Commercialization: July 2016 Archives

Market doesn't justify reusable launchers, expendable rocket makers argue, Ars Technica

"Monday evening in Salt Lake City, some aerospace industry officials sat down to discuss this new development. The panel at an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics forum on propulsion had a provocative title, "Launch Vehicle Reusability: Holy Grail, Chasing Our Tail, or Somewhere in Between?" Moderator Dan Dumbacher said of the panel, "We purposefully tried to get a good cross-section of those who have been working on it." However, the panel included no one actually building reusable rockets and relied heavily on the old-guard perspective. Dumbacher himself, now a professor at Purdue University, previously managed development of the Space Launch System rocket for NASA, and he expressed doubt about the viability of reusable launch vehicles in 2014 by essentially saying that because NASA couldn't do it, it was difficult to see how others could."

Keith's note: Well of course SLS-hugger and former NASA SLS manager Dan Dumbacher can't see a world where the launch market is diverse in terms of customers, payloads, launch vehicles, and financing. He only has wetware that lets him see giant government-built rockets - so that is all that he can see.

Mouser Electronics and Grant Imahara Launch Groundbreaking Contest to 3D-Print Design Aboard International Space Station

"Imagine how exciting it would be to see your design made in space," said Glenn Smith, President and CEO of Mouser Electronics, a leading global distributor of the newest semiconductors and electronic components. "We are really excited to present this unique contest. We hope our wide range of electronic components will enable people to create whatever their imagination sparks." For the I.S.S. Design Challenge, Mouser has partnered with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Made In Space, along with Hackster and MacroFab. The winner of the I.S.S. Challenge will receive a 3D printer, a consultation with Made In Space - pioneers in additive manufacturing technology for use in the space environment - and the prestige of seeing their design 3D-printed aboard the I.S.S."

Keith's note: How cool. A bunch of companies are offering a competition where the winner gets to print something on a commercial device on board the ISS. Isn't this the sort of thing that NASA and CASIS should be promoting? Sam Scimemi from NASA and Greg Johnson from CASIS constantly proclaim their intent to bring education and commerce to Low Earth Orbit on board the ISS. But when it starts to happen in LEO on ISS - on its own - NASA and CASIS could not be bothered to even mention it. One would think that any news like this is good news for everyone involved with the promotion of ISS commercial capabilities. CASIS has signed agreements and has flown Made in Space hardware. But in this case, CASIS prefers to play around with comic book illustrators instead of highlight how its efforts and those of NASA are actually resulting in novel private sector interest in the ISS.

Yet just last week NASA put a notice out seeking new ideas for commercial activities in LEO - activities that involve both NASA and CASIS. If they ignore current efforts already underway, what confidence do we have that they will be able to identify new ones?

Advancing Economic Development in LEO via Commercial Use of Limited Availability Unique ISS Capabilities, NASA

"This is a Request for Information (RFI) only and does not constitute a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will take action in this matter. NASA is investigating options and approaches to expedite commercial activity in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Specifically, NASA is looking to increase private sector demand for space research and expand on the work of Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the manager of the ISS National Laboratory. NASA is not only interested in technical solutions to advance these goals, but also in contract or agreement structures that potential offerors would see as beneficial to advance private sector demand for low Earth orbit research."

NASA Will Put Rocket Raccoon And Groot On Its New Mission Patch, Gizmodo

"A major mission for us here at CASIS is to find unique and innovative ways to bring notoriety to the ISS National Laboratory and the research that is being conducted on our orbiting laboratory," said CASIS Director of Operations and Educational Opportunities Ken Shields. It's also part of a secret mission that might help us get a Rocket and Groot of our very own. "The reward for us [is that] we'll actually have two characters go into space," said Mitch Dane, director of custom publishing. Then he joked, "With a little luck, there'll be a little cosmic radiation going on, they'll come back alive."

