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Blue Origin New Shepard Completes First Reusable Suborbital Flight

By Marc Boucher on November 24, 2015 1:11 PM.

Blue Origin Makes Historic Rocket Landing [With Video]

"Blue Origin today announced that its New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reaching its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing a historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas."

"Blue Origin's reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission--soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the center of the pad. Full reuse is a game changer, and we can't wait to fuel up and fly again."

Marc's note: Congratulations to the Blue Origin team. This is indeed an historic milestone in the history of flight. Now, how about providing some more details on the crew capsule and how it performed?

Blue Origin Flies and Lands New Shepard Suborbital Spacecraft, Space News

"The successful flight keeps Blue Origin on track to begin commercial flights of uncrewed research payloads by the middle of 2016, a goal recently stated by company officials. Bezos told reporters he hoped to to start flying people on New Shepard in a couple of years, depending on the progress made during test flights. "As much as I would like to put humans on that vehicle and fly it as soon as possible," he said, "the reality is that we'll enter commercial operations withat that vehicle when we're ready, and not before."


Asteroid Redirect Mission FAST Draft Report Released

By Keith Cowing on November 23, 2015 9:06 PM.

Asteroid Redirect Mission FAST Draft Report Available for Public Comment

"The Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST) for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) was a two-month effort that NASA chartered to provide timely inputs for mission requirement formulation in support of the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) Requirements Closure Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) in mid-December of 2015. Following the ARM FAST's two-month study with 18 participants, NASA has released a draft report for public comment."


Lori Garver Takes Issue With Current Space Policies

By Keith Cowing on November 23, 2015 1:17 PM.

Former NASA official: NASA must shed "socialist" approach to space exploration, Ars Technica

"NASA was a very symbol of capitalist ideals when we went to the Moon and beat the Russians," [Lori Garver] said. "Now what we're working with is more of a socialist plan for space exploration, which is just anathema to what this country should be doing. Don't try to compete with the private sector. Incentivize them by driving technologies that will be necessary for us as we explore further."

Keith's note: I have to admit I continue to be perplexed as to how Democrats (I am one BTW) - starting with the White House, you know, the party that does not really have problems with large government programs, is the prime mover behind commercial space efforts at NASA these days whereas the Republicans, the party that has always supported smaller government and more private sector activities, has been the prime force opposing NASA space commerce efforts and supporting - indeed mandating - a large, government-built rocket. Just sayin'.


Cabana's Role in Illegal KSC Hirings - Ongoing Bad Management

By Keith Cowing on November 22, 2015 5:12 PM.

NASA: Cabana played role in illegal hires at KSC, Florida Today

"Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and other senior leaders were more involved than previously disclosed in illegal spaceport hires that may still be subject to federal investigation, according to records FLORIDA TODAY obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Auditors found the hires of three administrative assistants supporting Cabana and two other high-ranking officials on the fourth floor of KSC headquarters suggested a deliberate effort to get around federal laws requiring competition and priority consideration for certain military veterans. "OPM's report also identified three illegal appointments in the Director's Office that I believed may have resulted from a willful intent to violate veterans' preference laws or to circumvent fair and open competition," NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot wrote last year in a "Letter of Counseling" to Cabana, referring to the results of a 2013 audit by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. NASA records show Cabana identified and lobbied for three people who became known internally as the "primes," or prime candidates, to fill openings as his executive assistant and Deputy Director Janet Petro's secretary in mid-2012."

Keith's note: I have to say that this article is an impressive piece of work by James Dean. Based on his good work, it would seem that this sort of flawed management behavior is totally acceptable at KSC - starting at the top. Remember the whole Ed Mango saga? You can be convicted of a job-related felony and still keep your job at KSC. So ... why is any of this other behavior surprising?

- Mango Pleads Guilty to a Job-Related Felony - Still Has a NASA Job, earlier posts
- Update: Former NASA Commercial Crew Director Mango Pleads Guilty to Federal Felony, earlier posts

Have a look at this 3 Nov 2015 internal KSC email - not only can you keep your job at KSC after pleading guilty to a felony, you get promoted.

Subject: GFAST Lead

All, As most are aware Kathy Milon has accepted a position on a Source Board and will be leaving her position in C3 soon. I first want to express a heartfelt thanks to her for her dedication and commitment to the success of GFAST and the C3 Project; truly a great job in getting us as far as we've come. So thank-you Kathy! Ed Mango has accepted the challenge to lead the GFAS Team, with the transition to commence immediately. I know everyone will support Ed in this new assignment and we're fortunate to have someone of his experience ready to step in. This assignment will be for what's likely to be for a few months as we identify a long-term solution and phase that person in over time. Please join me in thanking Kathy and wishing her well, and welcoming Ed into his new role! Please pass this info on to your teams or forward as appropriate.

