Recently in ISS News Category

NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station

"NASA took a significant step Friday toward expanding research opportunities aboard the International Space Station with its first mission order from Hawthorne, California based-company SpaceX to launch astronauts from U.S. soil. This is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. The Boeing Company of Houston received its first crew mission order in May."

Keith's note: CASIS is tasked to manage the portion of the International Space Station designated as the ISS National Laboratory. But other than NASA funding, CASIS has failed to attract any significant income other than that provided - by NASA. Yet they want you to think that people beating a path to their door with multi-million dollar "commitments" in hand. Exactly what are these CASIS "commitments"?

According to the CASIS Strategic Plan, page 11, CASIS says that it will "Develop a robust financial model to supplement government funding. CASIS funding from NASA is currently projected at $15M per year, to cover operating costs and to provide seed money for promising R&D. To meet the variety of demands on personnel, infrastructure, business processes and outreach that will grow over time, CASIS must develop additional resources in the form of partnerships and funding and create rigorous business and economic models in order to sustain these. Sources will include private financiers, corporate sponsorship, philanthropists and federal grants that may leverage cost sharing and equity investment in new ventures. Additionally, CASIS will practice management excellence in its operating models to ensure costs are minimized while ISS utilization is maximized effectively toward mission success."

In its April 2015 report "International Space Station: Measurable Performance Targets and Documentation Needed to Better Assess Management of National Laboratory" the GAO noted (page 7) "According to the cooperative agreement, CASIS will solicit non-NASA funding for research by targeting various sources such as government grants, foundation funding, charitable contributions, private equity, venture financing, and private investors and facilitate matching of projects that meet the research objectives with those qualified funding sources."

So it is quite clear that CASIS is supposed to be out beating the bushes looking for funding and contributions. So far their success is puzzling to say the least. On one hand they claim to be making all manner of agreements and relationships with the private sector but when it comes to documenting actual contributions, well. There really are none - at least not the kind that a non-profit organization usually documents i.e. cash or in-kind donations.

Genes in Space Competition Launches, New England Biolabs

"Genes in Space, a competition aimed at fostering creativity, collaboration and critical thinking among young innovators opened a call for entries today. The competition challenges U.S. based students in grades seven through 12 to design an experiment that can solve a space exploration problem through DNA analysis. The competition is sponsored by miniPCR, Math for America (MA), Boeing, The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and New England Biolabs, Inc. (NEB). The winning experiment will be flown to the International Space Station (ISS)."

Keith's note: If you go to the CASIS website there is no mention of this competition. There is no mention of this cool idea at the NASA ISS National Laboratory website. No mention on Twitter at @ISS_CASIS or @ISS_Research. When it says that CASIS has sponsored this activity does that mean that they wrote a check? $15,000,000 a year and CASIS can't even tell people what they are doing with all this money?

CASIS is going to be briefing Mike Suffredini's replacement Kirk Shireman. Maybe they can explain their chronic under-performance to Shireman on simple things such as this.

Keith's update: @ISS_CASIS tweeted something late in the day - still nothing on their website etc.

Keith's note: Let's look at the media reach CASIS claims to have achieved in FY 2014. Page 32 of their FY 2014 Annual Report gives a summary (Larger image). This report represents what CASIS was capable of doing after being in operation for more than 3 years - after having received more than $42 million from NASA. Prior to this CASIS did not include these metrics in their reports. So this is the only snapshot we have.

In this 2014 summary CASIS claims to have issued 30 news releases. That's one release issued a bit more often than once every 2 weeks. They also claim to have had 30 media events in FY 2014 but do not explain what constitutes an "event". This could be a telecon or a full blown press conference. Hard to tell. They also claim to have had 3,891 "news mentions - clips, blogs". If you go to this page and click on "Media Reach" you get a page that shows for 2015 CASIS has (first 3 quarters) had 18 press releases, 19 media events, 3,065 news mentions, and 2,711 Twitter mentions. Not much has changed.

This is not very revealing. There are lots of news services that have automated systems that grab and repost press releases without any thought given to what the releases say. But the word "CASIS" gets counted none the less. 30 press releases automatically (and mindlessly) posted by several dozen of these automated systems each time one of these releases is issued could easily explain a large portion of these "news mentions".

Keith's note: The American Society for Gravitational and Space Research is holding its 31st annual meeting in Alexandria, VA this week. Topics covered span the range of life science and microgravity research conducted on the ISS, on suborbital rockets, and on the ground. It is the largest such meeting of space station life scientists in the world. I covered yesterday's session on Nanoracks and Genelab and will be covering session on Thursday and Friday.

- Program
- Webcast info

Final NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN): Translational Research Institute Issued

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Human Research Program (HRP) is establishing a Translational Research Institute. The Institute is aimed at translating promising cutting edge human health and performance methodologies into validated space flight human health and performance prediction, prevention, monitoring, detection, maintenance and treatment capabilities for exploration missions. In addition, the Institute will provide a translational workforce, providing opportunities for scientists to propose new NASA research, gain experience in cutting edge research laboratories within and external to NASA, and apply their knowledge and expertise to reducing human exploration risks. The Institute will be a virtual institute (no brick & mortar) responsible for the solicitation, selection, funding, and translation of results from interdisciplinary project teams."

- NASA Presolicitation: Translational Research Institute
- Doubts About Crew Health on NASA's #JourneyToMars, earlier post

Keith's note: The music in this official "He Haw"-style shout out is the theme from the old TV show "Beverly Hillbillies". I do not see that it is credited to writer/composer Paul Henning. Just sayin' Y'all come back now.

Keith's note: CASIS (The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization chosen by NASA in 2011 to manage the portion of the International Space Station that has been designated as a U.S. National Laboratory. Non-profit organizations are established to do things in the public interest and not to generate a profit - or enrich their employees or advisors. Recently the IRS has started to look more deeply into compensation of non-profit executives and staff. CASIS likes to pay a lot of its employees hefty salaries - the top ten employees make much more than virtually everyone at NASA - including the NASA Administrator.

According to the Foundation Group: "There are legitimate, charitable organizations whose executives make up to, and sometimes more than, $250,000. For a very select few, a lot more. But let me put it like this if you have an employee whose compensation package exceeds $100,000, you better be prepared to defend it. Needless to say, Wall Street-style perks and bonuses are out of the question. And, depending on your organization's budget, a $10,000 salary package could be considered unreasonable."

According to a report "Nonprofit Organizations Salary and Benefits Report", published in 2014 by the NonProfit Times "The average salary for a nonprofit chief executive officer/president last year was $118,678. The median salary was $100,000 while the maximum found was $666,266. The average tenure for a nonprofit CEO was almost 12 years and almost 40 percent of participating organizations paid their CEO some type of bonus."

Let's look at the reportable compensation and nontaxable benefits for the top employees at CASIS as listed on their 2013 Form 990, Part VII: Gregory Johnson, President and Executive Director: $148,333 + $5,375; Duane Ratliff, Chief Operating Officer: $225,000 + $31,689; Jorge Fernandez, Chief Financial Officer: $200,000 + $18,689; Charles Resnick, Chief Economist: $220,000 + $30,701; Warren Bates, Director of Portfolio Management: $200,008 + $19,370; James Royston, Interim Executive Director (Until 9-9-14): $228,012 + $11,312, Eddie Harris, Director of Development: $197,000 + $29,986; Melody Kuehner, Director of Human Resources, $160,000 + $27,277; Brian Harris, Director of Business Development, $153,000 + $26,756, and Kenneth Shields, Director of Operations and Education: $131,220 + $32,117. That's 6 employees making over $200,000 a year and 4 others making over $170,000 a year. By comparison the NASA Administrator made $179,700 in 2014. 99.96% of CASIS funds come from NASA. Note: The fiscal year for CASIS ends on 30 September - so they have a while to file their next return with the IRS. Sources report that the 2014 Form 990 for CASIS will show a salary for Greg Johnson in the $300,000 range.

NASA Review of Orbital ATK Accident Released, NASA

"The team determined the proximate cause of the Antares launch vehicle failure was an explosion within the AJ-26 rocket engine and identified three credible technical root causes, any one or combination of which could have resulted in the engine failure. The team outlined six technical findings and made seven recommendations to address those technical findings. In addition, since Orbital ATK was in the process of procuring and testing new engines to replace the AJ-26 for future Antares flights while the investigation was ongoing, the team provided several recommendations for Orbital ATK and the ISS Program that were used to support those testing activities and to reduce overall risk for Antares return-to-flight and follow-on mission efforts. The NASA team's findings are consistent with the AIB's findings."

Keith's note: On Wednesday 21 October there will be another unpublicized NASA-funded/supported FISO telecon "CASIS: Enabling Research on the ISS National Lab for the Benefit of Earth". There is no mention of this telecon at the GSFC website (where telecon sponsor Harley Thronson works), at NASA HQ's Calendar (which is empty for October anyway), at the ISS national Laboratory's webpage - or (no surprise) at CASIS. How strange: CASIS spent $862,234 on advertising in 2013 and yet it has yet to find a way to send an email out to these obvious websites (and news media, "stakeholders", etc.) to notify them of public events wherein the topic of using the ISS will be discussed? What are they spending all of this advertising money on since no one seems to know what they are doing?

- CASIS Has No Idea How To Raise Money - Only How To Spend It, earlier post

NASA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Revision to Regulations Governing Crew Members

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is proposing to amend its regulations that govern International Space Station crewmembers, mementos aboard Orion and Space Launch System (SLS) missions, the authority of the NASA Commander, and removes the Agency's policy on space flight participation and other policies that were relevant to the Space Shuttle. The revisions to this rule are part of NASA's retrospective plan under Executive Order (E.O.) 13563 completed in August 2011."

14 CFR Part 1214 - SPACE FLIGHT

Keith's note: Gee, the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 - and the retirement date was known for several years before that. SLS/Orion has been under development even longer. Yet it took NASA 4 years or more to simply remove "space shuttle" relevant verbiage from these regulations and add SLS/Orion wording? Why did this simple task take so long? And what was the impact of leaving the verbiage in these regulations for 4 years after the Shuttle stopped flying? Nothing, it would seem. So ... the regulations were flawed/out of date for 4 years and no one cared? One has to wonder if these regulations really mean much of anything if it takes so long to change them and everyone ignores the parts they want to ignore.

I wonder how long it will take NASA to revise these regulations so as to allow the whole #JourneyToMars thing to happen so that astronauts can bring their favorite college t-shirts to Mars.

Night Wolves Biker Gang Flag Flown In Russian Segment of Space Station, Moscow Times

"President Vladimir Putin's favorite nationalist biker gang, the Night Wolves, flew their flag aboard the International Space Station a $150 billion project co-managed by the U.S. and Russian space agencies. A photo of the group's flag appeared on Twitter on Wednesday, when it was posted by an unverified account apparently owned by the gang's controversial figurehead, Alexander Zaldostanov known to his friends, and even Putin himself, as "the Surgeon."

Night Wolves, Wikipedia

"Members of the Night Wolves have fought on the side of pro-Russian militants during the Crimean Crisis and war in Donbass. They have blockaded the main routes into Sevastopol and participated in attacks on a natural gas facility and the naval headquarters in the city. In April 2015, Agence France-Presse stated that Alexei Vereshchyagin had fought against Ukrainian government forces in Luhansk."

Keith's note: The organization chosen by NASA to promote the scientific utilization of the International Space Station has been unable to raise funds it planned to raise. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) chosen by NASA in 2011 to manage the portion of the International Space Station that has been designated as a U.S. National Laboratory. Developed at the direction of Congress, CASIS was to be given NASA funds to promote research on the ISS while seeking to generate additional funds from the private sector to augment this research. The maximum annual value of this arrangement with NASA is $15 million per year.

According to the CASIS Strategic Plan, one of their operational strategies is to: "Develop a robust financial model to supplement government funding. CASIS funding from NASA is currently projected at $15M per year, to cover operating costs and to provide seed money for promising R&D. To meet the variety of demands on personnel, infrastructure, business processes and outreach that will grow over time, CASIS must develop additional resources in the form of partnerships and funding and create rigorous business and economic models in order to sustain these. Sources will include private financiers, corporate sponsorship, philanthropists and federal grants that may leverage cost sharing and equity investment in new ventures. Additionally, CASIS will practice management excellence in its operating models to ensure costs are minimized while ISS utilization is maximized effectively toward mission success."

Well CASIS has failed miserably in this regard. If you look at their IRS 990 forms from 2011, 2012, and 2013 (the only returns available) you will see that for at least the past 3 years 99.9% of CASIS' income was from NASA.

Keith's note: Russia (USSR) did this 4 times decades ago. Its all listed here on Wikipedia.

Keith's note: JSC is webcasting part of their media event with some of the cast of The Martian (it was a last minute decision for JSC to put this on NASA TV BTW). In the movie there is artificial gravity on the ship that goes to/from Mars. The new ISS Program Manager Kirk Shireman spent a lot of time describing what the 2.5 meter Centrifuge Facility could/might provide in terms of supporting human missions to Mars. But Shireman neglected to mention that NASA traded the development of the Centrifuge Facility and Module in one of its bait and switch moves to Japan to offset some ISS costs and then eventually cancelled it outright in 2005. But NASA JSC clearly doesn't want movie goers to know that NASA did dumb stuff like this.

