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Fri, Jan 03, 2014

Aero-News 2013 Year In Review: Aerospace

Commercial Spaceflight Companies Move Closer To Manned Missions, Space Tourism

Much of the Aerospace news this year focused on commercial companies that are moving ever-closer to being able to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and tourists into space. Two commercial entities made re-supply flights to ISS this year, and one of those hopes to be carrying crewmenbers in the not-too-distant future. NASA, meanwhile, continued with planning for an asteroid mission that has been roundly criticized by some on Capitol Hill and former astronauts, but the agency's Curiosity rover on Mars was something of a darling of the agency. Here are some of the out-of-this-world stories from the past year as seen on Aero-News.


Congress Passes Risk-Sharing Regime Extension For The Space Launch Industry 
A bill to extend the current framework for one year passed the House and Senate in the closing hours of the 112th Congress, and has been sent to the President for signature. The previous law expired on December 31, 2012.

NASA Says Earth Safe From Asteroid Apophis 
NASA scientists at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, effectively ruled out the possibility the asteroid Apophis will impact Earth during a close flyby in 2036.

NASA Long-Duration Antarctic Balloon Breaks Flight-Time Record 
Flying high over Antarctica, a NASA long duration balloon broke the record for longest flight by a balloon of its size. The record-breaking balloon, carrying the Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (Super-TIGER) experiment, has been afloat for 46 days and is on its third orbit around the South Pole.

Texas Hopes To Establish Vertical Launch Spaceport 
In April, 2012, SpaceX said it was considering a launch site in Texas, and in the fall of last year, the commercial space company bought land in Cameron County, TX along the Gulf of Mexico on the Mexican border.

Senate Space Exploration Act Substitute Passed By The U.S. House 
The U.S. House passed HR 6586, "Space Exploration Sustainability Act" which included the Nelson-Hutchison amendment. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX-21), incoming Chairman of the House Science Committee, presented the bill on the House floor Wednesday, where it passed without objection. The measure now goes to the President for his signature.


SNC, LMC Partner On Dream Chaser Programs
The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser team has been joined by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Littleton, CO, in an exclusive partnership on NASA's Certification Products Contract (CPC), and has been competitively selected to build the composite structure for the Dream Chaser at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, LA.

ERAU Announces Plans For Nation’s First Degree In Commercial Space Operations 
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University plans to launch the nation’s first bachelor’s degree in Commercial Space Operations. The new degree program, which would be offered at the school's Daytona Beach, FL, campus, will supply the commercial spaceflight industry with skilled graduates in the areas of space policy, operations, regulation and certification.

NASA'S Orion Lands Safely On Two Of Three Parachutes In Test 
NASA engineers demonstrated the agency's Orion spacecraft can land safely if one of its three main parachutes fails to inflate during deployment.

Group Eyes Private Manned Mission To Mars 
The first person to fly as a tourist in space has set his sights on a goal well beyond low Earth orbit. Dennis Tito, who in 2001 became the first person to pay for the privilege of flying aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station, said in a news release that he has founded a new non-profit organization "The Inspiration Mars Foundation," and that he hopes to launch a manned mission to Mars in 2018.

NASA Creates Space Technology Mission Directorate 
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has announced the creation of the Space Technology Mission Directorate. The directorate will be a catalyst for the creation of technologies and innovation needed to maintain NASA leadership in space while also benefiting America's economy.


House Subcommittee Discusses Need For Stability Of Vision For Human Spaceflight 
The House Subcommittee on Space held its first hearing of the 113th Congress Wednesday to evaluate NASA’s policies, priorities and goals for human space exploration, as the Committee works toward reauthorizing the agency.

An American Delivery: Dragon Resupplies ISS 
The Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station. The delivery flight was the second contracted resupply mission by the company under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract.

Grasshopper Completes Highest Leap To Date 
On Thursday, March 7, 2013, SpaceX’s Grasshopper doubled its highest leap to date to rise 24 stories or 262.8 feet, hovering for approximately 34 seconds and landing safely using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control.

Bezos Expeditions Recovers Apollo F-1 Engines 
When the main boosters for the Apollo Saturn V rockets fell into the Atlantic Ocean in the 1960s and 1970s, it was probably expected that they would never be seen again. The hardware that started men on their journey to the Moon sank in 3 miles of water, where they have lain for more than 40 years.

ISS Had Its First Canadian Commander
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station.


New Mexico Governor Signs Spaceflight Liability Bill 
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed a bill into law that will extend liability protections beyond spacecraft operators.

Boeing X-48C Blended Wing Body Research Aircraft Completes Flight Testing 
The Boeing X-48C research aircraft flew for the 30th and final time April 9, marking the successful completion of an eight-month flight-test program to explore and further validate the aerodynamic characteristics of the Blended Wing Body design concept.

