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Sunita Williams among four selected for commercial flights to ISS

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Sunita Williams

Washington: Indian American Sunita Williams is among four astronauts who have been selected by NASA for commercial flights to the International Space Station (ISS) from US soil.

They will work closely with company-led teams to understand their designs and operations as they finalise their Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and operational strategies.

Williams, Robert Behnken, Eric Boe and Douglas Hurley will be trained for commercial spaceflights that will return American launches to US soil and further open up low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector, the US space agency said.

“These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail — that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

Williams, a US Navy captain, received her commission in the Navy in May 1987 and became a helicopter pilot, logging more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft.

NASA chose Williams for the astronaut programme in 1998. She spent a total of 322 days in space and currently holds the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut (50 hours and 40 minutes).

She now ranks sixth on the all-time US endurance list and second all-time for a female astronaut.

“Their selection allows NASA to move forward with the training necessary to deliver on President Barack Obama’s ambitious plan for returning the launch of the US astronauts to US soil,” said John Holdren, assistant to the President for science and technology.

“This is a new and exciting era in the history of US human spaceflight,” said Brian Kelly, director of flight operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts with Boeing and SpaceX each require at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut on board.

To meet this requirement, the companies must also provide the necessary training for the crew to operate their respective vehicles. NASA is extensively involved with the companies and reviews their training plans.

“Congratulations to Bob, Eric, Doug and Sunita and welcome to the Commercial Crew team,” noted John Elbon, Boeing vice president.

“We look forward to working with such a highly-skilled and experienced group of NASA astronauts as we carve a path forward to launch in 2017.”

The selections are the latest major milestone in the Obama administration’s plan to partner with the US industry to transport astronauts to space, create good-paying American jobs and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for space travel.

(IANS)

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NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems For Moon Mission

This process, known as in-situ resource utilization or ISRU, will make the third element also refuellable and reusable, it said

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NASA Seeks Partnership With US Industry to Develop First Gateway Element
NASA seeks US partners to develop reusable systems for Moon mission, Pixabay

NASA is set to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems, in a major step to land astronauts on the surface of the Moon.

NASA is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028, the US space agency said in a statement on Thursday.

Through upcoming multi-phased lunar exploration partnerships, NASA will ask American companies to study the best approach to landing astronauts on the Moon and start the development as quickly as possible with current and future anticipated technologies.

“Building on our model in low-Earth orbit, we’ll expand our partnerships with industry and other nations to explore the Moon and advance our missions to farther destinations such as Mars, with America leading the way,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“When we send astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the next decade, it will be in a sustainable fashion.”

To develop lunar robotic landers, NASA in November collaborated with nine commercial American companies namely Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Mastern Space Systems, Moon Express, Draper and Orbit Beyond.

UAE, Moon
The International Space Station, center, passes in front of the Moon in its Earth orbit as photographed from Salgotarjan, Hungary, July 5, 2018. (VOA)

These companies are eligible for competing for NASA’s contracts valued at $2.6 billion, according to the US-based space agency.

The agency plans to send humans to the Moon using a system of three separate elements that will provide transfer, landing, and safe return.

Using the Gateway to land astronauts on the Moon allows the first building blocks for fully reusable lunar landers. Initially NASA expects two of the lander elements to be reusable and refuelled by cargo ships carrying fuel from Earth to the Gateway.

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The agency is also working on technologies to make rocket propellants using water ice and regolith from the Moon. Once the ability to harness resources from the Moon for propellant becomes viable, NASA plans to refuel these elements with the Moon’s own resources.

This process, known as in-situ resource utilization or ISRU, will make the third element also refuellable and reusable, it said. (IANS)