Flight Readiness Concludes for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2

NASA and Boeing leadership conduct the flight readiness review for Boeing's OFT-2 mission.
The Flight Readiness Review for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) mission was held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 22. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Boeing are proceeding with plans for the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station following a full day of briefings and discussion during a Flight Readiness Review that took place at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A photo of Kathy Lueders during the flight readiness review for Boeing's uncrewed OFT-2 mission.
Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, chaired the Flight Readiness Review for Boeing’s OFT-2 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

OFT-2 will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station.

At 6 p.m., NASA and Boeing will hold a flight readiness review media teleconference at Kennedy with the following representatives:

  • Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA
  • Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program
  • John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • Norm Knight, director, NASA’s Flight Operations Directorate

The teleconference will be streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

More details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook

Flight Readiness Review Begins for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2

The Flight Readiness Review is underway for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 22.
The Flight Readiness Review is underway for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 22. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Boeing are holding a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) today at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson kicks off the Flight Readiness Review for Boeing’s upcoming OFT-2 mission.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson kicks off the Flight Readiness Review for Boeing’s upcoming OFT-2 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Teams have gathered to hear presentations from key mission managers as part of an in-depth assessment on the readiness of flight for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and systems, mission operations, support functions and readiness of the space station program to support Starliner’s mission to the microgravity laboratory.

Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s human exploration and operations, is leading the meeting. The senior Boeing official at the review is John Vollmer, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. The meeting will conclude with a poll of all members of the review board.

At 6 p.m. or one hour after the readiness review, NASA and Boeing will hold a media teleconference to discuss the review and status to flight with the following participants:

  • Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA
  • Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program
  • John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • Norm Knight, director, NASA’s Flight Operations Directorate
NASA astronauts for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Pilot Nicole Mann, and Joint Ops Commander Mike Fincke addressed the Flight Readiness Review for the uncrewed OFT-2 mission. Their flight currently is targeted for late 2021.
NASA astronauts for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Pilot Nicole Mann, and Joint Ops Commander Mike Fincke addressed the Flight Readiness Review for the uncrewed OFT-2 mission. Their flight currently is targeted for late 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The teleconference will be streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

Launch of Starliner is targeted at 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida; the spacecraft will rendezvous and dock with the orbiting laboratory about a day later.

The flight test will provide valuable data NASA will review as part of the process to certify Boeing’s crew transportation system is as safe as possible for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

More details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Teams Add Launch Abort System to Ready Orion for Artemis I

NASA's Orion spacecraft
The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrives at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System facility on July 10, 2021, after being transported from the Florida spaceport’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility earlier in the day. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission recently completed fueling and servicing checks while inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The capsule has now made it to its next stop on the path to the pad – the spaceport’s Launch Abort System Facility.

Crowning the spacecraft with its aerodynamic shape, the launch abort system is designed to pull crew away to safety from the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in the event of an emergency during launch. This capability was successfully tested during the Orion Pad Abort and Ascent Abort-2 tests and approved for use during crewed missions.

Teams with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs will work to add parts of the launch abort system onto the spacecraft. Technicians will install four panels that make up the fairing assembly and protect the spacecraft from heat, air, and acoustic environments during launch and ascent. A launch tower will top the fairing assembly to house the pyrotechnics and a jettison motor. The system will also be outfitted with instruments to record key flight data for later study.

With successful demonstration of the system during previous tests, the abort motor that pulls the spacecraft away from the rocket and attitude control motor that steers the spacecraft for a splashdown during an abort will not be functional for the uncrewed Artemis I mission. The jettison motor will be equipped to separate the system from Orion in flight once it is no longer needed, making Orion thousands of pounds lighter for the journey to the Moon.

Once the system’s integration is complete, teams will transport the spacecraft to the center’s Vehicle Assembly Building. There, it will join the already stacked flight hardware and be raised into position atop the SLS rocket, marking the final assembly milestone for the  Artemis rocket.

Launching in 2021, Artemis I will be a test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under Artemis, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and establish long-term lunar exploration.

View additional photos here.

Artemis I Rocket Grows Closer to Launch

Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs integrate the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) atop the massive SLS core stage in the agency’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 5, 2021.
Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs integrate the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) atop the massive SLS core stage in the agency’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 5, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs integrate the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) atop the massive SLS core stage in the agency’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 5, 2021.
The ICPS is a liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen-based system that will fire its RL 10 engine to give the Orion spacecraft the big in-space push needed to fly tens of thousands of miles beyond the Moon. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Leerlo en español aquí.

