Science & Technology Experiments Returned on Dragon

Dragon capsule after recovery. (Credit: SpaceX)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, Jan. 13, west of Baja California, with approximately 4,100 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach, California, where some cargo will be removed immediately for return to NASA. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for final processing.

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NASA Audit Says CASIS Under Performing on Key ISS Research Tasks

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The organization NASA hired to manage research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has seriously under performed on the majority of its tasks, a new  audit from space agency’s Inspector General finds.

“Of the nine performance categories we assessed, CASIS met expectations in only two: research pathways and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education,” the report states. “For example, the STEM education performance category required CASIS to increase interest in using the National Lab as a platform for STEM education. CASIS met expectations for this performance category by funding 14 STEM education programs in FY 2016 with more than 325,000 participants.”

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NanoRacks Begins Third ISS External Platform Mission

External platform on ISS (Credit: NanoRacks)

HOUSTON, January 10, 2018 (NanoRacks PR) — This morning, the NanoRacks External Platform (NREP) was reinstalled on the outside of the International Space Station, initiating the commercial platform’s third customer mission. The External Platform, self-funded by NanoRacks, is the leading commercial gateway to the extreme environment of space. Customers can experience the microgravity, atomic oxygen, radiation and other harsh elements native to the space environment. Additionally, customers can observe Earth, test sensors, materials, and electronics, all while having the opportunity to return the payload back to Earth.

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Blue Origin New Shepard Flies Commercial Payloads

New Shepard capsule after landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wa. (Blue Origin PR) — On Dec. 12, 2017, New Shepard flew again for the seventh time. Known as Mission 7 (M7), the flight featured our next-generation booster and the first flight of Crew Capsule 2.0. While our primary objective was to progress testing this new system for human spaceflight, we also achieved an exciting milestone with suborbital research in space by sending 12 commercial, research and education payloads under full FAA license for the first time.

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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

Final Frontier Design and Starfighters Aerospace Complete System Definition Review

SFA Director of Flight Operations Piercarlo Ciacchi prior to vehicle integration testing with the F-104. (Credit: Final Frontier Design)

NEW YORK, December 14, 2017 (FFD PR) — Starfighters Aerospace (SFA) and Final Frontier Design (FFD) are pleased to announce the completion of System Definition Review for integration of a space suit into the F-104 Starfighter aircraft. The review marks the first physical fitting of the FFD space suit in the F-104, along with a baseline definition of all systems required for flight. The review took place at Starfighter’s offices at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, in November 2017.

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Zaiput’s Separators Sent to ISS to Understand Pharmaceutical Production

Zaiput’s gravity-independent liquid extraction technology will be tested in space. This will help to further our understanding of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial applications, particularly in pharmaceutical production.

Cambridge, MA (Zaiput Flow Technologies PR ) — As space travel and extraterrestrial habitation becomes a reality, it is becoming important to be able synthesize chemicals in space. Liquid separation is a key step in liquid extraction, one of the common steps in pharmaceutical production.

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NASA Sends Critical Science, Instruments to Space Station

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

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX launched its Dragon spacecraft into orbit for its 13th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station on Friday morning. Dragon was lifted into orbit atop the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crew members living and working aboard the station.

This science-heavy flight will deliver investigations and facilities that study and/or measure solar irradiance, materials, orbital debris and more.

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NASA Funds Flight for Space Medical Technology on Blue Origin

New Shepard capsule after landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

VAN HORN, Texas (NASA PR) — Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard reusable space vehicle on Dec. 12 carrying a medical technology that could potentially treat chest trauma in a space environment.

The New Shepard reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle was launched with the experimental technology from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site.  In addition to NASA funding non-government researchers to fly payloads, Blue Origin is a Flight Opportunities program launch provider for government payloads. The Flight Opportunities program, is managed under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

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Blue Origin New Shepard Flight Included Mannequin Skywalker

Mannequin Skywalker — an instrumented test dummy — flew aboard the New Shepard capsule. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin’s New Shepard flight included an instrumented test dummy dubbed Mannequin Skywalker — a nod to the Star Wars moving coming out this week and a prelude to tests with human occupants that could begin next year.

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CASIS & NSF Issue Solicitation for ISS Fluid Dynamics Research

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CASIS PR)The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a joint solicitation wherein researchers from the fluid dynamics community will have the ability to leverage resources on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.

Up to $2 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Laboratory. This is the second collaboration between the NSF and CASIS dedicated towards the funding of fluid dynamics concepts on board the space station to benefit life on Earth.

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NASA Is Sending E. coli to Space for Astronaut Health

EcAMSat (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Ever wonder what would happen if you got sick in space? NASA has sent bacteria samples into low-Earth orbit to help find out.

One of the agency’s latest small satellite experiments is the E. coli Anti-Microbial Satellite, or EcAMSat, which will explore the genetic basis for how effectively antibiotics can combat E. coli bacteria in the low gravity of space. This CubeSat – a spacecraft the size of a shoebox built from cube-shaped units – has just been deployed from the space station, and may help us improve how we fight infections, providing safer journeys for astronauts on future voyages, and offer benefits for medicine here on Earth.

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CASIS & NSF Announce Research Funding Opportunity in Tissue Engineering on ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., November 17, 2017 (CASIS PR) — The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a joint solicitation wherein researchers will have the ability to leverage resources onboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory to support enhancements in the fields of transformative tissue engineering. Up to $1.8 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Lab.

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