Commercialization: February 2019 Archives

Keith's note: NASA has completed its Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for the SpaceX Demo-1 fight of its crewed Dragon. The flight is scheduled for 2 March and will use a vehicle identical to the one which will eventually fly with humans with some sort of SpaceX dummy on board (think Starman in the Tesla). The only real issue that was mentioned had to do with software and one of the partners (Russia) wanted more work to done. Luckily the Russians did not detect any drilling mistakes ;-).

Listening to the NASA people talk at the press briefing today I could help but notice a certain weirdness. They all seemed to be pinching themselves - either because this is the first time NASA has approached a human mission in a while or that the spacecraft was not built by NASA. Or maybe a little of both.

I had hoped to ask Bill Gertstenmaier about this weirdness but KSC PAO decided otherwise. Had I been allowed to ask a question it would have been this:

"Bill, you and I sat in the same design reviews 30 years ago for Space Station. Our bosses were old Apollo guys. We were looking to build something that was a paradigm shift from what they did. Every now and then however they'd say something that spoke of great wisdom. This SpaceX Review was being held in the same room where shuttle FRRs were held. And there was a capsule on the powerpoint slides - just like Apollo. I was wondering if there were any friendly ghosts in the room prompting you to be the guy offering the wisdom."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/IMG_7050.jpg Keith's addendum: On the first day of my job at Rockwell International in Downey in 1981 I was assigned an old, military drab green desk. My boss told me to empty the drawers into a waste basket since it had not been used in years and that it was just "old Apollo stuff'. We were building Space Shuttles a few hundred feet away. I opened the big drawer and this was sitting inside with papers of similar age. I threw everything else into the waste basket except this - an Apollo 7 FRR badge. There is a long line in the NASA family that stretches back from today to the earliest days of space exploration - and it leads forward into the future. I was thinking about this today while I waited to ask Gerst a question.

Keith's update: I got this response from Bill Gerstenmaier to my question: "The badge and your story are amazing. There is something about human spaceflight that is special. The precision and expertise demanded from the team is unprecedented in any normal human activity. We are taking hardware to the limits while protecting human life. The Apollo folks were amazing, the Shuttle folks followed, and as you say this is the next generation of engineers and scientists. The tools that we have today are very sophisticated and are radically better than Apollo. However, the process of reviewing readiness for flight is still fundamentally the same. By building on the past, staying humble and being open to learning we can improve on the ways of the past and do ever more challenging things. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Nice that you kept this piece of history."

SpaceShipTwo Returns To Space With Crew Of Three

"This space flight means Chief Pilot Dave Mackay and co-pilot Michael "Sooch" Masucci become commercial astronauts and the 569th and 570th humans in space. Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic's Chief Astronaut Instructor, flew as the third crew member in a first, live evaluation of cabin dynamics. She is the 571st person to fly to space and the first woman to fly on board a commercial spaceship."

SpaceX, Boeing design risks threaten new delays for U.S. space program, Reuters

"Two people with direct knowledge of the program told Reuters that the space agency's concerns go beyond the four items listed, and include a risk ledger that as of early February contained 30 to 35 lingering technical concerns each for SpaceX and Boeing. Reuters could not verify what all of the nearly three dozen items are. But the sources familiar with the matter said the companies must address "most" of those concerns before flying astronauts and, eventually, tourists to space."

The Tragic Tale Of How NASA's X-34 Space Planes Ended Up Rotting In Someone's Backyard, TheWarZone

"The X-34 story took a very bizarre turn in the last couple of years when the Air Force apparently donated the craft to a museum in Florida. The man who was the point of contact for the museum had to take possession of them, but was not anywhere near ready logistically to move them across the country. This would have been a major administrative and operational undertaking as each state would require special permits to move the wide loads through. We can only imagine what the bill would be to ship the rocket planes 2,000 miles east would have been, but it would have been substantial. This is how they ended up in the back yard of the proprietor of Smith's Quickcrane Inc."

