Commercialization: January 2014 Archives

Keith's note: I finally had a chance to talk with Kevin Heath from Waypoint2space about their astronaut training services in response to earlier postings on NASAWatch. Heath confirmed that they do not have a signed Space Act Agreement with NASA in place and that it is currently stuck in NASA Legal limbo (that certainly can happen). Waypoint2space says that they do have a signed agreement with Jacobs Engineering but that only deals with their interactions with Jacobs - not NASA. Heath also confirmed that NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) has declined to work with them but that the JSC Engineering Directorate was interested. As stated earlier, I find it somewhat perplexing to see how NASA can support a cmpany offering astronaut training when the very part of NASA (MOD) that does such things declines to participate.

Keith's note: The other day I wrote about the announcement made by Waypoint2space about the astronaut training services they are currently selling - services that claim use of NASA JSC facilities. I did get a few responses from the company (with legal disclosure caveats attached) before they stopped responding. I have asked NASA PAO to respond but they have yet to do so. Below are some observations regarding what is still posted on the Waypoint2space website. I'd be more than happy to post any responses from Waypoint2space - so long as they do not attach legal restrictions on the dissemination of those responses.

Keith's note: According to Waypoint2space.com "To go into space, step out of the vehicle, and float above the earth while reaching for the stars - but wondered if you have what it takes? For the first time in history, you can train like an astronaut using the most advanced facilities and equipment in the world. Operating from NASA's Johnson Space Center, we offer the definitive training experience with our fully comprehensive and immersive space training programs. These one-of-a-kind programs prepare you for spaceflight while you experience first hand what every astronaut has during their preparation for space. Additionally, SFP's are trained in accordance to our FAA Safety Approval ensuring a consistent level of spaceflight competency."

Sounds cool. But a closer look raises some important questions.

NASA Has Another TDRS

NASA Launches TDRS-L a Third Generation Communications Satellite (with video)

"NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite L (TDRS-L), the 12th spacecraft in the agency's TDRS Project, is safely in orbit after launching at 9:33 p.m. EST Thursday aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida."

- Boeing TDRS-L Relay Satellite Sends 1st Signals from Space
- ULA Successfully Launches Tracking and Data Relay Satellite

SNC Announces First Orbital Flight of Dream Chaser

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces that it has confirmed that the first orbital flight of its Dream Chaser(R) Space System will occur on November 1, 2016. Dream Chaser will be brought to orbit on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that is being built in Decatur, Alabama and will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida."

Keith's note: So ... who is paying for this launch? There's no mention of that in the press release. No mention anywhere else either. These things are not cheap ....

Virgin Galactic Conducts Successful Test Firings of LauncherOne Liquid Rocket Engine

"As part of a rapid development program, Virgin Galactic has now hot-fired both a 3,500 lbf thrust rocket engine and a 47,500 lbf thrust rocket engine, called the "NewtonOne" and "NewtonTwo" respectively. Further, the NewtonOne engine has successfully completed a full-mission duty cycle on the test stand, firing for the five-minute duration expected of the upper stage engine on a typical flight to orbit."

NASA Conducts Orion Parachute Test

"Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA's Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight. The test was the first to give engineers in-air data on the performance of the system that jettisons Orion's forward bay cover. The cover is a shell that fits over Orion's crew module to protect the spacecraft during launch, orbital flight and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. When Orion returns from space, the cover must come off before the spacecraft's parachutes can deploy. It must be jettisoned high above the ground in order for the parachutes to unfurl."

SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachute System

"Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) gathered in Morro Bay, Calif., in late December to demonstrate how the company's Dragon spacecraft's parachute system would function in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent. The test was part of an optional milestone under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative and approved by the agency in August."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Annual Report for 2013

"In an effort to devise a program that fits within available funding, the CCP is requesting proposals to develop a new system to transport humans into space by means of a fixed-price contract and source selection crite- ria that cause some within the space flight community to worry that price has become more important than safety. Competition between two or more CCP contractors potentially fosters improved attention to safety. However, the ability to sustain a competitive environment may fall victim to further funding shortfalls."

