Mark Sirangelo Departs NASA After 44 Days

Mark Sirangelo (Credit: SNC)

Well, that was fast.

On April 9, NASA announced the appointment of Mark Sirangelo as a special assistant to Administrator Jim Bridenstine for the purpose of overseeing the space agency’s plan to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.

On Thursday, Bridenstine announced that his new assistant is departing the agency. Sirangelo’s tenure lasted 44 days.

In announcing the appointment last month, Bridenstine said Sirangelo would

lead the planning for the proposed agency restructuring to create the Moon to Mars Mission Directorate that will manage the programs to develop the Gateway, human rated lander and surface systems to return to the Moon and establish a permanent presence. The new proposed Directorate will also manage the Exploration Research and Technology programs to enable capabilities for exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Yesterday, the NASA administrator blamed House and Senate members for refusing to approve the creation of the Moon to Mars Mission Directorate.

The proposal was not accepted at this time, so we will move forward under our current organizational structure within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEO). We are exploring what organizational changes within HEO are necessary to ensure we maximize efficiencies and achieve the end state of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

As you also may know, Mark Sirangelo has been serving as an advisor on our lunar exploration plan and the reorganizational proposal that went forward to Congress. Given NASA is no longer pursuing the new mission directorate, Mark has opted to pursue other opportunities. I want to personally thank Mark for his service and his valuable contributions to the agency.

Sirangelo previously served as head of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems and CEO of SpaceDev, its predecessor company. He resigned from the company in July 2018 and became a scholar in residence at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The announcement came on the same day NASA announced the awarding of a $375 million contract to Maxar Technologies for the power and propulsion element of the human-tended Lunar Gateway. The facility will serve as a base for human missions to and from the lunar surface.

NASA Selects Paragon for SBIR Phase II Award

Paragon Space Development Corporation will continue to developed an improved system to remove liquid condensation from the air for use on the International Space Station and future crewed vehicles beyond low Earth orbit under a NASA grant.

NASA has selected the Tuscon, Ariz.-based company for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award to continue work on the COndensate Separator for Microgravity Conditions (COSMIC) device. The contract is worth up to $750,000 over two years.

(more…)

Untangling the Numbers in NASA’s Supplemental Budget Request

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In seeking a $1.6 billion increase in NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2020 to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, the Trump Administration has claimed that “no NASA programs were cut” to accommodate the new spending.  However, to quote Obi-wan Kenobi, this is only true from a certain point of view.

The Administration’s original FY 2020 request would cut NASA’s current $21.5 billion budget by $488 million while shifting funds from other space agency programs to the Artemis lunar program. Thus, the claim of no cuts can likely be interpreted as no reductions beyond what the Trump Administration has already proposed.

Further, the overall increase is not as large as it sounds. The supplemental request would increase NASA’s budget by $1.1 billion from its current $21.5 billion to $22.6 billion.

(more…)

Bridenstine: NASA Needs Funding Surge to Land on Moon by 2024

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceNews reports that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine didn’t do much on Wednesday to clear up what the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 is going to cost in testimony before the commerce, justice and science subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Bridenstine declined to offer a dollar figure, saying that the agency submitted a “pretty good” proposal to the Office of Management and Budget, which is performing its own review along with the staff of the National Space Council. The goal, he said, is to “come up with a unified administration position” on how much additional funding NASA will request.
(more…)

NASA Begins Testing Habitation Prototypes

Habitation concept interior. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Over the next several months, NASA will conduct a series of ground tests inside five uniquely designed, full-size, deep space habitat prototypes. The mockups, constructed by five American companies, offer different perspectives on how astronauts will live and work aboard the Gateway – the first spaceship designed to stay in orbit around the Moon, providing the critical infrastructure needed for exploration, science and technology demonstrations on the lunar surface.

(more…)

Trump, Pence Demand Space Spectacular During Election Year as SLS Schedule Slides Further

SLS liquid hydrogen tank (Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If you’ve been puzzling over exactly why NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suddenly floated the idea of flying the first Orion space capsule to the moon next year without the Space Launch System (SLS), The Washington Post has a couple of answers today:

  • SLS is much further behind schedule than anyone knew; and,
  • 2020 is a presidential election year.

(more…)

Returning Astronauts to the Moon: Lockheed Martin Finalizes Full-Scale Cislunar Habitat Prototype

Personnel test the deep space habitat prototype. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Lockheed Martin PR) — For long-duration, deep space missions, astronauts will need a highly efficient and reconfigurable space, and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is researching and designing ways to support those missions.

Under a public-private partnership as a part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Phase II study contract, Lockheed Martin has completed the initial ground prototype for a cislunar habitat that would be compatible with NASA’s Gateway architecture. This habitat will help NASA study and assess the critical capabilities needed to build a sustainable presence around the Moon and support pioneering human exploration in deep space.

