Recently in ISS News Category

Hearing NASA's Future in Low Earth Orbit: Considerations for International Space Station Extension and Transition

Witnesses: Robyn Gatens, Kate Rubins, Jeffrey Manber, Todd Harrison, William Shepherd.

Keith's note: I will be live tweeting of the hearing at @SpaceRef

Keith's update: Based on some people inside the NASA firewall this link on the NASA OIIR useful links page to the International Space Station Crew Code of Conduct works. http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2000_register&docid=00-32381-filed. However, this what you get as a taxpayer, journalist, researcher, member of Congress etc. if you are outside the firewall and you click on this link.

Same result whether it is Safari, Chrome, or Firefox. Apparently NASA PAO and the NASA CIO do not understand that firewalls limit access. Why put links to a website that only work inside the NASA firewall on a public facing site so that the public cannot use them? Doesn't NASA have a contractor whose job it is to check out NASA's websites? Meanwhile the people running the OIIR "helpful links" page still cannot seem to find any links at all for "Executive Order for the National Space Council", "White House Fact Sheet on the National Space Strategy", or "International Space Station Bilateral Agreements",

Draft House FY2022 NDAA Calls for International Norms of Behavior in Space, Space Policy Online

"The House Armed Services Committee will mark up its version of the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act tomorrow in what is expected to be a marathon session that may extend beyond midnight. Among the bill's provisions is direction to the National Space Council to coordinate U.S. government efforts to prioritize objectives for developing norms of behavior for space and to the Secretary of State to use them in international negotiations."

Keith's note: Alas, if you are a policy maker wanting to learn more about this topic, or a reporter trying to write an article, or just a citizen wanting to learn more and see what the current ISS rules of behavior are, the natural place to go is the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR). Their "helpful inks" page (which is still full of broken and missing links) is the place where the information is supposed to be, But if you click on International Space Station Crew Code of Conduct. If you do then you get "This site can't be reached". But if you happen to know that there is a thing called Google, and look for that document under that same name, you can go to 14 CFR § 1214.403 - Code of Conduct for the International Space Station Crew at Cornel Law School.

It is just plain baffling that NASA OIIR and PAO allow a page that is supposed to be the place where international relationships are explained sit in a public facing location - broken. I laid out these errors and offered corrections 2 months ago but NASA doesn't seem to take public input - so things stay broke.

- NASA Tries To Fix A Webpage By Breaking It
- NASA's Websites Need Some Attention, earlier post
- NASA Is Still Sleepwalking When It Comes to Policy Transparency, earlier post
- NASA's International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn't Bother To Update, earlier post

Russian cosmonauts find new cracks in ISS module, Reuters

"Russian cosmonauts have discovered new cracks in a segment of the International Space Station that could widen, a senior space official said on Monday, the latest in a series of setbacks. "Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module," Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of rocket and space corporation Energia, told RIA news agency. "This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time."

Keith's note: The annual ISSRDC - International Space Station Research And Development Conference has had a series of technical session this week - from 16-18 August. If you go to Twitter no one seems to be tweeting anything about what is being said about the capability and potential of the International Space Station. In the first portion of this year's ISSRDC earlier this month NIH Director Francis Collins did an amazing conversation/interview with ISS Astronaut (and actual research biologist) Kate Rubins. They touched on a variety of cutting edge things that NASA is doing on ISS including CRISPR - a technique that allows unprecedented insight into how the genetics of living systems works.

No NASA hype needed - this is actually, no kidding, cutting edge stiff - and NASA is doing it - in orbit. NASA has tried for years to get visibility and parity with NIH - now they have. But you'd never know it. NASA could have promoted video of this interview, posted a transcript etc. But no. They let it fade away. Now, less than 2 weeks later the detailed sessions where things like CRISPR are being discussed and NASA - HEOMD, SMD, PAO, ISSPO and ISSNL have gone out of their individual and collective way to ignore ISSRDC's technical sessions.

Today, this article "International Space Station experiment expands DNA research toolkit using CRISPR" from NASA JSC appeared on Eurekalert. But you cannot find it on the JSC home page, HEOMD's NASA ISS home page, SMD's NASA Biological & Physical Sciences page, or anywhere else that I can find. They did not send this out to news media by email. And when I go to JSC to re-subscribe to their press releases (thinking that maybe I am missing things) the address they tell everyone to use to subscribe to news releases does not even exist.

Are there any more ways NASA can make it harder for people to know what they do? If so, please let me know.

Keith's note: Three days of online technical sessions for the 2021 ISS Research & Development Conference (ISSRDC) are being held from 16-18 August. No one at NASA or the ISS National Laboratory seems to be making any effort to provide public mention of the event or what is being presented. There is no mention at the main NASA ISS page, the ISS National Laboratory (CASIS) home page. There is a small box in the lower right hand corner of the NASA ISS National Laboratory home page. None of the events are being show on NASA TV or live streamed unless you know about this hidden event and register. If you click through 10 pages of archived NASA press releases and media advisories there is no mention whatsoever of ISSRDC. The people who tweet stuff from HEOMD AA Kathy Luders' Twitter account @KathyLuders make no mention.

Meanwhile, NASA continues the promotion of the value of the ISS (which is very real and only partially realized) and how they want the money to keep it fully operational until 2030 while also doing Artemis - with full funding - and building yet another space station (albeit a small one) in lunar orbit. NASA is also spending lots of money on capabilities offered by Axiom Space and other ways to extend the utility of ISS. But when it comes to explaining why this ISS spending is important or what benefits are being derived every day from the ISS, all NASA seems to be able to do is postpress releases about local schools talking to astronauts or cargo flight deliveries to the ISS. The users of the International Space Station are presenting their results and plans online - right now - and NASA HEOMD and PAO could not be bothered to lift a finger to tell anyone outside a very, very small bubble that this is even happening.

Kathy Lueders finally got around to tweeting "NASA astronauts, including Serena Aunon-Chancellor, are extremely well-respected, serve their country and make invaluable contributions to the agency. We stand behind Serena and her professional conduct. We do not believe there is any credibility to these accusations." and Bill Nelson retweeted this tweet and added "I whole heartedly agree with Kathy's statement. I fully support Serena and I will always stand behind our astronauts.". Why does it always seem to take 24 hours for NASA to state the obvious - after everyone else already has?

Twelve theses of American claims against Roscosmos and answers to them, TASS (auto translated)

"As for getting it a hole in orbit, some circumstances should be taken into account, my anonymous interlocutor believes. First, the illness of one of the astronauts - as it became known from scientific workabout the first case of thrombus formation in orbit, when Serina Maria Auñon-Chancellor was already on Earth, she was subjected to this misfortune. "And this could provoke an acute psychological crisis," which could lead to attempts in various ways to speed up her return to the planet, my anonymous interlocutor believes."

Keith's note: This article appears on TASS, a mouthpiece which is owned by the Government of Russia. Clearly Roscosmos PAO was busy refuting various news reports about ongoing problems within Russia's space efforts so they could pump it out as "news" on Tass. This is a typical article you see from time to time - one that is made even more disjointed by automatic web translation. But one part of this article shines through the bad translation: a cheap shot against an American astronaut accusing her of an emotional break down and sabotaging a Soyuz so that she could get home earlier. Truth be known this sounds more like one of those goofy movie plots that Russia always seems to want to film on the ISS.

It is unlikely that the crude depiction of this American astronaut's health is remotely accurate. But if there was even the slightest issue of a medical concern the last thing Roscosmos - directly or by proxy - should be doing is talking about it in public - for any reason. To do so is a gross violation of "Code of Conduct for the International Space Station Crew" signed by Russia and all ISS partners and codified as law in the U.S. as 14 CFR § 1214.403. Specifically:

"In particular, all personal medical information, whether derived from medical monitoring, investigations, or medical contingency events, shall be treated as private medical information and shall be transmitted in a private and secure fashion in accordance with procedures to be set forth by the MMOP."

Meanwhile, one would hope that NASA makes a public stance on this nonsense in support of their employee. Something tells me that NASA PAO is not up to that task. This entire TASS article, bad translation not withstanding, is childish, defensive, and not the sort of thing that a great spacefaring nation should be putting out to explain its problems. It is time to grow up Roscosmos.

Keith's note: Looks like NASA PAO quietly sent this out to a few people last night. But you had to be psychic to know to ask for it in the first place. You gotta wonder why they do not just post it on their website so as to send a clear message to Roscosmos i.e. "This ain't cool. Knock it off".

"All the International Space Station partners are dedicated to mission safety and the welfare of the crew. The International Space Station partners all participate in multiple reviews prior to every major station activity to assess and ensure the safety of all crew members. The hole that was detected in late August 2018 by the space station crew was quickly sealed, restoring air-tight pressure to the station. Russian cosmonauts conducted a spacewalk that December to gather additional engineering data for Russian specialists on Earth and to look externally at the effectiveness of the internal repair. The Soyuz spacecraft was thoroughly checked and deemed safe for the crew to return to Earth, which it did, on Dec. 20, 2018. To protect their privacy, the agency will not discuss medical information regarding crew members."

Space Station Incident Demands Independent Investigation, Jim Oberg, IEEE Spectrum

"How close the station had come to disaster is an open question, and the flight director humorously alluded to it in a later tweet that he'd never been so happy as when he saw on external TV cameras that the solar arrays and radiators were still standing straight in place. And any excessive bending stress along docking interfaces between the Russian and American segments would have demanded quick leak checks. But even if the rotation was "simple," the undeniably dramatic event has both short term and long-term significance for the future of the space station. And it has antecedents dating back to the very birth of the ISS in 1997."

Keith's note: The first person I thought of when this happened was Jim Oberg. Back in the 90s Jim and I were tag teaming coverage of things that happened on board Mir as part of the Phase 1 effort to build a joint U.S./Russian space station out of what was once Mir-2 and Space Station Freedom. NASA was not happy with what we reported. Much of what we uncovered spoke to bad communications between the U.S. and Russian teams, an underlying level of distrust, and a lot of ad hoc decision making. But the over-arching intent on both sides was to make things work - since things simply had to work - and to put forth that unified front - especially when things got rocky.

These items from 1997 come to mind:

Charlie Harlan's Thoughts on Spaceflight Safety, 29 June 1997

"When NASA originally began the Shuttle/Mir Program, no rigorous safety analysis or risk analysis was accomplished. NASA decided based on the then understood historical performance of safe Mir operations to accept that record as a given. This was done by a subjective review process unlike the systematic safety and reliability analytical techniques utilized for U.S. human spaceflight. If you remember, at that time the Russians were not always forthright about their systems failures or some of the problems they had in the past. The decision was made at the highest levels of NASA, and the formal safety analysis that was established for the Phase I Program was only for the new joint operations activities, new experiments, and new procedures. The acceptance of the existing Mir safety record was driven by management judgment, and therefore for formal and structured documented risk baseline exists for the start of the program. It should be very clear to everyone that the risk level to human safety on the Mir Station has increased somewhat since the early management decisions and agreements were made."

Better-Cheaper-Faster: The Risk of Being Open and Honest (Part 1), 16 July 1997

"Instead, PAO reverts to its least open behavior on the Shuttle/Mir program. A harbinger of things to come on ISS? Individuals who are allowed to speak for NASA are thoroughly briefed so as to know what NOT to say. Press releases are diluted and sanitized. I get all the internal NASA email, so I see what doesn't make it on TV - or the press wires. I hear all the stories from frustrated program managers who speak of PAO saying things such as "why do they need to know this" or "we'd rather not let that out right now".

Keith's note: Echoes from the past. Example: the sanitized stuff that dribbled out of NASA PAO after the Nauka event designed to minimize details as to what actually happened and to accentuate the level of cooperation between the U.S., Russia, and other ISS partners. I guess we'll have to wait for one of those one hour Aerospace Safety Advisory Committee telecon meetings at some point in the future - the sort of meeting NASA PAO never announces - where the truth will start to dribble out - as it did after Mir and other accidents.

Jim also recounts the rocky first hours of the launch of FGB-1 - aka Zarya - on 20 November 1998. It refused to obey firing commands and the U.S. was kept in the dark for a while. Flash forward to 2021 and its twin - Nauka - originally built as FGB-2 as the back up for FGB-1 (paid for by the U.S.) had similar problems once reaching space.

To be certain the International Space Station program has been a resounding success overall and future international efforts could do well to learn from it. Given the continued bad blood between the U.S. and Russia it is astonishing that the ISS has managed to exist - literally and politically - above the fray of terrestrial squabbles. Indeed, it has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as a result - an idea I personally thing is worth pursuing. I am one of the 100,000+ people who designed and built this amazing spacecraft - one that was paid for by over a billion taxpayers. And I call it the "Undiscovered Country" since I feel its fullest potential has yet to be tapped.

But, accomplishments and potential aside, this does not mean that the picture onboard the ISS is perfect. It is not. Underneath the orbital comradery there are still problems. The ISS program just declared the first "spacecraft emergency" in its entire existence on orbit. That is big news, right? Yet NASA and Roscosmos do not want to talk about it. Why is that?

I hope Congress holds a hearing on this - just like they did after the fire and collision on Mir a quarter of a century ago. If something is broken then it needs to be fixed - even if NASA won't admit that there is a problem. And what is it they say about people and organizations who have problems? The first step is to admit that there is a problem.

Nauka Was An Accident Waiting To Happen And NASA Knew, earlier post

Keith's update: Just look for tweets with #ISSRDC on them. Right now the most prolific tweeter of ISRDC related coverage has been @NASAWatch - not NASA or CASIS. As a space person interested in what the Space Station has to offer I am very disappointed in NASA, HEOMD, and CASIS in the lack of online coverage of this important event.

NASA PAO only waited until the event was already underway to make mention of it. And now they are ignoring it once again. As one of the thousands of people who helped design and build the ISS this makes me angry that this amazing resource is ignored the way that NASA ignores it.

NIH Director Francis Collins was an enthusiastic, engaged, and topically knowledgeable participant as he interviewed Astronaut Kate Rubins today. The NIH director interviewing an astronaut. Wow. That has never happened before. Speaking from personal experience NASA has tried for years to get quality time and peer-to-peer visibility with NIH. They got it. So what do they do while the NIH Director appeared at the event to sing the praises of the ISS? NASA PAO showed boring footage of a rocket sitting on a launch pad waiting to go nowhere instead.

Keith's note: It's rather strange that NASA HEOMD and SMD don't bother to mention that the NIH Director is speaking at ISSRDC.This sort of inter-agency cooperation is what the Biden Administration's "whole of government" approach is all about. Having Francis Collins speak is quite a distinction - one that NASA's Space Station program has sought for a long time. Now that it has happened NASA Headquarters ignores it by not even bothering to put it on NASA TV. Go figure.

NASA Can't Figure Out How To Promote Good News About Space, 22 July post

"With all of these excellent guest speakers, you'd think that HEOMD AA Kathy Lueders and the HEOMD team would be wanting to tell everyone about this. Guess again. There is nothing mentioned on the NASA Space Station or Humans in Space web pages. There is no mention on the NASA Science Mission Directorate home page or the SMD NASA Biological & Physical Sciences page. Nothing is listed on the NASA TV schedule for this event. No NASA media advisories or press releases have been put out."

Keith's note: I am waiting to see if NASA or Roscosmos ever explain how much fuel is still in the lines of MLM/Nauka/FGB-2 - when they purge it given that the firings were unscheduled, the prop system had to be inhibited, and the fuel tanks are supposedly empty. Based on internal memos we've read (and I cannot post), NASA personnel in Houston and Moscow were worried about Nauka and its propulsion system - before docking even happened. Plus NASA does not have the complete insight into Nauka prop system that they'd like to have and must rely on Russians.

Two of the three levels of redundancy in the Nauka prop system were lost before docking. The friendly banter between NASA and Roscosmos about Nauka issues was not as collegial and transparent as Kathy Lueders et al described it as being yesterday. Just sayin'.

Oh yes - notice that the usually reliable NASA ISS on-orbit status reports have not been updated for a week. What's up with that? Stay tuned.

- Nauka Fired Its Thrusters For No Reason - OFT-2 Delayed, earlier post

NASA Invites Media to International Space Station Update

Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at: http://www.nasa.gov/live ... To participate in the teleconference, media must contact Kathryn Hambleton at kathryn.hambleton@nasa.gov by 4 p.m. today for dial-in information.

Keith's update: NSAA PAO mailed this media advisory at 4:09 pm EDT - 9 minutes after the deadline expired for media to participate. So much for enabling media access.

Keith's update: NASA and Boeing have delayed Friday's launch attempt for OFT-2 Starliner due tot he Nauka situation. The new launch date is still TBD.

Keith's note: Just as the hatch to Nauka was being opened Nauka started to fire its thrusters in an uncontrolled fashion putting the ISS some 45 degrees out of its preferred orientation. Progress thrusters were activated to counteract what Nauka was doing. Then the Service Module used its thrusters to counteract what Nauka was doing. Now Russia is waiting to get another pass to communicate with Nauka to see what is going on - and why. NASA is not saying much of anything other than to say that the crew is not in danger.

Nauka has had problems from the moment it reached space. Indeed it had problems in the decades it sat on the ground and had to have one system after another rebuilt and/or redesigned. It was originally FGB-2 - one of the two FGBs that NASA paid for back in the 1990s. This module was a back-up and was only called into service when Russia decided that it could not afford a much more complex laboratory module.

Nauka was unable to use its propulsion system to do orbit burns so it had to use smaller thrusters to do that. Now that it is docked onto the ISS it is supposed to be passive. As such, the random firing of its thrusters in an uncontrolled fashion such that the space station has to fight back to counter this activity is not the sign of a healthy spacecraft. Add in the fact that there were crew inside when this happend is certainly causing some people at NASA and Roscosmos to be concerned.

You have to wonder if NASA and Boeing are at all interested in launching OFT-2 given that this uncontrollable and unexplained situation exists.

Stay tuned.

NIH Director Francis Collins and NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins to Keynote Joint Session at ISSRDC

"The 2021 International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) will include a virtual keynote session that will feature two key science figures: National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins and NASA astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins."

The Smithsonian's Dr. Ellen Stofan and NASA's Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen to Keynote Day 2 Session at ISSRDC

"Dr. Ellen Stofan, under secretary for science and research at the Smithsonian Institution, will join NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, in a keynote address during the 10th annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC), August 3-5."

Keith's note: This is a big deal: the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, is a Keynote speaker at the CASIS/ISS National Laboratory ISSRDC (10th Annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference) event next week. NASA has tried to get this level of visibility and recognition from the larger biomedical community for a very, very long time. Well done to ever pulled this off. And the AA for Science Mission Directorate is speaking too - a cross-pollinating event.

With all of these excellent guest speakers, you'd think that HEOMD AA Kathy Lueders and the HEOMD team would be wanting to tell everyone about this. Guess again. There is nothing mentioned on the NASA Space Station or Humans in Space web pages. There is no mention on the NASA Science Mission Directorate home page or the SMD NASA Biological & Physical Sciences page. Nothing is listed on the NASA TV schedule for this event. No NASA media advisories or press releases have been put out.

It is not surprising that NASA HEOMD, SMD, and PAO have dropped the ball on this. They never coordinate when it comes to events that reach cross disciplines - or centers - and they are incapable of envisioning the value of cross-pollinating, cross-disciplinary events like this since this means that people who never talk to each other need to talk to each other so as to share the news. Meanwhile NASA's ISS Program Office and ISS National Lab act as if they are separate organizations. How can NASA expect that people will see a vibrant, multi-disciplinary, cutting edge research effort in space - one that is important enough to make certain that ISS continues to operate throughout the decade - if the agency can't even get the people involved in that program to promote their own good news? Baffling.

