NASA IG Worries About Commercial Crew Schedule, Says NASA “Overpaid” Boeing

NASA IG Worries About Commercial Crew Schedule, Says NASA “Overpaid” Boeing

In an illuminating report about the costs of NASA’s commercial crew program, NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) today criticized almost $300 million NASA paid to Boeing above the amount agreed to in a fixed price contract. It also calculated that NASA is paying Boeing substantially more per seat than SpaceX.  But the report’s overall concern is that schedule delays in both systems will sharply limit U.S. presence on the International Space Station (ISS) beginning next spring.

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Today’s Tidbits: November 13, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: November 13, 2019

Here are SpacePolicyOnline.com’s tidbits for November 13, 2019:  Senate committee clears NASA authorization bill, Hayabusa2 on its way home, SpaceX completes IFA static fire test.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

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“Unambiguous Goal” Still Needed for Moon/Mars

“Unambiguous Goal” Still Needed for Moon/Mars

At another congressional hearing on the Trump Administration’s directive to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2024 and on to Mars, questions persisted today about whether NASA has the right plan.  Legendary astronaut Tom Stafford argued that NASA’s architecture is too complex and success hinges on keeping it simple.  Veteran NASA and space industry insider Tom Young went further, asserting that what is needed is a “clear, unambiguous goal” — is the Moon a destination itself, or just a waypoint to Mars?  Meanwhile, a key Republican said the chances of NASA getting the extra money it needs this fiscal year to make the 2024 deadline appear to be “dwindling.”

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White House Pushes Back on Senate Appropriators

White House Pushes Back on Senate Appropriators

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent Senate appropriators a list of complaints about actions taken on FY2020 appropriations bills so far.  Among them is the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA where OMB criticized underfunding of  NASA’s lunar exploration budget, what rocket will launch the Europa Clipper mission, and a study about potential spectrum interference with weather satellites.  Conversely, it praised funding for establishing a Space Force at DOD, although Congress has not yet passed legislation authorizing its creation.

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What’s Happening in Space Policy November 10-16, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 10-16, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of November 10-16, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week beginning Tuesday.

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Hidden Figures Commemorative Act Signed Into Law

Hidden Figures Commemorative Act Signed Into Law

President Trump signed into law today a bill honoring women who worked at NASA through the 1970s and helped the agency achieve its many successes during that era. In particular, it awards congressional gold medals to four “Hidden Figures” whose contributions to putting the first Americans into space formed the basis of the book and movie of that title.

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Boeing Traces Parachute Anomaly to Misplaced Pin, Releases Test Video

Boeing Traces Parachute Anomaly to Misplaced Pin, Releases Test Video

Boeing said today that the anomaly that occurred with one of the three main CST-100 Starliner parachutes during Monday’s Pad Abort Test (PAT) was due to a misplaced pin in the parachute system. Stressing that the parachute itself did not fail, only its deployment, Boeing’s John Mulholland declared the test a success, noting that the other two parachutes were more than sufficient to safely land the spacecraft.

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New NASA Authorization Bill Would Extend ISS to 2030, and INKSNA Waiver Too

New NASA Authorization Bill Would Extend ISS to 2030, and INKSNA Waiver Too

A bipartisan NASA authorization bill was introduced today by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and will be marked up by the Senate Commerce Committee next week.  It would extend the authorized lifetime of the International Space Station (ISS) from 2024 to 2030.  Along with that, it would extend a waiver Congress granted NASA from a nonproliferation law to allow it to purchase ISS-related products and services from Russia also to 2030. That waiver, which permits NASA to pay Russia for crew transportation services to and from ISS, currently expires next year.  With all the uncertainty in the commercial crew schedule, NASA is eager to have it extended in case it must buy more seats on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

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Boeing’s Lunar Lander Proposal Calls for “Fewest Steps to the Moon”

Boeing’s Lunar Lander Proposal Calls for “Fewest Steps to the Moon”

Today was the deadline for proposals to NASA for building a Human Landing System (HLS) to take astronauts to and from the lunar surface by 2024. Blue Origin announced the outlines of its bid two weeks ago and Boeing revealed the basics of its proposal today. It relies on an upgraded version of its Space Launch System (SLS) to launch the HLS in one shot rather than the multi-launch architecture NASA envisioned. The company calls it the “Fewest Steps to the Moon” approach.

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Boeing Gets One Step Closer to CST-100 Starliner Crewed Flight Test

Boeing Gets One Step Closer to CST-100 Starliner Crewed Flight Test

Boeing conducted a test of its pad abort system for the CST-100 Starliner crew capsule today at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.  The abort system is designed to protect the crew if anything goes awry during launch.  The test went well today although the deployment of one of the three main parachutes failed.  Boeing says that the system has a lot of redundancy and two parachutes are sufficient to ensure the crew’s safety.

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