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Drake State to Partner with Marshall Space Fight Center in Historic Agreement

Drake State Community & Technical College is shooting for the Moon and has set a historic precedent on the way.

Marshall Space Flight Center selected Drake State as a partner to develop 3D printing technologies that will help prepare for sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade and for future human missions to Mars. 

With the selection, Drake State becomes the first community college and only Historically Black Community College to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall’s Cooperative Agreement Notice program since its inception in 2013.

“Being Huntsville’s community college, we’re especially proud to have received this CAN award,” said Dr. Patricia Sims, President of Drake State Community & Technical College. “We’ve  been a part of the Rocket City since 1961. The opportunity to support NASA with our research  project is truly exciting.”

Drake State submitted a proposal to Marshall’s seventh competitive CAN for Dual-Use Technology Development solicitation. The award will fund collaborative research in support of NASA’s Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction  Technologies project. This project aims to develop, deliver, and demonstrate capabilities to protect astronauts and create infrastructure on the lunar surface via construction of landing pads, habitats, shelters, roadways, berms and blast shields using lunar regolith-based materials. 

The research team consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s  Engineering Design program. It will test 3D printed concrete structures to help develop  construction techniques suitable for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon. 

The one-year research project is funded through NASA’s Minority University Research and  Education Project. The research team will collaborate with ICON, an innovative 3D printing construction company in Austin, Texas. ICON is working with NASA on early research  and development of a space-based construction system that could support exploration of the Moon and Mars.

“Our team will use 3D printing technology to build concrete structures, conduct destructive and  non-destructive testing, and collect and analyze data on the material that ICON produces,” said Robert Grissim, Director of Workforce Development at Drake State Community & Technical  College and Principle Investigator. 

Additionally, instructors in the Engineering Design program will develop curriculum related to the research project and add the specialty classes to the College’s course catalog. 

“Our goal is to continue to support the Artemis mission and NASA after our research project is completed,” said Dr. Carolyn Henderson, Dean of Instruction at Drake State Community &  Technical College. “Training our students to work in space-based construction technology will create a pipeline to a workforce skilled in this highly-specialized field.” 

 

Dynetics Unveils Lunar Lander Module Mockup

Dynetics recently unveiled a test version of its full-scale lunar lander that the company hopes will take people to the moon.

The Dynetics test article will be used for initial evaluations for NASA’s Artemis program,, Dynetics said in a statement. The Dynetics team will use the test article for analysis, crew module accommodations, placement and orientation of various components and overall habitability.

The mockup includes the crew module, autonomous logistics platform for all-moon cargo access, ascent and descent propellant tanks and deployable solar arrays. This low-slung design could allow for easier and safer access to the lunar surface.

The full-scale lunar landing system mockup will be used for testing for NASA’s Artemis program. (Dynetics Photo)

“Our team is pleased to bring this system to life,” Kim Doering, Dynetics Vice President of Space Systems, said in a statement. “Our reusable, sustainable approach is ready to support a safe and successful hardware delivery for NASA’s mission.”

The focus of the test article rests on crew interfaces, enabling the team to test crew activities within the module. The flexible design is readily reconfigurable, allowing the human systems integration team and flight crew to review and provide feedback on early concept designs and execute quick-turn iterations.

The test article was constructed just three months after the start of the contract and was built and delivered in collaboration with LSINC, a Huntsville-based subcontractor.

Huntsville-based Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, is competing with  is one of three prime contractors selected to design a lander for the NASA’s Artemis Human Landing System Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Dynetics; SpaceX; and The National Team, led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, were awarded contracts in April totalling $967 million to build the landing systems.

 

Teledyne Brown Completes Major Hardware for NASA’s Artemis Rocket

One of the largest pieces of hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System left Marshall Space Flight Center recently to begin its voyage to Kennedy Space Center in the coming weeks.

Teledyne Brown Engineering, the prime contractor on the project with several small business partners, designed and built the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter. LVSA provides the fundamental structural strength required to withstand the launch loads and the maximum dynamic pressure.

It also provides the critical separation system used to separate the core stage of the rocket from the second stage, which includes the astronauts in the Orion crew vehicle. The cone-shaped adapter is roughly 30 feet in diameter by 30 feet tall and consists of 16 aluminum-lithium alloy panels.

“LVSA is not only a significant achievement for our company, but it is monumental for Marshall Space Flight Center and the Huntsville Community,” said Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering.  “It’s the largest hardware to be completed for the SLS in Huntsville.

“Our company was an integral part of the country’s first rocket programs with Werner Von Braun, and we continue our legacy and support of space programs with this successful hardware completion for the latest Space Launch System.”

LVSA will be moved by barge to Kennedy Space Center where it will join the rocket’s Core Stage to the ICPS and Upper Stage.  It will be incorporated into the final configuration of the SLS for the first Artemis lunar mission.

The SLS is the only rocket able to send the Orion capsule, cargo and astronauts to the Moon in a combined mission.

The Artemis Mission, including this hardware, will be a part of the first moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Teledyne is building an LVSA for the second Artemis lunar mission and starting work on the LVSA for the Artemis III mission, which will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024.

With $915M Contract Extension, Boeing to Support International Space Station Through 2024

Boeing, NASA’s lead industry partner for the International Space Station (ISS) since 1993, will continue supporting the orbiting laboratory through 2024 under a $915 million contract extension.

This award comes as the world marks 20 years of constant human habitation on the ISS — a record no other crewed spacecraft has come close to achieving.

“As the International Space Station marks its 20th year of human habitation, Boeing continues to enhance the utility and livability of the orbiting lab we built for NASA decades ago,” said John Mulholland, Boeing vice president and program manager for the International Space Station. “We thank NASA for their confidence in our team and the opportunity to support the agency’s vital work in spaceflight and deep-space exploration for the benefit of all humankind.”

Boeing employees in Huntsville work closely with NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center and perform sustaining engineering and advanced studies, providing technology advancements, including engineering and manufacturing support for the ISS.

An international crew of six astronauts work and live on the ISS while traveling at the speed of 5 miles per second, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes. More than 240 people from 19 countries have visited the ISS and conducted almost 3,000 experiments onboard.

Boeing in Huntsville supports additional NASA programs including the Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket, and Starliner commercial crew capsule.

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.