Knowledge Guide


In March 2019, Vice President Mike Pence announced during a National Space Council meeting that NASA would land “the first woman and the next man on the moon” by 2024. Then, in May, NASA announced the program’s name as Artemis, after Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology. NASA plans to send astronauts about once per year to construct an Artemis Base Camp. The NASA Office of Inspector General in February 2021 placed the Artemis cost at $86 billion through fiscal 2025. The Biden administration in February voiced support for Artemis, but did not reference the 2024 deadline.

Source: NASA Headquarters; NASA Office of Inspector General; Trump White House archives; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: April 6, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Artemis Accords

NASA, in May 2020, published a set of principles on its website challenging the nations of the world to maintain peace “on and around the moon” by abiding by the1967 Outer Space Treaty and committing to explore for “peaceful purposes” only. Signatories to the Artemis Accords, named for NASA’s Artemis lunar program, pledge to register all “space objects,” extract resources only in compliance with the 1967 treaty, avoid “harmful interference” with each other, and meet a host of other principles. As of December 2020, 10 countries had signed onto the Artemis Accords.

Source: NASA Headquarters

Updated: Dec. 14, 2020

Author: Cat Hofacker


The name of the Mach 1.4 business jets in development by Aerion Supersonic. Each 8-12 passenger AS2, powered by three custom-made GE Affinity turbofan engines, would be sold for $120 million to business jet companies and corporations. Aerion plans to start construction of operational AS2 jets in 2023, and anticipates the first flights with passengers in 2027. To prove the AS2 design, Aerion in 2020 built and flew two subscale AS2 models in wind tunnels. Test flights with the first operational AS2 would occur in 2025. In early 2019, Aerion announced Boeing had made a “significant investment” in AS2, but has not disclosed the specifics of the partnership.

Source: Aerion press releases; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: March 8, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Atlas V

The latest variant of the expendable Atlas rockets, originally designed as Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that would launch U.S. warheads. Lockheed Martin developed the Atlas V design, the first vehicle of which flew in 2002, with funds from the U.S. Air Force under its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program of the 1990s and early 2000s. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is developing a replacement launch vehicle, the Vulcan Centaur, partly because a 2014 U.S. law prohibits launching defense and intelligence satellites after Dec. 31, 2022, via the Russian-made RD-180 engines, meaning those that power each Atlas first stage.

Source: Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance websites

Updated: March 3, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Boeing 737 MAX

This popular single-aisle jet was grounded between March 2019 and November 2020 and was the subject of numerous congressional investigations. In both the 2018 Lion Air and 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crashes, the anti-stall software unique to the MAX, called MCAS, forced the nose of the planes down repeatedly in response to readings from faulty sensors that indicated the planes were approaching a stall. FAA conducted a 20-month safety review that concluded in November 2020, at which time Boeing and airlines around the world were cleared to update the planes’ flight software and ready them for flight. In the U.S., American Airlines was the first to resume MAX flights in December.

Source: FAA; U.S. House transportation committee; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: March 22, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS)

The first two NASA-contracted CLPS launches to the moon are scheduled for late 2021, when Astrobotic’s Peregrine robotic lander rides atop a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket, and the Nova-C robotic lander from Intuitive Machines goes up on a SpaceX Falcon 9. NASA established the CLPS program in 2018 to pay private companies to send equipment and rovers to the lunar surface ahead of the first Artemis astronaut landing. NASA has so far approved 14 vendors, meaning companies who are eligible for CLPS awards and has awarded six contracts. These leave it up to the awardee to choose the launch provider.

Source: NASA headquarters; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: March 18, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Curiosity rover

NASA launched this 6-wheeled rover in 2011 for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which aims to determine whether Mars was once capable of supporting microbial life. Curiosity’s August 2012 landing on Mars was the first to utilize the sky crane maneuver, in which the 899-kilogram rover was lowered on a tether to the surface. The rover is currently exploring Mount Sharp, a 5-kilometer-tall mountain in the Gale Crater. Curiosity travels an average of 30 meters per day, scooping up and drilling into rocks for its onboard instruments to analyze. The instruments have detected traces of sulfur, carbon and other organic compounds.

Source: NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: April 7, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Dragon 2

SpaceX’s fleet of reusable spacecraft, consisting of cargo and crew variants that ferry astronauts and supplies to International Space Station and back for NASA. Both variants dock directly with ISS. In late 2020, NASA certified the Dragon design for contracted crewed flights, following the two-person test flight dubbed Demo-2 earlier that year. The first of those contracted flights occurred in November 2020 when a Dragon 2 carried four astronauts to ISS as the first of six crewed flights under a 2014 contract. SpaceX also plans to book customers outside NASA, and as of February 2021 had two private flights set up: the Inspiration 4 launch four tourists for a five-day orbital trip through Space Adventures, and an eight-day stay at ISS for one Axiom astronaut and three private citizens in 2022 dubbed Ax-1.

