Keith's note: The AIAA Space 2011 Conference in Long Beach, CA is today, September 27 through Thursday, September 29. The plenary sessions are being streamed live at www.livestream.com/aiaa (the agenda is posted there as well).
Commercialization: September 2011 Archives
"NASA has selected a launch vehicle architecture that includes a large cryogenic (LOX/LH2) Core Stage, an Upper Stage when needed for higher performance missions, high thrust Boosters (initially, using those developed for the Ares I vehicle) for liftoff thrust, using either 3, 4, or 5 RS-25 engines on Core Stage, and using 1, 2, or 3 J-2X engines on Upper Stage. While the launch vehicle configuration will change based upon mission needs for lift performance, the basic design of the Stages will be the same for all missions, with the only change being how many engines will be mounted in the Main Propulsion System of the Core Stage (or Upper Stage) for a given mission. ... The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12."
"NASA/MSFC intends to negotiate only with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) for the SLS Core Stage Engines. This decision is made pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements, which implements the authority for 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1). ... The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12."
"I have serious concerns with NASA's attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS. Instead, NASA is considering modifying and/or extending existing contracts for retired or cancelled programs resulting in one or more "de facto sole source awards."
"In a press conference, William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations said that the first stage will be designed from the onset to accept a variety or range of strap-on boosters. When asked when that procurement will begin, Gerstenmaier said that this "wIll begin almost immediately - competition begins as soon as we go do this [procurement] activity."
Keith's note: Despite statements by HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier there is little if any evidence that there is any true interest on NASA's part to begin competitive procurement on the SLS any time soon.
"I have serious concerns with NASA's attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS. Instead, NASA is considering modifying and/or extending existing contracts for retired or cancelled programs resulting in one or more "de facto sole source awards." Some of these contracts were originally awarded on a sole source basis. I strongly believe that such a de facto sole source award would be a violation of the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act (CICA). GAO has stated: "Under the Competition in Contracting Act, 41 U.S.C. S 253(c)(1), a sole source award may be made only when there is a single responsible source that can satisfy the government's needs." I am aware of multiple potential contractors who have expressed intent to compete for any available SLS contracts, and who should have every opportunity to do so."
Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle NAFCOM Cost Estimates (presentation), August 2011, NASA Associate Deputy Administrator for Policy
"The objective of the analysis was to estimate the cost to develop the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using two different approaches: 1) traditional NASA environment/culture, and 2) a more commercial development culture approach. ... Results: "The activity estimated Falcon 9 would cost $3.977B based on NASA environment/culture. NAFCOM predicted $1.695B when all technical inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach."
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) proposes to issue an experimental permit to Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) to conduct suborbital launches and landings of the Grasshopper reusable launch vehicle (RLV) at the McGregor, Texas test site. ... The Grasshopper RLV consists of a Falcon 9 Stage 1 tank, a Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs, and a steel support structure. Carbon overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs), which are filled with either nitrogen or helium, are attached to the support structure. The Merlin- 1D engine has a maximum thrust of 122,000 pounds. The overall height of the Grasshopper RLV is 106 feet, and the tank height is 85 feet."
"The SLS vehicle procurements will be structured to meet the Agency's requirement for an affordable and evolvable vehicle within a schedule that supports various mission requirements. Procurements will include utilization of existing assets to expedite development, as well as further development of technologies and future competitions for advanced systems and key technology areas specific to SLS evolved vehicle needs. Detailed synopses will be issued in the near future for the individual procurements as required by regulation."
NASA Posts Space Launch System Acquisition Overview
"NASA has released the acquisition overview for the Space Launch System (SLS). SLS is an entirely new advanced, heavy-lift launch vehicle that will take the agency's astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home and provide the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts."
"We strongly believe that NASA and the nation both benefit greatly from investing in commercial spaceflight programs that will allow astronauts to fly on commercial vehicles; and we urge you to fully fund and support those programs. They offer a win-win situation: we ensure that the nation has a way--or, better yet, several independent ways--to get its astronauts into space following the impending retirement of the Space Shuttle, while the commercial sector will benefit from the support of NASA to grow faster and to hire more of us future graduates."
