Mixed Reality Technology Helps NASA Astronauts Prepare for Starliner Returns from the Space Station

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program astronauts, wearing spacesuits and augmented reality headsets, rehearse returning to Earth from the International Space Station during recent testing at Boeing’s Extended Reality Laboratory in Philadelphia. The astronauts are seated upside down so they can practice releasing their seat harness and moving to the side hatch of the Starliner without assistance. (Credit: Boeing)

PHILADELPHIA (NASA PR) — NASA’s Commercial Crew Program astronauts training to fly test missions to and from the International Space Station are practicing returning to Earth from the microgravity laboratory.


ULA Atlas V Set to Launch Air Force Satellite Tonight

Atlas V on launch pad. (Credit: ULA)

UPDATE: The launch was scrubbed. They will try again on Friday at 7:48 p.m. EST.

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 4 mission for the U.S. Air Force.

The mission is set to lift off on a ULA Atlas V rocket on Thursday, Jan. 18 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Today’s L-1 forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The launch time is 7:52 p.m. ET.

Launch Forecast Summary:
Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 10%
Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds

Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 10%
Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds

Webcast available at www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

Significant Commercial Crew Challenges Ahead for Boeing, SpaceX & NASA

Key Excerpts from

NASA Commercial Crew Program:
Continued Delays Pose Risks for Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station

Government Accountability Office
[Full Testimony]

Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Space,
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology,
House of Representatives
Statement of Cristina T. Chaplain Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management
January 17, 2018

Space X Risks

Dragon 2 wledment and heat shield. (Credit: SpaceX)

Similar to our findings in February 2017, our ongoing work indicates that the Commercial Crew Program’s top programmatic and safety risks for SpaceX, are in part, related to ongoing launch vehicle design and development efforts.


First Commercial Flights to ISS Slide Toward 2020

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Early in the classic police comedy, The Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is at the hospital with partner Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) visiting the critically wounded Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson), who had been shot and left for dead by a group of heroin smuggling thugs.

“Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living, though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that,” Ed tells Frank.

A similar scene played out Wednesday morning during the House Space Subcommittee’s hearing on the progress of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Only it wasn’t nearly as funny.


ULA’s Delta IV Launches NRO Satellite

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

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Jan. 12, 2018 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on Jan. 12 at 2:11 p.m. PST. Designated NROL-47, the mission is in support of national defense.


ULA Reschedules Delta IV Launch for Friday

Delta IV on the launch pad at Vandenberg. (Credit: ULA)

Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Jan. 11, 2018 (ULA PR) – The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV carrying the NROL-47 mission was scrubbed today due to an issue with a ground system valve.

The launch is planned for Friday, Jan. 12, from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The launch time is 1:00 p.m. PT.

SpaceShipTwo Glides, SpaceX Scrubs, Delta IV & 3 Other Launches Pending

SpaceShipTwo Unity on the runway after its seventh glide flight. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

A busy day in space, so let’s get right to it:

SpaceShipTwo Flies: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity performed its seven glide flight this morning in Mojave. The flight appeared to go as planned based on what I could see from the ground and Virgin Galactic’s tweets; the space plane landed and rolled to a stop on runway 30. The pilots were Mark Stucky and Michael Masucci.

This is the seventh glide flight for Unity and the 37th glide test for the SpaceShipTwo program. Its predecessor, Enterprise, flew 30 glide and three powered flights before it broke up during its fourth powered flight on Oct. 31, 2014.

Virgin Galactic officials have said today’s test should be the final glide flight for Unity. If all went well, the next test will be powered.

UPDATE: Virgin Galactic has posted a description of today’s flight here.

SpaceX Scrubs: SpaceX scrubbed a static fire of the Falcon Heavy booster for the second time in as many days at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The company planned a 12- to 15-second firing of the 27 first stage engines of the heavy-lift rocket. No reason has been given for the scrub. Reports indicate that a third attempt is set for Friday. If the same schedule is maintained, the six-hour test window will open at 1 p.m. EST.

