NASA to Provide Coverage of SpaceX Commercial Crew Flight Test

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

(more…)

SpaceX Protests NASA Contract Award to ULA

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

SpaceNews reports that SpaceX has filed a protest over NASA’s decision to award an $148.3 million contract to rival United Launch Alliance for the launch of the Lucy asteroid mission.

“NASA has issued a stop work order on the agency’s Lucy mission after a protest of the contract award was filed with the Government Accountability Office,” agency spokesperson Tracy Young said Feb. 13. “NASA is always cognizant of its mission schedule, but we are not able to comment on pending litigation.”

SpaceX confirmed that the company was protesting the contract. “Since SpaceX has started launching missions for NASA, this is the first time the company has challenged one of the agency’s award decisions,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to SpaceNews.

“SpaceX offered a solution with extraordinarily high confidence of mission success at a price dramatically lower than the award amount, so we believe the decision to pay vastly more to Boeing and Lockheed for the same mission was therefore not in the best interest of the agency or the American taxpayers,” the spokesperson added. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin….

A key factor in the decision to award the contract to ULA was schedule certainty. Lucy has a complex mission profile with a series of flybys in order to visit several asteroid either leading or following Jupiter in its orbit around the sun. That results in a launch window that is open for only about 20 days in October 2021. Should the launch miss that window, the mission cannot be flown as currently planned.

The Government Accountability Office has until May 22 to render a decision.

Pentagon Inspector General to Examine USAF Certification of Falcon 9

Falcon 9 lifts off on Spaceflight SSO-A mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Bloomberg reports that the Pentagon’s inspector general is going to review the U.S. Air Force’s certification process for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

“Our objective is to determine whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide when certifying the launch system design for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” the inspector general said in a memo to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson sent on Monday.

The Air Force’s certification of SpaceX in 2015 allowed the company take on military payloads, bringing competition to military space launches that were being handled solely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between top defense contractors Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. At the time, Musk said he was getting into the business in part to end a monopoly…

The memo to Wilson was signed by Michael Roark, deputy for intelligence and special program assessments. It didn’t give a reason for what prompted the evaluation. Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the inspector general, didn’t have an immediate comment as to what led to the evaluation.

Spaceflight to Launch First Privately Funded Lunar Lander

Lunar lander (Credit: SpaceIL)

In partnership with SSL, Spaceflight will send its first rideshare mission to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Feb. 11, 2019 (Spaceflight PR) – Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it will launch two payloads on its first rideshare mission to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). The mission is scheduled for no earlier than mid-February 2019 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launching from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

(more…)

NanoRacks Completes 15th CubeSat Mission on International Space Station

HOUSTON, January 31, 2019 (NanoRacks PR) — NanoRacks successfully completed the 15th CubeSat Deployment mission from the Company’s commercially developed platform on the International Space Station. Having released five CubeSats into low-Earth orbit, this mission marks NanoRacks’ 190th CubeSat released from the Space Station, and the 228th small satellite deployed by NanoRacks overall.

The CubeSats deployed were launched to the Space Station on the 16th contracted resupply mission for SpaceX from the Kennedy Space Center in December 2018.

NanoRacks offered an affordable launch opportunity, payload manifesting, full safety reviews with NASA, and managed on-orbit operations in order to provide an end-to-end solution that met all customer needs.

(more…)

Falcon 9-Crew Dragon Rolls Out to Launch Pad, Conducts Static Fire

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon for Demo 1 mission rolls out of the hangar. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon attached, rolls out of the company’s hangar at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Jan. 3, 2019. The rocket will undergo checkouts prior to the liftoff of Demo-1, the inaugural flight of one of the spacecraft designed to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA has worked with SpaceX and Boeing in developing Commercial Crew Program spacecraft to facilitate new human spaceflight systems launching from U.S. soil with the goal of safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the space station.

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon for Demo 1 mission undergoes first stage hot fire. (Credit: SpaceX0

At NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, the nine engines of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roar to life in a brief static firing on Jan. 24, 2019. The test was part of checkouts prior to its liftoff for Demo-1, the inaugural flight of one of the spacecraft designed to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA has worked with SpaceX and Boeing in developing Commercial Crew Program spacecraft to facilitate new human spaceflight systems launching from U.S. soil with the goal of safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the space station.

 

SpaceIL Lunar Lander Being Prepped for Falcon 9 Launch Next Month

The Falcon 9 launch is currently scheduled for Feb. 18 from Cape Canaveral. The lunar lander will be a secondary payload to the PSN 6 communications satellite.

SpaceX Layoffs Come as Market for Launching Big Satellites Slows

Falcon 9 lifts off with Iridium Next 41-50 satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

The Los Angeles Times points out that SpaceX is laying off 10 percent of its workforce just as the market for launching large communications satellites has slowed.

