"For months, a powerful U.S. senator has been pushing for details of a murky deal under which a Russian manufacturer supplies the rocket engines used to launch America's spy satellites into space. At issue: how much the U.S. Air Force pays for the engines, how much the Russians receive, and whether members of the elite in President Vladimir Putin's Russia are secretly profiting by inflating the price. Now, documents uncovered by Reuters provide some answers. A tiny Florida-based company, acting as a middleman in the deal, is marking up the price by millions of dollars per engine. That five-person company, RD Amross, is a joint venture of Russian engine maker NPO Energomash and a U.S. partner, aerospace giant United Technologies. According to internal company documents that lay out the contract, Amross stands to collect $93 million in cost mark-ups under its current multi-year deal to supply the RD-180 rocket engine."
Recently in Commercialization Category
Keith's note: NASA has posted Notice of Centennial Challenges Cube Quest Challenge in today's Federal Register. $5,000,000 to send a cubesat to the Moon. Very cool. The notice says "To register for or get additional information regarding the Cube Quest Challenge, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cubequestchallenge" If you visit that link you will get an error notice from NASA.gov.
I told NASA that the link was broken. Their response was "The link will not be live until the December 1 announcement. CCP had planned to rollout the Challenge earlier this month, but HQ recommended to delay for two weeks. The link will work once the site becomes active."
I replied "You really should tell people that in the notice that the link is not going to be active. Now everyone will click on it and then lose interest after seeing that it is broken day after day. I am baffled as to why you put the notice out in the first place knowingly including a link that does not work - without any notice to the public that the link is intentionally inactive until a future date. Indeed the notice also says "The Cube Quest (CQ) Challenge is scheduled and teams that wish to compete may now register." However the next sentence contradicts this statement by saying "Challenge registration opens December 2, 2014". So which is it: "now register" or "opens December 2, 2014"? What is especially baffling is why such a confusing and deliberately inaccurate Federal Register notice is posted when it concerns a rather substantial $5,000,000 NASA Challenge. One would think that a little strategic and editorial thought would be given to such a significant announcement."
Keith's update: I got this update from NASA MSFC. Odd that they think that the Federal Register has a "limited audience" given that it serves a vital role for a multi-trillion dollar government for a nation of over 300 million people. "In developing such a large Challenge, we wanted to be sure to promote it using the best audience available. HQ decided that the Challenge would get more attention during the events leading up to the Orion Launch. The Federal Register has a limited audience, whereas millions will be watching the first Orion launch. This is the largest NASA Prize Purse and first competition in space. CCP seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources of citizen inventors, private businesses, and academia. NASA HQ wanted to promote this opportunity to the largest audience possible, not just to those within the aerospace industry."
Oh yes - the link works now (http://www.nasa.gov/cubequestchallenge/) They also issued a press release late today - several weeks earlier than (I guess) they had planned to do so. Since no one reads the Federal Register, right?
"Virginia's Secretary of Transportation says it could take a year and up to $20 million to repair the commercial spaceport on Virginia's Eastern Shore, after a mishap damaged the launchpad last month. Aubrey Layne says he expects the flights to resume, but with additional protections for Virginia taxpayers. "We do need to have our launch partner and the federal government take responsibility with us in this particular incident," Layne told WDBJ7."
"We're not going to have a repeat of this in the future," said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne Jr., who is a board member of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which owns the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island. Layne confirmed Tuesday that the McAuliffe administration may seek to renegotiate the memorandum of understanding and launch services agreement with Orbital that the state revised substantially in 2012 under the administration of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell."
"Following this announcement on October 28, 2014, a failure occurred during Orbital's Antares launch. Since the incident, the companies have conducted a thorough review and analysis of the launch failure and Orbital's proposed recovery plan and long-term competitive position. Following this review, ATK's board of directors continues to support the strategic merits of the transaction and recommends that ATK stockholders vote to approve the issuance of shares to Orbital stockholders. Orbital's board of directors also continues to recommend that Orbital stockholders vote to approve the proposed transaction."
"The National Transportation Safety Board issued an investigative update today into the crash of SpaceShip Two on Oct. 31, 2014, in Mojave, Calif.
- The on-scene portion of the investigation into the crash of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, a test flight conducted by Scaled Composites, has concluded and all NTSB investigators have returned to Washington, DC.
- The SpaceShipTwo wreckage has been recovered and is being stored in a secure location for follow-on examination.
- The NTSB operations and human performance investigators interviewed the surviving pilot on Friday. According to the pilot, he was unaware that the feather system had been unlocked early by the copilot. His description of the vehicle motion was consistent with other data sources in the investigation. He stated that he was extracted from the vehicle as a result of the break-up sequence and unbuckled from his seat at some point before the parachute deployed automatically."
"Private spaceflight hit a large bump in the road to orbit last week, with Orbital Sciences' rocket explosion followed days later by Virgin Galactic's fatal spaceplane crash. But if early aviation and aerospace efforts can teach us anything, it's that the key to surviving such tragedies is transparency and learning from any mistakes. And in a counterintuitive twist, the disasters may even increase public support for spaceflight and space tourism."
Keith's note: Video of Challenger's and Columbia's loss is seared in our collective consciousness - both accidents caused prolonged self-examination and questioning as to whether it was all worth doing. Even commercial advertisements comparing consumer items to the shuttle were pulled. Yet NASA returned to flight - twice. When the shuttle fleet was retired there was exceptional interest and heated debate and overt food fights about who got the remaining shuttles - because of what they represented in people's minds. Indeed huge portions of the population demanded that NASA keep them flying. Remember the flyovers and parades? Major cities stopped everything - just to watch. Yet these very same shuttles that flew over America to such acclaim are identical to the two shuttle vehicles we all saw torn apart with their crews on board. A symbol of tragedy - twice - is now a symbol of American pride.
"Moving quickly to inform its International Space Station (ISS) resupply contract partner NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that not only would it complete its resupply contract by the end of 2016, it would consolidate its launch manifest and do it with four launches instead of five."
"Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world's leading space technology companies, today announced comprehensive plans to fulfill its contract commitments under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program as well as to accelerate an upgrade of the Antares medium-class launcher's main propulsion system. Under the new approach and in line with Orbital's existing CRS contract, all remaining cargo will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2016. There will be no cost increase to NASA and only minor adjustments will be needed to the cargo manifest in the near term."
"This fundraiser is being managed by Mike's friends and co-workers at Scaled Composites. This is the official site to help Mike's family with future expenses and all donations will go to Mike's wife, Michelle. Michael (Mike) Alsbury, Test Pilot and Project Engineer for Scaled Composites, passed away on October 31, 2014 due to an anomaly during flight test. Mike was a husband, a father of two small children (ages 10 and 7), amazing friend and co-worker. Mike had worked with Scaled for over 15 years. This is a tragic loss that will leave a void in Mike's family, the Scaled family, and the surrounding community for years to come. We would like to do anything we can to support Michelle and his two children."
"In their last press briefing from Mojave, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released no new clues to the cause of the breakup of SpaceShipTwo. The NTSB did provide new timeline details and an update of what they've been doing. Further press briefings will take place from Washington as needed."
"While this has been a tragic setback, we are moving forward and will do so deliberately and with determination. We are continuing to build the second SpaceShipTwo (serial number two), which is currently about 65% complete and we will continue to advance our mission over the coming weeks and months. With the guidance of the NTSB and the assurance of a safe path forward, we intend to move ahead with our testing program and have not lost sight of our mission to make space accessible for all."
Reporter: Virgin Galactic was too eager (Video) CNN
"Former Washington Post reporter Joel Glenn Brenner says Virgin Galactic's technology did not match their enthusiasm."
"And I will tell you this as well, that this engine that exploded today, even if they had had a successful flight, and even if they had not stolen my friend's life, OK... So, I am here to say that they took this pilot's life, and this engine still would not have gotten customers to space."
Keith's note: This is tantamount to accusing Virgin Galactic of some very serious crimes. Its quite clear from this interview on the day of the accident that Joel Glenn Brenner really hates Virgin Galactic. But the Washington Post thinks its just fine that she "report" on this accident after revealing her overt bias to millions. At a minimum, shouldn't the Washington Post put links and references up to her other comments? Shouldn't Brenner explain them to the Post's readers? Just wondering. What was just as bizarre was how CNN anchors Brooke Baldwin and Richard Quest allowed her to rant about herself - and her unsubstantiated accusations.
Data should be plentiful in explosion of SpaceShipTwo, By Drew Harwell and Joel Glenn Brenner, Washington Post
NTSB Releases New Clues in SpaceShipTwo Accident Investigation (with video), SpaceRef
"Acting Chairman Christopher Hart's of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released new clues at the third media briefing Sunday evening.
1) The vehicle had a nominal release followed by a nominal Ignition.
2) Approximately 9 seconds after ignition, the "feather" parameters changed from lock to unlock.
According to Hart the "normal procedures are to command the feathers to unlock after Mach 1.4 so aerodynamic forces do not extend feathers prematurely."
"Now is not the time for speculation. Now is the time to focus on all those affected by this tragic accident and to work with the experts at the NTSB, to get to the bottom of what happened on that tragic day, and to learn from it so that we can move forward safely with this important mission."
Fine unlikely for boat that delayed Antares launch, Delmarvanow.com
"The sailboat was about 40 miles out to sea, NASA Wallops Flight Facility Director Bill Wrobel said. It was in the first of two avoidance areas for the launch -- the one set for the first rocket stage. The area extends some 50 nautical miles out from shore in a wedge shape, some 37 nautical miles wide near the shore and 17 nautical miles wide at its outer limit. The vessel was well beyond the 12 nautical miles over which the United States exercises sovereignty."
- Wallops Launch Delayed By A Boat, earlier post
"The Scaled Composites family lost a respected and devoted colleague yesterday, Michael Alsbury, who was the co-pilot for the test flight of SpaceShipTwo. Peter Siebold, the Director of Flight Operations at Scaled Composites, was piloting SpaceShipTwo. He is alert and talking with his family and doctors. We remain focused on supporting the families of the two pilots and all of our employees, as well as the agencies investigating the accident. We ask at this time that everyone please respect the privacy of the families."
"This is a very tough time for all of us at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Scaled Composites, and our thoughts remain with the families of the brave Scaled pilots, and all those affected by this tragedy. We are determined to find out what went wrong and are working with the authorities to get that information. It is too early for me to add any details of the investigation at this stage."
"On it's fourth powered test flight Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo was lost. The flight had a pilot and co-pilot. One did not survive, while the other was seriously injured. The drama unfolded in real time through social media."
