellite's Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected. The launch proceeded as planned from its liftoff at 5:09 a.m. EST through the ignition of the Taurus XL's second stage. However, the fairing failure occurred during the second stage engine burn. It is likely the spacecraft fell into the South Pacific, although the exact location is not yet known. NASA's previous launch attempt of an Earth science spacecraft, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory onboard a Taurus XL on Feb. 24, 2009, also failed to reach orbit when the fairing did not separate."

Mission Approved - Bob Richards on the Moon Express Plan to Commercialize the Moon, SpaceQ

"Moon Express has raised $45 million(US), built hardware, tested some of it, and gotten the FAA and other government agencies to approve of its first commercial mission to the moon, and in less than a year might have its first spacecraft on the moon."

"In this episode of the SpaceQ podcast Bob Richards, CEO and co-founder of Moon Express talks about the latest news from the company, including how lunar samples they return could be worth tens of millions, possibly even hundreds of millions. If true, and if Moon Express can return those samples, then an important part of their business plan will have been accomplished and a new commercial frontier will have been opened up."

NASA's Commercial Crew Program Target Flight Dates

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation mission. The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly-releasable dates for both providers."

Michael J. Fox Foundation and CASIS Announce Partnership to Grow Key Parkinson's Protein on International Space Station

"The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announce a partnership to send a key Parkinson's protein to the International Space Station for growth under microgravity conditions. Microgravity may allow bigger, more regular LRRK2 protein crystals to grow, which helps solve the protein's structure. That information could help scientists design optimized therapies against LRRK2, a key target in the pursuit of a Parkinson's cure."

LRRK2

"Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), also known as dardarin (from the Basque word "dardara" which means trembling), is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the PARK8 gene. LRRK2 is a member of the leucine-rich repeat kinase family. Variants of this gene are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease and also Crohn's disease."

Keith's note: Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing. Even if CASIS is trying to distance itself from NASA, anyone with an ounce of Internet savvy would know that "NASA" is a search term that would heighten the visibility of this press release as it is posted elsewhere on the Internet. Again - this is significant news and CASIS should be congratulated for pulling it off. I'm just not sure they have a full grasp of the responsibility that they have been given by NASA.

CASIS Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2017

"Executive Summary: The second fiscal quarter (Q2) of 2017 (FY17) brought forward meaningful progress for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and demonstrated signals of opportunity for future space science platforms. From a big picture perspective, key developments in commercial space outside of the ISS National Lab are noteworthy for our stakeholder community. In March, SpaceX achieved a historic milestone on the road to reusability in space transportation with the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket. This achievement in reusability signals the tangible progress that the industry is making toward lowering the cost of transportation, a well-established barrier for space research and development. In addition to this milestone, commercial companies publicly announced this quarter intent to develop standalone, privately funded space stations within the decade. Finally, Congress' actions to pass the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 provide a firm foundation for continuity of progress toward America's leadership in commercial space. These developments are encouraging to both traditional and nontraditional users of the ISS National Lab as our nation looks to develop long-term research initiatives in space. Adding to this renewed excitement in commercial space, momentum with space research development on the ISS National Lab continues to accelerate and expand."

Keith's note: What's really bizarre is that CASIS is feeding this overt NASA PR hype back to NASA as part of a quarterly report to its (sole) customer. As if NASA had not already read its own hype without the need for CASIS to regurgitate it as part of a contract deliverable. Or maybe CASIS is just trying to make NASA feel better and simultaneously inflate its on value by aligning itself with the NASA spin machine. Hard to tell. Maybe they hope the new White House staff are reading these things. There's actually a lot of really important updates in these quarterly reports (more to follow) that are worthy of wider dissemination. Valuable research is being accomplished on the ISS. I am just baffled as to why CASIS feels the need to puff it all up with hype.

Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. NASA.gov blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation.

Keith's note: I was at the ISS R&D Conference today in Washington, DC (I'll be there all week). One of today's events was a panel that discussed the role of the National Academy of Science in advising NASA - specifically the Decadal Survey done on human spaceflight back in 2011. To be certain, as I have noted before, a lot of the NASA/NAS interaction is akin to choir practice in an echo chamber. But there is a lot of useful observation and advice embedded in these NASA reports that NASA would be wise to consider with regard to human spaceflight.

There was an odd interaction toward the end of the session when ISS Director Sam Scimemi asked if there was anything that the NAS could do to interest other federal agencies in spending money on space activities - which is an odd thing to consider even asking the NAS since they simply do not do that sort of advocacy. They are supposed to be impartial. As such its rather strange for the senior NASA civil servant running the ISS to be thinking - much less to say something like this in a public forum. Does he not know what role the NAS plays? Maybe someone should explain this to him. Its even odder that Scimemi would be out trying to drum up more funds for space given how well NASA did in the FY 2018 White House budget when compared to how badly other science agencies did in that same budget proposal. This makes NASA seem greedy and/or clueless.

Vector Space Systems - Small Rockets, Small Satellites and Possibly a Big Payday, SpaceQ (Story and Podcast)

"In 2016 Jim Cantrell and group of veteran space professionals started Vector Space Systems. Their goal? Nothing less than than building a small satellite launch company capable of launching upwards of 100 small satellites a year from at least three spaceports."

Note: Vector received some initial grant money from NASA.

Related: $30 Billion Market Value for Small Satellites Over Coming Decade, Euroconsult

"According to Euroconsult's latest report, Prospects for the Small Satellite Market, significant expansion in terms of capabilities and demand is underway in the smallsat market. Over 6,200 smallsats are expected to be launched over the next ten years, a substantial augmentation over that of the previous decade (several mega constellations are now included within the scope of this report). The smallsat market from 2017-2026 will be driven by the roll-out of multiple constellations accounting for more than 70% of this total, mainly for commercial operators."

"The total market value of these smallsats could reach $30.1 billion in the next ten years, up from $8.9 billion over the previous decade."

Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement (with video)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene the rescheduled hearing titled "Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement" at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 13, 2017. The subcommittee will examine partnerships between the U.S. government and commercial space industry to advance space exploration."

- Statement by Robert Cabana
- Statement by Tim Ellis
- Statement by Tim Hughes
- Statement by Jeffrey Manber
- Statement by Moriba Jah
- Statement by Sen. Bill Nelson

Moon Express Unveils Lunar Mission Architecture, Moon Express

"On July 12, 2017, Moon Express unveiled its exploration architecture, including plans to establish the world's first permanent lunar outpost at the South Pole of the Moon by 2020. The company's robotic explorers are flexible, scalable platforms that will help reopen the American frontier on the Moon, conduct prospecting and sample return operations, and support lunar science, exploration and commerce."

What You Need To Know About The Space Law Congress Is Considering, The Federalist

"Want to make money in space? It appears that Congress wants to help. It also appears from what Congress has so far proposed that their help will have only a limited value. The heart of the problem is twofold. First, the regulatory framework that American companies must navigate to get projects off the ground is difficult and complex. They must deal with multiple government agencies whose conflicting needs cause delays and increased costs. Sometimes this bureaucracy kills projects entirely. Second, there is significant worry in the investment community about the uncertainty of property rights in space. Article II of the Outer Space Treaty forbids countries from claiming territory in space, which means it is difficult for capitalist countries like the United States to establish secure property rights for its citizens on any territory in space."

It was a case of the third time being the charm as SpaceX conducted its 10th launch this year. The Intelsat 35e has separated from the Falcon 9 second stage as expected and is in a good orbit.

- Launch replay.

SpaceX Dragon's second splashdown is a historic first, CNET

"Until now, no single craft has visited the ISS and returned to Earth more than once. In fact, all other non-SpaceX vehicles that visit the space station are designed to burn up in the atmosphere after a single flight. SpaceX has been recovering its Dragon capsules via splashdowns in the ocean, but this is the first time that one of those recycled craft has completed a second re-supply mission."

MDA Sells Majority Stake in its Satellite Servicing Business and Gets its First Customer, SpaceQ

"MDA, which had announced in early May the creation of Space Infrastructure Services (SIS) to handle its nascent satellite servicing business, today announced that Finance Technology Leverage LLC would take a majority stake in SIS and that global satellite communications company SES would be its first customer."

"As part of today's announcement, SIS has awarded a contract to MDA's U.S. division, SSL, a contract valued at US$228 million (CA$305 million)."

SpaceX's final Falcon 9 design coming this year, two Falcon Heavy launches next year, SpaceNews

"We are flying Block 3s right now," Shotwell said. "Block 4s start flying shortly, and then Block 5 at the end of this year. We definitely have gotten better [at] more smooth introducing of change. You don't see the big impacts to production we've had before when we've changed vehicle designs." SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk had previously stated in an online question-and-answer session in October 2016 that Block 5 would be the final upgrade to the Falcon 9 design. The Falcon 9 Block 5 is expected to be far more reusable than the Block 3. Shotwell said a Block 5 booster could relaunch " a dozen or so times." The Block 3, by comparison, has an estimated life of two or three missions. Shotwell said the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 won't need refurbishing, but will mainly undergo inspections prior to launch, streamlining the process compared to the first reused boosters."

SpaceX will try for third Falcon 9 launch in less than two weeks, SpaceflightNow

"After back-to-back launches last weekend, SpaceX could launch its next Falcon 9 mission as soon as Sunday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a high-power Intelsat communications satellite. Liftoff Sunday will hinge on the ability of SpaceX's launch team to prepare KSC's launch pad 39A for another flight after the successful June 23 blastoff of a Falcon 9 booster with the first Bulgarian-owned communications satellite."

SpaceX Launches Two Missions in Two Days (with videos), SpaceRef

"SpaceX has upped the ante when it comes to reusable launch systems. Within 49 hours the company launched and recovered two Falcon 9 first stages while putting it's customer's payloads safely into orbit."

Keith's note: Imagine if NASA adopted the same incremental product upgrading approach - one based on operational and customer experience/feedback - with forward and backward compatibility such as what SpaceX has adopted. Imagine also that this ability to improve a product is a feature inherent to the original product design and not an afterthought. Imagine all you want. NASA is incapable of doing this or even grasping how to do it - but there were faint glimmers of it during development of the Apollo/Saturn program. Cost and performance benefits aside, having a flexible space launch infrastructure like SpaceX has (I'm sure Blue Origin is no different) with inherent design resilience launched in a steady cadence is how space will be best utilized - not by using monster rockets that NASA cannot even afford to fly more than once every year or so.

Hubble Contact Lenses

"Go to your exam, try out Hubble contacts, and get your prescription."

Hubble Servicing Mission 1, NASA

"After Hubble's deployment in 1990, scientist realized that the telescope's primary mirror had a flaw called spherical aberration. The outer edge of the mirror was ground too flat by a depth of 2.2 microns (roughly equal to one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair). This aberration resulted in images that were fuzzy because some of the light from the objects being studied was being scattered. COSTAR (the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement) was developed as an effective means of countering the effects of the flawed shape of the mirror. COSTAR was a telephone booth-sized instrument which placed 5 pairs of corrective mirrors, some as small as a nickel coin, in front of the Faint Object Camera, the Faint Object Spectrograph and the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph."

Keith's note: On their visit a doctor page they refer to "Dr. Edwin". As in Edwin Hubble. Get it?

After nine launches in 2017, it's tough to be an honest critic of SpaceX, Ars Technica

"SpaceX garners a lot of acclaim for its achievements, and it has legions of admirers within the aerospace community and the public at large. But it also has critics, primarily competitors who look at SpaceX and see a company that gets a lot of hype but doesn't always deliver. What is perhaps most striking about this weekend's back-to-back launches is that the company's successes drove a stake into some of the most credible criticisms that have been levied against SpaceX in recent years."

Waiting for liftoff at the Spaceport, Santa Fe New Mexican

"The concept of space tourism was all the rage when Spaceport America was pitched to New Mexico taxpayers a decade ago as a gateway for rich adventurers willing to pay $250,000 for a ride to the heavens. But as the state has waited year after year for the first of what were supposed to be regular flights into space from the nearly $220 million facility, people behind the program are reimagining it more as a hub for the commercial spaceflight industry rather than space tourism. That change in approach could require pouring millions more in public money into a place that plenty of critics have called one of state government's biggest boondoggles. Dan Hicks, new executive director of the spaceport, says the spaceport must construct additional facilities and offer more services to draw more business."

Finance authority grants spaceport limited use of tax revenue for operations, Santa Fe New Mexican

"Spaceport America, the government-subsidized operation that promised new business for New Mexico by luring wealthy space travelers but in six years hasn't had any such flights, won a partial victory Thursday in its pitch to use more tax money to increase its operating budget. The New Mexico Finance Authority agreed to let the spaceport for one year use extra money from the taxes that shoppers pay in two Southern New Mexico counties. But the spaceport wanted the excess tax money in perpetuity, a proposal that the finance authority declined to grant as its chairman raised questions about the facility's financial strength."

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Commercial Space

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement." Note: Postponed until after the July 4 recess.

The Implications of the Growing Small Satellite Market for Launch and Key Applications (webcast)

"The Center for Strategic and International Studies will be hosting a two-session event to highlight and amplify awareness of the implications of emerging space technologies, particularly those provided by smaller space systems. These discussions will examine implications from the perspective of both changes in the way space missions are executed and in the way that transportation to space is provided."

Amendment may keep Iran-Russia sanctions bill from stopping ISS launches from Wallops, Daily Press

"An Iran-Russia sanctions bill threatened to torpedo Orbital ATK's commercial resupply missions for NASA from Virginia to the International Space Station until an amendment cleared the U.S. Senate Thursday to remove the bill's unintended consequences to civilian agencies. Senators voted overwhelmingly -- 94 to 6 -- to approve the amendment after several members, including Virginia's Mark Warner, described the "unintentional harm" the original bill could inflict on "crucial science, civil and commercial space missions" that support NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research."

