Military / National Security News
The results of some congressional races are still not final, but as of 6:00 am ET November 5, it is clear that Republicans will control the Senate in the 114th Congress and added to their majority in the House.
With Senate races in three states (Alaska, Louisiana, and Virginia) still not over, Republicans have at least 52 seats in the Senate, one more than needed to control the chamber. Democrats have 43 and there are 2 Independents. In the House, Republicans will have at least 242 seats, a gain of 13, and there will be at least 174 Democrats. Results from the remaining districts are pending.
For space policy and programs, the biggest impact likely will be in funding. Republicans have been pressing for cutbacks in government spending to reduce the deficit, while Democrats have argued for a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Republicans oppose tax increases.
Congress returns to work next Tuesday (November 12). Little legislation is likely to be passed in the lame duck session knowing that party control of the Senate will change in January.
The one must-pass piece of legislation is FY2015 appropriations. FY2015 began on October 1 and the government is operating under a Continuing Resolution that expires on December 11.
Whether a bill will pass to cover the rest of FY2015 (through September 30, 2015) or only for a few weeks or months to provide funding through the beginning of the next Congress when Republicans will have more power to shape its contents is an open question. NASA was poised to receive a significant increase over the President's request for FY2015 in bills that passed the House and cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis, so it is possible that the increase will survive, but if reducing the deficit becomes the driving force, it could be endangered. NOAA's satellite programs similarly fared reasonably well in FY2015 budget action so far. A major issue in the DOD space policy and budget realm is whether to add money to begin development of a U.S. rocket engine to replace Russia's RD-180, used for the Atlas V, which is a very complex issue and it is difficult to assess how much that will be affected by the Republican gains.
Here is our list of space policy-related events for the week of November 2 - 8, 2014 and any insight we can offer about them. Congress returns on November 12.
During the Week
News can be expected throughout the week on the October 28 Antares launch failure and the October 31 SpaceShipTwo (SS2) accident. Orbital Sciences Corporation is leading the Antares investigation and has been posting regular updates on its website. The National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB) is leading the SS2 investigation, where one of the two pilots died and the other is hospitalized. NTSB held two briefings yesterday (at 9:00 am and 8:00 pm Pacific Time), and a third is scheduled for tonight (Sunday) at 8:00 pm PT (11:00 pm ET). We will post information on any briefings that we learn about during the week on the calendar.
On the national scene, the biggest news in the coming week will be, of course, Tuesday's mid-term elections. Republicans are expected to retain control of the House and could win control of the Senate as well, although some races are very close, legal challenges may by filed against some state voter registration laws or processes, and there is a chance there could be as many as four Independents in the Senate (there are two now), which could sway the balance of power depending on which party they choose to caucus with (the two incumbent Independents caucus with the Democrats). All of that makes prognostication especially difficult and could mean that the issue of which party controls the Senate may not be settled on Tuesday.
The most important thing is for EVERY ELIGIBLE VOTER TO GET OUT AND VOTE! YOUR VOTE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Lots of other interesting events are on tap, too. Certainly the most intriguing one is a panel discussion sponsored by the American Chemical Society and American University on Thursday on "The First and Final Frontiers: The Overlapping Technology Policies of Farming and Space Exploration." The Washington Space Business Roundtable's luncheon later that day also should be particularly interesting. Mark Sirangelo of Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is the speaker. Between SNC's lawsuit against the government over the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contract awards and this past week's commercial space setbacks (though they did not involve SNC), Sirangelo's take on the present and future of commercial space should be thought provoking. It's a busy day. The ACS/AU event is from 10:00-11:00 am ET, NASA is having a briefing at KSC (watch on NASA TV) at 11:00 on the planned December launch of the Orion capsule on its Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), and the WSBR luncheon starts at 11:30.
