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    A nearly 20-year ban on human spaceflight regulations is set to expire

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 27 July - 11:00

A crew of six passengers, including former professional football player and television anchor Michael Strahan, stroll past the Blue Origin New Shepard booster they rode into space in December 2021.

Enlarge / A crew of six passengers, including former professional football player and television anchor Michael Strahan, stroll past the Blue Origin New Shepard booster they rode into space in December 2021. (credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images )

In 2004, Congress passed a law that established a moratorium on federal safety regulations for commercial astronauts and space tourists riding to space on new privately owned rockets and spacecraft. The idea was to allow time for new space companies to establish themselves before falling under the burden of regulations, an eventuality that spaceflight startups argued could impede the industry's development.

The moratorium is also known as a "learning period," a term that describes the purpose of the provision. It's supposed to give companies and the Federal Aviation Administration—the agency tasked with overseeing commercial human spaceflight, launch, and re-entry operations—time to learn how to safely fly in space and develop smart regulations, those that make spaceflight safer but don't restrict innovation.

Without action from Congress, by the end of September, the moratorium on human spaceflight regulations will expire. That has many in the commercial space industry concerned.

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    Blue Origin provides a detailed analysis of its launch failure

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 27 March, 2023 - 13:43

The emergency escape system is seen firing on the New Shepard spacecraft Monday morning after its rocket was lost.

Enlarge / The emergency escape system is seen firing on the New Shepard spacecraft Monday morning after its rocket was lost. (credit: Blue Origin)

A little more than six months after the failure of its New Shepard rocket, Blue Origin has published a summary of the findings made by its accident investigation team.

For a private company flying a private launch system, the analysis of this "NS-23" mission is reasonably detailed. Essentially, the rocket's main engine nozzle sustained temperatures that were higher than anticipated, leading to an explosion of the rocket.

The accident occurred at 1 minute and 4 seconds into a research flight that launched on September 12, 2022. The emergency escape system performed as intended, rapidly pulling the spacecraft away from the disintegrating rocket. Had a crew been on board this flight, they would have experienced a significant jolt and some high gravitational forces before landing safely in the West Texas desert.

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    Sources say prominent US rocket-maker United Launch Alliance is up for sale

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 1 March, 2023 - 16:50

Two men in business suits stand next to a model spaceship.

Enlarge / Tory Bruno (L), CEO of United Launch Alliance, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at a news conference in 2014. (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

One of the world's most important rocket companies, United Launch Alliance, may be sold later this year.

The potential sale has not been disclosed publicly, but three sources confirmed to Ars that potential buyers have been contacted about the opportunity. These sources said a deal is expected to be closed before the end of this year and that investment firm Morgan Stanley and consulting firm Bain & Company are managing the transaction.

The sale of United Launch Alliance, or ULA as it is known within the industry, would mark the end of an era that has lasted for nearly two decades. The company was officially formed in 2005 as part of a deal brokered by the US government, ensuring the military had access to both Atlas and Delta rockets to put national security satellites into space. To form ULA, Lockheed Martin and Boeing merged their launch businesses into a single company, each taking a 50 percent stake.

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    Blue Origin hires advisory firm linked to messy JEDI contract process

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 1 September, 2021 - 13:02 · 1 minute

US Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures to senior advisor Sally Donnelly as they arrive by helicopter in the Afghan capital of Kabul on April 24, 2017.

Enlarge / US Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures to senior advisor Sally Donnelly as they arrive by helicopter in the Afghan capital of Kabul on April 24, 2017. (credit: JONATHAN ERNST/AFP via Getty Images)

After losing out on a multibillion dollar NASA contract for a lunar lander to SpaceX in April, Blue Origin has hired a high-profile strategic advisory firm named Pallas Advisors. These high-profile advisors have helped the company as it has gone on to protest the contract loss and eventually sue the space agency.

The founding partners of the Washington, DC-based advisory firm, Sally Donnelly and Tony DeMartino, are well-known to Jeff Bezos, the founder of both Amazon and Blue Origin. Both Donnelly and DeMartino previously worked as consultants to Amazon before taking jobs at the Department of Defense in 2017, during the Trump administration. There, they gained some unwelcome public notoriety.

At the Pentagon, Donnelly served as a senior advisor to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and DeMartino worked as his deputy chief of staff. During their time in government service, both Donnelly and DeMartino became embroiled in the controversy surrounding the US Department of Defense award to Microsoft for the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI contract, for military cloud computing services.

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    Congress fires warning shot at NASA after SpaceX Moon lander award

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 13 May, 2021 - 14:44

Committee Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., listens to former US Sen. Bill Nelson, President Biden’s nominee to be the next administrator of NASA, on April 21, 2021.

Enlarge / Committee Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., listens to former US Sen. Bill Nelson, President Biden’s nominee to be the next administrator of NASA, on April 21, 2021. (credit: NASA)

On Wednesday, a US senator added an amendment to unrelated science legislation that would impose significant restrictions on NASA and its plans to return to the Moon.

The amendment ( see document ) was spurred by NASA's decision in April to select SpaceX as its sole provider of a human landing system for the Artemis Program. Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from the state of Washington, where Blue Origin is based, authored the legislation. Owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin led a lunar lander bid that was rejected by NASA.

The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the amendment without any debate, adding the NASA changes to the Endless Frontier Act , a bill to keep US scientific and technology innovation competitive with China and other countries.

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    ULA chief says the BE-4 rocket engine’s turbopump issues are resolved

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 26 October, 2020 - 15:03

A BE-4 rocket engine undergoes tests in West Texas.

Enlarge / A BE-4 rocket engine undergoes tests in West Texas. (credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin appears to have solved some development issues related to the turbopumps in its powerful BE-4 rocket engine .

United Launch Alliance chief executive Tory Bruno said Friday that the problem was "sorted out," and that the full-scale, flight-configured BE-4 engine is now accumulating a lot of time on the test stand. Bruno made his comments about one hour into The Space Show with David Livingston.

Bruno's company, ULA, is buying the BE-4 engine to provide thrust for the first stage of its upcoming Vulcan-Centaur rocket . This booster may make its debut next year, although ULA is still awaiting delivery of BE-4s for the first flight. Two of these large engine—each providing about 25 percent more thrust than the RS-25s used on the Space Shuttle—will power each Vulcan rocket.

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