Monthly Archive for August, 2014

August Space News Round Up


Below is a roundup of major space news for the month of August by category, company and space agency. The highlights include:

  • NASA’s commercial crew continued to make progress, with Boeing completing all of its milestones;
  • SpaceX made more news for what it blew up and got sued over than what it launched into orbit;
  • FAA granted approval for the construction of the first commercial spaceport by SpaceX in Texas;
  • Leadership changes came to United Launch Alliance, U.S. Air Force Space Command, and a wide swath of the Russian space industry;
  • Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites completed SpaceShipTwo’s 30th glide flight, promising powered tests soon;
  • Orbital Sciences Corporation completed its third Cygnus mission to the International Space Station;
  • Russians botched yet another launch, pissing off the European Commission this time;
  • International Launch Services and Sea Launch both retrenched in the face of competition and their own launch failures; and,
  • European Space Agency conducted the first ever rendezvous with a comet.

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SpaceX Faces Another Lawsuit Over Mass Firings

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has been sued again over the mass firing of at least 200 workers in July. A second class action suit has been filed alleging a violation of California’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires 60-days notice of the firing of 50 or more workers, according to

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was hit with another proposed class action in California state court on Tuesday over the aerospace company’s alleged failure to give workers notice of a mass layoff in July, marking at least the second suit over the firings.

A class action lawsuit filed earlier in August made the same allegation. SpaceX claims WARN doesn’t apply because the workers were not laid off but were let go for cause after the company finished its annual performance reviews.

SpaceX faces two other lawsuits filed in August. One claims the company broke the law by failing to provide regular rest and meal breaks. The other alleges racial discrimination in employment and promotions.

SpaceX has denied all these allegations and said it will vigorously defend itself in court.

NASA Tests 3D Printed Engine Part

Engineers just completed hot-fire testing with two 3-D printed rocket injectors. Certain features of the rocket components were designed to increase rocket engine performance. The injector mixed liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen together, which combusted at temperatures over 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, producing more than 20,000 pounds of thrust. (Credit:  NASA photo/David Olive)

Engineers just completed hot-fire testing with two 3-D printed rocket injectors. Certain features of the rocket components were designed to increase rocket engine performance. The injector mixed liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen together, which combusted at temperatures over 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, producing more than 20,000 pounds of thrust. (Credit: NASA photo/David Olive)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA has successfully tested the most complex rocket engine parts ever designed by the agency and printed with additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, on a test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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NASA Plans Citizen Forums on Asteroids


asteroid_initiative_citizen_forumWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is finding asteroids, including those that might threaten our home planet, and sending humans to explore one. The agency is engaging the public in the Asteroid Grand Challenge to find all asteroid threats to human population and know what to do about them, accelerating NASA’s existing planetary defense work. NASA is also developing a first-ever mission to identify, capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020s, returning with samples. This Asteroid Redirect Mission is part of NASA’s plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for humans to pioneer Mars in the 2030s.

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Generation Orbit Hires Structures Lead Engineer


generation_orbit_logoATLANTA, GA, Aug. 28, 2014 (GO PR) — Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) is pleased to welcome Mr. Zack Rubin to the team as the Lead Engineer of the Engineering Team’s Structures Division. Mr. Rubin will be responsible for leading the design, prototyping, integration and testing of flight structures, mechanisms, and separation systems for the GOLauncher family of vehicles. Mr. Rubin began his position with GO in early August.

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XCOR Extends Lynx Ticket Sales to Singapore

Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)

Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)

XCOR has begun selling tickets for its Lynx suborbital vehicle in Singapore:

US-based XCOR Space Expeditions is close to making commercial space travel a reality for private individuals through its space shuttle, the XCOR Lynx Mark II, which is slated to whisk passengers out to space by the fourth quarter of 2015. The spacecraft is to take up to four daily flights, with each round-trip taking under an hour….

Singaporeans who can afford it and can stomach the experience need to contact local company Crystal Time, Singapore’s official distributor of Luminox, the Swiss timepiece picked as the official watch of the XCOR pilots and the partner of the American commercial space travel company.

The week-long Luminox Space Roadshow began on Friday in Orchard Road, where a model of the space shuttle is on display. Pamela Tan, the brand manager of Luminox Singapore, told The Business Times that the company had already received strong interest from three individuals here; worldwide, 300 people have signed up.

Ms Tan said those interested will be asked to go for a medical check-up to determine their medical fitness. Heart conditions, in particular, may disqualify one from making the trip. “If you can’t do a roller-coaster ride, for example, then this is definitely not for you!” she quipped. She said that, as with other adventure activities that have grown in popularity among Singaporeans, the interest in space travel here will peak. “Especially with the growing level of affluence in Singapore, travelling is proliferating, particularly among the younger generation.”

Read the full story.

Smith, Palazzo Decry SLS Schedule Delay

Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith

Washington, D.C. (House Science Commitee PR) – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. about reported delays to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle. The news comes despite congressional support above the Administration’s full budget requests and repeated Administration assurances that the exploration priorities are on schedule.

