Keith Cowing: July 2010 Archives

What will inspire tomorrow's rocket scientists?, CNN

"President Barack Obama's NASA proposal currently being scrutinized by Congress focuses on researching propulsion for deep space and asteroid landings. It scraps the Constellation Project, which was launched six years ago with the aim of sending humans to Mars and back to the moon. The proposal would also halt NASA shuttle launches to the International Space Station. Instead, federal funds would be used to help send U.S. commercial shuttles to the station. Clark Moody, who remembers watching NASA videos with his dad in the 1980s, is a graduate student in aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University. He worries that NASA's other feats could be lost on the general public without the highly visible human spaceflight endeavors."

Four decades later, recovering lunar images (photos), CNET

"Around 2005, space entrepreneur Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing of NASA Watch learned of prior attempts at restoring the images. With a renewed interest from NASA in moon exploration and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter set to go to the moon in 2009. Wingo and Cowing became more and more motivated to work towards restoring the tapes."

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Senate compromise may be setting up NASA for another failure, Orlando Sentinel

"The plan orders NASA to build a heavy-lift rocket and capsule capable of reaching the International Space Station by 2016. But it budgets less money for the new spacecraft - roughly $11 billion over three years, with $3 billion next year -- than what the troubled Constellation program would have received. That - plus the short deadline -- has set off alarms. Days before the compromise was announced, NASA chief Charlie Bolden and Deputy Lori Garver told its two champions -- U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Florida and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas -- that NASA could not finish the proposed new rocket before 2020, according to three sources present at the meetings. When asked about the conversation, Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said the NASA officials were responding to lower dollar figures than what Congress ultimately approved. NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said it "would not be appropriate to discuss private conversations between NASA and members of Congress."

Kosmas Successful in Fight for Additional Shuttle Mission

"Today, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24), during a meeting of the House Science & Technology Committee, successfully amended the House NASA Reauthorization Bill to add an additional Shuttle mission to the current manifest, minimizing the spaceflight gap by extending the life of the Shuttle program through at least June of 2011. Kosmas' action will help ease the transition for the Space Coast and slow the loss of jobs in order to protect the highly skilled workforce."

Keith's note: Word has it that there are big worries at NASA and Northrop Grumman with regard to Webb Space Telescope. If NASA ends up operating under a Continuing Resolution - one that does not provide the increased funds that Webb requires - there is a fear that large layoffs may be in the near-term forecast. Stay tuned.

Letter From California House Members to Rep. Bart Gordon Regarding NASA's FY 2011 Budget

"The President's NASA budget replaces an over-budget and behind-schedule Constellation Program with a sustainable architecture that will take the Agency in a new direction enabling NASA to explore more of our universe. It offers a serious plan to reduce the cost of access to the International Space Station, without exporting that responsibility to other nations. We believe this new direction is good for the country and that California's NASA centers and those across the country can help take NASA to new and exciting destinations. We hope to work with you as you move this important legislation forward."

House NASA Bill Puts Brakes on Commercial Crew Initiative, Space News

"According to the bill text, commercial crew programs would get just $50 million annually through 2015 and another $500 million over that same time period via direct government loans or loan guarantees. Although the bill fully funds the $4.2 billion sought for routine commercial cargo resupply runs to the space station starting in 2011, it reduces the president's $312 million request for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (COTS) program next year to just $14 million. The Senate version provided $300 million for the agency's COTS providers in 2011."

House, Senate have different ideas for NASA's future, Florida Today

"There is no additional shuttle flight, funding would be slashed for commercial rockets and NASA would be told to "restructure" the Constellation program that Obama wanted to kill. The bill diverges significantly from a measure approved by a Senate panel last week, which the White House supports. The differences threaten to delay consensus on the space agency's policy. "We are facing tough economic times that demand tough choices," said Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee."

NASA Legislation Embraced by Appropriations Committee Presents Unified Senate Position on Space

"Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said the approval of the Commerce, Science, Justice Appropriations legislation by the Senate Appropriations Committee today presents a unified Senate position on NASA and the future of America's human spaceflight programs."