On Saturday, NASA, in partnership with the University of Arizona, will hold the first of two "citizen forums" on the Asteroid Initiative. This first one is in Phoenix. The second, on November 15, is in Boston. People had to apply to participate in person and that process is closed; those chosen are being paid $100. Anyone else can participate online (no stipend), but must register.
Sunday, November 2
Monday, November 3
Monday-Tuesday, November 3-4
Tuesday, November 4
Wednesday-Thursday, November 5-6
Thursday, November 6
Saturday, November 8
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) talked to many experts and reviewed a host of reports on DOD's plans for disaggregation of some of its satellite systems. In the end, GAO concluded that little is known about the pros and cons of using that acquisition approach for future space systems and warned that "poorly informed decisions could made" by DOD.
GAO was directed to conduct its review by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in the report accompanying the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act. The committee particularly asked GAO to assess "the potential benefits and drawbacks of disaggregating key military space systems and examine if disaggregation offers decreased acquisition and lifecycle costs and increased survivability of a satellite constellation compared to more traditional acquisition approaches."
Disaggregation has become a popular, if not well understood, term for launching many smaller satellites instead of a few large ones to accomplish a given mission such as early warning, weather, or communication. GAO describes it as "breaking up" large satellites into multiple smaller ones. The idea is that smaller satellites may be less costly to develop, produce and launch than large, complex satellites, and that space systems as a whole might be less vulnerable (and therefore more resilient) if there were more targets that had to be neutralized to degrade system performance significantly. Hosted payloads are an example of disaggregation where a user such as DOD puts a sensor or other payload on another entity's satellite so that it does not have to pay for the entire satellite. CHIRP (Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload) is one example of DOD utilizing the hosted payload concept where it tested a new infrared sensor as a payload on a commercial communications satellite owned by SES. Although widely considered a success, DOD discontinued CHIRP in 2013 because of budget constraints.
SASC specifically asked GAO to look at capabilities provided by three satellite systems: Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellites; Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness; and Weather System Follow-on (WSF), a successor to the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).
GAO said, however, that there are so many unknowns, it could not make a definitive assessment at this time. Therefore it limited the report to describing the potential benefits and limitations and to assessing whether DOD has enough knowledge to make informed decisions today about whether to use disaggregation for acquiring new space systems.
GAO's answer to the latter question is no. Although DOD and other organizations have conducted many studies, and DOD has Analysis of Alternatives (AOAs) underway, they are insufficient to support good decision-making, the report concluded. GAO found that "... the intent of the AOAs is not to examine the merits of disaggregation on its own, but rather as one of the many options that may or may not provide solutions. The additional studies beyond the AOAs have been useful in providing results to inform the ongoing AOAs, officials told us, though some have been regarded as inconclusive because they were not conducted with sufficient analytical rigor or did not consider the capabilities, risks, and trades in a holistic manner." In addition, DOD "lacks common measures for resilience that can be used consistently in AOAs..." even though "DOD leaders have emphasized resilience as a priority when considering future systems," and demonstration projects like CHIRP provide technological insight and lessons learned, but do not focus on operational feasibility.
As for the potential benefits and drawbacks, GAO provided many examples of both, but its ultimate conclusion was that not enough is known today: "Without a determined and disciplined effort to develop information about the full range of disaggregation issues -- including operations -- decisions on future space capabilities could be under-informed and opportunities missed."
Here is our list of space policy related events coming up in the next TWO weeks, October 27-November 7, 2014, and any insight we can offer about them. Congress returns on November 12.
During the Weeks
This issue covers the next TWO weeks, and certainly the most interesting event in that time period is November 4 -- election day in the United States. More on that in our next issue, but put it on your calendar and GET OUT AND VOTE!
In the nearer term, Orbital Sciences Corporation will launch its next cargo mission, Orb-3, to the International Space Station tomorrow (October 27) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, VA. The launch at 6:45 pm ET may be visible along the east coast (weather permitting). Orbital has a map showing where to look on its website. NASA TV will provide coverage beginning at 5:45 pm ET. A post-launch press conference is scheduled for approximately 90 minutes after launch.
