Commercialization: February 2018 Archives

Bigelow Space Operations Announces Partnership with CASIS to Fly Payloads to the International Space Station

Bigelow Aerospace Announces the Creation of Bigelow Space Operations

Keith's note: I submitted a series of questions to NASA PAO and NASA HEOMD this morning (the same questions I sent to Bigelow after the press event) in advance of this story's posting at 5:00 pm ET. Bigelow responded. NASA decided not to say anything other than what one of their PAO officers sent me by email at 5:12 pm "most of the questions seem better suited to Bigelow and/or CASIS, and I would recommend following up with them. Below is our statement. If I hear anything additional, I'll be sure to pass it along: "NASA supports entrepreneurial efforts as the marketplace in low-Earth orbit matures and we work to expand private interest in the lunar vicinity. NASA is proud of the role it plays in enabling companies to explore space."

In other words "we're not really involved in any of this - so go ask someone else."

Full Story below

SKY7 spots stealthy space startup testing its rocket in Alameda (with video), Sky7

"A lease application filed with the City of Alameda gives some clues about what's in the works: a rocket called Astra that the company claims is the world's smallest. The document includes a scale diagram showing its diminutive size and capacity compared to other rockets: The SpaceX Falcon Heavy, with a payload capacity of about 56,000 kg dwarfs the Astra rocket, which is made to carry only 100 kg -- a rocket aimed at launching the new generation of small satellites, the document says. ... We caught up with it and learned it belongs to a startup that doesn't have a name yet -- in fact, an employee cheerfully answered the phone by saying, "Stealth space!" when we called."

- This is the general neighborhood

Keith's note: Yesterday NASA held a briefing with Acting CFO Andrew Hunter. When asked about how NASA plans to operate the ISS after 2025 when funding by NASA will cease, Hunter had no answer. The only clue he offered was that CASIS would continue to be part of the NASA space station utilization plan until 2025. Somehow, between now and 2025, NASA claims that it will be handing over all of its operational responsibilities to some yet to be defined private sector entities. It would seem, therefore, by default, that NASA intends to use CASIS to develop the multi-billion dollar customer base that will take over U.S. operations on the ISS and that NASA would be just another customer. How anyone can expect CASIS to complete a task several orders of magnitude greater than the one that they have failed to accomplish thus far is baffling in the extreme. All you have to do is read recent GAO and NASA OIG reports to see that there is extreme doubt with regard to CASIS' abilities.

Of course, NASA has still refused to deliver the ISS Transition Plan mandated by law and due last year. Based on this budget briefing NASA clearly has no plan and they have only begun to work on it.

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA OIG

"... With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018."

"... In its FY 2016 assessment memorandum, NASA noted that absent growth in the project pipeline, the crew utilization rate for three crewmembers could drop below 50 percent. NASA intends to increase the number of crew aboard the U.S. segment of the ISS from three to four in late 2018 and plans to allocate a portion of the additional crew hours available to CASIS who, in turn, will need to recruit additional users. Consequently, without sustained increases in the number of new and repeat users, CASIS's crew time utilization could fall even further when the fourth crew member is added."

"... Even though in recent years NASA has become more involved in measuring CASIS's performance, the Agency still has not developed a performance strategy for the remaining 7 years of the agreement or provided quantifiable metrics by which to assess CASIS and help improve the organization's performance."

"... Despite CASIS's recent progress, FY 2017 fundraising is still far below the amounts discussed in the original CASIS proposal. CASIS officials stated that they replaced the fundraising model in the reference model and original proposal with a sponsored program model, which focuses on obtaining external funding to directly support research and STEM projects. Officials explained that CASIS was not able to pursue all fundraising sources described in the reference model and proposal such as royalty fees, which were prohibited in the agreement, and the membership structure that was found to be unsuccessful."

"... CASIS met only one of nine metrics related to outreach publicizing the unique benefits of using the National Lab to potential users, the White House, Congress, non-NASA Government agencies, commercial companies and researchers, media, kindergarten through grade 12 educators and students, and the general public."

"... By 2024, NASA will have invested $196 million in CASIS. In our opinion, weaknesses in performance measurement and the lack of an overall strategy have created an environment in which NASA continues to accept incremental improvement rather than more tangible attainment of agreed-upon goals. Consequently, without significant change, CASIS likely will fall short of advancing NASA's goal for a commercial economy in low Earth orbit. NASA needs to engage more substantively with CASIS and exercise more effective oversight of the cooperative agreement to clarify CASIS's role in helping build a robust economy in low Earth orbit."

- Earlier posts on CASIS

The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a commercially run venture, NASA document shows., Washington Post

"The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry. The White House plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether, and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post. "The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time - it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform," the document states. "NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit."

