Supersonic & Hypersonic Civilian Transport Projects in Development

Overture supersonic passenger jet (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.

XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.

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NASA Funds Lockheed Martin to Develop Cryogenic Fluid Management in Space

Credit: Lockheed Martin

BETHESDA, Md. (Lockheed Martin PR) — On Oct. 14, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced a $370 million investment with 14 U.S. partners that will demonstrate and mature space technologies to help forge a path to sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon.

As a recipient of an $89.7 million contract from this Tipping Point solicitation, Lockheed Martin will complete an in-space demonstration mission using liquid hydrogen — the most challenging of the cryogenic propellants. This allows us and our partners to test more than one dozen cryogenic fluid management technologies over the next five years.

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NASA InSight’s ‘Mole’ Is Out of Sight

NASA’s InSight retracted its robotic arm on Oct. 3, 2020, revealing where the spike-like “mole” is trying to burrow into Mars. The copper-colored ribbon attached to the mole has sensors to measure the planet’s heat flow. In the coming months, the arm will scrape and tamp down soil on top of the mole to help it dig. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Now that the heat probe is just below the Martian surface, InSight’s arm will scoop some additional soil on top to help it keep digging so it can take Mars’ temperature.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander continues working to get its “mole” – a 16-inch-long (40-centimeter-long) pile driver and heat probe – deep below the surface of Mars. A camera on InSight’s arm recently took images of the now partially filled-in “mole hole,” showing only the device’s science tether protruding from the ground.

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Ten Things to Know About Bennu

The Nightingale Crater on asteroid Bennu is the primary sample collection site for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx’s mission. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s first mission to return a sample from an ancient asteroid arrived at its target, the asteroid Bennu, on Dec. 3, 2018. This mission, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, is a seven-year long voyage set to conclude upon the delivery to Earth of at least 2.1 ounces (60 grams) and possibly up to almost four and a half pounds (two kilograms) of sample.

It promises to be the largest amount of extraterrestrial material brought back from space since the Apollo era. The 20-year anniversary of the asteroid’s discovery was in September 2019 — and scientists have been collecting data ever since. Here’s what we already know (and some of what we hope to find out) about this pristine remnant from the early days of our solar system.

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NASA to Broadcast OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Collection Activities

The Nightingale Crater on asteroid Bennu is the primary sample collection site for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx’s mission. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will broadcast coverage of a first for the agency as its Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission attempts to collect a sample of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 6:12 p.m. EDT.

Live coverage of the spacecraft’s descent to the asteroid’s surface for its “Touch-And-Go,” or TAG, maneuver, which will be managed by Lockheed Martin Space near Denver, will begin at 5 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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NASA Tipping Point Selections Include Cryogenic Fluid, Lunar Surface and Landing Tech

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The following selections, organized by topic area, are based on NASA’s fifth competitive Tipping Point  solicitation and have an expected combined award value of more than $370 million. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) will negotiate with the companies to issue milestone-based firm-fixed price contracts lasting for up to five years.

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NASA Announces Partners to Advance ‘Tipping Point’ Technologies for the Moon, Mars

NASA and industry have developed and tested numerous technologies to enable long-term cryogenic fluid management, which is essential for establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon and helping crewed missions to Mars. For example, this 13-foot diameter cryogenic storage test tank evaluated technologies to reduce the evaporation or “boil off” propellant losses. Implementation of similar technologies in operational missions requires further maturation through in-space demonstrations. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 American companies, including several small businesses, as partners to develop a range of technologies that will help forge a path to sustainable Artemis  operations on the Moon by the end of the decade.

U.S. industry submitted the proposals to NASA’s fifth competitive  Tipping Point solicitation, and the selections have an expected combined award value of more than $370 million. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate will negotiate with the companies to issue milestone-based firm fixed-price contracts lasting for up to five years.

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Northrop Grumman to Provide 6 Additional Orion Abort & Attitude Control Motors

Hot fire of the attitude control motor on Orion’s launch abort system. (Credit: NASA)

PROMONTORY, Utah – Oct. 10, 2020 – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) will continue supporting NASA’s Artemis missions by providing six additional abort motors and attitude control motors (ACM) for the Orion human spaceflight capsule’s Launch Abort System (LAS), under an agreement with Lockheed Martin, Orion’s prime contractor.

These motors will be used for six crewed Artemis missions III-VIII and are the first procured under the new Orion production contract.

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NASA to Provide Update on Agency’s First Asteroid Sample Collection Attempt

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24, to provide an update on the agency’s first attempt to contact the surface of asteroid Bennu and collect a sample next month. Teleconference audio and visuals will stream live on NASA’s website.

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NASA Marks Continued Progress on X-59

NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or QueSST, will fly over communities in the United States to demonstrate quiet supersonic. (Credits: Lockheed Martin)

by Matt Kamlet
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

PALMDALE, Calif. — Assembly of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft is continuing during 2020 and making good progress, despite challenges such as those imposed by the unexpected global pandemic.

NASA plans as early as 2024 to fly the X-59 over select communities on missions to gather information about how the public will react to the level of quiet supersonic flight noise the aircraft is designed to produce – if they hear anything at all.

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New SIMPLEx Mission to Send SmallSats on Longest Deep Space Journey to Date

NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

BOULDER, Colo. (NASA PR) — A small satellite mission that will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids has received NASA approval to proceed to the next phase of its development.

On Sept. 3, the dual-spacecraft Janus project successfully passed the important Key Decision Point-C milestone. It’s the first concept study from the current round of NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx-2) program to do so. 

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National Team Completes System Requirements to Define Integrated Human Landing System Design

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — The Human Landing System (HLS) National Team, led by Blue Origin with partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, has completed its System Requirements Review (SRR). SRR is the first program “gated milestone,” which marks the successful baselining of the requirements for the mission, space vehicles, and ground segment. The design proceeded to the NASA Certification Baseline Review (CBR), followed by the lower-level element SRRs, and the preliminary design phase.

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Janus Small Satellite Mission To Rendezvous With Binary Asteroids

NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

The twin-spacecraft Janus project will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” binary asteroids.

DENVER, Sept. 10, 2020 (Lockheed Martin PR) — The University of Colorado Boulder and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) will soon lead a new space mission to capture the first-ever closeup look at a mysterious class of solar system objects: binary asteroids.

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Northrop Grumman Wins $13.3 Billion ICBM Contract

FALLS CHURCH, Va, Sept. 8, 2020 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) was selected by the U.S. Air Force to modernize the nation’s aging intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system under a $13.3 billion contract awarded today for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program.

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center announced that the effort will span 8.5 years and include weapon system design, qualification, test and evaluation and nuclear certification. Upon successful completion of EMD, the Northrop Grumman team will begin producing and delivering a modern and fully integrated weapon system to meet the Air Force schedule of initial operational capability by 2029.

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Lockheed Martin To Build 10 Small Satellite Mesh Network In Two Years

Tranche 0 architecture. Numerical values are notional. (Credit: SDA)

LITTLETON, Colo., Sept. 1, 2020 (Lockheed Martin PR) – The Space Development Agency (SDA) awarded a Tranche 0 contract of the Space Transport Layer to Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) to demonstrate a mesh network of 10 small satellites that links terrestrial warfighting domains to space sensors – all launching in just two years.

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