ESA Council Welcomes Bridenstine, Reviews Ongoing Programs

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — The ESA Council held its 277th meeting at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt on 12 and 13 December 2018.The Council welcomed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who presented NASA’s vision for future space exploration. Mr Bridenstine praised the long-standing cooperation between ESA and NASA over the past 40 years through more than 260 major agreements including the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

He strongly advocated international cooperation with ESA regarding space science, Earth science, the extension of the International Space Station operations and recognised the leading role of ESA on space safety and protection of space assets.

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Exclusive Photos of SpaceShipTwo’s Flight

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take off at 7:11 a.m. PST from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

My friend Ken Brown got some great photos of the flight today.

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo fly right overhead. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

The spacecraft was dropped 49 minutes after takeoff from Mojave. It fired its engine seconds later.

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
The engine continued to fire for 60 seconds. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

The 60-second burn was the longest in the history of SpaceShipTwo.

SpaceShipTwo fires its engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

We missed the landing because we were too far out into the desert. But, Ken got this photo of WhiteKnightTwo just before touchdown.

WhiteKnightTwo on approach to Mojave. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Virgin Galactic Statement on Upcoming Flight Test

SpaceShipTwo Unity during third flight test. (Credit: MarsScientific.com & Trumbull Studios)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Our SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, is entering the next stage of testing. During this phase of the flight program we will be expanding the envelope for altitude, air speed, loads, and thermal heating. We also plan to burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach space for the first time. Although this could happen as soon as Thursday morning, the nature of flight test means that it may take us a little longer to get to that milestone. It has taken years of design and manufacturing work by The Spaceship Company to get to this exciting stage and has required testing of all the parts and subsystems that make up SpaceShipTwo.
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Cosmonauts Cut into Soyuz to Find Hole, Make Huge Mess

Two Russian cosmonauts spent about 7.5 hours outside the International Space Station today. They cut through insulation on a Soyuz orbital module to try to find the outside of a hole that was apparently drilled during pre-launch preparations on the ground. They made a real mess of things, with insulation floating all over the place. (According to presumably informed tweets, the debris will probably de-orbit quickly — one hopes.)

India Approves Cooperation with Russia on Human Spaceflight

Capsule descending under parachute (Credit: ISRO)

India’s union cabinet last week approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that covers cooperation on human spaceflight with Russia.

India and Russia will strengthen cooperation in space programmes, including manned space missions, under a memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries in October.

The MoU will provide an impetus for development of technologies and advanced systems required for the human space flight programmes, such as radiation shielding, life support systems, crew module, rendezvous and docking systems, space suit, training for astronauts etc.

The MoU will lead to a joint activity in the field of application of space technologies for the benefit of humanity. It will also help in the setting up of a joint working group, which will further work out the plan of action, including the time-frame and the means of implementing the provisions of the agreement.

Potentially Historic Flights Loom in Mojave

View of SpaceShipTwo Unity from the tail boom. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

It looks as if things could get very busy here at the Mojave Air and Space Port in the coming weeks with a possible pair of historic milestone flights.

Sir Richard Branson has said he expects SpaceShipTwo Unity to make a flight into space before Christmas, which is just over two weeks away. Sources say a flight is highly likely barring technical or weather delays.

Parabolic Arc has also heard that Stratolaunch could attempt the historic first flight of its massive carrier aircraft before the new year.
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NASA TV to Air ‘Spirit of Apollo’ Tribute from National Cathedral

Contrasted against the stark, crater-marked lunar surface, the Earth is seen rising above the moon on Dec. 24, 1968. As Apollo 8 orbited the moon, Earth is 240,000 miles away. The sunset terminator is seen crossing Africa. (Credits: NASA/Bill Anders)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — This month marks the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 8 mission, which was the first to bring humans to another world as they orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve, 1968.

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SpaceX Dragon Arrives at Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:36 a.m. EST.

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Northrop Grumman Plans Second Orion Launch Abort Motor Test

First Orion launch abort motor test on June 15, 2017. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Second Ground Test of Launch Abort Motor for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft

Northrop Grumman will conduct its second qualification test of its launch abort motor December 13 in Promontory, Utah. The abort motor is a major part of NASA’s Launch Abort System, which provides an enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts. The completion of this milestone brings NASA’s Orion spacecraft one step closer to its first flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

What: Ground test firing of launch abort motor

When: Thursday, December 13, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. (weather dependent)

Where: Northrop Grumman facility in Promontory, Utah

A public viewing area is available along State Road 83 North approximately 20 miles west of Corinne, Utah (see map – follow directions to Promontory). Please note: We recommend you arrive at the viewing site an hour prior to the test.

Please Note: Drones are NOT allowed to fly over Northrop Grumman property.

Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques Launched to Space Station

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques (Credit: CSA)

LONGUEUIL, Quebec, December 3, 2018 (CSA PR) – Today, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques successfully launched to the International Space Station (ISS) with crewmates, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko.

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Bridenstine Sees First Crew Dragon Flight Slipping into Spring

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

USA Today reports that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine believes the SpaceX Crew Dragon flight test scheduled for Jan. 7 will likely slip into spring.

That would mean the mission, which will not have a crew aboard for its flight to the International Space Station, would launch no sooner  than the first day of spring on March 20.

Bridenstine’s acknowledgment that January is a “very low probability” window is the first time the agency has publicly cast doubt on the timing of the scheduled launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The test flight of the SpaceX rocket and capsule is a key step in NASA’s efforts to resume U.S. transport to Earth’s orbit nearly a decade after the space shuttle was mothballed.

The administrator attributed the delay to challenges with several components, including landing parachutes. Some of those systems could be tested without flying them on the initial flight.

It’s a matter of determining “what configuration are we willing to accept as an agency and are we willing to waive certain items (and) how do we test those items,” Bridenstine told reporters at NASA headquarters.

But he said the test flight “will certainly be in the first half of 2019,” a schedule that still would accommodate a crewed flight by the end of the year.

Parabolic Arc earlier reported that not all of Dragon’s systems would be ready in time for the first flight.

A flight test of Crew Dragon with astronauts aboard is currently scheduled for June 2019. NASA would then certify the vehicle to carry astronauts to the space station on a commercial basis.

Boeing is scheduled to test its Starliner spacecraft with an automated test in March and a flight with crew in August. NASA could extend the crewed flight from a brief stay at the space station to a long-duration mission.

Both SpaceX and Boeing are scheduled to conduct abort tests in between their automated and crewed flight tests. SpaceX will conduct an in-flight abort test; Boeing’s abort test will be conducted from a launch pad.

NASA needs to have at least one of the crew systems functional by January 2020. That is when the last agency astronaut to fly aboard a Russian Soyuz vehicle on a paid basis is set to return.

Branson Sets up Straw Man as Attempt to Reach Space Looms

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

In promoting an upcoming flight test of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo that is intended to reach space, Richard Branson has set up a straw man as a critic that he will gleefully knock down should the vehicle lands safely back on Runway 12-30 in Mojave later this month.

“I obviously would love to prove our critics wrong, and I’m reasonably confident that before Christmas, we will do so,” he told CNN’s Rachel Crane in a video interview.

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