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(8 December 2020 – NASA Marshall) Through a series of hot-fire tests in November, NASA demonstrated that two additively manufactured engine components – a copper alloy combustion chamber and nozzle made of a high-strength hydrogen resistant alloy – could withstand the same extreme combustion environments that traditionally manufactured metal structures experience in flight.

Hot-fire testing of an additively manufactured copper alloy combustion chamber and a nozzle made of a high-strength hydrogen resistant alloy. (courtesy: NASA)

“This 3D printed technology is a game-changer when it comes to reducing total hardware manufacturing time and cost,” said Tom Teasley, a test engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “These hot-fire tests are a critical step in preparing this hardware for use in future Moon and Mars missions.”

Teasley worked with a team of Marshall test engineers to put the 3D printed parts through their paces. They performed 23 hot-fire tests for a total duration of 280 seconds over 10 test days. Throughout the testing, engineers collected data, including pressure and temperature measurements in hardware coolant channels and the main chamber, and high-speed and high-resolution video of the exhaust plume and chamber throat. The team also calculated the chamber’s performance and how efficiently the engine used propellant overall.

The high-strength iron-nickel superalloy nozzle was printed using a method called laser powder directed energy deposition, which deposits and melts the metal powder locally to create freeform structures. This method allows engineers to manufacture small and large-scale components, as demonstrated in NASA’s RAMPT project.

The tests were a part of NASA’s Long-Life Additive Manufacturing Assembly (LLAMA) project, which aims to enable these 3D printed parts – along with other additively manufactured hardware – for use on future lunar landers. The team will perform additional hot-fire tests to further demonstrate and validate the durability of the engine components. Marshall leads the LLAMA project for NASA’s Game Changing Development program, part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

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Blue Origin successful demonstrates New Shepard crew capsule upgrades

Blue Origin successful demonstrates New Shepard crew capsule upgrades

(14 January 2021 – Blue Origin) Blue Origin has successfully completed its 14th mission to space and back today for the New Shepard program.

The New Shepard crew capsule outfitted with astronaut experience upgrades landing at Launch Site One. (courtesy: Blue Origin)

Mission NS-14 featured a crew capsule outfitted with astronaut experience upgrades for upcoming flights with passengers onboard. Capsule upgrades included:

  • Speakers in the cabin with a microphone and a push-to-talk button at each seat so astronauts can continuously talk to Mission Control.
  • First flight of the crew alert system with a panel at each seat relaying important safety messages to passengers.
  • Cushioned wall linings and sound suppression devices to reduce ambient noise inside the capsule.
  • Environmental systems, including a cooling system and humidity controls to regulate temperature and prevent capsule windows from fogging during flight, as well as carbon dioxide scrubbing.
  • Six seats.

Also today during ascent, the booster rotated at 2-3 degrees per second. This is done to give future passengers a 360-degree view of space during the flight.

This flight continued to prove the robustness and stability of the New Shepard system and the BE-3PM liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.

Also onboard today were more than 50,000 postcards from Blue Origin’s nonprofit Club for the Future. The Club has now flown over 100,000 postcards to space and back from students around the world. More information here.

Key mission stats

  • 15th consecutive successful crew capsule landing (every flight in program, including pad escape test in 2012).
  • The crew capsule reached an apogee of 347,568 ft above ground level (AGL) / 351,215 ft mean sea level (MSL) (105 km AGL/107 km MSL).
  • The booster reached an apogee of 347,211 ft AGL / 350,858 ft MSL (105 km AGL/106 km MSL).
  • The mission elapsed time was 10 min, 10 sec and the max ascent velocity was 2,242 mph / 3,609 km/h.

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Infostellar introduces its new Chief Technology Officer

Infostellar introduces its new Chief Technology Officer

(11 January 2021 – Infostellar) Infostellar has announced the arrival of Steve Montgomery as the company’s Chief Technical Officer (CTO).

In this role, Steve will lead the company’s efforts in building and operating Infostellar’s global network of ground stations, including partner and company-owned assets. Steve will also leverage StellarStation by driving the technical development and expansion of the company’s ground segment products and services.

Steve Montgomery, Chief Technical Officer (courtesy: Infostellar)

“We are thrilled to have Steve join our team. Not only does he bring a wealth of technical expertise in building and operating global space assets, he also brings his experience in developing a startup GSaaS company into an industry leader.” says Infostellar Founder and CEO, Naomi Kurahara.

Kurahara added, “Steve will be a key factor in driving our products and services in the future, thus enabling Infostellar to provide mission critical ground operations to our growing client base.”

Steve has over 27-years of experience building and operating ground stations all over the world. He was a leader in the Universal Space Network team that was acquired by the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) in 2009 and remained with the company until joining Infostellar.

Most recently, Steve held the position of Chief Establishment Director at SSC, where he was directly responsible for the installation and operation of a global network of ground stations in support of a wide variety of international space programs. While at SSC, Steve also held the position of Managing Director of SSC Space Australia Pty Ltd, where he was responsible for SSC’s ground station operations in that region. Additionally, Steve led SSC’s efforts in building a world-class Launch and Early Orbit Operation (LEOP) and On-Orbit communications capability that to this day provides mission critical services to the world’s leading space agencies and companies.

