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Boeing CST-100 Starliner takes next step for orbital flight test
by Linda Herridge for KSC News
Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX) Nov 25, 2019
boeing-cst-100-starliner-positioned-above-united-launch-alliance-atlas-v-nasa-cape-canaveral-hg.jpg
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is guided into position above a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019. Full size available here

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that will launch to the International Space Station on the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has taken a significant step toward launch. Starliner rolled out of Boeing's Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, making the trek on a transport vehicle to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"This is critical to our future as a nation," said Kennedy's center director Bob Cabana. "We've got to get astronauts flying on U.S rockets from U.S. soil, and this is just a huge step forward."

Cabana was joined by CCP and Boeing leaders in a gathering of employees and families to watch Starliner roll out of the factory.

"For the team that has built the first American spacecraft designed to land on land, and to get it rolling out, is absolutely incredible," said John Mulholland, Vice President and Program Manager of Boeing Commercial Crew Programs. "Something this complex takes a huge team."

"Look at that amazing sight and what your success looks like," said Kathy Lueders, NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager. "We're not done yet. We've got to step into the mission carefully, fly this vehicle up to the space station, and bring it home safely."

At the pad, Starliner was hoisted up at the Vertical Integration Facility and secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for the flight test to the space station. The Atlas V rocket that will carry Starliner comprises a booster stage and dual-engine Centaur upper stage, as well as a pair of solid rocket boosters.

NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson were on hand to witness the rollout milestone ahead of the uncrewed flight test.

"This is the dawn of a new era," said Ferguson. "For all of you youngsters out there who came out here early to watch, I'm glad you were a part of this. This is really important because this is your future, too."

"We're looking forward to the day when we're launching people on a regular basis," said Fincke. "As graduates of military test pilot schools, we are really excited to see how Starliner's going to behave; we know it's going to be awesome, and we're going to get all kinds of really great test data from it."

The uncrewed flight test, targeted to launch Dec. 17, will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket, Starliner spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations. The data will be used as part of NASA's process of certifying Boeing's crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

"It comes down to trust," said Mann. "I'm talking about trust in the individuals-our fellow Americans-who are building this spacecraft and making this possible. You walk around the factory and there is this amazing attention to detail, and it gives you this great level of confidence," said Mann.

NASA is working in partnership with Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. Safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation to and from the space station will allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity's testbed for exploration.

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Breeding stock?

Hope it doesn't have the space equivalent to an MCAS system.

It is a culture adopted from McDonnell Douglas unfortunately.  $ trumps Safety  

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Israel's next attempt at lunar lander within 3 years says SpaceIL founder
by Staff Writers
Moscow (Sputnik) Nov 25, 2019
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Schematic of the first SpaceIL lunar lander

Although Israel's first privately funded mission to the Moon crashed on the lunar surface in April, Kfir Damari, co-founder of SpaceIL, a startup that developed the spacecraft, isn't giving up. Working on his second lunar attempt, he is also toying with the idea of sending a mission to Mars.

But, above all, he wants to make a difference and inspire Israeli kids to dream big.

It took them 8 years and some $100 millions until Beresheet, Israel's first spaceship, took off in February hoping to reach the Moon.

Although it never did, crashing just several kilometres from the Moon's surface, Israel still became the 7th country to reach the lunar orbit and 4th to attempt a soft landing.

But Kfir Damari, one of the founders of SpaceIL, an Israeli startup that developed the spacecraft, says he never viewed the endeavour as a failure.

Make a Difference
"For us it was a success story because we wanted to make a difference and we did", he said over the phone adding that the initial goal was to educate kids and inspire a future generation of scientists.

When the dust on Beresheet settled, he moved on to another project, still aiming high - Beresheet 2, and this time around, he hopes, it will be different.

"The second attempt will take us about three years and will be significantly cheaper than the first project - costing roughly $80 millions. Firstly, because we already have the experience, the know-how and the design, and, secondly because we learnt from past mistakes", he said, referring to a series of technical failures that eventually led to the crash.

Money Talks
Yet, Damari is aware that - just as it was with the previous attempt - it won't be easy, primarily because of budget restraints.

Unlike other countries that funded their space exploration missions from the state's budget, Israel's Beresheet counted on the generosity of rich donors, with the Israeli government only giving $2.5 million to the venture.

Although after the failed landing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the state would help the next project financially, pouring some $7.5 million, doubts run high as to whether he will be able to keep his promise, especially given the fact that Israel is struggling to form a government without which it will be next to impossible to approve the country's budget.

Israel allocates some $116 million to the Ministry of Science, with only $17 million going to the Israel Space Agency - a body that's supposed to advance Israel's space projects. But with Israel concentrating more on military space, with little attention given to civilian space initiatives, projects like Beresheet will need to rely on foreign investors if they ever want to take off.

"[In comparison to previous years,] Israel is now investing more money into this industry after it realised space projects can boost the country's economy but I remember that back in 2011 we were close to despair thinking the project would never succeed, simply because we didnt have the budget. We didnt even have the money to pay next month's salaries", recalls Damari.

But problems don't stop at that. "Every day there is a challenge. One day it is money, another day there are issues with staffing or suppliers", said Damari recalling that budget restrains also meant that the startup could not employ a suficient number of full-time staffers relying primarily on volunteers.

"Luckily for SpaceIL we had thousands of those, but looking for them was tough. Also, as time went by, the world changed and that presented a challenge too", he said, adding that obstacles often mean that the initial timetables are broken and the launch of the project is postponed.

Unbreakable Spirit
Yet, hardships don't break his spirit. Apart from working on Beresheet 2, the startup is also working on another ambitious project, a Mars exploration mission. Although it still requires development and serious money - much more than what Beresheet 2 might need - Damari believes the project is still on the table.

But above all, he still wants to make a difference. "Despite the fact that Beresheet crashed, hundreds of kids wrote to us saying we inspired them to become engineers and scientists. So all I want to do is to fulfill the potential of these kids and show them that if they can dream it, they can do it", he summed up.

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China's Chang'e-4 probe resumes work for 12th lunar day
by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Nov 25, 2019
china-change-4-yutu-lunar-moon-surface-horizon-hg.jpg
File photo of Yutu-2.

The lander and rover of the Chang'e-4 probe have resumed work for the 12th lunar day on the far side of the moon after "sleeping" during the extremely cold night.

The lander woke up at 5:03 p.m. Thursday (Beijing Time), and the rover, Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2), awoke at 0:51 a.m. the same day. Both are in normal working order, according to the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration.

The rover has traveled about 319 meters on the moon to conduct scientific exploration of the virgin territory.

The Chang'e-4 probe, launched on Dec. 8, 2018, made the first-ever soft landing on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3, 2019.

A lunar day equals 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is the same length. The Chang'e-4 probe switched to dormant mode during the lunar night due to the lack of solar power.

Source: Xinhua News Agency


Related Links
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Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more


 
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NASA says Boeing Starliner ready to fly as early as Dec 20
by Paul Brinkmann
Orlando FL (UPI) Dec 13, 2019

boeing-cst-100-starliner-positioned-above-united-launch-alliance-atlas-v-nasa-cape-canaveral-hg.jpg
File image of CST-100 Starliner being positioned above its ULA Atlas 5 launche vehicle.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner space capsule is ready for its maiden voyage as early as Dec. 20, NASA officials said Thursday.

