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Thread: The space flight thread

  1. #21
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    http://mashable.com/2017/05/12/space.../#h5Rrgs7zOZq3

    NASA won't fly people on the 1st mission for its Space Launch System rocket

    BY MIRIAM KRAMER

    Well, that was fun, er, nerve-wracking while it lasted.

    After months of study, NASA has decided that it won't try to send astronauts to space aboard the first flight of its huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, designed to eventually bring people and payloads to destinations like Mars or the moon.

    While acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said that it would be technically feasible to add crew to the first SLS mission (called Exploration Mission-1 or EM-1), the risk would be too great when compared to the possible benefits.

    "... After evaluating cost, risk, and technical factors in a project of this magnitude, it is difficult to accommodate changes needed for a crewed EM-1 mission at this time," Lightfoot said in a memo sent to NASA employees Friday. The memo also indicated the first SLS mission would not occur in 2018, as anticipated, but rather sometime in 2019.

    After the feasibility study wrapped up, NASA officials presented the results to the White House. Lightfoot told reporters on Friday afternoon that the space agency and the Trump administration made the decision not to pursue a crewed mission for EM-1 together.

    So, the humans are staying home, at least at first.

    The whole idea of sending people to space aboard the first flight of the SLS was a little ridiculous to begin with.

    NASA has always been working toward an uncrewed first mission for the SLS, so inserting a crew at this stage in the game seemed at best, slightly reckless. It also struck some experts as an attempt to please a new president who is eager to see crewed space missions launch from U.S. soil again.

    The SLS program in general has been replete with delays, and that's no different now.

    While NASA has been working toward a launch date in 2018 for EM-1, the agency now admits that it won't be able to hit that deadline. For now, the launch data is slipping to 2019, though it's unclear when it will fly that year, and more delays are possible.

    The latest delay was predicted in a July 2016 report released by the independent Government Accountability Office. Development of the Orion spacecraft — designed to fly with the SLS on EM-1 — has also encountered technical issues that have delayed that program.

    If NASA did decide to fly crew on EM-1, it would have also delayed the mission until at least 2020, Lightfoot added.

    Aside from limiting further delays in the schedule, keeping EM-1 uncrewed will also allow NASA to do a full shakedown on a relatively untested system.

    The 21 to 25 day EM-1 mission will bring the Orion spacecraft to a retrograde orbit around the moon, where mission managers can really stress its engines and flight systems to see how it does under extreme circumstances in deep space.

    For example, in such an orbit, the craft will be exposes to more cosmic radiation, and is a difficult part of space to navigate in.

    If NASA decided to put humans on that mission, it would have forced it to change that mission to make it far less risky.

    NASA is still planning to send people to space for its EM-2 mission, expected to fly at some point in the early 2020s... at least for now.

    While this delay means that the next-generation NASA rocket won't fly with humans until the next decade, it does not mean there will be no crewed launches from U.S. facilities before then.

    The private spaceflight companies SpaceX and Boeing, for example, both hope to begin launching astronauts to the International Space Station in the next couple years under a contract with NASA.

  2. #22
    Benevolent Dictator Uwe's Avatar
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    As far as I'm aware, only one spacecraft / launch system has ever been crewed on its first flight, that being the Shuttle, and was considered very risky. A quick gander and the list of Mission anomalies is rather revealing.
    Ceterum censeo, delenda est Daesh.

  3. #23
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    I remember all of the drama from STS-1 like it was just yesterday, especially the missing tiles from the OMS pods by the rudder.

    During Columbia's first retrofit, NASA removed some of the 8,000 pounds of "over-engineering" that made it the heaviest orbiter in the fleet. This included the two ejection seats, excess stress sensors from early flight tests that were no longer needed, and upgrading the 8-track to a cassette deck.....

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  5. #24
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    If it isn't obvious, my GTIs spent a lot of time in the 1980's and 1990's parked at the Kennedy Space Center visitor center. I have taken every tour multiple times, and picked up all kinds of behind-the-scenes trivia from the guides and museum staff out at the Canaveral AF Museum (NOT to be missed if the tour is running).....

