NASA orders more flights from Boeing, SpaceX

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NASA said Tuesday it was exercising options for additional commercial missions from Boeing and SpaceX.

The agency will order four additional flights from each company, bring the number of missions ordered from each to six.

The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts NASA awarded to each company in September 2014 guaranteed each company at least two missions, with options for up to six.

NASA noted that there is no funding provided yet for those additional missions, and that the awards are pending a successful certification of each company’s vehicle, which won’t be until 2018. [GeekWire]


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An X-ray astronomy spacecraft will be the next mission in NASA’s Small Explorers program, the agency announced Tuesday. The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft will study black holes and other energetic phenomena by measuring how the X-rays they emit are polarized. The mission won out over two other finalists. The $188 million mission is scheduled for launch in late 2020. [SpaceNews]

The James Webb Space Telescope remains on track to resume vibration testing later this month, NASA confirmed Tuesday. A Dec. 3 test, designed to mimic the vibrations encountered during launch, shut down after instruments detected a “higher-than-expected response” at one frequency. Tests of the telescope structure have found no evidence of any damage. Reviews of the anomaly are in progress, and JWST’s program manager said plans continue to call for resuming vibration tests later this month. [NASA]

China plans to conduct nearly 30 launches in 2017. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation told state-run media in China Tuesdaythat those launches will include flights of the new Long March 5 and Long March 7 rocket. Key missions planned for launch in 2017 include the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission and the first flight of a Tianzhou cargo spacecraft to the Tiangong-2 lab module. China carried out 22 launches in 2016, a new national record and tied with the United States for the most launches in the year. [gbtimes]

The White House issued a new strategy Tuesday for dealing with the risks posed by near Earth objects (NEOs). The Detecting and Mitigating the Impacts of Earth-Bound Near-Earth Objects (DAMIEN) strategy, developed by an interagency working group, sets out a series of goals regarding the detection of NEOs, development of approaches for deflecting threatening NEOs and emergency procedures in the event of an impact. The strategy document will be followed by an action plan to be updated every three years. [SpacePolicyOnline]

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