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Boeing/Blue Origin Poised to Take Commercial Crew Contract?

By Keith Cowing on September 16, 2014 1:16 AM.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos's Startup Is Part of Bid to Deliver Astronauts, Wall Street Journal

"The long-secretive space ambitions of Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., suddenly are about to get a lot more public. Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing Co. that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter. The role played in Boeing's bid by Washington-state based Blue Origin, which describes its goal as "developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability," hasn't been disclosed previously."

Boeing Takes Lead to Build Space Taxi, Wall Street Journal

"Boeing Co. appears positioned to beat out two smaller rivals for the bulk of a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from orbit, according to government and aerospace-industry officials. An award to Boeing would represent a victory over the newer Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, which had been considered a favorite in many quarters because of its lower costs and nimbler approach. The decision on the development of space taxis will be a milestone for commercial space endeavors, locking in unparalleled authority for contractors to develop and operate vehicles with limited federal oversight. An announcement is expected as early as Tuesday."

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NASA Commercial Crew Announcement Being Planned for Tuesday

By Keith Cowing on September 15, 2014 7:58 PM.

Keith's note: NASA sources tell us that there are plans for an announcement - of an impending announcement - that will be made tomorrow morning and that there will be media activities later in the day. The eventual media event will originate from NASA KSC.

There is still a chance that they will punt on this, folks. It has been delayed more than once already.

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FAA's COMSTAC Meeting Could Be Interesting

By Marc Boucher on September 15, 2014 7:25 PM.

Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) Set to Meet, SpaceRef Business

"Some of the items of interest include hearing from Kathy Lueders, NASA's relative new Commercial Crew Program Program Manager, an update from The Honorable Lamar Smith on the Congressional Perspective of the Commercial Space Launch Act, ASTEROIDS Act, and NASA Reauthorization, an update on DARPA's XS-1 and its application to Commercial Space Transportation, and an update from the Department of State regarding the Outer Space Treaty."

"With respect to Kathy Lueders speaking it will be interesting to hear why no commercial crew announcement has been made yet. On the other hand this would be a good opportunity for her to speak should an announcement be made beforehand. And with Lamar Smith scheduled to speak only hours after Kathy it will be interesting to hear his point of view on the status of the Commercial Crew Program irregardless of whether an announcement has been made."

Marc's note: The second day of the meeting will be webcast.

Marc's update: 7:25 PM ET: Twitter reports are circulating that the Commercial Crew announcement will be tomorrow. We have not been able to confirm them. I've also heard there would be two awards which is not what Congress wants. With Lamar Smith speaking shortly after Lueders, this could get interesting.

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CASIS Would Rather Go Golfing Than Do Actual ISS Research

By Keith Cowing on September 15, 2014 5:10 PM.

CASIS and COBRA PUMA GOLF Team Up For Commercial Research Investigation On ISS

"CASIS has been tasked by Congress and NASA to work with new and non-traditional researchers for the development of products, therapies, and services onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory," said CASIS President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson. "Our partnership with COBRA PUMA GOLF is an excellent example of a truly non-traditional research investigation taking advantage of the microgravity environment to advance knowledge in applied materials science." In June of 2012, CASIS and CPG signed an initial Memorandum of Agreement ..."

Keith's note: Has CASIS actually published or promoted any of the research results from this ongoing golf in space effort? I have seen zero evidence that it has. CASIS loves to promote these vapid press releases that promise - but never deliver - amazing return on NASA's investment via goofy sports tie-ins - yet they ignore actual commercial research such as that being done by Ardbeg on the ISS. And of course, CASIS is so inept that they cannot figure out how to tell people about the weekly ACTUAL ISS research results that NASA puts out as part of its Spaceline updates. What is baffling is why NASA continues to put up with this inadequate performance by CASIS.

- ISS Commercial Research That CASIS Utterly Ignores, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Signs Deal with COBRA PUMA GOLF for Research on ISS (2012), earlier post
- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS: It Takes More Than Golf to Utilize the ISS, earlier post
- CASIS Defines Bedtime Stories on ISS as "Major Payload", earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Incapable of Doing Its Job, earlier post

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OIG: NASA NEO Program is Inefficient and Lacks Oversight

By Keith Cowing on September 15, 2014 4:02 PM.

