China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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Senate Appropriators Boost NASA’s Budget by $1.25 Billion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) – The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act, which makes investments to support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities.

The $70.833 billion measure is $6.715 billion above the FY2019 enacted level and funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and related agencies. 

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NASA Joins Last of Five Sections for Space Launch System Rocket Stage

NASA finished assembling the main structural components for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans fully integrated the last piece of the 212-foot-tall core stage by adding the engine section to the rest of the previously assembled structure. Boeing technicians bolted the engine section to the stage’s liquid hydrogen propellant tank. (Credit: NASA/Steven Seipel)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — NASA finished assembling and joining the main structural components for the largest rocket stage the agency has built since the Saturn V that sent Apollo astronauts to the Moon. Engineers at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans connected the last of the five sections of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. The stage will produce 2 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I, the first flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon.

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GAO Report on SLS/Orion: Making Progress, But….

SLS core stage pathfinder is lifted onto the Stennis B-2 test stand (Credits: NASA/SSC)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Government Accountability Office released another depressing review this week of NASA’s Artemis program, specifically looking at the space agency’s progress on the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and the exploration ground systems (EGS) required to support them.

Cristina Chaplain, GAO’s director of Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, summarized the report’s conclusions on Wednesday in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

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Pad 39B Water Flow Test Comes Through Loud and Clear

NASA continued its preparation for the Artemis I mission with a successful water flow test on the mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B on Friday, Sept. 13. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA eclipsed another milestone in its plan to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024 with the latest successful water flow test on the mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B.

Using adjustments from the first water flow test event in July, the Friday, Sept. 13 exercise demonstrated the capability of the sound suppression system that will be used for launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) for the Artemis I mission.

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House Science Chairwoman Slams Trump Administration’s Artemis Lunar Plans

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

Opening Statement (Excerpt)

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics Hearing:
Developing Core Capabilities for Deep Space Exploration: An Update on NASA’s SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

….I also want to echo Chairwoman Horn’s comment about the lateness of NASA’s testimony. NASA was provided ample advance notice of this hearing and more than sufficient time to prepare testimony and have it reviewed by OMB and whomever else looks over NASA’s testimony these days. The fact that this testimony is overdue is not only frustrating, it leaves Members little opportunity to consider NASA’s testimony in advance of the hearing. If NASA and the Administration can’t meet simple hearing deadlines, it doesn’t inspire great confidence in their ability to meet the much harder deadline of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.

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NASA Prepares for Green Run Testing, Practices Lifting SLS Core Stage

SLS core stage pathfinder is lifted onto the Stennis B-2 test stand (Credits: NASA/SSC)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — NASA cleared a milestone in preparation for Green Run testing of its Space Launch System (SLS) core stage with an Aug. 23/24 lift and installation of the core stage pathfinder simulator onto the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss.

The lift and installation of the core stage pathfinder – a size and weight replica of the SLS core stage – is helping teams at Stennis prepare for the Green Run test series.

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Complete Orion Starts Testing for Shipping to Plum Brook

First image of the complete Orion spacecraft that will fly around the Moon on the Artemis-1 mission. (Credit: NASA–R. Sinyak)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (ESA PR) — The first Orion spacecraft was unveiled in its entirety on 18 July at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. After assembling the European Service Module in Bremen, Germany, and the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module in USA, the three elements of the spacecraft are now integrated into the full Orion that stands almost as high as a two-storey house.

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Orion’s Service Module Completes Critical Propulsion Test

WHITE SANDS, NM (NASA PR) — NASA is building a system to send astronauts to the Moon for Artemis missions, and that includes tests to make sure the Orion spacecraft is prepared to safely carry crew on an alternate mission profile in the face of unexpected problems. That capability was most recently demonstrated with a successful, continuous 12-minute firing of Orion’s propulsion system that simulated a possible alternate mission scenario.

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NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative Opens Call for Payloads on Artemis 2 Mission

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — CubeSats can be part of a historic mission—Artemis 2—when NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will send astronauts on their first flight aboard the Orion spacecraft farther into the solar system than humanity has ever traveled before. Artemis 2, will mark a significant step forward in NASA’s plans to return humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and future missions to worlds beyond, including Mars, and the small satellites traveling along for the mission will help inform the next steps of exploration.

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NASA’s Uncertain Path Back to the Moon

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Nothing illustrates the changes wrought by the Trump Administration’s decision to move up the deadline for returning astronauts to the moon from 2028 to 2024 than a pair of contracts NASA awarded for the Lunar Gateway that will serve as a staging point for the landing.

In May, Maxar won a competitively awarded $375 million contract to build the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). NASA released a source selection statement that detailed how officials evaluated the five bids they received and why Maxar’s proposal was superior to the others.

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NASA Decides to Do SLS Green Run After All

The “Green Run” test of the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) will be conducted at the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Flight Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (Credits: NASA)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced July 25 the agency will conduct a “Green Run” core stage test for the Space Launch System rocket ahead of the upcoming Artemis 1 lunar mission.

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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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