NASA to Host Teleconference with New Human Exploration Leader

Kathryn Lueders

WASHIGNTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 18, to introduce Kathy Lueders, the newly selected associate administrator of the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/live

Prior to her appointment as the head of NASA’s human spaceflight office, Lueders served as the program manager for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Since 2014, she has worked with private industry to develop, test and fly next-generation American human space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit, including to the International Space Station.

For information about NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/index.html

The Year of the Four Spaceships: A Progress Report

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA / Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic and reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With nearly half the year over, I thought it would be a good time to review the companies’ progress toward those milestones.

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Boeing Conducts First-Ever Astronaut Training in Virtual Reality Using Varjo Headsets

Photorealistic VR allows Starliner crew members to experience the most demanding and safety-critical scenarios in all phases of spaceflight

Helsinki, Finland, June 11, 2020 (Varjo PR) – Varjo, the leader in industrial-grade VR/XR headsets, today announced that its virtual reality headsets will be used by Boeing’s Starliner program to augment astronaut training, adding a new dimension to spaceflight preparations.

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SpaceX Launches 58 Starlink Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off on June 13, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX launched its ninth Starlink mission on Saturday, lofting 58 Starlink and three Planet SkySat Earth observation satellites into orbit.

Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the pre-dawn darkness.

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NASA Selects University Teams to Develop Technologies to Enhance Its Artemis Missions

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA, in partnership with the National Space Grant Foundation, has selected seven university teams to develop innovative design ideas that will help NASA advance and execute its Artemis  program objectives.

The selections are a part of the 2021 Moon to Mars eXploration Systems and Habitation (M2M X-Hab)  Academic Innovation Challenge, sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division. The winning teams will be given monetary awards ranging from $15,000- $50,000 to assist them in designing and producing studies, research findings or functional products that bridge strategic knowledge gaps, increase capabilities and lower technology risks related to NASA’s Moon to Mars space exploration missions.

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Kathy Lueders Selected to Lead NASA’s Human Spaceflight Office

Kathryn Lueders

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Friday selected Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders to be the agency’s next associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate. Since 2014, Lueders has directed NASA’s efforts to send astronauts to space on private spacecraft, which culminated in the successful launch of Demo-2 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30.

“Kathy gives us the extraordinary experience and passion we need to continue to move forward with Artemis and our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024,” said Bridenstine. “She has a deep interest in developing commercial markets in space, dating back to her initial work on the space shuttle program. From Commercial Cargo and now Commercial Crew, she has safely and successfully helped push to expand our nation’s industrial base. Kathy’s the right person to extend the space economy to the lunar vicinity and achieve the ambitious goals we’ve been given.”

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Major Space Agency Heads Hold Virtual Meeting

Translated from French by Google Translate

PARIS (CNES PR) — Tuesday, June 9, fifteen heads of space agencies from around the world (European Space Agency (ESA), Germany, Australia, Canada, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, France, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, News – Zealand, Russia, United Kingdom) participated, at the invitation of NASA, in a virtual meeting to exchange their points of view on the progress of human and robotic exploration. 

Because of COVID-19, this meeting could not be held, as every year, at the time of the Colorado Springs Space Symposium initially scheduled for the end of March. 

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USRA and NASA Scientists Set Another Fire Inside the Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft

This edge view of Saffire’s flame shows it developing over a one-centimeter thick sample of a plexiglass type material found on spacecraft. The blue color is typical of microgravity flames and moves from left to right at 20 cm per second. (Credits: NASA)

COLUMBIA, MD (USRA PR) — NASA has been conducting a series of space fire experiments called Spacecraft Fire Safety (Saffire) Experiments that investigate how fires grow and spread in space, especially aboard future spacecraft bound for Moon and Mars. Recently, another set of experiments were conducted when Saffire IV lit longer and stronger flames inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus Cargo spacecraft.

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Roscosmos Moves Forward with Cosmonaut Selection

The crew of Soyuz MS-16: Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin and with NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Translated from Russian using Google Translate

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos State Corporation has finished accepting applications for participation in an open competition for the selection of candidates for the cosmonaut corps of the Russian Federation, which was announced on June 3, 2019. 

Under the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it was decided that applicants who submitted an incomplete set of documents for the competition until June 1, 2020 inclusive, will be able to participate in it by submitting the missing documents by the end of the current month.

