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Virgin entering phase of “final confirmation firings” before first powered SpaceShipTwo flight | NewSpace Journal

Virgin entering phase of “final confirmation firings” before first powered SpaceShipTwo flight | NewSpace Journal | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

SpaceShipTwo, the suborbital vehicle under development by Virgin Galactic and its partner Scaled Composites, has been on the verge of beginning powered flights for a few months now, after performing a glide flight in a “powered flight configuration” in December. There’s been little news from Virgin since then, until a blog post today by Sir Richard Branson himself about a first-of-its-kind nighttime test of SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor. Much of the blog post is a description of the February 28th test written by Matt Stinemetze, the Scaled program manager for SS2. The key item from the post is at the end, where Stinemetze writes that this test was the “first in a rapid series of final confirmation firings leading up to SpaceShipTwo’s first rocket powered flight.”

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NewSpace: A New Era In Space Exploration. As one era ends a new one begins: a new golden era in spaceflight. Join us for all the latest headlines in this bold new adventure.
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Elevating Unity - Episode 1: Captive Carry

On September 8, 2016, our new SpaceShipTwo--VSS Unity--took to the skies for the first time. This is first ever flight of a vehicle built by our manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company.

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Rocket Crafters notes safety of hybrid rockets after SpaceX disaster

Rocket Crafters notes safety of hybrid rockets after SpaceX disaster | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

SpaceFlight Insider spoke with former NASA astronaut and current Rocket Crafters CEO and Chairman Sid Gutierrez about the potential of hybrid rockets in the wake of the Sept. 1, 2016, explosion that consumed a SpaceX Falcon 9, its Amos-6 satellite, and damaged the launch site at Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40.

 

According to Gutierrez, the propellants used couldn’t be safer. Nitrous oxide (N2O – more commonly known as laughing gas) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) – the same material that Lego bricks are made from. He noted that ABS is transportable on commercial aircraft, a far cry from cryogenic fuels.

 

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is fueled by a mixture of RP-1 (highly refined rocket-grade kerosene) and liquid oxygen. The volatile nature of this mixture was made apparent with this month’s accident at SLC-40.

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Falcon accident investigation points to breach in rocket’s helium system | SpaceNews.com

Falcon accident investigation points to breach in rocket’s helium system | SpaceNews.com | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

WASHINGTON — Investigators have traced the explosion that destroyed a SpaceX Falcon 9 on the pad Sept. 1 to a “large breach” in the helium system in the rocket’s second stage, although the root cause of the accident remains unknown.

In a Sept. 23 update, the first released by the company in nearly three weeks, SpaceX said that an accident investigation team continues to study evidence from the explosion that took place while the rocket was being fueled for a static-fire test.

“At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place,” the company said in a statement. What caused that breach, though, is still a mystery.

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SpaceX continuing to press toward Amos-6 failure root cause | NASASpaceFlight.com

SpaceX continuing to press toward Amos-6 failure root cause | NASASpaceFlight.com | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

SpaceX is still working towards a root cause into the failure of its Falcon 9 during a Static Fire test. The failure, which resulted in the destruction of the rocket and the Amos-6 satellite, originated in the second stage LOX tank’s helium pressurization system, although the specific cause of the anomaly is not yet fully understood. SpaceX is still hopeful it will be able to return to launch action in November.

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NASA to have limited role in SpaceX’s planned Mars campaign | Spaceflight Now

NASA to have limited role in SpaceX’s planned Mars campaign | Spaceflight Now | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

Expertise, input and advice from seasoned NASA engineers will improve SpaceX’s chances of nailing the first commercial landing on Mars as soon as late 2018, a senior space agency official said Wednesday, but Elon Musk’s space transport company will likely seek more independence from U.S. government support on later expeditions to the red planet.

While considered high risk by NASA standards, the Red Dragon Mars mission revealed by SpaceX in April has a “reasonable likelihood” of success, according to Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development.

McAlister said NASA will act as a consultant to SpaceX on the Red Dragon project, the first of a series of Mars landers planned by the Hawthorne, California-based company. NASA’s participation will diminish in later missions, he said.

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The new era of heavy lift | The Space Review

The new era of heavy lift | The Space Review | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

Last week, Blue Origin unveiled its planned orbital launch vehicle, New Glenn, that likely will be able to place payloads weighing dozens of metric tons into low Earth orbit. Jeff Foust notes it’s the latest development in heavy-lift vehicles that include programs by NASA and SpaceX.

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Commercial crew: two years after contracts, two years until flights | The Space Review

Commercial crew: two years after contracts, two years until flights | The Space Review | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

Last week marked the second anniversary of NASA’s award of commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX. Jeff Foust reports that, despite initial hopes that one or both vehicles would be ready by the end of 2017, delays until late 2018 are looking increasingly likely for both.

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A tale of two launchers | The Space Review

A tale of two launchers | The Space Review | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

As SpaceX continued to investigate a mysterious pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9, United Launch Alliance flawlessly launched another NASA mission. Jeff Foust reports on those developments and their implications for both companies.