Keith's note: Jim Banke just pointed out this transcript of an NBC interview with Putin wherein he talked about space and NASA quite a bit. This is a translation so it is not precise. But it does show the pattern that Russia often uses i.e. 'two steps forward, one step back'. First Rogozin goes on the attack to see how far he can push the U.S - in this case, NASA, and then Putin dials it back by 80% or so. But that still leaves Rogozin 20% to work with. Everyone in the space world is used to this by now.

Something to ponder: despite decades of whiplash from ever-changing U.S./Russian squabbles, the International Space Station has managed to survive and thrive amidst this chaos. Even when both countries engage in tit for tat sanctions - and hurl accusations - the ISS seems to be immune from this. Indeed, there is clearly a tacit acceptance by all parties that the cooperative ventures on ISS are simply too important to disrupt for petty political reasons even when things get really bad back on Earth. Yes, we lean in that direction everyone once in a while, but it is quickly dialed back once people calm down.

As I am fond of saying, perhaps living in space can teach us all some lessons on how to live and work together on Earth. China is about to launch a crew to its new space station. Russia wants to work with them and China wants to work with the U.S. I will be on CGTN at some point today and I will say that exact same thing - as I have many times before.

"VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, honestly, I don't think that Mr. Rogozin, that is the name of the head of-- Roscosmos, has threatened anyone in this regard. I've known him for many years, and I know that he is a supporter-- he is a supporter of expanding the relationship with the U.S. in this area, in space. Recently, the head of NASA spoke in the same vein. And I personally fully support this. And we have been working with great pleasure all of these years, and we're prepared to continue to work. For technical reasons though, and that's a different matter, is that the International Space Station is-- coming to an end of its service life. And maybe in this-- regard, the Roscosmos does not have plans to continue their work. However-- based on what I heard from-- our U.S. partners they, too, are looking at future cooperation in this particular segment in their certain-- in a certain way. But on the whole, the-- cooperation between our two countries in space is a great example of a situation where despite any kind of problems in political relationships in recent years, it's an area where we have been able to maintain and preserve the partnership and both parties cherish it. I think you just misunderstood the head of the-- Russian space program said. We are interested in continuing to work with the U.S. in this direction, and we will continue to do so if our U.S. partners don't refuse to-- to-- to do that. It doesn't mean that we need to work exclusively with the U.S. We-- have been working and will continue to work with China, which applies to all kinds of programs, including-- exploring deep space. And-- I think there is nothing but --positive information here. I-- frankly, I don't see any ex-- any-- contradictions here. I don't think any mutual-- exclusivity here."

'Divine Vessel' to mark China's first human spaceflight since 2016, Reuters

"A Chinese spacecraft will blast off from the Gobi Desert on a Long March rocket in the coming days, ferrying three men to an orbiting space module for a three-month stay, the first time China has sent humans into space for nearly five years. Shenzhou-12, meaning "Divine Vessel", will be the third of 11 missions needed to complete China's space station by 2022."

Keith's note: I am scheduled to be on CGTN Live at around 9:30 pm EDT this evening to discuss this mission. Update: I have been bumped from tonight's coverage but have been penciled in for tomorrow (Wednesday) evening's coverage.

Russia, Once a Space Superpower, Turns to China for Missions, NY Times

"Now, the future of the Russian space program rests with the world's new space power, China. After years of promises and some limited cooperation, Russia and China have begun to draw up ambitious plans for missions that would directly compete with those of the United States and its partners, ushering in a new era of space competition that could be as intense as the first."

Roscosmos chief sees vast prospects for ecological monitoring cooperation with US, TASS

"The CEO of Russia's Roscosmos corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, sees vast prospects for cooperation with the United States in space, in particular, in the field of ecological monitoring. Rogozin shared his ideas while commenting on space-related questions put to Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview to the US television network NBC. "We see vast prospects for cooperation with the United States in ecological monitoring from space," Rogozin wrote in his Telegram-channel."

Keith's note: Speaking today Rogozin noted that although China's space station is in an orbit with a different inclination than ISS that launches from Russia and French Guiana are possible and that Russia is discussing the sending of cosmonauts to China's space station. Rogozin said that he has spoken with Bill Nelson and that he will do so again. The issue of continued participation in the ISS program and its lifespan came up but nothing definitive was decided.

Students to Sign and Speak to NASA, ESA Astronauts in Orbit, NASA

"Space-savvy students from across the nation who are deaf, blind, hearing and visually impaired and their mentors will have a unique opportunity this week to connect with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The Earth-to-space call will air live at 10:40 a.m. EDT Wednesday, May 19, on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website."

Keith's note: I am certainly happy to see this. FWIW I spent a decade employed as a professional Sign Language interpreter - so I have a keen interest in things like this. in 2011 I noticed that the images and video of Robonaut-2 on the ISS certainly looked like it was signing or at least capable of doing so. So I posted a suggestion that they might program it to speak some ASL and reach an audience among taxpayers that is usually over looked. On 13 March 2012, Robonaut-2 said "hello world" in American Sign Language (ASL). I am told that the idea for this came from my suggestion posted on NASA Watch. How cool. Alas, the @AstroRobonaut tweet NASA PAO put out said "Did you catch that? I don't have a voice, but I sent you a message -- Hello world ... in sign language!" Um, news flash: hearing impaired people certainly have voices and they speak using ASL - so Robonaut-2 had a voice and was speaking. Just sayin'

Back in 2010 NASA was making frequent mention of Tracy Caldwell Dyson's knowledge of ASL. She even recorded a video in orbit. So I responded to an offer from NASA PAO for the media to interview her in orbit and offered to conduct the interview partially in ASL. I suggested that we'd tape my side at NASA. NASA PAO declined my request - no reason given. Oh well. BTW the first signed message from orbit was done by Bill Readdy on STS-42 in 1992.

FWIW if you sign while weightless in just the right way you can exert a gyroscopic effect on your body orientation. I did it on a ZeroG flight. I also signed a short phrase while pulling 6.2Gs in a centrifuge. A very, very short phrase.

Update: a video of the even is now online below:

NASA, Axiom Space to Host Media Briefing on Private Astronaut Mission, NASA

"NASA and Axiom Space have signed a mission order for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station and will host a teleconference with media at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 10, to discuss more details about the mission."

Keith's note: Over the past several months NASA HEOMD PAO has repeatedly denied me access to ISS-related media events. In one case JSC and HQ PAO staff overtly lied to me. I am rather certain that neither PAO or Axiom really want me to be allowed to ask a question, so its not really worth the bother of trying to participate these days and I may just listen in instead. Here are some questions that come to mind however.

1. (Specifically) what NASA services will this Axiom Space mission use and how much are they paying NASA for them i.e. to what extent is NASA underwriting this mission or is Axiom Space playing the full (actual, real, non-discounted) cost of the services that NASA will provide? In other words will NASA use any appropriated funds to cover expenses incurred by NASA specifically due to the uniques aspects of this mission that the agency will not be reimbursed for by Axiom Space?

2. Is there any connection, overlap, or synergy between this privately funded Axiom Space mission and the $140 million that NASA is paying Axiom to do its commercial space station add-on work? That is, is anything that Axiom Space is doing with NASA funding going to support this mission, and if so, how much NASA funding is being spent to support this mission?

3. Is there any connection between the Axiom Space purchase of a flight from SpaceX and resale to the commercial passengers and Axiom Space's participation in the sale and swapping of commercial and Soyuz seats with NASA? If so how much NASA funding is involved and to whom is it being paid?

4. What ongoing NASA or other space agency activities on the ISS will have to be rescheduled to accommodate this Axiom Space mission and will Axiom Space be required to reimburse NASA or other agencies for these extra costs? If there is reimbursement involved how much will Axiom Space be paying and to whom?

5. Is the Dragon spacecraft new or used? Was the spacecraft being used for this mission specially built for Axiom Space or is it one built for use by NASA customers? Will any NASA crew missions to the ISS be affected by the addition of this Axiom Space flight? If so, how much work was required by NASA to readjust their schedule, how much did that additional effort cost, and how much of that additional effort was Axiom Space required to reimburse NASA for?

I might think of a few others. Feel free to post some suggestions in the comments section.

Keith's note: As a one-time actual space biologist at NASA I find posting of research 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, a regular (now weekly) NASA-funded summary of research sponsored by and relevant to NASA life science research. Here is the latest issue issued today - we post it within minutes of its arrival by email on Fridays.

Look at the good stuff in this issue: "Changes in the optic nerve head and choroid over 1 year of spaceflight"; "Draft genome sequences of various bacterial phyla isolated from the International Space Station"; "The individual and combined effects of spaceflight radiation and microgravity on biologic systems and functional outcomes."; "Everything you wanted to know about space radiation but were afraid to ask"; and "Fusarium oxysporum as an opportunistic fungal pathogen on Zinnia hybrida plants grown on board the International Space Station". That's just this issue alone - space biology, space medicine, radiation physiology, plant physiology, genomics. Each issue is like a weekly textbook on space life science. There's even astrobiology and microgravity science included as well.

NASA has paid someone to produce this research summary for years. There have been gaps due to funding lapses and our SpaceRef website has the only complete archive online here going back to the 1990s. We have been posting it religiously over the decades. Currently you can find and subscribe to this summary at NASA: SPACELINE Current Awareness - NASA Task Book. You'd think that NASA would go out if its way to be certain that all of its space station and space life science research websites would feature it prominently.

Guess again. They ignore it - systematically. There is no mention of - or links to - Spaceline at:

- NASA PubSpace (a linkage to NIH PubMed which has now been dissolved)
- NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program
- NASA SMD Biological & Physical Sciences
- CASIS/ISS National Lab
- NASA Space Station Homepage
- NASA GeneLab
- Life Sciences Data Archive, NASA JSC
- Space Station Research Explorer
- International Space Station National Laboratory

Oh yes - most of the inter-related and duplicative resources listed above don't even link to each other either - but there is another story coming on that.

If you Google "NASA science" (a thing taxpayers might just do) you get sent to this Science Mission Directorate page. If you look at the "topics" menu you see no mention of "biology", "life science", "astrobiology" or "microgravity" - even though all of this research is now housed at SMD. If you click on "missions" you get nothing related to these topics. If you click on "for researchers" and then "Science Data" there is no mention of Spaceline or any of these topics either. And so on.

If you search NASA.gov you can't find any mention of Spaceline.

NASA apparently doesn't have any interest in making this voluminous reference to science accomplished on ISS and in related fields available - if for no other reason than to refute those who would say that nothing of value is conducted on the ISS.

Oddly as NASA ignores things like Spaceline, they do 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. In recent budget briefings to Congress NASA mentions 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. And now they want to sell you a bunch of ISS replacements where more of this science goodness will be carried out - and wait there's more: they want to do some on the Moon and in a mini Lunar space Station called Gateway too. Alas, given the way that NASA handles the dissemination of research results such as Spaceline this will simply mean that more important and interesting research will continue to be ignored. But NASA still wants you to fall for all the science justifications they claim to have.

And then there is the dysfunctional relationship regarding space station utilization between CASIS/ISSNL, NASA's ISS Program Office, HEOMD and SMD - but I'll address that in a future posting.

Newsflash NASA: according to Team Biden #ScienceIsBack - even if you can't find it at NASA.

Russia says to launch own space station in 2025, AFP

"Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said in recent days that Moscow was considering whether to leave the ISS programme from 2025 because of the station's age. Roscosmos said on Monday that a decision on quitting the ISS had not yet been made. "When we make a decision we will start negotiations with our partners on forms and conditions of cooperation beyond 2024," the space agency told AFP in a statement."

Russia to Quit Int'l Space Station in 2025 - Reports, Moscow Times

"We have 2024 as an agreed time limit with our partners on the work of the ISS. After that, decisions will be made based on the technical condition of the station's modules, which have mostly worn out their service life, as well as our plans to deploy a next-generation national orbital service station," Roscosmos said."

Keith's note: It is springtime and right on schedule the Russians are once again making strange noises as a prelude to renegotiating something. It happens every year. They never have enough money to do the things that they threaten to do - or not do - or both. Of course, all of the problems they allude to seem to have to do with their hardware (and lack of Soyuz seat sales). So ... what are they going to do? Give their ISS hardware to the ISS partners? Sell it? Detach it and deorbit it? FYI there is a huge lien against the entire program to deorbit ISS once it has completed its task. Is Russia going to help pay for this? As for the new Russian space station - show me the money.

- Earlier posts about Russia

Russian Film Plans Mean NASA Astronaut Could Spend an Entire Year in Space, Gizmodo

"Russian director Klim Shipenko and an actress to be named later might join the Soyuz MS-19 mission, which is scheduled for launch in October, as AP reports. .. Once filming activities are done, Shipenko and his partner, along with Novitskiy, would return home on MS-18, likely within a week. The two seats were meant for Vande Hei and Dubrov, which means the pair might have to stay on the ISS until the next return trip home, likely in the spring of 2022."

Keith's note: So ... NASA no longer has an arrangement with Russia to buy Soyuz seats. As such they have to use Axiom Space (who has some sort of undisclosed deal with Roscosmos to own/control a Soyuz seat) that they can swap for a seat on a Boeing or SpaceX flight (another TBD deal) - all for the purpose of assuring a U.S. presence on the ISS. But wait: the return seat is not guaranteed and the American flying in the Axiom Space Soyuz seat may have to stay on the ISS for a year?

I thought the whole idea behind the commercial crew thing was that SpaceX and Boeing were going to be flying to/from ISS on a regular basis and do so in a fashion that assured U.S. access - in both directions? So why is it that an American can't get a ride home when they are supposed to? This sounds like American astronauts are now flying on standby tickets. I'd ask NASA PAO - but they never answer these sort of questions.

Who negotiated this mess?

- Congress Inquires About NASA/Russia - Soyuz Deals, earlier post
- Is NASA Running A Soyuz Seat Swap Scheme?, earlier post
- NASA Wants To Buy Russian While The White House Says Buy American, earlier post

Keith's 18 March update: It has been 24 48 72 96 hours and no mention of this discovery by NASA public affairs or its science mission news sites. I know that NASA HQ knows about this story. The logical place for a news item would be SMD's NASA Science News but they are only interested in planets and stars.

Keith's note: Three novel microorganisms i.e. bacterial strains never before isolated and identified - have been found on the ISS according to a paper published in Frontiers In Microbiology: "Methylobacterium ajmalii sp. nov., Isolated From the International Space Station".

I posted the press release on my Astrobiology.com website - but I used the originating press release title - which could be a little better, BTW since it only scratches the surface of what was discovered: "Bacterial Strains Discovered On The Space Station May Help Grow Plants On Mars".

Let me say this again: three new terrestrial life forms have been discovered - in space - on a space station - using advanced genomics. That is certainly "space biology" and it certainly has relevance to "astrobiology" given that these life forms were discovered growing inside a space station i.e in outer space where they seem to have found an ecological niche. They also have relevance to sensing humans to Mars since they are related to nitrogen fixing which will figure into how we might grow plants in a life support system on other worlds like Mars.

The press release by the journal mentions the funding source: "The research described in this manuscript was funded by a 2012 Space Biology NNH12ZTT001N Grant No. 19-12829-26 under Task Order NNN13D111T awarded to KV, and NASA's 2018 Space Biology (ROSBio) NNH18ZTT001N-FG App B: Flight and Ground Space Biology Research Grant No. 80NSSC19K1501 awarded to CCCW." So NASA Space Biology Program gets a nod - but no connection is made to where space biology fits in the grander scheme of things i.e. the NASA Science Mission Directorate which makes zero mention of this on their science news website.

NASA Astrobiology is not mentioned. The reason NASA will give is that the specific program with this name did not fund it - even though space biology and astrobiology are both within SMD (which is never mentioned). While Mars is mentioned, JPL will make no mention of it on its Mars page since the missions to Mars - even though they are searching for life and testing the potential of supporting terrestrial life there - did not fund this.

The ISS Program Office will not mention this either since SMD/Space Biology funded it - not them. Yet the ISS readily post pictures of the vegetables they grow in space and the research that they do relating to plant growth - if they fund it, that is.

But CASIS/ISSNL - who did not fund or mention this research - did tweet a link to a Scientific American article "NASA Will Map Every Living Thing on the International Space Station". So at least someone at CASIS/ISSNL is paying attention to the overall topic of sequencing in space.

And of course, even though there is some hefty genomics involved NASA Genelab won't mention it since they were not involved. But I am pretty sure that the NASA funded SPACELINE Current Awareness List due out this Friday will certainly make mention. Oh, by the way - NASA's Space Biology, Space Medicine, Astrobiology programs and the ISS program Office and CASIS make no mention of SPACELINE, a NASA-funded research service that puts out a weekly summary of related space life science research. Go figure: NASA has a funded group that finds all of these synergies - yet no one knows that it even exists.

Update: Spaceline did indeed make mention of this research in their 19 March 2021 edition - see item #3.

Think of all the life science and exploration synergies that this discovery could have - if only NASA had the organizational software to seek out such synergies and bring them to light. The public is constantly inquiring as to what NASA does and why it does them. NASA seems to think that they need to justify what they do to their "stakeholders" but they never really do it. Building bridges between the various programs within NASA and things outside the agency would seem to be a prudent thing to do, right? Guess again. There are obvious synergies outside of NASA: how the genomics and microbiology were done, links to agriculture, etc. But NASA would have to cooperate internally to catch all of this and assemble it into a coherent larger picture. Again, NASA doesn't do that.

So .. articles with accurate headlines of "Microbes Unknown to Science Discovered on The International Space Station" will have no mention by any NASA websites. Cool NASA research will be a NASA PR orphan and the media will arrive at their own conclusions without any help from NASA.

NASA Updates Pricing Policy to Full Value for Commercial Activities on Space Station

"In June 2019, NASA first released its commercial marketing pricing policy to establish subsidized pricing to stimulate and enable the use of resources on the space station. NASA anticipated revisiting the pricing policy periodically and adjusting prices as market forces dictated in response to interest, market growth, and competition (reference NID 8600.121). The pricing policy from June 2019 did not reflect full reimbursement for the value of NASA resources; it was intended to stimulate the market and was planned to be adjusted. Based on discussions with stakeholders, the current market growth, and in anticipation of future commercial entities capable of providing similar services, the agency has updated the Commercial Use Activities pricing policy effective immediately."

Keith's note: NASA has done a stealth increase on the cost of making commercial use of the ISS. This is what it cost on 13 July 2019. And this is what it costs now.

ISS expedition crew member time used to cost $17,500/hr. Now it costs $130,000/hr. Upmass (passive cargo) used to cost $3,000/Kg - now it costs $20,000/kg. The earlier rate chart included fees for private astronaut missions which cost $11,250 per day for life suport/toilet and crew suplies (and food) at $22,500 per person per day. The basic cost (without internet or power) was $33,750/day per person. NASA has yet to post a revised rate chart for private visitors but since everything else has increased by a factor of approximately 7, that daily cost will probably increase to around $236,250 per day.

