The Bridenstine Era Begins

Former Congressman Jim Bridenstine took the oath of office today becoming NASA’s 13th Administrator.  Vice President Mike Pence presided over the ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC bringing greetings from President Trump, “a great champion … of the  pioneering work of NASA” and who is committed to ensuring America remains preeminent in space.  

Bridenstine’s letter to the Governor of Oklahoma resigning his seat from the U.S. House of Representatives, effective at 10:30 am ET this morning, was read on the floor of the House today during a pro forma session.  With his departure, six House seats now are vacant.

At approximately 2:50 pm ET, accompanied by his wife and three children, Bridenstine was sworn into office as NASA Administrator, taking charge of the 18,000 employee agency with 10 field centers across the country and a $20 billion a year budget.

Read more at: Space policy online

Results of Heat Shield Testing

A post-test inspection of the composite structure for a heat shield to be used on the Mars 2020 mission revealed that a fracture occurred during structural testing. The mission team is working to build a replacement heat shield structure. The situation will not affect the mission’s launch readiness date of July 17, 2020.

Project management at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is working with contractor Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, to understand the cause of the fracture and determine whether any design changes need to be incorporated into a replacement.

The fracture, which occurred near the shield’s outer edge and spans the circumference of the component, was discovered on April 12, after the shield completed a week-long test at the Lockheed Martin Space facility. The test was designed to subject the heat shield to forces up to 20 percent greater than those expected during entry into the Martian atmosphere. While the fracture was unexpected, it represents why spaceflight hardware is tested in advance so that design changes or fixes can be implemented prior to launch.

Read more at: JPL

WATCH: Three Weeks in a Room the Size of a Minivan: NASA Continues Testing Orion Spacecraft

During the shuttle program, astronaut Lee Morin logged more than 259 hours in space, including over 14 spacewalk hours, according to NASA. Now, he helps test and trains astronauts to use NASA’s new spacecraft: the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

But Orion is not at all similar to the shuttle Morin rode into space. Instead, the spacecraft looks more like the Apollo vehicles that took crews to the moon years ago, and the spacesuits that go along with it even use the same oxygen connections as the old Apollo suits. And where NASA’s shuttles had 2000 manual switches to control the craft, Orion has about 60 (though many controls on Orion are handled through large electronic displays).

Read more at: Houston public media

FAA Reauthorization Bill Boosts Commercial Space Office

A reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration passed by the House April 27 includes several provisions intended to support its commercial spaceflight activities, including a major increase in authorized spending levels.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 was approved by the House on a 393–13 vote after a day and a half of debate on the bill and dozens of amendments. The bill primarily deals with the FAA’s role in regulating commercial aviation. Several amendments approved by the House during its debate, though, involve the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, and its role in regulating commercial spaceflight.

Read more at: Spacenews

Russia’s Progress Cargo Spacecraft Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean

The Progress MS-07 cargo spacecraft was deorbited on Thursday after a month of experiments and splashed down in the non-navigable area of the Pacific Ocean, the Russian Mission Control Center informed TASS.

“The fragments of the Progress MS-07 spacecraft that did not burn up in the atmosphere splashed down in the non-navigable area of the Pacific Ocean at 07:51 Moscow time,” the Mission Control Center said.

The spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on March 28, 2018. It was in orbit in autonomous mode until Thursday taking part in various science experiments.

Read more at: TASS

ESA and NASA to Investigate Bringing Martian Soil to Earth

ESA and NASA signed a statement of intent today to explore concepts for missions to bring samples of martian soil to Earth.

Spacecraft in orbit and on Mars’s surface have made many exciting discoveries, transforming our understanding of the planet and unveiling clues to the formation of our Solar System, as well as helping us understand our home planet. The next step is to bring samples to Earth for detailed analysis in sophisticated laboratories where results can be verified independently and samples can be reanalysed as laboratory techniques continue to improve.

Read more at: ESA

Brooklyn-Built Spacesuits Splash Down in a Connecticut Pool

A scientist-astronaut-in-training, Joey Corso, 17, swam in a spacesuit in the dark. Corso had just freed himself from straps mimicking a parachute harness and successfully climbed atop an inflatable raft.

The lights came on. Corso’s swim, intended to mimic an emergency nighttime landing in the sea, took place in a 4-meter-deep pool inside what looked like a small aircraft hangar.