  6. #25
    Benevolent Dictator Uwe's Avatar
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    It's funny how the different tour guides have different perspectives... I did it twice last year (with two different sets of visitors). The one guide hardly mentioned SpaceX and was all into the SLS stuff. The other one's attitude was: That shit will never fly, SpaceX is where it's at...

    -Uwe-
    Ceterum censeo, delenda est Daesh.

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  8. #26
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    On one tour in the 1980's, we stopped at the camera mount site for one of the pad 39's. It was a few rows of tubular railings, on stepped concrete "bleachers" for lack of a better description. During a launch, it was in the no-man's land at a perilous distance from the pad, and designed for both NASA and the press to clamp cameras to. To people piling off of the tour bus, it appeared like it was there as a place for tours to get lectures. The guide began his speech by saying that the camera rail was not a seat or something to lean against, because it was built by the lowest government bidder.

    At the Canaveral AF museum, all of the staff were retired volunteers with plenty of time put in at Canaveral and/or the NASA side. Although many have likely passed on by now, that tour was the best thing for the few people lucky enough to score tickets on a day when the museum was operating. One tour guide was very accommodating when I asked to take several detailed pictures of the electronics drawers on an early launch computer rack when he opened up the cabinet, and he was apparently the volunteer restoring it. We talked about it for about 10 minutes.....

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  10. #27
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    I guess that rocket scientists don't know a thing about designing for ease of service?????

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/nasa-plan...174421199.html

    NASA plans emergency space walk on International Space Station

    By Irene Klotz
    Reuters
    May 21, 2017

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - A pair of astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station as early as Tuesday for an emergency space walk to replace a failed computer, one of two that control major U.S. systems aboard the orbiting outpost, NASA said on Sunday.

    The primary device failed on Saturday, leaving the $100 billion orbiting laboratory to depend on a backup system to route commands to its solar power system, radiators, cooling loops and other equipment.

    The station’s current five-member crew from the United States, Russia and France were never in any danger, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement.

    NASA expects to make a decision later on Sunday about which astronauts aboard the station will make the two-hour space walk and when the assignment will take place.

    Peggy Whitson, the station commander, assembled and tested a spare electronics box to replace the failed device, which had been installed during a space walk on March 30, said NASA spokesman Dan Huot.

    NASA’s last emergency space walk took place in December 2015 when two U.S. astronauts left the station to release the brakes on a robot arm’s mobile transporter.

    The ISS, which is staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts, serves as a research laboratory for biology, life science, materials science and physics experiments, as well as astronomical observations and Earth remote sensing.

    The station, owned and operated by 15 nations, flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth and orbits the planet about every 90 minutes. It has been continuously staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since 2000.

    (Editing by Frank McGurty and Jeffrey Benkoe)

  11. #28
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...-got-him-fired

    SpaceX Technician Says Concerns About Tests Got Him Fired

    by Edvard Pettersson
    May 23, 2017, 3:29 PM EDT / May 23, 2017, 9:25 PM EDT

    > Ex-employee says management told workers to ignore protocols

    > Company tells jury he was terminated for poor job performance



    A former Space Exploration Technologies Corp. technician was fired for complaining to management that rocket-building test protocols weren’t followed and results were falsified, jeopardizing the safety of eventual manned trips into orbit, his lawyer told a jury.

    Jason Blasdell claims he took his concerns as high as SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk in the months before he was terminated in 2014, purportedly for being “disruptive."

    A Los Angeles state court jury will be asked to decide whether Blasdell had good reason to believe testing documents were falsified and whether his firing was unjustified.

    “He went up the chain of command as he had learned in the Marines was the proper procedure," Blasdell’s lawyer, Carney Shegerian, told jurors in his opening statement Tuesday. “He had nothing personal to benefit from this other than to do the right thing."

    SpaceX made misrepresentations to the federal government, cut corners in areas where safety was concerned and labeled Blasdell “insubordinate" for pressing his concerns, Shegerian said.

