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Waiting For The Silicon Valley Space Bubble To Burst

By Keith Cowing on September 2, 2015 8:47 PM.

Is Silicon Valley in Another Bubble . . . and What Could Burst It?, Vanity Fair

"And this is where it gets particularly murky. These are private companies, with private balance sheets, and the valuations they ascribe to themselves aren't vetted in the same way by the S.E.C. or public markets. These start-ups, in other words, can command much higher, and at times fabricated, valuations. One successful venture capitalist told me that he recently met with a unicorn [tech start-ups valued at $1 billion and upward] that was seeking a new round of funding. When he asked the C.E.O. why he had valued his company at $1 billion, he was told, "We need to be worth a billion dollars to be able to recruit new engineers. So we decided that was our valuation."

Keith's note: Silicon Valley is space business crazy right now. Everyone wants to have a space start-up and some of them are now buying out and devouring one another - based on hype, imaginary valuation, and the promises of space snake oil salesmen. There are smart people out there - with smart ideas and sound business plans. So far they seem to be the exception - not the rule. I have seen this movie before. Unless some actual products (with profits) emerge this bubble is bound to burst - regardless of whether Silicon Valley itself pops. As a friend of mine often says, this must have been what it was like when Rome was about to start burning.

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You Too Can Be On A NASA Advisory Committee That Is Ignored

By Keith Cowing on September 2, 2015 5:44 PM.

Annual Invitation for Public Nominations by US Citizens for Service on NASA Federal Advisory Committees

"NASA announces its annual invitation for public nominations for service on NASA Federal advisory committees. U.S. citizens may submit self-nominations for consideration as potential members of NASA's Federal advisory committees. NASA's Federal advisory committees have member vacancies from time to time throughout the year, and NASA will consider self-nominations to fill such intermittent vacancies. NASA is committed to selecting members to serve on its Federal advisory committees based on their individual expertise, knowledge, experience, and current/past contributions to the relevant subject area."

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NASA's Latest Budget Solution: Money Seeking Droids

By Keith Cowing on September 2, 2015 5:21 PM.

NASA Deploys Congressional Rover To Search For Funding, The Onion

"Calling the program "the most crucial in the agency's history," researchers at NASA announced Wednesday they have successfully deployed a Special Exploratory Rover to Congress as part of an open-ended mission to seek out any possible trace of funding on Capitol Hill. The rover, named Hope, is a remotely operated, semi-autonomous vehicle outfitted with ultra-sensitive equipment that can detect even the smallest amounts of program-sustaining revenue, NASA scientists confirmed."

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JPL Says SMAP Radar Failure = Normal Operations

By Keith Cowing on September 2, 2015 4:41 PM.

SMAP Radar Fails But Mission Continues

"Mission managers for NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory have determined that its radar, one of the satellite's two science instruments, can no longer return data. ... The SMAP spacecraft continues normal operations and the first data release of soil moisture products is expected in late September. "Although some of the planned applications of SMAP data will be impacted by the loss of the radar, the SMAP mission will continue to produce valuable science for important Earth system studies," said Dara Entekhabi, SMAP Science Team lead at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. On July 7, SMAP's radar stopped transmitting due to an anomaly involving the radar's high-power amplifier (HPA)."

Keith's note: Wow. JPL is sure spinning this bad news on this $915 million mission. That's almost a billion dollars. The radar was at the core of SMAP's mission i.e. "one of the satellite's two science instruments". It failed. Sure, other stuff still works but that radar broke after only a few months. But JPL PAO wants you to think that "The SMAP spacecraft continues normal operations." So, I guess radar failure is considered "normal"?

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Cubesat Survives Antares Explosion

By Keith Cowing on September 2, 2015 11:01 AM.