The American Astronautical Society (AAS) will hold its annual Wernher von Braun symposium in Huntsville, AL from October 27-30 (the 27th is a welcome reception and the 30th is a tour of the United Launch Alliance production facility in nearby Decatur, AL). Three "Washington Perspectives" are on the schedule: on October 28 by Cristina Chaplain of the Government Accountability Office; and on October 29 by Dick Obermann, minority staff director of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, at 8:00 am Central Time, and by Kate Kronmiller of Orbital Sciences Corporation at noon CT. Lots of other very interesting discussions on tap as well. There is no indication on the agenda if any of the event will be webcast.
On November 6, Mark Sirangelo of Sierra Nevada's Space Systems Division will talk to the Washington Space Business Roundtable. Between Sierra Nevada's lawsuit over NASA's award of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contracts to Boeing and SpaceX (and not Sierra Nevada), and the company's non-NASA plans for its Dream Chaser spacecraft, it should be particularly interesting.
Those and other events we know about as of Sunday evening are listed below.
Monday, October 27
Monday-Thursday, October 27-30
Tuesday-Thursday, October 28-29
Wednesday, October 29
Monday, November 3
Monday-Tuesday, November 3-4
Tuesday, November 4
Wednesday-Thursday, November 5-6
Thursday, November 6
Here is our list of space policy-related events in the coming week, October 20-24, 2014, and any insights we can offer about them. Congress returns on November 12.
During the Week
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has scheduled a second hearing on Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC's) lawsuit against the government vis a vis the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contracts for Tuesday at 2:30 pm ET (it's not listed on our calendar because we don't list court dates for lawsuits since they are rarely open to the public). The first hearing was on Friday, where the court allowed SpaceX and Boeing to intervene in the case. The court is also considering SNC's request to keep most of the filings under seal because some of the material may be proprietary and some is protected under SNC's protest to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). SNC is protesting NASA's award of the CCtCAP contracts to Boeing and SpaceX. Ordinarily, under the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA), work would stop under those contracts until GAO rules on SNC's protest (it has until January 5, 2015). NASA did issue a stop-work order, but later rescinded it based on its statutory authority to avoid significant adverse consequences. SNC is challenging the legality of that rescission. Check back with SpacePolicyOnline.com to learn about what happens on Tuesday.
There are many other interesting events on tap during the week as well. On Monday, the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (which administers the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space), the Mexican Space Agency and another Mexican organization, CICESE, will hold a symposium on Making Space Technology Accessible and Affordable. The opening ceremony and a press conference -- including the head of the Mexican Space Agency, Javier Mendieta -- will be webcast.
The third of three International Space Station (ISS) spacewalks in as many weeks is scheduled for Wednesday. This time it is two Russians, Max Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev, who will step outside. NASA TV will cover it beginning at 9:00 am ET.
Two very interesting luncheons are being held in the Washington, DC area on Thursday, unfortunately at exactly the same time. The Washington Space Business Roundtable is hosting a panel of experts on the future of satellite communications in support of DOD at the University Club is downtown DC, while the National Capital Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics is hearing from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Chris Scolese across the river in Arlington, VA. Not to mention that there's an all-day symposium in DC that day on space and satellite regulatory issues. Busy day!
Those and other events we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.
Monday, October 20
Wednesday, October 22
Wednesday-Sunday, October 22-26
Thursday, October 23
UPDATE: A link has been added to A video of the landing released by the Air Force on October 22, and with an even more accurate mission duration calculation by Jonathan McDowell that it lasted 674.93 days, which we round to 675 days rather than the Air Force's 674 days.
The Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA today (October 17) at 9:24 am PDT (12:24 pm EDT). This is the third and longest flight to date.
