NASA’s First Practice Countdown of Space Launch System Ends with Glass (and Tank) Half Filled

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen at sunrise atop a mobile launcher at Launch Complex 39B, Monday, April 4, 2022, as the Artemis I launch team conducts the wet dress rehearsal test at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

by David Bullock and Douglas Messier

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA ended its first attempt to conduct a wet dress rehearsal for the maiden flight test of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft to the moon on Tuesday after four days of wrestling with a series of technical challenges and weather delays.

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NASA Administrator Statement on President’s FY 2023 Budget Request

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The President’s fiscal year 2023 budget would allow NASA to sustain America’s global innovation leadership and keep NASA at the forefront of exploration and discovery by returning to the Moon with the Artemis program, among other efforts. This budget would enable NASA to address climate change, drive economic growth, and promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

The Biden-Harris Administration Monday submitted to Congress President Biden’s budget for fiscal year 2023. The President’s budget details his vision to expand on the historic progress our country has made over the last year and deliver the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address – to build a better America, reduce the deficit, reduce costs for families, and grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out. 

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NASA Provides Update to Astronaut Moon Lander Plans Under Artemis

An illustration of a suited Artemis astronaut looking out of a Moon lander hatch across the lunar surface, the Lunar Terrain Vehicle and other surface elements. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As NASA makes strides to return humans to the lunar surface under Artemis, the agency announced plans Wednesday to create additional opportunities for commercial companies to develop an astronaut Moon lander.

Under this new approach, NASA is asking American companies to propose lander concepts capable of ferrying astronauts between lunar orbit and the lunar surface for missions beyond Artemis III, which will land the first astronauts on the Moon in more than 50 years.

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NASA to Release Draft RFP for Second Human Lunar Lander

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA plans to release a draft request for proposal (RFP) by the end of the month for a second crewed lunar lander to join the Human Landing System (HLS) being developed by SpaceX, officials announced during a media conference on Wednesday.

“Competition is the key to our success,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in describing the Sustaining Lunar Development contract.

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SpaceX Proposed Adapting Human Landing System into a Commercial Space Station

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX unsuccessfully applied for NASA funding to begin work on adapting the Human Landing System (HLS) it is building to send American astronauts to the lunar surface into a commercial Earth orbiting space station, according to a newly released government document.

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Report: SpaceX’s Boca Chica Plans Face Serious Objections from FWS, NPS

Starship SN15 takes off on May 5, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

ESG Hound’s latest look SpaceX’s plan to launch Super Heavy/Starship boosters from its Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas suggests the entire effort might need to be scrapped. (The US Department of Interior Drops the Gauntlet on SpaceX and the FAA: SpaceX is headed for an EIS)

The problem: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service do not agree that launching the world’s most powerful rocket will have a non-significant impact on federal and state-managed wildlife refuges and national monuments that surround the Boca Chica launch site. Without their sign off, ESG Hound says the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can’t approve the plan using an ongoing environmental assessment that it aims to complete by Jan. 31. A more complicated and lengthy environmental review would be required, resulting in years of delays.

Further, if SpaceX has viable alternatives for Super Heavy/Starship launches in Florida, the company might be required to abandon the Starbase site in Texas. Developing news facilities could result in significant delays to Super Heavy/Starship and the Human Landing System that SpaceX is building for NASA to return astronauts to the lunar surface.

Confused? Let’s review a little bit of history first.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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SpaceX Notches 100th First Stage Landing, Sets New Annual Launch Record

A SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy for the company’s 24th commercial resupply services mission for NASA. (Credits: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On December 21, 2021, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched Dragon on the 24th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-24) mission for NASA from historic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing our 31st and final launch of the year. Dragon separated from Falcon 9’s second stage about twelve minutes after liftoff and will autonomously dock to the space station on Wednesday, December 22.

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Elon Musk Calls Starship Raptor Engine Program a “Disaster,” Warns SpaceX Risks Bankruptcy Next Year

Super Heavy/Starship system in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In an internal email to employees, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that development of the Raptor rocket engine that will power the Super Heavy/Starship launch system is in “crisis,” adding the company risks bankruptcy if the company can’t turn the situation around, according to media reports.

The problems pose a risk not only to SpaceX and its multi-billion dollar Starlink satellite broadband program, but to Musk’s plans to colonize Mars and NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon. The U.S. space agency has awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop a lunar lander based on the Starship vehicle.

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Artemis: The Good, the Bad and the Well, Yeah

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and top officials provided an update on the Artemis program on Tuesday, delivering the not unexpected news that the space agency will not meet its deadline of landing a man and the first woman of color at the south pole of the moon in 2024. Instead, the landing will be delayed until at least 2025.

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Bezos Ends Challenge to NASA Lunar Lander Award to SpaceX

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos tweeted yesterday that he accepted a court’s dismissal of the company’s challenge to NASA’s decision to award a single lunar lander contract SpaceX. He wished the space agency and rival company full success in landing two astronauts on the moon.

NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop the Human Landing System in April. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) rejected protests from Blue Origin and Dynetics in July. Bezos’ company subsequently appealed in court.

NASA Statement on Court’s Dismissal of Blue Origin Lawsuit on Human Landing System Award

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA was notified Thursday that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied Blue Origin’s bid protest, upholding NASA’s selection of SpaceX to develop and demonstrate a modern human lunar lander. NASA will resume work with SpaceX under the Option A contract as soon as possible.

In addition to this contract, NASA continues working with multiple American companies to bolster competition and commercial readiness for crewed transportation to the lunar surface. There will be forthcoming opportunities for companies to partner with NASA in establishing a long-term human presence at the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program, including a call in 2022 to U.S. industry for recurring crewed lunar landing services

Through Artemis missions, NASA will lead the world in landing the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface, conduct extensive operations on and around the Moon, and get ready for human missions to Mars.

Blue Origin Lawsuit Over Human Landing System Dismissed

Blue Moon lunar lander (Credit: Blue Origin)

UPI reports that Federal Claims Court judge Richard Hertling has dismissed Blue Origin’s lawsuit seeking to overturn NASA’s award of a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX to develop a lander to return astronauts to the lunar surface.

Hertling’s dismissal order cited a sealed opinion that he signed. The order said the court wants the parties to the lawsuit to propose redactions to the opinion by Nov. 18 so the document can be publicly released.

This dismissal was the second defeat in Blue Origin’s effort to overturn the award. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) rejected the company’s appeal in July.

Blue Origin has argued that NASA unfairly evaluated its $5.9 billion bid. The company also claimed the space agency failed to properly evaluate the risks of SpaceX’s plan to adapt its Starship vehicle to serve as the lunar lander.

Blue Origin’s lawsuit had led to a freeze in work by SpaceX and NASA on the human lander. The space agency said the work will now resume in a statement issued on Thursday.

Blue Origin has unsuccessfully campaigned for NASA to award a second contract. Company founder Jeff Bezos said the company would be willing to reduce its cost by $2 billion to make the bid more affordable.

NASA has defended its decision by saying it did not have enough funding to award two contracts and still meet a goal to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. The space agency asked for $3.2 billion to fund the lander last year, but Congress appropriated only $850 million.

NASA has funded SpaceX through development of the lander and a demonstration flight that will land two astronauts on the surface. The space agency will open competition for future missions.