Crew Dragon Go for Launch on Wednesday, Weather Forecast Improves

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley, right, are seen on a monitor showing the crew access arm at Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal in preparation for the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in firing room four of the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA, SpaceX and U.S. Space Force officials said that a launch readiness review went well on Monday, clearing one of the last hurdles toward liftoff of the Falcon 9 booster and Crew Dragon capsule with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard at 4:33 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 27.

Officials said the launch day forecast for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has improved from 60 percent chance of weather violating launch constraints to 40 percent.

Backup dates if the launch is scrubbed are May 30 and 31.

Officials said a brief hot fire of the Falcon 9 boosters first stage Merlin 1-D engines went as planned.

The Crew Dragon mission will be the first orbital launch from American soil since the space shuttle was retired in July 2011.

NASA will provide live coverage on its website of the flight to the International Space Station beginning no earlier than 12:15 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

Meet Crew Dragon Astronaut Robert Behnken

OFFICIAL NASA BIOGRAPHY

Robert Behnken (Credit: NASA)

Summary: 

Robert L. Behnken was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2000 and is a veteran of two space shuttle flights. He is currently training for the Demo 2 flight of SpaceX’s CrewDragon spacecraft, the first crewed flight for that vehicle.  Behnken and his crewmate are working closely with SpaceX to develop their new spacecraft systems, which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and, along with Boeing’s Starliner, return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil. A native of Missouri, Behnken flew STS-123 in March 2008 and STS-130 in February 2010, logging more than 708 hours in space, and more than 37 hours during six spacewalks.

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Meet Crew Dragon Astronaut Douglas Hurley

OFFICIAL NASA BIOGRAPHY

Douglas Hurley (Credit: NASA)

Summary:

Douglas G. Hurley was selected as an astronaut in 2000. A veteran of two spaceflights, he was the pilot on STS‐127 and STS‐135. Hurley holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Tulane University. Before joining NASA, he was a fighter pilot and test pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Hurley is currently training for the Demo 2 flight of SpaceX’s CrewDragon spacecraft, the first crewed flight for that vehicle.  He and his crewmates are working closely with SpaceX to develop their new spacecraft systems, which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and, along with Boeing’s Starliner, return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil.

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Falcon 9, Crew Dragon Rolled Out to Launch Pad for Demo-2 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX rolled out Falcon 9 booster and Crew Dragon capsule that will carry astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on May 27.

Closeup of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The flight will be the first Crew Dragon to carry astronauts following an automated flight test to the space station last year. It will also be the first crewed launch to orbit since the shuttle was retired in July 2011.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is raised into a vertical position on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The launch vehicle and spacecraft were rolled out to Pad 39A for a brief static fire of the Falcon 9’s first stage engines.

The crew access arm is swung into position for the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA will provide continuous coverage of the flight from prior to launch through the Crew Dragon’s docking with the space station.

Congress Seeks Answers on Sudden Resignation of NASA Human Spaceflight Head

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics says she wants answers following the abrupt resignation of NASA’s head of human spaceflight, Douglas Loverro, on the eve of a crucial human flight test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially eight days before the first scheduled launch of US astronauts on US soil in almost a decade. Under this Administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our efforts at human space flight,” tweeted Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.)

“The bottom line is that, as the Committee that oversees NASA, we need answers,” she added.

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NASA to Spend $1.8 Billion on RS-25 Engines for Space Launch System

The four RS-25 engines, shown here, are attached to the SLS core stage that will send the Artemis I mission to the Moon. (Credits: NASA/Jude Guidry)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, to manufacture 18 additional Space Launch System (SLS) RS-25 rocket engines to support Artemis missions to the Moon.

The follow-on contract to produce 18 engines is valued at $1.79 billion. This includes labor to build and test the engines, produce tooling and support SLS flights powered by the engines. This modifies the initial contract awarded in November 2015 to recertify and produce six new RS-25 engines and brings the total contract value to almost $3.5 billion with a period of performance through Sept. 30, 2029, and a total of 24 engines to support as many as six additional SLS flights.

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NASA Administrator Statement on Passing of Former Administrator James Beggs

James Beggs, NASA’s sixth administrator (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on the passing of the agency’s sixth administrator, James Beggs, on April 23. Mr. Beggs served as NASA administrator from July 1981 to December 1985.

“NASA sends its condolences to the family of James Beggs. Mr. Beggs led the agency during the earliest days of the Space Shuttle Program and helped us open a whole new era of exploration. We continue to build on his legacy today as we take advantage of our long-term presence in low-Earth orbit to make the advances to travel farther, and seed an entirely new segment of the economy through the innovations of commercial partners.

“Mr. Beggs also served his country in the U.S. Navy and supported NASA’s achievements during the Apollo era during an agency tenure in the late 1960s. His legacy guided the shuttle program toward its three decades of achievements and set the stage for a diverse and flexible astronaut corps from which we continue to benefit. We salute his service and will continue to honor his contributions to our great agency.”

Read Mr. Beggs’ official agency biography at:

https://history.nasa.gov/Biographies/beggs.html

Read the transcript of an Oral History Project interview with Mr. Beggs, performed in March 2002, at:

https://go.nasa.gov/2Y6JeVM

Hubble: 30 Years Unveiling the Universe

Video Caption: This month marks the 30th anniversary of the international Hubble Space Telescope.

Launched on 24 April 1990, and deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery cargo bay a day later (25 April 1990), the telescope has given us a new perspective on the Universe.

The joint NASA/ESA mission has shown us distant galaxies and spectacular nebulae. It has revealed supermassive black holes and planets in distant solar systems; and has proved that the Universe is not only expanding, the expansion is accelerating.

Hubble’s mission has also been eventful. When it was first launched, a defect in the mirror meant it sent back blurry images. Since then, five servicing missions have enabled the telescope to be improved and upgraded. Today, it is still going strong.

Learn more: http://bit.ly/HubbleCelebratesIts30th…

Crew Dragon Flight with Astronauts Scheduled for May 27

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the  International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission. The specific duration of the mission is to be determined.

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Former NASA Astronaut Bill Fisher on the Risks of Treating Coronavirus Victims

This is a really excellent thread by a doctor who could be happily retired but is risking his life to save others. It’s definitely worth a read.

Japanese Astronaut Prepares to Fly on SpaceX Crew Dragon

Japanese astronaut Noguchi Soichi. (Credit: NASA)

JAXA has announced that astronaut Noguchi Soichi is preparing and training for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Soichi will be flying to the orbiting facility for the third time. He previously flew aboard the U.S. space shuttle on the STS-114 mission and on Russia’s Soyuz TMA-17 transport. Soichi has spent 177 days in space.

A Crew Dragon flight test with astronauts aboard is currently scheduled for mid- to late May. The schedule for the first operational flight has not been announced yet.

A Case for Durational Research: Space Plants Co-Investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul

Robert Ferl_and Anna-Lisa Paul (Credit: NASA)

NASA Flight Opportunities Program Q&A

University of Florida-Gainesville co-investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul are no strangers to suborbital research. They’ve been conducting plant research in microgravity since the late 1990s—first on the Space Shuttle and then on the International Space Station (ISS) and parabolic flights, many of which have been facilitated by Flight Opportunities.

More recently, the pair have begun flying their “space plants” (Arabidopsis thaliana) on rockets, including Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard. We spoke with Ferl and Paul about how they have approached their long-duration research to lead to successful, iterative investigations on multiple flights. 

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NASA to Pay Tribute to Fallen Heroes with Day of Remembrance

The crew of STS-107, the last flight of the space shuttle Columbia. From left to right are mission specialist David Brown, commander Rick Husband, mission specialist Laurel Clark, mission specialist Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist Michael Anderson, pilot William McCool, and Israeli payload specialist Ilan Ramon. (Credit: NASA)

NASA will honor members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery, including the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, during the agency’s annual Day of Remembrance Thursday, Jan. 30.

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Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Goes Public With Extravagant Promises to Keep

Richard Branson wears the SpaceShipTwo flight suit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After 15 years of making extravagant but unkept promises to fly more than 600 “future astronauts” to space, Richard Branson must now please an entirely new group of people who are usually much shorter on patience: shareholders.

Following the completion last week of a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), the British billionaire’s Virgin Galactic suborbital “space line” will begin trading under its own name on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday.

Going public now is an unusual move for a space tourism company that hasn’t flown a singlet tourist to space since Branson announced the SpaceShipTwo program in 2004. Some might see it has putting the cart before the horse.

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