Northrop Grumman Successfully Completes Historic First Docking of Mission Extension Vehicle with Intelsat 901 Satellite

View of IS-901 satellite from Mission Extension Vehicle-1’s (MEV-1) “near hold” position during approach from approximately 20 meters with Earth in the background. The MEV successfully docked with the Intelsat 901 satellite on Tuesday, Feb. 25. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

DULLES, Va., Feb. 26, 2020 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, have successfully completed the first docking of the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) to the Intelsat 901 (IS-901) spacecraft in order to provide life-extension services. This historic accomplishment marks the first time two commercial satellites have docked in orbit and the first time that mission extension services will be offered to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.

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Virgin Galactic: High Losses, Minimal Revenues & A lot of “Registrations of Interest”

A view from inside the cockpit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s now publicly traded Virgin Galactic space tourism company had its first quarterly and full year earnings call on Tuesday. You can read the press release here. Below are the key takeaways.

Burning cash: Net losses were nearly $72.8 million for the fourth quarter and $210.9 million for 2019. Net losses for 2018 and 2019 totaled $349.1 million. Total expenditures since 2004 have exceeded $1 billion.

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400 Marsquakes Detected by UK Sensors in One Year

This image from InSight’s robotic-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera shows the instruments on the spacecraft’s deck, with the Martian surface of Elysium Planitia in the background. The image was received on Dec. 4, 2018 (Sol 8). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The NASA InSight lander, which is supported by the UK Space Agency, has recorded 400 likely ‘Marsquakes’ in the first year of its mission.

The seismic vibrations on Mars were detected by a set of silicon sensors developed in the UK for InSight’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).

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Virgin Galactic Releases Fourth Quarter Results

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity arrives at Spaceport America aboard WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Registrations of interest continue to grow to 7,957, more than doubling since last update[1]

“One Small Step” initiative announced, enabling prospects to take first step toward ticket to space

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and full-year ended December 31, 2019.

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Virgin Galactic Starts Taking Flight Deposits Again

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo fly right overhead. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Editor’s Note: They kind of buried the lede here. Read down to paragraph 4 of 7. Virgin also closed ticket sales after VSS Enterprise crashed in October 2014, at which time it had more 700 firm reservations. But, notice the legalistic clarification: formally closed.

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, announced today that in preparation for the re-opening of spaceflight sales, it is introducing the One Small Step initiative. The company formally closed its doors to new ticket sales after its history-making first space flight in December 2018.

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SpaceX CRS-20 Launch Targeted for March 6

A camera on the tip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm views the SpaceX Dragon as it separates from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NASA PR) — SpaceX is now targeting March 6 at 11:50 p.m. EST for launch of its 20th commercial resupply services mission (CRS-20) to the International Space Station. During standard preflight inspections, SpaceX identified a valve motor on the second stage engine behaving not as expected and determined the safest and most expedient path to launch is to utilize the next second stage in line that was already at the Cape and ready for flight.

The new second stage has already completed the same preflight inspections with all hardware behaving as expected. The updated target launch date provides the time required to complete preflight integration and final checkouts.

The cargo Dragon will lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying more than 5,600 pounds of science investigations and cargo to the station, including research on particle foam manufacturing, water droplet formation, the human intestine and other cutting-edge investigations.

Learn more about space station activities by following  @space_station  and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

CSA Invests in Canadian Lunar Science and Technology

Moon (Credit: NASA)

LONGUEUIL, Quebec, February 25, 2020 – Canada has joined humanity’s return to the Moon – an investment in science, innovation and research to unlock new opportunities for economic growth and to help us answer important questions about our planet, universe and ourselves.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is presenting Canada’s space community, including small and medium-sized businesses, with the opportunity to contribute technologies to national and international efforts of exploring the Moon. This is a crucial step in humanity’s quest to travel further in space, onwards to Mars.

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A Year of Surprising Science From NASA’s InSight Mars Mission

In this artist’s concept of NASA’s InSight lander on Mars, layers of the planet’s subsurface can be seen below and dust devils can be seen in the background. (Credits: IPGP/Nicolas Sarter)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A new understanding of Mars is beginning to emerge, thanks to the first year of NASA’s InSight lander mission. Findings described in a set of six papers published today reveal a planet alive with quakes, dust devils and strange magnetic pulses.

Five of the papers were published in Nature. An additional paper in Nature Geoscience details the InSight spacecraft’s landing site, a shallow crater nicknamed “Homestead hollow” in a region called Elysium Planitia.

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NASA Asks Commercial Moon Delivery Partners to Fly Rover to Search for Water Ice

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is asking its 14 Commercial Lunar Payload Services companies to bid on flying VIPER to the Moon by 2023. VIPER, or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, is a golf-cart sized mobile robot that will look for water ice at one of the Moon’s poles. 

