A New Market Emerges

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA recently marked a decade since it began a new era in commercial spaceflight development for low-Earth orbit transportation. The space agency inked agreements in 2006 to develop rockets and spacecraft capable of carrying cargo such as experiments and supplies to and from the International Space Station.

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NASA’s Commercial Cargo & Crew Spending

Dragon spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: NASA)

In announcing its plan to send two people around the moon using the Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 in 2018 before NASA can do so using its own rocket and spaceship, SpaceX paid tribute to the space agency that has funded its rise.

“Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible,” SpaceX said in a statement. “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission.”

NASA funding has been behind Elon Musk’s company every step of the way as SpaceX has developed Dragon and the Falcon 9 booster upon which the Falcon Heavy is based. So, no NASA and, in all likelihood, no SpaceX.

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A Look at Launches in 2016

Atlas V launches the NROL-61 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017
Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space
Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

2016 Launch Events

Space launch activity worldwide is carried out by the civil, military, and commercial sectors. This section summarizes U.S. and international orbital launch activities for calendar year 2016, including launches licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST). Countries and jurisdictions worldwide that possess functional and operating indigenous launch industries are the United States, Russia, China, European Union, India, Japan, Israel, Iran, North Korea, and South Korea. Several other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia, are developing launch vehicle technologies.

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A Look at Payloads Launched in 2016

Built by Lockheed Martin, the WorldView-4 satellite will expand DigitalGlobe’s industry-leading constellation of high-accuracy, high-resolution satellites, and double the availability of 30 cm resolution imagery for commercial and government customers around the globe. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

State of the Payload Industry

Space industry companies and organizations worldwide, sometimes the same as launch vehicle manufacturers but also those specifically dedicated to spacecraft manufacturing, produce these spacecraft. Commercially launched payloads are typically used for the following mission types:

  • Commercial communications satellites;
  • Commercial remote sensing or Earth observation satellites;
  • Commercial crew and cargo missions, including on-orbit vehicles and platforms;
  • Technology test and demonstration missions, usually new types of payloads undergoing test or used to test new launch vehicle technology; and
  • Other commercially launched payloads, usually satellites launched for various purposes by governments of countries not having indigenous orbital launch capability.

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CSF Statement on SpaceX Moon Announcement

WASHINGTON (CSF PR) — CSF congratulates SpaceX on this exciting announcement. The first commercial circumlunar flight of two private customers is a great example of American ingenuity, job creation, and innovation. The U.S. commercial space industry is helping to lead the way toward making space more accessible and affordable, while providing key services to NASA for its important national  mission. Yesterday’s announcement by SpaceX is a bold step forward, and we endorse the expanding role that the commercial space industry will play in the exploration and development of space. It’s a wonderful example of how smart public-private partnerships with innovative American companies can inspire, open up new markets, create new jobs, and also support government missions and initiatives.

PBS News Hour Video on Returning to the Moon

Video Caption: Is there renewed focus inside the Trump administration, NASA and the private sector to revive travel to the moon? There are signs, like a single reference in President Trump’s address to Congress, that seem to suggest that a space journey may be sooner than we might think. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what we could learn and why it’s back on the table.

NASA Commends SpaceX for “Reaching Higher”

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The following is a statement on SpaceX’s announcement Monday about a private space mission around the moon:

“NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

“For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity’s future in space.

“NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.”

Space Life Sciences Lab Sends Experiments to ISS

Launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 CRS-10 mission on Feb. 19, 2017. (Credit: SpaceX)

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (Space Florida PR) — Space Florida is proud to congratulate SpaceX for the successful docking of the CRS-10 mission with the ISS and to congratulate the 4 different experiments on board the Dragon capsule which were processed in the Space Life Sciences Lab (SLSL) in Exploration Park, Florida.

Those experiments were as follows:

  • Customer: CASIS/MERCK
    PI: Paul Reichert
    Protein crystal growth – pharmaceutical research (chemotherapy)
  • Customer: Edith Stein High School (agricultural high school in Ravensburg, Germany)
    PI: Maria Koch, Raphael Schilling and David Geray, German Students
    Vegetative propagation of plants on orbit
  • Customer: Intrinsyx Tech
    PI: John Freeman
    Designed to study enhanced plant growth of strong plants for astronauts on long duration Space missions
  • Customer: Space Tango
    PI: Twyman Clements

Another commercial opportunity to begin to utilize microgravity for application on Earth. The use of the SLSL for the processing of payloads for experiments and commercial operations will only grow as the flight cadence at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport increases in the years ahead.

