Commercialization: October 2014 Archives

Orbital's Statement Regarding Orb-3 Launch Mishap (UPDATE)

"Telemetry data has been released to Orbital and our engineers presented a very quick look assessment to the Accident Investigation Board at the end of the day. It appears the Antares vehicle had a nominal pre-launch and launch sequence with no issues noted. All systems appeared to be performing nominally until approximately T+15 seconds at which point the failure occurred. Evidence suggests the failure initiated in the first stage after which the vehicle lost its propulsive capability and fell back to the ground impacting near, but not on, the launch pad. Prior to impacting the ground, the rocket's Flight Termination System was engaged by the designated official in the Wallops Range Control Center."

40-Year-Old Russian Engine at Heart of Rocket Investigation

"The thing to keep in mind in all this is that we don't know what caused the mishap," Cowing cautions. "We all saw the explosion at the bottom of the rocket, but that doesn't mean anything. These investigations take time, and sometimes we don't even end up with all the answers."

Did Soviet-era engines doom Antares?, Mad Science Innovation

"Not that older equipment is necessarily flawed. NASA Watch publisher Keith Cowing, with whom I also spoke on the phone today, says: I don't necessarily have a problem with old stuff, if you maintain it. If it used to work, it still can work. There are DC-3s in Antarctica that have been rebuilt three times that fly people to the South Pole. It's the issue of, does the machinery do a task that you need it to do? Do you understand it well enough that you can maintain it in operating condition, and does it make sense financially?"

NASA, Orbital Sciences Begin Antares Loss Investigation, Aviation Week

"Although investigators are keeping their options open, a prime suspect is expected to be a potential failure mechanism involving the AJ-26, a liquid oxygen/kerosene-powered engine originally developed for the Russian space program as the NK-33. An AJ-26 slated to power an Antares on a mission to the ISS in 2015 experienced a failure during a hot-fire test at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on May 22."

Wallops Damage Report

Wallops Completes Initial Assessment after Orbital Launch Mishap

"The Wallops Incident Response Team completed an initial assessment Wednesday of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff Tuesday from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."

Rockets blow up; we move on, Leroy Chiao, CNN

"Without a doubt, critics will arise and question why we are entrusting cargo deliveries and future crew exchanges to commercial companies. The answer is simple: It is the logical evolution of technology and commercialization, following the same path as the development of the airplane and commercial air transportation."

Alliant Tech Evaluating Merger Plans After Orbital Rocket Explosion, WS Journal

"Alliant Techsystems Inc. said it is evaluating any potential implications from Tuesday night's explosion of Orbital Sciences Inc.'s Antares rocket, a hint their plans to merge could be in jeopardy."

Shares in Orbital Sciences, Alliant Tech halted after Tuesday night rocket explosion, CNBC

"The Orbital Sciences' Antares commercial supply rocket blew up over the beachside launch complex at Wallops Island in Virginia. Trading in the stocks was halted so that Orbital, which has planned to buy Alliant, could hold a conference call to discuss the rocket's failure with investors and analysts."

Orbital Sciences' stock plummets after explosion

"Shares of Orbital Sciences Corp. dropped $4.35, or 14.3 percent, to $26.02 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday."

Antares rocket explosion: The question of using decades-old Soviet engines, Washington Post

"Instead, all four launches of the mighty N1 Soviet rocket, which used an earlier iteration of the first-stage engines used in Thursday's launch, failed between 1969 and 1972. And as the Soviet Union abandoned the idea of putting cosmonauts on the moon, those engines languished in Russia "without a purpose," reported Space Lift Now. That was until they were snapped up by Dulles-based Orbital Sciences, which built the rocket that exploded."

Keith's note: The NK-33 (AJ-26) engines are actualy a product of Aerojet Rocketdyne - not Orbital Sciences.

Orbital Antares Rocket Explodes Shortly After Launch Shocking Onlookers, SpaceRef Business

"The launch was proceeding as expected. Across the board, the Orbital team manning their stations had green lights. The weather was almost perfect. There was a sense of anticipation after seeing the launch scrubbed the day before because a boat had wandered into the range. No one could have foreseen what would happen next."

NASA Statement Regarding Oct. 28 Orbital Sciences Corp. Launch Mishap

"While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences' third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today's mishap. The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies."

Orbital's Statement Regarding Orb-3 Launch Mishap

"It is far too early to know the details of what happened," said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital's Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group. "As we begin to gather information, our primary concern lies with the ongoing safety and security of those involved in our response and recovery operations. We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. As soon as we understand the cause we will begin the necessary work to return to flight to support our customers and the nation's space program."

Keith's note:According to Frank Culbertson from Orbital Sciences there was an indication of problems 10-12 Seconds into the flight and that the range safety officer sent a destruct command at around 20 seconds. No idea what happened other than the rocket stopped, started to come apart, and fell straight to the ground. Crews will be in early tomorrow to start looking for debris.