Funny thing: back in the day (early 1990s) I was Payload Accommodations Manager for that the Space Station Freedom Program Office for the CF and CAM - and JSC fought that thing tooth and nail. Now they love it. Go figure.

The revolution will not be crystallized: a new method sweeps through structural biology, Nature

"In labs around the world, cryo-electron microscopes such as this one are sending tremors through the field of structural biology. In the past three years, they have revealed exquisite details of protein-making ribosomes, quivering membrane proteins and other key cell molecules, discoveries that leading journals are publishing at a rapid clip. Structural biologists say - without hyperbole - that their field is in the midst of a revolution: cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) can quickly create high-resolution models of molecules that have resisted X-ray crystallography and other approaches, and labs that won Nobel prizes on the back of earlier techniques are racing to learn this upstart method. The new models reveal precisely how the essential machinery of the cell operates and how molecules involved in disease might be targeted with drugs."

Keith's note: NASA has been thumping on the value of using the microgravity environment afforded by spaceflight as a way to create large, ultra-pure protein crystals - the kind you need to get the best structural measurements using x-ray crystallography. It was a cool idea with considerable merit. Full disclosure: part of my job at NASA back in the 90s was to promote this type of research and I did so enthusiastically. But it took NASA a long time to actually try this in space while the real world back on Earth pushed ahead.

Now, the ability to use exceptionally small amounts of material on Earth using high-precision, ultra-powerful x-ray sources has allowed materials developed for ground-based crystallography that exceed what is obtained from research using space-based materials. Recently crystallography itself, in its traditional form, is now being eclipsed by new methods that offer even more precise structural information - with no apparent need for the trip to and from space.

So where is NASA in this story?

Whisky goes where no dram has gone before, Guardian

"Whisky fired into space almost four years ago as part of an experiment has returned to Earth with enhanced flavour and character, according to its creator. A vial of unmatured malt from the Ardbeg distillery on Islay, Scotland, was sent to the International Space Station in a cargo spacecraft in October 2011, along with particles of charred oak. Another vial of the same whisky was kept at the distillery for comparison. ... Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg's director of distilling, said: "The space samples were noticeably different. When I nosed and tasted the space samples, it became clear that much more of Ardbeg's smoky, phenolic character shone through to reveal a different set of smoky flavours which I have not encountered here on Earth before."

ISS Commercial Research That CASIS Utterly Ignores, Earlier post (2014)

"This is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen."

Keith's note: CASIS still utterly ignores this whole project - but focuses instead on their golf game in space. Fermentation, distillation, and aging - regardless of what you are producing - are key industrial processes on Earth - ones that involve a lot of precise biochemistry. If something works differently in the space environment then that helps to expand the knowledge of microgravity-based biochemistry (both basic and applied) and the entire field moves ahead. Not so with the space-inspired golf clubs that actually do not use ISS-based research - which is what CASIS is supposed to be promoting.

Funny thing: this Ardbeg research was all done via Nanoracks - the one clear ISS success story that CASIS has had anything to do with. Oh .. but wait - this experiment was done via the ISS National Laboratory - not CASIS - so its the established policy of CASIS to ignore it. Come to think of it, the ISS National Lab people have not been chatty about this success story either.

Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image in 2012 some people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend i.e. a glass bottle [safety] with a brand name [no agreement?] freely floating around the ISS. Memos and phone calls happend. Oops.

Expedition 45 Is In Orbit

Expedition 45 With Visiting Crew Launch to the International Space Station (with video)

"Expedition 45 Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and visiting crew members Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency (Kazcosmos) launched on the Russian Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft on Sept. 2, Kazakh time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan bound for the International Space Station."

Point the Way to the International Space Station with This DIY Orbit Tracker, Make

"Given the International Space Station's host of superlatives (i.e. most expensive man made structure, largest artificial body in Earth's orbit, longest functioning habitable satellite, greatest engineering accomplishment of all time, coolest flying space laboratory, etc.), you'd think that it would be on our minds constantly. Yet many of us go hours, even days, without thinking about it once. There's a growing movement of people who believe that our space agencies are underfunded because humanity is just not paying enough attention to our present accomplishments and future plans in space exploration. Well, I know one way to direct attention to something. Point at it."

- Barn door tracker, Wikipedia
- Keith Cowing at Maker Faire: Hacking NASA

U.S. and Russia Can't Even Agree on How to Handle Astronaut Pee, Bloomberg

Keith's note: Too bad this reporter (or his editor) did not really understand what NASA was telling him. This article title is simply wrong. This has nothing to do with a disagreement. Rather it has to do with an agreement made in the 1990s allowing the Russians to use their heritage hardware and the U.S. using its existing systems, and then looking for ways that each approach can complement, supplement, or improve upon the other's systems. If nothing else having more than one approach to things offers dissimilar redundancy - something that has saved the ISS program's butt more times than many people know. In the mean time and engineering and operational synergy has emerged from the ISS program with unexpected wisdom that can be applied to future missions.

Oddly, despite this totally inaccurate title, the author even notes the concept of dissimilar redundancy in his article: "NASA has decided to switch to silver-ionized water on future missions, but Carter says he likes that there's both silver- and iodine-treated water aboard the ISS: "It really makes a lot of sense," he says, "to have dissimilar redundancies in the space station in case one of the systems has problems."

Keith's note: If you look at the JSC webpage for Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 2 Contract you will see a schedule page that shows that proposals were received on 12/2/14. NASA originally planned to have a CRS2 award announcement in May 2015 but was delayed with the rationale being "4/16/15 Updated the Milestone Schedule Award date due to additional time required to evaluate proposals." There is a new note stating "8/7/15 Updated the Milestone Schedule to reflect an updated award date to provide additional time to evaluate Final Proposal Revisions (FPRs)." The planned CRS2 contract award date is now shown as 11/05/15. No CRS2 contract start date is shown.

Oh yes: both of the two current contractors lost a rocket and its cargo in the past year.

Orbital ATK Updates Progress on International Space Station Cargo Delivery Program for NASA, Orbital ATK

"Orbital ATK is on track to launch its next CRS mission late this year and is moving forward with integration of a new first stage propulsion system into the Antares launch vehicle in preparation for multiple CRS missions in 2016."

"Three main CRS program efforts are simultaneously underway, including preparing the enhanced Cygnus spacecraft for the next ISS cargo mission (OA-4) to launch aboard an Atlas V rocket this December; upgrading the Antares rocket by integrating and testing the new RD-181 main engines with the modified first stage core structure; and working with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) to complete repairs to the Pad 0A launch complex at Wallops Island to support the resumption of CRS missions from Wallops Island in early 2016."

- United Launch Alliance to Launch Second Orbital ATK Cygnus Spacecraft to International Space Station on Cargo Mission

Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA move to execution phase of NextSTEP VASIMR partnership

"NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Program sponsors NextSTEP awards in a 50/50 cost partnership with industry. Under this award, Ad Astra will conduct a long duration, high power test of an upgraded version of the VX-200TM VASIMR prototype, the VX-200SSTM (for steady state), for a minimum of 100 hours continuously at a power level of 100 kW. These experiments aim to demonstrate the engine's new proprietary core design and thermal control subsystem and to better estimate component lifetime. The tests will be conducted in Ad Astra's large, state-of-the-art vacuum chamber in the company's Texas facility."

Kirk Shireman Replaces Mike Suffredini as International Space Station Program Manager

"William H. Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, has named Kirk A. Shireman as manager, International Space Station (ISS) Program. Shireman has served as deputy director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston since 2013. Shireman succeeds Michael T. Suffredini, who is leaving the agency to take a position in private industry."

For the first time Chinese research to fly on NASA's space station, Houston Chronicle

"A Houston company has negotiated a historic agreement to fly a Chinese experiment on the International Space Station, a small but symbolic maneuver around a law that bans any scientific cooperation between NASA and the communist country. Over a conference table adorned with an American and a Chinese flag, Jeff Manber last week agreed to take a DNA experiment into space next year. Manber's Houston-based company, NanoRacks, helps scientists do research on board the station. Because of decades of suspicion about Chinese motives and the country's regime, Congress prohibits NASA from working with the country in any capacity. But the new deal, which is apparently legal, could begin to change that. "It's symbolic, and it's meaningful," Manber said Monday, after returning from Beijing. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves."

Keith's note: According to a NanoRacks source, in crafting this agreement with Beijing Institute of Technology, NanoRacks worked to assure compliance with the 2011 spending bill Amendment offered by former Rep. Frank Wolf which places restrictions on formal NASA cooperation with China's space program. After consultation with NASA and the Obama Administration, NanoRacks approached Professor Feng of Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) and invited him to continue his immune system research using NanoRacks' commercial hardware on the ISS.

NanoRacks notes that money flows from China to the U.S.; that no hardware or technology flows to China (just a return of data and experiment samples); that this experiment has intrinsic scientific value; and that the payload uses NanoRacks hardware and is a NanoRacks customer payload as part of their normal ISS payload allocation. This is NOT a NASA/Chinese research project. In addition, this project ("DNA Mismatching During PCR Reaction Exposed to Space Environment") reflies payload hardware that was flown on Shenzou 8. As such, the payload developer already has their own independent pathway to long-duration exposure in space. Lastly, The Beijing Institute of Technology Life Sciences Department publishes their scientific results in leading Western research publications thereby assuring a full dissemination of results in compliance with the spirit of ISS basic research.

NanoRacks was informed by the Obama Administration that it believes that this project is in compliance with the Wolf Amendment. Also, in accordance with ISS International Partners agreements, member nations of the ISS were informed of this project.

Soyuz Launches Expedition 44 Crew to the International Space Station

"The Soyuz TMA-17M launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 5:02 p.m. EDT (3:02 a.m. on July 23 Baikonur time). Soyuz TMA-17M is carrying Expedition 44 Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA, and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) into orbit to begin their five month mission on the Station."

Keith's note: On board was a mini-R2D2 who's purpose on this mission is not exactly clear ... yet. Maybe he'll fix the un-deployed solar array.

SpaceX - CRS-7 Investigation Update

"From the first indication of an issue to loss of all telemetry was just 0.893 seconds. Over the last few weeks, engineering teams have spent thousands of hours going through the painstaking process of matching up data across rocket systems down to the millisecond to understand that final 0.893 seconds prior to loss of telemetry.

At this time, the investigation remains ongoing, as SpaceX and the investigation team continue analyzing significant amounts of data and conducting additional testing that must be completed in order to fully validate these conclusions. However, given the currently available data, we believe we have identified a potential cause."

Marc's note: Today Elon Musk of SpaceX stressed that the substance of the media briefing was preliminary analysis and not a definitive result.

Having said the likely cause of the failed Falcon 9 launch was a failed strut that broke free in the second stage liquid oxygen tank that was holding down a helium tank.

At approximately 3.2 g, the strut holding down the tank snapped. There was no evidence of damage prior to launch from close-out photos. The struts are not made in-house. The supplier was not named. Musk said that they were able to replicate failure with 1000's of struts and they found a few that did not meet specifications.

MEDIA ADVISORY: SpaceX to Hold CRS-7 Update Telecon

"SpaceX is hosting a 30-minute telecon for members of the media at noon PDT/3pm EDT on Monday, July 20 to discuss preliminary results to our investigation into the CRS-7 mishap."

Audit of NASA's Management of International Space Station Operations and Maintenance Contracts, NASA OIG

"To its credit, NASA has taken steps to reduce and control the operations and maintenance costs of the ISS, including competing contracts and eliminating some unneeded requirements. However, due to the unique operating environment of the ISS, in many cases the Agency continues to use incumbent contractors and obtain most services via cost-reimbursement contracts. We acknowledge the difficulty associated with contracting for ISS operations and urge NASA to continue to seek opportunities to control Station operations and maintenance costs, including revisiting the fixed-price option when appropriate."

Hearing: International Space Station: Addressing Operational Challenges

"The Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing to examine the current status of the International Space Station (ISS). The Subcommittee will evaluate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) plans for dealing with operational and maintenance challenges, the status of the ISS partnership, how NASA is utilizing the ISS to enable future deep space exploration, and the Administration's request to extend ISS operations to 2024."

- Hearing charter
- 9 am EDT Live webcast
- Brian Babin (R-Texas), House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Subcommittee Reviews Challenges to International Space Station

Witness Statements:

- Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA
- John Elbon, Vice President and General Manager, Space Exploration, The Boeing Company
- Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, NASA
- Shelby Oakley, Acting Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office
- James A. Pawelczyk, Associate Professor of Physiology and Kinesiology, The Pennsylvania State University

NASA Selects Astronauts for First U.S. Commercial Space Flights

"I am pleased to announce that four American space pioneers have been selected to be the first astronauts to train to fly to space on commercial crew carriers, all part of our ambitious plan to return space launches to U.S. soil, create good-paying American jobs and advance our goal of sending humans farther into the solar system than ever before. These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars."

Keith's update: I made a mistake when I tweeted - the real address is‎ but if you want to buy the domain you can get it for $200. CASIS forgot to buy it. You'd think CASIS would keep an eye on things like this ...

