Aeroshells Prepped for Vital Orion Launch Abort System Test

The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion's Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at Kennedy Space Center after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island.
The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at Kennedy Space Center after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island.

The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island. In the photo above, technicians prepare the aeroshell to be lifted off of the flatbed truck and transferred to slats. All three aeroshells will be stacked and prepared for a full-stress test of the LAS, called Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test, scheduled for April 2019.

During the test, a booster will launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a fully functional LAS and a 22,000-pound Orion test vehicle to an altitude of 31,000 feet and traveling at more than 1,000 miles per hour. The test will verify the LAS can steer the crew module and astronauts aboard to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during a rapid climb into space.

NASA’s Orion is being prepared for its first integrated uncrewed flight atop the SLS on Exploration Mission-1.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Successful Launch for SpaceX Falcon 9, CRS-15

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch of the SpaceX CRS-15 mission took place at 5:42 a.m. EDT.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch of the SpaceX CRS-15 mission took place at 5:42 a.m. EDT. Image credit: NASA TV

Now in its preliminary orbit, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will begin its three-day pursuit of the International Space Station. It’s scheduled to arrive Monday, July 2. NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold will be the prime operator of the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm; he will be backed up by NASA astronaut Drew Feustel. Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will keep watch over the spacecraft’s systems. Dragon will be installed on the station’s Harmony module.

SpaceX CRS-15 Set for Liftoff Early Friday

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 on July 18, 2017, at the start of the CRS-9 mission.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 on July 18, 2017, at the start of the CRS-9 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

SpaceX’s 15th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station is slated to begin before dawn Friday. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft is scheduled for at 5:42 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Dragon is packed with more than 5,900 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware.

The launch forecast predicts a 90 percent chance of favorable weather, according to meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing.

Join us right here on NASA’s SpaceX launch blog for countdown updates beginning at 5:15 a.m.

Dragon Set to Deliver Supplies to International Space Station

Dragon Set to Deliver Supplies to International Space Station
The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 15, 2017 carrying the Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Photo credit: NASA/Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers and Tim Terry

Commercial Resupply Services Mission: SpaceX CRS-15
Launch: 5:42 a.m. EDT, Friday, June 29, 2018
Launch Weather: Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90 percent chance of favorable weather at launch time. Cumulus and anvil clouds are the primary weather concerns.
Lift Off: Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida
Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9, 230 feet-tall
Spacecraft: Dragon, 20 feet high, 12 feet-in diameter
Payload: Dragon will deliver supplies and payloads, including materials to directly support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the space station’s Expeditions 56.
Return to Earth: After about one month attached to the space station, Dragon will return with results of earlier experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.
Payloads on Board: https://go.nasa.gov/2LymYKJ

Dragon Set to Deliver Supplies to International Space Station

Dragon Set to Deliver Supplies to International Space Station
The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 15, 2017 carrying the Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Photo credit: NASA/Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers and Tim Terry

Commercial Resupply Services Mission: SpaceX CRS-15
Launch: 5:42 a.m. EDT, Friday, June 29, 2018
Lift Off: Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida
Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9, 230 feet-tall
Spacecraft: Dragon, 20 feet high, 12 feet-in diameter
Payload: Dragon will deliver supplies and payloads, including materials to directly support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the space station’s Expeditions 56.
Return to Earth: After about one month attached to the space station, Dragon will return with results of earlier experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.
Payloads on Board: https://go.nasa.gov/2LymYKJ

Launch of NASA’s ICON Satellite Postponed

Artist image of NASA's ICON satellite.NASA and Northrop Grumman have postponed the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite. ICON, which will study the frontier of space, was targeted to launch on a Pegasus XL rocket June 14 from the Kwajalein Atoll in Marshall Islands.

During a ferry transit, Northrop Grumman saw off-nominal data from the Pegasus rocket. While ICON remains healthy, the mission will return to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for rocket testing and data analysis. A new launch date will be determined at a later date.

