Virgin Galactic Could Change SpaceShipTwo Engine Again

Nitrous nylon engine test on Jan. 16, 2014. (Credit: Ken Brown)
Nitrous nylon engine test on Jan. 16, 2014. (Credit: Ken Brown)

Here in Phoenix at the Space Access 15 Conference. Virgin Galactic Vice President Will Pomerantz spoke earlier today, revealing that after nearly 11 years of development the company still hasn’t figured out what type of engine it will use to power SpaceShipTwo.

This was a rather startling development because the matter had supposedly been settled last year. However, it does match what Parabolic Arc has been hearing for months about parallel engine development.


SpaceX Dragon Abort Test Set for May 6

SpaceX Dragon vehicle undergoes preparation for abort test. (Credit: NASA)
SpaceX Dragon vehicle undergoes preparation for abort test. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — SpaceX now is targeting Wednesday, May 6, for a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon, a spacecraft under final development and certification through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The test window will open at 7 a.m. EDT.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the test, which will simulate an emergency abort from a test stand on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.


NASA Selects SBIR & STTR Phase 1 Proposals

NASA LOGOWASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected research and technology proposals from 254 small businesses and 39 research institutions in the United States for grants to develop new technologies that will further NASA’s journey to Mars.

The proposals are solicited, vetted and managed through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Proposals that lead to the successful development of ideas and products could result in contracts with a combined approximate value of $47.7 million.


First Developmental Flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard

New Shepard flight test (Credit: Blue Origin)
New Shepard flight test (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wa. (Blue Origin PR) — Today we flew the first developmental test flight of our New Shepard space vehicle. Our 110,000-lbf thrust liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen BE-3 engine worked flawlessly, powering New Shepard through Mach 3 to its planned test altitude of 307,000 feet. Guidance, navigation and control was nominal throughout max Q and all of ascent. The in-space separation of the crew capsule from the propulsion module was perfect. Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return.


Roscosmos: Telemetry Interrupted Just Prior to Progress Separation

Roscosmos_logoRoscosmos has posted an update on the Progress 59 flight. It’s in Russian, but I was able to use Google Translate to understand it.

The flight was nominal until 1.5 seconds before the time at which the Progress vehicle was to have separated from its third stage booster. At that point, telemetry data from the booster was interrupted.

After separation, partial communications with the progress was restored. The data indicated that various systems were not performing normally. The ship was also rotating at about 90 degrees per second.

Docking the cargo ship at the International Space Station is impossible. The station and its crew are not at risk because they are in a much higher orbit.

A commission has been established to identify the cause of the failure. The commission’s findings are expected no later than May 13.

Russia plans to launch additional Progress resupply ships in the third and fourth quarters of this year.


Russia Roundup: Vostochny, Consolidation & Lunar Base

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

As another Russian space mission went haywire this week, there was plenty of other news about that nation’s struggle space program. Here’s a summary of major news from the past week.


  • Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that 58 million rubles (about $1 million) in back wages owed to Vostochny workers will be paid by April 30. Unhappy workers have gone on hunger strikes and appealed to President Vladimir Putin with a message written on the roofs of their dorms.


  • Efforts to consolidate the Russian space industry under Roscomos continued. Putin submitted a draft law to the State Duma that would establish a space corporation on the basis of Roscosmos and the United Rocket and Space Corporation.


  • In a meeting with Chinese officials, Rogozin proposed that the two countries work together on a permanently crewed base on the moon. Russian is aiming to establish a lunar facility around 2030.

NASA’s LDSD Arrives in Hawaii in Advance of June Test

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The second test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project arrived April 25 at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.  The vehicle now will undergo final assembly and weeks of testing prior to its scheduled experimental flight set for early June. The flight will test two cutting-edge technologies for braking Mars spacecraft.


Latest NASA Updates on Progress Anomaly

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Progress mission has failed. Scott Kelly, who is aboard the International Space Station, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Russian controllers had told the crew Progress would not dock with the station. The cargo ship will eventually enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

UPDATE (4/29 9:50 a.m. EDT): Docking has been called off for the Progress 59 spacecraft. Russian flight controllers are continuing to assess the vehicle and what the plan going forward will be. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

UPDATE (4/28 11:00 p.m. EDT): Russian flight controllers are continuing attempts to communicate with and troubleshoot issues with the Russian Progress 59 cargo spacecraft as it makes additional passes tonight over Russian ground stations.

