Tag: ISS

Antares Return to Flight Set for No Earlier Than Oct. 9

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Antares rolled out for hot fire in May 2016. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Antares rolled out for hot fire in May 2016. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK is targeting no earlier than Oct. 9-13 for the launch of its Cygnus spacecraft on an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. A more specific date will be identified after completion of final operational milestones and technical reviews. Launch times range from 10:47 p.m. EDT Sunday, Oct. 9 to 9:13 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13.

This will be the sixth planned cargo resupply mission by Orbital ATK under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with the company and the fourth launch from Virginia. Cargo resupply by U.S. companies enables a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA’s ability to conduct new science investigations aboard the world’s only microgravity laboratory.

Get more information about Orbital ATK, its Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft at:

http://www.nasa.gov/orbital

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

SpaceX, NASA Misled Public About First Commercial Resupply Flight

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Falcon 9 launches on its first commercial resupply mission.

Falcon 9 launches on its first commercial resupply mission.

As SpaceX prepared to launch its first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station in October 2012, there was a rather curious aspect about the mission. While the Dragon spacecraft was advertised as being able to carry 3,310 kg of cargo, the ship was only loaded with 450 kg of cargo — less than 14 percent of maximum capacity.

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Next ISS Crew Launch Postponed

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Expedition 49-50 crew members (from left) Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.

Expedition 49-50 crew members (from left) Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos decided to postpone the planned September 23, 2016 launch of the manned spacecraft Soyuz MS-02 for technical reasons after tests at the Baikonur Space Center.

The launch date of the spacecraft will be announced later.

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Elon Musk Ponders Renaming Mars Colonial Transporter as Crew Dragon Slips

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Elon Musk has began to tease a talk he is set to give on Sept. 27 in which he is to reveal his plans for sending people to Mars. Musk will deliver his talk, titled “Making Humans a Multi-planetary Species,” during the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. According to the program

Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

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MDA Continues Support for ISS Robotics

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Dextre at the end of Canadarm2. (Credit: NASA)

Dextre at the end of Canadarm2. (Credit: NASA)

RICHMOND, BC (MDA PR) — MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (“MDA” or the “Company”) (TSX: MDA), a global communications and information company, announced today it has signed a contract amendment with the Canadian Space Agency for CA$35 million. The amendment provides funding for continued support to the ongoing robotic operations of the Mobile Servicing System on the International Space Station (ISS).

The Mobile Servicing System comprises Canadarm2, the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator known as “Dextre,” and the Mobile Base System. These three robotic systems perform a variety of operations ranging from resupply, maintenance, and servicing tasks on the space station that are critical to the on-going operations of the ISS.

About MDA

MDA is a global communications and information company providing operational solutions to commercial and government organizations worldwide.

MDA’s business is focused on markets and customers with strong repeat business potential, primarily in the Communications sector and the Surveillance and Intelligence sector. In addition, the Company conducts a significant amount of advanced technology development.

MDA’s established global customer base is served by more than 4,800 employees operating from 13 locations in the United States, Canada, and internationally.

The Company’s common shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “MDA.”

SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Out of the blue and into the black
They give you this, but you pay for that
And once you’re gone, you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue and into the black.

My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)
Neil Young

In his book, “Mastery,” George Leonard provides a fascinating explanation of how people master new skills.

The mastery curve (Credit: George Leonard)

The mastery curve (Credit: George Leonard)

“There’s really no way around it. Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases than that which preceded it,” Leonard writes. “The curve above is not necessarily idealized. In the actual learning experience, progress is less regular; the upward spurts vary; the plateaus have their own dips and rises along the way. But the general progression is almost always the same.”

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RSC Energia Designing New Cargo Ship to Replace Progress

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Energia_logoMOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — RSC Energia plans by the end of 2016 to complete the preliminary design of the cargo spacecraft with increased lifting capacity (TGC GHG) for the transport and logistics of the International Space Station (ISS).

The new ships will be delivered in a single flight to the station more cargo than the Progress MS, which are able to take on board not more than 2,600 kg.

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NASA Suffering Significant Delays in Evaluating Commercial Crew Hazard Reports

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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Improvements Needed to Ensure Timely Reviews of Contractor Development Efforts

NASA is responsible for managing the certification process for the Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew transportation systems to ensure they meet Agency human rating requirements. Timely insight into the contractors’ activities is vital to ensure this process proceeds on schedule and within the agreed-upon budget. As part of the certification process and to provide insight into contractor efforts, Boeing and SpaceX conduct safety reviews and develop reports on potential hazards and the controls they have put in place to mitigate them (hazard reports) for NASA’s review.

