Commercialization: January 2011 Archives

EIAST and Bigelow Aerospace sign agreement to create next-generation commercial human spaceflight programme

"The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) and Bigelow Aerospace LLC, an organisation dedicated to providing affordable options for spaceflight to national space agencies and corporate clients, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to drive joint efforts to usher in a new era in human spaceflight based on innovative technologies, affordability, commercial sustainability, and strong international partnerships. As per the MoU, EIAST and Bigelow Aerospace will explore joint efforts to establish a next-generation commercial human spaceflight programme for Dubai and the UAE, leveraging recent advances in human spaceflight. They will work to create a world-class microgravity research and development programme with a potential focus on advanced biotechnology applications, and a variety of other commercial space-related activities."

Businesses Take Flight, With Help From NASA, NY Times

"The Dream Chaser is one of several new spacecraft that companies are hoping to launch into space with help from the government. Last year, the Obama administration pushed through an ambitious transformation for NASA: canceling the Ares I rocket, which was to be the successor to the current generation of space shuttles, and turning to the commercial sector for astronaut transportation."

Blue Origin Patent Application: Sea Launch of Space Launch Vehicles and Associated Systems and Methods

"Abstract: Launch vehicle systems and methods for landing and recovering a booster stage and/or other portions thereof on a platform at sea or on another body of water are disclosed. In one embodiment, a reusable space launch vehicle is launched from a coastal launch site in a trajectory over water. After booster engine cutoff and upper stage separation, the booster stage reenters the earth's atmosphere in a tail-first orientation. The booster engines are then restarted and the booster stage performs a vertical powered landing on the deck of a pre-positioned sea-going platform. ..."

A Bigelow Module on the ISS?

International Space Station Could Get Private Inflatable Room, Space.com

"The International Space Station could get a new inflatable module supplied by the private American company Bigelow Aerospace, sources say. NASA is apparently in discussions with Bigelow to acquire a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, called BEAM for short, to enhance use of the International Space Station (ISS). Since 1999, the North Las Vegas, Nev., company has been working to create affordable inflatable space habitats for national space agencies and corporate clients."

Delta IV Heavy Rocket vs. 2011 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Diesel (with very clever graphic comparison), Pickuptrucks.com

"Think your Ford, GM or Ram heavy-duty pickup truck is the strongest rig around? It can't hold a candle to this candle: a Delta IV Heavy rocket, as you'll see in PUTC's out-of-this-world comparison with a 2011 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty diesel. Heavy-duty pickup trucks are indispensable workhorses for personal use and small businesses. They can tow and haul gross combined truck and trailer setups weighing up to 15 tons or more powerfully and efficiently across the country."

For NASA, Longest Countdown Awaits, NY Times

"Two weeks ago, the agency told Congress that it had decided on preferred designs for the rocket and the crew capsule for carrying astronauts, but could yet not fit them into the schedule and constraints. "All our models say 'no,' " said Elizabeth Robinson, NASA's chief financial officer, "even models that have generous affordability considerations." She said NASA was continuing to explore how it might reduce costs. A couple of days after receiving the report, Senator Nelson said he had talked to the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., and "told him he has to follow the law, which requires a new rocket by 2016." He added, "And NASA has to do it within the budget the law requires."

NASA Explores Potential New Users For Some Kennedy Facilities

"NASA has released a formal Notice of Availability (NOA) and Request for Information (RFI) to identify interest from industry for space processing and support facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The facilities may become available for space-related commercial use following the end of the Space Shuttle Program."