On SpaceShipTwo and why space matters, Michael Belfiore
"... I say that money and time and effort and even lives spent reaching beyond the boundaries of Earth lift us all, even those of us who may never fly. ... To the pilot who gave his life and to the one who was injured yesterday, I say, "Thank you." Thank you for helping us all to look up. Thank you for doing what most of us lack the courage and the skill and the talent to do. And to their families, I also say, "Thank you." Thank you for sharing your loved ones with a dream that's much bigger than an individual or a family. Thank you for allowing them to risk all to make the world a better place."
- SNC Statement in Response to Inquiries Regarding Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Incident
- Space Frontier Foundation Mourns This Week's Events Involving SpaceShipTwo and Orb-3
- Media Update from Virgin Galactic - Oct. 31, 2014 6:15PM PST
- Statement from New Mexico Spaceport Authority on the SpaceShipTwo Mishap
- Statement from NASA Administrator on Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Mishap
- FAA Statement on SpaceShipTwo Incident
- Smith, Palazzo Statement on SpaceShipTwo Anomaly
"Chris Hayes reports on a fatal crash during the test flight for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, a commercial space ship designed to give passengers the sensation of weightlessness for $250,000 per flight. Guest: Keith Cowing, editor, NASAWatch.com"
"Telemetry data has been released to Orbital and our engineers presented a very quick look assessment to the Accident Investigation Board at the end of the day. It appears the Antares vehicle had a nominal pre-launch and launch sequence with no issues noted. All systems appeared to be performing nominally until approximately T+15 seconds at which point the failure occurred. Evidence suggests the failure initiated in the first stage after which the vehicle lost its propulsive capability and fell back to the ground impacting near, but not on, the launch pad. Prior to impacting the ground, the rocket's Flight Termination System was engaged by the designated official in the Wallops Range Control Center."
"The thing to keep in mind in all this is that we don't know what caused the mishap," Cowing cautions. "We all saw the explosion at the bottom of the rocket, but that doesn't mean anything. These investigations take time, and sometimes we don't even end up with all the answers."
Did Soviet-era engines doom Antares?, Mad Science Innovation
"Not that older equipment is necessarily flawed. NASA Watch publisher Keith Cowing, with whom I also spoke on the phone today, says: I don't necessarily have a problem with old stuff, if you maintain it. If it used to work, it still can work. There are DC-3s in Antarctica that have been rebuilt three times that fly people to the South Pole. It's the issue of, does the machinery do a task that you need it to do? Do you understand it well enough that you can maintain it in operating condition, and does it make sense financially?"
NASA, Orbital Sciences Begin Antares Loss Investigation, Aviation Week
"Although investigators are keeping their options open, a prime suspect is expected to be a potential failure mechanism involving the AJ-26, a liquid oxygen/kerosene-powered engine originally developed for the Russian space program as the NK-33. An AJ-26 slated to power an Antares on a mission to the ISS in 2015 experienced a failure during a hot-fire test at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on May 22."
"The Wallops Incident Response Team completed an initial assessment Wednesday of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff Tuesday from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."
Rockets blow up; we move on, Leroy Chiao, CNN
"Without a doubt, critics will arise and question why we are entrusting cargo deliveries and future crew exchanges to commercial companies. The answer is simple: It is the logical evolution of technology and commercialization, following the same path as the development of the airplane and commercial air transportation."
"Alliant Techsystems Inc. said it is evaluating any potential implications from Tuesday night's explosion of Orbital Sciences Inc.'s Antares rocket, a hint their plans to merge could be in jeopardy."
"The Orbital Sciences' Antares commercial supply rocket blew up over the beachside launch complex at Wallops Island in Virginia. Trading in the stocks was halted so that Orbital, which has planned to buy Alliant, could hold a conference call to discuss the rocket's failure with investors and analysts."
"Shares of Orbital Sciences Corp. dropped $4.35, or 14.3 percent, to $26.02 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday."
"Instead, all four launches of the mighty N1 Soviet rocket, which used an earlier iteration of the first-stage engines used in Thursday's launch, failed between 1969 and 1972. And as the Soviet Union abandoned the idea of putting cosmonauts on the moon, those engines languished in Russia "without a purpose," reported Space Lift Now. That was until they were snapped up by Dulles-based Orbital Sciences, which built the rocket that exploded."
Keith's note: The NK-33 (AJ-26) engines are actualy a product of Aerojet Rocketdyne - not Orbital Sciences.
Thompson hints there are other, unnamed options on table beyond accelerating new engine, but "too early to comment on it just yet".— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) October 29, 2014
Orbital Antares Rocket Explodes Shortly After Launch Shocking Onlookers, SpaceRef Business
"The launch was proceeding as expected. Across the board, the Orbital team manning their stations had green lights. The weather was almost perfect. There was a sense of anticipation after seeing the launch scrubbed the day before because a boat had wandered into the range. No one could have foreseen what would happen next."
"While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences' third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today's mishap. The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies."
"It is far too early to know the details of what happened," said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital's Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group. "As we begin to gather information, our primary concern lies with the ongoing safety and security of those involved in our response and recovery operations. We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. As soon as we understand the cause we will begin the necessary work to return to flight to support our customers and the nation's space program."
Keith's note:According to Frank Culbertson from Orbital Sciences there was an indication of problems 10-12 Seconds into the flight and that the range safety officer sent a destruct command at around 20 seconds. No idea what happened other than the rocket stopped, started to come apart, and fell straight to the ground. Crews will be in early tomorrow to start looking for debris.
"Chairman Smith and Palazzo: "We add our disappointment to the thousands in the space community who worked tirelessly in support of Tuesday evening's launch attempt at Wallops Island. We are relieved to hear there are no reported fatalities, and we anticipate learning more about the circumstances surrounding the launch failure in the near future."
"The third Orbital Sciences cargo mission to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract is scheduled to launch at 6:22 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 28, from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."
Keith's note: Tonight's ORB-3 launch from Wallops was delayed by a boat in restricted waters offshore. I tried to find a copy of these restrictions. Not being a mariner, this is the best that I could do at the Coast Guard website but I can't seem to find anything in it. Dan Leone found this at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency but I am not sure if there is anything in there either. I know there are maritime channels that are supposed to be monitored. Again, I am not a mariner and profess my ignorance. But if it is this hard to find these launch restrictions, is it any surprise that someone might not know that a launch is imminent? Is just assuming that people will know ahead of time the most efficient way to prevent a lunch delay on a multi-million dollar mission? Just wondering.
I asked NASA PAO for a copy of these restrictions. WFF PAO sent me this Notice to Mariners: Wallops Rocket Launch issued by NASA WFF on 16 October 2014. I have asked NASA how this is relayed to people who might be sailing offshore.
"(1) Persons and vessels shall only be prohibited from entering the area when launch operations are being conducted.
What is Interesting is how the NASASocial #spacetweeps more concerned about villifying the boat and its owner and not seeing a launch (without any facts as to why the boat was there or whether NASA alerted everyone adequately) than the fact that NASA tried to launch until last second when safety regulations prevailed. The system may be inefficent - but it worked. If only these space tweeps could integrate a real world quotient into how they cover and report NASA activities.
"Today's launch of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station will include the first hardware from commercial startup Planetary Resources."
"Pending completion of final vehicle testing and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch of the Orb-3 mission will take place on Monday, October 27, with lift-off scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia."
"Lift-off of the Antares rocket is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT)"
Keith's note: Shortly after many of us in Northern Virgina see Cygnus launched we'll have a spectacular ISS flyover. According to NASA here in Reston, VA we'll see the ISS fly over at 6:49 PM for 6 minutes at an elevation of 89 dgerees heading from the North West to South East.
"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:39 p.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 25, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning 3,276 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station (ISS)."
"Today, after 34 months of intense planning, development and training, Alan Eustace, supported by Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) and its Stratospheric Explorer (StratEx) team, made history with a near-space dive from a high-altitude balloon at approximately 135,000 feet. Eustace broke several records, including national record for highest exit altitude; world and national record for free fall under a drogue chute; national record for vertical speed. Additionally, he became the second person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft."
"The Space Economy at a Glance 2014 shows that while space budgets in the 34 OECD countries totalled USD 50.8 billion in 2013, down from USD 52.3 billion in 2008, the combined space budget of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) swelled to USD 24.0 billion from USD 16.5 billion over the same period. Supply chains for spacecraft, launchers and parts are increasingly globalised, IT companies are becoming satellite operators and rapid growth in small satellite launches will mean more commercialisation of earth observation data."
"We found Kennedy has made progress in its effort to become a multiuser spaceport with the Center having leased or in the process of leasing approximately half of the 23 underutilized assets. However, because NASA lacks clear guidance regarding soliciting and awarding lease agreements, Kennedy has not consistently provided interested parties with information regarding how Center officials would choose among prospective tenants."
SpaceX Reaches Milestone With 100th Merlin 1D Engine, SpaceRef Business
"The 100th Merlin 1D engine has come off the assembly at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. According to SpaceX it was less than two years ago that production began on Merlin 1D. Currently SpaceX produces four new Merlin 1D engines per week and they expect production will ramp up to five per week before the year is out."
"On August 27, 2014, we wrote you to request an update on the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew vehicle shortly after NASA conducted its Key Decision Point C (KDP-C) review 1. We asked for a response by September 10, 2014. To date, we have only received an acknowledgement of the letter's receipt. ... Finally, on September 16, 2014, Subcommittee staff reached out to NASA in order to gain support for facilitating a briefing on the Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract source selection, as well as the source selection statement. After NASA issued the request for proposals (RFP) for the contract it declined to comment on the procurement so as to not influence the selection. Understanding the sensitive nature of the source selection process, the Committee decided to reserve questions regarding the procurement until after the selection. ... Please provide responses to all of the previous requests by October 28, 2014."
"In filings with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, Sierra Nevada filed requests for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to overturn a NASA decision Oct. 9 lifting an order stopping work on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp."
- Why Sierra Nevada Did Not Win Any Commercial Crew Funds, earlier post
- NASA Tells Boeing and SpaceX to Proceed Despite SNC Protest, earlier post
- Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Award, earlier post
"Boeing and SpaceX will not be forced to stop work again on NASA's commercial crewed spacecraft program. Federal Judge Marian Blank Horn on Tuesday denied Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Louisville-based Space Systems' request for a federal injunction to force NASA to order the work stopped while the awarded contracts are under protest. If granted, the work stoppage would have been the second in two months."
Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details, Aviation Week
"I studied this in graduate school where, under a NASA study, I was charged with how we could get to Mars quickly," says McGuire, who earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scanning the literature for fusion-based space propulsion concepts proved disappointing."
