A Look at NASA’s New CLPS Partners’ Vehicles

SpaceX

Starship on the moon. (Credit: SpaceX)

Blue Origin

Blue Moon lunar lander (Credit: Blue Origin)

Sierra Nevada Corporation

Lunar lander (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Ceres Robotics

Robotic lunar lander (Credit: Ceres Robotics)

Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems

Lunar lander (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

GAO Upholds Blue Origin’s Protest Over USAF Launch Solicitation

Jeff Bezos

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has upheld a pre-award protest by Blue Origin over the selection process the U.S. Air Force is using to award contracts for military launches for the years 2022 to 2027.

GAO recommended the Air Force modify the solicitation under which it planned to select two companies that would compete for launches during that period. The decision would have been based on which combination of two independently developed proposals provided the best value to the government.

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NASA Microgap-Cooling Technology Immune to Gravity Effects and Ready for Spaceflight

The microgap-cooling technology developed by Goddard technologist Franklin Robinson and University of Maryland professor Avram Bar-Cohen was tested twice on a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket. (Credits: NASA/Franklin Robinson)

by Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — A groundbreaking technology that would allow NASA to effectively cool tightly packed instrument electronics and other spaceflight gear is unaffected by weightlessness, and could be used on a future spaceflight mission.

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Blue Origin Announces National Team to Build Lunar Lander for NASA’s Artemis Program

Blue Moon crewed landing vehicle. (Credit: Blue Origin)

WASHINGTON, DC (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin is proud to announce a national team to offer a Human Landing System for NASA’s Artemis program to return Americans to the lunar surface by 2024. 

Blue Origin has signed teaming agreements with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. These partners have decades of experience supporting NASA with human space flight systems, launch vehicles, orbital logistics, deep-space missions, interplanetary navigation and planetary landings.

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NASA Announces New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies

Astrobotic is one of 14 companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. This illustration depicts CubeRover, an ultra-light, modular and scalable commercial rover.(Credit: Astrobotic/Carnegie Mellon University)

Astrobotic, Blue Origin, ExoTerra, Paragon and SpaceX among contract awardees for advanced technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 American companies as partners whose technologies will help enable the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The selections are based on NASA’s fourth competitive Tipping Point solicitation and have a combined total award value of about $43.2 million. This investment in the U.S. space industry, including small businesses across the country, will help bring the technologies to market and ready them for use by NASA.

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Jeff Bezos to Receive 2019 IAF Excellence in Industry Award for Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos

PARIS (IAF PR) — On 22 October 2019, Blue Origin Founder, Jeff Bezos, is to receive the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Excellence in Industry Award at the 70th International Astronautical Congress – IAC 2019, to take place from 21 – 25 October in Washington D.C., United States.

The IAF Excellence in Industry Award recognizes an industry organization for outstanding and sustainable advancements in space, showing the merits of leadership in developing and executing landmark commercial and civil space missions and for being a role model for cooperation in the global space industry workforce.

For its first awardee, the IAF has selected Blue Origin for its significant and sustainable contribution towards enabling an enduring human presence in space through its New Shepard launch system and BE-3 liquid hydrogen rocket engine.

Designed for human spaceflight and operational reusability, New Shepard has made 11 historic flights to space. These missions have long-term benefits destined to ignite a new era of commercial human access to space at a dramatically lower cost and with increased reliability.

The IAF Excellence in Industry Award Ceremony will take place on Tuesday 22 October 2019 from 08:00 – 08:25 in the Grand Ballroom of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, IAF President, Pascale Ehrenfreund, IAF Incoming President, and Bruce Chesley, IAF Vice President for Industry Relations, will announce Blue Origin as the 2019 Recipient. The Ceremony will be followed by a fireside chat interview with Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin Plans 2 More New Shepard Flights Before Flying People

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

CNBC reports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plans two more flight tests of the reusable New Shepard booster and capsule before flying people on suborbital flights. The additional tests could delay the first human flight into next year.

CEO Bob Smith has talked about the first crewed flight of New Shepard happening as early as the end of 2018 – but that goal has steadily been pushed back. Smith, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, explained why Blue Origin has delayed the first crewed flight and continued to test.

“It’s really the robustness of our entire system. It’s not one individual thing that’s driving [these delays],” Smith said. “It’s us being cautious and thorough with the total systems we need to verify.”

He noted that Blue Origin has been pushing the limits of its software and hardware, as well as testing its BE-3 rocket engine for extreme and unexpected situations.

Blue Origin has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to conduct the 12th New Shepard launch no earlier than Nov. 1.

New Shepard consists of a reusable booster and capsule. The capsule lands by parachute while the booster touches down using landing legs.

Blue Origin has recovered the capsules and boosters on 10 of the 11 flights. On one flight, the booster crashed while the capsule landed safely.

The company has not announced when it will begin to sell tickets and what price it will charge. Tickets aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which expects to begin commercial suborbital flights next year, cost $250,000. Virgin Founder Richard Branson plans to be aboard the first commercial flight.

Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic: The Numbers Never Added Up

Richard Branson and his children hang out with Project Bandaloop dancers during the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Fourteen years ago, Virgin Galactic and New Mexico promised “tens of thousands” of tourists would fly to space from Spaceport America by 2019. Total thus far: 0.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

When they announced in December 2005 that Virgin Galactic would locate its space tourism business in New Mexico, Virgin Founder Richard Branson and Gov. Bill Richardson made a number of eye-popping claims about why taxpayers should back a plan to build the Southwest Regional Spaceport to serve as the space tourism company’s home base:

  • $331 million in total construction revenues in 2007;
  • 2,460 construction-related jobs;
  • $1 billion in total spending, payroll of $300 million and 2,300 jobs by the fifth year of operation; and,
  • $750 million in total revenues and more than 3,500 jobs by 2020.

Virgin Galactic would sign a 20-year lease as anchor tenant and pay fees based on the number of launches it conducted. New Mexico would use the spaceport, Virgin’s presence and the funds generated to develop a large aerospace cluster.

Surprisingly, New Mexico would spend more money, $225 million, to develop a facility now known as Spaceport America than the $108 million that Branson planned to spend on developing a fleet of five SpaceShipTwos and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

Among all the big numbers in the announcement, there was a truly astounding one that was deemed so important it was mentioned twice. (Emphasis added)

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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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Planetary Scientist Steve Squyres Joins Blue Origin as Chief Scientist

Steven W. Squyres

Steve Squyres, who served as principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, is retiring from Cornell University to become chief scientist at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, the Cornell Chronicle reports.

“Cornell has been a wonderful place for me, as both a student and a professor. With the Mars rover missions behind us, it’s time for me to find a new challenge, but I will always be a proud Cornellian,” Squyres said.

“Scientist, scholar and space explorer, Steve transformed planetary exploration through his leadership of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers,” said Jonathan I. Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and chair of the Department of Astronomy. “Now he goes on to a new challenge, working to transform the architecture of spaceflight at one of the most innovative companies in the industry.”

[…]

“This mission [Spirit and Opportunity] was a great teaching tool,” Squyres said earlier this year for the celebration of the mission’s 15th anniversary. “It’s easy to think of science as a static body of knowledge that you learn from a textbook. It is not. We know more about Mars today than we knew two days ago. For years I’ve started each lecture with, ‘Here’s something that just came down from Mars.’”

“Steve has inspired countless students and colleagues over his decades at Cornell,” said Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of astronomy. “He brought Mars to campus and gave us all a chance to see another world close-up. His infectious enthusiasm for exploration will continue to stimulate planetary scientists at Cornell for years to come. We wish him all the best.”

NASA landed Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in January 2004 on nominal 90-day missions. Spirit last communicated with controllers on May 25, 2011 after more than seven years on the surface. Opportunity last communicated on June 10, 2018 as a dust storm engulfed the rover.

Blue Origin Files Pre-award Protest Over USAF Launcher Competition

Defense News reports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has filed a pre-award protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the U.S. Air Force’s competition for new launch contracts.

Blue Origin is arguing that the current structure of the launch service provider competition may favor incumbents and will perpetuate a duopoly, according to a Blue Origin fact sheet obtained by Defense News.

“As drafted, the LSP [launch service provider] RFP [request for proposals] includes evaluation criteria that are ambiguous and fail to comply with federal procurement statutes and regulations. This subjectivity of the criteria makes it impossible to accurately respond to the RFP,” the fact sheet states.

“To ensure the process maximizes value for the American taxpayer and protects U.S. national security interests in space, it is essential that the Air Force structure the LSP RFP in a way that fosters a fair and level playing field for new entrants.”

The Air Force released a solicitation for the second phase of the LSP competition in May and intends to downselect to two launch providers in 2020. SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman are all slated to vie for the series of contracts, which will be awarded over 2020 to 2024 for launches scheduled through 2027.

Bezos Sells $1.8 Billion in Amazon Shares

Jeff Bezos

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos sold $1.8 billion worth of shares in the company in July, according to papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He netted about $1.4 billion after taxes from the sale of more than 900,000 shares.

Bezos, who is worth an estimated $116 billion, has said that he has been selling about $1 billion in Amazon stock annually to fund his Blue Origin space company.

Bezos also gave 19.7 millions shares worth nearly $36.8 billion to his former wife, MacKenzie, to settle their divorce.

NASA-Funded LEO Commercialization Studies Yield Diverse Results

Credit: Axiom Space

Last week, NASA released the results of low Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization studies the space agency commissioned 12 companies to conduct. The space agency is looking to become a tenant in LEO as it aims to return astronauts to the moon in 2024.

Credit: Blue Origin

The studies were conducted by a diverse group of companies ranging from big aerospace such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to up and comers like Blue Origin and NanoRacks to business consultants Deloitte and McKinsey&Company.
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