The Artemis I mission reached another milestone this week inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. On July 5, teams with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs stacked the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The ICPS’s RL 10 engine is housed inside the launch vehicle stage adapter, which will protect the engine during launch. The adapter connects the rocket’s core stage with the ICPS, which was built by Boeing and United Launch Alliance.

The ICPS will fire its RL 10 engine to send the  Orion spacecraft toward the Moon. Its European-built service module will provide the power to take the spacecraft on a journey tens of thousands of miles beyond the Moon.

Before attaching the Orion spacecraft to the rocket, teams will conduct a series of tests to assure all the rocket components are properly communicating with each other, the ground systems equipment, and the Launch Control Center.

The ICPS moved to the VAB on June 19, after technicians in the center’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility completed servicing the flight hardware inside.

Launching in 2021, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of missions with astronauts. Under Artemis, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and establish a long-lasting presence on and around the Moon while preparing for human missions to Mars.

View additional photos here.

Space Weather Focused ELaNa CubeSat Deploys from Cygnus Spacecraft

The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is pictured moments after its capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is pictured moments after its capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Cygnus and the International Space Station were orbiting 271 miles above the Indian Ocean south of Australia at the time this photograph was taken. Photo credit: NASA

The sole CubeSat of the 33rd Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission was deployed into space at 6:50 p.m. EDT June 29 from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft hours following its departure from the International Space Station.

The CubeSat, Ionosphere-Thermosphere Scanning Photometer for Ion-Neutral Studies (IT-SPINS), was stowed within the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer (eNRCSD) mounted on the exterior of the S.S. Katherine Johnson Cygnus spacecraft. Once the Cygnus departed the space station, it remained in orbit to deploy a total of 5 cube satellites, including IT-SPINS, which was deployed into a free-flying orbit at an altitude between 304 and 210 miles (490 and 500 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.

A Nanoracks employee performing the final integration of IT-SPINS into the E-NRCSD
Jake Cornish, a Nanoracks employee, performs the final integration of the Ionosphere-Thermosphere Scanning Photometer for Ion-Neutral Studies (IT-SPINS) CubeSat into the E-NRCSD. Photo credit: Nanoracks

This mission aims to improve space weather forecasting related to dynamic processes in Earth’s ionosphere. The 3U CubeSat is equipped with a sensitive photometric instrument to remotely sense ultraviolet emissions produced when oxygen ions combine with electrons in the ionosphere. This investigation plans to reveal the dynamics of a physical boundary region in Earth’s ionosphere where the oxygen-dominated ionosphere becomes proton dominated with increasing altitude, in a layer known as the Topside Transition Region (TTR).

IT-SPINS launched aboard Northrop Grumman’s 15th NASA contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on February 20.

IT-SPINS is the twelfth in a series of CubeSats developed by Montana State University’s Space Science and Engineering Laboratory to advance CubeSat capabilities and conduct scientific investigations to answer question in the Geospace sciences. This mission is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, which has supported it during its development and is supporting the beginning of operations. IT-SPINS was selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), which is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) based at Kennedy Space Center. Since its inception in 2010, CSLI has selected 202 CubeSat missions from 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and 119 CubeSat projects have launched into space through ELaNa rideshare opportunities.

Stay connected with the ELaNa mission on social media by following LSP at @NASA_LSP on Twitter and @NASALSP on Facebook.

Next Element for NASA’s Moon Rocket Gets Stacked for Artemis I

The launch vehicle stage adapter for the Space Launch System rocket is integrated with the core stage inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.
Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs integrate the launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the massive SLS core stage on the mobile launcher in the agency’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 22, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Leerlo en español aquí.

Workers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida have stacked the launch vehicle stage adapter atop the Space Launch System rocket’s core stage inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems used one of five VAB cranes to lift the adapter almost 250-feet in the air and then slowly lower it on to the core stage.

The adapter is the cone shaped piece that connects the rocket’s core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), which will provide the Orion spacecraft with the additional thrust needed to travel tens of thousands of miles beyond the Moon. Up next, the ICPS will be lifted from the VAB floor onto the stage adapter.

Launching in 2021, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead missions with astronauts. Through the series of Artemis missions, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and establish a long-lasting presence on and around the Moon while preparing for human missions to Mars.

Backbone of NASA’s Moon Rocket Joins Boosters for Artemis I Mission

Space Launch System core stage
Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs lower the Space Launch System (SLS) core stage – the largest part of the rocket – onto the mobile launcher, in between the twin solid rocket boosters, inside High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 12, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Leerlo en español aquí

The core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for NASA’s Artemis I mission has been placed on the mobile launcher in between the twin solid rocket boosters inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The boosters attach at the engine and intertank sections of the core stage. Serving as the backbone of the rocket, the core stage supports the weight of the payload, upper stage, and crew vehicle, as well as carrying the thrust of its four engines and two five-segment solid rocket boosters.

