SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

(more…)

Former Employee Hits Bankrupt Masten Space Systems with Lawsuit Alleging Racial Discrimination, Retaliation for Exposing Alleged Fraudulent Billing

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — A former top employee at bankrupt Masten Space Systems has filed a lawsuit against the company and its former CEO, Sean Mahoney, alleging they denied him promotions and pay raises due to his race, and retaliated against him for exposing fraudulent billing on two federal contracts in 2020.

Reuben Garcia, who formerly served as director of technical operations/manager of landing systems before departing the company earlier this year, filed the lawsuit in Kern County Superior Court in November 2021. He is seeking attorney’s fees, punitive damages, and compensatory damages for “economic losses, humiliation and mental and emotional distress”. Garcia has requested a jury trial.

(more…)

Masten Space Systems Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander was designed science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

Updated 7/29/2022, 1:24 p.m. PDT: Added statements from NASA and Masten Space Systems. Clarified contract award included paying for launch.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — Masten Space Systems filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday, signaling serious financial distress at the pioneering NewSpace company and putting at risk a NASA-funded mission to send a Masten-built lander to the surface of the moon.

The company said it owed 50 to 99 creditors between $10 to $50 million. Top creditors included SpaceX ($4.6 million), Psionic LLC ($2.8 million), Astrobotic Technology ($2.7 million), NuSpace ($1.7 million), and Frontier Aerospace ($1.2 million).

(more…)

ispace Lunar Lander Selected to Deliver NASA CLPS Payloads to the Far Side of the Moon

ispace U.S.’s SERIES-2 Lander Will Deploy Two Communications Relay Satellitesto Support Far Side Landing

TOKYO (space, inc. PR) — ispace, inc.(ispace) today announced that its subsidiary, ispace technologies U.S., inc. (ispace U.S.) joins a team, led by Draper, that has been awarded $73 million to deliver payloads including two communication relay satellites to lunar orbit as well as a suite of scientific experiments to the lunar surface.

Team Draper, which includes ispace U.S., as well as General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, and Systima Technologies, a division of Karman Space & Defense, expects to launch and begin operations on the lunar surface in 2025 in fulfillment of the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) task order CP-12.

(more…)

Sidus Space Fabricates Hardware in Support of NASA’s Artemis Program and Space Launch System

Artemis I rocket rolls out to the launch pad for a wet dress rehearsal on June 6, 2022. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Sidus Space PR) — Sidus Space, Inc. (NASDAQ:SIDU), a Space-as-a-Service company focused on mission critical hardware manufacturing; multi-disciplinary engineering services; satellite design, production, launch planning, mission operations; and in-orbit support, is proud to announce that it has completed the fabrication of the first set of hardware in support of NASA’s Artemis Program and their Space Launch System (SLS) Manned Vehicle.

(more…)

77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

(more…)

ispace Releases Key Updates for HAKUTO-R Mission 1

Launch Window Announced, Lander in Final Testing

ispace engineers assembling the M1 flight model at the IABG GmbH Space Centre in Germany. (Image Credit: ispace)

TOKYO (ispace, inc. PR) — Today ispace, inc.(ispace), a global lunar exploration company with its headquarters in Japan and regional offices in the United States and Europe, released key updates for its Mission 1 (M1) launch window and updated progress on its lander Assembly, Integration & Testing (AIT), the company announced.

(more…)

NASA Delays VIPER Rover Launch to Moon, Gives Astrobotic More Money

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

NASA Mission Update

NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative allows rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services from American companies for payloads that advance capabilities for science, exploration or commercial development of the Moon. Through CLPS, NASA contracted Astrobotic of Pittsburgh to deliver the agency’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the lunar surface in search of ice and other potential resources. The measurements returned by VIPER will provide insight into the origin and distribution of water on the Moon and help determine how the Moon’s resources could be harvested for future human space exploration. While VIPER was originally scheduled for lunar delivery by Astrobotic in November 2023, NASA has requested the Astrobotic and VIPER mission teams to adjust VIPER’s delivery to the Moon’s South Pole to November 2024.

NASA’s decision to pursue a 2024 delivery date results from the agency’s request to Astrobotic for additional ground testing of the company’s Griffin lunar lander, which will deliver VIPER to the lunar surface through CLPS. The additional tests aim to reduce the overall risk to VIPER’s delivery to the Moon. To complete the additional NASA-mandated tests of the Griffin lunar lander, an additional $67.8 million has been added to Astrobotic’s CLPS contract, which now totals $320.4 million. 

“Through CLPS, NASA has tasked U.S. companies to perform a very challenging technological feat – to successfully land and operate on the Moon,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “VIPER is NASA’s largest and most sophisticated science payload to be delivered to the Moon through CLPS, and we’ve implemented enhanced lander testing for this particular CLPS surface delivery.”