Air Force budget reveals how much SpaceX undercuts launch prices, Ars Technica

"One person who has reviewed the Air Force budget and is sympathetic to the new space industry said the following: That is a tad more expensive than the amount ULA would ever tell taxpayers they are paying for one of its launches, and it illustrates the extent to which those taxpayers are forced to subsidize ULA in order to maintain the fiction that it is a competitive private sector company. Essentially, then, while ULA has talked publicly about lowering the costs of its boosters for the commercial sector and the federal government, the US Department of Defense is suggesting in its budget that ULA's costs are as high as they have ever been."

World View Announces First -Ever Multi-Day Stratollite Mission, World View

"In need of a spaceflight partner to literally launch KFC's new flagship spicy Zinger chicken sandwich to space in an entirely new and different way, KFC and creative agency Wieden+Kennedy approached World View about participating in a historic flight to the edge of space. Intrigued by the idea, World View saw this as a great opportunity to publicly demonstrate the Stratollite's capabilities to a mass public audience, while simultaneously financing a portion of the vehicle's development program. Thus, the World View and KFC partnership was born, aiming to usher in a new era of stratospheric discovery and chicken sandwich space exploration."

Keith's note: Really - the only partner they could find for this "historic flight" was KFC - and the only payload they could fly to almost-space is a chicken sandwich? I'm not so sure if the promise of commercial space is what everyone says it is going to be if this is what passes as ground breaking use of otherwise promising hardware. Remember that pizza that Pizza Hut delivered to ISS in 2001? Of course you don't. (Pizza Hut is owned by Yum! Brands Inc. the same people who own KFC, by the way). Then again, if KFC uses its its global marketing prowess then a lot of people may know that there is a chicken sandwich almost in outer space. Will that translate into ticket sales for World View?

Now ... if they had a competition wherein students from around the world created artwork or did something else that did not focus only on cold fast food on a balloon - something that was then flown with an education and outreach program weaved into the marketing - then maybe this could have been a memorable moment. No word yet as to whether the sandwich (530 calories, 1,330 mg of sodium, 26 g of fat) will even be edible when it returns from 4 days in almost-space.

Keith's note: A few moments ago NASA Wallops completed a webcast. The audio and video were not in synch, video was jittery, and they had bad microphone issues. One might get the impression that Wallops PAO has never done a webcast before. Someone needs to buy them more bandwidth or better hardware. They also need to practice doing these things and write down their audio/video settings. Their mics were constantly being mixed by someone - room echo came and went, there was a loud audio hum, and lots of line static. And the audio dropped completely when audience members asked questions or panelists answered them. It was like they were hitting random buttons on their mixing panel to see what sounded the best. I did live webcasts from Everest Base Camp 8 years ago at 17,600 feet using a satellite unit I carried on my back and had far fewer problems than this.

For this press event, unlike all other NASA centers, there was no dial-in for offsite media. You had to send your questions in by email or text. Why is it that Wallops can't do a simple conference call? Teenagers do it on their cellphones.

Here is the question I submitted: "Now that you've had a chance to do all of the accounting, can you tell me what the complete, final cost of repairing damage at NASA Wallops/M.A.R.S. from the Orbital ATK 2014 mishap was? How much did of this amount NASA contribute? How much did Orbital ATK contribute? How much did the State of Virginia and/or M.A.R.S. contribute?" Follow up: "Has NASA required Orbital ATK to increase contingency funds it sets aside and/or its level of insurance coverage in the case of future launch accidents?"

Answer from NASA NASA: "It was a little $15 million over 11 months. It was split three ways."
Orbital: "we have modified our insurance and contingency funds to be in compliance with regulations"

NASA does not even know how the cost of paying for the damage was divided up - unless they mean that NASA, Orbital ATK, and M.A.R.S. each paid exactly one-third i.e. $5 million. If that was the case then why couldn't NASA just say that - as I asked them to do?

Oh yes, in opening the media event, Center Director Bill Wrobel went through a long list of things that Wallops and Orbital ATK do - and did so glowingly: rockets, planes, balloons. One thing he did not mention: Wallops just dropped an expensive payload from one of its balloons the other day at high altitude without a parachute. They had webstreaming and social media issues last night too for one of their sounding rockets. Wallops just does not seem to be ready for prime time.

SST Committee Approves the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 simplifies and strengthens the outdated space-based remote sensing regulatory system. At the same time, this bill enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space companies."

Support Grows for the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space,and Technology announced growing support for H.R. 2809, the "American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017." The legislation was favorably reported out of committee today by voice vote. Keep reading to see what they're saying."

Keith's note: This press release has quotes from 19 people representing New Space companies or organizations. Only 2 females are quoted. New Space is still a boy's club. Just sayin'.

Smith Introduces American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"Rep. Bridenstine: "Providing maximum certainty with minimal regulatory burden for the commercial space industry has been one of my top priorities in Congress. The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act moves us in the right direction. Years of uncertainty over which government agency has the responsibility to authorize and supervise commercial space activity has created a chilling effect in the industry, hindering capital formation and innovation. Chairman Smith, Chairman Babin, and I authored this bill to provide a clear, transparent process to meet Outer Space Treaty obligations while ensuring America is open for business in space."

Markup of the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

Opening statements: Committee Chairman Smith, Subcommittee Chairman Babin, Rep. Bridenstine, Ranking Member Johnson

Could NASA and SpaceX cooperation turn into competition?

"... So, it came as a surprise to NASA when SpaceX founder Elon Musk held a conference call in February announcing plans to use a powerful rocket that hasn't yet flown to sling private tourists around the moon next year--an ambitious timeline, according to Mary Lynne Dittmar who represents some of SpaceX's competitors through the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration. "If you're putting all the schedule pressure on, you are essentially -- you're automatically assuming more risk. You're automatically creating an environment where you are operating at higher risk because you have to meet the deadline," Dittmar explained. Dittmar said she is concerned about the 2018 deadline for SpaceX."

Keith's note: Meanwhile Mary Lynne Dittmar's favorite rocket - the one she's paid to promote (SLS) is years behind schedule, over budget, and fraught with ongoing software and manufacturing errors. SpaceX launches (and lands) rockets on a regular basis. Falcon Heavy is composed three of these rockets strapped together and will launch soon. SLS will not launch until 2020 (maybe) and then not again for 2-4 years. Infrequent launches are one easy way to generate a lot of programmatic risk. So ... who has more in-house, currently functional operational experience under their belt, Mary Lynne? Certainly not the SLS folks.




SpaceX Wins Launch of U.S. Air Force X-37B Space Plane, Reuters

"Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp will fly its first mission for the U.S. Air Force in August when it launches the military's X-37B miniature spaceplane, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said on Tuesday. Four previous X-37B missions were launched by United LaunchAlliance Atlas 5 rockets. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co . "SpaceX will be sending the next Air Force payload up into space in August," Wilson said during webcast testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. She later specified that the payload would be one of the Air Force's two X-37Bspaceplanes."

NanoRacks Prepares Activation of Historic Chinese Research, 25+ Experiments Onboard International Space Station, Nanoracks

"After Saturday's launch to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX's Dragon was successfully berthed and installed, bringing over 25 of NanoRacks' customer payloads to the ISS, including the first-ever Chinese experiment to be brought aboard Station. The launch of the Chinese experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), led by Professor Deng Yulin, has been in work for over two years now. Following complete U.S. government compliance, this fully commercial, educational Chinese experiment will study the effects of the space radiation environment on DNA and the changes in mutation rate. The experiment will run on Station for about 30 days and then return back to Earth aboard the Dragon spacecraft. The BIT NanoLab will remain confined to the NanoRacks platform on Station, and can in no way interface with the International Space Station or NASA's IT infrastructure and systems. There is no transfer of technology between NASA and China."

Keith's note: There is always a clever technical solution to overcome cumbersome political policies. People just have to want to find the solutions. Every time you do something like this, the original problem becomes less of a hindrance and is eventually replaced by new, usually unexpected, opportunities. Congratulations to everyone who made this happen. If we can calmly and professionally share a space station with the country who tried to steal our election then we can certainly share it with the country that makes our iPhones.

SpaceX Dragon Headed to The International Space Station

"Major experiments that will look into the human body and out into the galaxy are on their way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft following its 5:07 p.m. EDT launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket."

Keith's note: NASA KSC PAO just held a post-launch media briefing - one of many events they mentioned in a media advisory. But they did not bother to tell offsite media that there was a secret dial-in option - only a few of their media pals knew about it. Yet the media advisory gives detailed information about every other way to cover/follow the launch. All other NASA centers take the time to tell news media about dial-in opportunities in advance - but not KSC. This happened with a SpaceX CRS launch in 2016 too. NASA KSC PAO's excuse then was it was not part of their media template. They still do not seem to care about telling the media about these things.

I wanted to ask SpaceX and NASA what the cost of flying a refurbished Dragon is and if they do (or do not) pass on these savings to NASA and if there are any additional NASA requirements for certifying a previously-flown spacecraft to the ISS. Everyone is hyping how cool it is that a refurbished Dragon is being flown. OK, it is cool - but what does that actually mean? Is it actually cheaper to re-fly these Dragons or do the costs of NASA-mandated re-certification limit the actual cost savings?

Paul Allen's Stratolaunch Systems brings monster plane out of hangar for first time, Geekwire

"Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said the plane's emergence from its hangar at California's Mojave Air and Space Port was part of a "major milestone in its journey toward providing convenient, reliable and routine access to low Earth orbit." The plane is designed to carry up to three Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rockets at a time into the air, and then set them loose to launch payloads into orbit. .. Stratolaunch says the first launch demonstration, involving a single Pegasus XL, will take place as early as 2019."

Keith's note: So ... when will they announce that they have found a commercially viable reason to launch Dream Chaser?

Reusing Old Dragons

SpaceX set to join rare company by re-flying an orbital spacecraft, Ars Technica

"Although the company has never placed a hard dollar value on the Dragon, the savings could be considerable. SpaceX received a contract worth $1.6 billion from NASA for 12 cargo supply missions to the station in 2008--about $130 million per flight. That would have included the cost of the booster, of course, so therefore an individual Dragon spacecraft is likely valued at between $20 million to $60 million."

Rocket Lab Makes It Into Space On Its First Launch (with videos)

"Rocket Lab broke new ground today when its Electron rocket reached space at 16:23 NZST. Electron lifted-off at 16:20 NZST from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It was the first orbital-class rocket launched from from a private launch site in the world. "It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn't quite reach orbit and we'll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our programme, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business," says Beck."

Boeing, DARPA to Design, Build, Test New Experimental Spaceplane

"Boeing will develop an autonomous, reusable spaceplane capable of carrying and deploying a small expendable upper stage to launch small (3,000 pound/1,361 kg) satellites into low Earth orbit. Boeing and DARPA will jointly invest in the development. Once the spaceplane - called Phantom Express - reaches the edge of space, it would deploy the second stage and return to Earth. It would then land on a runway to be prepared for its next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft."

Aerojet Rocketdyne Selected As Main Propulsion Provider for Boeing and DARPA Experimental Spaceplane

Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space, Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness

LIVE

"This hearing will examine U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing will also explore the Treaty's potential impacts on expansion of our nation's commerce and settlement in space."

- James Dunstan, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC [statement]
- Laura Montgomery, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC [statement]
- Matthew Schaefer, University of Nebraska College of Law [statement]
- Mike Gold, Space Systems Loral [statement]
- Peter Marquez, Planetary Resources [statement]
- Colonel Pamela Melroy, Retired and Former Astronaut [statement]
- Bob Richards, Moon Express [statement]

Space Acquisitions: DOD Continues to Face Challenges of Delayed Delivery of Critical Space Capabilities and Fragmented Leadership, GAO

"Many major Department of Defense (DOD) space programs GAO reviewed have experienced cost and schedule increases. For example, costs for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program grew 118 percent and its first satellite was launched more than 3.5 years late. Costs for the Space Based Infrared System grew nearly 300 percent and its scheduled launch was delayed roughly 9 years. Both programs are now in the production phase during which fewer technical problems tend to surface. Satellite ground systems have also been challenged by cost and schedule growth. In fact, ground system delays have been so lengthy that satellites sometimes spend years in orbit before key capabilities can be fully utilized."

Top SpaceX employee throws shade at just about all of his competitors, Ars Technica

"About 10 days ago, a founding employee of SpaceX, Tom Mueller, made a Skype call to a group of "fans" of the company with the New York University Astronomy Society. The call was recorded and posted to Twitch.tv. It garnered little attention until Saturday, when a user on the SpaceX subreddit called attention to it. Although the provenance of the 54-minute call is not entirely clear, there is no question it is Mueller speaking, and he is doing so in a rare, unfiltered way. ... This call is reminiscent of remarks made a little more than a year ago by a senior-level employee of SpaceX's competitor, United Launch Alliance. During candid remarks at a University of Colorado-Boulder seminar, which Brett Tobey did not know were being recorded, the vice president of engineering said United Launch Alliance could not compete with SpaceX on price. He was terminated almost immediately by the company."

GAO Requested to Study Restoring FAA Commercial Space Office to Secretary's Level, SpacePolicyOnline

"Three members of the House have sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a study on the feasibility of elevating the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) to the Secretary of Transportation's office. Advocates believe that would facilitate getting needed financial and personnel resources to allow the office to fulfill its duties as the commercial space launch business expands."

California plans for collecting taxes on spaceflight, SF Chronicle

"Thomas Lo Grossman, a tax attorney at the Franchise Tax Board, said the proposed rules are designed to mirror the ways taxes are levied on terrestrial transportation and logistics firms operating in California, like trucking or train companies. Those rules are based largely on the way California and other states calculate taxes when goods are shipped from one state to another. In what's known as a market-based approach, companies tally sales -- and then the taxes based on those sales -- in the state where the good or service is received. But in the borderlessness of space, precisely where a product gets delivered is difficult to define."

Title 18, California Code of Regulations Text of Regulation Section 25137-15

"1. Mileage ratio numerator. The numerator of the mileage ratio for each launch contract shall be the total projected mileage that all launch vehicles launched or planned to be launched pursuant to that launch contract will travel within this state. If a launch occurs or is planned to occur in this state, the contribution of that launch to the numerator of the mileage ratio shall be 62 statutory miles. If a launch occurs or is planned to occur outside of this state, the contribution of that launch to the numerator of the mileage ratio shall be zero."

