General Space Discussion (Thread 1)

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House hearing on the Artemis Moon landing program,





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To absolutely no one's surprise...but to N-G and Blue Origin's consternation,



Breaking News | Pentagon picks SpaceX and ULA to remain its primary launch providers


WASHINGTON — The Department of the Air Force announced Aug. 7 that incumbents United Launch Alliance and SpaceX have been selected to receive five-year contracts totaling $653 million to launch national security satellites for the U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

The companies beat Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman in the four-way competition known as the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement.

United Launch Alliance on Aug. 7 received a $337 million contract for two Phase 2 missions and SpaceX received a $316 million contract for one Phase 2 mission planned between between fiscal 2022 through fiscal 2027, according to the Pentagon’s announcement. The U.S. government’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Between 2022 and 2027 SpaceX and ULA will collectively will fly as many as 34 missions for the Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office under the firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery contracts.


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On 4/4/2018 at 11:17 PM, DocM said:

Europa Clipper update





Besides not wanting to put a $4 billion spacecraft in an industrial size mixer, SLS won't be available for Europa Clipper until 2025+ - but the spacecraft will be ready in 2024



Compatibility issue adds new wrinkle to Europa Clipper launch vehicle selection


WASHINGTON — A long-running debate about how to launch a multibillion-dollar NASA mission to Jupiter is now further complicated by potential technical issues involving one of the vehicles.

At an Aug. 17 meeting of NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee, Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said the Europa Clipper mission had recently discovered compatibility issues involving the Space Launch System, the vehicle preferred by Congress to launch the spacecraft.

“There have been some issues that have been uncovered just recently,” she said of the use of SLS for Europa Clipper. “We are in a lot of conversations right now with human exploration and others within the agency about what kind of steps we can take going forward.”

She did not elaborate on the compatibility issues regarding SLS. Such issues, industry sources say, likely involve the environment the spacecraft would experience during launch, such as vibrations. 


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NASA wants to buy moon samples,

Request For Quotations:


NASA wants to buy Moon rocks from private companies


Can you prove you’ve bagged lunar dirt? NASA will pay you

NASA is officially in the market for Moon rocks - and it’s willing to pay any company that’s capable of scooping them up.

Today, the space agency is putting out a call for proposals from companies, challenging them to snag small samples of rocks on the Moon’s surface. The companies will have to prove that they have collected lunar samples in some kind of small container by sending pictures and data to NASA. If satisfied, NASA pledges to purchase the samples for between $15,000 and $25,000. Eventually, NASA will retrieve the rock samples and bring them back to Earth.

NASA ultimately wants the exchange to happen before 2024 — the agency’s current deadline for sending people back to the Moon. For companies that can pull this off, NASA will pay a small portion of the money when awarding the contract and during launch. The rest of the funds will be received when the sample is bagged. NASA says it may also make multiple awards to separate companies that can grab Moon rocks.


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NASA + Space Force partnership, replacing the old NASA + USAF partnership.


More of a handoff than a policy change.



NASA affirms partnership with Space Force, Bridenstine stresses value of ‘soft power’


WASHINGTON — NASA and the U.S. Space Force have formally agreed to work together in areas like space policy, research, technology and the protection of the planet from hazardous objects such as asteroids.

Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond discussed the new memorandum of understanding Sept. 22 in a live virtual event hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

The memorandum replaces an agreement signed 14 years ago between NASA and the U.S. Air Force Space Command, which was disestablished when the Space Force was created Dec. 20, 2019.
NASA is a civilian agency and has no role in military operations. NASA would turn to the Space Force, for example, if its assets in orbit came under hostile attack. “The space domain is becoming more challenging and those challenges affect NASA just like they affect the commercial operators,” said Bridenstine. “And that’s really where we rely on the Space Force to be supportive of what we’re trying to achieve.”


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New FAA space transportation reforms


Largely a streamlining





U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces Historic Commercial Space Transportation Reforms


Press Release From: FAA
Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2020

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today announced the publication of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements Final Rule (PDF) for commercial space transportation launches and reentries.

“This historic, comprehensive update to commercial space launch and reentry licensing requirements facilitates greater growth in this industry and helps America to maintain our #1 position in the world,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

This rule modernizes the way FAA regulates and licenses commercial space operations and allows the burgeoning aerospace industry to continue to innovate and grow, while maintaining public safety. 

Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Dr. Scott Pace said, “In meeting the President’s mandate in Space Policy Directive-2 to streamline regulations on commercial spaceflight, the Department of Transportation is strengthening the United States’ continued leadership in space commerce. I commend Secretary Chao, the Department, and the Office of Commercial Space Transportation for updating launch regulations and licensing to ensure the United States remains the flag of choice for the growing commercial space sector.”

The new rule consolidates four regulatory parts and applies a single set of licensing and safety regulations for all types of vehicle operations. It also provides flexibility for operators to meet safety requirements. The rule improves efficiency by encouraging launch and reentry operators to suggest and implement design and operational solutions to meet the regulatory standards.

“This rule paves the way for an industry that is moving at lightning speed,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “We are simplifying the licensing process and enabling industry to move forward in a safe manner.” 

The final rule’s improved application processes allow:

A single operator’s license that can be used to support multiple launches or reentries from potentially multiple launch site locations.

