Space Exploration in a Time of Social Turmoil

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The contrast was jarring. In one browser window, two NASA astronauts were making their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first orbital launch of a crew from U.S. soil in nearly 9 years.

In another window, scenes of chaos played out as protests over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by Minneapolis police erupted into violent clashes across the country.

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Moon Mark Announces Student Rover Race on Lunar Surface

Credit; Moon Mark

HOUSTON, Texas (Moon Mark PR) – Moon Mark, a multi-media entertainment and education content company, has announced a partnership with Houston-based Intuitive Machines, who’s on track to become the first private aerospace company to land on the Moon. The companies will team up to launch the first-ever high school competition to race vehicles on the surface of the Moon. Mission 1 is slated for 2021.

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NASA Modifies SpaceX Contract to Allow Reuse of Crew Dragon, Falcon 9

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

NASA has modified its $2.7 billion commercial crew contract with SpaceX to allow Elon Musk’s company to reuse Falcon 9 first stages and Crew Dragon spacecraft for transporting astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The reuse of the boosters and spacecraft will begin with the second commercial Crew Dragon flight, which will likely be launched in 2021. The first commercial mission with four astronauts aboard is scheduled to launched on Aug. 30.

In return, SpaceX has agreed to extend the ongoing Crew Dragon Demo-2 flight test from two weeks to up to 119 days. The spacecraft, currently docked to the space station, was launched with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard on May 30.

The contract modification added the requirement for SpaceX to conduct joint training with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Operations Group Detachment 3 (DET-3) for the first six commercial Crew Dragon launches.

DET-3 forces are placed on alert at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii in case Crew Dragon astronauts need to be rescued due to a mishap.

Crew Dragon and its booster’s first stage are designed for reuse. A Falcon 9 first stage landed on an offshore drone ship on Thursday after launching for the fifth time. Cargo Dragon vehicles has flow to ISS multiple times.

Trump Space-themed Campaign Spurs Anger, Might Have Broken Law

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

UPDATE: The campaign ad has been removed from YouTube.

President Donald Trump’s new campaign commercial that focuses on America’s space program has spurred anger and might have broken the law by featuring NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who launched to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon last week.

Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver tweeted:

Total politicization of ⁦@NASA⁩, Bob, Doug & ⁦@SpaceX⁩. Did they want to be used in a Trump campaign ad? Are these FEC [Federal Election Commission] & Hatch Act violations? “We are Americans & the future belongs totally to us” Really? Space should be healing, not dividing!

The Hatch Act limits the ability of federal employees to become involved in political activities. Behnken and Hurley are government employees because they work for NASA.

Hurley’s wife, former astronaut Karen Nyberg, is featured in the ad watching her husband and Behnken lift off aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster on Saturday. She tweeted:

I find it disturbing that a video image of me and my son is being used in political propaganda without my knowledge or consent. That is wrong. @nasa @JimBridenstine

NASA has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans. A petition titled, Stop Donald Trump politicizing SpaceX and NASA accomplishments, has been posted on Change.org.

Momentus and OrbAstro Announce Service Agreement for 3U CubeSat In-Orbit Demonstration

Agreement between two International newspace pioneers will enable tiny satellites to operate in large flocks

SANTA CLARA, Calif., June 4th, 2020 (Momentus PR) — Momentus (www.momentus.space), provider of in-space transportation services for satellites, and OrbAstro, a UK company focused on developing the technology to enable tiny satellites to operate in large flocks, announced today a launch contract to fly a 3U to SSO onboard the SpaceX Dedicated rideshare mission in 2021.

This in-orbit demonstration mission on a 3U OrbAstro platform will host a variety of payloads:

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SpaceX Demo-2 Astronauts Get to Work on Space Station Science

The Expedition 63 crew has expanded to five members with the arrival of the SpaceX Crew Dragon. (From left) Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. (Credit: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla, (ISS National Lab PR) – At a time when so many feel isolated, the world came together with hopeful energy on Saturday to watch as two American astronauts were launched into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade—and for the first time ever onboard a commercially owned spacecraft.

