Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On a Space "Code of Conduct"

There has been a good bit of discussion in the past few weeks about a "Code of Conduct" for space. Leonard David's article in Space News ( spoke to the need for such a code and what it might entail.  My feeling is we are already working on this.  The bits and pieces that might make up a future code are included in the technical standards we have been working on for the past several decades.  A specific example of current activity is the publication of new standards on orbital debris mitigation.  ISO 24113: Space Debris Mitigation Requirements is the top level document of this set. In the standards community, misconduct for space can be, and is, considered as non-compliance with the current, published, open requirements that make up standards.
David includes an interview with Laura Grego, a scientist for the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Mass and she suggests a Code of Conduct compliant "space actor should

•Give notice of an impending launch
•Construct the satellite to encompass relevant safety and reliability standards
•Coordinate the satellite's orbit and communications frequencies with other users to prevent physical and electromagnetic interference
•Be as clear as possible about what the satellite’s purpose is intended to accomplish
•Make sure that close approaches and collisions are avoided"

almost all of which is accomplished by complying with rules, regulations and standards that exist today.

We can and should do a better job, and it is simply too easy today to find examples of misconduct in space.  We do need to do a better job.  We do not need another body of rule makers, but a little help on making the bodies that exist today more effective would be a welcome step.
Unless otherwise noted, the blog posts are written by Frederick A. Slane, Executive Director of the Space Infrastructure Foundation.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Turmoil - More of the Same

I've been watching the US domestic space budget turmoil for the past several months, as have many of you.  My feeling is that we are not really seeing much in the way of change on how funding actually percolates down to programs.  For years, if not decades, the life of a space program in NASA or DoD has been extremely unstable.  What we are seeing now is the bubbling up of this funding inconsistency (and it is not the only inconsistency) as external pressure continues to grow.  This is not new, and it was very predictable.

The questions for the US domestic space complex are not about whether we should continue to have an astronaut corps, or national science and defense space efforts.  Of course we should! Every able nation is reaching for the capability space brings to terrestrial needs. No, the real question is one every organization faces in our transitional world: How can US domestic space organizations bring value to the American people?

Some maintain that value comes in the form of jobs created and sustained.  Some maintain that value comes in keeping the nation strong.  There are many more positions of what the value is to a nation (our nation).  And they are ALL right.  The only wrong answer, in my view, is to deny the value others hold.  Dr Don Warrick taught a class I took on Organizational Change.  He made a statement in class one day that is a fundamental truth, "Often the problem of selecting one solution or another doesn't give us the correct answer. In many cases it is not a question of 'this' or 'that'.  The answer is 'this' and 'that'." While it may not be possible to actually fund everything we all want from space projects, there is a way to allow all viable solutions to grow.  This is the fundamental problem with the US domestic space industry - it has become a control freak over space abilities.  Just say the word, "space" and someone claims to be the controller of your activity.  Today, control has passed, or is passing, to others.

There is a problem with the US domestic space effort.  It was predictable. The solutions to our problems, while politically entabgled, are understandable.  Part of the solution is the creation of open solutions to our space needs, and that is what the Space Infrastructure Foundation is all about.

Unless otherwise noted, the blog posts are written by Frederick A. Slane, Executive Director of the Space Infrastructure Foundation.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Six months without a post: well. there was a reason.  Five surgeries on the left foot and left arm.  An active lifestyle can really take it's toll.  Is it worth it?
Yesterday I attended a presentation to the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) Alumni by Donald Klingner, a professor at the School of Public Affairs.  I'm on the Alumni Board and this is one of the opportunites you get with such a position.  Anyway, while Dr Klingner's presentation spoke to "Civil Engagement and Public Service: The Vital Role of Colorado's Public Universities" it also spoke to me about what SIF is trying to do. Too often I find myself trying to explain the complexities of moving from today's limited use of space capabilities to tomorrow's enrichment of human life (actually, all life) by moving infrastructure from a terrestrial base to a space base. What SIF is trying to do is build to technical standards base that brings that future to us more quickly.  Dr Klingner spoke of several things, and one point I found very interesting is the idea of building governance in a community.  As he was quick to point out, this is not "government" but "governance."
One of the truths of voluntary compliance standards is that they do not hold the power of law.  Rather, standards form a common basis for a (technical) community in executing their work.  This is self-governance.  I know that is obvious, but it needs to be repeated and emphasized for the global space community.  We are not likely to see rules of law, beyond existing UN treaty statements, for a long time.  There are too many other arenas, other policy domains, of higher visibility where policy makers use loosely related space issueas pawns. No, real progress, if it can be made, needs to happen within the space industry - and that needs global dialog to get real solutions.
I'll ask Dr Klingner if I can post his presentation on this site - while the target audience yesterday was UCCS alumni, the messge is true for many other audiences.  If you're reading, you're part of a listening global space audience.

