Rocket Lab Prepares to Launch CubeSat Mission for NASA

Electron It’s Business Time lift-off (Credits: Kieran Fanning & Sam Toms)

Huntington Beach, California (Rocket Lab PR) – US small satellite launch company Rocket Lab is gearing up for the company’s third orbital launch of the year, the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 mission for NASA. The launch is a significant moment for the small satellite industry, as it’s the first time NASA CubeSats will enjoy a dedicated ride to orbit on a commercial launch vehicle, thanks to NASA’s forward-leaning Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) initiative.  VCLS is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program headquartered at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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NASA Sends New Research, Hardware to Space Station on SpaceX Mission

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NASA PR) — Experiments in forest observation, protein crystal growth and in-space fuel transfer demonstration are heading to the International Space Station following the launch Wednesday of SpaceX’s 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

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NASA’s Mars InSight Flexes Its Arm

This image from InSight’s robotic-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera shows the instruments on the spacecraft’s deck, with the Martian surface of Elysium Planitia in the background. The image was received on Dec. 4, 2018 (Sol 8). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — New images from NASA’s Mars InSight lander show its robotic arm is ready to do some lifting.

With a reach of nearly 6 feet (2 meters), the arm will be used to pick up science instruments from the lander’s deck, gently setting them on the Martian surface at Elysium Planitia, the lava plain where InSight touched down on Nov. 26.

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NASA to Highlight Asteroid Bennu, Earth’s Polar Ice at AGU Meeting

Asteroid Bennu (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA researchers will present new findings on a wide range of Earth and space science topics at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Dec. 10-14 in Washington. NASA-related briefings will stream live on the agency’s website.

Briefing topics include: the latest findings from the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) mission to asteroid Bennu and the new Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) Earth-observing mission; the lingering impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico; and an update on Voyager 2 at the edge of the solar system.

Agency scientists, and their colleagues who use NASA research capabilities, also will present noteworthy findings during scientific sessions that are open to registered media.

Details on NASA presentations will be updated online throughout the week. For a complete and up-to-date schedule of briefings and media participation information, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/agu

For more information about NASA missions and programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

Northrop Grumman Plans Second Orion Launch Abort Motor Test

First Orion launch abort motor test on June 15, 2017. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Second Ground Test of Launch Abort Motor for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft

Northrop Grumman will conduct its second qualification test of its launch abort motor December 13 in Promontory, Utah. The abort motor is a major part of NASA’s Launch Abort System, which provides an enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts. The completion of this milestone brings NASA’s Orion spacecraft one step closer to its first flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

What: Ground test firing of launch abort motor

When: Thursday, December 13, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. (weather dependent)

Where: Northrop Grumman facility in Promontory, Utah

A public viewing area is available along State Road 83 North approximately 20 miles west of Corinne, Utah (see map – follow directions to Promontory). Please note: We recommend you arrive at the viewing site an hour prior to the test.

Please Note: Drones are NOT allowed to fly over Northrop Grumman property.

NASA, NSF Announce Support for White House STEM Engagement Plan

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with other federal agencies, have committed to a White House-led effort to strengthen education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Charting a Course for Success: A Federal Strategy for STEM Education lays out the federal government’s role in furthering STEM education by working with state and local stakeholders, the education community and American employers. Its goals include building a STEM-proficient citizenry, creating a STEM-ready workforce and removing barriers to STEM careers, especially for women and underrepresented groups.

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German Mars Mole HP3 Arrives at Red Planet Aboard NASA’s InSight

The DLR experiment Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package in operation. (Credit: NASA/JPL/DLR)
  • The InSight space probe touched down safely on the Elysium Planitia plains of Mars on 26 November 2018 at 20:52:59 CET.
  • Carrying the DLR experiment HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package), the mission will yield fresh insights into how the interior of Mars and rocky planets like Earth are structured and how they have evolved over time.
  • Focus: Space, exploration, robotics

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR)  — Just a few weeks from now, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) HP3 Mole will start hammering its way automatically into the subsoil of the Red Planet to measure its inner heat.

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Mars New Home ‘a Large Sandbox’

NASA’s InSight spacecraft flipped open the lens cover on its Instrument Context Camera (ICC) on Nov. 30, 2018, and captured this view of Mars. Located below the deck of the InSight lander, the ICC has a fisheye view, creating a curved horizon. Some clumps of dust are still visible on the camera’s lens. One of the spacecraft’s footpads can be seen in the lower right corner. The seismometer’s tether box is in the upper left corner. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. & ELYSIUM PLANATIA, Mars (NASA/JPL-Caltech) — With InSight safely on the surface of Mars, the mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is busy learning more about the spacecraft’s landing site. They knew when InSight landed on Nov. 26 that the spacecraft had touched down on target, a lava plain named Elysium Planitia. Now they’ve determined that the vehicle sits slightly tilted (about 4 degrees) in a shallow dust- and sand-filled impact crater known as a “hollow.” InSight has been engineered to operate on a surface with an inclination up to 15 degrees.

