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Video Tour Inside of Virgin Galactic’s FAITH Hangar

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Video Caption: On October 4th 2014 Virgin Galactic celebrated the anniversary of the Ansari X-Prize victory by inviting special guests for a ‘Behind the Hangar Doors’ tour.

Court Holds Initial Hearing on Sierra Nevada’s Effort to Reimpose Commercial Crew Stop Work Order

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Marian Blank Horn heard initial arguments on Friday on a motion by Sierra Nevada Corporation to stop Boeing and SpaceX from continuing work on recently awarded NASA commercial crew contracts pending an appeal of the awards.

The judge did not rule on the motion, but set an additional hearing on Tuesday to hear further arguments, according to press reports.

Sierra Nevada has appealed the awards NASA has made to Boeing and SpaceX citing alleged irregularities in the process. NASA’s decisions left Sierra Nevada without additional government funding to complete its Dream Chaser shuttle.

NASA initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work under the contracts, but the space agency later reversed its decision. Sierra Nevada is seeking to reinstate the stop work order.

The Government Accountability Office has until early January to rule on Sierra Nevada’s protest of NASA’s commercial crew awards.

NASA Cancels Troubled Sunjammer Solar Sail Project

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Sunjammer solar sail

Sunjammer solar sail

Space News reports that NASA has canceled the Sunjammer solar sail mission:

Citing a lack of confidence in its contractor’s ability to deliver, NASA has abandoned plans to fly a solar-sail mission in 2015 after investing four years and more than $21 million on the project.

The Sunjammer mission, including the spacecraft and a deployable 1,200-square-meter solar sail, was being developed by L’Garde Inc. of Tustin, California, under a contract awarded in September 2011. The contract is slated to expire this coming December, and NASA has no plans to continue the work, according to an internal memo circulated at NASA headquarters here the week of Oct. 7.

“NASA is working with L’Garde to de-scope the existing contract to close out the documentation and deliver completed work to the Agency by the end of 2014,” the memo reads….

Nathan Barnes, president of L’Garde, said in an Oct. 17 phone interview that the company’s final delivery to NASA will be a design for a spacecraft module and solar sail that in theory could propel a small spacecraft by harnessing the energy of photon strikes. L’Garde will turn over its design in a Critical Design Audit scheduled for Nov. 7, he said.

Read the full story.

Intuitive Machines Funded for ISS Sample Return Vehicle

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Terrestrial Return Vehicle (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

Terrestrial Return Vehicle (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

HOUSTON (Intuitive Machines PR) – Intuitive Machines in cooperation with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been selected by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to develop a Terrestrial Return Vehicle (TRV) that will enable on demand, rapid return of experiments from the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory.

Through this commercial service, Intuitive Machines will enable researchers to regularly and quickly return small samples and components from the ISS to Earth. The timely delivery of critical or perishable samples is essential in enabling new and exciting research aboard the ISS National Laboratory.

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X-37B Lands Safely at Vandenberg, Mission Remains a Mystery

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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 space plane landed safely at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday morning, completing a record 674 days in orbit.

The unmanned winged vehicle touched down at 9:24 a.m. PDT after conducting experiments and testing out technologies for 22 months.

“The 30th Space Wing and our mission partners, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Boeing, and our base support contractors, have put countless hours of hard work into preparing for this landing and today we were able to see the culmination of that dedication,” said base commander Colonel Keith Balts, in a prepared statement. “I’m extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing. Everyone from our on console space operators to our airfield managers and civil engineers take pride in this unique mission and exemplify excellence during its execution.”

The Air Force is planning a fourth X-37B flight in 2015. Officials recently announced they would consolidate program operations at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the X-37 vehicles are launched.

NASA Captures Falcon 9 Descent Data to Help With Planetary Exploration

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WASHINGTON (NASA PR) – NASA successfully captured thermal images of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its descent after it launched in September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The data from these thermal images may provide critical engineering information for future missions to the surface of Mars.

