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NASA Decides To Reduce Cost/Complexity of WFIRST

By Keith Cowing on October 20, 2017 10:26 PM.

NASA Internal Memo: Next Steps for WFIRST Program

"I have reviewed the findings of the independent review team and have accepted them. As a result, I believe reductions in scope and complexity are needed. I am directing the Goddard Space Flight Center to study modifying the current WFIRST design, the design that was reviewed by the WIETR, to reduce cost and complexity sufficient to have a cost estimate consistent with the $3.2B cost target set at the beginning of Phase A."

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NASA Is Still Making Blunt Climate Change Statements

By Keith Cowing on October 20, 2017 12:06 PM.

Keith's note: Despite fears that NASA will be muzzled when it comes to climate change - as has been observed at other agencies - NASA seems to be staying the course - for now.

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Yet Another Space Poll Says What Other Space Polls Always Say

By Keith Cowing on October 19, 2017 8:41 PM.

Survey: Americans Support Entrepreneurs in Space But Want Improvements on Earth, Brodeur Partners

"The new poll of more than 600 Americans' attitudes toward business in space was conducted earlier this month by the Brodeur Partners' Space Group. The new survey found that Americans:

- Still see national security as the top space activity;
- At the same time, they support private sector activity in space;
- However, they want some degree of government regulation, especially privacy protection;
- And they expect space development to directly benefit Earth; and
- Think the U.S. is a leader, if not the leader, in space technology.

"Americans still view space technology through the old lens of defense and national security," said Jerry Johnson, a partner at Brodeur Partners and author of the study. "But we also found that there is support for commercial activity in space, even government funding for that activity, if those businesses are reasonably regulated and can demonstrate benefits on Earth."

Keith's note: Once or twice a year someone does a space poll that says the same things that all of these space polls always say: people like space. Of course, this poll will be cited by those who see validation for their stances on space and will be ignored by those whose viewpoints are not strongly supported. Based on the press release (that's all that has been released) you can pretty much project whatever you want upon the poll and also extract whatever you want from it. We have no idea who paid for this poll, who the pollsters talked to, how they did the poll (phone, writing) or all of the questions the participants were actually asked. So ... your mileage may vary. Yawn.

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Blue Origin BE-4 Engine Roars To Life

By Keith Cowing on October 19, 2017 5:44 PM.

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NASA Continues to Ignore GAO On SLS And Orion

By Keith Cowing on October 19, 2017 4:04 PM.

NASA Human Space Exploration: Integration Approach Presents Challenges to Oversight and Independence, GAO

"The approach that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is using to integrate its three human spaceflight programs into one system ready for launch offers some benefits, but it also introduces oversight challenges. To manage and integrate the three programs--the Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle; the Orion crew capsule; and supporting ground systems (EGS)-- NASA's Exploration Systems Development (ESD) organization is using a more streamlined approach than has been used with other programs, and officials GAO spoke with believe that this approach provides cost savings and greater efficiency. However, GAO found two key challenges to the approach:

- The approach makes it difficult to assess progress against cost and schedule baselines. SLS and EGS are baselined only to the first test flight. In May 2014, GAO recommended that NASA baseline the programs' cost and schedule beyond the first test flight. NASA has not implemented these recommendations nor does it plan to; hence, it is contractually obligating billions of dollars for capabilities for the second flight and beyond without establishing baselines necessary to measure program performance.

- The approach has dual-hatted positions, with individuals in two programmatic engineering and safety roles also performing oversight of those areas. These dual roles subject the technical authorities to cost and schedule pressures that potentially impair their independence. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board found in 2003 that this type of tenuous balance between programmatic and technical pressures was a contributing factor to that Space Shuttle accident."

- Previous SLS posts

Keith's note: At the end of this report is a response from NASA HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier. If you want to understand why NASA is clueless as to what SLS/Orion costs, just read this. Small wonder NASA has no idea what things actually cost. The'd rather just mix everything together to make it harder to understand those costs - and they do so deliberately. Tick Tock

"NASA regularly balances available funding with the flight manifest within the context of the Agency's overall exploration objectives. NASA's programmatic decisions are based on optimizing acquisition stratedes and resource allocations (material, people, funding) across multiple missions to ensure efficient implementation of deep space exploration objectives that take several flights to accomplish. NASA believes it has the processes in place to provide stakeholders insight to cost, schedule, and risks that accord with ESD's nature as a multimission space transportation infrastructure. Cost estimates and expenditures are available for future missions; however, these costs must be derived from the data and are not directly available. This was done by design to lower NASA's expenditures. NASA docs not think that structuring acquisition and implementation to ease accounting on a mission-by-mission basis is prudent as it would result in higher overall program costs and is not in keeping with the nature of the program."

