Recently in ISS News Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASA to seek independent review of ISS National Laboratory

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

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

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

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

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

ISS Research and Development Conference livestream

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

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

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

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

What Is CASIS Up To?

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

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

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

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

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

"Recommended Changes to CASIS, Inc. Bylaws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch live.

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

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

Witnesses are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CASIS Clarifies Its Expansion Ambitions, earlier post

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

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

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

NASA to Announce Commercial Opportunities at International Space Station

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

NASA Plan for Commercial LEO Development

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

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

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

Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements

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

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

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

Summaries of each company's proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your time."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 March 2016 NASA letter to CASIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"1.1 Introduction

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

1.2.1. CASIS Mission

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

1.2.2. CCASIS Goals

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

1.2.4 Prohibition of Other Activities

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Earlier posts on CASIS and ISS

NASA Updates Spacewalk Assignments, Announces Final Preview Briefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian Rocket Program Sputters in New Race to Space, Bloomberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SpaceX Crew Dragon Arrives At The International Space Station

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

Space Station Crew Opens Hatch to Crew Dragon After Docking

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

SpaceX Launches First NASA Commercial Crew Demonstration Mission

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

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

Some Twitter notes from the event today:

Earlier posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith's update: Sources report that CASIS Executive DirectorJoseph Vockley has actually been asleep at the wheel at CASIS. Literally. CASIS employees say that he falls asleep at both internal CASIS and external meetings - including those held with NASA. Vockley has stated to many people that he is really not in charge at CASIS - and that Melody Kuehner, 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."

Astronauts Prepare For Contingency Spacewalk

"Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer are getting ready for a contingency spacewalk Tuesday morning. Whitson and Fischer are set to begin the spacewalk at 8 a.m. Tuesday for about two hours of maintenance work. The spacewalk's primary task is the removal and replacement of a data relay box, known as a Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM), which failed Saturday morning. The MDM controls the functionality of station components such as the solar arrays, radiators, cooling loops and other systems."

Keith's note: Reading NASAWatch you might think that this site has a preoccupation with clumsy projects (like SLS) that are over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in terms of mission focus. That is not representative of NASA as a whole. Here is one example - I saw this article in Science last week and thought that this research was worth re-featuring - especially given that a bunch of science is headed for ISS in a week or so. When I worked at NASA helping to design Space Station Freedom, my focus was life and materials science payloads. These little DNA sequencing devices (which will fit in your pocket) were impossible back then - and if they were, would have required several payload racks and a lot of power and crew time. While NASA has problems with its rockets, payload technology is moving ahead at warp speed.

Pocket-sized sequencers start to pay off big, Science

"Aaron Burton, an astrobiologist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, who is exploring how nanopore devices could help search for life elsewhere in the solar system, agrees: "The rapid improvements have made it a viable technology right now, rather than an emerging technology that 'could be good in a few years.'" ... MinION's portability continues to prove its value. With the aid of warming packs that kept the machine's chemistry working, Sarah Johnson, a planetary scientist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., used one to generate long reads of DNA while collecting specimens in an Antarctic dry valley, a setting sometimes used as a proxy for Mars."

Sequencing DNA in Space, earlier post SpaceRef

"NASA is not often known for making the best use of existing COTS (commercial off the shelf technology) aboard the ISS. Then again, sometimes they are. This is an example of when the agency really grabs cutting edge biotech and sends it into space. There's usually quite a lag time. The reasons range from slogging through the often cumbersome payload safety and integration process to people at NASA who are simply not up to date with what the ral world is doing in their field. In this instance a rather remarkable gizmo is being flown in space that truly puts genetic sequencing in the palm of your hand. Indeed, its almost as if NASA was flying part of a version 1.0 Tricorder in space. This is cutting edge technology folks."