Notice of Availability for Information Seeking Potential Industry Interest and Uses for Some NASA Kennedy Space Center Facilities

Cross Cutting Themes at JSC

NASA JSC Presentation: Cross Cutting Themes January 2011

Improvements are needed in the following for BEO Human Exploration:

* Human Sustainability: much more commonality/ interchangeability of systems for repairs and hardware maintenance. Fewer tools. Dependable systems--better reliability with redundancy.
* Human/Robotic Interaction: Need a robot with human-like dexterity. Desire control like Xbox "Kinect"
* EVA: EVA improved suit, suitport
* Crew/Ground Interface: Need more autonomy as crew and spacecraft will be light-minutes from MCC intervention. (Closer operations philosophy to pre-TDRSS). Still need high-definition video for critical events (dockings, EVAs, telerobotics)
* Working & Living in Space: radiation protection for crew. Crew health. In situ real time training.
* Launch Infrastructure

MacGyver Projects provide opportunities to test new operational concepts

Broken PAO at Wallops

Rocket Launch Scheduled January 22 From Wallops Flight Facility

"WALLOPS ISLAND, VA - A Terrier-Oriole suborbital rocket is schedule for launch January 22 for the U.S. Navy from NASA's Launch Range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Based on the approved range schedule, the rocket is set for launch between midnight and 4 a.m. The backup launch days are January 23 - 25. The rocket may be visible to residents on Delmarva. This launch will not be web casted nor will launch status updates be provided once the countdown begins. The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will not be open for viewing the launch."

Keith's note: That's the entire advisory. Its almost as if they were trying to write a 140 character Twitter post. What an odd thing to put out. In other words "Here's less than three day's notice about a rocket launch that will send things into space. You might see it. We are not going to tell you anything else. Don't bother contacting us - we'll be closed - unlike KSC we do not work weekends.".

A night launch. How cool. You can see these things for hundreds of miles if you have an idea where and when to look. It's a Saturday night so the kids can stay up late. These things follow a known trajectory so you could encourage people to take photos, see who is the furthest north, south, west etc. to see it. And then you use the opportunity to a little public education and involvement, explain why this being done, etc. -- and then cross leverage this with the previous day's rocket integration facility ribbon cutting. But no. WFF has got to have the NASA record for the shortest, most infrequent, and often the most useless press releases and advisories that the agency puts out. And as far as PR 101 smarts: none are in evidence.

I can't imagine that people are going to be happy with this terse approach when Orbital and others starts to launch from Wallops. The following article talks about "attracting spectators in numbers previously unseen". Not if NASA WFF PAO is involved.

Wallops helps state industry, Delmarva.com

"The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is one of only four FAA-licensed spaceports in the United States. The report states that NASA's decision to center suborbital rocket launches at Wallops and upcoming launches of Orbital Sciences' 130-foot Taurus II rockets there could increase the value of space tourism in the region and "is expected to attract spectators in numbers previously unseen in the past."

NASA Unveiling New Rocket Integration Facility At Wallops

"NASA will unveil its new rocket integration facility at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, Jan. 21."

SpaceX: Commercial Crew Transport To The International Space Station

"With the government acting as a catalyst, the commercial spaceflight industry is already developing into an exciting new driver of technological innovation, job creation and economic growth. A recent industry survey by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation projects that more than 5,000 direct jobs, including jobs in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Virginia, would be created over the next five years if the NASA proposal is approved. Thousands of additional jobs would be created indirectly."

SpaceX Status Report on Falcon 9/Dragon

"While the maximum reliability is designed into our vehicles, there is no substitute for recent, relevant flight experience when it comes to demonstrating flight safety. The Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to fly at least 11 more times and the Falcon 9 launch vehicle is scheduled to fly 17 times before the first Dragon crew flight. Given the extensive manifest of Falcon 9 and Dragon, the SpaceX system will mature before most other systems will be developed."

NASA Spinoff App for Android

"The NASA Spinoff App for Android contains a feed of NASA's latest technology news, a searchable database of NASA-derived innovations, a map of spinoff locations, a historical timeline and a database of NASA's available licensing opportunities to inspire the spinoffs of the future."

ViviSat Launched - New Venture Will Provide Satellite Life Extension Services

"U.S. Space LLC, a U.S.-based creator of dedicated space solutions for government and commercial clients, and ATK, an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company, today announced the creation of ViviSat, a new satellite life extension venture. ViviSat provides geosynchronous satellite operators with flexible, scalable, capital-efficient, and low-risk in-orbit mission extension and protection services that can add several years to the revenue-producing life of a satellite."