Bob Willcox


Can Students Fix What NASA Can't?

By Keith Cowing on November 22, 2015 2:43 PM.

- Is JSC's R5 Droid Worth Fixing?, previous post
- NASA Awards Space Robot R&D Projects to MIT, Northeastern, TechNewsWorld
- NASA wants to make a C-3PO to help colonize Mars, which may not be a super idea, Wired
- NASA selects Northeastern for humanoid robot research, Northeastern University


More #JourneyToMars Hype

By Keith Cowing on November 21, 2015 8:52 PM.

Keith's note: As if Orion with only a service module will be in Mars orbit.

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NASA Buys Crew Flight From SpaceX

By Keith Cowing on November 20, 2015 4:24 PM.

NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station

"NASA took a significant step Friday toward expanding research opportunities aboard the International Space Station with its first mission order from Hawthorne, California based-company SpaceX to launch astronauts from U.S. soil. This is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. The Boeing Company of Houston received its first crew mission order in May."

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New NASA OIG Data System Tracks Everyone and Everything

By Keith Cowing on November 20, 2015 1:05 PM.

NASA OIG: Notice of a new system of records: Data Analytics System (ADAS)

"In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (Privacy Act), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) publishes this notice of a new system of records entitled ``The Office of Inspector General Advanced Data Analytics System (ADAS)'' (System Number NASA 10IGDA. This system will store individually identifying information from a variety of individuals who have applied for or received grants, contracts, loans, or payments from NASA, including current and former employees of NASA, contractors, and subcontractors, and others whose actions have affected NASA."

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Providing Open Access To Published NASA Research Results (Update)

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2015 7:06 PM.

Fully Opening NASA Research Data To The Public, SpaceRef

"In 2013 The White House told NASA and other government agencies that they needed to make the results of their research more readily available to the public. In so doing the White House said that agencies needed to make research publications that had been available only for a fee available for free within 12 months of their publication. The public plaid for this science, the public should have access to it. ... NASA Deputy Chief Scientist Gale Allen was able to provide me with insight into this project. Their intent is ambitious, but if they pull off, NASA will have a substantially enhanced presence online in a way that a much broader audience will be able to access and utilize research results from NASA. Based on my discussion with Allen there is the intent to fully comply with the spirit and intent of what the White House has directed NASA to do."

Keith's update: This presentation was delivered last week at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center regarding NASA's plans to collect and post research data. Download.


NASA Integrated Communications Service Under Congressional Scrutiny

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2015 5:40 PM.

Letter from Rep. Sensenbrenner to NASA Administrator Bolden Regarding Acquisition Issues

"I am writing to request information about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) policy with respect to full and open competition in the acquisition process. NASA is in the midst of an up-to ten-year $1.3 billion dollar technology purchase known as the NASA Integrated Communications Service (NICS) contract. Such a large and important technology purchase should follow both the letter and spirit of full and open competition laws, regulations, and Office of Management and Budget guidelines to ensure that NASA, and the taxpayer, get the best value for their investment, as well as the best and most cost-effective solutions to meet mission requirements. ... It has come to my attention that, pursuant to NICS, there is an Approved Products List (APL) developed by the contractor. The APL governs which products can be purchased for NASA systems and networks, and likely will impact NASA acquisitions for years to come. Interestingly, every approved product listed on the NICS LAN wired and wireless network APL belongs to a single manufacturer. At the same time, alternate vendors that have supplied network equipment to NASA, and successfully met mission requirements, have not been evaluated for inclusion on the APL for current and future purchases, despite requesting an opportunity to be evaluated."

- Rep. Sensenbrenner Seeks Answers on NASA Contracting Practices
- Letter from Rep. Sensenbrenner to NASA IG Martin Regarding Acquisition Issues

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Free Educational Cubesat Launches From ULA

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2015 12:16 PM.

United Launch Alliance Reveals Transformational CubeSat Launch Program

"ULA will offer universities the chance to compete for at least six CubeSat launch slots on two Atlas V missions, with a goal to eventually add university CubeSat slots to nearly every Atlas and Vulcan launch," said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. "There is a growing need for universities to have access and availability to launch their CubeSats and this program will transform the way these universities get to space by making space more affordable and accessible."

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Is JSC's R5 Droid Worth Fixing?

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2015 11:28 AM.