Early review when applicants submit portions of their license application incrementally.

Applicants to negotiate mutually agreeable reduced time frames for submittals and application review periods.

Applicants to apply for a safety element approval with a license application, instead of needing to submit a separate application.

Additional flexibility on how to demonstrate high consequence event protection.

Neighboring operations personnel to stay during launch or reentry in certain circumstances.

Ground safety oversight to be scoped to better fit the safety risks and reduce duplicative requirements when operating at a federal site.

This rule will become effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. The FAA will initially seek public comment (for a period of 30 days) on three Advisory Circulars  (ACs) on the following topics:  High Consequence Protection (PDF), High Fidelity Flight Safety Analysis (PDF), and Computing Systems and Software (PDF). The FAA may issue updated versions of these ACs if warranted based on comments received.  Each AC will contain a feedback form with specific instructions on how to provide comments to the FAA on that AC.

Twenty-four additional ACs will be published within one year or as needed. Legacy licenses can still be used for up to five years after the rule’s effective date.

FAA is responsible for ensuring the protection of the public, property, national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S. during commercial launch or reentry activities. The agency also encourages, facilitates, and promotes U.S. commercial space transportation. To date, FAA has licensed or permitted more than 380 launches and reentries.

// end //


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What's happening with that Bigelow module that was installed on the ISS a few years ago? Not heard anything about it in quite a long time...

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8 hours ago, FloatingFatMan said:

What's happening with that Bigelow module that was installed on the ISS a few years ago? Not heard anything about it in quite a long time...

I think it's now a permanent part of the station. But yeah, I've not heard much about Bigelow for a while.

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15 hours ago, FloatingFatMan said:

What's happening with that Bigelow module that was installed on the ISS a few years ago? Not heard anything about it in quite a long time...


It's part of the station for now, but Covid-19 closures in Nevada caused Bigelow to shut down & lay everyone off just as they were bidding for an even larger ISS module. Bigelow's shutdown resulted in Axiom Space getting the ISS contract, and their station module will be attached about 2024. Built by Thales Alenia.


Even before then Axiom will be flying commercial "Spaceflight Participants" to ISS using Crew Dragon starting Q4 2021. What of Bigelow's future? Unknown, but Sierra Nevada Corp. (of Dream Chaser) is also building an inflatable habitat called LIFE (Large Inflatable Fabric Environment).  SNC has big bux.


Under US law commercial Spaceflight Participants get FAA commercial spaceflight wings, not NASA astronaut wings.


FAA wings


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NASA and FAA commercial spaceflight partnership, including point-to-point suborbital transportation as SpaceX has proposed for Starship; less than 30 minutes to most anywhere within 10,000 km.


Jan. 8, 2021

RELEASE 21-002


NASA, FAA Partnership Bolsters American Commercial Space Activities


NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) reaffirming the agencies’ longstanding relationship to foster robust American commercial space transportation capabilities, including commercial crew and cargo activities.

The NASA-FAA MOU follows the success of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 launch – the first crewed mission from American soil to be licensed by the FAA.


The new agreement will support the transportation of government and non-government passengers, cargo, and other payloads for orbital and suborbital space missions in a safe and cost-effective manner, as well as streamline spaceflight standards and requirements.


“NASA is now flying commercial cargo and crew missions to the International Space Station, and soon we will send more people and science to space on new suborbital flights,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Our partnership with the FAA will support the growth of American commercial aerospace capabilities that will benefit NASA, the nation, and the entire world.”


Under the MOU, NASA and the FAA will focus on building a clear framework for private industry to follow for commercial launch and re-entry, as well as coordinating an approach for sharing safety data with the public to enhance understanding of the known risks of commercial space travel. NASA also will collaborate with the FAA on the licensing of orbital and suborbital flights, facilitating new space technologies and research opportunities, and advancing point-to-point commercial suborbital pilot programs. The FAA is responsible for the regulations governing commercial space launch and re-entry licensing. 

“The partnership between the FAA and NASA is vital to continue the growth, innovation and safety of commercial space operations, and maintain the pre-eminence of U.S. leadership in the aerospace sector,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.


Continuing this partnership is critical to achieving the goals and objectives of multiple U.S. space policies, including the 2020 National Space Policy and Space Policy Directives 1, 2, and 3. The MOU also builds upon existing collaborations, including between the FAA and NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, which helped develop a framework for flying researchers from industry and academia on commercial suborbital flights, allowing them to propose to fly with their NASA-sponsored payloads for the first time.


NASA also is collaborating with the FAA on commercial suborbital spaceflight activities through the Commercial Crew Program’s Suborbital Crew (SubC) efforts to extend suborbital space transportation capabilities for NASA astronauts and other NASA personnel.


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Some interesting NASA commercial info in this Twitter thread.


There will be a new Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) board running the ISS National Laboratory, new rounds of Commercial Crew, Cargo and...Destinations (!) starting in the mid-2020's.


New capabilities, lower costs, phasing out ISS (hinting at multiple commercial space stations), developing free-flying space platforms, etc. 


Morgan Stanley estimates the "space economy" could grow to $1 trillion, while other analysts think they're underestimating it.


Thread (first post below, click to read)



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