Shuttle News: December 2010 Archives

NASA Internal Memo: Maintaining Capability to Conduct the STS-135 Mission

"... I ask that you continue planning and preparations efforts to execute this mission in late June 2011 as currently planned. This includes maintaining the requisite workforce to safely conduct this mission and extending contracts if necessary. We must focus on STS-135 as a real mission as well as a Launch-On-Need capability for the STS-134. Without clarity in focus now we reduce the probability of safely executing this critical mission. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide clear direction for the teams. STS-135 is critical to health of the International Space Station."

Funding Puts NASA At Square One Again, Aviation Week

"It remains to be seen where the agency will find the $600 million it needs to mount one more shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS) beyond the two scheduled for February and April, and to accelerate development of the commercial cargo craft needed to ease the ISS resupply burden after the shuttle is grounded for good. "The continuing resolution by itself does not endanger the extra shuttle mission, because on an annualized basis, the continuing resolution provides enough funding to fly the mission," NASA stated in a canned response to the inevitable question."

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.

Senate Appropriations Committee: Summary of Continuing Resolution through March 4, 2011

"Under the CR, funding would continue at FY 2010 enacted levels for most programs."

Senate Nears Deal on Funding Bill, WS Journal

"Under the Senate deal set on Sunday, funding for most federal agencies and departments would continue at levels authorized for fiscal year 2010, though some programs would see slight increases. Overall, funding would be about $1.2 billion above the levels authorized in last year's budget. The House would also have to approve the spending measure."

Senators Vow To Enforce NASA Authorization Act, Space News

"Nelson also asked whether NASA plans to carry out an additional flight of the space shuttle next year as authorized in the new law. Robinson said the agency plans to conduct the additional flight to the International Space Station. "The only caveat I would put forth is we still don't have a final appropriations [act], so we don't know if we have the money to carry it out," she said. "We're trying to quantify what it means to hedge our bets in case there's a drastic change in funding level, but we have every intention of moving forward on that."

Keith's note: NASA has to make a decision in January/February 2011 as to whether it can accomplish STS-135. Given the way that Congress is not cooperating with itself, having to live under this CR until March 2011 would make STS-135 somewhat problematical. Other problems such as Webb's mounting cost overrun are not going to make things any better.

Senate Stopgap Funding Proposal Does Not Address NASA, Space News

"Unlike the House bill, H.R. 3082, the Senate amendment does not weigh-in on NASA, which could mean the agency will be forced to operate in the coming months at spending rates proportional to the $18.72 appropriated for all of 2010. In addition, NASA would be prohibited from initiating new programs, and could be required to continue spending about $200 million per month on the Moon-bound Constellation program U.S. President Barack Obama sought to abandon in the $19 billion budget blueprint for 2011 that the White House sent lawmakers in February."

Keith's update: This does not look good for STS-135. Nor does it bode well for trying to kick off any SOMD/ESMD merger and reprioritization/reorganization of programs since nothing can be killed and nothing can be started.

Phantom Ray hitches ride on 747, CNet

"The Phantom Ray UAV got some air time today, with a little help from a jumbo jet. Boeing's futuristic unmanned aerial vehicle took a 50-minute flight today riding piggyback on a NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified 747 designed to ferry space shuttles from one terrestrial site to another. The aerospace giant had said earlier in the year that the Phantom Ray was on track to make its first flight, but this may not be exactly what it had in mind."

Roll Back for Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery to Roll back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, NASA

"Shuttle managers also decided late Monday afternoon that following the tanking test they plan to roll Discovery back into Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to allow its external tank to undergo additional image scans. Rollback is expected to occur 4-5 days after the tanking test. Once in the VAB, technicians would collect X-ray data on stringers on the back side of the external tank midsection, called the intertank, which is not accessible at the launch pad. Additionally, the test instrumentation and foam insulation on those areas of the intertank would be removed and the area would be prepared again for launch. In parallel, the back side stringer inspections would take."

Video: A Shuttle Tribute

Video: Ascent - Commemorating Shuttle

"Photographic documentation of a Space Shuttle launch plays a critical role in the engineering analysis and evaluation process that takes place during each and every mission. Motion and Still images enable Shuttle engineers to visually identify off-nominal events and conditions requiring corrective action to ensure mission safety and success. This imagery also provides highly inspirational and educational insight to those outside the NASA family."

Technicians to Place 89 Sensors on Tank for Test, NASA

"Technicians will work this weekend to prepare space shuttle Discovery's external tank for a tanking test planned for no earlier than Wednesday. Because the test hopes to glean a great deal of information, technicians will place 89 instruments including strain gauges to the tank to precisely record movement and temperatures from the tank's ribbed intertank area as it chills and warms again during the fuel loading and emptying process. The tank holds super-cold liquid oxygen at minus-297 degrees and liquid hydrogen at minus-423 degrees. The cryogenic propellants cause the tank to shrink by about half an inch."

"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: http://www.shopNASA.com"

Keith's 9 Dec note: FYI shopNASA.com 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 Amazon.com, 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)

Draft Spending Bill Increases NASA's Budget by $186M over 2010, Space News

"The draft resolution also includes $1.2 billion for Lockheed Martin's Orion crew capsule, $100 million more than called for in the Senate appropriations measure and the new authorization act. The draft language also includes a passage that would allow NASA to cancel the Ares family of rockets Obama targeted for termination in his 2011 spending proposal and to initiate new programs, a key hurdle the agency has sought to overcome since the start of the 2011 budget year Oct. 1. Another $1.8 billion would fund NASA's space shuttle orbiters in 2011, including $825 million for "additional Space Shuttle costs."

NASA budget funds third shuttle launch, Orlando Sentinel

"The news isn't all good for Florida, however. Congressional appropriators want NASA to cut more than $200 million, or about half the money that had been earmarked to begin modernizing the badly outdated launch facilities at KSC next year."

Preparing for the Space Shuttle Program's Retirement: A Review of NASA's Disposition of Information Technology Equipment

"NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin today released a report that found significant weaknesses in the sanitization and disposal of NASA computers and hard drives used in the Space Shuttle Program. These weaknesses resulted in information technology (IT) equipment being sold or prepared for sale even though it still contained sensitive NASA data. This Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit examined IT sanitization practices at four NASA Centers - Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers and Ames and Langley Research Centers - and found serious issues at each. We concluded that NASA did not ensure the proper sanitization of excess IT equipment before releasing it outside Agency control."

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."


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

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