ISS News: May 2012 Archives

Re-enter The Dragon

The Dragon Has Landed

"This morning, at approximately 8:42 AM Pacific/11:42 AM Eastern, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed its historic mission when the Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely in the Pacific. The vehicle will now be recovered by boats and start the trip back to land."

NASA-funded Research: Earlier Detection of Bone Loss May be in Future, ASU

"Are your bones getting stronger or weaker? Right now, it's hard to know. Scientists at Arizona State University and NASA are taking on this medical challenge by developing and applying a technique that originated in the Earth sciences. In a new study, this technique was more sensitive in detecting bone loss than the X-ray method used today, with less risk to patients. Eventually, it may find use in clinical settings, and could pave the way for additional innovative biosignatures to detect disease."

Keith's note: Wow. A real spinoff - one with an immense potential benefit to people living on Earth. But is there any mention of this PNAS paper at NASA or CASIS? Of course not. Indeed, neither NASA or CASIS seem to be at all interested in promoting ongoing results of space-based and NASA-funded research - unless its budget time, that is. Indeed, no one in the ISS utilization world can find the vanishingly small amount money needed to put this simple, regularly-generated listing of actual research publications online. Any PR-savvy organization looking to make its accomplishments known would be making sure that the AARP knew about this. Not NASA. Baffling.

NASA Spaceline Current Awareness 25 May 2012 (Recent Space Life Science Research Results)

Keith's update: NASA OCT's @NASASpinoff did take time out today to tweet about "Space bread".

SpaceX's Dragon capsule docks with international space station, Washington post

"On Friday, Musk said that SpaceX could be ready to fly people into space by 2015. But Scott Pace, a space policy expert at George Washington University and an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said the company first needs a track record. "They need to fly [cargo] six or seven times consecutively," he said."

Keith's note: More Griffin era, out-of-date, sour grapes thinking from a Romney campaign advisor. Please tell me, Scott, where are the legal or agency requirements or 6 or 7 cargo flights prior to crew flights on Falcon 9/Dragon? Answer: there are no such requirements. You are just throwing imaginary hurdles in front of SpaceX so as to make their successes look less impressive than they are. And where is a precedent for such hurdles? Certainly not in the historical record of American human spaceflight. Why was the Space Shuttle allowed to fly with a crew on its very first flight? Human crews flew on the third Gemini/Titan II flight, Apollo crews flew on the third Saturn V flight, etc. How many cargo-only Ares 1/Orion flights were you and Mike going to have before you flew crews? Certainly not "six or seven times consecutively". So why are you suddenly calling for SpaceX to meet criteria never levied upon NASA by you or anyone else?

Keith's update: Curiously, you see a markedly different (and reasoned) tone than the dour stance taken by Mike Griffin and Scott Pace from another individual identified as a space supporter of the Romney campaign:

"Mark Albrecht, a former Republican space-policy maker who also previously ran Lockheed Martin Corp.'s international rocket business, called the launch "a watershed event" and a "Sputnik moment for the U.S. space program and the entire aerospace industry." Large aerospace rivals need to "take heed, adapt or go the way of the electric typewriter," he said."

So ... who speaks for Gov. Romney - and who does not? With Griffin and Pace there always seems to be a lingering "what if" bitterness - of the sort often associated with talking about having lost some big game way back in high school.

- Obama to Romney: Will You Fire Mike Griffin?, earlier post
- Partisan Romney Space Advisor To Call For Non-Partisan Space Policy, earlier post
- Obama Campaign Issues Space Policy Fact Sheet, earlier post

The ISS crew opened the hatch with Dragon at 5:53 am EDT this morning and are now preparing Dragon to have its cargo unloaded. Watch their activities live

- Photos: ISS Crew Enters The Dragon

Keith's note: The International Space Station crewsuccessfully captured the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at 9:56 am EDT. It was berthed to the ISS exactly 3 two hours later.

