Today’s Tidbits: September 19, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: September 19, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for September 19, 2018:  Bridenstine still interested in branding opportunities; NOAA awards more commercial weather data contracts; NASA names first woman chief flight director.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Bridenstine Still Interested in Branding Opportunities

Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine reiterated his interest in exploring the possibility of selling branding opportunities on NASA rockets and spacecraft in a blog post yesterday.

Bridenstine raised the possibility at a NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting last month sparking a number of media stories which, at best, conveyed a sense of skepticism about the wisdom of such a move.

Using the ads displayed in Washington, D.C.’s metro system for comparison, Bridenstine wondered why it would be such a bad idea.  He pointed out that NASA’s successful efforts at facilitating the emergence of new commercial rockets and ongoing initiatives to commercialize human spaceflight in low Earth orbit are intended to change the paradigm from NASA owning such systems to one where NASA is only one customer of services provided by companies.  In that environment, “who else is a customer on our missions?  The prospects could be astronomical.  Some patrons could be companies uninvolved in space activities, but desiring to brand their wares on a rocket flying into space. It might not be bad to have another customer spreading costs and reducing the price to NASA.”

Meanwhile as he rides the Metro train system “there will be lots of commercial companies trying to get my attention and I’m OK with it, because it offsets the cost of my ticket.”  []

Bridenstine has not decided whether to push for authority to allow advertising.  Right now he is only asking a new NAC committee to determine what is possible.

NOAA Awards More Commercial Weather Data Contracts

Radio occultation helps to increase the accuracy of weather prediction models by measuring the refraction of radio signals beamed through Earth’s atmosphere. Image and caption credit: NOAA

NOAA has made a second round of awards under its commercial weather data pilot program.  Three companies — Spire, GeoOptics, and PlanetIQ — will provide space-based radio occultation data through July 31, 2019. []

Congress directed NOAA to initiate the commercial weather data pilot program in the FY2016 appropriations act for the agency. (Jim Bridenstine, then a Member of Congress and now the Administrator of NASA, sponsored the provision creating the program.)  NOAA submitted an implementation plan to Congress in the spring of 2016 and later awarded contracts to Spire and GeoOptics.

The companies operate, or plan to operate, constellations of small satellites that use signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) for radio occulation to make measurements of temperature and water vapor throughout the lower parts of the atmosphere.  When combined with measurements from polar-orbiting weather satellites, better weather forecasts are enabled.

The FedBizOpps website states the amounts of the awards as: GeoOptics, $3,439,999.98; Spire, $1,425,000.00; and Space Sciences and Engineering LLC, doing business as PlanetIQ, $3,500,000.00. []

At an April 11, 2018 hearing, Acting NOAA Administrator Timothy Gallaudet noted that the pilot program was getting off to a slow start because the commercial capabilities were taking longer than expected.  The pilot program will determine whether the commercial data are accurate, reliable, and timely and can be validated, prerequisites to being integrated into NOAA’s weather models.

NASA Names First Woman Chief Flight Director

Holly Ridings. Credit: NASA/Bill Stafford

Holly Ridings is NASA’s new Chief Flight Director at Johnson Space Center’s (JSC’s) Mission Control. She is the first woman to hold that position. She succeeds Norm Knight, who held the job since 2012.  Ridings has been serving as Deputy Director of Flight Operations at JSC.

She will manage JSC’s group of 32 flight directors and flight directors-in-training who oversee human spaceflight missions including the International Space Station, the commercial crew flights that will ferry crews there, and the upcoming Orion missions to the Moon and beyond.

Ridings has been a flight director since 2005 and was lead flight director for an expedition mission to ISS, a space shuttle flight, and the first SpaceX cargo mission to ISS.  She has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M and joined NASA in 1998 as a flight controller in the thermal operations group. []

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