Tag: human spaceflight

Airbus to Build Orion Service Module

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BERLIN, Germany — Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second space company, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the development and construction of the service module for Orion, the future American human space capsule. The contract is worth around 390 million euros. The service module will provide propulsion, power supply, thermal control and the central elements of the life support system of the American capsule.

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Reports: Russia Planning Alternative to ISS

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From left, Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA, smile and wave as they hold an Olympic torch that will be flown with them to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingals)

From left, Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA, smile and wave as they hold an Olympic torch that will be flown with them to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingals)

Russian media are reporting on plans for the country to pull out of the International Space Station by 2020:

The Russian space agency is reportedly considering construction of a high-altitude orbital station starting from 2017. This means that Moscow may walk away from the ISS after 2020, when its obligations under the current project are fulfilled.

Kommersant newspaper reported that the manned space exploration program for the period until 2050 implies step-by-step assembly of a new scientific space station, citing its sources in Central Research Institute for Engineering Technology, Roscosmos space agency’s leading space scientific and research enterprise.

The principal difference from the currently operating International Space Station will be the new Russian station’s high-altitude orbit with a 64.8-degree inclination, which would make up to 90 percent of the Russian territory visible from on board, including Arctic shelf seas.

From the ISS, which has an orbit inclination of 51.6 degrees, no more than 5 percent of the Russian territory is currently visible.

Read the full story.

Sierra Nevada Contemplates Landing Dream Chaser at Public-Use Airports

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Dream Chaser landing at Ellington Field. (Cedit: SNC)

Dream Chaser landing at Ellington Field. (Cedit: SNC)

SPARKS, Nev. (SNC PR) — Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems and partner organization RS&H, Inc., presented findings regarding the challenges and opportunities of landing the Dream Chaser® reusable spacecraft at public-use airports during the Space Traffic Management Conference at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Daytona Beach, Florida, campus today.

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Virgin Galactic Ticketholders Cancel in Wake of Fatal Crash

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Branson speaks to the press at the Mojave Air and Space Port about the crash off SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Branson speaks to the press at the Mojave Air and Space Port about the crash off SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

During a press conference on Saturday here in Mojave, Richard Branson asserted that despite the catastrophic failure of Virgin Galactic’s only spacecraft, the company had still managed to sell another ticket for it joyride to suborbital space while not one of the nearly 800 current ticket holders had asked for their deposits back.

It was a helluva success story, an incredible tribute to Branson’s marketing genius in that he could still sell tickets even as SpaceShipTwo lay strewn across five miles of desolate desert north of Mojave. Think of how many tickets they could have sold had the flight succeeded. Virgin Galactic can’t win for losing.

The story also didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

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Apollo, Ansari and the Hobbling Effects of Giant Leaps

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The author films as WhiteKnight taxis with SpaceShipOne on June 21, 2004. (Credit: John Criswick)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Oct. 4, the world marked the anniversaries of two very different space milestones. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik. And in 2004, SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize by becoming the first privately-built vehicle to fly to space twice within two weeks.

While Sputnik quickly led to Sputnik 2 and 3, the Ansari X Prize has been followed by a decade of frustration. SpaceShipOne never flew again, nor has anyone replicated its accomplishments since. The dream of a vibrant new industry that would routinely fly thousands of tourists into space has remained just out of reach.

So, why did Sputnik quickly help spark a revolution that would transform life on Earth, while the Ansari X Prize led to 10 years of extravagant promises and desultory results? And what does this tell us about the role of prizes in moving technology forward?

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Judge Knocks Down SNC’s Motion for Commercial Crew Work Stoppage

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

A Federal Court of Claims judge has rejected a motion by the Sierra Nevada Corporation to re-impose a stop-work order on NASA’s commercial crew program, according to press reports. It is not immediately clear why Judge Marian Blank Horn rejected the motion.

NASA has initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work on commercial crew contracts the agency awarded the two companies while the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed an appeal by Sierra Nevada, which did not receive an award.

However, NASA later lifted the order, saying any delay would imperil efforts to keep the commercial crew program on schedule and meet its commitments for operating the International Space Station. Sierra Nevada subsequently appealed that decision.

The GAO has until Jan. 5 to rule on Sierra Nevada’s appeal of the commercial crew awards.

Boeing Completes CDR on CST-100 Spacecraft

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Artist concept of CST-100 and Atlas V on launch pad. (Credit: Boeing)

Artist concept of CST-100 and Atlas V on launch pad. (Credit: Boeing)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket.

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Court Holds Initial Hearing on Sierra Nevada’s Effort to Reimpose Commercial Crew Stop Work Order

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Marian Blank Horn heard initial arguments on Friday on a motion by Sierra Nevada Corporation to stop Boeing and SpaceX from continuing work on recently awarded NASA commercial crew contracts pending an appeal of the awards.

The judge did not rule on the motion, but set an additional hearing on Tuesday to hear further arguments, according to press reports.

Sierra Nevada has appealed the awards NASA has made to Boeing and SpaceX citing alleged irregularities in the process. NASA’s decisions left Sierra Nevada without additional government funding to complete its Dream Chaser shuttle.

NASA initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work under the contracts, but the space agency later reversed its decision. Sierra Nevada is seeking to reinstate the stop work order.

The Government Accountability Office has until early January to rule on Sierra Nevada’s protest of NASA’s commercial crew awards.

Sierra Nevada Files Suit to Reinstate Hold on Commercial Crew Work

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Space News reports that Sierra Nevada Corporation has filed suit to stop Boeing and SpaceX from continuing commercial crew work while the company’s appeal of the awards to the two companies is pending.

In filings with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, Sierra Nevada filed requests for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to overturn a NASA decision Oct. 9 lifting an order stopping work on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

NASA had issued a stop-work order shortly after Sierra Nevada filed a protest regarding the CCtCap awards with the U.S. Government Accountability Office Sept. 26. On Oct. 9, NASA lifted the order, citing “statutory authority available to it” in order to keep the program on schedule.

NASA justified the decision by warning that any delay in carrying out the contracts “poses risks” to the international space station crew and could jeopardize operations of the station. “NASA has determined that it best serves the United States to continue performance of the CCtCap contracts,” the agency said in a statement posted on the commercial crew program website.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning.

Smith Praises Commercial Crew Winners, Then Tries to Stab One in Back

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Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith

Less than a month after praising Boeing and SpaceX for winning NASA Commercial Crew contracts, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is eager to stab one of them in the back.

“I congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on their achievements in the Commercial Crew Program. Both companies and the thousands of people they employ have a crucial task before them as they work to further U.S. space exploration,” Smith said in a Sept. 16 statement. “They also have a responsibility to the U.S. taxpayers who are making considerable contributions to the development of these commercial space capabilities.”

Three weeks later, Smith had apparently decided that two commercial crew providers was one too many.

“If Orion could provide a redundant capability as a fallback for the commercial crew partners, why is it necessary to carry two partners to ensure competition in the constrained budget environment?” Smith asked in an Oct. 7 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The letter was co-signed by House Science Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).

My guess is that Bolden has explained why this wouldn’t work well to Congress many, many times. I’m also guessing that if NASA had to choose between commercial crew providers, it would probably select SpaceX because the company is further along toward crewed flights and costs far less than Boeing.

I’m not sure why Smith would take the risk of eliminating Boeing, which has  headquartered its commercial crew program in Houston.  Unless he believes the committee could force NASA to eliminate SpaceX and select Boeing despite the cost disparity.

Read Smith’s original statement of praise here. Space News has more details about the letter from Smith and Palazzo.