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Its Moon, Mars, and Beyond Time Again!

By Keith Cowing on February 19, 2018 2:56 PM.

President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond (11 February 2004)

"The President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy is charged with making recommendations to the President on implementation of his vision outlined in the policy statement "A Renewed Spirit of Discovery" and in the President's Budget Submission for Fiscal Year 2005. The commission will also advise NASA on the long-term implementation of the President's vision."

Vice President Pence to Lead National Space Council Meeting at Kennedy Space Center, White House

"Vice President Pence will lead the second meeting of the National Space Council at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. "Moon, Mars, and Worlds Beyond: Winning the Next Frontier" will include testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial, and national security sectors about the importance of the United States' space enterprise. The Vice President will conclude his visit with a tour of Kennedy Space Center."

Moon, Mars, and Beyond 2.0, earlier post

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Names Of National Space Council's User's Advisory Group Members Start To Appear

By Keith Cowing on February 19, 2018 12:00 PM.

Keith's note: Sources report that the membership of the National Space Council's User's Advisory Group (UAG) may be announced on Tuesday - or possibly Wednesday at the NSPC meeting. The UAG is larger than a lot of people wanted - partially as the result of many factions wanting to have their person representing their interests. I have been able to confirm a subset of the UAG membership thus far from multiple sources: Homer Hickam, Jeff Manber, Pam Melroy, Gwynne Shotwell, and Pete Worden. Note: 2 sources confirm Manber, another says he's not a member. I will add more names as I confirm them and correct any errors as they arise.

- National Space Council Users' Advisory Group Established, earlier post
- Apply Now To Be On The National Space Council Users' Advisory Group, earlier post

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Guess What: There is a National Space Council Thing This Week.

By Keith Cowing on February 19, 2018 11:40 AM.

Vice President Pence to Lead National Space Council Meeting at Kennedy Space Center, White House

"Vice President Pence will lead the second meeting of the National Space Council at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. "Moon, Mars, and Worlds Beyond: Winning the Next Frontier" will include testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial, and national security sectors about the importance of the United States' space enterprise. The Vice President will conclude his visit with a tour of Kennedy Space Center."

NASA to Host National Space Council Meeting at Kennedy Space Center

"All media applications for credentialing must be received by 8 p.m. today, Feb. 19. ... NASA Television and the agency's website will provide live coverage of the meeting beginning at 10 a.m. EST."

Keith's note: Gee, a whole 8 Hours advance notice for media to make travel plans after total silence with regard to media access. Obviously the NSpC wanted to limit media attendance as much as possible. Announcing media accreditation on a Federal holiday is one of the best ways to do that. At least we can watch people talking on TV. The way this is being rolled out is 100% White House. NASA has to do exactly what the White House tells them to do - or not do - even if it means sitting on things - and then foot the bill afterward.

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Stealthy National Space Council Meeting WiIl Have a Flashy Reception

By Keith Cowing on February 18, 2018 4:19 PM.

Keith's note: NASA and other agencies have issued zero media advisories. Multiple people have been confirmed as being members of the NSpC's Users' Advisory Group - yet none have been named publicly. A large reception sponsored and paid for by the major aerospace organizations and all of the major aerospace companies is planned during the meeting - yet no official public mention has been made of this event (you are not invited, BTW).

Meanwhile, no mention is made on any NASA website or by other sponsoring agencies including the White House about NSpC activities in Florida. No word yet as to whether the NSpC meeting itself will even be televised for taxpayers to observe or if news media will be allowed to attend. Monday is a Federal holiday so don't expect a lot of updates.

The National Space Council Is Operating in Stealth Mode (Update), earlier post

Reception 20 February
- Parking Lot 4 Opens 5:30 p.m.
- 6:30 p.m. Front Entrance Opens (Guests will walk through the Explore Sign though security screening, proceed to Atlantis Facility for check-in)
- 7:00 p.m. Reception
- 9:30 p.m. Depart Event

National Space Council Meeting 21 February
- 7:00 a.m. Parking Lot 4 Opens, Front Entrance Opens, Go to Debus Conference Facility (Check-in will be inside with a light continental breakfast for guests.)
- 8:15 - 8:45 a.m. Bus Boarding - Lot 1 (Guests will exit Debus Conference Facility and be directed around the building and board KSCVC tour buses to the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF))
- NOON Depart Event - SSPF (Guests will board KCSVC tour buses back to Parking Lot 4)

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Yet Another Smallsat Launch Company Appears

By Keith Cowing on February 18, 2018 3:49 PM.

