NASA Awards Contract to Northrop Grumman for Lunar Gateway Habitat Module

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS) a contract of an undisclosed amount to modify its Cygnus space station resupply vehicle to serve as the minimal habitation module (MHM) for the Lunar Gateway.

Northrop Grumman won out over four competitors that had won contracts to develop mockup habitats under the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) program.


NASA’s Commercial Cargo & Crew Spending

Dragon spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: NASA)

In announcing its plan to send two people around the moon using the Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 in 2018 before NASA can do so using its own rocket and spaceship, SpaceX paid tribute to the space agency that has funded its rise.

“Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible,” SpaceX said in a statement. “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission.”

NASA funding has been behind Elon Musk’s company every step of the way as SpaceX has developed Dragon and the Falcon 9 booster upon which the Falcon Heavy is based. So, no NASA and, in all likelihood, no SpaceX.


Orbital ATK Antares-Cygnus Flight Delayed to September

Antares rolled out for hot fire in May 2016. (Credit: Orbital ATK)
Antares rolled out for hot fire in May 2016. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Orbital ATK Mission Update
August 10, 2016

Orbital ATK completed a stage test at the end of May and final data review has confirmed the test was successful, clearing the way for the Antares return to flight. Simultaneously, the company has been conducting final integration and check out of the flight vehicle that will launch the OA-5 mission to ensure that all technical, quality and safety standards are met or exceeded.


RiskIt: NASA’s High Risk Commercial Cargo Strategy

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.
A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

Commercial Cargo’s Lower Costs Brought Higher Risks

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In October 2014, NASA engineers were deeply worried about Orbital Sciences Corporation’s upcoming Orb-3 commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

An Antares booster was set to send a Cygnus cargo ship loaded with 2,215 kg (4,883 lb) of supplies to astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory. It would be the third of eight Cygnus flights to the station under a Commercial Resupply Services-1 (CRS-1) contract worth $1.9 billion.


Commercial Crew Moves Forward Toward Flight Tests

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Five years in, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is at the doorstep of launch for a new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles that will take astronauts to the International Space Station, enhance microgravity research and open the windows to the dawn of a new era in human space transportation.

Returning the capability to launch astronauts from American soil brings tremendous satisfaction for the team working toward it.


NASA to Award ISS Cargo Contracts on Thursday

Dragon CRS-4 spacecraft berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)
Dragon CRS-4 spacecraft berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)

On Thursday, NASA is scheduled to announce contracts to fly cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) for 2018 until 2024.

Four companies reportedly remain in the Commercial Resupply Services 2 competition: incumbents Orbital ATK and SpaceX, and challengers Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation. Lockheed Martin has been reportedly eliminated from the competition.


NASA Selects Commercial Space Partners for Collaborative Partnerships

NASA LOGOWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA announced Tuesday the selection of four U.S. companies to collaborate with NASA through unfunded partnerships to develop new space capabilities available to the government and other customers. The partnerships build on the success of NASA’s commercial spaceflight initiatives to leverage NASA experience and expertise into new capabilities.

The Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities (CCSC) initiative is designed to advance private sector development of integrated space capabilities through access to NASA’s spaceflight resources and ensure emerging products or services are commercially available to government and non-government customers within approximately the next five years.


Space Frontier Foundation Announces NewSpace Award Winners

sff_logoSILICON VALLEY, Calif. (SFF PR) —  Join the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) to felicitate the recipients of the 2014 NewSpace Awards at the NewSpace 2014 Awards Gala on July 26th at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, San Jose.

This year, the Foundation recognized a multitude of accomplishments over the past 12 months, giving out awards in five categories. Below is a glimpse of this year’s awards and award winners who will be recognized at the conference.

Vision of Reality

This award is for outstanding achievement in the development and operation of a device, system, or entity that forwards the opening of the Space Frontier.

The NASA COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program was chosen to receive the Vision to Reality Award for pushing and helping to develop the commercial space industry through the achievements of Orbital Sciences and SpaceX.


NASA Release Final COTS Report

cotslogoWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — With two companies now providing commercial cargo launch services for the International Space Station, NASA is issuing its final report on the now-complete Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program that laid the groundwork for those flights.

The report, titled “Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, A New Era in Spaceflight” (NASA/SP-2014-617), documents the work of NASA’s Commercial Crew & Cargo Program Office (C3PO) between 2005 and 2013 to partner with private industry to take over more routine operations in low-Earth orbit. This move toward more cooperative engagement with industry partners allowed NASA to focus more on scientific research, technology development and exploration goals.