(more…)

Bridenstine: Commercial Boosters Will Accelerate Moon Plans, Not Replace SLS

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Editor’s Note: Shout out to Marcia Smith (SpcPlcyOnline) for posting a copy of this message from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Twitter.

A Message to the Workforce on SLS and Orion

Yesterday, I was asked by Congress about the schedule slip of the Space Launch System and plans to get NASA back on track, I mentioned that we are exploring the launching of Orion and the European Service module to low-Earth orbit on an existing heavy-lift rocket, then using a boost from another existing vehicle for Trans Lumar Injection. Our goal would be to test Orion in lunar orbit in 2020 and free up the first SLS for the launch of habitation or other hardware in 2020. This would get us back on schedule for a crewed lunar orbital mission in 2022 with the added bonus of a lunar destination for our astronauts.

We are studying this approach to accelerate our lunar efforts. The review will take no longer than two weeks and the results will be made available. Please know that NASA is committed to building and flying the SLS for the following reasons:

  1. Launching two heavy-lift rockets to get Orion to the Moon is not optimum or sustainable.
  2. Docking crewed vehicles in Earth orbit to get to the Moon adds complexity and risk that is undesirable.
  3. SLS mitigates these challenges and allows crew and payloads to get to the Moon, and eventually to Mars, safer and more efficiently than any temporary solution used to get back on track.

I believe in the strength of our workforce and our ability to utilize every tool available to achieve our objectives. Our goal is to get to the Moon sustainably and on to Mars. With your focused efforts, and unmatched talent, the possibility of achieving this objective is real.

Ad Astra,

Jim Bridenstine

ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Says Lunar Gateway is Next Step

Lunar Gateway concept. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB), which oversees the management of the ISS, met on March 5th, 2019. Its members[1] acknowledged the recent 20th anniversary of the launch of the first International Space Station module and celebrated the success of the ISS partnership. This international team has not only built the space station and risen to the challenges of its day-to-day dynamic operation, but – most importantly – delivered tangible benefits to humanity.

(more…)

NASA Wants Ideas from University Teams for Future Human Space Missions

Lunar Gateway with lander. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Teams of engineering students and faculty at U.S. colleges and universities have an opportunity to help NASA with innovative design ideas to meet the challenges of space exploration. The 2020 eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge supports NASA’s efforts to develop technologies and capabilities that will enable future human missions to the Moon, Mars and other solar system destinations.

(more…)

GAO: NASA has Regressed on Controlling Costs, Schedule Slips

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has regressed in its efforts to control cost growth and schedule delays on its various high-risk projects, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“Following several years of continuing a generally positive trend of limiting cost growth and schedule delays for its portfolio of major projects, we found that NASA’s average launch delay increased from 7 to 12 months between May 2017 and May 2018,” the report stated. “Further, the overall development cost growth increased from 15.6 percent to at least 18.8 percent over the same time period.”

(more…)

Canada Reaches for the Moon and Beyond

SAINT-HUBERT, Quebec, February 28, 2019 (Prime Minister PR) — Countries from around the world are getting ready to send people beyond the International Space Station (ISS) and into our solar system. Canada is investing in our space program to support initiatives that will create hundreds of jobs for Canadians, unlock new markets for our businesses, and help us answer important questions about our planet, our universe, and ourselves.

The Lunar Gateway

The United States-led Lunar Gateway is an international collaboration in human space exploration. About one-fifth of the size of the ISS, it will orbit the Moon and serve as a:

  • science laboratory
  • test site for new technologies
  • meeting location for exploration to the surface of the Moon
  • mission control centre for operations on the Moon
  • future stepping stone for voyages to Mars

(more…)

Justin Trudeau Announces Canadian Partnership on NASA’s Lunar Gateway

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

SAINT-HUBERT,, Quebec, February 28, 2018 (Prime Minister PR) — From pioneering satellite communications technologies to building the ‘Canadarm’ and space-based radar systems, Canada has made key contributions to space science and technology for close to six decades. Investing in science, innovation, and research unlocks new opportunities for economic growth, creates thousands of jobs for hard-working Canadians, and helps us understand the world we live in and our place in it.

Fifty years after the Moon landing, space exploration is entering a new chapter – and Canada will play a big role in it. The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced Canada’s new partnership in the NASA-led Lunar Gateway – a project that will see humans return to the Moon and set the stage for further exploration to Mars.

(more…)

NASA Receives Significant Funding Increase with $21.5 Billion Budget

The Lunar Gateway (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.

The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year,  was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.

(more…)

NASA Launches Effort to Develop Human Lunar Landing System

Credit: NASA

Last week, NASA had an industry day for its recently released Human Landing System Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The space agency is seeking private participation in the development of a landing system capable of delivering astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2028.

The following are excerpts from the PowerPoint presentation give by NASA officials last week that outlined the agency’s plans. The complete slides are here.
(more…)