Keith's note: If you look over at the calendar on the right side of NASA Watch you'll note that the NASA Advisory Council and all of its committees are meeting toward the end of July. NASA has expanded the audience for these public meetings by putting them on Webex and dial-in audio feeds - live. A good use of technology - with one exception: the only committee that will not be available live via Webex or dial-in is the Technology and Innovation Committee which focuses on the NASA Chief Technologist's Office. Go figure.
Commercialization: June 2012 Archives
ATK Makes Progress with the Liberty Launch System, Commercial Space Watch (With video)
"In a trio of media releases ATK announced today that is has signed a deal with NanoRacks, completed a milestone for its contract with NASA for the Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev) and that partner EADS Astrium has completed tests on tank structures for the Liberty rocket second stage."
"In a press conference at the California Academy of Sciences Thursday morning, the B612 Foundation unveiled its plans to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission - SENTINEL - a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun, ranging up to 170 million miles from Earth, for a mission of discovery and mapping."
"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with COBRA PUMA GOLFTM to carry out materials research projects on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory for use in its sporting goods products line."
"Combining instruction in the principles of both science and golf, 20 Title I students from St. Lucie County Schools will take part in the first-ever PGA STEM Enrichment Camp at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance this week, June 18-22."
Keith's note: While CASIS is promoting its golf-in-space efforts, it has totally ignored its partner Nanoracks as it makes an announcement - and does so at a conference that CASIS itself co-sponsored. Oh yes, with the exception of two tweets @ISSCASIS was totally mute at the ISS conference in Denver. Indeed, only half a dozen or so people were using Twitter (#ISSRDC) to talk about what was happening at the conference. I have only found 2 articles - from the Huntsville Times - that refer to news from the conference. And nothing was webcast. How CASIS is going to expand visibility of ISS capabilities when it drops the ball like this escapes me. It takes more than a few golf agreements, CASIS.
NASA Releases Breakout Videos for the Commercial Crew Program, Commercial Space Watch
"Five of NASA's industry partners participated in the production of breakout videos that highlight the systems they're creating in collaboration with the Commercial Crew Program during Commercial Crew Development Round 2. Included videos come from: ATK, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and ULA."
"A high-altitude test of the Orion deep-space capsule's launch abort system could be delayed two years [FY 2018] to accommodate the tighter program budgets anticipated by NASA and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin."
"I just hope that there will no longer be budget proposals from the President, whoever that will be next year, that will appear to cut back on the future and fund the present because we have an authorization bill that assures both, we support both," Sen. Hutchison said at the hearing."
"Based on the availability of funding and industry performance, this strategy allows for adjustments in program scope, and enables a domestic capability to transport crewmembers to the ISS likely by 2017, based on the readiness of U.S. commercial providers to achieve NASA certification."
Keith's note: If the Orion abort test doesn't happen until FY 2018, then what does this mean for using Orion to take crews to the ISS? NASA plans for using the ISS now end in CY 2020. If Orion delays continue, commercial crew service providers could reach the ISS well before Orion can. How can Orion provide the "capability to be a backup system for International Space Station cargo and crew delivery" if commercial crew carriers fly well before Orion flies? As such, why is Orion/SLS being designed with the capability of going to the ISS in the first place?
Back Us On Kickstarter, Planetary Resources
"To offer you a chance to actually get involved, we've been tossing around the idea of adding additional capacity in our production run, and either offering you access to a portion of our of our orbiting spacecraft - or - if there's enough demand, actually build you an additional Space Telescope for your own use. We'd probably do this thru a Kickstarter campaign, but we ONLY if there's enough interest..."
Keith's note: This is bizzare. At the ISDC conference just a few weeks ago Eric Anderson from Planetary Resources was positively bragging about how much money they had. A room full of people heard him say this. Now they are asking for people to fund their ultra low cost telescopes on Kickstarter? What happened? Where did all those billionaires (and their money) go? Given that there is no hardware yet (just press releases), will the Kickstarter funds be used to fund hardware development or just to buy copies?
Keith's update: Clarification: I'm all for crowdfunding and crowdsourcing (I'm actually a big fan) but it is a little strange that this company announces itself with immense fanfare as being well-funded by ultra-rich people and then, before anything is event built or launched, they decide to use crowdfunding. It seems that their business model is a bit confused and is still evolving.
Mystery Billionaire-backed Space Company To Be Announced, earlier post
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 ...
Open For Business: NASA Launches New Technology Transfer Portal
"In an effort to accelerate technology transfer from NASA into the hands of American businesses, industry and the public, the agency's new Technology Transfer Portal is open for business. NASA's Technology Transfer Portal provides an Internet-based one-stop front door to the agency's unique intellectual property assets available for technology transfer and infusion into America's new technology and innovation-driven economy."
