European Service Module 2 Being Assembled in Germany

European Service Module 2 assembly (Credit: Airbus)

BREMEN, Germany (ESA PR) — The European Service Module-2 (ESM-2) is somewhat like the portal it appears to be in this image. By providing power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, it will transport humans back to the Moon, roughly fifty years after humankind first landed on its surface.

In assembly at Airbus in Bremen, ESM-2 is the engine of the Orion spacecraft that will fly its second mission and first with a crew. The mission is called Artemis 2 and is set for launch in 2022.

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NASA Successfully Tests Orion Abort System

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA successfully demonstrated Tuesday the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system can outrun a speeding rocket and pull astronauts to safety during an emergency during launch. The test is another milestone in the agency’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon that will lead to astronaut missions to Mars.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Delivers Jettison Motor for Artemis 1 Mission

The Orion jettison motor for Artemis 1 is prepped for shipment by an Aerojet Rocketdyne engineering technician at the company’s facility in Orange, Virginia. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne’s jettison motor to be integrated into Lockheed Martin-built Orion Spacecraft
  • The jettison motor pulls Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) away from the crew module in the unlikely event of a launch anomaly to ensure astronaut safety
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne is contracted to supply the jettison motor for Orion’s LAS through Artemis 2

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 21, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Aerojet Rocketdyne has delivered the jettison motor for NASA’s Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) to Lockheed Martin in anticipation of Artemis 1, the first integrated flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion.

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GAO Says Artemis 1 Flight Could Slip Amid Rising Costs

Artist’s conception of Space Launch System in Vehicle Assembly Building (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of NASA’s human lunar effort has concluded the Artemis 1 flight could slip to June 2021 as costs continue to rise.

“In November 2018, within one year of announcing an up to 19-month delay for the three programs—the Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle, the Orion spacecraft, and supporting ground systems—NASA senior leaders acknowledged the revised date of June 2020 is unlikely,” the report concluded. “Any issues uncovered during planned integration and testing may push the launch date as late as June 2021.

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Orion Launch Abort System Designed to Pull its Weight for Moon Missions

Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test vehicle. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft will soar toward the Moon atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as part of the agency’s Artemis program to establish a permanent presence at the Moon and learn the skills needed to send humans to Mars. Crew members will journey aboard Orion with the confidence knowing the spacecraft is specifically designed with a number of features to support humans traveling to deep space, including a highly capable Launch Abort System (LAS). The LAS is a structure on top of the crew module that can fire within milliseconds and, with the crew module attached, outrun the powerful rocket if an emergency arises during launch.

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Cost of Moon Landing Estimated at $20 to $30 Billion

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

CNN talked to the NASA administrator about the cost of landing astronauts on the moon by 2024.

>The space agency will need an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion over the next five years for its moon project, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNN Business on Thursday. That would mean adding another $4 billion to $6 billion per year, on average, to the agency’s budget, which is already expected to be about $20 billion annually.

Bridenstine’s remarks are the first time that NASA has shared a total cost estimate for its moon program, which is called Artemis (after the Greek goddess of the moon) and could send people to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century. NASA wants that mission to include two astronauts: A man and the first-ever woman to walk on the moon.

The $20 to $30 billion cost estimate is less expensive than some had predicted — though they’re not necessarily the final figures. Bridenstine acknowledged that spaceflight can be dangerous and unpredictable, so it’s practically impossible to settle on an accurate price tag.

“We’re negotiating within the administration,” he said. “We’re talking to [the federal Office of Management and Budget]; we’re talking to the National Space Council.” (The National Space Council is a recently revived policy development group headed by Vice President Mike Pence.)

Assuming the amount is indeed all new funds and doesn’t include what’s already being spent on Orion, SLS and other programs, the only way to meet the deadline would be through a combination of increases to NASA’s budget and cuts to other parts of the space agency’s budget.

It should be noted that members of the House, which is controlled by Democrats, have thus far rejected significant cuts in other NASA programs as they have worked through the space agency’s fiscal year 2020 budget. The Republican Senate has not weighed in yet.

The other thing the story suggests is that the $1.6 billion in supplemental spending the Administration has requested for NASA’s budget is likely too low. Especially if the Senate follows the House’s lead in rejecting cuts from other agency programs.

Artemis 1 Flight Control Team Simulates Mission Scenarios

Artemis 1 mission simulation. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In mission control at Johnson Space Center in Houston, flight controllers simulated part of Orion’s uncrewed flight to the Moon for Artemis 1. The team executed an outbound trajectory correction, a maneuver that will be needed to make sure Orion is on the right path after the Space Launch System performs the Trans-Lunar Injection burn that sends the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon. As Orion travels toward the Moon over the course of several days, flight controllers will command Orion from the ground six times to correct its trajectory to ensure the spacecraft can fly by the Moon at the correct time and place. The flight control team is preparing for Artemis missions by refining and practicing procedures they will use on the ground to command and control Orion on its missions to the Moon.

