Kennedy Honors Gene Cernan in Wreath-laying Service

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31543239103_af997d8136_oWreath Laying Ceremony for Eugene CernanGemini Crew Welcomed by Wasp CrewHouse Hearing NASA Human Spaceflight Plan

Members of the Kennedy Space Center community gathered Wednesday afternoon to remember astronaut Gene Cernan with a wreath-laying service at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Cernan died Monday in Houston at age 82.

“One of the things that he was extremely passionate about was exploring beyond our home planet, developing that capability to go back to the moon and then go beyond,” said Bob Cabana, a former astronaut who is director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “In talking with him, there was nobody who was more supportive of what we were doing and that’s his legacy, one of exploration and taking the word ‘impossible’ out of the dictionary.”

Although Cernan made history several times lifting off a few miles away aboard Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, he is best known for commanding Apollo 17, the last mission that saw men walk on the moon’s surface.

Cernan, a Navy fighter pilot before joining NASA in 1963, and Harrison “Jack” Schmidt made three moonwalks over the course of about three days as they lived on the moon and drove 22 miles across its face using the lunar rover. Ron Evans flew the Apollo command module during the mission and remained in lunar orbit while Cernan and Schmidt conducted their surface experiments and collected hundreds of pounds of moon rocks.

Cernan climbed the ladder into the lunar module after his third moonwalk in December 1972, saying, “As we leave the moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

The astronaut made his first spaceflight in June 1966 as pilot of Gemini 9 with Thomas Stafford commanding. They maneuvered the Gemini spacecraft through rendezvous with an unmanned satellite before Cernan stepped outside the capsule for his first spacewalk. Wednesday’s remembrance ceremony inside the Heroes and Legends hall took place a short walk from the exhibit featuring the Gemini 9 capsule.

Cernan’s second mission would take him within a few miles of the moon’s surface as lunar module pilot of Apollo 10. Again with Stafford commanding the mission, Cernan was joined by John Young who flew the command module during the flight that would rehearse all the aspects of Apollo 11 flight, except of course, the touch down.

Though he retired from NASA in 1976, Cernan regularly visited Kennedy and was a frequent guest speaker for groups large and small. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1993. Cernan and Stafford spoke to a group of then-new shuttle astronauts in 1978 including Jon McBride.

“Gene was one of the foremost advocates of nurturing and encouraging our young people to follow in his footsteps,” McBride said. “He didn’t want people to talk about him as the last man to walk on the moon, he wanted to be called ‘the most recent’ person to walk on the moon. He was an idol for me and an idol for millions.”

Photo credits: Top, Cernan after moonwalk during Apollo 17: NASA; right – NASA/Ben Smegelsky, right middle and bottom – NASA

NASA, Contractor Workers Sign Final Platform in Vehicle Assembly Building

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Workers sign final platform in the Vehicle Assembly Building.NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Engineering Directorate coordinated a platform beam signing event to celebrate the NASA and contractor team’s last several years of study, design, construction and installation of 20 new work platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

Workers involved in the High Bay 3 platform project had the opportunity to sign one of the beams of the final work platform, A North, in the transfer aisle of the VAB.

The A platforms are the topmost and final level of 10 levels of work platforms that will surround and provide access to the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Orion’s first uncrewed flight atop the rocket is scheduled for late 2018.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, with support from the Engineering Directorate, is overseeing upgrades and modifications to the VAB, including installation and testing of the new work platforms.

Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

Final Work Platform Lifted into Place for NASA’s Space Launch System

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Platform A North InstallationThe final work platform, A north, was lifted, installed and secured on its rail beam on the north wall of High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 12.

The installation of the final topmost level completes the 10 levels of work platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, that will surround NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft and allow access during processing for missions, including the first uncrewed flight test of Orion atop the SLS rocket in 2018.

The A platforms will provide access to the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System for Orion lifting sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, with support from the center’s Engineering Directorate, is overseeing upgrades to the VAB, including the installation of the work platforms.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Reusable NORS Provides Fresh Air for Space Station Use

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How do astronauts aboard the International Space Station get fresh oxygen for spacewalks and everyday use in the orbiting laboratory? After the space shuttle retired, NASA designed the Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System, or NORS. Once onboard, the tanks are used to fill the oxygen and nitrogen tanks that supply the needed gases to the station’s airlock for spacewalks. They are also used as a secondary method to replenish the atmosphere inside of the space station.

The tanks are fully reusable once they have been inspected after returning from space. Earlier this week, the first flight-returned NORS Recharge Tank Assembly was depressurized at Kennedy. This particular NORS tank was returned on the SpaceX CRS-9 flight after spending almost a year on station. There are currently four more tanks aboard the station that are scheduled to come down soon so they may be reused in the future.

Spaceport Magazine Looks Back at Exciting 2016

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SpM_January_2017_COVER smSpaceport Magazine takes a look back at the accomplishments of 2016 and some of the people our space community lost including a special remembrance of American legend John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth who later became a senator and returned to orbit on the space shuttle at age 77.

From advances made for NASA’s Journey to Mars, to progress toward launching Americans again from Florida with the Commercial Crew Program, this edition highlights the changes that continue to make Kennedy NASA’s premiere spaceport. We also take a look at the missions begun at Kennedy in 2016, including a recap of the December launch of the CYGNSS constellation of microsatellites that will study hurricanes. Click here to download Spaceport Magazine.

Final Work Platform Arrives for NASA’s Space Launch System

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Work platform A north arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13.The final work platform for NASA’s Space Launch System arrived Dec. 13 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The second half of the A-level platforms, A north, was transported to the center by heavy-lift truck from Tillett Heavy Hauling in Titusville, Florida, and delivered to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) staging area.

The platform will remain in the staging area for prep work before it is moved into the transfer aisle of the VAB. The first half of the A-level platforms, A south, arrived at the center Nov. 28. The south platform will be installed in High Bay 3 on Dec. 22. The north platform will be installed in late January 2017.

The A-level platforms are the topmost platforms for High Bay 3. The two halves will provide access to the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS) for Orion Lifting Sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. Testing of the Launch Abort System Antenna also is performed on this level.

A total of 10 levels of new platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft and provide access for testing and processing. NASA is preparing for the launch of Orion atop the SLS rocket from Launch Pad 39B in 2018.

Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Mobile Launcher will Receive first Umbilicals for NASA’s Deep Space Missions

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A vehicle support post is moved to the Mobile Launcher Yard at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A vehicle support post for NASA’s Space Launch System is moved from the Launch Equipment Test Facility to the Mobile Launcher Yard at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Several of the umbilicals that will support the launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket atop the mobile launcher were transported from the Launch Equipment Test Facility to the Mobile Launcher Yard and staging area at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They will be prepped for installation on the mobile launcher.

The mobile launcher tower will be equipped with several launch umbilicals, which connect to the SLS core stage and twin solid rocket boosters, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the Orion spacecraft. They will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel. Several other accessories will provide access and stabilization to the rocket and spacecraft.

The two aft skirt electrical umbilicals and one vehicle support post were transported by flatbed truck from the test facility. The two aft skirt umbilicals will be prepped and installed on the deck of the mobile launcher in the coming weeks. Work will begin to prep the first vehicle support post while the remaining seven posts undergo testing at the Launch Equipment Test Facility before being shipped to the mobile launcher. The installation work will be performed by the construction contractor JP Donovan Construction.

The two umbilicals will connect to the SLS rocket at the bottom outer edge of each booster and provide electrical power and data connections to the SLS rocket until it lifts off from the launch pad. The umbilicals will act like a telephone line and carry a signal to another subsystem on the mobile launcher called the launch release system. This system will distribute the launch signal to the rest of the launch accessories and the SLS boosters will actually initiate the launch release command.

There are a total of eight posts that will support the load of the solid rocket boosters, with four posts for each of the boosters. The support posts are five feet tall and weigh about 10,000 pounds each. They will be located on the deck of the mobile launcher and will be instrumented with strain gages to measure loads during vehicle stacking, integration, rollout and launch. The posts will structurally support the SLS rocket through countdown and liftoff.

NASA’s SLS rocket is scheduled to launch with the Orion spacecraft atop from Launch Pad 39B in late 2018. The mission will send Orion on a path thousands of miles beyond the moon over a course of three weeks before the spacecraft returns to Earth and safely splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will be the first in a series of the proving ground as NASA prepares for the Journey to Mars.

CYGNSS Launches Aboard Pegasus XL Rocket

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NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission launched Thursday, Dec. 15 at 8:37 a.m. EST aboard an Orbital ATK air-launched Pegasus XL launch vehicle. The rocket was dropped and launched from Orbital’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, which took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida.

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CYGNSS Given a GO for Thursday Launch

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At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Skid Strip the Orbital ATK L-1011 Stargazer aircraft is being prepared to launch NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS, spacecraft. The eight micro satellites are aboard an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket strapped to the underside of the Stargazer. CYGNSS is scheduled for its airborne launch aboard the Pegasus XL rocket from the Skid Strip on Dec. 12. CYGNSS will make frequent and accurate measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the life cycle of tropical storms and hurricanes. The data that CYGNSS provides will enable scientists to probe key air-sea interaction processes that take place near the core of storms, which are rapidly changing and play a critical role in the beginning and intensification of hurricanes.

NASA managers have given a GO for the next attempt to launch of the agency’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission now scheduled for Thursday at 8:26 a.m. EST.

Mission personnel uploaded new flight parameter data to the CYGNSS spacecraft this morning, correcting an issue discovered during routine testing on Tuesday. There is no change in status of the Pegasus XL rocket and the Orbital ATK L-1011 Stargazer carrier aircraft. Both also are ready to fly.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for the launch.

The CYGNSS spacecraft will ride into orbit aboard an Orbital ATK air-launched Pegasus XL rocket. Orbital ATK’s modified L-1011 aircraft will deploy the Pegasus XL and its CYGNSS payload from an altitude of approximately 39,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean 110 nautical miles east southeast of Daytona Beach.

During the two-year mission, the eight CYGNSS microsatellites will fly in formation about 316 miles above Earth’s surface, focusing on the tropics and studying wind speeds and intensification of tropical cyclones such as hurricanes.

Live updates from the countdown will begin at 7 a.m. here on the blog and on NASA Television. NASA EDGE will provide prelaunch coverage beginning at 6 a.m.

Photo credit: Bill White

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