Keith's note: This may seem silly - but stop and think for a moment: people are now treating space commerce as just another business thing that can be taxed. The space sector gets more "real" every day.

NASA: Lunar Surface Cargo Transportation Services Request for Information (RFI), NASA

"NASA has identified a variety of exploration, science, and technology demonstration objectives that could be addressed by sending instruments, experiments, or other payloads to the lunar surface. To address these objectives as cost-effectively as possible, NASA may procure payloads and related commercial payload delivery services to the Moon. Such delivery services need to be consistent with the National Space Transportation Policy (NSTP). The NSTP requires U.S. Government primary and secondary payloads to use U.S.-manufactured launch vehicles. "Hosted payloads" that meet the hosted payload definition within the National Space Transportation Policy can fly as part of a mission using a foreign launch vehicle. As a first step, NASA is interested in assessing the availability of payload transit and delivery services from Earth to the Lunar surface as early as Fiscal Year 2018 and through the next decade. This approach offers NASA the potential to simultaneously address critical strategic objectives related to exploration, science, and technology demonstration using commercially provided domestic space services and hardware."

Keith's 4 May update: @DanaPerino deleted this tweet (but it is still on her Instagram page). Why would she do that - unless she did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

Keith's 5 May update: Now @Astro2fish has deleted his tweet as well. Why would he do that - unless he also did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

The only reason that the text of these embedded tweets still appears is that I embedded them before deletion and the words are in the embed code. If you click on the date/time you will get a deletion message. This is what they both looked like - with pictures - before Dana Perino and Jack Fischer deleted them.

Keith's 4 May update: I sent an inquiry to NASA HQ and JSC PAO and got this response:

"- Is there a Space Act Agreement or MOU in place between NASA and Dana Perino and/or Fox News that allows a NASA civil servant on board the ISS to use their NASA position and work place to promote Dana Perino's book?
- Can you provide me with a copy of the official NASA process whereby book authors/publishers can apply to have astronauts conduct promotional activities while aboard the ISS? Have other book authors applied for this promotion aboard ISS?
- What cost to NASA is associated with these on-orbit book promotions? (What is the cost of launching this Felt Jasper, NASA personnel time to coordinate with Perino/Fox, TDRSS bandwidth etc.)
- Did the NASA OGC at JSC or NASA HQ issue a waiver and/or give formal written permission to Jack Fischer to conduct these commercial promotion activities with Dana Perino and Fox News while on board the ISS?
- Under what payload allocation was the "Felt Jasper" flown to the ISS? Did Jack Fischer carry it with him on his Soyuz flight or was this launched on a cargo vehicle? Is this a personal item or is it a NASA PAO-endorsed activity?
- Did NASA PAO interact directly with Fox News to coordinate the coverage given on Dana Perino's Twitter account and/or provide NASA imagery of the Felt Jasper on "The Five" segment that aired last night on Fox News?
- What will be done with the Felt Jasper that Fischer has in orbit? Will it be returned to Earth and used for commercial purposes?
- Will Jack Fischer and Dana Perino be doing any further commercial promotion activities for Perino's book on-orbit or when he returns to Earth?
- Did Jack Fischer personally send the following tweet from the ISS? If he did not, who sent it? "@Astro2fish Well, finally got a chance to show Felt Jasper the office @DanaPerino & pretty sure he dug the view-I know I did! #SpaceDogWalks #NASARocks 5:59 PM - 2 May 2017"

This is what I got back:

"Hi Keith, Astronauts are permitted to take personal mementos to space. Jack Fischer's flight of a "Felt Jasper" as a personal memento and his subsequent release of imagery of that memento via his social media does not imply an endorsement of any commercial activity. Thank you, Jenny, Norma Jennifer Knotts, Public Affairs Specialist"

Apparently Trumpish commercial endorsement behavior is the new normal at NASA. An astronaut is allowed to use his official government position and work place to give significant social media visibility to a book written by a former Bush press spokesperson who appears on the President's favorite news channel (Fox). And that visibility is repeated on Fox News. Yet none of the Trump political appointees on the 9th floor at NASA HQ see anything wrong with this and are OK with a two sentence non-response. Tick tock.

Keith's 2 May note: Now it is apparently acceptable for NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion tie-ins for books written by Fox News celebrities like @DanaPerino who has a book out titled "Let me tell you about Jasper". Since Fischer has the mini-Jasper in orbit this promotion had to have planned this ahead of time. How much did Perino pay for this - or did NASA give this orbital PR away for free? Check out her Twitter banner. This a rather overt tie-in. Apparently Fischer and Perino already knew each other prior to his departure - here he is holding a copy of her book at some event they both attended. The "felt Jasper" is something that is used to promote Perino's book.

Keith's update: Fox Five just aired a piece about the Felt Jasper book promotion dog in space and Perino's book. Of course all of this PR and product promotion stuff was coordinated and approved by NASA PAO, right?

Vector Completes Successful Flight Test of Vector-R Launch Vehicle, SpaceRef

"This successful flight test represents Vector's next technical milestone of the Vector-R launch vehicle. The flight test, which took place in Mojave, Calif. on May 3, featured Vector's first stage 5K-lbf engine and 3D additive manufacturing printed injector, which was successfully tested in December 2016, and developed in partnership with NASA's Flight Opportunities Program."

Keith's note: Tweets from the "ULCATS Symposium: Igniting An Industrial and National Security Revolution in Space" held this morning in Washington, DC. I asked Newt Gingrich how the Trump Administration could support ULCATS (Ultra-Low Cost Access to Space) such as described in this new report done for the USAF - yet simultaneously support UHCATS - Ultra HIGH Cost Access to Space offered by NASA's SLS program. Gingrich looked like he was waiting for this question and was clearly not a fan of SLS or other large, expensive launch systems supported by the government. More tweets at #ulcats

SpaceX Successfully Launches U.S. NRO Spy Satellite (With video)

"SpaceX launched a spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) early this morning after a one day delay. The launch appears to have placed the secret payload into a low earth orbit. SpaceX also successfully landed the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket."

Marc's note: The video portion showing the return of the first stage is quite spectacular, providing views we haven't seen in this detail before. It starts around the 24 minute mark.

With Secret Airship, Sergey Brin Also Wants to Fly, Bloomberg

"Larry Page has his flying cars. Sergey Brin shall have an airship. Brin, the Google co-founder, has secretly been building a massive airship inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center, according to four people with knowledge of the project. It's unclear whether the craft, which looks like a zeppelin, is a hobby or something Brin hopes to turn into a business. "Sorry, I don't have anything to say about this topic right now," Brin wrote in an email."

Reopening the American Frontier: Reducing Regulatory Barriers and Expanding American Free Enterprise in Space (Live at 10:00 a.m. EDT)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled "Reopening the American Frontier: Reducing Regulatory Barriers and Expanding American Free Enterprise in Space" at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. This hearing will examine the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act signed into law in November 2015, potential regulatory barriers to address in future legislation, and ways to expand commercial opportunities for American firms in space.

Witnesses:

- Mr. Robert Bigelow, Founder, Bigelow Aerospace
- Mr. Rob Meyerson, President, Blue Origin
- Mr. George Whitesides, CEO, Galactic Ventures
- Mr. Andrew Rush, CEO, Made in Space

Marc's note: Phil Larson, formerly with SpaceX, now Assistant Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado, Boulder wrote the following opinion yesterday afternoon in The Hill related to today's hearing; There's a new frontier in space exploration, but will Trump be on board?

"There's a jump ball underway in space, and it'll be on full display Wednesday at a Senate hearing chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Will the administration and Congress be pro-innovation or pro the old way of doing business? And will the team in the White House really look for opportunities to run government more like a business? There's no better bellwether for answering these questions than the space debate going on right now. "

NASA Invites Entrepreneurs to Another Industry Day

NASA has opened registration for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program Industry Day.

NASA SBIR/STTR Industry Day
Date: June 25-27th, 2017
Location: NASA Ames Research Center
Building 152
Moffett Field, CA 94035

How Jeff Bezos is using Amazon's success to fuel Blue Origin's space effort, a billion dollars at a time, GeekWire

"Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos has long said that he's using his personal fortune to fund his Blue Origin space venture, and today he hinted at just how many billions of dollars he intends to spend. "My business model right now for Blue Origin is, I sell about $1 billion a year of Amazon stock, and I use it to invest in Blue Origin," he told reporters here at the 33rd Space Symposium. "So the business model for Blue Origin is very robust." Bezos threw out the figure half-jokingly, after noting that he typically doesn't reveal how much he's spending. But he made clear that his in-house space effort, headquartered in Kent, Wash., takes a noticeable chunk out of his estimated $78 billion fortune. He said the development cost for Blue Origin's New Glenn orbital launch system, which should be taking off from a Florida launch facility by 2020 or so, is likely to be on the order of $2.5 billion."

Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry, Bob Zimmerman

"A close look at these recommendations will reveal one common thread. Each is focused on shifting power and regulatory authority away from the federal government and increasing the freedom of American companies to act as they see fit to meet the demands of the market. The key word that defines this common thread is freedom, a fundamental principle that has been aspired to since the nation's founding. Political leaders from both parties have made the concept a central core tenet of American policy. Democrat John Kennedy stated that his commitment to go to the Moon was a "stand for freedom" in the Cold War. Republican Ronald Reagan proposed "Freedom" as the name for the new space station, and viewed it as a platform for promoting private enterprise in space. Freedom is actually a very simple idea. Give people and companies the freedom to act, in a competitive environment that encourages intelligent and wise action, and they will respond intelligently and wisely. The United States' history proves that freedom can work. It is time to prove it again, in space."

Wishful thinking collides with policy, economic realities in 'Capitalism in Space', op Ed Scott Pace, Space News

"Unfortunately, the report is rife with factual errors and misleading comparisons that make it all but useless, while occasionally making points we can agree with. It begins with erroneous assumptions on how NASA cargo and crew capabilities are being programmatically implemented. It projects outcomes based on the only operating NASA example of a public-private partnership, ISS cargo transportation. The core problem is that based on this minimal experience the author poses a false binary choice between "government" or "private sector" approaches to space transportation, a choice in which he argues that the government should abandon traditional acquisition practices in favor of relying on "free enterprise."

Keith's note: Scott you know as well as everyone else that there is indeed a clear difference between government space and private sector space. You also know that the moment that the government starts to stick its fingers into the way that a company does things that effort quickly becomes a de facto government space effort - no matter what sort of verbiage you may want to paint all over it to suggest otherwise. There is indeed a choice facing all of us as to how we do things in space. Some people are willing to consider that choice and embrace new ways of doing things. Others are determined to avoid doing so, preferring instead to dwell on outmoded models that no longer work.

The Next Economic Revolution Just (re)Launched: Congratulate SpaceX, Thank NASA, OpEd, Greg Autry, Forbes

"Our global competitors in Russia, China and even Europe remain wedded to an antiquated socialist vision of space development. Their space "programs" are run by state-owned enterprises and quasi-governmental national champions. While they flirt with very small commercial endeavors and rebrand their government bureaucracies as "companies", the political leaders of these nations are very unlikely to truly let go of a strategic national industry with military implications. The current trend already suggest that it is time to put a fork in China's Great Wall Industry Corp, Russia's TsSKB Progress and Europe's Arianespace. In 2011, the U.S. had surrendered the entire mid-sized commercial space launch business to subsidized global competition. Just four years later, SpaceX had recaptured half of that market. SpaceX's success has motivated ULA to aggressively pursue commercial launches as well. Reuse and new competitors will restore 80% or more of this business to America over the next few years."

Defects Found in Almost Every Russian Proton Rocket Engine, Moscow Times

"An investigation into quality control issues in the Russian space industry has discovered that nearly every engine currently stockpiled for use in Proton rockets is defective, the RIA Novosti news agency reported March 30, citing Igor Arbuzov, head of state rocket engine manufacturer Energomash. ... But over the past decade, Proton's reliability and that of the Russian space industry as a whole has been thrown into sharp question amid a series of spectacular launch failures. The problem goes beyond engines, pointing to a general quality control crisis across multiple factories and rocket designs."

SpaceX Makes History With Reuse of First Stage

"SpaceX made history today with the successful reuse of the the Falcon 9 first stage and then successfully landed that same first stage for future reuse, again."

"The SES-10 satellite is in geostationary transfer orbit"

NASA OIG: NASA's Parts Quality Control Process

"Although NASA has a number of initiatives in place to help ensure the selection of quality parts from reliable suppliers, Centers generally manage their parts quality and supplier assessment data unilaterally rather than collaborating through a comprehensive, integrated, Agency-wide parts and supplier information system. Specifically, the Agency does not maintain a centralized parts quality history database or facilitate the integration of individual Center systems, track all relevant supplier performance history, or enforce requirements that Centers participate in Agency parts quality management systems. Without these control mechanisms, it is more difficult for NASA to mitigate the risk of nonconforming parts entering its project hardware supply chain. ...

... In addition, NASA policy requires project managers to consider risk factors when preparing Program/Project Quality Assurance Surveillance Plans for critical and complex acquisitions. These plans document contractor operations that need Government oversight and the activities, metrics, control mechanisms, and organizations that will conduct quality assurance functions for the project. We found the Agency's current policy does not provide sufficient surveillance and audit planning guidance for project personnel to analyze and select contractor surveillance activities commensurate with the level of risk of nonconforming parts being incorporated into a product."

Commercial Space Launch Insurance: Weakness in FAA's Insurance Calculation May Expose the Federal Government to Excess Risk, GAO

"Because FAA has not yet addressed the identified weakness in the cost-of- casualty amount used in its calculation, the federal government may be exposed to excess risk. FAA has identified potential steps to update the information the cost-of-casualty amount is based on, including seeking public input on whether and how to revise the amount, but the agency does not have a complete plan for updating the cost-of-casualty amount. Federal internal control standards require that agency management respond to risks related to achieving the entity's objectives, define how to achieve objectives, and set time frames for achieving them. FAA has not responded to the risk identified in using outdated data as the basis of the cost-of-casualty amount because FAA has prioritized other work, such as reviewing launch license applications, ahead of this issue."

