SpaceX announces plan for circumlunar human missionSpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk announced Feb. 27 that the company is pursuing plans to launch two people on a Dragon spacecraft around the moon in late 2018.
In a call with reporters, Musk announced that SpaceX had been approached by two private individuals to fly on a Dragon 2 spacecraft, launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket, to fly around the moon and back in the fourth quarter of 2018. “I think this should be a really exciting mission that gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again,” Musk said. “I think it should be super inspirational.”
In the mission concept, a Dragon 2 spacecraft — a version of the Dragon spacecraft being developed for NASA’s commercial crew program, also known as Crew Dragon — would launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Florida and fly a “free return” trajectory past the moon and out to a distance as far as 640,000 kilometers from the Earth, before returning. The entire mission would take about a week.
Linear Particle Accelerator Installed at Silicon Valley Lockheed Martin LabTechnicians from Denmark installed a new linear particle accelerator at the Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center to cap a significant expansion in space instrument testing. The accelerator, one of a few in the world, is part of a collection of new testing hardware designed to take spacecraft to new levels of capability and performance.
“Before we send new materials and instruments into orbit, we must first ensure they will survive the brutal environment of space,” said David Knapp, lead scientist for the Space Plasma and Radiation Center (SPARC). “So we replicate the space environments in vacuum chambers here on Earth and analyze the results.”
NASA conducts static-fire test of the RS-25 engines to be used for Space Launch SystemThe RS-25 team has conducted the latest hot-fire test of development engine 0528 at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on Wednesday. While the team continues to wait for delivery of flight versions of the new engine controller units (ECU), they took the opportunity to conduct an engine test firing to evaluate a design trade-off that was recently proposed by the Space Launch System (SLS) program.
The flight model ECUs are currently expected to start arriving at NASA facilities from Honeywell this week to begin testing to complete certification of the new engine control system, including several hot-fire tests throughout the year. And as Aerojet Rocketdyne restarts production of RS-25s, even more testing is planned over the next several years.
Inmarsat and AVI’s satellite data-relay service exits stealth mode after months of secret, in-space testsFor more than a year, mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat has been working with Addvalue Innovation (AVI), a communications technology company based in Singapore, to conduct secret tests of a service that lets operators maintain continuous contact with small satellites in low Earth orbit. Now, the companies are ready to offer the Inter-satellite Data Relay Service (IDRS) to satellite operators.
“We are excited about this opportunity because strategically it opens a new market sector for us,” Peter Dingley, Inmarsat vice president for future government technologies, told SpaceNews. “With just three satellites in geosynchronous orbit we can see these small satellites as they are spinning around Earth constantly and communicate with them.”
NASA Establishes New PPP to Advance US Commercial Space CapabilitiesNASA is partnering with eight U.S. companies to advance small spacecraft and launch vehicle technologies that are on the verge of maturation and are likely to benefit both NASA and the commercial space market. These partnerships are the result of a solicitation released in August 2016 by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), titled Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies. They mark the second round of public-private opportunities that enable industry to develop promising commercial space technologies that also may benefit future NASA missions.
Europa mission enters next development phaseA NASA mission to study a potentially habitable moon of Jupiter has passed a key review and will now enter a design phase, the agency announced Feb. 21.
NASA said the Europa multiple-flyby mission, often called Europa Clipper, passed a review called Key Decision Point B (KDP-B) Feb. 15. The review allows the mission to enter into a preliminary design phase called Phase B. That phase will formally begin Feb. 27 and run through September 2018.
“This is supremely great news,” said Curt Niebur, the program scientists for the mission at NASA Headquarters, in a Feb. 22 presentation at a meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) in Atlanta. “It was an extremely successful KDP-B.”
EU Peacekeeping Groups Select Globalstar to Track VehiclesGlobalstar Europe Satellite Services announced that two European Union (EU) peacekeeping organizations have deployed the SafeFleet telematics fleet management solution, incorporating Globalstar’s SmartOne device. The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia and EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) both chose SafeFleet Telematics to track and manage fleets, monitor driver behavior, and safeguard personnel and civilian passengers in Georgia and Kosovo respectively.
Both organizations have responsibility for maintaining law and order, as well as carrying out judiciary, policing duties and border patrol in their regions. They both sought a fleet tracking and monitoring platform to replace incumbent technology deemed inadequate.
NASA study to examine crewed SLS/Orion mission in 2019A NASA study now underway to examine the prospects of flying a crew on the first Space Launch System launch will constrain its evaluation to missions that can be flown by the end of 2019, agency officials said Feb. 24.
In a media teleconference organized by NASA on only a few hours’ notice, officials said the study announced Feb. 15 regarding flying a crew on the Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) flight of the SLS and Orion will examine the pros and cons of such a proposal, but not make a formal recommendation.
“I want to stress to you this is a feasibility study, so when we get done with this we won’t come out with a hard recommendation, one way or the other,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said of the EM-1 study. “We’re going to talk about essentially the advantages and disadvantages of adding crew to EM-1.”
Aerojet Rocketdyne Acquires Coleman Aerospace, Expands into Target Missile Vehicle BusinessAerojet Rocketdyne announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Coleman Aerospace from L3 Technologies for $15 million in cash, subject to customary adjustments. The transaction is expected to close by the end of this month. Coleman Aerospace will operate as a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne and will be renamed Aerojet Rocketdyne Coleman Aerospace.
Coleman is a systems engineering and integration provider. Both a prime contractor and subcontractor, the company provides a variety of suborbital launch vehicles, payloads, and launch services. Coleman develops and integrates air- and ground-launched ballistic missile targets and mission planning for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and hypersonic testing for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.