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ATLAS Is Walking. Valkyrie Remains Hidden

By Keith Cowing on October 24, 2014 6:09 PM.

ATLAS robot gets closer to walking like a human, TechGenMag

"When Boston Dynamics first revealed their ATLAS robot on July 11, 2013, the bipedal humanoid robot was a clunky, slow moving contraption tethered to a jumble of cords that performed a variety of controlled tasks awkwardly. Still, we were all impressed by the ATLAS robot's humanlike legs and frame that no doubt offered a tantalizing glimpse into the near future of robotics. Fast forward a year, and with help from the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), the ATLAS robot has received some serious programming updates that enable it to walk like a human with more agility and control than ever before."

Keith's note: Meanwhile NASA's Valkyrie robot is nowhere to be seen.

- NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- JSC's Girl Robot Lost Competition Due to Broken WiFi, earlier post

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Jumping From Near Space

By Keith Cowing on October 24, 2014 4:05 PM.

Record-breaking 135,908-ft Space Dive Sets Stage for Future of Space Travel

Paragon Completes Record-Breaking Near-Space Dive Via High-Altitude Balloon

"Today, after 34 months of intense planning, development and training, Alan Eustace, supported by Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) and its Stratospheric Explorer (StratEx) team, made history with a near-space dive from a high-altitude balloon at approximately 135,000 feet. Eustace broke several records, including national record for highest exit altitude; world and national record for free fall under a drogue chute; national record for vertical speed. Additionally, he became the second person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft."

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Problems With STEREO Behind Spacecraft (Updated)

By Keith Cowing on October 24, 2014 11:46 AM.

STEREO Behind Spacecraft Experiencing Communication Problems (Updated with NASA Comments)

"Communications with the STEREO Behind spacecraft were interrupted on October 1, immediately after a planned reset of the spacecraft performed as part of a test of solar conjunction operations. The cause of the anomaly is not yet known, though a sensor anomaly in the guidance and control system is suspected. Attempts to recover the spacecraft are continuing."

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OECD Report: The Space Economy at a Glance 2014

By Keith Cowing on October 24, 2014 10:51 AM.

OECD Report: The Space Economy at a Glance 2014

"The Space Economy at a Glance 2014 shows that while space budgets in the 34 OECD countries totalled USD 50.8 billion in 2013, down from USD 52.3 billion in 2008, the combined space budget of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) swelled to USD 24.0 billion from USD 16.5 billion over the same period.  Supply chains for spacecraft, launchers and parts are increasingly globalised, IT companies are becoming satellite operators and rapid growth in small satellite launches will mean more commercialisation of earth observation data."

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Critique of OIG Review of SMD Mission Extension Process

By Keith Cowing on October 23, 2014 4:40 PM.

Letter From Clive Neal to NASA Inspector General Regarding NASA SMD Mission Extension Process Report

"I am writing this open letter with regard to the Inspector General Report No. IG-15- 001 (hereafter "IG-Report") regarding the Science Mission Directorate's (SMD) Mission Extension Process that was released on 9 October of this year. In this report you highlighted the Planetary Science Division (PSD) for particular criticism because of its non-standardized approach to evaluating mission extensions. Having been part of the PSD 2012 Senior Review, and chair of the GRAIL and the PSD 2014 Senior Reviews, I feel I must respond to note some errors and misunderstandings within the IG report. It is my opinion that the proposed recommendations could have a serious deleterious impact on the effectiveness of planetary science missions."

OIG Finds Major Flaws in Planetary Science Division Mission Extension Process, earier post

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OIG Report on KSC Commercial Space Activities

By Keith Cowing on October 23, 2014 11:06 AM.

NASA's Launch Support and Infrastructure Modernization: Commercial Space Launch Activities at Kennedy Space Center, NASA OIG

"We found Kennedy has made progress in its effort to become a multiuser spaceport with the Center having leased or in the process of leasing approximately half of the 23 underutilized assets. However, because NASA lacks clear guidance regarding soliciting and awarding lease agreements, Kennedy has not consistently provided interested parties with information regarding how Center officials would choose among prospective tenants."

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SpaceX Milestone - 100th Merlin 1D Engine Completed

By Marc Boucher on October 23, 2014 10:02 AM.