SpaceShipTwo Advances Towards Powered Flight 
After successful nitrous venting and feather tests last week, Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic competed a "Cold Flow" flight that representatives of the two companies called "spectacular." The test is seen as another important step towards powered flight. Later that month, it completed a powered flight in which it broke Mach 1.

Another Win For Civilian Space: Orbital Sciences Test Launches Antares 
Orbital Sciences Corporation launched its Antares rocket from the new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

SpaceX Grasshopper Hovers At Over 800 Feet 
SpaceX has released a new video showing another successful flight of its Grasshopper VTOL vehicle. And every time the fly the rocket, they go exponentially higher. The Grasshopper flew to 262 feet. This latest leap topped out at 820, or triple the previous altitude, according to SpaceX.

NASA Leading Manned Expedition To The Moon? 'Not In My Lifetime,' Bolden Says 
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board in Washington on Thursday that NASA would not be leading an effort to return men to the Moon "probably in my lifetime."


NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russian Space Agency 
NASA has signed a $424 million modification to its contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) for full crew transportation services to the International Space Station in 2016 with return and rescue services extending through June 2017.

Buzz Aldrin Calls Asteroid Mission 'Waste Of Time' 
Buzz Aldrin says that "no one is excited" about NASA's planned mission to bring an asteroid into a orbit inside that of the Moon, and says the space agency should be planning to place a manned colony on Mars instead.

House Subcommittees Review Search For Earth-like Planets 
The Subcommittees on Space and Research explored current efforts to search for life-sustaining planets.  Witnesses discussed the recent discovery by NASA’s Kepler space telescope of three super-Earth sized planets that have the potential to contain life.

Space Station Commander Turns Music Video Performer 
ISS Commander Chris Hadfield has shown himself to be a real Renaissance Man. The first Canadian to command the station, who was set to return to Earth aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, has performed a rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" while aboard the orbiting outpost.

Dream Chaser Testing Begins At NASA Dryden, Langley 
Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Space Systems Dream Chaser flight vehicle arrived at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA, to begin tests of its flight and runway landing systems.

House Committee Hearing Focuses On Strategic Stepping Stones To Mars 
The House Science Committee Subcommittee on Space held a hearing Tuesday to examine possible options for the next steps in human space flight and how these options move the U.S. closer to a human mission to Mars and beyond.


Another American High Frontier First: 3-D Manufacturing In Space 
In preparation for a future where parts and tools can be printed on demand in space, NASA and Made in Space Inc. of Mountain View, CA, have joined to launch equipment for the first 3-D microgravity printing experiment to the International Space Station.

NASA's Grail Mission Solves Mystery Of Moon's Surface Gravity 
NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission has uncovered the origin of massive invisible regions that make the moon's gravity uneven, a phenomenon that affects the operations of lunar-orbiting spacecraft.

Dream Chaser Main Hybrid Rocket Motor Testing Underway
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) began the latest phase of hybrid rocket motor qualification testing for the Dream Chaser flight vehicle. SNC completed two tests this week at its rocket test facility in San Diego, CA.

Draft NASA Reauthorization Prohibits Administration’s Asteroid Retrieval Mission 
The Space Subcommittee of the U.S. House Science Committee held a hearing Wednesday to review draft legislation to reauthorize programs at NASA for two years, including a topline budget of over $16.8 billion dollars for the agency, which is consistent with the requirements of the Budget Control Act.

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Proves Sound Under Pressure
After a month of being poked, prodded and pressurized in ways that mimicked the stresses of spaceflight, NASA's Orion crew module successfully passed its static loads tests.


NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Completes Two Human-Critical Reviews
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, CA, recently completed two milestones for NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which is intended to make commercial human spaceflight services available for government and commercial customers.

Russian Rocket Lost On Launch 
The Russian space program has suffered another setback with the loss of a Proton-M booster carrying satellites into orbit.

SpaceX Releases Video Of Latest Grasshopper Test
SpaceX has released a video of a June 14 test of its Grasshopper, which flew 325 m (1066 feet) -- higher than Manhattan's Chrysler Building -- before smoothly landing back on the pad.

X-48B Blended Wing Body Flight Tests Enter Second Phase 
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and The Boeing Co. are expanding the flight envelope for the X-48B blended wing body research aircraft.

House Science Committee NASA Budget Does Not Fund Asteroid Mission
The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Thursday approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 [H.R. 2687]  to reauthorize programs at NASA for two years, including a topline budget of $16.8 billion dollars, which is consistent with the requirements of the Budget Control Act.