- First DNA Sequencing Conducted in Space, earlier post
- One Billion Base Pairs Sequenced on the Space Station, earlier post

Keith's 4 May update: @DanaPerino deleted this tweet (but it is still on her Instagram page). Why would she do that - unless she did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

Keith's 5 May update: Now @Astro2fish has deleted his tweet as well. Why would he do that - unless he also did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

The only reason that the text of these embedded tweets still appears is that I embedded them before deletion and the words are in the embed code. If you click on the date/time you will get a deletion message. This is what they both looked like - with pictures - before Dana Perino and Jack Fischer deleted them.

Keith's 4 May update: I sent an inquiry to NASA HQ and JSC PAO and got this response:

"- Is there a Space Act Agreement or MOU in place between NASA and Dana Perino and/or Fox News that allows a NASA civil servant on board the ISS to use their NASA position and work place to promote Dana Perino's book?
- Can you provide me with a copy of the official NASA process whereby book authors/publishers can apply to have astronauts conduct promotional activities while aboard the ISS? Have other book authors applied for this promotion aboard ISS?
- What cost to NASA is associated with these on-orbit book promotions? (What is the cost of launching this Felt Jasper, NASA personnel time to coordinate with Perino/Fox, TDRSS bandwidth etc.)
- Did the NASA OGC at JSC or NASA HQ issue a waiver and/or give formal written permission to Jack Fischer to conduct these commercial promotion activities with Dana Perino and Fox News while on board the ISS?
- Under what payload allocation was the "Felt Jasper" flown to the ISS? Did Jack Fischer carry it with him on his Soyuz flight or was this launched on a cargo vehicle? Is this a personal item or is it a NASA PAO-endorsed activity?
- Did NASA PAO interact directly with Fox News to coordinate the coverage given on Dana Perino's Twitter account and/or provide NASA imagery of the Felt Jasper on "The Five" segment that aired last night on Fox News?
- What will be done with the Felt Jasper that Fischer has in orbit? Will it be returned to Earth and used for commercial purposes?
- Will Jack Fischer and Dana Perino be doing any further commercial promotion activities for Perino's book on-orbit or when he returns to Earth?
- Did Jack Fischer personally send the following tweet from the ISS? If he did not, who sent it? "@Astro2fish Well, finally got a chance to show Felt Jasper the office @DanaPerino & pretty sure he dug the view-I know I did! #SpaceDogWalks #NASARocks 5:59 PM - 2 May 2017"

This is what I got back:

"Hi Keith, Astronauts are permitted to take personal mementos to space. Jack Fischer's flight of a "Felt Jasper" as a personal memento and his subsequent release of imagery of that memento via his social media does not imply an endorsement of any commercial activity. Thank you, Jenny, Norma Jennifer Knotts, Public Affairs Specialist"

Apparently Trumpish commercial endorsement behavior is the new normal at NASA. An astronaut is allowed to use his official government position and work place to give significant social media visibility to a book written by a former Bush press spokesperson who appears on the President's favorite news channel (Fox). And that visibility is repeated on Fox News. Yet none of the Trump political appointees on the 9th floor at NASA HQ see anything wrong with this and are OK with a two sentence non-response. Tick tock.

Keith's 2 May note: Now it is apparently acceptable for NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion tie-ins for books written by Fox News celebrities like @DanaPerino who has a book out titled "Let me tell you about Jasper". Since Fischer has the mini-Jasper in orbit this promotion had to have planned this ahead of time. How much did Perino pay for this - or did NASA give this orbital PR away for free? Check out her Twitter banner. This a rather overt tie-in. Apparently Fischer and Perino already knew each other prior to his departure - here he is holding a copy of her book at some event they both attended. The "felt Jasper" is something that is used to promote Perino's book.

Keith's update: Fox Five just aired a piece about the Felt Jasper book promotion dog in space and Perino's book. Of course all of this PR and product promotion stuff was coordinated and approved by NASA PAO, right?