Keith's update: I just listened to Ken Savin, the Eli Lilly representative being interviewed at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC). Lilly has 4 experiments that will fly on the ISS next year. I listened to this while I was out in the woods walking. These experiments are all very basic, clear-cut and rather elegant - so much so that I came up with a parallel classroom experiment for each instantly - and I am not especially talented in that regard. Savin said that he wished there was an organization to coordinate among companies to share data and information. Gee, I thought CASIS was supposed to do this. Savin was then asked if there was some sort of database where data and ISS research results were posted. He said "I am told there is one" and that someone just sent him a link to it. I am baffled as to why CASIS could not send him this stuff earlier in the process.

Savin said that his company does not plan to make drugs in space and that they are really doing these experiments to learn. That is a rather cool thing for a large multinational pharmaceutical company to say about using the ISS. It ought to be on a NASA bumper sticker. I did a quick Google search for "Eli Lilly CASIS" and only came up with a few article links - all of them inside the space community. A search for "Eli Lilly NASA" only found a few more links.

With all the moaning and groaning and self-loathing evidenced by NASA and others at the ISSRDC about not having told the public about what they are doing and why, that someone would have flagged this sort of activity and built a much larger education and public outreach effort for it. But no. NASA and CASIS would rather complain about not being able to do this than actually trying to do it.

NASA FISO Presentation: Bigelow Aerospace's Past Accomplishments, Present Activities, and Future Plans, SpaceRef

"Now available is the July 1, 2015 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Mike Gold (Bigelow Aerospace) who discussed "Bigelow Aerospace's Past Accomplishments, Present Activities, and Future Plans".

International Space Station Resupply Mission Underway [Watch the launch], SpaceRef

"Less than a week after the SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station ended in failure, the Russian Progress 60 cargo resupply mission launched on schedule to bring much needed supplies to the International Space Station.

The cargo spacecraft is carrying over 2700 kilograms of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 44 crew members. The supplies will arrive on Sunday."

Impact of CRS-7 Loss

Another major rocket failure for a space industry out to prove itself, Washington Post

"SpaceX and Dulles-based Orbital ATK won contracts to carry cargo to the station. Then last year, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to develop capsules that can carry astronauts to the space station, with the first such mission scheduled for December 2017. Politics may confound that. Congress recently slashed more than $300 million from the administration's budget request for the commercial crew program. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said the cuts would delay the mission by two years. And that was before Sunday's SpaceX failure."

Keith's note: Dan Billow specifically asked for an answer from both SpaceX and NASA as to whether a destruct signal was sent to the Falcon 9. Gwen Shotwell answered. NASA did not.

Keith's update: When I asked NASA PAO "Did the Range Safety Officer send a signal to the Falcon 9 to self-destruct?" they replied "No, the range didn't have a chance."

SpaceX Falcon 9 Mishap: More Details Emerge, SpaceRef

"SpaceX now confirms that the U.S. Air Force Range Safety Officer did initiate a destruct command but that this command was sent 70 seconds after the mishap occurred, as a formal matter of process. There was nothing left to destroy at that point."

SpaceX Launch Failure

Keith's note: The Falcon 9 Carrying CRS-7 either exploded or was destroyed shortly after launch a few minutes ago. SpaceX has assembled a team to look into this. NASA has referred to a launch vehicle "failure" and that the last data came down from the vehicle at T+ 2:19. No more news or NASA TV until contingency press conference no earlier than 12:00 pm 12:30 pm 12:50 pm 1:00 pm EDT.

- SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Fails on Launch, SpaceRef

Keith's note: this is Internet rocket analysis and has nothing to do with what actually happened.

Keith's note: This slow motion video from Astronomy Now shows that the Falcon 9 engines seem to be burning well after the explosion - and also that something shaped like a Dragon is seen exiting the cloud. Note: this is Internet rocket analysis and has nothing to do with what actually happened.

UrtheCast Releases First Full-Color HD Videos from the International Space Station, SpaceRef Business

"Today UrtheCast released their first full-color HD video of Earth filmed in roughly 1 meter resolution of London, Boston and Barcelona."

Marc's note: It's quite something to watch cars drive around from LEO.

Expedition 43 Crew Returns to Earth (with video)

"Three crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) returned to Earth Thursday after a 199-day mission. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) touched down at 9:44 a.m. EDT (7:44 p.m., Kazakh time), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 9 June 2015

"Today at 10:27 a.m. Central time during the routine testing of communications systems between the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft and the International Space Station (ISS), Soyuz thrusters activated inadvertently which led to a slight change in the orientation of the ISS. Actions were immediately taken to reorient the ISS. There was no threat to the crew or the station itself, and the issue will have no impact to a nominal return to Earth of the Soyuz TMA-15M on Thursday. Roscosmos specialists are determining the cause of the incident. Once more information is known, additional information will be provided."

Keith's note: Hmmm ... rocket engines on a spacecraft just fire for some unknown reason, alter the ISS orientation such that contingency measures need to be taken and ... that's it: stay tuned? When I worked at NASA something like this in a safety review would have justifiably been a cosmic issue of epic proportions. Not any more, it would seem. I guess there will be some telecons and some Powerpoint slides.

- Soyuz Engines Fire When They're Not Supposed To, earlier post

Unexpected Soyuz engine start shifts orbital position of ISS, Aperture

"A glitch at the International Space Station on Tuesday caused its position in orbit to change, but the crew was not in danger, the Russian space agency said. Roscosmos said the engines of a Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station unexpectedly started during testing of the radio system that controls the docking procedure. Steps were taken to stabilize the station and specialists were now working to determine what caused the engines to start, the agency said."

Keith's note: A Proton launch fails, a Progress launch fails, a planned Progress reboost burn fails, and now a Soyuz fires its engines at a time when they are not supposed to be firing. Meanwhile Russia's new cosmodrome is going to be delayed 3 years while an employees embezzles funds and drives around in a diamond-encrusted Mercedes. So ... what does Congress want to do? They want to cut the commercial crew program that will eliminate U.S. crew launching dependence on this increasingly unreliable space partner.

- Design Problems Are Causing Russian Launch Failures, earlier post
- A Bad Day for Russia, earlier post
- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post
Vostochny Cosmodrome First Launch Slips 3 Years, earlier post

International Space Station: Measurable Performance Targets and Documentation Needed to Better Assess Management of National Laboratory, GAO

"- CASIS, however, has not been able to fulfill its responsibility in the cooperative agreement to interact with the ISS National Laboratory Advisory Committee, which NASA was statutorily required to establish under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, because NASA has yet to staff the committee as required by the NASA Authorization Act of 2008. As a result, CASIS is not able to fulfill its responsibility in the cooperative agreement that requires it to coordinate with this committee and review any report or recommendations it originates.

- NASA and CASIS did not establish measurable targets for these performance metrics, and NASA's annual assessment of CASIS was not documented.

- CASIS officials told GAO in July 2014 that setting measurable targets would be arbitrary because CASIS processes and metrics are still evolving. In January 2015, however, the Chairman of the CASIS Board of Directors told GAO that setting measurable targets is a priority for the board. CASIS, however, has yet to establish a date by which measurable targets will be developed. Using the established metrics, NASA is required by the cooperative agreement to perform an annual program review of CASIS's performance."

Russian Cosmonaut Says Alcohol Should Be Allowed on ISS, MosNews (2005)

"The Russian cosmonaut said that it would be "desirable" for spacemen to have 50 milliliters of wine or cognac every day. "But only to improve our work, to better cope with the psychological stress," Sharipov said."

Keith's note: Perhaps this is a good idea. It sure beats the alternatives if on-orbit "psychological stress" is allowed to go untreated ... ISS Emergency Procedures: Behavioral - Suicidal - Emergency and Behavioral - Acute Psychosis

"Talk with the patient while you are restraining him. Explain what you are doing, and that you are using a restraint to ensure that he is safe. Restrain patient using Gray Tape around wrists, ankles, and use a bungee around the torso. Administer 5 mg *Valium (Diazepam) Oral (P1-A12) - Sedative, (blue) anticonvulsant, antiseizure drug"

A Bad Day for Russia

ISS Orbit Correction Failed, Sputnik News

"Engines of the Progress M-26M cargo spacecraft, which is currently docked to the International Space Station (ISS), did not start on time, and a planned correction of the ISS orbit could not be carried out, a source in the Russian Federal Space Agency said Saturday."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 18 May 2015

"A reboost of the International Space Station using the Russian Progress 58 cargo craft was completed successfully on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. CDT. A previous attempt on Friday evening was aborted one second into the burn automatically by the Progress vehicle. Russian flight controllers identified an issue with one of the eight thrusters on the spacecraft that was disabled for Sunday's backup attempt."

Russian Proton Rocket Experiences Anomaly Shortly After Launch [With Video], SpaceRef Business

"Almost exactly to the day a year after Russia lost a Proton-M rocket, yet another Proton-M has failed. In this latest setback to the Russian commercial space program, today's Proton-M rocket appeared to launch normally, but failed soon into the launch and did not deliver its payload, a Mexican satellite, to orbit."

Marc's note: The Russians must be besides themselves with all these anomalies ongoing. It begs the question, if the Progress and Protons are having issues, could the venerable Soyuz have issues going forward?

NASA's Physical Science Informatics Database Now Open to the Public, NASA

"At NASA, we are excited to announce the roll-out of the Physical Science Informatics (PSI) data repository for physical science experiments performed on the International Space Station (ISS). The PSI system is now accessible and open to the public. This will be a resource for researchers to data mine the PSI system and expand upon the valuable research performed on the ISS using it as a research tool to further science, while also fulfilling the President's Open Data Policy."

Public Release of NASA GeneLab Data System 1.0, NASA

"Based on the philosophy of open science, the GeneLab Platform will maximize the scientific return on investment and maximize the use of the International Space Station given the limited number of biological research opportunities in space. Open science will expand the number of researchers in the community, bringing new ideas and innovation to space biology research, while enabling discovery and advances for both NASA Exploration and Earth-based benefit."

Keith's note: Great news. As a one-time biologist at NASA I find this approach to posting data online to be one of the most important things NASA can do to show the value - and availability - of research done on the ISS. NASA has been generating research papers for more than half a century. One very useful resource is NASA Spaceline (latest issue) a regular (now weekly) NASA-funded summary of research sponsored by and relevant to NASA life science research. Given all of the hype and hoopla over the Kelly twins and the #YearInSpace research that is underway, you'd think that NASA would be promoting what it has done - and is doing - on ISS.

Guess again.

NASA Briefing: SpaceX Commercial Crew Pad Abort Test

"A May 1 news briefing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, previewed the pad abort test of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled for no earlier than Wednesday, May 6."

Russian Progress Cargo Space Station Resupply Spacecraft Launches but has Problem

"In the early morning hours today a Russian Progress unmanned cargo spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan with supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). The launch appeared to be picture perfect until it reached orbit. At that time there was a communication issue. Controllers in Russia were unable to confirm 'deployment of navigational antennas or the repressurization of the manifolds in the propulsion system' according to NASA commentator Rob Navias."

Keith's note: We've added a video to this story which clearly shows the abnormal spinning that Progress is experiencing.

Keith's update: NASA UPDATE (4/29 9:50 a.m. EDT): Docking has been called off for the Progress 59 spacecraft. Russian flight controllers are continuing to assess the vehicle and what the plan going forward will be. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Kicks Off Geography Trivia from Space

Keith's note:Have you seen any of Scott Kelly's photos (in high resolution) on the official NASA Flickr page? You won't. He only posts low resolution versions on Twitter at @StationCDRKelly. He's calling his own shots on all of this PR from orbit. He makes the decision - not NASA PAO - as to what taxpayers do and do not see. Too bad - some of his pictures are rather stunning. This whole special project is being set up just for him. He's apparently only going to post one picture a week in contrast to his fellow crew members who have posted hundreds.

The rules behind this contest are hilarious - all 3,009 words. Read them here. I can only imagine what it will cost the agency to actually enforce these rules or to adjudicate complaints by participants who feel that they have been incorrectly denied a prize.

Is a contest like this a good idea? Of course it is. But if the public gets fewer pictures from space? That is a bad idea. Has NASA come up with the most complex way possible to do this? Of course it has.

3,009 words in the rules - and all we'll get are 50 or so pictures?

NASA SpaceX CRS-6 Pre-Launch News Briefings [Watch]

"Today, a Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on the 6th SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Yesterday, NASA held three news briefings to discuss the mission and research on the ISS."

Marc's note: At the briefing, SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann was asked what the probability of success for the Falcon 9 first stage landing on the drone ship. His response was 75% and then he said perhaps 80%. It seems SpaceX is quite a bit more confident on this third attempt.

Marc's update: The launch was scrubbed until Tuesday at 4:10 pm EDT due to weather. The weather forecast for tomorrow is 50-50.

Finding gene activity differences in identical twins, Ars Technica

"They're called identical twins because their genomes are identical. But even though all of their DNA is the same, they clearly are not. The environment must play a role in how identical twins and everyone else uses their genes to become who they are."

One if by Land, Two if by Space: Astronaut Twins Tantalize Human Research Possibilities in Spaceflight, NASA

"A multitude of human research investigations currently are underway and are scheduled for upcoming expeditions aboard the space station by NASA and its international partners. The opportunity to compare the effects of spaceflight accumulated over one year and observe changes in the genetic makeup between twin brothers is new. These investigations could have lasting implications for protecting astronauts on deep space exploration missions, including travel to asteroids and Mars."

