#WaterOnMarsDiscovered; #MoscowInstituteofPhysicsandTechnology; #MaxPlanckInstituteforSolarSystemResearch; #Martianwatercycle; #NASA'sroverCuriosity; #Earth'stropopause;
Germany, May 12 (Canadian-Media): Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany have described an unusual Martian water cycle in a current issue of the Geophysical Research Letters, Science X Newsletter reports said.
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC: Billions of years ago, Mars could have looked like this with an ocean covering part of its surface.
Approximately every two Earth years, when it is summer on the southern hemisphere of Mars, a window opens: Only in this season can water vapor efficiently rise from the lower into the upper Martian atmosphere. There, winds carry the rare gas to the north pole. While part of the water vapor decays and escapes into space, the rest sinks back down near the poles.
Their computer simulations show how water vapor overcomes the barrier of cold air in the middle atmosphere of Mars and reaches higher atmospheric layers. This could explain why Mars, unlike Earth, has lost most of its water.
Billions of years ago, Mars was a planet rich in water with rivers, and even an ocean. Since then, our neighboring planet has changed dramatically. Today, only small amounts of frozen water exist in the ground; in the atmosphere, water vapor occurs only in traces. All in all, the planet may have lost at least 80 percent of its original water. In the upper atmosphere of Mars, ultraviolet radiation from the sun split water molecules into hydrogen (H) and hydroxyl radicals (OH). The hydrogen escaped from there irretrievably into space. Measurements by space probes and space telescopes show that even today, water is still lost in this way. But how is this possible? The middle atmosphere layer of Mars, like Earth's tropopause, should actually stop the rising gas. After all, this region is usually so cold that water vapor would turn to ice. How does the Martian water vapor reach the upper air layers?
In their current simulations, the Russian and German researchers find a previously unknown mechanism reminiscent of a kind of pump. Their model comprehensively describes the flows in the entire gas envelope surrounding Mars from the surface to an altitude of 160 kilometers. The calculations show that the normally ice-cold middle atmosphere becomes permeable to water vapor twice a day—but only at a certain location, and at a certain time of year.
Image Credit: GPL, Shaposhnikov et al.: Seasonal "Water“ Pump in the Atmosphere of Mars: Vertical Transport to the Thermosphere:
Vertical distribution of water vapor on Mars during the course of a Mars year, here shown at 3 am local time. Only when it is summer on the southern hemisphere can water vapor reach higher atmospheric layers.
he orbit of Mars plays a decisive role in this. Its path around the sun, which lasts about two Earth years, is much more elliptical than that of our planet. At the point closest to the sun (which roughly coincides with the summer of the southern hemisphere), Mars is approximately 42 million kilometers closer to the sun than at its furthest point. Summer in the southern hemisphere is therefore noticeably warmer than summer in the northern hemisphere.
"When it is summer in the southern hemisphere, at certain times of day, water vapor can rise locally with warmer air masses and reach the upper atmosphere," says Paul Hartogh from MPS, summarizing the results of the new study. In the upper atmospheric layers, air flows carry the gas along the longitudes to the north pole, where it cools and sinks down again. However, part of the water vapor escapes this cycle: under the influence of solar radiation, the water molecules disintegrate and hydrogen escapes into space.
Another Martian peculiarity can fortify this unusual hydrological cycle: huge dust storms that span the entire planet and repeatedly afflict Mars at intervals of several years. The last such storms occurred in 2018 and 2007 and were comprehensively documented by space probes orbiting Mars. "The amounts of dust swirling through the atmosphere during such a storm facilitate the transport of water vapor into high air layers," says Alexander Medvedev from MPS.
Time and again, Martian dust storms span the entire planet, as here in June 2018. The image was taken from the NASA's rover Curiosity. Storms of this kind can facilitate the transport of water into the upper atmosphere of Mars. Credit: NASAThe researchers calculated that during the dust storm of 2007, twice as much water vapor reached the upper atmosphere as during a stormless summer in the southern hemisphere. Since the dust particles absorb sunlight and thus heat up, the temperatures in the entire atmosphere rise by up to 30 degrees. "Our model shows with unprecedented accuracy how dust in the atmosphere affects the microphysical processes involved in the transformation of ice into water vapor," explains Dmitry Shaposhnikov of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, first author of the new study.
