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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.
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NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems to Land Astronauts on Moon

Astronaut John Young salutes the flag on the moon during the Apollo 16 mission. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA announced plans on Dec. 13 to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028.

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ESA Council Welcomes Bridenstine, Reviews Ongoing Programs

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — The ESA Council held its 277th meeting at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt on 12 and 13 December 2018.The Council welcomed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who presented NASA’s vision for future space exploration. Mr Bridenstine praised the long-standing cooperation between ESA and NASA over the past 40 years through more than 260 major agreements including the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

He strongly advocated international cooperation with ESA regarding space science, Earth science, the extension of the International Space Station operations and recognised the leading role of ESA on space safety and protection of space assets.

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NASA’s Lunar Plans Panned by National Space Council’s Users Group

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

SpaceNews reports that NASA’s plan to put a lunar gateway in orbit around the moon and get astronauts down to the surface in 2028 took quite a pounding from some members of the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group during the body’s first meeting last week.

“Personally, I think 2028 for humans on the moon, that’s 10 years from now. It just seems like it’s so far off,” said former astronaut Eileen Collins. “We can do it sooner.”
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NASA Seeks Information for Gateway Cargo Delivery Services

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will lead the development of the Gateway, a permanent spaceship orbiting the Moon, to serve as a home base for human and robotic missions to the surface of the Moon and ultimately, Mars. The first orbiting lunar laboratory will be a temporary home and office for astronauts for up to three months at a time, with cargo deliveries likely scheduled when crew are not present.

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