Tag: human spaceflight

SpaceX Running More Than One Year Behind Schedule on Commercial Crew

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Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s commercial crew program is running more than a year behind schedule on the Commercial Crew program it is performing for NASA.

Garrett Reisman, SpaceX’s Director of Crew Operations, said on Tuesday that an automated flight test of the Crew Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) has slipped into the second quarter of 2017.  (Spaceflight Now has the mission listed for May 2017.) It was scheduled to occur in March 2016 under the contract NASA awarded to SpaceX in September 2014.

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House Appropriations Committee Sets NASA Spending at $19.5 Billion

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 NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

The House Appropriations Committee is marking up a FY 2017 spending bill today that would boost NASA’s spending by $215 million to $19.5 billion dollars. The amount is roughly $500 million more than the $19 billion requested by the Obama Administration.

Appropriators have zeroed out money for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), instead instructing the space agency to focus on lumar missions applicable to sending astronauts to Mars.

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Lockheed Martin Lays Out Deep Space Exploration Plans

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Humanity Becomes an Interplanetary Species: Artist’s rendition of the Mars Base Camp architecture in Martian orbit. By leveraging developed technologies and the taxpayers’ investment in SLS and Orion, Lockheed Martin believes a human science Mission to Mars is feasible by 2028. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Artist’s rendition of the Mars Base Camp architecture in Martian orbit. By leveraging developed technologies and the taxpayers’ investment in SLS and Orion, Lockheed Martin believes a human science Mission to Mars is feasible by 2028. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

At a House Space Subcommittee meeting on Capitol Hill last week, several companies laid out plans for deep space exploration. Lockheed Martin Vice President Wanda A. Sigur discussed the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle the company is building for NASA, proposed cis-lunar space operations, and a Mars base camp orbiting the Red Planet.

Lockheed Martin of a number of companies working with NASA under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, which is a private-public partnership that focuses on advance concept studies and technology development projects for deep space exploration.

Relevant excerpt’s from Sigur’s prepared testimony follow.

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I Will Launch America: Launch Site Integrator Misty Snopkowski

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i_will_launch_misty_snopkowskiBy Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Misty Snopkowski has worked on human spaceflight initiatives since 2003, building up expertise with the Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs and now standing on the precipice of the new era in human spaceflight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“I got to work up until the very last shuttle launch in 2011, which was a pretty amazing period in time,” Snopkowski said. “Then I joined commercial crew. You flip the script and go into a brand new program. I was this young person who got to start at the very beginning of a new program and most people don’t ever get that opportunity.”

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NIAC Focus: In-Space Construction of 1g Growable Habitat

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TENSOR construction of habitat, cross-sectional view of growth TENSOR. (Credit: R. Skelton)

TENSOR construction of habitat, cross-sectional view of growth TENSOR. (Credit: R. Skelton)

Tensegrity Approaches to In-Space Construction of a 1g Growable Habitat
NASA Innovative Advance Concepts Phase II Award

Robert Skelton
Texas Engineering Experiment

This proposal seeks to design a rotating habitat with a robotic system that constructs the structure and provides a habitat growth capability. The tensegrity technology allows minimum mass of both the habitat and the robotic system. This proposal solves three unsolved space travel problems: a) growth, b) radiation protection, and c) gravity.

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Orion Passes Pressure Test

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Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the Orion pressure vessel for a series of tests inside the proof pressure cell in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the Orion pressure vessel for a series of tests inside the proof pressure cell in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Engineers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently conducted a series of pressure tests of the Orion pressure vessel. Orion is the NASA spacecraft that will send astronauts to deep space destinations, including on the journey to Mars. The tests confirmed that the weld points of the underlying structure will contain and protect astronauts during the launch, in-space, re-entry and landing phases on the Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), when the spacecraft performs its first uncrewed test flight atop the Space Launch System rocket.

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NASA TV to Provide Live Coverage of BEAM Expansion

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The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016. (Credit: NASA)

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will be deployed to its full size Thursday, May 26, and begin its two-year technology demonstration attached to the International Space Station. NASA Television will provide coverage of the expansion beginning at 5:30 a.m. EDT.

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Airbus Starts Orion Service Module Assembly

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A test version of ESA’s service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. (Credit: Airbus)

A test version of ESA’s service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. (Credit: Airbus)

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus PR) — Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, has started assembling the European Service Module (ESM), a key element of NASA’s next-generation Orion spacecraft that will transport astronauts into deep space for the first time since the end of the Apollo program.

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A Tale of Two Prizes

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SpaceShipOne on the floor beside the Spirit of St. Louis of the National Air & Space Museum. (Credit: National Air & Space Museum)

SpaceShipOne on the floor beside the Spirit of St. Louis of the National Air & Space Museum. (Credit: National Air & Space Museum)

Two major flight-related anniversaries are being celebrated this week. Today marks the 89th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic aboard the Spirit of St. Louis. Lucky Lindy took off from New York on this date and arrived in Paris some 33.5 hours later, claiming the $25,000 Orteig Prize.

Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of the launch of X Prize (later Ansari X Prize). Inspired by the Orteig Prize, it offered $10 million for the first privately build vehicle to fly to suborbital space twice within two weeks. The Ansari X Prize was won in October 2004 by a team led by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen with SpaceShipOne.