During its mission, VIPER will roam several miles and use its four science instruments — including a 1-meter drill — to sample various soil environments. It will collect up to 100 days of data that will be used to inform the first global water resource maps of the Moon. 

VIPER will help NASA get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice that could eventually be harvested to sustain human exploration on the Moon, and helppave the way for astronaut missions to the Moon beginning in 2024.

The ability to send payloads of varying sizes to the Moon is a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration efforts. NASA already has awarded two companies with missions to deliver science to the Moon in 2021, and issued a separate task order in early February for companies to bid on delivering eight additional science payloads in 2022.

The Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative is leveraging the capabilities of commercial industry to send scientific instruments and technology demonstrations to the Moon quickly. NASA expects to issue a regular series of task order proposal requests to expand the scope of agency payloads requiring transportation services to the lunar surface ahead of human landings.

Future payloads could include other rovers, power sources, additional science experiments, or other equipment and technologies needed for astronaut expeditions on the lunar surface.

http://www.nasa.gov/viper

https://www.nasa.gov/content/commercial-lunar-payload-services

NASA Administrator Statement on Passing of Katherine Johnson

Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Reid Conference Center. Honored guests include Katherine G. Johnson and members of her family, Mayor Donnie Tuck, Senator Warner and Governor McAuliffe. Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures,” (Credit: NASA)

The following is a statement from Administrator Jim Bridenstine on the passing of NASA legend Katherine Johnson, who worked for the agency from 1953 to 1986.

“NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson. Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space. Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars. Her Presidential Medal of Freedom was a well-deserved recognition.

“At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential.”

Simulations are ‘Great Days’ for NASA’s Artemis I Launch Team

Artemis I Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson (left) stands at the launch console inside the Launch Control Center’s Firing Room 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a countdown simulation. Next to her are Jessica Parsons, technical assistant to the launch director, and Jeremy Graeber, NASA’s Test, Launch and Recovery Operations branch chief, who also serves as the assistant launch director. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Anna Heiney
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA is preparing for the first uncrewed flight test next year of the agency’s powerful new rocket and spacecraft in development for the Artemis lunar exploration program. The Exploration Ground Systems team of launch controllers who will oversee the countdown and liftoff of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft are practicing – and perfecting – the procedures required for a successful launch.

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AFRL, Masten & NASA Collaborate on Successful Testing of Methane Engine

The Masten 25k lbf thrust Broadsword rocket engine. (Credit: Masten Space Systems/Matthew Kuhns)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and Masten Space Systems Inc. successfully tested a liquid methane rocket engine, the first of its kind tested at AFRL.

AFRL and Masten signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement in December 2018. The agreement enabled Masten to test the Broadsword 25K engine at AFRL’s rocket testing facility at Edwards Air Force Base in Test Area 1-125 and complete NASA’s Tipping Point contract requirement of a ten second hot fire test.

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Video: ESA’s First 3D Printer for Space

Video Caption: Presenting Europe’s first 3D printer designed for use in weightlessness, printing aerospace-quality plastics. ESA’s Manufacturing of Experimental Layer Technology (MELT) project printer has to be able to operate from any orientation – up, down or sideways – in order to serve in microgravity conditions aboard the International Space Station. Based on the ‘fuse filament fabrication’ process, it has been designed to fit within a standard ISS payload rack, and to meet the Station’s rigorous safety standards.

The MELT printer can print a wide variety of thermoplastics from ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), as used in Lego, up to high-melting point engineering thermoplastics such PEEK (Polyether ether ketone), which is robust enough to substitute for metal materials in some cases.

The printer was produced for ESA by a consortium led by Sonaca Space GmbH together with BeeVeryCreative, Active Space Technologies SA and OHB-System AG. The MELT project was supported through ESA’s Technology Development Element programme, which identifies promising technologies for space, then demonstrates their workability.

USSF Signs Vision for Single, Integrated Satellite Communications Enterprise

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (U.S. Space Force PR) — Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force, and Commander, U.S. Space Command, recently signed the USSF Vision for Enterprise Satellite Communications (SATCOM).
 

The Enterprise SATCOM Vision outlines the new Service’s vision to evolve SATCOM into a single enterprise that can continue to deliver effects to warfighters from and through a contested, degraded and operationally-limited (CDO) environment.

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Exotrail Secures Contract with AAC Clyde Space to Equip Spacecraft for Eutelsat’s ELO 3 and 4

PARIS (Exotrail PR) — Exotrail, a French company dedicated to providing innovative on-orbit transportation solutions for the small satellite market have announced today that they have signed a contract with AAC Clyde Space, Europe’s leading nanosatellite solutions specialist.

Exotrail will equip them with cutting-edge propulsion solutions for their customer, the global satellite telecommunications leader Eutelsat, for its ELO 3 and ELO 4 spacecrafts.The French company will provide propulsion systems for the two 6U CubeSats which will be manufactured and delivered to orbit by AAC Clyde Space.

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