NASA to GAO on protest over $2B SAIC contract: You got it wrong, Washington Business Journal

"NASA has responded to the Government Accountability Office's decision to sustain a protest over a nearly $2 billion contract award to Science Applications International Corp. And it's saying the GAO got it wrong. That response came by way of a motion to reconsider, which was filed with the GAO Jan. 6, 10 days after the watchdog agency decided to sustain a protest over NASA's $1.76 billion contract for medical, biomedical and health services supporting NASA human spaceflight programs."

Did NASA screw up a $2B contract award to SAIC?, Washington Business Journal

"Science Applications International Corp. is not the same company it was last summer -- something it tried to warn NASA about while bidding for a nearly $2 billion deal. So whose fault is it that the agency opted to ignore the obvious?"

Decision Matter of: Wyle Laboratories, Inc., GAO

"Protest is sustained where the awardee's proposal, and the agency's evaluation thereof, failed to reasonably reflect the manner in which the contract will be performed, the level of costs likely associated with performance, and the corporate entity that will perform the contract."

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Applauds Passage of Bill Providing Funding for Commercial Programs and Renewal of Government Risk-Sharing

"The bill funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at $696 million, a significant increase from FY13. "With this bill's strong Commercial Crew funding, Congress has acknowledged the importance of quickly developing a U.S. system to carry American astronauts and reduce our dependence on aging Russian infrastructure," said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. "We applaud Congress for recognizing the importance of a robust U.S. space program and, in particular, an organic capability to provide human access to Low-Earth Orbit."

Keith's note: "strong Commercial Crew funding"? What CSF seems to not comprehend is the fact that the $696M in this budget is $125 million less than the $821M White House asked for in FY 2014. When you take into consideration that of this $696M, $171M is not being given to NASA anytime soon (unless they produce the ISS report that Congress requires), then NASA will only have $525M in FY 2014. $525M is $296M less than the White House asked for i.e. a one-third cut in what was requested.

In FY 2014 budget hearings last year Charlie Bolden was clear that if he did not get the $821M that the White House asked for in FY 2014 then having a commercial crew capability in 2017 was not going to happen. In addition, the NASA OIG noted in a report that previous cuts in commercial crew budgets have already forced a slip from 2015 to 2017. One would assume that future budget shortfalls would have a similar consequence.

No matter how you slice this, NASA is not getting the $821M that was the basis for the line in the sand drawn by Charlie Bolden last year with regard to the FY 2014 budget. Neither $696M or $525M is even close. If Bolden was accurate when he made these public statements, then as soon as the President signs this budget bill into law, NASA needs to be sending notification to Congress, per Bolden's statement, that 2017 is off the table. If not, then you have to question whether NASA can back up any of its statements with regard to what it needs for large projects - SLS, JWST, etc.

NASA Chief:Commercial Crew Safe from Sequester, for Now, Space News

"If we aren't able to get up to the $800 million level [FY 2014], then I will have to come back and officially notify the Congress that we cannot make 2017 for availability of commercial crew," Bolden said at that hearing."

NASA IG Warns on Commercial Crew as NASA Celebrates End of COTS, SpacePolicyOnline

"The OIG did not make any recommendations on the issue of unstable funding, but noted that for FY2011-2013, NASA received only 38 percent of its requested funding for the program, resulting in a delay from FY2015 to FY2017 of the first expected commercial crew flight. "The combination of a future flat-funded profile and lower-than-expected levels of funding over the past 3 years may delay the first crewed flight beyond 2017 and closer to 2020, the current expected end of the operational life of the ISS." The report includes the following table showing NASA's successive 5-year budget projections for the commercial crew program beginning in FY2009."

- Charlie Bolden Has His Head In The Sand Again, earlier post
- Confusion on "Pretty Darn Good" Statement from OSTP, earlier post
- Commercial Crew Transportation Capability RFP Released, earlier post
- NASA OIG Report on Commercial Crew Program, earlier post

NASA's Strategic Sourcing Program: NASA's Strategic Sourcing Efforts Are Disjointed and Incomplete, OIG

" While NASA established a Strategic Sourcing Program as required by a 2005 Office of Management and Budget memorandum, it has never conducted a comprehensive, Agency-wide spend analysis to identify commodities that could benefit from a more strategic procurement approach. Further, although NASA performed limited spend analyses on individual commodities, it has not established requirements regarding how such analyses should be developed, analyzed, and used. While NASA officials said they have realized savings under specific strategic sourcing initiatives, NASA does not track its Agency-wide strategic sourcing efforts and therefore was unable to determine the extent of any efficiencies or cost savings."