UPDATE (4/28 9:35 a.m. EDT): Russian flight controllers have continued to try and recover telemetry capability with the ISS Progress 59 cargo craft this morning. The most recent ground pass started at 9:20 a.m. EDT and flight controllers reported no change in the issues with receiving telemetry data from the unmanned craft. The Russian flight control team attempted to command the vehicle over four orbits flying over Russian ground sites with no success. The next series of ground station passes is expected to resume late Tuesday evening. Teams are standing down on the Thursday docking attempt while Russian teams continue to analyze data and develop a troubleshooting plan going forward.

UPDATE (4/28 8:15 a.m. EDT): Russian flight controllers are continuing to troubleshoot issues with the ISS Progress 59 cargo craft. The spacecraft made another pass over Russian ground stations and continued to experience telemetry problems regarding the deployment of navigational antennas and the pressurization of the manifolds in the propulsion system. Flight controllers also confirmed that the vehicle had entered into a slow spin and have issued commands to attempt to control it.

USAF Statement on Progress Anomaly

USAFVANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., April 28, 2015 (JFCC PR) — Joint Functional Component Command for Space’s Joint Space Operations Center made an initial observation of an anomaly with an International Space Station Progress resupply cargo craft at 12:04 a.m. (3:04 a.m. EDT), today.

The JSpOC immediately began tracking the event and initiated the appropriate reporting procedures.


Progress Appears Lost as Debris Detected

Russia’s Progress resupply ship appears to have been lost as it continues to spin out of control. Controllers have had no success in communicating with the wayward spacecraft, according to multiple media reports.

The U.S. Air Force Joint Functional Component Command for Space’s Joint Space Operations Center ( JSpOC) said it is tracking debris near the resupply ship.

“Currently, the JSpOC can confirm that the resupply vehicle is rotating at a rate of 360 degrees every five seconds,” the command said in a statement. “Additionally, the JSpOC has observed 44 pieces of debris in the vicinity of the resupply vehicle and its upper stage rocket body, however, it cannot confirm at this time if the debris is from the rocket body or vehicle itself.”

A docking with the International Space Station has been cancelled. Unless controllers can establish control over the spacecraft, the cargo ship will make an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere within days.

Russia previously lost a Progress cargo ship in August 2011 after its Soyuz booster malfunctioned, causing the spacecraft to burn up during re-entry.

The Russian space program has been plagued by a series of launch failures over the past four years.

Paragon Awarded CST-100 Contract

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

TUCSON, Ariz. (Paragon PR) – Paragon was recently awarded a contract by The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] to provide services to support their Crew Space Transportation System (CCTS) and Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft. Specifically, Paragon will provide the CST-100 Humidity Control Subassembly (HCS) for cabin atmospheric humidity control.


Mikulski Wants More Money for NASA

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski doesn’t much like President Obama’s proposed $18.5 billion budget for NASA. And she likes the House Science Committee’s budget even less.

“Although I appreciated what the president advised, I found that the funding for the space program needed to be more robust,” she said. “It’s too spartan and it’s too skimpy.”

Mikulski argued that, despite recent increases, NASA was still underfunded. The 2016 request “is actually less than when Al Gore was vice president,” once corrected for inflation, she said. In fiscal year 2001, the last budget approved while Gore was in office, NASA received $14.2 billion, or nearly $19 billion in present-day dollars….

Mikulski’s promise to increase NASA’s budget puts her on a collision course with the House. While appropriators there have yet to take up a spending bill that includes NASA, an authorization bill to be marked up by the House Science Committee April 30 would offer $18.5 billion for NASA in 2016, the same amount as the administration’s request. That House bill, though, would transfer funds from Earth science and space technology programs to planetary science, the Space Launch System, and Orion.

“They are obsessed with human spaceflight and going to Mars,” she said of the House. She said that while she supported human spaceflight as well, she sought a more balanced program. “We also need space science and the kind of discovery done by technology to lay the groundwork for human discovery.”

Read the full story.

NASA Updates on Progress 59 Supply Ship

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

Check Here Regularly for Updates


The six crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) are safe and continuing regular operations with sufficient supplies as Russian flight controllers plan for another attempt to communicate with a cargo resupply spacecraft bound for the station. The next attempt to link with the spacecraft comes at 8:50 p.m. EDT Tuesday.


Progress Supply Ship Spinning Out of Control

Russia’s Progress 59 cargo ship has been spinning out of control since it was launched into orbit from Baikonur. Media reports indicate that the ship’s Kurs rendezvous antennas onboard the vehicle have failed to deploy. There are also questions about whether there has been pressurization of the Progress propulsion system.

Controllers have had difficulty in communicating with the cargo ship. They have managed to switch from a four orbit rendezvous plan to 34 orbits, which will give them time to troubleshoot the problems.