Keith's note: People who engage on expeditions to risky and dangerous places on Earth regulary waive certain safety and medical regulations in order to participate. I have done it more than once in the arctic and at Everest. You consider the risks, weigh the benefits, and then sign the forms. There are lifetime radiation exposure limits for astronauts that are supposed to be used to guide the selection of ISS crews. Now, these limits are apparently subject to selective waiver. So are these "limits" now becoming "guidelines"? Are astronauts now doing something similar to what terrestrial explorers do in order to spend more time in space? What is the process whereby NASA makes this waiver decision? What are the implications for the whole #JourneyToMars thing?

Marc's note: At 10:00 a.m. ET President Trump, Ivanka Trump and NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins will call the ISS from the White House to speak with Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA. Will we hear anything of substance? With This President you never know. You can watch the event LIVE on SpaceRef.

Updated: NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Talks STEM Education with President Trump

Updated: Remarks by President Trump in Video Call with NASA Astronauts Aboard the International Space Station

President Trump Calls Space Station Crew on Record-Setting Day

Interstellar Docking

Keith's note: You have got to watch this. Full screen. Sound turned up - footage of the docking of Soyuz with ISS using the docking sequence from the "Interstellar" soundtrack. (Corrected, it was not a Cygnus.)

No, Russia isn't sending a Terminator robot to the space station, Ars Technica

"The reports this weekend were breathless. Mashable said Russia was sending a "death dealing" robot with the power to shoot guns to the International Space Station. Pravda reported that the Russian cyborg, Fyodor, had frightened the West. It was like the Terminator, only in space, and only for reals. In reality, probably not. The stories were written after the Russian deputy prime minister overseeing military and space activities, Dmitry Rogozin, posted on Facebook and Twitter about the country's humanoid robot, Fyodor."

Russian space robot bound for ISS given power to shoot handguns, for some reason, Mashable

"Just in time for the rise in global military tensions, Russian officials have released video that's sure to calm fears all around: a death dealing humanoid robot that shoots handguns. Posted to Twitter on Friday by Russia's deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, the video shows the country's space robot FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) accurately shooting twin pistols in a scene chillingly similar to images from The Terminator."

Earlier Robonaut and R5 postings

Space Station Crew Including NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough Return to Earth

"Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA is among three crew members from the International Space Station (ISS) who returned to Earth Monday, after 173 days in space, landing in Kazakhstan at approximately 7:20 a.m. EDT (5:20 p.m. Kazakhstan time). Also returning were Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The three touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

Russia may abandon International Space Station to join forces with China, Pravda

"The Russian segment of the International Space Station may separate from the station. Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is also currently looking into the need for the presence of people in orbit. Do people still have to live on board the ISS or is it possible to entrust space exploration to robots? These issues were put on the agenda of the meeting of the Military Industrial Commission for the development of Roscosmos until 2030."

Russia open to extending international space station partnership: agency chief, Reuters

"Moscow has an alternative if relations with the United States sour. Russia last year unveiled a plan to detach some of its modules and use them to create a new, independent outpost in orbit. "We adjusted and made some minor changes in our programs ... but it doesn't mean that we don't want to continue our cooperation," Komarov said. "We just want to be on the safe side and make sure we can continue our research." The United States is dependent on Russia's propellant module to keep the station in orbit."

Somebody Just Buy the ISS Already, Wired

"Officially, Congress must make a decision on the ISS by 2024, when its funding expires. But beyond routine maintenance and the occasional orbital boost, the station needs no major repairs. "As it happens, some stuff is functioning vastly better than imagined," says Keith Cowing, editor of NasaWatch (a NASA watchdog), who helped design the station as a NASA employee in the 1990s. "Maintenance is little things like replacing batteries when they die or tightening valves when they need it."

... Even with a government-mandated nonprofit charged specifically with ginning up business, nobody has found a killer app for low Earth orbit. Yet. Cowing sympathizes with NASA's funding plight, and says it shouldn't indefinitely tie up resources on a mission barely beyond the stratosphere. But he doesn't think that should seal ISS's fate. "NASA has spent decades building and operating this thing, has gotten it just to the point where it can actually start doing things, and all of a sudden you want to scrap it all and start building something else," he says. What a waste.