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Boeing’s Starliner Challenges: Weight, Vibrations, Software & Landings

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Boeing CST-100 Starliner high bay (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Boeing CST-100 Starliner high bay (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Boeing’s CCtCap contract initially included 23 milestones ranging from the establishment of an original requirements baseline to the final vehicle certification. Within the first 2 years of the contract, Boeing and NASA modified the contract to separate three of the milestones into multiple segments, replace one milestone, and add seven milestones related to NASA-imposed software upgrades, landing qualification tests, and hardware modifications.18 These modifications increased the number of milestones to 34 and the total contract value by approximately $46 million.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Challenges: Welds, Cracks & Water Seepage

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

SpaceX’s CCtCap contract initially included 18 milestones ranging from establishment of the original requirements baseline to final vehicle certification. During the first year of the contract, SpaceX and NASA agreed to separate SpaceX’s Propulsion Module Testing and Critical Design Review into multiple segments, which increased the total milestones to 21.20

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Boeing Commercial Crew Milestone Status

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Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

In 2016, Boeing amended its schedule to reflect receipt of certification in January 2018 and the first certified flight in the spring of 2018. Notwithstanding the contractors’ optimism, based on the information we gathered during our audit, we believe it unlikely that either Boeing or SpaceX will achieve certified, crewed flight to the ISS until late 2018.
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SpaceX Commercial Crew Milestone Status

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Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Information below excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

SpaceX’s CCtCap contract initially included 18 milestones. During the first year of the contract, SpaceX and NASA agreed to separate SpaceX’s Propulsion Module Testing and Critical Design Review into multiple segments, which increased the total milestones to 21.

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Congress’ Chronic Under Funding of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Past Funding Shortfalls Have Delayed NASA’s Commercial Crew Plans

As discussed in our previous report, for several years during its early development, the Commercial Crew Program received significantly less funding than requested.14 As shown in Table 2, to date the cumulative difference between the President’s budget requests for the Program and actual appropriations is approximately $1.1 billion. However, under the current CCtCap phase of the Program, Boeing and SpaceX are operating under firm-fixed price contracts, which provide a more stable cost estimate for the remaining work needed to certify the commercial crew vehicles. Further, in December 2015 – for the first time in 6 years – NASA received the full amount the President requested for the Program: $1.2 billion for FY 2016. Although not the only factor, the shortfall contributed to slippage in the Program’s schedule. NASA officials said while full funding in FY 2016 will help reduce risks related to budget uncertainty, it will do little to address technical Program risks.
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Falcon 9 Pad Failure Throws SpaceX Schedule into Doubt

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Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)

Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)

The loss of a Falcon 9 rocket and its Amos 6 communications satellite payload in a launch pad accident on Friday morning throws the company’s ambitious launch schedule into confusion.

SpaceX has launched eight rockets successfully in 2016. The company had planned 10 more launches by the end of this year.  (See table below; information courtesy of Spaceflightnow.com). That plan was very ambitious, and it is unclear the company would have flown all these missions.

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Cost of Russian Soyuz Seats Rose 384 Percent Over 10 Years

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Soyuz TMA-16M lifts off. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Soyuz TMA-16M lifts off. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Russian Crew Transportation Services Have Been Costly

Until a domestic commercial crew capacity is available, NASA will continue to rely on Russia to transport crew to the ISS. As shown in Figure 4, the roundtrip cost for a seat on the Soyuz has increased approximately 384 percent over the last decade from $21.3 million in 2006 to $81.9 million under the most recent contract modification signed in August 2015. Under the 2015 contract, NASA will pay approximately $491.2 million for six seats in 2018.

Table 3 shows the total number of Soyuz seats NASA has contracted for and the total cost of those seats by calendar year.

soyuz_seat_costs_table_2006-18a The 2018 amount includes six seats purchased in the August 2015 contract modification as well as an additional seat purchased in an April 2014 contract modification.

Had the Agency met its original goal of securing commercial crew transportation by calendar year 2015, NASA could have avoided paying Russia close to $1 billion for Soyuz seats in 2017 and 2018, even factoring in the purchase of some seats in 2016 to cover the expected transition period.

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