How an Inoperative CubeSat Still Holds STEM Lessons

The STMSat-1 as it was deployed from the space station, shown here as the leading nanosatellite. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In December 2015, Gabe MacPhail, a seventh grader at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia, travelled to Florida along with 100 other members of the school’s community to watch as the fourth Orbital-ATK Cygnus Commercial Resupply Service lifted into orbit atop an Atlas V rocket aimed toward the International Space Station.

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SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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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.
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Cygnus Arrives at ISS

The Canadarm2 robotic arm is seen grappling the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship on Nov. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:15 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three weeks attached to the space station before departing in early December. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

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Cygnus Carries NanoRacks Payloads to Space Station

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va., November 12, 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Early this morning, the Orbital ATK CRS-8 (OA-8) launch carried another historic NanoRacks mission to the International Space Station (ISS). With a completely full NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer (ENRCSD), a virtual reality camera, and educational research, this mission marks over 600 NanoRacks payloads delivered to the ISS since 2009.

This mission is enabling a unique virtual reality opportunity with National Geographic’s VUZE camera. Integrated and launched via NanoRacks, VUZE will allow for the recording of the new National Geographic series “One Strange Rock,” in which the astronaut crew will record a series of virtual reality pieces for incorporation into a larger documentary about natural history and the solar system. This is National Geographic’s first time launching with NanoRacks.

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Antares Launches Cygnus Spacecraft to ISS

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

DULLES, Virginia, 12 November 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) -– Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, successfully launched its AntaresTM rocket carrying a CygnusTM spacecraft today at 7:19 a.m. EST, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

The launch is Orbital ATK’s eighth cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station for NASA. During the mission, designated OA-8, Cygnus will deliver vital equipment, supplies and experiments to the astronauts aboard the space station, as well as conduct scientific experiments onboard Cygnus while docked with the orbiting laboratory.

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Orbital ATK’s S.S. Gene Cernan to Deliver Supplies to Space Station

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft approaches its 10 meter capture point where the Canadarm2 grapples resupply ship. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit to the International Space Station, targeted for November 11, 2017, from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will launch on an Antares rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers aboard the station.

The spacecraft, named the S.S. Gene Cernan after former NASA astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan, who is the last person to have walked on the moon, will deliver scientific investigations including those that will study communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology.
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ISS U.S. National Lab Payloads Prepped for Orbital ATK CRS-8 Launch

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL., November 2, 2017 (CASIS) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle is slated to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than November 11, 2017 from Wallops Flight Facility.

The Cygnus spacecraft will carry ISS National Laboratory payloads to conduct research across a variety of areas aimed at improving life on Earth. In addition to the diverse research launching to the ISS National Lab, multiple payloads focused on enabling future research missions will be part of the CRS-8 manifest. Thus far in 2017, the ISS National Lab has sponsored more than 100 separate experiments that have reached the station.

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NASA Space Act Agreements with Blue Origin, Orbital ATK, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Stratolaunch

NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.

From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Blue Origin, Orbital ATK, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Stratolaunch Systems.

SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)

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NASA Will Not Release Public Report on SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

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.

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Russian Rocket Engines Exempted from Sanctions Bill

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

Officials at Orbital ATK and ULA breathed sighs of relief on Thursday as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.

The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.

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Cygnus Leaves Station, Begins Week-long Secondary Mission

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

DULLES, Va., 4 June 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced that its Cygnus™ spacecraft  successfully unberthed from the International Space Station, beginning the next phase of its mission before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere. The “S.S. John Glenn” will now conduct three secondary payload missions including the Saffire-III fire experiment, deployment of four CubeSats and an experiment to further study spacecraft conditions upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Scientists to Study How Fire Burns in Space

Saffire I experiment inside Cygnus. (Credit: NASA)

COLUMBIA, Md., June 2, 2017 (USRA PR) — Shortly after the Cygnus cargo vehicle (which launched in March 2017) undocks from the International Space Station on June 4, 2017, a team of researchers from NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC), Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) will conduct the Spacecraft Fire Experiment-III (SAFFIRE III).

SAFFIRE III is the third in a series of six flight experiments to better understand how flames spread in microgravity and increase understanding of how an accidental fire might behave in space. “The SAFFIRE portfolio of experiments is providing the best data yet on how large fires behave in the microgravity environment of space,” said Christopher Pestak, Director of USRA operations at NASA GRC.

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Cygnus Delivers NanoRacks’ Largest CubeSat Mission to ISS

HOUSTON (NanoRacks PR) — Orbital ATK’s Cygnus (OA-7) spacecraft successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) early this morning after launching Tuesday, April 18th from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This mission is NanoRacks’ largest CubeSat mission to date – carrying 38 CubeSats to be deployed from NanoRacks deployers on both the ISS and on the outside of Cygnus.

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