In exercises held from April 13-16, Corso and 10 other scientist-astronauts-in-training of ages 17 to 51 engaged in the first in-water tests of a spacesuit designed specifically for commercial spaceflight. The goal is to use these suits as part of a project to investigate the highest clouds in the world in the most mysterious layer of Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more at: Inside Science

Space Commerce, the Final Bureaucratic Frontier

If you want to carry out a commercial space mission, like, say, mining asteroids, you’ll have to fill out some paperwork. The application process could be substantially reformed under the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, which is expected to pass the House Tuesday night, but the paperwork aspect will, of course, remain.

Your application to conduct commercial space activities will require much of the information that you’d encounter in current paperwork, such as your name, address, contact information, planned launch date and location, details of the space object’s shape, size, and its functions.

But under the new bill, you’d also have to attest that your space object is (to paraphrase the bill’s language) A) not a nuclear weapon or a weapon of mass destruction, B) will not carry a nuclear weapon or weapon of mass destruction, and C) will not be operated or used for testing of any weapon on a celestial body.

Read more at: Weekly Standard

Space Station ‘Tiangong’ to Commercialize On-orbit Operations

China’s space station “Tiangong,” scheduled to be ready in 2022, will seek to commercialize on-orbit operations to attract investment, said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program.

The space station will be comprised of a core module and two labs forming a T-shape, weighing 66 tons in total, and will accommodate three astronauts generally or up to six for shorter stints.

The space station will have three kinds of docking interfaces for cargo ships, crewed spacecraft and space lab modules. An “optical module” will also be part of the space station, providing a level of resolution no less than the famous Hubble space telescope but with a field of view 200 times larger. Zhou said the space station will reach world-class standards in terms of function, cost-effectiveness and technology.

Read more at: ecns

China Begins Selecting New Group of 18 Astronauts for Space Station Missions

China has launched a process to select 18 new astronauts for missions to the Chinese Space Station, including men and women from air force, science and engineering backgrounds.

“The selection consists of three periods, and we will select not only males but also female candidates for the third batch of astronauts,” Yang Liwei, deputy head of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), said in Beijing on April 23. The selected candidates will be trained for missions to the Chinese Space Station (CSS), a project which brings new demands for spaceflight and expertise.

Read more at: GB Times

Blue Origin Preps for Suborbital Test Flight Sunday

Blue Origin plans its next suborbital test launch Sunday from the company’s sprawling development complex in West Texas, the company’s owner Jeff Bezos announced Friday. The single-stage New Shepard rocket is scheduled for launch at 12:42 p.m. EDT (1642 GMT; 11:42 a.m. CDT), after thunderstorms apparently delayed flight preps.

“Launch preparations are underway for New Shepard’s 8th test flight, as we continue our progress toward human spaceflight,” Bezos tweeted.

The reusable New Shepard booster is expected to send Blue Origin’s crew capsule, which will carry research experiments and not passengers on Sunday’s test, to the edge of space, an internationally-recognized boundary around 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth. The crew capsule is expected to separate from the rocket once its main engine cuts off, then descend back to the ground under parachutes.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Aerospace Highlights Lessons from Public-Private Partnerships in Space

The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) released a new publication that explores the growing popularity of public-private partnerships. The policy paper, Public-Private Partnerships: Stimulating Innovation in the Space Sector, outlines a phased approach for strategizing, planning, and implementing such collaborative arrangements for space-based services and how to optimize the best outcome for all.

“Governments seeking to provide satellite communications, navigation, Earth monitoring, space exploration, and other space applications recognize the significant role that the private sector can play in delivering these capabilities at reduced cost and risk,” said author Karen Jones, senior project leader with CSPS.

Read more at: Space Daily

SpaceX Execs Bullish on BFR as Mars Rocket Test Facilities Expand in Texas

Aerial observations of SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas testing facilities on April 17 revealed an unusually frenetic level of construction and expansion centered around Raptor – the rocket engine intended to power BFR and SpaceX to Mars – and a new test-stand, the purpose of which is currently unknown.

