GAO Report on SLS/Orion: Making Progress, But….

SLS core stage pathfinder is lifted onto the Stennis B-2 test stand (Credits: NASA/SSC)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Government Accountability Office released another depressing review this week of NASA’s Artemis program, specifically looking at the space agency’s progress on the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and the exploration ground systems (EGS) required to support them.

Cristina Chaplain, GAO’s director of Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, summarized the report’s conclusions on Wednesday in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

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Pad 39B Water Flow Test Comes Through Loud and Clear

NASA continued its preparation for the Artemis I mission with a successful water flow test on the mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B on Friday, Sept. 13. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA eclipsed another milestone in its plan to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024 with the latest successful water flow test on the mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B.

Using adjustments from the first water flow test event in July, the Friday, Sept. 13 exercise demonstrated the capability of the sound suppression system that will be used for launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) for the Artemis I mission.

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House Science Chairwoman Slams Trump Administration’s Artemis Lunar Plans

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

Opening Statement (Excerpt)

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics Hearing:
Developing Core Capabilities for Deep Space Exploration: An Update on NASA’s SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

….I also want to echo Chairwoman Horn’s comment about the lateness of NASA’s testimony. NASA was provided ample advance notice of this hearing and more than sufficient time to prepare testimony and have it reviewed by OMB and whomever else looks over NASA’s testimony these days. The fact that this testimony is overdue is not only frustrating, it leaves Members little opportunity to consider NASA’s testimony in advance of the hearing. If NASA and the Administration can’t meet simple hearing deadlines, it doesn’t inspire great confidence in their ability to meet the much harder deadline of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.

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One Giant Leap for Lunar Landing Navigation Taken in Mojave

This map of the Moon shows the five candidate landing sites chosen by the Apollo Site Selection Board in February 1968. Photographs gathered during earlier uncrewed reconnaissance missions gave NASA information about terrain features. (Credit: NASA)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

MOJAVE, Calif., September 13, 2019 (NASA PR) — When Apollo 11’s lunar module, Eagle, landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, it first flew over an area littered with boulders before touching down at the Sea of Tranquility. The site had been selected based on photos collected over two years as part of the Lunar Orbiter program.

But the “sensors” that ensured Eagle was in a safe spot before touching down – those were the eyes of NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong.

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NASA Funds CubeSat Pathfinder Mission to Unique Lunar Orbit

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a $13.7 million contract to Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, to develop and operate a CubeSat mission to the same lunar orbit targeted for Gateway – an orbiting outpost astronauts will visit before descending to the surface of the Moon in a landing system as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

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NASA Goddard Creates CGI Moon Kit as a Form of Visual Storytelling

This color map, available as 24-bit RGB TIFFs of various sizes, is centered on 0° longitude. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/Scientific Visualization Studio)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — A new NASA out-of-this-world animation allows humanity to experience their closest galactic neighbor as never before through an online “CGI Moon kit.”

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NASA Prepares for Green Run Testing, Practices Lifting SLS Core Stage

SLS core stage pathfinder is lifted onto the Stennis B-2 test stand (Credits: NASA/SSC)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — NASA cleared a milestone in preparation for Green Run testing of its Space Launch System (SLS) core stage with an Aug. 23/24 lift and installation of the core stage pathfinder simulator onto the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss.

The lift and installation of the core stage pathfinder – a size and weight replica of the SLS core stage – is helping teams at Stennis prepare for the Green Run test series.

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NASA Seeks Additional Input from U.S. Industry on Artemis Lander Development

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

Update August 30, 2019 – NASA has issued a second draft of NextSTEP H, integrated human landing system. This updated draft reflects changes NASA has made to address industry feedback following the first draft that was issued in July. Draft 2 is available for download here: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=ad3d753a1fe588799b1eb002a91e4eb0&_cview=0.

Responses to draft 2 are due Sept. 6. NASA anticipates issuing the final solicitation this fall, with the intent to select providers this winter.  


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NASA Seeks BIG Ideas from Universities for Tech to Study Moon’s Dark Regions

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program. Before astronauts step on the lunar surface again, new technology instruments will study the surface.

