Last year was a busy one for suborbital flights as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted a combined four flights of their crewed suborbital vehicles. Despite hopes to the contrary, neither company flew paying tourists on their spaceships.
There were also 26 sounding rocket launches that carried scientific experiments and technology payloads above the atmosphere. The year saw:
Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies conduct a successful launch of its Momo commercial sounding rocket;
Texas-based Exos Aerospace continue to struggle with its reusable SARGE booster; and,
the first suborbital launch ever achieved by college students.
CLEARWATER, Fla., Jan. 17, 2020 (Honeywell PR) — Honeywell (NYSE: HON) has been awarded a contract by Lockheed Martin to support production of NASA’s Orion spacecraft fleet for the upcoming Artemis missions, which will bring humans back to the moon for the first time since 1972.
The contract to supply key components of the Orion crew module and service module will be managed and performed out of Honeywell’s facility in Clearwater, Florida. Work will also be conducted at the company’s facilities in Glendale, Arizona, and Puerto Rico.
WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (Collins Aerospace PR) – Collins Aerospace Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), has signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to provide critical subsystems to support production of NASA’s Orion spacecraft fleet for Artemis missions III through VIII.
Valued at $320 million, the systems being provided by Collins Aerospace will play an important role in enabling NASA’s goal of boots on the Moon by 2024, as well as establishing a sustained presence on and around the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars.
DENVER, Jan. 16, 2020 (Lockheed Martin PR) — A new era of space-based computing is now being tested in-orbit that will enable artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud networking and advanced satellite communications in a robust new software-defined architecture.
Recently, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) launched the Pony Express 1 mission as a hosted payload on Tyvak-0129, a next-generation Tyvak 6U spacecraft.
MARE is an experiment to measure radiation exposure on the female body during NASA’s Artemis I mission.
The phantoms Helga and Zohar are DLR measurement bodies and will be flying to the Moon and back on the first, uncrewed flight of the Orion spacecraft.
They will acquire gender-specific measurement data on space radiation beyond the orbit of the ISS for the first time.
They are also testing the effectiveness of a newly developed radiation protection vest (AstroRad).
Focus: Space, human spaceflight, aerospace medicine, radiation biology
COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The intensity of space radiation is much greater outside Earth’s protective magnetic field. This causes problems for the human body and represents a challenge for future crewed space missions to the Moon and Mars.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is conducting research to determine the radiation risk for crewed spaceflight. One of the projects that the researchers are carrying out together with NASA, the Israeli Space Agency ISA and the companies Lockheed Martin and StemRad is the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE).
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s first large scale, piloted X-plane in more than three decades is cleared for final assembly and integration of its systems following a major project review by senior managers held Thursday at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Space News reports that small launch provider Vector and its subsidiary, Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware.
Vector had been delveloping the Vector-R booster to loft small satellites into low Earth orbit. However, it laid off most of its employees in August due to financial difficulties. CEO Jim Contrell left the company, with John Garvey taking over.
Space News reports:
According to industry sources familiar with the company, the August layoffs were triggered when one of the company’s major investors, venture fund Sequoia, withdrew its support for the company because of concerns about how the company was managed. That came as Vector was working on a new funding round, and Sequoia’s decision had a domino effect, causing other investors to back out. Sequoia didn’t respond to a request for comment in August about any role it played in Vector’s problems.
The company is currently being funded through “debtor in possession” financing from Lockheed Martin, according to a resolution by Vector’s board of directors included in the filing. Under a Nov. 20 agreement, Lockheed provided Vector with a $500,000 secured loan and proposed purchasing Vector’s assets associated with a satellite program called GalacticSky for no more than $2.5 million.
While Vector was best known for its small launch vehicle development efforts, it undertook a separate project called GalacticSky to create software-defined satellites. That resulted in a number of patents on the technology and work on prototype satellites the company once planned to start launching this year.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — After a year scoping out asteroid Bennu’s boulder-scattered surface, the team leading NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission has officially selected a sample collection site.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) mission team concluded a site designated “Nightingale” – located in a crater high in Bennu’s northern hemisphere – is the best spot for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to snag its sample.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Shortly after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission’s science team revealed that the asteroid could be active, or consistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu – and its sample that will eventually be returned to Earth – could potentially shed light on why this intriguing phenomenon is occurring.
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]
Lockheed Martin has won an U.S. Air Force contract worth up to $3.3 billion for operations, sustainment and enhancement activities to support the Advanced Extremely High Frequency, Milstar and Defense Satellite Communications System III programs.
Raytheon has won a U.S. Navy contract worth $61.5 million for Global Positioning System-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Service (GPNTS) software support.
LITTLETON, Colo. (NASA PR — NASA’s Lucy mission successfully completed its Critical Design Review on Oct. 18.
During this review, Lucy team members presented the completed mission design, demonstrating that the team has met all the technical challenges of the mission and is ready to begin building hardware. After the review completion, NASA’s independent review board provided a green light for proceeding into the fabrication/manufacturing stage of the mission.
WASHINGTON, DC (SIA PR) — The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today announced the release of a set of Principles of Space Safety, drafted to help protect freedom of use and long-term access to space by ensuring safe flight operations for satellites, human spacecraft and other space missions.
SIA is a U.S.-based trade association that for more than two decades has advocated on behalf of the U.S. satellite industry regarding policy, regulatory, and legislative issues affecting the commercial satellite business.
WASHINGTON, DC (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin is proud to announce a national team to offer a Human Landing System for NASA’s Artemis program to return Americans to the lunar surface by 2024.
Blue Origin has signed teaming agreements with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. These partners have decades of experience supporting NASA with human space flight systems, launch vehicles, orbital logistics, deep-space missions, interplanetary navigation and planetary landings.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — A motor built by Aerojet Rocketdyne for the Launch Abort System (LAS) on NASA’s Orion spacecraft was successfully tested by engineers at the Redstone Test Center on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, October 16.