- NASA Announces A Space Station Pricing Plan, earlier post
- OIG Announces Review Of NASA's LEO Commercialization Activities, earlier post
- SpaceX Announces First Wholly Civilian Crewed Space Mission, earlier post
- ISS Commercialization Is Here: Reality Shows and Perfume Ads, earlier post
- Trying To Figure Out The Axiom Team's NASA Agreements (Updated), earlier post
- Expanding The ISS For Customers That No One Can Identify, earlier post

Vice President Kamala Harris Calls NASA Astronaut Victor Glover

"In celebration of Black History Month, NASA astronaut Victor Glover welcomed Vice President Kamala Harris to the International Space Station for avirtual chat. In the video recorded Feb. 24 and shared Saturday, the conversation ranged from the legacy of human spaceflight to observing Earth from the vantage of the space station, Glovers history-making stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, and preparing for missions from the Moon to Mars."

Moscow denies visa to candidate for NASA post, says U.S. has made similar move, Reuters

"Moscow said on Wednesday it had denied a visa for a candidate to head the mission of U.S. space agency NASA in Russia, in what it described as retaliation for the U.S. denial of a visa to an undisclosed Russian official. Russia did not identify the U.S. official who had been denied a visa, or provide further details of the incident for which it was retaliating. The U.S. embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

Kathy Lueders "Gets It"

After ISS - What?

The International Space Station can't stay up there forever. Will privately run, commercial replacements be ready in time?, Washington Post

"Wary of a gap, Bridenstine has increasingly been sounding the alarm, urging Congress to fully fund its requests to build a commercial presence in Earth orbit that would include private stations. Last year, NASA requested $150 million as part of its plan, but Congress granted just a tenth of that. For the fiscal 2021 budget, NASA requested the same amount but will receive just $17 billion, sparking a new round of warnings: "ISS won't last forever & incentivizing the private sector to begin follow-on capabilities are needed now," said Lori Garver, who served as NASA deputy administrator in the Obama administration. "This concept isn't hard, have we learned nothing in the last 10 years?"

Keith's note: I was hoping to ask a space biology question to one of the ISS crew today. So, a few days ago I called the number listed in the NASA media release to get on the list but it kept giving me a "this number has been disconnected" message. So I sent an email to NASA PAO. They said that JSC PAO would send me the dial-in information for the media event. Two days later - nothing was ever sent. Last week NASA PAO pulled the same stunt on me at a Crew-1 briefing at KSC. And a few weeks prior they would not let me do a crew interview. Each time I ask why I get a lame excuse from PAO akin to "a dog ate my homework". I am the only actual space biologist (that I know of) who covers NASA. I just wanted to ask the space biologist in orbit an actual sciencey question or two since everyone else was asking about Baby Yoda and sleeping in space. Oh well. No one at NASA PAO takes the space station seriously any more - so why bother, I guess.

Keith's update: OK so JSC PAO says that their process broke down and that I was supposed to be a participant. The question I had planned to ask is being sent up to the ISS. This is what I was going to ask during the press event:

"Question for Kate Rubins: On your first stay on the ISS you became the first person to sequence genomes in space. On that expedition you used standard, known genomes as a proof of concept to test out the sequencing hardware. Now you're back to do more sequencing but this time you are going to do more extensive sampling and preparation activities. From one space biologist to another: Have you done any of this advanced sequencing yet and if so what species have you sequenced? Also - are you going to have the chance to exercise a biologist's inherent curiosity and swab the interior of ISS to see what you can find via sequencing? Follow-up question: Once upon a time NASA used to designate a "Science Officer" on the ISS. Now that you are there, arguably as the first space biologist/astrobiologist-astronaut, don't you think that it is time to resume that practice?"

Crew-1 Dragon Arrives At the International Space Station

"The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience successfully docked to the International Space Station at 11:01 p.m. EST Monday, transporting NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi."

NASA Watch On BBC For Crew-1

Report of NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges, OIG

"Challenge 3: Sustaining a Human Presence in Low Earth Orbit

NASA's plan for the ISS, as detailed in the President's FY 2021 budget request, envisions new commercial facilities and platforms in low Earth orbit. This plan includes a request for $150 million for commercialization of low Earth orbit. The effectiveness of this plan while continuing to provide substantial funding to maintain and operate the ISS remains to be seen, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit. It is clear that the ISS will require significant federal funding beyond 2025, given the current limited commercial market interest in assuming the Station's operational costs. To the point, an independent review conducted in 2017 concluded that the profitability of a commercial platform like the ISS in low Earth orbit is questionable and will be highly dependent upon generating sufficient revenue from commercial activities and keeping operation costs low."

Keith's note: Odds are that the new NASA Administrator will be dealing with this next Spring/Summer.

NASA's Crew-1 commander to be sworn into U.S. Space Force from the International Space Station, Space News

"NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, a U.S. Air Force colonel and the commander of the upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon mission, is transferring to the U.S. Space Force and is expected to be commissioned aboard the International Space Station. "If all goes well, we're looking to swear him into the Space Force from the International Space Station," said Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force."

Keith's note: Swearing in someone to get a new job elsewhere in the Federal government on the ISS may seem a little extreme - but why not. But wait: has anyone else's new job been announced like this from the ISS by the U.S.? Out of curiosity, since NASA is all about charging people for things being done on the ISS, who is paying for the crew times, comms, etc. involved in this announcement? That would make a fun FOIA request to file. NASA is supposed to be a civilian space agency. And I seem to recall from my days at NASA that Japan signed on to the ISS with the caveat that no military activities be conducted there. And yes, I know that many U.S. Astronauts still have military ties.

But since the Space Force came into existence, the once clear lines between civilian and military space seem to have become increasingly blurred - especially when the NASA Administrator makes repeated complimentary public statements about Space Force - with the ISS used as a backdrop for military recruiting commercials. Just sayin'

- Earlier Military space postings

On-orbit Democracy Ops

Offworld Voting

"From the International Space Station: I voted today

-- Kate Rubins"

Soyuz Crew Returns To Earth

Chris Cassidy, Ivan Vagner, and Anatoly Ivanishin Return To Earth

"After 196 days living and working in Earth's orbit aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy returned from his third space mission Wednesday, Oct. 21, with cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The crew departed the station at 7:32 p.m. EDT Wednesday and landed just south of the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 10:54 p.m. (8:54 a.m. Kazakhstan time)."

NASA Highlights Science, Business on Next Northrop Grumman Mission to Space Station

"Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA and Stéphane de La Faverie, group president, The Estée Lauder Companies and global brand president, Estée Lauder, who will discuss plans to photograph the company's New Advanced Night Repair serum in the space station's iconic cupola window as part of NASA's efforts to enable business activities at the space station and develop a robust low-Earth orbit economy."

Keith's note: We got an advanced look at one of Phil's slides. NASA apparently did extensive simulations of the perfume photo op. Larger image

Keith's note: After 20 years of continuous human occupation, the full potential of the ISS has yet to be tapped. To borrow a phrase from Star Trek - which was borrowed from Shakespeare - the ISS is the 'undiscovered country'. With all the talk about how we'd conduct a human mission to Mars, we have a Mars transit spacecraft analog flying over our homes every day just waiting to be used to its fullest extent. Seeing the ISS passing by Mars in this image should be a reminder of the amazing potential of this expeditionary base camp in Low Earth Orbit. Let's use it - before we lose it.

Day 2 of ISSRDC Online Series to Feature Space Investment, Commercialization, and NASA-driven Programs

"Day 2 of the 9th annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) will take place virtually this Thursday, September 17, bringing together researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and the general public to showcase the benefits of conducting research and technology development onboard our nation's industrial incubator in low Earth orbit (LEO). Each year, ISSRDC is hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA, and the American Astronautical Society. The day will kick off with a session focused on space-based research that is leading to commercial product applications. Multiple plenary sessions will be dedicated to NASA-driven initiatives like GeneLab and the Cold Atom Lab. Additionally, a session focused on trends within the investment community will be led by executive leadership within Nasdaq."

The conference will also air on NASA TV

Space Travel Reality Show Set To Send Contestant To ISS In Works From Space Hero Company & Propagate, Deadline

"The trip of the Space Hero winner will be on a SpaceX Dragon rocket. Space Hero, billed as the first space media company, is working with Axiom Space, manufacturer of the world's first privately funded commercial space station -- a module for the ISS where the private astronauts can stay -- and full-service human spaceflight mission provider. Led by Mike Suffredini who served as NASA's International Space Station program manager for 10 years, Axiom handles all aspects of the Space Hero private astronaut mission, from brokering the trip to the ISS -- currently earmarked for early 2023 -- and securing the rocket seat to training the aspiring astronauts and insurance coverage."

NASA astronauts have a new task: make videos of Estee Lauder products, CNN

"The International Space Station has served as the world's most unique laboratory for two decades, hosting hundreds of scientific experiments, crews of astronauts and even the occasional slime. But now, NASA, one of the space station's primary operators, is preparing to oversee the largest push of business activity aboard the ISS. Later this month, up to 10 bottles of a new Estée Lauder (EL) skincare serum will arrive at the space station, a NASA spokesperson told CNN Business. NASA astronauts are expected to film the items in the microgravity environment of the ISS and the company will be able to use that footage in ad campaigns or other promotional material."

Gerstenmaier warns against ending space station program prematurely, Space News

"We don't want to do an Apollo: a rush to a single objective and then have nothing left," he continued. "We need to build infrastructure, leave pieces behind that the private sector can use, as well as the government, to move forward." Gerstenmaier said he didn't know how long such a transition from the ISS to private facilities would take, but didn't think there was a firm deadline for ending the station. "I don't know that there's a hard date where the station needs to be retired," he said. "I think there will be probably a push to retire the station with the idea that you're going to free up funds for exploration. That's what I described to you as a false choice."

NASA Administrator to Open Space Station Research and Development Conference, NASA

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is set to open the ninth annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 27, as the microgravity laboratory celebrates the 20th anniversary of continuous human presence in space."

Day 1 of ISSRDC Online Series to Feature NASA Leadership and Promote Commercialization of Low Earth Orbit, CASIS

"The 9th annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) kicks off as a virtual event this Thursday, August 27, bringing together researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and the general public to showcase the benefits of conducting research and technology development onboard our nation's industrial incubator in low Earth orbit (LEO). Each year, ISSRDC is hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA, and the American Astronautical Society. This year, the conference will take place as an online series featuring three days of virtual plenary sessions: Day 1 on August 27, Day 2 on September 17, and Day 3 on October 22. The virtual sessions are free to attend; however, registration is required for each day."

Watch live on NASA TV

Keith's note: I will be live tweeting the entire ISSRDC on Thursday on @NASAWatch with the hashtag #ISSRDC I urge others who might be listening to try and do the same.

CASIS Board of Directors Welcomes New Members, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the organization that manages the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory pursuant to a Cooperative Agreement with NASA, has inducted four new members to the organization's board of directors. As directors on the CASIS board, these highly decorated and scientifically diverse leaders will work with existing board members, executive staff, and NASA stakeholders to determine organizational priorities. The board seeks to ensure and enhance the ability of CASIS to optimize the use of the ISS National Lab through basic and applied space-based investigations that will continue progress toward our nation's goal of developing a sustainable market economy in low Earth orbit."

"What if we built a bridge, between and above all nations, to jointly discover the galaxy's great unknowns?" Join us this fall as we prepare to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station. As a global endeavor, 240 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory, which has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from scientists in over 100 nations."

Why the International Space Station Deserves Consideration for a Nobel Peace Prize, ISS National Laboratory

NASA Names Joel Montalbano International Space Station Program Manager

"Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Joel Montalbano as manager of the International Space Station Program. The appointment was effective June 29 following the June 26 retirement of Kirk Shireman, who held the position since 2015. ... Montalbano had served as deputy program manager for NASA's space station program since 2012, a role in which he shared responsibility with the program manager for day-to-day management, working across organizations and with NASA centers, other government agencies, and partners to ensure seamless and efficient space station integration."

Keith's 16 June update: As we first reported last night ISS Program Manager Kirk Shireman is leaving NASA. Additional NASA sources have confirmed that he has announced his retirement effective 26 June, This departure is quite a surprise to people at NASA.

NASA Updates Date, Time for Media Teleconference with Administrator, New Head of Human Spaceflight

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 18, to introduce Kathy Lueders, the newly selected associate administrator of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate."

NASA Names Joel Montalbano As Acting International Space Station Program Manager

"Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Joel Montalbano as acting manager of the International Space Station Program. The appointment is effective Friday, June 26, the date Kirk Shireman, who has been in the position since 2015, is retiring from the agency to take a position in private industry."

Keith's note: FWIW NASA just Re-created The Office Of Space Science and Applications (OSSA)

Keith's note: At today's media telecom with Jim Bridenstine I asked if he could clarify NASA's media reach during the Demo-2 launch since he says that it topped everyone's viewing habits. I got one number "10.3 million concurrent viewers across all NASA platforms". I asked about these "heat charts" that NASA showed which seem to only show limited interest in the states where Dragon was built and flown and asked for additional viewership statistics. I don't expect to see any. I also asked how NASA can be seen as being relevant when we see split screens on TV with NASA on one side and riots on the other. How is NASA going to convince these angry and worried people who are out in the streets wearing gas masks - and not watching 2 guys take off in a rocket ship - that this is more important than problems "back here on Earth" (as this question is often couched). His response below:

Keith's note: Stop for a moment and look at the expanding disarray in terms of America's relations with other nations - one that is exacerbated by a global pandemic. Where is the one place where a multi-national program has operated - smoothly - as a real partnership - with no real problems between the partners? Answer: the International Space Station. This is a consummate example - for all involved - as to the value of soft power. There actually are things more important than transient food fights back on Earth. This aspect of the ISS is often lost and rarely played up to the extent it warrants. Living in space can teach us how to live on Earth. Oh yes: Let's try and keep the ISS success story in the forefront as we start to make noises about war in space and claiming things out there for personal use.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine: Why our Launch of the SpaceX Demo-2 Mission to the International Space Station is Essential

"NASA is committed to fulfilling its obligations to the station's international partners as we work to return human spaceflight capability to American soil. Our commercial crew providers are in the final stages of development and testing of new human space transportation systems. To ensure the agency keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station until these new capabilities are routinely available, NASA is in negotiations with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall. NASA's contract with Roscosmos will meet the recommendations of several advisory committees including the GAO, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and the NASA Office of the Inspector General."

NASA to Host Preview Briefings, Interviews for First Crew Launch with SpaceX

"With the first mission to return human spaceflight launches to American soil now targeted to lift off May 27, NASA will highlight the historic flight with a series of news conferences Friday, May 1, that will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. In addition, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who will serve as crew for the mission, will be available for remote interviews."

The briefings start at 11:00 am EDT and air live at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

NASA Announces New ISS National Lab Leadership, NASA

"One of six action items NASA identified in its response was to identify an ISS National Lab program executive at NASA Headquarters as the primary liaison to CASIS. As a first step in NASA's response, Alex MacDonald, NASA's chief economist, will also serve as the agency's program executive for the ISSNL. In this capacity he will work closely with CASIS to lead the implementation of NASA's forward plan as the agency outlined in its response to the IRT to bring the ISSNL into a new era."

CASIS Welcomes New NASA ISS National Lab Program Executive, CASIS

"We recognize that modifications in the current model of the ISS National Lab are necessary for continued success and maximization of the return on investment for the American people," said CASIS Chief Operating Officer and NASA Liaison Ken Shields. "The entire CASIS management team and staff welcome the opportunity to work with Dr. MacDonald, NASA, and other stakeholders in swiftly implementing many important changes to how the ISS National Lab will operate moving forward."

International Space Station Research and Development Conference Postponed

"After careful consideration and extensive discussions amongst key stakeholders within the space station community, the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, the American Astronautical Association and NASA have elected to cancel the 2020 International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) as an in-person event in Seattle. Protecting the health and well-being of presenters, exhibitors, attendees and staff is our priority. Partners are presently evaluating alternative avenues to feature content slated for the conference, and will keep you informed should there be updates."

NASA Shares Findings, Recommendations, and Response to Review of International Space Station National Lab

"An external team appointed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has completed its review of the operations and management of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, which the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages. The Independent Review Team (IRT) delivered its report to the agency in February, and NASA is now publicly releasing the report in full as well as the agency's response to its recommendations."

Message from the CASIS Board of Directors in Response to the Findings and Recommendations of the Independent Review of the International Space Station National Lab, CASIS

"With the goal of full utilization of ISS resources achieved, CASIS also recognizes that realizing the return on investment that the American people have made in the ISS requires important changes in the model of the ISS National Lab, and in its relationship with NASA," said Co-chair of the CASIS Board of Directors Dr. Andrei Ruckenstein. "We embrace the recommendations of the IRT report, many of which are fully aligned with our strategic plan and changes we have already begun implementing with our NASA colleagues. We are committed to working with NASA, other non-governmental organizations, implementation partners, and the broader user community toward maximizing access to the ISS for diverse users, accelerating sustainable commercial development of space and inspiring a next-generation of innovators and leaders."

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Comment on Independent Review of Space Station National Laboratory R&D Management

"We face important decisions about the future of the ISS and its research and development activities in low Earth orbit," said Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Kendra Horn (D-OK). "The IRT's report raises questions about CASIS's and its role in that future. I look forward to reviewing the IRT report as we work to ensure that NASA and the nation have an effective path forward for sustaining low Earth orbit research."

Earlier CASIS postings

Boeing Statement on Starliner's Next Flight

"The Boeing Company is honored to be a provider for the Commercial Crew mission. We are committed to the safety of the men and women who design, build and ultimately will fly on the Starliner just as we have on every crewed mission to space. We have chosen to refly our Orbital Flight Test to demonstrate the quality of the Starliner system. Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer. We will then proceed to the tremendous responsibility and privilege of flying astronauts to the International Space Station."

ISS National Laboratory: COVID-19 Response and Update, CASIS

"Effective March 20, 2020, we elevated the COVID-19 response level at the ISS National Lab, enacting a mandatory telework policy for our team. ... As we endeavor to navigate this very dynamic situation, we will provide status updates as necessary. For now, let's all do the best that we can to remain safe and healthy. Let's also make an effort to remain connected to one another through this challenging time. All the best and trying to be Mark Watney."

The Parallels Between Space Missions And COVID-19 Isolation, Jack Stuster

Keith's note: Jack Stuster has been conducting studies for NASA on how crews live and work in space and the parallels that can be found with expeditions on Earth for decades. He has provided this commentary about confinement and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the parallels within his studies.

"Dear Keith: I have been asked recently by two German journalists for suggestions about how families and others might adapt to confinement and isolation in their homes in response to the current pandemic. As you know, I have studied conditions analogous to space stations and to expeditions to the Moon and Mars for nearly 40 years, and I studied life on the ISS during the 13-year Journals Flight Experiment. I have described the research in articles/papers, NASA technical reports, and a book, Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration. I am offering the recommendations, below, and on the attached one-page document in hope that the information might be useful to your readers."

Keith's note: NASA and Boeing held a media briefing today about the report of the NASA Internal Review Team (IRT) report on the various problems with the recent Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT). In summary the IRT found 61 things - recommendations - action items - problems - call them what you will - that need to be attended to by Boeing. We really do not know what they are since NASA and Boeing have not released them. But maybe they will.

According to NASA HEOMD AA Doug Loverro this was a close all with the possibility that the Starliner could have been lost at the beginning of the mission or at the end of its mission. Since this is a Boeing project with significant NASA insight Loverro has started the process with the NASA Safety office to set up an organizational root assessment of all Boeing and NASA actions leading up to this mission.

When Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch initially spoke he was, in essence, saying that he wanted to thank NASA IRT for helping Boeing to find these 61 issues that Boeing was unable to find prior to launch - despite the biliions spent on Starliner - and despite all the help from NASA.

