Rocket Roundup: NASA Doesn’t Get What It Wanted or Needed

The core stage for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is seen in the B-2 Test Stand during a scheduled eight minute duration hot fire test, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The four RS-25 engines fired for a little more than one minute. The hot fire test is the final stage of the Green Run test series, a comprehensive assessment of the Space Launch System’s core stage prior to launching the Artemis I mission to the Moon. (Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There’s an old saying that I made up just the other day. You can’t always get what you want, but if you test enough times, you get what you need.

Yes, I know. It’s unwieldy. And I expect a copyright infringement letter from the Rolling Stones’ shortly. Forgive me; it’s really hard to come up with a brand new saying that sounds old on short notice.

While we wait for the lawyers to weigh in, let’s talk about what happened over the weekend.

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Orion Ready to Fuel Up for Artemis I Mission

Orion is revealed for one of the final times on Jan. 14, as it is readied atop its transport pallet from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along its path to the pad ahead of the Artemis I launch. Teams across the globe have worked tirelessly to assemble the spacecraft which will receive a protective covering prior to departing for the Multi-Payload Processing Facility to begin ground processing by the Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs teams. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

by Linda Herridge
NASA’s John  F. Kennedy Space Center

The Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis I mission is taking one more step closer to its flight to the Moon. On Jan. 14, the spacecraft was lifted out of the stand in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where engineers have meticulously outfitted it with thousands of components and tested its systems and subsystems to ensure it can accomplish its mission. With assembly complete, teams are moving it to its next facility for fueling and officially transferring the spacecraft to NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team responsible for processing Orion for its launch later this year.

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European Gateway Module to be Built in France as Thomas Pesquet Readies for Second Spaceflight

Artemis Gateway orbiting the moon. (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA signed a contract today with Thales Alenia Space to start building the European module for the lunar Gateway that will provide the new human exploration facility with communications and refuelling.

The Gateway is being built by the partners of the International Space Station and will enable sustainable exploration around – and on – the Moon, while allowing for space research and demonstrating the technologies and processes necessary to conduct a future mission to Mars.

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GAO: NASA Needs to Improve Artemis Management as New Schedule Delays Likely

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA needs to strengthen its management oversight of the lunar landing program to minimize delays and cost overruns as the space agency moves beyond the Artemis I flight test scheduled for November 2021, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO’s program review also found that schedule for the maiden flight of the Space Launch System and second Orion spacecraft does not account for delays resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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First European Service Module for Artemis Accepted and Handed Over to NASA

Orion spacecraft and European Service Module (Credit: Airbus)

LEIDEN, Netherlands (Airbus PR) — On 11 December the first European Service Module passed its Acceptance Review and was formally handed over to NASA, the hardware is now officially NASA property. This marks the end of 9 years of designing, building and putting all the pieces together to make the next-generation powerhouse that will propel Orion spacecraft to the Moon.

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NASA and DLR Strength­en Co­op­er­a­tion

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — On 17 December 2020, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) extended their framework agreement on bilateral cooperation for a further ten years.

The agreement was signed by NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, Chair of the DLR Executive Board, Professor Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, and Member of the DLR Executive Board and Head of the DLR Space Administration, Walther Pelzer, who met via video conference to mark the occasion.

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Gateway MoU and Artemis Accords – FAQs

Lunar Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director General Jan Wörner and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take Europe to the Moon.

The historic agreement will see ESA Member States contribute a number of essential elements to the first human outpost in lunar orbit, known as the Gateway.

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NASA, Canadian Space Agency Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program

Artemis Gateway orbiting the moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) finalized an agreement between the United States and Canada to collaborate on the Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon that will provide vital support for a sustainable, long-term return of astronauts to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Artemis program. This Gateway agreement further solidifies the broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration as part of the Artemis program and to demonstrate technologies needed for human missions to Mars.

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Canadian Astronaut to Fly on First Crewed Orion Mission Around the Moon

LONGUEUIL, Quebec, December 16, 2020 – The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, today announced that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA have signed the Gateway Treaty, a historic agreement that confirms Canada’s participation in the next major international collaboration in space exploration, the planned Lunar Gateway space station.

Under the Treaty, a Canadian will be part of the Artemis II mission, the first crewed mission to the Moon since 1972. This mission, planned to launch in 2023, positions Canada to make history as the second country to have an astronaut travel to deep space and fly around the Moon. The Treaty also confirms a second flight for a Canadian astronaut to the Lunar Gateway.

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ESA Welcomes Announcement of Next Astronauts to the Moon

Artemis Gateway orbiting the moon. (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Yesterday NASA announced the names of the 18 astronauts that will support the Artemis Programme and may be assigned to lunar missions. 

The Artemis team is a group of astronauts that will help pave the way for the next lunar missions including sending the first woman and next man to walk on the Moon in 2024.

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Thales Alenia Space Chosen by Northrop Grumman to Provide Pressurized Module for HALO

Artist illustration of Northrop Grumman’s HALO module and the Power Propulsion Element which form the first critical component of NASA’s Gateway. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)
  • HALO (Habitation And Logistics Outpost): the initial crew cabin for astronauts visiting the lunar Gateway
  • Derived from Cygnus 10-year success story with Thales Alenia Space flight proven technologies
  • With HALO, Thales Alenia Space is strengthening its contribution to the Lunar Gateway

TURIN, Italy, December 7, 2020 (Thales Alenia Space PR) –  Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has signed a contract with Northrop Grumman to develop the pressurized module for HALO (Habitation And Logistics Outpost) that will be one of the first two elements to form the lunar Gateway which will be launched in late 2023.

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Artemis I Launch Preparations Are Stacking Up

The aft segments of the Space Launch System solid rocket boosters for the Artemis I mission prepare to move from high bay 4 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking on the mobile launcher inside high bay 3 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

By Madison Tuttle
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center


NASA has stacked the first piece of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on the mobile launcher in preparation for the Artemis I launch next year. At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers lowered the first of 10 segments into place Nov. 21 for the twin solid rocket boosters that will power the first flight of the agency’s new deep space rocket. Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight to test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon with the Artemis program.

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Keeping Spacecraft on Course with Propellant Management Technologies

Carthage students Taylor Peterson (left) and Celestine Ananda are shown here observing the gauging of unsettled liquids during a period of microgravity on a flight with ZERO-G in November 2018. (Credits: Carthage College)

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

Rocket off course? It could be a slosh problem.

Propellant slosh, to be exact. The motion of propellant inside a rocket-based launch vehicle or spacecraft tank is an ever-present, vexing problem for spaceflight. Not only can it make gauging the amount of available propellant difficult, but the volatile waves of liquid can literally throw a rocket off its trajectory.

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Northrop Grumman Completes Preliminary Design Review for NASA’s Gateway Crew Module

Artist illustration of Northrop Grumman’s HALO module and the Power Propulsion Element which form the first critical component of NASA’s Gateway. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Company based the design for HALO on its flight-proven Cygnus spacecraft

DULLES, Va., Nov. 18, 2020 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has successfully completed its initial preliminary design review (PDR) event for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). The module will serve as living quarters for astronauts at the Gateway during lunar exploration missions.

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