Commercialization: April 2014 Archives

NASA Award: Demolish Shuttle Mate Demate Device

"Contracting Office Address - NASA/Dryden Flight Research Center, Code A, P.O. Box 273, Edwards, CA 93523-0273

Description - In accordance with this contract, the contractor shall furnish all materials, labor, equipment and facilities, except as specified herein to be furnished by the Government, and shall do all that which is necessary or incedental to the satisfactory and timely performance of the project entitled, "Demolish Shuttle Mate-Demate Device (NB119)," for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration at the Armstrong Flight Research Center (NASA/AFRC), Edwards, California 93523."

Keith's note: It would seem that the folks at Armstrong still can't figure out what their name is - or how to properly spell the name of the agency that has run their center for decades i.e. it's "Aeronautics" NASA's Procurement website hasn't figured the Armstrong/Dryden thing out either.

Text of SpaceX Complaint vs The United States, SpaceRef Business

"The following is the introduction of the complaint filed by SpaceX with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims with respect to the recent EELV contract awarded to United Launch Alliance (ULA). The full complaint is also available for download.

Introduction:

1. The Air Force has entered into an unlawful contract for rocket launches with the United Launch Alliance ("ULA"), a joint venture between the government's two biggest and most influential contractors, Boeing and Lockheed Martin ("Lockheed"). This complex and exclusive deal (the "ULA Contract'), which was concluded outside of public scrutiny, funnels hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Russia's military-industrial base, including monies that may flow to individuals on the U.S. sanctions list. Further, it defers meaningful free competition for years to come, costing taxpayers billions of dollars more. Beyond violating core tenets of government procurement law, the ULA Contract is dangerous, fiscally irresponsible, and offensive to American values of open competition and fairness."

The Merger of Equals - Orbital and ATK Aerospace and Defense Groups, SpaceRef Business

"It is being billed as a merger of equals to create a new company called Orbital ATK. At first glance it appears to be a reaction to the current state of the market with consolidation and future growth needing a larger more competitive entity."

Orbital & ATK's Aerospace and Defense Groups to Combine in $5 Billion Merger-of-Equals to Create "Orbital ATK"

"Orbital Sciences Corporation (ORB) today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) , which will combine Orbital and ATK's Aerospace and Defense (A&D) Groups to create a $4.5 billion (combined calendar year 2013 annual revenue), 13,000-person space, defense and aviation systems developer and manufacturer. The new company, to be called Orbital ATK, Inc., will serve U.S. and international customers with leading positions in the markets for space launch vehicles and propulsion systems, tactical missiles and defense electronics, satellites and space systems, armament systems and ammunition, and commercial and military aircraft structures and related components. As part of the transaction, ATK will spin off its Sporting Group, which focuses on commercial sporting equipment, to its shareholders."

UPDATE: Orbital and ATK Presentation and SEC Form 8-K Filing on Merger, SpaceRef Business

United Launce Alliance (ULA) Statement in Response to SpaceX Lawsuit, ULA

"Defense Department officials have recently stated that cancelling the contract and terminating the block buy - which involves hundreds of suppliers and is enormously complex - would cost billions. Additionally, it could put critical mission schedules at risk that would have impact on operational capabilities and the satellite program costs. ULA is focused on delivering on all of its mission assurance and cost reduction commitments that support its customers." 

SpaceX Announces Court Action to Open Air Force Space Launch Missions to Competition, SpaceX

"SpaceX announced today that they are filing a legal challenge to the U.S. Air Force's latest Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The long-term contract, which guarantees the purchase of 36 rocket cores from ULA to be used in national security launches, was granted to ULA on a sole-source basis without any competition from other launch providers. SpaceX is seeking the right to compete for some of these same launches."

- McCain Questions USAF EELV Procurement, earlier post
- SpaceX to Protest and Sue Over EELV Contract, earlier post

NASA Spinoff 2013 Shows How Much Space is in Our Lives, NASA

"Water filtration bottles, comfortable car seats and remote medical monitoring devices all have one thing in common -- they all have benefited from NASA technology.