Trump mulling privatization of International Space Station: report, The Hill

"The space station program manager of Boeing, which has been involved with the ISS for over 20 years, warned of privatizing the station. "Walking away from the International Space Station now would be a mistake, threatening American leadership and hurting the commercial market as well as the scientific community," Mark Mulqueen said in a statement to The Post."

NASA Budgets for a Trip to the Moon, but Not While Trump Is President, NY Times

"According to excerpts from NASA documents obtained by The New York Times before the budget's release, the administration will propose $19.9 billion in spending for the space agency in fiscal year 2019, which begins on Oct. 1. That is a $370 million increase from the current year, the result of the budget deal reached in Congress last week and signed by Mr. Trump. The budget numbers were confirmed by a person who was not authorized to talk publicly about them. In future years, the administration would like NASA's spending to drop to $19.6 billion and stay flat through 2023. With inflation, NASA's buying power would erode, effectively a budget cut each year."

NASA FY 2019 Budget Hints: ISS Lifespan To Be Limited (Update), earlier post

"- Ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities;"

Keith's note: You have to wonder what sort of feedback NASA is allowed to give to the White House on important decision like this given that NASA has had an acting Administrator for over a year. The feedback usually reverts to political appointees at NASA. Jonathan Dimock is one of the people who does this. Last year he listed his qualifications for this job below (Letter posted verbatim):

How Jonathan Dimock Auditioned To Be NASA White House Liaison, earlier post

"? National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA or Deep Space Exploration Administration or DESA)

o Aside from understanding the technical aspect of NASA and the components that goes into it. I can also understand the economics of launching satellites and supplies into space for both private and government entities. We all know that Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk with Space-X and various investors including Shaun Coleman with Vector Space are racing for more contacts with NASA and others. This is a time when NASA can scale back without huge loss to their operation and we can continue to provide suitable funding for suitable research that benefits the citizens both scientifically and economically. It is not outrageous to believe that a small cut in the $105.5b budget cannot be cut by even a small percentage for a large gain to the taxpayers while providing a big win for the administration."

- Ted Cruz On NASA, ISS, Star Trek, Bridenstine and "OMB Numbskulls", earlier post
- Trump Advisors Send Mixed Signals On ISS Support, earlier post
- Reaction To Proposed OMB Space Station Funding Cuts, earlier post
- NASA OIG Flunks CASIS - And NASA's Management of CASIS, earlier post

Why Do We Need SLS?

SpaceX could save NASA and the future of space exploration, Lori Garver op ed, The Hill

"NASA has spent more than $15 billion to try and develop their own heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), with a first flight planned in roughly two years - assuming all goes according to plan. Once operational, SLS will cost NASA over $1 billion per launch. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch. In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the coat of one SLS launch - and invest the remainder in truly revolutionary and meaningful missions that advance science and exploration. It is understandable that government employees, contractors and their elected officials want to keep this expensive rocket development program going. A large share of NASA's roughly $19billion budget has been spent on this constituency, and in turn is protected by them. We have come to accept this "tax" on the agency, but It is time for the nation to decide if we want a space program - or a jobs program."

Two Lessons From Starman

Keith's note: It worked.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Roars Into Space, SpaceRef

"SpaceX Launched its first Falcon Heavy today. All indications are that the flight has been a complete success thus far. More to follow. Pictures below."

SpaceX Falcon Launch Vehicle Unveiled in Washington D.C., earlier post (2003)

"Among the speakers at the rocket's unveiling were Elon Musk, President and CEO of SpaceX and Patti Grace Smith, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA. Musk and Smith were introduced by Keith Cowing, editor of"

Keith's note: For those of you who may think that today's Falcon Heavy Launch of sports car with a spacesuited mannequin is a little unusual: this is not the first time Elon Musk has used a PR stunt to make a point - and push the envelope. In 2003 Frank Sietzen (SpaceX's first DC employee - and my late co-author whose ashes are flying on SpaceX later this year) and I came up with an idea for Elon: Bring his Falcon 1 rocket to Washington, DC. and park it in front of the Air and Space Museum. So he did. Who does something like that? Elon Musk does. So does Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Peter Beck ...

Commercial Space Transportation License Number: LLS 18-107, FAA

SPACE EXPLORATION TECHNOLOGIES Is authorized, subject to the provisions of 51 USC Subtitle V, ch. 509, and the orders, rules, and regulations issued under it, to conduct a launch.
General. Space Exploration Technologies is authorized to conduct:
(i) A flight of the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) transporting the modified Tesla Roadster (mass simulator) to a hyperbolic orbit; and
(ii) pre-flight ground operations at KSC associated with the flight, as identified in paragraph (i) of this license, of the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.
This license is granted subject to the terms, conditions, andlimitations set forth in licensing orders A, B, C, and D and any subsequent orders issued by the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The licensee shaii at ail times conduct its operations in accordance with the regulations prescribed by the Office of Commercial Space Transportation for the activities authorized by this license.
Issued: February 2, 2018
Effective: February 2, 2018



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