'Guardians of the Galaxy' team up with NASA: Groot, Rocket Raccoon on mission patch, Washington Times

"Director James Gunn, whose "Guardians of the Galaxy" grossed $773 million worldwide in 2014, was awed by the decision. "So cool. NASA Oasis has paired with Marvel and is using Rocket & Groot as an official emblem for the mission to Mars," Mr. Gunn wrote."

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. Scimemi said: "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."

Keith's note: CASIS issues a press release that mentions that Marvel comic book/movie characters at ComicCon are now ISS mascots or something. Alas NASA is there too - as @NASASocial - at the Marvel booth - and neither @NASASocial or @ISS_CASIS mention one another's presence. Apparently CASIS thinks that Groot, a giant rock tree man thing, and a foul-mouthed raccoon are better poised to explain ISS science than ISS scientists. So - the movie director whose characters are being featured refers to "CASIS" as "OASIS" and doesn't seem to know that this is all about the International Space Station - referring instead to "the mission to Mars".

Meanwhile NASA makes no mention of this news and NASA is never mentioned in the CASIS press release. Yet news stories say that NASA is behind all of this. NASA only gets the credit from third parties - and when they get mention it is factually mangled. Nice job CASIS.

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: DOD Is Assessing Data on Worldwide Launch Market to Inform New Acquisition Strategy, GAO

"In February 2016, Congress asked GAO to examine what is known about other countries with launch capabilities and whether or not countries had fostered competition among launch providers, similar to what the United States is attempting to do in the EELV program. GAO responded to this request with a written briefing on the worldwide space launch capabilities and the status of the United States and global launch market."

Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post

"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."

- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?

Republican Platform

"The public-private partnerships between NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial companies have given us technological progress that has reduced the cost of accessing space and extended America's space leadership in the commercial, civil, and national security spheres. The entrepreneurship and innovation culture of the free market is revitalizing the nation's space capabilities, saving taxpayer money, and advancing technology critical to maintain America's edge in space and in other fields. To protect our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space by launching more scientific missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and ensuring that our space-related industries remain a source of scientific leadership and education."

- Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker Endorse Obama's New NASA Plan, Urge Bipartisan Support, CSF (2010)
- Is Gingrich's Pro-Obama Space Policy Stance About to Flip Flop ... (2012)

Keith's note: Looks like the RNC just endorsed the Obama Administration's commercial space policy - just like New Gingrich and Bob Walker did. Then again Newt was against it before he was for it (or was it the other way around?). Of course, Mike Griffin was moving in this direction before Obama - and Sean O'Keefe before Griffin. Either way, its deja vu all over again with supporters of commercial space on both sides. Oddly, right now, Republicans in Congress are among the most vocal opponents of the current incarnation of the same commercial space policy that began in a Republican administration.

Private spaceflight trade group rebrands itself to look more like NASA, Mashable

"We want to make that that sexy, badass persona that NASA has established in the government space exploration realm is carried forward into the private commercial space industry," says David Moritz, founder and CEO of Viceroy Creative, the ad agency behind the rebrand."

Viceroy Creative Thrusts into New Frontier with Complete Rebranding Launch of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"Viceroy Creative, the full-service design firm specializing in brand strategy, brand innovation and package design is announcing the official rebranding launch of the newCommercial Spaceflight Federation. Previously viewed as a selective and discerning option for those looking to travel to space, the new rebrand and creative redesign democratizes the idea of space to the public while providing a sexy, cool, and innovative new look for their interactive website. "We wanted to create an identity that would set a standard for the commercial space exploration industry," says David Moritz, CEO and Founder of Viceroy Creative. "Through the new Commercial Spaceflight Federation rebranding, we're able to create a unique, sexy, and ownable identity that also has roots in a thrilling part of the space industry. We envisioned this rebranding and redesign to be sophisticated and alluring, but also thoughtful enough to be on par with a regulatory agency."

