WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company has been selected by NASA as one of the winners of the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) competitive solicitation, which opened in November of 2014. The official announcement was made by NASA on March 30.
Video Caption: An introduction to our Spaceship Propulsion Team, narrated by Propulsion Program Manager, Jarret Morton, including behind the scenes shots of our manufacturing facilities.
Editor’s Note: Jarret describes Virgin’s hybrid propulsion system as “game changing.” I don’t know about that. Musk, XCOR, et.al., are moving toward reusable liquid bi-props that promise to bring down launch costs. Virgin has a reusable ship whose engine must be replaced after every flight. That’s very costly.
Morton was nominated by his peers as one of the Virgin Stars of the Year for 2013. The honor included a trip to a big party at the Branson mansion in England.
Editor’s Note: Branson has strongly hinted that he plans to use his electric race cars as a foundation to challenge fellow billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors. He claims to have teams working on the technology.
This generated a lot of headlines, as most pronouncements involving Branson and Musk do. It’s a pretty tall order, especially given Tesla’s massive head start. We’ll see what — if anything — comes of it.
A sculpture named GENESIS by artists Otto Rigan has been installed at the entrance of Spaceport America. The 2.5-ton sculpture was commissioned under New Mexico’s Art in Public Places program, which is mandatory for all major state-funded construction projects.
For all you art lovers, information about the artist and the sculpture is below courtesy of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project will be flying a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, in June.
The public is invited to tune in to an hour-long live, interactive video broadcast from the gallery above a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where this near-space experimental test vehicle is being prepared for shipment to Hawaii. During the broadcast, the 15-foot-wide, 7,000-pound vehicle is expected to be undergoing a “spin-table” test. The event will be streamed live on www.ustream.tv/NASAJPL2 on March 31, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PDT. JPL’s Gay Hill will host the program while LDSD team members will answer questions submitted to the Ustream chat box or via Twitter using the #AskNASA hashtag.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Building on the success of NASA’s partnerships with commercial industry to date, NASA has selected 12 Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) to advance concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of advanced propulsion, habitation and small satellites.
Through these public-private partnerships, selected companies will partner with NASA to develop the exploration capabilities necessary to enable commercial endeavors in space and human exploration to deep-space destinations such as the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cis-lunar space, and Mars.
“Commercial partners were selected for their technical ability to mature key technologies and their commitment to the potential applications both for government and private sector uses,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters. “This work ultimately will inform the strategy to move human presence further into the solar system.”
1. Monday, March 30, 2015: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT; 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome TONY MILLIGAN to the program to discuss his new book “Nobody Owns the Moon: The Ethics of Space Exploitation.” Mr. Milligan is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK and specializes in ethics.
2. Tuesday, March 31,, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back BRUCE DAMER to the show to discuss new architectures for sustainable spaceflight plus Human NEO missions, asteroids, planetary missions. Bruce was last a guest on the show July 9, 2013.
3. Friday, April 3, 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): We welcome back JIM KERVALA, Chief Operating Officer, Shackleton Energy Company. Jim will be providing us with updates on the Shackleton project for the Moon.
4. Sunday, April 5, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): Because today is Easter there will be no Space Show today.
NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — It takes a lot of ingenuity – not to mention a massive quantity of sheer force – to get satellites into orbit. Now space engineers are applying comparable ingenuity to the challenge of getting their missions out of there, too.
ESA, working closely with Europe’s satellite builders, will ask industry for new designs to help remove satellites from orbit at the end of their working lives, as well as ‘passivating’ them – making them safer for neighbouring missions.
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (NASA PR) — Three crew members representing the United States and Russia have arrived at the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:42 p.m. EDT Friday (1:42 a.m., March 28 in Baikonur).
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend about a year living and working aboard the space station to help scientists better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space.
“Scott Kelly’s mission is critical to advancing the administration’s plan to send humans on a journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’ll gain new, detailed insights on the ways long-duration spaceflight affects the human body.”
An independent review of the U.S. Air Force’s certification of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket found a “stark disconnect in perceptions” between the two parties about how the process was to unfold.
“There is also a lack of common understanding” of “some basic objectives and definitions” spelled out in a 2013 agreement on the steps toward certifying Musk’s company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., retired Air Force Chief of Staff Larry Welch said in the review.
While the two sides have become conciliatory and say they expect SpaceX to be certified for launches by June, the report lays out a cultural collision between Musk’s entrepreneurial impatience and the Air Force’s methodical bureaucracy.
Describing the past conflicts, Welch said the company’s view “is that the Air Force should have confidence in SpaceX capabilities based on its track record of performance,” while the Air Force “has approached certification as a detailed design review.”
“Neither view was the intent of the original certification plan,” which envisioned a “partnership that leveraged the commercial practices and experience of SpaceX and decades of Air Force experience,” Welch said. “Both teams need to adjust.”
Video Caption: NASA announced the next step in the plan to retrieve an asteroid boulder from a near-Earth asteroid and redirect it into a stable orbit around the moon to carry out human exploration missions, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars. For NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), a robotic spacecraft will capture a boulder from the surface of an asteroid for exploration by astronauts in the mid-2020s to test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. This animation illustrates the crewed part of ARM, showing how astronauts will travel to the asteroid using NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft, investigate the boulder and return a sample of the asteroid back to Earth.
CHICAGO, March 26, 2015 (CASIS PR) — Chicagoland Boy Scouts and Explorers will soon design and build research projects for a chance to have their experiment flown to the International Space Station.
This incredible opportunity is the result of a newly formed partnership between the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS); and local Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and Exploring programs.
CASIS and the BSA Pathways to Adventure Council will launch the Space Station National Design Challenge student research competition in Chicago this spring in an effort to spark interest and innovation in young men and women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The U.S. Air Force said on Wednesday it would phase out a major subsidy it pays United Launch Alliance (ULA)
Air Force Space Command Commander General John Hyten said acquisition officials were working on a plan to to phase out the infrastructure support contract, which he said was initially put in place to protect “a very fragile industrial base.”
He said it was not possible to have a fair competition with the contracts in place, backing an argument often made by privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, which is vying for some of the launch contracts now carried out by ULA.
In prepared testimony between the House Armed Services Committee last week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell called for an end to the contract.
Eliminate payments—more properly called subsidies—under the EELV Launch Capability (ELC) contract line items that exclusively support the incumbent provider and properly account for such payments for any competitive solicitations in the interim to ensure a fair and level playing field, especially since these funds do not contribute to the true nature of assured access to space. The Department and this Committee have called fo r real, meaningful competition. That means eliminating the unfairness. All we seek is the right to compete in a fair competition. Just like reliance on the RD-180 engine, it is time for these subsidy payments to the incumbent to come to an end.
Through the EELV Launch Capability, initially referred to as “assured access to space” payments, the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) pay ULA approximately $1 billion per year through distinct cost-plus-incentive-fee contract line items. These payments cover most of ULA’s fixed costs — for example, launch infrastructure, systems engineering and program management, launch operations, mission integration, base and range support costs, transportation costs, capital depreciation, and non-recurring engineering to name a few — for “up to eight launches” per year. These payments are in addition to the firm-fixed-price that ULA charges for EELV Launch Services (ELS) for each launch ordered through the block buy contract.