The space agency said the capsule passed a flight readiness review Thursday. The review included dozens of managers and engineers from the space agency, Boeing and launch provider United Launch Alliance. The scheduled launch date is Dec. 20, but alternate dates because of potential delays go into the Christmas holiday, including Dec. 21, 23 and 25 through 28.

NASA and Boeing "are proceeding with plans for Boeing's Orbital Flight Test following the Flight Readiness Review," NASA's Commercial Crew Program said on its official Twitter account: "Launch of the CST-100 #Starliner spacecraft atop a @ULALaunch #AtlasV rocket remains scheduled for Dec. 20 at 6:36 a.m. ET."

There's a lot riding on the mission, which will be an uncrewed flight that heads from Florida to the International Space Station. Starliner has been planned for years, along with SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, to replace buying seats on Russian Soyuz capsules.

If all goes well, Starliner would carry astronauts to the space station in 2020 in what could be the first return to human spaceflight from U.S. soil since the space shuttle's last mission in 2011.

"We are looking forward to ending that gap," said Phil McAlister, director of NASA's commercial spaceflight development. He added, "This program will be opening up more people doing more things in space."

The spacecraft is scheduled to lift off on an Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Officials reviewed the flight plan and redundancies built into the spacecraft systems and procedures for safety, according to a statement from NASA.

They also discussed how the data from the test flight will help prepare for the first crewed flight. Ken Bowersox, NASA's deputy associate administrator for human exploration and operations, led a readiness poll.

Starliner is smaller than Dragon, which SpaceX adapted for human use after using it for years to send cargo to the space station. Starliner is 16.5 feet high when coupled with its service module. Crew Dragon is 26.7 feet high with its trunk.

Starliner crew modules are designed to fly up to 10 missions. Service modules are made for each mission. Boeing holds a contract for two test flights and six missions to the International Space Station. Future Starliner missions depend on NASA's needs for station crews and commercial demand.

According to Boeing, Starliner is designed to fit up to seven people, but NASA missions will carry a crew of only four or five.

Three astronauts have been designated for Starliner's first missions: Mike Fincke, Nicole Mann and Chris Ferguson.

Boeing also plans to fly private passengers, selling an extra fifth seat on NASA missions. The company says potential customers include commercial and government-sponsored astronauts or private citizens flying as tourists.

Most flights on operational missions will be about six to 12 hours from launch to docking, but times will vary on specific missions depending on launch and rendezvous requirements.

Unlike Crew Dragon or the Apollo-era capsules, Starliner won't land in the ocean. It has parachutes and airbags to drop it into desert landing zones at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, Willcox Playa in Arizona or at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are more than two years behind schedule, according to their contracts awarded in 2014. Boeing successfully tested Starliner's abort system Nov. 4 at White Sands Missile Range.

The earlier abort test saw Starliner accelerate to about 650 mph in five seconds, verifying that the engines and thrusters were capable of firing in the event of an emergency while astronauts sat on the launch pad or ascended.

Source: United Press International

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Boeing launches Starliner capsule to ISS for Nasa

Boeing has launched an unmanned capsule to the International Space Station. Starliner is aboard an Atlas rocket which took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The test flight has a dummy on board but, if it is successful, Nasa hopes that astronauts will be able to start using the craft from 2020.

Astronauts haven't launched from US soil since 2011.

The capsule is due to return to Earth in New Mexico, using parachutes and airbags to make a soft landing on desert terrain on 28 December.

Connection to story and video: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-50863855/boeing-launches-starliner-capsule-to-iss-for-nasa

Link to the following story: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Boeings_Starliner_spacecraft_launches_on_key_test_mission_999.html

 

Starliner fails to enter operational orbit on first attempt
by Staff Writers
Cape Canaveral (AFP) Dec 20, 2019

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"We do have an off-nominal orbit insertion," says Steve Siceloff, a Boeing spokesperson at mission control has reported on NASA TV from in Houston. "We have spacecraft control. Guidance and control teams are assessing their next maneuvers. Spacecraft batteries are good, and the spacecraft is in a stable orbit."

Boeing had launched its Starliner capsule successfully on Friday onboard a ULA Atlas 5 for a crewless eight-day journey to the International Space Station and back as a dry run for NASA's plans to end US dependence on Russia for space rides.

More to come,...

The reputational stakes are high for the aerospace giant, which is in the midst of a safety crisis over its 737 MAX jet, while US national pride is also on the line.

Starliner, which is fixed to the summit of a giant Atlas V rocket, took off shortly before sunrise at 6:36am local time (1136 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, separating 15 minutes later.

"Starliner is free flying for the first time in space," said an announcer on NASA TV.

The mission's main payload is the bandana-clad dummy Rosie, named after Rosie the Riveter, the star of a campaign aimed at recruiting women to munitions factory jobs during World War II that featured her wearing blue overalls and flexing a bicep.

NASA has been forced to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to transport its astronauts since the Space Shuttle program was shuttered in 2011 following thirty years of service.

The US wants to end this dependence, even if US-Russian space ties have remained immune to a broader deterioration of bilateral relations in recent years.

Under former president Barack Obama, NASA opted for a shift in how it operates: instead of owning the hardware, it would hire private companies to take over the role, awarding Boeing and SpaceX billions of dollars to develop "Made in the USA" solutions.

Both companies are running two years behind schedule but appear almost ready, and approval now rests on the successful completion of final tests.

"By early next year, we're going to be launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles back in 2011," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX already carried out its own successful uncrewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) back in March, when its CrewDragon docked with the station and returned to Earth carrying the dummy "Ripley" -- named after Sigourney Weaver's character in the film "Alien."

The dummies are packed with sensors to verify the voyage will be safe for future teams of humans.

"It's been eight and a half years, far too long, in my opinion," said Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, who commanded the last Shuttle mission in 2011 and is set to be on Starliner's first crewed mission.

"But here we are right on the threshold of getting ready to do it," he added.

The developments are independent of the Artemis program to return to the Moon by 2024, which will use a spaceship built for longer journeys into space, Lockheed Martin's Orion.

- $8 billion payment -
About 25 hours after launch, the Starliner will dock autonomously with the space station, 250 miles (400 kilometers) above sea level.

Its return to the Earth, in the southwest US, is set for December 28.

NASA has committed to pay a total of $8 billion to the two companies, who in return need to deliver six trips carrying four astronauts each time, up until 2024.

A recent report by NASA's inspector general said the cost per astronaut comes to about $90 million for Boeing, against $55 million for SpaceX, while the US currently pays Russia more than $80 million for the same.

But both Bridenstine and Boeing contest the numbers, which were calculated by taking the total sums paid by the space agency to each company and divided by the number of missions and astronauts.

SpaceX has the benefit of receiving billions of dollars in earlier contracts to develop the Dragon's first version, for cargo, which was modified to make the crew version.

Bridenstine expressed his confidence in Boeing after its 737 Max debacle.

"I would also say that if you look at Boeing as an institution, the people that develop spacecraft are not the same people that develop aircraft," he said.

