Intelsat Declares Boeing-Built Communications Satellite a Total Loss

LUXEMBOURG, 18 April 2019 (Intelsat PR) – Intelsat S.A. (NYSE: I) announced today that the anomaly previously disclosed on April 10, 2019 has resulted in the total loss of the Intelsat 29e spacecraft. A failure review board has been convened with the satellite’s manufacturer, Boeing, to complete a comprehensive analysis of the cause of the anomaly.

Late on April 7, the Intelsat 29e propulsion system experienced damage that caused a leak of the propellant on board the satellite resulting in a service disruption to customers on the satellite. While working to recover the satellite, a second anomaly occurred, after which all efforts to recover the satellite were unsuccessful.

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Amazon Constellation Sends Number of Planned Communications Satellites Soaring Above 20,000

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.

Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.

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Boeing Delays Starliner Flight Tests

Boeing technicians meticulously lower the Starliner upper dome to the lower dome before bolting and sealing the pressure vessel. (Credits: Boeing)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing have agreed to extend the duration of the company’s first crewed flight test to the International Space Station after completing an in-depth technical assessment of the CST-100 Starliner systems. NASA found the long-duration flight to be technically feasible and in the best interest of the agency’s needs to ensure continued access and better utilization of the orbiting laboratory.

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NASA Begins Testing Habitation Prototypes

Habitation concept interior. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Over the next several months, NASA will conduct a series of ground tests inside five uniquely designed, full-size, deep space habitat prototypes. The mockups, constructed by five American companies, offer different perspectives on how astronauts will live and work aboard the Gateway – the first spaceship designed to stay in orbit around the Moon, providing the critical infrastructure needed for exploration, science and technology demonstrations on the lunar surface.

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Boeing Statement on SLS & Moving Up Moon Landing Up Four Years

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

Boeing Statement

SLS is the backbone for a permanent human presence in deep space, for multiple missions to the moon and eventually to Mars and beyond. As NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated in his address to the National Space Council, we’re working relentlessly to develop SLS to do what is absolutely necessary to support a NASA launch in 2020.

Boeing and NASA have implemented changes in both processes and technologies to accelerate production, without sacrificing safety or quality, and we remain on schedule to deliver the first SLS core stage to NASA by the end of the year.

As the commercial launch alternative studies have shown, NASA has affirmed that SLS remains the best approach to achieve our lunar objectives with a reconfirmation of the importance of the Exploration Upper Stage by EM-3. SLS is also the world’s only super heavy rocket capable of safely transporting astronauts to deep space with major payloads like landers, habitats and Gateway elements.

America needs SLS’ deep-space capability in order to maintain our leadership in human space exploration. We are committed to supporting the vision outlined by Vice President Pence today.

SLS Engine Section Approaches Finish Line for First Flight

SLS core stage engine section. (Credit: NASA/Jude Guidry)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing have completed the majority of outfitting for the core stage engine section for the first flight of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The engine section, located at the bottom of the 212-foot-tall core stage, is one of the most complex parts of the rocket. Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have installed more than 500 sensors, 18 miles of cables, and numerous other critical systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel to the rocket’s four RS-25 engines.

The core stage tanks hold cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that are combusted by the engines to produce 2 million pounds of thrust to help send SLS to space for missions to the Moon. On the exterior of the engine section, technicians attached cork insulation for thermal protection and painted it white as well as finishing up other systems including fittings where solid rocket boosters attach.

Next, NASA and Boeing, the SLS prime contractor, will add the boat-tail to the bottom of the engine section and finish up some outfitting, integration and avionics functional testing. The boat-tail is an extension that fits on the end of the engine section. The engines are inserted through openings in the boat-tail, which acts much like a fairing to cover and protect most of engines’ critical systems.

The engines are mounted inside the engine section, and only the RS-25 engine nozzles extend outside the boat-tail. The team is using lessons learned building and outfitting the engine section for the first integrated flight of SLS to accelerate outfitting of the engine section for the second SLS mission. The primary structure of the core stage engine section for the second SLS flight has been built and covered with primer as it prepares for its outfitting and is visible in this image, just behind the first engine section.

Trump, Pence Demand Space Spectacular During Election Year as SLS Schedule Slides Further

SLS liquid hydrogen tank (Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If you’ve been puzzling over exactly why NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suddenly floated the idea of flying the first Orion space capsule to the moon next year without the Space Launch System (SLS), The Washington Post has a couple of answers today:

  • SLS is much further behind schedule than anyone knew; and,
  • 2020 is a presidential election year.

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Will Alcântara Finally Stop Being the Spaceport of the Future?

Cyclone 4 launch pad under construction. (Credit: Alcantara Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Brazil’s decades-long effort to launch satellites from its underused Alcântara Launch Center could finally be bearing fruit.

