Green Run Update: Hot Fire Met Many Objectives, Test Assessment Underway

The core stage for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is seen in the B-2 Test Stand during a scheduled eight minute duration hot fire test, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The four RS-25 engines fired for a little more than one minute. The hot fire test is the final stage of the Green Run test series, a comprehensive assessment of the Space Launch System’s core stage prior to launching the Artemis I mission to the Moon. (Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — For the Green Run hot fire test on Jan. 16, NASA set out to acquire test data to support 23 detailed verification objectives. To satisfy the objectives, hot fire test data is used in combination with analysis and testing that has already been completed. These detailed verification objectives are used to certify the design of the Space Launch System rocket’s core stage.

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The Year of the Four Spaceships: Final Report

Crew Dragon docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic and reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With the disruption and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t the easiest year to get things done. Keeping that in mind, let’s see how the companies did in 2020. (Spoiler Alert: they came up a little short.)

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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NASA Completes Design Review of the SLS Exploration Upper Stage

This illustration shows the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) for the evolved configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. (Credits: NASA/Terry White)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — The Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) for future flights of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket has passed its Critical Design Review, or CDR. 

A panel of experts evaluated the EUS in the latest review to determine that the stage’s design meets requirements for future missions. This most recent assessment certifies the EUS meets critical design requirements to withstand deep space environments and when completed will ensure astronaut safety.

The review board also evaluated testing processes, the ability of the industrial base to supply parts and tooling, and production plans. Boeing, the prime contractor for the EUS as well as the core stage, will manufacture and assemble the upper stage at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. 

A structural test article of the stage will undergo testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the SLS Program is managed. The flight article will undergo Green Run testing at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, before its first flight, similar to the SLS core stage Green Run testing currently in progress, including a hot firing of the engines.

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and Orion, along with the human landing system and theGateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. 

For more on NASA’s SLS, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/sls

SLS Team Completes Propellant Loading of Core Stage During Green Run Test

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is completing the Green Run test for the rocket’s core stage, shown installed on the top left side of the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA/Stennis)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing engineers successfully completed propellant loading during the seventh core stage Green Run test, wet dress rehearsal Sunday, Dec. 20. The massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s tanks were loaded with more than 700,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

Engineers working in the Test Control Center monitored all core stage systems during the test as propellant flowed from six barges into the core stage in the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. First looks at the data indicate the stage performed well during the propellant loading and replenish process. Part of the test was to simulate the countdown with the tanks loaded, leading up to 33 seconds prior to the engines firing. However, the test ended a few minutes short of the planned countdown duration.

The core stage and the B-2 test stand are in excellent condition, and it does not appear to be an issue with the hardware. The team is evaluating data to pinpoint the exact cause of the early shutdown. Then they will decide if they are ready to move forward with the final test, a hot fire when all four engines will be fired simultaneously.

For more updates, visit this blog or the Green Run web site: https://www.nasa.gov/artemisprogram/greenrun

NASA Astronauts Hard at Work on Multiple Life Science Investigations Aboard the International Space Station

International Space Station (Credit: NASA/Roscosmos)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CASIS PR) – On December 7th, a Dragon spacecraft loaded with thousands of pounds of critical supplies and research docked with the International Space Station (ISS), paving the way for an incredibly busy Expedition 64 dedicated to executing science on the orbiting laboratory.

SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission to the ISS brought with it a variety of life science investigations sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory that will be evaluated in the unique microgravity environment, intending to benefit patient care on Earth. Since Dragon’s arrival, the astronauts have been hard at work performing many of these investigations.

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NASA, Boeing Complete Series of Starliner Parachute Tests Ahead of Future Flights with Astronauts

A reused drogue parachute deploys from Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner test article during the final balloon drop parachute test above White Sands, New Mexico, on Sept. 19, 2020. The test is part of a reliability campaign that will help strengthen the spacecraft’s landing system ahead of crewed flights to and from the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credits: Boeing)

WHITE SANDS, NM (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing have completed Starliner’s last parachute balloon drop test ending a reliability campaign that will help strengthen the spacecraft’s landing system ahead of crewed flights to and from the International Space Station.

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Report: Loverro Feared 2024 Moon Landing Would be Imperiled by Boeing Contract Protest

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

A former senior NASA official violated procurement regulations in his dealings with Boeing out of fear the company could delay the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, The Washington Post reports.

The Post reports that NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration Doug Loverro reached out to Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton in February to tell the company it would not win a study contract for the Human Landing System, a vehicle that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface. The call came at a time when NASA was not to contact any of the bidders.

