Commercialization: July 2011 Archives

Space Transportation Technology Roadmap

"This roadmap is broadly inclusive in capturing the multitude of U.S. national security, civil, and industry-commercial interests in space transportation that exist today. Still, it is useful to discuss its national security military origins. Roadmap development was most recently sparked by a validated military need for space transportation, namely the Marine Corps Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) capability. Although SUSTAIN represents a mere niche within the full range of potential space transportation applications, the idea harkens back to the birth of the American space program. Reciting the vision of DoD leaders with respect to the exceptional potential of space transportation, even during an earlier age of immature space- related capabilities is useful. It serves as a testament to both the inexorable inevitability of space transportation and our specific National interest in maintaining leadership in developing the enabling technologies."

NewSpace 2011

Keith's note: The NewSpace 2011 conference is underway at NASA ARC. You can follow updates via Twitter here.

DOE, Interior Eye Employees Jettisoned by Space Program, New York Times

"The Energy Department and the Department of the Interior are among dozens of federal agencies looking to hire some of the engineers and scientists from NASA's closing space program. NASA and the Office of Personnel Management held a job fair yesterday in Cape Canaveral, Fla., less than a week after the space shuttle Atlantis landed. All told, about 5,500 contract employees at Florida's Kennedy Space Center have lost their jobs in recent months, and NASA contractors are expected to lay off another 2,000 over the next year. For an area nicknamed the "Space Coast," the end of the space program is a blow. But federal agencies are swooping in to take advantage of a pool of employees they say have skills that are usually hard to find."

Why Is NASA Caving to the Russians On ISS?, OpEd, Jim Oberg, Txchnologist

"With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Atlantis last week, American astronauts are now totally dependent on Russian vehicles for access to space. The question in front of us is how best to negotiate for fair compromises in the US-Russian space alliance. Some of NASA's recent agreements are not encouraging. The US needs to realize that it holds some high cards. True, the Russians have, in the Soyuz, the only vehicle that can carry passengers. But the destination - the International Space Station, which is more than 80 percent funded by the U.S. - provides many critical space services without which getting into orbit is pretty pointless for the Russians. Chief among them is electrical power and space-to-Earth communications, most of which comes via American equipment."

Notice of Availability/RFI: Potential Industry Interest: Use of NASA JSC Facility for Purpose of Establishing a JSC Acceleration Center

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center (JSC) is seeking to identify potential industry interest in an agency real property asset located at JSC in Houston, TX for the purpose of establishing a "JSC Acceleration Center". This announcement describes a NASA asset that is currently underutilized as a result of the transition from the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) to the future mission activities authorized by Congress in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010."

NASA at a turning point, opinion, Walt Cunninghman and Pete Olson, Politico

"However, last year President Barack Obama shifted NASA policy away from human spaceflight. His budget cancelled the next-generation Constellation human flight system rather than modifying any deficiencies -- wasting a $9 billion taxpayer investment. Instead, NASA was directed to pursue a riskier course, diverting billions of dollars to a group of companies - most devoid of experience in manned space vehicles - to take over operations to low-earth orbit and the transport of astronauts to the International Space Station. The goal was to generate a private marketplace to support the cost of these manned missions."

Rep. Olson Statement on Final Shuttle Landing

"This chapter is by no means the end of human space flight; it is the beginning of the next generation of scientists, engineers and unforeseen discoveries. I am dedicated to ensuring that Congress gives NASA the goal and resources to usher in the next generation of human space flight."

Keith's note: Hmm, let's see, extended life for the human-occupied ISS, spurring development of multiple spacecraft (government and commercial) to carry humans into orbit, and plans for human missions to an asteroid and to Mars. If anything, the policy in place looks to expand the reach of humans beyond low Earth orbit. But the authors are not interested in facts - rather, they are interested only in partisan rhetoric. Indeed, Olson is not even consistent. In his official post-shuttle landing statement he says that this is "by no means the end of human space flight" and that exciting things lie ahead. A day later, in Politico, he (and Cunningham) put forth a contradictory claim that the Obama Adminstration has "shifted NASA policy away from human spaceflight."

