Final Work Platform Lifted into Place for NASA’s Space Launch System

Platform A North InstallationThe final work platform, A north, was lifted, installed and secured on its rail beam on the north wall of High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 12.

The installation of the final topmost level completes the 10 levels of work platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, that will surround NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft and allow access during processing for missions, including the first uncrewed flight test of Orion atop the SLS rocket in 2018.

The A platforms will provide access to the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System for Orion lifting sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, with support from the center’s Engineering Directorate, is overseeing upgrades to the VAB, including the installation of the work platforms. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Final Work Platform Arrives for NASA’s Space Launch System

Work platform A north arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13.The final work platform for NASA’s Space Launch System arrived Dec. 13 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The second half of the A-level platforms, A north, was transported to the center by heavy-lift truck from Tillett Heavy Hauling in Titusville, Florida, and delivered to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) staging area.

The platform will remain in the staging area for prep work before it is moved into the transfer aisle of the VAB. The first half of the A-level platforms, A south, arrived at the center Nov. 28. The south platform will be installed in High Bay 3 on Dec. 22. The north platform will be installed in late January 2017.

The A-level platforms are the topmost platforms for High Bay 3. The two halves will provide access to the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS) for Orion Lifting Sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. Testing of the Launch Abort System Antenna also is performed on this level.

A total of 10 levels of new platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft and provide access for testing and processing. NASA is preparing for the launch of Orion atop the SLS rocket from Launch Pad 39B in 2018.

Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Mobile Launcher will Receive first Umbilicals for NASA’s Deep Space Missions

Vehicle Support Post is moved to the Mobile Launcher Yard on Dec. 9.
A vehicle support post for NASA’s Space Launch System was transported Dec. 9 from the Launch Equipment Test Facility to the Mobile Launcher Yard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Several of the umbilicals that will support the launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket atop the mobile launcher were transported from the Launch Equipment Test Facility to the Mobile Launcher Yard and staging area at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They will be prepped for installation on the mobile launcher.

The mobile launcher tower will be equipped with several launch umbilicals, which connect to the SLS core stage and twin solid rocket boosters, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the Orion spacecraft. They will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel. Several other accessories will provide access and stabilization to the rocket and spacecraft.

The two aft skirt electrical umbilicals and one vehicle support post were transported by flatbed truck from the test facility. The two aft skirt umbilicals will be prepped and installed on the deck of the mobile launcher in the coming weeks. Work will begin to prep the first vehicle support post while the remaining seven posts undergo testing at the Launch Equipment Test Facility before being shipped to the mobile launcher. The installation work will be performed by the construction contractor JP Donovan Construction.

The two umbilicals will connect to the SLS rocket at the bottom outer edge of each booster and provide electrical power and data connections to the SLS rocket until it lifts off from the launch pad. The umbilicals will act like a telephone line and carry a signal to another subsystem on the mobile launcher called the launch release system. This system will distribute the launch signal to the rest of the launch accessories and the SLS boosters will actually initiate the launch release command.

There are a total of eight posts that will support the load of the solid rocket boosters, with four posts for each of the boosters. The support posts are five feet tall and weigh about 10,000 pounds each. They will be located on the deck of the mobile launcher and will be instrumented with strain gages to measure loads during vehicle stacking, integration, rollout and launch. The posts will structurally support the SLS rocket through countdown and liftoff.

NASA’s SLS rocket is scheduled to launch with the Orion spacecraft atop from Launch Pad 39B in late 2018. The mission will send Orion on a path thousands of miles beyond the moon over a course of three weeks before the spacecraft returns to Earth and safely splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will be the first in a series of the proving ground as NASA prepares for the Journey to Mars.

Team Celebrates Success of Orion Underway Recovery Test 5

The Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 team gathered to celebrate a successful test during an event at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 team gathered to celebrate the successful completion of the test during an event at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At far left is Melissa Jones, Orion Landing and Recovery director. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 (URT-5) team recently celebrated the completion of the test during a gathering hosted by the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) and the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

URT-5 team members included NASA’s GSDO, Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate, contractors with the Test and Operations Support Contract and Engineering Services Contract, Orion representatives, the team from the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and U.S. Air Force Detachment 3 from the 45th Space Wing at nearby Patrick Air Force Base.

During URT-5 in October, the team practiced recovering a test version of the Orion crew module in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California, and guiding it into the well deck of the USS San Diego. Over several days, the team demonstrated and evaluated new recovery processes, procedures, hardware and personnel that will be necessary to recover Orion after its first flight test on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

“URT-5 proved to be a really valuable test for us as we evolve our ground support equipment and recovery procedures to one day safely recover our astronauts and crew module from deep space,” said Mike Bolger, GSDO Program manager. “It is a complex procedure and the conditions on the Pacific Ocean can be daunting. But this team performed flawlessly.”

Landing and Recovery Director Melissa Jones, with GSDO, thanked the team for countless hours of hard work and hundreds of newly developed parts that contributed to the success of the test.

“This test was the first time the Landing and Recovery Team has been able to consistently demonstrate control of the test capsule in the well deck of the ship,” Jones said.

The team will fine-tune their strategy, make some equipment adjustments and return to the open water for another test late next year.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop the SLS on Exploration Mission 1 in late 2018. EM-1 will send Orion on a path thousands of miles beyond the moon over a course of three weeks, farther into space than human spaceflight has ever traveled before. The spacecraft will return to Earth and safely splash down in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will advance and validate capabilities required for the Journey to Mars.

