ISS News: December 2010 Archives

NASA Supplemental Information: Competitive Acquisition of Cooperative Agreement for ISS National Laboratory Management Entity

"The information provided below supplements prior postings at the official procurement web site in specific areas of high interest to potential bidders. Any additional questions related to this supplemental information should be directed to the procurement website for formal written response."

Keith's 27 Dec note: Full document with editor's notes below:

ESA Unable To Secure Commitment to Station Extension, Space News

"The European Space Agency (ESA) was unable to win its member governments' approval of NASA's proposed five-year extension of operations of the international space station because of an unrelated dispute over financial support for Europe's Arianespace commercial launch services consortium, ESA and European government officials said. As a result, no decision approving the station's extension to 2020 will be made before a March meeting of ESA governments. ESA already is committed to supporting the station through 2015, though the details remain to be worked out."

More USA Layoffs Ahead

Keith's note: Word has it that the next round of layoffs at USA are coming on 7 January 2011. This will be a smaller personnel layoff than the subsequent 3 rounds of layoffs being planned in 2011. Employees have heard from management that there will probably be much larger layoffs in April, July, and September 2011. Upwards of 80% of the employees at JSC and KSC may well be gone by the time these layoffs conclude.

Three New Crewmembers Arrive at International Space Station,

"Now that we have a six-person crew, we're going to try to average 30 hours a week on various types of science," station commander Scott Kelly said in an interview conducted before the Soyuz launch. "Hopefully we'll have great results from the scientific experiments that we're able to do onboard."

Keith's note: The six-person ISS crew takes one day off a week. If you assume 6 work days for 6 crew at 8 hours a day you get 288 work hours from the crew every week. 30 hours represents 10.4% of the overall crew work time devoted to "science". If you were to assume that the crew "works" 12 hours a day (432 work hours a week for the entire crew), then the percentage of their time devoted to "science" is 6.9%.

The avowed purpose of the ISS as NASA SOMD's Mark Uhran and others will tell you is to do "science". Up until now the task facing NASA was to assemble the ISS - not an insignificant endeavour - however you look at it. Well, the ISS is all but completed.

When will NASA actually start to honor the premise upon which the ISS has been marketed and justified for more than 20 years, i.e. to do "science"?

The ISS is an utterly amazing and unprecedented base camp sitting at the cusp of the human exploration (and exploitation) of the solar system. Right now, based on time spent by the crew, the primary purpose of the ISS is not "science" - it is operations i.e. keeping itself going. Its time for NASA to adjust its marketing to reflect that reality - unless, that is, it is ready to truly open this facility up to the world outside of NASA to utilize. So far, it has fallen flat on its face in that regard.

Keith's update: NASA used to announce the name of the crew member whose job aboard the ISS was "Chief Science Officer" Unless I have missed something, this has not been announced in quite some time (Thanks to Jim Muncy for pointing this out).

- Where Are Mark Uhran's Five ISS Research Results Papers?, earlier post
- NASA: It's Our Space Station - Not Yours, earlier post
- NASA's ISS National Lab Concept: Flawed Plans - Closed Thinking, earlier post
- How NASA Plans to Drag Its Feet in Implementing the ISS National Laboratory, earlier post
- NASA's Not So "Public" Day for ISS National Lab Plans, earlier post
- NASA CAN for ISS National Lab Released, earlier post
- Another Stealth NASA Report, earlier post

Keith's note: NASA held a ISS National Lab Public Day CAN meeting on 10 December 2010. The purpose was to explain the pending Cooperative Agreement Notice and how interested parties should structure their proposals. The main speaker was NASA's Mark Uhran, Assistant Associate Administrator for ISS at NASA SOMD.

At one point Uhran bragged that he had "written 5 papers" on discoveries that had been made on the ISS, but he said that he was not going to tell anyone where to find them - thus challenging the attendees to go dig these papers up themselves. That is certainly an odd stance for a NASA official to take - especially one who is charged with promoting the value of the ISS as a platform for scientific research.

So I thought I'd try and find these pivotal five papers Uhran referred to.

Space glitch causes a scare, MSNBC

"Problems reportedly bedeviled a communication link leading to Russia's Mission Control for a few hours today -- leading to false alarms suggesting that there was trouble on the International Space Station, or on a Soyuz spacecraft that's on its way to the station. The glitch has been resolved and the crews are in no danger, but the snag caused a stir in press circles. NBC News analyst James Oberg pieced together the story from Russian media reports as well as NASA sources who were keeping tabs on the station and the Soyuz. The alarm was sparked by a Novosti report claiming that Russian controllers were "without communication about the status of the International Space Station" and "haven't received any information about the status of the Soyuz."