Florida raises concern over Wallops expansion, Orlando Sentinel
"The most pressing issue for the Florida workforce is the sense of betrayal that their tax dollars might be used in establishing a competing orbital human spaceflight launch capability in another state when they have so well and ably done the job here in Florida," wrote Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. Added Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, suggested the work could be "duplicative" and raised the possibility of holding a public meeting down in Florida."
Keith's note: Why shouldn't every state in the union have a chance to participate in human space flight? People who live in other states pay tax dollars too - and they have watched their tax dollars go to Florida for half a century for human space flight activities.
"NASA finalized a Cooperative Agreement with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), authorizing the organization to serve as the independent non-profit entity for management of the U.S. International Space Station National Laboratory (ISS NL) ... For more information, please visit the CASIS website, which will go live on September 15, 2011 at www.iss-casis.org."
Keith's 21 Sep note: This press release was issued on 9 September. A website for CASIS was promised for 15 September - but there is still no active website for CASIS. NASA picked this organization to help manage the ISS National Laboratory and help disseminate information regarding the uses of the ISS - and they can't even get a simple website online? Not a promising sign.
Keith's 22 Sep update: The CASIS website is now online.
"Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison said in a press conference a few hours earlier that the exisiting Constellation and shuttle contracts will be changed within a week or so. When asked about this Gerstenmaier said that will not happen that fast. He said that NASA's intent is to have an Industry day for the private sector around 29 September. A formal synopisis will be issued at the end of this week announcing that event."
Keith's note: Its is Monday and despite Gerstenmaier's statement, nothing about an industry day or any procurement changes for SLS has been posted on NASA's procurement site or in the Federal Register.
"With NASA's announcement of the new Deep Space Exploration System, attendance at this event will afford industry an opportunity to learn more about the new Heavy Lift Rocket that will one day take humans far beyond Earth. This will be America's most powerful rocket to be developed since the Satern V rockets that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon."
Keith's 20 Sep update: Where is the rest of the stuff (the procurement/contract changes) that NASA said it was going to release? Sen. Hutchison said this would only take a week. Also, why isn't NASA webcasting this event? Also note that the MSFC folks have forgotten how to spell the name of the Moon rocket they developed back in the day - i.e. "Satern V". Also what is the "Deep Space Exploration System"? Is this a new program? NASA folks often capitalize words they want to emphasize - even though this comes across as a formal name.
Keith's 22 Sep update: See NASA Releases SLS Acquisition Materials
"NASA unveiled Monday an outline of its acquisition strategy to procure transportation services from private industry to carry U.S. astronauts to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. The agency also announced the addition of optional milestones for the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiative."
"A Requirements Workshop, a Pre-Solicitation Conference and One-on-Ones are scheduled for October 4, 5 and 6 at Kennedy Space Center, FL. The Requirements Workshop will discuss key features and changes since the May 2011 Requirements Workshop for each of the 1100 series documents. Additional information regarding times, location and registration information will be posted in the near future."
"Vladimir Solovyov, head of the Russian segment of the ISS mission control center made a statement on Friday that Space X will not be granted docking permission to dock its Dragon spacecraft at the International Space Station (ISS) during a planned test flight on or around November 30, 2011."
@NASA: "Sorry, despite @ria_novosti reports, a decision has yet to be made regarding the upcoming @SpaceXer test flight to ISS. Incorrect story."
Keith's note: I suspect that this is yet another case of bad translation from Russian to English and/orRussian bluffing and/or a negotiating tactic for more money. They have done this before.
NASA commercial crew program shifts contracting strategy, Florida Today
"NASA today told industry partners it would abandon the use of Space Act Agreements in the next phase of the program developing commercial crew taxis, despite many companies' preference for them. "We've made our decision and we recognize that not everyone will agree with it, but we're at the point where we had to make one and move forward," Brent Jett, deputy director of the Commercial Crew Program office, said during a meeting at Kennedy Space Center."
Keith's note: I love it when people with no apparent commercial experience in the real world make decisions like this regarding commercial partnerships. And then they wonder why companies are increasingly wary of entering into new ways of doing "business" with NASA when NASA is constantly changing the rules.
