By Bill Hubscher NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
The latest in cutting-edge manufacturing is already making a significant impact in the future of space exploration.
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., the prime contractor for the J-2X engine, recently used an advanced 3-D printing process called Selective Laser Melting, or SLM, to create an exhaust port cover for the engine. SLM uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the cover, which is essentially a maintenance hatch for the engine’s turbo pumps.
Aviation Week has an update on XCOR’s development of the Lynx Mark 1:
Speaking to Aviation Week before the recent rocket test, Greason says aside from the continuing propulsion development work, the focus remains on assembly of the vehicle itself. “I’m happy with the progress, but not always with the schedule,” says Greason, who adds that the company “still has a way to go” before entry into service. We have a flight test program to go through, and there are times when we do a test and the pieces don’t all work.”
The major structural core of the initial Lynx Mk. 1 vehicle includes the cockpit pressure vessel, fuselage, liquid oxygen tank and strakes. “We’re focused on putting that together,” Greason says. After initial tests with the Mk 1, follow-on production Lynx Mk. 2 vehicles will be used for research and suborbital space tourism flights.
Oviedo, FL (Black Sky Training PR) — Today the FAA awarded Black Sky Training the first ever safety approval for space training. This signals that the FAA/AST continues the commitment to safety for the flying public that began in 1958.
“The flying public has come to expect the highest level of safety for its passengers, and training for the men and women whose job it is to transport passengers to and from their destinations. By establishing a standard protocol for training of the flying public and flight crews, they [the FAA/AST] have signaled the burgeoning space flight industry that nothing but the highest safety standards are to be provided to the passengers.”
MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) – A rocket-powered, vertical-landing space-access technology demonstrator reached its highest altitude and furthest distance to date March 25 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif., using a developmental navigation system designed to land a space vehicle on other celestial bodies.
Over at InnerSpace.net, Stewart Money is pushing for an end to ULA’s current monopoly on military launches by letting SpaceX fully compete for contracts immediately:
In the meantime, with news of defense cutbacks and the impacts of sequestration, which Administrator Bolden pointed out yesterday is a 10 year program, presented in dire tones almost daily, why exactly is it that United Launch Alliance, utterly uncompetitive on the commercial market, and with no meaningful program of technology improvement remotely on par with that being undertaken by SpaceX, still enjoys a competition-free firewall around 80% of its business, and worse, much worse, is still receiving an annual launch subsidy ranging between $500 million and $1 billion per year?
It’s a good question. The answer lies in understanding how the military performs its duties in keeping the nation safe, and in the different statuses of the two company’s launch vehicles.
ARLINGTON, Va., March 28, 2013 (ATK PR) — ATK (ATK) successfully tested its newly developed CASTOR® 30XL upper stage solid rocket motor today at the U.S. Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) in Tennessee.
The test was the final qualification for the ATK commercial motor, which was jointly developed by ATK and Orbital Sciences Corporation (ORB) in just 20 months from concept to completion. The CASTOR 30XL is designed to ignite at altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet. In order to accurately test the motor performance, the static fire was conducted at AEDC using a vacuum chamber specially designed to simulate upper atmospheric conditions. Initial data indicate the motor performed as designed, and ATK will now analyze the results against its performance models.
A “very tiny change” to three check valves during manufacturing caused the malfunction that disabled three of four thruster pods on the Dragon spacecraft that launched earlier this month, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Thursday.
Speaking at a joint post-mission press conference with NASA officials, Musk said three check valves on the oxidizer tank became stuck due to the changes. Programmers were able to write software that commanded an increase of pressure upstream of the valves, forcing them open in a spacecraft version of the Heimlich maneuver, he added.
NASA will see a $1.3 billion budget cut this year under a stopgap spending bill the U.S. Congress approved March 21.
After absorbing across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, NASA stands to receive $16.5 billion for 2013 — an amount 7.3 percent below the $17.8 billion the agency has been held to since 2011 under a series of short-term spending resolutions Congress has been passing in lieu of annual appropriations bills….
Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems is putting the Engineering Test Article of its Dream Chaser through a Ground Resonance Test at the company’s facilities. The testing is standard for aircraft and helicopters and confirms that vibrations from machinery inside the craft won’t make it shake itself apart.
Preparations for wind tunnel testing continue on track following a recent test readiness review with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The testing, scheduled for later this month then in May and June, is tied to one of the milestones SNC will meet to reduce risk in spacecraft designs during the agency’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative.
In an appearance before the French Senate, outgoing Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall — who is expected to take over the French space agency CNES next month — almost had something nice to say about Elon Musk and SpaceX.
In his 10 years as chief executive of Arianespace, Le Gall has been routinely withering in his disparagement of SpaceX, saying the company has not shown it is able to launch successfully with sufficient frequency to succeed in the market.
But in recent months, Le Gall has modulated his view of SpaceX. As he prepares to take the reins of CNES, an event likely to occur by mid-April, he even complimented — in a back-handed way — SpaceX founder Elon Musk.