Commercialization: November 2013 Archives

Congressman questions whether NASA has let go of enough unused property, Washington Post

"NASA is in the midst of a huge yard sale at Kennedy Space Center, peddling unused hangars, assembly buildings, launch complexes and even a landing strip to commercial space companies.
But at the request of Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), Congress soon may be asking whether the space agency is cleaning out the closets thoroughly enough. Mica said he will call for a congressional hearing early next year to explore NASA's options for land or buildings that might no longer be needed among the 140,000 acres and scores of facilities at the space center."

- NASA OIG: NASA's Efforts to Reduce Unneeded Infrastructure and Facilities, earlier post
- NASA OIG: NASA's Real Property Master Planning Efforts, earlier post
- NASA's Infrastructure and Facilities: Assessment of Agency's Real Property Leasing Practices, earlier post

Keith's note: The launch of SES 8 by SpaceX was called off after two attempts to launch tonight. Both countdowns got down to within seconds of a launch. The Falcon 9 is likely to be taken down, brought to the hangar, and inspected before the next attempt. There is a window available at the same time tomorrow evening but it sounds like this inspection process will take several days.

Which way to space?, Washington Post

"Old Space (and this is still the dreamers talking) is slow, bureaucratic, government-directed, completely top-down. Old Space is NASA, cautious and halting, supervising every project down to the last thousand-dollar widget. Old Space is Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman. Old Space coasts on the glory of the Apollo era and isn't entirely sure what to do next.

New Space is the opposite of all that. It's wild. It's commercial, bootstrapping, imaginative, right up to the point of being (and this is no longer the dreamers talking) delusional."

Keith's note: Funny thing: this article's top illustration shows "Old Space Delta IV Heavy" and "New Space Dream Chaser". Guess what rocket the "New Space" Dream Chaser is shown on? Looks like an Atlas V to me. According to the article's simplistic definition, that's an "Old Space" rocket. Joel Achenbach has fallen for the same gimmick that is annoyingly common in the space business today wherein a company is one or the other but not both. And "Old" = bad and "New" = good (if you talk to a New Spacer, that is).

This "New Space" Vs "Old Space" designation is just a semantic ploy used by people who want NASA money for their company or pet idea that is currently being given to another company/project. You have to convince NASA that you are worthy of funding so you make the status quo look like dinosaurs. Market analysis, engineering excellence, and sound investment never seem to be important to the New Spacers. Being "new" and not "old" is, so it would seem. People who try and pigeon hole companies as being either "Old Space" or "New Space" into one category or another are missing what is really going on.

NASA Solicitation: Crew Exploration Vehicle Cockpit Prototyping Phase Four

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Cockpit Prototyping Phase 4 research and development (R&D). The objective of the Phase 4 work is to provide human machine interface R&D for defining CEV cockpit layout requirements, displays, and controls rapid prototyping using iterative interaction."

Keith's update: "CEV" (Crew Exploration Vehicle) is not a term that has been used for nearly a decade. "CEV" became "Orion" under Constellation. Then Orion went away when NASA cancelled it. Then it quickly came back as "MPCV" which quickly reverted to "MPCV/Orion" and then simply "Orion". Now we're back to "CEV".

Keith's update: This court document (actually it is two documents) contains the details of what Ed Mango's case is all about including his plea agreement.

Former head of NASA's Commercial Crew program faces federal charge, Florida Today

"After stepping down last month as the head of NASAs Commercial Crew Program, Ed Mango has pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge that he improperly intervened to help a colleague to whom he had loaned money. Mango loaned undisclosed amounts starting in October 2012 to the colleague identified in court records as C.T. including funds to hire a lawyer after her arrest last December, according to a plea agreement signed Nov. 13 and filed this week in the U.S. District Court in Orlando."

KSC leader of manned spaceflight pleads guilty to federal felony, Florida Today

"Court records identify the employee as a single mother with the initials "C.T.," and in one instance as "Thomas." FLORIDA TODAY reported last December that Candrea Thomas, a NASA public affairs officer who served as a spokeswoman for the Commercial Crew Program and worked closely with Mango, was arrested at her office at the KSC Press Site on felony charges of forging public records. NASA confirmed that Thomas was the only employee who performed work with the Commercial Crew Program who was arrested at KSC that month."