NASA's Efforts to Identify Near-Earth Objects and Mitigate Hazards

"NASA has organized its NEO Program under a single Program Executive who manages a loosely structured conglomerate of research activities that are not well integrated and lack overarching Program oversight, objectives, and established milestones to track progress. In addition, NASA is undertaking NEO-related activities not managed by the Program and not sufficiently integrated into ongoing Program activities. Furthermore, NASA lacks formal agreements or procedures for NEO-related activities it conducts with other Federal agencies and foreign governments and has not taken advantage of possible partnership opportunities. Consequently, managers could not identify the level of resources required to adequately support the Program or explain how activities to which the NEO Program is contributing further Program goals. Even though the Program has discovered, categorized, and plotted the orbits of more than 11,000 NEOs since 1998, NASA will fall short of meeting the 2005 Authorization Act goal of finding 90 percent of NEOs larger than 140 meters in diameter by 2020."

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Leland Melvin, Ron Garan, and Alan Ladwig Have Been Busy

By Keith Cowing on September 15, 2014 11:35 AM.

Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Spaceflight Contest

"Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Spaceflight Contest - "Spaceship Earth Grants Corp. (SEG), a Public Benefit Corporation, is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible. SEG offers applicants a chance to travel to space while helping to fund efforts and organizations that are making a significant positive impact on planet Earth. SEG will be providing grants to individuals and organizations that are likewise committed to bettering their communities. For more information, visit spaceshipearthgrants.com.

About Star Harbor Space Training Academy - Star Harbor Space Training Academy will be the first-in-the-world publicly accessible, fully comprehensive and environmentally immersive space training academy. The Star Harbor team is led by CEO Maraia Hoffman and includes former NASA Astronauts Leland Melvin and Ron Garan. More information about Star Harbor will be announced in October."

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KSC Releases Inside KSC Video Feature - Complements Spaceport Magazine

By Marc Boucher on September 14, 2014 2:32 PM.

Inside Kennedy Space Center and Spaceport Magazine, SpaceRef

"NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has released what could be a new regular video feature called Inside KSC. It appears to be a complementary product to the September edition of the KSC Spaceport Magazine."

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Nasty Space Weather Ahead

By Keith Cowing on September 12, 2014 8:20 PM.

ALERT: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 (G3), Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA)

WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 or greater (G3 or Greater), Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA)

"NOAA Scale: G3 or greater - Strong to Extreme

- Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 50 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Power system voltage irregularities possible, false alarms may be triggered on some protection devices.
- Spacecraft - Systems may experience surface charging; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites and orientation problems may occur.
- Navigation - Intermittent satellite navigation (GPS) problems, including loss-of-lock and increased range error may occur.
- Radio - HF (high frequency) radio may be intermittent.
- Aurora - Aurora may be seen as low as Pennsylvania to Iowa to Oregon."

Alerts and related information available at @SpaceWeather

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Disappointed NASA Flight Controller

By Keith Cowing on September 11, 2014 11:05 PM.

Keith's note: @FCTMike publicly tweeted something interesting (that overtly refers to a photo) and NASA Watch told people about it. Its clearly a slow flight controlling day at NASA for @JohnathanKim

Keith's update: The original tweet has apparently been deleted. Indeed, both Twitter accounts - @FCTMike and @JohnathanKim - have apparently been deleted. That is a little strange. That said, you can see what was originally posted. I am not going to post a screen grab.

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Reining in Richard Branson

By Keith Cowing on September 11, 2014 9:38 PM.

Virgin Galactic Delays First Commercial Flights to 2015, Space News

"... That timeline represents a delay from statements Branson made as recently as last month. In an interview with USA Today published Aug. 17, he said he expected to be on that first commercial flight by the end of this year. "I'll be bitterly disappointed if I'm not into space by the end of the year," he said. A Virgin Galactic spokewoman said that, despite Branson's comments, the company has no formal schedule for beginning commercial flights. "As we've stated in the past, the inaugural commercial flight date will be set by safety and readiness," Jessica Gilbert said Sept. 11 via email."

