Spending Bill To Accelerate NASA Habitation Module Work
WASHINGTON — An omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this month directs NASA to accelerate work on a habitation module that could be used for future deep space missions, although how NASA will implement that direction is unclear.
The report accompanying the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill instructs NASA to spend at least $55 million on a “habitation augmentation module” to support the agency’s exploration efforts. The money would come from the Advanced Exploration Systems program, part of the Exploration Research and Development line item in the budget that received $350 million in the bill.
“NASA shall develop a prototype deep space habitation module within the advanced exploration systems program no later than 2018,” the report states. It also requires NASA to provide Congress with a report within 180 days of the bill’s enactment on the status of the program and how it has spent the funds provided.
SpaceX Reports No Damage to Falcon 9 First Stage After LandingWASHINGTON — The SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage that made a historic landing in Florida after a launch last month survived the flight with no damage, clearing the way for ground tests, the company’s chief executive said.
In a Dec. 31 tweet, Elon Musk published a photo of part of the Falcon 9 first stage. “Falcon 9 back in the hangar at Cape Canaveral. No damage found, ready to fire again,” he wrote. The image, a closeup of part of the first stage, showed only superficial effects from the flight, such as discoloration from soot deposited by the rocket’s engine plumes.
CNES Vows To Get to the Bottom of Leaks that Forced Mars InSight DelayPARIS — The French space agency, CNES, on Jan. 4 created an outside board of inquiry to examine the circumstances surrounding the discovery of multiple leaks in an instrument intended to launch on NASA’s Mars InSight lander — leaks that appeared so late in the instrument’s development that NASA and CNES were forced to scrap a planned March launch.
The next launch opportunity is in May 2018.
In a briefing at the agency’s headquarters here, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall said it was only natural to want to have “a set of new eyes” investigate an anomaly of such serious consequence, which he said was “a real blow” to CNES.
Russia's Monkeys-to-Mars Mission Draws PETA ProtestThe word from Russia is that the country wants to send monkeys to the Red Planet by 2017. But waving the red flag on such a plan are the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
A few months ago, it was reported that researchers from the Russian Academy of Science are busy training four macaque monkeys to make a long-distance trek to the Red Planet.
Researcher Inessa Kozlovskaya is the leader of the team responsible for teaching the monkeys at the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Educating the animals includes joystick training and tapping into the cognitive thinking and learning skills of the animals.
SpaceX Falcon 9 First Stage Comes In Hot In Alternate NASA View | VideoA NASA camera tracked the Dec. 21st, 2015 first stage landing of the commercial spaceflight company’s uprated Falcon 9 booster, a key step to lower cost, reusable operation. The vehicle can be seen, coming in fast, with a last moment deploy of its landing legs before touchdown.
NASA Selects Aerojet Rocketdyne to Further Develop Thruster that Uses Green PropellantNASA has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne for a public-private partnership to mature the design of the 1-Newton GR-1 monopropellant thruster, which uses a green propellant known as AF-M315E. Once matured, the improved GR-1 thruster will enable the technology to transition from development to production for commercial and government customers, using a green propellant that provides a safer, more efficient and higher-performance alternative than traditional hydrazine propellants.
The 1-Newton GR-1 is a small rocket engine used for attitude, trajectory and orbit control of small and medium-sized satellites and spacecraft. Under the partnership, Aerojet Rocketdyne will deliver for development and validation testing a fully integrated 1-Newton GR-1 thruster that uses AF-M315E propellant. In return, NASA will test the thruster at NASA Glenn Research Center; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will oversee test planning and ensure infusion of the green technology on future NASA missions.
European Space Propulsion Completes Testing of 5-Kilowatt Hall ThrusterEuropean Space Propulsion (ESP), a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, successfully completed testing of a five-kilowatt Hall Thruster with a Power Processing Unit (PPU) supplied by Thales Alenia Space in Belgium. The test program was successfully conducted in the United Kingdom, and marks the first time a flight-proven five-kilowatt class Hall Thruster has been tested with a European-manufactured PPU.
ESP, a UK-registered company located in Belfast focused on providing in-space chemical and electric propulsion products for the European space market, was awarded a contract valued at approximately 11 million euros from the European Space Agency (ESA) in March 2015 for the flight qualification of the five-kilowatt XR-5E Hall Thruster, under the ESA Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) initiative, with targeted application on telecommunication satellites.