Keith's note: I have to say this is a substantial improvement over what was online before. Some closer examination is called for. The next step ought to be to eliminate all of the separate field center tech transfer websites (each one is different, none of them interconnect, each one costs money to maintain etc.) and have one truly central portal where everyone has easy access to everything that NASA does.
A quick observation: based on the user interface on this new site I'd never find these three items posted by NASA LaRC the other day unless I already knew to click on the LaRC link that actually takes me to the NASA Technology Gateway Marketplace. Why not call the link by the name of where it sends you?
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity Byzantine Fault Tolerant Clock - A Self Stabilizing Synchronization Protocol
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity Air Coupled Acoustic Thermography Nondestructive Evaluation and Inspection of Structures
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity Adaptive Refinement Tools Software for Realtime of Unstructured Grids in Numerical Analysis
Oh yes: NASA Tech Briefs is linked from this page but NASA Tech Briefs still makes no link or mention of NASA itself. Odd.
- NASA Patent Offices Need to Coordinate Much Better Than They Do, earlier post
- NASA's Technology Transfer Continues To Be Uncoordinated, earlier post
- Uncoordinated Technology Transfer at NASA, earlier post
"The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space will hold a hearing on the "Risks, Opportunities, and Oversight of Commercial Space." This hearing will examine the commercial space industry, its role in the nation's space program, and its contribution to U.S. global competitiveness."
"Announcement: On June 28, 2012, the B612 Foundation will announce its plans to build, operate and launch the world's first privately funded deep space mission-a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun. We will create the first comprehensive dynamic map of our inner solar system showing the current and future locations and trajectories of Earth-crossing asteroids, paving the way to protect the Earth from future impacts and opening up the Solar System to future exploration."
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA have signed a historic agreement to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). The two agencies will collaborate to expand efforts that provide a stable framework for the U.S. space industry, avoid conflicting requirements and multiple sets of standards, and advance both public and crew safety."
Keith's note: When questioned by the media, NASA Administrator Bolden said that only NASA missions that go to the ISS will be required to adhere to both NASA safety requirements and FAA requirements. Missions to other locations (even if they use the same spacecraft that visit ISS) will not be subject to NASA scrutiny but will still have to adhere to FAA regs. When asked if there will be a TSA-like entity to handle the surge in people flying into space commercially neither NASA or FAA would "speculate about the future".
Keith's note: During today's NASA/FAA teleconference, Charlie Bolden said that the new commercial crew Space Act Agreements are targeted for July. However, Phil McAlister said that these downselects will not be "downselects" at all but will be open to any bidder. However Rep. Frank Wolf recently issued a press release that said "Additionally, NASA has stated that it will reduce the number of awards anticipated to be made this summer from the 4 awards made under commercial crew development round 2 to not more than 2.5 (two full and one partial) CCiCAP awards. This downselect will reduce taxpayer exposure by concentrating funds on those participants who are most likely to be chosen to eventually provide service to ISS."
Hmm. "reduce the number of awards" and "this downselect will reduce ..." It certainly sounds like Rep. Wolf thinks that he has agreed to a NASA "downselect". Phil might want to check with Rep. Wolf on this.
Boeing X-37B Completes 469 Day Orbital Mission (With Video)
"Boeing today announced the successful de-orbit and landing of the second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) for the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The X-37B landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 5:48 a.m. Pacific time today, concluding a 469-day experimental test mission. It was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on March 5, 2011."
Teledyne to Develop Space-Based Digital Imaging Capability
"Teledyne Technologies Incorporated announced today that its subsidiary, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc., in Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a Cooperative Agreement by NASA to foster the commercial utilization of the International Space Station. Under the agreement, Teledyne Brown will develop the Multi-User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES), an Earth imaging platform, as part of the company's new commercial space-based digital imaging business. Teledyne expects to provide the first commercial imaging system on board the facility."
Keith's 14 Jun note: There is no mention of CASIS or the ISS National Lab in this press release. No mention is made on the CASIS website. No mention is made at the NASA ISS National Lab website either. I thought this was the sort of thing NASA wanted CASIS to be doing? Guess not. It would seem that one does not have to deal with CASIS in order to use the ISS.
Keith's 15 Jun update: According to Twitter posts provided last night by CASIS employee Justin Kugler (@phalanx) the TBE agreement was done independent of CASIS: "MUSES was created as a National Lab Enabling project. It is not new. TBE registered with CASIS as an implementation partner" and "TBE is an implementation partner and MUSES preceded the transition. And we have been helping them with potential users.". Kugler added that "NASA is retaining the projects they are funding because of legal requirements."
"Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation, today announced the Foundation has joined forces with NanoRacks LLC, the leading company for low-earth orbit utilization, to launch a new program called DreamUp. The program will assist students in raising money to participate in a unique educational experience - conducting experiments in the microgravity of space. DreamUp is the first program to enable students to use American Express(R) Membership Rewards(R) points to fund student experiments onboard the International Space Station (ISS)."
"A report prepared for the NASA Applied Science Program and authored by economists at The Brattle Group finds that the use of NASA's solar and meteorological data services has greatly contributed to the U.S. and international goals of achieving greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources. The study, which was presented today at a workshop hosted by IEEE's Committee on Earth Observation, finds the economic value of the datasets to be between $79 million and $790 million worldwide, with higher ranges possible."
Keith's note: If you go to the NASA Applied Science Program website they make no mention of this report. This rather odd given that they paid for the report - one that has been released and makes some rather important assessments about the value of what NASA does.
"Keith Cowing, editor of NASAWatch.com, said Copenhagen Suborbitals has yet to convince anyone that they've built something safe to fly in. Spine-severing vibration, blackout-inducing acceleration and catastrophic hardware failures could each doom a would-be passenger. "But the fact that I'm not making fun of this and worrying about detailed technical aspects is fascinating. We don't giggle at it anymore," said Cowing, a former biologist who did payload integration for NASA and has completed suborbital scientist astronaut training. "In the past few years, it's no longer considered lunacy to try and build a rocket ship that you or someone could get into and take you to edge of space," he said. "I think we're watching something that may be bigger than we realize it is. Copenhagen Suborbitals is an extreme example."
"CASIS is now the manager of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Owing to a slow and unfocused start, tumultuous changes in management after barely six months, and pressure from those who lost the ISS National Lab management contract competition, some have called for CASIS to be removed from the job barely nine months after it was selected. Any move to retire CASIS -- still in its infancy -- and replace it with a still greener successor would be ill advised, I believe. ... I rather doubt that the detractors and would-be successors to CASIS have thought these implications through. But they should. And if they are ISS supporters, they should not only cease their calls to end CASIS and instead support it as it reboots with new leadership and a newfound effectiveness."
Keith's note: (sigh) It's never the fault of CASIS when things go wrong. Oh no. CASIS is the only answer - period. We're stuck with them - no matter what. So get used to it. And if you don't fall in step with whatever CASIS says and does (no matter how much they screw things up) you are a detractor and not a true believer. Yawn.
It is quite clear that CASIS thinks that the choice is to stick with them and their substandard ISS utilization - and not to even think of trying another approach so as to achieve far better utilization of the International Space Station. I vote for "better".
Keith's update: There are some interesting and lengthy comments (below) from someone inside the ISS utilization world that shed some light on issues confronting CASIS.
Keith's 11 June note: Industry sources report that Chase Bank has led a group that has bought (or is seekng ot buy) venerable rocket engine manufacturer Rocketdyne from Pratt & Whitney and that Mike Griffin will be the new CEO. Stay tuned for more details.
Keith's 12 June update: Industry sources now speak of Rocketdyne as having been bought by Goodrich while others claim it has been bought EADS. Others now say that that Mike Griffin has not been asked to be the CEO. The speculation and claims about Rocketdyne's suitors clearly indicates the value that many in the industry see in its products.
"One source familiar with the matter said the Rocketdyne sale to a private investor is imminent and should be completed by the end of the month. The two sides had hoped to finish negotiations by June 15, but that now appears unlikely. "With any sale, you want to do them as fast as you can because otherwise the company loses momentum," the source said. The source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, did not name the private equity investor and had no details on the selling price for Rocketdyne and the other units. The units were fetching prices "pretty much in line" with what UTC had expected, the source said."
"With a few decades of space launch experience already under its belt, the Orbital Sciences Corporation is next up to demonstrate cargo delivery capabilities to the International Space Station. With so much attention focused on SpaceX's successful demonstration flight last month, it might be easy to forget Elon Musk's company is just one of two receiving investments from NASA as part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to deliver cargo to the ISS. And unlike upstart SpaceX, the other company in the COTS program is a veteran of the commercial space industry."
"As part of this understanding, NASA and the committee have affirmed that the primary objective of the commercial crew program is achieving the fastest, safest and most cost-effective means of domestic access to the ISS, not the creation of a commercial crew industry. Additionally, NASA has stated that it will reduce the number of awards anticipated to be made this summer from the 4 awards made under commercial crew development round 2 to not more than 2.5 (two full and one partial) CCiCAP awards. This downselect will reduce taxpayer exposure by concentrating funds on those participants who are most likely to be chosen to eventually provide service to ISS."