Europa Clipper’s Mission to Jupiter’s Icy Moon Confirmed

Europa Clipper in orbit around Europa. (Credit; NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — An icy ocean world in our solar system that could tell us more about the potential for life on other worlds is coming into focus with confirmation of the EuropaClipper mission’s next phase. The decision allows the mission to progress to completion of final design, followed by the construction and testing of the entire spacecraft and science payload.  

“We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We are building upon the scientific insights received from the flagship Galileo and Cassini spacecraft and working to advance our understanding of our cosmic origin, and even life elsewhere.”

The mission will conduct an in-depth exploration of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life, honing our insights into astrobiology.  To develop this mission in the most cost-effective fashion, NASA is targeting to have the Europa Clipper spacecraft complete and ready for launch as early as 2023. The agency baseline commitment, however, supports a launch readiness date by 2025. 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for the Science Mission Directorate. Europa Clipper is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. 

NASA Television Coverage Set for Uncrewed Soyuz Mission to Space Station

Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft docking at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — An uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft is set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 11:38 p.m. EDT (8:38 a.m. Aug. 22 Baikonur time) on a test flight to validate the spacecraft’s compatibility with a revamped Soyuz booster rocket. The booster will be used to transport crews to the International Space Station beginning in spring 2020.

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Babin Disappointed in NASA Decision to Make NASA Marshall Lead Center for Lunar Lander

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

DEER PARK, Texas – Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36) issued the following statement in response to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s announcement today awarding the lunar lander program management to Marshall Space Flight Center.

“I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar lander program management at the Johnson Space Center (JSC),” said Babin. “Marshall Space Flight Center does tremendous work for our nation’s space program, but the knowledge base and skill set for this task unquestionably resides at JSC where the Apollo lunar lander program was successfully managed. Yesterday, I joined Senators Cruz and Cornyn in sending a letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine requesting that this decision be reconsidered.”

To view the letter sent to Administrator Bridenstine, please click here.

Northrop Grumman Becomes First Commercial Partner to Use Vehicle Assembly Building

From left to right, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Northrop Grumman Vice President and OmegA Capture Lead Kent Rominger, and Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, cut the ribbon in High Bay 2. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — After spending more than 50 years supporting NASA’s human spaceflight programs, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a landmark at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is getting its first commercial tenant.

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NASA Selects Smallsat Proposals for Satellites to Study Space Weather

In this image, taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory on Feb. 27, 2000, a coronal mass ejection is seen erupting from the Sun, which is hidden by the disk in the middle, so the fainter material around it can be seen. (Credits: ESA/NASA/SOHO)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected two proposals to demonstrate small satellite technologies to improve science observations in deep space, which could help NASA develop better models to predict space weather events that can affect astronauts and spacecraft.

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NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program’s Human Lunar Lander Development

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., August 16, 2019 (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was joined Friday by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to announce the center’s new role leading the agency’s Human Landing System Program for its return to the Moon by 2024.

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NASA Marshall’s Lisa Watson-Morgan to Manage Human Landing System Program

Lisa Watson-Morgan (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan has been named program manager for NASA’s Human Landing System, tasked with rapid development of the lander that will safely carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon’s surface in 2024. That voyage, a critical milestone in NASA’s bold new Artemis Program, will pave the way for a long-term human presence on the Moon by 2028, reigniting America’s leadership in crewed exploration of the solar system and taking the next giant leap toward sending human explorers to Mars.

Watson-Morgan, a 30-year NASA veteran engineer and manager, previously served as deputy director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Canadian Space Robot Dextre to Expand Ability to Refuel Spacecraft in Orbit

Rendering of Dextre on the end of Canadarm2, holding an advanced vision system. (Credit: CSA/Neptec)

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (CSA PR) — From August 13 to 14, Dextre, Canada’s robotic handyman on the International Space Station, will conduct a demonstration of how robots could refuel satellites and spacecraft to extend their useful lifetimes.

NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) will use Dextre’s proven ability to perform highly delicate tasks on the International Space Station, to test the hardware and procedures needed to store and transfer cryogenic fluids.

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Texas Congressional Delegation Wants Crewed Lunar Lander Managed by NASA Johnson

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is set to speak at Marshall Space Flight Center on Friday where he is expected to announce that the Alabama field center will manage the lander being designed to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024.

Members of Texas’ Congressional delegation are urging Bridenstine to hold off on the decision.

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) today urged NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider his decision and refrain from an official announcement until an official briefing is held.

In a letter to Administrator Bridenstine, the lawmakers wrote:

“The Johnson Space Center has served as NASA’s lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century. […] ‘Houston’ was one of the first words ever uttered on the Moon, and Houston, the city that last sent man to the Moon, should be where the lander that will once again send Americans to the lunar surface is developed. Accordingly, we request that you reconsider this decision, and hold off on any formal announcements until we can receive a briefing on this matter that includes the timeline, projected cost, and rationale for this decision.”

No word yet on whether the event will go on as scheduled at 3:10 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 16. The remarks will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website

A press release and the letter sent to Bridenstine follow.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to a news report that NASA will designate the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to lead the development of the human-classed lunar lander for the Artemis program over the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas – which has served as NASA’s lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century – U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) today urged NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider his decision and refrain from an official announcement until an official briefing is held.

