Recently in ISS News Category

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?

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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.

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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.


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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."

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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.

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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."

Cruz, Nelson: Congress, And Only Congress, WIll Decide When To End Funding For ISS, Space Policy Online

"Cruz grilled Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, on why NASA missed the statutory deadline to submit the ISS Transition Report. He also demanded to know why NASA had not provided all drafts that were sent from NASA to the White House and rejected as he and Nelson requested in a February letter. The implication is that OMB, not NASA, picked the 2025 date. Cruz's effort to get Gerstenmaier on the record as to who chose the date were unsuccessful. Gerstenmaier carefully navigated the intense questioning without implicating any particular part of the Administration."

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

"NASA is preparing to secure the Nation's long-term presence in LEO by partnering with industry to develop commercial orbital platforms, and capabilities that the private sector and NASA can utilize after the cessation of direct U.S. Federal funding for ISS by 2025."

- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update), earlier post
- What About That Space Station Transition Plan NASA?, earlier post
- Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post
- Is NASA Going To Break The Law By Not Delivering An ISS Transition Plan To Congress?, earlier post

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

"The Center for the Advancement of Science In Space (CASIS) manages the activities of the ISS National Laboratory to increase the utilization of the ISS by other Federal entities and the private sector. CASIS works to ensure that the Station's unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of U.S. scientific, technological, and industrial communities. The ISS National Laboratory is helping to establish and demonstrate the market for research, technology demonstration, and other activities in LEO beyond the requirements of NASA. Commercial implementation partners are now bringing their own customers to LEO through the National Laboratory, as well."

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin

"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. Apart from these privatization challenges, the amount of cost savings NASA may realize through commercialization of the ISS may be less than expected given that significant expenditures - particularly in crew and cargo transportation and civil servant costs - will likely continue even if many low Earth orbit activities transition to a privatized ISS or another commercial platform."

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

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

Keith's note: CASIS still depends on NASA for 99.7% of its $15 million annual budget from NASA. After 7 years it is still unable to fully utilize all of the crew and ISS resources that have been allotted to it. Yet NASA expects that CASIS will lead the way in all of its plans to end funding of ISS in 2025 and transferring ISS operations to the private sector. Good luck with that.

Study for Commercialization of Low Earth Orbit

"In May of 2018, NASA will be releasing a NASA Research Announcement (NRA) for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Commercialization. The purpose of this NRA is to inform NASA's strategy for enabling the commercialization of human spaceflight in LEO and meeting NASA's long-term LEO needs."

Questions and Answers Set #3

"79. Can the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) propose?
A: The NRA is open to all U.S. organizations, including industry, educational institutions, and nonprofit institutions."

- ISS After 2025: Is CASIS The Solution Or The Problem?, earlier post
- Previous CASIS postings

Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives, Archived webcast

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives, NASA

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin, NASA OIG

"While all of these actions are positive steps, NASA's current plan to privatize the ISS remains a controversial and highly debatable proposition, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit. Specifically, it is questionable whether a sufficient business case exists under which private companies can create a self-sustaining and profit-making business independent of significant Government funding. In particular, it is unlikely that a private entity or entities would assume the Station's annual operating costs, currently projected at $1.2 billion in 2024. Such a business case requires robust demand for commercial market activities such as space tourism, satellite servicing, manufacturing of goods, and research and development, all of which have yet to materialize.

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. Apart from these privatization challenges, the amount of cost savings NASA may realize through commercialization of the ISS may be less than expected given that significant expenditures - particularly in crew and cargo transportation and civil servant costs - will likely continue even if many low Earth orbit activities transition to a privatized ISS or another commercial platform."

"Even if the Agency ends direct funding of the ISS in 2025 as envisioned in the President's FY 2019 budget request, it is unlikely that the bulk of the funding currently devoted to the ISS Program could be immediately diverted to these and other exploration activities. Even with termination of most Station activities, NASA expects to retain a presence in low Earth orbit and therefore would need to fund related crew and cargo transportation costs. Furthermore, significant funding would be required to maintain offices and infrastructure currently funded by the ISS Program such as the Mission Operations office, which is expected to be needed by future exploration programs."

"In January 2017, NASA completed a draft plan to address various deorbit scenarios; however, the plan has not been finalized and is pending review by the Russia Space Agency. And, while NASA engineers continue to work on the technical details of deorbit scenarios, the Agency presently does not have the capability to ensure a controlled deorbit of the ISS in the event of an emergency."




Keith's update: NASA quietly posted the International Space Station Transition Report pursuant to Section 303(c)(2) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10) a few days ago.

"This report responds to direction in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10, hereafter "the Act"), Section 303(c)(1), to submit to Congress a report evaluating the International Space Station (ISS) as a platform for research, deep space exploration, and low-Earth orbit (LEO) spaceflight in partnership with its four foreign space agency partners, and the commercial space sector (see Appendix for text of the reporting requirement, excerpted from the Act)."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Markup NASA Authorization Act of 2018

"TUESDAY, April 17, at 10 a.m. EDT, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will meet to consider the following legislation: H.R. 5503, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018, introduced today by Rep. Brian Babin (R- Texas). The legislation authorizes the programs of NASA for fiscal years 2018 and 2019."

Keith's 13 April note: According to this text of HR 5503 the ISS Transition Report has been submitted to Congress. So when will NASA release it to the public?

Sec. 202. ISS Transition (a) Findings

"(4) The ISS transition report, submitted pursuant to section 50111(c)(2) of title 51, United States Code, provides an explanation of NASA's plans to foster the development of private industry capabilities and private demand with a goal of ending direct NASA support for ISS operations by the end of fiscal year 2024.