Within the framework of the competition, from the moment of its beginning to May 31, 2020 inclusively, the competition commission accepted 1,404 applications.  Moreover, 156 applicants provided a full package of necessary documents, including 123 men and 33 women. 

During the extramural selection stage, which will last until June 30, 2020 inclusive, following the results of six meetings, the Competition Commission considered more than 90% of the applicants. 

At the time of publication of this message, 28 candidates (among them three women) have already received an invitation to the in-person selection stage.

Follow the news of selection in the cosmonaut corps of the Russian Federation.

Space Exploration in a Time of Social Turmoil

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The contrast was jarring. In one browser window, two NASA astronauts were making their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first orbital launch of a crew from U.S. soil in nearly 9 years.

In another window, scenes of chaos played out as protests over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by Minneapolis police erupted into violent clashes across the country.

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Rubio, Scott, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan American Space Commerce Act

Sen. Marco Rubio

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Marco Rubio PR) — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral American Space Commerce Act of 2020. At a time when the U.S. has steadily decreased its dependence on foreign rockets and launch infrastructure, the American Space Commerce Act would bolster U.S. leadership in the space industry, enhance public-private partnerships with American companies, and further increase U.S. innovation.

U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Charlie Crist (D-FL) introduced the House version of the legislation (H.R. 6783). The legislation is supported by the Aerospace Industry Association, Blue Origin, Boeing, Space Florida, SpaceX, and ULA.

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GAO: NASA Performance on Major Projects Continues to Deteriorate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest assessment of NASA’s major projects at the end of April. It found that NASA’s performance on its major projects continued to deteriorate on cost and schedule. (Full Report)

Below are key excerpts from the report that provide an overview of where NASA stands on its major projects. Although GAO did not analyze the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, the watchdog warned the Trump Administration’s decision to move the landing date up from 2028 to 2024 will put more pressure on the space agency.

“Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame,” the report stated.

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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.

Book Catalogs Four Decades of Human Lunar Lander Concepts

“After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo,” from the desk of author John Connolly. (Credits: NASA/John Connolly)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A NASA-published volume traces the history of human  lunar lander concepts  developed since  Apollo’s Lunar Module (LM). After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo tells the story of physics, technology, and the desire to return humans to the lunar surface through technical descriptions,  imagery and  subsystem mass breakouts of more than 100 lunar lander concepts created by NASA and its contractors since the Apollo program.

The concepts are grouped by the human exploration timelines that defined the post-Apollo period, starting  post-Apollo and continuing through the Space Exploration Initiative and the Vision for Space Exploration, and concluding with the many lander designs created to support NASA’s Constellation program. Readers will see the common “trades” that are explored in crewed landing systems, including  propellant types, pressurized volumes, structural mass fractions, mass margins, crew size, and special accommodations for ergonomics and other human factors.

Author John Connolly has spent 33 years at NASA, primarily leading development of lunar surface systems, including landers. “I think this compilation illustrates how, when a crewed lunar lander is stripped down to its most basic functions, its form ultimately responds to fundamental physics and human factors,” Connolly said. “With a nod to science fiction, of course.”   

The 277-page After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo is free to the public and available for download on NASA’s Technical Reports Server: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20190031985

NASA Modifies SpaceX Contract to Allow Reuse of Crew Dragon, Falcon 9

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

NASA has modified its $2.7 billion commercial crew contract with SpaceX to allow Elon Musk’s company to reuse Falcon 9 first stages and Crew Dragon spacecraft for transporting astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The reuse of the boosters and spacecraft will begin with the second commercial Crew Dragon flight, which will likely be launched in 2021. The first commercial mission with four astronauts aboard is scheduled to launched on Aug. 30.

In return, SpaceX has agreed to extend the ongoing Crew Dragon Demo-2 flight test from two weeks to up to 119 days. The spacecraft, currently docked to the space station, was launched with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard on May 30.

The contract modification added the requirement for SpaceX to conduct joint training with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Operations Group Detachment 3 (DET-3) for the first six commercial Crew Dragon launches.

DET-3 forces are placed on alert at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii in case Crew Dragon astronauts need to be rescued due to a mishap.

Crew Dragon and its booster’s first stage are designed for reuse. A Falcon 9 first stage landed on an offshore drone ship on Thursday after launching for the fifth time. Cargo Dragon vehicles has flow to ISS multiple times.