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Boeing crew capsule goes off course, won't dock at space station

Launch with U.S. astronauts this summer might not be possible now

The Associated Press · Posted: Dec 20, 2019 7:50 AM ET | Last Updated: 29 minutes ago
 
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A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner crew capsule on an Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force station, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. Boeing reported that the capsule's subsequent insertion into orbit was not normal. (Terry Renna/Associated Press)
 

Boeing's new Starliner capsule went off course after launch Friday and won't dock with the International Space Station during its first test flight.

It was supposed to be a crucial dress rehearsal for next year's inaugural launch with astronauts.

 

The blastoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla., went flawlessly as the Atlas V rocket lifted off with the Starliner capsule. But a half-hour into the flight, Boeing reported the capsule didn't get into the right orbit to reach the space station. The capsule is still in space and will be brought back to Earth, landing in New Mexico as early as Sunday.

Boeing is one of two companies hired by NASA to launch astronauts from the U.S. The space agency has been relying on Russian rockets to travel to the space station since the retirement of the space shuttle almost nine years ago.

Officials stressed the capsule was in a safe and stable orbit. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet that the capsule burned up more fuel than planned and controllers were using the capsule's thrusters to raise its orbit.

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Update: #Starliner had a Mission Elapsed Time (MET) anomaly causing the spacecraft to believe that it was in an orbital insertion burn, when it was not. More information at 9am ET: http://NASA.gov/live 

 
 

Because #Starliner believed it was in an orbital insertion burn (or that the burn was complete), the dead bands were reduced and the spacecraft burned more fuel than anticipated to maintain precise control. This precluded @Space_Station rendezvous

 
 
 

With less fuel on board, it put the rest of the flight in jeopardy. The Starliner was supposed to reach the space station on Saturday and stay for a week.

Thousands of spectators jammed the area, eager to witness Starliner's premiere flight.

The United Launch Alliance rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and was visible for at least five minutes, its white contrail a brilliant contrast against the dark sky. The mood quickly changed as news of the setback trickled out. NASA officials deferred to Boeing for updates.

"Safe and stable is the important thing right now," Boeing spokesperson Kelly Kaplan told reporters.

This was Boeing's chance to catch up with SpaceX, NASA's other commercial crew provider that successfully completed a similar demonstration last March. SpaceX has one last hurdle — a launch abort test — before carrying two NASA astronauts in its Dragon capsule, possibly by spring.

A successful Starliner demo could have seen Boeing launching astronauts by summer. But that might not be possible now.

The U.S. needs competition like this, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Thursday, to drive down launch costs, boost innovation and open space up to more people.

"We're moving into a new era," he said.

The space agency handed over station deliveries to private businesses, first cargo and then crews, to focus on getting astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars.

 
boeing-crew-capsule.jpg
A close-up view of the Starliner spacecraft on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on Thursday, ahead of its test flight. (Terry Renna/Associated Press)

Commercial cargo ships took flight in 2012, starting with SpaceX. Crew capsules were more complicated to design and build, and parachute and other technical problems pushed the first launches from 2017 to now next year.

U.S. astronauts reliant on Soyuz spacecraft since 2011

It's been nearly nine years since NASA astronauts have launched from the U.S. The last time was July 8, 2011, when Atlantis — now on display at Kennedy Space Center — made the final space shuttle flight.

Since then, NASA astronauts have travelled to and from the space station via Kazakhstan, courtesy of the Russian Space Agency. The Soyuz rides have cost NASA up to $86 million US apiece.

"We're back with a vengeance now," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said from Kennedy, where crowds gathered well before dawn.

 
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NASA astronaut Nicole Mann speaks as Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, left, and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke listen during a news conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Thursday. They'll be the first crew to fly on the Starliner spacecraft, sometime next year. (Terry Renna/Associated Press)

Chris Ferguson commanded that last shuttle mission. Now a test pilot astronaut for Boeing and one of the Starliner's key developers, he's assigned to the first Starliner crew with Fincke and NASA astronaut Nicole Mann. A successful Starliner demo could see them launching by summer.

"This is an incredibly unique opportunity," Ferguson said on the eve of launch.

Mann juggled a mix of emotions: excitement, pride, stress and amazement.

"Really overwhelmed, but in a good way and really the best of ways," she said.

What Starliner is like

Built to accommodate seven, the white capsule with black and blue trim will typically carry four or five people. It's five metres tall with its attached service module and 4.5 metres in diameter.

Every Starliner system will be tested during the eight-day mission, from the vibrations and stresses of liftoff to the Dec. 28 touchdown at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Parachutes and air bags will soften the capsule's landing. Even the test dummy is packed with sensors.

 
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Hmmm Mechanical failure or software error?  

  Boeing's Starliner set for early return from failed mission Sunday morning
By Gianrigo MARLETTA with Issam Ahmed in Washington
Cape Canaveral (AFP) Dec 20, 2019

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft won't achieve its mission objective of docking with the International Space Station, NASA said Friday, dealing a blow to the agency's plans to end US dependence on Russian rockets for astronaut taxi rides.

Officials said the autonomously flown capsule experienced a glitch involving its onboard clock that led it to burn too much propellant, forcing an early return to Earth on Sunday morning.

"We have made a final decision - Starliner will not dock with the @Space_Station and will return to White Sands on Sunday," tweeted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

The failure of the mission, a final dress rehearsal before a crewed flight, will be seen as especially stinging for Boeing, which is facing a safety crisis over its grounded 737 MAX planes.

After the Space Shuttle program was shuttered in 2011, NASA awarded Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX contracts worth billions of dollars to provide transport for US astronauts.

Both companies are two years behind schedule, but SpaceX carried out a successful autonomous rendezvous and docking with the ISS in March.

Starliner, which was fixed to a giant Atlas V rocket, took off before sunrise at 6:36 am local time (1136 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, separating 15 minutes later.

Around 30 minutes after lift-off, Boeing announced on Twitter it had an "off-nominal insertion," indicating the procedure to even out its orbit had not gone as planned, and a live stream was cut shortly after.

- Clock glitch -

Bridenstine told reporters the Starliner's on board clock was out of sync, "and that anomaly resulted in the vehicle believing that the time was different than it actually was."

Assuming it was at a different stage of its flight, Starliner burned more fuel than it should have, forcing NASA and Boeing to call off the rendezvous with the ISS.

Mission control attempted to manually override the problem from the ground, but they were unable to establish a connection in time because of a satellite communication link failure.

Starliner will instead return to Earth, landing at NASA's White Sands facility in the New Mexico desert on Sunday morning around 7:30 am local time (1430 GMT).

Under former president Barack Obama, NASA opted for a shift in how it operates: instead of owning the hardware, it decided to hire private companies to take over the role, awarding Boeing and SpaceX billions of dollars to develop "Made in the USA" solutions.

The developments are independent of the Artemis program to return to the Moon by 2024, which will use a spaceship built for longer journeys, Lockheed Martin's Orion.

- $8 billion payment -

NASA has committed to pay $8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX, who in return need to deliver six trips carrying four astronauts each time, up until 2024.

A recent report by NASA's inspector general said the cost per astronaut comes to about $90 million for Boeing, against $55 million for SpaceX, while the US currently pays Russia more than $80 million for the same.

But both NASA and Boeing contest the numbers, which were calculated by taking the total sums paid by the space agency to each company and divided by the number of missions and astronauts.