(5) The plans laid out in the ISS transition report are conditionally flexible and require feedback to inform next steps. In addition, the feasibility of ending direct NASA support for ISS operations by the end of fiscal year 2024 is dependent on many factors, some of which are indeterminate until the Administration carries out the initial phases of the ISS transition plan."

- What About That Space Station Transition Plan NASA?, earlier post
- Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post
- Is NASA Going To Break The Law By Not Delivering An ISS Transition Plan To Congress?, earlier post
- Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post
- Is Privatizing ISS A Smart Thing To Do?, earlier post
- White House Plan To Defund ISS By 2025 Moves Ahead, earlier post
- Reaction To Proposed OMB Space Station Funding Cuts, earlier post

Putin Says Space Exploration With U.S. Will Go On Amid Sanctions

"Russia wants to continue international cooperation in space and won't break off programs with the U.S. in retaliation for its latest economic sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said."

Putin says Russia will not quit international space cooperation programs, TASS

""We are not going to upset anything or to quit these programs. We are determined to complete them. We have partners in the exploration of Mars and the Moon - the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union," Putin said during a visit to the Kosmos (Space) pavilion at the VDNKh exhibition center."

US imposes sanctions against Russian oligarchs and government officials, CNN

"The Trump administration is unleashing additional sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin along with 12 companies they own or control. The measures announced by the Treasury Department on Friday were also aimed at 17 senior Russian government officials and the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, which has long-standing ties to Syria and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank."

Russia says it will respond firmly to new US sanctions, CNBC

"Moscow said on Friday it would respond firmly to new U.S. sanctions imposed against Russian businessmen, companies and government officials. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that no pressure could make Russian change its course and that the sanctions will only unite Russian society."

NASA And Boeing May Change Commercial Crew Flight Test Strategy

"The change includes the ability to extend Boeing's CFT from roughly two weeks to up to six months as well as the training and mission support for a third crew member. Cargo capabilities for the uncrewed and crewed flight tests were also identified."

Keith's 6 April note: The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Russia and Russia is threatening to respond in kind. So far the oligarchs and companies sanctioned by the U.S. have not directly affected Russia's space activities. But this cannot be expected to remain the case forever since the U.S. will be seeking new pressure points to exploit on RUssia and vice versa - and there are only so many oligarchs and large companies to sanction. As we all know the only way for Americans to reach ISS is on Russian Soyuz flights. That is an obvious choke point that Russia could exploit, should it so desire. There are other things that RUssia could do as well. There are various reasons behind NASA's interest in transforming Boeing's CFT into something more than a simple visit to the ISS. Gaining a Soyuz replacement capability sooner is one of them - even if NASA won't say so.

How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? On the bright side, the longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a loftier way to transcend such ephemeral political threats. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later. There are contingency plans, to be certain. But given the state of flux that NASA finds itself within - without an Administrator - and in the midst of yet another space policy formulation - while the future of ISS is TBD and commercial crew services are delayed - threats to the future of the ISS could not come at a worse time.

Keith's 12 April update: And then there's this additional factor that will inevitably have an impact on US/Russia cooperation in space.

- Growing Hints That Russia Might Sanction NASA?, Earlier post
- Will U.S. Sanctions On Russia Impact ISS Operations?, Earlier post
- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, Earlier post
- Earlier posts on Russia

Keith's note: You may have seen a lot of stories recently in major news publications over the past week or so stating that the Kelly brothers now have different DNA or something to that effect. Not true. Another example of reporters writing stories about something that they simply do not understand (I am an actual biologist so I can say that). Scott Kelly's DNA did not change. How some of his DNA is expressed (or not expressed) changed as a result (apparently) of spending nearly a year in space. But again, his DNA did not change. He and his brother are just as identical genetically as they were before he left Earth. Here is what NASA JSC PAO sent to some news media (but not others) on this topic:

"Mark and Scott Kelly are still identical twins; Scott's DNA did not fundamentally change. What researchers did observe are changes in gene expression, which is how your body reacts to your environment. This likely is within the range for humans under stress, such as mountain climbing or SCUBA diving. The change related to only 7 percent of the gene expression that changed during spaceflight that had not returned to preflight after six months on Earth. This change of gene expression is very minimal. We are at the beginning of our understanding of how space flight affects the molecular level of the human body. NASA and the other researchers collaborating on these studies expect to announce more comprehensive results on the twins studies this summer."

NASA Twins Study Confirms Preliminary Findings, NASA

"Another interesting finding concerned what some call the "space gene", which was alluded to in 2017. Researchers now know that 93% of Scott's genes returned to normal after landing. However, the remaining 7% point to possible longer term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia."

Keith's note: Scott Kelly's genes i.e. the DNA sequence in his genome did not change so genes could not "return to normal". Nor are there any "changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia." Rather, how the genes are expressed was changed and that expression changed over time with some changes reverting to preflight expression while others have not. But the genes are not changed.

No, Scott Kelly's Genes Were Not Changed, earlier post

Astronaut's DNA no longer matches that of his identical twin, NASA finds, CNN

"Spending a year in space not only changes your outlook, it transforms your genes. Preliminary results from NASA's Twins Study reveal that 7% of astronaut Scott Kelly's genes did not return to normal after his return to Earth two years ago. The study looks at what happened to Kelly before, during and after he spent one year aboard the International Space Station through an extensive comparison with his identical twin, Mark, who remained on Earth. NASA has learned that the formerly identical twins are no longer genetically the same."

Keith's 14 March note: NO NO NO NO. The Kelly brothers are exactly the same genetically as they were the day they were born. No genes were "transformed". Their genes are the same as they were the day they were conceived. What changed during space travel was how some genes were expressed. Some genes were shut off. Some genes were activated, Some genes were expressed at different levels. I wish that science writers would take the time to talk to people who actually understand the topic. There are dozens of articles like this circulating right now that get the fundamental aspect of this research wrong. Also, FWIW, NASA needs to spend more time explaining what it is they are trying to say. As an actual space biologist I find all of this rather frustrating.

Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post

"In fact, Congress specifically required that the transition plan include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030, and an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility. P.L. 115-10 specifically required the NASA Administrator to deliver a report to Congress no later than December 1, 2017. As of today, that report has not been delivered to Congress as required by federal statute."

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

"I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted." In other words the report is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it."

Returning To Earth At Dawn

"The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 54 crew members Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei of NASA and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 (February 27 Eastern time.) Acaba, Vande Hei, and Misurkin are returning after 168 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 53 and 54 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)"

Keith's note: Every month or so I open my morning copy of the Washington Post to be greeted by a 8 page, full color insert - called "China Watch" ;-) - that China Daily pays to shove inside my paper - the same one that everyone in DC reads (larger image). Today's insert had an above-the-fold headline story titled "Astronauts Prepare For a New Era of Exploration". This certainly sounds like a headline that this White House would issue, right? But its not. China's state media editors who write the text for these things do not mince words when it comes to what they see lying ahead: "If the United States-led International Space Station is retired as planned in 2024, the new, yet unnamed, Chinese facility will become the only permanent space station."

Watson Hops On Board Human Space Flight, IBM

"CIMON is currently being developed by Airbus on behalf of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) as an intelligent, mobile and interactive astronaut assistance system. This new technology will be tested on the ISS as part of the Horizons mission of the European Space Agency. CIMON's digital face, voice and use of artificial intelligence make it a "colleague" to the crew members. This collegial "working relationship" facilitates how astronauts work through their prescribed checklists of experiments, now entering into a genuine dialogue with their interactive assistant. The developers responsible for CIMON predict that this will help reduce astronauts' stress and at the same time improve efficiency."

Keith's note: http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/HAL.watson.jpgSounds like a cool project. Alas, the user interface could have probably used a larger budget and not a pixelated Gameboy face. Maybe some quality time from a human who has interacted with droids before would have helped. Since this droid can "learn" maybe it can learn to grow a face that isn't so creepy looking.

I'm not certain I'd take a bot that looks like this seriously in an emergency or make friends with it. It sort of looks like a dazed Teletubby. Or maybe its a new head for Robonaut. At least they did not use the HAL 9000 facial interface design. That said, don't say "open the pod bay doors" to this one, Dave.

Cruz, Nelson: Future of ISS Should be Determined by Emergence of a Viable and Proven Commercial Alternative and Needs of Our National Space Program

"While we have been strong proponents of the U.S. commercial space sector, prematurely ending direct U.S. Government funding of ISS could have disastrous consequences. The future of ISS should be determined by the emergence of a viable and proven commercial alternative and the needs of our national space program." The Senators continued, "In fact, Congress specifically required that the transition plan include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030, and an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility. P.L. 115-10 specifically required the NASA Administrator to deliver a report to Congress no later than December 1, 2017. As of today, that report has not been delivered to Congress as required by federal statute."

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

Astronaut: Trump's plan for the space station a huge mistake, op ed, Leroy Chiao, CNN

"What about privatizing the ISS? That idea is barely worth mentioning. The ISS was designed to operate with two big mission control centers, in Houston and Moscow. They each need standing armies of onsite engineers and technicians around the clock to monitor and send commands to the station. Estimates of the cost of launching spacecraft to the ISS vary, but they are certainly in the range of $100 million or more. Let's not even consider maintenance costs. Tell me with a straight face how a commercial entity is going to make money operating ISS? The Trump administration's thoughts to cancel ISS and send the savings to the moon is déjà vu. The actual savings will likely be again around 50% of the ISS program cost, and all we are likely to end up with is an inadequately funded moon program, as we have had for the last nine years. And no ISS, either. This path would likely leave us with nothing but a bare-bones spacecraft and rocket and no funding to go anywhere. Unless, of course, we decide to fly American astronauts on Chinese spacecraft to the coming Chinese space station. This would be a national travesty. What we need is a real commitment to maintain US leadership in human spaceflight."

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

Bigelow Aerospace Announces the Creation of Bigelow Space Operations

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

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

Full Story below

CASIS Announces Change of Leadership

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced that President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson plans to leave the nonprofit organization effective March 10, 2018, after serving in that position for nearly five years. Johnson was named to the position in August 2013 with a mission to lead a diverse team of professionals in the unprecedented challenge to establish a national laboratory in space, the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, and to foster the growth of a community of users and facilities on the lab for Earth benefit."

Keith's note: In the NASA FY 2019 Budget Estimates document released by NASA today, there is a claim that both the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) or Aerospace Advisory Panel (ASAP) have "No new formal recommendations or findings for the ISS". This is incorrect as listed below.

It is also important to note that this budget document makes no mention of the 2018 NASA OIG report "NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)" which notes that CASIS has been unable to fully utilize the ISS resources given to it by NASA and casts doubts on CASIS' ability to allow NASA to utilize the full future potential of the ISS; the OIG report "NASA's Plans for Human Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit" which questions NASA's ability to maintain the ISS, and the GAO Report "NASA Commercial Crew Program: Continued Delays Pose Risks for Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station" which questions NASA's ability to access the ISS.

Nor did the document mention that NASA has refused to deliver an ISS Transition report to Congress no later than 1 Dec 2017 as specified by Public Law No: 115-10. The clear intention of this budget document is to gloss over the facts and give the impression that there is no disagreement with regard to NASA policy regarding the ISS - and its future.