Keith's note: NASA has spent a lot of time hyping the whole twins thing. It is important to note that "identical" twins are not identical. Just take that face-to-face photo of the Kelly twins (larger view), flip one image, superimpose it on the other, align for facial features and look what you get: altered skull shape (ergo brain shape) and ear shape and placement. But they are identical - how did that happen? Hmm. Prenatal environment is likely the prime factor but other things during their early lives could be at work as well. To be certain the Kelly twins are vastly more alike at the genetic level than this crude photo comparison might suggest. But they are not identical - and they become less identical with every passing day.

Keith's note: Why is NASA saying that this is going to be a year-long mission? It is not. Close - but not a year. NASA goes out of their way to use simple math on Twitter to make their #YearInSpace point - but - that math also easily shows that Kelly is only going to be in space for 342 days. A year is 365 days long. I guess its too much to ask for NASA to be accurate on Twitter as it simultaneously hypes all of this STEM education stuff. Its not as if any of the 9 million Twitter followers are actually paying attention. Or are they?

Reader (Max Fagin) comment: "And actually, since the ISS will be going through two high-beta periods in the next 342 days (one in late Dec 2015, and one in early June 2016) there won't even be that many sunsets. In the 342 day period starting with the last Soyuz launch, the ISS will only see 10,372 sun-rise/set pairs." Click on image to enlarge.

Reader (Max Fagin) correction: "High-Beta periods are June and December of THIS YEAR (not 2016). And if you define a sunset/rise cycle as a complete eclipse (rather than just anytime the sun contacts the horizon), the number falls to 10356."


Keith's update: Unlike a certain space agency, Max is quick to clarify and update inaccurate data.

Scenic Descent For Expedition 42

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 11 March 2015

"Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, and Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft in Kazakhstan at approximately 10:07 p.m. EDT. Russian recovery teams are helping the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after their stay in space."

A new space race emerges as NASA prepares to award contract to ferry supplies to space station, Washington Post

"Lugging groceries and supplies to the astronauts on the International Space Station may not be as cool as ferrying the astronauts themselves into orbit. But the NASA contract to fly cargo to the station in unmanned rocket ships has attracted bids from high-profile companies in what analysts say is another indication of commercial spaceflight's recent renaissance. It appears that at least five space firms have submitted proposals for the work, including giants such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which didn't bother to bid on the work the last time. In a new sort of space race, the contract has touched off an intense competition between stalwart defense contractors and new space start-ups that have, in just a few years, shown they can compete."

Culberson Statement on NASA Budget Hearing

"Administrator Bolden made it clear in his answers that the Obama Administration has no contingency plan in place to send U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station if Russia chooses to end the current agreement that allows our astronauts to travel to the space station on board its Soyuz capsules."

NASA's chief confirms it: Without Russia, space station lost, Houston Chronicle

'If Russia stops flying U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, the U.S., lacking a backup plan, would have no choice but to abandon the multibillion dollar outpost to its own fate, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Wednesday. "We would make an orderly evacuation," Bolden said during a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee hearing."

Keith's note: Culberson is not exaggerating. When asked, Bolden could not give a 'yes' or 'no' answer to rather specific and repeated questions as to whether or not NASA has a post-Russia ISS contingency plan in place. Bolden stumbled for a bit before he started to talk about an orderly evacuation of the ISS. Culberson interrupted at one point and said "please tell me that you do". Bolden also seemed to suggest that the U.S. can operate the ISS without Russian permission/cooperation.

A Waste Of Space, Scientific American

"More likely, Kelly's and Kornienko's tests will just confirm in greater detail what we already know from several previous long-duration missions: Our current space habitats are not adequate for voyages to other worlds. The lack of money to build these habitats, more than any lack of medical knowledge, is what keeps humans from Mars and other off-world destinations. ... It would be unfair to blame NASA alone for this shortsightedness. Integrating artificial gravity and better propulsion into its human spaceflight program would require many billions of dollars, and that money is not forthcoming from Congress. So NASA has struck a pragmatic course, tinkering with well-worn technologies instead of spending the financial and political capital to develop new ones."

Keith's note: Will NASA learn anything from the one year space twins study? Yes, of course they will. Will this knowledge help us "go to Mars"? (gotta use that phrase once a day, right NASA?). Who knows. Not likely. The studies are superficial and scattered in their focus. As this article notes NASA will, at best, simply understand their collective lack of capability to semi-safely send humans to Mars slightly better. Meanwhile, NASA will still kick the can down the road to Mars (I used the Mars meme twice, NASA!). NASA does not have the money or the scientific strategy to actually answer the questions it needs to answer. So they grab everything they can slap a Mars label on it and proclaim progress on the road to Mars (three times!).

As was the case with John Glenn's mission to solve aging problems in space we will never see the results of this research - in any form - that NASA uses to justify the hype surrounding this otherwise ho hum stay aboard ISS. And we will still be in Earth - not Mars - orbit. And the news media will still be confused which twin has the moustache.

The ISS still has an amazing untapped potential to actually address these very real issues of human physiology and long duration spaceflight with direct applicability to Mars. But NASA is simply not up to the task of using these resources in a concerted, strategic, long-term fashion - and assembling the resources to do so. They just make it up as they go. And their poorly equipped junior partner CASIS is simply clueless.

- NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Available for Interviews before One-Year Space Station Mission
- Correcting NASA's Inaccurate Budget Infographic, earlier post

Reader note: "FYI I tried to reach CASIS by phone. When you call their CASIS Corporate Headquarters listed here i.e. 321.253.5101 and hit 3 for "Contracts" you get a dead end. Your call is eventually disconnected.

Another Vulcan on ISS

Keith's update: Wow. Mike and I got retweeted from orbit. How cool.

Keith's note: In space Samantha Cristoforetti honors Leonard Nimoy/Spock by continuing the Vulcan science officer tradition on ISS. Altered imagery by Michael Okuda.

Years ago, when John Grunsfeld left NASA headquarters, Mike Okuda made a "vulcanized" version of John. Everyone loved it - including (so it would seem) the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum. For a number for years, there was a copy of this faux picture adjacent to Hubble instruments on display that John had helped to bring back to Earth. It took quite some time for the Smithsonian to notice the details in the photos. Oops.

Astronauts Complete Third International Space Station Spacewalk in Eight Days [With Video]

"Outside the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA conducted their third spacewalk in eight days March 1 to install antennas and communications gear that will be used to provide rendezvous and navigational information to visiting vehicles approaching the complex in the future, including the new U.S. commercial crew vehicles."

Russia Will Spin-Off ISS Parts for New Space Station, Discovery News

"The Russian space agency Roscosmos says it will support U.S. plans to keep the International Space Station (ISS) operating through 2024, but then wants to split off three still-to-be launched modules to form a new, independent orbital outpost. The announcement this week by a senior planning board reverses previous statements by Russian officials that Russia would end involvement in the 15-nation program in 2020 when current agreements expire. Despite occasional rhetoric, the Russian-U.S. space marriage has been largely left out of growing economic and political tensions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year."

Keith's note: This is not a bad thing. And I am not talking about no longer having to deal with Russia since we'll certainly find a way to find ourselves in a political spat with someone else on Earth after they leave the ISS. Rather, it shows how assets in space can be repurposed, refurbished -- re-imagined. Instead of throwing things away in orbit (Skylab, Salyuts, Mir) we can now build upon these assets and move them around like Lego bricks to form new things as we need them - and then do this again and again. When the government is done with their hardware, it can be used by someone else - just like old military bases can become movie studios and shopping malls. The more orbital capacity that is available, the more customers it can collectively and individually serve. The more valuable these on-orbit assets become for government and non-government uses, the more everyone will want to safeguard that growing capacity (and isolate it from terrestrial squabbles) as has been the case with ISS recently.

Updated Dates Announced for Space Station U.S. Spacewalks, NASA

"Space station managers decided Thursday to move the first two spacewalks by NASA's Expedition 42 Commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts by one day because of added analysis of spacesuits they will wear."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 19 February 2015, SpaceRef

"Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Preparation: The USOS crew members performed final preparations for the upcoming EVAs. Today, they reviewed the detailed EVA timeline, briefing package, and crib sheet then completed final tool configuration."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 4 February 2015, SpaceRef

"Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-5 Status: Yesterday, ATV experienced a failure with Battery Power Chain #4. ATV ground teams have confirmed the failure is real and not a sensor issue. The ground teams have taken the necessary precautions and are continuing their investigation. The vehicle has a total of four power chains. Should a second power chain failure occur, an expedited undocking would be required within 24 hours per ATV Flight Rules. Break Up Camera (BUC) and Reentry Breakup Recorder (REBR) are currently scheduled to be installed inside ATV next week with a nominal undocking occurring on Saturday, February 14th."

Marc's note: This is not a significant issue at this time from the limited information available. Perhaps the 11:00 am. scheduled Space Station Live update will provide an update.

Marc's update: During today's Space Station Live the issue was mentioned with no new information. At this point everything is on track for the Saturday, February 14th undocking.

NASA's Physical Science Informatics Database Now Open to the Public, NASA

"At NASA, we are excited to announce the roll-out of the Physical Science Informatics (PSI) data repository for physical science experiments performed on the International Space Station (ISS). The PSI system is now accessible and open to the public. This will be a resource for researchers to data mine the PSI system and expand upon the valuable research performed on the ISS using it as a research tool to further science, while also fulfilling the President's Open Data Policy. Since 2001, microgravity experiments have been conducted on ISS in the physical sciences and have yielded rich results, some unexpected and most would not be observed in Earth-based labs. These results provided valuable insights into fundamental physical behavior that can apply to both terrestrial and space environments. Collecting this data in a single location not only provides scientists with scientific data from hundreds of NASA experiments, it also helps identify fields where more study is needed."

- No Mention at CASIS (no surprise since they ignore the weekly NASA-developed Spaceline update (latest update)
- No Mention at NASA Space Station Homepage (also no surprise since they ignore Spaceline)
- No Mention at International Space Station National Laboratory (no surprise since they also ignore Spaceline)

Then there's this research announced yesterday by FASEB "How Spaceflight Ages the Immune System Prematurely". Do NASA or CASIS mention this paper? No. Oddly NASA and CASIS like to jump up and down and tell you about all of the amazing research they want to do on the ISS to solve all of humanity's problems. Spaceline will mention this paper in their weekly summary - but NASA and CASIS ignore Spaceline. In yesterday's budget briefing NASA mentioned how they want to ramp up ISS utilization in the coming years. Of course this is a good idea since the potential of this amazing facility has yet to be tapped. Alas, given the way that NASA and CASIS handle the dissemination of research results this will simply mean that more important and interesting research will be ignored.

Safety panel accuses NASA of a 'lack of transparency' in critical space program, Washington Post

"NASA's independent safety panel accused the agency of a "lack of transparency" about its program to hire commercial space companies to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, saying the opacity could create increased safety risks. In its annual report to Congress, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said the lack of communication about critical safety measures "has been a concern for a number of years." And it made it impossible for the panel "to offer any informed opinion regarding the adequacy of the certification process or the sufficiency of safety" in what is known as the "commercial crew" program. The "failure to engage in open and transparent communication is reminiscent of the problems" surrounding the causes of the fatal Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, according to the report released Wednesday."

ASAP 2014 Annual Report

NASA News Conference: Update on the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceRef Business

"NASA, Boeing and SpaceX will held a news briefing on NASA Television at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Jan. 26, to highlight key development activities, test plans and objectives for achieving certification of two American crew transportation systems."

Marc's note: Missed the news conference? Watch it from the link above.

International Space Station Reality Series In Works From Znak&Jones, Deadline

"Znak&Jones, the recently launched production company of veteran reality producers Natalka Znak and Simon Jones, has partnered with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space the organization selected by NASA to oversee research onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory with the goal of enhancing the health and well-being of people and the planet to develop programs centered around the ISS."

Keith's 13 Jan note: Of course, CASIS makes no mention of this on their website. Really - why bother? Its only a huge facility we all paid $60-100 billion to build. I wonder if the "reality" aspect of this show will portray the dysfunctional relationship that CASIS, NASA HQ, JSC, and other parts of the agency endure as they stumble to use this amazing on-orbit facility. As best as I can determine, no one at NASA knows anything about this.

Keith's 14 Jan update: According to Patrick O'Neill, in a response to NASAWatch: "Thanks for the note. At this juncture, while it is accurate to say that CASIS is exploring the possibility of developing content promoting the research opportunities that exist on the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, no deal is in place with a network or cable outlet. Talks are still in the preliminary stages. Should a partnership to showcase the ISS become solidified, CASIS will provide the public with as much detail as possible regarding any content generating project."

Summary: Znak&Jones say that they have partnered with CASIS. CASIS says they have no partnership. And no one at NASA knows anything about the Znak&Jones/CASIS thing.

Here is a link to the late Late show episode last night with Seth Green hyping his CASIS patch. Alas, CASIS doesn't seem to want (or know how) to promote the link on its website. Slide to 16:27 and wait for 500 commercials to air. Larger view.

CASIS is nowhere close to meeting the fundraising goals it is supposed to have met by now. Instead of focusing all of its efforts on ISS research (Nanoracks is the one good thing that has emerged) CASIS stumbles around with golf company endorsements and PR stunts that, however well-intentioned, never seem to go quite right.

And the added value of CASIS is ... ?

