NASA Extends BEAM Time on ISS

BEAM module interior (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, known as BEAM, will remain attached to the International Space Station to provide additional performance data on expandable habitat technologies and enable new technology demonstrations. NASA awarded a sole-source contract to Bigelow Aerospace to support extension of the life of the privately-owned module, and its use to stow spare space station hardware.

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NASA Extends Campaign to Nickname New Horizons’ Next Target

One artist’s concept of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons mission. This binary concept is based on telescope observations made at Patagonia, Argentina on July 17, 2017 when MU69 passed in front of a star. New Horizons theorize that it could be a single body with a large chunk taken out of it, or two bodies that are close together or even touching. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA is extending the campaign to find a temporary tag for the next flyby target of its New Horizons mission, giving the public until midnight Eastern Time on Dec. 6 to continue to help select a nickname for the Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69.

On New Year’s Day 2019, the New Horizons spacecraft will fly past this small, frozen Kuiper Belt world (or pair of worlds, if MU69 is a binary as scientists suspect) near the outer edge of our planetary system. This Kuiper Belt object (KBO) currently goes by the official designation “(486958) 2014 MU69.” But earlier this month, NASA and the New Horizons team asked the public for help in giving “MU69” a nickname to use for this exploration target. The public suggested such a wide range of creative and quality nicknames that the mission team wanted to give web visitors additional time to vote.

The public suggested such a wide range of creative and quality nicknames that the mission team wanted to give web visitors additional time to vote. More than 96,000 votes have been cast and 31,000 names nominated, with participation coming from 118 countries.

The campaign website (http://frontierworlds.seti.org) includes nicknames under consideration; site visitors can vote for their favorites or nominate names they think should be added to the ballot. The campaign will close at midnight EST/9 pm PST on Wednesday, Dec. 6. NASA and the New Horizons team will review the top vote-getters and announce a selection in early January.

Learn more about New Horizons, NASA’s mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, at http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons and http://pluto.jhuapl.edu.

Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years

Voyager 1 (Credit: NASA)

If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

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NASA Sets Orion Abort Test for April…2019

Video Caption: In a test targeted for April 2019 known as Ascent Abort-2, NASA will verify the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system, a tower on top of the crew module, can steer the capsule and astronauts inside it to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during ascent for deep-space missions. The test is quick, fast and high, lasting less than three minutes with the test crew module reaching an average speed of Mach 1.5, roughly 1020 miles per hour, at approximately 32,000 feet in altitude.

Trump Nominates Presidential Campaign COO to be NASA CFO

President Donald Trump signs an executive order reviving the National Space Council. (Credit: The White House)

President Donald Trump has nominated Jeffrey DeWit, who was CFO and COO of his presidential campaign, for the position of NASA CFO. The position requires Senate confirmation.

DeWit currently serves as state treasurer of Arizona and chairman of the Arizona State Board of Investments. He was elected to a four-year term as state treasurer in 2014, and he said he did not plan to run for reelection next year.

In January 2016, Trump named him campaign chairman for Arizona. At the end of July, DeWit became COO of the national campaign.

The Trump campaign said DeWit would “focus on the operational aspects of the campaign including budgetary and logistical matters. He will create operational efficiencies as the campaign moves into the general election phase.”

Critics in Arizona questioned how DeWit would be able to serve as state treasurer and COO of the Trump campaign at the same time. DeWit refused to resign or take a leave of absence from his state job, saying the campaign position would be a part-time, volunteer gig.

“This (campaign job) is something I’m doing in my free time so truly the only part of my life that will suffer is my time with the family for the next three months,” he said at the time.

Here’s the rest of DeWit’s biography from the White House announcement of his nomination.

