Commercialization: October 2011 Archives

NASA to Announce New Agreement for Kennedy Facilities Monday

Boeing to sign lease for NASA's space shuttle hangar, Reuters

"The company has reached agreement with Space Florida, a state-backed agency working to expand space-related businesses in Florida, to lease Orbiter Processing Facility 3 at the center, Boeing spokeswoman Susan Wells said on Friday."

Keith's note: Oddly, as of 2:00 pm EDT neither Space Florida or the Commercial Spaceflight Federation have bothered to put out a press release regarding this big commercial space news (announced at 10:00 am EDT today) - even though Boeing confirmed this specific agreement last Friday. Neither organization had anything public to say about last week's commercial crew hearings either.

NASA Signs Agreement with Space Florida to Reuse Kennedy Facilities For Boeing CST-100 Development

"The next era of space exploration won't wait, and so we can't wait for Congress to do its job and give our space program the funding it needs. That's why my Administration will be pressing forward, in partnership with Space Florida and the private sector, to create jobs and make sure America continues to lead the world in exploration and discovery," President Barack Obama said."

We Can't Wait, Atlanta Journal Constitution

"The White House continues to run with the new theme of President Obama, "We Can't Wait," making the argument that if the Congress won't approve Obama Administration initiatives, then the President will do what he can on his own."

Boeing to Establish Commercial Crew Program Office in Florida

""Pending the continued selection of Boeing for future Commercial Crew development and service contracts, and sufficient NASA funding, we project a Commercial Crew program workforce ramping up to 550 local jobs by our scheduled operational date of December 2015."

Keith's note: This is interesting. An Obama 2012 campaign slogan is used in an official NASA press release. Just Google "Obama we can't wait" and you will see this campaign phrase embedded in virtually everything that the President says these days - especially when it relates to employment.

NASA should put KSC first, opinion, Florida Today

"The push by some members of Congress who might secure jobs from new development in Virginia is just a pork project."

Keith's note: Utterly hilarious. I guess this means that there is no "pork" involved in decisions affecting KSC. Pot - Kettle - Black, y'all.

- Florida Vs Virginia Food Fight In Space Update, earlier post
- Virginia's Invisible Spaceport (Updated), earlier post
- Florida's Sneaky Business Tactics, earlier post

Elon Musk Named Innovator of the Year Award in Technology by WSJ. Magazine

"WSJ. Magazine's first annual Innovator of the Year Awards honors the most creative, disruptive, and influential individuals in the world today. Musk was recognized for revolutionizing three of the biggest industries in the world -- automobiles, energy and space exploration -- simultaneously. Artist Tom Sachs, whose recent work is based on the imagery of space, presented the award to Musk."

Shooting for the Stars, Wall Street Journal

"Musk launched SpaceX in 2002 and built and designed his own engines from scratch. "I'm head engineer and chief designer as well as CEO, so I don't have to cave to some money guy," he says. He launched his rocket with a team of eight in the control room, instead of dozens. The result: He's offering to send a 10,000-pound payload to geosynchronous orbit for $60 million (compared to an industry standard many tens of millions higher).

Keith's note: Gee, I guess Wall Street Journal reporter Andy Pasztor was not on the selection committee for this award ;-)

Fueling Stations vs. Monster Rocket, Dana Rohrabacher, Space News

"At the end of our July 12 House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing, "A Review of NASA's Space Launch System," I asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden about the relative cost of using the technology of on-orbit propellant depots instead of relying on new large heavy-lift launch vehicles. He replied that he believed the studies had been done, and the fuel depot solution proved to be more expensive, and promised to get me the full answer. As of this writing, I am still waiting for that answer. It has been more than three months, and NASA has not provided any analysis, or any data at all, that shows why depots are not a good solution or why they are more expensive."

- Rohrabacher Demands Release of NASA's Recent On-Orbit Fuel Depot Analysis, earlier post - Update on NASA's Hidden Fuel Depot Studies - NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post

Full Committee Hearing: NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program: Accomplishments and Challenges

Panel One
- John Elbon, Boeing - statement
- Steve Lindsey, Sierra Nevada - statement
- Elon Musk, SpaceX - statement
- Charles Precourt, ATK - statement
- George Sowers, United Launch Alliance - statement

Panel Two
- Paul Martin, Inspector General, NASA - statement
- Bill Gerstenmaier, HEOMD, NASA - statement

- Rep. Hall: "Blue Origin declined to testify despite getting $14.9 million from NASA and will have to explain that to the rest of the committee."

