Sierra Nevada Corporation passes key milestone in NASA commercial cargo contract
The company said it completed a third integration review on its Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract with NASA, confirming that the company’s Dream Chaser vehicle can meet NASA requirements for transporting cargo to and from the space station.
Sierra Nevada won one of three CRS-2 contracts last year for services scheduled to begin in late 2019.
The company is currently developing Dream Chaser, with a flight test article undergoing tests at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center that will include glide tests later this year. [Sierra Nevada Corp.]
The company not selected by United Launch Alliance to provide the engine for its Vulcan rocket will likely lose Air Force funding. The Air Force is providing funding to support the development of both Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 and Blue Origin’s BE-4, the latter through a partnership with ULA. Both engines are in the running to be used on the Vulcan’s first stage. Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, director of space programs for the Air Force’s acquisition office, said that once ULA selects one of those engines, the Air Force is unlikely to provide additional funding for the other engine. Teague said his interest is in developing a launch service capability, not an engine that may not be used. [SpaceNews]
The next launch of Iridium satellites will take place a little earlier than previously planned. Iridium announced Thursday that the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of its second batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites is now scheduled for June 25 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, four days earlier than previously announced. The company said a “new range availability” at Vandenberg allowed the launch to be moved up. That launch was once scheduled for April, but postponed to June because of SpaceX’s backlog of other launches. [SpaceNews]
NOAA’s fiscal year 2018 budget request prioritizes ongoing weather satellite programs over new ones. The budget request would fully fund ongoing development of the GOES-R series of geostationary weather satellites and the first two JPSS polar-orbiting weather satellites. However, the proposal sharply cuts funding for the Polar Follow-On program, which would develop two more JPSS satellites, in order to study stretching out the launches of those spacecraft. The proposal also cuts funding for the Space Weather Follow-On program to develop new spacecraft to monitor solar storms, effectively delaying the program by a year. [SpaceNews]
ViaSat plans to develop a much larger network of ground stations to get the most out of its new satellite. The company is planning double the number of gateways for its ViaSat-2 satellite than it has for ViaSat-1 in order to maximize the bandwidth available to users of the broadband internet service that the new satellite will provide. That satellite is scheduled for launch June 1 on an Ariane 5. ViaSat said it plans even more, but smaller, gateways for its ViaSat-3 constellation under development. [SpaceNews]
Initial findings from NASA’s Juno spacecraft have given scientists a whole new view of Jupiter’s interior. The results, published in journals this week, indicate that the planet’s atmosphere is not as well-mixed as first through, with varying distributions of ammonia, including a plume rising up at the planet’s equator. The planet’s magnetic field is also stronger, but more variable, than initially thought, and a core that may be larger but more diffuse than models previously predicted. [Nature]
The Pentagon is investigating whether an Air Force mortuary employee “disrespected” the remains of John Glenn earlier this year. Glenn’s body was kept at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary after his death in December until he was buried in April at Arlington National Cemetery. According to a report, the mortuary’s branch chief offered Pentagon inspectors the opportunity to view his remains on two separate occasions in February and March, which the inspectors declined. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson has asked the Air Force’s inspector general to investigate the claims in the report. [Military Times]
Playing with your food is apparently acceptable, if you’re in space. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer has earned a reputation for using the station’s zero-gravity environment to concoct, and play with, unusual food combinations, which he tweets photos of. One example: a combination of chocolate pudding cake, vanilla pudding, strawberries and “candy doo-dads” that cling to a spoon. He calls it a “Bitesize Mountain of Yumiosity.” [Space.com]