Keith's note: When an organization can't develop and implement a simple strategy and has problems explaining what it does for its members, the knee jerk reaction always seems to be the assumption that the problem will be solved re-branding and re-launching websites. So CSF hired Viceroy Creative whose specialty seems to be marketing alcohol. Based on this PR firm's press release it would seem that CSF is not even sure who/what its audience is. They (simultaneously) want to be "sexy", "sophisticated", "alluring" yet be "thoughtful enough to be on par with a regulatory agency". They need to pick one or the other and focus on that. Oh yes - they also want to do something that "democratizes the idea of space to the public".

And they say "sexy" twice in their press release. So CSF clearly wants you to think that they are sexy. Got that? There's a reason why: Viceroy Creative uses soft p*rn imagery in their PR (scroll down) - and they brag about it. They also worked with the Karadashians. Seriously. And note that the press release title says "Thrusts Into New Frontier". Taken together this explains the whole "sexy" thing, I guess. Just what the commercial spaceflight industry needs right now: gratuitous marketing hype used to hide a lack of substance.

CSF now has an audience/customer base comprised of the commercial space industry, Congress, the Federal government, and the public. Instead of developing a strategic focus CSF now wants to be everything to everyone. As for the rebranding launch thing I just went to their new website. Their old website was a bit stale but you could find what you needed quickly. Now it takes longer and has lots of flashy things. And yet all that they have online is the same stuff they had online before - with added flash. As for the website being "sexy, sophisticated, alluring" - no.

With regard to the democratizing thing CSF is aiming for, given that rides on commercial spacecraft are going cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for many years to come, the only "democratizing" that is going to happen is going to be among the super rich people who can afford the ride. The "public" (i.e. the rest of us) will just go about our normal terrestrial routine. I have never quite figured out exactly what CSF does. Now I am even more confused.

New NASA Publication: Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit

"In order for a viable, sustainable economy based on human spaceflight to emerge in low Earth orbit (LEO), a number of elements must be present. ... Recent developments in spaceflight suggest there is ample cause to be optimistic about the future. ... In addition to greatly advancing the state of rocketry, the new capability may have a significant democratization and commercialization effect, potentially enabling low-cost access to space for entrepreneurs, scientists, educators, and the general public."

CASIS and NCATS Collaborate to Promote Human Physiology Research on the International Space Station, CASIS

Keith's note: Senior managers and PR people at CASIS have been heard to complain that they wish NASA would do more to promote them. So what does CASIS do to encourage more interaction with NASA? Why, they ignore NASA, of course. This press release is about research aboard the ISS that NASA paid billions to build and operate. NASA pays 99.97% or more of CASIS' budget every year. So everything that CASIS does is paid for with NASA money. Yet, if you read this press release, you will see that the word "NASA" is not even mentioned. This may sound trivial but CASIS is constantly taking credit for things without acknowledging NASA's role. And then they whine when NASA doesn't show them enough love. If the management of CASIS had half a brain they'd be trying to be NASA's best friend. Instead, all they do is throw them shade.

Moon Express Announces New Home at Historic Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complexes 17 & 18

"Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) announced today that it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Air Force 45th Wing to license the historic Space Launch Complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral for its lunar lander development and flight test operations. The new arrangement for Launch Complexes 17 and 18 under the USAF 45th Wing will allow for Moon Express growth and expansion of its business and technical operations. Moon Express previously occupied Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 36A under an agreement established with Space Florida in January 2015."

Keith's note: Based on a recent NASA Freedom of Information Act response CASIS has been operating for two years without the Annual Program Plan it is required to have. Or maybe it is. Either way NASA doesn't seem to care.

On 5 April 2016 I submitted a FOIA request to NASA for information related to CASIS. CASIS (Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) is the non-profit organization that NASA relies upon to operate its research facilities aboard the International Space Station. CASIS gets $15 million a year from NASA to do this and relies on this funding for 99.97% of its annual budget.

