NASA Gives Crucial Thumbs-up to SpaceX’s Historic Crewed Flight to Space Station
NASA today signed off on the first launch to send a crew into orbit from U.S. soil in nearly nine years, and the rocket for that launch got what's expected to be its final test firing.
After reviewing mission plans for a day and a half, mission managers cleared SpaceX to send NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station at 4:33 p.m. ET (1:33 p.m. PT) Wednesday.
"We had a very successful flight readiness review, in that we did a thorough review of all the systems and all the risks," NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk, who presided over this week's meetings, said at KSC during a post-review news briefing. "It was unanimous on the board that we are go for launch."
After the briefing, SpaceX fired up the first-stage engines on its Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to conduct its traditional static-fire system check. SpaceX is expected to report whether the test firing was successful later today.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said this week's meetings weren't just a rubber stamp. "There were conversations that were had that were very important to be had, but it's also true that at the end … we got to a 'go.' "
Jurczyk cited the example of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule's parachute system, which had to be reworked and retested to satisfy NASA's safety margin requirements. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that wasn't easy. "Much harder problem than it may seem," he tweeted.
SpaceX has completed nearly 100 tests and flights of its Dragon parachute systems for cargo missions and in development of the upgraded Mark 3 design—one of the safest, most reliable parachute systems in the world for human spaceflight pic.twitter.com/WB8zm9ohBC
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 22, 2020
The latest Tweets from SpaceX (@SpaceX). SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches the world's most advanced rockets and spacecraft. Hawthorne, CA
The Dragon's fire suppression system also came in for scrutiny, but Jurczyk said "we've deemed the risk to be very low there."
Jurczyk said Russian and Japanese representatives participated in the meetings via remote links. He noted that SpaceX tweaked the Crew Dragon's design after last year's successful uncrewed demonstration flight to the space station, to address a potential collision risk that the Russians called to attention.
Hurle and Behnken, who arrived in Florida a couple of days ago for final pre-flight preparations, looked in on the flight readiness review as well. Today, during their final pre-flight news briefing, they said they understood the risk trade-offs that NASA and SpaceX were making.
"We're really comfortable with it, and we think that those trades have been made appropriately," Behnken said. "As far as insight goes, we've had probably more than any crew has in recent history."
Behnken said he and Hurley, who were veteran military test pilots before they joined NASA, were looking forward to trying out a new spaceship for the first time. "We're living the dream," he said.
Now that the flight readiness review and the static-fire test have been checked off the to-do list, the next big event on the agenda is Saturday's "dry dress rehearsal," which will involve going through the launch-day schedule without fueling up and firing the rocket.
There'll be a final launch readiness review on Monday, leading up to Wednesday's launch day with President Donald Trump and other VIPs in attendance.
The demonstration mission will mark the first time U.S. astronauts have been sent into orbit from U.S. soil since NASA retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011.
For the past five years, SpaceX and Boeing have been working on commercial space taxis to take the shuttle's place as methods for getting astronauts to and from the space station. In the interim, NASA has had to pay the Russians tens of millions of dollars per seat to transport U.S. astronauts in Soyuz capsules.
"Don't ever underestimate the value of a failure... When we've made the biggest progress, it's been in learning from a failure and then using that as a step function to move [us] to the next level." — Kathy Lueders, manager of our @Commercial_Crew program: pic.twitter.com/BJjSeRPqws
— NASA (@NASA) May 22, 2020
There have been plenty of setbacks along the way. A different Crew Dragon blew up during a launch-pad test a year ago, forcing a redesign of the craft's propulsion system. And in December, an uncrewed test flight of Boeing's Starliner space taxi went awry, guaranteeing that SpaceX would be the first to fly a crew.
Kathy Lueders, NASA's manager for the commercial crew program, said that a year ago, she probably wouldn't have thought SpaceX could be ready by now.
"But you know what, you can never sell this NASA and SpaceX team short, and they've always accomplished miracles for me," she said. "And I'm very, very proud of them right now."
Lueders stressed that it's not yet time to relax. Even if the launch and the space station rendezvous go perfectly, Behnken and Hurley will be spending somewhere between a month and four months working in orbit before they ride their Dragon back to an Atlantic Ocean splashdown.
"We're going to stay hungry until Bob and Doug come home," she said.
This story first appeared on GeekWire. Love space and science? Sign up for GeekWire's Space & Science email newsletter.