- First Images of Dragon Captured by ISS
- Images: Berthing Dragon

Space Community Leaders on Historic Berthing of Dragon to the International Space Station, OSTP Blog

The Dragon Spacecraft has Berthed with the International Space Station: Statement by OSTP Director Holdren

"For the first time, a private American company has successfully launched a spacecraft into orbit and berthed it with the International Space Station--an achievement of historic scientific and technological significance and a key milepost in President Obama's vision for America's continued leadership in space."

SpaceX Dragon Scehdule for Friday

"Around 2:00 AM Pacific/5:00 AM Eastern NASA will decide if Dragon is GO to move into the approach ellipsoid 1.4 kilometers around the space station. If Dragon is GO, after approximately one hour Dragon will move to a location 250 meters directly below the station. Dragon will then perform a series of maneuvers to show systems are operating as expected. If NASA is satisfied with the results of these many tests, Dragon will be allowed to perform the final approach to the space station. Sometime around 6:00 AM Pacific/9:00 AM Eastern, astronauts on the space station will grapple Dragon with the space station's robotic arm and the spacecraft will attach to the station."

Watch Live

Follow progress via @NASAWatch : Dragon is now within 100 m of ISS . Projected Capture time is 9:10 am ED . ISS crew now has abort authority if anything does wrong

SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Completes Key Tests In Quest to Visit Space Station Most Difficult Challenges Still Ahead, SpaceX

"Today, Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft completed key on-orbit tests as part of a historic attempt to be the first commercial company in history to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the days since SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the vehicle has steadily completed one task after another as it prepares to berth with the International Space Station. Only minutes after the spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage, its solar arrays successfully deployed, providing power to the spacecraft. The door that had been covering sensors needed for proximity operations opened successfully. "

Track ISS and Dragon

Keith's note: Last Friday I joined CASIS as a member. Ever since then, when I attempt to login all I get is "Authorization Failed! You are not authorized to view this page. You must either login or you do not have sufficient privileges to access this information ..." But the page that tells me this has a link that says "logout" so I guess I am both logged in and logged out simultaneously. I am not certain how CASIS is going to build the online community it seems to desire when they cannot get something as simple as this figured out.

Keith's update: OK, now when I log in I get sent back to the membership page. Do they still want money from me?

Previous CASIS posts

"NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, plays a guitar, while Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, flight engineer, plays a musical keyboard during off-time in the Unity node of the International Space Station." ISS030-E-267658 (21 April 2012) --- high res (1.4 M) low res (109 K)

Keith's note: There are several labels in this photo of the ISS that need updating. With Dragon and other crewed spacecraft soon to be visiting ISS, the evacuation spacecraft pointers need to be updated - including the deletion of the shuttle icon too - as well as the "HAB" pointer.

Budget Pressures Prompt ISS Partners To Justify Costs, Aviation Week

"NASA needs to get out of the business of running the competition and selecting experimenters and researchers to fly on ISS," Bolden says. "We realize if we truly want to enhance the utilization, we've got to cast our net as wide as we can in bringing people aboard to do experiments." But Florida-based CASIS has yet to identify any proposals worth funding and has been dogged by public relations issues, notably the resignation of its CEO after less than six months on the job. If CASIS can sort itself out, "then our proposal would be that we expand it even more broadly so you don't just have academia and the partner organizations doing the research on station," Bolden says."

Kelly once against Obama space plan, now open to it, MSNBC

"MSNBC: Do you think that private companies going into space will work? Do you see this as truly the future of space flight ?

Mark Kelly: You know, initially i didn't. I was not a big fan of this plan that the Obama administration had early on. But just seeing how it's developed over the last few years, to see companies, as an example, Spacex, how close they are, they're going to deliver cargo to the space station next week. That's amazing. They're going to ultimately be able to deliver people to the space station. So I see the decisions that were made were very innovative. So they can be a little bit disruptive but ultimately I think this is good for our country and I think it's good for the state of florida as well."