With a minimum of 1200 seconds of hot-fires under its belt, SpaceX’s Raptor propulsion program is likely rapidly approaching the end of what is best described as the experimental phase of testing. While this has not been communicated by SpaceX, it is a logical conclusion following several recent developments. Namely the true beginning of BFR test article fabrication and an impressively bullish level of commitment and confidence in the fully reusable launch system demonstrated in the last few months alone by CEO Elon Musk and President/COO Gwynne Shotwell.

Read more at: Teslarati

As Human Space Flights Get Closer, the Competition for Launch Contracts Heats Up

For a decade, there was only one company for the Pentagon to turn to for launching its satellites into space: the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing known as the United Launch Alliance.

A few years ago, Elon Musk’s SpaceX ended the company’s lucrative monopoly, after suing for the right to compete for the launches. Now, two more companies are building rockets that would be capable of vying for the launch contracts, which can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars each.

Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeffrey P. Bezos, and Orbital ATK, the Dulles-based outfit that already launches cargo to the International Space Station for NASA and does a lot of Pentagon business, are eyeing the contracts, company officials said. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Read more at: Washington Post

NASA Upgrading Ground Stations Used for Emergency ISS Communications

NASA is currently upgrading ground stations utilized in the backup system for communicating with the International Space Station (ISS), the U.S. space agency said in an April 24, 2018, news release. The primary means of communicating with the ISS is NASA’s Space Network, which mainly relies on a constellation of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites in geostationary orbit. As a backup, the agency also maintains a system of ground stations that transmit and receive very high frequency (VHF) radio waves. In particular, the system uses two frequencies—VHF1 and VHF2.

According to NASA, VHF1 is used for emergency audio-only communications with the ISS while VHF2 is used to communicate with Soyuz when out of range of Russian VHF ground stations to ensure communications during every orbit for both ISS and Soyuz spacecraft.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

New NASA Leader Faces an Early Test on his Commitment to Moon Landings

There can be little question that new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wants humans to return to the Moon and to open Earth’s celestial neighbor to commercial activity. Just check the lunar background of his new Twitter account or some of his writings on the subject. Soon, however, his commitment to the Moon will be tested.

On Thursday—just his third full day on the job—a group of lunar scientists, engineers, and mission planners sent Bridenstine a letter to complain about the cancellation of the Resource Prospector program. This mission would send a rover to the polar region of the Moon to look for, and study, ice deposits that scientists hypothesize are there. Advocates of lunar exploration say this source of water could provide propellant for exploration missions deeper into the Solar System.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Concerns with Indian Satellite Postpone Next Ariane 5 Launch

India’s most powerful communications satellite will soon be flown back to its manufacturing plant in Bangalore for additional checks, officials said this week, forcing Arianespace to scrap plans for an Ariane 5 launch in late May that was to be co-manifested with a U.S.-built television broadcast satellite for Intelsat and the government of Azerbaijan.

Managers from the Indian Space Research Organization, which built and owns the GSAT 11 spacecraft, ordered the additional testing in the wake of the loss of another communications satellite, named GSAT 6A, a few days after its launch March 29 aboard an Indian Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Britain Considers Setting Up Satellite System to Rival EU’s Galileo: FT

Britain is considering setting up a satellite navigation system to rival the European Union’s Galileo project amid a row over attempts to restrict Britain’s access to sensitive security information after Brexit, the Financial Times reported.

Galileo, a 10 billion euro satellite program being developed by the EU as a rival to the U.S. Global Positioning System, has emerged as a flashpoint between Britain and the bloc with the EU already beginning to treat the UK as having left.

A spokeswoman for Britain’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said Britain wanted its membership of Galileo to continue but would react if it was frozen out.

Read more at: Reuters

SpaceX Cargo Launches May Soon Cost 50% More — But it’s Still an Offer NASA can’t Refuse

A new NASA report has revealed that SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, is raising the price it charges the agency to launch cargo into space by roughly 50%.

Auditors at NASA’s Office of Inspector General have posted a 55-page report about a program that pays private companies like SpaceX to ship supplies to the International Space Station. As Ars Technica reported, the analysis focuses on the costs and risks of a second round of contracted missions for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program, known as CRS.

Its conclusion is blunt: NASA may pay 14% more per pound to launch food, water, and experiments on commercial spaceships for this second round of missions (from 2020 through 2024) than it did for the first round of CRS missions that occurred between 2012 and 2019. It ascribes most of that increase to SpaceX’s price hike.