Northeastern puts NASA's Valkyrie space robots through its paces, TechCrunch (video)

Keith's update: At one point in this video Valkyrie stumbles and requires the cables to catch her - unlike the Boston Dynamics robots that can do just about anything and retain perfect balance and run around, jump, etc. But yes, I said "her". Despite NASA JSC PAO's reversal and subsequent stern denial about this NOT being a female-inspired robot, the robot at Northeastern is referred to by the student in this film as "she" and "her" dozens of times. See "NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses)" Question 7.

This Valkyrie R5 humanoid robot is put to the test with Mars colonization on the horizon, Fox

"NASA reportedly produced three other R5 models. One was held in-house, and NASA "awarded two as research loans to Northeastern University and nearby MIT, while a fourth was acquired by Scotland's University of Edinburgh. According to NASA, in the finalist round, "each team's R5 will be challenged with resolving the aftermath of a dust storm that has damaged a Martian habitat. This involves three objectives: aligning a communications dish, repairing a solar array, and fixing a habitat leak."

Keith's note: Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of these two college teams to fix NASA's broken Valkyrie R5 robot it cannot walk by itself and needs to be held up by straps. And one R5 will be competing against another R5 - not against other robots. The last time NASA's R5 competed with other agency's droids NASA came in last place. Meanwhile, check out the dancing, hopping, running droids - without tethers - at Boston Dynamics. These commercial products are much more sophisticated - and NASA could buy them - but then what would Ellen Ochoa's JS robotics hobby shop do?

- The Robot NASA Should Buy To Replace Broken Valkyrie, earlier post
- Hey NASA: This Is The Droid You Were Looking For, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- Previous R5 postings

House Science Committee Hearing: The ISS after 2024: Options and Impacts

"Witnesses:
Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA
Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Director, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration"

Keith's 16 March note: Notice that there are only two witnesses. The first witness is NASA's AA for government human space activities. The second witness is the mouthpiece for large aerospace companies who build the big things that the first witness wants to build. No representation whatsoever has been offered to the commercial sector (SpaceX, Blue Origin etc.) that is supposed to be a partner with NASA in the utilization of space.

Maybe Congress is afraid to hear what the private sector is going to do without NASA's help.

Keith's 20 March update: The witness list has been revised to include:

"Mr. Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
Dr. Robert Ferl, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research, University of Florida"

US astronaut's spaceflight to be financed by Russian corporation as debt repayment, TASS

"U.S. astronaut Joseph M. Acaba will fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) as a third crew member of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship. His flight will be financed by Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as debt repayment to US' Boeing under the joint project Sea Launch, a source in the Russian space industry told TASS on Monday. ... According to earlier reports, under an amicable agreement reached by Energia and Boeing as part of debt repayment under the Sea Launch project, the Russian corporation will give the American side five seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft, in particular one seat in 2017, one seat in 2018, and an option on three seats in 2019. Energia's debt to Boeing was 330 million US dollars, as was ruled by a California court in 2015. In the summer of 2015, the sides reached an amicable agreement where Energia undertook to repay its debt by means of works and new projects."

NASA Uses Bait and Switch Tactics To Buy Soyuz Seats, earlier post

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

Chairman Smith

"Unfortunately, the Obama administration issued a report last year that called for expansive regulations over all types of private space activities. The Obama administration also requested authority to conduct space traffic management. While the request was a non-starter, it does present an opportunity for Congress to streamline processes and enhance the strength of private sector space activities. For instance, stakeholders continue to raise concerns that they need certainty to attract investments and that they face pressing short-term launch dates and regulatory risks."

Ranking Member Johnson

"The legislative proposal put forth by the previous Administration included direction such that "the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, is authorized to examine the planned and actual operational trajectories of space objects and to advise operators as appropriate to facilitate prevention of collisions." While this proposal is one of a number of potential approaches, it or another measure will be needed to ensure that space remains a productive environment for scientific investigation, commerce, and governmental activities."

Prepared statements

- Chairman Babin
- Ranking Member Bera
- Ms. Laura Montgomery
- Dr. Eli Dourado
- Mr. Douglas L. Loverro
- Mr. Dennis J. Burnett
- Dr. Henry B. Hogue
- More information and archived video

Keith's note: Like everyone else at Satellite 2017 today I was taking pictures with my cellphone. As I left the exhibit hall I wanted to get a nice panoramic image to show the huge audience and large number of exhibitors so that my readers could see how big an event this is. I was at the top of the escalators several hundred feet away from the nearest booth. Just as I started a female security guard loudly ordered me to stop and not to take any pictures. I asked why and she said "no pictures are allowed at this meeting". A moment later a male security guard came over, looked down at my badge and also said rather rudely "no pictures are allowed at this meeting". I replied "Really? Anywhere? Everyone here is taking pictures all over the place". His response "well they are not supposed to".

I went to the conference press office but they seemed to be unaware/uninterested in this new rule or what impact it would have on media coverage. No mention is made in the program of any such rule nor was I ever told not to take pictures. Several exhibitors actually encouraged me to take photos. This strikes me as an especially odd way to get one's message out. The fact that several companies were streaming live video via Periscope and the thousands of people taking selfies seems to escaped the notice of the photo cops at Satellite 2017. There is a lot of really cool stuff at this meeting. I had hoped to go back after lunch and talk at length to several companies and feature their cool stuff. But the rules, as barked at me by conference security, made that pointless since I would not be allowed to take any pictures of the hardware I wanted to feature. So I left.

Blue Origin Announces First Customer for New Glenn Launcher, SpaceRef

"Jeff Bezos has a customer for his New Glenn launch vehicle, Eutelsat, which he announced at Satellite 2017 this morning in Washington, DC. While still years away from operations, Blue Origin has been making steady progress in a step-by-step fashion. It is this stead process 'in the right sequence' that Jeff Bezos views as being most important to his company's success."

Marc's note: At Satellite 2017 this morning Jeff Bezos unveiled a new video introducing the New Glenn rocket which follows in SpaceX's footsteps in returning the first stage for future reuse. Keith is at Satellite 2017 and you can follow his tweets @NASAWatch.

The US intelligence nominee can't believe India just launched 104 satellites, Ars Technica

"During his confirmation hearing this week, the Trump administration's nominee for this cabinet-level [Director of National Intelligence] position, former Senator Dan Coats, assured the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he would remain vigilant in keeping the nation's reconnaissance satellites ahead of the global curve. The United States would also speed up the process by which it gets new technologies into space, he said. However, when citing an example to make this point, Coats pointed toward the launch of the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle earlier this month and its deployment of 104 satellites. "I was shocked the other day to read that the nation of India, on one rocket launch, deposited more than a hundred satellites in space," he said, according to Space News. "They may be small in size with different functions and so forth, but one rocket can send up [more than 100] platforms ... We've seen now 11 nations that have the capacity to launch instruments into space."

Keith's note: As reader MarcNBarrett notes: "I wonder, is he also aware that India has an orbiter around Mars?" -- or that they send a spacecraft to orbit the Moon ...

Don't expect a space race. SpaceX and NASA need each other, LA Times

"The whole idea is that NASA is at the point of a spear," said Howard McCurdy, professor in the school of public affairs at American University. "It's like exploration of any terrestrial realm. This is the way the model is supposed to work." Indeed, the rapid ascent of Musk and other space industry pioneers is validation of the public-private partnership envisioned when Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984. By the mid-2000s, NASA was signing contracts with the private sector to fill in for its own funding constraints and the impending retirement of the space shuttle program."

Does SpaceX's moon plan threaten NASA?, Florida Today

"I don't think NASA has anything to be worried about if somebody else can do it 50 years later," said Alan Stern, a former head of NASA science missions. "NASA has much bigger plans and ambitions to explore other worlds with humans than just a figure 8 mission around the moon."

Keith's note: For a commercial entity to mount their own mission around the Moon using their own hardware and finances is quite an unheard of accomplishment. But now that the Commercial Spaceflight Federation under CSF Chairman Alan Stern's leadership has caved in and supported the SLS (which will compete with the commercial heavy lift launch sector) it is obvious that more commentary dismissing commercial space achievements is to be forthcoming from CSF. Contrary to Stern's comments NASA should be worried about this SpaceX mission.

NASA currently does not have - nor has it had - the ability to send humans around the Moon for nearly half a century. Even if SpaceX's Moon mission slips a few years it is still likely that they will beat NASA back to the Moon - for a fraction of what it will cost NASA to do so - even if you add every single cent NASA has ever given SpaceX for everything it has ever done. Moreover SpaceX has an assembly line that can churn out and launch these Moon rockets at a rate and cost that NASA will never be able to match. Oh yes. ULA and Blue Origin are not exactly sitting on their hands either.

Oddly, CSF sends its chairman out to diminish this capability rather than to openly praise it.

- What's With All The Commercial Space News?, earlier post
- Alternative Facts And Snake Oil From The SLS Mafia, earlier post
- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Sells Out and Endorses SLS (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: A lot of people in the private space sector are annoyed (some are angry) with the Trump folks since they directed NASA to look into the government side (crew on SLS EM-1 flight) of a proposed government/commercial return to the Moon. Then the "Commercial" Spaceflight Federation sold its soul and jumped on board to support SLS. There was a handshake sort of deal in place between the Alabama mafia and the commercial space folks. Apparently that deal fell through.

Suddenly Elon Musk announces his trip to the Moon. Then Virgin Galactic reveals a major restructuring and expansion of its launch plans. Then Robert Bigelow starts talking about his lunar plans. And then someone at Jeff Bezo's Blue Origin leaks something to Jeff Bezos' Washington Post about Jeff Bezos' new Amazon-delivery-to-the-Moon service. Was all of this done (in part) out of annoyance with Trump's people (probably just a little) - or is this finally the break-out in commercial space that so many people have been hoping for?

Regardless of the motivation(s) or timing, a lot of very interesting and important things just happened in commercial space. Too bad their trade group, CSF, has sold out to the Dark Side.

"Handle is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4​feet vertically. It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. ​Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles​found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds."

Virgin Galactic Announces New Commercial Space Company Virgin Orbit

"Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic are pleased to announce Virgin Orbit, a new commercial space company, and the appointment of Dan Hart as the first President of the newly created company. Virgin Orbit will offer flexible, routine and low cost launch services for small satellites via the LauncherOne system. Virgin Orbit's activities were previously conducted as a division of Virgin Galactic."

If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you're probably right, Ars Technica

"A more blunt assessment was offered by Mary Lynne Dittmar, who is familiar with the thinking of NASA's human spaceflight program managers. "I find it extraordinary that these sorts of announcements are being made when SpaceX has yet to get crew from the ground to low-Earth orbit," she told The New York Times. Dittmar serves as executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the organization formed by the principal contractors behind NASA's SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. These are the old-guard aerospace firms, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, whose government contracts are threatened by SpaceX. Orion, in particular, appears to be particularly vulnerable if SpaceX can show that Dragon is capable of performing the same kind of deep space missions and high velocity returns from the Moon. With his latest proposal, Elon Musk is playing a dangerous, but potentially winning, game with his lower-cost alternatives to NASA's existing programs. He recognizes that NASA has nurtured his company, and on Monday night, he remained publicly appreciative of the space agency. However by talking about Mars and now the Moon, he not only indicates that his company isn't entirely focused on its most important contract - commercial crew- but also is making a play for NASA's future deep space exploration plans."

Keith's note: FYI The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration is not an "organization". It is not incorporated anywhere. Dittmar is paid with funds that come directly from these aerospace companies. It is hypocritical in the extreme for her to criticize SpaceX for having not done things when in fact SLS has never flown and a stripped-down Orion test article flew just once on a rocket that it will never fly on again.

Meanwhile, Dragons launched on Falcon 9 rockets have made multiple visits to ISS and Falcon Heavy, composed of three of those Falcon 9's, has a significant flight record and is slated to launch this year - years ahead of SLS. SLS will fly only once every several years until the middle of the next decade - and only once or twice a year after that. Meanwhile Falcon 9s will soon be flying monthly. NASA studies looking at moving a crew onto EM-1 will soon show just how expensive and inflexible SLS/Orion actually is while the Falcon/Dragon product line continues to expand its capability without the ever-increasing costs that plague SLS/Orion.

No one is going to get (back) to the Moon fueled with alternative facts and snake oil.

SpaceX To Send Privately Crewed Dragon Spacecraft Beyond The Moon Next Year, SpaceX

"We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results."

NASA Statement About SpaceX Private Moon Venture Announcement, NASA

"We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station. "For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity's future in space. "NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration."

Keith's note: It is rather strange that NASA would issue a press release about this private commercial venture since this mission does not involve NASA in any way - other than using the launch pad that they rent from NASA and a self-purchased version of the spacecraft they let NASA use. This strikes me as a "well, we need to say something - don't we?" sort of press release from NASA. I guess NASA wants to remind people that they still have big rockets - even if their version of a lunar mission with 2 people will cost many times what SpaceX will charge, will take years longer to accomplish (if the White House says so), and will likely not be repeated i.e. a one-off stunt. Oh yes: notice the the #JourneyToMars thing is no longer automatically put into every NASA press release.

#BackToTheMoon anyone?

Fact Checking ULA's Tweets

SpaceX launched the CRS-10 mission on time this morning at 9:39 am ET from historic LC39A. The Dragon is in orbit and heading toward the ISS while the Falcon 9's first stage made yet another pinpoint anding back at its landing site in Florida.

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This morning's attempted launch of Falcon 9 was halted moments before launch. According to a statement from SpaceX "Standing down to take a closer look at an engine actuator on the second stage. 9:38am ET tomorrow is our next earliest launch opportunity."

Shotwell to GAO: "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019", SpacePolicyOnline

"SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell reacted to GAO's report yesterday that commercial crew flights may slip from 2018 to 2019 by expressing utmost confidence in her company's schedule. At a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press conference today in advance of SpaceX's commercial cargo launch tomorrow, she said the company's response to GAO is "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019."

