Boeing Starliner Commercial Crew Delay: ~3 Years

Boeing’s first crewed Starliner finished initial production at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. and is readied for its cross-country trip. (Credit: Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On March 26, Vice President Mike Pence went to Huntsville, Ala., to declare that the Trump Administration would use “any means necessary” to accelerate the return of American astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024 — four years earlier than planned.

Pence was putting Huntsville-based Marshall Space Flight Center and prime contractor Boeing on notice to get the delayed, over budget Space Launch System (SLS) being built to accomplish that goal back on track. If they didn’t, the administration would find other rockets to do the job.

In his effort to accelerate the Artemis lunar program, however, Pence unintentionally contributed to delays in NASA’s behind schedule effort to launch astronauts to a much closer location: low Earth orbit.

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Douglas Loverro is NASA’s New Head of Human Spaceflight

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Wednesday named Douglas Loverro as the agency’s new associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Loverro succeeds former astronaut Kenneth Bowersox, who has been acting associate administrator since July.

“I worked with Doug for many years on the Hill, and he is a respected strategic leader in both civilian and defense programs, overseeing the development and implementation of highly complicated systems,” said Bridenstine from NASA Headquarters in Washington. “He is known for his strong, bipartisan work and his experience with large programs will be of great benefit to NASA at this critical time in our final development of human spaceflight systems for both Commercial Crew and Artemis.”

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NASA Introduces Artemis Spacesuit

Artemis and Orion spacesuits. (Credit NASA/Joel Kowsky)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Amy Ross, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, left, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, second from left, watch as Kristine Davis, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, wearing a ground prototype of NASA’s new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), and Dustin Gohmert, Orion Crew Survival Systems Project Manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, wearing the Orion Crew Survival System suit, right, wave after being introduced by the administrator, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019 at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The xEMU suit improves on the suits previous worn on the Moon during the Apollo era and those currently in use for spacewalks outside the International Space Station and will be worn by first woman and next man as they explore the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis program. The Orion suit is designed for a custom fit and incorporates safety technology and mobility features that will help protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth.

Virtual Field Trips Take Students Inside NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

By Danielle Sempsrott
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

As NASA begins a new era of space exploration – returning to the Moon and eventually on to Mars – education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects is increasingly important to the future of our nation’s space program. 

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) plays an integral role in the agency’s deep space exploration goals as it works with commercial partners to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on American-built rockets and spacecraft.

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Video: Designing Flames Aboard the International Space Station

The Flame Design investigation is studying the quantity of soot produced under different flame conditions. The results of this experiment occurring aboard the International Space Station could enable the design of flames that are more sooty or soot-free, and allow for the creation of burner designs which are more efficient and less polluting.

Read more about this and other flame research aboard the International Space Station: https://go.nasa.gov/2LqSzja 

Learn more about the research being conducted on Station: https://www.nasa.gov/iss-science 

Follow Twitter updates on the science conducted aboard the space station: https://twitter.com/iss_research 

HD download link: https://archive.org/details/jsc2019m000710_Designing-Flames-Aboard-ISS

JAXA Call for Participation in Kibo Robot Programming Challenge

Japanese KIBO module

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will host a programming competition involving free-flying robots1 of JAXA and NASA in ISS/Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) known as “Kibo”.

The preliminary round of this competition will be between April and June 2020, with the final round being around September 2020. Starting today (October 11, 2019) until March 19, 2020 (17:00 JST), JAXA is calling for the participation of students in this competition on the following website.

【Entry details】
http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/kuoa/krpc/

【Entry Qualification2
Students up to graduate school students in Kibo-ABC member countries including Japan.

The participants will create programs to operate free-flying robots in ISS/Kibo and complete a mission.3 The competition will entail a time requirement and problem-solving ability.

This activity is based on Japan-U.S. cooperation through the Japan-US Open Platform Partnership Program (JP-US OP3). In order for JAXA and NASA to expand Kibo utilization in the Asia-Pacific region, an education program for operating robots and computer programming is being offered to students in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.

1. An autonomous flying robot intended to support astronauts (by taking photos, etc.)

2, Asian Beneficial Collaboration through Kibo Utilization (Kibo-ABC) is a collaborative program aiming to promote Kibo utilization in the Asia-Pacific region. Prospective participants must submit an application form to the space agency of their Kibo-ABC member country participating in the Kibo Robot Programming Challenge. Kibo-ABC; http://www.aprsaf.org/initiatives/kibo_abc/

3, Participants shall create programs to move the free-flying robot autonomously using the virtual simulator provided by JAXA and NASA.