At first the NASA HQ FOIA refused to even consider my FOIA request as a "media" request despite the fact that I have been accredited as media by NASA for more than 15 years. After a lot of emails, complaints, and foot dragging, NASA HQ's FOIA office finally complied with my FOIA request. To their credit they provided a lot of information which is going to take some time to analyze. My request was focused and straightforward:

"I am requesting the full text of NASA cooperative agreement NNH11CD70A between NASA and CASIS including any revisions, annexes, modifications, or associated contractual amendments made by NASA from the inception of this agreement with CASIS until the date of this FOIA request. I am also requesting all progress and status reports and memos provided by CASIS to NASA from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request as well as all correspondence/memos from NASA to CASIS in response to CASIS progress and status reports from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request."

Let's start with the means whereby NASA and CASIS agree on what CASIS should be doing i.e. the CASIS Annual Program Plan. In response to the FOIA request NASA provided CASIS Annual Program Plans for FY 2012 (submitted 31 October 2011); 2013 (submitted 21 March 2013); and 2014 (submitted 20 October 2013). However NASA did not provide a copy of the CASIS Annual Program Plan for FY 2015 (FY 2015 began on 1 October 2014) or the plan for FY 2016 (FY 2016 began on 1 October 2015). Both Annual Program Plans clearly fall within the period of time and scope specified in my FOIA request.

These reports are required to be prepared and submitted annually. According to the Cooperative Agreement between NASA and CASIS:

Keith's note: Three weeks ago I sent NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan (and NASA HQ PAO) a simple question about her statement regarding NASA's value to America's economy i.e."there was a report that showed that for ever $1.00 you spend on NASA you get $4.00 returned to the economy". As I have been ranting for the past month Stofan - and the rest of NASA - refuses to answer a simple media inquiry about a public claim by NASA about returns on investments in NASA technology. Yet that has not stopped NASA from putting out a report today titled "Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit" that includes complicated fancy math to calculate what an investment in ISS R&D can expect to see emerging from that investment (page 46):

As you can see the math in my original question was much simpler than what is in this report (image of full reference). The report goes on to gush about the economic potential of space commerce with regard to Low Earth Orbit. That economic potential is most likely quite real. Alas NASA is not necessarily the best equipped to actually understand that commercial potential - much less act strategically to facilitate its development. NASA is also under some collective delusion that it actually understands "commerce" since they seem to think that "commerce" is equivalent to government spending. Just ask Bart.

In the mean time it is clear that one part of NASA is not talking to other. While one office on the 9th floor is incapable of responding to a simple question on this topic just a few feet down the hall NASA's Deputy Administrator's office is co-launching this report with the White House - including the fancy math that is over the head of NASA's Chief Scientist.

NASA Cannot Answer A Simple, Basic Question on Its Value, earlier post

Report: Federal agents raid NASA construction contractor, Orlando Sentinel

"Investigators with NASA's Office of Inspector General, the agency in charge of probing crimes against NASA, removed boxes of documents and computer towers from SDB Engineering and Constructors Inc., according to Fox35. The company located on East Parrish Road has worked on several big projects at NASA's Kennedy Space Center including upgrades to the Vehicle Assembly Building and corrosion control work at Launch Complex 41 and Launch Complex 37, used for United Launch Alliance launches."

Keith's 7 July update: A week Two weeks Three weeks ago I sent NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan (and NASA HQ PAO) a simple question about her statement regarding NASA's value to America's economy i.e."there was a report that showed that for ever $1.00 you spend on NASA you get $4.00 returned to the economy". NASA has still not gotten back to me with an answer. Either NASA refuses to answer or (more likely) they cannot answer - because their answer would reveal that they have no idea where their claims come from.

After 20 years I can totally understand that some people at NASA are loathe to respond to NASAWatch questions like this - especially ones with a high gotcha quotient. I get that. But you'd think that such a basic talking point - one repeatedly used by senior agency personnel to explain the purported value of NASA to our economy - would be one that is strongly grounded in research data - data that should be at everyone's finger tips. Guess again. If NASA is unable to answer such a simple, basic question about a commonly-used talking point, why should anyone take agency staff seriously when they start to talk about commerce, economics, and return on investment?