    Scientific Decisions

    California Superior Court Judge William Fahey has ruled that the jury won’t be second-guessing the scientific decisions of SpaceX’s engineers or the business judgment of its managers. The trial is expected to take two weeks.

    “Jason Blasdell is not a whistle-blower and this is not a whistle-blower case," SpaceX’s lawyer, Lynne Hermle, said in her opening statement.

    He never observed or conducted any unlawful testing of rocket parts, never complained about unlawful testing, and never brought any concerns about unlawful testing to federal authorities, Hermle told jurors.

    Blasdell was fired because his job performance had become unacceptable and his fellow employees had become worried about their safety because of him, according to the lawyer.

    NASA Missions

    SpaceX plans to fly 20 to 24 missions in 2017 for customers that include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and commercial satellite operators. The company has contracts with NASA valued at $4.2 billion to resupply the International Space Station using an unmanned Dragon spacecraft and to ferry astronauts there with a version of Dragon that is capable of carrying crews.

    Blasdell sued Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX two years after he was fired on April 1, 2014. He had worked at the private company for more than three years, testing avionic components of Falcon 9 launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft, according to his complaint.

    He alleges that his managers pressured technicians to deviate from written test procedures and to sign off on tests of rocket parts that hadn’t been conducted according to protocols.

    These practices “were extremely dangerous and could possibly lead to a damaged or faulty part ending up in a SpaceX rocket, which could result in a rocket exploding in orbit, and worse, could result in the catastrophic loss of human life," according to Blasdell’s complaint.

    Blasdell said his managers minimized his concerns in part because they didn’t want to slow down production. He eventually met with Musk in early 2014 to complain that employees were signing off on procedures they didn’t follow and that he didn’t want to follow along. Musk said he would look into it and never followed up with Blasdell, according to the complaint.

    "Managers would acknowledge the problems but they wouldn’t get fixed," when he voiced his concerns about the tests compliance with government contracts, Blasdell testified Tuesday under questioning by his lawyer.

    The former employee was precluded by the judge from speculating whether other SpaceX technicians were falsifying test results. His testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday.

    Fahey earlier granted the company’s request to throw out Blasdell’s claim that the company defamed him by calling him disruptive.

    The case is Blasdell v. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., BC615112, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County (Los Angeles).

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  13. #29
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    Although they didn't make it to orbit, this is not a bad start for New Zealand.....

    https://www.yahoo.com/tech/successfu...083148134.html

    Successful launch puts New Zealand in space race

    AFP Relax News
    May 25, 2017



    Rocket Lab's Electron rocket lifts off from New Zealand's North Island, May 25, 2017

    New Zealand joined the exclusive space-race club on Thursday with the successful launch of a Rocket Lab test craft named Electron.

    The rocket blasted off from the company's facility at Mahia, on the east coast of the North Island, to end three days of launch attempts aborted because of the weather.

    "Made it to space. Team delighted. More to follow!" aerospace company Rocket Lab tweeted as New Zealand became the 11th country to launch into space.

    New Zealand media said it was also believed to be the world's first succesful launch from a private site, and marks a further advancement in the move towards private enterprise carrying small satellites and other cargo towards the stars.

    "In the past, it's been countries that go to space, not companies," said Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck.

    Before the launch, he described the venture as "an important milestone for our team and for the space industry at large".

    The launch is the first of three planned tests before Rocket Lab begins providing customers commercial satellite opportunities.

    The 17 metre (55.7 foot) rocket is said to have reached speeds of more than 27,000 kilometres per hour during the two-and-a-half minute flight into orbit.

    Beck has said that while there would be some celebrations following a successful launch, the main party would wait until they reached the commercial stage of taking satellite cargo into orbit.

    Although a New Zealand firm, Rocket Lab's main backers include US companies Kholsa Ventures, Beesemer Venture Partners, Data Collective, Promus Ventures and Lockheed Martin.

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  15. #30
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    http://www.popularmechanics.com/spac...nch-years-end/

    First Private Moon Landing Gears Up for Launch by Year's End
    Moon Express and Rocket Lab are poised to make history.