Doug Loverro said that he was designating this whole Starliner thing as a "High Visibility Close Call" (HVCC) which is NASAese for setting up an internal NASA process that includes all involved plus NASA Safety to find out what went wrong. Loverro noted that Boeing had "graciously" agreed to support this team. Uh huh. Nice of them to be gracious about it.

I asked a question about these 61 technical issues and Chilton started to get into semantics as to whether they were "61 technical problems" since many of these things mapped against the same problems. And then NASA hung up on me before I could hear the rest of my question. It took a while to be able to reconnect to the telecon. Maybe its the snarky questions I ask. Then again Jeff Foust from Space News got thrown out of the question queue. Houston we have a problem ...

Listening to Doug Loverro talk he got into many fundamental aspects of how to manage a large aerospace program that speaks to experience gained from a 40 year career doing just that. Although he was trying to be positive about this it is clear that he is aware of pervasive Boeing/ NASA Starliner problems and that some structured adult supervision is required.

Everyone on the call wanted to know if there would be another OFT flight without a crew or with a crew. Loverro explained that the initial requirement for crew transport was to show NASA that the vehicle could safely deliver a crew to the ISS. Boeing opted for an actual docking to prove this requirement and NASA wrote it into the contract. Whether an un-crewed OFT re-flight is needed to do this or whether a crew can fly next time and make up for missed requirements is still TBD - and NASA was not showing its cards on this. Chilton later said that Boeing would re-fly the OFT if need be, but we do not know who'd pay for this extra mission.

Between my first question and my re-asking of that question an hour later I inquired of Boeing that since Boeing had all of these undiscovered problems prior to launch - of what they thought was a perfectly good spacecraft = one would assume that a more complex Boeing space vehicle such as the SLS would now require even more time to double check. Chilton said that there was output from the Starliner IRT effort and that it was being sent around their company for everyone to analyze to see if it applied to their programs. But other than that he did not get into specifics.

Loverro added that the pacing items on SLS were not software but instead were the green test (engine firing) and that other than a ground system issue at Stennis, no software needed to be finished. He also noted that the software team at IV&V was looking to all of this as well.

Of course Boeing and NASA originally thought that the Starliner's software was good to go - so its a little curious that no one is overly concerned that there are more undiscovered things lurking in otherwise certified SLS software given all of the software issues the Boeing SLS people have experienced at MSFC. And again, SLS is a much larger, energetic, and complex spacecraft than Starliner - one upon which a crewed vehicle will eventually fly.

As to whether the way that NASA Has bought commercial services is the issue Loverro commented that he has had great successes with fixed cost and cost-plus contracts as well as failures from both types of contracts. So the contracting mechanism is not the issue.. Instead Loverro thinks that this is a managerial issue - hence the convening of the follow-on internal assessment of how NASA and Boeing did what they did on the Starliner flight. No timeline was given so one would assume that no Starliners are going to fly until this effort is completed. So .. barring any unforeseen problems SpaceX looks to be poised to win the flag that awaits them on board the ISS.

When asked if any more Soyuz seats are being bought Loverro said that they are talking to Russia and the plan is to buy one more seat. The telecon closed with Loverro saying the obligatory "we won't fly unless its safe ... stuff" and the operator ended the teleconference. I was busy typing and did not hang up right away. Other reporters did hang up. Then the NASA guy came back and said that Jim Chilton had some closing thoughts and he had an important one - that if NASA wants Boeing to re-fly OFT then they will. Nice of NASA to tell reporters that the telecon was over before Chilton had a chance to say this.

If I sound a little impatient with NASA's teleconferencing system - I am. I did live video webcasts from Everest Base Camp for a month in 2009 using gear I carried on my back with far fewer technical problems than NASA has with a simple dial-in system. Seriously NASA, fix it. And get some new on-hold music too while you are at it.

NASA, Boeing to Provide Outcome of Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

"NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Friday, March 6, to discuss the outcome of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Participants in the briefing will be:

- Douglas Loverro, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
- Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch
- Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program
- John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Program"

Listen live

Boeing Statement on Independent Review Team Recommendations for the Starliner Orbital Flight Test Anomalies

"We accept and appreciate the recommendations of the jointly led NASA-Boeing Independent Review Team (IRT) as well as suggestions from the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel following Starliner's Orbital Flight Test (OFT). Their insights are invaluable to the Commercial Crew Program and we will work with NASA to comprehensively apply their recommendations.

- Regarding the Mission Elapsed Timer anomaly, the IRT believes they found root cause and provided a number of recommendations and corrective actions.
- The IRT also investigated a valve mapping software issue, which was diagnosed and fixed in flight. That error in the software would have resulted in an incorrect thruster separation and disposal burn. What would have resulted from that is unclear.
- The IRT is also making significant progress on understanding the command dropouts encountered during the mission and is further investigating methods to make the Starliner communications system more robust on future missions."

Keith's note: To date none of these Starliner briefings have revealed good news - for Boeing - or NASA. Boeing made a lot of mistakes - and NASA let them and/or did not notice. The IRT report is certain to flesh out the bad news we've already heard and, if the trend continues, will reveal more issues with Starliner. NASA has to decide how Boeing will fix all of the problems that have been identified before they fly Starliner again. The big question is whether there will be people on board the next Starliner flight - or not. NASA may require Boeing to re-do the initial flight without a crew on board. If they do there is a big question as to who pays for the launch which could easily exceed $100 million.

- Boeing's Starliner Transparency Is Still Cloudy, earlier post
- Starliner's Clock Was Really Really Wrong, earlier post
- Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock, earlier post
- Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test Was Technically A Success - But ..., earlier post
- Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media, earlier post


Former ISS executive, accused of 'expensing' prostitutes, pleads guilty to tax fraud, Florida Today

"A former economist employed by a Space Coast nonprofit that operates the International Space Station's U.S. laboratory pleaded guilty to one tax fraud-related count in an indictment filed last year, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Charles Resnick, once the chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, was indicted in April by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa on 10 counts. The charges alleged the creation of phony receipts when filing expense reports, as well as hidden spending of government funds on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015."

Former exec at International Space Station science lab pleads guilty in tax case involving 'expensing' prostitutes, Orlando Sentinel

"The agreement also states that Resnick improperly deducted business expenses worth about $51,500 even though he had already been reimbursed for some of the expenses and that "some of the deducted expenses were not ordinary and necessary business expenses." The plea agreement does not mention the original indictment references to escorts or prostitutes. Resnick is responsible for total tax loss for the tax years from 2010-2013, according to the agreement, and that amount will be determined at sentencing, a date for which has yet to be determined."

Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post

Keith's note: On 27 January 2020 NASA issued a release NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station. This title and a lot of the wording are misleading since the release actually says "NASA selected Axiom from proposals submitted in response to a solicitation through Appendix I of NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 Broad Agency Announcement, which offered private industry use of the station utilities and a port to attach one or more commercial elements to the orbiting laboratory."

The Appendix says "All awardees will receive Task Order 1 for concept and business plan development." That's it. Down the road NASA says "At the time of contract award, depending on the concept maturity and availability of funds, NASA may award Task Order 2 to begin the early design phase and mature business plans, leading to subsequent task orders and an eventual decision point for prioritization of use of the ISS port."

This NASA agreement with Axiom is actually the first step in a series of agreements. NASA did not select Axiom to do anything other than come up with a plan - to develop a plan - do something that NASA still has to evaluate - something that requires lots of follow-up Agreements - and more plans. But everyone is reacting as if they are about to start cutting hardware. See "Expanding The ISS For Customers That No One Can Identify" for more thoughts on the Axiom agreement

According to a 30 January 2020 press release In a Space Industry First, NASA Grants KBR the Right to Train Private Astronauts at NASA Facilities from NASA contractor KBR (one of the partners in the Aziom team) "KBR (NYSE: KBR), a leading solutions provider to the civil, military and commercial space industry, will become the first company to train private astronauts at NASA facilities. The company recently signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Johnson Space Center allowing it to provide human spaceflight operation services to commercial companies. KBR currently holds the only agreement with NASA to provide these services using the agency's facilities and capabilities." and "The agreement directly supports one of five elements of NASA's plan to open the ISS to new commercial and marketing opportunities that will continue the agency's efforts to enable a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy. As was recently announced, KBR will further support this mission by working as a subcontractor to Axiom Space on the first commercial destination module for the ISS."

If you go to this NASA web page Current Space Act Agreements there are links to 4 recently updated lists of current agreements between NASA and a panoply of companies, organizations, educational institutions, and others. On this list (last updated 30 September 2019). There is no mention of "KBR" among the 1,131 SAAs listed. There are 3 SAAs with with Wyle Laboratories, Inc, a KBR subsidiary. One of these agreements is titled "NASA NEUTRAL BUOYANCY LABORATORY FACILITY USAGE AGREEMENT: with Wyle Laboratories, Inc (a KBR subsidiary). This SAA started 10 April 2017 and runs to 31 May 2021 (SSA-SA-16-22103-02). This SAA was signed in 2017 (but the text is not posted online) so I am not certain if that qualifies as "recent" unless there is another NASA SAA with KBR and/or Wylie or another part of KBR signed after 30 September 2019 that we have not been told about.

Axiom has 4 SAAs in place with NASA. These 2 are posted online: ""Flight Operations Directorate Axiom Training (which mentions KBR and several documents as being attached to the SAA which are not provided in the online text of the SAA)" and "Low-Earth Orbit Commercial Development Utilizing the ISS" which is an "umbrella agreement" established "for the purpose of establishing a reimbursable agreement between NASA and Axiom whereby NASA provides unique services and capabilities to Axiom in support of commercial development activities including pre-flight mission planning for prospective astronaut trainees" But nothing specific is mentioned as who pays how much for which service. And neithert KBR or Wylie mentioned.

There are SAAs between Axiom and NASA to use services (and KBR is in the mix on one of them) but there is no evidence of a SAA between NASA and KBR, as mentioned in their press release. Or are they talking about an older one from 2017 with Wylie (i.e, not "recent")? It would seem that KBR issued this press release about a SAA they claim to have that is actually several years old with one of its subsidiaries. NASA makes no mention of any SAA with KBR yet mentions over a thousand other SAAs. It looks like KBR tossed out this press release to capitalize on the recent news of the Axiom agreement signed with NASA representing a team to which KBR belongs.

Right now no one has given Axiom the green light to build and operate anything connected to ISS - just to pursue studies that would lead to further agreements. Good news. Someone has a basic plan that may bear fruit. I have asked NASA for a copy of this Space Act Agreement mentioned by KBR in direct reference to the Axiom activity and any others between NASA and KBR/Wylie that relate to astronaut training and/or use of NASA training facilities.

Keith's update: NASA JSC PAO replied that this agreement with JSC and SGT is the SAA that KBR is referring to. KBR bought SGT NASA JSC/SGT Vendor Partner Agreement 9/10/2019 9/10/2024 Reimbursable JSC SAA-CA-19-28973. Oddly, despite all of the crew training you'd think would go into having commercial astronauts on Axiom attached to the ISS for a prolonged period, that this training would cost a fair amount of money. This agreement says that "Partner agrees to reimburse NASA an estimated $84,606.77 for NASA to carry out its responsibilities under this agreement. In no event will NASA transfer any U.S. Government funds to Partner under this agreement." $84,606.77? That's it - for 5 years - for the use of all the facilities and people has on the payroll? Either NASA is underwriting the work in this SAA to a substantial degree with a hefty discount - or the hundreds of millions NASA has spent to train astronauts for ISS work over the past 20 years represents a gross waste of money on the part of NASA. Or ... this SAA and other documents mentioned above represent only a portion of what the real agreement between Axiom/KBR et al contains.

What JSC and HEOMD ought to be doing is to explain what these agreements are and (more importantly) are not. They need to explain - in normal language, who does what with/from whom, when everything happens, who pays NASA to do do things, and how much it costs (NASA has published "Commercial and Marketing Pricing Policy" price list). The press release by NASA is extremely misleading. Yes these agreements are a start but the title of the NASA press release should have been "NASA Selects The First Company To Submit Plans For A Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station". Just sayin'

Oh yes ... we've covered some earlier commercial astronaut training stories at JSC ...

- Waypoint2space Clarifies A Few Things About Astronaut Training at NASA JSC, earlier post (2016)
- Waypoint2space Wants You To Train Like An Astronaut (But You Won't Be One), earlier post (2016)
- More Q&A With Opifex Global About Their Astronaut Training Thing, earlier post (2019)

GAO: NASA Commercial Crew Program: Significant Work Remains to Begin Operational Missions to the Space Station

"NASA will have fewer astronauts on the ISS in 2020 unless the Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft are ready to fly missions, but significant work remains for both. NASA has few back-up options if delays continue and will have only one astronaut on the U.S. side by April 2020. Most of this astronaut's time will be spent on maintenance activities rather than on research and development.

To fly as soon as possible, NASA has been planning to complete its reviews of the contractors' systems under aggressive time frames. This approach is risky because it assumes the contractors will complete multiple activities on time. Boeing and SpaceX must conduct additional test flights, train astronauts, and get a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

FAA licenses cover the contractors' launch and reentry activities. FAA may grant waivers for changes to the license that do not jeopardize public safety. For example, FAA may grant waivers for changes in launch trajectory. NASA needs to know when such changes have been made in case they affect the crew. While NASA and FAA have coordinated on launch licensing for years, they have not yet decided how they will communicate about waivers. As a result, NASA may not have all the information it needs for launch decisions."

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station

"The element will attach to the space station's Node 2 forward port to demonstrate its ability to provide products and services and begin the transition to a sustainable economy in which NASA is one of many customers. NASA and Axiom next will begin negotiations on the terms and price of a firm-fixed-price contract with a five-year base performance period and a two-year option."

Keith's note: To be certain, the full potential of the International Space Station has yet to be fully tapped - and it has an inherent capacity to be greatly expanded beyond its current configuration with commercial interests being a likely partner. But who is the customer for the use of this addition? Is it only NASA? What user demand model is the basis for facility's size and operations and what assumptions is it based on? NASA still can't fully use the ISS that it has in orbit now and it has dueling (and sometimes conflicting) utilization systems via NASA and CASIS. Isn't it a little odd to sign an agreement with these uncertainties before we know who is going to pay for this and how much they're going to pay? Just sayin'.

Keith's update: Some questions come to mind - this is the stream of consciousness order in which they occurred to me (I used to do space station payload utilization when I had a real job - at NASA): What payload attributes does this Axiom space facility have? How many payload racks will there be? What are the utilities offered at each rack location? Out of whose operations budget do the power, cooling and other utility allocations come? How many racks can be configured for sub-rack payload integration? What payload facilities (glove boxes, integration hardware) will be provided by Axiom? What does the customer have to provide? Will the payload allocation be in addition to NASA's allocation or will rack space be considered part of the overall payload space subject for use by ISS partners? Does CASIS have an allocation within these facilities? Who is the prime user interface for NASA customers - the ISS program office? CASIS? Both? Someone else? Will the cost of flying a payload via ISS program office, CASIS, and Axiom be the same or different? If so how - and why? How much of the facility's capability is owned by Axiom? Does NASA or the other iSS partners have any approval/veto over payloads? Will the U.S. and the international partners be able to include Axiom facilities in their long-standing practice of bartering resources? How does Axiom intend to cover ITAR/IP Issues - is this considered a U.S. facility for those purposes? Will Axiom fly private astronauts to the ISS? If so from whom do they buy seats and is the price the same or different than what NASA pays? At the end of its operational lifetime is Axiom responsible for cost and conduct of the disposal/de-orbit of their facilities? What payload/utilization demand models did NASA and Axiom use as the basis for this agreement? Were these models made available to other bidders? Can these payload models be made available publicly? What orbital lifetime will NASA guarantee to Axiom? What provisions are in place in case NASA is forced to withdraw from supporting ISS? Has Axiom been given options to buy or lease current on-orbit facilities located in other parts of the ISS? And so on.

If there was a press event for this announcement and I was able to ask questions I can guarantee that the answers to my questions would be "we'll get back to you"; "that has not been determined yet", "I do not know"; "That's up to Axiom" (who would decline to answer); "That's up to NASA" (who would decline to answer); "It depends on Congress"; "we are confident that people will want to use this world class facility". And FWIW when they say "we'll get back to you" that is always followed by nothing but crickets. As such its not really worth contacting PAO about this.

Delivery of Nauka module to Baikonur postponed over fuel tank adjustments, TASS

"The construction of the Nauka module began in 1995. Russia initially planned to launch the Nauka lab to the ISS as a back-up of the Zarya compartment (the station's first module that continues its flight as part of the orbital outpost) but the launch was numerously delayed. In 2013, the Nauka module was sent to the Khrunichev Space Center after metal chips were found in its fuel system. Rogozin said on December 16 that the module may be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in early 2021 instead of late 2020 as was initially planned."

Khrunichev Delivers Multi-purpose Laboratory Module "Nauka" to Energia, 2012

Keith's note: Update and clarification: I've had multiple reports inside the NASA/CASIS community that the final report has been delivered. That is not exactly accurate. In fact, an out briefing on the final results has been made to NASA but the actual, formal document is still in preparation - as noted in these tweets today from SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen.

Keith's earlier note: The final report of the CASIS review panel has been delivered to NASA. It is not expected that we'll hear anything from NASA until the end of the month or the beginning of February. CASIS has been in stand down or "strategic pause" since this review committee was initiated. The CEO has been on leave ever since and several other senior staff have been reassigned. The acting CEO has kept the organization running smoothly in the interim - and both the review team and NASA have noticed this relative improvement.

The review has seen and highlighted the strengths (and there are many) among the folks at CASIS who do the real work. They have also documented all of the needless "drama" (a word commonly used in the review) associated with the prior management team. One would hope that the CASIS review team recommends that NASA continue with what works at CASIS and strives make it and its relationship with CASIS better while ejecting the people and things that hinder or undermine CASIS as it accomplishes its tasks.

The review panel has found many things at CASIS that are broken that are the fault of CASIS management. But they have also found that NASA was an absentee landlord and neglected to provide appropriate oversight of this activity. Without a healthy two-way relationship, NASA and CASIS failed to make the most of the relationship. That needs to change. NASA and CASIS need to redefine what CASIS is and is not expected to do, what NASA is and is not expected to do, how NASA and CASIS can better communicate and coordinate, and how they can both work together in synergy as a team - not as dysfunctional competitors.

The International Space Station is too vital a national - indeed a global - asset to waste. It has only begin to prove its value.

- NASA Orders A Review Of CASIS (Update), earlier post
- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post
- CASIS Quarterly Reports To NASA Are Now Online at NASAWatch, earlier post
- Previous CASIS postings

Keith's note: This tweet refers to "Publication Metrics from the International Space Station Results", a 6 January 2020 page which attempts to show how much research has been accomplished on the ISS. As you all know people outside of NASA constantly ask what it is those astronauts do up there. Alas, as is the case with all NASA research conducted by various directorates, missions, division, centers, and projects, no one at NASA truly has a central collection of ISS research data. Why? Because NASA cannot cooperate internally and externally to make this happen. Over the decades I have watched people try to pull it all together in one place. Invariably one effort collides with another group trying to do the same thing. Cooperation is not always the obvious solution since both efforts have separate funding streams and cooperating would lead to a cut in funding. So the building of independent data stovepipes continues.

There are some ISS research resources that NASA promotes to the public. But there are others, of great utility, that NASA goes out of its way to ignore - even though they are often more illustrative and linked to more of NASA's ISS research than the things NASA wants you to see. Two of those resources are NASA Spaceline Current Awareness and NASA's PubSpace.