Smith, Palazzo Statement on Failed Launch at Wallops Island

"Chairman Smith and Palazzo: "We add our disappointment to the thousands in the space community who worked tirelessly in support of Tuesday evening's launch attempt at Wallops Island. We are relieved to hear there are no reported fatalities, and we anticipate learning more about the circumstances surrounding the launch failure in the near future."

Launch of Third Orbital Sciences Mission to Space Station Rescheduled; NASA TV Coverage Reset

"The third Orbital Sciences cargo mission to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract is scheduled to launch at 6:22 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 28, from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."

Keith's note: Tonight's ORB-3 launch from Wallops was delayed by a boat in restricted waters offshore. I tried to find a copy of these restrictions. Not being a mariner, this is the best that I could do at the Coast Guard website but I can't seem to find anything in it. Dan Leone found this at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency but I am not sure if there is anything in there either. I know there are maritime channels that are supposed to be monitored. Again, I am not a mariner and profess my ignorance. But if it is this hard to find these launch restrictions, is it any surprise that someone might not know that a launch is imminent? Is just assuming that people will know ahead of time the most efficient way to prevent a lunch delay on a multi-million dollar mission? Just wondering.

I asked NASA PAO for a copy of these restrictions. WFF PAO sent me this Notice to Mariners: Wallops Rocket Launch issued by NASA WFF on 16 October 2014. I have asked NASA how this is relayed to people who might be sailing offshore.

33 CFR 334.130 - Atlantic Ocean off Wallops Island and Chincoteague Inlet, Va.; danger zone.

"(1) Persons and vessels shall only be prohibited from entering the area when launch operations are being conducted.

What is Interesting is how the NASASocial #spacetweeps more concerned about villifying the boat and its owner and not seeing a launch (without any facts as to why the boat was there or whether NASA alerted everyone adequately) than the fact that NASA tried to launch until last second when safety regulations prevailed. The system may be inefficent - but it worked. If only these space tweeps could integrate a real world quotient into how they cover and report NASA activities.

Orbital ORB-3 Launch to Include Planetary Resources A3 Technology Demonstrator Spacecraft, SpaceRef Business

"Today's launch of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station will include the first hardware from commercial startup Planetary Resources."

Photo: Antares Rocket With Cygnus on Launch Pad at NASA Wallops Flight Facility

Orbital Set to Launch Cargo Delivery Mission to International Space Station

"Pending completion of final vehicle testing and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch of the Orb-3 mission will take place on Monday, October 27, with lift-off scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia."

Orbital Orb-3 CRS Mission Update: How to See the Launch from Virginia and Maryland

"Lift-off of the Antares rocket is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT)"

Keith's note: Shortly after many of us in Northern Virgina see Cygnus launched we'll have a spectacular ISS flyover. According to NASA here in Reston, VA we'll see the ISS fly over at 6:49 PM for 6 minutes at an elevation of 89 dgerees heading from the North West to South East.

Critical NASA Science Returns to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:39 p.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 25, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning 3,276 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station (ISS)."

Jumping From Near Space

Record-breaking 135,908-ft Space Dive Sets Stage for Future of Space Travel

Paragon Completes Record-Breaking Near-Space Dive Via High-Altitude Balloon

"Today, after 34 months of intense planning, development and training, Alan Eustace, supported by Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) and its Stratospheric Explorer (StratEx) team, made history with a near-space dive from a high-altitude balloon at approximately 135,000 feet. Eustace broke several records, including national record for highest exit altitude; world and national record for free fall under a drogue chute; national record for vertical speed. Additionally, he became the second person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft."

OECD Report: The Space Economy at a Glance 2014

"The Space Economy at a Glance 2014 shows that while space budgets in the 34 OECD countries totalled USD 50.8 billion in 2013, down from USD 52.3 billion in 2008, the combined space budget of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) swelled to USD 24.0 billion from USD 16.5 billion over the same period.  Supply chains for spacecraft, launchers and parts are increasingly globalised, IT companies are becoming satellite operators and rapid growth in small satellite launches will mean more commercialisation of earth observation data."

NASA's Launch Support and Infrastructure Modernization: Commercial Space Launch Activities at Kennedy Space Center, NASA OIG

"We found Kennedy has made progress in its effort to become a multiuser spaceport with the Center having leased or in the process of leasing approximately half of the 23 underutilized assets. However, because NASA lacks clear guidance regarding soliciting and awarding lease agreements, Kennedy has not consistently provided interested parties with information regarding how Center officials would choose among prospective tenants."

