Commercialization: March 2012 Archives

Keith's 23 Mar note There were two Congressional hearings this week, one with House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on NASA's FY 2013 budget - and the other by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics on the FY13 FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation budget. Both hearings made frequent and repeated mention of many aspects of commercial space issues. Yet there hasn't been a peep out of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation about the issues raised.

While the CSF was ostensibly created to focus on commercial space, other organizations - and companies - were all rather quiet too. Given some of the borderline hostile things said this week (and previously in a Senate hearing) about funding for - and regulation of commercial space, one would think that the industry would be out there talking this up. Its not like there isn't anyone out there to do this - indeed, Rep. Wolf made specifc note of the large number of lobbyists etc. that have been hired to promote/protect commercial space.

Keith's update: Commercial space came up at yesterday's hearings. Commercial Spaceflight Federation continues to be silent - just as they were last week when the topic was raised at two other hearings.

NASA administrator warns agency may have to cut 'everything' but top 3 priorities if no budget deal

"Shelby also criticized Bolden's defense of the commercial space company SpaceX, which Shelby said, "was originally scheduled to complete three demonstration flights by September 2009 (but has) only completed one and many expect the date of their second launch to slip again soon, as it just did in February."

Keith's note: Commercial space is almost certainly going to come up at each of these hearings. I wonder if the Commercial Spaceflight Federation will continue to be silent as they were last week when the topic was raised at two other hearings.

Hearing Airs Concerns with Sustaining Space Station and Fulfilling Research Potential

"Although NASA has done a credible job of ensuring that the ISS can last for years to come, the question that remains is whether NASA will be able to service the station and productively use it for science," Ms. Chaplain said. "Routine launch support is essential to both, but the road ahead depends on successfully overcoming several complex challenges, such as technical success, funding, international agreements, and management and oversight of the national laboratory."

- Science, Space, and Tech Committee Hearing: Securing the Promise of the International Space Station
- Hearing Charter
- Statement: Ralph Hall
- Statement: William H. Gerstenmaier
- Statement: Cristina Chaplain
- Statement: Thomas P. Stafford

- Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Hearing on NASA Budget

- Statement: Sen. Mikulski
- Statement: Charles Bolden
- NASA Budget Estimates

- Odd Silence on the Commercial Space Front, earlier post

Satellite to burn in atmosphere above Pacific, Russia Today

"Satellite's propulsive unit was turned on at 14:33 MSK to give the 5,775-kilogram vehicle a de-orbital burn and the craft's debris is expected to reach the surface at 17:32 MSK to the north of the Hawaiian Islands. The impact area will be closed for ships and planes for two hours."

- Antarctic Researchers Cite Benefits of Repurposing Express-AM4, previous post
- Express-AM4: Repurposing Space Assets For Exploration, previous post
- Saving Express-AM4 and Using it to Serve Antarctic Research, previous post

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget

"When asked about CASIS, the non-profit organization chartered to manage the U.S International Laboratory on the ISS, Bolden did not know what the history behind CASIS was (how or why it was formed), did not know how many people worked there, and would not give a grade for its performance thus far. When Rep. Wolf noted that the Director of CASIS had quit recently and that this was like "the captain leaving the ship" Bolden said "they're just getting started". Rep. Wolf suggested that NASA needs to look at CASIS carefully saying "if they are not with it in 30-45 days we should pull it and give it to NSF". Bolden replied that a letter was being sent to CASIS to remind them of their milestones and "if they they do not meet milestones we will find another way"."

CASIS Reviews NASA Experiments for Commercialization Potential, CASIS

"The panel, led by Timothy Yeatman, a veteran surgeon, scientist and pioneer in the fields of genomics and personalized medicine, is the first of its kind. The effort marks the first high-level international scientific review of NASA experiments with the aim of maximizing use of the station and unlocking the value of America's investment in the $100 billion orbiting platform."

Keith's note: This statement by CASIS is simply untrue or, at best, grossly over-hyped. NASA has been convening review and oversight panels for this purpose for decades. I know because I used to help organize some of these panels and have attended innumerable others set up by NASA, NIH, NAS/NRC, and others. That said, the previous panels have not done very much of lasting signifigance since no one outside of a small subset of NASA really understands what the ISS can do - or has done. So maybe this new CASIS panel will be different. Given the weak and incomplete infrastructure in place at CASIS I would not hold high expectations for the output this first panel. Also, given that Rep. Wolf and House Appropriators have put CASIS on notice to get "with it" in the next 30-45 days the folks at CASIS who are "just getting starting" (according to Charlie Bolden) need to get this done properly - right out of the gate. The clock is now ticking.

