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SpaceX Will Attempt Rocket Ship Landing on a Drone Barge (Update)

By Keith Cowing on December 18, 2014 11:30 AM.

X Marks the Spot: Falcon 9 Attempts Ocean Platform Landing

"During our next flight, SpaceX will attempt the precision landing of a Falcon 9 first stage for the first time, on a custom-built ocean platform known as the autonomous spaceport drone ship. While SpaceX has already demonstrated two successful soft water landings, executing a precision landing on an unanchored ocean platform is significantly more challenging."

NASA, SpaceX Delay Launch of Fifth SpaceX Resupply Mission to Space Station

"NASA and SpaceX announced today the launch of SpaceX's fifth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station now will occur no earlier than Tuesday, Jan. 6. The new launch date will provide SpaceX engineers time to investigate further issues that arose from a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 16 and will avoid beta angle constraints for berthing the Dragon cargo ship to the station that exist through the end of the year."

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NASA Media Brief On Asteroid Mission No One Supports

By Keith Cowing on December 17, 2014 4:15 PM.

NASA to Discuss Today Asteroid Redirect Mission Capture Concept, Next Step in Journey to Mars

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EST today during which agency officials will discuss and answer questions on the selection of an Asteroid Redirect Mission concept. The mission is to retrieve an asteroid mass and redirect it into lunar orbit, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020s. The mission will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human deep space expeditions, including to Mars."

Asteroid Redirect Mission Critique, earlier post

"... It will require an ancillary spacecraft deploying either a huge capture bag or a Rube Goldberg contraption resembling a giant arcade-game claw. Neither technology is useful for getting humans to Mars."

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OIG: NASA Reliance on DCAA Increases Costs

By Keith Cowing on December 17, 2014 10:37 AM.

NASA OIG: Costs Incurred on NASA's Cost-Type Contracts

"We found NASA is at increased risk of paying unallowable, unreasonable, and unallocable incurred costs and of losing the opportunity to recoup improper costs because Agency contracting officers rely too heavily on DCAA's incurred cost audit process. Under its new, risk-based methodology, DCAA has significantly decreased the number of contractor proposals it audits in an effort to reduce its 6-year backlog of incurred cost proposals awaiting review. However, NASA contracting officers generally wait for a DCAA audit and do not perform additional oversight to ensure the appropriateness of contractor costs."

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No One Reads The Federal Register Any More

By Keith Cowing on December 16, 2014 8:10 PM.

Keith's noteThe NASA Advisory Committee is meeting 14-15 January 2015 at NASA Stennis. NASA staff have managed to find a unique way to format Federal Register notices so as to be all but useless. No one proof reads these things any more.

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RD-180 Bad; RD-181 Good

By Keith Cowing on December 16, 2014 6:59 PM.

Antares Upgrade Will Use RD-181s In Direct Buy From Energomash, Aviation Week

"Congressional concern about Russian aggression in the Crimean peninsula led to a ban in the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on using RD-180s purchased after Russia occupied the Ukrainian territory on Feb. 1. Grabe said that legislation will not affect the deal to buy RD-181s from Energomash. "We've coordinated with all relevant congressional committee staffs to keep them informed of our decision," Grabe said."

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Is Dava Newman's Nomination In Limbo?

By Keith Cowing on December 16, 2014 4:16 PM.

Senate may confirm up to 88 federal judges in '14, AP

"No longer impeded by Republican blocking tactics, Democrats are on track to win confirmation of up to 88 of President Barack Obama's top judicial nominations this year, a total that would be the highest for any president in two decades."

Keith's note: Sometimes other presidential nominations are dealt with in a similar, last minute, batch fashion. Alas, Dava Newman has yet to testify before the Senate (and get their approval) so it is unclear when she will be confirmed. With the impending food fights in the Republican-led Congress next term, such routine things as nominations may be stalled - or (worse) may become opportunities to score partisan points agains the Administration - with the nominee used as window dressing. Stay Tuned.

White House Announces Dava Newman Nomination, earlier post

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Active, Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

By Keith Cowing on December 16, 2014 2:45 PM.

Curiosity Finds Active, Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

"NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory's drill. "This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source," said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Curiosity rover science team. "There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock."

NASA Still Won't Look For Existing Life on Mars (Update)

Keith's 31 July 2014 update: I obviously expected Jim Green to answer in the same cautious way that NASA has always answered this question - one I have asked again and again for the nearly 20 years. Instead, Green launched into a detailed description of all the things that the Mars 2020 rover could detect that have a connection with life. Much of what he said clearly referred to extant / existing life. Now THAT is cool. To clarify things I sent the following request to NASA PAO "Can the Mars 2020 rover detect extant/existing life on Mars? Will NASA be looking for extant/existing life on Mars?" Let's see how they respond.