"Apparently, the Martian atmosphere is more permeable to water vapor than that of the Earth," Hartogh concludes. "The new seasonal water cycle that has been found contributes massively to Mars' continuing loss of water."
#Astronomy; #firstlunarinhabitants, #JamalRostami; #moonColonies
United States/Iran, May 12 (Canadian-Media): As space agencies prepare to return humans to the Moon, top engineers are racing to design a tunnel boring machine capable of digging underground colonies for the first lunar inhabitants, Science X Newsletter reports said.
Jamal Rostami believes Moon colonists could live underground
As space agencies prepare to return humans to the Moon, top engineers are racing to design a tunnel boring machine capable of digging underground colonies for the first lunar inhabitants.
"Space is becoming a passion for a lot of people again. There are discussions about going back to the moon, this time to stay," US-Iranian expert Jamal Rostami told AFP at this year's World Tunnel Congress in Naples.
The administration of US President Donald Trump wants NASA to put humans back on the Moon by 2024, and the agency is also drawing up plans for a "Gateway" station to serve as a platform for astronauts travelling to and from the lunar surface.
Billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are among those feverishly competing for military, civil or commercial launches, with Musk's SpaceX leading the race on building rockets ready to fly in time.
But the harsh conditions on the surface of the Moon mean that, once up there, humans need to be shielded from radiation and freezing temperatures in structures which maintain atmospheric pressure in a vacuum.
They also need protection from meteorite strikes.
"Imagine something the size of my fist as a piece of rock coming at 10-12 kilometres (6-7 miles) per second, it can hit anything and would immediately destroy it," Rostami said at the meeting in southern Italy.
"So every plan for having a habitat on the moon involves making a trench, creating a structure and covering it with some sort of regolith, which is the soil on the moon.
"Our idea is to actually start underground, using a mechanism we already use on the earth, a tunnel boring machine, to make a continuous opening to create habitats or connect the colonies together," he added.
Analysis of images of the lunar surface show lava tubes capable of housing large cities underground, said Rostami, director of the Earth Mechanics Institute at the US Colorado School of Mines.
But getting something as vast as a tunnel boring machine up there will be no easy task.
Imgae Credit: Moonshot: The race is on as billionaires are among those rushing to build rockets to take humans to the lunar surface
"Weight is an issue. It's pretty expensive to take a kilogramme of material from the earth to the moon. Our machines are hundreds of tonnes of mass, so it's not feasible to take the machines as they are," he said.
"We have to convert the design, where all the components are optimised, weigh much less, and perform better."
The machines also have to become fully automated and repairs reduced to a minimum, a particular challenge when dealing with tools that see a lot of wear and tear as they eat through rock and dirt.
There is also the question of how to power them.
With a four-metre diameter machine needing some 2,000 kilowatts of energy, experts are debating whether it is possible to use small nuclear power plants to fuel a lunar version, he said.
There may be 1,000 people living in outer space by 2050—either in orbit or on the Moon—according to the American United Launch Alliance, which estimates this initial space exploration will cost 2.7 trillion dollars.
Despite some talk of the first space residents using mining tools like lunar tunnel boring machines (LTBM) to dig for precious minerals, Rostami said their priorities would lie in extracting something even more precious.
"We're not talking about gold. The first target is water. We know there is trapped water at the lunar poles, where the temperature is as low as -190 degrees Celsius (-310 Fahrenheit)".
"One of the ideas being discussed is of heating the part in permanent shadow, evaporating the water and capturing it," said Rostami, who has launched the world's first Masters degree and PhD in Space Resource Engineering in Colorado.
"Another idea is to mine it, and take it to a facility and let it thaw. The material extracted along with the water can then be used to 3D print buildings in the colonies," he said.