SpaceX Launches Dragon to the ISS - 1st Stage Does Not Land Successfully, SpaceRef

"Today's launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 to the International Space Station (ISS) on its fifth commercial resupply (CRS-5) was successful. The Dragon spacecraft is safely in orbit heading towards a Monday rendezvous with the ISS. The SpaceX attempt of landing the first stage on the drone ship was not successful."

Images of damage to the SpaceX Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. Click for larger images.

SpaceX Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship

More on the next page.

Inside KSC for 9 January 2015 and KSC Spaceport Magazine Released, SpaceRef

"NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has released its latest Inside KSC video feature. This weeks video takes a look at some of KSC's upcoming missions including the Cargo Resupply mission by SpaceX, the SMAP and DSCOVR launches and the MMS mission."

UPDATED: SpaceX Set to Launch NASA CRS-5 Resupply Mission to the ISS, SpaceRef Business

"Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services Flight (CRS-5) will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. It will also carry CATS, a laser instrument to measure clouds and the location and distribution of pollution, dust, smoke, and other particulates in the atmosphere."

Keith's note This morning's launch attempt was aborted shortly before launch. Since this was an instantaneous window opportunity there won't be another attempt today. The next attempt will be no earlier than Friday at 5:09 am ET. SpaceX was quietly working an actuator issue last night. No word as to whether is is related to this morning's launch abort although we're heard reports of an "actuator drift" issue in the Falcon's Thrust Vector Control (steering) system during today's countdown attempt.

Statement on Sierra Nevada Bid Protest Decision, GAO

"On January 5, 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest filed by Sierra Nevada Corp., of Louisville, Colorado, challenging the award of contracts to The Boeing Co., Space Exploration, of Houston, Texas, and to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract (CCtCap)."

Keith's note NASA PAO has released this statement: "The GAO has notified NASA that it has denied Sierra Nevada Corporation's protest of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract awards. NASA is pleased the GAO's decision allows the agency to move forward and continue working with Boeing and SpaceX on the Launch America initiative that will enable safe and reliable crew transportation to and from the International Space Station on American spacecraft launched from the United States, ending the nation's sole reliance on Russia for such transportation. The case remains under the protective order and blackout until the GAO releases its decision."

This Week in Space - January 5-11, 2015, SpaceRef Business

"Here are some of the highlights for the coming week. As always, you can add an event to our events calendar by using this form. You can also take advantage of low advertising pricing, starting at $75/mth, to further promote your event or product on the SpaceRef network of websites."

Keith's note Like these photos? I sure do. But you won't see most - if any - of them online at Why? The crew tweets lots of pictures via @NASA_Astronauts but they are low resolution and yet virtually none of them appear online at NASA. Nothing has been posted on the NASA Flickr account since 16 December 2014. The NASA ISS page is similarly out of date. If you go to the last thing that was posted are training photos from November 2013. Isn't it odd that the ISS crew - busy as they are in space - are conscientious enough to plan, take, comment, and in some cases edit, and then download these pictures - from orbit - but yet back on Earth no one at NASA JSC seems to care? And yet NASA puts out articles like this on 29 December: "Astronaut Photographs Inspire Next Generation of Scientists" which reference images NASA does not put online. Baffling.

Bigelow in 2015

2015 Could be a Milestone Year for Bigelow Aerospace [Video], SpaceRef Business

"Taking another step forward, Bigelow Aerospace will see its Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) launched and attached to the International Space Station in July of 2015."

NASA Commercial LEO Workshop (with presentations)

"On December 10-11, 2014, NASA held a workshop on the commercialization of low Earth orbit. The goal of the workshop was to start a dialog about creating a thriving commercial marketplace in LEO over the next decade, enabled by human spaceflight."

Another Stealth NASA ISS Event, Earlier post

"This NASA-sponsored ISS research event will not be webcast or recorded. No media advisory was sent out in advance. The event starts tomorrow. I find it especially odd that NASA has gone out of its way to not make this event more visible - and accessible - via simple webcasting (the event is being held directly across the street from NASA HQ) such that the potentially vast audience of possible users, media, decision makers, and students can better understand ISS potential capabilities."

More below

Low Earth Orbit Commercialization Workshop

"The goal of this workshop is to start a dialog about creating a thriving commercial marketplace in LEO over the next decade, enabled by human spaceflight. Historically, NASA has been both the primary supplier and consumer of human spaceflight capabilities and services in LEO. However, NASA has begun to change this historical model by purchasing cargo transportation services commercially and is facilitating the development of commercial crew transportation and rescue capabilities."

Workshop agenda (PDF)

Keith's note: This NASA-sponsored ISS research event will not be webcast or recorded. No media advisory was sent out in advance. The event starts tomorrow. I find it especially odd that NASA has gone out of its way to not make this event more visible - and accessible - via simple webcasting (the event is being held directly across the street from NASA HQ) such that the potentially vast audience of possible users, media, decision makers, and students can better understand ISS potential capabilities.

Then again, NASA's ISS National Laboratory Office and CASIS are still unable and/or unwilling to make the NASA-funded Spaceline Current Awareness List, a weekly digest of real research being done on ISS available online (latest edition) SpaceRef has the only known online archive - back to the 1990s - one that is updated weekly.

There is no mention of this event on the events page on the CASIS website - or anywhere else on their site. Nor is there any mention on the NASA International Space Station National Laboratory webpage. This borders on inept disregard with regard to NASA's responsibility to make the widest possible dissemination of ISS and its research capabilities.

This becomes truly bizzarre when you consider that the non-public invitation sent to a select few to attend says "NASA intends to formulate a new strategy - including new initiatives and projects - designed to encourage the emergence of this commercial marketplace to the maximum extent possible." NASA's tactic: go out of their way to tell no one about the events associated with this "new strategy". Baffling.

Orbital Announces Additional Details Concerning CRS Program and Antares Launcher Go-Forward Plans

"Orbital has contracted with United Launch Alliance for an Atlas V launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the fourth quarter of 2015, with an option for a second Atlas V launch in 2016 if needed. The Atlas rocket's greater lift capacity will allow Cygnus to carry nearly 35% more cargo to the ISS than previously planned for CRS missions in 2015."

MATROSHKA Experiment: Space Travel is a Bit Safer Than Expected, Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences

"Analysis of data from the MATROSHKA experiment, the first comprehensive measurements of long-term exposure of astronauts to cosmic radiation, has now been completed. This experiment, carried out on board and outside of the International Space Station, showed that the cosmos may be less hostile to space travellers than expected."

ESA Ministerial Conference to Focus on Ariane 6, ISS, Exploration and the Evolution of ESA , SpaceRef Business

"The next ESA Ministerial Conference will take place this Tuesday in Luxembourg. At the top of the agenda is Europe's future access to space with a modular Ariane 6 intended to be meet the changing demands of the satellite industry as well as being more price competitive."

Expedition 42 Launches on Time to International Space Station

"The Soyuz TMA-15M launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:01 p.m. EST (3:01 a.m. on Nov. 24 Baikonur time). Terry Virts of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency now are safely in orbit."

Russians may visit China's orbital module, TASS

"Russian cosmonauts may in the future visit the Chinese orbiting module Tiangong-1, and their Chinese colleagues may visit the International Space Station (ISS), head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Oleg Ostapenko said on Wednesday. "As for the possible manned flight program projects, China has such an interest and they have expressed it in the negotiations we held today," Ostapenko said, answering reporters' questions at the Airshow China 2014 International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition."

Expedition 41 Has Returned

Expedition 41 Returns to Earth

"Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency touched down northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 10:58 p.m. EST (9:58 a.m., Nov. 10, Kazakh time). While in space, they traveled more than 70 million miles."

Orbital to Consolidate Cygnus Launch Manifest and Outsource at Least One Launch, SpaceRef Business

"Moving quickly to inform its International Space Station (ISS) resupply contract partner NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that not only would it complete its resupply contract by the end of 2016, it would consolidate its launch manifest and do it with four launches instead of five."

Orbital Announces Go-Forward Plan for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services Program and the Company's Antares Launch Vehicle

"Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world's leading space technology companies, today announced comprehensive plans to fulfill its contract commitments under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program as well as to accelerate an upgrade of the Antares medium-class launcher's main propulsion system. Under the new approach and in line with Orbital's existing CRS contract, all remaining cargo will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2016. There will be no cost increase to NASA and only minor adjustments will be needed to the cargo manifest in the near term."

Orbital ORB-3 Launch to Include Planetary Resources A3 Technology Demonstrator Spacecraft, SpaceRef Business

"Today's launch of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station will include the first hardware from commercial startup Planetary Resources."

Photo: Antares Rocket With Cygnus on Launch Pad at NASA Wallops Flight Facility

Orbital Set to Launch Cargo Delivery Mission to International Space Station

"Pending completion of final vehicle testing and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch of the Orb-3 mission will take place on Monday, October 27, with lift-off scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia."

Orbital Orb-3 CRS Mission Update: How to See the Launch from Virginia and Maryland

"Lift-off of the Antares rocket is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT)"

Keith's note: Shortly after many of us in Northern Virgina see Cygnus launched we'll have a spectacular ISS flyover. According to NASA here in Reston, VA we'll see the ISS fly over at 6:49 PM for 6 minutes at an elevation of 89 dgerees heading from the North West to South East.

Critical NASA Science Returns to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:39 p.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 25, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning 3,276 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station (ISS)."

Coburn's 'Wastebook' Targets Include Mountain Lions, Sheep, Beer, Roll Call

"NASA draws criticism in a few areas, with Coburn skeptical of the costs associated with the International Space Station itself, including the presence of experiments designed by students. "Some of the other studies being conducted on the space station are designed by elementary and high school students rather than scientists. Fifteen student projects were launched to the space station in July as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP)," the report said. "While encouraging young people to take an interest in science is an important goal, the billions of dollars being borrowed to support space station science fair experiments could make a bigger impact in the lives of these and other children in many other more cost efficient ways."

Keith's note: Contrary to Sen. Coburn's annual loony report, billions are not being spent on educational projects aboard the space station. Gee, imagine what would happen if NASA actually was spending billions to encourage student experimentation in space ...

The National Aeronautics and Space Act, Pub. L. No. 111-314, 124 Stat. 3328 (Dec. 18, 2010)

"Sec. 20163. Program authorized

(b) Activities.--In carrying out the provisions of this subchapter, the Administration shall--.

(1) arrange for participation by the scientific and engineering community, of both the Nation's industrial organizations and institutions of higher education, in planning and carrying out appropriate research, in developing necessary technology, and in making necessary observations and measurements;"

NCESSE Official Response to Sen. Tom Coburn: "billions of dollars being borrowed to support

"Next let me address Sen. Coburn's math regarding SSEP use of federal funds. The cost to deliver the national programming, including all launch and return to Earth services, across these 15 communities was $322,500. The communities brought another roughly $300,000 to the table in fully burdened labor hours by their teaching staff to deliver the program at the local level. Through a significant effort, in the best spirit of partnership, $572,500 of the total $622,500 cost was raised in the private sector, from over 85: local companies, school districts, foundations, universities, PTAs, and individual donors (see the Local Partners list). The remaining $50,000 was federal funding provided by CASIS to close budget shortfalls across the 15 communities. That funding truly enabled many communities to participate."

Sierra Nevada Corporation Protests NASA's Commercial Crew Program Award, SpaceRef Business

"A representative from Sierra Nevada Corporation has confirmed to SpaceRef that they have filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office regarding the CCtCap contract."

Sierra Nevada Corporation Challenges Award of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced today that it has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. The CCtCap program will restore U.S. transportation capability to the International Space Station.

SNC, Boeing and SpaceX submitted separate proposals for the CCtCap program. While all three competitors were found to be compliant and awardable under the criteria set forth in the request for proposal (RFP), only two proposals were selected (Boeing and SpaceX), one of which would result in a substantial increased cost to the public despite near equivalent technical and past performance scores."

NASA Expands Commercial Space Program, Requests Proposals for Second Round of Cargo Resupply Contracts for International Space Station

"On the heels of awarding groundbreaking contracts to U.S. commercial space companies to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA has released a request for proposals (RFP) for the next round of contracts for private-sector companies to deliver experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory."

Soyuz Launched From Baikonur

"The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft docked to the International Space Station at 10:11 p.m. EDT while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency will welcome Soyuz crew. Coverage of hatch opening begins on NASA TV at 11:30 p.m. EDT."

SpaceX Launches Dragon on 4th Commercial Resupply Mission to the ISS, NASA

"The spacecraft's 2.5 tons of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support 255 science and research investigations that will occur onboard the station."

Includes the post-launch briefing news conference.

NASA OIG: Extending the Operational Life of the International Space Station Until 2024

"In addition, while utilization of the ISS for research continues to increase, NASA and its partner responsible for attracting private research to the Station -- the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) -- continue to face challenges. For example, to date CASIS has raised only $14,550 in cash and received pledges of $8.2 million to supplement NASA's $15 million annual cooperative agreement. In addition, CASIS officials reported that provisions in its agreement with NASA that require researchers to assign certain patent licenses and data rights to the Government are deterring commercial stakeholders from conducting research on the ISS. "

A better golf club? Space may play a role in that., Florida Today

"This is not research on a golf club," said Duane Ratliff, CASIS chief operating officer. "This is industrial research and development on materials that is clearly targeted for the improvement of products that will go to the marketplace. ... Ratliff likely spoke for most of them when he joked, "Honestly, I'm hoping that whatever comes out of this will straighten out my slice."

