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.

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.

Cygnus Arrives at ISS

The Canadarm2 robotic arm is seen grappling the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship on Nov. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:15 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three weeks attached to the space station before departing in early December. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

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Cygnus Carries NanoRacks Payloads to Space Station

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va., November 12, 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Early this morning, the Orbital ATK CRS-8 (OA-8) launch carried another historic NanoRacks mission to the International Space Station (ISS). With a completely full NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer (ENRCSD), a virtual reality camera, and educational research, this mission marks over 600 NanoRacks payloads delivered to the ISS since 2009.

This mission is enabling a unique virtual reality opportunity with National Geographic’s VUZE camera. Integrated and launched via NanoRacks, VUZE will allow for the recording of the new National Geographic series “One Strange Rock,” in which the astronaut crew will record a series of virtual reality pieces for incorporation into a larger documentary about natural history and the solar system. This is National Geographic’s first time launching with NanoRacks.

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Boeing and CASIS Award $500,000 for Microgravity Research Through MassChallenge

BOSTON, MA (Nov. 6, 2017) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Boeing [NYSE: BA] have again joined forces to promote the use of the International Space Station (ISS) as an orbiting laboratory capable of producing cutting-edge research across numerous scientific disciplines. The two organizations on Nov. 2 granted a total of $500,000 to three microgravity research companies through startup accelerator MassChallenge™.

The awards to Cellino Biotech, Guardion Technologies, and MakerHealth mark CASIS and Boeing’s fourth year of collaboration on the “Technology in Space” prize at MassChallenge Boston.

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Orbital ATK’s S.S. Gene Cernan to Deliver Supplies to Space Station

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft approaches its 10 meter capture point where the Canadarm2 grapples resupply ship. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit to the International Space Station, targeted for November 11, 2017, from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will launch on an Antares rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers aboard the station.

The spacecraft, named the S.S. Gene Cernan after former NASA astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan, who is the last person to have walked on the moon, will deliver scientific investigations including those that will study communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology.
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NASA Selects New Technologies to Flight Test on Parabolic Aircraft, Balloons & Suborbital Rockets


EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine space technologies to test on low-gravity-simulating aircraft, high-altitude balloons or suborbital rockets. The opportunity to fly on these vehicles helps advance technologies closer to practical use by taking them from a laboratory environment to a real-world environment. The selections were made by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, which conducts a competition approximately twice per year for funding to fly payloads using flight providers selected by the proposers. These space technologies are being tested using relatively low-cost flights that simulate spaceflight or just reach the “edge” of space.

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ISS U.S. National Lab Payloads Prepped for Orbital ATK CRS-8 Launch

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL., November 2, 2017 (CASIS) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle is slated to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than November 11, 2017 from Wallops Flight Facility.

The Cygnus spacecraft will carry ISS National Laboratory payloads to conduct research across a variety of areas aimed at improving life on Earth. In addition to the diverse research launching to the ISS National Lab, multiple payloads focused on enabling future research missions will be part of the CRS-8 manifest. Thus far in 2017, the ISS National Lab has sponsored more than 100 separate experiments that have reached the station.

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NanoRacks Deploys NovaWurks’ SIMPL Satellite From ISS

HOUSTON (NanoRacks PR) — NanoRacks successfully deployed NovaWurks’ SIMPL satellite via the Company’s Kaber Microsatellite Deployer (KABER) from the International Space Station (ISS) early this morning. This is the second Kaber-class deployment that NanoRacks completed this week.

SIMPL went beyond standard satellite deployment from the Space Station. For this program, NovaWurks Inc. pioneered the Hyper-Integrated Satlet (HISat™) technology, a concept to assemble larger satellites from small independent “cells” called satlets. Specifically, SIMPL was delivered to the ISS via NanoRacks in a few larger groups, and then assembled this week by the astronaut crew utilizing some smaller components.

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Atlas V for First Starliner Flight Coming Together in Alabama

The Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credit: ULA)

DECATUR, Ala. (NASA PR) — The Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is coming together inside a United Launch Alliance facility in Decatur, Alabama.

The uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is intended to prove the design of the integrated space system prior to the Crew Flight Test. These events are part of NASA’s required certification process as the company works to regularly fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing and United Launch Alliance have begun conducting integrated reviews of components, software and systems along with decades of Atlas data to ensure integrated vehicle test simulations are similar to real-life conditions during missions. Starliners for the uncrewed and crew test flights, including for the pad abort test, are in various stages of production and testing.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with private companies, Boeing and SpaceX, as they each develop unique systems to fly astronauts for the agency to and from the space station. SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon, or Dragon 2, spacecraft to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing’s Starliner will liftoff on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Space Tango & Airbus to Cooperate on ISS Research Efforts

LEXINGTON, KY (Space Tango PR) – Airbus Defence and Space and Space Tango of Lexington, Kentucky USA have announced an agreement combining their respective commercial programs for greater utilization of the International Space Station during the 33rd Annual American Society for Gravitational and Space Research meeting this week in Seattle, Wa.

Airbus Defense and Space’s decades of on-going and uninterrupted life and physical science experiment hardware development programs combined with the Space Tango TangoLab facilities’ configurability and data interfaces will provide a unique and adept offering for research and customer-use aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

“This partnership with Airbus Defence and Space allows Space Tango to offer our services to a wider spectrum of use-cases and customers around the world,” explained Space Tango CEO and Co-Founder Twyman Clements. “All in pursuit of our ultimate goal – utilizing microgravity as a platform for research and manufacturing.”

“Upon early discussions with the Airbus Defence and Space team, it became clear there was synergy between TangoLab facilities and the commercial my_biorack hardware portfolio,” added Clements. “Creating the Airbus ScienceBox, the my_biorack hardware portfolio is compatible with the TangoLab facilities. Together, we open new doors to users around the world.”

Space Station Unit to Study Genetics of Model Organisms

Inside the Spectrum prototype unit, plant seedlings in a Petri plate are exposed to blue excitation lighting for the green fluorescent protein. The device will allow scientists to observe how different genes are turned on and off while the organisms grow in space. (Credit: NASA)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Scientists and engineers are developing new hardware destined for the International Space Station to support experiments demonstrating how different organisms, such as plants, microbes or worms, develop under conditions of microgravity. Results from the Spectrum project will shed light on which living things are best suited for long-duration flights into deep space.

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