SpaceX Reaches Milestone With 100th Merlin 1D Engine, SpaceRef Business

"The 100th Merlin 1D engine has come off the assembly at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. According to SpaceX it was less than two years ago that production began on Merlin 1D. Currently SpaceX produces four new Merlin 1D engines per week and they expect production will ramp up to five per week before the year is out."

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Major Problem With NWS Satellite Data Continues

By Keith Cowing on October 22, 2014 9:40 PM.

Weather Service stops receiving satellite data, issues notice about forecast quality, Washington Post

"Since at least Tuesday, some satellite data - an important input to weather prediction models - has stopped flowing into the National Weather Service due to an apparent network outage."

National Weather Service National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Satellite Data Outage

"THE FOLLOWING DATA TYPES CONTINUE TO BE UNAVAILABLE FOR THE MODELS.

MODIS IR AND WV WINDS
OMI OZONE DATA
AIRS HYPERSPECTRAL SOUNDER DATA
COSMIC GPS-RADIO OCCULTATION DATA

NESDIS CONTINUES TO WORK ON RESTORING ALL THEIR SATELLITE DATA PRODUCTS.

IT IS DIFFICULT TO ESTIMATE THE EXACT IMPACT OF THE SATELLITE DATA OUTAGE ON NUMERICAL GUIDANCE AT THIS TIME. BUT THE DEGRADATION OF THE MODELS INCREASES WITH AN EXTENDED OUTAGE."

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Congress Has Questions for NASA

By Keith Cowing on October 22, 2014 3:36 PM.

Letter from House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to NASA

"On August 27, 2014, we wrote you to request an update on the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew vehicle shortly after NASA conducted its Key Decision Point C (KDP-C) review 1. We asked for a response by September 10, 2014. To date, we have only received an acknowledgement of the letter's receipt. ... Finally, on September 16, 2014, Subcommittee staff reached out to NASA in order to gain support for facilitating a briefing on the Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract source selection, as well as the source selection statement. After NASA issued the request for proposals (RFP) for the contract it declined to comment on the procurement so as to not influence the selection. Understanding the sensitive nature of the source selection process, the Committee decided to reserve questions regarding the procurement until after the selection. ... Please provide responses to all of the previous requests by October 28, 2014."

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Sen. Coburn Is Very Confused About NASA's Budget

By Keith Cowing on October 22, 2014 1:04 PM.

Coburn's 'Wastebook' Targets Include Mountain Lions, Sheep, Beer, Roll Call

"NASA draws criticism in a few areas, with Coburn skeptical of the costs associated with the International Space Station itself, including the presence of experiments designed by students. "Some of the other studies being conducted on the space station are designed by elementary and high school students rather than scientists. Fifteen student projects were launched to the space station in July as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP)," the report said. "While encouraging young people to take an interest in science is an important goal, the billions of dollars being borrowed to support space station science fair experiments could make a bigger impact in the lives of these and other children in many other more cost efficient ways."

Keith's note: Contrary to Sen. Coburn's annual loony report, billions are not being spent on educational projects aboard the space station. Gee, imagine what would happen if NASA actually was spending billions to encourage student experimentation in space ...

The National Aeronautics and Space Act, Pub. L. No. 111-314, 124 Stat. 3328 (Dec. 18, 2010)

"Sec. 20163. Program authorized

(b) Activities.--In carrying out the provisions of this subchapter, the Administration shall--.

(1) arrange for participation by the scientific and engineering community, of both the Nation's industrial organizations and institutions of higher education, in planning and carrying out appropriate research, in developing necessary technology, and in making necessary observations and measurements;"

NCESSE Official Response to Sen. Tom Coburn: "billions of dollars being borrowed to support

"Next let me address Sen. Coburn's math regarding SSEP use of federal funds. The cost to deliver the national programming, including all launch and return to Earth services, across these 15 communities was $322,500. The communities brought another roughly $300,000 to the table in fully burdened labor hours by their teaching staff to deliver the program at the local level. Through a significant effort, in the best spirit of partnership, $572,500 of the total $622,500 cost was raised in the private sector, from over 85: local companies, school districts, foundations, universities, PTAs, and individual donors (see the Local Partners list). The remaining $50,000 was federal funding provided by CASIS to close budget shortfalls across the 15 communities. That funding truly enabled many communities to participate."