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Final Frontier Design launches “Space Suit Experience”

Final_Frontier_Ted Southern_Launch_Position_Flight_Simulator

Ted Southern demonstrates the launch position flight simulator. (Credit: Final Frontier Design)

Brooklyn, NY, August 29, 2014 (FFD PR) — Final Frontier Design (FFD) is proud to unveil their “Space Suit Experience” (SSE) today, offering the public a chance to wear and train in a real space suit. The SSE includes a historical briefing on space suit development and use, comparison testing in a vacuum chamber glove box, an astronaut-style fitting, and full pressurization in an IVA space suit, both standing and in launch position on FFD’s space flight simulator. The SSE is a unique, immersive event for one person.

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Bold Plan Proposed to Overhaul Mojave

Artist concept of Mojave Air and Space Port terminal.

Artist concept of Mojave Air and Space Port terminal.

A detailed plan to turn the Mojave Air and Space Port from a dusty flight and rocket test center into a destination for researchers and tourists alike is making the rounds in the state capital of Sacramento.

The plan, created by the Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) Hub at El Camino College, includes the development of passenger terminal at the spaceport, research park, business incubator, special economic zone, space-based education center, and a desert botanical garden.

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Nano & Microsat Market Expected to Grow Rapidly

AAC Microtec CubeSats (Credit: NASA)

AAC Microtec CubeSats (Credit: NASA)

DALLAS (MarketsandMarkets PR) — The Nano and Microsatellite market is estimated to grow from $702.4 million in 2014 to $1887.1 million in 2019. This represents a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.8% from 2014 to 2019. Commercial sector is expected to be the largest contributor for Nano and Microsatellite by 2019. In terms of regions, APAC is expected to be the biggest market in terms of revenue contribution by 2019 surpassing North America.

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Russia Gears Up for Angara 5 Test, Eyes Ending Use of Rockot

Rockot launch vehicle

Rockot launch vehicle

Following a successful suborbital flight of the Angara 1 booster in July, Russian space officials are gearing up to test the larger Angara 5 launch vehicle by the end of the year.

The Khrunichev-built Angara is a modular family of rockets on which additional boosters are added to the first-stage core.  Angara 5 is designed to place 24.5 metric tons of cargo into low Earth orbit (LEO). The smaller Angara 1 can loft 3.8 metric tons to LEO.

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SpaceShipTwo Conducts Successful Glide Flight

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo just after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo just after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

It’s funny. You see the most interesting things driving into Mojave sometimes. Driving in on Highway 14 this morning, I saw that WhiteKnightTwo was down at the end of the runway, as I had expected. I new a flight was planned, so I got up early.

Then I noticed it seemed to be getting bigger and a whole bunch of dust getting kicked up. Hey! That thing’s taking off. So, I pulled over to the side of the road and snapped a few photos as it flew overhead.

Takeoff! (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Takeoff! (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo are pretty amazing vehicles to look at. You don’t get tired of watching them take off.

For this flight, I decided to drive up to Koehn Lake, which is a dry lake bed that’s probably 20 miles or so north of Mojave. I figured it would be a good spot to try to get some photos of the drop.

It would have been, had my camera been cooperation. But, it picked a fine time to go not cooperate with me. I did get a few shots of the release with my cell phone.

SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo was venting something, but I saw no flames nor did I hear the rumbling across the desert that accompanies a powered flight. It was fairly silent out there, except for the distant drone of WhiteKnightTwo’s engine. [UPDATE: Virgin Galactic confirms that the test was a cold flow of gasses used in  powered flight.]

Virgin Galactic Tweeted that it was “an in-flight test of #SpaceShipTwo’s ‘plumbing’ – the pressurization system for the rocket motor.” It’s also a dress rehearsal for the next powered flight, which the company promises is “coming soon.”

That flight will likely come in September. I’m looking forward to it.

First SLS Flight Slips to Late 2018

Space Launch System in flight. (Credit: NASA)

Space Launch System in flight. (Credit: NASA)

UPDATE: NASA officials just completed a teleconference in which they said November 2018 is a No Later Than date. They are hoping to do much better; there’s still a chance of launching in December 2017 or sometime soon afterward.

NASA just announced an 11-month delay in the first Space Launch System flight from December 2017 to November 2018 in the fourth paragraph of a press release.

This decision comes after a thorough review known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), which provides a development cost baseline for the 70-metric ton version of the SLS of $7.021 billion from February 2014 through the first launch and a launch readiness schedule based on an initial SLS flight no later than November 2018.

The full press release is below.

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Steve Jurvetson Talks Investments in SpaceX, Tesla


CNBC’s Josh Lipton speaks to Steve Jurvetson, Draper Fisher Jurvetson managing director, about his investment in all things Elon Musk and the future of Tesla.

Boeing Docking System Passes Critical Design Review

Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

HOUSTON, Aug. 26, 2014 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] will begin manufacturing a new docking system for the International Space Station (ISS), having recently completed the critical design review for the NASA Docking System Block-1 (NDSB-1). In compliance with the International Docking System standard, NDSB-1 will be compatible with any space craft.

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