Russian Cargo Ship Leaves, Crew Tests Dragon’s Comfort Factors

The Expedition 63 crew has expanded to five members with the arrival of the SpaceX Crew Dragon. (From left) Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Russia’s Progress 74 (74P) cargo craft departed the International Space Station today leaving four spaceships from the U.S., Russia and Japan parked at the orbital lab. It will be replaced in two weeks when the Progress 76 arrives to replenish the crew.

The 74P undocked today at 2:23 p.m. EDT after seven months attached to the Pirs docking compartment. The trash-packed resupply ship will descend into Earth’s atmosphere above the South Pacific for a fiery but safe demise. The 76P will take its place when it launches on July 23 at 10:26 a.m. and docks just three-and-a-half hours later to Pirs.

Four out of the five Expedition 63 crew members assessed comfort factors inside the docked SpaceX Crew Dragon today. This is a demonstration of the Crew Dragon’s habitability ahead of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission planned for later this year.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who piloted the Crew Dragon, will be joined by station Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin for the one-hour habitability test. The crew will arrange the cabin to suit the four space residents and report their comfort levels to engineers on the ground.

While they were setting up Crew Dragon for the test, the three NASA astronauts also had time for ultrasound eye scans, microfluid studies and orbital plumbing work. The two cosmonauts, including Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner, juggled a variety of Russian space research and tested Soyuz crew ship communications gear.

NASA Updates Planetary Protection Policies for Robotic and Human Missions to Earth’s Moon and Future Human Missions to Mars

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its panoramic camera to record this eastward horizon view on the 2,407th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Oct. 31, 2010). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has released two NASA Interim Directives (NIDs) updating the agency’s requirements for robotic and human missions traveling to the Earth’s Moon, and human missions traveling to Mars.

The first, NID 8715.128, addresses the control of forward terrestrial biological contamination associated with all NASA and NASA-affiliated missions intended to land, orbit, or otherwise encounter the Moon.

(more…)

CSA Awards Additional Space Technology Development Contracts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded an additional 10 contracts worth nearly CAD $4.49 million (US $3.3 million) to eight companies under its Space Technology Development Program (STDP).

The awards were in addition to 14 STDP contracts worth just over CAD $9 million (US $6.6 million) the space agency awarded to eight companies last month.

(more…)

China Launches Communications Satellite

A Long March 3B booster orbited the APSTAR 6D commercial communications satellite on Thursday.

The launch was conducted from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province.

APT Mobile Satcom will use APSTAR 6D to provide mobile communications for aviation, ships and vehicles.

China Academy of Space Technology, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, built APSTAR 6D.

New European Experiment Rack Installed on Space Station

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley (imaged above) maneuver the fridge-sized European Drawer Rack Mark 2 (EDR2) to its new position. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — After a successful launch aboard the Japanese HTV9 cargo vehicle, a new experiment facility was recently installed in the European laboratory Columbus as part of a comprehensive upgrade of Europe’s International Space Station module.

(more…)

Comet NEOWISE Sizzles as It Slides by the Sun, Providing a Treat for Observers

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE appears as a string of fuzzy red dots in this composite of several heat-sensitive infrared images taken by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission on March 27, 2020. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A comet visiting from the most distant parts of our solar system is putting on a spectacular nighttime display. Named Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, the comet made its once-in-our-lifetimes close approach to the Sun on July 3, 2020, and will cross outside Earth’s orbit on its way back to the outer parts of the solar system by mid-August.

(more…)

Heat Shield Milestone Complete for First Orion Mission with Crew

Orion heat shield for the Artemis II mission. (Credit: NASA/Isaac Watson)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently finished meticulously applying more than 180 blocks of ablative material to the heat shield for the Orion  spacecraft set to carry astronauts around the Moon on Artemis II.

(more…)

NASA Selects 10 Small Business Proposals for Lunar ISRU

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to the moon in the Artemis program, the space agency is increasingly eyeing the use of lunar resources to reduce the expense of launching everything from Earth.

NASA recently selected 10 proposals to develop technologies for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

(more…)

7 Things to Know About the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission

As seen in this artist’s concept, the SHERLOC instrument is located on the end of the robotic arm of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s next rover to the Red Planet is slated to launch no earlier than July 30. These highlights will get you up to speed on the ambitious mission.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In less than a month, NASA expects to launch the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Loaded with scientific instruments, advanced computational capabilities for landing, and other new systems, the Perseverance rover is the largest, heaviest, most sophisticated vehicle NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet.

