Commercialization: April 2012 Archives

Ask an Expert: Explorer's lessons for asteroid miners, USA Today

"No dummies, the firm has some NASA funding already for their development, reports Keith Cowing of NASAWatch. And a recent Forbes pieces hints that they may be stalking the remote-sensing industry with these small telescopes, ones that might eyeball our planet with even more ease than they spot passing asteroids."

How Billionaire Asteroid Miners Make Money -- Without Mining Asteroids, Forbes

"So when I had a chance to discuss the technology and business of asteroid mining with Chris Lewicki, the company's President and Chief Engineer, one of my first questions was about that statement - is it true that Planetary Resources is already making money? "That's correct," he said. "When we started the company, one of the first things we did was to identify the roadmap that would get us from now until we got to the asteroids. That way, we could identify who would be interested in the things we'd be developing along the way. We already have contracts with NASA, some private companies, and even a few private individuals."

Is Planetary Resources Already a NASA Contractor? (Yes), earlier post

Keith's note: SpaceX had a short albeit successful hot fire of its Falcon 9 today.

According to @elonmusk on Twitter: "Woohoo, rocket hold down firing completed and all looks good!!"

OIG: NASA's Use of Research Announcement Awards for Aeronautics Research

"Based on our sample results, we estimate that ARMD's 447 NRA awards during this 5-year period contained $25.2 million in unallowable or unsupported costs. Moreover, we project that by addressing the deficiencies we identified NASA could avoid awarding approximately $3.6 million in unallowable and/or unsupported costs annually in ARMD NRA awards."

BRPH: The Old and the New in Spacecraft Facilities, Commercial Space Watch

"Switching out a spacecraft maintenance facility is definitely not an easy task. Besides the obvious requirements to contain toxic fuels and provide enough power, there is also the work of deciding what previous structures will be useful to new contractors."

Marc's note: We hear a lot about the big commercial space companies or the some of the so called "NewSpace" companies but what about the smaller commercial companies working in the background? Many of these companies contribute significantly to the economy. Here's a good story on BRPH featured on our site Commercial Space Watch. BTW the new web address for Commercial Space Watch is, why not bookmark it?

Blue Origin Tests Design of Next-Generation Spacecraft

"Blue Origin successfully tested the design of its next-generation Space Vehicle, completing a series of wind tunnel tests to refine the aerodynamic characteristics of the spacecraft's unique biconic shape. The tests were carried out as part of Blue Origin's partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Blue Origin is designing the Space Vehicle to provide safe, affordable transport of up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station."

House Appropriations Commitee FY 2013: Commercial crew (excerpt)

"The Committee believes that many of these concerns would be addressed by an immediate downselect to a single competitor or, at most, the execution of a leader-follower paradigm in which NASA makes one large award to a main commercial partner and a second small award to a back-up partner. With fewer companies remaining in the program, NASA could reduce its annual budget needs for the program and fund other priorities like planetary science, human exploration or aeronautics research."

House Appropriations Commitee FY 2013: Planetary Science (excerpt)

"The Committee's recommendation of $1,400,000,000 seeks to address programmatic areas where the Administration's proposal is most deficient in meeting the decadal survey's goals while also ensuring that the program, as a whole, maintains balance among program elements."

Keith's note: According to tweets by Bill Adkins and Marcia Smith mark-up has been completed (with no changes to the NASA portions) and the bill will be the first appropriations bill sent to the House floor on 8 May 2012.

Space Marketing Wars

Space Marketing Campaigns Heat Up , Commercial Space Watch (With 3 videos)

"United Launch Alliance has launched another salvo in the space marketing campaign war with its latest video title "What We Believe". Dan Collins, Chief Operating Office, opens the video saying it's not about the "smoke and fire", which coincidentally is what Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne called their marketing video four months ago."

Keith's note: NASA Office of the Chief Technologist has no link to NASA Tech Briefs. NASA Tech Briefs does not link to NASA OCT. In fact, I did a search of the source HTML code on the NASA Techbriefs home page. There are no links to anything at whatsoever. Yet this page features the NASA logo. Baffling.