NASA wants to make a C-3PO to help colonize Mars, which may not be a super idea, Wired

"OK, but why use a bipedal robot at all? "We're talking about sending robots to Mars, so is a walking robot best?" asks Keith Cowing, who runs the blog NASAWatch. "If you're just landing in a flat area, why can't it have treads and arms?" Or, if you want the dexterity that legs allow, he suggests putting some arms on a four-legged model, like one of Boston Dynamics' other creations. Cowing isn't an android-hater: He just thinks NASA could do a better job prioritizing its exploratory efforts. If prepping a Mars settlement is NASA's goal, robots are far from the only optionand they could be one of the least efficient. Cowing points out that automated inflating shelters, adapted from emergency response, could be more viable than using human-sized robots to build space shacks from scratch."

Using a Last Place Robot for NASA's Robotics Challenge, earlier post

Keith's note: The R5 robot aka "Valkyrie" was developed in semi-secret by NASA JSC. Several years ago it tied for dead last in the previous DARPA challenge and can't compete this week. But JPL's Robosimian did much better last time and is competing again this year. So ... why is NASA investing all this money in R5, a last place robot design? Why not go with Robosimian instead? Or ... is NASA hoping that external teams, freed (somewhat) from internal NASA issues, might be able to rescue Valkyrie from all of its problems? If so, then maybe that's not so bad of an idea. But why does NASA need to make the R5 copies for people to use? Why not just open source the design and post it online so that others can build (and improve upon) it? After all, taxpayers paid for it. That way you get more R5 units.

- Never Ask NASA a Simple Question, earlier post
- NASA Awards Two Robots to University Groups for R&D Upgrades, earlier post
- Does NASA Have a Robotics Strategy? Did It Ever Have One?, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post


NASA Comes to NOAA's Defense Against House Climate Witch Hunt

By Keith Cowing on November 18, 2015 11:58 PM.

NASA chief: Government climate scientists won't be intimidated, Ars Technica

"As NOAA has endured a series of Congressional attacks this fall for its climate change research, the agency's administrator, Kathryn Sullivan, has largely remained silent. But the former astronaut's wingmate for two spaceflights, Charles Bolden, has not been so reticent. The NASA administrator this week continued to blister Congress for its tack on climate change science. After delivering a keynote speech on the commercialization of space at the SpaceCom conference in Houston Tuesday, Bolden talked to Ars about his own agency's Earth science research. He also addressed the efforts by Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, to obtain the e-mails of NOAA climate scientists, in which Smith expects to find political influence and perhaps fraud."

Smith Reiterates Demand for NOAA Communications after Allegations Climate Study was Rushed

"Smith wrote that "Despite Dr. Karl's apparent awareness of these concerns, the study was moved to publication without the underlying data having been subjected to the appropriate reviews. More troubling, it appears that NOAA employees raised concerns about the timing and readiness of the study's release through e-mails, including several communications just before its publication in April, May, and June of 2015. These allegations raise serious questions about the Karl study and NOAA's public statements about its conclusions."

Committee Democrats Defend Clean Power Plan and NOAA

"Unfortunately, the Chairman also used the hearing as a platform to continue his attack on NOAA's climate science. He said, "Another example of how this administration attempts to promote its suspicious climate agenda can be seen at NOAA. Its employees altered historical climate data to get politically correct results in an attempt to disprove the hiatus in global temperature increases."

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Another NewSpace Casualty?

By Keith Cowing on November 18, 2015 1:43 PM.

Microsoft Co-Founder's Space Project Is in Limbo, Wall Street Journal

"The ambitious venture appears to be on hold, these officials said, because the Microsoft Corp. co-founder hasn't announced a replacement rocket supplier for the original contractor that dropped out months ago. At this point, project officials haven't provided even the broad outlines of technology that could be used in the future, a development timetable or how they plan to launch significantly larger numbers of smaller satellites than originally envisioned."

Golden Spike: Another Space Commerce Casualty? (Update), earlier post

"A month Two months later and the website still says "under construction".


When In Doubt, Listen to Carl Sagan

By Keith Cowing on November 18, 2015 12:08 AM.

Oh the Places We Won't Go: Humans Will Settle Mars, and Nowhere Else, Lou Friedman

"Humans will become a multi-planet species by making it to Mars, but no farther. That is, they will never travel beyond Mars."

Keith's note: While Planetary Society Co-founder Lou Friedman proclaims that humans will never go beyond Mars, a stunning video, posthumously narrated by Planetary Society Co-founder Carl Sagan, certainly suggests otherwise. I'm with Sagan on this one. Watch this video full screen with the sound turned up. Ad astra, y'all.

The Planetary Society Is Against Human Space Flight, earlier post


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NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 23 November 2015

NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 23 November 2015 Video in Story

The next cargo mission to the International Space Station is set to launch Dec. 3 at 5:55 p.m. EST. The Orbital ATK Cygnus commercial cargo craft will arrive Dec. 6 when it will be grappled with the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Unity module.

More updates...