Monthly Archive for June, 2016

Dawn Completes Primary Mission on Asteroid Day

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This false-color rendering highlights differences in surface materials at Ceres, one of the targets of the Dawn mission. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This false-color rendering highlights differences in surface materials at Ceres, one of the targets of the Dawn mission. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On June 30, just in time for the global celebration known as Asteroid Day, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft completes its primary mission. The mission exceeded all expectations originally set for its exploration of protoplanet Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres.

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Video of Solid Rocket Motor Test

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Video Caption: A booster for the most powerful rocket in the world, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), successfully fired up Tuesday for its second qualification ground test at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah. This was the last full-scale test for the booster before SLS’s first uncrewed test flight with NASA’s Orion spacecraft in late 2018, a key milestone on the agency’s Journey to Mars.

Boeing Opens Starliner Training Center

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Boeing showing commercial crew training simulations and hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Space Training, Analysis and Review (STAR) Facility. (Credit: Lauren Harnett)

Boeing showing commercial crew training simulations and hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Space Training, Analysis and Review (STAR) Facility. (Credit: Lauren Harnett)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Astronauts, engineers and trainers are expected to learn how to fly and operate Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft prior to launch inside a new training facility dedicated to the spacecraft now in development in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Called the Space Training, Analysis and Review facility, or STAR, the building opened June 21 a few miles from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, training home of NASA’s astronaut corps as well as mission control.

The STAR facility will be used in concert with other simulators that Boeing will base at Johnson. The simulators built to incorporate various aspects of launch, mission and landing will be used to train teams of astronauts and spaceflight specialists for flight tests and eventually operational missions to the International Space Station. The simulators also will be connected to training consoles at Mission Control to allow fully integrated simulations for the crew and flight controllers. Such simulations are valuable because expose crews and designers to a wide variety of experiences.

“As a pilot, nothing beats being in a simulator and getting hands-on training to fly a vehicle,” said former space shuttle commander Chris Ferguson, now deputy program manager and director of Crew and Mission Operations for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program.

TUI Lands $1.25M in Army & NASA Funding to Develop Smallsat Communications System

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Tethers_Unlimited_LogoBothell,Wa. (TUI PR) — Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) announced that it has secured three new contracts with a total value of over $1.25M to develop a robust suite of radio and antenna solutions to enable enable small, affordable satellites to provide high-bandwidth data services.

The US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) has awarded TUI a contract to develop SWIFT® transceivers operating at K and Ka-Band frequencies. SMDC has also selected TUI for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to integrate its SWIFT radios with a gimbaled antenna to provide a full steered, multi-frequency, high-bandwidth communications solution for satellites.

Additionally, NASA’s SBIR Program has selected TUI to develop software interfaces for its SWIFT radios to facilitate integration of the radio with electrically-steered arrays (ESAs) and other high-performance antenna solutions.

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Another Day, Another Ban

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I just got banned from the NasaSpaceflight forums with this little message from little Andy.

“Sorry parabolicarc, you are banned from using this forum! Please use your own site to post what your “sources” are telling you. Too many people are sick of you using this site to spread rumors. Andy.

This ban is not set to expire.”

My sources have been a helluva lot more accurate than some of their reporting. They had told me for months that NASA’s investigation had found it was probably more than a defective strut that brought down the Falcon 9 last year. The NASA Inspector General’s audit confirmed what they had been telling me since last year.

For this, I am banned.

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IG Criticizes NASA’s Decision to Allow SpaceX, Orbital ATK to Conduct Own Accident Investigations

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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Inspector General (OIG) has criticized the agency’s practice of allowing SpaceX and Orbital ATK to lead investigations into their own launch failures involving commercial cargo ships, citing a lack of independence and the potential for serious conflicts of interest.

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Astrobotic Selects Lunar Mission Director

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Sharad Bhaskaran

Sharad Bhaskaran

PITTSBURGH, June 29, 2016 (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic, which is building a service to make the Moon accessible to the world, today announces the selection of Sharad Bhaskaran as Mission Director. A nationwide search was conducted for the new position and Bhaskaran stood out as a clear fit to lead the team, with 25 years of experience at Lockheed Martin successfully developing and managing payload projects for spaceflight applications.

“Sharad, with his extensive space experience, is a perfect fit to lead our team of world class partners including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Airbus Defence and Space, Carnegie Mellon and NASA in the development of the Peregrine lunar lander,” said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic.

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Alan Stern Awarded NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal

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New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

BOULDER, Colo. , June 28, 2016 (SwRI PR) — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration today bestowed its highest honor, the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, to Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. As principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, Stern led the team that returned remarkable imagery and other data from the Pluto system last summer, generating headlines worldwide and setting a record for the farthest world ever explored.

