Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Photos of the Day: Starship 24 and Booster 7 Roar to Life at Starbase, Texas...

Starship SN24 ignites two of its 6 Raptor 2 engines during a static fire at Starbase, Texas...on August 9, 2022.
SpaceX

Just thought I'd share these two images of Starship Serial No. 24 (SN24) and Super Heavy Booster 7 conducting separate static fires at Starbase in Texas a few hours ago.

Booster 7 was actually the first of the two flight hardware to be tested today...with a single Raptor 2 engine (among 33 engines at the base of the vehicle) being ignited as the rocket sat atop its pedestal at the Orbital Launch Site.

Less than three hours later, SN24 fired two of its 6 Raptor 2 engines as the prototype spacecraft sat nearby at Starbase's suborbital site.

While it appears likely that Starship Super Heavy will embark on its much-anticipated orbital test flight before the end of this year, it is unknown as to how many of the 75 actions that SpaceX needs to take in response to the FAA's Programmatic Environmental Assessment almost two months ago have already been mitigated. Stay tuned.

Super Heavy Booster 7 ignites one of its 33 Raptor 2 engines during a static fire at Starbase, Texas...on August 9, 2022.
SpaceX

Friday, August 5, 2022

L-Minus 24 DAYS Till the Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System!

The Sun rises behind NASA's Space Launch System rocket at Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39B in Florida.
NASA

Artemis I: Final Stage of Moon Rocket Preparations Underway (News Release)

As NASA’s first launch attempt for Artemis I approaches, teams are ahead of schedule to complete final checks and closeouts of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA is targeting launch on August 29 during a two-hour launch window that opens at 8:33 a.m. EDT, with backup opportunities on September 2 and 5. A successful launch on August 29 would result in a mission duration of approximately 42 days, with a targeted Orion splashdown on October 10.

Teams are retracting the VAB platforms that provide access to the rocket and spacecraft after engineers completed installing thermal blankets on the interim cryogenic propulsion stage around the launch vehicle stage adapter. Technicians also replaced the engine section flight doors of the rocket’s core stage. Final closeout inspections are complete on those sections and they are ready for flight.

On the 212-foot-tall core stage, teams started flight closeouts inspections. Coming up, engineers will test the flight termination system elements in the intertank of the core stage and the forward skirts of the solid rocket boosters before SLS rolls out to the pad for launch.

Launch and flight controllers, along with support personnel across NASA centers, completed their final launch countdown simulation ahead of the mission. The team has conducted many launch and flight simulations to prepare for Artemis I.

Technicians also finished replacing the inflatable seal that sits between the mobile launcher’s crew access arm and Orion’s launch abort system and crew module to prevent anything from the outside environment getting inside the capsule. Teams have extended the crew access arm and are conducting final powered testing and installing the “passengers” that are part of the MARE investigation before closing the hatch ahead of rolling out to the launch pad, currently scheduled for August 18.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Thursday, August 4, 2022

Another Successful Launch for New Shepard...

The six-member crew of Blue Origin's NS-22 mission pose for a pre-flight group photo at New Shepard's launch pad in Van Horn, Texas.
Blue Origin

Blue Origin Successfully Completes 22nd Mission to Space (News Release)

Today, Blue Origin successfully completed its sixth human spaceflight and the 22nd flight for the New Shepard program. The astronaut crew included: Coby Cotton, Mário Ferreira, Vanessa O’Brien, Clint Kelly III, Sara Sabry, and Steve Young.

The crew achieved three historic firsts:

- Sara Sabry became the first person from Egypt to fly to space.

- Vanessa O’Brien became the first woman to reach extremes on land (Mt. Everest), sea (Challenger Deep), and air (pass the Kármán line), completing the Explorers’ Extreme Trifecta, a Guinness World Record.

- Mário Ferreira became the first person from Portugal to fly to space.

“It’s an honor for our team to provide our customers with a life-changing shift in perspective of our fragile planet,” said Phil Joyce, Senior Vice President, New Shepard. “It's been just over a year since New Shepard’s first human flight, and we have now flown 31 humans above the Kármán line. Thank you to these early pioneers in helping us realize our vision of millions of people living and working in space for the benefit of Earth.”

Source: Blue Origin

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

120 Pounds (54 Kilograms) of Special Mementos Will Fly on Orion's Second Journey into Space...

An artist's concept of NASA's Orion spacecraft flying above the Moon.
NASA

Artemis I Becomes Cultural, Educational Time Capsule for Trip Around Moon (News Release)

When NASA’s Orion spacecraft travels beyond the Moon during Artemis I, boosted by the Space Launch System rocket on its maiden voyage, the spacecraft will carry a host of mementos for educational engagement and posterity in the Official Flight Kit.

