Commercialization: June 2016 Archives

NASA's Response to SpaceX's June 2015 Launch Failure: Impacts on Commercial Resupply of the International Space Station, NASA OIG

"... The most significant item lost during the SPX-7 mission was the first of two Docking Adapters necessary to support upcoming commercial crew missions. Although NASA had planned to have two Adapters installed on the Station before the first commercial crew demonstration mission scheduled for May 2017, it is now likely there will be only one installed in time for these missions.

... we also found that for the first seven cargo missions NASA did not fully utilize the unpressurized cargo space available in the Dragon 1 capsule's trunk, averaging 423 kg for SPX-3 through SPX-7 even though the trunk is capable of carrying more. The ISS Program noted that unpressurized payloads depend on manifest priority, payload availability, and mission risk, and acknowledged it struggled to fully utilize this space on early missions, but as of June 2016 the Agency's cargo manifests show full trunks on all future SpaceX cargo resupply missions.

... risk mitigation procedures are not consistently employed and the subjective launch ratings the Agency uses provide insufficient information to NASA management concerning actual launch risks. In addition, NASA does not have an official, coordinated, and consistent mishap investigation policy for commercial resupply launches, which could affect its ability to determine the root cause of a launch failure and implement corrective actions."

Commercial Space: Industry Developments and FAA Challenges, GAO

"GAO reported in 2015 that FAA's budget requests for its commercial space launch activities generally were based on the number of projected launches, but that in recent years the actual number of launches was much lower than FAA's projections. GAO also reported that, according to FAA officials, more detailed information was not provided in FAA's budget submissions because the agency lacked information on its workload overseeing commercial space launch activities. In addition, GAO reported that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation did not track the amount of time spent on various activities."

Statements by: Taber MacCallum, George Nield, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Michael Gold, Rep. LoBiondo

Keith's note: I just got this email from Carol Hively, Director, Public Relations & Team Communications telling me "NOTE TO MEDIA: Today, the Space Foundation will issue a press release announcing data from The Space Report 2016. In addition to the data found in the press release, an overview of the report is available free to media here. There will be a charge of $99 for media to access the complete pdf of The Space Report 2016, which includes more than 80 pages of data on global space activity during 2015. Go here to receive the discount code to order The Space Report 2016 pdf full report for the discounted media rate of $99."

I had to read that email more than once. Space Foundation charges immense fees for its member companies, puts on lavish events, and never does anything in an inexpensive way. Indeed, according to their 2014 Form 990 Space Foundation had over $7,000,000 in income. And yet they want the several dozen news media (those who pay attention to the Space Foundation that is) to pay $99 to read their self-congratulatory 80 page PDF file? Really? You'd think that the Space Foundation would best serve its membership by making the good news about space economy available to everyone who is interested.

Keith's update: According to their press release "The report can be purchased as a downloadable PDF for $399. A website subscription can be purchased for $3,500." So ... now the non-profit Space Foundation is in the commercial market forecasting business, I guess. Again, you'd think that this report should be out in the wild for anyone to read.

This must be what it was like when Rome was burning.

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Issues Policy Paper to Guide Incoming President and Congress

"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration has released a policy position paper highlighting the key issues that every presidential and congressional candidate should understand in order to ensure that deep space exploration remains a bipartisan priority over the next several years. The Coalition is the voice of America's deep space industry, with over 40 corporate members supporting NASA's deep space human exploration and science programs. The full paper, entitled "A Space Exploration Roadmap for the Next Administration," is available for download on the Coalition's website."

Keith's note: This document is mostly recycled word salad that states the obvious without ever getting to the point - other than to request continued support SLS and Orion. This is yet another attempt by this organization (actually there is no "organization", its just Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne with other smaller companies tossed in who write checks) to preserve the status quo. Everything else is just window dressing adjusted to meet the needs of these two programs. Note that there is no support for NASA's "Journey To Mars" or ARM so they're already throwing the Obama folks under the bus. As for space commerce, the Coalition makes little mention of it other than to describe it as something that happens in low Earth orbit - so long as it does not get in the way of SLS and Orion, that is.

We've seen this movie before. Just three months ago a similar effort by many of the usual suspects produced a similar document with the same intent:

Space Policy White Paper = Shopping List For The Journey to Nowhere, March 2016

"Such is the problem with these sort of documents from the space community. On one hand the space groups want to have a say in the political decisions that affect their members (and donors). But on the other hand they'd rather not have the politicians pay too much attention to space such that the current status quo is not upset. In other words "write us the checks but don't rock the boat" - or more bluntly "look but don't touch". This is, at best, naive thinking on the part of the space community. If you read the white paper it becomes immediately apparent that this coalition wants everything that they are doing to be supported and in some cases, they want even more money. They also want a stable funding environment (makes sense). The two main programs being supported by this coalition are SLS/Orion and Commercial Crew and Cargo with gratuitous mention of other projects that are important to the members of this coalition."

