SpaceX Wins Contract for U.S. Air Force Launch

Lifting off at 3:45 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its demonstration flight. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

LOS ANGELES (SpaceX PR) — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), Hawthorne, California, has been awarded a $130,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services to deliver the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite to its intended orbit.

This launch service contract will include launch vehicle production and mission, as well as integration, launch operations and spaceflight worthiness activities. Work will be performed in Hawthorne, California; Kennedy Space Center, Florida; and McGregor, Texas, and is expected to be completed by September 2020.

This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, and two proposals were received. Fiscal 2018 space procurement funds in the amount of $130,000,000 will be obligated at the time of award. The Contracting Division, Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity (FA8811-18-C-0003). (Awarded June 20, 2018)

Space Florida Approves Funding for Multiple Projects

Conceptual SpaceX hangar for Falcon maintenance and storage

Space Florida has approved an $1.5 million loan to a lunar landing company and $18.9 million in upgrades and infrastructure improvements to support Blue Origin, SpaceX and an unidentified horizontal launch and landing venture, Florida Today reports.

At a board meeting Wednesday in Tampa, the state agency responsible for aerospace economic development approved loaning $1.5 million to a company identified only by the code name Project Forge, described as a contender to win contracts under a NASA program developing lunar landers.

Space Florida also committed to spending up to $1 million to upgrade utilities at Kennedy Space Center’s former space shuttle runway to support test flights — as soon as early 2019 — by another unidentified company, referred to as Project Pine.

“This is the first real space user for horizontal launch and landing,” board chairman Bill Dymond said of the three-mile runway that Space Florida is trying to commercialize after the shuttle’s 2011 retirement. “I think that’s very exciting.”

In other business Wednesday, Space Florida’s board approved committing up to $14.5 million to SpaceX’s planned expansion at KSC, and up to $3.4 million for a new engine-related facility that Blue Origin will add to its New Glenn rocket manufacturing site at KSC’s Exploration Park.

Florida to Subsidize SpaceX & Blue Origin Projects at KSC

Space Florida is scheduled to provide about $18 million to Blue Origin and SpaceX for a pair of projects, Florida Today reports.

Next Wednesday in Tampa, Space Florida’s board of directors will consider two proposals worth $14.5 million supporting SpaceX’s proposed spaceport expansion, including a hangar for Falcon rocket refurbishment and a control tower.

Another $3.4 million would support Blue Origin’s rocket manufacturing site in Exploration Park, a state-run complex on NASA property at the south end of KSC….

Most of the work is described as “common infrastructure improvements,” such as access roads and utilities that could benefit multiple tenants or guests around a site, not just the two private, billionaire-led companies.

SpaceX and Blue Origin have committed to investing $15 million and $30 million, respectively, of their own money in those improvements, and much more on the overall projects.

ISS Astronauts Install HD Cameras for Commercial Crew Flights

 
NASA Correction, June 14, 2018
:  This post has been updated to clarify the timing of the first uncrewed test missions, which are planned for later this year.

Editor’s Note: The original post indicated that Boeing and SpaceX would conduct automated flight tests of Starliner and Dragon 2 to the space station at the end of the year. They’re both officially scheduled for August, although the schedule is likely to slip.

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are set to go on their third spacewalk together this year on Thursday at the International Space Station. Their new Expedition 56 crewmates Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst are training today to support the two spacewalkers.

Arnold and Feustel will begin Thursday’s spacewalk at 8:10 a.m. to install new high definition cameras to support upcoming commercial crew missions from SpaceX and Boeing to the orbital laboratory. The first uncrewed test missions are planned to begin later this year. The cameras will provide improved views of the commercial crew vehicles as they approach and dock to the station. NASA TV will provide complete live coverage of the 211th space station spacewalk starting at 6:30 a.m.

Auñón-Chancellor and Gerst, who just arrived at the station on Friday, will assist the spacewalkers on Thursday. Gerst will help the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits. Auñón-Chancellor will operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The duo practiced today on a computer the robotics procedures necessary to maneuver a spacewalker to and from the worksite on the starboard side of the station’s truss structure.

