Vector Plans 3 Orbital Launches From Wallops Island

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) additive manufactured injector by was successfully hot fire tested by Vector Space System on Dec. 8, 2016 using Liquid Oxygen/Propylene propellant (LOX/LC3H6). This work was performed under a 2015 STMD ACO Space Act Agreement. (Credit: Vector Space System)

RICHMOND, Va. (Terry McAuliffe PR) – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Vector, a nanosatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, has entered into an agreement with Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space) to conduct three commercial orbital missions out of Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in the next 24 months with an option for five additional launches.

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NASA to Host Global Exploration Road Map Workshop

GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA will host a two-day virtual community workshop, Nov. 29 and 30, to conduct discussions with external stakeholders that will inform development of an update to the Global Exploration Roadmap (GER). The GER is a publication authored by NASA and the other 14 space agencies that comprise the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG). The roadmap outlines a phased approach to achieving the common goal of sending humans to the surface of Mars.

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Highlights From Musk’s Ask Me Anything Session on Reddit

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk conducted an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit on Saturday. Below are selected responses to questions. A full list of questions and answers is located here.

BFR Development

Will be starting with a full-scale Ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance. Those are fairly easy on the vehicle, as no heat shield is needed, we can have a large amount of reserve propellant and don’t need the high area ratio, deep space Raptor engines.

Next step will be doing orbital velocity Ship flights, which will need all of the above. Worth noting that BFS is capable of reaching orbit by itself with low payload, but having the BF Booster increases payload by more than an order of magnitude. Earth is the wrong planet for single stage to orbit. No problemo on Mars.
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NASA Statement on National Space Council Policy on American Space Leadership

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot about the results from the first meeting of the National Space Council on Thursday:

“It was my pleasure today to attend the first meeting of the new National Space Council. The council includes government leaders from civil and military space, and the group also heard from space industry leaders. The council has historic roots in the earliest days of the Space Age, and it has been established by the president to streamline and coordinate national space policy.

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Previous Administration’s Promises to Return to the Moon

For anyone who forgot or is too young to remember, both Bush administrations launched programs to return American astronauts to the moon and send them off to Mars. The first plan was announced on July 20, 1989 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The second was unveiled 15 years later on Jan. 14, 2004, just under a year after the loss of the space shuttle Columbia.

Past isn’t necessarily prologue. NASA is in better shape to do something at the moon than is at the time when these two initiatives were unveiled. I would put forth the following reasons for optimism.

NASA is making progress on SLS and Orion, which are the two legacy systems from the second Bush Administration’s plan. No, they’re not the cheapest or most optimal vehicles to base the plan on, but there seems to be no appetite in the Trump Administration for a bruising battle with Congress over canceling them. Deal with it.

The commercial sector has grown substantially. NASA learning how to work with private companies on a partnership basis. And launch costs have been reduced due to SpaceX’s innovation on reusable vehicles.

Enormous amount of expertise has been accumulated on the International Space Station. The station’s international partners are eying the moon as the next step beyond ISS.

So, the conditions are there for venturing out to the moon. The question is whether the money will be there as well. Even with the participation of commercial space companies, NASA will need an executable plan and the funding to support it.

UAE to Build $136 Million Mars Science City

United Arab Emirates Mars Science City. (Credit: UAE)

DUBAI, UAE (UAE PR) — Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, have launched the Mars Science City project.

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The Everyday Astronaut Looks at Elon Musk’s BFR

Video Caption: Elon Musk revealed the update to SpaceX’s highly anticipated and ambitious rocket, the BFR or the Big (FALCON) Rocket. We compare this version of the BFR to last year’s version as well as speculate about SpaceX’s mind blowing plans to head to the Moon, Mars as well as anywhere on Earth within one hour!

Great Overview of the Technical Aspects of Elon Musk’s BFR

Video Caption: Elon Musk presented the latest updates on SpaceX’s long term plans for their ‘BFR’ at the IAC in Adelaide. I now have an inbox of messages asking for my take on it all so – let’s talk about the plans that he presented.

The main points are the BFR (Big Rocket) is now a lot smaller than the original design, it still uses 2 stages and refuels in orbit enabling it to go to Mars, but now it’ll also be setup as a satellite launch vehicle, cargo ship able to visit ISS and the surface of the moon. But most surprisingly, and perhaps least realistically, he pitched a new passenger design intended to carry people halfway around the Earth at hypersonic speeds.

Meet the Son of Shuttle: Elon Musk’s BFR Will Do It All

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk introduced a renamed version of his Martian colonial transport vehicle on Friday that was simultaneously shrunken somewhat in size but much larger in its ambition.

The big change in the newly renamed BFR  — for big effing rocket — involved reducing the number of first stage engines from 42 to 31 engines. Despite the reduction, the second stage booster/spacecraft would still be capable of carrying up to 100 people to the Red Planet.

The biggest change involves BFR’s scope. Not only would it the basis for building a Mars colony and moon base, it would completely disrupt terrestrial transportation by taking passengers between any two spots on Earth in less than an hour.

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Lockheed Martin Reveals New Details to its Mars Base Camp Vision

DENVER, Sept. 28, 2017 (Lockheed Martin PR) — Today, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) experts are revealing new details of its Mars Base Camp concept including how it aligns with NASA’s lunar Deep Space Gateway and a Mars surface lander.

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IAC Updates: Starliner, Rocket Lab and Long March 5

Electron lifts off on maiden flight from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The International Astronautical Congress has been going on all week down in Adelaide, Australia. In addition to Elon Musk’s presentation on Friday and some news I’ve already posted here, there have been a few updates on various programs.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner.  Boeing is aiming for a test flight of the CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station in the third quarter of 2018. However, the first crewed test flight could slip from the fourth quarter of 2018 into the first quarter of 2019.  Link

Rocket Lab. The company’s next test launch will carry will two Dove Cubesats from Planet and a pair of Lemur CubeSsats from Spire Global. The satellite will allow Rocket Lab to test deploying spacecraft from the second stage of its Electron rocket. The launch is planned for several weeks from now. Link

Long March 5. The failure of a Long March 5 booster in July will delay the launch of China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission, which had been scheduled for November. The Chang’e-4 mission, which will land on the far side of the moon, also will be delayed. That flight had been scheduled for late next year. The accident investigation is ongoing. Link

Musk’s Mars 2.0 Presentation Might Not be Webcast

Well, that’s the good news. The bad news?

It’s not real clear whether the world will be able to see his presentation on Friday. There were some Tweets suggesting it would be webcast. This was followed by an official tweet from the IAF that it would not be. I’ve seen some grumbling that the reason for not webcasting it involves the state of Australia’s Internet not being especially fast.

I will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as we get them. Now back to your regular Monday programming.

HIAD Heat Shield Material Feels the Burn During Arc Jet Testing

Small cutouts of the Flexible Thermal Protection System for NASA’s Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or HIAD, were exposed to temperatures up to approximately 2,700 F during testing at Boeing’s Large Core Arc Tunnel in St. Louis, Missouri. (Credit: Boeing)

ST. LOUIS (NASA PR) — NASA heat shield material that could one day be used on an inflatable aeroshell during atmospheric entry on Mars recently underwent testing at Boeing’s Large Core Arc Tunnel in St. Louis, Missouri.

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