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SpaceX to Attempt to Land Falcon 9 First Stage on Barge

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SpaceX first stage recovery drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX first stage recovery drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — During our next flight, SpaceX will attempt the precision landing of a Falcon 9 first stage for the first time, on a custom-built ocean platform known as the autonomous spaceport drone ship. While SpaceX has already demonstrated two successful soft water landings, executing a precision landing on an unanchored ocean platform is significantly more challenging.

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NASA to Discuss Asteroid Redirect Mission Today

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In this concept image, the robotic vehicle deploys an inflatable bag to envelop a free-flying small asteroid before redirecting it to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

In this concept image, the robotic vehicle deploys an inflatable bag to envelop a free-flying small asteroid before redirecting it to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2014 (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EST today during which agency officials will discuss and answer questions on the selection of an Asteroid Redirect Mission concept.

The mission is to retrieve an asteroid mass and redirect it into lunar orbit, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020s. The mission will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human deep space expeditions, including to Mars.

Participants for the media teleconference are:

  • Robert Lightfoot, NASA associate administrator
  • Michele Gates, program director, NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission
  • Lindley Johnson, program executive, NASA’s Near Earth Object Program

Audio of the media teleconference will stream live on NASA’s website at:

http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio 

Find more information about the Asteroid Redirect Mission at:

www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative 

Morpheus Completes Free Flight at Kennedy Space Center

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A free-flight test of the Morpheus prototype lander was conducted December 15 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. The 97-second test began at 4:11 p.m. EST with the Morpheus lander lifting off from the ground over a flame trench and ascending more than 800 feet.

Utilizing the autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technology (ALHAT) sensors, the vehicle pitched into a 30-degree glide slope and surveyed the hazard field to determine safe landing sites. Morpheus then flew forward and downward, covering approximately 1,300 feet before descending to a landing at the ALHAT-targeted safe site.

Project Morpheus tests NASA’s ALHAT and an engine that runs on liquid oxygen and methane, which are green propellants. These new capabilities could be used in future efforts to deliver cargo to planetary surfaces. Morpheus and ALHAT are examples of the partnerships that exist within the agency.

For more information on Morpheus, visit: http://morpheuslander.jsc.nasa.gov

Falcon 9, Angara 5 & GSLV Mk. 3 Flights Highlight Crowded Launch Schedule

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spacex_barge

First stage recovery barge (Credit: SpaceX)

With only two weeks left in the year, the global launch schedule is crammed with 9 launches, including the flights of new launch vehicles by Russia and India and an unprecedented effort by SpaceX to recover a first-stage for reuse.

Below are the highlights.

Dec. 18. GSLV Mk.3: India will conduct the first test flight of its new medium-lift GSLV Mk. 3 launch vehicle. This will be a suborbital launch that will carry a prototype of a human spacecraft. Satish Dhawan Space Centre

Dec. 19. SpaceX CRS-5:  SpaceX will send a Dragon freighter on the company’s fifth commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. The company will attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster for reuse by landing it on a barge. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Dec. 25. Angara 5: Russia will conduct its first test of its new Angara 5 heavy-lift booster, which will send a dummy payload into orbit. The launch follows the suborbital flight of the smaller Angara 1.2, which tested the core stage for this new family of boosters. Plesetsk Cosmodrome

The table below shows flights scheduled for the rest of the year.  Schedule subject to change without notice.

UPDATES: The GSLV launch was successful. Russia has delayed the Strela flight to Dec. 19, and SpaceX has rescheduled the Falcon 9 launch to no earlier than Jan. 6.

DATE LAUNCH VEHICLE PAYLOAD LAUNCH SITE NATION
Dec. 18 GSLV Mk.3 CARE Satish Dhawan India
Dec. 18 Strela Kondor E1 Baikonur Russia
Dec. 18 Soyuz O3b F3 Kourou Russia
Dec. 19 Falcon 9 CRS 5 CCAFS USA
Dec. 24 Soyuz Lotus S Plesetsk Russia
Dec. 25 Angara 5 Dummy payload Plesetsk Russia
Dec. 26 Soyuz Resurs P2 Baikonur Russia
Dec. 28 Proton ASTRA 2G Baikonur Russia
December Long March 3A Fengyun 2G Xichang China

Source: Spaceflight Now

Orbital to Replace Old Russian Engines With New Russian Engines on Antares

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An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it launches from Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Thursday, January 9, 2014, Wallops Island, VA. Antares is carrying the Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Orbital-1 mission is Orbital Sciences' first contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Cygnus is carrying science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and other hardware to the space station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it launches from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Thursday, January 9, 2014, Wallops Island, VA. Antares is carrying the Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Orbital-1 mission is Orbital Sciences’ first contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Cygnus is carrying science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and other hardware to the space station. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

I guess Orbital Sciences Corporation can kiss any defense launches goodbye for its Antares launch vehicle. The company plans to replace the rocket’s Russian surplus AJ-26 engines with new Russian engines they hope won’t blow up during flight or be banned from export at some point in the future.

Designated the RD-181, the new engine will be used on Antares in shipsets of two to accommodate as closely as possible the two-engine configuration built around the AJ-26 engines supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne, Orbital Sciences managers said Dec. 16.

A descendant of the RD-171 that powers the Ukrainian-built Zenit launch vehicle, the RD-181 will be manufactured in the same Khimki factory that builds the RD-180 used on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V. It closely resembles the RD-191 on Russia’s new Angara launcher and the RD-151 that powers South Korea’s Naro-1 launch vehicle.

In testing at Energomash, “the RD-181s have seen more than two times the Antares flight duration to date, and if you take a look at some of the heritage of this engine, the RD-151 and the RD-191 combined have over 10 hr. of test time for their configuration testing,” said Mark Pieczynski, Orbital’s vice president for space launch strategic development.

Like the AJ-26, the single-thrust-chamber, single-nozzle RD-181 uses liquid oxygen and refined petroleum (RP) as propellants, generating a sea-level performance in the two-engine configuration of 864,000 lb. thrust with a specific impulse of 311.9 sec. That is equivalent to the twin-nozzle RD-180, but the two engines are a better fit with the Antares main stage, built for Orbital by Ukraine’s Yuzhmash.

Congress has just voted to prohibit ULA from using Russian RD-180 engines in its Atlas V booster due to deteriorating relations with that country. That would seem to limit Orbital’s ability to bid for defense launch contracts unless there is a change in policy.

Read the full story.

NASA Awards Launch Contract to SpaceX

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Falcon 9 launches AsiaSat8 into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launches AsiaSat8 into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2014 (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX to provide launch services for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission. TESS will launch aboard a Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle, with liftoff targeted for August 2017 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Moon Express Tests Lunar Lander at Kennedy Space Center

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MTV-1X vehicle in full tether mode. (Credit: Moon Express)

MTV-1X vehicle in full tether mode. (Credit: Moon Express)

By Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

NASA is working with U.S. industry to develop the capabilities and cutting-edge technologies that will help send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. To achieve this goal, space travelers will need the resources to survive during long-duration missions to an asteroid, Mars and other outer planets.

Moon Express Inc., of Moffett Field, California, is one of three companies selected for the agency’s new Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) initiative to advance lander capabilities that will enable delivery of payloads to the surface of the moon.

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Bristol Spaceplanes Launches Crowdfunding Campaign

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Ascender (Credit: Bristol Spaceplanes)

Ascender (Credit: Bristol Spaceplanes)

BRISTOL, England (Bristol Spaceplanes PR) — Bristol Spaceplanes are launching a crowdfunding campaign to bring their Ascender space plane to life and affordable space flights one step closer.

Space tourism is currently only an option for the wealthy, something that Bristol Spaceplanes are looking to change. Through crowdfunding, they hope to raise £10,000 which would enable them to build the first model Ascender space plane, plus raise awareness of the realities of space travel.

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Google Lunar X Prize Extends Deadline as Astrobotic’s Entry Wins First Milestone Awards

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Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)

Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)

The deadline for winning the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize has been moved back again. The XPrize Foundation has announced a one-year delay in the prize to Dec. 31, 2016, contingent upon at least one team providing “documentation of a scheduled launch by December 31, 2015, for all teams to move forward in the competition.”

The foundation also announced that Astrobotic and its partner, Carnegie Melon University (CMU), had won the first two of a series of milestone awards aimed at providing funding to the teams. XPrize and Google will award up to $6 million in milestone prizes next month.

“We continue to see significant progress from our Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, most recently demonstrated in the pursuit of the Milestone Prizes, in which teams exhibited substantial technological achievements that will ultimately support their missions,” Robert K. Weiss, XPRIZE vice chairman and president, said in a press release.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Hot Fire of 3D Printed CubeSat Propulsion System

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MPS-120 CHAMPS propulsion system (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

MPS-120 CHAMPS propulsion system (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 15, 2014 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (GY) company, has successfully completed a hot-fire test of its MPS-120 (TM) CubeSat High-Impulse Adaptable Modular Propulsion System(TM) (CHAMPS(TM)). The MPS-120 is the first 3D-printed hydrazine integrated propulsion system and is designed to provide propulsion for CubeSats, enabling missions not previously available to these tiny satellites. The project was funded out of the NASA Office of Chief Technologist’s Game Changing Opportunities in Technology Development and awarded out of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. The test was conducted in Redmond, Washington.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne continues to push the envelope with both the development and application of 3-D printed technologies, and this successful test opens a new paradigm of possibilities that is not constrained by the limits of traditional manufacturing techniques,” said Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of Space Advanced Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

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