SpaceX Completes Crew Dragon In-flight Abort Test in Florida

NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 19, 2020. The test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency. (Credits: NASA Television)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

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NASA to Provide Live Coverage of SpaceX Crew Dragon In-flight Abort Test

Crew Dragon abort static test (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch escape demonstration, as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with U.S. companies to launch American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil.

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NASA, Boeing Forming Investigation Team on Starliner Snafu

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Jim Bridenstine
NASA Administrator

NASA and Boeing are in the process of establishing a joint, independent investigation team to examine the primary issues associated with the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test.

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Artemis Program 2019 in Review

The Orion crew module for Artemis 1 is lifted by crane on July 16, 2019, in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Using a sustainable architecture and sophisticated hardware unlike any other, the first woman and the next man will set foot on the surface of the Moon by 2024. Artemis I, the first mission of our powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, is an important step in reaching that goal.

As we close out 2019 and look forward to 2020, here’s where we stand in the Artemis story — and what to expect in 2020. 

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Report: NASA Needs to Improve Oversight of Contracts and Grants

NASA finished assembling the main structural components for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans fully integrated the last piece of the 212-foot-tall core stage by adding the engine section to the rest of the previously assembled structure. Boeing technicians bolted the engine section to the stage’s liquid hydrogen propellant tank. (Credit: NASA/Steven Seipel)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Between 2014 and 2017, NASA awarded Boeing a total of $64 million in performance awards for its work on the Space Launch System (SLS) despite significant schedule delays and cost overruns in the program.

It was only after the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) questioned the propriety of the awards that SLS program officials began “providing Boeing award fees that better reflected actual performance,” the space agency’s watchdog said in a new report.

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Starliner Reaches Orbit, Can’t Dock with Station

Atlas V lifts off with Starliner spacecraft on Orbital Flight Test 1. (Credit: NASA webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft suffered an anomaly after reaching space during its maiden flight test on Friday morning, resulting in the abandonment of plans for a rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station (ISS).

Boeing and NASA officials said the spacecraft is in a good orbit and performing well. They are planning an abbreviated two-day flight test before bringing the spacecraft down for a landing on Sunday morning at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

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NASA Administrator Names Robert Pearce Head of Agency Aeronautics

Robert Pearce

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Robert Pearce as the next associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). Pearce replaces Jaiwon Shin, who retired from the agency on Aug. 31.

“Bob is a visionary leader with a deep understanding of the current and future aeronautics environment,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “He’ll do a great job directing NASA in helping create a generational shift in air travel for the United States and the world.”

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NASA Has Long Way to Go to Improve IT Management, Security

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If NASA could land a man on the moon, why can’t it manage information technology (IT) effectively?

That is the basic question NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) raised in a recent report that identified IT management and cyber security as one of the top seven challenges faced by the space agency. [Full Report]

“Our concerns with NASA’s IT governance and security are long-standing and reoccurring,” the report stated. “For more than two decades NASA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) has struggled to implement an effective IT governance structure that aligns authority and responsibility commensurate with the Agency’s overall mission.”

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NASA IG: Decide Future of the International Space Station Soon

The International Space Station as it appears in 2018. Zarya is visible at the center of the complex, identifiable by its partially retracted solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The sooner NASA can decide the future of the International Space Station (ISS), the easier it will be for the space agency to pursue its Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, according to a new report from its Office of Inspector General (OIG).

“Whether NASA decides to extend, increase commercialization of, or retire the ISS, the timing of each of these decisions has a cascading effect on the funding available to support space flight operations in low Earth orbit, ambitions for establishing a permanent presence on the Moon, and ultimately sending humans to Mars,” the report stated.

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NASA Struggles with Shortage of Skilled Workers

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is already hampered by a shortfall of skilled workers, a problem that will be exacerbated as the space agency gears up to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 in the Artemis program.

That is the conclusion of a new report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The review identified attracting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce as one of the space agency’s seven biggest management and performance challenges. [Full Report]

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NASA Gains Broad International Support for Artemis Program at IAC

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — When NASA sends the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024 as part of its Artemis program, it won’t be going alone. The agency will be leveraging support from commercial partners and the international community as it establishes a sustainable presence on the lunar surface by 2028, paving the way for human missions to Mars.

Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), held in Washington Oct. 21-25, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine reaffirmed America’s commitment to working with international partners on NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

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NASA Administrator Presents Medal to John Culberson

John Culberson

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is honoring John Culberson, former U.S. representative from Texas, with an agency Distinguished Public Service Medal. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine presented the award to Culberson during a presentation Friday at the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington.

Culberson served in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2019 representing Texas’ seventh congressional district in west Houston. He served 16 years on the House Appropriations Committee and four years as Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, which funds NASA, the National Science Foundation, and other science agencies.

“John was a fervent champion of NASA and space exploration during his distinguished congressional career,” said Bridenstine. “It’s fitting we honor him with NASA’s Distinguished Public Service medal as we build on his legacy of agency support and return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, and then on to Mars, as well as explore the four corners of our solar system and beyond.”

NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal is awarded to individuals not employed by the U.S. government for sustained performance that embodies multiple contributions on NASA projects, programs, or initiatives.

“I am deeply grateful to Administrator Bridenstine for this singular honor,” Culberson said. “I also want to thank my congressional colleagues for their steadfast support to help me significantly increase overall NASA funding, double Planetary Science funding, help ensure that it will be an American orbiter and lander that are the first to seek out life in the oceans of Europa, and help ensure that an American spacecraft will be the first interstellar mission to travel to the nearest Earthlike planet.”

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

Bridenstine to Give Public Update on NASA’s Moon Program on Friday

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The public is invited to join NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at 9:40 a.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 25, for an update on the agency’s Artemis program and the critical role international partnerships have in returning astronauts to the Moon and going on to Mars.

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Elonopoly: Smoke Pot, Collect $5 Million

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk’s decision to smoke marijuana on the Joe Rogan podcast prompted a review of SpaceX’s workplace culture by NASA and raised questions about whether the entrepreneur would be able to keep his security clearance.

It also somehow resulted in NASA sending more money to Musk’s space company. Politico reports:

The space agency agreed to pay SpaceX $5 million in May to cover the cost of the review, which includes educating its employees and ensuring they are following strict guidelines for federal contractors barring illegal drug use.

The decision, which has not previously been reported, struck some space industry insiders as a highly unusual expenditure given that Musk, who holds a security clearance, prompted the concerns about whether SpaceX is following the rules.

While marijuana is legal in multiple states – including California, where Musk’s stunt took place – it remains illegal under federal law. And illegal drug use is also considered a violation of the terms of a government security clearance.

The NASA contract to SpaceX to pay for the workplace review — a modification to a previous contract to build a space capsule — also marks a new chapter in its ongoing tension with more established rivals like Boeing.

SpaceX is building the Crew Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Flights with astronauts are expected to begin in 2020.

Even though it was Musk who smoked pot, NASA Administrator ordered an similar review of Boeing’s effort to build a commercial crew spacecraft named Starliner.

However, Politico reports Boeing did not get funding to cover the cost of the review.