SKY7 spots stealthy space startup testing its rocket in Alameda (with video), Sky7

"A lease application filed with the City of Alameda gives some clues about what's in the works: a rocket called Astra that the company claims is the world's smallest. The document includes a scale diagram showing its diminutive size and capacity compared to other rockets: The SpaceX Falcon Heavy, with a payload capacity of about 56,000 kg dwarfs the Astra rocket, which is made to carry only 100 kg -- a rocket aimed at launching the new generation of small satellites, the document says. ... We caught up with it and learned it belongs to a startup that doesn't have a name yet -- in fact, an employee cheerfully answered the phone by saying, "Stealth space!" when we called."

- This is the general neighborhood

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The National Space Council Is Operating in Stealth Mode (Update)

By Keith Cowing on February 18, 2018 3:26 PM.

Keith's 15 Feb note: The National Space Council (NSpC) (established by Presidential Executive Order) is having a big, potentially lavish, meeting at NASA KSC on 21 February in 5 days complete with a SpaceX Falcon Heavy booster on display. The NSpC's Users' Advisory Group (UAG) will also be meeting. The UAG is a FACA (Federal Advisory Committee Act) committee - yet no public announcement has been made in advance of this public meeting in the Federal Register per Federal law pertaining to publicizing standard FACA activities two weeks in advance. Nor has any formal mention been made of the NSpC meeting itself. No location has been announced and no attendance procedures for media or citizens have been announced. NASA and other agencies have issued zero media advisories. Multiple people have been confirmed as being members of the NSpC's Users' Advisory Group - yet none have been named publicly. A large reception sponsored and paid for by the major aerospace organizations and all of the major aerospace companies is planned during the meeting - yet no public mention has been made of this event (you are not invited, BTW). No mention is made on NASA's calendar page. No word yet as to whether this highly-staged event will be televised for taxpayers to observe.

This is your National Space Council operating in stealth mode.

Continue reading: The National Space Council Is Operating in Stealth Mode (Update).

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After 5,000 Days On Mars Opportunity Still Does Science

By Keith Cowing on February 16, 2018 10:24 PM.

New Day for Longest-Working Mars Rover

"NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded the dawn of the rover's 4,999th Martian day, or sol, with its Panoramic Camera (Pancam) on Feb. 15, 2018, yielding this processed, approximately true-color scene."

5,000 Days on Mars For Mars Rover Opportunity

"The Sun will rise on NASA's solar-powered Mars rover Opportunity for the 5,000th time on Saturday, sending rays of energy to a golf-cart-size robotic field geologist that continues to provide revelations about the Red Planet."

Mars Rover Opportunity Keeps Finding Surprises

"One possible explanation of these stripes is that they are relics from a time of greater obliquity when snow packs on the rim seasonally melted enough to moisten the soil, and then freeze-thaw cycles organized the small rocks into stripes," Arvidson said."

Keith's note: I asked former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe to look back at Opportunity's exploration of Mars:

"This is a stunning achievement for a capability we thought would survive long enough for a sprint and instead, it's completed a marathon and still going! Opportunity was designed, built, flown and landed with materials and processes we had available. The limited planetary alignment opportunity forced the project team to make due with what they had. The performance since 2004 had surpassed anything anyone thought imaginable. If back in 2004 NASA had dared to declare what Opportunity has achieved as the mission objective, the legion of critics would have told us the cost, schedule and mission were unrealistic. Maybe that would be worth a hearing!"

Alas, the Trump Administration is not interested in supporting Opportunity after FY 2019. This is not the first time that the White House has tried to kill funding for Opportunity (the Obama folks tried too). Congress will likely step in and halt this as they have in the past. That said, maybe its time for someone to start a crowd funding effort. This White House wants NASA to do the public private partnership things, so why not take them up on that offer?