Source: SpaceX announcements; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: March 29, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Dream Chaser

A cargo version of this lifting-body spaceplane design from Sierra Nevada Corp. is under construction and scheduled for a first flight in 2022 atop a ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket with supplies for the International Space Station. This particular spaceplane, dubbed Tenacity, and all future Dream Chasers, will glide back and land on a runway like the space shuttle. Between 2013 and 2017, SNC completed a series of drop tests to demonstrate this landing technique, dropping the Dream Chaser Engineering Test Article from an altitude of 12,000 feet multiple times. Long term, SNC plans to build a crew version of Dream Chaser that would hold 7 passengers once the cargo variant begins operations.

Source: SNC fact sheet; NASA headquarters

Updated: March 23, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker


The first spacecraft of this joint European-Russian ExoMars mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter, has been circling Mars since 2017 to act as a communications relay for the mission’s other spacecraft: 1. the Airbus-built Rosalind Franklin rover, funded by the European Space Agency and named after the English chemist of DNA fame, and 2. The Russian-built Kazachok or “little Cossack” platform from which the rover will roll. Both are scheduled for launch aboard a Proton in 2022, four years late. The two supersonic parachutes that must slow the assembly during descent ripped during 2019 tests in Sweden.

Source: ESA press releases; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: April 8, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

GE Affinity

A turbofan engine developed by GE Aviation for Aerion Supersonic’s planned AS2 buisniess jet. The GE Aviation website says these medium bypass ratio engines are “purposefully designed to enable efficient supersonic flight over water and efficient subsonic flight over land, without requiring modifications to existing compliance regulations.”

Source: Aerion Supersonic; GE website

Updated: Feb. 20, 2020

Author: Cat Hofacker

Low-Boom Flight Demonstration program

NASA’s program to gather acoustic and community response data that could help the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization craft a global noise standard for aircraft flying faster than Mach 1. In the United States, overland supersonic flights have been banned since 1973 for fear that sonic booms would be a nuisance to residents. NASA plans to fly the X-59 demonstrator, now under construction, over populated areas starting in 2024 and survey residents to gather their reactions. NASA and Lockheed Martin designed the X-59 to reduce the sonic boom to a “thump” about as loud as closing a car door.

Source: NASA Aeronautics fact sheets and news releases; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: April 1, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)

This software on Boeing 737 MAX jets, in its original form, forced the nose down if readings from one angle-of-attack sensor indicated danger of aerodynamic stall. During the MAX crashes, MCAS pushed the nose of the planes down repeatedly as the crews struggled. After the first crash, FAA ordered Boeing to modify MCAS to only activate when it receives matching readings from both AoA sensors, and to only activate once. After the second crash, additional steps included more pilot training and new checklists pertaining to MCAS, which wasn’t referenced in pilot manuals prior to the 2018 and 2019 MAX crashes.

Source: FAA; U.S. House transportation committee and Senate Commerce Committee; Aerospace America reporting

Updated: June 10, 2020

Author: Cat Hofacker


The illusion of complete or partial weightlessness during free fall toward Earth. The term can be misleading. Consider the International Space Station. While gravity’s strength decreases with distance, at the altitude of ISS gravity aboard is still 90% as strong as at Earth’s surface. Because the station and everything inside it are in free fall, objects float and feel weightless, but they stay aloft by circling Earth fast enough that they continually fall beyond Earth’s curve. The sensation of reduced or zero gravity can also be created by flying an aircraft in a parabola pattern, with the maneuvers tailored to achieve specific G forces.

Source: NASA; Zero Gravity Corp

Updated: March 3, 2021

Author: Ben Iannotta


Short for Next Generation Air Transportation System, this upgrade of aircraft surveillance equipment and air traffic control facilities is a multi-year modernization initiative the FAA will be working on through at least 2025. Most recently, all general aviation aircraft in the U.S. were required to be equipped with ADS-B Out transponders that broadcast their identity and location to Iridium satellites, other aircraft and air traffic control stations.

Source: FAA

Updated: Jan. 6, 2020

Author: Cat Hofacker

Organization Designation Authorization (ODA)

The FAA’s program created in 2005 to streamline certification by delegating authority to employees at companies to sign off on certain aspects of an aircraft’s design. In the wake of the Boeing 737 MAX crashes, FAA has been criticized for using ODA to “self-certify,” a term the agency says mischaracterizes the ODA program. In September 2020, the U.S. House of representatives introduced legislation requiring FAA to have more direct oversight over companies completing work under ODAs. In December 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed the “Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act” into law.

Source: FAA; House Transportation and Senate Commerce committees

Updated: April 8, 2021

Author: Cat Hofacker

Space situational awareness

Refers to the knowledge such as the identities and orbits of satellites that companies and authorities must have in order to avert collisions between satellites or with debris. The U.S. maintains its SSA at the interagency National Space Defense Center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, based in part on tracking and identification information from the U.S. Space Force 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Trump administration in 2018 directed the Department of Commerce to assume SSA monitoring and collision warnings for nonmilitary spacecraft, but Congress has yet to approve the necessary funding.

Source: Aerospace America reporting, Space Foundation

Updated: Feb. 26, 2020

Author: Cat Hofacker

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