SSEP, Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

SSEP | Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

A Model U.S. National STEM Education Initiative for Grades 5-16
to inspire the next generation
of America’s scientists and engineers

NEW FLIGHT OPPORTUNITY – Mission 15 to ISS ( Go to 2/3/20 Announcement )
Experiment Design Phase: Fall 2020; Flight to ISS: Late Spring 2021 Download: Press Release PDF

Watch Video Clips describing SSEP: Clip 1 (NASA), Clip 2 (NASA)
STEM Impact in Era of Commercial Space: Video – SSEP Showcased at Congressional Hearing, 11/5/19
Scientific American
feature article on SSEP: February 17, 2015

Multimedia (click on toggles below)

ISS Current Location

The ISS Current Location tracker above was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA’s Columbus laboratory is a component of the ISS. Visit the ESA website for more information on the tracker.

HDEV Live View of Earth from ISS

This high definition video of your world is being telemetered to Earth LIVE from the International Space Station. To determine what portion of Earth is in view, use the ‘ISS Current Location’ toggle above. We invite you to get into the spirit of exploration on the frontiers of space – select an audio file below, expand the HDEV video window to full screen, and look down from 250 miles above Earth’s surface. Suggestions for other audio tracks are welcome:)

David Bowie’s Space Oddity, sung by Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield on ISS (watch his video)

About HDEV, from NASA: The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment aboard the ISS was activated April 30, 2014. It is mounted on the External Payload Facility of the European Space Agency’s Columbus module. HDEV includes four fixed cameras positioned to capture imagery of the Earth’s surface and its limb as seen from the ISS – one camera pointing in the direction the station is moving, two cameras aft (wake), and one camera pointing straight down at Earth (nadir). While the experiment is operational, views will typically sequence though the different cameras. Between camera switches, a gray and then black color slate will briefly appear. To learn more about the HDEV experiment, visit this NASA webpage.

Twitter Feed with Images from Astronauts Currently Aboard ISS

Spot the Station: When Will ISS Fly Over Your Town?

In late 2015, the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education suggested to NASA Headquarters that a Spot the Station widget, which could be easily embedded on any website, would be a wonderful way to extend ISS public awareness. The widget below was the result, and you’ll note that it is also found in the right column on all main pages of this SSEP website.

You are invited to use the widget to explore Station over-flights of your community, and even embed this widget on your website by clicking on the “About” button in the widget.


The flight of Apollo 11 to the Moon, crewed by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, may be arguably the most remarkable journey ever undertaken by humankind. At 9:56 pm EST on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on another world.

In 2019 the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and it is noteworthy that 1.5 billion people alive today were alive in 1969.

But the Apollo program included a total of 9 missions with a spacecraft traveling to the Moon, and 6 of those missions each landed 2 astronauts on the lunar surface. To date, 12 humans have walked on the Moon – a quarter of a million miles from our home world Earth. These missions took place 1968 to 1972 – from Apollo 8, with the first spacecraft to fly around the Moon, to Apollo 17, the final Apollo mission.

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) is using SSEP Missions 14 through 16 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo Program, given SSEP program operations for these three missions span 2019-2022. SSEP Mission 14 started in September 2019, and SSEP Mission 16 experiments are expected to be launched in Late Spring 2022.

SSEP Mission 14 – 16 communities can therefore use their participation in SSEP as a 50th Anniversary Apollo celebration, with multidisciplinary connections to STEM, history, and art. What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary than engaging a community of hundreds of students in the real space program, and real spaceflight, on the frontiers of human exploration.

SSEP Mission SSEP Program Operations Apollo Mission Dates
Mission 14 2019 – 2020 1969 – Apollo 11, 12; 1970 – Apollo 13
Mission 15 2020 – 2021 1970 – Apollo 13; 1971 – Apollo 14, 15
Mission 16 2021 – 2022 1971 – Apollo 14,15; 1972 – Apollo 16, 17

We invite your community to use your SSEP Mission Patch Art and Design Competitions to both capture your community’s participation in America’s Space Program through SSEP, and celebrate these most remarkable journeys undertaken by the human race 50 years ago. It is an opportunity to celebrate the past, embrace the present, and inspire in our next generation … the future.

We also invite you to explore the SSEP Launch and On-Orbit Operations History page, which provides a sense of the already rich history of the SSEP Program. Here you will find s list of SSEP missions and payload designations, videos of all SSEP launches, a list of all astronauts that have operated SSEP experiments, and videos of astronauts operating the experiments.

A careful read of this home page will provide an Executive Summary of the Program. The rest of this website provides a deeper understanding of program pedagogy and operations; guidance for how a community can come aboard; and resources to conduct the program.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) was launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in strategic partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. Designed as a model U.S. national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative, the program gives students across a participating community the ability to design and propose real microgravity experiments to fly in low Earth orbit (experiments conducted in a “weightless” environment). SSEP was first carried out aboard the final two flights of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program in 2011 (STS-134 Endeavour, STS-135 Atlantis). In 2012 SSEP transitioned to operations on the International Space Station (ISS) – America’s newest National Laboratory.

SSEP is suitable for students in pre-college grades 5-12, 2-year community colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities. A participating pre-college community typically engages 300+ students (at least 100 students) in microgravity experiment design and proposal writing. For an undergraduate community, it is expected that at least 30 students will be engaged.

In 2012, SSEP was extended to international communities through the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, NCESSE’s new international arm.

Click on the image and feel the magic. Shuttle Endeavour on its final flight (STS-134) docked at ISS, May 23, 2011. Aboard her are 16 SSEP Experiments. Read more at

SSEP is about immersing and engaging
students and their teachers in every facet
of real science—on the high frontier—so
that students are given the chance to be
scientists—and experience science firsthand.

More broadly, SSEP is about a commitment to student ownership in exploration, to science as journey, and to the joys of learning.

Of special note – SSEP is garnering extensive media coverage at local, regional, and national levels (over 1,200 articles to date). School districts are effectively leveraging media exposure from their participation in this high caliber STEM initiative, and at a time when STEM education is of national strategic importance, and is becoming a core element of the curriculum at the local level (see the SSEP in the News pages, and e.g., a recent Scientific American feature article).

Important note: SSEP is not designed for an individual class or a small number of students in a pre-college community. Implementing SSEP for an appropriate-sized student audience is straightforward, and Implementation Plans from a large number of communities that have participated in SSEP are available on request.

Each community participating in SSEP is provided a very real research asset – a flight certified, straightforward to use microgravity research mini-laboratory, and guaranteed launch services to transport the mini-laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS). It is a precious and limited research asset given that the mini-laboratory can only contain a single student team designed microgravity experiment. An astronaut aboard ISS will conduct the experiment, and after a typical 4 to 6 week stay in orbit, the experiment will be returned safely to Earth for harvesting and analysis by the community’s student flight team.

Mirroring how professional researchers formally compete to obtain limited research assets, the participating community carries out a “call for proposals”. More specifically, the community conducts a local Flight Experiment Design Competition , engaging hundreds of students in teams of typically 3-5, with each team vying for the community’s single experiment slot by proposing a microgravity research program that can be carried out in the mini-laboratory. The competition is conducted through formal submission of real (but grade level appropriate) research proposals by the student teams – as is standard practice for professional researchers. (A minimum of 50-80 flight experiment proposals are typically secured across a single pre-college community. At least 10 proposals are required for an undergraduate community.)

Each community’s flight experiment is selected through a formal 2-step proposal review process. The final selection is carried out by the SSEP National Step 2 Review Board, which meets at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The flight experiment then undergoes a 4-month NASA flight safety review at Johnson Space Center; laboratory refinement by the student flight team; handover to NanoRacks in Houston for integration into the SSEP experiments payload; and payload integration into the ferry vehicle for flight to ISS. SSEP experiment payloads launch from either Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, adjoining NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, or from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Wallops Island, Virginia, on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft.

SSEP is not a simulation – this is very real spaceflight. This is very real student immersion in space science research, and a remarkable opportunity for a community.

SSEP provides each community its own – very real – Space Program.

An annual SSEP National Conference held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, immerses delegations of students in a real research conference where they formally present to their peers on experiment design and science results (explore the 2019 Conference page, and video clips of presentations archived on the Scientific Return and Reporting pages, see e.g., Mission 12 to ISS Scientific Return and Reporting and Mission 13 to ISS Scientific Return and Reporting).