NASA Commercial Crew Program: Schedule Pressure Increases as Contractors Delay Key Events

"Both of the Commercial Crew Program's contractors have made progress developing their crew transportation systems, but both also have aggressive development schedules that are increasingly under pressure. The two contractors - Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies, Corp. (SpaceX) - are developing transportation systems that must meet the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) standards for human spaceflight - a process called certification. Both Boeing and SpaceX have determined that they will not be able to meet their original 2017 certification dates and both expect certification to be delayed until 2018. The schedule pressures are amplified by NASA's need to provide a viable crew transportation option to the International Space Station (ISS) before its current contract with Russia's space agency runs out in 2019. If NASA needs to purchase additional seats from Russia, the contracting process typically takes 3 years. Without a viable contingency option for ensuring uninterrupted access to the ISS in the event of further Commercial Crew delays, NASA risks not being able to maximize the return on its multibillion dollar investment in the space station."

Leading Commercial Space Group Embraces NASA's Biggest Rocket, Wall Street Journal

"Before his speech outlining the revised stance on the Space Launch System, Mr. Stern said his primary goal is "taking this off the table" as a divisive issue while White House aides formulate new NASA priorities. Looking ahead, he said, "there is plenty of market share to go around" to support a wide range of commercial and government launch systems."

Here's why a commercial space group endorsed NASA's SLS rocket, Ars Technica

"Theoretically, then, the United States could have three heavy lift rockets at its disposal in 2020. If the reusable Falcon Heavy costs $200 million per flight, and the reusable New Glenn costs $200 million, while an expendable SLS rocket costs $1.5 billion, the agency - and by extension Congress and the White House - will have an easy choice to make. One could argue at that time that NASA should never have spent in excess of $10 billion developing the SLS. But the bottom line is that, six years ago, Congress did not believe in the capacity of SpaceX to build a heavy lift rocket, and Blue Origin's intentions were not known at that time. So Congress bet on NASA and its traditional contractor Boeing, and the agency kept its large base of employees intact."

NASA's future deep space rocket gets critical endorsement from commercial space group, The Verge

"Alan Stern, the chairman of the board of directors for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), publicly announced the organization's support for the rocket at a conference in DC. ... However, Stern says that the extra capability of SLS will enable missions and partnerships with the private sector that cannot be achieved on commercial heavy-lift vehicles that are currently in development. Because of this, he wanted to get this perception "off the table" that the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is strongly against the vehicle when the organization is actually in favor of it. Stern sees the potential of the SLS being used to put something like a commercial lunar outpost on the surface of the Moon (that is if NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon again)."

Keith's note: Nonsense. This is not what I am hearing from CSF member companies. A number of them are not confortable with this decision and feel that they were pushed into it. SLS is a government-funded, congressionally-mandated rocket with no chance of ever recouping the billions spent to develop it. It can never compete in a true commercial sense unless the government decides to fix prices to make it fit. Saying that the private sector is not interested in developing heavy lift launch systems is utterly inaccurate and flies in the face of plans announced by CSF members SpaceX and Blue Origin. Stern may think he has "taken the issue off of the table" but it will jump back onto on the table in Congress as soon as the hearings start.

Trump advisers' space plan: To moon, Mars and beyond, Politco

"Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another commercial space evangelist with close ties to Trump, is also pushing the White House to embark on a major effort to privatize U.S. space efforts. "A good part of the Trump administration would like a lot more aggressive, risk-taking, competitive entrepreneurial approach to space," Gingrich said in an interview. "A smaller but still powerful faction represents Boeing and the expensive old contractors who have soaked up money with minimum results.

"It is a big fight," said former Republican Rep. Robert Walker of Pennsylvania, who drafted the Trump campaign's space policy and remains involved in the deliberations. "There are billions of dollars at stake. It has come to a head now when it has become clear to the space community that the real innovative work is being done outside of NASA."

- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Sells Out and Endorses SLS (Update), earlier post
- Trump Transition Team Wants Old Space Vs New Space Smackdown, earlier post
- Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public-Private-Partnerships, Charles Miller et al, Research Gate

More Money, More Problems for the Commercial Space Launch Biz, Wired

"But the two companies have used different strategies to keep clients. ULA, a collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has a flawless launch record. They've never lost a rocket, but safety comes at a cost. According to ULA's RocketBuilder tool, strapping your satellite to one of its Delta V [note: should say Atlas V] rockets will cost you a minimum of $109 million. SpaceX advertises the same service starting at $60 million, and that'll come way down once Elon Musk starts selling launches on used first stage boosters. "SpaceX is like a jackrabbit, and ULA is a buffalo that realizes it needs to be a jackrabbit," says Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee who runs the blog NASA Watch. SpaceX cuts costs by building all its own stuff, innovating quickly, and being able to shuttle payloads right out of the gate."

As tweeted by @NASAWatch from the FAA Commercial Space Transportation conference in Washington, DC today:

- Bridenstine: talking about Gene Cernan and his dream of sending Americans back to the Moon
- Bridenstine is presenting a laundry list of things China is doing/planning in space that America no longer does.
- Bridenstine: when we started paying Russia for Soyuz seats cost was $21m. Now it is $80m. "We are being gouged"
- Bridenstine: need to strike balance between what govt operates and what it procures
- Bridenstine: space situational awareness should be done by civilian entity no DOD
- Bridenstine wants to see govt models for for procurement augmented by commercial solutions
- Bridenstine: govt needs to plan for commercial systems in architectures
- Bridenstine: value of commercial solutions in space because prices lower due to competition
- Bridenstine: talks about commercial paths to cis-lunar space and surface of the Moon
- Bridenstine: need to update regulatory environment for space industry. FAA AST must be adequately funded.
- Bridenstine: FAA office commercial space has battles within FAA. Reorganization needed. Looking for Trump to elevate office
- Bridnestine: space is both an advantage and an Achilles heel

Pima County supervisors vote to appeal World View ruling,

"The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday morning to appeal a judge's ruling that said the county broke the law in its $15 million deal with the space balloon company World View. Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy voted against appealing the decision."

Keith's note: According to a statement provided to NASAWatch by World View: "Those of us at World View remain focused on growing our company. We're excited about our accomplishments and the growing market interest in our technology. World View is a world leader in stratospheric exploration and focused on opening a new stratospheric economy above Earth. Our broad-based business model encompasses both commercial and government markets. Our un-crewed Stratollite vehicle is now widely referred to as a revolutionary platform for high-altitude flight, scientific progress, and commercial access to space, and our space tourism platform will open a new market in the stratosphere and change human perspective for the better along the way. Regarding the ongoing litigation between the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the Goldwater Institute, it's important to note that World View is not a listed party in the lawsuit. Our commitment is to continue to work closely with Pima County, the City of Tucson and the State of Arizona to fully realize the vision of a thriving spaceport and aerospace corridor in Southern Arizona."

Potential Set Back For World View?, earlier post

NanoRacks and Boeing Building First Commercial Airlock on ISS, NanoRacks

"NanoRacks, LLC will partner with Boeing on the building and installation of the first commercial airlock module, which will attach to the U.S. segment on the International Space Station (ISS). In May 2016, NanoRacks and NASA signed a Space Act Agreement in order to install a private airlock module onboard the International Space Station - the first in station history. The NanoRacks Airlock Module will be both a permanent commercial uncrewed module onboard International Space Station, and also a module capable of being removed from the space station and used on a future commercial platform."

Judge voids Arizona county's development deal for World View's strato-balloon base, Geekwire

"A judge in Arizona has struck down Pima County's $15 million development deal with World View Enterprises for a stratospheric balloon launch facility near Tucson. Thursday's ruling by Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods dealt a setback to World View's plans to send tourists and payloads to heights above 100,000 feet."

Judge Voids World View Contract With Pima County, Goldwater Institute

"According to Judge Catherine Woods, the County was required to have the building appraised, hold a public auction, and set the lease rate no lower than 90% of the appraised value. The County ignored those requirements; therefore, the lease with World View will be cancelled. The Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit against the County on behalf of Pima County taxpayers."

Ron Garan's Next Adventure Will Be At The Edge of Space, SpaceRef

"To be certain, the view will be spectacular for everyone aboard. But there is much more to the potential of the World View balloon than just flying human passengers to look out the window. While the specifics are still being worked out, a range of payload opportunities are under consideration."

Keith's note: World View provided the following statement to NASAWatch: "The recent court ruling does not affect World View's current business operations. We remain focused on building our company and are excited about our recent R&D accomplishments and the increased market interest in our uncrewed Stratollite fight platform. While World View was not a listed party in the lawsuit between the Goldwater Institute and Pima County Board of Supervisors, we are committed to working closely with Pima County, the City of Tucson and the State of Arizona to fully realize the vision of a thriving spaceport and aerospace corridor in Southern Arizona."

United Launch Alliance is cutting jobs again, Denver Business Journal

"United Launch Alliance is again cutting jobs as it seeks to become more price-competitive with Elon Musk's SpaceX and other rocket companies. The Centennial-based rocketmaker, the largest space launch contractor to the federal government, is seeking voluntary departures to trim an unspecified number of positions. ULA said it isn't specifying the number because it considers that competitively sensitive information. The company shed 350 jobs last year through a combination of voluntary buyouts and layoffs and said last summer more cuts would be coming this year."

What Elon Musk stands to gain and lose with Trump, USA Today

"Musk has been blunt about wanting to send humans to Mars, joking that he'd even like to die there, "just not on impact." But getting there is going to require a lot of capital. SpaceX is still a small player when it comes to securing lucrative government contracts from NASA and the Department of Defense, the majority of which still get handed to longtime commercial partners such as ULA, says former NASA administrator Lori Garver."

Congressional Investigators Warn of SpaceX Rocket Defects, Wall Street Journal

"The Government Accountability Office's preliminary findings reveal a pattern of problems with turbine blades that pump fuel into rocket engines, these officials said. The final GAO report, scheduled to be released in coming weeks, is slated to be the first public identification of one of the most serious defects affecting Falcon 9 rockets. The crack-prone parts are considered a potentially major threat to rocket safety, the industry officials said, and may require redesign of what are commonly called the Falcon 9's turbopumps. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, they said, has warned SpaceX that such cracks pose an unacceptable risk for manned flights. A SpaceX spokesman didn't have any comment." ... "The final GAO report also will to delve into unrelated issues that threaten to delay initial launches of manned capsules by SpaceX and rival Boeing Co. Echoing conclusions of other studies by outside experts, GAO investigators have determined that both companies are likely to miss a 2018 deadline to start regular missions ferrying astronauts to the international space station."

Firm Commercial Crew Flight Dates Remain Elusive, earlier post

Station cargo flight leapfrogs commercial satellite launch on SpaceX manifest, Spaceflight Now

"SpaceX said Sunday that the first Falcon 9 rocket launch from pad 39A, a former shuttle-era complex at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is scheduled to send a Dragon supply ship to the International Space Station in mid-February, deferring a mission with an EchoStar communications satellite that was set to take off this month."

Technical troubles likely to delay commercial crew flights until 2019, Ars Technica

"Boeing has set a "no earlier than" date of August 2018 for its first crewed test flight, and SpaceX has targeted May 2018. But those dates seem optimistic. Ars spoke to a handful of sources familiar with the commercial crew program this week, and all expressed pessimism about the public timelines the companies have for reaching the launch pad. According to this unofficial analysis, even a single crewed test flight in 2018 by either company now appears unlikely, as teams from both Boeing and SpaceX continue to work through significant technical issues."

Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services From Boeing, NASA

"NASA is considering contracting with The Boeing Company (Boeing) for crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2017 and one crewmember in the Spring of 2018. NASA is considering purchasing these services from Boeing, without competition, because no other vehicles are currently capable of providing these services in Fall 2017 or Spring 2018. NASA has contracts with two U.S. commercial companies for crew transportation to the ISS. However, these vehicles are still in the developmental stage, and not expected to begin fully operational flights to the ISS until 2019. NASA also is considering an option to acquire crew transportation from Boeing for three crewmembers on the Soyuz in 2019, to ensure the availability of back-up transportation capability in the event the U.S. commercial contractor vehicles are delayed or to augment future ISS operations and research."

"Russia recently announced its plans to decrement the Russian crew count onboard ISS from three to two, beginning in CY 2017. As a result of Russia reducing its crew count by one crewmember, there is now an available Soyuz seat in the 2017-2018 timeframe on each of the two planned spacecraft that would have otherwise had two Russian crew aboard. Of the 24 total Soyuz seats available in 2017-2018, the three seats resulting from the Russian crew decrement are the only available means of transporting additional US crewmembers to ISS during this period."

"An agreement was recently reached between the Boeing Company and S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Public Corporation, Energia ("RSC Energia"), who is the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft and has the legal rights to sell the seats and associated services. As a part of this agreement, Energia agreed to provide to Boeing two specifically identified seats on the Soyuz spacecraft for long-duration travel to and from the ISS, one on a flight to occur in the Fall 2017 timeframe and another on a flight to occur in the Spring 2018 timeframe. Additionally, Energia provided Boeing three additional specifically identified seats in the Spring 2019 timeframe on two Soyuz spacecraft. Finally, Boeing and RSC Energia agreed that each of these five seats will include a launch of an individual to and from the ISS, including all services normally provided during launches to ISS. Boeing and RSC Energia have represented that Boeing has the full rights to these seats and can sell them to any third party."

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

As leadership departs, NASA quietly moves to buy more Soyuz seats, Ars Technica

"Last September, based upon anonymous sources, Ars reported that NASA had begun considering buying additional seats in 2019 as a hedge against further delays with the commercial crew program. Both NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the agency's head of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, subsequently denied this report."

NASA considering Boeing offer for additional Soyuz seats, SpaceNews

"NASA officials previous indicated that there were no plans by the agency to purchase additional Soyuz seats directly from Roscosmos. William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in an October interview that the deadline had passed for NASA to purchase additional Soyuz seats from Roscosmos for 2019 missions."

