Human Space Exploration Update (June 13-24, 2016)

International Space Station

·         3-D Printing:  NASA picks Firmamentum to build a 3-D printer/recycler that works in space  Firmamentum, a subsidiary of Tethers Unlimited, of Bothell, Wash., has been selected by NASA for a future 3-D printing demonstration aboard the International Space Station. The company's Refabricator will demonstrate whether it can recycle plastics in space before their polymer content breaks down.  (See also:  Space Station's commercial 3-D printer makes its 1st tool (photos))

·         ISS Operations to 2024:  ESA enlists NASA chief in campaign for Space Station support   NASA Administrator Charles Bolden urges continued support from European nations for the International Space Station. Among the station's five major partners, the European Space Agency, has yet to back an extension of activities aboard the six person orbiting science lab from 2020 to 2024. Bolden spoke to the ruling council of the European Space Agency earlier this week. 

Orion and Space Launch System

·         Orion Testing at NASA Langley:  Orion test capsule gets another splash-test at NASA Langley  NASA's Orion crew exploration capsule, under development at Lockheed Martin, is undergoing water impact testing at NASA's Langley Research Center. The latest round included male and female crash dummies equipped with sensors and strapped in the capsule as it slammed into a test pool. The test conditions vary wave height, winds and parachute performance.

·         SLS Propulsion:  SLS upper stage test article arrives at NASA Marshall  The structural test article for the Boeing developed Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage has reached NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where it is to undergo loads testing later this year. The ICPS will serve as the upper stage for the first test launch of NASA's Space Launch System exploration rocket in late 2018. The uncrewed test flight, Exploration Mission-1, is to take the Orion crew capsule around the moon and back to Earth for an ocean splashdown and recovery.

Commercial Space Transportation

·         Commercial Crew Progress:  Suni Williams details Commercial Crew Program progress during visit to NASA's Plum Brook Station  Suni Williams, a veteran NASA astronaut and one of four "test astronauts" assigned to NASA's commercial crew program visits the agency's Plum Brook Station near the Glenn Research Center. Commercial Crew is focused on nurturing two private sector sources of astronaut transportation to and from the International Space Station, freeing NASA to pursue its human deep space exploration goals. "We want to get out the business of transportation to low-Earth orbit because we've done that before,'' Williams told Spaceflight Insider. "The belief is that commercial companies can provide this hardware, maybe smarter, maybe faster than we can, given the technologies that we've already laid the groundwork for in the past with the Shuttle and other programs.''

·         Cygnus and NASA Fire Experiment:  Cygnus leaves Space Station and conducts NASA fire experiment in microgravity  Orbital ATK's NASA contracted Cygnus resupply spacecraft departed the six person International Space Station early Tuesday after an 80 day stay. Late in the day, the capsule became a test bed for a spacecraft fire experiment. The research is intended to improve the safety of deep space habitats for astronauts on future missions to Mars.

·         Antares Return:  Antares return to flight likely to slip to August  Orbital ATK believes its next NASA contracted commercial re-supply mission to the International Space Station will move from a July to an August lift off. The mission will feature Orbital's first launch of an Antares rocket from the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va. since a launch mishap in late 2014. Orbital temporarily moved the launching of its NASA contracted International Space Station re-supply missions to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., until the Antares launch vehicle could be modified. The upgraded Antares underwent a test firing at MARS on May 31. 

Space Budgets, Policy, Missions, Benefits, International …

·         A Day Without Space:  Commentary | A Day without space  Many of us cannot recall such a moment: A time without Internet, smart phones and instant weather forecasts. Imagine extensive passenger flight delays with jets snagged by a broken air traffic control system, our national security personnel without access to satellite imagery, communications intercepts, or a global positioning system. Essayist David Logsdon paints a vivid picture of what strides in space mean to our economic and national security.  (See also:  Why do we really need space travel?)

·         Asteroid Redirect Mission:  NASA planning asteroid mission reviews despite funding uncertainty NASA's Michele Gates, who leads planning for NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), tells a Seattle audience that efforts to support the initiative will continue though lawmakers in the U.S. House shaping the agency's 2017 budget have withdrawn support. House lawmakers believe ARM, a mission to robotically collect a large boulder from the surface of an asteroid and deliver it to a lunar orbit, will not further NASA's ambitions of reaching Mars with human explorers in the mid-2030s. The robotic phase of the strategy is to undergo a formal review, called Key Decision Point B, on July 15.