NASA OIG Small Business Innovation (SBIR) Program Audit Report

"Our review found that while NASA's initial choice of SBIR award recipients appeared objective and merit-based, its oversight and monitoring of awards was deficient. In addition to the estimated $2.7 million in unallowable and unsupportable costs that included travel and equipment expenses, we found that NASA officials lacked adequate procedures to ensure SBIR applicants' past performance had been considered when selecting recipients of approximately $85.7 million in "Phase 2" SBIR funds. Federal acquisition rules require consideration of past performance information in awards of more than $100,000 to ensure the selected proposal represents the best value."

Statement by Sen. Rockefeller Regarding the NASA OIG Audit Report on NASA's SBIR Program

"Government-supported scientific research and innovation is one of the keys to our country's future economic growth. We can't afford to lose any of our precious research and development dollars to waste, fraud or abuse," Chairman Rockefeller said. "I congratulate the NASA Inspector General for taking a clear, hard look at the way NASA awards, administers and tracks SBIR funds. I urge NASA to quickly implement the Inspector General's recommendations and put an end to the problems the IG has identified."

CertifyingSoyuz, Wayne Hale

"So as new human certification ratings are proposed, they rely heavily on new standards and specifications, requirements for analysis, engineering calculation, computer simulation, piece-part testing and just a little bit on flight demonstration. Of course, the Shuttle and the Soyuz don't comply with those standards; they were built in different times with more primitive standards. But they demonstrate a level of reliability or safety that is apparently acceptable. If someone were to build their own spacecraft and/or launch vehicle; fly it successfully many times, demonstrate its capabilities in actual flight; then I suspect the new human rating requirements would be tossed aside in favor of demonstrated actual flight performance."

- Soyuz Procurement That Falls Short of NASA's Own Commercial Crew Requirements, earlier post
- NASA Releases LEO Commercial Crew Certification Requirements, earlier post

Excalibur Almaz Space Stations Arrive on Isle of Man

"Excalibur Almaz Limited (EA), the international commercial space exploration company, is exporting two partially completed Almaz space stations from Russia to the IOM today. The stations and Excalibur Almaz' reusable return vehicles were developed by EA's Russian associate, JSC MIC NPO Mashinostroyenia. The stations will be initially stored, followed by research, testing and possibly completion and launch to orbit. EA's initial flights to orbit will be in the flight tested Excalibur Almaz Reusable Return Vehicles joined to and supported by service module living and working habitats. The space stations themselves are part of EA's long-term business plan."

Relaunch the U.S. space program, opinion, Rep. Ruppersberger, Baltimore Sun

"The president announced plans to cancel Constellation, the plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. This move jeopardizes an $11.5 billion investment, puts thousands of skilled scientists out of work, and shakes the very heart of the space industrial base."

Keith's note: Rep. Ruppersberger hasn't really been paying attention to recent events. SpaceX Launched a Dragon test vehicle on a Falcon 9 years ahead of any schedule NASA ever imagined for Orion and Ares 1 and did so for a fraction of what NASA spent on Constellation. For that $11.5 billion "investment" in Constellation, NASA produced nothing like Falcon/Dragon that ever came remotely close to flying. NASA "jeopardized" its "investment" all by itself. The White House simply sought to stop throwing good money after bad by cancelling Constellation.

Ruppersberger goes on to lament the fact that commercial crew transport services are being sent to Russia yet seems to be clueless that NASA is going out of its way to levy crew transport requirements on American companies that would hinder their ability to provide the same services that NASA throws at Russia. Russia is not - and will not - be called upon to adhere to these same requirements.

NASA JSC Solicitation: Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services from Roscosmos

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for crew transportation services including launch, return, and rescue of US or US-designated astronauts and associated services which include the following requirements for primary and ancillary services: ..."

Keith's note: Another commercial procurement of Russian Soyuz crew transport services. Alas, NASA allows these procurements to proceed even though the Soyuz does not (and probably never will) meet the requirements that NASA intends to levy upon domestic commercial space companies.