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Blasting to conclusions | The Space Review

Blasting to conclusions | The Space Review | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

An explosion during a test earlier this month destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload, and damaged its launch pad. Jeff Foust examines the implications of the accident for SpaceX and other companies and organizations.

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Airbus invests in 4 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites - with no government net | SpaceNews.com

Airbus invests in 4 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites - with no government net | SpaceNews.com | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

PARIS — Airbus Defence and Space on Sept. 15 said it would finance, apparently on its own, a constellation of four very-high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites to launch in 2020 and 2021.

The program, which industry officials said likely represents a capital investment of more than 500 million euros ($550 million), was surprising to the extent that many Airbus officials regretted the company’s 2009 decision to invest 300 million euros into two medium-resolution optical satellites, called Spot 6 and Spot 7.

Then as now, Airbus was concerned about protecting its existing geospatial imagery business even if it meant making a commitment without any guarantee by the French government or any other anchor customer.

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Mowry leaving Arianespace for Blue Origin | SpaceNews.com

Mowry leaving Arianespace for Blue Origin | SpaceNews.com | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

WASHINGTON — Clay Mowry, the longtime president of Arianespace’s U.S. subsidiary, is stepping down from the European launch services provider to join Blue Origin.

Wiener Kernisan — vice president of sales and marketing for Washington-based Arianespace Inc. — will succeed succeed Mowry as Arianespace Inc. president Sept. 26, according to an Arianespace press release.

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Two companies win first NOAA commercial weather contracts | SpaceNews.com

Two companies win first NOAA commercial weather contracts | SpaceNews.com | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded contracts Sept. 15 to two companies to provide weather data as part of a pilot program that could lead to greater uses of data from commercial satellites.

NOAA announced that it awarded Commercial Weather Data Pilot contracts to Pasadena, California-based GeoOptics and San Francisco-based Spire Global. The GeoOptics contract is worth $695,000 and the Spire Global contract is valued at $370,000.

Under the contracts, the two companies will each provide GPS radio occultation data from commercial satellites. Such data provides profiles of atmospheric temperature and humidity that can be incorporated into forecasting models. NOAA will assess the data to determine how useful it is before making decisions on acquiring more data.

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Bridenstine: Legislation Necessary to Regulate New Types of Commercial Space Activities

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) used a teleconference meeting of the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) on Wednesday to explain why he believes legislation is indeed necessary to ensure that the U.S. government complies with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty in authorizing and continually supervising U.S. companies engaged in non-traditional commercial space activities.  His draft legislation was the topic of the teleconference, a timely discussion coming just one day after Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) expressed a very different point of view.

The COMSTAC meeting was announced weeks ago with the single purpose of discussing Bridenstine's draft legislation.  COMSTAC advises the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).  Its members represent many of the companies involved in both traditional and non-traditional space businesses. Mike Gold, Vice President of Washington Operations for SSL (formerly Space System Loral), chairs the committee, which reports to FAA/AST Associate Administrator George Nield. 

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Falcon 9 explosion narrowed to helium system failure

Falcon 9 explosion narrowed to helium system failure | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

Faster than the blink of an eye – that’s how little time there was between the first sign of an anomaly and the loss of the Falcon 9 rocket with the AMOS-6 satellite during a pre-flight test propellant loading operation on Sept. 1, 2016. After poring over the data, SpaceX engineers have narrowed down the likely cause of the explosion to a failure in the upper stage’s helium system.

Largely silent in the days following the incident, SpaceX has provided scant information on the progress of the investigation – until now. In a release issued by the company Sept. 23, 2016, SpaceX outlined some of the findings of the Accident Investigation Team (AIT) – composed of SpaceX, the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and industry experts – and on the condition of the infrastructure at Launch Complex 40 (LC-40).

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Falcon 9 rocket explosion traced to upper stage helium system | Spaceflight Now

Falcon 9 rocket explosion traced to upper stage helium system | Spaceflight Now | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

The investigation into a dramatic Falcon 9 rocket explosion earlier this month at Cape Canaveral has determined a “large breach” in the launcher’s upper stage helium pressurization system led to the destruction of the booster and its $200 million satellite payload, SpaceX said Friday.

Officials said returning to flight “safely and reliably” with the Falcon 9 rocket, a critical vehicle for NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program for the International Space Station, is SpaceX’s top priority.

The inquiry, led by SpaceX with assistance from government and industry experts, is still looking into the cause of the breach, which may be only a symptom and not the root of the Sept. 1 mishap. The spectacular explosion occurred as the 23-story rocket was being fueled for a preflight engine firing at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad.

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SpaceX says probe into Falcon 9 launch pad blast points to helium system leak

SpaceX says probe into Falcon 9 launch pad blast points to helium system leak | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

SpaceX says an investigation into the launch pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload has turned up evidence of a “large breach” in the supercooled helium system for the oxygen tank on the rocket’s second stage.