Neither NASA's ISS National Laboratory, Publication Metrics from the International Space Station Results, Space Station Research & Technology, ISS Benefits for Humanity, Let's Explore Space Station Science, or Space Station Research Results Citations Resources link or make any mention of PubSpace or Spaceline Current Awareness.

If you go to the CASIS/ISS National Laboratory website or its publications page neither PubSpace or Spaceline Current Awareness are referenced or linked to either. In fact CASIS only makes one link back to one of NASA's ISS pages here on a sub page under their Research header link. NASA is not exactly linking up a storm to CASIS either.

Of course if you go to the NASA Spaceline Current Awareness page it makes zero linkage back to NASA or CASIS. Nor does it link to PubSpace. The NASA Spaceline page is hosted at NASAPRS. You will note that their archive only goes back to 2003. The only place you can currently find a complete archive of the Spaceline reports is on our SpaceRef website here - all the way back to 1996.

Historic note: NASA started a service to catalog space biology research results back in the late 1980s when I worked in the life sciences division as a space biologist at NASA HQ. Ron Dutcher and Janet Powers at USHUS saw this project through hard times - even when funding often disappeared. I took it upon myself to grab all of their reports when their site went dark for a while in the late 1990s/early 2000s and have kept it all online ever since. A few years back Spaceline found a new home at NASAPRS where it is maintained along the same lines of excellence that have characterized this labor of love since the 1980s.

Federal law enacted a few years back managed that all government funded research be made public in a fashion readily accessible. NASA chose to intergate its various research result collections with the PubMed Central (PMC) repository which is hosted by The National Institutes of Health. That resource is called PubSpace. PubSpace does not link back to NASA or CASIS pages on ISS research. Nor does it link to Spaceline.

Of course there is more to ISS research than life and microgravity science. There's stuff out on the truss looking out at the universe and back at Earth. The NASA Astrophysics Data System has lots of stuff about this. A simple search for "space station" shows that. Then there's the arXiv.org preprint server. A search for "space station" yields results there too. None of the NASA websites referenced above mention either of these resources even though NASA either funds the service an/or funds a vast portion of the research they contain.

There's something rather broken with the way that NASA coordinates all of its research result outreach efforts. When you visit one of them it is as if the others do not even exist.

So here we are. NASA is trying to promote the whole LEO commercialization thing with the ISS as a keystone on this effort. NASA tries to turn ISS off and give it to the private sector but Congress responds by extending its life and telling NASA to pay for it. Now NASA wants to build a mini-space station called Gateway in cislunar space to operate in parallel with ISS. Indeed Gateway is already being marketed in some ways as a way to do the sort of things that are done on ISS. As noted above there is a constant questioning of why we need a space station and what value it provides. NASA tries to respond to these inquiries but always manages to trip when it comes to making the big decisions required to truly explain - to a variety of audiences - what space stations do. Everyone has a different story. Some of the explanations resonate. Others do not.

NASA wants to establish a permanent human research presence in lunar orbit and on the surface and go to Mars and all that other stuff. If NASA cannot get itself on the same page regarding the whole cost/benefit equation in LEO on an established platform like ISS, then it is improbable that they will ever pull a cohesive plan together to explain the lunar and Mars things.

A good place to start would be to synchronize all NASA and NASA-funded space station outreach into a coordinated package with a single entry point - not a swarm of unconnected and independent efforts.

Keith's note: Over the past few years I have submitted regular FOIA requests to NASA HQ for documents related to how NASA and CASIS interact with one another. Specifically I asked for the quarterly reports submitted by CASIS to NASA. Below is a collection of these reports. For the most part they are un-redacted. Sometimes they are - alas the redactions are not consistent over the entire collection with somethings blacked out on one report only to be in the clear on another. Since CASIS' perfomance is currently being reviewed by a panel chartered by NASA HQ I thought his information - along with other things I have posted about CASIS over the years - would be of interest to the review panel.

FY 19 Quarters [1] [2]
FY 18 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 17 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 16 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 15 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 14 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 13 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 12 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine and Doug Loverro attended the Space News award event in Washington today. I asked them about the Moon/Mars plan that the Vice President and the National Space Council asked NASA to deliver in 60 days. Specifically I asked them if it had been delivered and if so could we see it. Bridenstine replied that it had not been delivered as requested and did not indicate when it would be despite it being rather overdue. See "Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update)"

Prior to my question Doug Loverro announced that he was assembling a Baseline Assessment Team to conduct a review to see where the Artemis/SLS/Orion program is and then decide how to move forward. Specifically Loverro said he did not know what the Artemis 1 launch date would be and that this date would only be set once the entire program had been given a look over.

Loverro went on to say that he did not want to see funding as a "crutch" for not meeting the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024. He noted that he "does "not complain about gravity or radiation" and that funding is just another obstacle to overcome. Bridenstine cautioned that just because the date of Artemis 1 may change that does not necessarily mean that all other launch dates will be delayed.

When asked about the budget situation Bridenstine said he thinks that there is a chance that NASA will get areal appropriation by 20 December. If not, he said that he's talking to his lawyers about ways to "move forward in this politically charged environment". NASA has other lunar-focused efforts underway that have adequate funding and it is possible that some of them could be used to further assist the human lander effort.

With regard to the ISS Bridenstine said "We know that the space station can't last forever. What are we doing now to make sure we do not have a gap in LEO since we are not going to build another ISS.

Inevitably the topic of Space Force came up in light of recent agreements in Congress. Both Bridenstine and Loverro are strong supporters of Space Force and it showed in their comments. At one point, Loverro sought to link what he's doing at NASA with what Space Force will be doing at DoD: "I am going to the Moon in 2024 and I do not want there to be any space pirates out there". He was kidding. I think. But wouldn't you want a few pirates in the mix? Just sayin'.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of Crew Transportation to the International Space Station, NASA OIG

"... the CCP's flight assumptions were flawed because they failed to take into consideration a normal flight cadence and the five Soyuz seats NASA planned to purchase from Boeing. ... "NASA's crew access analysis also did not include the five Soyuz seats the Agency was planning to purchase from Boeing for flights in 2017 through 2019. " ... "According to several NASA officials, a significant consideration for paying Boeing such a premium was to ensure the contractor continued as a second crew transportation provider. CCP officials cited NASA's guidance to maintain two U.S. commercial crew providers to ensure redundancy in crew transportation as part of the rationale for approving the purchase of all four missions at higher prices. "Additionally, senior CCP officials believed that due to financial considerations, Boeing could not continue as a commercial crew provider unless the contractor received the higher prices."

Boeing Statement Regarding OIG Report on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, Boeing

"We strongly disagree with the report's conclusions about CST-100 Starliner pricing and readiness, and we owe it to the space community and the American public to share the facts the Inspector General [IG] missed," said Jim Chilton, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Launch. "Each member of the Boeing team has a personal stake in the safety, quality and integrity of what we offer our customers, and since Day One, the Starliner team has approached this program with a commitment to design, develop and launch a vehicle that we and NASA can be proud of."

... Through fair and open negotiations with NASA in a competitive environment, we offered single-mission pricing for post-certification missions (PCMs) 3-6, thus enabling additional flexibility and schedule resiliency to enhance future mission readiness. This single-mission pricing for PCM 3-6 was included in the pricing table in the original contract. That original pricing table remains unchanged. Contrary to the conclusion in the IG report, Boeing contends that the benefits in shorter lead time and flexibility in adjusting launch dates are well worth the higher price in the table.

... Boeing rejects the average seat price assessment in the IG report. Boeing will fly the equivalent of a fifth passenger in cargo for NASA, so the per-seat pricing should be considered based on five seats rather than four. For proprietary, competitive reasons Boeing does not disclose specific pricing information, but we are confident our average seat pricing to NASA is below the figure cited."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of Crew Transportation to the International Space Station

"Boeing and SpaceX each face significant safety and technical challenges with parachutes, propulsion, and launch abort systems that need to be resolved prior to receiving NASA authorization to transport crew to the ISS. The complexity of these issues has already caused at least a 2-year delay in both contractors' development, testing, and qualification schedules and may further delay certification of the launch vehicles by an additional year.

Consequently, given the amount, magnitude, and unknown nature of the technical challenges remaining with each contractor's certification activities, CCP will continue to be challenged to establish realistic launch dates. Furthermore, final vehicle certification for both contractors will likely be delayed at least until summer 2020 based on the number of ISS and CCP certification requirements that remain to be verified and validated. In order to optimize development timelines, NASA continues to accept deferrals or changes to components and capabilities originally planned to be demonstrated on each contractor's uncrewed test flights. Taken together, these factors may elevate the risk of a significant system failure or add further delays to the start of commercial crewed flights to the ISS."

It's tough being small in a big-suit world. We still spacewalked., Op Ed, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, Washington Post

"One could say that the first all-female spacewalk was worth celebrating simply because it overcame history. It was the story of two girls who gazed at the stars with an improbable dream, who as women were given the "go" to egress the airlock. But there's more than that. The real achievement is the collective acknowledgment that it is no longer okay to move forward without everyone moving together. NASA's mission is to answer humanity's call to explore. If there is any part of humanity that's not on that journey, we are not achieving our mission. The efforts to equalize exploration are what really ought to be celebrated. ... We are entering a new era where we must commit to go boldly only if that means we all go, an era in which any person who dares to dream will have the opportunity to contribute. Our successes will be greater because not a single innovative idea will be turned away -- that is what diversity and inclusion mean. And that is why a long-overdue all-female spacewalk so captivated the world it served."

Keith's note: Over the past few years I have submitted regular FOIA requests to NASA HQ for documents related to how NASA and CASIS interact with one another. Specifically I asked for the quarterly reports submitted by CASIS to NASA. Below is a collection of these reports. For the most part they are un-redacted. Sometimes they are - alas the redactions are not consistent over the entire collection with somethings blacked out on one report only to be in the clear on another. Since CASIS' perfomance is currently being reviewed by a panel chartered by NASA HQ I thought his information - along with other things I have posted about CASIS over the years - would be of interest to the review panel.

FY 19 Quarters [1] [2]
FY 18 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 17 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 16 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 15 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 14 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 13 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]
FY 12 Quarters [1] [2] [3] [4]

Keith's note: The pad abort test of Boeing Starliner was technically a success today. The system quickly removed the capsule from the danger zone and landed exactly as planned but one of the three main parachutes did not deploy. The NASA and Boeing TV announcers repeatedly commented that 2 deployed parachutes are within the safety requirements of the system, that this is all about redundancy, and that a safe landing could have happened with one parachute. But one of the three main parachutes failed to deploy. Given previous parachute problems, it is possible that additional testing will be required before Starliner who can be launched. Boeing was originally not planning to do a live broadcast of this test until NASA Administrator Bridenstine told them that they were going to do it.

Keith's update: NASA's post- test press release says "Two of three Starliner's main parachutes deployed just under half a minute into the test, and the service module separated from the crew module a few seconds later. Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test perimeters and crew safety."

However Boeing's post-test press release makes no mention whatsoever of the parachute failure. Its a good thing that Jim Bridnestine directed Boeing to televise the test - otherwise we might not have known about the chute failure.

Keith's second update: Boeing posted this update "Boeing statement regarding CST-100 Starliner pad abort test" saying "We will review the data to determine how all of the systems performed, including the parachute deployment sequence. We did have a deployment anomaly, not a parachute failure." This is typical aerospace post-event mumbo jumbo. No one knows what happened so it is called an "anomaly". I get that. But the parachute failed to deploy. We could all see that it failed to deploy. This update was not emailed to the same distribution list Boeing uses for press releases. Also, the earlier press release (that makes no mention of any parachute issues) is still online at Boeing. Anyone who sees this press release or the version sent out to the media may be totally unaware that the parachute failed to deploy on a vehicle designed to carry people.

CASIS Update

Keith's note: According to LinkedIn CASIS has a new Director of Programs and Partnerships - Gary Rodrigue. Based on his LinkedIn page Rodrigue apparently has zero space experience. No surprise. CASIS hires lots of people with no space experience to run the place. Oh yes - Rodrigue worked at IBM for nearly 20 years. Christine M. Kretz, CASIS Vice President of Programs and Partnerships worked for IBM for nearly 20 years. Just a coincidence.

The person who was supposed to replace former CASIS PR guy Brian Talbot, Chief Communications Officer John Murphy, is out of his job at CASIS. So is Chief Strategic Officer Rick Leach according to sources. CASIS CEO Joe Vockley is still on full pay - but without any current CASIS responsibilities.

The new NASA HQ liaison to CASIS, Doug Comstock, met with the CASIS board and Acting CEO Ken Shields last week. In essence, the NASA review of CASIS performance is going to take a while - longer than the 12 weeks mentioned in the 13 August 2019 NASA memo and CASIS is being told to stand down (the so-called "strategic pause") from new initiatives and focus on the payloads already in the pipeline.

This is not the best news for NASA's plans to move out on the commercialization of LEO on ISS and then move to cis-lunar space. On the other hand, taking the time to take a close look at CASIS, then sit back, and come up with a strategic plan to fix things, is a good idea. Alas, if NASA cannot get LEO commercialization to work on an existing, fully-operational and mature platform like ISS close to home, then the chances that they can make the whole commercial thing work all the way out in cis-lunar space are questionable. And of course, if the election changes out the current Administration then all of this will get a hard reset in early 2021.

ISS is too valuable a resource to waste. Stay tuned.

Letter From NASA JSC to CASIS Board Of Directors Regarding Cooperative Agreement No. NNH11CD70A/80JSC018M0005, NASA, Earlier post

"The NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration & Operations is requesting a strategic pause in CASIS activities relative to changes in the CASIS PI in order to enable NASA to establish an Independent Review Team to assess the underlying Cooperative Agreement to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth. NASA anticipates that this assessment will be completed within 12 weeks after the team has been established."

- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, Earlier post
- Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities, Earlier post
- Crisis at CASIS: New Opportunities or Looming End Game?, Earlier post

"Have you ever seen LEGO bricks float? Now is your chance! Watch former NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino unbox and build LEGO sets in zero gravity! Get inspired to join the greatest adventure ever as we work together to put an astronaut on Mars! Let's Go!"

Mike Suffredini Objects to Legos in Space, earlier post (2012)

"Suff inquired about the relevance of performing the Lego experiment onboard from an ISS research priorities perspective. Ms. Robinson explained that Lego is Leland Melvin's top priority - for education given that Legos are something that children are very familiar with and that can reach tens of thousands of students. Suff asked if the folks at HQ had considered the negative aspects of showcasing Legos in that it may seem we are not utilizing 1SS resources to their fullest capacity. Ms. Robinson explained that she was not aware that people had considered that perspective and would pass this on."

Letter From NASA JSC to CASIS Board Of Directors Regarding Cooperative Agreement No. NNH11CD70A/80JSC018M0005

"Pursuant to Paragraph 4.6, Change in Principal Investigator or Scope, of the subject cooperative agreement, the CASIS decision to change or significantly reduce the availability of services of the International Space Station National Laboratory Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Joe Vockley (Cooperative Agreement Paragraph 3.1.g), is not approved at this time. The NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration & Operations is requesting a strategic pause in CASIS activities relative to changes in the CASIS PI in order to enable NASA to establish an Independent Review Team to assess the underlying Cooperative Agreement to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth. NASA anticipates that this assessment will be completed within 12 weeks after the team has been established."

Keith's original 15 August note: Joe Vockely is still on full salary but has no defined operational responsibilities at CASIS at this time. His continued involvement at CASIS, long term, is not clear. CASIS COO Kenneth Schields is now the Acting CEO of CASIS. The chairman of the CASIS board, Philip Schein has been removed and two board members are currently acting jointly to run the board's activities. NASA Administrator Bridenstine has identified the chair of this CASIS review team as being Elizabeth R. Cantwell, the Senior Vice President of Research and Innovation at the University of Arizona. However the members of this team or details of the format or activities of the team have yet to be released.

Keith's 19 August update: According to Dr. Schein he had clearly stated his intention to retire from the CASIS board several months ago after 5 years of service. He then formally submitted a letter of resignation to the CASIS board. He was not voted off of the board or "removed" as we previously reported. Our original posting was based on multiple sources within CASIS. Alas, CASIS itself simply refuses to respond to media inquiries. We regret this error and posted this update within minutes of being informed by Dr. Schein.

The phrase "strategic pause" has not been defined by NASA other than to refer to efforts associated with "changes in the CASIS PI". As such one might logically conclude that this means that CASIS staff will continue with 99% of the routine payload tasks they have - tasks unaffected by who the CASIS PI is.

Memo from NASA HEOMD AA Ken Bowersox To NASA HEOMD Staff Regarding CASIS/ISS National Lab Changes

"1. The heads of the Science Mission Directorate and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate will jointly commission an Independent Review to assess whether the ISS National Laboratory is on mission and appropriately organized and resourced to improve life here on Earth.

2. For the duration of the review, NASA's liaison to the ISS National Lab will move from HEOMD's ISS Division to the low Earth orbit commercialization activity currently being led by Doug Comstock. I appreciate all of your efforts as we work to develop the low Earth orbit economy. Feel free to stop by my office if you have any questions."

Keith's note: this review is a dual effort by HEOMD and SMD which underscores the overlapping interested between the directorates in terms of public/private activities on ISS and beyond. It also makes car that ISS Director Sam Scimemi is no longer the NASA liaison to CASIS.

- Crisis at CASIS: New Opportunities or Looming End Game?, earlier post
- NASA Asked CASIS To Stop Paying Its Board Of Directors, earlier post
- Earlier CASIS posts

NASA to seek independent review of ISS National Laboratory

"However, a NASA letter to CASIS, dated Aug. 13 and obtained by SpaceNews, called for a "strategic pause in CASIS activities" while the independent review panel works "to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth." The letter estimated the that review would take 12 weeks to complete. The letter also referenced a request by CASIS "to change or significantly reduce the availability of services" of Joseph Vockley, who is president and chief executive of CASIS and serves as principal investigator for NASA's grant to CASIS to operate the ISS national lab. NASA said it was deferring that request until after "this strategic pause and assessment." A source familiar with the situation said that the CASIS board recently sought to remove Vockley, a move that would require the concurrence of NASA."

Keith's note: I am told that the acting CEO of CASIS is CASIS COO Ken Shields. Sources also report that some final management decisions affecting senior leadership at CASIS - ones that require NASA concurrence - were put on hold last night. So these letters may have been superseded to some extent. Stay tuned.

Keith's note: Last week after the conclusion of the ISS Research and Development Conference in Atlanta, the chairman of the CASIS board of directors stepped down. The board is now being run on an interim basis by several other board members. Changes in CASIS senior management are likely. Further changes at CASIS are also to be expected. There are many skilled and dedicated people at CASIS who are up to the task of fixing things - so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Meanwhile CASIS stakeholders at NASA, in Congress, industry, and the scientific community are all talking about what should be done to fix things at CASIS and the ISS.

NASA is currently proposing the construction of a mini-space station (Gateway) in cis-lunar space that will be operated by NASA with the assistance of the private sector. If NASA cannot make public/private, commercial/scientific efforts function successfully in LEO on board a fully operational and well-understood platform like ISS then the chances that NASA can do the same thing a quarter of a million miles away - building upon ISS experience - are questionable to say the least.

Personally I think that the ISS is the 'undiscovered country' and that we have yet to fully tap its potential. Hopefully NASA and its various stakeholders and partners will take this opportunity to re-examine how utilization of ISS is conducted, fix what is broken, and build upon what works. A fully enabled and utilized ISS can be a crucial stepping stone along the path of the human exploration of the solar system. Not making the most of the ISS could result in a large pothole in that path.

