"NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit, Russian Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands launched to the International Space Station aboard their Soyuz TMA-03M craft at 7:16 a.m. CST Wednesday, Dec. 21 (7:16 p.m. local time), from Kazakhstan. Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers are scheduled to dock to the Rassvet module of the station at 9:22 a.m. Friday, Dec. 23."
ISS News: December 2011 Archives
"NASA's approach to determining, obtaining, and delivering necessary spare parts to the ISS is reasonable to ensure continued utilization of the station through 2020. The statistical process and methodology being used to determine the expected lifetimes of replacement units is a sound and commonly accepted approach within the risk assessment community that considers both manufacturers' predictions and the systems' actual performance. To date NASA has given equal weight to manufacturers' predictions and actual performance, and currently has no plans to reassess this decision. However, as time goes on, the resulting estimates could prove to be overly conservative, given that NASA has found failure rates for replacement units to be lower than manufacturers' predictions."
"Instead of awarding contracts for the next phase of the Commercial Crew Program, the agency plans to use multiple, competitively awarded Space Act Agreements. Using competitive Space Act Agreements instead of contracts will allow NASA to maintain a larger number of partners during this phase of the program, with the flexibility to adjust technical direction, milestones and funding."
"NASA's planned approach for acquiring U.S. commercial crew transportation faces significant challenges that could impact its success, although it includes some good acquisition practices. Specifically, NASA's current funding level for its program is lower than anticipated and may not allow NASA to award multiple contracts, which is its key element for maintaining cost control by sustaining competition through all phases of its commercial crew transportation program. Moreover, the critical need to transport crew to the space station beginning in 2016 requires an aggressive program schedule that may not be attainable given NASA's experiences with past government and commercial development efforts."
"Space Act Agreements are a proven way to get rapid, cost-effective results and will help ensure that the Commercial Crew Program is a success," said CSF Executive Director Alex Saltman. "Space Act Agreements were used in the previous rounds of the Commercial Crew program, as well as the COTS Cargo Program. A NASA cost study has shown that the COTS Cargo development program, using Space Act Agreements, has been successful for a fraction of what a traditionally run program would have cost."
Rep. Hall Questions Implications of NASA Commercial Crew Announcement
"Given current federal budget constraints, I continue to be concerned about NASA's ability to afford contracting with two or more companies to ferry our astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Time is of the essence. We need to be able fully utilize our Space Station until the end of this decade, and we also need to end our reliance on other countries to ferry our astronauts. In order to reduce risk and cost, and to minimize further schedule slips, it would be my hope that two commercial companies would team together to jointly develop a cost-effective and safe launch system."
"While I am sympathetic to the difficulties NASA is experiencing following receipt of its appropriations for FY 2012, in light of NASA's acknowledgement that higher risk will be incurred using this new approach, I am concerned that NASA's plan does not appear to contain sufficient margins and other risk reduction measures to give Congress confidence that it has a high probability of successfully meeting the objective of providing safe and cost-effective commercial crew transportation to and from the International Space Station by 2016 or even 2017."
"NASA has announced the launch target for Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) second Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration flight will be Feb. 7, 2012. Pending completion of final safety reviews, testing and verification, NASA also has agreed to allow SpaceX to send its Dragon spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) in a single flight."
Keith's note: I was just at the NASA Education Stakeholders summit session on the ISS National Laboratory Education Project. Two things were apparent. First, little if any progress has been made on transferring responsibilities between NASA JSC and CASIS, the non-profit selected by NASA earlier this year to operate U.S. resources on the ISS. It was obvious that NASA has not done much - and since CASIS is still being formed, that it has not been able to do much either. Only several minutes were spent on this topic. No one from CASIS was on the agenda. Given that the agency has had a year to think about how they would transfer things (no matter who was selected), you'd think that they would have had a plan laid out the moment that CASIS came online. Guess not.
The second issue has to do with NASA JSC's International Space Station Live! website which continues to add new and interesting features. This site will eventually serve as a really nice way for people to understand what the ISS is doing - and when and why it is doing so. Alas, as cool as this site is, it is still not linked to by the rest of the agency. In addition, it duplicates features already in place on other websites, adding yet another tentacle to the already complex NASA human spaceflight web hydra.
If you go to NASA's ISS home page there is no mention of this website. Nor is there any mention at spaceflight.nasa.gov, NASA.gov, the ISS National Laboratory page, the HEOMD home page, or the NASA Office of Education (a sponsor).
I raised this issue back in October. When I asked Regina Blue from JSC about this today, she had no easy answer for why this site was not being promoted or linked to other NASA sites other than to say that they were "waiting for a website address". That is a rather odd excuse since the site has been publicly online since this summer at http://spacestationlive.jsc.nasa.gov and is easily findable via Google. If the folks at JSC wanted a different website address than this then why did they put this online in a publicly accessible fashion in the first place?
Yet Another Stealth Website NASA Can't Coordinate, earlier post
Keith's update: A new National Laboratory webpage is now online. Meanwhile, CASIS still hasn't figured out how to do this - and that is one of the things they are supposed to be doing.