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Historic Pad 39A Being Transformed for Falcon Launches

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Pad 39A (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Pad 39A Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Removing hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel and adding robust, new fixtures, SpaceX is steadily transforming Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for use as a launch pad for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The launchers will lift numerous payloads into orbit, including the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts aboard bound for the International Space Station.

Pad 39A is being modified for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Pad 39A is being modified for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

A horizontal integration facility was built at the base of the pad and rails installed running up the incline to the flame trench. Instead of arriving to the pad on the back of the crawler-transporters, SpaceX rockets will roll on a custom-built transporter-erector that will carry them up the hill and then stand the rocket up for liftoff. The fixed service structure at the pad deck will remain, although more than 500,000 pounds of steel has already been removed from it. SpaceX has already started removing the rotating service structure, which is attached to the fixed structure. Built for the need to load a shuttle’s cargo bay at the pad, it does not serve a purpose for Falcon launchers whose payloads are mounted on the top of the rocket.

Pad 39A  (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Pad 39A (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

SpaceX leased the historic launch pad from NASA in April 2014 and has been steadily remaking it from a space shuttle launch facility into one suited for the needs of the Falcon rockets and their payloads. It is the same launch pad where Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off on July 16, 1969, to begin their Apollo 11 flight that would make history as the first to land people on the moon. Almost all signs of Apollo-era hardware were removed from the launch pad when it was rebuilt for the shuttle.

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Asteroid is Earth’s Constant Companion

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Video Caption: A small asteroid has been discovered in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth, and it will remain so for centuries to come. Full story at http://go.nasa.gov/1UdQoAF

Video of Falcon 9 First Stage Crash on Ship

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Blue Origin to Webcast New Shepard Flight on Sunday Morning

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BE-3 restarted at 3,635 feet above ground level and ramped fast for a successful landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

BE-3 restarted at 3,635 feet above ground level and ramped fast for a successful landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Watch the fourth flight of the same New Shepard hardware this Sunday. Liftoff is planned for approximately 10:15 am ET and the live webcast starts half an hour earlier at 9:45 am ET at www.blueorigin.com.

On this flight, we’ll intentionally fail one string of parachutes on the capsule. There are three strings of chutes and two of the three should still deploy nominally and, along with our retrothrust system, safely land the capsule. Works on paper, and this test is designed to validate that. We’ll also use this flight to continue pushing the envelope on the booster.

As always, this is a development test flight and anything can happen.

Watching a rocket launch (and rocket landing!) might add a little extra fun with the kids on Father’s Day — enjoy.

Gradatim Ferociter!

Jeff Bezos

Canada Recruiting New Astronauts

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CSALONGUEUIL, Quebec (CSA PR) — Have you ever wanted to go to space? The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) wants you!

Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Minister responsible for the CSA, launched Canada’s fourth astronaut recruitment campaign. The CSA is seeking the next generation of space explorers to pave the way for potential future space missions.

The Agency is accepting applications from June 17 to August 15, and expects to announce selected candidates in Summer 2017. This next class of Canadian astronaut candidates will start their training at NASA in August 2017.

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ULA’s UAW Employees Approve New Contract

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CENTENNIALULA_logo, Colo., June 16, 2016 () – Members of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers Of America (UAW) have accepted the company’s new three-year contract offer. The ratification vote came today after UAW leadership recommended acceptance of the contract to its members. This concludes the 2016 contract negotiation process which began on June 8.

The new contract covers 104 bargaining unit employees from Local Lodge #2346 performing work at ULA’s production operations in Harlingen, Texas. The contract becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. on June 20.

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Astronauts, Mission Control Simulate Starliner Commercial Crew Flight

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Commerical Crew Program astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe perfoming and on-console simulation of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner at Johnson Space Center. (Credit: NASA)

Commerical Crew Program astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe perfoming and on-console simulation of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner at Johnson Space Center. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Commercial Crew Program astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe joined flight director Richard Jones and his NASA/Boeing flight control team in the first Mission Control Center, Houston, on-console simulation of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner launch, climb to orbit and post-orbital insertion timeline.

The ascent simulation included a training team inserting problems remotely from a nearby building, which allowed the team to follow checklists and procedures to solve issues that could arise during a dynamic, real-flight situation.

Boeing has an agreement in place with NASA’s Johnson Space Center to provide flight control and facility expertise in managing missions of the Starliner and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Simulations covering all aspects of human space flight control have been conducted for every human space flight and prepare the astronauts and flight controllers for the real flights.

Behnken and Boe along with Doug Hurley and Suni Williams are integrated as a group with Boeing and SpaceX on its Dragon crew vehicle through the development phase and first test flights. Specific crew assignments have not yet been announced. Read more about the advances NASA’s Commercial Crew Program have made in 2016: http://go.nasa.gov/24QDPuA

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Space Station Crew 3-D Prints First Student-Designed Tool in Space

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The Mulitpurpose Precision Maintenance Tool, created by University of Alabama in Huntsville student Robert Hillan as part of the Future Engineers Space Tool Challenge, was printed on the International Space Station. It is designed to provide astronauts with a single tool that can help with a variety of tasks, including tightening nuts or bolts of different sizes and stripping wires. (Credit: NASA)

The Mulitpurpose Precision Maintenance Tool, created by University of Alabama in Huntsville student Robert Hillan as part of the Future Engineers Space Tool Challenge, was printed on the International Space Station. It is designed to provide astronauts with a single tool that can help with a variety of tasks, including tightening nuts or bolts of different sizes and stripping wires. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — When NASA fired up the Additive Manufacturing Facility on the International Space Station to begin more testing of the emerging 3-D printing technology in orbit, one college student in particular watched intently.