Singapore-made device survives rocket explosion, The Straits Times

"Last October, scientists at the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT), National University of Singapore, were horrified when the Antares rocket exploded just seconds after take-off from a launch pad in Virginia, in the US. ... The CQT scientists thought their 300g device, embedded in a Danish satellite called GomX-2 in the rocket, and costing $12,000, had been lost. But they have been told that the satellite was found on a beach near the launch site and returned to GomSpace, the company in Denmark that built it. Assistant Professor Alexander Ling, a CQT principal investigator, told The Straits Times: "Just after the SG50 weekend, our Danish colleagues rebooted the satellite, and they sent us some data."

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Expedition 45 Is In Orbit

By Keith Cowing on September 2, 2015 1:16 AM.

Expedition 45 With Visiting Crew Launch to the International Space Station (with video)

"Expedition 45 Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and visiting crew members Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency (Kazcosmos) launched on the Russian Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft on Sept. 2, Kazakh time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan bound for the International Space Station."

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Space Barge Patent Spat Ends - For Now

By Keith Cowing on September 1, 2015 5:16 PM.

SpaceX wins patent round against Bezos' Blue Origin, PoliticoPro (subscription)

"The decision to invalidate the patent was issued Thursday at Blue Origin's request. The company received a mostly unfavorable preliminary ruling in March and informed the review board that it has submitted a new patent application for its product."

Blue Origin's rocket-landing patent canceled in victory for SpaceX, Geek Wire

"In an order made public today, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board granted a motion to cancel the remaining 13 of 15 claims in the Blue Origin rocket-landing patent. Blue Origin itself had made the motion to cancel those claims, effectively acknowledging that its case was lost."

- USPTO Order
- SpaceX and Blue Origin Patent Skirmish, earlier post
- SpaceX Barge Landing Patent Petition Challenge Denied - and Accepted, earlier post
- SpaceX Challenges Patent Filed by Blue Origin, earlier post
- Who Invented The Space Barge?, earlier post

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More Falcon 9 Delays at SpaceX

By Keith Cowing on September 1, 2015 11:47 AM.

Video: AIAA Space Conference - Executive Vision Discussion

"The annual AIAA Space conference is underway. In this plenary session government, business, and academic leaders engage in conversation about the direction of change in the space industry and the trends impacting future developments in space science, military space, space launch, and space exploration."

SpaceX's next launch delayed longer than expected, LA Times

"SpaceX said its next launch will be delayed longer than expected after the June 28 accident that destroyed its unmanned ship carrying cargo to the International Space Station. The Hawthorne-based company is still "a couple months away from the next flight," Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, said Monday at a scientific forum in Pasadena. "We're taking more time than we originally envisioned to get back to flight," she said. "But I don't think any of our customers wants us to race to the cliff and fail again."

Keith's note: Note: SpaceX discusses their upcoming Falcon 9 launch schedule.

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The Care and Feeding of the NASA Worm Logo

By Keith Cowing on September 1, 2015 8:04 AM.

$79 for an Out-of-Date Book About a Modern NASA Logo, NY Times

"For $79 plus shipping, you can buy a reprint of a long-obsolete federal government publication. The captivating title? "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Graphics Standards Manual." It may not be a page turner, but among certain design and space aficionados, it is a cherished piece of history. A Kickstarter campaign begun on Tuesday aims to raise $158,000 to finance a high-quality hardcover printing of this bureaucratic relic."

LOST IN SPACE; Meatballs Devour Worms!!, NY Times (1999)

"Keith Cowing, an ex-NASA payload manager who documents worm sightings on the NASA Watch Web site, raps Goldin's subordinates for obsessively hiding the worm from the boss. A NASA spokesman protests, saying the agency is worming itself -- harmlessly -- over time (old letterhead will be used up, etc.): ''If someone decides they better go and eradicate this, that or the other thing, it's not because of Goldin.''

From Worms to Meatballs -- NASA Talk Traces Emblematic History, 2013

Reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual, Kickstarter

Keith's note: Alas, my old NASAWatch "Worm Watch" feature fell offline a long time ago when we did a website update. I always thought that my "wormball" would have been the perfect compromise. Oh well. Truth be known, the whole impetus behind the meatball Vs worm logo change speaks much more to Goldin's interest in getting NASA to change than an actual obsession with the logo - even if it seemed that way at the time. Indeed, it was emblematic of the issue of resistance to change with NASA. If someone could not follow a simple concept and managerial direction of replacing a logo then how could they be expected to do more the complex things needed to transform the agency?