Read more at: Business Insider

Former NASA Administrator Weighs in on New Space Agency Head

On Monday, Jim Bridenstine relinquished his duties as a Republican representative from Oklahoma and took the helm as NASA’s 13th administrator. His ascension follows a tough Senate confirmation process that resulted in a razor-thin party-line vote.

Many Democrats have expressed concern that Bridenstine, the first politician to lead the agency, will be too partisan and divisive. Following his swearing-in, however, Bridenstine said that bipartisanship “is important in space.” He also said he is “excited about our science activities that will continue to increase our understanding of Earth and our place in the universe.”

Read more at: EOS

The Reinvention of NASA

NASA today is a very different beast from the NASA of the 1960s. Though many would call that decade NASA’s golden age, we’d argue that NASA’s innovation and influence is even greater today.

Since the Apollo program, NASA has faced funding cuts, competition from other nations for space leadership, and a radical restructuring of its operating environment due to the emergence of commercial space — all of which have forced the organization to change its ways of thinking and operating.

Over the past few decades, not only has NASA delivered crucial technologies for society, such as water filtration systems, satellite-based search-and-rescue, and UV coating on eyeglasses, it has also evolved its dominant logic and business model. NASA has moved from being a hierarchical, closed system that develops its technologies internally, to an open network organization that embraces open innovation, agility, and collaboration.

Read more at: HBR

Lawmakers Propose Creating New US Space Command in Defense Policy Bill

In its portion of the 2019 defense policy bill, the House Armed Services’ Strategic Forces Subcommittee is proposing a new U.S. Space Command in lieu of a separate space service. But the fight over a Space Corps isn’t over just yet.

Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., the top lawmakers on the committee and leading proponents of establishing a separate Space Corps, remain convinced an independent space service is the best course of action.

However, they want to wait for a Defense Department assessment on how to optimize the military’s space enterprise before charging forward on a Space Corps, a House Armed Services Committee aide told reporters during a Wednesday background briefing.

Read more at: Defense news

How Air Force Space Aggressors Protect Our Satellites—and Way of Life

About an hour after the sun disappears behind the Front Range on a cold February evening, Lieutenant Colonel Anibal Rodriguez steps outside a two-story warehouse on Schriever Air Force Base, east of Colorado Springs. From where he stands, Rodriguez can see the city’s light pollution, an ethereal purple-pink glow, casting the Rockies in a different kind of purple mountain majesty. It’s a clear evening, and despite the far-off light, a million twinkling stars begin to emerge. Rodriguez cranes his neck and looks up at the sky.

Read more at: 5280

US Air Force Tests Missile in California

The US Air Force on Wednesday test launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, officials said.

According to a statement from Air Force Global Strike Command, the missile took off at 5:26 am (12:26 GMT) and was successful. “A reliable test launch occurs when a test missile launches, completes its flight path within a designated safety corridor, the equipment functions properly, sensor data is collected, and the test reentry vehicle impacts where targeted,” the statement read.

Read more at: spacewar

Bankrupt Spaceflight Company’s Space Plane Assets to Help Young Minds Soar

Before it went bankrupt last year, XCOR Aerospace had ambitious plans to fly tourists to space with the company’s fully reusable Lynx suborbital vehicle. But now, the company’s assets will be used for a more down-to-Earth purpose: giving high school and college students hands-on experience with rockets and space technology.

A nonprofit organization called Build A Plane purchased XCOR’s assets at auction for just under $1.1 million, according to court records. The amount was slightly above the $1 million bid by Space Florida, an agency that supports space in the Sunshine State and that was also one of XCOR’s largest creditors.

Build A Plane plans to use the assets for a new school the organization wants to build in Lancaster, California, said the nonprofit’s founder, Lyn Freeman.

Read more at: Space.com

Quality Assurance for Space Projects

26 – 29 June 2018 – Athlone, Ireland

The course is designed to provide the participant with an understanding of basic principles of Quality Management, Quality Assurance and Quality Control, as they are usually applied to space projects. You will find the full description of the course in the IAASS Professional Training Courses Catalog (download from the right bar on this page). Please register for attendance at the course by sending a completed Space Quality Assurance June 2018 – Booking Form to Catherine Lenehan by e-mail: [email protected]

Read more at: IAASS