SpaceX Reaches Milestone With 100th Merlin 1D Engine, SpaceRef Business

"The 100th Merlin 1D engine has come off the assembly at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. According to SpaceX it was less than two years ago that production began on Merlin 1D. Currently SpaceX produces four new Merlin 1D engines per week and they expect production will ramp up to five per week before the year is out."

Letter from House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to NASA

"On August 27, 2014, we wrote you to request an update on the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew vehicle shortly after NASA conducted its Key Decision Point C (KDP-C) review 1. We asked for a response by September 10, 2014. To date, we have only received an acknowledgement of the letter's receipt. ... Finally, on September 16, 2014, Subcommittee staff reached out to NASA in order to gain support for facilitating a briefing on the Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract source selection, as well as the source selection statement. After NASA issued the request for proposals (RFP) for the contract it declined to comment on the procurement so as to not influence the selection. Understanding the sensitive nature of the source selection process, the Committee decided to reserve questions regarding the procurement until after the selection. ... Please provide responses to all of the previous requests by October 28, 2014."

Sierra Nevada Files Suit To Reinstate Hold on Commercial Crew Contracts

"In filings with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, Sierra Nevada filed requests for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to overturn a NASA decision Oct. 9 lifting an order stopping work on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp."

- Why Sierra Nevada Did Not Win Any Commercial Crew Funds, earlier post
- NASA Tells Boeing and SpaceX to Proceed Despite SNC Protest, earlier post
- Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Award, earlier post

Court says space taxi work can go on as Sierra Nevada disputes contract, Denver Post

"Boeing and SpaceX will not be forced to stop work again on NASA's commercial crewed spacecraft program. Federal Judge Marian Blank Horn on Tuesday denied Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Louisville-based Space Systems' request for a federal injunction to force NASA to order the work stopped while the awarded contracts are under protest. If granted, the work stoppage would have been the second in two months."

Lockheed Martin Pursuing Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor Concept (with video)

Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details, Aviation Week

"I studied this in graduate school where, under a NASA study, I was charged with how we could get to Mars quickly," says McGuire, who earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scanning the literature for fusion-based space propulsion concepts proved disappointing."

Scientists Are Bashing Lockheed Martin's Nuclear Fusion 'Breakthrough', Business Insider

Although Lockheed Martin issued a press release saying it had several pending patents for its approach, the company has yet to publish any scientific papers on this latest work."

Shana Dale Lands at FAA AST

Shana Dale Joins FAA Commercial Space Office as Deputy AA, Space Policy Online

"Shana Dale will become Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as of November 3, 2014. She succeeds George Zamka who left AST this summer to join Bigelow Aerospace. Dale has served in a number of positions on Capitol Hill and in the George W. Bush Administration. She is perhaps best known in space policy circles as the first woman to serve as Deputy Administrator of NASA from 2005-2009 while Mike Griffin was Administrator."

Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization, OSTP

"There's interest outside government as well, with various private companies that see a potential business in mining of asteroids and celestial objects for use in space. Recently, I caught up Dr. Phillip Metzger, a former research physicist at NASA's Kennedy Space Center who has recently joined the faculty of the University of Central Florida, to discuss the longer term goal of "bootstrapping a solar system civilization."

Why NASA Rejected Sierra Nevada's Commercial Crew Vehicle, Aviation Week

"The internal document, signed by NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier on Sept. 15, the day before the contract awards were announced, says, "I consider SNC's (Sierra Nevada Corp.) design to be the lowest level of maturity, with significantly more technical work and critical design decisions to accomplish. The proposal did not thoroughly address these design challenges and trades." Gerstenmaier goes on to say that Sierra's proposal "has more schedule uncertainty. For example, some of the testing planned after the crewed flight could be required before the crewed flight, and the impact of this movement will greatly stress the schedule."

- SNC Protest Halts NASA Commercial Crew Efforts, earlier post
- NASA Tells Boeing and SpaceX to Proceed Despite SNC Protest, earlier post

MIT Analysis Paints Bleak Outcome for Mars One Concept, SpacePolicyOnline

"An analysis by a team of MIT students of the Mars One concept to send people to Mars on one-way missions to establish a settlement there offers a bleak picture of the outcome. The paper was presented at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014) in Toronto last week. Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Samuel Schreiner, Andrew Owens and Olivier de Weck conducted "An Independent Assessment of the Technical Feasibility of the Mars One Mission Plan" supported by grants from NASA and the Josephine de Karman Fellowship Trust."

The reason Mars One colonists could die will surprise you , CNet

"There's a battle of the brains under way online about just how long the first human colonists to set up a new home on Mars will last on the Red Planet. A group of MIT students have challenged the viability of Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit's plan to set up a permanent colony on Mars with hearty volunteer astronauts who get a one-way ticket to both the fourth planet from the sun and history."

Keith's 10 Oct note: The MIT student team that did the analysis of Mars On eProject held an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit here.

