It has been a shockingly busy past week in space. From continued work towards Artemis I, to spacecraft reaching new planets, a lot has happened in the world of spaceflight and space exploration.
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SLS mass simulator removed
Modal testing of the SLS for Artemis I completed in the VAB last week. With the testing done, the Orion mass simulator was removed on September 30 to prepare for the integration of the actual Orion capsule and rollout to the pad. The Orion Stage Adapter will be arriving at the VAB today for integration with SLS. While these recent tests have all seemingly gone well, SLS is still slowly moving right on the calendar, with early 2022 expected for launch, rather than the previous working date of Christmas.
Lockheed Martin to construct new facility near KSC
Planning documents show that Lockheed Martin is preparing to construct a new factory-type building south of their current offices by Kennedy Space Center. The multi-phase project will begin with the construction of additional parking areas followed by the construction of the factor, listed as building 819. Exactly what the 46,601 square foot building will be used for is unknown. The Star Center, which is not that far away, will provide assembly and testing of Orion aeroshell heat shield and backshell panels as well as crew module wire harnesses, electrical support equipment, and propulsion and environmental control and life support systems. Given the new building’s proximity, it is possible it could take some role in Orion or other Lockheed Martin Spacecraft.
Sexual harassment and more in Blue Origin workplace
In an open letter, 21 current and former employees called out toxic issues apparently prevalent throughout Blue Origin. The letter called out the “mostly male and overwhelmingly white” workplace for numerous examples of harassment claims seemingly being left unresponded. The letter even called out CEO Bob Smith by name for promoting a senior executive who “was reported to multiple times to Human Resources for sexual harassment.” The letter also called out numerous other issues including environmental concerns, and shutting down employee feedback, which they claim has led to unsafe launch operations and a rocket that, “they would not fly on.”
While this letter called the safety of Blue Origin’s rocket into question, the company did not publically acknowledge these concerns. While Blue Origin didn’t want to say anything, The FAA stated they will look into the allegations. Blue Origin announced the customers for their next crewed flight. William Shatner will be flying to space with Blue Origin VP of Mission and Flight Operations Audrey Powers. They join the first two customers announced for the trip, Dr. Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, co-founder of Medidata.
Virgin Galactic cleared for flight
Another suborbital space mission may also soon be on the horizon. Virgin Galactic was in some hot water with the FAA following its July flight of Richard Branson. The flight deviated from the plan and outside of the designated flight area, and Virgin Galactic did not reveal this misstep to the FAA. There has been an ongoing investigation into the flight, and the FAA has since come to a resolution, requiring Virgin Galactic to implement changes to its communication process with the FAA to keep the public safe during flight operations. This comes just in time for the companies second crewed flight planned for later this year.
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