A suite of SSEP program elements—the Community Program —leverages the flight experiment design competition to engage the entire community, embracing a Learning Community Model for STEM education. One element is a Mission Patch art and design competition allowing hundreds of students across the community (down to grade K) to capture through art and design their community’s SSEP experience. Up to two Mission Patches accompany the community’s selected flight experiment to low Earth orbit.

Strategic Curricular Connections to Science and STEM

Students can design experiments in diverse fields, including: seed germination, crystal growth, micro-encapsulation, chemical processes, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms (e.g. bacteria), cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life. SSEP is therefore relevant across all science disciplines, and allows all teachers of science across a community to immerse students in a fully authentic process of scientific inquiry. A curriculum, and other resources for teachers and students, supports foundational instruction on both the cause and characteristics of a microgravity (weightlessness) environment; the science conducted in microgravity and why; guidance for proposal writing; and the experiment design process that flows from the key essential question–

The essential question driving experiment design:
What physical, chemical, or biological system would I like to explore with gravity seemingly turned off for a period of time, as a means of assessing the role of gravity in that system?

SSEP provides seamless integration across STEM disciplines through an authentic, high visibility research experience that correctly places content within a process landscape – an approach that embraces the Next Generation Science Standard s , but also requires –

  • a critical understanding of the space Technology , and associated spaceflight operations, used to transport payload to and from Low Earth Orbit and conduct microgravity experiments on ISS,
  • a critical understanding of the Engineering specifications for the mini-laboratory, which provide real-world constraints on experiment design,
  • Mathematics to design a viable experiment to operate in the mini-laboratory, through: refinement of sample (fluid and solid) concentrations and volumes, defining a timeline that is consistent with the experiment’s duration aboard ISS, and defining an approach to data analysis after the experiment returns to Earth.

In addition, student teams are writing real proposals that then go through a formal review process. This addresses vital skills in terms of historical research, critical writing and communications, and teamwork.

Through this authentic trans-disciplinary approach to STEM education, SSEP is designed to inspire and engage the next generation of scientists and engineers, and more generally, address STEM literacy. For school districts—even individual schools—SSEP provides an opportunity to implement a systemic, high caliber STEM education program tailored to community need. With the Mission Patch art and design competitions, SSEP is more appropriately designated a STEAM initiative .

Appropriate Lead Institutions to Conduct this Program

The program is open to 5 categories of community, which provides a great deal of flexibility in implementing SSEP at the local level:

  • Pre-College(the core focus for SSEP) in the U.S. , (grades 5-12), with a participating school district—even an individual school—providing a stunning, real, on-orbit RESEARCH opportunity to their upper elementary, middle, and high school students
  • 2-Year Community Colleges in the U.S., (grades 13-14), where the student body is typically from the local community, providing wonderful pathways for community-wide engagement
  • 4-Year Colleges and Universities in the U.S. , (grades 13-16), with an emphasis on Minority-Serving Institutions, where the program fosters interdisciplinary collaboration across schools and departments, and an opportunity for formal workforce development for science majors
  • Communities in the U.S. led by Informal Education or Out-of-School Organizations, (e.g., a museum or science center, a home school network, a boy scout troop), because high caliber STEM education programs must be accessible to organizations that promote effective learning beyond the traditional classroom
  • Communities Internationally: in European Space Agency (ESA) member nations, European Union (EU) member nations, Canada, and Japan with participation through NCESSE’s Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education. Communities in other nations should explore the potential for their participation by contacting the Institute.

Flight Opportunities to Date

Since program inception in June 2010, there have been 16 SSEP flight opportunities—SSEP on STS-134 and STS-135, which were the final flights of Space Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis; and SSEP Missions 1 through 14 to ISS. A total of 191 communities have participated in the program, reflecting 42 States and the District of Columbia in the U. S., 5 Provinces in Canada, and a community in Brazil. Thus far 58 communities have participated in multiple flight opportunities – one community conducting their 9th flight with Mission 13 – reflecting the sustainable nature of the program.

Through the first 16 flight opportunities (through Mission 14), a total of 126,600 grade 5-16 students across 2,496 schools were fully immersed in microgravity experiment design and proposal writing, 25,518 flight experiment proposals were received from student teams, and 314 experiments were selected for flight. Through Mission 13, 147,400 students across the entire grade preK-16 pipeline were engaged in their communities’ broader STEAM experience, submitting 120,670 Mission Patch designs.

All 281 experiments selected for flight through Mission 13 have now flown. The Mission 13 experiments launched on SpaceX-18 on July 25, 2019, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, and returned to Earth on August 27, 2019. Another 33 experiments are expected to launch in Summer 2020 as the Mission 14 Apollo payload of experiments on SpaceX-21, launching from the Cape.

For more information on SSEP Missions to date–

Explore the SSEP Launch and On-Orbit Operations History page, which provides videos of all SSEP launches, a list of all astronauts that have operated SSEP experiments, and videos of astronauts operating the experiments.

Explore the Flight Opportunities to Date page, which provides launch and landing dates, and information on the ferry spacecraft, astronaut crews aboard ISS during experiment operation, and the SSEP flight experiment payloads.

Explore the separate SSEP website – the SSEP Community Network Hubsite – which is dedicated to the participating communities and the over 1,250 organizational partners at the local level. At the Hubsite, you can read profiles of the participating communities, see a map of the Community Network, read about the selected flight experiments and flight Mission Patches, explore the 1,000+ media articles on SSEP, and watch videos of student teams reporting out at the SSEP National Conferences in Washington, DC.

Latest Flight Opportunity

February 3, 2020 : Announcing SSEP Mission 15 to the International Space Station (ISS)

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education announce the seventeenth SSEP flight opportunity – SSEP Mission 15 to ISS – which provides for an experiment design competition Fall 2020, and a ferry flight for the selected flight experiments to ISS in Late Spring 2021. SSEP Mission 15 to ISS is currently the only SSEP flight opportunity available.

Time Available for Experiment Design:
Your Student Teams, led by your designated SSEP Local Team of Teacher Facilitators, will have 9 weeks from program start to proposal submission: September 1 to November 4, 2020. During this time, core activities include:

  • introducing SSEP curricular content for foundational instruction on: the nature of microgravity, science conducted in microgravity, mini-laboratory operation, and experimental design
  • defining student teaming, and facilitation of microgravity experiment design across all student teams
  • each team writing a formal 5-page, grade level appropriate flight experiment proposal

Key Milestones:

  • Experiment Design and Proposal Writing (9 weeks): September 1 – November 4, 2020
  • Flight Experiment Proposals due to your lead institution: November 4, 2020
  • Local Step 1 Review Board selects 3 finalist proposals, submits to NCESSE: November 13, 2020
  • Formal selection of your community’s flight experiment: December 17, 2020
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload to ISS, estimated launch date: Late Spring 2021
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload back to Earth: typically Launch Plus 4 – 6 weeks
  • SSEP National Conference for students: late June or early July 2021 and 2022, most likely held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, the site of the 2011 through 2019 Conferences

Letters of Commitment of Funding from Participating Communities: due August 24, 2020
Mission 15 to ISS Starts in Participating Communities: September 1, 2020

ASAP: Interested communities are directed to contact NCESSE as soon as possible, but no later than March 27, 2020, to explore participation. It typically takes 3-4 months in advance of program start to plan and fund the program in a community (funding with assistance from NCESSE if required – see below).

Contact: Dr. Jeff Goldstein at [email protected], or 301-395-0770;
Download: Mission 15 Press Release, or view online

SSEP provides significant flexibility for a community to design a program to their strategic needs in STEM education—

  • A community of any size can participate, including a small school district, an individual school, a large inner city or suburban district, a cluster of rural districts, a college, or a museum/science center or other informal education led community-based effort
  • The baseline SSEP program provides for typically 300+ students participating in the Experiment Design Competition in each pre-college community; or at least 30 students participating in an undergraduate community
  • A community can open the competition to any grade level(s) in the grade 5-16 range, and through the provided elements of the SSEP Community Program , engage wider audiences (all grade levels, families, and the general public). The Community Program includes: a competition to design a Mission Patch to fly in space with your flight experiment, and a S SEP National Conference in Washington, DC. The Community Program also provides the means for a National Team of scientists and engineers to travel to your community for up to a week, and engage thousands of grade K-16 students—one classroom at a time; conduct family and public programs like those the Center conducts at the National Air and Space Museum; and provide professional development for grade K-12 teachers.
  • SSEP is a bold new commercial space venture in partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC. The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, must recover the actual costs for the program (lease of commercial space for the mini-laboratory in the flight payload and aboard ISS, all flight services to and from low Earth orbit, program delivery and community support), but also recognizes the significant challenge to a community in securing underwriting in the current financial climate. That said, the Center is committed to trying to find funding for any community in the U.S. and Canada interested in participating. The Center found full or partial funding for 224 of the 303 SSEP community programs undertaken as part of the first 16 SSEP flight opportunities, and we now have active relationships with a national network of a few hundred funders. If you are interested in this program, let us help.

