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ISS Resupply Mission Underway

By Marc Boucher on July 3, 2015 8:25 AM.

International Space Station Resupply Mission Underway [Watch the launch], SpaceRef

"Less than a week after the SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station ended in failure, the Russian Progress 60 cargo resupply mission launched on schedule to bring much needed supplies to the International Space Station.

The cargo spacecraft is carrying over 2700 kilograms of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 44 crew members. The supplies will arrive on Sunday."

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Shelton Vs McCain On RD-180 Engines

By Keith Cowing on July 2, 2015 6:17 PM.

Shelton Versus McCain on Import of SpaceX Failure, SpacePolicyOnline

"Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Gen. William Shelton (Ret.) view the June 28 SpaceX launch failure very differently. In a McCain statement and a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Shelton, the two take opposite positions on what should be learned from the failure in terms of national security space launches and how long Russian RD-180 engines are needed by the U.S. military to have assured access to space. The congressional push to end reliance on RD-180s began while Shelton was still on active duty and Commander of Air Force Space Command and he and McCain differed on these issues all along. At the last congressional hearing on the topic during Shelton's tenure, in July 2014, they were fully were on display. Apparently nothing has changed."

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Pluto In The Headlights

By Keith Cowing on July 1, 2015 10:13 PM.

Color Images Reveal Two Distinct Faces of Pluto, NASA

"New color images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced. Each of the spots is about 300 miles in diameter, with a surface area that's roughly the size of the state of Missouri."

New Horizons Stays the Course to Pluto, NASA

"After seven weeks of detailed searches for dust clouds, rings, and other potential hazards, the New Horizons team has decided the spacecraft will remain on its original path through the Pluto system instead of making a late course correction to detour around any hazards. Because New Horizons is traveling at 30,800 mph (49,600 kph), a particle as small as a grain of rice could be lethal."

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Opinions On Falcon Loss Aftermath Are All Over The Map

By Keith Cowing on June 30, 2015 6:54 PM.

Orbital May Benefit From SpaceX's Fiery Rocket Fail, Cowen Says, Bloomberg

"SpaceX's explosive mission failure may benefit Orbital ATK Inc. as the two compete for future contracts to supply the International Space Station, according to Cowen & Co."

Analyst: Rocket Failure Unlikely To Hurt SpaceX, Forbes

"The launch failure by itself is not much of an issue," Ostrove told me. "Most people in the industry understand that launching rockets into space is really difficult and occasional failures are just the price of conducting launches. Overall, SpaceX has a pretty strong record of success (about 95%) with the Falcon 9."

McCain: Pentagon shouldn't rely on Russian rocket engines despite SpaceX explosion, The Hill

"Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) defended SpaceX on Monday after its Falcon 9 rocket exploded two minutes after a launch over the weekend. "I am confident that the that this minor setback will in no way impede the future success of SpaceX and its ability to support U.S. national security space missions," he said in a statement, noting the company has previously launched seven successful trips."

Will SpaceX explosion impact Air Force launch competitions?, Defense Systems

"The explosion Sunday of a Space X Falcon 9 rocket shortly after liftoff directly affected NASA and a resupply mission to the International Space Station, but its aftershocks could affect the military's plans for future launches of its spy satellites."

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NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission

By Keith Cowing on June 29, 2015 9:10 PM.

Keith's note: NASA quietly admitted today at the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) Meeting that one of the formally baseline, prime science requirements of the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) is to retrive a boulder from the surface of an asteroid and bring it back to lunar orbit where a human crew will do science with it. Despite the mission's name no "asteroid" will actually be "retrieved". As such NASA really should refine the mission to be the "Boulder Retrieval Mission". To be honest the whole notion of grabbing anything in space was never a driver for this mission - despite the name.

NASA seems to be having some issues with the whole boulder thing too. Today a speaker outlining hardware design work for ARM at JPL noted that there was a lot of hard thinking and work put into how to build a "synthetic boulder" to be used to test things. Its not a real boulder, its a mockup of a boulder. Its really odd that this would be so hard - especially in southern California where JPLers could easily visit Disney Land which has been making synthetic boulders since the 1950s. A little more freeway driving and they could also visit Hollywood which also has some fair expertise in the creation of synthetic boulders such as the one used in "Star Trek" in 1967.

