Shotwell: Still a Couple of Months From Falcon 9 Return to Flight

Gwynne Shotwell
Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said on Monday the company is still a couple of months away from returning the Falcon 9 booster to flight following the launch failure on June 28.

The investigation of the accident is taking longer than originally planned, Shotwell said during a panel discussion at the AIAA Space 2015 Conference in Pasadena. The company is doing a review of its supply chain.

The company has blamed the failure of a strut in the upper stage for the failure, which destroyed a Dragon cargo ship headed for the International Space Station.

The return to flight will feature the first test of the upgraded Falcon 9, which is being tweaked to improve its performance. Shotwell admitted this flight was keeping her up at night.

She said a customer has been identified for the return to flight but would not identify it.

Editor’s Note: I’ve been hearing reliable reports that something more than the strut was the cause of the accident in June. The last I heard, they were still trying to figure out exactly what happened.

Mojave Sightings: NTPS Honors Its Lost Pilots

A plaque honoring Mike Hill and Ilam Zigante. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
A plaque honoring Mike Hill and Ilam Zigante. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The National Test Pilot School recently unveiled two plaques honoring four lost pilots on the memorial wall in Mojave Air and Space Port’s Legacy Park. One honors NTPS test pilot instructor Mike Hill and flight test engineer student Ilam Zigante, who were killed on a training flight on Oct. 24, 2014.

(Credit: Douglas Messier)
(Credit: Douglas Messier)

The other plaque honors NTPS test pilot instructor Ron Bradley and test pilot student Maj. Kim Cheongon, who died in a training accident in 2003.

Honoring the dead: memorial plaques at Legacy Park (Cedit: Douglas Messier)
Honoring the dead: memorial plaques at Legacy Park (Cedit: Douglas Messier)

The new memorials are near a plaque honoring three Scaled Composites engineers — Eric Blackwell, Todd Ivens and Glen May — who died in a SpaceShipTwo test stand accident in July 2007. This memorial was placed on the wall in July 2008 to mark the anniversary of the accident.

A space has been left between the old memorial plaque and the new ones. My guess this is the likely location for a plaque to honor Mike Alsbury, who was killed in the crash of SpaceShipTwo last Oct. 31.

NASA to Build New Launch Control Center at Wallops

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia
Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to Harkins Contracting Inc. of Salisbury, Maryland, for the construction of a new Mission Launch Command Center (MLCC) at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.
NASA Logo.

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Satellite Applications Catapult Helps Oxford Space Systems Secure Investment

Satellite_Applications_Catapult_logoOXFORD, England (Satellite Applications Catapult PR) — The Satellite Applications Catapult is delighted to have supported Oxford Space Systems (OSS) in securing £1.2m [$1.86 million] worth of investment from a combination of institutional and private investors.

Harwell-based OSS launched in September 2013 to develop novel hardware solutions for space that are lighter, less complex and lower cost than existing products. In the past two years, the company has worked closely with the Catapult, benefitting from initial business support and collaboration, later followed by a Business Sprint, focusing in particular on investment readiness.

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Generation Orbit Makes 2 New Hires

Skyler Shuford (Credit: Generation Orbit)
Skyler Shuford (Credit: Generation Orbit)

ATLANTA (GO PR) — Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) is pleased to announce the additions of Mr. Skyler Shuford to its staff as the Lead Guidance, Navigation, and Control Engineer and E. Glenn Case IV as a Senior Engineer.

Skyler Shuford
Lead Guidance, Navigation, and Control Engineer

Mr. Shuford will drive design, simulation, and testing of the guidance, navigation, and control system for the GOLauncher family of vehicles. He will also be responsible for the definition, design, development, and verification of flight and ground support software.

Previously, Mr. Shuford was Deputy Lead of Guidance, Navigation, and Control for Lunar Lion, a team competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize during his graduate studies at Penn State. He led control algorithm development while building, programming, and testing a quadcopter to serve as a controller testbed.