Strategic, National, and Local Partners, and Event Sponsors

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. SSEP is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. NCESSE, the Clarke Institute, DreamUp, and NanoRacks are therefore designated SSEP Strategic Partners. Visit the Strategic Partners page to read about their SSEP programmatic roles and responsibilities.

SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.

NCESSE and the Clarke Institute are proud to be working with the following National Partners on SSEP
— in the U.S., the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in space (CASIS), and Subaru of America, Inc.
— in Canada, Magellan Aerospace.
To read more about these partnerships, visit the National Partners and Sponsors page.

Underwriting by Conference and Event Sponsors make events for the SSEP community network possible. Read more at the National Partners and Sponsors page.

Partnership is truly a hallmark of SSEP. Over 1,250 organizations have supported SSEP at the local level, including: school districts, private schools, NASA Space Grant lead institutions and other universities, corporate foundations, businesses, community foundations, and local research institutions. These organizations are designated the SSEP Local Partners. To explore the Local Partners, visit the Communities & Local Partners page at the Community Network Hubsite.

SSEP was designed to be a keystone initiative for U.S. National STEM education, and to help inspire America’s next generation of scientists and engineers. Through the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, the International arm of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, SSEP participation is also being expanded internationally to reflect the multinational complexion of ISS operations.

Phase 1 of SSEP was a unique and historic opportunity for students to propose experiments to fly aboard STS-134 and STS-135, the final flights of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. We wanted the final voyages of the Space Shuttle to also mark a new beginning for student experiments in space, enabled by the new age of commercial space – the new private sector of companies providing transport services to and from low Earth orbit. This Phase 2 of SSEP provides communities of grade 5-16 students the ability to design and propose real microgravity experiments, just like professional researchers, for operation by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

We want SSEP to provide routine student researcher access to space via commercial payloads; to leverage the power of such access into a STEM education program delivered at the local level across an entire community; and to serve a network of such communities across the nation—even internationally.

To our children, who are America’s future in the 21 st century—
be part of history … by making history.

To schools and school districts committed to STEM education—
let us help your students step into the shoes of scientists and engineers … right now.


INTERESTED? YOUR NEXT STEP: go to the About SSEP page for a comprehensive overview of SSEP, including a description of strategic STEM objectives, program elements, customization to community need, and cost.

All content on this website is Copyright 2020, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE). Any use of this content without the permission of NCESSE is prohibited.

Welcome to Virginia Space

Space flight

Welcome to Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS)

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA), also known as ‘Virginia Space,’ is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia Space owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and the MARS UMS Airfield.

Virginia Space aims to provide and is proud to offer full-service launch and drone testing facilities for commercial, government, scientific and academic users.

The mission of Virginia Space is to serve as a driver for Virginia’s New Economy by providing safe, reliable, and responsive space Access at competitive prices, and secure facilities for testing of unmanned vehicles for integration into the National Air Space.

International Space Station Resupply Mission Launches from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

Spacecraft named in honor of first African American astronaut

RICHMOND—The 13th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station successfully launched on Saturday, February 15 at 3:21 p.m. from Wallops Island. The mission will deliver 8,009 pounds of cargo to the space station.

The “NG-13” mission is a partnership of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space), NASA Wallops Flight Facility, and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. The spacecraft launched from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad-0A.

Northrop Grumman named the NG-13 spacecraft after former astronaut Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. He became the first African American astronaut in 1967, when the Air Force selected him as a member of the third group of astronauts for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. Major Lawrence served in the United States Air Force as an officer and pilot, accumulating more than 2,500 flight hours, including 2,000 in jets. He spent much of his career training other pilots in cutting-edge flight maneuvers and techniques. His Air Force honors included the Commendation Medal and the Outstanding Unit Citation.

“Today’s launch is delivering equipment to the International Space Station, where astronauts are advancing scientific understanding,” said Governor Northam. “This important mission honors the legacy of Major Robert Lawrence, who dedicated his career to advancing science through flight.”

NASA and its partners have successfully supported humans continuously living in space since the Expedition 1 crew arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on November 2, 2000. The unique microgravity laboratory has hosted 239 people from 19 countries, more than 2,600 experiments from 3,900 researchers in more than 107 countries, and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The space station also is facilitating the growth of a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit for research, technology development, and crew and cargo transportation

“The world-class infrastructure and technology on Wallops Island is expanding opportunities for science, research, national security, and ISS cargo resupply missions,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Collaboration among the Commonwealth, Virginia Space, and NASA Wallops will continue to grow the potential of this strategic national asset and gateway to space.”

The Commonwealth built MARS Pad-0A to accommodate the Antares 230+ rocket configuration and Cygnus spacecraft. Modifications in 2019 made it possible to accommodate the loading of time-sensitive experiments into the Cygnus spacecraft up to 24 hours before liftoff, shortening the previous four-day pre-loading requirement. This is the second official mission to use this loading capability, which has made the MARS facility eligible for missions that include life science investigations in the payload.

This will be the second mission under Northrop Grumman’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract with NASA, for which the company will fly a minimum of six missions to the ISS through 2024.

The Antares rocket will boost an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft carrying more than 8,000 pounds of payload to the ISS that includes scientific investigations, supplies, and vehicle hardware for the orbital laboratory and its crew.

The scientific investigations launching on Cygnus are part of commercial and academic payloads across a variety of disciplines, including:

  • Mobile SpaceLab, a tissue and cell culturing facility for sophisticated microgravity biology experiments.
  • Mochii, a miniature scanning electron microscope for analysis of small and microscopic particles in space. This onsite imaging and measurement of particles could be a game-changer for microgravity research in Low Earth Orbit.
  • OsteoOmics, an experiment to investigate astronaut bone loss due to a lack of gravity while they are in orbit. The study of signaling pathways as well as gene and protein expression could also have implications for patients on Earth.
  • Phage Evolution, an investigation that aims to improve understanding of the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on bacteriophages (viruses that specifically invade and destroy bacteria without harming human cells) and hosts. This could result in significant developments for phage technology, which would ultimately help protect the health of astronauts on future missions. Targeted phage therapy to eliminate harmful bacteria without causing large-scale damage to a human’s microbiome is currently being utilized on Earth as an alternative to antibiotics in an age of increasing antibiotic resistance.
  • Saffire-IV, a fire suppression investigation that will aid understanding of how fires spread in space and will support the development of flame-resistant materials and fire prevention measures. The experiment uses the Cygnus resupply vehicle after it leaves the space station, thereby eliminating exposure of humans or spacecraft to fire danger.

The Cygnus spacecraft will spend about three months attached to the space station. It will then depart the station, the Saffire-IV experiment will be activated, and the spacecraft will deorbit.

“Virginia Space continues to provide reliable ground support systems and personnel through maintenance and operation of MARS Pad-0A, the homeport of the Antares rocket,” said Dale Nash, Executive Director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. “The strong and strategic public-public-private partnership of Virginia Space, NASA Goddard’s Wallops Flight Facility, and Northrop Grumman is a unique collaboration that contributes to ongoing mission success.”

India outlines launch plans, progress in human spaceflight and space transportation

India outlines launch plans, progress in human spaceflight and space transportation

HELSINKI — India’s launch plans for the coming year include a range of Earth observation, communication and navigation satellites according to an annual report.

Progress in the areas of space transportation and human spaceflight is also laid out in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) report.

India is gearing up to launch 10 Earth observation satellites across the next financial year, starting April. These include optical, multi- and hyperspectral, and synthetic aperture radar satellites.

India’s launch plans include three communication satellites and two navigation satellites are also planned for the coming year.

