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Terminal Velocity Aerospace Tests Recoverable Experiments Capsule

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High-altitude balloon lifts space reentry capsule for flight test. (Credit: Near Space Corporation)

High-altitude balloon lifts space reentry capsule for flight test. (Credit: Near Space Corporation)

TILLAMOOK, Ore. (NASA PR) — A prototype capsule that one day will return science experiments to Earth was tested by releasing it from a high-altitude balloon in Tillamook, Oregon. Technology like this capsule could one day return biological samples and other small payloads from space in a relatively short time.

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Virgin Galactic’s Modifications to SpaceShipTwo

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SpaceShipTwo fuselage. (Credit: NTSB)

SpaceShipTwo fuselage. (Credit: NTSB)

On July 11, Virgin Galactic submitted information to the National Transportation Safety Board about how it planned to address issues raised by the crash of SpaceShipTwo last October. The recommendations and their status are reproduced below.

VG’s Post-Accident Recommendations

1) Modify the SpaceShipTwo feather lock system with an automatic mechanical inhibit to prevent unlocking or locking the feather locks during safety-critical phases of flight.

Status: Completed by VG

2) Add to the SpaceShipTwo Normal Procedures checklist and Pilot’s Operating Handbook an explicit warning about the consequences of prematurely unlocking the feather lock.

Status: Completed by VG

3) Implement a comprehensive Crew Resource Management (CRM) approach to all future Virgin
Galactic SpaceShipTwo operations in a manner consistent with the pre-existing CRM program VG has employed for WK2 operations. This includes, as a minimum:

  • Standardized procedures and call outs
  • Challenge/response protocol for all safety-critical aircrew actions, to include feather lock handle movement
  • Formalized CRM training

Status: Completed by VG

4) Conduct a comprehensive internal safety review of all SpaceShipTwo systems to identify and eliminate any single-point human performance actions that could result in a catastrophic event.

Status: An initial assessment was completed and modifications to SS2-002 are in progress. Virgin Galactic will continually evaluate and improve System Safety throughout SpaceShipTwo’s lifecycle.

5) Conduct a comprehensive external safety review of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company’s engineering, flight test and operations as well as SpaceShipTwo itself.

Status: Initial Assessment Completed. The external review team will review the program both prior to commencement of flight test activities as well as prior to entering commercial service.

6) Ensure Virgin Galactic employs pilots who meet or exceed the highest standards and possess a depth and breadth of experience in high performance fighter-type aircraft and/or spacecraft. Minimum VG qualifications during the flight test program shall be:

  • A long course graduate of a recognized test pilot school with a minimum of 2.5 years post-graduation experience in the flight test of high performance, military turbojet aircraft and/or spacecraft.
  • A minimum of 1000 hours pilot in command of high performance, military turbojet aircraft.
  • Experience in multiengine non-centerline thrust aircraft
  • Experience in multi-place, crewed aircraft and/or spacecraft

These criteria are based on industry best practices for flight testing, using DCMA INST 8210.1C, paragraph 4.3 as guidance.

Status: Completed. All current Virgin Galactic pilots exceed the above minimum VG standards.

CST-100 Structure Test Article Domes Arrive at KSC

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Pressure dome for CST-100 structural test article. (Credit: Boeing)

Pressure dome for CST-100 structural test article. (Credit: Boeing)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The first two domes that will form the pressure shell of the Structural Test Article, or STA, for Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft have arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

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This Week on The Space Show

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This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, August 3, 2015: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT; 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome back BRENT SHERWOOD from JPL to discuss “Power from the Sky.”

2. SPECIAL TIME: Tuesday, August 4, 2015:,9:30 AM PDT; (12:30 PM EST, 11:30 AM CDT): We welcome back HANNAH KERNER regarding her recent article in Space.com, “The Space Destination Debate Gets Us Nowhere … Literally” (see www.space.com/29659-debating-space-destination-is-grounding-exploration.html).

3. Friday, August 7 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): We welcome back CHARLIE PRECOURT from Orbital ATK on many timely issues and topics. .