Keith's note: Sources report that ProOrbis is considering taking formal legal action against the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). It is expected that this will be made public in the very near future. The specifics of this possible lawsuit are unclear. But it would beinstructive to recall that when Jeanne Becker, the first Executive Director of CASIS resigned, she said:

"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 butalso on management, forcing a defensive posture with constant focus on mitigation strategies to fend off political threats of the elimination of CASIS. ... Now, for unknown reasons, following selection of that proposal andstand up of the organization, the Space Florida interim board persists in pursuing engagement of ProOrbis on behalf of CASIS, with CASIS management forced to bear the responsibility of mitigating ensuing organizationalrisks occurring as a result of the interim board's actions."

To which ProOrbis responded

"However, since taking on this role, [Dr. Becker] 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 inthe Cooperative Agreement and provisions were put in place to mitigate any potential conflicts."

Jeanne DiFrancesco from ProOrbis developed a significant portion of the procurement package for NASA's ISS National Laboratory non-profit partner: the National Laboratory Reference Model. Oddly, DiFrancesco andProOrbis ended up as a major part of the winning team's bid (CASIS). How is it that a contractor that NASA specifically uses to write part of a solicitation is then allowed to bid for - and win - the contract awarded inresponse to the very same procurement they helped craft?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already been asked to look into this. The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Office of General Counsel (OGC) are also looking into this as are several congressional offices.

So here's the picture to contemplate: While the International Space Station orbits overhead, complete after two decades and ready for us to use it, we collectively fumble the process of tapping its great potential back onEarth. Lawsuits and investigations by GAO, OIG, OGC and others will inevitably hobble whatever progress CASIS would have otherwise made - just as CASIS was starting to make visible steps toward getting itself ready to do the important tasks that it has been assigned.

Net result: Lawyers and accountants will kill the usefulness of the International Space Station - for all of us.

Earlier posts on CASIS

A Conversation with Dr. Scott Hubbard of Stanford University, Commercial Space Watch (Video)

"SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Scott Hubbard at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Dr. Hubbard is professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University. He has been engaged in space-related research, as well as program, project and executive management for more than 35 years, including 20 years with NASA, culminating as director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

In our conversation we talk about Scott's new book Exploring Mars, Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery, his shaping of the Mars program, the current state of planetary science and cuts to the Mars budget. As well Scott discusses work at Stanford including advances in hybrid propulsion, the FAA Center of Excellence at Stanford for Commercial Space and much more."

New venture aims to mine near-Earth asteroids, Washington Post

"This project aligns well with our national space policies and goals," NASA spokesman David S. Weaver said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday, adding that as the space agency moves toward sending humans to an asteroid for the first time, "we will certainly look to take advantage of private-sector resources and data."

Planetary Resources officially kicks off its asteroid mining venture, Venture Beat

"The company says it is cash-flow positive, but declined to go into much detail as to where the money is coming from other than saying it does currently have a contract with NASA. They went on to vaguely said the company already has several relationships with other companies and several customers already."

Planetary Resources set to begin hunt for asteroids to mine in 18-24 months, Ars Technica

"NASA really has no involvement in what Planetary Resources is doing, no prior knowledge, and no hardware capable of matching the company's."

Asteroid Mining Venture Aims To Lay Foundation with Small, Cheap Space Telescopes, SpaceNews

"We were operating under the name of Arkyd Astronautics for the last two years quite honestly because it was not as obvious what we were up to," Anderson told Space News. "If we had been called 'Planetary Resources,' it would have been obvious to people."

Keith's note: But wait, it looks like Arkyd er, I mean, Planetary Resources is already using NASA STTR money to develop its telescope spacecraft. 2011 money to be precise - a total of $124,000. This STTR contract is just starting, how much are the follow-on phases worth? Planetary Resources is claiming to make spacecraft in the "single digit millions". Follow-on STTR money will likely be in the "single digit millions". Why didn't they bother to tell anyone about this today? First they do a switcheroo on their name and purpose - not telling the NASA/JPL asteroid study team what they were really up to. Now they are being less than forthcoming on their existing business relationship with NASA. What else are they not telling us?

Update on SpaceX COTS 2 Launch

"After reviewing our recent progress, it was clear that we needed more time to finish hardware-in-the-loop testing and properly review and follow up on all data. While it is still possible that we could launch on May 3rd, it would be wise to add a few more days of margin in case things take longer than expected. As a result, our launch is likely to be pushed back by one week, pending coordination with NASA."