    By Jay Bennett
    Jun 2, 2017

    Down by the hard-packed beaches at the edge of the country, the rumble of rocket launches has defined Florida's Space Coast for more than half a century. But the end of 2017 could mark the beginning of a new era in solar system exploration. For the first time in history, a private company is going to launch a mission to land on another celestial body.

    Moon Express (or MoonEx), a space exploration company powered by industry engineers and Silicon Valley money, is making the final adjustments to its lunar lander in its facilities at Cape Canaveral. Its goal is to achieve something that has only been accomplished by the three largest superpowers in the world: a soft landing on the moon.

    "It will be the space equivalent of the four-minute mile. I think we're going to redefine the possible," MoonEx co-founder and CEO Bob Richards tells Popular Mechanics. "We've seen this throughout history—everybody thinks something is impossible until they see it done."


    Launch Complex 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, showing pads A and B in 2007. The complex, formerly used by United Launch Alliance for Delta II launches, was taken over by Moon Express in July 2016 for testing of its MX-1 lunar lander.
    George Shelton / NASA


    One recent development that bodes well for Richards' dream is the first flight of Rocket Lab's Electron launch vehicle. The Electron rocket has been contracted to loft the first three MoonEx landers to space. MoonEx wants to launch before the close of 2017—the deadline to win Google's Lunar X Prize competition and take home $20 million for first prize—but last week's flight was the rocket's debut.

    Now the Electron has proven its worth, the MX-1E lander is nearing completion, and the FAA has approved MoonEx for a lunar mission. The first private moon landing attempt is nearly upon us.

    TIMELINE TO LAUNCH

    To win the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize, a private company must land on the moon, have its spacecraft travel 500 meters across the lunar surface, and transmit high-definition video back to Earth. While four other teams are hoping to launch before the end of the year, it's starting to look like only MoonEx will meet the deadline.

    This is spaceflight, though, and nothing is guaranteed. Rocket Lab's first flight of the two-stage Electron rocket was called a success, with clean stage separation and ignition of the second stage engine. The test payload did not quite make it to orbit, however, as that second stage engine shut down prematurely. But as Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck tells Popular Mechanics, "getting to orbit on your first flight is incredibly rare, even for a country."

    It's true. Rockets fail. The fact that the Electron made it 90 percent of the way to sending a payload to orbit is a good sign. The company collected an enormous amount of data from the flight, and Rocket Lab is looking to put that information to good use in two more test flights tentatively scheduled for the coming months.

    Even so, a lot needs to happen to pull off the moon landing before the close of 2017. After two more test flights, Rocket Lab plans to start launching commercial payloads for paying customers, including Spire and Planet, satellite network companies that provide Earth monitoring services. NASA has purchased a few rides on the Electron as well. The customer for Rocket Lab's first commercial launch has yet to be announced, but two commercial flights are planned before the MoonEx launch in December.

    That's an insane timeline. From first flight to launching a lunar landing mission in seven months. It almost doesn't seem possible. But Rocket Lab has approached the problem of spaceflight in a unique way.

    The company was founded in 2006. Three years later, it launched Ātea-1, a small 20-foot demonstrator rocket and the first private launch to space from the Southern Hemisphere. Rocket Lab spent the next four years testing various small rockets and 3D-printed propulsion systems, officially announcing the Electron program in 2013. The company, with assets in the United States and New Zealand, designed its own oxygen-kerosene Rutherford engines for the rocket. The Rutherford was created through 3D-printing and is complete with an electric turbopump—the first ever used in a commercial rocket engine.

    Then Rocket Lab made a bold decision.

    "My advice to anybody who thinks they might want to build a launch pad is: just don't," says Beck. "It was a way bigger program than first anticipated."

    Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand's North Island was completed in September 2016 after about a year of construction. The project required Rocket Lab to build miles of new roads and upgrade the internet infrastructure for an entire township nearby. And of course, it had to construct the pad itself with all the necessary launch systems. "I know more about gravel compaction and aggregate size than I ever wanted to know in my life," says Beck.

