New Umbilical Fitted for Mobile Launcher to Support NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Missions

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A fit check of the core stage inter-tank umbilical is in progress on the mobile launcher tower at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

High up on the mobile launcher tower at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, construction workers assist as a crane moves the Core Stage Inter-tank Umbilical (CSITU) into place for a fit check of the attachment hardware. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Engineers lifted and installed a third umbilical on the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a fit check. The tower on the mobile launcher will be equipped with several connections or launch umbilicals like this one. After the fit check was completed, the umbilical was lowered down and will be installed permanently at a later date.

The umbilicals will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel. They will be used to connect the mobile launcher to the agency’s Space Launch System (made up of the core stage, twin solid rocket boosters, and the interim cryogenic propulsion stage) and the Orion spacecraft mounted on top of SLS.

An area on the SLS between the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks is known as the core stage inter-tank. The core-stage inter-tank umbilical is the third in a series of five new umbilicals for the mobile launcher. Its main function is to vent excess gaseous hydrogen from the rocket’s core stage. This umbilical also will provide conditioned air, pressurized gases, and power and data connection to the core stage.

The Orion service module umbilical and the core stage forward skirt umbilical were previously installed on the tower. The service module umbilical will connect from the mobile launch tower to the Orion service module. Prior to launch, the umbilical will transfer liquid coolant for the electronics and purge air/gaseous nitrogen for environmental control. The SLS core stage forward skirt is near the top of the core stage, and the forward skirt umbilical provides connections and conditioned air/gaseous nitrogen to the core stage of the rocket. All these umbilicals will swing away from the rocket and spacecraft just before launch.

Several other umbilicals were previously installed on the mobile launcher. These include two aft skirt purge umbilicals, which will connect to the SLS rocket at the bottom outer edge of each booster and provide electrical power and data connections, remove hazardous gases, and maintain the right temperature range with a nitrogen purge in the boosters until SLS lifts off from the launch pad.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program at Kennedy is preparing ground support equipment, including the launch umbilicals, for NASA’s deep space exploration missions.

NASA Employees Share Successes in National Disability Employment Awareness Month Webcast

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With the challenges involved in space exploration, NASA understands the need to fill its workforce with innovative employees and to help them maximize their capabilities.

On Oct. 5, schools, organizations and individuals from around the globe participated in a special webcast to learn from NASA employees with disabilities who have found rewarding, successful careers in the space program, including the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme — “Inclusion Drives Innovation” — is exemplified by NASA.

“We need people of different backgrounds and different experiences to help create innovation to solve those challenging problems that will allow us to go to the Moon, Mars and beyond,” said Kennedy Space Center Associate Director Kelvin Manning.

Employees shared their backgrounds, challenges and triumphs in pursuit of their dreams, highlighting how they have pushed NASA to meet the needs of every individual.

“In all my life, I never imagined that I would be working for NASA. I have been here for 26 years and I can say how proud I am to work here,” said Nicole Delvesco, a NASA systems accountant. Delvesco is co-chair of Kennedy’s Disability Awareness and Action Working Group, currently in its 25th year at the spaceport. “The agency is wonderful about hiring people with disabilities, and helping people with disabilities so that they can be successful in their jobs.”

According to the final tally, there were 456 webcast views from 23 states, Washington, D.C., and eight countries. Using a standard classroom ratio, it’s estimated the event reached 11,400 people.

“The best part of this event was that most of the questions coming in were from students who had disabilities similar to our experts, who never thought NASA was within their reach,” said NASA Project Coordinator Bethanne Hull. “I am still in awe of the amazing people across our agency. We reached the audience we hoped to inspire.”

Growing Beyond Earth Challenge Germinates in South Florida

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Kennedy scientists Trent Smith, left, and Dr. Gioia Massa speak to middle and high school teachers at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami during the kickoff of the 2017-2018 Fairchild Challenge-Growing Beyond Earth.

Kennedy scientists Trent Smith, left, and Dr. Gioia Massa speak to middle and high school teachers at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami during the kickoff of the 2017-2018 Fairchild Challenge-Growing Beyond Earth. Photo credit: NASA

The annual 2017-2018 Fairchild Challenge Growing Beyond Earth recently kicked off at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami. For the past three years, plant researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida have been partnering with Fairchild to create STEM-based challenges for teachers and students in the area. More than 130 middle and high school teachers participated in the opening workshop Sept. 30. Kennedy scientists Dr. Gioia Massa and Trent Smith taught teachers about food production in space and NASA’s Veggie plant growth system currently aboard the International Space Station.

Veggie is a system that allows astronauts to grow plants and crops — some of which they can eat. Veggie is an important demonstration of how NASA applies science across disciplines — in this case Space Biology to grow a healthy crop and Human Research to ensure astronauts remain healthy — to enable human space exploration.

At the end of the workshop, teachers received mini botany labs their students will use to participate in the project during the current school year. Each lab is meant to be managed like Veggie’s hardware on station. Students have to follow research protocols set forth by NASA and Fairchild while testing factors that could influence plant growth, flavor and nutrition — all so they can help NASA pick the next crops to grow for the astronauts aboard the station.

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Pegasus Rocket Prepared for NASA’s ICON Mission

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The Pegasus XL rocket second and third stages arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The second and third stages of the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket were offloaded from a transport vehicle at Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: Randy Beaudoin

Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket is being prepared to launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON mission. The rocket is being prepared in a facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.

The rocket’s second and third stages, first stage motor and wing arrived at VAFB and were transported to Building 1555 for processing.

ICON will launch aboard Pegasus from the Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, on Dec. 9, 2017 (in the continental United States the launch date is Dec. 8).