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Consortium to Lead Machrihanish Spaceport Bid

MACC_logoCAMPBELTOWN AIRPORT, Scotland (MACC PR) — Ahead of the next stage of bidding to become the UK’s first Spaceport, Argyll and Bute Council has entered a formal partnership with Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC). The newly formed consortium will be led by MACC subsidiary company, Discover Space UK, which was launched earlier this year.
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NASA’s New Horizons Team Selects Potential Kuiper Belt Flyby Target

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)
Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

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NASA Tech: Rocket Fuel Pump Tests Pave Way for 3-D Printed Engine

Engineers prepare a 3-D printed turbopump for a test at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The turbopump was tested at full power, pumping 1,200 gallons of liquid hydrogen per minute, enough to power an upper stage rocket engine capable of generating 35,000 pounds of thrust. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/David Olive)
Engineers prepare a 3-D printed turbopump for a test at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The turbopump was tested at full power, pumping 1,200 gallons of liquid hydrogen per minute, enough to power an upper stage rocket engine capable of generating 35,000 pounds of thrust. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/David Olive)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — One of the most complex, 3-D printed rocket engine parts ever made, a turbopump, got its “heartbeat” racing at more than 90,000 revolutions per minute (rpms) during a successful series of tests with liquid hydrogen propellant at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. These tests along with manufacturing and testing of injectors and other rocket engine parts are paving the way for advancements in 3-D printing of complex rocket engines and more efficient production of future spacecraft.

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CSCA Expands Membership With 2 New Companies

csca_lofo
TORONTO (CSCA PR)
– The Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA), Canada’s national space industry association, is pleased to announce the addition of two new corporate members.

Joining the CSCA as new corporate members are Ontario Drive & Gear Ltd. (ODG) and Open Space Orbital Inc.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson in Video for “The Martian”

Video Caption: Our adventure is just beginning. Neil deGrasse Tyson examines the upcoming Ares 3 mission and their #JourneyToMars in this special episode of StarTalk.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.

In Theaters – October, 2015

RSC Energia Holds Contest to Name Soyuz Spacecraft Successor

Mockup of Russia's next generation crew vehicle.
Mockup of Russia’s next generation crew vehicle.

MOSCOW (RSC Energia PR) — Rocket and Space Corporation Energia announces creativity competition for the best name of the new-generation crew transportation spacecraft, which is planned to be used for missions to the Moon.

The competition time frame: August 30 through November 2, 2015. Its results will be announced on January 15, 2016.

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NASA Tech: Gecko Grippers Moving On Up

This artist's concept shows how a future robot called LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) could inspect and maintain installations on the International Space Station. The robot would stick to the outside using a gecko-inspired gripping system. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
This artist’s concept shows how a future robot called LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) could inspect and maintain installations on the International Space Station. The robot would stick to the outside using a gecko-inspired gripping system. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A piece of tape can only be used a few times before the adhesion wears off and it can no longer hold two surfaces together. But researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working on the ultimate system of stickiness, inspired by geckos.

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EU Provides $77 Million for SABRE Engine R&D

Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (EC PR) — The European Commission has found that a £50 million (around €71 million) grant that the UK authorities intend to provide for designing a SABRE space launcher engine is in line with EU state aid rules.

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ASU CubeSat to Explore Moon

An ASU-built CubeSat about the size of a shoebox will be used to produce a map of the water resources on the moon for future space exploration. It is the first ASU-led interplanetary mission. (Credit: Sean Amidan/ASU/SpaceTREx)
An ASU-built CubeSat about the size of a shoebox will be used to produce a map of the water resources on the moon for future space exploration. It is the first ASU-led interplanetary mission. (Credit: Sean Amidan/ASU/SpaceTREx)

ASU PR — A spacecraft the size of a shoebox with Arizona origins will soon be orbiting our nearest neighbor to create a map of water-ice on the moon.

The NASA-selected CubeSat will be designed, built and operated at Arizona State University and is one piece of the agency’s larger mission to fully characterize the water content at the lunar South Pole in preparation for exploration, resource utilization and improved understanding of the moon’s geologic history.

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