Atlas V Fueled in Dress Rehearsal for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing's Orbital Flight Test.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is poised atop a fueled United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s (CCAFS) Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida for the program’s first ever Integrated Day of Launch Test, or IDOLT. Today’s rehearsal is practice for Boeing’s upcoming uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) to the International Space Station. The rocket’s booster has been filled with liquid oxygen and a form of rocket-grade kerosene called RP-1, and its Centaur upper stage loaded with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for today’s full run-through of the launch countdown.

Boeing, ULA and NASA teams are participating from several locations, including the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) at CCAFS; Boeing’s Mission Control Center (BMCC) at nearby Kennedy Space Center; and the flight control room supporting Starliner missions inside the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, slated to fly to the station on Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, monitored the rehearsal from consoles in the ASOC and BMCC.

Although OFT is uncrewed, rehearsals like today’s are standard for human spaceflight missions and similar rehearsals were a regular part of space shuttle missions. They provide a final opportunity for all teams to work through dynamic launch preparations in real time.

The Atlas V rocket will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA is working with its commercial partners to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

SpaceX Successfully Launches 19th Resupply Services Mission to Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida at 12:29 p.m. EST on Dec. 5, 2019, for the company’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission to the International Space Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida at 12:29 p.m. EST on Dec. 5, 2019, for the company’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

Critical supplies, equipment and material are on its way to the International Space Station following the successful launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company’s uncrewed Dragon spacecraft lifted off atop the Falcon 9 at 12:29 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 on Dec. 5, 2019, for the 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission.

Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the space station Dec. 8, with live coverage on spacecraft rendezvous and capture beginning at 4:30 a.m. EST on NASA TV and the agency’s website. To read a full recap of the launch, click here.

Launch Day Arrives for SpaceX’s 19th Resupply Services Mission to Station

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands ready for liftoff at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida for the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission to the International Space Station.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands ready for liftoff at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida for the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

SpaceX’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission is set to launch at 12:51 p.m. EST today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company’s uncrewed Dragon spacecraft – launching aboard a Falcon 9 rocket – will deliver research, supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

Beginning at 12:30 p.m., join NASA’s launch blog for updates and follow along on NASA TV or the agency’s website for the live launch broadcast.

Here’s a look at today’s countdown and ascent milestones. All times are approximate:

COUNTDOWN
Hour/Min/Sec – Events
-00:38:00 – SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
-00:35:00 – RP-1 (rocket-grade kerosene) loading begins
-00:35:00 – 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
-00:16:00 – 2nd stage LOX loading begins
-00:07:58 – Dragon transitions to internal power
-00:01:00 – Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
-00:01:00 – Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
-00:00:45 – SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
-00:00:03 – Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
-00:00:00 – Falcon 9 liftoff

LAUNCH, LANDING AND DRAGON DEPLOYMENT
Hour/Min/Sec – Event
00:01:18 – Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:31 – 1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:34 – 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:42 – 2nd stage engine starts
00:02:47 – 1st stage boostback burn begins
00:06:11 – 1st stage entry burn begins
00:07:48 – 1st stage landing
00:08:35 – 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:09:35 – Dragon separates from 2nd stage
00:12:02 – Dragon’s solar arrays deploy
02:19:00 – Dragon’s Guidance, Navigation and Control bay door opens

Solar Orbiter Spacecraft Unboxed; Atlas V Launch Vehicle Arrives

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft has been removed from its shipping container inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida.
The Solar Orbiter spacecraft has been removed from its shipping container inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster that will launch the Solar Orbiter on its upcoming mission to study the Sun has arrived at the Florida spaceport, while the spacecraft is beginning launch preparations of its own.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is delivered by truck to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is delivered by truck to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The company’s cargo vessel, Rocketship – formerly known as Mariner – delivered the Atlas V first stage and Centaur upper stage to Port Canaveral on Nov. 20, 2019, after traveling from the booster’s manufacturing facility at Decatur, Alabama. Upon arrival at the port, the launch hardware was trucked to separate facilities at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station: the booster to ULA’s Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) and the Centaur to a separate facility. Both stages will undergo preflight checkouts before the components are stacked for launch at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility closer to liftoff.

Meanwhile, the Solar Orbiter spacecraft has been removed from its shipping container for the start of its own prelaunch preparations at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility in Titusville, Florida. The spacecraft was uncrated Nov. 15 and rotated to vertical on Nov. 18, paving the way for upcoming processing and checkouts, including tests of the spacecraft and its suite of science instruments, as well as its propellant pressurization system.

Solar Orbiter is a European Space Agency mission with strong NASA participation. The mission aims to study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar winds. The spacecraft will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch. Liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 aboard the ULA Atlas V launch vehicle.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner in Place at Space Launch Complex 41

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft rolls out from the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft rolls out from the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft arrives at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 21, 2019.
A transporter carrying the spacecraft arrives at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that will launch to the International Space Station on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has taken a significant step toward launch. Starliner rolled out of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, making the trek on a transport vehicle to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

At the pad, Starliner was hoisted up at the Vertical Integration Facility and secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for the flight test to the space station.