This morning's attempt to launch a Falcon 9 with a Dragon spacecraft was scrubbed when a high pressure reading was discovered in first stage engine 5. The launch vehicle is now being put into safe mode. The next launch window will be on Tuesday at 3:44 am EDT.

Marc's update: Here's my story and the post-launch attempt briefing video.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Launch Scrubbed (Updated with video)

"Right up to t-minus 0.5 seconds it looked like there was going to be a launch. Unfortunately the Falcon 9 computer shutdown the rocket just as it was set to launch due to a high pressure reading on engine number 5, one of nine engines on the Falcon 9 first stage."

Keith's note: NASA is giving CASIS $15 million a year and the keys to a large portion of a $100 billion space station - one funded by taxpayers. But in order for a taxpayer or company to get everything that CASIS is offering they have to pay. Check out the CASIS membership site. This is fundamentally absurd - and I cannot fathom how NASA would agree to this. Everything that this taxpayer-funded organization does with NASA funding on the ISS should be available to all of those people who are already paying for it - and have been paying for it for decades. Whatever happened to the "transparency" and "openness" that NASA was supposed to be demonstrating? And what about the DIY ethos that the White House has been promoting? Putting a government-funded asset like the iSS behind a paywall is the antithesis of this.

Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Debuts New Website at

"Today, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research on the International Space Station (ISS), announced the unveiling of a new website ( that will serve as a portal for researchers, businesses, educators and students to discover the unique opportunities available to them on board the ISS U.S. National Laboratory."

NASA's Deputy Administrator to Discuss Future of Commercial Spaceflight with Industry Representatives

NASA Ponders Transporting Tourists to International Space Station, WS Journal (link probably won't work)

"But for the first time, a senior National Aeronautics and Space Administration official on Thursday publicly talked about ways the U.S. eventually could offer the same service and reap similar benefits. The trips could begin later this decade, when a new generation of private, U.S.-built space taxis is expected to begin transporting American crews into orbit. "We are very, very open" to the possibility and intend to "work on details with the company or companies" that end up winning contracts to take American astronauts back and forth from the station, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told reporters during a teleconference."

Keith's note: To expand further on my question (described above), I noted that people have been able to fly to the ISS via commerial means for over a decade but their trips are explicitly considered as being via Russia's participation. Use of any U.S. facilities is usually at extra expense to the customer. I asked if NASA was considering A. Allowing individuals to buy seats to visit the U.S. segment B. allowing commercial concerns to be able to send up their own astronauts for periods longer than just a brief visit and C. how would NASA seek to determine the charge(s) for these visits. Lori Garver answered as noted above. I then asked how such trips might be arranged - i.e. if they'd be done via CASIS (which is supposed to me managing commerical research in the ISS National Lab) or some new TBD arrangement. Garver replied "No - I haven't heard any discussion about this and CASIS." She also noted that NASA has "come a long way since Dennis Tito when NASA wasn't even certain if they'd open the hatch."

Grading CASIS On its ISS National Laboratory Performance Thus Far

"Clearly the clock is ticking. Given CASIS' chronic tardiness and lack of performance thus far, by the end of June NASA and Congress will either know a lot more about what CASIS has been doing and plans to do with the ISS - or they'll be asking if it is time to pull the plug on this half-hearted management experiment and try again. Meanwhile, this amazing facility orbits overhead while its return on investment diminishes with every single day that it continues to be underutilized."

Astronaut Don Pettit Recreates the Stargate Sequence From "2001".

"Below is a frame from the "Stargate Sequence" from the iconic film "2001: A Space Odyssey". These three images below are a composite of a series of images photographed from a mounted camera on the Earth-orbiting International Space Station. Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit is the photographer. It would seem that he has managed to recreate the stargate sequence - in space."

CASIS Expects To Send First Payloads to ISS by Early 2013, Space News

"What we're looking for are some of those very specific examples of things that can be done better in space than on Earth," Timothy Yeatman, CASIS's interim chief scientist, said. Protein crystallization best fits the bill, Yeatman said, citing the decision of a blue-ribbon panel of science experts CASIS convened to evaluate which scientific fields were likeliest to be advanced through in-space experiments."

