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More Confusing Twitter Math From @NASA

By Keith Cowing on March 29, 2015 12:59 PM.

Keith's note: Why is NASA saying that this is going to be a year-long mission? It is not. Close - but not a year. NASA goes out of their way to use simple math on Twitter to make their #YearInSpace point - but - that math also easily shows that Kelly is only going to be in space for 342 days. A year is 365 days long. I guess its too much to ask for NASA to be accurate on Twitter as it simultaneously hypes all of this STEM education stuff. Its not as if any of the 9 million Twitter followers are actually paying attention. Or are they?

@NASASocial is a Little Confused About SLS

"If the QM-1 SRB engine is going to burn for 126 seconds (per NASA) that means that 693 million pounds of propellant will be used - or 693 million tons - depending on which Tweet you believe. But wait: the whole SRB only weighs 1.6 million pounds. Hmm ... NASA's infographic says that it is only burning 5.5 tons per second. No "million" pounds or tons is mentioned. Clearly @NASASocial needs to spend a little more time reading before tweeting."

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USAF Agrees With SpaceX: Modify ULA Contract

By Keith Cowing on March 27, 2015 12:17 PM.

U.S. to modify launch capability deal for Lockheed-Boeing Venture, Reuters

"The U.S. Air Force must modify its annual "launch capability" contract with United Launch Alliance, to level the playing field for new competitors of the joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, senior U.S. Air Force and Pentagon officials told lawmakers on Wednesday. ... [Air Force Space Command Commander General John Hyten] said the contract made it impossible to have a fair competition, backing an argument often made by privately held Space Exploration Technologies. The company, also called SpaceX, hopes to be certified by June to compete for some satellite launches now carried out solely by ULA."

- Fiscal Year 2016 National Security Space Hearing, House Armed Services Committee, 25 March 2015

- Prepared Testimony

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NASA OIG: DSN Has Budget and Technical Challenges

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2015 10:20 AM.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the Deep Space Network, NASA OIG

"Although DSN is meeting its current operational commitments, budget reductions have challenged the Network's ability to maintain these performance levels and threaten its future reliability. ... If budget reductions continue, DSN faces an increased risk that it will be unable to meet future operational commitments or complete the upgrade project on schedule. We also found that NASA, JPL, and DSN have significantly deviated from Federal and Agency policies, standards, and governance methodologies for the security of the Network's IT and physical infrastructure."

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NASA Family Pursues STEM Education Research in Nepal

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2015 8:56 AM.

Keith's note: Rory Kronmiller arrived at Everest Base Camp, Nepal this morning along with his specially designed UAS quadricopter. Rory is in Nepal with his brother, Michael who is in Kathmandu. Mike and Rory are in Nepal to test out the use of drones for Search And Rescue and bridge inspection tasks. This is being done as part of a STEM education project between the Bullis School in Maryland and Kanjirowa National School in Kathmandu, Nepal. You may find their last names familiar: Mike and Rory are the sons of Kate (Orbital ATK) and Ted Kronmiller (aerospace lawyer).

More at Space College.

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NASA's Evaporating Spine

By Keith Cowing on March 25, 2015 5:56 PM.

NASA Chooses Plucky Option B for Asteroid Redirect Mission, Space Policy Online

"Lightfoot was poised to reveal the Option A versus B choice in December, but when it came time for the press conference, said only that more time was needed. NASA has not publicly stated what came up at the last minute. Rumors are that Option B was the choice then, too. The December press conference was announced with 6 hours notice; today's notice was only 2 hours and the briefing was exactly at the same time as Dava Newman's nomination to be NASA Deputy Administrator was being considered by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (it was approved by the committee)."

NASA Public Affairs Is Not Interested in Dawn or Ceres, earlier post

"Dwayne Brown from NASA SMD PAO only gave trivial advance notice for media to register for a telecon regarding Dawn entering orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. Dwayne sent a media advisory out at 12:56 pm ET for a 2:00 pm ET telecon - and only gave media 45 minutes to contact him for dial-in information. Smart move to send this out while half of the U.S. was eating lunch. Only 2 media actually dialed in to ask questions."

Keith's note: NASA has become increasingly gun shy about announcing its big decisions. It is also increasingly inept when it comes to assembling media briefings on these decisions - as well as major mission events. Recently they continually kicked the can down the road on commercial crew and totally bungled a Dawn event. And yet NASA gets all bent out of shape when the media does not pay attention to their news or the spin that they try to put on it. Duh, I wonder why.

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Dava Newman Nomination Exits Stealth Mode

By Keith Cowing on March 25, 2015 3:26 PM.