NASA Reaches New Milestone on Complex, Large Rocket

Paul Diaz, a Boeing technician, installs one of 360 bolts to connect the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s massive liquid hydrogen tank to the core stage’s intertank at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Next, the engine section and the four engines will be attached to complete assembly of the stage for the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA achieved a significant milestone in manufacturing the first large, complex core stage that will help power the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on upcoming missions to the Moon. NASA and lead contractor Boeing have assembled four-fifths of the massive core stage needed to launch SLS and the Orion spacecraft on their first mission to the Moon: Artemis 1.

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Orion Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test Article Readied for Test

Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test vehicle. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray)

Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test vehicle rolled out from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and teams completed their first launch rehearsal, and flight test readiness review on June 4, in preparation for its planned July 2 launch.

During the flight, a test version of Orion will launch on a booster to more than six miles in altitude where Orion’s launch abort system (LAS) will safely pull the capsule away from the rocket. The team will be stacking all the AA-2 elements together at the launch pad over the next few weeks.

The test will demonstrate Orion’s LAS can steer the capsule and future crew to safety if an emergency occurs during ascent on the Space Launch System rocket. Ensuring safety will pave the way for Artemis missions near the Moon, enabling astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface by 2024.

From Alabama to the Moon

The largest piece of structural test hardware for America’s new deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, was loaded into Test Stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama Jan. 14, 2019. The liquid hydrogen tank is part of the rocket’s core stage that is more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, and stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines.  (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — The path to the Moon has run through Alabama since the earliest days of our nation’s space program. Today, work in the “Rocket City” Huntsville and across the state is advancing the largest rocket we’ve ever built and our Artemis Program to land humans on the Moon by 2024. At a recent visit with the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine demonstrated Alabama’s deep technical and economic contributions to our nation’s space program. A $1.6 million amendment above the President’s request of $21 billion for NASA’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget will accelerate our progress to the Moon and solidifies that the state’s importance to our exploration efforts.

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Orion Abort Test Scheduled for July 2

On May 22, 2019, engineers move a test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test from the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Space Launch Complex 46 at neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in preparation for its launch this summer. (Credits: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — Media accreditation is open for an uncrewed flight test of the launch abort system of NASA’s Orion spacecraft on Tuesday, July 2. This test, Ascent Abort-2, will demonstrate the abort system can activate, steer the spacecraft, and carry astronauts to a safe distance if an emergency arises during Orion’s climb to orbit.

A 22,000-pound test version of the Orion spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida on a rocket provided by Northrop Grumman.

During the three-minute test, the spacecraft, with a fully functional launch abort system, will climb to an altitude of about six miles, traveling at more than 1,000 miles per hour. At that point, the system’s powerful abort motor will fire, pulling Orion away from the booster.

Designing a system for human spaceflight means ensuring there are features in place that protect the astronauts aboard. Data gathered from this test will be used to validate and improve computer models of the spacecraft launch abort system’s performance and functions.

NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Orion is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Space Launch System rocket and Gateway in orbit around the Moon. Orion will sustain astronauts in deep space, provide emergency abort capability, and support a safe re-entry from lunar return velocities. Exploring the Moon helps create a vibrant future and advance technologies, capabilities and new opportunities for future missions to Mars.

For more information about the Orion spacecraft and Launch Abort System, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/orion

Untangling the Numbers in NASA’s Supplemental Budget Request

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In seeking a $1.6 billion increase in NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2020 to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, the Trump Administration has claimed that “no NASA programs were cut” to accommodate the new spending.  However, to quote Obi-wan Kenobi, this is only true from a certain point of view.

The Administration’s original FY 2020 request would cut NASA’s current $21.5 billion budget by $488 million while shifting funds from other space agency programs to the Artemis lunar program. Thus, the claim of no cuts can likely be interpreted as no reductions beyond what the Trump Administration has already proposed.

Further, the overall increase is not as large as it sounds. The supplemental request would increase NASA’s budget by $1.1 billion from its current $21.5 billion to $22.6 billion.

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Bridenstine: NASA Needs Funding Surge to Land on Moon by 2024

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceNews reports that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine didn’t do much on Wednesday to clear up what the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 is going to cost in testimony before the commerce, justice and science subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Bridenstine declined to offer a dollar figure, saying that the agency submitted a “pretty good” proposal to the Office of Management and Budget, which is performing its own review along with the staff of the National Space Council. The goal, he said, is to “come up with a unified administration position” on how much additional funding NASA will request.
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GAO Letter Outlines NASA’s Open Priority Recommendations

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has not implemented nearly one third of the recommendations for improvements that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) made to it four years earlier, the government watchdog agency said.

“In November 2018, we reported that on a government-wide basis, 77 percent of our recommendations made 4 years ago were implemented,” GAO said in an April 12 letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“NASA’s recommendation implementation rate was 70 percent. As of February 2019, NASA had 51 open recommendations. Fully implementing these open recommendations could significantly improve NASA’s operations.” GAO added.

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