Keith's note: Have a look at the board of directors of RSC Energia. Five of the Eleven members work for Roscosmos including Yuri Vlasov "deputy general director for rocket and space industry of State Corporation for space activities Roscosmos". RSC Energia is owned by the Russian government. Buying Soyuz seats from RSC Energia instead of Roscosmos is a distinction without a difference. Boeing has not disclosed what the value of these seats are or what they will charge NASA for them.

SpaceX Nails It Again

- SpaceX Nails Launch and Landing on Return to Flight.

Exclusive Peek at SpaceX Data Shows Loss in 2015, Heavy Expectations for Nascent Internet Service, Wall Street Journal

"SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., transformed the aerospace industry with innovative rocket features and Silicon Valley-style software design principles mandated by Mr. Musk, its billionaire founder and chief executive. The 15-year-old company became the first American firm in years to compete for commercial launch contracts, and the first company to launch and return a spacecraft from orbit. SpaceX declined to comment on details of its finances, but said it has a solid record of success and strong customer relationships. "We have more than 70 future launches on our manifest representing over $10 billion in contracts," said SpaceX Chief Financial Officer Bret Johnson. "The company is in a financially strong position and is well positioned for future growth," adding it has over $1 billion of cash and no debt.

NASA Future In-Space Operations: NASA Satellite Servicing Evolution

Now available is the January 11, 2017 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Ben Reed (NASA GSFC) who presented "NASA Satellite Servicing Evolution."

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

SpaceX Anomaly Update 2 January 2017

"The investigation team identified several credible causes for the COPV failure, all of which involve accumulation of super chilled LOX or SOX in buckles under the overwrap. The corrective actions address all credible causes and focus on changes which avoid the conditions that led to these credible causes. In the short term, this entails changing the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration based on operations used in over 700 successful COPV loads. In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether, which will allow for faster loading operations."

Dealing With Orbital Traffic

Orbital Traffic Report Released

"The current Framework does not provide a holistic approach by leading in the combined development of technically informed "rules of the road" and the provision of value-driven, safety-based products and services used during spacecraft operations. Such "rules of the road", based on space traffic safety concerns, could lead to the maturation of international norms of behavior, which would greatly enhance the strategic stability of the space domain. Objectives for any space traffic safety governance framework were created by the study team that focus on mitigating space traffic safety-related risks, protecting and enhancing national security interests, and ensuring the economic vitality of the space domain and industry. Five Frameworks were created for consideration. Each Framework exists at a distinct point on a continuous spectrum of space traffic safety governance options in which the USG's prescriptive role ranges from low to high."

Trump's $440 billion weapon, Politico

"What Trump is doing, by targeting specific companies or specific federal contracts, is new and unprecedented, experts said. "Never seen anything like this," said Sean O'Keefe, a former secretary of the Navy and comptroller of the Defense Department. ... But political appointees are traditionally loyal to the president and civil servants would risk their career if they were to not fall in line. That means, in practice, contracting officers are likely to acquiesce. "They can choose to say, 'I refuse to do that,'" said O'Keefe, "and then obviously they find themselves counting barrels of fuel in Beirut or something after it's over."

Today's Episodes of Commercial Space were Brought to You by ..., Richard Cooper

"Below are just some of the names of people I think we need to recognize and celebrate for their courage and vision that have made todays and the future of commercial space possible. Some of these names are of people who have sadly passed away but others thankfully are still with us, and still very active in pioneering commercial space. Also note that my list is by no means complete. In fact in compiling these names and achievements it is a challenge that I want to share with others to contribute towards."

Commercial Crew Flight Dates Delayed To 2018

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. Targeted Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test: June 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test: August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1: November 2017
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2: May 2018"

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Keith's note: The next time you read about people on the NASA Transition Team saying that it is not NASA's job to conduct Earth science research - or wondering why NASA supports space commerce - just remind them: its the law. If they want proof then direct them to "National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, Pub. L. No. 85-568, 72 Stat. 426-438 (Jul. 29, 1958) As Amended".

Boeing Becomes Latest Company to Draw Trump's Ire, Dow Jones

"The Air Force earmarked $1.65 billion between 2015 and 2019 to develop two replacement jets, and said it may acquire up to three. However, it hasn't detailed the expected cost or delivery dates for building the planes as talks continue with Boeing, the White House and the Secret Service. "The statistics that have been cited [by Mr. Trump], shall we say, don't appear to reflect the nature of the financial arrangement between Boeing and the Department of Defense," said Obama White House spokesman Josh Earnest."

Did Donald Trump tank Boeing's stock because he was mad about a news article?

"As it turns out, though, the Trump tweet may not have been unprompted. CNN's Jake Tapper noted on Twitter that shortly before the tweet (which was posted at 8:52 a.m. Eastern) the Chicago Tribune posted an interview with the company's CEO, Dennis Muilenberg. "Anyone who paid attention to the recent campaigns and the election results realizes that one of the overarching themes was apprehension about free and fair trade," Muilenberg told the Tribune's Robert Reed. Fair trade has helped Boeing, which prides itself on being America's largest manufacturing exporter."

Trump sold all shares in companies in June, spokesman says, Washington Post

"Miller, the Trump spokesman, told The Post about Trump's stock sale Tuesday morning, following Trump's criticism of aviation giant Boeing. Trump reported owning between $50,000 and $100,000 of Boeing stock in the May filing. In the three years between Trump's original tweet about buying Boeing stock and June 2016, Boeing's share price climbed about 70 percent."

Keith's note: I just got back from the Aerospace Industries Association annual media luncheon in Washington EDC. There was a lot of nervous laughter about this news which was breaking just as well all arrived at the hotel. I am wondering what might happen if/when SLS/Orion cost increases and chronic delay - and the commercial alternatives - comes to Trump's attention. There are hints that this might be an issue in the op eds written by on-again off-again Trump advisor Bob Walker.

Dueling Space Barons

Rocket men: why tech's biggest billionaires want their place in space, Guardian

"Bezos and Musk have developed an intense personal rivalry, says Ashlee Vance. "As time has gone on and these companies have been successful, ambitions have grown. Musk and Bezos used to be cordial, but they're vicious now." In 2013, SpaceX and Blue Origin fought over control of a Nasa launch pad and a patent for landing rockets at sea; Musk won both tussles. When Blue Origin tried to block SpaceX from using the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Musk emailed Space News slamming the company and questioning its ability to build a rocket that would meet Nasa standards. "We are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct," Musk wrote. After a successful Blue Origin test launch and landing in November 2015, Bezos used his first ever tweet to boast about "the rarest of beasts - a used rocket"."

Keith's note: This sounds reminiscent of the late 1800s when dueling millionaires (often called "the barons of industry") dueled with one another - but, in the process, caused America to be covered with railroads, oil fields, coal mines, telegraph, telephone, and electrical grids, and eventually roads filled with cars and skies filed with airplanes.

FAA Should Examine How to Appropriately Regulate Space Support Vehicles, GAO

"Company officials GAO interviewed identified potential uses for "space support vehicles"- which include a variety of aircraft from high-performance jets to balloons and the aircraft portion of a hybrid launch systems (a vehicle that contains elements of both an aircraft and a rocket-powered launch vehicle) - but the size of the market for these uses is unclear. Company officials said they plan to use space support vehicles to train spaceflight participants and to conduct research in reduced gravity environments. For example, some company officials said they would like to use high-performance jets to train future spaceflight participants by exposing them to physiological and psychological effects encountered in spaceflight. Other company officials said they would like to use space support vehicles to research how objects or people react in reduced gravity environments. It is difficult to know the size of the market for spaceflight training and research as GAO found no studies on these markets. However, stakeholders said they expect interest in research to increase."

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Space Food Bars Will Keep Orion Weight Off and Crew Weight On, NASA

"To help reduce the amount of supplies Orion will carry for its crew, scientists are developing a variety of food bars that astronauts can eat for breakfast during their spaceflight missions. In the United States, it's common for people to substitute an energy bar or shake for breakfast, or to skip the meal all together. Food scientists determined that developing a single calorically dense breakfast substitution can help meet mass reduction requirements."

Keith's note: Why is NASA spending money on a big fancy kitchen to produce something that I can buy at REI? Why doesn't NASA do Space Act Agreements with companies to figure all of this out - at their own expense - and give them the ability to put their logos on the snack bars we send on the #JourneyToMars ?

Keith's note: according to this NASA article "There's no commercially-available bar right now that meets our needs, so we've had to go design something that will work for the crew, while trying to achieve a multi-year shelf-life," said Takiyah Sirmons, a food scientist with the Advanced Food Technology team at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston."

So I have asked NASA "Can you provide me with a copy of the specific NASA nutritional and storage requirements that you are using as the basis for developing the food bars mentioned in this article?"

Let's see if they release this information or try and keep it secret and force me to file a FOIA request.

Commercial Space Launch Insurance: Views Differ on Need for Change to Insurance Approach but Clarification Is Needed

"Stakeholders in the space launch industry are divided on the need to change the current insurance approach, in which insurance for spaceports is not required but can be negotiated through contracts between launch companies, which operate launch vehicles, and spaceport operators, which run spaceports. Stakeholders identified some positive aspects of the current insurance approach - for example, some said that negotiating contracts specific to each launch allows for greater flexibility. However, they also raised concerns, including a lack of certainty about coverage for potential damage."

Letter From Tom Stafford to NASA Regarding Crewed SpaceX Falcon 9 Fueling Issues

"There is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that has beenin place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally. Historically, neither the crew nor any other personnel have ever been allowed in or near the booster during fueling. Only after the booster is folly fueled and stabilized are the few essential people allowed near it. Furthermore, in addition to the personnel risk, there is the risk of operating the engines outside their design input conditions. As an experienced "Prop" guy you know the problem here as well as anyone. Pump-fed chemical engines require a sufficient and consistent input pressure to reduce the likelihood of cavitation or unsteady flow operations. We are concerned that there may be insufficient precooling of the tank and plumbing with the current planned oxidizer fill scenario, and without recirculation there may be stratification of oxidizer temperature that will cause a variation in the input conditions to the oxidizer pump."

Experts concerned by SpaceX plan to fuel rockets with people aboard, Reuters

"It was unanimous ... Everybody there, and particularly the people who had experience over the years, said nobody is ever near the pad when they fuel a booster," [Chair Tom] Stafford said, referring to an earlier briefing the group had about SpaceX's proposed fueling procedure. SpaceX needs NASA approval of its launch system before it can put astronauts into space. In an email to Reuters sent late Monday, SpaceX said its fueling system and launch processes will be re-evaluated pending the results of the accident investigation."

Small Lunar Surface Payload Request for Information (RFI)

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) is seeking information on the availability of small payloads that could be delivered to the Moon as early as the 2017-2020 timeframe using U.S. commercial lunar cargo transportation service providers. Multiple U.S. companies are developing robotic lunar landing capabilities and have expressed plans to provide commercial cargo delivery services to the Moon in the near future. Information on lunar payloads that could be launched as early as 2017 would be valuable to NASA as it works to understand the potential role of the Moon in future exploration activities. Payloads of interest should address one or more of NASA's lunar exploration Strategic Knowledge Gaps (SKGs) or other agency strategic objectives."

Moon Express Announces $1.5 Million In Funding for NASA Payloads To The Moon Under Lunar Scout Program

"Moon Express has announced a new program that will provide $1.5M in private funding for NASA-selected payloads to fly to the Moon. The announcement was made today at the annual meeting of NASA's Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), in response to NASA's call for lunar instrument concepts that would be flown to the Moon utilizing commercial mission services. Under its Lunar Scout Program, Moon Express will provide up to $500,000 in funding for each instrument selected by NASA to fly aboard the company's first three commercial lunar missions of opportunity, beginning next year in 2017."

SpaceX AMOS-6 Anomaly Update 28 October 2016

"The investigation team has made significant progress on the fault tree. Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank."

"Pending the results of the investigation, we continue to work towards returning to flight before the end of the year."

Previous statements:

- SpaceX AMOS-6 Anomaly Update 23 September 2016
- SpaceX Anomaly Statement September 2, 6:45pm EDT

Spaceport America Relay Race Features an Amazing 200 Mile Course Along the Historic Rio Grande River from Texas to New Mexico, Spaceport America

"Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico in the USA, today announced that, in collaboration with relay racing specialists MH Enterprises LLC, the Spaceport America Crew will host and support a two-day, 200 mile, relay race event."

Spaceport America, Wikipedia

"As of August 2012, Spaceport America is substantially complete and the cost of the entire project was $209 million. ... In May 2015, budgetary details made public revealed that the substantially unused spaceport has an annual deficit that has been running approximately US$500,000, with the deficit being made up by state taxpayers. The primary planned revenue in the times of delayed operations by Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, with limited operations by other minor tenants, is local tax revenue, paid by the taxpayers of Sierra and Dona Ana counties."

Space Foundation CEO Steps Down, Space Foundation

"Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Space Foundation, Admiral James O. Ellis Jr., announced that Space Foundation CEO, Elliot Pulham, has resigned his position, and the board has commenced a search for new leadership of the organization. ... We are committed to an open and competitive process to select the Foundation's next leader, and are grateful for the continued support of the space community."

Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles

"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information. Yesterday's letters reiterate requests for a briefing and documentation on the current U.S. policy."

Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation Testimony , April 2016

"Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."

Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation Testimony, April 2016

"The concern about using Indian boosters is not so much the transfer of sensitive technology to a nation that is a fellow democracy, but rather whether Indian launches are subsidized by the Indian government to the degree that other market actors, for example American launch companies or those of allies, would be priced out the market."

Keith's note: Why is India being singled out for special treatment? Who own's most, if not all, of China's launch infrastructure? Russia's? Europe's? Japan's? Who sets their launch prices? Why is it that every time the U.S. buys Soyuz seats the price goes up far more than it should?

- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?, earlier post
- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, earlier post
- Hearing Discusses Using Old ICBMs As Satellite Launchers, earlier post

Orbital ATK Successfully Launches the Antares Rocket on its Return to Flight (with video), SpaceRef

"In a successful return to flight, Orbital ATK launched the upgraded Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch scheduled for 7:40 pm EDT (2340 GMT) was delayed briefly due to a minor engine anomaly. Mission launch control cleared the rocket to launch which it did at 7:45 pm EDT, right as launch window was closing."