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Space Movies Do Not Drive Space Policy

By Keith Cowing on August 31, 2015 8:32 PM.

The Martian message, Eric Sterner, Space Review

"Surely, several interests want to capitalize on the melding of film and speculative reality. Damon recently visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he talked about his role, and NASA's website proudly uses the opportunity to explain the real NASA-developed technologies portrayed in the movie. It can only do a space advocate's heart good when Hollywood seems to discover the same sense of excitement in space that we see and experience every day. Sadly, if the space community seeks to turn The Martian into a commercial for sending people to Mars, we will fail miserably. The 2000 movie Castaway was nominated for multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Tom Hanks. It did not increase public support for sending people to deserted islands. Neither will The Martian bring them closer to Mars."

Space Advocacy By Space Advocates Is A Failure, earlier post

"... when several space-themed movie blockbusters really get the public's attention the same space advocates whine when America doesn't rush to embrace their own peculiar space exploration notions and blame the movie's scripts for not being in precise tune with the niche views of the true space believers. ... If all anyone in the space advocacy community can think of doing involves adoring lame PR Mars mission stunts and grabbing the coat tails of sci fi flicks in hope of sniffing the fumes of the film's success, then I fear there is very little of true substance for space advocates to actually be advocating."

Keith's note: Its great that NASA is involved with "The Martian" - as it has been with other movies. To say that there are no potential synergies would be totally incorrect. But for space advocates to expect some detectible shift in space policy as the result of a space movie is naive. I heard all of this expectant hoopla from the space world back when the twin (bad) films "Red Planet" and "Mission to Mars" were set to be released. Nothing happened. For all its prescient majesty, "2001: A Space Odyssey" did not result in a plus-up for the FY 1969 NASA budget. As always, Eric Sterner makes excellent points that echo my earlier rants on this topic. Yet what Eric writes (as with what I rant) will only be read by space advocates. And space advocates are notoriously adept at inbred choir practice inside their own special echo chamber.

Trust me, I would so very, very much like to be proven wrong.

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NASA Needs To Buy 2 Vans in Russia

By Keith Cowing on August 31, 2015 12:48 PM.

NASA JSC Solicitation: Purchase of Two Vehicles for the Human Space Flight Program-Russia

"Delivered to US Embassy Moscow, Russia The contractor must provide with the bid proposal a schematic drawing showing vehicle design and dimension specifications in the form of the sample drawing. Standard manufacturer's pamphlet with the specific vehicle model being offered clearly identified and accompanied by a written statement in English by the manufacturer certifying that all solicitation specifications are met for the vehicle model being offered."

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NASA Pays For Decision Making Advice On A Decision It Already Made

By Keith Cowing on August 28, 2015 8:39 PM.

Innovative Study Supports Asteroid Initiative, Journey To Mars

"NASA employed ECAST to engage in a "participatory technology assessment," an engagement model that seeks to improve the outcomes of science and technology decision-making through dialog with informed citizens. Participatory technology assessment involves engaging a group of non-experts who are representative of the general population but who unlike political, academic, and industry stakeholders who are often under represented in technology-related policymaking. ... During meetings in Phoenix and Boston in November, 2014, participants voiced their thoughts and preferences about asteroids, planetary defense and space exploration."

Informing NASA's Asteroid Initiative - A Citizen's Forum - Full report

Keith's note: According to the report "We at ECAST designed the forums to explore what a diverse group of lay citizens thought about complex issues when provided with unbiased information and offered the opportunity to have a respectful and open conversation about these matters with their peers. Quite different from a poll or survey, forums like the one developed for this project explore the views and values that citizens use in assessing sociotechnical issues. ... ECAST undertook the recruitment of the lay citizen participants, achieving a distribution that aligned with the demographic characteristics of their respective states by taking into account gender, age, education, ethnicity, income, and employment status."