Discrepancies with regard to FY 2019 NASA budget document statements about NAC and ASAP statements regarding ISS issues are below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Earlier posts on CASIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith's note: Meanwhile former Trump Transition Team member Charles Miller can barely contain his enthusiasm for this "leadership" which involves abandoning ISS - all with another Transtion Team member's (Greg Autry) approval. Meanwhile other Trump advisors tell say that such a plan to prematurely abandon support for ISS is exactly the opposite advice that they have been giving the Administration at the highest levels with regard to encouraging the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit.

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

Keith's update: I engaged in a Twitter exchange via @NASAWatch with @GregWAutry. Try as I did, I could not get this Trump Transition Team member to answer a simple question about the defunding of ISS after 2025.

Statement by Sen. Bill Nelson Regarding Administration Space Station Plans

"If the Administration plans to abruptly pull us out of the International Space Station in 2025, they're going to have a fight on their hands. Such a move would likely decimate Florida's blossoming commercial space industry, which is one of the reasons why Congress directed NASA to look at extending the ISS to 2028 and to provide a plan to help scientists and researchers continue experimenting in low-Earth orbit beyond that."

Statement from Robert Bigelow on reports of the International Space Station being defunded by 2025, Bigelow Aerospace

"It doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. ISS operations should continue provided there are aggressive initiatives to use commercial platforms for human space operations in parallel with the continued use of the ISS until such time that NASA can safely relieve itself of the enormous financial burden."

White House starts debate on when NASA should leave the space station, Ars Technica

"Without somewhere to operate and a predictable way of getting there, operations are not possible and expansion of American free enterprise in space is stifled," the chief executive officer of Made in Space, Andrew Rush, testified in 2017. Companies like Made in Space, as well as Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada, Boeing, SpaceX, and other commercial service providers oppose an end to station support before 2028. However, the counter argument being advanced by Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, is that at some point these "commercial" companies need to begin standing up on their own and making profits beyond just government contracts. "He doesn't want them lining up for government programs like everyone else," one aerospace industry source told Ars."

Trump administration wants to end NASA funding for the International Space Station by 2025, The Verge

"... a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. "We will not comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the President's FY19 budget, which is scheduled for February 12."

Keith's uodate: Excerpt from OMB FY 2019 Budget Plan for NASA

"Passback provides $10,013.1 million for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Within this funding level, and consistent with the outyear guidance provided in the passback's front matter section, the HEOMD guidance is intended to support the following strategic human space exploration objectives:

- Pursuing a cislunar campaign that will establish U.S. preeminence to, and around, and on the Moon;
- Engaging non-traditional U.S. industrial partners and sectors in the space program;
- Using innovative approaches to combine lunar robotics, a cislunar presence, and human sorties possibilities, involving commercial and international participation to enhance U.S. leadership;
- Ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities;
- Achieving an early milestone in human space exploration by launching the Power Propulsion Element in 2022 using a commercial launch vehicle;
- Supporting public-private partnerships that enable transportation services and landers to the moon by the early 2020s (See Science Passback for more details and ..."

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

"Keith's 11 Dec update: I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted."

Keith's note: It will be interesting to see what happens when Congress gets wind of OMB's ISS plans since NASA never delivered the ISS Transition plan required by law - the plan that explains how NASA intends to end its use of ISS.

CASIS and Marvel Entertainment Unveil Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Marvel Entertainment today announced the Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge is open for American students ages 13-18 to submit microgravity flight experiment concepts that could be conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The contest focuses on Rocket and Groot, characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book franchise, and students are encouraged to develop flight proposals based on the attributes of these Super Heroes. The contest will run through January 31, 2018."

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

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

"In addition, we found NASA failed to actively oversee CASIS's technical performance and instead took a largely "hands-off" approach to managing CASIS that has contributed to the organization's inability to meet expectations. For example, NASA has not developed an overall strategy identifying the achievements or outcomes expected from CASIS through the end of its cooperative agreement nor has the Agency provided guidance or set expectations for CASIS's performance."

Keith's note: Once again CASIS takes the comic book approach to its outreach efforts for NASA's portion of the International Space Station. But in the press release they issued, yet again, the word "NASA" appears nowhere. No mention is made by @NASA or @NASAedu Twitter accounts. No mention is made on the NASA ISS home page or the NASA Education home page. When you ask NASA or CASIS for metrics as to how well this comic book character approach works they cannot provide that information. If you doubt my observations, just read the newly released report on CASIS by the NASA OIG.

- NASA OIG Flunks CASIS - And NASA's Management of CASIS
- Prior Posts on CASIS

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

"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. From 2011 through 2014, CASIS concentrated on standing up its organization and filling leadership positions. Consequently, after more than 5 years of operation CASIS has not fully met a majority of the goals and expectations set out by NASA. Of the nine performance categories we assessed, CASIS met expectations in only two: research pathways and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. For example, the STEM education performance category required CASIS to increase interest in using the National Lab as a platform for STEM education. CASIS met expectations for this performance category by funding 14 STEM education programs in FY 2016 with more than 325,000 participants.

For five of the remaining seven performance categories - grant awards and project portfolio, recruitment of National Lab users, matching research projects and investors, Implementation Partners, and fundraising - CASIS only partially met expectations. For example, in the grant awards and project portfolio performance category, CASIS awarded more than $3 million annually in research grants between FYs 2013 and 2016 but failed to ensure a balanced portfolio of research projects from theoretical to basic to applied research as required by the cooperative agreement. CASIS failed to meet expectations in the remaining two categories: utilization of crew time for National Lab research and outreach. With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018.