Scientists Are Bashing Lockheed Martin's Nuclear Fusion 'Breakthrough', Business Insider
Although Lockheed Martin issued a press release saying it had several pending patents for its approach, the company has yet to publish any scientific papers on this latest work."
Shana Dale Joins FAA Commercial Space Office as Deputy AA, Space Policy Online
"Shana Dale will become Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as of November 3, 2014. She succeeds George Zamka who left AST this summer to join Bigelow Aerospace. Dale has served in a number of positions on Capitol Hill and in the George W. Bush Administration. She is perhaps best known in space policy circles as the first woman to serve as Deputy Administrator of NASA from 2005-2009 while Mike Griffin was Administrator."
"There's interest outside government as well, with various private companies that see a potential business in mining of asteroids and celestial objects for use in space. Recently, I caught up Dr. Phillip Metzger, a former research physicist at NASA's Kennedy Space Center who has recently joined the faculty of the University of Central Florida, to discuss the longer term goal of "bootstrapping a solar system civilization."
Why NASA Rejected Sierra Nevada's Commercial Crew Vehicle, Aviation Week
"The internal document, signed by NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier on Sept. 15, the day before the contract awards were announced, says, "I consider SNC's (Sierra Nevada Corp.) design to be the lowest level of maturity, with significantly more technical work and critical design decisions to accomplish. The proposal did not thoroughly address these design challenges and trades." Gerstenmaier goes on to say that Sierra's proposal "has more schedule uncertainty. For example, some of the testing planned after the crewed flight could be required before the crewed flight, and the impact of this movement will greatly stress the schedule."
- SNC Protest Halts NASA Commercial Crew Efforts, earlier post
- NASA Tells Boeing and SpaceX to Proceed Despite SNC Protest, earlier post
MIT Analysis Paints Bleak Outcome for Mars One Concept, SpacePolicyOnline
"An analysis by a team of MIT students of the Mars One concept to send people to Mars on one-way missions to establish a settlement there offers a bleak picture of the outcome. The paper was presented at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014) in Toronto last week. Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Samuel Schreiner, Andrew Owens and Olivier de Weck conducted "An Independent Assessment of the Technical Feasibility of the Mars One Mission Plan" supported by grants from NASA and the Josephine de Karman Fellowship Trust."
"There's a battle of the brains under way online about just how long the first human colonists to set up a new home on Mars will last on the Red Planet. A group of MIT students have challenged the viability of Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit's plan to set up a permanent colony on Mars with hearty volunteer astronauts who get a one-way ticket to both the fourth planet from the sun and history."
Keith's 10 Oct note: The MIT student team that did the analysis of Mars On eProject held an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit here.
Keith's 11 Oct note: An Open Letter on the Mars One Analysis by MIT Researchers, MIT
"On Oct. 9, under statutory authority available to it, NASA has decided to proceed with the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. notwithstanding the bid protest filed at the U.S. Government Accountability Office by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements."
"XCOR Aerospace today announced marked progress on the path to commercial space flight with the integration of the cockpit to the fuselage on XCOR's Lynx(R) spacecraft. With the fuselage, pressure cabin and strakes delivered, XCOR is bonding these structures together and integrating sub-assemblies, such as the landing gear, at its hangar in Mojave."
"The company Space Adventures in 2018 is going to send two space tourists circled the moon on the Russian spacecraft "Soyuz", according to the company's website. "Using the already proven Russian spacecraft flight, we will send two individual and one professional astronaut around the side of the moon. They will be 100 km from the lunar surface. We expect that our first mission will take place in 2018," - said in a statement."
Roscosmos Disavows Plan to Send Space Tourists to Moon, Moscow Times (June 2014)
"Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said. The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan."
Roscosmos Says Nyet To Space Adventures' Moon Plan, earlier post
Keith's note: NASA usually keeps a close eye on companies that use NASA's logo to imply an endorsement of a company's products - unless NASA has an agreement in place. Then there's the curious case of NASA Tech Briefs - a company with whom NASA Has a long-standing agreement in place that allows them to use word "NASA" and the NASA logo. If you go to their website you see that NASA logo, the word "NASA" everywhere but when it comes to actually directing visitors to their website to NASA well ... they do not do that. I did a "view source" on the NASA Tech briefs home page such that I could search for links to things at "nasa.gov". As you can see there are no links. Looking at the site they seem to be operating some sort of parallel NASA tech effort that avoids actually mentioning what NASA is doing in that area.
The link "Who's Who at NASA" goes to a page that makes no mention of the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate. The link NASA Tech Needs goes to a page that has a lead item of "Insect Processing Technologies for Chicken Feed" followed by "New Synthetic Nematicides" and other things last updated on 1 October 2013.
This is not a new problem (see below) - but it is a problem NASA seems to be uninterested in addressing. I would be willing to bet that there are commercial efforts out there who coud do a vastly better job of presenting NASA's technology portfolio - if only this relationship was opened up for competition.
- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, 2012 post
- NASA Technology That Can't Link To Itself, 2012 post
- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, 2011 post
- Official NASA Publication Seeks Opinions On Gun Control, 2008 post
- NASA Technology Outreach Is Still Scattered and Dysfunctional, 2014 post
"Pioneers of the commercial space age celebrated the 10th anniversary of the SpaceShipOne rocket plane's final flight to the final frontier on Saturday, shedding fresh tears over a decade-old drama, hugging it out -- and then blowing out the candles on a cake. The festivities unfolded at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the SpaceShipOne saga reached its climax with the winning of the $10 million Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004."
Virgin Galactic 'on the verge' of private space launches, space.com via Yahoo
"A seat aboard the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo currently costs $250,000. So far, Virgin Galactic has sold more than 700 tickets. Initially in 2004, Branson expected that SpaceShipTwo would be flying customers by 2007. "It's been a great voyage," Branson said. "It has taken longer than we thought."
Keith's note: Interesting how XPrize and Virgin Galactic hand-picked the news media in attendance for this self-indulgent celebration of their 7th consecutive year of delays in beginning commercial service. Happy anniversary!
Boeing, SpaceX told to stop work under crew contracts, Spaceflight Now
"NASA has directed Boeing and SpaceX to halt activities under contracts awarded last month to build commercial space taxis to ferry astronauts to the the International Space Station while the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviews a protest of NASA's contract decision filed by Sierra Nevada Corp."
Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Award, earlier post
Why Boeing Beat SpaceX in NASA's Space-Taxi Contest, WSj (subscription)
"Boeing Co. received consistently higher rankings than Space Exploration Technologies Corp. during NASA's recent multibillion-dollar competition to build "space taxis," according to an internal agency document. The memo--dated Sept. 15 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal--provides an inside look at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's deliberations and reveals why agency officials rated Boeing's bid better across the board than the one submitted by SpaceX, as the smaller company is called. ... The document won't become public until a protest by a third company, Sierra Nevada Corp., is resolved. Sierra Nevada, which didn't receive any award but contends its rankings were comparable to the winners, has said the government could save $900 million by picking its proposal. Legal wrangling could drag on for months, potentially slowing down progress on the vehicles or putting work by Boeing or SpaceX on hold."
"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced a design for an integrated system for human spaceflight that can be launched to low Earth orbit (LEO) using Stratolaunch System's air launch architecture and a scale version of SNC's Dream Chaser(R) spacecraft."
Sierra Nevada Corporation Protests NASA's Commercial Crew Program Award, SpaceRef Business
"A representative from Sierra Nevada Corporation has confirmed to SpaceRef that they have filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office regarding the CCtCap contract."
"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced today that it has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. The CCtCap program will restore U.S. transportation capability to the International Space Station.
SNC, Boeing and SpaceX submitted separate proposals for the CCtCap program. While all three competitors were found to be compliant and awardable under the criteria set forth in the request for proposal (RFP), only two proposals were selected (Boeing and SpaceX), one of which would result in a substantial increased cost to the public despite near equivalent technical and past performance scores."
"On the heels of awarding groundbreaking contracts to U.S. commercial space companies to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA has released a request for proposals (RFP) for the next round of contracts for private-sector companies to deliver experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory."
"This wind tunnel no longer exists, and very little remains as historic artifacts available to the public from this remarkable tunnel. You are buying a true piece of aviation and aeronautic history. Most of these fan blades were re-purposed by NASA and used as tributes to the historic tunnel. Now you can have the same in your museum or board room."
Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Program to Continue, SpaceRef Business
"Having lost out to Boeing and SpaceX for the lucrative Commercial Crew Program contract, Sierra Nevada's Mark Sirangelo told the Denver Post the companies plans to go forward with development of the spacecraft and bid on future contracts."
NASA's Emerging Space Office Releases New Report, SpaceRef Business
"NASA's Emerging Space Office (ESO), part of NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, has released a new report "The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight." According to NASA the "report provides an introduction and overview to the emerging space ecosystem and American private-sector space activities."
NASA views "new space" with hope, support -- and wariness, Houston Chronicle
"The ruthlessness of Musk and SpaceX bend toward a singular goal, to drive down the cost of access to space. And it's working. NASA paid SpaceX a relative pittance, less than $400 million, for the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft that's now supplying the space station. NASA estimated it would have cost the space agency four to 10 times as much to do the same thing. Musk is also building a massive rocket, the Falcon 9 Heavy, which could fly three years earlier than the heavy lift rocket NASA is building, the Space Launch System, and may deliver cargo to orbit at a tenth of the cost. For Musk, however, these are just baby steps. He, too, wants to build reusable rockets. "What SpaceX has done so far is evolutionary, but not revolutionary," Musk said earlier this year."
SpaceX Breaks Ground on New Texas Spaceport, SpaceRef Business [Download artist illustrations]
"Today SpaceX broke ground for the development of their new Texas spaceport at Boca Chica Beach. Along with CEO Elon Musk, Texas Governor Rick Perry and other dignitaries were in attendance."
Video of the event has been added.
"The spacecraft's 2.5 tons of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support 255 science and research investigations that will occur onboard the station."
Includes the post-launch briefing news conference.
"In addition, while utilization of the ISS for research continues to increase, NASA and its partner responsible for attracting private research to the Station -- the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) -- continue to face challenges. For example, to date CASIS has raised only $14,550 in cash and received pledges of $8.2 million to supplement NASA's $15 million annual cooperative agreement. In addition, CASIS officials reported that provisions in its agreement with NASA that require researchers to assign certain patent licenses and data rights to the Government are deterring commercial stakeholders from conducting research on the ISS. "
A better golf club? Space may play a role in that., Florida Today
"This is not research on a golf club," said Duane Ratliff, CASIS chief operating officer. "This is industrial research and development on materials that is clearly targeted for the improvement of products that will go to the marketplace. ... Ratliff likely spoke for most of them when he joked, "Honestly, I'm hoping that whatever comes out of this will straighten out my slice."
