Today’s Tidbits: April 2, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: April 2, 2018

Here are our tidbits for April 2, 2018:  SpaceX sends another cargo mission to ISS with “flight proven” hardware; China shows off new space station as Tiangong-1 reenters; George Nield wins AIAA’s Public Service award.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Another SpaceX ISS Cargo Mission Launches with Flight Proven Hardware

Jessica Jensen, Director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX at NASA/SpaceX CRS-14 pre-launch press conference, April 1, 2018. Screengrab.

SpaceX launched its 14th commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) today.

Liftoff of SpaceX CRS-14 (SpX-14) was on schedule at 4:30 pm ET.  This is the second time a “flight proven” rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been used for NASA.  The first stage of this Falcon 9 rocket originally flew on NASA’s CRS-12 mission last August, and the Dragon spacecraft is the same one used for CRS-8 in April 2016. [CRS stands for Commercial Resupply Services, the contract under which these launches take place.]

Jessica Jensen, SpaceX’s Director, Dragon Mission Management pointed out at a pre-launch press conference yesterday that this is the 10th time SpaceX has flown a reused Falcon 9 first stage for its government and commercial customers.  SpaceX chose not to recover it this time, though.  Jensen said it has already flown twice and the company decided to use it to collect reentry data while testing the stage to new limits during descent.


The Dragon is taking more than 5,800 pounds of scientific research, equipment and supplies to the ISS.  It will arrive Wednesday morning and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai and NASA astronaut Scott Tingle will use Canada’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, to capture it.  Dragon will remain attached to ISS for a month before departing and returning about 3,500 pounds of research results as well equipment needing repair to Earth.  It will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off of California.

China Shows Off New Space Station as Tiangong-1 Reenters

China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, reentered over the Pacific Ocean last night with no reported damage to people or property.  As that drama played out, China’s global television broadcaster CGTN offered videos introducing viewers to what will be China’s next, much larger space station.

China actually has a space station in orbit right now, Tiangong-2, another small (8.5 metric ton) facility very similar to Tiangong-1.  Launched in 2016, it was visited by a two-man crew for 30 days that year and is not expected to host additional crews.

Instead, China is focused building a three-module, 60 MT facility usually referred to simply as the Chinese Space Station (CSS).  Each of the three 20 MT modules has its own name.  The core module, Tianhe-1, was featured in a video released on CGTN yesterday that also showed animation of the assembly sequence for the facility. The “experiment” modules are named Mengtian and Wentian.

China planned to complete construction of the CSS by 2022, but the modules must be launched on China’s new Long March 5 rocket.  It failed in its second launch attempt last year.  China hopes it will return to flight soon, but what impact it will have on the space station construction schedule is unknown at this point.

George Nield Wins AIAA’s Public Service Award

George Nield. Former Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Flight, FAA.  Credit: FAA.

George Nield, who just retired as Associate Administrator of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation on Friday, is being recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) with its Public Service Award.

AIAA describes the award as “The highest recognition AIAA bestows to a person outside the aerospace community who has shown consistent and visible support for national aviation and space goals.”  The citation reads that Nield won “for his dedicated service to our nation’s space programs, and his ongoing efforts to encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space transportation.”

He will be presented with the award at AIAA’s Spotlight Awards Gala on May 2, 2018 in Washington, DC.  The other awards and their recipients are:

  • AIAA Foundation Award for Excellence: Honda Aircraft Company
  • AIAA Goddard Astronautics Award: Gwynne E. Shotwell, SpaceX
  • AIAA Reed Aeronautics Award: Mark Drela, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • AIAA Distinguished Service Award: Mary L. Snitch, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Daniel Guggenheim Medal: Paul M. Bevilaqua, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired)

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