Northrop Grumman Becomes First Commercial Partner to Use VAB

A model of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA launch vehicle is flanked by the U.S. flag and a flag bearing the OmegA logo during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 16 in High Bay 2 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

After spending more than 50 years supporting NASA’s human spaceflight programs, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a landmark at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is getting its first commercial tenant.

Northrop Grumman will assemble and test its new OmegA rocket inside the massive facility’s High Bay 2, one of four high bays in the building. Officials with NASA, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force gathered in High Bay 2 on Aug. 16 to celebrate the partnership with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by legislative representatives and spaceport employees.

From left to right, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Northrop Grumman Vice President and OmegA Capture Lead Kent Rominger, and Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, cut the ribbon in High Bay 2.

The company also is modifying mobile launcher platform-3 (MLP-3) to serve as the launch vehicle’s assembly and launch platform. Both the VAB and MLP-3 were originally built for the Apollo Program and went on to enable the three-decade Space Shuttle Program. The VAB also will be the assembly site for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, which will carry the Orion spacecraft on Artemis missions to the Moon.

“With OmegA, we truly are standing on the shoulders of the giants of space history,” said Kent Rominger, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and capture lead for the OmegA launch system, as well as a veteran of five space shuttle flights. “This event marks that partnership with [Kennedy] at this phenomenal spaceport.”

Northrop Grumman signed a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA for use of the facilities. The company is developing the OmegA rocket, an intermediate/heavy-class launch vehicle, as a part of a launch services agreement with the U.S. Air Force.

A model of the Northrop Grumman OmegA rocket, an intermediate/heavy-class launch vehicle, stands in High Bay 2.

Kennedy has transformed from a government-only space launch complex to the nation’s premier multi-user spaceport. Today, the space center has more than 90 active agreements with private-sector partners, sharing its array of unique facilities and resources through partnerships with government and commercial organizations.

This latest agreement brings Northrop Grumman into the fold.

“We have a great partnership with Northrop Grumman; we have a great partnership with all our partners,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “It’s a great pleasure to be able to be here today and cut the ribbon after signing this historic agreement to utilize this awesome facility to support our nation’s space program.”

The addition of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket to the stable of vehicles processed and launched from the spaceport continues a long legacy that defines the local community.

“This whole area has been home to innovation and the drive to be bolder,” said Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. “These efforts, government and contractor, have fueled the economies and the imagination and, really, the spirit of this community that we like to call the Space Coast.”

Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility Ready for Artemis 1

The Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Technicians watch as a crane and special mechanism begin breakover, or flipping, of the mated Thrust Resistance Structure and the Guidance Control Assembly for the Orion Program’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test during practice, or pathfinder activities, June 22, 2018, inside Exploration Ground Systems’ Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility high at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Many pathfinding tests were completed on the flight hardware in preparation for the flight test. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will receive the solid rocket booster segments for final assembly of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The agency’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team successfully completed the system acceptance review and operational readiness review for the facility on July 25, 2019. This review evaluated the RPSF’s readiness to receive, process, integrate and launch flight hardware for Artemis 1 and beyond.

“The RPSF is the first processing facility at Kennedy to reach operational readiness status, and our team is looking forward to the arrival of the flight hardware so we can get to work preparing for the Artemis 1 launch,” said Mike Chappell, EGS associate program manager with lead contractor, Jacobs.

When the booster segments arrive at Kennedy, the pieces are inspected before two 200-ton cranes are positioned to lift the segments from a horizontal position to a vertical position. The RPSF also will receive the booster aft skirt from the Booster Fabrication Facility. During processing, the aft segment is attached to the aft skirt and aft exit cone.

All of the SLS solid rocket components processed in the RPSF will be transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building for final assembly with the SLS core stage and Orion spacecraft on top of the mobile launcher for the agency’s Artemis missions.

The RPSF is part of the infrastructure at Kennedy that will help NASA launch the Artemis missions and send the first woman and next man back to the Moon by 2024.

Liftoff: SpaceX Dragon en Route to Space Station

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the company's 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 25, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

At 6:01 p.m. EDT on July 25, 2019, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission.

Due to arrive at the International Space Station on July 27, the Dragon spacecraft contains multiple supplies, equipment and material critical for supporting science and research investigations at the space station.

Emergency Location Markers Aid Kennedy Visitors

Innovation Without Boundaries Award leads to Emergency Location Markers at Kennedy Space Center.
Emergency Location Markers (ELMs) were installed on Kennedy Space Center property as a result of an Innovation Without Boundaries award. Photo credit: NASA

Emergency Location Markers (ELMs) have been installed on Kennedy Space Center federal property at Playalinda Beach, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and at both KARS Parks to provide the emergency phone number and geolocation information to Kennedy visitors or employees.

Innovation Without Boundaries Award leads to Emergency Location Markers at Kennedy Space Center.
ELMs provide the emergency phone number and geolocation information to Kennedy visitors or employees. Photo credit: NASA

The ELMs are national standardized signs that display U.S. National Grid (USNG) coordinates and were installed as a result of an Innovation without Boundaries award by the Chief Technology Office in 2018. Fifty-nine ELMs and 25 information signs that explain the system were installed in areas where members of the public may have difficulty describing their location in an emergency.

