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NASA Signs Deal For Rockets It Does Not Have The Money To Pay For

By Keith Cowing on October 17, 2019 2:25 PM.

NASA Commits to Future Artemis Missions With More SLS Rocket Stages

"For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The SLS rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS. The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space. NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions. "The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space," said Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall. "The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99 thousand pounds, to lunar orbit."

NASA will award Boeing a cost-plus contract for up to 10 SLS rockets, Ars Technica

"If it seems remarkable that a government contractor would get a cost-plus contract to produce a rocket that it has had nearly a decade to learn how to build, and which has moved into production, and which is based on heritage technology--that's because it is. However, in their negotiations with NASA, companies like Boeing (and Lockheed Martin, which recently got a similar deal for the Orion spacecraft) know they have strong political backers. In the case of the SLS rocket, the Alabama delegation, which includes a Senator who effectively writes the agency's budget, has made it clear that funding the SLS rocket is his priority. So in this case, while NASA may not have necessarily wanted to give Boeing a cost-plus contract for SLS rockets for the next 15 years, it may have had little choice."

Keith's note: One small problem. The money for EUS (or an accelerated Artemis for that matter) is not there despite the forward leaning language that NASA , Boeing, and the Alabama delegation like to use. Just sayin' Indeed, if NASA had pushed the EUS earlier they could have avoided the whole Gateway thing. But NASA never does things logically.

- GAO Anticipates First SLS Launch Date In 2021, earlier post
- Today's Hearing on SLS, Orion, Artemis, earlier post
- NASA Admits That SLS Is A "Jobs Program". Wow. Who Knew?, earlier post
- GAO: Human Space Exploration: Persistent Delays and Cost Growth Reinforce Concerns over Management of Programs, earlier post
- More SLS postings

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Hearing: NASA's Proposal to Advance the Next Moon Landing by Four Years

By Keith Cowing on October 17, 2019 1:05 AM.

Chairman Serrano Statement at Hearing on NASA's Moon Landing Proposal

"Not even NASA's own leadership has enough confidence in the success and safety of advancing this timeline. NASA Acting Associate Administrator Bowersox, who is a former astronaut and here with us today, referred to the 2024 moon landing date as difficult to achieve in a House Science hearing last month, saying quote "I wouldn't bet my oldest child's birthday present or anything like that." Additionally, NASA's Manager for the Human Landing System, Lisa Watson-Morgan, was quoted in an article about the timing of the mission saying, quote: "This is a significant deviation for NASA and the government... all of this has to be done on the fast. It has to be done on the quick ... Typically, in the past, NASA is quite methodical ... which is good. We're going to have to have an abbreviated approach to getting to approval for industry standards for design and construction ... and how we're going to go off and implement this. So, this is a big paradigm shift, I would say, for the entire NASA community, too." Unquote. We cannot sacrifice quality just to be quick. We cannot sacrifice safety to be fast. And we cannot sacrifice other government programs just to please the President. Before asking for such a substantial additional investment, NASA needs to be prepared to state unequivocally which NASA missions will be delayed or even cancelled in the effort to come up with an additional $25 billion."

Budget leader says NASA's accelerated moon mission timeline unnecessary, Huston Chronicle

"And its for political reasons that the initiative could get stalled, said Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee and editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news. "Here we are, 14 months from (an election) and everyone is doing the classic thing we see here in Washington: It's time to start either waiting people out until after the election or now is the time to strike and get something in place before change happens," Cowing said. That's likely one of the reasons Serrano is OK with a 2028 moon mission, Cowing said, especially since NASA programs backed by the current administration are typically gutted by the incoming president after the election."

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Planetary Protection Review Report Coming Out On Friday

By Keith Cowing on October 17, 2019 12:46 AM.

NASA to Discuss Planetary Protection Review's Findings and Recommendations

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 18, to discuss recommendations presented by the Planetary Protection Independent Review Board (PPIRB), established in June 2019 by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. ,,, A report with the board's findings will be posted by 11 a.m. on Oct. 18, on the agency's website. Learn more about NASA's Office of Planetary Protection at: https://sma.nasa.gov/sma-disciplines/planetary-protection"

- NASA's New Planetary Protection Board
- Planetary Protection Classification of Sample-Return Missions from the Martian Moons
- Report: Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes
- More planetary Protection postings

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When Space Experts Say Things Just To Get Quoted

By Keith Cowing on October 16, 2019 11:29 AM.

NASA paid SpaceX for safety review after Musk smoked pot, Politico

"The episode raises a number of questions, said Pete Garrettson, a recently retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and space strategist. "As a taxpayer why would I pay when I don't have to?" he asked. "If I was Boeing, I also would have said, 'Why am I being punished without the same compensation?' But if the aerospace giant wanted NASA to cover the costs of the review, he added, it may have faced uncomfortable questions about why its costs for the Commercial Crew Program are so much higher than SpaceX's. "If I was at NASA," Garrettson added, "I'd say, 'How much was your contract [for the Commercial Crew Program] padded compared to SpaceX?'"