In addition, we found NASA failed to actively oversee CASIS's technical performance and instead took a largely "hands-off" approach to managing CASIS that has contributed to the organization's inability to meet expectations. For example, NASA has not developed an overall strategy identifying the achievements or outcomes expected from CASIS through the end of its cooperative agreement nor has the Agency provided guidance or set expectations for CASIS's performance. Instead, NASA has accepted CASIS's slow improvement over the first 5 years of the cooperative agreement without requiring corrective action plans or offering suggestions to improve performance. Although FY 2016 marked the first year CASIS's performance plan included metrics and quantifiable targets for several performance categories, these metrics and targets were not included for all performance categories."

Prior Posts on CASIS

The astronaut fighting to save our home in space, BBC

"Draw up a list of the world's most accomplished and experienced astronauts, and astrophysicist Dr Michael Foale's name is going to come pretty near the top. ... Now more than 20 years after saving one space station, Foale wants to save another: the ISS. ... Foale is formulating his campaign to save the ISS and says he plans to launch websites to gather support to help save the space station. He says he intends to keep pressure on the space agencies to continue to fund the programme. "Every engineer, manager, astronaut or cosmonaut who's worked on the ISS, we all think the space station is such an achievement on behalf of humanity that it should continue," he says. "I'm still giving Nasa a chance to tell me how they're going to do it."

The International Space Station Is The Undiscovered Country, earlier post

http://images.spaceref.com/news/ooenterprise.iss.jpg

Why The International Space Station Is The Single Best Thing We Did, Wired

"The International Space Station is one of the few nonstellar things up there that we can see from down here without instruments. It's a prefab home the size of a football field, 462 tons and more than $100 billion worth of pressurized roomlike modules and gleaming solar arrays, orbiting 250 miles above the surface of the Earth. Its flight path is available online, and you can find out when it will make a nighttime pass over your backyard. Right on schedule, you'll spot an unblinking white light that's moving at 17,500 miles an hour. It will cross your field of view, on a line straight enough to have been drawn with a ruler, in only a few seconds. A few minutes more and the men and women inside that light will be over Greece. A few minutes more, Mongolia. There have been 53 expeditions to the ISS; 53 long-duration crews have called it home since Expedition 1 floated aboard in 2000. They've been mostly from America and Russia, the two principal and unlikely partners in one of the most expensive and challenging construction projects ever completed. (The ISS rose out of the ashes of two previous space stations: Russia's Mir, last occupied in 1999 before it fell out of the sky in 2001, and Ronald Reagan's proposed Freedom, which never got past the blueprints.) Its first few residents came and went largely without incident, conducting scientific experiments in everything from fluid dynamics to zero-G botany while studying what month after weightless month can do to the human body."

Keith's note: After spending decades and tens of billions of dollars NASA still cannot implement a strategic plan for the use of the ISS or explain how it plans to transition from the ISS to future facilities. If NASA cannot get it right in low Earth orbit, how can they expect to build even more complex facilities near the Moon or at Mars?

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

"In other words the [ISS Transition Plan Congress requires - by law] is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it."

NASA Makes Progress Toward Space Exploration Science Priorities Outlined in 2011 Decadal Survey, Should Develop U.S. Strategy for International Space Station Beyond 2024, NAS

"Although NASA has made progress toward the overall space exploration science priorities recommended in a 2011 decadal survey by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the space agency should raise the priority of scientific research that addresses the risks and unknowns of human space exploration. This heightened priority is particularly important given the limited remaining lifetime of the International Space Station (ISS) - the most significant destination for microgravity research - and because the U.S. currently does not have a strategy for the station beyond 2024, says a new midterm assessment report by the National Academies."

A Midterm Assessment of Implementation of the Decadal Survey on Life and Physical Sciences Research at NASA, NAS

"... In assessing the progress of implementation of the decadal survey portfolio, the committee found difficulty in navigating the research tracking within various parts of the Agency that report on research alignments with the decadal recommendations. While overall programmatic attention to space life and physical sciences was readily apparent in the many presentations from NASA to the committee, a cumulative alignment or mapping of agency research projects to specific decadal survey recommendations proved problematic."

"... It is essential that NASA as quickly as possible develop a International Space Station-post-2024 strategy. This development factors strongly in the overall exploration strategy, space life and physical sciences research priorities, and resource allocation in terms of crew time, cargo delivery, and funding. This post-2024 strategy should address clear cost allocation among the various research activities and partners."

"... The committee has seen that microgravity research is included in the SBIR and STTR topic areas. However, NASA does not track the SBIR or STTR projects against the decadal survey priorities, and therefore neither NSBRI, SBIR, nor STTR research results entered into any attempts to map inputs to specific decadal survey recommendations."

"... The committee was further briefed on approximately 2,000 ground-based studies reported through the SLPSRA Task Book database: nearly 200 studies reported by CASIS; a large, yet undetermined, amount of funding for intramural directed intramural research projects; and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ground- and space-based studies sponsored by NASA's international partners. Through individual queries to representatives of SBIR/STTR, the committee also learned of potentially hundreds of relevant SBIR/STTR research projects. Unfortunately, no mechanism currently exists, particularly in the Task Book, to summarize this vast body of research in a manner that allows mapping to specific priorities."

"... This allocation of resources can lead to allocation difficulties, because the various entities having different, and sometimes competing, priorities negotiate for resources. As in the case for Space Biology, shown in Figure 2.9, while both CASIS and NASA may start off with similar fundamental science needs, the NASA needs for flight medicine to enable humans to go to Mars can pull research in a very different direction than the CASIS need to produce medicinal results relevant back on Earth. Sometimes research can synergistically serve both needs; however, this creative tension between legitimate end goals does not always result in commonality of science needs or resource utilization."

Earlier posts on ISS and CASIS

Keith's 11 Dec update: I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted."

In other words the report is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it.