The Atlas V rocket that will carry Starliner comprises a booster stage and dual-engine Centaur upper stage, as well as a pair of solid rocket boosters.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019.
The spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The uncrewed flight test, targeted to launch Dec. 17, will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket, Starliner spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

The data will be used as part of NASA’s process of certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

NASA is working in partnership with Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. Safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation to and from the space station will allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration.

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Boeing CST-100 Starliner Makes its Way to Space Launch Complex 41

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Nov. 21, on its way to Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Nov. 21, making its way to the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At the pad, Starliner will be secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in preparation for Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

 

Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft Preparing for Transport to Launch Site

The CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to be flown on Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) is viewed Nov. 2, 2019, while undergoing launch preparations inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida
The CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to be flown on Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) is viewed Nov. 2, 2019, while undergoing launch preparations inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the OFT mission, the uncrewed Starliner spacecraft will fly to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing are preparing for the next step in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program on Thursday, Nov. 21, as the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft begins its transport for integration on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket ahead of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station.

During the operation, the fueled Starliner will be moved from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy to ULA’s Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Later the same day, the spacecraft will be stacked on top of an Atlas V rocket for final processing ahead of the launch.

Boeing’s uncrewed flight test, which is targeted for Dec. 17, will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the rocket, spacecraft and ground systems, as well as, in-orbit and landing operations. The data will be used toward certification of Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry through public-private partnerships to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. The goal of the program is safe, reliable and cost-effective human space transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time aboard the station and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, which includes sending astronauts to the Moon and Mars.

Kennedy Space Center Welcomes ‘Shooting Star’ Cargo Module

A testing mockup of Sierra Nevada Corporation's Shooting Star cargo module
A look at a testing mockup of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Shooting Star cargo module in the Space Station Processing Facility high bay at Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 19, 2019. Shooting Star will attach to the back of the company’s Dream Chaser spacecraft. The cargo module will deliver more than 12,000 pounds of supplies and other cargo to the International Space Station for NASA as part of the Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

A “Shooting Star” was unveiled Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Kennedy Space Center.

During a media event held in the Florida spaceport’s Space Station Processing Facility high bay, former NASA astronaut and current Senior Vice President of Strategy for Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems Steve Lindsey revealed the name of the cargo module that will attach to the back of the company’s Dream Chaser spacecraft: Shooting Star.

“It’s an exciting day for us,” said Lindsey, a veteran of five NASA shuttle missions.

Sierra Nevada's media da;y for the Shooting Star cargo module in the Space Station Processing Faciility
Steve Lindsey, senior vice president of strategy for Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems and a former NASA astronaut, talks about Shooting Star’s capabilities. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Shooting Star is a 15-foot-long cargo module that will attach to the back of the 30-foot-long Dream Chaser. It will be used to deliver more than 12,000 pounds of supplies and other cargo for NASA to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract. Its first flight is scheduled to launch from Kennedy in fall 2021.

“Sierra Nevada Corporation is excited to be expanding our footprint here at Kennedy Space Center,” said Kimberly Schwandt, senior communications manager for SNC Space Systems.

Dream Chaser will fly back to Earth and land on the runway at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility, formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility. Shooting Star will have a different fate. It will carry unwanted cargo from the space station, disposing of it while burning up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The process of “burning up” is where the Shooting Star name came from, Lindsey explained.

Steve Lindsey in front of Sierra Nevada Corporation's Shooting Star cargo module
Steve Lindsey poses in front of the Shooting Star cargo module inside Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

“The cargo module is really interesting because it’s kind of the unsung hero of the whole Dream Chaser cargo system design,” Lindsey said, while standing in front of a Shooting Star testing mockup. “It has a very unique shape — notice how it angles in as you go higher. It’s shaped to handle external and internal payloads.”

Payload capability includes pressurized and unpressurized cargo. Though it was designed specifically for cargo resupply services to the space station, Shooting Star can have many other applications, Lindsey said, including carrying crew, operating as a free-flying satellite and going from low-Earth to lunar orbit.

“It’s a pretty versatile system,” Lindsey said, “and the more we worked on it, the more we realized there are multiple applications for it.”

The Shooting Star mockup was recently delivered to Kennedy from SNC’s facility in Colorado. It will remain at the Florida spaceport, Lindsey said, for testing, processing and training of flight controllers.

NASA selected Dream Chaser for the CRS-2 contract, which involves launching six cargo missions to the space station by 2024.

OFT Mission Taking Shape at Space Launch Complex 41

A Centaur upper stage is lifted at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 8, 2019.
A Centaur upper stage is lifted at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 8, 2019, for mating to the United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage in preparation for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT). The uncrewed OFT mission will rendezvous and dock Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Starliner will launch atop the Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket set to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is ready for the mating of Starliner to the top of the launch vehicle.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted to the vertical position on Nov. 4, 2019, in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted to the vertical position on Nov. 4, 2019, in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

On Monday, Nov. 4, the Atlas V’s first stage was lifted to the vertical position inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, followed by the mating of two solid rocket boosters to the booster. ULA teams then attached the Centaur upper stage and launch vehicle adapter atop the Atlas V first stage.

Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission will rendezvous and dock the Starliner spacecraft with the space station. OFT will help set the stage for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT), which will carry NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson to the space station and return them safely home.

As aerospace industry providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.