NASA Plans Awards on Commercial Space Stations Later this Year

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA recently outlined its plans to continue its human presence in low Earth orbit (LEO) as it sends astronauts back to the moon and decommissions the International Space Station later in the 2020s. This slides in this story are from an industry briefing.

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CASIS Releases Two ISS National Lab Research Announcements For In-Space Production Applications

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., March 22, 2021 (CASIS PR) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, today released two separate research announcements that will solicit proposals within the area of in-space production applications.

Applied research and development concepts in this area seek to demonstrate space-based manufacturing and production activities that enable new business growth and capital investment, represent scalable and sustainable market opportunities, and produce reoccurring value with the potential to generate demand for and revenue from access to space. These two in-space production applications research announcements are in the focus areas of: 1) Advanced Manufacturing and Materials and 2) Tissue Engineering and Biomanufacturing.

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SPACovirus Sweeps Space Sector

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Credit Virgin Galactic)
Wall Street’s latest easy money craze has attracted a growing number of space companies. But, just because they can go public, should they?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Seven space companies have gotten caught up in the SPACovirus sweeping through Wall Street. The impact on the space industry is going to be interesting to watch.

A SPAC is a special purpose acquisition company. It’s a publicly traded investment firm that, with outside investors, acquires or merges with another company, and then takes the acquisition public under its own name.

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Space Station Hardware Developers, Payload Support Teams Celebrate Two Decades of Success, Prepare for Third

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson conducts a science experiment in the Microgravity Science Glovebox during Expedition 51 in 2017. The glovebox is one of 15 space station science hardware facilities managed for the agency by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Ask International Space Station facility engineers and payload operations teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, what makes them proudest as they look back on two decades of developing and testing science hardware and providing real-time support for experiments on orbit. Many will instinctively glance upward, as if the source of that pride might be passing overhead at that moment, 250 miles up.

Just as often though, they look to one another.

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RevBio Awarded Funding to Conduct an In Vivo Bone Experiment on the International Space Station

Astronaut Joe Acaba works with RevBio’s first in vitro bone cell experiment on board the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory in 2018. This new experiment will be an in vivo experiment using mice to study the company’s bone adhesive biomaterial and its ability to facilitate bone repair, especially under osteoporotic conditions induced by the micro-gravity environment of outer space. (Credit: NASA)

This unique opportunity will allow the Company to expand its research on its osteoconductive bone adhesive biomaterial.

LOWELL, Mass., March 9, 2021 (RevBio PR) — RevBio, Inc., announced that it has been awarded the opportunity to conduct an in vivo research experiment on the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory (ISS National Lab). This experiment will examine the biomaterial’s osteoconductivity when used in a microgravity environment where bone density and the ability to regenerate new bone tissue is significantly compromised. 

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University Students Test NASA Tech in Microgravity

University of Florida students test new technologies during a zero gravity microgravity flight. (Credit: Zero Gravity Corporation)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA teamed up with a group of researchers from Dr. Jacob Chung’s lab at the University of Florida in Gainesville and the Aerospace Corporation based in El Segundo, California, to test two technologies to reduce the amount of cryogenic propellant consumed during future space missions. Instead of working in a typical lab, a plane following a parabolic flight path briefly suspended the technologies and researchers in microgravity.

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20 Years of Plasma Research on ISS Advance Understanding of Physics, Crystals

The PK-4 plasma crystal laboratory. (Credit: MPE)
  • The plasma crystal experiments are one of the first and most successful research projects on the ISS.
  • The first long-term tests under weightlessness started on March 3, 2001: They provide insights into physical processes at the atomic level.
  • ISS astronauts are always part of the plasma research team, including Thomas Reiter during his Astrolab mission.
  • From 22-29. The next experiments on board the ISS will run on March 2021.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR) — For 20 years they have been a reliable source of new insights into physics: the plasma crystal experiments on board the International Space Station ISS. Basic knowledge for the textbooks of the future is the main goal of this research. Various applications can be derived from the knowledge gained, in particular in the fields of medicine, environmental protection, space travel as well as semiconductor and microchip technologies. 

By means of technology transfers, plasma research also opens up new fields of application, based for example on the development of miniaturized laboratory systems suitable for space travel. The first ISS crew already had plasma research on their agenda and on March 3, 2001 the starting shot was given for the first long-term tests under weightlessness. The current crew will now carry out the latest series of experiments at the end of March.

