SpacePolicyOnline.com Latest News
Christopher Shank is joining Honeywell as Director, Civil Space Sales, beginning November 9.
Mr. Shank was NASA's Chief of Strategic Communications and a key advisor to then-NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. He left the agency early this year to join the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL). Previously he was on the staff of the House Science Committee.
Masten Space Systems qualified for the Level Two prize of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Landing Challenge. The prize is administered for NASA by the X-prize Foundation. There are prizes for Level One (First Place, $350,00; Second Place, $150,000), and Level Two (First Place, $1 million; Second Place, $500,000).
Masten's successful flight on the third try overcame problems on two previous days that included a small fire. Masten qualified for the $150,000 Level One Second Place prize earlier in the month. The First Place Level One prize was won by Armadillo Aerospace last year.
Judges allowed Masten a third day instead of the two that are normally permitted, a decision that prompted a protest from Armadillo Aerospace. Armadillo qualified for the Level Two prize in September. The decision on who will be awarded first or second place is based on landing accuracy and apparently Masten did better on that score. Thus, Masten could win the first place $1 million prize and Armadillo would be awarded $500,000 for second place, a half million dollar difference.
In a press release posted on SpaceRef but not yet on Armadillo's website, Armadillo Founder John Carmack challenged the decision to allow Masten a third attempt, but also admitted that he should have insisted on improving the accuracy of his own rocket: "I have been kicking myself for not taking the competition more seriously and working on a better landing accuracy." But he stressed that "the current situation, where Masten was allowed a third active day of competition, after trying and failing on both scheduled days, is different. ... The rules have given the judges the discretion to do just about anything up to and including awarding prize money for best effort if they felt it necessary, so there may not be any grounds to challenge this, but I do feel that we have been robbed."
Another team, Unreasonable Rocket, did not qualify. A fourth team, BonNovA, withdrew.
The following events next week may be of interest. Check our calendar on the right menu for more details or follow the links below. Congressional activities are always subject to change.
During the week:
- The Senate may consider the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill (H.R. 2847). It did not bring up the bill last week as some had anticipated.
- Conferees may meet on the Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations bill (H.R. 3326), but it is not clear that the conference report will be brought to the floor this week.
Monday-Wednesday, November 2-4, Omaha, Nebraska
Monday, November 2, Washington, DC
- AIAA Symposium: "Does the Final Frontier Have a Future: Debate Over the Next Steps in Human Space Flight, " 1:00-4:30 p.m. Room 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Tuesday-Wednesday, November 3-4, 2009, Irvine, CA
Wednesday-Friday, November 4-6, 2009, Pasadena, CA
The second Continuing Resolution (CR) for FY2010 cleared Congress yesterday as Division B of the FY2010 Interior-Environment appropriations bill (H.R. 2996). The CR funds agencies whose regular appropriations bills have not yet been enacted. The President will need to sign the bill by midnight tomorrow -- Halloween -- to keep those agencies operating until December 18, 2009. They include DOD, NASA, NOAA, and NSF.
A New York Times editorial this morning praises NASA's Swift satellite for finding the "afterglow" of the explosion that ended the life of star GRB 090423 13.1 billion light-years away.
"It's one thing to explore such remote recesses of time in theory. It's something else again to witness their afterglow. And GRB 090423 is an invitation for all of us to unfetter our imaginations. We imagine looking outward from that distant point knowing that our own exploration still lies some 13 billion years in the future."
Media reports are noting two anomalies with the Ares I-X test launch on Wednesday. The two minute powered flight prior to separation of the two stages is judged to be a success. After the first stage separated from the dummy second stage, however, the latter went into a flat spin instead of continuing on an upward course before ultimately falling into the ocean. That stage was not powered and not intended to be recovered. The first stage was recovered and showed signs of damage because it hit the water too hard. One of the three parachutes deflated, resulting in the harder than expected impact. Spaceflightnow.com has good pictures of the dent in the tank.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission could suffer additional cost increases due to concerns over the integrity of the titanium used in the structure of the spacecraft, Spaceflightnow.com reported last week.