Students Assist in Space Farming Challenges

Gioia Massa examines one of the plant samples for X-Hab 2018, on March 12, 2018
Gioia Massa examines one of the plant samples for X-Hab 2018, on March 12, 2018 when students from Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute came to Kennedy Space Center to meet with subject matter experts from NASA. The students’ design project focused on increasing the sustainability of crop production by using 3D printing. Photo credit: NASA

Astronauts have lived and worked on the International Space Station continuously for more than 17 years, expanding on the earlier short-duration missions of the Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs, but going beyond those achievements will require new technology. One way NASA is working to solve the challenges of extending human presence beyond Earth’s orbit is with the eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, which provides college students the opportunity to participate in the development of new technologies that increase the viability of long duration deep space missions.

For the past eight years, teams of students have submitted proposals for specific research questions posed by the X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge. Once selected, NASA awarded the schools grants ranging from less than $17,000 to more than $150,000 for supplies and necessities, which the university matched. Sponsoring programs included Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications, Human Research Program, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and Advanced Exploration Systems. Then the students spent months working as a team with support from NASA subject matter experts as the team developed solutions to their topic. Four of the eight projects for the 2018 X-Hab involved students working with NASA researchers at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs’ Utilization and Life Sciences Office, developing new ideas for growing plants in space.

“What we’re really focusing our attention on right now is how do we get nutrition in play, and how do we get automation, and use smart systems,” said Charles Quincy, a NASA researcher at Kennedy.

It is vital to have autonomous systems capable of making decisions about growing plants because astronauts are unlikely to have much time to spend farming during deep space missions. Long distances also will delay communications, making it harder for ground crews to use remote commands to grow food for the crew. Microgravity, growing plants in a closed loop during the voyage, and an environment very different from Earth are all complications to growing food in space that challenged X-Hab 2018 participants.

Students from the University of Michigan worked on designing and prototyping a substrate, a material in which a plant grows, that uses 3D printing to achieve effective plant growth in microgravity. Students from the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute attempted to improve the sustainability of food crop production by producing substrate using 3D printing technology and reusing the same substrate for multiple crops. Temple University students developed a fresh produce sanitation system to manage microbial growth in space. Finally, Utah State University students designed a 3D printed matrix system for integration into the Veggie growth platform on the space station to better understand providing water and nutrients to plants.

Quincy said the ideas and the entire experience of participating in X-Hab is a positive one for both the students and NASA. The teams develop design projects that have the potential of shaping future NASA missions. In turn, those teams must meet engineering milestones, conduct outreach, and attempt to leverage funding from other organizations, providing them with hands-on experience in cutting-edge research.

Kimberly Simpson, a NASA engineer at Kennedy, said that as the students reached out to experts at NASA, invariably there comes a point when the questions move beyond current knowledge, and the students had to go through the process of trying to find an answer.

One of the best things about X-Hab, from Simpson’s perspective, is that the challenge opens students to the possibility of doing research they had never considered before. In addition to bringing new ideas and technology to enable humans to travel deep into space to NASA, the challenge also develops a pipeline of young scientists and engineers.

On May 31, 2018, NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation announced the selection of 10 teams for X-Hab 2019. These teams will develop their projects during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Written by Leejay Lockhart

Alan Bean, Don Peterson Honored in Spaceport Ceremonies

Alan Bean and Don Peterson Honored
Inside the Apollo-Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to guests in the photo on the left, honoring the memory of former NASA astronaut Alan Bean who died on May 26, at the age of 86. Later that day, on the right, former space shuttle astronaut Don Peterson was remembered in the Atlantis exhibit. He passed away May 27, 2018. Peterson was 84.
Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky, left photo, NASA/Leif Heimbold, right photo

Two veteran NASA astronauts, who recently passed away, were honored May 30, 2018, in separate wreath laying ceremonies at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Alan Bean, who flew during the Apollo and Skylab programs, was remembered in a ceremony at the Apollo-Saturn V Center. Space shuttle astronaut Don Peterson was honored at the Atlantis exhibit.

Alan Bean Deploys the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package
Apollo 12 lunar module pilot Alan Bean deploys components of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package during the first Apollo 12 moonwalk.
Photo credit: NASA/Pete Conrad

Bean was the fourth person to walk on the Moon as lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 in November 1969. He went on to command the 59-day Skylab 3 mission in 1973.

