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Is SLS *finally* getting a proper name?

SLS is begging for a name, NASA. Will it get one?

SLS is begging for a name, NASA. Will it get one? Image credit: NASA, with my commentary added.

A couple months ago, I wrote a piece on my “catch-all” blog imploring NASA to give SLS a fitting name. As I stated there:

“While our nation’s spacefaring endeavors might only be a few decades old, surely we haven’t run out of ‘cool’ names for our rockets. Come on – this is America…WE LANDED PEOPLE ON THE MOON!!!! We can do better than calling it ‘SLS’.

NASA: Names matter. Make it happen.”

Perhaps NASA’s Administrator, Charlie Bolden, read that piece. In an interview on the July 23, 2016, edition of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, Bolden might’ve just let the proverbial cat out of the bag.

Show host Peter Sagal had been engaging Mr. Bolden in a line of conversation, eventually leading up to Sagal asking: “Charlie, I’ve got to ask you, when are we really going to Mars?”

Without missing a beat, Bolden replied [emphasis added]: “We’re going to Mars in the 2030s. So we’ve got the vehicle called – we’re going to name it but right now we call it the Space Launch System. It’s a heavy lift launch vehicle.”

So, it would appear that SLS may, indeed, be getting a name less clinical-sounding and more appropriate for the vehicle meant to carry craft, crew, and robotic explorers far beyond low earth orbit. I sincerely hope so. Good on you, Mr. Bolden. Now…let’s just hope it’s a good name.

Blue Origin successfully tests landing with failed parachute

The New Shepard capsule suspended during post-landing recovery operations. Note the “bumper ring” on the bottom of the capsule. Image credit: Blue Origin

The New Shepard capsule suspended during post-landing recovery operations. Note the “bumper ring” on the bottom of the capsule. Image credit: Blue Origin

Landing with a failed parachute is not a condition a company would normally want their spacecraft to encounter, but that was exactly the scenario Blue Origin planned for the fourth test flight of their New Shepard vehicle last month. After a month of analysis, Blue Origin’s founder, Jeff Bezos, gave the word in an e-mail update that the test was a success.

You can read more in my full write-up at SpaceFlight Insider.

Structural test article for SLS’s second stage arrives at NASA Marshall

ICPS structural test article being lifted from its shipping container. Photo credit: NASA

ICPS structural test article being lifted from its shipping container. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) has taken another step in its preparation for a projected 2018 launch with the arrival of the rocket’s upper stage Structural Test Article (STA). The United Launch Alliance (ULA)-built Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) STA arrived at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), after a short barge trip from ULA’s facility in Decatur, Alabama.

Read more in my exclusive coverage at SpaceFlight Insider.

NASA’s SLS booster takes a chill before static test

An Orbital ATK technician checks the temperature of the five-segment SLS booster. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

An Orbital ATK technician checks the temperature of the five-segment SLS booster. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

On June 28, 2016, the test area at Orbital ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah, promises to get very hot… but not before the world’s largest human-rated solid rocket booster (SRB) takes a more than month-long chill-down. Engineers have begun cooling the five-segment solid rocket motor down to nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.44 degrees Celsius) in preparation for the second – and final – qualification ground test for the Space Launch System (SLS) booster.

You can read much more in my write-up at SpaceFlight Insider.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is making progress

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, Spacecraft-1 Upper Dome being lifted and moved to work stand inside the C3PF Highbay. Photo credit: NASA

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, Spacecraft-1 Upper Dome being lifted and moved to work stand inside the C3PF Highbay. Photo credit: NASA

The last major hardware component of Boeing’s second CST-100 Starliner—the truncated cone of the upper dome—recently arrived at one of the re-purposed Orbiter Processing Facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, joining the lower dome and docking hatch, both of which arrived this past May.

You can read more at in my full write-up at SpaceFlight Insider.

NASA to make use of two CubeSats in support of InSight

Twin MarCO CubeSats help relay EDL data for the InSight mission in this artist's depiction. Image credit: NASA

Twin MarCO CubeSats help relay EDL data for the InSight mission in this artist’s depiction. Image credit: NASA

Athough NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission may not pack the public relations appeal of its larger ­and more mobile ­Martian siblings, the lander, however, will be supported by its own pair of communication satellites to aid in relaying information during the “entry, descent, and landing” (EDL) phase of its mission.

You can read more in my full write-up at SpaceFlight Insider.