... Plus, buying it lets you do whatever the hell you want. "I like to refer to the ISS as the Undiscovered Country, both in the Shakespearean and Star Trek-ian sense," says Cowing. "It's completely underutilized."

UK schoolboy corrects NASA data error, BBC

"A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data. The 17-year-old from Tapton school in Sheffield said it was "pretty cool" to email the space agency. The correction was said to be "appreciated" by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem. "What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds," Miles told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme. The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries. During UK astronaut Tim Peake's stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS."

TimPix Project

"In partnership with Professor Larry Pinsky at the University of Houston, and in collaboration with NASA, the Institute for Research in Schools is able to release data from the Timepix detectors on board the ISS and give students and teachers the opportunity to take part in this research."

Space Subcommittee Hearing- The ISS after 2024: Options and Impacts

"It is the policy of the United States to support full and complete utilization of the International Space Station through at least 2024. What happens to the ISS after that date remains an open question. The hearing will examine the range of choices facing our nation and the impacts of those various options."

Witnesses
- [Statement] William Gerstenmaier, NASA
- [Statement] Mary Lynne Dittmar, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
- [Opening Statement] Eric Stallmer Commercial Spaceflight Federation
- [Statement] Robert Ferl University of Florida
- Rep. Babin Opening Statement
- Rep. Bera Opening Statement
- Rep. Johnson Opening Statement
- Hearing Charter

Watch live

US astronaut's spaceflight to be financed by Russian corporation as debt repayment, TASS

"U.S. astronaut Joseph M. Acaba will fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) as a third crew member of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship. His flight will be financed by Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as debt repayment to US' Boeing under the joint project Sea Launch, a source in the Russian space industry told TASS on Monday. ... According to earlier reports, under an amicable agreement reached by Energia and Boeing as part of debt repayment under the Sea Launch project, the Russian corporation will give the American side five seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft, in particular one seat in 2017, one seat in 2018, and an option on three seats in 2019. Energia's debt to Boeing was 330 million US dollars, as was ruled by a California court in 2015. In the summer of 2015, the sides reached an amicable agreement where Energia undertook to repay its debt by means of works and new projects."

NASA Uses Bait and Switch Tactics To Buy Soyuz Seats, earlier post

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

Shotwell to GAO: "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019", SpacePolicyOnline

"SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell reacted to GAO's report yesterday that commercial crew flights may slip from 2018 to 2019 by expressing utmost confidence in her company's schedule. At a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press conference today in advance of SpaceX's commercial cargo launch tomorrow, she said the company's response to GAO is "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019."

NASA Commercial Crew Program: Schedule Pressure Increases as Contractors Delay Key Events

"Both of the Commercial Crew Program's contractors have made progress developing their crew transportation systems, but both also have aggressive development schedules that are increasingly under pressure. The two contractors - Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies, Corp. (SpaceX) - are developing transportation systems that must meet the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) standards for human spaceflight - a process called certification. Both Boeing and SpaceX have determined that they will not be able to meet their original 2017 certification dates and both expect certification to be delayed until 2018. The schedule pressures are amplified by NASA's need to provide a viable crew transportation option to the International Space Station (ISS) before its current contract with Russia's space agency runs out in 2019. If NASA needs to purchase additional seats from Russia, the contracting process typically takes 3 years. Without a viable contingency option for ensuring uninterrupted access to the ISS in the event of further Commercial Crew delays, NASA risks not being able to maximize the return on its multibillion dollar investment in the space station."

NanoRacks and Boeing Building First Commercial Airlock on ISS, NanoRacks

"NanoRacks, LLC will partner with Boeing on the building and installation of the first commercial airlock module, which will attach to the U.S. segment on the International Space Station (ISS). In May 2016, NanoRacks and NASA signed a Space Act Agreement in order to install a private airlock module onboard the International Space Station - the first in station history. The NanoRacks Airlock Module will be both a permanent commercial uncrewed module onboard International Space Station, and also a module capable of being removed from the space station and used on a future commercial platform."

