"This morning, at approximately 8:42 AM Pacific/11:42 AM Eastern, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed its historic mission when the Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely in the Pacific. The vehicle will now be recovered by boats and start the trip back to land."
Commercialization: May 2012 Archives
"This morning, at approximately 8:42 AM Pacific/11:42 AM Eastern, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed its historic mission when the Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely in the Pacific. The vehicle will now be recovered by boats and start the trip back to land."
Obama's tough decisions will lead nation forward in space, opinion, Mark Kelly, Orlando Sentinel
"The decision to commercialize certain parts of our space program was not easy. I was not a fan at first of canceling the Constellation rocket program. I worried about what it would mean for NASA's overall mission, and what it would do to the brilliant and patriotic men and women who work there. But I'm impressed by how far SpaceX has come in the past 17 months. And it's a bargain: The dramatic cost savings of commercial spaceflight -- savings we need to reduce the deficit and grow our economy -- let us expand the frontiers of space and stay at the forefront of technological innovation. The president made a tough, bold decision -- and I now believe he was right. It's part of a series of tough decisions he has made to stand by NASA and especially Florida's Space Coast. The president is investing in work-force training to connect Space Coast workers with emerging clean-energy businesses."
SpaceX's Dragon capsule docks with international space station, Washington post
"On Friday, Musk said that SpaceX could be ready to fly people into space by 2015. But Scott Pace, a space policy expert at George Washington University and an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said the company first needs a track record. "They need to fly [cargo] six or seven times consecutively," he said."
Keith's note: More Griffin era, out-of-date, sour grapes thinking from a Romney campaign advisor. Please tell me, Scott, where are the legal or agency requirements or 6 or 7 cargo flights prior to crew flights on Falcon 9/Dragon? Answer: there are no such requirements. You are just throwing imaginary hurdles in front of SpaceX so as to make their successes look less impressive than they are. And where is a precedent for such hurdles? Certainly not in the historical record of American human spaceflight. Why was the Space Shuttle allowed to fly with a crew on its very first flight? Human crews flew on the third Gemini/Titan II flight, Apollo crews flew on the third Saturn V flight, etc. How many cargo-only Ares 1/Orion flights were you and Mike going to have before you flew crews? Certainly not "six or seven times consecutively". So why are you suddenly calling for SpaceX to meet criteria never levied upon NASA by you or anyone else?
Keith's update: Curiously, you see a markedly different (and reasoned) tone than the dour stance taken by Mike Griffin and Scott Pace from another individual identified as a space supporter of the Romney campaign:
"Mark Albrecht, a former Republican space-policy maker who also previously ran Lockheed Martin Corp.'s international rocket business, called the launch "a watershed event" and a "Sputnik moment for the U.S. space program and the entire aerospace industry." Large aerospace rivals need to "take heed, adapt or go the way of the electric typewriter," he said."
So ... who speaks for Gov. Romney - and who does not? With Griffin and Pace there always seems to be a lingering "what if" bitterness - of the sort often associated with talking about having lost some big game way back in high school.
- Obama to Romney: Will You Fire Mike Griffin?, earlier post
- Partisan Romney Space Advisor To Call For Non-Partisan Space Policy, earlier post
- Obama Campaign Issues Space Policy Fact Sheet, earlier post
"According to information provided by NASA PAO, the "AS10" food substance mentioned in this news story is not a NASA food product. This food substance may have been developed by someone else using a product developed originally by AmeriSciences but NASA itself has not used any material or food substance described in these various news stories related to wrinkles nor is it conducting any research related to the claims made in these news stories."
Keith's note: The International Space Station crewsuccessfully captured the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at 9:56 am EDT. It was berthed to the ISS exactly
3 two hours later.
"For the first time, a private American company has successfully launched a spacecraft into orbit and berthed it with the International Space Station--an achievement of historic scientific and technological significance and a key milepost in President Obama's vision for America's continued leadership in space."
"Around 2:00 AM Pacific/5:00 AM Eastern NASA will decide if Dragon is GO to move into the approach ellipsoid 1.4 kilometers around the space station. If Dragon is GO, after approximately one hour Dragon will move to a location 250 meters directly below the station. Dragon will then perform a series of maneuvers to show systems are operating as expected. If NASA is satisfied with the results of these many tests, Dragon will be allowed to perform the final approach to the space station. Sometime around 6:00 AM Pacific/9:00 AM Eastern, astronauts on the space station will grapple Dragon with the space station's robotic arm and the spacecraft will attach to the station."