You can download slides from the NASA Commercial Crew Program Forum presentations here. There will be a Commercial Crew Transportation Technical Requirements Workshop on 4 October 2011 and an Industry Day on 5 October. Location TBA.
"During this historic time of change within the space industry, the Coalition for Space Exploration (Coalition) wants to hear from the American public about what they envision for the future of space exploration. The Coalition is launching a contest based on a simple question, "What's Next?" Participants are encouraged to share their ideas for the future direction of America's space program in a video. The creator of the winning video entry wins an iPad2."
"NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program is the most fiscally responsible means to rapidly advance human spaceflight. It has protected taxpayer dollars with fixed-price, pay-for-performance contracts. It fosters competition that forces companies to compete on reliability, capability and cost. And it leverages private investment - making taxpayer dollars go further. "SpaceX applauds Chairwoman Mikulski, Ranking Member Hutchison and the Members of the Subcommittee for recognizing the value of the program. With the support of Congress, American companies will soon be able to end the flow of tax dollars to Russia and instead invest in high-tech American jobs."
"NASA may not have spent its own money to develop the million dollar space pen, but the space agency did change your life in countless other ways. Over the years, NASA's technology has led to countless innovative products that you use every day. Some you'd expect, and some you... definitely wouldn't. With NASA's funding under the gun, it's a great time to remember all of the ways the agency's innovations have enriched us -- including some surprising examples. Here are 10 off-the-wall products that resulted from NASA missions."
"Late last night and early this morning NASA, Congress, the White House - and the media - were all a buzz with the sudden announcement - that there would be an "announcement". After months of subpoenas, contentious hearings, foot dragging, posturing, leaks, and press conferences, NASA, White House, and Congress had finally come to an agreement as to what the congressionally-mandated Space Launch System would look like and how much it would cost. ... Of course, what is still lacking in this whole story is exactly what NASA will do with this big rocket. Missions to asteroids, Mars etc. are often tossed out by NASA representatives - but no timeline whatosever has yet to be presented - not even a "notional" one. Nor has an overall strategy or architecture been issued or any idea what the cost would be for the things that would actually fly on these rockets."
"U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Bill Nelson, Chairman of Science and Space Subcommittee, along with Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, and other members of Congress, will hold a press conference today to discuss the NASA announcement on the future of our space program.
WHO: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Members of Congress, including U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bill Nelson
WHEN:TODAY, Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 10 a.m.
WHERE: SDG-50 on the ground floor of the Senate Dirksen Building
NOTE: Press conference will be live webcast on the Senate Commerce Committee's website."
This will also be broadcast on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv
"At 12 p.m. NASA will hold a background media teleconference with William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate, Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator for HEO, NASA Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson and other senior managers."
"The design for NASA's newest behemoth of a rocket harkens back to the giant workhorse liquid rockets that propelled men to the moon. But this time the destinations will be much farther and the rocket even more powerful. The Obama administration on Wednesday will unveil its much-delayed general plans for its rocket design, called the Space Launch System, which will cost about $35 billion, according to senior administration sources and information obtained by The Associated Press.."
"NASA and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) managers will announce an agreement that could accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities at 3 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 13. The announcement will occur at the Press Site auditorium at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."
"ATK and NASA announced a partnership today to work together during the development of ATK's commercial Liberty(TM) Launch System, an agreement that also supports the 2010 National Space Policy by furthering international partnerships. The team signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) that enables NASA and the Liberty program office to provide technical interaction for the launch system during the Preliminary Design Review phase of the program."
Keith's note: Curiously (or maybe not) the first 4 questions (rambling mini-lectures/history lessons) - in a row - were asked by anti-commerical space, pro-Constellation NBC reporter Jay Barbree. The questions sure sound like they were pre-coordinated with the person answering them. Oh yes, his daughter worked for ATK for many years. Alas, Jay Barbree was against commercial crew transport before he was for it.
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will present a status of the Commercial Crew Program strategy on Friday, September 16, 2011. The Forum will be held at the Press Site at Kennedy Space Center from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Attendees must pre-register online. Attendance is limited to 2 representatives per company or organization. Seating is limited and badging will be required."