·         Lunar-Mars Exploration:  Human flights to Mars still at least 15 years off  Mars as a human destination is at least 15 years away, according to European Space Agency Director-General Jan Woerner. He advocates for a permanent human settlement on the moon as a step toward a future Mars mission. A lunar village would preserve, perhaps expand, the partnerships forged through the International Space Station, according to Woerner.  (See also:  If we want to send astronauts to Mars, we must go back to the moon first; Russia plans to send crews to Moon regularly starting in 2025)

·         China’s Space Station:  China opens space station to rest of the world with United Nations agreement  A United Nations agreement signed by China would open Beijing's planned space station to astronauts, spacecraft and science experiments from other nations. Wu Ping, Deputy of China's Manned Space Agency, made the presentation before the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space annual session in Vienna last Tuesday. The core of China's space station is set for launching in 2018. The European Space Agency has shown interest, according to the report

·         Commercial Space Station:  Former NASA ISS manager planning commercial space station venture   Previous International Space Station manager Mike Suffredini outlines a strategy for a future commercial version of the International Space Station. A module docked first to the Space Station would become the cornerstone, said Suffredini.

·         NASA Needs YOU for Mars Exploration:  Do you have what it takes to colonize Mars? NASA might need you  Colorful posters from NASA tug at those who have the desire to join the agency's Journey to Mars. "Whether repairing an antenna in the extreme environment of Mars, or setting up an outpost on the moon Phobos, having the skills and desire to dare mighty things is all you need," proclaims one of the colorful placards. "We need many things for our Journey To Mars, but one key piece is YOU!" proclaims another.

Human Space Exploration Update (June 1-10, 2016)

Congress

·         Space Policy Legislation:  Bridenstine pleased by progress on space policy bill In April, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, introduced the American Space Renaissance Act, a sweeping space policy doctrine. So far, Bridenstine is pleased with how the thrust of his legislation has found its way into other legislative bills influencing the direction and financing of military as well as civilian space objectives. One theme urges the federal government to look to commercial space enterprises for services once provided by civil servants.

International Space Station

·         Inflatable Space Modules:  Take a look inside the 1st inflatable space room for astronauts (photos)  International Space Station astronauts offered photos of the new Bigelow Expandable Activities Module (BEAM) after opening hatches and entering for the first time on Monday. BEAM is a prototype for a reinforced fabric extendable module that could shelter astronauts on missions to deep space destinations or while living on Mars and other planetary surfaces. Launched to the space station in April, BEAM will undergo a two year observation period to learn how the structure responds to temperature swings, radiation exposures and impacts from micro meteoroids and orbital debris.

·         ISS Space Walks:  Spectacular Space Station spacewalks: photos  Since 1998, the International Space Station has been the site of 193 spacewalks for the assembly and repair of the six person orbiting science laboratory as well as to tend to external experiments. NASA has compiled a social media album of the best images over the years.

Orion and Space Launch System

·         Orion and Deep Space Exploration:  Astronaut Drew Feustel talks Orion and the future of space exploration (video)   As space explorers return to deep space for missions that stretch from the lunar realm to Mars, they will add to the volume of the four person Orion capsule NASA is currently developing with Lockheed Martin. The agency is working with several U.S. companies on space habitats that could be linked to Orion. Once they reach their destinations, future explorers will be prepared to develop the natural resources for life support, propellant and other needs, explains NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, a native of Lake Orion, Mich.  (See also:  Space industry officials to visit Ohio shop working on Orion space exploration program)

Commercial Space Transportation

·         Starliner Progress:  Starliner moves closer to crucial pad abort test  Major components of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner are coming together at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to support critical flight tests in late 2017. The Starliner is in development to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Crewed launches are planned in 2018.