Follow progress via @NASAWatch : Dragon is now within 100 m of ISS . Projected Capture time is 9:10 am ED . ISS crew now has abort authority if anything does wrong
"Today, Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft completed key on-orbit tests as part of a historic attempt to be the first commercial company in history to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the days since SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the vehicle has steadily completed one task after another as it prepares to berth with the International Space Station. Only minutes after the spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage, its solar arrays successfully deployed, providing power to the spacecraft. The door that had been covering sensors needed for proximity operations opened successfully. "
Satellite Industry Association Report Shows Modest Growth in 2011 Satellite Industry Revenues, Commercial Space Watch
"The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today released its annual State of the Satellite Industry Report which showed a modest growth of 5% in world satellite industry revenues which totalled $177.3 billion in 2011. The report was completed by Futron Corporation for the SIA."
First Look Inside the SpaceX Dragon, SpaceRef
"SpaceX has released this first look inside the Dragon spacecraft in orbit preparing for its attempted rendezvous with the International Space Station three days from now. The Dragon spacecraft has 306 kilograms of non-critical food and crew provisions headed to the ISS. The Dragon spacecraft also has another 154 kilograms of non-critical utilization payloads including a NanoRacks Module student experiments and ice bricks."
Marc's note: Watch this video of the reaction of the SpaceX employees on hearing Dragon was in orbit and the solar panels had deployed.
SpaceX Falcon 9 on Historic Journey Begins with Successful Launch, SpaceRef (With video of launch)
"At 3:44 a.m. EDT a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft successfully lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Space Station launch complex 40 for its maiden voyage to the International Space Station on its second demonstration flight as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program."
Keith's note: Last Friday I joined CASIS as a member. Ever since then, when I attempt to login all I get is "Authorization Failed! You are not authorized to view this page. You must either login or you do not have sufficient privileges to access this information ..." But the page that tells me this has a link that says "logout" so I guess I am both logged in and logged out simultaneously. I am not certain how CASIS is going to build the online community it seems to desire when they cannot get something as simple as this figured out.
Keith's update: OK, now when I log in I get sent back to the membership page. Do they still want money from me?
"Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 22nd, at 3:44 AM Eastern, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft to orbit in an exciting start to the mission that will make SpaceX the first commercial company in history to try to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. Sending a spacecraft to the space station has only ever been accomplished by four entities - the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Union."
Budget Pressures Prompt ISS Partners To Justify Costs, Aviation Week
"NASA needs to get out of the business of running the competition and selecting experimenters and researchers to fly on ISS," Bolden says. "We realize if we truly want to enhance the utilization, we've got to cast our net as wide as we can in bringing people aboard to do experiments." But Florida-based CASIS has yet to identify any proposals worth funding and has been dogged by public relations issues, notably the resignation of its CEO after less than six months on the job. If CASIS can sort itself out, "then our proposal would be that we expand it even more broadly so you don't just have academia and the partner organizations doing the research on station," Bolden says."
"MSNBC: Do you think that private companies going into space will work? Do you see this as truly the future of space flight ?
Mark Kelly: You know, initially i didn't. I was not a big fan of this plan that the Obama administration had early on. But just seeing how it's developed over the last few years, to see companies, as an example, Spacex, how close they are, they're going to deliver cargo to the space station next week. That's amazing. They're going to ultimately be able to deliver people to the space station. So I see the decisions that were made were very innovative. So they can be a little bit disruptive but ultimately I think this is good for our country and I think it's good for the state of florida as well."
"More broadly, the Obama administration has pushed prizes for technological advances, sponsoring 150 contests across 40 agencies since 2010. NASA has helped lead the way, handing over $6 million to 23 prize-winning companies since 2005 for such items as better astronaut gloves and more fuel-efficient airplanes. From 2000 to 2007, philanthropic groups have put up some $250 million to spur technologies as varied as robotic moon rovers and cheaper tests for tuberculosis, according to a recent report from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy."
This morning's attempt to launch a Falcon 9 with a Dragon spacecraft was scrubbed when a high pressure reading was discovered in first stage engine 5. The launch vehicle is now being put into safe mode. The next launch window will be on Tuesday at 3:44 am EDT.
Marc's update: Here's my story and the post-launch attempt briefing video.
"Right up to t-minus 0.5 seconds it looked like there was going to be a launch. Unfortunately the Falcon 9 computer shutdown the rocket just as it was set to launch due to a high pressure reading on engine number 5, one of nine engines on the Falcon 9 first stage."