Another topic of discussion was whether the SBAG get togethers should be a "conference" or a "meeting". This of course sent SMD's Jim Green into a long discussion of how hard it is for NASA to do conferences these days since it is hard for NASA to do conferences. It also led to a discussion amongst the participants as to what a "conference" is and what a "meeting" is. Gee, after half a century NASA still has not figured out what a "conference" or a "meeting" is and used meeting/conference time to discuss the topic. I am not certain anything was resolved on this topic.

Back to ARM. At its last meeting the NASA Advisory Council came within a millimeters of recommending that NASA abandon the whole ARM concept and use the solar electric asteroid grabbing vehicle to go to Phobos (and back) instead. This way it would actually serve as a real step on NASA's #JourneyToMars - by actually going to Mars - instead of a dead end sideshow. It is all but certain that the NAC will take this action at their meeting at JPL on 30-31 July. Of course, Congress is already formally against ARM and with the exception of a few companies who want to mine asteroids, no one really supports it at the present time. And NASA can't even admit that the $1.25 billion cost (without launcher) would balloon to $3 billion or so when it uses the two SLS flights it wants to use. And oh yes: the OSIRIS-REx mission will already do nearly all of the sciencey stuff ARM is doing (as an afterthought) - at a fraction of the cost of ARM.

So much for the first big step on the road to Mars. It just keeps shrinking.

- NASA Advisory Council Wants to Cancel Asteroid Redirect Mission and Send it to Phobos Instead
- Asteroid Retrieval Is Not The Prime Intent of NASA's Asteroid Retrieval Mission
- NASA: Two SLS Launches Likely Needed For $3 billion+ ARM, earlier post
- Asteroid Redirect Mission Critique
- Congress, NAC, SBAG, Question Asteroid Mission, earlier post
- Report of the Small Bodies Assessment Group Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, 30 July 2014 (Draft), earlier post
- SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, July 2014 presentation, earlier post
- Asteroid Experts Are Not Very Fond of NASA's Asteroid Mission, earlier post

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Quick: Read The Planetary Society Mars Plan While It Is Free

By Keith Cowing on June 29, 2015 7:06 PM.

Keith's note: In April 2015 the Planetary Society held an invitation-only "Humans Orbiting Mars" workshop wherein they unveiled their idea for a mission to Mars. At a quick press conference after the event (no media were allowed to attend the workshop) the Planetary Society promised more detail would be made public - later. Since then nothing but crickets. Well, it now looks like the Planetary Society Mars plan is now online - but only for a few weeks - then you will have to pay to read it. An article on the grand plan by Scott Hubbard will only be online here until 29 July 2015. I do not see any mention of this report's availability on the Planetary Society website. I am not sure how far a mission concept like this is going to get if no one can read the details. Given that most of these new space policy ideas have been semi-secret lately it would seem that the authors are not really interested in any meaningful public engagement.

- Stealthy Humans Orbiting Mars Workshop Update, earlier post
- Making Space Policy In Secret (Again), earlier post
- Good News Everyone: Another Closed Door Humans to Mars Thing, earlier post

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Falcon Mishap Details Emerge

By Keith Cowing on June 29, 2015 3:52 PM.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Mishap: More Details Emerge, SpaceRef

"According to SpaceX telemetry received from the Dragon spacecraft showed that it too was functioning after the mishap occurred and telemetry continued to be sent back from Dragon for a significant period of time. SpaceX now confirms that the U.S. Air Force Range Safety Officer did initiate a destruct command but that this command was sent 70 seconds after the mishap occurred, as a formal matter of process. There was nothing left to destroy at that point."

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Impact of CRS-7 Loss

By Keith Cowing on June 29, 2015 11:15 AM.

Another major rocket failure for a space industry out to prove itself, Washington Post

"SpaceX and Dulles-based Orbital ATK won contracts to carry cargo to the station. Then last year, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to develop capsules that can carry astronauts to the space station, with the first such mission scheduled for December 2017. Politics may confound that. Congress recently slashed more than $300 million from the administration's budget request for the commercial crew program. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said the cuts would delay the mission by two years. And that was before Sunday's SpaceX failure."