CASIS and COBRA PUMA GOLF Team Up For Commercial Research Investigation On ISS, CASIS

"Through this investigation, the research and design team at COBRA PUMA GOLF hopes to gain a better understanding of certain material characteristics that can be used to create some of the most innovative and technologically advanced golf products in the market."

Keith's note: OK Duane - if this is not "golf club" research, then what other "golf products" are you doing research on? Why hasn't the past 2 years of CASIS-sponsored golf research on ISS yielded any published results or status reports from CASIS? As for your attempts to downplay the golfing aspect of what you are doing - your logo for these payloads clearly emphasizes golf over everything else.

As for the IG's report, "$14,550 in cash"? I have to wonder what a "pledge" actually entails - obviously not much in terms of actual cash. CASIS is clearly falling well short of where NASA - and everyone else - expected CASIS to be at this point.

Baseball raffles and golf-themed co-branding do not a vibrant ISS research program make.

- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS Would Rather Go Golfing Than Do Actual ISS Research, earlier post

Extending the Operational Life of the International Space Station Until 2024, NASA OIG

"Specifically, the ISS faces a risk of insufficient power generation due in part to faster-than-expected degradation of its solar arrays. Second, although most replacement parts have proven more reliable than expected, sudden failures of key hardware have occurred requiring unplanned space walks for repair or replacement. Third, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet NASA has a limited capacity to transport several large replacement parts to the Station should they be needed. While the ISS Program is actively working to mitigate these risks, anticipating the correct amount of replacement parts and transporting them to the ISS present major challenges to extending Station operations 10 or more years beyond its original expected service life.

The OIG also found the assumptions underlying the Agency's budget projections for the ISS are overly optimistic and that its actual costs may be higher. NASA projects its annual budget for the ISS Program to grow from $3 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2014 to nearly $4 billion by FY 2020. However, ISS Program costs rose 26 percent between FYs 2011 and 2013 and an average of 8 percent annually over the life of the program. Moreover, much of the projected cost increase is attributable to higher transportation costs, and the OIG found unrealistic NASA's current transportation estimates."

Boeing, SpaceX to team with NASA on space taxis, CBS

"It also is not yet known whether Congress will appropriate enough money to fund the development of two spacecraft or whether NASA will be forced to down select to a single provider at some point down the road. But Bolden said he was confident Congress will provide the funding necessary to keep SpaceX and Boeing on track for maiden flights in the 2017 timeframe. Congress has appropriated about $2 billion for the commercial crew program since 2011, about a billion dollars less than NASA requested. The agency hopes to get around $800 million for the program in its fiscal 2015 budget."

Boeing and SpaceX Win $6.8 Billion for Apollo-Style Space Taxis, NBC

"NASA officials declined to discuss in detail why they selected Boeing and SpaceX while passing on the Dream Chaser, but said it was a close call. "This wasn't an easy choice, but it's the best choice for NASA and the nation," Bolden said. Lueders said the different amounts set aside for the two companies were based on the amounts proposed by the companies themselves. "Both Boeing and SpaceX proposed to the same set of requirements," she said. "NASA awarded the contracts based on their proposals. It's two contracts to the same requirements."

Keith's note: In summary: NASA does not know if it will have enough money to fund both Boeing and SpaceX, won't tell anyone why or how they made the selections, and gave Boeing $1.6 billion more than they gave to SpaceX to do the same work assigned to SpaceX. Just the sort of questions Congress will be asking.

NASA to Make Major Announcement Today About Astronaut Transport to the International Space Station

"NASA will make a major announcement today at 4 p.m. EDT regarding the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States. The agency will make the announcement during a news conference from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Keith's note: Moments ago Sen. Bill Nelson was on CNN. When asked what the NASA decision to give commercial crew awards to "Boeing and SpaceX" means, he confirmed that awards were being given to "these two companies".

Boeing-SpaceX Team Split Space Taxi Award, Lawmaker Says, Bloomberg

"Boeing Co. (BA) and Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will share a multibillion-dollar federal contract to help restart U.S. manned spaceflights and reduce reliance on Russian rockets, a congressional leader said. The two companies will split the award being unveiled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration later today, said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House Science Committee. NASA is planning an announcement on the program at 4 p.m. in Washington."

Keith's update: Rep. Johnson's PR person says that she never actually said said this. Here is what her office is putting out as a quote: Science Committee Democrats Congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on NASA's CCtCap Awards

Keith's note: It is official: Boeing will get $4.2 billion, SpaceX $2.6 billion.

American Companies Selected to Return Astronaut Launches to American Soil, Charlie Bolden

"While Boeing and SpaceX handle the task of taking our astronauts to the space station, the scientists on Earth and astronauts on the orbiting ISS National Laboratory will continue the groundbreaking research that has been taking place there for almost 14 years now without interruption. They will be able to add to that portfolio with an expanded crew made possible by the arrival of these new spacecraft."

CASIS and COBRA PUMA GOLF Team Up For Commercial Research Investigation On ISS

"CASIS has been tasked by Congress and NASA to work with new and non-traditional researchers for the development of products, therapies, and services onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory," said CASIS President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson. "Our partnership with COBRA PUMA GOLF is an excellent example of a truly non-traditional research investigation taking advantage of the microgravity environment to advance knowledge in applied materials science." In June of 2012, CASIS and CPG signed an initial Memorandum of Agreement ..."

Keith's note: Has CASIS actually published or promoted any of the research results from this ongoing golf in space effort? I have seen zero evidence that it has. CASIS loves to promote these vapid press releases that promise - but never deliver - amazing return on NASA's investment via goofy sports tie-ins - yet they ignore actual commercial research such as that being done by Ardbeg on the ISS. And of course, CASIS is so inept that they cannot figure out how to tell people about the weekly ACTUAL ISS research results that NASA puts out as part of its Spaceline updates. What is baffling is why NASA continues to put up with this inadequate performance by CASIS.

- ISS Commercial Research That CASIS Utterly Ignores, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Signs Deal with COBRA PUMA GOLF for Research on ISS (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS: It Takes More Than Golf to Utilize the ISS, earlier post
- CASIS Defines Bedtime Stories on ISS as "Major Payload", earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Incapable of Doing Its Job, earlier post

Keith's note: @FCTMike publicly tweeted something interesting (that overtly refers to a photo) and NASA Watch told people about it. Its clearly a slow flight controlling day at NASA for @JohnathanKim

Keith's update: The original tweet has apparently been deleted. Indeed, both Twitter accounts - @FCTMike and @JohnathanKim - have apparently been deleted. That is a little strange. That said, you can see what was originally posted. I am not going to post a screen grab.

Crimea Catch-22: Russia Space Training May Put NASA in a Bind, NBC

"Here's the kicker: Shifting the survival training to Russian-occupied Crimea will require foreign cosmonauts to accept travel there without Ukrainian visas, an explicit acquiescence to the new diplomatic status of the province. Refusal to attend survival training is equivalent to failing the training, which by existing training regulations is an automatic disqualification for flight certification. No Crimea trip, no space trip. Lonchakov hinted that Crimea might be used for more than sea survival training. "We are also planning, if it works out, to hold sea and mountain survival training," he told the Itar-Tass news agency. He has also said a post-flight rehabilitation center for cosmonauts could be reopened near Yevpatoria, a Crimean coastal resort."

Earlier posts on Russia

Space whiskey returning to Earth soon (hurry, please), CNet

"In 2011, vials of Ardbeg scotch whiskey were sent to the International Space Station as part of an experiment to see how the spirits' maturation process is affected by the near zero gravity of near space. Now it's almost time for a homecoming."

- Ardbeg Distillery Launches U.S. Rocket Tour Celebrating "World First" Space Experiment, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores, earlier post
- Whisky in Space: the Road Show - Update, earlier post

Keith's 1 May 2012 note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen. A preview of things to come, I am afraid.

Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image that I made a few weeks ago people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend. Oops.

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 4 September 2014 , SpaceRef

"Today: NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers: Additional attempts to launch CubeSats from deployers #4, 7, and 8 were made overnight without success. 24 commands were sent attempting to deploy #4, 30 commands were sent to deployer #7, and 17 deploy commands were sent to deployer #8. Ground Teams are continuing to assess the issue and are working on a forward plan."

Previous: NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 25 August 2014, SpaceRef

"Today: NanoRacks Inadvertent Deploy: On Saturday, ground teams observed the inadvertent deploy of two Cosmogia CubeSats from Deployer #5 of the NanoRack Cubesat Deployer (NRCSD). The ISS was still in the deploy attitude and the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS) was still positioned for the deployment. No issues have been identified with the deployment trajectory, the CubeSats or the ISS. Ground teams are investigating the probable cause and discussing future operations with the NRCSD and CubeSats remaining in the deployer."

Update: The September 5th ISS status report details another "inadvertent deploy" from the #7 launcher door.

Russia may carry on ISS project after 2020 - newspaper, Interfax

"If we take a look at the relevant section of the federal space program, we will see that the Russian Academy of Sciences is the ISS project customer. Our American partners have said many times they wished to continue the ISS operations after 2020. When they heard our leaders saying that Russia wanted to close down the project in 2020, they fostered the interaction with scientists and made interesting propositions of works in the period after 2020. A yearlong mission of a U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut to the ISS is scheduled for 2015," the Roscosmos source told Izvestia. He said the Americans had offered the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences to arrange another yearlong mission experiment. "Meanwhile, Roscosmos is not very interested in halting the ISS works right now: the federal space program of 2006-2015 allots 186.6 billion rubles for the station. If we stop building new modules of the station, considerable funds will be written off and some enterprises will have to start massive dismissals," he added."

- Russia Shuts Off RD-180 & GPS Stations; Cancels ISS post-2020, earlier post
- Who Is Actually In Charge of the Space Station?, earlier post

Sea creatures are discovered living on the exterior of the ISS, Daily Mail

"Traces of plankton and other microorganisms have been found living on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS), according to Russian space officials. They claim the plankton were not carried there at launch - but are thought to have been blown there by air currents on Earth. Incredibly, the tiny organisms were found to be able to survive in the vacuum of space despite the freezing temperatures, lack of oxygen and cosmic radiation. The discovery was made during a routine spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts Olek Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov, who were launching nanosatellites into space.
They used wipes to polish the surface of windows - also known as illuminators - on the Russian segment of the ISS and later found the presence of plankton and other microorganisms using 'high-precision equipment'.

Keith's note: I'm certain that were I to ask CASIS or the ISS National Laboratory folks for a peer-reviewed publication for these results that they'd be more than happy to comply, right? And if this news story is not true, I should expect an equally swift statement to that effect, right? Astrobiologists ought to be jumping up and down about this - if it is true, that is.

NASA, Russia Squabble Over International Space Station Sea Plankton Claim, Forbes

"As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos (Russia's space agency) colleagues that they've found sea plankton," NASA spokesman Dan Huot told "What they're actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts. That's what they were taking samples for. I don't know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from."

Timelapse Video of Cygnus Release from the Space Station, ESA

"This video shows a timelapse of the Orbital Science's Cygnus Orb-2 spacecraft departing from the International Space Station on 15 August 2014."

New Bigelow Video Released

Bigelow Aerospace Releases BEAM Promotional Video, SpaceRef Business

"Bigelow Aerospace has released a promotional video on their Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). It runs six and a half minutes and includes new footage."

Hartman: U.S. and Russian Crews to Fly Both Soyuz and U.S. Commercial Vehicles, Space Policy Online

"Hartman's point was that in an emergency, it might not make sense to have all the Russians leave on one spacecraft and the Americans and others on a separate spacecraft because a mixture of experience may be needed to conduct operations. "When you have these rescue vehicles on orbit and you have to leave the doesn't make much sense for three Russians to leave and expect the four Americans onboard to operate the Russian segment [of the ISS] and vice versa, right?" Hartman said."

VIDEO: Russian Cargo Ship Departs the International Space Station

"Three months after delivering 2 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 40 crew, the unpiloted Russian ISS Progress 55 cargo ship undocked from the International Space Station July 21."

Red Sox Foundation to Partner with CASIS and International Space Station

"This prize package will be available to those who enter the promotional code "CASIS" upon ordering their raffle tickets. These tickets are just $2 each, with a minimum of five tickets purchased, and can be found by visiting All proceeds from the Ring Raffle will go toward the Red Sox Foundation's ongoing commitment to youth in our communities."

CASIS Signs Deal with COBRA PUMA GOLF for Research on ISS, earlier post

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with COBRA PUMA GOLFTM to carry out materials research projects on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory for use in its sporting goods products line."

Keith's note: Duane Ratliff and his crack team of space station utilization experts at CASIS can't be bothered to mount a simple webcast for its meetings wherein the benefits of space station research are discussed but yet they manage to find the time to negotiate and announce these questionable sports-related PR stunts. Baseball raffle in space? What's next? At least CASIS' earlier golf announcement suggested that some materials research would happen - but we've never heard if there ever was any actual research conducted on ISS.