"Through this investigation, the research and design team at COBRA PUMA GOLF hopes to gain a better understanding of certain material characteristics that can be used to create some of the most innovative and technologically advanced golf products in the market."
Keith's note: OK Duane - if this is not "golf club" research, then what other "golf products" are you doing research on? Why hasn't the past 2 years of CASIS-sponsored golf research on ISS yielded any published results or status reports from CASIS? As for your attempts to downplay the golfing aspect of what you are doing - your logo for these payloads clearly emphasizes golf over everything else.
As for the IG's report, "$14,550 in cash"? I have to wonder what a "pledge" actually entails - obviously not much in terms of actual cash. CASIS is clearly falling well short of where NASA - and everyone else - expected CASIS to be at this point.
Baseball raffles and golf-themed co-branding do not a vibrant ISS research program make.
- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS Would Rather Go Golfing Than Do Actual ISS Research, earlier post
"United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation's premier space launch company, and Blue Origin, LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced today that they have entered into an agreement to jointly fund development of the new BE-4 rocket engine by Blue Origin. This new collaboration will allow ULA to maintain the heritage, success and reliability of its rocket families - Atlas and Delta - while addressing the long-term need for a new domestic engine.
"The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s will power each ULA booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. "
Marc's Update: I've added the video of the news conference to the press release.
Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal
"Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."
Keith's note: When I asked today if Blue Origin had been part of Boeing's commercial crew proposal team (one that would use a United Launch Alliance rocket), ULA CEO Tory Bruno said "No". He went on to say that their bid used existing engine capabilities. Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos added later that yesterday's NASA commercial crew announcement and today's engine announcement were totally separate and unrelated.
"It also is not yet known whether Congress will appropriate enough money to fund the development of two spacecraft or whether NASA will be forced to down select to a single provider at some point down the road. But Bolden said he was confident Congress will provide the funding necessary to keep SpaceX and Boeing on track for maiden flights in the 2017 timeframe. Congress has appropriated about $2 billion for the commercial crew program since 2011, about a billion dollars less than NASA requested. The agency hopes to get around $800 million for the program in its fiscal 2015 budget."
"NASA officials declined to discuss in detail why they selected Boeing and SpaceX while passing on the Dream Chaser, but said it was a close call. "This wasn't an easy choice, but it's the best choice for NASA and the nation," Bolden said. Lueders said the different amounts set aside for the two companies were based on the amounts proposed by the companies themselves. "Both Boeing and SpaceX proposed to the same set of requirements," she said. "NASA awarded the contracts based on their proposals. It's two contracts to the same requirements."
Keith's note: In summary: NASA does not know if it will have enough money to fund both Boeing and SpaceX, won't tell anyone why or how they made the selections, and gave Boeing $1.6 billion more than they gave to SpaceX to do the same work assigned to SpaceX. Just the sort of questions Congress will be asking.
"NASA awarded a total of $6.8 billion in contracts with Boeing getting the larger share, $4.2 billion and SpaceX getting $2.6 billion for doing what appears the same work. NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders was asked several times by reporters why the difference in the funding allocation but only said it was based on the price submitted by the companies in their proposals."
"NASA will make a major announcement today at 4 p.m. EDT regarding the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States. The agency will make the announcement during a news conference from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website."
Keith's note: Moments ago Sen. Bill Nelson was on CNN. When asked what the NASA decision to give commercial crew awards to "Boeing and SpaceX" means, he confirmed that awards were being given to "these two companies".
"Boeing Co. (BA) and Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will share a multibillion-dollar federal contract to help restart U.S. manned spaceflights and reduce reliance on Russian rockets, a congressional leader said. The two companies will split the award being unveiled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration later today, said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House Science Committee. NASA is planning an announcement on the program at 4 p.m. in Washington."
Keith's update: Rep. Johnson's PR person says that she never actually said said this. Here is what her office is putting out as a quote: Science Committee Democrats Congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on NASA's CCtCap Awards
Keith's note: It is official: Boeing will get $4.2 billion, SpaceX $2.6 billion.
"While Boeing and SpaceX handle the task of taking our astronauts to the space station, the scientists on Earth and astronauts on the orbiting ISS National Laboratory will continue the groundbreaking research that has been taking place there for almost 14 years now without interruption. They will be able to add to that portfolio with an expanded crew made possible by the arrival of these new spacecraft."
FAA Releases Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety, SpaceRef Business
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) today released its first Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety document today during the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting.
From the introduction: "The purpose of this document is to provide a compilation of practices that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) believes are important and recommends for commercial human space flight occupant safety. The document is intended to enable a dialogue among, and perhaps consensus of, government, industry, and academia on practices that will support the continuous improvement of the safety of launch and reentry vehicles designed to carry humans."
Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal
"The long-secretive space ambitions of Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., suddenly are about to get a lot more public. Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."
Boeing Takes Lead to Build Space Taxi, Wall Street Journal
"Boeing Co. appears positioned to beat out two smaller rivals for the bulk of a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from orbit, according to government and aerospace-industry officials. An award to Boeing would represent a victory over the newer Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, which had been considered a favorite in many quarters because of its lower costs and nimbler approach. The decision on the development of space taxis will be a milestone for commercial space endeavors, locking in unparalleled authority for contractors to develop and operate vehicles with limited federal oversight. An announcement is expected as early as Tuesday."
Keith's note: Just because something is published in the Wall Street Journal does not mean that it is accurate. The author of these stories has confused two separate stories with each other. Tomorrow's Blue Origin event was scheduled long before NASA even made its CCiCAP decision and would have gone ahead even if NASA had delayed making an announcement - and would have also been made regardless of what NASA will be announcing for CCiCAP.
Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) Set to Meet, SpaceRef Business
"Some of the items of interest include hearing from Kathy Lueders, NASA's relative new Commercial Crew Program Program Manager, an update from The Honorable Lamar Smith on the Congressional Perspective of the Commercial Space Launch Act, ASTEROIDS Act, and NASA Reauthorization, an update on DARPA's XS-1 and its application to Commercial Space Transportation, and an update from the Department of State regarding the Outer Space Treaty."
"With respect to Kathy Lueders speaking it will be interesting to hear why no commercial crew announcement has been made yet. On the other hand this would be a good opportunity for her to speak should an announcement be made beforehand. And with Lamar Smith scheduled to speak only hours after Kathy it will be interesting to hear his point of view on the status of the Commercial Crew Program irregardless of whether an announcement has been made."
Marc's note: The second day of the meeting will be webcast.
Marc's update: 7:25 PM ET: Twitter reports are circulating that the Commercial Crew announcement will be tomorrow. We have not been able to confirm them. I've also heard there would be two awards which is not what Congress wants. With Lamar Smith speaking shortly after Lueders, this could get interesting.
"CASIS has been tasked by Congress and NASA to work with new and non-traditional researchers for the development of products, therapies, and services onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory," said CASIS President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson. "Our partnership with COBRA PUMA GOLF is an excellent example of a truly non-traditional research investigation taking advantage of the microgravity environment to advance knowledge in applied materials science." In June of 2012, CASIS and CPG signed an initial Memorandum of Agreement ..."
Keith's note: Has CASIS actually published or promoted any of the research results from this ongoing golf in space effort? I have seen zero evidence that it has. CASIS loves to promote these vapid press releases that promise - but never deliver - amazing return on NASA's investment via goofy sports tie-ins - yet they ignore actual commercial research such as that being done by Ardbeg on the ISS. And of course, CASIS is so inept that they cannot figure out how to tell people about the weekly ACTUAL ISS research results that NASA puts out as part of its Spaceline updates. What is baffling is why NASA continues to put up with this inadequate performance by CASIS.
- ISS Commercial Research That CASIS Utterly Ignores, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Signs Deal with COBRA PUMA GOLF for Research on ISS (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS: It Takes More Than Golf to Utilize the ISS, earlier post
- CASIS Defines Bedtime Stories on ISS as "Major Payload", earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Incapable of Doing Its Job, earlier post
"Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Spaceflight Contest - "Spaceship Earth Grants Corp. (SEG), a Public Benefit Corporation, is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible. SEG offers applicants a chance to travel to space while helping to fund efforts and organizations that are making a significant positive impact on planet Earth. SEG will be providing grants to individuals and organizations that are likewise committed to bettering their communities. For more information, visit spaceshipearthgrants.com.
About Star Harbor Space Training Academy - Star Harbor Space Training Academy will be the first-in-the-world publicly accessible, fully comprehensive and environmentally immersive space training academy. The Star Harbor team is led by CEO Maraia Hoffman and includes former NASA Astronauts Leland Melvin and Ron Garan. More information about Star Harbor will be announced in October."
"NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has released what could be a new regular video feature called Inside KSC. It appears to be a complementary product to the September edition of the KSC Spaceport Magazine."
"... That timeline represents a delay from statements Branson made as recently as last month. In an interview with USA Today published Aug. 17, he said he expected to be on that first commercial flight by the end of this year. "I'll be bitterly disappointed if I'm not into space by the end of the year," he said. A Virgin Galactic spokewoman said that, despite Branson's comments, the company has no formal schedule for beginning commercial flights. "As we've stated in the past, the inaugural commercial flight date will be set by safety and readiness," Jessica Gilbert said Sept. 11 via email."
New Commercial Moon Services Study Available, SpaceRef Business
"The Space Angels Network brought to my attention a new study by Chad Anderson a Managing Director of the Space Angels Network. Chad completed the study while obtaining his MBA at Oxford. The study was finished in 2013 but has only been recently made public."
Keith's note: Don't expect to see a commercial crew selection announcement this week. Unless things change, of course.
NanoRacks Update on CubeSat Deployer Problem, SpaceRef Business
"NanoRacks this morning provided an update on the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers (NRCSD) which had inadvertently deployed thee CubeSats while not deploying others when commanded. The NanRacks team has been able to replicate the problem on the ground which they hope will lead to a solution."
"NASA has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA's continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth's atmosphere."
"In 2011, vials of Ardbeg scotch whiskey were sent to the International Space Station as part of an experiment to see how the spirits' maturation process is affected by the near zero gravity of near space. Now it's almost time for a homecoming."
- Ardbeg Distillery Launches U.S. Rocket Tour Celebrating "World First" Space Experiment, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores, earlier post
- Whisky in Space: the Road Show - Update, earlier post
Keith's 1 May 2012 note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen. A preview of things to come, I am afraid.
Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image that I made a few weeks ago people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend. Oops.
NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 4 September 2014 , SpaceRef
"Today: NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers: Additional attempts to launch CubeSats from deployers #4, 7, and 8 were made overnight without success. 24 commands were sent attempting to deploy #4, 30 commands were sent to deployer #7, and 17 deploy commands were sent to deployer #8. Ground Teams are continuing to assess the issue and are working on a forward plan."
Previous: NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 25 August 2014, SpaceRef
"Today: NanoRacks Inadvertent Deploy: On Saturday, ground teams observed the inadvertent deploy of two Cosmogia CubeSats from Deployer #5 of the NanoRack Cubesat Deployer (NRCSD). The ISS was still in the deploy attitude and the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS) was still positioned for the deployment. No issues have been identified with the deployment trajectory, the CubeSats or the ISS. Ground teams are investigating the probable cause and discussing future operations with the NRCSD and CubeSats remaining in the deployer."
Update: The September 5th ISS status report details another "inadvertent deploy" from the #7 launcher door.
"Seeking to "jumpstart" the on-orbit robotic satellite servicing concept, DARPA has issued a request for information (RFI) for companies to submit ideas to enable a flight demonstration within the next five years."
SpaceX Challenges Patent Filed by Blue Origin, SpaceRef Business
"An employee of Docket Alarm earlier today posted on tech news blog Slashdot that SpaceX had filled a challenge to the patent owned by Blue Origin for "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods", which was granted earlier this year. Blue Origin has three months to provide a preliminary response."
Marc's Note: It was bound to happen sooner or later and it is unfortunate as it costs both companies to deal with the challenge. Is this an isolated case or are more patent skirmishes going to be forthcoming?
Keith's note: The Thunderbirds were doing all of these various launch and landing scenarios - on dry land - and in the water - in the 1960s. Who thought all of this up first?
Future In-Space Operations Teleconference with SpaceX Garrett Reisman, SpaceRef Buisness
"On August 27, 2014, former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman participated in the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) teleconference. Now the DragonRider Program Manager for SpaceX, Reisman presented a slide show on SpaceX commercial spaceflight."
Marc's note: Last week I decided to run a poll on who our readers thought would be selected for funding in the next round of NASA's Commercial Crew Program which many expect to be announced tomorrow. The results were surprising at first. I expected, considering the wide variety of readers we have, to have a very close poll. What I didn't expect was the blatant padding of the results for two of the companies.
Until Monday the results were headed to what I was expecting. However at some point on Monday, "block voting" began. The votes were coming from 4 IP addresses. 3 of these IP addresses came Connecticut - specifically from the area around Norwalk (where Boeing has an office). The last IP block was traced to Sierra Nevada Corporation. It should be noted that the poll was setup with cookies so that repeat voting was not allowed. SpaceX votes were distributed across the U.S. and other countries with nothing traceable to a SpaceX office.
So presented here are two poll results. As you can see there was considerable padding of the results, but once the block voting was removed it shows a much closer result.You may interpret this unscientific poll anyway you like.
SpaceX Update on AsiaSat 6 Mission
"What we do want to triple-check is whether even highly improbable corner case scenarios have the optimal fault detection and recovery logic. This has already been reviewed by SpaceX and multiple outside agencies, so the most likely outcome is no change. If any changes are made, we will provide as much detail as is allowed under U.S. law."
Europe's Latest Galileo Satellites Injected Into Wrong Orbit After Launch, SpaceRef Business
"An investigation is underway after yesterday's launch by Arianespace of a Soyuz rocket which left its twin payload of Europe's fifth and six Galileo GPS satellites in a lower wrong orbit.
According to a statement released by Arianespace "complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit."
Marc's note: After congratulatory speeches it was later learned from U.S. military data that the satellites were in the wrong orbit. One of the many questions include why didn't the launch telemetry indicate the wrong orbit? The almost two hour Arianespace broadcast did not indicate anything wrong. Details courtesy Space News Paris Bureau Chief Peter B. de Selding.
Marc's update: Based on what we know now this could be a candidate mission for future on-orbit servicing.
"Earlier today, in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX conducted a test flight of a three engine version of the F9R test vehicle (successor to Grasshopper). During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission. Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times. With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program. Today's test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test. As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test. SpaceX will provide another update when the flight data has been fully analyzed."
"NASA's spaceflight experts in the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) met throughout July with aerospace partners to review increasingly advanced designs, elements and systems of the spacecraft and launch vehicles under development as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiatives."
... "In August or September, NASA plans to award one or more contracts that will provide the agency with commercial services to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station by the end of 2017."
"Boeing recently completed the Phase Two Spacecraft Safety Review of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft and the Critical Design Review (CDR) of its integrated systems, meeting all of the company's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones on time and on budget."
Video: Small Satellite Conference 2014 Keynote Speaker Steve Jurvetson, Small Satellite Conference
"Steve Jurvetson is one of the commercial space industry's most successful investors. He is a partner of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, where he serves on the boards of Planet Labs, SpaceX, Synthetic Genomics and Tesla Motors."
Space Exploration Technologies, the commercial space transportation startup founded by Elon Musk with ambitions to land people on Mars, is raising investment that values the company somewhere south of $10 billion, TechCrunch has learned.
Musk's SpaceX Denies Blog Report of Capital Raising Plan, Bloomberg Business Week
"SpaceX is not currently raising any funding nor has any external valuation of that magnitude or higher been done," John Taylor, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. "The source in this [TechCrunch] report is mistaken."
Marc's note: It should be noted SpaceX did not refute the original story by Quartz in April where Quartz said SpaceX was close to closing a round of funding at that time.
CCtCAP Commercial Crew Announcement Expected Soon, SpacePolicyOnline
"NASA declined today (August 18) to confirm rumors that it will announce the winner(s) of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contract by the end of the month, but anticipation is mounting. Whenever it happens, it will be a major step forward for the commercial crew program and achieving the oft-stated goal of restoring America's ability to launch American astronauts into space on American rockets from American soil. A NASA spokesman replied to an email query this morning by saying only that NASA still expects to make an announcement in the late-August, early-September time frame, as it has been saying for months. NASA officials are not allowed to discuss the selection process before announcing the award(s), even to say who submitted bids. Expectations are that at least the three companies being funded under the current phase of the program - Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) - did so."
- Who Will Win the Next Round for the Commercial Crew Program?, Earlier Post
- SpaceX Hater Article Disappears From Forbes Website, Earlier Post
NASA Closes On Commercial Crew Selection, Aviation Week
"Almost five years after beginning its search for a U.S.-developed spacecraft to carry humans into orbit, NASA is poised to award at least one contract to its industry partners in the Commercial Crew Program."
When SpaceX Falters, Washington Looks The Other Way (From Forbes) Loren Thompson at Lexington Institute
"Space Exploration Technologies Corporation -- SpaceX -- has won broad support in Washington by offering a low-cost, innovative alternative to traditional launch providers for lofting satellites into orbit. However, the company is struggling to meet commitments to its government customer, and eventually that may tarnish its image. ... I have written a commentary for Forbes here."
Keith's note: The Forbes article that Thompson refers to at Forbes is no longer online. Several websites have apparently reprinted the article such as this one [update - now removed]. Hmmm why did Forbes pull this article offline? Could it be that the article was ... inaccurate?
The curious case of a deleted Forbes.com commentary on SpaceX, Space Politics
"SpaceX is no stranger to both strong support and harsh criticism of its activities, particularly in political circles. Last month, for example, three members of the House of Representatives asked NASA for details on an "epidemic of anomalies" they claimed the company's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have experienced. But the company's decision early this month to establish a commercial launch site near Brownsville, Texas, generated praise from various officials, including US Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)."
Emerging Space: The Next Industrial Revolution - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef Business [Video]
"At this years AIAA Space 2014 conference a panel of experts from industry and government discussed Emerging Space: The Next Industrial Revolution.
The availability of the International Space Station and the corresponding improved access to and from LEO has ushered in the start of a new entrepreneurial renaissance. In addition there are companies exploring revolutionary approaches to Earth observation, space manufacturing, and resource utilization of the lunar and asteroidal material. This panel will explore the broad sweep of possible applications as well as looking at how these companies could combine to form a new commercial space ecosystem."
SpaceX Releases Falcon 9 First Stage Reentry Footage from Chase Plane, SpaceRef Business
"SpaceX has released a video from the July 14th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying six ORBCOM satellites showing the first stage reentry from a chase plane."
Bigelow Aerospace Releases BEAM Promotional Video, SpaceRef Business
"Bigelow Aerospace has released a promotional video on their Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). It runs six and a half minutes and includes new footage."
3 commercial companies compete in new space race, Houston Chronicle
"NASA should make its decision on the "commercial crew" competition in the next few weeks. At stake is not just a $4 billion contract, but prestige. The next spacecraft that flies U.S. astronauts will have an American flag, yes, but also a prominent corporate logo. That company will also join the elite club - whose only members include the United States, Russia and China - that has flown humans in space."
Marc's note: Insider vs outsider, who will win?
Also, while the article overall is worth reading, the characterization of Senator Bill Nelson as "a former astronaut" is misleading if you don't the know history. Nelson indeed did fly as a mission specialist on STS-61C, but he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time and like Senator Jake Garn who preceded him the year before, he flew on the Space Shuttle because of his role in the House of Representatives.
The Near Term Future of On-Orbit Servicing is Robotic, SpaceRef Business
"Currently, over "$500 billion dollars in satellite assets are stationed in geosynchronous orbit (GEO)," according to Gordon Roesler, a program manager in the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), and if those assets break down, "given the remote, heavily radiated atmosphere of GEO, a company only has one replacement option at this time - launching a replacement system."
"Our world is becoming rapidly connected and as humanity ventures off planet they will take their appetites for LOLz, cat memes, silly YouTube videos, and iTunes with them making a need for space-based internet and other broadband services a reality according to panelists speaking on "The Future of Space-Based Communications" at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."
"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is facing a putative class action in California court accusing it of not properly notifying its former employees of a mass layoff of up to roughly 400 workers in the state, and not paying them wages earned before termination. The proposed class action, filed Monday, alleged that SpaceX ordered the mass layoffs of between 200 and 400 workers on or about July 21 without giving advance notice to the them, in violation of California's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act."
"The lawsuit, filed Aug. 4 in the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, appears to hinge on whether SpaceX's dismissal of several hundred employees is viewed by the court as a "layoff." The lawsuit says that under California law, a "layoff" is defined as "a separation from a position for lack of funds or lack of work."
"The nation's commercial spaceport network will be expanding from the "8 that are operating now, to 17 in the next few years," Brian Gulliver, a spaceport development team leader at Reynolds, Smith and Hills, told an audience attending the panel "An Expanding Network of Commercial Spaceports" this morning at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."
"Worst of all is this statement from the paper: "Thrust was observed on both test articles, even though one of the test articles was designed with the expectation that it would not produce thrust." In other words, the Cannae Drive worked when it was set up correctly--but it worked just as well when it was intentionally
disabled set up incorrectly. Somehow the NASA researchers report this as a validation, rather than invalidation, of the device."
Don't Get Too Excited About NASA's New Miracle Engine, io9
"Carroll's final point - that the researchers measured thrust not only when the drive was configured to produce it, but also when set up to do nothing at all - may be the most important takeaway of all."
- EMdrive tested by NASA, Reddit
- JSC's Strange Thruster Violates The Laws of Physics, earlier post
Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Spacecraft on Track for November 2016 Launch, SpaceRef Business
"Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft is "on track for its anticipated first launch in November 2016," Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC Space Systems, told a press conference on August 5, 2014, at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."
Related: Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser Program Expands, SpaceRef Business
"The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has announced an expansion of its Dream Chaser program, which now includes a mix of small businesses, legacy aerospace firms, university partners, and foreign space operation organizations, in "32 states, 50 Congressional districts, and 2 foreign nations."
SpaceX Signs Agreement with Texas for Brownsville Spaceport, SpaceRef Business
"Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that the state of Texas will provide incentives to SpaceX so that the company can build a commercial spaceport in Cameron County.
The incentives include $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). As well the state will provide $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. to support the development of infrastructure necessary for establishing a spaceport."
Marc's note: Hours after signing the agreement with Texas SpaceX launched AsiaSat 8 (Watch).
Hartman: U.S. and Russian Crews to Fly Both Soyuz and U.S. Commercial Vehicles, Space Policy Online
"Hartman's point was that in an emergency, it might not make sense to have all the Russians leave on one spacecraft and the Americans and others on a separate spacecraft because a mixture of experience may be needed to conduct operations. "When you have these rescue vehicles on orbit and you have to leave the station...it doesn't make much sense for three Russians to leave and expect the four Americans onboard to operate the Russian segment [of the ISS] and vice versa, right?" Hartman said."
AIAA Town Hall: We Need Talent for the Vision, SpaceRef Business
"After a long day of plenaries and technical sessions there was one last event in the evening for participants at this years AIAA Propulsion and Energy Conference, the Town Hall with a theme of "Where's MY Apollo Vision for the Future?"
... The young professionals in attendance, mostly engineers, were treated to an expert panel of rocket engineers who came to share their experience and offer some practical career tips."
Keith's 17 Jun note: Have a look at the speakers at the upcoming Space Frontier Foundation New Space Conference. This organization claims to be at the forefront of space exploration. If so then the future will be run by males currently in their 50s.
"New" Space? looks more like "old" space to me.
What about everyone else?
Keith's 24 July update: They have added a little more diversity to their speakers list in the past month but this is still a conference where mostly middle age white males (like me) are the ones talking about the future of space. How depressing.
"NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to investigate the possibility of using commercial Mars-orbiting satellites to provide telecommunications capabilities for future robotic missions to the Red Planet.
"We are looking to broaden participation in the exploration of Mars to include new models for government and commercial partnerships," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Depending on the outcome, the new model could be a vital component in future science missions and the path for humans to Mars."
SpaceX Releases ORBCOMM First Stage Return Video, SpaceRef Business
"Following last week's successful launch of six ORBCOMM satellites, the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage reentered Earth's atmosphere and soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean. This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity."
"SpaceWorks has released a mini-study "Global Launch Vehicle Market Assessment, A study of launch services for nano/microsatellites in 2013". The reports aims to capture the growing number of future nano/microsatellite missions requiring a launch."
Marc's note: I received an email from Spaceworks to clarify that is not their annual assessment but rather a mini-study they conducted.
"NASA has released a new monograph "Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce" in the Monographs in Aerospace History series (no. 54)."
"We're in a hostage situation," former NASA administrator Michael Griffin told ABC News. "Russia can decide that no more U.S. astronauts will launch to the International Space Station and that's not a position that I want our nation to be in." But there is a new sort of space race happening now to help reestablish U.S. autonomy. Three private companies -- Boeing, Space-Ex and Sierra Nevada -- are currently competing for billions of dollars in NASA funding to build the next ride to space for American astronauts."
Keith's note: Funny thing: at least one of these commercial ventures will crews fly sooner than Mike Griffin's Ares/Orion would ever have flown under even the most optimistic of scenarios.
"A National Research Council report, 3D Printing in Space, says it's too soon for 3-D Printing to significantly enhance space operations. Released today, the report includes several recommendations including that NASA and the Air Force should jointly cooperate, possibly with other agencies and industry, "to to research, identify, develop, and gain consensus on standard qualification and certification methodologies for different applications."
"Many of the claims made in the popular press about this technology have been exaggerated." said Robert Latiff, chair of the committee that wrote the report, president of Latiff Associates, and a former Air Force Major General. "For in-space use, the technology may provide new capabilities, but it will serve as one more tool in the toolbox, not a magic solution to tough space operations and manufacturing problems. However, right now NASA and the Air Force have a tremendous resource in the form of the International Space Station," Latiff added. "Perfecting this technology in space will require human interaction, and the Space Station already provides the infrastructure and the skilled personnel who can enable that to happen."
Related: Too Soon for 3-D Printing to Significantly Enhance Space Operations, Report Says, National Research Council
Made In Space 3D Printer Gets Green Light from NASA for Launch, SpaceRef Business
"The United States must now respond decisively and provide our own domestic capacity to launch our crew and cargo into space," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. "We simply cannot rely on the vicissitudes of foreign suppliers in a foreign nation for our national security." The full costs of replacing the engine could be much higher than Congress is willing to commit to right now. It is, quite literally, rocket science to fit a new engine into existing rockets. Aside from building the engine itself, engineers will also need to make sure every other component works with the new machinery, kind of like switching out a car's hybrid engine with a V8. That could take five to eight years and cost up to $2 billion, predicted the Pentagon's acquisition and technology chief, Alan Estevez."
Assured Access to Space - Prepared testimony and video, Senate Armed Services Committee
Keith's note: We went from having only tiny rockets to the Saturn V (and its massive engines) in 8 years. Here we are in the 21st century and it is going to take us the same amount of time to reverse engineer a 50 year old Russian engine design? Am I missing something?
"Three members of Congress from Alabama and Colorado have asked NASA to provide information on what they receive to be an "epidemic of anomalies" on missions performed by SpaceX."
"Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO), along with Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO), sent a letter to the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) expressing strong concerns over anomalies that have occurred on taxpayer-funded space launch vehicles, and the lack of public disclosure or transparency of these anomalies. The letter expresses concern over an epidemic of anomalies that have occurred during SpaceX launches or launch attempts, and communicates frustrations with NASA's refusal to provide insight into those mishaps. "
U.K. Government Paves Way for Spaceport [With Video], SpaceRef Business
"The UK's bid to become Europe's leading space nation took a giant leap forward today as government revealed the 8 locations now under consideration to base Britain's first spaceport.
Speaking at Farnborough Air Show's 'Space Day', Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill and Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency Dr David Parker unveiled the findings of a recent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report highlighting 8 possible airfields that could host a spaceport and the economic opportunities it could open up for the UK."
"In an era of declining budgets and adversaries' evolving capabilities, quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for both national and economic security. Current satellite launch systems, however, require scheduling years in advance for a handful of available slots. Launches often cost hundreds of millions of dollars each, in large part to the massive amounts of dedicated infrastructure and personnel required.
- The Boeing Company (working with Blue Origin, LLC)
- Masten Space Systems (working with XCOR Aerospace)
- Northrop Grumman Corporation (working with Virgin Galactic)"
"Boeing plans to design a reusable launch vehicle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of the U.S. government's efforts to reduce satellite launch costs. DARPA's XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane is conceived as a reusable, unmanned booster with costs, operation and reliability similar to modern aircraft."
SpaceX Private Spaceport in Texas Another Step Closer After FAA Decision, SpaceRef Business
"In providing a favorable environmental ruling for SpaceX's proposed private spaceport in Cameron County, Texas last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decision brings SpaceX one step closer realizing its goal. SpaceX has been pretty coy as to where it would build its private spaceport with Texas being the frontrunner but with other locations always in the mix including Florida, Puerto Rico and other Texas counties."
"The ROD provides the FAA's final environmental determination and approval to support the issuance of launch licenses and/or experimental permits that would allow Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical launch vehicles and a variety of reusable suborbital launch vehicles from a launch site on privately owned property in Cameron County, Texas, as proposed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) published in May 2014."
"A multitude of NASA research investigations, crew provisions, hardware and science experiments from across the country is headed to the International Space Station aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus spacecraft. The cargo craft launched aboard Orbital's Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 12:52 p.m. EDT Sunday. "
Antares Launched (video)
"Orbital announced this morning that the launch of the Antares rocket for the Orb-2 Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station for NASA has been rescheduled for Sunday, July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.
Over the past several days, Orbital's launch team has made great progress in preparing the rocket for the Orb-2 mission, which will be the fourth flight of Antares in the past 15 months.
However, severe weather in the Wallops area has repeatedly interrupted the team's normal operational schedule leading up to the launch. As a result, these activities have taken longer than expected."
"The CDR, supported by Boeing, NASA, and the Air Force, approved the design for the Crew Access Tower, Crew Access Arm as well as the White Room that will allow the flight crews the ability to safely ingress and egress Boeing's CST-100 crew module for launch. In addition, the team reviewed the conceptual design of the emergency egress system which is similar in design to the space shuttle basket escape system."
Air Force asks court to dismiss SpaceX lawsuit, Defense Systems
"The Air Force is asking the court to dismiss any challenges to the contract that allowed for the purchasing of the cores, arguing that SpaceX failed to object or respond to a public request for proposal issued in March 2012 for that purchase. Because SpaceX was not an actual or prospective bidder on the contract, the company should not be allowed to challenge the contract, the Air Force contends."
"SpaceX's complaint is amorphous," the motion claims. "Rather than challenge a single procurement action, SpaceX broadly protests any sole-source purchase of single-core evolved expendable launch vehicles (EELV) and associated launch services. This challenge appears to implicate the United States Air Force's entire EELV program -- including past and future purchases under various contracts."
"Boeing has finalized a contract with NASA to develop the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket ever built and destined to propel America's return to human exploration of deep space.
The $2.8 billion contract validates Boeing's earlier selection as the prime contractor on the SLS core stage, including the avionics, under an undefinitized contract authorization. In addition, Boeing has been tasked to study the SLS Exploration Upper Stage, which will further expand mission range and payload capabilities."
"NASA's aerospace industry partners are taking their designs and operational plans for the agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) through a series of comprehensive tests, evaluations and review boards this summer as they move through important milestones - all with an eye on launching people into orbit from American soil by 2017.
To meet milestones established in Space Act Agreements with NASA, the companies are completing specific assessments such as materials stress tests, engine firings and analysis, and system tests. The companies' engineers use data gathered from these tests to refine the design, then NASA's team uses the data to ensure the tests satisfy milestone objectives that provide confidence a spacecraft system or program is progressing toward its goals."
Related: Commercial Crew Partners Get Extension, SpaceNews
Astrobotic's Autonomous Landing System Tested in Masten's Xombie Flight, SpaceRef Business
"Astrobotic Technology's newly developed autonomous landing system was put to the test recently when it controlled Masten Space Systems' XA-0.1B Xombie suborbital technology demonstration rocket during a flight test at the Mojave Air and Space Port."
Keith's note: SpaceX has field an amendment to their initial complaint about ULA. The amended complaint includes new information from a 20 June letter from Sen. John McCain to Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall. McCain's letter questions the lack of transparency around the cost of the Russian RD-180 engines that ULA currently uses for EELV launches.
Elon Musk Is Opening A New Front In His Lawsuit Against The Air Force, Business Insider
"So neither the market nor the U.S. government gave RD Amross any reason to alter its business model. "ULA didn't get a gun to their head to make this deal," Keith Cowing, a former NASA astrobiologist and blogger at NASA Watch told Business Insider of ULA's use of a Russian-American joint venture as a rocket engine broker. "They do it willingly and openly, and the United States government sanctioned it. They're the sole supplier, they get to set the price, and we walk into this." But they're not really the sole supplier anymore. Whether McCain's accusations are true or not, SpaceX's entrance into competition for government launches would make RD Amross -- and business models based on an uninterrupted pipeline from foreign engine-builders to buyers in the U.S. government -- seem utterly outmoded."
"Representing a milestone accomplishment, World View, the commercial balloon spaceflight company, has successfully completed a scaled test flight of its high-altitude balloon spaceflight system breaking the world record for highest parafoil flight in the process."
Roscosmos Disavows Plan to Send Space Tourists to Moon, Moscow Times
"Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said. The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan. The organizers "could have consulted with us before making such loud announcements," said Denis Lyskov, Roscosmos's deputy chief in charge of piloted flights, Izvestia reported Monday."
A private expedition to the Moon, Space Adventures
"Using flight proven Russian spacecraft we will fly two private citizens and one professional cosmonaut on a free return trajectory around the far side of the moon. They will come within 100km of the Moon's surface. If you chose to join this mission you will see the illuminated far-side of the Moon, and then witness the amazing sight of the Earth rising above the surface of the Moon. We expect our first mission to launch by 2017."
"On Monday, ULA confirmed that it has signed contracts with "multiple" American rocket companies to begin working up "next-generation liquid oxygen/hydrocarbon first stage propulsion concepts" that could replace the RD-180 (the RD-180 uses liquid oxygen and kerosene as its fuel sources). Working at a breakneck pace, ULA said it expects to select a new design before the end of this year. Then, pushing the envelope on the usual five- to eight-year timeline usually needed to develop such engines, ULA said it will have a new rocket ready to fly by 2019. (In the meantime, ULA will try to string Russia's Energomash along, negotiating to keep the RD-180s coming until they're no longer needed.)"
"While the RD-180 has been a remarkable success, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine," ULA's CEO Michael Gass said in a statement. "At the same time, given that ULA is the only certified launch provider of our nation's most important satellites, it is critical that America preserve current capabilities and options while simultaneously pursuing this new engine." ULA's announcement comes a week after the U.S. House Appropriations Committee asked for $220 million in the 2015 defense budget to go toward developing an alternative to the RD-180."
"I am, in particular, interested in learning more about a company called RD Amross, the company from which United Launch Alliance (ULA) actually buys the RD-180 for use in EELV missions. It appears that RD Amross is a joint venture between P&W Power Generation Inc. and International Space Engines, Inc., a Delaware-registered subsidiary of the engine's Russian manufacturer NPO Energomash."
"For Saturday's launch attempt, the California-based company, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, canceled its webcast and provided no commentary about the launch countdown, a public service offered even for classified Department of Defense satellite launches. "For the first time since the end of the Cold War, a space launch from Cape Canaveral will not be broadcast to the press and the public," Spaceflightnow.com, which provides live launch coverage, wrote on its website."
Keith's note: This lack of visibility is rather unusual for SpaceX - a company that has gone out of its way to use social media and traditional media - with great success - to get word about its products and services to the widest audience possible. Indeed, just a week or so ago there was a large reception for the Dragon V2 in Washington DC and the news media was all over it. Flash forward. SpaceX explained this absence of a webcast yesterday as being due to the fact that these launches were becoming routine and that the webcasts are no longer needed. This was a little odd given that they had a webcast for the Friday launch attempt 24 hours earlier.
Yes, they are a private company and this is a commercial activity, so they have every right to do this. But that does not mean its the smart thing to do. As for SpaceX falcon launches being "routine" - since when is a rocket launch where the first stage uses landing legs to return to Earth "routine"?
That said, the reaction on the Twitterverse yesterday - albeit from space enthusiasts and space media - was swift and loud. The hashtag "#FalconNein" quickly appeared. One would hope that SpaceX is paying attention and realizes that they are doing something cool - as are other space companies - and that the more visible all of this launch stuff is, the more excitement is generated - and the greater the public appreciation for the reality of space utilization becomes.
People like to watch SpaceX launches - and other launches - because they are cool. Cool sells. And if and when something goes wrong people root for the company to fix the problem so they can see cool things again.
Keith's update: Sunday afternon SpaceX sent an email out to some space news media (but not all space news media): "Today's ORBCOMM launch attempt has been scrubbed to address a potential concern identified during pre-flight checks. The vehicle and payload are in good condition, and engineering teams will take the extra time to ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to flight. The rocket will remain vertical on the launch pad with the next available launch opportunity targeting Tuesday, June 24th."
Are You Ready For Liftoff?, Forbes
"Once the ISEE-3 campaign was launched and promoted by Sky Corp and Space Ref Interactive, 2,238 supporters weighed in, raising $160, 000, $35,000 more than the project's goal. The project went from the improbable to the practical, and this is the transition on the forefront of every entrepreneurs mind. How can you do the same? ... Is this the path for you and your company? It could well be if you can meet the market with the thrust of the ISEE-3 campaign. If you can, your charity, reward or equity funding has a good chance of achieving liftoff."
ULA Ramps up Media Blitz, SpaceRef Business
"In recent weeks United Launch Alliance (ULA) has begun ramping up its media coverage to combat what it considers misrepresentation of facts by SpaceX. At stake is billions in future launch business.
Their website was revamped, new videos were released highlighting mission successes, and posters have been posted to their Facebook page with direct messages aimed squarely at SpaceX though without mentioning them."
Keith's note: ULA had a media briefing for media this week in the Washington area - except ... they did not invite all space media. Hmm ... that's not a strategic move made out of confidence ...
"Before highlighting two of the audits and describing the Langley investigation and another special review involving foreign nationals and export issues at the Ames Research Center (Ames) in Mountain View, California, I will highlight several themes from our oversight work that echo findings made by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in their recent examinations of export control practices and management of foreign national access at NASA."
"NASA headquarters export control officials and CEAs lack a comprehensive inventory of the types and location of export-controlled technologies and NASA headquarters officials have not addressed deficiencies raised in oversight tools, limiting their ability to take a risk-based approach to compliance. Export compliance guidance from the regulatory agencies of State and Commerce states the importance of identifying controlled items and continuously assessing risks."
Subcommittees Examine NASA's Struggle to Protect Sensitive Information
"These reports confirm our worst fears: that the incidents at Langley and Ames are not isolated incidences. Among conclusions from these reports we find: most centers continue to release Scientific and Technical Information that has not been reviewed for export control purposes. NASA lacks both clear export control policies and the oversight necessary to enforce them. The NASA network has indeed been compromised, and these vulnerabilities could have significant impacts on national security. And finally, a troubling trend we've seen across agencies in this Administration: the failure or the unwillingness to hold accountable those responsible for these errors."
Video: SpaceX Falcon F9R 1000m Flight, SpaceRef Business
"SpaceX has released this video of Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) during a 1000m test flight at their rocket development facility in McGregor, TX and was their first test that included a set of steerable fins that provide control of the rocket during the fly back portion of return."
"NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is working with Edison Nation, an open innovation online service, to help distribute its discoveries and patents. By law, federal agencies are required to have a technology transfer program to promote commercial activity, economic growth and innovation in business and commerce. Edison Nation will target companies that can immediately license and use NASA technology, beginning with Langley's MindShift."
Keith's note: So ... is this yet another center-specific procurement - one that duplicates what NASA HQ and other centers are doing - or is this a program that is supposed to serve all NASA centers? If this is NASA-wide then why isn't HQ announcing it - and why aren't all of the other NASA centers distributing this news? Langley doesn't even mention it on their Technology Gateway page - nor is there any mention at http://technology.nasa.gov/ -- both of which included in this press release. Edison Nation can't be bothered to mention it either. And of course, no mention is made at the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate.
Speaking of disjointed NASA technology transfer activities, why is it that NASA Tech Briefs seems to be utterly uninterested in relaying what NASA is doing? They don't even link to NASA! Why should they be allowed to use the NASA logo?
- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, earlier post, 2011
- Dysfunctional Technology Efforts at Langley (Update), earlier post, 2012
"Hoping for the best, but preparing for defeat, Boeing will send out about 215 potential layoff notices to employees currently working on its NASA CST-100 Commercial Crew program. The 60-day notices, required under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), are due to be distributed on June 20 to about 170 employees in Houston and 45 in Florida in case Boeing is not selected for an upcoming Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, Boeing spokesman Adam Morgan told SpaceNews."
Keith's note: So much for any thought that Boeing was ever interested in investing any significant company funds for their CST-100.
Keith's note: The Second ISS Research and Development Conference is underway in Chicago run by the good folks at the AAS with official co-sponsorship by CASIS and NASA. NASA/CASIS funding and meeting requirements drive the show. Indeed, NASA and CASIS use this activity as an official annual showcase to put forward the value of the ISS as a research platform. Given that human spaceflight budgets are getting tighter - and will get even tighter as SLS budget pressures continue to mount - you'd think that NASA - and the non-profit who is supposed to advocate ISS research, CASIS, would be using every tool at their disposal to make this event available to all stakeholders. That includes taxpayers, by the way (they pay for this).
