CubeSats: Shaping Possibilities in Space

CubeSats STMSat-1, CADRE and MinXSS are deployed from the International Space Station during Expedition 47. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — For more than a decade, CubeSats, or small satellites, have paved the way to low-Earth orbit for commercial companies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations. These small satellites offer opportunities to conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space in such a way that is cost-effective, timely and relatively easy to accomplish.

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PBS News Hour Video on Returning to the Moon

Video Caption: Is there renewed focus inside the Trump administration, NASA and the private sector to revive travel to the moon? There are signs, like a single reference in President Trump’s address to Congress, that seem to suggest that a space journey may be sooner than we might think. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what we could learn and why it’s back on the table.

Elon Musk’s Bold Lunar Gambit: Dueling Moon Missions & a Shrinking Pie

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

I’ve been puzzling for the last few days over the timing of Musk’s moon mission announcement, which was curious for several reasons.

First, it came soon after NASA announced its own study about whether to put astronauts on the first SLS/Orion test in 2019. Why would Musk risk undercuting his biggest customer, a space agency that has provided so much of SpaceX’s development and contract funding?

Second, Musk’s unveiling of the plan seemed to be a rushed, improvised affair. He tweeted about it the day before — a Sunday — and then held a press briefing for a small group of media that lasted all of about five minutes. The contrast with the carefully choreographed unveiling of his Mars transportation architecture last year in Mexico couldn’t be greater.

Third, Musk has never really shown much interest in the moon. Yes, SpaceX might have been doing some planning for a human mission there in private. But, that still doesn’t explain the timing.

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NASA Purchases Additional Soyuz Seats From Boeing

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A new agreement to purchase flights from Boeing to the International Space Station on a Soyuz spacecraft will allow NASA to maximize time dedicated to scientific research by increasing crew size on the U.S. segment from three to four. The additional flights will take place in 2017 and 2018. The agreement includes an option to be exercised by fall 2017 for additional seats in 2019. The 2019 seats could be used to smooth transition to U.S. commercial transportation services.

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NASA Commends SpaceX for “Reaching Higher”

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The following is a statement on SpaceX’s announcement Monday about a private space mission around the moon:

“NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

“For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity’s future in space.

“NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.”

SpaceX to Send Two Space Tourists Around the Moon in 2018

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission.

Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.

Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.

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Space Life Sciences Lab Sends Experiments to ISS

Launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 CRS-10 mission on Feb. 19, 2017. (Credit: SpaceX)

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (Space Florida PR) — Space Florida is proud to congratulate SpaceX for the successful docking of the CRS-10 mission with the ISS and to congratulate the 4 different experiments on board the Dragon capsule which were processed in the Space Life Sciences Lab (SLSL) in Exploration Park, Florida.

Those experiments were as follows:

  • Customer: CASIS/MERCK
    PI: Paul Reichert
    Protein crystal growth – pharmaceutical research (chemotherapy)
  • Customer: Edith Stein High School (agricultural high school in Ravensburg, Germany)
    PI: Maria Koch, Raphael Schilling and David Geray, German Students
    Vegetative propagation of plants on orbit
  • Customer: Intrinsyx Tech
    PI: John Freeman
    Designed to study enhanced plant growth of strong plants for astronauts on long duration Space missions
  • Customer: Space Tango
    PI: Twyman Clements

Another commercial opportunity to begin to utilize microgravity for application on Earth. The use of the SLSL for the processing of payloads for experiments and commercial operations will only grow as the flight cadence at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport increases in the years ahead.

“We’re excited to see the early investments by the State of Florida in payload processing for science and industry become a reality here at the Cape.” said Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello.

Dragon Rendezvous With Space Station Delayed

Credit: NASA

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft waved off its planned rendezvous with the International Space Station at 3:25 a.m. EST. Onboard computers triggered the abort after recognizing an incorrect value in data about the location of the space station. Per the re-rendezvous plan built into every mission, the spacecraft automatically reset for another rendezvous and docking attempt in 24 hours.