NASA Solicitation: Human Exploration Research Opportunities NASA Research Announcement

"This National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Research Announcement (NRA), entitled Human Exploration Research Opportunities (HERO)-2014, solicits applied research in support of NASA's Human Research Program. The HRP contains six Elements: Space Radiation, Human Health and Countermeasures, Exploration Medical Capability, Behavioral Health and Performance, Space Human Factors and Habitability, and International Space Station Medical Project. Fourteen disciplines or areas support the Program: Behavioral Health and Performance, Bone, Cardiovascular, Extravehicular Activity, Immunology, Medical Capabilities, Muscle, Nutrition, Pharmacology, Radiation, Sensorimotor, Advanced Food Technology, Advanced Environmental Health, and Space Human Factors Engineering."

Keith's note: No mention of this NASA Research Announcement is to be found at CASIS or at the ISS National Lab page at NASA. NASA wants you to think that a lot of important research is being done on the ISS yet the agency can't even coordinate its own internal efforts for something as simple as this? Is anyone in charge?

NASA Cargo Launches to Space Station aboard Orbital Sciences Resupply Mission

"A multitude of NASA research investigations, crew provisions, hardware and science experiments from across the country is headed to the International Space Station aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus spacecraft. The cargo craft launched aboard Orbital's Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 12:52 p.m. EDT Sunday. "

Antares Launched (video)

Distributed Rocket Science is a Thing Now, io9

"Less than two hours after sending out a distress signal for help, engineers who worked on exactly these types of propulsion systems emerged from the digital wilderness to offer their hard-won experience. What the team learned was a mix of good and bad: solubility probably wasn't the problem impeding the satellite's thrusters. Awesome, they don't need to fix that! Boo, they only have about two or three more options of things that are fixably bad to work on. And if none of those are the problem? Then this will be a glorious, exciting, exuberant failure, and ISEE-3 will continue on its orbit about the sun, leaving us behind once more."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project Seeks Your Help To Solve a Technical Problem

Keith's note: We are reworking trajectory numbers and a propulsion system repair plan this weekend. We hope to be able to implement this plan next week and then accomplish our Trajectory Correction Maneuver. Right now we still only need approximately 10 m/sec of Delta V. That will begin to rise toward the end of the month.

Orbital Antares Launch Postponed to July 13, Orbital

"Orbital announced this morning that the launch of the Antares rocket for the Orb-2 Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station for NASA has been rescheduled for Sunday, July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.

Over the past several days, Orbital's launch team has made great progress in preparing the rocket for the Orb-2 mission, which will be the fourth flight of Antares in the past 15 months.

However, severe weather in the Wallops area has repeatedly interrupted the team's normal operational schedule leading up to the launch. As a result, these activities have taken longer than expected."

NASA JSC Solicitation: International Space Station Models

"NASA/JSC is conducting market research to seek potential sources who can provide International Space Station (ISS) scale models (1/100th and 1/44 scales) with cases. Each ISS model is to be manufactured to the specifications below and must include a Custom Designed Transit Case."

Keith's note: What does NASA do with these models? They seem to order them every year. I have asked before but never have recieved an answer. Then again given what they spent to re-do Mike Suffredini's conference room, who cares, right?

CASIS is Still Inept

Keith's note: The Second ISS Research and Development Conference is underway in Chicago run by the good folks at the AAS with official co-sponsorship by CASIS and NASA. NASA/CASIS funding and meeting requirements drive the show. Indeed, NASA and CASIS use this activity as an official annual showcase to put forward the value of the ISS as a research platform. Given that human spaceflight budgets are getting tighter - and will get even tighter as SLS budget pressures continue to mount - you'd think that NASA - and the non-profit who is supposed to advocate ISS research, CASIS, would be using every tool at their disposal to make this event available to all stakeholders. That includes taxpayers, by the way (they pay for this).

Alas, all we are going to get is Twitter coverage via #issrdc. That's it. No NASA papers and presentations posted online at - and no webcast or streaming audio on NASA TV or elsewhere. Apparently CASIS is incapable of implementing a live webcast of this event. This is a remarkably simple thing to do - all you need is an internet connection and a laptop or cellphone. That's all. Webcasting is free otherwise. Indeed, I have done live webcasts on a laptop from Everest Base Camp, a research base near the north pole, and the middle of the Arizona desert with commercial off the shelf capabilities. Yet CASIS can't figure out how to do a simple webcast from a large hotel? REALLY? As the kids say EPIC FAIL. How NASA expects a wider dissemination - and appreciation of the research capabilities of the ISS is hard to fathom when their official partner for ISS research and utilization CASIS is this chronically inept.

NASA is not exactly helping promote these things either. Go to the NASA ISS National Laboratory website. There is no mention whatsoever of this meeting there.

Keith's update: I stand corrected. This conference is mentioned - but you have to scroll all the way down - further than any website visitor looking fo current information is inclined to scroll. Whomever maintains this website is clueless as to how to maintain web content. You put important timely information where people will see it - easily. This is like putting today's headlines on the last page of a newspaper. Unless this conference is not important, that is. Or (more likely) NASA ISS National Laboratory and CASIS are just cluless and inept when it comes to communicating with the public.

Made In Space 3D Printer Gets Green Light from NASA for Launch, SpaceRef

"After passing the last NASA test, Made In Space will see its 3D printer launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in August by SpaceX as part of NASA's 4th Commercial Resupply mission (CRS-4).

Originally the 3D printer was scheduled to fly on the SpaceX CRS-5 mission but because the company met all its milestones early the launch was moved up to CRS-4."

Orbital's Second Cygnus ISS Resupply Flight Postponed - NET July 1

"The new launch schedule reflects the timing of the investigation into the cause of an AJ26 engine failure that occurred in late May at NASA's Stennis Space Center during customary acceptance testing. All other elements of the Orb-2 mission are prepared to move forward, including the Cygnus spacecraft, which is fueled and, except for late-load cargo, is packed with its manifest of ISS cargo."

Soyuz TMA-13M Launches with Expedition 40/41 Crew Headed to the ISS [Watch], NASA

"NASA Television covered the launch of the Expedition 40/41 crew launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 29, Kazakh time. Soyuz Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), NASA Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency will spend 5 1/2 months aboard the orbiting laboratory."

As NASA seeks next mission, Russia holds the trump card, Houston Chronicle

"Such is today's space Realpolitik that, while the United States paid for most of the $140 billion space station, launched nearly all of it into orbit, and controls most of its day-to-day operations from Houston, Russia still holds the trump card: access. "They have us right where they want us," said three-time NASA astronaut Mike Coats. The mounting Ukraine crisis has highlighted the space agency's vulnerability, but this state of affairs is not new. Russia began embracing NASA in a bear hug right after the space shuttle retired in 2011."

NASA: Space station can work without Russia, AP

"There is no single partner that can terminate the international space station," Bolden told reporters in Berlin, where he was attending the city's annual air show. Bolden said that the cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, on the International Space Station hadn't changed "one iota" in recent years. The project has withstood the increasingly frosty atmosphere between Washington and Moscow that saw the U.S. impose sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Still, Bolden indicated that if for one reason or other a country should drop out of the project, the others would seek to continue.

Expedition 39 Crew Returns to Earth

"The Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft carrying Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 9:58 p.m. (7:58 a.m. Wednesday, Kazakh time). Helicopters carrying the Russian recovery teams and NASA personnel reached the landing site shortly afterward to assist the crew and conduct medical examinations."

NASA Puts One Space Station Propulsion Vehicle on Ice While Moving Ahead with Another, (2000)

"Meanwhile, the U.S. Propulsion Module (USPM) activity continues to move ahead. The USPM is a long term solution designed to provide reboost capability independent of that provided by the Russian Service Module. Unlike the ICM which was not designed to be refueled in orbit, the USPM would have all of the capabilities currently provided by the Service Module - without the pressurized living volume."

US Propulsion Module Why, What, When?

Alternate means for ISS GN&C/Propulsion system functions are required for potential loss of Russian partnership (Risk of unfriendly break-up)

NASA's 1999 Plan To Splash ISS

"NASA has always been required to have a way to bring the ISS back to Earth once its mission is completed. This briefing first appeared online at in April 1999. The Propulsion Module mentioned in this proposal was never built. It was being considered when Russia's delays on delivering the Service Module to orbit began to mount."

Keith's note: Yes, yes, the U.S. paid for FGB and we own it - but then there's Crimea.

Effort To Exempt Satellites from Russia Sanctions Complicated by Latest from U.S. State Dept., SpaceNews

"The U.S. State Department on April 28 said it would deny requests to export defense hardware and services -- categories that under the U.S. Munitions List include satellites and satellite components -- to Russia as part of expanded U.S. sanctions aimed at reversing Russia's incursion into Ukraine if the exports "contribute to Russia's military capabilities." The new policy would appear to complicate a major lobbying effort that U.S. companies had been preparing to exclude at least some civil and commercial satellites from being denied a launch on Russian rockets."

Keith's note: This is getting very, very close to the things that NASA ships to the ISS on Progress and Soyuz.

Ukraine crisis: EU sanctions target separatists and Russian spies, Telegraph

"Following the announcement, ]Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister] said that fresh US sanctions against Moscow could compromise US astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). If their aim is to deliver a blow to Russia's rocket-building sector, then by default, they would be exposing their astronauts on the ISS," the Interfax news agency quoted Mr Rogozin as saying in Crimea."

US wants to drive Russia out of space launch market by sanctions - Russia's Deputy PM, Voice of Russia

"If they [the US] want to make an economic blow to the Russian rocket building industry, then they should consider using a trampoline to deliver their astronauts to the International Space Station," [Russia's Deputy Prime Minister in charge of space and defense industry] Dmitry Rogozin said."

U.S. high-tech export curbs threaten space work with Russia, Reuters

"The United States introduced sanctions against our space industry... We warned them, we will reply to statements with statements, to actions with actions," he wrote on Twitter."

Keith's update: This doesn't help. "Trampolines" are not listed on the GSA schedule.

Keith's note: You know that there is indeed a "there" there vis-a-vis the viability of space commerce when companies start trash talking their competitor's products.

Despite sanctions, Russia is getting a $457.9M check from NASA, Washington Post

"Despite ongoing sanctions, Russia is about to get a big infusion of cash from the U.S. government. NASA recently renewed a contract that allows Russia to ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station. The U.S. is, essentially, cutting Russia a $457.9 million check for its services -- six seats on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, training and launch prep, landing and crew rescue and limited cargo delivery to and from the International Space Station. This contract also adds additional support at the Russian launch site. NASA has announced it is cutting some contacts with Russia after the country annexed Crimea, including meetings and teleconferences."

Another Dragon Visits ISS

Dragon Berthed at the International Space Station

"ISS Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, with the assistance of NASA's Rick Mastracchio, successfully berthed the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the space station at 9:06 a.m. EDT."

Dragon Cargo Craft Launch Scrubbed; Station Crew Preps for Spacewalk

"Monday's launch attempt of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, loaded with nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station's Expedition 39 crew, was scrubbed due to a helium leak on the Falcon 9 first stage. The next launch opportunity would be Friday, April 18 at 3:25 p.m. EDT if the issue can be resolved."

NASA TV to Air SpaceX-3 Status Update at Noon EDT April 13

"NASA Television will air a news conference at noon EDT on Sunday, April 13 at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The briefing will provide an update on the status of the SpaceX-3 cargo mission launch to the International Space Station, currently scheduled for 4:58 p.m. Monday, April 14, and on the failure on Friday of a backup computer component that provides redundancy for commanding the Mobile Transporter rail car on the truss of the station."

Keith's note: NASA has resolved issues on ISS such that it can safely accommodate Dragon and has cleared SpaceX for their launch tomorrow.

Curiously, the banner shown behind the briefers today does not show a SpaceX Dragon (the vehicle actually being launched) but shows a NASA Orion instead. I am told that this was done in "error". OK, that happens. But why is there a NASA graphic of ISS and Orion together in the first place? Orion is not going to visit ISS. Or is it?

Reader note:"This screen capture from today's Space Station Live shows the ISS crew during this morning's call by Vladimir Putin to the ISS. Only Mastracchio & Swanson don't wear audio headsets. Is it some kind of sanction against Russia?"

Marc's note: The answer is no. There are only four places to plug in comm sets in the service module. Thanks to an astute reader for reminding us and everyone about this.

Keith's note: But NASA PAO has still not responded to our inquiry on this.

Keith's note: An internal NASA memo is circulating that bans all employee contact with Russia except for ISS operations. Stay tuned.

Keith's 2:22 pm EDT update: NASA Internal Memo: Suspension of NASA contact with Russian entities

"Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted. This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted. In addition, multilateral meetings held outside of Russia that may include Russian participation are not precluded under the present guidance."

Keith's 7:44 pm EDT update:

Statement regarding suspension of some NASA activities with Russian Government representatives

"Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station. NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration's for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches - and the jobs they support - back to the United States next year. With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we're now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It's that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America - and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same."

US-Russia chill won't spread to cooperation in space, Bolden says, Physics Today

"On Thursday NASA administrator Charles Bolden reassured lawmakers that Russia won't stop providing access for US astronauts to the International Space Station, despite the current tensions between the two countries over Russia's recent invasion of Crimea."

GOP lawmaker, NASA chief spar on funding and Russia, MSNBC

"Several legislators expressed concern that the diplomatic breakdown between Washington and Moscow over Russia's incursion into Ukraine's Crimean peninsula could derail cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos."