NASA has no idea what it is talking about when it comes to its economic value to our nation. So they just make stuff up and hope that no one asks any questions.

NASA has been getting ready for visits from presidential campaign transition teams in the coming weeks. Based on my sources agency leadership is under some collective pervasive delusion that space is actually an issue that campaigns intend to pay attention to prior to the election. Moreover, their aim is to tell the campaigns that NASA is doing what it should be doing, to please just let NASA do whatever it is doing, and not ask too many questions as to why NASA is doing what it is doing. Among the things NASA would normally do is drop the whole dollar-invested/dollar-returned thing into the briefing charts. If NASA cannot answer a simple media question about NASA's numerical claim of value added benefits to the economy, I am not certain that they should be perpetuating these urban factoids by telling them to representatives of the next administration.

Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee

"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) today sent letters to four senior officials requesting information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. ... The letters request a written copy of the administration's policy governing access to Indian launch services, an explanation of when and how this policy was promulgated, and a copy of licenses authorizing the launch of U.S. origin space technology on Indian launch vehicles and records associated with them."

Testimony of Eric Stallmer President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, April 2016

"Prohibiting access to foreign launch services, like India's, who do not allow their payloads to fly on U.S. vehicles, has opened another set of opportunities for U.S. commercial companies to develop their own systems to serve the global satellite launch market. Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."

Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post

"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."

America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post

NASA Final Rule: 14 CFR Part 1214: Space Flight, Federal Register

Keith's note: These rules apparently only apply to Orion (and SLS). No mention is made as to who is in charge aboard Dragon or Starliner (or other commercial vehicles) when NASA people are on board. That said, the take home message: no fist fights on the bridge.

"Sec. 1214.702 Authority and responsibility of the NASA Commander.

(a) During all flight phases, the NASA Commander shall have the absolute authority to take whatever action is in his/her discretion necessary to:
(1) Enhance order and discipline.
(2) Provide for the safety and well-being of all personnel on board.
(3) Provide for the protection of the spacecraft and payloads. The NASA Commander shall have authority, throughout the mission, to use any reasonable and necessary means, including the use of physical force, to achieve this end.
(b) The authority of the NASA Commander extends to any and all personnel on board the spacecraft including Federal officers and employees and all other persons whether or not they are U.S. nationals.
(c) The authority of the NASA Commander extends to all spaceflight elements, payloads, and activities originating with or defined to be a part of the NASA mission.
(d) The NASA Commander may, when he/she deems such action to be necessary for the safety of the spacecraft and personnel on board, subject any of the personnel on board to such restraint as the circumstances require until such time as delivery of such individual or individuals to the proper authorities is possible.

Sec. 1214.703 Chain of command.

(a) The NASA Commander is a trained NASA astronaut who has been designated to serve as commander on a NASA mission and who shall have the authority described in Sec. 1214.702 of this part. Under normal flight conditions (other than emergencies or when otherwise designated) the NASA Commander is responsible to the Mission Flight Director.
(b) Before each flight, the other flight crewmembers will be designated in the order in which they will assume the authority of the NASA Commander under this subpart in the event that the NASA Commander is not able to carry out his/her duties.
(c) The determinations, if any, that a crewmember in the chain of command is not able to carry out his or her command duties and is, therefore, to be relieved of command, and that another crewmember in the chain of command is to succeed to the authority of the NASA Commander, will be made by the NASA Administrator or his/her designee.

Sec. 1214.704 Violations.

(a) All personnel on board the NASA mission are subject to the authority of the NASA Commander and shall conform to his/her orders and direction as authorized by this subpart.
(b) This subpart is a regulation within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 799, and whoever willfully violates, attempts to violate, or conspires to violate any provision of this subpart or any order or direction issued under this subpart shall be subject to fines and imprisonment, as specified by law."

Keith's note: According to 18 U.S. Code ยง 799 if you break the NASA rules you "shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both". In other words the fine is (apparently) TBD and the longest you can sit in the brig for punching your captain is a year.



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