Additionally, free web applications FindMeSAR.com and USNGAPP.org allow any user to determine their location anywhere via USNG, known as the “language of location.” These apps may be used routinely to geolocate infrastructure, such as hydrants or culverts, as another example.

Kennedy’s emergency personnel have been trained on USNG map-reading, geolocation, navigation and position reporting. Additionally, mutual-aid responder agencies surrounding the spaceport were advised of the Kennedy ELM program and were provided mapping tools to plot USNG coordinates easily.

CRS-18 Launch Scrubbed Due to Weather

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station – scheduled for this evening – has scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Launch is now scheduled for Thursday, July 25, at 6:01 p.m. EDT. Launch coverage will begin at 5:45 p.m. on NASA TV and the agency’s website. A launch on Thursday would result in the Dragon spacecraft arriving to the space station Saturday, July 27.

SpaceX CRS-18: Launch Countdown Milestones for July 24 Liftoff

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA is scheduled for 6:24 p.m. EDT with an instantaneous launch window. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been moved to the vertical launch position. Launch coverage will begin at 6 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s launch blog.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict a 30% chance of favorable weather for liftoff. The primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule, lightning rule and attached anvil rule.

Packed with more than 5,000 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, the Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Mission Timeline (all times approximate)
COUNTDOWN
– 00:38:00     SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
– 00:35:00     RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
– 00:35:00     1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
– 00:16:00     2nd stage LOX loading begins
– 00:07:58     Dragon transitions to internal power
– 00:07:00     Falcon 9 begins pre-launch engine chill
– 00:01:00     Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00     Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
– 00:00:45     SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:03     Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00     Falcon 9 liftoff

Vice President Pence Celebrates Apollo 11 50th Anniversary at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Vice President Pence arrives at Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard Air Force Two on July 20, 2019
Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence, center, arrive at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility on July 20, 2019. Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, visited the Florida spaceport on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. At far left is Rick Armstrong, son of Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong. At far right is Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Vice President Mike Pence is at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch to the Moon.
Vice President Mike Pence, center, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing during a visit to Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on July 20, 2019. At left is Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin. At left is Rick Armstrong, Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong’s son. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence arrived at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility, aboard Air Force Two, this morning.

Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, is visiting the Florida spaceport on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which landed the first two humans on the Moon.

Accompanied by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Pence visited Launch Complex 39A, the site of the historic Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969, before giving a speech at the Florida spaceport’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Kennedy Space Center on July 20, 2019
Vice President Mike Pence announces that the Orion crew vehicle for the Artemis 1 mission is complete and ready to begin preparations for its historic first flight. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

SpaceX CRS-18 Launch Now Targeted for Wednesday, July 24

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 6:24 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 24, for the company’s 18th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrive at the space station on Friday, July 26, filled with about 5,500 pounds of science, cargo and crew supplies for the microgravity laboratory.

Pence to Visit Kennedy on 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Vice President Mike Pence speaking at Kennedy Space Center in December 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence addresses members of the U.S. Air Force at Kennedy Space Center’s Operations and Support Building II on Dec. 18, 2018. Pence is returning to the Florida spaceport Saturday, July 20, in celebration of the Apollo 11 50th anniversary. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Vice President Mike Pence will make multiple stops at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, July 20 — 50 years from the day NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed the first two humans on the Moon.

The vice president and second lady Karen Pence will arrive in Air Force Two at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility. The next stop is Launch Complex 39A, the site of the historic Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969.

Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, will address invited guests, elected officials and NASA, Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders at Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building (O&C). The vice president will recognize NASA’s history in honoring the Apollo 11 heroes, while examining NASA’s future plans, including the Artemis missions that are part of the agency’s Moon to Mars human space exploration efforts.

Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website at 1:05 p.m. to view Pence’s speech live from the O&C.

Apollo 11 Anniversary Celebrations Continue at Kennedy

NASA's Apollo 11 mission launched July 16, 1969.
NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, landing the first two humans on the Moon, launched July 16, 1969, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Kennedy Space Center continues its celebration of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary with “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future” – a show honoring the heroes of Apollo and highlighting the agency’s future space exploration plans. Watch live on NASA TV or the agency’s website Friday, July 19, from 1 to 3 p.m.

The three astronauts for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Left to right are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.
The three astronauts for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Left to right are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Photo credit: NASA

Hosted from Kennedy’s Apollo/Saturn V Center in Florida, the show will include segments at Washington D.C.; Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas; the U.S. Space and Rocket Center near the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; Neil Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio; and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

Immediately following “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” stay tuned for “STEM Forward to the Moon,” also streaming on NASA TV and the agency’s website. The show, airing from 3 to 3:30 p.m., will feature kids participating in Moon landing simulations and segments of activity demonstrations at the following museums across the nation: