Commercialization: July 2010 Archives

Commercial Space Advocates Rally To Stall NASA Authorization Bill, SpaceNews

"House sources said July 28 that a floor vote on the NASA authorization could come as early as July 29, but opponents of the bill -- primarily commercial space advocates -- were successful in stalling the measure, which now is unlikely to be considered before July 30, sources said. Gordon is seeking to bring the measure to the House floor under suspension of the rules, a procedural tactic that prevents amendments to a bill during limited floor debate and which requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass."

Showdown over space policy, MSNBC

"H.R. 5781, the House's version of the $19 billion NASA authorization bill for fiscal 2011, lops off most of $6 billion being sought by the Obama administration for boosting the development of commercial spaceships capable of bringing astronauts to the International Space Station over the next five years. Instead, it would put more money into the internal NASA rocket development program - although not as much as previously budgeted under a plan that an independent panel said was "not viable."

Competing NASA bills on collision course in Congress, SpaceflightNow

"The House bill only calls for $150 million in direct funding for commercial crew projects through 2013. NASA would provide another $100 million per year under the pending legislation, summing an investment of $450 million spread over three years. Those figures are significantly lower than the budget proposed in the Senate's authorization act and the Senate's spending bill, which offer $1.3 billion in commercial crew funding over the same time period."

CSF Welcomes New Members

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Andrews Space, Inc., DCI Services and Consulting, MEI Technologies, Special Aerospace Services, and SRA International have joined the Federation as Associate Members. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation now includes over 30 leading aerospace companies."

Zombiesat has three more satellites in its crosshairs, SpaceflightNow

"The out-of-control Galaxy 15 spacecraft will pass near three more orbiting broadcast platforms before it loses power in late August or early September, putting an end to the zombie satellite's menacing tour of the geostationary arc. Galaxy 15 stopped responding to commands from ground controllers in April, most likely due to a solar flare that zapped the satellite's electronics. But engineers are still analyzing the cause, according to David Thompson, chairman and CEO of Orbital Sciences Corp. Orbital manufactured Galaxy 15 for Intelsat."

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announced this week that they would shoot for a September launch for the next flight of their Falcon 9 rocket. Space Florida announced it had signed an agreement with a United Kingdom group to help further international commercial space cooperation. Over at OPF-3, Discovery was being readied for what could be her final flight. This week also marks the anniversary of rockets exploring the heavens from Cape Canaveral.

Newspace 2010

Keith's note: You can watch Newspace 2010 live at Spacevidcast. You can follow it on here on Twitter as well. One interesting comment this morning from NASA HQ's Charles Miller: "NASA admits that it is not a reliable customer".

Alas, these panels are almost exclusively composed of white males in their late 40's/early 50's. No females and rarely a darker shade of skin are to be found. I know these folks, so this is most certainly not a matter of discrimination by any means. Rather, it is evidence of a total lack of imagination in terms of outreach, mentoring, and trying to embrace the real world within which space commerce is but a miniscule part. I have watched/attended these Space Frontier Foundation things year after year. Without fail, its always the same people talking about the same stuff. Lots of arm waving - but rarely any concrete solutions.

NASA is always cast as simultaneously being the enemy and the source of funds for everyone's pet project. Same thing goes for Congress. No attempt is made to get outside the box and try and be relevant to the real world and the economic, societal, and political forces that make things work. The Space Frontier Foundation used to have some radical thinking. Now it has all evaporated away. All that's left is what you see on these panels - old thinking.

If your new business idea depends on government handouts and/or favoritism then you don't have the right product or the right business plan. You are just chasing after a new flavor of pork.

How Obama Let Down Mr. Spock

"Even some in Mr. Nelson's home state of Florida begin to doubt the senator's priorities, suspecting they have more to gain from a thriving private market in affordable space travel than from another NASA budgetary blowout that leaves nothing sustainable in its wake. NASA's tragedy is that it never recovered from the success of Apollo. But unless these dissenting voices start to be heard, two things are certain: Taxpayers will shell out a lot of money that will end up wasted when the next NASA funding crisis calls forth the next Augustine Commission. The other certainty is that the space entrepreneurs had better start scrambling for fresh capital and private customers if they want to keep their dreams alive."

Keith's note: I am sorry for linking to this article. When I orignally linked to it the entire text was available for free access. Alas, in keeping with an annoying habit, wherein the Wall Street Journal takes popular articles and denies full access after they have become popular, you can't read the whole thing at the original link. The portion that I quoted is from the part of the article that you (or I) can no longer read - unless we give them money. This is why I have stopped linking to WS Journal articles. It just annoys people when they do this. The only way to circumvent this is to use this Google search for the article by title and then click on the link that shows up - but that link only works once.

