The Dec. 5 launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket carrying the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission has been scrubbed. During initial operations, a leak was discovered in the Rocket-Propellant-1 (RP-1) ground storage system. Launch of the mission – which hosts NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and the NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder – is now scheduled for Monday, Dec. 6, at 4:04 a.m. EST.
NASA TV live launch coverage will start approximately 35 minutes before launch on Dec. 6, at 3:30 a.m. EST:
Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predict a 90% chance of favorable weather Sunday, Dec. 5, for launch of the Department of Defense Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission on United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket. The two-hour launch window opens at 4:04 a.m. EST.
Forecast Details High pressure will be in place over central Florida through Sunday morning when it retreats into the Atlantic Ocean slightly by Monday, bringing light winds Sunday coming from the south on Monday, and a slight chance for isolated low topped showers near the coast on Monday. Therefore, there is minimal concern for the Cumulus Cloud Rule on Sunday, and an increased concern for the same on Monday as isolated showers near the coast.
Primary concern: Cumulus Cloud Rule
Join us here on the blog tomorrow morning for live launch updates – live coverage of the launch is scheduled to air on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA App beginning at 3:30 a.m. EST.
Following a series of “aliveness” tests to verify the health of the spacecraft, teams mated the structure to the payload adapter – a ring that interfaces between the spacecraft and the top of the rocket. Next, multi-layer insulation was installed to provide thermal protection for the spacecraft in space.
After items such as optic and sensitive instrument covers were removed, the nose fairing and the spacecraft were brought together, signaling a major achievement in the mission: encapsulation.
“This is when you mate the spacecraft to the rocket, so it’s the two halves coming together,” said Brett Perkins, launch site integration manager for NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy. “There are several critical lifting operations of the spacecraft. You have to be very careful and methodical; a lot of hardware comes together during this timeframe.”
The mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than Thursday, Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. IXPE is the first satellite dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from a variety of cosmic sources, such as black holes and neutron stars.
“IXPE is filling a data gap in polarized X-rays, which we don’t have a lot of information on,” Perkins said. “This mission is a small part of a bigger picture – a bigger effort – to learn more about the universe and how it works.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 7, NASA will hold an IXPE payload briefing at 1 p.m. and a prelaunch news briefing at 5:30 p.m. Live launch coverage will begin Dec. 9 at 12:30 a.m. All will be broadcast on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predict a 90% chance of favorable weather Sunday, Dec. 5, for launch of the Department of Defense (DOD) Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission on United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket. The two-hour launch window opens at 4:04 a.m. EST.
LCRD is about the size of a king-sized mattress and seeks to make operational laser communications a reality. As space missions generate and collect more data, higher bandwidth communications technologies are needed to bring data home, and laser communications systems offer higher bandwidth in a smaller package that uses less power. LCRD will send and receive data over infrared lasers at approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth.
UVSC Pathfinder is a joint NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory experiment that studies the origins of solar energetic particles, the Sun’s most dangerous form of radiation.
Forecast Details High pressure will build at the surface over central Florida through Saturday. This will keep the launch area dry all day Friday with light winds and near average temperatures. The surface high retreats into the Atlantic Ocean slightly Sunday into Monday, bringing light winds Sunday coming from the south on Monday, and a slight chance for isolated low topped showers near the coast, especially on Monday. Therefore, the primary concern for launch day is the cumulus cloud rule.
NASA invites the public to register to virtually attend the launch and receive mission updates and activities via email. NASA’s virtual guest program for LCRD includes curated launch resources, notifications about related opportunities, and a virtual guest passport stamp.
Teachers and students can explore the LCRD STEM Tool Kit. The kit includes five activity sheets, each designed for a target grade-level range, a model of STPSat-6 that students and teachers can 3D print, an overview of LCRD, and several other printable items. Many of the toolkit resources are also available in Spanish.
Weeks of work are paying off for engineers and technicians from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida who have been preparing the agency’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft since its arrival by truck from Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Nov. 5, 2021.
Important activities continue inside SpaceX’s Payload Processing Facility in advance of the next major milestone – mating the spacecraft to the launch vehicle.
“We’ve been doing final checkouts and testing on IXPE prior to mating activities,” said Jake Shriver, mission integration engineer for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy.
IXPE is targeted to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST. The mission is NASA’s first dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization. The launch is managed by LSP.
Following mating of the spacecraft to the launch vehicle will be encapsulation, where the fairing halves come together around the spacecraft. A couple of days before launch, the encapsulated assembly will roll out to the pad to be mated to the first- and second-stage rocket boosters.
IXPE will study changes in the polarization of X-ray light through some of the universe’s most extreme sources, including black holes, dead stars known as pulsars, and more. Polarization contains clues that helps scientists better understand these mysterious phenomena.
“I can’t wait for IXPE to get into space and start returning science data,” Shriver said. “The mission is going to do amazing things for the astrophysics and science communities.”
NASA will provide coverage of the prelaunch and launch activities for the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, scheduled to lift off no earlier than 1 a.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 9, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.
IXPE is the first satellite dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from a variety of cosmic sources, such as black holes and neutron stars.