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OIG: NASA Chief Information Officer Is Doing A Crappy Job

By Keith Cowing on October 19, 2017 11:35 AM.

OIG: NASA's Efforts to Improve the Agency's Information Technology Governance

"In the 4 years since issuance of our IT governance report and the 3 years since completion of its own internal review, the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) has made insufficient progress to improve NASA's IT governance, casting doubt on the office's ability to effectively oversee the Agency's IT assets. Specifically, the NASA Chief Information Officer (CIO) continues to have limited visibility into IT investments across the Agency and the process NASA developed to correct this shortcoming is flawed.

Despite these efforts, the OCIO's insight into and control over the bulk of the Agency's nearly $1.4 billion in annual IT funding remains limited ... this lack of authority and visibility over the majority of the IT budget limits the Agency's ability to consolidate IT expenditures, realize cost savings, and drive improvements in the delivery of IT services. ... the Agency's current enterprise architecture remains immature after a decade-long effort, a situation that contributes to the undisciplined manner in which NASA makes IT investments. Moreover, despite changes to two of the Agency's three top-level IT governance boards, IT managers across the Agency remain unsure of board functions and their decision making processes and the boards have yet to make strategic decisions that substantively impact how IT at NASA is managed. In addition, as of August 2017 the roles and responsibilities associated with NASA's IT governance structure have not been finalized by the OCIO - one of the most basic and critical pieces of the Agency's Business Services Assessment (BSA) Implementation Plan. ... Lingering confusion about security roles coupled with poor IT inventory practices continues to negatively impact NASA's security posture. ... Finally, the OCIO continues to exercise limited ability to influence IT management within the Mission Directorates and Centers due to the autonomous nature of NASA operations and the office's lack of credibility on IT issues in the eyes of its customers."

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Still Waiting For Bridenstine (Update)

By Keith Cowing on October 17, 2017 7:44 PM.

Keith's update: Sources report that Bridenstine's confirmation hearing will be on 1 November.

Keith's update: Still no word as to when the confirmation hearing for NASA Administrator nominee Rep. James Bridenstine will be held. There has been no change to this nomination status page for Bridenstine - nor is there any update to this matrix of pending nominations or on the hearings calendar for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

A date in the last week of September had been penciled in but this was pushed back 2 weeks so that Sen. Nelson and others could deal with a backlog of hurricane-related issues. Since then things have been delayed further. Sen. Rubio still has issues that seem to point back to the 2016 primary season. Meanwhile Sen. Nelson is digging his feet in in terms of opposing Bridenstine and now wants to delay the confirmation hearing indefinitely on the whole climate change issue.

Meanwhile, Bridenstine has been at NASA Headquarters to start the confirmation preparation process. Headquarters veteran Tom Cremins and newcomer Brandon Eden (both with extensive Capitol Hill experience) are in charge of those confirmation hearing preparations.

Continue reading: Still Waiting For Bridenstine (Update).

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Back To The Moon - This Time With A Plan, Please

By Keith Cowing on October 17, 2017 5:18 PM.

Why We Go to the Moon. It starts with a mission statement, Air & Space

"A mission statement is vital for people to succinctly understand and fully comprehend the reasons for returning to the Moon. Ideally, a mission statement is a simple, declarative sentence, one that permits no ambiguity about intentions or execution. There is much truth in the belief that if you can't sum up your mission in just a few words, you probably don't understand it yourself. One's mission statement must encompass both anticipated activities and imply the value of its accomplishment."

The Interplanetary Political Football of Space Exploration, Scientific American

"Leaving aside the harsh realities of any country's political motivations to go to space, as a member of the astronomical community, it's hard not to feel like a passenger in the back seat of a car, watching an ongoing struggle over the steering wheel. Having the vision for our space program remain agile and responsive in a changing science and technology landscape is one thing, but it bears remembering that if all we do is pivot, we'll never get anywhere."

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Elliot Pulham

By Keith Cowing on October 17, 2017 9:49 AM.