ISS Research and Development Conference livestream

8:30 - 9:00 AM Morning Keynote with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and ISS National Lab CEO Dr. Joseph Vockley to Host Press Conference at ISS R&D Conference

"On Wednesday, July 31, during the 8th annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC), NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory Chief Executive Officer Dr. Joseph Vockley will hold a press conference to discuss the critical importance of our nation's only orbiting laboratory."

Keith's note: Offsite media questions will be submitted via Facebook and Twitter screened by CASIS. Since CASIS refuses to accredit NASAWatch as news media it is unlikely that I will be allowed to ask a question.

What Is CASIS Up To?

Keith's note: The CASIS-sponsored International Space Station Research And Development Conference is underway in Atlanta. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is speaking at ISSRDC on Wednesday. NASA has not issued any media advisories about Bridenstine's appearance or the conference in general but CASIS did last week.

You'd think that NASA would want people to know that this event is going on. Guess again. If you go to @Space_Station with its 2.7 million followers there has been no mention whatsoever. Nor has there been any mention by @NASA with its 32 million followers. No mention at NASA.gov, or at NASA TV, or at the NASA HQ ISS page.

A few weeks ago NASA went up to New York and did a big thing on Wall Street to promote NASA's plans to open up the ISS to more commercial uses. CASIS was invisible at that event and is not mentioned in any of NASA's new ISS commerce plans. Now NASA is going out of its way to dial back promotion of this ISSRDC event - even though there is a NASA logo all over everything.

If NASA was actually interested in the commercial potential of the ISS then you'd think that they'd use every opportunity to promote the potential of the ISS. But they don't. Why?

Keith's note: In a 7 March 2019 letter from NASA Space Station Director Sam Scimemi to CASIS CEO Joseph Vockley, Scimemi states that NASA believes that "the CASIS Board of Directors size and scope should be reduced. In addition to the subject if the Board's compensation addressed in CASIS Cooperative Agreement Modification 14, we recommend reducing the number and composition of the directors per the enclosed proposed revisions to your bylaws. We also believe that based on CASIS's performance since the NASA letter, dated November 16, 2017, that the ad hoc advisory committees created by the Board, including operations, business development, science and technology, and STEM education, are no longer required. The Board should retrun to a governing manner of corporate management and oversight in order to comply with the CASIS bylaws."

"Recommended Changes to CASIS, Inc. Bylaws

3.02 (2) The Board shall consist of not fewer than five (5) and not more than nine (9) managing directors with at least fifty percent of the exact number to be scientific of which shall be determined from time to time by the board.

3.10 Compensation of Directors. Directors may be reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of their duties to the Corporation in reasonable amounts but will not receive compensation for their service on the Board."

On 10 April 2019 Vockely signed off on a cooperative agreement modification which says that "The CASIS Board of Directors will not be compensated for their time in participating as a Board member (Travel expenses will be paid). This is consistent with best practices for non-profit Boards of Directors".

Hmm ... this change in policy states that not paying board members for their time "is consistent with best practices for non-profit Boards of Directors". If so then why did CASIS pay their board members in the first place? Where they not in compliance with best practices for non-profit Boards of Directors by virtue of making these payments? NASA highlighted issues with the CASIS board in a 16 November 2017 letter. CASIS replied to NASA about the issues raised by NASA on 22 January 2018. Apparently CASIS did not move on these issues thus requiring NASA to send another letter on 7 March 2019.

If you look at the most recent CASIS 990 form filed with the IRS for 2017 Part VII (pages 7 and 8) "Compensation of Officers, Directors,Trustees, Key Employees, Highest Compensated Employees, and Independent Contractors" you will see what the CASIS board members are paid an average of $40,000 a year and senior members of CASIS staff are paid from $200,000 to over $300,000.

Eleven CASIS board members are listed in the latest 990 form. With one exception the board members were paid between $38,000 and $41,000 a year for 8.00 hours a week of work. For the sake of analysis, let's assume an average of $40,000 a year for those 10 people serving on the CASIS board. If you assume a 52 week year that's 416 hours per year or $96/hr. If you assume a 2,080 hour annual work year that rate is equal to an annual salary of $200,000.

In an earlier story from 2015 "Examining Staff and Board Member Salaries at CASIS" I noted that the 2013 990 form showed that CASIS board members were paid an average of $49,750 a year for 6.00 hours of work a week or $159.45 an hour. This hourly rate is what someone with a salary of $330,000 earns. So ... CASIS board members took a big pay cut. But they were still being paid as of the last IRS filing.

The current board listed by CASIS shows 9 board members - the maximum number that NASA requested. Given that the 990 form filed by CASIS claims that these board members work 8 hours a week (i.e. one work day) is significant. That means they devote 20% of a standard work week - every week - to CASIS. Exactly what that work is or how it is confirmed as having been accomplished is not mentioned by CASIS. I have been on the board of directors of two space-related non-profit organizations (no compensation whatsoever) so I have an idea what is involved in board responsibilities and why people serve on these boards.

At this level of payment and expected workload CASIS board members were contributing significant labor to CASIS more akin to what a consultant would offer - beyond what you might expect a board member to be offering. That point is now moot since the board members are doing it for free - assuming that CASIS has complied with NASA's request, that is. Of course there is also the question of whether the board's responsibilities have changed now that they are not being paid - or if they are still working one day a week for CASIS. I'd ask - but CASIS does not respond to any NASAWatch inquiries.

But wait: there is a press event with Jim Bridenstine and Joe Vockley on Wednesday at the ISSRDC event. Alas, offsite media can only use social media to suggest questions.

- 17 November 2017 Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities
- 22 January 2018 Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities
- Earlier posts about CASIS

Hearing: A Review of NASA's Plans for the International Space Station and Future Activities in Low Earth Orbit

"Location: 10:00 AM 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC, US, 20515"

Watch live.

- Statement of Chair Kendra Horn (D-OK) of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

- Statement Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

Witnesses are:

- Mr. William H. Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (Statement)

- The Honorable Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Statement)

- Professor Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, Professor Emerita University of Mississippi, Editor-in-Chief Emerita, Journal of Space Law (Statement)

- Mr. Eric W. Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation (Statement)

NASA commercial Crew Program: Schedule Uncertainty Persists for Start of Operational Missions to the International Space

"As of May 2019, both contractors had delayed certification nine times, equating to more than 2 years from their original contracts (see figure). This includes several delays since GAO last reported in July 2018. ... NASA's ability to process certification data packages for its two contractors continues to create uncertainty about the timing of certification. The program has made progress conducting these reviews but much work remains. In addition, the program allowed both contractors to delay submitting evidence that they have met some requirements. This deferral has increased the amount of work remaining for the program prior to certification. In February 2019, NASA acknowledged that delays to certification could continue, and announced plans to extend U.S. access to the ISS through September 2020 by purchasing seats on the Russian Soyuz vehicle."

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Application For Special Temporary Authority (FCC)

"This application uses information from previous grant 0068-EX-ST-2019. This STA is necessary for Dragon2 capsule telemetry, tracking, and command, for the upcoming SpaceX Commercial Crew vehicle demonstration mission to the International Space Station. The launch and re-entry licensing authority is the FAA. Launch is also to be coordinated with the Eastern Range. On-orbit rendezvous with the ISS is to be coordinated with the NASA.

Requested Period of Operation
Operation Start Date: 11/01/2019
Operation End Date: 05/01/2020"

Keith's note: Go to 36:50 for a question to Rick Leach from CASIS about their plans for space commercialization and to HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier at 2:08:20 for a question about whether NASA thinks that it can still transfer the total cost of ISS operations to the private sector - as was their plan last year.

Keith's note: Rick Leach sought to downplay any expanded role for CASIS in overt commercial ventures on ISS (or elsewhere) the other day. CASIS had planned to try and turn up the volume on that topic at NASA HQ. CASIS sought to have a bigger role in ISS commercialization in earlier rmeetings with NASA. This is not the first time this has been discussed sources tell me. It was rather clear in comments made last week at NASDAQ and again on Monday at the U.S. Chamber of commerce by Bill Gerstenmaier that CASIS has a limited role - facilitating basic research - both scientific and technical - within the ISS National Laboratory portion of NASA's allotment on ISS. And NASA did not foresee any change in that role. CASIS was not a participant in the NASDAQ event - at NASA's direction. I guess not everyone at CASIS got the message. Stay tuned.

CASIS Clarifies Its Expansion Ambitions, earlier post

CASIS Announces Its Commercial Business Expansion Plans, earlier post (March 2019)

"CASIS Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach made a presentation "Forecasting the 2024-2035 Space Based National Laboratory for Life and Physical Sciences Space Research" at the National Academies of Science Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space meeting yesterday. During that presentation he announced that CASIS aka The ISS National Laboratory has expanded their scope of operations. They are now going to expand well beyond the ISS even though their cooperative agreement with NASA prohibits such an expansion." (larger chart image)

Keith's note: Today CASIS Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach made a presentation at an event hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce titled "Commercial Opportunities Aboard ISS National Laboratory and Future Gateway". I asked Leach about these charts which say "ISSNL can support a broad set of microgravity research platforms: new orbital platforms (crewed, crew-tended, free flyers, cis-lunar); sub-orbital vehicles; parabolic flight; balloons; drop towers; ground-based laboratories; and big data platforms". Specifically I asked how CASIS planned to proceed with this strategy in light of NASA's recent ISS commercialization plan and the fact that neither the CASIS charter or its cooperative agreement with NASA specify that CASIS can do these things. Leach replied that this chart was meant to show what CASIS could possibly do and that it would need new agreements and buy in from its stakeholders. Full audio below:

NASA to Announce Commercial Opportunities at International Space Station

"NASA will announce the agency's plans to open the International Space Station to expanded commercial activities at 10 a.m. EDT Friday, June 7, at Nasdaq in New York City. The news conference will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website. Participants in the news briefing are: Jeff DeWit, chief financial officer, NASA Headquarters, Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Robyn Gatens, deputy director, International Space Station, NASA Headquarters"

NASA Plan for Commercial LEO Development

"This plan, entitled NASA's Plan for Commercial LEO Development, addresses supply, demand, and lays out steps to date that have been taken. It also includes detailed steps that will be taken in the near-term, mid-term, and long-term."

NASA Opens International Space Station to New Commercial Opportunities, Private Astronauts

"This effort is intended to broaden the scope of commercial activity on the space station beyond the ISS National Lab mandate, which is limited to research and development. A new NASA directive will enable commercial manufacturing and production and allow both NASA and private astronauts to conduct new commercial activities aboard the orbiting laboratory. The directive also sets prices for industry use of U.S. government resources on the space station for commercial and marketing activities. Pricing released Friday is specific to commercial and marketing activities enabled by the new directive, reflects a representative cost to NASA, and is designed to encourage the emergence of new markets. As NASA learns how these new markets respond, the agency will reassess the pricing and amount of available resources approximately every six months and make adjustments as necessary."

Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements

"This announcement is for the development of experiment hardware with enhanced capabilities; modification of existing hardware to enable increased efficiencies (crew time, power, etc.); development of tools that allow analyses of samples and specimens on orbit; enhanced ISS infrastructure capabilities (ex. Communications or data processing); concepts contributing to the development of a sustainable, scalable, and profitable non-NASA demand for LEO services; and specific technology demonstration projects as detailed below."

Study Input Informs NASA Course for a Vibrant Future Commercial Space Economy

"New insights from companies in the growing space economy are helping NASA chart a course for the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit. Input the companies provided to NASA as part of the studies will inform NASA's future policies to support commercial activities that enable a robust low-Earth orbit economy. NASA selected the following companies to complete studies about the commercialization of low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station, assessing the potential growth of a low-Earth orbit economy and how to best stimulate private demand for commercial human spaceflight."

Summaries of each company's proposals

Keith's note: I got a note with these links from NASA HQ PAO today after I had been tweeting complaints about an ISS presentation by Robyn Gatens and Sam Scimemi at the NAC HEO committee today. Up until today NASA had only made hints as to what the studies they asked for actually said. Oddly neither Gatens or Scimemi made any mention that this material had been publicly released. PAO knows more about ISS commercialization than the ISS program senior management does, so it would seem. Also, if you go to the CASIS webpage they make no mention of any of these things.

Keith's note: On page 4 of CASIS FY18 Q2 Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2018 CASIS says:

"As manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, CASIS seeks to maximize both utilization of in-orbit resources and downstream value to life on Earth. To support these efforts, CASIS developed a methodology to assess the value creation of the projects in its portfolio. Working with external subject matter experts in an annual meeting, CASIS estimated (as of year-end FY17) the future value of the ISS National Lab portfolio will exceed $900 million in incremental revenue from addressable markets totaling more than $110 billion. Additional parameters indicating positive value to the nation include a time-to-market acceleration of 1-3 years and the development of more than 20 new solution pathways (a measure of innovation that can lead to a major advance in knowledge or new intellectual property). These data are updated annually but included in each quarterly report."

What does this even mean? Where is the "incremental revenue" being generated? On Earth? In space? Both? What are the "addressable markets"? How does CASIS know that these addressable markets are or will be $110 billion in size? Is CASIS saying that the stuff on the ISS i.e. "the ISS National Lab portfolio" is (or will be) producing revenue - in excess of $900 million? Where is this money coming from and where is it going i.e where is all of the selling happening? What is the time frame - years? Decades? Is this the CASIS portfolio (do they own things?) or is this NASA stuff? Or both? Is any company making a profit on their investment in their research on ISS? If so, then who are these companies? And what are these "solution pathways"?

CASIS is telling NASA in its official quarterly reports that the $15 million a year NASA spends on CASIS is resulting (or will result) in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue - or potential revenue - on stuff that CASIS is doing - stuff that could be worth $110 billion. Who are the lucky people who are going to be making this windfall? Names please. This certainly sounds great - but does CASIS actually explain any of their methodology - methodology they produced with NASA funding? No. They say that this is all updated annually but it never seems to be disseminated to NASA or to the taxpayers who are footing this party. Why is that? Is this how NASA is going to conduct its vastly expanded commercialization of the ISS in order to pay for its exploration plans - econo-babble and imaginary space markets?

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/casis.perf.17.jpg

Larger image Source: CASIS FY17 Q2 Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2017, page 12

Keith's note: When it comes to the utilization of the U.S. National Laboratory aboard the International Space Station, its what CASIS does with the free resources that they are offered by NASA that counts. The most important, and often the most limited resource, is crew time. As you can see in the figure above, as of mid-2017, CASIS has had a hard time using all of the crew time that NASA has given to CASIS.

Starting in mid-2018 CASIS stopped including detailed summaries of their actual ISS utilization (including previous year's percentages) in these quarterly reports to NASA. That's somewhat less than transparent. Let's see how they report how they have been doing in the past year. Stay tuned.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/casis.perf.18.jpg

Larger image Source: CASIS FY18 Q2 Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2018, page 22

Brian Talbot VP for Marketing & Outreach is out. A few weeks ago Joe Vockley fired Randy Giles, VP & Chief Scientific Officer. That's 15 firings since Vockley.


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

Keith's note: I just read this during the public input portion of today's NASA Advisory Council Regulatory and Policy Committee Meeting:

"My name is Keith Cowing. I am a former NASA civil servant and space biologist whose job in the 1990s entailed many of the utilization tasks currently assigned to CASIS - except we were planning them before there was an actual space station. CASIS has had nearly a decade to get up to speed with regard to its responsibilities as laid out in their NASA cooperative agreement and as a non-profit entity. CASIS has a guaranteed annual income of $15 million which is provided to CASIS - by NASA - regardless of the quality of performance demonstrated by CASIS. After nearly a decade CASIS still relies upon NASA for 99.9% of its funding.

Despite being given a government sanctioned monopoly on the utilization of the US portion of the ISS - the so-called ISS National Laboratory - CASIS has yet to be able to fully utilize the on-orbit resources given to it by NASA - including the all important crew time. CASIS has been unable to provide adequate metrics to explain what it does. Both the NASA Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office have found significant problems with CASIS' performance as well as NASA's management of CASIS which could be characterized as being somewhat of an absentee landlord. When CASIS was given its ISS role NASA only envisioned partial utilization of its overall ISS assets - those covered by the ISS National Lab. Now, a decade later, NASA envisions turning over the totality of its operations on board the ISS to the private sector. To do so NASA needs to totally revisit how it manages ISS including the CASIS Cooperative Agreement.

Given that CASIS is already incapable of meeting its chartered responsibilities on just a portion of the ISS it is unlikely that it can be expected to assume additional responsibilities that would go with managing all U.S. assets on the ISS. As such I would urge NASA to end its agreement with CASIS and re-compete these ISS National Lab responsibilities as part of a larger effort to transfer operations of the ISS to a commercial entity - if that is indeed where NASA intends to go.

The ISS is an unprecedented research facility - one who's full potential has yet to be fully realized. Despite what they might want you to believe CASIS is not the solution to the under utilization of the ISS. Rather, CASIS is the cause of its under utilization. This under utilization has gone on for far too long. Indeed CASIS often seems to be far more interested in comic book character tie-ins than doing quality science.

NASA needs to get this whole utilization thing fixed before the agency tries to commercialize anything more on the ISS. Not to do so will be to continue to waste an astonishing facility - one constructed at great expense.

Thank you for your time."

- Former CASIS Employee Indicted For Charging For Prostitutes on Travel Reports, earlier post
- CASIS Announces Its Commercial Business Expansion Plans, earlier post
- CASIS Continues Its Stealth Commercialization Plans (Update), earlier post

Examining Staff and Board Member Salaries at CASIS, earlier posting (2015)

"Note: CASIS Chief Economist Resnick recently left CASIS. CASIS employees were told that this was in connection with a NASA OIG investigation into travel accounting and that there would be additional questions about this issue."

Former ISS National Lab executive indicted for allegedly 'expensing' prostitutes, Florida Today

"Federal prosecutors have charged a former executive of the Brevard County-based nonprofit that runs the International Space Station's national laboratory for using government funds to pay for escort services, and for falsifying tax returns. Charles Resnick, served as chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, which is primarily funded by about $15 million annually from NASA. According to a 10-count indictment filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, Resnick created phony receipts and other documents when filing expense reports that hid spending on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015."

Statement on behalf of CASIS (ISS U.S. National Laboratory) Regarding Resnick Indictment

"CASIS is fully aware of the recent charges brought against former employee Charles Resnick. In 2015 CASIS immediately cut ties with Mr. Resnick upon discovering his actions, which were in clear violation of company policies and procedures. We immediately launched a full investigation into Mr. Resnick's travel and accounting practices resulting in referral to the NASA OIG. CASIS has fully cooperated with the OIG's investigation and will continue to do so. We will not have any further comment while this criminal matter is pending."- Joseph Vockley, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer

Keith's note: FYI now that CASIS has changed its name to the "ISS National Laboratory" all of the news stories will be saying things such as "Former ISS National Lab executive indicted for allegedly 'expensing' prostitutes". Great PR for the space station, right? NASA should have thought this name change thing through when CASIS first proposed it. Oh wait. CASIS just did it on their own.

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

Oh yes, NASA warned CASIS about their branding activities but CASIS did not listen.

31 March 2016 NASA letter to CASIS

"We would advice caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to ensure that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."