Keith's note: There may come a point where the White House says that they cannot support this "compromise". It all seems to hinge on whether the "compromise" that the White House got with the Senate prevails over the "compromise" that the House wants - one that the White House has been silent about thus far. Either way, Congress has thrown the original White House proposal back in OMB/OSTP's face in a form that more or less brings Constellation back to life (minus the name) albeit without Ares 1 or Altair. Ares V simply has a new name. And the commerical aspirations inherent in the White House plans? They are reduced (depending on which "compromise" you look at) to the point of being window dressing - if not outright irrelevant.

The fact that the White House has yielded to Congressional pressure can be seen a number of ways. You could just say that they are being pragmatic and realistic with regard to what can be realistically accomplished. But given the way in which they initially hurled the policy out with near zero pre-coordination, and then brought the President in for a quick fix when it flopped, you have to wonder if they even planned things in advance or considered the long term strategic issues that they'd need to address. And now they show little if any spine when Congress repudiates the entire package. This makes you wonder if the White House ever actually had serious interest in this policy in the first place. Indeed, this entire process has been composed of several sudden spikes of activity by the White House followed by long periods of disinterest and/or silence.

The fix is in for the time being, it would seem. But you all know that we'll all be revisiting this situation in 18-24 months when costs start to rise and an election amplifies the political rhetoric once again.

Is this any way to explore the solar system?

Congress to NASA: "Help is on the way", Houston Chronicle

"And what's the message for Johnson Space Center? "The first message is we love you," [Rep.] Olson said. "We think about what these men and women are doing right now with all this uncertainty about their future. They're remaining focused on their mission. And my message to them is that help is on the way. The House and Senate are hard at work to ensure that we have a viable space program."

House Takes Steps to Preserve Ares Rocket and Manned Space Flight, Rep. Bishop

"It is extremely encouraging that both the House and Senate, in a bipartisan manner, have recognized the importance of maintaining solid rocket motor technologies, such as the Ares 1 rocket. The draft House version of this bill is a strong repudiation of the President's flawed proposal - stronger even than the good developments we saw last week out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation."

How Obama Let Down Mr. Spock

"Even some in Mr. Nelson's home state of Florida begin to doubt the senator's priorities, suspecting they have more to gain from a thriving private market in affordable space travel than from another NASA budgetary blowout that leaves nothing sustainable in its wake. NASA's tragedy is that it never recovered from the success of Apollo. But unless these dissenting voices start to be heard, two things are certain: Taxpayers will shell out a lot of money that will end up wasted when the next NASA funding crisis calls forth the next Augustine Commission. The other certainty is that the space entrepreneurs had better start scrambling for fresh capital and private customers if they want to keep their dreams alive."

Keith's note: I am sorry for linking to this article. When I orignally linked to it the entire text was available for free access. Alas, in keeping with an annoying habit, wherein the Wall Street Journal takes popular articles and denies full access after they have become popular, you can't read the whole thing at the original link. The portion that I quoted is from the part of the article that you (or I) can no longer read - unless we give them money. This is why I have stopped linking to WS Journal articles. It just annoys people when they do this. The only way to circumvent this is to use this Google search for the article by title and then click on the link that shows up - but that link only works once.

Keith's note: Markup of H.R.5781- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 - by the House Science and technology Committee is underway. Watch the webcast here. Earlier Twitter updates by Marcia Smith can be read here.

According to Marcia the Senate Appropriations Committee Markup of CJS Bill is at 2:30 pm today. The CJS bill includes NASA and NOAA.

Media alert: Florida, Texas trying end-run for space shuttle, National Aviation Heritage Alliance

"Florida and Texas are trying to make an end run around NASA's competitive process to decide where to give the retired space shuttles by getting Congress to weigh the decision in their favor. ... Tucked into the NASA reauthorization bill that Congress is now taking up is a provision which directs NASA to give "priority consideration" to a site with a historical relationship with "either the launch, flight operations, or processing of the Space Shuttle orbiters."

Shelby: CJS Bill Sustains Human Space Flight

"U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS), today announced subcommittee approval of the fiscal year 2011 CJS Appropriations bill, which restores significant funding for NASA's human space flight program. Following today's action by the subcommittee, the bill will now go to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration."

Subcommittee Markup of the Fiscal Year 2011 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. 10:00 AM, Location: Dirksen 192.

Support America's Space Programs, AIA

"The U.S. must act to ensure global leadership, competitiveness and innovation in space."

