NASA Awards Launch Contract to SpaceX for X-Ray Satellite Mission

Falcon 9 launches CRS-17 mission. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, which will allow astronomers to discover, for the first time, the hidden details of some of the most exotic astronomical objects in our universe.

The total cost for NASA to launch IXPE is approximately $50.3 million, which includes the launch service and other mission-related costs.

IXPE measures polarized X-rays from objects, such as black holes and neutron stars to better understand these types of cosmic phenomena and extreme environments.

The IXPE mission currently is targeted to launch in April 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. IXPE will fly three space telescopes with sensitive detectors capable of measuring the polarization of cosmic X-rays, allowing scientists to answer fundamental questions about these turbulent environments where gravitational, electric and magnetic fields are at their limits.

NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the SpaceX launch service. The IXPE project office is located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and is managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about NASA programs and missions, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

NanoRacks Completes 15th CubeSat Mission on International Space Station

HOUSTON, January 31, 2019 (NanoRacks PR) — NanoRacks successfully completed the 15th CubeSat Deployment mission from the Company’s commercially developed platform on the International Space Station. Having released five CubeSats into low-Earth orbit, this mission marks NanoRacks’ 190th CubeSat released from the Space Station, and the 228th small satellite deployed by NanoRacks overall.

The CubeSats deployed were launched to the Space Station on the 16th contracted resupply mission for SpaceX from the Kennedy Space Center in December 2018.

NanoRacks offered an affordable launch opportunity, payload manifesting, full safety reviews with NASA, and managed on-orbit operations in order to provide an end-to-end solution that met all customer needs.

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Bridenstine Names Janet Karika as Chief of Staff

WASHINGTON

I am honored today to announce that Ms. Janet Karika will begin serving as my Chief of Staff on Monday, Nov. 26. Ms. Karika is a recognized subject matter expert on space policy, space transportation, and non-proliferation. She has a long association with NASA. As an Air Force captain she was an exchange scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, working on silicon carbide tiles.

For the past fifteen years, she has been supporting the NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) and the NASA Headquarters Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) Launch Services Office (LSO) coordinating launch vehicle fleet issue4s across the interagency.

Ms. Karika has a history of working space-related issues and studies to support congressional staffs, the Executive Branch, and various fe4eral agencies and departments, including the National Security Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Departments of Commerce, Defense, State and Transportation.

During her 38 years in the space and missile field, Ms. Karika served as the Executive Advisor to the Air Force for space acquisition programs and as the Assistant for Launch Systems for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. During her military career, she was the Air Force Program Executive Office for Space (AFPEO/Space)’s Director for Launch Programs during the transition from heritage launch programs to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. She worked on the development of ICBMs, upper stages for launch vehicles, commanded a 72-person nuclear detection operations center, and was a Materials Research Scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

Ms. Karika holds a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with emphasis in ultra-high temperature composites used in space propulsion and thermal protection systems. She is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She serves on the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) and chairs its Infrastructure Working Group. She is the Women in Aerospace (WIA) Board of Directors Vice Chair.

— Administrator Jim Bridenstine

NASA’s First Mission to Study the Interior of Mars Awaits May 5 Launch

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — All systems are go for NASA’s next launch to the Red Planet.

The early-morning liftoff on Saturday of the Mars InSight lander will mark the first time in history an interplanetary launch will originate from the West Coast. InSight will launch from the U.S. Air Force Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3E. The two-hour launch window will open on May 5 at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT).

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NASA’s Next Exoplanet Satellite Arrives at NASA Kennedy

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo final preparations for launch. (Credits: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s next planet-hunting mission has arrived in Florida to begin preparations for launch. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station nearby NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than April 16, pending range approval.

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NASA KSC Director Looks Ahead to 2018 Milestones

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to employees at the Florida spaceport about plans for the coming year. (Credits: NASA/Frank Michaux)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana recently spoke to spaceport employees about plans for 2018. The coming year will be highlighted by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners preparing to launch test flights for crewed missions to the International Space Station.