NASA Issues Statement on SpaceX Launch Date

"We appreciate that SpaceX is taking the necessary time to help ensure the success of this historic flight. We will continue to work with SpaceX in preparing for the May 7 launch to the International Space Station."

NASA JSC Briefing: Propellant Depot Alternate DRM 34B - Mission Risk, Reliability, and Availability Analysis

"From the standpoint of S&MA's role in technology assessment and prioritization, it seems depot technologies should be a high priority for investment due to their potential to achieve Agency goals to achieve "Low Cost Reliable Access To Space", if the technology can be successfully developed, demonstrated, matured, infused, evolved, and applied in future architectures so as to fully realize its benefit."

Transcript Regarding Fuel Depots, Hearing on "A Review of NASA's Space Launch System"

"ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: I don't have the answer, and I'll get it for the record. But I will tell you in the ongoing evaluation that I asked in coming to the conclusion that I did on the SLS, we looked at multiple scenarios, one of which was, you know, flight to Earth orbit or what we call an "Earth orbit rendezvous," and it turned out that that was not as economical nor as reliable as the single flight beyond Earth orbit rendezvous, the way that we envision it now."

- NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post
- NASA's Ongoing (But Closely Held) Interest In SLS Alternatives, earlier post
- Update on NASA's Hidden Fuel Depot Studies, earlier post

Boeing SLS, CCiCap Update

A Conversation with Jim Chilton and John Mulholland of Boeing, Commercial Space Watch (Video Interview)

"A conversation with Jim Chilton and John Mulholland of Boeing. Mr. Mulholland is Vice President and Program Manager - Commercial Programs, Space Exploration while Mr. Chilton is Vice President and Program Manager Exploration Launch Systems. In our conversation we talk about NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev), Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap), space exploration including a return to the moon and more."

Keith's note: Today these three Technology Transfer Opportunities were posted on NASA's procurement page by NASA LaRC media specialist Sean Sullivan.

- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Facile Synthesis of Supported Nanocatalysts with Metal Oxide Nanoparticles
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Autonomous Slat Cove Filler Device Reduction of Aeroacoustic Noise
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: A New Method for Develping Boron Nitirde Nanotubes with Superior Morphology

As I noted last week, if you look back at this list of things released by NASA LaRC you will see that three of these Technology Transfer Opportunity notices are released every week. Not two, not four, but three. This is rather odd. I have sent an inquiry to LaRC. Let's see how they explain this. I cannot understand why they simply do not post everything.

Rep. Posey Introduces Commercial Space Legislation

"Today, Congressman Bill Posey introduced legislation to allow for private sector investment in the Department of Defense for space transportation in an effort to modernize America's defense capabilities, promote America's commercial space industry and help America regain the loss of commercial launches."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Supports Increased Budget for Commercial Crew Program

"The Senate Appropriations Committee has released details of its draft Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill that provides $525 million for NASA's Commercial Crew Program for the 2013 Fiscal Year, an increase from the $406 million provided in the final bill last year. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science draft bill provides $500 million for the program."

"The Future of Space

"Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 10:30am - 2:30pm: A new company will be unveiling its mission to revolutionize current space exploration activities and ultimately create a better standard of living on Earth. Don't miss your opportunity to be among the first to find out what's next from the world's leading commercial space pioneers and the people who will chart the future."

Space Exploration Company to Expand Earth's Resource Base

"Supported by an impressive investor and advisor group, including Google's Larry Page & Eric Schmidt, Ph.D.; film maker & explorer James Cameron; Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and Microsoft's former Chief Software Architect Charles Simonyi, Ph.D.; Founder of Sherpalo and Google Board of Directors founding member K. Ram Shriram; and Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group Ross Perot, Jr., the company will overlay two critical sectors - space exploration and natural resources - to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of 'natural resources'."

Keith's note: What's really ridiculous is how these billionaires are charging attendees at their press event $25 each. You have to wonder how much they are putting into this if they charge admission to press conferences ...

Keith's note: In today's media telecon with NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati and Chief Technologist Mason Peck, Abdalati mentioned a letter that had been sent to CASIS wherein NASA "challenged CASIS to demonstrate how they will honor their cooperative agreement with NASA" and that asked them to "drum up 3 partners or investigations by the end of the year". I have requested a copy of the correspondence between NASA and CASIS.

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget (22 March 2012)

"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"."