On Monday, Brazil and the United States signed a Technology Safeguards Agreement that will allow American companies to launch orbital rockets from Alcântara.
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What Lies Ahead for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast. (Credits: NASA Television)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The splashdown of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft this morning after a successful automated flight to the International Space Station (ISS) kicks off a busy period for NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

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SpaceX Launches Crew Dragon to the International Space Station

Falcon 9 first stage makes its entry burn as the second stage Merlin 1D engine carries Crew Dragon to orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

SpaceX successfully launched an automated Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday. It was the first flight test under NASA’s Commercial Crew program to return astronaut launches to U.S. soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

The company’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 2:49 am EST from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft, which is carrying an instrument mannequin named Ripley, safely separated from the second stage and began a 27-hour voyage to the space station.

The Falcon 9 first stage successfully touched down on an off-shore drone ship.

After docking on Sunday morning, the Crew Dragon will remain at the station for five days. It is scheduled to return to Earth on Friday, March 8. SpaceX plans to reuse the capsule for an in-flight abort test scheduled for June.

This is the first of two flight tests for the Crew Dragon variant. A second flight with two NASA astronauts is scheduled for July. Crew Dragons will be certified to carry astronauts on a commercial basis.

Boeing is also planning to conduct flight tests of its Starliner crew vehicle later this year. The current planning dates for Commercial Crew flight tests are:

  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
  • Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
  • SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
  • SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

The schedule for the Crew Dragon mission is below. NASA TV will be providing live coverage of all events. SpaceX also plans to cover the docking on its website.

Saturday, March 2, 4 a.m.SpaceX Demo-1 post-launch news conference from Kennedy Space Center, with representatives from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, International Space Station Program and Astronaut Office, and from SpaceX.

Sunday, March 3, 3:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon rendezvous and docking at the International Space Station.

Sunday, March 3, 8:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon hatch opening at the International Space Station. Hatch opening is scheduled at 8:45 a.m.

Sunday, March 3, 10:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon welcoming ceremony at the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 12:15 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon hatch closing in preparation for departure from the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 2 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon undocking from the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 7:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon deorbit and landing.

NASA Looks to Procure More Soyuz Seats Amid Commercial Crew Uncertainty

Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft docking at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Amid uncertainty about the Commercial Crew schedule, NASA has issued a pre-solitication procurement notice to secure additional rides with the Russians for its astronauts.

“NASA is considering contracting with the State Space Corporation ‘Roscosmos’ for these services on a sole source basis for two (2) Soyuz seats and associated services to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2019 and one crew member in the Spring of 2020,” the agency said in the Feb. 13 notice.

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NASA Safety Panel: Commercial Crew Program Making Progress But Challenges Remain

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Even as SpaceX prepares to make its first Crew Dragon flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) next month, challenges remain for certifying the vehicle to carry NASA astronauts, according to a new safety report.

In its annual report released last week, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) identified two inter-related safety concerns with SpaceX’s system: the redesign of helium composite overwrap pressure vessels (COPVs) used in the Falcon 9 rocket, and the company’s desire to load astronauts aboard Crew Dragon before fueling the booster.

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NASA Safety Panel Pushes Back Against Commercial Crew “Paperwork” Complaints

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In its annual report issued last week, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) pushed back against complaints that the space agency has bogged down the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) with unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork.

“It should be recognized by all parties, both internal and external to NASA, that the certification process is not merely a ‘paperwork’ process; it involves considerable detailed technical activity by both NASA and the partners,” ASAP said.

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Boeing Partners with Aerion to Accelerate Supersonic Travel

The AS2 is designed to fly at speeds up to Mach 1.4 or approximately 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) per hour. (Credit: Aerion Corp.)

CHICAGO, Feb. 5, 2019 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced a partnership with Aerion, a Reno, Nev.-based company pioneering next-generation supersonic aircraft. As part of the agreement, Boeing made a significant investment in Aerion to accelerate technology development and aircraft design, and unlock supersonic air travel for new markets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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NASA, Buzz Aldrin Get Shout Out During State of the Union Speech

Buzz Aldrin salutes during the 2019 State of the Union address. (Credit: U.S. Senate Photo Studio/John Shinkle)

With Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin in attendance, President Donald Trump gave a shout out to NASA during the annual State of the Union address.

“In 2019, we also celebrate 50 years since brave young pilots flew a quarter of a million miles through space to plant the American flag on the face of the moon. Half a century later, we are joined by one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who planted that flag: Buzz Aldrin. This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets,” he said.

NASA’s commercial crew program is set to begin transporting astronauts to the International Space Station later this year. Today, NASA released the following schedule for flight tests of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.

Test Flight Planning Dates:

SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019