NASA is engaging the university community for ideas to help achieve some of these activities through its annual Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, which is asking university teams to submit robust proposals for sample lunar payloads that can demonstrate technology systems needed to explore areas of the Moon that never see the light of day. The 2020 BIG Idea Challenge is scaling up this year, with larger team sizes and more funding that will allow for high fidelity concept development.

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Orion Hot Fire Test Blazing Safe Trail for NASA Moon Missions

Hot fire of the attitude control motor on Orion’s launch abort system (LAS), the second to last test before it’s qualified for Artemis 2 – the first flight with astronauts. (Credit: NASA)

The Northrop Grumman built attitude control motor (ACM) on Orion’s launch abort system was successfully tested on August 22, at their facility in Elkton, Maryland.

The 30-second trial by fire was the second to last test before it’s qualified for human spaceflight on Artemis 2 — the first mission with astronauts. During the static test, the ACM produced more than 7,000 pounds of thrust from eight valves, providing enough force to steer Orion and its crew to a safe distance.

Hot fire of the attitude control motor on Orion’s launch abort system. (Credit: NASA)

The launch abort system is designed to transport Orion and its crew to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or ascent. It consists of three solid rocket motors: the abort motor pulls the crew module away from the launch vehicle; the ACM steers and orients the capsule; then the jettison motor ignites to separate the launch abort system from Orion for parachute deployment and a safe crew landing.

All three motors will be certified for future crewed flights after qualification tests are completed later this year. The launch abort system was stress tested earlier this year during the successful Ascent Abort-2 test.

These achievements brings Orion closer to safe flights with astronauts, paving the way for the first woman and the next man to land on the Moon by 2024.

NASA Asks American Companies to Deliver Supplies for Artemis Moon Missions

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

By Tammy Long
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

In another major step toward landing American astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024, NASA is asking industry to respond to a Request for Proposals to deliver cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway to support Artemis missions to the lunar surface. Commercial supply services will support the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration program which includes sending the first woman and the next man to surface of the Moon within five years, and preparing for human exploration of Mars.

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Newt’s Back in Town, Pushing a Moon Prize

Newt Gingrich (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Many of you know that I am not a big fan of President Donald Trump. But, occasionally I think he is capable of doing something smart.

One of those smart acts was to appoint Callista Louise Gingrich as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See in Rome. The smart aspect has nothing to do with her qualifications for the job, but rather what her presence in Rome would spare the United States.

I’m referring, of course, to getting her husband, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, out of the country. Unless the union has become a sham, and he was hooking up with a mistress in the U.S. as he had with Callista during marriage no 2, Newt would be out of the headlines and out of everyone’s line of sight for long periods of time.

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Babin Disappointed in NASA Decision to Make NASA Marshall Lead Center for Lunar Lander

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

DEER PARK, Texas – Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36) issued the following statement in response to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s announcement today awarding the lunar lander program management to Marshall Space Flight Center.

“I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar lander program management at the Johnson Space Center (JSC),” said Babin. “Marshall Space Flight Center does tremendous work for our nation’s space program, but the knowledge base and skill set for this task unquestionably resides at JSC where the Apollo lunar lander program was successfully managed. Yesterday, I joined Senators Cruz and Cornyn in sending a letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine requesting that this decision be reconsidered.”

To view the letter sent to Administrator Bridenstine, please click here.

NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program’s Human Lunar Lander Development

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., August 16, 2019 (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was joined Friday by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to announce the center’s new role leading the agency’s Human Landing System Program for its return to the Moon by 2024.

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NASA Marshall’s Lisa Watson-Morgan to Manage Human Landing System Program

Lisa Watson-Morgan (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan has been named program manager for NASA’s Human Landing System, tasked with rapid development of the lander that will safely carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon’s surface in 2024. That voyage, a critical milestone in NASA’s bold new Artemis Program, will pave the way for a long-term human presence on the Moon by 2028, reigniting America’s leadership in crewed exploration of the solar system and taking the next giant leap toward sending human explorers to Mars.

Watson-Morgan, a 30-year NASA veteran engineer and manager, previously served as deputy director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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