Commercialization: September 2014 Archives

Sierra Nevada Corporation Develops Design for Stratolaunch Air Launch System for Low Earth Orbit

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced a design for an integrated system for human spaceflight that can be launched to low Earth orbit (LEO) using Stratolaunch System's air launch architecture and a scale version of SNC's Dream Chaser(R) spacecraft."

Sierra Nevada Corporation Protests NASA's Commercial Crew Program Award, SpaceRef Business

"A representative from Sierra Nevada Corporation has confirmed to SpaceRef that they have filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office regarding the CCtCap contract."

Sierra Nevada Corporation Challenges Award of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced today that it has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. The CCtCap program will restore U.S. transportation capability to the International Space Station.

SNC, Boeing and SpaceX submitted separate proposals for the CCtCap program. While all three competitors were found to be compliant and awardable under the criteria set forth in the request for proposal (RFP), only two proposals were selected (Boeing and SpaceX), one of which would result in a substantial increased cost to the public despite near equivalent technical and past performance scores."

NASA Expands Commercial Space Program, Requests Proposals for Second Round of Cargo Resupply Contracts for International Space Station

"On the heels of awarding groundbreaking contracts to U.S. commercial space companies to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA has released a request for proposals (RFP) for the next round of contracts for private-sector companies to deliver experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory."

RARE! NASA 16' Transonic Wind Tunnel Sitka Spruce Wood Fan Blade Propeller Model

Sitka Spruce Fan blade from NASA Langley 16' Transonic Wind Tunnel *Very Rare*

"This wind tunnel no longer exists, and very little remains as historic artifacts available to the public from this remarkable tunnel. You are buying a true piece of aviation and aeronautic history. Most of these fan blades were re-purposed by NASA and used as tributes to the historic tunnel. Now you can have the same in your museum or board room."

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Program to Continue, SpaceRef Business

"Having lost out to Boeing and SpaceX for the lucrative Commercial Crew Program contract, Sierra Nevada's Mark Sirangelo told the Denver Post the companies plans to go forward with development of the spacecraft and bid on future contracts."

NASA's Emerging Space Office Releases New Report, SpaceRef Business

"NASA's Emerging Space Office (ESO), part of NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, has released a new report "The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight." According to NASA the "report provides an introduction and overview to the emerging space ecosystem and American private-sector space activities."

New Space Vs Old Habits

NASA views "new space" with hope, support -- and wariness, Houston Chronicle

"The ruthlessness of Musk and SpaceX bend toward a singular goal, to drive down the cost of access to space. And it's working. NASA paid SpaceX a relative pittance, less than $400 million, for the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft that's now supplying the space station. NASA estimated it would have cost the space agency four to 10 times as much to do the same thing. Musk is also building a massive rocket, the Falcon 9 Heavy, which could fly three years earlier than the heavy lift rocket NASA is building, the Space Launch System, and may deliver cargo to orbit at a tenth of the cost. For Musk, however, these are just baby steps. He, too, wants to build reusable rockets. "What SpaceX has done so far is evolutionary, but not revolutionary," Musk said earlier this year."

SpaceX Breaks Ground on New Texas Spaceport, SpaceRef Business [Download artist illustrations]

"Today SpaceX broke ground for the development of their new Texas spaceport at Boca Chica Beach. Along with CEO Elon Musk, Texas Governor Rick Perry and other dignitaries were in attendance."

Video of the event has been added.

SpaceX Launches Dragon on 4th Commercial Resupply Mission to the ISS, NASA

"The spacecraft's 2.5 tons of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support 255 science and research investigations that will occur onboard the station."

Includes the post-launch briefing news conference.

NASA OIG: Extending the Operational Life of the International Space Station Until 2024

"In addition, while utilization of the ISS for research continues to increase, NASA and its partner responsible for attracting private research to the Station -- the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) -- continue to face challenges. For example, to date CASIS has raised only $14,550 in cash and received pledges of $8.2 million to supplement NASA's $15 million annual cooperative agreement. In addition, CASIS officials reported that provisions in its agreement with NASA that require researchers to assign certain patent licenses and data rights to the Government are deterring commercial stakeholders from conducting research on the ISS. "

A better golf club? Space may play a role in that., Florida Today

"This is not research on a golf club," said Duane Ratliff, CASIS chief operating officer. "This is industrial research and development on materials that is clearly targeted for the improvement of products that will go to the marketplace. ... Ratliff likely spoke for most of them when he joked, "Honestly, I'm hoping that whatever comes out of this will straighten out my slice."

