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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NASA’s Deep Space Exploration System is Coming Together

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

Editor’s Note: Last week the space agency said it is reassessing plans to conduct the first SLS/Orion flight during the first half of 2020.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will soon return humans to the Moon for decades to come, and the system that will transport astronauts from Earth to the Gateway near the Moon is literally coming together. Building on progress in 2018, most of the major manufacturing for the first mission is complete, and this year, teams will focus on final assembly, integration, and testing, as well as early work for future missions. NASA is focused on launching the first mission, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1),

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Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Part 1 of 2

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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SLS Liquid Hydrogen Tank Test Article Loaded into Test Stand

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

The largest piece of structural test hardware for America’s new deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, was loaded into Test Stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama Jan. 14, 2019. The liquid hydrogen tank is part of the rocket’s core stage that is more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, and stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines. The liquid hydrogen tank test article is structurally identical to the flight version of the tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens of hydraulic cylinders in the 215-foot-tall test stand will push and pull the tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight.

Mars InSight Lander Seen in First Images from Space

NASA’s InSight spacecraft, its heat shield and its parachute were imaged on Dec. 6 and 11 by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On Nov. 26, NASA’s InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight’s exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful camera onboard another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

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International Space Station Construction Began 20 Years Ago

Left: Launch of the Zarya Functional Cargo Block from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Right: Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center on the STS-88 mission to deliver the Unity Node 1 module. (Credit: NASA, Roscosmos)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The largest and most complex international construction project in space began on the steppes of Kazakhstan 20 years ago today. Atop its Proton rocket, on Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) thundered off its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome into cold wintry skies. Zarya was built by the Khrunichev in Moscow and served as a temporary control module for the nascent ISS.

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Partnership, Teamwork Enable Landmark Science Glovebox Launch to Space Station

NASA’s new Life Sciences Glovebox undergoes testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, prior to its Sept. 22 flight to the International Space Station. The research facility is 26 inches high, 35 inches wide and 24 inches deep, with a 15-cubic-foot workspace. It will enable researchers to conduct new experiments studying the effects of microgravity on the human body — aiding deep space exploration missions into the solar system. (Credits: NASA/Steve Moon)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s H-IIB rocket carries NASA’s Life Sciences Glovebox toward its berth on the International Space Station, hardware specialists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and their partners around the world are eager to initiate new, high-value biological research in Earth orbit.

The JAXA H-IIB rocket, hauling the state-of-the-art microgravity research facility and other cargo via the H-II Transport Vehicle-7 (HTV-7), successfully lifted off at 1:52 p.m. EDT on Sept. 22 from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

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Jody Singer Named Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Jody Singer (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Jody Singer director of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Singer has been the center’s deputy director since February 2016, and has been serving as acting director since the retirement of Todd May as center director in July. She is the first woman appointed to the position.

As Marshall’s director, Singer will lead one of NASA’s largest field installations, with almost 6,000 civil service and contractor employees and an annual budget of approximately $2.8 billion.

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The Legacy of NASA’s Dawn, Near End of Mission

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

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New NASA Competition Aims to Convert Carbon Dioxide into Exploration Sweet Success

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — When astronauts begin exploring Mars, they’ll need to use local resources, freeing up launch cargo space for other mission-critical supplies. Carbon dioxide is one resource readily abundant within the Martian atmosphere.

NASA’s new CO2 Conversion Challenge, conducted under the Centennial Challenges program, is a public competition seeking novel ways to convert carbon dioxide into useful compounds. Such technologies will allow us to manufacture products using local, indigenous resources on Mars, and can also be implemented on Earth by using both waste and atmospheric carbon dioxide as a resource.

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NASA Armstrong Collaborates with ULA for Cryogenic Fluid and Mid-Air Retrieval Demos

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA is partnering with six U.S. companies to develop 10 “tipping point” technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit the commercial space economy and future NASA missions, including lunar lander and deep space rocket engine technologies.

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, will collaborate with United Launch Alliance (ULA) on two selected proposals.

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Dawn’s Latest Orbit Reveals Dramatic New Views of Occator Crater

This mosaic of a prominent mound located on the western side of Cerealia Facula was obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on June 22, 2018 from an altitude of about 21 miles (34 kilometers). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft reached its lowest-ever and final orbit around dwarf planet Ceres on June 6 and has been returning thousands of stunning images and other data.

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NASA Tests Solar Sail for CubeSat that Will Study Near-Earth Asteroids

The NEA Scout solar sail is deployed at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite designed to study asteroids close to Earth, performed a successful deployment test June 28 of the solar sail that will launch on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The test was performed in an indoor clean room at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

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NASA Advances Additive Manufacturing For Rocket Propulsion

NASA successfully hot-fire tested a 3-D printed copper combustion chamber liner with an E-Beam Free Form Fabrication manufactured nickel-alloy jacket. The hardware must withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures inside the engine as extremely cold propellants are heated up and burned for propulsion. (Credit: NASA/MSFC/David Olive)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA is breaking ground in the world of additive manufacturing with the Low Cost Upper Stage-Class Propulsion project. Recently, the agency successfully hot-fire tested a combustion chamber at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama made using a new combination of 3-D printing techniques.

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Demonstration Proves Nuclear Fission System Can Provide Space Exploration Power

Artist’s concept of new fission power system on the lunar surface. (Credits: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable long-duration crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.

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