Human Space Exploration Update: January 1-12, 2018

NASA Administrator

  • Jim Bridenstine: Nominations update: January 8, 2018 The White House included Jim Bridenstine, the Oklahoma congressman and former naval aviator, among those re-nominated to high level positions within the Trump administration. Bridenstine was nominated in 2017 to succeed Charles Bolden as NASA’s administrator. Bridenstine underwent a Senate confirmation hearing, but his nomination did not move to the full Senate as 2017 drew to a close.

International Space Station

  • Hotel on ISS: Russia’s plan to build a luxury hotel on the ISS A second copy of a Russian science and power module planned for launch to the International Space Station in the 2021-time frame could become a guest house for wealthy space adventurers. The price is estimated at $40 million for a one to two week stay, more for a longer stay with a spacewalk option.

Orion and Space Launch System

  • Orion Test: NASA drops replica Orion spacecraft to test parachutes NASA demonstrated a simulated Orion capsule could successfully descend to Earth with a parachute failure if necessary. The test was carried out on Friday at the U.S. Army Proving Ground near Yuma, Arizona, following a drop from a U.S. Air Force C-17 flying at 35,000 feet. An on-going series of Orion “drop tests” are to continue into next year. Orion, which can hold up to four astronauts, is designed to start human explorers on future missions of deep space exploration.
  • EM-1 Crew Logo/Crew Patch: NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew vehicle gets maiden mission patch NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, the first joint test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule, now has an official logo and patch. Uncrewed, Orion is to journey around the moon and back to Earth for recovery over a three-week flight now targeted for late 2019.

Commercial Space Transportation

  • Starliner Update: Boeing CST-100 Starliner one step closer to flight with completion of DCR Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner has cleared the Atlas V Launch Segment Design Certification Review portion of its partnership agreement under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Later this year, the four person Boeing spacecraft is to undergo uncrewed, then crewed orbital test flights. With success, the Starliner is to be certified to begin transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
  • Dream Chaser Update: Sierra Nevada clears Dream Chaser test milestone Sierra Nevada Corp has completed a final contract milestone in efforts initiated in 2012 to develop a crewed version of Dream Chaser. The achievement unfolded on November 11 as the winged, reusable spacecraft was dropped from a helicopter at 3,750 feet and glided to a landing 60 seconds later at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The company is currently working under contract to NASA on a cargo version of Dream Chaser that is to begin resupply missions to and from the Space Station in 2019.
  • SpaceX Cargo Resupply Mission to ISS: Recycled SpaceX Dragon capsule makes 2nd delivery to Space Station NASA’s latest contracted re-supply mission to the International Space Station arrived with 4,800 pounds of supplies for the six-member crew, as well as science experiments and technology demonstrations. SpaceX’s 13th contracted cargo mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
  • SpaceX Dragon Update: SpaceX leases Cape Canaveral home for Crew Dragon SpaceX has leased a previous satellite processing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, where it will prepare its crewed Dragon capsules for launches to the International Space Station with astronauts. (See also: SpaceX delays commercial crew test flights to latter half of 2018)

Space Policy, Missions, Benefits, International …

  • Lunar Exploration: Op-ed | Next stop: the moon Leaders of the recently created Moon Village Association, based in Vienna, suggest the association can serve as an effective non-governmental forum for government, industry, academia and the public in establishing a global strategy for coordinating future lunar surface activities.
  • China Moon Program Plans: China promises the Moon Despite mission failures, China appears determined to become the third nation after the U.S. and Russia to land a spacecraft on the moon. Though Beijing has not provided details, human exploration is intended sometime between 2025 and 2050. A Chinese robotic lunar sample return is possible by 2019, accompanying planned reconnaissance of the lunar poles for the identification of resources for future exploration.
  • Mars Exploration: My year on Mars “Make no mistake, sending humans to Mars is much more than just a technical challenge,” writes physicist Christiane Heinicke, part of a six-member team that spent 365 days sheltered on the remote Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii as part of a NASA financed study of the psychological challenges associated with a two to three-year journey to the red planet. “Each one of us brought to the project different personality traits, experiences, attitudes and work habits.” (See also: How will the 3 year Mars mission affect humans? NASA wants to find out)
  • Deep Space Gateway: Scientists and engineers push for servicing and assembly of future space observatories At the American Astronomical Society meeting in Maryland this week, a group of astronomers and engineers urged NASA to consider the in space assembly and servicing of future space telescopes by astronauts. They suggest NASA’s proposed Deep Space Gateway, a lunar orbiting human outpost, could play a significant role. (See also: Thales Alenia working with three companies on Deep Space Gateway concepts)
  • Blue Origin – New Shepard Update: Blue Origin a year away from crewed New Shepard flights Jeff Ashby, the former NASA astronaut and Blue Origins’ director of safety and mission assurance, discussed the prospect of the first New Shepard suborbital passenger flight a year from now at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Bloomfield, Colorado, on Monday. The company’s New Shepard carried out a successful West Texas test flight on December 12.
  • Polar Orbit Launches from the Cape: Southbound? Cape rockets may fly new path toward poles Commercial as well as government payloads could soon be launching into polar orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida, if equipped with automated flight termination systems. The U.S. Air Force has opened a “polar corridor” for Florida Space Coast launches for the first time since 1960. Polar launches have been limited to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. A 2016 wildfire episode near Vandenberg prompted the change.
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