Today’s Tidbits: October 19, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: October 19, 2017

Here are our tidbits for October 19, 2017:  Blue Origin conducts first hot fire BE-4 test; Iridium will use pre-flown SpaceX rockets; and a new NASA Inspector General report on NASA’s IT governance.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Blue Origin Successfully Tests BE-4 Engine

Blue Origin has successfully conducted the first hot fire test of its BE-4 rocket engine.  BE-4 is of special interest because it is the first rocket engine being built with private, not government, money, and because it uses a new type of fuel — methane (liquified natural gas) instead of kerosene or liquid hydrogen.  Blue Origin is owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, who says that he puts $1 billion of his own money into the company each year.  Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are partnering on development of the BE-4, which ULA is considering as the engine for its new Vulcan rocket.  Blue Origin plans to use the BE-4 for its own heavy lift rocket, New Glenn, as well.  Blue Origin tweeted a video of the test.

Iridium Will Use Pre-Flown Space X Rockets

Iridium announced today that it will use pre-flown SpaceX rockets for its next two launches.  Iridium has contracted with SpaceX for seven dedicated launches, each of which places 10 of its new generation of Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.  Three launches have been accomplished so far, most recently on October 9.

Iridium operates a constellation of 66 satellites (plus spares) in low Earth orbit to provide global, secure, mobile telecommunications and is replacing all of them with the new generation satellites.  The next launch will be on December 22 and will be the company’s first use of a “pre-flown” or “flight proven” or “used” rocket stage.

SpaceX is trying to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of reusable rockets.  It has been recovering the first stage of its Falcon 9 rockets since 2015 by landing them either on autonomous drone ships at sea or back on land after they send their payloads on their way to space (the rocket’s second stage, which is not recovered, takes the payload the rest of the way to orbit).  Three commercial satellites (two for SES, one for Bulgariasat) have been successfully launched using pre-flown first stages.  Iridium CEO Matt Desch said today that he believes “reusability is the future for satellite launches, and I think SpaceX has intelligently built their Falcon 9 program around this strategy.”

NASA IG Criticizes NASA’s IT Governance — Again

NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a new report today assessing NASA’s efforts to improve its governance of its information technology (IT) assets, which are used for everything from controlling spacecraft to processing scientific data to enabling NASA scientists to collaborate with others around the world.

In a report four years ago, the OIG made recommendations to NASA on how to effectively govern its IT assets, noting that “the decentralized nature of Agency operations and longstanding culture of autonomy” makes that difficult.  Today, it found that NASA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) has made “insufficient progress” in responding to those recommendations.


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