The X-37B looks like a very small space shuttle. There are at least two of them, OTV-1 and OTV-2. Both are reusable and this is the second flight of OTV-1. It spent 224 days in orbit in 2010. OTV-2 was in space for 469 days from March 2011-June 2012. What the OTVs do during those lengthy missions is completely classified, leading to much conjecture, but no hard facts in the public domain.
The Air Force announced a week ago today that the landing would take place soon. Initially, it appeared as though Tuesday would be the landing date, but for reasons that have not been announced, it took place today instead.
The Air Force 30th Space Wing issued the following press statement, which includes the news that the next X-37B flight will launch in 2015:
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission
"The 30th Space Wing and our mission partners, Air Force Rapid Capabilities
"I'm extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third
"The landing of OTV-3 marks a hallmark event for the program" said the
"The mission is our longest to date and we're pleased with the incremental
The Air Force is preparing to launch the fourth X-37B mission from Cape
Later in the day, the Air Force 30th Space Wing posted photos of the landing on its Facebook page, including this one:
X-37 Orbital Test Mission 3 (OTV-3) lands at Vandenberg AFB, CA, Oct. 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Boeing
The Air Force released a video of the landing on YouTube on October 22.
Although the Air Force said it was a 674-day mission, Jonathan McDowell, author of Jonathan's Space Report, tweeted (@planet4589) that the mission duration was 674.9 days based on his calculations. SpacePolicyOnline.com asked the Air Force for clarification, but none was offered. McDowell rechecked his calculation and produced an even more accurate duration of 674.93 days, so we will continue to use 675 days.
Note: This article was updated on October 17 with the Air Force press statement and landing photo, and on October 22 with the link to the video and McDowell's more precise mission duration calculation..
NOTE: As of 5:00 pm EDT October 15, the Air Force has not made any announcement that the X-37B landed. The original announcement that it was returning to Earth said the exact landing date and time were dependent on technical and weather considerations. Unofficial observers monitoring FAA's NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) and using amateur observations of its orbit can offer possible landing times, but they are subject to uncertainty. Reuters reporter Irene Klotz (@Free_Space) tweeted today that the landing "now looks like no earlier than Thursday, FAA pilot advisory indicates." Bob Christy at zarya.info calculates there is a landing opportunity that day (tomorrow) about 16:25 GMT (12:25 EDT). This article has been updated to reflect the delay from the anticipated landing date of October 14.
UPDATED, October 15, 2014: The Air Force announced on Friday (October 10) that its secretive X-37B spaceplane, in orbit for almost two years, will soon return to Earth and land at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. At the recent International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014) in Toronto, Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation encouraged the U.S. government to be more open about what the X-37 is doing as part of the Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBMs) the United States is advocating to help ensure space sustainability.
Officially called the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), the vehicle resembles a very small space shuttle. The Air Force launches the robotic spacecraft for lengthy on-orbit classified missions. This flight is the longest to date. Launched on December 11, 2012, its mission duration will be more than 667 days. There are at least two OTVs. The first, OTV-1, made a 224 day flight in 2010. The second, OTV-2, made a 469 day flight from March 2011 to June 2012. The OTVs are reusable and this is the second flight for OTV-1.
Photo of X-37B OTV-1. Photo credit: Boeing (via Spaceflightnow.com)
The Air Force statement said the exact time of the landing "will depend on technical and weather considerations." Initial indications were that landing was targeted for October 14, but that day passed with no announcement from the Air Force. Unofficial observers are estimating potential landing times based on the FAA's NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) and amateur observations of the X-37's orbit, but they are subject to uncertainty. Check back here for updated information when it is available.
The classified nature of the missions prompts much speculation about what they are doing. In an era when the United States and other countries are advocating for establishing TCBMs to help ensure space sustainability, some question why the missions are kept secret. In an October 1 session at IAC2014 on "Assuring a Safe, Secure and Sustainable Space Environment for Space Activities," the Secure World Foundation's (SWF's) Samson cited the X-37B's secrecy as at odds with TCBMs. TCBMs are norms of behavior that "nations that mean no harm" should follow, she said, including a willingness to share information about technical capabilities in order to avoid misperceptions. She remarked that the U.S. "refusal to explain what the X-37B is [doing] has led a lot of people to assume the worst, and probably wrongfully so."
