NASA’s First Practice Countdown of Space Launch System Ends with Glass (and Tank) Half Filled

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen at sunrise atop a mobile launcher at Launch Complex 39B, Monday, April 4, 2022, as the Artemis I launch team conducts the wet dress rehearsal test at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

by David Bullock and Douglas Messier

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA ended its first attempt to conduct a wet dress rehearsal for the maiden flight test of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft to the moon on Tuesday after four days of wrestling with a series of technical challenges and weather delays.

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NASA Provides Update to Astronaut Moon Lander Plans Under Artemis

An illustration of a suited Artemis astronaut looking out of a Moon lander hatch across the lunar surface, the Lunar Terrain Vehicle and other surface elements. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As NASA makes strides to return humans to the lunar surface under Artemis, the agency announced plans Wednesday to create additional opportunities for commercial companies to develop an astronaut Moon lander.

Under this new approach, NASA is asking American companies to propose lander concepts capable of ferrying astronauts between lunar orbit and the lunar surface for missions beyond Artemis III, which will land the first astronauts on the Moon in more than 50 years.

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NASA Inspector General Calls Artemis Lunar Program Costs “Unsustainable”

A close-up view of the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket inside High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 20, 2021. All 10 levels of work platforms have been retracted from around the rocket as part of the umbilical release and retract test. (Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Earlier this week, NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin presented the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee with the results of his office’s latest analysis of the space agency’s decade-old effort to return astronauts to the moon, otherwise known as the Artemis program. The results were eye popping, depressing and not at all surprising.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Future Mega Moon Rocket Boosters

Technicians at Northrop Grumman’s factory in Promontory, Utah, lift one of the first booster motors cast for the Artemis IV mission. All 10 Artemis II booster motors are complete and ready for transportation by train to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where they will be stacked with other booster components being outfitted at Kennedy. All 10 segments for Artemis III have been cast with propellant. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded the Booster Production and Operations Contract (BPOC) to Northrop Grumman of Brigham City, Utah, to build boosters for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to support nine SLS flights. Northrop Grumman, the lead booster contractor, has produced booster motors for the first three  Artemis missions and is casting the motors for the fourth lunar mission.

This contract, with a value of $3.19 billion, definitizes a letter contract awarded in June 2020 that authorized Northrop Grumman to order long-lead items and build twin boosters for the next six SLS flights. The period of performance extends through Dec. 31, 2031. This includes production and operations for boosters for Artemis IV-VIII and design, development, test, and evaluation of a booster as part of Booster Obsolescence and Life Extension (BOLE) for Artemis IX.

“This contract award ensures NASA will have the most powerful solid rocket boosters ever built for future Space Launch System rockets for the Artemis missions to the Moon,” said Bruce Tiller, SLS Booster Manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “The contract allows NASA to work with Northrop Grumman to not only build the boosters for upcoming missions but also to evolve and improve the boosters for future flights.”

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NASA Selects Intuitive Machines for New Lunar Science Delivery

Nova-C lander for the IM-3 mission taking four NASA investigations to Reiner Gamma. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded Intuitive Machines of Houston a contract to deliver research, including science investigations and a technology demonstration, to the Moon in 2024. The commercial delivery is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative and the Artemis program.

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Artemis: The Good, the Bad and the Well, Yeah

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and top officials provided an update on the Artemis program on Tuesday, delivering the not unexpected news that the space agency will not meet its deadline of landing a man and the first woman of color at the south pole of the moon in 2024. Instead, the landing will be delayed until at least 2025.

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Blue Origin Lawsuit Over Human Landing System Dismissed

Blue Moon lunar lander (Credit: Blue Origin)

UPI reports that Federal Claims Court judge Richard Hertling has dismissed Blue Origin’s lawsuit seeking to overturn NASA’s award of a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX to develop a lander to return astronauts to the lunar surface.

Hertling’s dismissal order cited a sealed opinion that he signed. The order said the court wants the parties to the lawsuit to propose redactions to the opinion by Nov. 18 so the document can be publicly released.