Station cargo flight leapfrogs commercial satellite launch on SpaceX manifest, Spaceflight Now

"SpaceX said Sunday that the first Falcon 9 rocket launch from pad 39A, a former shuttle-era complex at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is scheduled to send a Dragon supply ship to the International Space Station in mid-February, deferring a mission with an EchoStar communications satellite that was set to take off this month."

Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services From Boeing, NASA

"NASA is considering contracting with The Boeing Company (Boeing) for crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2017 and one crewmember in the Spring of 2018. NASA is considering purchasing these services from Boeing, without competition, because no other vehicles are currently capable of providing these services in Fall 2017 or Spring 2018. NASA has contracts with two U.S. commercial companies for crew transportation to the ISS. However, these vehicles are still in the developmental stage, and not expected to begin fully operational flights to the ISS until 2019. NASA also is considering an option to acquire crew transportation from Boeing for three crewmembers on the Soyuz in 2019, to ensure the availability of back-up transportation capability in the event the U.S. commercial contractor vehicles are delayed or to augment future ISS operations and research."

"Russia recently announced its plans to decrement the Russian crew count onboard ISS from three to two, beginning in CY 2017. As a result of Russia reducing its crew count by one crewmember, there is now an available Soyuz seat in the 2017-2018 timeframe on each of the two planned spacecraft that would have otherwise had two Russian crew aboard. Of the 24 total Soyuz seats available in 2017-2018, the three seats resulting from the Russian crew decrement are the only available means of transporting additional US crewmembers to ISS during this period."

"An agreement was recently reached between the Boeing Company and S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Public Corporation, Energia ("RSC Energia"), who is the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft and has the legal rights to sell the seats and associated services. As a part of this agreement, Energia agreed to provide to Boeing two specifically identified seats on the Soyuz spacecraft for long-duration travel to and from the ISS, one on a flight to occur in the Fall 2017 timeframe and another on a flight to occur in the Spring 2018 timeframe. Additionally, Energia provided Boeing three additional specifically identified seats in the Spring 2019 timeframe on two Soyuz spacecraft. Finally, Boeing and RSC Energia agreed that each of these five seats will include a launch of an individual to and from the ISS, including all services normally provided during launches to ISS. Boeing and RSC Energia have represented that Boeing has the full rights to these seats and can sell them to any third party."

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

As leadership departs, NASA quietly moves to buy more Soyuz seats, Ars Technica

"Last September, based upon anonymous sources, Ars reported that NASA had begun considering buying additional seats in 2019 as a hedge against further delays with the commercial crew program. Both NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the agency's head of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, subsequently denied this report."

NASA considering Boeing offer for additional Soyuz seats, SpaceNews

"NASA officials previous indicated that there were no plans by the agency to purchase additional Soyuz seats directly from Roscosmos. William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in an October interview that the deadline had passed for NASA to purchase additional Soyuz seats from Roscosmos for 2019 missions."

Keith's note: Have a look at the board of directors of RSC Energia. Five of the Eleven members work for Roscosmos including Yuri Vlasov "deputy general director for rocket and space industry of State Corporation for space activities Roscosmos". RSC Energia is owned by the Russian government. Buying Soyuz seats from RSC Energia instead of Roscosmos is a distinction without a difference. Boeing has not disclosed what the value of these seats are or what they will charge NASA for them.

Obama orders Russia expulsions, sanctions for interference in 2016 election, Reuters

"President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctioned Russian intelligence officials who Washington believes were involved in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 presidential election. The measures, taken during the last days of Obama's presidency, mark a new low in U.S.-Russian relations which have deteriorated over serious differences on Ukraine and Syria. "These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior," Obama said in a statement from vacation in Hawaii."

Joint DHS, ODNI, FBI Statement on Russian Malicious Cyber Activity, FBI

"This activity by Russian intelligence services is part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens. These cyber operations have included spearphishing, campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations; theft of information from these organizations; and the recent public release of some of this stolen information."

