NASA Would Receive $4.4 Billion Under House Bill; DOE’s Radioisotope Processing Facility Funding Increased

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would received an additional $4.4 billion to perform repairs and upgrades on its aging infrastructure, conduct climate change research and development (R&D) and improve cybersecurity under an infrastructure spending bill now under consideration by the House of Representatives.

The funding does not include any money to fund a second human lander for NASA’s Artemis program that would likely have gone to the National Team led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The space agency awarded a single source contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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Baylor Space Health Institute Grants Support Studies on Reducing Astronaut Metabolism for Long Duration Missions

HOUSTON (Baylor College of Medicine PR) — The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine granted nearly $4 million in awards to four outstanding researcher teams in response to its Biomedical Research Advances for Space Health (BRASH) 2101 solicitation. The space health institute sought creative never-before-tried ways to reduce potential damage to humans from the space environment through manipulation of metabolism and the normal state-of-being at the cellular or whole organism level.

As NASA’s Artemis missions return humans to the Moon, TRISH works toward countermeasures to address the human health and performance challenges that come with deep space exploration. Modifying the body’s metabolic and homeostatic processes could help reduce damage from space radiation or reduced gravity, while also minimizing food and medical supply needs for future long-duration crewed missions.

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NASA Prompts Companies for Artemis Lunar Terrain Vehicle Solutions

Lunar Terrain Vehicle (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA is asking American companies for additional input on approaches and solutions for a vehicle to transport Artemis astronauts around the lunar South Pole later this decade.

The lunar terrain vehicle (LTV), an unenclosed rover that astronauts can drive on the Moon while wearing their spacesuits, will need to last at least 10 years, spanning multiple Artemis missions.

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This Week on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

Tuesday, August 24 — 7 PM PDT (9 PM CST; 10 PM EDT): We welcome STEPHANIE THOMAS of Princeton Satellite and to discuss nuclear fusion.

Wednesday, August 25 — Hotel Mars pre-recorded. See the Upcoming Show Menu at www.thespaceshow.com for details.

Thursday, August 26 — 7PM PDT (9PM CDT, 10 PM EDT): We welcome JEFF SHESOL re his new book, “Mercury rising: John Glenn John Kennedy and the New Battleground of the Cold War.”

Friday, August — 9:30AM PDT; 11:30 CDT; 12:30 PM EDT: We welcome CHARLES (CHARLIE) PRECOURT on Artemis and Northrup Grumman.

Sunday, August 29 — 12-1:30 PM PDT, (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome Dr. Paul Jaffe on his return to The Space Show to discuss his work with his SSP experiments.

Aerojet Rocketdyne Expands Los Angeles Facility for NASA’s Moon and Mars Rocket

Aerojet Rocketdyne cuts the ribbon on an extension to the company’s Los Angeles rocket production facility that will support NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Artemis program. Pictured left to right: Jim Maser, Sr. Vice President of Space at Aerojet Rocketdyne; Johnny Heflin, Manager of NASA’s Space Launch System Liquid Engines Office; Eileen P. Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President; Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA); Dr. Paul McConnaughey, Senior Advisor, NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate; Fernando Vivero, Aerojet Rocketdyne Los Angeles Site Lead. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 18, 2021 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne has finished a major expansion of its Los Angeles facility to support production of new-generation RS-25 main engines for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will send astronauts to the Moon as early as 2024.

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Firefly Aerospace Selects Redwire as Key Mission Partner in Lunar Lander Mission to Launch in 2023

Blue Ghost lunar lander (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., August 18, 2021 (Redwire PR) – Redwire, a leader in mission critical space solutions and high reliability components for the next generation space economy, has been awarded a subcontract from Firefly Aerospace to provide avionics and critical navigation systems for their Blue Ghost lunar lander. Firefly Aerospace was awarded a contract to deliver a suite of 10 science investigations and technology demonstrations to the Moon in 2023 for  NASA’s Artemis program. The award is part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services  (CLPS) initiative, in which NASA is securing the service of commercial partners to quickly land science and technology payloads on the lunar surface.

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First Piece of Artemis II Flight Hardware Arrives in Florida

Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. (NASA PR) — The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage for the second flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket arrived in Florida on July 28 for the final phase of production. The stage and its single RL10 engine provide the in-space propulsion needed to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft and its crew on a precise trajectory to the Moon for Artemis II, the first crewed mission of NASA’s Artemis lunar missions. It is the first piece of the rocket for the Artemis II flight to arrive in Florida. Boeing and United Launch Alliance, the contractor team for the stage, shipped the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage from ULA’s facilities in Decatur, Alabama, to its Delta IV Operation Center at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The stage will undergo final processing and checkout before it is transported to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for launch preparations.

With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration at the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the commercial human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

NASA Statement on Blue Origin Lawsuit with the United States Court of Federal Claims

NASA public affairs has issued this statement:

“NASA was notified that Blue Origin filed a bid protest with the United States Court of Federal Claims (COFC) following the denial of the protests filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding NASA’s selection for the human landing system (HLS) Option A award. NASA officials are currently reviewing details of the case.

NASA is committed to the Artemis program and the nation’s global leadership in space exploration. With our partners, we will go to the Moon and stay to enable science investigations, develop new technology, and create high paying jobs for the greater good and in preparation to send astronauts to Mars. As soon as possible, the agency will provide an update on the way forward for returning to the Moon as quickly and as safely as possible under Artemis.”