Prior to assuming office in January 2015, he was CEO of ECHOtrade, a firm he started in 1999 and grew to more than 500 licensed professional traders worldwide. Previously he was a market maker on the exchange floor in financial futures contracts as a full member of the Chicago Board of Trade and the CME in Chicago.  Treasurer DeWit began his nearly 25-year finance career at Smith Barney in 1992. In 2016 he served as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the Donald J Trump for President campaign. He has an MBA from the University of Arizona and a BS in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Marketing from the University of Southern California (USC). He is also a National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Board Leadership Fellow. He is married to Marina and has three daughters, Delaney, Katie, and Jamie.

NASA Partners with Technology Innovators to Enable Future Exploration


WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected two teams of agency technologists for participation in the Early Career Initiative (ECI) program. The program encourages creativity and innovation among early-career NASA technologists by engaging them in hands-on technology development opportunities needed for future missions.

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Falcon Heavy Debut Slips to January

Artist’s conception of a Falcon Heavy launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has slipped the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy booster to January. The rocket, whose first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 cores with 27 engines, will lift off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  The flight will be preceded by a hold-down test on the launch pad in which all 27 first stage engines will be fired.

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NASA iTech Selects Top 25 Semifinalists in Innovation Competition


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA iTech has selected 25 of the most promising ideas submitted by innovators across the U.S. as semifinalists in Cycle 3.

NASA’s iTech is an initiative by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) to find innovative ideas that address important problems here on Earth and also hold great potential to overcome critical technology hurdles in future space exploration. Those ideas may come from small or large businesses, academia, and other government organizations that may not have previously had a forum to present their solutions to NASA leadership or their industry partners.

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Commercial Crew Providers Face Key Safety Reviews

Credit: NASA

It’s crunch time for commercial crew providers Boeing and SpaceX as the companies attempt to meet NASA’s safety requirement of one possible fatal accident in 270 flights.The space agency is planning a comprehensive safety review of the spacecraft next month.

But these commercial efforts face formidable obstacles in meeting safety requirements set by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, posing policy and public-relations dilemmas for the agency’s chiefs.

Experts say NASA likely will require inspections in space to reduce the threat of catastrophic accidents, a last-ditch safeguard that it had hoped to avoid when approving the plan three years ago. Still, it is unclear is whether such on-orbit checks by NASA would alleviate dangers from space debris and tiny meteor fragments, say experts inside and outside the agency….

The commercial designers are seeking to alleviate other risks. They are concerned that extra shielding to better safeguard equipment and crews from collisions with debris could make spacecraft too heavy. They also are examining risks associated with vibrations during launch, explosives that deploy parachutes, vulnerabilities of heat shields and other issues.

But their biggest safety challenge stems from the thousands of tiny meteors or space particles now prevalent in space that can damage or penetrate the space capsules. Traveling at approximately 17,000 miles an hour, even a paint chip can spark disaster. Boeing partly addressed this by changing its design to install Kevlar backing. SpaceX is relying on other features.

Support for Deep Space Gateway Grows in Japan

Boeing’s proposed Deep Space Gateway (Credit: Boeing)

Although the U.S. Congress has not given approval for NASA’s proposed Deep Space Gateway, support for the project appears to be building in Japan as a follow-on to the nation’s partnership in the  International Space Station.

Japan hopes to join the U.S. project to construct a spaceport in lunar orbit in the latter half of the 2020s, in an effort to realize a lunar surface exploration mission by a Japanese astronaut. The government plans to submit a draft report on the project to a meeting of a governmental panel of space policy experts.

By joining an international space probe, the nation is expected to obtain scientific results, and also boost its competitiveness in the space industry and assert Japan’s leadership in the field of space utilization, the sources said….

Tokyo has decided it is a realistic goal to send astronauts for the first time to the lunar surface for exploration activities, by joining the U.S. project and contributing its expertise in such areas as the docking of the space station and supply ship. Japan will draw on its experience of close cooperation with the United States regarding ISS operations.

Any serious movement toward the Deep Space Gateway in the United States will probably have to wait until after the Senate approves an administrator to lead NASA. The Trump’s Administration’s choice, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, had a contentious confirmation hearing earlier this month before the Senate Commerce Committee.