The successful SpaceX Demo-2 launch and docking, which carried NASA astronauts Doug  Hurley  and Robert Behnken from the Space Coast of Florida to the International Space Station (ISS), not only initiated a new era in American spaceflight but also rekindled the wonder and excitement of sending humans into space. Now, the two astronauts are getting to work in their new residence.

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SpaceX to Launch Next Starlink Batch of Satellites on Wednesday Night

Sixty Starlink satellites separate from a Falcon 9 second stage on April 22, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX website)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Wednesday June 3 at 9:25 p.m. EDT, 1:25 UTC on June 4, for its eighth launch of Starlink satellites. Falcon 9 will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A backup opportunity is available on Thursday, June 4 at 9:03 p.m. EDT, 1:03 UTC on June 5.

You can watch the launch webcast here, starting about 10 minutes before liftoff.

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Space Station Astronauts Open Nasdaq Trading

NASA astronauts (from left) Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley and Chris Cassidy.

Video Caption: A historic bell ringing, 250 miles above Earth.

Today we recognized the achievements of our #LaunchAmerica mission with NASA Astronauts Chris Cassidy, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley who rung the captain’s bell onboard the International Space Station to open the day’s trading on June 2.

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the station on May 31, a day after becoming the first NASA astronauts to launch on a commercial rocket. The launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft marked the return of human launches from U.S. soil to the space station for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.

Learn more about the mission: https://www.nasa.gov/launchamerica/

NASA astronauts (from left) Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley and Chris Cassidy appear on Nasdaq’s large television screen above Times Square in New York on June 2, 2020. The three astronauts, part of the International Space Station’s Expedition 63 crew, rang the ship’s bell onboard the station to open the day’s trading. (Credit: Nasdaq/Rohini Shahriar)

Crew Dragon Astronauts Welcomed Aboard Space Station

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA / Bill Stafford)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday aboard the first commercially built and operated American spacecraft to carry humans to orbit, opening a new era in human spaceflight.

The pair of astronauts docked to the space station’s Harmony module at 10:16 a.m. EDT Sunday as the microgravity laboratory flew 262 miles above the border northern China and Mongolia.

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NASA Networks Support 1st Commercial Orbital Launch of Astronauts From U.S.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On May 30, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the International Space Station as part of SpaceX’s second demonstration mission under the Commercial Crew Program — the first mission to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil to the station since the Space Shuttle Program.

The Crew Dragon ferried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to join the Expedition 63  crew aboard the space station. NASA’s communications networks — overseen by NASA’s  Space Communications and Navigation  (SCaN) program office — supported this Commercial Crew Program milestone, just as they will support all Crew Dragon and Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner  missions.

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DART Mission To Deflect Asteroid Moves Toward Early 2022 Launch

DART mission (Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s planetary defense mission to deflect a small asteroid continues to move toward a February 2022 launch date while holding to its $313.9 million budget, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will fly to the binary asteroid Didymos and impact the smaller of the two bodies to assess techniques for deflecting dangerous asteroids on collision courses with Earth.

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Video: Falcon 9 Launches With Crew Dragon

Video Caption: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon lifts off at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30, 2020, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken on the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. This marks the first launch of astronauts from U.S. soil since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. Part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, this will be SpaceX’s final flight test, paving the way for NASA to certify the crew transportation system for regular, crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory.

Video: Astronauts Give Tour of Crew Dragon Endeavour

Video Caption: In this video, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley take viewers on a tour of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will take them on a 19-hour-journey to their new home in orbit.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully launched from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Pad 39A at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30 with the astronauts aboard for a mission to the orbiting laboratory. Crew Dragon will perform a series of phasing maneuvers to gradually approach and autonomously dock with the International Space Station on Sunday, May 31, at approximately 10:29 a.m. EDT.