- Pioneering Space National Summit One Year Later: No Clear Direction
- Fact Checking SLS Propaganda
- How The #JourneyToMars Becomes The #JourneyToNowhere

It's Big Jim

Paul Allen's Stratolaunch lifts veil on world's biggest plane - a giant bet on a new way to space, Geekwire

"The plane's wing, taking shape inside a 103,000-square-foot hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port, stands three stories off the ground and measures 385 feet from tip to tip. That's three times longer than the distance of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight in 1903. If the Enterprise is ever built to its "Star Trek" TV dimensions, now or in the 23rd century, the starship would be only a few dozen feet wider."

Keith's note: Vulcan Aerospace gave a hand-picked group of space journalists a tour of their facility. They saw Stratolaunch. It is big and it is 76% complete. No information was given as to customers, markets, etc. In other words: no news. Did I mention that it is big?

Larger image

Keith's note: As readers of NASAWatch have noted by now, I have an interest in the utilization of the International Space Station. When the amazing capabilities of ISS are used to their fullest potential we all benefit. When those resources are under-utilized our tax dollars and the finite utility of the ISS are wasted. CASIS has been given responsibility for managing the U.S. assets aboard the ISS that have been collectively proclaimed as being the ISS National Laboratory. I've already written a lot about CASIS. I'll be writing much more in the weeks to come.

Let's start with a clear-cut example of how CASIS has stumbled: its preoccupation with golf and its relationship with Cobra Puma Golf, a large and very successful golfing gear manufacturer. If you look at the LinkedIn page of Patrick O'Neill, CASIS Marketing & Communications Manager, you will see that he was an account executive for VitroRobertson. Between 2008-2009 he was "Account Executive on the Cobra Golf Account. Managed the day to day operations of all Brand Marketing efforts and assisted in the production of all Advertising efforts for Cobra Golf." If you read CASIS President/Executive Director Greg Johnson's astronaut bio you'll see that he lists golf among his recreational interests. So, senior CASIS management likes golf. "Go with what you know", so they say.

On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. In that letter Scimemi notes: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab." Coincidentally this letter was sent on the same day that CASIS staff made a rather awkward presentation to the NASA Advisory Council.

The "Space Is In It" designation that CASIS calls an "endorsement" has apparently only been awarded once - to Cobra Puma Golf. As such it would be illustrative to examine how that whole process came about and what it says about the ability of CASIS to recognize the actual commercial research potential of the ISS.

Blue Origin Successfully Launches New Shepard on its 4th Reusable Flight

Watch the full launch video and see some of the highlights in images.

"Blue Origin successfully launched its reusable rocket New Shepard today deploying the crew capsule on its suborbital mission. This was the 4th time this New Shepard rocket has flown, a feat never achieved to date by any other rocket."

SpaceX Successfully Launches EUTELSAT 117 West B and ABS-2A Satellites [With video and comments from Elon Musk], SpaceRef Business

"A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched and placed the EUTELSAT 117 West B and ABS-2A communications satellites into nominal orbits today."

The secondary mission of landing the Falcon first stage ended with a hard landing on the Of Course I Still Love You autonomous spaceport drone ship and resulted in its destruction. It was the first landing failure after four consecutive successes.

Selling Space: Entrepreneurs Offer Dreams and Schemes in the Hope of Making a Buck Off the Cosmos, Houston Press

"... Dula is not just a NewSpace pioneer, he's a defendant in a $49 million fraud suit calling him a con artist with a warehouse full of antiquated space junk that was never meant to get off the ground. It's the second time an investor has accused him of fraud -- a Houston woman, Donna Beck, previously sued him for allegedly duping her into an asteroid-mining scam. Beck and Dula agreed to dismiss the case, with prejudice, in early 2014. In the years after Dula accepted his prestigious [Space Frontier Foundation Pioneer of NewSpace] award, his space capsules have been to London's Parliament Square, Saudi Arabia and an auction house in Brussels. They just haven't been to space. The man who would sue Dula, Japanese billionaire Takafumi Horie, was actually considered a con man himself in his native country, where he was convicted of manipulating stock prices in his Internet company and sentenced to 21 months in prison."

Senate Reaches Agreement on Russian RD-180 Engines, SpacePolicyOnline

"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) brokered an agreement among Senators who have been at sharp odds over how to transition U.S. rocket launches away from reliance on Russian RD-180 engines to a new American-made engine. The Nelson amendment passed the Senate this morning by voice vote as part of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA itself then passed the Senate by a vote of 85-13. In brief, the compromise sets December 31, 2022 as the end date for use of the RD-180 by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Atlas V launches of national security satellites. It also limits to 18 the number of RD-180s that can be used between the date that the FY2017 NDAA is signed into law (enacted) and that end date."

Space Angels Network Opposes ICBM Amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, SpaceRef Business

"On Sunday the Space Angels Network released a letter in opposition to Mike Lee's amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which would allow the commercial use of ICBM's. The primary arguments are that the amendment would benefit one company and hurt the burgeoning small satellite commercial launch market."