In NASA's spacesuit saga, women see their own stories, Washington Post

"A spacesuit may not look much like what most women wear to work. But as plans changed for an all-female spacewalk this week because of spacesuit sizing issues, many working women on Earth saw something of their own experience in the headlines -- sharing stories online about ill-fitting uniforms, male-centered equipment design or office spaces outfitted without their needs in mind. Across social media platforms, women told of giant overalls, wading boots that were the wrong size, oversize gloves that kept them from being nimble, a lack of bulletproof vests that accommodated their chest sizes and a dearth of petite-size personal protective equipment at construction sites."

Keith's note: The operational facts of this incident speak for themsleves. The crew and NASA made a decision based on the hardware as it was configured on board the ISS and the interruption to the ISS schedule that would be required to make a second medium-torso EVA suit. They also considered the safety and operational requirements that one astronaut required after their body had adapted to life in space. That said, a bigger question - one that cannot be immediately resolved - is whether having 30-40 year old spacesuits with their limited ability to be quickly reconfigured is how we want to equip astronauts to work in space. With an ever expanding diversity of people becoming astronauts - through whatever avenue - sheer pragmatism will dictate that EVA suits that are much more easily serviceable and adaptable to every wearer will be required. NASA and the commercial sector will have to realize that this is required and will then need to devote the budgetary resources to make this happen.

Keith's note: CASIS Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach made a presentation "Forecasting the 2024-2035 Space Based National Laboratory for Life and Physical Sciences Space Research" at the National Academies of Science Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space meeting yesterday. During that presentation he announced that CASIS aka The ISS National Laboratory has expanded their scope of operations. They are now going to expand well beyond the ISS even though their cooperative agreement with NASA prohibits such an expansion.

As previously noted CASIS now uses "ISS National Laboratory" as their new public name even though they claim that they have not changed their name. I need to refer to this non-profit as "CASIS" since it would be hard to refer to the ISS National Laboratory as both a facility and also as a separate non-profit organization (with the same name) that runs and represents itself to be the ISS National Laboratory - even though they are not one in the same. (see CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not )

Anyway - at this NAS meeting during "Space Science Week" here in DC, CASIS proclaimed itself to be a "space integrator" and no longer limits its activities to managing the U.S. portion of the ISS i.e. the ISS National Laboratory (per its cooperative agreement with NASA). CASIS will now be supporting a broad range of microgravity platforms including suborbital vehicles, balloons, parabolic flights, drop towers, ground based laboratories and big data platforms. (larger chart image)

How will CASIS do this? That is not clear. Recently I reported that CASIS is working to develop a commercial entity to manage its expanded portfolio of services to be offered in a commercial fashion. When I asked them about this publicly they denied that they were doing this much to the chagrin of CASIS staff, board members, affiliated companies, advisors and stakeholders - and of course, NASA. They have hired a top shelf law firm in Washington DC to help them do this. (see CASIS Continues Its Stealth Commercialization Plans and CASIS Had A Board Meeting Today)

Let's look at what CASIS is legally bound to do - and not do - with the funds that NASA provides: According to NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A - as modified 27 January 2015 (see this document, page 27)

"1.1 Introduction

This Cooperative Agreement is awarded pursuant to Section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-257, found at USC 8354) by NASA to the Center for the Advancement of Science in space ("CASIS"). The parties agree that the principal purpose of this Agreement is to authorize CASIS to serve as the not-for-profit entity for management of the International Space Station ("ISS") National Laboratory ("NL"), per section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, to maximize the value of the investment the U.S. government has made int the ISS and demonstrates the scientific and technological productivity of the ISS over the next decade.

1.2.1. CASIS Mission

CASIS will be responsible for maximizing the value of the ISS to the nation by developing and managing a diversified R&D portfolio based on U.S. national needs for basic and applied research and by using the ISS as a venue for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational activities.

1.2.2. CCASIS Goals

- stimulate, develop and manage the U.S. national uses of the ISS by other government agencies, academic institutions and private firms.
- Develop tools and techniques to communicate the value of uses of the ISS National Laboratory (IS NL) and increase the retuen on the U.S. investment in the ISS.

1.2.4 Prohibition of Other Activities

CASIS shall engage exclusively in activities relating to the management of the ISS NL and activities that promote its long term research and development mission as required by Section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, without any other organizational objectives or responsibilities on behalf of CASIS or any parent organization or other entity."

Note that according to section 1.2.4. CASIS is specifically prohibited from doing anything other than its stated tasks. These new business activities on non-ISS platforms would seem to be a direct violation of section 1.2.4. Moreover, since NASA pays 99.9% of the annual operating expenses of CASIS, the creation and operation of this new business entity (not a trivial endeavor) is most certainly being organized and operated with the use of personnel paid for with NASA funds - unless CASIS is now truly a business venture and is being paid to do these things on a commercial basis. The IRS should find that to be of interest.

Either way, in so doing, CASIS is openly seeking to compete in the private sector with companies that it is also supposed to be offering ISS National Laboratory access to - and they do so by confusingly calling themselves "ISS National Laboratory". Just a quick guess would suggest that CASIS is now going to enter markets where companies such as Nanoracks, Virgin Orbit, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, ZeroG and many others already provide commercial services.

Oh yes, one more thing when it comes to ISS National Laboratory branding: NASA's Director for the International Space Station Sam Scimemi, expressed concern about this in a 31 March 2016 letter to CASIS: "We would advice caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to ensure that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."

I wonder what NASA thinks about all of this. CASIS clearly steps over the line when it comes to what it is they are supposed to be doing - and not doing - and now they do it by claiming to actually BE the ISS National Laboratory in both name and function. Of course, this time, CASIS has kept NASA completely in the loop on these commercial plans and gave NASA a heads up on their upcoming NAS presentation, right? I don't think so.

Stay tuned.

Earlier posts on CASIS and ISS

NASA Updates Spacewalk Assignments, Announces Final Preview Briefing

"Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk. However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station. McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso - essentially the shirt of the spacesuit - fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."

Keith's note: This is what I got from NASA PAO on this issue: "As you know, we do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes that each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wore in training on the ground, and in some cases (including Anne McClain's) astronauts train in multiple sizes. However, individuals' sizing needs may change when they are on orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body. In addition, no one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space.

There is currently only one medium-size hard upper torso - essentially the shirt of the spacesuit - on board the space station that is in a readily usable configuration. Based her experience in the first spacewalk in the series, McClain determined that although she has trained in both medium and large torsos, the medium, which she wore last Friday during the spacewalk, was a better fit for her in space. To accommodate that preference, Koch will wear the medium torso on March 29, and McClain will wear it on April 8.

We have two medium hard upper torsos in space, two larges and two extra larges; however, one of the mediums and one of the extra larges are spares that would require additional time for configuration. Given the very busy operational schedule on board the station this spring - the spacewalks as well as several resupply missions that will begin arriving in April - the teams made the decision to keep the schedule by swapping spacewalkers rather than reconfiguring a spacesuit.

We believe an all-female spacewalk is inevitable. This is made more likely by the increase in the percentage of women who have become astronauts: 50 percent of the 2013 astronaut candidate class are women (including McClain and Koch), and of the 11 members of 2017 astronaut candidate class (which is still in training), five are women.

Anne McClain became the 13th female spacewalker on March 22, and Christina Koch will be the 14ththis Friday. Each spacewalk will coincidentally occur during Women's History Month, with women also filling two key roles in Mission Control: Mary Lawrence as the lead flight director and Jaclyn Kagey as the lead spacewalk officer. NASA looks forward to being able to celebrate the first all-female spacewalk, and other firsts for women, in the future."

Roscosmos vows to keep ISS on orbit if NASA withdraws from the project, TASS

"The Roscosmos state corporation will preserve the International Space Station (ISS) on the orbit even if the American side withdraws from the project, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin told journalists. "This is Roscosmos' proposal. We believe that we can keep the station in case the Americans decide to withdraw from this project, through other countries and partners. We have technological and technical capabilities to keep the station on the orbit and fully provide both electric energy and water there," Rogozin said."

Russian Rocket Program Sputters in New Race to Space, Bloomberg

"Russia's market share for rocket technology worldwide fell slightly in 2017, which Roscosmos blamed on sanctions, the weak ruble and increased competition, according to its annual report published on Friday. It singled out SpaceX for allegedly undercutting the market thanks to U.S. government assistance. ... The windfall funding from the U.S. hasn't always been spent wisely. Alexei Kudrin, the head of the country's Audit Chamber, told Russia's lower house of parliament in June that he found 760 billion rubles ($11.4 billion) of financial violations in Roscosmos's books. "Several billion have been spent, basically stolen, that we are currently investigating," Kudrin said in an interview aired Nov. 25 on state-run Rossiya 24 TV. "Roscosmos is the champion in terms of the scale of such violations."

Keith's note: With an ever-decreasing budget for space it will be interesting to watch Russia try and take over the ISS which costs more than its entire annual space budget to operate.

Keith's 4 March update: No response from NASA or CASIS.

Keith's 1 March note: I just sent this media inquiry to CASIS, NASA HEOMD, and NASA PAO:

Does this brain/organ chip research have specifically stated goals of contributing to Alzheimer's and/or Parkinson's research? If so then why does NIH make no mention of those stated goals? Or is someone at NASA/CASIS inferring some relevance? The only place I see this Alzheimer's/Parkinson's relevance is in NASA and CASIS PR material and in CASIS tweets.

If you go to this 4 December 2018 NIH release "Blast Off! Sending Human Tissue Chips into Space" at there is no mention of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's made with regard to this research activity. This NIH Project Information page "Organs-on-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Microgravity on Human Physiology: Blood-Brain Barrier-Chip in Health and Disease" makes no mention of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's - yet it has a very, very long list of key words at the bottom of the page.

Neither this CASIS press release "The ISS National Lab and NCATS Announce International Space Station Funding Opportunity Focused on Human Physiology Research" or this CASIS press release "The ISS National Lab and NCATS Announce Five Projects Selected from International Space Station Funding Opportunity Focused on Human Physiology Research" make any mention of Alzheimer's and/or Parkinson's.

Oddly this NASA webpage Organs-On-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Microgravity on Human Physiology makes reference to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's - even though NIH makes no reference. NASA and CASIS have made these Alzheimer's claims before - with no follow up i.e. "Subtracting Gravity from Alzheimer's" and "Research May Unlock Secret of Alzheimer's".

If there is no stated or intended relevance to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's then this is just irresponsible and inaccurate for NASA and/or CASIS to claim that it is and such claims need to be removed with statements that they were incorrectly asserted in the first place.

Research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's is a big deal. The population afflicted with these diseases is expanding rapidly. If ISS is truly involved in research in these areas then it needs to be promoted to the fullest extent possible. But if it is not, then claiming that it is constitutes professional irresponsibility and outright deception.

I have lost 3 parents to Alzheimer's - two in the last year. As such, as a biologist and a former NASA life science peer review panel manager, I am rather familiar with far too many claims of relevance made with regard Alzheimer's that are simply not real. I am going to be contacting the relevant Alzheimer's and Parkinson's advocacy groups about this claim by NASA and CASIS - unless you can provide proof of actual, stated goals of this NASA/NIH research that are explicitly related to Alzheimer's and/or Parkinson's.

CASIS has removed me from their media contact list and has refused to respond to previous inquiries. As such I do not expect a reply from them.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Arrives At The International Space Station

"International Space Station's Harmony module forward port via "soft capture" at 5:51 a.m. EST while the station was traveling more than 250 miles over the Pacific Ocean, just north of New Zealand."

Space Station Crew Opens Hatch to Crew Dragon After Docking

"Aboard the space station, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko opened the hatch between the Crew Dragon and the orbital laboratory at 8:07 a.m. EST."

SpaceX Launches First NASA Commercial Crew Demonstration Mission

"For the first time in history, a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket, which launched from American soil, is on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

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

Some Twitter notes from the event today:

Earlier posts

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

China, US need to build trust in space, Global Times

"After Chang'e-4 lunar probe successfully landed on the far side of the Moon, there has been considerable discussion among the US scientific community as to whether the US should embark upon a new cooperation with China for space exploration. A few weeks ago, US space agency NASA said in a statement that it is collaborating with the China National Space Administration for a lunar mission, and it is expected to image the landing site of Chang'e-4, using its lunar orbiter on January 31. The development marks the first time in eight years that China and the US have achieved such cooperation in aerospace, science and technology. ... China plans to launch a manned space station and make it fully operational by 2022. If the International Space Station retires in 2024 as planned, then China will be the only country that has its own space station, at that time. Other countries including the US may need the Chinese space station to provide reliable support, which is also an opportunity to continue pushing forward with space technology through cooperation."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith's note: CASIS is clearly trying to rebrand and/or rename itself. But instead of admitting it - and do so in an open, forthright, ethical - and legal way, they are trying to use smoke and mirrors - and some outright deception and misinformation instead. The ironic thing about all of this is that for years CASIS went out of its way to never mention "NASA" unless it absolutely had to. It was as if CASIS had built the ISS. Now CASIS is trying to make itself disappear in the same fashion so as to leave the impression that they are the ISS National Laboratory. Meanwhile, good luck finding the "NASA" mentioned anywhere. (see "CASIS Announces Significant ISS News But Forgets To Mention NASA")

I sent the following questions to CASIS and NASA today. I'll let you know if/how they respond.

"- Is this a board meeting for CASIS? Or is this a board meeting for an organization called the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory?
- Has CASIS been dissolved? If so, when did this happen? If not, why is CASIS no longer identifying itself by its legally incorporated name?
- Is "the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" the new (formal) name for CASIS? If so when did the name formally change? in what state was this name change formally made? Will this name change be reflected in formal quarterly reports to NASA on the CASIS contract? Will this name be used for all payload and commercial agreements?
- If there is a new entity called "the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" is it a non-profit organization? A for-profit company? An NGO? A partnership? An LLC?
- If there an organization called "the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" does it have a formal, legally document board of directors? If so where is that information formally recorded and who are the members of that board?"

Meanwhile:

International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory Annual Public Board Meeting

"On Friday, February 8, 2019, the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory will host its annual Public Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C."

Keith's note: The press release says that "the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory will host its annual Public Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C." It sends you to this link: https://www.issnationallab.org where you see "(ISS) U.S. National Laboratory" at the top of the page. If you scroll down to the bottom you see "THE ISS NATIONAL LAB IS MANAGED BY THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT FOR SCIENCE IN SPACE, UNDER AGREEMENT WITH NASA. © COPYRIGHT 2011-2019 THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE IN SPACE, INC."

This is not a "International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" board meeting. There is no non-profit organization in existence by that name. There is a non-profit named CASIS - "The Center for the Advancement for Science in Space" - and this is their annual public meeting. But they don't tell you that. The officers listed in this news release and on the agenda are officers for CASIS not for the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory. Oh yes: did I miss something? When was it announced that the ISS National Laboratory has a board of directors?

"CASIS" appears nowhere in the announcement or on the webpage. For that matter "NASA" is mentioned nowhere either. If you go to the original CASIS website address https://www.iss-casis.org/ you are automatically redirected to https://www.issnationallab.org/ "CASIS" is gone. If you go to the Internet archive you can see that a CASIS website existed as recently as 20 December 2018.

Who actually owns this "International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory" thing? Its not a non-profit. Its not a government agency. Its a thing created by Congress. CASIS does not own it - it just runs it. Or does it run the ISS National Lab since CASIS seems to be trying to make itself disappear and become the ISS National Lab instead. I wonder if the IRS knows that CASIS is operating under a new name and that it is using somewhat deceptive public statements so as to confuse people as to what this meeting is actually all about.

Meanwhile CASIS is off trying to quietly develop its own commercial entity. They have been talking to various companies about it (who are not exactly pleased to hear this). Is non-profit CASIS trying to simultaneously hide itself behind the ISS National Lab while rebranding and reinventing itself as a company to use ISS National Lab resources? Maybe they will answer this at their meeting. Stay tuned.

Keith's update: Sources report that CASIS Executive DirectorJoseph Vockley has actually been asleep at the wheel at CASIS. Literally. CASIS employees say that he falls asleep at both internal CASIS and external meetings - including those held with NASA. Vockley has stated to many people that he is really not in charge at CASIS - and that the CASIS Human Resources Manager and Board Secretary, actually runs the organization. This is how NASA plans to convert ISS into a fully commercial venture - the people in charge at CASIS are not actually in charge.

Keith's 11 December note: CASIS, the non-profit created to run the ISS National Laboratory, has been on a hiring spree of late. Three high level executives have been hired at $300K+ annual salaries recently. Meanwhile, existing CASIS staff are not getting cost of living increases and having their vacation benefits cut. It would seem that no one is going to fix the big, lingering problems at CASIS.

Joseph Vockley was recently hired as the new Executive Director of CASIS. He has zero experience with space but he's pulling in a salary close to $400k a year. In addition to Vockley CASIS has hired CASIS Chief Strategy Officer, Richard Leach (an old buddy of Vockley's) and Vice President Christine Kretz. Neither of the positions filled by Leach or Kretz were advertised. Neither Kretz or Leach have any space experience.

When you ask Bill Gertsenmaier and Jim Bridenstine how they will be certain that the ISS will be able to be taken over by commercial funding when NASA pulls out, they point to CASIS as the prime solution to that looming problem. CASIS' response is to hire new leadership with no basic space flight experience. This is not what you'd expect an organization that needs to beef up its space commercialization skill set would be doing to meet that challenge. Indeed, CASIS is still unable to use all of the crew and other resources that NASA offers it on the ISS.

We've been looking into the CASIS mess since its inception. In the past year Bill Gerstenmaier finally seemed to have gotten the message and had his staff tell CASIS to clean up its act after years after year of underperformance. In "Is CASIS Fixing Its Management Problems?" the series of NASA and CASIS interactions on management are examined. Alas, it would seem that CASIS was only paying lip service to NASA's concerns and NASA is utterly disinterested in making CASIS do the job that they are being paid to do.

- CASIS Responds To NASA's List Of Problems With CASIS, earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post
- Earlier CASIS postings

A SpaceX Delivery Capsule May Be Contaminating The ISS, Wired

"Part of the problem here, though, is NASA's reluctance to talk about both the problem and the plans to fix it. The presentation, shared during the Payload Operations Integration Working Group meeting back in April, was approved for unclassified and unlimited public release and placed on the NASA Technical Reports Server in early September. I asked for an interview about it on September 25. The next day, the presentation was gone. "The record details page you tried to access cannot be found on this server," the page now says. I inquired about the dead link, and more than three weeks later, I received a response: "The document is under review," wrote Meagan Storey, of the NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program, "and we advise that you make a FOIA request for the item." Statistically, that's probably a losing prospect."

Soyuz Does Its Thing Again

Soyuz MS-11 Arrives At The International Space Station

"The Soyuz carrying Anne McClain of NASA, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Konenenko of Roscosmos launched at 6:31 a.m. EST (5:31 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. McClain, Saint-Jacques and Konenenko docked to the space station's Poisk module at 12:33 p.m. after a four-orbit, six-hour journey, and opened the hatch between the two spacecraft at 2:37 p.m."

Another Cygnus Leaves Earth

NASA, Northrop Grumman Launch Space Station, National Lab Cargo

"The spacecraft launched on an Antares 230 Rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad 0A at Wallops on the company's 10th cargo delivery flight, and is scheduled to arrive at the orbital laboratory Monday, Nov. 19. Expedition 57 astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the space station's robotic arm to grapple Cygnus about 5:20 a.m."