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Video: A Look at NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services Program

Video Caption: For years, tiny CubeSat satellites could only fly into space as hitchhikers, riding along with larger, primary payloads. Now, thanks to Venture Class Launch Services, these small packages of big science are getting their own rides into space on dedicated rockets — and on their own terms. Rocket Lab USA of Huntington Beach, California, and Virgin Orbit of Long Beach, California, are the two companies poised to propel CubeSats from coach class to first class.

Bridenstine Sees First Crew Dragon Flight Slipping into Spring

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

USA Today reports that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine believes the SpaceX Crew Dragon flight test scheduled for Jan. 7 will likely slip into spring.

That would mean the mission, which will not have a crew aboard for its flight to the International Space Station, would launch no sooner  than the first day of spring on March 20.

Bridenstine’s acknowledgment that January is a “very low probability” window is the first time the agency has publicly cast doubt on the timing of the scheduled launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The test flight of the SpaceX rocket and capsule is a key step in NASA’s efforts to resume U.S. transport to Earth’s orbit nearly a decade after the space shuttle was mothballed.

The administrator attributed the delay to challenges with several components, including landing parachutes. Some of those systems could be tested without flying them on the initial flight.

It’s a matter of determining “what configuration are we willing to accept as an agency and are we willing to waive certain items (and) how do we test those items,” Bridenstine told reporters at NASA headquarters.

But he said the test flight “will certainly be in the first half of 2019,” a schedule that still would accommodate a crewed flight by the end of the year.

Parabolic Arc earlier reported that not all of Dragon’s systems would be ready in time for the first flight.

A flight test of Crew Dragon with astronauts aboard is currently scheduled for June 2019. NASA would then certify the vehicle to carry astronauts to the space station on a commercial basis.

Boeing is scheduled to test its Starliner spacecraft with an automated test in March and a flight with crew in August. NASA could extend the crewed flight from a brief stay at the space station to a long-duration mission.

Both SpaceX and Boeing are scheduled to conduct abort tests in between their automated and crewed flight tests. SpaceX will conduct an in-flight abort test; Boeing’s abort test will be conducted from a launch pad.

NASA needs to have at least one of the crew systems functional by January 2020. That is when the last agency astronaut to fly aboard a Russian Soyuz vehicle on a paid basis is set to return.

NASA to Launch New Refueling Mission

By Isabelle Yan
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Md.

NASA will lay the foundation for spacecraft life extension and long duration space exploration with the upcoming launch of Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3), a mission that will pioneer techniques for storing and replenishing cryogenic spacecraft fuel.

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NASA to Provide Live Coverage of OSIRIS-REx’s Arrival at Bennu on Monday

Asteroid Bennu (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

LITTLETON, Colo. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous with its targeted asteroid, Bennu, on Monday, Dec. 3 at approximately noon EST.

NASA will air a live event from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. EST to highlight the arrival of the agency’s first asteroid sample return mission. The program will originate from OSIRIS-REx’s mission control at the Lockheed Martin Space facility in Littleton, Colorado, and will air on NASA Television, Facebook LiveUstreamYouTube and the agency’s website. NASA TV also will air an arrival preview program starting at 11:15 a.m. EST.

OSIRIS-REx launched in September 2016 and has been slowly approaching Bennu. The spacecraft will spend almost a year surveying the asteroid with five scientific instruments with the goal of selecting a location that is safe and scientifically interesting to collect the sample. OSIRIS-REx will return the sample to Earth in September 2023.

Participants in the arrival coverage event include:

  • Michelle Thaller, moderator, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md
  • Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md
  • Heather Enos, OSIRIS-REx deputy principal investigator, University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Mark Fisher, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft engineer, Lockheed Martin Space, Littleton, Colo.
  • Coralie Adam, OSIRIS-REx flight navigator, KinetX, Inc. Space Navigation and Flight Dynamics, Simi Valley, Calif.

Media can submit questions in advance to Danielle.M.Hauf@lmco.com. On Dec. 3. media and the public may ask questions using the hashtag #askNASA on Twitter or by leaving a comment on the livestream of the event on the OSIRIS-REx Mission Facebook page.

For more information about OSIRIS-REx, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

Mojave’s Masten Space Systems Selected for NASA CLPS Lunar Program

Lunar lander (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, CA, November 29 , 2018 (Masten Space Systems PR) – Masten Space Systems has been awarded NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) IDIQ contract vehicle to deliver payloads to the lunar service. CLPS is a multi-award contract worth $2.6B over the duration of its 10 year performance period. The contract funds launch, landing, and lunar surface systems with first missions targeted as early as 2021.

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Deep Space Systems Teams with Intuitive Machines for NASA Lunar Delivery Program

Concept art for rover. (Credit: Deep Space Systems)

Picture Caption (via Facebook): Concept art of the new lunar rover proposed by Deep Space Systems Inc., one of nine vendors awarded a contract on November 29 as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Program. Well done, Michelle Caillouet Bailey, Stephen Bailey, and the whole Deep Space Team!

Editor’s Note: Deep Space Systems is partnered with Intuitive Machines, which is another of the nine companies chosen from the CLPS program.