Executive Session - Markup of five bills and three nominations, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"7. Nomination of Dr. Dava J. Newman, of Massachusetts, to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration"

Keith's update: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has reported favorably on the nomination of Dava Newman to be NASA Deputy Administrator.

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NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission Gets Wimpier

By Keith Cowing on March 25, 2015 3:13 PM.

NASA Chooses Asteroid Mission Plan

"NASA Wednesday announced more details in its plan for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which in the mid-2020s will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. NASA also announced it has increased the detection of near-Earth Asteroids by 65 percent since launching its asteroid initiative three years ago. For ARM, a robotic spacecraft will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation's journey to Mars."

Keith's note: The original idea would have had astronauts actually go into deep space and visit an asteroid as part of a plan for longer duration spaceflight from Earth. There are some real operational applications to a mission like that. Then the policy wonks got involved and NASA started to lower expectations because they could not figure out how to do the engineering behind the press release images. NASA has now wimped out completely and decided to only grab a small boulder from an asteroid that a robot has already brought to lunar orbit as part of a pale Apollo reboot. Why even use humans at all for this? If NASA wants the boulder that bad why not just bring it back to Earth orbit where it would be much easier to access and study?

NASA wants everyone to think that this is actually part of the things they need to do to send humans to Mars. And they make sure you know that when they issue press releases with titles such as "NASA Announces Next Steps on Journey to Mars: Progress on Asteroid Initiative." Yet there is no budget identified for any of this. Congress is formally against it. The planetary science community is either against it or has been blackmailed into tepid support. And the White House wonks who pushed this idea on NASA will be gone very soon - and with them goes their support. NASA doesn't ever address any of that, do they?

If NASA wants to send humans on a "journey" to Mars then it needs to aim at Mars - not at the lowest hanging fruit on their capability matrix - fruit that they keep lowering.

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NASA Just Spent $500,000 on Wooden Space Station Models

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2015 10:57 PM.

Reader note: "This isn't the first time NASA has spent $500000 with Gamla. Here is the ISS model they did for NASA Goddard as shown on Gamla's website. http://www.lifeinscale.net/ISS_model-Goddard_Center.asp"

Keith's note: What does NASA do with these models? They seem to order them every year. I have asked before but never have recieved an answer. Then again given what they spent to re-do Mike Suffredini's conference room, who cares, right?

- NASA JSC Solicitation: International Space Station Models, 2014, earlier post
- NASA Solicitation: Space Station Models, 2014, earlier post
- NASA Solicitation: Scale Models on International Space Station With Logistic Vehicles, 2008, earlier post

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Hearing on Webb Space Telescope

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2015 7:31 PM.

Statement by John Grunsfeld, NASA

"The project has done an excellent job of managing its budget reserves, and this ability to efficiently address problems as they come up has enabled Webb to remain on schedule for its 2018 launch."

Statement by Cristina Chaplain, GAO

"The proximity of all the elements and major subsystem schedules to the critical path means that a delay on any of the elements or major subsystems may reduce the overall project schedule reserve further, which could put the overall project schedule at risk. As a result, the project has less flexibility to choose which issues to mitigate. While the project has been able to reorganize work when necessary to mitigate schedule slips thus far, with further progression into subsequent integration and testing periods, flexibility will be diminished because work during integration and testing tends to be more serial, as the initiation of work is often dependent on the successful and timely completion of the prior work. This is particularly the case with JWST given its complexity."

- Hearing Charter

- Statements: Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Steven Palazzo, John Mather, Jeffrey Grant, John Grunsfeld, and Cristina Chaplain

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GAO Reviews NASA Large Scale Projects

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2015 3:25 PM.

GAO Report: NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects

"In 2015, five of NASA's largest, most complex projects, several of which are at critical points in their development, are expected to consume 78 percent of the funds for NASA's major projects. Therefore, existing and new projects will be competing for remaining funds. Fully accounting for the funding, schedule, and technical challenges facing these projects is important due to the cascading effects these challenges could have across the portfolio. NASA has implemented several initiatives to reduce acquisition risk, but management of some of these initiatives remains a concern. For example, while NASA has implemented tools in recent years to provide better insight into and oversight of its acquisition projects, the training for and implementation of these tools have not been consistently and thoroughly applied."

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More Rogue PR From The New Horizons Mission Team (Update)

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2015 1:44 PM.

