Monthly Archive for March, 2013

3-D Printing Makes Its Mark in NASA’s New Engine

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A pogo z-baffle for an RS-25 engine, built using state-of-the-art Selective Laser Melting, is inspected with a structured light scan. The part was created at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., which also manages the agency's Space Launch System, or SLS, which will use RS-25s to reach beyond low-Earth orbit. (Credit: NASA/MSFC)

A pogo z-baffle for an RS-25 engine, built using state-of-the-art Selective Laser Melting, is inspected with a structured light scan. The part was created at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., which also manages the agency’s Space Launch System, or SLS, which will use RS-25s to reach beyond low-Earth orbit. (Credit: NASA/MSFC)

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.

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AIAC Backs Economic Action Plan for Aerospace

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AIAC PR) —
The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) is very pleased with measures announced in the Economic Action Plan 2013 released today in Ottawa.

“The measures announced in the 2013 Economic Action Plan constitute an excellent short-term response to the Aerospace Review report released in December,” said Jim Quick, President & CEO of AIAC.

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Spacevidcast: XCOR’s Andrew Nelson Talks Lynx Progress

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Spacevidcast’s Ben and Cariann Higginbotham talk to XCOR COO Andrew Nelson, who has a detailed update on the company’s progress in building the first Lynx suborbital vehicle.

XCOR Putting The Pieces Together on Lynx

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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.

Read the rest of the story.

FAA Approves Black Sky Training Program

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black_sky_trainingOviedo, 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.”

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Masten’s Xombie Makes Highest, Longest Flight With GENIE Payload

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Masten Space Systems' Xombie technology demonstration rocket soars aloft, guided by Draper Lab's GENIE navigation and control system designed to land space vehicles on other bodies in the solar system. (Credit: NASA /Tom Tschida)

Masten Space Systems’ Xombie technology demonstration rocket soars aloft, guided by Draper Lab’s GENIE navigation and control system designed to land space vehicles on other bodies in the solar system. (Credit: NASA /Tom Tschida)

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.

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Why the Air Force is Taking Its Time With New Launch Providers

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Atlas V launches OTV3 into orbit from Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Pat Corkery, United Launch Alliance.)

Atlas V launches OTV3 into orbit from Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Pat Corkery, United Launch Alliance.)

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.

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ATK Successfully Tests New CASTOR Motor for Antares

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ATK CASTOR 30XL

CASTOR 30XL motor. (Credit: ATK)


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.

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Musk: Dragon Thrusters Malfunctioned Due to Valve Design Change

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Dragon captured at ISS. (Credit: NASA TV)

Dragon captured at ISS. (Credit: NASA TV)

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.

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Dragon Post-Mission Press Conference Notes

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Dragon recovery (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon recovery (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Post-Mission Press Conference

Participants

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
Julie Robinson, International Space Station Program scientist
Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer and CEO, SpaceX
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO

Opening Remarks

Bolden:

  • We’re really pleased at working together that SpaceX and NASA teams were able to berth at station and return safely
  • Importance of the commercial cargo program and how critical it is for the ISS program
  • Orbital Sciences is other COTS partner – set for a test flight of Antares rocket in April

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Musk: SpaceX to Attempt Falcon 9 First Stage Water Landing

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SpacX Founder Elon Musk

SpacX Founder Elon Musk

At a joint press conference with NASA earlier today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company will try a water landing of its Falcon 9 first stage later year.

The landing will be the start of a series of flight tests that could  culminate with an attempted propulsive landing of a first stage back at its launch site in the middle of 2014, Musk said.

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NASA Gets $1.3 Billion Budget Cut

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NASA LOGOSpace News has the grim NASA budget figures:

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….

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GLXP Update: Big Summit Set for Next Week

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Which Google Lunar X Prize teams are serious? Which ones are little more than vaporware? And which teams have a serious chance of winning?

The answers to those questions will get a little bit clearer next week. The 23 teams competing to land a rover on the moon will meet in Santiago, Chile, beginning next Tuesday for their annual Summit.

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CCP Spotlight: Sierra Nevada Progresses on Dream Chaser Work

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SNC Dream Chaser Post Flight
NASA’s CCP Spotlight on Development

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.

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Arianespace Chief Sort of Grudgingly Compliments SpaceX

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Jean-Yves Le Gall

Jean-Yves Le Gall

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.

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