Space and Missile Defense Acquisitions: Periodic Assessment Needed to Correct Parts Quality Problems in Major Programs, GAO

"Quality is key to success in U.S. space and missile defense programs, but quality problems exist that have endangered entire missions along with less-visible problems leading to unnecessary repair, scrap, rework, and stoppage; long delays; and millions in cost growth. For space and missile defense acquisitions, GAO was asked to examine quality problems related to parts and manufacturing processes and materials across DOD and NASA. DOD and NASA should implement a mechanism for periodic assessment of the condition of parts quality problems in major space and missile defense programs with periodic reporting to Congress. DOD partially agreed with the recommendation and NASA agreed. DOD agreed to annually address all quality issues, to include parts quality."

Russia declares 'era of Soyuz' after shuttle, AFP

"Mankind acknowledges the role of American space ships in exploring the cosmos," it added. But Roskosmos also used the occasion to tout the virtues of the Soyuz (Union) spacecraft, which unlike the shuttle lands on Earth vertically with the aid of parachutes after leaving orbit. It said that there was a simple answer to why the Soyuz was still flying after the shuttles retired -- "reliability and not to mention cost efficiency."

Keith's note: How nice of our friends at Roskosmos to rub our noses in their monopoly today. Oh well, we created this situation through both deliberate intent and bumbling over the past decade. Well played, comrades. Enjoy it while it lasts. By overcharging in the obscene, escalating fashion that you have done during our periods of need, you are sowing the seeds of your own demise by spurring lower cost alternatives. All too soon, American spacecraft will do everything Soyuz does - and more - and will do so much better - and cheaper.

Keith's update: Yea, in case you had not noticed, I am really pi**ed off by this whole situation and how the Russians (whose space program we overtly subsidized since the 1990s) are dancing in response to our bad decisions and crappy predicament. Oh well, it will be fun to watch Russia wiggle as China flies the real Soyuz upgrades - and then as SpaceX et al beat Russia and China on both price and performance.

NASA Begins Commercial Partnership With United Launch Alliance

"NASA and ULA's unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) requires ULA to provide data on the Atlas V, a flight-proven expendable launch vehicle used by NASA and the Department of Defense for critical space missions. NASA will share its human spaceflight experience with ULA to advance crew transportation system capabilities and the draft human certification requirements. ULA will provide NASA feedback about those requirements, including providing input on the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of NASA's proposed certification approach."

NASA Commercial Crew Program Forum

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will present a status of the Commercial Crew Program strategy on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. The Forum will be held at the Press Site at Kennedy Space Center from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Program Forum's key topics will include: Background of NASA's Commercial Crew Strategy, Key Program Attributes, Potential Commercial Crew Program Strategy, Short Q&A session."

Keith's note: 5 day's advanced notice - over a weekend. Too bad NASA hasn't a clue how to plan these things - they had more than a thousand media at KSC just last week and more showing up fo rthe landing. A simple handout could have enhanced visibility for this program immensely. Its hard to play "capture the flag" when you don't let people know where the flag is ... at least they are webcasting it.

NASA Needs to Better Assess Contract Termination Liability Risks and Ensure Consistency in Its Practices

"We found that NASA's acquisition professionals generally do not monitor or track the potential termination liability costs of its contractors nor does the FAR require them to do so. The agency has not issued detailed instructions or provided guidance to direct contracting officers and others on how to monitor or track termination liability and to supplement the reliance on the relevant FAR provisions. As a result, resource analysts and financial managers inconsistently monitor and fund potential termination liability across the projects we reviewed."

The Next Space Race, Newsweek

"To get a peek at how commercial space will prepare its people, I signed up for private astronaut training, a three-day NASTAR certificate course for suborbital researchers. Founded in 2006, NASTAR began as a showcase for its parent company, Environmental Tectonics Corp., a leading maker of flight simulators. In 2010 it won Federal Aviation Administration approval for private space training, the first company to do so. The course remains optional, but regulators may require it as part of a company's license. "We're basically leaving it up to the companies," says George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA's office of commercial space transportation."

