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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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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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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Launch Team One Step Closer to Certification for EM-1

Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems monitor their consoles during a countdown demonstration event of cryogenic propellant loading April 12, 2019, inside Firing Room 2 in the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

By Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Exploration Ground Systems’ launch team at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completed their first formal training simulation that will certify the team for the inaugural launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft next year.

The team, led by Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, performed a countdown simulation of loading the SLS with liquid oxygen and hydrogen — complete with surprise issues the team had to work real-time. The thousands of gallons of liquid propellants that will be loaded on launch day are needed to propel the agency’s powerful rocket to the vicinity of the Moon during Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).

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We Return to the Moon, But We Won’t Do It Alone

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Jim Bridenstine Blog
NASA Administrator

When President Donald Trump charged NASA with returning to the Moon, he specified that we partner with industry and other nations to make it possible. Today, on the first day of the 35thSpace Symposium in Colorado we continue our commitment to work with innovative partners as we chart our path forward to the moon in 2024.

The Space Symposium provided me and the NASA team a unique opportunity for dialogue, as it is the first major international public forum to discuss President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s 2024 moon challenge.  Earlier today I met with several members of the international community to discuss our lunar exploration plans and reiterated NASA’s commitment to move forward to the Moon with strong international collaboration.

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Video: Watch RS-25 Hot Fire

Video Caption: NASA is a step closer to returning astronauts to the Moon in the next five years following this successful “hot fire” test of flight engine No. 2062 on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. This April 4, 2019 test caps more than four years of testing for the RS-25 engines that will help power the first four missions of the Space Launch System rockets. It also concludes a 51-month test series that demonstrated RS-25 engines can perform at the higher power level needed to launch the super heavy-lift SLS rocket.

NASA Achieves Rocket Engine Test Milestone Needed for Moon Missions

NASA conducts a test of RS-25 flight engine No. 2062 on April 4 on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss. The test marked a major milestone in NASA’s march forward to Moon missions. All 16 RS-25 engines that will help power the first four flights of NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket now have been tested. (Credits: NASA/SSC)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — NASA is a step closer to returning astronauts to the Moon in the next five years following a successful engine test on Thursday at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The latest “hot fire” was the culmination of four-plus years of testing for the RS-25 engines that will send the first four Space Launch System (SLS) rockets into space.

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SLS Engine Test Scheduled for Thursday Afternoon

The RS-25 engine fires up for a 500-second test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credit: NASA)

Thursday, April 4, 2:45 p.m. Eastern: RS-25 engine test. Live from Stennis Space Center, an engine for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is fired up in a test stand. Watch it live.

NASA Galactica: The Plan

No. 6 with two old model Cylons.

“The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.”

— Battlestar Galactic

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Watching the re-imagined “Battlestar Galactic,” I was never quite sure exactly what the Cylons’ plan was beyond the whole exterminate all humans with nukes thing. In an apparent nod to this lack of clarity, the producers created a two-hour TV movie called, “Battlestar Galactic: The Plan,” to explain it all.

NASA has suffered from a similar lack of clarity over the past week. At a National Space Council meeting last Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced it was the Trump Administration’s policy to land astronauts on the south pole of the moon by the presidential election year of 2024 — four years ahead of the current schedule.

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Boeing Statement on SLS & Moving Up Moon Landing Up Four Years

Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on Pad 39B. (Credit: NASA)

Boeing Statement

SLS is the backbone for a permanent human presence in deep space, for multiple missions to the moon and eventually to Mars and beyond. As NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated in his address to the National Space Council, we’re working relentlessly to develop SLS to do what is absolutely necessary to support a NASA launch in 2020.

Boeing and NASA have implemented changes in both processes and technologies to accelerate production, without sacrificing safety or quality, and we remain on schedule to deliver the first SLS core stage to NASA by the end of the year.

As the commercial launch alternative studies have shown, NASA has affirmed that SLS remains the best approach to achieve our lunar objectives with a reconfirmation of the importance of the Exploration Upper Stage by EM-3. SLS is also the world’s only super heavy rocket capable of safely transporting astronauts to deep space with major payloads like landers, habitats and Gateway elements.

America needs SLS’ deep-space capability in order to maintain our leadership in human space exploration. We are committed to supporting the vision outlined by Vice President Pence today.