SpaceX Hosting Stealth Mars Settlement Workshop

SpaceX BFR (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has convened an invite-only workshop on its plans to establish a colony on Mars at the University of Colorado Boulder today and tomorrow.

However, SpaceX may be getting more serious about preparing for human landings on Mars, both in terms of how to keep people alive as well as to provide them with something meaningful to do. According to private invitations seen by Ars, the company will host a “Mars Workshop” on Tuesday and Wednesday this week at the University of Colorado Boulder. Although the company would not comment directly, a SpaceX official confirmed the event and said the company regularly meets with a variety of experts concerning its missions to Mars.
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NASA to Announce New Public-Private Space Tech Partnerships

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 8, to announce new public-private partnerships that will develop commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA exploration missions.

The selected U.S. companies are developing 10 “tipping point” technologies. For this solicitation, a technology is considered at a “tipping point” if an investment in a ground or flight demonstration will result in significantly maturing the technology and improves the company’s ability to bring it to market. The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) must also be at four or greater at the time of proposal submission.

Selections are based on the agency’s third competitive Tipping Point solicitation. The most recent solicitation targeted three Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) strategic technology focus areas, including: Expand Utilization of Space, Enable Efficient and Safe Transportation Into and Through Space, and Increase Access to Planetary Surfaces.

Jim Reuter, STMD’s acting associate administrator, will participate in the media teleconference and will be available for questions following the announcement.

Media and the public can listen to the audio live by visiting:

https://www.nasa.gov/live

STMD is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering technologies and capabilities needed to achieve NASA missions. Projects resulting from the Tipping Point solicitation will enable public-private partnerships managed by programs within STMD.

For more information about the Tipping Point solicitation, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/opportunities-to-foster-commercial-space-technologies

For more information about the NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/about_us/index.html

Human Health Gaps Loom with End of Space Station in Sight

After 168 days of living and working in low-Earth orbit, three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew – NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency – return to Earth Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Credit: NASA Television)

Long exposure to microgravity conditions does some bad things to the human body. The heart shrinks, bones become weaker and cells are exposed to damaging radiation.

The impacts will become more acute as NASA launches astronauts to the moon and Mars, which lie outside of the protection of the Earth’s Van Allen belt. The space agency has been conducting research aboard the International Space Station to find ways of addressing these risks before flights begin in the 2020’s.

The Trump Administration wants to end direct federal support for the station in 2024 to free up funding for human lunar missions. However, a recent NASA Inspector General audit indicates doing so could leave some vital human health research being left uncompleted, resulting in greater risks to astronauts on deep-space missions.

Below is an excerpt from the audit that discusses the human health research being conducted on the space station and the risks involved of ending station support in 2024.
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Rocket Lab Postpones Next Electron Launch to November

Electron launch (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, a US orbital launch provider for the small satellite industry, has confirmed it will launch two Electron rockets just weeks apart in late 2018.

Rocket Lab’s It’s Business Time mission will launch in November, with the ELaNa XIX mission for NASA to follow soon after in December. Both missions will launch from Rocket Lab’s private orbital launch pad in New Zealand, Launch Complex-1.

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NASA Announces Astronaut Assignments for First Four Commercial Crew Flights

From: Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley (Credit; NASA)

SpaceX Crew Dragon Flight Test

Targeted to launch in April 2019 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The crew:

Bob Behnken is from St. Ann, Missouri. He has a doctorate in engineering, is a flight test engineer, and Colonel in the Air Force. He joined the astronaut corps in 2000, and flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice – for the STS-123 and STS-130 missions, during which he performed six spacewalks, for a total of more than 37 hours.

Doug Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. He was a test pilot in the Marine Corps before coming to NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut. He achieved the rank of Colonel in the Marine Corps and piloted space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127, and Atlantis for STS-135 – the final space shuttle mission.

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Planetary Defense Has New Tool in Weather Satellite Lightning Detector

On December 29, 2017, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, an instrument flying on board two weather satellites, detected a bright meteor in Earth’s atmosphere over the western Atlantic Ocean. (Credits: NASA/Lockheed Martin)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s efforts to better understand asteroid impacts has found unexpected support from a new satellite sensor designed to detect lightning. New research published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science finds that the new Geostationary Lightning Mapper, or GLM, on two weather satellites is able to pick up signals of meteors in Earth’s atmosphere.

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Flight Tests to Prove Commercial Systems Fit for Human Spaceflight

Crew Dragon and Starliner at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The first test flights for new spacecraft designed by commercial companies in collaboration with NASA to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station from the United States are known as Demo-1 for SpaceX and Orbital Flight Test for Boeing.

