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Dynetics to develop NASA’s Artemis Human Lunar Landing System

Huntsville-based Dynetics has been awarded a contract under NASA’s Artemis program to design a Human Landing System and compete to build a system to take the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024.

Dynetics is one of three prime contractors selected.

The Dynetics approach enables near-term reusability and sustainability and provides a commercially supported lander capability. The system’s crew module is designed to accommodate two crew members for missions from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back, including surface habitation for about a week. Alternatively, it can ferry up to four crew members to or from the lunar surface.

“There’s really no more exciting mission than delivering humans to other planetary bodies,” said Kim Doering, Dynetics vice president of Space Systems. “However, it’s also among the most challenging endeavors, particularly given the goal of landing on the moon in 2024. We believe Dynetics has the recipe for success.”

“As a new member of the Leidos family, Dynetics continues to lead the industry with talented innovators eager to solve today’s complex problems,” said Leidos Chairman and CEO Roger Krone. “NASA’s HLS is truly innovative and one that will revolutionize space travel. We are fully committed to this endeavor and proud to join the team returning Americans to the moon.”

The Dynetics-led team encompasses 17 states and one country. Major components and subsystems will be built, tested and integrated at the Dynetics facility in Decatur.

Dynetics is also delivering hardware to NASA’s Space Launch System Core Stage, Exploration Upper Stage, Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and the International Space Station.

NASA Extends Boeing’s Contract to Build More Moon Rockets

 

NASA has taken the next steps toward building Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stages to support as many as 10 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.

The agency intends to work with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions, for the production of SLS rockets through the next decade. The core stage is the center part of the rocket that contains the two giant liquid fuel tanks.

Illustration shows NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) in the Block 1 configuration, which will carry an Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon, on the mobile launcher. SLS is the only rocket that can send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Towering 212 feet with a diameter of 27.6 feet, it will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and all the systems that will feed the stage’s four RS-25 engines. It also houses the flight computers and much of the avionics needed to control the rocket’s flight.

The Space Launch System is the backbone of NASA’s deep space human exploration and is the only rocket capable of sending crew, the Orion capsule and heavy cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

“It is urgent that we meet the president’s goal to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, and SLS is the only rocket that can help us meet that challenge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “These initial steps allow NASA to start building the core stage that will launch the next astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface and build the powerful exploration upper stage that will expand the possibilities for Artemis missions by sending hardware and cargo along with humans or even heavier cargo needed to explore the Moon or Mars.”

NASA works with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions. Boeing is completing the first SLS core stage with the second well underway. The order leverages labor, materials, and supply chain efficiencies for production savings.

The SLS is managed at the Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, manufactured at the Michoud Assembly Facility outside of New Orleans and will launch from Cape Canaveral.

NASA has provided initial funding and authorization to Boeing to begin work toward the production of the third core stage and to order targeted long-lead materials and cost-efficient bulk purchases to support future builds of core stages.

“We greatly appreciate the confidence NASA has placed in Boeing to deliver this deep space rocket and their endorsement of our team’s approach to meeting this unprecedented technological and manufacturing challenge in support of NASA’s Artemis program,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch division. “Together with a nationwide network of engaged and innovative suppliers we will deliver the first core stage to NASA this year for Artemis I.

“This team is already implementing lessons learned and innovative practices from the first build to produce a second core stage more efficiently than the first.  We are is committed to continuous improvement as they execute on this new contract.”

The contract allows Boeing to order materials that will be used to produce additional SLS rockets through the next decade: 10 SLS core stages and eight Exploration Upper Stages to support Artemis III through Artemis XII. The full contract is expected to support up to 10 core stages and up to eight Exploration Upper Stages (EUS).

“NASA is committed to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon, and this action enables NASA to continue Space Launch System core stage production in support of that effort to help bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager at Marshall. “SLS is the only rocket powerful enough to send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission, and no other rocket in production today can send as much cargo to deep space as the Space Launch System rocket.

For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The SLS rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS.

The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space. NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions.

“The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space,” said Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall. “The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99 thousand pounds, to lunar orbit.”

 

Engine Section for SLS Rocket Moved for Final Integration

NEW ORLEANS — Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility recently moved the engine section for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to another part of the facility to prepare it for joining to the rest of the rocket’s core stage.

