NASA Watch

This is not a NASA Website. You might learn something. It's YOUR space agency. Get involved. Take it back. Make it work - for YOU.
nasawatch@spaceref.com | Voice +1.703.787.6567 | RSS Feed | Twitter | Advertising | Important Disclaimer

Mars Fleet +1

By Keith Cowing on September 22, 2014 8:12 AM.

MAVEN Enters Orbit Around Mars

"NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars' orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars."

Categories:

SpaceX Launches Dragon to the ISS

By Marc Boucher on September 21, 2014 8:03 AM.

SpaceX Launches Dragon on 4th Commercial Resupply Mission to the ISS, NASA

"The spacecraft's 2.5 tons of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support 255 science and research investigations that will occur onboard the station."

Includes the post-launch briefing news conference.

Categories: ,

Congress Delays Space Legislation Until Next Year

By Keith Cowing on September 19, 2014 10:50 AM.

Congress Passes CR but Postpones Work on Space Bills, Space News

"The U.S. Senate passed a short-term funding bill for the federal government Sept. 18, one day after the House of Representatives passed the same bill, but both houses delayed consideration of several space-related bills, in some cases until the next Congress."

Categories: ,

Two Views: Dragon Vs CST-100

By Keith Cowing on September 19, 2014 9:09 AM.

How NASA's New Spaceships Stack Up, NPR

"Boeing and SpaceX both have new displays standard on every model. But Keith Cowing says there is a difference in the way they look. The Boeing one does harken back to Apollo," he says. "The SpaceX one, I've been in there, and it's got a sci-fi vibe to it." SpaceX does look sleeker, and it'd be his first choice. But honestly? He'd fly in either one, if it meant going to space."

NASA misses chance to revitalize space program, Newt Gingrich, CNN

"The largest contract in a program designed to boost competition within the commercial space industry went to Boeing -- the gigantic, heavily subsidized government contractor with a history of huge cost overruns. Although SpaceX did win a smaller prize of its own, the fact that the old incumbent is getting a contract to provide services to the space station is going to limit the promise of America's commercial space industry."


Space Golf Update: NASA Inspector General Has Noticed That CASIS is a Flop

By Keith Cowing on September 18, 2014 10:00 PM.

NASA OIG: Extending the Operational Life of the International Space Station Until 2024

"In addition, while utilization of the ISS for research continues to increase, NASA and its partner responsible for attracting private research to the Station -- the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) -- continue to face challenges. For example, to date CASIS has raised only $14,550 in cash and received pledges of $8.2 million to supplement NASA's $15 million annual cooperative agreement. In addition, CASIS officials reported that provisions in its agreement with NASA that require researchers to assign certain patent licenses and data rights to the Government are deterring commercial stakeholders from conducting research on the ISS. "

A better golf club? Space may play a role in that., Florida Today

"This is not research on a golf club," said Duane Ratliff, CASIS chief operating officer. "This is industrial research and development on materials that is clearly targeted for the improvement of products that will go to the marketplace. ... Ratliff likely spoke for most of them when he joked, "Honestly, I'm hoping that whatever comes out of this will straighten out my slice."

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

"Through this investigation, the research and design team at COBRA PUMA GOLF hopes to gain a better understanding of certain material characteristics that can be used to create some of the most innovative and technologically advanced golf products in the market."

Keith's note: OK Duane - if this is not "golf club" research, then what other "golf products" are you doing research on? Why hasn't the past 2 years of CASIS-sponsored golf research on ISS yielded any published results or status reports from CASIS? As for your attempts to downplay the golfing aspect of what you are doing - your logo for these payloads clearly emphasizes golf over everything else.

As for the IG's report, "$14,550 in cash"? I have to wonder what a "pledge" actually entails - obviously not much in terms of actual cash. CASIS is clearly falling well short of where NASA - and everyone else - expected CASIS to be at this point.

Baseball raffles and golf-themed co-branding do not a vibrant ISS research program make.

- CASIS Announces Baseball Raffle in Space, earlier post
- CASIS Would Rather Go Golfing Than Do Actual ISS Research, earlier post

Categories: ,

OIG Report on Extending ISS Operations Until 2024

By Keith Cowing on September 18, 2014 12:30 PM.

Extending the Operational Life of the International Space Station Until 2024, NASA OIG

"Specifically, the ISS faces a risk of insufficient power generation due in part to faster-than-expected degradation of its solar arrays. Second, although most replacement parts have proven more reliable than expected, sudden failures of key hardware have occurred requiring unplanned space walks for repair or replacement. Third, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet NASA has a limited capacity to transport several large replacement parts to the Station should they be needed. While the ISS Program is actively working to mitigate these risks, anticipating the correct amount of replacement parts and transporting them to the ISS present major challenges to extending Station operations 10 or more years beyond its original expected service life.

The OIG also found the assumptions underlying the Agency's budget projections for the ISS are overly optimistic and that its actual costs may be higher. NASA projects its annual budget for the ISS Program to grow from $3 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2014 to nearly $4 billion by FY 2020. However, ISS Program costs rose 26 percent between FYs 2011 and 2013 and an average of 8 percent annually over the life of the program. Moreover, much of the projected cost increase is attributable to higher transportation costs, and the OIG found unrealistic NASA's current transportation estimates."

Categories:

Blue Origin and ULA to Jointly Fund New BE-4 Engine

By Marc Boucher on September 17, 2014 1:27 PM.

United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin Announce Partnership To Develop New American Rocket Engine, Blue Origin

"United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation's premier space launch company, and Blue Origin, LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced today that they have entered into an agreement to jointly fund development of the new BE-4 rocket engine by Blue Origin. This new collaboration will allow ULA to maintain the heritage, success and reliability of its rocket families - Atlas and Delta - while addressing the long-term need for a new domestic engine.

