As Bridenstine Begs for Bucks at Home, Italy & Japan Move Forward on Artemis Cooperation

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the same week he pleaded with Senators to fully fund the Artemis lunar program, Jim Bridenstine signed a cooperation agreement with Italy and a key partner, Japan, moved forward with its part of the effort.

On Friday, Bridenstine “signed a joint statement of intent with Italian Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Riccardo Fraccaro, representing the Italian government, articulating strong mutual interest between the two countries in pursuing Italian contributions to lunar exploration activities as part of NASA’s Artemis Program,” the agency announced in a press release.

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Lander Simulation Testing Helps Advance NASA Navigation Spinoff

Xodiac rocket tests technology to enable precision landing on the moon. (Credits: Lauren Hughes)

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — A navigation doppler lidar (NDL) technology originally developed by NASA was demonstrated on a flight test on Sept. 10 with support from the Flight Opportunities program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

With roots at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the technology was licensed in 2016 by Psionic for both terrestrial and space applications, and both the company and Langley continue to evolve and advance the innovation for upcoming lunar missions.

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Dynetics Marks Progress with Artemis Human Landing System Test Article Development

Human lander (Credit: Dynetics)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Sept. 15, 2020 (Dynetics PR) — Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, has completed building a full-scale human landing system (HLS) test article that will be used for initial evaluations for NASA’s Artemis program.

The Dynetics HLS (DHLS) test article, located in Huntsville, Ala., is built to-scale and allows for test and evaluation across the engineering lifecycle. The DHLS team will use the test article for human-in-the-loop (HITL) task identification and analysis, assessing net habitable volume, crew module accommodations, placement and orientation of various components and overall habitability.

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National Team Completes System Requirements to Define Integrated Human Landing System Design

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — The Human Landing System (HLS) National Team, led by Blue Origin with partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, has completed its System Requirements Review (SRR). SRR is the first program “gated milestone,” which marks the successful baselining of the requirements for the mission, space vehicles, and ground segment. The design proceeded to the NASA Certification Baseline Review (CBR), followed by the lower-level element SRRs, and the preliminary design phase.

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Boeing Faces Independent Compliance & Ethics Review

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

Reuters reports that Boeing has submitted to an independent review of its compliance and ethics practices under an agreement with NASA and the U.S. Air Force in the wake of scandal relating to its bid to built the space agency’s crewed lunar lander.

The agreement, signed in August, comes as federal prosecutors continue a criminal investigation into whether NASA’s former human exploration chief, Doug Loverro, improperly guided Boeing space executive Jim Chilton during the contract bidding process.

By agreeing to the “Compliance Program Enhancements”, the aerospace heavyweight staves off harsher consequences from NASA and the Air Force – its space division’s top customers – such as being suspended or debarred from bidding on future space contracts.

The agreement calls for Boeing to pay a “third party expert” to assess its ethics and compliance programs and review training procedures for executives who liaise with government officials, citing “concerns related to procurement integrity” during NASA’s Human Landing System competition.

Loverro resigned his NASA post in May. Reuters reports that Boeing has fired a company attorney and a number of mid-level employees. The company has also revised its procurement procedures.

NASA rejected Boeing bid on the human lander for the Artemis program, which aims to land two astronauts at the south pole of the moon in 2024.

NASA awarded study contracts to Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX. The space agency plans to award a multi-billion contract to build the lander.

Blue Origin-Led National Team  Delivers  Lunar Lander Engineering Mockup to  NASA

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

HOUSTON (Blue Origin PR) — Today, the Blue Origin-led Human Landing System (HLS) National Team – comprised of Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper – delivered an engineering mockup of a crew lander vehicle that could take American astronauts to the Moon. The lander is set up in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF), NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building 9.  

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WSJ: Former Top NASA Official Under Criminal Investigation in Lunar Lander Procurement Case

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether a former senior NASA official broke federal procurement law by updating a Boeing official on the status of the company’s bid to develop a human lunar lander.

The grand jury investigation involves communication between NASA’s former head of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, and Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton.

Loverro, who abruptly resigned from NASA in May, is alleged to have improperly told Chilton that Boeing was about to be eliminated from a competition for human landing system development contracts because the company’s bid was deficient

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic, Looks Ahead in 2020, 2021

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — With 2020 more than half way through, NASA is gearing up for a busy rest of the year and 2021.

Following the recent successful launch of a Mars rover and safely bringing home astronauts from low-Earth orbit aboard a new commercial spacecraft, NASA is looking forward to more exploration firsts now through 2021.