Today’s update made clear that the root cause of the Sept. 1 blast at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida has not yet been identified. Nevertheless, SpaceX said it anticipated to return to flight as early as November, “pending the results of the investigation.”

SpaceX is leading the investigation, just as it did last year when a Falcon 9 broke apart shortly after liftoff. That mishap involved a component inside the second-stage oxygen tank, but today the company said it’s ruled out a connection between the two blasts.

“All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated,” SpaceX said.

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Anomaly Updates

Anomaly Updates | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

"At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place. All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated. Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection with last year’s CRS-7 mishap."

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Blue Origin's future rocket plans - 9.29

Blue Origin announced their New Glenn orbital rocket this last week. We take a peek at the history of Blue Origin, where they are now, what they have announced and the possible New Armstrong tease could mean.

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Launch failures: non-launch mishaps | The Space Review

Launch failures: non-launch mishaps | The Space Review | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

The pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket early this month during preparations for a static fire test was rare, but not unprecedented. Wayne Eleazer examines some of the previous pad mishaps in the history of the Space Age.

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Selecting from the flight demonstration spectrum | The Space Review

Selecting from the flight demonstration spectrum | The Space Review | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

An aerospace flight demonstrator can help prove technologies and business cases for full-scale vehicles, if they’re selected properly. Steve Hoeser describes the various types of flight demonstrators and how they should best be used to further a vehicle development effort.

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How we settle Mars is more important than when | The Space Review

How we settle Mars is more important than when | The Space Review | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

Much of the discussion about human missions to Mars has focused on the technical challenges of such missions. Joelle Renstrom argues that the various ethical considerations of such missions should not be ignored.

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Meet the Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut inspiring classrooms of young people to dream big

Meet the Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut inspiring classrooms of young people to dream big | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

Future Astronauts and Virgin Galactic staff members are working across the world to educate and inspire the next generation of rocket scientists and space travellers – their vision leading to community outreach initiatives and multiple global partnership collaborations.

Our 'What's Your Mission' series profiles members from this incredible community – sharing their inspiring stories, dreams, and how their upcoming space travel is enriching not only their own lives, but the lives of young people all over the world.

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Senators introduce NASA authorization bill | SpaceNews.com

Senators introduce NASA authorization bill | SpaceNews.com | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan NASA authorization bill introduced by several senators Sept. 15 would require NASA to evaluate alternatives to its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and develop a plan to transition activities currently performed on the International Space Station to commercial platforms.

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, is intended to address policy issues and give the agency some degree of certainty as a new administration takes office in January.

“This NASA reauthorization bill brings us one step closer to reasserting American leadership in space by ensuring NASA has the certainty it needs to continue to grow and improve upon what it does best: lead the world in space exploration,” Cruz said in a Sept. 16 statement announcing the bill.

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Proposed legislation would close commercial space regulatory gap | SpaceNews.com

Proposed legislation would close commercial space regulatory gap | SpaceNews.com | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Legislation under development by Rep. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.) would seek to eliminate uncertainty about how some novel commercial space ventures would be regulated by the U.S. government.

The bill, discussed at a Sept. 14 teleconference of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), would create an “enhanced payload review” under the FAA’s authority for all commercial missions not otherwise currently licensed by other agencies.

The purpose of the legislation is to eliminate uncertainty about which federal agency would have oversight of the mission in order to provide the “authorization and continuing supervision” required by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. This oversight is currently provided by the Federal Communications Commission for communications satellites and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrator for remote sensing satellites.

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Spire, GeoOptics Win First NOAA Commercial Weather Data Contracts

NOAA made its first two awards today under the Commercial Weather Data Pilot program created by Congress last year.  The winners are Spire Global and GeoOptics, both of which will provide radio occultation data to NOAA for evaluation to determine whether commercial data can be incorporated into NOAA’s numerical weather models.

Congress provided $3 million to NOAA in the FY2016 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations act (Division B of the FY2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act) for the pilot program.  It required NOAA to enter into at least one pilot project through an open competitive process to purchase, evaluate and calibrate commercial weather data and to submit a report on how it would implement the project.  NOAA publicly released that report in April.

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Jeff Bezos’ New Glenn rocket could win the race to send people to Mars.

Jeff Bezos’ New Glenn rocket could win the race to send people to Mars. | The NewSpace Daily | Scoop.it

Jeff Bezos is joining the big boys of commercial spaceflight. His company, Blue Origin, announced Monday that it will build a rocket called the New Glenn that is capable of putting payloads into orbit.

The New Glenn, which Blue Origin has spent four years developing, is an ambitious leap for a company that paints turtles on its reusable rockets (because “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”). A single-stage rocket will be capable of reaching low Earth orbit, and multiple stages will fly even higher. That’s a big advancement over its New Shepard, which barely skims the edge of space. And compared to the Falcon 9, SpaceX’s workhorse rocket, the taller, thicker New Glenn boasts more than twice the thrust at liftoff. A bigger rocket could put Bezos—whose company has yet to put anything in orbit—ahead in the race to send humans to Mars.

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