“This is going to be an awesome year for us,” Cabana said speaking to center employees on Jan. 11, in the Lunar Theater of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo Saturn V Center. “The number one priority this year is we’ve got to get commercial crew flying to the International Space Station.”

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Senate Appropriations Measure Requires FAA Report on SpaceX CRS-7 Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

A Senate Appropriations bill would require the FAA to produce a report on the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that destroyed a Dragon resupply ship and $118 million worth of space station cargo in June 2015.

“The report must consolidate all relevant investigations by, or at the request of, the Federal Government that were conducted, including those completed by NASA as part of the FAA report, and must also include a summary suitable for public disclosure,” according to a committee report that accompanies the spending bill.

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NASA Will Not Release Public Report on SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

NASA will not publicly release the results of its own investigation into the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched a Dragon resupply ship into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2015.

After saying it would release a summary of the agency’s investigation, NASA passed the buck to the FAA on an accident that destroyed $118 million worth of cargo the space agency was sending to the International Space Station (ISS).

“Since it was an FAA licensed flight, NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary, and has deferred any additional products related to the matter at this time,” the agency’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) said in an email.

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NASA Will Take 2 Years to Complete Investigation into 2015 Falcon 9 Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

NASA’s investigation into the Falcon 9 launch failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship in June 2015 keeps getting more and more interesting.

I checked in again last week with the space agency about when it would be releasing a public report on the 18-month old accident. This is what a NASA spokesperson told me (emphasis mine):

NASA’s final report on the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap is still in work. While the report is important in providing NASA historical data of the mishap, the accident involved a version of the Falcon 9 rocket that is no longer in use. Furthermore, while the public summary itself may only be a few pages, the complete report is expected to exceed several hundred pages of highly detailed and technical information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA anticipates its internal report and public summary will be finalized in the summer 2017.

That is a rather long time, even for a sometimes pokey government agency investigating the failure of a booster variant no longer in use.
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NASA Awards Launch Services Program Contract to a.i. solutions

NASA LOGONASA has awarded a contract to a.i. solutions, Inc., of Lanham, Maryland, to support the agency’s Launch Services Program (LSP) in providing end-to-end launch services for NASA and NASA-sponsored payloads on commercial expendable launch vehicles.

The Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 3 (ELVIS 3) contract is cost-plus-fixed-fee, with an award-term option incentive and a provision for obtaining additional requirements on an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) basis. The base contract value is approximately $48.1 million, and the maximum ordering value of the IDIQ portion is $55. Including eight options, the total potential value of the contract is $387.6 million.

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NASA Still Working on Releasing Report 16 Months After Falcon 9 Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

I checked in again this week with NASA to see how they were coming on releasing the results of an the space agency’s independent investigation into the Falcon 9 in-flight failure in June 2015. I received the following reply:

NASA completed an independent analysis of the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap in support of high-value payload launches planned under the NASA Launch Services II contract. In accordance with the NLS II contract, the NASA Launch Services Program reviewed SpaceX’s readiness to launch the Jason-3 mission and led an independent investigation of the incident as part of the Flight Readiness Review process. The Launch Services Program independent investigation yielded an in-depth understanding of the mishap event; consequently, NASA’s final report on its investigation into the SpaceX CRS-7 mission is still in work. The official report of the independent review team contains information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA will provide a summary of publicly releasable information when the final report is completed.

Musk: SpaceX Has Theory on Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly; Sabotage Unlikely

Credit: USLaunchReport.com
Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Remarks attributed to Elon Musk in which he discussed a possible cause of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch pad firexplanomaly leaked out to the public last week after his his presentation before officials at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

“We are close to figuring it out. It might have been formation of solid oxygen in the carbon over-wrap of one of the bottles in the upper stage tanks. If it was liquid it would have been squeezed out but under pressure it could have ignited with the carbon. This is the leading theory right now, but it is subject to confirmation,” Musk is reported to have said.

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NASA Investigation into SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Explosion Questions Single Strut Theory

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

While SpaceX blames a faulty strut supplied by a contractor for the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket in June 2015, an independent investigation by NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) concluded there were several “credible causes” for the accident, including poor quality control at Elon Musk’s launch company.

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