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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Blue Moon Program Fact Sheet

Blue Moon crewed landing vehicle. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin released a fact sheet about its programs when it opened its new Huntsville manufacturing facility on Monday. Below is an excerpt on the company’s advanced development programs and Blue Moon lunar lander.

BLUE ORIGIN FACT SHEET

Advanced Development Programs

Blue Origin is developing advanced technologies to enable space exploration and development, including a NASA Tipping Point contract to mature cryogenic liquid propulsion for integrated large-scale lunar lander applications and several years of progress on the Blue Moon Lunar Lander and its BE-7 lunar landing engine.

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Blue Origin Fact Sheet on New Glenn, Engine Development

New Glenn is a reusable, vertical-landing booster with 3.85 million pounds of thrust, (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin released a fact sheet about its programs when it opened its new Huntsville manufacturing facility on Monday. Below is an excerpt on the company’s New Glenn rocket and its BE-3, BE-4 and BE-7 engine development program.

BLUE ORIGIN FACT SHEET

New Glenn

Named after John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, New Glenn is a single configuration, heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle capable of carrying people and payloads routinely to low Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, cislunar and beyond. Its first stage is fully reusable and built for 25 missions initially.

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AFRL, Blue Origin Partner on Test Site for BE-7 Lunar Lander Engine Development

The Altitude facility at Edwards Air Force Base, California, does tactical scale research on next generation rocket motor and engine components, propellant formulations, and subsystems; and high vacuum research on satellite components, subsystems, and systems. Research testing includes solid rocket motor testing at simulated altitudes up to 120,000 feet. The complex has been used for space simulation to validate thrust vector control systems, baseline a standard for solid rocket motor propellants, research extendible nozzle cones, and systems, and research space qualified ignition systems. (Credit: Blue Origin)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory and Blue Origin are developing a new test facility for the Blue Origin BE-7 lunar lander engine at the AFRL rocket lab here.

Capital improvements, funded by Blue Origin, will allow BE-7 testing in a simulated space-like environment. Planned work includes adding liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) propellant capabilities, along with other facility upgrades.

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Next Cygnus Spacecraft Named After First African American Astronaut

Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Northrop Grumman PR) — Northrop Grumman will launch the NG-13 mission on February 9, 2020. The company’s Antares rocket will launch the Cygnus spacecraft from Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia with the 5-minute launch window opening at 5:39 p.m. ET.

Northrop Grumman is proud to name the NG-13 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight. Major Lawrence was selected in honor of his prominent place in history as the first African-American astronaut.

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AFRL, ABL Space Systems Collaborate on Next-Gen Rapid Launch Systems

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory and ABL Space Systems are collaborating to develop and test rocket propulsion elements for use in launch vehicles thanks to a 3-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) both organizations have agreed to.

The CRADA, which was finalized July 10, 2019, focuses on research and development collaboration efforts that will transform the standard methods for rocket testing and launch operations and mature the technology base for more dynamic, robust and rapid launch operations.

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Michael Collins Honored with 2019 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy

Michael Collins

WASHINGTON,DC (NAA PR) – The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is pleased to announce that Major General Michael Collins has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for … “his lifelong dedication to aerospace and public service in the highest order, both as a pioneering astronaut and inspired director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.”

Established by NAA in 1948 to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the trophy is awarded annually to a living American for “…significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.” One of the most important, historic, and visible aerospace awards in the world, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy reflects a timeline of the most innovative inventors, explorers, industrialists, and public servants in aeronautics and astronautics.

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Virgin Galactic Pilots Join 80.46-Kilometer (50-Mile) Club

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow, who were awarded civilian astronaut wings last week, are among 18 pilots who have flown suborbital flights.

The two pilots flew SpaceShipTwo Unity to an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.72 km) on Dec. 13, 2018. That accomplishment qualified them for civilian astronaut wings using an American definition that places the boundary of space at 50 miles (80.46 km).

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Stratolaunch Hits 136 MPH in Taxi Test, Pops a Wheelie

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft lifts front landing gear off runway in high-speed taxi test. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Stratolaunch continued high-speed taxi tests at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Wednesday. The company tweeted that the aircraft reached a speed of 136 mph (219 kph or 60.8 m/s) and lifted the front landing gear off runway 12-30.

Stratolaunch aircraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Scaled Composites)

Word in Mojave has it that taxi and flight tests have been delayed over the past month due to weather. If the aircraft had to divert from Mojave, it would land on the lake bed at nearby Edwards Air Force Base. The lake bed has been soaked by rain.











418th FLTS Completes 10-year Support of NASA Orion Parachute Tests

An Orion test capsule with its three main parachutes touches down in the Arizona desert Sept. 12. (Credit: NASA)

By Kenji Thuloweit,
412th Test Wing Public Affairs

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — For a decade the 418th Flight Test Squadron has supported NASA by supplying C-17 Globemaster IIIs and personnel to assist with the testing and qualifying of the Orion spacecraft’s parachute system. That support ended Sept. 12 with the success of the final parachute system test over the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

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A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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Dream Chaser Glide Test Fact Sheet

Dream Chaser during glide flight. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Free-Flight Test Data Sheet

Date: Saturday, November 11th 2017

Lift-off time: 8:30 am PT

Release time: 09:41 am PT

Release altitude: 12,324 feet, mean sea level

Release equivalent air speed: 66 miles per hour

Release angle of attack: -2.17 degrees

Release angle of sideslip: -0.76 degrees

Maximum speed: 330 miles per hour

Maximum angle of attack in flight: 16.5 degrees

Dream Chaser time in glide: approx. 60 seconds

Dream Chaser horizontal glide distance: 16,217 feet

Dream Chaser touch down time: 09:42 am PT

Landing speed: 191 miles per hour

Landing touchdown point: 1,250 feet down runway

Landing rollout distance: 4,200 feet

Helicopter type: Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook

Length of helicopter suspension system: 200 feet

Runway: Edwards Air Force Base Runway 22 Left

Vehicle length: 30 feet long











Orbital ATK Receives $20 Million Contract for Solid Booster Technology

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)[/caption]The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $20 million contract to ATK Launch Systems for “advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology.”

The award is an “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, hybrid cost-plus-fixed fee and firm-fixed-price contract for advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology. This contract provides a contract vehicle the Air Force Research Laboratory, aerospace systems, and rocket propulsion division can use to establish task orders to advance solid rocket motor technologies and address technical needs for next-generation strategic, tactical, and spacecraft propulsion systems,” according to the contract announcement.

“Work will be performed in Corinne, Utah, and is expected to be completed by Oct. 16, 2022,” the announcement states. “This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, with two offers received. Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $650,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.”











A Look at the History of Suborbital Spaceflight

Neil Armstrong with the X-15 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

With Richard Branson once again predicting that Virgin Galactic will fly SpaeShipTwo into space before the end of the year, it seems like a good time to take a look at the history of suborbital spaceflight.

The number of manned suborbital flights varies depending upon the definition you use. The internationally recognized boundary is 100 km (62.1 miles), which is also known as the Karman line. The U.S. Air Force awarded astronaut wings to any pilot who exceeded 80.5 km (50 miles).

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Dream Chaser Arrives at Edwards for Drop Tests

Editor’s Note: Dream Chaser was last at Edwards in October 2013 for its first and only drop test. It was released from a helicopter and glided to a runway landing. However, it crashed after part of its landing gear failed to deploy. Video of the accident has never been released.

At the time, Sierra Nevada was testing a crew version of the Dream Chaser under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The vehicle was dropped from the program the following year. However, NASA has given the company a contract to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) using a cargo variant of the spacecraft.

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