Category: NASA

June 11, 2019 Off

Relativity is building a 3D-printing rocket manufacturing hub in Mississippi

By Jill T Frey

The future of rocket manufacturing has touched down in Mississippi.

At NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, nestled in Hancock County, Miss., right on the border of Louisiana, the Los Angeles-based 3D-printed spacecraft manufacturer, Relativity Space, is planning a massive $59 million expansion to make a permanent manufacturing hub in this bucolic corner of the southeast.

“This agreement demonstrates again NASA’s commitment to work with our industry partners to expand commercial access to low Earth orbit,” said Dr. Rick Gilbrech, director, Stennis Space Center. “This helps NASA maintain focus on the ambitious Artemis program that will land the first female and the next male on the south pole of the Moon by 2024.”

Relativity already has four of its proprietary 3D printers running in its Los Angeles headquarters and plans to build out 12 larger units in its new Mississippi digs. The company ultimately expects to get 24 … Read the rest

June 10, 2019 Off

NASA details Deep Space Atomic Clock and other tests launching on SpaceX Falcon Heavy

By Jill T Frey

SpaceX’s next mission for its Falcon Heavy high-capacity rocket is set for June 24, when it’ll take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with 20 satellites on board that comprise the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2. That’s not all it’ll carry however: There also will be cargo pertaining to four NASA missions aboard the private launch vehicle, including materials that will support the Deep Space Atomic Clock, the Green Propellant Infusion Mission and two payloads that will serve scientific missions.

NASA detailed all of these missions in a press conference today, going into more detail about what each will involve and why NASA is even pursuing this research to begin with.

Deep Space Atomic Clock

NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock mission, run from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will see a demonstration super-precise atomic clock into low Earth orbit, where it will act as a proof-of-concept for using … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

NASA declares International Space Station ‘open for business,’ including private astronaut visits

By Jill T Frey

At an event on Friday, NASA laid out its plans for making the International Space Station a hub for commercial activity in low Earth orbit. The agency has long planned to make the ISS a key anchor point for helping private business operate in space.

“We’re here because the International Space Station is now open for business,” NASA lead spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz said at the conference outset. Twenty companies joined NASA officials onstage to launch this new commercial ability and discuss the opportunities and plan.

Part of the plan includes allowing private astronauts to visit and stay on the ISS, traveling on U.S. vehicles. It also includes allowing private business activities to take place on the ISS, including “in-space manufacturing,” marketing activities, healthcare research “and more,” NASA says.

NASA articulated a five-part plan that it says “doesn’t conflict” with government and public sector use of the ISS, but that stands … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

NASA’s Mars Helicopter begins final testing phase before 2020 mission

By Jill T Frey

NASA’s Mars Helicopter will be a key experimental craft when it comes to shaping what humanity’s future exploring the Red Planet looks like — when it launches aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, it’ll head to Mars with the aim of testing the viability of flying heavier-than-air vehicles through another world’s atmosphere. After passing its most recent volley of tests, it’s now moving into the final stages of preparation ahead of the target July 2020 Mars launch.

The four-pound, autonomous test helicopter will be carried above the Mars 2020 rover during the flight to the planet, and will be deployed once the rover sets down in Mars’ Jezero Crater, on the target date of February 18, 2021, after its multi-month trip from Earth. The helicopter has a camera on board, as well as a solar panel to provide power. This version doesn’t have any other kinds of sensors or scientific … Read the rest

June 4, 2019 Off

NASA research crew embarks on mock mission to Mars moon

By Jill T Frey

Space is hard on humans — it’s just not what we’re used to, because it’s very unlike this Earth most of us generally occupy for most of our lives. That’s why researchers do plenty of experimentation to figure out what it’s like for people to live and work in space, like a new experiment underway as of May 24 in which a crew of four will be isolated in a spacecraft for 45 days living and working together — but without ever leaving the confines of our planet.

