Commercialization: June 2011 Archives

NASA OIG Report: NASA's Challenges Certifying and Acquiring Commercial Crew Transportation Services

"NASA is still developing its acquisition strategy and has not settled on the specific mechanisms it will use for procuring commercial crew transportation services. The Commercial Crew Program Planning Office (Commercial Crew Office) plans to present its proposed acquisition strategy to Congress by late summer 2011. Mindful of national policy to limit the use of high-risk contracting vehicles such as noncompetitive and cost- reimbursement contracts, among the options NASA may consider is an acquisition strategy that relies on funded Space Act Agreements, competitive procurements, in particular fixed-price contracts, or a combination of both."

Keith's note: NASA is looking at no longer using Space Act Agreements for this sort of thing (at least that is what they have told OMB/OSTP) and they may soon be falling back on bad habits when it comes to dealing with the private sector. Stay tuned.

Don't Miss Out on Creating the Future, NASA TechBriefs

"Time is running out to enter the 2011 "Create the Future" Design Contest. Entries for the ninth annual contest are due by June 30th. Click here to submit your design idea. Sponsored by COMSOL, Creo - a PTC product, and Tech Briefs Media Group, the contest recognizes outstanding innovations in product design, awarding a Grand Prize of $20,000 USD. New this year is an Electronics Design category sponsored by Digi-Key Corp. Other categories are Consumer Products, Machinery & Equipment, Medical, Safety and Security, Sustainable Technologies, and Transportation. Entries can be submitted by individuals and/or teams in up to seven categories. The top entry in each category will receive a workstation computer from Hewlett-Packard. The top ten most popular entries, as voted on by site registrants, will get a 3D mouse from 3Dconnexion. All qualified entrants will be included in a drawing for NASA Tech Briefs T-shirts, and the winning entries will be featured in a special supplement to NASA Tech Briefs magazine. If you haven't submitted your design, you have until June 30th to visit and enter your great idea."

Keith's note: This whole NASA Tech Briefs thing just baffles me. They use the NASA name and logo and post all manner of cool things related to tech transfer, spinoffs, etc. - yet they do not issue press releases - and NASA PAO, CTO, IPP, CIO, SOMD et al never promote what NASA Tech Briefs is doing. Mark Uhran at SOMD is forever babbling about how interested the private sector is in ISS utilization. Great - he may well have a valid point - yet I see no evidence that SOMD and NASA Tech Briefs even know that the other exists. Sounds rather dysfunctional. Why bother to coordinate, eh NASA?

As military-launch costs soar, would-be competitors protest, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA workers looking for a job after space shuttle Atlantis' final flight likely won't have much luck at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which has launched a generation of military and national-intelligence satellites. The military-rocket business isn't doing too well -- at least according to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that manufactures the bulk of the rockets launched into orbit by the military. Company officials said the cost of parts has gone up, and the uncertainty of post-shuttle work at NASA has resulted in subcontractors raising prices. As a result, ULA is sharply increasing the prices it charges the Defense Department to launch military satellites, prompting the Air Force to raise its projected launch costs by nearly 50 percent during the next four years."

NASA Suspends Payments on Launch Contract with Orbital, Space News

"Dulles, Va.-based Orbital remains under contract to build OCO-2, a duplicate of the $200 million carbon-mapping satellite destroyed in a 2009 Taurus XL launch failure blamed on payload-fairing separation error. However, the $68.1 million NASA had budgeted for a February 2013 Taurus XL launch of OCO-2 has been "temporarily put on hold" as the agency evaluates "launch services options for the OCO-2 mission," according to NASA's 2011 initial operating plan."

UrtheCast Announces New Space Venture

"UrtheCast is building, launching, and operating the world's first and only high definition streaming video cameras being installed on the International Space Station (ISS). UrtheCast will supply video data and imagery of Earth collected by two HD cameras on the Russian module of the Space Station. This data and imagery will be down-linked to ground stations around the planet and then displayed in real time on the Internet and distributed directly to UrtheCast's exclusive partners and customers."