Keith's note: It has been 2 years since I tried to watch a launch from the street in front of my house in Reston, VA. Not an easy thing to do in a town that is certified as a 'tree city'. Luckily the notch in the trees in the direction of Wallops is still there. About 2 minutes after launch a steady red light appeared and I could see it for another minute or so.

Interplanetary Frontiers, OSTP: Harnessing the Possibilities of Science, Technology, and Innovation

"At the beginning of his Administration, President Obama set out anew vision for space exploration, harking back to the spirit of possibility and exploration that defined the space race of the 1960s, while building upon and advancing 21st century technologies and capabilities. In 2010, the Administration restructured the U.S. civil space program to look forward to bold new goals, not backwards to old ones; to collaborate with, rather than compete with, American entrepreneurs; and to broaden participation and take advantage of new technologies being created at NASA and in America's laboratories."

Boeing delays Starliner again, casting doubt on commercial flights in 2018, Ars Technica

"After an initial delay from late 2017 into early 2018, Boeing has acknowledged a second slippage of its schedule for the first commercial crew flights of its Starliner spacecraft. According to a report in Aviation Week, the company now says it will not be ready to begin operational flights until December 2018, a full year after NASA had originally hoped its commercial crew providers would be ready. The admission by Boeing confirms a report by NASA's Inspector General, which found significant delays with both the Boeing and SpaceX efforts to develop private spacecraft to ferry US astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The delay also explains why, as Ars has previously reported, senior managers with the International Space Station program are likely to press ahead with the politically painful decision to purchase Soyuz seats for the calendar year 2019."

- Industry Groups Avoid Mention of OIG Reports on Cost/Schedule, earlier post
- NASA OIG Report Predicts Commercial Crew Delay To Late 2018, earlier post

Boeing says it will beat SpaceX to Mars, Business Insider

"Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing (one of SpaceX's biggest competitors) casually loosed the remark during a session of The Atlantic's "What's Next?" conference. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said during the recorded event."

Here's How Boeing Plans to Send Astronauts to Mars, Inverse

"Boeing doesn't offer a timeline for its missions. "Mars is at least 100 times further away than the moon," Duggan says. "The opportunity to travel from Earth to Mars comes around about every two years. The Earth has to be catching up with Mars in its orbit to give you that shortest distance, and that's the ideal launch window." That window, and the time it takes to develop the tech needed to send astronauts between the two planets, will determine when Boeing reaches the red planet."

Boeing Mars website

Keith's note: First Boeing says they don't have a timeline and then they say that a "Boeing rocket" will beat SpaceX Mars. And of course Boeing is not going to pay for any of this - that's NASA job.

Blue Origin Completes New Shepard Abort Test (with video and screen shots)

"Blue Origin just completed an apparently flawless in-flight aboard of its New Shepard launch vehicle. The capsule separated and made a perfect landing. The booster continued, undaunted, to space and then made a textbook landing."

Flores Backs Robust, Domestic Commercial Space Launch

"U.S. Representative Bill Flores (R-Texas) led a bipartisan letter, signed by 23 additional members of Congress, to the administrators at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Secretary of the United States Air Force supporting a robust, domestic commercial space launch industry. The bipartisan group of lawmakers expressed their support of the ongoing investigation into the recent mishap involving a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The letter states: "Accidents are unfortunate events, and accident investigations should not be politicized. We encourage you to reject calls for your organizations to abandon established, well considered, and long standing procedures."

- Possibility of Sabotage Considered During SpaceX Investigation, earlier post
- ULA Congressional Delegation Criticizes SpaceX For A Totally Legal Mishap Investigation, earlier post

Implication of sabotage adds intrigue to SpaceX investigation, Washington Post

"The long-running feud between Elon Musk's space company and its fierce competitor United Launch Alliance took a bizarre twist this month when a SpaceX employee visited its facilities at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and asked for access to the roof of one of ULA's buildings. ... The building, which had been used to refurbish rocket motors known as the SMARF, is just more than a mile away from the launchpad and has a clear line of sight to it. A representative from ULA ultimately denied the SpaceX employee access to the roof and instead called Air Force investigators, who inspected the roof and didn't find anything connecting it to the rocket explosion, the officials said."

Congress members question whether SpaceX should conduct its own investigation, LA Times

"The letter, dated Thursday, also cited SpaceX's prior explosion in June 2015 while carrying cargo for NASA to the International Space Station. The Hawthorne space company led its own investigation for that launch failure. Under federal law, SpaceX is allowed to conduct its own investigation. SpaceX ... and other companies lobbied successfully to extend the law last year. The FAA oversees such investigations. The Congress members said the investigation responses raised "serious concerns about the authority provided to commercial providers and the protection of national space assets."

"Ten Republican Congress members led by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have sent a letter to the heads of the Air Force, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration questioning whether SpaceX should be allowed to lead its own investigation ... Coffman's congressional district includes United Launch Alliance's headquarters. Many of the congressmen represent states where ULA has operations."

Keith's note: But wait. ULA did their own internal review when the first stage of the Atlas V delivering OA-6 Cygnus shut down early. Oops. H/t to Tim B.

United Launch Alliance Provides Update to OA-6 Cygnus Launch

"Per standard processes when a flight data item such as this has been identified, the ULA engineering team, along with our engine supplier and several government customers, forms a robust review team. The review team assessed all flight and operational data to determine direct and root causes and implemented the appropriate corrective actions for future flights. .. "We would like to thank our customers and supplier partners for their outstanding collaboration in the detailed review of this anomaly."

Elon Musk's presentation charts (pdf)


Elon Musk Outlines his Plan for Colonizing Mars and Why We Should Do It, SpaceRef [Includes the full video of Elon Musk's talk and the presentation slides.]

"In a presentation today at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk outlined his ambitious plan to colonize Mars. His personal motivation is to make humanity a multi-planetary species. The reason is to avoid an extinct level event on Earth that would wipe out humanity.

To achieve a self-sustaining society you'll need to send 1 million people to Mars which could take 40-100 years. To get those people there Musk introduced the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System. The rocket, the largest ever built, could carry 100 plus people per flight and would need 10,000 flights to carry those million people. Musk hopes to be able to eventually carry 200 people per flight which would reduce the number of flights needed."

Elon Musk has a lot to prove at today's Mars colonization announcement, The Verge

"This isn't a phone, or a new app, or new headphones - it's not a consumer product at all. Rockets are far too expensive; space colonies are more expensive still. If Musk doesn't announce financial backing, it means the presentation is meant to convince someone - probably NASA - to fund him. But this is an extraordinarily awkward time to try to win over money, since one of his rockets blew up earlier this month."

Get Ready, Elon Musk Is About to Outline His Plan to Colonize Mars, Popular Mechanics

"The new Mars shuttle and BFR are only design ideas that have been teased by SpaceX, so it remains to be seen whether a concrete plan to develop one or both of these new spaceflight systems - or something completely unknown to the public at this point - will be revealed during Musk's speech."

Elon Musk to discuss his vision for how he plans to colonize Mars, Washington Post

"Then in 2020, SpaceX would fly multiple Falcon Heavy rockets, he said in an interview with The Post earlier this year. The goal of those missions would be to perfect the difficult art of landing large objects on the Mars surface. If everything goes according to plan, SpaceX would launch a new, more powerful rocket in 2022, and then with crews in 2024."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/bolden.spacex.lrg.4.jpg

Elon Musk's dream of going to Mars is SpaceX's biggest strength, and its biggest distraction, Quartz

"Scott Pace, a former NASA official, said that any company attempting to do as much as SpaceX needed to carefully assess whether it was pushing its workers too hard. "It would be ambitious for any company to do a schedule like that," Pace says. "When you look at changes in launch schedule that are increasing over historical norms, you should be worried whether or not schedule pressure is putting unacceptable strains on the workforce." SpaceX rejects out of hand the idea that it is pushing its workers too hard."

Between a rocket and a hard place: Elon Musk to give the speech of his life, Ars Technica

"It also seems likely that NASA won't offer substantial support, either. The space agency is building its own heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System, and has its own #JourneyToMars. NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden, has wholeheartedly supported SpaceX and commercial space activities in low-Earth orbit, but has been far less effusive about private businesses venturing into deep space on their own. Earlier this month Bolden flatly stated he was not a "big fan" of private companies building heavy-lift rockets. With its Falcon Heavy and BFR, that is exactly what SpaceX is doing."

- Why SpaceX May Get Humans to Mars - First, earlier post
- Yet Another NASA Mars "Plan" Without A Plan - or a Budget, earlier post
- NASA's SpaceX Mars Mission Briefing That NASA Is Not Telling You About, earlier post
- Update on NASA's #JourneyToNowhere, earlier post
- NASA Is Still Kicking The Can Down The Road on the #JourneyToMars, earlier post

Raptor Roars

SpaceX AMOS-6 Anomaly Update 23 September 2016, SpaceX

"At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place. All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated. Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection with last year's CRS-7 mishap."

"... Pending the results of the investigation, we anticipate returning to flight as early as the November timeframe."

NASA FISO Presentation: NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission

"Now available is the September 21, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers was Philip McAlister (NASA HQ) who discussed "NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission".

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

NASA to have limited role in SpaceX's planned Mars campaign, Spaceflight Now

"Expertise, input and advice from seasoned NASA engineers will improve SpaceX's chances of nailing the first commercial landing on Mars as soon as late 2018, a senior space agency official said Wednesday, but Elon Musk's space transport company will likely seek more independence from U.S. government support on later expeditions to the red planet."

Programming note: SpaceRef will broadcast live Elon Musk's presentation, Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species, from the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara next week on Tuesday, September 27 at 2:30 pm ET.

Marc's note: We certainly live in a new age of exploration when a private space company is embarking on a mission that no government has yet to undertake.

That mission, to send an uncrewed technology demonstration human spacecraft mission to land on Mars has never been attempted. And make no mistake this is not the spacecraft that SpaceX would send to Mars with humans. It's a technology demonstration. The data collected by this mission will be invaluable to future manned missions to Mars and elsewhere.

NASA FISO Telecon: NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission

"The next Future In-Space Operations (FISO) colloquium will be Wednesday, September 21, when we will host Philip McAlister (NASA HQ), who will speak on "NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission."

Keith's note: Elon Musk is getting ready for his big Mars colonization plan presentation at the IAC next week. The first step in this path to Mars is the Dragon mission that SpaceX is planning to send to Mars in 2018. You'd think that NASA would want people to know how it is involved in all of this. Indeed, NASA's Director of Commercial Spaceflight Development Phil McAlister is making a presentation at this week's NASA FISO telecon. Yet no mention is made of this presentation on NASA's calendar, Journey To Mars page, NASA's Commercial Space Transportation page, or anywhere else at NASA.gov.

Why is NASA hiding this briefing? Is NASA afraid to be seen supporting a competing plan for the #JourneyToMars ?

ILS Offers Proton Variants For Smaller Payloads, ILS

"International Launch Services (ILS) announces a product line extension of the Proton Breeze M commercial launch vehicle designed to expand the addressable GEO market for cost effective launch solutions in the small and medium satellite class range (3 to 5 metric tons). Designated as "Proton Variants," these two additional vehicles will be optimized 2-stage versions of the time tested and flight proven Proton Breeze M launch system for exclusive commercial use by ILS."

Falcon Heavy? New Glenn? NASA chief says he's not a "big fan", Ars Technica

"On Tuesday, during a Q&A session at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2016 Conference, Bolden was asked for his opinion on the emerging market for small satellites and launchers. He chose to respond instead with his thoughts on NASA's own rocket, the Space Launch System, and private-sector development of larger launch vehicles. "If you talk about launch vehicles, we believe our responsibility to the nation is to take care of things that normal people cannot do, or don't want to do, like large launch vehicles," Bolden said. "I'm not a big fan of commercial investment in large launch vehicles just yet."

Keith's update: Hey Charlie, normal people seem to be building rockets at a much lower cost than NASA people can. Just sayin'.

As for "commercial investment in large vehicles", newsflash: that's not your money they are investing. Its theirs. Ask Steve Jurvetson, that guy you spoke with at AIAA today. As for your comment about "normal people" (who are they, BTW?) and their inability to build rockets is contrary to the open access, inclusive, Maker-oriented, commercial space policy advocated by the Obama Administration.

You are retiring from NASA soon, yes?

Marc's note: There are a couple of noteworthy commercial launch news items today.

ILS is introducing an expanded Proton line in an effort to capture part of the small to medium satellite market. ULA meanwhile is offering launch to customers within as little three months of booking an order. No pricing was provided for either of these news items.

ILS Introduces Expanded Proton Line of Cost-Effective Launch Vehicles

"International Launch Services (ILS) announces a product line extension of the Proton Breeze M commercial launch vehicle designed to expand the addressable GEO market for cost effective launch solutions in the small and medium satellite class range (3 to 5 metric tons).

Designated as "Proton Variants," these two additional vehicles will be optimized 2-stage versions of the time tested and flight proven Proton Breeze M launch system for exclusive commercial use by ILS."

United Launch Alliance Announces RapidLaunch™, the Industry's Fastest Order to Launch Service

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced a new, revolutionary service called RapidLaunch™ which provides the customer the fastest schedule from the initial order to launch service in the industry today.

"The priorities of all of our customers include ensuring their spacecraft launches on schedule, securing the soonest possible manifest date and completing the mission with 100 percent success," said Tory Bruno, ULA CEO and president. "To address these priorities, we have been working on this offering for more than a year, which allows our customers to launch in as few as three months from placing their order."

Video: AIAA Space 2016 Opening Plenary Featuring Charles Bolden, Winston Beauchamp and Steve Jurvetson

"Today the annual AIAA Space 2016 conference began with an opening plenary that included presentations by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Winston A. Beauchamp, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space, and the Director, Principal DoD Space Advisor Staff, and Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director, DFJ. This was followed by a panel with the opening speakers.