India’s next launch is set for March 5. A Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is set to launch the 2,100-kilogram GEO Imaging SATellite (GISAT-1).

The Space Docking Experiment (SPADEX) is another mission planned for 2020. A chaser and target will demonstrate the technologies needed for docking two spacecraft. The project is designed as a forerunner to future planetary missions and crew transfer capabilities.

The proposed Indian space budget for 2020-21 is 13,480 Crore ($1.9 billion). ISRO published the annual report ( pdf ) for 2019-2020 earlier in February.

U.S. President Donald Trump praised India’s efforts in lunar exploration and human spaceflight during a state visit this week.

Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to deepen defense and security cooperation, especially through greater maritime and space domain awareness, according to a White House briefing . The statement also notes discussions related to Earth observation, planetary exploration, heliophysics, human spaceflight, and commercial space cooperation.

Gaganyaan, reusable launcher

The ISRO report outlines recent progress in the areas of human spaceflight and space transportation.

Progress has been made on India’s announced Gaganyaan human spaceflight program, with the configuration of the Gaganyaan Crew Escape System having been finalized. It will utilize five solid motors using a newly developed high burn rate propellant system.

Gaganyaan has the objective of demonstrating human space flight capability in Low Earth orbit. It aims to send three crew members into orbit for 5-7 days and safely return them to Earth. The crew module will be a height of 3 meters and a 3.5-meter-diameter.

An uncrewed test mission on a GSLV MkIII launcher is slated for launch in December 2020 or early 2021. A second test flight is planned for July 2021.

In space transportation India is proceeding with a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) project to demonstrate technologies for developing a wing body vehicle similar to that of an aircraft. A Landing Experiment to test autonomous landing at an airfield in Karnataka, southwest India following airdrop from a helicopter was stated to be planned for the last quarter of 2019. No update on its status or outcome was provided.

The status of the Hypersonic Air Breathing Vehicle with Air frame integrated system (HAVA) is also provided. The hypersonic vehicle uses scramjet engine power and may be used for the design and development of a Two-Stage-to-Orbit (TSTO) vehicle.

India’s light launch plans, commercialization

Two demo flights of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) are also part of India’s launch plans. The 2-meter-diameter, 34-meter-tall launcher will be capable of lifting satellites between 10-500 kilograms to a 500-kilometer orbit. Microsat-2A will demonstrate launch on demand capability with SSLV. The 142-kilogram satellite will operate for 10 months in a 350-kilometer orbit.

NewSpace India Limited, a newly formed commercial arm of the Indian space agency, is tasked with enabling Indian industry to scale up high-technology manufacturing and production base for Indian space efforts. It will be involved in the manufacture of SSLV in collaboration with the private sector. Another major activity will be the productionisation of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through Indian industry.

No update on the proposed Chandrayaan-3 lunar landing mission appeared in the report. Chandrayaan-2 launched last year placed an orbiter into a 100 x 100-kilometer lunar orbit, but the Vikram lander failed to land safely.

Wastewater recycling project could someday improve human space flight

Space flight

Wastewater recycling project could someday improve human space flight
by Michaela Jarvis for Embry-Riddle News
Daytona Beach FL (SPX) Mar 03, 2020

Embry-Riddle Student John Trzinski works on a research project to filter waste water using a non-mechanical osmosis process. (Embry-Riddle/Daryl LaBello)

When Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student John Trzinski was a sophomore, he took two classes that cross-pollinated, resulting in an idea that won the first-place prize for individual projects in a recent Undergraduate Research Symposium – and could help solve a real-life problem.

While studying the life support systems on the International Space Station, Trzinski learned that filtration of the station’s precious water is one of the station’s most “energy-draining and inefficient” systems, he said. At the same time, Trzinski was taking a biology class, where he learned about how cells transport water – that is, through a passive, energy-neutral process known as osmosis.

Trzinski figured “it’d be great if the astronauts on the International Space Station didn’t have to filter waste water mechanically.” He further wondered if wastewater could be put into one chamber of a filtration system, separated by a semi-permeable membrane from another chamber full of a high-concentration liquid. By osmosis, Trzinski reasoned, water from the wastewater would flow to dilute the high-concentration liquid, leaving behind the contaminants in the wastewater.

“The most exciting thing is that this is research I feel could make a difference in the world of human space flight,” said Trzinski. “And the university has provided me a platform to do it.”

Toward the end of his sophomore year, Trzinski contacted scientists at NASA who were working on water filtration. “I figured they’d be the best subject experts to reach out to,” Trzinski, now a senior, said in a recent interview.

Trzinski’s research explores the effectiveness of using forward osmosis to remove urea from a synthesized form of urine. The project relies on synthetic urine so that its content is consistent. The high-concentration fluid that Trzinski uses to draw water out of the synthetic urine contains salt, with the idea that the resultant solution could be used for washing or industrial purposes aboard the International Space Station. Otherwise, the salt could be removed easily through a second simple filtration process, Trzinski said.

Converting Urine into Clean Water
“In terms of real-world applications, this could greatly benefit people like soldiers or hikers since it could be used to convert urine into clean, safe drinking water,” said AJ McGahran, assistant professor of chemistry and chemistry lab manager at Embry-Riddle.

“We are also hopeful that this would be useful for manned space missions. In all of these instances, storage space is a precious commodity, so being able to minimize the amount of equipment these individuals need to carry in order to maintain a consistent supply of potable water would be incredibly beneficial. For space applications, there is the added benefit of this being a very low-energy process.”

Trzinski is testing the filtered water using two forms of spectrometry, which shine a light beam through the liquid for a precise reading of the liquids’ purity. He will also use H nuclear magnetic resonance.

If Trzinski’s method proves viable, huge amounts of cargo weight could be avoided on space missions. Resupply missions, Trzinski said, often include replacement filtration pumps and the carbon filters that are used in mechanical filtration. The vinyl filters used in forward osmosis can filter ten to 20 times the water that the same weight of carbon filters would process.

“On a standard International Space Station, they have resupply missions, including filtration system parts, every few weeks,” said Trzinski. “You want to avoid the heavy, metallic parts that wear out and need to be replaced.”

As Trzinski moves toward graduation in the spring, he is actively seeking a successor to continue his research. He is considering continuing to work on his project in at least an advisory role. Meanwhile, Trzinski worked last summer at a French firm that produces closed-loop water systems, and he may continue along that path.

“As John conducts this research, he is gaining valuable experience in chemical synthesis, spectroscopy and data analysis,” said McGahran. “While this is a chemistry-heavy project, many of the skills such as handling dangerous materials, designing projects, interpreting data and analyzing results to draw conclusions will translate over to other workplaces. This project will help him continue to develop skills necessary to succeed in a STEM career, and I am excited to work on it with him.”


Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook – our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don’t have a paywall – with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

SpaceFlight Insider – For the inside line on Space Flight news

Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX successfully launches CRS-20, recovers their 50th Falcon 9 Booster

Northrop Grumman Successfully Completes Cold Static Test of Second Stage for OmegA Rocket

SpaceX successfully launches fourth batch of Starlink satellites

Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort’s successful completion clears way for crewed flights

Boeing’s Starliner capsule begins much-delayed first flight: UPDATE

Northrop Grumman’s NG 12 paints the sky in honor of an American legend

Delta IV Medium ends 17-Year run with 100% success

CRS-18 Falcon and Dragon brave storms to begin 18th ISS flight

Night time is the right time for SpaceX STP-2 mission

Anomaly occurs during OmegA first stage static fire test

Boeing CST-100 Starliner Testing Deficiencies Identified

Michael McCabe March 9th Cape Canaveral, FL – Details are emerging about exactly what and how testing was performed prior to Boeing launching their Starliner test capsule on December 20, 2019, a flight which resulted in a mixed outcome instead of what was supposed to be a resounding and highly anticipated success.

Northrop Grumman Successfully Completes Cold Static Test of Second Stage for OmegA Rocket

Patrick Attwell February 28th PROMONTORY, Utah – Feb. 28, 2020 – Northrop Grumman has successfully completed a cold static test of the second stage of its OmegA rocket in Promontory, Utah, completing the full-duration (approx. 140 seconds) firing on the afternoon of February 27.

New Horizons parallax project seeks public participation

Laurel Kornfeld February 21st NASA’s New Horizons mission is seeking public participation in a project aimed at imaging the two closest stars, Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, from Earth on April 22 and 23, the same day the spacecraft will photograph them from almost five billion miles (eight billion km) away.

