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Seven US Companies Collaborate with NASA to Advance Space Capabilities

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NASA will partner with seven U.S. companies to meet future commercial and government needs, ultimately benefitting human spaceflight and the U.S. commercial low Earth orbit economy.

Blue Origin’s launch and manufacturing complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Credits: Blue Origin

Through unfunded Space Act Agreements, the second Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities-2 initiative (CCSC-2) is designed to advance commercial space-related efforts through NASA contributions of technical expertise, assessments, lessons learned, technologies, and data. Structured sharing of NASA expertise demands minimal government resources but fosters development of capabilities that can be crucial to development of a robust low Earth orbit economy.

The companies selected for the Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities-2 are:

  • Blue Origin, Kent, Washington
  • Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, Dulles, Virginia
  • Sierra Space Corporation, Broomfield, Colorado
  • Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, Hawthorne, California
  • Special Aerospace Services, Boulder, Colorado
  • ThinkOrbital Inc., Lafayette, Colorado
  • Vast Space LLC, Long Beach, California
 
Artist’s concept of Sierra Space’s crewed Dream Chaser spaceplane docking to the company’s LIFE habitat.Credits: Sierra Space

“It is great to see companies invest their own capital toward innovative commercial space capabilities, and we’ve seen how these types of partnerships benefit both the private sector and NASA,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “The companies can leverage NASA’s vast knowledge and experience, and the agency can be a customer for the capabilities included in the agreements in the future. Ultimately, these agreements will foster more competition for services and more providers for innovative space capabilities.”

 
SpaceX’s Starship rocket sits on a launch pad at the company’s Starbase in Texas.Credits: SpaceX

NASA selected these proposals based on an evaluation of their relevance to achieving the agency’s goals and its ability to provide the requested resources, as well as the feasibility of the company’s business and technical approach. Each party bears the cost of its participation through the agreements.

 
A Special Aerospace Services engineer tests the company’s Autonomous Maneuvering Unit.Credits: Special Aerospace Services

Projects

Blue Origin is collaborating with NASA to develop integrated commercial space transportation capability that ensures safe, affordable, and high-frequency US access to orbit for crew and other missions.

 
Artist’s concept of ThinkOrbital’s ThinkPlatform in low Earth orbit.Credits: ThinkOrbital

Northrop Grumman is collaborating with NASA on the company’s Persistent Platform to provide autonomous and robotic capabilities for commercial science research and manufacturing capabilities in low Earth orbit

Sierra Space is collaborating with NASA for the development of the company’s commercial low Earth orbit ecosystem, including next-generation space transportation, in-space infrastructure, and expandable and tailorable space facilities providing a human presence in low Earth orbit.

 
Artist’s concept of Vast’s Haven-1 commercial space station in low Earth orbit.Credits: Vast

SpaceX is collaborating with NASA on an integrated low Earth orbit architecture to provide a growing portfolio of technology with near-term Dragon evolution and concurrent Starship development. This architecture includes Starship as a transportation and in-space low-Earth orbit destination element supported by Super Heavy, Dragon, and Starlink, and constituent capabilities including crew and cargo transportation, communications, and operational and ground support.

Special Aerospace Services is collaborating with NASA on an in-space servicing technology, propulsion, and robotic technology called the Autonomous Maneuvering Unit (AMU) and the Astronaut Assist-AMU for commercial in-space servicing and mobility applications intended for safer assembly of commercial low Earth orbit destinations, servicing, retrieval, and inspection of in-space systems.

ThinkOrbital is collaborating with NASA on the development of ThinkPlatforms and CONTESA (Construction Technologies for Space Applications). ThinkPlatforms are self-assembling, single-launch, large-scale orbital platforms that facilitate a wide array of applications in low Earth orbit, including in-space research, manufacturing, and astronaut missions. CONTESA features welding, cutting, inspection, and additive manufacturing technologies, and aids in large-scale in-space fabrication.

Vast is collaborating with NASA on technologies and operations required for its microgravity and artificial gravity stations. This includes the Haven-1 commercial destination, which will provide a microgravity environment for crew, research, and in-space manufacturing, and the first crewed mission, called Vast-1, to the platform. Development activities for larger space station modules will also take place under the Space Act Agreement.

NASA’s support for a robust low Earth orbit economy is intended to boost education and job growth in science and engineering, and to spur economic growth through the creation of new space markets. The first Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities selections in 2014 supported development of four collaborations associated commercial rockets, spacecraft, and spacesuits.

For decades, NASA has supported a continuous U.S. human presence in low Earth orbit with astronauts living and working aboard the International Space Station. In 2019, NASA adopted a strategy to help achieve the agency’s goal of a low Earth orbit marketplace where NASA is one of many customers and the private sector leads the way. This strategy will enable NASA to continue using low Earth orbit to foster scientific discovery and technology development that both improves life on Earth and advances human exploration into deep space.

For more information about NASA initiatives and commercial space, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/leo-economy

Source: NASA

aerospace

Sierra Space Unveils Dream Chaser Spaceplane: A New Era in Space Travel

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spaceplane ‘Tenacity’ brings a futuristic touch to space travel, poised to visit the ISS. #SpaceExploration

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Colorado-based space company Sierra Space recently showcased its remarkable Dream Chaser spaceplane at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. This private spacecraft, named “Tenacity,” boasts a design reminiscent of NASA’s iconic Space Shuttle, blended with futuristic elements like aerodynamic wings straight out of a sci-fi movie.