CASIS and COBRA PUMA GOLF Team Up For Commercial Research Investigation On ISS, CASIS

"Through this investigation, the research and design team at COBRA PUMA GOLF hopes to gain a better understanding of certain material characteristics that can be used to create some of the most innovative and technologically advanced golf products in the market."

Keith's note: OK Duane - if this is not "golf club" research, then what other "golf products" are you doing research on? Why hasn't the past 2 years of CASIS-sponsored golf research on ISS yielded any published results or status reports from CASIS? As for your attempts to downplay the golfing aspect of what you are doing - your logo for these payloads clearly emphasizes golf over everything else.

As for the IG's report, "$14,550 in cash"? I have to wonder what a "pledge" actually entails - obviously not much in terms of actual cash. CASIS is clearly falling well short of where NASA - and everyone else - expected CASIS to be at this point.

Baseball raffles and golf-themed co-branding do not a vibrant ISS research program make.

- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS Would Rather Go Golfing Than Do Actual ISS Research, earlier post

United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin Announce Partnership To Develop New American Rocket Engine, Blue Origin

"United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation's premier space launch company, and Blue Origin, LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced today that they have entered into an agreement to jointly fund development of the new BE-4 rocket engine by Blue Origin. This new collaboration will allow ULA to maintain the heritage, success and reliability of its rocket families - Atlas and Delta - while addressing the long-term need for a new domestic engine.

"The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s will power each ULA booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. "

Marc's Update: I've added the video of the news conference to the press release.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal

"Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."

Keith's note: When I asked today if Blue Origin had been part of Boeing's commercial crew proposal team (one that would use a United Launch Alliance rocket), ULA CEO Tory Bruno said "No". He went on to say that their bid used existing engine capabilities. Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos added later that yesterday's NASA commercial crew announcement and today's engine announcement were totally separate and unrelated.

Boeing, SpaceX to team with NASA on space taxis, CBS

"It also is not yet known whether Congress will appropriate enough money to fund the development of two spacecraft or whether NASA will be forced to down select to a single provider at some point down the road. But Bolden said he was confident Congress will provide the funding necessary to keep SpaceX and Boeing on track for maiden flights in the 2017 timeframe. Congress has appropriated about $2 billion for the commercial crew program since 2011, about a billion dollars less than NASA requested. The agency hopes to get around $800 million for the program in its fiscal 2015 budget."

Boeing and SpaceX Win $6.8 Billion for Apollo-Style Space Taxis, NBC

"NASA officials declined to discuss in detail why they selected Boeing and SpaceX while passing on the Dream Chaser, but said it was a close call. "This wasn't an easy choice, but it's the best choice for NASA and the nation," Bolden said. Lueders said the different amounts set aside for the two companies were based on the amounts proposed by the companies themselves. "Both Boeing and SpaceX proposed to the same set of requirements," she said. "NASA awarded the contracts based on their proposals. It's two contracts to the same requirements."

Keith's note: In summary: NASA does not know if it will have enough money to fund both Boeing and SpaceX, won't tell anyone why or how they made the selections, and gave Boeing $1.6 billion more than they gave to SpaceX to do the same work assigned to SpaceX. Just the sort of questions Congress will be asking.

NASA Selects SpaceX and Boeing to Ferry Astronauts to the Space Station, Marc Boucher

"NASA awarded a total of $6.8 billion in contracts with Boeing getting the larger share, $4.2 billion and SpaceX getting $2.6 billion for doing what appears the same work. NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders was asked several times by reporters why the difference in the funding allocation but only said it was based on the price submitted by the companies in their proposals."

NASA to Make Major Announcement Today About Astronaut Transport to the International Space Station

"NASA will make a major announcement today at 4 p.m. EDT regarding the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States. The agency will make the announcement during a news conference from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Keith's note: Moments ago Sen. Bill Nelson was on CNN. When asked what the NASA decision to give commercial crew awards to "Boeing and SpaceX" means, he confirmed that awards were being given to "these two companies".

Boeing-SpaceX Team Split Space Taxi Award, Lawmaker Says, Bloomberg

"Boeing Co. (BA) and Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will share a multibillion-dollar federal contract to help restart U.S. manned spaceflights and reduce reliance on Russian rockets, a congressional leader said. The two companies will split the award being unveiled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration later today, said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House Science Committee. NASA is planning an announcement on the program at 4 p.m. in Washington."

Keith's update: Rep. Johnson's PR person says that she never actually said said this. Here is what her office is putting out as a quote: Science Committee Democrats Congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on NASA's CCtCap Awards

Keith's note: It is official: Boeing will get $4.2 billion, SpaceX $2.6 billion.

