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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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NASA Joins Last of Five Sections for Space Launch System Rocket Stage

NASA finished assembling the main structural components for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans fully integrated the last piece of the 212-foot-tall core stage by adding the engine section to the rest of the previously assembled structure. Boeing technicians bolted the engine section to the stage’s liquid hydrogen propellant tank. (Credit: NASA/Steven Seipel)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — NASA finished assembling and joining the main structural components for the largest rocket stage the agency has built since the Saturn V that sent Apollo astronauts to the Moon. Engineers at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans connected the last of the five sections of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. The stage will produce 2 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I, the first flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon.

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GAO Report on SLS/Orion: Making Progress, But….

SLS core stage pathfinder is lifted onto the Stennis B-2 test stand (Credits: NASA/SSC)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Government Accountability Office released another depressing review this week of NASA’s Artemis program, specifically looking at the space agency’s progress on the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and the exploration ground systems (EGS) required to support them.

Cristina Chaplain, GAO’s director of Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, summarized the report’s conclusions on Wednesday in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

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Pad 39B Water Flow Test Comes Through Loud and Clear

NASA continued its preparation for the Artemis I mission with a successful water flow test on the mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B on Friday, Sept. 13. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA eclipsed another milestone in its plan to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024 with the latest successful water flow test on the mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B.

Using adjustments from the first water flow test event in July, the Friday, Sept. 13 exercise demonstrated the capability of the sound suppression system that will be used for launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) for the Artemis I mission.

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House Science Chairwoman Slams Trump Administration’s Artemis Lunar Plans

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

Opening Statement (Excerpt)

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics Hearing:
Developing Core Capabilities for Deep Space Exploration: An Update on NASA’s SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

….I also want to echo Chairwoman Horn’s comment about the lateness of NASA’s testimony. NASA was provided ample advance notice of this hearing and more than sufficient time to prepare testimony and have it reviewed by OMB and whomever else looks over NASA’s testimony these days. The fact that this testimony is overdue is not only frustrating, it leaves Members little opportunity to consider NASA’s testimony in advance of the hearing. If NASA and the Administration can’t meet simple hearing deadlines, it doesn’t inspire great confidence in their ability to meet the much harder deadline of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.

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Complete Orion Starts Testing for Shipping to Plum Brook

First image of the complete Orion spacecraft that will fly around the Moon on the Artemis-1 mission. (Credit: NASA–R. Sinyak)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (ESA PR) — The first Orion spacecraft was unveiled in its entirety on 18 July at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. After assembling the European Service Module in Bremen, Germany, and the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module in USA, the three elements of the spacecraft are now integrated into the full Orion that stands almost as high as a two-storey house.

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Orion Hot Fire Test Blazing Safe Trail for NASA Moon Missions

Hot fire of the attitude control motor on Orion’s launch abort system (LAS), the second to last test before it’s qualified for Artemis 2 – the first flight with astronauts. (Credit: NASA)

The Northrop Grumman built attitude control motor (ACM) on Orion’s launch abort system was successfully tested on August 22, at their facility in Elkton, Maryland.

The 30-second trial by fire was the second to last test before it’s qualified for human spaceflight on Artemis 2 — the first mission with astronauts. During the static test, the ACM produced more than 7,000 pounds of thrust from eight valves, providing enough force to steer Orion and its crew to a safe distance.

Hot fire of the attitude control motor on Orion’s launch abort system. (Credit: NASA)

The launch abort system is designed to transport Orion and its crew to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or ascent. It consists of three solid rocket motors: the abort motor pulls the crew module away from the launch vehicle; the ACM steers and orients the capsule; then the jettison motor ignites to separate the launch abort system from Orion for parachute deployment and a safe crew landing.

All three motors will be certified for future crewed flights after qualification tests are completed later this year. The launch abort system was stress tested earlier this year during the successful Ascent Abort-2 test.

These achievements brings Orion closer to safe flights with astronauts, paving the way for the first woman and the next man to land on the Moon by 2024.

How NASA Will Protect Astronauts From Space Radiation at the Moon

Space radiation is a key factor for astronaut safety as they venture to the Moon. NASA is exploring a variety of techniques and technology to mitigate different types of radiation during space travel. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Joy Ng)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — August 1972, as NASA scientist Ian Richardson remembers it, was hot. In Surrey, England, where he grew up, the fields were brown and dry, and people tried to stay indoors — out of the Sun, televisions on. But for several days that month, his TV picture kept breaking up. “Do not adjust your set,” he recalls the BBC announcing. “Heat isn’t causing the interference. It’s sunspots.”

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Orion’s Service Module Completes Critical Propulsion Test

WHITE SANDS, NM (NASA PR) — NASA is building a system to send astronauts to the Moon for Artemis missions, and that includes tests to make sure the Orion spacecraft is prepared to safely carry crew on an alternate mission profile in the face of unexpected problems. That capability was most recently demonstrated with a successful, continuous 12-minute firing of Orion’s propulsion system that simulated a possible alternate mission scenario.

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