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Was Falcon 9 Destroyed? Answer: No.

By Keith Cowing on June 28, 2015 2:13 PM.


Keith's note: Dan Billow specifically asked for an answer from both SpaceX and NASA as to whether a destruct signal was sent to the Falcon 9. Gwen Shotwell answered. NASA did not.

Keith's update: When I asked NASA PAO "Did the Range Safety Officer send a signal to the Falcon 9 to self-destruct?" they replied "No, the range didn't have a chance."

SpaceX Falcon 9 Mishap: More Details Emerge, SpaceRef

"SpaceX now confirms that the U.S. Air Force Range Safety Officer did initiate a destruct command but that this command was sent 70 seconds after the mishap occurred, as a formal matter of process. There was nothing left to destroy at that point."

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SpaceX Launch Failure

By Keith Cowing on June 28, 2015 12:52 PM.

Keith's note: The Falcon 9 Carrying CRS-7 either exploded or was destroyed shortly after launch a few minutes ago. SpaceX has assembled a team to look into this. NASA has referred to a launch vehicle "failure" and that the last data came down from the vehicle at T+ 2:19. No more news or NASA TV until contingency press conference no earlier than 12:00 pm 12:30 pm 12:50 pm 1:00 pm EDT.

- SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Fails on Launch, SpaceRef

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/explode.lrg.jpg

Keith's note: this is Internet rocket analysis and has nothing to do with what actually happened.

Keith's note: This slow motion video from Astronomy Now shows that the Falcon 9 engines seem to be burning well after the explosion - and also that something shaped like a Dragon is seen exiting the cloud. Note: this is Internet rocket analysis and has nothing to do with what actually happened.

Continue reading: SpaceX Launch Failure.

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Sharing Memories of Columbia and Challenger

By Keith Cowing on June 27, 2015 12:04 PM.

A Memorial to Our Fallen Shuttle Family Members

"Today, NASA and our nation take a step toward the future by honoring our past. The story of humans in space is more than 50 years old, and a major part of that exploration was our incredible flagship Space Shuttle Program. It's now time to tell the full scope of the shuttle's achievements; of the men and women who made the program great; and the sacrifices of those who lost their lives to push the boundaries of human achievement. NASA and the families of the STS-51L (Challenger) and STS-107 (Columbia) astronauts want the stories of these crews' accomplishments and sacrifices to be told in a meaningful and personal way in the context of the entire program's legacy. We have done that, and today I have the privilege of visiting the new Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex memorial "Forever Remembered" with the families of our Challenger and Columbia crews."

NASA honors fallen astronauts, lost shuttles, CBS

"In the first memorial of its kind, NASA and the families of the 14 men and women who lost their lives aboard the shuttle Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 have joined together to remember the astronauts with pictures, personal mementos and, in an emotional first, iconic wreckage from both orbiters. The "Forever Remembered" memorial at the Kennedy Space Center's commercially operated Visitor Complex opened to the public Saturday after private viewings Thursday and Friday by family members."

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Prepared Statements: Hearing on Replacing RD-180 Engines on US Launch Vehicles

By Keith Cowing on June 26, 2015 7:32 PM.

Tory Bruno, ULA
Rob Meyerson, Blue Origin
Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne
Frank Culbertson, Orbital ATK
Katrina McFarland, DoD
John Hyten, USAF Space Command
Jeffrey Thornburg, SpaceX
Samuel Greaves, USAF Space and Missiles Systems Center
Michael Griffin, himself

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Hearing on Russian Engines

By Keith Cowing on June 26, 2015 1:15 PM.

Hearing: Assuring National Security Space: Investing in American industry to end reliance on Russian rocket engines

Keith's note: The House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing Friday with quite a cast of characters - Tory Bruno, Rob Meyerson, Julie Van Kleeck, Frank Culbertson, Jeff Thornburg, Katrina McFarland, John Hyten, Samuel Greaves, and, to round out the fun, Mike Griffin. This hearing ought to be a classic example of the old Washington adage "where you stand depends on where you sit".