Loverro, who abruptly resigned in May, wanted to find out if Boeing planned to protest its loss. If so, NASA would need to issue stop work orders to the winning bidders until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled on the protest. GAO reviews usually take months.

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Boeing Appoints SpaceX Veteran as Vice President of Software Engineering

CHICAGO, Nov. 6, 2020 (Boeing PR) — The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) today named Jinnah Hosein as the company’s vice president of Software Engineering, effective immediately. In this newly created role, Hosein will report to Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief engineer and senior vice president of Engineering, Test & Technology, and will focus on further strengthening Boeing’s focus on software engineering across the enterprise.

“The continued advances in software makes excellence in software engineering an imperative for our business,” said Hyslop. “Jinnah will be charged with defining and leading Boeing’s strategy for software engineering, which includes providing capabilities, technologies, processes and secure and accurate systems to meet the needs of all our customers across the entire product life cycle.”

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It Took Teamwork to Make It to 20 Years

NASA astronauts (left to right) Christina Koch and Jessica Meir harvested Mizuna mustard greens on Thanksgiving day in 2019 inside the ESA (European Space Agency) laboratory module’s VEGGIE facility. (Credits: NASA)

By Danielle Sempsrott
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Building the Team

For 20 consecutive years, NASA has been sending humans to low-Earth orbit to live and work aboard the International Space Station, a unique microgravity laboratory that’s making new discoveries to this day. The technology used for LASIK eye surgery, air purifiers, and robotic arms that assist in medical surgeries are just a few of the things we benefit from here on Earth thanks to science performed on the orbiting laboratory. However, getting the space station into orbit and maintaining it is one of humanity’s biggest challenges – one that required people from all over the world working together to make it possible.

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Multiple Research Investigations From Northrop Grumman CRS-14 Mission Being Performed on Space Station

International Space Station (Credit: NASA/Roscosmos)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., October 26, 2020 (CASIS PR) – When Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 2, 2020, it was loaded with a multitude of research and technology development investigations to be carried out onboard the orbiting laboratory.

Once Cygnus berthed with the space station three days later and its contents were unloaded by the astronauts onboard, it was time to start performing some of the science that flew on Northrop Grumman’s 14th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission. 

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Virgin Galactic Pivots High-speed Aircraft Program in a Crowded Field

Credit: Douglas Messier

Virgin Galactic’s record of delays and broken promises raises doubts about its ambitious supersonic aircraft project as company founder Richard Branson fights to save his struggling empire in the midst of a global pandemic.

Updated on 10/27/20 at 12:39 p.m. PDT to include spending comparison of Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s dream of a suborbital Virgin Galactic vehicle zipping passengers between distant cities at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 (6,174 km/h, 3,836 mph) is dead. At least for now.

In August, the space tourism company he founded pivoted to a slower supersonic Mach 3 (3,704 km/h, 2,302 mph) business jet. Virgin Galactic unveiled a mission concept for an aircraft that would carry 9-19 passengers at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m).

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Supersonic & Hypersonic Civilian Transport Projects in Development

Overture supersonic passenger jet (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.

XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.

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Boeing-built Space Force Satellite Passes Design Review

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Oct. 7, 2020 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] and the U.S. Space Force successfully completed the first major engineering design review for the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)-11+ communications satellite. This successful review demonstrates that Boeing is ready to proceed to the final system design phase. Production will begin next year at Boeing’s El Segundo factory, with delivery scheduled for 2024.

WGS-11+ features a modern digital payload that performs at twice the operational capability of its predecessors, increasing the availability of military-grade communications. Leveraging advances in Boeing commercial technologies, it will provide secure communications to connect U.S. and allied forces globally.

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Barry Wilmore to Replace Chris Ferguson as First Boeing Starliner Commander

Barry Wilmore

HOUSTON, Oct. 7, 2020 (Boeing PR) — NASA has chosen veteran astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore to serve as commander of Boeing’s [NYSE: BA] CST-100 Starliner for the Crew Flight Test. He replaces Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, who decided not to fly for personal reasons. Wilmore, who has already been training for a Starliner flight as a backup crew member, will join Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke for this first crewed mission of the Starliner spacecraft.

“I’m grateful to Chris for his exceptional leadership and insight into this very complex and most capable vehicle,” Wilmore said. “Having had the chance to train alongside and view this outstanding crew as backup has been instrumental in my preparation to assume this position. Stepping down was a difficult decision for Chris, but with his leadership and assistance to this point, this crew is positioned for success. We will move forward in the same professional and dedicated manner that Chris has forged.”

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