NASA spacecraft, both crewed and uncrewed, have carried mementos from Earth since the 1960s. NASA’s Voyager probe carried with it a gold record with Earth sounds, and the Perseverance rover that landed on Mars included a microchip with 10.9 million names that people submitted for inclusion in the journey. The agency flew metal on the last space shuttle mission that was later melted down and made into awards for employees.

A small Moon rock from Apollo 11 that was also aboard the final space shuttle flight will fly aboard Orion, marking the significance of the return of a spacecraft built for humans to the Moon. The National Air and Space Museum is lending an Apollo 8 commemorative medallion, a bolt from the Apollo 11 mission, and an Apollo 11 mission patch to the kit. The Apollo items contributed by the museum will be displayed in an exhibit after they are returned to Earth.

Many of the items included in the flight kit are symbols of cultural significance or NASA’s collaborative efforts with STEM-focused organizations. The agency and the Girl Scouts of the USA collaborated to include space science badges to inspire scientific and career exploration in the STEM fields. Four LEGO minifigures also will catch a ride on the flight – NASA and the LEGO Group have partnered on collaborative efforts over the past two decades to engage children and adults alike in STEM and space exploration, including a free online Artemis I “Build to Launch” lesson series.

Digitized entries from NASA’s Artemis Moon Pod essay contest, in recognition of students’ efforts and contributions, as well as pledges from teachers to educate students about space exploration will also be included in the flight kit. Around 100 miniature Artemis I patches will be included and given after the flight for team recognitions to some participants in Artemis Student Challenges, an annual series of engineering challenges for middle school through undergraduate students. A variety of tree seeds will fly and will be distributed to educational organizations and teachers as a learning opportunity after the mission. Tree seeds were flown aboard the Apollo 14 mission and were germinated and grown into “Moon Trees” after being returned to Earth as an experiment to understand the effects of deep space on seeds.

A pen nib from the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California, will make the trek on Artemis I. NASA has shared an association with Schulz and his American icon Snoopy since Apollo missions began in the 1960s. Schulz created comic strips depicting Snoopy on the Moon, illustrating public excitement about America’s achievements in space. NASA renewed its relationship with Snoopy in 2019, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 10. The nib, used by Schulz himself, will be wrapped in a space-themed comic strip.

NASA has a strong history of international collaboration and is extending many of its international partnerships to Artemis. Several items from other space agencies will be included in the flight kit. ESA (European Space Agency), which is providing the service module that powers and fuels Orion around the Moon and on its way home, will fly Shaun the Sheep, a small animal from the children’s television series spinoff from “Wallace and Gromit” that was broadcast in 180 countries. ESA has a long-standing partnership and Shaun the Sheep has flown on its parabolic flight campaign to generate awareness of space.

A 3D-printed replica of the Greek goddess Artemis will fly for later display in the Acropolis Museum in Greece. The Israel Space Agency is contributing a pebble from the shore of the Dead Sea, the lowest dry land surface area on Earth, to symbolize humanity’s continuing drive for exploration. The German Space Agency will fly digitized versions of student visions of lunar exploration as part of a nationwide educational activity.

The kit will also include a variety of flags, patches, and pins to be distributed after the mission to stakeholders and employees who contributed to the flight.

The Official Flight Kit, which contains about 120 pounds (54 kilograms) of mementos in total, augments important scientific research and technology demonstrations that will be aboard Orion.

View a full list of the items included in the kit:

artemis_i_official_flight_kit.pdf

Source: NASA.Gov

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Employees inspect mission patches that will fly aboard the Orion spacecraft during the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon.
NASA

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Virgin Galactic Continues to Gear Up for the Start of Commercial Spaceflight Operations Next Year...

This mesa in New Mexico will be the site of Virgin Galactic's new astronaut campus and training facility.

Virgin Galactic Secures Land for New Astronaut Campus and Training Facility (Press Release)

Signature Campus in Sierra County Will Anchor Curated Customer Journey

Buildout of Campus Planned in Parallel with Fleet Expansion


TUSTIN, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), an aerospace and space travel company, today announced that it has secured land to move forward with a new astronaut campus and training facility in the State of New Mexico, near the Company’s commercial operations headquarters.

The land, located in Sierra County, will be home to a new, first of its kind astronaut campus, for exclusive use by Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts and up to three of their guests in advance of a spaceflight from Spaceport America. The master plan for the campus will include training facilities, purposeful accommodations, and tailored experiences as well as an observatory, wellness center, recreation activities, and unique dining options -- all underpinned by Virgin’s signature hospitality.