In fact, the crew, which consists of Barret Schlegelmilch, Christian Clark, Ana Mosquera and Julie Mason, won’t even leave the confines of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. But that’s the point — confined living and working space, for a simulated mission to Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons. The experiment is what NASA calls a “Human Exploration Research Analog,” which is … Read the rest

June 4, 2019 Off

NASA’s Space Launch System passes key milestone for Moon mission

By Jill T Frey

NASA is celebrating a key step towards its mission to get people back to the Moon: The first large core rocket stage that will power the new Space Launch System being built by contractor Boeing is now four-fifths assembled. Wait – did I just say four-fifths? So like this stage isn’t even complete?

No, it’s not – but when it comes to building gigantic rocket cores that will propel the Orion crewed spacecraft all the way to the Moon in time for the Artemis program’s target date of 2024, you celebrate when you take any significant step forward.

Also, remember we’re talking about four-fifths of a rocket stage that when complete, will be over 200 feet long including engines and fuel tanks, which NASA helpfully points out is approximately the length of a dozen cars parked back-to-back. It’s the biggest rocket NASA will have built since the Saturn V … Read the rest

May 17, 2019 Off

Blue Origin and SpaceX get million-dollar NASA nod to test Moon lander tech

By Jill T Frey

Eleven aerospace companies will share more than $45 million in funds from NASA to design and test prototypes for the Artemis Moon missions, the agency has announced. Among the established names like Northrop Grumman and Sierra Nevada are relative newcomers SpaceX and Blue Origin, looking to make a place for themselves on the agency’s biggest push in decades.

The funds are to enable what NASA calls undefinitized contract actions, in which partners get to work before negotiations on the rest of the contract have concluded. It basically shows that time is of the essence and that NASA is willing to pay up front to someone they may not even contract with later, just to get a jump start on the work that needs doing.

And what’s the work? They’ll be cooking up designs and prototypes for the Human Landing System, which as you might guess will take astronauts (and … Read the rest

May 14, 2019 Off

NASA gives its new Moon mission a name: Artemis

By Jill T Frey

Cool missions need cool names, and NASA’s new plan to establish a permanent lunar presence and put an American on the Moon again now has one: Artemis. It’s a nod both to Apollo, the 50th anniversary of the culmination of which is this year, and to the fact that the program is likely to send the first woman to the Moon.

The name was announced on NASA’s social media channels, and casually mentioned by Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a call with reporters yesterday.

“It turns out that Apollo had a twin sister, Artemis. She happens to be the goddess of the Moon. Our astronaut office is very diverse … Read the rest

May 13, 2019 Off

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is having trouble — and that’s okay

By Jill T Frey

We may be poised on the precipice of a new era of spaceflight, but leaping prematurely off it would be a costly mistake — which is why the delays and failures of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the new spacecraft that will likely be soonest to take humans to space, are a matter for concern but not worry. In space, you expect the unexpected.

The sudden explosion of a Crew Dragon test capsule is frightening and frankly embarrassing to a company so heavily focused on an image of futurity and reliability. And a failed parachute deployment doesn’t inspire confidence either. But any historian of the space industry will tell you it’s rare that something with rockets on it doesn’t blow up at some point during development.

The Commercial Crew program was established back in 2010 with the goal of sending a crewed mission to the International Space Station, aboard a new spacecraft, … Read the rest

May 2, 2019 Off

SpaceX confirms its Dragon crew capsule exploded in testing

By Jill T Frey

For the first time after a video of an exploding Dragon capsule leaked in late April, SpaceX confirmed the spacecraft’s destruction during testing. In statements made today, SpaceX’s vice president of mission assurance Hans Koenigsmann provided a little insight on the mysterious ground test gone wrong.

As CNBC reports, Koenigsmann said during a press event that it is “too early” to determine the cause but noted that the capsule exploded as its SuperDraco thruster system was being fired up:

At the test stand we powered up Dragon and it powered up as expected. We completed tests with the Draco thrusters – the Draco thrusters are the smaller thrusters that are also on Dragon 1, the Cargo Dragon. We fired them in two sets, each for five seconds, and that went very well. And just prior before we wanted to fire the SuperDraco there was an anomaly and the vehicle

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