Dream Chaser. (2024, February 8). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_Chaser

Standing 55 feet tall atop its cargo module, Tenacity is scheduled to embark on its historic journey to the International Space Station later this year. The spaceplane is set to launch vertically on the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket, following in the footsteps of successful missions like Astrobotic’s lunar lander deployment.

Upon reentry to Earth, Tenacity will elegantly glide back using its wings, offering a safe alternative to traditional parachute and ocean landings for cargo and, eventually, crew members. Sierra Space’s CEO, Tom Vice, stressed the importance of rigorous testing to ensure the spacecraft’s resilience in the harsh conditions of outer space.

As Sierra Space prepares for Tenacity’s maiden voyage to the ISS in the first half of the year, the company faces stiff competition in the commercial space industry. NASA’s partnerships have already seen SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully complete numerous crew and uncrewed missions to the space station.

Sierra Space’s bold entry into the spaceplane arena promises exciting developments in space travel and cargo transportation. The company’s commitment to innovation and safety echoes the spirit of exploration that drives humanity’s forays beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

This blog post is based on a cool article I read on Futurism’s website by Victor Tangermann.

https://futurism.com/sierra-space-reveals-star-wars-looking-new-spaceship

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Sonic Boom Startles West Valley Residents: Understanding the Phenomenon and Its Impact

Sonic booms: Understanding the loud surprise that rattled Buckeye, Arizona, and its impact on communities.

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Photo by Omar Barrera on Pexels.com

Residents of Buckeye, Arizona woke up to an unexpected surprise on Tuesday morning when a loud sonic boom rattled the area. The source? An F-16 jet from the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base. While the incident left many startled, it also sparked curiosity about the nature of sonic booms and their implications.

Check out the 12news story: https://www.12news.com/article/news/national/military-news/sonic-boom-heard-west-valley-tuesday-luke-afb/75-6bc006af-2b1c-4846-b5be-5652274a10f7

What is a sonic boom?

A sonic boom is an intense sound that occurs when an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound (approximately 750 miles per hour at sea level). The U.S. Air Force describes it as an “impulsive noise” akin to the thunderous sound of an approaching storm. This phenomenon occurs when an aircraft breaks the sound barrier, creating a rapid change in air pressure that leads to the characteristic shockwave.

Luke Air Force Base’s Response

In response to the recent incident, a spokesperson for the 56th Fighter Wing assured the community that procedures within the airspace are specifically designed to mitigate sonic booms, preventing them from disturbing residents in the West Valley Phoenix area. Sean Clements, chief of media relations, emphasized the Air Force’s commitment to investigating the event and ensuring the safety and well-being of the local community.

The Impact of Sonic Booms

Sonic booms can startle individuals, rattle windows, and even cause minor structural vibrations. While military aircraft are capable of supersonic speeds and have been conducting faster-than-sound test flights since 1947, efforts are made to minimize the impact of these events on civilian populations.

Community Awareness and Safety

The recent sonic boom incident serves as a reminder of the importance of community awareness and safety when it comes to military training activities. As technology continues to advance, it is crucial for both military personnel and civilians to remain vigilant about the potential impact of such events.

Moving Forward

As investigations into the recent incident unfold, it is imperative for the Luke Air Force Base and the local community to maintain open communication and transparency. By working together, both parties can ensure that proper measures are in place to minimize disruptions caused by sonic booms.

In conclusion, while the sonic boom in Buckeye, Arizona may have caused a moment of surprise for residents, it also provides an opportunity to understand the nature of these events and the efforts made to safeguard communities. Through ongoing communication and collaboration, it is possible to strike a balance between military training needs and the well-being of civilian populations.

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The Aviation Industry’s Unaddressed Safety Costs: A Critical Look at the Recent Boeing 737 MAX 9 Incident

Recent Boeing 737 MAX 9 incident raises concerns about aviation safety and cost-cutting measures.

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By KirkXWB – https://www.jetphotos.com/photo/10884712, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=140503211

The aviation industry has been left reeling by a recent near disaster that occurred on January 5, 2024. During a flight at 16,000 feet, a 60-pound “door plug” blew out from a nearly new Boeing 737 MAX 9, leaving a gaping hole in the fuselage. In response, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all 737 MAX 9 planes with similar plugs, with other countries following suit. While the media has highlighted the safe landing of the affected Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, questions remain about the industry’s approach to safety.

As a former United Airlines pilot now lecturing at Yale University’s School of Management, I believe the focus needs to shift from celebrating successful emergency landings to addressing the underlying issues. The use of door plugs to seal unused exits on commercial airliners raises critical questions about safety and airline practices. The industry’s cost-cutting measures often take precedence over passenger safety, as every functioning emergency exit comes with associated costs in maintenance, inspections, and staffing.

The U.S. aviation regulations dictate aircraft maintenance procedures, in-flight personnel assignments, and minimum standards for emergency exits. However, the issue arises when the same airplane is sold to different airlines with varying needs. While federal rules allow air carriers to disable exits and plug the openings based on seating capacity, it is unclear whether this approach is in the best interest of air safety.

The Boeing 737 MAX 9, a part of the 737 family of aircraft, has faced a series of safety concerns. Despite its popularity and high demand, the 737 MAX’s safety record has been marred by two fatal crashes and subsequent grounding. The rush to continue MAX development despite its problematic history raises significant safety concerns, especially considering its widespread use by major U.S. carriers.



These incidents underscore the need for a more thorough examination of the aviation industry’s safety practices and cost-cutting measures. It is crucial for regulatory bodies like the FAA to prioritize passenger safety over potential cost savings for airlines. As the aviation industry continues to grapple with safety challenges, it’s imperative for stakeholders to address the unintended costs and consequences of compromising safety in favor of financial interests.

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