Situated near Spaceport America, the campus will sit atop a mesa overlooking the stunning New Mexico landscape. With a focus on sustainability and minimal impact to the surrounding environment, the purpose-driven design of the project will embrace water conservation and re-use, eco-friendly materials, and low carbon mobility as key considerations in the development of the site. The campus is being designed with bold simplicity, function, innovation, and emotional connectivity at the core, paying homage to the region’s spectacular natural vistas.

“At Virgin Galactic, the road to space begins in New Mexico, and we are proud to showcase the state as the launch point for our unique and unparalleled experience,” said Blair Rich, Virgin Galactic President & Chief Business Officer, Commercial and Consumer Operations. “From the point of sale, our Future Astronauts begin a journey that is curated, high-touch and distinctly Virgin, which will culminate at the astronaut campus and training facility. Customers who buy a ticket today will stay and train here, along with their guests, for five nights. While our Future Astronauts are completing spaceflight training, their guests will live out a tailored itinerary of discovery and educational experiences on the campus and throughout southern New Mexico.”

Conceptual design of the campus has already begun, and Virgin Galactic plans to complete the build-out in parallel with the expansion and capacity of its fleet in New Mexico. The Company is committed to continuing its strong track record of engaging local suppliers. Since 2011, Virgin Galactic has totaled more than $180 million in expenditures in New Mexico, with more than $50 million of supplies purchased from over 200 different local suppliers. The Company currently employs more than 200 New Mexico-based employees and expects that many professional and service roles will be created to support the high-touch training and hospitality operations planned at the site.

"I'm thrilled to welcome the next chapter of Virgin Galactic's continued investment in New Mexico," said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. "The new astronaut campus in Sierra County will spur further economic activity for New Mexico, creating more local jobs and attracting new visitors and spending to the area. New Mexico is proud to be home to the future of aerospace innovation and space tourism."

Source: Virgin Galactic

Monday, August 1, 2022

AUGUST IS FINALLY HERE!

NASA's Space Launch System rocket sits on Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39B...as seen from the Apollo/Saturn V Center on March 27, 2022.

T-minus 4 WEEKS till the launch of NASA's newest mega-Moon rocket on the Artemis 1 mission! As a reminder, the Space Launch System (SLS) is currently set to roll back to Pad 39B from Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building on August 18. The super heavy-lift launch vehicle will then spend 11 days getting prepped for its long-awaited flight.

The launch of SLS is scheduled for 8:33 AM, Eastern Time (5:33 AM, Pacific Time) on August 29. If liftoff does occur that day (pray to the weather gods that it will), then the Orion spacecraft will embark on its weeks-long journey to and from the Moon...with its return to Earth after a 42-day mission taking place on October 10.

The excitement is building! Go Artemis 1!

An image I took of NASA's Space Launch System rocket from Playalinda Beach Road Vista 5...on March 26, 2022.

Friday, July 29, 2022

L-Minus ONE MONTH Till the Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System!

Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Space Launch System rocket continues to undergo preparations for its maiden flight...which can take place as early as August 29.
NASA

Final Work Continues to Ready Artemis I Moon Rocket for Launch (News Release)

With approximately one month until NASA’s first launch attempt for the Artemis I mission, teams move closer to finishing operations for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA is currently targeting launch for no earlier than Monday, August 29, at 8:33 a.m. EDT during a 2-hour window.

A successful launch on August 29 would result in a mission duration of about 42 days, returning Monday, October 10. Engineers continue to progress through first time operations and are prepared to learn and adapt along the way. Teams have planned accordingly with additional launch opportunities on September 2 and September 5 if more than one launch attempt is needed.

Engineers successfully reconnected the hydrogen tail service mast umbilical where a hydrogen leak was detected during the last wet dress rehearsal test. Teams tested the connection and did not detect any leaks under ambient conditions in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Up next, technicians will perform additional work to return the section to its launch configuration.

Technicians finished installing the rocket’s flight batteries. As part of operations to prepare the flight termination system, engineers installed and tested the core stage flight command receiver decoders and also tested the solid rocket boosters’ automatic destruct units. Work continues to complete installation of the thermal protection system blankets on the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and launch vehicle stage adapter. Following completion of the upper stage closeout work, teams will conduct flight closeout inspections, which includes removing access platforms and installing flight doors replacing the ground support equipment coverings on the core stage.

Teams also are replacing the inflatable seal between the mobile launcher’s crew access arm and Orion’s launch abort system after it experienced some minor damage due to inclement weather sustained while it was out at Launch Complex 39B for the wet dress rehearsal tests. The seal prevents anything from the outside environment from getting inside the capsule. Once the seal is replaced and tested, engineers will finish installing remaining payloads inside the crew module before SLS and Orion roll back out to the pad for launch.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Thursday, July 28, 2022

The U.S. Congress Shows Official Support for NASA's Moon to Mars Initiative and the Continuation of ISS Operations Through 2030...