The Space Launch System is managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The engine section, which comprises the lowest portion of the 212-foot-tall stage, is the last major component to be horizontally integrated to the core stage. The flight hardware will be used for Artemis I, the first lunar mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

Crews completed assembly on the engine section on Aug. 29. NASA and Boeing engineers removed the scaffolding surrounding the hardware to use a special tool to properly position the engine section for its attachment to the rest of the stage.

The core stage’s two liquid propellant tanks and four RS-25 engines will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send the SLS rocket and Orion on the Artemis lunar missions. The engine section houses the four RS-25 engines and includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines.

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.

SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are the backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

Dynetics Teams with Maxar, NASA for Lunar Gateway

The United States is formulating plans to return to the moon by 2024 within the framework of the Artemis program — 55 years after NASA landed a man on the lunar surface during the Apollo days — but this time the mission is much different.

This time, NASA plans to put the first woman on the moon upon the return. This time, the country doesn’t plan to explore the Earth’s satellite and its mysteries and simply return home. This time, the goal is to establish a lunar presence with an eye already cast toward flights to Mars.

David King, CEO of Dynetics, and Mike Gold, vice president of civil space at Maxar Technologies, sign “Powering Lunar Exploration”‘ teaming agreement. (Eric Schultz/Huntsville Business Journal)

“NASA is going back to the moon and is committed to doing so by 2024,” said Mike Gold, vice president of civil space at Colorado-based Maxar Technologies. “The program is aptly called Artemis, because we are going to make history by this small step being a giant leap by putting the first woman on the surface moon.”

In Greek mythology, Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo. She is the goddess of the hunt and the moon.

“… this time we’re going back to the surface of the moon to stay,” said Gold. “Which is why NASA is building the Gateway.”

The Gateway project is an arm of Artemis. Gateway is a space station that will orbit the moon.

Gold recently joined political representatives and administrators from Maxar, NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center and Huntsville’s Dynetics at the latter’s campus on the western edge of the city for a press conference celebrating a “teaming agreement”’ between Maxar, Dynetics and NASA to develop Gateway.

NASA awarded Maxar a contract to spearhead the development of power and propulsion elements (PPE), which is the foundation of Gateway and spacecraft that will carry Americans back to the moon and beyond. While Maxar is a leading company in space technology, the company needed experienced partners in space travel and Dynetics was a fit to help get Americans eventually to Mars.

In a press release, Dynetics billed itself a responsive, cost-effective engineering and scientific firm with 2,000 employees providing IT solutions to national security, cybersecurity, space and critical infrastructure sections.

The Artemis/Gateway playbook calls for the country to put astronauts back on the moon in 2024, to establish a sustained human presence on and around the moon by 2028 and then prepare for missions to Mars.

Dynetics will provide support for the power and propulsion element and will aid establishment of a sustainable presence on the moon.

Huntsville, long conjoined with space exploration, will once again take on a large role in the process.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle relayed a message through Harrison Diamond, business relations officer for the city, in honor of the “teaming agreement” signing between Gold and Dynetics CEO David King.

“He said it’s a wonderful thing to say you can’t get to the moon without going through Huntsville first,” Diamond said. “And eventually to Mars.”

Former NASA Acting Administrator, MSFC Director Robert Lightfoot Joins Lockheed Martin

Robert Lightfoot, a longtime NASA executive who served as both the agency’s acting administrator and highest-ranking civil servant, will join Lockheed Martin Space as vice president, Strategy and Business Development, effective May 6.

Robert Lightfoot

In his new role, Lightfoot will lead strategic planning, advanced technology concepts, and new business strategy for the corporation’s Space business area.

The business area programs include GPS, missile warning and communications satellites for the Department of Defense; human and robotic exploration systems for NASA; weather and commercial communications satellites, and strategic missile and missile defense systems.

Lightfoot retired from NASA in April 2018 and has served as president of LSINC in Huntsville for the past year.

“Robert is a universally-respected leader with an exceptional understanding of space technology, operations and strategy,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. “Robert’s insights and expertise will be crucial to the continued transformation of our space portfolio as we embrace new technologies and new business models.

“He will shape and drive a strategy that will help us deliver the breakthrough innovations and capabilities our customers need as we enter a new space age.”

During his career at NASA, Lightfoot served in several critical leadership roles to support space operations, exploration and science missions including director of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and director of Propulsion Test at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

He also focused on strategies for key missions including the shuttle’s return to flight following the Columbia tragedy, then initial transition and retirement efforts for shuttle infrastructure.