NASA IG Says: Lunar Spacesuits Behind Schedule, Would Not be Ready for 2024 Landing

Artemis and Orion spacesuits. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s 14-year effort to build lunar suits is going to consume more than $1 billion and will deliver working products after the space agency’s goal of landing two astronauts at the moon south pole in 2024, according to a new audit from NASA’s Inspector General.

“NASA’s current schedule is to produce the first two flight-ready xEMUs by November 2024, but the Agency faces significant challenges in meeting this goal,” the report said. “This schedule includes approximately a 20-month delay in delivery for the planned design, verification, and testing suit, two qualification suits, an ISS Demo suit, and two lunar flight suits.

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Mission Critical AEPS Thruster Completes Development Testing for NASA’s Lunar Gateway

Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster recently completed development testing. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

August 9, 2021 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster that will be employed on the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) for NASA’s international lunar Gateway recently completed development testing. The next milestone for the program will be the PPE Preliminary Design Review in October. Three 12 kilowatt (kW) AEPS thrusters will serve as the primary source of propulsion on the PPE to enable orbit transfer and in-space maneuvering.

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Rocket Lab to Launch NASA Funded Commercial Moon Mission from New Zealand

Photon CAPSTONE spacecraft (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LONG BEACH, Calif., August 6, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the leading launch and space systems company, today announced it will launch the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand from Q4 2021. It will be Rocket Lab’s first launch to the Moon. CAPSTONE (the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) aids NASA’s Artemis program, which includes landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon and establishing a long-term presence there.

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CAPSTONE’s CubeSat Prepares for Lunar Flight

The CAPSTONE team performs the full mission rehearsal of the propulsion hardware, with the qualification unit located in middle of the test stand. First, the propulsion tank is fueled with hydrazine propellant which requires the specialized protection for the operator (Level A encapsulated suits provide breathing and vapor protection for the Stellar engineers, Andrew Carlson and Sean Liston). Once the tank is filled with propellant, the full mission sequence is executed using the simulated satellite avionics and software. (Credits: Stellar Exploration)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Small spacecraft will play a big role in lunar exploration, including a Moon-bound CubeSat launching later this year.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, mission team is making the final preparations for the spacecraft that will make CubeSat history over a series of technological and operational firsts for the small platform. 

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Blue Origin Says: SpaceX’s Starship Lander Too Complex & Risky

Credit: Blue Origin

In the wake of losing its protest over NASA’s decision to award the Human Landing System contract to SpaceX, Blue Origin has released an information graphic calling the Starship system “immensely complex & high risk.”

The comparison on the right shows the distance from the surface to the hatches of the two vehicles. The text from the infographic is reproduced below.

LUNAR STARSHIP: IMMENSELY COMPLEX & HIGH RISK

There are an unprecedented number of technologies, developments, and operations that have never been done before for Starship to land on the Moon. This includes developing Super Heavy – not only the largest launch vehicle stage ever produced, but one that has to be reusable – and Starship – the first ever reusable second stage. Then, the two systems must work together. A launch site in Boca Chica, Texas that has never conducted an orbital launch must demonstrate the ability to do so 7-11 times within 1-week increments. And cryogenic fluid transfer – a process that has also never been done – must work to refuel up to 100 MT of propellants from Starship to Starship that also requires development of a new tanker Starship variant. Finally, for just a single Starship lunar landing, this must all be done more than 10 times flawlessly. This is so that Starship can get to the surface and back with a single-stage ascent/descent vehicle, without dissimilar redundancy in abort engines.

NATIONAL TEAM: SAFE, LOW-RISK, FAST

The National Team’s architecture only requires three launches and is flexible to fly on multiple existing launch vehicles with far fewer in-space rendezvouses. Further, the system is entirely built on heritage systems and proven technologies that are flying today.

  • FROM NASA SOURCE SELECTION STATEMENT: “While I find the positive aspects of SpaceX’s technical approach to be notably thoughtful and meritorious, these aspects are, however, tempered by its complexity and relatively high-risk nature… I acknowledge the immense complexity and heightened risk associated with the very high number of events necessary to execute the front end of SpaceX’s mission, and this complexity largely translates into increased risk of operational schedule delays.”

NASA Statement on GAO Ruling Regarding Human Landing System Protest

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The following is the NASA statement in response to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) decision released Friday on the human landing system protest:

“NASA was notified Friday, July 30, that the U.S. Government Accountability Office has denied the protests filed by Blue Origin Federation and Dynetics and has upheld the agency’s source selection of SpaceX to continue the development of its human landing system. The decision enables NASA to award the contract that will ultimately result in the first crewed demonstration landing on the surface of the Moon under NASA’s Artemis plan. Importantly, the GAO’s decision will allow NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the Moon in more than 50 years.

“NASA recognizes that sending American astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program and establishing a long-term presence on the Moon is a priority for the Biden Administration and is imperative for maintaining American leadership in space. In the face of challenges during the last year, NASA and its partners have made significant achievements to advance Artemis, including a successful hot fire test for the Space Launch System rocket. An uncrewed flight of Artemis I is on track for this year and a crewed Artemis II mission is planned for 2023. 

“NASA is moving forward with urgency, but astronaut safety is the priority and the agency will not sacrifice the safety of the crew in the steadfast pursuit of the goal to establish a long-term presence on the Moon.

“As soon as possible, NASA will provide an update on the way ahead for Artemis, the human landing system, and humanity’s return to the Moon. We will continue to work with the Biden Administration and Congress to ensure funding for a robust and sustainable approach for the nation’s return to the Moon in a collaborative effort with U.S. commercial partners.”