Shuttle News: September 2008 Archives

GAO: NASA Faces Challenges Defining Scope and Costs of Space Shuttle Transition and Retirement

"The total cost of SSP transition and retirement is not transparent in NASA's current budget request and is not expected to be reflected in its fiscal year 2010 budget request. This is due in part to delays in estimating costs, but also to where costs are being reflected. For example, although SSP's direct transition and retirement costs are identified in the SSP budget line, indirect costs related to environmental clean-up and restoration, maintenance of required real property facilities during the gap in human spaceflight, and demolition of excess facilities are not. In addition, NASA plans to offset some transition costs by utilizing an "exchange/sale" authority that allows executive agencies to exchange or sell non-excess, non-surplus personal property and apply the proceeds toward acquiring similar replacement property."

Soyuz Waiver Update

NASA clears hurdle on Soyuz, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Tuesday won the approval of a key Senate committee in his battle to buy Russian spacecraft as a four-year replacement for the space shuttle. But the fight is far from over. And Griffin has less than two weeks to persuade the rest of Congress to allow the use of Soyuz spacecraft to take U.S. astronauts to the international space station after the space shuttle's planned retirement in 2010."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008, Business Meeting

S.3103: A bill to amend the Iran, North Korea, and Syria nonproliferation Act to allow certain extraordinary payments in connection with the International Space Station.

Obama On NASA Options

Obama Calls on Senate and House Leadership to Renew America's Commitment to NASA

"As Dr. Michael Griffin, the NASA administrator, said recently, "In a rational world, (NASA) would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, (NASA) would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014") and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so" [NASA e-mail, 8/18/08]. Regrettably, the current administration has not behaved rationally and, with the Russian invasion of Georgia, NASA is now left with more limited options, all of them much worse than if the administration and their Republican allies in Congress had thought through the strategic consequences of these decisions five years ago."

Once More Unto the Breach

Senate to consider NASA request to buy Soyuz, Orlando Sentinel

"On Tuesday, Griffin faces a moment of truth. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is due to weigh his request against sentiment in Congress that Moscow, because of its recent invasion of the neighboring country of Georgia, cannot be trusted. It is very difficult for Congress to understand why we should continue a practice of depending upon agreements with the Russians when they are busy invading another country, Griffin conceded last week after a luncheon on Capitol Hill."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

"Chairman: Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr."

Obama: Buy Soyuz if necessary but look at flying shuttle longer, Orlando Sentinel

"Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is now considering stopping NASA from retiring the shuttle in 2010 as well as looking to see if commercial companies can build new rockets to keep America in space independent of foreign countries. ... Obamas Republican rival, Sen. John McCain last month called on the White House to stop NASA from closing any more shuttle contracts just in case the next administration decided it wanted to fly more shuttle missions. Neither candidate appears to like the idea of buying more Soyuz from Moscow and depending on Russia for American access to the international space station."

My Word: America can do better than relying on Russia for our space program (Dave Weldon), Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. Bill Nelson, the Bush Administration, the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board and most in Congress are ready to do business as usual with the Russians, claiming we have no choice. I don't buy that argument, and I take strong issue when the Sentinel Editorial Board suggests I am not a supporter of the space program because I don't go along. The real difference is I believe America can do better and that the workers at KSC deserve better during this transition."

NASA chief says Congress must act to get Russian craft, USA Today

"The development of the shuttle's successor could be delayed if Congress, as expected, passes stopgap funding legislation for part of 2009 rather than a formal budget, Griffin said. The members of Congress he has spoken to understand the need, he said, but "I cannot predict an outcome." Congress will be in session for less than two weeks before adjourning in advance of the fall elections."

Griffin claims there is a 'jihad' against the Space Shuttle, Nature

"In other words: stopping flying the Shuttle before its replacement is ready is a bonehead move. Griffin even goes on to claim that "retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision" for the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget. If he was that angry before the email leaked he must be apoplectic now his private thoughts are all over the internet..."

Nelson, Griffin to huddle Thursday, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is set to pow-wow with one of his biggest congressional allies on Thursday, but U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., likely has little good news to share. Griffin and NASA need Congress to pass two measures this fall to help the agency, but Congress likely does not have the time to aid NASA -- as congressional leaders do not expect to be in session longer than a few weeks so that members can return to the campaign trail."