Keith's note: Markup of H.R.5781- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 - by the House Science and technology Committee is underway. Watch the webcast here. Earlier Twitter updates by Marcia Smith can be read here.

According to Marcia the Senate Appropriations Committee Markup of CJS Bill is at 2:30 pm today. The CJS bill includes NASA and NOAA.

Full Draft Text of House NASA Authorization Legislation

Keith's note: One thing that the House version of the NASA Authorization Act does is to cut further into proposed commercial activity - specifically, CRuSR (Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research).

In this draft House Legislation, funding for CRuSR is cut in FY 2011 and FY 2012 from the President's and Senate's mark at $15M per year year down to just $1M per year, with funding unspecified in later years. In addition, according to the draft language, CRuSR's funding in FY 2011 may not be used to buy flights or build payloads. Instead it can be used only to fund studies.

If you look at Sec. 906 (page 94) you will see that this proposed draft adds onerous restrictions before NASA can spend money on CRuSR, using identical language to restrictions placed on Commercial Crew in the same legislation, e.g., NASA may not proceed with a CRuSR RFP until all indemnification and liability issues are settled and a report has been sent to Congress.

More than 300 researchers and educators, specializing in fields ranging from microgravity and life sciences to astronomy and atmospheric sciences, from all over the U.S. showed up at a conference in February wanting to use this program. It would seem that anti-suborbital research and anti-commercial forces from within and outside of the agency are at work once again. SMD AA Ed Weiler has long been opposed to suborbital research and has clearly been working behind the scenes to take yet another run at killing this sort of activity. Just look where the CRuSR money is going (if the House gets its way): sounding rockets launched out of Wallops.

Solid rocket industry needs consolidation-Pentagon, Reuter

"The U.S. solid rocket motor industry is "over capacity" and needs consolidation, the Pentagon's top official for industrial policy said. "It is over capacity right now," Brett Lambert said at the Farnborough Airshow on Monday, adding a consolidation was long overdue."

Keith's note: I'm confused. First DoD complains that cuts to solid rocket motor production capacity and procurement options resulting from Constellation cancellation would be a big problem. Now they say that the U.S. has to much solid rocket capacity. Well, which is it?

NASA's Nebula Cloud Computing Technology To Play Key Role In New Open Source Initiative

"The core technology developed for NASA's Nebula cloud computing platform has been selected as a contributor for OpenStack, a newly-launched open source cloud computing initiative. It will pull together more than 25 companies to play a key role in driving cloud computing standards for interoperability and portability."

Rackspace and NASA open-source partnership could spur innovation, GCN

"Torlini acknowledged the concerns that many users have about security in the cloud. However, he said freeing up the code would present more opportunities to improve security. He also stressed that this shouldn't be seen as purely a Rackspace initiative, "Everyone is welcome to contribute," he said."

NASA and Rackspace part the clouds with open source project, ARS Technica

"Modern scientific computation requires ever increasing storage and processing power delivered on demand," said NASA CTO Chris Kemp in a statement. "To serve this demand, we built Nebula, an infrastructure cloud platform designed to meet the needs of our scientific and engineering community. NASA and Rackspace are uniquely positioned to drive this initiative based on our experience in building large scale cloud platforms and our desire to embrace open source."

NASA gives OpenStack instant credibility, ZDNet

"The new OpenStack project will power NASA's own Nebula cloud and puts new pressure on Eucalyptus, as well as Amazon's EC2 and the whole Hadoop ecosystem. The system is being released under an Apache 2 license."

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Joins the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Endorses NASA's New Direction

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has joined the Federation as an Associate Member. With 3,100 employees across Florida, California, Alabama, and Mississippi, including more than 1,800 employees in Southern California, the company is a leading provider of propulsion and power systems for space flight."

Senate Committee's NASA Plan Cuts Moon Program, NY Times

"The committee acceded on the cancellation of the Ares I rocket, which is part of the return-to-the-moon program known as Constellation, but called on NASA to start development of a larger heavy-lift rocket in 2011, likely to be based on shuttle components, that could be ready for launching by the end of 2016. The administration had proposed waiting until as late as 2015 to start work on a heavy-lift rocket, which would be needed for human missions to asteroids and Mars."