·         Antares Rocket:  Re-engined Antares rocket completes ground test firing  Orbital ATK test fired the first stage of its upgraded Antares rocket Tuesday at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia's eastern shore. The Dulles, Va.,  based company is preparing to resume NASA contracted resupply missions to the International Space Station from the launch complex, following an October 2014 launch mishap that prompted new rocket engines for Antares and a rebuilding of the launch pad.

Space Budgets, Policy, Missions, Benefits, International …

·         Asteroid Redirect Mission:  Op-Ed | Saving NASA's ARM and the Journey to Mars  House appropriators have misjudged the significance of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), according to Louis Friedman, executive director emeritus and co-founder of the Planetary Society. ARM is an important precursor to the goal of reaching Mars with human explorers, he writes.  (See also:  Will NASA's ARM mission to an asteroid be cancelled?)

·         Lunar Exploration:  Seeing the end of Obama's space doctrine, a bipartisan Congress moves in  The next administration may find enthusiastic bipartisan congressional support for a return to the moon as the next step in efforts to reach Mars with human explorers, according to the report. The U.S. commercial space industry and international partnerships would play key roles in the endeavor.  (See also:  White House works out a process to clear commercial missions to moon and Mars and Private company wants U.S. clearance to fly to the moon)

Citizens for Space Exploration – a pro-space, taxpayer, grassroots advocacy group (www.citizensforspace.org ) – has travelled to Washington, D.C. the past 24 years to meet face-to-face with Members/staff of Congress to discuss the value of America’s investment in space exploration. In order to sustain that dialogue on a regular basis, Citizens distributes “Space Exploration Update” to Congressional offices on a weekly basis.  The intent is to provide an easy, quick way to stay abreast of key human space exploration program and policy developments. 

Human Space Exploration Update (June 1-10, 2016)

Congress

 

·         Space Policy Legislation:  Bridenstine pleased by progress on space policy bill In April, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, introduced the American Space Renaissance Act, a sweeping space policy doctrine. So far, Bridenstine is pleased with how the thrust of his legislation has found its way into other legislative bills influencing the direction and financing of military as well as civilian space objectives. One theme urges the federal government to look to commercial space enterprises for services once provided by civil servants.

 

International Space Station

 

·         Inflatable Space Modules:  Take a look inside the 1st inflatable space room for astronauts (photos)  International Space Station astronauts offered photos of the new Bigelow Expandable Activities Module (BEAM) after opening hatches and entering for the first time on Monday. BEAM is a prototype for a reinforced fabric extendable module that could shelter astronauts on missions to deep space destinations or while living on Mars and other planetary surfaces. Launched to the space station in April, BEAM will undergo a two year observation period to learn how the structure responds to temperature swings, radiation exposures and impacts from micro meteoroids and orbital debris.

 

·         ISS Space Walks:  Spectacular Space Station spacewalks: photos  Since 1998, the International Space Station has been the site of 193 spacewalks for the assembly and repair of the six person orbiting science laboratory as well as to tend to external experiments. NASA has compiled a social media album of the best images over the years.

 

Orion and Space Launch System

 

·         Orion and Deep Space Exploration:  Astronaut Drew Feustel talks Orion and the future of space exploration (video)   As space explorers return to deep space for missions that stretch from the lunar realm to Mars, they will add to the volume of the four person Orion capsule NASA is currently developing with Lockheed Martin. The agency is working with several U.S. companies on space habitats that could be linked to Orion. Once they reach their destinations, future explorers will be prepared to develop the natural resources for life support, propellant and other needs, explains NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, a native of Lake Orion, Mich.  (See also:  Space industry officials to visit Ohio shop working on Orion space exploration program)

 

Commercial Space Transportation

 

·         Starliner Progress:  Starliner moves closer to crucial pad abort test  Major components of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner are coming together at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to support critical flight tests in late 2017. The Starliner is in development to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Crewed launches are planned in 2018.

 

·         Antares Rocket:  Re-engined Antares rocket completes ground test firing  Orbital ATK test fired the first stage of its upgraded Antares rocket Tuesday at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia's eastern shore. The Dulles, Va.,  based company is preparing to resume NASA contracted resupply missions to the International Space Station from the launch complex, following an October 2014 launch mishap that prompted new rocket engines for Antares and a rebuilding of the launch pad.