These products are featured in Spinoff 2013, an online publication now available that highlights commercial products created using NASA-developed technology. Also featured in the 2013 edition is an air purification system that can sustain miners in the event of a disaster, a solar-powered vaccine refrigerators saving lives in remote areas throughout the world, and a powerful heat shield used on the first commercial spacecraft to successfully achieve orbit and return to Earth."

Sen. McCain Seeks Information on AIr Force's EELV Program

"U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today sent two letters regarding the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program - a vital $70 billion national security space-launch program that, without competition, has been plagued by exponential cost growth and schedule delays. The first letter is to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James requesting additional information about her recent testimony regarding the EELV program before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 10, 2014, and conveying concern about the apparently incomplete and incorrect nature of some of that testimony. The second letter is to the Department of Defense Inspector General Jon T. Rymer requesting that his office investigate recent developments regarding the EELV program."

SpaceX to Sue Over EELV Sole-Sourced Contract, SpaceRef Business

"In a news conference held at the National Press Club in Washington SpaceX CEO Elon Musk started off by outlining the recent success of the soft landing of the Falcon 9 first stage off the coast of Florida. He then dropped a bombshell aimed straight at the heart of Washington with news that he was going to protest and sue over the recent sole sourced Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract won by United Launch Alliance (ULA)."

Marc's note: I've included the full audio from the news conference. The first half of the news conference relates to the soft landing of the Falcon 9 first stage. Then Elon Musk begins to discuss the legal action started by SpaceX.

Keith's update: From SpaceX; "Elon Musk will make an important SpaceX announcement today, Friday, April 25th at 1:00PM ET at The National Press Club - 529 14th Street, NW - Washington, DC." We'll live tweet at @NASAWatch - Marcia will no doubt be busy at @SpcPlcyOnline too.

SpaceX Set to Test Raptor Engine Components at NASA Stennis, SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX has been working on the Raptor methane-fueled rocket engine since 2009. The new engine, a reusable engine is destined to be used in future versions of the Falcon Heavy and in the long term for the notional SpaceX Mars Colonial Transporter.

Testing is set to begin within the coming days after the E-2 test stand activation is completed a spokesperson for SpaceX confirmed to SpaceRef."

Houston's Space Problem: Johnson Space Center Has Lost Its Identity and Purpose, Houston Press

"However, former astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, now also a UH professor, argued that SpaceX and commercial flight are being touted as a solution but that the money being diverted from NASA to fund these endeavors will cost space exploration in the long run. "Industry is not poised to do the kind of research and development we need to do for space exploration," she said."

Keith's note: This is typical of the pervasive ignorance that surrounds NASA - and it comes from decades of drinking the Koolaid. Bonnie Dunbar clearly has no idea what other commerical launches SpaceX has (or its long manifest backlog), how much private capital has been invested in SpaceX, or even the nature of what SpaceX does for NASA. It doesn't do the research that she's so worried about. It hauls groceries. Someday it will fly Texans. What these people do up there - with that cargo - is NASA's call. They are buying a ride. Given the $500 million to $1 billion cost per launch of a shuttle, this is a bargain no matter how you look at it.

Clash of the Titans

Musk and Gass Go Toe-to-Toe in Q&A, SpaceNews

"Musk and Gass appeared March 5 before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee to answer lawmakers' questions and, in an unusual twist, were given the opportunity to submit written questions to one another and provide answers back to the panel. Neither side landed a knockout blow, but the exchange was illuminating nonetheless."

Keith's note: You know that there is indeed a "there" there vis-a-vis the viability of space commerce when companies start trash talking their competitor's products.

NASA Selects Commercial Crew Program Manager

"NASA has selected Kathy Lueders as program manager for the agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Lueders, who has served as acting program manager since October 2013, will help keep the nation's space program on course to launch astronauts from American soil by 2017 aboard spacecraft built by American companies."

Keith's note: Of course this all came about because of Ed Mango's problems (see previous stories)

The Time for a New, All-American Advanced Liquid Rocket Engine Is Now, Mark Albrecht and Don Kerr, Roll Call

"We do not suggest that space cooperation with Russia is bad or that it should be totally curtailed or discouraged, but simply that there are elements of U.S. infrastructure that cannot be outsourced indefinitely. We must revitalize America's space infrastructure, and the right place to start is with an advanced-hydrocarbon-fueled booster engine -- an engine critical to U.S. leadership in rocket propulsion for access to space."