NASA employee at KSC arrested on forgery charges, ClickOrlando (2012)

"A NASA employee, who works at Kennedy Space Center, was arrested on forgery charges on Thursday 38-year-old Candrea Thomas, an employee in the Public Affairs department at the Kennedy Space Center, has been booked into the Brevard County jail, according to Brevard County Sheriff's Office."

Management Changes at Commercial Crew Program (Update), earlier post

2013 National Space Transportation Policy

"The United States has long been a leader in space, and President Obama remains committed to maintaining America's competitiveness in the aerospace sector. The National Space Transportation Policy the President signed today will ensure that the United States stays on the cutting edge by maintaining space transportation capabilities that are innovative, reliable, efficient, competitive, and affordable, and that support U.S. interests."

- President Obama's National Space Transportation Policy: A Bold Vision for Space, NASA
- Boeing Statement on President's National Space Transportation Policy, Boeing
- New National Space Transportation Policy Reaffirms that Investment in Space is a Good Investment for the Future of Our Nation, Coalition for Space Exploration
- Committee Democrats Comment on the National Space Transportation Policy, House Science Committee

Bipartisan Bill Extends Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"A bipartisan group of Science, Space, and Technology Committee leaders today introduced a bill to extend for one year a commercial space transportation risk-sharing and liability regime that was established by Congress in 1988 with passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments."

Keith's 20 Nov. note: According to a Capitol Hill source, this morning, during a House Science subcommittee on Space, Republicans agreed to the Democrats' restriction to only pass a clean one year extension of indemnification for commercial launch service providers. Over in the Senate, Bill Nelson would like to see Congress enact the three year extension that was included in the Senate NASA Authorization bill through the end of 2016. Nelson is introducing this bill this afternoon (Wed.) and hopes to move it through the Senate tomorrow (Thurs.) so they can send it to the House before the Senate goes on recess.

Text

- The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Supports S. 1753 to Extend Government-Industry Risk-Sharing Regime
- Bipartisan Bill Extends Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches
- House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Discusses Commercial Space

Statement of NASA Spokesman David Weaver Regarding Commercial Space and Inspiration Mars

"NASA has had conversations with Inspiration Mars to learn about their efforts and will continue discussions with them to see how the agency might collaborate on mutually-beneficial activities that could complement NASA's human spaceflight, space technology and Mars exploration plans. Inspiration Mars' proposed schedule is a significant challenge due to life support systems, space radiation response, habitats, and the human psychology of being in a small spacecraft for over 500 days. The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them. However, we remain open to further collaboration as their proposal and plans for a later mission develop."

Millionaire revises plan for Mars flyby in 2018: Now it's up to NASA, NBC

"Tito initially envisioned the flyby as an effort primarily backed by private contributions, but the 90-day study determined that the mission had to be done with NASA hardware. "This is really a NASA mission," Taber MacCallum, Inspiration Mars' chief technology officer, told NBC News. "This is a mission we believe NASA should do."

Inspiration Mars pivots, seeks government support and backing, Space Politics

"Are you suggesting that the mission couldn't be undertaken without additional NASA funding?" asked Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the space subcommittee. "Right now, I don't see a lot of evidence that money is available," Tito responded."

Keith's note: In a media interview today Dennis Tito and Taber MacCallum said that they viewed the Inspiration Mars mission as a "NASA mission" and that Congress and the White House would need to direct NASA to do this mission as part of their SLS program. Tito also said that there would be legislation submitted on their behalf soon but declined to say who the sponsor was. Tito and MacCallum also said that they had briefed the White House on the Inspiration Mars concept and that the White House was supportive. Administration sources contacted tonight note that it has been many months since Inspiration Mars briefed them and that the mission that they were briefed on was a wholly private venture that did not require NASA funds - certainly not a "NASA Mission". Administration sources add that it would be incorrect to state that Administration supports the Inspiration Mars mission as a "NASA mission" requiring NASA funds or hardware.

- Inspiration Mars Foundation Chairman Dennis Tito testifies before House Subcommittee on Space
- Tito prepared statement
- Inspiration Mars Architecture Study Report Summary
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, earlier post
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, earlier post

Statement by Rep. Kevin McCarthy on H.R. 3038, Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act

"The use of innovative public-private partnerships offers the government new ways of solving problems. A study shows these partnerships benefit the taxpayer, by providing space services at nearly one-tenth the cost of traditional contracting methods; getting results for less money; and catalyzing innovation, growth, and risk-sharing in the private sector. As NASA leads continued exploration missions and related technology development, entrepreneurs will follow, spending their own money and creating new industries. However, it is up to us as legislators to ensure our current regulatory environment is appropriate for the needs of the 21st Century and to make sure safety is paramount in the commercial spaceflight industry's endeavors. This is why I introduced H.R. 3038 to ensure that the U.S. commercial spaceflight industry has a clear path ahead as it continues to innovate and generate high-quality American manufacturing jobs."