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Russia, China to Deepen Cooperation on Space

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Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On June 25, 2016 in Beijing (China) in the framework of the official visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the PRC on the technology protection measures in connection with cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes and in the establishment and operation of launch vehicles and ground infrastructure.

From the Russian side the agreement was signed the Director-General of the State Corporation “Roskosmos” Igor Komarov, from China – the head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) Xu Dazhu.

The agreement is intended to provide the legal basis for cooperation between Russia and China in the field of rocket engines and launch vehicles.

Russia and China cooperate in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes since 1992. Currently, the two countries plan to provide conditions for the development of new forms of cooperation in the field of outer space activities among organizations of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

Cooperation under this Agreement shall be without prejudice to the fulfillment of obligations under other international treaties to which the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

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Orbital Insight Announces $20 Million Investment

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Orbital_Insight_logoPALO ALTO, Calif., Jun 27, 2016 (Orbital Insight PR) – Orbital Insight, a geospatial big data company, today announced its $15 million Series B round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures), with participation from CME Ventures, and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, and Bloomberg Beta. Together with an investment and development agreement from In-Q-Tel (IQT), this investment adds $20 million to the company’s funding.

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DARPA Awards TUI/Firmamentum Contract to Develop “Constructable” Persistent GEO Platform

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Constructable GEO platform (Credit: TUI)

Constructable GEO platform (Credit: TUI)

Bothell,WA (TUI PR) — Firmamentum, a division of Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) dedicated to developing in-space manufacturing and construction services, announced that it has signed a contract with DARPA to design a persistent geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite platform.

Under the “Constructable™ Platform” Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award, Firmamentum will collaborate with Space Systems Loral (SSL), NanoRacks LLC, and Vulcan Aerospace to develop a modular architecture for constructing stations in Earth orbit capable of supporting multiple government and commercial payloads.

Firmamentum’s Constructable approach entails launching suitcase-sized modular elements at low cost using DARPA’s PODS payload delivery system and then robotically assembling these modules to form a space station in GEO capable of providing power, communications, stationkeeping, and other key services to ‘tenant’ payloads.

Firmamentum’s technologies for manufacturing satellite components such as trusses and reflectors on-orbit will enable integration of these small modules to form large, stable platforms that can grow and evolve to meet the needs of many different payloads over multiple decades of operation.

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NASA Investigation into SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Explosion Questions Single Strut Theory

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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

While SpaceX blames a faulty strut supplied by a contractor for the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket in June 2015, an independent investigation by NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) concluded there were several “credible causes” for the accident, including poor quality control at Elon Musk’s launch company.

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Bezos Update on Construction of Florida Production Facility

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Artist concept of Blue Origin rocket factory in Florida. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Artist concept of Blue Origin rocket factory in Florida. (Credit: Blue Origin)

We broke ground on our orbital vehicle manufacturing site in Florida.

The 750,000 square foot rocket factory is custom-built from the ground up to accommodate manufacturing, processing, integration and testing. Among other things, the facility hosts large scale friction stir welding and automated composite processing equipment. All of the vehicle will be manufactured in this facility except for the engines. Initial BE-4 engine production will occur at our Kent facility while we conduct a site selection process later this year for a larger engine production facility to accommodate higher production rates.

The site has been cleared for Blue Origin's rocket factory. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The site has been cleared for Blue Origin’s rocket factory. (Credit: Blue Origin)

I’ve included some photos that will give you an idea of what the vehicle manufacturing facility will look like in December 2017 when it’s complete.

It’s exciting to see the bulldozers in action–we’re clearing the way for the production of a reusable fleet of orbital vehicles that we will launch and land, again and again.

Gradatim Ferociter!

Jeff Bezos

SNC Enters Talks With United Nations on Dedicated Dream Chaser Flights

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Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (June 28, 2016) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding toward defining one or more Dream Chaser missions that will host payloads from member countries. SNC’s Dream Chaser is a reusable, orbital spacecraft designed to be a flexible Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) and transportation system for a variety of low-Earth orbit (LEO) missions.

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Virgin Galactic Taps Tim Buzza to Lead LauncherOne Program

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George Whitesides

George Whitesides

With Virgin Galactic President Steve Isakowitz heading out the door for the Aerospace Corporation, CEO George Whitesides has made an interim appointment in the meantime.

“I have asked Tim Buzza, the program director of LauncherOne, to step up and lead our LauncherOne enterprise as we search for Steve’s successor. Tim joined Virgin Galactic in 2014, and has led the overall program management of LauncherOne since early 2015. Prior to joining Galactic, Tim served as the Vice President of Launch and Test at SpaceX, in addition to prior leadership roles at Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. Tim will be supported by our Senior Vice President of Business Development and Advanced Concepts, Barry Matsumori, who was previously SpaceX’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development, as well as key roles at Qualcomm, Space Systems Loral and General Dynamics.”

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