Michael Collins Honored with 2019 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy

Michael Collins

WASHINGTON,DC (NAA PR) – The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is pleased to announce that Major General Michael Collins has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for … “his lifelong dedication to aerospace and public service in the highest order, both as a pioneering astronaut and inspired director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.”

Established by NAA in 1948 to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the trophy is awarded annually to a living American for “…significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.” One of the most important, historic, and visible aerospace awards in the world, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy reflects a timeline of the most innovative inventors, explorers, industrialists, and public servants in aeronautics and astronautics.

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Virgin Galactic Pilots Join 80.46-Kilometer (50-Mile) Club

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow, who were awarded civilian astronaut wings last week, are among 18 pilots who have flown suborbital flights.

The two pilots flew SpaceShipTwo Unity to an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.72 km) on Dec. 13, 2018. That accomplishment qualified them for civilian astronaut wings using an American definition that places the boundary of space at 50 miles (80.46 km).

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Stratolaunch Hits 136 MPH in Taxi Test, Pops a Wheelie

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft lifts front landing gear off runway in high-speed taxi test. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Stratolaunch continued high-speed taxi tests at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Wednesday. The company tweeted that the aircraft reached a speed of 136 mph (219 kph or 60.8 m/s) and lifted the front landing gear off runway 12-30.

Stratolaunch aircraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Scaled Composites)

Word in Mojave has it that taxi and flight tests have been delayed over the past month due to weather. If the aircraft had to divert from Mojave, it would land on the lake bed at nearby Edwards Air Force Base. The lake bed has been soaked by rain.











418th FLTS Completes 10-year Support of NASA Orion Parachute Tests

An Orion test capsule with its three main parachutes touches down in the Arizona desert Sept. 12. (Credit: NASA)

By Kenji Thuloweit,
412th Test Wing Public Affairs

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — For a decade the 418th Flight Test Squadron has supported NASA by supplying C-17 Globemaster IIIs and personnel to assist with the testing and qualifying of the Orion spacecraft’s parachute system. That support ended Sept. 12 with the success of the final parachute system test over the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

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A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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!

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Dream Chaser Glide Test Fact Sheet

Dream Chaser during glide flight. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Free-Flight Test Data Sheet

Date: Saturday, November 11th 2017

Lift-off time: 8:30 am PT

Release time: 09:41 am PT

Release altitude: 12,324 feet, mean sea level

Release equivalent air speed: 66 miles per hour

Release angle of attack: -2.17 degrees

Release angle of sideslip: -0.76 degrees

Maximum speed: 330 miles per hour

Maximum angle of attack in flight: 16.5 degrees

Dream Chaser time in glide: approx. 60 seconds

Dream Chaser horizontal glide distance: 16,217 feet

Dream Chaser touch down time: 09:42 am PT

Landing speed: 191 miles per hour

Landing touchdown point: 1,250 feet down runway

Landing rollout distance: 4,200 feet

Helicopter type: Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook

Length of helicopter suspension system: 200 feet

Runway: Edwards Air Force Base Runway 22 Left

Vehicle length: 30 feet long











Orbital ATK Receives $20 Million Contract for Solid Booster Technology

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)[/caption]The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $20 million contract to ATK Launch Systems for “advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology.”

The award is an “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, hybrid cost-plus-fixed fee and firm-fixed-price contract for advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology. This contract provides a contract vehicle the Air Force Research Laboratory, aerospace systems, and rocket propulsion division can use to establish task orders to advance solid rocket motor technologies and address technical needs for next-generation strategic, tactical, and spacecraft propulsion systems,” according to the contract announcement.

“Work will be performed in Corinne, Utah, and is expected to be completed by Oct. 16, 2022,” the announcement states. “This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, with two offers received. Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $650,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.”











A Look at the History of Suborbital Spaceflight

Neil Armstrong with the X-15 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

With Richard Branson once again predicting that Virgin Galactic will fly SpaeShipTwo into space before the end of the year, it seems like a good time to take a look at the history of suborbital spaceflight.

The number of manned suborbital flights varies depending upon the definition you use. The internationally recognized boundary is 100 km (62.1 miles), which is also known as the Karman line. The U.S. Air Force awarded astronaut wings to any pilot who exceeded 80.5 km (50 miles).

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Dream Chaser Arrives at Edwards for Drop Tests

Editor’s Note: Dream Chaser was last at Edwards in October 2013 for its first and only drop test. It was released from a helicopter and glided to a runway landing. However, it crashed after part of its landing gear failed to deploy. Video of the accident has never been released.

At the time, Sierra Nevada was testing a crew version of the Dream Chaser under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The vehicle was dropped from the program the following year. However, NASA has given the company a contract to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) using a cargo variant of the spacecraft.

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SpaceShipTwo Pilots Faced Extremely High Work Loads

Pre-sunrise checks on WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo on the runway at the Mojave Air and Spaceport. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
Pre-sunrise checks on WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo on the runway at the Mojave Air and Spaceport before powered flight 3. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Part 2 in a Series

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Mojave Air and Spaceport sits on 3,300 acres of California’s High Desert about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. Since it opened in 1935, the facility had seen multiple uses – rural airfield for the mining industry, World War II Marines Corps training base, U.S. Navy air station and general aviation airport.

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Video About Innovation at Mojave, NASA Armstrong & Edwards AFB

Video Caption: In this video, innovative ideas on the future of space travel and aerospace dynamics are the brainchild of Mojave Spaceport’s, Stu Witt; NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s David McBride and Rocket Propulsion Lab’s Mike Huggins. The importance of risk as a crucial element in progressing forward is emphasized by the foremost risk-takers in space; rocket science; aerospace and education.The role of STEM education in growing our engineers is championed by AV College Math and Science Dean, Les Uhazy, as well as the space pioneers interviewed for this project.

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Sierra Nevada Plans Additional Dream Chaser Flight Tests in Fall

Dream_Chaser_Landing
Dream Chaser on approach after a successful free flight. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Sierra Nevada Corporation will conduct additional drop tests of its Dream Chaser space shuttle at Edwards Air Force Base in the fall, Co-program Director John Curry said during the recent Space Tech Expo in Long Beach, Calif.

The approach and landing tests will be conducted using an upgraded engineering test vehicle that glided to a landing at Edwards last October.  The upgrades will include the avionics, software, and guidance, navigation and control systems designed for use on the orbital Dream Chaser spacecraft, Curry said.

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Steve Knight Weighs Run for Congress

State Sen. Steve Knight
State Sen. Steve Knight

California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), a key supporter of commercial space, says he will run for Congress next year in the 25th District should the current office holder, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), decides to retire, the Antelope Valley Press reported today.

McKeon, 75, has not announced his plans, but there is widespread speculation in political circles that he will elect to step down next year rather than seek another two-year term, the newspaper reported.

The state senator, whose father William J. “Pete” Knight flew the X-15 rocket plane, has been a key backer of commercial space measures in the California Legislature. He introduced a limited liability bill designed to protect commercial space providers from passenger lawsuits that was approved with revisions. He also has introduced several other commercial space bills now being considered by legislators.

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What Actually Happened with Dream Chaser

I recently heard a very interesting talk from someone who saw the  Dream Chaser drop test at Edwards Air Force Base. The person described the landing, which went awry due to the failure of the left landing gear, as being looking similar to the crash in the opening credits for “The Six Million Dollar Man” television show.

This explains why the video that Sierra Nevada Corporation released ends abruptly just at touchdown. A crash like that is not exactly what you want everyone to see when you’re competing for billions of government dollars.

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