Keith's note: The authors dismissial of SpaceX progress and their 100% indigenous American engines is odd. The engines exist and are operational NOW. They also seem to be unaware of the much much larger, American-made engines that SpaceX (and undoubtedly Blue Origin) are developing. That said, the authors do make a good point about having non-Russian engines that other American launch vehicles could use. Alas, the authors decline to say who should pay for these new engines.

Another Dragon Visits ISS

Dragon Berthed at the International Space Station

"ISS Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, with the assistance of NASA's Rick Mastracchio, successfully berthed the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the space station at 9:06 a.m. EDT."

Can This 1970s Spacecraft Explore Again?, io9

"Imagine the heartbroken wailing and the cries of denial. Insert the demands to find out just how much it would cost to rebuild the antennas in time, and the blank stares when told even $1 was outside of NASA's limited budget. Soon, the inevitable idea emerged: crowdfund our way back into communication with the little spacecraft. The idea isn't as crazy as it sounds. "

Everyone But NASA Wants To Wake Up This Long-Dormant Spacecraft, Motherboard

"Where organizations lose their interest--which is to say, funding--the crowd is there to step in. It's true if there isn't money for a Veronica Mars movie, and it's true if the Mars Rover is taking up all of the space agency's cash and attention. An old, even distinguished, NASA spacecraft is coasting toward Earth, but NASA can't afford to bring it back online. That's why a couple of guys want to take on the "geeky endeavor" of bumping it back in to place--with as many 80 year olds as they can find and a satellite dish in Kentucky."

ISEE-3 - An Old Friend Comes to Visit Earth, (with videos) NASA

"Today, some citizen scientists are investigating whether it would be feasible to communicate with ISEE-3 for the first time in almost two decades in order to send commands to return it to L1. A daunting prospect after all this time with NASA's old friend."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project

NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects, GAO

"NASA projects have continued to make progress in maturing technologies prior to the preliminary design review. This year, 63 percent of projects met this standard, up from only 29 percent of projects in 2010. For example, in preparation for its upcoming confirmation review, one project has matured all 10 of its critical technologies, which GAO's past work has shown is important to decrease the likelihood of cost and schedule growth. NASA's heightened awareness of reducing technology risk is further evidenced by new guidance aimed at ensuring continued focus on technical maturity. As NASA continues to undertake more complex projects it will be important to maintain heightened attention to best practices to lessen the risk of technology development and continue positive cost and schedule performance."

Pad 39A Goes Commercial

NASA Signs Agreement with SpaceX for Use of Historic Launch Pad

"NASA Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Complex 39A, the site from which numerous Apollo and space shuttle missions began, is beginning a new mission as a commercial launch site. NASA signed a property agreement with Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., on Monday for use and occupancy of the seaside complex along Florida's central east coast. It will serve as a platform for SpaceX to support their commercial launch activities."

Dragon Cargo Craft Launch Scrubbed; Station Crew Preps for Spacewalk

"Monday's launch attempt of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, loaded with nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station's Expedition 39 crew, was scrubbed due to a helium leak on the Falcon 9 first stage. The next launch opportunity would be Friday, April 18 at 3:25 p.m. EDT if the issue can be resolved."

NASA TV to Air SpaceX-3 Status Update at Noon EDT April 13

"NASA Television will air a news conference at noon EDT on Sunday, April 13 at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The briefing will provide an update on the status of the SpaceX-3 cargo mission launch to the International Space Station, currently scheduled for 4:58 p.m. Monday, April 14, and on the failure on Friday of a backup computer component that provides redundancy for commanding the Mobile Transporter rail car on the truss of the station."

Keith's note: NASA has resolved issues on ISS such that it can safely accommodate Dragon and has cleared SpaceX for their launch tomorrow.

Curiously, the banner shown behind the briefers today does not show a SpaceX Dragon (the vehicle actually being launched) but shows a NASA Orion instead. I am told that this was done in "error". OK, that happens. But why is there a NASA graphic of ISS and Orion together in the first place? Orion is not going to visit ISS. Or is it?


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

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