Study Shows Interference with GPS Poses Major Threat to U.S. Economy

"More than 3.3 million U.S. jobs in agriculture and industries rely heavily on Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and the disruption of interference with GPS posed by LightSquared's planned deployment of 40,000 ground stations threatens direct economic costs of up to $96 billion to U.S. commercial GPS users and manufacturers, according to an economic study released today."

Deere Says LightSquared Wireless Network Interferes With GPS For Machinery, Dow Lones

Deere said its tests have shown that LightSquared's wireless signal interfered with Deere's GPS-dependent system more than 20 miles away. The U.S. Defense Department, Federal Aviation Administration and General Motors' OnStar subsidiary have complained of similar problems with LightSquared's network.

Setback for Taurus II

Taurus II Engine Sustained Damage In Fire, Aviation Week

"An Aerojet AJ26 engine destined to power the Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus II launch vehicle in the run-up to commercial resupply flights for the International Space Station (ISS) was badly damaged in a fuel fire June 9. "There was significant damage to the engine," Orbital spokesman Baron Beneski said June 21."

NASA Commercial Spaceflight Status Briefing to the AIA Space Council June 16, 2011

"Why Commercial Crew and Why Now?

1) Federal budgets, including NASA's, are extremely constrained
- COTS and CCDev have shown that we can change the cost equation
- We hope to fund multiple partners for less than $6B

2) Well understood technology
- Human spaceflight is hard, but no breakthroughs are needed
- We have been launching people into orbit for over 45 years

3) Strong and mature industrial base
- Global commercial space industry revenues have doubled from $80B to $160B during the last five years

4) Strong potential for customers other than the U.S. government
- Non-U.S. astronauts, space tourism, research and development

5) Decision to extend the International Space Station to at least 2020
- For the first time in history, we have a long-term, sustainable market for commercial human space transportation services"

NASA Issues Announcement For Solar Electric Propulsion Studies

"NASA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals for mission concept studies of a solar electric propulsion system demonstration to test and validate key capabilities and technologies for future exploration missions. ... For more information about the announcement, visit:"

Keith's 20 June note: This press release was issued last Friday. The BAA that this release announces is still not online at I asked PAO about it last week and they said there was some sort of procurement disconnect. One would think that a procurement activity announced in a press release as being available would actually be "available" before that release is issued.

Keith's 21 June update: NASA finally got around to actually issuing the BAA that they announced as having been released 4 days ago.

'Astronaut Ferry' Firm Says it Was Defamed, Courthouse News

"Spaceship builder SpaceX claims its NASA contract to ferry cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station was compromised by a spacecraft safety company's defamatory allegations of mechanical failures and explosions, and it says the allegations were spurred by its refusal to give the defendant a $1 million consulting contract. SpaceX - Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - sued Valador and its vice president Joseph Fragola in Fairfax County Court. SpaceX claims Fragola contacted U.S. officials "to make disparaging remarks about SpaceX, which have created the very 'perception' that he claimed SpaceX needed his help to rectify."

Official court documents

Hanley Changes His Story On Ares 1 Safety - Again, earlier post

"With regard to Jeff Hanley's current comments, this is not the first time that Hanley's organization has had problems presenting (or admitting) a consistent view of what Ares 1's safety was relative to Shuttle and other launch systems. Indeed, you only have to look at Joseph Fragola's presentation to the Augustine Committee to see what Constellation knew Vs what it said. Specifically, there was a briefing chart that was withheld from the Augustine Committee - see below for that chart."

Space group disbands after failed Vandenberg project, Pacific Coast Business Times

"The California Space Authority, Inc., (CSA) has initiated the process of dissolving the non-profit corporation in accordance with state law and the by-laws of the organization," the group said in an e-mail statement to supporters. "The CSA board of directors voted unanimously on June 6, 2011, to begin the dissolution process and the members of CSA subsequently voted in favor of corporate dissolution. CSA will cease to operate effective today, June 10, 2011."

NASTAR Center Completes First FAA Safety Approval Audit - Space Training Simulator Centrifuge

"Representatives from FAA AST, Washington, DC, conducted the audit. The audit consisted of a review of conformance to the terms of the Safety Approval as well as a review of the STS-400, including operating and safety procedures, operation and maintenance manuals, and inspection and maintenance documentation. Additionally, the use of the STS-400 in the NASTAR Center space training programs was reviewed and several training profiles were observed."

