Northrop Grumman Completes Preliminary Design Review for NASA’s Gateway Crew Module

Artist illustration of Northrop Grumman’s HALO module and the Power Propulsion Element which form the first critical component of NASA’s Gateway. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Company based the design for HALO on its flight-proven Cygnus spacecraft

DULLES, Va., Nov. 18, 2020 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has successfully completed its initial preliminary design review (PDR) event for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). The module will serve as living quarters for astronauts at the Gateway during lunar exploration missions.

(more…)

Report: Loverro Feared 2024 Moon Landing Would be Imperiled by Boeing Contract Protest

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

A former senior NASA official violated procurement regulations in his dealings with Boeing out of fear the company could delay the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, The Washington Post reports.

The Post reports that NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration Doug Loverro reached out to Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton in February to tell the company it would not win a study contract for the Human Landing System, a vehicle that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface. The call came at a time when NASA was not to contact any of the bidders.

Loverro, who abruptly resigned in May, wanted to find out if Boeing planned to protest its loss. If so, NASA would need to issue stop work orders to the winning bidders until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled on the protest. GAO reviews usually take months.

(more…)

OIG Audit: NASA Gateway Elements Behind Schedule, Over Budget

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s attempt to use innovative acquisition practices to speed up development of the lunar Gateway has left the first two elements of the station over budget and behind schedule, according to a new audit from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

It is also unlikely the human-tended Gateway will be capable of supporting the planned 2024 mission to land American astronauts at the south pole of the moon, the audit concluded.

(more…)

Senate Appropriations Committee Sticks a Fork in NASA’s 2024 Moon Landing Plan

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It looks as if the Trump Administration’s goal of landing astronauts on the moon in 2024 is expiring at about the same time as the administration itself. The fatal blow is being struck by Congress, not the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released a fiscal year 2021 funding bill that includes $1 billion for NASA to Human Landing System (HLS) that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program. The amount is far short of the $3.2 billion that NASA has said is needed for HLS to keep the 2024 landing on schedule.

(more…)

Bridenstine to Leave NASA Administrator Post

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a decision that has disappointed his supporters, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine plans to leave his position even if president-elect Joe Biden asked him to stay.

Irene Klotz broke the news in Aviation Week. The story is behind a paywall, but Klotz did tweet:

“You need somebody who has a close relationship with the president of the U.S. … somebody trusted by the administration…. including OMB, National Space Council, National Security Council. I think I would not be the right person for that in a new administration –Bridenstine

Agency administrators usually change when a new president comes in, particularly if he is from a different party. Bridenstine is a former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma appointed by President Donald Trump, who was defeated by his Democratic opponent Biden last week.

(more…)

NASA, Human Lunar Lander Companies Complete Key Artemis Milestone

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Program recently checked off a key milestone in its progress toward landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. The HLS Program conducted Certification Baseline Reviews (CBR) with the three U.S. companies  competing to provide landers that will deliver Artemis astronauts to the Moon. These virtual meetings were the culmination of critical work by NASA and the companies since NASA announced the base period selections in April.

(more…)

ESA Selects Thales Alenia Space to Build Two Modules for Lunar Gateway

(Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

Turin, October, 14 2020 – Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), will develop two key modules for the upcoming Lunar Orbital Platform–Gateway (LOP-G): I-HAB (International Habitat) and the ESPRIT communications and refueling module.

These two modules are the European contribution for this Gateway. The first tranche of I-HAB contract, (worth 36 million euros, the global amount being 327 million euros), has been signed with the European Space Agency (ESA), while ESPRIT development has already started under Authorization To Proceed (ATP) with a contract signature expected by the end of the year.

(more…)

As Bridenstine Begs for Bucks at Home, Italy & Japan Move Forward on Artemis Cooperation

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the same week he pleaded with Senators to fully fund the Artemis lunar program, Jim Bridenstine signed a cooperation agreement with Italy and a key partner, Japan, moved forward with its part of the effort.