One thing is sure: the future LTBM will undergo rigorous pilot testing on Earth first "because once it's deployed, that's that. It'll be very difficult to make any drastic changes".
#exoplanet; #SolarSystem; #KELT-9 b; #aerosols; #KevinHeng; #UniversityofBern; #JensHoeijmakers; #GenevaObservatory; #hottestexoplanet
Switzerland, May 11 (Canadian-Media): After finding signatures of gaseous iron and titanium in its atmosphere in summer of 2018, the joint team of astronomers -- from the universities of Bern and Geneva -- were able to detect traces of vaporized sodium, magnesium, chromium, and the rare-Earth metals scandium and yttrium, Science X Newsletter reports said.
Image Credit: This artist's concept depicts a planetary system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
For the past 20 years, astronomers from all over the world have been working to understand where these planets come from, what they are made of, and what their climates are like.
KELT-9 b is the hottest exoplanet known to date. Exoplanets are planets outside our solar system that orbit around stars other than the Sun. Since the discovery of the first exoplanets in the mid-90's, well over 3000 exoplanets have been discovered.
KELT-9 b exemplifies the most extreme of these so-called hot-Jupiters because it orbits very closely around its star that is almost twice as hot as the Sun, with its temperatures of around 4000 °C almost completely vaporizing all elements breaking all molecules into their constituent atoms. This means that the atmosphere contains no clouds or aerosols and the sky is clear, mostly transparent to light from its star.
Kevin Heng, Director and Professor at the Center for Space and Habitabilty (CSH) at the University of Bern, and Jens Hoeijmakers, Postdoc at the CSH in Bern and at Geneva Observatory, talk about exoplanet research. Credit: University of Bern
After careful analysis, the researchers found strong signals of vaporized sodium, magnesium, chromium and the rare-Earth metals scandium and yttrium in the spectrum of the planet. The latter three of these have never been detected robustly in the atmosphere of an exoplanet before. "The team also advanced their interpretation of this data, and were able to use these signals to estimate at what altitude in the planet's atmosphere these atoms are absorbing," says Jens Hoeijmakers. What is more, the researchers also know more about strong global wind patterns high up in the atmosphere that blow the material from one hemisphere to the other.
"With further observations, many more elements may well be discovered by using the same technique in the atmosphere of this planet in the future, and perhaps also on other planets that are heated to similarly high temperatures," explains Jens Hoeijmakers. Kevin Heng adds: "The chances are good that one day we will find so-called biosignatures, i.e. signs of life, on an exoplanet, using the same techniques that we are applying today. Ultimately, we want to use our research to fathom the origin and development of the solar system as well as the origin of life."
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#NASA; #InternationalSpaceStation; #NickHague; #CarlaStanfield; #SpaceNetwork’sTrackingandDataRelaySatellites (TDRS)
Washington, May 9 (Canadian-Media/NASA): Students from Kansas will have an opportunity this week to speak with a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station who also hails from the Sunflower State. The Earth-to-space call will air live on NASA television and the agency’s website, NASA reports said.
Nick Hague will answer questions from local students at 10 a.m. EDT Friday, May 10, at the Cosmosphere, 1100 North Plum St., Hutchinson. The space museum is hosting the event in celebration of Hague, whose hometown is Hoxie, Kansas. Media interested in covering the event should contact Carla Stanfield at email@example.com or 620-665-9334.
Linking students directly to astronauts aboard the space station provides unique, authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning, performance and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Astronauts living in space on the orbiting laboratory communicate with NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston 24 hours a day through the Space Network’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS).
#ColumbiaUniversity; #UniversityofFlorida; #lightyears; #MilkyWay; #SzabolcsMarka; #Imre Bartos
United States, May 6 (Canadian-Media): Astrophysicists Szabolcs Marka at Columbia University and Imre Bartos at the University of Florida, have identified a violent collision of two neutron stars 4.6 billion years ago as the likely source of some of the most coveted matter on Earth, Science X Newsletter reports said.
Image Credit: Szabolcs Marka: If a comparable event happened today at a similar distance from the solar system, the ensuing radiation would outshine the entire night sky.