A small step for bill - but a leap for JSC, Houston Chronicle

"Although the White House has not formally signaled its approval of the Senate plan, there may be enough carrots in the proposed legislation to win Obama's support. "We think this is a great start," said Lori Garver, NASA's deputy administrator. "It accomplishes the major shifts the president set out to have for the space program." An unnamed White House official not authorized to comment said "the bill appears to contain the critical elements necessary for achieving the president's mission for NASA."

Panel approves compromise plan to save space jobs and add shuttle mission, Reuters

"The NASA plan approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee supports President Obama's call to end the moon-bound Constellation program, the human space flight successor to the shuttle program. But the three-year NASA spending plan passed by the committee adds a $1 billion shuttle mission to the International Space Station for next summer or fall and leaves contracts, equipment and personnel in place in case other flights are needed."

Adoption of NASA compromise means continued leadership in space exploration (Rep. Frank Wolf), The Hill

"In a rare victory for bipartisanship and the legislative branch, Congress has rallied behind an important compromise plan to ensure continued American leadership in space. Six months after the release of the president's budget -- which effectively mothballed NASA's exploration program -- the Senate and House have sent a clear signal to the White House that such cuts are unacceptable."

Mayor Battle: New NASA Bill Is Good For Huntsville, WHNT

"I am very pleased with many provisions of this bill as it returns us to a balanced mix of commercial and government funded space travel and research and development for future systems. This bill is a breakthrough in moving us much closer to the positions established by Senator Shelby. This bill is good for the Nation, good for Alabama and good for Huntsville."

Senate committee orders a new course -- and new rocket -- for NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"However, Space Coast officials had bought into Obama's plan to spend $10.1 billion to develop capacity for commercial rockets to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, more robotic missions and technology research that the administration had said would produce a new rocket capable of flying humans to an asteroid by 2025. Brevard officials had hoped that Kennedy Space Center and surrounding businesses could compete for more commercial launches and robotic missions as well as chunks of the research money."

Space Deal Would Allow Shuttle To Continue, Aviation Week and Space Technology

"In exchange for slowing work on commercial space taxis and gutting the Obama administration's proposed five-year, $7.8-billion new-technologies initiative, the Senate authorization would add at least one more shuttle mission to the two remaining flights on the manifest, and maintain the capability to fly a contingency mission to the space station through at least Sept. 30, 2011."

Space Coast leaders attack Nelson NASA bill, Orlando Sentinel

"I do not believe anyone in Brevard doubts your passion and commitment to NASA and its mission. However, the risk that this future for Florida might be bargained away for one more attuned to the needs of Alabama, Texas and Utah, in the name of political expediency, demands a response. There is no one on the Space Coast, least of all this EDC, that doesn't understand the need for a Heavy Lift Vehicle to enable NASA to go beyond LEO. And we zealously will seek to assure KSC participates fully in that endeavor. However, to sacrifice the workforce that so enriches our future is not something to which we can acquiesce quietly."

Senator Nelson Previews 2010 NASA Reauthorization Bill, AIP

"We are building consensus in what has otherwise been a consensus-less position of the future of the manned space program. The President had proposed one thing. He altered that. Different people have different ideas. Different aerospace companies all looking to have a certain part of the manned space program also have their different ideas. "Out of this mix, we are trying to bring together Senators to build a consensus in a bipartisan way; the space program is not only not partisan, it is not even bipartisan. It is nonpartisan - to be able to do this in a fairly unanimous way."

Letter From Former NASA Astronauts in Support of Commercial Crew Transport

"Dear Senator Mikulski: The 2011 budget request for NASA has generated much debate about the right course for America in space. You have raised the issue of safety as an indispensable component of any new plan for NASA, and we wish to express our appreciation for your leadership in ensuring that safety is at the center of this debate. Both as astronauts and as citizens who care passionately about the future of human spaceflight, we write today to communicate our views on this critical issue. Let us be clear: we believe that that the private sector, working in partnership with NASA, can safely develop and operate crewed space vehicles to low Earth orbit. We have reached this conclusion for a number of reasons:"

Note circulating in the Suborbital research community: "As you may know, Sen. Nelson's NASA authorization markup kills the CRuSR line item. Yesterday Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico introduced an amendment that would bolster this small but high-profile program, designed to allow students, small companies, and researchers to fly experiments on-board new commercial suborbital space vehicles such as Virgin Galactic or XCOR Aerospace. The amendment would ensure that this program, known as Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR), would be fully funded at $15 million per year and report directly to NASA's Chief Technology Office to give it high-profile status. Please call your Senators to support the Udall Amendment, call Sen. Nelson's office to support it, and ask colleagues to do the same. The Senate NASA authorizing bill full committee vote is tomorrow (Thu 15 Jul)-- please take time today on this important matter!"