"The idea of NASA ever giving SpaceX preferential treatment over Boeing is simply giggle-inducing to industry insiders," said Greg Autry, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California who served on the Trump administration's NASA transition team. "At every step of the way Boeing got more [money] in the [Commercial Crew development] program. Far, far more than $5 million. Even discussing $5 million in this context is silly."

Keith's note: This whole story is goofy. The initial investigation was highly questionable to say the least - but when space industry "experts" inject conspiracy mongering and start to conflate Boeing commercial crew costs with a routine workplace drug compliance review at SpaceX you gotta ask yourself if these experts can see the forest through the pot smoke.

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Douglas Loverro Selected as New NASA HEOMD AA

By Keith Cowing on October 16, 2019 9:55 AM.

New Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate: Douglas Loverro

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Wednesday selected Douglas Loverro as the agency's next Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Loverro succeeds former astronaut Kenneth Bowersox who has been acting associate administrator since July. "I worked with Doug for many years on the Hill and he is a respected strategic leader in both civilian and defense programs, overseeing the development and implementation of highly complicated systems," said Administrator Bridenstine from Headquarters in Washington. "He is known for his strong, bipartisan work and his experience with large programs will be of great benefit to NASA at this critical time in our final development of human spaceflight systems for both Commercial Crew and Artemis." For three decades, Loverro was in the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) developing, managing, and establishing national policy for the full range of National Security space activities."

Douglas L. Loverro, LinkedIn

Why the United States needs a Space Force, OpEd, Douglas Loverro, Space News

"The president got it right. We need a Space Force. Space is too critical for the nation's defense not to have an organization that speaks for its importance, defends it against all comers, and jealously advocates for new missions and new responsibilities. Space is too crucial to national security to be stalled by a lack of focus and an unwillingness to respond until pushed."

Keith's note: Loverro still has to drink from multiple fire hoses for a while to get up to speed before he can make the big SLS decisions. And if the whole Space Force thing happens then NASA will now have firm support for it at the top levels of agency management.

Interestingly Loverro appears in the FEC donor database most recently as having made multiple contributions to Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath who is challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Earlier donations noted in OpenSecrets show him to be a Democrat - or perhaps an Independent - which tends to support the notion that Bridenstine simply sought expertise in his choice without letting politics becoming involved. A good sign.

Budget leader says NASA's accelerated moon mission timeline unnecessary, Huston Chronicle

"Cowing said he is heartened by the pick, even though Loverro appears to lack civilian space experience. "It's kind of a refreshing choice to pick someone outside the usual suspects within NASA human spaceflight," Cowing said. "Clearly, how things have been running for the past decade is rockets don't launch and bringing a new perspective is required."

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When Will The Artemis Open Source Thing Begin?

By Keith Cowing on October 15, 2019 6:26 PM.

Keith's note: So when does the whole "open source" thing begin with regard to NASA's moon stuff?

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Tuesday Is Notional xEVA Spacesuit Day At NASA HQ

By Keith Cowing on October 15, 2019 12:23 AM.

NASA Invites Media to Events Highlighting Spacesuits for Moon to Mars

"Media are invited to NASA Headquarters in Washington Tuesday, Oct. 15 to get an up-close look at the next generation spacesuits the first woman and next man to explore the Moon will wear as part of the agency's Artemis program. The public event will take place at 2 p.m. EDT and feature NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who will host a demonstration with spacesuit engineers. The spacesuit demonstration will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center is issuing this sources sought synopsis as a means of conducting market research to identify parties having an interest in and the resources to support the requirement for Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services. The result of this market research will contribute to determining the method of procurement."

Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services

"The purpose of this RFI is to inform industry of NASA's Exploration Space Suit requirements and to collect industry input on key parameters that will help develop future acquisition plans for procuring the production and evolution of space suits and supporting equipment such as EVA tools and vehicle interface hardware. This future procurement instrument will be referred to as the xEVA Production and Services Contract."

Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services

Oops. Some things are sort of secret right now.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/xemusecret.jpg
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About That Asteroid Mining Thing

By Keith Cowing on October 13, 2019 6:06 PM.

That Giant Asteroid of Gold Won't Make Us Richer

"Rejoice, people of Earth! News outlets are reporting that NASA is planning to visit an asteroid made of gold and other precious metals! At current prices, the minerals contained in asteroid 16 Psyche are said to be worth $700 quintillion -- enough to give everyone on the planet $93 billion. We're all going to be richer than Jeff Bezos! OK, now for the bad news: This isn't going to happen. Yes, 16 Psyche and other asteroids will probably be mined for their metals. But once those metals start hitting the market in large quantities, they're unlikely to be precious for much longer. As any introductory economics student knows, price is a function of relative scarcity -- flood the market with gold, and it will go from being a rarity to being a common decoration. Supply goes up, price goes down."