Phil McAlister Q&A on Commercial Space Capabilities Collaborations

Phil McAlister
Phil McAlister

NASA Commercial Crew Return
on Investment Report

On March 31, NASA announced that it was moving forward with the “Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities” efforts. The purpose of the no-exchange-of-funds agreements is to advance entrepreneurial efforts by facilitating access to NASA’s vast spaceflight resources including technical expertise, assessments, lessons learned, technologies, and data. The goal is to advance private sector development of integrated space capabilities so that the emerging products and services are commercially available to government and non-government customers within approximately the next five years. We sat down with NASA Commercial Spaceflight Development Director Phil McAlister for a Q&A session about this new activity.


ASAP Identifies What NASA Got Right in COTS Program

In its 2013 annual report, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) calls the COTS program “extremely successful,” noting the space agency and its partners, Orbital Sciences Corporation and SpaceX, developed two new launch vehicles and cargo ships for less than the price of a single Space Shuttle flight.

The report provides a succinct synopsis of what NASA did right during the program:

It is important to point out that it was not simply the use of fixed-price Space Act Agreements that led to the Program’s success, although that helped to enable the successful outcome. Rather, NASA did a number of things right along the way, such as maintaining excellent program management, appointing well-qualified technical representatives to the PITs, providing the right amount of insight, requesting the right amount of information, and having the right number of Government attendees at industry meetings. Although the Government has much technical expertise to share, too much Government engagement can stifle industry innovation and/or significantly slow the “speed of decisions.” Finally, program flexibility made a substantial difference. One example of that was eliminating Rocketplane-Kistler as a partner when it failed to successfully complete program milestones and introducing Orbital Sciences Corporation to maintain competition for SpaceX. Another example was NASA’s willingness to combine SpaceX’s two demonstration missions into one when it became clear that all program objectives could be accomplished on a single flight.

“It would certainly not be appropriate for every Government program to use a COTS-type management philosophy, but we would encourage NASA (and other Government agencies) to consider adopting similar approaches where possible,” the report concludes.

NASA 2013 Highlights: Commercial Progress and Human Exploration Plans

Photo taken by the Expedition 34 crew aboard the International Space Station during the March 3, 2013 approach, capture and docking of the SpaceX Dragon. (Credit: NASA)
Photo taken by the Expedition 34 crew aboard the International Space Station during the March 3, 2013 approach, capture and docking of the SpaceX Dragon. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Looks Back at 2013

Commercial Space Progress

A little more than two years after the end of the Space Shuttle Program, NASA has returned the International Space Station resupply missions to the United States in a powerful partnership with U.S. companies SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, who are investing here and creating good-paying jobs for American workers.


The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: A Tale of Two Human Space Programs

commercial_crew_earthAll the promise, perils and contradictions of America’s human spaceflight effort were on display earlier this week in Washington, D.C.

Things were looking good for a day or so, but then the proverbial other shoe dropped to remind everyone of the deep trouble that lies ahead as NASA attempts to restore its human spaceflight capability and send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit.

As NASA struggles to execute a series of ambitious programs on increasingly tight budgets, the main beneficiary appears to be the bumbling, crisis prone Russian space agency Roscosmos, which has reaped a financial windfall as a result of America’s equally bumbling human spaceflight policy. And matters could get worse before they get better (for NASA, at least).


NASA Hails Success of Commercial Cargo Effort, Looks Ahead to Crew Flights

commercialcrew_360WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Wednesday hailed the success of the agency’s public-private partnership with American companies to resupply the International Space Station and announced the next phase of contracting with U.S. companies to transport astronauts is set to begin next week.

A little more than two years after the end of the Space Shuttle Program, the United States now has two space transportation systems capable of delivering science experiments and supplies from U.S. soil to the International Space Station. Under an ambitious plan funded by the Obama Administration, the agency is seeking to partner with American companies to send NASA astronauts to the space station as soon as 2017.


Bigelow Urges Lunar COTS Program, Wants Moon Property Rights Review

Artist's conception of a Bigelow lunar habitat. (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)
Artist’s conception of a Bigelow lunar habitat. (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

A report by Bigelow Aerospace that was commissioned by NASA urges the U.S. space agency to take a commercial approach to lunar transportation  similar to the one used to develop transport services to the International Space Station, according to published reports.

Company founder Robert Bigelow, who has ambitious plans for private space stations and lunar bases, said on Tuesday that he will be applying to the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Tranportation (AST) for a policy review of lunar property rights by the end of this year, Jeff Foust reports from Washington, DC.