 

Space Budgets, Policy, Missions, Benefits, International …

 

·         Asteroid Redirect Mission:  Op-Ed | Saving NASA's ARM and the Journey to Mars  House appropriators have misjudged the significance of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), according to Louis Friedman, executive director emeritus and co-founder of the Planetary Society. ARM is an important precursor to the goal of reaching Mars with human explorers, he writes.  (See also:  Will NASA's ARM mission to an asteroid be cancelled?)

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·         Lunar Exploration:  Seeing the end of Obama's space doctrine, a bipartisan Congress moves in  The next administration may find enthusiastic bipartisan congressional support for a return to the moon as the next step in efforts to reach Mars with human explorers, according to the report. The U.S. commercial space industry and international partnerships would play key roles in the endeavor.  (See also:  White House works out a process to clear commercial missions to moon and Mars and Private company wants U.S. clearance to fly to the moon)

 

 

Human Space Exploration Update (April 18-22, 2016)

Congress

 ·         NASA Budget:  Senate Appropriators Approve $19.3 Billion for NASA for FY2017  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a NASA budget of $19.3 billion for 2017, a small increase over the 2016 level, according to the report. The measure supports work on the Space Launch System exploration rocket as well as an Enhanced Upper Stage, the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the agency's Commercial Crew Program.

 International Space Station

 ·         Expandable Crew Module:  Expandable crew module attached to space station  The Bigelow Expandable Activities Module delivered to the International Space Station last week on the most recent U.S. commercial re-supply mission was removed from the freighter early Saturday morning using Canadian robot arm operations and attached to the orbiting lab's Tranquility module. The prototype module for human habitation in Earth orbit and deep space is scheduled to be expanded in late May from its current 7 feet in length and 8 feet in diameter to 13 feet in length and 10 feet in diameter. A two year observation period is to follow.

 Orion and Space Launch System

 ·         Orion Program Update (March):  http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/orion_monthly_newsletter_03-2016b.pdf

 ·         Orion Acoustic Testing:  Turn up the bass! Orion Service Module to begin acoustic testing at Plum Brook Station  Monday will mark the start of a rigorous round of acoustic testing for the Orion capsule's European Space Agency provided service module at NASA's Glenn Research Center Plumbrook Station. The service module will provide the crewed Orion spacecraft with power, air, propulsion and cooling. The acoustic testing is expected to take six weeks.

 ·         SLS Program Update (March):  http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/sls_highlights_mar_2016_web.pdf

·         SLS Welding:  Welding Wonder Completes Hardware for First Flight of NASA's SLS Rocket  The first stage of NASA's Space Launch System hardware for the Exploration Mission-1 flight test planned for late 2018 has completed component welding at the Michoud Assembly Center in New Orleans.

 Commercial Space Transportation

 ·          I Will Launch Commercial Crew:   http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2016/i-will-launch-america-launch-vehicle-deputy-manager-dayna-ise.html        

 Space Budgets, Policy, Missions, Benefits, International …

 ·         Stay the Course on Exploration:  Op-ed | Stay the Course: Continue America's Progress in Space   Current U.S. space policy, in which government investments are committed to human and planetary science deep space exploration objectives, serves a range of national interests, from national security to scientific discovery and a stronger economy. Commercial sector advances into Low Earth Orbit are equally significant, serving a range of stakeholders -- from taxpayers to innovation minded entrepreneurs and investors, writes Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration.

 ·         Mars Exploration:  NASA getting closer to "Boots on Mars" with Colorado companies' help  A key to the human exploration of Mars is reducing our dependence on the Earth, explains Dava Newman, NASA's deputy administrator, during her participation in the 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs last week. Research aboard the International Space Station is helping, Newman noted. She also praised the efforts of Colorado companies, including Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sierra Nevada and Ball Aerospace in reaching the goal.  (See also:  Inside the Grand Plan to Send Humans to Mars)

 ·         Russia-China Space Collaboration:  Russia and China successfully cooperate in space exploration Chinese deputy minister  Igor Komarov, CEO of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency and corporation, will mark China's upcoming National Space Day in the host country. The two nations are cooperating in "several dozen" areas of space exploration, according to a high ranking official from China's industry and information technology ministry.