First CASIS-Sponsored Payloads Berthed to the International Space Station

"Below is an overview of the major payloads now on board the ISS sponsored by CASIS: ... Story Time From Space - Patricia Tribe, T2 Sciences & Math Education Consultants and Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, Author - This project aims to bring space station science to communities through the simple beauty of reading a book to a child. Crewmembers on the International Space Station host Story Time From Space by producing videotaped readings from a children's book, which are later broadcast on Earth. The astronauts also complete simple demonstrations that accompany the science, technology, engineering and math concepts in the books. The videos are edited and posted to an online library, with related educational materials, for use by educators and parents". 

Keith's note: I am the first one to say that using the ISS for educational purposes is important. While some of the other things listed are interesting, lumping this this bedtime story thing into the "major payload" category makes me wonder whether CASIS is truly up to the fullest utilization of the ISS for the maximum benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.

Max Luke and Jenna Mukuno: Boldly Going Where No Greens Have Gone Before, Wall Street Journal

"When you include the energy of the entire Virgin Galactic operation, which includes support aircraft, it is seven times more than the flight from Singapore to London. As such, a single trip on Virgin Galactic will require twice as much energy as the average American consumes each year. (These numbers were confirmed by a representative for Virgin Galactic.)"

Virgin's Spaceship Already Meets Fuel-Economy Goal, , George Whitesides, Wall Street Journal

"The article rightly implies that a return economy trip from London to Singapore, in any modern airliner, will generate a C02 footprint per passenger of at least two tons. The FAA estimates that Virgin Galactic's fully reusable SpaceShipTwo passenger spacecraft will take you to space and back leaving a carbon footprint of just 0.28 tons--in fact, less than the carbon output of an economy return seat from Los Angeles to New York. To be fair to the authors, Virgin Galactic, for safety reasons, launches its spacecraft from a specially designed carrier aircraft. This aircraft is the largest all-carbon-composite aviation vehicle ever built and is the lightest and most fuel-efficient aircraft of its size. Therefore, in a typical space mission fuel usage for the carrier aircraft will only equate to a carbon footprint per astronaut passenger of about 1.5 tons, giving a total for aircraft and spaceship of around 1.8 tons (less than a return economy class ticket from London to Singapore)."

SpaceShipTwo Goes Supersonic for Third Time, earlier post

SpaceX may pick Texas over controversial Merritt Island launch site, Orlando Sentinel

"Though Florida officials admit that the state is an underdog in the fight, they contend that Spaceport Shiloh, named for an abandoned citrus town in the Cape Canaveral area, is worth fighting for -- and not just for SpaceX. "We are going ahead with Shiloh with or without SpaceX," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, a booster group for the aerospace industry. As an alternate, Space Florida has looked at the Washington-based company Blue Origin, which has expressed an interest in launching its vehicles from Florida. "We remain keenly interested in Shiloh, as well as potential commercial launch sites in Florida and other locations," said Robert Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, in a statement."

Why Does Space Florida Need Its Own Spaceport?, earlier post

Kennedy: Launch presages economic benefits for state, Times DIspath

"Virginia's $150 million Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) asset awaits Richmond decision-making on whether it is to be a part of the future of human spaceflight. A leap to include commercial spaceflight passenger service to the commercial cargo launch manifest from the Eastern Shore requires public-private partnership investment and long-term planning."

Proposed SpaceX site near Brownsville sits on 87 acres near Boca Chica, The Monitor

"The proposed site of a facility for Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., where the world's first commercial rocket-launching complex would be located, consists of 87 acres in four tracts along state Highway 4 at Boca Chica Boulevard. The California-based space exploration firm has leased slightly more than half the land, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, and additionally owns about a quarter of the tracts on the site, as shown in public deed records providing information about property ownership in the area."

Cygnus Berthed at ISS

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus Spacecraft Docks With Space Station

"The spacecraft was then grappled and berthed with the station by the Expedition 38 astronaut crew earlier this morning. After Cygnus was launched into orbit by Orbital's Antares(TM) rocket on Thursday, January 9 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, it completed a series of thruster firings and other maneuvers bringing the spacecraft in close proximity to the ISS."

Virgin Galactic Reaches New Heights in Third Supersonic Test Flight

"Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, which is owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). In command on the flight deck of SS2 for the first time under rocket power was Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot Dave Mackay."