NASA's Space Launch System rocket at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B in Florida...with the Full Moon looming large behind it on March 18, 2022.
United Launch Alliance / Ben Cooper

NASA Administrator Statement on Agency Authorization Bill (Press Release)

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released this statement Thursday following approval by the U.S. Congress for the NASA Authorization Act of 2022, which is part of the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act of 2022.

“I am incredibly pleased Congress has passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2022 – the first authorization for our agency in five years. This act shows continued bipartisan support of NASA’s many missions, including our Moon to Mars approach, as well extension of U.S. participation in the International Space Station to 2030.”

“With strong support from the Biden-Harris Administration as well as this authorization, NASA will continue to advance scientific discoveries, enable sustainable aviation, address climate change, and much more.”

“As we work to send the first woman and first person of color to the Moon under Artemis, I’d like to specifically recognize Senators Maria Cantwell, Roger Wicker, John Hickenlooper, Cynthia Lummis, as well as Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson, Frank Lucas, Don Beyer, and Brian Babin, for their leadership in passing this bill. This generation – the
Artemis Generation – is part of a sustainable exploration program that will last decades.”

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An image of the International Space Station that was taken by European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule...on November 8, 2021.
NASA / ESA - Thomas Pesquet

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The First Artemis Mission Continues Its Slow But Exciting Trek to Lunar Orbit...

An artist's concept of NASA's CAPSTONE spacecraft orbiting the Moon.
NASA

NASA’s CAPSTONE Executes Third Maneuver on Track to the Moon (News Release)

NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) successfully completed its third trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) on Monday. CAPSTONE is taking a long but fuel-efficient route to the Moon, flying about 958,000 miles (1.54 million kilometers) from Earth before looping back around to its near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO).

At the completion of the maneuver, CAPSTONE was about 780,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) from Earth and was moving at about 595 miles per hour (about 267 meters per second). CAPSTONE will perform several such maneuvers during its journey to lunar orbit to refine its trajectory to the Moon.

CAPSTONE remains on track to arrive at its lunar orbit on Nov. 13.

Read more about CAPSTONE’s ambitious mission to the Moon.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Looking Ahead to the SLS Manufacturing Process for Artemis 5 and Beyond...

The Space Launch System rocket stands tall on its mobile launcher after it arrived at Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39B in Florida...on June 6, 2022.
NASA / Ben Smegelsky

NASA Prepares for Space Launch System Rocket Services Contract (Press Release)

As NASA prepares for the first integrated flight test of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft to the Moon this summer as part of Artemis, the agency is moving towards a services contract model for long-term SLS hardware production and operations to reduce costs.

“SLS is not just a NASA investment, it has been a national investment. Through this contract approach, we are working to enable the use of this one-of-a-kind heavy lift capability to other customers,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approach will also allow NASA to streamline SLS production and operations under one contract, creating a more affordable and sustainable exploration framework for decades to come.”

In a pre-solicitation notice for the Exploration Production and Operations Contract published Tuesday, NASA is proposing to transfer SLS production and associated testing, manufacturing, and transportation facilities from multiple existing hardware procurement contracts to a single launch service contract with Deep Space Transport LLC. Due to the proprietary nature of the processes for manufacturing the SLS rocket, NASA does not expect to recover costs through competition associated with an alternate source’s design, development, and testing. The notice conveys NASA’s intended acquisition plan for a long-term SLS production and operations contract, to which industry may respond with feedback in accordance with the instructions in the pre-solicitation notice. An award is anticipated by Dec. 31, 2023.

The contractor would be responsible for producing hardware and services for up to 10 Artemis launches beginning with the Artemis V mission, and up to 10 launches for other NASA missions. NASA expects to procure at least one flight per year to the Moon or other deep-space destinations.

Spanning multiple centers and facilities, the NASA SLS workforce will continue to provide expertise for the first four Artemis missions and for future Artemis missions.

“We have a big job ahead of us to fly the first four Artemis missions and develop the new Exploration Upper Stage,” said Jody Singer, center director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “While NASA transitions the contracting approach for long-term SLS operations, the talented team that brought the rocket to the launch pad will also be needed for other projects necessary for the agency’s exploration missions.”

NASA previously issued a request for information in October 2021 and conducted discussions with industry this year to inform the approach to maximize the long-term efficiency of the SLS rocket.

With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration at the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the commercial Human Landing System and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

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