COVID-19 Delays to Cost NASA $3 Billion

High-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will cost NASA an estimated $3 billion due to program delays, according to a report from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

The report focused on the pandemic’s impact on 30 major programs and project with life-cycle costs of at least $250 million.

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Trudeau Names New Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Justin Trudeau

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has replaced the minister who oversees the nation’s space program as part of a shakeup of his cabinet that also involved the first Canadian to travel to space.

Trudeau named minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne to replace Navdeep Bains as minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. The position involves overseeing the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) among other duties.

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GAO: NASA Needs to Improve Artemis Management as New Schedule Delays Likely

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA needs to strengthen its management oversight of the lunar landing program to minimize delays and cost overruns as the space agency moves beyond the Artemis I flight test scheduled for November 2021, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO’s program review also found that schedule for the maiden flight of the Space Launch System and second Orion spacecraft does not account for delays resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Russia Achieves Clean Launch Record for Second Year in Row

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The outgoing year 2020 has become a difficult test for the entire world marked by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many world economic players have encountered objective difficulties in the implementation of previously outlined plans.

Unfortunately, Roscosmos also had to correct a number of plans, including those related to launch activities. Nevertheless, Roscosmos management put the quality of production and the safety of personnel working at the Russian rocket and space industry enterprises and cosmodromes at the forefront.

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The Year of the Four Spaceships: Final Report

Crew Dragon docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA webcast)

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 the disruption and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t the easiest year to get things done. Keeping that in mind, let’s see how the companies did in 2020. (Spoiler Alert: they came up a little short.)

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Canada’s Top Space Highlights of 2020

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

LONGUEUIL, Que. (CSA PR) — It’s an understatement to say that 2020 was an exceptional year. As the year draws to a close, here’s a look at some of the most compelling, inspirational and incredible moments for Canada in space. Happy New Year!

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Dmitry Rogozin Wishes Everyone a Happy New Year, Looks Toward Busy 2021

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Dmitry Rogozin, Roscosmos Director General, wishes a Happy New Year!

“We see off this year and welcome 2021 with high hopes. We hope that the Vostochny Cosmodrome will start operating at full capacity,” Rogozin said.

In 2021, Roscosmos expects to ensure the new Nauka orbital module launch to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and send the Luna-25 automatic interplanetary station from the Vostochny Cosmodrome to Earth’s natural satellite.

According to the head of Roscosmos, 2020 was a difficult year for the Russian rocket and space industry due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the world and Russia in particular.

“Nevertheless, Russia’s rocket and space industry worked uninterrupted. We ensured all our planned launches, including crewed launches from Baikonur,” Rogozin noted.

Next year, apart from Luna-25, Roscosmos plans to carry out about six launches of the British OneWeb communications satellites from Vostochny. In 2020, only one rocket launch took place from this cosmodrome – on December 18, 36 spacecraft of the OneWeb satellite company went into orbit.

In total, in 2020, Roscosmos conducted 17 launches of space rockets from the Baikonur, Plesetsk, Vostochny and Guiana spaceports.

NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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Shorthanded Virgin Orbit Postpones Launch Due to COVID-19

Closeup on LauncherOne. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Orbit has postponed the second flight of its LauncherOne booster scheduled for Dec. 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced on Saturday.

“Our latest round of contact tracing Friday evening led to a new batch of precautionary quarantines,” Virgin Orbit tweeted. “Consequently, we’ve fallen below the number of staff we feel we require to prudently and safely proceed with pre-launch operations….

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India’s Gaganyaan Human Spaceflight Program Delayed by 1 Year Due to Covid-19

Capsule descending under parachute (Credit: ISRO)

PTI reports that India’s human space flight program is likely to be delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As per the mandate of Gaganyaan, two uncrewed missions would be undertaken prior to the manned mission. Accordingly, the unmanned missions were slated for launch in December 2020 and July 2021, and the first manned mission was scheduled in December 2021.

“That will be delayed because of COVID,” ISRO Chairman, Kailasavadivoo Sivan, told PTI. “We are targeting for sometime next year-end or the subsequent year,” he said on the expected time-line for the first of the two proposed uncrewed missions.

The Gaganyaan project has the objective of demonstrating human space flight capability to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with three crew members in orbit and safely recovering them after the mission.

COVID-19 has significantly slowed India’s space program this year. ISRO typically launches about six times annually. The space agency launched for the first time and only time this year on Nov. 7. ISRO’s second and possibly final launch of 2020 is scheduled for Nov. 14.

Virgin Orbit Sets Holiday Season Launch Window

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — Virgin Orbit has set a window for its Launch Demo 2 mission. The primary date is Saturday, Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST. There is a similar backup launch window on Dec. 20.

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Window for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Suborbital Flight Opens Dec. 11

SpaceShipTwo fires its engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE), today announced its new flight window since it paused the spaceflight preparations in response to state guidelines from the New Mexico Department of Health to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The new flight window will open on December 11, pending good weather conditions and technical readiness. This flight expects to fulfill a number of objectives, including testing elements of the customer cabin as well as assessing the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during boost. The flight will also carry payloads as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.

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New Mexico Imposes 2-week Shelter in Place Order to Reduce Spread of COVID-19

SANTA FE (NM Department of Health PR) – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials on Friday announced the state of New Mexico will temporarily re-enact a statewide order closing in-person services for all non-essential activities in order to blunt the unprecedented spike of COVID-19 illnesses and to attempt to relieve dramatically escalating strain on hospitals and health care providers across the state.

The heightened restrictions statewide, enacted through an amended emergency public health order issued by the state Department of Health, will be in effect for two weeks.

The restrictions are effective Monday, Nov. 16, through Monday, Nov. 30. The amended emergency public health order is attached to this news release.

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Virgin Galactic Delays SpaceShipTwo Flight Test Due to COVID-19

SpaceShipTwo Unity in its first powered flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s first suborbital flight in nearly two years will have to wait a bit longer due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has postponed a powered flight test of SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity that had been scheduled to take place between Nov. 19-23 from Spaceport America after New Mexico reenacted its shelter in place order as the rising number coronavirus cases have begun to overwhelm hospitals.

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Musk Might Have COVID-19 Virus He Dismissed & Said He Wouldn’t Catch

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
  • Billionaire once predicted deadly coronavirus would largely disappear by April
  • Musk called government efforts to contain spread of COVID-19 “fascist”
  • He twice defied orders from health officials on closing his Tesla auto plant

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Elon Musk, who just six weeks dismissed the possibility that he would be infected with COVID-19, might in fact have caught the deadly virus. On Thursday, the SpaceX CEO tweeted:

Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD,” Musk tweeted on Thursday.

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