Arnold and Feustel had some extra time today to work on science and maintenance activities. Arnold worked with the Microgravity Science Glovebox to troubleshoot a semiconductor crystal growth experiment. Feustel performed some plumbing work in the Tranquility module before relocating a pair of incubator units to support new experiments being delivered on the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission. Finally, the duo readied the Quest airlock and their spacesuits for Thursday morning’s spacewalk.

Pew Poll Show Strong Support for U.S. Space Leadership, Little for Returning Astronauts to Moon

The newly-expanded Expedition 54 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module for ceremonila congratulations from family and mission officials. (Credit: NASA TV)

A new poll by the Pew Research Center showed strong support for maintaining U.S. leadership in space, but little interest in returning astronauts to the moon.

“Roughly seven-in-ten Americans (72%) say it is essential for the U.S. to continue to be a world leader in space exploration, and eight-in-ten (80%) say the space station has been a good investment for the country,” the survey found.

However, only 13 percent felt that sending astronauts back to the moon should be a top NASA priority. Mars came in slightly higher at 18 percent.

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SpaceX Plans Major Expansion at NASA KSC

Proposed SpaceX launch and landing control center

To accommodate its growing launch operations, SpaceX has proposed a substantial expansion of its operations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, including a launch and landing control center, a processing and storage facility for its boosters and fairings, and a rocket garden.

“SpaceX estimates there may be up to ten events per year for a Falcon Heavy launch, and up to 63 landings (54 Falcon 9 single core landings and nine Falcon Heavy triple core landings) at the current CCAFS landing site or on the SpaceX drone ship,” according to a draft environmental assessment released by NASA KSC’s Integrated Mission Support Services.

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Death Wish Coffee Launches into Space

NEW YORK (Death Wish Coffee PR) — Death Wish Coffee, also known as The World’s Strongest Coffee, announced its launch into space on June 28th aboard SpaceX CRS-15, officially making it the galaxy’s strongest coffee.

The idea was initially conceived by Jeff Ayers, host of Death Wish’s “Fueled by Death Cast,” whose love for space and space exploration brought him to invite retired NASA astronaut and artist, Nicole Stott, to be a featured guest on the podcast. On the show, Nicole mentioned to Jeff how tired you feel after something like a spacewalk and that she craved good coffee. Jeff instantly knew the remedy for post-spacewalk lethargy: Death Wish served in space.

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An Update on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program

Two Launches in One Week: On Aug. 14, 2017, a Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the photo on the left. It was carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the image on the right, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug.18, 2017 placing in orbit NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph)

Report to Congressional Committees

Weapon Systems Annual Assessment
Knowledge Gaps Pose Risks to Sustaining Recent Positive Trends

Government Accountability Office
April 2018
Full Report (PDF)

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program

Technology Maturity, Design Stability, and Production Readiness

All but one (14 of 15) of ULA’s launch vehicle variants—which are based on payload fairing size and number of strap-on solid rocket boosters used—and two variants of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 have flown at least once, demonstrating technology maturity. For design stability and production readiness, the program assesses launch vehicles using Aerospace Corporation’s “3/7 reliability rule.” Once a variant is launched successfully three times, its design can be considered stable and mature. Similarly, if a variant is successfully launched seven times, both the design and production process can be considered stable and mature.

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China Launches Remote Sensing Satellite, SpaceX Plans Early Monday Flight

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

At least 10 launches are planned worldwide this month. The launches include crew and cargo missions to the International Space Station and the first commercial flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster. Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL will launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) from the Marshall Islands on June 14.

China got June off to a successful start on Saturday with the launch of the Gaofen-6 remote sensing satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

SpaceX is up next, with an early morning launch on Monday morning. A Falcon 9 is set to launch the SES 12 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The four-hour launch window opens at 12:29 a.m. EDT (0429 GMT). The company has no plans to recover the previously used first stage.

The current launch schedule is below. View updates here.