SpaceX has had the benefit of receiving billions of dollars in earlier contracts to develop the Dragon's first version, for cargo, which was modified to make the crew version.

Despite the failure to reach the ISS, both NASA and Boeing officials attempted to put a positive spin on the mission, saying the Starliner would still carry out other spaceflight tests.

Bridenstine appeared to fix the blame on the ship's automation procedure, telling reporters: "Had we had astronauts on board that were manually flying it, there was no time at which they would have been unsafe."

The mission might have also continued, he added.

He added that SpaceX's earlier success meant that the overall objective of resuming crewed spaceflight using US spacecraft was still on track, and that both companies remained "critically important to the future architecture of commercial spaceflight."

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6 minutes ago, QFE said:

The landing in New Mexico now being reported as "Historic". Talk about fake news!

I guess it was historic for an American Capsule, in the past all such capsules landed in the ocean. https://globalnews.ca/news/6327945/boeing-starliner-aborted-mission/

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft returns to Earth after aborted mission to ISS

BY MARCIA DUNN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted December 22, 2019 6:36 am
Updated December 22, 2019 9:37 am
landing.jpg?w=1040&quality=70&strip=all

 WATCH: Boeing Starliner spacecraft lands back on Earth after aborted mission to ISS

Boeing safely landed its crew capsule in the New Mexico desert Sunday after an aborted flight to the International Space Station that threatened to set back the company’s effort to launch astronauts for NASA next year.

The Starliner descended into the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in the frigid predawn darkness, ending a two-day demo that should have lasted more than a week. A trio of red, white and blue parachutes popped open and airbags also inflated around the spacecraft to ease the impact.

“Congratulations, Starliner,” said Mission Control, calling it a successful touchdown.

A test dummy named Rosie the Rocketeer — after Rosie the Riveter from World War II — rode in the commander’s seat. Also returning were holiday presents, clothes and food that should have been delivered to the space station crew.

 

After seeing this first test flight cut short and the space station docking canceled because of an improperly set clock on the capsule, Boeing employees were relieved to get the Starliner back.

Recovery teams cheered as they watched the capsule drift down through the air and make a bull’s-eye landing. The touchdown was broadcast live on NASA TV; infrared cameras painted the descending capsule in a ghostly white.

snaps_about-global-news-stream-6-on-global-news-6-stream-6_dy.jpg?w=1040&quality=70&strip=all2:46NASA administrator says despite aborted mission, Boeing Starliner had many successes

 NASA administrator says despite aborted mission, Boeing Starliner had many successes

As the sun rose, close-up views showed the large white and black capsule upright — with hardly any scorch marks from re-entry — next to a U.S. flag waving from a recovery vehicle. The astronauts assigned to the first Starliner crew — two from NASA and one from Boeing — were part of the welcoming committee.

“A beautiful soft landing,” said NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. “Can’t wait to try it out.”

It was the first American-made capsule designed for astronauts to make a ground landing after returning from orbit. NASA’s early crew capsules — Mercury, Gemini and Apollo — all had splashdowns. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which made its orbital debut last winter, also aims for the ocean at mission’s end.

Minutes after touchdown, top NASA and Boeing officials poured into Mission Control in Houston to congratulate the team. The newly returned Starliner also got a personalized name: Calypso, after Jacques Cousteau’s boat.

 
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NASA's trip to Mars begins in California 'clean room'
by Staff Writers
Pasadena, United States (AFP) Dec 28, 2019

mars-2020-rover-completes-first-drive-hg.jpg

NASA's Mars 2020 rover will head off for the Red Planet next year. But like Voyager, Galileo and Cassini before it, the mission's epic journey began in a "clean room" in California.

One of two ultra-sterile labs used for spacecraft assembly at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, the eggshell-white room was briefly and exceptionally opened to journalists Friday.

"We need to keep the hardware as pristine and as safe as possible until we get to Mars," said David Gruel, operations manager for Mars 2020.

The Mars rover will collect samples on the planet in the search for traces of microbial life potentially dating back billions of years.

Journalists had to go through a lengthy sterilization process before entering the room "so we actually are bringing samples back from Mars, and not bringing back hair from my body or some skin from somebody else's body," explained Gruel.

Automated shoe brushes and sticky mats remove particles from shoes before guests even reach the locker room.

To prevent contamination, visitors must then don a "bunny suit" -- sleeves sealed with adhesive tape -- along with face masks, latex gloves and even beard protectors for the more hirsute.

Finally, they pass beneath a pulsating "air shower" that blasts away the last unwanted particles.

The rover itself is regularly scrubbed with isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber mop, and the lab's air is filtered 70 times per hour.

Journalists invited by NASA also had to remove foam covers from their microphones -- a breeding ground for germs. Specially approved paper and pens were provided, in place of traditional writing implements which can shed dust and other particles.

Guests are also told to refrain from wearing any makeup or perfume.

Technicians working on crucial sampling equipment are often subject to even more stringent protocols.

"They can't take a shower, bathe the day they work on the hardware," Gruel told AFP. "They can't put any hair products into their hair to style it, they can only wear one or two types of deodorant."

It is all a far cry from the early days of space exploration.

Engineers would frequently light up cigarettes while building the Ranger rockets that paved the way for the Apollo moon missions.

Costly mistakes have led to more caution. A bid to sterilize the Ranger 3 mission in 1962 accidentally fried the rocket's electronics, causing it to miss the Moon by more than 20,000 miles

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  • 2 weeks later...

NASA may make Boeing redo failed test flight to space station

 

Space agency may take weeks to decide whether to carry on to final test with humans on board

The Associated Press · Posted: Jan 09, 2020 9:19 AM ET | Last Updated: an hour ago
 
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Boeing's CST-100 Starliner astronaut capsule had a successful launch for its first unmanned test mission, but a timer error prevented the spacecraft from attaining the correct orbit for it to dock with the International Space Station. (Terry Renna/Associated Press)
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NASA is opening an independent investigation with Boeing over a software glitch that prevented its unmanned astronaut capsule from reaching the International Space Station in December, the agency said on Tuesday.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner astronaut capsule had a successful launch for its first unmanned test mission, but what has been described as an automated timer error prevented the spacecraft from attaining the correct orbit for it to rendezvous and dock with the space station.

 
Although data from the uncrewed test is important for certification, it may not be the only way that Boeing is able to demonstrate its system's full capabilities.- NASA

The U.S. space agency is forming an investigative team to determine what caused the timer glitch and "any other software issues," NASA said. The team will "provide corrective actions" needed before Starliner can fly a crew of astronauts for the first time, it added, saying the probe will take about two months.

Docking was a key requirement

NASA said it was weighing whether to make Boeing repeat the test, which would likely cost tens of millions of dollars and add further delay, to show it can dock at the station successfully. Docking was a key requirement for the test under Boeing's contract.

"Although data from the uncrewed test is important for certification, it may not be the only way that Boeing is able to demonstrate its system's full capabilities," the agency said.

It added that it would take NASA "several weeks" to decide whether Boeing will need to redo its test or carry on to the final test flight of lofting humans to the space station, set for later this year.