Previous CASIS postings

DOD Faces Challenges in Fully Realizing Benefits of Satellite Acquisition Improvements

"Though it still faces an array of challenges, DOD continues to work to ensure its space programs are more executable and produce a better return on investment. For example, DOD intends to follow incremental or evolutionary acquisition processes and it has acted to streamline management and oversight of the national security space enterprise. The agency has taken steps toward reforming the defense acquisition system to help its programs to meet planned cost and schedule objectives. Because DOD intends to address the root causes of problems, it will take time to determine if these actions are successful or need further actions on how best to lead, organize, and support space activities."

Can We Repurpose Space Assets?, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"An attempt to repurpose this satellite hardware appears to be a win-win for everybody. The National Science Foundation gets a new satellite asset for safe and productive communications with and operations in the Antarctic, Polar Broadband gets to sell this service to the NSF, and by giving a green light to this endeavor, the Russians will have benefited the international scientific community. There are no guarantees but the possibility for these rewards make the attempt worthwhile. This experiment also holds relevance for future lunar exploration. What is being proposed for Express-AM4 is to create a reliable satellite system so that a distant base can communicate with its mission control for science and operations."

- Express-AM4 Satellite Salvage Plan For Antarctic Internet In Jeopardy, Slashdot

- Saving Express-AM4 and Using it to Serve Antarctic Research, earlier post

Subcommittee Examines FY13 FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation Budget Proposal

"Testifying on behalf of FAA, Dr. George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, said that once the moratorium has ended, "Regulatory standards governing human spaceflight will evolve as the industry matures so that regulations neither stifle technology development nor exposed crew or spaceflight participants to avoidable risks."

Subcommittee Reviews Budget of FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation

"Democratic Members expressed concern that several important policy issues need to be resolved, including how risks and responsibilities will be treated; how financial responsibilities will be handled; how safety regulations will be developed; whether AST's dual role as both a regulator and promoter of the commercial spaceflight industry is appropriate; and how partnerships between AST and other agencies such as NASA are being managed."

Opening Statement by Rep. Palazzo: Commercial Space Transportation's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request

"The AST budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013 includes a 2% increase, which is intended to allow AST to double the number of staff in field offices in anticipation of potentially up to 40 launch and reentry operations in 2013. This significant increase reflects several launches for ISS cargo resupply, and long- anticipated flights in the suborbital tourism market."

- George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration

- Capt. Wilbur C. Trafton (USN Ret.), Chairman, Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee

Eastern Shore land battle comes to Capitol Hill, Washington Post

"In the northernmost county of Virginia's Eastern Shore sits a quiet, 32-acre parcel of land, thick with grass and little else -- except controversy. Though mostly empty, the land, which was handed over to Accomack County by the federal government in 1976, holds future economic promise, as it sits near NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. So this week, the House will take up legislation to remove restrictions on the property, allowing it to be developed. Such land transfer bills are usually routine business on Capitol Hill, passing with broad bipartisan support under rules allowing for expedited consideration. Not this time."

Wallops Research Park

Repurposing Express-AM4: Mission Possible: Recycling Space Junk into Antarctic Science Treasure

"There have been reports that the Express-AM4 spacecraft has received too high of a radiation dose, beyond that expected for its entire 15 year mission, thus rendering the use of the satellite to risky for our purpose. This analysis is likely based upon older computer models of the radiation environment in its current orbit. The current solar cycle (solar cycle 24) has so far only been a fraction of past solar cycles, upon which most current computer radiation models are based."

Video Interview: Sarah Waechter, Partner Manager for Excalibur Almaz Inc., SpaceRef Forum

"NASA Public Affairs Officer Kyle Herring talks with Sarah Waechter, partner manager for Excalibur Almaz Inc., on the status of the Space Act Agreement. Excalibur Almaz is one of seven partners associated with the Commercial Crew Program."