Keith's note: Growing perfect crystals in space (on the Space Shuttle and Space Station) has been one of NASA's favorite promotional items in its mantra of promoting the use of the ISS as a "world class laboratory". The need for large crystals grown at great expense in space is quickly vanishing due to advances made on Earth. As mentioned in the earlier posts below, NASA dragged its feet on this and missed the bus.

'Made in Space': Coming soon to a product near you, Reuters

"Uhran notes that the timescale of a typical [Space station] research project is three to five years, which doesn't easily mesh with corporate priorities like reaching sales or profit targets for the next quarter, or even the next year."

Keith's note: So ... what do Mark Uhran and his colleagues do about this issue (by no means a new one)? They simply repeat it again and again as if it were an absolute, immutable fact of life at NASA and that there is nothing that NASA can (or will) do to change it. And then they wonder why there is not more interest in the commercial use of the ISS. Baffling. If the time lag is too long for commercial interests then obviously NASA needs to shorten it. Is CASIS the black box within which that miracle is supposed to happen? This commercially naive mindset at NASA is an ongoing example of the strange approach that Uhran et al took back in the 1990s with regard to finding users for the space station i.e. "build it and they will come". Yes they actually used that phrase. So did I when I worked there.

OK, Mark: you've built it - so where is everyone?

'Made in Space': Coming soon to a product near you, Reuters

"The European Space Agency is hatching plans for a branding campaign aimed at making people more aware of the benefits of spending their hard-earned taxes on the International Space Station. ..."It frustrates people, because we know we have a valuable asset," Mark Uhran, NASA's assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station, told Reuters at a conference in Berlin of scientists from the 15 nations backing the project."

Resignation Letter from CASIS Executive Director Jeanne L. Becker

"Unrealistic expectations have been levied collectively by Congressional staffers, by NASA (Mr. Uhran) and by ProOrbis."

Letter from CASIS to NASA: Response regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation

"- website is in beta testing. Should be functional by mid-April."

Keith's note: And yet despite all of this gushing urgency about the potential of the ISS, Uhran et al can't even get their own website and the website run by CASIS to coordinate with one another or for either to be responsive to news - the very same news Uhran seems to think that people are desperate to read? The new CASIS website was supposed to be functional nearly a month ago. Then CASIS sends out a media advisory with 22 hours notice for a meeting (yesterday) with their scientific "team" (the "team" being comprised of 2 people - both consultants). Wow, what a big "team".

If NASA and CASIS don't take the ISS seriously to give it the manpower and visibility it deserves, then why should anyone else?

- NASA/CASIS Ignores NASA's Own ISS Research Announcements

Keith's note: NASA's John Olson will be on detail to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) starting on 21 May 2012. He'll be there for anywhere between 1-3 years as the Assistant Director for Space and Aeronautics in the Executive Office of the President, replacing Damon Wells. Olson currently serves as Director, Strategic Analysis and Integration Divison (SAID) and Director, Mission Support Services Office (MSSO) at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Olson also has a new assignment at the Pentagon at OSD (AT&L) in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering - ASD(R&E).

New Huggies Themes for the Space Station Crew

Keith's note: If you look to the right side of this image, along the cabin wall, you will see that the ISS crew has an assortment of colorful Huggies wipes packages featuring many of their favorite storybook characters including new friends: a princess and penguins. These cute little packages have been featured on the ISS for nearly a decade. NASA even has formal specs for them.

Keith's note: Ardbeg Distillery recently announced its "U.S. Ardbeg Rocket Tour" - which apparently has a rocket prop as part of the overall PR effort. [Larger image via Facebook]. Ardbeg has a commercial experiment that is currently operating aboard the International Space Station via Nanoracks. While this company seems to be extremely excited and willing to use space research as part of their overall advertising campaign, NASA doesn't seem to be remotely interested in talking about it - despite all the agency's hype about wanting to encourage commercial research on the ISS. Go figure.

