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Orbital ATK’s S.S. Alan Poindexter arrives at the ISS

Orbital ATK's S.S. Alan Poindexter, designated OA-5, arrives at the International Space Station on Sept. 23, 2016. Credit: NASA

Orbital ATK’s S.S. Alan Poindexter, designated OA-5, arrives at the International Space Station on Sept. 23, 2016. Credit: NASA

Nearly a week after its launch, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft berthed with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, October 23, 2016, at 10:53 a.m. EDT (14:53 GMT), 250 miles (402 kilometers) above the Indian Ocean, and is attached to the nadir (Earth-facing) port on the station’s Unity module.

The S.S. Alan Poindexter, designated OA-5 under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 1 (CRS-1) contract, delivered 5,300 pounds (2,400 kilograms) of cargo to the orbiting outpost and marks the third flight of the enhanced iteration of the uncrewed cargo vessel, and the first on the redesigned Antares medium-class launch vehicle.

Read more in my full piece on SpaceFlight Insider.

Crew access arm installed at SLC-41

The Crew Access Arm for Commerical Crew Program (CCP) being installed to the tower at Pad 41. Credit: NASA

The Crew Access Arm for Commerical Crew Program (CCP) being installed to the tower at Pad 41. Credit: NASA

Astronauts hoping to catch a ride to space on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner now have a way to board the next-generation spacecraft. The crew access arm has been installed at SLC-41, and will be the embarkation point for astronauts launching aboard the CST-100.

The 90,000 pound (40,823 kilogram) arm will stretch 50 feet (15.24 meters) from the launch tower to the spacecraft, allowing astronauts to enter the capsule via the ‘white room’. Nearly 18 months in development, the tower and access arm are some of the most visible changes to the launch complex and are evidence of the continued progress in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“You have to stop and celebrate these moments in the craziness of all the things we do,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, in a release issued by the agency. “It’s going to be so cool when our astronauts are walking out across this access arm to get on the spacecraft and go to the space station.” The launch tower and crew access arm are the first to be erected and installed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station since the Apollo program.

In an interesting bookend to the installation of the crew access arm, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are preparing for a spacewalk to attach the recently-delivered International Docking Adapter (IDA) to the orbiting outpost. The IDA will allow visiting spacecraft, such as Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s crewed Dragon, to dock/berth to the station.

Which will be the first company to mine an asteroid…and will it be legal?

Artist's depiction of a DSI spacecraft harvesting resources from the surface of an asteroid. Credit: DSI

Artist’s depiction of a DSI spacecraft harvesting resources from the surface of an asteroid. Credit: DSI

In what many believe to be one of the next logical steps in broadening space as a commercial market, Deep Space Industries (DSI) has announced its plan to send the world’s first commercial mining spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid. To that end, the company’s Prospector-1 spacecraft is slated to launch before the close of the decade and will rendezvous with, and explore, one of the many asteroids inhabiting our planetary neighborhood.

Intelligent enough to operate without guidance from DSI’s mission control, the small spacecraft will be capable of analyzing the composition of the asteroid, via both visual light and infrared imaging, in order to determine the target’s water content. Water is a critical resource for off-Earth ventures, and finding a relatively easy source from which to extract it is an essential goal of DSI.

Read MUCH more in my full piece on SpaceFlight Insider.