Letter to Senators Mikulski and Shelby from Apollo Astronauts Neil Armstrong, James Lovell, and Eugene Cernan, 20 July 2010

"This week, Chairman Gordon of the House Committee on Science and Technology released his Committee's version of the NASA Reauthorization Bill. Cosponsored by Committee Ranking Member Hall, Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Giffords and Space and Aeronautics Ranking Member Olson, the bill reflects the Committee's belief of those plan components necessary to assure a worthy national space and aeronautics program."

Full Draft Text of House NASA Authorization Legislation

Keith's note: One thing that the House version of the NASA Authorization Act does is to cut further into proposed commercial activity - specifically, CRuSR (Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research).

In this draft House Legislation, funding for CRuSR is cut in FY 2011 and FY 2012 from the President's and Senate's mark at $15M per year year down to just $1M per year, with funding unspecified in later years. In addition, according to the draft language, CRuSR's funding in FY 2011 may not be used to buy flights or build payloads. Instead it can be used only to fund studies.

If you look at Sec. 906 (page 94) you will see that this proposed draft adds onerous restrictions before NASA can spend money on CRuSR, using identical language to restrictions placed on Commercial Crew in the same legislation, e.g., NASA may not proceed with a CRuSR RFP until all indemnification and liability issues are settled and a report has been sent to Congress.

More than 300 researchers and educators, specializing in fields ranging from microgravity and life sciences to astronomy and atmospheric sciences, from all over the U.S. showed up at a conference in February wanting to use this program. It would seem that anti-suborbital research and anti-commercial forces from within and outside of the agency are at work once again. SMD AA Ed Weiler has long been opposed to suborbital research and has clearly been working behind the scenes to take yet another run at killing this sort of activity. Just look where the CRuSR money is going (if the House gets its way): sounding rockets launched out of Wallops.

Solid rocket industry needs consolidation-Pentagon, Reuter

"The U.S. solid rocket motor industry is "over capacity" and needs consolidation, the Pentagon's top official for industrial policy said. "It is over capacity right now," Brett Lambert said at the Farnborough Airshow on Monday, adding a consolidation was long overdue."

Keith's note: I'm confused. First DoD complains that cuts to solid rocket motor production capacity and procurement options resulting from Constellation cancellation would be a big problem. Now they say that the U.S. has to much solid rocket capacity. Well, which is it?

NASA Authorization Act of 2010 - House of Representatives Draft

"(10) In an environment of constrained budgets, responsible stewardship of taxpayer-provided resources makes it imperative that NASA's exploration program be carried out in a manner that builds on the investments made to date in the Orion, Ares I, and heavy lift projects and other activities of the exploration program in existence prior to fiscal year 2011 rather than discarding them. A restructured exploration program should pursue the incremental development and demonstration of crewed and heavy-lift transportation systems in a manner that ensures that investments to provide assured access to low-Earth orbit also directly support the expeditious development of the heavy lift launch vehicle system, minimize the looming human space flight ''gap'', provide a very high level of crew safety, and enable challenging missions beyond low-Earth orbit in a timely manner."

NASA's Nebula Cloud Computing Technology To Play Key Role In New Open Source Initiative

"The core technology developed for NASA's Nebula cloud computing platform has been selected as a contributor for OpenStack, a newly-launched open source cloud computing initiative. It will pull together more than 25 companies to play a key role in driving cloud computing standards for interoperability and portability."

Rackspace and NASA open-source partnership could spur innovation, GCN

"Torlini acknowledged the concerns that many users have about security in the cloud. However, he said freeing up the code would present more opportunities to improve security. He also stressed that this shouldn't be seen as purely a Rackspace initiative, "Everyone is welcome to contribute," he said."

NASA and Rackspace part the clouds with open source project, ARS Technica

"Modern scientific computation requires ever increasing storage and processing power delivered on demand," said NASA CTO Chris Kemp in a statement. "To serve this demand, we built Nebula, an infrastructure cloud platform designed to meet the needs of our scientific and engineering community. NASA and Rackspace are uniquely positioned to drive this initiative based on our experience in building large scale cloud platforms and our desire to embrace open source."