NASA’s goal in collaborating with Boeing and SpaceX is to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from station on the companies’ spacecraft. Both companies have matured their designs, are making significant progress through their extensive testing campaigns, and are headed toward flight tests to validate their systems.

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Top Five Technologies Needed for a Spacecraft to Survive Deep Space

Orion near the moon (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — When a spacecraft built for humans ventures into deep space, it requires an array of features to keep it and a crew inside safe. Both distance and duration demand that spacecraft must have systems that can reliably operate far from home, be capable of keeping astronauts alive in case of emergencies and still be light enough that a rocket can launch it.

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Boeing Expects Automated Starliner Flight Test in 5 or 6 Months

Editor’s Note: Apparently Boeing had a teleconference with a select group of media today to announce the delay.

NASA Selects US Firms to Provide Commercial Suborbital Flight Services

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere.

Through these new awards, selected companies will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for integration and flight services, drawing from a pool of commercial space companies. The five-year contracts have a combined potential contract value of $45 million. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.

The selected companies are:

  • Aerostar International (Raven Aerostar), Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Blue Origin Texas, LLC, Van Horn, Texas
  • Up Aerospace Inc., Littleton, Colorado
  • World View Enterprises, Inc., Tucson, Arizona

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is charged with maturing crosscutting technologies to flight readiness status for future space missions. The agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, manages the Flight Opportunities Program for STMD.

During the coming year, STMD will make significant new investments that address several high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration. It continues to solicit the help of the best and brightest minds in academia, industry, and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in important technology thrust areas. These planned investments are addressing high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration.

For more information on the program, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/flightopportunities

Mars Terraforming Not Possible Using Present-Day Technology

This infographic shows the various sources of carbon dioxide on Mars and their estimated contribution to Martian atmospheric pressure. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Science fiction writers have long featured terraforming, the process of creating an Earth-like or habitable environment on another planet, in their stories. Scientists themselves have proposed terraforming to enable the long-term colonization of Mars. A solution common to both groups is to release carbon dioxide gas trapped in the Martian surface to thicken the atmosphere and act as a blanket to warm the planet.

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CBO: Implementing Space Situational Awareness Act Would Cost $127 Million

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that it will cost $127 million over five years to implement a House bill that gives the Department of Commerce authority to provide civilian space situational awareness and traffic management.

Of that amount, the Department of Commerce would spend $118 million for fiscal years 2019-23.

“The bill would authorize the appropriation of $20 million annually to implement the civil space situational awareness program, and an additional $5 million annually to develop and implement the pilot program,” the CBO report stated.

NASA would spend an additional $9 million over this period to establish and operate a research center focused on space situational awareness and traffic management.

Some of the costs of the program would be offset by fees.

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NASA Inspector General Skeptical of Agency Plan for Commercializing Space Station

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins conducts a session with the Capillary Flow Experiment. (Credit: NASA)

The NASA Inspector General is skeptical about the space agency’s plan to transition to commercial operations in Earth orbit after the end of direct federal support for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024, according to a new report.

“Transitioning the ISS to private operation under the timetable currently envisioned presents significant challenges in stimulating private sector interest to take on an extremely costly and complex enterprise,” the audit found. “Based on our audit work, we question the viability of NASA’s current plans, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit on the timetable proposed…

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Space Station Experiment Reaches Ultracold Milestone

The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) consists of two standardized containers that will be installed on the International Space Station. The larger container is called a “quad locker,” and the smaller container is called a “single locker.” The quad locker contains CAL’s physics package, or the compartment where CAL will produce clouds of ultra-cold atoms. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Tyler Winn)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The International Space Station is officially home to the coolest experiment in space.

NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) was installed in the station’s U.S. science lab in late May and is now producing clouds of ultracold atoms known as Bose-Einstein condensates. These “BECs” reach temperatures just above absolute zero, the point at which atoms should theoretically stop moving entirely. This is the first time BECs have ever been produced in orbit.

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Cygnus Spacecraft Successfully Concludes Ninth ISS Cargo Supply Mission

From July 15, 2018 when Northrop Grumman’s “S.S. J.R. Thompson” Cygnus spacecraft left the International Space Station after delivering approximately 7,400 pounds of cargo to astronauts on board. The spacecraft successfully concluded its ninth cargo supply mission on July 30. (Credit: NASA)

DULLES, Va., July 30, 2018 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) announced that its “S.S. J.R. Thompson” Cygnus™ spacecraft successfully completed its ninth cargo supply mission to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-1) contract.

The spacecraft removed more than 6,600 pounds (over 3,000 kilograms) of disposable cargo, a new record for Cygnus. The “S.S. J.R. Thompson” also successfully executed secondary missions that included the demonstration of Cygnus’ ability to reboost the space station and the deployment of six CubeSats into orbit from a NanoRacks CubeSat deployer.

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