In announcing layoffs last week, SpaceX pointed to its bid for riskier markets — providing broadband internet via thousands of small satellites and building a spaceship for Mars transportation.

What went unsaid was that the company’s money-generating business of launching satellites may also face a squeeze, with new competitors on the horizon and fewer launches planned for huge commercial satellites that operate in a fixed position relative to the ground.

SpaceX cited the need to become a “leaner company” when it said Friday it would lay off 10% of its more than 6,000 employees. The cuts appear to be concentrated at its flagship Hawthorne facility, where 577 employees will be let go, according to a state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice dated Friday. The cuts ranged from composites and propulsion technicians and manufacturing engineers to baristas, cooks and dishwashers. SpaceX declined to say whether its facilities in Texas, Florida, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C., were also affected.

Orders have slowed for school bus-sized commercial geostationary satellites. Once as numerous as 20 to 25 per year, worldwide orders across the industry dropped to 17 in 2015 and 2016, according to a 2017 report from the Satellite Industry Assn. trade group. More recent industry order data aren’t publicly available, but experts say the trend toward smaller satellites for Earth imaging and communications has continued.

SpaceX Launches 21st & Final Mission of 2018

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Sunday, December 23rd at 5:51 a.m. PST, SpaceX successfully launched the United States Air Force’s first Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The satellite was deployed to its intended orbit approximately 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff.

The United States’ Global Positioning System delivers positioning, navigation, and timing services supporting vital U.S. and allied operations worldwide, and underpins critical financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure that billions of users have come to depend on daily.

The Launch Facility

The United States Air Force’s first GPS III satellite will augment the current constellation of 31 operational GPS satellites. This newest generation of GPS satellites is designed and built to deliver positioning, navigation, and timing information with three times better accuracy, and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capability. GPS is used by over four billion users and supports critical missions worldwide.

GPS is a National Security Space (NSS) mission, critical to national defense. In April 2016, SpaceX was awarded its first NSS mission, GPS III SV01. SpaceX currently has an additional four GPS III missions on contract, all of which will be launched on Falcon 9.

Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida SpaceX’s SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is a world-class launch site that builds on a strong heritage. The site, located at the north end of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, was used for many years to launch Titan rockets, among the most powerful in the U.S. fleet. SpaceX took over the facility in May 2008.

The center of the complex is composed of the concrete launch pad and flame diverter system. Surrounding the pad are four lightning towers, propellant storage tanks, and the integration hangar. Before launch, Falcon 9’s stages and payload are housed inside the hangar. The payload is mated to the Falcon 9 inside SLC-40’s hangar on the transporter erector. The rocket and payload are then rolled out from the hangar to the launch pad and lifted to a vertical position.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Rescheduled for Sunday

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Credits: NASA Television)

SpaceX canceled its launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral on Saturday due to strong upper level winds. The company will make another attempt on Sunday. The current launch schedule is:

Sunday, Dec. 23

Falcon 9
Payload: GPS 3-01 navigation satellite
Launch Window: 8:51 a.m. EST (13:51 UTC GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX’s 21st and final launch of 2018.

December 26/27

Soyuz
Payloads: Kanopus-V 5 & 6 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: 9:07 p.m. EST (0207 GMT on Dec. 27)
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

 

No Earlier Than Dec. 30

Delta 4-Heavy
Payload: NROL-71 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Webcast: https://www.ulalaunch.com/

 

Falcon 9, Delta IV Heavy and New Shepard Launches Rescheduled

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  (Credits: NASA Television)

After multiple scrubs, here is the updated launch schedule:

  • Falcon 9 — New date Saturday, Dec. 22 at 8:55 a.m. ET (13:55 UTC)
  • Soyuz — Dec. 26/27
  • Delta 4 Heavy — No earlier than Dec. 30, 2018
  • New Shepard — Early 2019

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Spacecraft and Falcon 9 Rocket Prepped for Flight

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are positioned at the company’s hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ahead of the Demo-1 flight test targeted for Jan. 17, 2019. The Demo-1 flight test is the precursor to the company’s Demo-2 flight test, which will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Demo-2 is targeted for June 2019.

Tuesday’s Word: Scrubbed

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)
  • Falcon 9 — SCRUBBED — Out of family reading on first stage sensors — rescheduled for Wednesday at 9:07 a.m. EST
  • New Shepard — SCRUBBED — Ground infrastructure issue — next launch window opens no earlier than Friday, Dec. 21
  • Soyuz — SCRUBBED — unfavorable high-altitude wind conditions —  rescheduled for Wednesday at 11:37:14 a.m. EST
  • Delta 4 Heavy — SCRUBBED due to high ground-level winds — rescheduled for Wednesday at 8:44 p.m. EST
  • GSLV Mk.2 — ON SCHEDULE for Wednesday at approx. 5:30 a.m. EST
  • Proton — ON SCHEDULE for Thursday at approx. 7:15 p.m. EST