 
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The CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is seen after its descent by parachute following an abbreviated Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew programs in White Sands, N.M., in December. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via REUTERS)

The spacecraft, a cone-shaped pod with seats for seven astronauts, landed successfully in White Sands, N.M., six days earlier than planned, after its December launch.

The landing, which tested the capsule's difficult re-entry into the atmosphere and parachute deployment, yielded the mission's most valuable test data, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

NASA awarded $4.2 billion US to Boeing and $2.5 billion to Elon Musk's rival SpaceX in 2014 to develop separate capsule systems capable of ferrying astronauts to the space station from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011. NASA has since relied on Russian spacecraft for hitching rides to the space station.

SpaceX is also in the midst of a joint investigation with NASA after its Crew Dragon astronaut capsule exploded last April on a test stand in Florida, moments before test-firing a suite of rocket thrusters meant to propel its crew to safety in the event of a rocket failure.

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Astronauts & NASA Graduates Could Be The First Canadians On The Moon

To infinity and beyond!

Lisa Belmonte
4 days ago
Updated on January 10 @ 10:59 AM
 
237
 
 
 
 

It's not every day that Canada gets new astronauts that are officially ready for space travel and we don't actually have that many of them. Our country only had a dozen of them but now two more are added to that list. These Canadian astronauts graduated NASA training and could be the first people from this country to walk on the moon! 

The northern nation's two newest astronauts, Jenni Sidey-Gibbons and Joshua Kutryk, officially graduated from NASA's astronaut basic training on January 10.

This makes them eligible for space flight whether that's orbiting Earth on the International Space Station, being the first Canadians on the moon or even being the first people on Mars.

It's been a long process to get there. Sidney-Gibbons and Kutryk were originally chosen by the Canadian Space Agency back in 2017.

After two years of training in spacewalking, robotics, International Space Station systems, jet proficiencies and the Russian language, these two new astronauts are ready for space.

Coincidentally both of them are from Alberta and trained in Houston, Texas as part of NASA's Artemis program, which aims to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024.

In a video produced by the CSA, Canada's newest astronauts shared their dreams of going to the moon. 

"Just the thought of the day when we might see a Canadian flag on the moon is something that excites me like nothing else," said Kutryk in the video. "That day is coming."

Last year, Canada announced a partnership with NASA for the Lunar Gateway project which is part of the Artemis program.

That program will see the first woman and the next man walk on the moon which could very well be Sidey-Gibbons and Kutryk.

"Canada's astronauts are our modern-day explorers. Not only do they help develop new space technologies, advance scientific knowledge and promote Canada in space, they inspire all Canadians to look to the stars and dream about what is possible," said Navdeep Bains, Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, in a news release.

There's another True North connection when it comes to these graduating astronauts.

The class was taught by Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen and he is the first Canuck to ever teach this training class.

 
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46 minutes ago, Marshall said:

"Just the thought of the day when we might see a Canadian flag on the moon is something that excites me like nothing else," said Kutryk in the video. "That day is coming."

And the reason for going to the moon is ????

BTW..it would take 7 months for a space ship to get to Mars.......hard to believe that peace and tranquility will last 7 months  when most people get antsy in an aluminum/plastic tube that carries them, in the atmosphere, for 10-12 hours but......at least  most have someone waiting for them upon arrival !!😯

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Astronauts are among the most physiologically and psychologically fit individuals in the world. They are trained to keep calm even in life-threatening moments and can work with extreme focus over long periods of time.

Nevertheless, living, working, and sleeping in confined spaces next to the same people for months or years at a time would be stressful for even the toughest recruit. Astronauts also have to deal with the unique physical strains of space travel—including the effects of microgravity, which whittles away at bone and muscle mass, creates fluid shifts that puts painful pressure on the head or other extremities, and weakens the immune system.

An AI assistant that’s able to intuit human emotion and respond with empathy could be exactly what’s needed, particularly on future missions to Mars and beyond. The idea is that it could anticipate the needs of the crew and intervene if their mental health seems at risk.

Alexa, cheer me up

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US Space Force mocked for unveiling camouflage uniforms

The US Space Force's new uniformImage copyrightUS SPACE FORCE Image captionThe US Space Force posted a picture its new uniform on Twitter

The US Space Force has defended its newly unveiled camouflage uniforms after they were roundly mocked on social media.

The force, officially launched by US President Donald Trump last month, posted a picture of the uniform to its Twitter account.

The uniform in the picture has a woodland camouflage design with badges embroidered on the arm and chest.

Reacting to the uniform, many critics had the same question: "Camo in space?"

Presentational white space

One Twitter user asked: "Have they never seen space before?"

Another illustrated the difference between space and camouflage, which is designed to help military personnel blend in with their surroundings.

Skip Twitter post by @JRehling
 

I know this is hard to understand, but on the left there is a picture of camouflage and on the right there is a picture of space. Study these carefully until you can see the difference.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter
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SpaceX launches, destroys Falcon 9 rocket in escape test

BY MARCIA DUNN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS   https://globalnews.ca/news/6433332/spacex-escape-test/
Posted January 19, 2020 9:27 am
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 WATCH: SpaceX successfully launches first batch of 2020 Starlink satellites

SpaceX completed the last big test of its crew capsule before launching astronauts in as little as two months, mimicking an emergency escape shortly after liftoff Sunday.

No one was aboard for the wild ride in the skies above Cape Canaveral, just two mannequins.

A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off as normal, but just over a minute into its supersonic flight, the Dragon crew capsule catapulted off the top 20 kilometres above the Atlantic. Powerful thrusters on the capsule propelled it up and out of harm’s way, as the rocket engines deliberately shut down and the booster tumbled out of control in a fiery flash.

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from pad 39A during a test flight to demonstrate the capsule’s emergency escape system at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Jan. 19, 2020. A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from pad 39A during a test flight to demonstrate the capsule’s emergency escape system at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Jan. 19, 2020. John Raoux / The Associated Press

The capsule reached an altitude of about 44 kilometres before parachuting into the ocean just offshore to bring the nine-minute test flight to a close and pave the way for two NASA astronauts to climb aboard next time.

SpaceX flight controllers at the company’s California headquarters cheered every milestone — especially the splashdown. Everything appeared to go well despite the choppy seas.

Recycled from three previous launches, the SpaceX rocket was destroyed as it crashed into the sea in pieces. The company founded and led by Elon Musk normally recovers its boosters, landing them upright on a floating platform or back at the launch site.

“That’s the main objective of this test, is to show that we can carry the astronauts safely away from the rocket in case anything’s going wrong,” said SpaceX’s Benji Reed, director of crew mission management.

2:38SpaceX Starhopper, prototype intended for Mars, completes final test flight

 SpaceX Starhopper, prototype intended for Mars, completes final test flight

“This test is very important to us … a huge practice session,” Reed added.

NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, said the launch abort test was “our last open milestone” before allowing SpaceX to launch Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station.

She said that could happen as soon as March.

“We are purposely failing a launch vehicle to make sure that our abort system on the spacecraft, that will be flying for our crews, works,” Lueders said in advance of the demo.

Delayed a day by bad weather, Sunday’s launch from Kennedy Space Center brought together hundreds of SpaceX, NASA and Air Force employees on land, at sea and in the air. Tourists and locals alike packed the adjoining visitor complex and nearby beaches to see the dramatic fiery spectacle of an out-of-control rocket.

