July 26, 2016

Dream Chaser Passes Second Milestone on Track to Supply Cargo to ISS (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. has passed the second Integration Certification Milestone under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. NASA assessed and fully approved SNC’s detailed approach for getting the Dream Chaser Cargo System to the International Space Station (ISS). SNC’s approved strategy demonstrates a thorough understanding of design requirements and available resources on both a system and subsystem level. 

Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo delivery missions to and from the ISS between 2019 and 2024. The first milestone was passed several weeks ago and outlined technical, logistic and schedule procedures for the program. (7/25)

A Stepping-Stone to Commercial Space Stations (Source: Space Review)
NASA hopes that, by the time it’s ready to retire the International Space Station in the 2020s, one or commercial space stations will be ready to support researchers and others using the ISS today. Jeff Foust reports that one step towards a commercial station may be a commercial module on the ISS. Click here. (7/25)
Re-Evaluating the Moon’s Role in Earth’s Past and Future (Source: Space Review)
A recent study suggests that the Moon has played a bigger role than previously thought in making the Earth habitable. Peter Kokh says this, plus the Moon’s role in our future, should influence what we consider to be “Earth-like” worlds. Click here. (7/25)

Commercial Spaceports (Source: LaunchSpace)
Just last year, the FAA gave Houston the "go-ahead" to build America's 10th commercial spaceport. Yes, the US already had nine spaceports designated for commercial operations. One must ask, "Why do we need 10 spaceports for so little commercial space activities?" This represents a great deal of investment and ongoing expense for an industry still in its infancy.

The reason for all this excitement among several states and entrepreneurs is space tourism, the so-called "killer" space application that has yet to become reality. Yes, the media continues to expend a great deal of energy and newsprint on the topic. So much so, that any person might think we are launching tourist spaceships every hour on the hour, to several orbiting hotels and resort complexes. In reality, that industry is still taking "baby" steps toward the future objective of populous orbiting resorts and theme parks. (7/25)

NASA’s Weird Asteroid Redirect Mission Is Actually Making Progress (Source: Inverse)
In case you weren’t already aware, one of the things NASA plans to do in the 2020s is to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid, pick up a stray boulder off the surface, tug it back to the moon and drop it off in lunar orbit for astronauts to later study.

Yes, the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is equal parts ambitious and strange, and there has been no shortage of questions as to whether this project makes a whole lot of sense. NASA’s official line has been to tout that it’s an essential stepping stone, and at the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee Meeting on Monday, Ron Ticker, the deputy program director for ARM, quelled doubts the agency was pushing along a fringe project with no real purpose.

There are three main phases to the mission: identifying candidate asteroids using ground-based equipment like the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico or the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explore in space and choosing a target for the mission; launching a solar-electric propulsion-based robotic spacecraft to the target asteroid and having it pluck a boulder off toward cislunar space; and sending a crew out there onboard the deep space Orion vehicle so they can study it. (7/25)

SPIDER Shrinks Telescopes with Far-Out Design (Source: Science News)
In the space business, weight and size are what run up the bills. So imagine the appeal of a telescope that’s a tenth to as little as a hundredth as heavy, bulky and power hungry as the conventional instruments that NASA and other government agencies now send into space. Especially alluring is the notion of marrying the time-tested technology called interferometry, used in traditional observatories, with the new industrial field of photonics and its almost unimaginably tiny optical circuits.

Say hello to SPIDER, or Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-optical Reconnaissance. Some doubt it will ever work. But its inventors believe that, once demonstrated at full-scale, SPIDER will replace standard telescopes and long-range cameras in settings where room is scarce, such as on planetary probes and reconnaissance satellites.

Researchers at the Lockheed Martin, with partners in a photonics lab at the University of California, have described work on SPIDER for several years at specialty conferences. Somewhat like a visible-light version of a vast field of radio telescopes, but at a radically smaller scale, a SPIDER scope’s surface would sparkle with hundreds to thousands of lenses about the size found on point-and-shoot cameras. The instrument might be a foot or two across and only as thick as a flat-screen TV. (7/25)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Tests RCS Engines for Boeing's Starliner (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has successfully completed a series of hot-fire development tests on three Reaction Control System (RCS) engines for Boeing's Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner service module propulsion system. Each RCS engine was tested up to 4,000 pulses and 1,600 seconds - the longest accumulated time ever conducted on a lightweight thruster with a composite chamber. The tests were performed at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. (7/25)

NASA Books Nuclear-Certified Atlas 5 for Mars 2020 Rover Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
America’s next Mars rover, a $2.1 billion nuclear-powered vehicle to search for evidence that life once existed there, will be launched to the Red Planet in the summer of 2020 by a powerful Atlas 5 rocket. Jim Green, planetary science division director, revealed the selection of the United Launch Alliance vehicle at the NASA Advisory Council meeting in Cleveland this afternoon.

ULA’s Atlas 5 and Delta 4-Heavy and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy were studied as possible launch vehicles for the intermediate-to-heavy classed payload. It was not immediately known if SpaceX submitted a bid for this launch contract. But, currently, Atlas 5 is the only launch vehicle that holds a NASA certification for launching the nuclear batteries made of plutonium that will power the 2,000-pound rover. (7/25)

Air Force’s Next Space Surveillance System on Target for 2021 (Source: Space News)
After telling Congress it needed $11.5 million less than it expected this year for an upcoming space surveillance mission, the U.S. Air Force said July 22 it still plans to launch the next Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system in 2021. The current SBSS satellite, the Block 10 pathfinder, was launched in 2010 and is expected to last until about 2020, according to budget documents. (7/25)

NASA Thinks It Can Send Humans to Martian Orbit By 2033 (Source: Inverse)
At the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee Meeting on Monday, Bill Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for HEO at the agency, said he believes we could have astronauts make it to Martian orbit — or conduct a short-distance flyby of the red planet — by 2033.

According to current budgets and plans, the projection could be realized, Gerstenmaier said. The larger goal of getting human boots on Mars’ surface, however, would require a much more extensive advancement of technology, and would likely occur closer to the end of the 2030s. (7/25)

Orbital ATK Teams with Europe's ECAPS for Green Satellite Propulsion (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK has signed an agreement with leading European green propulsion technology firm ECAPS to fully develop, demonstrate and market a high performance green propulsion (HPGP) system. The HPGP system, which offers significant cost advantages and dramatically reduces the environmental risks associated with traditional monopropellants, is aimed at both attitude control and main propulsion.

Orbital ATK’s team will leverage exclusive use of ECAPS’ LMP-103S, a very-low toxicity monopropellant technology designed as a direct replacement for hydrazine-based systems. LMP-103S offers significantly higher specific impulse and density, meaning greater performance and lower volume. More importantly, it is a low-toxicity, environmentally-benign propellant, providing enhanced safety and health benefits over conventional hydrazine.

It offers the promise of propellant loading prior to satellite transport and considerably lower logistics cost. The partnership continues Orbital ATK’s commitment to HPGP technology, which includes scaling up the blending of LMP-103S, successful tests of 5 and 22 Newton thrusters, and supporting several Small Business Innovation Research programs. (7/25)

Facebook Demos Aircraft as Alternative to Satellites for Internet (Source: Space News)
Facebook on July 21 said the first flight of its full-scale Aquila solar-powered aircraft designed for regional internet connectivity was a success, lasting longer than expected despite an unspecified “structural failure” just before landing. The 96-minute flight, conducted in Yuma, Arizona, confirmed the validity of Aquila’s structural design and avionics, Facebook said. (7/25)

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