Keith's note: Wow. 3 Days' advanced notice if you want to attend in person. At least they will webcast it.
"NASA has canceled the previously scheduled news conference on Friday, Sept. 9, about the award of the organization that will manage the portion of the International Space Station operated as a U.S. national laboratory. The briefing was canceled because the launch of the agency's GRAIL mission has been postponed until Friday morning. NASA will offer in-person media interview opportunities at 10 a.m. EDT on Friday at NASA Kennedy Space Center's Press Site in Florida"
Keith's Note: This is odd. The only reason why an ISS project is to be discussed with the media is at a SMD launch. When the launch is scrubbed, they decide not to allow remote participation (as had been the original plan) - just chit chat with media present to cover a moon mission launch. If the ISS National Laboratory folks really wanted to interact with the media then they'd set up their own event independent of someone else's launch. Then again Mark Uhran (departing NASA in a few weeks anyway) et al simply do not care about interacting with the public or the media about the ISS National Laboratory.
"Virgin Galactic is pleased to announce the appointment of former NASA, White House and Department of Energy official Steven J. Isakowitz as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. In his role, Isakowitz will have leadership responsibilities across a range of areas as the company prepares to begin commercial operation of its space vehicles. Specifically, he will lead technical oversight of key programs, development and management of new programs, government and industry business development, government affairs, advanced technologies, and strategic analysis."
"Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, LLC, the world's first commercial spaceline, and sister aerospace production company, The Spaceship Company (TSC), in cooperation with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, today announced that they will host their first-ever "Industry Day" on Oct. 18., 2011 at Spaceport America near Las Cruces, N.M. The inaugural event marks a major milestone in the advent of commercial space travel. While the event is designed to educate potential suppliers on what sorts of goods and services will be needed by both companies, the underlying message is that widespread, commercial space travel will soon be a reality."
Keith's Note: NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun will be leaving NASA soon. He has told his staff and others that he plans to depart. Braun fought hard to bring new technology into the way that NASA does things but was thwarted by the lack of a meaningful budget with which to accomplish this task. He worked very hard at his job - and at trying to make this transformation at NASA - and deserves a round of applause for trying.
NASA Chief Technologist Braun Returning to Georgia Tech, NASA Internal Memo
"Joseph Parrish, the deputy chief technologist, will serve as acting NASA chief technologist. Parrish joined the Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) in January from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., where he was responsible for technology assessment and mission architecture planning for future robotic missions to Mars."
"The past few years have been a challenging time for the Agency as we have dealt with major transition in the human spaceflight enterprise, budget uncertainty, a wide range of collaboration opportunities, new partners, reduction of our institutional footprint, and initiatives designed to help our talented workforce retool and reinvent itself for success in the 21st century. For NASA, I believe that these changes have just begun. While such change is difficult, I believe that the more desperately an organization tries to hold on to today, the more likely it is that this same organization will not have a tomorrow. Please remember that the future starts today."
Keith's 24 Aug note: According to a FAA NOTAM (Notice To Airmen): "FDC 1/3552 ZAB TX.. TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS VAN HORN, TX. EFFECTIVE 1108241200 UTC UNTIL 1108241700 UTC. PURSUANT TO 14 CFR SECTION 91.143 TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS ARE IN EFFECT DUE TO ROCKET LAUNCH ACTIVITY WITHIN A 17 NM RADIUS OF 312706N/1044546W OR THE SALT FLAT /SFL/ VORTAC 125 DEGREE RADIAL AT 24.3 NAUTICAL MILES SFC TO 18000 MSL. BLUE ORIGIN LLC, TELEPHONE 253-347-2821, IS IN CHARGE OF THE OPERATION. ALBUQUERQUE /ZAB/ ARTCC, 505-856-4500, IS THE FAA COORDINATION FACILITY."
Keith's 25 Aug update: Well, nothing was apparently launched - and if you go to the FAA NOTAM webpage the request from Blue Origin has mysteriously disappeared.