Armadillo Aerospace Has Rolled Up In Its Shell ... For Now
Armadillo Aerospace founder John Carmack said at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas last week that the company has suspended its operations following a parachute failure during a STIG-B rocket test in January.

Lori Garver Departs NASA 
NASA announced that Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is departing the agency for a job not connected with space.

NASA, Commercial Crew Partners Fund Additional Development Milestones
NASA announced it is adding some additional milestones to agreements with three U.S. commercial companies that are developing spaceflight capabilities that could eventually provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

Second Dream Chaser Captive-Carry Test A Success
NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, CO, successfully completed a captive-carry test of the Dream Chaser spacecraft at the agency's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA.

NASA-Funded Scientists Detect Water On Moon's Surface
NASA-funded lunar research has yielded evidence of water locked in mineral grains on the surface of the moon from an unknown source deep beneath the surface.


SpaceShipTwo Completes Second Supersonic Flight
Virgin Galactic successfully completed the second rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2)

Houston Spaceport Plans Revealed To The Public
The Houston Airport System unveiled part of its vision for the future of Ellington Airport (EFD), as conceptual renderings of a possible Spaceport were released to the public.

Blue Origin Files Protest Over Launch Pad 39A Contract
Commercial space company Blue Origin has filed a formal bid protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to prevent NASA from awarding an exclusive lease for any company to have the use of Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.

Orbital Sciences Demonstration Mission Reschedules Launch Date
Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, VA, postponed by at least 24 hours the launch of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft on a demonstration mission to the International Space Station from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.

LADEE Heads For The Moon
NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory launched aboard a Minotaur V rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.


NASA Partner Orbital Sciences Completes First Flight To Space Station
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) used a robotic arm to capture and attach a Cygnus cargo resupply spacecraft, marking several spaceflight firsts for NASA and its partner, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, VA.

Astronauts Practice Launching In NASA's New Orion Spacecraft 
For the first time, NASA astronauts are practicing a launch into space aboard the agency's Orion spacecraft, and provided feedback on the new capsule's cockpit design.

Musk Says No Explosion Of Falcon 9 Rocket
SpaceX was working hard to quash Internet rumors that its Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket exploded in orbit after its launch Sunday from Vandenberg AFB in California.

Boeing Finalizes Agreement For Kennedy Space Center Facility
Boeing has finalized an agreement with Space Florida to use a processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to build the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, an important step toward restoring the United States’ ability to launch humans into space.

Dream Chaser Suffers Landing Gear Failure After First Flight
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser lifting body spacecraft conducted its maiden flight at the Dryden Flight Research Center. However, mechanical failure during landing resulted in it flipping over on the runway.


Scientists Discover First Earth-Sized Rocky Planet 
Astronomers have discovered the first Earth-sized planet outside the solar system that has a rocky composition like that of Earth. Kepler-78b whizzes around its host star every 8.5 hours, making it a blazing inferno and not suitable for life as we know it.

India Launches Mars Probe 
India launched a rocket carrying a spacecraft intended for orbit around Mars. If it is successful, India will become only the fourth nation or agency to have launched a Mars probe, joining NASA, the former Soviet Union, and the ESA.

Space Station Crew Lands With Olympic Torch
Expedition 37 crew members Karen Nyberg of NASA, Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency returned to Earth from the International Space Station Nov. 10 (8:49 a.m. Kazakhstan time, Nov. 11), after spending 166 days in space.


China Launches Lunar Mission
China's first lunar mission was successfully launched. The Chang'e-3 lunar probe is planned to be the first Chinese spacecraft to make a soft landing on an extraterrestrial body, and is the first Moon lander to be launched this century.

House Approves Bill Extending Protection For Commercial Space Launches 
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Space Launch Liability Indemnification Extension Act (H.R. 3547) by a vote of 376 to 5. H.R. 3547 is a bipartisan bill that extends for one year a commercial space transportation risk-sharing and liability regime that was established by Congress in 1988 with passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments.

NASA Selects SpaceX To Begin Negotiations For Use Of Launch Complex 39A
NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, CA, to begin negotiations on a lease to use and operate historic Launch Complex (LC) 39A at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Field Narrows To Eighteen Teams Competing For $30 Million Google Lunar XPRIZE
With just over two years to go until the deadline, the competition intensifies for the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest incentivized competition ever offered. Eighteen privately funded teams now form the line-up in the race to soft-land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon before the December 31, 2015 deadline.

Spacewalkers Complete Installation Of Ammonia Pump Module
Spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins completed a second spacewalk to install a spare ammonia pump module on Christmas Eve. The U.S. Quest airlock began repressurization at 1423 EDT Tuesday signaling the official end of their spacewalk.



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