Today’s Tidbits: January 22, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: January 22, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for January 22, 2019:  NASA makes crew change for Boeing Starliner test flight; Blue Origin ready to try again tomorrow; aerospace industry coalition urges end to shutdown. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

NASA Makes Crew Change for Boeing Starliner Test Flight

NASA revealed today that it is replacing NASA astronaut Eric Boe as one of the crew members of the test flight of Boeing’s Starliner commercial crew system.  Mike Fincke has been assigned to replace him and join NASA astronaut Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson on the mission, which is expected to take place later this year.

NASA said only that “Boe is unable to fly due to medical reasons.”  NASA typically does not share medical information due to privacy concerns.

NASA and Boeing commercial crew astronauts pose in front of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. L-R: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. Credit: NASA

Crew assignments for the Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew test flights and the first “post certification missions” (PCMs) were announced with great fanfare last summer.  The group photo of all nine astronauts (eight from NASA plus Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut now with Boeing) is widely used. Boe is third from the left.

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. Credit: NASA/James Blair

Fincke is an experienced NASA astronaut.  Selected in 1996, he has flown three space missions already, including two “expedition” (long duration) missions to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2004 and 2009, plus the penultimate space shuttle mission, STS-134, in 2011.  He made a total of nine spacewalks on those missions.

Boe will replace Fincke as the assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson space Center.

Blue Origin Ready to Try Again

Blue Origin will try again tomorrow (January 23) to conduct the next test launch of its reusable New Shepard suborbital rocket.  The test was scrubbed on December 18 due to a “ground infrastructure issue.” Later the company said that when investigating that “we have determined additional systems need to be addressed.”   Four days ago, it set the date for January 21, but high winds delayed it until tomorrow at 9:50 am Eastern Standard Time.

The flight will be webcast (the link is in the tweet).  Blue Origin plans to use New Shepard (named after Alan Shepard, who made a suborbital flight in 1961, becoming the first American in space) to launch tourists into space beginning this year.

Aerospace Industry Coalition Urges End to Shutdown

More than 30 aerospace companies sent a letter to President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today urging an end to the partial government shutdown.  The letter lists negative impacts on the aerospace industry including the commercial space launch business.

Most of the signers represent the aviation industry, but the Commercial Spaceflight Federation also joined the group.  The letter lists a wide range of areas impacted by the shutdown, including the following:

Commercial Space: A minimal team of engineers working without pay continues to provide critical public safety inspections of already-licensed launches and reentries, however, all licensing activities are shut down. Many launches require license modifications to factor in new data or improved processes, and the obsolete nature of current regulations means even nominal missions usually need one or more waivers of current rules. Those license modifications and waiver requests are not being considered or approved, risking delays to scheduled launches. Many of the activities currently scheduled to support upcoming commercial launches will in fact be delayed until after the Office of Commercial Space Transportation reopens, costing both established and entrepreneurial spacecraft builders money and critical time. And it may take several months for the government and industry to simply catch up with a shutdown-caused backlog of licensing, flights and payloads.

The letter is posted on the Aerospace Industries Association’s website: []

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