ICON will study the frontier of space — the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. The explorer will help determine the physics of Earth’s space environment and pave the way for mitigating its effects on our technology, communications systems and society.

The Pegasus XL wing arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Workers transfer the wing for the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket from a truck to a forklift at Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: Randy Beaudoin

Liquid Oxygen Tanking Operations Begin at Launch Pad 39B

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A Praxair truck offloads liquid oxygen into a giant storage sphere at Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Several Praxair trucks carrying their loads of liquid oxygen, or LO2, arrived at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A mist is visible as LO2 is offloaded from one of the trucks into the giant storage sphere located at the northwest corner of the pad. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The first major integrated operation at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida began with the initial tanking of a cryogenic fuel into a giant sphere at the northwest corner of the pad. The tanking operation is one of the steps needed to bring the center closer to supporting the launch of the agency’s Orion spacecraft atop the Space Launch System rocket on its first uncrewed test flight.

“When I think of launch operations, there are distinct pictures that come to mind,” said NASA Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson. “One of them is during the tanking operations as the cryogenic propellants are loaded into the Space Launch System rocket.”

Several Praxair trucks arrived at the center and offloaded their liquid oxygen, or LO2, slowly, one at a time, into the cryogenic sphere to gradually chill it down from normal temperature to about negative 298 degrees Fahrenheit. Praxair, of Danbury, Connecticut, is the company that provides the agency with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

Another wave of trucks arrived and offloaded their LO2 all at the same time. During the next several months, trucks will continue to arrive from Praxair and offload about 40,000 gallons of fuel two days per week into the sphere that can hold about 900,000 gallons of liquid oxygen.

The procedure to fill the liquid hydrogen storage sphere will begin in November and will be completed in the same way. When both tanks are filled to about halfway, engineers in a firing room in the Launch Control Center will perform pressurization tests. Additional tests will be performed with the mobile launcher around mid-2018. The cryogenic fuels will remain in the tanks.

Blackwell-Thompson said it is not uncommon during tanking to see vapors and mist in the cryo storage area and near the vehicle. This week, she got a preview, when the trucks offloaded the first round of LO2 and once again, cryo vapors were visible. Because some of the liquid oxygen boils off during tanking, additional LO2 is required.

“This is a very important step in our path to launch, and we are thrilled to have cryo propellant return to the pad,” Blackwell-Thompson said.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is preparing the pad for the launch of Exploration Mission-1, deep space missions and the Journey to Mars. Significant upgrades to the pad include a new flame trench beneath the pad and a new flame deflector.

JPSS-1 Begins Final Preflight Processing

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NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, remains wrapped in a protective covering after removal from its shipping container at the Astrotech Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The spacecraft is being prepared for its upcoming liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex-2W. JPSS-1 is the first in a series four next-generation environmental satellites in a collaborative program between NOAA and NASA.

NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, remains wrapped in a protective covering after removal from its shipping container at the Astrotech Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The spacecraft is being prepared for its upcoming liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-2W. JPSS-1 is the first in a series four next-generation environmental satellites in a collaborative program between NOAA and NASA. Photo credit: NASA/Rodney Speed

NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1 spacecraft has been removed from its shipping container in the Astrotech Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where it is being prepared for its upcoming launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

The JPSS-1 satellite will go through a series of routine inspections, checkouts and testing before it is sealed inside the payload fairing and placed atop the Delta II rocket, already standing at Space Launch Complex-2W. Launch remains scheduled for Nov. 10.

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Makes Grand Finale Plunge

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Rings of Saturn as viewed by the Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini gazes across the icy rings of Saturn toward the icy moon Tethys, whose night side is illuminated by Saturnshine, or sunlight reflected by the planet. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

The spacecraft that revealed the remarkable planet Saturn to the world and sent back stunning images of its rings and nearby moons has completed its mission. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its final grand finale plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere Sept. 15, 2017.

Cassini made distant flybys of Saturn moons Janus, Pan, Pandora and Epimetheus before making its last dive.

The spacecraft and its attached Huygens probe launched aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket on Oct. 15,1997, from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on its seven-year, 2.2-billion mile journey.

Cassini arrived in the Saturn system on June 30, 2004, and began a four-year mission to study the giant planet, its rings, moons and magnetosphere. The spacecraft made 22 weekly dives between the planet and its rings. It continued to beam back to Earth hundreds of gigabytes of scientific data. The Huygens probe made the first landing on a moon (Titan) in the outer solar system.

The Cassini-Huygens mission was a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

For more information on Cassini’s mission finale, visit: https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/grandfinale.

Kennedy Space Center Closed Friday

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Kennedy Space Center will remain closed on Friday, Sept. 15.

The center’s damage assessment and recovery team has completed a 90 percent review of the center and continues to recover key systems throughout Kennedy.

Based on the initial analysis provided by the Patrick Air Force Base 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron, wind speeds at the center varied from 67-94 mph (59-82 knots) at the 54-foot level to 90-116 mph (79-101 knots) at the 458-foot level during the storm.

The center currently is without potable water service, which is used for drinking, food preparation and cleaning.

The center and surrounding community remain under a boil water restriction.

The center’s chillers rely on industrial water and are unaffected by the water restriction.  The center will re-open following restoration of full water service.

Kennedy Space Center Closed Thursday

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Kennedy Space Center will remain closed on Thursday, Sept. 14, as the center’s damage assessment and recovery team continues to survey the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

The center currently is without potable water service, which is used for drinking, food preparation and cleaning. The center and surrounding community remain under a boil water restriction. The center’s chillers rely on industrial water and are unaffected by the water restriction.  The center will re-open following restoration of full water service.

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