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NASA Flies Material Sciences Test Aboard X-37B

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WASHINGTON
, May 6, 2015 (NASA PR) -
- Building on more than a decade of data from International Space Station (ISS) research, NASA is expanding its materials science research by flying an experiment on the U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane.

By flying the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) investigation on the X-37B, materials scientists have the opportunity to expose almost 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days. METIS is building on data acquired during the Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), which flew more than 4,000 samples in space from 2001 to 2013.

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ULA Launches X-37B, LightSail into Orbit

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Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)

Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., May 20, 2015 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launched the Air Force Space Command 5 (AFSPC-5) satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 11:05 a.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex-41.The rocket carried the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV, a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force.

“ULA is honored to launch this unique spacecraft for the U.S Air Force. Congratulations to the Air Force and all of our mission partners on today’s successful launch! The seamless integration between the Air Force, Boeing, and the entire mission team culminated in today’s successful launch of the AFSPC-5 mission” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs.

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NanoRacks Announces Leadership & Management Changes

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NanoRacks Houston team

NanoRacks Houston team

May 20, 2015- Houston, TX — NanoRacks is pleased to announce changes in the Company’s leadership and management team. These changes reflect NanoRacks’ rapid growth and advancement of strong leaders in the Company, effective immediately.

  • Michael D. Johnson – From Chief Technology Officer to Chief Designer, XO Markets
  • Chris K. Cummins – From Chief Operating Office/Chief Financial Officer to Chief of Products, Pricing, and Contracts
  • Richard Gruver – Chief Financial Officer, XO Markets
  • Michael Lewis – From Senior Lead Engineer to Chief Technology Officer
  • Marcia Blount – From Program Logistics Manager to Director of Houston Operations

NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber stated: “This is an exciting turning point in NanoRacks history. We are no longer considered a startup, but now a well-established entrepreneurial company. We have implemented the strongest leadership team that will continue to grow NanoRacks to the next level.

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X2nSat and Spaceport America Announce Partnership To Establish Next-Generation Satellite Gateway

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Spaceport America fly-in. (Credit: NMSA)

Spaceport America fly-in. (Credit: NMSA)

SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM, and PETALUM, CA, May 19, 2015 (NMSA PR) – Global satellite communications solutions provider X2nSat announces today its decision to partner with Spaceport America – the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport. X2nSat has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the long-term lease of land and access to infrastructure as the first VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) solution provider within Spaceport America’s new satellite gateway ground station development.

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House Appropriations Committee Releases NASA Budget Figures

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Capitol Building
The House Appropriations Committee has released updated numbers for the NASA FY 2016 budget. The highlights include:

  • $3.4 billion for Space Launch System, Orion and related ground systems, an increase of $546 million over the President’s request;
  • $1 billion for Commercial Crew, a reduction of $243 million from the request;
  • $625 million for space technology, a reduction of $100 million.
  • $1.56 billion for planetary exploration, an increase of $196 million;
  • $1.68 billion for Earth science, a reduction of $264 million;
  • $140 million to begin work on the Jupiter Europa clipper;
  • $19 million to maintain operations of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and $13.7 million for the Mars Opportunity Rover.

The table below has the full details.

NASA FY 2016 BUDGET
(In Millions of Dollars)
PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION REQUEST
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
DIFFERENCE
Science $5,288.6 $5,237.5 -$51.1
Earth Science
$1,947.3 $1,682.9 -$264.2
Planetary Sciences $1,361.2  $1,557.0  $195.8
Astrophysics $709.1  $735.6  $26.5
James Webb Space Telescope
$620.0  $620.0  $0.0
Heliophysics $651.0 $642.0  -$9.0
Jupiter Europa Clipper $30.0 $140.0  $110.0
Space Exploration $4,505.9 $4,759.3 $253.4
Exploration Systems Development
$2,862.9 $3,409.3 $546.4
Space Launch System
$1,356.5 $1,850.0 $493.5
Orion
$1,096.3 $1,096.3 $0.0
Exploration Ground Systems
$410.1 $410.0 -$0.1
Program Integration
$53.0 $53.0
Commercial Spaceflight $1,243.8 $1,000.0 -$243.0
Research & Development $399.2 $350.0 -$49.2
Space Operations $4,003.7 $3,957.3
-$46.4
International Space Station $3,106.6 $3,075.6 -$31.0
Space & Flight Support
$898.1 $881.7 -$16.4
Space Technology $724.8 $625.0
-$99.8
Aeronautics $571.4 $600.0
$28.6
Education $88.9 $119.0
$30.1
Safety, Security and Mission Services $2,843.1 $2,768.6
-$74.5
Construction & Environmental Compliance & Restoration $465.3 $425.0
-$40.3
Inspector General $37.4 $37.4
$0.0
TOTALS: $18,529.1 $18,529.1 $0.0

ULA to Launch X-37B, LightSail on Wednesday

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X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B spacecraft and The Planetary Society’s LightSail prototype will share a ride into space from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday aboard an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster. NASA will also conduct a materials sciences experiment aboard the X-37B.

