Boeing, ISS National Lab Partner to Award $500,000 for Microgravity Research through MassChallenge

BOSTON, October 18, 2018 (CASIS PR) – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and Boeing [NYSE: BA] have partnered for the fifth consecutive year to grant up to $500,000 collectively toward innovative startup research through the MassChallenge (Boston) startup accelerator.

With the latest awards, as part of the MassChallenge “Technology in Space” competition, three new flight projects will have the opportunity to leverage the microgravity environment aboard the ISS National Laboratory to enhance their products and business models on Earth.

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NASA OIG Forecasts Further Delays, Large Cost Overruns for SLS

Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on Pad 39B. (Credit: NASA)

A new audit by the NASA Inspector General criticizes Boeing for its management of the stages of the Space Launch System (SLS) while forecasting further delays and large cost overruns for the beleaguered program that is designed to send astronauts to deep space.

“As of August 2018, NASA has spent $11.9 billion on the SLS, but will require significant additional funding to complete the first Core Stage—more than 3 years later than initially planned and at double the anticipated cost,” the audit concluded.

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Boeing Invests in Accion Systems

CHICAGO, Oct. 10, 2018 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced its investment in Accion Systems Inc., a Boston, Mass.,-based startup pioneering scalable electric propulsion technology to transform satellite capabilities in and beyond Earth’s orbit.

Accion’s new Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray (TILE) in-space propulsion system aims to increase the lifespan and maneuverability of satellites and other vehicles in space. Leveraging a non-toxic, ionic liquid propellant and postage stamp-size thrusters, the TILE system is smaller, lighter and more cost-effective than traditional ion engines.

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Commercial Crew Flights Slip into 2019

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. (Credits: NASA)

NASA announced on Thursday that no Commercial Crew Program flight tests to the International Space Station will be conducted this year. The new schedule is:

  • SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): January 2019
  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): March 2019
  • SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): June 2019
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): August 2019

On August 2, NASA released the following schedule:

  • SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 (uncrewed): November 2018
  • Boeing CST-100 Starliner Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): late 2018/early 2019
  • SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 (crewed): April 2019
  • Boeing CST-100 Starliner Crew Flight Test (crewed): mid-2019.

Basically, the flights have slipped two months in the last two months. Further delays are possible.

 

Brazil Eyes Alcantara for Smallsat Launches

VLS-1 rocket on launch pad.

Reuters reports Brazil is eyeing the use of the Alcantara Launch Center for small satellite flights.

Brazil is ready to launch small commercial rockets from its space base near the equator as soon as it agrees to safeguard U.S. technology that is dominant in the industry, the Brazilian Air Force officer managing the space program said on Friday.

Brig. Major Luiz Fernando Aguiar said Brazil wants to get a piece of the $300 billion-a-year space launch business by drawing U.S. companies interested in launching small satellites at a lower cost from the Alcantara base on its north coast.

“The microsatellite market is most attractive today and we are interested in the 50 to 500-kilo niche,” Aguiar told Reuters at the base’s main launch pad. “We are developing a rocket for microsatellites. For that this tower is totally ready.”

[….]

Boeing Co (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) in December visited the Alcantara space center, which is especially attractive to smaller firms, such as Tucson, Arizona-based rocket-maker Vector Launch Inc, because its equatorial location cuts fuel costs by a third allowing heavier payloads.

Boeing HorizonX Ventures Invests in BridgeSat to Advance Satellite Communications

CHICAGO, Sept. 10, 2018 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced its investment in Denver-based BridgeSat Inc., an optical communications solutions company enabling the future of connectivity in space through a network of ground stations and proprietary space terminals.

BridgeSat is developing a global network of optical ground stations (OGS) to transmit large amounts of data into space quickly and reliably. Its stations support low Earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary (GEO) satellite optical communications, enabling secure transmissions between satellites, other spacecraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and high-altitude aircrafts.

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Video: NASA Administrator Bridenstine Interviews Commercial Crew Astronauts

Video Caption: During a recent visit to Johnson Space Center, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sat down with astronauts Chris Ferguson and Sunita “Suni” Williams for an informal Q&A session about the Commercial Crew Program.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has worked with several American aerospace industry companies to facilitate the development of U.S. human spaceflight systems since 2010. Both Ferguson and Williams were selected to fly on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner for the Commercial Crew Program – marking the first time that American astronauts will launch to the International Space Station from American soil on American-made spacecraft since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011.

