GAO: NASA has Regressed on Controlling Costs, Schedule Slips

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has regressed in its efforts to control cost growth and schedule delays on its various high-risk projects, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“Following several years of continuing a generally positive trend of limiting cost growth and schedule delays for its portfolio of major projects, we found that NASA’s average launch delay increased from 7 to 12 months between May 2017 and May 2018,” the report stated. “Further, the overall development cost growth increased from 15.6 percent to at least 18.8 percent over the same time period.”

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NASA Receives Significant Funding Increase with $21.5 Billion Budget

The Lunar Gateway (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.

The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year,  was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.

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Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to Resume Operations

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has moved closer to conducting science operations again with the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, which suspended operations on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Today, Jan. 15, the instrument was brought back to its operations mode.

Shortly after noon EST on Jan. 8, software installed on the Wide Field Camera 3 detected that some voltage levels within the instrument were out of the predefined range. The instrument autonomously suspended its operations as a safety precaution. Upon further investigation, the voltage levels appeared to be within normal range, yet the engineering data within the telemetry circuits for those voltage levels were not accurate. In addition, all other telemetry within those circuits also contained erroneous values indicating that this was a telemetry issue and not a power supply issue.

After resetting the telemetry circuits and associated boards, additional engineering data were collected and the instrument was brought back to operations. All values were normal. Additional calibration and tests will be run over the next 48 to 72 hours to ensure that the instrument is operating properly. Further investigation using both the new and the previously collected engineering data will be conducted to determine why those data values were originally incorrect.

Assuming that all tests work as planned, it is expected that the Wide Field Camera 3 will start to collect science images again by the end of the week.

The Wide Field Camera 3 was installed during the last servicing mission to Hubble back in 2009.  Over 2,000 peer-reviewed published papers have been produced from its data. Hubble itself is in its 29th year of operations, well surpassing its original 15-year lifetime.

Hubble operations, like other satellite operations, are excepted activities as defined in the NASA furlough/shutdown plan. The current partial government shutdown does not affect its flight operations.

For more information about Hubble, visit:

www.nasa.gov/hubble

Hubble Paved the Way for the New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Ultima Thule

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovered the next target for the New Horizons spacecraft — 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule — in June 2014. Seen in these five overlaid images, the object resides more than one billion miles beyond Pluto in the frigid outer reaches of the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons will reach Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day 2019. (Credit: NASA/STScI/JHUAPL/SwRI)

LAUREL, Md. (JHUAPL PR) — Years before a team of researchers proposed a mission called New Horizons to explore the dwarf planet Pluto, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope had already made initial observations of the world at the dim outer fringes of our celestial neighborhood. Over many years, Hubble’s pioneering observations repeatedly accomplished what ground-based telescopes could not — imaging features on Pluto’s surface, finding new Plutonian moons, and tracking down a destination to visit after Pluto — an even tinier, icy object in a vast region of small worlds beyond the orbit of Neptune called the Kuiper Belt.

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Hubble Space Telescope Returns to Operations

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope returned to normal operations late Friday, Oct. 26, and completed its first science observations on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2:10 AM EDT. The observations were of the distant, star-forming galaxy DSF2237B-1-IR and were taken in infrared wavelengths with the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument. The return to conducting science comes after successfully recovering a backup gyroscope, or gyro, that had replaced a failed gyro three weeks earlier.

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Hubble Moving Closer to Normal Science Operations

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA took great strides last week to press into service a Hubble Space Telescope backup gyroscope (gyro) that was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. The backup gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on Friday, Oct. 5. The rotation rates produced by the backup gyro have since reduced and are now within an expected range. Additional tests will be performed to ensure Hubble can return to science operations with this gyro.

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Update on the Hubble Space Telescope Safe Mode

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA continues to work toward resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyroscope (gyro) on Friday, Oct. 5.

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Hubble Space Telescope Enters Safe Mode

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is working to resume science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope after the spacecraft entered safe mode on Friday, October 5, shortly after 6:00 p.m. EDT. Hubble’s instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come.

Hubble entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) actively being used to point and steady the telescope failed. Safe mode puts the telescope into a stable configuration until ground control can correct the issue and return the mission to normal operation.

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Columbia Astronomers Find First Compelling Evidence for a Moon Outside Our Solar System

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

New exomoon candidate has been observed around a star some 8,000 light-years away from Earth and is believed to be around the size of Neptune

New York, NY, October 3, 2018 (Columbia University PR) – A pair of Columbia University astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Kepler Space Telescope have assembled compelling evidence for the existence of a moon orbiting a gas-giant planet 8,000 light-years away.
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Interstellar Visitor is Really a Comet Not an Asteroid

Artist impression of ‘Oumuamua (Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser)

PARIS (ESA PR) — An object from another star system that made a brief appearance in our skies guised as an asteroid turns out to be a tiny interstellar comet.

‘Oumuamua, a name that reflects the Hawaiian meaning for ‘a messenger from afar, arriving first’, was discovered by astronomers working with the Pan-STARRS survey in Hawaii in October last year as the object came close to Earth’s orbit. Follow-up observations by ESA’s Optical Ground Station telescope in Tenerife, Canary Islands, and other telescopes around the world helped determine its trajectory.

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NEOWISE Thermal Data Reveal Surface Properties of Over 100 Asteroids

Rosetta's closest approach to the asteroid Lutetia. (Credits: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)
Rosetta’s closest approach to the asteroid Lutetia. (Credits: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Nearly all asteroids are so far away and so small that the astronomical community only knows them as moving points of light. The rare exceptions are asteroids that have been visited by spacecraft, a small number of large asteroids resolved by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope or large ground-based telescopes, or those that have come close enough for radar imaging.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2018 Budget


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.

So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.

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New Horizons’ Next Target Just Got a Lot More Interesting

One artist’s concept of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons mission. This binary concept is based on telescope observations made at Patagonia, Argentina on July 17, 2017 when MU69 passed in front of a star. New Horizons theorize that it could be a single body with a large chunk taken out of it, or two bodies that are close together or even touching. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — Could the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft actually be two targets?

New Horizons scientists look to answer that question as they sort through new data gathered on the distant Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019. That flyby will be the most distant in the history of space exploration, a billion miles beyond Pluto.

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NASA’s Hubble Sees Martian Moon Orbiting the Red Planet

The sharp eye of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured the tiny moon Phobos during its orbital trek around Mars. Because the moon is so small, it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures.

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Over the course of 22 minutes, Hubble took 13 separate exposures, allowing astronomers to create a time-lapse video showing the diminutive moon’s orbital path. The Hubble observations were intended to photograph Mars, and the moon’s cameo appearance was a bonus.

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Europa Water Vapor Plumes – More Hubble Evidence

Video Caption: The Hubble Space Telescope has captured even more evidence of water vapor plumes on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The probable plumes appear to be repeating in the same location and correspond with a relatively warm region on Europa’s surface observed by the Galileo spacecraft.

Read more: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/na…

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Katrina Jackson

Music Credits: “Street Dancer” by Donn Wilkerson [BMI] and Lance Sumner [BMI]; Killer Tracks BMI; Killer Tracks Production Music

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