A side note: all the surgeries were related to a ruptured achilled tendon (me and Beckam playing soccer, same week, oceans apart).  Unfortunately, mine had complications (infection).  Thanks to great doctors (Haggerty, Kobayashi and Kam) at the Air Force Academy I am on the course to 100% recovery. I did spend about two weeks in the hospital, a month in a wheel chair, and four months on crutches.  Today I am walking and cycling.  Running will come.

Best regard to our readers.

Unless otherwise noted, the blog posts are written by Frederick A. Slane, Executive Director of the Space Infrastructure Foundation.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Segue to (Mission) Success

I closed the last BLOG with the statement, "The impact on standards development is a growth in demand for open, commercially based standards. Time to get to work."  Perhaps I should have added a sentence, "Open, commercially based standards will be another enabler for those broad, global space ventures."

Done properly, the net effect of open standards in other markets is to make big, complex ventures successful. Standards are not the only reason for success, but they are essential. In this context (space) what is "success"? Mission Success is one form, and that is the next SIF-BLOG.

Unless otherwise noted, the blog posts are written by Frederick A. Slane, Executive Director of the Space Infrastructure Foundation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What the budget shift and cancellation of Constellation mean to space infrastructure

After a reasonably careful dissection of the new 2011 Obama Administration budget for NASA it looks like the overall impact is potentially beneficial. There will be jobs lost and jobs gained, so there is no question that a many people will experience transition anxiety. Recognizing that fact, here are some opportunities the budget move creates:

Critical Technology Demonstrations will fund several mid-size and small size efforts to get exploration technologies off the ground (literally) while leveraging international, commercial and other government efforts. Heavy Lift/Propulsion R&D will speed up solutions for the heavy lift capability needed for extended exploration. Robotic Precursor Missions will scout for human spaceflight targets to the Moon, Mars and its moons, Lagrange points and nearby asteroids. 21st Century Launch Complex funding will upgrade Kennedy Space Center to increase efficiency (always needed, for competitive organizations) and reduce launch costs (a must for anything but token exploration efforts). Increased utility of the ISS is also included.

So if the budget actually grows (and it does) what is the actual change here? First, the commitment of “the Moon, then to Mars” is gone. It is replaced with simpler scouting efforts to the low Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and its moons, Lagrange points and nearby asteroids. Coupled with a larger lift capability the opportunity for more people to do more things in space opens up. Also, decreasing complexity and cost for launch services at the primary US launch complex will increase the opportunity for more people to do more things in space. If NASA truly does manage to leverage international, commercial and other government efforts, each NASA Center promises to become a much more viable, energetic collecting point than we can even imagine today.

The inclusion of a US government commitment to using commercial capability for manned spaceflight creates a very different environment for space infrastructure development than exists today. Together, these two changes can create more activity, meaning more and different jobs in the space sector. The ability to support commercial interests more directly will mean greater opportunity for varied infrastructure support on a global basis. Commercial contracts will also require less monitoring than government contracts. This is a very real cost reduction. The down side of all of this is that we lose a program that is over budget, over schedule and, even if successful, would have hindered all the points earlier in this paragraph.

The impact on standards development is a growth in demand for open, commercially based standards. Time to get to work.