This single cosmic event, close to our solar system, gave birth to 0.3 percent of the Earth's heaviest elements, including gold, platinum and uranium, according to a new paper appearing in the May 2 issue of Nature.
"This means that in each of us we would find an eyelash worth of these elements, mostly in the form of iodine, which is essential to life," Bartos said. "A wedding ring, which expresses a deep human connection, is also a connection to our cosmic past predating humanity and the formation of Earth itself, with about 10 milligrams of it likely having formed 4.6 billion years ago."
"Meteorites forged in the early solar system carry the traces of radioactive isotopes," said Bartos, who received his Ph.D. at Columbia.
"As these isotopes decay they act as clocks that can be used to reconstruct the time they were created," Marka said.
To arrive at their conclusion, Bartos and Marka compared the composition of meteorites to numerical simulations of the Milky Way. They found that a single neutron-star collision could have occurred about 100 million years before the formation of Earth, in our own neighborhood, about 1000 light years from the gas cloud that eventually formed the Solar System.
The Milky Way galaxy itself is 100,000 light years in diameter, or 100 times the distance of this cosmic event from the cradle of Earth. "If a comparable event happened today at a similar distance from the Solar System, the ensuing radiation could outshine the entire night sky," Marka said.
The researchers believe that their study provides insight into a uniquely consequential event in our history. "It sheds bright light on the processes involved in the origin and composition of our solar system, and will initiate a new type of quest within disciplines, such as chemistry, biology and geology, to solve the cosmic puzzle," Bartos said.
"Our results address a fundamental quest of humanity: Where did we come from and where are we going? It is very difficult to describe the tremendous emotions we felt when realized what we had found and what it means for the future as we search for an explanation of our place in the universe, " Marka said.
#NASA; #SpaceX Dragon; #InternationalSpaceStation; #Earth’scarboncycle; #MBU; #Expedition59; #Photobioreactorinvestigation; #tissuechips; #Microalgae; #Hermes; #OrbitingCarbonObservatory-3
Washington, May 6 (Canadian-Media/NASA): After launching at 2:48 a.m. EDT Saturday, a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station with approximately 5,500 pounds of NASA cargo and science investigations that include research into Earth’s carbon cycle and the formation of asteroids and comets, NASA media reports said.
Image Credit: NASA: The SpaceX Dragon lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 4, 2019, on its way to the International Space Station.
The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory on Monday, May 6. Dragon will join five other spacecraft currently at the station. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival will begin at 5:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Dragon’s launch comes on the heels of robotics ground controllers in Mission Control Houston successfully completing an operation to remove a failed Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) aboard the space station and replace it with a spare. The completion of the robotics work marks the second replacement of an MBSU not involving a spacewalk. The space station continues to be a critical test bed where NASA is pioneering new methods to explore space, from complex robotic work to refueling spacecraft in flight and developing new robotic systems to assist astronauts on the frontier of space. Technologies such as these will be vital as NASA looks to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024.
Expedition 59 astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Dragon around 7 a.m. Coverage of robotic installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 9 a.m.
This delivery, SpaceX’s 17th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, will support dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years.
Here are details about some of the scientific investigations Dragon is delivering to the space station:
Measuring Atmospheric CO2 from Space: NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) examines the complex dynamics of Earth’s atmospheric carbon cycle by collecting measurements to track variations in a specific type of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Understanding carbon sources can aid in forecasting increased atmospheric heat retention and reduce its long-term risks.
Putting Microalgae on the Menu: The Photobioreactor investigation aims to demonstrate how microalgae can be used together with existing life support systems on the space station to improve recycling of resources. The cultivation of microalgae for food, and as part of a life support system to generate oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, could be helpful in future long-duration exploration missions, as it could reduce the amount of consumables required from Earth.
Organs on Chips Advance Human Health Research: Scientists are using a new technology called tissue chips, which could help predict the effectiveness of potential medicines in humans. Fluid that mimics blood can be passed through the chip to simulate blood flow, and can include drugs or toxins. In microgravity, changes occur in human health and human cells that resemble accelerated aging and disease processes. This investigation allows scientists to make observations over the course of a few weeks in microgravity rather than the months it would take in a laboratory on Earth.