Montgomery said: “I am very pleased to be joining Naomi and the Infostellar team. This company is embarking on a journey that expands ground segment services while reducing capital and operational expenses by fully benefiting from cloud infrastructure. Together we have a unique opportunity to be an enabler of new space applications. ”

About Infostellar

Infostellar is a satellite ‘Ground Segment as a Service’ (GSaaS) provider. We provide flexible and scalable ground station services enabled by our cloud platform, ‘StellarStation’, which virtualizes ground station networks. By lowering the barriers to entry in the ground segment, Infostellar empowers newspace businesses to build better missions and improve the quality of their service. Founded in 2016, Infostellar is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan and has its European office in the UK.

About StellarStation

StellarStation is a flexible, scalable, satellite ground station sharing platform. After a one-time setup, satellite operators can access any ground station across our global network. StellarStation also enables ground station owners to monetise their unused capacity by sharing it with satellite operators.

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Altius Space Machines announces successful first orbital launch of DogTags aboard OneWeb’s satellites

Altius Space Machines announces successful first orbital launch of DogTags

(14 January 2021 – Altius Space Machines) Voyager Space Holdings subsidiary, Altius Space Machines has achieved a significant milestone: a successful first launch of the company’s DogTags universal grapple fixtures into space aboard OneWeb’s satellites.

This is the first of many planned launches for Altius’ DogTags, as the company is slated to produce grapple fixtures for all of OneWeb’s remaining satellites in its planned constellation.

Flight DogTag prototype (courtesy: Altius)

Altius’ DogTag grapple fixture is a commercially available universal grappling point for satellites. DogTags are optimized for magnetic grappling; however, they are compatible with a variety of grapple methods such as mechanical grasping, Gecko adhesion, electrostatic adhesion and harpoon grappling. DogTags help mitigate the growing space debris problem by making it easier to deorbit non-functioning satellites, and can also be used to tug functional satellites to new orbits, act as an anchor point for satellite servicing, and capturing and stowing various payloads.

“This is an incredibly proud moment for Altius. It’s always wonderful getting to see an idea your team has been working on for years take flight,” said Jonathan Goff, CEO and founder of Altius Space Machines. “Beyond this individual achievement, we’re optimistic today’s launch will be the first of many as we work to lower the cost of servicing, and enable satellite operators like OneWeb to pioneer more sustainable space operations.”

Altius’ partnership with OneWeb is part of OneWeb’s larger initiative focused on advancing Responsible Space. The satellite communications company is committed to “leaving no trace in space” and is partnering with companies like Altius as part of its advocacy efforts for space environmental stewardship to aid in orbital debris management. The satellites are manufactured by Airbus OneWeb Satellites in a state-of-the-art factory located in Merritt Island, Florida.

“It is very rewarding to see our first portfolio company reach such a major milestone as this one,” said Matthew Kuta, president and COO of Voyager. “The DogTag is just one of their many revolutionary on-orbit satellite servicing solutions that we know will be transformational for future commercial and private sector use.”

About Voyager Space Holdings

Voyager Space Holdings, Inc. is a global leader in space exploration. Voyager’s long-term mission is to create a vertically integrated publicly traded NewSpace company capable of delivering any mission humans can conceive. By centralizing shared services functions at the parent company level, Voyager enables engineer founded and led subsidiaries to focus more on development of innovative products and services. The firm’s first in industry model is uniquely tailored to support the growth needs of commercial space companies by offering an alternative solution to traditional private capital models and replaces them with a longer-term approach as a provider of permanent capital. Voyager is led by founders and space industry veterans Dylan Taylor and Matthew Kuta, with a Board of Directors that includes National Security Expert and four-star Air Force General William Shelton, leading investor Gabe Finke, and a world leading planetary Scientist, Dr. Alan Stern.

About Altius Space Machines

Altius is a space robotics and technology startup with expertise in orbital rendezvous and capture robotics, active debris removal, spacecraft mechanisms, assistive telerobotics, in-space propellant transfer, satellite servicing, and on-orbit assembly and manufacturing.

About OneWeb

OneWeb is a global communications network powered from space, headquartered in London, enabling connectivity for governments, businesses, and communities. It is implementing a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites with a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals to provide an affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications service, connected to the IoT future and a pathway to 5G for everyone, everywhere.

About Airbus OneWeb Satellites

Airbus OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between Airbus and OneWeb that was formed in 2016 to design and manufacture the satellites for the OneWeb constellation. In the process, Airbus OneWeb Satellites has revolutionized satellite manufacturing by being the first to utilize commoditization and mass production techniques to dramatically reduce production times and costs. The company’s mission is not limited to the OneWeb program. Through the partnership with Airbus, Airbus OneWeb Satellites is offering to the market a standardized, mass produced satellite platform and payload interface that can be compatible with many different payloads, providing end-users with dramatic cost savings and opening the door for missions that were previously unthinkable.

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