Source: NASA FY 2018 Budget Estimates page PS 69


http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/oppybudget.jpg


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CASIS President/Executive Director Quits

By Keith Cowing on February 16, 2018 6:27 PM.

CASIS Announces Change of Leadership

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced that President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson plans to leave the nonprofit organization effective March 10, 2018, after serving in that position for nearly five years. Johnson was named to the position in August 2013 with a mission to lead a diverse team of professionals in the unprecedented challenge to establish a national laboratory in space, the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, and to foster the growth of a community of users and facilities on the lab for Earth benefit."

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NASA Releases Detailed FY 2019 Budget Information Minus Some Details

By Keith Cowing on February 15, 2018 12:54 PM.

Keith's 14 Feb note: Note that the all of the entries for this Solar Electric Propulsion project are blank (as is the case for RESTORE-L listed just before it in the document) and that there is a place holder image of a mountain with "Caption for Picture (No more than 10 lines)".

OMB and NASA do not know what this thing does, are not certain what it looks like (SEP looks like a mountain?), but they know exactly how much money they want to spend on it ($96 million). But they are also certain that NASA does not need to spend $99 million on an Education Office.

Keith's 15 Feb update: Well NASA quietly updated the PDF file and removed the empty/blank template stuff for RESTORE-L and SEP but they never bothered to fix the document's table of contents. Now the page numbering does not match. What else is screwed up? Amateur hour.

NASA FY 2019 Budget Estimates, NASA

(Excerpts below)

Continue reading: NASA Releases Detailed FY 2019 Budget Information Minus Some Details.

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NASA Budget Document Overlooks Multiple Advisory Group Findings and Recommendations on the ISS

By Keith Cowing on February 14, 2018 7:15 PM.

Keith's note: In the NASA FY 2019 Budget Estimates document released by NASA today, there is a claim that both the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) or Aerospace Advisory Panel (ASAP) have "No new formal recommendations or findings for the ISS". This is incorrect as listed below.

It is also important to note that this budget document makes no mention of the 2018 NASA OIG report "NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)" which notes that CASIS has been unable to fully utilize the ISS resources given to it by NASA and casts doubts on CASIS' ability to allow NASA to utilize the full future potential of the ISS; the OIG report "NASA's Plans for Human Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit" which questions NASA's ability to maintain the ISS, and the GAO Report "NASA Commercial Crew Program: Continued Delays Pose Risks for Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station" which questions NASA's ability to access the ISS.

Nor did the document mention that NASA has refused to deliver an ISS Transition report to Congress no later than 1 Dec 2017 as specified by Public Law No: 115-10. The clear intention of this budget document is to gloss over the facts and give the impression that there is no disagreement with regard to NASA policy regarding the ISS - and its future.

Discrepancies with regard to FY 2019 NASA budget document statements about NAC and ASAP statements regarding ISS issues are below:

Continue reading: NASA Budget Document Overlooks Multiple Advisory Group Findings and Recommendations on the ISS.

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ISS After 2025: Is CASIS The Solution Or The Problem?

By Keith Cowing on February 13, 2018 5:27 PM.

Keith's note: Yesterday NASA held a briefing with Acting CFO Andrew Hunter. When asked about how NASA plans to operate the ISS after 2025 when funding by NASA will cease, Hunter had no answer. The only clue he offered was that CASIS would continue to be part of the NASA space station utilization plan until 2025. Somehow, between now and 2025, NASA claims that it will be handing over all of its operational responsibilities to some yet to be defined private sector entities. It would seem, therefore, by default, that NASA intends to use CASIS to develop the multi-billion dollar customer base that will take over U.S. operations on the ISS and that NASA would be just another customer. How anyone can expect CASIS to complete a task several orders of magnitude greater than the one that they have failed to accomplish thus far is baffling in the extreme. All you have to do is read recent GAO and NASA OIG reports to see that there is extreme doubt with regard to CASIS' abilities.