Multi-Use Microgravity Experiment Platform: The Hermes facility allows scientists to study the dusty, fragmented debris covering asteroids and moons, called regolith. Once installed by astronauts on the space station, scientists will be able to take over the experiment from Earth to study how regolith particles behave in response to long-duration exposure to microgravity, including changes to pressure, temperate and shocks from impacts and other forces. The investigations will provide insight into the formation and behavior of asteroids, comets, impact dynamics and planetary evolution.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations that will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Space station research also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.
For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, and making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 230 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.
#CarnegieInstitutionforScience; #geochemistry; #planetaryscience; #astronomy; #ProximaCentauri; #solarsystem; # planetaryhabitability
Washington D.C., May 3 (Canadian-Media): A team of investigators with expertise ranging from geochemistry to planetary science to astronomy from Carnegie Institution for Science, found the solutions to which of Earth's features were essential for the origin and sustenance of life and how do scientists identify those features on other worlds, published this week an essay in Science, Science X Newsletter reports said.
Image Credi: ESO/M: Artist's impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System.
With our existing capabilities, observing an exoplanet's atmospheric composition will be the first way to search for signatures of life elsewhere. However, Carnegie's Anat Shahar, Peter Driscoll, Alycia Weinberger, and George Cody argue that a true picture of planetary habitability must consider how a planet's atmosphere is linked to and shaped by what's happening in its interior.
For example, on Earth, plate tectonics are crucial for maintaining a surface climate where life can thrive. What's more, without the cycling of material between its surface and interior, the convection that drives the Earth's magnetic field would not be possible and without a magnetic field, we would be bombarded by cosmic radiation.
"We need a better understanding of how a planet's composition and interior influence its habitability, starting with Earth," Shahar said. "This can be used to guide the search for exoplanets and star systems where life could thrive, signatures of which could be detected by telescopes."
"We need a better understanding of how a planet's composition and interior influence its habitability, starting with Earth," Shahar said. "This can be used to guide the search for exoplanets and star systems where life could thrive, signatures of which could be detected by telescopes."
Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser: An artist's impression of the surface of the super-Earth Barnard's Star b.
It all starts with the formation process. Planets are born from the rotating ring of dust and gas that surrounds a young star. The elemental building blocks from which rocky planets form—silicon, magnesium, oxygen, carbon, iron, and hydrogen—are universal. But their abundances and the heating and cooling they experience in their youth will affect their interior chemistry and, in turn, things like ocean volume and atmospheric composition.
"One of the big questions we need to ask is whether the geologic and dynamic features that make our home planet habitable can be produced on planets with different compositions," Driscoll explained.
The Carnegie colleagues assert that the search for extraterrestrial life must be guided by an interdisciplinary approach that combines astronomical observations, laboratory experiments of planetary interior conditions, and mathematical modeling and simulations.
"Carnegie scientists are long-established world leaders in the fields of geochemistry, geophysics, planetary science, astrobiology, and astronomy," said Weinberger. "So, our institution is perfectly placed to tackle this cross-disciplinary challenge."
In the next decade as a new generation of telescopes come online, scientists will begin to search in earnest for biosignatures in the atmospheres of rocky exoplanets. But the colleagues say that these observations must be put in the context of a larger understanding of how a planet's total makeup and interior geochemistry determines the evolution of a stable and temperate surface where life could perhaps arise and thrive.
"The heart of habitability is in planetary interiors," concluded Cody.
#cosmochemists; #NanoSIMS; #ArizonaStateUniversity
Arizona (U.S.), May 2 (Canadian-Media): Two cosmochemists at Arizona State University have made the first-ever measurements of water contained in samples from the surface of an asteroid. The samples came from asteroid Itokawa and were collected by the Japanese space probe Hayabusa.
Image Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), edited by Z. Jin: Original morphology of the two studied Itokawa particles.