 ·         Chinese Rocket Testing:  China testing own reusable rocket technologies  China will join a global race to develop reusable rockets, the Chinese news agency Xinhuanet reports.

 ·         Chinese Space Station:  China to launch 'core module' for space station around 2018  China plans to launch the core stage for a new space station around 2018. Assembly of the permanently staffed orbital outpost should be complete in 2022, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency    

 ·         Solar Electric Propulsion:  An engine for Mars: Aerojet wins $67 million NASA contract for solar electric propulsion  Under a $67 million NASA contract announced Tuesday, Aerojet Rocketdyne will pursue the development of a solar electric propulsion system. SEP is NASA's choice for the Asteroid Robotic Redirect Mission to collect a boulder from an asteroid and maneuver it into orbit around the moon for a visit by U.S. astronauts. SEP is also a strong propulsion candidate for missions in the 2030s that would transport U.S. astronauts to the Martian environs.

Human Space Exploration Update (March 21-25, 2016)

2016 Elections

·         Don’t Reset US Exploration Program:  NASA's Human Spaceflight Program can't afford another reset from the next President  At six years old, the reigning U.S. civil space policy has come too far with its plans to reach Mars with astronauts in the mid-2030s with NASA's Space Launch System exploration rocket and Orion crew capsule to re-set, writes Peter Juul, a policy analyst at American Progress. In an op-ed, Juul cautions that an imminent change in White House administrations could prompt as much. It's unnecessary, he contends. "Those guidelines leave plenty of room for the next administration to put its mark on America's human space exploration program without ripping it up at the roots," he writes of the 2010 policy objectives.

International Space Station

·         New Crew for ISS: First American to live on ISS for 3 long missions arrives after Soyuz night launch and docking  Astronaut Jeff William joined Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka for a Soyuz launch to the International Space Station late Friday. Their docking restored the space station to six person operations. Williams, the first from NASA to staff the Space Station for a third long mission, and his colleagues replace NASA's Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov, who returned to Earth Mar. 1, ending a 340 day flight for Kelly and Kornienko.

Orion and Space Launch System

·         Progress on SLS:  NASA moves ahead on Space Launch System tests  NASA is test firing the RS-25 engine at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi in preparation for future flight tests of the Space Launch System exploration rocket. One recent ground test firing spanned 500 seconds, long enough for the SLS to journey from the launch pad to orbit with astronauts seated aboard the Orion spacecraft.

·         Tooling for SLS:  For rockets going farther than ever, you need the best and biggest tools  Tooling at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, near New Orleans, reveals the scope of U.S. efforts to reach Mars with human explorers. The welding tool for the first stage of the Space Launch System exploration rocket towers 170 feet. "[The tools here] are terrifically accurate, we're talking down to thousandths of an inch in accuracy," says Pat Whipps, the resident program manager at Michoud. "It's interesting. The tools are sometimes many stories tall, yet the manufacturing tolerance is down in thousandths of an inch."

Commercial Space Transportation

·         Cygnus Mission to ISS:  Second Cygnus ship in three months rockets to orbit aboard Atlas 5  An Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft filled with 7,500 pounds of supplies lifted off atop an Atlas V rocket for the six man International Space Station late Tuesday. The departure from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., placed the crew supplies, research equipment and other gear on a course to rendezvous with the orbiting science lab early Saturday. Astronaut Tim Kopra will be positioned at the internal controls of the station's robot arm to grapple the capsule which will remain berthed for about two months.

·         CST-100 Starliner:  NASA shows off access arm, "last place on earth" for astronauts on Space Coast  Early this week, representatives of NASA, United Launch Alliance and Boeing gathered in Oak Hill to preview the access arm and  "White Room'' that future International Space Station astronauts will use to board Boeing's CST-100 Starliner for commercial transportation to the orbiting science lab. Launches are to begin by the end of 2017.

Space Budgets, Policy, Missions, Benefits, International …

·         Mars Exploration:  Permanent Mars colony is 'long way down the road,' NASA says   NASA intends to establish a human research base on Mars during the 2030s, not a permanent colony, according to Ben Bussey, the chief exploration scientist in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.