As NASA continues to ramp up efforts for its Artemis program, which has the goal of landing the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface, two NASA astronauts recently conducted training with a replica of SpaceX’s Starship human landing system (HLS), albeit on a much smaller scale. Given that Starship is 50 meters (160 feet) tall, and the crew quarters are located near the top of Starship, the HLS will need an elevator with a basket to transport crew and supplies from the crew quarters down to the surface. The purpose of this training is to familiarize astronauts with all aspects of this system, including elevator and gate controls and latches, along with how the astronauts perform these tasks in their bulky astronaut suits, which both astronauts wore during the training.Continue reading “NASA Astronauts are Trying Out the Starship Lunar Elevator”
Lunar regolith (aka. Moondust”) is a major hazard for missions heading to the Moon. It’s everywhere on the surface – 5 to 10 meters (~16.5 to 33 feet) in depth in some places – not to mention jagged and sticky! During the Apollo missions, astronauts learned how this dust adhered to everything, including their spacesuits. Worse, it would get tracked back into their Lunar Modules (LMs), where it stuck to surfaces and played havoc with electronics and mechanical equipment, and even led to long-term respiratory problems.
This is a major concern for the Artemis Program, which aims to establish a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.” One of the key elements of this program is the Lunar Gateway, a lunar habitat that will orbit the Moon for a planned 15 years and facilitate long-term missions to the surface. The impact that regolith introduced by astronauts returning from the surface will have is not well understood. In a recent paper, a NASA-led team of researchers created a physics-based model to asses how regolith could impact the habitat over time.Continue reading “Astronauts Will Be Tracking Dust Into the Lunar Gateway. Is This a Problem?”
A recent YouTube video made by YouTube account, Hazegrayart, combines awesome computer animation, great music, and crisp archived audio recordings to show how NASA’s future Lunar Gateway will function for the upcoming Artemis missions. The archived audio recordings encompass only about a third of the short four and a half minutes of video, with almost the entire length being filled with a very relaxing soundtrack as the viewer is left fixated watching a slow and methodical ballet of spaceships come together at Gateway.Continue reading “New Animation Shows how the Artemis Missions Will use the Lunar Gateway and a Starship to put Humans Back onto the Moon”
On March 17th, the Artemis I mission rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VLB) and was transferred to Launch Complex 39B at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the first time that a fully-stacked Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft were brought to the launchpad in preparation for a “wet dress rehearsal.” To mark the occasion, NASA released a video of the event that featured a new song by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder (“Invincible”).
Unfortunately, technical issues forced ground controllers to scrub the dress rehearsal repeatedly and return the Artemis I to the VLB on April 26th. This was followed by reports that these issues were addressed and that Artemis I rocket would return to LC 39B by early- to mid-June. Meanwhile, an official NASA statement (issued on Thursday, May 8th) says that the official launch of the mission is not likely to take place until August at the earliest.Continue reading “Artemis 1 Probably won't Launch Until August”
The path back to the moon is long and fraught with danger, both in the real, physical sense and also in the contractual, legal sense. NASA, the agency sponsoring the largest government-backed lunar program, Artemis, has already been feeling the pain on the contractual end. Legal battles have delayed the development of a critical component of the Artemis program – the Human Landing System (HLS). But now, the ball has started rolling again, and a NASA manager recently reported the progress and future vision of this vital part of the mission to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers at a conference.Continue reading “NASA Releases Details on how Starship Will be Part of its Return to the Moon”
For months, the commercial space sector has waited for a pivotal case to be resolved. This was none other than the legal action filed by Blue Origin in response to NASA selecting SpaceX to execute the Human Landing System (HLS) contract worth $2.9 billion. This system is a vital piece of the Artemis Program mission architecture, which will be used in the coming years to transport crew and cargo to the lunar surface.
In a recently-announced decision, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims officially shot Blue Origin’s protest down. This puts an end to nearly seven months of legal proceedings and gridlock following SpaceX’s selection back in April. While this means that SpaceX can get back to developing their concept – the Starship HLS – in preparation for the Artemis III missions, it is unclear if that mission will happen on schedule.Continue reading “Court Turns Down Blue Origin’s Attempt to Prevent SpaceX’s Lander Contract”
It’s no secret that a new Space Race has been brewing over the past few years. This time, rather than being a competition between two federal space agencies, the race has more competitors and is more complicated. In addition to more state competitors, there are also commercial space entities vying for positions and lucrative contracts. Add to that a network of public-private partnerships, and you have Space Race 2.0!
In particular, there has been quite the stir ever since NASA awarded the Artemis contract for the Human Landing System (HLS) to SpaceX. This resulted in legal challenges filed by Blue Origin and Dynetics (SpaceX’s competitors), as well as a lawsuit and messy public relations campaign. NASA has since removed the stop-work order and commenced payments to SpaceX, which recently indicated their HLS concept could be ready to go before the 2024 deadline.Continue reading “SpaceX Thinks it can Send Humans to the Moon Sooner Than 2024”
The fight over who gets to take the Artemis astronauts back to the Moon continues! It all began when NASA announced that they had awarded the contract for its Human Landing System (HLS), the reusable lunar lander that would ferry the Artemis III astronauts to the lunar surface. This decision did not sit well with the other two finalists, Blue Origin and Dynetics, who appealed the decision because NASA was showing “favoritism.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) rejected these appeals, which has prompted Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos to bring out the big guns. In addition to filing a lawsuit in federal court and lobbying Congress, they have also waged a public relations war against SpaceX itself, calling their safety record and into question. In response, Elon Musk took to Twitter to address Blue Origin’s claims and set the record straight.Continue reading “Musk Says That Refueling Starship for Lunar Landings Will Take 8 Launches (Maybe 4)”
Project Artemis, NASA’s long-awaited plan for sending astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era, has taken many steps forward. Aside from the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion spacecraft, and the elements that will make up the Lunar Gateway, NASA recently awarded SpaceX with the contract to build the Human Landing System (HLS) that will transport astronauts to the lunar surface.
However, this decision didn’t sit well with the other two companies NASA was also considering. These included Blue Origin, the commercial space company founded by Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos, and Alabama-based aerospace company Dynetics. After protests were filed by both companies, NASA decided to issue a stop-work order on the HLS award to SpaceX while it reviews the complaints.Continue reading “Protests From Dynetics and Blue Origin put NASA’s Lunar Lander Award to SpaceX on Hold”
When astronauts return to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era, they will be relying on a number of mission elements to get them there and back safely. This includes the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft that will launch a crew of four and carry them to the Moon. But until recently, the question of how they will get to and from the surface remained unresolved, as there were a few options.
To determine which would be best in terms of performance and cost, researchers from Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) in Moscow and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reviewed several dozen proposals. In the end, they determined that a one-stage reusable lunar lander that could transport astronauts to and from the orbiting Lunar Gateway was the best option.Continue reading “A 1-Stage, Fully Reusable Lunar Lander Makes the Most Sense for Returning Humans to the Moon”