NASA gives OpenStack instant credibility, ZDNet

"The new OpenStack project will power NASA's own Nebula cloud and puts new pressure on Eucalyptus, as well as Amazon's EC2 and the whole Hadoop ecosystem. The system is being released under an Apache 2 license."

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Joins the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Endorses NASA's New Direction

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has joined the Federation as an Associate Member. With 3,100 employees across Florida, California, Alabama, and Mississippi, including more than 1,800 employees in Southern California, the company is a leading provider of propulsion and power systems for space flight."

NASA Names New Director for Lunar Science Institute

"Yvonne Pendleton has been named director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) headquartered at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Pendleton has served as the NASA Ames deputy associate center director, chief of the Space Science and Astrobiology Division and as a research astrophysicist for 31 years, including nearly two years at NASA headquarters."

Obama to meet with John Glenn today, Orlando Sentinel

"President Barack Obama plans to meet with former astronaut and senator John Glenn this afternoon to discuss the administration's new plan for NASA. White House officials did not reveal specifics of the meeting, although Glenn recently wrote a letter that supported more space shuttle flights and the development of a new heavy-lift rocket that could blast future astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit."

Statement of Senator John Glenn (ret.) Regarding NASA Manned Space Flight, earlier post

"These are critical days for the future of Manned Space Flight. Conflicting views and advice come to the President and Congress from every quarter in the aerospace and science communities. There is good reason for the concern. The U.S. for the first time since the beginning of the Space Age will have no way to launch anyone into space - starting next January."

Frank Sietzen Jr.: Last week, the Senate Commerce, Science and Space Committee marked up a draft of a proposed FY2011 Authorization bill for NASA. That bill maintains the Obama administration's top line budget for the civil space agency, but otherwise it contains virtually none of the individual funding areas for human spaceflight that the administration had sought.

But it's my contention that the bill, whether or not it ever gets passed into law, is an historic development in legislative space affairs. Back in 2004, in our book "New Moon Rising", Keith Cowing and I used the phrase "opening a hinge of history" to describe how the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster provided an opening for an historic new direction in space policy. We initially perceived that direction as being the first era of human spaceflight since 1972 that was not to be dominated by the Shuttle program. But what really emerged would eventually become the so-called "Vision for Space Exploration".

Diplomacy: Nothing new about NASA outreach, editorial, Houston Chronicle

"Bolden's comments are a reminder of what we could do, what we could be and how we could continue to help create a better world. He could make it happen if he had the political backing of national will. That his comments ring hollow and make him appear nearly foolish to many shows the tragedy of having an American president who thinks we are unexceptional, arrogant to assume we can lead and too poor to tell our children there is more to see, to do and to learn. What he said was, "Yes, we can!" What he did was, no, we can't. So, it makes me sad for my friend Charlie. And, it makes me sad for my country."

NASA appears to no longer be shooting for the stars, opinion, LA Times

"The $150-million facility was built to contain the next-generation manned spacecraft for the Constellation program, NASA's project to send humans back to the moon. It is the largest acoustic test chamber in the world, created to buffet the spacecraft with intense sound waves, simulating the stresses of launch. The only problem is that the Constellation program almost certainly will be dead within months. President Obama in January proposed cancelling the troubled moon program, and a key Senate committee voted this week to kill Constellation."

NASA 'compromise' a good start, editorial, Huntsville Times

"Portions of the Constellation program, including the Orion crew capsule and a heavy-lift rocket designed to travel to Mars, appear likely to survive in some form but details won't be known until the final vote. The $19 billion budget provides for another shuttle flight some time next summer in addition to planned launches in November and February next year."

JSC rescue: Senate bill bolstering manned space flight welcome news for Houston, Houston Chronicle

"There's a lot for Houstonians to like in the $19 billion spending plan. While it cancels the Constellation program moon missions, it substitutes Mars and asteroids as long-term destinations. It will extend the life of the International Space Station through 2020, direct NASA to build a new heavy-lift launch rocket to be operational in six years, and continue development of the Orion crew exploration vehicle. At the same time it preserves the thrust of the Obama plan to support development of commercial launch crews to low Earth orbit."

Keith's note: The folks at the LA Times should do a little more fact checking. Yes, Constellation is being cancelled, but no Orion is not. So this test stand will still find use.


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in July 2010.

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