To watch specific portions of the Q&A about the future of human space exploration, use these timestamp:

2:30 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson talks about what he has been doing since it was announced that he is a member of the Commercial Crew Program
3:30 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson explains why his flight suit says Boeing and not NASA
4:27 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about what a day in the life of an astronaut is like and what she has been up to since she was selected for the Commercial Crew program
6:30 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson talks about how the Starliner is different from the Space Shuttle
7:30 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about how is the Starliner is similar to and different from the Soyuz
8:32 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson talks about how many people the Starliner will be able to carry to the International Space Station
9:20 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks about the future of space exploration for NASA
10:58 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about her previous spaceflights and how her Commercial Crew flight will be different
12:20 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about their experience landing in space vehicles
15:20 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine and astronaut Chris Ferguson discuss thermal protection to keep astronauts safe
17:30 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks about the components of the Space Launch System and how it compares to technology for avionics
18:55 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson discusses how flying tests in the U.S. Navy prepared them for their upcoming missions
20:28 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson discusses what it’s like to dock the Starliner
21:30 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about training, automation and providing input to Boeing about the Starliner
22:30 – Astronauts Chris Ferguson and Suni Williams talk about the team of individuals who make human spaceflight possible
24:45 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks about the preparations that go into space exploration missions
25:46 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks about NASA’s launch capabilities
26:52 – Astronauts Chris Ferguson and Suni Williams provide guidance to Administrator Jim Bridenstine as he docks the Boeing Starliner simulator

Boeing Acquires Millennium Space Systems

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 16, 2018 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] will acquire Millennium Space Systems, a provider of agile, flight-proven small-satellite solutions, under an acquisition agreement that will expand Boeing’s satellite and space portfolio, talent and capabilities.

“Millennium Space Systems’ expertise in vertically-integrated small-satellite solutions perfectly complements Boeing’s existing satellite portfolio, and will allow us to meet the needs of a diverse customer set,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “We look forward to incorporating Millennium Space Systems’ end-to-end mission solution capabilities into our service offerings in satellite operations and data solutions.”

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NASA Funds Studies on Commercializing Earth Orbit

The Cygnus cargo craft slowly departs the space station after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In an ongoing effort to foster commercial activity in space, NASA has selected 13 companies to study the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, including long-range opportunities for the International Space Station.

The studies will assess the potential growth of a low-Earth orbit economy and how to best stimulate private demand for commercial human spaceflight. The portfolio of selected studies will include specific industry concepts detailing business plans and viability for habitable platforms, whether using the space station or separate free-flying structures. The studies also will provide NASA with recommendations on the role of government and evolution of the space station in the process of transitioning U.S. human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit to non-governmental enterprises.

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NASA Announces Astronaut Assignments for First Four Commercial Crew Flights

From: Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley (Credit; NASA)

SpaceX Crew Dragon Flight Test

Targeted to launch in April 2019 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The crew:

Bob Behnken is from St. Ann, Missouri. He has a doctorate in engineering, is a flight test engineer, and Colonel in the Air Force. He joined the astronaut corps in 2000, and flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice – for the STS-123 and STS-130 missions, during which he performed six spacewalks, for a total of more than 37 hours.

Doug Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. He was a test pilot in the Marine Corps before coming to NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut. He achieved the rank of Colonel in the Marine Corps and piloted space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127, and Atlantis for STS-135 – the final space shuttle mission.

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Flight Tests to Prove Commercial Systems Fit for Human Spaceflight

Crew Dragon and Starliner at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The first test flights for new spacecraft designed by commercial companies in collaboration with NASA to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station from the United States are known as Demo-1 for SpaceX and Orbital Flight Test for Boeing.

NASA’s goal in collaborating with Boeing and SpaceX is to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from station on the companies’ spacecraft. Both companies have matured their designs, are making significant progress through their extensive testing campaigns, and are headed toward flight tests to validate their systems.

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Boeing Expects Automated Starliner Flight Test in 5 or 6 Months

Editor’s Note: Apparently Boeing had a teleconference with a select group of media today to announce the delay.

NASA to Announce Commercial Crew Assignments on Aug. 3

Crew Dragon and Starliner at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will announce on Friday, Aug. 3, the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, and begin a new era in American spaceflight. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will preside over the event, which will begin at 11 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA will announce the crew assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification mission for both Boeing and SpaceX. NASA partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to develop the Starliner spacecraft to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and the Crew Dragon launching atop the Falcon 9 rocket, respectively.

U.S. media are invited to attend the event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and, afterward, speak with the astronauts about their assignments.

Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana will join Bridenstine and representatives from Boeing and SpaceX to introduce the crews.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems designed to carry crews safely to and from low-Earth orbit. The Starliner and Crew Dragon will launch American astronauts on American-made spacecraft from American soil to the International Space Station for the first time since NASA retired its Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Commercial transportation to and from the space station will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory. The station is critical for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight, and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and missions deeper into the solar system, including Mars.

Following the announcement, the astronauts will participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything at 12:30 p.m. at:

https://www.reddit.com/r/AMA/

Images and video highlights from the announcement will be available at:

https://images.nasa.gov

Trump Nominates Senate Staffer for NASA Deputy Administrator

President Donald J. Trump today nominated a long-time Senate staffer who has neither a technical nor scientific background to be the space agency’s deputy administrator.

James Morhard, who is currently the U.S. Senate’s Deputy Sergeant at Arms, was nominated for the position. The decision represents a defeat for NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who had publicly advocated on behalf of Dr. Janet Kavandi, a former astronaut, engineer and analytical chemist who is director of the NASA Glenn Research Center.

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Phantom Express Engine Testing Advances

The engine is being tested for Boeing’s Phantom Express, which is a DARPA-funded project focused on developing a low-cost, reusable satellite launch vehicle capable of launching 10 times in 10 days.