Delta IV Launch Set: United Launch Alliance is planning to launch a Delta IV booster with the NROL 47 reconnaissance satellite from Vandenberg this afternoon. The original launch time was set for 1 p.m. PST, but ULA says it is working a technical issue that will delay the launch until later. No new time as been set yet. The launch was scrubbed on Wednesday due to high winds.

Webcast available at  www.ulalaunch.com and  www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

UPDATE: Liftoff is now planned for 1:55 p.m. PST. Webcast commentary will start at 1:30 p.m. PST.
UPDATE 2: Liftoff now at 2:05 p.m. PST.

Chinese & Indian Launches Scheduled: A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch two Beidou navigation satellites at approximately 2300 GMT (6 p.m. EST) today. The flight will be conducted from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

India’s PSLV booster will launch the Cartosat 2F remote sensing satellite from Satish Dhawan Space Center on Friday at 0358 GMT (10:58 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 11). It will be the first PSLV launch since August when a failure of the payload shroud to separate doomed an IRNSS-1H navigation satellite to a fiery destruction.

A Long March 2D rocket is set to launch an unidentified satellite from Jiuquan on Saturday at approximately 0710 GMT (2:10 a.m. EST). This will be China’s third launch of the new year.

ULA to Launch Delta IV With Defense Payload on Wednesday

Delta IV Heavy lifts off with the NROL-37 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (ULA PR) — The ULA Launch Readiness Review was completed today and everything is progressing toward the ULA Delta IV launch carrying the NROL-47 mission in support of national security.

The mission is set to lift off on a Delta IV rocket on Wednesday, Jan. 10 from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Today’s L-1 forecast shows a 30 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The launch time is 1:00 p.m. PT.

Launch Forecast Summary:

Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 70%
Primary concerns: Ground Winds

Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 10%
Primary concern: Ground Winds

Webcast available at  www.ulalaunch.com and  www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

United Launch Alliance Introduces Payload Competition for 10th Anniversary of Student Rocket Launch

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Jan. 9, 2018) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) has issued its request for proposals for the annual ULA and Ball Aerospace Student Rocket Launch. To celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary, K-12 teams can design, build and operate a payload to guide it to a designated ground-based target for a chance to win up to $5,000 for their school or sponsoring nonprofit.

The 2018 Student Rocket Launch, tentatively scheduled for July 2018 in Colorado, is part of a unique program offering hands-on experience working with rockets and payloads to students from kindergarten through graduate school. ULA intern volunteers design, build and refurbish the high-power sport rocket – dubbed “Future Heavy” – while volunteer interns from Ball Aerospace and K-12 students design and build payloads that launch on the rocket.


ULA Completes Design Certification Review for Atlas V Starliner Flights

This artist concept shows Boeing’s Starliner at Space Launch Complex 41 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V poised for a night launch to the International Space Station. (Credit: Boeing)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Jan. 4, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed an Atlas V Launch Segment Design Certification Review (DCR) recently in preparation for the launch of astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil in The Boeing Company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. ULA’s Atlas V DCR supported the Boeing International Space Station (ISS) DCR that was held with NASA at Kennedy Space Center in early December.


SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.


ULA Selects L3 Technologies for Vulcan Centaur Avionics

Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)

Centennial, Colo., Dec. 4, 2017 (ULA PR)– L3 Technologies announced today that it has entered into an agreement with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to become the exclusive provider of avionics and related services for its new Vulcan Centaur rocket system, delivering an estimated $1 billion-plus in mission-critical systems and services, over a 10-year period.


A Tale of 2 Launch Ranges: The Best & Worst of Times

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the MUOS-4 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week.

The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.


Falcon Heavy Debut Slips to January

Artist’s conception of a Falcon Heavy launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has slipped the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy booster to January. The rocket, whose first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 cores with 27 engines, will lift off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  The flight will be preceded by a hold-down test on the launch pad in which all 27 first stage engines will be fired.