Keith's 16 Dec 2014 update: NASA SMD's Jim Green and NASA SMD PAO Dwayne Brown still refuse to respond to my original inquiry from July 2014.

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Deadline Change, Rule Change and Prize Money Awarded in Google Lunar X Prize

By Marc Boucher on December 16, 2014 1:09 PM.

Astrobotic Wins Google Lunar X Prize Milestones and Competition Deadline Extended to End of 2016, SpaceRef Business

"Today the Google Lunar X Prize announced that the deadline for the competition deadline had been extended again, this time to the end of 2016. Also announced today were two milestone prizes being won by Astrobotic."

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This is How Broken NASA Is

By Keith Cowing on December 16, 2014 11:00 AM.

NASA's $349 million monument to its drift, Washington Post

"In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. Then, NASA did something odd. As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially "mothballed" -- closed up and left empty -- without ever being used."

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GAO: Webb Continues To Experience Significant Delays

By Keith Cowing on December 16, 2014 10:51 AM.

GAO: James Webb Space Telescope: Project Facing Increased Schedule Risk with Significant Work Remaining

"With just under 4 years until its planned launch in October 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project reports it remains on schedule and budget. Technical challenges with JWST elements and major subsystems, however, have diminished the project's overall schedule reserve and increased risk. During the past year, delays have occurred on every element and major subsystem scheduleespecially with the cryocoolerleaving all at risk of negatively impacting the overall project schedule reserve if further delays occur."

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OIG: NASA Does Not Do A Good Job With Blanket Purchase Agreements

By Keith Cowing on December 16, 2014 10:44 AM.

OIG Report: NASA's Use of Blanket Purchase Agreements

"NASA Contracting Officials Using GSA Schedule Agreements Did Not Maximize Competition or Seek Vendor Price Discounts. Our sample included 23 orders obtained using 14 different GSA schedule agreements. We found deficiencies in 12 of these 14 agreements. Specifically, for 9 of the agreements NASA contracting officials established single- rather than multiple-award agreements without preparing written justifications or failed to request price discounts from vendors when establishing the agreements. For all 12 agreements, contracting officials failed to conduct required annual reviews. These deficiencies occurred because contracting officials were unaware of requirements or wanted to avoid the additional effort required to compete orders."

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Virgin Galactic Brings DalBello Aboard to Focus on LauncherOne

By Marc Boucher on December 15, 2014 4:52 PM.

Virgin Galactic Appoints Richard DalBello as Vice President of Business Development and Government Affairs

"In this role, Richard will be responsible for managing business development focusing on LauncherOne, the company's dedicated orbital launch vehicle for small satellites. Richard will be also responsible for managing the company's interactions with the US government."

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SpaceX Spreads Out

By Marc Boucher on December 13, 2014 4:33 PM.

SpaceX expansion could add 300 jobs locally, Waco Tribune

"In a report prepared by the city of Waco's economic development staff, SpaceX is proposing to invest $46.3 million in the site during the next five years. That will consist of about $32.4 million in real property improvements and $13.9 million in personal property improvements. SpaceX will add 300 new jobs by Dec. 31, 2018, with employees receiving benefits and an average hourly wage of $28.85, or about $60,000 a year. To receive incentive money, the company must fill 240 positions with people living in McLennan County, and 120 must reside in Waco."

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Correcting NASA's Inaccurate Infographic

By Keith Cowing on December 12, 2014 12:20 AM.

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Spaceport America Needs More Spaceships

By Keith Cowing on December 11, 2014 6:36 PM.

Spaceport launches online shop to help pay bills, KRQE

"The launch of commercial flights to space from Spaceport America was supposed to help the economy here take off. However, after years and years of delays, the Spaceport is trying other things to make money, like starting a new online store."

New Mexico lawmakers concerned about Spaceport America's future, Mashable

"New Mexico, which has invested $218.5 million into the future of space tourism, is concerned about the viability of Spaceport America. Lawmakers grilled New Mexico Spaceport Authority executive director Christine Anderson [in November] about how it plans to deliver on the promise of the Spaceport, especially now since commercial flights by Virgin Galactic are postponed indefinitely following a deadly crash last month that killed one pilot."

Spaceport officials working to come up with revenue, KRQE

"Paul Gessing, president of the conservative research group the Rio Grande Foundation, has been highly-critical of the nearly quarter billion dollar Spaceport. He told News 13 that no one knows when space tourism will become viable, but that he thinks the Spaceport likely won't be viable for a while. "It was like building an airport before the Wright brothers had their first flight," Gessing said. "I don't think there's any way to make the Spaceport successful unless we see regular, frequent space trips."

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More stories for December.

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NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 17 December 2014

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 17 December 2014 Video in Story

Today: SpaceX-5 Launch Status: The static test fire scheduled yesterday was started, but aborted shortly after engine ignition. SpaceX is currently evaluating any impacts to the schedule.

More updates...

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