JUNE 2018

June 2

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: Gaofen 6 remote sensing satellite
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China
Outcome: Success

June 4

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SES 12 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:29-1:27 a.m. EDT (0429-0527 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

June 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: ISS 55S Crew flight
Launch Time: 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

June 11

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Radar 6 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Window: 12:00-2:00 a.m. EDT (0400-0600 GMT)
Launch Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

June 14

Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Payload: NASA Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: L-1011, Kwajalein, Marshall Islands
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

June 22/23

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payloads: 2 Spire & 1 GeoOptics satellites
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

First commercial flight of Electron.

June 28

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Dragon ISS resupply (CRS-15)
Launch Time: 6:03 a.m. EDT (1003 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com and www.nasa.gov

June TBD

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payload: PRSS 1 remote sensing satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3A
Payload: Fengyun 2H geostationary weather satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Telstar 19V communications satellite
Launch Window: TBD
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX’s Director of Space Operations Joins USC Faculty

Garrett Reisman

LOS ANGELES (USC PR) — Garrett Reisman, Director of Space Operations at SpaceX and a former NASA astronaut, will be joining the faculty of the Department of Astronautical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Reisman, who has participated in three space shuttle missions and spent three months on the International Space Station, will join USC as a full-time faculty member on June 1, 2018.

At the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Reisman will teach undergraduate and graduate level astronautical engineering students, and advise the Department and the School on various space-related issues. In addition, he is expected to provide support to the student-run, student-operated Rocket Propulsion Lab and the Liquid Propulsion Lab.

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Team Simulates Commercial Crew Flights to Space Station

On the left, NASA astronaut Suni Williams, fully suited in SpaceX’s spacesuit, interfaces with the display inside a mock-up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in Hawthorne, California, during a testing exercise on April 3, 2018. On the right, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, Eric Boe and Doug Hurley conduct a fully-suited exercise in Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner mockup trainer during early May at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Credit: SpaceX — left photo, Boeing — right photo)
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A joint commercial provider and NASA team will help ensure astronauts will be able to safely travel to and from the International Space Station aboard Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft.

The Joint Test Team for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program pulls expertise from across the key human spaceflight areas to design, test, assess, and plan missions aboard the Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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Lucy Asteroid Mission Moves Toward 2021 Launch

Southwest Research Institute is leading NASA’s Lucy mission, which will launch in 2021 for the first reconnaissance of the Trojans, a population of primitive asteroids orbiting in tandem with Jupiter. In this artist’s concept (not to scale), the Lucy spacecraft is flying by Eurybates, one of the six diverse and scientifically important Trojans to be studied. (Credit: SwRI)

The first mission to explore Trojan asteroids that orbit in tandem with Jupiter is moving forward toward a late 2021 launch date using heritage hardware that has already been tested in space, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

“Project officials characterize the Lucy design as low risk because it does not require development of any critical technologies and has a high heritage design,” the GAO found. “For example, these officials stated that Lucy’s design has the same architecture as prior NASA projects such as Juno and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN).

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Falcon 9 Orbits Iridium-NEXT, GRACE-FO Satellites

The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday afternoon and successfully orbited seven satellites.

There were five Iridium-NEXT communications satellites aboard. These were the 51st through 56th Iridium-NEXT spacecraft orbited by Falcon 9 boosters.

A pair of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites were also onboard. The spacecraft will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself.

The mission is a join collaboration of NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ).  GFZ reports receiving signals from both GRACE-FO satellites.

NASA’s ISS Transition Report — Executive Summary

The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-133 crew member on space shuttle Discovery. (Credit: NASA)

International Space Station Transition Report
NASA
March 30, 2018

Full Report (PDF)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10) provided for an ISS Transition Report under section 303:

The Administrator, in coordination with the ISS management entity (as defined in section 2 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017), ISS partners, the scientific user community, and the commercial space sector, shall develop a plan to transition in a step-wise approach from the current regime that relies heavily on NASA sponsorship to a regime where NASA could be one of many customers of a low-Earth orbit non-governmental human space flight enterprise.

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