SpaceX announces a date for first private space dock with space station, Ars technica

"SpaceX's Company President Gwynne Shotwell used the Satellite 2012 Conference to announce that it has a thin launch window on April 30 that would get it to a scheduled May 3 berthing slot at the International Space Station. The mission, known as COTS 2/3, carries a political payload far larger than the food and clean underwear inside the spacecraft."

Space travel moves to private sector, CBS 60 Minutes

"60 Minutes talks to the man who believes he will be the first entrepreneur to put a man in orbit. Watch Scott Pelley's report on Sunday, March 18 at 7 p.m. ET/PT."

Capture10, A Unique Technology and Aerospace Business Development Firm to Open in District

"Capture10 announced today that it will be opening its headquarters this April in the District of Columbia. The firm will be led by Lawrence Williams, who most recently served as Vice President for Strategic Relations at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and as an advisor for Tesla Motors, companies founded and run by entrepreneur Elon Musk."

Keith's note: Anyone who has followed the history of SIlicon Valley high tech companies knows the story of how the giants of today all started as spinoffs, and separate ventures formed by the (initially) small group of individuals who started the electronics revolution in the 1960s. When I asked Larry Williams why he made the decision to make this change in his business focus right now, he said "Given the progress of the commercial crew and cargo programs, this is a natural time for me to move on and pursue my own venture. Elon and I are parting on good terms and I remain a supportive shareholder of SpaceX." It will be interesting to see how the emerging commercial space sector will start to encourage and spawn the development of newer companies such as Capture10 that operate completely (or partially) within the ever-expanding ecosystem that is developing around commercial space.

The End Of The ACE Project, Loveland Politics.com

"A Space Act agreement signed in late 2010 by NASA and CAMT created a partnership aimed at speeding up the commercial roll out of aerospace and energy technologies. It has been estimated that the business park could house up to 100 companies and create 10,000 jobs.." These absurd claims were being mimicked by local politicians, newspapers, business groups, real estate brokers and everyone who wanted to be the first to tell the public the good news. Even those closest to LovelandPolitics kept a safe distance from our more reasoned view of the situation. Now that CAMT is out, the City of Loveland is trying to re-write history with a new spin."

GM, NASA Jointly Developing Robotic Gloves for Human Use

"General Motors and NASA are jointly developing a robotic glove that auto workers and astronauts can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. The Human Grasp Assist device, known internally in both organizations as the K-glove or Robo-Glove, resulted from GM and NASA's Robonaut 2 (R2) project, which launched the first human-like robot into space in 2011. R2 is a permanent resident of the International Space Station."

NASA, GM Jointly Developing Robotic Gloves for Human Use

Keith's note: Talk about a cool spinoff - being developed in real time on Earth and in space - one that leverages a public/private partnership between NASA robotics and private sector manufacturing know-how. You'd think that the people at NASA who have the job of promoting spinoffs, advanced technology, etc. i.e. The Chief Technologst's Office (OCT) would be drooling over this - and helping to promote it every way that they can. Guess again. No mention of this at the CTO main website (although the CTO's travel plans seem to be important) and no mention on the Spinoff page.

Conrad Foundation: Cast Your Vote for Prestigious Student Award

"It is the power of the people that will select the 2012 winner of the People's Choice Award which is bestowed on the student team with the most innovative new product in the Conrad Foundation's annual Spirit of Innovation Challenge (Conrad Challenge). Through March 23, the public is invited to review the profiles of the 15 finalist teams, view their product videos and cast a vote. One vote is allowed per person per challenge category.

Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria Named President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that former NASA astronaut, International Space Station (ISS) commander, Naval Aviator, and test pilot Michael E. Lopez-Alegria (Capt., U.S. Navy, Ret.) has been named as President, effective March 19, 2012. Lopez-Alegria was selected for the position following a vote of the Board of Directors of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF)."

Record-Setting Astronaut Lopez-Alegria Departs NASA

"During his career, Lopez-Alegria logged more than 257 days in space, including 215 days as commander of the Expedition 14 mission to the ISS, which stands as the single longest spaceflight by an American. Lopez-Alegria also logged more than 67 hours during his 10 spacewalks, more than any other American, and second only in the record books to Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev."

Sen. Hutchison challenges NASA spending on commercial spacecraft, Houston Chronicle

"I'm frankly floored as you know from our conversation that it would be so blatant to take it right out of Orion and (the space launch system) and put it into commercial crew rather than trying to accomplish the joint goals that we have of putting forward both and making sure that we didn't take away from the timetables for the future to shore up commercial crew," Hutchison told Bolden.

