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Thu, Jan 03, 2013

ANN 2012 Year In Review: Aerospace

With Shuttles Retired To Museums, NASA Says It Is Making Progress Towards 'What's Next' In Space ... Commercial Companies Getting The Job Done

This year saw the retirement of the Space Shuttle Fleet to museums from coast to coast, and sparked a lot of navel-gazing about what is next for America in space. While we continue to buy rides to ISS from Russia, commercial companies made progress towards servicing the station, with SpaceX completing the first non-government delivery to the outpost. Here are some of the top stories from the final frontier for 2012.


A test version of NASA's Orion spacecraft soon made a cross-country journey, giving residents in three states the chance to see a full scale test version of the vehicle that it is hoped will eventually take humans into deep space.

SpaceX's much anticipated launch of an unmanned Dragon spacecraft to dock with ISS was postponed, with no new launch date set for the test.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced that Mike Leinbach had joined the company as the Director of Human Spaceflight Operations.

NASA could test its payloads on Earth under realistic flight conditions before sending them into space by using a technology flown by Draper Laboratory.


The first flight of the Orion crew capsule is being planned for sometime in 2014, though a specific target date has not been identified.

The Soyuz spacecraft that was to carry the next ISS crew to the station on March 30 developed problems and was not able to fly, according to sources inside the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

NASA received the National Research Council (NRC) report "NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities," which provides the agency with findings and recommendations on where best to invest in technologies needed to enable NASA's future missions in space.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) said it completed two key milestones leading toward the certification of the Atlas V launch vehicle for human spaceflight.

As part of NASA's ongoing efforts to foster development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station, NASA issued a call for industry to submit proposals for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative.

As the commercial spaceflight industry prepared for its first commercial launches, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation announced the creation of a new coalition to bring suborbital spaceflight to students, teachers, researchers, and companies across the country.


The heads of the International Space Station (ISS) agencies from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States met in Quebec City, Canada, on March 1, 2012, to review the scientific, technological, and social benefits being produced through their collaboration, and to discuss plans for further broadening these benefits by continuing to advance the human exploration of space.

A laptop which contained command codes for the International Space Station was stolen in 2011, according to Congressional testimony from the NASA Inspector General. It was one of 48 pilfered from the agency between April 2009 and April 2011.

Europe’s ambition of touching down at the Moon’s south pole by 2018 was boosted by recent test firings of the craft’s thrusters. The robot lander will prove new techniques for sending humans to the Moon and assess lunar hazards.

Ten years ago on March 14th, SpaceX was founded with the goal of helping make the human race a multi-planetary species. The company says it remains firmly committed to this goal.

Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of Boeing’s integrated Commercial Crew Space Transportation system, which includes the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, was completed on March 12.

SpaceX continued to prepare for its COTS 2/3 test flight in which it sent the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.

In testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee considering the FY2013 budget for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, the Associate Administrator in charge of the office said that he expects space tourism to get underway within the next two years.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued a statement regarding the efforts announced by Jeff Bezos to recover main engines from the Saturn V first stage rocket of Apollo 11.


Spaceport America planned to extend its main runway by 2,000 feet to accommodate Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board approved the extension.

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announced it had assembled a team of outside experts to help the company create the world’s safest human spaceflight system.

A new organization that will focus exclusively on NASA's human spaceflight programs was introduced by United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Departing from the Kennedy Space Center, the Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery was riding aboard the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) 905. The orbiter, having been retired from flight with the ending of the Space Shuttle program, was on its way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy facility near Dulles Airport.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law he says will position Colorado to capitalize on significant new opportunities in commercial space transportation.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a space territory measure that will strengthen the ability of Cecil Airport in Jacksonville to compete as a commercial horizontal launch spaceport.

As the space shuttles are shuffled off to be museum pieces, two companies are looking at older technology as in their bid to supply boosters for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS).

SpaceX said in an e-mail that it has decided to delay it's COTS 2 launch, citing technical difficulties.

Wind tunnel testing of a scale model of the Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle has been completed in the Oran W. Nicks Low Speed Wind Tunnel at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.


Sierra Nevada Corporation began flight testing of its Dream Chaser Space System with a successful captive carry of a full scale Dream Chaser Flight Vehicle near the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Colorado. 

SpaceX conducted a successful static test fire of the Falcon 9 rocket it hopes will launch a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station May 7th.

The software glitch which cropped up during the test firing of a Falcon 9 rocket Monday means another delay for the launch of SpaceX's COTS 2 and 3 combined flight.

SpaceX said it would be pushing its COTS 2-3 demonstration launch back to May 19th while its own and NASA scientists finish evaluating computer code which controls the launch.