- Cold War Echoes On Earth And In Space, Earlier post
- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, Earlier post

Commercial Crew Flight Dates Delayed To 2018

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. Targeted Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test: June 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test: August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1: November 2017
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2: May 2018"

Progress Launch Fails

Problem Occurs During Launch of Progress 65 Resupply Mission to the ISS - Vehicle Burns up in Atmosphere (with video)

"A launch that seemingly was going perfect, quickly became a concern to Russian mission controllers when the third stage of the Soyuz rocket apparently shut down early, possibly leaving the Progress resupply spacecraft in a improper orbit. To make matters worse mission controllers have been unable to confirm at this point if the solar arrays are fully deployed. Contact was lost at T+ 6:23 just before it was supposed to achieve orbit."




U.S. Govt. Hackers Ready to Hit Back If Russia Tries to Disrupt Election, NBC

"U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia's electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin's command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary, according to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News."

The Curious Geopolitical Immunity of the International Space Station, earlier Post

"Interestingly, every time the bad relationship between the U.S. and Russia gets worse there is no mention of altering U.S./Russian cooperation in space. Indeed, when U.S./China tensions are mentioned, you hear increased talk of cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. Oh wait: the Chinese are going to visit their new space station in a few weeks. Why is space seen as a venture that seemingly transcends terrestrial politics - indeed, one where peaceful collaboration regularly prevails over less desirable behavior? There is a precedent: Antarctica."

Keith's note: 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.

The weak pull of artificial gravity, The Space Review

"Gerstenmaier, while skeptical of the need for and ability to accommodate artificial gravity, didn't rule it out entirely. He noted that there's very little information on the effectiveness of partial gravity, including the minimum levels needed to offset the deleterious effects of microgravity. Some of that research is being done with a small rodent centrifuge on the station's Kibo module. "We'll take a look and see if there's some magic partial gravity that actually mitigates most of the concerns of the zero-gravity levels," he said. Until then, astronauts on the ISS and future exploration missions will have to learn to take the good with the bad when it comes to weightlessness--and hope they love to exercise for a couple hours every day."

Keith's note: Well, DUH, Bill. You guys cancelled the 2.5 meter centrifuge facility that was supposed to fly on ISS to answer those exact same questions. Gee, I wonder why they have not been addressed? Don't try and duck the issue: I can remember sitting in meetings where it was discussed that you attended back in the day ;-)

Expedition 49 Is Back On Earth (with video)

"NASA astronaut and Expedition 49 crew member Kate Rubins, who became the first person to sequence DNA in space, returned to Earth Saturday after a successful mission aboard the International Space Station. Rubins and her crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, touched down in their Soyuz MS-01 at 11:58 p.m. EDT (9:58 a.m. Oct. 30, Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

Keith's note: When "Interstellar" came out there was an Oculus Rift "experience" that toured a few locations around the country. The Oculus Rift tour inside the "Endurance" was pretty cool. If only NASA could find a way to take this ISS footage and convert it for use with Play Station VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard. etc. I am sure it would be a hit. Nice for training astronauts too.

NASA FISO Presentation: An ISS Space Ambulance Based on X-37B Technology

Now available is the October 19, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers was Steve Robinson (UC Santa Cruz) who discussed "An ISS Space Ambulance Based on X-37B Technology."

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

Marc's note: An interesting concept. Is there a future commercial application for this concept should other space stations come online (Bigelow etc.)?

After Month Long Delay Soyuz Rocket Launches Astronauts to the International Space Station [With video]

"Three crew members representing the United States and Russia are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:05 a.m. EDT Wednesday (2:05 p.m. Baikonur time). The Soyuz spacecraft carrying astronaut Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, is scheduled to dock to the Poisk module of the space station at 5:59 a.m. Friday, Oct. 21. NASA Television coverage of docking will begin at 5:15 a.m. Hatches are scheduled to open about 8:35 a.m., with NASA TV coverage starting at 8 a.m."