American Companies Selected to Return Astronaut Launches to American Soil, Charlie Bolden

"While Boeing and SpaceX handle the task of taking our astronauts to the space station, the scientists on Earth and astronauts on the orbiting ISS National Laboratory will continue the groundbreaking research that has been taking place there for almost 14 years now without interruption. They will be able to add to that portfolio with an expanded crew made possible by the arrival of these new spacecraft."

FAA Releases Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety, SpaceRef Business

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) today released its first Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety document today during the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting.

From the introduction: "The purpose of this document is to provide a compilation of practices that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) believes are important and recommends for commercial human space flight occupant safety. The document is intended to enable a dialogue among, and perhaps consensus of, government, industry, and academia on practices that will support the continuous improvement of the safety of launch and reentry vehicles designed to carry humans."

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal

"The long-secretive space ambitions of Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., suddenly are about to get a lot more public. Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."

Boeing Takes Lead to Build Space Taxi, Wall Street Journal

"Boeing Co. appears positioned to beat out two smaller rivals for the bulk of a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from orbit, according to government and aerospace-industry officials. An award to Boeing would represent a victory over the newer Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, which had been considered a favorite in many quarters because of its lower costs and nimbler approach. The decision on the development of space taxis will be a milestone for commercial space endeavors, locking in unparalleled authority for contractors to develop and operate vehicles with limited federal oversight. An announcement is expected as early as Tuesday."

Keith's note: Just because something is published in the Wall Street Journal does not mean that it is accurate. The author of these stories has confused two separate stories with each other. Tomorrow's Blue Origin event was scheduled long before NASA even made its CCiCAP decision and would have gone ahead even if NASA had delayed making an announcement - and would have also been made regardless of what NASA will be announcing for CCiCAP.

Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) Set to Meet, SpaceRef Business

"Some of the items of interest include hearing from Kathy Lueders, NASA's relative new Commercial Crew Program Program Manager, an update from The Honorable Lamar Smith on the Congressional Perspective of the Commercial Space Launch Act, ASTEROIDS Act, and NASA Reauthorization, an update on DARPA's XS-1 and its application to Commercial Space Transportation, and an update from the Department of State regarding the Outer Space Treaty."

"With respect to Kathy Lueders speaking it will be interesting to hear why no commercial crew announcement has been made yet. On the other hand this would be a good opportunity for her to speak should an announcement be made beforehand. And with Lamar Smith scheduled to speak only hours after Kathy it will be interesting to hear his point of view on the status of the Commercial Crew Program irregardless of whether an announcement has been made."

Marc's note: The second day of the meeting will be webcast.

Marc's update: 7:25 PM ET: Twitter reports are circulating that the Commercial Crew announcement will be tomorrow. We have not been able to confirm them. I've also heard there would be two awards which is not what Congress wants. With Lamar Smith speaking shortly after Lueders, this could get interesting.

CASIS and COBRA PUMA GOLF Team Up For Commercial Research Investigation On ISS

"CASIS has been tasked by Congress and NASA to work with new and non-traditional researchers for the development of products, therapies, and services onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory," said CASIS President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson. "Our partnership with COBRA PUMA GOLF is an excellent example of a truly non-traditional research investigation taking advantage of the microgravity environment to advance knowledge in applied materials science." In June of 2012, CASIS and CPG signed an initial Memorandum of Agreement ..."

Keith's note: Has CASIS actually published or promoted any of the research results from this ongoing golf in space effort? I have seen zero evidence that it has. CASIS loves to promote these vapid press releases that promise - but never deliver - amazing return on NASA's investment via goofy sports tie-ins - yet they ignore actual commercial research such as that being done by Ardbeg on the ISS. And of course, CASIS is so inept that they cannot figure out how to tell people about the weekly ACTUAL ISS research results that NASA puts out as part of its Spaceline updates. What is baffling is why NASA continues to put up with this inadequate performance by CASIS.

- ISS Commercial Research That CASIS Utterly Ignores, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Signs Deal with COBRA PUMA GOLF for Research on ISS (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS: It Takes More Than Golf to Utilize the ISS, earlier post
- CASIS Defines Bedtime Stories on ISS as "Major Payload", earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Incapable of Doing Its Job, earlier post

Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Spaceflight Contest

"Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Spaceflight Contest - "Spaceship Earth Grants Corp. (SEG), a Public Benefit Corporation, is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible. SEG offers applicants a chance to travel to space while helping to fund efforts and organizations that are making a significant positive impact on planet Earth. SEG will be providing grants to individuals and organizations that are likewise committed to bettering their communities. For more information, visit spaceshipearthgrants.com.