Keith's 11 Oct note: An Open Letter on the Mars One Analysis by MIT Researchers, MIT

NASA Exercises Authority to Proceed with Commercial Crew Contracts

"On Oct. 9, under statutory authority available to it, NASA has decided to proceed with the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. notwithstanding the bid protest filed at the U.S. Government Accountability Office by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements."

Progress at XCOR

Lynx Spacecraft Development in Pictures, XCOR

"XCOR Aerospace today announced marked progress on the path to commercial space flight with the integration of the cockpit to the fuselage on XCOR's Lynx(R) spacecraft. With the fuselage, pressure cabin and strakes delivered, XCOR is bonding these structures together and integrating sub-assemblies, such as the landing gear, at its hangar in Mojave."

Space Adventures will send tourists around the moon in 2018, Interfax

"The company Space Adventures in 2018 is going to send two space tourists circled the moon on the Russian spacecraft "Soyuz", according to the company's website. "Using the already proven Russian spacecraft flight, we will send two individual and one professional astronaut around the side of the moon. They will be 100 km from the lunar surface. We expect that our first mission will take place in 2018," - said in a statement."

Roscosmos Disavows Plan to Send Space Tourists to Moon, Moscow Times (June 2014)

"Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said. The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan."

Roscosmos Says Nyet To Space Adventures' Moon Plan, earlier post

Keith's note: NASA usually keeps a close eye on companies that use NASA's logo to imply an endorsement of a company's products - unless NASA has an agreement in place. Then there's the curious case of NASA Tech Briefs - a company with whom NASA Has a long-standing agreement in place that allows them to use word "NASA" and the NASA logo. If you go to their website you see that NASA logo, the word "NASA" everywhere but when it comes to actually directing visitors to their website to NASA well ... they do not do that. I did a "view source" on the NASA Tech briefs home page such that I could search for links to things at "nasa.gov". As you can see there are no links. Looking at the site they seem to be operating some sort of parallel NASA tech effort that avoids actually mentioning what NASA is doing in that area.

The link "Who's Who at NASA" goes to a page that makes no mention of the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate. The link NASA Tech Needs goes to a page that has a lead item of "Insect Processing Technologies for Chicken Feed" followed by "New Synthetic Nematicides" and other things last updated on 1 October 2013.

This is not a new problem (see below) - but it is a problem NASA seems to be uninterested in addressing. I would be willing to bet that there are commercial efforts out there who coud do a vastly better job of presenting NASA's technology portfolio - if only this relationship was opened up for competition.

- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, 2012 post
- NASA Technology That Can't Link To Itself, 2012 post
- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, 2011 post
- Official NASA Publication Seeks Opinions On Gun Control, 2008 post
- NASA Technology Outreach Is Still Scattered and Dysfunctional, 2014 post

SpaceShipOne X Prize Milestone Marked With Tears ... and Cake!, NBC

"Pioneers of the commercial space age celebrated the 10th anniversary of the SpaceShipOne rocket plane's final flight to the final frontier on Saturday, shedding fresh tears over a decade-old drama, hugging it out -- and then blowing out the candles on a cake. The festivities unfolded at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the SpaceShipOne saga reached its climax with the winning of the $10 million Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004."

Virgin Galactic 'on the verge' of private space launches, space.com via Yahoo

"A seat aboard the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo currently costs $250,000. So far, Virgin Galactic has sold more than 700 tickets. Initially in 2004, Branson expected that SpaceShipTwo would be flying customers by 2007. "It's been a great voyage," Branson said. "It has taken longer than we thought."

Keith's note: Interesting how XPrize and Virgin Galactic hand-picked the news media in attendance for this self-indulgent celebration of their 7th consecutive year of delays in beginning commercial service. Happy anniversary!

Boeing, SpaceX told to stop work under crew contracts, Spaceflight Now

"NASA has directed Boeing and SpaceX to halt activities under contracts awarded last month to build commercial space taxis to ferry astronauts to the the International Space Station while the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviews a protest of NASA's contract decision filed by Sierra Nevada Corp."

Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Award, earlier post

Why Boeing Beat SpaceX in NASA's Space-Taxi Contest, WSj (subscription)

"Boeing Co. received consistently higher rankings than Space Exploration Technologies Corp. during NASA's recent multibillion-dollar competition to build "space taxis," according to an internal agency document. The memo--dated Sept. 15 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal--provides an inside look at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's deliberations and reveals why agency officials rated Boeing's bid better across the board than the one submitted by SpaceX, as the smaller company is called. ... The document won't become public until a protest by a third company, Sierra Nevada Corp., is resolved. Sierra Nevada, which didn't receive any award but contends its rankings were comparable to the winners, has said the government could save $900 million by picking its proposal. Legal wrangling could drag on for months, potentially slowing down progress on the vehicles or putting work by Boeing or SpaceX on hold."


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