NASA OIG Forecasts Further Delays, Large Cost Overruns for SLS

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

A new audit by the NASA Inspector General criticizes Boeing for its management of the stages of the Space Launch System (SLS) while forecasting further delays and large cost overruns for the beleaguered program that is designed to send astronauts to deep space.

“As of August 2018, NASA has spent $11.9 billion on the SLS, but will require significant additional funding to complete the first Core Stage—more than 3 years later than initially planned and at double the anticipated cost,” the audit concluded.

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Lockheed Martin Solicits Ideas for Commercial Payloads on Orion Spacecraft

Orion spacecraft (Credit: NASA)

DENVER, Oct. 5, 2018 (Lockheed Martin PR) — Today, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Bremen, Germany, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) announced it is studying interest in flying commercial payloads aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The market analysis is the first step toward the company’s vision of bringing commercial opportunities to deep space and fostering a thriving commercial marketplace beyond low-Earth orbit.

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NASA Releases New Plan for Return to Moon & Trips to Mars

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In December of 2017, President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive-1, in which the president directed NASA “to lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”

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Jacobs Supports NASA in Hitting Major Milestone at Kennedy Space Center

NASA’s modified mobile launcher (ML), sitting atop a refurbished Crawler Transporter (CT-2). (Credit: NASA)

Mobile launcher reaches launch pad,
paving the way for future deep space exploration

DALLAS, Sept. 25, 2018 (Jacobs Engineering PR) — Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (NYSE :JEC ), and NASA, recently achieved a major milestone at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as the modified mobile launcher (ML), sitting atop a refurbished Crawler Transporter (CT-2), took its maiden voyage to Launch Pad 39B and then to the Vehicle Assembly Building for fit checks and testing. The ML will support NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft during processing and launch.

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NASA: Landing Men & Women on the Moon Before the Next Decade is Out

Credit: NASA

NASA has released the National Space Exploration Campaign Report that had been mandated by Congress. It commits the United States to building a human-tended Lunar Gateway beginning in 2023 and returning humans to the moon’s surface by the end of the 2020’s.

The plan is to build a sustainable architecture for lunar exploration that is open to commercial and international partners. NASA would use the exploration campaign to test out technologies for sending astronauts to Mars.

Below are key excerpts from the report.

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NASA Completes Orion Parachute Tests for Missions with Astronauts

An Orion test capsule with its three main parachutes touches down in the Arizona desert Sept. 12. (Credit: NASA)

YUMA, Ariz. (NASA PR) — NASA has completed the final test to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts, checking off an important milestone on the path to send humans on missions to the Moon and beyond.

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Bridenstine: NASA Lunar Plan Focused on Sustainable, Commercial Architecture

Orion near the moon (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA plans to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon within a decade using a sustainable architecture that stresses reusable vehicles and open systems, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week.

“So how do we go sustainably?” Bridenstine said during a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). “We start by taking advantage of capabilities in this country that didn’t exist even five or 10 years ago. We have commercial companies that can do things that weren’t possible even a few years ago….

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Orion Pressure Vessel for Exploration Mission-2 Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

The Orion pressure vessel for Exploration Mission-2 arrives at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 24, 2018. (Credit: NASA/Christopher Swanson)

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

It’s almost a packed house in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the arrival of the Orion pressure vessel for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) that will carry astronauts beyond the Moon atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The pressure vessel arrived on a super-wide transport truck at the center Aug. 24 and joined the Orion Exploration Mission-1 crew module in the high bay where technicians recently secured the heat shield to the bottom of the spacecraft.

The pressure vessel is Orion’s primary structure that holds the pressurized atmosphere astronauts will breathe and work in while in the vacuum of deep space. The main structure of the pressure vessel consists of seven large aluminum pieces that are welded together to produce a strong, yet light-weight, air-tight capsule. The pieces were joined at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans using a state-of-the-art process called friction-stir welding, which produces incredibly strong bonds by transforming metals from a solid into a plastic-like state, and then using a rotating pin tool to soften, stir and forge a bond between two metal components to form a uniform welded joint, a vital requirement of next-generation space hardware.

The pressure vessel was loaded into the Crew Module Transportation Fixture and then lowered onto a heavy equipment semi-trailer for the nearly 700-mile journey over land to Kennedy. Efforts will now begin to prepare the pressure vessel for flight. Initially, the crew module will be secured into a precision alignment tool and Lockheed Martin technicians will begin the work to attach the main structural components to the exterior of the module. These critical parts, some made of aluminum and titanium, will provide structural strength to the pressure vessel and give the spacecraft its conical shape.

“Flying Orion on our new SLS rocket represents the beginning of a new era in space exploration,” said Kent Beringer, EM-2 lead with Orion Production Operations at Kennedy. “This Orion spacecraft and the SLS will take humans farther into the solar system than ever before. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

NASA’s First Flight With Crew Important Step on Long-term Return to the Moon

Orion spacecraft (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Astronauts on their first flight aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft will travel farther into the solar system than humanity has ever traveled before. Their mission will be to confirm all of the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed in the actual environment of deep space with crew aboard. NASA’s first mission with crew will mark a significant step forward on NASA’s plans to return humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and future missions to worlds beyond, including Mars.

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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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Orion Spacecraft at the White House for the Made in America Showcase

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014on the White House South Lawn. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where final assembly, integration and testing was completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to the spacecraft.

Orion Jettison Motor Ready for Crew Escape System Test

Aerojet Rocketdyne technicians inspect the Jettison Motor for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS) at its facility in Sacramento, Calif. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne recently passed a key milestone in preparation for the Ascent Abort Test (AA-2) next year with the successful casting of the Jettison Motor for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS).

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NASA Tests Solar Sail for CubeSat that Will Study Near-Earth Asteroids

The NEA Scout solar sail is deployed at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite designed to study asteroids close to Earth, performed a successful deployment test June 28 of the solar sail that will launch on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The test was performed in an indoor clean room at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

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SpaceX to Launch Majority of 4,000 Starlink Satellites From Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.

That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.

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Senate Appropriations Approves Budget Boost for NASA, Cut for NOAA


WASHINGTON, DC – June 14, 2018 (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) — The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act with funding for programs that support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities….

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $21.3 billion for NASA, $587 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $1.43 billion above the budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, to fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and to support fundamental aeronautics research.

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