SpaceX finished an important evaluation of a prototype Dragon spacecraft designed to carry people into orbit. This key milestone is part of SpaceX's partnership with NASA under a funded Space Act Agreement to advance the design of crew transportation vehicles.

Hundreds turned out in Brownsville, TX for a public hearing on the proposed SpaceX satellite launch site in Cameron County, and virtually all comments showed a supportive public.

The second demonstration mission for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program got under way as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SpaceX reports that its Dragon spacecraft completed key on-orbit tests as part of a historic attempt to be the first commercial company in history to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station.

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft returned safely to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles off the coast of southern California. The return of the vehicle marks the successful completion of the first commercial mission to supply the ISS.


Virgin Galactic announced that its vehicle developer, Scaled Composites (Scaled), has been granted an experimental launch permit from the FAA for its suborbital spacecraft, SpaceshipTwo, and the carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo.

The successful flight of a Falcon 9 Rocket and Dragon capsule to the International Space Station may open the door for the launch of military satellites by SpaceX ... a goal said to be more elusive than flying cargo for NASA.

It must have been a sinking feeling on the part of the tow boat captain when the space shuttle Enterprise crunched ever so slightly into a navigation marker for a New York Railroad bridge. The shuttle was being towed to a temporary stop in New Jersey ... the first leg of its final voyage to the Intrepid Museum in Manhattan.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations subcommittee, said he had reached an agreement with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden regarding the future of the commercial crew program.

The Air Force confirmed the successful de-orbit and landing of the second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) for their Rapid Capabilities Office.

The FAA and NASA signed an historic agreement to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS).

One of the crew to attempt China's first docking between two spacecraft in orbit was also that country's first woman in space.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Science and Space held a hearing entitled “Risks, Opportunities, and Oversight of Commercial Space."

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, July 1 with a program that includes NASA officials discussing the historic spaceport and the dynamic transformation underway to support the next generation of space exploration.

SpaceShipTwo (SS2) went two steps closer to making its first powered flight, after the suborbital space vehicle successfully completed its first glide flight test since a recent integration period for rocket motor systems and maintenance, and the spaceship’s engine, RocketMotorTwo (RM2), underwent another successful full duration test fire ... on the same day.

The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) and the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) prepared forecasts of global demand for commercial space launch services for the 10-year period from 2012 through 2021.

Three Chinese astronauts, including the first Chinese woman to fly in space, returned safely to Earth following a 13-day mission in which they successfully docked their Shenzhou 9 capsule to the Tiangong 1 space lab prototype already in orbit. The landing was broadcast live on Chinese state television.


A non-profit organization founded by a former NASA astronaut announced it is planning to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission ... a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun.

The first space-bound Orion capsule arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida where technicians will turn it into a fully functioning spacecraft ahead of a test flight slated for 2014.

The Midland Development Corporation (MDC) and XCOR Aerospace jointly announced the establishment of XCOR’s new Commercial Space Research and Development Center Headquarters that will be created over the next eighteen months.

NASA partner Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed an important design review of the crewed version of its Dragon spacecraft. The concept baseline review presented NASA with the primary and secondary design elements of its Dragon capsule designed to carry astronauts into low Earth orbit, including the International Space Station.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) completed a crucial milestone in its on-going development and certification of the Atlas V launch vehicle for human spaceflight. ULA successfully completed the fifth milestone of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) Unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA.

NASA has selected six proposals it says will improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS). The awardees will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for SLS heavy-lift rocket.


A report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that the U.S. provides less commercial space launch indemnification for third party losses than China, France, and Russia, according to recent studies.

Space Florida – the State of Florida’s spaceport authority and aerospace economic development agency – and the FAA's Office of Commercial Space (FAA-AST) – partnered in November 2011 to commission a study prepared by The Tauri Group, on the forecast 10-year demand for suborbital reusable vehicles.

The House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing to examine the potential launch markets and applications for suborbital reusable launch vehicles (SRVs).

NASA announced new agreements with three American commercial companies to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.

An image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the Curiosity rover still connected to its 51-foot-wide (almost 16 meter) parachute as it descended towards its landing site at Gale Crater.

Neil Armstrong, who in 1969 became the first human to walk on the surface of the Moon, underwent a quadruple coronary bypass after four blocked arteries were discovered during a routine checkup.

While there has not yet been an official announcement, word around the aerospace community is that Mojave, CA-based XCOR will be establishing a presence on the east-central coast of Florida, building engines and maybe spacecraft at a facility at the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced new milestones in the nation's commercial space initiatives from the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The latest advances made by NASA's commercial space partners pave the way for the first contracted flight of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) this fall and mark progress toward a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.

The Dream Chaser Space System successfully completed its first milestone as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced the achievement of the milestone Thursday.

Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon -- just scant minutes after Neil Armstrong took the historic first step, issued a statement in memory of his friend and fellow Apollo 11 astronaut, Neil Armstrong.


