I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.
I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….
So, have at it! Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!
SpaceX’s Dragon resupply ship splashed down in the Pacific Ocean this morning with 4,078.6 lbs (1,850 kg) of experiments and technology from the International Space Station. The vehicle spent nearly a month at the station.
Meanwhile, SpaceX has rescheduled Falcon Heavy’s static fire for Monday. The six-hour window runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST (2100 to 0300 UTC). The heavy-lift booster’s 27 first stage engines will be fired for up to 15 seconds.
SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.
The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.
SpaceX has slipped the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy booster to January. The rocket, whose first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 cores with 27 engines, will lift off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The flight will be preceded by a hold-down test on the launch pad in which all 27 first stage engines will be fired.
Some news out of the SpaceX engine test center in McGregor, Texas.
SpaceX is investigating why one of its rocket engines exploded during a test fire earlier this week at the company’s facility in Texas, the company confirmed Wednesday.
The explosion of the Merlin engine occurred Sunday during what the company called a “qualification test.” No one was injured, but now the company founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk once again has to figure out what went wrong with its hardware, as it suspends engine testing during the investigation.
The company said Tuesday in response to questions that it is “now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause” of the explosion. “SpaceX is committed to our current manifest, and we do not expect this to have any impact on our launch cadence.”
SpaceX has conducted 16 successful launches of the Falcon 9 this year. There are five more flights on the manifest for the rest of 2017.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Designated a national laboratory, the U.S. segment of the International Space Station supports hundreds of ground-breaking government and commercial experiments in microgravity each year. NASA recently extended management of the lab to the Center for the Advancement of Science and Space (CASIS) until 2024. In addition, NASA is announcing that it is providing a class patent waiver to third party users who privately fund their research so that these users can automatically gain title to their inventions made aboard the space station.
The op-ed deals with the handling of the investigation in the June 2015 loss of a Dragon spacecraft by NASA and SpaceX. It supports a provision in the Senate appropriations bill that requires the FAA to produce a public summary.
After promising to produce a public summary last year, NASA reversed itself last month. The agency said it was not required to produce one and said the responsibility lies with the FAA. So, Senators are telling the FAA to produce one.
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SpaceX plans to launch a Dragon resupply ship to the International Space Station on Monday at 12:31 p.m. EDT. Launch of the CRS-12 mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be webcast by NASA (www.nasa.gov) and SpaceX (www.spacex.com).
A Senate Appropriations bill would require the FAA to produce a report on the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that destroyed a Dragon resupply ship and $118 million worth of space station cargo in June 2015.
“The report must consolidate all relevant investigations by, or at the request of, the Federal Government that were conducted, including those completed by NASA as part of the FAA report, and must also include a summary suitable for public disclosure,” according to a committee report that accompanies the spending bill.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has ignored a request by the Trump Administration to cut the budget of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST), instead providing it with a significant boost.
The funding measure would raise the office’s budget from $19.826 million to $21.587 million for fiscal year 2018. House appropriators have approved an identical increase.
The Trump Administration had proposed cutting FAA AST’s budget to $17.905 million.
My recent report on NASA decision not to release a public summary of its investigation into the Falcon 9 failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship has attracted some attention on various other websites. I’ve gotten some criticism there and also here for not understanding that the results of NASA’s investigations on commercial crew are confidential.
Fair enough. However, I was never told this by NASA in my multiple communications with the agency when I inquired about the summary last fall. In fact, they represented exactly the opposite.
Just so there is no confusion on this point, I’m reproducing the email responses I received from NASA when I inquired about this issue last fall as well as the one I received earlier in July.
TUCSON, July 19, 2017 (Paragon SDC PR) – Paragon was recently selected by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to provide flight hardware for its Dream Chaser spacecraft. In 2016, NASA selected SNC’s Dream Chaser to transport pressurized and unpressurized cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with return and disposal services.
CENTENNIAL, Colo., July 19, 2017 (SNC PR)) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced that it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) commercially developed Atlas V rocket to launch the first two missions of its Dream Chaser cargo system in support of NASA’s Cargo Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. (more…)
NASA will not publicly release the results of its own investigation into the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched a Dragon resupply ship into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2015.
After saying it would release a summary of the agency’s investigation, NASA passed the buck to the FAA on an accident that destroyed $118 million worth of cargo the space agency was sending to the International Space Station (ISS).
“Since it was an FAA licensed flight, NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary, and has deferred any additional products related to the matter at this time,” the agency’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) said in an email.