- Hearing Charter
- Live webcast

Opening statements:

- Rep. Hall
- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Rep. Jerry Costello

A question of money, not competition, op ed by Frank DiBello, Richmond Times Dispatch

"In a recent op/ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, much seems to have been made of alleged efforts by Space Florida and others to stifle the growth of Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia as a potential competitor spaceport. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this incident provides a great opportunity to again draw attention to what we do oppose: the corrosive costs of duplicative federal infrastructure and wasteful spending. This is about the taxpayer, not the state!"

- Virginia's Invisible Spaceport (Updated), earlier post
- Florida's Sneaky Business Tactics, earlier post

Commercial Crew Initiative Called Underfunded, Aviation Week

"Funding for NASA's commercial crew space transportation services initiative appears headed for funding problems that could undermine the agency's efforts to regain the independent U.S. human launch capability that lapsed with the shuttle program's retirement earlier this year, members of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) warned Oct. 21."

Comments by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight

"While not a new idea, it should not be surprising that this increased emphasis and investment has now reached the stage where a real threat exists to the status quo. It is only natural that this success has "inspired" a negative reaction by vested interests. History is rich with examples of industries and entities in transition - those whose livelihoods and in some cases very lives were threatened by a new paradigm often choose the bitter fight instead of, or in some cases, in advance of, their own adaptation."

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

"Our review found that NASA is making sustained progress toward its goal of obtaining commercial crew transportation services. However, the Agency faces a series of significant challenges, including the need to select an acquisition strategy, modify existing human-rating requirements to make them applicable to commercially developed systems, and establish the appropriate insight/oversight model for commercial partner vehicle development."

Breaking The Soyuz Habit

NASA: Pay the Americans now ... or pay the Russians later, MSNBC

"If NASA can't provide as much support for U.S. spaceship-builders as it's hoping for, it'll have to keep paying the Russians $450 million for every year of delay, the space agency's No. 2 official said today. NASA's deputy administrator, Lori Garver, laid out that "pay now or pay later" message at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, N.M."

Back space taxis or pay more for Russian rides, Reuters

"The Obama Administration is requesting $850 million for the [commercial] program for the fiscal year that began Oct 1. Bills pending in the House and Senate cut that to $312 million and $500 million, respectively. Without full funding in 2012, the United States' ability to stop buying rides from Russia in 2016 is at risk, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, under way in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this week."

NASA may extend Russian contract to fly to space station, Orlando Sentinel

"Top NASA officials are quietly working to extend a contract with Moscow that would continue using Russian rockets to fly U.S. astronauts into space until 2016 and beyond -- a move that underscores how much the U.S. now relies on its former Cold War adversary. Already, NASA is committed to pay Russia $1.5 billion during the next five years to transport its astronauts to and from the International Space Station, a necessary arrangement because the U.S. no longer flies a human-rated spacecraft since NASA retired the space shuttle last summer."

Soyuz flight VS01 Lifts Off From French Guiana (with video)

"Soyuz lifts off for the first time from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying the first two Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites. Following the liftoff join ESA live webstreaming for the separation phase, expected at around 16:20 CEST. Streaming recommences at 15:40 CEST."

Keith's note: This comment from NASA's Phil McAlister via Jeff Foust on Twitter from the ISPCS (International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight) is somewhat revealing as to NASA's preceptions in terms of the appropriate size of a government oversight office.

@Jeff_Foust: McAlister: Comm'l Crew office capped at 250, which for NASA is a very lean program; "not a standing army but a platoon." #ispcs

According to Wikipedia (and other references) a platoon contains 26-55 individuals. McAlister is off by a factor of 5 to 10. What McAlister is actually talking about is an organization that is somewhere between a large company or a lean battalion in size.

I'd love to see a NASA management tree and job description for each of these 250 positions in the commercial crew office. If NASA was truly interested in the use of commercial means to accomplish its mission - but also interested in the underlying managerial philosophy inherent in private sector operations - then NASA would learn to mirror the way that the private sector works. Or at least try. These comments make me question if they ever will. I wonder what the government/supplier ratio will be in terms of government oversight for Shuttle Vs commercial crew and cargo flights. Add in the people across NASA matrixed to the commerical crew office and I will bet that the total workforce greatly exceeds 250.

Reader note: "Someone check my math but the full taxpayer cost of 250 NASA civil servants is approx. $75 M per year. Does this come off the top of the appropriated funds (Senate Appropriations recently set at $500 M for 2012)? That's a 15% overhead for the program office alone - not to mention the Center technical oversight."

Reader note: "250 CS employees would be about $55M. I know our center uses about $220k for an FTE. Don't know the exact number since it changes. $300k/FTE is way high."