Of course, NASA has still refused to deliver the ISS Transition Plan mandated by law and due last year. Based on this budget briefing NASA clearly has no plan and they have only begun to work on it.

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA OIG

"... With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018."

"... In its FY 2016 assessment memorandum, NASA noted that absent growth in the project pipeline, the crew utilization rate for three crewmembers could drop below 50 percent. NASA intends to increase the number of crew aboard the U.S. segment of the ISS from three to four in late 2018 and plans to allocate a portion of the additional crew hours available to CASIS who, in turn, will need to recruit additional users. Consequently, without sustained increases in the number of new and repeat users, CASIS's crew time utilization could fall even further when the fourth crew member is added."

"... Even though in recent years NASA has become more involved in measuring CASIS's performance, the Agency still has not developed a performance strategy for the remaining 7 years of the agreement or provided quantifiable metrics by which to assess CASIS and help improve the organization's performance."

"... Despite CASIS's recent progress, FY 2017 fundraising is still far below the amounts discussed in the original CASIS proposal. CASIS officials stated that they replaced the fundraising model in the reference model and original proposal with a sponsored program model, which focuses on obtaining external funding to directly support research and STEM projects. Officials explained that CASIS was not able to pursue all fundraising sources described in the reference model and proposal such as royalty fees, which were prohibited in the agreement, and the membership structure that was found to be unsuccessful."

"... CASIS met only one of nine metrics related to outreach publicizing the unique benefits of using the National Lab to potential users, the White House, Congress, non-NASA Government agencies, commercial companies and researchers, media, kindergarten through grade 12 educators and students, and the general public."

"... By 2024, NASA will have invested $196 million in CASIS. In our opinion, weaknesses in performance measurement and the lack of an overall strategy have created an environment in which NASA continues to accept incremental improvement rather than more tangible attainment of agreed-upon goals. Consequently, without significant change, CASIS likely will fall short of advancing NASA's goal for a commercial economy in low Earth orbit. NASA needs to engage more substantively with CASIS and exercise more effective oversight of the cooperative agreement to clarify CASIS's role in helping build a robust economy in low Earth orbit."

- Earlier posts on CASIS

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Summary Of Today's NASA CFO Budget Briefing

By Keith Cowing on February 12, 2018 5:55 PM.

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The Real Reason Why NASA Got A Big Budget Plus Up

By Keith Cowing on February 12, 2018 5:06 PM.

Letter From OMB Director Mulvaney to Houe Speaker Ryan, OMB

"This addendum includes additional funding for a limited set of Administration priorities, but notably, it also proposes to use higher spending caps as an opportunity to fix some long-time budget gimmicks that the Congress has used to circumvent the spending caps and add billions to the Nation's deficits. ... National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $300 million to fund innovative exploration-related programs and address needs in other parts of the agency."

Keith's note: So ... one would assume that had an overal budget deal not been reached last week (i.e. the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, mentioned in the opening of this letter) that NASA's budget would have only increased by $100 million. Note that the letter says the $300 million is to be used to "fund innovative exploration-related programs and address needs in other parts of the agency". Not very specific.

Keith's update: Acting NASA CFO just admitted that this budget plus up was a "surprise" and that they have to adjust their detailed budget document to show where they will spend the money. This is a nice position to be in - but NASA's budget is expected to be more or less flat in the out years which actually means a slow motion budget cut due to the eroding effect of inflation.

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NASA FY 2019 Budget Proposal Released

By Keith Cowing on February 12, 2018 12:07 PM.

Feb. 12 'State of NASA' Events Highlight Agency Goals for Space Exploration

"Lightfoot will provide a "State of NASA" address to the agency's workforce at 1 p.m. EST from Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. His remarks will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

- Watch live here: https://www.nasa.gov/live/

Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot: State of NASA: Fiscal Year 2019 Budget, NASA

"It is my privilege today to present President Trump's Fiscal Year 2019 budget request of $19.9 billion for NASA. It reflects the Administration's confidence that through NASA leadership, America will lead the way back to the Moon and take the next giant leap from where we made that first small step nearly 50 years ago. This budget focuses NASA on its core exploration mission and reinforces the many ways that we return value to the U.S. through knowledge and discoveries, strengthening our economy and security, deepening partnerships with other nations, providing solutions to tough problems, and inspiring the next generation. It places NASA and the U.S. once again at the forefront of leading a global effort to advance humanity's future in space, and draws on our nation's great industrial base and capacity for innovation and exploration."

