Commercialization: July 2018 Archives

Sens. Cruz, Nelson, Markey Introduce Space Frontier Act

"U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on Wednesday introduced the Space Frontier Act (S. 3277). This commercial space bill builds upon the 2015 Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act by streamlining and reforming the regulatory framework for commercial space launch and Earth observation operations, which is crucial to maintaining American leadership in space. The bill also extends the operation and utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030 to ensure that the U.S. is getting the maximum return on American taxpayer investment to avoid creating a leadership vacuum in low Earth orbit."

S. 3277

Keith's note: Contain your enthusiasm, space fans. This grab bag of ideas does not actually fund itself. It may well make it easier for space commerce to proceed with various commercial ventures by cutting some red tape. But in terms of the things this bill wants NASA to pay for (like ISS through 2030) this legislation just says that its OK to spend money on these things. Actually spending money to do these things is another matter entirely and is up to appropriators to argue about annually for the next 12 years or so. How NASA will be assured of the funding needed to fund ISS through 2030 while doing the whole Moon/Mars thing has yet to be addressed. Oh yes - what about Space Force?

NASA's Management and Utilization of the International Space Station, NASA OIG

"Specifically, we question whether a sufficient business case exists under which private companies will be able to develop a self-sustaining and profit-making business independent of significant Federal funding within the next 6 years. Likewise, any extension of the ISS past 2024 would require continued funding in the neighborhood of $3-$4 billion annually to operate and maintain the Station - a significant portion of which could otherwise be redirected to develop systems needed for NASA's cislunar or deep space ambitions. In addition, extending the Station's life would challenge NASA to manage the risks associated with continued operation of the Station's aging systems and infrastructure. Furthermore, any extension will require the support of NASA's international partners, whose continued participation hinges on issues ranging from geopolitics to differing space exploration goals."

OIG: NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) (2018) earlier post

"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."

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin, (2018) earlier post

"Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the Station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the Agency's current plan. This concern is illustrated by NASA's limited success in stimulating non-NASA activity aboard the Station through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS). Established in 2011 to facilitate use of the ISS by commercial companies, academia, and other Government and non-Government actors for their research or commercial purposes, CASIS's efforts have fallen short of expectations."

OIG: NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) (2018) earlier post

"Although CASIS awarded $21.7 million in grants to 140 projects between fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2016, the organization has underperformed on tasks important to achieving NASA's goal of building a commercial space economy in low Earth orbit."

Previous ISS postings

Prepared Remarks by House NASA Caucus Launch Reception AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning

"As many of you know, this Caucus was established last October and it has been working largely behind the scenes in anticipation of tonight's keynote speaker being confirmed: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2018/capsule.wh.jpg

Orion Spacecraft at the White House for the Made in America Showcase

"NASA's Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to NASA's Kennedy Space Center where final assembly, integration and testing was completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to the spacecraft."

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Participates in White House "Made in America" Showcase

"NASA's Orion spacecraft is built by Lockheed Martin; the SLS rocket is built by Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman; and the rocket's Launch Platform/ Exploration Ground Systems is supported by Jacobs."

Keith's note: And the eager #MadeInAmerica fans left out a paragraph "The Service Module is being built by Airbus Defence and Space." which is, of course, a European company using lots of European subcontractors. The European Service Module (ESM) is a rather crucial part of the overall system. How odd that the Coalition - and NASA - seem to forget to mention this fact in the furry of trying to hop on the latest White House slogan bandwagon.

Its also odd, that in the rush to tow piece of space hardware inside the White House gate that no one mentions the wholly American spacecraft being built by the private sector by Boeing, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin. That is the real #MadeInAmerica story. And why wasn't the Commercial Spaceflight Federation invited to participate? Their members have more spacecraft and launch systems #MadeInAmerica than NASA does.

Boeing suffers a setback with Starliner's pad abort test, Ars Technica

"The company said it conducted a hot-fire test of the launch-abort engines on an integrated service module at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico in June. The engines successfully ignited and ran for the full duration, but during engine shutdown an anomaly occurred that resulted in a propellant leak. "We have been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners," the statement said. "We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action. Flight safety and risk mitigation are why we conduct such rigorous testing, and anomalies are a natural part of any test program."

Mike Pence will visit Cape Canaveral next month for a big space update, Orlando Weekly

"Vice President Mike Pence will visit NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral next month to announce the first astronaut crews under NASA's Commercial Crew Program, according to sources familiar with the matter. Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, will confirm a new launch date for the first private crew missions and announce which crew capsules each of the four selected astronauts will ride in to the International Space Station."

UK spaceports: NASA could launch satellites from new bases, Sky News

"Jim Bridenstine, who was appointed as NASA's administrator by US president Donald Trump earlier this year, said the UK government's plans for new spaceports open new opportunities. "We are thrilled about this. "It's about what we are trying to launch, where do we want it to go in orbit and who can provide the best price. "The UK and the US have a long partnership in space exploration," he added. "I would see NASA putting satellites on top of a rocket that launches from the UK," he said."

Keith's note: Flawless 9th flight for BlueOrigin. If only airlines operated like this. Watch a replay.

The Air Force's $10000 toilet cover, Washington Post

"Loren Thompson, a defense consultant who works for the Lexington Institute, a think tank that gets funding from defense contractors, said he is worried the military will be unable to buy next-generation weapons systems if it spends too much on overpriced spare parts."

Northrop Grumman CEO will step down, Washington Post

"Loren Thompson, a defense consultant, said that when Warden was elevated to the COO position last year, "it was a signal that succession had begun." .. Thompson called Bush "a godsend for Northrop Grumman shareholders. Nobody in the industry believed when he became CEO that the share price would have get as high as it is today. In fact, the company was in such bad shape when Wes took over that his predecessor had to fight to get him the job."

Playing defense - but at a price?, Politico

"The 501(c)(3) Lexington Institute doesn't disclose its donors. But Thompson said it receives contributions from defense giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and others, which pay Lexington to "comment on defense."

Keith's note: It is rather odd that the Washington Post does not bother to tell its readers that Loren Thompson's employer, the Lexington Institute, gets significant funding from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and other defense companies - especially when he is being quoted in articles about those companies. Yet the post goes out of its way (quite properly) to tell people that Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post every time Amazon, Whole Foods, or Blue Origin are mentioned in a story.

GAO: NASA Commercial Crew Program: Plan Needed to Ensure Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station, GAO

"Further delays are likely as the Commercial Crew Program's schedule risk analysis shows that the certification milestone is likely to slip. The analysis identifies a range for each contractor, with an earliest and latest possible completion date, as well as an average. The average certification date was December 2019 for Boeing and January 2020 for SpaceX, according to the program's April 2018 analysis. Since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russia to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Additional delays could result in a gap in U.S. access to the space station as NASA has contracted for seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft only through November 2019.

NASA is considering potential options, but it does not have a contingency plan for ensuring uninterrupted U.S. access. NASA's certification process addresses the safety of the contractors' crew transportation systems through several mechanisms, but there are factors that complicate the process. One of these factors is the loss of crew metric that was put in place to capture the probability of death or permanent disability to an astronaut. NASA has not identified a consistent approach for how to assess loss of crew. As a result, officials across NASA have multiple ways of assessing the metric that may yield different results.

Consequently, the risk tolerance level that NASA is accepting with loss of crew varies based upon which entity is presenting the results of its assessment. Federal internal controls state that management should define risk tolerances so they are clear and measurable. Without a consistent approach for assessing the metric, the agency as a whole may not clearly capture or document its risk tolerance with respect to loss of crew."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from July 2018.

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