Keith's 8 Dec update: Several sources report that the congressionally-mandated "ISS Transition Plan" (or whatever NASA decides to call it) may be part of the Administration's FY2019 budget proposal package that is sent to Congress in the January/February 2018 time frame. This does not mean, however, that NASA will publicly release the report at that time - if they ever release it at all.

Keith's note: NASA HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier was speaking at the NASA Advicory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee meeting today. It certainly seems that he has decided that NASA is not going to comply with S.442 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 - which is now law. In that law Congress told NASA that they are to deliver a ISS Transition plan no later than 1 December 2017 - this Friday. All indications I get from NASA - and Gerstenmaier's statement - make it clear that there is no plan to be delivered.

According to S.442 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (Public Law No: 115-10 (03/21/2017))

"(1) ((NOTE: Coordination.)) In general.--The Administrator, in coordination with the ISS management entity (as defined in section 2 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017), ISS partners, the scientific user community, and the commercial space sector, shall develop a plan to transition in a step-wise approach from the current regime that relies heavily on NASA sponsorship to a regime where NASA could be one of many customers of a low-Earth orbit non-governmental human space flight enterprise.

(2) Reports.--Not later than December 1, 2017, and biennially thereafter until 2023, the Administrator shall submit to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of Representatives a report that includes--"

Full section below

Why Does Russia Have a Secret ISS Experiment?, Popular Mechanics

"Russia's seven-ton Progress MS-07 tanker will be carrying a secret, a previously unseen instrument attached to the exterior front section of the spacecraft. NASA has no idea what it is. NASA specialists spotted the unknown gizmo in official photographs of the Progress ship released during mission preparation. Since then, a number of pictures documenting the work on Progress MS-07 in Baikonur also showed the unidentified device, indicating that Russian authorities aren't really keeping it secret. But when NASA asked about the hardware, Russian officials said only that it would be a scientific payload intended for a one-time trip aboard the cargo ship. They provided no further details."

Launch of Russian Cargo Mission Scrubbed, NASA

"Launch of the Russian Progress 68 cargo craft has been scrubbed for today. The next launch attempt will be no earlier than Saturday Oct. 14 at 4:46 am EDT (2:46 p.m. local time in Baikonur)."

Keith's note: This notice "A Year of Education on Station" appeared with no fanfare on the NASA education audience page: "September 2017 - September 2018: Although on different crews, astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold - both former teachers - will work aboard the International Space Station. K-16 students and educators can do NASA STEM activities related to the station and its role in NASA's journey to Mars."

Cool stuff. Another year long thing on the ISS. Too bad NASA is going out of its way not to tell anyone about this. There is no mention on the NASA.gov homepage, nothing on the main ISS page, no mention on the NASA Education page, and zero mention on the CASIS website (not a surprise since they try to ignore any mention of "NASA" these days). Nothing has appeared on @NASA, @Space_Station, @NASAedu, @astroacaba, @ISS_CASIS or @ISS_Research either.

Apparently NASA just assumes that people will find this page within NASA's website. This is called the "if you build it they will come" approach. Or maybe people will notice that Joe Acaba has started to give out homework assignments.

Lucasfilm Creates Mission Patch Representing International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory Research, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced the unveiling of its latest mission patch, designed by Lucasfilm, featuring characters and space ships from the Star Wars franchise. The mission patch represents all payloads intended for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in calendar year 2017. CASIS is the organization that oversees research on the ISS U.S. National Laboratory benefitting life on Earth."

Keith's note: Nowhere in this press release does CASIS mention "NASA". Yet NASA pays 99.97% of CASIS' budget - year after year. Its almost as if CASIS wants you to think that they built and now operate the space station - not NASA. As to their latest logo, I totally understand the interest in wanting to reach a broader audience. But CASIS seems to be obsessed with things like this - almost as much as they avoid mentioning NASA.

First there was their strange fascination with co-branding golf research on the ISS - research that never actually happened with the exception of some golf clubs that claimed to be " inspired" by space research. Then there was getting actor Seth Green to design a logo. Then they made "Groot" from "Guardians of the Galaxy" a mascot in another logo. Now there's a "Star Wars" logo. CASIS never answers my questions on things like this. So I file FOIA requests. I have a lot of stuff received via FOIA that I have been analyzing and hope to publish soon.

In a nutshell CASIS just makes this stuff up as they go. They have no strategic plan and have virtually no means of collecting and analyzing metrics from things such as these Sci Fi mission patches. If CASIS cannot determine if these things have a real value (one that can be expressed in numbers) then why does CASIS continue to do these things? How many Twitter impressions and social media mentions have these logos created? How many people first learned of the ISS as a result of these logos? How many business partners came to CASIS as a result of these logos? How much employee time has CASIS put into the development and use of these logos?

Again, its great when CASIS, who only has money because NASA pays 99.97% of their budget, tries to reach out to new audiences. But when they have no way to determine if an approach even works, you have to wonder if they truly understand how any of their NASA-funded efforts have actually, tangible,concrete results that represent a worthy return on investment for taxpayer dollars.

Below is just a small sample of all of the missteps that CASIS has made. More soon.

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"Oddly, if you look at SPACE IS IN IT, CASIS APPROVED - Trademark Details you'll see that the trademark is classified as being "International Class 028 - Games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees. - Games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees." Sounds like a perfect category for golf-related stuff."

CASIS Announces Significant ISS News But Forgets To Mention NASA, earlier post

"Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing."

CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot, earlier post

"CASIS issues a press release that mentions that Marvel comic book/movie characters at ComicCon are now ISS mascots or something. Alas NASA is there too - as @NASASocial - at the Marvel booth - and neither @NASASocial or @ISS_CASIS mention one another's presence. Apparently CASIS thinks that Groot, a giant tree man thing, and a foul-mouthed raccoon are better poised to explain ISS science than ISS scientists. So - the movie director whose characters are being featured refers to "CASIS" as "OASIS" and doesn't seem to know that this is all about the International Space Station - referring instead to "the mission to Mars". Meanwhile NASA makes no mention of this news and NASA is never mentioned in the CASIS press release. Yet news stories say that NASA is behind all of this. NASA only gets the credit from third parties - and when they get mention it is factually mangled. Nice job CASIS."

CASIS Recycles NASA Hype In Its Quarterly Reports To NASA, earlier post

"Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. NASA.gov blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017 [Update as of 6 Sep 2017 @iss_casis account has 114,000 followers].
. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation."

More CASIS postings

SpaceX Launches Cargo Resupply Mission to the Space Station (With multiple videos)

"Experiments seeking a better understanding of Parkinson's disease and the origin of cosmic rays are on their way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft following today's 12:31 p.m. EDT launch."

"Carrying more than 6,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies, the spacecraft lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the company's 12th commercial resupply mission. It will arrive at the space station Wednesday, Aug. 16, at which time astronauts Jack Fischer of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the space station's robotic arm to capture it."

Russian official on new US sanctions and NASA: "Nothing lasts forever"

"However, Russia's chief space official, Dmitry Rogozin, warned Saturday that such a situation may not be tolerable forever. "They (the United States) have an interesting approach, they try not to harm areas in which they are interested," he said in a television interview. "They say that 'space is outside politics.' We take the 'space is outside politics' slogan into account, but nothing lasts forever."

Putin orders cut of 755 personnel at U.S. missions, Washington Post

"It is not yet clear how the State Department will reduce its staff in Russia. Some of the local staff were hired to help with a significant expansion of the U.S. embassy compound in Moscow. ... The Library of Congress had two U.S. staff and two foreign staff, and NASA had eight U.S. staff and four foreign staff members."

The Kremlin is done betting on Trump and planning how to strike back against U.S. sanctions, Washington Post

"Of course it's very difficult for Russia to do anything to harm the U.S. interests unless Russia is ready to take steps which will harm ourselves," said Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, an influential group of Russian foreign policy experts. Hawks poring over the U.S. sanctions say Moscow needs to break the rules. "It says that by no means shall sanctions apply to NASA projects," said Nikolay Platoshkin, a former Russian diplomat and professor at the Moscow University of the Humanities, referring to the bill passed by the Senate. "Here we go, a perfect tip, let them apply [to NASA], let American astronauts ride horses to the International Space Station."

H.R.3364 - Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act

"SEC. 237. EXCEPTION RELATING TO ACTIVITIES OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION.

(a) In General.--This Act and the amendments made by this Act shall not apply with respect to activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

(b) Rule Of Construction.--Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed to authorize the imposition of any sanction or other condition, limitation, restriction, or prohibition, that directly or indirectly impedes the supply by any entity of the Russian Federation of any product or service, or the procurement of such product or service by any contractor or subcontractor of the United States or any other entity, relating to or in connection with any space launch conducted for--

(1) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; or

(2) any other non-Department of Defense customer.

SEC. 238. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this part or the amendments made by this part shall be construed--

(1) to supersede the limitations or exceptions on the use of rocket engines for national security purposes under section 1608 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113-291; 128 Stat. 3626; 10 U.S.C. 2271 note), as amended by section 1607 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92; 129 Stat. 1100) and section 1602 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328; 130 Stat. 2582); or

(2) to prohibit a contractor or subcontractor of the Department of Defense from acquiring components referred to in such section 1608."

Keith's note: H.R.3364 was passed by the House, then the Senate, and has now been sent to the President who has said that he will sign it into law. According to the bill NASA and space activities are specifically exempted from being part of any sanctions that the U.S. might impose upon Russia. Yet the people quoted by the Washington Post suggest that by saying that these things are exempt from our sanctions, we're actually saying that these things are vital and that upsetting them would damage our interests. Russia is now talking about the actions that they will take in response to the impending implementation of this legislation. Has the United States given Russia a roadmap of things they can focus their responses at - even if it results in damage to Russia itself?

How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? The longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a way to transcend such things. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later.

- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, earlier post
- Will U.S. Sanctions On Russia Impact ISS Operations?, earlier post
- Cold War Echoes On Earth And In Space, earlier post
- Watching Turmoil On Earth From Serene Vantage of Space, earlier post
- Russia, earlier posts

Soyuz Launches to the International Space Station With Expedition 52/53 Crew (With video)

"About four minutes prior to launch, the space station flew over the launch site and was flying about 250 miles above south central Russia, just over the northeast border of Kazakhstan, at the time of launch. NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) are now safely in orbit."

"The crew will orbit Earth four times en route to the spacecraft's arrival and docking to the space station's Rassvet module, at 6 p.m. Tune in at 5:15 p.m. to NASA Television or the agency's website to watch the docking live."

Michael J. Fox Foundation and CASIS Announce Partnership to Grow Key Parkinson's Protein on International Space Station

"The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announce a partnership to send a key Parkinson's protein to the International Space Station for growth under microgravity conditions. Microgravity may allow bigger, more regular LRRK2 protein crystals to grow, which helps solve the protein's structure. That information could help scientists design optimized therapies against LRRK2, a key target in the pursuit of a Parkinson's cure."

LRRK2

"Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), also known as dardarin (from the Basque word "dardara" which means trembling), is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the PARK8 gene. LRRK2 is a member of the leucine-rich repeat kinase family. Variants of this gene are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease and also Crohn's disease."

