Report: NASA Needs to Improve Management of Major Projects

An artist’s concept of the 2012 Mars Curiosity Landing. Mars 2020 will use a nearly identical landing system, but with added precision from the Lander Vision System. (Credits: NASA Image /JPL-Caltech)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s culture of excessive optimism and its tendency to underestimate technical challenges combine with funding instability to cause cost overruns and schedule delays, according to a new report from the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The document identified NASA’s management of major projects as one of the space agency’s top seven performance challenges. [Full Report]

(more…)

Germany Invests 3.3 Billion Euros in European Space Exploration, Becomes ESA’s Largest Contributor

  • Three years after the last ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, held in Lucerne, Switzerland, government representatives from the 22 Member States met in Seville, Spain, on 27 and 28 November 2019 and committed a total of almost 14.4 billion euro [$15.87 billion] for space programmes over the next few years.
  • Germany is contributing 3.3 billion euro [$3.6 billion] to ESA programmes focusing on Earth observation, telecommunications, technological advancement and commercialisation / NewSpace.
  • At 22.9 percent, Germany is now ESA’s largest contributor, followed by France (18.5 percent, 2.66 billion euro), Italy (15.9 percent, 2.28 billion euro) and the United Kingdom (11.5 percent, 1.65 billion euro).
  • The ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level is the highest political decision-making body, and it defines the content and financial framework for ESA’s space programmes every two to three years.
(more…)

Going with the Flow: EGS Team Tests Flow of Cryogenic Fluids

A liquid hydrogen storage tank is photographed at Launch Pad 39B on Nov. 8, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

By Danielle Sempsrott
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

With NASA’s mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B for final verification and testing, the agency’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team has completed another critical set of tests, bringing the agency even closer to the first integrated launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission. Over the course of two weekends, teams tested the flow of cryogenic fluids through the pad’s infrastructure – those systems that will send liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) to the rocket at the time of launch.

(more…)

Orion Arrives at Plum Brook for Environmental Testing

The Super Guppy is opened at dawn to reveal Orion spacecraft inside. (Credits: NASA/Bridget Caswell)

SANDUSKY, Ohio (NASA PR) — The Artemis I Orion spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 26 for in-space environmental testing in preparation for Artemis I.

(more…)

Orion Spacecraft Arrives in Ohio Aboard the Super Guppy

The Super Guppy is opened at dawn to reveal Orion spacecraft inside. (Credits: NASA/Bridget Caswell)


MANSFIELD, Ohio (NASA PR) — Almost 1,500 people turned out Sunday, November 24 to watch NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft arrive at Mansfield Lahm Airport with the Orion spacecraft for Artemis I aboard.  After viewing exhibits, the crowd gathered at the flight line to await the aircraft.

At about 4:35 p.m. EST, the Guppy, which had traveled from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, appeared in the eastern sky on approach.

Super Guppy with Orion spacecraft aboard comes in for a landing. (Credits: NASA/Marvin Smith)

Once the Guppy touched down, there was a loud cheer from the crowd as it taxied to a stop for the night just as the sun began to set. 

The nose of the Guppy was opened at sunrise on Monday, November 25  revealing the packaged Orion spacecraft inside. It has been removed from the aircraft and is loaded onto a large flatbed trailer so it can be transported to NASA’s Plum Brook Station for testing.

Crowds gather to greet Super Guppy with Orion spacecraft aboard. (Credits: NASA/Marvin Smith)

Completed in two phases inside the world’s largest vacuum chamber, testing will begin with a thermal test, which will last approximately 60 days, while Orion’s systems are powered-on under vacuum conditions that simulate the space environment.

During this phase, the spacecraft will be subjected to extreme temperatures, ranging from -250 to 300-degrees Fahrenheit, to replicate flying in-and-out of sunlight and shadow in space. The second phase is an electromagnetic interference and compatibility test, lasting about 14 days. This testing will ensure the spacecraft’s electronics work properly when operated at the same time.

