NASA Develops High-Tech Electron Beam Fabricator

NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun gets up close and personal with the EBF3 system. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

NASA PR — Imagine a machine that can build a part or a tool as the need arises, whether on Earth, Mars or the International Space Station.

Almost 10 years ago, engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center imagined just that. They developed the Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication, or EBF3, a process that uses an electron beam gun, a dual wire feed and computer controls to manufacture metallic structures for building parts or tools in hours, rather than days or weeks.


First Taurus II Flight Could Slip at Least One Month After Engine Fire

Test Stand Fire Threatens Taurus 2 Launch Schedule
Space News

The fuel line that failed was part of the engine, not the test stand, the source said….The source, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the AJ-26  team investigating the mishap suspects a flaw in the metal used for that particular fuel line.

“If this looks like it’s a processing flaw when the metal was made, then the problem is probably just a one-off,” the source said.

Three AJ-26 engines have completed acceptance testing at Stennis and been delivered to Orbital’s Taurus 2 integration facility at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Two of those engines were intended to be used for an upcoming hold-down test of the Taurus 2’s first stage and then refurbished for the rocket’s second flight. The other engine already at Wallops was to have been paired with the now-damaged engine for the Taurus 2’s maiden launch, targeted for October.

That launch — a demonstration flight meant to help qualify the vehicle to launch cargo capsules bound for the international space station — now appears likely to slip at least a month since the next available engine still must undergo acceptance testing at Stennis, according to the source.

Read the full story.

SNC Completes DC SRR

SNC Dream Chaser docks with the International Space Station. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SNC PR Louisville, CO – June 24, 2011 – Sierra Nevada Space Systems (SNC) has announced completion of two significant milestones as part of the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) Program.  SNC is building the Dream Chaser, a Space Shuttle-like human spacecraft for NASA to provide astronaut transport to the International Space Station (ISS).

“The first milestone completed under the CCDev2 program was a major step in the development of the spacecraft – a Systems Requirement Review (SRR), where SNC validated their requirements based on NASA’s draft Commercial Crew Program Requirements,” SNC Space Systems head Mark Sirangelo said. “The SRR was successfully completed on June 1, 2011 with participation by NASA and SNC industry partners.  All the requirements were approved and will be used to guide the design of the Dream Chaser to ensure that it meets the pending NASA certification requirements.


Commercial Zero Gravity Flights Coming to Europe

The 'Zero-G" Airbus A300

Zero-gravity experience lifts off at Le Bourget

Once available only to astronauts and scientists, the weightless experience is about to become a bit more accessible, provided you’ve got the cash.

Novespace managing director and ex-astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy announced Tuesday that he plans to offer commercial flights, including one before the end of this year.

Final approval from France’s civil aviation authority is pending, and the price tag — provisionally set at 4,000 euros (5,700 dollars) — has yet to be finalized.

But Clervoy envisions half-a-dozen sorties a year with 40 passengers each starting in 2012. It would be only the third such commercial service in the world, along with one in the United States and one in Russia.

Read the full story.

TEA Party Space Platform Released

TPIS PR — Washington, DC, June 23, 2011 — TEA Party in Space (TPIS), a non-partisan organization, today publicly released the TEA Party Space Platform (link to platform).

“This is our response to the vacuum of leadership in Washington, D.C., for America’s national space enterprise,” said Andrew Gasser, President of TPIS. “Whether it’s timidity from the White House or Congress’ earmark-laden ‘compromises’, our space dreams will be stuck on this planet unless someone articulates a vision based on economic and technical reality, so that’s what we’ve done.”


NASA, Sierra Nevada Honor Workers for HL-20 Work

NASA PR — The story began on June 3, 1982, when a camera in an Australian P-3 patrol plane captured images of a Soviet ship recovering a space craft from the Indian Ocean.

It continued Wednesday, when Sierra Nevada Corp. honored the employees — many now retired — at NASA’s Langley Research Center who used those photos to carve a cherry wood model of the Soviet craft, a BOR-4, then used that model as the jumping-off point to the HL-20 (for horizontal lander) personnel space vehicle.

A proper ending, says Sierra Nevada chairman, Mark Sirangelo, would be for its version of the HL-20, the “Dream Chaser,” to ferry crews from Earth to the International Space Station and back.


Popovkin: Soyuz, Angara Launches on Track

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin held a press conference during the Paris Air Show earlier this week. The Russian space agency’s new leader provided updates on a number of key programs, including Soyuz, Angara, Rockot and GLONASS. A summary of his remarks via Roscosmos PAO follows.

The maiden launch of Soyuz-ST from Guiana Space Center was slated for Oct. 20, pending readiness of payload Galileo satellites. The Russian rocket is totally ready for the mission.

The first test launch of Soyuz-1 rocket is to occur from Plesetsk, Northern Russia, in early 2012. This launch is pending completion of the rocket’s firing tests, as well as readiness of the payload Lomovosov satellite to be provided by Moscow State University by 2012.



ESA, NASA Discuss Joint Manned Missions
Aviation Week

The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are discussing plans to build a joint U.S.-European spacecraft based on existing designs that could ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and one day carry humans beyond low Earth orbit.

Speaking at the Paris air show June 20, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said the space agencies are hashing out a plan that would combine the service module of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) — a spacecraft built by EADS Astrium that is used to haul cargo to the orbiting complex — with NASA’s Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, a space capsule based on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that Lockheed Martin Space Systems has been developing for NASA over the past six years.