Space Launch System Core Stage Umbilical Ready for Tests at Launch Equipment Test Facility

The Core State Inter-tank umbilical is ready for testing at the Launch Equipment Test Facility.Testing of several of the umbilical lines that will attach to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from the tower on the mobile launcher continues at the Launch Equipment Test Facility (LETF) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Core Stage Inter-tank Umbilical (CSITU) arrived at the LETF and was attached to the “C” tower of the Vehicle Motion Simulator 2 test fixture. Engineers with the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program and the Engineering Directorate will prepare the umbilical for a series of tests to confirm it is functioning properly and ready to support the SLS rocket for launch.

The tests will begin in January 2017 and are scheduled to be completed by the end of February. Testing will include hydraulic system controller tuning, umbilical plate mate and leak checks, primary and secondary disconnect testing at ambient temperatures, and fire suppression system functional checks. Also, a series of primary and secondary disconnect testing at liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen temperatures, minus 321 and minus 421 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, will be performed.

The CSITU is a swing arm umbilical that will connect to the SLS core stage inter-tank. The umbilical’s main function is to vent gaseous hydrogen from the core stage. The arm also provides conditioned air, pressurized gases, and power and data connection to the core stage.

The CSITU will be located at about the 140-foot-level on the mobile launcher tower, between the Core Stage liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks, and will swing away before launch. The umbilical is one of several umbilicals that will be installed on the mobile launcher tower and attach to the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.

The Orion spacecraft is scheduled to launch in late 2018 atop the SLS rocket on a three-week mission that will take it thousands of miles beyond the moon and back during Exploration Mission 1.

Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

New Liquid Hydrogen Tank will Support Flights from Launch Pad 39B

New liquid hydrogen tank arrives at Launch Pad 39B.A new liquid hydrogen (LH2) liquid separator tank has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be used to support the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and all future launches from Launch Pad 39B.

The tank was lifted by crane, rotated, and then lowered on the transporter for the move to the pad.

The existing hydrogen vent system that terminates at a flare stack was designed for gaseous hydrogen. New requirements for Exploration Mission 1 and future launches include the need to address liquid hydrogen in the vent system. The new LH2 separator/storage tank will be added to the existing hydrogen vent system to assure gaseous hydrogen is delivered downstream to the flare stack.

At Pad B, the existing hydrogen vent line and supporting systems will be modified to accommodate the new LH2 liquid separator tank. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program and the Engineering Directorate at Kennedy are performing the upgrades to Launch Pad 39B to support the agency’s premier multi-user spaceport.

The 60,000 gallon tank was built by INOXCVA, in Baytown, Texas, a subcontractor to Precision Mechanical Inc. in Cocoa, Florida. It is about 56 feet long, with a 14-foot diameter.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Second Half of Platform C Installed in Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay 3

Platform C North is installed in the VAB High Bay 3.The second half of the C-level work platforms, C North, was installed Nov. 10 in High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The platform was lifted up by crane from the floor of the transfer aisle and lowered into the high bay for installation on the north wall of the high bay, about 280 feet above the floor.

The C platforms are the eighth of 10 levels of platforms that will surround NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft and provide access for testing and processing for the uncrewed Exploration Mission 1 flight test and deep space missions, including the journey to Mars.

The C platforms will provide access to the Space Launch System’s Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Stage Adapter and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage for mate activities. ICPS mate to the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter (LVSA) operations occur on Platform C. ICPS umbilical mate operations also will be performed on this level. LVSA upper access doors are located on Platform C for entry to the top of the ICPS.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to the VAB, including installation of the new work platforms.

Photo credit: NASA/Daniel Casper

Second Half of Platform B Arrives for NASA’s Space Launch System

Second half of platform B arrives at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.The second half of the B-level work platforms, B north, for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, arrived by heavy-load transport truck at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 7. The B platforms are the ninth of 10 levels of new platforms for High Bay 3 in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

The platform was delivered to the VAB staging area in the west parking lot. A total of 10 levels of new platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft and provide access for testing and processing in the high bay.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to VAB High Bay 3 to support processing of the SLS and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1 and deep space missions, including NASA’s Journey to Mars.

Photo credit: NASA/Glen Benson

Launch Pad 39B Flame Trench Upgrades Continue

Work continues on the flame trench at Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.Progress continues to upgrade the flame trench at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Construction workers with J.P. Donovan of Rockledge, Florida, are on an elevated work stand to install new heat-resistant bricks on the north side of the flame trench. The Pad B flame trench is being refurbished to support the launch of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. The Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program at Kennedy is helping transform the space center into a multi-user spaceport and prepare for Exploration Mission 1, deep space missions, and NASA’s Journey to Mars. For more information about GSDO, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/groundsystems.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA Prepares for Orion Water Recovery Rehearsal in Pacific Ocean

The test version of the Orion crew module was transported into the well deck of the USS San Diego at Naval Base San Diego in California on Oct. 21 to prepare for Underway Recovery Test 5.
The test version of the Orion crew module was transported into the well deck of the USS San Diego at Naval Base San Diego in California on Oct. 21 to prepare for Underway Recovery Test 5. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

When Orion returns from deep space missions and lands in the ocean, a team will be responsible for safely returning the capsule and crew back to land.

NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program and U.S. Navy personnel are preparing to conduct a water recovery test, called Underway Recovery Test 5 (URT-5), this week, using a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean.

During URT-5, the team will demonstrate and evaluate in open water the recovery processes, procedures, hardware and personnel that are necessary for recovery of the Orion crew module into the well deck of a Navy ship.

The USS San Diego, a test version of Orion, several support boats, and associated hardware and equipment will be used for the test.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and the agency’s Journey to Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop the Space Launch System rocket in late 2018.