Previous:

- Hearing Discusses Using Old ICBMs As Satellite Launchers
- Why Not Use Old Missiles To Launch New Satellites?

Elon Musk provides new details on his 'mind blowing' mission to Mars, Washington Post

"Essentially what we're saying is we're establishing a cargo route to Mars," he said. "It's a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It's going happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station. And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it's going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments."

SpaceX's Elon Musk teases 'dangerous' plan to colonize Mars starting in 2024, Geekwire

"Musk said 2022 would mark the first use of the Mars Colonial Transporter, a spaceship that's big enough to carry scores of people to Mars. The first MCT would be uncrewed. However, it's plausible to think that the craft could be pre-positioned at Mars to support the crewed mission to come, and the return trip to Earth. That's the part of the plan that's still fuzzy."

- The Real Cost of a Red Dragon Mission to Mars, earlier Post
- SpaceX Will Go To Mars Starting in 2018, earlier Post

Patti Grace Smith

Patti Grace Smith, Champion of Private Space Travel, Dies at 68, NY Times

"In an email, Elon Musk, the PayPal and Tesla entrepreneur who founded SpaceX, a company that has developed launch vehicles, wrote that Ms. Smith had "helped lay the foundations for a new era in American spaceflight." "We are closer to becoming a multiplanet species because of her efforts," he added."

Keith's note: There was a time when Patti was the only person in the entire Federal government who was thinking seriously about commercial space. At that time, no one else really cared. She did. Look what happened.

Keith's update: Patti's family requests in lieu of flowers that donations can be made to the American Cancer Society in Patti's name. Patti's "Home-Going" Service will be held Monday, 13 June at 11:00 am at the Mount Sinai Baptist Church 1615 3rd St. NW in Washington, DC.

Former NASA Chief Dan Goldin's Neural Computing Company KnuEdge to Transform Real-World Human-Machine Interaction

"We are not about incremental technology. Our mission is fundamental transformation," said Dan Goldin, Founder and CEO of KnuEdge. "We were swinging for the fences from the very beginning, with intent to create technologies that will in essence alter how humans interact with machines, and enable next-generation computing capabilities ranging from signal processing to machine learning."

Former NASA chief unveils $100 million neural chip maker KnuEdge, Venture Beat

"It's not all that easy to call KnuEdge a startup. Created a decade ago by Daniel Goldin, the former head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, KnuEdge is only now coming out of stealth mode. It has already raised $100 million in funding to build a "neural chip" that Goldin says will make data centers more efficient in a hyperscale age."

- KnuEdge

U.S. Set to Approve Moon Mission by Commercial Space Venture, WS Journal (subscription)

"U.S. officials appear poised to make history by approving the first private space mission to go beyond Earth's orbit, according to people familiar with the details."

Moon Express Becomes First Private Company in History to Initiate a Commercial Lunar Mission Approval Process with the US Government, Moon Express (earlier post, April 2016)

"Today, Moon Express made history as the first private space company to request the U.S government to conduct a payload review of its spacecraft and plans leading to regulatory approval of a commercial mission to the Moon in 2017. Moon Express initiated the review process through a submission to the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST), bringing the company another important step closer to the Moon."

Keith's note: There is no "news" in this Wall Street Journal article since Moon Express announced the ongoing interactions with FAA back in April - and they are still ongoing - and everyone knows that they are ongoing. So the news seems to be the use of the word "appear" except that was obvious several months ago as well.

SpaceResources.lu: New space law to provide framework for space resource utilization, Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy

"The Luxembourg Government forges ahead with the SpaceResources.lu initiative by presenting an overall strategy to be implemented progressively for the exploration and commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids. Amongst the key actions undertaken is the establishment of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for space resource utilization activities to provide private companies and investors with a secure legal environment. ... Dr. Simon "Pete" Worden said: "Perhaps the most important aspect of Luxembourg's spaceresources.lu initiative is the excitement it is generating across the world - particularly young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Everywhere I go I hear young people ask about these ideas. Recently, entrepreneurs from Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Colombia and Mexico contacted me to ask how they can get involved. I come from Silicon Valley - but I'm convinced that the Silicon Valley for space resources - and gateway to an unlimited future of resources for humanity, will be here in Luxembourg."

- Can Congress Authorize Mining On Asteroids?, earlier post
- Americans Can Now Legally Mine Asteroids, earlier post

Trouble at XCOR?

The XCOR Lynx Spaceplane Might Be Down for the Count , Popular Mechanics

"Even before this news, a shakeup was in the works. Some of the original XCOR gang-founder Jeff Greason and early backer Stephen Fleming-were bounced from the company's board of directors in March. Greason, XCOR's CEO turned chief technologist (another cross into Silicon Valley terrain) left the company in 2015. One board replacement: Michael Gass, the former president and chief executive of ULA. Those who see traditional space industry invading the private space movement, take note of this move."


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