Keith's note: Hmm ... no mention by SOMD of the comms glitch here in the NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 16 December 2010 - we we do know from this report that "NASA astronauts keep a personalized log of their nutritional intake over time on special MEC software. Recorded are the amounts consumed during the past week of such food items as beverages, cereals, grains, eggs, breads, snacks, sweets, fruit, beans, soup, vegetables, dairy, fish, meat, chicken, sauces & spreads, and vitamins ..."

Keith's note: NASA held a ISS National Lab Public Day CAN meeting on 10 December 2010. The purpose was to explain the pending Cooperative Agreement Notice and how interested parties should structure their proposals. The main speaker was NASA's Mark Uhran.

It is quite clear that while NASA is going through the motions of trying to expand the user base for its portion of the International Space Station, that it is still falling back on bad habits i.e. limiting how much of these resources anyone other than NASA will ever be able to tap.

More than once, Uhran stated rather emphatically that any group looking to run the ISS National Laboratory organization who proposed to conduct human life science would find their proposal deemed "non-responsive". Alas, Uhran has yet to provide the formal justification for this stance - one based on law and advisory committee recommendations.

Indeed, at one point Uhran bragged that he had written 5 papers on discoveries that had been made on the ISS, but he was not going to tell anyone where to find them - challenging the attendees to go dig these papers up themselves. That is certainly an odd stance for a NASA official to take - especially one who is charged with promoting the value of the ISS as a platform for scientific research.

As for the unsubstantiated declaration by Uhran regarding research that is verboten, this is also repeated in the quietly released Reference Model for the International Space Station US. National Laboratory:

A Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off at 2:09 p.m. EST with the Expedition 26 crew onboard headed to the International Space Station. The crew includes Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, American astronaut Catherine Coleman and from the European Space Agency Italian Paolo Nespoli.

Boeing Submits Proposal for 2nd Round of NASA Commercial Crew Development Program

"Boeing is proposing an approach that will significantly mature the CST-100 design through demonstrations of critical subsystems. The CST-100 spacecraft is designed to support NASA's primary objective of affordable access to Low Earth Orbit. It will carry up to seven crew and passengers, is reusable up to 10 times, and is compatible with a variety of expendable launch vehicles. The spacecraft -- which is comprised of a Crew Module and a Service Module -- draws on Apollo-proven aerodynamic characteristics in a design that uses commercial, off-the-shelf, cost-effective technologies."

Summary of the ISS National Laboratory CAN (not so) "Public Day"

"NASA held a "public day" for the recently-released Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) for the ISS National Lab Management Entity at NASA Headquarters today. Didn't now about it? You're not alone.

In summary: Its the same wonderfully capable, yet under-utilized space station burdened with the same flawed and closed thinking that NASA never seems to be willing - or able - to escape."

Partners wanted to run research lab in space, Nature

"Once a non-profit organization is established, NASA expects to begin research and development, but it will take a few years before the enterprise is running at full throttle, says Uhran."


"(1) ALLOCATION OF ISS RESEARCH CAPACITY. As soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act, but not later than October 1, 2011, ISS national laboratory managed experiments shall be guaranteed access to, and utilization of, not less than 50 percent of the United States research capacity allocation, including power, cold stowage, and requisite crew time onboard the ISS through September 30, 2020. Access to the ISS research capacity includes provision for the adequate upmass and downmass capabilities to utilize the ISS research capacity, as available. The Administrator may allocate additional capacity to the ISS national laboratory should such capacity be in excess of NASA research requirements."

Keith's note: At the ISS National Lab Public Day CAN meeting yesterday, Mark Uhran said that NASA hopes to award the contract to this non-profit organization in May 2011. That means that the new ISS National Lab organization has to hit the ground running and be meeting these requirements 5 months (or less) later. However, Uhran states in Nature that it is going to take "a few years" for everything to be "running at full throttle". Clearly NASA is nowhere near being able to carry out the provisions stated in Public Law 111-26 in terms of the required date - nor does it intend to, if Uhran's statements are to be accepted as being indicative of NASA's intent. With the halting of shuttle operations in mid-2011, it is also unclear how NASA will be able to meet all the downmass and upmass requirements by October 1, 2011.

NASA's ISS National Lab Concept: Flawed Plans - Closed Thinking, earlier post

Release of NASA Draft Cooperative Agreement Notice - ISS National Laboratory Management Entity

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Operations Mission Directorate is releasing a draft version of the future Cooperative Agreement Notice for the ISS National Laboratory Management Entity."

Public Day for a ISS Cooperative Agreement Notice

"The Public Day will be held on Friday, December 10, 2010, from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at the NASA Headquarters James Webb Auditorium. ... Only parties that have registered will be permitted to attend. No walk-in participants will be accepted."

Keith's 10 Dec update: Contrary to the official Federal Register note regarding this meeting, "walk-in participants" are most certainly being allowed into this meeting. Indeed, no one is being asked to provide proof of registration at all. You can just walk into the Webb Auditorium with no questions asked. This nonsense is typical of NASA - they say one thing and then ignore it. Net result: people who might otherwise have attended did not. There are cameras in the room but no indication that this will be webcast or broadcast.