Video

Keith's note: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip testified today at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Hearing on "Commercial Space". Interestingly the committee did not let McCarthy sit on the dais (protocol?) nor did they allow any of the subcommittee members to ask him any questions. Odd. This is one of House Speaker Boehner's inner leadership circle. Multiple sources report that this appearance was a message from House leadership that many of the positions being pushed by the leadership of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology are out of synch with Majority's positions. Stay tuned.

Minotaur 1 Rocket Launched (with video)

"Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world's leading space technology companies, announced that it successfully launched a Minotaur I rocket in support of the Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space Office's ORS-3 mission earlier this evening. Originating from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia, this mission marks the 25th launch for the Minotaur rocket, all of which have been successful, and the sixth Minotaur vehicle to be launched from the Wallops facility."

NASA Issues Commercial Crew Transportation Capability RFP

"Commercial Crew Request for Proposals Finalizes Development and Certification Process NASA took another step Tuesday to restore an American capability to launch astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station by the end of 2017, subject to the availability of adequate funding. The agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) requested proposals from U.S. companies to complete development of crew transportation systems that meet NASA certification requirements and begin conducting crewed flights to the space station."

NASA OIG: NASA's Use of Award Fee Contracts

"The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that shortcomings with NASA's award fee practices, including use of overly complex formulas to calculate the fees and a clause designed to hold contractors accountable for the quality of the final product that disregards interim performance evaluations, have diminished the effectiveness of NASA's use of award-fee contracts. In 26 of the 45 contracts we reviewed, we found erroneous award-fee payments totaling $66.4 million. We found that these errors resulted from NASA policy requiring the use of complex mathematical formulas to calculate interim and provisional payments. Although NASA has the opportunity to fix these errors as part of the final award-fee calculation, these funds are not available for NASA's use until corrected."

NASA Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle (sRLV) Flight and Payload Integration Services

"NASA/DFRC plans to issue a Competitive Request for Proposal (RFP)/Solicitation for the following Commercial item/services: ... The anticipated release date of the Draft RFP/Solicitation NND14480735R is on or about Dec 11, 2013. The final RFP/Solicitation is expected to be released on or about Feb 12, 2014 with an anticipated Proposal due date of on or about 28 March 2014. All responsible sources may submit a proposal which shall be considered by the agency."

NASA Hails Success of Commercial Space Program Private Space Station Resupply Underway, Plans Readied for Astronauts

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Wednesday hailed the success of the agency's public-private partnership with American companies to resupply the International Space Station and announced the next phase of contracting with U.S. companies to transport astronauts is set to begin next week."

Keith's note: The only "news" from this morning's webcast is that NASA will be issuing an RFP next week for commercial crew services. Despite a media advisory highlighting Bolden's participation in this morning's event, Bolden read some prepared remarks, posed for photos with company reps who got NASA awards, and then disappeared. There was no opportunity for media to ask him questions - all in keeping with PAO's "hide Charlie" strategy.

NASA IG Final Report: NASA's Management of the Commercial Crew Program

"... the Commercial Crew Program has received only 38 percent of requested funding for fiscal years 2011 through 2013, bringing the current aggregate budget gap to $1.1 billion when comparing funding requested to funding received. In addition, although NASA's Commercial Crew partners have completed their preliminary spacecraft designs, NASA managers have yet to develop a life cycle cost estimate showing the anticipated costs of the program year-by-year throughout its life from preliminary design through the end of operations. Without this type of detailed cost estimate, it is difficult for NASA to calculate how much funding is required each year given that costs over time can fluctuate significantly. "

Recognizing Giant Leaps: Google Lunar XPRIZE Establishes Milestone Prizes, Alex Hall, Space.com

"Two years ago, XPRIZE began a dialogue with teams to better understand the challenges that they were facing and to determine what steps we might take to better nurture and support this prize ecosystem. As a result, we determined that we needed to find a way to recognize and support the teams that were making substantial technical progress toward the requirements of the competition."