Super Guppy with Orion spacecraft inside parked on the tarmac in Ohio. (Credits: NASA/Bridget Caswell)

After successful completion, the spacecraft will return to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will begin integration with the powerful Space Launch System rocket for the Artemis I launch.

View more images of Orion’s arrival in Ohio.

NASA Struggles with Shortage of Skilled Workers

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is already hampered by a shortfall of skilled workers, a problem that will be exacerbated as the space agency gears up to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 in the Artemis program.

That is the conclusion of a new report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The review identified attracting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce as one of the space agency’s seven biggest management and performance challenges. [Full Report]

(more…)

NASA Attaches First of 4 RS-25 Engines to Artemis I Rocket Stage

An RS-25 engine is installed on the first Space Launch System core. (Credit: NASA/Jude Guidry)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have structurally mated the first of four RS-25 engines to the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will help power the first Artemis mission to the Moon.

Integration of the RS-25 engines to the recently completed core stage structure is a collaborative, multistep process for NASA and its partners Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engines lead contractor. To complete the installation, the technicians will now integrate the propulsion and electrical systems. 

The installation process will be repeated for each of the four RS-25 engines. The four RS-25 engines used for Artemis I were delivered to Michoud from Aerojet Rocketdyne’s facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in June.

The engines, located at the bottom of the core stage in a square pattern, are fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. During launch and flight, the four engines will fire nonstop for 8.5 minutes, emitting hot gases from each nozzle 13 times faster than the speed of sound. The completed core stage with all four engines attached will be the largest rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages for the Apollo Program.

NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with Orion and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Bridenstine to Give Public Update on NASA’s Moon Program on Friday

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The public is invited to join NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at 9:40 a.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 25, for an update on the agency’s Artemis program and the critical role international partnerships have in returning astronauts to the Moon and going on to Mars.

(more…)

Video: The First Artemis Mission Around the Moon

Video Caption: Our Artemis program will return humans to the Moon by 2024. Artemis I, the first Artemis mission, will test all of the human rated systems in deep space — including the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket. This is its 26 day journey… in 30 seconds.

What is Artemis? https://go.nasa.gov/30P0EEq

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.

(more…)

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.

Orion Suit Equipped to Expect the Unexpected on Artemis Missions

NASA is building the Orion Crew Survival System spacesuit to protect astronauts during launch, reentry and emergency situations during Artemis missions. (Credit NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — When astronauts are hours away from launching on Artemis missions to the Moon, they’ll put on a brightly colored orange spacesuit called the Orion Crew Survival System (OCSS) suit. It is designed for a custom fit and equipped with safety technology and mobility features to 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.

NASA is building the Orion Crew Survival System spacesuit to protect astronauts during launch, reentry and emergency situations during Artemis missions.

Many missions require two spacesuits – one worn outside a spacecraft during spacewalks that is designed as a self-contained personal spaceship, and another worn inside a spacecraft during high-risk parts of a mission, such as inside Orion during launch and reentry through Earth’s atmosphere. NASA is building both for Artemis missions. Drawing on six decades of spaceflight experience, NASA is developing its Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU, for moonwalks, and has reengineered elements of the crew survival suit worn on the space shuttle to enhance range of motion and improve safety for the astronauts who will wear it to get to the Moon and back to Earth.

(more…)

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.

(more…)











NASA, CERN Timepix Technology Advances Miniaturized Radiation Detection

Space radiation (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — As we prepare to send the first woman and next man to the Moon and on to Mars, NASA, with support from the University of Houston, has been working to develop advanced radiation detectors to better protect astronauts and vital spacecraft systems during solar storms. The detectors are based on technology that was originally developed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) to detect particle collisions in high-energy physics experiments. Storms emanating from our Sun release invisible, high energy particles, also called ionizing radiation, into space at relativistic speeds that can damage spacecraft electronics and systems, and impact the health of astronauts. 

(more…)

Senate Appropriators Boost NASA’s Budget by $1.25 Billion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) – The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act, which makes investments to support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities.

The $70.833 billion measure is $6.715 billion above the FY2019 enacted level and funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and related agencies. 

(more…)