4. Sunday, August 9,, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome SPENCER AUSTIN-MARTIN to discuss our Indiegogo crowdfunding website modernization and archival quality database campaign which is officially underway. See The Space Show blog by Saturday, August 8 for the applicable websites for our campaign.

Rocket Lab Signs Commercial Space Launch Act Agreement With NASA

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Founder and CEO Peter Beck displays Rocket Lab’s accumulated expertise in carbon composite launch vehicles. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Founder and CEO Peter Beck displays Rocket Lab’s accumulated expertise in carbon composite launch vehicles. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LOS ANGELES (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab has signed a Commercial Space Launch Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The agreement enables Rocket Lab to use NASA resources – including personnel, facilities and equipment – for launch efforts.

Rocket Lab is considering using NASA’s launch complexes to complement Rocket Lab’s primary launch range in New Zealand.

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Virgin Galactic Misled Ticket Holders, Public on Complexity of Engine Change

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RocketMotorTwo firing. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

RocketMotorTwo firing. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

When Virgin Galactic announced it was switching from the nitrous oxide/rubber rocket engine they had flown on SpaceShipTwo three times to one powered by nitrous oxide and nylon, company officials told ticket holders and the public the change involved only minor modifications to Richard Branson’s space tourism vehicle.

A document released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board directly contradicts that claim. In  it, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety expert describing his concern over “major modifications” that had been made in the suborbital space plane to accommodate the new engine.

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UAE Space Agency Explores Cooperation with Bahrain

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UAE_Space_Agency_LogoABU DHABI, UAE (UAE Space Agency PR) — The UAE Space Agency is looking for opportunities of cooperation with the Bahraini National Space Science Agency to strengthen partnership and work between the two organizations within the space sector. This strategy falls in line with the Agency’s efforts to build strategic partnerships and achieve goals of regional and international cooperation.

This comes off the back of an official Bahraini delegation visit to the UAE Space Agency headquarters in Abu Dhabi. The delegation was led by Dr. Mohammed Al Amer Chairman of the National Space Science Agency of the Kingdom of Bahrain and was welcomed by His Excellency Dr. Khalifa Al Rumaithi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency and HE Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the Agency and a number of senior officials from the nation’s space sector.
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Experts: FAA Review Process for SpaceShipTwo Flawed, Subject to Political Pressure

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SpaceShipTwo fuselage (Credit: NTSB)

SpaceShipTwo fuselage (Credit: NTSB)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an experimental permit to Scaled Composites to begin flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo in 2012 despite serious deficiencies in the company’s application relating to safety analysis and risk mitigation, according to documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) this week.

When renewing the annual permit in 2013 and 2014, the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) issued waivers that exempted Scaled Composites from explaining how it evaluated and planned to mitigate against human and software errors that could cause a fatal accident.

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Congressmen Want Answers on Falcon 9 Certification

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A bi-partisan group of 14 Congressmen has sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James raises questions about the certification of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in the wake of the launch failure last month.

The representatives questioned whether it made sense for SpaceX to lead the investigation of its own accident, which resulted in a loss of a Dragon cargo ship headed for the International Space Station. The FAA is providing oversight of the investigation.

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NASA Tests Second International Docking Adapter

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The second International Docking Adapter. (Credit: NASA)

The second International Docking Adapter. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Engineers in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently tested the mechanisms that will connect future commercial crew spacecraft with the second International Docking Adapter. IDA-2, as it’s called, will be taken to the space station on a future cargo resupply mission. It will be one of two connection points for commercial crew spacecraft visiting the orbiting laboratory. The systems and targets for IDA-2 are set to be put through extensive tests with both Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon before the adapter is loaded for launch.KSC-315D-0315_0023

“We set IDA-2 up horizontally for the alignment checks with the CST-100 to more closely mirror how the two would connect in space,” said Steve Bigos, project manager for orbital replacement unit processing at Kennedy. “There is a lot of new technology, so it’s very interesting.”

The targets are much more sophisticated than previous docking systems and include lasers and sensors that allow the station and spacecraft to autonomously communicate distance cues and enable alignment and connection. Think of it as a car that can park itself.