    Now, though, Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1—the first private pad to host an orbital rocket launch—puts the spaceflight company in an advantageous position. Beck echoed what many in the space industry have been saying of late, that increasing launch frequency is the key to driving down costs and expanding access to space. Now Rocket Lab has something that no one else has: a personal launch complex approved for a rocket launch every 72 hours for the next 30 years.

    Rocket Lab is poised to start firing off Electrons at a rate of about once a month. Its eventual plan is a launch per week, providing about 50 launches every year. The MoonEx launch, then, will be business as usual—if everything goes according to plan.

    FLY ME TO THE MOON

    The MX-1E lander needs the Electron to take it to low-Earth orbit. Then the spacecraft is designed to fire its own thrusters to fly to the moon from there. MoonEx's original lander design, MX-1, would need to fly along with a satellite on its way to a higher orbit and use the additional velocity to make it to the moon. "The MX-1E has more horsepower," says Richards.

    Once in low-Earth orbit, the MX-1E will need to complete a translunar injection (TLI) burn, cruise through space, conduct a breaking burn to enter lunar orbit, and finally complete descent and landing burns—all by itself. It would be an unprecedented accomplishment, a single-stage spacecraft that can make it all the way to the surface of the moon from low-Earth orbit.

    Once it touches down on the moon, the MX-1E will take observations with a suite of five science instruments. This voyage is something of a proof of concept, but you can think of MoonEx's lunar lander as a modular platform rig that you can bolt just about anything to, weight permitting.

    One of the instruments on the first launch is a small experimental telescope from the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA). The public will have the opportunity to pick targets for the shoebox-sized scope. Ultimately, the ILOA hopes to construct a large optical and radio telescope on the south pole of the moon for an unobstructed view of the deep universe. MoonEx might just help them haul some gear up there.

    After taking a minute to look around, the MX-1E will fire up its rocket engines again and fly to a new location. In addition to completing the Lunar X Prize requirement—which Richards has always said is a secondary consideration for MoonEx—hopping from one place to the next allows the lander to collect the most science data possible.

    "We're a company that was formed to explore the moon and unlock its resources," says Richards. "If you can get in as many landings as possible per launch, that would be a very effective use of your mission dollars. So we've designed a spacecraft that can land on the moon many times. It can land and relocate itself."

    A mobile spacecraft also lines up with MoonEx's ultimate goal: space mining.

    "We want to prospect," says Richards. "You don't prospect by sitting on one rock and chipping at it, you go to a bunch of rocks in different places and you get a whole data set of the region."

    LUNAR INDUSTRY

    Moon Express has set lofty goals, and Richards admits reaching the moon "might take more than one try." Which is why MoonEx has purchased three flights with Rocket Lab, the second and third tentatively slated for 2019 and 2020.

    The likelihood that MoonEx and Rocket Lab accomplish a lunar landing eventually is encouragingly high. They have both designed 3D-printed, composite hardware that can be readily reproduced for numerous launches. Rocket Lab aims to start firing off Electrons on a weekly basis, and MooxEx hopes to launch many missions to the moon with different equipment each time. These companies were built from the ground up for repetition.

    Once you can reliably and affordably reach the lunar surface, all bets are off. NASA, Lockheed Martin, and a number of other major spaceflight institutions are beginning to think about ways to harvest water ice on the moon and turn it into rocket fuel. That fuel could then be stored in space to support missions out to Mars and beyond. Blue Origin is working to adapt its New Shepard reusable rocket to build a lunar version, one that could eventually shuttle astronauts between the surface of the moon and an orbiting space station. And SpaceX wants to launch paying customers to fly around the moon next year.

    Many of these plans are likely to be delayed, and some may never come to fruition at all. But the private space industry has its sights set on the moon, international space agencies have their sights set on the moon, and NASA is keen to play a technical support role for the fleet of upcoming lunar missions. When the history of lunar colonization is written, it might be that Moon Express and Rocket Lab get credit for laying the groundwork in the year 2017.

    "It will be a historic moment I think," says Richards. "For the world."

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