On Friday, Bridenstine “signed a joint statement of intent with Italian Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Riccardo Fraccaro, representing the Italian government, articulating strong mutual interest between the two countries in pursuing Italian contributions to lunar exploration activities as part of NASA’s Artemis Program,” the agency announced in a press release.

(more…)

Lander Simulation Testing Helps Advance NASA Navigation Spinoff

Xodiac rocket tests technology to enable precision landing on the moon. (Credits: Lauren Hughes)

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — A navigation doppler lidar (NDL) technology originally developed by NASA was demonstrated on a flight test on Sept. 10 with support from the Flight Opportunities program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

With roots at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the technology was licensed in 2016 by Psionic for both terrestrial and space applications, and both the company and Langley continue to evolve and advance the innovation for upcoming lunar missions.

(more…)

Dynetics Marks Progress with Artemis Human Landing System Test Article Development

Human lander (Credit: Dynetics)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Sept. 15, 2020 (Dynetics PR) — Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, has completed building a full-scale human landing system (HLS) test article that will be used for initial evaluations for NASA’s Artemis program.

The Dynetics HLS (DHLS) test article, located in Huntsville, Ala., is built to-scale and allows for test and evaluation across the engineering lifecycle. The DHLS team will use the test article for human-in-the-loop (HITL) task identification and analysis, assessing net habitable volume, crew module accommodations, placement and orientation of various components and overall habitability.

(more…)

National Team Completes System Requirements to Define Integrated Human Landing System Design

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — The Human Landing System (HLS) National Team, led by Blue Origin with partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, has completed its System Requirements Review (SRR). SRR is the first program “gated milestone,” which marks the successful baselining of the requirements for the mission, space vehicles, and ground segment. The design proceeded to the NASA Certification Baseline Review (CBR), followed by the lower-level element SRRs, and the preliminary design phase.

(more…)

Boeing Faces Independent Compliance & Ethics Review

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

Reuters reports that Boeing has submitted to an independent review of its compliance and ethics practices under an agreement with NASA and the U.S. Air Force in the wake of scandal relating to its bid to built the space agency’s crewed lunar lander.

The agreement, signed in August, comes as federal prosecutors continue a criminal investigation into whether NASA’s former human exploration chief, Doug Loverro, improperly guided Boeing space executive Jim Chilton during the contract bidding process.

By agreeing to the “Compliance Program Enhancements”, the aerospace heavyweight staves off harsher consequences from NASA and the Air Force – its space division’s top customers – such as being suspended or debarred from bidding on future space contracts.

The agreement calls for Boeing to pay a “third party expert” to assess its ethics and compliance programs and review training procedures for executives who liaise with government officials, citing “concerns related to procurement integrity” during NASA’s Human Landing System competition.

Loverro resigned his NASA post in May. Reuters reports that Boeing has fired a company attorney and a number of mid-level employees. The company has also revised its procurement procedures.

NASA rejected Boeing bid on the human lander for the Artemis program, which aims to land two astronauts at the south pole of the moon in 2024.

NASA awarded study contracts to Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX. The space agency plans to award a multi-billion contract to build the lander.

Blue Origin-Led National Team  Delivers  Lunar Lander Engineering Mockup to  NASA

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

HOUSTON (Blue Origin PR) — Today, the Blue Origin-led Human Landing System (HLS) National Team – comprised of Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper – delivered an engineering mockup of a crew lander vehicle that could take American astronauts to the Moon. The lander is set up in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF), NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building 9.  

(more…)

WSJ: Former Top NASA Official Under Criminal Investigation in Lunar Lander Procurement Case

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether a former senior NASA official broke federal procurement law by updating a Boeing official on the status of the company’s bid to develop a human lunar lander.

The grand jury investigation involves communication between NASA’s former head of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, and Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton.

Loverro, who abruptly resigned from NASA in May, is alleged to have improperly told Chilton that Boeing was about to be eliminated from a competition for human landing system development contracts because the company’s bid was deficient

(more…)