You can catch the live tweeting stream from this morning's hearing that was posted on Twitter by @NASAWatch by following tweets with the #RD180 hashtag

SpaceX Prepared Testimony by Jeffrey Thornburg

"Continued reliance by U.S. launch providers on risky foreign supply chains for major subsystemsincluding propulsionhas materially weakened the U.S. industrial base. Now, however, private industry is investing internal funds to restore America's leading edge in rocket technology. As a matter of industrial policy, it makes little sense to extend reliance on foreign sources of key subsystems when American technology can step in today."

United Launch Alliance Discusses Future Innovations While Maintaining Industry Leading Reliability and Capability

"To end use of the RD-180 engine and make commercial investments in a new engine and system that will meet our national launch requirements, ULA needs the ability to compete into the next decade," said Bruno. "The House has correctly addressed concern over the RD-180 engine by allowing ULA to use engines already on contract while prohibiting additional purchases, which reflects the original intent of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act."

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JSC's Open Innovation Contract Award Free For All

By Keith Cowing on June 25, 2015 4:48 PM.

NASA JSC Solicitation: Open Innovation Challenge

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for the use of an established external crowdsourcing support platform with a curated crowd in order to publically post one challenge (external to NASA) to enable interaction with an existing global solver network. Specifically, NASA requires the use of an established platform in order to run a single, short-duration challenge. NASA/JSC intends to purchase the items from InnoCentive, Inc. due to the substantial duplication of cost that is not expected to be recovered through competition. Unacceptable delays in fulfilling the agency's requirements would result given any other action due to current circumstances. ... Interested organizations may submit their capabilities and qualifications to perform the effort in writing to the identified point of contact not later than 4:30 p.m. local time on June 29, 2015. Such capabilities/qualifications will be evaluated solely for the purpose of determining whether or not to conduct this procurement on a competitive basis."

Keith's note: JSC issued this non-compete notice on 24 June and wants anyone who thinks that they can do the tasks to reply before COB on 29 June - that's 5 days, 2 of which are on a weekend. Curiously, the original response date listed on the solicitation was 6 July 2015. I guess someone someone is in a hurry.

JSC also issued this cluster of NASA Open Innovation Services contract awards all awarded 4 June but only announced on 23/24 June - each of which states "Contract Award Amount: 20000000" ($20,000,000) - and each of which says "Multiple Award Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) for NASA Open Innovation Services (NOIS) were awarded NTE $ 20M overall." to Tongual, Inc., Patexia, The Common Pool LLC, Ideo LP, Ninesigma, Inc., Luminary Labs, LLC, Kaggle Inc., HeroX PBC, Appirio Inc., - and Innocentive, Inc.

All of these awards were made in response to this 2014 Open Innovation Services solicitation NNJ15517388R. Although there seems to be a limit of $20,000,000 for JSC to play with, it would seem that all of the awards have a potential award of $20,000,000. So ... it would seem that JSC is not exactly sure who is going to be doing what - but that they will need 10 companies to do the innovation stuff and split the $20,000,000 in a TBD fashion. Competition seems to have been somewhat pointless given that so many awards were made. There is no press release from JSC on these awards - and only a contract specialist is listed, so ...

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Advising NASA on the Soon-to-be-Redirected Asteroid Redirect Mission

By Keith Cowing on June 23, 2015 4:26 PM.

Invitation to Membership on the Formulation Assessment and Support Team for the Asteroid Redirect Mission

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) intends to release a letter of invitation for membership on the Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST) for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). ARM is part of NASA's plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight capabilities needed for a human mission to the Martian system in the 2030s, as well as other future human and robotic missions. ARM includes the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) and the Asteroid Redirect Crewed Mission (ARCM), along with leveraging the global asteroid-observation community's efforts to detect, track and characterize candidate asteroids. For additional information on how to apply for FAST membership ..."

NASA Advisory Council Wants to Cancel Asteroid Redirect Mission and Send it to Phobos Instead, earlier post

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