“We are working with NASA to see how we can combine the current capabilities of ATV with what NASA is doing on crew transportation systems to see how we can make a joint vehicle,” Dordain says. The two sides are shooting for a rough outline of the joint concept and its development costs by fall, allowing ample time for ESA member states to evaluate the proposal ahead of their budget-setting ministerial council at the end of 2012.

Read the full story.

JAXA to Deploy Small Sats From Kibo Module on ISS

JAXA PR — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans the demonstration of small satellites deployment from the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” of the International Space Station (ISS) in order to enhance the capability of Kibo’s utilization and to offer more launch oppotunities to small satellites.


ISU Summer Session to be Held in Brazil in 2013

AEB PR — The International Space University (ISU) has chosen the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) to host the most important and comprehensive training program in the world. The SSP13 (Space Studies Program) will bring the Sao Jose dos Campos (SP), about 120 students from several countries to lessons about engineering and satellite applications, policy, management and space legislation, among other topics.Will be nine weeks of multidisciplinary studies of 17 June to 17 August 2013.


DLR Chairman Re-elected to New 5-Year Term

DLR Chairman Johan-Dietrich Wörner

DLR PR — On 15 June 2011, Professor Johan-Dietrich Wörner was appointed Chairman of the Executive Board for the next five years by the Senate of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).

“For me personally, the decision made by the DLR Senate is a demonstration of confidence and a confirmation of the effective work carried out by the DLR Executive Board under my leadership in recent years. It is also a recognition of the success that DLR has achieved in all its research areas,” said Professor Wörner. “In my second term, I will work towards consolidating DLR’s role as a unique interdisciplinary research institute and space agency. The common goal of all my colleagues must now be to strengthen DLR’s position, with its excellent skills and prospects, both nationally and internationally,” Wörner added.

After a twelve-year term as President of the Technical University of Darmstadt, Johann-Dietrich Wörner took up his position as Chairman of the DLR Executive Board on 1 March 2007. During his first term, he brought about significant decisions in the aerospace industry at the national and international level, thus strengthening and expanding Germany’s position as a valued partner in advanced technology. In addition to his activities at DLR, Professor Wörner is a member of other scientific organisations and academies, has led the mediation process for the expansion of Frankfurt airport since 2000 and, in 2011, prepared the dialogue forum on ‘Stuttgart 21’.

Johann-Dietrich Wörner is married, has three children and lives in Darmstadt.

ESA Reentry Vehicle Set for Test Flight in 2013

ESA PR — 21 June 2011 — ESA and Thales Alenia Space Italia announced an agreement today at the Paris Air & Space Show to begin building the IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle for its mission into space in 2013.

Europe’s ambition for a spacecraft to return autonomously from low orbit is a cornerstone for a wide range of space applications, including space transportation, exploration and robotic servicing of space infrastructure.


ESA Signs Agreement for Ariane 5 Successor

An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG

ESA PR — 22 June 2011 — The new main engine to power Europe’s successor to its Ariane 5 space launcher was brought a step closer today when ESA signed a €60 million contract with a propulsion consortium at the Paris Air & Space Show.


ESA is preparing the NGL Next-Generation Launcher to meet Europe’s institutional needs and safeguard its guaranteed access to space into the long term, ensuring it will continue to have effective and economic launchers at its disposal.


Taurus II’s AJ-26 Engine Badly Damaged During Test Firing

The Taurus II first stage core at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Space News’ Brian Berger has posted a couple of Tweets on the recent testing mishap for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II AJ-26 engine:


> Orbital is acknowledging one of the Taurus 2’s AJ26 engines was badly damaged June 9 when leaking RP caught fire.

> Has #orbital said how the fire will impact Taurus 2 demo by EOY ’11? It’s possible. Depends on whether test stand or engine is to blame.

The first Taurus II test flight is schedule for early October. If all goes well, OSC will fly the first Cygnus freighter on a flight in December. If that test goes well, OSC will begin delivering cargo to the International Space Station in 2012.

Stay tuned for updates. Same bat blog. Probably a different bat time….

Bat Update: Via Aviation Week:

“There was significant damage to the engine,” Orbital spokesman Baron Beneski said June 21.

Beneski and Glenn Mahone, a spokesman for Aerojet, say the AJ26 engine shut down prematurely after a fuel leak developed during a hot-fire acceptance test, and the leaking kerosene fuel ignited. While the engine was damaged, the test stand at Stennis Space Center suffered only minor damage, the spokesmen said in separate telephone interviews.

Mahone says a team of rocket engine experts from Aerojet, Orbital and NASA is investigating the cause of the mishap and the extent of the damage to the engine.

“How much we’re not sure,” Mahone says. “There is an investigation going on. The engine did not burn up.”

The results of the investigation and prognosis for the engine and the Taurus II should come together by the end of this week or early next week, Beneski says. Two other AJ26 engines have completed hot-fire acceptance testing without mishap, according to the Aerojet website.


LRO Reveals Moon in New Ways

New maps of lunar surface characteristics LOLA data give us three complementary views of the near side of the moon: the contours of the landscape, or topography (left), along with new maps of the surface slope values (middle) and the roughness of the topography (right). All three views are centered on the relatively young impact crater Tycho, with the Orientale basin on the left side. The slope magnitude indicates the steepness of terrain, while roughness indicates the presence of large blocks, both of which are important for surface operations. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Massachusetts Institute of Technology

NASA has declared full mission success for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). LRO changed our view of the entire moon and brought it into sharper focus with unprecedented detail.

NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) operated the LRO spacecraft and its instruments during the one-year mission phase. Now that the final data from the instruments have been added to the agency’s Planetary Data System, the mission has completed the full success requirements. The data system, which is publicly available, archives data from past and present planetary missions as well as astronomical observations and laboratory data.