- Whisky in Space - the Road Show, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores, earlier post

International Space Station Symposium 2012 HighlightsInternational Space Station Symposium 2012 Highlights (Videos), SpaceRef

"Leader and researchers of the partners in the International Space Station (ISS) gathered in Berlin this week for the ISS Symposium 2012 to celebrate the completion of the ISS and to discuss the future path and priorities for research on the ISS. The three-day symposium covered case-studies in fundamental and applied research and the actual or potential spin-offs for the benefit of humankind."

Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) Releases AO for International Research Participation on ISS Kibo Module

"The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has released an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) to fund experiments to be conducted aboard the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo, on the International Space Station in FY2014 or later. JAXA is recruiting proposals that "make full use of the Kibo's unique environment that will have major impacts on science, technology, industry and society" according to the JAXA Press Release."

Keith's note: NASA sent this notice out today regarding research opportunities in the JAXA Kibo lab module on ISS. But is there any mention of this announcement on the ISS National Lab homepage? No. Is there any mention at the CASIS website? Of course not.

NASA runs two main ISS research entry points and they do not bother to stay in synch with each other - and neither one stays current with other NASA announcements on ISS research. The U.S. has always had payload accommodations allotted to it per the ISS MOU in partner labs such as Columbus and Kibo. If NASA cannot get its own story straight for the prospective researcher - and the taxpayers in general - then who will?

Keith's note: According to SpaceX; "May 7th launch appears unlikely. We are continuing to work through the software assurance process with NASA. We will issue a statement as soon as a new launch target is set."

SpaceX launch of Dragon capsule to space station to put NASA strategy on display, Washington Post

"If Dragon fails at launch, that's a bad thing that will get people concerned," said John Logsdon, professor emeritus at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "But if it gets close but can't dock, I would say that's a setback but not a tragedy," he added. "If they're able to get close or even dock, then it would do quite a bit for commercial space -- a real validation for those in NASA who set this in motion." While that view is common among officials involved in the effort, it is not necessarily the view of the SpaceX employees trying to make it work."

UrtheCast's HD Video From Space Station: Real Product or Hyped Vaporware?

"A Canadian company called UrtheCast has begun to claim that it is going to place the first live HD video feed on the International Space Station in a few months. Despite all of their PR and hype, NASA isn't so sure that there actually is a real product and service - as advertised by UrtheCast."

Space Budget Woes Lead to World-Wide Collaboration, UrtheCast

"Few remember that the predecessor of the ISS was Space Station Freedom, a solely American venture to build a year-round floating laboratory in space. President Ronald Reagan directed NASA to complete the project within a decade during his 1984 State of the Union Address. But by 1993 the Freedom project had gone through two major design initiatives and was still nowhere near completion."

Keith's note: Um, you really need to check your historical facts as well as your technical facts: Space Station Freedom was an international space station. Japan, Europe, and Canada were partners.

Ardbeg Distillery Launches U.S. Rocket Tour Celebrating "World First" Space Experiment

"Ardbeg Distillery is pleased to announce the U.S. Ardbeg Rocket Tour. The tour, which will showcase a life-size rocket, celebrates Ardbeg's participation in a pioneering research project on board the International Space Station. The Ardbeg Rocket Tour will kick off in Chicago on May 3, 2012 and will stop in 22 states in 28 weeks. Tour stops include key U.S. landmarks in states including California, Texas, New York and Florida. An Ardbeg Brand Ambassador will be on board the tour to educate consumers on the experiment, the brand, and where legal, to sample Ardbeg, recently rated by The Whisky Bible as the "Best Single Malt Scotch - 10 Years and Under."

An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores

Keith's note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen. A preview of things to come, I am afraid.

Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image that I made a few weeks ago people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend. Oops.



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This page is an archive of entries in the ISS News category from May 2012.

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