This dismissal was the second defeat in Blue Origin’s effort to overturn the award. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) rejected the company’s appeal in July.

Blue Origin has argued that NASA unfairly evaluated its $5.9 billion bid. The company also claimed the space agency failed to properly evaluate the risks of SpaceX’s plan to adapt its Starship vehicle to serve as the lunar lander.

Blue Origin’s lawsuit had led to a freeze in work by SpaceX and NASA on the human lander. The space agency said the work will now resume in a statement issued on Thursday.

Blue Origin has unsuccessfully campaigned for NASA to award a second contract. Company founder Jeff Bezos said the company would be willing to reduce its cost by $2 billion to make the bid more affordable.

NASA has defended its decision by saying it did not have enough funding to award two contracts and still meet a goal to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. The space agency asked for $3.2 billion to fund the lander last year, but Congress appropriated only $850 million.

NASA has funded SpaceX through development of the lander and a demonstration flight that will land two astronauts on the surface. The space agency will open competition for future missions.

NASA, Australia Sign Agreement to Add Rover to Future Moon Mission

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — International and commercial partnerships are a critical component of NASA’s long-term plans on and around the Moon under the Artemis program. The agency recently signed a new agreement with the Australian Space Agency that will further support human and robotic lunar operations for both countries.

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SpaceIL Issues Global Call for Experiment Proposals to Fly on Beresheet2 Lunar Space Mission

TEL AVIV, Israel, Oct. 4, 2021 (SpaceIL PR) — “Beresheet2” mission of the Israeli non-profit organization SpaceIL is expected to be launched in Q4/2024. This is an historic opportunity for a scientific and educational breakthrough that will reach the young generation. SpaceIL sent out a “call for proposals” to receive proposals from organizations around the world for scientific experiments regarding the space mission of Beresheet2.

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NASA Selects Five U.S. Companies to Mature Artemis Lander Concepts

Artist concept of the Blue Origin National Team crewed lander on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: Blue Origin)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five U.S. companies to help the agency enable a steady pace of crewed trips to the lunar surface under the agency’s Artemis program. These companies will make advancements toward sustainable human landing system concepts, conduct risk-reduction activities, and provide feedback on NASA’s requirements to cultivate industry capabilities for crewed lunar landing missions.

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ASI and Qascom to Bring Italy and Galileo Navigation System to the Moon

Photo of Mare Crisium taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credit: NASA)

ROME (ASI PR) — Finding the best route for lunar orbit and easy parking on the Moon is the goal of NEIL (Navigation Early Investigation on Lunar surface) GNSS receiver with Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology. The creation of NEIL, named in honor of Neil Armstrong, the first man to touch the lunar soil, is at the center of an agreement between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and NASA linked to the CLPS 19-D mission (NASA missions with contributions commercial and private of an experimental nature) with which the American space agency has planned to land with a lander in the Mare Crisium basin in 2023. [Editor’s Note: This is Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lander mission.]

NEIL, subject of the contract signed between ASI and the company Qascom SRL, is the on-board payload that will be an integral part of the experiment called Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment  (LuGRE), defined in the ASI/NASA agreement, which aims to develop an activity in a lunar and cislunar environment.

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NASA Small Business Partners Advance Lunar Technologies

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the Moon. NASA’s Artemis mission will establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Small businesses around the country have played a critical part in NASA technologies that enable our missions. As NASA returns to the Moon via the Artemis program, in an enhanced, sustainable way; the agency has selected five U.S. small businesses to receive a total of nearly $20 million to accelerate the development of novel lunar capabilities. 

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NASA Would Receive $4.4 Billion Under House Bill; DOE’s Radioisotope Processing Facility Funding Increased

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would received an additional $4.4 billion to perform repairs and upgrades on its aging infrastructure, conduct climate change research and development (R&D) and improve cybersecurity under an infrastructure spending bill now under consideration by the House of Representatives.

The funding does not include any money to fund a second human lander for NASA’s Artemis program that would likely have gone to the National Team led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The space agency awarded a single source contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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