I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.
I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….
So, have at it! Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!
VAN HORN, Texas (NASA PR) — Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard reusable space vehicle on Dec. 12 carrying a medical technology that could potentially treat chest trauma in a space environment.
The New Shepard reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle was launched with the experimental technology from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. In addition to NASA funding non-government researchers to fly payloads, Blue Origin is a Flight Opportunities program launch provider for government payloads. The Flight Opportunities program, is managed under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Long-duration stratospheric research missions could allow scientists to collect vast amounts of data continuously for their payloads. Such missions could benefit NASA by maturing future space technology as well as allowing for Earth observations, such as storm monitoring and forest fire tracking.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A series of parabolic flights from Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) in March 2017 enabled researchers to test and validate the performance of two technologies from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL):
Comet Sample Verification System (T0164-P): A tool that enables researchers to verify the quantity and volume of a sample from a comet surface before bringing it back to Earth for analysis
Biosleeve Gesture Control Interface for Telerobotics (T0161-P): A sleeve-based gesture-recognition interface that provides intuitive force and position control signals from natural arm, hand, and finger movements, with the potential to be embedded in clothing worn by astronauts working on the International Space Station (ISS) and other missions
EDWARDS, Calif. — Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft completed a successful captive-carry test (in which the craft is suspended from another vehicle during flight) today (Aug. 30) at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California’s Mojave Desert. The flight test was a crucial step toward using the space vehicle for orbital flights to the International Space Station.
Attached with a 200-foot-long (61 meters) cable to a Columbia 234-UT helicopter, a test model of the Dream Chaser lifted off at 7:21 a.m. PDT (10:21 a.m. EDT/1421 GMT). The two vehicles flew over Rogers Dry Lake for 1 hour and 41 minutes before landing (with Dream Chaser’s gear extended) at 9:02 a.m. PDT (12:02 p.m. EDT/1602 GMT).
“It went as well as we could possibly expect,” said Steve Lindsey, Sierra Nevada vice president of Exploration Systems, to a group of reporters after the flight. “We met every single flight-test objective.”
SPARKS, Nev. (August 30, 2017) — Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser engineering test article passed a successful Captive Carry test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center on Wednesday as part of the Phase Two flight test efforts to advance Dream Chaser progress toward orbital flight.
HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Fly frequently, travel safely, land on (most) runways, and operate economically: such are the guiding principles for 21st century spaceplanes, cargo-carrying aerospace workhorses routinely launching to low-Earth orbit for space station resupply and crew transfers. Fans disconsolate after retirement of NASA’s shuttle fleet can take heart: The next generation in reusable space vehicles is set to debut.
The slide below is from a recent NASA update on the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
Although Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser was eliminated from the final round of the program nearly three years ago, the company has continued to develop the vehicle for both crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station. NASA has awarded a contract for cargo flights under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 program.
A full-scale engineering article is set to conduct an approach and landing test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight and Research Center in California this fall. The flight is one of the unfinished milestones from Sierra Nevada’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities contract.
The test will come about four years the last Dream Chaser approach and landing test in October 2013. The glide portion of the flight went as planned, but a failure of part of the landing gear resulted in a crash on the runway.
The company is continuing to develop Dream Chaser for crew flights under an unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA. A total of eight milestones are included under the agreement, which has been extended to August 2022.
Under an unfunded SAA, each side pays covers its own costs for any work performed.
Video Caption: NASA is flight testing next-generation lander navigation technology through the CoOperative Blending of Autonomous Landing Technologies (COBALT) project. The technology provides a spacecraft with knowledge during entry, descent and landing that enables it to precisely navigate and softly land close to surface locations that have been previously too risky to target with current capabilities. The technologies will enable future exploration destinations on Mars, the moon, Europa, and other planets and moons.
The two primary navigation components within COBALT include the Langley Research Center’s Navigation Doppler Lidar, which provides ultra-precise velocity and line-of-sight range measurements, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Lander Vision System, which provides navigation estimates relative to an existing surface map. The integrated system is being flight tested onboard a Masten Space Systems suborbital rocket vehicle called Xodiac. The COBALT project is led by the Johnson Space Center, with funding provided through the Game Changing Development, Flight Opportunities program, and Advanced Exploration Systems programs.
COBALT free flight tests, or untethered, on the rocket coming soon.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five space technologies to test on low-gravity-simulating aircraft, high-altitude balloons or suborbital rockets. The opportunity to fly on these vehicles helps advance technologies closer to practical use by taking them from a laboratory environment to the real world.
Sierra Nevada Corporation delivered its Dream Chaser spacecraft Wednesday to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, located on Edwards Air Force Base. The spacecraft will undergo several months of testing at the center in preparation for its approach and landing flight on the base’s 22L runway.
The test series is part of a developmental space act agreement SNC has with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The upcoming test campaign will help SNC validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser.
The Dream Chaser is also being prepared to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract beginning in 2019. The data that SNC gathers from this test campaign will help influence and inform the final design of the cargo Dream Chaser, which will fly at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the space station by 2024.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has selected 13 space technology payloads to flight test on parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons or suborbital launch vehicles to demonstrate new technologies. The selections were made through the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington.