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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NASA Science Keeps the Lights On

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Across NASA’s many missions, thousands of scientists, engineers, and other experts and professionals all over the country are doing what they do best, but now from home offices and via video conferencing. With most personnel supporting missions remotely to keep onsite staff at a minimal level in response to COVID-19, the Agency is moving ahead strongly with everything from space exploration to using our technology and innovation to help inform policy makers.  

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NASA Taps Workforce for Innovative Ideas for Coronavirus Response Efforts

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — For more than 60 years, NASA has overcome a range of unique challenges. Now, the agency is looking to leverage its expertise and capabilities to help the nation with the unprecedented challenge of coronavirus (COVID-19). To come up with new, innovative ideas for how NASA can best contribute to COVID-19 response efforts, the agency is tapping into the brainpower and creativity of its workforce.

On April 1, NASA launched an agencywide call for ideas on its internal crowdsourcing platform NASA @ WORK. The internal website fosters collaboration and provides NASA employees with an inventive way to share knowledge and solve challenges.

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COVID-19: How Can Satellites Help?

Normally busy, Frankfurt airport stands still amid the COVID-19 crisis. The image was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 30 March 2020. (Credits: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data – 2020, processed by ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has virtually paralysed daily life as we know it. Even when the spread of this highly infectious disease has been stemmed, the world will face huge challenges getting back to normal. To help support experts working in Europe’s research centres and technical organisations during these unprecedented times, ESA has issued two new initiatives related to understanding the effects that COVID-19 is imposing on society, the economy and the environment.

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SpaceX Starship SN3 Collapses During Cryo Test

Video Caption: Starship SN3 collapsed during a cryogenic proof test designed to validate the vehicle ahead of a planned static fire and 150-meter hop. SpaceX will now have to instead focus on future Starship builds.

Footage via Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF and edited by Jack Beyer (thejackbeyer)

Video Caption: Another very disappointing end to the week with SpaceX SN3 Starship Destroyed. Looks like the Liquid Oxygen Tank Crumpled. This is quite disappointing as we had huge hopes for the SN 3 because it looked just so much more robust. The welds were looking really beautiful.

The SN 4 is already being built so we can look forward to that which is going come up rapidly much quicker than most people would realize.

A huge thank you to Boca Chica girl with NASAspaceflight and also LabPadre links to both of those incredibly awesome channels below.

Editor’s Note: It’s disconcerting that work on this project is continuing during the coronavirus pandemic. I reviewed the video above that shows the stacking of the the Starship prototype that collapsed on the test stand this morning.

Credits: BocaChicaGal, NASASpaceflight.com & Marcus House

The above screenshot taken at 4:54 into the video shows employees working closely together without observing the six feet social distancing guidelines or wearing protective masks to guard against infecting each other with the deadlly COVID-19 virus.

Any one of these workers could have the virus for a week without showing any symptoms. During that time, an infected worker could unknowingly pass COVID-19 onto his co-workers. The result of that could be severe illness or death. Even young, seemingly healthy individuals have died when their respiratory systems collapsed.

SpaceX is legally exempt from closing its doors because it is classified as an essential business. That is due to the fact that Elon Musk’s company is a government contractor that performs vital, time critical work for NASA and the Department of Defense.

Starship, however, does not appear to be either vital or time critical. It’s a long-term development project that SpaceX is funding on its own. Neither NASA nor DOD is going to use Starship at any time in the near future. Their launch needs are satisfied by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy as well as the nation’s fleet of expendable boosters.

SpaceX’s goal of preserving humanity by making it a multi-planetary species is noble enough. It doesn’t need to place the humans making that possible at unnecessary risk in the midst of a deadly global pandemic.

Former NASA Astronaut Bill Fisher on the Risks of Treating Coronavirus Victims

This is a really excellent thread by a doctor who could be happily retired but is risking his life to save others. It’s definitely worth a read.

A Message on COVID-19 Pandemic from Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor

Tom Zelibor (Credit: Space Foundation)

A Message from Our CEO

As a world and an industry, we are in the midst of a global health and economic crisis. While there may be uncertainty about how we will recover, there is no doubt that the same ingenuity, drive, and collaboration that serves our exploration and industrialization of space will lead us to a swift recovery.

In just the last weeks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared use of a new corona virus test that returns results four times faster than existing diagnostic machines. We’ve seen scientists from around the world share and integrate the genome sequences of dozens of corona virus strains to spur development of a vaccine — a result aided by the space and satellite technology that allows split-second global communication.

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Full Mirror Deployment a Success

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (NASA PR) — In a recent test, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully deployed its primary mirror into the same configuration it will have when in space.

As Webb progresses towards liftoff in 2021, technicians and engineers have been diligently checking off a long list of final tests the observatory will undergo before being packaged for delivery to French Guiana for launch.

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Virgin Galactic Supports its Communities During COVID-19 Pandemic

George Whitesides

Message from George Whitesides
Virgin Galactic CEO

All over the globe, we are seeing and feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is one of the most significant crises we have seen in our lifetimes.  Whether it is the brave doctors and nurses working around the clock to help patients, children helping their elderly parents stay safe and fed, or parents and teachers keeping their kids educated while schools are physically closed – we are all in this together and we have a responsibility to help care for one another.

With the impact of COVID-19 mounting every day, our team has worked hard to help tackle this crisis, with an initial focus on the communities we work in.  I am proud of the commitment and initiative of our people at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, and Virgin Group in helping to support relief efforts.  Led by our in-house flight doctors, our COVID-19 team has been working closely with local hospitals, commercial suppliers, and government authorities to provide help where it is needed most.

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ESA to Conduct BepiColombo Flyby Amid Coronavirus Crisis

BepiColombo approaching Mercury. (Credit: spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Controllers at ESA’s mission control centre are preparing for a gravity-assist flyby of the European-Japanese Mercury explorer BepiColombo. The manoeuvre, which will see the mission adjust its trajectory by harnessing Earth’s gravitational pull as it swings past the planet, will be performed amid restrictions ESA has implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Virgin Orbit Designs New Mass Producible Ventilator of COVID-19 Patients

Bridge ventilator (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif., March 30, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR — Virgin Orbit has developed a new mass-producible bridge ventilator to help in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Virgin Orbit team has been consulting with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), led by the University of California Irvine (UCI) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), a group formed to spawn and nurture efforts to build producible, simple ventilators to aid in the current COVID-19 crisis.

Pending clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Virgin Orbit aims to commence production at its Long Beach manufacturing facility in early April, sprinting to deliver units into the hands of first responders and healthcare professionals as soon as possible.

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Virgin Galactic Stock Goes Up Again (After Going Way Down)

Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in front of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo during the Spaceport America runway dedication ceremony in October 2010. The spaceport still awaits its first suborbital flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s wild roller coaster ride on Wall Street continued over the past week as Richard Branson’s spaceline marked five months as a publicly traded company and 13 months since the last launch of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle.

Since debuting on the New York Stock Exchange at $12 last Oct. 28, the stock soared to a high of $42.49 on Feb. 20 before sinking to $10.49 on March 19. Over the past week, the stock has risen again; it reached $14.68 in after-hours trading on Monday.

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NASA is Part of COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium

WASHINGTON (Trump Administration PR) — The White House announced the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide with access to the world’s most powerful high performance computing resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus.

“America is coming together to fight COVID-19, and that means unleashing the full capacity of our world-class supercomputers to rapidly advance scientific research for treatments and a vaccine. We thank the private sector and academic leaders who are joining the federal government as part of the Trump Administration’s whole-of-America response,” said Michael Kratsios, U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

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UK Space Sector Working Together on Response to Coronavirus

LONDON (UK Government PR) — The Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency and the President and Chair of the UKspace trade body met virtually last week to discuss the space sector’s response to Covid-19.

The UK space sector employs 42,000 people and generates an income of £14.8 billion each year, while supporting £300 billion of wider economic activity through other industries with satellite services such as navigation, communications and Earth observation. Space is part of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure and has in-built resilience due to the autonomous nature of many orbital operations, the relatively low number of specialist staff required for ongoing operations, and multiple contingencies.

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