The LOFTID team successfully retrieved the mission’s ejectable data module from the Pacific Ocean on Thursday morning. The data module resembles a large lemon and holds a backup copy of the data recorded during LOFTID’s demonstration. Another copy of the data is stored aboard the heat shield itself, which was already recovered by the team.
The recovery vessel will now make its way back to port. The LOFTID team will analyze the recorded data and inspect the heat shield to assess how the technology performed. Additional updates will be provided as available.
Technicians and engineers encapsulated the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) satellite within a protective payload fairing inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Prior to placement inside the 4-meter-wide United Launch Alliance (ULA) fairing, teams stacked JPSS-2 onto a payload adapter canister containing the re-entry vehicle for NASA’s secondary payload, known as Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator, or LOFTID. The encapsulated satellite will be transported to Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-3 and hoisted by crane atop the second stage of a ULA Atlas V 401 rocket for launch Nov. 1 at 2:25 a.m. PDT.
At launch, JPSS-2 weighs 5,567 pounds and has four highly sophisticated instruments to measure weather and climate conditions on Earth:
The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) sees through clouds like an X-ray and can view the structure of the atmosphere underneath those clouds and inside of storms.
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) measures in the infrared and visible part of the spectrum and can image hurricanes, floods, dust storms, cloud patterns, ocean color, and help locate and map wildfires.
The Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) works together with ATMS to take detailed measurements of the atmospheric conditions needed to generate extreme weather forecasts days in advance.
The Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) consists of sensors to track the concentration of ozone in the atmosphere and measure sulfur dioxide and other aerosols emitted from volcanoes and particulates from wildfires.
As JPSS-2 makes its way to a polar Earth orbit, LOFTID will re-enter the atmosphere as it descends back to Earth and will land in the Pacific Ocean just over two hours after launch. LOFTID will demonstrate how the inflatable aeroshell, or heat shield, can slow down and survive re-entry in conditions relevant to many potential applications, whether landing humans on Mars, new missions to Venus and Titan, or returning heavier payloads and samples from low-Earth orbit.
LOFTID is a partnership with ULA. NASA’s LOFTID project is managed and funded through NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. LOFTID is led by Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, with contributions from Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, and multiple U.S. small businesses that contributed to the hardware. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, manages the launch service.
NASA’s Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID), arrived at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California Monday, Aug. 15. The technology demonstration mission is slated to test new capabilities for landing payloads, including in a thinner atmosphere like that on Mars.
LOFTID is a rideshare launching with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) satellite. After arriving and unloading in Building 836, the spacecraft will undergo processing before mating to their payload adapter (PLA) and installation in the larger PLA canister. The LOFTID PLA canister assembly will move to the Astrotech Space Operations Facility, where teams will mate JPSS-2 on top of the assembly and encapsulate the entire stack in the protective payload fairing. The team will then attach the encapsulated spacecraft and re-entry vehicle to a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket. NASA is targeting launch for Tuesday, Nov. 1, from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-3 East.
When deployed, LOFTID’s inflatable aeroshell is about 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter and acts as a giant brake. It is protected by a woven flexible thermal protection system. Current rigid aeroshells are constrained by a rocket’s fairing size, but an inflatable aeroshell could be deployed to a much larger scale and apply more drag to the spacecraft.
After JPSS-2 reaches orbit, LOFTID will follow a re-entry trajectory from low-Earth orbit to demonstrate the inflatable heat shield’s ability to slow down and survive re-entry. NASA plans to recover LOFTID after it splashes down.
The LOFTID project is a part of the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. LOFTID is a partnership with ULA and is dedicated to the memory of Bernard Kutter, one of the company’s engineers who played a key role in developing the technology. The project is managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, with contributions from various NASA centers: Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California; Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; and Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for managing the launch service.
Flight hardware for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket slated to launch the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) has arrived in California. The rocket’s boattail and interstage adapter arrived at Vandenberg Space Force Base July 28 for processing ahead of launch. The payload fairings arrived Aug. 8.
JPSS-2 is the third satellite in the Joint Polar Satellite System series and is designed to scan the Earth as it orbits from the North to the South Pole, crossing the equator 14 times a day to provide full global coverage twice a day. Operating from about 512 miles above Earth, JPSS-2 is expected to capture data to improve weather forecasts, helping scientists predict and prepare for extreme weather events and climate change. Liftoff is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 1, from Space Launch Complex-3E on Vandenberg.
The interstage adapter is the connecting piece of hardware between the Atlas V booster and the rocket’s Centaur upper stage, while the boattail connects the Centaur to the payload fairing that will house the JPSS-2 satellite. The payload fairings are a protective covering that will encapsulate the spacecraft and keep it safe as the rocket ascends rapidly through the atmosphere. The payload fairings are a critical piece of hardware built specifically to accommodate the satellite, and are a key feature of the launch vehicle.
As processing continues at Vandenberg, teams at the Northrop Grumman facility in Gilbert, Arizona, are preparing the spacecraft for its mission, having recently installed the solar array that will power the spacecraft. After installing the solar array, the team packed the satellite for shipment, installed a protective cover, and enclosed the satellite in its shipping container. Ground support equipment for the satellite has already started arriving at Vandenberg to be ready to support spacecraft arrival.
Together, NOAA and NASA partner in the development, launch, testing, and operation of all satellites in the JPSS series. NASA develops and builds the instruments, spacecraft, and ground system, in addition to launching the satellites on behalf of NOAA, which operates the satellites.
Riding as a secondary payload aboard the Atlas V is NASA’s Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) – a demonstration of a cross-cutting inflatable aeroshell, or heat shield, for atmospheric re-entry. The mission is dedicated to the memory of Bernard Kutter, a manager of advanced programs at ULA who championed lower-cost access to space and technologies to make that a reality. The technology demonstrated by LOFTID could be used for crewed and large robotic missions to Mars.
Once JPSS-2 reaches orbit, LOFTID will be put on a re-entry trajectory from low-Earth orbit to demonstrate the heat shield’s ability to slow down and survive re-entry. The project is sponsored by the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in partnership with ULA. LOFTID is managed by the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, with contributions from various NASA centers: Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California; Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; and Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for managing the launch service.