CLPS is a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans. The science and technology payloads sent to the Moon’s surface will help lay the foundation for human missions on and around the Moon. The agency has made seven task order awards to CLPS providers for lunar deliveries between in the early 2020s with more delivery awards expected through 2028.

For more information, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/clps

Cash-strapped Masten Space Furloughs Employees, Moon Landing Mission at Risk

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

Updated on July 15 to clarify layoffs and furloughs.
Updated on July 15 with a statement from NASA.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — Cash-strapped Masten Space Systems has furloughed all of its staff, putting at risk both the company and a $75.9 million NASA-funded mission to deliver the MoonRanger rover and eight scientific payloads to the lunar surface aboard Masten’s XL-1 lander late next year.

“XL-1 is basically dead. To my knowledge, everyone who was working exclusively on XL1 has been laid off,” a source familiar with the situation told Parabolic Arc in a written response to questions. The source requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.

(more…)

Terran Orbital Executes CAPSTONE’s Second TCM Burn

The satellite is flying a pathfinding mission to the Moon in support of NASA’s Artemis program
CAPSTONE in orbit around the moon. (Credit: NASA)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) – Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful completion of CAPSTONE’s second TCM burn. Much smaller than the first TCM burn, this second TCM burn demonstrates the spacecraft’s ability to perform small and precise maneuvers, a capability that is critical to operations in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO). The maneuver further cleaned up launch injection dispersions and any execution dispersions that occurred during the first burn.  

(more…)

Mission Team Determines Cause of Communications Issues for NASA’s CAPSTONE

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

NASA Mission Update

After a thorough review, teams have determined what led to CAPSTONE’s communications issue that began on July 4.  

During commissioning of NASA’s CAPSTONE (short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) spacecraft, the Deep Space Network team noted inconsistent ranging data. While investigating this, the spacecraft operations team attempted to access diagnostic data on the spacecraft’s radio and sent an improperly formatted command that made the radio inoperable. The spacecraft fault detection system should have immediately rebooted the radio but did not because of a fault in the spacecraft flight software. 

CAPSTONE’s autonomous flight software system eventually cleared the fault and brought the spacecraft back into communication with the ground, allowing the team to implement recovery procedures and begin commanding the spacecraft again.  

While CAPSTONE was out of contact with Earth, the spacecraft autonomously maintained its orientation to keep its antenna pointed towards Earth and allow the solar panels to keep its battery charged. CAPSTONE also used its thrusters to perform a standard maneuver to dump excess momentum from its reaction wheels, which are internal wheels that help the spacecraft rotate and point itself.  

The mission operations team conducted CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver at approximately 11:30 a.m. EDT today. Teams are currently reviewing the data to ensure the maneuver was successful, and an update will be provided later. This maneuver will more precisely target the spacecraft’s transfer orbit to the Moon. 

Terran Orbital Successfully Completes CAPSTONE’s First TCM Burn

The NASA Artemis program satellite is charting a new path to the Moon

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful completion of CAPSTONE’s first TCM burn (TCM-1). As the first statistical maneuver of the mission, TCM-1 is designed to clean up expected dispersions from the launch vehicle injection – enabling CAPSTONE to continue its pathfinding lunar journey in support of NASA’s Artemis program.

(more…)

CAPSTONE Satellite, Designed and Built by Terran Orbital, Successfully Deploys from Rocket Lab Lunar Photon into Lunar Transfer Orbit

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful deployment of the CAPSTONE spacecraft from a Rocket Lab Lunar Photon into a Lunar Transfer Orbit. Terran Orbital designed, built, and integrated Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, otherwise known as CAPSTONE, and is flying a pathfinding mission to the moon in support of NASA’s historic Artemis program. With deployment complete, Terran Orbital will now commence the satellite’s mission operations. CAPSTONE is owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA.

(more…)

Advanced Space Recovers Communications with CAPSTONE Spacecraft

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (Advanced Space PR) — Over the last 24 hours, the CAPSTONE mission team has worked together to narrow down the likely cause of the communications systems anomaly discussed yesterday. The integrated mission team took time and care to work the problem, gaining information from various data sources, working with ground-based hardware to evaluate behavior in a controlled environment, and working to resolve the problem systematically.  This work has included rapid engineering support and resources from many different mission partners. We are extremely grateful for this team effort and want to express our appreciation to all of those involved.

(more…)

Controllers Reestablish Communications with CAPSTONE Spacecraft

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

Advanced Space and NASA have announced that controllers have reestablished communications with the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft, which is currently on its way to the moon.

The spacecraft is looking happy and healthy. Details to follow,” Advanced Space tweeted. No information was released on what caused CAPSTONE to lose contact with Earth.

Advanced Space developed and is operating the spacecraft, which will test the near rectilinear halo orbit that the human-tended lunar Gateway will use as part of the Artemis moon program.