Today’s Tidbits: March 1, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: March 1, 2018

Here are our tidbits for March 1, 2018:  ASAP encouraged on commercial crew, sort of;  GOES-S launches; JAXA’s Hayabusa2 closes in on asteroid Ryugu.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Encouraged (Sort Of) on Commercial Crew

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) met today in public session at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.  ASAP member George Nield reported on briefings ASAP received from NASA about the commercial crew program.  He said Boeing plans the uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner/Atlas V system in August 2018 and the first crewed test flight in November 2018.  SpaceX has a very similar schedule with the uncrewed test flight of Crew Dragon/Falcon 9 also in August 2018 and the crewed test flight in December 2018.  Both companies have two flights each “in flow” for launch after the systems are certified by NASA and operational flights can begin.

Former astronaut and former AIAA Executive Director Sandy Magnus. Credit: AIAA.

Nield said ASAP considers those schedules “challenging,” but is “encouraged” there is no evidence that schedule pressure is affecting either company.  ASAP chair Pat Sanders added that while there is a lot of progress, much work remains to be done and there should be no shortcuts to meet any schedule.

ASAP member Sandy Magnus added a word of caution from a different perspective.  She pointed out that NASA personnel will be going though the certification processes for both commercial crew systems as well as NASA’s own Orion spacecraft at the same time — a “wall” of verification and qualification that “a finite number of people at NASA will have to wade through.”  To ensure it is done in a “productive, thoughtful, mindful and non-hurried way,” she encouraged the contractor community to “meter that work” and ASAP to keep an eye on it.

Magnus is a former astronaut who just retired as Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).  Nield  is the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the FAA, who just announced that he will retire at the end of March.

GOES-S Launches

NOAA’s newest geostationary weather satellite, GOES-S, is now in orbit.  Launch at 5:02 pm ET on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was a success.  It will take a while for GOES-S to reach its final orbit over the Pacific and 6 months of testing and validation before it is operational, but weather forecasters are downright giddy at the prospect of having two of these revolutionary next-generation “GOES-R” satellites in orbit monitoring the weather particularly in the tropical regions where hurricanes form.

GOES-R refers both to a specific satellite that was launched in 2016 and to the set of four satellites in this series (GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T, and GOES-U).  GOES-R is now operational and was renamed GOES-16.  It occupies the “GOES-East” orbital position where it focuses on the eastern United States and adjacent waters.  GOES-S will become GOES-17 and be positioned in the companion GOES-West slot.  Though the focus is the United States, together the satellites actually can see from Africa to New Zealand.  Not to mention that GOES-16 got to watch the launch of its sister satellite today.

Hayabusa2 Nears Its Target

Japan’s second asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa2, is closing in on its target.  Launched in December 2014, it is headed to asteroid Ryugu and will arrive this summer.  It is close enough now to see it for the first time.

It will collect a sample of the asteroid and return it to Earth in 2020.  Japan’s first asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa, returned a small amount of particles from asteroid Itokawa in 2010, much less than planned because of a partial failure of the sample collection device.  The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is expecting a better result this time. Learn more about the mission at: []

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