Bird poop and dust could seriously complicate Elon Musk and SpaceX's latest plan to reach Mars, Business Insider

"Dwayne Day*, who helped investigate the loss of NASA's Columbia space shuttle and its crew, said such clogs could come from any number of mundane factors. "What if a bird poops on your rocket and it plugs up a few holes, and then when the thing is returning no coolant comes out of those holes and that section of the vehicle overheats?" he said."

* Dwayne Day is a Senior Program Officer at the National Academy of Science Space and Aeronautics Board. His training is in space policy.

Keith's note: Earlier this week the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the commercial space community held their annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, DC. True to form they seemed to be uninterested in letting the rest of the country know what commercial space is all about and nothing was webcast. NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard spoke to the same old commercial space people inside yet another echo chamber.

In contrast, the day before this event, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and 2 staffers used a cellphone to livestream his comments to the World Ag Expo in rural California. Bridenstine told me today that he had 130,000 viewers for his live streamed remarks. Bridenstine has stated that he is overtly reaching out to new audiences. Using simple tools he did that. Meanwhile the usual suspects in Washington, DC would rather just be left alone to their inside-the-beltway choir practice sessions.

Oddly, one of the big things that the commercial space crowd wants to sell you these days is constellations of satellites that will offer communications and imaging to the same rural communities that Bridenstine reached out to. You'd think that these commercial space folks would want the broadest possible customer base to be aware of what is coming their way. Guess again.

Look at the net result of Bridenstine's trip. He's not on CNBC talking about commercial space. He's talking about NASA and agriculture and how space technology aids the production of food and supports farms large and small. At the end of the day his cellphone webcast probably had more real Impact than the commercial space thing in DC.

Watch NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine's full interview with CNBC from CNBC.

Keith's note: NASA held a media briefing session today at NASA HQ. The purpose of the briefing was to talk about the various lunar activities NASA is engaged in. Specifically there was discussion by NASA SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen about the science and technology missions that NASA is planning. Next week 12 payloads will be announced as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. 9 companies are cometing to place these payloads on the Moon. Zurbuchen is off on a race to make these things happen much faster than is usually the case at NASA. This means that there will be more risks taken - but with that comes a greater chance to try new things. Indeed, if the program achieves what it aspires to do, there could be payloads on the surface of the Moon by the end of 2019.

These missions will conduct pure science and applied technology. The applied technology is designed to build up capabilities that will be needed when human landings are attempted at the end of the next decade. Among other things locating resources for fuel generation and lunar base construction will be explored.

A Human Lunar Landing System Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) has been issued by NASA. NASA Administrator Bridenstine and HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier described the approach within this BAA as using an "open architecture". Yet when you read the BAA it refers to a "Reference Architecture" that proposers are supposed to base their ideas on - anything outside of that Reference Architecture would be deemed beyond the scope of this BAA. That sounds a bit contradictory. NASA says they want people's ideas - even if they are different than what NASA wants to do yet the procurement vehicle they use seems to preclude that.

The following is my question to Bridenstine and Gerstenmaier - in essence I asked what NASA would do if SpaceX shows up with a proposal and says that they can do everything NASA wants without the need of a Gateway-based architecture:

In essence NASA wants everyone's ideas - even if they may not match up against what this current BAA solicits. They say that will take ideas that do not conform to the BAA's language and consider them (even though the BAA does not mention this). The real question is whether NASA truly wants to use the engines of creativity that a fully open architecture would instill or whether they want to be seen as trying to be open when in fact they still want to impose agency solutions when all is said and done. This is sort of a "closed openness" approach.

Another analogy is to compare the way that Google leaves its Android architecture rather open to outside developers and hardware manufacturers while Apple has adopted a "walled garden" approach where they control the extent of software operations and hardware implementation. Both approaches work - but one is far more "open" than the other.

It might be a good idea for NASA to put out an amendment to this BAA that explicitly states this since simply reading the BAA could leave a proposer with the (apparently incorrect) impression that only ideas that resonate with the official NASA Reference Architecture as presented in the BAA are sought.