“We’re excited to see the early investments by the State of Florida in payload processing for science and industry become a reality here at the Cape.” said Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello.

Dragon Rendezvous With Space Station Delayed

Credit: NASA

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft waved off its planned rendezvous with the International Space Station at 3:25 a.m. EST. Onboard computers triggered the abort after recognizing an incorrect value in data about the location of the space station. Per the re-rendezvous plan built into every mission, the spacecraft automatically reset for another rendezvous and docking attempt in 24 hours.

The spacecraft is in excellent shape with no issues, and the crew aboard the space station is safe. The next rendezvous attempt is targeted for Thursday morning. NASA TV coverage will begin at 4 a.m. with grapple expected around 6 a.m. Installation coverage will begin at 8 a.m. Watch live on NASA TV and online at: http://www.nasa.gov/live.

Crystal Growth, Rodent Experiments Headed for ISS

The SAGE III instrument integrated on the EXPRESS Pallet Adapter (ExPA) after its final sharp edge inspection before its launch on Space X 10. This investigation will measure the stratospheric ozone, aerosols, and other trace gases by locking onto the sun or moon and scanning a thin profile of the atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The tenth SpaceX cargo resupply launch to the International Space Station will deliver investigations that study human health, Earth science and weather patterns. Here are some highlights of the research headed to the orbiting laboratory:

Crystal growth investigation could improve drug delivery, manufacturing

Monoclonal antibodies are important for fighting off a wide range of human diseases, including cancers. These antibodies work with the natural immune system to bind to certain molecules to detect, purify and block their growth. The Microgravity Growth of Crystalline Monoclonal Antibodies for Pharmaceutical Applications (CASIS PCG 5) investigation will crystallize a human monoclonal antibody, developed by Merck Research Labs, that is currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of immunological disease.

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SpaceX Launches Dragon Supply Ship to ISS

Falcon 9 first stage descends toward its landing pad. (Screen shot from SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket roared off NASA’s historic Pad 39A on Sunday morning, marking a rebirth of a complex that once hosted the launches of Apollo moon ships and space shuttles.

The booster lifted off on time at 9:39 a.m. EST carrying a Dragon resupply ship bound for the International Space Station. The Dragon separated from second stage as planned and unfurled its two solar arrays. It will take two days to catch up to the space station.

The Falcon 9’s first stage landed safely at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. On board video showed the rocket’s engine firing as the stage touched down on its concrete landing pad.

This flight was the first from Pad 39 since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. SpaceX has a 20-year lease on the launch complex.

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SpaceX Pushes Back Red Dragon Mission to Mars by 2 Years

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company would delay its 2018 Red Dragon mission to Mars at least two years to better focus its resources on two programs that a running significantly behind schedule.

“We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program,” Shotwell said at a pre-launch press conference in Cape Canaveral, Florida. “So we’re looking more for the 2020 timeframe for that.”

The mission will land a modified Dragon spacecraft on the martian surface. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he planned to launch Dragons to the surface every two years beginning in 2018, culminating in a crewed mission in 2024.

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SpaceX Scrubs Falcon 9 Launch

Falcon 9 on Launch Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX had to scrub its Falcon 9 launch on Saturday morning. There was an issue with the thrust vector control system on the second stage. If that can be fixed quickly, the next launch window is Sunday at 9:38 a.m. EST. Falcon 9 is carrying a Dragon resupply ship bound for the International Space Station. You can watch the launch on NASA TV at www.nasa.gov or at the SpaceX website at www.spacex.com.

 

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NASA Astronauts Take Water Survival Training With U.S. Air Force

Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures Feb. 10, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Water survival training was hosted at the base fitness center pool. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

By Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey,
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) — Four NASA astronauts trained with U.S. Air Force Survival School instructors in water survival and recovery Feb. 10, at the base fitness center pool here.

The astronauts underwent the training in preparation for anticipated test flights of the new commercially made American rockets, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon.

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