Keith's update: Through the persistence of space journalist Irene Klotz, NASA has released these letters:

Letter from NASA to CASIS regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation

"Moreover, the functions identified in the Cooperative Agreement and the milestones in the Annual Program Plan (APP) are critical given the limited amount of time remaining to do research on the International Space Station (ISS). NASA would like assurances from the Board that CASIS will be able to meet the milestones in the APP. The agency also requests the interim board explain in writing how these milestones will be met."

Letter from CASIS to NASA: Response regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation

"The following are key elements of performance that we will report on at the end of the initial first two quarters of operation. In general, they represent progress on the key goals of facing the market, finding new customers for the ISS, and standing up the organization to service existing and new markets:"

Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding 2012 Annual Program Plan

"We are evaluating your response and will get back to you with a formal NASA position."

Coverage Set for NASA/SpaceX Launch and Mission to Space Station

"Following the completion of NASA's flight readiness review, the second SpaceX demonstration launch for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program is scheduled for Monday, April 30. A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule will liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There is a single instantaneous launch opportunity at 12:22 p.m. EDT."

How Commercial Space Is Paying Off Now, Aviation Week

"We are aware that SpaceX does have an upgrade coming to the Falcon 9 that they intend to use for crew," Jett says. "[I]f they win CCiCap, we would see in their certification plan . . . [just] how they would get comfortable certifying that vehicle. They're going to tell us how they would certify it, and then we'll balance that against how we would certify it, and be able to understand that delta of what we would be able to do under that certification contract [which is] going to come sometime in the future."

CASIS and NanoRacks Announce Expanded ISS Research Capabilities, Nanoracks

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization managing the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, today announced a deal with NanoRacks, LLC, to reserve space on the first commercial platform available for researchers outside the ISS in the extreme environments of space."

CASIS and NanoRacks Close Deal to Use Commercial Research Platform in the Extremes of Space, CASIS

"In June, CASIS will issue a formal solicitation to the research community and private enterprise for their proposals to use this one-of-a-kind platform for anything from earth observation to materials, and biological sciences."

Commercial Platform Offers Exposure at Space Station< NASA

"The contributions by NanoRacks and Astrium are the most recent example of NASA efforts to expand the station's research capacity through innovative partnerships with commercial companies."

Prepared remarks of Tom Kalil at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation April 12, 2012 Washington, DC

"Another recent prize was NASA's Green Flight Challenge that called upon aviation innovators to build and demonstrate a super-fuel efficient full-scale aircraft. The cash prize purse of $1.65 million offered by NASA attracted 14 teams, which collectively invested more than $6 million. In a historic achievement, the two winning teams exceeded the performance requirements by nearly a factor of two, flying more than 200 miles on the energy equivalent of just half a gallon of gas, all while averaging 100 mph with two people on board. NASA further leveraged taxpayer dollars, by partnering with the CAFE Foundation, which invested over $1 million in rigorous evaluation and publicity - extending the impact of the prize. The high-profile demonstration of safe, low-emission technologies may spark a new electric airplane industry."

Moon to be private colony - NASA, AAP

"Our private industry partners have built every single space craft we have ever flown. "NASA has never built a single human-rated space craft."

Keith's note: C'mon, Charlie, be honest. Of course NASA has built human-rated spacecraft - along with its aerospace industry partners. It has always been that way. Wordsmithing won't change the facts.

I just love it when NASA and Congress plays this semantic game i.e. "commercial" vs "government". Charlie Bolden uses this throw away line to justify the current focus on utilization of commercial launchers to provide crew and cargo services. Fine. For "commercial" efforts, aerospace contractors provide services with less than usual government oversight, with significant government seed money, but also with significant private investments. Yet, simultaneously, NASA (i.e. "government") mandates and oversees the construction of Orion using one of the very same aerospace companies that is involved in the "commercial" efforts (I would hope NASA's Orion is human-rated) and also directs the construction of the SLS - likewise using another aerospace company that also participates in the "commercial" activities.

Commercial space companies pushing back against NASA certification, Huntsville Times

"[Marshall Space Flight Center acting Director Gene] Goldman said private companies have their own ideas. "We've been pushed back on when we try to advocate our requirements for certification, and they say, 'We don't need your requirements, this is our venture,'" Goldman said. "There's absolutely a lot of truth in that." He predicted again that it could come down to the makeup of the crews and said he is "not exactly sure how that is going to play out."

