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.