- ISS Crew Could be Short Staffed for Another Month and a Half, earlier post

Orbital ATK Successfully Launches the Antares Rocket on its Return to Flight (with video), SpaceRef

"In a successful return to flight, Orbital ATK launched the upgraded Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch scheduled for 7:40 pm EDT (2340 GMT) was delayed briefly due to a minor engine anomaly. Mission launch control cleared the rocket to launch which it did at 7:45 pm EDT, right as launch window was closing."

Keith's note: It has been 2 years since I tried to watch a launch from the street in front of my house in Reston, VA. Not an easy thing to do in a town that is certified as a 'tree city'. Luckily the notch in the trees in the direction of Wallops is still there. About 2 minutes after launch a steady red light appeared and I could see it for another minute or so.

Shenzhou-11 Is In Orbit, SpaceRef

"China placed the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft with two astronauts aboard into orbit today. The launch happened exactly on time at 7:30 am local time at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Shenzhou-11 is in its planned orbit and will dock with China's second space station Tiangong-2 on Tuesday. The two astronauts will remain onboard Tiangong-2 for a month."

Upcoming Space News

China to launch manned space mission Shenzhou 11 on Monday

"China will launch a two-man space mission, Shenzhou 11, on Monday, officials with the space program said, taking the country closer to its ambition of setting up a permanent manned space station by 2022. After Monday's launch at 7:30 a.m. (2330 GMT) in the remote northwestern province of Gansu, the astronauts will dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, where they will spend about a month."

Schiaparelli Released From Trace Gas Orbiter and Begins Its Descent to Mars

"Today, three days before gravity will ensure the arrival of ExoMars 2016 at Mars, the Schiaparelli Entry, Descent & landing demonstrator Module separated from the TGO orbiter and is now en route on a ballistic trajectory to reach the Red Planet, enter its atmosphere and land softly in an area close to the equator known as Meridiani Planum."

Antares OA-5 Launch Delayed to October 17, 2016

"Today's launch of Orbital ATK's Antares rocket is postponed 24 hours due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch check out. We have spares on hand and rework procedures are in process."

Keith's note: I will be on BBC World News live tonight at 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm 11:15 pm EDT to discuss these three mission events.

White House says U.S. will retaliate against Russia for hacking, Politico

"White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest promised on Tuesday that the U.S. would deliver a "proportional" response to Russia's alleged hacking of American computer systems. In addition to pledging that the U.S. "will ensure that our response is proportional," Earnest told reporters flying on Air Force One that "it is unlikely that our response would be announced in advance."

China, Russia consider joint defense response to U.S. missile shield

"Amid escalating U.S.-Russia tensions, the Russian military said Tuesday it will cooperate with China on efforts to fend off a threat posed by the U.S. missile defense program. Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the Russian military's General Staff accused the Pentagon of developing the shield as part of planning for a possible first nuclear strike. "The missile defense system considerably shifts the balance of offensive weapons, allowing the planning of a more efficient pre-emptive strike," he said at a security conference in China."

Keith's note: Interestingly, every time the bad relationship between the U.S. and Russia gets worse there is no mention of altering U.S./Russian cooperation in space. Indeed, when U.S./China tensions are mentioned, you hear increased talk of cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. Oh wait: the Chinese are going to visit their new space station in a few weeks. Why is space seen as a venture that seemingly transcends terrestrial politics - indeed, one where peaceful collaboration regularly prevails over less desirable behavior? There is a precedent: Antarctica.

Larger image

Roscosmos Sets October 19th as Launch Date for Next Space Station Crew, Roscosmos

"Based on quality assurance tests of MTV Soyuz MS-02, the specialists of Rocket and Space Corporation Energiya determined that the control equipment was activated by the landing system cable, which was jammed during the test operations. After the cable malfunction was fixed, engineers ran a full trial of the space ship.

Based on trial results, the Commission resolved to launch MTV Soyuz MS-02 (decree #732) on October 19, 2016, at 11:05 AM MT."


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