But to be honest NASA is trying to do the whole return to the Moon thing much faster than you'd expect. NASA has made flashy proclamations to this effect 4 or 5 times since humans last walked on the Moon. Yet half a century and many false starts later later we have still not put a human on the Moon again. This time NASA is taking more risks than they are used to taking. With that comes the chance to try more new approaches and get back to the Moon faster than might otherwise be the case.

- Human Landing System Broad Agency Announcement Industry Day presentations

Keith's note: CASIS, sometimes also known as the ISS National Laboratory (depending who you talk to), held a board meeting today in Washington, DC. In a nutshell, while they have spent a lot of money and time erasing "CASIS" from their branding, websites, and publications, they admitted that they are not changing their name - even if they are. They also claimed that there have been no discussions of setting up a commercial entity even though multiple sources tell me that they have had these conversations with and about this topic and CASIS. I had a short exchange with Joe Vockley, the executive director of CASIS.

Some Twitter notes from the event today:

Earlier posts

- CASIS Now Has An Official Fictitious Name
- CASIS Is Changing Its Name But It Missed A Few Things (update)
- CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not
- Why Is CASIS Making Itself Disappear?

NASA, SpaceX, and Being Update Commercial Crew Launch Dates

"Test Flight Planning Dates:
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019"

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/issdomain.jpg

Keith's update: A short time after I posted this someone bought this domain. It does not seem to have been purchased by CASIS. Oops.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/issdomain.2.jpg

Keith's 11:03 am ET note: CASIS has decided to change its name to "ISS National Laboratory." It has filed paperwork with the state of Florida to allow it to openly use a "fictitious name" to do business (that's what it says on the forms). Sources report that CASIS asked NASA if they could do this and NASA said no. So CASIS did it anyway. On Friday CASIS is having a public meeting. It will be interesting to see if this issue and CASIS' interest in starting up a new commercial entity will be discussed or swept under the carpet.

"ISS National Laboratory", as defined by the Congressional language that created it, refers to hardware in orbit owned, built and operated by the US government on board the International Space Station (ISS). It still belongs to the government. CASIS was hired by the government to run the process of finding users for ISS National Laboratory. No one gave ownership of ISS National Laboratory to CASIS. So how can CASIS claim to BE the ISS National Laboratory? This would be like a company that runs giftshops and cleans the bathrooms at a national Park deciding to adopt the name of the national park that they work for.

This name change is inherently deceptive and will inevitably be confusing. The NASA web page on ISS National Lab says "The ISS National Lab is managed by the Center for the Advancement for Science in Space under agreement with NASA." Will this change to say that "the ISS National Laboratory manages the ISS National Laboratory"? CASIS has always be shy about using the word "NASA" in its public facing statements. Now, they don't even want to use their own name. So, when people hear that "the ISS National Laboratory Announced ..." there is going to be a logical assumption that this refers to NASA.

The International Space Station is one of the most amazing pieces of human engineering ever created. NASA gives CASIS $15 million a year - 99.8% of CASIS' budget - to provide user access to ISS - often at a tiny fraction of what it actually costs - yet CASIS still can't use all the crew time and other resources that NASA gives them.

A week ago I sent the a series of questions to CASIS on these topics (with a cc: to NASA). CASIS has declined to respond.

Oh yes - with this name change comes the need to protect corporate identity and branding. It would seem that CASIS has not bothered to try and trademark its new name, thus leaving the option open for others to do so. While CASIS bought a few Internet domains such as issnationallab.org they did not buy domains such as issnationallaboratory.org (check here) The domains are still for sale. So now you too can pretend to be the ISS National Laboratory online with a nice, easy-to-remember domain. Too late. Someone read NASAWatch and bough all of the issnationallaboratory.*** domains. You had your chance!

- CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not
- CASIS Now Has An Official Fictitious Name
- Why Is CASIS Making Itself Disappear?
- Is CASIS Fixing Its Management Problems?
- CASIS Pays Big Bucks For Leadership With No Space Experience (Update)
- Earlier CASIS posts


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from February 2019.

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