NASA chief defends 2013 budget in Congress, space.com via MSNBC

"I don't doubt your sincerity in shared goals, but what I'm very concerned about is the implementation that is reflected in the numbers of the budget that the president released," Hutchison said."

NASA may need to use Russian flights longer, Wall Street Journal via Fox

"NASA is drafting backup plans to prolong the use of Russian spacecraft for ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station, even as agency officials play down those options and express hope that private rockets and capsules will be available for such trips within five years."'

Russia Space Agency chief Popovkin hospitalised

"Head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Vladimir Popovkin has been taken to the Burdenko Hospital in connection with his health deterioration, the agency's press service told Itar-Tass."

NASA Launches International Competition to Develop Space Apps

"NASA, governments around the world and civil society organizations will co-host the International Space Apps Challenge on April 21-22 with events across seven continents and in space. The apps competition will bring people together to exploit openly available data collected by space agencies around the world to create innovative solutions to longstanding global challenges. An initiative of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, the challenge will showcase the impact scientists and citizens can have by working together to solve challenging problems that affect every person on Earth. Events will take place in San Francisco; Exeter, U.K.; Melbourne, Australia; Sao Paulo; Nairobi, Kenya; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo; McMurdo Station, Antarctica; and the International Space Station."

Tracking Space Junk

Lockheed Martin Space Fence Radar Prototype Tracking Orbiting Objects

"A prototype of a new radar system developed by a Lockheed Martin-led team is now tracking orbiting space objects, bringing the U.S. Air Force's Space Fence program one step closer to revolutionizing our nation's space situational awareness. On February 29, the Air Force granted its final approval of Lockheed Martin's preliminary design for the system."

SLS Will Never 'Back Up' Commercial Crew, Jim Muncy, Space News

"One such argument is the claim from both houses of Congress that the funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) -- which increases from the 2012 level -- is too small to enable the SLS to launch the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) as a backup for commercial crew services. Some even suggest that NASA is putting too much money into the legislatively stipulated primary means of carrying astronauts to and from the international space station (commercial crew) and therefore shortchanging the backup (SLS). Of course, NASA is spending nearly four times as much on Orion and SLS as it is on commercial crew, so the argument appears lopsided."

CASIS Names Bobby Block Director of Communications

"Today, Robert "Bobby" Block was named director of communications for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) - the non-profit entity selected in 2011 by NASA to maximize utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. In this position, Block will be responsible for promoting the CASIS and ISS National Laboratory brands internationally through targeted communications, marketing and public relations campaigns. He will also lead an aggressive effort to build lasting partnerships with industry and stakeholder media."

Keith's note: CASIS has finally done something right. Bobby Block ought to be able to explain to these folks that their public image is lacking in credibility and that their public image reflects the inner way of doing business, dealing withstakeholders, partners, NASA, etc. The easiest way for CASIS to get beyond this self-induced PR mess is to start to do what it is they are supposed to be doing, stop spinning their wheels on pointless pursuits, and effectively communicate withthe external world. The full utilization of the ISS is too precious a resource to be squandered because of food fights back on Earth.

CASIS Director Resigns - Accusations Start To Fly - Leadership Turmoil, earlier post

Air Force sets up competition for rocket launches, Washington Post

"It's obvious that the current prices we're paying are just too high," Richard McKinney, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, said in an inter- view last month at the Pentagon. ... The Air Force says it's willing to take more risk with the lower-cost missions, giving newcomers the opportunity "to gain experience operating with government pay- loads," Vicki Stein, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in an e-mail."

Resignation Letter from CASIS Executive Director Jeanne L. Becker

"As a result of undue and onerous political pressures exerted over the almost six months of existence of CASIS, business operations have been difficult in standing up this brand new organization. Unrealistic expectations have been levied collectively by Congressional staffers, by NASA (Mr. Uhran) and by ProOrbis. These pressures have placed unnecessary stress and hardship on CASIS, not only organizationally but also on management, forcing a defensive posture with constant focus on mitigation strategies to fend off political threats of the elimination of CASIS.