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House Subcommittee Sticks a Fork in Trump’s 2024 Moon Landing Plan

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

A House subcommittee has rejected the 12 percent increase in NASA’s budget that the Trump Administration says is necessary to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis program.

The House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee approved a bill today that would keep the space agency’s budget flat at $22.6 billion. The Trump Administration has requested a 12 percent increase to $25.2 billion.

The subcommittee approved only $628.2 million of the $3.37 billion requested for the crucial Human Landing System needed to take astronauts to the surface.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tried to look on the bright side and said he would take the fight for Artemis to the Senate.

“I want to thank the House Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee for the bipartisan support they have show NASA’s Artemis program. The $628.2 million in funding for the human landing system (HLS) is an important first step in this year’s appropriations process. We still have more to do and I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure America has the resources to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.”

The Republican-led Senate has been more supportive of Trump’s 2024 landing date. Democrats who control the House favor a return to the moon in 2028.

If the recent past is any guide, NASA will enter the 2021 fiscal year on Oct. 1 without new budget. Instead, the agency and the rest of the government will operate for months on a continuous resolution that keeps spending at FY 2020 levels.

NASA Prepares To Send Artemis I Booster Segments to Kennedy for Stacking

Artemis I solid rocket booster. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

PROMONTORY POINT, Utah (NASA PR) — As it soars off the launch pad for the Artemis I missions, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is powered by two solid rocket boosters. Critical parts of the booster will soon head to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the Artemis I launch.

Specialized transporters move each of the 10 solid rocket motor segments from the Northrop Grumman facility in their Promontory Point, Utah, to a departure point where they will leave for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The cross-country journey is an important milestone toward the first launch of NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

Exploration Ground Systems teams at Kennedy will begin processing the segments with the forward and aft parts of the booster previously assembled in the Booster Fabrication Facility on site at Kennedy.

When the boosters arrive, they are moved into the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) that in the past to processed shuttle booster segments. Initial stacking of the aft assembly will occur here, and then booster segments will be kept at the RPSF until stacking on the mobile launcher inside Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS, along with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the Human Landing System and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

Head of NASA Human Spaceflight Resigns on Eve of SpaceX Crew Dragon Flight

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The head of NASA’s human spaceflight program has resigned three days before a flight readiness review (FRR) for the first human spaceflight from U.S. soil in nearly nine years.

Douglas Loverro, associate administrator for the human exploration and operations (HEO), resigned on Monday — nine days before a Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and aboard is scheduled to be launched by a Falcon 9 rocket on May 27.

Loverro, who took on the job in December, was to have presided over a two-day review set to begin this Thursday on whether to go ahead with the crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Loverro would have made the final go/no decision.

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New SLS Worry: Leaks

NASA’s Ground Transportation team guides NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s completed core stage from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the agency’s Pegasus barge on Jan. 8. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of NASA’s massive Space Launch System (SLS) has a depressingly familiar ring to it. Tell me if you’ve heard this before:

  • schedule continues to slip
  • costs continue to rise
  • core stage could develop fuel leaks.

Yeah, that does sound famil– Wait…WHAT?!?

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Astrobotic to Develop New Commercial Payload Service for NASA’s Human Landing System

Artist concept of the Dynetics Human Landing System on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: Dynetics)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic proudly announces that it is has been selected to develop and lead a new commercial payload service onboard the Dynetics Human Landing System (HLS). Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, was recently announced as one of three awardees by NASA to develop a new commercial lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis Program. The design and development of HLS for Artemis will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. With this new approach, the human lander will not only carry astronaut crews but also commercial payload shipments.

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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Praises NASA Lunar Lander Awards

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today released the following statement after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the selection of three from among five bidders to study and design the Artemis Human Landing System (HLS). These U.S. companies will produce a design, mission concept, and plan for the Artemis HLS, two of which NASA will eventually select for production.

“The Apollo Program was possible only because of public investments in spacefaring technologies,” said Wicker. “Making good use of commercial partnerships lowers the long-term cost of space exploration, and it allows the American aerospace industry to do what it does best – innovate. These competitors’ designs will play a major role in producing a brand-new human lander that will enable our astronauts to access important areas of the Moon’s surface and sustain our nation’s deep space exploration efforts.”

In November 2019, the NASA Authorization Act was reported favorably by the Committee. The bill broadly supports and authorizes funding for NASA’s Artemis program and a commercial services acquisition strategy for lunar landers.  

The Commerce Committee exercises jurisdiction over NASA.