After his retirement from NASA, Bean became an accomplished artist capturing spaceflight from the eyes of one who has flown in space and walked on the lunar surface, He died in Houston on May 26, 2018, at the age of 86.

A large mural of a painting by Alan Bean
Backdropped by a large mural of a painting by Alan Bean, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to guests gathered to remember the Apollo and Skylab astronaut. After leaving NASA, Bean became an accomplished artist creating paintings to capture his view of humankind’s first exploration of other worlds.
Photo credit: NASA

“After logging 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space, Alan passed the baton to the next generation of astronauts and changed fronts, looking to push the boundaries of his own imagination and ability as an artist,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe.”

Peterson originally was selected for the U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory program, but when that was cancelled, he became a NASA astronaut in September 1969. He served as a mission specialist on the maiden flight of the space shuttle Challenger during STS-6 in April 1983.

Peterson resigned from NASA in November 1984, working after that as a consultant in human aerospace operations. He died on May 27, 2018, in El Lago, Texas. He was 84.

First Space Shuttle Spacewalk
Astronauts Story Musgrave, left, and Don Peterson float in the cargo bay of the Earth-orbiting space shuttle Challenger during their April 7, 1983, spacewalk on the STS-6 mission. During the six-day flight, the STS-6 crew deployed of the first Tracking and Data Relay System satellite.
Photo credit: NASA

During the six-day STS-6 mission, Peterson and fellow mission specialist Story Musgrave performed a four-hour spacewalk, the first of the shuttle program. Once outside the spacecraft, Peterson was impressed with the view.

“Got a good shot of Mother Earth there Story.” He said. “It’s a fantastic view.”

As a part of the Oral History Project, Peterson explained that the purpose of the spacewalk.

“We tested a few of the tools, wrenches and some of the foot restraints,” he said, “but mainly it was to make sure the suits were OK.”

Chilling Out During Liquid Oxygen Tank Test

The liquid oxygen tank at Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) chilled out recently with a pressurization test of the liquid oxygen (LO2) tank at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – Pad 39B, recently upgraded by the EGS team for the agency’s new Space Launch System rocket.

The six-hour test of the giant sphere checked for leaks in the cryogenic pipes leading from the tank to the block valves, the liquid oxygen sensing cabinet, and new vaporizers recently installed on the tank.

The SLS will use both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. During tanking, some of the liquid oxygen, stored at minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit, boils off and vapor or mist is visible. While the tank can hold up to 900,000 gallons of liquid oxygen; during the test it only contained 590,000 gallons of the super-cooled propellant.

The test was monitored by engineers and technicians inside Firing Room 1 at the Launch Control Center, a heritage KSC facility also upgraded by the EGS team in preparation for the upcoming mission. Results of the test confirmed that the fill rise rate was acceptable, the tank pressurization sequence works and that only one of the two vaporizers was needed to accomplish pressurization.

Another system is “go” for the first integrated launch of SLS and the Orion spacecraft!

Chilling Out During Liquid Oxygen Tank Test

The liquid oxygen tank at Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) chilled out recently with a pressurization test of the liquid oxygen (LO2) tank at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – Pad 39B, recently upgraded by the EGS team for the agency’s new Space Launch System rocket.

The six-hour test of the giant sphere checked for leaks in the cryogenic pipes leading from the tank to the block valves, the liquid oxygen sensing cabinet, and new vaporizers recently installed on the tank.

The SLS will use both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. During tanking, some of the liquid oxygen, stored at minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit, boils off and vapor or mist is visible. While the tank can hold up to 900,000 gallons of liquid oxygen; during the test it only contained 590,000 gallons of the super-cooled propellant.

The test was monitored by engineers and technicians inside Firing Room 1 at the Launch Control Center, a heritage KSC facility also upgraded by the EGS team in preparation for the upcoming mission. Results of the test confirmed that the fill rise rate was acceptable, the tank pressurization sequence works and that only one of the two vaporizers was needed to accomplish pressurization.

Another system is “go” for the first integrated launch of SLS and the Orion spacecraft!