The spacecraft is in excellent shape with no issues, and the crew aboard the space station is safe. The next rendezvous attempt is targeted for Thursday morning. NASA TV coverage will begin at 4 a.m. with grapple expected around 6 a.m. Installation coverage will begin at 8 a.m. Watch live on NASA TV and online at: http://www.nasa.gov/live.

NASA Authorization Act Calls for Study of Sending Orion to Space Station

NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

The Senate-approved NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 would require the space agency to conduct a study of whether the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle would be capable of carrying crews and supplies to the International Space Station.

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Crystal Growth, Rodent Experiments Headed for ISS

The SAGE III instrument integrated on the EXPRESS Pallet Adapter (ExPA) after its final sharp edge inspection before its launch on Space X 10. This investigation will measure the stratospheric ozone, aerosols, and other trace gases by locking onto the sun or moon and scanning a thin profile of the atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The tenth SpaceX cargo resupply launch to the International Space Station will deliver investigations that study human health, Earth science and weather patterns. Here are some highlights of the research headed to the orbiting laboratory:

Crystal growth investigation could improve drug delivery, manufacturing

Monoclonal antibodies are important for fighting off a wide range of human diseases, including cancers. These antibodies work with the natural immune system to bind to certain molecules to detect, purify and block their growth. The Microgravity Growth of Crystalline Monoclonal Antibodies for Pharmaceutical Applications (CASIS PCG 5) investigation will crystallize a human monoclonal antibody, developed by Merck Research Labs, that is currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of immunological disease.

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SpaceX Launches Dragon Supply Ship to ISS

Falcon 9 first stage descends toward its landing pad. (Screen shot from SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket roared off NASA’s historic Pad 39A on Sunday morning, marking a rebirth of a complex that once hosted the launches of Apollo moon ships and space shuttles.

The booster lifted off on time at 9:39 a.m. EST carrying a Dragon resupply ship bound for the International Space Station. The Dragon separated from second stage as planned and unfurled its two solar arrays. It will take two days to catch up to the space station.

The Falcon 9’s first stage landed safely at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. On board video showed the rocket’s engine firing as the stage touched down on its concrete landing pad.

This flight was the first from Pad 39 since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. SpaceX has a 20-year lease on the launch complex.

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SpaceX Pushes Back Red Dragon Mission to Mars by 2 Years

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company would delay its 2018 Red Dragon mission to Mars at least two years to better focus its resources on two programs that a running significantly behind schedule.

“We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program,” Shotwell said at a pre-launch press conference in Cape Canaveral, Florida. “So we’re looking more for the 2020 timeframe for that.”

The mission will land a modified Dragon spacecraft on the martian surface. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he planned to launch Dragons to the surface every two years beginning in 2018, culminating in a crewed mission in 2024.

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Top Programmatic Risks for SpaceX’s Commercial Crew Program

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA Commercial Crew Program
Schedule Pressure Increases as Contractors Delay Key Events

GAO Report 17-137
February 16, 2017

Program’s Top Risks for SpaceX

The Commercial Crew Program’s top programmatic and safety risks for SpaceX are, in part, related to ongoing launch vehicle design and development efforts. Prior to SpaceX’s September 2016 loss of a Falcon 9 during pre-launch operations, the program was tracking several risks related to SpaceX’s launch vehicle.

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SpaceX Scrubs Falcon 9 Launch

Falcon 9 on Launch Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX had to scrub its Falcon 9 launch on Saturday morning. There was an issue with the thrust vector control system on the second stage. If that can be fixed quickly, the next launch window is Sunday at 9:38 a.m. EST. Falcon 9 is carrying a Dragon resupply ship bound for the International Space Station. You can watch the launch on NASA TV at www.nasa.gov or at the SpaceX website at www.spacex.com.

 

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NASA Astronauts Take Water Survival Training With U.S. Air Force

Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures Feb. 10, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Water survival training was hosted at the base fitness center pool. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

By Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey,
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) — Four NASA astronauts trained with U.S. Air Force Survival School instructors in water survival and recovery Feb. 10, at the base fitness center pool here.

The astronauts underwent the training in preparation for anticipated test flights of the new commercially made American rockets, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon.

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