NASA, Commercial Partners Progress to Human Spaceflight Home Stretch

The upper and lower domes of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft 2 Crew Flight Test Vehicle were mated June 19, 2018, inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. On the right, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will be used for the company’s uncrewed flight test, known as Demonstration Mission 1, arrived to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 10, 2018. (Credits: Photo on the left, Boeing, on the right: NASA/SpaceX)

By Madison Tuttle
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA and commercial industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are making significant advances in preparing to launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. As part of the Commercial Crew Program’s public-private partnership, both companies are fine-tuning their designs, integrating hardware, and testing their crew spacecraft and rockets to prepare for test flights

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Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

SpaceX to Launch Majority of 4,000 Starlink Satellites From Cape Canaveral

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

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.

That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.

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Paragon Developing Advanced Radiator for Inflatable Habitats

Paragon Space Development Corporation will develop a flexible radiator for inflatable habitats and an improved condenser for use on human space missions with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the Tuscon, Ariz.-based company for two contracts under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 program. The agreements are worth up to $125,000 apiece over 13 months.

The target market for Paragon’s Flexible Radiator (FlexRAD) is “long duration human spaceflight exploration missions and other spacecraft” that use a single loop  active thermal control system (ATCS).

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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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NASA Selects US Companies to Advance Space Resource Collection

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 10 companies to conduct studies and advance technologies to collect, process and use space-based resources for missions to the Moon and Mars. NASA placed a special emphasis on encouraging the responders to find new applications for existing, terrestrial capabilities that could result in future space exploration capabilities at lower costs.

The practice of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) could increase safety and affordability of future human spaceflight missions by limiting the need to launch supplies, such as oxygen and water from Earth. NASA issued Appendix D of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement on Dec. 4, 2017. With it, the agency sought three areas of work focused on producing propellant and other exploration mission consumables using water from extraterrestrial soils and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere.

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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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ULA Machinists Approve New Contract, End Strike

CENTENNIAL, Colo., May 19, 2018 (ULA PR) – Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) have accepted the company’s new four-year contract offer and will return to work after being on strike since May 7.

The new contract covers 600 bargaining unit employees from District Lodges #75 and #166, which includes Locals #44, #610 and #2786 performing work on the Atlas V, Delta II, Delta IV and Vulcan Centaur product lines at both East and West Coast ULA launch sites and Decatur, Alabama, manufacturing facility. The contract becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. on May 7.

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United Launch Alliance Selects Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 Engine for Next-generation Vulcan Centaur Upper Stage

Commerical Crew Program (CCP) astronauts visit Aerojet Rocketdyne to see engine test. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

CENTENNIAL, Colo., May 11, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) today announced Aerojet Rocketdyne as a strategic partner for the RL10 upper stage engine for ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket following a competitive procurement process.

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ULA Machinists Go on Strike

Nearly 600 machinists working at United Launch Alliance (ULA) are on strike against the company after they voted down a three-year contract offer from the company on Sunday.

The machinists, who are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), are employed at ULA facilities in Decatur, Ala.; Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla,; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

“It’s unfortunate that a company who makes a living off the backs of tax payer dollars would offer a substandard package for a highly skilled workforce,” said IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary Allen prior to the vote.  The union had recommended machinists reject the contract.

In a statement, ULA called the offer fair, competitive and in the best interest of the company and its employees.

“We’re disappointed that the IAM members rejected ULA’s last, best and final offer and voted to strike,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and chief executive officer. “We believe our proposed contract is very competitive with other companies. Importantly, ULA’s final offer contributes to ULA’s long term viability in an increasingly competitive launch business environment.”

Union officials disagreed.

“The best-case scenario for both sides is when we are able to come to an agreement at the bargaining table. Unfortunately, in this case, that didn’t happen,” said Chief of Staff and Aerospace Negotiator Jody Bennett. “Although the contract does include some improvements, it just wasn’t enough for a group of working men and women who have made ULA the absolute safest company in the aerospace industry. Their offer did not clearly mirror the decades of hard work put forth by these machinists members.”

ULA’s said it would implement strike contingency plans and continue to operate at all three locations.

Atlas V Launches InSight Spacecraft to Mars

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast of the U.S. After its six-month journey, InSight will descend to Mars to study the heart of the Red Planet. (Credit: NASA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. InSight launched at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 am PDT) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

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Multi-user Kennedy Space Center is Home to Diverse Activities

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)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

On Aug. 14, 2017, a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was a commercial resupply mission delivering supplies to the International Space Station. Four days later, the agency’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M lifted off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

This kind of diverse activity is typical at a multi-user spaceport.

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NASA’s First Mission to Study the Interior of Mars Awaits May 5 Launch

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — All systems are go for NASA’s next launch to the Red Planet.

The early-morning liftoff on Saturday of the Mars InSight lander will mark the first time in history an interplanetary launch will originate from the West Coast. InSight will launch from the U.S. Air Force Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3E. The two-hour launch window will open on May 5 at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT).

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Unfavorable Weather Forecast for Mars Insight Launch

NASA’s InSight to Mars undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., ahead of its May 5 launch date. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V InSight mission for NASA. The mission is set to lift off on an Atlas V rocket on Saturday, May 5 from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Today’s L-3 forecast shows a 20 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

The two-hour launch window begins at 4:05 a.m. PT.

Launch Forecast Summary:

Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 80%
Primary concerns: Launch Visibility
Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 80%
Primary concern: Launch Visibility

Launch Broadcast

Live launch coverage will begin at 3:30 a.m. PT on May 5.  Webcast available at: www.ulalaunch.com

Schedule of Mars InSight Pre-Launch & Launch Activities

NASA’s InSight to Mars undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., ahead of its May 5 launch date. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s next mission to Mars, Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight), is scheduled to launch Saturday, May 5, on a first-ever mission to study the heart of Mars. Coverage of prelaunch and launch activities begins Thursday, May 3, on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

InSight, the first planetary mission to take off from the West Coast, is targeted to launch at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT) from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

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