NASA Assigns Astronauts to Agency’s SpaceX Crew-4 Mission to Space Station

NASA crew members of the SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station. Pictured from left are NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has assigned two crew members to launch on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission – the fourth crew rotation flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the Crew-4 mission. Additional crew members will be assigned as mission specialists in the future by the agency’s international partners.

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Russia Achieves Clean Launch Record for Second Year in Row

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The outgoing year 2020 has become a difficult test for the entire world marked by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many world economic players have encountered objective difficulties in the implementation of previously outlined plans.

Unfortunately, Roscosmos also had to correct a number of plans, including those related to launch activities. Nevertheless, Roscosmos management put the quality of production and the safety of personnel working at the Russian rocket and space industry enterprises and cosmodromes at the forefront.

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The Year of the Four Spaceships: Final Report

Crew Dragon docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic and reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With the disruption and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t the easiest year to get things done. Keeping that in mind, let’s see how the companies did in 2020. (Spoiler Alert: they came up a little short.)

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Canada’s Top Space Highlights of 2020

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

LONGUEUIL, Que. (CSA PR) — It’s an understatement to say that 2020 was an exceptional year. As the year draws to a close, here’s a look at some of the most compelling, inspirational and incredible moments for Canada in space. Happy New Year!

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Report Recommends Former Spaceport America Executives be Investigated for Possible Criminal Charges

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)
  • Outside investigation concluded former Executive Director Dan Hicks ignored spending regulations, submitted falsified travel documents, and wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary travel and unrealistic projects
  • Hicks portrayed by staff as an incompetent manager who bullied employees
  • Ex-CFO Zach DeGregorio facilitated Hicks’ violations by improperly approving travel and ignoring rules and statutes
  • Former New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board Chairman Rick Holdridge accused of allowing violations to continue

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A highly critical investigation of Spaceport America has determined the New Mexico state government should consider formal criminal and/or administrative charges against former Executive Director Dan Hicks and former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Zach DeGregorio for their mishandling of the spaceport’s finances.

“As detailed above, there is evidence to conclude that Dan Hicks violated criminal and administrative statutes, as well as the State of New Mexico Governmental Compliance Act, and Governor Lujan Grisham’s Code of Conduct, during his tenure as Director of the Spaceport,” the report said.

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NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 Astronauts Headed to International Space Station

Crew-1 astronauts in the Crew Dragon capsule after reaching orbit. (Credit: NASA webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — An international crew of astronauts is en route to the International Space Station following a successful launch on the first NASA-certified commercial human spacecraft system in history. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission lifted off at 7:27 p.m. EST Sunday from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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NASA, SpaceX to Launch First Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members are seen seated in the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during crew equipment interface training. From left to right are NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, mission specialist; Victor Glover, pilot; and Mike Hopkins, Crew Dragon commander; and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, mission specialist. (Credit: SpaceX)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX are beginning a regular cadence of missions with astronauts launching on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 is the first crew rotation mission with four astronauts flying on a commercial spacecraft, and the first including an international partner.

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Energia, Space Adventures Sign Contract for Orbital Space Tourist Flight, Space Walk

VIENNA, Va., June 25, 2020 (Space Adventures PR) – S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation “Energia” and Space Adventures, Inc. signed a contract for a short duration spaceflight of two spaceflight participants on board the same “Soyuz” spacecraft to the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS).

One of the mission participants will have an opportunity to conduct a spacewalk outside the space station, becoming the first private citizen in history to experience open space. Accepted and secured candidates will be required to complete specialized training and additional simulations in preparation for the spacewalk attempt.

“A private citizen completing a spacewalk would be another huge step forward in private spaceflight. We appreciate the chance to celebrate two decades of orbital space tourism with our Russian partners by opening up another first-ever experience. We applaud our colleagues at Energia for working with us to create amazing new adventures in space,” said Eric Anderson, Chairman and CEO of Space Adventures, Inc.

About Space Adventures

Space Adventures, the company that organized the flights for the world’s first private space explorers, is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. metro area. It offers a variety of programs available today, including spaceflight missions to the International Space Station, around the Moon, record-breaking orbital missions, and various training and spaceflight qualification programs. The company’s orbital spaceflight clients include Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen, Anousheh Ansari, Charles Simonyi, Richard Garriott, and Guy Laliberté.

The Year of the Four Spaceships: A Progress Report

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA / Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With nearly half the year over, I thought it would be a good time to review the companies’ progress toward those milestones.

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NASA Networks Support 1st Commercial Orbital Launch of Astronauts From U.S.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On May 30, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the International Space Station as part of SpaceX’s second demonstration mission under the Commercial Crew Program — the first mission to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil to the station since the Space Shuttle Program.

The Crew Dragon ferried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to join the Expedition 63  crew aboard the space station. NASA’s communications networks — overseen by NASA’s  Space Communications and Navigation  (SCaN) program office — supported this Commercial Crew Program milestone, just as they will support all Crew Dragon and Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner  missions.

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Falcon 9, Crew Dragon Rolled Out to Launch Pad for Demo-2 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX rolled out Falcon 9 booster and Crew Dragon capsule that will carry astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on May 27.

Closeup of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The flight will be the first Crew Dragon to carry astronauts following an automated flight test to the space station last year. It will also be the first crewed launch to orbit since the shuttle was retired in July 2011.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is raised into a vertical position on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The launch vehicle and spacecraft were rolled out to Pad 39A for a brief static fire of the Falcon 9’s first stage engines.

The crew access arm is swung into position for the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA will provide continuous coverage of the flight from prior to launch through the Crew Dragon’s docking with the space station.

NASA Completes Negotiations for Extra Soyuz Seat

Luca Parmitano during Soyuz redocking (Credit: ESA/NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — To ensure the agency keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station until commercial crew capabilities are routinely available, NASA has completed negotiations with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall.

The agency received no responses from U.S. suppliers to a synopsis issued in the fall of 2019 for crew transportation in 2020. Boeing and SpaceX are in the final stages of development and testing of new human space transportation systems that will launch astronauts from American soil, including NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission scheduled for launch no earlier than May 27.

In case you missed it, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared why the Demo-2 mission is essential.

Editor’s Note: SpaceNews reports the price is $90.25 million.

Crew Dragon Flight to ISS Set for May

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

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Media accreditation is open for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test, which will send two astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. This mission will be the return of human spaceflight launch capabilities to the United States and the first launch of American astronauts aboard an American rocket and spacecraft since the final space shuttle mission on July 8, 2011.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the spacecraft, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX are currently targeting no earlier than mid-to-late May for launch.

This second demonstration mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is another end-to-end flight test of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, which will include launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations. It is the final flight test of the system before SpaceX is certified to carry out operational crew flights to and from the space station for NASA.

NASA is proactively monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation as it evolves. The agency will continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and communicate any updates that may impact mission planning or media access, as they become available.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry through a public-private partnership to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. The goal of the program is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

NASA to Fund Researchers to Fly on Suborbital Vehicles, Maybe Astronauts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After spending a few years in hibernation, the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) is being held in Colorado this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but I’ve been following all the action on Twitter.

In a keynote address on Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine floated the idea of letting the space agency’s astronauts fly aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicles. He also discussed certifying the systems to comply with a subset of NASA’s human ratings requirements.

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