Keith's note: All of the Google Lunar X Prize competitors really need money. By creating these smaller prizes that are easier to achieve, the competitors have a chance to get some much-needed funding to keep their doors open. Of course, if Chang'e 3 lands on the Moon and deploys its rover, the Google Lunar X Prize automatically reduces by a significant amount. Add in the fact that none of the GLXP competitors have exhibited actual flight hardware or raised the funds to build and launch their vehicles and the chances for pulling this off by the December 2015 deadline are really starting to fade. This effort tosses some cash their way but also allows GLXP to proclaim "winners". Whether this will actually improve the odds that the teams launch anything remains to be seen.

Keith's update: The rules used to say "The competition's grand prize is worth $20 million. To provide an extra incentive for teams to work quickly, the grand prize value will change to $15 million whenever a government-funded mission successfully explores the lunar surface, currently projected to occur in 2013." Well, the prize decrease that would have resulted from a government-funded mission (e.g. Chang'e 3) has been removed. You can read the new rules here. Clearly the Google Lunar X Prize is quietly trying to get money to some of their teams much more easily - and sooner - and they are moving (or removing) the older goal posts so as to make it easier for teams to win these smaller prizes.

- Google Lunar X Prize: Changing Rules - and Fewer Entrants?, earlier post
- Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration, earlier post

NASA, Harvard & TopCoder Partner to Develop a Secure Solar System Internet Protocol

"TopCoder, the world's largest professional development and design community, with NASA and the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab (at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science), today announced the launch of a series of innovation challenges that will develop foundational technological concepts for disruption tolerant deep space networking. NASA has made significant progress in developing Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocols that aide in deep space communication. DTN protocols are an approach to network architecture that seeks to address the potential for lack of continuous connectivity in deep space. It is meant to aid NASA in the exploration of the solar system by overcoming communication time delays caused by interplanetary distances, and the disruptions caused by planetary rotation, orbits and limited transmission power."

Keith's note: This sounds pretty cool builds upon the Interplanetary Internet work that NASA has engaged in over the past decade or so. You'd think that extending the Internet (so to speak) to allow interaction between other worlds and spacecraft traversing our solar system would be something that all of NASA's IT and Technology, and Innovation people would want to crow about - especially since this effort is geared to engage the public via crowd sourcing. In this wired world, this is something that almost everyone in the public can relate to. Indeed, utilized crowd sourced efforts and making the results widely known is something that the Open Government Initiative is supposed to be promoting.

This effort is being coordinated by the NASA Tournament Lab at TopCoder. No specific sponsoring office or organization at NASA is mentioned. TopCoder put out a press release last week. Alas, despite the obvious nexus of interest you'd expect, NASA has been totally silent:

- NASA Public Affairs (no press release issued)
- NASA Chief Information Officer (no mention)
- NASA Space Technology Directorate (no mention)
- NASA - Office of the Chief Technologist (no mention)
- NASA Space Communications and Navigation (no mention - they also make no mention of LADEE's recent laser comms test)
NASA Open Government Initiative (no mention)

Curiously, NASA PAO did promote NASA's Interplanetary Internet efforts last year when someone commanded Robonaut to do something on the ISS. A week prior to this recently announced Interplanetary Internet challenge NASA posted this:

NASA Engages the Public to Discover New Uses for Out-of-this-World Technologies

"Now NASA has joined forces with the product development startup Marblar (www.marblar.com) for a pilot program allowing the public to crowd source product ideas for forty of NASA's patents. This initiative will allow Marblar's online community to use a portion of NASA's diverse portfolio of patented technologies as the basis of new product ideas."

Again, for the most part, NASA's Technology and Information organizations have been mostly mute:

- NASA Public Affairs (no press release issued - just an online feature)
- NASA Chief Information Officer (no mention)
- NASA Space Technology Directorate (no mention)
- NASA - Office of the Chief Technologist (posted a link)
- NASA Open Government Initiative (no mention)

Add in the curious case of innovate.nasa.gov which is apparently now "under construction, but we will be re-launching soon" after being online for a year and doing absolutely nothing to warrant its existence (or expense), and you really have to wonder what NASA is planning to do with all this Technology money that is heading their way. If the agency cannot internally coordinate a simple mechanism to organize this technology stuff - and then share it with the public - then maybe that technology money belongs elsewhere.

NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract CCTCAP

"NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to compete requirements for Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) Phase 2 of the Commercial Crew Program. The CCtCap contract is the second phase of a two-phased procurement strategy to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to achieve safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with a goal of no later than 2017."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from November 2013.

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