Strapping On A Centrifuge: Suborbital Scientist Training, earlier post

The Path Ahead for NASA: Lewis & Clark and the Settlers, SpaceRef

At a press conference at NASA KSC several days ago I asked the following question of NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver: "Yesterday you went on SpaceX tour [with the media] here at the Cape. We all heard talk of launching the Falcon 9 rocket with single digit number of people using launch and mission control rooms smaller than the one we are in today. And they want to do it with even fewer people. And they have competitors. NASA is about to embark on development of SLS, Orion, missions to asteroids, and the continued operation of the ISS. Will NASA ever approach the levels of innovation and efficiency as are evidenced by SpaceX and other companies? If so, when? If not, why not? I guess the real question I have is, its the 21st century. Indeed we have already used up 10% of it. Can NASA continue to justify operations that use a marching army when the private sector can do it with a sprinting platoon?"

End of shuttle program doesn't mean end of American leadership in spaceflight, Dana Rohrabacher, The Hill

"Now, as we celebrate the accomplishments of the space shuttle, we look forward to blazing that new trail, one which will finally bring us closer to achieving the real dreams and true promise of the space shuttles: inexpensive, reliable, safe human spaceflight. This transformation won't take place overnight. NASA, Congress and others still have the power to get in the way and create a self-fulfilling prophecy by preventing it from happening, at least in this country. We will only lose America's leadership in human spaceflight if we prevent the free market from pursuing multiple, independent launchers and vehicles."

NASA Signs Commercial Space Agreement With Sierra Nevada

"The umbrella space act agreement is Kennedy's latest step in its transition from a historically government-only launch complex to a multi-user spaceport. Sierra Nevada also has space act agreements with NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston; NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.; and NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif."

Report to Congress on the Solid Rocket Motor Industrial Base Sustainment and Implementation Plan Redacted Version (Excerpt), DoD

"Based on the analysis and findings of the Interagency Task Force, the DoD concludes:

1. The Department must preserve the scientific, engineering and design skills and production capabilities necessary to support both large- and small-SRMs. The DoD cannot allow the SRM industrial base to shut down until DoD determines its next generation requirements because the potential expense and schedule delays of restarting the industry would be too great. The SRM production capabilities are needed to support the MM III through 2030 and the D5 through 2042. ..."

Mark Albrecht's White House memoir is educational--and entertaining, Weekly Standard

"The Economist magazine thinks the Space Age is probably over, and the discussion of our space future (or non-future) in its new issue is intelligent and informative. I've found over the years, though, that in many instances, the Economist's suave articulation of the not-so-cutting edge of conventional wisdom proves wrong. Mark Albrecht hopes that's so in this case, because he's a believer in space exploration, and his new book argues for U.S. leadership in that endeavor."

Letter from Sen. Warner to Charles Bolden Regarding Open Competition for SLS Propulsion

Letter from Sens. Murray and Chambliss to NASA Regarding Open Competition for SLS

"I am writing to encourage NASA to initiate a competitive bidding process for the propulsion component of the new Space Launch System (SLS). I believe the greatest challenge we face as a nation is the need to balance our spending priorities with principles of fiscal discipline. Rather than consider a non-competitive sole-source contract, NASA should undertake a competitive bidding process to ensure billions of taxpayer dollars are spent in the most cost-effective and responsible manner possible. Furthermore, increased competition will encourage new, innovative technologies that can lead to lower costs and higher value for Americans in the long run."

Keith's note: Some staffer needs to get the name of the agency, address, etc. correct next time. These letters are all the same and are addressed to "National Aeronautics and Space Agency" at "200 E Street, SW, Room 9F44".

Families of Challenger and Chairman of the Board of Challenger Center for Space Science Education Regarding the Future of Human Spaceflight

"We, the families of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew and founders of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education--heroes we lost to further the exploration of space--strongly support the continuation of human spaceflight under a new paradigm of commercially led efforts to low earth orbit, and government led efforts beyond.

We recognize that commercial development in human spaceflight is a new paradigm, but so was America's government-driven space program at its birth more than 50 years ago. Our nation and others have been quite successful in moving the aviation industry from a military and government led operation to a viable commercial industry; we believe a similar approach is now necessary in space.

We also recognize that the commercialization of space will bring new innovations, capabilities, public interest, and economies to the grandest of human endeavor. This will also allow NASA to focus on deep space exploration, as it should."


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