Public Asked to Help Name Features on Pluto, SETI Institute

Keith's 23 March note: Last week the SETI Institute unilaterally announced an effort whereby the public can suggest names for features discovered within the Pluto-Charon system. The IAU would have the final say as to which names were accepted. One small problem: NASA HQ was not in the loop for this major effort to name things discovered by a NASA spacecraft. It has been several days since SETI Institute made this announcement and there is no mention of this effort at the JHUAPL website, at the NASA mission website, at SwRI, or at NASA.gov. Only the personal Twitter account by the mission's PI mentions this effort. This press release was not distributed by NASA, JHUAPL or SwRI. The SETI Institute did not send this release out to their media list. A third party distributed the information well after it was "released" by SETI.

Sources I have spoken with at NASA HQ said that NASA was not aware that this news was being announced or that SETI Institute had decided (seemingly on its own) to do this project on NASA's behalf. Based on previous stunts it is quite clear that the New Horizons mission (again, a NASA mission paid for by NASA) has decided that it will make its own decisions on how the public will be involved - and that it is not up to NASA to coordinate these activities.

Yes, this is a cool idea. But it is foolish and counterproductive in the extreme for SETI Institute and the rest of the New Horizons team to leave NASA out of decisions regarding how citizens interact with one of its own missions.

Keith's 23 March update: What is strange about this effort is that you can only suggest names for features until 7 April 2015 - yet it will be months before anything of significance shows up on pictures. Only 2 weeks - with no coordinated or advance notice - to name major features on a bunch of new worlds? That seems rather odd. Can you imagine the people who explored and settled the American west stopping every time a landmark was encountered that needed a name - and then pulled out a list created before their departure to see if there was a pre-approved name that would work? Why not accept names during and after the encounter and then let the public and whatever quasi-official deliberative parties who need to weigh in do so? This whole process was clearly not well thought out - in addition to it not being coordinated with the owner of the spacecraft.

Keith's 24 March update: The IAU just issued this press release: "Campaign for Public Participation in Naming Features on Pluto" which states "This naming campaign is a partnership between the NASA's New Horizons (http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons) project, the SETI Institute (http://www.seti.org) and the IAU." Yet, as I noted yesterday, NASA makes zero mention of this on any of its websites or social media platforms. That is still the case. It has been 4 days since SETI Institute made this announcement. If this is a partnership between the IAU, SETI Institute - and NASA, then why has NASA yet to admit this? There is now less than 2 weeks for people to participate. Wouldn't you think that that NASA's Twitter account with over 9 million followers would be in use by now to promote this short term effort for one of their missions? But wait: as noted before, NASA HQ did not know that SETI Institute was making these deals with the IAU.

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NASA Needs To Determine If Rabbit Fur Felt Can Be Bought Domestically

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2015 12:06 PM.

NASA Proposed Rule: Federal Acquisition Regulation; List of Domestically Nonavailable Articles

"SUMMARY: DoD, GSA, and NASA are considering amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to update the list of domestically nonavailable articles under the Buy American Act. DoD, GSA, and NASA are seeking information that will assist in identifying domestic capabilities and for evaluating whether some articles on the list of domestically nonavailable articles are now mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available commercial quantities and of a satisfactory quality. ... The current domestically nonavailable listing at FAR 25.104 is as follow: ... Beef, corned, canned ... Cashew nuts ... Fair linen, altar ... Goat hair canvas ... Hemp yarn ... Rabbit fur felt ..."

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Dream Chaser Cargo Flights To Houston? Intriguing

By Marc Boucher on March 24, 2015 11:56 AM.

Sierra Nevada Corporation and Houston Airport System Announce New Agreement

"Entering into this new agreement with HAS will lead to enabling all variants of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to land in Houston, offering the ability to return cargo and science to Houston directly from space," said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC's Space Systems. "Through this agreement, we want to promote broad awareness of the importance of utilizing low-Earth orbit as a source of research, science and the expansion of space flight that are critical to Houston's ongoing position as a 'Space City.' Houston has earned its place at the forefront of space exploration with such institutes as NASA's Johnson Space Center, Rice Space University, the Texas Medical Center, the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and many other organizations."

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NASA Education Office Ignores White House Science Fair

By Keith Cowing on March 23, 2015 12:51 PM.

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Presidential Candidate Cruz Has NASA On His Short List

By Keith Cowing on March 23, 2015 9:32 AM.

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More stories for March.

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One Year in Space Crew Arrives at the International Space Station

One Year in Space Crew Arrives at the International Space Station Video in Story

Following a six-hour trip from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 43 Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA, Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) were welcomed aboard the International Space Station on March 27 U.S. time (March 28 Kazakh time).

More updates...

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