Cygnus docking signals another major eSpace success on the same day!


An Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo ship reached the International Space Station early Sunday and was captured by the lab’s robot arm. The successful rendezvous marked a major milestone for NASA and a program to fund development of commercial cargo carries to replace capacity lost with the space shuttle’s retirement. (Credit: NASA TV)

To the Moon Gracie!

AWST Staff: Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report : NASA Calls For Private Lunar Lander Partners20130718-210636.jpg

Piggybacking on the Google Lunar X Prize and various commercial endeavors, NASA has offered its expertise and test facilities to potential lunar-lander partners who might be able to help mount scientific missions to the Moon’s surface as early as 2018.

A request for information published July 2 seeks concepts for “an industry-developed robotic lander that can be integrated with a launch vehicle for the purposes of supporting commercial (and potentially future NASA) missions.”

The U.S. space agency is interested in landers that can put two classes of payload on the lunar surface — 30-100 kg. (70-220 lb.) and 250-450 kg. Potential missions “of interest to NASA” include prospecting for volatiles at the Moon’s poles, sample return and setting up geophysical networks.

“U.S. industry is flourishing with innovative ideas based on NASA’s pioneering work to explore space, including low-Earth orbit and the Moon,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations (HEO) in Washington. He suggested that, data from commercial lunar landers, like space station research, could aid the agency’s plans to explore an asteroid and Mars.

“New robotic commercial capabilities on the Moon could extend that research in important ways, just as NASA expertise could help advance commercial endeavors to reach the Moon.”

The HEO directorate is proposing no-exchange-of-funds partnerships under Space Act agreements or other mechanisms, offering its technical expertise, unique test facilities, and some hardware and software to private companies willing to put up funding for lander development.

“NASA envisions that an integrated team comprised of NASA civil servants and the industry partner personnel could work together to design, develop and test landers,” the RFI says.

Responses to the RFI are due Aug. 2. Interest in private lunar landers has soared over the past three years after Google offered $30 million in prizes through the X Prize Foundation to teams that can land a robotic spacecraft on the lunar surface, have it move at least 500 meters, and send back video, images and data. Presently 22 teams worldwide are in the running, working against a deadline of Dec. 31, 2015.

‘Nuff said, really cool stuff

Slash/Gear NASA 3D printed rocket injector test firing


…NASA didn’t use ABS plastic that most 3D-printers use. Instead, the agency used custom 3D printers to spray layers of metallic powder using lasers. The lasers spray the powder in a specific pattern in order to come up with the desired shape for an object. In this case: a rocket engine injector.

Read more at: Slash/Gear

For Hubble, a long healthy life possible, could it be extended further?

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Healthy Hubble telescope raises hopes of longer life BY WILLIAM HARWOOD FOR CBS NEWS “SPACE PLACE”

We can hope that it lasts long enough for a new manned or unmanned service mission. Hubble would seem to be an ideal target for a robotic repair mission demonstrating sophisticated, heavy weight-complex repair mission/capability.

Going to Mars, but Talk about the negative!

20130530-184745.jpg20130530-184752.jpg20130530-184758.jpgWIRED: Why We Can’t Send Humans to Mars Yet (And How We’ll Fix That)
This is a good article and it has an excellent recap of needed technology, but it is in my opinion reduced in power by a negative tone. It seems biased by a drum beat I have been seeing about how hard, how expensive, how risky…etc, and while I appreciate the challenges one does not open frontiers by dwelling on all the horrid ways one is likely to die. This also seems Blue centric NASA, NASA, NASA. In the end the commercial civilian drive will send us outbound not risk averse bureaucrats.

To The Moon!


Vision of an international research base on the Moon. Credit: ESA

New report indicates private industry interested in building moon base: by Bob Yirka

Two months ago NASA commissioned Bigelow Aerospace to conduct a survey of the corporate sector to learn about private enterprise plans for space exploration. While the report has not yet been completed, Bigelow president Robert Bigelow and NASA’s head of space operations William Gerstenmaier held a teleconference with reporter’s to discuss findings thus far
Bigelow told those on the line that he and his company have surveyed approximately 20 of the biggest names in aerospace, including some foreign entities. He says the major area of interest for aerospace companies right now is in establishing a permanent presence on the moon. Gerstenmaier responded by suggesting NASA would welcome such a development as it would work well with the agency’s future plans.

NASA may support SST x-plane


An artist’s concept shows Lockheed Martin’s low-boom supersonic airliner. (Courtesy: NASA)
Science and resultant technology may well have made Low Boom supersonic flight practical. A 100 to 150 passenger aircraft could fly NY to LA in something like 2 hours, making one day two way coast to coast trips a practical comfortable reality for premium passengers. This has been impossible because of the glass breaking, cattle disturbing sonic boom, but now aerodynamics and aircraft technology have shown a road forward.

With the ending of NASA’s last ‘five year plan’ on ultra efficient airliners, money will be available to build a scale but largish (fighter sized I’d guess) x-plane to make test flights provingthe boom mitigating design techniques. This sounds like a great idea, the sort of thing that NASA should be doing, has been doing, quietly, since its founding as NACA all those decades ago.

The Senatorial Launch System | Asteroid Capture | Clueless Politicians | Pork | Engineering Jobs + Corporate Welfare


Broadly, the administration envisions sending a probe as soon as 2017 to capture a 25-foot, 500-ton asteroid and tug it near the moon – possibly to a spot about 277,000 miles from Earth that would use competing gravitational forces to allow it to “sit” there. Astronauts flying NASA’s new Orion capsule and Space Launch System rocket then would visit it to take samples and possibly set foot on its surface.

This plan is getting pushback because its not a return to the moon or a Mars landing plan. But the reality is that this idea is all NASA can afford given the cost involved with the Senatorial ( or Space, take your pick) Launch System A Saturn V + class heavy lift direct ascent launch system

The lack of resistance is tied to Senate support of the Space Launch System. Senators from key NASA states – Florida, Texas and Alabama – pushed President Barack Obama to build it, and the asteroid mission is seen as a way to give purpose to the rocket, once criticized as a “rocket to nowhere.”
Illustrative of that point was the initial reaction of Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
“NASA should continue to explore the universe and challenge scientific and technical boundaries,” he said in a statement. “However, NASA should maintain focus on its core mission and continue development of the Space Launch System so that it will be ready for any future NASA mission.”

So my question is, why the SLS, don’t get me wrong some of the SLS related work like resurrecting the Saturn V F1 engine (as I pointed to a few days ago) is a good thing, but reality is it should be part of getting a commercial venture to back development. NASA shoulddevelop Orion and its support module, but the booster should be gov’t sponsored / stimulated effort as part of a get to the moon, Mars, big asteroids plan, in support of the commercial civilian space efforts.
If you look at all the recently proposed and ongoing civilian efforts and roll in appropriate gov’mnt support you can see a very robust human and robotic space development plan emerge.
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Soviet era rocket tech powers Anteres


File photo of the NK-33 engine firing on a test stand. Credit: Aerojet

From space flight now an article on Orbital Science’s Anteres launcher, specifically the rocket engines. It’s interesting that the Soviets were so good at some things and awful at others.

But then engineering is a very neutral endeavor and one that can adsorb your passion and develop your stoic nature…very good things in Stalinist Russia.

One should also remember that while ‘the west’ got the ‘brains’ of the Nazi German Rocket cadre (like Werner vonBraun) the Russian’s got the great majority, the working engineer types, who in the end have to slog through the agony of turning strokes of genius into real hardware, and it’s the slog that gets you deep capability not the strokes.