In a letter to Administrator Bridenstine, the lawmakers wrote:

“The Johnson Space Center has served as NASA’s lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century. […] ‘Houston’ was one of the first words ever uttered on the Moon, and Houston, the city that last sent man to the Moon, should be where the lander that will once again send Americans to the lunar surface is developed. Accordingly, we request that you reconsider this decision, and hold off on any formal announcements until we can receive a briefing on this matter that includes the timeline, projected cost, and rationale for this decision.”

In 2018, Sens. Cruz and Cornyn sent a letter with Rep. Babin, and former Reps. John Culberson (R-Texas), and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) requesting the Johnson Space Center be the location of the new lunar lander program.

The follow-up letter to Administrator Bridenstine can be read here and below.

August 15, 2019

The Honorable James F. Bridenstine
Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
300 E. St. SW
Washington, D.C. 20546

Dear Administrator Bridenstine,

We are writing to you today in light of a recent report that this Friday, August 16, 2019, you plan to announce that the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama will manage the development of the lunar lander for the Artemis program and oversee the commercial development of two of the three elements, the Transfer Element and Descent Element, of that lander. According to that same report the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, will oversee the commercial development of only one of three elements, the Ascent Element. This is very troubling if accurate.

While the Marshall Space Flight Center specializes in rocketry and spacecraft propulsion, and is undoubtedly the leader in these areas, it is the Johnson Space Center, which has been, and continues to be, ground zero for human space exploration. We are deeply concerned that NASA is not only disregarding this history but that splitting up the work on the lander between two different geographic locations is an unnecessary and a counterproductive departure from the unquestionable success of the previous lunar lander program. The integration of development responsibilities into one center-ideally the center with the longest history and deepest institutional knowledge of human space exploration-would be the most cost-efficient, streamlined, and effective approach, and is the approach that NASA should pursue.

As you may recall, on August 28, 2018, we sent you a letter articulating the reasons why the Johnson Space Center would be the most appropriate home for the lunar lander program. In that letter, we highlighted the Johnson Space Center’s storied history as the lead center for human spaceflight and deep experience with human space exploration, and expressed our strong desire that it be selected as the NASA Center responsible for establishing and leading the lunar lander program. While much has changed in the intervening year, our feelings on this matter have not.

The Johnson Space Center has served as NASA’s lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century. It is home to our nation’s astronaut corps, the International Space Station mission operations, and the Orion crew, and the men and women working there possess both the institutional knowledge and technical expertise needed to manage all facets of the successful development of a lunar lander for the Artemis program. “Houston” was one of the first words ever uttered on the Moon, and Houston, the city that last sent man to the Moon, should be where the lander that will once again send Americans to the lunar surface is developed.

Accordingly, we request that you reconsider this decision, and hold off on any formal announcements until we receive a briefing on this matter that includes the timeline, projected cost, and rational for this decision.

Please contact Duncan Rankin at 202-224-5922, Andrew Cooper at 202-224-2934, and Steve Janushkowsky at 202-225-1555 with any questions regarding this request. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

NASA and SpaceX: Dragon Crew Extraction Rehearsal

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken practice extraction from a Crew Dragon capsule. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

On August 13, 2019, NASA at the Trident Basin in Cape Canaveral, Florida, astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken work with teams from NASA and SpaceX to rehearse crew extraction from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which will be used to carry humans to the International Space Station. Using the ship Go Searcher to recover their spacecraft after splashdown and a mock-up of the Crew Dragon, the teams worked through the steps necessary to get Hurley and Behnken safely out of the Dragon. The pair will fly to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon for the SpaceX Demo-2 mission. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Lawrence Livermore Develops Innovative CubeSats

Engineers and scientists complete the installation of the laser heterodyne radiometer (LHR) into the MiniCarb cube satellite, or CubeSat. Clockwise from bottom left is Lance Simms from Lawrence Livermore and AJ DiGregorio, Guru Ramu, and Jenny Young from NASA. (Not pictured: Emily Wilson, Darrell Carter, and Vincent Riot.) (Credit: Randy Wong)

LIVERMORE, Calif. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory PR) — The population of human-made satellites orbiting Earth has skyrocketed over the past 60 years. Launches nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017, and a significant contributor to this growth has been the development and implementation of small satellites that are easier and less expensive to build and more cost efficient to launch than conventional ones. Today, the hottest destination for these spacecraft is low-Earth orbit (LEO)—in the range of a few hundred kilometers above the planet’s surface.

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NASA TV to Air US Spacewalk, Briefing on Space Station Docking Port Install

The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized “trunk” section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 24. (Credit: NASA/Isaac Watson)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Experts from NASA will preview an upcoming spacewalk with two American astronauts outside the International Space Station to complete the outfitting of docking ports during a briefing at 2 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 16, at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Live coverage of the briefing will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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SNC Selects ULA’s Vulcan Centaur for Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Launches Beginning in 2021

Dream Chaser lands (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev., August 14, 2019 (Sierra Nevada PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader, owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, selected United Launch Alliance (ULA) as the launch vehicle provider for the Dream Chaser® spacecraft’s six NASA missions to the International Space Station.  The Dream Chaser will launch aboard ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rockets for its cargo resupply and return services to the space station, starting in 2021.

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NASA Orders Independent Review of CASIS Management of ISS National Laboratory

CASIS is the non-profit organization established to manage research on the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory. There has been criticism over the years of CASIS’ leadership and its commercialization of ISS research.