The fact is that ProOrbis was recruited and paid by NASA to write the ISS National Lab Reference Model, which became the basis for the NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice soliciting for a nonprofit organization to manage ISS National Lab. Space Florida contracted ProOrbis to write the CASIS proposal submitted in response to this Cooperative Agreement Notice. What remains difficult to rationalize is the fact that the interim board admittedly identified inurement and excess benefit issues even as the CASIS proposal was developed."

ProOrbis Statement re: CASIS Director Resignation

"As is a matter of public record, Dr. Becker was included in the CASIS proposal as its Executive Director. In her commitment letter submitted with the original proposal, she stated "I am supportive of the management concepts as presented in the CASIS proposal being submitted." However, since taking on this role, she has not engaged ProOrbis in the stand-up activities of CASIS as was contemplated. Issues of conflict of interest for all the principal parties were satisfactorily addressed in the Cooperative Agreement and provisions were put in place to mitigate any potential conflicts. Dr. Becker's concerns about a non-profit organization working with a private company were addressed by legal counsel, which determined that they would not in any way prevent CASIS from engaging ProOrbis or executing the proposal."

Jim Royston Named Interim Director of CASIS Dr. Jeanne Becker Steps Down From Leadership Role

"The Board received Dr. Becker's resignation last week and accepted it as a result of ongoing disputes in relation to the pace and direction of the implementation of CASIS' mission. The Board has now established an Executive Office of the Chairman within CASIS to drive the organization toward rapid development during this period."

Astrotech Corporation President Terminated, 16 July 2010

"Astrotech Corporation, a leading provider of commercial aerospace services and in the commercialization of space technologies, today announced a realignment of its corporate structure in order to optimize operational efficiencies. The Company's action follows an evaluation of each business and a review of strategic alternatives. Astrotech's corporate realignment includes the termination of James Royston, President of Astrotech Corporation."

Keith's note: I just received the CASIS statement around noon. It interesting how ProOrbis responded - directly to NASA Watch - on Sunday night - before CASIS itself even issued a statement. Also, despite issuing a statement to NASAWatch, ProOrbis has not posted anything on its website or issued statement via press release. This is a CASIS matter - why is ProOrbis taking the lead? Who is running the show here - CASIS or ProOrbis? That is what seems to be the core issue in this food fight.

Also note that interim CASIS Director Jim Royson was "terminated" as president of Astrotech in 2010. No reason is given for that termination - nor is mention made of the termination in his CASIS bio.

Olson, Colleagues Urge White House to Correct Safety Glitch (NASA Commercial Crew)

"Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) and several colleagues today urged White House Office of Science and Technology Director John Holdren to follow through on his understanding that NASA should retain all encompassing responsibility over the safety requirements for development of commercial crew vehicles. Under proposed agreements between NASA and commercial crew entities, NASA would not have the necessary authority to oversee and approve the safety measures needed to keep our astronauts safe."

Keith's note: This is really starting to get wacky. Republican (supposedly pro-business) members of Congress are trying to undermine the core principles that comprise "commercial" crew. For all intents and purposes they are slowly re-erecting all of the tradtional government/contractor interactions NASA has used for decades. Every time they do this, they diminish the ability of the private sector to do this "commercially". Do commercial aircraft get built this way?

Audit of NASA's Process for Transferring Technology to the Government and Private Sector

"NASA has missed opportunities to transfer technologies from its research and development efforts and to maximize partnerships that could provide additional resources, and industry and the public have not fully benefited from NASA-developed technologies. .... we interviewed 38 personnel (15 IPO officials, 2 Center Chief Technologists, 21 project managers) from 4 Centers, and found that none of them had ever developed or assisted with the development of a Commercialization Plan. Moreover, none of these individuals was familiar with the NASA policy governing technology transfer and commercialization. The Chief Technologist at NASA Headquarters, who is responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of NASA's technology commercialization policy, conceded that working knowledge of NPR 7500.1 among NASA personnel might be lacking."

Final Report: Audit of NASA's Process for Transferring Technology to the Government and Private Sector

"NASA has missed opportunities to transfer technologies from its research and development efforts and to maximize partnerships with other entities that could benefit from NASA-developed technologies."

- Dysfunctional Technology Efforts at Langley, previous post
- More Stealth NASA Spinoffs, previous post
- Today's NASA Spinoff/Invention/Cool Gadget That NASA is Ignoring, previous post
- Another NASA Spinoff That NASA Won't Tell You About, previous post
- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, previous post
- More spinoff postings, previous post


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from March 2012.

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