Keith's note: NASA gave the Space Frontier Foundation $100,000 with the specific intention that it be distributed to winners in their "NewSpace Business Plan Competition". SFF was not "giving away $100K to NewSpace startups" This was never their money in the first place. In addition to NASA money, the SFF also administered smaller prizes donated by several aerospace companies. But they seem to want people to think that it was their money that was being given out and do not mention NASA and other sponsors while they brag about the money they "give away".

There were problems with this recent business plan competition and it will be interesting to see how NASA picks the organization to conduct a similar function next time. Given that SFF had no competition when it was chosen by NASA in the past several years, one would hope that NASA puts this out for competition such that organizations with a track record in the business world have a chance to submit proposals to run future competitions offering NASA funds as prizes.

Cygnus Is in Orbit

Cargo Launched to Space Station Aboard Orbital-1 Mission

"The launch aboard Orbital's Antares rocket took place from NASA's Wallop's Flight Facility in Virginia Thursday, at 1:07 p.m. EST."

Orbital Launches Antares Rocket Carrying Cygnus On ISS Cargo Resupply Mission

"Under a $1.9 billion CRS contract with NASA, Orbital will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver up to 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over eight missions through late 2016. For these missions, NASA will manifest a variety of essential items based on ISS program needs, including food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments."

Orb-1 Launch Rescheduled

Orbital to Proceed With Antares Launch Tomorrow

"Following a comprehensive review of data related to the radiation environment in space, further reviews and modeling of the rocket's avionics systems, and the forecast for favorable terrestrial weather conditions at the Wallops Island launch facility, the Antares launch team has decided to proceed forward with a launch attempt of the Orbital-1 CRS mission to the International Space Station tomorrow, January 9."

Orb-1 Launch for Jan 8 Has Been Scrubbed

"Early this morning, Orbital Sciences Corp. decided to scrub today's launch attempt of the Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft on the company's first resupply mission to the International Space Station due to an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded constraints imposed on Antares."

SNC and ESA Sign MOU on Dream Chaser

"ESA and American company Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), have signed an understanding to identify areas of collaboration with European industry for developing hardware and mission concepts for the Dream Chaser orbital transportation system"

Sierra Nevada Corporation Announces International Expansion of the Dream Chaser Space System

"As the only lifting-body, low-g reentry spacecraft with the capability to land on commercial runways, anywhere in the world, Dream Chaser is uniquely adaptable to meet a variety of mission requirements, making it the only multi-mission space utility vehicle in the world."

NASA May Order More Soyuz Rides to Station Despite Commercial Crew Advancements, Space News

"Companies working on commercial crew transportation services to and from the international space station reported milestones in their efforts even as a NASA official warned that the agency likely will have to order more Russian Soyuz crew capsules to keep the orbital outpost fully occupied. Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters, told an advisory panel Dec. 9 that the agency may have to order another batch of Soyuz crew capsules from Russia unless Congress funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at the $800 million-plus level sought by the White House."

Space exploration in 2014: Waiting on the House to act, Daily Kos

"Suppose every time a civilian or pure research plane lifted off there was an obscure law, originally passed with good intentions, that had to be regularly reauthed by Congress or no more flights. And let's just say that Congress became hyper-polarized, a do nothing body, where even the simplest, once uncontroversial act morphed into a potential hot potato in a mid term election year. Air traffic would grind to a halt. Well, that's a fair analogy for a bureaucratic hurdle currently faced by NASA, along with contractors and customers, all waiting on a critical reauthorization before a score of rockets can be duly licensed and cleared for launch in 2014. Follow me below, deep into the cosmic weeds, and we'll review just how easy this should be to fix."

- Extending Commercial Launch Provider Indemnification, earlier post

Antares launch update: No Earlier Than January 8

"Orbital, in consultation with NASA, has decided to reschedule the Antares CRS Orb-1 Space Station Resupply Mission launch for no earlier than Wednesday, January 8, 2014.  The new target date was set due to the extreme cold temperatures that are forecasted for early next week, coupled with likely precipitation events predicted for Sunday night and Monday morning.  While we are preserving the option to launch on January 8, it is more likely that the launch will take place on Thursday, January 9 because of a much improved forecast for later in the week."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from January 2014.

Commercialization: December 2013 is the previous archive.

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