Lightfoot retired from NASA in April 2018 and has served as president of LSINC Corporation in Huntsville

NASA, Blue Origin Agreement Signals Rocketing Growth of Commercial Space

Officials from NASA and Blue Origin have signed an agreement that grants the company use of a historic test stand as the agency focuses on returning to the Moon and on to Mars, and America’s commercial space industry continues to grow, according to a statement Wednesday from the space agency.

Under a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville to test its BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines. The BE-4 engine was selected to power United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket and Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle – both being developed to serve the expanding civil, commercial and national security space markets.

“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector – commercial space,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector.” 

Constructed in 1965, Test Stand 4670 served as the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It was modified to support testing of the space shuttle external tank and main engine systems. The facility has been inactive since 1998. 

“We’re excited to welcome Blue Origin to our growing universe of commercial partners,” said Marshall Center Director Jody Singer. “This agreement ensures the test stand will be used for the purpose it was built.”

NASA identified the 300-foot-tall, vertical firing test stand at Marshall as an underutilized facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use. Blue Origin responded and a team was commissioned to begin exploring the proposed partnership. 

“I am thrilled about this partnership with NASA to acceptance test both BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engines,” said Bob Smith, chief executive officer of Blue Origin. “Through this agreement, we’ll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history – and bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville.”

Under the agreement, Blue Origin will pay for the investments it makes to prepare the test stand for use, as well as any direct costs NASA incurs as a result of Blue Origin use of the stand, maximizing the value derived from taxpayer investment in government facilities.

Blue Origin will manufacture the engines at its new facility under construction in Cummings Research Park.

Auburn Receives $5.2M NASA Contract to Improve Liquid Rocket Engine Performance

AUBURN — NASA has awarded a $5.2 million contract to Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence, it was announced Monday.

The three-year contract is to develop additive manufacturing processes and techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. The contract is the latest expansion of a longstanding public-private partnership between Auburn and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

“For decades, Auburn engineers have been instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its space exploration goals,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “This new collaboration between NASA and our additive manufacturing researchers will play a major role in developing advanced rocket engines that will drive long-duration spaceflight, helping our nation achieve its bold vision for the future of space exploration.”

The research and development covered under the new contract is part of NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology (RAMPT) project, which focuses on evolving lightweight, large-scale novel and additive manufacturing techniques for the development and manufacturing of regeneratively cooled thrust chamber assemblies for liquid rocket engines.

“This partnership with Auburn University and industry will help develop improvements for liquid rocket engines, as well as contribute to commercial opportunities,” said Paul McConnaughey, deputy director of Marshall Space Flight Center. “The technologies developed by this team will be made available widely to the private sector, offering more companies the opportunity to use these advanced manufacturing techniques.”

NCAME will support the RAMPT project in creating a domestic supply chain and developing specialized manufacturing technology vendors to be utilized by all government agencies, academic institutions and commercial space companies.

Auburn and NASA established NCAME in 2017 to improve the performance of parts that are created using additive manufacturing, share research results with industry and government collaborators and respond to workforce development needs in the additive manufacturing industry. The center is also one of the founding partners of the newly established ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence at Auburn.

Leading Auburn’s team as principal investigator for the RAMPT project is Nima Shamsaei, NCAME director. Serving as project manager is Mike Ogles, director of NASA programs in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“This contract is a giant leap towards making Alabama the ‘go to state’ for additive manufacturing,” Ogles said. “We look forward to growing our partnership with NASA, industry and academia as we support the development of our nation’s next rocket engines.”

CFD Research Awarded $24M NASA Contract

CFD Research has been awarded a small business prime contract for the Vertical Lift Technology Development program at NASA Ames Research Center. It is the company’s first major service prime NASA contract.

The five-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract has a ceiling value of $24 million.

CFD Research and its team of subcontractors will provide aeronautical engineering, research, and development for vertical lift technology development. Air traffic management development is also included to assess and integrate new operating procedures for efficiency and safety.

“The VLTD award marks a major milestone for CFD Research on two key fronts: it is our first major service prime contract for NASA and our first major service prime contract outside of Huntsville,” said COO/Vice President Steve Cayson. “It emphasizes our strategic goal to leverage our core research and development capabilities into on-site support for government customers.”

Huntsville-based CFD Research was founded in 1987 and provides work for government and commercial customers.

“CFD Research is honored to be selected for this highly competitive award and looks forward to continuing and growing our long and successful partnership with NASA’s prestigious Ames Research Center,” said President/CEO Sameer Singhal. “The award builds on CFD Research’s services growth of the last few years and provides opportunities to increase that growth significantly.”