"The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s will power each ULA booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. "

Marc's Update: I've added the video of the news conference to the press release.

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

"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."

Keith's note: When I asked today if Blue Origin had been part of Boeing's commercial crew proposal team (one that would use a United Launch Alliance rocket), ULA CEO Tory Bruno said "No". He went on to say that their bid used existing engine capabilities. Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos added later that yesterday's NASA commercial crew announcement and today's engine announcement were totally separate and unrelated.

Categories:

Unanswered Commercial Crew Questions

By Keith Cowing on September 17, 2014 8:26 AM.

Boeing, SpaceX to team with NASA on space taxis, CBS

"It also is not yet known whether Congress will appropriate enough money to fund the development of two spacecraft or whether NASA will be forced to down select to a single provider at some point down the road. But Bolden said he was confident Congress will provide the funding necessary to keep SpaceX and Boeing on track for maiden flights in the 2017 timeframe. Congress has appropriated about $2 billion for the commercial crew program since 2011, about a billion dollars less than NASA requested. The agency hopes to get around $800 million for the program in its fiscal 2015 budget."

Boeing and SpaceX Win $6.8 Billion for Apollo-Style Space Taxis, NBC

"NASA officials declined to discuss in detail why they selected Boeing and SpaceX while passing on the Dream Chaser, but said it was a close call. "This wasn't an easy choice, but it's the best choice for NASA and the nation," Bolden said. Lueders said the different amounts set aside for the two companies were based on the amounts proposed by the companies themselves. "Both Boeing and SpaceX proposed to the same set of requirements," she said. "NASA awarded the contracts based on their proposals. It's two contracts to the same requirements."

Keith's note: In summary: NASA does not know if it will have enough money to fund both Boeing and SpaceX, won't tell anyone why or how they made the selections, and gave Boeing $1.6 billion more than they gave to SpaceX to do the same work assigned to SpaceX. Just the sort of questions Congress will be asking.

Categories: ,

CCtCap: Is Boeing More Expensive or is SpaceX Just Cheaper?

By Keith Cowing on September 16, 2014 7:46 PM.

NASA Selects SpaceX and Boeing to Ferry Astronauts to the Space Station, Marc Boucher

"NASA awarded a total of $6.8 billion in contracts with Boeing getting the larger share, $4.2 billion and SpaceX getting $2.6 billion for doing what appears the same work. NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders was asked several times by reporters why the difference in the funding allocation but only said it was based on the price submitted by the companies in their proposals."

Categories:

NASA Commercial Crew Announcement: Boeing and SpaceX

By Keith Cowing on September 16, 2014 4:05 PM.

NASA to Make Major Announcement Today About Astronaut Transport to the International Space Station

"NASA will make a major announcement today at 4 p.m. EDT regarding the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States. The agency will make the announcement during a news conference from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Keith's note: Moments ago Sen. Bill Nelson was on CNN. When asked what the NASA decision to give commercial crew awards to "Boeing and SpaceX" means, he confirmed that awards were being given to "these two companies".

Boeing-SpaceX Team Split Space Taxi Award, Lawmaker Says, Bloomberg

"Boeing Co. (BA) and Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will share a multibillion-dollar federal contract to help restart U.S. manned spaceflights and reduce reliance on Russian rockets, a congressional leader said. The two companies will split the award being unveiled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration later today, said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House Science Committee. NASA is planning an announcement on the program at 4 p.m. in Washington."

Keith's update: Rep. Johnson's PR person says that she never actually said said this. Here is what her office is putting out as a quote: Science Committee Democrats Congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on NASA's CCtCap Awards

Keith's note: It is official: Boeing will get $4.2 billion, SpaceX $2.6 billion.

American Companies Selected to Return Astronaut Launches to American Soil, Charlie Bolden

"While Boeing and SpaceX handle the task of taking our astronauts to the space station, the scientists on Earth and astronauts on the orbiting ISS National Laboratory will continue the groundbreaking research that has been taking place there for almost 14 years now without interruption. They will be able to add to that portfolio with an expanded crew made possible by the arrival of these new spacecraft."

Continue reading: NASA Commercial Crew Announcement: Boeing and SpaceX.

Categories: ,

FAA Relases HSF Recommended Practices Safety Document

By Marc Boucher on September 16, 2014 2:59 AM.

FAA Releases Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety, SpaceRef Business

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) today released its first Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety document today during the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting.

From the introduction: "The purpose of this document is to provide a compilation of practices that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) believes are important and recommends for commercial human space flight occupant safety. The document is intended to enable a dialogue among, and perhaps consensus of, government, industry, and academia on practices that will support the continuous improvement of the safety of launch and reentry vehicles designed to carry humans."

Categories:

Wall Street Journal's Confused Boeing/Blue Origin Stories

By Keith Cowing on September 15, 2014 11:16 PM.

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."

Keith's note: Just because something is published in the Wall Street Journal does not mean that it is accurate. The author of these stories has confused two separate stories with each other. Tomorrow's Blue Origin event was scheduled long before NASA even made its CCiCAP decision and would have gone ahead even if NASA had delayed making an announcement - and would have also been made regardless of what NASA will be announcing for CCiCAP.

Categories:

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.

Categories:

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

Categories: ,

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."

Categories:

More stories for September.

12th Reinventing Space Conference London UK November 18 - 21, 2014
Advertise on SpaceRef starting at $75/month

Subscribe to NASA Watch

Loading


Monthly Archives




NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 19 September 2014

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 19 September 2014 Video in Story

Today: Ocular Health: Gerst and Wiseman setup ultrasound-2 hardware for use in Gerst's FD 120 (day 3 of 3) eye ultrasound exam.

More updates...

Spacewire