Keith's 21 Oct 8:37 am EDT Update: Early this morning Anlyn Bankos from NASA's commercial office sent me an email with two reports attached "NASA's Return on Investment Report October 2011" and "CCDev 2 Milestone Schedule". When I sent an email asking for the URLs at the NASA Commercial Office I got this message back from Bankos "I will be out of the office from Wednesday, February 16-Friday, February 18.If you have any questions, please contact Dick Smart.". Wow. Its October. I guess they are not very busy - at least not busy enough for their "customers" to notice that this message is 6 months out of date.

Keith's 21 Oct 2:00 pm EDT Update: NASA's Return on Investment Report October 2011 and CCDev 2 Milestone Schedule are now online at NASA. It took 6 hours for them to make a simple website update.

SpaceX Completes Key Milestone to Fly Astronauts to International Space Station

"Today, SpaceX announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system, a system designed for manned missions using its Dragon spacecraft. This represents a major step toward creating an American-made successor to the Space Shuttle. NASA's approval of the latest design review marks the fourth successfully completed milestone under the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program and demonstrates the innovation that's possible when NASA partners with the private sector."

Bigelow Aerospace Lays Off Half Of Its Employees Due To Space Taxi Delays, Reuters via Huffington Post

"We no longer can say with some certainty when the transportation is going to be there," said Bigelow, who spoke with reporters after a speech at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight under way this week in Las Cruces."

Did NASA Hide In-space Fuel Depots To Get a Heavy Lift Rocket?, TCMnet

"Last week, a 69 page NASA Powerpoint presentation on the costs of in-orbit fuel depots was leaked to SpaceRef.Com. The July 21, 2011 document, a preliminary report of a more detailed in-house NASA study that at least one Congressman has requested and been promised, says it would be dramatically faster and cheaper to use existing rockets in combination with in-orbit fueling to get to the Moon, an asteroid, and other deep space destinations than to build the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The Tea Party in Space (TPIS) is calling it an "integrity issue" for NASA."

Is This NASA Document Saving or Killing Manned Private Spaceflight?, Popular Mechanics

"NASA, which wants to send its astronauts aboard privately built spacecraft, recently released the first draft of a document detailing how it would ensure those ships are safe. The contract is a tome of legalese, but buried inside the hundreds of pages are provisions that have some private space companies worried that NASA's oversight could slow them down."

Keith's note: As you can see from these charts taken (out of context) from the 13 July 2010 NASA HEFT presentation "EELV Capacity Analysis", NASA clearly did quite a bit of comparison and contrast between various existing expendable launch vehicles - foreign and domestic - analyses that did not always include use of a SLS-class heavy launch vehicle. Indeed, one chart is titled "International Partners Have Lots of Capacity". The rest of this presentation contains procurement-sensitive information and will not be published here.

That said, it is obvious that even a year ago pragmatic thought was given to how a variety of launchers could be used for human, cargo, and other launch purposes including ways that mission profiles (DRM 4) usually associated with a HLV could be accomplished in whole or in part by the use of expendable launch vehicles. A more detailed look at what was being reviewed last year can be found at "Human Exploration Framework Team Presentation Online".

- NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post
- Using Commercial Launchers and Fuel Depots Instead of HLVs", earlier post
- The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress, earlier post

Florida's Governor Visits KSC

Governor Scott tours Kennedy Space Center for first time, 13 News

"Florida's governor toured the Kennedy Space Center for the first time since taking office Tuesday to get a look at progress of the next generation of NASA spaceflight. He also talked about ways to lure more companies to the Space Coast and Florida to employ jobless space shuttle workers. Scott and his cabinet walked through the Operations and Checkout Building where the Orion spacecraft is being built and fine-tuned for future deep space missions."

Florida governor visits NASA facility to talk jobs, CNN

"It's no longer your daddy's NASA," said Carroll, who also heads Space Florida, the state's aerospace advocate. "It's going to be the 21st century NASA for our grandchildren."

- Florida is Getting Greedy About Human Space Flight, earlier post
- Virginia's Invisible Spaceport, earlier post

Virginia Governor McDonnell Visits NASA Wallops Flight Facility (With Photos)

"Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell paid a visit to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on October 17 for a first-hand look at the development of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II rocket that will start carrying supplies to the International Space Station in 2012. Orbital will be conducting missions for NASA under the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project and Commercial Resupply Services contract. During the visit the Governor also received a construction update on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's launch pad 0A from which the Taurus II will launch."

