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NASA Budget Document Overlooks Multiple Advisory Group Findings and Recommendations on the ISS

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
February 14, 2018
Filed under , ,
NASA Budget Document Overlooks Multiple Advisory Group Findings and Recommendations on the ISS

Keith’s note: In the NASA FY 2019 Budget Estimates document released by NASA today, there is a claim that both the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) or Aerospace Advisory Panel (ASAP) have “No new formal recommendations or findings for the ISS”. This is incorrect as listed below.
It is also important to note that this budget document makes no mention of the 2018 NASA OIG report “NASA’s Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) which notes that CASIS has been unable to fully utilize the ISS resources given to it by NASA and casts doubts on CASIS’ ability to allow NASA to utilize the full future potential of the ISS; the OIG report NASA’s Plans for Human Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit which questions NASA’s ability to maintain the ISS, and the GAO Report NASA Commercial Crew Program: Continued Delays Pose Risks for Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station which questions NASA’s ability to access the ISS.
Nor did the document mention that NASA has refused to deliver an ISS Transition report to Congress no later than 1 Dec 2017 as specified by Public Law No: 115-10. The clear intention of this budget document is to gloss over the facts and give the impression that there is no disagreement with regard to NASA policy regarding the ISS – and its future.
Discrepancies with regard to FY 2019 NASA budget document statements about NAC and ASAP statements regarding ISS issues are below:

NASA FY 2019 Budget Estimates, NASA, INDEPENDENT REVIEWS LSO-30/Page 195
“Review Type: Other
Performer: NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel
Date of Review: Oct 2017
Purpose: Provides independent assessments of safety to the NASA Administrator
Outcome: No new formal recommendations or findings for the ISS
Next Review: 2018”

Summary and Status of Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) Recommendations (2017) (page 33)
“2017-01-01 Practice of System Engineering and Integration (SE&I) Principles by Commercial Crew Providers for Transportation Services to the International Space Station (ISS): Panel recommends that NASA require the Commercial Crew providers to produce verifiable evidence of the practice of rigorous, disciplined, and sustained SE&I Principles in support of the NASA Certification and operation of commercial crew transportation services to the ISS.
OPEN NASA responded on 5/22/17, concurring with the recommendation. NASA stated that the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) providers are responsible for ensuring cost-effective system design, realization, operation, and technical management of the systems they are developing to meet a fixed-price contract. Through contract requirement, deliverables, and increased insight, CCP asserts the ability to verify and/or validate that SE&I principles are followed to assure the proper management of risks, requirements, interfaces, configuration, and technical data throughout the system life cycle. ASAP continues to monitor CCP progress in gathering evidence of SE&I practices throughout the development and certification process.”

And then there are these two recommendations from both NAC and ASAP regarding the future of ISS.
NASA FY 2019 Budget Estimates, NASA INDEPENDENT REVIEWS LSO-30/Page 195
“Review :Type Other
Performer: NASA Advisory Council
Date of Review: Dec 2017
Purpose: Provides independent guidance for the NASA Administrator
Outcome: No new formal recommendations or findings for the ISS
Next Review: 2018”

NASA Advisory Council Finding International Space Station (ISS) Phaseout, 27 July 2017, NASA Advisory Council (page 5)
“NASA Advisory Council Finding International Space Station (ISS) Phaseout
Name of Committee: Human Exploration and Operations Committee
Chair of Committee: Mr. Kenneth Bowersox
Date of Council Public Deliberation: July 27, 2017
Short Title of Finding: International Space Station (ISS) Phaseout
Finding: The Council finds that the International Space Station (ISS) is a critical facility for development of systems that will be used for deep space exploration, especially for life support systems. Current projections show approximately two years of run-time on deep space exploration life support systems onboard ISS – in preparation for what may be a three-year crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s. While the official commitment to ISS currently ends in 2024, the Council believes that it is likely that exploration development in low Earth orbit will need to be continued past 2024.
Ideally, the end of government support for the ISS would be determined by clear criteria for its required use, availability of commercial alternatives, and would be a gradual reduction in support rather than a sharp cutoff at a fixed date. Early understanding of ISS availability after 2024 will improve the station’s science utilization and improve the likelihood that commercial providers will be able to sustain low Earth orbit operational capability after the government reduces support.”

This 2017 NAC recommendation echoes a ASAP Recommendation which has been open since 2012:
Summary and Status of Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) Open Recommendations (2017) (page 36)
“2012-01-02 International Space Station (ISS) Deorbit Capability: (1) To assess the urgency of this issue, NASA should develop an estimate of the risk to ground personnel in the event of uncontrolled ISS reentry. (2) NASA should then develop a timeline for development of a controlled reentry capability that can safety deorbit the ISS in the event of foreseeable anomalies.
OPEN NASA originally responded on 5/9/12. ASAP decided the recommendation would stay open until ISS has a timeline for implementing a deorbit plan and the deorbit plan is in place. HEOMD began working this action when assigned in 2012. There are many aspects to implementing the deorbit plan, including working with international partners. It is estimated that it will take 1-2 years to implement the plan after the schedule is determined. At the 2016 1st Quarterly, the current ISS Program Manager briefed the Panel on the status of the deorbit plan. In January 2016, the Russians had received direction to restart End-of-Life (EOL) production development. In March 2016, a Technical Interchange Meeting was held to move the EOL activities forward. The ISS briefing at the 3rd and 4th Quarterlies of 2016, showed further progress; however, the plan is still not complete. The ASAP received status updates during the four Quarterly Meetings of 2017. ISS has provided a timeline chart and made some forward progress with Russia. ISS will continue to brief the ASAP on a quarterly basis on the status of this recommendation in 2018.”

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.

4 responses to “NASA Budget Document Overlooks Multiple Advisory Group Findings and Recommendations on the ISS”

  1. Michael Spencer says:

    Scientific American reports that Michael Kratsios is effectively serving in that role.

    It is entirely possible – likely, even – that the de facto science advisor has no knowledge of advisory groups or decadal surveys or anything else in the world of science. And why would he?

    Mr. Kratsios (no, there’s no ‘Dr.’ in front of his name) graduated Princeton with ‘high honors’, according to his CV. His interest was in ‘economic voting’, and he’s a protege of Peter Thiel. Anyone following the news these days can connect these dots.

    He has something called a ‘certificate’ in Hellenic Studies. I don’t know what that means, but I do have an undergrad degree in Classics, which gives me some insight into what undergraduates are expected to learn: they are so busy acquainting themselves with some very serious writers in a very difficult language (that would be classical Greek) and with other writers in a somewhat less difficult language (Latin) that there’s little time for anything else.


    • fcrary says:

      According to the web page (Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies – Princeton University), the “certificate” would be a double major if Hellenic studies at Princeton were a full department (offering a stand-alone major) rather than a “center.” But I’d hope Princeton had more in the way of breadth requirements than you suggest. Most (many?) universities require a few courses well outside a student’s major, and at least one course in physical sciences is typical. Many students opt for intro astronomy, since it’s often easier to pass and requires less math than something like intro physics for non-majors.

  2. Donald Barker says:

    Where there is smoke and mirrors and money there is fire, ego and greed. Too bad this culture is not a meritocracy where the most accomplished and best suited are utilized correctly. The short sighted who engage in political games and palm-greasing only add to the problems of us all. And we will be lucky if our space program survives the next 10 years. Just sad.

  3. Chip Snyder says:

    Funny I always thought when you did not respond to a law (Public Law No. 15-110) someone has to be accountable, gets in trouble or goes to jail