Pluto’s heart feature controls its winds

Laurel Kornfeld February 20th Pluto’s iconic heart feature, named Tombaugh Regio, functions as a “beating heart” that controls the small planet’s winds and might even play a role in shaping its surface features.

Arrokoth data sheds light on planet formation

Laurel Kornfeld February 19th Data returned by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft taken during its January 2019 flyby of Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) Arrokoth, also known as 2014 MU 69, located four billion miles from Earth, supports the theory that planet formation in the solar system occurred in a gentle rather than violent process.

ULA successfully launches Solar Probe aboard Atlas V

Theresa Cross February 10th CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launched a NASA probe its way to our Sun. At 11:03 p.m. EDT, February 9, the rocket left Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Pluto’s hazy atmosphere is similar to that of Titan

Laurel Kornfeld February 2nd Pluto is often compared to Neptune’s largest moon Triton, but its hazy atmosphere is actually more akin to that of Saturn’s largest moon Titan, which is sometimes viewed as an analog of early Earth.

Artemis I Orion spacecraft advancing through tests at Plum Brook Station

Michael Cole January 31st SANDUSKY, OHIO — Testing is fully underway on the Orion spacecraft for the upcoming Artemis I test flight mission at NASA’s Plum Brook Station testing facility in Sandusky, Ohio. The Orion crew capsule, integrated with its European Service Module, is currently inside the facility’s Space Environments Complex undergoing thermal vacuum tests in the largest thermal vacuum chamber in the world.

SpaceX successfully launches fourth batch of Starlink satellites

Theresa Cross January 29th CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX launched their fourth batch of approximately 60 satellites for the Starlink broadband network at 9:06am EDT, January 29, after carefully “evaluating extreme weather in the recovery area,” according to SpaceX.

NASA broadcast celebrates Spitzer telescope’s accomplishments

Laurel Kornfeld January 24th In a live broadcast on Wednesday, January 22, NASA celebrated 16 years of incredible accomplishments by the Spitzer Space Telescope, one of its four “Great Observatories” in space.

Spitzer telescope to be decommissioned after 16 years

Laurel Kornfeld January 20th NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which has studied the universe in infrared light since its launch in August of 2003, will be decommissioned on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Gallery: SpaceX’s Dragon clears safety check paving way for crewed missions

Michael McCabe January 19th CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Images from the Jan. 19 test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft which successfully demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to pull astronauts away from the rocket in the event of an accident on its way to orbit.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner Testing Deficiencies Identified

Michael McCabe March 9th Cape Canaveral, FL – Details are emerging about exactly what and how testing was performed prior to Boeing launching their Starliner test capsule on December 20, 2019, a flight which resulted in a mixed outcome instead of what was supposed to be a resounding and highly anticipated success.

Northrop Grumman Successfully Completes Cold Static Test of Second Stage for OmegA Rocket

Patrick Attwell February 28th PROMONTORY, Utah – Feb. 28, 2020 – Northrop Grumman has successfully completed a cold static test of the second stage of its OmegA rocket in Promontory, Utah, completing the full-duration (approx. 140 seconds) firing on the afternoon of February 27.

Artemis I Orion spacecraft advancing through tests at Plum Brook Station

Michael Cole January 31st SANDUSKY, OHIO — Testing is fully underway on the Orion spacecraft for the upcoming Artemis I test flight mission at NASA’s Plum Brook Station testing facility in Sandusky, Ohio. The Orion crew capsule, integrated with its European Service Module, is currently inside the facility’s Space Environments Complex undergoing thermal vacuum tests in the largest thermal vacuum chamber in the world.

SpaceX successfully launches fourth batch of Starlink satellites

Theresa Cross January 29th CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX launched their fourth batch of approximately 60 satellites for the Starlink broadband network at 9:06am EDT, January 29, after carefully “evaluating extreme weather in the recovery area,” according to SpaceX.

Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort’s successful completion clears way for crewed flights

Theresa Cross January 19th SpaceX successfully completed yet another milestone under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to send astronauts to the International Space Station – the In Flight Abort Test.

SuperDraco engines set to be tested during SpaceX in-flight abort

Theresa Cross January 19th KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — With the in-flight Crew Dragon abort test set to launch in less than an hour, let’s take a look into the incredibly powerful and spacecraft specific SuperDraco engine.

SpaceX, NASA monitoring weather ahead of in-flight abort test.

Sean Costello January 19th CAPE CANAVERAL. Fla. — As the sun rises and the shorelines of the Space Coast communities fill with eager spectators, SpaceX and NASA engineers have their attention focused on the early Sunday morning weather systems.

SpaceX poised to take large step toward human space flight

Cullen Desforges January 17th SpaceX is ready to check off another box on the list of requirements that need to be completed before the company can send crewed missions to the International Space Station.

NASA graduates its newest class of Astronauts

Sean Costello January 10th As NASA prepares to send astronauts to destinations far beyond Earth, a new breed of space flyers has joined the elite cadre of the agency’s astronaut corps.

New Year, new headquarters for Blue Origin

Laurel Kornfeld January 9th With Blue Origin opening its new headquarters, 2020 appears to be a year of further expansion for NewSpace.

SpaceX starts 2020 with Starlink launch

Patrick Attwell January 6th SpaceX’s Starlink constellation just got a major boost.

What’s in a name? Mars 2020 wouldn’t know, it doesn’t have one – yet

James Rice December 30th NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is on the verge of traveling to the Red Planet and beginning its search for evidence of Martian life. But it’s missing something very important.

Launch of Shijian 20 lights up Chinese skies and exploration ambitions

SpaceFlight Insider December 28th China has big plans for its space program. But before it can achieve them, it needed to make sure a key launch vehicle was up to the task. A recent mission suggests that it is.

Russia launches final Rockot with trio of communications satellites

SpaceFlight Insider December 27th Russia launched its final mission on the nation’s 2019 manifest when it sent three communications satellites to orbit on Friday, Dec. 27. The flight marked the close of a vehicle designed for violence.

Boeing Blunder! Starliner timing failure prevents ISS rendezvous

SpaceFlight Insider December 20th “Unplanned but stable.” That’s how Boeing referred to the first flight of its Starliner “space taxi.” In layman’s terms, the spacecraft was placed in the wrong orbit and won’t be going to the International Space Station.

Boeing’s Starliner capsule begins much-delayed first flight: UPDATE

Cullen Desforges December 20th CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – After almost a year of continued delays, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner has finally launched. It is the culmination of years of development, but there’s still a ways to go before astronauts will be soaring aloft in the vehicle.

New Horizons parallax project seeks public participation

February 21st
NASA’s New Horizons mission is seeking public participation in a project aimed at imaging the two closest stars, Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, from Earth on April 22 and 23, the same day the spacecraft will photograph them from almost five billion miles (eight billion km) away.

Pluto’s heart feature controls its winds

February 20th
Pluto’s iconic heart feature, named Tombaugh Regio, functions as a “beating heart” that controls the small planet’s winds and might even play a role in shaping its surface features.

Arrokoth data sheds light on planet formation

February 19th
Data returned by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft taken during its January 2019 flyby of Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) Arrokoth, also known as 2014 MU 69, located four billion miles from Earth, supports the theory that planet formation in the solar system occurred in a gentle rather than violent process.

ULA successfully launches Solar Probe aboard Atlas V

February 10th
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launched a NASA probe its way to our Sun. At 11:03 p.m. EDT, February 9, the rocket left Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Pluto’s hazy atmosphere is similar to that of Titan

February 2nd
Pluto is often compared to Neptune’s largest moon Triton, but its hazy atmosphere is actually more akin to that of Saturn’s largest moon Titan, which is sometimes viewed as an analog of early Earth.

NASA broadcast celebrates Spitzer telescope’s accomplishments

January 24th
In a live broadcast on Wednesday, January 22, NASA celebrated 16 years of incredible accomplishments by the Spitzer Space Telescope, one of its four “Great Observatories” in space.

Spitzer telescope to be decommissioned after 16 years

January 20th
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which has studied the universe in infrared light since its launch in August of 2003, will be decommissioned on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Gallery: SpaceX’s Dragon clears safety check paving way for crewed missions

No in-flight abort for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft today

January 18th
SpaceX has been forced to stand down from today’s attempt to test out a critical element of the company’s crew-rated spacecraft.