NBC Nightly News showcases "New Space Race", Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"NBC Nightly News recently featured the commercial spaceflight industry in a piece examining the future of spaceflight following retirement of the Space Shuttle. "With just one more shuttle mission to go before the program ends this summer, a new space race is already well underway," says NBC anchor Lester Holt."

An Open Letter to Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and James Lovell, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"Recently, a joint letter was penned by three legendary Apollo lunar astronauts berating the Obama Administration for "Grounding JFK's Space Legacy" and declaring that a coherent plan for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent. While it may be that the current administration's plans are not perfect - and a new national debate on space appropriate - these plans stand head and shoulders over the plan that was the latter implementation of the Constellation program. Furthermore, these space veterans have been misinformed pertaining to the reasons for the demise and cancellation of the Constellation program."

'Avatar' director rumored to have bought first ticket to the moon, Newscore

"The first of two $150 million tickets for a pioneering tourist mission to the moon was off the market Sunday, and its owner was rumored to be the world-famous "Avatar" director James Cameron. Space Adventures, the American company offering the trip scheduled for 2015, said only that the buyer of the ticket was a "well-known" personality. The expedition will begin aboard a Soyuz spaceship launched from Kazakhstan."

'Avatar' director targets spaceflight, MSNBC

"Space Adventures says one high-profile client has already made a reservation. And although the identity of that client is a closely held secret, The Sunday Times of London reports that Cameron is "the name said to be in the frame." The Times quotes unnamed associates of Cameron as saying he's been talking with NASA as well as the Russian space agency about mounting a 3-D camera on the space station to shoot a documentary patterned after "Aliens of the Deep," Cameron's film about the deep ocean. "The technology is very similar, and Jim is fascinated by outer space," one source told the Times. "But the cameras have to be made a lot lighter than current models."

The Case Against SpaceX, Part II, Loren Thompson, Forbes

"My main concern in raising these issues was that NASA not become overly dependent on an unproven launch provider -- one that only achieved its first launch success 32 months ago, but now says it will soon be ready to loft U.S. astronauts into orbit. With that in mind, I thought I would focus this week on how the company's track record compares with that of established launch providers, and why the assumptions made in its business strategy aren't likely to pan out in the real world."

SpaceX: Loren Thompson's Deceit, Robert Block, SpaceX, Forbes

"One of the oldest tactics in Washington is repeating a falsehood in a voice of deep conviction often enough that it eventually becomes the conventional wisdom. Loren Thompson, who masquerades as an independent, disinterested party, apparently believes in this approach."

SpaceX Responds To Forbes Contributor Loren Thompson, Forbes, original post

What NASA Risks By Betting On Elon Musk's SpaceX, Loren Thompason, Forbes, response to original post

Teledyne Brown Engineering and Aerojet to Form Strategic Alliance to Build Rocket Engines

"Under the agreement, the companies will pursue contracts for the manufacture of liquid rocket engines for NASA through the Space Launch System program as well as for other customers. It is anticipated that as a result of this work, a potential 1,400 additional jobs could be brought to the Northern Alabama and California areas."

Teledyne Brown, Aerojet form 'strategic alliance' to build rocket engines in Huntsville

"I am glad to hear about today's announcement of a strategic partnership between Teledyne Brown Engineering and Aerojet - General," said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa. "The potential addition of 1,400 high quality engineering and manufacturing jobs in Huntsville would be great news for the community. "Congress directed NASA to develop a 130-metric ton Space Launch System with a first and second stage that leverage our Ares investments. The Teledyne-Aerojet team could have a critical role to play designing additional elements of the system, and I hope NASA looks at their capabilities carefully."

Keith's note: This document presented by Maria Collura on 22 April 2011 at Masters Forum 20 on Commercial Crew Program Overview contains additional information on the various NASA contractors NASA is supporting. This presentation used to be online but NASA then pulled it offline. You can still download it here.



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