A 2010 SWF analysis concluded it "has near zero feasibility as an orbital weapons system for attacking targets on the ground" and has "limited capability for orbital inspection, repair and retrieval," although speculation often centers on exactly such missions. SWF concluded its most likely purpose is "flight testing new reusable space launch vehicle (SLV) technologies ... and on-orbit testing of new sensor technologies and satellite hardware primarily for space-based remote sensing."
The OTVs are launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, adjacent to NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC). NASA and the Air Force announced last week that the Air Force will use two of KSC's Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs) to process the X-37B in the future. To date the OTVs have landed across the country at Vandenberg, but the NASA-Air Force announcement also said that tests were conducted to demonstrate the X-37B could land at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility. The landing facility and the OPFs are left over from NASA's space shuttle program, which was terminated in 2011.
The X-37, built by Boeing, initially was a NASA test vehicle designed to lead to an Orbital Space Plane that could serve as a Crew Return Vehicle to bring International Space Station astronauts back to Earth in an emergency and, eventually, as a taxi to take them to the ISS as well. NASA terminated that program in 2004 after President George W. Bush reoriented the human spaceflight program toward returning astronauts to the Moon instead of ISS utilization. The X-37 program then was transferred to the Department of Defense.
Here is our list of space policy-related events for the week of October 13-17, 2014 and any insight we can offer about them. Congress is in recess until November 12.
During the Week
The event likely to attract the most attention this week is the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS). The speaker line-up is an intriguing array of "traditional space" and "new space" luminaries, although the description of Bill Gerstenmaier's talk may say it best: "Never before have the titles of 'old space' and 'new space' been as trivial as they are today."
Just to illustrate the breadth of speakers (sorry we can't list everyone -- the program is here), in addition to Gerstenmaier (NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations), speakers include Clay Mowry (Arianespace), George Sowers (United Launch Alliance), George Whitesides (Virgin Galactic), Stuart Will (Mojave Air and Space Port), Barry Matsumori (SpaceX), Brett Alexander (Blue Origin), Doug Loverro (DOD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space Policy), John Shannon (Boeing), Mark Sirangelo (Sierra Nevada Space Systems), Doug Young (Northrop Grumman) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
Most unfortunately, if you can't be there in person, you're out of luck. The conference's media contact says none of the sessions will be webcast live, though "a few of the keynotes" may be posted online in a month or two.
That and other events we know about as of this afternoon (Sunday) are listed below.
Tuesday, October 14
Wednesday, October 15
Wednesday-Thursday, October 15-16
Wednesday-Friday, October 15-17
Friday-Tuesday, October 17-21
Here is our list of space policy related events for the week of October 6-10, 2014 and any insight we can offer about them. Congress is in recess until November 12.
During the Week
World Space Week 2014 continues (it began on Saturday) with events worldwide commemorating the beginning of the Space Age on October 4, 1957 and the benefits derived from space over the decades. This year's theme is "Space: Guiding Your Way" and the DC chapter of the International Space University alumni association will hold a Space Café on Tuesday featuring James Miller, who works for NASA's Space Communications and Navigation program.
Two of the five standing committees of the National Research Council's (NRC's) Space Studies Board (SSB) will meet this week. The five committees align with the five Decadal Surveys the SSB produces that advise NASA and other agencies on the top space science priorities. The committees provide a forum to maintain discussion about the topics in between the once-a-decade (hence "decadal") reports. This is the first meeting of the new Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space, formed after completion of the first Decadal Survey for that field of research, which was published in 2011. It is meeting at the NRC's Keck Center on 5th Street Tuesday and Wednesday, though the sessions on Wednesday are closed to the public. The SSB's Committee on Solar and Space Physics will meet Tuesday-Thursday across town at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Ave. It will have open sessions the first two days. (If you're keeping track, the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences and the Committee on Earth Science and Applications in Space met in September; the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics meets in November.)