 

“Dragon high altitude, supersonic abort test is a risky mission, as it’s pushing the envelope in so many ways,” Musk tweeted minutes before liftoff.

Hurley and Behnken, the NASA astronauts assigned to the first SpaceX crew, monitored the flight from the firing room, including the capsule recovery effort They took part in a dress rehearsal Friday, suiting up and heading to the launch pad.

NASA astronauts have not launched from the U.S. since 2011 when the space shuttle program ended. Astronauts attach second docking port, work on robotic arm at ISS

Preferring to focus on the moon and Mars, NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing for billions of dollars to transport astronauts to and from the space station. That should have happened long before now, but both companies struggled with technical problems, adding years of delay and forcing NASA to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars extra for Russian rocket rides.

SpaceX successfully flew a Crew Dragon to the space station last March without anyone on board, but the capsule exploded a month later during ground testing. The emergency escape thrusters — the kind used in Sunday’s test — had to be retooled. In all, SpaceX has tested these powerful Super Draco thrusters some 700 times.

Last month, meanwhile, Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule ended up in the wrong orbit on its first test flight and had to skip the space station. The previous month, only two of the Starliner’s three parachutes deployed during a launch abort test.

 

Lueders said it’s too soon to know whether Boeing will need to send another Starliner to the space station without a crew or go straight to launching astronauts later this year. An investigation team is still looking into why the Starliner’s automated timer was off by 11 hours during the December test flight.

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Elon Musk says first SpaceX launch with NASA astronauts likely between April and June

PUBLISHED SUN, JAN 19 20202:08 PM EST
KEY POINTS
  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Sunday that the company’s first crewed mission will probably be in the second quarter of this year.
  • Musk made the comments at a press conference after the company completed the in-flight abort test of its Crew Dragon capsule.
  • Helping NASA once again launch its astronauts is “really quite profound,” Musk said, as “I think the United States is a nation of explorers, a distillation of the human spirit of exploration.”
 

H/O: SpaceX Elon Musk Crew Dragon NASA 190307 EC

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk speaks with NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, along with astronauts Victor Glover, Doug Hurley, Bob Behnken and Mike Hopkins, in front of the company’s Crew Dragon capsule.
NASA | Joel Kowsky

Elon Musk expects his space company’s inaugural launch of NASA astronauts is only a few months away.

The SpaceX CEO said on Sunday that the company’s first crewed mission will probably be in the second quarter of this year, between the months of April and June. Known as Demo-2, this mission would see two NASA astronauts visit the International Space Station for at least a few days. Musk noted that the rocket and spacecraft needed for the mission are already coming together in Florida.

 

“We’re highly confident the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely in February but no later than March,” Musk said.

 

Musk made the comments at a press conference after the company completed the in-flight abort test of its Crew Dragon capsule. Musk spoke alongside NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who added that the agency and SpaceX are considering making Demo-2 a longer mission than previously expected.

“If it’s going to be a longer duration, then we have to have some additional training for our astronauts to actually be prepared to do things on the International Space Station that we weren’t planning to have that initial test crew necessarily do. So we’ve got to look at that and make a determination,” Bridenstine said.

Bringing human spaceflight back to the US

 

H/O: NASA astronauts inside SpaceX Crew Dragon 200717 EC

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken suited up inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
NASA

Since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the United States has paid Russia to fly NASA’s astronauts to the space station. But now the agency, through SpaceX, is on the cusp of returning that capability to the U.S.

“I think it’s really quite profound,” Musk said. “I think the United States is a nation of explorers, a distillation of the human spirit of exploration, and it’s obviously something that appeals to anyone who has an adventurous bone in their body.”

 

Bridenstine echoed Musk, adding that the U.S. is a nation that wants to lead other countries in exploring space.

“This is a great opportunity for us to once again lead. And this time, when we lead, we’re doing it differently than we’ve ever done it before: NASA is going to be a customer,” Bridenstine said.

“We want Elon to have lots of customers,” Bridenstine added.

NASA has awarded SpaceX more than $3.1 billion to develop the Crew Dragon capsule since the company won its first contract for the capsule in 2014. Development of Crew Dragon has suffered several setbacks over the years, including getting its parachute system working and a capsule explosion during a test last April.

Once Crew Dragon begins flying, NASA is expected to pay SpaceX about $55 million per astronaut to fly to the space station. In the meantime, Bridenstine said NASA will buy another seat on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft -- which has recently cost as much as $86 million.

 

nasa%20cost%20per%20astronaut.1579458712310.png?
 
 

SpaceX will have room to fly more astronauts to the space station than just NASA’s. However, Musk said he did not have anything to announce in regard to flying private customers.

“I think we need more customers,” Bridenstine said. “But on the international front ... we have no shortage of partners that are wanting to have access to space.”

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Perhaps the solution to breathing on the moon as well as creating an industry producing metals

 

ESA opens oxygen plant - making air out of moondust
by Staff Writers
Noordwijk, The Netherlands (SPX) Jan 20, 2020

alexandre-meurisse-beth-lomax-hg.jpg
ESA research fellow Alexandre Meurisse and Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow producing oxygen and metal out of simulated moondust inside ESA's Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory.

A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

"Having our own facility allows us to focus on oxygen production, measuring it with a mass spectrometer as it is extracted from the regolith simulant," Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow, whose PhD work is being supported through ESA's Networking and Partnering Initiative, harnessing advanced academic research for space applications.

"Being able to acquire oxygen from resources found on the Moon would obviously be hugely useful for future lunar settlers, both for breathing and in the local production of rocket fuel."

ESA research fellow Alexandre Meurisse adds: "And now we have the facility in operation we can look into fine-tuning it, for instance by reducing the operating temperature, eventually designing a version of this system that could one day fly to the Moon to be operated there."

Samples returned from the lunar surface confirm that lunar regolith is made up of 40-45% percent oxygen by weight, its single most abundant element. But this oxygen is bound up chemically as oxides in the form of minerals or glass, so is unavailable for immediate use.

ESTEC's oxygen extraction is taking place using a method called molten salt electrolysis, involving placing regolith in a metal basket with molten calcium chloride salt to serve as an electrolyte, heated to 950 C. At this temperature the regolith remains solid.

But passing a current through it causes the oxygen to be extracted from the regolith and migrate across the salt to be collected at an anode. As a bonus this process also converts the regolith into usable metal alloys.

In fact this molten salt electrolysis method was developed by UK company Metalysis for commercial metal and alloy production. Beth's PhD involved working at the company to study the process before recreating it at ESTEC.

"At Metalysis, oxygen produced by the process is an unwanted by-product and is instead released as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which means the reactors are not designed to withstand oxygen gas itself," explains Beth. "So we had to redesign the ESTEC version to be able to have the oxygen available to measure. The lab team was very helpful in getting it installed and operating safely."

The oxygen plant runs silently, with the oxygen produced in the process is vented into an exhaust pipe for now, but will be stored after future upgrades of the system.

"The production process leaves behind a tangle of different metals," adds Alexandre, "and this is another useful line of research, to see what are the most useful alloys that could be produced from them, and what kind of applications could they be put to.