Bezos-Funded Spaceship Misfires, WS Journal
"An unmanned spaceship funded by Internet billionaire Jeff Bezos suffered a major failure during a recent test flight, according to U.S. government and industry officials, highlighting the dramatic risks of private space ventures. The vertical takeoff and landing spacecraft, developed by closely held Blue Origin LLC, was on a suborbital flight from the company's West Texas spaceport last week, these officials said, when ground personnel lost contact and control of the vehicle. The exact nature and cause of the failure were unclear, but remnants of the spacecraft could provide clues for investigators. Parts of the vehicle were recovered on the ground and are now being analyzed by company experts, according to government and industry officials."
Keith's 2 Sep update: One would expect that Blue Origin would post an update on its website after an accident of this sort. Here it is:
"Successful Short Hop, Set Back, and Next Vehicle - Three months ago, we successfully flew our second test vehicle in a short hop mission, and then last week we lost the vehicle during a developmental test at Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 45,000 feet. A flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered our range safety system to terminate thrust on the vehicle. Not the outcome any of us wanted, but we're signed up for this to be hard, and the Blue Origin team is doing an outstanding job. We're already working on our next development vehicle."
Keith's note: We are very pleased today to release the first issue of Space Quarterly Magazine with both the U.S. and Canadian editions now available.
We are also pleased to announce that the first issue is available for FREE as a digital PDF download. We sincerely hope you'll like our first issue and consider subscribing to future editions. We are also launching the SpaceRef Forum in the next couple of days.
The forum provides subscribers an opportunity to view and comment on the stories in the magazine as well other topics. Non-subscribers will also be able to participate in the forum with the exception of the Space Quarterly forum.
The next issue of Space Quarterly is already being worked on for a December release.
NASA JSC is currently blocking access to the free downloads (both of them) of Space Quarterly. The reason given in the red banner warning is: "The WebProxy category none is FILTERED". JSC fixed things.
"NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Innovative Partnership Program (IPP) and Earth Science Division will be hosting a Commercial Suborbital Vehicles Workshop at the GSFC on September 7, 2011. The purpose of the proposed workshop is to provide information for Earth and Space scientists about these vehicles capabilities, and to examine and discuss science topics that might be conducted from these platforms."
Keith's 31 Aug note: On 14 August I sent several requests to NASA GSFC PAO asking for information on this meeting including media access. A representative replied "The detailed agenda is still being worked out but it is our intent to invite reporters to the event. The only factor I know of that might prevent reporters from attending the full meeting would be if some part of the presentation or discussion involves information that is of a sensitive/proprietary nature. I expect a media advisory will be issued sometime around the end of this month with full details of the agenda and how media can register."
It has been 2 weeks and I have not received any further information on this event. The event is less than a week away with a long weekend in between. For those people who have not read about this on NASA Watch, this lack of advance notice from NASA is going to decrease the number of people in attendance. I know the reps from these companies - and I have heard them all make their pitches before - and I would be astonished if one company was going to talk about their sensitive/proprietary stuff in front of their competitors. No mention of this meeting is made on the GSFC IPP website, the NASA HQ OCT website, the NASA SMD website, or NASA.gov. Given the recent Progress failure and the increased focus on commercial alternatives for ISS access I simply cannot see how NASA can afford to not make this as open as possible given that COTS and WFF launch facilities are on the agenda.
Keith's 1 Sep update: GSFC PAO finally tells me this morning that a media advisory will be out later today. Hmm, let's see - NASA is going to issue the first public mention of this event on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend - and the event is less than a week later. Talk about a perfect time to quietly announce something that no one will notice - and that many people will skip due to the cost of last minute airline tickets. It is blatantly obvious that GSFC and SMD are not interested in outside scrutiny with regard to this event.
Keith's second 1 Sep update: NASA GSFC PAO finally got around to issuing a media advisory "Media Invited to Commercial Suborbital Vehicle Workshop". But unless I missed something, they never issued a press release or announcement inviting scientists, engineers, and commercial representatives to this meeting - which is the whole point of this event to begin with. All that was issued was an email sent to a small group of individuals several weeks ago - not to the suborbital community as a whole. There is still no mention of this event on any NASA websites. How are the people involved in this area of research supposed to know about this meeting? No public information has been provided so as to allow these people to register and attend. Baffling.