- NASA FY 2019 Budget Documents, Strategic Plans and Performance Reports

Detailed NASA FY 2019 Budget proposal, OMB

"The Budget proposes the termination of the Office of Education and its portfolio of programs and projects. Unobligated balances previously appropriated under this heading may be used to support close-out costs. Moving forward, a small team at NASA headquarters funded out of Agency Management and Operations will be accountable for strategic direction and coordination of the agency's STEM engagement efforts."

- NASA FY 2019 Budget Estimates, NASA (pdf)

"Refocuses existing NASA activities towards exploration, by redirecting funding to innovative new programs and providing additional funding to support new public - private initiatives."

"Proposes to end direct U.S. financial support for ISS in 2025, with a seamless transition to the use of future commercial capabilities."

"Cancels WFIRST due to its significant cost and higher priorities within NASA. Increases funding for competed astrophysics missions and research."

"Proposes to terminate NASA's Office of Education, including its portfolio of grants and cooperative agreements and redirects funds to NASA's core mission of exploration. NASA headquarters will continue to be accountable for strategic direction and coordination of the agency's STEM engagement efforts."

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White House Plan To Defund ISS By 2025 Moves Ahead

By Keith Cowing on February 11, 2018 12:23 PM.

The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a commercially run venture, NASA document shows., Washington Post

"The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry. The White House plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether, and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post. "The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time - it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform," the document states. "NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit."

Trump mulling privatization of International Space Station: report, The Hill

"The space station program manager of Boeing, which has been involved with the ISS for over 20 years, warned of privatizing the station. "Walking away from the International Space Station now would be a mistake, threatening American leadership and hurting the commercial market as well as the scientific community," Mark Mulqueen said in a statement to The Post."

NASA Budgets for a Trip to the Moon, but Not While Trump Is President, NY Times

"According to excerpts from NASA documents obtained by The New York Times before the budget's release, the administration will propose $19.9 billion in spending for the space agency in fiscal year 2019, which begins on Oct. 1. That is a $370 million increase from the current year, the result of the budget deal reached in Congress last week and signed by Mr. Trump. The budget numbers were confirmed by a person who was not authorized to talk publicly about them. In future years, the administration would like NASA's spending to drop to $19.6 billion and stay flat through 2023. With inflation, NASA's buying power would erode, effectively a budget cut each year."

NASA FY 2019 Budget Hints: ISS Lifespan To Be Limited (Update), earlier post

"- Ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities;"

Keith's note: You have to wonder what sort of feedback NASA is allowed to give to the White House on important decision like this given that NASA has had an acting Administrator for over a year. The feedback usually reverts to political appointees at NASA. Jonathan Dimock is one of the people who does this. Last year he listed his qualifications for this job below (Letter posted verbatim):

How Jonathan Dimock Auditioned To Be NASA White House Liaison, earlier post

"? National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA or Deep Space Exploration Administration or DESA)

o Aside from understanding the technical aspect of NASA and the components that goes into it. I can also understand the economics of launching satellites and supplies into space for both private and government entities. We all know that Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk with Space-X and various investors including Shaun Coleman with Vector Space are racing for more contacts with NASA and others. This is a time when NASA can scale back without huge loss to their operation and we can continue to provide suitable funding for suitable research that benefits the citizens both scientifically and economically. It is not outrageous to believe that a small cut in the $105.5b budget cannot be cut by even a small percentage for a large gain to the taxpayers while providing a big win for the administration."

- Ted Cruz On NASA, ISS, Star Trek, Bridenstine and "OMB Numbskulls", earlier post
- Trump Advisors Send Mixed Signals On ISS Support, earlier post
- Reaction To Proposed OMB Space Station Funding Cuts, earlier post
- NASA OIG Flunks CASIS - And NASA's Management of CASIS, earlier post

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