Tag: human spaceflight

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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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew

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.

Virgin, Scaled Look to Resume Powered SpaceShipTwo Flights

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Takeoff! (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WhiteKnightTwo takes off with SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Guy Norris at Aviation Week reports on Virgin Galactic’s progress toward resuming flight tests of SpaceShipTwo and moving on to commercial operations next year.

That process involves three steps: Scaled Composites completing a series of flight tests to meet contractual milestones; Virgin Galactic completing several flight tests of its own once it takes possession of SpaceShipTwo; and the FAA granting Virgin Galactic a launch license.

The official transfer of the SS2 from Scaled to Virgin will take place upon completion of key contractual milestones, Whitesides says. Although the main intention remains to demonstrate a fully powered suborbital flight with an apogee beyond the 100-km (62-mi.) “Von Karman” altitude limit that defines the boundary between the atmosphere and space, Virgin will be satisfied with two main criteria: “We’d like at a minimum for [Sealed] to demonstrate supersonic reentry and peak heating, if we can,” Whitesides says.

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Virgin Galactic Completes Ground Tests on New Engine

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NASA Orders Boeing, SpaceX to Resume Commercial Crew Work

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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On Sept. 16, NASA announced U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017.

On Sept. 26, Sierra Nevada Corporation filed a protest of the commercial crew contracts with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Pursuant to the GAO protest, NASA instructed Boeing and SpaceX to suspend performance of the contracts.

On Oct. 9, under statutory authority available to it, NASA has decided to proceed with the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. notwithstanding the bid protest filed at the U.S. Government Accountability Office by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements. These considerations compelled NASA to use its statutory authority to avoid significant adverse consequences where contract performance remained suspended. NASA has determined that it best serves the United States to continue performance of the CCtCap contracts that will enable safe and reliable travel to and from the ISS from the United States on American spacecraft and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for such transportation.

Virool Launches Race to Space for Best Viral Video Ad

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Sporting some shiny new tail booms, SpaceShipTwo touches down at the Mojave Air and Space Port after a glide flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Sporting some shiny new tail booms, SpaceShipTwo touches down at the Mojave Air and Space Port after a glide flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Thee is a new competition to win seats on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo from Virool:

We want to award the greatest viral video advertisement that ever was. There, we said it. We’re looking for creative and engaging videos that are simple and smart, and keep us wanting more. It can be funny, cute, sad, sentimental or even downright sexy. No matter what you’re promoting, we’re looking for THE video with the greatest viral potential.
The winner of the Virool Race to Space will be one of the first passengers to take a commercial space flight with Virgin Galactic. This outstanding marketer will also receive two round-trip tickets and a five night stay in Jornada del Muerto Desert New Mexico, USA. Don’t worry, food and transportation are also included.

NASA Selects Advanced Oxygen Recovery Proposals for Spacecraft Missions

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NASA astronaut and Expedition 25 commander Doug Wheelock installed the Sabatier system, which extracts more water out of the ISS atmosphere. Sabatier creates water from the byproducts of the station’s Oxygen Generation System and Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut and Expedition 25 commander Doug Wheelock installed the Sabatier system, which extracts more water out of the ISS atmosphere. Sabatier creates water from the byproducts of the station’s Oxygen Generation System and Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected four partners to develop game changing technologies with the potential to increase the oxygen recovery rate aboard human spacecraft to at least 75 percent while achieving high reliability. These oxygen recovery and recycling technologies will drive exploration and enable our human journey to Mars and beyond.

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