NASA Releases LEO Commercial Crew Certification Requirements, earlier post

Keith's earlier note: I did a search of this document for the word "Soyuz". The only time the word is used is in connection with accidents or problems with Soyuz. I wonder if Soyuz meets the requirements in this document - I certainly cannot find any evidence that it does. It certainly should meet these requirements since the U.S. has been buying seats on Soyuz for more than a decade - the very same seats you can buy commercially - the same seats NASA will be buying for years to come. Will NASA certify Soyuz according to the requirements in this document?

If Soyuz does not meet these certification requirements, then one has to ask why NASA is willing to waive requirements for a foreign crew transport system - with Americans on board - but levy more stringent requirements on American commercial systems - carrying Americans. It would also be interesting to see if the Ares-1/Orion configuration would have met these requirements as well.

Special Aerospace Services Announces Inaugural Commercial Human Spaceflight Technical Forum

"The forum is being held in Boulder, Colorado from 12-14 January 2011, and will present a focused and concentrated technical agenda created for Commercial Human Spaceflight providers and NASA. Attendees will gain insight to techniques that will be required to successfully achieve the NASA human rating certification and FAA commercial spaceflight licensing. The forum will host recognized and sought-after subject matter experts, including N. Wayne Hale Jr., Jeffrey Ashby, Timothy Bulk and Dr. Alan Stern."

Commercial Crew Transportation System Certification Requirements for NASA Low Earth Orbit Missions

"This document defines the requirements, standards and certification package contents that will be used to certify a CCTS for LEO Missions. It will be the responsibility of the NASA Program Manager and Technical Authorities to determine the applicability of individual requirements and standards based on the DRM being certified and apply the Agency risk posture (for the DRM) to arrive at the final set of requirements and standards for certification. The Program Manager will then request Certification from NASA HQ per Agency policy."

Keith's note: I did a search of this document for the word "Soyuz". The only time the word is used is in connection with accidents or problems with Soyuz. I wonder if Soyuz meets the requirements in this document - I certainly cannot find any evidence that it does. It certainly should meet these requirements since the U.S. has been buying seats on Soyuz for more than a decade - the very same seats you can buy commercially - the same seats NASA will be buying for years to come. Will NASA certify Soyuz according to the requirements in this document?

If Soyuz does not meet these certification requirements, then one has to ask why NASA is willing to waive requirements for a foreign crew transport system - with Americans on board - but levy more stringent requirements on American commercial systems - carrying Americans. It would also be interesting to see if the Ares-1/Orion configuration would have met these requirements as well.

Inconsistencies abound in this document - both in its intent - and its application (thus far).

Prepared Statement by Michael Griffin 8 May 2003 (part 2)

"The base reliability of unmanned expendable vehicles seems to arouse concerns where that of the manned Shuttle system inexplicably does not. Many, if not most, unmanned payloads are of very high value, both for the importance of their mission, as well as in simple economic terms. The relevant question may be posed quite simplistically: What, precisely, are the precautions that we would take to safeguard a human crew that we would deliberately omit when launching, say, a billion-dollar Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission? The answer is, of course, "none". While we appropriately value human life very highly, the investment we make in most unmanned missions is quite sufficient to capture our full attention."

Testimony of Dr. Michael Griffin before the House Committee on Science, 27 October 1999

"We envision this Space Taxi to be industry owned and operated; however, the cost of development, production, and operation of the Space Taxi System would be paid for predominantly out of government funds because it satisfies unique NASA needs that are not currently aligned with those of commercial industry. The launching of this Space Taxi System, however, could be competed among commercial RLV or EELV suppliers that meet the cost and safety requirements. These future RLVs would be commercially developed with private capital and would be commercially owned and operated. Their development will be enabled by NASA's current and planned future investments in RLV technologies and could be enhanced by government-backed financial incentives, such as tax credits, loan guarantees or advanced purchase agreements. Once a truly commercial Space Station becomes operational or the current Space Station becomes sufficiently commercialized, NASA and industry launch needs will be in almost complete alignment, and a completely commercial Space Taxi may become a viable business opportunity. We strongly believe that industry ownership of the Space Taxi from initial operation is critical to enable the eventual development of such a commercial Space Station."


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