SpaceX Leases Air Force Facility to Prepare Dragon Crew Capsules for Flight

Dragon 2 weldment and heat shield. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has taken another step forward toward flying astronauts to the space station.

In a sign that astronaut launches from Florida are growing nearer, SpaceX recently leased an Air Force facility where it will prepare Dragon capsules to fly crews to the International Space Station.

The 45th Space Wing said work on the capsule called Crew Dragon or Dragon 2 would take place in Area 59, a former satellite processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“This summer, they should be receiving their first Dragon 2 capsule, which will directly support NASA and the return of astronauts (launching into orbit) from U.S. soil,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, the Wing commander, at a recent transportation summit in Port Canaveral.

It’s unclear when SpaceX or Boeing will be ready to launch test flights of astronauts under NASA contracts.

Read the full story.

Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.

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Will Commercial Crew Come Through in 2018?


by Douglas Messier

Managing Editor

The last time Americans flew into space from U.S. soil was nearly seven years ago in July 2011. Four astronauts flew Atlantis to the International Space Station  (ISS) on the 135th and final mission of the 30-year space shuttle program.

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SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.

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A Look at NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Plans


Last month NASA officials gave a series of presentations about the space agency’s deep-space exploration plans to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Committee. I have excerpted slides from those presentations to provide an overview of what the space agency is planning.
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Updates From Blue Origin, Space Angels, Exos Aerospace & More

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference was held in Colorado earlier this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks tweeted the sessions:

Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are summaries of a number of talks based on their tweets.  The talks included Erika Wagner of Blue Origin, Dylan Taylor of Space Angels, John Quinn of Exos Aerospace, Tim Lachenmeier of Near Space Corporation, Lewis Groswald of the University of Colorado Boulder, and Alain Berinstain of Moon Express.

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Future Looks (Mostly) Bright for Space Industry in DC


The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through today. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
  • Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are updates based upon their tweets on what is happening in Washington, DC, from talks by officials from the FAA, NASA, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
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Sally Ride Postage Stamp Set for Next Year

The first American woman to fly in space, Sally Ride, will be honored with a postage stamp in 2018, the U.S. Postal Service has announced.

Ride, who passed away in 2012, was selected as an astronaut in 1978. She made her first flight aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Ride flew again the following year aboard Challenger on her final flight into space.

During her time at the space agency, Ride helped to develop the space shuttle’s Canadarm and directed NASA’s first strategic planning effort. She also founded and served as the first Director of NASA’s Office of Exploration.

Ride was the only person to serve on the boards that investigated the Challenger and Columbia shuttle accidents. She also was a member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology for eight years.

In 2001, she co-founded Sally Ride Science, a company that creates educational programs and products for students and teachers in elementary and middle school. The company has a special focus on encouraging girls to pursue science careers.

Ride passed away from pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61.

New Crew Arrives at International Space Station

The newly-expanded Expedition 54 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module for ceremonial congratulations from family and mission officials. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Scott Tingle, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency joined Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and crewmates Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 5:55 a.m. EST. The welcoming ceremony will begin shortly.

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Italian Space Agency Signs Letter of Intent for SpaceShipTwo Research Flight

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

BROOMFIELD, Colo., December 18 2017 (Virgin Galactic PR) — At the annual Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, Virgin Galactic and the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, ASI) announced that they had signed a Letter of Intent under which ASI would secure a full suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. ASI’s spaceflight mission is planned to take place in 2019 at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

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Update on Blue Origin New Shepard Flight

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through Wednesday. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News

Below is an update on Blue Origin’s New Shepard program based on their tweets.

Jeff Ashby
Chief of Mission Assurance
Blue Origin

  • Flawless New Shepard flight test last week
  • First commercial flight under a launch license issued by FAA — allows Blue Origin to collect revenues (unlike previous experimental permit)
  • New vehicle incorporates lessons learned from earlier flight test program that finished in October 2016
  • Roughly one year away from New Shepard human flight tests, 18-24 months from flights with human-tended payloads
  • Waiting until the commercial service version of the system is flying to sell tickets for New Shepard flights
  • Capsule has full environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) and triple redundancy as well as pusher escape system
  • New Shepard flights will have about three minutes of microgravity
  • 5 G’s peak experienced during reentry
  • Proprietary landing system provides a soft landing for capsule and its occupants and experiments
  • One day of training required that will include mission simulation and emergency egress instruction
  • Centrifuge training at NASTAR will not required for New Shepard flights
  • Flight will be conducted early in morning due to calmer winds at that time
  • Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Al Worden have expressed interest in flying
  • System designed to be rapidly reusable
  • Takes about two weeks to turn around New Shepard for relaunch
  • Goal is to reduce turnaround to one week with 20 operational personnel
  • Blue Origin landed a booster from space first (before SpaceX)
  • Watching a rocket land is even cooler than watching them launch
  • Shift from “used” rockets to “flight proven” has been a good thing
  • New Glenn orbital rocket will have 7-meter payload to accommodate larger payloads

Updates on Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through Wednesday. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News

Below are updates on Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America based on their tweets.

George Whitesides
CEO
Virgin Galactic
The Spaceship Company

  • good progress on glide test flight program in 2017
  • Six glide flights so far; 1 more SpaceShipTwo glide flight scheduled before powered flight tests begin in 2018
  • a lot of work underway to prepare SpaceShipTwo for powered flights
  • Italian space agency ASI has signed letter of intent to purchase research flight with Italian payload specialist scheduled for 2019
  • suborbital payload capacity is 1,000 lbs. (453.6 kg) w/ 500 cubic feet (14.16 cubic meters) of pressurized usable volume
  • integration of biological payloads within two hours of flight
  • access to payloads within 30 minutes of land, possibly as short as 5 to 10 minutes
  • company will complete facilities at Spaceport America in 2018
  • working on $1 billion investment by Saudi Arabia that was announced in October

Dan Hicks
CEO
Spaceport America

  • Commercial space industry is worth $339 billion annually and is growing
  • Users of Spaceport America benefit from large area of restricted airspace (adjacent to White Sands Missile Range)
  • Developing a infrastructure development plan that will include a payload processing facility with a cafeteria
  • Officials will present plan to New Mexico lawmakers in several months
  • UP Aerospace plans a sounding rocket launch from Spaceport America in January
  • UP Aerospace using a new rocket motor test facility at the spaceport
  • Possibility of conducting orbital launches from Spaceport America that do not involve dropping hardware over land

New Crew Launched to International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-07 rocket is launched with Expedition 54 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Scott Tingle of NASA, and flight engineer Norishige Kanai of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Shkaplerov, Tingle, and Kanai will spend the next five months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three crew members representing the United States, Russia and Japan are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:21 a.m. EST Sunday (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time).

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New Crew Set to Launch to ISS on Sunday

The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — On Sunday, Dec. 17, Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will launch at 2:21 a.m. (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Coverage of Expedition 54 launch and docking activities is as follows:

Sunday, Dec. 17

  • 1:15 a.m. – Soyuz MS-07 launch coverage (launch at 2:21 a.m.)

Tuesday, Dec. 19

  • 3 a.m. – Docking coverage (docking scheduled for 3:42 a.m.)
  • 5 a.m. – Hatch opening and welcome coverage

NASA TV will air a full complement of video of the crew’s pre-launch activities in Baikonur in the days preceding launch.

The six crew members of Expedition 54 will continue work on the hundreds of experiments conducted off the Earth, for the Earth. This crew continues the long-term increase in U.S. crew size from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the space station.

Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram and Twitter at:

https://instagram.com/iss

and

https://www.twitter.com/Space_Station