Commercial Space in Jeopardy, Call Your Senator TODAY, Space Frontier Foundation

"I urge American citizens interested in the affordable utilization and eventual settlement of space to open their eyes to the attack on NASA's new Commercial Crew Program by pork-hungry legislators. Contrary to the White House's request, the NASA Authorization Bill proposes cutting commercial space by $2.1 billion (up to 66%). Virginia's Senator Warner is ready to ride to the rescue with an amendment restoring full funding to the program, but he needs YOUR help to gain support from other Senators."

Keith's note: Its really somewhat counterproductive for the Space Frontier Foundation to put out a legislative alert and then insult every possible member of Congress that they seek to have people contact to help their cause i.e. calling them "donkeys" and "elephants". Also, Instead of portraying this as a fight against pork (and indicting all of Congress in so doing) perhaps the proponents should be focusing on the virtues of commercialization instead.

NASA Needs Integrated Strategy to Control Mission Costs, NRC

"NASA should develop a broad, integrated strategy to contain costs and maintain schedules as earth and space science missions are planned and designed, says a new report by the National Research Council. The report also calls on NASA, Congress, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to consistently use the same method to quantify and track costs."

NASA DFRC Solicitation: Two Different Interactive Robots With Accessories

"NASA/DFRC has a requirement for (quantity 2) Interactive Robot Characters with accessories. The specifications are: Two different interactive robot characters will be required for usage with the varied targeted audiences. One male "wise-looking" robot such will be suitable for all audiences whereby a female of somewhat ethnic background may add additional comfort to a more diverse audience or when wanting a female to speak at an all female event. Both robots will offer voice modifiers to raise or lower their pitch, remote controls, batteries, chargers, voice hearing transceivers, MP3 player, instruction booklet, and warranty. Since the male robot will be used more often, he will have moving arms. Additional clothing is needed that can be worn by either robot includes a flight suit, lab coat, and astronaut suit and also where robots can be suited in any children's clothing to adapt to seasonal changes or target audiences."

Keith's note: Yesterday we learned about KSC's interest in buying a Welsh robot (complete with accent) to greet visitors. Today we learn that DFRC wants to procure a more ethnically diverse collection of droids, cylons, bots, etc. to interact with the public - one model that is "wise" and another model that is "ethnic" and "female" - and both can also act like "children". Alas, despite the focus on diversity, the male robot still gets to do more work than the female robot.

Keith's note: According to Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation staffer Jeff Bingham posting as "51DMascot" at NASASpaceflight.com on 11 July:

"I assure you, the FY 2011 numbers will appear to be "underfunded" for Commercial crew, because activities in that year wiill be focused heavily on concept development, common technology development, human-rating requirements, review of procurement approaches and performance milestones and funding "gates' that must be accomplished with assurance before any authority to proceed o a procurement effort is initiated, and not before the end of FY 2011. But there will still be a stated commitment to the support and development of such capabilities--including requirements for a crew-rescue capability, meaning six-month on-orbital lifetime certification, etc. Those are the kinds of things that you might expect would constitute the closet thing to articulating the "walk before you run" approach for which there is large consensus in the Congress vis-a-vis commercial crew."

NASA Announces Three New Centennial Challenges

"NASA announced three new Centennial Challenges Tuesday, with an overall prize purse of $5 million. NASA's Centennial Challenges are prize competitions for technological achievements by independent teams who work without government funding. NASA sponsors prize competitions because the agency believes student teams, private companies of all sizes and citizen-inventors can provide creative solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation," said Bobby Braun, the agency's chief technologist."

NASA Chief Technologist Hosts Forum to Discuss New Space Technology Programs

"NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist will host a Space Technology Industry Forum at the University of Maryland on July 13-14 to discuss the agency's proposed new space technology investments. The event will focus on the President's fiscal year 2011 budget for NASA's new Space Technology Programs. Representatives from industry, academia, and the federal government are invited to learn the latest plans for these programs and discuss strategy, development, and implementation of these broadly applicable technology development activities."