On Tuesday the first of two "U.S." spacewalks scheduled for October will take place from the International Space Station (ISS). They are "U.S." because they involve tasks on the U.S. Operating Segment (USOS) and the spacewalkers will be wearing U.S. spacesuits, but one of the two is Europe's Alexander Gerst (joining NASA's Reid Wiseman) so it really is a U.S./ESA spacewalk. Next week (October 15) Wiseman and NASA's Barry "Butch" Wilmore will do another spacewalk, and the week after that, on October 22, two of the Russian cosmonauts will do a spacewalk on their segment of the ISS. It's a busy time on the ISS with visiting spacecraft coming and going in addition to those spacewalks. Three new crewmembers just arrived on September 25. Two cargo spacecraft, a Russian Progress and SpaceX Dragon, already docked there will depart and be replaced by a new Progress and an Orbital Sciences Corporation Cygnus later this month.
Those and other events for the week of October 6-10 that we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.
October 6-10, Monday- Friday
Tuesday, October 7
Tuesday-Wednesday, October 7-8
Tuesday-Thursday, October 7-9
Tuesday-Friday, October 7-10
Thursday, October 9
One of the highlights at today’s (October 1) International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014) was a presentation by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Vulcan Inc., Paul Allen’s investment group that is funding the development of Stratolaunch. The two companies are discussing a potential partnership wherein Stratolaunch would be used to launch a 75 percent version of Dream Chaser into low Earth orbit (LEO).
Vulcan oversees Paul Allen’s financial interests, ranging from the Seattle Seahawks to real estate to philanthropy to Allen’s “pet thing” – space exploration, according to Chuck Beames, who briefed an IAC2014 crowd along with SNC’s Mark Sirangleo. Beames heads Vulcan Aerospace, a Vulcan division, and is Executive Director of Stratolaunch. He joined Vulcan earlier this year after serving as principal director, space and intelligence, to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and overseeing the acquisition restructuring of the Global Positioning System (GPS).
Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, is perhaps best known in the space business as the financial backer of Scaled Composite’s SpaceShipOne design, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004. One of Allen’s current projects is Stratolaunch, an aircraft that would serve as a launch platform for a three-stage rocket, Thunderbolt, to send people or cargo into suborbital or orbital spaceflight. As Beames described it, Stratolaunch, with a 385 foot wingspan, can launch 13,500 pounds into low Earth orbit (LEO). The plane is expected to have its first flight in 2016 with a demonstration space launch in 2018.
A Stratolaunch-Dream Chaser system envisions using Stratolaunch to launch a 75 percent version of Dream Chaser into space with cargo or two-three crew. It could launch and return to the launch site within 24 hours in a “responsive space” mode. It could take off from anywhere in the world and deliver cargo or people to any inclination orbit and, with its cross-range capability, land anywhere there is a runway that can handle a 747 or A320 aircraft.
SNC has a strong presence here at IAC2014, with company officials, including Sirangleo, stressing the company's 26-year history in the space business and Dream Chaser's origin as a NASA design for returning crews from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA's program, HL-20, was cancelled and SNC picked it up. SNC is one of the three companies supported by NASA in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) phase of the commercial crew program, but recently lost out to Boeing and SpaceX on the final phase, Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP). SNC is protesting that decision.
Beames said taking crews or cargo to the ISS is only one possibility and that as a former "Air Force guy" he is “excited” about the military possibilities of such a capability. In a later interview, he offered the example of launching smaller versions of GPS to reconstitute the GPS constellation on an as-needed basis.
Beames stressed that no final decision has been made on the partnership and the next step is to "mature the architecture."