"Could they be 3D printed directly, for example, or would they require refining? The precise combination of metals will depend on where on the Moon the regolith is acquired from - there would be significant regional differences."

The ultimate aim would be to design a 'pilot plant' that could operate sustainably on the Moon, with the first technology demonstration targeted for the mid-2020s.

"ESA and NASA are heading back to the Moon with crewed missions, this time with a view towards staying," says Tommaso Ghidini, Head of ESA's Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division.

"Accordingly we're shifting our engineering approach to a systematic use of lunar resources in-situ.We are working with our colleagues in the Human and Robotics Exploration Directorate, European industry and academia to provide top class scientific approaches and key enabling technologies like this one, towards a sustained human presence on the Moon and maybe one day Mars."

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Remember how foolish folks who purchased the early Microsoft stock were said to be?

Speculative space stock Virgin Galactic is up 170% in just two months

PUBLISHED THU, JAN 23 202010:57 AM EST
 
  • “Lately, we are having more conversations on SPCE than any other US stock in our coverage with the possible exception of Tesla,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said.
  • Overall, Wall Street’s first take on Virgin Galactic has been an endorsement to buy, although Renaissance Capital strategist Matt Kennedy warns that “this is a very hard stock to value.”
105756027-vlcsnap-2019-02-22-15h38m23s065new.png?v=1550868319&w=750&h=422
TCfull interview with Virgin Galactic’s astronauts
 

Virgin Galactic shares have been on a blistering run and analysts see a variety of factors driving the space tourism company’s stock momentum, from investor excitement about space to speculation about the company’s valuation.

“Lately, we are having more conversations on SPCE than any other US stock in our coverage with the possible exception of Tesla,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a note to investors on Wednesday.

 

Jonas, well known for his early calls on Tesla, has recently been also looking at the fast-growing space industry.

Shares of Virgin Galactic have climbed more than 170% since closing at a low of $7.22 in early December, just a month after it went public. The stock’s 14% climb on Wednesday clinched its 10th consecutive day of gains in a row. That streak looked likely to end on Thursday, as it slipped more than 3% in early trading.

 

SPCE_chart%20(4).1579727231986.jpeg?
 
 

With growing investor interest in the space industry at large, Virgin Galactic ranks as the most high-profile pure-play space company on the public market, according to Renaissance Capital strategist Matt Kennedy. His firm specializes in exchange-traded funds based on initial public offerings (IPOs).

“It’s really the only stock like this,” Kennedy said. “If SpaceX were public then [Virgin Galactic] would be valued against them, so if it had a close peer you’d think they would trade closer together. This stock is kind of unbounded.”

 

Overall, Wall Street’s first take on Virgin Galactic has been an endorsement to buy. There are three firms covering the stock since its public debut in October – Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Vertical Research Partners – and all three have buy ratings.

‘Significant’ investor interest

Morgan Stanley partially explained Virgin Galactic’s rally by noting “a significant increase” in interest from investors, according to Jonas.

“We have witnessed a materially greater frequency of incoming queries from investors to understand the pitch and learn more about the company’s role in the rapidly evolving space economy,” Jonas said.

It’s hard to tell exactly who those investor are right now because the stock is so new. The most recent filings show mostly just passive investors adding the stock, which they are required to do so to track certain indexes. Vanguard Group bought more than $90 million worth of Virgin Galactic stock across several index funds, while exchange-traded funds (ETFs) from Charles Schwab and BlackRock each took small positions.

Virgin Galactic shares have been prone to large swings in either direction since its debut, a tendency which is typical of a small cap stock.

But since the beginning of the year trading volume in Virgin Galactic has picked up dramatically. Until recently, only a million or two shares of the company traded hands each day. Yet FactSet data shows a remarkable tick up in the past two weeks: An average of about 12 million shares of Virgin Galactic exchanged each day, with almost 30 million changing hands on Wednesday alone.

ARK Invest analyst Sam Korus explained that, thematically, investors are seeing space approach “a tipping point when you’re looking at cost declines and the technology available.”

“There are a number ways to play the space sector in the market and Virgin Galactic is one of the most pure plays for space,” Korus said.

106207453-191028sotsvirgingalacticfullinterview.jpg?v=1572273241&w=750&h=422
 
 

Morgan Stanley maintained its overweight rating on Virgin Galactic shares, although Jonas noted the stock is now within 30% of the firm’s $22 a share price target. But Jonas emphasized his most optimistic scenario of $60 a share is still in place, noting the stock would have to climb another 250% to reach that level.

A speculative stock

Virgin Galactic is a distinctively speculative investment, Kennedy noted, as the company has yet to begin flying customers to space – let alone realize the revenue it expects from commercial operations. Virgin Galactic plans to begin flying people such as founder Sir Richard Branson later this year.

But until then Kennedy thinks Virgin Galactic’s near $4 billion market valuation is in the eye of the beholder, as he says “this is a very hard stock to value.” Like other analysts, Kennedy emphasized that he thinks Virgin Galactic’s stock could just as easily go to $0 a share as it could quintuple.

“When there’s no revenue there’s no floor, there’s no ceiling. You’re just valuing it years and years in advance,” Kennedy said. “You have to be comfortable owning a stock that could be huge in 2040 and I think that’s what you’re getting with Virgin Galactic.”

Virgin Galactic’s stock is also widely shorted, according to S3 Partners, as the firm said more than 25% of Virgin Galactic’s shares are sold short. Short selling is the practice of borrowing shares from an investment bank and then selling them, in the hope that the stock drops and the investor can buy the stock back at a lower price.

But if a stock price rises, short sellser are forced to buy the stock back at a higher price to cut their losses. And, if enough short sellers buy their stock back at the same time, it can create more demand and drive the stock price even higher. This is known as a short squeeze, a phenomenon Kennedy said might be happening in recent weeks with Virgin Galactic.

“Some of the rapid rise could be people closing their short positions,” Kennedy said.

Incremental progress toward flying tourists

The space tourism company has also been giving investors incremental progress updates on everything from its manufacturing process to filling out its executive team. On the latter topic, Virgin Galactic said its recent appointments – Michelle Kley as General Counsel and Enrico Palermo as Chief Operating Officer – were key to shoring up previously open leadership roles.

CEO George Whitesides earlier this month told CNBC that the company has seen steadily increasing demand from prospective space tourists, saying interest “keeps ticking up by a good chunk every month.” He announced that Virgin Galactic would re-open ticket sales later this year. Whitesides has also previously said that high demand for tickets means his company could increase its prices substantially for first commercial flights.

Both Whitesides and Palermo have made several visits to New York City since the company’s public debut, trips that the company describes as including productive meetings with investors.m

 

Virgin Galactic recently passed a key milestone in manufacturing its second spacecraft. While the company’s first spacecraft Unity has flown to space twice already, this second spacecraft put weight on its wheels for this firs time – signifying it completed all major parts of assembly.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/23/virgin-galactic-stock-up-170percent-in-two-months-on-space-investor-interest.html

 

“Achieving ‘weight on wheels’ for the company’s second spaceship is seen as an important milestone and seemed to trigger a further re-rating of the shares,” Jonas said.

Palermo explained at a UBS conference last week what lies ahead in 2020 for Virgin Galactic.