Watch live

Is Utah emerging as rival to KSC?, Orlando Sentinel

"Frank DiBello, the president of Space Florida, the state's aerospace development body, is not pleased. "We don't want to sacrifice Florida seed corn for an increased R&D role to be politically expedient and save jobs for Utah and other states," DiBello told a Brevard County jobs-development meeting Saturday. "The Senate bill kills outright the promise of a real R&D opportunity for KSC. It's not good for Florida. I don't know who Bill Nelson is listening to, but it's not his constituents," DiBello said."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Responds to Recent Misperceptions Related to U.S. Human Spaceflight

"As a strong supporter of a robust NASA human spaceflight program, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is releasing the following statement to address topics related to human spaceflight, including commercial human spaceflight. Please see items below on the topics of capability, safety, and cost savings."

NASA budget fight - Is Utah emerging as rival to KSC?, Orlando Sentinel

"The Senate subcommittee charged with NASA oversight will present a $19 billion bill this week that kills President Barack Obama's proposed shakeup of the agency's human-spaceflight program, in the process cutting billions from commercial rocket and technology projects that supporters say would have benefited Kennedy Space Center. A draft of the bill, obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, was presented to NASA last week by the committee, chaired by Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. So far the White House has not commented on the bill, but several Florida Space Coast leaders have expressed concern about its impact here."

Keith's note: Additional detail via NASA Watch sources: This authorization bill covers FY 2011-2013 - i.e. the period of time that the Obama Administration will have influence on budget plans. During FY 2011- 2013 President Obama had wanted to spend $3.3 Billion on commercial space. The draft legislation under consideration would now utterly gut the President's proposed commercial program to the point that its value as a "commercial" activity would be called into question.

In the proposed draft, commercial activities would now receive the following: $150M in FY 2011, $275M in FY 2012, and $464M in FY 2013 - for a total of $889M. That's barely a quarter of what the White House proposed. Moreover, NASA would also be precluded from entering into any commercial crew contracts in FY 2011. In addition, work on an advanced hydrocarbon engine would be halted. Also, all of the new technology that was to be funded gets eviscerated as well by as much as 50%.

At face value, this "compromise" would reverse the White House's plans and bring back a "lite" version of Constellation and fatally wound any attempt at a meaningful commercial participation in the future of American space exploration. This authorization bill will eventually find its way to the President's desk. Will he sign it? I don't think so. Add in a looming CR, and America's human spaceflight program is about to go into a year of stasis and confusion.

Rocketplane runs out of gas, MSNBC

"Now the Oklahoma Gazette reports that Rocketplane's owner, George French, has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy papers in his home state of Wisconsin, covering Rocketplane as well as the Kistler and Global subsidiaries. French is also filing for personal bankruptcy. The documents show assets ranging from $108,000 to $287,000, and liabilities of more than $8 million. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy process would lead to the liquidation of Rocketplane's assets - and the death of the company's outer-space dreams. "We didn't leave a nickel on the table," the Gazette quotes French as saying. "We did what we said we could do. Unfortunately, we did not complete the program as originally conceived."

Correcting the Record About My Divorce, Elon Musk, Huffington Post

"Given the choice, I'd rather stick a fork in my hand than write about my personal life. Unfortunately, it seems that I don't have any other option. Several awful things have been widely reported that are simply false, but a falsehood uncorrected may as well be truth. I really wish there were not this level of attention directed towards personal matters in the first place, but the legal filings in a California divorce are public information, my ex-wife (Justine) is an extremely prolific blogger, and certain journalists seem to have a creepy fixation on my personal life. Much as one may wish for privacy, in the 21st century it just doesn't exist."

Keith's note: Posting items of a personal nature such as this would normally go well beyond the boundaries of what I consider to be appropriate for NASA Watch. But given that prominent news publications have made frequent, and so it would seem, inaccurate references to Elon Musk's personallife while trying to "report" on SpaceX, I felt that Elon needed a chance to respond to these inaccuracies via NASA Watch.

Zero Gravity Corporation's statement regarding the Office of Inspector General's June 18, 2010 Audit Report of NASA's Microgravity Flight Services

"It is important to note that the report highlights that the cost-effectiveness of maintaining the operations-ready status of the C-9 and currency of its crew has never been assessed. Since the primary threat to ZERO-G's service continuity to NASA is its own insufficient demand, NASA may be a contributor to this risk and should assess the benefit of continuing to invest in the C-9 versus restructuring the current contract with ZERO-G. To date, ZERO-G has invested over $1.5 million to improve its baseline commercial capability to meet NASA's requirements. Total net revenue from the past two years has not allowed ZERO-G to recoup its initial investment."

NASA OIG is Not Pleased With ZeroG, earlier post


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