Unless otherwise noted, the blog posts are written by Frederick A. Slane, Executive Director of the Space Infrastructure Foundation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Going to the Moon

What a week! First, the Obama Administration says US transportation of personnel to the International Space Station will be done by commercial providers.  Then, today, the Constellation  program is cancelled. Is the Adminstration anti-space?  What in the world is going on?

There is an old Chinese saying, "A time of tragedy is a time of great opportunity." That is true in this case.

The old science fiction writers from the 1950s and 1960s wrote stories about travelers to Mars, the Moon or orbiting spacestations.  Almost invariably transportation was provided by commercial means. It is interesting to note that predictions by science fiction writers often fall short of actual events.  Writers base their stories on life as they see it occuring around them.  Finding the government to be the party of innovation and daring is not something you find in real life. From this observation, what do you find more strange: the idea that commercial providers will take some risks to do something innovative, or the idea that government in any form will create unbridled expansion by taking great risks?

The question we should really be asking is this, "If commercial manned spaceflight is to be our chariot from and beyond Earth's gravity well, how can success be promoted?"  Efficiency, not just general capability, is needed.  Efficiency in this case can be defined as maximization of capability over time at minimum cost.  Yep, it's the old value equation.

Don't get me wrong.  The value statement recognizes societal costs and benfits on par with commercial requirements to make a buck. Value to all stakeholders, not exclusively shareholders, is exactly the same challenge today being thrown at business across the planet.  It happens to be true for space ventures as well. And in the same way global markets have created best practices to enable efficiency in trade, best practices will allow commercial manned spaceflight to become safer, in time, than NASA ever imagined.

NASA has criticized commercial manned spaceflight efforts for failures to comply with benchmarks for safety.  "Can't be done," summarizes the NASA position.  A review of the published NASA requirements for manned spaceflight certification gives the reader an understanding of how this statement can truthfully be made.  Technical requirements are only one part of the certification process. A substantial part of the existing process requires compliance with organizational process, reviews and process certification.

Somehow, NASA expects the likes of Musk, Bigelow or Branson to give very senior NASA officials, attending government structured design and flight reviews, veto power for each tail number that will fly manned. The purpose, per current process, will not necessarily be to assess technical compliance.

Either within NASA or within commercial manned spaceflight enterprises, it is time to move toward transparent, measureable consensus standards for manned spaceflight. It is an opportunity we should not waste.

Unless otherwise noted, the blog posts are written by Frederick A. Slane, Executive Director of the Space Infrastructure Foundation.

Monday, January 25, 2010

KISS and Standards

Several years ago (about 2002?) I was given the assignment of writing a systems engineering document related to spacecraft initilaization for a NASA project. The contract required that we write the document "to a level four specification."  I spent more time than I should have trying to find: a definition of level four (or any level); a level three document to base the new work on, or; anyone who knew what the customer wanted. No luck.

That program still has not flown, but since that time I've done enough research to learn that there is no such definition.  So in 2006, so as to avoid this problem in the future, I initiated a standard development effort on spacecraft initialization and commissioning.  Last week our standards project team in ISO, Technical Committee 20, Subcommittee 14, Working Group two, submitted resolution to ISO (Geneva) on comments to the final Committee Draft.  We should see a new standard (actually three documents) on Spacecraft Initialization and Commissioning published within six to nine months.

This is an example of part of the reason we need a good standards base for the space industry.  Too many engineers, scientists and managers need to get work done for their projects to move along, but they do not have sufficient experience to clearly state what needs to be done.  They are not delegating technical tasks effectively. And no wonder, if it takes over a decade to fly a single space project.

If you are working on a project and you find yourself stymied by the task definition you are assigned, do you look at which standards may exist to help you? Working from a standard basis is the surest way to deliver a credible product.  If there are no standards, does it make sense that writing down the basics of what you did may save you, or a co-worker, some time in the future? And that you can save your customer time and money on future projects!

When (not "if") you find yourself in need on standards development for space systems or services, contact us at the Space Infrastructure Foundation.  You can get me at

Unless otherwise noted, the blog posts are written by Frederick A. Slane, Executive Director of the Space Infrastructure Foundation.