America's space act is about to lift-off to a spectacular new future, Bill Nelson and Kay Bailey Hutchison

"If we are to move forward, we must avoid a false competition between our long-range space exploration goals - the moon, Mars and beyond - and commercialized ferrying of cargo and crew members to the space station. In fact, both programs are essential.Assisting development of commercial space capabilities will eliminate America's reliance on the Russian Soyuz system for crew transportation to low-Earth orbit, while developing our next generation heavy launch capability is a necessity if we are to expand space exploration beyond Earth, to Mars and beyond."

Keith's note: According to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation staffer Jeff Bingham (posting as "51D Mascot"): "It is clearly NOT the intent of people I work with to impede or slow development of Commercial crew, despite all the characterizations to the contrary. The issue is balanced development efforts across the agreed-upon priorities within the context of a severely--and in my view inappropriately--constrained top line budget for NASA."

I sense that the ground is being laid (in slow motion) for raiding commercial space to fund other things at NASA. "Balanced" is code language for "let's move money around". Stay tuned.

Space station used for Ardbeg distillery experiments

"Experiments using malt from the Ardbeg distillery on Islay are being carried out on the International Space Station to see how it matures without gravity. Compounds of unmatured malt were sent to the station in an unmanned cargo spacecraft in October last year, along with particles of charred oak. Scientists want to understand how they interact at close to zero gravity. NanoRacks LLC, the US company behind the research, has said understanding the influence of gravity could help a number of industries, including the whisky industry, to develop new products in the future."

Important Scientific Experiment: Can Scotch Mature In Space?, Forbes

"The Ardbeg Distillery has been distilling and maturing Scotch Whisky for over 300 years, and you don't last that long without innovating. It's no doubt that drive that has led Ardbeg to pursue its latest experiment - to see whether Scotch can properly mature while it's in space, on board the International Space Station."

Keith's note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space. Fermentation and distillation are industrial processes with many other applications than just making spirits. Outcome? Who knows. Only the experimenters have commented. Does NASA or CASIS make note of this? Of course not. Will they mention it in the future? Doubtful. Why bother? No one has ever asked the ISS National Lab or CASIS folks to be responsive or innovative. Why start now?

Previous CASIS postings

FAA: Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for SpaceX Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas

"The FAA is preparing an EIS to analyze the potential environmental impacts of SpaceX's proposal to launch orbital and suborbital launch vehicles from a private site in Cameron County in southern Texas. The EIS will consider the potential environmental impacts of the Proposed Action and reasonable alternatives, including the No Action Alternative. The successful completion of the environmental review process does not guarantee that the FAA would issue launch licenses and/or experimental permits to SpaceX. The project must also meet all FAA safety, risk, and indemnification requirements."

NASA races to find tenants for vacant shuttle facilities

"With the space-shuttle program ended, NASA either must find someone to lease major buildings -- such as the facility where workers repaired shuttle tiles -- or abandon them, because the cash-strapped agency lacks the money to demolish them. Besides looking bad, the crumbling buildings would hinder efforts to remake KSC into a modern spaceport, an initiative estimated to cost $2.3 billion during five years.

NASA KSC: Replace Control and Power Systems VAB 175 Ton Electric Overhead Bridge Crane

"NASA/KSC is hereby soliciting information about potential sources for replacement of industrial overhead bridge crane control, drive, and miscellaneous systems on the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)175-ton crane located in the LC-39 Area of KSC, Florida 32899.

Viewpoint: Commercial Space Will Renew NASA, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Aviation Week

"Decisions by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to retire NASA's space shuttle and cancel the Constellation program were both received with much--and varied--emotion among my fellow astronauts, the NASA family and others nationwide. ... As of Atlantis's final flight last July, our nation has no means to launch humans into Earth orbit from U.S. soil. Period. Whether considered from a geopolitical, economic or technological perspective, recovering that capability should be a national strategic priority. NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) represents the fastest and most cost-effective path to that end."

Tiny, Speedy, Cheaper?