NASA chief says he backs 2010 shuttle retirement, Houston Chornicle

"In a brief statement on Sunday, Griffin did not refute the newspaper's account, and chief NASA spokesman David Mould authenticated the e-mail. However, Griffin complained the reporting failed to "provide the contextual framework for my remarks," which was an internal agency discussion over the implications of the Russian military's invasion of neighboring Georgia."

Editor's note: Some of you may recall my posting on 11 March 2005 that Mike Griffin was going to be the next Administrator of NASA. In that posting I recalled an action taken by Griffin during the Space Station Freedom redesign activity - one I described as having "demonstrated personal integrity - and did so in a public way that was rather career adverse." At the time, a common NASA phrase for such an action was to say that someone "fell on their sword".

For the first time on NASA Watch, here is the letter that Griffin wrote that more or less encapsulated that action - and also sank his immediate future at NASA at the same time.

To his credit, Mike Griffin has taken rather bold and blunt stances before. Motives aside, is he doing that again? And if so, isn't it curious that both actions were due to threats to the space station - something that is not Mike Griffin's favorite NASA project?

Editor's note: Alas, the gathering consensus amongst the cyberpundits (with absolutely no data whatsoever to base this on, mind you) is that Mike Griffin either leaked this memo - or (much more likely) looked the other way as it "found" its way to a much broader, more receptive distribution. The thought being that he knows that his days at NASA may well be numbered and that he has nothing to lose except his own credibility and that he needs to look out for the agency's future.

There is a bit of logic to this gossip. Look at the initial distribution list of this memo. Everyone on that list is a solid professional and they are pretty tight with Mike Griffin. As such, I really doubt that something so easily traceable back to such a very small group would get out - unless Griffin wanted it to.

If this is indeed what is going on (again, I have zero proof) then it is a bit of a departure for Griffin since he tends to try and keep things like this inside the family. Given that Griffin self-described himself as "Spock" early in his tenure, I started wondering about his motives now. What will Spock do? Hmmm ... what would Jim Kirk do? Have a look at this iconic video [below] from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".

Is Mike Griffin trying to change the rules?

Statement of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Aug. 18 Email

Internal NASA email from NASA Administrator Griffin regarding Space Shuttle, ISS, Russia, Ares, Orion, OSTP, OMB and Budgetary Issues

"Exactly as I predicted, events have unfolded in a way that makes it clear how unwise it was for he US to adopt a policy of deliberate dependance upon another power for access to ISS. In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, we would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014") and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so. I realize that no one on this distribution disagrees with me on this point, I'm just saying it again, that's all.

The rational approach didn't happen, primarily because for OSTP and OMB, retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision. Further, they actively do not want the ISS to be sustained, and have done everything possible to ensure that it would not be. They were always "okay" with buying Soyuz/Progress, and if it didn't happen, well, that was okay too. You will recall they didn't want us to brink up the need for another INKSNA exemption during budget hearings this year. I disobeyed their wishes in doing so, because we knew that we needed to get this on the table in '08."

Frustrated NASA chief vents about agency's fate, Orlando Sentinel

"In a remarkably candid internal e-mail to top advisers obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Griffin lashed out last month at the White House for what he called a "jihad" to shut down the space shuttle, expressed frustration at the lack of funding for a new moon rocket - and despaired about the future of America's human space flight program."

View Griffin's email, Orlando Sentinel

Editor's note: Gee Mike, you are just figuring this out -- only now?

In the past few days PAO has been selectively picking out some reporters - but not others (guess who) so as to allow Griffin to be able to respond with provocative answers - if the reporters just happen to ask the right provocative questions. It would seem that word has finally gotten to Griffin that neither the Obama or McCain camps are at all interested in keeping him on after the election - other than to keep the seat warm for a few months.

According to NASA sources, in these email missives Griffin is blaming OSTP and OMB for their campaign ("jihad") against the shuttle and the ISS so as to force his hand in cutting ISS capability off by not delivering things such as AMS, Node 3, and needed logistics and utilization flights. Griffin sees this pressure as being focused upon meeting what he now sees as an artificially imposed 2010 retirement date.

