Stargazer Flight Raises Questions

Stargazer aircraft carrying Pegasus XL rocket with CYGNSS satellite. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Whenever I’m over at the Mojave Air and Space Port, I’ve always felt a little sad when I catch a glimpse of Northrop Grumman’s Stargazer aircraft.

The last Lockheed L-1011 Tristar still flying today, the modified passenger aircraft’s main task is to air launch satellites aboard the Pegasus XL rocket carried under its fuselage. Since the rocket isn’t much in demand, the gap between launches can last for years.

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NASA Establishes Board to Initially Review Mars Sample Return Plans

This illustration depicts NASA’s Perseverance rover operating on the surface of Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has established a Mars Sample Return Program Independent Review Board to proactively assist with analysis of current plans and goals for one of the most difficult missions humanity has ever undertaken: the return of samples from another planet to study on Earth.

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New So­lar Cells for Space Tested on Suborbital Flight

The ear­ly-morn­ing launch of the ATEK/MAPHEUS-8, pre­pared for and im­ple­ment­ed by the DLR’s Mo­bile Rock­et Base (MORA­BA) di­vi­sion. (Credit: DLR)

MUNICH, Germany (DLR PR) — Almost all satellites are powered by solar cells – but solar cells are heavy. While conventional high-performance cells reach up to three watts of electricity per gram, perovskite and organic hybrid cells could provide up to 10 times that amount.

A research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has now tested this type of cell in space for the first time.

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Franco-American SuperCam on Way to Mars Aboard Perseverance Rover

A close-up of the head of Mars Perseverance’s remote sensing mast. The mast head contains the SuperCam instrument (its lens is in the large circular opening). In the gray boxes beneath mast head are the two Mastcam-Z imagers. On the exterior sides of those imagers are the rover’s two navigation cameras. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Thursday 30 July, the Mars 2020 mission successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop an Atlas V launcher. For the Perseverance rover carrying the French-U.S. SuperCam instrument, the long voyage to the red planet has begun. The mission is scheduled to land on Mars on 18 February 2021.

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National Security Space Association Adds Influential Leaders to Board of Directors

ARLINGTON, VA (NSSA PR) — The National Security Space Association (NSSA), a U.S. trade association devoted solely to the U.S. defense and intelligence space enterprise, added 8 new members to their Board of Directors today. Each appointee is a highly regarded member of their respective organization and will bring their individual experience to NSSA’s commitment to the preservation and protection of the National Security Space Community. These additions follow last month’s appointment of General (Ret.) Lester Lyles and Ms. Stephanie O’Sullivan to the Board of Directors.

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Northrop Grumman Tests Advanced Solid Motor for ULA’s Vulcan Booster

PROMONTORY, Utah, Aug. 13, 2020 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) conducted its first ground test of an extended length 63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) today in Promontory, Utah. This variation of the company’s GEM 63 strap-on booster was developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide additional lift capability to the Vulcan Centaur vehicle.

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Boeing-USAF X-37B Team to Receive 2019 Collier Trophy

The X-37B spacecraft after landing on May 7, 2017. (Credit: USAF)

WASHINGTON, DC, August 13, 2020 (NAA PR) – The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is pleased to announce that the United States Department of the Air Force – Boeing X-37B team has been named as the recipient of the 2019 Robert J. Collier Trophy for “… developing and employing the world’s only reusable, autonomous spaceplane, which logged more than 2,865 days in orbit across five missions, changing access to space and serving as the nation’s workhorse in space experimentation and technology.”

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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Recharges Its Batteries in Flight

An artist’s concept of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying through the Red Planet’s skies. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter received a checkout and recharge of its power system on Friday, Aug. 7, one week into its near seven-month journey to Mars with the Perseverance  rover. This marks the first time the helicopter has been powered up and its batteries have been charged in the space environment.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic, Looks Ahead in 2020, 2021

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — With 2020 more than half way through, NASA is gearing up for a busy rest of the year and 2021.

Following the recent successful launch of a Mars rover and safely bringing home astronauts from low-Earth orbit aboard a new commercial spacecraft, NASA is looking forward to more exploration firsts now through 2021.

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Kleos to Launch Second Satellite Cluster on SpaceX Falcon 9

Kleos Scouting Mission (Credit: Kleos Space)

LUXEMBOURG, 13 August 2020 (Kleos Space PR) — Kleos Space (ASX: KSS, Frankfurt: KS1), a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a-service company, today announces that as part of the expansion of its constellation a contract has been signed with rideshare provider Spaceflight Inc to manifest a cluster of Kleos satellites on the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch, scheduled for mid-2021.

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NASA Begins Installing Orion Adapter for First Artemis Moon Flight

Orion fitted to its adapter for the Artemis I mission. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are working to install an adapter that will connect the Orion spacecraft to its rocket for the Artemis I mission around the Moon. This is one of the final major hardware operations for Orion inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building prior to integration with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

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Ariane 5 Launch Set for Friday

Ariane 5 launches on Feb. 18, 2020. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace Flight VA253 – which will utilize an increased-lift Ariane 5 version – is a “go” for launch on August 14 following an additional Launch Readiness Review (LRR) performed today in French Guiana.

This approval clears the way for Ariane 5’s return to the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone tomorrow, followed by the final countdown leading to an evening liftoff on Friday.

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Mike Griffin Sets Up Consulting Firm, Joins Rocket Lab Board

Mike Griffin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Fresh off a short-lived and rocky tenure overseeing the establishment of the Pentagon’s new Space Development Agency (SDA), former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has set up a consulting firm and joined Rocket Lab’s Board of Directors.

“We are honored to welcome Mike to Rocket Lab’s board of directors,” said Rocket Lab founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck in a press release. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the civil, defense, and commercial space sectors that will be invaluable to our team as Rocket Lab continues to grow and meet the ever-evolving launch and space systems needs of the national security community and commercial sectors alike.”

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CASIS Board of Directors Welcomes New Members

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., August 12, 2020 (CASIS PR) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the organization that manages the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory pursuant to a Cooperative Agreement with NASA, has inducted four new members to the organization’s board of directors.

As directors on the CASIS board, these highly decorated and scientifically diverse leaders will work with existing board members, executive staff, and NASA stakeholders to determine organizational priorities. The board seeks to ensure and enhance the ability of CASIS to optimize the use of the ISS National Lab through basic and applied space-based investigations that will continue progress toward our nation’s goal of developing a sustainable market economy in low Earth orbit.

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A Successful Second Rehearsal Puts NASA’s OSIRIS-REx on a Path to Sample Collection

These images were captured over a 13.5-minute period. The imaging sequence begins at approximately 420 feet (128 meters) above the surface – before the spacecraft executes the “Checkpoint” maneuver – and runs through to the “Matchpoint” maneuver, with the last image taken approximately 144 feet (44 meters) above the surface of Bennu. The spacecraft’s sampling arm – called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) – is visible in the lower part of the frame. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

by Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

Yesterday, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performed its final practice run of the sampling sequence, reaching an approximate altitude of 131 feet (40 meters) over sample site Nightingale before executing a back-away burn. Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site, is located within a crater in Bennu’s northern hemisphere.

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