Keith's note: NASA is giving CASIS $15 million a year and the keys to a large portion of a $100 billion space station - one funded by taxpayers. But in order for a taxpayer or company to get everything that CASIS is offering they have to pay. Check out the CASIS membership site. This is fundamentally absurd - and I cannot fathom how NASA would agree to this. Everything that this taxpayer-funded organization does with NASA funding on the ISS should be available to all of those people who are already paying for it - and have been paying for it for decades. Whatever happened to the "transparency" and "openness" that NASA was supposed to be demonstrating? And what about the DIY ethos that the White House has been promoting? Putting a government-funded asset like the iSS behind a paywall is the antithesis of this.
"Today the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill introduced by Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) as an Amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, that enables the Department of Defense (DoD) to work with Space Florida and commercial companies to improve space launch infrastructure to better meet national security and commercial space launch needs."
Two more military missions booked on EELV rocket fleet, SpaceflightNow
"The maiden missions for both rockets occurred 10 years ago under the direction of their original parent companies -- Lockheed Martin for Atlas and Boeing for Delta. But in subsequent years, the Air Force pushed for the creation of United Launch Alliance to operate both rocket lines, ensuring they remained viable and alive, while reducing overhead costs and erasing duplication in efforts between the two aerospace giants."
Orbital Sciences CEO Criticizes DoD's Proposed 'Block Buy' Of EELVs From ULA, Defense Daily (subscription)
"The Pentagon's proposed "block buy" of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) from United Launch Alliance (ULA) will perpetuate a "long-term, high-cost monopoly" and will "seriously inhibit" the prospects for..."
"Today, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research on the International Space Station (ISS), announced the unveiling of a new website (www.iss-casis.org) that will serve as a portal for researchers, businesses, educators and students to discover the unique opportunities available to them on board the ISS U.S. National Laboratory."
NASA Ponders Transporting Tourists to International Space Station, WS Journal (link probably won't work)
"But for the first time, a senior National Aeronautics and Space Administration official on Thursday publicly talked about ways the U.S. eventually could offer the same service and reap similar benefits. The trips could begin later this decade, when a new generation of private, U.S.-built space taxis is expected to begin transporting American crews into orbit. "We are very, very open" to the possibility and intend to "work on details with the company or companies" that end up winning contracts to take American astronauts back and forth from the station, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told reporters during a teleconference."
Keith's note: To expand further on my question (described above), I noted that people have been able to fly to the ISS via commerial means for over a decade but their trips are explicitly considered as being via Russia's participation. Use of any U.S. facilities is usually at extra expense to the customer. I asked if NASA was considering A. Allowing individuals to buy seats to visit the U.S. segment B. allowing commercial concerns to be able to send up their own astronauts for periods longer than just a brief visit and C. how would NASA seek to determine the charge(s) for these visits. Lori Garver answered as noted above. I then asked how such trips might be arranged - i.e. if they'd be done via CASIS (which is supposed to me managing commerical research in the ISS National Lab) or some new TBD arrangement. Garver replied "No - I haven't heard any discussion about this and CASIS." She also noted that NASA has "come a long way since Dennis Tito when NASA wasn't even certain if they'd open the hatch."
"Clearly the clock is ticking. Given CASIS' chronic tardiness and lack of performance thus far, by the end of June NASA and Congress will either know a lot more about what CASIS has been doing and plans to do with the ISS - or they'll be asking if it is time to pull the plug on this half-hearted management experiment and try again. Meanwhile, this amazing facility orbits overhead while its return on investment diminishes with every single day that it continues to be underutilized."
Private Sector Edges Deeper in Space, NY Times
"The only way to make a dramatic reduction of price is to assume a dramatic increase of launches," said Mr. Greason of XCOR. "You have to assume there is some market, that there will be enough demand to support that low price." The current rockets -- most of them good for one launching only -- are very expensive regardless of whether they are built by entrepreneurs or government. The future of low-cost travel in space hinges on reusable rockets and technologies not yet developed, space experts say."
"The key to achieving our goal of facilitating a strong commercial space industry is adequate funding and good old-fashioned American competition. We are working hard to maintain both. NASA's 2013 request for commercial crew development is $830 million. Despite a bi-partisan agreement to ensure American astronauts are traveling into space on U.S. built spacecraft as soon as possible, some want to short-change this job-creating initiative and limit competition in the commercial space arena."
"What we're looking for are some of those very specific examples of things that can be done better in space than on Earth," Timothy Yeatman, CASIS's interim chief scientist, said. Protein crystallization best fits the bill, Yeatman said, citing the decision of a blue-ribbon panel of science experts CASIS convened to evaluate which scientific fields were likeliest to be advanced through in-space experiments."