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That Other Rich Guy Who Is Also Space Crazy

By Keith Cowing on October 11, 2019 10:12 PM.

Jeff Bezos's Master Plan, The Atlantic

"Bezos is unabashed in his fanaticism for Star Trek and its many spin-offs. He has a holding company called Zefram, which honors the character who invented warp drive. He persuaded the makers of the film Star Trek Beyond to give him a cameo as a Starfleet official. He named his dog Kamala, after a woman who appears in an episode as Picard's "perfect" but unattainable mate. As time has passed, Bezos and Picard have physically converged. Like the interstellar explorer, portrayed by Patrick Stewart, Bezos shaved the remnant strands on his high-gloss pate and acquired a cast-iron physique. A friend once said that Bezos adopted his strenuous fitness regime in anticipation of the day that he, too, would journey to the heavens. When reporters tracked down Bezos's high-school girlfriend, she said, "The reason he's earning so much money is to get to outer space."

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Doing Something Again For The First Time

By Keith Cowing on October 11, 2019 8:23 PM.

Keith's note: I first published this two years ago. Yesterday both Jim Bridenstine and Elon Musk noted that they were not alive when humans walked on the Moon - so they do not have memories of that event. Alas, so much of how NASA has conveyed the importance of Artemis - and the way that the media describes it - seems to harken back to events that my fellow Baby Boomers and I resonate with. What is often neglected - and is therefore needed - as Bridenstine noted, is an effort to create new memories for a whole new generation for whom seeing people walking on the Moon is a novelty. Bridenstine and Musk also spoke in global terms with regard to the value and impact of seeing humans walk on another world- so I have added some global figures as well.

Keith's original 28 November 2017 note (update): There is a lot of talk these days about yet another pivot in America's civilian space policy. This time it is "back" to the Moon. Mars is not off the agenda - but it is not moving forward either. Personally I think we have unfinished business on the Moon and that creating a vibrant cis-lunar space infrastructure is the best way to enable humans to go to many places in the solar system - including Mars. Regardless of your stance on this issue, a common refrain about going back to the Moon - starting with President Obama is that "We've been there before".

Humans first reached the South Pole by an overland route in 1911/1912. While we visited the pole by plane in the intervening years, no one traversed Antarctica's surface again until 1958. 46 years between Antarctic polar traverses. Why did we go back to do something - again - in a similar way - to a place "we've been [to] before" after 46 years? Because there was still something of interest there - something we'd only had a fleeting exposure to - and we had developed new ways to traverse polar environments. James Cameron revisited the Challenger Deep in 2012 - after a human absence of 52 years. Why? See above. It is understandable that explorers seek to explore new places and not redo what has been done before. There is only so much funding and there are still so many places yet to be explored. But it is also not uncommon for explorers to revisit old, previously visited locations with new tools - and new mindsets.

Look at the stunning imagery Juno is sending back of Jupiter. Compare that to what we got from Galileo - and Voyager - and Pioneer. Why send yet another mission to the same destination unless, well, you have better tools - tools that enable the pursuit of ever greater exploration goals.

I was 15 when humans first walked on the Moon. The generations who have followed mine have never seen humans land and walk on the Moon. Indeed a lot of them seem to think it never happened. But American space policy is made by Baby Boomers (and older) population cohorts so we just operate on our own biases i.e. been there, done that.

Take a look at the chart below (Source: CIA based on UN data). More than half of the Americans alive today never saw humans walk on the Moon - as it happened - including Administrator of NASA, the head of SpaceX, and the entire 2013 and 2017 NASA astronaut classes. If you look at the global chart (Source: CIA based on UN data) you will see that perhaps 2/3 of humanity was not alive. If/when we go back to the Moon in the next 5-10 years the number of people with no personal memory of humans walking on another world will increase at a rate of 15,000 an hour. For them these future Moon landings will be THEIR FIRST MOON LANDINGS. That's billions of people waiting to see what I saw in 1969. Has anyone stopped to think of what the impact of this will be? We need to be thinking of this not in terms of Baby Boomer nostalgia but rather as a new adventure for billions.

Just sayin'

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/united-states-population-py.jpg

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2019/XX_popgraph_2018.jpg
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MSFC's Impossible Propulsion Research

By Keith Cowing on October 11, 2019 6:34 PM.

NASA engineer's 'helical engine' may violate the laws of physics, New Scientist

"Burns has worked on his design in private, without any sponsorship from NASA, and he admits his concept is massively inefficient. ... I know that it risks being right up there with the EM drive and cold fusion," he says. "But you have to be prepared to be embarrassed. It is very difficult to invent something that is new under the sun and actually works."