Keith's update: Former Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham died the other day. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in September and had emergency surgery. Elliot was only 62. Details to follow.

Ad astra Elliot.

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Looking Backward And Forward In Space

By Keith Cowing on October 13, 2017 5:03 PM.

No, human space exploration is not a dead end, op ed, Marillyn Hewson (Locheed Martin), Washington Post

"For Post columnist David Von Drehle, NASA's renewed focus on human space exploration is "unnecessary" and "a dead end." I fundamentally disagree with this assessment. I was excited to see President Trump ensure that the United States remains the leader in space by reestablishing the National Space Council. Under the leadership of Vice President Pence, the council held a meeting last week for the first time in nearly 25 years, announcing a distinct objective: promote a clear U.S. space policy and enact the reforms necessary to strengthen American leadership in space. Von Drehle's argument against human space exploration boils down to three main questions, and I'd like to address each of them."

The mission to Mars is one stupid leap for mankind, op ed, Washington Post

Keith's note: Sigh. Marillyn Hewson's pro-human spaceflight op ed response to the anti-human spaceflight op ed by David Von Drehle is as formulaic and uninspired as Drehle's is ignorant and incorrect. Of course Lockheed Martin is going to support whatever NASA wants to pay them to do and of course they are going to plug their product line (Orion, SLS, Mars Base Camp). One would hope that the reason we explore and utilize space involves more than just the whims of big aerospace parroting back NASA's old talking points.

Continue reading: Looking Backward And Forward In Space.

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Lyft Me To The Moon

By Keith Cowing on October 12, 2017 11:52 PM.

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Russia Is Flying Something Odd On Progress MS-07

By Keith Cowing on October 12, 2017 9:05 PM.

Why Does Russia Have a Secret ISS Experiment?, Popular Mechanics

"Russia's seven-ton Progress MS-07 tanker will be carrying a secret, a previously unseen instrument attached to the exterior front section of the spacecraft. NASA has no idea what it is. NASA specialists spotted the unknown gizmo in official photographs of the Progress ship released during mission preparation. Since then, a number of pictures documenting the work on Progress MS-07 in Baikonur also showed the unidentified device, indicating that Russian authorities aren't really keeping it secret. But when NASA asked about the hardware, Russian officials said only that it would be a scientific payload intended for a one-time trip aboard the cargo ship. They provided no further details."

Launch of Russian Cargo Mission Scrubbed, NASA

"Launch of the Russian Progress 68 cargo craft has been scrubbed for today. The next launch attempt will be no earlier than Saturday Oct. 14 at 4:46 am EDT (2:46 p.m. local time in Baikonur)."

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Ignoring Half Of The Potential Space Traveling Population

By Keith Cowing on October 12, 2017 10:43 AM.

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Pence Makes A Surprise Visit To Mojave

By Keith Cowing on October 10, 2017 9:22 PM.

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Modifying A Modified Mobile Launcher That Will Be Used Once

By Keith Cowing on October 10, 2017 11:42 AM.

Citing safety, NASA panel advises building a new, costly mobile launcher, Ars Technica (link fixed)

"A 2012 report from NASA's inspector general estimated the costs of building a new mobile launcher then at $122 million, but a new structure expressly for the larger Block 1B rocket to be used for the second flight of the SLS rocket would almost certainly cost more. Additionally, If NASA builds a new mobile launcher, the modified one now being configured for the first SLS flight would likely be used just once--a waste of infrastructure that cost perhaps half a billion dollars and more than a decade of development."

- Modifying The Modified Mobile Launcher (2013), earlier post
- Modifying The Modified Mobile Launcher (2013), earlier post
- CEV Mobile Launcher Solicitation (2012), earlier post
- Space Shuttle Program Hands over Launch Platform to Constellation (2009), earlier post
- NASA Awards Contract for Ares I Mobile Launcher (2008), earlier post
- OIG on Ares 1 Mobile Launcher Mods (2007), earlier post
- NASA KSC Solicitation: Construction of Constellation Crew Launch Vehicle Mobile Launcher (2007), earlier post

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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 17 October 2017 - Preparing for Friday's Spacewalk

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 17 October 2017 - Preparing for Friday's Spacewalk Video in Story

Two NASA astronauts are getting ready to go on their mission's third spacewalk on Friday. In the midst of those preparations, the Expedition 53 crew also worked on science gear exploring a wide variety of space phenomena.

More updates...

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