(more…)

NASA Selects 4 Small Businesses to Mature Technology for Artemis Program

Artist’s conception of astronaut in an advanced spacesuit working on the moon. (Credit; NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected four U.S. small businesses to mature a range of technologies for sustainable exploration of the Moon under the Artemis program. Through Artemis, the first woman and next man will land on the Moon in 2024. Later in the decade, NASA and its partners will establish a sustainable presence on the Moon.

(more…)

House Subcommittee Sticks a Fork in Trump’s 2024 Moon Landing Plan

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

A House subcommittee has rejected the 12 percent increase in NASA’s budget that the Trump Administration says is necessary to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis program.

The House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee approved a bill today that would keep the space agency’s budget flat at $22.6 billion. The Trump Administration has requested a 12 percent increase to $25.2 billion.

The subcommittee approved only $628.2 million of the $3.37 billion requested for the crucial Human Landing System needed to take astronauts to the surface.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tried to look on the bright side and said he would take the fight for Artemis to the Senate.

“I want to thank the House Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee for the bipartisan support they have show NASA’s Artemis program. The $628.2 million in funding for the human landing system (HLS) is an important first step in this year’s appropriations process. We still have more to do and I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure America has the resources to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.”

The Republican-led Senate has been more supportive of Trump’s 2024 landing date. Democrats who control the House favor a return to the moon in 2028.

If the recent past is any guide, NASA will enter the 2021 fiscal year on Oct. 1 without new budget. Instead, the agency and the rest of the government will operate for months on a continuous resolution that keeps spending at FY 2020 levels.

Building NASA’s Psyche: Design Done, Now Full Speed Ahead on Hardware

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

The mission to explore a metal-rich asteroid is pivoting from planning the details to building real pieces of the spacecraft puzzle.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Psyche, the NASA mission to explore a metal-rock asteroid of the same name, recently passed a crucial milestone that brings it closer to its August 2022 launch date. Now the mission is moving from planning and designing to high-gear manufacturing of the spacecraft hardware that will fly to its target in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

(more…)

Chairwoman Johnson Demands Cooperation from Department of Commerce on Hurricane Dorian OIG Report

Eddie Bernice Johnson

DALLAS (Eddie Bernice Johnson PR) – Today,  Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross regarding the July 1 memorandum sent to Secretary Ross by the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General, Peggy Gustafson. The memo expressed concerns over the Department’s efforts to obstruct the publication of a completed Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, which was provided to the Department on June 26 and due to be published on June 29.

(more…)

Techshot Plans Commercialization of Crystal Production on ISS

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Techshot has a plan to commercialize the production of pharmaceutical crystals aboard the International Space Station (ISS) by developing improved production modules with funding from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

“Techshot proposes a business plan in which cost and time saving versatile flight hardware and flexible flight opportunities are made openly available to corporate and institutional users seeking improvements or refinements in product purification, formulation and/or delivery,” according to the project description.

(more…)

SpaceX’s 10th Starlink Launch Scheduled for Wednesday

Falcon 9 payload shroud. (Credit: SpaceX)

UPDATE: The launch was scrubbed due to weather. Awaiting word on date and time for next attempt.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, July 8 at 11:59 a.m. EDT, 15:59 UTC, for launch of its tenth Starlink mission, which will include 57 Starlink satellites and 2 satellites from BlackSky, a Spaceflight customer. Falcon 9 will lift off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission to the International Space Station, launch of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, and the fourth and seventh Starlink missions. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The BlackSky Global spacecraft will deploy sequentially beginning 1 hour and 1 minute after liftoff, and the Starlink satellites will deploy approximately 1 hour and 32 minutes after liftoff. Starlink satellites will be deployed in a circular orbit, as was done on the first through fourth Starlink missions. Additionally, all Starlink satellites on this flight are equipped with a deployable visor to block sunlight from hitting the brightest spots of the spacecraft – a measure SpaceX has taken as part of our work with leading astronomical groups to mitigate satellite reflectivity.

You can watch the launch webcast here, starting about 15 minutes before liftoff. If you would like to receive updates on Starlink news and service availability in your area, please visit starlink.com.