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Zero Gravity Corporation Announces Investment From Private Equity Firm Rock Mountain Capital

Cryogenic propellant chill-down experiments from the University of Florida have accumulated data over multiple parabolic flight campaigns. Others flew for the first time on ZERO-G’s recent flights. (Credit: NASA)

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 25, 2021 (ZERO-G PR) — Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G), a weightless flight company offering the country’s only microgravity experience, announced a recent financing round led by Rock Mountain Capital (RMC), a private equity firm working with entrepreneurs and management teams in consumer goods and services, TMT and healthcare. RMC’s investment will help further the commercial development of ZERO-G’s consumer flight program and the company’s renowned weightless research lab.

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Virgin Galactic Stock Plunges as Company Delays Space Tourism Flights to 2022

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity arrives at Spaceport America aboard WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Shares of Virgin Galactic plunged sharply on Thursday as the company announced that it was postponing the start of commercial suborbital space tourism flights until 2022 due to additional delays in completing SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity‘s test program.

Shares plunged in after hours trading to $36.69 after opening the day at $45.04. Most of the decline occurred in after hours trading following the release of Virgin Galactic quarterly and full year 2020 earning report.

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Several Technology Development Payloads Sponsored by the ISS National Lab Launching on Northrop Grumman CRS-15

The S.S. Kalpana Chawla begins the second phase of its mission after leaving the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., February 17, 2021 (CASIS PR) – On Saturday, February 20, no earlier than 12:36 p.m. EST, Northrop Grumman is scheduled to launch its Cygnus spacecraft on an Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS), marking its 15th mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program.

The launch, which will take place from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, will deliver thousands of pounds of critical supplies and research to the space station. Moreover, many of the payloads on this mission showcase the diversity of research sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, with investigations in the physical and life sciences, materials research, and the validation of new facilities that further research and development in low Earth orbit.

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Virgin Galactic Postpones Suborbital Flight Test

Virgin Galactic had planned to fly from Spaceport America in New Mexico as early as Saturday. The company has said there are open dates for the rest of February.

The suborbital flight will include two pilots and a load of microgravity experiments in the passenger cabin. It will be a repeat of a flight that was aborted in December after VSS Unity‘s computer lost contact with the ship’s hybrid engine.

The upcoming flight will be the first of three final suborbital tests of the rocket plane before Virgin Galactic begins flying paying passengers. The company said it might add more flight tests if necessary.

2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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As Virgin Galactic Crew Celebrated Second Suborbital Flight, Problems Loomed Behind the Scenes

Chief Pilot David Mackay celebrates a successful flight with champagne as Chief Astronaut Beth Moses looks on. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Newly arrived back on Earth after a quick visit to space, Virgin Galactic Chief Astronaut Beth Moses was effusive as she described the suborbital flight she had just taken aboard the company’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, VSS Unity.

“Richard, you’re going to love it!” she told Virgin Chairman Richard Branson, who had remotely monitored the Feb. 22, 2019 flight that had taken place over California’s Mojave Desert.

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Upcoming Launches: Falcon 9, Starship, Soyuz and SpaceShipTwo

Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Tuesday, February 2

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz 2.1b
Payload: Lotus S-1 signal intelligence satellite
Launch Time: 3:45 a.m. EST (2045 UTC)
Launch Site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome

NET Tuesday, February 2

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Starship SN9
Mission: Flight Test
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Boca Chica, Texas

Flight date depends upon completion of review and the issuing of a launch license by Federal Aviation Administration.

Wednesday, February 3

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: 60 Starlink broadband satellites
Launch Time: 5:57 a.m. EST (1057 UTC)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Thursday, February 4

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: 60 Starlink broadband satellites
Launch Time: 1:19 a.m. EST (0619 UTC)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

NET Saturday, February 13

Launch Vehicle: VSS Unity/VMS Eve
Payload: Two pilots, microgravity experiments
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Spaceport America, New Mexico

Repeat of a flight test aborted on Dec. 12 due the computer losing contact with the engine. Launch opportunities extend through February. First of three additional tests intended to complete SpaceShipTwo’s initial flight test program.

CASIS Unveils Research Announcement in Technology Advancements to Leverage the ISS National Lab

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), January 21, 2021 – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, today made public a research announcement  soliciting proposals for technology advancements and applied research that would utilize the space-based environment of the orbiting laboratory.

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