Charles Miller, Senior Advisor on Commercialization at NASA HQ, is leading a panel talking about applications for not only the suborbitals but also things like weightless aircraft. Purpose of panel is to discuss program and identify issues. Makes the point that the fifteen-million bucks in the budget is going to be leveraged to the hilt, and they also want to use it to maximize “disruption.” Turning it over now to Doug Comstock (his boss) to talk about parabolic flight.

Doing things because NASA needs the services. Larger budget for technology within the agency means that NASA will need more technology testbed flights in the environments, so greater need for programs like this. FAST was set up to do this for parabolic flights, and CRuSR (suborbital flights) grew out of it. Idea was for NASA to provide ride for free, but source of technology would pay for experiment. Flew nineteen last year, third from industry, third from government (mostly NASA), third from academia. Call will go out next week for technologies to fly this year. Looking for portfolio of demo capabilities to get technologies out of the lab and into missions. Will also include things like drop towers and thermal-vacuum chambers.

Next up Marine Colonel Paul Damphousse, from National Space Security Organization (NSSO). Currently detailed away from NSSO, but speaking for that office and not current job. Has three customers/partners — DoD, DCI, and NASA. Do architecting and studies, including things over the horizon. Some of this interest grew out of SUSTAIN back in 2002, in which it was conceptually proposed to put Marines on the ground anywhere quickly. Doesn’t expect it to come any time soon. They recognize it as a future need, that needs enabling technologies to provide spiraling path to that capability. Saw a lot of interesting potential in the private sector, and held series of workshops and technology fora to see how people would meet missions. Immediate application of vehicles being discussed here are to have one in a forward area, lob it up and take pictures. Other apps, high-speed logistics supploy, delivery of unmanned reconaissance, etc. Goal is to leverage capabilities coming on line, and figure out how to catalyze useful things. Sees a whole host of synergies with what’s happening today.

Michelle Brekke (sp?) from JSC. She is here to ask what industry needs to be innovative and successful. Already partnering with several companies along these lines, but unrelated to CRuSR. “Making space for business.” Leverage example: loaned an ISS payload rack that wanted to build its own interfaces and be compatible. Another: providing S-Band frequency that they don’t need right now for their comm needs. Could provide real-time telemetry for these new vehicles. Her experience is payload integration for Shuttle/ISS. Interested not just in low-cost access to space, but low-cost utilization. Five discussion points: 1) Suborbital is potential quality assurance and risk mitigation for orbital 2) Low-cost utilization needs KISS for integration process, better is the enemy of the good 3) Provide a payload integration service, don’t make experimenters learn all of that — payload integrator becomes advocate for the user 4) Industry should establish common form and interfaces — need USB-like standards for standard services 5) Readily-available integration hardware –keeps users from having to build or procure it themselves.

Head of CRuSR (didn’t catch name) talking now. Team consists of Bruce Pittman, Richard Mains (from Ames), Yvonne Cagle and a couple other names I didn’t catch. Need to be responsive to STEM/education. Concerned with safety, which is in no way associated with COTS, ISS or orbital human safety standards. CRuSR safety will be overseen by Dryden, and it will be a while before they will be flying NASA-sponsored humans. In the past NASA owned all responsibility/liability for safety. In the new environment, they are going to buy space for payloads. If they’re sharing a ride with ESA, Malaysia, a university payload, they’ll have to be assured that not just the vehicle, but the accompanying payloads are safe for their own. Need for organizations that can support not just safety, but FAA regulations and licensing (which NASA has no role in), including payloads. Need to be able to provide customer not only with environment, but the process of getting a ride. Repeating need for standardized interfaces. Most launch providers would prefer that payloads not be integrated in any way other than structurally (less services the better). Wants to stimulate discussion about all these issues. Putting up a long chart of them.

The discussion kicks off with a long discussion of payload integration issues. I point out something that I realized tonight, and had never thought about before. The FAA is responsible for third-party safety, but not second-party. In other words, the launch licensing process not only doesn’t address passenger safety currently, but it also doesn’t address payload safety. As long as the payload doesn’t blow up the vehicle, and squash an endangered species or foreign national on the ground, they don’t care whether it works or not. So payload integrators are going to have to worry about interactions with other payloads, because no one else will.