In autumn of 2014, a high school senior in Enterprise, Alabama, Robert Hillan entered the Future Engineers Space Tool design competition, which challenged students to create a device astronauts could use in space. The catch was that it must upload electronically and print on the new 3-D printer that was going to be installed on the orbiting laboratory.

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Blue Origin Delays Flight Test Until Sunday

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Members of the Blue Origin team recover the Crew Capsule after its fifth successful flight and soft landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Members of the Blue Origin team recover the Crew Capsule after its fifth successful flight and soft landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos tweeted that the New Shepard flight test scheduled for Friday has been delayed until Sunday due to a faulty O-ring in the capsule’s nitrogen gas pressurization system.

Blue Origin plans to webcast the flight, which will feature a landing during which one of the capsule’s three parachutes will be rigged to fail. The company has not yet set a launch time.

The Long, Sad History of Excalibur Almaz

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Excalibur Almaz's space tourism vehicle concept. (Credit: Excalibur Almaz)

Excalibur Almaz’s space tourism vehicle concept. (Credit: Excalibur Almaz)

Houston Press has a long, sad look at one of the more curious NewSpace projects, Excalibur Almaz, and the man behind it, Art Dula.

Excalbur Almaz is a company based in the Isle of Man whose goal is to refurbish a couple of Soviet-era Almaz space stations and four crew return capsule for some type of space mission. The company has gone through numerous iterations, from space tourism to commercial space station to NASA commercial crew to deep space mining facility.

So far they haven’t raised enough money for any of these ideas, although the company has generated a couple of investor lawsuits alleging fraud, one dismissed and the other still pending.

There are a couple very troubling allegations that are chronicled in the story. One is that the sales agreement between Excalbur Almaz and the Russian seller stipulated that the technology was not to be modified for space flight. This is alleged in a lawsuit filed by Japanese investor Takafumi Horie.

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House Space Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Astronaut Health Care

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Working outside the International Space Station on the second spacewalk of Expedition 45, Nov. 6, 2015. (Credits: NASA)

Working outside the International Space Station on the second spacewalk of Expedition 45, Nov. 6, 2015. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (House Space Subcommittee PRs) — On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Space  on held a hearing titled Human Spaceflight Ethics and Obligations: Options for Monitoring, Diagnosing, and Treating Former Astronauts. The hearing examined NASA’s existing health care program for current and former astronauts.

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Dick Rutan Wins 2016 Inspiration Award

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Video Caption: Dick Rutan was the winner of the 2016 Inspiration Award at the Endeavor Awards. Dick is a pilot’s pilot and has inspired us all as he pushes the boundaries of aviation. Congratulations Dick!

NASA’s CYGNSS Mission Passes Major Milestone

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Thermal vacuum (shown) and other environmental tests of the CYGNSS microsatellites wrapped last month at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. The final series of tests will soon commence on all eight observatories, stacked in the final launch configuration. (Credit: Southwest Research Institute)

Thermal vacuum (shown) and other environmental tests of the CYGNSS microsatellites wrapped last month at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. The final series of tests will soon commence on all eight observatories, stacked in the final launch configuration. (Credit: Southwest Research Institute)

SAN ANTONIO (SwRI PR) — NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission took another major step last month as the eight CYGNSS microsatellites successfully completed functional and environmental testing of their systems and software. The mission is on track for launch in late 2016.

CYGNSS will probe the inner core of hurricanes in greater detail to better understand their rapid intensification.

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NASA Glenn Successfully Ignites Largest Fire Experiment in Space

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Saffire I experiment inside Cygnus. (Credit: NASA)

Saffire I experiment inside Cygnus. (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — Engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio and Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia successfully conducted the first remote Spacecraft Fire Experiment, or Saffire I, carried inside an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo vehicle that departed the International Space Station on Tuesday, June 14.  The experiment’s purpose is to learn how a fire might behave in a spacecraft after leaving Earth’s atmosphere. Understanding how fire spreads in a microgravity environment is critical to the safety of astronauts who live and work in space as NASA prepares for long duration missions on the journey to Mars.

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Jeff Bezos Update on BE-4 Engine Progress

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Beginning to slot one of our nozzles. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Beginning to slot one of our nozzles. (Credit: Blue Origin)

We’re making multiple copies of the BE-4 to take us through our development campaign, along with a healthy amount of hardware spares to mitigate schedule and technical risks encountered along the way – – a “hardware rich” approach to development. To maintain a fast pace, we’ve elected over the past years to invest heavily in key machines, tooling and people for the production of BE-4 so we can control critical processes in-house.

Completion of slotting of a main combustion chamber (Credit: Blue Origin)

Completion of slotting of a main combustion chamber (Credit: Blue Origin)

Preparing inspected GOx dome casting for machining (Credit: Blue Origin)

Preparing inspected GOx dome casting for machining (Credit: Blue Origin)

Preparing inspected GOx dome casting for machining (Credit: Blue Origin)

Preparing inspected GOx dome casting for machining (Credit: Blue Origin)

We’ve also started testing the BE-4 preburner in our recently commissioned pressure-fed test cell. We’re developing the transient start sequence for the preburner, and we’re making good progress.

Hot firing a 14” diameter preburner (Credit: Blue Origin)

Hot firing a 14” diameter preburner (Credit: Blue Origin)

We’ll continue to keep you posted on our progress as this engine comes together.

Gradatim Ferociter!

Jeff Bezos