About Star Harbor Space Training Academy - Star Harbor Space Training Academy will be the first-in-the-world publicly accessible, fully comprehensive and environmentally immersive space training academy. The Star Harbor team is led by CEO Maraia Hoffman and includes former NASA Astronauts Leland Melvin and Ron Garan. More information about Star Harbor will be announced in October."

Inside Kennedy Space Center and Spaceport Magazine, SpaceRef

"NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has released what could be a new regular video feature called Inside KSC. It appears to be a complementary product to the September edition of the KSC Spaceport Magazine."

Reining in Richard Branson

Virgin Galactic Delays First Commercial Flights to 2015, Space News

"... That timeline represents a delay from statements Branson made as recently as last month. In an interview with USA Today published Aug. 17, he said he expected to be on that first commercial flight by the end of this year. "I'll be bitterly disappointed if I'm not into space by the end of the year," he said. A Virgin Galactic spokewoman said that, despite Branson's comments, the company has no formal schedule for beginning commercial flights. "As we've stated in the past, the inaugural commercial flight date will be set by safety and readiness," Jessica Gilbert said Sept. 11 via email."

New Commercial Moon Study

New Commercial Moon Services Study Available, SpaceRef Business

"The Space Angels Network brought to my attention a new study by Chad Anderson a Managing Director of the Space Angels Network. Chad completed the study while obtaining his MBA at Oxford. The study was finished in 2013 but has only been recently made public."

Keith's note: Don't expect to see a commercial crew selection announcement this week. Unless things change, of course.

NanoRacks Update on CubeSat Deployer Problem, SpaceRef Business

"NanoRacks this morning provided an update on the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers (NRCSD) which had inadvertently deployed thee CubeSats while not deploying others when commanded. The NanRacks team has been able to replicate the problem on the ground which they hope will lead to a solution."

NASA Selects U.S. Firms to Provide Commercial Suborbital Flight Services

"NASA has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA's continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth's atmosphere."

Space whiskey returning to Earth soon (hurry, please), CNet

"In 2011, vials of Ardbeg scotch whiskey were sent to the International Space Station as part of an experiment to see how the spirits' maturation process is affected by the near zero gravity of near space. Now it's almost time for a homecoming."

- Ardbeg Distillery Launches U.S. Rocket Tour Celebrating "World First" Space Experiment, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores, earlier post
- Whisky in Space: the Road Show - Update, earlier post

Keith's 1 May 2012 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.

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 4 September 2014 , SpaceRef

"Today: NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers: Additional attempts to launch CubeSats from deployers #4, 7, and 8 were made overnight without success. 24 commands were sent attempting to deploy #4, 30 commands were sent to deployer #7, and 17 deploy commands were sent to deployer #8. Ground Teams are continuing to assess the issue and are working on a forward plan."

Previous: NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 25 August 2014, SpaceRef

"Today: NanoRacks Inadvertent Deploy: On Saturday, ground teams observed the inadvertent deploy of two Cosmogia CubeSats from Deployer #5 of the NanoRack Cubesat Deployer (NRCSD). The ISS was still in the deploy attitude and the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS) was still positioned for the deployment. No issues have been identified with the deployment trajectory, the CubeSats or the ISS. Ground teams are investigating the probable cause and discussing future operations with the NRCSD and CubeSats remaining in the deployer."

Update: The September 5th ISS status report details another "inadvertent deploy" from the #7 launcher door.

DARPA Seeking Ideas for Public-Private Partnership to Jumpstart Robotic Satellite Servicing, SpaceRef Business

"Seeking to "jumpstart" the on-orbit robotic satellite servicing concept, DARPA has issued a request for information (RFI) for companies to submit ideas to enable a flight demonstration within the next five years."

SpaceX Challenges Patent Filed by Blue Origin, SpaceRef Business

"An employee of Docket Alarm earlier today posted on tech news blog Slashdot that SpaceX had filled a challenge to the patent owned by Blue Origin for "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods", which was granted earlier this year. Blue Origin has three months to provide a preliminary response."

Marc's Note: It was bound to happen sooner or later and it is unfortunate as it costs both companies to deal with the challenge. Is this an isolated case or are more patent skirmishes going to be forthcoming?

Keith's note: The Thunderbirds were doing all of these various launch and landing scenarios - on dry land - and in the water - in the 1960s. Who thought all of this up first?

Future In-Space Operations Teleconference with SpaceX Garrett Reisman, SpaceRef Buisness

"On August 27, 2014, former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman participated in the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) teleconference. Now the DragonRider Program Manager for SpaceX, Reisman presented a slide show on SpaceX commercial spaceflight."


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