Keith's note: Growing perfect crystals in space (on the Space Shuttle and Space Station) has been one of NASA's favorite promotional items in its mantra of promoting the use of the ISS as a "world class laboratory". The need for large crystals grown at great expense in space is quickly vanishing due to advances made on Earth. As mentioned in the earlier posts below, NASA dragged its feet on this and missed the bus.
SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace Join Forces to Offer Crewed Missions to Private Space Stations
"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Bigelow Aerospace (BA) have agreed to conduct a joint marketing effort focused on international customers. The two companies will offer rides on SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, using the Falcon launch vehicle to carry passengers to Bigelow habitats orbiting the earth."
ATK Liberty Launch Vehicle Targets First Crewed Flight in 2015, Commercial Space Watch (With video)
"It was 15 months that ATK announced with Astrium (an EADS Company) announced that they were working together and would compete in NASA's Commercial Crew Development-2 (CCDev-2) procurement. At that time they announced an initial test flight by the end of 2013, a second test flight in 2014, and operational capability in 2015. Today's announcement reinforces the previous plans with a few changes and offers some new information."
"Uhran notes that the timescale of a typical [Space station] research project is three to five years, which doesn't easily mesh with corporate priorities like reaching sales or profit targets for the next quarter, or even the next year."
Keith's note: So ... what do Mark Uhran and his colleagues do about this issue (by no means a new one)? They simply repeat it again and again as if it were an absolute, immutable fact of life at NASA and that there is nothing that NASA can (or will) do to change it. And then they wonder why there is not more interest in the commercial use of the ISS. Baffling. If the time lag is too long for commercial interests then obviously NASA needs to shorten it. Is CASIS the black box within which that miracle is supposed to happen? This commercially naive mindset at NASA is an ongoing example of the strange approach that Uhran et al took back in the 1990s with regard to finding users for the space station i.e. "build it and they will come". Yes they actually used that phrase. So did I when I worked there.
OK, Mark: you've built it - so where is everyone?
Keith's note: NASA FY 2013 Budget debate is now live on C-SPAN. Watch live.
"Mr. Rohrabacher: I rise today to engage in a colloquy on NASA's Commercial Crew program. The chairman has shown great leadership on space and science issues. He and I have often worked together on issues of shared interest, and he is a great friend. The report of this bill contains some strong language about NASA's Commercial Crew program, and I admittedly have some concerns about that language. I believe it makes a flawed comparison between commercial crew program partners and the energy firm Solyndra. In addition, it requires an immediate downselect to a single program partner, which I do not believe is the best path forward."
"It seems unlikely that NASA will receive significant budgetary relief in the foreseeable future," the three retired astronauts wrote in a May 4 letter to Wolf. "Consequently, it is mandatory to maximize return on the limited funds available to access low Earth orbit. An early downselect would seem to be prudent in order to maximize the possibility of developing a crew-carrying spacecraft in time to be operationally useful."
NASA: Competition at core of commercial crew program, Spaceflight Now
"Ed Mango, manager of NASA's commercial crew program, said Tuesday a "downselect" to a sole company could double the cost of fielding a privately-built human transportation system. "We need competition as long as possible. The price to go with one [provider] starting today, and then all the way through certification and into services, is at least twice what it would be if you had competition at least as long as possible," Mango said."
... Information about other NASA inventions available for licensing can be found online at http://techtracs.nasa.gov/.
... Information about other NASA inventions available for licensing can be found online at http://technology.nasa.gov/.
Keith's note: These two official NASA notices regarding a "Notice of Intent To Grant an Exclusive License" were both published in today's Federal Register. Curiously, the notice from KSC says: "Information about other NASA inventions available for licensing can be found online at http://technology.nasa.gov/". Yet the LaRC notice says: "Information about other NASA inventions available for licensing can be found online at http://techtracs.nasa.gov/". NASA's patent people - in two different locations - have their notices issued simultaneously (they are on the same page) - yet they tell people to go to two different websites for the same official information - and in the case of the link used by LaRC - there is no website operating at http://techtracs.nasa.gov/.
One more example of how NASA's technology folks simply do not coordinate with one another or pay attention to what they tell the public.
- NASA's Technology Transfer Continues To Be Uncoordinated, earlier post
- Uncoordinated Technology Transfer at NASA, earlier post
Is Texas forfeiting the private space race?, Houston Chronicle
"We are pretty interested in the possibility of Texas and building a spaceport there," said Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX. However, Musk says that interest has yet to be reciprocated by Texas officials. "There's been a lot of good action by the authorities in the Brownsville area; there's not been that much at the state level, and we'd certainly appreciate more from the state level," Musk said.
Texas could land private launch site, MySanAntonio
"The state of Texas ought to be on it like a duck on a June bug," said Tom Moser, a former NASA space station program director who led an effort to build a Texas spaceport in the 1990s. But is the state? Apparently not."
