A Preview of Commercial Crew Activities for 2018

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA and industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are targeting the return of human spaceflight from Florida’s Space Coast in 2018. Both companies are scheduled to begin flight tests to prove the space systems meet NASA’s requirements for certification in the coming year.


ULA Completes Design Certification Review for Atlas V Starliner Flights

This artist concept shows Boeing’s Starliner at Space Launch Complex 41 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V poised for a night launch to the International Space Station. (Credit: Boeing)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Jan. 4, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed an Atlas V Launch Segment Design Certification Review (DCR) recently in preparation for the launch of astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil in The Boeing Company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. ULA’s Atlas V DCR supported the Boeing International Space Station (ISS) DCR that was held with NASA at Kennedy Space Center in early December.


Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic Eye Human Spaceflights in 2018

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

While Boeing and SpaceX move toward flying astronauts to the International Space Station this year, there are two other companies working on restoring the ability to launch people into space from U.S. soil.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic aren’t attempting anything as ambitious as orbital flight. Their aim is to fly short suborbital hops that will give tourists and scientists several minutes of microgravity to float around and conduct experiments in.


Will Commercial Crew Come Through in 2018?

by Douglas Messier

Managing Editor

The last time Americans flew into space from U.S. soil was nearly seven years ago in July 2011. Four astronauts flew Atlantis to the International Space Station  (ISS) on the 135th and final mission of the 30-year space shuttle program.


Global Small Satellites Market Anticipated to Reach $10.1 Billion by 2021

BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota, December 22, 2017 (BIS Research PR) — According to a market intelligence report by BIS Research titled Global Small Satellites Market, Analysis & Forecast, 2017-2021, the global market is expected to reach $10.10 billion by 2021, growing at a CAGR of 31.9% during the forecast period, 2017 – 2021. In the recent years, small satellites have gained traction owing to the significant mass reduction in the subsystems and components along with higher cost-efficiency. The interest in small satellites has increased significantly during the last few years. Over the past decade, nearly $2.5 billion has been invested in small satellites, of which half of the amount was generated in the last two to three years.

Browse 21 Market Data Tables and 125 Figures spread through 266 Pages and in-depth TOC on “Global Small Satellites Market


A Look at NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Plans

Last month NASA officials gave a series of presentations about the space agency’s deep-space exploration plans to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Committee. I have excerpted slides from those presentations to provide an overview of what the space agency is planning.

Senate Banking Committee Rejects Trump’s Nominee to Head Ex-Im Bank

Donald Trump’s practice of nominating people to run agencies they oppose (Rick Perry), have no discernible expertise in (Perry again), or have no understanding of what they actually do (ditto) finally seems to have hit a brick wall.

The Senate Banking Committee rejected the White House’s nomination of former New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett to chair the Export-Import Bank, which helps U.S. companies finance sales of products to foreign buyers. The bank has been used by aviation, space and satellite companies such as Boeing and SpaceX.


Future Looks (Mostly) Bright for Space Industry in DC

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through today. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
  • Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are updates based upon their tweets on what is happening in Washington, DC, from talks by officials from the FAA, NASA, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Thales Alenia Space Partners with NextSTEP-2 Companies

Habitat in lunar orbit. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

ROME, 14 December 2017 (Thales Alenia Space PR) — Thales Alenia Space has signed three contracts in the frame of Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) activities with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital–ATK, to develop capabilities that can meet NASA human space exploration objectives while also supporting industry commercialization plans.


UAE Launches Call for Astronaut Candidates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has launched a call for astronauts candidates which it says will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) within the next five years.

The astronauts will visit the ISS “to carry out vital experiments and work that will contribute to the scientific community’s understanding of human space flight to meet future challenges, such as a manned mission to Mars,” according to the astronaut application website.

Astronaut candidates will go through basic training in 2019 and 2020 and then proceed to advanced training in 2020 to 2021 followed by assignment to a spaceflight.

UAE and the Russian space agency Roscosmos are negotiating to send UAE astronauts to the space station aboard Soyuz spacecraft, a Russian official recently confirmed. It is not clear whether the UAE has approached or will approach Boeing and SpaceX about flying astronauts on the companies’ commercial crew vehicles.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) is managing the astronaut selection process.

The UAE has increased investment in space in recent years. The nation is launching an orbiter to Mars and is planning to build a simulated Mars city in the desert where scientific work and experiments can be carried out.

Commercial Crew Providers Face Key Safety Reviews

Credit: NASA

It’s crunch time for commercial crew providers Boeing and SpaceX as the companies attempt to meet NASA’s safety requirement of one possible fatal accident in 270 flights.The space agency is planning a comprehensive safety review of the spacecraft next month.

But these commercial efforts face formidable obstacles in meeting safety requirements set by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, posing policy and public-relations dilemmas for the agency’s chiefs.

Experts say NASA likely will require inspections in space to reduce the threat of catastrophic accidents, a last-ditch safeguard that it had hoped to avoid when approving the plan three years ago. Still, it is unclear is whether such on-orbit checks by NASA would alleviate dangers from space debris and tiny meteor fragments, say experts inside and outside the agency….

The commercial designers are seeking to alleviate other risks. They are concerned that extra shielding to better safeguard equipment and crews from collisions with debris could make spacecraft too heavy. They also are examining risks associated with vibrations during launch, explosives that deploy parachutes, vulnerabilities of heat shields and other issues.

But their biggest safety challenge stems from the thousands of tiny meteors or space particles now prevalent in space that can damage or penetrate the space capsules. Traveling at approximately 17,000 miles an hour, even a paint chip can spark disaster. Boeing partly addressed this by changing its design to install Kevlar backing. SpaceX is relying on other features.

Boeing and CASIS Award $500,000 for Microgravity Research Through MassChallenge

BOSTON, MA (Nov. 6, 2017) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Boeing [NYSE: BA] have again joined forces to promote the use of the International Space Station (ISS) as an orbiting laboratory capable of producing cutting-edge research across numerous scientific disciplines. The two organizations on Nov. 2 granted a total of $500,000 to three microgravity research companies through startup accelerator MassChallenge™.

The awards to Cellino Biotech, Guardion Technologies, and MakerHealth mark CASIS and Boeing’s fourth year of collaboration on the “Technology in Space” prize at MassChallenge Boston.


NASA Awards Contracts for Deep Space Gateway Power Studies

Boeing Deep Space Gateway (Credit: Boeing)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five U.S. companies to conduct four-month studies for a power and propulsion element that could be used as part of the deep space gateway concept.

The agency is studying the gateway concept with U.S. industry and space station partners for potential future collaborations. These latest studies will help provide data on commercial capabilities as NASA defines objectives and requirements as well as help reduce risk for a new powerful and efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology in deep space.


Atlas V for First Starliner Flight Coming Together in Alabama

The Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credit: ULA)

DECATUR, Ala. (NASA PR) — The Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is coming together inside a United Launch Alliance facility in Decatur, Alabama.

The uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is intended to prove the design of the integrated space system prior to the Crew Flight Test. These events are part of NASA’s required certification process as the company works to regularly fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing and United Launch Alliance have begun conducting integrated reviews of components, software and systems along with decades of Atlas data to ensure integrated vehicle test simulations are similar to real-life conditions during missions. Starliners for the uncrewed and crew test flights, including for the pad abort test, are in various stages of production and testing.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with private companies, Boeing and SpaceX, as they each develop unique systems to fly astronauts for the agency to and from the space station. SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon, or Dragon 2, spacecraft to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing’s Starliner will liftoff on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.