The fate of Bridenstine’s nomination is uncertain in the full Senate with many Democrats and at least one Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), opposing his confirmation. Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 advantage in the upper chamber.

Any funding proposal for the Deep Space Gateway would be included in the fiscal year 2019 budget, which the administration would likely release in February.

Defense Measure Calls for Arlington Memorial to Apollo 1 Crew

Astronauts, from the left, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee stand near Cape Kennedy’s Launch Complex 34 during training for Apollo 1 in January 1967. (Credits: NASA)

The National Defense Authorization Act passed by both houses of Congress calls for the construction of a memorial marker to the crew of Apollo 1 at Arlington National Cemetery. The measure awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

The United States Army will lead the effort to create the memorial in consultation with NASA, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery.

Astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were killed when a flash fire swept through their Apollo 1 command module during a practice countdown on Jan. 27, 1967. The astronauts had been scheduled to fly the first manned test of the spacecraft in Earth orbit the following month.

Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts who became the second American in space aboard Liberty Bell 7 and commanded Gemini 3, the first manned flight of that two-person spacecraft. White became the first American to walk in space during the Gemini 4 mission. Chaffee was scheduled to make his first spaceflight aboard Apollo 1.

The fire resulted in major overhaul of the troubled Apollo command module. The first manned flight of the Apollo program did not occur until October 1968, more than 20 months after the fire.

NASA’s Top Management Challenges: Deep Space Exploration

An expanded view of the next configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, including the four RL10 engines. (Credit: NASA)

A recent Inspector General report, NASA’s 2017 Top Management and Performance Challenges, finds the space agency is facing serious challenges with its deep space exploration effort. The space agency is dealing with slipping schedules, constrained budgets, and thin funding reserves as it seeks to complete development of the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and Exploration Ground Systems. NASA also has only high-level plans for other systems that will be required to send astronauts on useful deep-space missions.

Key excerpts from the report follow.

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NASA Announces Early Stage Innovation Space Technology Research Grants

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 university-led proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high-priority needs of America’s space program.

The universities will work on their proposed research and development projects for up to a three-year period, and will receive as much as $500,000 each in Early Stage Innovations (ESI) grant funding from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program.

“These are critical space exploration technology challenges that NASA needs solutions for,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “We are looking forward to the technology development that comes out of these research grants.”

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NASA Is Sending E. coli to Space for Astronaut Health

EcAMSat (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Ever wonder what would happen if you got sick in space? NASA has sent bacteria samples into low-Earth orbit to help find out.

One of the agency’s latest small satellite experiments is the E. coli Anti-Microbial Satellite, or EcAMSat, which will explore the genetic basis for how effectively antibiotics can combat E. coli bacteria in the low gravity of space. This CubeSat – a spacecraft the size of a shoebox built from cube-shaped units – has just been deployed from the space station, and may help us improve how we fight infections, providing safer journeys for astronauts on future voyages, and offer benefits for medicine here on Earth.

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BEAM Work and Vision Checks for Crew Today

BEAM module interior (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — More CubeSats were ejected from the International Space Station today to demonstrate and validate new technologies. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 53 crew continued outfitting an experimental module and studying life science.

Two more tiny satellites were deployed from the Kibo laboratory module into Earth orbit today to research a variety of new technologies and space weather. One of the nanosatellites, known as TechEdSat, seeks to develop and demonstrate spacecraft and payload deorbit techniques. The OSIRIS-3U CubeSat will measure the Earth’s ionosphere in coordination with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Commander Randy Bresnik was back inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) today with Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Joe Acaba. The astronauts are converting the experimental habitat into a cargo platform by replacing old BEAM hardware with new electronics and stowage gear.

Eye exams are on the schedule this week as two cosmonauts and two astronauts took turns playing eye doctor and patient today. Alex Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos started first with the optical coherence tomography hardware using a laptop computer. Next, Nespoli and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei took their turn to help doctors on the ground understand the vision changes that take place in space.