Keith's note: Ardbeg Distillery recently announced its "U.S. Ardbeg Rocket Tour" - which apparently has a rocket prop as part of the overall PR effort. [Larger image via Facebook]. Ardbeg has a commercial experiment that is currently operating aboard the International Space Station via Nanoracks. While this company seems to be extremely excited and willing to use space research as part of their overall advertising campaign, NASA doesn't seem to be remotely interested in talking about it - despite all the agency's hype about wanting to encourage commercial research on the ISS. Go figure.
- Whisky in Space - the Road Show, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores, earlier post
International Space Station Wearable Technology - Future Spinoff, Commercial Space Watch (Video)
"The research program to make the wearable technology shown here engaged students from the University of Minnesota and could have future commercial applications.
In these videos NASA Public Affairs Officer Lynnette Madison talks with Human Interface Engineer Cory Simon about wearable technology containing sensors, displays and controls to assist future astronauts and augment their capability to perform more elaborate and complex tasks and with students of the University of Minnesota."
Keith's note: According to SpaceX; "May 7th launch appears unlikely. We are continuing to work through the software assurance process with NASA. We will issue a statement as soon as a new launch target is set."
"If Dragon fails at launch, that's a bad thing that will get people concerned," said John Logsdon, professor emeritus at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "But if it gets close but can't dock, I would say that's a setback but not a tragedy," he added. "If they're able to get close or even dock, then it would do quite a bit for commercial space -- a real validation for those in NASA who set this in motion." While that view is common among officials involved in the effort, it is not necessarily the view of the SpaceX employees trying to make it work."
"Ardbeg Distillery is pleased to announce the U.S. Ardbeg Rocket Tour. The tour, which will showcase a life-size rocket, celebrates Ardbeg's participation in a pioneering research project on board the International Space Station. The Ardbeg Rocket Tour will kick off in Chicago on May 3, 2012 and will stop in 22 states in 28 weeks. Tour stops include key U.S. landmarks in states including California, Texas, New York and Florida. An Ardbeg Brand Ambassador will be on board the tour to educate consumers on the experiment, the brand, and where legal, to sample Ardbeg, recently rated by The Whisky Bible as the "Best Single Malt Scotch - 10 Years and Under."
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 (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) 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 with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen. A preview of things to come, I am afraid.
Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image that I made a few weeks ago people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend. Oops.
"JPL is a federally funded research and development center operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). JPL received $1.6 billion from NASA in FY 2010 and is the second largest recipient of Agency procurement funds after private businesses. However, NASA excluded payments made to and by JPL from its IPIA [Improper Payments Information Act] review because it is the Agency's position that the payments NASA makes to JPL are not at risk and that payments made by JPL to its subcontractors are not subject to IPIA. However, we believe that payments made to and by JPL meet OMB's definition of payment, which includes disbursements to and by a governmental or other organization administering a Federal program or activity. At a minimum, to comply with IPIA NASA should assess the risk of improper payments to and by JPL consistent with its assessment of other Agency programs."
Right on schedule yesterday NASA LaRC posted 3 (not 2, not 4) of these Technology Transfer Opportunities.
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Thin High Contrast Targets for Ultralightweight Structures
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: High Density Optical Storage System
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: New Probe for Detecting Deep Flaws in Structures
Keith's note: A week or so ago, I submitted some questions to NASA and Rich Atcliff at NASA LaRC was kind enough to send me a prompt reply. Among the questions I asked was "Why are there never more (or less) than 3?" Atcliff replied: "This is simply a matter of workforce available to respond to the opportunities. Three has worked out to be a reasonable number such that we can respond to the inquires in a timely way and not leave the potential customers waiting."
My response: "In other words you actually have technology transfer info available to release but you will not release it other than 3 per week - and the reason being that you can only respond to more than three topics/week? What about all of the previously released tech transfer opportunities? There are certainly more than three of them. Do people not ask questions about those previously-released topics - and just the three you release every week? Or do they not see them because you only post them in the procurement pages and FedBizOpps (not the best way to reach business, the media, or the public, BTW) Have you ever stopped to consider that people do not ask about this stuff because they never see it?"
Of course, NASA Tech Briefs and NASA OCT pay no attention to things like this. NASA OCT has no link to NASA Tech Briefs. NASA Tech Briefs does not link to NASA OCT. Last week, I did a search of the source HTML code on the NASA Techbriefs home page. There are still no links whatsoever to anything at NASA.gov. Yet this page features the NASA logo. Baffling.
Uncoordinated Technology Transfer at NASA, earlier post