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LA Tech Updates: Apple Podcast Vet Joins QCODE, Amazon Reportedly in Talks to Buy Wondery, Pharrell's New Black Ambition Incubator
Apple Podcast Veteran Joins Startup QCODE<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUzNTQzMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDUzMzYyNH0.pOGV2lL0qOJQDiWw1T5i4SqsGfaL54hLWED6_5Mf1Ww/img.png?width=980" id="8d68d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f2a47797239f360473fead53338231d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="qcode" />www.sonos.com <p>QCODE, a Los Angeles podcast startup run by a former Creative Artists Agency talent agent, snagged longtime Apple podcast executive Steve Wilson. The 15-year veteran will become QCODE's chief strategy officer.</p> <p>QCODE, which <a href="https://dot.la/sonos-podcast-qcode-2648395035.html" target="_self">last month raised $6.4 million</a> in a Series A round led by Sono, is positioning itself as a funnel for Hollywood. </p> <p>Founded by Rob Herting, a former agent who had represented largely writers and filmmakers, the company has produced eight shows since 2019. Several have been auctioned for film and television, including "Dirty Diana." Amazon picked up the 6-part erotic drama for a TV series.</p>Wilson, who most recently ran marketing for Apple Podcasts, brings insights from the behemoth platform as the industry sees revenues soar. Advertising brought in near $1 billion this year, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau's podcast report prepared by PwC.
Amazon Reportedly in Exclusive Talks to Buy Wondery<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5NDU5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjgyMDY3NX0.BHKSXjwra-gGsFEa7lXCCCMJXWV5cYxrZqhddj3-uds/img.jpg?width=980" id="d401d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c9c9eee1f9adc4c1d5edeca1af986a84" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Hernan Lopez" />Hernan Lopez started Wondery with the belief that in-depth, narrative audio stories were poised to bloom.<p>Amazon is in "exclusive talks" to buy podcast company Wondery and subsume its 30 hit shows and over 8 million monthly listeners into its empire, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.</p> <p>The talks reportedly value Wondery above $300 million, in line with previous estimates from analysts, when Apple and Sony were said to have expressed interest.</p> <p>Wondery has produced dozens of original series including "Dr. Death" and "Business Wars," and has 19 shows currently in development to become television series. </p> <p>The company does not publicly disclose its financials, but chief executive Hernan Lopez has previously said the company is profitable. About three-quarters of Wondery's revenue comes from advertising, but Lopez has said the company's revenue share from content licensing is growing (Wondery owns the intellectual property for all of its originals). It also launched a subscription service, Wondery Plus, in June and is currently looking to expand its international footprint. </p> <p>Wondery, the West Hollywood-based company with the largest audience of any independent podcast producer, has been the subject of swirling rumors that several suitors are interested in acquiring it.</p> <p>After a pandemic-induced decline that struck much of the podcasting industry, Wondery's audience has surpassed its pre-COVID levels. Its Q3 revenue was about double year-on-year and its Q4 performance has been strong, Lopez previously told dot.LA. </p> <p>Podcasting overall now attracts over 100 million monthly listeners, according to Edison Research. The Interactive Advertising Bureau projects podcasting revenues to exceed $1 billion by 2021.</p> <p>That growth has spurred somewhat of an arms race, most evident in Spotify's spending spree, which also has helped that company diversify from its reliance on streaming. Amazon Music is one of Spotify's biggest competitors along with Apple Music, and <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-music-joins-podcasting-fray-11600261201?mod=article_inline" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently expanded into podcasts as well</a>. </p> <p>Acquiring Wondery would give Amazon more content to slide into Amazon Music, a scaled-down version of which is free for Amazon Prime subscribers. Combining that content with its Alexa smart speaker also could empower the company to capture more eyes and ears in the increasingly competitive attention economy. </p> <p>The talks are reportedly ongoing and no deal has been confirmed. </p>
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Seven years ago, Elliot Kreitenberg and his father, orthopedic surgeon Arthur Kreitnberg, built a UV-C light machine called GermFalcon to kill viruses on planes, but the airline industry largely rejected their pitch.
Years later with coronavirus all but wiping out air travel, their machine is looking a lot more attractive.
The founders of Long Beach-based Dimer UVC Innovations are in talks with airlines, transit authorities and others desperate to disinfect airplanes, subways and other transportation vehicles where COVID-19 quickly travels.
Courtesy of GermFalcon
Courtesy of GermFalcon
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