Space shuttle Endeavour, mounted atop NASA's modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), was set to make the final ferry flight of the Space Shuttle Program era from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida headed to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

NASA's Mars Curiosity team finished robotic arm tests in preparation for the rover to touch and examine its first Martian rock. Tests with the 7-foot arm have allowed the mission team to gain confidence in the arm's precise maneuvering in Martian temperature and gravity conditions.

NASA released a request for proposals for the first of two contract phases to certify commercially developed space systems in support of crewed missions to the International Space Station.

Endeavour made the last leg of its journey to becoming a museum piece. Following an overnight stay at Edwards AFB in California, NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), with Endeavour riding on its back, performed a low flyby northbound to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 4158, a bipartisan bill introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) to confirm full ownership rights to artifacts received by Apollo-era astronauts from their space missions.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act, AB 2243.  This law provides the necessary liability protections for compliant companies in the state, should any spaceflight participant who has acknowledged the risks sustain any bodily injury during spaceflight activities.

SpaceX’s Grasshopper vertical takeoff and landing test vehicle (VTVL) took its first test flight hop from the company’s rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas.


NASA has a plan on the drawing board that would establish an outpost some 277,000 miles from the Earth, according to documents obtained by a Florida newspaper. The space station would maintain an orbit beyond that of the moon, and be a "staging area" for potential Lunar and Martian missions.

Orbital Sciences Corporation rolled the first stage of its Antares rocket to the launch pad of the nation's newest spaceport - the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, VA - while in Florida, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) moved ahead with preparations for an Oct. 7 launch to the International Space Station for NASA's first Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission.

The Dragon capsule reached its planned orbit of 212 miles above Earth, despite a single engine failure about a minute into the mission, and was on course to catch up to the station.

While SpaceX celebrated its successful launch to the International Space Station, the launch was not without a problem. Fortunately for the company, and probably for the commercial space industry as a whole, the engine problem experienced by the spacecraft as it lifted the Dragon resupply vehicle into orbit did not cause the mission to fail.

Virgin Galactic said that it has taken 100% ownership of its sister company, The Spaceship Company (TSC), by acquiring the 30% stake held by Scaled Composites (Scaled) since TSC’s formation under a joint venture with Virgin Galactic.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station at 0803 CDT Wednesday, a key milestone in a new era of commercial spaceflight. The delivery flight is the first contracted resupply mission by the company under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Blue Origin has successfully fired the thrust chamber assembly for its new 100,000 pound thrust BE-3 liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen rocket engine.

NASA was looking at the possibility of awarding up to $1.5 million in its Centennial Challenge Program for the development of solutions for integrating unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Blue Origin conducted a successful pad escape test at the company's West Texas launch site, firing its pusher-escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital crew capsule from a simulated propulsion module.

A Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico. The splashdown successfully ended the first cargo delivery flight contracted by NASA to resupply the International Space Station.


Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed its first three performance milestones for NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which is intended to lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial customers.

SpaceX’s Grasshopper – a 10-story vertical takeoff and landing (VTVL) vehicle -- rose nearly two stories off the ground in an 8-second duration test hop conducted on November 1. The rocket rose 17.7 feet, hovered, and touched back down safely on the pad at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and their international partners selected two veteran spacefarers for a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully used an experimental version of interplanetary Internet to control an educational rover from the International Space Station.

A Los Angeles judge handed down a temporary ruling in favor of NASA's JPL in a case involving a former employee who claims he was fired because of his religious beliefs. 


The aerospace and space sectors make critical contributions to Canada's prosperity and security, but if those sectors are to remain vibrant and competitive over the next 20 to 30 years, relevant public policies and programs will need to keep pace with rapidly changing global conditions.

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft entered a new region at the far reaches of our solar system that scientists feel is the final area the spacecraft has to cross before reaching interstellar space.

Warning that "we're getting closer to a 'Thelma and Louise' moment, when we careen off into the void," AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey told attendees at AIA's Year-end Luncheon Wednesday that "the time for real work, real negotiation and a real solution" to sequestration "is now."

NASA announced that it has selected three companies to conduct activities under contracts that will enable future certification of commercial spacecraft as safe to carry humans to the International Space Station.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing Wednesday with a panel of distinguished experts to hear their perspectives on NASA’s strategic vision and the future of America’s space program.

NASA named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon in honor of the late astronaut, Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team.

SpaceShipTwo undertook its 23rd glide flight in the pre-powered portion of its incremental test flight program. This was asignificant flight in that it was the first with rocket motor components installed, including tanks.

SpaceX's Grasshopper took a 12-story leap towards full and rapid rocket reusability in a test flight conducted December 17, 2012 at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.



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