After the core stage arrived on April 27, engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs brought the core stage into the VAB for processing work and then lifted it into place with one of the five overhead cranes in the facility.

Once the core stage is stacked alongside the boosters, the launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the core stage to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), will be stacked atop the core stage and quickly followed by the ICPS.

Artemis I will be an uncrewed test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon in 2024 and establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.

NASA, SpaceX Update Crew Launch and Return Dates

NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in April 23, 2021.
Crew-2 is more than a month into its mission aboard the International Space Station following an April 23 launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The four crew members will return after a handover with Crew-3 astronauts following their launch and arrival in late October. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and SpaceX have adjusted target launch and return dates for upcoming crew missions to and from the International Space Station based on visiting vehicle traffic.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission now is targeting launch no earlier than Sunday, Oct. 31, with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer. Crew-3 will launch on a new Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin a six-month science mission at the space station.

Crew-3 astronauts will arrive at the space station for a short handover period with the Crew-2 astronauts and other crew members on Expedition 66. Crew-2 NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Aki Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet are targeting early-to-mid November for a return to Earth inside Crew Dragon Endeavour off the coast of Florida.

Following Crew-3, the next crew rotation mission is targeted for no earlier than mid-April 2022 with the partner spacecraft and launch vehicle to be determined at a later date.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

Space Test Program-3 Launch Update

The launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket carrying the Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center has been delayed to evaluate launch vehicle readiness. A new launch date will be released when it is available. NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) is a payload on STPSat-6, the primary spacecraft on STP-3, and will demonstrate laser communications technologies from geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles above Earth upon launch.

To stay updated about LCRD and laser communications, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lasercomms.

To learn more about STP-3, visit: www.ulalaunch.com.

SpaceX’s 22nd Cargo Resupply Mission Underway as Dragon Journeys to Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A on June 3, 2021.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo capsule lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3, 2021, on the company’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission for the agency to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 1:29 p.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

More than 7,300 pounds of science and research, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware are on their way to the International Space Station, following the picture-perfect launch of SpaceX’s 22nd resupply services mission. SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon spacecraft launched atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida, marking the first flight of this Dragon spacecraft. Liftoff occurred at 1:29 p.m. EDT.

An up-close view of the Dragon spacecraft atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A.
An up-close view of the Dragon spacecraft atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida ahead of the company’s 22nd commercial resupply services launch to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

“The vehicles that deliver our crews, they do a great job of getting our crews there safely to and from station, but their cargo capacity is very limited,” said Jeff Arend, manager of the International Space Station Office for Systems Engineering and Integration. “We couldn’t conduct all of the science we do, as well as provide for our crew members, without our cargo resupply vehicles. Our cargo flights are vital to maintaining and fully utilizing our orbiting laboratory.”

The second launch for SpaceX under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract, the mission will deliver a variety of science and research experiments, including one that could help develop better pharmaceuticals and therapies for treating kidney disease on Earth, a study of cotton root systems that could identify plant varieties that require less water and pesticides, and an experiment using bobtail squid as a model to examine the effects of spaceflight on interactions between beneficial microbes and their animal hosts.

Also included in the delivery are the first two of six new roll-out solar arrays. These will be extracted by a robotic arm and installed by astronauts during a series of spacewalks this summer.

The Falcon 9 rocket's second stage separates from the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft as it continues on the company's 22nd commercial resupply services mission.
The Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage separates from the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft as Dragon continues on its journey to the International Space Station on the company’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission. In this view are the first two of six new solar arrays bound for the orbiting laboratory. Photo credit: NASA

“Over time, our solar arrays age. The first set of arrays have been up there over 20 years,” Arend said. “This augmentation is going to help us fully extend the life of the International Space Station and fully execute our full suite of research as we move forward. And probably most importantly, it allows us to power more science and research, especially in the form of future exploration systems and commercial users.”

About two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage separated from the rocket, and a few minutes later, successfully landed on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean. Next, Dragon separated from the rocket completely. The spacecraft is now in orbit, traveling solo to the space station.

Dragon is slated to arrive at the orbiting laboratory on Saturday, June 5, and will autonomously dock to the space-facing port on the station’s Harmony module. Expedition 65 Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA will monitor docking operations, and live coverage will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website beginning at 3:30 a.m. EDT. Docking is targeted for 5 a.m.

Dragon will spend more than a month attached to the space station, after which it will return to Earth with up to 5,300 pounds of research and return cargo, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern coast of Florida.

To stay updated on all station activities, follow @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts. Or, follow along the station blog at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/.