The team's findings suggest that impacts early in Earth's history by similar asteroids could have delivered as much as half of our planet's ocean water.
"We found the samples we examined were enriched in water compared to the average for inner solar system objects," says Ziliang Jin. A postdoctoral scholar in ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, he is the lead author on the paper published May 1 in Science Advances reporting the results. His co-author is Maitrayee Bose, assistant professor in the School.
"It was a privilege that the Japanese space agency JAXA was willing to share five particles from Itokawa with a U.S. investigator," Bose says. "It also reflects well on our School."
The team's idea of looking for water in the Itokawa samples came as a surprise for the Hayabusa project.
"Until we proposed it, no one thought to look for water," says Bose. "I'm happy to report that our hunch paid off."
In two of the five particles, the team identified the mineral pyroxene. In terrestrial samples, pyroxenes have water in their crystal structure. Bose and Jin suspected that the Itokawa particles might also have traces of water, but they wanted to know exactly how much. Itokawa has had a rough history involving heating, multiple impacts, shocks, and fragmentation. These would raise the temperature of the minerals and drive off water.
To study the samples, each about half the thickness of a human hair, the team used ASU's Nanoscale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (NanoSIMS), which can measure such tiny mineral grains with great sensitivity.
The NanoSIMS measurements revealed the samples were unexpectedly rich in water. They also suggest that even nominally dry asteroids such as Itokawa may in fact harbor more water than scientists have assumed.
#NASA; #LSP: #OCO; #SPI; #TaurusXLlaunchfailures; #JimNorman; #OSC;
Washington, May 1 (Canadian-Media/NASA): NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) investigators have determined the technical root cause for the Taurus XL launch failures of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory missions in 2009 and 2011, respectively: faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer, Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI), NASA reports said.
Image Credit: NASA: On Space Launch Complex 576-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Orbital Sciences workers monitor NASA's Glory upper stack as a crane lifts it from a stationary rail for attachment to the Taurus XL rocket's Stage 0.
LSP’s technical investigation led to the involvement of NASA’s Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ’s efforts, recently made public, resulted in the resolution of criminal charges and alleged civil claims against SPI, and its agreement to pay $46 million to the U.S. government and other commercial customers. This relates to a 19-year scheme that included falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum extrusions to hundreds of customers.
NASA’s updated public summary of the launch failures, which was published Tuesday, comes after a multiyear technical investigation by LSP and updates the previous public summaries on the Taurus XL launch failures for the OCO and Glory missions.
Those public summaries concluded that the launch vehicle fairing — a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere — failed to separate on command, but no technical root cause had been identified. From NASA’s investigation, it is now known that SPI altered test results and provided false certifications to Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC), the manufacturer of the Taurus XL, regarding the aluminum extrusions used in the payload fairing rail frangible joint. A frangible joint is a structural separation system that is initiated using ordnance.
“NASA relies on the integrity of our industry throughout the supply chain. While we do perform our own testing, NASA is not able to retest every single component. That is why we require and pay for certain components to be tested and certified by the supplier,” said Jim Norman, NASA’s director for Launch Services at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail. In our case, the Taurus XLs that failed for the OCO and Glory missions resulted in the loss of more than $700 million, and years of people’s scientific work. It is critical that we are able to trust our industry to produce, test and certify materials in accordance with the standards we require. In this case, our trust was severely violated.”
To protect the government supply chain, NASA suspended SPI from government contracting and proposed SPI for government-wide debarment. The exclusion from government contracting has been in effect since Sept. 30, 2015. NASA also has proposed deparment for Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc., formerly known as SPI,and the company currently is excluded from contracting throughout the federal government.
“Due in large part to the hard work and dedication of many highly motivated people in the NASA Launch Services program, we are able to close out the cause of two extremely disappointing launch vehicle failures and protect the government aerospace supply chain,” said Amanda Mitskevich, LSP program manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in, Florida. “It has taken a long time to get here, involving years of investigation and testing, but as of today, it has been worth every minute, and I am extremely pleased with the entire team’s efforts.”