Keith's note: Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing. Even if CASIS is trying to distance itself from NASA, anyone with an ounce of Internet savvy would know that "NASA" is a search term that would heighten the visibility of this press release as it is posted elsewhere on the Internet. Again - this is significant news and CASIS should be congratulated for pulling it off. I'm just not sure they have a full grasp of the responsibility that they have been given by NASA.

CASIS Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2017

"Executive Summary: The second fiscal quarter (Q2) of 2017 (FY17) brought forward meaningful progress for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and demonstrated signals of opportunity for future space science platforms. From a big picture perspective, key developments in commercial space outside of the ISS National Lab are noteworthy for our stakeholder community. In March, SpaceX achieved a historic milestone on the road to reusability in space transportation with the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket. This achievement in reusability signals the tangible progress that the industry is making toward lowering the cost of transportation, a well-established barrier for space research and development. In addition to this milestone, commercial companies publicly announced this quarter intent to develop standalone, privately funded space stations within the decade. Finally, Congress' actions to pass the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 provide a firm foundation for continuity of progress toward America's leadership in commercial space. These developments are encouraging to both traditional and nontraditional users of the ISS National Lab as our nation looks to develop long-term research initiatives in space. Adding to this renewed excitement in commercial space, momentum with space research development on the ISS National Lab continues to accelerate and expand."

Keith's note: What's really bizarre is that CASIS is feeding this overt NASA PR hype back to NASA as part of a quarterly report to its (sole) customer. As if NASA had not already read its own hype without the need for CASIS to regurgitate it as part of a contract deliverable. Or maybe CASIS is just trying to make NASA feel better and simultaneously inflate its on value by aligning itself with the NASA spin machine. Hard to tell. Maybe they hope the new White House staff are reading these things. There's actually a lot of really important updates in these quarterly reports (more to follow) that are worthy of wider dissemination. Valuable research is being accomplished on the ISS. I am just baffled as to why CASIS feels the need to puff it all up with hype.

Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. NASA.gov blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation.

CASIS Announces Cotton Sustainability Challenge

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced a cotton sustainability challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, where researchers and innovators will have the ability to propose solutions to improve crop production on Earth by sending their concepts to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The challenge will leverage a broad range of disciplines to find breakthrough solutions that can be implemented affordably and benefit the cotton production community."

Keith's note: I was at the ISS R&D Conference today in Washington, DC (I'll be there all week). One of today's events was a panel that discussed the role of the National Academy of Science in advising NASA - specifically the Decadal Survey done on human spaceflight back in 2011. To be certain, as I have noted before, a lot of the NASA/NAS interaction is akin to choir practice in an echo chamber. But there is a lot of useful observation and advice embedded in these NASA reports that NASA would be wise to consider with regard to human spaceflight.

There was an odd interaction toward the end of the session when ISS Director Sam Scimemi asked if there was anything that the NAS could do to interest other federal agencies in spending money on space activities - which is an odd thing to consider even asking the NAS since they simply do not do that sort of advocacy. They are supposed to be impartial. As such its rather strange for the senior NASA civil servant running the ISS to be thinking - much less to say something like this in a public forum. Does he not know what role the NAS plays? Maybe someone should explain this to him. Its even odder that Scimemi would be out trying to drum up more funds for space given how well NASA did in the FY 2018 White House budget when compared to how badly other science agencies did in that same budget proposal. This makes NASA seem greedy and/or clueless.

SpaceX Dragon's second splashdown is a historic first, CNET

"Until now, no single craft has visited the ISS and returned to Earth more than once. In fact, all other non-SpaceX vehicles that visit the space station are designed to burn up in the atmosphere after a single flight. SpaceX has been recovering its Dragon capsules via splashdowns in the ocean, but this is the first time that one of those recycled craft has completed a second re-supply mission."

NanoRacks Prepares Activation of Historic Chinese Research, 25+ Experiments Onboard International Space Station, Nanoracks

"After Saturday's launch to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX's Dragon was successfully berthed and installed, bringing over 25 of NanoRacks' customer payloads to the ISS, including the first-ever Chinese experiment to be brought aboard Station. The launch of the Chinese experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), led by Professor Deng Yulin, has been in work for over two years now. Following complete U.S. government compliance, this fully commercial, educational Chinese experiment will study the effects of the space radiation environment on DNA and the changes in mutation rate. The experiment will run on Station for about 30 days and then return back to Earth aboard the Dragon spacecraft. The BIT NanoLab will remain confined to the NanoRacks platform on Station, and can in no way interface with the International Space Station or NASA's IT infrastructure and systems. There is no transfer of technology between NASA and China."

Keith's note: There is always a clever technical solution to overcome cumbersome political policies. People just have to want to find the solutions. Every time you do something like this, the original problem becomes less of a hindrance and is eventually replaced by new, usually unexpected, opportunities. Congratulations to everyone who made this happen. If we can calmly and professionally share a space station with the country who tried to steal our election then we can certainly share it with the country that makes our iPhones.

Reusing Old Dragons

SpaceX set to join rare company by re-flying an orbital spacecraft, Ars Technica

"Although the company has never placed a hard dollar value on the Dragon, the savings could be considerable. SpaceX received a contract worth $1.6 billion from NASA for 12 cargo supply missions to the station in 2008--about $130 million per flight. That would have included the cost of the booster, of course, so therefore an individual Dragon spacecraft is likely valued at between $20 million to $60 million."

NASA Won't Pay You to Smoke Weed

"Q: Does NASA pay $18,000 for people to stay in bed and smoke weed for 70 straight days?

A: No. NASA conducts bed-rest studies, but it does not allow participants to smoke marijuana or even drink alcohol."

Facebook users flagged a story with the captivating headline "NASA Will Pay You $18,000 To Stay In Bed And Smoke Weed For 70 Straight Days." Don't get too excited. It's false."


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