“Because the technologies required to land large payloads on Mars are significantly different than those used here on Earth, investment in these technologies is critical,” said Robert Braun, principal investigator for NASA’s Propulsive Descent Technologies (PDT) project and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “This is the first high-fidelity data set of a rocket system firing into its direction of travel while traveling at supersonic speeds in Mars-relevant conditions. Analysis of this unique data set will enable system engineers to extract important lessons for the application and infusion of supersonic retro-propulsion into future NASA missions.”

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CASIS Funds 6 Unsolicited ISS Research Projects

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casis_logo_2KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (October 16, 2014) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced a series of unsolicited investigations focused on physical sciences and Earth observation studies. CASIS is the organization responsible for managing the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.

This series of unsolicited projects represents a wide-ranging set of ISS National Lab investigations. CASIS accepts projects through either of two pathways: a traditional, targeted solicitation for grants focused on high priority areas of research and technology development, and a less traditional unsolicited proposal process, whereby any U.S. researcher, academic institution, or commercial organization can submit a white paper describing an experiment that uses the unique environment of the ISS National Lab for Earth benefit. In some instances, CASIS can provide funding for unsolicited proposals based on scientific merit and potential benefit to the American taxpayer.

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Shana Dale Named FAA Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space

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Shana Dale (Credit: NASA)

Shana Dale (Credit: NASA)

Marcia Smith of Spacepolicyonline.com reports that former NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale will become the FAA’s new deputy associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST) on Nov. 3.

Dale will succeed George Zamka, who joined Bigelow Aerospace over the summer. She served as NASA deputy administrator from 2005 to 2009 under Administrator Mike Griffin.

According to Dale’s LinkedIn profile, Dale has served as a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies since February 2013. This position was preceded by a stint as the principal policy advisor for the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

From October 2009 to February 2012, Dale served as a senior vice president at Perot Systems.

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Undermanned ISS Overloaded With Experiments

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Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield maintaining Biolab in Europe’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. Biolab is an experiment workstation tailored for research on biological samples such as micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates. The unit features a centrifuge that creates simulated gravity to compare how samples react to weightlessness and artificial gravity. (Credit; NASA)

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield maintaining Biolab in Europe’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. Biolab is an experiment workstation tailored for research on biological samples such as micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates. The unit features a centrifuge that creates simulated gravity to compare how samples react to weightlessness and artificial gravity. (Credit; NASA)

Space News reports on a shortage of crew time to conduct experiments aboard the space station:

There are more science experiments headed to the international space station than NASA astronauts have time to conduct, an agency official said here Oct. 7 at a meeting of the National Research Council’s committee on biological and life sciences in space.

“If you ask me, we’re at a crew-time max,” Rod Jones, manager of NASA’s ISS Research Integration Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said at the meeting. “We are literally going into an increment coming up where we have allocated to us 875 hours [of research time], and I have about 1,400 hours of research.”

This increment, known internally as 43/44, is scheduled to begin in March with the arrival of veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and fellow Expedition 43 crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and NASA’s Scott Kelly, and end in late September or early October when Padalka flies space tourist Sarah Brightman and Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen back home after the first-time spacefliers’ brief visit (Kornienko and Kelly will remain behind for another six months, completing the first one-year stay at ISS)….

With an 875-hour allotment for 1,400 hours of research, crews active in the U.S. side of station for increment 43/44 will dedicate about a fifth of their time in orbit to science but leave more than 20 days worth of research undone by the time they return to Earth. The vast majority of the crew’s remaining waking hours are consumed by the routine maintenance tasks required to keep station habitable and flight-worthy.

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Whitesides Explains Flight Test Plan for SpaceShipTwo

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George Whitesides

George Whitesides

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides has laid out the plan for completing SpaceShipTwo’s flight tests and beginning commercial operations in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal:

“We expect to get to space altitude in a short number of flights, assuming the rocket performs as expected,” Whitesides told the Journal. “Scaled made it to space in four flights with SpaceShipOne. I believe it will be a little more than that for us, but not dramatically so.”

Once SpaceShipTwo successfully reaches space, Scaled Composites will turn over the rocket to Virgin Galactic for its commercial operations based in New Mexico. Virgin has already taken control of the mothership, which it flew to Spaceport America for some initial test operations in September.

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