[Update a while later]

I got caught in a side discussion outside, and now my battery is dying, so probably no more blogging until I get back to my room (twenty miles away in snow) or in the morning.

There Seems To Be A Step Missing

In all the media discussion over Iran’s incipient nuclear capabilities, two phrases seem to be intermingled. The headline on Fox News uses the word “warhead,” while Jamie Colby is talking to John Bolton, who continues to use the phrase “nuclear weapons.” While Iran having nuclear weapons is obviously nothing to sneeze at (though the White House seems to have a different view), nuclear weapons are not warheads. A warhead is a specific kind of nuclear weapon — one that not only works, but is light enough to be delivered on a missile, and has reentry and guidance systems to deliver it to its target. One does not go from enriching uranium to building warheads in a single step, but I hear no discussion of this. I wish I did.


I think that MSNBC should consider Dramatic Chipmunk as a replacement for Olby. The commentary would be much more intelligent.

[Via Nick Gillespie, who has a lot more, if you enjoy seeing Olby rhetorically beaten to a thin pulp.]

Any chance that comment will get me honored as the Worst Person In The World?

Probably not.

Speaking of Olbermann, so much for his “racist” tea parties.

Up yours too, Janeane.

Going Post-Doctoral

One line stuck out to me in this piece about Professor Amy Bishop:

“You have to talk about Amy Bishop’s mental health in this situation as one of the variables, but being denied tenure when you’re in your mid-40s at an out-of-the-way obscure rural campus in the deep South is a catastrophic loss, and people don’t understand that,” says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston.

This looks like northeastern Ivy bigotry to me, and it seems to be driven by ignorance. I think that most people at UAH would be surprised to learn that their university is “out-of-the-way,” “obscure,” or “rural.” Huntsville is a non-trivial city (it has a major NASA center, and Army R&D facility, and a vast aerospace contractor industrial base), and UAH has an excellent engineering school, particularly for aerospace (despite their having picked up Mike Griffin as a professor, though it’s probably a job to which he’s much better suited than running NASA). I suspect that, to Mr. Levin, its real crime is being in the “deep” south (just below the Tennessee border). And he probably thinks that for someone with a post-graduate degree from Harvard, her willingness to subject herself to such a benighted place is just one more sign of a mental disorder.

Bending The Curve

That’s what the Dems will have to do to hold on to the House:

Highlighting the GOP’s continued momentum, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report made ratings changes in 25 House races Thursday, all of which favor Republican candidates. The downgrading of Democratic prospects in the races paints an increasingly promising picture for GOP chances of taking over the House next year.

The respected political publication now rates 54 Democratic-held seats in the most highly competitive category — with 26 of them either pure tossups or favoring the Republican candidate. The publication rates 95 Democratic seats in total as potentially vulnerable — over one-third of the entire caucus.

Republicans need to pick up a net of 40 seats to win back control of the House. According to the Cook ratings, the GOP has only six seats that are at risk of flipping.

The list of potentially vulnerable Democrats, according to the Cook Report, includes members who have been virtually untouchable in the past, including Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Nick Rahall, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who hasn’t faced a competitive race since 1990.

“At this rate, Democrats are likely to lose at least 25-35 seats in the House and would have to bend the current trajectory of the cycle to hold onto their House majority,” wrote Cook Political Report House analyst David Wasserman.

Actually, when you look at their current behavior (e.g., continuing to attempt to ram health care deform through), it doesn’t even look like they’re trying to keep it. It looks more like they’ve accepted the loss of power, and are just trying to get as much done to advance their totalitarian agenda as possible and hope that it’s irreversible, even if it worsens their losses this year. They play the long game.

Along those notes, a popular argument they make is that once people get it, no matter how undemocratically, they’ll like it so much that it will be impossible to repeal (and unfortunately, the history of other entitlements supports that). They’re drug dealers who want to get us hooked, after which we’re their slaves.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!