When the VSE was announced in early 2004, before the shuttle had returned to flight, no one new how long that gap would be. 2010 was a best guess as to when the ISS would be finished once the shuttle resumed flying. ISS completion drove the 2010 guesstimate date - not the other way around. When Sean O'Keefe left NASA, and OMB/OSTP staffers re-asserted themeselves (OMB's career civil servant employee Paul Shawcross being the prime Shuttle-hater) 2010 went from being a best guess to an absolute line drawn in the sand.

In these emails, Griffin also goes on to say that he predicted the mess that Russia has now created (Georgia, INKSA etc.) but that OSTP and OMB ignored him when he raised this possibility.

KSC Folks: Call Paul Shawcross, earlier post

White House Memo Calls For Slashing Remaining Space Shuttle Flights, earlier post

NASA OIG: Final Memorandum on the Review of Rocket Segment Handling

"The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review of the reporting procedures used by Alliant Techsystems, Inc. (ATK) for a rocket segment handling incident. We initiated this review in response to a complaint alleging that personnel at ATK did not follow proper reporting procedures subsequent to an incident involving the handling and movement of a rocket segment at ATK's Component Refurbishment Center in Clearfield, Utah. Specifically, the complainant alleged that ..."

NASA may extend shuttle use to 2015, Houston Chronicle

"Q: You recently asked for a study looking at how to extend the shuttle program. Why?

A: First, let me correct your assumption. I am not looking to extend flying the shuttle. I am looking at what it would take if we were asked to keep flying to support the space station. ... About five minutes after I heard the news of the Russian invasion of Georgia, I became concerned that our policy of depending upon them for crew transport might be in jeopardy."

Editor's note: This answer from Mike Griffin really confuses me. If Griffin says "I am not looking to extend flying the space shuttle" and then says "I am looking at what it would take if we were asked to keep flying to support the space station."

How is "keep flying" not the same as "extend flying"? And either way, doesn't this require shuttle flights after 2010 - i.e. to "extend" its operations past the White House direction that flights stop in 2010? Also, the cost of maintaining the standing army (workforce) needed for 1 or 2 or 3 - or 4 shuttle flights is not that different. But it does mean billions of dollars that will need to be spent - billions NASA does not have in its budget if it is also going to be expected to fix/build Ares and Orion. Either way the distinction between these two phrases is all but moot.

Shuttle Launch Dates Slipped

NASA Changes 2008 Shuttle Target Launch Dates, Schedules TCDT

"NASA has adjusted the target launch dates for the two remaining space shuttle missions in 2008. Shuttle Atlantis' STS-125 mission to the Hubble Space Telescope is targeted for Oct. 10, while Endeavour's STS-126 supply mission to the International Space Station has moved to Nov. 12. Shuttle managers made the decision after Atlantis was rolled to the launch pad and the effects of Tropical Storm Hanna were beyond NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That allowed managers to more accurately assess the impacts of recent tropical systems on the launch schedule."

Wayne Hale's Blog: Answering the mail

"To all those folks who love the shuttle as I do and have written in to say keep flying the old bird: my heart is with you but my mind says otherwise. If I had a magic wand I would wish to keep flying an upgraded, safer shuttle at the same time we build the moon rocket, and hand out multiple incentives to private industry to develop a robust, economical, and efficient space transportation system. But I don't have that magic wand and don't know anybody that does. (I also have a personal plan to put my big lottery prize to work; but I am not counting on winning as a realistic strategy)."

Closeout Inquiry of $39.5 Million Contract Modification Award to Lockheed Martin Space Systems, New Orleans, NASA OIG

"The following business and technical factors were considered in NASA's decision to provide incentives to retain the contractor's External Tank workforce: a) increasing attrition data; b) significant local employment opportunities available; c) past lessons learned from United States Air Force/Lockheed Martin Titan Program efforts to retain critical skills; and d) risk of mission failure."

Shuttle Vs Soyuz OpEds Appear

We think: Congress needs to maintain U.S. access to the international space station, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"Lawmakers have little choice but to hold their noses and grant the waiver, so the United States can maintain its access to the space station and protect its huge investment. They need to look for other, better ways to underscore their anger with Russia. Lawmakers also need to find the $2 billion, called for in House-passed legislation, that could speed up the development of NASA's next vehicle by a couple of years. That would make the period that the U.S. astronauts are forced to depend on Mr. Putin's taxi service as short as possible."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Shuttle News category from September 2008.

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