Huntsville is Mainstage for Worldwide Hackathon

With a pronouncement of “We are going to be to space travel what the Silicon Valley is to electronics,” Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, launched a press conference Tuesday of global proportions.

Huntsville has been named as the “Mainstage” for the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, an annual worldwide hackathon. The Challenge is Oct. 19-21 and will feature coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers and builders who will address NASA-issued challenges on Earth and in space.

“Space Apps is an annual event … (held) at the same time in cities around the world,” said Toni Eberhart, executive director of Urban Engine, a local nonprofit organization aimed at accelerating STEAM-focused initiatives among the millennial startup community.

Last year’s Challenge reached more than 25,000 participants in 187 cities on six continents. The Mainstage sites were New York City and Palo Alto, Calif., but, this year, Huntsville is the only Mainstage and will feature local space and science professionals.

We are honored to be selected as Mainstage and host this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage the community in something that can have massive, global impact,” Eberhart said. Honoring Huntsville’s legacy in aerospace and aviation is something we’re so passionate about.

“To foster education and team collaboration in support of Space Apps, we’ll be providing a wealth of educational workshops at CoWorking Night which is designed to prepare teams and refine skills they’ll be using during the hackathon – and everything is being provided at no cost, thanks to our sponsors.”

Mayor Tommy Battle, who was introduced by Eberhart as Huntsville’s favorite “double millennial,” said the city is the perfect site because “we’re on NASA’s mainstage to get back to the moon and go to Mars.”

“This is a challenge that is made for Huntsville … to see our millennials and ‘double millennials’ working together.”

Hal Brewer, co-founder and chair of Intuitive Research and Technology – one of the event’s presenters, said this is a chance for businesses to take part for team building and “international exposure.”

In fact, he called out some local companies to answer the challenge.

“It’s a great opportunity to foster STEM research,” Brewer said. “If you sponsor this, you’re going to be getting international exposure.”

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber is also a presenting sponsor and is launching its new website – asmartplace.com – to tie in with the Challenge while helping with career exploration.

“The brand new asmartplace.com is the Chamber’s workforce development and recruitment initiative, focused on connecting students with a smart career and attracting smart people from around the world to be part of our dynamic and growing workforce,” said Georgina Chapman, workforce director at the Chamber. “We knew the NASA Space Apps Challenge would reach the most talented and motivated coders, creators and problem solvers in the world, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to reach them directly.”

For information on the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, visit www.spaceappshsv.com.

 

Dr. Michael Griffin is keynote speaker at SMD Symposium

Michael Griffin

A former NASA administrator and University of Alabama-Huntsville eminent scholar returns to the Rocket City in a key role at one of the largest symposiums of its kind.

Dr. Michael Griffin, who is responsible for ensuring U.S. military technical superiority as Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, is set to provide the keynote address at the upcoming Space & Missile Defense Symposium.

The event is called “the leading educational, professional development and networking event in the space and missile defense community,” and the keynote dinner will be Aug. 8 at the Von Braun Center. According to a Department of Defense spokesperson, Griffin was not ready to reveal the topic of his address when contacted in July.

Griffin, a former NASA administrator and eminent scholar at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, took over his new role at the Pentagon earlier this year following a career that has spanned academia, industry, and the civil and national security government space sectors. He was appointed by President Trump to fill the new position created from the reorganization of the Pentagon’s acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L) organization.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act instructed the DoD to break up AT&L and replace that undersecretary position with two new ones, including Griffin’s post as undersecretary for research and engineering post, to develop future technologies; and an undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, held by Ellen M. Lord, who has day-to-day focus on existing defense systems.

In his role, Griffin is responsible for the research, development, and prototyping activities across the Department of Defense enterprise and is mandated with ensuring technological superiority for the DoD, according to his U.S. DoD biography. Griffin oversees the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Strategic Capabilities Office, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the DoD Laboratory enterprise, and the undersecretariat staff focused on developing advanced technology and capability for the U.S. military.

During his career, Griffin was deputy for technology in the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative Office and served as NASA administrator under President George W. Bush. He was also president and chief operating officer of In-Q-Tel, the nonprofit venture capital firm created and funded by the CIA.

He served as Space Department Head at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and was the King-McDonald Eminent Scholar and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UAH from 2009-2012 before serving as a consultant to the military defense community.