Bridenstine Reiterates December Launch to ISS on Track, and Other Space Council Tidbits Space Policy Online

Bridenstine: "'We have a really, really good idea of what the issue is' and there will be a 'number of Soyuz launches in the next month and a half' before a launch with a crew. He called it the 'most successful failed launch we could have imagined.'"

Marc's note: Are the Russians about to pull a rabbit out of their hat and make a human return to flight in December? Between now and then there will be two Soyuz launches, one cargo resupply to the space station and the other a satellite.

Statement on International Space Station Investigation, NASA

"On August 29, 2018 a small hole was discovered on the International Space Station. This resulted in a pressure leak. The hole has been identified and fixed by Space Station crew. Russian media recently reported that General Director Rogozin said the hole was not a manufacturing defect. Ruling out a manufacturing defect indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production. This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent. NASA and Roscosmos are both investigating the incident to determine the cause. The International Space Station Program is tentatively planning a spacewalk in November to gather more information. On October 11, American Astronaut Nick Hague and Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin will launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Administrator Bridenstine is scheduled to attend the launch and plans to meet with Mr. Rogozin. This will be their first in-person meeting. They had a telephone call on September 12 during which they discussed the International Space Station leak."

Musk underprices space launches to squeeze Russia out of market, says Roscosmos CEO, TASS

"SpaceX CEO Elon Musk quotes knock-down prices on launches of his spacecraft at 40-60 million US dollars to squeeze Russia out of the space market, CEO of Russia's state space corporation Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said on Monday. Russian expert slams Musk's use of booster relaunch as gimmick to show off to investors "If you compare the price Musk sells his rockets to Pentagon at and the price he quotes for them on the market, you will see that this is nothing but pure dumping. In order to drive Russia from the market he sells launches at 40 to 60 million dollars while being paid 150 million for a launch by Pentagon," he told Russia's TV Channel One."

Roskosmos Chief Says Space Station Hole Was 'Deliberate', RadioFree Europe

"Rogozin, who heads the Russian space agency Roskosmos, said in an interview on state-run television that an expert commission had wrapped up its initial findings. "The first commission has already concluded its work. It has factually reached the conclusion that rules out any manufacturing defect, which is important for finding out the truth," he said. "The version that now remains is it was a deliberate act, and a second commission will determine where this occurred," Rogozin added."

Keith's note: Russia clearly wants something. So, true to form, they make conflicting statements to the media - some versions are aimed at domestic audiences, others are aimed at external audiences. The fact that U.S. astronauts are actually living on the same space station that they supposedly sabotaged and that they'd need to ride the damaged Soyuz home shows just how silly this whole thing is.

To counter this non sequitur Roscosmos deflects attention away from the real underlying issues to the whole SpaceX conspiracy thing without noting that Russia continues to cut its own space budget and has limitations on its ability to compete in a rapidly evolving space sector. When Boeing and SpaceX start to launch U.S. crews to the ISS, a steady source of income for Soyuz flights will more or less evaporate with no obvious replacement customer in sight. But worry not, a solution to placate Russia's issues is always found. Its one of those 'two steps forward one step back' things.

NASA, Roscosmos Statement on International Space Station Leak

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin met for the first time yesterday via teleconference to discuss the status of International Space Station (ISS) operations in response to a request from Roscosmos. "As part of their discussion, Dmitry Rogozin informed his American counterpart about Roscosmos' decision to establish a Roscosmos-led Commission to investigate the cause of the leak in the Soyuz (MS-09/55S) spacecraft currently docked to the station."

Russian theory that NASA sabotaged the space station spreading like wildfire, Ars Technica

"A growing number of Russian publications have been putting forth an absurd new theory--that a NASA astronaut deliberately caused the leak on board the station in order to force the evacuation of a sick crew member. The story has spread like wildfire during the last 24 hours, according to Robinson Mitchell, who translates Russian space stories for Ars."

Bad News From Earth

11 September 2001: Bad news from Earth, SpaceRef

"The news from Earth that morning wasn't good. Frank Culbertson would soon find that some of the day's pre-planned routine would be altered. As soon as he was told of the attacks, Culbertson checked to see when they would be passing over the east coast of the U.S. Discovering that this was only some minutes away, Culbertson grabbed a camera. The window in Mikhail Tyurin's cabin turned out to be the one with the best view."

Keith's note: CASIS has had a less than stellar record of accomplishment since its inception. After kicking the can down the road for more than 5 years NASA has finally started to actively manage CASIS and has told them what needs to be fixed. CASIS' Management among the many things that had to be addressed. Given that NASA seems to feel that CASIS is going to play a pivotal role in the commercialization of the International Space Station starting in 2024, its about time they paid attention to its operation.

In a 15 November 2017 letter from NASA to CASIS NASA directed that "CASIS must examine its processes and communication in order to ensure inclusion and transparency to all CIPs. As partners in upholding the public's trust, we must quickly address these concerns - particularly those that could give even the appearance of impropriety - in order to ensure continued confidence in the ISS National Laboratory. To that end, I propose the following actions: ... - Installation of an experienced Chief Operations Officer (COO), to be responsible for day-to-day CASIS operations within the organization and working with implementing organizations in executing National Lab activities. The COO would be under the authority of the CASIS Executive Director and would report activities to the CASIS Board of Directors along with the CASIS Executive Director."

In the 22 January 2018 response from CASIS to NASA CASIS responded to mostly everything NASA discussed at a high level and semi-committal fashion but made no mention of changes to CASIS senior management that NASA had suggested. Yet 3 weeks later CASIS informed NASA in a 14 February 2018 letter that "the Executive Director / Principal Investigator position. Col. Gregory H. Johnson, the current Executive Director and Principal Investigator, will be leaving CASIS effective March 10, 2018." on 29 June 2018 CASIS sent a letter to NASA informing them that "CASIS has hired a new Executive Director, Joe Vockley, and will begin his employment on July 1, 2018. There will be a transition overlap period between Executive Directors as Mr. Vockley becomes familiar with all aspects of the ISS National Lab operations."

In a 1 March 2018 letter to NASA, CASIS said "The Board also made a careful and well-considered review of the performance of its Executive Director: The Board felt that he had made many important improvements and had built the CASIS organization into a strong level of capability. However, we felt that a new set of talents and style of leadership would be needed for the dynamic new environment facing the CASIS mission. Hence, a decision was reached to seek new leadership for the program. A national search for a replacement has been launched." They go on to say that "Additionally, and at the request of NASA, the Board created the position of Chief Operating Officer. Warren Bates was selected to serve in that position until a permanent appointee has been named. A national search was initiated but was subsequently suspended pending the selection of a new Executive Director. Mr. Bates, in the opinion of the Board, is serving ably in his new capacity."

Reading the letter that NASA sent to CASIS seems to suggest that NASA was directing CASIS to find some new blood to be COO. Instead, they picked Warren Bates, someone who has been at CASIS since 2012 who, based on his LinkedIn profile, is not the "experienced Chief Operations Officer" NASA was looking for CASIS to hire.

When CASIS hired Johnson he had no apparent scientific or nonprofit or research management experience. He had familiarity with NASA but he was a former fighter pilot/astronaut - not an obvious choice to lead a new organization with educational, commercial, and scientific responsibilities. Johnson's replacement Dr. Joseph Vockley certainly has an extensive background in biomedical research and management, but has no apparent background in space research and utilization.

So ... CASIS has gone from being run by an astronaut with no science or management background to being led by someone with decades of science and management experience - but no background in space. One could argue that the science and management experience is what CASIS desperately needs right now. There are plenty of space people floating around to advise Vockley. Based on what is posted on various web pages about Vockley, this would seem to be a wise move.

Vockley's linkedIn page describes his current position as being "Executive Director (CEO) of International Space Station US National Laboratory (CASIS)". That's somewhat inaccurate. Also, the CASIS website refers to Warren Bates as the "Director of Business Strategy and Portfolio Management". That is also inaccurate since he is the COO. If CASIS can't be bothered to get people's titles correct ...

Meanwhile many more managerial issues remain with CASIS - one being its Board of Directors. Stay tuned.

- CASIS Responds To NASA's List Of Problems With CASIS, earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post
- Previous CASIS posts

Keith's note: Recently there has been a lot of talk about halting NASA funding for the International Space station is 2024 with the hope that all of the costs currently paid for by NASA would be picked up by the private sector. NASA hopes to use the savings they expect to achieve to pay for the Gateway and its Moon/Mars plans. So ... who will handle the commercialization of the ISS? When you ask NASA if CASIS is part of that plan they say yes - but never get too much into the details.

NASA is not too thrilled with CASIS. In a 16 November 2017 letter to CASIS from NASA, Sam Scimemi listed a series of specific, wide-ranging complaints about how CASIS conducts its activities in support of the International Space Station. Given the long period of time that CASIS has been in operation this is rather damning. But given how long NASA has allowed these things go on clearly points to mismanagement on NASA's part as well. In the letter below CASIS repsonds to NASA's concerned. Are they fixing their problems? Stay tuned.

Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

"We are responding to your letter dated November 16, 2017, presenting several issues voiced by the ISS Program, outside stakeholders, and ISS National Laboratory Implementation Partners (IPs). First, we would like to thank you for your candid feedback and confirm that we take these issues very seriously. We have corrective actions already in process; a subset was previewed with you in our meeting in Houston in December. Our interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), Warren Bates, will be leading these activities until the permanent COO national search begins later this month. The COO, who will function as the day-to-day operational executive at CASIS, will report the status of operational activities and receive guidance frequently from me and our Board of Directors. These actions are outlined below addressing concerns listed in your letter."

CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post

CASIS Is Still Broken

Keith's note: Recently there has been a lot of talk about halting NASA funding for the International Space station is 2024 with the hope that all of the costs currently paid for by NASA would be picked up by the private sector. NASA hopes to use the savings they expect to achieve to pay for the Gateway and its Moon/Mars plans. So ... who will handle the commercialization of the ISS? When you ask NASA if CASIS is part of that plan they say yes - but never get too much into the details.

As you all know NASAWatch has taken a special interest in CASIS and its poor performance over the years. Apparently NASA is not too thrilled with CASIS either. This 16 November 2017 letter from Sam Scimemi at NASA to CASIS is rather blunt. There will be much more to follow as to how CASIS says it will respond to NASA's concerns and what led up to this situation.

Keith's update: A response from CASIS Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

"I am writing this letter to you to address recent complaints about CASIS activities that have been brought to my attention both by the ISS Program and by outside stakeholders that require serious and immediate attention. Additionally, it is necessary to communicate some significant concerns brought forward by a number of the National Laboratory's commercial implementation partners (CIPs) so that actions may be taken to address these issues.

As part of NASA's oversight of agreements with companies who operate their own commercial hardware on ISS, NASA solicits feedback from them annually to assess their satisfaction with progress towards a robust commercial presence in space and to solicit opinions on any changes that may be needed. There were a number of positives from these exchanges; however, a number of items were raised indicating possible trends that must be addressed. NASA's chief concerns include the following:

- Unbalanced support to CIPs possessing similar capabilities: Since there are more ideas than there is funding available at this point in time, it is critical that CASIS continue to help all users find funding sources, whether they come from CASIS's own contacts or are commercial customers of the various CIPs;
- Lack of transparency and parity in CASIS's CIP selection process: Complaints were raised that CASIS was not consistent nor transparent in determining which CIPs would support National Lab users. While not strictly bound by the same procurement regulations as the federal government, it is critical that CASIS does not enter into situations that create real or perceived conflicts of interest;
- Protection of CIP intellectual property: CIPs indicated that their unique ideas, when brought to CASIS for funding consideration, were not always protected but instead openly competed;
- Delayed communications with CIPs: Complaints from a broad spectrum of CIPs that CASIS is not timely in providing responses to CIPs as well as potential users on projects they have been proposed to CASIS, including a lack of feedback to proposing CIPs on why they were not selected;
- Insufficient communications between the operations and business development teams: Reports of conflicting messages from CASIS departments to CIPs results in frustration and waste of limited resources;
- Limited CIP access to customers which were initially identified by CASIS: Reports of obstruction of direct communication between CIPs and organizations whose initial contact was through CASIS, as well as attempts to control CIP's ability to directly solicit funding at the source rather than going through CASIS;
- Perception of representational orcanizational conflict of interest: The appearance that CASIS endorses, supports, or otherwise advocates on behalf of some CIPs, but not all."

Soyuz Leak Repaired On The International Space Station

"The International Space Station's cabin pressure is holding steady after the Expedition 56 crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of station pressure. After a morning of investigations, the crew reported that the leak was isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station."

Keith's note: After decades of selling the ISS as necessary for the human exploration of space NASA now seems ready to walk away from ISS before all of that critical human biomedical and risk reduction research is complete when funding for ISS stops in 2024. Where will that research be done? NASA won't tell you but suggests that the Lunar Gateway thing (a mini-ISS) is where some of it could be done.

Why private space labs should start on the International Space Station, opinion, Politico

"With this in mind, the Trump Administration wisely requested $150 million for this coming year to enable and mature commercial capabilities in low earth orbit (LEO). The Trump Administration was also smart enough not to dictate in any specific detail how this money will be spent. They are welcoming ideas from industry, and it will be the job of new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to make the final decision in the coming months."

Keith's note: Wait a minute: while he lauds the potential for possible commercial uses of ISS as a reason to keep it operational NASA Trump appointee Jeff Waksman (who was fired earlier this year) forgot to mention that it is the Trump Administration that wants NASA stop funding ISS after 2024. So they are creating the problem that he seems to be trying to solve. He also omits mention of the fact that the White House wants the entire cost of ISS to be paid for by commercial entities after 2024 but does not explain where that money will come from. Yet he talks about using SLS to launch new ISS components. I am not sure anyone at NASA is talking about $1 billion SLS launch fees to put new modules on the ISS. I think Waksman is trying to say that the ISS has a lot of potential. He's quite right. I'm just not sure he knows how to tap that potential.

More Trump Staff Changes at NASA HQ (Update), earlier post

NASA's Management and Utilization of the International Space Station

"NASA uses 76.6 percent of the Station's research resources, so it pays 76.6 percent of the U.S. Segment's operating costs. Although a significant portion of total Station research time, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 requires at least 50 percent of these resources, including upmass and crew time, be allocated to the CASIS-managed National Laboratory, limiting the time and capabilities available to NASA for mitigating risks associated with future space exploration goals. While our prior work found that CASIS has used on average only 52.7 percent of the crew time allocated from September 2013 to April 2017, its use of crew time has increased since 2016 to 72.8 percent between March 2016 and September 2016 and 68.1 percent between September 2016 and April 2017.39 Any allocation unused by CASIS can be used by NASA for its own research."

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

"CASIS will be allocated additional research hours when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018. However, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous ISS postings

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

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

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

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

SpaceX Launches CRS-15 to the International Space Station, NASA

"Experiments investigating cellular biology, Earth science and artificial intelligence are among the research heading to the International Space Station following Friday's launch of a NASA-contracted SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at 5:42 a.m. EDT. Dragon lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with more than 5,900 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the space station."

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

Filmmaker Ridley Scott Creates 2018 International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory Mission Patch

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced the unveiling of its latest mission patch, designed by award-winning filmmaker and producer, Sir Ridley Scott. The mission patch represents all payloads intended for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in calendar year 2018."

Keith's note: The folks at CASIS seem to be preoccupied with SciFi. In the past they have created patches featuring Groot, Rocket Raccoon, and Star Wars droids. Yet the SciFi thing has not really helped them fill up the ISS with science goodness. After 7 years they have yet to fully utilize the resources NASA has been made available to them. That said, they like SciFi, and that's just fine so long as they remember what it is NASA is paying them $15 million a year to do. When I originally got this press release a small graphic was attached. It is supposed to be a Ridley Scott design but I could not really get a Ridley Scott vibe. So I fixed it. Which one do y'all like better?

- CASIS Has A New Patch: May The Farce Be With You
- CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot
- Earlier CASIS posts

Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Stakeholder Perspectives (Webcast)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness will convene a hearing entitled 'Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Stakeholder Perspectives,' at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The second in a series of hearings to examine the role of the International Space Station (ISS), this hearing will provide ISS stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the value of the ISS to our national space program and the future of human space exploration."

- Bill Nelson [Statement]
- Cynthia Bouthot, CASIS [Statement]
- Jim Chilton, Boeing [Statement]
- Bob Mitchell, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership [Statement]
- Michael Suffredini, Axiom Space [Statement]

Soyuz Launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome with Three New ISS Crew Members (with video)

"Three crew members are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. EDT Wednesday (5:12 p.m. Baikonur time)."

"The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos is scheduled to dock to the space station's Rassvet module at 9:07 a.m. Friday, June 8. Coverage of docking will begin at 8:15 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency's website, followed at 10:30 a.m. by coverage of the opening of hatches between the spacecraft and station."

NASA's new administrator says he's talking to companies about taking over operations of the International Space Station, Washington Post

"NASA is talking to several international companies about forming a consortium that would take over operation of the International Space Station and run it as a commercial space lab, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an interview."

"'We're in a position now where there are people out there that can do commercial management of the International Space Station,' Bridenstine said in his first extensive interview since being sworn in as NASA administrator in April. 'I've talked to many large corporations that are interested in getting involved in that through a consortium, if you will.'"

Marc's note: The annual maintenance cost of the ISS per the article is about $3 - $4 billion in today's dollars. While the idea of the commercial sector taking over operations of the space station isn't a bad idea, I've yet to hear anyone present a business case that makes this work. I look forward to reading and evaluating any credible plan put forward.

Keith's Note: There is nothing new in this article other than a Bridenstine quote or two. This topic has been openly debated since the FY 2019 budget proposal was issued by the White House in January. Here are a few of our posts:

- Senators Tell White House: We Decide The Future Of ISS, earlier post
- If CASIS Is How NASA Will Commercialize ISS That Plan Will Fail, earlier post
- NASA OIG Delivers Blunt Reality Check On NASA's Faith-Based ISS Plans, earlier post
- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update), earlier post
- Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post
- Is Privatizing ISS A Smart Thing To Do?, earlier post
- NASA Budget Document Overlooks Multiple Advisory Group Findings and Recommendations on the ISS, earlier post
- ISS After 2025: Is CASIS The Solution Or The Problem?, earlier post
- White House Plan To Defund ISS By 2025 Moves Ahead, earlier post
- China Is Seeking Users For Their New Space Station, earlier post

Expedition 55 Astronauts Return Safely Back to Earth

"Three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew, including NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, returned to Earth Sunday after 168 days of living and working in low-Earth orbit."

"Tingle, astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed at 8:39 a.m. EDT (6:39 p.m. in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

United Nations and China invite applications to conduct experiments on-board China's Space Station

"The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and China's Manned Space Agency (CMSA) have invited applications from United Nations Member States to conduct experiments on-board China's Space Station (CSS). In 2016 UNOOSA and CMSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to develop the space capabilities of United Nations Member States via opportunities on-board the CSS, which is expected to be operational from 2022. The Announcement of Opportunity for this initiative, as well as application instructions, were released at a ceremony hosted by UNOOSA and the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Vienna on 28 May."

NASA Sends New Research on Orbital ATK Mission to Space Station

"Astronauts soon will have new experiments to conduct related to emergency navigation, DNA sequencing and ultra-cold atom research when the research arrives at the International Space Station following the 4:44 a.m. EDT Monday launch of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus lifted off on an Antares 230 rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Orbital ATK's ninth cargo mission under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract. The spacecraft is carrying about 7,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of the more than 250 investigations underway on the space station."


Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the ISS News category.

ISEE-3 is the previous category.

IT/Web is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.