Alas, all we are going to get is Twitter coverage via #issrdc. That's it. No NASA papers and presentations posted online at NASA.gov - and no webcast or streaming audio on NASA TV or elsewhere. Apparently CASIS is incapable of implementing a live webcast of this event. This is a remarkably simple thing to do - all you need is an internet connection and a laptop or cellphone. That's all. Webcasting is free otherwise. Indeed, I have done live webcasts on a laptop from Everest Base Camp, a research base near the north pole, and the middle of the Arizona desert with commercial off the shelf capabilities. Yet CASIS can't figure out how to do a simple webcast from a large hotel? REALLY? As the kids say EPIC FAIL. How NASA expects a wider dissemination - and appreciation of the research capabilities of the ISS is hard to fathom when their official partner for ISS research and utilization CASIS is this chronically inept.
NASA is not exactly helping promote these things either. Go to the NASA ISS National Laboratory website. There is no mention whatsoever of this meeting there.
Keith's update: I stand corrected. This conference is mentioned - but you have to scroll all the way down - further than any website visitor looking fo current information is inclined to scroll. Whomever maintains this website is clueless as to how to maintain web content. You put important timely information where people will see it - easily. This is like putting today's headlines on the last page of a newspaper. Unless this conference is not important, that is. Or (more likely) NASA ISS National Laboratory and CASIS are just cluless and inept when it comes to communicating with the public.
Fading Solid Fuel Engine Biz Threatens Navy's Trident Missile, Breaking Defense
"Failure to launch" isn't a metaphorical concern when you work on nuclear weapons. That's why the director of the Navy's euphemistically named Strategic Systems Program (SSP) is a worried man. What has Vice Adm. Terry Benedict worried is something neither he, nor the Navy nor the entire Defense Department directly control. It's the viability of what Benedict called "an already fragile industry" that produces the solid-fuel rocket boosters for the Navy's Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The worst part is that the solid fuel rocket engine business is an industry that will live or die not on the military's own decisions, but on NASA's.
Both companies express their determination to continue to play a leading role in the space launcher business as well as to safeguard Europe's autonomous and reliable access to space. This year, ESA and its Member Nations are expected to take far-reaching decisions on current and next generation launchers. "It's all about enhancing the competitiveness of our space launcher business going forward.
NASA is changing the way it does business, new GC says, Washington Post
"NASA is changing the way it is doing business, spending less on traditional contracts and partnering more with the private sector and local governments to further the growth of the commercial space industry. That transition promises to be a prime preoccupation for the agency's new top lawyer, Sumara Thompson-King. Thompson-King became NASA's general counsel on June 1, replacing Michael Wholley, who held the post since 2004. She is the first woman and the first African American to lead the agency's legal department, which has about 175 attorneys."
"After passing the last NASA test, Made In Space will see its 3D printer launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in August by SpaceX as part of NASA's 4th Commercial Resupply mission (CRS-4).
Originally the 3D printer was scheduled to fly on the SpaceX CRS-5 mission but because the company met all its milestones early the launch was moved up to CRS-4."
Boeing And Lockheed Strike Back Against Elon Musk, Business Insider
The head of Lockheed Martin's space division approached the issue in these stark terms during an interview with the Financial Times today, saying, "The government has a certification process that I think everybody ought to adhere to." But certification isn't quite this straightforward. The Air Force has only ever certified one company to launch its military and spy satellites: ULA. As Keith Cowing, a former NASA astrobiologist and blogger for NASA Watch explained to Business Insider, this very limited experience stacks the certification process against potential newcomers. "ULA has been launching rockets the traditional way since forever and that's the basis on which the Air Force and NASA builds their accreditation," Cowing said. "If someone comes along with a new or possibly better way of launching rockets you have an immediate conflict because the old way of doing things is how the new way is going to be evaluated."
"The new launch schedule reflects the timing of the investigation into the cause of an AJ26 engine failure that occurred in late May at NASA's Stennis Space Center during customary acceptance testing. All other elements of the Orb-2 mission are prepared to move forward, including the Cygnus spacecraft, which is fueled and, except for late-load cargo, is packed with its manifest of ISS cargo."
"With NASA under the thumb of the Russian space program, Congress continues to play political games with the space agency. On Thursday the U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the fiscal year 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. This means they agreed upon a spending plan to fund NASA, among other agencies. But buried within the bill could be something of a poison pill for a company like SpaceX. Allow me to explain."
"When asked about the requirement, Shelby argued that it was necessary for transparency. But the whole idea behind adopting a fee-for-service approach to orbit is that it doesn't matter so much what the contractors are paying for their parts--if they offer the cheapest safe ride to orbit, that should be all that matters. Requiring contract pricing-type accounting, as proposed here, could be viewed as an action that unfairly grants advantage to Boeing."
"The report documents the work of NASA's Commercial Crew & Cargo Program Office (C3PO) between 2005 and 2013 to partner with private industry to take over more routine operations in low-Earth orbit. This move toward more cooperative engagement with industry partners allowed NASA to focus more on scientific research, technology development and exploration goals."
Proposed NASA plans don't include Space Florida in Volusia, Daytona News Journal
"NASA has unveiled an updated 20-year master plan for its Kennedy Space Center, hoping to expand its facilities and attract new commercial spaceflight, but its plans don't appear to include any mention of Space Florida's proposal to develop a commercial spaceport on NASA-owned land in the southern end of Volusia County. And that is drawing reaction, both from supporters and opponents of Space Florida's plans at Shiloh."
"This Request for Information (RFI) is intended to solicit responses from the broader spaceport community to enable KSC to continue its transformation into a multi-user spaceport. This transformation is based upon the effective utilization of land assets that have been identified in the 2013-2032 KSC Master Plan."
"The discussion will focus on the future of American space launch, an issue of critical and timely importance. Last month, Russia threatened to cut-off U.S. supply of the RD-180 engine, revealing just how problematic U.S. reliance on these Russian engines really is. SpaceX offers a wholly-American rocket with an outstanding record of reliability and mission success."
Marc's note: This event will be webcast starting at 10:30 a.m. EDT.
Marc's Update: Video: Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX Discusses the Launch Industry , SpaceRef Business.
Will Google Build a Satellite Constellation?, SpaceRef Business
"For months now there have been rumours that Google would be building a constellation of "hundreds" of satellites. To this day we've yet to hear from Google which should tell you something."
Images: SpaceX Reveals Dragon Version 2, SpaceRef
"This evening in short presentation which was delayed SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed the next-generation Dragon crewed spacecraft at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. These are the initial images. More to come."
UPDATE: Here is the reveal if you missed it and flight animation.
Orbital Antares Launch Postponed, Orbital
"Orbital has rescheduled the launch of its Antares rocket for the Orb-2 mission to a date of no earlier than (NET) June 17, 2014.
Orb-2 is the second of eight cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station under Orbital's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. The new launch schedule has been established to allow the engineering teams from the main stage propulsion supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne and Orbital to investigate the causes of an AJ26 engine failure that occurred last week at NASA's Stennis Space Center during customary acceptance testing."
SpaceX to Unveil Dragon V2 for Manned Spaceflight Thursday, SpaceRef Business
"True to his word, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will unveil Dragon V2 this Thursday, May 29th at SpaceX HQ to invited guests. SpaceX is calling the Dragon V2 "a next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts into space." It was April 29th that Musk tweeted that the "cover drops on May 29. Actual flight design hardware of crew Dragon, not a mockup."
Related Update: SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing of SuperDraco Thruster [With video]
"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed qualification testing for the SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power the Dragon spacecraft's launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy."
Skybox Imaging Close to Being Sold to Google, SpaceRef Business
"According to Techcrunch Google is close to buying Skybox Imaging for over $1 billion. Skybox has plans for a constellation of 24 satellites of which the first, SkySat-1, went operational November 2013. Skybox released its first HD video last December."
Excalibur Almaz Capsule Sold in Auction, SpaceRef Business
"Commercial spaceflight services company Excalibur Almaz recently auctioned one of its assets, a Soviet era space capsule, the Vozvraschaemyi Apparat (VA), at the Brussels auction house Kunsthaus Lempertz KG for €1.26 million euros (US$1.72M)."
Amid Attacks, ULA Outlines Some EELV Pricing, Aviation Week
"ULA is battling to keep its Atlas V alive amid multiple attacks. Due to tensions over the Crimean annexation, Russia has said it will halt deliveries of the RD-180 first-stage engine for Atlas V to the U.S.; this would leave ULA with a current stockpile of 16 already in the U.S. Political pressure from the SpaceX lawsuit is also prompting some to question whether the Atlas V can be replaced by the Falcon 9v1.1. Gass said neither Russian manufacturer NPO Energomash or ULA have been formally notified of a halt in deliveries; five RD-180s have been ordered for delivery in 2014. Gass said the move announced by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was a hypothetical what-if, but not yet enacted."
Keith's note: "a hypothetical what-if, but not yet enacted"? Yea, that is how Putin does things before he sends in the troops. The majority owner of NPO Energomash is the Russian government. Rogozin works for Putin. Sounds like a plan.
Air Force spending $60 million to certify Musk's SpaceX, Stars and Stripes
"The Air Force is spending about $60 million and using as many as 100 people to certify billionaire Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. for launching military and spy satellites, according to the service's top uniformed acquisition official. "We've got folks busting their butt to get SpaceX certified despite what everything in the media seems to say," Lt. Gen. Charles Davis said in an interview."
Shelton on SpaceX suit: generally the person you're going to do business with you don't sue. #30spacesymposium— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 20, 2014
Shelton: when you're spending $60M and putting 100 people on certifying SpaceX, hard to say you're excluding them. #30spacesymposium— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 20, 2014
Shelton: don't know if NASA will accept our certification process for Falcon 9, or do their own. #30spacesymposium— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 20, 2014
Keith's note: Gen. Shelton seems to be utterly oblivious to the fact that large aerospace contractors incessantly file protests, complaints, and lawsuits about DoD decisions. Its a normal part of doing business with the government. As for the $60 million for these 100 people, that's $600,000 per person. Wow. That sure sounds efficient.
As for the cost of certifying SpaceX clearly the USAF has no concern about what things cost - either internally or via procurements. None whatsoever. And they will do what they want - when they want. Again cost is not a factor to them. NASA doesn't seem to care either. And no one seems to be at all interested in coordinating things like this - the net result being duplication of costly efforts - again, at additional expense. Then, when its budget time, these agencies never seem to have enough money to pay for this circus.