Live launch coverage will begin at 12:30 a.m. on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. On Tuesday, Dec. 7, NASA will hold a payload briefing at 1 p.m. and a prelaunch news briefing at 5:30 p.m.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 5:06 a.m. EST for launch of the 24th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will lift off aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Dragon will bring food, supplies, and scientific investigations to the orbiting crew, including a protein crystal growth study that could improve the delivery of cancer treatment drugs and a handheld bioprinter that could one day be used to print tissue directly onto wounds to faster healing.
The spacecraft will arrive at the station on Wednesday, Dec. 22 at approximately 4:30 a.m. and remain docked for about a month before returning to Earth.
The mission will be covered live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
A team of launch managers for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission have authorized approval to proceed to launch countdown at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California ahead of a scheduled launch on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 10:21 p.m. PST (Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 1:21 a.m. EST) from the SpaceX Space Launch Complex 4.
During the Launch Readiness Review on Nov. 22, launch managers from NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), SpaceX, and DART mission team received an update on the mission status and any close-out actions from the previously held Flight Readiness Review. Signing the Certificate of Flight Readiness at the conclusion of the LRR were NASA’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance; LSP’s chief engineer, launch director, and program manager; the U.S. Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 30 commander; the DART project manager; Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory director; and the SpaceX Launch Director.
DART is the first mission to test technologies for preventing an impact of Earth by a hazardous asteroid. DART’s target asteroid in not a threat to Earth.
Teams also recently completed integration of the Falcon 9 rocket and its payload. After moving the DART spacecraft, encapsulated in its payload fairings, from the payload processing facility to the Falcon 9 Hangar, SpaceX technicians horizontally integrated the encapsulated spacecraft to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket over a two-day period, Nov. 20 to 21.
“The payload mate onto the launch vehicle is an important milestone for DART because it is the final verification to ensure the spacecraft is communicating with its ground team,” said Notlim Burgos, LSP payload mechanical engineer. “This milestone also is significant for the LSP mechanical team because it integrates the last components of the launch vehicle, completing the build of the Falcon 9 in support of NASA’s first planetary defense mission.”
NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab manages the DART mission for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office as a project of the agency’s Planetary Missions Program Office. The agency provides support for the mission from several centers, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Johnson Space Center in Houston, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) moved one step closer to launch on Monday, Nov. 22, after a team of engineers fastened the payload fairing containing its host satellite to a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket. Launch is now targeted for Dec. 5, 2021, due to inclement weather during launch vehicle processing.
Teams at Astrotech Space Operations Payload Processing Facility in Titusville, Florida, spent several weeks preparing the satellite before moving it to the United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) for the lift and mate operations.
Inside the VIF, a team of engineers fastened the payload fairing, which houses the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft. LCRD is hosted on STPSat-6. The mission is scheduled to launch on Dec. 5 from Launch Complex 41 on CCSFS, with a two-hour launch window beginning at 4:04 a.m. EST.
The fully stacked rocket and payload stands 196 feet tall and is anticipated to roll out on a mobile launch platform from the VIF to the launch pad on Dec. 3. The rocket’s Centaur second stage and spacecraft will remain attached until 4 minutes, 33 seconds after launch, with deployment of STPSat-6 scheduled about 6 hours, 30 minutes after launch.
NASA’s LCRD payload, hosted on STPSat-6, is about the size of a king-sized mattress and seeks to make operational laser communications a reality. As space missions generate and collect more data, higher bandwidth communications technologies are needed to bring data home, and laser communications systems offer higher bandwidth in a smaller package that uses less power. LCRD will send and receive data over infrared lasers at approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth.
LCRD is led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Partners include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. LCRD is funded through NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program at NASA Headquarters.
The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite T (GOES-T) – the third satellite in NOAA’s GOES-R series – is now in Florida, undergoing final preparations ahead of its targeted launch on March 1, 2022. The satellite arrived at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 10, 2021, in a United States Air Force C-5 cargo plane. Shortly after landing at the runway, teams transported it to an Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville, where it will remain for processing and final checkouts prior to liftoff.
Upon its arrival at Astrotech, teams removed the spacecraft from its shipping container and attached it to the electrical ground support equipment that they will use to perform multiple tests over the next few weeks to ensure all satellite elements function properly.
GOES-T will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS). After departing from ULA’s manufacturing plant in Decatur, Alabama, on Nov. 6, the rocket’s first and second stages arrived at CCSFS aboard a transport boat on Nov. 15. When spacecraft testing is complete and teams have conducted the Launch Vehicle Readiness Review, the satellite – once encapsulated in its protective payload fairing – will be placed atop the Atlas V rocket in preparation for liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41.
The GOES-R program is a collaboration between NASA and the NOAA. NASA manufactures and launches the satellites and NOAA funds and operates them and distributes their data to users worldwide. The GOES satellite network helps meteorologists observe and predict local weather events that affect public safety, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, fog, hurricanes, flash floods, and other severe weather. GOES-T will provide critical data for the U.S. West Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and the Pacific Ocean.
This launch is being managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy in Florida, America’s multi-user spaceport. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R spacecraft and instruments. Lockheed Martin designs, creates, and tests the GOES-R Series satellites. L3Harris Technologies provides the main instrument payload, the Advanced Baseline Imager, along with the ground system, which includes the antenna system for data reception.
Looking forward, NOAA is working with NASA on the next-generation geostationary satellite mission called Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO), which will bring new capabilities in support of U.S. weather, ocean, and climate operations in the 2030s. NASA will manage the development of the GeoXO satellites and launch them for NOAA.