Helical Engine, David Burns Manager, Science and Technology Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, NTRS (NASA Techncial Reports Server)

"This in-space engine could be used for long-term satellite station-keeping without refueling. It could also propel spacecraft across interstellar distances, reaching close to the speed of light. The engine has no moving parts other than ions traveling in a vacuum line, trapped inside electric and magnetic fields."

"• Many technical challenges ahead"

Keith's note: So ... the person in charge of the NASA MSFC Science and Technology Office is publishing and presenting research with his NASA affiliation - research that most likely violates the laws of physics and has had no apparent peer review to check this stuff before it is posted on an official NASA server.

- JPL Falls For LaRC Cold Fusion / LENR Story, earlier post
- Quack Science: Why Are NASA Glenn and Langley Funding Cold Fusion Research?, earlier post
- Cold Fusion Update From LaRC (Update), earlier post
- NASA: We're Not Working on Warp Drive, earlier post
- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive Nonsense Is Now Officially Published U.S. Government Research, earlier post
- other postings on NASA's warp drive and cold fusion research.

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Sometimes Things Happen Exactly The Way They Should

By Keith Cowing on October 10, 2019 6:22 PM.

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Restructuring NASA's Planetary Research Program

By Keith Cowing on October 10, 2019 3:59 PM.

Restructuring NASA's Planetary Research Program For ROSES 2021

"In 2014, NASA announced the reorganization of the planetary research and data analysis programs to align them by subject area to Planetary Science Division strategic goals. A number of disparate programs were merged into the Solar System Workings program, creating a behemoth to which well over 300 proposals have been submitted each year. This has proved unwieldy for managers, reviewers, and proposers alike. A survey (Appendix A) shows it is supported by less than 10% of respondents. In this grass roots effort, we propose SSW be broken up into five core programsanda separate pilot program for geologic mapping. We propose a restructuring of mission data analysis programs with some guidelines for future programs. We would maintain most of the other existing programs. An initial draft of this proposal was posted online and an online community survey (Appendix A) was conducted from October 1-7, advertised through the Planetary Exploration Newsletter, AAS DPS Newsletter, and other community forums. This proposal is informed by the 249 responses to the survey including a large number of comments."

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About That SpaceX/NASA Thing On Thursday

By Keith Cowing on October 10, 2019 11:00 AM.

Keith's 10 Oct update: I just got an answer from NASA PAO that there will be no media dial-in for offsite news media. It took them 3 days to respond.

NASA Administrator to Visit SpaceX Headquarters

"Following the tour, SpaceX will host a media availability with Bridenstine, SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - the crew for the Demo-2 flight test to the space station. The media availability will be streamed live on Bridenstine's Twitter account: https://twitter.com/jimbridenstine?lang=en."

Keith's note: I sent 2 inquires to PAO and SpaceX - yesterday and today - asking if off-site media can ask questions. No reply. Funny how PAO can use Jim Bridenstine's iPhone to send video of this out over his twitter account but no one knows how to have a speaker phone or take questions by email.

Keith's update: I have not heard anything at all about the time of this event or whether offsite media will be able to participate in the last minute thing. I used to do live webcasts from Everest Base Camp almost daily - for a month - a decade ago. So how hard can this be. Just wondering.

Keith's additional update: Well NASA quietly updated the online version of the release sent out 2 days ago but didn't bother to email media a revised version: "Editor's Note: This media advisory was updated on Oct. 8 to reflect the live stream of the media event now is scheduled for 5 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. PDT) Thursday, Oct. 10." Still no information as to whether there will be offsite media access to the web event which was announced at the last minute. But at least the world is in balance once again:

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Hooray - Expensive Space Rides Are On The Way For The Rich

By Keith Cowing on October 9, 2019 1:58 PM.

Keith's note: The ISPCS - International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight - is being held this week. They do not webcast anything and other than tweets this event is held in an echo chamber with the usual suspects engaged in choir practice. Its great that all of these rides into space will soon be available for purchase. But so long as short suborbital hops cost as much as a house, several college educations, or two years of care for an Alzheimer's patient, this is just going to be a limited market catering to the elite. The only exception to this seems to be the SpaceX Starship ... let's see where that goes.

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More stories for October.

Global MilSatCom, November 5-7, 2019, London, UK
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 8 October 2019 - Emergency Response Training

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 8 October 2019 - Emergency Response Training Video in Story

Tuesday was packed with more spacewalk preparations along with ongoing microgravity research aboard the International Space Station. The six-member Expedition 61 crew also conducted emergency response training and cargo transfers from a Japanese cargo craft.

More updates...

PRSpacewire