Smaller, Quicker, Secret, Robotic: Inside America's New Space Force, Wired

"From huge, slow and expensive to tiny, speedy and cheaper, Atlantis' and the X-37s brief proximity last summer represented a passing-of-the-torch for the world's leading space power. The era of big space missions is fading. "Small" is the new watch-word for America's orbital force. But as the X-37 and a host of other new spacecraft demonstrate, small doesn't mean less capable."

Strengthening America's Leadership in Space Exploration

"Charles Bolden: On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a story that captured some of what the space shuttle era meant to Florida's Space Coast. Unfortunately, the piece also missed an awful lot of important context about the end of that era and where we're headed from here. As a former shuttle astronaut and the Administrator of NASA, nobody has higher regard for the incredible men and women who worked on the Space Shuttle Program. And I certainly understand that for some of those men and women, this transitional period will not be easy."

The Secret History of OpenStack, the Free Cloud Software That's Changing Everything, Wired

"So [Federal CIO Vivek] Kundra summoned Chris Kemp to the White House, and he eventually used NASA Nebula to launch -- a site that shared the government's spending with the world at large -- while drawing up plans to expand the platform to other agencies as well. The problem was that certain U.S. lawmakers and NASA bureaucrats were intent on killing the project. Chief among them was Senator Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to Kemp. Shelby's office didn't respond to an inquiry from Wired, but Kemp says that the senator saw Nebula as a jobs-killer. "Whenever I would talk in Washington about this cloud technology enabling data centers to run without people, this was interpreted as jobs going away," Kemp says. "There was a serious political challenge to the project...and I was called before the NASA administrator -- of the whole agency -- to explain it."

NASA Lands $75,000 in Patent Auction, Wired

"The market can be cruel, but it doesn't lie: Software development algorithms are worth more than cool nanotechnology swarming technologies. That's what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found out this week when it tried to auction three lots of its Goddard Space Flight Center software patents at an event run by the ICAP Patent brokerage. The software development patents sold for $75,000. With a starting price of $50,000, nobody bid on the nanotechnology stuff. And they also steered clear of a bargain-basement $30,000 NASA patent that covered a fancy way of reporting a broken smoke detector."

Keith's note: Its great that the taxpayer gets some return on its investment in NASA research. But rest assured NASA won't tell you what it spent to generate this research in the first place. Rest assured, it was a lot more than $75,000. Not only does the agency not want you to know what its total investment was, it could not even figure out what it spent to generate this intellectual property that was auctioned, even if it wanted to tell you. As for the patents that did not sell, this does not mean that the initial research was not warranted. But it does blow a hole in the notion that all of the cool stuff NASA does is inherently sexy (i.e. patentable).

Resignation Letter from CASIS Executive Director Jeanne L. Becker

"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. ... Now, for unknown reasons, following selection of that proposal and stand up of the organization, the Space Florida interim board persists in pursuing engagement of ProOrbis on behalf of CASIS, with CASIS management forced to bear the responsibility of mitigating ensuing organizational risks occurring as a result of the interim board's actions. "

ProOrbis Statement re: CASIS Director Resignation

"However, since taking on this role, [Dr. Becker] 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."

Keith's note: Jeanne DiFrancesco from ProOrbis developed a significant portion of the procurement package for NASA's ISS National Laboratory non-profit partner: the National Laboratory Reference Model. Oddly, DiFrancesco and ProOrbis ended up as a major part of the winning team's bid (CASIS). How is it that a contractor that NASA specifically uses to write part of a solicitation is then allowed to bid for - and win - the contract awarded in response to the very same procurement they helped craft? In Dr. Becker's resignation letter, and ProOrbis' response, this issue of potential conflict of interest was raised. Indeed, the core thrust of Becker's departure, in part, seems to be her frustration in being unable to retain the non-profit status (and Intent) of CASIS against external pressures to engage in overt commercial activities via ProOrbis.

Curiously, NASA's Mark Uhran and Jeanne DiFrancesco (Principal of ProOrbis, LLC and the President and CEO of ProOrbis Ventures, LLC.) are on the advisory board of U.S Rare Earths.. U.S Rare Earths is a for-profit mining company. How is it that one of the main government officials behind the CASIS procurement (still a NASA civil servant a manging various ISS activities) and a senior representative of the company that was part of the team that won the CASIS contract are allowed to participate in a external business activity?

Earlier CASIS postings



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

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

Commercialization: March 2012 is the previous archive.

Commercialization: May 2012 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.