The launch window opens at 10:45 a.m. EDT and runs until 2:45 p.m. EDT. ULA will webcast the launch at http://www.ulalaunch.com.

The weather forecast shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

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NASA Issues RFI on Asteroid Redirect Mission

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In this concept image, the robotic vehicle descends to the surface of a large asteroid to collect a boulder that it can redirect to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

In this concept image, the robotic vehicle descends to the surface of a large asteroid to collect a boulder that it can redirect to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking ideas from American companies for a spacecraft design that could be used for both the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and a robotic satellite servicing mission in low-Earth orbit.

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Administration Opposes Measure Limiting RD-180 Procurement

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RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

The Obama Administration is strongly opposing a Senate measure that would limit the number of RD-180 engines ULA could import from Russia. SpaceNews explains:

Under the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, ULA would have as few as five of the Russian-made RD-180 engines available for upcoming competitive rounds of the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. In a best-case scenario, the Denver-based company could have as many as nine of the engines, which are being phased out due to the downturn in relations with Russia.

ULA and Defense Department officials say the company needs 14 RD-180s to be able to go head-to-head with emerging rival SpaceX until its next-generation rocket, dubbed Vulcan, begins flying. The Vulcan, unveiled in April and featuring a U.S.-made engine, is expected to make its first flight in 2019 and be certified to launch U.S. national security missions by 2021.

The Office of Management and Budget fired back in a Statement of Administration Policy about the measure:

The Administration strongly objects to section 1603, which would place restrictions on the funds to eliminate the Nation’s use of non-allied space launch engines for national security space launches by 2019.  The Administration also strongly objects to moving Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) development funding into the more restrictive Rocket Propulsion System Development line item.  The Administration is committed to transitioning from non-allied engines; however, an engine-centric approach as laid out in this section would not preserve the Nation’s assured access to space.  While rocket engines are a major component of a launch vehicle, they are only one of many critical components.  These components must be designed and developed together to meet the ultimate cost and performance goals, not only for the launch vehicle but also for the support, operations, and production infrastructure as well.  Without a comprehensive strategy that ensures the availability of operational launch systems, the government risks investing hundreds of millions of dollars without any guarantee of ensuring assured access to space.

This Week on The Space Show

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This week on The Space Show with David Livingston:

1. Monday, May18,, 2015: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT; 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome DR. JOHN LEARNED to discuss fast radio bursts and neutrinos. This program is co-hosted with Dr. John Jurist.

2. Tuesday, May 19, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. ELIGAR SADEH on public/private partnerships.

3. Friday, May 22, 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): DR. PAL BREKKE joins us again. Dr. Brekke is a noted solar scientist.

4. Sunday, May 24, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome back CHRIS STONE on national security space and more.

NASA Certifies Falcon 9 for Science Missions

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Falcon 9 lifts off on CRS-6 mission.

Falcon 9 lifts off on CRS-6 mission.

Some good news for SpaceX, which will now be able to bid to launch NASA science missions:

NASA has formally certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch all but the agency’s most costly robotic science missions. The first mission for SpaceX will be the launch of a United States and France oceanography satellite that is scheduled for liftoff from California in July.

According to George Diller, a spokesperson from NASA, the space agency’s Launch Services Program, which manages the agency’s rocket procurements for research missions, concluded the multi-year certification on Tuesday.

This new milestone now clears the Falcon 9 to launch what NASA calls “medium-risk” science missions, a classification that includes most of the agency’s Earth observation satellites and many of its interplanetary probes.  The Falcon 9 is now certified by NASA as a “Category 2″ launch vehicle.

In order to launch the most valuable spacecraft, such as the multibillion-dollar interplanetary flagship missions, NASA requires a Category 3 certification.  The Atlas 5, Delta 2 and Pegasus XL rockets operated by SpaceX rivals United Launch Alliance and Orbital ATK currently meet the stringent requirements for Category 3 certification.

The certification clears the way for SpaceX to launch NASA’s Jason 3 ocean altimetry spacecraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch is scheduled for July 22.

Read the full story.