Boeing releases video from recent OFT mission

January 16th
Boeing has released video from its failed attempt to send its “Starliner” spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Processing of Starlink 2 booster underway, following return to Port Canaveral

January 11th
SpaceX’s B1049.4 returned to Port Canaveral January 9, 2020 after the completion of its fourth flown mission delivering the third set of Starlink satellites into low-Earth-orbit (LEO). This is Spacex’s first launch supported by the newly-created U.S. Space Force and its forty-eighth successful booster recovery.

CRS-19 Dragon wet and waiting for next mission

January 7th
After spending nearly a month berthed to the International Space Station, a SpaceX Cargo Dragon capsule left the Station and splashed down marking the successful completion of its mission.

OPINION: 2019 – Numbers and Names

January 1st
Well that happened. 2019 was a roller-coaster of ups and downs that will have far-reaching consequences for future space exploration efforts.

SpaceX prepares for first of many Starlink launches in 2020

December 31st
2020 looks to be a big year for space. The next twelve months could see the U.S. regain a long-lost capability and another rover should be sent on its way to the Red Planet. SpaceX is planning to kick off 2020 with the launch of the next batch of Starlink satellites.

NASA Mars 2020 rover passes driving test

December 27th
Remember how stressful it was taking your first driver’s test? Now imagine driving a car that’s worth $2.5 billion.

This was the decade the commercial spaceflight industry leapt forward – The Verge

This was the decade the commercial spaceflight industry leapt forward

Led by SpaceX, there’s been a paradigm shift in the business of space

Share this story

Share All sharing options for: This was the decade the commercial spaceflight industry leapt forward

Two years into the decade, on May 25th, 2012, a small teardrop-shaped capsule arrived at the International Space Station, packed with cargo and supplies for the crew living on board. Its resupply mission at the ISS wasn’t remarkable, but the vehicle itself was unique: it was a Dragon cargo capsule, owned and operated by a private company called SpaceX.

Before 2012, only vehicles operated by governments had ever visited the ISS. The Dragon was the first commercial vehicle to dock with the station. The milestone was a crowning achievement for the commercial industry, which has permanently altered the spaceflight sector over the last 10 years.

This decade, the space industry has seen a shift in the way it does business, with newer players looking to capitalize on different markets and more ambitious projects. The result has been an explosion of growth within the commercial sector. It’s allowing for easier access to space than ever before, with both positive and negative results. Such growth is providing the commercial space industry with lots of momentum coming into the 2020s, but it’s unclear if this pace is something that can be kept up.

A new paradigm

Commercial companies have been involved in spaceflight since the dawn of space travel. Private companies built the Saturn V rocket for NASA, which took the first humans to the surface of the Moon. But for much of the 20th century, the companies that built those rockets and spacecraft weren’t purely focused on space travel. Instead, behemoth contractors specialized in space technologies, while also focusing on other areas of tech such as aviation and defense. They pursued purely government contracts — either from NASA or the Department of Defense — and most often the government told them exactly what to do.

“Under the old model, the government would hire a Lockheed or a Boeing or somebody to build one of these rockets,” Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, tells The Verge. “Almost all the money would come from the government, and the government would have almost complete control over what was built.” It’s the way the Space Shuttle was built; the way the International Space Station was built; the way the future James Webb Space Telescope is being built. All of these things are owned and operated by NASA, though they’ve all been built by contractors.

NASA’s Space Shuttle, built by contractors, flew its final flight in 2011 Image: NASA

For years, companies with the most spaceflight experience pursued these juicy government gigs, forsaking the private market. The US’s biggest launch provider since 2006, the United Launch Alliance, was mostly established to loft national security satellites for the DoD. “Because our companies became only interested in and focusing on the government customer, by 2010, at the beginning of the decade, we had no market share at all in the commercial space launch industry,” Greg Autry, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California specializing in new space, tells The Verge. “If a private company from Thailand wanted to launch a TV satellite or an Israeli company wanted to launch a communications satellite, an American launch vehicle was not even a consideration.”

But in the 2000s, a new player emerged in the commercial space arena. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., helmed by billionaire Elon Musk, took a different route than the contractors. The company was purely focused on space travel, with a very ambitious long-term goal: start a settlement on Mars someday. First, it had to build actual rockets, and the company had to be profitable doing so. Armed with private investment from Musk and early adopters, SpaceX started developing rockets on its own. And rather than focus entirely on government contracts, SpaceX pursued any customer it could, from NASA and the DoD, to commercial and international satellite operators. If you had something that needed to get to space, SpaceX wanted to fly it for you.

As SpaceX strived to make a name for itself, NASA started to experiment with a new way of doing business. Known as fixed-price contracting, the idea worked liked this: The space agency would put out a call for a service (for instance, a way to transport cargo to the ISS). Companies would then pitch their own ideas and vehicles to make that happen. If NASA liked the pitch, it would hand over a lump sum of money as investment, and the company would go into development. Once the vehicle was complete, NASA would pay for the use of it. It was meant to be a win-win. NASA would pay less money up front for a service, and private companies would own and operate their final creations.

This model was perfect for a company like SpaceX. It could use the investment from the government to supplement the development of its rockets, and then ultimately use the rockets to make money once development was complete. “That caused them to think creatively,” Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA under the Obama administration, tells The Verge. “There was a guaranteed market if you could get there.” That’s exactly what happened after SpaceX was tasked by NASA to start servicing the International Space Station. Once the company had developed its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX tried to put as many satellites on top of the vehicle as possible.

SpaceX’s Dragon, captured by the robotic arm on the International Space Station, in May 2012 Image: NASA

To capture more customers, SpaceX strove to bring down launch costs through new methods of manufacturing and a vertically integrated business. Famously, SpaceX relentlessly pursued making its rockets reusable, by landing them after each flight — a feat that’s meant to save the company on manufacturing costs. SpaceX has reaped the benefits of its affordable launches, too. Despite a few notable rocket failures, the company is still the most prolific launch provider in the US at the moment, and holds contracts with numerous customers from around the world. “They want to pursue private markets,” Jim Muncy, founder of PoliSpace, a space policy consulting agency, tells The Verge. “And they want to stimulate private markets.”

For better or for worse

Capitalism finally infiltrated spaceflight in the 2010s, and that meant competition was in full swing. Other launch providers looked at ways to also bring down costs over the last decade, with some pursuing reusability as well. New players are coming onto the scene: Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab, and more. As launch costs have come down, space has become more accessible than ever.

Over the last decade, Moore’s law has also finally taken hold of spaceflight, with satellites and vehicles being built smaller. These cereal box-sized satellites are easier and cheaper to make than their bus-sized predecessors, and they’re much cheaper to launch, requiring less overall room on a rocket. As a result, companies focused solely on building small satellites have seen enormous success. Research organizations and universities looking to put something into orbit have an easier time of making that happen. This trend, combined with more launch vehicles, has resulted in an explosion of new vehicles and satellite constellations from commercial companies.

With all this progress does come unintended consequences. The rise of SpaceX has also seen the rise of the SpaceX fans. Unlike other CEOs, Musk’s fans revere him as an almost godlike figure, a savior for humanity who will lead us to a utopia on Mars. Criticizing him and SpaceX for any reason comes with major risk, as you will likely be perceived as tearing down progress. That’s unfortunate, because healthy skepticism is warranted these days, as SpaceX’s claims and ambitions have grown loftier than ever. The latest claim is that the company will be landing a giant new vehicle on the Moon by 2022 — but that vehicle hasn’t yet been built, and it certainly hasn’t flown. “Every pronouncement that they make, no matter how wacky it is, is reported without critique, largely,” Linda Billings, a current consultant to NASA’s astrobiology and planetary defense programs, tells The Verge.

Some of the more formidable projects these companies want to undertake could also be detrimental down the road. Notably, SpaceX, OneWeb, and other companies have all been eyeing a new spaceflight market: filling low Earth orbit with tens of thousands of satellites, in order to beam internet coverage to the surface below. In an effort to bolster the progress of the commercial space industry, the government has taken a light touch approach to regulating these more entrepreneurial companies. The Federal Communications Commission, which provides licenses for launches, has been very lax in its approvals, giving SpaceX and OneWeb the go-ahead for their massive satellite initiatives. Now, there’s not much stopping them from increasing the amount of satellites in orbit by several orders of magnitude.