After Lindbergh’s flight, a public that had previously shunned commercial aviation embraced it with a passion. Following the Ansari X Prize, Richard Branson vowed to begin flying tourists to space aboard a successor vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, within three years. Nearly a dozen years and four deaths later, Branson has yet to fulfill this promise.

The SpaceShipTwo program has now taken longer than it took for NASA to go from President John F. Kennedy proposal to land a man on the moon to the completion of the program with the splashdown of Apollo 17. NASA launched the space shuttle Columbia exactly 20 years after the first spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin.

So, why have things taken so long? And why did one prize succeed beyond the dreams of its sponsor, while the space prize it inspired has promised so few practical results? The answer is a complex one that I addressed back in March in a story titled, “Prizes, Technology and Safety.” I’ve republished the story below with links to other posts in a series about flight safety.

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Orbital ATK Advocates Lunar Orbiting Base

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Cislunar station (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Cislunar station (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Former NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson Proposes Four-Person Crew-Tended Lunar-Orbit Habitat to Be in Place by 2020

Company’s Flight-Proven Cygnus Spacecraft Could be Used as a Building-Block Habitat Leading to Lunar Research and Mars Exploration

Dulles, Va., 18 March 2016 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today advocated for a manned lunar-orbit outpost as America’s next step in human space exploration.

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China to Debut New Spaceport & New Rocket Next Month

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Long March 5 model

Long March 5 model

The inaugural flight of China’s new Long March 7 rocket next month will be the first launch from the nation’s newest spaceport.

Long March 7 will carry a prototype re-entry capsule for China’s next-generation human spacecraft when it lifts off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on June 26.

Located on Hainan Island, Wenchang is China’s first orbital launch site located on the coastline. The Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang launch facilities are all situated inland.

Wenchang will be the primary launch site for Long March 7 and Long March 5 rockets. Wenchang is located 19 degrees above the equator, which will make it easier for China to launch satellites into equatorial orbit.

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NSBRI to Fund Testing of Radiation Protectants

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nsbri_smalllogoHOUSTON, May 17, 2016 (NASA PR) — Two small companies developing products to protect humans from the damaging effects of radiation exposure have been selected to receive grants from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI).

Entrinsic Health Solutions, Inc. (EHS), located in Norwood, MA, is an innovative health sciences company dedicated to the development and commercialization of amino acid based medical foods to address critical digestive health, nutrition and hydration related health issues. The Company is involved in several on-going clinical trials designed to test the efficacy of their proprietary Amino Acid Coupled Transport (A₂CT) Technology for oncology and digestive health applications.

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House Appropriations Committee Increases NASA’s Budget

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NASA LOGOThe House Appropriations Committee has released a spending bill that would give NASA a budget of $19.5 billion for fiscal year 2017, which is $500 million above President Barack Obama’s request. The measure boosts spending for exploration and science programs. Details from the measure are below:

Exploration: $4.183 billion

  • Orion: $1.35 billion
  • Space Launch System: $2 billion
  • Exploration Upper Stage: $250 million of SLS funding
  • Exploration Ground Systems: $429 million
  • Exploration R&D: $404 million

Science: $5.597 billion

  • James Webb Space Telescope: $8 billion cost cap
  • Jupiter Europa orbiter and lander: $260 million
  • Use of the Space Launch System as the launch vehicle or vehicles for the Jupiter Europa mission plan
  • launch of the Jupiter Eruopa orbiter launch no later than 2022 and a lander launch no later than 2024.

Space Operations: $4.89 billion
Space Technology:
$739.2 million
Aeronautics:
$712 million
Education: $115 million
Safety, Security & Mission Services: $2.835 billion
Construction & Environmental Compliance and Restoration: $398 million
Office of Inspector General: $38.1 million

NIAC Focus: Human Stasis to Mars

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SpaceWorks’ Vision System Torpor Habitat design. (Credit: J. Bradford)

SpaceWorks’ Vision System Torpor Habitat design. (Credit: J. Bradford)

Advancing Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats for Human Stasis to Mars
NASA Advanced Innovative Concept Phase II Award

John Bradford
Spaceworks Engineering, Inc.

SpaceWorks proposes the development of an advanced habitat system for transporting crews between the Earth and Mars. This new and innovative habitat design is capable of cycling the crew through inactive, non-cryonic torpor sleep states for the duration of the in-space mission segments.

Under this effort, SpaceWorks will

(i) Expand the Phase I medical team to address key challenges identified in the initial effort,

(ii) Examine key habitat engineering aspects to further explore and refine design and identify further potential performance gains,

(iii) initiate validation studies with leading medical researchers to understand the effects of prolonged hypothermia, and

(iv) Consider the technology’s impact on alternate exploration missions (Mars moons, asteroid belt, Jovian and Saturn system, etc.).

International Space Station Surpasses 100,000 Orbits

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Video Caption: The International Space Station made its 100,000th orbit of Earth on May 16. During the 100,000 orbits since the first component of the station was launched Nov. 20, 1998, the station will have traveled around 2,643,342,240 miles, or roughly the distance between Earth and Neptune. It is also roughly equivalent of about 10 round trips between Earth and Mars at the average distance between the two planets. The station travels at 17,500 miles per hour, orbiting Earth every 90 minutes and traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets per day.