Jim Bridenstine Explains Why He is Qualified to be NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) says that his leadership efforts in Congress on space issues qualifies him to serve as NASA administrator.

“For three terms in Congress, have led comprehensive, bipartisan, space reforms with the objective of preserving America’s preeminence and global leadership in space,” Bridenstine stated in a notarized document submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“These efforts have led me to a deep understanding of the complex challenges NASA will face bringing together traditional space companies and new space entrepreneurs into a comprehensive NASA vision for both exploration and science,” he added. “Traditional and new space companies are both critical to accelerating America’s space renaissance.”

In the document, which queried Bridenstine on his views and qualifications for NASA’s top job, the congressman listed NASA’s top three challenges as:
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NASA Selects Economic Research Studies to Examine Investments in Space

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five new research proposals to understand the effective drivers of investments in the global space economy, encouraging non-traditional companies, as well as traditional aerospace companies, to look beyond satellites for new opportunities in commercial space development.

“Our space technology work is focused on providing new capabilities for robotic and human exploration of the solar system, but we are also here to help enable new commercial markets or enterprises,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA. “The results of these studies provide insights into the potential economic impacts of new space-based capabilities and applications which in turn helps guide our investments in technology development.”

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Dragon Returns to Earth With Cargo, Experiments

Dragon spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Sept. 17, west of Baja California, with more than 3,800 pounds of NASA cargo, research experiments 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 Tests Autopilot Sensors During Simulations

A model of a satellite aft end on a robot for simulated, controlled rendezvous at the Space Operations Simulation Center. (Credit: NASA)

DENVER (NASA PR) — Inside a large, black-walled facility outside Denver, NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD) team successfully completed the latest testing of three rendezvous and proximity operations sensors used for satellite servicing applicatons and beyond. These sensors are needed for autonomous rendezvous of spacecraft, which is a vital technology for robotically servicing a satellite.

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Orion Parachutes Measure Up in High Pressure Test

Orion parachute test at Yuma Proving Ground. (Credit: NASA/James Blair)

YUMA, Ariz. (NASA PR) — Orion’s three main orange and white parachutes help a representative model of the spacecraft descend through sky above Arizona, where NASA engineers tested the parachute system on Sept. 13, 2017, at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma. NASA is qualifying Orion’s parachutes for missions with astronauts.

During this test, engineers replicated a situation in which Orion must abort off the Space Launch System rocket and bypass part of its normal parachute deployment sequence that typically helps the spacecraft slow down during its descent to Earth after deep space missions. The capsule was dropped out of a C-17 aircraft at more than 4.7 miles in altitude and allowed to free fall for 20 seconds, longer than ever before, to produce high aerodynamic pressure before only its pilot and main parachutes were deployed, testing whether they could perform as expected under extreme loads. Orion’s full parachute system includes 11 total parachutes — three forward bay cover parachutes and two drogue parachutes, along with three pilot parachutes that help pull out the spacecraft’s three mains.

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Ends Its Historic Exploration of Saturn

Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A thrilling epoch in the exploration of our solar system came to a close today, as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending its 13-year tour of the ringed planet.

“This is the final chapter of an amazing mission, but it’s also a new beginning,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Cassini’s discovery of ocean worlds at Titan and Enceladus changed everything, shaking our views to the core about surprising places to search for potential life beyond Earth.”

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NASA’s Robotic ‘Sniffer’ Confirms Space Station Leak, Repair

The Robotic External Leak Locator on the end of the Dextre robot in February 2017. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In recent operations on the International Space Station, robotic operators were twice able to test and confirm the ability of the Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL) to “smell” in space.

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NASA Awards Research, Engineering, Mission Integration Services Contract

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 16 companies to provide a diverse range of competitive task-order contracts for serving the research and engineering products and services needs of the International Space Station.

Research, Engineering, and Mission Integration Services (REMIS) is a multi-award contract with indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed price and cost-plus-fixed-fee line item numbers. The contract begins Sept. 6 with a five-year base period, followed by a two-year option that may be exercised at NASA’s discretion. The maximum potential value of the contract, including the option, is $500 million.

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How to Watch Cassini’s Plunge into Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planet’s atmosphere on Friday, Sept. 15.

Live mission commentary and video from JPL Mission Control will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website from 7 to 8:30 a.m. EDT (4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. PDT) on Sept. 15. A post-mission news briefing from JPL is currently scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EDT (6:30 a.m. PDT), also on NASA TV.

A new NASA e-book, The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini, showcasing compelling images and key science discoveries from the mission, is available for free download in multiple formats at:

https://www.nasa.gov/ebooks

An online toolkit of information and resources about Cassini’s Grand Finale and final plunge into Saturn is available at:

https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/grandfinale

Follow the Cassini spacecraft’s plunge on social media using #GrandFinale, or visit:

https://twitter.com/CassiniSaturn

https://www.facebook.com/NASACassini

Cassini Ends 13-Year Mission at Saturn on Friday Morning

Milestones in Cassini’s final dive toward Saturn. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planet’s atmosphere on Friday, Sept. 15.

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn’s moons – in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration. The spacecraft’s fateful dive is the final beat in the mission’s Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives, which began in late April, through the gap between Saturn and its rings. No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

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USC Research Provides Evidence of Ground Ice on Asteroids

Large, smooth areas on exoplanet Vesta correlated with higher concentrations of hydrogen. (Credit: Elizabeth Palmer, Essam Heggy)

LOS ANGELES (USC PR) — Research at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering has revealed new evidence for the occurrence of ground ice on the protoplanet Vesta.

The work, under the sponsorship of NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics program, is part of ongoing efforts at USC Viterbi to improve water detectability techniques in terrestrial and planetary subsurfaces using radar and microwave imaging techniques.

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What Might Happen to NASA’s Earth Science Programs Under Bridenstine?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Imagine the following scenario: NASA’s Earth Science division gets its budget cut with key missions focused on climate change canceled.

The new NASA administrator then announces the division will be dismantled, with various programs divided among other federal departments, in order to better focus the space agency on exploration. The bulk of the programs end up at NOAA, which the NASA administrator says is a much more appropriate home for them.

NOAA, however, is already reeling from spending cuts. Struggling to perform its own forecasting duties on a reduced budget, the agency has little bandwidth to take on any additional responsibilities. And the funding allocated for the NASA programs that were just transferred over is woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.

The result is a bureaucratic train wreck in which America’s Earth science and climate research programs gradually wither away due to mismanagement, neglect and lack of funding. The ability of the nation — and the world — to understand and address the changes the planet experiencing is greatly reduced. At some future date, another administration will have to rebuild a program in shambles that was once the envy of the world.

Sound far fetched? Think again. It could very well happen if the Trump Administration and the man it has nominated to lead NASA get what they want out of Congress.

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Soyuz Crew Launch to ISS Set for Tuesday Evening

In this one second exposure photograph, the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft is seen launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (NASA PR) — Expedition 53-54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:17 p.m. today aboard the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft.

Launch coverage will begin at 4:15 p.m. on NASA TV. After their launch, the trio will travel on a fast-track, six-hour path to the space station, where they are expected to dock at 10:57 p.m. tonight, Sept. 12.