The website reported that NASA officials told the Planetary Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council that there was a need to check the integrity of the metal used in the spacecraft due to concerns over "counterfeit" titanium - meaning it has not been subjected to the appropriate rigorous testing - a process that could add more cost to the already over-budget mission. The subcommittee met on October 16.
The MSL spacecraft is mostly built with titanium components, which makes it even harder to determine the amount and exact location of what Doug McCuistion, Director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, called the "improperly treated non-conforming titanium" according to Spaceflightnow.com. Dr. McCuistion was further quoted as saying that the process of identification will take officials between one and two months: "we have to do some testing to determine what the risk of this material not being conforming is, whether it can still handle the pressures and the temperatures, whether it has the lifetime characteristics, whether it has the strength." If found to be unsuitable to the mission requirements, replacement parts would need to be ordered, further delaying and increasing the costs of the mission.
The titanium reportedly was provided by Western Titanium Inc., a San Diego-based company that was indicted last December on fraud charges that include issuing false certifications on the quality of the titanium provided.
This incident recalls an issue raised earlier this year at a House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics hearing by then acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese. When asked about the sources of cost overruns in NASA missions, Scolese mentioned a variety of reasons, including that spacecraft sometimes contain counterfeit parts: "you find out about it when you're in tests, or you find out about it when you're sitting on top of the rocket, or worse, you find about it when you're in space. And all of those have cost implications." (minute 45:28 of the hearing webcast)
President Obama signed the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill (H.R. 2647) into law today despite an earlier veto threat. The veto threat was prompted by Congress' inclusion of funding for an alternative engine for the F-35 joint strike fighter that the Administration did not want. The President said the bill "wasn't perfect" and "There's still more waste we need to cut...."
He also signed into law the Energy-Water appropriations bill (H.R. 3183) that, among other things, rejects the Department of Energy's (DOE's) request to fund a restart of production of plutonium-238 that is needed for some of NASA's lunar and planetary spacecraft.
Not sure of the difference between an appropriation and an authorization? See our "What's a Markup?" fact sheet.
Update: 9:10 am
Latest launch time is 10:30 based on weather. The clock is stopped at T-4 minutes, so if the weather unexpectedly improves before that, it could launch earlier, but the expectation is that 10:30 is the next best chance.
Today's launch window for Ares 1-X extends until noon, but weather continues to be a problem. The most recently announced launch time is 9:15 am. Live coverage is available on NASA TV and SpaceflightNow.com, and both are posting messages on Twitter.
The weather cooperated today, allowing NASA to launch the Ares 1-X test vehicle at 11:30 this morning. The two minute powered flight reached an estimated altitude of about 28 miles. The first stage splashed down in the ocean about four minutes later and will be recovered. The mock upper stage was not intended to be recovered.
The fate of the Ares 1 program is still under consideration in Washington as policymakers deliberate on the results of the Augustine committee.
Events of Interest
- AGU Fall Meeting, December 9-13, 2013, San Francisco, CA Press conferences on special topics will be webstreamed each day. See our "favorites" list. Note that times are in PST.
- NAC Audit, Fin & Analysis Cmte, December 9, 2013, NASA HQ, Washington, DC, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm ET
- Secure World Foundation panel on "Gravity" in Real Life [re the movie Gravity], December 9, 2013, Washington, DC, 12:00-2:00 pm ET
- NAC Human Expl & Ops Cmte, December 9-10, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- NAC Technology & Innovation Cmte, December 10, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm ET
- House SS&T Committee markup of NASA termination liability bill (tentative), December 10, 2013, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building 2:00 pm ET
- NAC IT Infrastructure Cmte, December 10-11, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- FAA Commercial Space Trans Adv Cmte, December 10-11, 2013, Washington, DC
- NASA Advisory Council (NAC), December 11-12, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- Senate Commerce Hrg on Weather Readiness (incl satellites), December 12, 2013, G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building, 10:30 am ET
- America's Space Futures: Defining Goals for Space Expl (Marshall Institute re its new book of that title), December 13, 2013, 2325 Rayburn House Office Building, 2:00-3:30 pm ET
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
Subscribe to Email Updates: