NASA, SpaceX Invite Media to Crew-1 Mission Update, Target New Launch Date

The SpaceX Crew-1 official crew insignia features a dragon in silhouette, a Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the numeral 1 for Crew-1.NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 7:49 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 14, for the launch of the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Managers of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will hold a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 28, to discuss the upcoming launch, including results from recent testing of the Falcon 9 Merlin engines following unexpected data SpaceX noted during a recent non-NASA launch. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website.

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Next-Generation Airlock Prepped for SpaceX CRS-21 Launch

The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: SpaceX

The first commercially funded airlock for the International Space Station is ready for its journey to space. On Saturday, Oct. 10, teams moved the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock to SpaceX’s processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two days later, it was packed in the Dragon spacecraft’s trunk for its ride to the orbiting laboratory.

CRS-21
The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, while also serving as an outside toolbox for astronauts conducting spacewalks. Photo credit: SpaceX

The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, and also will serve as an outside toolbox for crew members conducting spacewalks.

The Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission to the space station. This will be the first flight of SpaceX’s upgraded cargo version of Dragon, which can carry more science payloads to and from the space station.

The pressurized capsule will carry a variety of research including studies on the effects of microgravity on cardiovascular cells, how space conditions affect the interaction between microbes and minerals, and a technology demonstration of a blood analysis tool in space. CRS-21 is scheduled to launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Teams are targeting late November or early December for liftoff.

NASA, SpaceX Crew-1 Launch Update

Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station is now targeted for no sooner than early-to-mid November, providing additional time for SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt. Through the agency’s Commercial Crew and Launch Services Programs partnership with SpaceX, NASA has full insight into the company’s launch and testing data.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft that will carry four astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, was secured to its unpressurized trunk on Friday, Oct. 2, at the company’s processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“We have a strong working relationship with our SpaceX partner,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “With the high cadence of missions SpaceX performs, it really gives us incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions. The teams are actively working this finding on the engines, and we should be a lot smarter within the coming week.”

Additional upcoming NASA missions rely on the Falcon 9 for launch. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch still is targeted for Tuesday, Nov. 10, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and NASA’s SpaceX CRS-21, is targeted for launch in late November or early December, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA and SpaceX will use the data from the company’s hardware testing and reviews to ensure these critical missions are carried out with the highest level of safety.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will launch NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience by the Crew-1 astronauts, was secured to its unpressurized trunk on Friday, Oct. 2, at the company’s processing facility on Cape Canaveral.

After launch, Crew Dragon will perform a series of maneuvers culminating with rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station. That milestone will mark the Crew-1 astronauts’ integration with the Expedition 64 astronauts Kate Rubins, as well as Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

During their stay on the orbiting laboratory, astronauts of Crew-1 will see a range of unpiloted spacecraft including the Northrop Grumman Cygnus, the next generation of SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft, and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner on its uncrewed flight test to the station. They also will conduct a variety of spacewalks and welcome crews of the Russian Soyuz vehicle and the next SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2021.

At the conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the four astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. After splashdown just off Florida’s coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by a SpaceX recovery vessel and will be brought to shore to board a plane for return to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The Crew-1 mission is a major step for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Operational, long duration commercial crew rotation missions will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station. Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and to the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.

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Kennedy Gains New Eyes in the Skies

An Airbus H135 helicopter arrives at the Launch and Landing Facility runway at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 30, 2020.
A new Airbus H135 (T3) helicopter arrives at the Launch and Landing Facility runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 30, 2020. A second H135 helicopter also was delivered on Sept. 30, and a third is expected to arrive in early 2021. The three H135 helicopters will replace the Bell Huey 2 aircraft in service now, maintained by Kennedy’s Flight Operations team. The H135 helicopters provide a number of technological and safety advantages over the Hueys, such as more lifting power, greater stability in the air, and expanded medical capabilities. Photo credit: NASA/Amber Jean Watson

The safety and security of the world-class workforce and unique facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is critical to the agency’s missions. This week, Kennedy took delivery of two new, state-of-the-art helicopters to upgrade the center’s fleet and provide improved capabilities to protect the spaceport from the air.