SpaceX’s first batch of Starlink satellites, just before being deployed Image: SpaceX

It’s unclear what that will do to the space around Earth. Already, there’s concern that so many satellites will transform the night sky, making it difficult for astronomers to make detailed observations of the Universe when so many vehicles are whizzing overhead. But even more concerning is how all these satellites will add to an already congested region of space. Injecting thousands of satellites into orbit over the next few years may drastically increase the chances of things colliding. The end result could be that low Earth orbit becomes too crowded, and essentially unusable.

While this decade saw ambitions grow along with enormous progress within the commercial space sector, many things that had been promised didn’t pan out. Most notably, human spaceflight on commercial vehicles has yet to fully mature. Space tourism ventures Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic argued that customers could be flying this decade. That dream will have to wait until the 2020s. “Branson was saying we were going to start flying tourists in 2008,” says Billings. “And where are we now?” Meanwhile, SpaceX and Boeing have been developing new vehicles to carry humans to the International Space Station, under the new contracting model that NASA used to resupply the ISS. While the process may be less expensive than other contracting methods, the development has still been fraught with delays and setbacks — whether that be from stringent oversight, low budgets, or just plain engineering problems. The first crews were supposed to fly in 2017. Now they will likely fly for the first time in 2020. Creating new passenger spacecraft that keep people alive and safe still takes a lot of time, no matter what contracting method you use.

What’s next?

As the 2020s get underway, the commercial space industry will have a lot to prove, especially since many have their sights set much higher than low Earth orbit. Numerous private companies are aiming to send robotic landers to the Moon in the next few years, while SpaceX, Blue Origin, and more all vow to send people to the Moon someday. It’s unclear how long it will take them to get there, if they can make it at all. The first private company, an Israeli nonprofit, attempted to land on the Moon this year and didn’t stick the landing.

Ultimately, it’s uncertain if there is a solid market for more ambitious forms of space travel. Even the satellite market has softened in recent years, which may explain why SpaceX has tried to turn itself into a consumer-facing business through its satellite constellation. It needs money to stay afloat. The scary thought is: what if there’s not much more money to squeeze out of space? Experts have long been forecasting days where private space stations will dominate low Earth orbit, frequented by tourists on vacation or their honeymoons. Eventually, private companies hope to scour the Moon’s surface for water ice, which they could turn into drinking water or rocket fuel for lunar bases. It all sounds like a great future. “Commercializing the lunar stuff, honestly, is not going to happen as fast, because there isn’t a market for it anytime soon,” says Garver. “But anyone could have told you there was a market for launch outside of NASA.”

The next decade will show us if the commercial spaceflight industry can match the progress it’s seen these last 10 years. Maybe these companies will finally take us beyond Earth orbit, with people along for the ride. Or it may reveal that the market for space is staying close to home for the foreseeable future.

Bachelor – s Degree in Spaceflight Operations, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Bachelor of Science in
Spaceflight Operations

Imagine the challenges one could face every day if their career were dedicated to launching a brand-new facet of space exploration and travel. Amazingly, there is a degree to match your ambitions. Embry-Riddle offers the world’s first Spaceflight Operations degree program. Linking the commercial space industry and regulatory agencies with Embry-Riddle’s well-established aviation and aerospace connections, this program teaches students to solve challenges such as airspace traffic coordination, launch operations, and training and certification requirements.

Students can be part of the world’s first commercial space operations degree program. An innovator in aerospace and aviation education, Embry-Riddle is backed with expertise and committed to teaching an interdisciplinary curriculum that aligns with global space industry demands.

Embry-Riddle collaborates with the Space Generation Advisory Council to promote space activities and strengthen the space workforce through education and career development.

This non-engineering degree program has been structured with the help of the commercial space industry and affiliated space agencies, including NASA and the FAA-Commercial Transportation office (FAA-AST), to help match the strengths of the graduates with the industry’s needs.

Students in this innovative program can specialize in either Space Policy and Operations or Operations Science and Technology.


About Spaceflight Operations at the Daytona Beach, FL Campus

The Bachelor of Science in Spaceflight Operations program opens a doorway into one of the newest and most innovative non-engineering fields in the aerospace industry. This unique program focuses on policy, operations, safety, training, human factors, and planning elements of commercial and private space operations. The interdisciplinary nature of this program prepares students to integrate the many different factors involved in space operations while also allowing them to specialize in either Space Policy and Operations or Operations Science and Technology.

The Bachelor of Science in Spaceflight Operations degree is housed in the Department of Applied Aviation Sciences in the College of Aviation.

Embry-Riddle’s Spaceflight Operations program is designed to prepare students for work in the commercial spaceflight industry. Graduates will be skilled in areas of space policy, operations, regulation and certification, as well as spaceflight safety, space program training, management, and planning.

Embry-Riddle’s undergraduate Spaceflight Operations degree is an interdisciplinary program that encompasses the human factors of space flight and training; the safety, security, and risk assessment of space operations; and the simulation, training, and planning involved with the space flight projects, vehicles, and spaceports.

This new degree program introduces students to the exciting and expanding world of commercial and private space flight, private and cooperative space programs, and the growing area of commerce in space research.

The campus is adjacent to the Daytona Beach International Airport and the NextGen Test Bed, and is also close to NASA and Kennedy Space Center.

About Us

Who we are

The Manned Space Flight Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational foundation offering extensive science education programs and a space museum. The cornerstone of its education mission is Space Center Houston, a leading science and space exploration learning center. It is one of Houston’s top attractions, the area’s No. 1 attraction for international visitors, the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center and a Smithsonian Affiliate.

Since opening in 1992, Space Center Houston has welcomed more than 22 million people and hosts nearly 1.25 million visitors annually in its 250,000-square-foot educational complex.

The center earned a 2016 Top Workplaces Award by The Houston Chronicle and generates annually a $118.7 million economic impact, 1,710 jobs and $53.7 million in personal income in greater Houston, according to a 2018 economic study by Quanticon, LLC researchers Stephen Cotton, PhD, and Jason Murasko.

Fun and engaging education

Educational emphasis is placed on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a fun and engaging way. It uses space exploration to inspire wonder and interest in science and math.

  • Space Center Houston offers a rich array of education programming for teachers and students, providing extraordinary learning opportunities.
  • Inspiring young people to choose careers in STEM is one of the outcomes of our program.
  • Education programs are based on data-supported evidence of effective learning and teaching methods.

Educational complex and space museum

The center features more than 400 space artifacts, permanent and traveling exhibits, exhibits and experiences and theaters related to the exciting future and remarkable past of America’s human space-flight program – all for one admission price. The experience is designed to engage adults and children alike.

  • There is always something new at Space Center Houston with an amazing array of traveling exhibits and astounding events.
  • Space Center Houston has the world’s largest collection of moon rocks and lunar samples for public view.
  • Known around the world as the home of NASA Mission Control, International Space Station Mission Control and astronaut training, guests are taken behind the scenes to see NASA Johnson Space Center.

Foundation History

JSC and NASA had a tremendous story to tell. It did not have the place or the resources to tell it. Artifacts and models were displayed in the hallways of the JSC employee auditorium. Hal Stall, director of Public Affairs at JSC, likened it to “displaying the Hope diamond in a shoe box.” Stall wanted to provide real role models for youth, showing them that working hard in math and science classes could pay off with a career as a spacecraft designer or astronaut. And he wanted to do it without using tax dollars.

So Stall gathered leaders from JSC and the community and formed Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization. Together, the group set out to provide a world-class facility where the public could come to touch the space program — and be touched by it.

The Foundation brought in the experts from Walt Disney Imagineering, the design and master planning arm of the Walt Disney Co. Using BRC Imagination Arts as a collaborating designer, Disney generated the concepts that would become Space Center Houston.

The Foundation sought support from corporations. Many companies backed the building of the Center by providing seed money. Finally, $68.4 million in tax-exempt bonds were sold to the public.

Modest admission fees would fund the daily operation of the Center. They would also support the Center’s extensive educational program, which now provides outreach to thousands of school children and teachers.

The construction team, headed by a joint venture of CRSS Sirrine and Linbeck, began construction of the facility. With Walt Disney lmagineering’s and BRC Imagination Arts’ concepts in hand, BRC Imagination Arts began production of the shows and displays. It would be a challenging task – the Center had to entertain and excite, but tell the true story of space in a realistic way.