The addition of Jurvetson, of the venture firm DFJ, added a nice mix to the conversation including reinforcing the fact that venture firms no longer ignore space companies as possible investment opportunities."

Blue Origin Announces Immense "New Glenn" Rocket

"Named in honor of John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, New Glenn is 23 feet in diameter and lifts off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust from seven BE-4 engines. Burning liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen, these are the same BE-4 engines that will power United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan rocket. The 2-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall, and its second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine. The 3-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall. A single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powers its third stage. The booster and the second stage are identical in both variants."

Mars Rover Views Spectacular Layered Rock Formations

"Curiosity took the images with its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sept. 8. The rover team plans to assemble several large, color mosaics from the multitude of images taken at this location in the near future. "Curiosity's science team has been just thrilled to go on this road trip through a bit of the American desert Southwest on Mars," said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The Martian buttes and mesas rising above the surface are eroded remnants of ancient sandstone that originated when winds deposited sand after lower Mount Sharp had formed."

Keith's note: Boston Dynamics has robots that can do things that NASA's R5 and Robonaut are simply incapable of doing. Yet NASA continues to pour money into their antiquated in-house hobby shop efforts when the private sector would happily sell them vastly more capable devices - devices that constantly improve. Look at the Mars Curiosity images that NASA featured today. They were taken by a rover with a limited ability to traverse terrain. A robot like the ones that Boston Dynamics makes could scramble up these scree slopes with a rock hammer and get samples. NASA's broken R5 robot can't even walk without a hoist to keep it upright.

- NASA Challenges People To Use Its Broken Robot To Fix Things on Mars, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- Earlier posts

Satellite owner says SpaceX owes $50 million or free flight, Reuters

"Israel's Space Communication Ltd said on Sunday it could seek $50 million or a free flight from Elon Musk's SpaceX after a Spacecom communications satellite was destroyed last week by an explosion at SpaceX's Florida launch site. Officials of the Israeli company said in a conference call with reporters Sunday that Spacecom also could collect $205 million from Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the AMOS-6 satellite. SpaceX said in an email to Reuters that it does not disclose contract or insurance terms. The company is not public, and it has not said what insurance it had for the rocket or to cover launch pad damages beyond what was required by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial U.S. launches, for liability and damage to government property."

SpaceCom to recoup $173m, plus interest, for destroyed satellite, Times of Israel

"The satellite's owners, Space Communication, will receive over $173 million from IAI plus interest, which provided insurance for the device, a company official said. According to Space Communication, also known as SpaceCom, the total sum from IAI is "approximately $205 million." Under the insurance policy, IAI will have to pay the amount "in under 60 days," a spokesperson for the quasi-governmental firm said. In addition, the Israeli company said it expects to receive either $50 million from SpaceX or "have the launch of a future satellite carried out under the existing agreement and with the payments that have [already] been made."

SpaceX to shift Florida launches to new pad after explosion, Reuters

"With its launch pad likely facing major repairs, SpaceX said it would use a second Florida site, called 39A, which is located a few miles north at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and was used for space shuttle missions. The pad is on schedule to be operational in November, SpaceX said. The company had planned to use the pad for the first time later this year for a test flight of its new Falcon Heavy rocket. NASA spokesman Michael Curie said in an email that the site could be used for commercial and government flights, and SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in a May conference said one customer, SES SA of Luxembourg, had expressed interest in flying from the historic launch pad."

Op-ed: We love you SpaceX, and hope you reach Mars. But we need you to focus, Ars Technica

"I understand SpaceX has a master plan--the company wants to colonize Mars. It has been brilliant to watch the plan unfold as SpaceX has used NASA contracts to bootstrap up to the Falcon 9 rocket and used Falcon 9 flights to simultaneously test reusability and supersonic retropropulsion for the Martian environment. I mean, it's genius. But at some point you have to focus on the here and now, and that is the Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 rocket lies at the core of everything SpaceX wants to do. It delivers commercial satellites and cargo. It will deliver astronauts into orbit. Three Falcon 9 boosters will power the Falcon Heavy. It is the basis of proving the reusability of orbital launch systems. So if there is no Falcon 9, there is no business. And now there have been two failures in 15 months. While the cause of the second failure is not known to outsiders, and it may have been caused by ground systems rather than the rocket itself, the company has nonetheless lost two of its rockets and associated payloads in 15 months. That is sobering."

Video by uslaunchreport.com


Marc's update: Friday evening SpaceX provided an update on the explosion at their Cape Canaveral SLC-40 launch pad. My interpretation of the statement leads me to think that as long as the investigation reveals no issues related to the Falcon 9 itself, that SpaceX intends on going forward with launches from their two other pads at Vandenberg Air Force Base and Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy.

SpaceX Anomaly Statement September 2, 6:45pm EDT

"As for the Launch Pad itself, our teams are now investigating the status of SLC-40. The pad clearly incurred damage, but the scope has yet to be fully determined. We will share more data as it becomes available. SpaceX currently operates 3 launch pads - 2 in Florida and 1 in California at Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX's other launch sites were not affected by yesterday's events. Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base is in the final stages of an operational upgrade and Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center remains on schedule to be operational in November. Both pads are capable of supporting Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. We are confident the two launch pads can support our return to flight and fulfill our upcoming manifest needs."

SpaceX and Boeing delays could mean more money for Russia, NASA watchdog says, Washington Post

"Boeing has already said it would have to push back its first crewed flights to early 2018. SpaceX has maintained that it would fly by the end of 2017. But the IG investigators weren't buying either of those timetables: "Notwithstanding the contractors' optimism, based on the information we gathered during our audit, we believe it unlikely that either Boeing or SpaceX will achieve certified, crewed flight to the ISS until late 2018."

Commercial crew now delayed until at least 2018, report finds, Ars Technica

"Sources at Johnson Space Center, which plays a secondary role in managing the commercial crew program to Kennedy Space Center, have privately told Ars for months that neither Boeing nor SpaceX would fly in 2017. Moreover, these sources have said, it will be fortunate if either company launches test flights, with crew, during the second half of 2018. The key factor to watch now is whether NASA procures additional seats from the Russians to deliver NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019 and beyond."

NASA OIG: NASA'S Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts

"Moreover, both companies must satisfy NASA's safety review process to ensure they meet Agency human-rating requirements. As part of the certification process, Boeing and SpaceX conduct safety reviews and report to NASA on potential hazards and their plans for mitigating risks. We found significant delays in NASA's evaluation and approval of these hazard reports and related requests for variances from NASA requirements that increase the risk costly redesign work may be required late in development, which could further delay certification. Although NASA's goal is to complete its review within 8 weeks of receipt of a hazard report, the contractors told us reviews can take as long as 6 months. We also found NASA does not monitor the overall timeliness of its safety review process. Given delays in the Commercial Crew Program, NASA has extended its contract with Roscosmos for astronaut transportation through 2018 at an additional cost of $490 million or $82 million a seat for six more seats. If the Program experiences additional delays, NASA may need to buy additional seats from Russia to ensure a continued U.S. presence on the ISS."

The Future of the International Space Station Is Up to a Weird Little Florida Nonprofit, Wired

"Which brings us to March, when the NASA Advisory Council released a memo that included this: The Council has also been told by NASA that a successful transition from the "Earth Reliant" phase to the "Proving Ground" is dependent at least in part on the success of attracting future commercial users of the ISS and/or the availability of commercial LEO laboratory capability that NASA could use. The Council therefore feels that it would be beneficial for the agency to better understand the effect that the resources being devoted to the ISS National Laboratory might have on the important research needed to reduce technology and human health risk for the Journey to Mars."

Ken Shields, director of operations for Casis, takes issue with the assessment. "This is one man's opinion, but there were a few vociferous members of NAC who didn't do a lot of due diligence on what we do, our history," he says. "They read some news stories, brought some gotcha information, and I wish I had been there in person."

Keith's note: This is strange. With regard to this NASA Advisory Council meeting on 31 March/1 April 2016 CASIS employees Greg Johnson, Michael Roberts, and Brian Talbot from CASIS were physically in attendance. In addition, CASIS employees Ken Shields, Warren Bates, Patrick O'Neill, and Cindy Martin Brennan attended via dial-in. So Ken Shields should have heard the entire conversation, right? He could have sent a text to his boss and asked to say something if his ears were burning. NASA Advisory Council meetings are open to the public, available for free via dial-in and Webex. The words Shields takes issue with were blessed by the entire NAC.

At this meeting the NAC decided that a team should make a site visit to CASIS to look into these issues. Shortly thereafter the NAC chair, Steve Squyres resigned and NAC leadership was thrown into disarray. CASIS objected to the whole idea of a NAC site visit. During the leadership vacuum CASIS, NASA, and a sympathetic NAC member made certain that site the visit and further consideration of NAC were buried. It is quite clear that CASIS is afraid of external scrutiny and does not think that it should be help publicly accountable for what it does with $15 million of NASA money every year.

CASIS Had A Bad Week In Washington, earlier post, earlier post

"The next day the CASIS entourage, led by President and Executive Director Greg Johnson, showed up at the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting. Things did not go so well for them at the NAC. Within minutes of starting to talk, NAC members started to pepper Johnson with questions- questions that he was unable and/or unwilling to answer. It went downhill from there."

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. "

Letter From NASA to CASIS 31 March 2016, earlier post

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

SES-10 Launching to Orbit on SpaceX's Flight-Proven Falcon 9 Rocket

"SES and SpaceX announced today they have reached an agreement to launch SES-10 on a flight-proven Falcon 9 orbital rocket booster. The satellite, which will be in a geostationary orbit and expand SES's capabilities across Latin America, is scheduled for launch in Q4 2016. SES-10 will be the first-ever satellite to launch on a SpaceX flight-proven rocket booster."

Transparency lacking in spaceport search, editorial, Las Cruces Sun News

"There may be no more important hire in southern New Mexico this year than the next person who is selected to lead Spaceport America. Sadly, we have lost all faith that the process will be comprehensive or transparent. It was decided early on that, instead of hiring a search firm to lead the effort, the Spaceport Authority would rely on social media to get the word out. A subcommittee of four members of the Spaceport Authority board of directors was selected to review applications with former CEO Christine Anderson and send the best ones to Santa Fe for Gov. Susana Martinez. But before that subcommittee could hold its first meeting, the decision was made to call off the search and ship the applications to the governor's office. The Sun-News filed an open records request on Aug. 16 seeking copies of the applications being turned over to the governor's office. The response from the Spaceport Authority was that they would be unable to comply with the requirement that documents be produced within three business days, and would need until the end of the month instead. That's troubling, given that Spaceport Authority board Chairman Rick Holdridge has said that it is his intention to have a new CEO named well before then if possible."

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down with Crucial NASA Research Samples, NASA

"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:47 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 26, southwest of Baja California with more than 3,000 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to a port near Los Angeles, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA immediately. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing."

NIAC Has An ITAR Problem

NASA advanced technology reports taken offline after export control issue, Space News

"NASA has taken offline technical reports associated with a cutting-edge technology program out of concerns of a possible export control breach, an agency official said Aug. 24. Speaking at annual symposium of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jason Derleth, the NIAC program executive at NASA Headquarters, said the final reports associated with various NIAC research projects have been removed from the agency's website after one of them appeared to contain information that ran afoul of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) export control rules."

The inside story of how billionaires are racing to take you to outer space, Washington Post

"For years, many have been waiting for the commercial space industry to become a real market, one where companies actually make money and prosper. William Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's human spaceflight division, said he thinks that the industry "is on the crest of another wave." "There's a lot of hype," he said at a Federal Aviation Administration space conference this year, citing other times when industry felt it was on the cusp of revolutionary change. "But will we be able to generate enough demand?" he said. "It can't just be solely government demand. It has to be augmented by the private sector. . . . Will that be enough to push us over or to reach that tipping point that actually enables this industry to become more self-sufficient than it was in the past?"

Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post

"The substance that the companies behind SLS and Orion use to keep people employed is identical to what they would theoretically use to operate ISS and routine crew and cargo transport: money. The money either comes from NASA or it doesn't but the financial health of these companies is all running on the same fuel. And whatever money NASA does not have to spend on one thing, it supposedly can spend on another. But this is an ecosystem - one that seems to want to expand off-world - where government money, money earned from government recycled back into other areas, and money from outside the NASA/contractor honey pot all gets mixed together. If one thing can feed another and spur interest amongst investors while others derive profit for the risks they took with their own money, well, that's how actual commerce establishes itself."

NASA Wants to Bring Enterprise to the Space Station

"In its RFI, NASA stressed that that for the moment, it just wants to hear ideas. It doesn't have a budget to help spur any proposed projects, or plans to release them for public perusal. NASA received 11 submissions "from a broad range of respondents including individuals, small companies and large companies," Sam Scimemi, division director for the ISS program, said in an e-mail."

NASA hopes to hand the International Space Station to a commercial owner by mid 2020s, TechCrunch

"NASA's trying to develop economic development in low-earth orbit," [NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Bill] Hill said, speaking on a panel of NASA staff assembled to discuss the upcoming Mars mission. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-earth orbit, so that research can continue in low-earth orbit. ... NASA didn't specify any potential buyer, but two commercial entities are about to add significant real estate to the ISS: a new docking adapter is being put in place to support crew shuttle missions from Boeing and SpaceX, both of which are set to start shuttling personnel to the station in 2017."

Keith's note: Every time someone from NASA talks about the future of ISS and the #JourneyToMars thing they contradict themselves and further muddy the issue.

1. CASIS is supposed to be doing this commercial stuff already with the U.S. portion of the ISS - NASA doesn't mention that very often.
2. The ISS is owned by more countries/agencies than just NASA. So how can NASA hand the ISS over to anyone?
3. "Buyer"? NASA is going to sell the ISS? (see #2)
4. Boeing and SpaceX own their visiting spacecraft - "real estate" that comes and goes.

NASA's Plan For Commercializing Low Earth Orbit Is Still A Mystery, earlier post
NASA: We're on a #JourneyToMars - But Don't Ask Us How, earlier post
Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post
A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post


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