An Airbus H135 helicopter arrives at the Launch and Landing Facility runway at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 30, 2020.
A new Airbus H135 (T3) helicopter arrives at the Launch and Landing Facility runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 30, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Amber Jean Watson

The two Airbus H135 (T3) helicopters arrived at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility runway on Sept. 30, after traveling from the company’s helicopter production center near Columbus, Mississippi.

Kennedy’s Flight Operations team maintains three security helicopters in its fleet and is in the process of replacing its trio of Bell Huey 2 aircraft. These new aircraft provide several technological and safety advancements, including a twin-engine system that provides a backup in the event of the loss of one engine, as well as more lifting power and expanded medical capabilities, such as better patient transportation and additional equipment and personnel in the event of a medical evacuation. It also offers increased stability when hovering at any altitude, which aids in aerial photography and other observation efforts.

The helicopters serve a variety of important uses at Kennedy. The center’s security forces use the aircraft to patrol the sky and provide protection from above during launch operations, ensuring the area is clear. Additionally, Kennedy’s environmental experts benefit from the ability to monitor wildlife and view and access difficult-to-reach locations across the 144,000-acre spaceport, which shares boundaries with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The team expects to be fully transitioned to flying these first two new helicopters later this year. A third new H135 is expected to arrive at the spaceport in early 2021, completing the fleet’s upgrade.

Artemis Instrument Ready for Extreme Moon Temperatures

Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida install the radiator for the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) instrument inside the Space Station Processing Facility on Sept. 25, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

A versatile instrument designed to help analyze the chemical makeup of lunar landing sites and study water on the Moon as part of the Artemis program has completed an important step in its final assembly.

Teams working on the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations, or MSolo, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida installed the radiator – a critical component that will keep the instrument’s temperature stable in the extreme heat and cold it will encounter on the Moon.

MSolo is a commercial off-the-shelf mass spectrometer modified to work in space. NASA will use MSolo to identify molecules on the surface of the Moon. Multiple MSolo instruments are destined for the Moon via the help of NASA’s commercial partners, landing scientific instruments and technology demonstrations on the lunar surface as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

NASA has scheduled MSolo instruments to launch on future robotic missions starting in 2021 at Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the Moon. MSolo is a key component of the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment, or PRIME-1, instrument suite that will use a drill to harvest ice just below the lunar surface in 2022. Later, the technology will be one of three instruments on board NASA’s water-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, VIPER, scheduled to launch to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023.

On VIPER, the MSolo instrument will help evaluate subsurface soil cuttings brought up by a 3-foot drill in search of water ice and other volatiles that future missions could use as resources. The mission will create the most detailed view of the Moon’s water to date – helping to pave the way for the lunar surface missions with crew beginning in 2024.

Sentinel-6 Satellite Arrives at Vandenberg for Preflight Checkout

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, secured inside a shipping container, arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sept. 24, 2020, aboard an Antonov cargo aircraft.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, secured inside a shipping container, arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sept. 24, 2020, aboard an Antonov cargo aircraft. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, secured inside a shipping container, arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday, Sept. 24, aboard an Antonov cargo aircraft. It was offloaded from the aircraft and moved to the SpaceX Payload Processing Facility for checkout and preflight processing.

The mission is an international partnership and the first launch of a constellation of two satellites that will observe changes in Earth’s sea levels for at least the next decade. Launching atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is targeted to lift off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4 on Nov. 10, 2020.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages NASA’s contribution to the mission. The Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.

NASA and SpaceX Teams Prepare for Crew-1 Mission

Crew-1 astronauts in training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts participate in crew equipment interface testing at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Sept. 24, 2020. From left are mission specialist Shannon Walker, pilot Victor Glover, and Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, all NASA astronauts, and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut. Photo credit: SpaceX

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Teams involved with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission held a series of briefings Tuesday at the agency’s Johnson Space Center about the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission is targeted to launch at 2:40 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 31, on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will be the first international crew to launch on the new, commercially owned and operated American system.

“What’s exciting about this upcoming mission is that we are actually going to fly a certified Crew Dragon,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This is another milestone; a critical milestone in the development of our ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil — now sustainably.”

Crew-1 preflight briefing
From left, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, and Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX, participate in a Crew-1 preflight briefing on Sept. 29, 2020. NASA image

NASA and SpaceX are in the final stages of the certification reviews following the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight to the space station with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, which is helping verify the end-to-end capabilities, including launch, docking and return to Earth.

Teams currently are completing and applying lessons learned from Demo-2 and other test flights, including redesign of a small area of the thermal protection system around the trunk attachments, modifications to the ventilation system on the nosecone of the Dragon spacecraft, and design adjustment for measuring the barometric pressure used for parachute deployment. The teams also are coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure crew safety upon splashdown, including extra ships and air assets to patrol the “keep out” zone to mitigate safety concerns for boaters approaching the landing area.

“This is a great milestone for us; it’s a culmination of many, many years of work with NASA and SpaceX,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters. “This has been a dream of ours to have commercial crew rotation seats up on the station, and we’re looking forward to many more to come.”

After certification, Crew Dragon will be the first commercial system in history capable of transporting humans to and from the space station.

“This is all leading up to the big operational cadence that we’re about to move into — and this is super cool,” said Benji Reed, senior director, Human Spaceflight Programs, SpaceX. “We’re at a point now where we are in the final lane; we’re getting ready for this launch.”

Crew-1 astronauts
From left, Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi announced Sept. 29, 2020, that the name of their spaceship is Resilience. NASA image

Following an Oct. 31 launch, the Crew-1 astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the space station the next day to join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, as well as Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

“It’s going to be an exciting time onboard the space station,” said Kenny Todd, deputy manager, International Space Station, NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We’re looking forward to getting up to seven crew.”

Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will become the first crew to fly a full-duration mission to the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft for a six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory. For the first time, the space station’s crew will expand to seven people with Expedition 64, increasing the amount of crew time available for research.

As commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-1 mission, Hopkins is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. He also will serve as an Expedition 64 flight engineer aboard the station. The Crew-1 astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, highlighting the dedication the teams involved with the mission have displayed and demonstrating that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

“As you look at the definition of resilience, I know it means functioning well in times of stress or overcoming adverse events, and I think all of us can agree that 2020 certainly has been a challenging year,” Hopkins said.

“So the name ‘Resilience’ is really in honor of the SpaceX and NASA teams, and quite frankly, it’s in honor of our families, of our colleagues, of our fellow citizens, of our international partners and our leaders that have all shown that same quality — that same characteristic — through these difficult times.”

As mission specialists, Walker and Noguchi will work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the vehicle during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. Both are spaceflight veterans: Dragon will be the third spacecraft on which Noguchi has traveled (he flew aboard NASA’s space shuttle and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft), while Walker has spent 161 days on the orbiting laboratory.

“It’s been a very intense six months’ worth of training, but we are ready, and I am very excited to get back to the space station,” Walker said. “My experience of having already lived and worked there will give me a huge head start and make me much more efficient.”

Noguchi expressed the significance of teamwork and diversity, adding further meaning to the spacecraft’s new name.

“All of us are contributing to this wonderful team; everybody brings something to the table,” Noguchi said. “This diversity definitely brings the team’s resilience.”

For almost 20 years, humans have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies that enable us to prepare for human exploration to the Moon and Mars. NASA is enabling economic growth in low-Earth orbit to open access to space to more people, more science, and more companies than ever before.

“To be able to live on the space station for six months and during that time to be there for the 20th anniversary of human presence on the space station — and to potentially launch on the 20th anniversary of the launch of Expedition 1 — is just special,” said Glover, pilot of the Crew Dragon and second-in-command for the mission. “[It] relates to something Mike said earlier — that the power of teamwork, when we come together to work on the same thing, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish. It is truly a privilege.”

NASA, SpaceX to Launch First Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station

NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts
The SpaceX Crew-1 crew members (from left) NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Credits: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are beginning a regular cadence of missions with astronauts launching on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 is the first crew rotation mission with four astronauts flying on a commercial spacecraft, and the first including an international partner.

NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor GloverShannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are set to launch to the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew-1 astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, highlighting the dedication the teams involved with the mission have displayed and to demonstrate that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve. They named it in honor of their families, colleagues, and fellow citizens.

Launch is targeted for Saturday, Oct. 31, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, conducting science and maintenance. The four astronauts are set to return in spring 2021.

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Orion Test Articles Arrive to Kennedy for Testing on Future Artemis Missions

NASA’s Super Guppy arrives at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch and Landing Facility in Florida on Sept. 11, 2020, carrying the Orion Service Module Structural Test Article (SM-STA). Photo credit: NASA/Yulista Tactical Services, LLC/Tommy Quijas

The Orion Service Module Structural Test Article (SM-STA), composed of the European Service Module (ESM) and Crew Module Adapter (CMA), arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida following the completion of the test campaign to certify the Orion Service Module for Artemis I. Transported via Super Guppy from Lockheed Martin’s test facility in Denver, Colorado, on Sept. 11, components will now be used in testing for future Artemis missions.

“The Orion SM-STA supported testing in multiple configurations to validate the structural robustness of the vehicle under a variety of conditions that a spacecraft will experience on lunar missions for the Artemis program,” said Rafael Garcia, Orion Test and Verification lead.

At Kennedy, the Orion SM-STA test article will be separated from the CMA test article, and portions of the CMA test article will support qualifications tests in preparation for the Artemis II mission. The test version of the ESM will remain at Kennedy, in order to support future structural qualification tests such as testing what volume of sound and how much shaking the vehicle can handle for future Artemis missions.

When tested together, the full test stack of Orion verified the spacecraft’s structural durability for all flight phases of the Artemis I flight, which is designed to be an opportunity to test the kind of maneuvers and environments the spacecraft will see on future exploration missions. The test structures experienced launch and entry loads tests, intense acoustic vibration force, and shock tests that recreate the powerful blasts needed for critical separation events during flight. A lightning test was performed to evaluate potential flight hardware damage if the vehicle were to be hit by lightning prior to launch.

The Artemis II flight will test a hybrid free return trajectory, which uses the Moon’s gravitational pull as a slingshot to put Orion on the return path home instead of using propulsion. With astronauts aboard the spacecraft, additional validation is required of all vehicle components to certify the capsule prior to proving lunar sustainability with Artemis III and beyond.

The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will test the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.

Orion Spreads its Wings

Inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in preparation for installation on the Artemis I spacecraft, technicians have extended one of the Artemis I solar array wings for inspection on Sept. 10, 2020, to confirm that it unfurled properly and all of the mechanisms functioned as expected. The solar array is one of four panels that will generate 11 kilowatts of power and span about 63 feet. The array is a component of Orion’s service module, which is provided by the European Space Agency and built by Airbus Defence and Space to supply Orion’s power, propulsion, air and water.Inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians have extended one of the Artemis I solar array wings on Sept. 10, 2020. Prior to installation on the Orion spacecraft, the team performed an inspection to confirm proper extension and to ensure all of the mechanisms functioned as expected. The pictured solar array is one of four panels that will generate 11 kilowatts of power and span about 63 feet. The array is a component of Orion’s service module, which is provided by the European Space Agency and built by Airbus Defence and Space to supply Orion’s power, propulsion, air and water.

The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will test the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.