The goal was a center that appeals on an emotional level as well as an intellectual one. A Center that reaches guests’ minds through their hearts.

The hands-on activities, films, exhibits and live shows do just that.

History of NASA Johnson Space Center

Established as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in 1961, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) named in honor of the late President, is responsible for the design, development, and operation of human space flight. For more than four decades, JSC has been the world leader in human space flight operations for NASA.

The MSC opened in 1963 with Gemini IV as the first flight controlled here and became a hub of activity as the Gemini program ended and the Apollo program gained momentum. The Apollo program obtained the national goal, set by President Kennedy in 1961 of landing men on the Moon and returning them safely within the decade of the 1960’s.

The eyes of the world were on Houston and the MSC on July 20, 1969 as Neil Armstrong reported from the lunar surface, “Houston, the Eagle has landed.” Hours later, Armstrong descended the ladder of the Lunar Module (LM)”Eagle” proclaiming, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” as he took his historic first steps on the Moon’s surface. Later, in 1973, the MSC was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) and has been the heart of the manned space flight program ever since. Controlling flights from Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz through the current Shuttle program is the responsibility of JSC scientists, engineers, astronauts and other staff members.

JSC is the Training base and home for our nation’s astronauts and the site of Mission Control, where a talented cadre of flight controllers monitors the work of our women and men in space. The operations as JSC include the development, production and delivery of the Space Shuttle orbiters; the testing of spacecraft associated systems; the development and integration of experiments for human space flight activities; supporting scientific engineering and medical research; the selection and training of astronauts and the operation of human space flights.

For more information about the Johnson Space Center, please visit the official NASA website.

Space Flight Archives – Universe Today

Category: Space Flight

SpaceX Has Requested Permission to Fly Starship as Early as March

In September of 2019, SpaceX unveiled the first Starship prototype, the first of several test vehicles that would validate the design of the next-generation spacecraft that would fulfill Musk’s promise of making commercial flights to the Moon and Mars. And while there was a bit of a setback in November of 2019 after the Mk. 1 suffered a structural failure, Musk indicated that the company would be moving forward with other prototypes.

As Musk explained at the time, this would consist of the Mk. 3 prototype conducting an orbital test flight to an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) sometime in 2020. According to recent filings made with the FCC, this test could be happening as early as mid-March and will involve the vehicle launching from the company’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, and flying to an altitude of 20 km (12.6 mi) before landing.

Record-Setting Space Travelers Return to Earth

A trio of space travelers returned to Earth this morning from the International Space Station, including NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, at 326 straight days. Also coming home was ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, who has now spent a total of 367 days in space (in two missions), more days than any ESA astronaut in history.

The crew of Expedition 61 also included Russian cosmonaut and Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov, who completed his third mission for a total of 546 days in space, placing him 15th on the all-time time-in-space list.

LightSail 2 is Still Solar Sailing, But it’s Getting Lower and Lower with Each Orbit

LightSail 2 deployed it solar sail five months ago, and it’s still orbiting Earth. It’s a successful demonstration of the potential of solar sail spacecraft. Now the LightSail 2 team at The Planetary Society has released a paper outlining their findings from the mission so far.

Spaceflight Stories Expected for 2020

The year two thousand and twenty is almost upon us. And as always, space agencies and aerospace companies all around the world are preparing to spend the coming year accomplishing a long list of missions and developments. Between NASA, the ESA, China, SpaceX, and others, there are enough plans to impress even the most curmudgeonly of space enthusiasts.

Starliner Launches But it Can’t Reach the Station

Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule launched successfully, but a mishap prevented it from docking with the ISS. The ship is undamaged and will return and land at its designated location, according to officials. This could delay the planned crewed flight of the Starliner next summer.

A Private Company in China Plans to Launch Reusable Rockets by 2021

A Chinese company is planning to launch a rocket with a reusable booster in 2021. The company is called i-Space, and the rocket is called Hyperbola-2. They’ve already developed and launched another rocket, called Hyperbola.

NASA Tests Autonomous Lunar Landing Technology

In anticipation of many Moon landings to come, NASA is testing an autonomous lunar landing system in the Mojave Desert in California. The system is called a “terrain relative navigation system.” It’s being tested on a launch and landing of a Zodiac rocket, built by Masten Space Systems. The test will happen on Wednesday, September 11th.

The Light Sail is Working… It’s Working!

Good news from The Planetary Society: LightSail 2’s solar sail is functioning as intended. After launching on June 25th, then deploying its solar sail system on July 23rd, mission managers have been working with the solar sail to optimize they way LightSail 2 orients itself towards the Sun. Now The Planetary Society reports that the spacecraft has used its solar sail to raise its orbit.

Check Out This Super-Cool Quad Video of the Falcon Re-Entry. Two Sonic Booms!

Elon Musk has posted a four-panel video of the Falcon re-entry on his Twitter feed and it’s driving even jaded space-watchers into a frenzy.

LightSail 2 is Sending Home New Pictures of Earth

LightSail 2, the brainchild of The Planetary Society, has gifted us two new gorgeous images of Earth. The small spacecraft is currently in orbit at about 720 km, and the LightSail 2 mission team is putting it through its paces in preparation for solar sail deployment sometime on or after Sunday, July 21st.

Join our 836 patrons! See no ads on this site, see our videos early, special bonus material, and much more. Join us at

Universe Today Podcast

In this week’s questions show, I explain why we should be excited for both Starship and Artemis. Do we have a cognitive bias when thinking about advanced civilizations? Should humans or robots explore space? And more.

Follow Dr. Pamela Gay on Twitter:

00:30 Why should Artemis bother? Starship is better

04:34 Do we have a cognative bias when thinking about aliens?

08:55 Do I have a bobble-head?

17:04 Can we land without fuel?

19:55 Can we see farther into the Universe?

21:48 Could superearth inhabitants launch rockets?

23:47 What if my content is wrong?

25:50 Can we predict when a supernova will happen?

Want to be part of the questions show? Ask a short question on any video on my channel. I gather a bunch up each week and answer them here.

Support us at

More stories at

Follow us on Twitter:

Like us on Facebook:

Karla Thompson – @karlaii /

Support Universe Today podcasts with Fraser Cain

Track: Space Flight

Track: Space Flight

This track focuses on space engineering and space exploration. It covers a broad field, ranging from satellite engineering, space systems engineering, orbital mechanics, instrumentation, launchers and propulsion to mission analysis, remote sensing, planetary exploration and scientific interpretation of satellite observation data.

Astronautics is quite different from aeronautics because each space mission is uniquely designed to perform a specific task related to its operational or scientific objectives. This requires an “end-to-end” approach where the objectives drive the design of the mission and data processing is an integral part of the mission. Within this track, you are offered opportunities to participate in ongoing engineering and scientific projects at the participating chairs.

What will you learn?

You will develop skills to carry out an engineering or research project independently and individually. This will be achieved by a highly focused MSc thesis project under strict supervision. In addition, you will acquire broad knowledge in the field of space and its applications. These objectives will make you a broad aerospace engineer with generally applicable engineering and research skills and with a clear focus area.

The track consists of two profiles, Space Engineering and Space Exploration. Each profile has a different focus, but they are also interrelated. On the one hand you will become an all-round space professional, but on the other hand you will acquire generic skills that enable you to pursue a career in a broad spectrum of industrial and research environments.

The Track offers two Profiles:

Space Engineering combines multidisciplinary engineering fields to realise high-performance space systems and system components. Areas of interest include the engineering of space missions, space vehicles and instruments, sensors, actuators, mechanisms, propulsive means, vehicle control, distributed space systems, and Systems Engineering. More

This profile covers spacecraft navigation and planetary missions, and aims at delivering skilled space mission engineers and scientists. Using mathematical methods and knowledge of the physical world, it is possible to design and/or estimate spacecraft trajectories, or to retrieve properties of planets and moons from measurements taken by planetary orbiters and space probes. Mastering this chain enables the student to design space missions (navigation and observation systems inclusive) that are used in the exciting area of space exploration. More

The Space Flight track is one of six tracks within the Aerospace Engineering master programme. On graduation, students receive a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering (Space Flight).

Special notice for students interested in the track Space Flight: this track has a limited capacity.