U.S. Air Force Radar Problem Delays NROL-67 and SpaceX CRS-3 Launches, SpaceRef Business

"A problem with the U.S. Air Force AN/MPS-39 Multiple Object Tracking Radar (MOTR) at the Eastern Range, reportedly a fire, has delayed the launch of the National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-67 launch and now unofficially SpaceX's launch of the CRS-3 resupply mission to the International Space Station."

Expedition 39/40 Trio's Arrival at Space Station Delayed

"The next trio of crew members destined for the International Space Station is now looking forward to a Thursday arrival at the orbiting laboratory after their Soyuz spacecraft was unable to complete its third thruster burn to fine-tune its approach."

New Crew Launches to Space Station

"Three crew members representing the United States and Russia are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:17 p.m. EDT Tuesday (3:17 a.m. on March 26 in Baikonur)."

Marc's Update: The first additional burns have been completed successfully for the 34 orbit rendezvous. According to Space Station Mission Operations Integration Manager Kenny Todd "everything looks real good".

Keith's note: Adapted from several messages circulating on Google+: "JSC is pulling the plug on Space Station Live due to budget cuts. You are encouraged to contact the space agency and ask to reconsider the decision. As suggested on the site, you can submit your concerns by emailing NASA official Jennifer B. Price at with ISS Live Web Site in the Subject.

ISS Live is a unique resource. It displays real-time telemetry data on the space station's electrical, environmental, attitude control, communications, and other systems. Mobile apps for Android and iOS are also available for checking the telemetry on your smartphone or tablet. Live telemetry, from a real spaceship. A lot of the same data flight controllers have on their console displays at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston. This is possibly one of the geekiest resources ever."

Agencywide Message to All NASA Employees: "LIVE FROM SPACE" Program on Space Station Originating from JSC

"LIVE FROM SPACE" Program on Space Station Originating from JSC -- Friday, March 14, 8 p.m. EDT, National Geographic Channel. "LIVE FROM SPACE," a live, two-hour special program originating from Johnson Space Center (JSC) and including appearances by the International Space Station (ISS) crew, is scheduled to air world-wide on the National Geographic Channel on Friday, March 14 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time."

Keith's note: Unless you pay extra for National Geogrpahic Channel, you were unable to watch this NASA-assisted special tonight. NASA TV was not allowed to air it. Also, if you went to the official "Live From Space" website, it crashed a few minutes after the show began - and with it the live video feeds (without any audio). To be certain, crashing a webserver like this speaks to having a lot of interested people trying to get in. That said, its baffling that National Geographic did not plan ahead for this surge in traffic - especially when they did so much international marketing. Meanwhile, it was rather humorous to listen to the open mic in the control room at JSC in the hour leading up to the webcast as the shows's producers struggled to figure a number of things out - and talk about the post-show party.

CASIS Releases Request for Information to Identify Equipment for Materials Science Research on the ISS, CASIS

Cutting-Edge Techniques Used for the Structural Investigation of Single Crystals, Science

"X-ray crystallography has become the leading technique for studying the structure of matter at the atomic and molecular level. Today it underpins all sciences and is widely applied in industry. It is essential in the development of new materials. The technique is very powerful, and the range of materials that can be studied expands as new technologies evolve and are applied in innovative ways to structure solution. It is now possible to record vast amounts of diffraction data in seconds electronically, whereas it took days and months by photographic methods 30 to 40 years ago. Single crystals can be created in various ways; they can be produced from compounds that are liquids or gases at room temperature, and complete molecular structures can be presented within minutes. This short review presents recent developments that are appropriate to the single-crystal x-ray studies of chemical and materials sciences."

Developments in X-ray Crystallographic Structure Determination of Biological Macromolecules, Science

Keith's note: Neither of these articles in this special issue of Science mention microgravity. Yet CASIS perpetuates utilization myths and acts as if advances in crystallography can only be made if you use uber-perfect crystals that have been grown in space. Space is no longer necessesary since vanishingly small amounts of material are now all that is required for Earth-based crystallography procedures (see links below) and answers appear swiftly - not months/years later. Shouldn't CASIS be focusing on things that can really utilize the unqiue capabilities of the ISS - not space-based technology that has already been eclipsed by advances back on Earth?

Russia Crisis Raises Space Station, NBC

"The United States and Russia are not just "joined at the hip" on the space station. Numerous other rocket projects rely on either Russian or Ukrainian space hardware and services. Even U.S. national security satellites are powered into orbit on an American rocket with a Russian-built rocket engine. What if the Soyuz spacecraft suddenly became unavailable for use by American astronauts, contract or no contract? Would it be the end of U.S. human spaceflight? Would it kick off a new round of extortionary price-gouging, both fiscal and diplomatic?"

US says it is suspending trade talks and all military-to-military engagements with Russia over Ukraine, Fox

"The U.S. announced late Monday it was suspending trade and investment talks with Russia as well as all "military-to-military engagements" as penalties for its actions in Ukraine."

Oleg Kotov (ISS Expedition 28 Commander) WIkipedia

Oleg Valeriyevich Kotov was born on October 27, 1965, in Simferopol, Crimean oblast in the Ukrainian SSR.

Cooke: America needs a plan for space exploration, Opinion, Houston Chronicle

"Through logical progression and meaningful missions, I believe Americans will be motivated to support appropriate but reasonable budgets, that are commensurate with the value of the plan and the work needed to accomplish it. We cannot afford to delay or prolong the debate, because timing is critical to catch the unique planetary alignment that makes the first step possible in 2021."

Keith's note: Once again Doug Cooke is incapable and/or unwilling to give budget estimates. But he knows enough, so it would seem, to state that everyone will accept these "reasonable" costs. He never says that NASA's budget will need to be increased substantially in order to do this Mars flyby with SLS/Orion. Does that mean he will take the funds from elsewhere? Flying a mission to Mars in 2021 means that NASA needs to start on this yesterday - and its current and projected budgets will simply not allow SLS/Orion/Mars flyby and ISS to be fully supported simultaneously. Clearly ISS will bear the brunt of the obvious budget reconfiguration. He is saving the sticker shock for later.

Cooke also neglects to mention that he is a Boeing consultant (they are heavily involved in SLS) and that he advises Dennis Tito's Inspiration Mars project - where this whole flyby thing began.

NASA Spacewalk Mishap Investigation Board Report

"While I am concerned about ensuring this particular incident does not happen again, I am especially concerned about cultural factors that may have contributed to the event. In our exuberance to get the job done, we may have allowed ourselves to accept the commonly accepted causes for small anomalies. We have a responsibility not to move on from any abnormal situation until we understand it fully or have suitable mitigations to prevent it happening again. Our work both in-house and with our industry and commercial partners should entail diligence in assessing risk and commitment to ensuring mission safety."

- News Conference Presentation - 2/26/14 (120 Kb PDF)

- Full report (11.2 Mb PDF)

"In summary, the causes for this mishap evolved from (1) inorganic materials causing blockage of the drum holes in the EMU water separator resulting in water spilling into the vent loop; (2) the NASA team's lack of knowledge regarding this particular failure mode; and (3) misdiagnosis of this suit failure when it initially occurred on EVA 22."

NASA Updates Media on Spacewalk Safety Investigation

"NASA will host a teleconference at 2 p.m. EST today to discuss the findings of an investigation into the July 2013 spacewalk at the International Space Station when water built up in an astronaut's spacesuit helmet. Soon after the incident, NASA created a Mishap Investigation Board to identify factors that may have contributed to the incident and recommend changes that could be implemented to prevent a similar situation from occurring again. This safety investigation ran concurrently with an engineering investigation into the equipment failure."

Putting ISS Into Perspective

How Big is the International Space Station?

"As you watch football today, you might be interested the know tha the International Space Station's length and width is about the size of a football field. At the time of the anniversary, the station's odometer read more than 1.5 billion statute miles (the equivalent of eight round trips to the Sun), over the course of 57,361 orbits around the Earth."

Critics doubt value of International Space Station science, Orlando Sentinel

"The old adage is that if you build it, they will come," said Keith Cowing, a former NASA space station payload manager who runs the popular website NASA Watch. "Well, it's there, but NASA has a lot of catching up to do in terms of fully utilizing the capability of the space station."

"... Another way NASA has tried to better use the station was hiring a nonprofit group in 2011 to manage the part of the station designated as a U.S. national laboratory and to entice non-NASA researchers to do their work there. But the Florida-based group -- the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS -- had early management problems and was able to get its first sponsored payload onboard the station just this month."

- CASIS Defines Bedtime Stories on ISS as "Major Payload", earlier post
- CASIS Is Clueless, earlier post

NASA Conducts Orion Parachute Test

"Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA's Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight. The test was the first to give engineers in-air data on the performance of the system that jettisons Orion's forward bay cover. The cover is a shell that fits over Orion's crew module to protect the spacecraft during launch, orbital flight and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. When Orion returns from space, the cover must come off before the spacecraft's parachutes can deploy. It must be jettisoned high above the ground in order for the parachutes to unfurl."

SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachute System

"Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) gathered in Morro Bay, Calif., in late December to demonstrate how the company's Dragon spacecraft's parachute system would function in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent. The test was part of an optional milestone under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative and approved by the agency in August."

First CASIS-Sponsored Payloads Berthed to the International Space Station

"Below is an overview of the major payloads now on board the ISS sponsored by CASIS: ... Story Time From Space - Patricia Tribe, T2 Sciences & Math Education Consultants and Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, Author - This project aims to bring space station science to communities through the simple beauty of reading a book to a child. Crewmembers on the International Space Station host Story Time From Space by producing videotaped readings from a children's book, which are later broadcast on Earth. The astronauts also complete simple demonstrations that accompany the science, technology, engineering and math concepts in the books. The videos are edited and posted to an online library, with related educational materials, for use by educators and parents". 

Keith's note: I am the first one to say that using the ISS for educational purposes is important. While some of the other things listed are interesting, lumping this this bedtime story thing into the "major payload" category makes me wonder whether CASIS is truly up to the fullest utilization of the ISS for the maximum benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.

Cygnus Berthed at ISS

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus Spacecraft Docks With Space Station

"The spacecraft was then grappled and berthed with the station by the Expedition 38 astronaut crew earlier this morning. After Cygnus was launched into orbit by Orbital's Antares(TM) rocket on Thursday, January 9 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, it completed a series of thruster firings and other maneuvers bringing the spacecraft in close proximity to the ISS."

Remarks for NASA Administrator Bolden at International Space Exploration Forum

"Although we understand that our ISS Partners' governments may not yet be ready to make a decision with respect to ISS extension to at least 2024, we hope that each of the ISS Partners will come to a similar decision through its own government process."

NASA, Obama Administration Highlight International Space Station Extension at Global Forum

"The ISS is a unique facility that offers enormous scientific and societal benefits," said Holdren. "The Obama Administration's decision to extend its life until at least 2024 will allow us to maximize its potential, deliver critical benefits to our Nation and the world, and maintain American leadership in space."

NASA wants to keep the International Space Station going until 2024. Is that a good idea?

"The space station has plenty of supporters -- not least because of the economic angle. In 2011, NASA bought goods and services in 396 of the 435 congressional districts. One example: Florida's space industry took a big hit after the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. So it's no surprise that Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is in favor of keeping the space station aloft: "This means more jobs at the Kennedy Space Center as we rebuild our entire space program." But there are other arguments, too. Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.), a member of the House appropriations committee in charge of NASA funding, applauded the move on national-interest grounds. ""It's inevitable and I'm delighted that NASA understands the value of ensuring that America continues to hold the high ground."

Remarks by OSTP Director John Holdren at the International Space Exploration Forum

"We may have different flags patched to our space suits, and different cultures, traditions, and political systems. But as the success of the ISS has shown, we can transcend these differences in space."

Cygnus Is in Orbit

Cargo Launched to Space Station Aboard Orbital-1 Mission

"The launch aboard Orbital's Antares rocket took place from NASA's Wallop's Flight Facility in Virginia Thursday, at 1:07 p.m. EST."

Orbital Launches Antares Rocket Carrying Cygnus On ISS Cargo Resupply Mission

"Under a $1.9 billion CRS contract with NASA, Orbital will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver up to 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over eight missions through late 2016. For these missions, NASA will manifest a variety of essential items based on ISS program needs, including food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments."

Orb-1 Launch Rescheduled

Orbital to Proceed With Antares Launch Tomorrow

"Following a comprehensive review of data related to the radiation environment in space, further reviews and modeling of the rocket's avionics systems, and the forecast for favorable terrestrial weather conditions at the Wallops Island launch facility, the Antares launch team has decided to proceed forward with a launch attempt of the Orbital-1 CRS mission to the International Space Station tomorrow, January 9."

Orb-1 Launch for Jan 8 Has Been Scrubbed

"Early this morning, Orbital Sciences Corp. decided to scrub today's launch attempt of the Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft on the company's first resupply mission to the International Space Station due to an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded constraints imposed on Antares."

NASA May Order More Soyuz Rides to Station Despite Commercial Crew Advancements, Space News

"Companies working on commercial crew transportation services to and from the international space station reported milestones in their efforts even as a NASA official warned that the agency likely will have to order more Russian Soyuz crew capsules to keep the orbital outpost fully occupied. Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters, told an advisory panel Dec. 9 that the agency may have to order another batch of Soyuz crew capsules from Russia unless Congress funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at the $800 million-plus level sought by the White House."



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