NASA Prepares to Complete Artemis SLS Rocket Structural Testing

The Space Launch System’s liquid oxygen tank is one of two propellant tanks in the rocket’s massive core stage that will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to help launch Artemis I, the first flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon. Now, the tank will undergo the final test completing a three-year structural test campaign at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Program is concluding its structural qualification test series with one upcoming final test that will push the design for the rocket’s liquid oxygen tank to its limits at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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SES Orders 4 C-band Satellites from Boeing, Northrop Grumman

Artist’s impression of SES-20 and SES-21. (Credit: Boeing)

Northrop Grumman and the Boeing Company to manufacture and assemble the C-band only satellites in Dulles, Virginia and in Los Angeles, California

LUXEMBOURG, 16 June 2020 (SES PR) – SES, the leader in global content connectivity solutions, announces it has selected two U.S. satellite manufacturers, Northrop Grumman and the Boeing Company, to deliver four new satellites as part of the company’s accelerated C-band clearing plan to meet the Federal Communications Commission’s objectives to roll-out 5G services.

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The Year of the Four Spaceships: A Progress Report

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA / Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic and reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With nearly half the year over, I thought it would be a good time to review the companies’ progress toward those milestones.

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Boeing Conducts First-Ever Astronaut Training in Virtual Reality Using Varjo Headsets

Photorealistic VR allows Starliner crew members to experience the most demanding and safety-critical scenarios in all phases of spaceflight

Helsinki, Finland, June 11, 2020 (Varjo PR) – Varjo, the leader in industrial-grade VR/XR headsets, today announced that its virtual reality headsets will be used by Boeing’s Starliner program to augment astronaut training, adding a new dimension to spaceflight preparations.

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U.S. Companies Advance Critical Human Lander Technologies

Compilation of artist’s renderings representing NextSTEP Appendix E work. Top row, left to right: Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Blue Origin. Bottom row, left to right: Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, Masten Space System, Boeing. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA and 11 commercial partners recently completed a series of technical studies, demonstrations and ground prototypes for 21st Century human landing systems. The Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Appendix E work helped the agency refine its Artemis program requirements for the companies competing to build the landers that will take American astronauts to the Moon throughout this decade.

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Rubio, Scott, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan American Space Commerce Act

Sen. Marco Rubio

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Marco Rubio PR) — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral American Space Commerce Act of 2020. At a time when the U.S. has steadily decreased its dependence on foreign rockets and launch infrastructure, the American Space Commerce Act would bolster U.S. leadership in the space industry, enhance public-private partnerships with American companies, and further increase U.S. innovation.

U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Charlie Crist (D-FL) introduced the House version of the legislation (H.R. 6783). The legislation is supported by the Aerospace Industry Association, Blue Origin, Boeing, Space Florida, SpaceX, and ULA.

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SpaceX Demo-2 Astronauts Get to Work on Space Station Science

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)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla, (ISS National Lab PR) – At a time when so many feel isolated, the world came together with hopeful energy on Saturday to watch as two American astronauts were launched into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade—and for the first time ever onboard a commercially owned spacecraft.

The successful SpaceX Demo-2 launch and docking, which carried NASA astronauts Doug  Hurley  and Robert Behnken from the Space Coast of Florida to the International Space Station (ISS), not only initiated a new era in American spaceflight but also rekindled the wonder and excitement of sending humans into space. Now, the two astronauts are getting to work in their new residence.

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Meet Crew Dragon Astronaut Douglas Hurley

OFFICIAL NASA BIOGRAPHY

Douglas Hurley (Credit: NASA)

Summary:

Douglas G. Hurley was selected as an astronaut in 2000. A veteran of two spaceflights, he was the pilot on STS‐127 and STS‐135. Hurley holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Tulane University. Before joining NASA, he was a fighter pilot and test pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Hurley is currently training for the Demo 2 flight of SpaceX’s CrewDragon spacecraft, the first crewed flight for that vehicle.  He and his crewmates are working closely with SpaceX to develop their new spacecraft systems, which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and, along with Boeing’s Starliner, return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil.

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Head of NASA Human Spaceflight Resigns on Eve of SpaceX Crew Dragon Flight

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The head of NASA’s human spaceflight program has resigned three days before a flight readiness review (FRR) for the first human spaceflight from U.S. soil in nearly nine years.

Douglas Loverro, associate administrator for the human exploration and operations (HEO), resigned on Monday — nine days before a Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and aboard is scheduled to be launched by a Falcon 9 rocket on May 27.

Loverro, who took on the job in December, was to have presided over a two-day review set to begin this Thursday on whether to go ahead with the crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Loverro would have made the final go/no decision.

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Tethers Unlimited’s HyperBus Receives Additional NASA Funding

HyperBus orbital platform (Credit: Tethers Unlimited)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Tethers Unlimited Inc. (TUI) for additional funding to develop its HyperBus Cargo (HBC) platform, which is designed to move modules around in space to support orbital construction.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) phase II award will provide up to $750,000 to further HBC development. NASA previously funded the program with a smaller phase I award.

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NASA Completes Negotiations for Extra Soyuz Seat

Luca Parmitano during Soyuz redocking (Credit: ESA/NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — To ensure the agency keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station until commercial crew capabilities are routinely available, NASA has completed negotiations with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall.

The agency received no responses from U.S. suppliers to a synopsis issued in the fall of 2019 for crew transportation in 2020. Boeing and SpaceX are in the final stages of development and testing of new human space transportation systems that will launch astronauts from American soil, including NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission scheduled for launch no earlier than May 27.

In case you missed it, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared why the Demo-2 mission is essential.

Editor’s Note: SpaceNews reports the price is $90.25 million.

SpaceX Won Lunar Gateway Logistics Contract on Price, Quality; Boeing Eliminated From Bidding

Illustration of the SpaceX Dragon XL as it is deployed from the Falcon Heavy’s second stage in high Earth orbit on its way to the Gateway in lunar orbit. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX won a multi-billion NASA contract to transport supplies to the lunar Gateway by providing a superior cargo ship with more capacity at a lower price than three major aerospace giants, according to a source selection document released by the space agency.

NASA eliminated Boeing from the competition because its proposal had the lowest mission suitability score while asking for the highest price. The evaluation board found eight weaknesses, four strengths and not a single significant strength in the company’s technical approach.

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Boeing to Fly Additional Starliner Mission

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Boeing has decided to fly a second uncrewed flight test as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Although no new launch date has been set, NASA has accepted the proposal to fly the mission again and will work side-by-side with Boeing to resume flight tests to the International Space Station on the company’s CST-100 Starliner system.

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Boeing to Refly Automated Starliner Flight Test

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing will refly an automated mission of its Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year after the near catastrophic loss of one of the crew vehicle in December.

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Xplore Sponsors Xtronaut’s Kickstarter Campaign, Donates Space Games to The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning

SEATTLE, March 26,2020 (Xplore PR) — Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space as a ServiceTM, today announced sponsorship of the Kickstarter campaign for Xtronaut 2.0, an award-winning STEM-themed board game.

Xtronaut 2.0, a fun, multi-player game for players ages eight and up, teaches the real-world challenges of solar system exploration and educates players on how to plan missions to deep space. Xplore’s high-performance spacecraft, the XcraftTM, is a new feature in Xtronaut 2.0, which mirrors real-life space missions. Players can plan exploration missions and send the XcraftTM to the Moon, Mars, Venus, and asteroids, including Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission. Spacecraft in the game can launch on SpaceX, ULA, and NASA-SLS rockets.

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