Keith's 9 Dec note: According to NASA TV's posted schedule this "public" meeting will not be aired on NASA TV - live or otherwise. Given the short notice people were given to register and the preregistered-only admission policy, the number of people who will have a chance to actually understand what NASA wants to do with the ISS is going to be very small. I can certainly understand limits on physical attendence due seating limitations, but if NASA really wants to use the ISS - as a "national labratory" - one would think that they'd at least go out of their way to make this "public" meeting available on NASA TV i.e. "public".

Keith's 10 Dec update: I am going to try and post Twitter updates from the meeting here - assuming I can get a WiFi signal.

ISS National Lab Operator Sought, earlier post

Another Stealth NASA Report (Reference Model for the International Space Station, U.S. National Laboratory), earlier post

"Wings In Orbit" Details Shuttle History By Those Who Made It Happen

"As NASA's space shuttle fleet nears retirement, the agency is preparing to release a comprehensive account of the program that managed the spacecraft and the dedicated people who made its accomplishments possible. The 500-plus-page book, "Wings in Orbit" is available for pre-publication sale. The book describes the scientific, engineering and cultural contributions of the space shuttle through text, photographs and graphics, written or selected by those who worked in the shuttle program. The book is slated for release in March. To order the book during the pre-publication sale through Dec. 31, visit:"

Keith's 9 Dec note: FYI is the JSC Gift shop. No mention is made of that in this press release/advertisement. The cost of the book is $50 for soft cover and $90 for hardcover - and this is a government publication prepared by government employees, promoted by the government. I can't say for certain from the cover image I found but it sure looks like this has an official NASA "SP" number on it.

I have asked NASA: Does the JSC Exchange have an exclusive on the sale of this government book? Will copies be provided to taxpayers? If hard copies are being printed at government expense who are they being distributed to? Can you send me a PDF of the book? Can I get the original publication art such that I can republish this book?

NASA issued this solicitation in July 2010 but they are not complying with what they are supposed to be doing i.e. providing PDF versions etc. on a website or allowing others to have access to this copyright free, government-produced material. There is no mention of sole sourcing but that is exactly what they are doing - and they are providing free government advertising for that one publisher.

One would think that if NASA really wanted people to read this book that they'd find a way to offer it on, iBooks, etc. and not sole source it to a field center gift shop. Imagine zillions of copies on Kindle and iPads for the holidays ... yet another example that NASA simply does not understand marketing its brand.

Keith's 10 Dec update: I just got this very prompt response to my questions from Mike Curie at NASA PAO. It answers many - but not all of my concerns - but NASA was fast in responding. (see below)

NASA Draft Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) for the ISS National Lab Management Entity

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is soliciting proposals for competitive evaluation and award of a Cooperative Agreement to a non-profit entity to develop the capability to implement research and development projects utilizing the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory and to otherwise manage the activities of the ISS National Lab."

ISS National Lab Operator Sought, earlier post

NASA Targets Shuttle Discovery's Launch For No Earlier Than Feb. 3

"NASA managers have targeted space shuttle Discovery's launch for no earlier than Feb. 3 at 1:34 a.m. EST. Shuttle managers determined more tests and analysis are needed before proceeding with the launch of the STS-133 mission to the International Space Station. The Program Requirements Control Board met Thursday and reviewed engineering evaluations associated with cracks on two 21-foot-long, U-shaped aluminum brackets, called stringers, on the shuttle's external tank. NASA repaired the cracks and reapplied foam to the exterior of the stringers."

Marc's note: STS-134 would launch in April, tentatively on Friday, April 1 at 3:15 a.m. ET and if STS-135 goes ahead, launch would tentatively be in June.

More Delays for STS-133

NASA to delay launch of Discovery again, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA plans to delay the final launch of space shuttle Discovery at least until February, according to a source. The problem remains the cracks discovered in the shuttle's external fuel tank last month. NASA's Program Requirements Control Board has reviewed repairs and engineering evaluations associated with cracks on two 21-foot-long, U-shaped aluminum brackets, called stringers, on the tank but decided the analysis and tests required to launch Discovery safely are not complete, the source said."

NASA Seeks Nonprofit To Manage Space Station National Lab Research

"Organizations and members of the media interested in registering for the forum should send an e-mail to by 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3. Only registered parties may attend; no walk-ins will be permitted."

Keith's note: Wow. This press release certainly strikes me as a way to limit attendance rather than encourage it - 28 hours notice from JSC PAO - unless you are a fan of NASA's procurement website which issued a notice about this meeting a month ago. Did NASA issue a press release at the time this was originally announced? I cannot find any evidence that they did. No mention is made on the official NASA ISS page or on SOMD's home page or JSC's home page.



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This page is an archive of entries in the ISS News category from December 2010.

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