So ... how did these people from nowhere in particular get up to speed on NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)? According to the report "Rather than survey people who may have little understanding of the subject, these forums provided the opportunity for participants to learn a great deal about NASA's Asteroid Initiative. In fact, participants were provided with much the same technical information that NASA's administrators and program managers use, but presented in short thematic background papers provided prior to the workshop and four informational videos at the start of each session."

Ah, so they only showed the participants NASA stuff. Did the participants receive materials that were in any way critical of ARM? Seriously. The participants were being asked to weigh all aspects of ARM, asteroid defense etc. Given that Congress, the NASA Advisory Council and a significant portion of the planetary science community doubt the value of ARM and/or are totally against it one would hope that this was factored in. If the participants were not given the full spectrum of viewpoints on this topic then the entire effort was null and void at its very inception.

Continue reading: NASA Pays For Decision Making Advice On A Decision It Already Made.

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Congress Kicks The Commercial Crew Can Down The Road

By Keith Cowing on August 28, 2015 10:58 AM.

Congress, Don't Make Us Hitch Rides With Russia. Love, NASA, Charlie Bolden via Wired

"Saturday will mark 1,500 days since the Space Shuttle touched down for the final time. Grounding human spaceflights was always supposed to be temporary as we made the necessary transition to a new generation of spacecraft, operated by American commercial carriers. Likewise, paying for seats on Russian spacecraft to send our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) was always intended to be a stopgap. Had Congress adequately funded President Obama's Commercial Crew proposal, we could have been making final preparations this year to once again launch American astronauts to space from American soil aboard American spacecraft. Instead we are faced with uncertaintyand we will continue to be so long as Congress resists fully investing in Commercial Crew."

- Why Is Congress Stalling NASA's Commercial Crew Program?, earlier post
- NASA Buys More Soyuz Flights Since Congress Constantly Cuts Commercial Crew, earlier post
- Mikulski Tries Unsuccessfully To Prevent Commercial Crew Funding Decrease, earlier post

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Precision Product Placement by NASA With Global Reach (Update)

By Keith Cowing on August 28, 2015 12:01 AM.

Keith's note: Released 20 Aug 2015. Lots of NASA logos, hardware, facilities seen by 7,756,789 15,747,636 18,164,860 21,272,171 29,390,085 young viewers so far. Priceless.

NASA just hit a home run in terms of being in front of millions of eyeballs. A tweet was sent to 24,700,000 @OneDirection followers and was subsequently retweeted/favorited 77,000 times. @NASA also sent a tweet to its 11,900,000 followers which was then retweeted/favorited 50,000 times. Since there is likely minor overlap between @OneDirection and @NASA you can safely assume that the reach was additive i.e. more than 36.6 million Twitter followers reached - that's more than the equivalent of 10% of the united States population. Then there's their official One Direction Facebook page (with 38,000,000 likes) which also features the video - more than the combined Twitter reach combined. And so on.

What an opportunity to reach a population demographic that is simply vast in numbers - right? You'd think that space advocacy organizations (who, after all, want the public to share in their fascination with space) would be overjoyed about this and want to make sure that their members know about it - and to use this as an example of the broad appeal of space exploration. Guess again. Is there any mention at the Planetary Society's website or their Twitter @exploreplanets? No. Just pictures of nerds. As for National Space Society, they're sound asleep. And so on. Space advocates are just sleep walking though this whole space advocacy thing. As such they are increasingly irrelevant.

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Future Version of Neil Tyson Promotes "The Martian"

By Keith Cowing on August 27, 2015 10:19 PM.

We Get It Neil Tyson: You Hated "Gravity" (Update), earlier post Categories:

More stories for September.

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Soyuz TMA-18M Schedule and Rendezvous Information With the ISS

Soyuz TMA-18M Schedule and Rendezvous Information With the ISS

The Soyuz TMA-18M launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 12:37 a.m. EDT Wednesday (10:37 a.m. in Baikonur).

More updates...

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