“We have to complete the test program ... we still have a number of glide flights and a number of powered flights and we’ll proceed through them like we have in our test program to date,” Palermo said. “We’re finishing the installation of the interior of the first spaceship, we have some final elements of information to give the FAA to close out our commercial launch license ... and then very soon we’ll be moving Unity to Spaceport America in New Mexico.”

The company will announce fourth quarter results on Feb. 25 after the market closes.

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It's getting crowded up there.

Lost of new satellites launched last week adding to the crush.

SpaceX launches fourth batch of Starlink satellites
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Jan 29, 2020

SpaceX launched the latest installment of the Starlink satellite network as planned at 9:06 a.m. EST on Wednesday into a sunny but cool Florida winter sky.

The Falcon 9 rocket carried 60 more Starlink spacecraft into orbit, the fourth time for such a feat. The mission lifted off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, about 8 miles northeast of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

 

Two satellites just avoided a head-on smash. How close did they come to disaster?
by Gregory Cohen | Associate Professor, Western Sydney University
Sydney, Australia (The Conservation) Jan 31, 2020

It appears we have missed another close call between two satellites - but how close did we really come to a catastrophic event in space?

It all began with a series of tweets from LeoLabs, a company that uses radar to track satellites and debris in space. It predicted that two obsolete satellites orbiting Earth had a 1 in 100 chance of an almost direct head-on collision at 9:39am AEST on 30 January, with potentially devastating consequences.

LeoLabs estimated that the satellites could pass within 15-30m of one another. Neither satellite could be controlled or moved. All we could do was watch whatever unfolded above us.

Collisions in space can be disastrous and can send high-speed debris in all directions. This endangers other satellites, future launches, and especially crewed space missions.

As a point of reference, NASA often moves the International Space Station when the risk of collision is just 1 in 100,000. Last year the European Space Agency moved one of its satellites when the likelihood of collision with a SpaceX satellite was estimated at 1 in 50,000. However, this increased to 1 in 1,000 when the US Air Force, which maintains perhaps the most comprehensive catalogue of satellites, provided more detailed information.

Following LeoLabs' warning, other organisations such as the Aerospace Corporation began to provide similarly worrying predictions. In contrast, calculations based on publicly available data were far more optimistic. Neither the US Air Force nor NASA issued any warning.

This was notable, as the United States had a role in the launch of both satellites involved in the near-miss. The first is the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), a large space telescope weighing around a tonne and launched in 1983. It successfully completed its mission later that year and has floated dormant ever since.

The second satellite has a slightly more intriguing story. Known as GGSE-4, it is a formerly secret government satellite launched in 1967. It was part of a much larger project to capture radar emissions from the Soviet Union. This particular satellite also contained an experiment to explore ways to stabilise satellites using gravity.

Weighing in at 83kg, it is much smaller than IRAS, but it has a very unusual and unfortunate shape. It has an 18m protruding arm with a weight on the end, thus making it a much larger target.

Almost 24 hours later, LeoLabs tweeted again. It downgraded the chance of a collision to 1 in 1,000, and revised the predicted passing distance between the satellites to 13-87m. Although still closer than usual, this was a decidedly smaller risk. But less than 15 hours after that, the company tweeted yet again, raising the probability of collision back to 1 in 100, and then to a very alarming 1 in 20 after learning about the shape of GGSE-4.

The good news is that the two satellites appear to have missed one another. Although there were a handful of eyewitness accounts of the IRAS satellite appearing to pass unharmed through the predicted point of impact, it can still take a few hours for scientists to confirm that a collision did not take place. LeoLabs has since confirmed it has not detected any new space debris.

But why did the predictions change so dramatically and so often? What happened?

Tricky situation
The real problem is that we don't really know precisely where these satellites are. That requires us to be extremely conservative, especially given the cost and importance of most active satellites, and the dramatic consequences of high-speed collisions.

The tracking of objects in space is often called Space Situational Awareness, and it is a very difficult task. One of the best methods is radar, which is expensive to build and operate. Visual observation with telescopes is much cheaper but comes with other complications, such as weather and lots of moving parts that can break down.

Another difficulty is that our models for predicting satellites' orbits don't work well in lower orbits, where drag from Earth's atmosphere can become a factor.

There is yet another problem. Whereas it is in the best interest of commercial satellites for everyone to know exactly where they are, this is not the case for military and spy satellites. Defence organisations do not share the full list of objects they are tracking.

This potential collision involved an ancient spy satellite from 1967. It is at least one that we can see. Given the difficulty of just tracking the satellites that we know about, how will we avoid satellites that are trying their hardest not to be seen?

In fact, much research has gone into building stealth satellites that are invisible from Earth. Even commercial industry is considering making satellites that are harder to see, partly in response to astronomers' own concerns about objects blotting out their view of the heavens. SpaceX is considering building "dark satellites" the reflect less light into telescopes on Earth, which will only make them harder to track.

What should we do?
The solution starts with developing better ways to track satellites and space debris. Removing the junk is an important next step, but we can only do that if we know exactly where it is.

Western Sydney University is developing biology-inspired cameras that can see satellites during the day, allowing them to work when other telescopes cannot. These sensors can also see satellites when they move in front of bright objects like the Moon.

There is also no clear international space law or policy, but a strong need for one. Unfortunately, such laws will be impossible to enforce if we cannot do a better job of figuring out what is happening in orbit around our planet.

 

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Record-setting astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth

NASA's Christina Koch spent 328 days in space, the longest ever spaceflight by a woman

The Associated Press · Posted: Feb 06, 2020 8:49 AM ET | Last Updated: an hour ago
2020-02-06T132611Z_900309184_RC21VE904A7
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NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who has spent nearly 11 months in orbit on the longest spaceflight by a woman, landed safely in Kazakhstan on Thursday along with two of her International Space Station crewmates.

The Soyuz capsule carrying Koch, along with station Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos' Alexander Skvortsov, touched down southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 3:12 p.m. (0912 GMT).

 

Koch wrapped up a 328-day mission on her first flight into space, providing researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman. The study is important since NASA plans to return to the moon under the Artemis program and prepare for the human exploration of Mars.

 
kazakhstan-russia-space-station.jpg
The Russian Soyuz MS-13 space capsule lands about 150 km southeast of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. In addition to NASA astronaut Christina Koch, it brought Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov back the International Space Station. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via Associated Press)

Koch smiled and gave a thumbs-up as support crew helped her get out of the capsule and placed her in a chair for a quick post-flight check-up alongside her crewmates. Russian space officials said they were in good shape.

Koch, who grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and now lives near the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, Texas, with her husband, Bob, told The Associated Press last month that taking part in the first all-female spacewalk was the highlight of her mission.

Koch said she and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir appreciated that the Oct. 18 spacewalk "could serve as an inspiration for future space explorers."

Parmitano and Skvortsov spent 201 days in space.

After preliminary medical evaluations, the crew will be flown by Russian helicopters to the city of Karaganda in Kazakhstan. Koch and Parmitano will then board a NASA plane bound for Cologne, Germany, where Parmitano will be greeted by European space officials before Koch proceeds home to Houston.

Skvortsov will be flown to the Star City Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow.

 
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NASA astronaut Christina Koch is helped out of the Russian Soyuz MS-13 space capsule about 150 kilometres southeast of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via Associated Press)
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