Pegasus XL Launches ICON on Mission to Explore Frontier of Space

Illustration of ICON spacecraft. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — After successfully launching Thursday night, NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft is in orbit for a first-of-its-kind mission to study a region of space where changes can disrupt communications and satellite orbits, and even increase radiation risks to astronauts.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Teams with NASA to Develop Novel Rocket Engine Technology

LOS ANGELES, Calif., Oct. 8, 2019 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne has entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to design and manufacture a lightweight rocket engine thrust chamber assembly using innovative additive manufacturing processes and materials. The goal of the project is to reduce manufacturing costs and make a thrust chamber that is easily scalable to support a variety of missions, including America’s return to the Moon and subsequent missions to explore Mars.

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NASA’s ICON to Explore Boundary Between Earth and Space

Illustration of ICON spacecraft. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

UPDATE: Due to weather in the area, NASA and Northrop Grumman have decided to move the Pegasus XL and ICON launch 24-hours to October 10 at 9:30 p.m., with takeoff of the Stargazer L-1011 at 8:32 p.m. NASA’s live broadcast will begin tomorrow at 9:15 p.m. on www.nasa.gov/live.

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On Oct.10, 2019, NASA launches the Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, a spacecraft that will explore the dynamic region where Earth meets space: the ionosphere.   

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NASA Developing Next Generation Spacesuit Artemis Moon Program

Artist’s conception of astronaut in an advanced spacesuit working on the moon. (Credit; NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — At first glance, NASA’s new spacesuit that will be worn on Artemis missions might look like the suits that astronauts use for spacewalks outside the International Space Station today. However, 21st century moonwalkers will be able to accomplish much more complex tasks than their predecessors, thanks to strides in technological advances that started even before the Apollo program.

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Raytheon Wins $150 Million Contract to Help JPL Develop, Test New Space Systems

DULLES, Va., Oct. 8, 2019 (Raytheon PR) — Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) will develop new space systems and flight software, and provide engineering, training and operations support for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by Caltech, under a five-year, $150 million contract. The contract could potentially be worth $300 million over 10 years if all options are exercised.

“JPL’s pioneering spacecraft and rovers have led to groundbreaking discoveries of our solar system and beyond,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. “This is an incredible opportunity to continue enabling the future of space exploration.”

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SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Program Delay: 3+ Years

An instrumented mannequin sits in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

Updated Oct. 9, 2019 at 9:08 am PDT with paragraph summarizing some of the reasons for the schedule delays.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There’s been a lot of discussion over the last week or so about NASA’s delay plagued Commercial Crew Program, which is designed to restore the nation’s ability to launch astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011.

Prior to SpaceX CEO’s Elon Musk’s Sept. 28 webcast update on the Starship program, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed frustration that the company wasn’t more focused on the Crew Dragon program that hasn’t flown astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) yet.

Asked about the delay by a CNN journalist after giving an update on Starship’s progress on Sept. 28, Musk questioned whether Bridenstine was asking about delays at with commercial crew or with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). He laughed and mugged for the camera.

Musk’s rabid fans cheered it to be a sick burn against against a slow-moving space agency. The administrator diplomatically called it not helpful. He also revealed the cause of his pique.

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NASA Administrator to Visit SpaceX HQ on Thursday

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will tour SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Thursday, Oct. 10, to see the progress the company is making to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station from American soil as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Following the tour, SpaceX will host a media availability with Bridenstine, SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley – the crew for the Demo-2 flight test to the space station.

The media availability will be streamed live on Bridenstine’s Twitter account:

http://www.twitter/com/jimbridenstine.

SpaceX will carry NASA astronauts to the space station on the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, and help return the ability to fly American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. This is an important step toward sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024, as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

In March, SpaceX completed Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission, Demo-1, sending the uncrewed spacecraft to and from the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX currently are preparing for an upcoming in-flight abort test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system and the company’s second demonstration mission, Demo-2, which will send NASA astronauts to and from the station aboard Crew Dragon.

SpaceX may not be able to accommodate all who request accreditation, as space is very limited, and outlets may be asked to cap the number of representatives they request to send.

SpaceX will provide additional logistical details for credentialed media closer to the visit.

China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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