Keith's 9:09 am EDT note: While NASA Wallops makes mention of the visit of the Governor of Virginia, no menion is made of this visit on his own website, at the MidAtlantic Regional Spaceport Authority, or at Orbital Sciences. This is not at all surprising since virtually everyone here in Virginia seems to be oblivious to the fact that we have a real rocket factory in our midst and that our state can actually launch things into space - soon, to the ISS itself. Florida really doesn't need to worry about launch competition from Wallops. We hardly even know it is there ourselves.

Keith's 10:55 am EDT update: At 10:40 am EDT Orbital tweeted "Orbital is proud to have hosted Gov. McDonnell to our @NASA_Wallops facilities for a tour and briefing yesterday." and also retweeted a pic originally Tweeted by @NASA_Wallops. Still no press release or mention at Orbital's website.

Keith's 2:00 pm EDT update: Still no press release from Orbital. MidAtlantic Regional Spaceport Authority made an update. The Virginia Governor's office did make an update - for an unrelated 18 October event - but posted nothing about yesterday's event at Wallops. Commercial space is clearly not a big priority here in Virginia - its yours for the taking, Florida.

Keith's 2:49 pm EDT note: In response to a tweet about this posting, @OrbitalSciences just tweeted: "@NASAWatch Really? Then why did @GovernorVA make a special trip to the launch site? Comm'l space isn't about press releases and photos." My tweeted response "Well, since you asked, @OrbitalSciences , you can't even bother to put a simple press release out? Not everyone reads Twitter you know". Governors also visit county fairs and shopping mall openings - and you see media alerts for those things. Not for commercial space. If no one reads or knows about visits like this - they did not happen. What a missed opportunity.

If the commercial space sector in Virginia wants to be taken seriously - and have an effect (i.e. draw commercial space business to the state and then keep it there), then both government and private sector players will need to emulate what the folks are doing in Florida. They are constantly in the news - via all modes. They get it - and they are successful. Virginia does not get it - and various local stakeholders whine and complain when Florida make moves to protect its space sector.

Everyone in Florida knows where the rockets take off in their state. But how many people in Virginia know where the rockets are launched within their state - and when - and why?

EELV: DOD Needs to Ensure New Acquisition Strategy Is Based on Sufficient Information, GAO

"Broader issues exist as well, regarding the U.S. government's acquisition of, and future planning for, launch services--issues which GAO believes should be addressed, given that they could reduce launch costs and assure future launch requirements are met. ... Policymakers could benefit from additional insight into these issues, but it is not clear that DOD will address these issues in its upcoming strategy."

GAO Report Raises Serious Concerns over ULA Block Buy, SpaceX

"The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan, investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, found serious flaws with a proposal that would guarantee ULA's monopoly over Department of Defense (DoD) launches. The report states that while ULA is pushing the 40-rocket purchase, the methodology and data used by ULA to justify the purchase were severely flawed, there is no justification for the five-year timeline, and a block purchase could kill opportunities for competition by forcing the government to commit to more boosters than are actually needed."

Internal NASA Studies Show Cheaper and Faster Alternatives to Space Launch System

This presentation "Propellant Depot Requirements Study - Status Report - HAT Technical Interchange Meeting - July 21, 2011" is a distilled version of a study buried deep inside of NASA. The study compared and contrasted an SLS/SEP architecture with one based on propellant depots for human lunar and asteroid missions. Not only was the fuel depot mission architecture shown to be less expensive, fitting within expected budgets, it also gets humans beyond low Earth orbit a decade before the SLS architecture could.

Moreover, supposed constraints on the availability of commercial launch alternatives often mentioned by SLS proponents, was debunked. In addition, clear integration and performance advantages to the use of commercial launchers Vs SLS was repeatedly touted as being desirable: "breaking costs into smaller, less-monolithic amounts allows great flexibility in meeting smaller and changing budget profiles."

- Using Commercial Launchers and Fuel Depots Instead of HLVs" (March 2011), earlier post
- The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress (January 2011), earlier post

- Discuss this post at the new SpaceRef Forum

NASA Money Sponge Update

Editorial: Identify JWST's Bill Payers, editorial, Space News

"... the Space Launch System, which per the House and Senate spending bills is slated to receive nearly $2 billion next year, is an appropriate bill payer for JWST. Given that NASA has no established exploration destination requiring the heavy-lift rocket on the schedule mandated by Congress, stretching out its development to help fund an observatory of undeniable scientific merit -- its substantial problems notwithstanding -- is a fair trade."

JWST and SLS: Dueling Giant Money Sponges, earlier post

"So, we have one giant money sponge (JWST) already sucking up dollars with yet another money sponge (SLS) on the drawing board. Since the money simply is not there to do either project to begin with, trying to do both of them together will devour funds from smaller NASA programs. It will also pit these money sponges' ever-growing chronic need for dollars against the other's similar insatiable appetite. And all of this will happen while the Federal budget is almost certainly going to be constrained - regardless of who wins the 2012 election. So, will someone explain to me how NASA is going to build and launch both JWST and SLS and have money left over to do all of the other things that it is both chartered to do - and directed to do - by Congress?"

Secretive US X-37B Space Plane Could Evolve to Carry Astronauts,

"The maker of the X-37B robotic space plane has outlined new plans for the spacecraft and a scaled-up version to support space station cargo deliveries or even carry astronauts into orbit. The Boeing X-37B robotic space plane -- also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV -- is being operated by the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, toting top-secret payloads into Earth orbit. An X-37B OTV and derivatives plan was outlined here by Arthur Grantz, chief engineer, Experimental Systems Group at Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems in Seal Beach, Calif. He spoke at Space 2011, a conference organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)."

Free Teleconference: Space Act Agreement or Procurement Contract: How NASA Decides

"About the teleconference: 11 October 2011 - 12 pm EDT - Courtney Graham, the Associate General Counsel for Commercial and Intellectual Property in the NASA Office of General Counsel, will discuss NASA Space Act Agreements, how they differ from traditional Government procurement contracts under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), and how NASA decides when to use each type of contract. She will use NASA's recent decision to switch from Space Act Agreements to FAR-based procurement contracts for the next round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development program as a case study in how this decision is made."

Kennedy: Florida snipes at Virginia's launch market competition, Richmond Times DIspatch

"Virginia would never use an environmental study to seek to undermine the recently announced $38 billion American taxpayer-funded civil space rocket booster to launch from Florida's coast. The Space Florida effort is an abuse of federal environmental law process. Worse still, by seeking to deprive Virginia of space business investment and jobs, Space Florida makes clear its desire to establish a monopolistic space launch practice, thereby increasing costs. America needs business competition -- now more than ever. ... It is wrong for Space Florida to gain billions of dollars in federal civil space contracts while begrudging Virginia's right to secure commercial space launch jobs for the Eastern Shore facilities. It is wrong for Florida to seek hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance its space launch facilities while seeking to deny Virginia any small measure of opportunity."

Letter From Space Florida To NASA Regarding WFF Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

"Enhancing the capabilities of WFF to allow NASA greater collaboration with other federal agencies is commendable and is to be encouraged. However, the potential development by NASA of not only duplicative, but also competing, launch infrastructure for orbital human spaceflight, funded in part by our tax dollars, gives the State of Florida standing in this federal process."

Letter From Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast To NASA Regarding WFF Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

"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. It is recognized that commercial human spaceflight launch capabilities will arise throughout the country and elsewhere over time, but it makes no sense for NASA to be making such an investment."

Keith's note: It is blatantly obvious that Florida's space community is hijacking the intent of an Environmental Impact Statement to inject local and national politics and complaints that have nothing to do with environmental impact. Do these Florida-based organizations issue press releases about these letters? No. Do they post them on their own websites? No. Why? Becuase they know that this is a sneaky, somewhat slimy way to do things.

- NASA Assessing Environmental Impacts for Wallops Flight Facility's Potential Future Operations

- Site-wide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for expanding operations at Wallops's Flight Facility (WFF)

Former Florida shuttle workers still struggling to find jobs, Orlando Sentinel via Washington Post

"NASA officials predict the KSC workforce will number roughly 8,200 next year -- about half the 15,000 employed there in 2008. A few hundred contractors are giving the shuttles last rites before they, too, join their former colleagues in a brutal job market."

Kennedy Space Center to build new $300M HQ, Orlando Business Journal

"The project will "provide job potential through the design, engineering and construction to transition KSC from shuttles to new government and commercial vehicles," said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. "This complex keeps talent local and enhances our overall competitiveness on the global economic development stage."

NASA Solicitation: Kennedy Space Center Space Processing and Manufacturing Capability

"NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is looking to preserve an inventory of processing and manufacturing equipment for current and future mission support. This Request for Information (RFI) describes this equipment, currently underutilized as a result of the transition from the Space Shuttle Program to the future mission activities authorized by Congress. NASA KSC is seeking to identify potential industry interest in the operation and/or maintenance of this NASA property."

"Subject to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Approval: Bulk Sale Offering of Capital Equipment, Patents, Rights, and Technology of Rocketplane Inc., an advanced developer of a fully reusable space transportation vehicle."

Keith's note: The official auction website is located here.

Marc's Update: The auction has been moved to November 11.



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