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Sierra Nevada's CCtCap Scorched Earth Policy - Fizzles

By Keith Cowing on October 22, 2014 9:58 AM.

Sierra Nevada Files Suit To Reinstate Hold on Commercial Crew Contracts

"In filings with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, Sierra Nevada filed requests for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to overturn a NASA decision Oct. 9 lifting an order stopping work on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp."

- Why Sierra Nevada Did Not Win Any Commercial Crew Funds, earlier post
- NASA Tells Boeing and SpaceX to Proceed Despite SNC Protest, earlier post
- Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Award, earlier post

Court says space taxi work can go on as Sierra Nevada disputes contract, Denver Post

"Boeing and SpaceX will not be forced to stop work again on NASA's commercial crewed spacecraft program. Federal Judge Marian Blank Horn on Tuesday denied Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Louisville-based Space Systems' request for a federal injunction to force NASA to order the work stopped while the awarded contracts are under protest. If granted, the work stoppage would have been the second in two months."

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Hacked Kepler Continues to Amaze

By Keith Cowing on October 21, 2014 11:39 PM.

Sun's stroke keeps Kepler online, Nature

"Wiemer had fashioned a crutch for Kepler using the only resource available: sunlight. Positioned so that its long side faces the Sun, the spacecraft leans against the pressure created by the onslaught of photons and balances using its two good wheels. With this approach, the team hoped to get within a factor of ten of Kepler's original performance -- but with additional software refinements, NASA's Kepler project manager Charlie Sobeck says that it is better than that, more like a factor of two or three. Wiemer thinks that further tweaks will close the gap entirely. One limitation of the K2 mission is that Kepler must keep the Sun side-on as it orbits, forcing the telescope to switch its field of view roughly every 80 days. This is not enough time to hunt for Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, but it does let K2 track other celestial bodies such as clusters of newly-formed stars."

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NASA Employees Really Like Working at NASA

By Keith Cowing on October 21, 2014 1:44 PM.

NASA maintains lofty worker-satisfaction ratings for 2014, Washington Post

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration employees remained largely satisfied with their agency this year, likely continuing the agency's trend of ranking among the best places to work in the federal government, according to results from a recent survey. Seventy-one percent of NASA staffers who responded to the Office of Personnel Management's federal-employee viewpoints survey gave the agency a positive mark this year when asked about their overall impression of the organization. NASA in 2013 earned the highest composite score among all federal agencies for the second consecutive year."

2014 Annual Employee Survey Results, NASA

"These results indicate some challenges to be addressed by senior leaders, particularly around their continuing efforts to be intentional and authentic when communicating big Agency issues with their employees."

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NASA OIG Report on NASA Travel

By Keith Cowing on October 21, 2014 10:36 AM.

NASA OIG: Audit of NASA's Premium Air Travel

"Generally, the 2 years of NASA premium-class travel we reviewed was properly authorized and complied with Federal and Agency travel policy. However, we identified four instances of premium travel that did not fall within any FTR or Agency exceptions, errors and omissions in some travel authorizations, and inaccuracies in NASA's reporting of its premium travel to GSA. In addition, we found the Agency's travel policy did not include several elements required by GSA."

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Ah, The Revolving Door in Washington

By Keith Cowing on October 21, 2014 12:01 AM.

Key Senate NASA Staffer Moving on to Lockheed Martin, SpacePolicyOnline

"Ann Zulkosky, the top Senate Democratic staffer dealing with NASA issues on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, is leaving to join Lockheed Martin. Zulkosky is a member of the Democratic professional staff of the committee, which is chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Rockefeller is retiring at the end of this Congress and committee staff changes are common when the chairperson retires. Zulkosky has been handling a variety of science issues, but is best known in space policy circles for her work on NASA issues with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who chairs the committee's Science and Space Subcommittee."

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NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 23 October 2014

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 23 October 2014 Video in Story

Today: Muscle Atrophy Resistive Exercise System (MARES): Gerst configured cabling, set up and activated the European Physiology Module (EPM) laptop in support of future MARES activities scheduled for later this year.

More updates...

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