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Why Did NASA SMD Sit on This MSL Science Document?

By Keith Cowing on September 11, 2014 2:00 PM.

Mission to Mt. Sharp - Habitability, Preservation of Organics, and Environmental Transitions
Senior Review Proposal Sections 1 and 2 April 2014

Keith's note: Jim Green just made a point of spelling out the URL for this report. He did so rather defensively in an effort to show that there was a science plan in place for MSL. In the process he sought to minimize the comments made by NASA's own NASA Planetary Senior Review Panel Report wherien the MSL science plan was bluntly criticized. If Green thinks that the Review Panel was wrong on their MSL criticism, then does that not call into question everything else they said? If so why did NASA make funding decisions based on the committee's report?

Looking at the report there are no ITAR or SBU notations. Of course they were removed - or were they? Looking at the document properties [image] it is clear that this document was created on 10 April 2014 and modified on 9 September 2014. Why is it that NASA only voluntarily releases documents like this to defend their actions but they don't just publish them - for all to see - simply because they are interesting? Why didn't NASA release this document when the review committee report first came out? Why wasn't this report mentioned in yesterday's hearing where Green testified - when this topic came up?

Oh yes ... by voluntarily releasing this document NASA SMD has set a new precedent for things that a FOIA request can obtain. They have nulified any "predecisional" claims that they might have once been able to make. Oops.

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Preparing for Hurricanes

By Keith Cowing on September 11, 2014 9:14 AM.

Media Day at Wallops for NASA Hurricane Airborne Mission

"As the Atlantic Ocean's hurricane season hits its peak, media are invited to visit NASA's latest airborne hurricane research mission using remotely piloted aircraft on Thursday, Sept. 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT, at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The presentation to the media will be streamed online live beginning at 10 a.m.  at:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-tv-wallops"

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NASA SMD PAO's Dysfunctional Telecons

By Keith Cowing on September 10, 2014 11:15 PM.

NASA Holds Teleconference to Discuss Science Campaign of Curiosity Mars Rover

Keith's note: NASA SMD PAO's Dwayne Brown continues to refuse to respond to media inquiries from last month's Mars 2020 media opportunity - despite overtly soliciting such inquiries. Let's see who Dwayne ignores during this briefing - since he's NASA PAO - and I am not. As such I am not going to bother to dial in since it is a waste of my time. More opportunity for others to ask questions. I have had multiple interactions with NASA PAO on this non-response by Dwayne and their lack of response is a de facto endorsement of Dwayne's behavior. So it goes. I'll live tweet the event - with commentary.

- SMD Wants To Talk About MSL Science (Or Lack Thereof), earllier post
- Results of Planetary Science Mission Review: MSL = Yawn, earllier post
- NASA PAO Promises To Answer Questions and Then Does Not, earllier post

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New Commercial Moon Study

By Marc Boucher on September 10, 2014 4:48 PM.

New Commercial Moon Services Study Available, SpaceRef Business

"The Space Angels Network brought to my attention a new study by Chad Anderson a Managing Director of the Space Angels Network. Chad completed the study while obtaining his MBA at Oxford. The study was finished in 2013 but has only been recently made public."

Continue reading: New Commercial Moon Study.

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Planetary Science Hearing

By Keith Cowing on September 10, 2014 11:00 AM.

Subcommittee Considers Asteroid Mining, Planetary Exploration Priorities

"The Space Subcommittee today held a hearing to review issues facing planetary exploration of our solar system, including NASA's proposed budget for planetary science, and potential commercial interests. Witnesses also testified on the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities In Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, H.R. 5063."

Prepared statements: Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Steven Palazzo, Jim Green, Jim Bell, Mark Sykes, Joanne Gabrynowicz, Philip Christensen

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NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 12 September 2014

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Today: Energy: Wiseman and Gerst continued with Day 10 of the Energy investigation. Gerst continued taking urine samples and eating a special diet for the Energy investigation.

More updates...

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